Author Archives: smangalam

An Indian X1 – Rich and Spoilt!

Sanjay Manjrekar’s tweet on Rohit Sharma, “For a man in “poor” form, he plays like a “rich” man”, prompted to come up with a possible X1 players that India has tried and persisted with in the recent past and who can give Rohit Sharma good company. Here goes in batting order..

1. Dinesh Karthik

Apart from a few die-hard Mylaporites who might oppose, he is a unanimous choice for wicketkeeper, opener

2. Robin Uthappa

For someone who has had the opportunity to open with Tendulkar, he has blown the chances that have come his way.

3. Yuvraj Singh (captain)

No one has been pampered more than this “maharaja” of spoilt brats who has played 265 one day games and continues to provide hope to a few.

4. Rohit Sharma

I have been a fan of his till this series, but have crossed the floor to join those who want him to focus on other things than cricket.

5. Suresh Raina

This was a hard decision but his best and only place is with the CSK. He doesn’t have what it takes like Virat Kohli.

6. Y. Venugopala Rao

I had to complete the middle order and looked through the stats of recent cricketers and he has played sufficient games to join the list. Any favorite of Greg Chappell will find a place on this side.

7. Irfan Pathan

While the rest of the country is hoping that he turns up in India colors, he is busy “nowhere”. What a talent gone wasted…

8. Ravindra Jadeja

Unless the entire BCCI, selection committee, Dhoni and all owe him or his family a lot of money, I am not sure why his name even comes up for the Saurashtra team.

9. Piyush Chawla

A leg spinner wannabe somehow finds his way ahead of bowlers like Ashwin or Ojha who actually take wickets. I guess a stint in the counties would help anyone get into the side.

10. R. P Singh

He thought he could get away with a smile, and he actually did!

11. Ishant Sharma

This is probably the most controversial selection from my standpoint. Barring a few spells in test cricket, he looked very ordinary even on favorable South African pitches.

These guys must make decent players like Wasim Jaffer, S. Badrinath, Cheteswar Pujara wonder if the world can ever be fair.

It is a relief that the top three in the batting lineup would be quite different for the World Cup.

– Srikanth

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India’s Test Future

When the current series in South Africa winds down, all the attention will be focused on the upcoming World Cup and subsequently on the IPL. It is, however, interesting to note that, as per Future Tours Program posted on Cricinfo, India will be playing 4 tests in the West Indies in June/July, 4 tests in England in July/September, host the Windies for three tests in November/December and end the year in Australia in a 4 test series. That is 15 tests in a span of approximately 6 months. Three of these series are away and the games in England and Australia are certainly worth looking forward to. Does India have a strategy to tackle these series? Let’s examine some of the concerns.

The uncertainty around Gary Kirsten’s continuation as the coach seems to be a major concern. The Indians have felt that Kirsten’s presence has been the best thing that has happened to Indian cricket in a long time. Kirsten has indicated that, due to family reasons, he would like to relinquish his job. Senior Indian players have requested that he atleast stay on as a coach for tests. Kirsten has given any indications of changing his plans. The Indians would have to go back to the drawing board in determining suitable candidates for what is turning out to be a crucial position for Indian cricket.

The most important question on everyone’s mind is the future of the Fabulous three. Though M.S. Dhoni and co. have attributed a major portion of the success in tests to the bowling department and rightly so, it is the fab three along with Sehwag who have provided the comfort base for the bowlers to perform well. The three masters will do great service to the nation if they can assist in grooming their replacements sooner than later. India should not end in a situation that Australia currently is in. I would expect Rahul Dravid to possibly till the end of the England series and finish his career where he started. VVS Laxman and Tendulkar could go on to Australia and consider their futures subsequently. For them to do so, they have to remain fit and choose their games intelligently. It would probably be a good idea for them to alternatively skip the West Indies series (home and away). Their roles should become clearer in the next few months.

India has a lot to think about regarding replacements for the fab three. Pujara seems to be more or less certain to stay the course. A good home series should help his cause immensely. Pujara should possibly consider taking on the No:3 position. India will have to give S. Badrinath another chance to prove his mettle. He has had a stunning domestic season and has atleast another 4-5 years of cricket left. He looks fit and is hungry for runs. Yuvraj Singh may just sense an opening with Suresh Raina’s terrible outings in South Africa. I am not convinced that it would be a good move. However, India would do well with a left hander in the middle order much like the role that Saurav Ganguly played. The opening slot seems reasonably stable for atleast another couple of years with Sehwag and Gambhir. Vijay and Abhinav Mukund might well be the back up choices. Interesting to note that the two Delhi openers may be followed by the two openers from Tamilnadu.

India’s bowling department continues to be a revolving door. Barring a fit Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh, all slots are available for grabs. Not much to write home about on that front as yet.

It will be interesting to see how India handles its busiest year in a while especially when it comes to test cricket. It will be a repeat of the 2007/2008 and 2008 series in Australia and England respectively.

– Srikanth

 

God extends the realms of imagination!

Sachin Tendulkar was 30 odd not out at the first drinks break on the 4th day of the 1st test against Australia at Chennai in 1998. My Director, Mr. T.T. Srinivasaraghavan suggested that I use his pavilion pass to witness something special that day. It was a working day but he knew my passion for cricket and my almost God like worship of “God” was quite obvious. He had a hunch and there I was witnessing sheer magic. Mozart’s melody,  Beethoven’s drama, Sanjay Subrahmanyan’s majesty, everything and more was at display.

A year or so later, I was present again at Chepauk to witness an innings of a entirely different kind. Saqlain Mushtaq was turning the ball square. There were rumors that, then famous captain of India was busy arranging to have the game settled differently. Tendulkar had developed back spasms. He played like a superhuman and almost pulled the impossible.

Eleven years later, as I sat down to watch his innings today, I realized nothing had really changed. The hunger was still there, the belief to do the impossible still strong, and the shots all simply showing up at will. The near trivialization of the bowling at times, surprising but deserved respect to Paul Harris’s floaters, and taking on body blows, he played like a champion. Just around the same time, the King of Carnatic Music was delivering his majestic thodi I was told, God was busy turning fantasy into reality.

We bow to thee!!!!

– Srikanth

Team India soars as the Aussies disintegrate!

If your resume states that you have spun a top atleast three times in your life, you would certainly qualify to play for Australia in the Ashes series. There has not been a better time for anyone on the streets of Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and other cities to play for the Australian cricket team. I personally am enjoying the complete disintegration of this team. Ricky Ponting is probably the worst captain of all test playing nations today. Even Darren Sammy managed to lead the West Indies team to a drawn series in Sri Lanka. Michael Clarke, the next possible alternative, drops sitters at slip, plays the odd big innings and in most circumstances looks lost in the middle. Marcus North was rumored as the next captaincy option. He does not even hold a place in the side. Australia is ready to move into the bottom half of all test playing nations and they seem to have absolutely no plans to change things around. While I am not necessarily a big fan of the English side, I have to admit that they are thoroughly destroying the Aussies physically, mentally, and emotionally. I have no sympathies for the Australian team and management at all. They chose to go this path and have suffered the consequences. Ricky Ponting has played one series too many. Andrew Hilditch makes Mohsin Khan and his team look good. Mitchell Johnson reminds me of his namesake, David Johnson, who played one test for India. To David’s credit, he did end Michael Slater’s career with a ball that was aimed at the fifth slip’s crotch.  This is so much fun.

On the other hand, Team India is peaking at the right team. There is absolutely nothing wrong that Indians can do at this point. India can put together three teams today and be prepared to take on the world. Despite previous criticisms from me, I have to concede that Krish Srikkanth and team have done a wonderful job. A contingent of 30 odd players currently playing for India are enjoying themselves, playing with surety and professionalism that we have never witnessed before. The clinical demolition of the New Zealand team was just as much as fun to watch as beating the Australians. It would indeed be a surprise if India does not make it all the way in the next World Cup. The series against South Africa has been billed as the final frontier and rightfully so. Once we conquer, and that we will, India would have achieved something that only the Aussies have been able to do so since Clive Lloyd’s team. The irony of it all!

Bring it on, South Africa!!

– Srikanth

The Motera farce and the great escape from Dubai!

We have been witness to two separate events within the realms of cricket in the last week. One was labelled as a test match between India and New Zealand. The game ended in a draw thanks to superlative batting performance by a gentleman who was supposed to win us the game by bowling off spin. To me, the Indians gave the impression that they were reluctantly involved in this competition. Sehwag blasted his way to 170 in the first innings and got out playing “french” cricket. And he walked off like a man who lost his wicket to his best friend’s kid in a club game between Greater Kailash and Janakpuri.

And then everyone went to sleep for three days only to be woken up by Chris Martin’s incisive spell. India ended the 4th day at 82 for 6. Despite this precarious position, Pragyan Ojha was confident that he and his colleagues would save the game. While I did not get to see the final day, all reports suggest that India saved the game without much sweat. Blame it on the pitch, the quality of the opposition, umpiring, scheduling etc. etc. Whatever be the reason, what struck me the most was the India was not present on a major part of the 5 days. They seemed to go through the motions from Day 1, and yes, Sehwag can score hundreds even when he is going through the motions. I would rather play a second rung Indian team than watch this lineup treat this like a club game. This New Zealand team is only slightly better than a club side. Don’t believe anyone who thinks otherwise. I do hope that Hyderabad is a different story and the Motera farce can become a thing of the past.

Not far away, the South Africans are involved in a series against a Pakistani team that provides more drama and entertainment than most Bollywood offerings. Wine, women, heroes, villians, crime, cheating, kidnapping, disappearances, gang wars, jealousy, back stabbing, exciting chases, they seem to have it all. It’s just the credibility of the games are taking a beating. I simply cannot watch a Pakistani game without thinking about the possibility that game is fixed. That thought is even more pronounced when it happens at the Mecca of match fixing. The country, the team, and the players ultimately seem to seek refuge at the Mecca of the game. The irony of it all. I think it may not be a bad idea to keep Pakistan out of international cricket till their Board gets its act together. There is a lot of talent in that team that is getting wasted resulting from the actions of a irresponsible Board.

– Srikanth

 

 

Abhinav Mukund in Team India side!

Within a year of our prediction, Abhinav Mukund has made it to India side. Replacing injured Gautam Gambhir, Abhinav Mukund has overtaken other possible contenders including Ajinkya Rahane, Shikar Dhawan or other makeshift openers like Dinesh Karthik as the best option for an Indian opening slot. Having said that, it is more than likely that M. Vijay will open the innings with Viru Sehwag in Bangalore. The status on VVS Laxman is unclear. Even if VVS is unfit, Cheteswar Pujara might take his place. In any case, it is a wonderful achievement for Mukund. This is a proud moment for him and all his supporters including some of us at i3j3 are extremely excited about this well deserved promotion. Our best wishes to him and hoping to see him don India colours soon.

– Srikanth

Is India prepared for the World Cup?

Most teams around the world seem to have started planning well ahead of the world cup next year. Possible players including bench strengths are being constantly given a look at and prepared for possible selection. Does India have a plan and are they prepared. Let’s take a look at the line up and ?possible back ups:

Openers – MILD CONCERN

Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag are certainties barring injury. Other than Gambhir moving up from No:3, I don’t know if there is any clear plan for injury replacements for Sachin and Sehwag. Karthik seems to appear and disappear from the radar. I am not even sure if he is appropriate for the position. M. Vijay has floated to the surface occasionally. Parthiv Patel, Shikar Dhawan, Abhinav Mukund, Ajinkya Rahane have all played in that position of India A with no real continuity and/or assurance. This is the first and most serious sign of concern. Sachin and Sehwag will have to bear a huge load and all Indians should pray that they do not get injured.

No:3 Position -NO CONCERN

Assuming that the opening position stays, Gambhir is certain to fit into to this role. Virat Kohli has played the backup role though Rohit Sharma took that position in the first game of the ongoing tri series. Suresh Raina takes this position in the T20 and can very well fit in if required.With the possibility of Suresh Raina taking this position, if required, there may not be a strong reason to worry.

Middle Order (Positions 4 and 5) -MILD CONCERN

Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina should more than likely retain these positions unless Dhoni decides to shuffle the batting order. Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli may be slotted in the event of injuries to either of the first two choices. I would, however, like to see Cheteswar Pujara given a shot and seriously considered for this position. He brings stability that is lacking at this point. I am also concerned with the consistency of either Rohit or Virat and Pujara should be given an opportunity to constantly keep Sharma and Kohli on their toes.

Allrounders (Positions 6 and 7)-SERIOUS CONCERN WITH NO 7

Dhoni batting at No:6 provides a great deal of comfort. Dhoni will rotate strike beautifully in the middle overs, play a rescue role when the top order fails, and finish off with a bang in the final overs. After Sachin Tendulkar and Sehwag, Dhoni’s batting will be the key if India advance in the WC.

The same cannot be said about the key allrounder position at No:7. Ravindra Jadeja simply does not fit. He is a mediocre cricketer and it is indeed puzzling that Dhoni continues to want to pursue with him. This is probably one of the few awful decisions that Dhoni has made (and like MOhan I will be happy to be proven wrong!). The worst part is that there is simply no one in the second rung who can walk in to that position. Irfan Pathan is not in the picture at all. Abhishek Nayar came and went in a hurry. Yusuf Pathan was sorted out by all and sundry. Piyush Chawla is being tried out for the India A squad and it may very well be worth testing him the remaining games that India gets to play before the WC. Though Ashwin’s name has come up, I am not sure his batting lives up to the need for this key position. I can only wish that Irfan Pathan makes a remarkable comeback. I would also advocate gambling with him considering there is nothing to lose.

Bowlers/Bottom Order Batting – SERIOUS CONCERN

Harbhajan Singh is sure to take the No:8 position and the lead spinner role. Ashwin could very well sneak in as a possible back up for him. Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar and Ishant Sharma should be first choices for 9, 10 and 11. Ashish Nehra, Sreesanth, Abhimanyu Mithun, and Munaf Patel are all being thrown into the mix recently. However, I would try Jaidev Unadkat out ahead of the above four. We certainly are completely underprepared as far as our fast bowling strength is concerned. None on the list gives me confidence that they will turn up on particular day and turn it on. And, there does not seem to be any plan in this regard.

Pragyan Ojha should consider himself lucky if he finds a seat in the side especially if India decide to go with Piyush Chawla and Ashwin.

While a desirable playing X1 selects itself, the back up is totally uncertain. This is a big concern for me. It is even more worrying because there doesn’t seem to be a proper strategy in place to deal with this. The India A team starting with the captaincy role has been tampered with so much that it certainly doesn’t represent India’s bench strength at this point.

– Srikanth