- England lose to India…again!
- Symonds in trouble after pub incident.
- Ponting in trouble with over rates.
These events seem to be happening – again…and again…and again! Like Groundhog day…
These events seem to be happening – again…and again…and again! Like Groundhog day…
First Bhajji, now Roy
We all know that Symonds is no angel (which the Aussie press sometimes makes him out to be). Neither is Harbhajan Singh – the two protagonists in the center of the racism row that erupted in Australia last summer. When Harbhajan slapped his fellow Indian team mate playing for a rival team in an IPL game, he copped a eleven match IPL suspension and a further 5 match ban from the BCCI. He was also warned that he could face a life ban if he crossed the line again.
Now it is the turn of Symonds to face disciplinary action for his transgressions. He was thrown out of the Australian team after he skipped a compulsory team meeting to go fishing – that’s right, fishing! He is going to miss the entire Bangladesh series and is not a surety to make it to the Australian team for the India tour.
Harbhajan has been on his best behaviour since his return –looks like being out of the team (and losing a lot of money in the process) has had a positive effect on him. Hopefully, it will work for Symmo as well.
Australia “A” vs India “A”
The India and Australia A teams are going to face up this month – This should be an interesting contest and here is my list of people to look out for on either side of the fence –
Both teams have players who are trying to impress the selectors and break into the senior team. Shikhar Dhawan who performed brilliantly in the Emerging players tournament in Australia is sadly injured and had to make way for Virat Kohli, who opened for India in the ODIs – but is actually a middle order batsman. India as usual are trying to make an opener out of a middle order batsman.
Funny that India’s choice of openers have always been middle order batsmen or wicket keepers! Maybe India should have also included Dinesh Karthik and let him open the innings with Parthiv Patel :).
Although Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina are playing the ODI games in the senior squad regularly, it wouldn’t have been a bad idea to have included them for the test matches. Manpreet Gony could have also been considered.
For the Aussies, this tour is going to be one big try out session for its spinners. They have three in the squad – Bryce McGain, Jason Krejza and Beau Casson. McGain is 36 years old – which some may consider as too old, but he was impressive in domestic cricket last season and as long as he is fit, his performance is the only thing that should really matter. Casson bowls left arm chinamans and has already made his debut for Australia, while Jason Krejza bowls right arm off break. One of the three is sure to find a spot in the senior team when they tour India later this year. Shaun Tait will only play in the ODI series, but it will be his first major outing since he decided to take a break from cricket. Simon Katich may also end up in the senior squad as he plays spin well and could also be a good back-up opener.
Dhoni tops ICC batting rankings
After consistent performances with the bat, Dhoni has topped the ICC ODI rankings. No Indian has been at the top of the rankings since Sachin Tendulkar vacated that position several months (or is it years?) ago. Dhoni has curbed his natural game and modified the way he plays and this has had a positive effect not only on his statistics, but also on the Indian team results. I have always felt that Dhoni would make a great ODI opener, but the sad thing is that he may never again play in that position 😦 (He has only opened the innings for India twice but still has a high score in the nineties!)
Not since the 1980s has Australia lost the tri-series finals twice in a row. India made sure that Australia lost in straight sets with a stirring victory in Brisbane. The fact that this victory came without India’s first choice pace bowling attack — Zaheer Khan, R. P. Singh and Ishant Sharma — made it all the more special. It was a sensational victory by a young and mostly inexperienced Indian team that had to surmount not only the strong Australian team, but also its hostile media and raucous crowds. In the end, the team found the strength to shut out the media and the crowds, focussed on the job in front of them and won a tight series.
In the end, in the same week the senior Team India as well as the under-19 Team India tasted victories and both teams celebrated these victories; not one of them looked in the direction of Andrew Symonds to enquire whether or not he had a view on the appropriateness or otherwise of these. The victories were well-deserved and losers have no choice but to watch the celebrations.
M. S. Dhoni rated this higher than the T20 win! It just goes to show the depth of focus that this team had. This focus, by the way, was evident in the way Sachin Tendulkar played yesterday. He eschewed the bold strokes and respected the conditions as well as the opposition. The Australians bowled a terrific line and pegged away constantly. The Australians fielded as only the Australians can. However, in the end, that will to win was, I believe, much stronger for the Indians.
The Indian team wanted to win to have that extra time up their sleeves before their next engagement on March 17th. M. S. Dhoni joked at the end that he wanted to seal things in the second game itself because he has not ridden his “motorbike for quite a long time”!
The Australian media talks of non-stop cricket that the aging Australian team has been playing.
It is true that the Australian team has been on the road since October last year. In that time, the Australian team has played in the Twenty20 World Championship, 7 ODI matches against India in India, 2 Tests against Sri Lanka, 4 Tests against India and the CB tri-series.
The Indians have been on the road since July last year and it has been a non-stop ride. In that time, India has played 4 ODIs in Ireland, 1 ODI against Pakistan in Scotland (wash-out), 3 Tests in England, 5 ODIs in England, the Twenty20 World Championship, 7 ODIs against Australia in India, 5 ODIs against Pakistan, 3 Tests against Pakistan, 4 Tests against Australia and the CB tri-series.
I know which team has had the bigger workload. And if you consider that much of the time has been spent in the dreary surrounds of hotel rooms and in a hostile environment where the press and the crowds are constantly at your throats, I do believe this young Indian team needs to be applauded.
Off-field distractions play a part:
Ricky Ponting, on his part, was gracious in defeat. He admitted that his team had been outplayed in the finals series by India. However, even though he said that the off-field distractions did not hamper his team, one can’t help but think that they would have had an effect.
If you look at the off-field events, apart from the IPL which has presumably distracted all players around the world, the single factor that played a distraction-nuisance influence right through this tour has been Harbhajan Singh! When Harbhajan scratched the Australian media twitched. The captain, Ricky Ponting, appeared to have his mind on the off-field incidents involving run-ins that Harbhajan Singh was having with his own team rather than on his own game and form. When Harbhajan Singh fielded, the Australian public held their collective breath. And when he bowled, the Australian players had their minds set on dominating him instead of playing him as another bowler.
Almost single-handedly, Harbhajan Singh became the thorn in the flesh as well as the spot in Lady Macbeth’s hand that just would not go away. He was like a fly around the barbecue that just kept buzzing in the ears of people gathered around it. One could not hear the barbecue conversations; just the buzzing noise of this constant irritant that just would not go away!
That the Australian players did not respect him is not the issue. The fact that they did not respect his game/sport is a matter for much introspection in coming months. Here was a player that stood up to the Aussies and looked them in the eye. The Australians just could not deal with it.
In a strange irony, Harbhajan Singh was directly involved in the wickets of Andrew Symonds and Matthew Hayden — his two main off-the-field opponents right through this arduous summer — in both the finals matches! In the first match, Harbhajan Singh had the wickets of both players. In last night’s match, he had Symonds out LBW and was involved in Hayden’s run out!
At the end of the match, M. S. Dhoni lashed out at the Australian media for the focus that they have reserved for Harbhajan Singh. He admitted, though, that this focus made his job easier for, with each new article or episode, Harbhajan Singh just got tougher and tougher and did not need to be motivated!
This series win has not altered India’s position on the ICC Rankings table. However, it has taken India closer to New Zealand (3rd place) on the table and has made it easier for South Africa to reclaim the #1 position that it squandered to Australia in the last World Cup.
Meanwhile Sachin Tendulkar has moved to reclaim the #1 ODI batting spot.
I believe that M. S. Dhoni is a terrific leader. With the calm, experienced, gritty and fiercely competitive Anil Kumble at the helm of affairs in the Test arena and with Dhoni to nurture a younger set of players in the shorter form of the game, I do believe that Indian cricket is in safe hands for the moment. It is likely that the captaincy mantle will get another year at least — if not two — from Anil Kumble. The time would be right then for a hand-over of the responsibility to M. S. Dhoni. In that time, with the help of Gary Kirsten, India can form a core of players that can take over from the big-5 as they leave the scene. In that sense, we do have a “visionary” leader at the controls in my opinion.
If Sourav Ganguly was the first leader of men in Indian cricket, in Dhoni, we have a visionary leader. To him processes may not matter as much as it did to Greg Chappell and Rahul Dravid. His leadership style is more instinct driven. But he has got most things right! He asks his players to be always ready and throws them into the deep end. They produce every time. This shows that he knows what they are capable of, believes in them, backs them and then extracts the best out of them. He threw the ball to Joginder Sharma in the T20 finals and to Praveen Kumar and Piyush Chawla in the CB series finals. They delivered. He fought for the inclusion of young players like Rohit Sharma, Gautam Gambhir, Manoj Tiwary, Praveen Kumar and Piyush Chawla ahead of senior pros. He got them. At crunch moments, he surprised the opposition by including the likes of Praveen Kumar and Piyush Chawla. They delivered! It is a strategy that could have back-fired. But rather than launch into long explanations, he simply says he is looking at 2011!
He has set for himself a road-map to 2011 success. Rahul Dravid would have cogitated over it in a scholarly manner and produced a strategy paper at the end of it. He would have then used this as a leverage in team selection meetings. He would have gone to great lengths to form a coalition of like-minded souls who would back his vision and roadmap. Dhoni has it in his head and articulates it by simply saying, “Even if we had lost this tournament, we should have stuck with the young boys. This will be the team’s core.”
This was a good victory for India, but much more is needed in the months ahead to build on the hard work that has commenced here. Australia have some work to do of its own. The players need a break from the game and its captain needs to rediscover his ticker.
It has been a long summer and frankly, I am glad it is over.
“He doesn’t do well in run chases!”
“He hasn’t got a ODI century in Australia!”
Those are just some of the comments that Tendulkar has had to endure. There is some truth to it, though. In his previous 38 appearances in Australia, he had never scored a century and his average in a chase in the last couple of years is only around 30.
Tendulkar got the monkey (no pun intended) of his back tonight with a hundred batting second and being there till the very end to see India through.
Dhoni lost the toss again and Ponting promptly decided to bat first. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the right decision as the dew factor didn’t help them. India made a bold move in bringing in Piyush Chawla and opening the bowling with Praveen Kumar. Australia were soon reduced to 24 for 3 (although Clarke could consider himself unlucky). Hayden and Symonds set about restoring the Australian innings, but in an aggressive way. Hayden in particular was severe on Pathan, who went for 29 runs in his 2 overs. Harbhajan was brought into the attack, along with Piyush Chawla. Bhajji took the important wickets of Hayden and Symonds and the two spinners also put a break on the Australian scoring. Chawla was particularly impressive although he didn’t take any wickets. Australia eventually limped to 239, which seemed competitive, but way of the mark of what Australia seemed like getting when Symonds and Hayden were playing.
Uthappa and Tendulkar played with caution to get the score to 50, before Uthappa was caught at the deep by Hussey. Gambhir was needlessly run out and Yuvraj came and went.
The score at that time was 87 for 3 and it looked like anybody’s game. Tendulkar, however played with a lot of determination and played what I call “safe” cricket – not willing to give his wicket away with any false strokes. Just when Tendulkar got to his hundred, there was a lapse in Rohit Sharma’s concentration and he was bowled by Hopes. Rohit Sharma (66) seems to show more and more maturity with every innings and his partnership (123 runs of 136 balls) with Tendulkar was the base from which India were able to win.
Ponting said that the loss to Sri Lanka was just an aberration, but they appear to have lost the momentum and they’ve just got one day to re-coup before the game in Brisbane on Tuesday.
Is this going to be a repeat of last year, when they lost to England in the finals after dominating the early part of the tournament? We will find out soon enough…
There was an interesting passage of play today when Harbhajan came in to bowl when two of his main antagonists, Hayden and Symonds were at the crease. The two were batting really well and I was very keen to see how the battle ensued. I particularly wanted to see how Harbhajan bowled to Hayden. I was almost confident that Hayden was going to take the attack to Harbhajan and was looking for a couple of big hits.
Things have never been on good terms between the two – it all started out in a tour match between Australia and India A played out at Nagpur in Feb 2001. It was the third day morning and Hayden was on 37 runs. Spin was introduced and Hayden promptly came down the track to take on the bowler, couldn’t quite get to the pitch of the ball and ended up giving a simple catch to Hemang Badani. The bowler was Harbhajan Singh and he is alleged to have said – “You will never succeed in my country!” or something to that affect.
Hayden took offence to that and in spite of all the “What’s said in the field stays on the field” motto, hasn’t forgotten that. The battle on the cricket field between Harbhajan and Hayden has been going on ever since and although he has scored a lot of runs against him, has also been dismissed a fair number of times by Harbhajan Singh.
And along the way, both Hayden and Harbhajan have said or done things that have irked the other team, leading up to Hayden’s “obnoxious weed” comment on radio.
Coming back to the game, Harbhajan’s first over went for 9 runs, with a cover drive from Hayden that went for a four. His next one went for 8 and I was beginning to wonder if Bhajji had already lost the battle. As it turned out, he wasn’t quite finished yet. The next two went for just 5 runs. In the first ball of his fifth over, Symonds decided to attack Harbhajan and ended up hitting straight to Praveen Kumar and on his seventh over Harbhajan had Hayden caught in the deep by Chawla (and what a good catch it was!). I am sure Harbhajan would have been delighted in getting both those wickets, but Hayden had already done the damage with a score of 82.
Loved this hilarious article in The Age, about Roy Bhajii and the non-stop argy-bargy 🙂
Is it just me or are others getting tired of the sledge-fest that is happening between India and Australia, too?
I have reached a point where I don’t care if Harbhajan really called Symonds a monkey. Nor do I care if Symonds (who earlier said that a cricket field is no place to be friendly) gave Ishant a friendly compliment on his bowling when he got out. I am really tired of the Australian players’ comments about Indian players and I am also tired of the Indian players’ poor attempt at trying to out-sledge the Aussies.
Just get on with the game, will ya? And I mean both teams…
All this is just proving too much of a distraction – not just for the players – but to us Cricket fans too.What would you rather read about in the press – Gilchrist’s final innings in International Cricket or Gilchrist defending Hayden for his stupid comments? Would you rather watch a young Ishant Sharma troubling Ponting and Ponting picking up the challenge or watch Ishant Sharma giving Symonds a send off by pointing the way to the pavillion?
Well, frankly I’ve had enough. There are just 2-3 games remaining in the tournament and I know it must be hard for players who earn millions to shut their mouth and just play cricket – but can you guys please do just that?
There have been a few things happening. So I thought I’d blog a “News and Views” type post.
India lost a tight game to Australia thanks to two bad starts. India started badly while bowling and recovered in the middle overs! While batting, again, India made a hash of the start. Although the Indian batting recovered from that wobble, the magnitude of the bad start meant that India lost by 18 runs. The fact that India got that close is a credit to the Indian middle-order batsmen!
As M. S. Dhoni said at the post-match interviews, India can take a lot of positives from this game.
When India were bowling, an Australia total of 380 seemed likely at one stage. Australia got off to a sensational start with Ponting and Hayden murdering the bowling attack. In particular, Sreesanth bowled like a millionaire! He bowled so inconsistently that one almost whipped the prayer mat out to seek Ajit Agarkar’s re-appearance in the Indian line up! India pegged Australia down to a less daunting 317. In particular, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh bowled brilliantly. This meant that India’s 4-bowler strategy appeared to have worked… just! I am not sure if this is a strategy that can be persisted with.
Despite the good bowling in the middle overs, in order to win, India would have had to overhaul the highest 2nd innings total at the SCG prior to last night.
Another bad start — this time in the batting — meant that, at 51-4, a score of 200 looked like a huge mountain to climb. Yet, India recovered, thanks to Gautam Gambhir, M. S. Dhoni, Robin Uthappa, Irfan Pathan and Harbhajan Singh to get to a total of 299!
There are positives and these include the middle-overs bowling and the middle-overs batting. There is little doubt that M. S. Dhoni is a calming influence on this team. He rallies his young cadets to keep fighting till the end. In players like Rohit Sharma, Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa and Irfan Pathan, he has a core set of players that will respond positively too.
Gautam Gambhir is batting really well these days. He was in fine form and batted with a calm head on his responsible shoulders. In the absence of firepower at the top and with the dodgy form/knee of Yuvraj Singh, on this ODI tour, Gambhir has been the foundation on which the rest of the team has been built. If he had lasted until the ball-change in the 34th over, the match result may well have been different; a fact that he acknowledged himself in the post-match sound-bytes!
The performance of Robin Uthappa was also a revelation. Prior to this game he hadn’t really had a major opportunity to showcase his undoubted skills. Apart from a weakness that he has early on in his innings — of shuffling too far forward and across — Uthappa looks like a sensational and dependable batsman. He has a calm head on his shoulders and, like Gambhir, appears to love a tight situation! In that sense, he has a Michael Bevan like quality to his batting. Along with the indefatigable M. S. Dhoni, Uthappa looks set to play a long innings in Indian cricket.
The match was played at the SCG, the very cauldron that saw the infamous MonkeyGate explode in the faces of the Australia and India teams! The same venue saw the alleged instigator of that blow-up cause another one last night — this time with Ishant Sharma. After being bowled by a beauty from the young Indian tearaway, Symonds appeared to say something to the Indian bowler who responded by giving Symonds a few directions to the dressing room. It is somewhat unlikely that Ishant Sharma will escape a fine and a reprimand.
Most Match Referees will, these days, slap a fine on send-offs to the dressing-room unless of course, it is carried out by “fine Australian cricketers” — when such actions will be seen as “natural aggression, which should not be removed from the game” or some such platitude. Be that as it may, giving the batsman a send-off is a no-no and young Sharma should be prepared to cop it on the chin!
In another interesting twist in last nights’ game, the match referee, reacting to a claim made on Channel-9 by Ian Healey, seized M. S. Dhoni’s gloves after the veteran Australian gloveman claimed that Dhoni’s gloves were illegal!
The Indian team should ask some searching questions of its opening bowlers and opening batsmen. I would not be surprised if we see either Sachin Tendulkar or Virender Sehwag drop down the order in the all-important game on Tuesday against Sri Lanka. Similarly, I would not be surprised if Sree Santh is asked to sit out that game. The team may also want to accommodate Praveen Kumar in the mix.
Andrew Symonds is set to make more money than Ricky Ponting (USD 400,oo), Matty Hayden ($375,000) and Mike Hussey ($350,000) combined! Surely, Symonds is not worth more than the three combined or four times what Hussey is worth. Ponting may not be in blazing form this year – he averages 10.66 in the CB series, but Symonds hasn’t fared any better – he averages just 8.40. Compare this to Mr. Cricket, Mike Hussey, who averages 56.33 in the series, and you start wondering what the logic is behind the parity in the $$$ amounts.
Even if you leave current form out, none of the other factors I could think of (availability, marketability, and just ability) seem to justify the parity in the bids. I do however wonder, if any of this will cause any tensions in the dressing room. Surely, you can’t blame Ponting for being miffed at his IPL worth, particularly compared to Symonds’!
In other sports, when a player gets snapped up for more money by another team, he leaves all his original team mates behind to move to other team. In IPL though, after the tournament is finished, the players go back to their respective countries and share the dressing room with the same old players. There will be some initial teasing, but I wonder if it may end up becoming jealousy and lead to friction within the team.
I am probably not alone in thinking that some of the players’ allegiance will also come under scrutiny when their performance for their country slips, while their IPL form is strong.
Only time will tell….