Tag Archives: South Africa

The Real Test begins!

India take on South Africa (RSA) in a 2-Test series starting today (6 Feb 2010). It is a battle between #1 and #2 sides in the ICC Test rankngs. Having said that, in my view, the ranking system cannot really be that good if it rewards a team that has never won a series in Australia or South Africa! Nevertheless, thems the breaks. India did not construct the ranking system!

The fact is that, starting today, the 1st ranked Test team takes on the 2nd ranked Test team in what will be a cracker of a contest. I can’t wait. Bring it on!

In my view, if India come out of this with a win or a draw (a) it will be a minor miracle, (b) I will start to accept this team as a “good” if not “terrific” team, (c) the team will have secured help from spin-friendly pitches.

I have absolutely no problems with spin-friendly pitches in India. Let me state my position on this VERY clearly. The day I see/hear/read Ian Chappell and Mikey Arthur complain that Perth and Durban are too bouncy and offer their home teams undue advantage, I might consider writing an article bemoaning spin-heavy conditions in Chennai or Kolkata. You don’t expect to go to San Fransisco and whine that the city does not have the Taj Mahal! Similarly, Indian pitches afford spin. Night follows day!

Considering the fact India is without Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh (possibly) Laxman and Sreesanth, India are behind the eight-ball against a full strength opposition that is itching to claim #1. Given this I am doubly sure that India should offer the kinds of pitches that the local soil and environment offers and should NOT “doctor” pitches to offer unnatural conditions.

M. S. Dhoni is yet to lose a Test as India captain. I will not be surprised if he blemishes his copy book in this series against a hungry opposition. The loss of Dravid, Yuvraj and, possibly, Laxman will be a blow. While their “replacements” will, no doubt, be tough competitors, the real blow is likely to be to the mental approach of the rest of the batsmen. If Sehwag, Gambhir, Tendulkar and Dhoni, the mainstay Indian batsmen, adopt an early-90s Indian batsmens’ mental attitude, then India will, I believe, be cooked in this series. India needs the above four to play with clear minds.

The batting replacements for Dravid, Laxman and Yuvraj Singh are good, but untested at this level. It is a perfect opportunity for Badrinath, Vijay and Rohit Sharma to announce their names on a big world stage. I do not mind this bapism one bit. As I said earlier, this to me is a test of Indias recent strides as much as anything else. These stores have been impressive. This test will reveal if luck played a bigger role than warranted.

South Africa has problems too. They are without a full time coach and a selection committee. Even so, I’d rather have their problems than have 4 key players on the injury list. The real problem for South Africa, in my view, are (a) the forms of Ashwell Prince and Duminy, (b) ability to take on quality spin, (c) the form or Paul Harris.

The above problems are, in my view, smaller than those that India faces.

So I expect a tough, gripping and exciting cricket. I think South Africa might win unless India prepares spinning pitches.

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Is India capable of hosting major events?

The second edition of the IPL will now be played at South Africa.

And as always in India, I feel the Indian public have been robbed. The success of the first edition of the IPL was mainly due to the people — the crowds that filled the stadia — that made the event. Almost every match had full crowds and they loved it. Towards the end of the tournament, even staunch cricket non-believers wanted to go and “soak in the atmosphere of the IPL”.

And now, instead of Delhi, the people of Durban will wonder what the fuss is all about. Instead of Jaipur, people at Johannesburg will wonder why their hotels are suddenly booked out with able-bodied men in lycra! Instead of Calcutta, the people of Cape Town will wonder what’s going on in their somewhat empty cricket stadium.

Yes. The IPL will be played in South Africa. It will be shortened by one week and will start on 18 April instead of 10 April. Shane Warne gets his wish for a shortened IPL. It may also be played in front of somewhat empty stands — I somehow can’t see too many South Africans rolling up to see Asnodkar, Jadeja and Manpreet Gony! But don’t worry, millions of people in India will be glued to their TV sets!

I will say it again, the people of India have been robbed… again… as we often are!

In saying that, I think this was the right decision in the end.

But I am not having an each-way bet! I’ll come to the main thrust of my article later.

The tournament had to be played — these were contractual obligations that the BCCI has with franchise owners as well as to TV rights owners. These contracts with key stakeholders cannot ever be compromised. The show must go on. These key stakeholders invested in the IPL in the hope of making returns on their investment. Especially in these tough economic times, to cancel the second edition of the IPL would be a calamitous economic folly inflicted on franchise owners and TV rights owners. As investors, franchise owners have a right to ensuring that they get their returns as promised in their contracts with the BCCI. Ditto the TV rights owners who coughed up huge sums of money to buy the rights. Try getting these investors to tell their banks that they would be defaulting on their repayments for a year because all the country’s security folk were required to guard a few politicians!

Moreover, the knock on effect on BCCI’s Champions League — which was already cancelled once due to 26/11 — would have been a needless double whammy.

So the IPL just had to go on. The show must go on. After all, England came back to play Test matches in India just weeks after 26/11!

The second edition of the IPL could not be postponed either. Given an incredibly packed international cricket calendar, this was not just the best period for the IPL; it was the only period for the IPL.

This was the scenario that was presented to the Indian Government. The Government (Babu-dom) sat on its haunches as much of (what I call) “Old India” does. Babu-dom vacillated and ummed and awed and passed papers — in triplicate, no doubt, with appropriate challans marked by about 20 different people for about 30 different layers of Babu-dom to scrutinise and release ummms and awes. Meanwhile “Young India” decided to march on and take the baby along with the bath water to another country.

Fair enough. The world waits for no one. And no one ought to be held to ransom.

A week ago, given the stand-off between the BCCI and the Government, it seemed highly unlikely that the second edition of the IPL would take off at all. Given that dreadful scenario, for the tournament to now go ahead in South Africa is a terrific achievement for “New India”, while “Old India” sits on its fingers growing nothing more than ring marks on its backside.

Now I realise in saying all of this that there were unavoidable circumstances at play here. There is a general election on. But surely, if a general election takes away the entire police force and security agencies of a country, then, you need to question its claim to host any major event!

While it is not a question of “national pride” being at stake, I am convinced that questions must be asked of the security machinery in the country if the entire security apparatus is needed for running an election process.

In saying this, I am in no way suggesting that cricket is bigger than democracy or security or due political governance. Not at all. So habitual flame throwers and angered souls need to read this disclaimer prior to picking up their keyboard!

National elections must take precedence over a cricket tournament. One is an absolute necessity and the fundamental tenet of a vibrant democracy; certainly one that cannot and must not be compromised. The other is a mildly dispensable past time.

Further, “national pride” would take a far greater beating in the face of a security breach — like the one we witnessed on 26/11 or in Pakistan recently — than it would by the tournament being conducted in South Africa.

However, the question must be asked. Why do we need a mammoth police force (the largest in the world by some margin) and the army and an elite company of NSG commandos protecting a bunch of politicians?

If we cannot answer this or answer this with a “we are like this only”, then we do also need to simultaneously question whether India is ready for “major events”.

— Mohan

Indian Team announced

The Indian Team for the first two Tests against the South Africans has been announced. It is:

Anil Kumble (Captain), Wasim Jaffer, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Murali Kartik, Sreesanth, RP Singh, Piyush Chawla (back-up)

It is along expected lines given the post-Australia-tour injury-list! However, I am rather surprised to see as many as 4 spinners in the 15-member line-up! Ishant Sharma has not recovered from his injury yet and it looks like Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh have yet to prove their fitness.

I expect that the Final XI will be:

Wasim Jaffer
Virender Sehwag
Rahul Dravid
Sachin Tendulkar
Sourav Ganguly
VVS Laxman
Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk)
Irfan Pathan
Anil Kumble (Captain)
Harbhajan Singh
RP Singh

Extras: Yuvraj Singh, Sreesanth, Murali Kartik, Piyush Chawla (back-up)

— Mohan

India ‘A’ continues to impress…

For a few months now, I have been following the exploits of the India ‘A’ team captained by Mohammed Kaif. After impressive showings against Zimbabwe Select, Kenya and Sri Lanka A, the team continues its good showing against a South Africa ‘A’ side that includes many players that have turned out for the Springboks national team in the past.

While India ‘A’ includes Mohammed Kaif (13 Tests, 125 ODIs), Parthiv Patel (19 Tests, 14 ODIs), Ishant Sharma (1 Test, 1 ODI) and Suresh Raina (36 ODIs) as players who have donned India colours, South Africa ‘A’ includes Morne van Wijk (5 ODIs), A. Petersen (2 ODIs), Gulam Bodi (2 ODIs), Boeta Dippenar (38 Tests, 107 ODIs), Albie Morkel (12 ODIs), Justin Ontong (2 Tests, 21 ODIs), Thami Tsolekile (3 Tests), Vernon Philander (5 ODIs), Johan Botha (1 Test, 13 ODIs), Charl Langeveldt (6 Tests, 48 ODIs).

India won the 2-match Test Series 1-0 (one match was rained out). The first 2 ODIs were completely rained-out. In the latest ODI, India beat South Africa by 1 run off the last ball in a thriller at Rajkot.

S. Badrinath continues to impress with both bat and ball and in my view, it is only a matter of time before this exciting 27-year-old dons India colours. He is a valuable bat, an electric fielder and a competent off-spinner too.

For sometime now, I have been saying that India really needs a few good allrounders in its ODI make up. While welcoming the return-to-form of Irfan Pathan, I have been dismayed with the selectors’ reluctance to invest in Joginder Sharma for the ODIs against Australia. This after captain M. S. Dhoni had invested his reputation as well as India’s fortunes in the T20 Championship in two of the biggest last overs an Indian has bowled in international cricket!

Here is a quote on Joginder Sharma from Dileep Premachandran’s article on Dhoni.

His treatment of Sharma in the two biggest matches of the tournament summed up his qualities as captain. You or I could toss the ball to a Wasim Akram or a Curtly Ambrose and calmly watch a match clinched in the final over. It requires no great leadership quality or tactical nous.

The real test of captaincy lies in bringing the fringe player into the centre circle and making him feel that he’s not a misfit there. It’s almost certain that no other Indian captain of the last decade and more would have dared go with Sharma for those final overs. By doing so Dhoni was emphasising sport’s greatest but often forgotten truth – it’s not about the stars, it’s about the XI. And sometimes the unlikeliest ones shine brightest.

And after that bold and forthright statement, and especially when an opportunity persented itself with Piyush Chawla’s freak injury, Joginder Sharma has been cast to the sidelines.

I have been following the careers of allrounders like him and Praveen Kumar, the 20-year old allrounder from UP. He plays alongside R. P. Singh, Piyush Chawla, and Suresh Raina in the UP side. He is a carefree bat and an opening bowler. He opened the batting and bowling in yesterdays’ game. Although he didn’t make much with the bat, he bowled well — including the last over of the match.

I do believe that Joginder Sharma and/or Praveen Kumar should play for India in ODIs soon. Just the presence of Irfan Pathan does so much for team balance. This balance will be augmented by the presence of another allrounder and I will continue to pay close attention to the progress of both these contenders.

All through these matches, Parthiv Patel has been thoroughly impressive. He has notched up several 100s and 50s and his ‘keeping has also been quite ‘tight’. Mohammed Kaif, who scored a smart 98 in yesterdays’ match continues to impress with his captaincy and may end up being the best U-19 and India-A captain that didn’t get an extended stint with the national team! Suresh Raina made his first appearance yesterday and scored a compact 45.

Amit Mishra, the young leg-spinner, has had a few good games too. After bowling with aplomb in the Test match, he also scored a breezy 22 off 11 balls in yesterdays’ ODI.

The one disappointment through this tour is that bowlers seem to have worked out Manoj Tiwary’s weakness against the short-rising-ball. He is getting peppered with the short stuff and the young dasher seems to be hell-bent on rewarding the bowlers’ efforts too!

— Mohan

T20 match reviews from Sportstar

Here are the reviews for the matches in the Super8’s and knockout games –

And here is Rohit Brijnath’s feature article on T20 – It is excitable, unruly, unsubtle and fun.

-Mahesh-

World Twenty20 Team

Adam Mountford from the BBC picks his World Twenty20 team. The twelve-member-team has in it two Indians (Yuvraj Singh and M. S. Dhoni). The team also includes two Australians (Matthew Hatden, Stuart Clark), one West Indian (Chris Gayle), 4 Pakistani players (Shahid Afridi, Misbah-ul-Haq, Shoaib Malik, Umar Gul), one Kiwi (Daniel Vettori), one South African (Morne Morkel) and one Englishman (Kevin Pietersen).

Not only is Dhoni the ‘keeper, he is also captain of the World Team that’s been chosen by Mountford who says: “Not only is he a real entertainer, but who better to captain a T20 Dream Team than a real swashbuckling hero. Ian Chappell said on TMS that a team takes on the personality of its captain, and thinks India are playing without fear because of the character of Dhoni. That is how I want this super team to play.

1. Matthew Hayden
2. Chris Gayle
3. Yuvraj Singh
4. Shahid Afridi
5. Shoaib Malik
6. Misbah-ul-Haq
7. M. S. Dhoni (captain and wicket-keeper)
8. Morne Morkel
9. Daniel Vettori
10. Umar Gul
11. Stuart Clark
12. Kevin Pietersen

This is not a bad team at all in my view and has the right people in it.

Comments/views?

— Mohan

Ps: How come Ajit Agarkar and Matt Prior do not rate a mention? 🙂

The Subcontinentals Vs The Antipodeans

In an unlikely twist India crafted — yes “crafted” — a victory over South Africa that enabled a show down between two Subcontinental teams and two Antipodean teams. It perhaps represented the balance of cricket in these modern days. The subcontinent has the money, the crazed following and the passion while the Antipodes has the current champions.

It is strange, however, that two teams that were knocked out in the first stage of the 2007 ODI World Cup, less than six months back, are in the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup!

India beat South Africa at “their own den” (in the words of Ravi Shastri) and on a pitch that was tailor-made for — and perhaps pre-ordered by — the South Africans. This was a green top that afforded bounce, seam, movement and zip. India perhaps exploited the conditions better.

The next time South Africa visit and whinge about the pitches in the Subcontinent, someone should remind them of Thursday September 20th @ Durban — the day South Africa were beaten and bundled out of the T20 World Cup.

Once again, Durban had caused an upset. Once again South Africa had been eliminated from an important tournament on the world stage at Kingsmead, Durban. Once again South Africa had choked at an important point in a major tournament.

So, the only side to not lose a single lead-up game — South Africa — bowed out of the tournament after their first loss in the T20 World Cup! Australia had lost to Zimbabwe and Pakistan. Pakistan had lost to India. India had lost to New Zealand. New Zealand had lost to South Africa. And yet, the semi-finals line-up reads Pakistan V New Zealand and Australia V India!

It was a spirited performance by young India which was dealt a double-blow in the morning: a juicy pitch and an injury-blow to Yuvraj Singh — hero of the previous game against England and middle-order anchor.

Rohit Sharma played brilliantly after India suffered a few early set-backs. The early set-backs were mainly of their own doing. Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag played cautiously for a few overs. And then, Gambhir had a brain explosion. Sehwag tried a cute tickle to third man when a slip was in place. The ‘keeper pounced on the offering. Dinesh Karthik was out first ball to a flick off his leg. And Uthappa, after appearing to steady the ship was another batsman to suffer a brain explosion! The intial hard work appeared to have slipped. But then Rohit Sharma and M. S. Dhoni took India to a defendable total.

The bowlers had to deliver and they did! I thought the bowlers were the true match winners for India. In particular, R. P. Singh who had 4 for 13 from his 4 overs! R. P. Singh has grown from strength to strength since the start of this season and is a young lad with a bright future ahead of him. He is a clever bowler and has everything in his arsenal except perhaps a good slower ball.

Sreesanth was a bit erratic initially but it was good to see that he was trying hard. Although his first ball slid down leg-side for a wide and 4 byes, his intent was right. He was trying te inswinger to Herschelle Gibbs as opposed to his stock ball, the outswinger. He picked up two wickets too.

Irfan Pathan was sensational too. His in-swinger was back and one can perhaps claim that he is back to full form. The rhythm is there. He is running through the crease efficiently and the swing is there too. His pace has dipped a bit, but that can certainly be worked up over time with more match-fitness. And Harbhajan Singh, after a wayward first over that caused an end-switch, was efficient and effective too. The bowlers won the match for India in the end.

Joginder Sharma was good in patches. He bowled at least one hit-me ball every over. I am sure he will improve with every match as long as someone tells him to stop talking to Ajit Agarkar 🙂

I thought the man-of-the-match should have gone to R. P. Singh — in a game that is dominated by batsmen, such an exquisite and clinical performances should not be overlooked in my view. Having said that, Rohit Sharma was a deserving man-of-the-match. He is a young man with a bright career ahead of him in the Indian middle-order.

— Mohan