Tag Archives: Sangakkara

India Vs Australia 2nd ODI, Kochi, Tuesday 2 October

This was a terrific win for Australia on Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday — a national holiday in India. After the rained out 1st ODI, and after watching endless celebrations of India’s T20 win, this was a wonderful performance by the Aussies — make no mistake about that. Australia started badly but slowly constructed their innings and wrenched the match away from India. Along the way a few questions were asked of the India team.

The three key issues for me were; (a) lack of intensity, agility, direction and purpose shown by the Indian team in batting, fielding and bowling, (b) bowling in the middle overs where Yuvraj Singh bowled probably as well as the other two Indian spinners in the team, (c) inability of the Indians to make best use of the conditions — and indeed, in the words of Rameez Raja, Australia looked like they were the ‘home team’.

There were many things about the match to write about. I shall make my observations in no particular order:

The Mach Referee will have a busy day?

I don’t think so. Sreesanth ought to be fined, in my view, for appealing for a runout off a dead ball — a situation that was smartly diffused by M. S. Dhoni. It is likely that Sreesanth and Harbhajan may be fined for bad behaviour. However, If he fines Sreesanth for bad behaviour, he will need to fine Michael Clarke, Brad Hogg, Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds and Mathew Hayden for bad behaviour too; something that Chris Broad hasn’t been too keen to do. So, I believe Broad may just collect his pay cheque and move on to the next destination!

Dhoni’s Captaincy

Dhoni’s captaincy was generally good. He was always trying something different. For example, in bringing back Pathan for 32nd over when things weren’t going well for India. He was always in control even when things weren’t really going India’s way. He didn’t appear unnecessarily flustered or charged. He is also a ‘keeper that does not believe in needless chirping behind the wickets. In a generation where almost every ‘keeper in world cricket — Matt Prior, Adam Gilchrist, Kumar Sangakkara, Kamran Akmal, Mark Boucher — keep up a continuous barrage of crap from behind the stumps, Dhoni sticks out like a sore thumb. And his stumping to get rid of Clarke off a legside wide was straight from the top-drawer.

Did Michael Clarke bring the game into disrepute?

Talking of that dismissal of Michael Clarke, I am stunned at the number of teams that are requesting replays these days! Michale Clarke was given out stumped by the leg-umpire Suresh Shastri. He walked away but then waited at the boundary rope — waiting for a decision-reversal! Clarke was asked to stay on inside the ground by his team mates! Shastri, under pressure, asked for a TV review after he had already given the batsman out! This isn’t a good trend. And by asking for a replay — either directly or implicitly — Is this a punishable offence? After all, if a fielder asks the umpire for a TV referral on a run out the fielder would be yanked in front of the match referee and fined. This was a clear breach/questioning of the umpires’ decision.

The Indian bowling

Irfan Pathan bowled brilliantly I thought. His ball to get Hayden out was a beauty. My view is that he is back to his best. The pace was there as well as the accuracy. More importantly, he was probably the best of the three pace bowlers on view in terms of adjusting his length and pace to the pitch.

There is, one senses, definitely a plan to use Yuvraj a bit in the middle and death-overs. Not a bad Jayasuriya-like ploy. Long overdue too.

But my main problem in the last two ODIs is around the selection of Ramesh Powar in the team. He is a good bowler, no doubt. But if he is chosen for bowling just 5-6 overs a game, we are better off with a bowling allrounder like Joginder Sharma or even S. Badrinath in my view. Why? Even Rohit Sharma will give us 4-5 overs of off-spin and you get a terrific batsman for free! In yesterdays’ match Ramesh Powar batted below Harbhajan Singh in the batting order! For two games running, Powar hasn’t completed his bowling complement of 10 overs. It may be that Ramesh Powar is a better bowler than Harbhajan Singh. But his captain doesn’t seem to think so — judging by the fact that Harbhajan Singh completed his complement of 10 overs in yesterdays’ game!

The other major question that wasn’t answered by the Indians was around the respective spinners of the two teams. While Harbhajan Singh and Ramesh Powar didn’t do too much with the ball, we saw Brad Hogg and Michael Clarke ask searching questions with their spin bowling. This doesn’t bode well for India in my view.

After the initial assistance that the conditions offered the seam bowlers, the bowlers ought to have realised the slowness of the pitch. Instead of slowing down the ball, the Indians banged it short or fired it in. The Australians, on the other hand used the pitch very well and bowlers like Stuart Clark and James Hopes did well to bowl cross seam and split-finger stuff. Hopes and Clark bowled straight and without offering any width. Very clever stuff. One would have thought that the India bowlers would have used the slow Indian pitch conditions better!

Sreesanth

In the midst of a rather ordinary spell in which he exchanged words with both Hayden as well as Symonds, Sreesanth had what could best be described as terrible and most unsporting runout appeal off a dead ball. Dhoni’s approach to diffuse the situation suggested his awareness, sensitivity, smart thinking and cool leadership skills — he immediately calmed things down.

Sreesanth should have a look at himself. Before the match he talked of getting a 5-fer on his home turf. He put pressure on himself. Now that’s fine if you can back it up with performances! The young lads’ aggression is not a problem. At least for me, that’s not a problem. We need more of his tribe in the team in my view! If Sreesanth can get under the skins of an opposition like Australia — and he has — and if he can continue to perform, then that would be fine!

That is, if ‘trash talk’ is indeed where he derives his energy from and if he is able to divorce his body-language aggression from his bowling aggression then that would be fine — although I do not personally like it. But the real job that Sreesanth has to do is to bowl well. And he is not… He is wayward and a bit lost for ideas on ‘what to do next’. Sreesanth needs to learn from Zaheer Khan who has a vast repertoire but appears acutely aware of what is expected of him! Indeed Sreesanth needs to support Zaheer Khan and not trot off on a tangent that he has marked out on his own. This was typified by what would have been the last ball of the match. After having bowled 5 excellent balls, he sprayed the last ball wide for 4 wides. He could do well to sharpen his focus on his game. His aggression would be ok, in my book, if and only if he has a sharpness of match-focus to go with it.

I don’t mind Sreesanth giving lip to the Aussies. If a two-bit goose like Brad Hogg can give lip to Gambhir, Dravid and Tendulkar almost from the moment the first ball was bowled, so can anyone in the Indian team really! But really, lip should be backed by performance…

The Batting

For Australia, Andrew Symonds batted very well, but the real champion in the batting — a somewhat underrated player in my view — was Brad Haddin. He played a sensational game to take the Aussies past the 300 mark. Although they were pegged back by the loss of two early wickets, Australia recovered really well to post a commanding and, as it turned out, a match-winning total.

When India batted, it seemed like the old ills were back. The players just didn’t seem keen to take the singles and rotate the strike. Sachin Tendulkar should have given much more of the strike to Robin Uthappa who was batting like a dream. Instead he tried to hit out like Uthappa was. Having said that, it took clever slower balls that induced false strokes from both Sachin Tendulkar as well as Yuvraj Singh. And both dismissals were brought about through excellent catches from Andrew Symonds and Matt Hayden respectively.

Way forward

This loss would have put a stop to the T20 celebrations and brought the team down with a thud. In that sense, it was a good thing for India provided lessons are learned. And to learn those lessons, the team only needs to look back to the events that happened 10 days back! Success in the T20 Championship came on the back of energetic fielding, electric running-between-wickets, sharp-and-focussed bowling, a never-say-die attitude, courageous batting and fear-free cricket. Unelss the team is able to rediscover those facets in their game — or acquire the personnel that will do it for them — this series is going to be a thrashing for the team.

— Mohan

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Team and approach for the Sri Lanka match…

After having accounted for the usual suspects in the Indian team-sheet, the first name that will go into my Team India book for the all-important Sri Lanka game this weekend would be that of Harbhajan Singh. With as many as five left-handers in the Sri Lanka team — Sanath Jayasuriya, Kumar Sangakkara, Russell Arnold, Upul Tharanga, Chaminda Vaas — an off-spinner would be handy to have. Furthermore, I’d get Virender Sehwag to further fine-tune his bowling. I’d play Harbhajan Singh instead of Kumble for the Sri Lanka game.

The only other consideration would be that of Robin Uthappa.

There are two options here: (a) Play Robin Uthappa and have him open with Sourav Ganguly, (b) Play Irfan Pathan and have him come in at #3 with Virender Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly opening.

My preference would be for option (a).

I thought for a minute about replacing Agarkar with Sreesanth. Agarkar has come out as Shockarkar in the first two games. However, this is too important a game to try out a nuance.

In that event, the team would read:
Sourav Ganguly, Robin Uthappa, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, M. S. Dhoni, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel.

An alternative team sheet would exchange Pathan for Uthappa and would read:
Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, Irfan Pathan, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, M. S. Dhoni, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel.

My preference is for the former option.

Either way, the seniors are going to have to stand up and be counted. Despite the post-Bermuda-victory chest-beats that I am reading (even on CricInfo) I believe the Indian team has to tighten up its act in several departments.


  • Virender Sehwag is totally there yet. He played and missed several times at the start of his innings. His game will need to be much more tighter for India to come good.
  • Uthappa should tighten up his off-side game too.
  • Ganguly should rotate the strike much more than he has in the first two games.
  • Agarkar sould stop thinking he is either Shockarkar or Agar-hoga-to-kar.
  • The team should really watch the running between wickets. By my reckoning, the team lost nearly 20 runs through lazy running.
  • There were far too many wides and no-balls.
  • The fielding… oh well…

On the positive side, Yuvraj Singh is timing the ball incredibly well. I haven’t seen any Indian player hit the ball as cleanly as Yuvraj has in the game against Bermuda. Sachin Tendulkar is playing brilliantly too. Agreed, he is not the Tendulkar of old. But this is a more mature, sensible Tendulkar who is playing well within himself. Dhoni will feel good about the stint he had. He was timing the ball well too. Ganguly’s game is much tighter and it looks like he wants to stay and make his innings count. Dravid is Dravid.

— Mohan

The mindset was right

India’s triumph over Bermuda was emphatic, but the more encouraging aspect of the win was the team’s mindset. They looked like they were fully focused on the job at hand and went about it without fuss. The Net Run Rate side of things looks a lot better now.

I mentioned in my earlier post (Go for Broke India) that the Indians needed to approach the game with an uncluttered mind and that is what they did. Even if this was a win against the least fancied of teams, they could take away many positives.

Two things are clear:

  1. Virender Sehwag justified his place in the side and definitely needs to be picked for the Sri Lanka game. Many have clamoured for his removal, but Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell kept faith. In my opinion he was not picked in the team because he is the current ‘blue eyed boy’ of the think tank. Actually, far from it. If anyone can identify a cricketing skill and match winning ability, it is Chappell. I for one don’t doubt his integrity and Dravid’s judgement in reading players. That is why Sehwag is in despite his failures and Pathan is not.
  2. Harbajan should come back to the team for Kumble in the next game. I feel Kumble is less effective against the lefties and if you look at the Sri Lankan line up, you have Sanath Jayasuriya, Kumar Sangakarra, Tharanga, Russell Arnold and Chaminda Vaas. Even against the game against Bermuda, he was unconvincing against Hemp and Minors.

It is pity that Pathan is still not in the scheme of things yet. He is a potential match winner with both bat and ball and his presence will get the balance right. Many will argue that he should have played against Bermuda instead of Agarkar, but even if he had a half-decent game, he is not a certainty for Sri Lanka. One can only hope he discovers his bowling mojo soon.

-Vish

Current Worlds’ Best ODI Team

At the outset, let me confess that I am not a great fan of retrosptective Best-Of lists. I say this although I have participated in some such lists in the past and also on this blog. As I have mentioned in some of my comments here, it is really hard — and somewhat pointless, in my view — to compare across eras and time-periods. Having said that, I applaud previous attempts at list construction on this blogsite, such as:

People say that Bradman was the best batsman ever. Sure, given what the great batsman had achieved, it would be extremely hard to argue against that. I would find it hard to agree against a hypothesis that he was probably the best batsmen ever! But how do we know whether or not Joel Garner (or Michael Holding or Malcolm Marshall or Richard Hadlee or Bishen Bedi) would have torn Bradman’s technique apart? At best, we could say that, given the way he played against his esteemed contemporary bowlers such as Jardine and Larwood, it is likely that he would have coped well against and combatted everything that the wily Garner, Holding, et al had to offer!

Then again, he may have been much better than what he was had he played against Joel Garner (or Michael Holding or Malcolm Marshall or Richard Hadlee or Bishen Bedi)!

Therefore, my preference is to compile best-current player lists. I much rather prefer to compile “best of the current lot” — BOCL — lists. If the BOCL for a country is not its national team, then that team is in trouble! So necessarily (and by definition) BOCL is a worlds’ best sort of thing.

So what is the Worlds’ Best ODI Team at the moment — based on performances over the last year or so?

One way of constructing such a list would be to take the current best batsmen and bowlers from the ICC ODI player rankings and see what comes out of the wash!

I decided to have a look at the top-8 batsmen, the top-8 bowlers and the top-5 allrounders.

The top-8 batsmen are:

Mike Hussey
Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Ricky Ponting
Kevin Pietersen
Chris Gayle
Andrew Symonds
Kumar Sangakkara
Mohammad Yousuf

The top-8 bowlers are:

Shaun Pollock
Glenn McGrath
Makhaya Ntini
Daniel Vettori
Chamindaa Vaas
Brett Lee
Shane Bond
Nathan Bracken

The top-5 allrounders are:

Shaun Pollock
Chris Gayle
Andrew Flintoff
Jacques Kallis
Sanath Jayasuriya

It is interesting to note that Pollock and Gayle are the only allrounders who are on the top-bowling-list and the top-batting-list respectively.

The union of these three sets is a list with a total of 19 players. Of these, it is somewhat interesting to see that Muthiah Muralitharan, Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara are absent. Just because they are proven match winners, I will add them to the list to give a total of 22 players. Given Glenn McGrath is retiring from all forms of cricket after the World Cup, it makes little sense to have him in this ODI team-compilation. So, out he goes! I know I will get into trouble with my Australian friends for this, but I just don’t rate Nathan Bracken. So, although he is 8th on the top-bowling list, he goes too!

So, the combined list of 20 players (in suggested batting order) is:

01. Chris Gayle
02. Sanath Jayasuriya / Sachin Tendulkar
03. Ricky Ponting (captain)
04. Jacques Kallis
05. Mike Hussey / Mohammad Yousuf / Kevin Pietersen / Brian Lara
06. Andrew Symonds / Andrew Flintoff
07. Mahendra Singh Dhoni / Kumar Sangakkara (wicketkeeper)
08. Shaun Pollock
09. Brett Lee / Shane Bond
10. Makhaya Ntini / Chamindaa Vaas
11. Daniel Vettori / Muthiah Muralitharan

This seems to me to be a reasonable team that perhaps represents the best collection of current ODI players.

— Mohan

What are India’s realistic chances?

Let’s face it. Team India lags at 5th place on the ICC ODI table.

As I indicated in a previous article on gurus and pundits, a lot of former Indian cricketers have been incredibly busy lately achieving more exposure than Mallika Sherawat!

Lots of pundits have talked up India’s chances. Sunil Gavaskar says that India will bring home the World Cup “because of the sheer passion generated by the game in the country.” Since when did the passion of a billion cricket fans sitting about 5000 miles away win World Cups! Perhaps he is thinking of a spiritual uplifting in a semi-tantric sense? Who knows what Gavaskar thinks anyway!

Gavaskar’s contemporary, of nose-blowing-fame, I-can-speak-faster-than-you-can-blink-Kris-Srikkanth, opines that India will win. He reckons that, “We have a very well balanced side with experience and all-rounders that has lent stability. The pitches in the West Indies is expected to be similar to those in the sub-continent.

Be that as it may, what are India’s chances? Realistically?

I honestly believe that the team with the best/most allrounders will win the World Cup. Again, I am hapy to be proven wrong and will happily eat humble pie if this is proven wrong. But I feel India missed a few beats in the lead up to the World Cup. I felt that the coach and captain embarked on the right path by egging Pathan on as an allrounder. This, and the making-of-Dhoni (as an allrounder) were both master-strokes when India played that exciting spell of ODI cricket in September-October 2005 agaisnt South Africa and Sri Lanka.

However, it seemed as though coach-and-captain had pinned all their hopes on this one horse. When Pathan’s bowling fell away, they appeared to have no Plan-B. They should have, at that point in time, groomed a Joginder Sharma or someone else. They could have opted to over-bowl Virender Sehwag in an attempt to get that bowling contribution from him going in a much more compelling manner. It is likely that Pathan will come good in the World Cup. But, prima facie evidence suggests that India faces a marginally under-cooked situation in the allrounder stakes. I feel this could hurt India’s chances.

Allrounders give teams amazing flexibility. And that’s most required in the ODI game today. India do not have it — not enough of it anyway, in my view! One could argue that Yuvraj Singh, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly can bowl too. Yes they do. But they are not allrounders in the mould of Andrew Symonds, Shane Watson, Andrew Flinitoff, Jacques Kallis, Jacob Oram, Scott Styris, Sanath Jayasuriya, Abdul Razzaq (Azhar Mahmood), Shoaib Mallik, Shaun Pollock and Chris Gayle…

It would be most surprising if the players named above do not bowl-out their 10-overs in most games. In other words, they make telling contributions with the ball and bat quite well too. A misfit in this list, in that sense, is probably Shoaib Mallik.

Be that as it may, the absense of an allrounder may hurt India. India does have the bits-and-pieces bowlers who bat very well in Tendulkar, Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Ganguly. We also have a bits-and-pieces bat who bowls marginally average: Pathan! These do not make allrounders though.

Note that I have not considered M.S.Dhoni in this comparative discussion on allrounders. In my view, Dhoni is India’s best allrounder. However, I have not thrown him into the allrounder discussion above because, in my view, most teams these days have terrific ‘keeper-bats! Australia has Adam Gilchrist. Sri Lanka has Kumar Sangakkara. South Africa has Mark Boucher. Pakistan have Kamran Akmal (although he is in the midst of a form-slump). New Zealand have Brendon McCullum. I feel that in this regard, West Indies will be hurt by Dinesh Ramdin. England will be hurt by Paul Nixon — if he ‘keeps as well as he talks, his game would perhaps be on another plane altogether!

And for this reason, I think it will be quite a good result for India if we make it past the Super8 stage and into the semi-finals. I would be happy to break an egg on my face myself if India advance to the semi-finals. I’ll break two if India reach the finals.

Don’t get me wrong. I want India to win. And I am not dismissing Team India before even a game has been played! Just like any other Team-India fan, I do want this team to do well. As a Team India fan, I am merely setting my realistic expectations from this team. As the tournament unfolds, I expect these expectations to be re-visited.

There is a reason why India lags 5th in the ICC table. A 5th position is perhaps the best that India can hope for, perhaps? My view is that we must depend on other teams to advance into the Top-4.

From there on in, anything can happen…

— Mohan

Beware of “Old” Teams

Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lanka’s vice-captain has commented about this 2007 World Cup edition belonging to the veterans of the game: Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and Sanath Jayasuriya.

I would go one step further in this regard.

In terms of overall ODI experience, Team India with a combined total of 2203 games among its World Cup fifteen is only 14 games behind the Sri Lanka team total. Australia is in the third place on this metric. I did not bother looking at other teams since I do not believe they would even come close.

On paper, as a result, India and Sri Lanka are seemingly the most experienced sides in the World Cup. The World Cup is a different beast altogether when compared to a low-intensity ODI game. In these games, as countries like South Africa, New Zealand, and England for that matter, have realized, cumulative experience makes a big difference to the overall end-result. While youth and fitness are important factors in determining victory chances, I do believe big-match experience counts significantly when it comes winning the World Cup.

With the added complexity of uncertain pitches in the West Indies, this World Cup will most certainly be a tournament that is played out as much in the minds as it is on the grounds. India and Sri Lanka are most definitely ahead of the pack.

As a result, I would actually add more to the list of names that Sangakkara has referred to. Players such as Anil Kumble (Sanjay Subrahmanyan and Mohan Krishnamoorthy have already discussed his utility at length), Sourav Ganguly, Marvan Attapattu, Muthiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas, Rahul Dravid and Ajit Agarkar are all going to be key figures.

I am predicting that this going to be World Cup for the experienced.

I am predicting that we are going to witness an India v Sri Lanka final.

-Srikanth