Monthly Archives: April 2009

Good enough is not enough

Winning a series in NZ is pretty good, I reckon. In fact we couldn’t achieve that a few years ago when the fab five were still playing together and a lot younger. Actually, India haven’t won a test series in NZ in 41 years – so, the series win should rank pretty high….but let me state a few facts that would put things into perspective:

  • India is ranked No. 3 in the Test rankings and there isn’t much separating them and South Africa in the table. One could even argue that there is very little separating the top 3 teams at the moment.
  • New Zealand is ranked No. 8, ahead of Bangladesh.
  • The current Indian team has more experience and is far more superior to the New Zealand team in both batting and bowling.

The reason I am pointing these things out is because I am actually disappointed with the final result of the series. Dhoni should have declared at the end of the 3rd day and tried for an outright win. By doing so, he would have taken the weather completely out of the equation. Most people in India would happily settle for a 1-0 series win. That would be Good enough for them. Not for me. I have come to expect more from this team. I seriously think that this team can be the #1 team in the world, but that will not happen if we keep settling for a “good enough” result.  We should have come out of this series with at least a 2-0 win.

The series win sounds a bit hollow to me and I somehow feel the same way I felt after the series loss to SL last year. That may sound a bit harsh, but as I said earlier I’ve come to expect more from this team. To me, “Good enough” is just not enough…

-Mahesh-

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Has Team India missed another “Tipping Point”?

On 15 August 2007, Team India’s 2007 series in England had just concluded. Rahul Dravid was then captain of Team India — a team that had no coach and a genial geriatric as its Team Manager. The team had started off that tour with several enormous handicaps. It had a mountain of pressure on it after having been unceremoniously dumped from the 2007 World Cup. Against that backdrop, Team India won that series in England on that day.

On that day, however, while celebrating that victory, I wrote that there was a hollowness to the victory. The team had refused to press its foot on the pedal in going for a victory at The Oval. Although India had won the series 1-0, a 2-0 result was possible. Instead, Rahul Dravid chose to take the safe route, secure a series victory and hand it as a “present” to players like Sourav Ganguly, Anil Kumble, Sachin Tendulkar, himself and V. V. S. Laxman — players who were unlikely return to England for another series, but more importantly, players who hadn’t tasted an England series victory in their time!

Sentiment overtook a sporting “tipping point”.

I wrote that day about how Team India had missed the “tipping point”, drawing reference to Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference”. In that book, the author presents a thesis that (ideas and) behaviours act like outbreaks of infectious diseases that create social epidemics. The Tipping Point is the moment in an epidemic when critical mass is reached. These are “boiling point” moments. Moments that we often describe using the phrase “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. These are dramatic moments when something unique becomes common. Moments at which little changes can make a big difference.

A similar “tipping point” moment was presented to Team India today against New Zealand. However, instead of going for victory, India marched on to set New Zealand an unattainable target of 617 runs in a maximum of 167 overs. New Zealand would have to score at an explosive rate of 3.7 runs per over to make the score on a 5th day pitch! The Kiwis would have to do more — much more — than just beat the 4th innings world record for the maximum number of runs scored to win a game! The Kiwis would have to smash the record of 414 set by South Africa on 21 December 2008.

India batted for about an hour and a half on day-4 and consumed some 20 overs by batting on and on! I am not sure that that was necessary. Clearly, India’s approach was that protecting a 1-0 lead was far more important than pushing all out for a 2-0 series win. Especially with rain looming, which would potentially wash out the 5th day’s play, what India needed was urgency and proactive cricket. Not a safety-first approach.

Now in saying this, I fully realise that M. S. Dhoni is a sentimentalist first and ruthless captain (in the Steve Waugh mould) next. To him, handing a victory to the seniors in the team would mean much more than a chest-thumping bragging-rights moment that a 2-0 victory would give him. Even so, I felt that Team India had missed another “tipping point moment” in its developmental journey.

Despite the bad weather that is predicted for Wellington and despite the flatness of the track, India may still win this Test match. But by playing such defensive/negative cricket, this Team India is perhaps indicating that it is “not quite there” yet.

A little difference on Day-4 would have meant “positive batting“ and “positive cricket”. The big outcome could have been, “Hey! We can do it”.

Winning is a habit.

— Mohan

Probables List :: Team India T20 World Championships

The Indian selectors announced the Team India list of 30 probables for the T20 World Championship. The final squad of 15 will be announced on June 5, just 10 days after the IPL concludes.

The probables list is:

Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Yusuf Pathan, Irfan Pathan, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel, Ravindra Jadeja, Pragyan Ojha, Harbhajan singh, Praveen Kumar, Dinesh Karthik, M Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane, S Badrinath, Robin Uthappa, Virat Kohli, Manoj Tiwary, Wriddhiman Saha, Abhishek Nayar, Amit Mishra, R Ashwin, RP Singh, L Balaji, Dhawal Kulkarni, Naman Ojha.

Ommissions from the team that represented India in the 2007 T20 World Championship are S. Sreesanth, Piyush Chawla, Ajit Agarkar and Joginder Sharma.

Sreesanth is out through “back injury” — he has even pulled out of this years’ IPL as a result of his injury. Ajit Agarkar hasn’t set any cricket field on fire in the last year or so and must be on his way out of all forms sometime soon. His was a talent that didn’t quite get there, in my view.

The demotion of Piyush Chawla and Joginder Sharma is of concern. There is no doubt that Joginder Sharma never quite lived up to his potential as a “bit of a batsman” — and I fear a similar fate for Praveen Kumar too! And yes, Piyush Chawla’s bowling has tapered off a bit and he did not have a great domestic season. But one would have thought that he would make the probables cut!

I am a bit surprised that the probables list has as many as 4 ‘keepers — Dhoni, Karthik, Saha and Ojha! Surely, two — or at most three — would do! The additional spot could have been “given” to either Joginder Sharma or Piyush Chawla!

The break-up of the probables list is:
Batsmen: Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, Virat Kohli, M Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane, S Badrinath, Manoj Tiwary
Bits-and-pieces: Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh
All rounders: Yusuf Pathan, Irfan Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja, Abhishek Nayar
Spinners: Harbhajan Singh, Pragyan Ojha, Amit Mishra, R Ashwin
Pace: Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar, L Balaji, Dhawal Kulkarni, Munaf Patel, RP Singh,
Keepers: MS Dhoni, Wriddhiman Saha, Dinesh Karthik, Naman Ojha

I’d think that the final team will be made up of 2 batsmen from the above list (the first two named), all 4 “bit and pieces” players in the above list, 3 “all rounders” (first three named), 1 spinner (the first named), 4 pace men (first 4 named) and 1 “keeper” (first named)

Players like Abhishek Nayar, Ajinkya Rahane, Naman Ojha, Wriddhiman Saha, M. Vijay, Manoj Tiwary, et al should feel good that they are part of the mix with the senior squad. After strong performances in the domestic season, the day is perhaps not far when we will start seeing some of the above in national colours.

Given the timing of the IPL and the date when the T20 team of 15 will be selected, one has to assume that the IPL assumes special significance for some of the above players!

However, I expect the 15-member T20 India team will be:

Gautam Gambhir
Virender Sehwag
Suresh Raina / Robin Uthappa (or Virat Kohli)
Yuvraj Singh / Rohit Sharma
MS Dhoni
Yusuf Pathan
Irfan Pathan / Ravindra Jadeja
Harbhajan Singh
Zaheer Khan
Praveen Kumar / L Balaji
Ishant Sharma

— Mohan

Third Test :: New Zealand Vs India :: 1st Day

It was one of those manic days of Test cricket in which each team will claim they got it right.

New Zealand took a risk by winning the toss and asking India to bat. NZ will feel that their decision was vindicated by getting 9 of India’s 1st Innings wickets on the opening day! NZ will also be disappointed that they let India get away to 375 after having India 205-6 at one stage! It was a poor post-Tea show from the NZ bowlers after they stuck to their task in the first two sessions — despite the pounding they received from Sehwag!

India raced at the start. It was almost as if India was playing in an ODI. Having started in that manner and having put the seed of concern in the mind of the NZ captain, the Indian top order will be disappointed that it let NZ back into the game. Everyone in the top-order barring Gautam Gambhir got out to a poor shot rather than a good ball.

Gambhir was out-thought by Franklin — a bowler who just didn’t look like taking a wicket this series. After moving a few away from the left hander, Franklin got a cross-seamer to hold its line. Gambhir was out LBW.

However, Sehwag, Tendulkar, Laxman, Dravid and Dhoni “gave it away”. And Yuvraj Singh was Yuvraj Singh!

There has been talk that the NZ bowlers bowled too short. I am not sure I agree. Of the Indian bats that got out, Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Dhoni and Zaheer got out to balls that were pitched short! Harbhajan got out to a ball that seemed to stop on him a bit. Gambhir got out to a clever piece of bowling. The ball was pitched further up and held its line. Laxman chased a fuller ball that pitched outside off and swung further away.

And Yuvraj Singh was Yuvraj Singh! The only good thing about Yuvraj Singh these days is he makes the Indian fan yearn for Saurav Ganguly! The man does need to do something about his (1st Innings) batting.

Despite the fact that Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar and Dhoni got starts, India were pegged back by the NZ bowlers. But despite the somewhat poor showing from the top order, India still made 375!

So it was just one of those days of cricket!

— Mohan

New mobile phone service for Cricinfo

I found this interesting and thought I’d post about it.

First up, I have to declare that I have nothing to do with this service nor do I stand to gain in any way as a result of this “review”. I just found this free service interesting and thought I’d share with fellow cricket tragics!

snaptu is a startup that has just released a mobile phone live scores and news service for Cricinfo. It is targeted at everyday phones rather than high end iphones. Looks good.

In order to get it, put m.snaptu.com on your phone’s browser or if you do not have one, go to http://www.snaptu.com/a/cricinfo and get an sms link. There are other services on there, but this one caught my interest.

A YouTube video of the CricInfo score service is available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=do-wYiCldyA

— Mohan