Tag Archives: Rohit Sharma

Team India for the World Cup

So, Team India has been announced. The team contains only one deviation to the team that we had predicted, with Piyush Chawla coming in for Sreesanth. I am not sure that is a great decision since there is very little “cover” for our over-fragile pace attack of Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Praveen Kumar (currently injured) and Munaf Patel. These days, a strong gust of wind tends to wreck the backs or sides of Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel and Praveen Kumar. So, some “cover” for them might have been a good idea.

With that in mind, Sreesanth might have been an adequate cover for the above physically “fragile” players, especially since it is likely — nay, almost certain — that India will always take the field with three pace-men.

To that end, I would be surprised if Piyush Chawla is anything other than a Dinesh Karthik (drinks, towel and message carrier) in the World Cup.

Given that India play 7 batsmen and 4-bowlers, I do not expect two spinners to play. If that were to happen, one (or both) of the spinners may be forced to operate in the first Power-Play and will be forced to operate in the second Power-Play. No captain will want to be forced into that situation, although they might choose to throw the ball to a spinner within the first 15 overs! So, I really do not expect Piyush Chawla to get a game in the World Cup.

I do expect the World Cup XI to be: Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli (Yusuf Pathan), Harbhajan Singh (R Ashwin), Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar, Ashish Nehra (Munaf Patel). Drinks: Piyush Chawla

For the remaining games in South Africa, I do hope India (a) rests MS Dhoni, (b) plays Yusuf Pathan, (c) rests Harbhajan Singh, (d) plays Piyush Chawla.

Provided Parthiv Patel has already reached South Africa, I’d like the team for the remaining 3 ODIs in South Africa to be:

M Vijay, Parthiv Patel (wk), Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina (capt), Rohit Sharma, Yusuf Pathan, Piyush Chawla, Sreesanth, Munaf Patel, Ashish Nehra… Substitutes: Zaheer Khan, MS Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh.

Although M. Vijay, Sreesanth and Rohit Sharma have not been picked for the World Cup, I believe it will be a good idea for them to show what they are made of — like Virat Kohli has, over the last year! The example of Virat Kohli is what Rohit Sharma needs to follow. Kohli’s journey epitomizes what the young Rohit Sharma needs to do. The Delhi player was a self-centered and self-obsessed, arrogant lad who transformed himself into a focussed young man. The result of this was a string of stirring performances that made every one sit up and take notice. He had arrived. He could not be ignored any longer.

Rohit Sharma needs to do a Virat Kohli now. He needs to get his game together. But more importantly, he needs to channel his undeniable talent. He also needs to do it in a hurry.

— Mohan

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

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

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-

India run risk of crash-and-burn out of Asia Cup

India lost to Pakistan in last nights’ game in Karachi. The Pakistanis put up a spirited performance and out-batted and out-bowled India.

India started as if Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir had more concerns for the tournaments’ carbon credits. It looked like they wanted to finish the game off before the lights came on in the evening. But that frenetic start was always going to be hard to maintain and when Sehwag, Gambhir, Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh fell quickly, it took some effort for M. S. Dhoni and a-somewhat-out-of-sorts Rohit Sharma to rebuild the innings.

The two Indian batsmen did rebuild, thanks to the strategy of the stand-in Pakistan captain, Misbah Ul-Huq, who strangely did not attack at that stage. Dhoni and Rohit Sharma compiled the easy singles and twos and kept the scoreboard moving till a rush of blood saw Rohit Sharma depart at a crucial time — just when the accelerator was being engaged! That dismissal and the immature dismissal that followed — of Yusuf Pathan — may have meant that India fell short by about 20 runs in the end. That was perhaps what mattered most in the end result. Yusuf Pathan came out and had a huge heave against debutant off-spinner Saeed Ajmal who looked quite tight and impressive in his first game. Given the number of doosra’s Ajmal bowled though, it may be more appropriate, perhaps, to catalog Ajmal a “Doosra” bowler who occasionally bowls the off-spinner as a wrong ‘un! Dhoni and Rohit Sharma had some difficulty picking his doosra.

The Pakistanis came out purposefully and batted brilliantly to take the game away from India. In particular, Younis Khan and Misbah Ul-Huq were excellent, controlled and effective. Younis Khan appeared to be a man in control. He came in when a solid foundation was ruined by a needless runout. He shepherded a somewhat frisky, young Nasir Jamshed to a 50, saw the youngster retire hurt and just kept motoring on through it all. His was a terrific innings.

The Indian bowlers did not really come to the party. Praveen Kumar bowled tragically. After a wayward first over Ishant Sharma did manage to bowl reasonably well in his subsequent overs. And although Irfan Pathan bowled steadily for most part, he did bowl at least one “hit me” ball every over. And that, really, was the difference. Piyush Chawla was also largely ineffective.

At the end of the game, M. S. Dhoni said, “On flat tracks like this one, scores like 300 or 310 is just not enough if you don’t have an experienced spinner. There is not much help from the pitch for the spinners and it’s rather easier for the batsman to go after the spinner than rotate the strike. There you need experienced spinner.”

Hmmm! Let’s see. The spinner in the winning team had bowling analysis of 10-0-47-1. His name? Saeed Ajmal. Experience? Debutant.

It is, in my view, not experience that mattered most. It was attitude that was the difference. The Indians batted in two modes when they batted. They swung from “reckless abandon” to “caught in the headlights” and never really settled the pendulum in a safe and controlled zone in the middle. That allowed even the inexperienced debutant bowler — Ajmal — to bowl with control and dictate terms. India perhaps went into the game thinking that they would win it. Pakistan, on the other hand, went into the game with a hint of desperation and a heck of a lot of grit and attitude. The results showed. The better team won on the night.

India have to win tonights’ game against Sri Lanka or risk bowing out of the Asia Cup finals. Strangely enough, I am not too fussed either way! I suspect that an early exit may be a bitter pill for most Team India fans to swallow!

I can’t believe that India can go in with the same team sheet that it presented against Pakistan. However, there don’t appear to be too many options. One option may be to swap Manpreet Gony for a somewhat listless Praveen Kumar. But that could be somewhat of a risk in what is essentially a do-or-die game for India. I’d go with R. P. Singh for Praveen Kumar who has looked somewhat out of sorts in these listless tracks.

Yusuf Pathan has blown a few opportunities to express himself. He needs to come good. He had a perfect opportunity with both bat and ball last night and messed up both facets. His heave that he affected against Ajmal in last nights’ game is not quite a reflection of his batting capabilities. He is better than that and has to make his appearances and opportunities count. India has the opportunity to bench him for a regular, front-line bowler. It is an option that they may well exercise in what is essentially a knock-out semi-final.

On another note… Having already played and beaten Pakistan in the preliminary rounds and having carried over the points into the Super-League, pray why did India have to play Pakistan again? Is this just so that the organisers can collect more gate revenue?

— Mohan

Team India for Asia Cup game against Pakistan

After a mid-innings sputter, India cruised home to record a facile victory over Hong Kong in its Asia Cup opener. The business end commences today with a game againts hosts Pakistan.

Gambhir, Sehwag, Raina, Dhoni, Chawla, Praveen Kumar and R. P. Singh had good outings against Hong Kong. Yusuf Pathan and Robin Uthappa did not get an opportunity to do much! Irfan Pathan will probably get back into the side provided his side-strain is no longer restricting his bowling.

Rohit Sharma had an ordinary game against Hong Kong and apparently looked listless in his 29-ball-11-run essay.

The India side is likely to be:

Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Robin Uthappa (or Yusuf Pathan), Irfan Pathan, Piyush Chawla, Praveen Kumar, RP Singh, Ishant Sharma

— Mohan

Bring on the Proteas

Now that the Australian tour is over, we can start looking forward to cricket with another challenging team – South Africa. Here is the fixture:

  Venue Dates
1st Test Chennai Mar 26 to 30
2nd Test Ahmedabad Apr 3 to 7
3rd Test Kanpur Apr 11 to 15

 

The last test series between the two countries was a very close one that India eventually lost 1-2, but this time India have the home advantage and SA have to reckon with a team high on confidence. India also have a good mix of experience and youth to pull it off.

So, should we start speculating what the Indian team make up would be?

Openers

I think Sehwag should be an automatic choice and we shouldn’t let his ODI form affect his test chances. Jaffer and Karthik both failed in Australia, but I would imagine that Jaffer being a regular opener would get the nod ahead of Karthik. Chopra and Gambhir would probably also be in the selectors radar, while Dravid and Pathan have an outside chance of being considered as an opener.

Middle Order

Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman are probably automatic choices. Ganguly would probably get the nod too. If Dravid opens the innings, then there is an opening for Yuvraj Singh or Rohit Sharma in the middle order. Gambhir could also be considered. A lot of our readers have expressed an opinion that Badrinath should be considered. I would be very surprised if the selectors made such a bold move (although it wouldn’t be a bad one!) Dhoni will of course don the gloves and come in to bat at No.7

Bowlers

Kumble is an automatic selection and if you are playing in India, Harbhajan Singh is another automatic selection for the second spinner spot. Zaheer Khan is still injured and the other two bowling spots would probably end up going to Ishant Sharma and RP Singh. If the track does take a lot of spin, then including a 3rd spinner (Piyush Chawla) may not be a bad idea, with Pathan opening the batting and also sharing the new ball with Ishant Sharma.

So, here is the final team –

  • Sehwag
  • Jaffer/Pathan
  • Dravid
  • Tendulkar
  • Ganguly/Yuvraj Singh
  • Laxman
  • Dhoni
  • Kumble
  • Harbhajan Singh
  • RP Singh/Chawla
  • Ishant Sharma

That makes up the 14. Not much different from the team that toured Australia, but why should it be?

(I know, I know! – I will probably get a lot of flak for including Yuvraj Singh in the test team 🙂 )

-Mahesh-

India win CB Series 2-0

Not since the 1980s has Australia lost the tri-series finals twice in a row. India made sure that Australia lost in straight sets with a stirring victory in Brisbane. The fact that this victory came without India’s first choice pace bowling attack — Zaheer Khan, R. P. Singh and Ishant Sharma — made it all the more special. It was a sensational victory by a young and mostly inexperienced Indian team that had to surmount not only the strong Australian team, but also its hostile media and raucous crowds. In the end, the team found the strength to shut out the media and the crowds, focussed on the job in front of them and won a tight series.

Celebrations:

In the end, in the same week the senior Team India as well as the under-19 Team India tasted victories and both teams celebrated these victories; not one of them looked in the direction of Andrew Symonds to enquire whether or not he had a view on the appropriateness or otherwise of these. The victories were well-deserved and losers have no choice but to watch the celebrations.

M. S. Dhoni rated this higher than the T20 win! It just goes to show the depth of focus that this team had. This focus, by the way, was evident in the way Sachin Tendulkar played yesterday. He eschewed the bold strokes and respected the conditions as well as the opposition. The Australians bowled a terrific line and pegged away constantly. The Australians fielded as only the Australians can. However, in the end, that will to win was, I believe, much stronger for the Indians.

Relentless cricket:

The Indian team wanted to win to have that extra time up their sleeves before their next engagement on March 17th. M. S. Dhoni joked at the end that he wanted to seal things in the second game itself because he has not ridden his “motorbike for quite a long time”!

The Australian media talks of non-stop cricket that the aging Australian team has been playing.

It is true that the Australian team has been on the road since October last year. In that time, the Australian team has played in the Twenty20 World Championship, 7 ODI matches against India in India, 2 Tests against Sri Lanka, 4 Tests against India and the CB tri-series.

The Indians have been on the road since July last year and it has been a non-stop ride. In that time, India has played 4 ODIs in Ireland, 1 ODI against Pakistan in Scotland (wash-out), 3 Tests in England, 5 ODIs in England, the Twenty20 World Championship, 7 ODIs against Australia in India, 5 ODIs against Pakistan, 3 Tests against Pakistan, 4 Tests against Australia and the CB tri-series.

I know which team has had the bigger workload. And if you consider that much of the time has been spent in the dreary surrounds of hotel rooms and in a hostile environment where the press and the crowds are constantly at your throats, I do believe this young Indian team needs to be applauded.

Off-field distractions play a part:

Ricky Ponting, on his part, was gracious in defeat. He admitted that his team had been outplayed in the finals series by India. However, even though he said that the off-field distractions did not hamper his team, one can’t help but think that they would have had an effect.

If you look at the off-field events, apart from the IPL which has presumably distracted all players around the world, the single factor that played a distraction-nuisance influence right through this tour has been Harbhajan Singh! When Harbhajan scratched the Australian media twitched. The captain, Ricky Ponting, appeared to have his mind on the off-field incidents involving run-ins that Harbhajan Singh was having with his own team rather than on his own game and form. When Harbhajan Singh fielded, the Australian public held their collective breath. And when he bowled, the Australian players had their minds set on dominating him instead of playing him as another bowler.

Almost single-handedly, Harbhajan Singh became the thorn in the flesh as well as the spot in Lady Macbeth’s hand that just would not go away. He was like a fly around the barbecue that just kept buzzing in the ears of people gathered around it. One could not hear the barbecue conversations; just the buzzing noise of this constant irritant that just would not go away!

That the Australian players did not respect him is not the issue. The fact that they did not respect his game/sport is a matter for much introspection in coming months. Here was a player that stood up to the Aussies and looked them in the eye. The Australians just could not deal with it.

In a strange irony, Harbhajan Singh was directly involved in the wickets of Andrew Symonds and Matthew Hayden — his two main off-the-field opponents right through this arduous summer — in both the finals matches! In the first match, Harbhajan Singh had the wickets of both players. In last night’s match, he had Symonds out LBW and was involved in Hayden’s run out!

At the end of the match, M. S. Dhoni lashed out at the Australian media for the focus that they have reserved for Harbhajan Singh. He admitted, though, that this focus made his job easier for, with each new article or episode, Harbhajan Singh just got tougher and tougher and did not need to be motivated!

Rankings:

This series win has not altered India’s position on the ICC Rankings table. However, it has taken India closer to New Zealand (3rd place) on the table and has made it easier for South Africa to reclaim the #1 position that it squandered to Australia in the last World Cup.

Meanwhile Sachin Tendulkar has moved to reclaim the #1 ODI batting spot.

Visionary:

I believe that M. S. Dhoni is a terrific leader. With the calm, experienced, gritty and fiercely competitive Anil Kumble at the helm of affairs in the Test arena and with Dhoni to nurture a younger set of players in the shorter form of the game, I do believe that Indian cricket is in safe hands for the moment. It is likely that the captaincy mantle will get another year at least — if not two — from Anil Kumble. The time would be right then for a hand-over of the responsibility to M. S. Dhoni. In that time, with the help of Gary Kirsten, India can form a core of players that can take over from the big-5 as they leave the scene. In that sense, we do have a “visionary” leader at the controls in my opinion.

If Sourav Ganguly was the first leader of men in Indian cricket, in Dhoni, we have a visionary leader. To him processes may not matter as much as it did to Greg Chappell and Rahul Dravid. His leadership style is more instinct driven. But he has got most things right! He asks his players to be always ready and throws them into the deep end. They produce every time. This shows that he knows what they are capable of, believes in them, backs them and then extracts the best out of them. He threw the ball to Joginder Sharma in the T20 finals and to Praveen Kumar and Piyush Chawla in the CB series finals. They delivered. He fought for the inclusion of young players like Rohit Sharma, Gautam Gambhir, Manoj Tiwary, Praveen Kumar and Piyush Chawla ahead of senior pros. He got them. At crunch moments, he surprised the opposition by including the likes of Praveen Kumar and Piyush Chawla. They delivered! It is a strategy that could have back-fired. But rather than launch into long explanations, he simply says he is looking at 2011!

He has set for himself a road-map to 2011 success. Rahul Dravid would have cogitated over it in a scholarly manner and produced a strategy paper at the end of it. He would have then used this as a leverage in team selection meetings. He would have gone to great lengths to form a coalition of like-minded souls who would back his vision and roadmap. Dhoni has it in his head and articulates it by simply saying, “Even if we had lost this tournament, we should have stuck with the young boys. This will be the team’s core.”

This was a good victory for India, but much more is needed in the months ahead to build on the hard work that has commenced here. Australia have some work to do of its own. The players need a break from the game and its captain needs to rediscover his ticker.

It has been a long summer and frankly, I am glad it is over.

— Mohan

India win first final!

“He doesn’t do well in run chases!”

“He hasn’t got a ODI century in Australia!”

Those are just some of the comments that Tendulkar has had to endure. There is some truth to it, though. In his previous 38 appearances in Australia, he had never scored a century and his average in a chase in the last couple of years is only around 30.

Tendulkar got the monkey (no pun intended) of his back  tonight with a hundred batting second and being there till the very end to see India through.

Dhoni lost the toss again and Ponting promptly decided to bat first. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the  right decision as the dew factor didn’t help them. India made a bold move in bringing in Piyush Chawla and opening the bowling with Praveen Kumar. Australia were soon reduced to 24 for 3 (although Clarke could consider himself unlucky). Hayden and Symonds set about restoring the Australian innings, but in an aggressive way. Hayden in particular was severe on Pathan, who went for 29 runs in his 2 overs. Harbhajan was brought into the attack, along with Piyush Chawla. Bhajji took the important wickets of Hayden and Symonds and the two spinners also put a break on the Australian scoring. Chawla was particularly impressive although he didn’t take any wickets. Australia eventually limped to 239, which seemed competitive, but way of the mark of what Australia seemed like getting when Symonds and Hayden were playing.

Uthappa and Tendulkar played with caution to get the score to 50, before Uthappa was caught at the deep by Hussey. Gambhir was needlessly run out and Yuvraj came and went.

The score at that time was 87 for 3 and it looked like anybody’s game. Tendulkar, however played with a lot of determination and played what I call “safe” cricket – not willing to give his wicket away with any false strokes. Just when Tendulkar got to his hundred, there was a lapse in Rohit Sharma’s concentration and he was bowled by Hopes. Rohit Sharma (66) seems to show more and more maturity with every innings and his partnership (123 runs of 136 balls) with Tendulkar was the base from which India were able to win.

Ponting said that the loss to Sri Lanka was just an aberration, but they appear to have lost the momentum and they’ve just got one day to re-coup before the game in Brisbane on Tuesday.

 Is this going to be a repeat of last year, when they lost to England in the finals after dominating the early part of the tournament? We will find out soon enough…

-Mahesh-