RCB’s three gambles too many

April 6, 2010

Kumble’s gamble of making three changes to the winning combination against Punjab, cost the Royal Challengers Bangalore dearly in their encounter against Delhi Daredevils. Dropping Steyn was not something I would have done, but Mithun compensated by getting Sehwag. Ross Taylor was not good enough on the day and neither has been Pietersen. There has been much hype about Pietersen being in the RCB camp. While KP is a great batsmen, he ins’t that much better than Dravid. Such being the case, RCB would have done better going with in-form Pandey. Furthermore Cameron White is best used as a substitute fielder. 🙂

RCB will have to get their socks up to maintain momentum and stop hoping Uthappa with hit a n 8 ball 22 when required.

England in West Indies – 3rd Test Antigua

February 17, 2009

Throw in an irritated Pietersen and aggressive Collingwood in a Panesar-less England and what do you get? Something that’s a little short of a borefest with the nice thing being Ten Sports shows advertisements only once in two or four overs. There’s something very peaceful about having lesser interupptions in the form of mostly annoying ads – a welcome change from telecasts of cricket involving India.

The pitch isn’t doing favors to anybody with its low and uneven bounce. Then you have the English with their post-Pietersen-captaincy woes. They seem to lack unity and spirt. Besides, the bowlers seem to bowling without plan. Anderson is bowling a not-so-impressive offstump line to the nightwatchman. Is there any good? Well, Collingwood has answered SB’s taunt with his century. Swann is bowling well, but doesn’t seem the threat he posed to good ol’ Tendulkar and Dravid in India, at least not yet. This one looks heading towards a boring draw unless something very interesting happens. The more interesting question is whether NC’s prophecy will come true?

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.

Of nail-biting thrillers and retirement rumors

September 7, 2007

What was nail-biting? Well what else could have been the past few days? The 6th ODI in the NatWest series was an edge-of-seat-don’t-switch-places finish.

Unpredicatability showed its dreamy face every now and then. In the beginning, India dominated: got early wickets, fielded well (probably the best in this series), and didn’t give anything away. Apart from all of that, there seemed to be a lot of spirit in the team: a thirst to win, not just to stay alive in the series. All was well until the youthful 20-20 specialists walked on the crease. Luke Wright was mighty surprize, but was India’s dismay; Owais Shah started out rather edgily, but went for the kill after his half-century; Mascarenas murdered the part-time bowling of Yuvraj, making a mockery of his bowling by logding 5 from the over for 6 a piece, and of Dravid’s captaincy which saw Yuvraj bowling the last over, when Powar, a much-better option had another one left. The last 100 runs of the England innings came from the last 8 overs. With 317 to win, and India’s abysmal record of chasing, the series seemed to be over, almost un-wrenchably gripped in England’s hands.

To be fair, one thing must be said about India’s chasing record: they may fail to chase 250 against South Africa one day, 230 again England on another, but successfuly chase 330+ against South Africe and 326 against England on another. Rare are such occasions, but they speak volumes about the abilities of the star-studded Indian batting line up.

Tendulkar and Ganguly set the tone of the chase. The boundary that came off Ganguly’s bat from the 1st over made his intensions clear; even the most depressed Indian supporter would have sat up from the slumped posture he might have been in, awakened by the flicker of hope that maybe, just maybe, it might happen this time. Tendulkar played one the most aggressive innings in the recent past, which was reminiscent of his youthful days of power and exuberance; this onslaught of the duo saw them go past another century partnership.

India were 150 without loss in under 30 overs and things seemed to going fine, until Pietersen took a brilliant catch to dismiss Ganguly. Tendulkar followed shortly thereafter, falling to Panesar, again only a few runs short of his century. Perhaps that was due to his cramps, or the loss of concentration on its account, but Panesar’s reaction to Tendulkar’s wicket told a story: there was no Bhangra dance, just a sigh of ‘Thank-you-God’ relief, a testament to who Tendulkar really is, and what he can do to a bowler. Three other batsmen came, made their contributions and went.

Dhoni and Uthappa were the crease, needing over 70 runs in less than 50 balls. Nail-bitters digged deeper into what was left of thier nails. Dhoni seemed to pull off every cheeky and cute shot, but fell due to a rather poor one. Uthappa was joined by Agarkar; and it was chaos galore: run-out chances became extra runs, misfields let to boundaries, but the young Uthappa kept his cool and stayed ground when Agarkar leapt off his for a non-existant run only to run himself out. Zaheer followed with 10 needed on 7 balls and returned falling to another run out. It seemed as though Uthappa would run out of partners from mere run-outs! The last over began, with an ask of 8: the first ball of it was a dot ball, the second a boundary, and not a straight forward one; it was a cutest of paddle shots played to fine leg after much ‘thinking-on-the-feet’ by Uthappa; 3 balls remained, 4 runs required; fielder came up at fine leg,; Uthappa was on strike; Broad to Uthappa; Uthappa stepped down the track, and hit the ball down the ground which missed a desperate England fielder and ran away for four. The winning stroke was hit was a hero was born!

The presentation ceremony saw an ungaurded Dravid and an emotional Tendulkar. Questions must be asked here. Was Tendulkar emotional only because of India’s victory or was there more to it? Did he think he might not be able to play the decided at Lords? Did he think he was nearing the end of his ODI career? It was rather saddenning to see him struggle up to the dressing room after his wicket fell earlier in the day. What was even more bizzare was the retirement speculation that followed the historic victory. Cricinfo reported here that Tendulkar might retire from the shortened version of the game at home after the series against Australia and Pakistan; this was followed by another report where Tendulkar allegedly denies the rumors, and then another stating that the denial was by the India administration manager, not Tendulkar.

 I think it is not just sad, but bad to report such rumours when the man is in sublime form. Should Tendulkar retire now or not? I think he has at least couple of years of it left, but he is the best judge of that; not Greg Chappell, not Ian Chappell, not you, not me and definitely not the media. It remains to be seen if Tendulkar reaches the milestone 50 ODI centuries or 100 ODI half centuries; only God and the master himself can tell.

A round up thus far on the NatWest ODI series

August 29, 2007

So 3 ODIs are up and England lead 2-1, after two top order batsmen let India down in their chase of 280+ plus score in the 3rd match in the series. Considering the order in which the results were achieved, it seems almost fairy tale; it seems like it was made to keep the fans interested and guessing.

After listening to Ian Chappel’s comments on the changes to the one day game, I would definitely agree with them: they are messing around with it a little too much. The new rule which states that non-striket can start his run when the bowler’s backfoot reaches the ground does seems like “cheating” (again, quoting Ian Chappel). Enough has already been done to degrade the quality of the one day game. The powerplays in my opinion are bringing the game down; you can win or lose a match because of the it. The shortened version of the game is becomming more of a mind game than a sport; granted, cricket has always been a 50-50 psychology-sport, but the balance has started to tilt, and I don’t like it. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.

Here are some highlights/lowlights from the ODIs thus far :
– Flintoff’s near come-back and 5-for (or should I say Michelle) 🙂
– India’s batting on ODI-2
– Piyush’s 2 of 2 against Pietersen
– Monty’s first succesful run-out

– Umpiring standards and Tendulkar’s missed ton (again!)
– Paul Colligwood’s hogging of England’s bowling attack
– India’s fielding
– India’s chasing
– Agarkar’s bowling

Meanwhile, there’s a very nice interview of the Prince of Calcutta. Check it out here. Siddartha writes this one beautifuly, evoking a good amount of emotions. You tend to picture scenes from the Ganguly’s younger days: those of power, aggression and attitude, all of which provided team India with a dimension that it never had (or wasn’t seen for some time until then). You see tinges of that very dimension now in Zaheer, Sreeshant, RPSingh, and Tendulkar.

Cheers to the improved team India!