Category Archives: Ireland

Tendulkar and YouthAppa’s magic help India level ODI Series

It has been a strong, albeit inconsistent batting display by the Indians so far in the ODI series. In the last two matches of the series, Tendulkar’s batting has helped India level the ODI series. The team now travels to Lords’ with an opportunity to win the ODI series. It now has the opportunity to take home all the five medals/cups that were on offer when the long tour of England, Ireland and Scotland started — an ODI series win against Ireland, an ODI series win against South Africa, an ODI win against Scotland, the nPower Test series win against England and the NatWest ODI series.

That opportunity looked quite distant at the end of the 4th ODI; the ODI at Old Trafford which India perhaps ought to have won, but lost thanks to the brilliance of Stuart Broad and Ravi Bopara.

However, the team has bounced back, thanks to its batting stars.

At Headingly, in the 5th ODI of the series, Tendulkar (71 off 59), Yuvraj Singh (72 off 57), Sourav Ganguly (59 off 79), Gautam Gambhir (51 off 66) helped India to a strong batting performance. India ended the innings with a solid score of 324 with some power-hitting by Mahendra Dhoni and Rahul Dravid in the end. Inserting India in to bat on winning the toss was indeed a curious decision by Paul Collingwood in this match! Despite the rain that threatened intermittently, India won that match.

If the 5th ODI saw Tendulkar in majestic form, he bettered it in the 6th ODI at the Brit Oval. His form in last nights’ encounter was nothing short of magic. He found sublime touch with deft paddles and flicks. He found power and energy in his drives and pulls. This was a master-class which his detractors will have to remember, if only for a moment or two for, they will be back with calls for his retirement the moment he scores two low scores on the trot!

India commenced the game well after England won the toss and chose to bat. After 30.2 overs, England had limped to 137 for 5. Once again, Englands’ toss-decision appeared to have been wrong. However, thanks to some power hitting from Owais Shah, debutant Luke Wright and Dimitri Mascarenhas, England surged to a solid total of 316. Shah had scored his maiden ODI century and Luke Wright made an ODI 50 on debut. But the real knock-out blow came from Mascarenhas who thumped the last over of the match, bowled by Yuvraj Singh, for 30 runs — five towering sixes!

Coming on the back of this mauling, the riposte was terrific by the Indian openers — Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly. The old firm for India in ODIs, provided the perfect platform for India. Although one felt that they could have pressed on to secure a larger platform, their work had been done. India stuttered in the journey home, but a strong innings from Robin Uthappa brought them home. Uthappa’s maturity under pressure was refreshing.

The presence of the young Robin Uthappa (YouthAppa), Dinesh Karthik, Yuvraj Singh, Piyush Chawla, Rohit Sharma and others like them — like Suresh Raina, Irfan Pathan, Mohammed Kaif, et al — helps in many ways. The teams’ fielding standards are lifted. After some excellent saves in the initial overs yesterday, when England were batting, even Romesh Powar was throwing himself around on the field! Uthappa brought a freshness to the fielding levels. Moreover, it was refreshing to see Uthappa play with unconstrained self-belief at the death.

India have to future-build around the likes of Robin Uthappa, Dinesh Karhik, Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary and others like them. These youngsters need to be routinely rotated into the team as India prepares for an ODI future sans Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly. Already, Tendulkar, who was cramping badly towards the end of his innings in yesterdays’ game, has hinted at retiring from the ODI scene at the end of this year!

Only one century on the tour:
Curiously, the last two-and-a-half months (since June 23rd) have seen only one century from an Indian bat in an international ODI/Test match! There have been several 90s and several big contributions, but only one century. And the scorer of that century was a bowler — Anil Kumble! And this is perhaps a good sign. The stats don’t matter. What matters is the team performance.

Team composition and balance:
Having said that, I really do not believe that India has its team composition and balance right. The 4-bowler composition just does not work, especially if Ajit Agarkar is to be depended on! The team was caught napping in yesterdays’ match in the death overs mainly because of this (im)balance, combined with Ajit Agrakar’s inconsistency. The two-spinner policy, combined with the 4-bowlers-only policy means that India have to depend on Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar to bowl consistently at the start and then again, at the death. This cannot be a viable long-term strategy.

The fallacy in this thinking was exposed when Agarkar was taken to the cleaners in the 46th over. Dravid reacted like a rabbit caught in the headlights and had no option but to throw the ball to Yuvraj Singh to complete proceedings. It was a sorry situation indeed. Yuvraj Singh was taken to the cleaners and back. The relief on his face was palpable and obvious as he ran down from the pavilion to hug Uthappa at the end of the game. He charged like a hare whose backside was on fire! Clearly there was pent up emotion there — caused by a combination of Ajit Agarkar’s brain explosion and the 4-bowler policy. In this regard, perhaps Rahul Dravid could have used Romesh Powar’s last over a bit earlier. Or perhaps even eked out an over or two from Tendulkar and/or Yuvraj Singh in the earlier stages itself…

But these are all tactical issues that are somewhat irrelevant in the larger scheme of things. India needs a utility player or two urgently — a medium fast bowler who can bat well too…

Is there an allrounder in the ranks in India — any allrounder? The time is ripe for this tribe to put their hands up and step up to the plate. Irfan Pathan, Praveen Kumar, Joginder Sharma and company ought to be queueing up!

— Mohan

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More on jelly beans…

Here is an excellent — and hilarious — article by Martin Johnson on the jelly beans episode. The article, titled “England jelly japes not worth a bean“.

Simon Briggs in the same newspaper — The Telegraph — thinks that both sides must take the blame for the state of play. He chides “the gracelessness of both sides’ conduct” and goes on to suggest that Alistair Cook is possibly the most likely jelly bean offender.

Will the match referee fine Alistair Cook too?

— Mohan

India lose to RSA: A few lessons

India lost a tough game to South Africa; the first of the 3-match “Future Cup” Series. Despite having several players on the sick bed, India were able to field 11 semi-fit players. Talk was that R. P. Singh wasn’t quite there yet. Still, he played and so did a few of the others who caught the flu-bug. Unfortunately, the team balance was disrupted as a result of this; the team went in with two spinners — a luxury in cold conditions and on a seaming pitch! As a result, the first change bowler had to be Sourav Ganguly — and as part-timers tend to do, Ganguly leaked runs! Although the spinners did well to pull it back a bit, the good start that Andre Nel gave the South Africans on the field, the slow batting by the Indians in the middle-overs, the not-so-crash-hot batting finish by the Indians, Kallis’s well-paced innings and general sloppiness in the Indian bowling, combined to give South Africa a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.

M. S. Dhoni, team vice-captain sat out his second successive match as vice-captain of the team! Dhoni is, incidentally, the guy who has been generous in offering the bug that he initially caught to everyone else in the team! 🙂

I am assuming that Team India pops those cold-flu-pills and rugs up to recovery prior to Fridays’ second game. I am also assuming that there are a few lessons that the team will learn prior to Fridays’ game!

The slow batting initially was understandable. Despite this piece that attempts to dissect Sachin Tendulkar’s batting, I thought Tendulkar paced his innings well. The conditions were hard and batting was tough on a two-paced wicket. He built the innings steadily and got out — stunningly, for the first time in his career of 137 Tests and 385 ODIs — on 99 runs!

In the end analysis, India was about 20 runs short. The real problem lay in the finish. The solid rebuilding-foundation that Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar had built was all but destroyed by Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Karthik and Rohit Sharma.

Yuvraj Singh needs to re-think his role, place and approach in the team. If he really wants to be the mainstay of Team India for the future, he needs to add consistency to his middle name which currently reads “Class”. Yes, he is a classy player. But just that is not enough. He needs to make each innings of his count. A pretty 20 is just not good enough anymore. He needs to be the clinical finisher that Michael Bevan was for Australia. This view is argued compellingly in a well-written piece on Cricinfo by Siddhartha Vaidyanathan.

India made 50 runs in the last 8 overs with 8 wickets still in hand! This phase would have hurt India’s chances in the final analysis.

I really don’t know what Gautam Gambhir is doing in the one-day side in England. Yes, he has scored some runs lately. Yes, he has tried to make the best of all the opportunities he has been given. But he is not an ODI opener. He is not inventive with his shot making. He is suspect against the moving/seaming ball and doesn’t have the best timing in the world. I think India have to give Uthappa a go in the next match.

Piyush Chawla has impressed in every outing since his debut. He played well against Ireland. Minnow or no minnow, one has to still put in the hard yards. And he did. His confidence appears to be high and he is grabbing these flu-induced opportunities to cement a place in the side. Rediff carried a piece which indicates that Chawla is the third Indian bowler to have claimed 6 wickets after only his second ODI! After Chawla’s 3 wickets for 47 runs in yesterdays’ match against South Africa, maybe they’ll do another piece on the number of ODIs Indians have taken to reach 9 ODI wickets!

The main concern for me is the largesse that India affords opposition teams in terms of wides and no-balls. With the new ICC rule on free-hits that is going to be brought into play from 1 October on, this slide should be halted and arrested immediately. This should be one of Venkatesh Prasad’s main tasks, I’d have thought. In yesterdays’ match, R. P. Singh bowled 6 wides — and that is a luxury really!

Rohit Sharma hasn’t impressed in his first outing. Here’s hoping he does better in future matches.

With S. Sreesanth back in the team — for Romesh Powar, perhaps — and with a hope that Uthappa plays ahead of Gambhir, it would be good to see a full-strength India take on South Africa on Friday.

— Mohan

Team India: Sans Coach, Physio and a few players!

“No coach, no problem”, said Robin Singh on the eve of a long and arduous Team India tour of Great Britain. Team India did not appoint a coach thanks to a series of blundering steps by the committee which was tasked with managing the coach-selection-process. This farce then resulted in the appointment of septuagenarian Chandu Borde, as Team India Manager; a fact that precipitated much mirth and humour!

Meanwhile, while all of this has been happening in India, thanks to the rabble that was put together for the coach-selection-process, Sri Lanka quietly went about their business with clinical efficiency. After appointing Trevor Bayliss as Coach of the team, they have progressed even further. They are in the process of appointing Greg Blewett or Jonty Rhodes (or maybe both) as Bayliss’s support staff. I salute the focussed Sri Lankan approach.

Pakistan too went about its business in a professional manner. Three candidates were interviewed and the recommendation points to Dav Whatmore. However, the PCB is not making their decision final until both the potential appointee and the employer are satisfied with the terms and conditions.

Take note, Niranjan Shah!

Although Robin Singh, India’s fielding coach said, “no coach, no problem” when talking about the mess Indian cricket is in, one can’t but help wonder, “But what else can he say?”

Meanwhile, Team India physio, John Gloster has tripped on a boundary rope and fractured his hand! The team has called up London-based Nitin Patel as interim-cover for Gloster! Patel works as physio at the ECB cricket academy. India-A physio, Vaibhav Daga, is also on stand-by.

And as if all of this wasn’t enough, at least seven Team India players are reportedly down with a combination of cold-flu and fever. This includes ODI vice-captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni who missed the first match of the tour against Ireland!

What a terrific start to a long season!

— Mohan

Piyush impresses!

Piyush Chawla impressed everyone with a fine bowling performance as India cruised to victory against Ireland yesterday. I watched a few overs of Piyush yesterday and he has a very good googly that he uses a lot.  It was also interesting to listen to the commentary of former India leg spinner L Sivaramakrishnan. He said that Piyush had improved a lot, his hand was coming more straighter now, and he attributed this to the work put in by the Indian bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad.

– Sanjay