Tag Archives: Sehwag

Did Randiv “over-step”?

Suraj Randiv over-stepped the crease and bowled a no-ball. Let there be no mistake about that. In doing so, he denied Virender Sehwag a century. He could not, however, deny India a victory. India needed a run to win, and by over-stepping, Randiv ensured that India won.

Randiv’s action was deliberate. Make no mistake about that.

The hue-and-cry that followed that act, however, was quite comical on the one hand and shocking on the other.

Much has been made of an error in judgement. Much has been made of a rush-of-blood. The media has, as usual, gone on over-drive with this story! The over-stepping issue covered more print- and air- space in India over the last two days than a somewhat more troubling 10-line report of China accumulating arms on the Indo-China border! Talk about priorities!

But what is the over-stepping all about anyway? What is the fuss about? As a nation, India (through its media) seems to be madly obsessed with pride and this pride is unfortunately measured by sometimes meaningless statistics. The fact that India won is not enough — an Indian was “denied”. That somehow matters more!

India, it seems, cannot be “wronged” unless Indians are the ones who “wrong” other Indians. We can screw another Indian on our own playing fields (or through corruption scams or any number of scams like the CWG) but another person “dare not” wrong Indians. The point I am making is that, as Amit Gupta writes and verifies in an article on Mumbai Mirror, the “no ball” trick or the “wide” trick are employed all the time in cricket to deny the opposition runs. These “no ball” and “wide” victories are common on our maidans, as Amit Gupta mentions. But the moment Suraj Randiv does it, it presents an opportunity for the Indian media to get “stuck in” to another person who “dared” to wrong an Indian!

Our collective sensibilities are suddenly hurt and the TV anchors thunder “How dare he”? There is much chest beating and forehead slapping to be seen and heard.

Although Virender Sehwag was at his diplomatic best on the prize distribution dais, he spat venom at the post-match press conference and later Twittered proudly that Randiv had apologized to him.

Clearly Sehwag was miffed. He had lost out on a century opportunity in a game that India won!

But then, Sehwag is no Saint! He was the Indian fielder, remember, that kicked the ball over the boundary ropes and signaled it as a four to the umpires in a Test against South Africa. He did that to deny Hashim Amla a single which would have meant that Amla would have protected Morne Morkel from the strike. Was that against the “spirit of cricket”? It was, just as Randiv’s no-ball was against the “spirit”. But these things do happen.

The law is an ass. We are given the law book and must work with it.

We need to admit that un-sportsman-like behaviour happens. More importantly, we need to lose the halo around our collective heads and stop pretending that “only they do it”. Even more importantly, I would like to see evidence of “us” getting to get as upset even if “we do it”. Cos’ we do! In our maidan-s and in our Test cricket.

There are few saints out there.

— Mohan

Irani Trophy and Challengers

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

Irani Trophy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Challenger Trophy:

The Challenger Trophy squads:

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

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

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

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

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

— Mohan

Australia and Sehwag out of ICCWT20C

Amid speculation of a possible rift in the ranks of Team India, Virender Sehwag is out of the ICC World T20 Championship currently underway in England. Cricinfo reports that dealings with the fourth estate have been somewhat charged and frosty over this particular issue, which led to the speculations that not everyone is a happy camper. Rohit Sharma will open for India along with Gautam Gambhir which, in my view, is not necessarily the worst outcome! Rohit Sharma has been in excellent form lately and can also bowl his brand of slow off-spin.

Dinesh Karthik — him again! — will replace Sehwag in the team. Not sure about this move. My suspicion is that, despite his good showing in the IPL for Delhi, Karthik will carry drinks and warm benches.

Not all is well it seems. At least, things are a bit unsure.

What, however, is a certainty is that Australia has been booted out of the ICCWT20C. An ill-prepared Australia was kicked out on that same day that Ireland was welcomed in to the next stage of the tournament; the Super Eights. What should perhaps be most worrying to an Australian fan, is that Ricky Ponting appeared unable to find any answers. For a start, they had the wrong team playing the wrong brand of cricket! I am, for example, not sure why Ryan Harris and Dirk Nannes weren’t in the Australia team! We know why Brad Hodge is not in the team — he is Victorian! Perhaps that bug has bitten Dirk Nannes too? Nannes was, in my view, the best bowler in the IPL. Instead of chosing a fit and performing Nannes, Australia went for players like Shane Watson and an under-cooked Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey. If I were an Australia fan, I would ask questions of Andrew Hildich!

We certainly live in interesting times!

— Mohan

Team India Performance in New Zealand: Tests

Much has been written about India not going that extra mile to win the last Test in New Zealand in the last few days. I wrote about India missing a “Tipping Point” moment. Mahesh also wrote about Good Enough not being Enough anymore!

These thoughts were summed up pretty accurately by Samir Chopra, in his CricInfo Blog.

In a two-part article, Samir Chopra says, “Why did Dhoni need 600 plus runs on the board? To set attacking fields? Why were 500 runs not enough? Because New Zealand had scored 600 runs in the first innings of the last Test? And if he wanted to set attacking fields then why didn’t he set them? I didn’t see fields that were consistently the hyper-aggressive fields that a captain with 600 runs on the board could set. (If you want to see aggressive fields for spinners and pacers alike, go find a video of Imran Khan’s field settings during the 1982 series against England, his first as captain). If the idea was to get 600 runs on the board and go on all-out attack, then why was the Indian team’s demeanour in the post-tea session on the fourth day that of giggling schoolboys? They didn’t look like meanies that had put 600 runs on the board and were in your face thereafter. This slackness affected their catching as well; three catches went down on the fifth day itself. (Dileep Premchandran notes that had those been held, India would have won anyway; perhaps; but perhaps the reason they weren’t held was that the team’s mind wasn’t fully set on winning the game as opposed to the series).”

I couldn’t have put it any better!

Some of us Team India fans could not digest the go-slow approach at The Oval against England and still got over that disappointment to savour India doing well subsequent to that in the T20 Championship and against Australia. Some of us could not digest the last Test draw against England in December, but still got over that to savour India’s success against Sri Lanka and New Zealand. Similarly, I am sure we will get over the disappointment of a mere 1-0 win against New Zealand!

Setting the expectation bar higher is not necessarily a bad thing!

However, I am confident that the disappointment of a mere 1-0 result in New Zealand will soon be forgotten as we see the dancing ladies, pom-poms and skin-tight lycras of cheer-squads in a variety of T20 and ODI tournaments that India has lined up over the next few months. As we look back on Team India’s tour of New Zealand, we look forward to a year filled with T20 and ODI tournaments.

India does not play a Test match for a while now!

So who were the heroes and the zeroes of the NZ tour?

India’s support cast of M. Vijay, Amit Mishra, L. Balaji and Dhawal Kulkarni did not get a gig. That speaks as much to India’s consistency as well as it does to the faith that the team management reposes in its players. In my view, this is how the rest of the tour party fared in the Tests.

9.5: Gautam Gambhir — The biggest hero to emerge from the tour. He was the biggest find of the tour. He convinced everyone he could bat outside India. He saved the Test match in Napier for India and scored heavily in every Test. Although he had a marginal ODI tournament, he played well enough to emerge as an A-lister! In my view, it is because of him that India has risen to #3 position in the Test rankings. When asked some time back whether he preferred Aakash Chopra or Gautam Gambhir as his opening partner, Sehwag said, “I prefer Chopra because he gives me more of the strike!”, and therein lies the value of Gautam Gambhir. He is a diminutive opener, built in the Justin Langer mould. He has the fighting qualities that Langer brought to his game. But he mixes those fighting qualities with the aggressive mindset of a Matthew Hayden. In my mind, there was a question mark over his stomach for a back-to-the-wall fight. There was also a doubt over how he would perform in seaming conditions. Gambhir has ticked both boxes emphatically and emerged from the tour as India’s biggest asset despite a somewhat lacklustre showing in the ODIs. His poor ODI showing makes his Test performance even better! He shrugged off indifferent form in the ODIs to score heavily in the Tests. Full marks to this impressive lad.

9.0: Harbhajan Singh — He won the Test match for India in Hamilton by taking 6 wickets in the second innings. He bowled well as India’s lead spinner. He also topped the bowling charts in terms of # of wickets. India needs Harbhajan Singh to step up to the plate. Right from his debut series, it is when he has been labelled the “lead spinner” that Harbhajan Singh has emerged strongest. So also on this tour. He emerged as the highest wicket taker in the series. But more than that, he bowled with zip, rip and flight and rarely speared balls in as his wont! Apart from his performance in the Tests, more often than not, it was Harbhajan Singh that turned the screws on in the ODIs too. Apart from his bowling, Harbhajan Singh continues to develop as a bat. A solid #8 is vital to India’s hopes of ascending the Test ladder and Harbhajan Singh has constantly been part of major rearguard fights — Sydney 2008 and Bangalore 2008 spring to mind immediately.

8.5: Zaheer Khan — He had a wonderful tour. He bowled more overs than either Ishant Sharma or Munaf Patel. He shouldered the ace pace bowler responsibility and performed solidly. He made initial breakthroughs almost always and shone with the bat too. A recent analysis of his overseas performances underscored Zaheer importance to this team. He has taken 149 of his 210 wickets away from ‘home’. “His percentage of 70.95 is the highest among all bowlers who’ve taken at least 200 wickets. In fact he is well clear of second-placed Michael Holding, who has a percentage of 65.46.” Impressive indeed. Zaheer Khan had a very good ODI series too. Like Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan too has impressed with the bat lately. It is always comical when Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh bat together — not quite in the Javagal-Kumble mould, but comical nevertheless! Both of them seem to relish making contributions to the team cause with both bat and ball and so get close to full marks.

8.0: Sachin Tendulkar — He also had a wonderful tour. It seems that Tendulkar has found second wind in his career after beating Brian Lara’s record. He seems almost unstoppable these days. I will not say that his fluency reminded us of the “Tendulkar of the old”. I am convinced that the Tendulkar of today is the Tendulkar we see today! The Tendulkar of old is exactly that — Tendulkar of old! His 160 in Hamilton was a gem, but for me, his 62 in Wellington was the score I’ll store on my favourites. It is a pity that India is not playing too any more Test matches in the next 8-9 months. His 160* score in the ODI series has many people still drooling. He would have gone on to make a 200 (perhaps) but for a stomach muscle tear.

7.5: V. V. S. Laxman — Laxman proved his detractors wrog — again! The man has always been fighting off his detractors. But it looks like he is finally comfortable in both his own shoes as well as the role he has in the team. With Sourav Ganguly’s departure, he has moved one slot higher in the batting order. He also seems to draw comfort from the knowledge that he has the dependable and rock-solid Dhoni coming in after him! This has enabled him to play his own game lately. And whether it is defence or attack, he has looked assured, while looking attractive. His second innings century at Napier was fluent, artistic and solid — all at once!He scored 295 runs at 73.75 in the series! A good series which is only blotted by the knowledge that we will have to wait a while to see him in India colours again!

7.0: Rahul Dravid — Although he had hit a century in the previous series, a sword continued to hang over this mans’ head! With the recent retirement of Sourav Ganguly, the clarion calls were growing for Dravid’s imminent departure or announcement. Dravid did make an announcement! It was that he was not in a tearing hurry to leave the scene! The chapter is still incomplete! He will be disappointed that he did not convert his starts of 66, 8*, 83, 62, 35 and 60 to much more. However, he will take the 314 runs he made @ 62.8 any day although he will rue the poor umpiring decisions he received! But these were strong returns for this Gentleman of Indian Cricket. He also signalled that he will be around for a while longer. And judging by the way he played, who would begrudge him his opportunities? It would do him and Team India good, however, if the selectors sat him down and worked out his plans for the future. Again, his good series is only blotted by the knowledge that we will have to wait a while to see him in India colours again!

6.0: Virender Sehwag — Virender Sehwag puts fear into the opposition when he walks in. He showed how dangerous he could be in the ODIs. His amazing ODI century was breathtaking in its audacity as well as its brutality and skill. And that is purely why Sehwag is higher in the rankings than Dhoni. In the Tests, Sehwag missed out after making some explosive starts. He had a terrific start at Hamilton and missed out. He received a lot of flack for the shots he played against Daniel Vettori and Jeetan Patel in Napier. But we have to perhaps learn to accept that that is how he plays his game. He lives for today and it perhaps does not hurt to have a player like him in the midst, especially since India has, in Gautam Gambhir, one of the more dependable openers in recent memory.

5.0: M. S. Dhoni — He had a funny tour, in my opinion. He still hasn’t lost a Test match as captain. He brings that X-factor to his captaincy and his team. He is positive and fearless and his energy seems to rub off on his team — even the “seniors” in it. His absence was noticeable in the Napier Test. Virender Sehwag, the next best leader-option in the team — assuming that Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman will not take up that responsibility — was shown up quite badly. Sehwag seems to lack a strategic bone in his body and, to his credit, does not seem to really want one or need one! But Dhoni was missed in Napier. His wicketkeeping was missed in Napier. His batting was also missed at #7 and I personally missed his almost non-stop Hindi commentary from behind the stumps! I seriously think that the TV station should run a separate “Dhoni Channel” when the cricket is on! But that’s another matter for another day… He keeps it simple and uncomplicated. When asked about why the team arrived “late” into Napier (only the afternoon before the Test match), he said, “The mind doesn’t know if it’s Napier or not. You come and say this is Napier it believes it’s Napier, you say it is day it believes it is day because it’s about how you treat the mind… We think more about the small steps rather than have a look at what we want to achieve in the longer run. We know that if we achieve the small milestones what we want to achieve in the longer run will take care of itself. We think about a series, and we break the series into games. And every game is a different game in which we start from scratch.” By the way, this is exactly what Greg Chappell was saying too! But he made himself out to be a pontificating Guru. He was constantly challenged, continually ridiculed and then shown the door! Dhoni brings that earthy matter-of-fact approach to leadership. But despite his X-factor captaincy and despite his solid showing in both ODIs and Tests, he scores low in my books because of his wrong decision on the 4th morning of the 3rd Test — my view on this was recorded at the end of day-4 of the Test match itself (well before rains turned the 2-0 party in Wellington into a mere 1-0 party!).

4.0: Ishant Sharma — Ishant Sharma promised more than he delivered. He is still a work-in-progress. He will improve. He will get better and stronger. India needs to invest more on him. He had a good match at Hamilton but struggled to bowl into the wind at Wellington. Of course, all bowlers struggled at Napier! He bowled well in patches and it is fair to say that he will have learned from this outing.

3.0: Munaf Patel — I really do not know when players like Munaf Patel will realise that it is not enough to just rock up on the park and assume that “she’ll be right, mate”! The fact that the entire team applauded a dive that Munaf Patel put in on the boundary rope is symptomatic of his problems. A dive must be de rigueur. If your team mates are surprised that you can actually dive, that is cause for concern! He blows hot one day and cold the next. He lacks consistency and I suspect that it is because he either does not “put in” enough to his game and his preparations. Or maybe he just leaves his thinking cap behind in the Hotel room every morning! He had a terrific match in Hamilton. He played the 3rd bowler card perfectly and performed his role to perfection. He kept it tight and took wickets too. However, when the batsmen got stuck into him at Napier, he dropped his bundle and his tour went South from there on! He looked completely disconnected from proceedings subsequent to that point. He dropped catches, could not bend down to field regular shots and just missed the point of being part of a team! He needs a wake up call or a kick up his backside. He needs to work on his fitness, period. You are not going to teach him to be a better fielder and dive around the park. Not now. He has missed that bus many years ago! However, what he has to learn is complete commitment to his fellow bowlers — if not the entire team. A good, mentally strong, fit and committed Munaf Patel is important for India if she is to challenge the #2 and #1 spots.

2.0: Yuvraj Singh — What I wrote about Munaf Patel could be said about Yuvraj Singh too. He had several opportunities to not only cement the #6 spot, but make it his own. Instead, he used the tour to default on his loan repayments. His line of credit has been extended. But only just! He had a poor tour. For me, it was less his ability with the seaming ball and his low returns that made me give him such a low score. It was due to his overall lethargy in the field. He just did not seem to belong in this company. A few years ago, he was the touted as the great hope of the Indian infield. He was! He was seen as the messiah that would inspire a generation of Indian cricketers to throw themselves around on the park like a Jonty Rhodes or a Ricky Ponting. Today he is already a pale shadow of what he was even yesterday! Unfortunately, this means that he might need to start all over again! I think he can do it. He has to sharpen his fitness and lose those needless excess kilos. He also has to fix that ‘dodgy knee’. He seems to me to be a man pre-occupied by that weakness. We may then see a better, fitter and a more free Yuvraj Singh.

1.0: Dinesh Karthik — The only positive contribution from Dinesh Karthik on this tour is that he has ensured that Yuvraj Singh does not get lined up at the rear of the class! I would not be surprised if Dinesh Karthik played his last Test at Napier. The only good thing about his ‘keeping in the 1st Innings of that Test was that he made the Kiwis wonder if he had been selected for his batting! Once they saw him batting, they were left scratching their heads! I strongly believe that it is time the team and the selectors invested in Wriddhiman Saha, Naman Ojha and Srivats Goswami.

Overall, this was a steady tour for Team India. I’d have preferred a 2-0 result, but will take this in the hope of better things in the future.

In conclusion, I must say that the pitches as well as the schedule worked in India’s favour. Gautam Gambhir was “allowed to fail” in the ODIs without allowing it to form a ‘mental block’ for him. The bowlers — particularly Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh — got used to the conditions. So a big tick to the BCCI for drawing up a schedule. A big tick too to the BCCI for also organising for Dravid, Laxman, Kulkarni and Laxman to play a few provincial games in New Zealand. It can’t have hurt India’s preparations.

— Mohan

Another (Not-so-dull) Draw…

Geoff Boycott’s mother-in-law could have played in this Test match with a draft-stopper as a bat and still would not have got out on that track unless of course her name was Yuvraj Singh or McIntosh or unless she had a rush-of-blood a la Virender Sehwag! That was how poor that Test match track was at Napier. To say that it was a terribly rotten track would do grave injustice to “terribly rotten tracks”. It was worse than just that! At the prize distribution ceremony, Vettori said, “You can play another Test match on this if you want to!”

What’s wrong with Kiwi pitch curators? One of them messed up the Bangalore Test against Australia. And now this graveyard got dished out.

Apart from perhaps Yuvraj Singh in India’s 1st Innings, every other batsman got himself out. The pitch had nothing to do with them getting out (for most part). After the recent spate of huge scores on boringly dead tracks, this is hardly an advertisement for Test cricket.

Yes, this Test match was quite gripping stuff. But this was more due to bad batting in the 1st Innings by India than anything to do with the pitch. Once a team puts on 619 runs in its first innings, the other team is always going to play catch up! And that’s precisely what India did. To compound matters, in the first innings reply, Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Karthik, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan got out to poor shots, while Yuvraj Singh played like only he can!

The response from India, after following on, was solid. It was expected. It wasn’t pretty. But it was necessary.

Now India have the opportunity to go back home (or to South Africa, to play in the IPL) with the silverware. I do not expect to see any changes in Team India other than Dhoni coming in for an out-of-colour Dinesh Karthik.

I would also hope/expect that Dhoni will hang up his soccer boots!

Meanwhile, we have the start of what appears to be a bit of a controversy with Rahul Dravid appearing to question either Virender Sehwag’s shot selection or V. V. S. Laxman’s justification/defence of Sehwag’s shot selection!

Either way, Team India should work to put this Test match and the soccer ball behind it and move on to Wellington where the 3rd Test commences on Friday.

— Mohan

What was Sehwag thinking?

At the end of the 6th over of the ongoing Test match between New Zealand and India, New Zealand was travelling nicely at 21/0. The 7th over was a beauty from Ishant Sharma. He had Macintosh out first ball and almost had How out LBW off the 5th ball. At the other end, the 8th over was a terrific follow up from Zaheer Khan. He had How cleaned up off the last ball and New Zealand was 22/2.

At this crucial juncture, in the 9th over, after his team had taken 2 wickets in 2 overs, Sehwag decided to bring in Munaf Patel!

It wasn’t as if Ishant Sharma was spent! For crying out loud, he had just taken a wicket in his previous over!

I am not saying that this decision cost India a bad day in the office — Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Karthik and Rahul Dravid made sure that their hands (or lack of it) did the real damage! But I really would like to know what Sehwag was thinking at that time? I’d love to know…

— 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

Sehwag shows the way in Indian victory…

International cricket returned to India four days ago. After the tragedy on the 26th last month, cricket was the last thing on people’s mind. There were arguments and counter arguments on whether the tour should continue or not. And the distractions off the field could easily have been a good excuse to be on the losing side. Not for this Indian team, though…

For over three and a half days, England was the dominant team. When they declared just three overs after tea setting India a target of 387 to win, England must have thought they had the match in the bag.

Most Indians probably believed that too – but not Virender Sehwag. His blitzkrieg yesterday did two important things that changed the tide of the match – first, it showed his team mates that it could be done and they could indeed win the match and second, it broke the morale of the English team. With around thirty overs to go for the day, England would have hoped to have knocked out 2 or maybe even three wickets and restricted India to say around 80-90 runs. India would then need close to 300 runs on the final day. On a fifth day pitch in India, that would have been a tough ask.

But with Sehwag’s onslaught, the total at the end of the day read 131 for 1 – India had wiped out more than a third of the score needed to win and they needed just 257 on the final day. Suddenly the target seemed so achievable.

And yet, with Sehwag back in the dressing room, there were several things that still pointed towards an Indian loss –

  • A fifth day Indian pitch where no team has made over 276 in the fourth innings to win a match
  • Dravid’s form
  • Tendulkar’s fourth innings average and the constant criticism that he has very rarely batted India to a victory in the fourth innings
  • An unproven Yuvraj Singh (in Tests, any way)

But there has been some transformation in the Indian dressing room under Dhoni’s captaincy that has made this team believe in themselves. This was again evident today.

Gambhir scored 66 and Laxman chipped in with 26, but the key partnership was between Tendulkar and Yuvraj, who scored the bulk of the runs. They put on an unbroken partnership of 163 runs – Tendulkar scored 103* and Yuvraj 85*. They got together when the score was 224 for 4 and a point in time when England probably still thought they could win this game.

Tendulkar hasn’t scored a fourth innings century since that 136 he scored in this very ground a few years ago against Pakistan – when he ended up on the losing side. That loss would have hurt Sachin badly as India needed just 17 runs to win when he got out. It also led to criticisms of his inability to lead India to a victory in the fourth innings. With this win, that monkey is finally off his back now.

At the end of the day, India won the game with 6 wickets in hand and romped home with more than a twenty overs to spare. Although Gambhir, Tendulkar and Yuvraj contributed to the victory, it was only possible because of Sehwag’s 83. It is not often that someone who isn’t the top scorer and who hasn’t taken any wickets is awarded the man of the match award. But such was his impact…

-Mahesh-

Number Trivia

25

That is the percentage of players in the 16 man squad touring India who have origins or links to the Indian sub-continent – Owais Shah, Amjad Khan, Monty Panesar and Adil Rashid. To add to that,  Ravi Bopara, Sajid Mahmood and Samit Patel have been part of the ODI squad or the Performance squad (or both).

Who would have thought that when India play England, the Indians can’t openly discuss strategy on the field in Hindi or Punjabi?

15

The number of years since England have played a test at Chennai. They lost the last game played here by an innings and 22 runs, but they haven’t done too badly here – of the 7 matches played in Chennai, England and India have won 3 each, while one game was drawn.

325

That’s the number of runs that Yuvraj scored in his last 5 ODI innings. Very impressive. But his last 5 test innings have yielded him a grand total of just 49 runs including 2 ducks. The important thing is that he is in rollicking form at the moment and will be hoping to correct the imbalance in his Test statistics.

All that depends on whether he is picked in the XI, though… 

319

Runs scored by Sehwag the last time India played at Chennai. What is more fascinating is that he scored them of 304 balls. Rahul Dravid played a long innings too – he played 13 balls less than Sehwag. His score: 111

Since his comeback, Sehwag has scored 1353 runs at an average of 61.50.  Only Graeme Smith has scored more runs (1363) than Sehwag this year.

55

The number of wickets taken by Harbhajan Singh this year. He has been the highest wicket taker for India this year, but that doesn’t tell the real story. He has been consistent but not spectacular. For most of the year he has bowled flat and quick. He is now the senior most bowler in the Indian team and he has to take his bowling a couple of notches up.

5000

The number of people deployed at the ground, the hotel and other places for security reasons during England’s stay. With Two thousand police personnel at the stadium alone, one does not have to worry about having enough spectators for the match.

I know what you are thinking – With so many police doing Test duty, would the crime rate go up in the city? The answer is No – the crooks would be too busy watching the game… 🙂

-Mahesh-

India Vs Australia :: Test 4 :: Nagpur :: Day-4

After playing adventurous and bravado-laden, aggressive cricket on day-1 and day-2, India had choked Australia almost out of the game on day-3 of this intriguing Test match. In a strange manner, India played the “new age cricket” that Australia was threatening to play all along in this series. Up until day-3 Australia had failed to execute that brand of cricket. And on day-3 when they were faced with an opposition that played new age cricket, they had no answers!

India had a hand on the Border-Gavaskar Trophy and needed a few sessions more of good cricket to get both hands on it!

The 1st Session went to plan for India. Virender Sehwag and debutant M. Vijay played sensibly and countered everything that Ricky Ponting threw at them. Ponting was caught between two lands. He could not afford to over-attack. He could not afford to defend either. It is not often that Australia finds itself in this position. And today, I am not sure they got their tactics right. Jason Krejza was bowling impressively. But the Indian openers had no fears. They played him and Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson and Shane Watson with much ease. I am not sure why we didn’t see Simon Katich!

The over rate wasn’t great either.

India went into lunch on 98-0 off 27 overs. Only 26 overs had been bowled in the mornings’ session. Was Australia the team that was supposed to be “making the running” in this match? I wasn’t sure. The run rate was hovering around 3.6 rpo. Virender Sehwag had reached his half century and Vijay was playing with much composure and tightness.

An early thought: Why not include Vijay and Gambhir as openers against England and allow Sehwag to drop in at #3 as Ganguly’s replacement?

The SBS Score reads: India-5.5, Australia-4.5;

The second session of the days’ play was a disaster for India. Of course, the Australians bowled exceedingly well and to tight lines. However, what really happened was a mindset issue.

India started after lunch in brilliant manner. Virender Sehwag was batting positively and treated Jason Krejza with disdain.

But then Shane Watson was getting some reverse swing and got M. Vijay LBW of a ball that dipped in. And this set the trend for the rest of the afternoon. At this stage, India was completely on top.

Immediately after this, Dhoni made his first major error. He sent in Dravid ahead of Laxman.

Laxman was the in-form batsman and he should have gone out to bat. Instead, we had Dravid and frankly, he made the bowlers look better than they actually were. Dravid is tentative and unsure. He needs time off in the Ranji Trophy to get his game fixed. But here, he ought to have batted at #5 or #6. India needed to carry the momentum. Instead, Dravid played right into Australia’s hands. Of course, he got out for not much.

Immediately after that Sehwag was out caught down the legside for the second time in the series. And this set the rot.

Tendulkar and Laxman batted as if they were rabbits caught in the headlights. Instead of keeping the scoreboard ticking, they slipped into a defensive mindset. The momentum had shifted.

Laxman got out to a beauty from Jason Krejza that bounced, turned and crashed into his leg stump. A brilliant ball by an enterprising bowler. Australia had a hero.

He became a bigger hero when he got Ganguly caught and bowled for a first ball duck! On his last appearance for India, Ganguly, who had received an ovation from each and every Australian cricketer on the field, was out for a first ball duck!

The man who had drama follow him all his life, had created his own drama to join the ranks of Don Bradman, who also got a duck off his last Test innings!

The last nail in the coffin was hammered by a freakish run out of Tendulkar off the last ball before Tea.

This was a nightmare session for India and, from an unenviable winning position, India was just 252 runs ahead. India had made 68 runs in the session and lost 6 wickets! I am convinced that this was triggered as much by good bowling as it was by the Dhoni decision to send Dravid in at #3.

The problem that was commenced by the decision to send Dravid in at #3 was compounded by the fact that Laxman and Tendulkar were caught in an intensely negative mindset. The just didn’t take the singles and just didn’t keep the scoreboard moving.

The SBS Score reads: India-5.5, Australia-5.5;

Indeed, at this stage, Australia looks odds-on favourite to win the match!

Was the good work over the entire series by the Indians being undone by one terrible session here at Nagpur? Was the somewhat lacklustre showing by the Indians in this last session the lifeline that this champion team from Australia looking for? Will the Australians grab it and run all over the Indians?

Time will tell. An important 3rd Session was coming up for both teams.

As much as the Indians had played badly, it is true that Jason Krejza bowled excellently well. Here was a star that was born for Australia. It is a huge call to make, but I am reasonably that, along with Ajantha Mendis, we had seen the birth of another spinning star in world cricket.

In the lunch-tea session, there was a ball tampering incident that may get the match referee, Chris Broad quite interested. Cameron White was shown plucking leather off the scuffed up side of the ball. This was just before the ball started reverse-swinging. Although Cameron White wasn’t picking at the seam, he certainly did pick at the leather. It is fair to say that he did alter the condition of the ball.

Will Chris Broad have the guts to ping an Australian though?

At Tea, just 50 overs had been bowled in the day and there was nary a breath from Mark Waugh and Nick McCrdle on this issue! Australia was 10 overs short at this stage and let’s remember that Australia was the team that had to force the pace in this match?

Is this the second issue for the Chris Brad to contend with in the days’ play?

Will Chris Broad have the guts to ping the Australian captain though?

Australia started off the post-Tea session with Jason Krejza at one end and with Cameron White and then Michael Hussey! Clearly, Australia wanted to get a move on on the over-rate! Perhaps Chris Broad had warned these Saintly Australians that he may have no choice but to suspend the Australian captain for a Test match for their over-rate recalcitrance!

With Cameron White and Michael Hussey bowling, the foot had been lifted off the pedal, it seemed. Both White and Hussey had allowed the two Indian batsmen to settle in! Gone was the reverse swing! Gone was the pressure at the other end!

But given the Australian bowling over-rate recalcitrance right through this series, was winning this Test match and retaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy more important than saving the captain from a suspension?

Australia had clearly lost the plot after Tea! Australia had been sloppy in the first two sessions of the day (as they have been for well over a year now)! How they could be sloppy when they were supposed to be making the running in the game, only Ricky Ponting and the Australia Team will know. However, to compound one unprofessional mistake with the bowling of White (first) and then Hussey was just sheer unprofessional cricket from these Australians.

Someone needs to stick a Diwali firecracker up their collective backsides!

Instead of going for the jugular, they let the pressure off the Indians. About 52 minutes after Tea, India was nearly 300 runs ahead (298 to be precise). At this stage, Australia had 27 overs left to be bowled in the day, with just 70 minutes left in the days’ play. The partnership between Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh was already worth 50 runs.

This was sloppy, unprofessional cricket that was totally unbecoming of a champion side.

India consolidated its position slowly and steadily. Thanks to some poor over rates and poor bowling pair in operation as a result of this, with 40 minutes to go in the days’ play, 19 overs were left in the days’ play and the partnership was already worth 82 off 128 balls!

Once again, when it mattered most, Australia had not been able to step up to the plate in this series!

With an hour to go to the extended days’ play, Australia needed to bowl 17 overs in the day. The partnership was worth 101 between Harbhajan Singh and Dhoni. The wheels had come off the Australians carriage. Partly through their own unprofessionalism. But partly through some courageous and positive-mindset batting from Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh. The 100 partnership came off just 150 balls.

It was unfortunate for Jason Krejza really. He was bowling splendidly. But, instead of pressure at the other end, after Tea, he had Cameron White, Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke as his bowling partners! This just wasn’t good enough from the Australians. They had completely lost the plot. From a match-saving mode, India was now in target-setting mode! And it all happened in one hour of extremely sloppy play from Australia.

I think Australia lost the series in that one hour of terrible cricket post-Tea.

Finally, Shane Watson was back in the attack with 45 minutes to go to the extended days’ play and with 15 overs still left in the days’ play!

So what did the hand-off-the-jugular achieve from Australia? I just don’t know.

Against the run of play, suddenly Dhoni was out for 55 off 81 balls. He tried to sweep a Jason Krejza ball from off to leg as he had been doing all innings. The ball seemed to bounce off his boot to be cleanly and wonderfully caught by Michael Hussey. The score was 274-7. The partnership was worth 108 runs from 27.2 overs at a rate of 3.95 rpo. Krejza had his 3rd wicket for the innings. The Indian lead was worth 360 runs now.

Perhaps this match was beyond Australia’s reach now? It would need a Herculean effort from Ausralia to make it from this position. Another way to look at it would be that IF Australia make a victory from this position, they absolutely deserve to win and to retain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.

At this stage, Krejza had conceded 354 runs for 11 wickets in the game! Only the West Indian Scott had conceded more runs in a Test with 374 runs for 9 wickets.

Soon, Harbhajan Singh had scored his half century. Once again, he was a thorn in the Australian Team’s side.

On a day when both Andrew Symonds and Ricky Ponting had their well-timed pre-Christmas book releases that touched on the “Monkeygate” episode, Harbhajan Singh had responded with the bat rather than the pen.

And what matters most is responses with ball and bat.

India’s 8th wicket was down to a freakish caught behind by Haddin off Krejza, who now had his 4th wicket for the Innings. Zaheer Khan had to go after an attempted sweep caught his glove. The resulting lob was pouched on the 3rd attempt by Haddin. The score was 286 for 8 and the lead was 372.

Immediately afterwards, Harbhajan Singh was bowled for 52 off 94 balls by Shane Watson. It was the end of a superb hand from this feisty Sikh who has taken an immense liking for the Australians of late!

This wicket begged the question: Why could Shane Watson have not continued bowling after Tea? What’s the worst that could have happened? A Ricky Ponting suspension? Was Ponting’s suspension worth more than the teams’ chances in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy?

These are questions that just have to be asked.

With half an hour left in the days’ play, Australia still had 12 overs to bowl! The White-Hussey-Clarke experiment had pulled things back a bit for Australia — but not much! Still the team was in the dog house. No two ways about it!

I’d really like to know what the Match Referee does with Cameron White (ball tampering) and Ricky Ponting (bowling over-rate sloppiness).

My sense is that Chris Broad will let both of these offenders off.

India was all out for 295 with Shane Watson getting the last wicket to fall. Watson had got 4 wickets.

Australia needed 382 for a win and 13 of these were wiped off in the very first over from Zaheer Khan! I do think that the plan for India would be to keep it tight at one end and attack from the other end.

With 4 balls left in the days’ play, light was offered to Australia and Hayden accepted the light!

When India sent in a night watchman in Delhi, Mark Waugh, Malcolm Conn and Chloe Saltau went into paroxysms, describing it as a ‘negative’ move. It will be interesting to see what their reaction is to this offering from Australia!

But more than anything else, I will be interested in seeing what the Match Referee does today.

Added later:

India had a wonderful last session of play. This was more due to Ricky Ponting’s strange and bizarre tactics. Of course, Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh played sensationally well. But Ponting’s tactics contributed immensely to the free spirit with which they played.

That last session belonged to India. The SBS Score reads: India-6.5, Australia-5.5;

— Mohan