Tag Archives: Joginder Sharma

ODI Team India Balance…

I must declare that I am not a great fan of the current balance that Team India has got in its ODI Team. Having said that, I do believe that the ODI teams’ balance has improved substantially over the last 8 months or so, thanks to the return of Irfan Pathan.

I do believe that the return to form of Irfan Pathan is a definite positive for Indian cricket. After struggling with his rhythm for nearly a year, the young Irfan Pathan looks good today. He is running hard and bowling consistently in the mid-130kmph range. He also uses the slower ball and cutters quite effectively in ODI games. Throw in his competent batting and what you have is an effective package. Add to the mix the fearlessness of his captain M. S. Dhoni to use him in various different roles and you have the makings of an effective team-balance.

However, I do believe that India needs another Irfan Pathan to achieve that elusive balance.

If nothing more, this other allrounder could play when Irfan Pathan is either rested or injured.

With Andrew Symonds and James Hopes in its ranks, Australia has that balance. In Sundays’ game against India, Hopes had a tight hamstring and sat out the match. The result was there for everyone to see. The Indians knew the 5th bowler weakness in the Australian team and so, waited for Michael Clarke and Andrew Symonds to be wheeled in! The presence of James Hopes would perhaps have altered their approach a bit.

Similarly, in a tight game, I do believe India will get “found out” through the absence of that 5th bowler. At the moment, the team is making-do with a combination of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh as that 5th bowler. Over time I do believe that the team needs to invest in another “allrounder” to achieve that elusive team-balance.

In Praveen Kumar, India has one such candidate warming the benches in Australia at the moment! I do believe that he ought to get a game against Sri Lanka today.

Other potential candidates include Yusuf Pathan, Joginder Sharma, Rajat Bhatia, Abhishek Nayar, although Manoj Tiwary, and S. Badrinath have also put their hands up, claiming to be allrounders!

Over time, it will be, I believe, players like these that will make up the core of a ODI team.

— Mohan

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Ranji player watch – After round 1

Round 1 of the Ranji matches have finished, and here is how the players in my Player watch series (batsmen, bowlers and all rounders) went –

S Badrinath 72*
A Chopra 16 and 32
S Raina 203
M Tiwary 203
C Pujara 64 and 109
M Vijay 4
M Kaif 4
R Bose 1 for 83 and 0 for 45
M Patel 2 for 22
YoMahesh 1 for 81
P Chawla 1 for 44 and 3 for 89
69
P Ojha 4 for 151
35
R Ashwin 6 for 133
51*
I Abdulla 0 for 39 and 3 for 73
P Patel 49 and 62
J Sharma 4 for 64 and 2 for 57
7 and 16

 

Of the lot, Raina and Tiwary had outstanding double centuries. Badrinath came out to bat in spite of food poisoning and shows the kind of commitment he has. Pujara has also played to his potential in round 1 scoring a 50 and a hundred. As the list shows there are some notable failures like Kaif, Bose and Chopra, but this is just the first game of the season…

Of the others not in my list, but whom I am still watching, Pankaj Singh took a ten wicket haul –  5 for 43 in the first innings and 5 for 110 in the second.

-Mahesh-

India Vs Australia 2nd ODI, Kochi, Tuesday 2 October

This was a terrific win for Australia on Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday — a national holiday in India. After the rained out 1st ODI, and after watching endless celebrations of India’s T20 win, this was a wonderful performance by the Aussies — make no mistake about that. Australia started badly but slowly constructed their innings and wrenched the match away from India. Along the way a few questions were asked of the India team.

The three key issues for me were; (a) lack of intensity, agility, direction and purpose shown by the Indian team in batting, fielding and bowling, (b) bowling in the middle overs where Yuvraj Singh bowled probably as well as the other two Indian spinners in the team, (c) inability of the Indians to make best use of the conditions — and indeed, in the words of Rameez Raja, Australia looked like they were the ‘home team’.

There were many things about the match to write about. I shall make my observations in no particular order:

The Mach Referee will have a busy day?

I don’t think so. Sreesanth ought to be fined, in my view, for appealing for a runout off a dead ball — a situation that was smartly diffused by M. S. Dhoni. It is likely that Sreesanth and Harbhajan may be fined for bad behaviour. However, If he fines Sreesanth for bad behaviour, he will need to fine Michael Clarke, Brad Hogg, Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds and Mathew Hayden for bad behaviour too; something that Chris Broad hasn’t been too keen to do. So, I believe Broad may just collect his pay cheque and move on to the next destination!

Dhoni’s Captaincy

Dhoni’s captaincy was generally good. He was always trying something different. For example, in bringing back Pathan for 32nd over when things weren’t going well for India. He was always in control even when things weren’t really going India’s way. He didn’t appear unnecessarily flustered or charged. He is also a ‘keeper that does not believe in needless chirping behind the wickets. In a generation where almost every ‘keeper in world cricket — Matt Prior, Adam Gilchrist, Kumar Sangakkara, Kamran Akmal, Mark Boucher — keep up a continuous barrage of crap from behind the stumps, Dhoni sticks out like a sore thumb. And his stumping to get rid of Clarke off a legside wide was straight from the top-drawer.

Did Michael Clarke bring the game into disrepute?

Talking of that dismissal of Michael Clarke, I am stunned at the number of teams that are requesting replays these days! Michale Clarke was given out stumped by the leg-umpire Suresh Shastri. He walked away but then waited at the boundary rope — waiting for a decision-reversal! Clarke was asked to stay on inside the ground by his team mates! Shastri, under pressure, asked for a TV review after he had already given the batsman out! This isn’t a good trend. And by asking for a replay — either directly or implicitly — Is this a punishable offence? After all, if a fielder asks the umpire for a TV referral on a run out the fielder would be yanked in front of the match referee and fined. This was a clear breach/questioning of the umpires’ decision.

The Indian bowling

Irfan Pathan bowled brilliantly I thought. His ball to get Hayden out was a beauty. My view is that he is back to his best. The pace was there as well as the accuracy. More importantly, he was probably the best of the three pace bowlers on view in terms of adjusting his length and pace to the pitch.

There is, one senses, definitely a plan to use Yuvraj a bit in the middle and death-overs. Not a bad Jayasuriya-like ploy. Long overdue too.

But my main problem in the last two ODIs is around the selection of Ramesh Powar in the team. He is a good bowler, no doubt. But if he is chosen for bowling just 5-6 overs a game, we are better off with a bowling allrounder like Joginder Sharma or even S. Badrinath in my view. Why? Even Rohit Sharma will give us 4-5 overs of off-spin and you get a terrific batsman for free! In yesterdays’ match Ramesh Powar batted below Harbhajan Singh in the batting order! For two games running, Powar hasn’t completed his bowling complement of 10 overs. It may be that Ramesh Powar is a better bowler than Harbhajan Singh. But his captain doesn’t seem to think so — judging by the fact that Harbhajan Singh completed his complement of 10 overs in yesterdays’ game!

The other major question that wasn’t answered by the Indians was around the respective spinners of the two teams. While Harbhajan Singh and Ramesh Powar didn’t do too much with the ball, we saw Brad Hogg and Michael Clarke ask searching questions with their spin bowling. This doesn’t bode well for India in my view.

After the initial assistance that the conditions offered the seam bowlers, the bowlers ought to have realised the slowness of the pitch. Instead of slowing down the ball, the Indians banged it short or fired it in. The Australians, on the other hand used the pitch very well and bowlers like Stuart Clark and James Hopes did well to bowl cross seam and split-finger stuff. Hopes and Clark bowled straight and without offering any width. Very clever stuff. One would have thought that the India bowlers would have used the slow Indian pitch conditions better!

Sreesanth

In the midst of a rather ordinary spell in which he exchanged words with both Hayden as well as Symonds, Sreesanth had what could best be described as terrible and most unsporting runout appeal off a dead ball. Dhoni’s approach to diffuse the situation suggested his awareness, sensitivity, smart thinking and cool leadership skills — he immediately calmed things down.

Sreesanth should have a look at himself. Before the match he talked of getting a 5-fer on his home turf. He put pressure on himself. Now that’s fine if you can back it up with performances! The young lads’ aggression is not a problem. At least for me, that’s not a problem. We need more of his tribe in the team in my view! If Sreesanth can get under the skins of an opposition like Australia — and he has — and if he can continue to perform, then that would be fine!

That is, if ‘trash talk’ is indeed where he derives his energy from and if he is able to divorce his body-language aggression from his bowling aggression then that would be fine — although I do not personally like it. But the real job that Sreesanth has to do is to bowl well. And he is not… He is wayward and a bit lost for ideas on ‘what to do next’. Sreesanth needs to learn from Zaheer Khan who has a vast repertoire but appears acutely aware of what is expected of him! Indeed Sreesanth needs to support Zaheer Khan and not trot off on a tangent that he has marked out on his own. This was typified by what would have been the last ball of the match. After having bowled 5 excellent balls, he sprayed the last ball wide for 4 wides. He could do well to sharpen his focus on his game. His aggression would be ok, in my book, if and only if he has a sharpness of match-focus to go with it.

I don’t mind Sreesanth giving lip to the Aussies. If a two-bit goose like Brad Hogg can give lip to Gambhir, Dravid and Tendulkar almost from the moment the first ball was bowled, so can anyone in the Indian team really! But really, lip should be backed by performance…

The Batting

For Australia, Andrew Symonds batted very well, but the real champion in the batting — a somewhat underrated player in my view — was Brad Haddin. He played a sensational game to take the Aussies past the 300 mark. Although they were pegged back by the loss of two early wickets, Australia recovered really well to post a commanding and, as it turned out, a match-winning total.

When India batted, it seemed like the old ills were back. The players just didn’t seem keen to take the singles and rotate the strike. Sachin Tendulkar should have given much more of the strike to Robin Uthappa who was batting like a dream. Instead he tried to hit out like Uthappa was. Having said that, it took clever slower balls that induced false strokes from both Sachin Tendulkar as well as Yuvraj Singh. And both dismissals were brought about through excellent catches from Andrew Symonds and Matt Hayden respectively.

Way forward

This loss would have put a stop to the T20 celebrations and brought the team down with a thud. In that sense, it was a good thing for India provided lessons are learned. And to learn those lessons, the team only needs to look back to the events that happened 10 days back! Success in the T20 Championship came on the back of energetic fielding, electric running-between-wickets, sharp-and-focussed bowling, a never-say-die attitude, courageous batting and fear-free cricket. Unelss the team is able to rediscover those facets in their game — or acquire the personnel that will do it for them — this series is going to be a thrashing for the team.

— Mohan

India ‘A’ continues to impress…

For a few months now, I have been following the exploits of the India ‘A’ team captained by Mohammed Kaif. After impressive showings against Zimbabwe Select, Kenya and Sri Lanka A, the team continues its good showing against a South Africa ‘A’ side that includes many players that have turned out for the Springboks national team in the past.

While India ‘A’ includes Mohammed Kaif (13 Tests, 125 ODIs), Parthiv Patel (19 Tests, 14 ODIs), Ishant Sharma (1 Test, 1 ODI) and Suresh Raina (36 ODIs) as players who have donned India colours, South Africa ‘A’ includes Morne van Wijk (5 ODIs), A. Petersen (2 ODIs), Gulam Bodi (2 ODIs), Boeta Dippenar (38 Tests, 107 ODIs), Albie Morkel (12 ODIs), Justin Ontong (2 Tests, 21 ODIs), Thami Tsolekile (3 Tests), Vernon Philander (5 ODIs), Johan Botha (1 Test, 13 ODIs), Charl Langeveldt (6 Tests, 48 ODIs).

India won the 2-match Test Series 1-0 (one match was rained out). The first 2 ODIs were completely rained-out. In the latest ODI, India beat South Africa by 1 run off the last ball in a thriller at Rajkot.

S. Badrinath continues to impress with both bat and ball and in my view, it is only a matter of time before this exciting 27-year-old dons India colours. He is a valuable bat, an electric fielder and a competent off-spinner too.

For sometime now, I have been saying that India really needs a few good allrounders in its ODI make up. While welcoming the return-to-form of Irfan Pathan, I have been dismayed with the selectors’ reluctance to invest in Joginder Sharma for the ODIs against Australia. This after captain M. S. Dhoni had invested his reputation as well as India’s fortunes in the T20 Championship in two of the biggest last overs an Indian has bowled in international cricket!

Here is a quote on Joginder Sharma from Dileep Premachandran’s article on Dhoni.

His treatment of Sharma in the two biggest matches of the tournament summed up his qualities as captain. You or I could toss the ball to a Wasim Akram or a Curtly Ambrose and calmly watch a match clinched in the final over. It requires no great leadership quality or tactical nous.

The real test of captaincy lies in bringing the fringe player into the centre circle and making him feel that he’s not a misfit there. It’s almost certain that no other Indian captain of the last decade and more would have dared go with Sharma for those final overs. By doing so Dhoni was emphasising sport’s greatest but often forgotten truth – it’s not about the stars, it’s about the XI. And sometimes the unlikeliest ones shine brightest.

And after that bold and forthright statement, and especially when an opportunity persented itself with Piyush Chawla’s freak injury, Joginder Sharma has been cast to the sidelines.

I have been following the careers of allrounders like him and Praveen Kumar, the 20-year old allrounder from UP. He plays alongside R. P. Singh, Piyush Chawla, and Suresh Raina in the UP side. He is a carefree bat and an opening bowler. He opened the batting and bowling in yesterdays’ game. Although he didn’t make much with the bat, he bowled well — including the last over of the match.

I do believe that Joginder Sharma and/or Praveen Kumar should play for India in ODIs soon. Just the presence of Irfan Pathan does so much for team balance. This balance will be augmented by the presence of another allrounder and I will continue to pay close attention to the progress of both these contenders.

All through these matches, Parthiv Patel has been thoroughly impressive. He has notched up several 100s and 50s and his ‘keeping has also been quite ‘tight’. Mohammed Kaif, who scored a smart 98 in yesterdays’ match continues to impress with his captaincy and may end up being the best U-19 and India-A captain that didn’t get an extended stint with the national team! Suresh Raina made his first appearance yesterday and scored a compact 45.

Amit Mishra, the young leg-spinner, has had a few good games too. After bowling with aplomb in the Test match, he also scored a breezy 22 off 11 balls in yesterdays’ ODI.

The one disappointment through this tour is that bowlers seem to have worked out Manoj Tiwary’s weakness against the short-rising-ball. He is getting peppered with the short stuff and the young dasher seems to be hell-bent on rewarding the bowlers’ efforts too!

— Mohan

Indian Team for the first India V Australia ODI

The selectors announced a few days back that Rohit Sharma would replace the injured Piyush Chawla in the team for the first ODI. Ho hum! Team India may surprise us by winning the T20 World Championship trophy. But the selectors will continue along their merry ways. Some things just do not change, I guess! A bowler for a batsman? Only in India…

Here was a captain who, by throwing the ball to Joginder Sharma in the last over of two consecutive crunch-matches, had made an important statement about a young medium-pace-bowling allrounder itching to make it to the world stage. And here, through a freak training injury to a bowler, was an opportunity to strengthen both the bowlers’ confidence as well as the captains’ hand! And the selectors went for a batsman instead!

But that’s the hand Dhoni has been dealt with. It will now be interesting to see if Dhoni plays all three former-captains in his team. I do not believe he should. I feel Ganguly should be sat down in this match.

My ideal team for todays’ match would be:

Sachin Tendulkar
Gautam Gambhir
Robin Uthappa
Rahul Dravid
Yuvraj Singh
MS Dhoni
Irfan Pathan
Harbhajan Singh
S Sreesanth
Zaheer Khan
Rudra Pratap Singh

I’d go for Harbhajan Singh over Romesh Powar for this game merely because Harbhajan’s confidence and rhythm will probably be higher after the T20 matches he has played.

— Mohan

Selectors must invest in youth…

The Twenty20 World Championship win by M. S. Dhoni’s Men in Blue has provided a much-needed breath of fresh air for Indian cricket. After the disappointment of the early and embarassing exit from the World Cup 2007 this was what Indian cricket needed. And it was secured by a fearless captain who does things his way. It was secured by a young team that played in the spirit of its captain. And this, I believe, is the blueprint for future success for India. The team has to dismantle the shackles — some self-imposed, some imposed by the ‘system’ that the team is part of and some imposed by history — and play with self-belief and mental stregth.

And this investment in the future has to commence now.

The selectors have named a 15-member squad for the ODIs against Australia which reads (in possible batting order):

Sachin Tendulkar
Sourav Ganguly
Robin Uthappa / Gautam Gambhir / Dinesh Karthik
Rahul Dravid
Yuvraj Singh (vice-captain)
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt)
Irfan Pathan
Piyush Chawla
Ramesh Powar / Harbhajan Singh
RP Singh / Sreesanth
Zaheer Khan

Two things need to happen immediately, in my view.

First Piyush Chawla, who is injured, needs to be replaced. I would be very surprised if this replacememt is not Joginder Sharma.

Second, as a significant policy-shift the selectors need to, from now on, name 17-member teams for ODIs and further stipulate that only a maximum 2 of the seniors can play in any game! First, this would prolong the careers of the Tendulkar-Ganguly-Dravid troika. Second, it would also provide a platform for youngsters to express themselves.

M. S. Dhoni, when asked about the absence of the Big-3 in an interview that I read earlier on, made two important statements I thought. Firsty he said that it was important for his wards to get the appreciation of the seniors back home. And he has received that with Sourav Ganguly immediately recognising and applauding the teams’ efforts. But he also dealt with the issue of their absense with poise when he said, “I am sure if they had been here, they would have taken us to the final. If we do win the final, they can say that they couldn’t have done more than what his team has done. The way we have performed has been amazing.

With the above suggested changes to the ODI team to play Australia, I’d like to see the following team chosen (along with the rider that only 1 or 2 of Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dravid can play any game):

Sachin Tendulkar / Vierender Sehwag
Sourav Ganguly / Gautam Gambhir
Robin Uthappa / Dinesh Karthik
Rahul Dravid / Rohit Sharma
Yuvraj Singh (vice-captain)
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt)
Irfan Pathan
Joginder Sharma
Ramesh Powar / Harbhajan Singh
RP Singh / Sreesanth
Zaheer Khan

From the India team that won the Twenty20 World Championship, Ajit Agarkar, Piyush Chawla and Yusuf Pathan would, therefore not be chosen. Ajit Agrakar needs to decide which side of the bed he wants to get up — if he does! Piyush Chawla is injured and Yusuf Pathan would be, in my view, unlucky to miss out.

The first India-Australia ODI match is in Bangalore on Friday 29th September at 2.30pm IST (7pm Australia time).

Bring it on…

— Mohan

The Indian fan can dream again…

It was a scrap alright; a scrap on a pendulum. The match swung one way then the other and back and back again. Even in the penultimate over of the game, the pendulum swung India’s way first when Umar Gul was bowled by R. P. Singh. Then the pendulum swung Pakistan’s way immediately when Mohammed Asif tickled the first ball he faced for 4 through the vacant slips area. With 13 runs needed from six balls, the pendulum defied gravity and stayed, almost irrevocably, on Pakistan’s side when Misbah-ul-Haq danced down the pitch and straight-swatted — there must be a special Twenty20 term for this almost improbable shot — a full-toss from Joginder Sharma for six! And then, when Misbah-ul-Haq decided a deft paddle-sweep was needed, and when the resulting catch was taken, the pendulum rested with India.

India were crowned the innaugural Twenty20 World Champions because they just refused to lose. They held their nerve in an edge-of-the-seats final. It was a fitting finale for an impressive tournament that had erased the bad memories of a badly organised, badly planned and badly played World Cup 2007 in the West Indies.

But right from the time of the toss, the match swung one way and then the next. It perhaps swung Pakistan’s way when Virender Sehwag was declared unfit to play. One would have thought that Dinesh Karthik would have played. But M. S. Dhoni is his own man. He does things his way and he went with Yusuf Pathan, the older brother of the more famous Irfan Pathan. And what’s more, Dhoni declared that the older Pathan would open the innings — it was a like-for-like replacement, for Yusuf Pathan, like Virender Sehwag, gives the ball one heck of a tonk in domestic cricket and also bowls off-spin.

India started well with Pathan hitting a six and a 4 to race to 15 off 8 balls. But had the brakes put on them when Pathan skied one to Shoaib Malik. The pendulum had swung again. And it did this right through the match until that last moment. The two teams were evenly matched. Pakistan were the better bowling side. India were the better batting side. The two captains were innovative and inventive.

In the middle overs, I thought Umar Gul and Yasir Arafat bowled excellently well. Umar Gul has grown in stature as the tournament has progressed and will serve Pakistan cricket very well in the years to come. Mohammed Asif apparently does not like bowling in the death. In Yasir Arafat Pakistan found a bowler who could do that aptly. Shahid Afridi kept things really tight in the middle overs. While most teams had a weak 5th bowler, Pakistan had Mohammed Hafeez and Yasir Arafat — a specialist death-overs bowler!

Through all of this, one batsman — Gautam Gambhir — shone brilliantly. I have often questioned his role and place in the team. But in this tournament he has batted with rare flair and in an totally unfettered manner. His method has been simple. His strokeplay has been elegant. I think his time has come and I am quite willing and indeed, happy, to eat humble pie. Gautam Gambhir has proved many of his detractors wrong and I would be surprised if he doesn’t score an extended run in the Indian ODI and T20 scene. In the finals, Gambhir stroked his way to a well-crafted 75 off 54 balls. He hit some good cricketing strokes and in those difficult middle-overs, when Yuvraj Singh was finding it hard to get Shahid Afridi and Mohammed Hafeez away, Gambhir even managed to take the pressure of his poster-boy partner by scoring some delectable boundaries. He was my Man-of-the-Match.

The captaincy was excellent too. Two moments stood out. First when Shoaib Malik brought in Hafeez and Afridi the moment Yuvraj Singh came in to bat. The clear signal was that he respected Yuvraj Singh’s hard hitting but wanted the Indian to make the running. By taking the pace off the ball, he posed the question. And on this day the question wasn’t convincingly answered. Full marks to Shoaib Malik for his method as well as his instincts. The other moment was in the middle overs when he had a slip in place! Here was an attacking captain who continually threw the gauntlet at the opposition. He kept asking the questions at crucial junctues and his team also responded. All of these combined to restrict India to a smallish total. At the break between the innings, I talked to 3-4 friends of mine and said that India were probably 15 runs short of where they ought to have ended up. At the toss, M. S. Dhoni indicated that the Indian team was aiming at a score of 180! They ended at 157, about 23 runs short of that mark.

Pakistan, on the other hand would have thought that India, thanks to some belligerent and fear-free strokeplay from young Rohit Sharma, scored abdout 10 runs more than they would have wanted India to score. Shoaib Mallik indicated that they wanted to restrict India to less than 150.

Either way, India had to bowl and field well to defend 157.

As M. S. Dhoni said at the end, he asked the fielders to back the bowlers and add at least 15-20 runs to the total. And the team did that. R. P. Singh bowled brilliantly. Sreesanth was wayward and it looked like the occasion had gotten to him. But every time he sprayed, M. S. Dhoni ran to him and appeared to calm him down. Here was a young man exploding on the inside. He needed tough love and I think he got it. He delivered India a crucial wicket of Sohail Tanveer who had hit a breezy 12 off just 4 balls!

Dhoni handled his bowlers and his fielders very well. At one point in time, he had two slips for R. P. Singh and Sreesanth. It was important to take wickets! He bowled Yusuf Pathan for an over and Joginder Sharma for 3 in the middle when Pakistan were struggling to bring a semblance of stability in the middle order when wickets crashed and fell at the top. This was opportunistic and tactical cricket. Dhoni kept the screws on by bringing in the field and keeping things tight. He invited Pakistan to take the aerial route to take the risks. They did that and paid the price — both Shoaib Malik and Younis Khan perished to ugly hoiks that did not come off. This was smart captaincy.

And then, just when the match was firmly in India’s grasp — or so it seemed — Misbah-ul-Haq, Yasir Arafat and Sohail Tanvir threated to take the game away. That was until that last pendulum-movement.

India had won an improbable victory. The scenes of madness that followed will live with the Indian cricket fan for a long time. It was a brilliant spectacle and was richly-deserved jubiliation for a young team that played in the spirit of its fearless leader.

The future for both India and Pakistan looks bright. The investment in youth and a clean-slate-start had paid off for both teams.

But more importantly for this blogsite, the Indian fan can dream again!