Monthly Archives: November 2008

Cricket must go on…

Cricket is a game that is in the heartbeat of most Indians. Cricket must continue in India — better, bigger and bolder. And through it India and Indians must demonstrate to those that matter that India lives. India must live again.

The Taj Mahal Hotel... burning

The Taj Mahal Hotel… burning

The terrorist attacks at The Taj, The Oberoi and at Nariman House in Mumbai have left us totally numb and shocked. Like many others, we sat in our homes and hotel rooms, glued to the TV set for news of the ongoing attack on freedom. Innocence was lost in India at 9.00pm on Wednesday 26 November 2008.

For long, Mumbai has represented the nerve centre of India; the throbbing hub; the sign of her progress; the stamp of her tryst with aspiration and ambition; the symbol of opportunity, resilience and freedom. We would often joke amongst each other that if anyone can survive suburban life in Mumbai — its hustle, bustle, dust, chaos and urgency — and make the most of the many opportunities that the city offers you, then one can survive anywhere in the world.

That nerve centre and that symbol of opportunity, resilience and aspiration was savagely dented on Wednesday 26 November 2008 through a dastardly terrorist siege. The Taj was an important link between Mumbai’s past and its future aspirations. It opulence represented a history and a tradition. Its vivaciousness and energy represented the irrepressible and bustling aspirations of Mumbaikars.

This compelling concoction of innocence, tradition and aspiration was crushed by automatic-weapon-toting men who had no place in their heart for concern, apathy or dignity, nor did they have a sense of an individuals’ right to freedom. They had in their hearts nothing but a hatred so vile and contemptuous that they snatched away human dignity and freedom of not just the 150 people that they killed, but many many more.

One has felt an anger, a bitterness and a helplessness in the recent past. One probably felt these emotions on that fateful day that has been now termed “9/11”. We felt it again on 26/11/2008.

At a time like this, cricket is so utterly inconsequential.

But then, it so is

Dreams cannot be shattered. Aspirations are important. Terrorists cannot dictate the collective vision of a country that is built on the bed-rock of a deep culture and is constantly fuelled by a strong sense of urgency, ambition, happiness, peace, freedom and pride.

We cannot buckle down to terror for that is exactly what the terrorists would want us to do. Life must go on. Indeed, life must go on in a more compelling manner. We must learn from this. And get stronger. In India, cricket is so intertwined with life. So, by extension, cricket too must go on. Of course, one cannot and should not endanger the safety of players and spectators. But this must be a lesson to everyone running the country (and the game) here in India. Are you looking for phen375 reviews?

Innocence has been lost. Of that, there can’t be much doubt. The remainder of an ODI tour has been cancelled. The Champions League tournament has been cancelled. These were necessary measures that had to be taken.

Several marriages have been cancelled in Mumbai. There is no mood currently to celebrate. The environment is one of shock and numbness. It would be insensitive to celebrate. It would be inappropriate to even watch a game of cricket.

But once the numbness, the shock, the anger, the frustration and the bitterness has dissipated, what must emerge is greater understanding and greater resilience. This is a time for the world itself to renew and rebound.

Cricket is but a game. In this environment, to talk of the future of cricket in India may sound trivial and even disrespectful to the many people that lost their lives. The topic itself may seem utterly insensitive to the thousands of people that have been affected by this dastardly and cowardly act of terrorism. But cricket is a game that is in the heartbeat of most Indians. Cricket must continue in India — better, bigger and bolder. And through it India and Indians must demonstrate to those that matter that India lives. India must live again.

We here at i3j3Cricket have been as stunned as anyone else that saw the horrific scenes of terror engulfing Mumbai. Our hearts go out to the people that were killed and to the many that were affected. But life must go on. We must learn and grow. While innocence may be lost, hopes and aspirations cannot be lost. And we must not give in to the terrorists. Most Indians would understand if England do not wish to come back for the Test series, but taking this easy option would signal a victory to the terrorists whose sole agenda is to disrupt normalcy.

Terror should never win. Terror can never be allowed to win…

— Mohan, Mahesh, Paddy, Srikanth and Vish

PS:
We at i3j3Cricket do not usually moderate comments. But in this instance any anti-religious, nationalistic, or hate-fuelled comments will be deleted. While we understand the hurt, anger, frustration and helplessness that we may all feel, please keep your comments as clean and as healthy as you possibly can.

Groundhog day

These events seem to be happening – again…and again…and again! Like Groundhog day…

-Mahesh-

Of Brains, Hair, Selectorial Leaks and Third Worlds

While Australia returned to their winning ways in the comfort of their home conditions and as India continued to mount an impressive ODI campaign against the visiting English team that is in a bit of a disarray at the moment, the usual suspects have been at it again this week.

  • Sunil Gavaskar and Ricky Ponting have continued their public spats.
  • Ricky Ponting continued his petulant wars with Ian Chappell and Alan Border.
  • The BCCI has another selection room leak to contend with.
  • Matthew Hayden continued his Third World campaign even as the sight-screen froze at The Gabba!

Ponting Vs Gavaskar, Chappell, Border, A. N. Other:

It looks like the public spat between Ricky Ponting and virtually anyone within spitting distance of the Australian captain has now consumed Sunil Gavaskar as a somewhat willing participant! It all started when Ponting was criticised by virtually everyone on his captaincy in India during the recently concluded Test series, which India won 2-0. In the Nagpur Test Ponting employed his part-time bowlers in a bid to save himself (first and then, his team) from incurring the wrath of the ICC Match Referee. It was a move that potentially cost Australia the match, the series and the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Former Australian captains, Ian Chappell, Alan Border and Steve Waugh condemned the decision immediately.

Instead of offering a philosophical shrug and accepting the criticism, Ponting — as is his wont in recent times– went into overdrive in defending his actions. He even said at a luncheon in Brisbane that he had no intention of speaking to the former Australian greats for a while yet! These were classic signs of an Australian captain who seemed to have lost the plot.

As if all of that wasn’t bizarre enough, Ponting then took aim and fired in the direction of Sunil Gavaskar through the release of a section of his book in which he criticises Gavaskar, a consistent critic of the Australian team’s on-field behaviour! Ponting aimed his gun at Gavaskar, saying that the former Indian great was no angel in his playing days! For substantiation of the argument, Ponting alluded to Gavaskar attempting to stage a walk out at the MCG in 1981!

Three things come immediately to mind! (a) What has the “walk out” in 1981 got to do with Australian team behaviour in 2008? (b) Wasn’t Gavaskar’s walk out in 1981 in protest against Australian behaviour on the field, thereby substantiating Gavaskar’s argument, and not Ponting’s? (c) What has the “walk out” got to do with the price of fish anyway?

Sunil Gavaskar needs no invitation to fight. He picked up his boxing gloves. But instead of saying that Ponting’s allusion to the 1981 “walk out” merely substantiated his own argument, Gavaskar lashed out some more on Thursday 20 Nov, saying “Ponting was just seven-year-old when MCG incident happened. He does not know the background”.

As if that wasn’t enough puerile behaviour for one week, in today’s Sunday Times of India, Gavaskar has said “Ponting’s hair has grown, not his intelligence” (I can’t find an online link to this story, but will like as soon as it appears on the ToI site)! This makes reference to the sudden (re)growth of Ponting’s mop. In his vitriolic diatribe against Ponting, Gavaskar drops a pearl in a line that makes me sigh in despair. He says, “The Australians have gone home with their tail between their legs, like most dogs that bark and do not bite when confronted with another who stands up and does not run away.” Sigh!

Selection-room discussions:

The biggest story in India right now is the selection room gut-spill. The India team for the Bangalore and Cuttack ODIs against England included Irfan Pathan and Sachin Tendulkar for R. P. Singh and Murali Vijay. The selectors declared their intent, upon being chosen, that they wanted to focus on the nurturing of all-rounders. So despite his patchy bowling form, the selection of Irfan Pathan was consistent with that approach. All good, one would have thought!

But no. In a move that only the BCCI and its machinery can match, a selection committee leak to the Kolkata based ‘Anand Bazar Patrika’ revealed that India captain, M. S. Dhoni disagreed with the selectors.

If I were the BCCI, I’d identify who this idiot was that leaked discussions held in a committee and publicly flog him.

This leak does not serve anyone’s interests. The BCCI’s interests have been compromised. Dhoni’s interests have been compromised. As Dhoni himself said, “This is the pinnacle of the sport. We are selecting 15 guys for the Indian team. There will be debates inside, and that information should not be put out in the media. If it is meant to come out, then I can say we might as well have the whole meeting telecast live on television. Nobody knows what was discussed except the eight guys in the meeting. And only they know whether it’s the truth or not.”

I totally agree here. Indeed, I think that such debate and argument is healthy. I certainly hope that we do not have a robot that goes into a meeting, nods his head at the “respected elders” sitting there and comes out of the meeting with a team sheet.

It is alleged that Dhoni said, “Sir Caaptani bhi dete ho aur baat bhi nahin sunte. To caaptani ka kya faayda?” (“Sir you’ve made me captain, but do not wish to listen to me? So what’s the use of this captaincy?”)

Fair point.

Note that he hasn’t actually said, “If you do not back R. P. Singh, I will resign”, as has been commonly reported by the “braying mediocrity” (the press) here, in India. It is more of a rhetorical question and I think it is a fair question to ask in the context of a selection debate.

Debates at the selection table are what they should be: debates at the selection table. In this instance, Dhoni lost the debate and that’s fine too. He should have copped it on the chin and moved on.

He did!

After the meeting Dhoni said, “This is a selection thing and personally I don’t discuss anything outside. To some extent it does distract us. The good part is that we trust each other – every player in the team trusts the other.”

However, Kris Srikkanth and his team have much to answer in this sordid saga. I hope Srikkanth does not push the dust under the carpet. For the sake of his own integrity and the integrity of his selection committee, I do wish he hounds down the selector that leaked this to the press and gives him a sound thrashing.

The leak has put Dhoni in the invidious position of having to have conversations with R. P. Singh and Irfan Pathan. As Dhoni himself said, “There might be a scenario where all of a sudden we might want to get in touch with RP Singh and Irfan Pathan. And you don’t want RP to feel that I will go out of the way and stand and defend him and Irfan should not feel I don’t want him in the team. I will stand and defend both these players and both of them trust me. My talks with them went off well.”

While I do agree with Anand Vasu, one of the saner voices in Indian cricket media, when he says in the Hindstan Times, “What this incident does is vitiate the atmosphere in the dressing-room,” I do not agree with him when he says “There’s no need to name names, no need for the BCCI to investigate.”

Sorry. I do not agree. The integrity of the selection process has been violated. It is time that the BCCI draws a line in the sand, pulled up the culprit and hangs him out to dry. But I really can’t expect that from the BCCI.

What shocked me, however, was the reaction of a journalist like Bobilli Vijay Kumar, who, in an article in The Times of India, supports the leak wholeheartedly. In an article that sports the tone of a king crab in a lid-less container shipment of Indian crabs, Vijay Kumar hopes that “Dhoni has learnt his lesson: yes, there are no secrets in Indian cricket; no meeting, however sacrosanct it might appear, remains confidential for ever. Every word, especially one that has the contours of a controversy, will sooner or earlier end up as part of a headline.”

And some people wonder why we, at i3j3Cricket, have termed the Indian cricket media, the “braying mediocrity of Indian cricket”?

G. Rajaraman, another sane voice amidst the cacophony (the man who got is credited with enlisting that powerful quote from Kumble after the Sydney Test), offers a solution. He says: “I believe that much of the speculation would have been stifled had BCCI let Srikkanth speak for the Selectors and offer some insight into the changes. It is important for the media and the cricket fans – stakeholders of the game, after all – to understand the thinking behind such changes rather than be left to grapple for understanding on their own.”

I agree with Rajaraman. Much of the speculation arises from having people like Niranjan Shah (in the past) and G. Srinivasan (currently) front up to offer selection explanations to the key stakeholders in the game — the fans and media. That should be left to the chairman of selectors — in this case the loquacious, never-shy-in-front-of-a-microphone, I-can-speak-faster-than-I-can-think Kris Srikkanth!

This episode is not about whether R. P. Singh would have been a better choice. Nor is it about interpreting Dhoni’s words as a resignation threat. As I have said, in the context of a selection meeting, those words make perfect sense to me. I certainly do not interpret those words as a resignation threat! However, this episode is about resurrecting the integrity of the Team India selection committee. Its integrity has been shot and a proper investigation needs to be conducted. A message needs to be sent.

I do hope the BCCI has learnt its lesson. But before that, the BCCI has an important task on hand. It needs to start weeding itself of unprofessional thugs, and in my view, the rascal responsible for that leak is indeed, nothing more than an unprofessional thug.

Hayden, sight-screens and the Third World:

Matthew Hayden, started the week off by complaining about sight screens in Third World India. His comments led to much consternation, disbelief and hurt! Amidst the continual shaking of utterly dismayed heads in India, the key message that Hayden wanted to convey was, once again, lost!

I do agree with Hayden at a general level. There are many things that happen in India that make me roll my eyes, shake my head and leave me with no option but to say, “Only in India”! For example, the other day Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat, walked into a game being played at Rajkot. He proceeded to sit himself down on a chair right beside the sight screen. His entourage of nearly 100 people (it seemed) circled all around him. Several of them spilled onto the sight screen area! Play was held up for nearly 5 minutes while this mess was sorted out. Surely, Narendra Modi could have been seated at some other part of the ground where play need not have been held up thus!

But then, as he often does, Hayden had the political acumen of a mosquito flying headlong into an oncoming Mortien spray burst! He should have perhaps even used the more politically conscious “developing” instead of “Third World”, especially since he professed his deep love for India and her people.

But then, as Peter Lalor says, somewhat apologetically, after there were several stoppages in the recently concluded ‘Gabba Test match, “karma [had] a way of sinking its frustrating teeth into [Hayden’s] behind”.

— Mohan

The contenders

Saurav “dada” Ganguly has retired and that has opened up a slot in the middle order, that is up for grabs. The race is truly on. The list of contenders has been doing the rounds for a while now and here is my take on them. I’ve also included their form guide since start of October.

Yuvraj Singh

This man is an enigma. He has been in International cricket for over 8 years, won matches for India, fields brilliantly and yet has struggled to find a spot in the Test team. In 36 innings, he has 3 hundreds and 3 fifties – not good. If he does not find a spot in the side soon, he will become the Michael Bevan of India – Great one day player, forgettable Test player. Currently the leading contender for the berth – a fact that has been confirmed by Kris Srikkanth, the chairman of selectors.

Form Guide:

Match Score
India vs England 3rd ODI 38
India vs England 2nd ODI 118
India vs England 1st ODI 138*
Punjab vs Delhi 0, 38
India Blue vs India Red 8*
India Blue vs India Green 3
India Blue vs India Red 6
Board Presidents XI vs Australia 29, 113

Cons: Suspect against spin, questionable attitude, recent form slump, injury woes. A confidence player.

Pros: The two match winning performances against England should give his confidence and chances a boost. He loves the English bowling (remember the 6 sixes against Broad). Still young (26), but has loads of experience and can absorb pressure. Being left handed in an otherwise right handed middle-order is also a good thing.

Rohit Sharma

Showed he belongs in the big league with good performance against Australia in Australia and before that in the T20 World Cup, but is yet to get a big score in his 28 outings in ODIs – his highest score has only been 70* and he averages just under 25 – but that could be due to the fact that he comes down the order and hasn’t played enough matches yet.

Match Score
India vs England 3rd ODI 28
India vs England 2nd ODI 3
India vs England 1st ODI 11*
Mumbai vs Rajasthan 62, 128
India Red vs India Blue 1
India Red vs India Green 117*
India Red vs India Blue 2
Board Presidents XI vs Australia 105, 29*

Cons: Lack of consistency, Poor string of scores in International cricket.

Pros: Good technique. Big match player. Like Sehwag, he may not score heavily in first class matches. But on the big stage, he can absorb pressure and play well. Playing well of late – a 100 against the Aussies playing for the Board President’s XI and good scores (62 & 129) against Rajasthan in the Ranji match before the ODI series began. Like most of the contenders, has age on his side (only 21)

Suresh Raina

Being the blue eyed boy of Greg Chappell probably put more pressure than him than it was worth. Only 21 and has already had a bit of rollercoaster ride in his short career which started off with a first ball duck. Huge potential and it is really a question of when he will play in the Test side – not if.

 Form Guide:

Match Score
India vs England 3rd ODI 1
India vs England 2nd ODI 4
India vs England 1st ODI 43
Uttar Pradesh vs Andhra 22
India Green vs India Blue 16
India Green vs India Red 58
India A vs New Zealand A 11, 5

Cons: Hasn’t had s good run of scores since the start of October.

Pros: Fielding. Technique. Only 21, but has already played high pressure situations and handled them well. Left handed batsman.

Murali Vijay

Consistent performances in the Ranji could not be ignored and he was drafted into the Test squad as a replacement for the suspended Gambhir. Although didn’t cross fifty in either innings, impressed everyone with the way he handled the Aussie fast bowlers.

Form Guide:

Match Score
India vs Australia 4th Test 33, 41
Tamil Nadu vs Maharashtra 243
India Red vs India Blue 30
India Red vs India Green 45
India Red vs India Blue 89
India A vs New Zealand A 98, 0

 

Cons: Plays as an opener and that may act against him. India usually play a middle order batsman as on opener – not the other way around!

Pros: In form. Good technique. Impressed everyone with his fielding which included a couple of run outs in his debut test.

Chateshwar Pujara

This man is on a roll. 3 Triple-hundreds since September – granted that two of them were in the U-22, but you still can’t ignore that. And he just scored another big hundred (189) against Punjab. If you are looking for an in-form batsman to fit into the middle order – he is your man.

Form Guide:

Match Score
Saurashtra vs Punjab 189
Saurashtra vs Orissa 302*
Saurashtra vs Gujarat 8, 0
India Green vs India Blue 65
India Green vs India Red 18*
Saurashtra U-19 vs Maharashtra U-19 309
India A vs New Zealand A 89, 0

Cons: No international exposure as yet. Batsmen in India usually get picked in ODIs first (you do have exceptions like Murali Vijay)

Pros: A good technique well suited for test cricket. Good temperament to play long innings. He is still young – under 21.

S. Badrinath

S. Badrinath has had strong scores in India A matches and in domestic cricket. As a result, he has been in the frame of the selectors for a while now, but has failed to click in key matches that would give him a promotion to the test spot. He has just scored a century for Tamil Nadu in the Ranji Trophy, but that is probably too little too late. He still has an outside chance of getting into the team though.

Form Guide:

Match Score
Tamil Nadu vs Uttar Pradesh 123
Tamil Nadi vs Karnataka 7
India Red vs India Blue 56
India Red vs India Green 27
India Red vs India Blue 10
Indian Board President’s XI vs Austraia 2, 14

Cons: Failures in key matches. Hasn’t had the big scores this season to push for a place in the side.

Pros: Technique suited for Test cricket. Consistent without being flamboyant. Has been around in domestic cricket for a while and has represented India in the “A” team with a lot of success. So, comes with a lot of experience.

The Outsiders

There are few others who could get a look in as well. Virat Kohli and Robin Uthappa and Kaif come to mind straight away – but as of now, they are more of outsiders than contenders.

-Mahesh-

England lose…..again!

They didn’t take a pasting as they did at Rajkot and Indore. In fact, one could argue that they were within striking distance of a win. But England did lose. This time, they were done in by bad light and two of their countrymen – Messers. Duckworth and Lewis.

But even before that, they could only manage a below par score of 240. The English did change the batting order as was expected. Ravi Bopara at the top gave a much better start than what they were used to. But the middle order didn’t capitalize on it this time around. Credit should go to the Indian bowlers, though – particularly Harbhajan Singh, who grabbed his 200th ODI wicket in the game and was even named Man of the Match.

England were eventually bowled out with 2 balls to spare in the revised 49 over game. For India, no one really got going with the exception of Sehwag. Sehwag, by his standards, played a slow subdued game scoring 68 of 76 balls and struck a useful partnership with Rohit Sharma (who scored 28). Yuvraj, the bête noire of the English in this series, was caught trying to the pull the ball of Flintoff’s bowling. But by that time, India were ahead of the D/L target and managed to stay there before light was offered to the batsmen.

England can take a few positives from the game, but they have to be concerned with the bowling of Anderson and the form of Collingwood. India have won the first three games of the series, two of them on the back of some excellent batting from Yuvraj – Rohit Sharma and Raina will have to lift their game.

The Indian team for the next two games has been announced – Vijay makes way for Tendulkar, while RP Singh makes way for Irfan Pathan. It would be tempting to drop either Rohit Sharma or Suresh Raina for Tendulkar – but what I would like to see is rest Sehwag for the next two games, while Tendulkar plays. He could then come back into the team, while Dhoni rests for the last two games of the series. India would then have to get a replacement wicket keeper for the last two games.

(I wonder if Dinesh Karthick with his double hundred and good showing behind the stumps in his last Ranji game has done enough to be given another chance at the International level after his recent failures? And Parthiv Patel still hasn’t found form this season so far)

I would also like to see Ishant play just two of the next four games, while Pragyan Ojha and Virat Kohli get a game or two. It would also be interesting to see if Robin Uthappa (who has had a couple of centuries in the Ranji Trophy this season so far) gets a look in for the last two games. We do need to rotate and rest players – a fact the selectors hopefully won’t ignore.

-Mahesh-

Team composition for the 3rd ODI

England bat deep. So deep that Ravi Bopara is forced to come in at No. 8 and Stuart Broad, who averages around 37 runs and has 3 fifties to his credit in his short Test career, comes in at No. 9. Yet, they’ve had trouble overhauling the totals set by India in the first two matches.

A lot has been said about England’s team composition and the blame for the two defeats attributed to that. I disagree with this – Their batting on paper, as I’ve pointed out, is quite deep and in the bowling department, they have gone with four front line bowlers. Most teams go in with 4 full time bowlers and the other 10 overs are usually bowled by part timers. England have Anderson, Broad, Flintoff and Harmison as their front line bowlers and to add to that they have Collingwood (who is quite capable of bowling 10 overs by himself if he isn’t playing in the sub-continent), Samit Patel, Bopara and Pieterson to chip in to complete the remaining overs. The only serious debate is whether they should include a front-line spinner in the team and that would definitely be worth considering – Graeme Swann (and he can bat, too) is indeed tipped to start in the ODI at Kanpur.

The real problem, in my opinion, lies with the batting order in the team. In particular, the opening combination is just woeful. Matt Prior has had a very poor run – in his 27 outings as opener, he has crossed fifty just once – and his strike rate has been around the 75 mark. Bell has fared better than Prior  – he has averaged around 34 and has 5 fifties, but his strike rate is only around 69. Both have had slow starts, chewing up precious power play overs and haven’t converted them into big scores.

(Compare this to Sehwag (who has a SR close to 100) and Gambhir (SR of 84+), who have been giving good starts to India)

There is nothing wrong with a traditional slow start if one (or both) openers go on to make a big score and leaving a launch pad for hitters like the Boparas, Flintoffs and Patels to come in later and do their stuff. But that isn’t happening either. Prior at the top of the order has failed and needs to be replaced with someone else. Maybe England can try something dramatic like sending in someone like Flintoff or Bopara to start the innings. Shah needs to go back to No. 5 or 6 – the position he has occupied in most of his ODI games.

Pieterson (their No. 1 batsman and captain) needs to come in at No. 3, followed by Collingwood, Bopara, Shah and Patel. Prior can be the new No. 8 batsman. My batting line up would look something like this –

  1. Flintoff
  2. Bell
  3. Pieterson
  4. Bopara
  5. Collingwood
  6. Shah
  7. Patel
  8. Prior
  9. Broad
  10. Swann
  11. Harmison/Anderson

India, on the other hand have no major selection dilemmas at the moment. Ishant Sharma, who is now fit, is likely to come into the team to replace RP Singh – apart from that they are expected to retain the same playing XI. However, if India wins the third one day as well, I would expect a few people to be rested and rotated – probably starting with the captain MS Dhoni.

-Mahesh-

India wins again in cordial environment

India played an ODI last night. India won, again.

Once again, the nature of the pitch wasn’t an issue for intense pre-match analysis and debate. Once again, the toss wasn’t an issue to moan about — one of the teams won the toss and I can’t even remember which one! Again, the over-rate wasn’t a problem in this match. The Third-World sight screen held up quite well in a completely packed Third World stadium. The word “monkey” and the city “Sydney” weren’t mentioned in the same breath by everyone around with a clear intent of selling books and apologising for comments taken out of context later.

Duh! Australia wasn’t playing a cricket game! Clearly India was playing someone else because the on-field camaraderie between the two teams was excellent.

India defeated England at Indore to lead the 7-match series 2-0. India won on the back of another Man-of-the-Match performance from Yuvraj Singh, who cracked another century and also took 4 wickets.

Unlike the 1st ODI at Rajkot, England was in the contest for spells. But England was unable to maintain its intensity. England let India advance at key moments in the game. With India at 29-3 with Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma back in the pavilion, instead of going for the jugular, England allowed Yuvraj Singh and Gautam Gambhir to rebuild. Gambhir and Yuvraj batted with the calm assurance of a pair of Buddhist monks and built a platform from which Yusuf Pathan was able to launch! And launch he did with a 29-ball half-century. In their response to a score of 292, England started cautiously, but was unable to maintain a tempo through the innings. A smart power-play choice was followed by some lusty blows from Flintoff. But 2 quick wickets from Yuvraj Singh broke the back of England’s determination and the rest of the innings just crumbled.

I am glad India stuck with Yusuf Pathan. He bats well and can bowl a few overs too. I am also glad that Dhoni is using Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag as bowlers.

England are a better ODI team than the 0-2 series result suggests. I just feel that England have got a few things wrong. I really do not know what Ravi Bopara, a specialist batsman, is doing at #8! That is truly bizarre. Owais Shah is not a big hitter but a finisher in the Bevan-mould. At best, he could be a #4 player. So what he is doing at #3 only England will know! Matt Prior is not opener-material either. Moreover, in India, England needs a spinner like Graeme Swann instead of James Anderson. Samit Patel won’t do as the only spinner in the team! Also, Kevin Pietersen needs to bite the bullet and come in at #3. He can organise the play if an early wicket falls. So for the next ODI, I’d like to see the following England line-up:

Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Kevin Pietersen, Owais Shah, Freddie Flintoff, Paul Collingwood, Matt Prior, Samit Patel, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, Steve Harmison.

By the way, i3j3Cricket’s “Adjective Watch” department has been closed down till the next India-Australia tour!

— Mohan