Tag Archives: India vs Australia

Irani Tropy Team :: A preview to the India Vs Australia series…

The Irani Trophy match between The Rest of India (RoI) and the Ranji Trophy Champions (Delhi), the traditional season-opener, will be played between Sept 24 and Sept 28 this year.

The match takes on additional significance this year because it is just prior to an important series in India between India and Australia.

The Australians have been gearing up for this tour since the start of the year. After the tour of Australia by India from December 2007 to March 2008, it seems like much of Australia has trained its sights on this “revenge” tour.

Phrases like “the last frontier” have disappeared from the dictionary, to describe an India tour by the Australian cricket team! New phrases have been coined to give additional meaning, extra edge and significantly more teeth to this cricket tour! In recent days, Michael Hussey has termed the India tour as the “Everest” of cricket encounters! Brett Lee has fast-tracked his return from a self-imposed exile subsequent to his separation from his wife in order to declare himself mentally fit to tour India — a country where he is immensely popular despite the fact that he has not played a single Test match in that country!

After India’s tour of Australia in 2007-2008, Australia undertook a somewhat easy tour of the West Indies and played a meaningless ODI series against Bangladesh! India has had a busy time with a home series against South Africa, the IPL, a few ODIs against Pakistan, the Asia Cup and, more recently, a series against Sri Lanka.

There is clearly feeling in the Australia camp. India’s tour of Australia still rankles with folk in Australia! Truth be said. Australia won the Test series 2-1, although India did win the last instalment of the ODI Tri-Series that will be played in Australia! That must have hurt! But Australia did win the all-important Test series and retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. However, the nature of Australia’s victory in Sydney and MonkeyGate, the cliched-label that marked the aftermath of that victory in Sydney still leaves a sour taste in the mouth of most people associated with cricket in Australia and India! Why? Andrew Symonds’s alleged lackadaisical approach to his cricket since those infamous post-Sydney-Test spats have been put down to the aftermath of that Test match!

There are scores to be settled here! And so, this tour assumes greater significance. Despite Stuart Clarks’ posturing that notions of tension between the Australia and India players is just a creation by the media, one must assume that there is feeling in both camps.

Not that all of this is necessarily bad for world cricket. In my view, a good fight is good for cricket as long as it is all above board!

Australia’s preparation lead up to the tour of India has not been that great. Australia is in the search for a spinner — any spinner! Ricky Ponting and Matthew Hayden are on the injury list. It is not clear that they will be fighting fit before the start of the tour. Brett Lee has been shaken up recently as a result of his own personal issues. Andrew Symonds is currently AWOL. Australia also has a new wicket-keeper and its pace bowlers did not exactly set the ground alight in Darwin against Bangladesh!

The only saving grace for Australia is that India has as many questions to ask of its own stock as Australia has! Most of these questions surround the Fab Four — or Five!

The tour of Sri Lanka asked these searching questions. Although most of these questions were asked by a young novice spinner bowling in tandem with a wily old fox of a spinner, the questions were indeed asked. Sadly there weren’t (m)any convincing answers from India! Surprisingly, the Fab Four lapsed into a journey of extreme and inexplicable introspection, self-doubt and self-inquiry. This showed in the tentativeness of their collective batting. Anil Kumble, too, had more questions than answers; more frowns than smiles!

But the establishment in India has taken its first, tentative steps towards finding a way out to the future. The selectino committee, in what is perhaps a pointer to the future, has dropped Sourav Ganguly from the Rest of India team to take on Delhi in the Irani Trophy.

This was a brave move. A long-overdue move, in my view. But still, a brave move. Effigy makers in Kolkata are possibly rubbing their hands in glee already!

Given that Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Ishant Sharma are almost sure to make Team India from the Delhi side, there could be one middle order place up for grabs in the Team India line up. And that person could be Mohammed Kaif who grabbed an opportunity to make an impression last week, with a stylish 94 for India ‘A’ against Australia ‘A’.

Interestingly, apart from Wasim Jaffer, the RoI side is without a regular ‘opener’! This perhaps gives rise to the suggestion that the selectors aren’t really keen on disturbing the Sehwag-Gambhir combination that did so well in Sri Lanka. Perhaps Wasim Jaffer is there in the RoI side just to make up the numbers! In all likelihood, Parthiv Patel will walk out with Jaffer to open the batting for RoI. I would like M. S. Dhoni to sit out this match. This will give the team an opportunity to test out Kaif in the #6 spot against a strong Delhi bowling attack. A surprise pick to the RoI side is Ashok Dinda from Kolkata! He makes it ahead of Pankaj Singh (who went to Australia as part of the Test team), Praveen Kumar and a bevy of others. Perhaps this is so as to keep the effigy makers in Kolkata a bit confused and unsure!

Wasim Jaffer
Parthiv Patel (wk)
Rahul Dravid
Sachin Tendulkar
VVS Laxman
Mohammed Kaif
Harbhajan Singh
Anil Kumble (Capt)
Pragyan Ojha
Zaheer Khan
Munaf Patel / RP Singh / Ashok Dinda

12th Man: MS Dhoni (wk),

Overall, in my view, this is a necessary step in the right direction. A brave step too…

— Mohan

Top players for the Australia India series…

This post should have come at the beginning of the tour, but better late than never, I guess.

When the series started, I was wondering who the stand out players would be in this series. In my opinion, for India it is going to be Tendulkar with the bat and Kumble with the ball. And for Australia it will be Hayden with the bat and Lee with the ball.

Anyone want to take a punt with their picks 🙂 ?

-Mahesh-

The wall

Rahul “the wall” Dravid scored 53 runs at the SCG today against the Aussies. He batted for four hours and the slow innings was built on grit and determination alone. His 160 ball effort consisted of 135 dot balls and quite a few close calls (including a catch of a no-ball). It lacked so much in style, stroke play and  confidence that you would think that the pitch was a minefield or the bowling was unplayable. And yet, his partner VVS Laxman was for a while going at more than a run a ball and dominated the bowling with classy shots on either side of the wicket.

There will be a lot written about his innings and he may take a lot of flak for the way he played. But, you know what? I applaud his effort. Here is a player short of form and self confidence and he batt(l)ed his own demons (with a bit of luck) to put a mammoth effort. By doing so, he built a valuable 175 run partnership with Laxman. Dravid knows that his innings wasn’t elegant – I didn’t see him raise his bat when he completed his 50, but I am sure the team and his fans know and appreciate the effort. I do.

Although I wish he had rotated the strike more and taken more singles, I appreciate the fact that he had put a high price on his wicket and wasn’t going to give it away easily. I hope the long outing and the fifty has boosted his confidence and he starts playing more like the Dravid who toured Australia the last time around.

The mark of a great player is not to score a big hundred against a weak team when in prime form, but to bat out of your skin for a modest score against a tough opponent when you are struggling for form.

Take a bow, Rahul Dravid!

-Mahesh-

What do you need to do to win in Oz?

The first test is over and India lost badly. It would be fair to say that the batsmen lost the game for India. Even if India had been given another turn to bat, they would have still lost. There was still another day left (over 100 overs) and over 300 runs to make. There was no way they would have even come close!

The Australian victory did not come out of the blue for most Indian fans – it was probably the expected result. Doesn’t mean I am not disappointed. I am. Is there no way to stop the Australian juggernaut? Actually it is possible, but to beat Australia in Australia, you need to do several things right and doing these things starts well before the actual tour starts. This is where the Indians have missed a trick or two.

So, what needs to be done? A lot of these things seem like no-brainers, and yet we’ve missed out on quite a few of them –

  • Preparation: Touring teams need to get accustomed to bowling and batting in the Australian pitches, the conditions, the Kookaburra  ball, etc. To do this, they need to arrive early and at least play a couple of tour games. The Indians have basically missed out on this crucial aspect and they are going to pay. (Also read Peter Roebuck’s excellent column titled – Late arrival has cost India dearly)
  • Selection: Selecting the team for the tour and for the individual matches is important. The team selection to Australia was probably the best India could have picked, but they missed out on picking a good opening partner for Jaffar. The last time India toured Australia, Chopra was a great foil for Sehwag and although Chopra didn’t cross fifty even in one innings, there were two 100+ partnerships and two 50+ partnerships. This time around, although Sehwag was in the team, he wasn’t expected to play – not in the first test anyway. (This may change for the Sydney game). I also think that picking Harbhajan Singh for the MCG test was a bad move.
  • Take 20 wickets: It is not rocket science. Unless you get the opposition out twice you are not going to win matches. The Indian bowling was seen as being incapable of doing this and was being talked about as the weakest link in the team. But it was not the bowling that let India down in Melbourne. I thought that they performed fairly well for an under prepared team.
  • Bat out sessions: To win (or even draw) matches against Australia, you need to bat out at least 5 sessions in the first innings. This doesn’t assure you of anything, but at least by occupying the crease, you give the opposition a much lower chance of winning easily.
  • Bat aggressively: Batting out sessions alone is not enough –  you have to score at a good clip, which is anything around or over 3.5 runs an over. As soon as you get into an ultra defensive mind set while batting (like what Dravid did in the first test at the MCG), you allow the opposition to get aggressive with the field placing and the bowlers get their confidence. One of the main reasons India dominated the series the last time they were in Australia was because their run rate was around 3.5 runs an over. Even Rahul Dravid scored at around 3 an over. If you can’t score boundaries, try rotating the strike by taking singles.
  • Think partnerships: Rather than working towards individual scores, India should plan on building partnerships. The opening partnership should be the most important one, but India need to have good partnerships through out the innings to get to a good score. Even the tail should collectively be given a specific target to achieve.

There are also several other areas for improvement, such as fielding and running between the wickets – but this cannot be achieved overnight. India should also consider doing the following –

  • Open the batting with Sehwag (replacing Yuvraj Singh in the eleven)
  • Laxman coming in at No. 3
  • Dravid (who is not in the best form of his life at the moment) should come in at No. 6

If there is any team in World cricket that is capable of beating Australia in Australia at the current moment, I think it is India. All they need to do is play to their potential…and put the pressure back on Australia.

-Mahesh-

Was Peter Lalor watching the match?

The fielding effort that the Indians put in in the Australian second innings earned Peter Lalor’s special attention — or should we say contempt — in an article in The Australian today. Agreed the fielding was ordinary. We pointed this out in our article yesterday too, in our article at the end of the days’ play. Agreed, the fielding effort wasn’t even perhaps to international standard. Ok. Let’s even agree — just to make Peter Lalor feel good about himself and his lot in life — that any under 14 team in Australian provincial cricket would have fielded better than the Indians did at the ‘G’.

However, the manner in which Peter Lalor went hammer and tongs at the Indians was suggestive of an attitude that can only be reserved for a people that you hate with a passion. I am as one-eyed as they get, but even I reserve an ounce of empathy and objectivity in every 9 ounces of emotional chest-beating fundamentalist-like fervour! Lalor’s article did not just ooze contempt. It wasn’t merely hate-ridden. It was actually factually incorrect. Let us repeat that. His article was factually inaccurate. I am convinced that a pen in this mans’ hand is a weapon of mass vilification.

The reason that we arrived at this conclusion is because of his spew on Yuvraj Singh. Agreed Yuvraj had a lapse (read: one lapse) in the field in the morning’s session of play. Lalor records this moment in his article as:

Yuvraj Singh was, at times yesterday, totally incompetent, letting numerous balls through on the soft, slow, falt-as-a-French-crepe outfield

Numerous?

Was Lalor even watching the match? We are convinced that Lalor was asleep on the wheel. He has done a disservice to Yuvraj Singh as well as Lalors’ own readers. Those who watched the game will, we hope, consign him to the “wierdo” bin or “this man has an axe to grind” bin!

Every champion has an off moment. Tiger Woods has an off moment or an off day. So does Roger Federer. To not acknowledge that is to either not know the topic you are writing about — and it is possible that Lalor does not know his cricket. Or, it is to ignore that Yuvraj Singh is indeed a champion fielder; perhaps even one of the best in world cricket today! It is all the more galling because Yuvraj Singh had one (read: one) lapse in the field yesterday! To paint him as a mug in the field who wants his servants to do his fielding for him suggests Lalor is simultaneously contemptuous, ignorant, arrogant, biased and blind.

We may have accepted his diatribe if Lalor had also pointed out Brad Hogg’s shocking misfield (once) and Andrew Symonds’ laziness (once) when India batted.

We have no doubt that the Australians set different standards in the field. India is nowhere near that class or standard. However, it is this singular lack of objectivity that makes us think that Lalor has marked out Yuvraj Singh (here) just as he did Sree Santh.

Law of (batting) averages…

The test series starts on the 26th of December and I was checking out the difference between the two teams. What better way to do than looking at the batting averages.

Here are the batting averages of the Australian team:

Name Career Against India
Ricky Ponting 59.42 in 112 tests 52.20 in 15 tests
Adam Gilchrist 49.27 in 92 tests 29.95 in 14 tests
Michael Clarke 46.70 in 29 tests 57.14 in 4 tests
Matthew Hayden 52.56 in 91 tests 62.20 in 11 tests
Michael Hussey 86.18 in 18 tests
Phil Jaques 69 in 4 tests
Andrew Symonds 32.68 in 15 tests

 

Just going by their career averages, the batsmen should yield around 395 runs and of course there is always the tail who can chip away with some useful runs(around 55 based on their average). So, if everyone play to their average, the total score per innings should be around 450.

(Going by their averages against India in recent years from S Rajesh’s column in CricInfo, Australia would end up scoring around 430)

Here is the batting average for the Indian team:

Name Career Against Australia
Wasim Jaffer 38.45 in 25 tests
Rahul Dravid 55.97 in 115 tests 51.03 in 18 tests
Saurav Ganguly 43.17 in 99 tests 32.46 in 16 tests
VVS Laxman 44.10 in 86 tests 52.03 in 16 tests
Sachin Tendulkar 55.06 in 142 tests 53.11 in 21 tests
MS Dhoni 38.76 in 22 tests
Yuvraj Singh 37.07 in 20 tests 15.66 in 2 tests

 

If this is the batting line up that goes against Australia, and if they play to their averages they would end up getting 312 runs. The average of the Indian tail (that includes Irfan Pathan with an average of 30), should be able to contribute another 67 runs. So, India could end up with a score at around 380. That is about 70 runs lower than the batting average of the Aussies!

(Based on recent scores against Australia, this figure would be around 365)

We all know that Australia is stronger than India (actually they are the strongest team in World cricket at the moment) , and the stats probably go on to prove that in one way.

But when the test match starts on Wednesday, statistics won’t count for much – it will be the performance on the field on that day that will matter the most.

Let’s just hope India put on their best performance…and hope it is good enough to beat the Aussies.

-Mahesh-

Team India kick off tour…

The wait is over. The Indians kicked off their most anticipated series of the year in Melbourne today with a three day match against Victoria.

It has been a roller coaster ride for India this year. When they started the year, they were on the verge of winning a test (and series) against South Africa, but threw it away in the end. It was a disappointing start, but with the World cup starting in a couple of months, good wins at home against West Indies and Sri Lanka boosted their confidence. But the World cup turned out to be a nightmare for India when they got knocked out of the opening round. The causality list after the WC debacle included stars like Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh and coach Greg Chappell.

The team badly hurting from the World cup loss then toured Bangladesh to win the ODI and test series before they went to Ireland to play a series against South Africa and Ireland. India won the series against South Africa 2-1 and were confident of doing well against England in the following series. After a shaky start to the England series, they eventually ended up dominating and winning it. They followed that with a ODI series loss (England 4- India 3).

Then it was T20 World cup time. When they went into the Twenty20 World cup, the expectations were not that high. Dhoni was named captain in a team that did not consist of seasoned campaigners like Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly and Zaheer Khan. Yet, Team India took everyone by surprise by winning the World cup beating Pakistan in an exciting final.

They were still on a high when they played Australia in a ODI series at home. Australia brought the team back to reality by winning the series and although the results read Australia 4 and India 2, it did not truly reflect the gap between the two teams.

Without much gap or rest, the Pakistan series then followed. They won both the one day and test series on dead pitches to finish the year with 3 wins and 1 loss in 9 tests. Of the tests that ended in a draw, India had the upper hand in most games (the sole exception being the game played at Lord’s)

If you put things into perspective, India have done reasonably well in tests this year and extremely well in the Twenty 20 games. Their ODI record has not been that good (20 wins/15 losses out of 37 games and their early knock out from the World cup), although they are ranked 4th in both forms of the games.

Australia is currently the toughest tour in any cricket team’s calendar and it would be interesting to see how they come out of it. The last test match of the year starts on Boxing day (26th Dec), and all eyes will be on the Indian team to see how they go. This match could set the tone for the rest of the series…and on behalf of the i3j3 contributors, would like to send best wishes to the team to perform well…

Chak De, India! Show us what you’ve got!

-Mahesh-

Less than ideal preparation

(Warning: Rant content rating – High)

The Indian team has reason to be happy – they’ve just won a test series against Pakistan in home soil after quite a few years. Sure, they deserve a pat on the back and all that – but the fact remains that this was a boring series and was a less than ideal preparation for the Australian series.

The real measure of a team these days comes from playing Australia in Australia – and how do we prepare for such an important tour?

  • By laying and playing on the flattest and dullest of pitches that we’ve come to witness in recent times
  • By packing the cricket calendar with so many games that the gap between the last game of the the previous series and the first tour game of the next is just over a week (a side effect of having the calendar packed with cricket is the number of injuries it causes – but that is another story)
  • We play just ONE tour game – a three day match against Victoria to get acclimatised to the conditions in Australia
  • By appointing a coach way too late.

It is all fine and dandy that the India top order scored plenty of fifties, hundreds and even double hundreds, but the conditions have been far from trying. To start with, the pitches were flat and batsman friendly. India are flat pitch bullies and when the bounce is low and the ball comes nicely on to the bat, they are unstoppable. To add to that, the opposition bowling barring Shoaib Akthar in the first test, has looked pedestrian (not that the pitch helped their cause).

…and when the Indians come to Australia – they are going to be in for a big surprise. Shock! Horror!! The ball bounces well over the knee roll and the bowlers are bowling fast and are accurate. And don’t forget that it is not just the batsmen, but also the Indian bowlers who need to get used to these conditions.

This is one of the reasons that teams coming to a place like Australia need to get here 3 weeks before the start of the series and play at least two tour games. But I know how the board thinks – “What? Tour games do not bring in any money. We could easily play a couple of one day games instead and earn more money for the cricket boards. So, why play them? Plus being top players who get paid top $$$ they should automatically adjust.” – This is probably the kind of attitude that has let visiting teams down. They should realize that it affects the quality of cricket played. It is unlikely that India will win the series in Australia, and most Indian fans know it. But what Indian fans like to see is a good fight – and the cricket board needs to prepare them for it.

One additional thing is the late (or non-) appointment of the coach. You can carry on arguing that India won the T20 WC and the test series in England and the one against Pakistan without a coach, and that we don’t really need one. But the fact of the matter is that modern cricket needs coaches and for a tough tour like Australia, they will struggle without one. (Kirsten will apparently join the team after the first two matches. IMHO, it is better that he stays away as he will be more of a distraction joining them in the middle of a tour.)

IF India do end up doing well in Australia, it will be in spite of the way the board prepares them, not because…

-Mahesh-

What’s the team for Australia going to be?

I am sure there is strong reason for postponing the the team selection for the tour of Australia.  But as I mentioned in an earlier post, I don’t see any reason to name 24 probables to only cull the list a week later – they might as well have waited a few more days and named the actual team.

In any case, here is the list of 24 players –

Batsmen Bowlers Keepers
Jaffer Kumble Dhoni
Tendulkar RP Singh Karthik
Dravid Munaf Patel Parthiv Patel
Ganguly Zaheer Khan  
Laxman VRV Singh  
Yuvraj Singh Pankaj Singh  
Chopra Ishant Sharma  
Gambhir Murali Karthik  
  Harbhajan Singh  
  Piyush Chawla  
  Bose  
  Pathan  
  Agarkar  

 

It is funny how the probables list has 13 bowlers, even more than the batsmen and wicket keepers combined.

The ones in italics are certain to tour – Jaffer, Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Kumble, RP Singh, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and Dhoni. That leaves room for another 5 players. I would think that of the 16 players – the break down would be 7 batsmen, 7 bowlers and 2 keepers.

Based on that, there is room for just one regular batsman and based on current form, this is most likely to go to Gambhir although Chopra has prior experience playing in Australia. My preference would have been Sehwag, but he is not in the mix here.

Of the bowlers – taking more than 2 spinners would be a luxury, so Murali Karthik and Chawla will have to miss out. For the other 3 spots, Munaf should get the nod ahead of the others and Pathan may be picked based on his all round ability. The other seamer slot is a tough one to pick. As Ishant Sharma was picked for the last test, it is very likely that he may get the nod ahead of the others, but Agarkar has a knack of getting into the team when you least expect him to.

I really don’t expect the fifth player to play any games unless the others are injured. Why not have an  extra batsman instead? My preference would be Sehwag, but he is not in the mix here. Did I say that already? Doesn’t matter how many times I say it – he is unlikely to be included now. Maybe, the selectors should think of including someone like Badrinath in team. Oh, he is not in the list of 24 either! Oh, well…The only option the selectors have is to pick Chopra, and this may very well happen.

The 2nd keeper is probably not that easy to pick either. Parthiv Patel is in very good nick in domestic cricket and has played well when he has represented India A and Karthik has had a poor run with the bat in the current series. Parthiv Patel has played in Australia before and he plays the pull and cut quite well, which could come in handy down under. But, if the selectors still have faith in Karthik based on his showing in England he still has a chance of making it to the squad. He is my also my choice ahead of Parthiv Patel.

Assuming that the players who missed out the last test are all declared fit, here is what the team would end up looking –

Jaffer, Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Dhoni, Karthik, Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, RP Singh, Irfan Pathan, Munaf Patel, Ishant Sharma/Chopra.

-Mahesh-

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-