Tag Archives: Irfan Pathan

India challenge ODI #1 spot…

Today’s ODI games between Sri Lanka & India and Australia & New Zealand have become a land-grab for the top spot on the ICC ODI table.

As a result of the recent brilliance of South Africa in both Tests and ODIs (combined with an unusually long-spell of lackadaisical play by the Australians) the top spots on the ICC rankings table in both Tests and ODIs represents a tightly bunched group.

The ICC ODI Rankings Table has South Africa on 125 points, India on 122, Australia 3rd on 121 and New Zealand 4th on 117.

It has been a while since the rankings table was this closely grouped. I have a feeling that things are going to remain this way for a while now — perhaps even till the World Cup in 2011. There is little that separates these top-4 teams. And this can only be good for the ODI form of cricket — a form that, I feel, needs a kick in the backside to ward off the threat from the more exciting Twenty20 format — especially with the excitement that is being generated by the IPL these days.

Given the closely packed nature of the rankings table, the two ODI games that are being played today take on a special significance. If India and New Zealand win, it would be the first time since rankings commenced that India will occupy the top spot on the table. I suspect that this occupation will be short-lived. But if India does make it there, it will be a huge credit to M. S. Dhoni (captain) and Gary Kirsten (coach).

India, however, appears still intent on blooding some of its bench-players. With a view to the longer-term, it is imperative that India has players like Ravindra Jadeja, Irfan Pathan, Yusuf Pathan, Rohit Sharma and L. Balaji match-hardened and sharp.

As I said earlier, it is likely that the next year or so will see the ODI rankings move and slip a fair bit between these top four teams. So a capture of the top spot for a few days or even a few weeks will be neither here nor there. What should be more important for the India fan is how Team India shapes up towards the 2011 World Cup!

After the comprehensive recent victory against Sri Lanka in the 4th ODI even with a team that did not include Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan — its talismen in batting and bowling respectively — it is likely that Team India will continue with its strategy of resting one or two key players for todays’ last game of the series.

It appears that the team is not too keen to rest more than 2 “key players” for each match. For the previous match, Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan earned a rest. For this 5th ODI, it appears that Yusuf Pathan and Pragyan Ojha are the ones that got a tap on the shoulder.

With that in mind, it is likely that Team India for the 5th ODI against Sri Lanka will be:
Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Irfan Pathan, Zaheer Khan, L Balaji, Ishant Sharma.

It would be great for Jadeja and Balaji to get a game. I really like the look of Jadeja. He followed up a good IPL outing with a strong domestic season and has continued to impress everyone. He gets an opportunity to strut his stuff on the big stage now. After a few years in the wilderness, Balaji get an opportunity to once again walk on the big stage. His career too received a boost in the IPL theatre. He too followed it up with a strong domestic season and gets a well-deserved call to the India team.

Despite picking a few wickets, Irfan Pathan did have a bad game in the 4th ODI and will be keen to put that behind him. Sanath Jayasuriya took to him like a duck would to water. Although it may be tempting to drop him for Yusuf Pathan in the above team list, I think it would be good for Irfan Pathan to get another match to get his game back in shape.

— Mohan

India march on as Australia falter

India recorded its second straight victory against Sri Lanka on Saturday. Thus India has won its last 7 ODs (five against England and now, the first two ODI’s against Sri Lanka).

Meanwhile, Australia’s recent “free fall” has continued as the recently dethroned ODI champion team lost narrowly to New Zealand. Australia has now lost 5 of its last 6 ODIs.

Ricky Ponting had a horror 2008. Yet, early signs are that, in comparison to 2009, perhaps 2008 was a good year for him! Already, he has lost the Test series and an ODI to a rampant and attractive South Africa. He has now lost an ODI at Perth. Since that infamous game at the SCG in early-2008, Australia has lost 2 Tests (to India and South Africa) and 2 ODIs (to South Africa and New Zealand). In that period, Australia has beaten Sri Lanka at Perth in an ODI. These are poor returns indeed! After last nights’ game, Ponting has had to defend his wicket-keeper was was accused by Vettori of being less than above board!

We live in interesting times!

India’s game against Sri Lanka at the Premadasa stadium was closer than the first ODI.

Once again, Sachin Tendulkar got a shocker of a decision. Yuvraj Singh was also given out off a huge inside edge! After he was given out, Yuvraj Singh appeared to mouth, “Heck! I played the ball!” leading me to comment that he would be hauled up in front of the Match Referee! He was after Gamini Silva (the Sri Lankan umpire who sent him packing) and Brian Jerling (Silva’s colleague) and third umpire Kumar Dharmasena (former Sri Lankan player, who sent Sachin Tendulkar packing in the 1st ODI) charged Yuvraj Singh for dissent under Level 1.3 of the ICC CoC. However, Referee Chris Broad let Yuvraj Singh off.

“After reviewing video evidence of the incident, I am of the opinion that there was no conclusive evidence that Yuvraj showed dissent at the decision,” said Broad.

Clearly Chris Broad has been smoking that stuff again! If that wasn’t dissent, I am banana!

The Indian batting faltered and went through in bits and spurts to reach 256. In the end, I felt the the total was about 30 runs shy of a defendable target. But Sri Lanka made it into a good total by showing India that they could do better at fits-and-starts than India could!

The Indian innings suffered from the two erroneous umpiring decisions and also two bad run outs. Virender Sehwag took Muralitharan on in the field and lost out. At that time, Sehwag, who was toying with the bowling, had reached 42 off just 26 balls! He was on course for a big one and one felt that only Sehwag could get Sehwag out. Sehwag did get Sehwag out! Yusuf Pathan was also run out by a strange call from Dhoni, who seemed to admonish Pathan in the previous over for not being responsive in backing-up. India stumbled to 256 in the 50 overs.

I felt that it would require, both, a terrific bowling effort and some help from Sri Lanka for India to win the game. India got both and in the end, despite a fighting 93 from Kandamby, the wheels fell off the Sri Lanka bus. Praveen Kumar and Ishant Sharma bowled brilliantly to halt the Sri Lankans. The other bowlers contributed effectively. India won the game with 15 runs to spare!

I feel India played its best combination at the moment. However, I still have concerns over Pragyan Ojha’s place in the team. If he is only going to be used 5-7 overs in each game, would the team not be better off with either Irfan Pathan — who would give you more overs of pace and some runs with the bat — or even Ravidra Jadeja? Although it is disappointing to see a player like Rohit Sharma not get a chance, I feel that Suresh Raina just pips him at the post in the ODI format.

— Mohan

Sri Lanka Vs India :: 1st ODI :: 28 Jan 2009

India won against Sri Lanka in the 1st match of this new ODI series without really breaking into a sweat. Ever since Sri Lanka lost Tilakaratne Dilshan in the very first over, the result was as clearly predictable as Munaf Patel’s excellence in the fielding facet of his game!

In the recent ODI games against Pakistan, Dilshan — the opener — has been a revelation for Sri Lanka. Dilshan’s opening role served several purposes. He provided the stability that allowed Jayasuriya the ability to free his arms at the top. Although Sangakkara provided similar stability to the Sri Lankan lineup, Sangakkara’s calm assurance at the #3 slot that few batsmen was lost to the Sri Lanka team. Sangakkara is now able to provide that assurance that few teams in world cricket can boast — Australia, with Ricky Ponting, excepted. With Dilshan opening, Sangakkara could now go back to the #3 slot.

Third, as the Cricinfo match report states, Dilshan “hid” the woefully out-of-form Jayawardene. It appears that when Jayawardene is out of form, the whole world knows it. He just seems to fall apart at the seams! Memories of the World Cup in 2003 come flooding back, where Jayawardene hardly seemed able to hit ball with bat and when he did, he popped a catch to a nearby fielder! The Sri Lankan captain is going through one of those patches at the moment and the sooner he comes out of it, the better it would be for the home team.

So, Dilshan’s early departure led to some over-cautious batting by the Sri Lankans. And the captains form — or lack of it — meant that Sahan Thilina Kandamby, playing in only his 8th ODI was sent in at #4 when Sangakkara got out. Kandamby scratched around for an eternity before getting out. And in the end, the Sri Lankan total was never going to enough despite another huge effort from the 39 year-old warhorse, Sanath Jayasuriya.

India bowled well in patches. I was quite amazed to see Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina get to bowl as many overs as they did! Together, they bowled 8 overs to Yusuf Pathan’s 7 overs and Munaf Patels’ 5 overs.

Perhaps this over-bowling of Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma stemmed from the fact that Dhoni knew the pitch was getting slower. Perhaps this stemmed from the fact that Munaf Patel was having a bad game with the ball. Perhaps this stemmed (although quite unlikely) from a perverse desire that Dhoni wanted a bigger challenge when batting? Perhaps this stemmed from a desire for Dhoni to have Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma more match-hardened as the tournament progressed to its later stages. All of this is quite speculative. The fact is that the two youngsters had a lengthy bowling stint. Considering that they bowled mainly to an in-form Jayasuriya, their 8 overs for 38 runs was an impressive effort.

Dhoni marshalled his resources excellently. He brought in Raina and Rohit Sharma an over or two after Sangakkara holed out to mid-wicket off a flighted teaser from Pragyan Ojha. Yusuf Pathan and Ojha were bowling at that time. Instead, knowing that Jayasuriya and Kandamby would be intent on consolidation prior to a PowerPlay launch, Dhoni extracted 8 overs from the two rookie bowlers.

Sri Lanka erred by calling for the PowerPlay only in the 38th over. By then, the two Indian trundlers had already bowled their 8 overs — including 4 with the “new” ball (taken in the 34th over). Ishant Sharma was brought on immediately when the PowerPlay was called and struck in his very first over by getting rid of Kandamby!

The Indian fielding was patchy. Although it was nice to see Yuvraj Singh fling himself around in the field, there were several balls that went through the legs or under the hands when the fielders did not bend their backs enough!

Munaf Patel comes across as a lazy fielder even on his best fielding day! Yesterday, he continued the trend of being lazy and ill-committed in the field. I can see India hurting badly through his fielding recalcitrance if it plays on a flat pitch and needs all fielders to be on their toes. Already with Zaheer Khan in the field, the Indian fielding unit has one fielder who could easily make the cut in the “World’s Top 20 Worst Fielders Club”. But then Zaheer Khan is an asset with the ball — and sometimes with the bat — and more than makes up for his sloppy fielding. In Munaf Patel, India has a weak fielder who doesn’t bat well and occasionally — like in yesterdays’ match — leaves his bowling acumen behind in the hotel room!

However, this was India’s first outing in this tournament. Moreover, India was coming off a short lay-off. So there are opportunities for these rough edges to be ironed out.

I must say that I do like the Indian team balance better if Irfan Pathan is playing in it — instead of Munaf Patel. I may even be tempted to play Rajinder Jadeja in a game or two ahead of Pragyan Ojha.

Although Kumar Dharmasena gave a shocker of an LBW decision to send Sachin Tendulkar packing, the result was never really in doubt. Suresh Raina and Gautam Gambhir batted with assurance and confidence. Even when they got out, the rest of the batsmen played with purpose and focus. Even the wily Muralitharan and the destructive Mendis could not make much of a dent.

I suspect India will go in with the same team for the next ODI.

— Mohan

Team India for ODIs in Sri Lanka and Champions Trophy

As expected, MS Dhoni has returned from a self-inflicted “rest” and has been selected as captain of the Team India ODI side to take on Sri Lanka after the conclusion of the Test series.

Ishant Sharma has been “rested” for the Sri Lanka ODIs, but will return for the Champions Trophy. Munaf Patel, who has been picked for the Sri Lanka tour, will only play in Sri Lanka.

Parthiv Patel has been included as MS Dhoni’s understudy for the Sri Lanka tour. However, Parthiv Patel will return to India after the Sri Lanka ODIs and will not take part in the Champions Trophy.

Is this then and indicator to Parthiv Patel playing instead of Dinesh Karthik in the 3rd and final Test between Sri Lanka and India? Time will tell.

As expected, Sachin Tendulkar comes back into the side that played the Asia Cup. He will most likely open the innings with Virender Sehwag, with Gautam Gambhir at #3. The Gambhir-Sehwag combination will need to wait a while before exploding in ODIs!

Interestingly, no vice-captain has been announced!

Sachin Tendulkar
Virender Sehwag
Gautam Gambhir
Suresh Raina / Virat Kohli
Rohit Sharma
Yuvraj Singh
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt)
Irfan Pathan
Harbhajan Singh / Pragyan Ojha
Praveen Kumar / Munaf Patel
Zaheer Khan / RP Singh

with

Parthiv Patel (drinks!)

Yusuf Pathan gets the flick! It is unfortunate, but perhaps understandable! He did not really set the ground alight. But the man has enough potential to bounce back into reckoning.

Piyush Chawla has also been shown the door. Now, Chawla, who bowled quite brilliantly in the ODIs in England last year and in Australia earlier in 2008, was quite rudely exposed when bowling to Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup. He would probably benefit from refining his trade. With Harbhajan Singh returning to the fold like the prodigal son, and with Pragyan Ojha seizing his Asia Cup opportunities, it is appropriate, perhaps, that Chawla cools his heels a bit.

Another player that has been shown the door is Robin Uthappa. Once again, the case could be made that he perhaps did not deliver on the many opportunities he has been afforded. In his place, Virat Kohli comes in, on the back of his U-19 exploits and his strong showing in the recently concluded Emerging Players Tournament in Brisbane. S. Badrinath, who also had a strong Emerging Players tournament, would be perhaps justified in feeling a bit desolate at being overlooked — again!

Given the combination that the team has gone with, unless one of Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma and Yuvraj Singh sit out (quite unlikely), India will go in with only 4 mainline bowlers — possibly Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar, Irfan Pathan and Harbhajan Singh! Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh will need to bowl out the 5th bowlers quota. This lack of balance has always been India’s weak suit — especially considering that Irfan Pathan is one of these 4 frontline bowlers! If any of these 4 bowlers has an an off day — and Irfan Pathan can have them easily — the bowling can get taken to the cleaners!

The tough alternative would be to replace Suresh Raina with a bowler. It is unlikely that the team would do that, particularly after Raina’s good showing in the Asia Cup!

Interesting days ahead…

— Mohan

Team India for Asia Cup game against Pakistan

After a mid-innings sputter, India cruised home to record a facile victory over Hong Kong in its Asia Cup opener. The business end commences today with a game againts hosts Pakistan.

Gambhir, Sehwag, Raina, Dhoni, Chawla, Praveen Kumar and R. P. Singh had good outings against Hong Kong. Yusuf Pathan and Robin Uthappa did not get an opportunity to do much! Irfan Pathan will probably get back into the side provided his side-strain is no longer restricting his bowling.

Rohit Sharma had an ordinary game against Hong Kong and apparently looked listless in his 29-ball-11-run essay.

The India side is likely to be:

Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Robin Uthappa (or Yusuf Pathan), Irfan Pathan, Piyush Chawla, Praveen Kumar, RP Singh, Ishant Sharma

— Mohan

Team for Asia Cup Hong Kong game

With a view to the long season of relentless cricket ahead, it would be nice if the team could rest some key players for the game against Hong Kong today (Wed 25 June) in India’s opener in the Asia Cup 2008. Irfan Pathan will be rested because he appears to be carrying a side-strain into the tournament. However, I do believe that a few other players ought to be rested including captain M. S. Dhoni! Radical, I know, but with Dhoni playing in both Tests as well as ODIs and Twenty20’s, his body has been taking a fair pounding in recent months. So much so that in several of Chennai’s T20 games in the IPL, he played but did not keep wickets!

With the amount of cricket that is being played these days, the main workload impact would be on the pace bowlers. Fortunately, India does have a bench strength in this department and it would be a good idea to test this out in games against the likes of Hong Kong!

Unfortunately, the team only has M. S. Dhoni as wicketkeeper. It would be interesting to throw Robin Unthappa in as ‘keeper and see how he goes — after all, he did start his career as a useful ‘keeper.

In the Kitply Cup finals against Pakistan, I thought Dhoni got his knickers in an awful twist through his obsession with left-right combinations. This made him switch batting positions of players with not much thought other than the left-right design. This policy ought to be junked in preference for a batting order that is dictated by the match-situation. All pre-match indications are that that would indeed be the case.

My team for the Hong Kong match would, therefore, be:

V Sehwag
G Gambhir
SK Raina
RG Sharma
Yuvraj Singh (captain)
RV Uthappa (‘keeper)
YK Pathan
PP Chawla
P Kumar
M Gony
RP Singh
12th man: PP Ojha

This will give Irfan Pathan, Ishant Sharma and M. S. Dhoni a rest.

However, this may be a bridge too far for the Indians who may, I think, go with M. S. Dhoni as ‘keeper for the game.

— Mohan

What I like about the current ODI team

Opening pair

Granted, Tendulkar and Ganguly were one of the best, if not the best opening ODI pairs for India and even the World. But Sehwag and Gambhir are doing very well at the moment. I love everything about them – the right/left combination, their stroke play, Sehwag’s explosiveness, Gambhir’s maturity…

If they continue their current form, they are all set to become a formidable opening combination in World cricket.

 Batting depth

The batting depth hasn’t been really put to the test yet, but with Irfan Pathan and Praveen Kumar, both all rounders coming in at No. 8 and 9 respectively, it looks very strong. Chawla at No. 10 is no rabbit with the bat either.

The Bench

When you see good players warming the bench, you know there are even better players in the playing XI and that is a great thing.  With guys like Uthappa, RP Singh (although Ishant was rested for the Bangladesh game) and Gony sitting out, you know the team is doing well.

And guys like Ganguly, Tendulkar, Dravid, Sreesanth and Harbhajan Singh aren’t even the team (due to a variety of reasons).

All rounders galore

The team now has Praveen Kumar and Irfan Pathan who are what I would classify as bowling all rounders – people who can bat a bit and bowl their full quota of 10 overs. Then there are the batting all rounders – Sehwag, Yuvraj and Yusuf Pathan. Even Rohit Sharma and Raina can chip in with a few overs. And last but not the least, the captain – MS Dhoni who can bat and keep wickets. This is one of the main reasons, India has a good batting depth at the moment.

Flexible batting order

I think the current batting order is a fairly flexible one. Barring the opening pair, I think the rest can come in any order. There is always the argument that batting orders shouldn’t be messed around with, but it seems to work well in Twenty20 and I don’t see why it shouldn’t work here.

Age

Sehwag at 29 years is the oldest member of the team. Everyone else is 26 or under. In fact, six of them are 21 and under. This again bodes well for Team India. Isn’t it wonderful that although the team is young, it does not seem to lack experience.

-Mahesh-