Tag Archives: Harbhajan

India win Compaq Cup

An undercooked Team India, which was coming out of a long lay-off and with a few star players (Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Zaheer Khan) injured, won the Compaq Cup in Sri Lanka after beating the hosts in a close game in the Finals.

India’s win came on the back of Sachin Tendulkar’s 44th ODI Ton and owed thanks to Harbhajan Singh’s 3rd 5-wicket haul!

For the first time, in my view, India got her batting order right. Dinesh Karthik, who killed off his Test career on India’s last tour of Sri Lanka, probably did much the same to his ODI career in the first two games that he played in the Compaq Cup. I reiterate that I have nothing against the lad. He is a good player and more power to him. However, when it comes to crunch situations, he repeatedly fails to deliver. Prior to the start of the series, I had predicted that he would carry drinks for India. Thanks to Gautam Gambhir’s injury and Team India’s muddled thinking, Karthik was asked to open in the first two ODIs. He failed in both. Further, his batting meant that Sachin Tendulkar had to change his style of play.

In yesterdays’ game, Tendulkar opened with Rahul Dravid, whose stability allowed Tendulkar to play the way he normally does — really well and freely.

The other change that I have yelled for was for captain M. S. Dhoni to walk in at the fall of the first wicket. In yesterdays’ game, he did so and the change was remarkable. He brought a calm solidity to the batting. Although he fell just when things were starting to get interesting (when the batting PowerPlay was taken), he had built a solid foundation to India’s innings by the time he left.

In the end, thanks to that foundation, although I thought India floundered a bit between overs 40-45, the score was respectable and good.

That Sri Lanka gave that total a real shake is a credit to their emergence as a strong ODI team these days. I do like the look of the Sri Lanka team. The team has some excellent bowlers and with the rapid strides made of late by Samaraweera, Kandamby and Dilshan — not to mention his now famous DilScoop — the batting looks strong too, especially when you consider the experience provided by Sanath Jayasuriya, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardane.

In the end, India emerged winners. The margin of victory (46 runs) might seem comfortable. However, India did have some scares, not to mention poor fielding and dropped catches. India needs to do more work in these departments before it can think of laying a fingerprint on the Champions Trophy.

However, it was nice to see Harbhajan Singh get a 5-fer with good bowling and not the spear-em-in sort that he normally resorts to in ODIs. This bodes well for India in the season ahead.

— Mohan

Speculation and perception

Gilchrist targets Ganguly and Harbhajan

The above report lays stress on two important words – Speculation and Perception.

Dictionary.com throws up the first four results for ‘speculation’ as

1. the contemplation or consideration of some subject: to engage in speculation on humanity’s ultimate destiny.
2. a single instance or process of consideration.
3. a conclusion or opinion reached by such contemplation: These speculations are impossible to verify.
4. conjectural consideration of a matter; conjecture or surmise: a report based on speculation rather than facts.

The most interesting definition is no 4 where the example phrase used cleary says that there are no facts involved.

As for ‘perception’ here are the results from the same site

1. the act or faculty of apprehending by means of the senses or of the mind; cognition; understanding.
2. immediate or intuitive recognition or appreciation, as of moral, psychological, or aesthetic qualities; insight; intuition; discernment: an artist of rare perception.
3. the result or product of perceiving, as distinguished from the act of perceiving; percept.

Here again the meaning shows it is not based on any factual data.

The reason why I am posting the relevant meanings here is that whatever Gilchrist said has no factual basis first, based on the language that he has used. Secondly it gives us free rein to indulge in some ‘speculation and perception’ of our own. So here is a list of interesting conclusions of coursed based on ‘speculation and perception’

1. Gilchrist was asked by his publishers to wait and see if Australia was doing well in the series before coming out with his views on some of the Indians.

2. Gilchrist did not want to write about Sachin but was forced by his publishers, else he would not be paid his full advance for the book.

3. Gilchrist’s book was completely ghost written and he had no say in the things that were written there.

4. Gilchrist had some personal financial troubles because of the global meltdown, and he thought of including some sensational stuff to get a fat advance and boost the sales through the publicity it got.

Now that we have set the tone we can come with some other such conclusions on certain other issues using the same ‘speculation and perception’ method.

1. Andrew Symonds was asked by Cricket Australia to go on a fishing trip, so that they could drop him and avoid any embarassment if there was a repeat of ‘monkeygate’ in India.

2. Cameron White was included ahead of a specialist spinner because, Ponting felt that IPL players will get some mileage and help their value when transfers came up later.

3. Peter Siddle was included in the Second Test because a Test appearance in India will help his chances for a future IPL contract.

4. Michael Clarke did not play the IPL because he was warned by Cricket Australia that he may not be considered for captaincy after Ponting.

5. Ponting and Lee had decided to ‘act’ out a spat in public to deflect the attention from an impending Mohali loss just a bit.

My creative juices are just drying up but others are welcome to chip in with more including ones about why I posted this!

Sanjay

India Vs Australia :: 1st Test :: Bangalore :: Day-2

At the end of day 1, the SBS score card read 2-1, mainly because of the wicket that fell in the last over of the day. From the Australian point of view they still had 6 wickets in hand and they had already scored 254 runs. Plus, Mr. Cricket was still at the crease.

From India’s point of view, a couple of early wickets in the morning could put them in front. Watson, Haddin and White – the next three batsmen had good first class batting averages, but were untested at this level. The first session was going to be crucial for both teams.

Pre-lunch session:

Shane Watson started the day positively with a single of the very first ball. Here is an all rounder who just hasn’t lived up to his potential and this was his big chance to prove that he belonged at the highest level. Sadly he lasted just 14 balls. He survived a close LBW call of the first ball of Ishant’s second over and was bowled out a couple of balls later. Australia had just added another 5 runs to their over night total and India appeared to be very much in the game.

This brought Haddin in to the crease. He started out tentatively and Ishant seemed to trouble him a bit, but he hung in there and by lunch time stitched up a fine 74 run partnership with Hussey. They went in with the score on 333/5. In spite of the early set back, the session belonged to Austalia, and the SBS score card at that stage was 3-1 in favour of Australia.

Post-lunch session:

Hussey was not out on 92 when play stopped for lunch. The spinners were not that effective -  Harbhajan didn’t trouble the batsmen a great deal and Kumble had already conceded 100 runs without taking a wicket. Ishant Sharma opened the bowling right after lunch and had an impact straight away. He almost had Hussey as a thick inside edge missed the stumps and went to the boundary to give Hussey his hundred.

Ishant’s spell was  outstanding. In his 2nd oveBut more r  after lunch, he gave India the break through they were looking for – he had Haddin caught at short cover of a slower ball and 2 overs later, White followed suit in a similar fashion. All three wickets in the day at that stage had fallen to Ishant Sharma who should be complimented for getting something out of a otherwise flat wicket that offered no assistance to the bowlers.

The partnership between Hussey and Haddin yielded 91 runs and the score at the fall of Haddin’s wicket was a round 350 runs. When White was out, the score was 362 for 7.  India was hoping to quickly wrap up the tail and should consider itself unlucky that Lee wasn’t given out LBW to the second ball he faced off Harbhajan Singh. (The BDS should read 6-2 in favour of Australia at this stage). At Tea, Australia had moved to 416 – they had added 83 runs in that session losing 2 wickets, and the SBS scorecard was still in favour of the Aussies at 3.5 to 1.5.  But more importantly, Australia were looking at a 450+ score at that stage

Post-tea session:

I am not sure what Zaheer had during the Tea break, but whatever it was did the trick for India. In the two overs he bowled after Tea, he had Lee, Johnson and Hussey all clean bowled. The Aussies finished up with a score of 430. 9 of the 10 wickets had been taken by the fast bowlers and only one went to the spinners (and even that was a debatable decision). Kumble went wicketless even after conceding over a hundred runs and Harbhajan was just ordinary. The fielding was also very ordinary through out the day and  the Indian fans were really hoping for a good batting performance from the Indians.

Sehwag and Gambhir did not disappoint – they were aggressive and yet careful (except for the running between the wickets – which seemed very risky on a couple of occasions). In the 18 overs they played before rain interrupted the game, India had reached 68 without losing any wickets – which was pretty good going. Sehwag finished the day on 43 and Gambhir is on 20.

Sehwag in particular looked very confident and he may well hold the key to how well India respond to the Australian total tomorrow. The post-tea session belonged to India and the SBS score card should read 3.5-2.5 still in favour of Australia. There was one close shout for LBW, which hawkeye seemed to indicate would have clipped leg stump – Most umpires in the world wouldn’t have given that out, but let us modify the BDS scorecard as Australia 6 – India 3.

Notable mentions:

  • Hussey’s innings was just sensational. Without Hussey holding the middle order and the tail together, the Aussies would have been all out for a far lesser score. He is not known as Mr. Cricket for nothing..
  • Zaheer took a five-for, something that doesn’t happen often enough on Indian grounds. So, well done, Zaheer.

The first session is going to be very crucial for India. They may be 68 for no loss, but they are still well short of the Australian total. All we need is another big hundred from Sehwag tomorrow…and some good support from the other batsmen 🙂

India Vs Australia :: 1st Test :: Bangalore :: Day-1

After Ricky Ponting had claimed overnight that he was insulted by Virender Sehwag’s comments about the captain’s pact and the Sydney Test, Ponting won the toss and elected to bat. If there was drama off the pitch overnight, there was drama on the pitch in the first over itself.

Ponting said overnight, “That’s fairly insulting. In the first innings [at the SCG] I didn’t claim a catch because I wasn’t 100% sure. It’s amazing how they’ve picked out a lot of negatives from that game and don’t seem to be speaking about the Perth Test [the third match of that series, which Australia lost], where we probably had the same things happen to us. Not one member of the Australian team has spoken about it. We go about our cricket in different ways.”

A few things to seek clarifications on: Firstly, the issue I always have with Australian cricket is about how they play when the chips are down and they have their backs to the wall. So, Ponting’s 1st innings call-back in Sydney just doesn’t rate, in my view. Secondly, what happened at the Perth Test where Ponting had the “same things happen to” Australia? Is he dreaming up stuff? Or was there a Test match in Perth that I missed? And thirdly, what is it about Australian cricket that gets Ponting to say “We go about our cricket in different ways.” Is he referring to that piece of paper called the spirit of cricket (or some such nonsense) that Australian cricketers signed up and seem to tear up the moment they cross the white line?

The last time Australia toured India, the series started with a loud shout for LBW. There was little doubt in the minds of the TV commentators at that time that Justin Langer was out LBW off Irfan Pathan’s first ball of the series. Who knows what would have happened to the series had that decision gone India’s way!

Pre-Lunch Session:

So, there was drama on the field in the very first over and then again in the 9th over. Off the very 3rd ball of the innings, Matthew Hayden jabbed at a ball from Zaheer Khan that moved away a fraction. As he jabbed at the ball, his bat clipped his pad. The ball slipped past very close to bat and umpire Asad Rauf gave him out. Snickometer suggested that if we had had a referral system in play for this Test match, Hayden would have been given not out.

Ishant Sharma continued his duel with Ricky Ponting. He bowled splendidly really. Off the 1st ball of the 9th over, Ricky Ponting did not offer a stroke to a beauty that came in sharply from outside off stump. It looked very very close and indeed, Hawk Eye showed that umpire Rudi Koertzen would have been over-ruled if we had had a referral system in place. So make the Bad Decision Score (BDS) 1-1 in the bad decision stakes!

Harbhajan Singh was introduced in the 13th over, just before the drinks break. After spearing in his first ball at 96.3kmph, he bowled a beauty to Simon Katich that was almost a bat-pad catch at forward short leg! At the drinks break, Katich and Ponting had pulled Australia to 34-1 off 13 overs.

But there weren’t really any gremlins in the pitch. It seemed to me to be a flat track. So as long as the Australians settled down into a nice rhythm, one could see several of them make big scores here. The best bet for Australia would be to make a huge 1st innings total.

Off the second ball of the 21st over, Simon Katich came charging down the wicket and padded up to a faster one from Kumble. Now, I am not sure why Rudi Koertzen is reluctant to give padded-up deliveries out. Although Katich was well advanced down the pitch, that ball was going to be intercepted by the middle stump and nothing else! The BDS reads 2-1 in favour of Australia.

Despite losing that early wicket, Australia played with intent and desperation to finish strongly. At lunch, Australia were 75-1 off 27 overs with Ponting on 41 and Katich on 28. Ponting was playing really well and was looking set for a big score here. I’d give the Session-by-Session Score (SBS Score) to Australia. With Cameron White batting at #8 and with the pitch being a flat and stone cold wicket, I’d put Australia in the drivers’ seat!

Which brings me to an important question: Given that many Indian curators are easily able to produce a flat, dead wicket, do we need a Kiwi in Bangalore to do the same? What’s the point? Will someone tell me please? We have seen many pitches like this in India in the past. Why get a Kiwi in as curator to produce exactly that kind of pitch again?

There were some ominous signs. The last time Australia played in India in 2004, the tour commenced at Bangalore. Australia was 70-1 off 26 overs at lunch on day-1 with Hayden out and with Langer 27* and Katich 9*! The parallels here are eerily similar!

Post-Lunch Session:

Ponting and Katich commenced from where they left off and batted confidently. Ponting got his half century — a carefully and very well compiled 50 it was too.

At 94-1, Katich survived a huge LBW shout off Anil Kumble. Umpire Asad Rauf gave him not out and under a referral system, he would have had to walk. This then makes the BDS score 3-1 in Australia’s favour! Clearly a referral system would change the dynamic of any match and I can’t wait for it to be introduced in all Test matches.

Australia, meanwhile moved on steadily to 99-1. There was nothing flashy about the Australian approach. The usual flamboyance was eschewed and, in its place, was a staid and solid approach on a flat and mostly dead pitch. It didn’t help that both Kumble and Harbhajan Singh were bowling a bit flat. They were both firing and spearing it in.

A sign of Ricky Ponting’s growing assurance and confidence was a hoik over cow-corner for a huge six that he played against Harbhajan Singh, the moment Singh came around the wicket to bowl to him. This six helped take Australia to a score of 104-1 and also took Ponting to a score of 60, equalling his best ever effort in India — made in 1998 in Kolkata.

Australia kept going from strength to strength and moved to 166-1. Katich was playing some glorious off drives and Ponting was looking quite assured in his batting. Suddenly Ishant Sharma bowled a beauty to get Katich caught behind. The ball moved just slightly off the pitch and Katich played an aggressive off-drive to be caught behind quite well. Australia was 166-2 with Ponting on a superbly compiled 94. This bought Michael Hussey to the crease.

What was surprising to me was the under-utilisation of Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly in the bowling. At Tea, all the bowling (57 overs) had been shared by Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble. It seemed to me that Kumble should have used at least Sehwag. His variety of off-spin may have found some spin on this somewhat dead track.

At tea, Australia was 166-2. I give this session to Australia too, thereby making the SBS Score 2-0 in Australia’s favour with Ricky Ponting leading the way.

Ponting was playing really brilliantly. He batted with soft-hands, few loose shots and waited for the ball, rather than lunge for it as he has in the past. As he said before the tour, India was one place where his CV had a rather desolate look to it. This innings was an attempt to redress that imbalance. He was taking this game slowly away from India and had Simon Katich for company.

Post-Tea Session:

The final session went the same way as Session-2. Anil Kumble did not pose any threats. Australia marched steadily and slowly. There were no heroics and no fears either. The run-rate hovered around the 3rpo mark which wasn’t great. The Australians continually rotated the strike and didn’t allow the Indian bowlers to get on top. About an hour into the final session, there still was no sign of Sehwag or Tendulkar. This first day pitch wasn’t doing anything at all for the regular bowlers and it may just have been a good idea to break up the monotony. Zaheer Khan and Kumble bowled the occasional good ball but there were no gremlins at all. Ponting had moved sedately to 110 off 214 balls and Hussey had, without any dramas, moved to 18 off 43 balls.

Suddenly, at 201-2, Anil Kumble shouted for a huge caught-and-bowled off Ricky Ponting. Amazingly, Rudi Koertzen said not out! To the naked eye, watching it on TV, one could not understand why Rudi Koertzen, who was having quite a nightmare day thus far, did not ‘go upstairs’! That was out and Boycott’s dead great grand mother would have called it from her grave! The commentary team indicated that Koertzen did not give him out because Kumble was the only one that appealed! Surely, that can’t be right! If that is the case, we may as well have people jump up and down like school kids all the time!

The BDS now read 4-1 in Australia’s favour! Once again, I ask why the ICC did not have a referral system in place for this series?

At drinks, Australia was 211-2 off 71 overs!

Kumble was having a particularly unlucky day. Apart from the bizarre caught-and-bowled decision that was not given, earlier in the post-tea session, Dhoni had dropped a tough catch off a faint edge. The bowler to suffer there was Kumble. Just after the drinks break, an outside edge off the bat of Hussey went screaming past a diving forward short leg. Things were just not happening for the Indians and a few heads were starting to droop.

At the other end, Harbhajan Singh was continuing to have an ordinary day at the office. He continued to toil manfully though. It was a tough pitch to bowl on and the Australians were playing with tight defence.

At 215-2 Kumble was to suffer again at the hands of his nemesis, Rudi Koertzen. A huge shout for LBW was once again turned down! Hawk Eye showed that the ball was hit in line and that it would have hit off stump. A frustrated Kumble appealed for what appeared for a second longer to which Umpire Koertzen pursed his lips and shook his head sternly like a firm school master! Well, this umpires’ nightmare day at the office was continuing. Of extreme worry for the Indians was that the Bad Decision Score (BDS) had mounted to 5-1 in Australia’s favour.

Ironically, it was a really doubtful decision that got Ricky Ponting out! It all started with Virender Sehwag coming into the bowling attack. This change was long overdue. Suddenly, Sehwag was finding more grip and purchase from the track. He put a seed of doubt in the mind of the batsmen. Hussey wasn’t playing particularly confidently.

At the other end, Harbhajan Singh pushed a fuller ball into Ponting, who tried to sweep it. Hawk Eye suggested that it may have hit Ricky Ponting slightly outside the line of the off stump! Moreover, the ball turned so much that it may have missed leg stump! Umpire Asad Rauf gave Ponting out when he should have been ruled in! The men in white continued their horror run and the BDS read 5-2 in Australia’s favour. Another marquee series was being ruined by officiating incompetence. Australia, wh weren’t really scoring with freedom and abandon was 226-3 off 79 overs. A team that regularly travels at 4 runs per over (or more) was suddenly travelling at about 2.85rpo. This was a gritty, stoic and very un-Australian like performance. Ricky Ponting had departed for a really well made 123 off 243 balls before getting out to Harbhajan Singh for the 9th time in Test matches!

Anil Kumble came on for just one over — in which he conceded 13 runs, the most expensive over of the innings — before continuing with Sehwag.

This was turning out to be a strange session. Australia hadn’t really pulled away with any authority. But for that one bad over from Kumble, they hadn’t really tried to dominate or dictate terms. So, in some sense, due to the slow, low score, Australia left India hovering in the game. One or two quick wickets would set the cat amongst the pigeons. So this was a somewhat strangely careful game that Australia was playing.

Suddenly, Harbhajan Singh was bowling better. He had slowed his delivery pace and was also tossing the occasional ball up in the air. He was prepared to come around the wickets to the left-handed Hussey, who had quietly moved to 40 runs off 107.

India took the new ball with three overs left in the days’ play. A few quick runs resulted and Australia moved to 254-3 off 89 overs.

Off the penultimate over, Michael Clarke took a quick single off the last ball of the over. Off the very second ball of the last over, Clarke was out LBW to a low shooter off Zaheer Khan. Clarke was out LBW for 11.

I was tempted to give that last session to Australia. However, because the Aussies did not press on and move on, and because of the last ball wicket of Michael Clarke, I call this an India session. The SBS score reads 2-1 in Australia’s favour.

It was a dull but eventful days’ cricket: Eventful because of the men-in-white. Dull, because of Australia’s over-cautious approach; dull because of the nonsense of a pitch that the Kiwi curator had prepared for the Bangalore public. If I were KSCA, the state association that owns the Bangalore ground, I’d be looking at the Kiwi curators’ employment contract!

— Mohan

India Vs RSA :: 1st Test :: 2nd Day

A match that was destined for a slow death looks headed for a painful death at the end of day-2 of the Chennai Test match between India and RSA. At the end of day-2 on a flat, docile, graveyard of a pitch the South Africans had made 540 all out. In reply, India made a brisk 82 for no loss off 21 overs.

It was a hot, energy-sapping day that saw a continuation of some ill-directed bowling, bad fielding, ill-tempered admonishment between some of the Indian players, some careful batting, a solid (if not spectacular) batting display by Hashim Amla, a solid (if not spectacular) bowling display by Harbhajan Singh and a confident response from Wasim Jaffer and Virender Sehwag. All of this on a pitch that looked less interesting and more dead than it was on day-1 — if that was at all possible!

Virender Sehwag admitted that the Indian fielding was somewhat shoddy. There were times when Kumble remonstrated openly with Laxman; Harbhajan with R. P. Singh; Harbhajan with Sree Santh; Dravid with Sreesanth… It seemed that it was open season on venting frustrations against anyone — and the younger players seemed to cop it more than the seniors!

The India bowlers toiled all day. They had to be extremely patient. It did not help that the umpires seemed to work against them too. I felt sorry for Sree Santh when what looked like a plumb LBW against Mark Boucher wasn’t given by New Zealand umpire Tony Hill. “What was he thinking? Had the heat fried his brains?” were questions that popped to my mind! Replays showed the thinnest of inside edges! Similar questions with some choice expletives popped out when Asad Rauf did not spot a glove-deflection off Paul Harris to Rahul Dravid at slips off the bowling of Harbhajan Singh. The fact that Rauf did not spot the deflection or the accompanying dead give-away (batsman’s head snapping backwards to see if the catch was completed) would have left the already enervated players even more deflated and exhausted.

The South Africans batted extremely well though and battled the hot conditions as well as steady bowling from Kumble and Harbhajan Singh. Hashim Amla, in particular, looked solid as a rock. Sree Santh bowled a good morning spell but fell away after that. R. P. Singh continued to bowl like a millionaire.

In reply, thanks to Sehwag’s 61-ball 50 and Jaffer’s patient 21 off 65 balls, India reached 82-0. There is still a huge total to overhaul though and it may be that India need to bat on and on and on for getting even close to manufacturing a result in this game. Either that or the Indian batsmen have to throw their wickets away in a stunning array of rash strokes. I can’t really see the bowlers doing too much on this pitch!

I give the first two sessions of the day to South Africa and the last one to India and so the SBS at the end of day-2 reads: India, 1 : South Africa, 4.

— Mohan

Indian Team announced

The Indian Team for the first two Tests against the South Africans has been announced. It is:

Anil Kumble (Captain), Wasim Jaffer, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Murali Kartik, Sreesanth, RP Singh, Piyush Chawla (back-up)

It is along expected lines given the post-Australia-tour injury-list! However, I am rather surprised to see as many as 4 spinners in the 15-member line-up! Ishant Sharma has not recovered from his injury yet and it looks like Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh have yet to prove their fitness.

I expect that the Final XI will be:

Wasim Jaffer
Virender Sehwag
Rahul Dravid
Sachin Tendulkar
Sourav Ganguly
VVS Laxman
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk)
Irfan Pathan
Anil Kumble (Captain)
Harbhajan Singh
RP Singh

Extras: Yuvraj Singh, Sreesanth, Murali Kartik, Piyush Chawla (back-up)

— Mohan

Bring on the Proteas

Now that the Australian tour is over, we can start looking forward to cricket with another challenging team – South Africa. Here is the fixture:

  Venue Dates
1st Test Chennai Mar 26 to 30
2nd Test Ahmedabad Apr 3 to 7
3rd Test Kanpur Apr 11 to 15

 

The last test series between the two countries was a very close one that India eventually lost 1-2, but this time India have the home advantage and SA have to reckon with a team high on confidence. India also have a good mix of experience and youth to pull it off.

So, should we start speculating what the Indian team make up would be?

Openers

I think Sehwag should be an automatic choice and we shouldn’t let his ODI form affect his test chances. Jaffer and Karthik both failed in Australia, but I would imagine that Jaffer being a regular opener would get the nod ahead of Karthik. Chopra and Gambhir would probably also be in the selectors radar, while Dravid and Pathan have an outside chance of being considered as an opener.

Middle Order

Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman are probably automatic choices. Ganguly would probably get the nod too. If Dravid opens the innings, then there is an opening for Yuvraj Singh or Rohit Sharma in the middle order. Gambhir could also be considered. A lot of our readers have expressed an opinion that Badrinath should be considered. I would be very surprised if the selectors made such a bold move (although it wouldn’t be a bad one!) Dhoni will of course don the gloves and come in to bat at No.7

Bowlers

Kumble is an automatic selection and if you are playing in India, Harbhajan Singh is another automatic selection for the second spinner spot. Zaheer Khan is still injured and the other two bowling spots would probably end up going to Ishant Sharma and RP Singh. If the track does take a lot of spin, then including a 3rd spinner (Piyush Chawla) may not be a bad idea, with Pathan opening the batting and also sharing the new ball with Ishant Sharma.

So, here is the final team –

  • Sehwag
  • Jaffer/Pathan
  • Dravid
  • Tendulkar
  • Ganguly/Yuvraj Singh
  • Laxman
  • Dhoni
  • Kumble
  • Harbhajan Singh
  • RP Singh/Chawla
  • Ishant Sharma

That makes up the 14. Not much different from the team that toured Australia, but why should it be?

(I know, I know! – I will probably get a lot of flak for including Yuvraj Singh in the test team 🙂 )

-Mahesh-

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

Harbhajan vs Hayden (battle within a battle)

There was an interesting passage of play today when Harbhajan came in to bowl when two of his main antagonists, Hayden and Symonds were at the crease. The two were batting really well and I was very keen to see how the battle ensued. I particularly wanted to see how Harbhajan bowled to Hayden. I was almost confident that Hayden was going to take the attack to Harbhajan and was looking for a couple of big hits.

Things have never been on good terms between the two – it all started out in a tour match between Australia and India A played out at Nagpur in Feb 2001. It was the third day morning and Hayden was on 37 runs. Spin was introduced and Hayden promptly came down the track to take on the bowler, couldn’t quite get to the pitch of the ball and ended up giving a simple catch to Hemang Badani. The bowler was Harbhajan Singh and he is alleged to have said – “You will never succeed in my country!” or something to that affect.

Hayden took offence to that and in spite of all the “What’s said in the field stays on the field” motto, hasn’t forgotten that. The battle on the cricket field between Harbhajan and Hayden has been going on ever since and although he has scored a lot of runs against him, has also been dismissed a fair number of times by Harbhajan Singh.

And along the way, both Hayden and Harbhajan have said or done things that have irked the other team, leading up to Hayden’s “obnoxious weed” comment on radio.

Coming back to the game, Harbhajan’s first over went for 9 runs, with a cover drive from Hayden that went for a four. His next one went for 8 and I was beginning to wonder if Bhajji had already lost the battle. As it turned out, he wasn’t quite finished yet. The next two went for just 5 runs. In the first ball of his fifth over, Symonds decided to attack Harbhajan and ended up hitting straight to Praveen Kumar and on his seventh over Harbhajan had Hayden caught in the deep  by Chawla (and what a good catch it was!). I am sure Harbhajan would have been delighted in getting both those wickets, but Hayden had already done the damage with a score of 82.

-Mahesh-

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