Tag Archives: Twenty20

The ICC is heading towards bankruptcy

Well, the ICC is not bankrupt yet — and we all know that! But it is an organisation that is constantly at war… with itself!

Unlike FIFA or any other world sporting body that has taken (or attempts to take) total control of the game that it controls and the direction in which it is headed, the ICC seems to me to be content with being run around when strings are pulled by its members. People come and go in the organisation at regular intervals, but one thing that remains is that, in my view, the ICC seems to be heading towards bankruptcy (of ideas and power). It certainly resembles an organisation that is walking around with a gun pointed at its head.

Interestingly, however, the organisation that holds the gun to the ICC’s head is not always the same. The ICC appears to be so weak that any one of South Africa, Sri Lanka, West Indies, Zimbabwe, India, Australia, England, New Zealand, Bangladesh or Pakistan is able to be the owner of that hand that holds the gun.

We saw the existence of the gun but held by different hands when Bangladesh was admitted as a permanent member; when Muralitharan got banned and reinstated; when Shoaib Akhtar got banned and reinstated; when Harbhajan Singh almost got banned by a powerless Mike Procter and had his ban revoked by an Australian judge; when the IPL commenced; when Mike Denness banned Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar; when Hansie Cronje ought to have been banned; when the match-fixing controversy blew; when the ICL players were banned; when Shane Warne and Mark Waugh ought to have been banned but were protected by their host organisation; when Ramnaresh Sarawan asked about the health of Glenn McGrath’s wife; when Michael Slater enquired about the health of Rahul Dravid and Srinivas Venkataraghavan in a cricket pitch in Mumbai at a time when his own world was crumbling around him; when WADA wanted all cricketers to sign up to its anti-doping clause; and much more. A full compilation of a list of ICC-impotency moments will require a tome. Moreover, the ICC has made rabbits and headlights proud on the issue of Zimbabwe.

Now, the organisation is looking like old rabbit in new lamb’s clothing but with sharper headlights when Australia stated her intention of starting a new 50-over-2-inning-format of the game.

Today at a time when FIFA is marching on confidently with a firm grip on the ‘World Game’, the ICC seems to me to be an organisation that gives new meaning to the phrase “rudderless ship”. ICC says it wants to watch the new 2-inning-50-over (or 40-over) experiment that Australia wants to conduct.

Agreed. One has to wait and watch and see and analyse and move forward. There is no point in rushing into something without a proper pilot that measures the effectiveness of any change. But is there a need to wait and watch this experiment for 6 years? What more is a 6-year wait-and-watch pilot of a new 2-inning-50-over format going to tell you that you do not already know about an existing 50-over format that looks tired today?

This wait-and-watch experiment resembles the history of ICC’s involvement in the Twenty20 format. There is a suggestion that a Perth-man, George Christos, claims to have proposed a Twenty20 to the ICC in 1997 — a claim that the ICC has dismissed. However, the format was definitely researched, designed, developed and implemented by England’s Stuart Robertson between 1999 and2001.

ICC watched as the format grew in popularity. ICC’s response was to reacquaint itself with rabbits and headlights! As the game became more and more popular and as the ICL bandwagon grew in its popularity, the ICC was compelled to conduct the first World Championship T20 Cup. That was when Lalit Modi was “waiting and watching”. He waited and watched publicly for precisely 3 months! The IPL juggernaut rolled out of the stables before the ICC could say either “rabbit” or “headlight”! The rug was once again pulled from under the ICC’s feet. They lost control of yet another round of shadow boxing in a game of power politics.

In those three months that ICC spent twiddling their thumbs, an impatient Lalit Modi made a hash of a rebel-league attempt and created 8 extremely rich owners and poured more money (and thereby, more control) into an already bulging BCCI money pot! Modi did this right under ICC’s nose. Five years ago, the ICC with some dynamism could have created its own property.

Of course, the 2-inning-50-over format has problems. But surely, by setting a exit-scenario for mothballing the current ODI format, the ICC could send a stronger signal that it wants control in the development of the game. It is, instead, reacquainting itself with rabbits and headlights; an art form that it has become adept at.

— Mohan

My T20 WC lineup…

ICC world T20 2010 has started and we have 12 teams in fray.The minnows in T20 are also capable of major upsets and Bangladesh and Afghanistan have showed in their first match that they are no pushovers.
This the semifinal line-up I anticipate to see. And I base this on the team constitution and quality of captaincy.

Pakistan:
They have a captain who can be rated among the best T20 players in the world. And he is lucky to have a team which will allow him to focus solely on cricket not on other unnecessary politics usually associated with Pakistan teams.Unlike his predecessors he has no egos to deal with in his team either.The youngsters will be keen to perform and Pakistanis usually seem to deliver when it matters most when there are no power struggles in the team.

South Africa:
I will not be suprised to see them make it to the final. They have a good batting and bowling line up with allrounders. Kallis is a match winner in good form. Graeme smith and Duminy’s form could be of concern here.But Smith’s captaincy complements his lack of form.

New Zealand:
I am expecting Mccullum, vettori and ross taylor to contribute mainly to take this team to semis.Jesse Ryder again is capable of winning matches single-handedly for NZ. Return of Shane bond should help the bowling line-up .Again Vettori is a shrewd captain and that greatly augments NZ chances.
India/West Indies:
There is also slightly wishful thinking that it is India which makes it. India and WI both seem to have a weak top order at present with Gayle missing and Gambhir struggling.For WI, return of Gayle and Pollard could make a difference and there is the home advantage.India also don’t have the best bowling lineup.
For India if Yuvraj strikes form  he could more than make up for the weak top order and solid batting order could overcome the bowling inconsistency.Again Dhoni is a way much better captain than Gayle.

Srilanka does not look very strong this time.Jayasuraiya and muralitharan are not very clever choices for T20 at world level. Also dilshan,mathews and sangakkara are not in very good form. And the most important factor for T20 is captaincy which is a big minus for SL.

Australia somehow have never been good in this format and I dont expect any change in their performance.Watson is the only bright spot here and I dont understand the exclusion of Bollinger in this squad.

I could be completely off the mark here as there are lot of new players in the fray and T20 can be quite unpredictable.Would love to see the predictions from others.

– Harinee

IPL-III: A few early observations…

IPL-III is 11 matches and 1 week old as I write this piece.

Right at the outset, let me state that I will not be surprised if either Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) or Mumbai Indians (MI) or Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) meet in the finals of IPL-III.

And while I am putting my neck at great risk, let me also stick my neck further out and state that I expect so see Rajasthan Royals (RR) and Kings Eleven Punjab (KEP) to bring up the bottom two.

This then leves one of Delhi Daredevils (DD), Chennai Super Kings (CSK), and Deccan Chargers (DC) to join RCB, KKR and MI in the semi-finals.

I believe there are a few too many gaps to fill in the Deccan Chargers team when compared with DD and CSK. This then means a toss up between DD and CSK for one other semi-finals spot. I back CSK purely on the basis of leadership excellence and the presence of a fewer “holes”. Moreover, in my view, the presence of two “game changers” in their midst (MS Dhoni and Matthew Hayden) will swing it for CSK.

KKR have Sourav Ganguly at the helm of affairs this year. More importantly, KKR do not have either John Buchanan or his tomes on Sun Tzu or Zen anywhere near their dressing room! I think we will see — and are alredy seeing — KKR play with much pride and slef-confidence. They will want to put their last two (poor) seasons and leadership experiments behind them for IPL-III. KKR has also started the campaign well with wins against last years’ finalists: Deccan Chargers (DC) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). KKR has made a few smart purchaces in the off-season and so has the MI team. While, DD have also commenced their campaign well, I think this year will be about the bouncing back of teams that have had their pride hurt. The teams that have suffered maximal pride-pucture in the last two seasons are KKR and MI.

I also believe that IPL-III will be less about the 4 overseas recruits playing well and more about how well the remaining 7 Indian players will play in the on-field team. One of the reasons for KKR performing poorly in previous seasons was the poor performance of local players. Ajit Agarkar got a few KKR gigs. Enough said! But with the acquisition of Manoj Tiwary in the off-season from DD and with Cheteshwar Pujara available for IPL-III, I think KKR have plugged a few holes in their armoury.

The other difference in IPL-III is the presence of players from the now defunct ICL. Players like Rohan Gavaskar (KKR), Rajagopal Satish (MI), Ambati Rayadu (MI), Sridharan Sriram (RCB), et al, will be seeing IPL action for the first time in their careers. Here again, I think MI has made some good ICL recruitments to strengthen their domestic player content.

That said, let us review each team (in no particualr order):

Royal Challengers Bangalore:

This is a solid team with some dependable competitors like Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble and Jacques Kallis and some young turks like Manish Pandey, Virat Kohli and Robin Uthappa. While Kevin Pietersen was a disappointment in IPL-II, I think he will be a different player in IPL-III. He is coming into form, albeit against a weak Bangladesh! Eoin Morgan has been a good recruit and Steven Smith is, in my view, a poor replacement for the injured Jesse Ryder. However, with a richness of overseas players, I am not sure if Steven Smith will get a game! Sridaran Sriram could add some ICL-lustre. I expect the team to be:

Jacques Kallis
Manish Pandey / Sridharan Sriram /Shreevats Goswami
Virat Kohli
Robin Uthappa
Rahul Dravid
Kevin Pietersen / Eoin Morgan / Ross Taylor
Roelof van der Merwe / Dillon Du Preez / Cameron White
Mark Boucher
Anil Kumble / K. P. Appanna
Praveen Kumar / A Mithun / B Kumar / B Akhil / Vinay Kumar
Dale Steyn / Steven Smith

This is a reasonably well-balanced team, and under Anil Kumble, it has resillience, steel and a stomach for a fight. The key to this teams’ balance is Jacques Kallis. He gives the team tremendous options in both batting as well as bowling. He is, in my view, the most under-rated performer of the last decade in International cricket. Given that Kallis has commenced IPL-III in style, I think RCB will go far.

In IPL-II RCB experimented with Robin Uthappa behind the sticks. This did not quite work. It appears that for IPL-III, the team has dumped that experiment and commited to place its faith in Mark Boucher and Shreevats Goswami. After performing very well in the U-19 championships a few years ago, Goswami cannot even get a game for his State team, in which Wriddhiman Saha ‘keeps wickets!

For RCB to do well though, the “locals” have to do well: Goswami, Kohli, Uthappa, Pandey, Dravid, Kumble, Praveen Kumar, Vinay Kumar, Mithun, et al. This is not really a bad list of “locals” — Praveen Kumar has already taken IPL-III’s first hattrick!

If RCB’s “young turks” — Kohli, Pandey and Uthappa — do well, RCB can go places. In the past, Kohli and Uthappa have flattered to deceive in the IPL. If they fire, I think RCB should reach the semi finals.

Delhi Daredevils (DD):

This is a really strong team in my view. I expected them to win IPL-II. Barring one bad game when it really mattered, they almost made it to the top of the tree. I expect DD to do really well and perhaps even lift the cup. I expect the team to be:

Gautam Gambhir
Virender Sehwag
Tilekaratne Dilshan / David Warner
A. B. de Villiers / Brett Geeves
Dinesh Karthik
Mithun Manhas / Rajat Bhatia / Kedar Jadhav
Fervez Maharoof / Moises Henriques / Andrew McDonald / Wayne Parnell
Amit Mishra / Sarandeep Singh / Joginder Singh / Shashi Ranjan
Ashish Nehra / Sarabjit Ladda / Aavishkar Salvi
Pradeep Sangwan / Umesh Yadav / Yogesh Nagar / Yo Mahesh
Dirk Nannes

The problem with this team is that the reserve ‘local’ players are not that strong. For example, I do not expect Sarandeep Singh, Joginder Singh and Shashi Ranjan to get a game. Sarabjit Ladda has played a few games already in the first week, mainly because of Ashish Nehra’s side strain. So apart from having a few extra “net bowlers” I do not quite know what these players are doing in the final list! If the team wants to play David Warner, Dilshan and de Villiers, it would be possible if Umesh Yadav or Aavishkar Salvi play instead of Dirk Nannes. However, that would weaken the bowling considerably. So, I do believe that although the overseas recruits are quite strong in this team, the one or two “local” bit-player strength in this team is not that strong. Of course, if Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir fire, given the strong middle order and the decent bowling attack, I do expect DD to do extremely well in IPL-III. It is interesting to note that Daniel Vettori and Glen McGrath have not been named in the initial DD team list.

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR):

This is a team on the rebound. Watch out when Sourav Ganguly’s pride is hurt and watch out when he is mean and hungry. And after the antics of John Buchanan in IPL-II, Ganguly is mean and hungry. He has been given longer rope by his owners as well as his new — more grounded and less publicity hungry — coach, Dav Whatmore. KKR have quietly made some good recruitments in the off-season — particularly Manoj Tiwary from DD. In terms of overseas recruits, the purchase of Shane Bond was a good move from this team. KKR has also acquired Vignesh and Rohan Gavaskar (from the ICL) — the team looks balanced and set for glory in IPL-III. Moreover, with Cheteshwar Pujara available for the whole season, I expect a last-4 (if not a finals) finish from this new-look team. I expect the team to be:

Brad Hodge / Chris Gayle
Manoj Tiwary / G. Vignesh
Sourav Ganguly
Cheteshwar Pujara / Chirag Pathak
Owais Shah / Brendon McCullum / David Hussey / Mushrafe Murtaza
Angelo Mathews
Laxmi Ratan Shukla / Harshad Khadiwale / Rohan Gavaskar / Eklak Ahmid
Wriddhiman Saha
Murali Kartik / Iqbal Abdulla
Charl Langeveldt / Ajantha Mendis / Shane Bond
Ishant Sharma / Ashok Dinda / Ajit Agarkar / Varun Aaron

The attack looks solid IF Ishanta Sharma bowls well in tandem with Shane Bond — but even there, there is some backup for an off-day Ishant Sharma, with Ashok Dinda ready to rock up. MUrali Kartik is an underrated left-arm spinner. He is, in my view, much better than his CV suggests. The overseas recruits are also quite solid. I think this team has been largely lifted by the presence of Angelo Mathews. I expect KKR to do really well.

Chennai Super Kings (CSK):

I rate CSK as a semi-final chance mainly because of performance consistency, leadership excellence and team balance. CSK made the semi finals of the last two IPL editions and made the finals of the first edition. A real could be the non-availability of Andrew Flintoff and Jacob Oram (both out through injuries). The team has picked Hemang Badani from the ICL — not the most inspired of picks as, in my view, Vignesh (KKR) or R. Satish (MI) may have been better options to go for. Especially given the no-show of Andrew Flintoff and Jacob Oram, Justin Kemp was an inspired auction-pick by CSK. I expect the team to be:

Matthew Hayden / George Bailey
M. Vijay / Arun Karthik / Parthiv Patel
Suresh Raina
S. Badrinath / C. Ganapathy / Hemang Badani
Justin Kemp / Michael Hussey / Jacob Oram / George Bailey
M. S. Dhoni
Albie Morkel / Thisara Perera / Thilan Tushara
R. Ashwin / Shadab Jakati
Muthiah Muralitharan / Makhaya Ntini
L. Balaji
Sudeep Tyagi / Manpreet Gony / Joginder Sharma

For me, the real concern for this team is the seam options. While Sudeep Tyagi has been good in spurts, I do not see him as a natural first-up bowler. His consistency — especially under pressure — will remain a big question mark over this team. Ditto L. Balaji. This team needs a “local” fast bowling option to cover for when Balaji and Tyagi (or Gony) go pear-shaped — and they repeatedly do!. Unless CSK plug this gap, I believe the team will consistently under-deliver after reaching the last-4. Other than that, this is a well balanced batting-dominated team, especially if the openers and Suresh Raina fire. To add to the batting depth is M. Vijay’s recent strong and consistent showing. So, while I expect CSK to do well, I still feel they are one player short of a great team and for them to go the extra mile, a lot will depend on M. S. Dhoni…

Mumbai Indians (MI):

After a few seasons of tinkering, this team — the most expensive IPL team thus far — has started to hit the right notes in my view. Some astute off-season purchases of ICL players including Rajagopal Satish, Ambati Rayudu, IShan Malhotra and Ali Murtaza as well as a smart auction-pick like Kieron Pollard have also helped. After finishing 7th in IPL-II, expect this badly hurt team to do much better in IPL-III. As I indicated at the start, I will not be surprised if MI meets KKR in the finals. I expect the team to be:

Sachin Tendulkar
Sanath Jayasuriya / JP Duminy
Aditya Tare / Chandan Madan
Ambati Rayudu / Shikar Dhawan
Saurabh Tiwary
R. Satish / Abhishek Nayar
Harbhajan Singh
Dwayne Bravo / Graham Napier / Dilhara Fernando / Ryan McLaren
Zaheer Khan / Dhawal Kulkarni / Syed Sahabuddin
Lasith Malinga / Kieron Pollard
Murtaza Ali / Rahul Shukla / Ishan Malhotra

The real problem are with this team is, in my view, the untested middle order and the ‘keeping. Most of the other teams have good, if not excellent wicket-keeping batsmen — Adam Gilchrist, M. S. Dhoni, Kumar Sangakkara, Dinesh Karthik, Wriddhiman Saha and Mark Boucher / Sreevats Goswami spring to mind. Aditya Tare has shown in the first few games that he has got what it takes at this level. But it is fair to say that the batting qualities of Aditya Tare perhaps have not been tested severely at this level. But time will tell whether he is as good a ‘keeping-allrounder as some of the other ‘keepers in the IPL. The middle order depends on two out of the troika of Rayudu, Tiwary and Shikar Dhawan firing. If these gaps are plugged, MI could well be a finals team.

Kings XI Punjab (KEP):

In the off-season KEP quietly changed their captain. We do not know whether Yuvraj Singh was nudged or pushed or whether he stepped down. The fact is, however, that Kumar Sangakkara is at the helm for IPL-III. And that is a good thing for this under-rated team. Yuvraj Singh now has a free license to thrill. Perhaps captaincy wasn’t quite right for him. With that burden lifted, we might see a very different Yuvraj Singh in IPL-III provided he has taken it well and provided he has not launched into a sulk. I think Mohammed Kaif was a smart off-season grab from Rajasthan Royals while Manvinder Bisla’s move will make him a better fit in his (more comfortable) hometown team. Reetinder Singh Sodhi and Salabh Srivastava are good grabs from the ICL list. I expect the team to be:

Karan Goel / Manvinder Bisla / Tanmay Srivastava
Ravi Bopara / Shaun Marsh
Kumar Sangakkara
Yuvraj Singh
M Jayawardene / Adrian Barath
Mohammed Kaif / Reetinder Sodhi / Salabh Srivastava
Irfan Pathan / Amanpreet Singh / Vikramjeet Malik
Piyush Chawla
Bipul Sharma / Ramesh Powar
Brett Lee / James Hopes / Yusuf Abdulla / Juan Theron
S. Sreesanth / Love Ablish

The real problem for KEP is Irfan Pathan and Sreesanth. Like Andrew Symonds, Herschelle Gibbs and Harbhajan Singh how well Irfan Pathan and Sreesanth play on any given day depends on which side of the bed they got up from. Their inconsistency could hurt the team badly. My suggestion to KEP would be to get Irfan Pathan and Sreesanth to share a bed and get up on different sides of it. That way, the chances of at least one of them playing well on a given day becomes considerably higher! Another concern for me for KEP is the mental attitude of Yuvraj Singh, whose MTBEPOS (mean time between extended periods of sulk) is quite short when the chips are down. He is nursing an injured wrist, a dodgy knee, excess weight and hurt pride/ego — all of which might be a bit too much excess baggage for this talented T20 and ODI cricketer. We can expect the dressing room atmosphere to be quite glum, thick and divided. While Priety Zinta will, no doubt, try and uplift damaged spirits, I think IPL-III success may be a bridge too far for KEP. I will be quite shocked if this team does well.

Deccan Chargers (DC):

There are high expectations of Deccan Chargers (DC), after a wonderful IPL-II. However, despite that favourable result and impressive showing, I do think that there are a few gaps that this team has that are unplugged. In Adam Gilchrist, the team has an excellent and inspirational leader. In Andrew Symonds and Herschelle Gibbs, the team has two explosive players in the middle order. And like Jacques Kallis, Andrew Symonds brings much more to the team than his chewing gum and zinc cream! Moreover, in Rohit Sharma, Pragyan Ojha and RP Singh, the team has reliable, if not excellent Indian talent. The real problem for this team lies with VVS Laxman — who in my view is just not suited for this form of the game — and the bits-and-pieces local players (Jaskaran Singh, Anirudh Singh, Tirumalasetti Suman, et al). None of these are likely to set the world alight. Therefore, the pressure to perform consistently might be a bit too much on players like Gilchrist, Symonds, Rohit Sharma, RP Singh, Gibbs and Ojha. In the off-season, Kemar Roach and Mitchell Marsh were a good buys. However, I believe the team erred significantly by letting ICL-escapee Ambati Rayudu go to the Mumbai Indians. They, instead, got players like Monish Mishra. I expect the team to be:

Adam Gilchrist
VVS Laxman / Ravi Teja / Azhar Bilakhia
Herschelle Gibbs / Mitchell Marsh
Andrew Symonds
Rohit Sharma
Anirudh Singh / Bodapati Sumanth / Monish Mishra
Tirumalasetti Suman / Venugopal Rao / Arjun Yadav
Chamindaa Vaas / Ryan Harris / Dwayne Smith
Jaskaran Singh / Harmeet Singh / Ashish Reddy
RP Singh
Pragyan Ojha / Rahul Sharma

There are way too many gaps in this team for me to believe that they will make the last four. Laxman, Suman and Anirudh Singh are, for me, the major gaps. Their “replacements” (Ravi Teja, Sumanth, Monish Mishra, Venugopal Rao and Arjun Yadav) do not inspire me with too much confidence either! And to think that Greg Chappell thought of Venugopal Rao as India captain material — the man could have brought on untold damage to Indian cricket! Anyway, there are way too many gaps in this team for me to readily accept that this team will travel further than a 5th or 6th place finish in IPL-III.

Rajasthan Royals (RR):

The RR IPL-III season was in disarray before it commenced and it got worse within a few games! The suspension of Ravindra Jadeja was a major blow to the teams’ chances. However, what was to follow in the first week of the tournament — the injuries to Graeme Smith and Dimitri Mascarenhas — made the Jadeja suspension look like an ant-bite in comparison! The RR team has started IPL-III badly and despite the pyrotechnics of Yusuf Pathan and the leadership of Shane Warne, I expect the rest of the RR season make the team yearn for the “glory days” of the first week of IPL-III! This team needs a good hard look at itself and this might happen at the end of IPL-III. The off-season purchases of Michael Lumb and Damien Martyn were not the most inspired picks while the pickup of Amit Unyal and Abhishek Jhunjhunwala from the ICL were good, in my view. I expect the team to be:

Swapnil Asnodkar / Faiz Fazal
Graeme Smith / Michael Lumb / Damien Martyn
Naman Ojha
Yusuf Pathan
Abhishek Jhunjhunwala
Paras Dogra / Amit Paunikar
Dimitri Mascaranhas / Johan Botha
Amit Unyal / Sumit Narwal / Srikanth Wagh / Abhishek Raut / Syed Qadri
Shane Warne
Shaun Tait / Morne Morkel
Munaf Patel / Siddharth Trivedi / Kamran Khan / Amit Singh

So there, you have it. As I said at the start, I expect the semi-final lineup to be MI, KKR, CSK and RCB. While, in my view, MI has the best team, the others are there despite a few gaps which can be, I believe, be plugged through a combination of inspirational leadership and the presence of a few game-changers.

— Mohan

Teams for NZ Tour

The Indian cricket selectors have, I think, done well to pick good/strong teams for Indias’ tour of New Zealand. Some selection highlights for me are:

  • Continuing to invest in Ravindra Jadeja — he gets a gig in the T20 team.
  • Investing in Dhawal Kulkarni.
  • Re-investing in Lakshmipathy Balaji.
  • Continuing to invest in M. Vijay in the Test team.

The teams are

Test squad: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt/wk), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel, M Vijay, Amit Mishra, L Balaji, Dhawal Kulkarni, Dinesh Karthik (wk)

ODI squad: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt/wk), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar, Irfan Pathan, Munaf Patel, Pragyan Ojha, Dinesh Karthik (wk)

Twenty20 squad: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt/wk), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Irfan Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar, Munaf Patel, Pragyan Ojha, Dinesh Karthik (wk)

Is there a TN-bias to the selection?

The presence of L. Balaji is seen by many as TN-bias on the part of Kris Srikkanth, the Chief Selector. That would be unfortunate as well as unnecessary, although somewhat understandable. The Test team has provided passage for three TN players in the form of M. Vijay (ahead of possibilities such as Wasim Jaffer, Aakash Chopra, Ajinkya Rahane, Robin Uthappa), L. Balaji (ahead of Pankaj Singh, Ashok Dinda, Irfan Pathan and Praveen Kumar) and Dinesh Karthik (ahead of Parthiv Patel).

However, Vijay did shine in the one Test opportunity he got and must be persevered with, in my view. One can feel sorry for Ajinkya Rahane. He was the 2nd highest scorer in the Ranji season (with an aggregate of 1089 runs @ and avg of 68.06 that included 4 centuries). He has had a stunning domestic season and is, along with Cheteshwar Pujara, one to watch for the future.

Dinesh Karthik has had a stunning year with the bat and has pipped Parthiv Patel at the post. The Gujarat ‘keeper has done nothing wrong and must just continue to put in the hard-yards in the domestic circuit. Dinesh Karthik has done everything right. He was the 10th highest scorer in the Ranjis with an aggregate of 634 (3 centuries) and an average of 63.4 runs. Having said that, Parthiv Patel wasn’t really too far behind (with 526 runs in aggregate, @ 47.81, including 1 century). But when the cards fell, Dinesh Karthik just had the right number on his side. He was also the highest scorer in the Duleep Trophy with two centuries in three Duleep Trophy games for South Zone. The fact that Karthik had opened well in England may have also counted in his favour. Both Dinesh Karthik and Parthiv Patel are very young. Karthik is only 23. Both of them will have hurt badly from the experience in Sri Lanka. Karthik played badly in the first two Test matches. He batted poorly and his ‘keeping also fell apart. However, Parthiv Patel, who played in the 3rd Test fared worse! So, both of them needed a strong domestic season, lest upstarts like Wriddhiman Saha usurp their position. Both of them did put in a good showing. However, when the cards fell, Karthik had the numbers.

L. Balaji has been, in my view, somewhat lucky. Yes, he was the 4th highest wicket-taker in the Ranji Season and also had a good Duleep Trophy outing. Given that the highest wicket-taker was already rewarded with a ticket to New Zealand (Kulkarni) and given that 2 and 3 on the pecking order were spinners (Ravindra Jadeja and the now-banned Mohnish Parmar!), his ticket could have been seen as reward for a good showing. My own view is that he need not have been rushed into the Test arena. Its just been a year since his comeback from injury. His first major step on the big stage was the IPL. Since then, he has, no doubt, been bowling well. But to get him straight back into the Test side may have been a bit too much.

But then, these are the rewards of a good showing in the domestic circuit. The current selectors seem to be rewarding strong domestic showing quite consistently — set in the context of long-term team-development — and for that, they do deserve some credit.

Bits-and-pieces players:

I have been saying for sometime now that players like Abhiskek Nayar, Yusuf Pathan and Ravindra Jadeja are the future of India’s ODI and T20 mix. It is good that these guys are getting a clutch of games at the highest level to prove their mettle. The press in India tags them with the moniker “bits and pieces players”. This is erroneous. It is also a disrespect to the quality that these guys bring to the table in the T20 and ODI arena. They are not “bits and pieces players”. They are clever players who bat and bowl well! I’d like to see opportunities given to players like Abhishek Nayar and Rajat Bhatia in the near future too.

Experimentation

M. S. Dhoni has shown the way in handling players like Ravindra Jadeja, Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina in recent ODI games. In the final ODI against Sri Lanka, I felt he took it a wee-bit too far by bowling as many as 9 bowlers in the game! That’s a bit much. But you need those kinds of options in the middle overs. Even though the pitches may not turn much in New Zealand, I think the middle-overs bowled by Virender Sehwag, Yusuf Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma will be quite crucial.

From that point of view, it is good to see the selectors invest strongly in Jadeja. Yes, he is not part of the ODI Team. After the two T20 games at the start of the series, Jadeja makes way for Sachin Tendulkar. That is fair enough!

I think the selectors will only drop Tendulkar from the ODI scene when he himself says that he has had enough! I suspect he won’t say that until after the next World Cup. He seems to want that silverware in his cabinet more than anything else! Given that he has served Indian cricket in the manner that he has, one could afford him that luxury, I think!

What we have seen in recent T20 games and ODIs is that Dhoni is really his own man when it comes to executing batting plans, setting the batting order and exploring bowling options. In a recent interview, he said that this was because he wanted each player to experience different roles in order to have an appreciation for what a #3 needs to do and what a #6 needs to do in different match situations.

In a perverse manner, this is exactly what Guru Greg Chappell tried to instil in the team when he was at the helm! The difference was that Guru Greg, instead of just doing it, wanted to preach his ideology, convert everyone to his way of thinking, convince everyone that he was right and then hail him as a messiah and a saviour! He started the “process is more important than the outcome” mantra. He was subsequently lambasted and lampooned in the media for “experimenting” too much! The word “experimentation” was taboo during his reign. Guru Greg choked on his own mantra and was caught in the headlights, with nowhere to go.

Instead of aspiring to be a messiah and a saviour, Dhoni just does it and lets others write about his method! The outcome is a more flexible Team India! Ironically, Guru Greg’s method survives after he has been buried!

Possible Teams:

The T20 and ODI teams select themselves:
Possible Twenty20 squad: Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt/wk), Yusuf Pathan, Irfan Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar
Subs: Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel, Pragyan Ojha, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Rohit Sharma

I’d take Praveen Kumar ahead of Ishant Sharma and would take Ravindra Jadeja ahead of Rohit Sharma. But these are possibly the only two debatable spots in my view. There are questions being asked about Pragyan Ojha’s selection in the T20 and ODI teams, given that pitches are unlikely to offer too much spin in New Zealand. However, from a team-development point of view, I think this is a good move. Ojha did bowl really well in recent ODIs. He should be part of the team mix and should get a gig, in my view.

Possible ODI squad: Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt/wk), Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar.
Subs: Irfan Pathan, Munaf Patel, Pragyan Ojha, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Rohit Sharma,

I’d take Praveen Kumar ahead of Irfan Pathan. And I’d take Raina ahead of Rohit Sharma. Who knows? With a lot of cricket around the corner, should India go ahead in the series — as it did in Sri Lanka — it would be an opportunity to play Pragyan Ojha, Rohit Sharma, Irfan Pathan and Dinesh Karthik instead of (respectively) Harbhajan Singh, Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan and M. S. Dhoni.

Possible Test squad: Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt/wk), Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel
Subs: M Vijay, Amit Mishra, L Balaji, Dhawal Kulkarni, Dinesh Karthik (wk)

The Test team is the one that selects itself most emphatically. There can’t be too many doubts or questions in the composition of this team. It is unlikely that the team will go with more than 4 main bowlers (with Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Tendulkar as other possible bowlers to relieve the strike bowlers). The only question, in my view, is whether Munaf Patel gets the gig ahead of Dhawal Kulkarni. I’d go for experience ahead of raw pace for the first Test. Moreover, Munaf Patel does seem to have the ability to swing the ball more in conditions that are likely to be presented in countries like NZ, South Africa and England. So, he might get the nod ahead of Kulkarni. But it may not be a bad idea to give Kulkarni a go in one of the Test matches.

The selectors have continued to invest in Rahul Dravid — as they should — in spite of his poor showing in the Duleep Trophy finals. Having said that, I am not sure they would be as patient with him after yet another poor tour. They have also sent a clear signal to Yuvraj Singh that he is in the mix for a long stint in the Test middle order. This should settle him down and should allow him to cash in on this opportunity.

Overall, this has been a good selection effort by the selectors.

— Mohan

Thinking ‘Out of the box’ for India’s tour of NZ

With India’s tour to Pakistan canceled, post 26/11, India had an opportunity of a slightly extended tour to New Zealand. And indeed, India are now playing an additional Test match and an extra Twenty20 in New Zealand.

However, instead of lengthening the tour to accommodate these additional matches, the extra matches have been featured at the cost of canceling the practice game that was originally scheduled.

India will also be playing five ODIs and a Twenty20 game at Sri Lanka from Jan 28 to Feb 10.

Once again, the BCCI has proved that if India does well in international cricket it is despite the BCCI and not because of it. The utter stupidity of this decision to cancel the scheduled practice game — in order to accommodate an additional Test and Twenty20 — shocks me.

The schedule for the series in New Zealand is:

– 25 Feb: 1st Twenty20 international, Christchurch
– 27 Feb: 2nd Twenty20 international, Wellington
– 3 Mar: 1st ODI, Napier
– 6 Mar: 2nd ODI, Wellington
– 8 Mar: 3rd ODI, Christchurch
– 11 Mar: 4th ODI, Hamilton
– 14 Mar: 5th ODI, Auckland
– 18-22 Mar: 1st Test, Hamilton
– 26-30 Mar: 2nd Test, Napier
– 3-7 Apr: 3rd Test, Wellington

Now, to my mind, there is no reason why a few (not just one or two, but a few) 3-day practice games cannot be organised for Team India between 25 Feb and 14 March even with the above itinerary.

If we consider the current India ODI team and Test team, there are players like Rahul Dravid, V. V. S. Laxman, S. Badrinath, Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma and Sachin Tendulkar who do not (need to) feature in the ODI team.

There are Team India ODI players like Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, M. S. Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan who are also a part of the Team India Test side. While they get acclimatised to NZ conditions by playing their ODI games, there is no reason why the rest of the Test team should not play a few practice games in NZ!

A more proactive and forward-thinking BCCI would have married the “making money” strategy with the need for practice and pragmatism to come up with a winning strategy. Unfortunately though, BCCI seems constantly incapable of thinking beyond the money prerogative — a strategy that necessitates more matches being played!

It would be easy to form the following two teams and have them play in New Zealand simultaneously:

ODI Team India:
Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, M. S. Dhoni, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel (Subs: Irfan Pathan, Virat Kohli, Pragyan Ojha, Mohammed Kaif)

NZ Practice Matches India:
Wasim Jaffer, M. Vijay, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, V. V. S. Laxman, S. Badrinath, Parthiv Patel, Manpreet Gony, Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma, R. P. Singh (Subs: Ashok Dinda, Cheteshwar Pujara, Abhishek Nayar, Chetanya, Nanda, Piyush Chawla)

This assumes that Sachin Tendulkar and Ishant Sharma are “rested” from ODI duties. However, even if that is not a valid assumption, since both teams would be in the same country, players can be mixed and matched between the two teams!

In essence, what I am calling for is a marriage between the “make money” strategy with “pargmatic necessity” to come up with an innovative winning strategy.

Alas! The BCCI has repeatedly indicated that it is incapable of thinking beyond packed tours and money!

— Mohan

IPL: Winners and Losers — I

The IPL cricket festival is over. The Shane Warne led unfancied and least-expensive team from Rajasthan took home the coveted trophy — said to be the most expensive sporting trophy ever! The match itself was befitting a final as it went down to the last ball for scores to be settled. And it had a fairy-tale ending too as Shane Warne, said to be the best captain Australia never had, was there at the end to guide the team home to victory.

So who were the winners and losers in this festival of cricket? I plan to write about this in the next few posts. In this post, I concentrate on winners and losers for the two finalists.

As far as teams go, the Royals formed either side of the win-loss spectrum. It would be fair to say that the biggest winner was Rajasthan Royals while the biggest losers would have to be the Bangalore Royal Challengers.

The team from Rajasthan was one of the least expensive teams going around. They banked on non-icon, non-expensive local players like Mohammed Kaif, Munaf Patel, Yusuf Pathan, Swapnil Asnodkar, Neeraj Patel, Taruvar Kohli, Dinesh Salunke, Siddharth Trivedi, Mahesh Rawat, Pankaj Singh and Ravindra Jadeja. Most of these players have delivered big-time for the team. They then added to the mix a healthy dose of the right sort of experienced internationals who repaid faith in a big way. Players like Shane Warne, Shane Watson, Graeme Smith, Sohail Tanveer and Kamran Akmal were not hugely expensive. A disappointment was that the tournament did not get to see much of Younis Khan, arguably one of the best batsmen going around these days! However, the team had the right sort of players that Rajasthan was trying to build — a team of equals where everyone contributes in some way or the other. What you got was a terrific team combination that delivered consistently thanks to the leadership that made each player express themselves hugely. The biggest winners were perhaps Yusuf Pathan and Swapnil Asnodkar. The big factor here was that this team banked on overseas players that would stay the distance with the team! Unlike Chennai and Kolkata — two teams that were badly exposed when the overseas players departed, the Rajasthan Royals went for less expensive recruits that would stay the distance and mould the team into a fighting unit. Although Kamran Akmal and Younis Khan arrived late and although we didn’t hear much from Justin Langer, Dimitri Mascarenhas and Morne Morkel, all of the key overseas players stayed with the team for the duration. Moreover, there was little chopping and changing of the team. Any changes were forced either by injury or the 4-overseas-player rule — which meant that in some games Kamran Akmal was not included.

The Chennai Super Kings journey was a mixed bag. It was one of the more expensive teams. However, as pointed out above, the main difference was that the high-impact players stayed only for a brief period after which one felt that there was a re-building phase that never quite got over. Players like Matthew Hayden, Michael Hussey, Jacob Oram and Stephen Fleming did not last the distance. This is something that the franchise owners may want to look into more seriously in the next installment of the IPL. Shane Warne and Rahul Dravid took wildly different routes to prove that a team is not just a random collection of talented individuals. The former had some talented players that formed the nucleus of a well-oiled and well-led machinery. The latter had a large collection of talented players who couldn’t quite work it together. Each player in the team needs to understand why they are there and needs to accept what is expected of them in different situations! Chennai, one felt, was still a work-in-progress when the finals series started. The big winner for Chennai would have to be Manpreet Gony. It would be a shame to see Manpreet Gony not being part of the longer-term ODI/T20 mix for Team India. The big strides he has put in are too compelling to ignore. But the player who created the biggest impact is, in my view, Suresh Raina. He seized his opportunities to make statements about his batting and fielding abilities. From amongst the overseas players Albie Morkel made the biggest strides while Makhaya Ntini and Muralitharan showed everyone the value of being a committed and strong professional. Players from the local catchment were somewhat disappointing and that, in the end, separated the wheat from the chaff. While Abhinav Mukund wasn’t given opportunities, one felt that Vidyut Sivaramakrishnan, S. Badrinath and L. Balaji did not do enough too often to stake serious enough claims about their potential. It is, however, certainly refreshing to see L. Balaji make those strides towards a total recovery. While Team India can now boast of a significant and non-trivial bench strength in the pace bowling department, the presence on the recovery-road of a past-winner like L. Balaji is certainly refreshing. It would have been a pity if Balaji had been lost in the system forever. I did feel that Joginder Sharma was a disappointment for Chennai. In my view, he is a player that has taken a backward step in the IPL. Another partial disappointment for me has been Parthiv Patel. Although Parthiv Patel’s batting appears to have improved, it is quite shocking to see that his ‘keeping is perhaps as good as it ever has been! With the solidity of M. S. Dhoni and with players like Dinesh Karthik, Mahesh Rawat, Shreevats Goswami and Wriddhiman Saha knocking on the doors, the route back into Team India for Parthiv Patel — as a ‘keeper — looks long and is perhaps a lost cause.

There ends Part-I of this commentary. I’d love your views and opinions on this…

— Mohan

Home team (dis)advantage in the IPL…

Dileep Premachandran has written an excellent article in Cricinfo, in support of Shane Warne’s anguish at the organisation of the IPL finals series. Because the Mumbai Indians spent most money in buying their franchise, they got the “right” to host the two semi-finals and the IPL Final. Bangalore Royal Challengers, by virtue of being the team that bid the second highest franchise-purchase, won the right to host the opening ceremony and the first game. This does not strike me as a sensible or fair framework.

Luckily for the IPL, Mumbai Indians did not make the semi-final cut. Or else the home-team advantage would be far too huge a leverage for the other teams to overcome!

It also does not make a huge amount of sense to me to have half the competition to be in the reckoning in a “Finals Series”! After playing over 50 matches over 40 days, surely, one should be able to separate the wheat from the chaff — although I will be the first to admit that the margin between wheat and chaff is far less in T20 than in ODI and Tests! Yet, to have half the teams participating in a knockout Finals Series that does not have a home-team-advantage to a top-performing-team makes a mockery of the hard yards that, for example, a team like Rajasthan Royals have put in to get to where they have got to.

My reckoning is that the “Finals Series” should be conducted in two simple rounds organised as follows (this borrows from the Aussie Rules approach):

Only the top-3 teams go through to the “IPL Finals Series” numbered T1 through T3 on the basis of their final league standings.

  • T1 gets a “bye” in Round-1 of the IPL Finals Series.
  • T2 plays T3 at T2’s home ground. Winner is W1 and loser is eliminated!
  • T1 plays W1 in the FINALS.

This is a fairer system and allows for a travel-day if one were needed. Views?

— Mohan