Monthly Archives: January 2012

Cloud Cuckoo Land

Based on a conversation between @sdayanand and @achettup

A ‘go-kart‘ once ‘flipped‘ over a cuckoo’s nest,
And the frightened ‘bird‘ flew away.
While the ‘fast go-kart drivers‘ were just ‘disappointed‘,
The ‘bird’ was thoroughly ‘embarrassed‘.

But then, the battle-hardened drivers had been around the block a few times,
For them, ‘age was only a number‘.
And with them, a ‘knee-jerk‘ ‘goodbye‘ would be unnecessary.
But, a ‘deep point‘ had already been made…

Alas and Alack! The real challenge was for those watching,
Who needed to be ‘mentally strong‘ and overcome a ‘mental block‘.
For, at 5am, although the ‘time wasn’t right‘,
They needed to be ‘Keyboard Saints‘.

All along, the ‘Bird complained‘ that
The ‘verbal abuse‘ had been thoroughly unnecessary.
Yet, he did get to a landmark, and when he did,
He ‘flipped‘ it and spoke of mothers and sisters!

In the end though, the last laugh was on the bird,
The Go-Kart remained ‘unlucky‘ and we were informed,
That in (some) cloud cuckoo land,
The argument/bird might circle in, on a ‘rank turner‘.

— Mohan

India tour of Aus. Report Card.

It’s your call now.

Catalyst for change

Close to 5 years ago, India sent its “best” team to the West Indies to play the World cup. Expectations were high – the team had Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Sehwag, Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh, Dhoni, etc, etc. We had forgotten that India had taken quite a beating against South Africa in South Africa in the one day series (4-0), but a ODI series against WI and Sri Lanka at home, which India won somehow convinced everyone that everything was OK. As we all know, that was India’s worst World cup performance, crashing out in the first round.

In a way, that was one of the best things that happened to Indian Cricket. The loss hurt India so much that it became the catalyst for a turn around. In the next four years or so, India managed to win the World T20 cup, the #1 ranking in tests and finally finishing up with the World Cup last year.

I can see some similarities with the World cup in 2007 to the current Australian tour. Before this series, India were white washed in England, but then beat West Indies convincingly at home. Suddenly, the defeat in England was forgotten and everyone were convinced that this was the team that was going to beat Australia in Australia. The current defeat in Australia has been quite humiliating, and although we haven’t seen the effigy burning and stone throwing at players’ houses (Thank God for that) or the kind of mass anger against the players that we saw after the World cup result, I still hope the Australia tour result can become a catalyst for change.

Before the start of the 3rd Test, I was trying to sound positive and indicated that it wasn’t as bad as it was made to appear, and India could still salvage some pride in the series. The end result, however was quite the opposite and India lost the match in just 3 days. I don’t want to dissect the result and comment on what went wrong – there were just too many starting with the team composition (I think we should have just gone with the same team as Sydney).

(I can point out though that none of the things I mentioned in my previous post were carried out or triedSad smile)

However, it was interesting to read some of the comments in this blog during the course of the game Smile – There was one comment in particular I found quite interesting, and I agree with quite a few things said. But here are a few of my thoughts –

  • I find people asking for Dhoni’s resignation of captaincy absurd. Just 6 months ago, he could do no wrong. Suddenly Captain Cool has become Captain Indifferent. It is easy for people to ask for Dhoni to be sacked without specifying a replacement. Who would you replace Dhoni with? Sehwag? Gambhir? Both their batting form is questionable too.
  • Everyone want the seniors in the team to be dropped. I agree that the seniors have failed in this series, but if you look at the averages of the batsmen since the beginning of 2011, then Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman top the list – the next best is R. Ashwin!
  • But that doesn’t mean the seniors have to continue on. The failure of the seniors have finally given India the opportunity to start thinking about a succession plan. The first “senior” that needs to go is Laxman (who has the poorest record of all three – and also the poorest in terms of fitness).
  • We don’t have an overseas Test series coming up any time soon. The next  one  outside of the sub-continent isn’t until November 2013 against South Africa – it gives a perfect opportunity for us to get the “seniors” to retire at home this year (the sooner the better) and start blooding the next generation of players.
  • If things work according to plan, we should have bid farewell to Laxman, Dravid, Zaheer and Tendulkar by then. It would be really sad to see them go, but it just needs to happen.
  • There is plenty of talk about IPL being a bad influence – I disagree. It has both good and bad bits to it, and is a good place to start picking players to play in International T20 matches or even in ODIs.
  • To pick players for the Test team, we need a strong domestic competition, with good sporting pitches, that give results (the kind of pitch that was made for the Ranji Trophy final is a good example of a bad pitch). I think the domestic competition is still not good enough.
  • We also need plenty of India A tours. Why can’t an overseas tour be preceded by a India A tour? It would be a really good place to try out bench strength just before the actual tour starts.


Its not as bad as it looks…

Did the Indian team take a beating in Sydney? Hell, yeah! Will India square the series? Most likely not. Is the Indian team as bad as the media and former players make it sound? I don’t think so. But it is not as bad as it looks…

I’ve been going to the MCG for every Test match India has played there since I moved to Australia in 1998 and in most of these cases, very well knowing India would lose. Yet, I went there, waved the Indian flag, took some abuse at Bay 13 and cheered for my team. There is no shame in losing to a better team – all we fans ask is for our team to try its best and play with pride.

The test played this year was probably different because I honestly believed the teams were matched evenly and India had a chance of winning. In fact, one could argue that the end result of the match doesn’t truly reflect how close the game was. India was in with a chance even at the end of Day 3. The fourth day performance cost them the game.

At Sydney, we took a solid beating – there was probably not one session that India dominated, and even when we did fight back with the bat to get to 400, it was just too late. But again, India lost the match because of their performance on one day of the match – Day 1. If India had lost the toss and if Australia had batted (or if we had put them in), things could have been very different – the pitch did flatten out by end of the day, and Australia were presented with one of the best surfaces to bat on. I am not taking anything away from Australia – they truly were the better team and deserved to win, and personally think India should have fought harder but the fans shouldn’t totally write the team off or think of it as the end of the road for this team. I think we can still fight back.

What do we do?

Sometimes we just need to be reminded of the basics. Here is what I think India need to focus on:

  • Get through the early 20 overs without losing a wicket: I know it sounds like common sense, but we just aren’t doing it. We need to be 45 – 50 for no loss at the end of those 20 overs, and see the new ball through. Once the new ball bowlers have all bowled their first spell, they are less likely to be big threat. With Sehwag batting, it is likely the score could be a lot higher than 50 at the end of 20 overs, but I’d rather have no wickets fall in the first period than have a flurry of runs. The main job of the openers would be to see the new ball through. Just stick to it.
  • Think partnerships: At Sydney, India had only one 50-run partnership, and that too the 7th wicket. We did a lot better in the second innings with one 100-run partnership and three 50 run partnerships. At Melbourne, we had one 100-run and one 50-run partnership in the 1st innings, and none in the second! We’ve got to start working on these things. I’d say that to get to a 300+ score, we need a few good partnerships – at least one 100+ partnership and two 50+ partnerships.
  • Play session by session: A session is roughly about 30 overs. India needs to stop worrying about the over all game and play session by session. If they are batting, they’ve got to think about getting through that session without losing too many wickets. If the main batsmen are playing, we have to think about losing not more than 2 wickets in one session. So, if we lose 6 wickets in one day, but have scored about 260-280 all up, I’ll take that in Perth. If we are bowling, our target should be pretty much the same – 2 wickets/session if the top 6 are playing and try and get the rest out in one session. Having said that, we shouldn’t get bogged down if a session doesn’t go according to plan – the next session is a new session; plan and play accordingly.
  • Australia effectively are playing with 3 bowlers: Pattinson/Harris , Siddle, and Hilfenhaus. Lyon is not a threat – I repeat, not a threat. He has not troubled our batsmen one bit – but the thing is that India are already  in trouble before he comes in to bowl! Between Harris, Siddle and Hiflenhaus, they can probably bowl 60-65 overs in a day. Of that only about 30 are with the new ball. We also need to play these bowlers spell by spell. If Siddle has a good spell, see him through the next 5-6 overs; he will have to be replaced. The batsmen just need to keep this in mind. Also, Hilfenhaus is a lot more dangerous with the new ball than with the old one – we just need to keep these things in mind.
  • Tactical changes: Sometimes plans just don’t work. And if they don’t, there is no point in persisting with it. The first thing is to recognise that something isn’t working – we seem to be in denial mode and keep plugging away with the same plans. For instance, if the batting isn’t clicking as a unit, we need to do something about it. Perhaps open with Dravid and Sehwag, get Laxman to come in at #3, and get Gambhir to bat down the order. Maybe we need to try something different with the bowling too. I may not have the right suggestions, but I do know that if something isn’t working, we need to change it.
  • Take inspiration from the Perth win from the last tour: I do not have anything more to say on that. Green top. Steep bounce. Whatever. If it is going to trouble the Indian batsmen, it will trouble the Aussie batsmen too. Keep that in mind.
  • Shut out the negative comments/vibes: Gavaskar thinks X, Akram says Y and Chappel chirps in with Z. “The Indian team’s body language is bad”. “There is tension with-in the team”. “Blah, Blah, blah”. The Indian team just needs to ignore what everyone else thinks and just go out there and play the best cricket they possibly can. They may still lose, but I can forgive them for that….as long as they give their best.

It ain’t over till its over

The series isn’t over yet. We took a beating in England and we’ve taken a beating in the first two tests. But the team isn’t as bad as it is being made out to be.

We have an awesome, aggressive opener in Sehwag and a great fighter in Gambhir to open the batting. We have one of the best middle orders in the world (aging or not). And a great captain and WK to boot. We also have the best bowling attack that we’ve taken to Australia in recent times. Just concentrate on the positives.

C’mon Team India. Let us see some fight! And on that note, I leave you with this song for inspiration…

Chak de, India!