Tag Archives: RP Singh

What I like about the current ODI team

Opening pair

Granted, Tendulkar and Ganguly were one of the best, if not the best opening ODI pairs for India and even the World. But Sehwag and Gambhir are doing very well at the moment. I love everything about them – the right/left combination, their stroke play, Sehwag’s explosiveness, Gambhir’s maturity…

If they continue their current form, they are all set to become a formidable opening combination in World cricket.

 Batting depth

The batting depth hasn’t been really put to the test yet, but with Irfan Pathan and Praveen Kumar, both all rounders coming in at No. 8 and 9 respectively, it looks very strong. Chawla at No. 10 is no rabbit with the bat either.

The Bench

When you see good players warming the bench, you know there are even better players in the playing XI and that is a great thing.  With guys like Uthappa, RP Singh (although Ishant was rested for the Bangladesh game) and Gony sitting out, you know the team is doing well.

And guys like Ganguly, Tendulkar, Dravid, Sreesanth and Harbhajan Singh aren’t even the team (due to a variety of reasons).

All rounders galore

The team now has Praveen Kumar and Irfan Pathan who are what I would classify as bowling all rounders – people who can bat a bit and bowl their full quota of 10 overs. Then there are the batting all rounders – Sehwag, Yuvraj and Yusuf Pathan. Even Rohit Sharma and Raina can chip in with a few overs. And last but not the least, the captain – MS Dhoni who can bat and keep wickets. This is one of the main reasons, India has a good batting depth at the moment.

Flexible batting order

I think the current batting order is a fairly flexible one. Barring the opening pair, I think the rest can come in any order. There is always the argument that batting orders shouldn’t be messed around with, but it seems to work well in Twenty20 and I don’t see why it shouldn’t work here.

Age

Sehwag at 29 years is the oldest member of the team. Everyone else is 26 or under. In fact, six of them are 21 and under. This again bodes well for Team India. Isn’t it wonderful that although the team is young, it does not seem to lack experience.

-Mahesh-

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-

What a win!!!

Nobody gave the Indians any chance of beating the Aussies at Perth. After the loss at Sydney, people were even asking if India were capable of beating them just about anywhere! But the Perth test ended in a dream result for India with India wrapping the game up in just 4 days!

Start of the day

At the beginning of the day, Australia needed around 350 to win, but had both Ponting and Hussey at the crease. Both were capable of a big score and a long presence at the crease and it was important that India got their wicket early to get ahead in the match. I found it rather surprising that Kumble started the proceedings – I thought the quicks should have been operating on both ends at the beginning of the day. Thankfully, he quickly rectified that and brought on Ishant Sharma for himself. Sharma’s bowling figures of 1 for 63 in 17 overs does not do any justice to the way he bowled this morning. Ponting, arguably the best batsmen in the World today was all at sea against him and had a few close calls, before he edged one to Dravid at first slip. If he continues to bowl this way, he has a great future ahead of him.

Australia went to lunch at 143 for 3. Although they had lost the wicket of Ponting, they had added 77 runs in 25 overs and had successfully negotiated the most important period of the game when the ball was still new and swinging. I am not sure how Mohan would have rated this session in his SBS scorecard, but I would have given .5 to both sides.

Post lunch session

The fourth over after lunch saw RP Singh get the all important wicket of Hussey. Hawk-eye showed the ball go over the stumps and Hussey can consider himself a tad unlucky – but similar decisions were also dished out to Tendulkar and Dhoni in the game. At least the umpires were being consistent.

The next wicket to go was Symonds, whose luck with umpiring decisions in the series finally ran out. After Symonds hit him for a six, Kumble bowled a flat and fast one to trap Symonds plumb before the wicket and Billy Bowden raised his crooked finger – the only problem was that replays showed an inside edge.

With Australia on 177/5 at that stage, India must have sensed a whiff of victory. But Gilchrist and Clarke weren’t done yet. They started putting on a partnership and were threatening to take the game away from India. Kumble then threw the ball to Sehwag and in his very first ball  to Gilchrist, bowled him around the legs – a wicket even Harbhajan Singh would have been proud of. What a huge wicket that was? And in the very next over, he had Brett Lee caught at silly point and Australia were reeling at 7/229. At Tea, Australia were 243/7 and the session clearly belonged to India. The SBS scorecard would have read Australia 4::India 7, but at this stage it didn’t matter who was winning the sessions – the post tea session would pretty much decide who won the game.

Post Tea session

India needed the wicket of Michael Clarke badly and that is what they got. In Kumble’s third over after Tea, he flighted one up to Clarke who came dancing down the pitch. He was beaten by turn and bounce and was smartly stumped by Dhoni. Australia were now 253/8 and needed another 160 runs to win, while all India had to do was take 2 wickets.

With nothing to lose, Johnson and Clarke started hitting out. The hits and mis-hits kept eluding the fielders and what looked like an annoying partnership suddenly grew into a nervous one for the Indians. The bowlers didn’t bowl well during this period either and there was one dropped catch and one “clean bowled” of a no ball. The new ball was soon taken, but the partnership had raced to 73 runs under 13 overs. Pathan eventually got the break through when he dismissed Clark for 32. Dravid then dropped a regulation catch at slip to prolong the match for a few more overs. RP Singh finally got the wicket of Tait to secure a 72 run victory. It also brings to end the 16 match winning streak of the Australians.

It is interesting to note that Australia hadn’t lost at Perth since the West Indian fast bowling attack beat them in the eighties and they haven’t been beaten in Australia since 2003 (when India beat them at Adelaide).

Australia now lead the series 2-1 and have already retained the Border-Gavaskar trophy, but the Indians would be playing to tie the series at Adelaide. It has been a great summer of cricket so far (in spite of the happenings in Sydney) and I really look forward to the Adelaide game.

-Mahesh-

The show must go on…

Television, Radios, print media and the blogosphere reporting on cricket have all been running full steam on umpiring decisions, the game being played in the right spirit, racial slurs, bans and the lot after the Sydney test. I thought I’d break the monotony with a post on actual cricket.

Australia lead the series 2-0 and the focus now shifts to the Perth test which starts in a week. The Australians dominated the MCG test and were the clear winners. It was a different story at the SCG. Although they won the SCG test, the match was very much in the open till the 5th day morning. To the credit of Hussey and Symonds, they batted India out of the game and by lunch time, only 2 results were possible – either an Australian win or a tame draw. If it hadn’t been for bad umpiring decisions through out the game and an Indian batting collapse on the final day, we could have had a very different result and the Indians can take some consolation from that.

For starters, the fab four – Dravid, Laxman, Tendulkar and Ganguly were amongst the runs. Even more heartening was the fact that in Dravid’s second innings, he seemed to have lost the shackles that tied him down in the first innings and the first test. In the bowling department, RP Singh excelled in the first innings and troubled the batsmen even in the second. Ishant was a bit unlucky, but we really missed Zaheer Khan. Kumble as always was reliable and Harbhajan bowled much much better than the MCG test.

Ok – those were the positives;  what about the negatives? Wasim Jaffer has been really disappointing so far and in my opinion should make way for Sehwag. Yuvraj Singh is also completely out of sorts. He needs to make way for Pathan, which will give us the extra fast bowling option in Perth (I can’t even imagine going to Perth with just 2 fast bowlers!) If I were a selector, I wouldn’t pick Harbhajan Singh for Perth – but that is unlikely to happen (Apparently he is allowed to play until the appeal is hear). I also think it is unlikely that Pankaj Singh or VRV Singh will replace Ishant Sharma in the playing XI. We managed to take 17 Australian wickets but at a cost of 864 runs. Unless we get all twenty wickets at a much lower cost, India don’t stand a chance. The batsmen – particularly the big 4 will have to play well again. My guess is that Pathan, Pankaj Singh, VRV Singh and Sehwag will be given a chance to play in the 2-day tour game in Canberra, which starts tomorrow.

Of course, Australia start as the overwhelming favourites. The bouncy wickets of WACA will be a challenge to the Indians and let us hope they put up a good fight like they did in Sydney. If the match does not have a clear winner on the morning of day 5, I’ll be a happy man.

Most likely team –

  • Sehwag
  • Dravid
  • Laxman
  • Tendulkar
  • Ganguly
  • Dhoni
  • Pathan
  • Kumble
  • Harbhajan Singh
  • RP Singh
  • VRV Singh/Ishant Sharma

-Mahesh-

What’s the team for Australia going to be?

I am sure there is strong reason for postponing the the team selection for the tour of Australia.  But as I mentioned in an earlier post, I don’t see any reason to name 24 probables to only cull the list a week later – they might as well have waited a few more days and named the actual team.

In any case, here is the list of 24 players –

Batsmen Bowlers Keepers
Jaffer Kumble Dhoni
Tendulkar RP Singh Karthik
Dravid Munaf Patel Parthiv Patel
Ganguly Zaheer Khan  
Laxman VRV Singh  
Yuvraj Singh Pankaj Singh  
Chopra Ishant Sharma  
Gambhir Murali Karthik  
  Harbhajan Singh  
  Piyush Chawla  
  Bose  
  Pathan  
  Agarkar  

 

It is funny how the probables list has 13 bowlers, even more than the batsmen and wicket keepers combined.

The ones in italics are certain to tour – Jaffer, Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Kumble, RP Singh, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and Dhoni. That leaves room for another 5 players. I would think that of the 16 players – the break down would be 7 batsmen, 7 bowlers and 2 keepers.

Based on that, there is room for just one regular batsman and based on current form, this is most likely to go to Gambhir although Chopra has prior experience playing in Australia. My preference would have been Sehwag, but he is not in the mix here.

Of the bowlers – taking more than 2 spinners would be a luxury, so Murali Karthik and Chawla will have to miss out. For the other 3 spots, Munaf should get the nod ahead of the others and Pathan may be picked based on his all round ability. The other seamer slot is a tough one to pick. As Ishant Sharma was picked for the last test, it is very likely that he may get the nod ahead of the others, but Agarkar has a knack of getting into the team when you least expect him to.

I really don’t expect the fifth player to play any games unless the others are injured. Why not have an  extra batsman instead? My preference would be Sehwag, but he is not in the mix here. Did I say that already? Doesn’t matter how many times I say it – he is unlikely to be included now. Maybe, the selectors should think of including someone like Badrinath in team. Oh, he is not in the list of 24 either! Oh, well…The only option the selectors have is to pick Chopra, and this may very well happen.

The 2nd keeper is probably not that easy to pick either. Parthiv Patel is in very good nick in domestic cricket and has played well when he has represented India A and Karthik has had a poor run with the bat in the current series. Parthiv Patel has played in Australia before and he plays the pull and cut quite well, which could come in handy down under. But, if the selectors still have faith in Karthik based on his showing in England he still has a chance of making it to the squad. He is my also my choice ahead of Parthiv Patel.

Assuming that the players who missed out the last test are all declared fit, here is what the team would end up looking –

Jaffer, Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Dhoni, Karthik, Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, RP Singh, Irfan Pathan, Munaf Patel, Ishant Sharma/Chopra.

-Mahesh-

The story since the last Kotla game..

The last time India played at the Feroz Shah Kotla, they beat Sri Lanka by a huge margin. Tendulkar scored a century and Kumble took a 10 for in the match. Irfan Pathan was the frontline fast bowler for India. He also opened the innings and scored a career best 93. Dhoni had just made his debut in the previous match and although Sehwag didn’t play the game, he was still a central figure in Indian cricket.

That was close to 2 years ago. Since then, a lot of things have happened. Pathan lost his in-swing, his pace and then his place in the team. Sehwag too lost his form and was dropped. Although Pathan has made a comeback into the ODI team, Sehwag is still not a permanent fixture.

Tendulkar went without scoring a hundred in the next 10 games and finally broke the streak with 2 centuries against Bangladesh. He has been averaging only 36.87 since the hundred at Delhi and if we take out his scores in the series against Bangladesh, he averages just 28.68.

Saurav Ganguly was dropped too and Yuvraj Singh (who had a 100+ partnership with Dhoni in the second innings) has been in and out of the team. Laxman’s position has also been in doubt during this period in spite of his 40+ average.

The one player who has had a consistent  presence in the Indian middle order has been Rahul Dravid – the wall,  although he has since given up his captaincy. He has been averaging 53+ during this time which is only slightly lower than his career average of 56.50. The other positive thing for India is that they have found two good openers in Jaffar and Karthik (or have they?).

In the bowling department, Kumble has been consistent as ever, although Harbhajan Singh dropped out of the team owing to poor form. This may well be Harbhajan’s comeback Test.

The fast bowling department has improved by leaps and bounds with Zaheer Khan finding his rhythm and the emergence of RP Singh and Sreesanth (although, the two may not play tomorrow owing to injury).

Now, that’s the story so far. What should we be looking out for in this test and this series? Here is my list –

  • How the openers perform: Sehwag has been kept out of the team in spite of a 90+ average against Pakistan. If any of the openers fail twice in a row, I would expect Sehwag to be back in the team, although a lot of people would argue that he shouldn’t open the innings anymore.
  • Performance of Laxman and  Ganguly: I am pretty sure these two players are on notice in spite of some decent scores in England. Unless they perform in this series, it would pretty much be the end of their careers.
  • Kumble as a captain: It would be interesting to see how he goes about captaining the team. I would also like to see he reacts now when someone misfields 🙂
  • Dravid and Tendulkar: I expect both these players to score well. Dravid in particular has a point to prove after he was dropped from the ODI squad. I also hope that Tendulkar’s true turn to form will happen in the ground where he scored his last “real” hundred.
  • Bhajji’s bowling: Harbhajan has bowled well in the ODI series. But that is completely different to Test match bowling. Pawar has had some excellent performances in the Ranji Trophy tournament and unless Harbhajan delivers, it is either Murali Karthik or Pawar boarding the plane to Melbourne in December.

What about the team for tomorrow? Kumble has hinted that Yuvraj may not play. With RP Singh and Sreesanth injured, India may turn to Munaf Patel (who has been called in as cover) to open the bowling with Zaheer Khan. I think this may be the team that plays tomorrow –

Dinesh Karthik, Jaffar, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Ganguly, Dhoni, Kumble, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Patel

And for a bit of trivia before I finish up:

  • India has a six-match winning streak at the Kotla
  • It is a lucky ground for the captain, Kumble having taken 48 wickets @15.45. He also has his best figures of 10/74(!) in this ground playing against Pakistan.

-Mahesh-

Team India for 5th ODI @ Vadodhra

India is often loathe to change a winning combination unless real (or make-believe) injury forces their hand. However, I have a feeling that a change or two may be necessary to the India team that beat Australia in Chandigarh.

Option-1: Rest Zaheer Khan for Sreesanth

Despite a tight last over in the Chandigarh match, Zaheer Khan has not been bowling as sharply as he can. Even though we should acknowledge that he is bowling at Hayden and Gilchrist — both champion players — he has looked off-colour. Moreover, with Zaheer Khan, R. P. Singh and Irfan Pathan the bowling has a “sameness” look to it. With that in mind, it may not be a bad idea to bring in Sreesanth for Zaheer Khan.

Option-2: Rest Dravid for Badrinath or Rohit Sharma

The Vadodhra pitch is known to be a turner. An additional off-spinner in the form of Badrinath, would be a useful option to go with. Of Rohit Sharma and Bardrinath, I’d go for the latter because his off-spin is generally quite sound — perhaps more sound than the options Rohit Sharma provides with his bowling. This option may gain more credibility in light of the fact that Dravid hasn’t really looked in great touch in this series thus far.

Option-3: Combine option-1 and option-2

This would be my preferred team for this all-important match. Apart from strenghthening the bowling, this option would also strengthen the fielding! However, I do not believe Team India will go with this. It is most likely that the same winning-team will play this match too. But if I had my druthers I’d go with the following team:

Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh (vice-captain), Robin Uthappa, S. Badrinath, MS Dhoni (captain), Irfan Pathan, Murali Kartik, Harbhajan Singh, S Sreesanth, RP Singh.

Substitutes: Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik, Rahul Dravid, Zaheer Khan.

— Mohan

Badrinath makes the cut…

S. Badrinath, the stylish Tamil Nadu middle-order bat and captain, gets the call up for the 5th ODI thanks to a groin injury that Gautam Gambhir sustained at training.

We had, earlier this year, profiled S. Badrinath on this blogsite. Mahesh profiled Badrinath as well as a slew of other playets in his excellent “Future Prospects” series.

Also read a profile of (and interview with) Badrinath on Rediff.

Unlike Murali Kartik, Badrinath wasn’t surprised by the call up! “I’d say it has come at the right time“, he said!

I’d be very surprised if Badrinath gets a go in the next game, but I think he could, if Sachin Tendulkar is still injured. Tendulkar did not take the field in yesterdays’ game but the team management put it down to a “minor niggle”.

I have a feeling that India will go with the same combination that yielded the team its first win of the series. I’d have been tempted to bring back Sreesanth for the (initially) erratic R. P. Singh. But the Singh perhaps redeemed himself through those two tight end-overs.

— Mohan

India Vs Australia, 4th ODI, Chandigarh, 8 Oct 2007

This was a terrific victory for India. The host has now kept the series alive with this backs-to-the-wall win.

India Innings Start
India won the toss and for the first time in this series, batted first. This was a high-risk strategy because of the early-start, the cloud-cover and a somewhat shaky batting lineup. But full marks to Dhoni for having made the call to bat first. The strategy appeared to be to hold down one end and take more risks at the other. And the start typified this strategy! The score at the end of the first 5 overs was 13-0. Off these, 6 were from extras! There was a lot of movement off the seam for Bracken and Lee. Sachin Tendulkar was lucky to be there. He survived an LBW shout as well as a caught behind appeal. The bowlers bowled with pace and pitched it up, allowing the ball to do its thing. But by and large, the doctor ordered stay-on-at-the-crease and that’s what the Indian openers did, in the hope that the pitch would ease up. While Sourav Ganguly opened up a bit after this first lot of 5 overs, Tendulkar continued to play well within himself and also, quite unusually, with minimal confidence. The 6th over produced two 4s for Ganguly. It seemed like the southpaw had a measure of the swing and bounce. In the next over off Lee though, as if to counter the positive intent shown by Ganguly, Tendulkar had another huge LBW appeal turned down. For a man who had had a horrible time of it of late with umpires, Tendulkar was almost on his 4th innings by now! He had to make the best of the chances he had been given. In the midst all of this Tendulkar drama, Ganguly was playing cleverly. Tendulkar had made 6 runs off 33 balls at one stage! India were 47-0 at the end of 12 overs, a score that had 13 wides in it already! When India won the toss, they’d have set a target of 60-0 off 15 overs. At the end of 15 overs, India had made 68-0 off and Tendulkar had made 18 off 47 balls. and Ganguly had made 36 off 43.

Australia did not take their 3rd Power Play immediately; one sensed that they wanted a wicket. But they didn’t get it from 4 overs of spin and took the 3rd PowerPlay in the 20th over. Then, just when things were looking easy for India, against the run of play, Ganguly departed, caught behind off Hopes for 41 off the last ball of the 20th over. India were 91-1 at the end of the 20th over of which 23 were extras! This was a very un-Australian show from the point of view of sundries.

In a surprise move, Yuvraj Singh, the local boy walked in at #3. Perhaps the view was that Yuvraj Singh was the man in form and needed a longer stint at the crease, especially since the foundation was solid. Moreover, it would have continued the left-right contribution. In the main, I think the strategy from the Indians was the hold one end down while they were prepared to take more risks at the other end. Thus, if Tendulkar had got out, perhaps we would have seen Rahul Dravid.

At the end of the 25th over India were 112-1, a scoring rate of just under 4.5; a good platform for India to build from. But in the next period of 5 overs, Brad Hogg and Andrew Symonds bowled tightly and kept the Indian batsmen in check such that, at the end of the 30th, India were 134-1. At this stage, Yuvraj Singh had made 16 off 32 balls and Tendulkar had 58 off 90. Soon after, Tendulkar had his 50 off 91 balls and India were 172-1 at the end of 35 overs. They were almost at 5 runs an over.

But all it took was a few tight overs and Yuvraj Singh, in a rush off blood, spooned a catch to Ponting at cover off Hopes to depart for a well-made 39 off 55 balls. M. S. Dhoni promoted himself up the order. Again, my assumption is that, if Tendulkar had got out we’d have seen Dravid there to hold up one end. India were 202-2 from 40 overs.

Sledge-match
The previous ODI had seen Australia and India reign in the clowns. However, the 40th over saw 15 runs and a sledge-match between Tendulkar and Symonds! Now, I’ve been watching Indian cricket for a long time now and this is perhaps the first time (after Tendulkar sledged Glen McGrath in Kenya) that Tendulkar was involved in a public slang-match. And it took one mad clown to get him involved. And so, where’s that “Spirit of Cricket” and where’s that “respect” that Shaun Tait talked about?

End of the Indian innings
After a few good overs, once again against the run of play, Tendulkar was run out for 79 off 119 balls. He paddle-swept the ball to Brett Lee at short-fineleg and set off for a single as a loud appeal emanated. He was sent back by M. S. Dhoni but couldn’t beat a direct throw from Brett Lee. And like the previous times, whenever India looked to get ahead, the Aussies pulled it back with some good bowling or a wicket. At the end of 45 India were 235-3 meaning India only got 33 runs in that 5-over block from over 40 to over 45. Thanks to some hard hitting by Uthappa and Dhoni in the end, India reached a score of 292. The last 5 overs had yielded 57 runs. This was a strong result that was based on a solid foundation, absolute lack of panic at any stage and largesse from the Australians in the form of 39 extras — of which 31 were wides!

Record number of extras
If I am not mistaken, 39 extras is one run short of a record for the Australians. Their previous highest tally appears to be the 40 that they gave against Sri Lanka at Sydney in 2003. The huge number of wides they gave away in this match, which fell short of an Australian record by one run, was in part due to a bad day at the office for Adam Gilchrist!

Australia commence brilliantly
In their chase, the Australians showed their astuteness by keeping the singles going constantly. And they showed power and control too. While India waited until the last ball of their 50th over to hit their first and only six of their innings, Australia hit a six in the 4th over itself. And another on in the 5th over. While India had 13-0 off its first 5 overs, Australia had 37-0. Zaheer Khan and R. P. Singh had started awfully and the Australian openers had started brilliantly. But off the first ball of the next set of 5 overs, Gilchrist tried one pull down leg too many and his wicket was purchased — caught on the deep square leg boundary by Zaheer Khan off R. P. Singh for 18 off 17 balls.

But the start was brisk and brilliant. India were 68-0 off 15 overs. Australia were 75-1 off 10 overs! Sixteen runs had been scored off the 10th over by R. P. Singh to Ponting who had been struggling up until then. Even counting for the additional wicket that India had got by this stage, this was an amazing start by Austrlia. Both the Indian opening bowlers sprayed the ball around like millionaires.

At the end of the 10th over, India went into the 2nd PowerPlay with 2 players outside the ring. They should have, one felt, gone with spin for an over or two to slow things down. But Dhoni pressed on with pace and the 2nd PowerPlay. Indeed in the 11th over, one could hear Dhoni say “thoda dheere daalna” (“slow things down a bit”) to Irfan Pathan. This made sense as R. P. Singh and Zaheer Khan had been banging things in a bit too much.

India missed a great opportunity of running out Hayden in the 15th over. There seemd to be a single to be had off almost every ball! This was certainly a highlight of the Australian batting. What was particularly disappointing was the fielding by almost all bowlers off their own bowling!

At the end of the 15th over, Australia were 106-1. In contrast, India were 91-1 at the end of the 20th. In other words, by this stage, Australia was about 6-7 overs ahead and were making an absolute mockery of the target!

Ponting brings the game into disrepute?
Ponting was out thanks to a brilliant bit of stumping by Dhoni off Pathan. Pontings’ befuddled look at square-leg, as umpire Shastri brought the 3rd umpire in, suggested a mistrust of umpire Shastri who referred the decision to 3rd umpire Pratapkumar. But, as commentators say often, when they are in cliche-overdrive, “the line belongs to the umpire” and Pontings’ foot was on the line.

The question that must be asked is whether or not Ponting brought the game into disrepute through his on-field and off-field antics? Will Chris Broad bring him to task or will Ponting receive yet another note of congratulations from the Match Referee?

Australia march on towards victory
With that dismissal, the momentum had shifted slightly. A few tight overs would bring things back. And that’s what Harbhajan bowled in the 20th over. Australia had 124-2 at the end of the 20th. India were India were 112-1 off 25 overs! Again, Australia appeared to be about 6 overs ahead at this stage. Despite Michael Clarke’s departure, the runs kept flowing and by the 25th over, Australia had reached 150. The Australians were going at 6 an over! India needed Murali Kartik to bowl well; to bowl tight and pick up a wicket or two. However, in his initial overs, Murali Kartik didn’t spin the ball much and speared the ball in quite regularly. The one time he flighted the ball, Symonds took him for 6!

At this stage, Australia had a let off when Symonds was given not out — caught behind off Harbhajan Singh. That would have changed the complexion of the game dramatically. However, that was not to be and at the end of 30 overs Australia was 174-3. Murali Kartik was bowling some decent and some ordinary stuff and R. P. Singh had started his 2nd spell with three wides — this typified his day really.

Hayden’s brain explosion
So after just one over, Irfan Pathan was back! India needed some tight overs and maybe even a wicket! A tight over from Pathan indeed followed. This perhaps resulted in Hayden having to take a few risks off Murali Kartik, who bowled brilliantly. He was helped by Hayden having a brain explosion to hole out to Zaheer Khan in the deep. Hayden had made a powerful 92 runs off 92 balls. And Murali Kartik was starting to bowl well. What was required was some tight stuff at the other end. But R. P. Singh continued to spray it. His wide-count kept increasing. Australia had made 196-4 off 35. At the same stage, India were 172-1 at the end of 35 overs. Perhaps Australia were about 4 overs ahead.

The next 5 overs saw Kartik improving. He was bowling with a better rhythm particularly since Hodge was at the crease. At the end of 40, Australia were 222-4. India were 202 at this stage! So Australia were probably still 4 overs ahead at this stage. But India still had 2 R. P. Singh overs to bowl!

India crawl back into the game
Dhoni then stumped Hodge brilliantly off a Harbhajan wide down legside. India were probably better off with Hodge there! He was scratching around and kept India in the game! But that was a brilliant stumping by Dhoni — yet again! He is having a terrific series as a ‘keeper and captain.

R. P. Singh came on for the 45th over. India needed him to bowl well with Australia needing 42 runs from 6 overs. He gave just 4 runs off that over and this would have given Dhoni confidence to bowl him out from there on in. In his very next over, he bowled Symonds off a beauty. Australia needed 24 from 19 balls. Perhaps it was all a bit too late? Brad Hogg kept India in the game by charging down the wicket off the first ball he placed only to be run out — again by R. P. Singh!

I’d have thought that Zaheer Khan should have bowled the 48th over. But Murali Kartik bowled the 48th, his 10th over. He finished his spell well. He conceded only 2 runs off his last over and had given 48 runs and had taken 1 wicket in his spell. Australia needed 22 runs off 2 overs.

R. P. Singh bowled the 49th over; the last of his full quota of overs. He gave 6 runs off his last over and Australia needed 16 runs off the last over to be bowled by Zaheer Khan. For perhaps the first time in the match, Australia was under pressure! And they didn’t redeem themselves at all.

The series was brought alive.

Uphill task for India
India won and somehow Australia had gone on “to do an India”: they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory! I watched the entire game and it wasn’t until the last over that I thought India could win it — such was Australia’s dominance of the game. They controlled the game brilliantly in both bowling as well as batting. They never let India get away with the bat and were always — apart from the last over or two — in the drivers’ seat when batting.

So, if Indian fans start jumping up and down scenting an Indian comeback in this series, I’d like to submit a reminder that there is a lot of work to do.

— Mohan

Indian Team for the first India V Australia ODI

The selectors announced a few days back that Rohit Sharma would replace the injured Piyush Chawla in the team for the first ODI. Ho hum! Team India may surprise us by winning the T20 World Championship trophy. But the selectors will continue along their merry ways. Some things just do not change, I guess! A bowler for a batsman? Only in India…

Here was a captain who, by throwing the ball to Joginder Sharma in the last over of two consecutive crunch-matches, had made an important statement about a young medium-pace-bowling allrounder itching to make it to the world stage. And here, through a freak training injury to a bowler, was an opportunity to strengthen both the bowlers’ confidence as well as the captains’ hand! And the selectors went for a batsman instead!

But that’s the hand Dhoni has been dealt with. It will now be interesting to see if Dhoni plays all three former-captains in his team. I do not believe he should. I feel Ganguly should be sat down in this match.

My ideal team for todays’ match would be:

Sachin Tendulkar
Gautam Gambhir
Robin Uthappa
Rahul Dravid
Yuvraj Singh
MS Dhoni
Irfan Pathan
Harbhajan Singh
S Sreesanth
Zaheer Khan
Rudra Pratap Singh

I’d go for Harbhajan Singh over Romesh Powar for this game merely because Harbhajan’s confidence and rhythm will probably be higher after the T20 matches he has played.

— Mohan