Monthly Archives: September 2009

Poor decision making cost India the game!

If the primary wicket taker of the side does not come on till the 26th over, there is the problem right there. No matter what the circumstances, Dhoni’s decision to hold his ace bowler back may have affected Harbhajan  Singh’s performance on an otherwise up and down for India on the field. I believe Harbhajan Singh is like Tendulkar when it comes to participation. He needs to be in early and get as much of the strike (of the crease) as possible. Virat Kohli’s half trackers and Yusuf Pathan’s harmless spin let Shoaib Malik and Mohammed Yousuf settle in and subsequently destroy the Indian bowling attack. At 52 for 3, you would want to corner the opposition by attacking further and playing on the minds of a under confident batting line up. Unfortunately, that did not happen.

While Tendulkar seemed to fall in the run of play, Gautam Gambhir played a majestic innings. He hardly demonstrated any rustiness despite his absence from the game for a while and played some glorious shots. Dravid’s calling and running had a lot to be desired yesterday. Despite that Gambhir could possibly have made a stronger attempt at getting back to the crease. His departure was extremely crucial for India since the Pakistani side were starting to feel the brunt of hit attack.

Virat Kohli, in the way he batted, reminded me a lot of Robin Uthappa. His came, played and departed in a fashion that bore a similarity. I am not so sure if the decision to send Kohli up the order was a good one, on hindsight. Raina’s innings, I thought, was the most intelligent of all. He mixed some sensible running between wickets with the kind of aggression that he is so good at. He knew that Malik was possibly the weakest link and took him to the cleaners in an over where he played some amazing shots. I thought his dismissal was a really poor decision on the part of Steve Davis.

Yusuf Pathan lacks the ability to think of a game beyond 20 overs. In fact, when he is at the crease even that seems a far fetched thought. I have absolutely no idea as to why he continues to maintain his captain’s confidence. I would dearly like the explanation for why he is a better fit in the side compared to Rohit Sharma, Abhishek Nayar or even his own brother. He needs to be relegated back to IPL and T20 status.

While Dravid’s running and calling may undergo some scrutiny, I thought he held the innings well. He batted sensibly and as long as he was at the crease, there was always hope. Another terrible indecision cost him his wicket. While India did lose the game by 54 runs, overall, I do not think they played as badly as they did in their recent loss to Sri Lanka while chasing a similar total. Gambhir’s is a very welcome return to the side. They may want to consider playing either Amit Mishra or Abhishek Nayar in the next game instead of Yusuf Pathan. They could also consider playing both while keeping Virat Kohli out.

I still believe this Indian side, despite its depleted strength, is good enough to beat Australia and West Indies to go through to the next stage. In fact, I think they will do so with considerable ease. Exciting times ahead.

– Srikanth

Irani Trophy and Challengers

The teams for the Irani Trophy and the Challenger Trophy, the traditional curtain-raisers for the cricket season in India, have been announced. By and large, the teams are good and sound in what is expected to be a good season in India; one in which several Team India stars are expected to turn out, somewhat unexpectedly, for their home states.

Irani Trophy

The Rest of India team features two Team India players who are on their comeback from injury: Virender Sehwag and Sree Santh. Zaheer Khan is still on the mend and so it appears as though it will be a while yet before we see him in action for India.

Cheteshwar Pujara is another notable absentee. He had an amazing run in last years’ Ranji Trophy and went onto the injury bench just prior to this year’s IPL. He misses out because he he is till injured.

A notable and exciting inclusion is young TN opener, Abhinav Mukund, who gets a call on the back of a successful Ranji season. He may not play, given the presence of M. Vijay and Virender Sehwag as openers. However, this is a step in the right direction for this young left-hander.

Two notable exclusions are Parhiv Patel and Mohammed Kaif! The former has been edged out by the exciting talents of Wriddhiman Saha and the 22-year old, Punjab ‘keeper, Uday Kaul. However, this non-selection must come as a rude shock for Mohammed Kaif in both the Irani game as well as the 3 Challenger teams! Remember that Mohammed Kaif is a contracted Team India player! This non-selection, on the back of the fact that he did not get selected for the Rajasthan Royals in this year’s IPL, must be a blow to the young man, who must wonder where his career is at.

Kaif has probably been edged out by 24-year old Pune batsman, Kedar Jadhav. Irfan Pathan and Munaf Patel get a chance to reconstruct their Team India prospects through this Irani game.

I expect the following Rest of India (probable team):

M. Vijay / Abhinav Mukund
Virender Sehwag
Virat Kohli
S Badrinath
Manoj Tiwary / Kedar Jadhav
Ravindra Jadeja
Wriddhiman Saha / Uday Kaul
Irfan Pathan
S Sreesanth / Sudeep Tyagi
Munaf Patel
Pragyan Ojha

The Mumbai team for the Irani Trophy sports a healthy look under the leadership of Wasim Jaffer and with the presence of Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane. Prashant Naik gets a look in given that Amol Muzumdar has moved in the off-season to Assam! The probable Mumbai Team is:

Wasim Jaffer
Sahil Kukreja
Ajinkya Rahane
Rohit Sharma
Prashant Naik
Vinayak Samant / Sushant Marathe
Ajit Agarkar
Ramesh Powar
Dhawal Kulkarni
Rahil Shaikh / Murtuza Hussain / Saurabh Netravalkar
OJ Khanvilkar / Iqbal Abdulla

This should be a cracker of a contest and should set the scene for the rest of the India season.

Challenger Trophy:

The Challenger Trophy squads:

India Red:
M Vijay
Sunny Sohal
Shikhar Dhawan
Yuvraj Singh (capt.)
Saurabh Tiwary / Harshad Khadiwale
Ravindra Jadeja
Wriddhiman Saha (wk)
R Ashwin / Ishank Jaggi
Sudeep Tyagi / Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Munaf Patel
Ishant Sharma

India Green:
Parthiv Patel / Uday Kaul (wk)
Tanmay Srivastava
Ajinkya Rahane
Suresh Raina (capt.)
S Badrinath
Manoj Tiwary / Ravi Inder Singh
Irfan Pathan
L Balaji
Dhawal Kulkarni
Pankaj Singh
Chetanya Nanda / Sadab Jakati

India Blue:
Sachin Tendulkar
Wasim Jaffer
MS Dhoni (capt.)
Naman Ojha
Kedar Jadhav / Dhiraj Goswami
Abhishek Nayar
Yusuf Pathan / Jalaj Saxena
Harbhajan Singh
Siddharth Trivedi
Ashok Dinda / Suresh Kumar

A few surprises here. First, while it is nice to see Suresh Raina’s elevation to captaincy, is it a bit too early for him? Does he really have captaincy material? Second, it is interesting to note that, as I have pointed out before, Mohammed Kaif can’t find a place amongst the best 42 players in the land! Mind you, this set of 42 players does not include players from The Bangalore Royal Challengers players (like Robin Uthappa, Praveen Kumar and Rahul Dravid) and The Deccan Chargers players (like V. V. S. Laxman, R. P. Singh, Pragyan Ojha, Rohit Sharma, Tirumalasetti Suman and Venugopal Rao) who are playing in the Challengers because the Champions League will be on at the same time as The Challengers. This means that Mohammed Kaif is not amongst the 51 best ODI players in the land? And he still carries a central contract? Baffling…

The teams look well balanced and will be a nice selection platform for the endless series of ODIs against Australia.

— Mohan

India win Compaq Cup

An undercooked Team India, which was coming out of a long lay-off and with a few star players (Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Zaheer Khan) injured, won the Compaq Cup in Sri Lanka after beating the hosts in a close game in the Finals.

India’s win came on the back of Sachin Tendulkar’s 44th ODI Ton and owed thanks to Harbhajan Singh’s 3rd 5-wicket haul!

For the first time, in my view, India got her batting order right. Dinesh Karthik, who killed off his Test career on India’s last tour of Sri Lanka, probably did much the same to his ODI career in the first two games that he played in the Compaq Cup. I reiterate that I have nothing against the lad. He is a good player and more power to him. However, when it comes to crunch situations, he repeatedly fails to deliver. Prior to the start of the series, I had predicted that he would carry drinks for India. Thanks to Gautam Gambhir’s injury and Team India’s muddled thinking, Karthik was asked to open in the first two ODIs. He failed in both. Further, his batting meant that Sachin Tendulkar had to change his style of play.

In yesterdays’ game, Tendulkar opened with Rahul Dravid, whose stability allowed Tendulkar to play the way he normally does — really well and freely.

The other change that I have yelled for was for captain M. S. Dhoni to walk in at the fall of the first wicket. In yesterdays’ game, he did so and the change was remarkable. He brought a calm solidity to the batting. Although he fell just when things were starting to get interesting (when the batting PowerPlay was taken), he had built a solid foundation to India’s innings by the time he left.

In the end, thanks to that foundation, although I thought India floundered a bit between overs 40-45, the score was respectable and good.

That Sri Lanka gave that total a real shake is a credit to their emergence as a strong ODI team these days. I do like the look of the Sri Lanka team. The team has some excellent bowlers and with the rapid strides made of late by Samaraweera, Kandamby and Dilshan — not to mention his now famous DilScoop — the batting looks strong too, especially when you consider the experience provided by Sanath Jayasuriya, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardane.

In the end, India emerged winners. The margin of victory (46 runs) might seem comfortable. However, India did have some scares, not to mention poor fielding and dropped catches. India needs to do more work in these departments before it can think of laying a fingerprint on the Champions Trophy.

However, it was nice to see Harbhajan Singh get a 5-fer with good bowling and not the spear-em-in sort that he normally resorts to in ODIs. This bodes well for India in the season ahead.

— Mohan

Vale Raj Singh Dungarpur

Former BCCI President, Raj Singh Dungarpur passed away over the weekend, aged 73, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. Unlike many in the current administration, Raj Singh Dungarpur was a player himself. Therefore, it isn’t a great surprise that, as an administrator, he was more interested in talent nurturing than in money spinning! He was a players’ administrator. Having played 16 seasons for Rajasthan — he was a modestly successful pace bowler who used his 6ft 3in height to his advantage — he could see that “talent” was the cornerstone to successful impact on the world stage.

But it wasn’t as a player that he carved his fame and contribution to cricket in India. He was really better known as a commentator (initially), Chairman of the National Selection Committee and Team Manager on several tours — including a tour to Pakistan 2006, when he was reported to have called Sourav Ganguly the “laziest and possibly the worst fielder” in the team! He was also BCCI President for three years from 1996 and then, President of the Cricket Club of India (CCI) in Mumbai. Towards the end, he lost his grip on the CCI too after he was accused of embezzlement and was, subsequently, banned from the CCI too. But his contributions to Indian cricket remain huge.

His three major impact-creating legacies were (a) the selection of Sachin Tendulkar as player (b) selection of Mohammed Azharuddin as captain of Team India, (c) establishment of the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore.

I had the fortune of travelling with him in January 2000 from Mumbai to Singapore. He was on his way to New Zealand to attend an ICC meeting. We checked in together at Mumbai airport. Having recognised him at the check-in counter queue, I said hello and we chatted about cricket for a while on our way through to Boarding. He was travelling Business Class (of course) and I was bringing up the rear of the plane. So we parted company on boarding! But to my surprise, on take-off, he was kind enough to come back looking for me. He even requested the steward if we could both keep company in the calm comfort of the sparsely occupied forward section of that Air India flight! We talked cricket non-stop.

He came across as a man with an immense and child-like passion for the game.

I asked him what his greatest achievements were as administrator. It was as if he knew I’d ask that question. Without hesitation, his response was “Sachin as player and Azhar as captain”.

Sachin Tendulkar’s selection was risky and fraught. This had “young lamb thrown into the lions’ den” writ all over it. A precociously talented young lad was selected to face the fire of Waqar Younis and the guile of Abdul Qadir. Failure could dent the confidence of the young man and would result in egg on the face of the Chairman of the Selection Committee. But Raj Singh maintained that leadership is about seizing the moment and making some tough decisions. He wasn’t ever scared of making decisions. The decision was made… The rest, as they say, is history!

Mohammed Azharuddin’s elevation to captaincy in 1989 was a similarly brave call. At the time, Team India was faced with a possible and brewing player revolt, with senior players like Kris Srikkanth, Mohinder Amarnath and Dilip Vengsarkar at the forefront of the revolt. A tough decision was required. Dungarpur is reported to have asked a stunned young Azharuddin (“Mian, captain banoge? [Friend, will you be captain?]“]. The young lad was suitably stunned. But Azharuddin was an integral part of Dungarpur’s vision for a young Team India, bristling with confidence and self-belief.

Tendulkar and Azharuddin were more a part of Dungarpur’s vision than some of the older players. He acted on that vision with self-belief, conviction and energy. That vision held good for almost the entire decade (1990 to 2000) of Azharuddin’s reign as captain, when players like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and Anil Kumble (Dungarpur’s selection too, after Kumble had played just a few Wills Trophy games) were inducted into Team India till the match-fixing scam shook Indian cricket.

I asked him what his major regret was and he said that he was President of BCCI a few terms too early! I remember asking him if he would re-run for President as he still had much to offer. His immediate answer was “No. One must always move on the bigger and better things in life. You can’t move back to things you have already done. One must always move on…

How appropriate. We must move on… But not before recognising a player and administrator, but most importantly a passionate man.

It’s the final that matters!

India played a terrible game today and the loss could not have been more embarrassing. However, it’s the final that matters I suppose and the men in blue have a very good chance to turn things around. They may have to play with the side a bit though, I feel. I am not convinced Dinesh Karthik fits at the top and one of Nehra/RP Singh has to give way to Praveen Kumar. Personally, Nehra has not really impressed me significantly since his come back even though he has taken wickets bowling straight. Praveen Kumar is a more versatile bowler at the start of the innings and may make a difference especially against Sanath Jayasuriya.

I also think that Virat Kohli should move into the side replacing Karthik. I would give Yusuf Pathan a try at the top of the order and have Tendulkar try and play through the innings. Tendulkar seems to find strange ways of getting out (the bowling has hardly troubled him though!) and is probably an innings away from a big one and that could very well come on monday. India should hope to win the toss, bat first, and score big. I would not necessarily tamper with the rest of the batting order with Kohli possibly batting at 7.

On the commentator’s front, I wonder how much longer should we be tolerating the likes of Ranjith Fernando and Arun Lal. The latter and Sivaramakrishnan would compete for the cliched commentators award and the former badly needs an ESL (English as spoken language) course or two. The rest of the commentary team barring possibly Ian Bishop is nothing to write home about in any case.

Looking forward to a different result in the final…

– Srikanth

Compaq Cup — Sri Lanka, NZ, India

And so, after a long break from cricket (and in which there were a few sporadic games (and posts), we are back into a busy period of cricket (and posts) for India (and i3j3)!

The season commences with the Compaq Cup in Sri Lanka between New Zealand, Sri Lanka and India. The first game of the 4-match series resulted in a Samaraweera-inspired win for Sri Lanka over New Zealand.

The India Team is in Sri Lanka and is eyeing the #1 ODI spot, which India will make if it manages to win all 3 games in the Compaq Cup.

The Corporate Cup in India will have helped dust the cobwebs in the minds and bodies of the players. A few of the players did get to match fitness with some important scores. Suresh Raina made some runs and so did M. S. Dhoni and Rahul Dravid. R. P. Singh and Ishant Sharma bowled well in patches. So with all of that done and dusted, the real action commences. Unfortunately for the Team India fan, the next few months is going to be a sequence of ODIs!

The team is a good one, in my view.

The batting is good and strong. One might have mounted an argument for Rohit Sharma. But in all fairness Rohit, like Uthappa, does need to do some work on his own. It isn’t quite about ability or talent. It is really about rising to the big occasion. Perhaps it is more a question mental toughness than anything else.

The batting has a settled and set feel to it and offers tremendous flexibility as well as depth. The openers may as well pad up now! There is no questioning who will open the innings! There are a few questions though: (a) will both all-rounders play? (b) will Rahul Dravid play? (c) will Suresh Raina play? (d) what will Dhoni’s batting position be?

I am certainly glad to see Abhishek Nayar and Yusuf Pathan there in the team. In my view, both of these must play and so must Rahul Dravid. And in what must be a somewhat radical suggestion, I recommend that Suresh Raina competes with Rahul Dravid for a spot and both of them bat way low in the batting order, behind the big hitters and even the all rounders. Dravid has the finishing ability and so does Raina. In my view, Raina’s talent is wasted at #3 and it would be best if Dhoni occupies that spot. Dhoni’s big hitting talent is wasted at #5 or #6.

In terms of bowling, I feel that both Praveen Kumar and Ishant Sharma are automatic picks and in all probability they will open the bowling. Ashish Nehra and R. P. Singh might compete for the 3rd pace bowlers spot. With Amit Mishra unlikely to shake off Harbhajan Singh’s hold on the spinners’ slot, the 4th main bowler’s spot is also taken. There are plenty of options for the 5th bowler’s spot with Yusuf Pathan, Abhishek Nayar, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina (if he plays) vying for an over or two!

The team also has competition in the drinks waiter department! Karthik is my first choice followed by Amit Mishra!

Is this team capable of taking the #1 spot by winning all 3 games? Possibly. But, given the lack of match practice, I won’t be holding my breath.

In my view, it is all a bit of fun and games!

My team:

Sachin Tendulkar
Gautam Gambhir
MS Dhoni
Yuvraj Singh
Abhishek Nayar
Yusuf Pathan
Rahul Dravid / Suresh Raina
Harbhajan Singh
Praveen Kumar
Ashish Nehra / R. P. Singh
Ishant Sharma

DRINKS: Dinesh Karthik / Amit Mishra

So, let the season begin and here’s looking forward to more posts on i3j3cricket!

— Mohan

BCCI Corporate Trophy Update

Rahul Dravid, M.S. Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and alike have possibly never entered or seen a corporate board room. They have probably never had to make any decision regarding cement sales, Air India flight schedules, or oil pipelines. For all you know, they may never have stepped into one of the corporate offices that they supposedly represent but they all gathered in four different cities to play a bizarre tournament called the BCCI Corporate Trophy. As though there is a shortage of tournaments in India, this is an add on an already packed schedule. I failed to see the motivation behind this tournament, I would have rather preferred the India A, B, C, D teams play.

Having said that some of the games have certainly been entertaining. It is certainly refreshing to see Rahul Dravid back in the thick of things captaining a side and not losing much of his competitiveness. His attack on Suresh Raina’s short pitch stuff weakness has certainly been a highlight so far. Badrinath has been very consistent. I would wished to see Abhinav Mukund get a few more runs for India Cements. MS Dhoni is back at hitting big sixes again and Joginder Singh has been a surprise package. Some of the ICL folks are back in business with Rohan Gavaskar brightening his chances of representing West Bengal again in the Ranji season.

All in a all, the loyal employees of some of the big corporate giants seem to have earned their daily wages by putting in their 8 hr day on the field and are ready to go on a vacation to Sri Lanka and later on to South Africa. I personally am keenly looking forward to the start of another India season (even if a big chunk of it may be domestic in nature). Cricket, in general, gets to be boring if the boys in blue are kept out of the game for too long.

– Srikanth