Tag Archives: Ojha

Where to from here for India?

So India lost the first Test at the SSC in Colombo. Correction. They did not just lose the 1st Test. They were mauled by what Sri Lankan captain, Mahela Jeyawardane called “the perfect Test“. It was indeed a “perfect” performance by Sri Lanka. Muthiah Muralidharan had a terrific Test match and Ajantha Mendis — I was a fan of his style of bowling from the moment I saw him in the Asia Cup Final — had a perfect debut Test. The Sri Lankan batsmen kept their foot on the pedal when they batted and made the most of shoddy fielding, bad catching and a lacklustre bowling performance by the Indians.

So where does India go from here?

Unfortunately, given the team composition that India has gone with, and given the captain’s proclivity to back his peers, nothing much can really be done!

Dinesh Karthik had an awful match. He made several blunders in his ‘keeping and his batting made Devang Gandhi look like a better alternative! It was that bad! However, I do not believe that the team will dare risk Parthiv Patel as a replacement! So it begs the question: Why did Parthiv Patel go in the first place? Would it not have been better to take a youngster like Srivats Goswami?

In the bowling department, Zaheer Khan bowled like a millionaire and Ishant Sharma was largely ineffective. Having said that, it is not like the team would risk swapping them with R. P. Singh and Munaf Patel? Munaf Patel bowls just a tad faster than Chaminda Vaas’s slower ball these days — which, in turn, is just marginally slower than Anil Kumble’s normal delivery! 🙂

It is likely that R. P. Singh might replace Zaheer Khan and if the team management had courage, this swap may be profitable. It does not mean that R. P. Singh is a better bowler. But given the listless ineffectiveness of Zaheer Khan’s approach in the 1st Test, it may be that a shake-up is needed!

The spin bowling department presents more serious questions. Anil Kumble cannot be dropped. He is the captain. Harbhajan Singh was pedestrian in his approach and quality. It may be a good idea to swap him for Pragyan Ojha? But is this a viable option? It isn’t as if Ojha has a Mendis-like reputation behind him. And having not been in a pressure situation in the past, it is unlikely that India will risk losing pressure-cooker-situation experience for a debutant. For, however ineffective Harbhajan Singh was, he does have pressure-cooker-situation experience on his side. It will take a brave — very brave — captain to swap Harbhajan Singh for Pragyan Ojha for the 2nd Test!

The only way Ojha (or another pace bowler) can slot in is if one of the Fab Four batsmen is dropped (either that or Gautam Gambhir is dropped to allow Dinesh Karthik to open the innings). These are unlikely scnarios.

So, in the bowling and ‘keeping department, apart from a possible swap of R. P. Singh for Zaheer Khan, I do not foresee any change that India can make!

The batting is even more interesting! Given the absence of an all-rounder in the team, India is forced the hand it has been dealt by the selectors! Given the balance of the team and given that the batsmen capitulated so meekly in the 1st Test, nothing dramatic is going to happen with the batting — either the composition or the line-up! So, I predict the same batting line-up that India took to the 1st Innings of the Colombo Test — with Dravid at #3. In my view, there is nothing wrong with Dravid at #3. He is struggling, but I haven’t seen any evidence to indicate that Laxman is in the form of his life either!

It will require some courage for Kumble and the Team management to swap Sourav Ganguly for Rohit Sharma. In my view, this will be a welcome change and the commencement of a gradual phase-out of the Fab Four. However, in my view, it will not happen now. Kumble is perhaps too much of a traditionalist and peer-group-camaraderie-captain to go down that route. These are hard decisions that require a hard, relentless and uncompromising leader. In this regard, Kumble is no Steve Waugh.

So I suspect that the batting order will be the same too!

All an India fan can hope for is a better showing from its ‘stars’.

We live in hope of a bounce-back by India. It is possible. It has been done before. It needs the team to step up to the plate and play with the aggression and intent that it can.

— Mohan

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Sri Lanka Presidents’ XI warm-up game…

India play a 3-day game starting Saturday 19th July, ahead of their first Test against Sri Lanka, which commences on Wed 23 July 2008.

India’s last Test match was in April against the South Africans. Since then the Indian players have played a few Twenty20 games and quite a few meaningless one-dayers!

India will want to test out a full-strength side for the game — if nothing else, to help players like Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, V. V. S. Laxman, Harbhajan Singh, Anil Kumble, Dinesh Karthik and Zaheer Khan shake off some of the rust that may have collected over the last few months of cricket-inactivity.

It may be a good idea to give Virender Sehwag a bit of a break and get Gautam Gambhir to open with Dinesh Karthik! This will allow India an opprtunity to tes out a Sehwag-Karthik opening opportunity. In my view this combination is required in this team to develop a better balance to the side.

With that in mind, my India team for the Board Presidents XI game would be:

Gautam Gambhir
Dinesh Karthik
Rahul Dravid
Sachin Tendulkar
Sourav Ganguly
VVS Laxman
Anil Kumble (captain)
Harbhajan Singh
Zaheer Khan
Ishant Sharma
Pragyan Ojha / RP Singh

This could well be the Test team too, if the opening combination with Karthik works well. If not, Karthik may have to drop down the order to #7 with the team losing a bowler (the Ojha / RP.Singh spot).

The Sri Lankan Board team is a strong one. It will be led by Jehan Mubarak and includes Dilhara Fernando, Chamara Silva and Upul Tharanga.

— Mohan

It is an India Vs Sri Lanka Final…

India beat Sri Lanka in another high-scoring encounter at Karachi to storm into the Asia Cup Finals. The hosts, Pakistan, will be left with much to ponder and dissect. Already there is talk of Pakistan sacking Geoff Lawson as coach!

This tournament has been a bowlers’ nightmare. Scores of 300 are being regularly hacked down with several overs to spare. So also in last nights’ game. Despite the early loss of the in-form and dangerous Kumar Sangakkara and despite Sanath Jayasuriya’s departure before much serious damage could be inflicted, Sri Lanka got to a score of 308-8 in their 50 overs. Like India had the day before, the Sri Lankan innings never quite took off. Everytime the batsmen threatened to go into orbit speed, India would take a wicket and peg those ambitions down. Not that the bowling or fielding was good, mind you! It is just that the Sri Lankan batsmen could not quite take off. Just when Jayasuriya seemed set, he departed. Similarly Mahela Jayawardena, Kapugedera, Chamara Silva and Tilakaratne Dilshan. They never quite got going. In the end, 308 was, one felt, about 20 runs short.

The Indian fielding effort was lazy. Pragyan Ojha let one go through his legs although he did dive smartly in the middle overs to convert a sure boundary into a two. Ishant Sharma messed up a few on the boundary ropes! R. P. Singh had a wild throw that resulted in over-throws. Sehwag was late in getting a dive in. Even Suresh Raina messed up a few dives and a few throws. Yuvraj Singh, however, remains a serious concern on the field. It is not as if he has become slower in the field. He has. It seems as though his dodgy knee prevents him from being totally alive in the field. This condition enabled him to make an absolute dogs’ breakfast of a Sanath Jayasuria chance at mid-on early in the piece! This must be a concern for the team management. A fit-and-fighting Yuvraj Singh is an asset to the team.

When batting, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir started as though they were either at a hit-and-giggle cricket-camp or, at best, the nets! They laughed and joked their way to 92 off 11 overs before Sehwag tried a cute paddle-scoop, only to flush the ball down Dilhara Fernando’s throat! They batted in a cavalier manner with gay abandon. Gautam Gambhir has grown in confidence as an impact player. And with Sehwag, he is a more complete player, one feels. They have a very good understanding between themselves and this shows in the way they play their cricket. Although Suresh Raina looked a bit shaky early on, he too settled down to play smart cricket. Against the run of play, it seemed, Gambhir got out to Muthiah Muralidharan’s second over.

Dhoni then made a bold move. He promoted himself at 2-down! I thought this was a smart move. Both he and Suresh Raina had played the dangerous Muralidharan in the nets in the IPL — all three played for Chennai SuperKings. Moreover, Yuvraj Singh is not that comfortable, one feels, taking guard against an in-form and ticking Muralidharan. So the decision to elevate himself in the batting order showed both courage as well as flexibility on the part of Dhoni.

Nearly 100 runs later, when the match was almost sealed and in the bag, both Raina and Dhoni got out. But Yuvraj Singh and Rohit Shrama carried India home with 3 overs to spare! The 30 runs that Sri Lanka could not score mattered in the end.

The final is between the two best teams in the tournament.

India took Pragyan Ojha instead of Piyush Chawla. This move paid off. Ojha bowled better than Chawla, in my view. India also played R. P. Singh instead of Yusuf Pathan. They would be tempted to stick with the same team for the final.

– Mohan

Team India for Bangladesh Tri-Series and Asia Cup

In a week from now, Team India travels to Bangladesh to take on Pakistan and Bangladesh in a tri-series ahead of the Asia Cup, which will also include Sri Lanka.

We at i3j3Cricket had predicted the team makeup and there were no real surprises when the selectors announced a team that was not too different from the one that had won in Australia in February/March this year. Given Sachin Tendulkar’s withdrawal, R. P. Singh’s return to the fold and Dinesh Karthik’s slide, the team make up was not too surprising. Some IPL performances were rewarded — notably Yusuf Pathan and Pragyan Ojha.

The team that has been selected has a balanced and youthful look to it. I will not be surprised if the team that takes to the park on June 10th (a week from now) against Pakistan is (in batting order):

Gautam Gambhir
Virender Sehwag
Robin Uthappa / Suresh Raina
Yuvraj Singh
Rohit Sharma
Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Yusuf Pathan
Irfan Pathan
Piyush Chawla / Pragyan Ojha
Sreesanth / Praveen Kumar / R. P. Singh
Ishant Sharma

On current form, this is, in my view, a very strong team. The opening combination is a winning combination.

— Mohan

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-