Category Archives: ODI

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

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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

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

Same ODI Team… No Rotation Policy!

The Indian selectors decided to, once again, dump the rotation policy that they said they wanted to implement — and have been talking about since around April 2007!

It may be that their collective heads were already spinning from the Team India Test-captain-selection mess — their mess — that they were cleaning up. Given this existing revolution-oriented medical condition and disorientation, they probably did not want to think of rotation at all, even though they had suggested just a week earlier that we would see Rahul Dravid back in the team — thereby suggesting the existence of some revolution-oriented operation.

Was that revolution more of a spin and not rotation, perhaps?

Vengsarkar had said then, that Dravid was only “rested“. “We decided to give him a break. He’s a great player and he will be back soon. Fitness and fielding have become very important in the one-day game so he will have to show it playing for his state [Karnataka].

So, much like the rotation-proclamations ahead of the India-Australia ODI series — when the only thing that rotated was the roulette wheel that paid selectors for the mess they were creating — there was no rotation policy this time either.

India has gone with the same team for the next two ODIs against Pakistan (on Nov 11 and Nov 15). The final ODI of this five-match series will be played on Nov 18th.

— Mohan

India Vs Pakistan, 1st ODI, Guwahati :: Highlights (Pakistan Innings)

[YouTube = http://youtube.com/watch?v=F2BSDSh1CwQ%5D