Monthly Archives: March 2011

Did India deserve the win?

Some of the “great critics” of Indian cricket maintain that India did not deserve to win yesterday and here’s why. Of course I being a die hard India fan will give my own counters in brackets just to even the equation and justify the win!

1. Dhoni picked the wrong guy in Nehra instead of Ashwin. (He came in, Dhoni wanted options and he came good so..)

2. Umar Gul packed the off side and bowled too straight to allow Sehwag to get a great start. (Gul wanted to get Sehwag out LBW but it happened after the man had got 38 runs in double quick time. Finally they did get him LBW and just in case people forgot Sehwag also hit some through the off side.)

3. How many catches can a team miss? (So what? The 85 runs were still worth their weight in gold and the strokes played to get them … I leave that to the experts!)

4. Too many extras were given away in the end by Pak. (They bowled badly. How many extras did India give away? They bowled well!)

5. Hafeez played a bad shot when he had just settled nicely. (Handling pressure in the name of the game! Sorry but Indians handled pressure much better yesterday)

6. Umar Akmal should have been promoted ahead of Misbah. (That is where the captaincy of Dhoni makes the difference)

7. Afridi should have asked for the power play as soon as he came in. (Read counter in point no 6 above)

8. Misbah should have timed his charge atleast a couple of overs earlier. (Ok we deserve to win so no more counters!)

Sanjay

Men in Blue – Champions in the Making

They are almost there. The glorious men in blue, this special Indian team is one game away from repeating history. And that they will do, mark my words! Dhoni and his men are special; they are talented, ambitious, inspiring, strong mentally and physically, and above all driven to succeed. They showed it all at Mohali. Yes, Tendulkar had survived 7 times, but survive he did and scored the most precious runs of the game. Even the real God (if there is one) wasn’t willing to let him out of sight. Sehwag blunted Umar Gul’s pre-match rhetoric in no time. Gambhir, Kohli and Dhoni contributed valuable runs while occupying the crease. Suresh Raina topped it off with a special innings.

I had tweeted early on in the game that 275 was going to be a winning total. While I felt India were about 20 runs short, I also knew that Pakistan had a fairly ordinary batting lineup and 260 was absolutely defendable. And defend they did. Dhoni made a controversial call at the start of the game, leaving Ashwin out for the out-of-form Nehra. That turned out to be brilliant move. Nehra bowled outstandingly well, fielding sincerely, and helped Raina add a few at the end of the innings. The Indians have fielded out of their skins in the last couple of games and what a refreshing sight that has been!

The Pakistanis bowled superbly as expected. Their fielding was a mockery and going back to the basics would be an understatement. Their batting, I have always felt, was mediocre. While I am a big fan of Younus Khan, his days in one dayers have long been over. Misbah Ul Haq is as mysterious as previous namesake captain. The Akmals are never known to carry their innings long enough to finish off. Afridi is a pale shadow of his past. Any total above 230 was going to be tough ask. Here is a team that was bowled out in the 180s by an associate nation consisting of part time cricketers (sorry Canadians!).

This world cup could not have been scripted better than what it is. It has been a dream journey. Sachin Tendulkar will grace Wankhade in the finals and win it for India. I also predict that, if this happens, God will announce his retirement from one day internationals. Strong statement that, but as Ravi Shastri would say, I have a feeling!

Game on!

– Srikanth

Random Thoughts 27th March

Rankings mean nothing

The four countries in the semi-final happen to be India (ODI rank #2), Sri Lanka (#3), Pakistan (#6) and New Zealand (#7). Which means the countries ranked 1 (Australia), 4 (South Africa) and 5 (England) didn’t make it. At the start of the World cup, the bookies had the favourites in this order – India, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Australia, Pakistan, England, New Zealand and West Indies. So, even the bookies didn’t get it right with South Africa and Australia not even reaching the semis.

I guess the unpredictability is what makes events like this exciting. But being an Indian fan, I hope India does live up to its top billing Smile

Indian team composition

What is the team composition for India going to be like? Would they stick to the same winning combination that beat Australia? Or change it according to the opposition and the venue (Mohali traditionally favours pace)?

I guess Raina has done enough to keep Pathan out. Or would you consider Pathan because he is good against spin (and Pakistan do play a number of spinners, unlike Australia). If you want to play him, who would you leave out? Kohli??

And after Munaf’s bad performance against Australia, would you pick Nehra ahead of him? But wasn’t he the one who gave away those 14 runs against South Africa in that last over….?

Lots of questions…but if you ask me – Don’t make any changes. What would you do?

The Batting side vs the bowling side

As I mentioned in my previous post, India can be considered more of a batting team, while Pakistan is more of a bowling team. It is going to be an interesting contest between the Indian top order and the Pakistani bowling line up. At the same time, the contest between the Indian bowling and the Pakistani batting will be one between two week links. So, it is going to be very balanced. Or is it?

In any case, the semis between the two teams is going to be a cracker of a game – as Shastri would say.

Sehwag against Pakistan

Apart from that one game against Bangladesh, Sehwag really hasn’t played to his potential. But, he loves playing against Pakistan. Will we see another big innings from him this time? I sure hope so…

-Mahesh-

Was it a tight match?

Everybody was willing it to be a tight match. This will go down to the wire they said. India’s bowling was not good enough they said. India keeps collapsing in the powerplay they said. This is Australia and they don’t give up easily they said. Personally I was confident of a comfortable victory, and even though India tried its best to make it as tense as possible we won easily in the end.

1. The Australian batting at the end of the 1st over decided that 260 was a good enough score for them to defend. They did not take into account the depth and form of India’s batting and the inadequate nature of their own bowling.

2. India bowled well and fielded well almost above par. This ensured that Australia did not get 280. We have to remember that this was a Ponting playing for pride. They kept saying he played his part. The fault lay with the others. Haddin hit his par score. Hussey failed. Clarke and White were unimpressive. An out of form White should never have batted so high up yesterday in the first place.

3. India batted easily. The Oz bowling never threatened. Lee was consistent. Tait and Johnson were consistently bad. Krezja is their best spinner? Sorry not enough for the best batting team in the world. There never was a real fight from the Aussies. No fantastic catch, no match turning direct hit run out, no pressure to prevent singles in the middle overs. This was not a typical Aussie trench fight. A bad shot from Kohli and some mad running made the game more interesting than what it actually was.

4. Finally when Yuvi and Raina smashed the winning runs it finished a “supposedly” tight match.

5. Some thoughts from the match – Raina was a good pick over Yusuf after all the chances he was given. Munaf is getting predictable but should be persisted with I think. Bhajji needs to step up with a few wickets. Dhoni did a great job by getting Sachin and Kohli to bowl. That should help in case one of the main bowlers get hit. Sehwag & Raina can also able to chip in if necessary, the team looks more settled. I just hope Mohali does not encourage Dhoni to pick Sreesanth for the next game, but then who knows what he can come up with!

Sanjay

 

Random thoughts 23rd March

India – Batting team?

So, everyone keeps saying that India is a batting side. We do have one of the best opening pairs in ODIs – Tendulkar and Sehwag. And they have added over 650 runs and have 3 centuries between them. Following them at No 3 and No 4, we have Gambhir and Kohli. Gambhir has a couple of half centuries and Kohli has a century and a half century to his credit. And then comes Yuvraj Singh – with one century and 3 half centuries in his five outings.

But after that – nothing. Take the minor teams out of the equation (Bangladesh, Ireland and Netherlands), and India have lost all wickets in their allotted 50 overs to all other teams. I am not so sure now that we should call ourselves a batting team – although the batting really is our strength. Apart from Zaheer Khan, our bowling has been weak. And the fielding – well, there is nothing much to write about it.

Pakistan – Bowling team?

Unlike India, I would classify Pakistan as a bowling team – apart from that performance against New Zealand, their bowling has held out quite well. They have Afridi and Umar Gul in the top 5 wicket takers of the tournament, and as I write this blog, they have skittled out West Indies for 112! And their bowlers have had good economy rates too.

And like India, they seriously need to improve in the other areas. The question is – Is being good in just one area enough to win the World cup?

Batting Powerplay

The batting powerplay has really been India’s curse this tournament. IMO, India should take it straight after the bowling powerplay.

Would love to hear any other opinions out there Smile

Last ODI?

Depending on who wins, the India Australia game could potentially be the last ODI game for two people who have really made a difference for their teams. Gary Kirsten for India and Ricky Ponting for Australia. Kirsten has already announced that he is finishing up after the World cup, while Ponting keeps insisting that he won’t retire – maybe not, but something tells me that the selectors will give Ponting the nudge if he doesn’t go himself….unless of course he wins the cup another time for his country.

-Mahesh-

Team India coach after Gary Kirsten

Gary Kirsten has decided to return to South Africa at the end of the ICC World Cup, 2011. He was the exactly that Indian cricket needed at the time he was appointed. As Ravi Shastri might say, “He was exactly what the doctor ordered!”

When Gary Kirsten took over the controls as coach, India had suffered an embarrassing first-round exit in the 2007 World Cup.

Greg Chappell, the then coach, may have been the right man for a job that was about 10 years ahead of its time. India was not ready for Greg Chappell — “Guru Greg” as he was known in the Indian media — and Greg Chappell wasn’t ready for India. His reign started off with the drafting, declaration and acceptance of a “strategic blueprint for the future of Indian cricket”.

In my view — and I my be in a minority here — that blueprint was about 10 years ahead of its time!

What Greg Chappell started with was visionary. What he had left behind in his wake was a dogs’ breakfast!

Interestingly, MS Dhoni is saying exactly what Guru Greg tried to instill in his players! Today, Dhoni says that it is important to pay more attention to the processes and less on the results/outcomes. That was Guru Greg’s approach too!

However, let it be said that Greg Chappell had indeed left a mess behind; a mess that needed cleaning up. Numerous leaks and counter-leaks had messed up the minds of players. Trust was lost. Systems and processes — the very pillars of Greg Chappell’s method — lay crumpled.

A restoration was required. And soon.

India traveled to Bangladesh with Ravi Shastri as temporary “manager”. India then traveled to England with Chandu Borde as coach/mentor. The choice of Borde was ridiculed by many, including us at i3j3Cricket. We even carried out a satirical piece, called “Ford Gate” on how Chandu Borde may have been selected — remember that Graham Ford was the front runner for the post of Team India coach at that time!

India won in England, Rahul Dravid resigned as captain. India won the ICC World T20 Championship. Anil Kumble was appointed captain of India. India then played Pakistan in a home series. India was just about to embark on a tough tour of Australia. Throughout the year, there were a series of speculations, leaks and counter-leaks on who would be coach of Team India. Yet there were no announcements. Other teams had made their appointments quietly and thoughtfully. Sri Lanka appointed Tom Moody. Pakistan appointed Geoff Lawson. India traveled at India’s pace.

Ultimately, Gary Kirsten was appointed.

And what an appointment it has been. From early-2008 onwards, Gary Kirsten has worked with Anil Kumble and with MS Dhoni to help build a Team India that is strong, resilient and robust. India has slowly climbed to the top of the ICC Test rankings and is close to the top of the ICC ODI rankings.

Now, some three years later, the end of Gary Kirsten’s tenure could be anything from 1 match to 3 matches away.

It is appropriate that we salute a man who has quietly achieved what his predecessor could not do. He brought method to his coaching. He afforded players much rope. The results are there for all to see. Many players have gone on record to say that they owed their recent successes to the coach.

At the end of his tenure, it is likely that Kirsten will take up the job of coaching South Africa (although there is no word on that from anyone) once Corrie van Zyl departs as coach of RSA — Corrie van Zyl also quits the scene after the ICC World Cup 2011.

But what of India?

I hope we do not see another period of dithering uncertainty when a sequence of band aids are applied. I am not aware of the establishment of a BCCI search committee for scouting and sounding out appropriate candidates for cricket’s most prestigious — and risky — post. I am not aware of a job description that lists out the key qualities of an ideal coach. As with anything BCCI, we cannot do anything other than assume that someone is “looking into the matter” somewhere and that “some appropriate modalities” are being “worked out” by the “responsible person”.

If the BCCI wants to draw up a position description (PD) it ought to be easy. The BCCI should copy everything contained in the “Key Attributes and Qualities” section from the CVs of John Wright and Gary Kirsten. They will then have many of the elements of the PD. They would also need to ensure that the PD does not contain any elements that might also be contained in Greg Chappel’s CV! They would then have an optimized PD to work with and they could then look for people who display those characteristics.

It is likely that the search space is small and terribly finite. I can think of a few coaches who might fit the bill. Stephen Fleming and Tom Moody spring to mind immediately.

However, an early indication is that Justin Langer might be coach.

All of the recent attention has been on the World Cup. Soon, the BCCI functionaries will be absorbed in counting the money that flows in as a result of IPL-4. In all of this, my hope this that the BCCI occasionally takes its hands off the till and trains its collective eye on a suitable Team India coach. India has an extremely busy year ahead and needs a smooth transition from Gary Kirsten to the successor.

– Mohan (@mohank on Twitter)

World Cup – The way ahead for India

Having watched most of India’s games in the current WC (I can actually watch it from my WC too, but thats a topic for another post 🙂 ), I am not that unhappy with Dhoni’s approach thus far. Here is what I have learnt thus far (I can feel Mohan reaching for his keyboard…)

  1. 5 batsmen pick themselves . VS, SRT, VK, YS and MSD
  2. so too do ZK and MP in the (lack of) pace department
  3. Harbhajan Singh has not quite set the world on fire, but any talk of dropping him might get me being clubbed with Navjot Sidhu, so he stays 🙂
  4. After watching the Ashwin bowl all his overs in Power Plays yesterday, he gets my nod for the 4th bowler’s spot

That leaves 2 spots. The skills required are

  • A pace / Seam up bowler
  • A spinner
  • A power hitter

Given that Yuvraj has been bowling quite effectively, he more or less fills the spinner’s role. Combining him with Yusuf / Raina ticks the last 2 bullet points. On yesterday’s evidence, Yusuf gets my vote, but I agree he has not quite filled the power hitterr’s role convincingly.

That leaves us with one spot to be filled in by a good pace bowler. Here is the rub. Dhoni has generally picked an extra batsman (on current form, GG) leading to a lot of criticism with regards to lack of balance (Mohan has definitely started to type 🙂 ).

Oddly enough, I find myself agreeing with Dhoni. I think this reflects the lack of confidence in the third pace bowling option (Neither Nehra nor Sreesanth fills me with confidence, specially trying to defend a small total  when the batsmen havent quite delivered). This sort of, be default, leads to …..lets bolster the batting idea!

So, in summary, for this world cup, I think the first XI has to be

VS, SRT, GG, VK, YS, MSD, YP, HS, RA, ZK, MP

Paddy