Australia’s tour of India 2008-09: Series Overview

November 13, 2008

The much awaited Australia’s tour of India is over. India has won it 2-0. There is a sense of euphoria over the victory, but also disappointment over the quality of Aussie cricket. This was supposed to be the Border Gavaskar Trophy, the revenge series to avenge Sydney 08, the spirited fightback from both sides, with every session, if not every ball. There were phases of that, but sadly, what was supposed to last an entire series lasted only three sessions. The series was essentially one sided and I won’t be exaggerating in saying that we, Indian fans, were robbed.

Let’s look at this in a bit more closely, if you will.

Australia Batting: Top heavy, middle mostly missing except for Hussey with a fairly long tail. Yes, that’s the sort of batting that India had in the mid 90s. Their reliance on Hussey was reminiscent of India’s on Dravid until a very lately. Hayden was unable to score and by the time Katich found his foot to convert starts, the series was over.

Australia Bowling: Pacers did not take wickets, spinners made up the overs. Not much of a story there. Watson learnt some towards the end, but it was too little too late. Kreja is a definite prospect, but has a long way to go.

Disappointed: Brett Lee, Mathew Hayden, Michael Clarke, Mitchell Johnson (to some extent)

Ousters: Shane Watson, Cameron White, Stuart Clark

Still Shining: Michael Hussey is the lone Aussie shining

Captaincy: Ponting’s chinks in captaincy (and batting) are showing. Nagpur Day 4 overrate tactics was shocking, even raising suspicions of match fixing in some minds. That apart, we’ve seen nothing more than less than average captaincy. He’s been riding on the good fortune of having some champion performers in the past. Now that they’re gone, some creativity was required, which was lacking. But then again, the captain is as good as his team!

India Batting: Satisfactory, but could have done better given the big names and the conditions. Only Bangalore had low bounce, others seemed to aid batting more than bowling. So we should have gotten more runs. Harsh? Yes. We are a greedy lot when it comes to our famed batting line up. Gambhir did well, but has more to prove. If he survives the New Zealand series test, I’ll put a check mark next to his name. Viru, was his usual self. Dravid had a nightmare series, maybe when the Waugh curse passes, it will take the bad form along with it. I’ve said much about Dravid, so I’ll pass here, and just pray he finds his foot and grandly. To me, he’s still got it for two years at least. Sachin was again typical self- explosive at times, inglorious at other times. Ganguly impressed the most, and succeeded in his attempt to prove that he really shouldn’t be retiring. There was a sense of purpose in his batting, one so obvious in his ever since his 2006 comeback. Sad it had to be him, but the cries were almost deafening. Laxman, mostly good, mostly typical, but that is expected isn’t it? Dhoni, also typical, will butcher on a flat pitch and flop on anything else. I still think he’s got a long way to go as batsman. He’s banking on the “fear factor” he creates for the opposition. The new recruit and Ganguly-recommended Murali Vijay seems very solid. Is he the next Rahul Dravid? It’s too soon to give such huge tags.

India Bowling: Pacers very impressive on bata wickets. Spinners, could have done better, given the reputation, but maybe that has to do with the fact that the pitches didn’t exactly crumble. New recruit Mishra impressive, but again, lot to prove.

Disappointed: Rahul Dravid

Ousters: None

Still Shining: Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Ishant Sharma, Zaheer Khan

Captaincy: Kumble, satisfactory. It’s sad that both the drawn matches were captained by him. Dhoni, also satisfactory. Some of the field settings were refreshing, but I thought a couple of times, his keeping dipped ever so slightly during captaincy. Time will prove whether he can indeed keep and captain. He’s got a lot to prove before we can truly hail him.

In summary, perhaps it is Greg Chappell, who seemed to be behind Ponting’s century in Bangalore! Again, promising much and delivering nothing. After all of RCA’s hospitality, 22 odd different pitches, extra practice matches and all, this is all Guru Greg could do! Couldn’t resist that dig! 🙂


India win 2nd Test – A tounge in check look – Ind vs Aus 2008-09: Day 5

October 22, 2008

India triumph over Australia to go 1-0 up in the Border Gavaskar Trophy 2008-09 with a historic win in the second Test at Mohali. Team effort and proactive captaincy made this possible. Australia have been bringing the best out of India for the past 5 years now, with each victory arguably better than the other in quality.

Congratulations, India! A well earned victory! Cheers!

But the series isn’t over yet and there is still some good work to do.

Where now from here for India? India need to keep the intensity just where it is, if not turn it up another notch. The bowling attack with Ishant, Bhajji and Zaheer is rocking.  Mishra had a compelling debut. Delhi will be key and the selectors will have one hell of a task picking a playing XI. I shall save that for another discussion, but I must add that for once, I’m glad that this selection isn’t my job!

India’s batting is still a bit of a concern. Ganguly has been the best performer so far – he’s looked solid in defence, characteristic in attack and has played his natural game. Viru and Gambhir closely follow. There are still a few question marks around the others in the batting order with respect to solidity, based on current form.

As for the Aussie, I would give anything to hear from Greg Chappell. 🙂 I’ll save my comments on him till the end of the series. Ponting has some sorting out to do. Clarke is good only in patches. I don’t understand how Shane Watson and Cameron White made it to the side. The only reason I can think of is thier familiarity to the conditions from IPL. Watson, course played for the Rajasthan Royals and White, rather unimpressively for Bangalore Royal Challengers. I find it hard to believe that the Aussies don’t have anything better in the closet. Haddin has a long way to go – an average keeper and below-average Test batsman. Siddle was hyped beyond proportions, might be (along with Johnson) the better ones from the newer lot. Lee is obviously out of form/rusty. Two players hold the key – Hayden and Hussey. While lashing out at the apparent lack-of-quality/experience in the Aussie line up, in the back of my mind, there is this dark thought that India might face this very situation (maybe even worse with the batting) when the Fab four disappear from the scene. But that is not for this day.

This day, we celebrate for going one step ahead to re-gaining the Border Gavaskar Trophy! Cheers!


India with a chance – Ind vs Aus 2008-09: Day 3, 2nd Test

October 20, 2008

A lot can happen in two days. India’s middle order, precisely Ganguly, Tendulkar and lower-order batsman Dhoni powered India to a decent total of 469. Four quick Aussie wickets meant that the Aussies needed some damage control. That they did, but nothing more. In fact, the Aussie damage control would have looked a lot less fancier had Watson been given out by umpire Rudi Koertzen when he was actually out. That would have given the Indian think tank some food for thought about the follow on. But forget it, they would have never enforced it anyway.

A lot of things have been good for India:

  • Ganguly’s silken century, his 16th ton in his farewell series enabled fans to watch Grace and helped India to a good total
  • Dhoni’s “gadayudh” batting helped us get quick runs and goes to prove my earlier point that Dhoni cares to perform with the bat only when he captains (ok, ok, it was a batting pitch and I’m being a little harsh here)
  • Mishra’s dream debut got him a fifer. So, the spin closet has one worthy item in it. One in hand and in form is worth ten times the weight in gold of a closet full of junk
  • Gambhir and Sehwag have gotten us off to a flier.

What needs to be done:

  • Viru and Gambhir need to bat some more and get more runs quickly
  • Don’t know if Dravid will bat at #3 tomorrow, but this could be the best opportunity to cement his place among seniors. VVS seems like he’s currently on tenterhooks.

It will be interesting to see when – both in terms of run and timing – that the declaration comes. I would think setting Aus 450-480 in over 3.5-4 sessions would be a good ask. Will we do it?

PS: Meanwhile, for those of you looking for a daily dose of Dravid goodness, he’s only 5 short of Mark Waugh’s record for max catches in Test. Mark Waugh was really cheap in saying this, but I hope Waugh is wrong. The only person close to getting a pair is an Aussie and he’s called Matthew Hayden. Waugh! Which match are you watching?


Dream Team XI – ODIs

July 5, 2008

While watching the bore-fest Asia Cup in fragments, I have been thinking, what would be the best ODI XI ever? I must add here that “ever” for me would probably go back 10 to 12 years, not more than that. Here is my eleven:

  1. Virender Sehwag
  2. Mathew Hayden
  3. Rahul Dravid
  4. Steve Waugh (c)
  5. Sachin Tendulkar
  6. Adam Gilchrist (w)
  7. Lance Klusner
  8. Wasim Akram
  9. Shane Warne
  10. Glen McGrath
  11. Mutthiah Muralitharan/Anil Kumble

12th man: Allan Donald

Honorable mention: Sourav Ganguly, Waqar Younis

Here is the reasoning behind the selection. The openers must be aggressive run getters. I almost made Sachin the opener, but somehow felt uncomfortable about Hayden and Sachin batting together; nothing serious, it just didn’t seem to fit. Besides, Sehwag as opener, when he doesn’t throw his wicket away can be rather demoralizing to the opposition.

Dravid has always been my dream #3 batsman, one who could steady the batting whether the team is 8-1 or provide spine when on 110-1. I wouldn’t pick anybody else for the part, maybe Ponting (but not on current form) and only if Dravid is unavailable. Waugh at #4 is another dream pick. Besides, Dravid and Waugh batting together would be interesting to watch, that too when the former being an admirer of the latter. I made him captain for his skills and the respect he is likely to get from the team.

It’s hard to pick an ODI side without Tendulkar. Ideally, he should either open or bat at #4. But having picked Waugh, I didn’t think any other position would be apt for him. Yes, Sachin at #5 could prove problematic, given his ordinary stats for #4 in ODIs. But I’m not quite sure what to do here.

Gilchrist plays as wicketkeeper and at #6 is bound to deliver a good amount of punch. Klusner plays as all rounder. The legendary Akram must figure in any dream team for his tact with both the new and old ball. As a better batsman, he bats above Shane Warne, who is another must-pick. I picked Glen McGrath for his impeccable line and length and chose Murali and Kumble to pick from depending upon the kind of variety required. Donald is my 12th man as I assumed we are playing on spinning track. On a green track, I would lose one of the spinners.

Team composition is a bit bat-heavy, especially with Klusner at #7, but these folk to me are legends.


IPL Bangalore vs. Chennai: aka Dravid vs. Dhoni

April 28, 2008

Dravid’s Bangalore Royal Challengers are up for a stiff one today against Dhoni’s Super Kings with the likes of Hayden, Hussey and Muralitharan in their ranks. Judging by Bangalore’s previous effort, they need to raise the level of their game by several levels.

First and foremost, they need to function as a team. In the match against Rajasthan Royals, captain Dravid looked rather forlorn and his team seemed to have given up even before the second over of Rajasthan’s innings. Even if one were to give the quiet Dravid the benefit of the doubt on not acting perky (seriously, not all perky people are worth their salt), there was no real reason for not including Misbah ul-Haq or for persisting with the largely useless Sunil Joshi.

Secondly, Bangalore need to pace their innings well, keep wickets in hand for the first 5 overs and then think things through from there. Dravid needs to focus on what he does best: the elegant drives. Though that is easier said that done, the average well-wisher’s words of wisdom would be thus: “Captain Dravid, don’t slog! It ain’t working for you!”

As for me, I see this as a senior vs. junior clash and would like to see Dravid get the better of it. A couple of morale boosting victories are bound to help his form-crisis.

Good luck Bangalore and Dravid!