Tag Archives: Langer

Team India coach after Gary Kirsten

Gary Kirsten has decided to return to South Africa at the end of the ICC World Cup, 2011. He was the exactly that Indian cricket needed at the time he was appointed. As Ravi Shastri might say, “He was exactly what the doctor ordered!”

When Gary Kirsten took over the controls as coach, India had suffered an embarrassing first-round exit in the 2007 World Cup.

Greg Chappell, the then coach, may have been the right man for a job that was about 10 years ahead of its time. India was not ready for Greg Chappell — “Guru Greg” as he was known in the Indian media — and Greg Chappell wasn’t ready for India. His reign started off with the drafting, declaration and acceptance of a “strategic blueprint for the future of Indian cricket”.

In my view — and I my be in a minority here — that blueprint was about 10 years ahead of its time!

What Greg Chappell started with was visionary. What he had left behind in his wake was a dogs’ breakfast!

Interestingly, MS Dhoni is saying exactly what Guru Greg tried to instill in his players! Today, Dhoni says that it is important to pay more attention to the processes and less on the results/outcomes. That was Guru Greg’s approach too!

However, let it be said that Greg Chappell had indeed left a mess behind; a mess that needed cleaning up. Numerous leaks and counter-leaks had messed up the minds of players. Trust was lost. Systems and processes — the very pillars of Greg Chappell’s method — lay crumpled.

A restoration was required. And soon.

India traveled to Bangladesh with Ravi Shastri as temporary “manager”. India then traveled to England with Chandu Borde as coach/mentor. The choice of Borde was ridiculed by many, including us at i3j3Cricket. We even carried out a satirical piece, called “Ford Gate” on how Chandu Borde may have been selected — remember that Graham Ford was the front runner for the post of Team India coach at that time!

India won in England, Rahul Dravid resigned as captain. India won the ICC World T20 Championship. Anil Kumble was appointed captain of India. India then played Pakistan in a home series. India was just about to embark on a tough tour of Australia. Throughout the year, there were a series of speculations, leaks and counter-leaks on who would be coach of Team India. Yet there were no announcements. Other teams had made their appointments quietly and thoughtfully. Sri Lanka appointed Tom Moody. Pakistan appointed Geoff Lawson. India traveled at India’s pace.

Ultimately, Gary Kirsten was appointed.

And what an appointment it has been. From early-2008 onwards, Gary Kirsten has worked with Anil Kumble and with MS Dhoni to help build a Team India that is strong, resilient and robust. India has slowly climbed to the top of the ICC Test rankings and is close to the top of the ICC ODI rankings.

Now, some three years later, the end of Gary Kirsten’s tenure could be anything from 1 match to 3 matches away.

It is appropriate that we salute a man who has quietly achieved what his predecessor could not do. He brought method to his coaching. He afforded players much rope. The results are there for all to see. Many players have gone on record to say that they owed their recent successes to the coach.

At the end of his tenure, it is likely that Kirsten will take up the job of coaching South Africa (although there is no word on that from anyone) once Corrie van Zyl departs as coach of RSA — Corrie van Zyl also quits the scene after the ICC World Cup 2011.

But what of India?

I hope we do not see another period of dithering uncertainty when a sequence of band aids are applied. I am not aware of the establishment of a BCCI search committee for scouting and sounding out appropriate candidates for cricket’s most prestigious — and risky — post. I am not aware of a job description that lists out the key qualities of an ideal coach. As with anything BCCI, we cannot do anything other than assume that someone is “looking into the matter” somewhere and that “some appropriate modalities” are being “worked out” by the “responsible person”.

If the BCCI wants to draw up a position description (PD) it ought to be easy. The BCCI should copy everything contained in the “Key Attributes and Qualities” section from the CVs of John Wright and Gary Kirsten. They will then have many of the elements of the PD. They would also need to ensure that the PD does not contain any elements that might also be contained in Greg Chappel’s CV! They would then have an optimized PD to work with and they could then look for people who display those characteristics.

It is likely that the search space is small and terribly finite. I can think of a few coaches who might fit the bill. Stephen Fleming and Tom Moody spring to mind immediately.

However, an early indication is that Justin Langer might be coach.

All of the recent attention has been on the World Cup. Soon, the BCCI functionaries will be absorbed in counting the money that flows in as a result of IPL-4. In all of this, my hope this that the BCCI occasionally takes its hands off the till and trains its collective eye on a suitable Team India coach. India has an extremely busy year ahead and needs a smooth transition from Gary Kirsten to the successor.

– Mohan (@mohank on Twitter)

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A good read while we take a ‘break’

Given that Team India is not playing any cricket currently, all of us have decided to take a break from things cricket. However, I thought I would post this excellent piece from Times On Line by Mattew Syed on what I have jokingly referred to as “The Spit of Cricket” in the past.

I have been continually amazed at Ponting’s constant reference to “The Spit of Cricket” manual that he and his mates drew up hastily before India’s 2003 tour of Australia.

Only a week after that “Spit of Cricket” document was written we had the parody of Sachin Tendulkar given out LBW to a ball from Jason Gillespie that may have been called a bouncer on another day! The bowler commenced his appeal, almost apologised for having appealed and then laughed uncontrollably when he got the decision in his favour from Steve Bucknor!

Tendulkar looked at the umpire for a milli-second, turned on his heels and marched off towards the pavilion. Yes, there will be people who will point to his Mike Denness incident to indicate that Tendulkar is mortal too. However, while we do not know what Mike Denness was involved in at the time, we do know that he hasn’t been seen or heard of since then! His departure from cricket came a game too late is all I can say about that unfortunate blemish that he caused to Tendulkar’s copy-book! A cricketer like Tendulkar does not need a “Spirit of Cricket” document in order to act like a role-model. His “Spirit of Cricket” did not need to be documented and signed. He did not need to chest-thump to ensure that the whole world accepted his “Spirit of Cricket” story. The only “Spin” he needed was the bowling he did and not the sort that “marketing gurus” from Jolimont indulge in. That would be for lesser people wearing green caps! His “Spirit of Cricket” was etched in his heart and his very being.

Meanwhile, a few days later — and indeed, a few days after the “Spit of Cricket” document had been signed, and after several grown men wearing Green Caps had pledged their support for it — Justin Langer who was plumb in front, shook his head so violently after he got given out that I feared his head would detach from his body! Here was a man, though, that had signed the “Spit of Cricket” document! Surely, he must be an honorable man!

It is in that context that I felt that the article below from Matthew Syed resonated stunningly. I was pointed to this article by a friend who thought I had written this under a pseudonym! I wish I could write as eloquently and compellingly as Mattew Syed. He has, however, taken the words straight out of my mouth!

The link to this excellent article is provided here and the whole article is reproduced below…

From The Times

July 15, 2009

Ricky Ponting walking a thin line

Matthew Syed

What planet is Ricky Ponting living on? The Australia captain has accused England of failing to play within “the spirit of the game” after the so-called time-wasting antics in the opening Test match in Cardiff. Had the words been spoken by just about anyone else on Planet Cricket, they might have carried some weight, but from the diminutive Aussie they smack of crass hypocrisy.

This is a man who has turned slow play into an art form, regularly failing to get his bowlers through their overs quickly enough. Australia have been fined 33 times for slow play since 1995: 20 of them under Ponting’s captaincy and eight times since the start of 2008. They were fined in four Tests and two one-day internationals in 2008 and have infringed twice more in 2009, most recently in the World Twenty20 defeat by Sri Lanka last month.

This is a man who has time-wasted in previous Ashes contests, including on the fourth day of the third Test at Old Trafford in 2005, when Australia spent an inordinate amount of time setting and resetting the field as the clock ticked away. Steve Bucknor, the umpire, was so concerned that he started to tap his watch and, when Ponting persisted with his tactics, warned the Australia captain.

This is a man whose attempts to put pressure on umpires has become so sustained, insistent and aggressive that it has started to cause concern at the highest levels of the game. Minutes before the end of the Test on Sunday, Ponting was at it again, almost going nose to nose with Aleem Dar to appeal for a catch that missed Paul Collingwood’s bat by the width of Ayers Rock.

This is a man who regularly refuses to walk when the ball has snicked his own bat; who has appealed for catches that didn’t carry (is it any wonder Andrew Flintoff pointedly stayed at the crease when Ponting took a catch low down in the second innings in Cardiff?); who perceives wrongdoing in just about everything except for his own actions.

This is a man who has been fined six times for breaches of the ICC Code of Conduct (in addition to the fines for time-wasting), not to mention all those occasions when he has behaved dubiously and not been charged; who made an offensive gesture after being given out against India in Sharjah in 2003; who leads the national team that invented sledging, perhaps the most ghastly and immoral tactic in the modern game.

Spirit of cricket, Ricky? Spirit of cricket? Why not listen to your own countrymen, who have made their opinions plain on this very issue. A poll for Sydney’s Daily Telegraph in January 2008 showed that an extraordinary 82 per cent of Australians believed that Ponting was not a great ambassador for his country and 79 per cent felt the national team did not play within “the spirit of cricket”. Seen in this context, Ponting’s finger-pointing is almost beyond parody.

Had the positions been reversed, we all know what would have happened. Ponting would not merely have sent on the twelfth man and the physio; he would have dispatched the batting coach, the doctor and the team toe-nail cutter. Hell, he would have sent out Dame Edna, Rolf Harris, the cast of Home and Away and Skippy the bush kangaroo if he thought he would have got away with it. With Ponting, for “spirit of the game” read “winning at all costs”.

It is remarkable that Andrew Strauss failed to keel over laughing when he heard Ponting’s comments; remarkable that the England captain bit his lip long enough to resist retaliating with a sentence involving the words “pot” and “kettle”. But even more remarkable is that the Australian press has taken up Ponting’s lament with barely a reference to the Australian captain’s track record. Could it be that the Aussies are closing ranks because they have begun to sense a repeat of 2005?

The delicious aspect of all this from England’s perspective is that it is the twelfth man, once again, who has got up Ponting’s nose. At Trent Bridge in the fourth Test of the Ashes series of 2005, Gary Pratt, who had come on for the injured Simon Jones, ran out Ponting with a wonderful shy at the stumps when the Australian looked like he was getting set for a humungous innings.

Ponting’s charming nature was again revealed in that episode, shouting and swearing at Duncan Fletcher, the England head coach at the time, as he walked up the steps to the pavilion.

It has already been suggested that England should make full use of this over the course of the series, with a rotating twelfth man selected to maximise Ponting’s exasperation. Pratt – now playing Minor Counties cricket – has been mentioned as someone who might be drafted in again, as has the chap who thumped Ponting on the nose in an Australian nightclub in 1999.

Sure, this is all said in jest, but it might actually serve a useful purpose, alerting Ponting to the fact that it will not do to preach about the spirit of cricket when so much of his behaviour, and that of his team, fails the test.

And that is, perhaps, the most saddening thing about this whole episode. If Ponting possessed a shred of moral authority, the focus would now be on the England captain for what happened in the last few moments of Sunday’s play rather than on the Australia captain’s duplicitous response. We would be investigating the shaky rationale provided by Strauss for the two visits to the middle – I mean, if he wanted to provide information to the batsmen about the time left to play, why did it need to be repeated? It is not as if Monty Panesar is hard of hearing.

The fundamental problem is that cricket has been on a slippery slope for so long that few players of any nationality seem to understand, still less care, about the spirit of the game, except in so far as it provides a pretext for pointing the finger at others.

This is a dispiriting state of affairs for a game that, at one time, was a byword for ethics, etiquette and courtesy. But on the wider point, who should take responsibility for this moral malaise? Only a fool in a baggy green cap would deny that the Aussies are the principal villains.

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

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

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

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

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

Pre-Lunch Session:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post-Lunch Session:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post-Tea Session:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Mohan