Monthly Archives: June 2009

Cricket Wins!

The ICC T20 world cup 2009 has come to an end. The trophy continues to remain in the sub-continent. The winner is a country in turmoil, a team with no likely home turf advantage in the horizon, a team with an eccentric captain who does not see himself as a good one at it and one who thinks this version of the game is for entertainment purposes only. Pakistan have done remarkably well to defeat a Sri Lankan side that did not lose a game in this tournament till today. It is remarkable that Pakistan have been in two of the two finals played in this version so far. So much for consistency while every other team has had varying fortunes. Pakistan deservedly won the game on a day when their form was impeccable.

Sri Lanka may have faltered at the toss, I feel. On a Lords wicket that seems to encourage pace atleast early on, they may have considered putting Pakistan on first up. Pakistan seemed to bowl with a plan which worked. Sri Lanka weak middle order was exposed early on and required Sangakkara to play a wonderful innings to get the team to a reasonable total. Kamran Akmal at the top played very much the role that Gambhir had played in the 2007 world cup. He was consistent and got the team off to a good start and Afridi’s promotion to No.3 once again worked. The Malik/Afridi partnership was a sensible one and Sri Lanka’s darts had little effect on them. The match itself lacked flair and excitement that one has come to expect of this version especially when played in the sub-continent. Maybe the location and the audience had an effect. You can’t get the aristocracy, tradition, and “stiff upper lip” out of Lords no matter how well you fill up the stadium with a noisy sub-continent lot. Some of it must rub off on the game in the middle.

T20s can take a break for a while and we shall return to normal cricket soon with the WI/India one day series starting in a few days time. I hear good things about the new “Bravo” in the WI team and look forward to a rearranged Indian team taking on a rejuvenated WI side.

– Srikanth

Glad its over!

I am glad its over not because India has not made it into the semis, not because they didn’t deserve to move to the next round. I am glad its over because, while it might occur now and in the next few days, the outcry from an irresponsible media and associated mediocrities will die down. We would have  been subject to some pathetic analysis and over-analysis from all and sundry every game India played further in the tournament if they beat England today. I am glad we will not be subject to that anymore.

Yes, India lost today and yes, I am disappointed. However, I will not disown this team like most short-sighted critics of this team tend to do. From ball one, you could sense that the british bourgeois in the commentary team (Naseer and Co.) tabled this game as team representing the “Home of Crieket” versus a team that, in their view, presented the antiestablishmentarianism (I wanted to use this word sometime and I hope I got it right!)of cricket. How dare these Indians take away the game from where it belongs! The number of innuendos that the David Lloyds and Naseer Hussains of the world provided, the number of sarcastic references to the “superstar” Indian team, the frequent expressions of disappointment of the prejudiced audience at Lords, all of it become far too tiring after a point. I am glad its over.

Seriously, T20 is nothing but an entertainment package. Younus Khan, probably one of the most intelligent minds in the game today, was not too far from the truth when he stated his opinion on this form of the game. One could be as critical of Dhoni as you possibly could, discredit his strategy, scream for Jadeja’ blood, and dismiss Ishant Sharma’s performance as outright mediocre. I have to come to believe that T20 is an interesting anomaly to the game of cricket. For crying out loud, Ireland played a close game against one the current favorites earlier in the day. Could you imagine them doing the same in a one day format or even more so in a 5 day game? I may just have become tired of the overdose of this format in the last couple of months. I can guarantee that would not be the case with the traditional form of the game.

Coming back to the game, India did seem out of sorts today. Were they tired and fatigued? Was it another 0ff-day? They could beat this England side 9 out 10 times, I would have thought. They did fight it till the end though, and that is the character that I have come to admire in this team. This is the future of Indian cricket, no doubt about that. Yes, this was a hiccup and that was all it was. Suresh Raina will soon learn to pull, hook and duck in style. Ishant Sharma will learn to mix it up and bowl yorkers. Harbhajan Singh will bring more control on the ones fired down the leg side and Dhoni will get his batting order right. This is a good team and we have to put faith in it. You can’t win them all. I continue to characterize Dhoni as one of the best captains of India and he will get it right more often than not.

The tournament will lose its colour here on. Atleast team blue will be conspicuous by their absence. If I were a betting man I would go with a South Africa/Sri Lanka final. My heart though goes out to a Pakistan/WI finale. I like Younus Khan as a captain, player and a cricket ambassador. I also think that this Pakistani team is a good one and I would hope that they do well. West Indies, on the other hand, is exciting to watch. It will good for the game if the two “nations” make it to the finals. West Indies cricket will be revived financially and public interest wise, and hopes of sanity may arise in Pakistan if sport takes over once again.

Cheers,

Srikanth

Crunch time for Team India in ICCWT20C

India is in almost the same situation as it was in the 2007 edition of the ICC World T20 Championships. Back in 2007, having lost her fist Group-E Super8 game to New Zealand, India had to play England in game-2 and then South Africa in game-3 of the Super-8 stage. India are in much the same position now. It is an opportunity for India to re-write the history books or a chance for England and South Africa to exact some revenge!

Stuart Broad, in particular, will want to forget that night at Kingsmead, Durban on 19 September 2007! He got taken to the cleaners by an angry Yuvraj Singh who was made angrier after a sledge from Andrew Flintoff! The repeat of Stuart Broad Vs Yuvraj Singh should make compelling viewing.

There are cries of gloom and doom already in the Indian media. Obituaries are already being written and workers at effigy-making factories have booked in for over-time while their masters are already rubbing their hands in glee!

Someday someone will realise that this is only a game!

India, in my view, is not playing the right team. One can’t do anything about Virender Sehwag’s injury. Them’s the breaks and you can only play with the cards you are delivered.

I can understand the teams’ reluctance to play R. P. Singh ahead of Ishant Sharma because, if R. P. Singh were to play, the team would have Zaheer Khan, R. P. Singh and Irfan Pathan as the pace bowlers. There would, as a result, be a sameness to the bowling. Understood.

However, this analysis is predicated on the presence of Irfan Pathan in the team! I can’t be certain that that is a foregone conclusion.

I’d much rather the team play Zaheer Khan, R. P. Singh and Praveen Kumar instead!

The absence of Irfan Pathan would result in a weakening of the batting though. To make up for this, I’d like the team to play Ravindra Jadeja instead of Pragyan Ojha.

Moreover, I think M. S. Dhoni is wasted at #3. He is a clinical finisher and is a bit of a misfit at #3. I’d like to see Suresh Raina at his more familiar #3 position.

I believe India has defined a hitter/defender role for each player. Rohit Sharma appears to be the designated “hitter” while Gautam Gambhir is a “defender”. So, should Gautam Gamhir fall first, Dhoni walks in as a “defender” replacing another “defender” while, should Rohit Sharma fall, Raina would come in as a “hitter” for “hitter” replacement (as he did in the game against West Indies).

All of this sounds excellent on paper.

This represents another twist in Dhoni’s reading of the game and works well provided, of course, that it doesn’t become an obsession. Some six months back Dhoni was obsessed with the left-right batting combination strategy and ploughed on with it regardless of the situation or the opposition. Formula captaincy does not a Dhoni make though! His strength is his alertness and nimbleness and he should fall back on that rather than a formula.

Although, having said that, having a few set templates in a game as fast and furious as the T20 game is not necessarily a bad thing.

The problem with implementing this strategy blindly is that Dhoni’s form has not been that great lately. Given that, I think he should stick to the knitting and back himself as one of India’s strongest finishers in recent memory. He has this uncanny ability to hold one end up, rotate the strike and score at a run-a-ball without getting fazed. THat ought to be his role in the team.

So, I’d like India to go with the following team (in batting order) in todays’ game against England:

Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, M. S. Dhoni, Yusuf Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar, R. P. Singh

— Mohan

Beaten by Bravo Brilliance

Since pretty much the start of IPL-1 last year, Dwayne Bravo has played like has a point to prove. Strange things have happened enroute including his surprising exclusion from the West Indies team for the England test series but his game has never looked better. India can feel disappointed that they did not put a good score on the board. It was strange that, while the original decision was debatable, Dhoni chose to bat lower down the order in this game with Suresh Raina hardly getting a good game in England. I would preferred Dhoni to have batted at No.3 this time around. Yuvraj Singh played brilliantly but I think India were about 20 runs short. At the end of the day, Bravo and Simmons stole the game away from India on the field and while batting.

Where does India go from here? They have to win both the remaining games and hope that West Indies lose one of their games. If India does pull through and move to the semi finals from here on, they will become favorites for the cup. Per current form, Sri Lanka and South Africa look absolute favorites for the title. 

India should consider playing RP Singh instead of Ishant Sharma in the next game. While Dhoni may think that he has figured out a plan for Sharma, in my opinion, Ishant Sharma seems lost in this version of the game. While it would be tempting to play Ravindra Jadeja instead of Irfan Pathan in the next game, Irfan’s swing bowling could come in handy against the Englishmen. One thing is for sure, as far as I am concerned, this tournament will lose its colour and excitement if India does not go through into the semis. 

Hoping for the best,

Srikanth

Australia and Sehwag out of ICCWT20C

Amid speculation of a possible rift in the ranks of Team India, Virender Sehwag is out of the ICC World T20 Championship currently underway in England. Cricinfo reports that dealings with the fourth estate have been somewhat charged and frosty over this particular issue, which led to the speculations that not everyone is a happy camper. Rohit Sharma will open for India along with Gautam Gambhir which, in my view, is not necessarily the worst outcome! Rohit Sharma has been in excellent form lately and can also bowl his brand of slow off-spin.

Dinesh Karthik — him again! — will replace Sehwag in the team. Not sure about this move. My suspicion is that, despite his good showing in the IPL for Delhi, Karthik will carry drinks and warm benches.

Not all is well it seems. At least, things are a bit unsure.

What, however, is a certainty is that Australia has been booted out of the ICCWT20C. An ill-prepared Australia was kicked out on that same day that Ireland was welcomed in to the next stage of the tournament; the Super Eights. What should perhaps be most worrying to an Australian fan, is that Ricky Ponting appeared unable to find any answers. For a start, they had the wrong team playing the wrong brand of cricket! I am, for example, not sure why Ryan Harris and Dirk Nannes weren’t in the Australia team! We know why Brad Hodge is not in the team — he is Victorian! Perhaps that bug has bitten Dirk Nannes too? Nannes was, in my view, the best bowler in the IPL. Instead of chosing a fit and performing Nannes, Australia went for players like Shane Watson and an under-cooked Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey. If I were an Australia fan, I would ask questions of Andrew Hildich!

We certainly live in interesting times!

— Mohan

ICCWT20C :: Groupings and Points

Time for a reminder on the ICC World T20 Championship Groups.

Defending champions India is in an easy group A along with Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Having said that, let us not forget that Bangladesh beat West Indies and Zimbabwe beat Australia in the 2007 edition of the ICCT20C!

Anything is possible in this version of the game. The gap between the best and the rest is narrow and all it takes is a few mistakes for a team to be blown away. India will have to be on her toes.

The groupings do not really make sense to me, but given that they were developed nearly 2 years ago (thanks to an ECB request to boost ticket sales) and given that they were based on the results of ICCWT20C-2007, we have a crazy situation where Australia, Sri Lanka and West Indies are in the same group!

For what it is worth, the groups are:

Group A: India, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe Ireland
Group B: Pakistan, England, Netherlands
Group C: Australia, Sri Lanka, West Indies
Group D: New Zealand, South Africa, Scotland

The preliminary league stage of the tournament will see each team play other teams in its Group. The top two teams from each group will qualify for the “Super Eights”.

Unless there is a miracle or bad-luck through rain-affected matches, I expect the Super Eight line-up to be:

India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, England, Australia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, South Africa

Of course, having said that, anything can happen in Group-C the “Group of Death”

In the case of tied points, ranking within the Group will be determined by, in order, (a) the total number of wins, (b) net-run-rate, (c) higher number of wickets taken per balls bowled, (d) winner of the group match between the tied sides, or (e) lots.

Weather could play a crucial role in this particularly since, to the best of my knowledge, points from weather affected games cannot be carried into the Super Eight stage! If all 3 games of a Group are washed out, the original seeding will prevail. In other words, if all three Group C matches are rained out, Australia and Sri Lanka will advance to the Super Eights without any points being carried forward!

In the Super Eight stage, teams will be tagged as A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2, D1, D2. These tags follow the teams’ seeding except if A3 knock out A1 or A2, in which case A3 takes on the tag of the team that it knocked out.

Super Eight Stage groups:
S8G1: A1, B2, C1 and D2
S8G2: A2, B1, C2 and D1

This will be followed by two semi-final games and a final.

The warm-up games have commenced. Bangladesh has played a few warm-ups against the likes of Netherlands (won), Scotland (won) and Australia (lost). West Indies beat Ireland. India started its campaign with a loss to New Zealand while South Africa beat Pakistan.

— Mohan Ire