Tag Archives: Gautam Gambhir

India wins again in cordial environment

India played an ODI last night. India won, again.

Once again, the nature of the pitch wasn’t an issue for intense pre-match analysis and debate. Once again, the toss wasn’t an issue to moan about — one of the teams won the toss and I can’t even remember which one! Again, the over-rate wasn’t a problem in this match. The Third-World sight screen held up quite well in a completely packed Third World stadium. The word “monkey” and the city “Sydney” weren’t mentioned in the same breath by everyone around with a clear intent of selling books and apologising for comments taken out of context later.

Duh! Australia wasn’t playing a cricket game! Clearly India was playing someone else because the on-field camaraderie between the two teams was excellent.

India defeated England at Indore to lead the 7-match series 2-0. India won on the back of another Man-of-the-Match performance from Yuvraj Singh, who cracked another century and also took 4 wickets.

Unlike the 1st ODI at Rajkot, England was in the contest for spells. But England was unable to maintain its intensity. England let India advance at key moments in the game. With India at 29-3 with Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma back in the pavilion, instead of going for the jugular, England allowed Yuvraj Singh and Gautam Gambhir to rebuild. Gambhir and Yuvraj batted with the calm assurance of a pair of Buddhist monks and built a platform from which Yusuf Pathan was able to launch! And launch he did with a 29-ball half-century. In their response to a score of 292, England started cautiously, but was unable to maintain a tempo through the innings. A smart power-play choice was followed by some lusty blows from Flintoff. But 2 quick wickets from Yuvraj Singh broke the back of England’s determination and the rest of the innings just crumbled.

I am glad India stuck with Yusuf Pathan. He bats well and can bowl a few overs too. I am also glad that Dhoni is using Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag as bowlers.

England are a better ODI team than the 0-2 series result suggests. I just feel that England have got a few things wrong. I really do not know what Ravi Bopara, a specialist batsman, is doing at #8! That is truly bizarre. Owais Shah is not a big hitter but a finisher in the Bevan-mould. At best, he could be a #4 player. So what he is doing at #3 only England will know! Matt Prior is not opener-material either. Moreover, in India, England needs a spinner like Graeme Swann instead of James Anderson. Samit Patel won’t do as the only spinner in the team! Also, Kevin Pietersen needs to bite the bullet and come in at #3. He can organise the play if an early wicket falls. So for the next ODI, I’d like to see the following England line-up:

Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Kevin Pietersen, Owais Shah, Freddie Flintoff, Paul Collingwood, Matt Prior, Samit Patel, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, Steve Harmison.

By the way, i3j3Cricket’s “Adjective Watch” department has been closed down till the next India-Australia tour!

— Mohan

India win CB Series 2-0

Not since the 1980s has Australia lost the tri-series finals twice in a row. India made sure that Australia lost in straight sets with a stirring victory in Brisbane. The fact that this victory came without India’s first choice pace bowling attack — Zaheer Khan, R. P. Singh and Ishant Sharma — made it all the more special. It was a sensational victory by a young and mostly inexperienced Indian team that had to surmount not only the strong Australian team, but also its hostile media and raucous crowds. In the end, the team found the strength to shut out the media and the crowds, focussed on the job in front of them and won a tight series.

Celebrations:

In the end, in the same week the senior Team India as well as the under-19 Team India tasted victories and both teams celebrated these victories; not one of them looked in the direction of Andrew Symonds to enquire whether or not he had a view on the appropriateness or otherwise of these. The victories were well-deserved and losers have no choice but to watch the celebrations.

M. S. Dhoni rated this higher than the T20 win! It just goes to show the depth of focus that this team had. This focus, by the way, was evident in the way Sachin Tendulkar played yesterday. He eschewed the bold strokes and respected the conditions as well as the opposition. The Australians bowled a terrific line and pegged away constantly. The Australians fielded as only the Australians can. However, in the end, that will to win was, I believe, much stronger for the Indians.

Relentless cricket:

The Indian team wanted to win to have that extra time up their sleeves before their next engagement on March 17th. M. S. Dhoni joked at the end that he wanted to seal things in the second game itself because he has not ridden his “motorbike for quite a long time”!

The Australian media talks of non-stop cricket that the aging Australian team has been playing.

It is true that the Australian team has been on the road since October last year. In that time, the Australian team has played in the Twenty20 World Championship, 7 ODI matches against India in India, 2 Tests against Sri Lanka, 4 Tests against India and the CB tri-series.

The Indians have been on the road since July last year and it has been a non-stop ride. In that time, India has played 4 ODIs in Ireland, 1 ODI against Pakistan in Scotland (wash-out), 3 Tests in England, 5 ODIs in England, the Twenty20 World Championship, 7 ODIs against Australia in India, 5 ODIs against Pakistan, 3 Tests against Pakistan, 4 Tests against Australia and the CB tri-series.

I know which team has had the bigger workload. And if you consider that much of the time has been spent in the dreary surrounds of hotel rooms and in a hostile environment where the press and the crowds are constantly at your throats, I do believe this young Indian team needs to be applauded.

Off-field distractions play a part:

Ricky Ponting, on his part, was gracious in defeat. He admitted that his team had been outplayed in the finals series by India. However, even though he said that the off-field distractions did not hamper his team, one can’t help but think that they would have had an effect.

If you look at the off-field events, apart from the IPL which has presumably distracted all players around the world, the single factor that played a distraction-nuisance influence right through this tour has been Harbhajan Singh! When Harbhajan scratched the Australian media twitched. The captain, Ricky Ponting, appeared to have his mind on the off-field incidents involving run-ins that Harbhajan Singh was having with his own team rather than on his own game and form. When Harbhajan Singh fielded, the Australian public held their collective breath. And when he bowled, the Australian players had their minds set on dominating him instead of playing him as another bowler.

Almost single-handedly, Harbhajan Singh became the thorn in the flesh as well as the spot in Lady Macbeth’s hand that just would not go away. He was like a fly around the barbecue that just kept buzzing in the ears of people gathered around it. One could not hear the barbecue conversations; just the buzzing noise of this constant irritant that just would not go away!

That the Australian players did not respect him is not the issue. The fact that they did not respect his game/sport is a matter for much introspection in coming months. Here was a player that stood up to the Aussies and looked them in the eye. The Australians just could not deal with it.

In a strange irony, Harbhajan Singh was directly involved in the wickets of Andrew Symonds and Matthew Hayden — his two main off-the-field opponents right through this arduous summer — in both the finals matches! In the first match, Harbhajan Singh had the wickets of both players. In last night’s match, he had Symonds out LBW and was involved in Hayden’s run out!

At the end of the match, M. S. Dhoni lashed out at the Australian media for the focus that they have reserved for Harbhajan Singh. He admitted, though, that this focus made his job easier for, with each new article or episode, Harbhajan Singh just got tougher and tougher and did not need to be motivated!

Rankings:

This series win has not altered India’s position on the ICC Rankings table. However, it has taken India closer to New Zealand (3rd place) on the table and has made it easier for South Africa to reclaim the #1 position that it squandered to Australia in the last World Cup.

Meanwhile Sachin Tendulkar has moved to reclaim the #1 ODI batting spot.

Visionary:

I believe that M. S. Dhoni is a terrific leader. With the calm, experienced, gritty and fiercely competitive Anil Kumble at the helm of affairs in the Test arena and with Dhoni to nurture a younger set of players in the shorter form of the game, I do believe that Indian cricket is in safe hands for the moment. It is likely that the captaincy mantle will get another year at least — if not two — from Anil Kumble. The time would be right then for a hand-over of the responsibility to M. S. Dhoni. In that time, with the help of Gary Kirsten, India can form a core of players that can take over from the big-5 as they leave the scene. In that sense, we do have a “visionary” leader at the controls in my opinion.

If Sourav Ganguly was the first leader of men in Indian cricket, in Dhoni, we have a visionary leader. To him processes may not matter as much as it did to Greg Chappell and Rahul Dravid. His leadership style is more instinct driven. But he has got most things right! He asks his players to be always ready and throws them into the deep end. They produce every time. This shows that he knows what they are capable of, believes in them, backs them and then extracts the best out of them. He threw the ball to Joginder Sharma in the T20 finals and to Praveen Kumar and Piyush Chawla in the CB series finals. They delivered. He fought for the inclusion of young players like Rohit Sharma, Gautam Gambhir, Manoj Tiwary, Praveen Kumar and Piyush Chawla ahead of senior pros. He got them. At crunch moments, he surprised the opposition by including the likes of Praveen Kumar and Piyush Chawla. They delivered! It is a strategy that could have back-fired. But rather than launch into long explanations, he simply says he is looking at 2011!

He has set for himself a road-map to 2011 success. Rahul Dravid would have cogitated over it in a scholarly manner and produced a strategy paper at the end of it. He would have then used this as a leverage in team selection meetings. He would have gone to great lengths to form a coalition of like-minded souls who would back his vision and roadmap. Dhoni has it in his head and articulates it by simply saying, “Even if we had lost this tournament, we should have stuck with the young boys. This will be the team’s core.”

This was a good victory for India, but much more is needed in the months ahead to build on the hard work that has commenced here. Australia have some work to do of its own. The players need a break from the game and its captain needs to rediscover his ticker.

It has been a long summer and frankly, I am glad it is over.

— Mohan

Australia v India :: ODI :: “Hard but Fair”

India won the toss and started positively by chosing to bat first in overcast conditions in this, the first match of a tri-series ODI that involves Australia, India and Sri Lanka! Electing to bat first was a bold move. Most of the Channel-9 commentators and ABC commentators felt that this was a wrong move, especially since Australia went into the game with 4 pace bowlers!

Manoj Tiwary was chosen ahead of Praveen Kumar. Rohit Sharma was there, one thought, for an injured Yuvraj Singh. Dinesh Karthik also missed out.

The Channel-9 commentators thought that 240 would be a par score on this pitch under such conditions.

Healey started off by saying that India would be 40-5. Lawry said no way would India be 40-5 and attempted to shut Healey up. The former Australian ‘keeper said “Ok they would be 30-6 then!”

This brings to sharp focus the insular nature of commentary in Australia. Commetartors such as Robin Jackman, Geoff Boycott, Tony Greig, Ian Chappell, Michael Slater, Greg Blewett, Bruce Yardley, et al are regularly invited to Indian homes via TC sets. We still have on Channel-9 a paranoia-stricken and xenofobia-stricken approach that sees a clutch of former Australian cricketers willing Australia on to victory. Nothing wrong with that, but perhaps balance and perspective suffers as a result. But then, as Lalors would have us believe, Australian sport is about being “hard but fair”!

India started off steadily, but in the 4th over, Sehwag chose to cut a Nathan Bracken delivery close to his chest. The resulting under edge crashed onto his leg stump! India was 13-1. Soon after, through a freak hit-wicket dismissal of Sachin Tendulkar, India was 26-2! At the end of 8 overs, India was on 27-2. Rohit Sharma and Gautam Gambhir had to now hold the innings together. The 9th over saw 11 runs come to Gautam Gambhir from 30-year-old Ashley Noffke’s debut over in ODI cricket. At the end of 10 overs, India was 44-2. Early marks had gone to Australia although the pitch wasn’t really doing anything! The batsman had basically handed the initiative to Australia.

The 11th over saw a dogs’ breakfast of a fielding from James Hopes who put in a fielding effort that Munaf Patel would have been proud of! I am not sure if Peter Lalor is going to write about it though! He may not have even observed it — most of his type are oblivious to internal blemishes by the Australians! Their mirrors just see the bad and unruly behaviour of crowds in Mohali! The rest of their world is somewhat perfect! The end of the over saw India reach 52-2, not quite the five-down-for-nothing that Healey had bleated about!

The 13th over saw two catches dropped at slip by Mike Hussey at 2nd slip and Ricky Ponting respectively! Gautam Gambhir poked at two Mitchell Johnson deliveries and down went two catches. In the very next over, bad judgement from James Hopes meant that a skier was put down in the deep off a Rohit Sharma dance-down-the-pitch shot. I am sure Lalor was watching these too, but I am sure he will have bad India fielding and bad India over rates to write about later on in the night! The Australian catching, truth be said, has been woeful all summer.

Gambhir was living dangerously. He had played some excellent shots, no doubt, but his off-side pokes were either being spilled or were falling in vacant paddocks.

The two Indian youngsters got the score moving nicely till the 20th over when Gambhir fell LBW to Mitchell Johnson — a bowler who’d probably, by then, lost confidence in his colleagues’ ability to catch the ball — for 39 off 51 balls. India was 91-3. This bought debutant Manoj Tiwary to the crease. He played and missed and copped a verbal spray from Mitchell Johnson immediately. “Welcome to cricket in Australia, but don’t worry we play hard but fair”, was the message — at least, that is what a Lalor would have you believe! At the end of the 20th over, the score was 92-3.

Tiwary had just come into the country for 24 hours as cover for Yuvraj Singh and seemed like he may have wanted a bit more time before he was thrown into the deep end! The Australians were testing him with the short stuff. Immediately, Rohit Sharma departed and it was 93-4. Tiwary did look totally uncomfortable and out of place! He didn’t seem to belong on this stage. And he did not last long. Tiwary was probably chosen ahead of the more settled and acclimatised Dinesh Karthik (or even Praveen Kumar) for his bowling prowess. One only hopes that he bowls really well.

M. S. Dhoni and Robin Uthappa reconstructed the innings slowly. Almost against the run of play, Uthappa gloved a rising delivery from Noffke to lob an easy catch to Michael Clarke. Once again, a good start was ruined by some reckless middle-order display.

After losing 4 wickets for 11 runs, India was badly on the back foot. The scoring rate dipped and crease-occupation was the name of the game. India crawled to 111-6 at the end of 30 overs, when the second drinks break was taken. The Australian over-rate was woeful — as it has been all summer; something that most match referees seem to be blind to these days! This perhaps forced Australia to use Michael Clarke’s left-arm spin.

Singles were the order of the day and India limped to 120-6 off 34 overs, when the mandatory ball change happened. At this stage is was nearly 90 balls and 68 mins since the last boundary had been scored! Things were turning out to be painfully slow for India at this stage. A rain break of over an hour reduced the game to a 45-over-a-side match along with a retention of the 45-minute dinner break! This is a bizzrre ruling? Why not eat into the dinner break?

This was followed by a few overs of acceleration from the Indians. Then, in an over from Noffke, a huge appeal for caught behind was turned down. The Australians were, of course offended. The crowd was also offended. Naturally. They’d have expected him to walk, because he is not Australiàn. Only Australians like the Gentleman Roy are allowed to stay their ground! The boos from the “hard but fair” Gabba crowd continued through the over.

When Pathan was out a few balls later he was roundly booed by the crowd. The poor crowd. It had to draw breath immediately to welcome Harbhajan Singh to the crease with a continuation of the boo-rhythm! The crowds’ aggression was perhaps understandable, although a Lalor would have you believe that the only hostile crowds come from Mohali or Mumbai! Sir, if you please, crowds in Australia play “hard but fair”. Do you mind!

While the crowds’ “hard but fair” hostility was understandable, Ian Healeys’ Laloristic commentary cry of, “Yeah! Stick it to him. Get right into him” commendation of the boos was thoroughly deplorable and despicable as Harbhajan Singh walked in to bat! Mind you, it was all “hard but fair” so it was all thoroughly ok! No problems there at all. The crowds at Mohali, sir? Naah! They are ruffians who won’t quite know the meaning of either “hard” or “fair”.

Harbhajan Singh came out in determined fashion. He combined some unorthodox shots with clever nudges and kept the scoreboard ticking along with Dhoni.

Dhoni lasted till the last over and then got out. The poor crowd. Had to draw breath once again to give a “hard but fair” (but of course) response to Sree Santh. Soon, the crowd had to draw its breath again to give a “hard but fair” send off to Harbhajan Singh as Singh got out. Just as it had given a “hard but fair” boo of no-ball every time Muralitharan came out to bowl.

India finished at 194 all out at the end of the 45th over.

Further rains meant that the game was reduced to a 43-over party with Australia needing to make 192 to win.

India, one felt, had one pace bowler less for this responsive track. Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and Manoj Tiwary would need to combine to bowl 8-9 overs.

India’s best chance lay in taking a few quick early wickets. The “hard but fair” crowd continued to boo Harbhajan Singh as he fielded or stopped balls. But these are of course, unlike Mohali or Mumbai, friendly Laloristic environs.

India started badly. Pathan bowled down legside to a packed outside field and Sree Santh was intent on pitching in his half of the pitch! And then, against the run of play, Gilchrist edged a down-the-legside ball from Sree Santh to Dhoni behind the stumps.

Soon after that there was yet another extended rain-break. When the players came back, the game was shortened to a 26-over game with a target of 141. This would be a stiff target. Soon after resumption, both James Hopes (bowled Ishant Sharma) and Ricky Ponting (brilliantly caught by Sehwag in the slips off Sree Santh) fell cheaply and Australia were 39-3. Sreesanth and Sharma were, by now, bowling quite brilliantly.

With Australia on 51-3, though, the game was interrupted yet again by a rain break. And this was the end of the game. Both teams share two points in this circus.

The next match is a India Vs Sri Lanka tie… No “hard and fair” game that!

— Mohan