Tag Archives: ODI

Some observations on the Champions League T20

If Lalit Modi and Dean Kino had added the word “International” to the Champions League T20, the tournament that is currently taking place in India could have replaced the now defunct ICL. Players from the now dead-and-buried ICL have scattered to different teams. Some ICLers, like Shane Bond, are back playing for club and country.

Meanwhile, the tournament that has been christened CLT20 is up and running. After the first edition was scrapped in the wake of 26/11, the CLT20-2009 has been in progress for almost a week now. While the cricket has been ok, CLT20 has certainly been providing air time to Lalit Modi and Bollywood!

Never mind the absence of Bollywood stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Shilpa Shetty and Preity Zinta, whose teams — respectively Kolkata Knight Riders, Rajasthan Royals and Punjab Kings — were not good enough to be featured in CLT20. This despite the largesse — out of the goodness of Lalit Modi’s heart — to accommodate a 3rd team from the Indian IPL in CLT20 (as opposed to only two teams from Australia and South Africa, the trinity of countries that co-started the CLT20 concept).

But no worries! This edition of CLT20 continues its links with Bollywood, thank you very much! I wouldn’t have known that this was a deliberate ploy till I watched an interview with Bipasha Basu who was at one of the early games; I forget which one! Was this yet another Bollywood Super Bod trying to buy a team, I wondered? Alas no! This was just another one of Lalit Modi’s plans to continue the link between Bollywood and masala cricket. What do they call it now? Co-branding?

T20 and Bollywood are made for each other. Each idiom features a lot of dancing, some colour, some great bodies, lots of song, a booty shake or two, celebreties coming out of your ears and nostrils, a few tears, skimpy-glitzy clothes, some acting, loads of emotion (throw in a slap or two!), plenty of rah-rah, LOADS of money and some talent on view — that is, if you can be bothered enough to pay close attention amidst the chaos, the din, the fake drama and the sheer escapism of both idioms! Both idioms are tailor-made for marketing executive boardrooms. The talent is but secondary. The brand, package and product needs to be sized-right, segmented-right, targetted-right and sold-right.

So the nexus between Bollywood and T20 is totally inevitable. And indeed, talking of cross-influencing each other, nowadays there are quite a few Bollywood movies with a cricket theme. In the recent few months, we have seen the release of movies like Victory, Dil Bole Hadippa and 1999! The latter focuses on the betting scandal that rocked the cricketing world that year!

So in the CLT20 product — See! I am getting into the swing of things too! It is not a game or a match or a tournament, but a “product”! Duh! — that features the T20-Bollywood nexus, some matches feature stars from a soon-to-be-released Bollywood movie. Stars from that movie are featured in the crowd and interviewed on the sidelines. Bipasha Basu was there as a cast member from a movie called “All The Best” there! The cast from “Blue” was there a few days back at the Bangalore Royal Challengers must-win game.

Meanwhile, there has been some cricket action worth noting in the CLT20. In particular, J. P. Duminy’s spectacular century for Cape Cobras against Royal Bangalore Challengers — and by the way, one cannot talk/write about T20 games unless one adopts adjectives like “SpecTACular” and “StuPENDous” and “CRACKing” and “SMASHing” from the Ravi Shastri book of adjectives.

It looks like the following teams will make it to the Super-8 stage:
Group-A: Deccan Chargers (provided they beat T&T) and Trinidad & Tobago
Group-B: NSW (already qualified) and possibly Sussex (Piyush Chawla plays for Sussex)
Group-C: Cape Cobras and Bangalore Royal Challengers (already qualified)
Group-D: Delhi Daredevils and Victorian Bushrangers (already qualified)

Disclaimer:

Despite the above, I still do like the T20 format. Like Bollywood films, you watch it, feel good about it, complete your ironing at the same time, remember nothing of it, shake a leg and move on to the next thing. However, I am utterly convinced that it was a terrible shame that

(A) India won the inaugural World T20 Championship,
(B) that (A) above woke up the product-packager in Lalit Modi
(C) that ICL, a pre-cursor to Lalit Modi’s product-package was a flop.

I am also utterly convinced that, with Lalit Modi (and now Dean Kino) and the apparent success of IPL, CLT20 and the Bollywood-T20 package, the T20 format cannot co-exist with Tests and ODIs. Something has to give. Wiser cricketing minds than I have talked about the easy co-existence of these three different “products” (Sic! Get me a bucket, quick!).

I am not convinced. Something has to give.

The recent spate of meaningless ODIs have come at a time when the attractiveness of T20 is on the rise. Witness the meaningless set of 7 ODIs between England and Australia! The Champions Trophy had as much fizz as a bottle of coke left open for a few months in the heat of Chennai! We now face the prospect of 7 ODIs between India and Australia on the conclusion of the CLT20 tournament. I am certainly not looking forward to that series of games. The recently concluded Challenger Trophy in India had an audience of about 25 at most of the games — and that number includes the groundsmen, the cops and those wishing to emulate the SpecTACular Ravi Shastri and invade our living rooms through the ubiquitous idiot box!

The ODI format has to give, in my view. And it is time for our administrators to get their collective heads out of the sand that surrounds said heads!

But then that is another debate for another day!

— Mohan

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Teams for NZ Tour

The Indian cricket selectors have, I think, done well to pick good/strong teams for Indias’ tour of New Zealand. Some selection highlights for me are:

  • Continuing to invest in Ravindra Jadeja — he gets a gig in the T20 team.
  • Investing in Dhawal Kulkarni.
  • Re-investing in Lakshmipathy Balaji.
  • Continuing to invest in M. Vijay in the Test team.

The teams are

Test squad: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt/wk), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel, M Vijay, Amit Mishra, L Balaji, Dhawal Kulkarni, Dinesh Karthik (wk)

ODI squad: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt/wk), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar, Irfan Pathan, Munaf Patel, Pragyan Ojha, Dinesh Karthik (wk)

Twenty20 squad: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt/wk), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Irfan Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar, Munaf Patel, Pragyan Ojha, Dinesh Karthik (wk)

Is there a TN-bias to the selection?

The presence of L. Balaji is seen by many as TN-bias on the part of Kris Srikkanth, the Chief Selector. That would be unfortunate as well as unnecessary, although somewhat understandable. The Test team has provided passage for three TN players in the form of M. Vijay (ahead of possibilities such as Wasim Jaffer, Aakash Chopra, Ajinkya Rahane, Robin Uthappa), L. Balaji (ahead of Pankaj Singh, Ashok Dinda, Irfan Pathan and Praveen Kumar) and Dinesh Karthik (ahead of Parthiv Patel).

However, Vijay did shine in the one Test opportunity he got and must be persevered with, in my view. One can feel sorry for Ajinkya Rahane. He was the 2nd highest scorer in the Ranji season (with an aggregate of 1089 runs @ and avg of 68.06 that included 4 centuries). He has had a stunning domestic season and is, along with Cheteshwar Pujara, one to watch for the future.

Dinesh Karthik has had a stunning year with the bat and has pipped Parthiv Patel at the post. The Gujarat ‘keeper has done nothing wrong and must just continue to put in the hard-yards in the domestic circuit. Dinesh Karthik has done everything right. He was the 10th highest scorer in the Ranjis with an aggregate of 634 (3 centuries) and an average of 63.4 runs. Having said that, Parthiv Patel wasn’t really too far behind (with 526 runs in aggregate, @ 47.81, including 1 century). But when the cards fell, Dinesh Karthik just had the right number on his side. He was also the highest scorer in the Duleep Trophy with two centuries in three Duleep Trophy games for South Zone. The fact that Karthik had opened well in England may have also counted in his favour. Both Dinesh Karthik and Parthiv Patel are very young. Karthik is only 23. Both of them will have hurt badly from the experience in Sri Lanka. Karthik played badly in the first two Test matches. He batted poorly and his ‘keeping also fell apart. However, Parthiv Patel, who played in the 3rd Test fared worse! So, both of them needed a strong domestic season, lest upstarts like Wriddhiman Saha usurp their position. Both of them did put in a good showing. However, when the cards fell, Karthik had the numbers.

L. Balaji has been, in my view, somewhat lucky. Yes, he was the 4th highest wicket-taker in the Ranji Season and also had a good Duleep Trophy outing. Given that the highest wicket-taker was already rewarded with a ticket to New Zealand (Kulkarni) and given that 2 and 3 on the pecking order were spinners (Ravindra Jadeja and the now-banned Mohnish Parmar!), his ticket could have been seen as reward for a good showing. My own view is that he need not have been rushed into the Test arena. Its just been a year since his comeback from injury. His first major step on the big stage was the IPL. Since then, he has, no doubt, been bowling well. But to get him straight back into the Test side may have been a bit too much.

But then, these are the rewards of a good showing in the domestic circuit. The current selectors seem to be rewarding strong domestic showing quite consistently — set in the context of long-term team-development — and for that, they do deserve some credit.

Bits-and-pieces players:

I have been saying for sometime now that players like Abhiskek Nayar, Yusuf Pathan and Ravindra Jadeja are the future of India’s ODI and T20 mix. It is good that these guys are getting a clutch of games at the highest level to prove their mettle. The press in India tags them with the moniker “bits and pieces players”. This is erroneous. It is also a disrespect to the quality that these guys bring to the table in the T20 and ODI arena. They are not “bits and pieces players”. They are clever players who bat and bowl well! I’d like to see opportunities given to players like Abhishek Nayar and Rajat Bhatia in the near future too.

Experimentation

M. S. Dhoni has shown the way in handling players like Ravindra Jadeja, Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina in recent ODI games. In the final ODI against Sri Lanka, I felt he took it a wee-bit too far by bowling as many as 9 bowlers in the game! That’s a bit much. But you need those kinds of options in the middle overs. Even though the pitches may not turn much in New Zealand, I think the middle-overs bowled by Virender Sehwag, Yusuf Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma will be quite crucial.

From that point of view, it is good to see the selectors invest strongly in Jadeja. Yes, he is not part of the ODI Team. After the two T20 games at the start of the series, Jadeja makes way for Sachin Tendulkar. That is fair enough!

I think the selectors will only drop Tendulkar from the ODI scene when he himself says that he has had enough! I suspect he won’t say that until after the next World Cup. He seems to want that silverware in his cabinet more than anything else! Given that he has served Indian cricket in the manner that he has, one could afford him that luxury, I think!

What we have seen in recent T20 games and ODIs is that Dhoni is really his own man when it comes to executing batting plans, setting the batting order and exploring bowling options. In a recent interview, he said that this was because he wanted each player to experience different roles in order to have an appreciation for what a #3 needs to do and what a #6 needs to do in different match situations.

In a perverse manner, this is exactly what Guru Greg Chappell tried to instil in the team when he was at the helm! The difference was that Guru Greg, instead of just doing it, wanted to preach his ideology, convert everyone to his way of thinking, convince everyone that he was right and then hail him as a messiah and a saviour! He started the “process is more important than the outcome” mantra. He was subsequently lambasted and lampooned in the media for “experimenting” too much! The word “experimentation” was taboo during his reign. Guru Greg choked on his own mantra and was caught in the headlights, with nowhere to go.

Instead of aspiring to be a messiah and a saviour, Dhoni just does it and lets others write about his method! The outcome is a more flexible Team India! Ironically, Guru Greg’s method survives after he has been buried!

Possible Teams:

The T20 and ODI teams select themselves:
Possible Twenty20 squad: Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt/wk), Yusuf Pathan, Irfan Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar
Subs: Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel, Pragyan Ojha, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Rohit Sharma

I’d take Praveen Kumar ahead of Ishant Sharma and would take Ravindra Jadeja ahead of Rohit Sharma. But these are possibly the only two debatable spots in my view. There are questions being asked about Pragyan Ojha’s selection in the T20 and ODI teams, given that pitches are unlikely to offer too much spin in New Zealand. However, from a team-development point of view, I think this is a good move. Ojha did bowl really well in recent ODIs. He should be part of the team mix and should get a gig, in my view.

Possible ODI squad: Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt/wk), Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar.
Subs: Irfan Pathan, Munaf Patel, Pragyan Ojha, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Rohit Sharma,

I’d take Praveen Kumar ahead of Irfan Pathan. And I’d take Raina ahead of Rohit Sharma. Who knows? With a lot of cricket around the corner, should India go ahead in the series — as it did in Sri Lanka — it would be an opportunity to play Pragyan Ojha, Rohit Sharma, Irfan Pathan and Dinesh Karthik instead of (respectively) Harbhajan Singh, Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan and M. S. Dhoni.

Possible Test squad: Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt/wk), Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel
Subs: M Vijay, Amit Mishra, L Balaji, Dhawal Kulkarni, Dinesh Karthik (wk)

The Test team is the one that selects itself most emphatically. There can’t be too many doubts or questions in the composition of this team. It is unlikely that the team will go with more than 4 main bowlers (with Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Tendulkar as other possible bowlers to relieve the strike bowlers). The only question, in my view, is whether Munaf Patel gets the gig ahead of Dhawal Kulkarni. I’d go for experience ahead of raw pace for the first Test. Moreover, Munaf Patel does seem to have the ability to swing the ball more in conditions that are likely to be presented in countries like NZ, South Africa and England. So, he might get the nod ahead of Kulkarni. But it may not be a bad idea to give Kulkarni a go in one of the Test matches.

The selectors have continued to invest in Rahul Dravid — as they should — in spite of his poor showing in the Duleep Trophy finals. Having said that, I am not sure they would be as patient with him after yet another poor tour. They have also sent a clear signal to Yuvraj Singh that he is in the mix for a long stint in the Test middle order. This should settle him down and should allow him to cash in on this opportunity.

Overall, this has been a good selection effort by the selectors.

— Mohan

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

Thinking ‘Out of the box’ for India’s tour of NZ

With India’s tour to Pakistan canceled, post 26/11, India had an opportunity of a slightly extended tour to New Zealand. And indeed, India are now playing an additional Test match and an extra Twenty20 in New Zealand.

However, instead of lengthening the tour to accommodate these additional matches, the extra matches have been featured at the cost of canceling the practice game that was originally scheduled.

India will also be playing five ODIs and a Twenty20 game at Sri Lanka from Jan 28 to Feb 10.

Once again, the BCCI has proved that if India does well in international cricket it is despite the BCCI and not because of it. The utter stupidity of this decision to cancel the scheduled practice game — in order to accommodate an additional Test and Twenty20 — shocks me.

The schedule for the series in New Zealand is:

– 25 Feb: 1st Twenty20 international, Christchurch
– 27 Feb: 2nd Twenty20 international, Wellington
– 3 Mar: 1st ODI, Napier
– 6 Mar: 2nd ODI, Wellington
– 8 Mar: 3rd ODI, Christchurch
– 11 Mar: 4th ODI, Hamilton
– 14 Mar: 5th ODI, Auckland
– 18-22 Mar: 1st Test, Hamilton
– 26-30 Mar: 2nd Test, Napier
– 3-7 Apr: 3rd Test, Wellington

Now, to my mind, there is no reason why a few (not just one or two, but a few) 3-day practice games cannot be organised for Team India between 25 Feb and 14 March even with the above itinerary.

If we consider the current India ODI team and Test team, there are players like Rahul Dravid, V. V. S. Laxman, S. Badrinath, Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma and Sachin Tendulkar who do not (need to) feature in the ODI team.

There are Team India ODI players like Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, M. S. Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan who are also a part of the Team India Test side. While they get acclimatised to NZ conditions by playing their ODI games, there is no reason why the rest of the Test team should not play a few practice games in NZ!

A more proactive and forward-thinking BCCI would have married the “making money” strategy with the need for practice and pragmatism to come up with a winning strategy. Unfortunately though, BCCI seems constantly incapable of thinking beyond the money prerogative — a strategy that necessitates more matches being played!

It would be easy to form the following two teams and have them play in New Zealand simultaneously:

ODI Team India:
Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, M. S. Dhoni, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel (Subs: Irfan Pathan, Virat Kohli, Pragyan Ojha, Mohammed Kaif)

NZ Practice Matches India:
Wasim Jaffer, M. Vijay, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, V. V. S. Laxman, S. Badrinath, Parthiv Patel, Manpreet Gony, Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma, R. P. Singh (Subs: Ashok Dinda, Cheteshwar Pujara, Abhishek Nayar, Chetanya, Nanda, Piyush Chawla)

This assumes that Sachin Tendulkar and Ishant Sharma are “rested” from ODI duties. However, even if that is not a valid assumption, since both teams would be in the same country, players can be mixed and matched between the two teams!

In essence, what I am calling for is a marriage between the “make money” strategy with “pargmatic necessity” to come up with an innovative winning strategy.

Alas! The BCCI has repeatedly indicated that it is incapable of thinking beyond packed tours and money!

— Mohan

Team composition for the 3rd ODI

England bat deep. So deep that Ravi Bopara is forced to come in at No. 8 and Stuart Broad, who averages around 37 runs and has 3 fifties to his credit in his short Test career, comes in at No. 9. Yet, they’ve had trouble overhauling the totals set by India in the first two matches.

A lot has been said about England’s team composition and the blame for the two defeats attributed to that. I disagree with this – Their batting on paper, as I’ve pointed out, is quite deep and in the bowling department, they have gone with four front line bowlers. Most teams go in with 4 full time bowlers and the other 10 overs are usually bowled by part timers. England have Anderson, Broad, Flintoff and Harmison as their front line bowlers and to add to that they have Collingwood (who is quite capable of bowling 10 overs by himself if he isn’t playing in the sub-continent), Samit Patel, Bopara and Pieterson to chip in to complete the remaining overs. The only serious debate is whether they should include a front-line spinner in the team and that would definitely be worth considering – Graeme Swann (and he can bat, too) is indeed tipped to start in the ODI at Kanpur.

The real problem, in my opinion, lies with the batting order in the team. In particular, the opening combination is just woeful. Matt Prior has had a very poor run – in his 27 outings as opener, he has crossed fifty just once – and his strike rate has been around the 75 mark. Bell has fared better than Prior  – he has averaged around 34 and has 5 fifties, but his strike rate is only around 69. Both have had slow starts, chewing up precious power play overs and haven’t converted them into big scores.

(Compare this to Sehwag (who has a SR close to 100) and Gambhir (SR of 84+), who have been giving good starts to India)

There is nothing wrong with a traditional slow start if one (or both) openers go on to make a big score and leaving a launch pad for hitters like the Boparas, Flintoffs and Patels to come in later and do their stuff. But that isn’t happening either. Prior at the top of the order has failed and needs to be replaced with someone else. Maybe England can try something dramatic like sending in someone like Flintoff or Bopara to start the innings. Shah needs to go back to No. 5 or 6 – the position he has occupied in most of his ODI games.

Pieterson (their No. 1 batsman and captain) needs to come in at No. 3, followed by Collingwood, Bopara, Shah and Patel. Prior can be the new No. 8 batsman. My batting line up would look something like this –

  1. Flintoff
  2. Bell
  3. Pieterson
  4. Bopara
  5. Collingwood
  6. Shah
  7. Patel
  8. Prior
  9. Broad
  10. Swann
  11. Harmison/Anderson

India, on the other hand have no major selection dilemmas at the moment. Ishant Sharma, who is now fit, is likely to come into the team to replace RP Singh – apart from that they are expected to retain the same playing XI. However, if India wins the third one day as well, I would expect a few people to be rested and rotated – probably starting with the captain MS Dhoni.

-Mahesh-