Tag Archives: Ian Chappell

Australia v India :: Boxing Day Test :: Day-1

Australian arrogance destroys a good start…

While the Indian bowling was good mostly, it wasn’t that great to suggest a score of 337 for 9! Any Indian fan — and perhaps even a Team India cricket player or two — would have gladly taken a score of 337-9 at the end of Day-1 of an MCG Test Match faster than a magician can shuffle a card deck! If anyone had suggested to any Indian at lunch time — when the score board read 111-0 — that the closing score would be 337-9, they would have recommended a visit to a shrink! But that is precisely how the day ended. And it can be put down to Australian arrogance.

There is a thin line between confidence and arrogance. The Australians crossed that line today and paid the price for it. As Rahul Dravid said so eloquently in 2003 after the stunning win in Adelaide, “the best way to [beat Australia] is to, in a sense, play to their arrogance“! Today, on Day-1 of the Boxing Day Test match, Australia shot itself it the foot by playing arrogant cricket.

The day started nice and early. Vish, Mahesh, Paddy and I (all i3j3Cricket Contributors) got to the ground at 0800 for a 1030 start! We did not want to miss any of the action at all. We saw the Indians and Aussies go through their fielding drills.

In the lead up to this day, one observation we made was that the Aussie Press, which normally goes to town on visiting teams, stayed mostly muted or appreciative of the visitors. Whether this would have been the case if Sree Santh had also been on the team is a moot point. Perhaps this muted response was a result of this somewhat crazy split-summer of cricket in Australia. However, the press was noticably quiet against the visitors in the lead up to Boxing Day. On the contrary we had Shane Warne and Ian Chappell getting stuck into the Australian establishment! So much so that Adam Gilchrist had to issue a plea to former Australian cricketers to tone down their criticism! This was, indeed, turning out to be a wierd season!

I think India missed a trick by selecting Harbhajan Singh ahead of Irfan Pathan or Ishant Sharma. To have Sourav Ganguly as the 1st change bowler in Austraian conditions was perhaps a wrong decision. This decision would have worked best if India had won the toss and elected to bat. With a team composition that included Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble, India had to have last bowl on the pitch. As it turned out, Ricky Ponting chose to bat after winning the toss. As expected, India went with Rahul Dravid as opener.

The Indian bowlers started inconsistently. While Zaheer Khan was bowling strongly, beating the bat constantly, R. P. Singh was constantly bowling outside offstump. After 6 overs, Australia was 5 for no loss! The Australian method was perhaps to see out the early juice in the wicket.

Phil Jaques clearly rode his luck early. Zaheer Khan struck him on the pads a few times and at least one of them looked very adjacent. Billy Bowden wasn’t interested though!

The wicket appeared to ease off after the first half hour. R. P. Singh did not help by bowling a few half trackers wide outside off stump. This enabled Australia to reach 48-0 at the end of 12 overs!

Soon after the first drinks break, India had Sourav Ganguly and Harbhajan Singh bowling in tandem. While both of them started off with maiden overs, the bowling was largely harmless. Early indications were that the pitch did not have any spin in it. After 21 overs, Australia was 89-0. This segment of play already included an ungainly Sydney Harbour Bridge fielding effort from Ganguly that let the ball through for a four!

It was, at this stage, begining to look like a long and painful summer for the Indians and Team India fans!

R. P. Singh was brought in for another spell of bowling. I was quite amazed that Anil Kumble held himself back! Perhaps Kumble the captain was unable to manage Kumble the bowler quite so well as other captains might have!

Australia went to lunch on 111-0 after 27 overs.

After lunch, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh commenced proceedings. This was also somewhat strange! One could not understand why Kumble was holding himself back. At the end of 31 overs, Harbhajan Singh had bowled 9 overs and Anil Kumble had bowled 2! Something was surely amiss here! This stupidity was exposed when Kumble came on for Harbhajan Singh. He immediately got Phil Jaques out to a smart stumping by M. S. Dhoni for 66. Soon afterwards, Anil Kumble dropped a tough chance at gully off Zaheer Khan. Another wicket at that stage would have provided a tremendous boost to India’s morale.

India continued to be be ugly in the field though, with Sourav Ganguly, R. P. Singh and Zaheer Khan being the worst offenders.

The key to success would be to get Ricky Ponting early. However, Ponting started off reasonably well. He was middling the ball and Matthew Hayden was making batting look so easy.

Suddenly, Zaheer Khan produced a beauty — perhaps even the ball of the day — that straightened when he bowled from around the wicket to bowl Ricky Ponting. Immediately after, Mike Hussey was out LBW to Kumble for a duck! India were squeezing themselves back into the game, thanks to Anil Kumble who had been cooling his heels pretty much until lunch time. India’s best bowlers were bowling in tandem for the first time in the match and it wasn’t a surprise India was doing well in this little post-lunch spell. In the first hour after lunch, Australia had hit 62 runs and lost 3 wickets in 14 overs!

Somehow, Kumble wasn’t bowling all that well to Matthew Hayden. He either bowled the wrong line or bowled too short. In this period, Hayden seemed to hog the strike and kept Michael Clarke away from Kumble. We won’t know if this was a deliberate ploy by Hayden and Clarke, but in 9-10 overs that the pair played out there in the middle, Clarke had faced only 17 balls for his 3 runs! At this stage, Clarke was looking distinctly nervy and uncomfortable.

At this stage, R. P. Singh was bowling excellently. He bowled a terrific line to Michael Clarke from around the wicket. Instead of trying too hard, he bowled a steady line and length, denying Clarke easy runs. The idea was to frustrate the batsman.

Kumble continued to bowl somewhat badly to Hayden who continued to keep Clarke away from the wily Indian leggie. Australia went to tea only 3 wickets down for 213. They had scored 102 runs in that session and lost 3 wickets.

While the 1st session clearly belonged to Australia, perhaps India could claim the second session by claiming those 3 wickets…

India opened after the tea break with R. P. Singh and Zaheer Khan. Immediately after tea, R. P. Singh induced a silly stroke from Michael Clarke who was caught beautifully by V. V. S. Laxman in the slips. Clarke was out for an unconvincing 20 off 60 balls. Clarke’s dismissal was via a silly shot. He chased down a wide ball only to find it land in Lazmans’ hands!

Immediately afterwards India got another wicket. Matthew Hayden, who was batting like a king up until then, played a waft at ball that Zaheer Khan held back just a bit. The ball stopped a bit but Hayden went through with the shot. The resulting catch was taken comfortably by at mid wicket by Rahul Dravid. Another silly shot in an attempt to dominate the bowling — rather than play as the situation demanded!

Australia reached 250-5 off 65 overs and were still going at a healthy rate of 3.85 per over. Andrew Symonds and Adam Gilchrist were settling in to the task ahead.

With 24 overs to go, Harbhajan Singh, who was largely ineffective up until then, came on to bowl. He continued to bowl utter nonsense in this next spell thereby confirming my earlier suspicion that his was a bad choice for Melbourne. Perhaps Ishant Sharma should have played after all.

Then against the run of play, Sourav Ganguly contributed to the teams’ cause by heading to the pavillion. Dinesh Karthik came in his place and snapped up a smart catch at mid wicket off a short ball from Anil Kumble to send Andrew Symonds back in the pavillion. The ball wasn’t short enough for the pull and the situation perhaps demanded more respect from Symonds. At 281-6, perhaps one could say that India were in front. But then respect is perhaps not a word that sits well with the Australians! Arrogance fits the bill more…

The Australian batting arrogance continued through Adam Gilchrist who slogged at a flighted googly from Anil Kumble to be caught at cover point by Sachin Tendulkar. After being 135-0, Australia had squandered the advantage by losing 7 wickets.

Suddenly, Kumble had his 5th wicket when Brett Lee was out LBW. The Indians were truly on top and if there was another in-form spinner bowling at the other end, things just might have been sewn up by India.

Who would have thought that a spinner would get 5 wickets on Day-1 of an MCG Boxing Day Test match?

Meanwhile, the mood in the stands was distinctly Indian. The Australians in the crowd were silenced and numbed by all the mayhem!

Even a few streakers, each of whom would be lighter in the purse to the tune of $6,000, could not lift the Australian spirits!

The Indians in the crowd found more voice when Brad Hogg was caught in the slips by Rahul Dravid off the first ball that Zaheer Khan bowled with the new ball.

Interestingly, Anil Kumble bowled with the new ball. This wasn’t a particularly smart move in our view. Apart from his initial spell, R. P. Singh did bowl well. He may have been a better bet to share the new ball.

India ended the day 2-1 on a session-by-session count and can be pleased with a good days’ work at the office. They were, in my view, helped by an arrogant display by the Aussies…

— Mohan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The team appears to be right for Australia.

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

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

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

— Mohan

The Sehwag gamble

Ian Chappell in his column has asked “Where’s Viru?”  and I concur with his assessment that India have made a big mistake in not short listing him for the Australia tour.

Chappell has this to say in his article –

Now was not the right time to give up on Virender Sehwag. His selection for Australia would have been a gamble worth taking. Forget about whose nose might have been put out of joint, the Australians still fear Sehwag from the last tour, and it’s rarely that you have a chance to put one over on the Baggy Green caps, so when the opportunity arises, you grab it with both hands

As soon as the shortlist was announced, I was expressing similar thoughts to a friend of mine. As a matter of fact, I do not even understand why the selectors had to announce an interim 24 member short list if they couldn’t decide on the exact players. What purpose does it serve? (Visas, maybe?) IMHO, they could have waited till one more round of Ranji games had finished to see how Sehwag goes against Maharashtra.

I also felt that India should have included Sehwag in the squad for the Pakistan series in preparation for the Australian tour. He has a Bradmanque average against them and it would have been ideal preparation for him – it would have helped him regain both his confidence and form.

Australia has this ability to choke the opposition of runs and the wickets automatically fall due to the pressure. This is where someone like Sehwag would be have been invaluable as he scores both against fast bowlers and spinners at an excellent strike rate. This not only helps in putting the pressure back on the bowlers, it helps the other batsmen playing around him to take their own sweet time to settle down and then start scoring.

The selectors have not recognised this and the selection this year has been a bit short sighted by relying on a makeshift opener (even though Karthik did a terrific job in that role in both South Africa and England) to fill an important role in the team.

From their point of view, Sehwag’s run in the domestic competition has not been that great. Both his Delhi team mates Aakash Chopra and Gautam Gambhir have done better than him and someone like Parthiv Patel or Dinesh Karthik fill in the role of reserve ‘Keeper, while also filling the opener’s slot for India.

With Yuvraj’s success against Pakistan with the bat, I have a feeling that Dravid will be asked to open with Jaffar for the Australian tour so that they can somehow fit Yuvraj into the playing XI. Although, Dravid is more than capable of opening the batting for India, it is a role he has had reservations with in the past. Being a team man, I am sure he will oblige.

Although I am not sure whether this move will work out, I have a feeling that is where we are heading towards…

-Mahesh-