Tag Archives: Pujara

What is Suresh Raina doing in the Indian Test team?

The selection of Suresh Raina in the Indian Test team to tour Sri Lanka is a clear indication that the IPL and subsequent ODI performances are influencing the selectors much more than other more conventional parameters.

Nearly all international teams include a player in their Test team based on 2 important criteria:

  • Indications of a solid domestic record with a penchant for scoring centuries (an indication of temperament), or
  • Pointers to a prodigious talent that is capable of doing well at the highest level as evidenced by a few sparkling performances.

Around the world, these broad criteria apply. Michael Hussey got into the Australian Test Team after scoring a mountain of runs in the domestic circuit, while Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting got in because they showed glimpses of immense talent at a very young age.

This can be seen clearly in the well chronicled success stories of Indian cricket in the last 20 years — the Fab Four! Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman had scored tons of runs — including many centuries — in domestic cricket before moving on to Test team selection. They have since proved their mettle on the international stage.

We are not going to even mention the case of God in this context!

On the other hand we have had batsmen like Sourav Ganguly and Virender Sehwag who have done well over the years because their talent was identified early. They were then given opportunities to hone their talent on the world stage.

The success and hype surrounding the IPL has given a sudden boost to the fortunes of many cricketers who have been suddenly pitchforked to the Indian ODI team and then, the Test team, strictly on the basis of their T20 performances.

A clear example of such hubris driven folly is the case of Suresh Raina, in our view.

There is no doubt in our mind that Raina is a talented cricketer. But what has he done in domestic cricket that sends shivers down the spine of opponents the world over? Nothing much. Nothing spectacular.

He has played 51 matches (86 innings) and scored 3684 runs (6 centuries and 25 fifties) with a high score of 203 at an average of 44.38 per game. His last big domestic season was 2005-06 when he scored 620 runs in six games and guided Uttar Pradesh to winning the Ranji Trophy.

In direct contrast, we have S. Badrinath who turns in solid performances year-in-year-out. He has played 85 matches (123 innings) and scored 6252 (22 centuries and 27 fifties) with a high score of 250 and at an average of 57.35!

What? You don’t like the structure of Badrinath’s cheek bones and the colour of his eyelashes?

Look at Cheteshwar Pujara then. The man has played almost as many games as Suresh Raina has and so, may be a more compelling comparison perhaps. Pujara has played 49 First Class matches (78 innings) and scored 3925 runs with a top score of 302 (not out), at an average of 60.38. He has made 14 hundreds and 13 fifties.

Ok. So you think anyone with the name Pujara shouldn’t be trusted?

So, let us look at Rohit Sharma then?

Rohit Sharma has played 36 First Class matches (52 innings), and scored 2641 runs with a top score of 309 not out at an average of 55.02 that includes 8 centuries and 11 fifties.

We can also have a look at other players like Ajinkya Rahane, Abhinav Mukund, et al.

We have no doubt that Suresh Raina is a good player. He has performed well in ODIs and T20s for India and has done well for Chennai Super Kings in the IPL. He is an electric fielder and has tremendous commitment and nous.

But, the question remains: What is Suresh Raina doing in the Test team ahead of Badrinath, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane and Abhinav Mukund?

— Sanjay & Mohan

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Irani Trophy and Challengers

The teams for the Irani Trophy and the Challenger Trophy, the traditional curtain-raisers for the cricket season in India, have been announced. By and large, the teams are good and sound in what is expected to be a good season in India; one in which several Team India stars are expected to turn out, somewhat unexpectedly, for their home states.

Irani Trophy

The Rest of India team features two Team India players who are on their comeback from injury: Virender Sehwag and Sree Santh. Zaheer Khan is still on the mend and so it appears as though it will be a while yet before we see him in action for India.

Cheteshwar Pujara is another notable absentee. He had an amazing run in last years’ Ranji Trophy and went onto the injury bench just prior to this year’s IPL. He misses out because he he is till injured.

A notable and exciting inclusion is young TN opener, Abhinav Mukund, who gets a call on the back of a successful Ranji season. He may not play, given the presence of M. Vijay and Virender Sehwag as openers. However, this is a step in the right direction for this young left-hander.

Two notable exclusions are Parhiv Patel and Mohammed Kaif! The former has been edged out by the exciting talents of Wriddhiman Saha and the 22-year old, Punjab ‘keeper, Uday Kaul. However, this non-selection must come as a rude shock for Mohammed Kaif in both the Irani game as well as the 3 Challenger teams! Remember that Mohammed Kaif is a contracted Team India player! This non-selection, on the back of the fact that he did not get selected for the Rajasthan Royals in this year’s IPL, must be a blow to the young man, who must wonder where his career is at.

Kaif has probably been edged out by 24-year old Pune batsman, Kedar Jadhav. Irfan Pathan and Munaf Patel get a chance to reconstruct their Team India prospects through this Irani game.

I expect the following Rest of India (probable team):

M. Vijay / Abhinav Mukund
Virender Sehwag
Virat Kohli
S Badrinath
Manoj Tiwary / Kedar Jadhav
Ravindra Jadeja
Wriddhiman Saha / Uday Kaul
Irfan Pathan
S Sreesanth / Sudeep Tyagi
Munaf Patel
Pragyan Ojha

The Mumbai team for the Irani Trophy sports a healthy look under the leadership of Wasim Jaffer and with the presence of Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane. Prashant Naik gets a look in given that Amol Muzumdar has moved in the off-season to Assam! The probable Mumbai Team is:

Wasim Jaffer
Sahil Kukreja
Ajinkya Rahane
Rohit Sharma
Prashant Naik
Vinayak Samant / Sushant Marathe
Ajit Agarkar
Ramesh Powar
Dhawal Kulkarni
Rahil Shaikh / Murtuza Hussain / Saurabh Netravalkar
OJ Khanvilkar / Iqbal Abdulla

This should be a cracker of a contest and should set the scene for the rest of the India season.

Challenger Trophy:

The Challenger Trophy squads:

India Red:
M Vijay
Sunny Sohal
Shikhar Dhawan
Yuvraj Singh (capt.)
Saurabh Tiwary / Harshad Khadiwale
Ravindra Jadeja
Wriddhiman Saha (wk)
R Ashwin / Ishank Jaggi
Sudeep Tyagi / Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Munaf Patel
Ishant Sharma

India Green:
Parthiv Patel / Uday Kaul (wk)
Tanmay Srivastava
Ajinkya Rahane
Suresh Raina (capt.)
S Badrinath
Manoj Tiwary / Ravi Inder Singh
Irfan Pathan
L Balaji
Dhawal Kulkarni
Pankaj Singh
Chetanya Nanda / Sadab Jakati

India Blue:
Sachin Tendulkar
Wasim Jaffer
MS Dhoni (capt.)
Naman Ojha
Kedar Jadhav / Dhiraj Goswami
Abhishek Nayar
Yusuf Pathan / Jalaj Saxena
Harbhajan Singh
Siddharth Trivedi
Sreesanth
Ashok Dinda / Suresh Kumar

A few surprises here. First, while it is nice to see Suresh Raina’s elevation to captaincy, is it a bit too early for him? Does he really have captaincy material? Second, it is interesting to note that, as I have pointed out before, Mohammed Kaif can’t find a place amongst the best 42 players in the land! Mind you, this set of 42 players does not include players from The Bangalore Royal Challengers players (like Robin Uthappa, Praveen Kumar and Rahul Dravid) and The Deccan Chargers players (like V. V. S. Laxman, R. P. Singh, Pragyan Ojha, Rohit Sharma, Tirumalasetti Suman and Venugopal Rao) who are playing in the Challengers because the Champions League will be on at the same time as The Challengers. This means that Mohammed Kaif is not amongst the 51 best ODI players in the land? And he still carries a central contract? Baffling…

The teams look well balanced and will be a nice selection platform for the endless series of ODIs against Australia.

— Mohan

The contenders

Saurav “dada” Ganguly has retired and that has opened up a slot in the middle order, that is up for grabs. The race is truly on. The list of contenders has been doing the rounds for a while now and here is my take on them. I’ve also included their form guide since start of October.

Yuvraj Singh

This man is an enigma. He has been in International cricket for over 8 years, won matches for India, fields brilliantly and yet has struggled to find a spot in the Test team. In 36 innings, he has 3 hundreds and 3 fifties – not good. If he does not find a spot in the side soon, he will become the Michael Bevan of India – Great one day player, forgettable Test player. Currently the leading contender for the berth – a fact that has been confirmed by Kris Srikkanth, the chairman of selectors.

Form Guide:

Match Score
India vs England 3rd ODI 38
India vs England 2nd ODI 118
India vs England 1st ODI 138*
Punjab vs Delhi 0, 38
India Blue vs India Red 8*
India Blue vs India Green 3
India Blue vs India Red 6
Board Presidents XI vs Australia 29, 113

Cons: Suspect against spin, questionable attitude, recent form slump, injury woes. A confidence player.

Pros: The two match winning performances against England should give his confidence and chances a boost. He loves the English bowling (remember the 6 sixes against Broad). Still young (26), but has loads of experience and can absorb pressure. Being left handed in an otherwise right handed middle-order is also a good thing.

Rohit Sharma

Showed he belongs in the big league with good performance against Australia in Australia and before that in the T20 World Cup, but is yet to get a big score in his 28 outings in ODIs – his highest score has only been 70* and he averages just under 25 – but that could be due to the fact that he comes down the order and hasn’t played enough matches yet.

Match Score
India vs England 3rd ODI 28
India vs England 2nd ODI 3
India vs England 1st ODI 11*
Mumbai vs Rajasthan 62, 128
India Red vs India Blue 1
India Red vs India Green 117*
India Red vs India Blue 2
Board Presidents XI vs Australia 105, 29*

Cons: Lack of consistency, Poor string of scores in International cricket.

Pros: Good technique. Big match player. Like Sehwag, he may not score heavily in first class matches. But on the big stage, he can absorb pressure and play well. Playing well of late – a 100 against the Aussies playing for the Board President’s XI and good scores (62 & 129) against Rajasthan in the Ranji match before the ODI series began. Like most of the contenders, has age on his side (only 21)

Suresh Raina

Being the blue eyed boy of Greg Chappell probably put more pressure than him than it was worth. Only 21 and has already had a bit of rollercoaster ride in his short career which started off with a first ball duck. Huge potential and it is really a question of when he will play in the Test side – not if.

 Form Guide:

Match Score
India vs England 3rd ODI 1
India vs England 2nd ODI 4
India vs England 1st ODI 43
Uttar Pradesh vs Andhra 22
India Green vs India Blue 16
India Green vs India Red 58
India A vs New Zealand A 11, 5

Cons: Hasn’t had s good run of scores since the start of October.

Pros: Fielding. Technique. Only 21, but has already played high pressure situations and handled them well. Left handed batsman.

Murali Vijay

Consistent performances in the Ranji could not be ignored and he was drafted into the Test squad as a replacement for the suspended Gambhir. Although didn’t cross fifty in either innings, impressed everyone with the way he handled the Aussie fast bowlers.

Form Guide:

Match Score
India vs Australia 4th Test 33, 41
Tamil Nadu vs Maharashtra 243
India Red vs India Blue 30
India Red vs India Green 45
India Red vs India Blue 89
India A vs New Zealand A 98, 0

 

Cons: Plays as an opener and that may act against him. India usually play a middle order batsman as on opener – not the other way around!

Pros: In form. Good technique. Impressed everyone with his fielding which included a couple of run outs in his debut test.

Chateshwar Pujara

This man is on a roll. 3 Triple-hundreds since September – granted that two of them were in the U-22, but you still can’t ignore that. And he just scored another big hundred (189) against Punjab. If you are looking for an in-form batsman to fit into the middle order – he is your man.

Form Guide:

Match Score
Saurashtra vs Punjab 189
Saurashtra vs Orissa 302*
Saurashtra vs Gujarat 8, 0
India Green vs India Blue 65
India Green vs India Red 18*
Saurashtra U-19 vs Maharashtra U-19 309
India A vs New Zealand A 89, 0

Cons: No international exposure as yet. Batsmen in India usually get picked in ODIs first (you do have exceptions like Murali Vijay)

Pros: A good technique well suited for test cricket. Good temperament to play long innings. He is still young – under 21.

S. Badrinath

S. Badrinath has had strong scores in India A matches and in domestic cricket. As a result, he has been in the frame of the selectors for a while now, but has failed to click in key matches that would give him a promotion to the test spot. He has just scored a century for Tamil Nadu in the Ranji Trophy, but that is probably too little too late. He still has an outside chance of getting into the team though.

Form Guide:

Match Score
Tamil Nadu vs Uttar Pradesh 123
Tamil Nadi vs Karnataka 7
India Red vs India Blue 56
India Red vs India Green 27
India Red vs India Blue 10
Indian Board President’s XI vs Austraia 2, 14

Cons: Failures in key matches. Hasn’t had the big scores this season to push for a place in the side.

Pros: Technique suited for Test cricket. Consistent without being flamboyant. Has been around in domestic cricket for a while and has represented India in the “A” team with a lot of success. So, comes with a lot of experience.

The Outsiders

There are few others who could get a look in as well. Virat Kohli and Robin Uthappa and Kaif come to mind straight away – but as of now, they are more of outsiders than contenders.

-Mahesh-

Thoughts on Roy, the A teams, etc

First Bhajji, now Roy

We all know that Symonds is no angel (which the Aussie press sometimes makes him out to be). Neither is Harbhajan Singh – the two protagonists in the center of the racism row that erupted in Australia last summer. When Harbhajan slapped his fellow Indian team mate playing for a rival team in an IPL game, he copped a eleven match IPL suspension and a further 5 match ban from the BCCI. He was also warned that he could face a life ban if he crossed the line again.

Now it is the turn of Symonds to face disciplinary action for his transgressions. He was thrown out of the Australian team after he skipped a compulsory team meeting to go fishing – that’s right, fishing! He is going to miss the entire Bangladesh series and is not a surety to make it to the Australian team for the India tour.

Harbhajan has been on his best behaviour since his return –looks like being out of the team (and losing a lot of money in the process) has had a positive effect on him. Hopefully, it will work for Symmo as well.

Australia “A” vs India “A”

The India and Australia A teams are going to face up this month – This should be an interesting contest and here is my list of people to look out for on either side of the fence –

India Australia
S. Badrinath
Parthiv Patel
Piyush Chawla
Mohd. Kaif
Virat Kohli
Chateswar Pujara
Sreesanth
Robin Uthappa
Simon Katich
Adam Voges
Shaun Tait
Ashley Noffke
Bryce McGain

 

Both teams have players who are trying to impress the selectors and break into the senior team. Shikhar Dhawan who performed brilliantly in the Emerging players tournament in Australia is sadly injured and had to make way for Virat Kohli, who opened for India in the ODIs – but is actually a middle order batsman. India as usual are trying to make an opener out of a middle order batsman.

Funny that India’s choice of openers have always been middle order batsmen or wicket keepers! Maybe India should have also included Dinesh Karthik and let him open the innings with Parthiv Patel :).

Although Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina are playing the ODI games in the senior squad regularly, it wouldn’t have been a bad idea to have included them for the test matches. Manpreet Gony could have also been considered.

For the Aussies, this tour is going to be one big try out session for its spinners. They have three in the squad – Bryce McGain, Jason Krejza and Beau Casson. McGain is 36 years old – which some may consider as too old, but he was impressive in domestic cricket last season and as long as he is fit, his performance is the only thing that should really matter. Casson bowls left arm chinamans and has already made his debut for Australia, while Jason Krejza bowls right arm off break. One of the three is sure to find a spot in the senior team when they tour India later this year. Shaun Tait will only play in the ODI series, but it will be his first major outing since he decided to take a break from cricket. Simon Katich may also end up in the senior squad as he plays spin well and could also be a good back-up opener.

Dhoni tops ICC batting rankings

After consistent performances with the bat, Dhoni has topped the ICC ODI rankings. No Indian has been at the top of the rankings since Sachin Tendulkar vacated that position several months (or is it years?) ago. Dhoni has curbed his natural game and modified the way he plays and this has had a positive effect not only on his statistics, but also on the Indian team results.  I have always felt that Dhoni would make a great ODI opener, but the sad thing is that he may never again play in that position 😦 (He has only opened the innings for India twice but still has a high score in the nineties!)

-Mahesh-

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-