Tag Archives: Agarkar

The Subcontinentals Vs The Antipodeans

In an unlikely twist India crafted — yes “crafted” — a victory over South Africa that enabled a show down between two Subcontinental teams and two Antipodean teams. It perhaps represented the balance of cricket in these modern days. The subcontinent has the money, the crazed following and the passion while the Antipodes has the current champions.

It is strange, however, that two teams that were knocked out in the first stage of the 2007 ODI World Cup, less than six months back, are in the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup!

India beat South Africa at “their own den” (in the words of Ravi Shastri) and on a pitch that was tailor-made for — and perhaps pre-ordered by — the South Africans. This was a green top that afforded bounce, seam, movement and zip. India perhaps exploited the conditions better.

The next time South Africa visit and whinge about the pitches in the Subcontinent, someone should remind them of Thursday September 20th @ Durban — the day South Africa were beaten and bundled out of the T20 World Cup.

Once again, Durban had caused an upset. Once again South Africa had been eliminated from an important tournament on the world stage at Kingsmead, Durban. Once again South Africa had choked at an important point in a major tournament.

So, the only side to not lose a single lead-up game — South Africa — bowed out of the tournament after their first loss in the T20 World Cup! Australia had lost to Zimbabwe and Pakistan. Pakistan had lost to India. India had lost to New Zealand. New Zealand had lost to South Africa. And yet, the semi-finals line-up reads Pakistan V New Zealand and Australia V India!

It was a spirited performance by young India which was dealt a double-blow in the morning: a juicy pitch and an injury-blow to Yuvraj Singh — hero of the previous game against England and middle-order anchor.

Rohit Sharma played brilliantly after India suffered a few early set-backs. The early set-backs were mainly of their own doing. Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag played cautiously for a few overs. And then, Gambhir had a brain explosion. Sehwag tried a cute tickle to third man when a slip was in place. The ‘keeper pounced on the offering. Dinesh Karthik was out first ball to a flick off his leg. And Uthappa, after appearing to steady the ship was another batsman to suffer a brain explosion! The intial hard work appeared to have slipped. But then Rohit Sharma and M. S. Dhoni took India to a defendable total.

The bowlers had to deliver and they did! I thought the bowlers were the true match winners for India. In particular, R. P. Singh who had 4 for 13 from his 4 overs! R. P. Singh has grown from strength to strength since the start of this season and is a young lad with a bright future ahead of him. He is a clever bowler and has everything in his arsenal except perhaps a good slower ball.

Sreesanth was a bit erratic initially but it was good to see that he was trying hard. Although his first ball slid down leg-side for a wide and 4 byes, his intent was right. He was trying te inswinger to Herschelle Gibbs as opposed to his stock ball, the outswinger. He picked up two wickets too.

Irfan Pathan was sensational too. His in-swinger was back and one can perhaps claim that he is back to full form. The rhythm is there. He is running through the crease efficiently and the swing is there too. His pace has dipped a bit, but that can certainly be worked up over time with more match-fitness. And Harbhajan Singh, after a wayward first over that caused an end-switch, was efficient and effective too. The bowlers won the match for India in the end.

Joginder Sharma was good in patches. He bowled at least one hit-me ball every over. I am sure he will improve with every match as long as someone tells him to stop talking to Ajit Agarkar 🙂

I thought the man-of-the-match should have gone to R. P. Singh — in a game that is dominated by batsmen, such an exquisite and clinical performances should not be overlooked in my view. Having said that, Rohit Sharma was a deserving man-of-the-match. He is a young man with a bright career ahead of him in the Indian middle-order.

— Mohan

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After a well-crafted win, India still in with a chance…

India crafted a victory today and kept her hopes alive of a semi-finals berth in the T20 World Cup.

India were spurred by a brilliant 58 off just 16 balls in 14 minutes of brilliance by the dashing Yuvraj Singh. In the process, Yuvraj Singh hit Chris Broad out of the park for 6 sixes in the 19th over of the match — the first time that this feat has been achieved in T20 matches. In the process, Yuvraj Singh also made the fastest T20 half-century — off just 12 balls! From memory, his half century had six 6s, three 4s, two 1s and one dot ball!

By winning this match handsomely, India kept alive her chances of a semi-finals berth. All they need to do is to beat South Africa. I believe they have the run rate issue solved as a result of this win against New Zealand.

Even three dropped catches — two off the bowling of the hapless Joginder Sharma and one off the bowling of Sree Santh — did not help England’s pursuit of 218 runs. Yuvraj Singh missed a sitter at point. R. P. Singh slipped as he went for a catch at 3rd Man. Joginder Sharma dived at square leg behind the umpire — and was perhaps unsighted by the umpire — and dropped another easy catch to make up the drops. But the team also fielded and caught well. They bowled well in patches to deny England a victory. Harbhajan Singh’s catch on the boundary ropes was sensational — perhaps even the catch of the tournament so far!

India went in with Jogidnder Sharma instead of Ajit Agarkar. This was a good move. Despite the runs that he leaked, I think this was a good move. India may persist with this option for the final game against South Africa. An option well worth considering is that of Yusuf Pathan for Joginder Sharma. The older of the Pathan brothers is a thinking bowler and can give the ball one heck of a tonk. However, I think Joginder Sharma will have learnt from this experience and may get the nod in the final do-or-die game.

India also went in with Rohit Sharma instead of Dinesh Karthik,

The Indian bowlers bowled reasonably on a somewhat flat pitch. In particular, Pathan was impressive. He bowled at about 130kmph and bowled with accuracy. He also bowled a few well-disguised slower balls. Sreesanth seems to have dropped the verbals and the needless glares. He seems to be doing an Ntini in his follow-through these days. He runs through and immediately turns and sprints back in that distinctive Ntini-way! He seems to have learnt from his England experiences.

Andrew Flintoff’s verbals banter seemed to have spurred Yuvraj Singh onto his onslaught. But at the man-of-the-match award, Yuvraj Singh was all diplomacy and indicated that what was said on the field would be left on the field. This is good to see.

Finally, a word on M. S. Dhoni’s captaincy. With each outing, he continues to impress. He is not a “formula captain” who works off a set song-sheet. He was willing to move and change his bowlers around. He tried to attack early on and when nothing much happened, he switched to a clever defence ploy. He could have had a man on the mid-wicket fence. This may well happen in the next match which is at the same ground. He also bowled his best bowlers in the last 3 overs. If anything, he perhaps should have tried an over or two from Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh around the 12th over mark.

The win was, however, in my view, crafted mainly by a solid start by Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag. They played sensibly and provided a sold platform for a later-overs launch. I think I need to re-assess my views on Gambhir! He is batting well and appears to have a good head on his shoulders. Sehwag, in my view, is not quite there — the ball that jags back will continue to find him. But he is playing more freely now than I have seen in some time. Moreover, he is looking fitter and meaner than ever before. Hopefully he will crack the big one soon.

A big game against South Africa coming up. Bring it on…

— Mohan

Probably the best team that could have been chosen?

First up, I think it is a good thing that the selectors decided to delink the selection of captain and vice-captain for the shorter version of the game and the longer version of the game. It is good, in my opinion, that the choice of captain for the Tests will be delayed until after the ODI series against Australia.

M. S. Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh were probably the best choices for captain and vice-captain respectively.

The dropping of Ajit Agarkar and Munaf Patel is also a step in the right direction. The ODI game is not for sloppy cricketers who need to be hidden on the field. Ajit Agarkar needs to be hidden when he is bowling and batting while Munaf Patel needs to be hidden when he is fielding. Unless Ajit Agarkar and Munaf Patel improve, respectively, on their mental and physical approach to the game, they may well have played their last ODIs for India.

Venkatesh Prasad, who was quite open and scathing in his criticism of Munaf Patel’s selection for the ODI tour of England has been heard. The coach, particularly a specialist coach — in this case, a bowling coach — should be consulted on matters of form and fitness. Munaf Patel was just not fit enough and played a very small role in the ODI series against England. After having let India down on her tours of South Africa (broke down midway through a Test after being selected), Bangladesh (had to return home after breaking down) and England (played a bit-role in one ODI), the player needed a kick up his backside and that is precisely what he got.

Ajit Agarkar will remain an enigma lost to Indian cricket. He arrived with a lot of promise, delivered for a while and then, despite a string of no-shows and oh-oh-I-got-up-on-the-wrong-side-of-bed-again-appearances, has continued to hang around like a pimple that will just not go away!

Gautam Gambhir continues to get a spot, perhaps as a result of his 50 against New Zealand in the T20 World Cup. He did play brilliantly in that game. But I continue to be amazed by this persistence in Gautam Gambhir. I am not quite convinced of Gambir’s place and his role in the team. Time will tell.

I do not see the need for 3 spinners — Piyush Chawla, Harbhajan Singh and Ramesh Powar — in the team. That is a luxury in an ODI series, in my view. I am not sure why spinners cannot be rotated in much the same way as batsmen are. An extra bat or an investment in a potential future allrounder may have been a better option. I’d have gone with someone like Badrinath for one of the spinners.

Sreesanth appears to have served his penance and is back in the fold.

Irfan Pathan had two good outings in the T20 series and gets the nod. He appears to have lost a bit in pace and is only bowling at about 130kmph. But his accuracy and swing — his forte — appear to have re-appeared and that can only be good. His fielding also appears to have improved!

Dilip Vengsarkar did talk about a rotation policy. Hopefully, this policy will allow them a look at players like Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina, Manoj Tiwary, S. Badrinath, Mohammed Kaif, Rohit Sharma, Joginder Sharma, Ishant Sharma, et al.

The team (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

— Mohan

ODI Team and Captain named for Australia ODI series

Predictably, Dhoni has been named the captain. Ajit Agarkar and Munaf get the chop and there are no surprises there. Rohit Sharma should probably consider himself unlucky for being dropped despite doing nothing wrong (or right)  – it is possible he may yet get another chance in the ODIs against Australia as the team has been picked for the first 3 games alone. Vengsarkar has  said that Sehwag will also get a look in. Meanwhile Pathan, Sreesanth and Bhajji have been re-called into the ODI squad. When the playing XI is selected,  it will be an interesting toss up between Bhajji (who has been doing well in T20) and Ramesh Powar (who did well in the ODIs in England)

I wonder if Suresh Raina and Manoj Tiwary will also be rotated into the team for the subsequent games. They are both fully fit and are currently in the India A team picked to play South Africa A. It will also be interesting to see if anyone from the India A team (like Badrinath or Chopra) make the test squad for the Pakistan tour.

Here is the team:

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

-Mahesh-

India’s chances in the Twenty20 Cup

After being stunned by the pyrotechnics in the match between West Indies and South Africa last night, I thought to myself whether India would be able to put on a similar show; a show that included power, intensity, commitment, strength, brutality, sharpness, alacrity and acumen in equal measure!

I really doubt it! I won’t be surprised by a bad showing from India in this tournament. May as well be prepared for it!

Apart from the fact that India is inexperienced at this form of the game, the team has as many as 4 players on the comeback-trail (Virender Sehwag, Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh and Joginder Sharma). Moreover, the team has, in my view, at least 2 passengers who should not get even a single game (Ajit Agarkar and Gautam Gambhir). But more than these factors, I feel that India’s specialist Twenty20 players are warming the bench back at home.

The above factors make me want to set my expectations realistically: an early exit and some much-needed R&R bfore the Australian ODI series!

The fielding is, however, set to improve with the absence of the likes of Sourav Ganguly, Romesh Powar, Munaf Patel, et al. But notwithstanding with the persence of Robin Uthappa, Dinesh Karthik, Yuvraj Singh and Rohit Sharma, this team is going to provide several Sydney-Harbour-Bridge moments as players dive over balls that race under them to the boundary. The dry cleaner may get an easy collect as clothes may not be too soiled by sliding stops.

But it may be a fun journey — albeit a short one! So may as well enjoy it while it lasts!

I’d suggest the following team — in batting order — for the match against Scotland on Thursday 13th Sept (9.30pm IST):

Robin Uthappa
Virender Sehwag
Dinesh Karthik
Yuvraj Singh
Rohit Sharma / Gautam Gambhir
MS Dhoni
Irfan Pathan / Ajit Agarkar
Joginder Sharma / Yusuf Pathan
Harbhajan Singh / Piyush Chawla
Rudra Pratap Singh
S Sreesanth

This team would give the team upto 7 bowling options, with Sreesanth, R. P. Singh, Joginder Sharma, Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag.

It will certainly be interesting to see how Irfan Pathan does. Even if India lose this series badly, the re-discovery of Irfan Pathan will have made the trip a worthwhile one! India needs this former poster-boy back in its midst.

— Mohan

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

Team India for ODI against Scotland and England Lions

India plays Scotland today (Thursday 16 August) in a ODI match at the Clydesdale Cricket Club grounds in Glasgow. Not surprisingly, it has been raining in Glasgow and a tinge of optimism is required to believe that this match will run its full course. If the weather does not have a say in curtailing the match duration, the Indian team might! Scotland are definitely not pushovers and since the World Cup, they have shown some improvement. But I can’t really see them offer the Indian team anything more than a pleasant sightseeing opportunity!

India follow this game with a ODI against England Lions at the County Ground, Northampton.

After that the 7-match circus commences on 21 August at The Rose Bowl (Southampton).

From the Team India contingent for the Test matches, Anil Kumble, Sree Santh, Wasim Jaffer, Ranadeb Bose, V. V. S. Laxman and Ishant Sharma have departed for India while Robin Uthappa, Rohit Sharma, Piyush Chawla, Ajit Agarkar and Munaf Patel have joined the squad.

It is likely that all of the above will play in the game against Scotland and also in the game against England Lions on the 18th. It is also likely that the players with minimal work-rate in the Test series will also play both games — namely, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Ramesh Powar.

We could add to this list Rahul Dravid, Dinesh Karthik and Sourav Ganguly for the game against Scotland and Sachin Tendulkar, M. S. Dhoni and R. P. Singh for the game against the Lions.

So the likely teams for the games are:

Against Scotland:
Robin Uthappa, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Dinesh Karthik, Piyush Chawla, Ramesh Powar, Ajit Agarkar and Munaf Patel.

and

Against England Lions:
Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Sachin Tendulkar, M. S. Dhoni, Piyush Chawla, Ramesh Powar, Ajit Agarkar, R. P. Singh and Munaf Patel

It is likely that Zaheer Khan will sit out both games.

— Mohan
— Mohan