India win Galle Test on Day 4 – India in Sri Lanka 2008

August 3, 2008

Where are the folk who wrote India off? Eat crow today!

Ishant’s inspired fiery spells saw India scalp three in-form Lankan batsmen in the first half-hour of play. So inspiring was that spell that it evoked emotions even from Dravid! Perhaps one of the best spells of Ishant till date, there were several overs where he tested batsmen, reminiscent of that spell against Ponting at Perth earlier this year. I had goose bumps to see this young Indian bowler give chin-music to batsmen. India have till date only been on the receiving end of such music. Ishant is a very good sign for India. Wonder what would have happened if he didn’t get that 5-for against Pak in Bangalore, that most probably helped book his seat on the plane for that famour tour of Australia late last year. While Ishant, titled things in India’s favor by getting key wickets of Sanga and Mahela, Bhajji (after one session of mediocrity and after Ishant struck again claiming Dilshan) wrapped it up for India.

There are many positives for India to take home from this:
1. Gautham Gambhir and Man-of-the-Match Virender Sehwag – India’s new Tendulkar-Ganguly
2. Ishant Sharma
3. Zaheer finding form
4. Dravid showing positive signs of finding form
5. Some collective spirit

That aside, we won fair and square today – not with the new form of umprie coaxing that the referral system has already become. Jayawardene’s use of the referral system, particularly for the lbws was downright irksome. I understand he might be within his right to do that, but none of the referrals went India’s way in the series so far (okay, maybe one did, but I’m not sure of that either). If Dravid and Ishant were given out to a type of dismissal then so should have Dilshan/Samaraweera (I can’t recall which one) today as it was a very similar one. The lack of consistency from the third-umpires was particularly irritating, which is perhaps why Kumble didn’t ask for too many.

But there are also concerns:
1. Dinesh Karthik – looks woeful behind the stumps. While many may suggest the place be given to Parthiv Patel, I’m not entirely for that, esp for the decider Test. Patel will have to begin from square one, which is not the best thing to have in an important Test. It would be nice if Dravid could keep, but then again, keeping and batting at #3, may not be the best thing, and is close to impossible given that Kumble argued with selectors to include second wicketkeeper Parthiv in the squad. I expect no changes here.
2. The famed middle order haven’t really lived up to their name. Tendulkar whose record seemed beckoning will most likely not get it here. While he definitely isn’t out of form, he seems a little impatient. Ganguly, again isn’t out of form, needs to find ways to get some runs. Laxman who looked solid against Mendis in the first innings at Colombo hasn’t been able to carry that forward. Dravid, who looked miserable in the first Test, put up a gritty fight scoring 44 in the second innings at Galle – proof that the spirit and skill are both still there. I thought he deserved a fifty for that desperate effort. While he seems to be finding his lost touch, it’s still a work in progress.
3. Fielding – as always, fielding especially saving the one-s and two-s is important irrespective of the score being defended.

Victory is the best pain-killer they say. Adages don’t come any truer!


Vaughan and Collingwood step down as England captains

August 3, 2008

In what came as a rather unexpected double blow for England, Michael Vaughan stepped down an England’s Test captain and Paul Collingwood as ODI captain. When such thing happens I often wonder about links between a captain’s form and their team’s success. While I think most teams tend to take upon themselves their captain’s attitude, having an out-or-form captain can be a energy-draining factor. The converse is also true. In fact, more often than not, I think the team’s failure tends to affect the captain’s form, especially, if he is a batsmen. For other captains, while captaincy may initially be inspiring to their personal form, it tends to bog them down sooner rather than later. Classical examples from India: Mohammed Azharuddin, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. England have their own in Strauss.

Vaughan and Collingwood both have been woefully out of form for a while. On Collingwood’s captaincy, I didn’t think too much of it. His primary successes have been against India (during India’s tour last summer) at home and against Sri Lanka away. In both cases, he enjoyed success of a playing against teams that were either largely out-of-form or failing to find a wining combination. On Vaughan, the story is a different. His captaincy skill outclass Collingwood by miles. I wouldn’t blame captain Vaughan too much for the team’s failure against South Africa – it was more a case of collective failure: batsmen not up to the challenge and bowlers unable to take 20 wickets. Given Vaughan’s current form, if he didn’t skip the Oval Test himself, he might have been dropped. While it is sad, I think we might have seen the last of Vaughan for some time to time.

Where from here for England? I can think of two players with some experience who are automatic selections to any England lineup: Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell, who are also at the moment at the best contributors to the team. Strauss’ name has also been doing the rounds, but I doubt if he could make an assertive captain, also, to me, he isn’t an ODI auto selection. Pietersen would be assertive and possibly innovative, but captaincy could curtain his own batting freedom, which isn’t good for England. So, I would go with Bell. I’m curious to find out who will be named this time around.