Archive for October 2009

Game 2, Nagpur

October 30, 2009

I couldn’t watch India’s batting and fortunately or unfortunately, I can’t comment on Dhoni’s innings. Harsha Bhogle has called it classy and Kris Srikanth has ‘seen the old Dhoni’. I congratulate the man on his success.
Dhoni has won this one for India while Sachin, Viru and Yuvraj are due. Beware Australia.
Good to see Raina in such form. I want him to be the Lara of India. Gambhir has displayed amazing consistency and is an inspiration for aspiring batsmen in India.

Once a target of 355 has been set, the energy levels and the atmosphere is altogether different in the second innings and the fielding team is on top.
Shane Watson was surely not expecting that bouncer off Ishant’s first ball and his wicket was just out of the blue. Sachin’s catch at slip was firm proof of his fitness.
As I had mentioned in my report of the Challenger final, the pitch at Nagpur was a beauty. It looked newish and offered great bounce and carry for Ishant Sharma. Australia simply cannot complain about the bounce, or the lack of it. They can expect bad bounce in the next game at Delhi though, if the Champions League is any indication.
Coming to Ponting’s dismissal, the ball moved in off the pitch and was not an inswinger as mentioned repeatedly by television commentators whereas Tim Paine’s LBW was off a fine inswinger.Praveen Kumar was his usual self with the new ball.

Hussey seems to have jumped out of his bad patch and is timing the ball well. He is waiting for the ball to come as close to him as possible and that’s a sign of confidence. Australia would hope he carries this kind of form to the test matches as well.

With a mountain of runs to play with, I thought it was a good chance for Harbhajan to find some form, especially with the left handed Hussey batting.May be the dew affected his grip, he was hardly bowling any off spin from his second over onwards. His off spin looked spoilt.( Hussey struck 3 boundaries off his first over) Once Voges came to the wicket, Bhajji reduced the number of quicker ones and settled down a bit. With so much of dew, one would have expected free flow of runs off Yuvraj and Harbhajan but the duo kept things very tight.

Ravindra Jadeja impressed once again with his accurate and intelligent bowling.He could be a solution for the allrounder’s slot in foreign conditions provided, he gains further fluency in his batting. Hussey’s good innings came to an end with a ball that gripped and turned and Hussey was never expecting that amount of turn. Cameron White just had to get out as the required run rate was well over 10 rpo.

The only positive for India(bowling wise) was perhaps the return of pace and rythym for Ishant. Its a good opportunity for him to build some confidence from this game and he should be grateful to the batsmen.

Laxman Sivaramakrishnan among others described this to be a better bowling performance by India but all this was a result of the 354 runs the batting unit had put up.

I wonder how people like Robin Jackmann tolerate with the idiots here.

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1st ODI, Vadodara

October 27, 2009

 When you are picking a squad for the first two ODIs, why not pick players who are fit for both? Selecting an unfit Yuvraj (they aren’t sure if he’ll be fit for the second game) was ridiculous and a chance to another deserving batsman was denied.

Ponting won the toss and not surprisingly, chose to bat. Watson was tentative and stayed rooted to the crease. He escaped the first ball but Nehra beat him for pace and caught him in front in the very next delivery. In came Ponting and I’ve hardly seen him miss a pull shot these days. Punter’s missed pull off Nehra indicated that the pitch didn’t offer true bounce. It stayed relatively firm throughout but offered a lot of turn.

With the new ball, Praveen Kumar is not exposed but in his fifth consecutive over, there was little swing and Ponting dispatched him out of the attack. Until then Nehra and Praveen were doing a good job but that poor Praveen over swung the momentum towards the Aussies.

I noticed Ishant closely and he’s surely short of self-belief. His natural balls are going down leg and he made conscious extra effort (with a disturbed rhythm and less pace) to send balls on and around the off stump.

Harbhajan’s bowling was all over the place whereas Jadeja attacked the stumps, strictly maintained a stump to stump line and was rewarded with Ponting’s wicket with a beauty. Ponting, I thought underestimated Jadeja while trying to play a couple of big strokes but the young man showed discipline and proved to be very good. There was some doubt as to whether the ball had pitched outside leg but umpire Shahvir Tarapore took his time and made a fine decision.

My friend Rajesh wanted Praveen Kumar to be thrashed before I criticized him and Praveen was very much at the receiving end yesterday. Dhoni probably expected him to be of Kemar Roach’s pace and introduced him in the middle overs. The fellow survived a very expensive over as White couldn’t middle a few loose balls. Dhoni made a good change in bringing Raina for Praveen but that didn’t pay off as well. There’s a lot of talk about ‘specialist bowlers for the death’ but India continued to bowl loose balls in the end overs. Once White gifted his wicket away, Voges couldn’t find his feet during the powerplay as there was added pressure on him. How often do we see the batting powerplay go in favour of the fielding side due to compulsion for the batsmen to take the aerial route?? Praveen Kumar though kept on bowling meaningless slower balls which were picked up very easily. He doesn’t outthink the batsmen and continues to use the slower ball without being sure, that the batsman isn’t expecting one.

Hussey came out as the best batsman. He never took any risk, kept the scorers busy and ended up making a significant contribution. 292 was always a tough task, especially against Lee and Siddle. Lee, I think will prove to be the difference between the teams in this series. He is bowling as well as ever and looks like the world’s best fast bowler today. I can’t understand why he wasn’t given his full quota of ten overs but I now hear he had some trouble with his elbow.

 Sehwag’s shot selection these days  is near perfect. He looked in supreme touch and the Aussies were lucky to get him early. Sachin looked to play a big innings but couldn’t middle the balls. He looked a little out of touch. Siddle bowled a testing spell to Sachin at good pace and just outside off. Gambhir and Kohli did not take the initiative to attack the bowlers during the powerplay. Even though Watson and Johnson were ordinary, the batsmen couldn’t keep up a good enough run rate. I remember Sachin toying around with Hopes in Australia a couple of seasons back and batsmen seem to be giving him too much respect to him these days. Adam Voges is another bowler whose bowling career could have been finished off today but he was given royal treatment by Gambhir and Kohli. The pair should have started accelerating slowly when the inexperienced Kohli played a suicidal shot to get out. When Dhoni came in to bat, ( I was surprised he didn’t come at No. 3!!) Ponting made a good move in bringing back Siddle. The captain was left clueless. He could just manage some irresponsible slices on the off side.

 Though it wasn’t utilized properly, one should appreciate the decision of taking the batting powerplay in the 34th over. Gambhir lost concentration and missed a full ball from Johnson. Raina looked in good touch but was left foxed by a slower one from Johnson. And when Dhoni held out at mid on, most of the television sets in India would have been switched off.

What followed later was proof that the game is one of glorious uncertainty. There was little pressure on Harbhajan and Praveen Kumar and the duo carried on and on. The Aussie bowlers had little pressure on them and were going through the motions. They thought that the match was in their hands and the bowlers hardly focused on finishing off the tail. Harbhajan’s timing was as sweet as honey. Nobody expected Bhajji to win the match for India and he thoroughly enjoyed his batting stint. And in the end, when just 9 runs were needed off the last over, there was pressure on the batsmen. They were scoring at more than 10 runs an over  previously and 9 runs off the last over meant that people expected them to win it for India. Harbhajan couldn’t handle this, went for a wild swipe over mid wicket and was bowled by Siddle.

 The match ended up very close and Australia survived the Turbanator scare.

The English squad

October 16, 2009

Basil D' Oliveria

Basil D’ Oliveira was chosen as one of the ten South African cricketers of the century despite not having played cricket for South Africa.The England- South Africa tests have been named after this inspirational cricketer.

Ive been looking forward to this series for a while now and can’t wait for the start. Normally I would have been supporting South Africa but the English test team has really impressed me of late. Not only because of the Ashes performance but players like Anderson and Broad have really come of age over the past year or so. Strauss has been scoring runs heavily. Jonathan Trott looked like a seasoned campaigner in his Ashes outing. Swann’s been really exciting and then theres KP..

Somehow my interest in T20 cricket has diminished like anything and theres been too much of the version in the last 18 months. Thank God theres a balanced dosage of test cricket.

Coming to the English squad, Luke Wright and Liam Plunkett have been surprise picks for me. If the selectors have omitted Harmison thinking about the Ashes down under next year, thats a poor decision. And I dont think Plunkett’s domestic performances can edge out Harmy’s current international form.I don’t see Luke Wright getting into the eleven. He should try and make this a big learning experience.I haven’t seen much of Steve Davies. What’s happened to Chris Read and James Foster?  Onions and Sidebottom should fight for the third pacer’s slot unless they’re sure of a turning track and play Adil Rashid alongside Swann.
If I were the selector on tour, I would be in a huge dilemna. Can I play Prior at6 and Broad at 7?
I’d go for Trott at 6 and Prior at 7 right now but if the pitch is a little batsman friendly, it’s worth taking that risk. Flintoff’s retirement has surely created a vacuum there. The first test is at Centurion where it turns a bit and helps the batsmen. Its also early summer in South Africa and this decision is going to be very vital to England’s chances.

England are playing away from home and need to build up the confidence levels. They need big scores in the first test as it will be a tough task handling Steyn & co. at Durban in the second.
I thought Collingwood’s place was in real pressure due to the emergence of Trott but he seems to be in good batting form now. Both Bopara and Shah are out of the picture now and England shall handle these players well. They can’t afford to lose such talent.

Anderson provides the swing and that makes me pick Onions ahead of Sidebottom. Onions and Broad should polish off the tail quickly. I would let Broad bat ahead of Prior as Prior just seeems intent on displaying his charisma. He needs to work a lot on his temperament.
In the last few years,test bowlers have lost a lot of focus when it comes to finishing off the tail. Captains need to emphasise on this and not let opposition bowlers score runs and irritate them.

This will be my line up for the first test.

Strauss
Cook
Bell
Pietersen
Collingwood
Trott
Broad
Prior
Swann
Anderson
Onions

Something tells me they’ll go with 5 bowlers with Broad at 6.The axe would then fall on Bell.Sidebottom should be the extra bowler.

Or Adil Rashid? 2 spinners would be historic.

Reds win for the first time!

October 12, 2009

It was Sunday afternoon and I was looking forward to some exciting cricket in the final of the Challenger Trophy between India Red and India Blue. Reds won the toss and chose to field. Evening dew should have been the reason behind that decision as it’s winter time in Nagpur. Sudeep Tyagi bowled the first over of the match and after three balls, the over status read W 0 W !!
Naman Ojha left the first ball only to find his stumps disturbed. Suresh Kumar tried to play across, missed and it was curtains for him as well.Then came some nonsense.Yusuf Pathan, Abishek Nayar, Jalaj Saxena and Dhoni himself were the batsmen lined up when the captain of the ICC international test and one day teams, MS Dhoni, sent in Harbhajan Singh at number four.Yes, Harbhajan Singh walking in to bat in the fourth ball of the match.
He did face a lot of music from both Tyagi and Ishant before injuring his knee off a quick inswinger from Lambu.Is that what you want for your frontline spinner on the eve of a packed season? Did Dhoni expect Bhajji to play Ishant , Tyagi and Munaf safely? Why Bhajji when the score is none for the loss of two wickets of the first three balls of the match? Now the news for you is that Bhajji has a strapping on his knee.

Fine.Bhajji goes and in comes ‘captain cool’.The World’s No.1 ranked ODI cricketer.He tries to ‘counter attack’ (as Arun Lal finds it) and get on with the scoring. There’s a bowling change and he sees Ashwin as a vent for some easy runs during the powerplay. Absolutely no responsibility shown here. Comes down the wicket and plays an aerial shot on the off side and gets caught at mid off. Scorecard now reads 49 for 4. Why didn’t he show all that ‘maturity’ today?

In the presentation ceremony, Dhoni says he hasn’t been getting chances to play his big shots for Team India and hence wanted to cut loose this time around. The whole purpose of the Challenger trophy was defeated by MSD with his experimenting of his own batting and the promotion he awarded to Harbhajan.

I had very high hopes on Abishek Nayar but he just had no clue of what Ashwin was delivering. Ashwin kept things simple. His line and length were spot on and the pitch offered good turn and someone like Rohit Sharma would have used his feet well, rotated strike and settled things down. Ashwin was made to look extraordinary. Nayar’s feet are very wide apart in his stance and I’m not sure how comfortable that can be while facing flight and turn. Ashwin though
produced a couple of carrom balls and it was very pleasing to see them being executed well. He has surely been practising hard and trying to add variety to his bowling. Best wishes to this ex-schoolmate of mine.
Munaf Patel bowled brilliantly. He has a very fluent and straightforward action and is far from being injury-prone. His fielding has improved leaps and bounces and he very much stays in the one day team I had picked last month.

Coming to Sreesanth, he is the only person who says he’s matured now. He is bowling well but he still spends a lot of energy on unwanted aggression. I’ve seen him dancing in the middle of test spells and I don’t think he’s changed much. Test bowlers certainly need a lot of focus and Sreesanth has a long way to go in bringing all his enthusiasm together and pick wickets with his brain.

Back to the match, the blues folded up for 84, the lowest ever Challenger total and the Reds, needless to say, finished things off comfortably, wth the winning runs fittingly scored of none other than M.S.Dhoni.  This is the first time the Reds have won the Challenger Series.It was good to watch bowlers dominate a one day match in India. The pitch at the newly built VCA stadium in Nagpur looks very sporting. It has good carry, true bounce , offered quite a bit of movement to the pacers and considerable turn as well! Should really be a great test pitch.

The three squads picked for this edition did’nt look like the best possible ones available.The board has to ensure that the purpose of this tournament if fulfilled.