Tag Archives: WC2011

Who will win CWC2011?

I am possibly going to get flamed for this by my fellow fans of Team India, but I feel that unless a few things change dramatically in the next few weeks, we will be seeing a South Africa Vs Pakistan (or England) Cricket World Cup 2011 Final, with South Africa winning by a small margin.

In that sense I am agreeing with Peter Roebuck: http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/503695.html

The pre-tournament favourites were: India, Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, England and Pakistan (perhaps in that order).

I have not bothered with West Indies, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. The less said about the rest of the sides, the better, in my view!

So why am I then picking RSA and Pakistan as the two to watch out for?

Australia without Michael Hussey will — I strongly believe – not be able to do get there. Despite Mitchel Johnson’s good form (a rarity these days), Brett Lee’s pace and the unleashing of Saun Tait, I still feel that this Australia does not have it in them. The middle order is wobbly and untested. Once Shane Watson and Ricky Ponting depart, the batting just lacks teeth.

India do the big things well – big hitting, big names, big sixes and big fours! However, often times, it is the collection of small things that separates from the good from the excellent. With India’s team composition being what it is and with her inadequate running and fielding, I think the small things will add up to a lost tournament.

Sri Lanka has a balanced attack. The bowling is outstanding, with Malinga and Muralitharan ably supported by Kulasekara, Ajantha Mendis and Angelo Matthews. However, my problem with this team is that it depends too much on Sangakkara and Jayawardene for its runs.

In my books, unless Collingwood fires, England’s middle order looks far too shaky to make an impact. With a post-Ashes Jimmy Andreson being what he is, the bowling lacks teeth too.

So, that leaves South Africa and Pakistan.

South Africa has embraced spin, and how! From being dependent on defensive bowlers like Paul Harris, South Africa has unleashed Johan Botha, Imra Tahir and Peterson and has told them to attack. We then throw in to this mix, a fiery Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel and a steady Jacques Kallis. What we then have is a potent attack! The batting looks rock solid too, with Smith, Amla, Kalllis, AB de Villiers, Duminy and Faf du Plessis. This is a team to beat, in my view. It has everything going for it including athletic fielding, attacking batting and solid bowling.

Pakistan is a funny side. It always is! However, what is different in this episode of the World Cup is the stability that Younis Khan and Misbah Ul Haq give the batting. Moreover, the strong bowling of Shahid Afridi and the steady bowling of Abdul Razzaq give the team an air of strength. The fact that Hafeez opens the batting and bowls a few overs of tight off-spin adds to the mix. In my view, this Pakistan team looks more determined than previous ones. The fielding – as observed in the previous match against Sri Lanka – might well make one yearn for the Indian fielding! However, there is something that says to me that this Pakistan team might travel far in this tournament.

So there you have it. My prediction: A RSA vs Pakistan final with RSA winning it handsomely.

This is what I feel.

However, if India alters her team composition/balance, watch out for a re-post and an altered prediction!

-Mohan (@mohank on Twitter)

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India’s woes: Team composition…

Many pundits have been writing off India’s bowling as awful, citing her bowling against Bagladesh and England as case studies that prove their collective hypothesis.

However, Sanjay Subrahmanyan tweeted the fallacy of this position this morning. He tweets on his timeline (@sanjaysub): “Indian bowling not upto the mark for allowing Eng to score 338. Eng bowling upto the mark becos it was the Ind batting that scored 338!”

And that is really the point. If we accept the hypothesis that the India bowling is terrible, then surely, the England bowling ought to be equally bad!

That said, it is fair to accept a position that IF India lose this World Cup it will probably be more due to the collective failure of her bowling than her batting! The batting does look solid on paper. The problem for all other teams is that the batting looks more solid on the park than it actually is on paper! For the batting to be stronger on the park, India needs (a) Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni to be hitting the ball well. (b) Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli to fire. (c) Yusuf Pathan and Yuvraj Singh to start middling the ball. All three of the above are happening. I have rarely seen Sachin Tendulkar as much in the “zone” as he was when he batted against England. Virender Sehwag looks dangerous. MS Dhoni is on top of his game. Yuvraj Singh is starting to middle the ball well. All other batting chinks are being ironed out.

There is no point pillorying and bemoaning the fielding. India is not going to ship up her fielding mid-way through a World Cup. As Dhoni mentioned in a recent interview: It is what it is.

To me, even though I completely accept Sanjay Subrahmanyan’s position, as expressed in his [@sanjaysub] tweet, and although I lament the one-sided nature of the “India bowling is weak” theory, I do feel that there is something to be said for “team composition”.

I think it is suicidal for Team India to go in with Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla as the only “main bowlers” as we get into the sharp end of the tournament. Given that the batsmen are performing well, I think the team has to either sacrifice Yusuf Pathan or get him to open the bowling! If he does not do that, I see no reason why India should not play three spinners — R. Ashwin, Piyush Chawla and Harbhajan Singh — with Yusuf Pathan missing out and with R. Ashwin opening the bowling!

With the “2 pace bowler, 2 spinner and 2 part-timer” formula that is currently under operation, Dhoni has no choice but to have a “bowling change by formula/template” form of decision making. He bowls Munaf Patel and Zaheer Khan for the first 10 overs. He then has Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla bowl the next 10 overs. He then has the part-timers bowling in tandem for the next 10 overs. And from there, it is a look up to the heavens to see what happens! If decisions are made only by a template, we may as well have a template as captain!

Dhoni has no choice but to go for a template-solution given his resources. If we are to free his hand up a bit, I feel India has to bite the bullet and throw in another bowler into the mix. I feel that that bowler has to be R. Ashwin and he has to open the bowling.

— Mohan

What was Silly Bowden thinking?

There is no other way to call this. So I am going to call it as I saw it…

It was one of the craziest matches I have seen, officiated by a lunatic who constantly puts himself ahead of the game.

Silly Bowden has to go!

Some 12 months before Steve Bucknor got a rude (reportedly, BCCI-inspired) shove, I had predicted that his time was nigh. It was. And when he he did not leave, he was pushed. It looked ugly and everyone blamed India for “muscle flexing”. Bucknor left because, when the end came, he had become incompetent.

Bowden’s time has come. He must leave, in my view.

My problem with him right from the time he made his debut is that he has made himself much larger than the game! The good umpires of the game just do their stuff and do it well. Even David Shepherd, with his one-legged Nelson-superstitions, never allowed himself to take center stage! ‘Shep’ would do his one-legged Nelson-dance almost in embarrassment! Unfortunately, Hair’s ego ran way ahead of the man, in my view! He got ahead of the game. He was shown the door! Good umpires like Aleem Dar, Simon Taufel, Darryl Harper, Asad Rauf, et al, do their stuff forcefully, but quietly.

Last night, first, we had Billy Bowden first pointing out to Zaheer Khan the exact spot he had to stand at in the field! Now there is nothing wrong with an umpire telling a captain — during the Power Play overs — that his men aren’t in positions that might be termed “close catching” positions. After all, in soccer, you regularly have referees marking out a position for the “wall” to line up before a “free kick” is taken. So there is nothing wrong, in my book, with umpires instructing a player to stand in a close catching position. Similarly, the umpire is well within his rights to get a fielding captain to have two of his players in genuine close catching positions.

The rule clearly states that in the first Powerplay, no more than two fielders can be positioned outside 30 yard circle (this is increased to three for the second and third Powerplay blocks). Moreover, in the first 10 overs, it is also required that at least two fielders are in close catching positions.

And “close catching” is defined as: 15 yards (or 13.7 m)

And this is where the first problem first arose yesterday!

On being told that Zaheer Khan wasn’t “close” enough, MS Dhoni agreed initially and brought Zaheer Khan closer up.

Silly Bowden took one small stutter of a step (half a meter) forward and insisted that Zaheer Khan be stationed that one third of a meter closer! Dhoni was seen clearly stating that, in his view, Zaheer Khan, the “close catcher” was indeed a “close catcher”!

A 2-minute conversation ensued!

Now, in all my viewing of cricket, I have never ever seen MS Dhoni fight against anything. He is no Ponting or Ganguly this man! He walks when he nicks a ball. He does not question decisions. He respects umpires and is always cordial with them. But yesterday, I suspect he stood his ground for that half a minute or so. He must have known that he couldn’t win against a stubborn man. But he must have been tempted to get Bowden to get his measuring tape out!

He then got on with the game.

My strong suspicion is that I-am-bigger-than-the-game-Bowden did not get on with the game.

In the 25th over of the game Team India gave a clear indication as to why it does not like the UDRS.

Let me state clearly that I am a great/strong fan of the UDRS. I always have been an advocate for the use of technology in sport. In these days of 360 degree cameras, overhead cameras and precision optics, we just cannot afford to get things wrong. Elite sportsmen know that a mere hundredth of a second can separate Gold from Silver in a 100m freestyle swim. Technology makes the call on the winner. It separates the victorious from those that came close!

In some cases technology assists the decision maker. I strongly support both sets of technology — that which decides and that which assists — but with a strong and important caveat in the latter case: The administrators should not be machines themselves! The administrators ought to be responsible and intelligent humans!

Last night, the UDRS was administered by a lunatic!

Bowden had the UDRS in his hands as a tool that assisted sharp on-field decision making! At the end of the process, the words “monkey and spanner” sprung to mind!

BTW, for those that are thinking of getting stuck into me here are a set of riders:

This post has nothing to do with the match result! And for the record, I thought that England ought to have won the game. India escaped with a “get out of jail for free” card, in my view. India had the wrong team composition and the wrong (arrogant) attitude when it took the park for the 2nd Innings. The players lacked aggression and seemed to exhibit an “all I need to do is rock up to the 2nd Innings and we will win this game” attitude — best exhibited by the way Harbhajan Singh approached the catch opportunity that Andrew Strauss provided early on in his innings! Team India players only showed aggression and intent in the 43rd over once Bell got out!

So, my whine against Bowden has nothing to do with the result. As a Team India fan, I think a Tie was a great result last night. India secured one more point than what I thought she deserved at the start of even the 25th over!

Ironically, the incident I am about to allude to relates what happened in over #25!

At that point, England was cruising. Team India was on the mat. What’s more? There was no clear sign of where the wicket — that India so badly needed — was going to come from!

Yuvraj Singh bowled a faster ball. Ian Bell, who was on 17 then, went for a somewhat ugly paddle sweep and was, in my view adjacent. Billy Bowden turned down the resulting appeal, which he is well within his rights to do. No problems up until then! Yuvraj Singh convinced his reluctant captain to go for a UDRS review. His captain has been a reluctant user of the UDRS. He just does not trust it enough. He just does not believe it will be used properly and appropriately.

If I were him, after last night, I’d be keen to kill it off completely!

The ball pitched in line and hit in line. The HawkEye projection was that it would have hit the middle-and-off stump about a third of the way up from the bottom of the stumps!

Everyone seemed convinced that the bell had tolled for Ian Bell: The crowd, the Indian players, Andrew Strauss and even Ian Bell. Everyone, that is, except Bowden!

There was one criterion that needed a box to be ticked and the UDRS hadn’t done that. The UDRS indicated that the remaining distance for the ball to travel was more than 2.5m. In such instances, the UDRS throws the decision back to the on-field umpire!

The UDRS system is 100% accurate only within a narrow band of 2.5m (between the stumps and the point of impact). Fair enough! I also accept that, since the ball had another 2.6m (say) to travel, there could be some error in the path-projection algorithm beyond 2.5m. I also accept that at that point, the vision tracking system tells the human “I have assisted you all I can. From here on in, please make the decision using this projection only as a guide, Mr Human.”

Pity that the human that UDRS handed over to was an idiot on the night!

Ergo: Monkey and spanner!

The UDRS, in all instances, must be used as a decision aid in my view! The problem with Bowden was that his mind got clouded. His muddled and crooked thinking rendered him incapable of making a decision on the night.

If he had accepted the UDRS as a “decision aid”, he may have asked: So where might that ball have landed even if it had only a 50% accuracy? The moon? No. Perhaps it may have hit the stumps half way up and not a third of the way up! But it was certainly going to hit the stumps all right!

I would have forgiven Bowden if the ball was projected to hit the top of off stump and the batsman was 2.7m down the track. The benefit of the doubt had to go to the batsman in such a case! But in the case of Ian Bell last night, there was no place else that ball was going to go to other than the stumps! That is, of course, if the UDRS was being used as a decision aid by a clear thinking human!

Instead Bowden thought: That’s it. Another 2.6m (say) to go. 2.6m is greater than 2.5m. Hence, this ball was headed for the moon. Not out was my original decision. And it will stand!

If I am a player in this World Cup, given this laughable precedent, this is what I should do! I would mark out 2.5m on the pitch! I’d bat outside this 2.5m mark and I’d try and thwack every ball with bat. If I cannot do that, I’d give it a flying kick while pretending to play the ball! If I am given out LBW, I’d ask for a review! Bowden has set a precedent. I just cannot be given out! If I am given not out and the fielding captain reviews it, it has to be given not out!

Now let us look at what the actual playing conditions state. The playing conditions state that, in the case where a ball has more than 2.5m to travel “the on-field umpire shall have regard to the normal cricketing principles concerning the level of certainty in making his decision as to whether to change his decision.”

Bowden used no cricketing principles at all. I don’t know what went through his crooked mind. But he got his knickers in a knot, may have thought about the Dhoni-Zaheer field-placement incident and ruled “not out”.

Contrast this with what happened during England’s recent ODI series against Australia. In the seventh and final match at the WACA, the Australian batsman Tim Paine was adjudged not out to Liam Plunkett, and England reviewed the umpire Paul Reiffel’s on-field decision. The replays showed Paine was hit more than 2.5 metres from the stumps, but Hawkeye suggested the ball would have crashed into the stumps halfway up, and on that occasion Reiffel decided not to argue with the technology, even though he would have been within his rights to stay with his not-out call. He swallowed his ego and went in favor of HawkEye. His decision was assisted by technology because he adopted a common-sense cricketing principles approach!

Not Silly Billy Bowden, though!

Sorry! The man and his crooked finger have to go. There is no other way to call this!

Mohan