Daily Archives: 2 March 2011

More random thoughts

Australia under pressure?

After the Ricky Ponting TV incident, and all the media attention it gathered, Ian Chappell said that an enraged Ponting would be a dangerous opponent. I’ve generally felt that when Ponting is under scrutiny, he is not at his best and as a result the team itself suffers. To add to this distraction, there are now reports that their match against Zimbabwe is being investigated by the ACSU. I for one, believe the Aussies are clean. But, these incidents are sure to be in the mind of the players, as they play against Sri Lanka on Saturday. Would be interesting to see how they cope…

It’s gonna be predictable

I had a whinge about it yesterday, and I going to whinge about it again today. The real tournament doesn’t start until the quarter finals, and I bet the make up of teams at that stage is going to be as follows –

  • Pakistan, Australia, Sri Lanka  and New Zealand from Group A
  • India, South Africa, England and West Indies from Group B

The teams going into the next round are so predictable, I sometimes wonder whether I should skip watching this charade in the Group stage and just watch the games from the quarters. I know it won’t happen, though Smile….and hopefully there will be enough close matches like the India-England game to keep me interested and happy.

Anyway, who came up with the idea of having 14 teams in the tournament and this format?

Will RSA win the cup?

Peter Roebuck thinks so, and so does Mohan. I am not so sure, just yet. I have to agree they definitely look like the team to beat in this tournament, but they always choke under pressure….and when the expectation is high, they always come up short.

-Mahesh-

Who will win CWC2011?

I am possibly going to get flamed for this by my fellow fans of Team India, but I feel that unless a few things change dramatically in the next few weeks, we will be seeing a South Africa Vs Pakistan (or England) Cricket World Cup 2011 Final, with South Africa winning by a small margin.

In that sense I am agreeing with Peter Roebuck: http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/503695.html

The pre-tournament favourites were: India, Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, England and Pakistan (perhaps in that order).

I have not bothered with West Indies, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. The less said about the rest of the sides, the better, in my view!

So why am I then picking RSA and Pakistan as the two to watch out for?

Australia without Michael Hussey will — I strongly believe – not be able to do get there. Despite Mitchel Johnson’s good form (a rarity these days), Brett Lee’s pace and the unleashing of Saun Tait, I still feel that this Australia does not have it in them. The middle order is wobbly and untested. Once Shane Watson and Ricky Ponting depart, the batting just lacks teeth.

India do the big things well – big hitting, big names, big sixes and big fours! However, often times, it is the collection of small things that separates from the good from the excellent. With India’s team composition being what it is and with her inadequate running and fielding, I think the small things will add up to a lost tournament.

Sri Lanka has a balanced attack. The bowling is outstanding, with Malinga and Muralitharan ably supported by Kulasekara, Ajantha Mendis and Angelo Matthews. However, my problem with this team is that it depends too much on Sangakkara and Jayawardene for its runs.

In my books, unless Collingwood fires, England’s middle order looks far too shaky to make an impact. With a post-Ashes Jimmy Andreson being what he is, the bowling lacks teeth too.

So, that leaves South Africa and Pakistan.

South Africa has embraced spin, and how! From being dependent on defensive bowlers like Paul Harris, South Africa has unleashed Johan Botha, Imra Tahir and Peterson and has told them to attack. We then throw in to this mix, a fiery Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel and a steady Jacques Kallis. What we then have is a potent attack! The batting looks rock solid too, with Smith, Amla, Kalllis, AB de Villiers, Duminy and Faf du Plessis. This is a team to beat, in my view. It has everything going for it including athletic fielding, attacking batting and solid bowling.

Pakistan is a funny side. It always is! However, what is different in this episode of the World Cup is the stability that Younis Khan and Misbah Ul Haq give the batting. Moreover, the strong bowling of Shahid Afridi and the steady bowling of Abdul Razzaq give the team an air of strength. The fact that Hafeez opens the batting and bowls a few overs of tight off-spin adds to the mix. In my view, this Pakistan team looks more determined than previous ones. The fielding – as observed in the previous match against Sri Lanka – might well make one yearn for the Indian fielding! However, there is something that says to me that this Pakistan team might travel far in this tournament.

So there you have it. My prediction: A RSA vs Pakistan final with RSA winning it handsomely.

This is what I feel.

However, if India alters her team composition/balance, watch out for a re-post and an altered prediction!

-Mohan (@mohank on Twitter)

The Indian Cricket Ground

The Grace Gates, The 3 W’s Oval, The Greenidge & Haynes Stands, The Malcolm Marshall & Joel Garner Ends – all names with a nice ring to them. The practice of christening arenas in honour of sportsmen is perhaps as old as sport itself. Sadly, it is a tradition that’s not highly valued in India. The Wankhede is an exception, with stands celebrating the achievements of Vijay Merchant, Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar, and gates paying homage to Vinoo Mankad and Polly Umrigar. One may argue, and not without reason, that with Mumbai having produced a lion’s share of India’s heroes from yesteryear, there aren’t too many cricketers going around for other associations to honour. Hence we have stadiums named after administrators (acceptable), sponsors (a necessary evil) & politicians (downright embarrassing). The new stadium at Uppal seemed to take a step in the right direction with the V.V.S. Laxman stand, but for Shivlal Yadav to bestow his own name upon the pavilion, was a case of terrible blasphemy to a lineage that has produced, among others, Ghulam Ali Ahmed, M.L. Jaisimha, Abbas Ali Baig, Asif Iqbal, Abid Ali & Mohammad Azharuddin. And of course, like everything else in the state of Andhra, it is called Rajiv Gandhi.

Now let’s say the BCCI got together over cocktails, and commissioned the ultimate Indian cricket ground, and got so drunk that they decided to baptize it in tribute to cricketers, and not DLF, Lalit Modi or Pranab Mukherjee; how might that go? At once, an exercise in appellation and an expression of admiration.

The name of the stadium is a no-brainer. Let’s call it Kapil Dev and move on. World Cup winner, all rounder nonpareil, and quite simply, the finest natural cricketer to have emerged from our shores. May this recompense him for PCA’s Mohali mural fiasco, an impudent obloquy on a legend who dared to bless a rebel.

I have come up with a system wherein great Indian batsmen lend their names to stands located in the directions of their respective signature strokes. Thus, we start with the Sachin Tendulkar pavilion, for there’s nothing straighter in cricket than pavilions, and the full face of Tendulkar’s instrument. The stand diametrically opposite to the pavilion would bear the name of that other champion of the V, Sunil Gavaskar. Square on either side of the pitch is the territory of those exalted exponents of square-cuts and square-drives, the two masters from Banaglore, Gundappa Vishwanath and Rahul Dravid. Giving Tendulkar company on his right, his comrade of a thousand opening sorties in ODIs, Saurav Ganguly. Batting from the same end as Tendulkar, his serene cover drives would be lapped up by the adoring patrons of this stand. Antipodal to this section, would be the V.V.S. Laxman Acres, HRH of Wide Mid-on & Deep Midwicket. Now that leaves us with stands flanking long-leg on both ends. While Indians haven’t been the best practitioners of the hook, the stroke that earns them a lot of their keep is the leg-glance. The inventor of this once exotic skill, the flagbearer of Oriental artistry, Kumar Shri Ranjitsinhji, could claim this stand dominion. The last remaining stand would be dedicated to Indian cricket’s first great partnership, Vijay Merchant & Syed Mushtaq Ali.

In cricket-speak, a stand is the reserve of batsmen, and an end, the bowler’s domain. The high pedigree of spin that Indian cricket has embraced is sassy enough to ensure fierce competition. The pavilion end would be eponymous with India’s biggest match-winner, Anil Kumble. The far end would salute the Bedi-Prasanna-Chandra axis, as glorious an inspiration as any for any bowler plying his craft from that end. I have deliberately left S. Venkataraghavan out as I have other plans for him.

The dressing rooms must convey a sense of sartorial elegance. I can think of no two cricketers better suited for the home and visiting sides’ changing rooms than Tiger Pataudi and Mohammad Azharuddin.

Most of us have never watched cricket in the flesh. We owe it to those who have brought it to our living rooms, to our earphones, and to our bookshelves. The Media Centre would be an institution to toast Dicky Rutnagur & Rajan Bala. The Commentary Box must recognize the services of Bobby Talyarkhan & Pearson Surita. The Broadcasting Suite has only one contender – Harsha Bhogle.

Let’s go back to Venkat, and honour him with the Third Umpire and Match Referee’s cabin. Raj Singh Dungarpur, for long the grey eminence of Indian cricket, would be the nomenclature incumbent for an imposing clubhouse. The scoreboard could be Mohandas Menon’s little alcove.

If anybody is keeping score, I have overlooked C.K. Nayudu, Vijay Hazare, Vinoo Mankad, Subhash Gupte, Syed Kirmani, Dilip Vengsarkar & Virender Sehwag. At least the first and last of this list could be pacified. Being the biggest hitters, they could own the gates to the stadium, for that is where they deposit the ball. To the rest, all I have to offer is a sincere apology.

Kartik

Random Thoughts

India-England game: Good result for India!

I know what you are thinking – “How could this be a good result for India?’” India scored 338 runs, Sachin scored a century, Yuvraj found form and yet Indian didn’t win? Surely, this should rate as a disappointing result?

Not really. India needed a wake up call – and they got it, and that too without losing the game. Team India couldn’t ask for a better result.

In all fairness, India actually didn’t deserve to win against England. As Mohan pointed out, India were just overly confident and flat in the second half of the game and they really needed to be taken down a peg or two. A loss would have done just that. But, India after that Zaheer over were a different team, and England didn’t deserve to win either.

The Batting Powerplay

I am not sure if teams have worked out the best way to handle this yet. The most important question is when to take it. Do you take it when the two batsmen in the middle are doing really good, and they want to improve the scoring rate even further? Do you take it after the 34th over when the ball is changed? Or do you take it in the 41st over, just before the slog fest begins. How about taking it right after the bowling power play ends? Too many options, but no right answer.

And shouldn’t the batting power play help the batting team? It doesn’t seem to quite work that way. Just look at England – they were cruising along nicely and had the game all wrapped up, until they took the batting powerplay! 

Singles dry up and the batsmen just get out trying to hit over the in-field. I think a new strategy is needed.

What I don’t like about this World cup

  • World cup or Champions trophy: You could win all the games in the Group Matches, absolutely dominate them, and then get kicked out of the tournament in the first match after that if you lose. Sounds like great injustice to that team. This is almost like the knock out style ICC Champions Trophy, but with a long and prolonged qualifying round preceding it.
  • Length: 49 games, over one and a half months. And most of the games being one sided affairs. We’ve had 14 matches so far, and how many were riveting? One! Ok, the Pakistan-Sri Lanka encounter wasn’t bad either. But you get the idea. There are far too many mediocre games. Not good for the game.

-Mahesh-

India’s woes: Team composition…

Many pundits have been writing off India’s bowling as awful, citing her bowling against Bagladesh and England as case studies that prove their collective hypothesis.

However, Sanjay Subrahmanyan tweeted the fallacy of this position this morning. He tweets on his timeline (@sanjaysub): “Indian bowling not upto the mark for allowing Eng to score 338. Eng bowling upto the mark becos it was the Ind batting that scored 338!”

And that is really the point. If we accept the hypothesis that the India bowling is terrible, then surely, the England bowling ought to be equally bad!

That said, it is fair to accept a position that IF India lose this World Cup it will probably be more due to the collective failure of her bowling than her batting! The batting does look solid on paper. The problem for all other teams is that the batting looks more solid on the park than it actually is on paper! For the batting to be stronger on the park, India needs (a) Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni to be hitting the ball well. (b) Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli to fire. (c) Yusuf Pathan and Yuvraj Singh to start middling the ball. All three of the above are happening. I have rarely seen Sachin Tendulkar as much in the “zone” as he was when he batted against England. Virender Sehwag looks dangerous. MS Dhoni is on top of his game. Yuvraj Singh is starting to middle the ball well. All other batting chinks are being ironed out.

There is no point pillorying and bemoaning the fielding. India is not going to ship up her fielding mid-way through a World Cup. As Dhoni mentioned in a recent interview: It is what it is.

To me, even though I completely accept Sanjay Subrahmanyan’s position, as expressed in his [@sanjaysub] tweet, and although I lament the one-sided nature of the “India bowling is weak” theory, I do feel that there is something to be said for “team composition”.

I think it is suicidal for Team India to go in with Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla as the only “main bowlers” as we get into the sharp end of the tournament. Given that the batsmen are performing well, I think the team has to either sacrifice Yusuf Pathan or get him to open the bowling! If he does not do that, I see no reason why India should not play three spinners — R. Ashwin, Piyush Chawla and Harbhajan Singh — with Yusuf Pathan missing out and with R. Ashwin opening the bowling!

With the “2 pace bowler, 2 spinner and 2 part-timer” formula that is currently under operation, Dhoni has no choice but to have a “bowling change by formula/template” form of decision making. He bowls Munaf Patel and Zaheer Khan for the first 10 overs. He then has Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla bowl the next 10 overs. He then has the part-timers bowling in tandem for the next 10 overs. And from there, it is a look up to the heavens to see what happens! If decisions are made only by a template, we may as well have a template as captain!

Dhoni has no choice but to go for a template-solution given his resources. If we are to free his hand up a bit, I feel India has to bite the bullet and throw in another bowler into the mix. I feel that that bowler has to be R. Ashwin and he has to open the bowling.

— Mohan