Monthly Archives: June 2008

May Raina’s reign continue!

While India flirted with the likes of Robin Uthappa, Dinesh Karthik, and some senior players in the last couple of years, Suresh Raina was busy piling on runs domestically. While some may argue that the time Suresh Raina spent at home was in his best interest, I personally believe that the Indians lost the service of a gifted yet hard working cricketer during this time. Who knows, the world cup may have had a different result and different meaning all together! I am glad that he is back in the side and with a bang. I was thrilled to see him play brilliantly in the IPL and even more excited to take on the challenge in the one day format. He is truly a player that holds the future of Indian cricket in the same vein as Rohit Sharma. I sincerely hope and pray that the management and selectors do not mishandle him this time around. One such player who may consider himself extremely unlucky is Venugopala Rao. Greg Chappell actually saw captaincy material in the Andhra/Maharashtra captain. I hope he continues to score well in the domestics and makes it back into the side.

This Indian side looks absolutely formidable especially in its batting strength. Which team can boast of Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly, and possibly Rahul Dravid as its bench strength? The bowling, while brilliant in patches, seems to gathering momentum towards consistency and international class. It is exciting, especially, to see good leg spin bowling potential in Chawla and Mishra. All in all, an exciting future of Indian cricket lies ahead.

– Srikanth

Team India for Asia Cup game against Pakistan

After a mid-innings sputter, India cruised home to record a facile victory over Hong Kong in its Asia Cup opener. The business end commences today with a game againts hosts Pakistan.

Gambhir, Sehwag, Raina, Dhoni, Chawla, Praveen Kumar and R. P. Singh had good outings against Hong Kong. Yusuf Pathan and Robin Uthappa did not get an opportunity to do much! Irfan Pathan will probably get back into the side provided his side-strain is no longer restricting his bowling.

Rohit Sharma had an ordinary game against Hong Kong and apparently looked listless in his 29-ball-11-run essay.

The India side is likely to be:

Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Robin Uthappa (or Yusuf Pathan), Irfan Pathan, Piyush Chawla, Praveen Kumar, RP Singh, Ishant Sharma

— Mohan

Team for Asia Cup Hong Kong game

With a view to the long season of relentless cricket ahead, it would be nice if the team could rest some key players for the game against Hong Kong today (Wed 25 June) in India’s opener in the Asia Cup 2008. Irfan Pathan will be rested because he appears to be carrying a side-strain into the tournament. However, I do believe that a few other players ought to be rested including captain M. S. Dhoni! Radical, I know, but with Dhoni playing in both Tests as well as ODIs and Twenty20’s, his body has been taking a fair pounding in recent months. So much so that in several of Chennai’s T20 games in the IPL, he played but did not keep wickets!

With the amount of cricket that is being played these days, the main workload impact would be on the pace bowlers. Fortunately, India does have a bench strength in this department and it would be a good idea to test this out in games against the likes of Hong Kong!

Unfortunately, the team only has M. S. Dhoni as wicketkeeper. It would be interesting to throw Robin Unthappa in as ‘keeper and see how he goes — after all, he did start his career as a useful ‘keeper.

In the Kitply Cup finals against Pakistan, I thought Dhoni got his knickers in an awful twist through his obsession with left-right combinations. This made him switch batting positions of players with not much thought other than the left-right design. This policy ought to be junked in preference for a batting order that is dictated by the match-situation. All pre-match indications are that that would indeed be the case.

My team for the Hong Kong match would, therefore, be:

V Sehwag
G Gambhir
SK Raina
RG Sharma
Yuvraj Singh (captain)
RV Uthappa (‘keeper)
YK Pathan
PP Chawla
P Kumar
M Gony
RP Singh
12th man: PP Ojha

This will give Irfan Pathan, Ishant Sharma and M. S. Dhoni a rest.

However, this may be a bridge too far for the Indians who may, I think, go with M. S. Dhoni as ‘keeper for the game.

— Mohan

Relive World Cup 1983 Victory

You can relive the WorldCup 1983 moments by watching this video highlights package courtesy Rediff.

Mohan

More thoughts on the ‘switch’ hit

Firstly let us look at the LBW law. batsmen are not given out LBW when a ball is pitched outside the leg stump because an umpire may find it difficult to judge if the ball will hit the stumps or not. Now with switch hit being allowed, technically a batsman can be out to a ball pitching outside the leg stump! So if he can be out when he switch hits why can’t he be given out when he straight hits!

Next what could prevent a batsman like Ganguly to take a right hander’s stance every time a fast bowler runs in and then quietly change around. Since he becomes a right hander by their ruling he cannot be given out LBW when the pitches outside his ‘current’ off stump  because he took guard as a right hander! Similarly for right handers, they can just take guard right handed and turn around as the bowler begins his run up.

Also batsmen can now take guard anyway they want to confuse the bowler further on which side of the wicket they have to bowl! Great time for batsmen I say! My son will never practice bowling in school!

— Sanjay

Pieterson’s switch hitting repercussions

In the last ODI that England played against NZ Kevin Pieterson hit 2 shots by changing his batting grip and stance as the bowler was running in to bowl. I was reminded of an old photograph of Asif Iqbal doing this nearly 30 years ago. I do not remember if it was the reverse sweep with the typical right hander’s grip or if he had done what Pieterson has just done. It is an innovation and the rulers of world cricket do not know how to handle the situation.

1. Bowlers give guard that they bowl right/left handed, over/round the wicket. Batsmen are not required to give guard. Or should they also.

2. Why should batsmen give guard? For two important reasons. Umpires need to decide on whether the ball is outside the off stump or the leg stump to judge a wide. With a right hander’s grip, the ball would be called a wide. But with a left hander’s grip is it not outside the off stump? Or as Daniel Vettorei just said in an interview reported in Cricinfo – Should they mark wide lines on both sides of the wicket and treat the balls down the leg side similarly? The second reason is for adjudging a batsman LBW, will the ball be treated as pitching outside the off stump if the batsman changes his grip. Afterall a batsman cannot be given out if the ball pitches outside the leg stump. But then the leg stump is for the right handed batsman. And what is the criteria to show if a batsman is left or right hadned? The grip of course! So if the grip changes then the rules for LBW/wides should also change.

3. Now coming to the bowlers. Frankly it does not make sense for a bowler to give guard for bowling left/right. As far as the batsman are concerned atleast issues of lbw and wides come into play. Nohing like that for the bowlers. So can a bowler not bowl with either of his hands?

— Sanjay

What I like about the current ODI team

Opening pair

Granted, Tendulkar and Ganguly were one of the best, if not the best opening ODI pairs for India and even the World. But Sehwag and Gambhir are doing very well at the moment. I love everything about them – the right/left combination, their stroke play, Sehwag’s explosiveness, Gambhir’s maturity…

If they continue their current form, they are all set to become a formidable opening combination in World cricket.

 Batting depth

The batting depth hasn’t been really put to the test yet, but with Irfan Pathan and Praveen Kumar, both all rounders coming in at No. 8 and 9 respectively, it looks very strong. Chawla at No. 10 is no rabbit with the bat either.

The Bench

When you see good players warming the bench, you know there are even better players in the playing XI and that is a great thing.  With guys like Uthappa, RP Singh (although Ishant was rested for the Bangladesh game) and Gony sitting out, you know the team is doing well.

And guys like Ganguly, Tendulkar, Dravid, Sreesanth and Harbhajan Singh aren’t even the team (due to a variety of reasons).

All rounders galore

The team now has Praveen Kumar and Irfan Pathan who are what I would classify as bowling all rounders – people who can bat a bit and bowl their full quota of 10 overs. Then there are the batting all rounders – Sehwag, Yuvraj and Yusuf Pathan. Even Rohit Sharma and Raina can chip in with a few overs. And last but not the least, the captain – MS Dhoni who can bat and keep wickets. This is one of the main reasons, India has a good batting depth at the moment.

Flexible batting order

I think the current batting order is a fairly flexible one. Barring the opening pair, I think the rest can come in any order. There is always the argument that batting orders shouldn’t be messed around with, but it seems to work well in Twenty20 and I don’t see why it shouldn’t work here.

Age

Sehwag at 29 years is the oldest member of the team. Everyone else is 26 or under. In fact, six of them are 21 and under. This again bodes well for Team India. Isn’t it wonderful that although the team is young, it does not seem to lack experience.

-Mahesh-

Shane Warne to change his name!

With his popularity in the IPL, it looks like the whole of India is celebrating Shane Warne after he led the Rajasthan Royals team to victory in the inaugural version of the IPL.

Prem Panicker has written about S. K. Warne’s exploits and leadership skills. Times of India, Hindusthan Times, CricInfo and everyone who has anything to do with cricket in India is writing about S. K. Warne’s exceptional cricketing abilities. Bollywood is said to be interested too.

So much so that S. K. Warne is seriously said to be considering a name change to Shane Kumar Warne 🙂

— Mohan

IPL: Winners and Losers — II

In an earlier article, we had written about “Winners and Losers” in the first edition of the IPL. In that article, we focussed on Chennai and Rajasthan. In this blog post, we concentrate on Punjab, Delhi and Bangalore.

Bangalore:

The Bangalore Royal Challengers was perhaps the team that performed worst of the 8 IPL Teams. If Bangalore did not have the Deccan Chargers bringing up the rear-end of the points table, Bangalore would perhaps feel worse than it must at this point in time. After Mumbai, it was the costliest franchise. And what they got for it was the “opening ceremony” and nothing much else!

In terms of personnel, it had what everyone thought was a “Test Team” look about it. The owner and the CEO had a public spat midway through the campaign. Charu Sharma, its CEO was sacked to be replaced by Brijesh Patel (KSCA official and former Team India player). The season was going horribly wrong by then. After a few subsequent losses it was clear that the sackings and the public-finger-pointing-orgy that was being crassly played out had not stemmed the rot. This soon became a season from hell for Bangalore; an annus horribilis. Martin Crowe perhaps summed it up best when he said that Rahul Dravid had the seventh best team to work with! In our article written here on i3j3cricket, which was penned a day or so after the player auctions had taken place, these were our words on the Bangalore team, “Looks too uni-dimensional, staid and somewhat boring that does not quite fit the dashing Kingfisher brand! Needs a few more attacking middle order batsmen.”

The team composition wasn’t quite right. And that was the start of the problem. However, the team limped to complete the journey with the biggest loser being Vijay Mallya in my view. Unfortunately, however, owners cannot be traded in the IPL system!

As for the players, Bangalore did have some gains and losses. Rahul Dravid was certainly a winner. He was the 12th highest run getter in the IPL (371 runs at an average of 28.53 and a strike rate of 124.49), but he was like Atlas for Bangalore. He could not do everything for the team. Although times, maybe that was exactly what was needed! Mark Boucher had an “ok” season and Zaheer Khan ended up being the 13th highest wicket-taker (13 wickets from 11 games at 27.46).

The “local” boys from the “local catchment area” did not do much to stake their claims. Players like Akhil, Chipli, Arun Kumar, Vinay Kumar, et al, came and went through a strange and magical revolving door! Older (much older) players like Sunil Joshi and Anil Kumble appeared for a while as if they had gate-crashed into the wrong party! And younger national recruits like Wasim Jaffer, Virat Kohli and Praveen Kumar did not fire up at all, although Sreevats Goswami impressed everyone in the few appearances he had. Sreevats Goswami looks like a good package and should have a long and fulfilling reign in Indian cricket!

It looked like the team was trying everything it could to make things happen. All experiments fell flat like aged champagne. The team could not quite work out its overseas recruits and when all of them started to fail, the team management caught the rabbits-in-headlights disease! Although Dale Steyn tried hard till the end, the big losers were Cameron White, Shiv Chanderpaul and Jacques Kallis. One didn’t know what happened to Nathan Bracken. And my view is that Ross Taylor and Misbah-ul-Huq were not used properly. So, all in all, this was a forgettable season for Bangalore.

So what can Bangalore do?
It needs a team overhaul. Players like Sunil Joshi, Anil Kumble have to go. I do also believe that the team needs to trade Shiv Chanderpaul and Jacques Kallis for hard-hitting bowling or batting allrounders. If I were Bangalore, I’d give up the above-mentioned four players and splurge on Kevin Pietersen, Stuart Broad and Luke Pomersbach!

Punjab:

Punjab had a good season. The team was expected to do well in the bowling department. They played that part of the player auction really well. However, the real wins came from the two amazing overseas recruitments that this team made — both trades were from Western Australia. Shaun Marsh and Luke Pomersbach combined well with the rest of the team to deliver Punjab and Priety Zinta a memorable first season.

The biggest loser, in my view, was Yuvraj Singh — as Captain! He came across as a petulant and irritable leader. Although he had a reasonable season with the bat and although it appeared as though his fielding was getting better with each game to get to the standards that he is probably capable of, his leadership under pressure got exposed quite rudely.

At the time the team was announced, the i3j3cricket comment on the team was: “This looks like a terrific bowling unit! It needs a wicket-keeper and two opening batsmen! If they get good starts, expect this team to go far! An advantage is that this team has only 5 overseas players (4 can play in any game).”

The team went ahead and recruited a few more overseas players (batsmen) and these were good decisions. All the overseas players did well for Punjab. Shaun Marsh, Luke Pomersbach, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene did really well. Brett Lee bowled with fire in the initial 4 games that he played. James Hopes was steady without setting the world on fire although Ramnaresh Sarawan appeared a bit lost and not with it. The big overseas stories were, however, Marsh and Pomersbach. Both of these will have done their Australia T20 and ODI hopes no harm at all. They are two overseas players who will have gained maximally from the IPL.

The Indians in the team fared really well too. The players who possibly made the biggest strides were, in my view, Piyush Chawla, Sreesanth and Irfan Pathan. Even V. R. V. Singh looked at ease and as though he belonged at the top level. A player that may have slipped under the radar a bit was Wilkin Mota. He looks to be a good player — in the one outing that he actually had a decent go in — and we should watch how he grows over the next year or so.

Overall, this was a well-thought-out and well-balanced team in which more than 9 players had played 10 games or more (and 6 of these had played 13 games or more)! That, in itself, tells a story! Rajasthan had 10 players who played 11 or more games! These teams, therefore, had a more “settled” look from day-dot and that ought to be a take-home for other franchises. Apart from Yuvraj Singh’s captaincy, perhaps the only losers were Tanmay Srivatsa and Karan Goel who did not seem to make enough of the (albeit) limited opportunities that they got. But these are two exciting young players and we should maintain a watching-brief on them.

So what should Punjab do?
Punjab should try their hardest to ensure that their overseas players like Marsh and Pomersbach stay! They could do their chances no harm by trading in Mahela Jeyawardene and Ramnaresh Sarawan to the cash-rich Bangalore! (joke)

Delhi:

Delhi Daredevils had a terrific start to the season. Somewhere down the line, they perhaps got too cute for their own good! Perhaps they thought that they had made it to the finals already at the half-way point. Although they made the semi-finals (just), one would like to think that this team was capable of more than it actually achieved! One of the main problems here was Virender Sehwag’s somewhat misplaced faith on Shoaib Mallik! The Pakistan captain who did not deliver with either bat or ball was, unfortunately, persisted with!

Moreover, because Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Shikar Dhawan were so successful with the bat at the top, the middle order got rudely exposed in some of the games. The big winners were, Sehwag, Gambhir and Dhawan with the bat.

Batsmen like Manoj Tiwary, Dinesh Karthik, Rajat Bhatia, Tilekaratne Dilshan and Shoaib Mallik did not do their form or their potential much good. One expected more from these guys.

The bowling unit, however, was a solid one for Delhi. Led by the ever-strong Glen McGrath, the bowling held up well although it had a sameness look about it. McGrath, Mahroof and Mohammed Asif are bowlers of the same ilk. However, they seemed to gel quite well as a unit. Bowlers like Amit Mishra, Yo Mahesh and Pradeep Sangwan complemented the main bowlers really well. One would like to believe that the stocks of Mishra, Yo Mahesh and Sangwan have risen as a result.

So what should Punjab do?
Delhi would do well to bolster their middle-order batting. Trading Manoj Tiwary for a better and, perhaps, more reliable batsman may not be a totally bad idea. The Delhi bowling unit is excellent and they should try and ward off any poachers!

— Mohan

“Even my father’s name is Sachin Tendulkar…”

A lengthy interview with Sachin Tendulkar by Anjali Rao from CNN Talk Asia on Rediff.

Tendulkar says that, after 19 years in the business, “there is definitely cricket left in me. And I want to just go out and enjoy my game and not think about other things.”

— Mohan