Tag Archives: Agarkar

Bad starts cause a loss…

India lost a tight game to Australia thanks to two bad starts. India started badly while bowling and recovered in the middle overs! While batting, again, India made a hash of the start. Although the Indian batting recovered from that wobble, the magnitude of the bad start meant that India lost by 18 runs. The fact that India got that close is a credit to the Indian middle-order batsmen!

As M. S. Dhoni said at the post-match interviews, India can take a lot of positives from this game.

When India were bowling, an Australia total of 380 seemed likely at one stage. Australia got off to a sensational start with Ponting and Hayden murdering the bowling attack. In particular, Sreesanth bowled like a millionaire! He bowled so inconsistently that one almost whipped the prayer mat out to seek Ajit Agarkar’s re-appearance in the Indian line up! India pegged Australia down to a less daunting 317. In particular, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh bowled brilliantly. This meant that India’s 4-bowler strategy appeared to have worked… just! I am not sure if this is a strategy that can be persisted with.

Despite the good bowling in the middle overs, in order to win, India would have had to overhaul the highest 2nd innings total at the SCG prior to last night.

Another bad start — this time in the batting — meant that, at 51-4, a score of 200 looked like a huge mountain to climb. Yet, India recovered, thanks to Gautam Gambhir, M. S. Dhoni, Robin Uthappa, Irfan Pathan and Harbhajan Singh to get to a total of 299!

There are positives and these include the middle-overs bowling and the middle-overs batting. There is little doubt that M. S. Dhoni is a calming influence on this team. He rallies his young cadets to keep fighting till the end. In players like Rohit Sharma, Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa and Irfan Pathan, he has a core set of players that will respond positively too.

Gautam Gambhir is batting really well these days. He was in fine form and batted with a calm head on his responsible shoulders. In the absence of firepower at the top and with the dodgy form/knee of Yuvraj Singh, on this ODI tour, Gambhir has been the foundation on which the rest of the team has been built. If he had lasted until the ball-change in the 34th over, the match result may well have been different; a fact that he acknowledged himself in the post-match sound-bytes!

The performance of Robin Uthappa was also a revelation. Prior to this game he hadn’t really had a major opportunity to showcase his undoubted skills. Apart from a weakness that he has early on in his innings — of shuffling too far forward and across — Uthappa looks like a sensational and dependable batsman. He has a calm head on his shoulders and, like Gambhir, appears to love a tight situation! In that sense, he has a Michael Bevan like quality to his batting. Along with the indefatigable M. S. Dhoni, Uthappa looks set to play a long innings in Indian cricket.

The match was played at the SCG, the very cauldron that saw the infamous MonkeyGate explode in the faces of the Australia and India teams! The same venue saw the alleged instigator of that blow-up cause another one last night — this time with Ishant Sharma. After being bowled by a beauty from the young Indian tearaway, Symonds appeared to say something to the Indian bowler who responded by giving Symonds a few directions to the dressing room. It is somewhat unlikely that Ishant Sharma will escape a fine and a reprimand.

Most Match Referees will, these days, slap a fine on send-offs to the dressing-room unless of course, it is carried out by “fine Australian cricketers” — when such actions will be seen as “natural aggression, which should not be removed from the game” or some such platitude. Be that as it may, giving the batsman a send-off is a no-no and young Sharma should be prepared to cop it on the chin!

In another interesting twist in last nights’ game, the match referee, reacting to a claim made on Channel-9 by Ian Healey, seized M. S. Dhoni’s gloves after the veteran Australian gloveman claimed that Dhoni’s gloves were illegal!

The Indian team should ask some searching questions of its opening bowlers and opening batsmen. I would not be surprised if we see either Sachin Tendulkar or Virender Sehwag drop down the order in the all-important game on Tuesday against Sri Lanka. Similarly, I would not be surprised if Sree Santh is asked to sit out that game. The team may also want to accommodate Praveen Kumar in the mix.

— Mohan

Team India for Australian Test Series :: Virender Sehwag in!

In a surprise move, Virender Sehwag has been drafted in to the Indian Test team for the 4-Test tour of Australia!

Sehwag wasn’t in the initial list of 24-probables. However, he got the call ahead of Gautam Gambhir who has been advised three weeks rest with a sore shoulder. The Indian fan cannot be blamed for being a tad cynical of these mysterious injuries that do have a habit of troubling Indian players when tough selectorial decisions have to be made! And here we have yet another instance of a mysterious injury rearing its ugly head again!

Ian Chappell did write a few days back that the Indian selectors erred in not picking Sehwag in the initial list of 24 probables. Were the selectors swayed by his outpourings? Were they honest outpourings or was it a red-herring? One never knows. Many on this blogsite too felt that Sehwag ought to have been included. However, this move to induct him from outside the list of 24 makes a bit of a mockery of the whole selection process. In particular, Aakash Chopra would be right to feel a bit miffed at the craziness of the selection process! Having said that, I do think that Sehwag’s choice is a smart decision. He has performed well against Australia and his aggression at the top will work well for India. One slight problem is that he hasn’t been setting the Ranji world alight with his bat in recent times.

The 16-member squad also includes Pankaj Singh, the young Rajasthan pacer. This is again, in my view, a smart move. He has bowled impressively in the U-19 squad and has started his Ranji season well this year. Pankaj Singh ejects Munaf Patel from the team. Patel has been advised to play more domestic cricket.

If nothing else, Pankaj Singh’s pick can be seen as a smart move because the unhealthy ghost of Ajit Agarkar was hovering around in the list of probables 🙂

Ishant Sharma probably picks himself after a decent showing in the 3rd Test against Pakistan. However, as I said in my post yesterday, a day after bagging the world record for the maximum number of byes in a Test innings, Dinesh Kartik can consider himself a tad lucky to be on the plane, although it is probably the right decision in my view.

Team India (probably in batting order for the 1st Test):
Wasim Jaffer
Virender Sehwag / Dinesh Karthik
Rahul Dravid
Sachin Tendulkar
Sourav Ganguly
VVS Laxman / Yuvraj Singh
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk)
Anil Kumble (capt)
Irfan Pathan / Harbhajan Singh
Zaheer Khan
Ishant Sharma / RP Singh / Pankaj Singh

A good selection effort in my opinion especially when considered in the background of the recent form that V. V. S. Laxman an Sourav Ganguly have shown. Sourav Ganguly, in my view, is in the form of his life. Although I have always been an unabashed Ganguly-fan, I can say — with a degree of objectivity — that I haven’t seen him bat as effectively, doggedly and in as determined a manner as I have seen in the last 6 months or so. Of course, all of this can come to naught in the bouncy pitches of Australia. However, his defence has tightened. He doesn’t hang his bat out to dry outside off as often as he used to. And more than ever before, he has developed a dogged mental edge to his game.

The team appears to be right for Australia.

  • The right batsmen are there.
  • Ishant Sharma is peaking at the right time.
  • A rookie pacer like Pankaj Singh is better than a break-down specialist (Munaf Patel) especially when the break-dance specialist is injured! Pankaj Singh will learn a lot from this tour even if he doesn’t get a game.
  • Ajit Agarkar is not there!
  • Virender Sehwag’s omission from the initial 24 was befuddling. He just had to go. He is.
  • The team has only 2 spinners — the second spinner would be mostly irrelevant on this tour apart from, perhaps, Sydney.
  • The captain is a good one.

Anil Kumble appears to be captaining the team well, although I will point out that he delayed the declaration in todays’ 3rd Test against Pakistan by about 10 overs. A ruthless captain would not have waited for a teammate — Dinesh Karthik in this case — to score a 50 in Test cricket! However, he has shown enough inventiveness and aggression to convince me that his “better late than never” quip on being chosen as Team India captain is a truism of sorts!

However, there is no time for the team to settle and for that, once again, the BCCI should take a bow. Team India has to play its Test XI in the 2-day tour match – the only practice game before the Melbourne Test match!

— Mohan

What’s the team for Australia going to be?

I am sure there is strong reason for postponing the the team selection for the tour of Australia.  But as I mentioned in an earlier post, I don’t see any reason to name 24 probables to only cull the list a week later – they might as well have waited a few more days and named the actual team.

In any case, here is the list of 24 players –

Batsmen Bowlers Keepers
Jaffer Kumble Dhoni
Tendulkar RP Singh Karthik
Dravid Munaf Patel Parthiv Patel
Ganguly Zaheer Khan  
Laxman VRV Singh  
Yuvraj Singh Pankaj Singh  
Chopra Ishant Sharma  
Gambhir Murali Karthik  
  Harbhajan Singh  
  Piyush Chawla  
  Bose  
  Pathan  
  Agarkar  

 

It is funny how the probables list has 13 bowlers, even more than the batsmen and wicket keepers combined.

The ones in italics are certain to tour – Jaffer, Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Kumble, RP Singh, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and Dhoni. That leaves room for another 5 players. I would think that of the 16 players – the break down would be 7 batsmen, 7 bowlers and 2 keepers.

Based on that, there is room for just one regular batsman and based on current form, this is most likely to go to Gambhir although Chopra has prior experience playing in Australia. My preference would have been Sehwag, but he is not in the mix here.

Of the bowlers – taking more than 2 spinners would be a luxury, so Murali Karthik and Chawla will have to miss out. For the other 3 spots, Munaf should get the nod ahead of the others and Pathan may be picked based on his all round ability. The other seamer slot is a tough one to pick. As Ishant Sharma was picked for the last test, it is very likely that he may get the nod ahead of the others, but Agarkar has a knack of getting into the team when you least expect him to.

I really don’t expect the fifth player to play any games unless the others are injured. Why not have an  extra batsman instead? My preference would be Sehwag, but he is not in the mix here. Did I say that already? Doesn’t matter how many times I say it – he is unlikely to be included now. Maybe, the selectors should think of including someone like Badrinath in team. Oh, he is not in the list of 24 either! Oh, well…The only option the selectors have is to pick Chopra, and this may very well happen.

The 2nd keeper is probably not that easy to pick either. Parthiv Patel is in very good nick in domestic cricket and has played well when he has represented India A and Karthik has had a poor run with the bat in the current series. Parthiv Patel has played in Australia before and he plays the pull and cut quite well, which could come in handy down under. But, if the selectors still have faith in Karthik based on his showing in England he still has a chance of making it to the squad. He is my also my choice ahead of Parthiv Patel.

Assuming that the players who missed out the last test are all declared fit, here is what the team would end up looking –

Jaffer, Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Dhoni, Karthik, Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, RP Singh, Irfan Pathan, Munaf Patel, Ishant Sharma/Chopra.

-Mahesh-

Ranji player watch – bowlers

Who are the players to watch out for in the Ranjis this season? Thought I’d compile my list starting with the bowlers.

Fast/Medium bowlers

  • Ishant Sharma, New Delhi 
  • Ranadeb Bose, Bengal 
  • Munaf Patel, Maharashtra
  • VRV Singh, Punjab
  • YoMahesh, TN

Apart from Bose and YoMahesh the other fast bowlers have represented India and Munaf Patel (not withstanding his Challenger Trophy performance) looks the most likely to break back in to the team first. But first he has to play a full season without breaking down. Pankaj Singh from Rajasthan didn’t make the cut into my list, but I’ll still be watching how he performs.

There are some notable exceptions in this list, such as Joginder Sharma and Praveen Kumar, but I thought they are better of falling into the allrounder category.

Spinners

  • Piyush Chawla (Leg spin/Googly), UP
  • Pragyan Ojha (Left arm orthodox), Hyderabad
  • R Ashwin (Right arm off spin), TN
  • KP Appanna (Left arm orthodox), Karnataka
  • Abdulla (Left arm orthodox), Mumbai

Amit Mishra, the legspinner who has played for India missed the cut from my list. He hasn’t had the kind of impact some one like Piyush Chawla has had, but it would be interesting to see how he goes. Chawla  has already broken into the India ODI squad and there is talks that he may eventually replace Kumble when he retires. Ojha has been very impressive for India A and looked the most likely left arm spinner to break into the Indian squad. But that was before Murali Karthik’s comeback. Appanna and Abdulla show a lot of promise and it would be interesting to see how they perform a full season. I would also like to see how Shahbaz Nadeem (another left arm spinner) who is not in my list performs this season.

Every so often during this season, I’ll try and post on how these people are going.

-Mahesh-

RoI win Irani Trophy

Rest of India won the Irani Trophy season opener convincingly. In Mumbai’s first innings, Kukreja (110 off 210 balls) and Abhishek Nayar (118 off 108 balls) scored tons to get Mumbai to a decent total of 453 all out.

Abhishek Nayar is shaping up as a really useful allrounder to watch out for in the future. He bats left handed and is a right-arm fast medium bowler. In this match, Nayar bowled more overs than any other Mumbai bowler. Not that this fact alone counted for much in the end, but it talks of the confidence that the team has in this 24-year-old!

After a shaky start in response to this large total, RoI responded soundly, with Parthiv Patel (179 off 235) and Manoj Tiwary (130 off 184) scoring brisk centuries. Parthiv Patel opened the innings with Akash Chopra and has been in stunning form with the bat! In the end, RoI had a slender 1st innings lead. Badrinath had made 29.

It was around this time that news may have leaked of Badrinath’s impending selection in the India team. He may have hoped for the Irani Trophy match to get over soon so that he could pack up is kit and join Team India! But even Badrinath, — who commented, “I can’t leave till this match gets over. I hope we win it tomorrow.” — would not have expected the swiftness of the RoI victory!

In the second innings, Mumbai folded for 106 off 33.3 overs in a mere 166 minutes! RoI had to make 90 to win, which they did for the loss of only 1 wicket! Parthiv Patel smashed a 48-ball 59 to continue his dream run with the bat.

There were several positives and some questions asked from this match:

  • Parthiv Patel will continue to put pressure on Dinesh Karthik for a place in the team, especially since Patel is opening too!
  • For Manoj Tiwary, this century represents a timely reminder to the selectors that he can’t be forgotten.
  • Mohammed Kaif continues to be the most successful representative captain who probably didn’t play much for his country!
  • Ramesh Powar didn’t make any impression on anyone!
  • Ajit Agarkar continued to bowl like a millionaire that he is not.
  • Young Iqbal Abdullah continues to impress and so does Pragyan Ojha.
  • But most interestingly, after an insipid first innings, Munaf Patel bowled with fire in the 2nd innings for RoI. His 5-for-25 off 7.3 overs wrecked Mumbai and caused them to crumble to 106 all out (and his fighting partnership with Ranadeb Bose in the RoI 1st innings to take RoI to a lead will perhaps help his cause too)!

Ps: Who is Omkar Gurav? What happend to Vinayak Mane?

EDIT: Vinayak Mane is injured.

— Mohan

Selectors must invest in youth…

The Twenty20 World Championship win by M. S. Dhoni’s Men in Blue has provided a much-needed breath of fresh air for Indian cricket. After the disappointment of the early and embarassing exit from the World Cup 2007 this was what Indian cricket needed. And it was secured by a fearless captain who does things his way. It was secured by a young team that played in the spirit of its captain. And this, I believe, is the blueprint for future success for India. The team has to dismantle the shackles — some self-imposed, some imposed by the ‘system’ that the team is part of and some imposed by history — and play with self-belief and mental stregth.

And this investment in the future has to commence now.

The selectors have named a 15-member squad for the ODIs against Australia which reads (in possible batting order):

Sachin Tendulkar
Sourav Ganguly
Robin Uthappa / Gautam Gambhir / Dinesh Karthik
Rahul Dravid
Yuvraj Singh (vice-captain)
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt)
Irfan Pathan
Piyush Chawla
Ramesh Powar / Harbhajan Singh
RP Singh / Sreesanth
Zaheer Khan

Two things need to happen immediately, in my view.

First Piyush Chawla, who is injured, needs to be replaced. I would be very surprised if this replacememt is not Joginder Sharma.

Second, as a significant policy-shift the selectors need to, from now on, name 17-member teams for ODIs and further stipulate that only a maximum 2 of the seniors can play in any game! First, this would prolong the careers of the Tendulkar-Ganguly-Dravid troika. Second, it would also provide a platform for youngsters to express themselves.

M. S. Dhoni, when asked about the absence of the Big-3 in an interview that I read earlier on, made two important statements I thought. Firsty he said that it was important for his wards to get the appreciation of the seniors back home. And he has received that with Sourav Ganguly immediately recognising and applauding the teams’ efforts. But he also dealt with the issue of their absense with poise when he said, “I am sure if they had been here, they would have taken us to the final. If we do win the final, they can say that they couldn’t have done more than what his team has done. The way we have performed has been amazing.

With the above suggested changes to the ODI team to play Australia, I’d like to see the following team chosen (along with the rider that only 1 or 2 of Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dravid can play any game):

Sachin Tendulkar / Vierender Sehwag
Sourav Ganguly / Gautam Gambhir
Robin Uthappa / Dinesh Karthik
Rahul Dravid / Rohit Sharma
Yuvraj Singh (vice-captain)
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt)
Irfan Pathan
Joginder Sharma
Ramesh Powar / Harbhajan Singh
RP Singh / Sreesanth
Zaheer Khan

From the India team that won the Twenty20 World Championship, Ajit Agarkar, Piyush Chawla and Yusuf Pathan would, therefore not be chosen. Ajit Agrakar needs to decide which side of the bed he wants to get up — if he does! Piyush Chawla is injured and Yusuf Pathan would be, in my view, unlucky to miss out.

The first India-Australia ODI match is in Bangalore on Friday 29th September at 2.30pm IST (7pm Australia time).

Bring it on…

— Mohan

Glimpses of the future…

The current Team India at the Twenty20 World Cup offers a glimpse of a possible future for Indian cricket sans the Fab Five — Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, V. V. S. Laxman and Anil Kumble.

In the T20 World Cup, India has bowled well, fielded exceptionally well and played with self-belief and aggression. There are pointers to a potentially bright future. These are early days still, but I believe that this team is a good step in the right direction. This direction commenced with Rahul Dravid’s announcement that he, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly would make themselves unavailable for T20 selection.

This then commenced a shift in thinking at the top with the leadership reigns being handed over to M. S. Dhoni. As a leader, I think he is a good investment for the future. Gauging from his conduct on the field, he appears to have the backing of his young players. He is not a formula-captain. He reacts and changes somewhat instinctively. His decision to swap Harbhajan Singh’s end in the game against South Africa would have left him with no option but to bowl Harbhajan Singh in the last over. This could have had potentially disastrous effects. But he followed his instincts and went with it. After a costly 1st over, Harbhajan Singh proceeded to bowl 3 tight overs on the trot! Dhoni appears to have a level head on his shoulders and gauging from the post-match interviews, he is handling his appointment with aplomb… but these are still honeymoon-days!

It is quite an exciting future, in my view, particularly if we add to the mix players like S. Badrinath, Manoj Tiwary, Pragyan Ojha, Amit Mishra, Mohammed Kaif, Suresh Raina, Ishant Sharma, Yo Mahesh, Praveen Kumar, Pankaj Singh, et al.

At 29 years and 247 days, Ajit Agarkar is the oldest player in Team India for the T20 World Cup.

Name | Age (years — rounded to nearest integer)
Ajit Agarkar | 30
Virender Sehwag | 29
Harbhajan Singh | 27
M. S. Dhoni | 26
Yuvraj Singh | 26
Gautam Gambhir | 26
Yusuf Pathan | 25
S. Sreesanth | 24
Joginder Sharma | 24
Irfan Pathan | 23
Robin Uthappa | 22
Dinesh Karthik | 22
R. P. Singh | 22
Rohit Sharma | 20
Piyush Chawla | 19

The average age of this side — even with Ajit Agarkar in it — is 24.33y, which is not a bad average at all!

Firstly, this team has shaved 3 years off the average age of Team India’s World Cup squad!

But more importantly, the drop in average age reflects on the fielding. With Irfan Pathan’s improvement as a fielder, there is really no one in this team that needs to be “hidden” on the field. With a proper long-term fielding-coach and a focus on fitness and intensity, the standards can only improve from here on in. All of this points to a potentially exciting future of Indian cricket. It has been most gratifying to see the self-belief in youngsters like Robin Uthappa, Rohit Sharma, Sreesanth and R. P. Singh.

— Mohan