Tag Archives: Delhi

Strategies in Delhi for India and Australia

We’ve written and read a fair bit since the Mohali mauling about India’s near-perfect game, about the contrasting tales of the two captains at Mohali, about the Poms already rejoicing, about biased Match Referees, about reverse swing, about strange parallels between Perth and Delhi, and much more.

On Cricinfo, Dileep Premachandran analyses the Anil Kumble situation rather crisply, while Ian Chappell has opined that M. S. Dhoni has to stay on as captain of India from here on in!

My own view on this is that Anil Kumble has to decide what is best for him and for Team India. He has earned his stripes to make that call, in my view. If he is 100% fit to play and if he wants to play, he must play at Delhi, where 74 year-old Radhey Shyam Sharma, the Feroz Shah Kotla curator who is a match away from retiring, has said that he has prepared a “present” for Anil Kumble! The Kotla pitch has always taken spin — slow on the first few days and quite a handful on days 4 and 5 (if the Test lasts that long)! Anil Kumble has presided over Kotla as its master and it is more of a “home” ground to him than Bengaluru is.

If Anil Kumble does decide to play Amit Mishra, who took 7 wickets at Mohali on debut, must make way. While it is quite seductive for India to go into the Delhi Test with 3 spinners, Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma — at the cost of V. V. S. Laxman — I do not believe this will (or indeed should) happen. I am not sure what an additional bowler will add. Moreover, in what could potentially be a low-scoring grind-game, the additional bat in Laxman will be useful for India to have.

This will be rough on Amit Mishra. But his time will come the moment Anil Kumble decides to hang up his boots — my sense and hope is that Kumble will decide to retire after the Tests in November/December against England. For now, Amit Mishra has carved his name into Team India team sheet in a compelling manner.

Australia does face a few headaches. However, apart from an adjustment to their mindset (too defensive in the first two Test matches) and their reverse swing art, I am not sure that the team needs to (or indeed, will) change anything else. Australia does not have a quality spinner in its ranks. I’d like to believe that Stuart Clark will come in for Peter Siddle if the former is fit and recovered from his elbow strain. This will be a blow to Peter Siddle, who bowled quite well at Mohali.

The one change that I would like to see is in the Australian batting order in the case of an early wicket fall. At the moment, Ricky Ponting is not at the height of his game in India. An early wicket causes him to freeze just a bit. At Bengaluru, his defensive approach set the tone for Australia batting throughout the game. At Mohali, he strutted and stewed for a while without casting any impression.

I’d instead think that Michael Hussey at #3 would be a much better option for Australia on this tour. He is positive. He bats confidently. He rotates the strike without looking to dominate the bowling. And he is not scared of either Ishant Sharma or Harbhajan Singh!

Delhi should present a wonderful opportunity for Australia to show that it is still a champion team that can bounce back from adversity. Much like India did at Perth — one of India’s most famous wins ever, in my view — Delhi is a wonderful opportunity for the Australians to dig deep and come hard at India in India’s own den.

I have a feeling that the game could be an absolute scorcher and can’t wait for it to begin!

— Mohan

Pointers from the Irani Trophy game…

Unless Gautam Gambhir and Aakash Chopra are able to pull a rabbit out of the hat, the 2008 edition of the Irani Trophy seems to be headed irrevocably to the cabinet of Team RoI.

The Irani Trophy has, in the past, been of significance for several players. I remember Dilip Vengsarkar and Kapil Dev using an Irani edition to propel their international careers.

With the Australia tour just around the corner and with some questions being asked of the Indian middle order, there was a similar opportunity in this edition for S. Badrinath and Mohammed Kaif. While I cannot say that Badrinath blew his chances, I don’t believe he enhanced his reputation too much. Having said this, he did make a composed 36 in the second dig. However, Mohammed Kaif, it must be said, has something missing in his internal circuitry. After getting out to an ugly hoik in the first innings, he had few answers in the second dig in a very short stay at the crease (out for a duck off his second ball). Wasim Jaffer did make a composed 50 in the first innings. However, I can’t see the selectors dislodge the Sehwag-Gambhir opening combination.

It was odd to see Rahul Dravid walk in as the RoI opener! As I mentioned in this blog a few weeks back when the RoI team was chosen, the team did not have a regular opener to partner Wasim Jaffer. When the initial team was announced, Parthiv Patel looked the likely opener. However, that option was discarded in favour of Dravid walking out with Wasim Jaffer.

Munaf Patel impressed for RoI. In Delhi’s first innings, Munaf Patel had fire, fluency and pace that made him a sit-up-and-notice bowler when he first hit the scene. He ran through the crease really smoothly and was nagging in his accuracy almost always. He suddenly looks to be an improved bowler. I am not sure what he has been doing, but it has worked. With Zaheer Khan bowling well and with Ishant Sharma not flagging in the wake of the many shampoo adverts he has had to appear in, the India pace bowling stock looks reasonable. In Delhi’s first innings, Munaf Patel sledged out Aakash Chopra. For some reason, in that spell, Munaf Patel was constantly mouthing off at the Delhi batsmen. The umpire got involved too and seemed to have a word with Anil Kumble, the RoI captain. Soon after that, Aakash Chopra and Munaf Patel exchanged words. In the very next over Chopra edged to the slips and Munaf Patel proceeded to execute a war-dance in front of the departing batsman! This incident is not mentioned in Aakash Chopra’s blog post on the game — I must say that I like Chopra’s writing and am looking forward to reading his soon-to-be-completed book.

Delhi has lodged a complaint against Munaf Patel. The hearing on Saturday morning, to be held by match referee Rajinder Jadeja, will attended by Virender Sehwag and Anil Kumble.

And so, it may be tempting for Anil Kumble to go in with 5 bowlers and restrict the batting order to 5 batsmen and Dhoni (Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Dhoni) for the 1st Test against the visiting Australians! This would be a risky option, especially with Laxman’s poor-show and Tendulkar’s no-show in the Irani trophy! I’d still go with the Badrinath option to provide some cushion in the middle order. Aaah! If only Irfan Pathan knew how to hold his bowling together for 6 consecutive months!

Meanwhile, here is a thought! Aakash Chopra seems to be playing with hunger and determination. He also appears to be a different cricketer these days. He has brought in an urgency to his batting and is more keen to keep the scorers engaged and involved, when previously, they would have reached for the pillow when he came in to bat! Now, if he produces a stunning knock on day-4 of the ongoing Irani Trophy game to assist Delhi to pull one out of the hat, would it not be conceivabe to imagine the following Team India line up for the Tests against Australia?

Chopra, Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar, Sehwag, Laxman, Dhoni, Kumble, Harbhajan, Zaheer, Ishant

I do remember saying earlier on in this post, “I can’t see the selectors dislodge the Sehwag-Gambhir opening combination.” So yes. This is the romantic in me speaking. I do like Aakash Chopra’s gutsy approach to batting and fielding and would like to see him back in the mix for India one day.

Meanwhile Australia ‘A’ thrashed India ‘A’ in the tri-series final. The only thing this series confirmed is that Robin Uthappa and Dinesh Karthik imploded totally. The two of them need a fair bit of time off the limelight with their respective clubs and state teams.

— Mohan

Possible India ‘A’ and Delhi Teams

Now that the Rest of India Irani Trophy team has been announced, it is opportune to turn our sights on to the India ‘A’ team to take on Australia ‘A’ and New Zealand ‘A’ in the tri-nation competition.

Meanwhile, Delhi takes on Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) first, and then RoI in the Nissar Trophy and Irani Trophy respectively.

The Nissar Trophy is an annual fixture between the winners of the Ranji Trophy (India) and the Quaid-e-Azam (Pakistan) domestic competitions. Previous winners were UP (in 2006) and Mumbai (in 2007).

The 2008 instalment shapes up as bit more of a stern test, perhaps, for the Ranji champions. The SNGPL team includes Mohammad Hafeez (captain), Misbah-ul-Haq, Samiullah Niazi and Yasir Arafat, who’ve played at various times for Pakistan.

However, Delhi is a strong team. Although the Kotla ground often takes spin even early on in any match, Delhi have relied strongly on their pace bowling stocks to get them through. In all likelihood, the Delhi team would be (in batting order, perhaps):

Virender Sehwag (capt), Gautam Gambhir, Aakash Chopra, Mayank Tehlan, Mithun Manhas, Virat Kohli, Rajat Bhatia, Puneet Bisht (wk), Ishant Sharma, Pradeep Sangwan, Ashish Nehra. The subs are likely to be: Chetanya Nanda, Amit Bhandari, Narender Singh, Gaurav Chhabra

Ashish Nehra is on the comeback trail. After missing much of last season through injury, he had a strong showing in the IPL and is now back in the Delhi team. Sangwan has impressed one and all with his showing in the U19 World Cup and other outings. Ishant Sharma is one of the rising stars of world cricket. I’d therefore, find it hard to leave Sangwan, Nehra and Ishant Sharma out of the bowling line-up! It is certainly a good selection problem to have, in my view!

India ‘A’, meanwhile, have a strong team to take on Australia ‘A’ and New Zealand ‘A’.

It is likely that the team will be (in order):

Robin Uthappa
Swapnil Asnodkar
Suresh Raina
Rohit Sharma
S Badrinath (capt)
Dinesh Karthik (wk) / Wriddhiman Saha (wk)
Yusuf Pathan / Abhishek Nayar
Irfan Pathan
Praveen Kumar
Dhawal Kulkarni
Piyush Chawla / Ravi Teja / Jaydev Shah

It is interesting to note that the team has 4 spinners — Chawla, Teja, Shah and Pathan Sr. I do not believe more than two will play.

This is a strong India ‘A’ team with as many as nine players in the mix that have played for India in ODIs (Uthappa, Raina, Rohit Sharma, Badrinath, Karthik, Yusuf Pathan, Irfan Pathan, Praveen Kumar and Piyush Chawla)! Of these, two (Karthik and Chawla) have played Tests for India!

It would be good to see how things shape up in this series. Who knows? It may open a door or two for some of these hopefuls in the Team India Test and ODI teams in the immediate future.

— Mohan