Tag Archives: RP Singh

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

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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

Selectors must invest in youth…

The Twenty20 World Championship win by M. S. Dhoni’s Men in Blue has provided a much-needed breath of fresh air for Indian cricket. After the disappointment of the early and embarassing exit from the World Cup 2007 this was what Indian cricket needed. And it was secured by a fearless captain who does things his way. It was secured by a young team that played in the spirit of its captain. And this, I believe, is the blueprint for future success for India. The team has to dismantle the shackles — some self-imposed, some imposed by the ‘system’ that the team is part of and some imposed by history — and play with self-belief and mental stregth.

And this investment in the future has to commence now.

The selectors have named a 15-member squad for the ODIs against Australia which reads (in possible batting order):

Sachin Tendulkar
Sourav Ganguly
Robin Uthappa / Gautam Gambhir / Dinesh Karthik
Rahul Dravid
Yuvraj Singh (vice-captain)
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt)
Irfan Pathan
Piyush Chawla
Ramesh Powar / Harbhajan Singh
RP Singh / Sreesanth
Zaheer Khan

Two things need to happen immediately, in my view.

First Piyush Chawla, who is injured, needs to be replaced. I would be very surprised if this replacememt is not Joginder Sharma.

Second, as a significant policy-shift the selectors need to, from now on, name 17-member teams for ODIs and further stipulate that only a maximum 2 of the seniors can play in any game! First, this would prolong the careers of the Tendulkar-Ganguly-Dravid troika. Second, it would also provide a platform for youngsters to express themselves.

M. S. Dhoni, when asked about the absence of the Big-3 in an interview that I read earlier on, made two important statements I thought. Firsty he said that it was important for his wards to get the appreciation of the seniors back home. And he has received that with Sourav Ganguly immediately recognising and applauding the teams’ efforts. But he also dealt with the issue of their absense with poise when he said, “I am sure if they had been here, they would have taken us to the final. If we do win the final, they can say that they couldn’t have done more than what his team has done. The way we have performed has been amazing.

With the above suggested changes to the ODI team to play Australia, I’d like to see the following team chosen (along with the rider that only 1 or 2 of Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dravid can play any game):

Sachin Tendulkar / Vierender Sehwag
Sourav Ganguly / Gautam Gambhir
Robin Uthappa / Dinesh Karthik
Rahul Dravid / Rohit Sharma
Yuvraj Singh (vice-captain)
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt)
Irfan Pathan
Joginder Sharma
Ramesh Powar / Harbhajan Singh
RP Singh / Sreesanth
Zaheer Khan

From the India team that won the Twenty20 World Championship, Ajit Agarkar, Piyush Chawla and Yusuf Pathan would, therefore not be chosen. Ajit Agrakar needs to decide which side of the bed he wants to get up — if he does! Piyush Chawla is injured and Yusuf Pathan would be, in my view, unlucky to miss out.

The first India-Australia ODI match is in Bangalore on Friday 29th September at 2.30pm IST (7pm Australia time).

Bring it on…

— Mohan

The Indian fan can dream again…

It was a scrap alright; a scrap on a pendulum. The match swung one way then the other and back and back again. Even in the penultimate over of the game, the pendulum swung India’s way first when Umar Gul was bowled by R. P. Singh. Then the pendulum swung Pakistan’s way immediately when Mohammed Asif tickled the first ball he faced for 4 through the vacant slips area. With 13 runs needed from six balls, the pendulum defied gravity and stayed, almost irrevocably, on Pakistan’s side when Misbah-ul-Haq danced down the pitch and straight-swatted — there must be a special Twenty20 term for this almost improbable shot — a full-toss from Joginder Sharma for six! And then, when Misbah-ul-Haq decided a deft paddle-sweep was needed, and when the resulting catch was taken, the pendulum rested with India.

India were crowned the innaugural Twenty20 World Champions because they just refused to lose. They held their nerve in an edge-of-the-seats final. It was a fitting finale for an impressive tournament that had erased the bad memories of a badly organised, badly planned and badly played World Cup 2007 in the West Indies.

But right from the time of the toss, the match swung one way and then the next. It perhaps swung Pakistan’s way when Virender Sehwag was declared unfit to play. One would have thought that Dinesh Karthik would have played. But M. S. Dhoni is his own man. He does things his way and he went with Yusuf Pathan, the older brother of the more famous Irfan Pathan. And what’s more, Dhoni declared that the older Pathan would open the innings — it was a like-for-like replacement, for Yusuf Pathan, like Virender Sehwag, gives the ball one heck of a tonk in domestic cricket and also bowls off-spin.

India started well with Pathan hitting a six and a 4 to race to 15 off 8 balls. But had the brakes put on them when Pathan skied one to Shoaib Malik. The pendulum had swung again. And it did this right through the match until that last moment. The two teams were evenly matched. Pakistan were the better bowling side. India were the better batting side. The two captains were innovative and inventive.

In the middle overs, I thought Umar Gul and Yasir Arafat bowled excellently well. Umar Gul has grown in stature as the tournament has progressed and will serve Pakistan cricket very well in the years to come. Mohammed Asif apparently does not like bowling in the death. In Yasir Arafat Pakistan found a bowler who could do that aptly. Shahid Afridi kept things really tight in the middle overs. While most teams had a weak 5th bowler, Pakistan had Mohammed Hafeez and Yasir Arafat — a specialist death-overs bowler!

Through all of this, one batsman — Gautam Gambhir — shone brilliantly. I have often questioned his role and place in the team. But in this tournament he has batted with rare flair and in an totally unfettered manner. His method has been simple. His strokeplay has been elegant. I think his time has come and I am quite willing and indeed, happy, to eat humble pie. Gautam Gambhir has proved many of his detractors wrong and I would be surprised if he doesn’t score an extended run in the Indian ODI and T20 scene. In the finals, Gambhir stroked his way to a well-crafted 75 off 54 balls. He hit some good cricketing strokes and in those difficult middle-overs, when Yuvraj Singh was finding it hard to get Shahid Afridi and Mohammed Hafeez away, Gambhir even managed to take the pressure of his poster-boy partner by scoring some delectable boundaries. He was my Man-of-the-Match.

The captaincy was excellent too. Two moments stood out. First when Shoaib Malik brought in Hafeez and Afridi the moment Yuvraj Singh came in to bat. The clear signal was that he respected Yuvraj Singh’s hard hitting but wanted the Indian to make the running. By taking the pace off the ball, he posed the question. And on this day the question wasn’t convincingly answered. Full marks to Shoaib Malik for his method as well as his instincts. The other moment was in the middle overs when he had a slip in place! Here was an attacking captain who continually threw the gauntlet at the opposition. He kept asking the questions at crucial junctues and his team also responded. All of these combined to restrict India to a smallish total. At the break between the innings, I talked to 3-4 friends of mine and said that India were probably 15 runs short of where they ought to have ended up. At the toss, M. S. Dhoni indicated that the Indian team was aiming at a score of 180! They ended at 157, about 23 runs short of that mark.

Pakistan, on the other hand would have thought that India, thanks to some belligerent and fear-free strokeplay from young Rohit Sharma, scored abdout 10 runs more than they would have wanted India to score. Shoaib Mallik indicated that they wanted to restrict India to less than 150.

Either way, India had to bowl and field well to defend 157.

As M. S. Dhoni said at the end, he asked the fielders to back the bowlers and add at least 15-20 runs to the total. And the team did that. R. P. Singh bowled brilliantly. Sreesanth was wayward and it looked like the occasion had gotten to him. But every time he sprayed, M. S. Dhoni ran to him and appeared to calm him down. Here was a young man exploding on the inside. He needed tough love and I think he got it. He delivered India a crucial wicket of Sohail Tanveer who had hit a breezy 12 off just 4 balls!

Dhoni handled his bowlers and his fielders very well. At one point in time, he had two slips for R. P. Singh and Sreesanth. It was important to take wickets! He bowled Yusuf Pathan for an over and Joginder Sharma for 3 in the middle when Pakistan were struggling to bring a semblance of stability in the middle order when wickets crashed and fell at the top. This was opportunistic and tactical cricket. Dhoni kept the screws on by bringing in the field and keeping things tight. He invited Pakistan to take the aerial route to take the risks. They did that and paid the price — both Shoaib Malik and Younis Khan perished to ugly hoiks that did not come off. This was smart captaincy.

And then, just when the match was firmly in India’s grasp — or so it seemed — Misbah-ul-Haq, Yasir Arafat and Sohail Tanvir threated to take the game away. That was until that last pendulum-movement.

India had won an improbable victory. The scenes of madness that followed will live with the Indian cricket fan for a long time. It was a brilliant spectacle and was richly-deserved jubiliation for a young team that played in the spirit of its fearless leader.

The future for both India and Pakistan looks bright. The investment in youth and a clean-slate-start had paid off for both teams.

But more importantly for this blogsite, the Indian fan can dream again!

It’s an India Pakistan Final!

What a great game it turned out to be….In my earlier post, I had written that the Aussies were the favourites to win the game. Maybe some one forgot to tell that to the Indian team…or if they did, they didn’t believe it.

India did start a bit tentatively though- the very first ball was nicked by Gambhir for the ball to fall short of Gilchrist. India had made just 36 by the end of the 6th over with Sehwag back in the dressing room. By the end of the 8th over, India had lost both openers and the score was just 41. Enter Yuvraj Singh – and then the game turned on its head. The very second ball he faced was dispatched off for a six and that was just the beginning. Yuvraj made 70 of 30 balls and dominated the bowling – it included 5 sixes and 5 fours! The 3rd wicket partnership between Uthappa and Yuvraj yielded 84 runs in 6.3 overs which ended up being the backbone of the Indian innings. Uthappa scored 34 (of 28) and Dhoni chipped in with 36 (of 18).  India finished the game on 188.

189 was a still very gettable target and the Aussie openers have been playing well throughout the tournament. India needed a couple of good performances from its bowlers and that’s what they got. RP Singh got the new ball to bowl first as reward for bowling well in the tournament, but it was Sreesanth’s performance that kept India in the game. He started badly with a four of his very first ball but took the wicket of Gilchrist in his first spell and even bowled a maiden. He was completely fired up and bowled like the Sreesanth we have come to know and admire. And when Hayden and Symonds were taking the game away from India, he came back to take the all important wicket of Hayden. Hayden made 62 (of 47 balls) and his innings included 4 sixes and 4 fours. When Hayden departed, Australia needed 55 of 32 balls and they still looked on target to win with 2 more overs left from India’s fifth bowling option (which had gone for 38 in the first two)

Pathan then took out Symonds and when he was out, Australia needed another 33 of 20 balls with 6 wickets remaining. Bhajji was the other bowler who was outstanding for India and when he took the wicket of Clarke in his last over with a yorker (what a huge wicket that was?), Australia needed 27 from 12 balls. RP Singh bowled one of the best overs under pressure conceding just 5 runs and it then came down to  22 runs in the last over with Hussey on strike.

Dhoni juggled his bowlers well and captained the side brilliantly, but when Joginder Sharma, who had gone for 31 runs in his two overs, came back to bowl the last over there were a few nervous moments. He started with two dot balls and then took a wicket. The match was finally sealed in favour of India.

Playing at Durban meant that it was like playing in India and Harsha Bhogle commented that he hadn’t seen so many Indian flags in a match even in India! There was even a sign in the crowd that said “India has home advantage”.

India now play Pakistan in the final. The tournament organizers couldn’t have asked for a better finale to the tournament. It is a great comeback for two teams that were knocked out of the World cup in the preliminary round just a few months ago.

-Mahesh-

Glimpses of the future…

The current Team India at the Twenty20 World Cup offers a glimpse of a possible future for Indian cricket sans the Fab Five — Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, V. V. S. Laxman and Anil Kumble.

In the T20 World Cup, India has bowled well, fielded exceptionally well and played with self-belief and aggression. There are pointers to a potentially bright future. These are early days still, but I believe that this team is a good step in the right direction. This direction commenced with Rahul Dravid’s announcement that he, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly would make themselves unavailable for T20 selection.

This then commenced a shift in thinking at the top with the leadership reigns being handed over to M. S. Dhoni. As a leader, I think he is a good investment for the future. Gauging from his conduct on the field, he appears to have the backing of his young players. He is not a formula-captain. He reacts and changes somewhat instinctively. His decision to swap Harbhajan Singh’s end in the game against South Africa would have left him with no option but to bowl Harbhajan Singh in the last over. This could have had potentially disastrous effects. But he followed his instincts and went with it. After a costly 1st over, Harbhajan Singh proceeded to bowl 3 tight overs on the trot! Dhoni appears to have a level head on his shoulders and gauging from the post-match interviews, he is handling his appointment with aplomb… but these are still honeymoon-days!

It is quite an exciting future, in my view, particularly if we add to the mix players like S. Badrinath, Manoj Tiwary, Pragyan Ojha, Amit Mishra, Mohammed Kaif, Suresh Raina, Ishant Sharma, Yo Mahesh, Praveen Kumar, Pankaj Singh, et al.

At 29 years and 247 days, Ajit Agarkar is the oldest player in Team India for the T20 World Cup.

Name | Age (years — rounded to nearest integer)
Ajit Agarkar | 30
Virender Sehwag | 29
Harbhajan Singh | 27
M. S. Dhoni | 26
Yuvraj Singh | 26
Gautam Gambhir | 26
Yusuf Pathan | 25
S. Sreesanth | 24
Joginder Sharma | 24
Irfan Pathan | 23
Robin Uthappa | 22
Dinesh Karthik | 22
R. P. Singh | 22
Rohit Sharma | 20
Piyush Chawla | 19

The average age of this side — even with Ajit Agarkar in it — is 24.33y, which is not a bad average at all!

Firstly, this team has shaved 3 years off the average age of Team India’s World Cup squad!

But more importantly, the drop in average age reflects on the fielding. With Irfan Pathan’s improvement as a fielder, there is really no one in this team that needs to be “hidden” on the field. With a proper long-term fielding-coach and a focus on fitness and intensity, the standards can only improve from here on in. All of this points to a potentially exciting future of Indian cricket. It has been most gratifying to see the self-belief in youngsters like Robin Uthappa, Rohit Sharma, Sreesanth and R. P. Singh.

— Mohan