Category Archives: Pakistan

India done in by umpires, groundsmen and bowlers…

I am not one that normally complains too much about umpiring decisions. “Take it on the chin” should be the mantra.

However, after a shocking day in the office for Simon Taufel and, to a slightly lesser extent, Rudy Koertzen, I feel compelled to write. When an umpire of Simon Taufel’s standing and capability starts makes a series of shocking errors, it is quite likely that calls for technology to be used would become more strident.

In yesterday’s game, it is fair to say that the Indian bowlers bowled erratically. On a pitch that was unresponsive — apart from some balls that kept alarmingly low — the Indian bowlers ceded the advantage by being a tad erratic. The spin was slow and was mostly unresponsive to spin. So, one cannot blame the bowlers too much. However, one could expect the Australians to throttle the batsmen with line-and-length bowling, thereby getting the batsmen to make errors. One did not see the Indian bowlers adopt a similar approach. However, having said that, one could mount an argument that Younus Khan and Mohammed Yousuf were ejected in an “Australian manner”. The former, an attacking batsman, was throttled for runs by Harbhajan Singh (bowling around the wicket) and played a horrible reverse sweep. The latter, a dour batsman, was eked out by a sledge — from Anil Kumble no less! One doesn’t know what was said, but words were exchanged and two balls later, Mohammed Yousuf was on his way!

That apart, I felt that the main bowlers tried too much on a pitch that did not allow them that luxury. Ironically, it was Sourav Ganguly that showed how a wicket could be taken on a pitch like this. He bowed stump to stump, giving nothing away. In the end, Salman Butt poked at a delivery and was caught behind. The rest of the bowlers had an ordinary day at the office on a pitch that seemed alarmingly like the Kolkatta graveyard that was prepared for the 2nd Test.

I feel that two groundsmen have, together, done Indian cricket a great disservice just prior to an important tour against Australia. However, being a part of a cricketing system that lacks the capacity to look beyond the immediate future, the groundsmen would perhaps expect a hefty bonus from the BCC!

Apropos, a bad-day-at-the-office, apart from the Indian bowlers and the groundsman, Dinesh Karthik would want to forget his shocker of an appearance! Parthiv Patel shouldn’t be blamed for checking yesterday if his passport is in order. I can’t see Dinesh Karthik on the plane to Australia.

The umpires had shockers yesterday. There were at least 7 LBW appeals that the umpires could have gone India’s way. In one terrific spell of bowling, Ishant Sharma and Irfan Pathan created plenty of problems for Misbah Ul-Huq and Faisal Iqbal with the new ball. Misgah Ul-Huq is plain lucky to be there. He was plumb in front on at least 6 occasions. Faisal Iqbal was also let off once. Poor Ishant Sharma was at the receiving end of about 4 of these bad decisions. Sharma kept bringing the ball back in at pace to the right handers and troubled the batsmen in this spell of bowling. If the selectors had been there to see this spell, they may have well inked him in the team-sheet for Australia. Irfan Pathan suffered at the hands of Rudi Koertsen. Two overs from the close, Anil Kumble was at the receiving end of yet another shocker from Simon Taufel. One can only hope that these two gentlemen get up on the right side of the bed on day-4.

— Mohan

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The Pessimist warns you!

The Pessimist was approached for his comments on the eve of the 1st Test against Pakistan to begin at the Kotla tomorrow. Here are his early warnings.

  • India play under a new captain and it will not be easy for everyone to adjust.
  • The openers are under a lot of pressure to perform. For instance Karthik has not done well in the two early Ranji games he played. Jaffer is suspect with his slow footwork and Shoaib Akthar will test that out.
  • The middle order though strong on paper has not set the world alight in recent times.
  • The fast bowling department with a suspicious Munaf Patel is not very encouraging.
  • Harbhajan comes back after his ODI performances but can he get wickets again at the test match level?
  • This is an ageing side and the fielding will be tested thoroughly. Watch out for a few drops in slips early on, some desperate dives to prevent boundaries and some lethargic running between the wickets.
  • Finally the team will miss the enthusiasm and bubble of youth.

The Optimist when asked declined to give a comment.

— Sanjay

India lose match — win series

India lost the final match of the ODI series against Pakistan in Jaipur. The key interest for me in this game was the see how the team fared in the absence of Sourav Ganguly, Zaheer Khan, R. P. Singh and Harbhajan Singh. For me the other interest in this game was to see how Praveen Kumar played in his first ODI.

Overall, although India lost the match, they can take away a lot from this series. In the main, the form of Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh are major positives from this series. Although Robin Uthappa failed — and failed quite badly — in last nights’ game, I think his forceful presence in the death-overs is a major positive for India too.

Yuvraj Singh has been in sublime form and would be justifiably upset if he is left out of the Test team for the first Test against Pakistan, which commences on 22 November (at Ferozeshah Kotla, Delhi). Harbhajan Singh has bowled quite brilliantly through the tournament too. Although I will admit readily that one should not blindly take ODI form to be a true estimate of Test-match-form, the pointers are certainly good for both Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh. Both of them have made compelling cases for inclusion in the Test side.

The main positive from this series has been the stunning form of Sachin Tendulkar. Through two scores in the 90s and a few other short stays at the crease, Sachin Tendulkar appears to have hit peak form at the right time — just prior to three imporant back-to-back series; against Pakistan, Australia and South Africa. The signs are definitely good.

Praveen Kumar had a decent day at the office yesterday. Although one would be disappointed with his batting, he is definitely capable of more with the bat. He kept a cool head while bowling at the death overs and the fact that his captain had enough faith in him to ask him to bowl 3 of the last 5 overs means that he should have a reasonably long stint in India’s ODI team.

The two disappointments for India would be the indifferent form of Virender Sehwag and Murali Kartik. After a brilliant showing against Australia, Murali Kartik appears to have faded somewhat in this series. One expected Sehwag to set the ground ablaze with his new found hunger and tighter technique. However, while he looked good in the Gwalior game, he threw away a brilliant opportunity in last nights’ game with a mind-explosion. Both Virender Sehwag and Murali Kartik may have lost the opportunity to board the plane to Australia.

We may be tempted to blame the umpire for turning down several LBW appeals that India made that looked much closer than the one that Gautam Gambhir got. We may be tempted to blame the umpire for the shocker that Yuvraj Singh received — his subsequent dissent, justifiably earned him a visit to the Match Referees’ Office and a fine. However, the fact remains that Pakistan played smarter cricket on the day and deserve the applause.

Yesterday’s match also saw two debut performances in the Pakistan team. Both Sarfaraz Ahmed, the wicketkeeper, and Fawad Alam, the allrounder, came out of the game with an increase in their stock. Pakistan will possibly go into the first Test in more buoyant spirits now.

— Mohan

Leaks and Gags…

The BCCI may have placed a gag-order on its selectors, but unofficial leaks and defies of the ban continue.

In this ‘leak’, a highly-placed team-source indicates that Sourav Ganguly, R. P. Singh, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh will sit out the last match in Jaipur, to be replaced (respectively) by Rohit Sharma, Sree Santh, Praveen Kumar and Murali Kartik. Sachin Tendulkar will play — perhaps the team wants him to break the century-jinx too?

In a separate and bold move, Dilip Vengsarkar, Chairman of Selectors, has decided to confront the gag-order on his writing. This report suggests that he continued to write his newspaper column, “Cover Drive“, last week in a Marathi language newspaper. The BCCI have sought an explanation from him.

Niranjan Shah, meanwhile, has no gag order placed on him!

— Mohan

No Rahul Dravid yet…

Yesterday, India wrapped up the ODI series against Pakistan with one match to go in the 5-match series.

Yesterday Rahul Dravid, who was asked by Dilip Vengsarkar (Chairman of Selectors for Team India) to find “fitness and form” by playing in the Ranji Trophy, hit another century for Karnataka. Rahul Dravid hit 121 off 180 balls against Himachal Pradesh.

Yesterday, the selectors selected the ODI team for the last, dead-rubber ODI against Pakistan. They have retained the same team that played last nights’ game.

There is no place for Dravid in the ODI Team India yet.

As I said in my earlier post, given it is a dead-rubber game, I’d like to see India play the following team (in batting order) for that game on Sunday:

Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, M. S. Dhoni, Robin Uthappa, Praveen Kumar, Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Sree Santh, R. P. Singh

— Mohan

India win ODI series…

India won the fourth match of the ODI series against Pakistan at Gwalior and sealed the ongoing series against Pakistan 3-1 with one match still to go.

The chief architect of this win was Sachin Tendulkar, who hit a masterful 97 — out for the 6th time in the last 21 innings in the 90s. Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and M. S. Dhoni too played sensibly to get India home. This was yet another match in which India didn’t really appear to lose control of the game at any point in time. Much like India’s previous wins by India in this series at Guwahati and at Kanpur, India appeared to be in the drivers’ seat right through the match; if the teams’ hands were not on the wheel itself, the closeness of hand to wheel was reasonably conspicuous.

Every time Pakistan threatened to take the game away from India, either a wicket would fall (when Pakistan batted) or a series of big shots (when India batted) would bring the game back into Indias’ control. In that sense it was a bit of an Australian-performance by India! For example, just when Shoaib Mallik and Younis Khan were threatening to take the game away from India, Zaheer Khan clean bowled Mallik to redress the equation. When Shahid Afridi bowled a few tight overs to cramp Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, suddenly from nowhere, Sehwag belted out a huge six to unconstrain the batsmen. The next over from Afridi saw Tendulkar launch into three sublime 4s!

Tendulkar batted quite wonderfully. Many a commentary talks of the “Tendulkar of old”. This is an unfortunate and, in my view, somewhat senseless trend to compare Tendulkar-of-today with the Tendulkar-of-old or the Bradman-of-old. There seems to be this native and implicit (sometimes frustratingly explicit) expectation that suddenly Tendulkar will start to play like the 1998-vintage Tendulkar. In my view, however, the 1998-Tendulkar was what it was… the 1998-Tendulkar. I am convinced that we will not see the “Tendulkar of old” that L. Sivaramakrishnan and Arun Lal continue to talk about in their game-commentary. It enables me to fully enjoy, appreciate, cherish and value the “Tendulkar of today”. And yesterday’s exhibition was close to perfection by Tendulkar. On a pitch where most batsmen struggled, Tendulkar wrote his own script. He played with nonchalance and confidence — Dileep Premachandran, in his CricInfo article, talks of Tendulkar playing with “confidence of old”, which is perhaps the right way to describe his batting last night.

At one point in time the TV commentary team — another topic for another day — talked about a window of opportunity for Pakistan and possible panic in the Indian dressing room when Sehwag and Tendulkar got out within a few overs of each other. M. S. Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh were doing battle in the middle. But then Robin Uthappa — India’s new finish-man — and Irfan Pathan were still there in the pavillion! There seemed to be plenty of gas left in this vehicle. In any case, Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh played with calm comfort to steer India home again, as they did in Guwahati!

I do strongly believe that India must use the dead-rubber game at Jaipur on Sunday to plan for the months ahead. I believe it would be appropriate for the team to rest Sourav Ganguly for that game. The lack of a 5th bowler could have hurt India if it were playing a stronger team last night. The time is right, in my view to blood Praveen Kumar. Moreover, with a view to the long season coming up for Team India, Zaheer Khan — who, incidentally, bowled with great control in last nights’ game — could be rested too.

I’d like to see India play the following team (in batting order) for that game on Sunday:

Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, M. S. Dhoni, Robin Uthappa, Praveen Kumar, Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Sree Santh, R. P. Singh

— Mohan

Team India for 1st Test against Pakistan

There are a few questions that the selectors face as they sit down to select Team India for the 1st Test against Pakistan which commences in New Delhi on November 22 2007.

The team that is chosen has only one certain name on the team-sheet — that of Anil Kumble the captain — and in selecting the team, the selectors will probably have an eye to the series against Australia too. Team India for the Australia tour will be selected after the conclusion of the 2nd India-Pakistan Test match at Kolkata (Nov 30 – Dec 4).

The India Test team is likely to bring to focus the inclusion of Dinesh Karthik, Yuvraj Singh, V. V. S. Laxman, Gautam Gambhir, Ishant Sharma, Ranadeb Bose, Harbhajan Singh, Murali Kartik, Irfan Pathan, et al.

I’d like to see the following Test team chosen for the 1st Test against Pakistan:

Wasim Jaffer

Dinesh Karthik / Gautam Gambhir

Rahul Dravid

Sachin Tendulkar

Sourav Ganguly

Yuvraj Singh / V. V. S. Laxman

M. S. Dhoni

Anil Kumble

Harbhajan Singh

Sree Santh / R. P. Singh / Irfan Pathan

Zaheer Khan

I have assumed that the selectors will pick XV players. My preference would also be that India play Yuvraj Singh ahead of V. V. S. Laxman mainly because of the form that Yuvraj Singh is in. Moreover, Yuvraj Singh would also provide a 3rd spin-option in the team. India has, for long, omitted left-arm spinners in its Test team. One can question the inclusion of Sourav Ganguly ahead of V. V. S. Laxman in the above team-list; this is more a current-form thing than anything else. I would include Sree Santh ahead of R. P. Singh mainly because otherwise the bowling would have a “sameness” feel to it.

— Mohan