Category Archives: ODI

The i3j3 Cricket Podcast — Episode 2

The i3j3 Cricket Podcast (Episode 2), where Mahesh Krishnan Paddy Padmanabhan, Vish Krishnan and Mohan Krishnamoorthy talk about Kohli’s evolution, the England-India ODI series, Bangladesh cricket and a few other things that only 3-4 other fans care about.

The second episode of our once a fortnight cricket ramble. Have a listen…

Who’s more ‘clutch’? Tendulkar, Lara or Ponting?

By Ajit Bhaskar (@ajit_bhaskar)

Who is the most clutch among these three legends from our generation?

The Stage

Given the somewhat sensitive title of the post, I tried to think of a lot of emotional, heartfelt introductory content but I failed miserably. But it suffices to say that these three players are the best from our generation, particularly in the ODI format of the game. A couple of folks (Ian Chappell and Nasser Hussain) have opined on who’s the greatest among the three ‘modern greats’. Honestly, it is a tough ask to rate the three for each is excellent in his own ways.

I’m not here to ‘rate’ which one of them is the best among the three. What I’m going to address, is each batsman’s ability to perform in the clutch, which is one of the measures of a player’s greatness. After all, such performances tend to ‘define a player’s legacy’!

I am going to compare (statistically), the performance of these three players under ‘clutch’ situations.

Also, it makes some sense to compare these three players in particular because:

  • They have played in the same era.
  • They are all top order batsmen and have spent a vast majority of their careers batting in 1-4 spots in the batting order.

Ground Rules/Assumptions

  • I’m going to restrict this conversation to ODIs alone.
  • Clutch’ is defined as chasing a target. I will try to make things more granular as I proceed further.
  • Only India, Australia, West Indies, Pakistan, New Zealand, England and South Africa have been considered for this analysis. Sorry Zimbabwe, Bangladesh et al.
  • Only run chases are considered.
  • The pronouns HE and HIS used in generic sentences encompass BOTH male and female human beings. Do not hassle me with ‘sexist’ and other epithets.

A brief note on ‘clutch’

Various images flash across our minds the instant we hear the word clutch. Like Michael Jordan’s buzzer beating “The Shot” against Cleveland (followed by Jordan jumping in the air and then throwing his elbows exactly three times after planting his feet on the ground), Javed Miandad’s last ball six off Chetan Sharma (I hate Nataraj pencils just for that) and so on. As far as ODIs are concerned, a clutch situation typically involves chasing a target. The pressure that is associated with chasing a target, particularly when two good, competitive teams are playing makes for good drama and excellent cricket. The players who shine repeatedly and consistently under such circumstances become legends of the game.

The reason for emphasis on run chase will become clearer during the course of this article.

The Statistics

These are obtained from Cricinfo directly after applying a filter for ‘fielding first’.

Key observations:

  • They’ve been involved in enough run chases to qualify for statistical analysis
  • Lara has scored nearly half his runs chasing targets!
  • The ‘chasing average’ of all three players is pretty close to their career averages. This suggests that the pressure associated with a run chase doesn’t influence their performance significantly. In fact, Lara (on an average), scores 3 more runs during chasing.
  • All players show the Jekyll and Hyde syndrome, i.e. elevated averages when their teams win during a run chase and reduced averages when their teams lose while chasing a target.
  • It’s the extent of this syndrome exhibited by the three players that is quite intriguing.
  • If we define Differential Chasing Average or D = Chasing Average during Wins – Chasing Average during Losses, it represents the degree of discrepancy in individual performance while a team goes on to win or lose. In principle, a ‘legendary’ player is expected to play the same way and produce at a high level regardless of the outcome of the game and the performance of other players on the team. So lower the D value, greater the degree of consistency of a player during run chases.
  • The D values for Tendulkar, Lara and Ponting are 19.53, 40.11 and 39 respectively.
  • Let’s pause and ponder over this for a moment. Taking Lara as example, when WI chases a total successfully, he tends to score FORTY MORE RUNS than when WI fails to chase a target. While an average of ~68 runs is fantastic during successful a run chase, that also indicates a lot of variation in performance. In other words, consistency is lacking. The same is true of Ponting (Differential = 39). However, the key difference between Lara and Ponting is that when their teams lose while chasing a target, Lara still manages to score a decent 27.5 runs, Ponting manages only 19 runs.
  • Tendulkar, on the other hand, shows the least variation (D = 19.53). In fact, the variation is half of Lara’s and Ponting’s. This indicates more consistent performance during run chases.
  • Lara has the best Chasing Average in Wins by a distance. He scores nearly 10 more runs than Ponting and 16 more runs than Tendulkar during successful run chases.
  • Tendulkar has the best Chasing Average in Losses. It’s is about 13 runs or 67% greater than Ponting’s. He also scores 4 more runs than Lara during unsuccessful rn chases.
 Figure 1. Graphical representation of performance of Sachin Tendulkar (SRT, blue), Brian Lara (BL, Red) and Ricky Ponting (RP, green) during run chases.

 

Cranking up the pressure to ‘ultimate clutch’

While the analysis so far has provided an indication of the extent of consistency of these players, it hasn’t truly separated them as to who is the best among the three. So I’ll up the ante a little bit and crank up the pressure.

I’d like to evaluate these players’ performances under extreme pressure.  In many cases, teams are chasing fairly small targets of 100 or 150. While the task is still challenging, it is not as daunting as chasing a larger target. Say 250.

How do these players fare when chasing targets of 250 or above? The reason for choosing 250 becomes clearer when we take a look at how teams fare when they chase such targets.

Data Acquisition

  • Get the ODI inning by inning list for Tendulkar on cricinfo.
  • Set a filter for ‘fielding first’.
  • Open every single match/scorecard and choose only those where targets of 250 or above were chased.
  • Note the runs scored in each inning under two columns based on whether his team won or lost.
  • Calculate various parameters (Average, average during wins and losses etc.)
  • Not outs are considered as outs for calculating averages
  • Repeat the process for Lara and Ponting. Note that in Ponting’s case, a tied match is included for calculating chasing average.

Here’s how the three batsmen fare:

Key observations:

  • There is a LOT of collective failure! Just take a look at the W-L records. With these legends representing India, West Indies and Australia respectively, they have won ~30, 25 and 40% of their matches while chasing 250+ targets. The collective success rate is just 31%!
  • So, if anybody tells you chasing 250+ is an easy task, just show him this table. Even the ‘invincible Aussies’, who have boasted some of the game’s premier batsmen, bowlers and perhaps some the most balanced sides ever, have failed to win even half the games while chasing 250 or above!
  • Tendulkar’s average while chasing 250+ targets (39.9) is virtually same as his regular chasing average of 40.03. This is remarkable consistency. Lara and Ponting on the other hand, tend to score nearly 5 and 3 runs lower than their regular chasing averages respective, when chasing 250+ targets.
  • Tendulkar also averages the most during 250+ chases. While Tendulkar and Lara are separated by one run, Tendulkar scores nearly 3 more runs than Ponting.
  • The differential (D) values for Tendulkar, Lara and Ponting are 10.3, 34.2 and 46.6 respectively.
  • Let me emphasize a bit more on the D values. Regardless of W or L, you can expect consistent performance from Tendulkar. Lara and Ponting, on the other hand, tend to play extremely well when their respective teams are winning, but tend to score poorly when their sides are on the losing side. This is particularly true of Ponting, whose average of 18.5 when the Aussies lose chasing targets 250 (probability is 26 out of 44 games or 59%) or above is quite frankly, poor!
  • WI has lost 39 out of 52 games while chasing 250+. But even under these circumstances, Lara pretty much assures you 30 runs (chasing avg. during losses).
  • Tendulkar, on the other hand, gets you 7 more runs than Lara and nearly 18 more runs than Ponting on days when your team is not doing a good job at chasing. This is a very significant difference in my opinion, given the fact that India and WI do not end up on the winning side often while chasing 250+ targets.
  • But when their teams win, Lara and Ponting fire and fare much better than Tendulkar. This is clear from their chasing averages during wins.

Figure 2. Graphical representation of performance during 250+ run chases for Tendulkar (blue), Lara (red) and Ponting (green).

Bottom Line

The bottom line is, no matter how high the pressure is, whether the game is being played on earth or elsewhere, no matter what kind of target the team is chasing, Tendulkar provides the most steady, consistent performance. Lara is a gambling man’s pick, while Ponting is (compared to Tendulkar and Lara) more of a hit or miss case. If snoring is a problem, you may need ZQuiet.

To me, this analysis puts Tendulkar and Lara a cut above Ponting. Particularly because Ponting has enjoyed the benefit of better overall teams than Lara and Tendulkar have enjoyed over their careers. But more importantly, the averages of 18.95 during unsuccessful run chases and 18.5 during unsuccessful run chases involving 250+ targets is something I wouldn’t call ‘stuff of legends’.

In a nutshell, if I were to pick one of these three legends to help chase my team a target of 250 or above, which in my book, is a clutch situation given the rate of failure involved, I’d flip a coin. Heads – Tendulkar, Tails – Lara.

Sorry Ponting, you just don’t make the cut on my list. Certainly not in ODIs.

Asia cup Indian ODI squad – Team looks fitter!

Yuvraj has been dropped. Add the dropping of Amit Mishra and the average fitness of the team has already gone up. Kris Srikkanth has also said that a lot of stress has been on fitness. The selectors have also looked at the record over the last year and seen how matches have been lost because of poor fitness and fielding! A pity they did not do that a year ago! They have also apparently looked at the consistency of the players’ performance to pick the team. The only consistent player in the current India A team has been Saurabh Tiwary and he has been rewarded with a call up. After all did he not score 3 fifties in the IPL? In case people forgot he also scored 3 centuries at an average of 98 in 5 matches for Jharkhand in the Ranji Trophy plate!!!!!! He might as well have scored 18 centuries in 20 matches for Alwarpet CC at the Chennai 1st Division League! Who cares about the Ranji Plate? BTW in case people missed it his last first class game was a Duleep Trophy match for East Zone and he scored 22. Forget those domestic giants like Pujara, Rahane, Badrinath, Manish Pandey, Abhinav Mukund etc etc. Did they perform in the IPL???? They only scored runs for their domestic teams! And that in the Ranji Elite or whatever that’s called. Of course Uthappa is injured and so was not considered. Yusuf Pathan has been dropped and rightly so. Ashwin has been retained because he is the only off spinner in the country at the moment who can keep Bhajji on his toes. Yuvraj can twitter about his daily visits to the gym but that’s not enough. He has to show off six packs in the next chewing gum ad before he will be considered fit. After all he is a proven performer and does not have to score runs anymore right? Jadeja has been retained because he can bowl the 5/6 overs that Yuvraj was bowling in the past. Cmon show me another left arm spinner in the country who can bat and field. And forget Iqbal Abdulla, he is only a domestic performer! So we minus Tendulkar we probably have the best team that has been selected. Except for my own personal opinions which are the following. Iqbal Abdulla for Jadeja and Badrinath/Pujara for Tiwary.

Sanjay

Indian ODI squad announced

A 15 member squad has been announced for the tri-series in Bangladesh and the Asia Cup in Pakistan.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), Yuvraj Singh, Robin Uthappa, Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Irfan Pathan, Sreesanth, Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar, RP Singh, Piyush Chawla, Pragyan Ojha.

The highlights have been the complete absence of the ‘seniors’ with Sachin opting out because of injury. Personally the picking of Yusuf Pathan and Suresh Raina have been made more in tune with their recent performances in the IPL. Praveen Kumar keeps his place ahead of someone like Manpreet Gony because of his good performance in Australia. The only other new pick is Pragyan Ojha. He did look impressive in the IPL and I think on a turning wicket especially in Asian conditions he could be a handful. Also because the other probable contender, Ravindra Jadeja, the U-19 left arm spinner, has hardly bowled in the IPL and has shone as a batsman. The interesting thing is that there is not a single player from the U-19 World cup winning team!

— Sanjay

PS: Just checked cricinfo and found that Ojha was the selectors’ pick and not the captain’s!

I just missed Mohan’s post completely. Anyway he has been spot on except for Ojha.

Sledging – bind or be blind?

The two greatest rationale and philosophy of our times, capitalism and democracy, are based on the idea that individuals, through their actions based on self-interest, will drive forces towards the most beneficial state for inviduals and/or society as a whole. In extending this thinking to the cricketing field and the current controversy over sledging, is it not best that the cricketers themselves decide what is acceptable and not acceptable to them, through their actions on the field, instead of expecting an external body such as ICC to define it for them? This thinking takes the exterme opposite view of what Harsha Bhogle tries to recommend in his article in The Times of India.

My sincere opinion is that cricketers should be allowed to use sledging, without any constraints, irrespective of how offensive it is. Most people take offense because they might feel ill-equipped in the approved forms of retaliation. In the newly recommended open environment, one can use whatever means one has, to retaliate. In a bizzare way, nothing will eventually be offensive to anyone, since its free for all. I look at it as a positive development in line with the ongoing changes that cricket has embraced in Twenty20, IPL and Technology.

Also, with every control that has been vested in the hands of the ICC, there have been perceptions of inconsistency and impotence felt by stakeholders of the game across the globe. In the interests of the game and a practical step forward, I feel its best that the players are let loose on each other in the center, so that the public is relieved of the after shocks. This brings to an abrupt end, months of debate and platitudes over whether someone or some society is racist or not, whether a certain person was as severely punished as another etc. I am positive that with each sledging act in the field, players will yell the choicest of abuses at each other without any interruptions from any players or officials, and when the energies are exhausted in that act, each will take their stance to bat or bowl or field the next ball and the game will move on.

– Bharath

Permutations and Combinations

The tri series tournament (What a long one at that?) is exactly at the half way mark now  and the current standings  in the points table is as follows –

Team Points
Australia 12
India 8
Sri Lanka 6

 

Australia is in the driver seat and probably need just another win (against any team) to book a place in the finals. So, what about India and Sri Lanka? Here are some permutations and combinations –

1. In the worst case scenario for India, they lose all four games –  in which case they pack up and leave.

2. If India win one against SL and lose all other games, they will end up with 12 points. SL will still  have to beat Australia in at least one game to reach the finals.

3. If India win one against SL and one against Australia, they will end up with 16 points, SL on 10 points and Australia 16. Sri Lanka will have to beat Australia in both their games to be in the finals.

4. If India win one against Australia but lose all other games, India will end up with 12 points, Sri Lanka 14 and Australia 16. Irrespective of Sri Lanka’s other results, they would qualify for the finals.

5. If India win both their games against Australia, India would move on to 16 points. Irrespective of the results of the other games, India would then qualify to the Finals.

6. If India win both games against Sri Lanka, India will automatically qualify as they would move to 16 points and the second finalists place will be a fight between Australia and Sri Lanka

In short, Sri Lanka’s loss to Australia today has strengthened India’s position. Sri Lanka needs to win at least 3 games to be in with a chance and that is a tough ask. On the other hand even a single win for India against them could secure them a place in the finals.

-Mahesh-

Australia v India :: ODI :: A win for India

After four games, this somewhat tiring three-nations series is nicely set up. India won a game at the MCG, Melbourne last night and two of her previous games have been rained out. Sri Lanka has 2 points from a rained out game, while Australia has a win and 2 points from a wash-out. Sri Lanka meets India on Tuesday in what could be a battle that opens up this series or tightens the score-board. Even though they were outplayed in Sydney by a rampant and professional Australia unit, Sri Lanka looks like a capable side. So after many years of tiring one-sided cricket, it looks like this series — ironically, the last tri-series in Australia — will be a cracker of sorts!

In last nights’ game, India out thought and out-bowled Australia. The Indians seemed to have a plan for each batsman and stuck to it. The days that the team had in MCG to themselves seemed to have worked! Ishant Sharma thundered in and bowl a foot outside off to Matthew Hayden. They wanted Hayden to make the running and offered him nothing on his pads or close to the body. Similarly, they had a plan for Michael Clarke and for Ricky Ponting. The fielding was sharper and the catching was good too. It is easy to see why this young Team India has captured the imagination of a few Australians in the commentary box. With the calm and fearless M. S. Dhoni at the helm of affairs it is easy for the Indian fan to dream again!

Australia was all out in some 43.1 overs for 169. This does not happen often. No doubt, the scoreline was benefited by poor umpiring that cost Adam Gilchrist (LBW off an inside edge) and Stuart Clark (seemed to not nick a ball that carried through to M. S. Dhoni). And when India was batting, Sachin Tendulkar got a healthy nick and was pouched behind the stumps — it wasn’t given. It is hard to predict what might have been, had these decisions gone against India.

However, I thought India bowled well and that is heartening to see. Ricky Ponting admitted after the game that Ishant Sharma made a big difference. The young Indian quick got Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting and Andrew Symonds — three top-drawer batsmen. But more importantly, he has improved steadily with each outing. He was entrusted with the new ball in yesterdays’ game and came out trumps. Sree Santh looked dangerous too and Irfan Pathan backed the with some wily stuff of his own. Team India, which is without Zaheer Khan and R. P. Singh, probably its top-2 ODI pacers, is looking sharp at the moment.

In the batting, Rohit Sharma and M. S. Dhoni batted beautifully to get India home. It was disappointing to see India not get the bonus point, but the victory is perhaps more important in the larger scheme of things.

One worry would be the continuing bad form of Yuvraj Singh. Nothing seems to be going right for this young man on this tour. He needs a big innings. India needs it too. With a fit and in-form Yuvraj Singh, this team can reach the finals and create some damage. If not, it may be a bridge too far.

With that in mind, it may not be a bad idea for Team India to think in terms of sending Yuvraj Singh in as opener in the game against Sri Lanka in Canberra. He can play with more freedom and be more carefree. In the last two games he has come in with wicket-preservation mindset and that may not quite be the best frame of mind to be in when one is trying to breakout of a form slump.

— Mohan

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

The India ODI team for the 2011 World Cup…

If Team India’s Vision is to win the 2011 World Cup — to be played in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka — the selectors had better develop a strategic plan now. From their recent actions, I am somewhat convinced that they are operating from the seat of their pants — as has been the case with Indian selection committees from the day cricket was first played in India!

The selectors need to agree to the vision and commit to it. The questions then should be around how to best get to achieving that final state with the optimal resources and personnel in such a way that the competition can be beaten. The selectors need to understand and agree to the current situation, identify the gaps and then agree to a process for getting to that desired end state.

Then the forthcoming (many) ODI series could be testing grounds — a large experimental laboratory — for testing out hypothesis, narrowing the gaps and refining the approaches to the ultimate vision.

The focus should be on the big picture rather than on immediate results, although I would agree that given the nature of the key stakeholders that are involved — the BCCI, the Indian cricket fan and the Indian cricket media — one cannot endure a string of poor results in the name of refining the pathway to ultimate success. The BCCI, the Indian fan and the Indian cricket media vociferously demand immediate results and this is something that cannot be ignored.

The current situation is that India is placed 4th on the ODI table behind Australia, South Africa and New Zealand with Sri Lanka, England and Pakistan not too far away from India. In reality, India will have difficulty beating Australia and South Africa — unless, of course, it is a big must-win situation for South Africa! It is conceivable that India would beat New Zealand every now and then. And on an average day at the office, when the good teams will find something extra to lift itself, the Indian fan can quite easily expect India to cave in to Sri Lanka, England or Pakistan. So, in some sense, the 4th position that is accorded to India is probably an exaggeration of sorts. In my books, the Team India position is somewhere between 2 and 7 with the exact resting position totally dependent on the side of the bed that the team collectively woke up from! And that is probably one aspect that differentiates good teams from great. One can expect, to the point of boredom perhaps, that Australia would win every game it plays unless the opposition plays a blinder. In order for India to get to that state, there needs to be an investment and commitment to excellence.

The main problem, however, is that India should work towards putting together a set of players that would have the ability to beat Australia. If there is daylight between Australia and the second-placed ODI team (South Africa) there is a veritable chasm between Australia and 4th-placed India.

And for this, the team needs the right resources as well as attitude (intensity, situational awareness, grit, will, passion and ambition). My hypothesis/submission here is that the basic capability exists in India. Talent is not really the issue. This hypothesis was recently supported by Greg Chappell. The bench-strength exists. This needs to be moulded and shaped in the right environment and with the right support for the team to get to where it needs to get to. For, if we cannot accept this hypothesis, then we may as well accept the alternate hypothesis, give up and adopt a “we will be like this only” mindset!

There are a few gaps that need to be addressed immediately.

Are Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly going to play in the 2011 World Cup? The selectors would need to know the answer to this question very soon. If the answer is in the negative — and one does not need to be a betting man to know that it will be in the negative — the selectors would need to develop a process and a pathway for phasing out these stalwarts and replacing them with personnel of near-equivalent capability. This process must commence now and not with a year to spare to WC 2011. Finding understudies for players like Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly – players with immense capability and experience — is hard enough. It would be sheer madness to try and secure a like-for-like replacement with a year to go! And for that same reason a cut-and-run approach now will not work either. The phasing out must be gradual and systematic and must be developed via a cogent rotation system so that their immense experience is not lost on the younger players that come through.

Apart from this, some of the key gaps in the current ODI setup are in terms of fielding, intensity and team-balance.

The fielding will improve with the new personnel that are being drafted in. If we take the new recruits that are coming through the system, most of them field competently, if not brilliantly. None of them will perhaps be an instant Andrew Symonds or a Michael Clarke (let us also not forget that the Australian system does also produce an occasional Stuart Clark or a Stuart MacGill)! Recent examples of fielding brilliance that give one hope in this regard include Robin Uthappa, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, et al. The recently concluded Challenger Cup, which was devoid of any of the regular Team India players, saw some incredibly athletic fielding levels and fielding intensity. So there is hope after all. And when these players are provided with adequate support and tuning, one can be confident that the players will pull together.

Intensity and situational awareness are attributes that are not embedded and ingrained. These come with a winning mindset and a culture that has an accent on continuous improvement. They also come from match fitness and experience. Provided the selectors are able to pull together a cogent set of 20-25 players that they are able to invest in, these attributes will come through in a learned manner. I did see a ray of hope in the Twenty20 Championship. There were times with Team India did appear down and out. However, the team retained its intensity as well as a sense of situational awareness and pulled through. However, to extrapolate that level of intensity and maintain it over a longer period of time – the 50-over game and Test matches — is of course, harder for teams like India for whom such attributes are not culturally ingrained. This is and will continue to be a challenge for Team India, but with the talent that exists and with proper nurturing, this is possible – and let us not forget that India herself is changing and with it, her people too. There is hope.

And finally, team-balance… From this point of view, today’s game at Jaipur against Pakistan is an important step in a fruitful direction. There are no silver-bullets when it comes to team-balance; no panaceas. However, what the better teams have shown and what the Twenty20 Championship has shown too is that any team that is loaded with too many bowlers or too many batsmen will suffer. The modern game requires players that are good at batting, bowling and fielding. A batsman should be exceptionally good in two departments (batting and fielding) to be able to occupy a pure-batting spot; similarly with bowlers too. In todays’ game, Praveen Kumar makes his debut. And this is the direction in which ODI Team India must head. In my view, players like Praveen Kumar (not necessarily him in particular), Rajat Bhatia, Yusuf Pathan, Joginder Sharma, et al would be the way to go. And of course, Irfan Pathan is already there. Just as India builds bench-strength in the batting-only department and the bowling-only department, India should also develop a bench-strength in the all rounders department. There will never be a Kapil Dev, but India does need to head in that direction and invest in these types of players.

— 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