Daily Archives: 13 October 2008

Time for Kumble to go?

Rewind to the boxing day test in Melbourne. The Australian batsmen were dominating the bowling and the opening partnership had put in a 135 run stand and the momentum of the game had already started to swing towards Australia. Enter Anil Kumble, a man who has won more matches for India than any other bowler. He set about slowly picking up one wicket after the other and correcting the situation and after a five-for haul, the Aussies had squandered their advantage and were 9 wickets down at stumps. It is another thing that India eventually ended up losing the match. But Anil Kumble has been the go-to bowler for India for a number of years and he has for the most part delivered.

That has been until now…

The test figures of no wickets for 160 runs in this test has been his worst ever. He has never ever bowled in both innings of a match and gone wicket-less for the test. Never. Agreed, there were dropped chances and wrong decisions – and he wasn’t fully fit (which is no excuse, really!), but it doesn’t take anything away from the fact that he went wicket less in this game.

His bowling average has been 60 and 50 in the last 2 series (against South Africa and Sri Lanka) and what is even more worrying is the fact that they were played in relatively spin-friendly pitches of India and Sri Lanka. And now this – 0/160.

The debates on when and how the seniors in the team should retire has been going on for sometime now and whether some of the them should be dropped, but the focus has been more on the fab four.

I have been a huge fan of Kumble and he is probably one of the more likeable characters in this Indian team. But, age, fitness and weariness has finally caught up with him and if you were to pick four bowlers for the next game in Mohali, you wouldn’t necessarily pick him. But, what makes dropping Kumble difficult is the fact that he is also the captain of the team!

There were some rumors doing the rounds that with the shoulder injury in this game, Kumble may actually announce his retirement. But he quelled the rumor in the post-match interview by saying that he was hoping that his shoulder would be 100% before the Mohali test.

I thought that announcing his retirement at his home ground would have been a fine way for this cricketer to end his career. It could have also been the best thing for team India. 

-Mahesh-

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Tactics for Day-5 of the Test match…

The 1st Test match between India and Australia being played at Bengaluru is quite interestingly poised. Of the three possible scenarios, I think I’d have to be totally one-eyed to suggest that India has a chance of winning this game. Australia is 263 runs ahead and there are 90 overs remaining to be played in this game. I’d like to think that the batting of Brad Haddin and Shane Watson has ensured that the only two possible results are (a) an Australia win, (b) a draw.

Visions of Sydney, 2008 flash past! First Matthew Hayden and Michael Hussey ensured in Sydney that an India win was ruled out of the equation. Then, some poor umpiring, a bump-ball claim and some callously poor batting conjured an Australian victory on that famous evening.

The situation is quite similar in this Test being played at Bengaluru. Yesterday, Australia commenced their batting in much the same way as Australia had, in the 2nd innings, in Sydney. Australia batted time and with extreme caution to ensure that an Indian win was all but ruled out. New age batting. Clever batting. Attritional batting. Not so attractive batting and certainly un-Australian batting. But clever batting nonetheless.

I do believe India has been batted out of this Test. If Australia bat another hour on the final day, even if India takes the remaining 5 wickets in a tearing hurry, I’d imagine that Australia will be at least 290 runs ahead, if not 320 runs ahead.

India will probably have about 75 overs to chase this target of somewhere between 290 and 320. To win, India would have to score at a somewhat improbable rate of between 3.5 and 4.2 runs per over. Given that the innings scoring rate has seldom hovered over 4 runs per over, even on day-1 of this Test, I’d find it hard to believe that India can make between 290-300 runs on a crumbling day-5 pitch! This is why I suggest that, even at this stage, an India win is all but ruled out.

Would Australia be comfortable with only 75 overs to bowl India out? Perhaps. Remember that Australia — notwithstanding the assistance from umpires and a bump-ball-catch-claim — got India out in 71 overs in Sydney!

The target might be closer to 320 if Ricky Ponting has the name “Virender Sehwag” imprinted in his mind.

Even so, I do believe 290 is sufficient. India has not successfully chased a target in excess of 250 against Australia since 1964.

Moreover, Virender Sehwag has not really been a 2nd innings player! Of the 15 Test centuries that Sehwag has compiled in his career, only one of these is a second-innings ton! And, compared to his career average of 52.62 in all Tests, Sehwag averages just 30 in his 2nd innings scores. Most Test players will probably have a better 1st innings average than a 2nd innings average. However, such a wide disparity in the figures seems to suggest to me that Sehwag is more a first innings demon than a second innings party-spoiler!

I believe that even a target of 290 will be out of India’s reach. My view is that a draw will also slip through India’s fingers unless Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman are able to rise to the challenge of exorcising their recent collapse-demons — particularly Sydney.

Therefore, I think a “draw” is the best result that India fans can hope for.

An interesting days’ play awaits us.

— Mohan

Teams announced for Challenger Series…

Kris Srikkanth’s committee yesterday announced the 3 teams that will play in this years’ installment of the Challenger Series. Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif and S. Badrinath captain India Blue, India Green and India Red (very imaginative names, of course!) in the tournament that will be played between October 23-26 in Cuttack.

Considering that Test matches between India and Australia will be played between Oct 17 and Oct 21 (2nd Test) and Oct 29 and Nov 2 (3rd Test), the Challengers slot in quite nicely in the gap between the two Test matches.

It would have to, for Badrinath, R. P. Singh and Amit Mishra have been named in the Red, Green and Blue teams respectively. Having said that, the current India team has been chosen only for the first 2 Tests against Australia.

It is quite interesting to note that Swapnil Asnodkar, the IPL sensation for Jaipur under Shane Warne’s leadership, has been dropped! This will be a blow for the youngster.

India Blue and India Red include two wicket-keepers. Blue has Dinesh Karthik and Yogesh Takawale! I’d imagine that the Mumbai ‘keeper is going to press Karthik for a place. The TN ‘keeper appears to be in free-fall at the moment! India Red has Wriddhiman Saha and Parthiv Patel. Meanwhile, the Green team only has the somewhat unheralded MP player, Naman Ojha in the mix! I find this a bit strange in terms of selection. While it is ok, in my view to have Takawale snapping at the heels of Dinesh Karthik, it seems strange to give Naman Ojha free reign. An option may have been to include Srivats Goswami in the Green team or maybe even move Wriddhiman Saha, a very promising young cricketer, into the Green team.

The teams appear to be reasonably well balanced in other departments.

India Blue:
Yuvraj Singh (capt), Ajinkya Rahane, Robin Uthappa, Virat Kohli, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Ravinder Singh, Irfan Pathan, Yogesh Takawale (wk), Ashok Dinda, Pradeep Sangwan, Amit Mishra, Arjun Yadav, Siddarth Trivedi, R Ashwin.

India Red:
S Badrinath (capt), M Vijay, F Fazal, Manoj Tiwary, Rohit Sharma, Jaydev Shah, Abhishek Nayar, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Praveen Kumar, L Balaji, Piyush Chawla, Vinay Kumar, Monish Parmar, Parthiv Patel (wk)

India Green:
Mohammad Kaif (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Naman Ojha (wk), Suresh Raina, Cheteshwar Pujara, Saurabh Tiwary, Yusuf Pathan, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Manpreet Gony, RP Singh, Pragyan Ojha, Rajat Bhatia, Abhinav Kumar, Pankaj Singh

— Mohan

India Vs Australia :: 1st Test :: Bangalore :: Day-4

India started the day at 313 for 8, still well behind the Aussie total of 430. The Aussies still had upper hand in the game, but the situation could have been a lot worse if it hadn’t been for the efforts of the Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan on day 3. India’s game plan would have been to occupy as much time at the crease as possible, add another 30-40 runs, and get Australia out for under 200 runs to have any remote chance of winning the game. Even if everything fell into place, it would be a tall order for a 5th day pitch.

Pre-lunch session

The first part of India’s plan went according to plan. They occupied the crease for another 18 overs and added a further 47 runs bringing the lead down to just 70 runs. Considering the fact that when Ganguly – the last recognized batsman, was out when the score was 232, it was great rear guard fight back. But for the last 3 wickets adding 128 runs, India would have been a lot worse. Zaheer Khan was  not out on 57, making him the highest scorer in the Indian camp to nicely go with his five wicket haul in the Australian first innings.

The Aussies were left with 6 overs to negotiate before the lunch break and there were a few nervous moments for the Aussies including a first over LBW shout of the bowling of Zaheer Khan. The Aussies went in with their score on 9 for no loss.

Post-lunch session

The Indian skipper didn’t take the field before the lunch session and he was again a notable absentee on the field. Dhoni was captaining the team and he started the session with Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh. My initial thoughts were that he should have started the session again with Zaheer and Ishant, but in Harbhajan’s defense, he did bowl a lot better than he did in the first innings.

The over cautious, slow Aussie approach before the lunch break was understandable, but they continued in the same vein after lunch. The scoring rate by Australian standards was appalling. May be it had something to do with their “New Age Cricket” approach. Or may be it was the pitch. Or may be it was the Indian bowling. Or may be, it was a combination of all three as the scoring rate dipped to around 1.96 in the 26th over (51 runs).

But by that time, India had already scalped the two vital wickets of Hayden and Ponting. Zaheer had Hayden dismissed LBW for 13, while Ishant Sharma had Ponting caught at mid wicket for 17. Ponting’s dismissal was a beauty as he was outfoxed by a slower delivery from Ishant and ended up offering a low catch to Laxman.

At Tea, the Aussies were 74/2 in the 33 overs they had faced and the session clearly belonged to India.

Post-tea session

Earlier, in the post lunch session, Gambhir had dropped Katich of the bowling of Harbhajan Singh. After Tea, Harbhajan eventually got his man when Katich just prodded at a a flighted delivery that bounced a bit and lobbed a simple catch to silly point. He had occupied the crease a fair bit (140 balls), but had only scored 34 runs. His dismissal brought in Clarke who hit the very first ball for a boundary. I was starting to think that maybe having Katich at the crease was probably a good thing 🙂

But Ishant Sharma again bowled a slower delivery to Clarke and suckered him into driving straight into the hands of Sehwag. Australia at that stage were 115/4.

A few overs later, it was the turn of Hussey to go as he shoulderd arms to a ball pitched outside his off stump, only to see it turn in to hit his stump. It hit a crack on the way and turned like a Warnie leg break to have the Aussies reeling at 128/5 in the 51st over.

With the over all lead at just under 200 and the top order back in the pavilion, the Indians were seeing a glimmer of hope. But the pair of Haddin and Watson had other plans. There were quite a few dropped chances and streaky shots, but they managed to score runs and do it fast. At the end of the day, they had stretched the lead to 263.

Ponting must be hoping to score some quick runs in the first hour or so of play tomorrow before he declares leaving the Indians a score of around 330.

72 overs were enough for Ponting to claim the 10 Indian wickets for victory on the final day at Sydney last summer, but he was also criticized for being too cautious and delaying his declaration. He will have that on his mind before he does his declaration tomorrow, but then the Bangalore wicket is quite different to the Sydney one and the cracks in the pitch are also widening up. And just as India was a bowler short for most of the day (Kumble was off the field for a major portion of the day and is bowling with an injury), the Aussies may be short of a full strength bowling attack as Stuart Clark is apparently carrying an injury too.

At this stage though, only 2 results seem likely – either an Australian victory or a draw. Unless the Indians pull a rabbit out of the hat…

-Mahesh-