Monthly Archives: January 2009

Sri Lanka Vs India :: 1st ODI :: 28 Jan 2009

India won against Sri Lanka in the 1st match of this new ODI series without really breaking into a sweat. Ever since Sri Lanka lost Tilakaratne Dilshan in the very first over, the result was as clearly predictable as Munaf Patel’s excellence in the fielding facet of his game!

In the recent ODI games against Pakistan, Dilshan — the opener — has been a revelation for Sri Lanka. Dilshan’s opening role served several purposes. He provided the stability that allowed Jayasuriya the ability to free his arms at the top. Although Sangakkara provided similar stability to the Sri Lankan lineup, Sangakkara’s calm assurance at the #3 slot that few batsmen was lost to the Sri Lanka team. Sangakkara is now able to provide that assurance that few teams in world cricket can boast — Australia, with Ricky Ponting, excepted. With Dilshan opening, Sangakkara could now go back to the #3 slot.

Third, as the Cricinfo match report states, Dilshan “hid” the woefully out-of-form Jayawardene. It appears that when Jayawardene is out of form, the whole world knows it. He just seems to fall apart at the seams! Memories of the World Cup in 2003 come flooding back, where Jayawardene hardly seemed able to hit ball with bat and when he did, he popped a catch to a nearby fielder! The Sri Lankan captain is going through one of those patches at the moment and the sooner he comes out of it, the better it would be for the home team.

So, Dilshan’s early departure led to some over-cautious batting by the Sri Lankans. And the captains form — or lack of it — meant that Sahan Thilina Kandamby, playing in only his 8th ODI was sent in at #4 when Sangakkara got out. Kandamby scratched around for an eternity before getting out. And in the end, the Sri Lankan total was never going to enough despite another huge effort from the 39 year-old warhorse, Sanath Jayasuriya.

India bowled well in patches. I was quite amazed to see Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina get to bowl as many overs as they did! Together, they bowled 8 overs to Yusuf Pathan’s 7 overs and Munaf Patels’ 5 overs.

Perhaps this over-bowling of Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma stemmed from the fact that Dhoni knew the pitch was getting slower. Perhaps this stemmed from the fact that Munaf Patel was having a bad game with the ball. Perhaps this stemmed (although quite unlikely) from a perverse desire that Dhoni wanted a bigger challenge when batting? Perhaps this stemmed from a desire for Dhoni to have Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma more match-hardened as the tournament progressed to its later stages. All of this is quite speculative. The fact is that the two youngsters had a lengthy bowling stint. Considering that they bowled mainly to an in-form Jayasuriya, their 8 overs for 38 runs was an impressive effort.

Dhoni marshalled his resources excellently. He brought in Raina and Rohit Sharma an over or two after Sangakkara holed out to mid-wicket off a flighted teaser from Pragyan Ojha. Yusuf Pathan and Ojha were bowling at that time. Instead, knowing that Jayasuriya and Kandamby would be intent on consolidation prior to a PowerPlay launch, Dhoni extracted 8 overs from the two rookie bowlers.

Sri Lanka erred by calling for the PowerPlay only in the 38th over. By then, the two Indian trundlers had already bowled their 8 overs — including 4 with the “new” ball (taken in the 34th over). Ishant Sharma was brought on immediately when the PowerPlay was called and struck in his very first over by getting rid of Kandamby!

The Indian fielding was patchy. Although it was nice to see Yuvraj Singh fling himself around in the field, there were several balls that went through the legs or under the hands when the fielders did not bend their backs enough!

Munaf Patel comes across as a lazy fielder even on his best fielding day! Yesterday, he continued the trend of being lazy and ill-committed in the field. I can see India hurting badly through his fielding recalcitrance if it plays on a flat pitch and needs all fielders to be on their toes. Already with Zaheer Khan in the field, the Indian fielding unit has one fielder who could easily make the cut in the “World’s Top 20 Worst Fielders Club”. But then Zaheer Khan is an asset with the ball — and sometimes with the bat — and more than makes up for his sloppy fielding. In Munaf Patel, India has a weak fielder who doesn’t bat well and occasionally — like in yesterdays’ match — leaves his bowling acumen behind in the hotel room!

However, this was India’s first outing in this tournament. Moreover, India was coming off a short lay-off. So there are opportunities for these rough edges to be ironed out.

I must say that I do like the Indian team balance better if Irfan Pathan is playing in it — instead of Munaf Patel. I may even be tempted to play Rajinder Jadeja in a game or two ahead of Pragyan Ojha.

Although Kumar Dharmasena gave a shocker of an LBW decision to send Sachin Tendulkar packing, the result was never really in doubt. Suresh Raina and Gautam Gambhir batted with assurance and confidence. Even when they got out, the rest of the batsmen played with purpose and focus. Even the wily Muralitharan and the destructive Mendis could not make much of a dent.

I suspect India will go in with the same team for the next ODI.

— Mohan

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Duleep Trophy Semis

So, South Zone prevailed over Central Zone in the Duleep opening game. A cats’ whisker separated the two teams in terms of the recorded result: South won on the basis of a 3-run 1st Innings lead! However, the result and the manner in which it was contrived was, in my view, a shocker that ought to send a clear signal to the people that run the game in India — notwithstanding the fact that I used the word “run” in a loose manner in that sentence!

The result was handed to South Zone when Central’s last bat, Umesh Yadav, went for a huge second-ball slog off L. Balaji with Central just 3 runs behind. Murali Kartik, who was at the non-strikers’ end (on 23 off 32 balls) would have reason to be cheesed off with Umesh Yadav who probably redeemed himself by being the best bowler on view from either side in the first innings. Yadav had a 5-fer that included the wickets of Dravid and Laxman.

South Zone went ahead to the next round on the basis of the slender 3-run 1st Innings lead that it secured. Thereby, players like Robin Uthappa, S. Badrinath, Dinesh Kartik, L. Balaji, Abhinav Mukund, and Sreesanth lived to fight another day!

Fair enough.

However, what was galling was that the captains of South and Central agreed to settle for a draw after the fall of Central’s 9th wicket — that of Mohammed Kaif — even though there were nine overs to go! Chasing 381 in 77 overs was always going to be tough. But Central made an attempt. However, with the fall of the 9th wicket and with 9 overs left in the days’ play, it was thoroughly disappointing to see South’s captain not press for an outright win!

Surely there is something wrong in the “system” right there! We can blame the rot on the administrators — and we do — but surely, the players have to get into the winning habit too! Even though there are no carry-forward points I can’t imagine a let-us-settle-for-a-draw attitude percolating through the Australian system or the South African domestic system, for example.

These little things do matter. Winning is a habit.

Players like Badrinath get another chance to press their case. Dinesh Kartik made a compelling case for the 2nd ‘keeper slot with two impressive centuries in the match.

The action moves to Mumbai and Rajkot now

  • 1st Semi-Final: East Zone v West Zone @ Mumbai – Jan 29-Feb 1, 2009
  • 2nd Semi-Final: North Zone v South Zone at Rajkot – Jan 29-Feb 1, 2009

The teams:

East Zone Team:
Shiv Sunder Das (capt), Manoj Tiwary, Rashmi Parida, Wriddhiman Saha, Haladhar Das (wk), Ashok Dinda, Ranadeb Bose, Dibyendu Chakrabarty, Niranjan Behera, Basanth Mohanty, Anand Katti, Krishna Das, Saurabh Tiwary, Tushar Saha, Jayanta Debnath.

West Zone (in possible batting order):
Wasim Jaffer (capt), Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Kedar Jadhav, Bhavik Thakkar, Abhishek Nayar, Parthiv Patel (wk), Ramesh Powar, Rajesh Pawar, Dhawal Kulkarni, Sidharth Trivedi.
Subs: Ajay Shrikhande, Samad Fallah, Azharuddin Bilakhia and Ajitesh Argal.

South Zone (in possible batting order):
Abhinav Mukund, Robin Uthappa, Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman (captain), S. Badrinath (vice-captain), Arjun Yadav, Dinesh Karthik (wk), R. Ashwin, M. Suresh, L. Balaji, S. Sreeshanth.
Subs: Suarav Bandekar, M. Vinay Kumar, S. Anoop Pai

Interstingly, Wriddhiman Saha is included as a batsman in the East side with Haladhar Das anointed as the ‘keeper! And that warhorse, Debashis Mohanty is not in the East Zone squad even though he ended the season as East’s leading wicket taker. I have not seen the North Zone team list anywhere yet.

— Mohan

Curtains for Badrinath?

Several months and a few dozen posts back, I had made a statement that Subramaniam Badrinath tends to fail in key national games. Someone challenged me to it and I was going to dig into stats and prove my point. I hope to be able to find the time to get around doing it but, for certain, his performance in the ongoing Duleep Trophy game against Central Zone will only improve my statistics. Is this curtains for him or is there still hope? With Rohit Sharma banging on the doors with strong performances in the Ranji finals and Dinesh Karthik not calling quits yet, does Badrinath even stand a chance? While only time will answer this question, my personal feeling is that his performance combined with age will soon place him in the Mohd. Kaif category.

The Duleep Trophy game has raised some interesting thoughts . Is Abhinav Mukund ready for big leagues? Is AS Yadav that terrible, even he has scored a half century? Is Balaji back in the reckoning and has Sreesanth done enough to earn a recall? I am quite impressed with Dinesh Karthik’s attitude, he seems much better placed than Parthiv Patel to qualify for the second wicket keeper spot at this time and his approach to batting provides him an opportunity the likes of Suresh Raina for a middle order spot in the one day side.

All action seems to bode well for an interesting year ahead.

– Srikanth

South Vs Central :: Duleep Trophy :: Preview

Since my last post wherein I discussed the South Zone and West Zone teams for the Duleep Trophy, Central Zone announced its team for the Duleep Trohpy. The first match in this knockout-format tournament starts today, 22 Jan, in Bangalore.

For South Zone, I expect the playing XI to be:
Abhinav Mukund, Robin Uthappa, Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman (captain), S. Badrinath (vice-captain), Dinesh Karthik (wk), R. Ashwin, P. Pragyan Ojha, L. Balaji, S. Sreeshanth, R. Vinay Kumar.

It is a good line-up with Abhivav Mukund expecting to shine brighter in the national radar as he has done in Chennai! Robin Uthappa will continue an impressive season after going off the boil subsequent to the Australia tour in 2008. While Rahul Dravid and Laxman will use this as match practice ahead of the New Zealand tour, Badrinath should use this opportunity to force his way into reckoning for the New Zealand tour.

The bowling looks solid on the back of Sreesanth’s 7-fer in the match in his comeback match for Kerala. But that was in the Ranji Plate match against a weak Jharkand. Whether he can cut it on the bigger stage remains to be seen! With the fast bowling stocks looking quite healthy in India at the moment, Sreesanth and L. Balaji have their work cut out for them!

The Central Zone squad is dominated by players from Uttar Pradesh (finalists in the Ranji). The CZ squad (in possible batting order):

Shivakant Shukla, Tanmay Srivastava, Yere Goud, Mohammad Kaif (capt), Faiz Fazal, Naman Ojha (wk), Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Piyush Chawla, Murali Kartik, Pankaj Singh, Anureet Singh.

Subs: Umesh Yadav, Robin Bist, Parvinder Singh, Jalaj Saxena.

Pankaj Singh was in the India Test side to tour Australia last year. Piyush Chawla has played many a game for India and left-arm spinner, Murali Kartik played for India not too long ago. So Central may feel that they have a better bowling attack. Mohammed Kaif should use this to stake his, perhaps rightful, claim on the big stage in Indian cricket!

Although Central have competent players like Mohammed Kaif, Murali Kartik, Pitush Chawla, Yere Goud (former Karnataka player and prolific scorer), et al, South Zone should win this stage to move on to bigger and better things in the tournament.

But then stranger things have happened, as they say!

— Mohan

Duleep Trophy Teams

The South Zone team for the Duleep Trophy has been announced. Interestingly, the newspaper report requests all the players “to assemble in Bangalore on January 20. For further details players may contact R. Sudhakar Rao, assistant secretary, on Phone No. 098440 41815.”

Surely, there is a better way to do this!

The Duleeps this year commences from Jan 22. In the absence of a foreign team — the sixth team — this season’s Duleep Trophy will be played on a knock-out basis. I am not sure why this has to be the case! This is one of the few occasions when the country’s elite players are playing against each other. To have them play just one game (perhaps) against the best of their peers is nothing short of baffling. Surely, the tournament can be played on a league basis!

Instead, South Zone and Central Zone, the teams placed at the bottom of their respective groups last season, will play a qualifying match in Bangalore from January 22. The winner will take on defending champions North Zone in the first semi-final, while East Zone clash with West Zone in the second semi-final. The final, will begin at on February 5 in Chennai.

Just as the BCCI got the New Zealand tour itinerary wrong, my feeling is that the BCCI has screwed this up too!

The SZ team itself is a mixed-bag. As Shankar points out in the comments section of a previous thread, how M. Vijay missed out and how Arjun Yadav — son of former India spinner, Shivlal Yadav — gets in, is a mystery.

M. Vijay, we all remember, played for India against Australia in the 3rd and final Test match of the series in October, when Gautam Gambhir was “elbowed out” of the game!

It is terrific to see Abhinav Mukund get into the big league. He was the 4th biggest scorer in the Ranji Trophy with 856 runs and is just behind Wasim Jaffer, Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara in the pecking order. As Srikanth Mangalam has pointed out, Abhinav Mukund, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli and R. Jadeja are possibly the future of Indian cricket.

It is also good to see Sreesanth making a comeback into the SZ team. Although L. Balaji has been playing well for the last year, to get into the big league once again indicates that his career is probably heading in the right direction once again.

The South Zone team in possible batting order is:

Abhinav Mukund, Robin Uthappa, Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman (captain), S. Badrinath (vice-captain), Dinesh Karthik (wk), R. Ashwin, P. Pragyan Ojha, L. Balaji, S. Sreeshanth, R. Vinay Kumar.

Subs: Suarav Bandekar, M. Suresh and S. Anoop Pai, N. Arjun Yadav,

Meanwhile, the West Zone squad has also been announced. It is a strong team with players like Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Dhawal Kulkarni and Sidharth Trivedi and Abhishek Nayar supporting West Zone veterans Wasim Jaffer and Parthiv Patel.

In a somewhat strange and inexplicable move, while batting in the Ranji Finals, Wasim Jaffer opened the Mumbai batting with wicket-keeper Vinayak Samant! With a player like Ajinkya Rahane in the midst, why would he do that? Having said that, Samant did make a big hundred in the second innings and Rahane didn’t do much in the game! So perhaps Jaffer got it right after all? But surely, one’s got to trust the opener with the job of opening, especially since Rahane was the second highest scorer in the championship with 1089 runs (Jaffer was the only other player to score more than 1000 runs in the season)!

The West Zone team (in possible batting order) is:

Wasim Jaffer (capt), Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Kedar Jadhav, Bhavik Thakkar, Abhishek Nayar, Parthiv Patel (wk), Ramesh Powar, Rajesh Pawar, Dhawal Kulkarni, Sidharth Trivedi.

Subs: Ajay Shrikhande, Samad Fallah, Azharuddin Bilakhia and Ajitesh Argal.

This is an impressive batting line up in which the top three in the WZ batting order are the top three run getters (in that order) in the Ranji Trophy!

Of course, West Zone’s strength will be depleted by the absence of Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Yusuf Pathan and Irfan Pathan, who will all be in Sri Lanka, playing for India against Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile, Mohnish Parmar, the Gujarat offie, has been banrred from playing the Duleep Trophy due to a suspect action! The 20-year-old off-spinner was (with 41 wickets at 19.53) the second highest wicket-taker in the Ranji Trophy competition behind Dhawal Kukrani and Ravindra Jadeja!

I haven’t seen the team announcements for Central, North or East Zone.

— Mohan

ICC’s “Best Ever” batsmen and bowlers!

The ICC has released its “Best Ever” Batting and Bowling ratings.

Its best ever batsman is Don Bradman. No arguments from anyone on that one, I’d think! The ICC’s 3rd best ever bat is Ricky Ponting. Its 6th best ever bat is Kumar Sangakkara! And the ICC 10th best ever is the recently retired Matt Hayden.

Sunil Gavaskar sneaks in at an impressive 20th, just 8 places behind that huge pillar of consistency and fluency, Mohammed Yousuf (#12), and 3 places behind the stellar Mike Hussey. But lest Gavaskar drown in his own tears, he can at least take comfort from the fact that he is three places ahead of a 23rd-placed also-ran called Brian Lara! Meanwhile Sachin Tendulkar just makes it to the top-30. He is at #26, just ahead of a somewhat inconsequential Rahul Dravid (#30) and a somewhat lazy Steve Waugh (#28)!

Javed Miandad comes in at an honourable #34, but at least he is ahead of Greg Chappell (#35), Bill Lawry (#36) and Alan Border (#37). Meanwhile, Adam Gilchrist (#42), Graham Gooch (#44) and Gundappa Vishwanath (#45) would be immensely satisfied for a former England captain — for they are all behind Matthew Vaughan (#39) in the pecking order!

Shane Warne would be highly pleased to learn that he is the 15th best ever bowler on a list that has Sydney Barnes at #1 and George Lohmann at #2.

In case anyone is wondering, George Lohmann played a whopping 18 Test matches for England in which he took an impressive 112 wickets! Shane Warne toiled for 145 Tests and some 190 ODIs taking over 1000 wickets in both forms of the game! Clearly, he was not good enough to be even in the top-10 best ever ICC bowlers!

But Shane Warne should be happy that he is marginally ahead of D. Steyn (#22), who may have died of shock this morning when he reads that he has been rated much ahead of D. K. Lillie and Kapil Dev — #34 and #35 respectively! But at least Lillie and Dev are marginally ahead of Stuart Clark (#38)! Meanwhile, the marginally effective and highly inconsistent Wasim Akram brings up the rear at an extremely healthy placing of #59! Airbrushing is easy with something like Luminess Air.

What are these ICC guys smoking these days? Would be good to toke some of that stuff while on a holiday!

These ratings are called the “Reliance Mobile ICC Best-Ever Test Championship Rating”. If I were the CEO of ‘Reliance Mobile’, I’d use this early “April Fool Joke” from the ICC as a reason for providing a pink slip to my marketing manager who signed up the naming rights’ deal for this joke!

— Mohan

Thinking ‘Out of the box’ for India’s tour of NZ

With India’s tour to Pakistan canceled, post 26/11, India had an opportunity of a slightly extended tour to New Zealand. And indeed, India are now playing an additional Test match and an extra Twenty20 in New Zealand.

However, instead of lengthening the tour to accommodate these additional matches, the extra matches have been featured at the cost of canceling the practice game that was originally scheduled.

India will also be playing five ODIs and a Twenty20 game at Sri Lanka from Jan 28 to Feb 10.

Once again, the BCCI has proved that if India does well in international cricket it is despite the BCCI and not because of it. The utter stupidity of this decision to cancel the scheduled practice game — in order to accommodate an additional Test and Twenty20 — shocks me.

The schedule for the series in New Zealand is:

– 25 Feb: 1st Twenty20 international, Christchurch
– 27 Feb: 2nd Twenty20 international, Wellington
– 3 Mar: 1st ODI, Napier
– 6 Mar: 2nd ODI, Wellington
– 8 Mar: 3rd ODI, Christchurch
– 11 Mar: 4th ODI, Hamilton
– 14 Mar: 5th ODI, Auckland
– 18-22 Mar: 1st Test, Hamilton
– 26-30 Mar: 2nd Test, Napier
– 3-7 Apr: 3rd Test, Wellington

Now, to my mind, there is no reason why a few (not just one or two, but a few) 3-day practice games cannot be organised for Team India between 25 Feb and 14 March even with the above itinerary.

If we consider the current India ODI team and Test team, there are players like Rahul Dravid, V. V. S. Laxman, S. Badrinath, Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma and Sachin Tendulkar who do not (need to) feature in the ODI team.

There are Team India ODI players like Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, M. S. Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan who are also a part of the Team India Test side. While they get acclimatised to NZ conditions by playing their ODI games, there is no reason why the rest of the Test team should not play a few practice games in NZ!

A more proactive and forward-thinking BCCI would have married the “making money” strategy with the need for practice and pragmatism to come up with a winning strategy. Unfortunately though, BCCI seems constantly incapable of thinking beyond the money prerogative — a strategy that necessitates more matches being played!

It would be easy to form the following two teams and have them play in New Zealand simultaneously:

ODI Team India:
Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, M. S. Dhoni, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel (Subs: Irfan Pathan, Virat Kohli, Pragyan Ojha, Mohammed Kaif)

NZ Practice Matches India:
Wasim Jaffer, M. Vijay, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, V. V. S. Laxman, S. Badrinath, Parthiv Patel, Manpreet Gony, Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma, R. P. Singh (Subs: Ashok Dinda, Cheteshwar Pujara, Abhishek Nayar, Chetanya, Nanda, Piyush Chawla)

This assumes that Sachin Tendulkar and Ishant Sharma are “rested” from ODI duties. However, even if that is not a valid assumption, since both teams would be in the same country, players can be mixed and matched between the two teams!

In essence, what I am calling for is a marriage between the “make money” strategy with “pargmatic necessity” to come up with an innovative winning strategy.

Alas! The BCCI has repeatedly indicated that it is incapable of thinking beyond packed tours and money!

— Mohan