T20 World Cup 2010: India crumbling 90-s style

May 7, 2010

The super eights are here. SA managed to not choke yesturday against NZ (allright, I’m being a bit harsh). But India have other plans.

For the teens of this age who may not have watched India in the 90s need not worry. There’s a 90-s style collapse going on. Vijay walks in hits a few, and leave. Ditto for Gambhir. Then Raina. Yuvraj gets another duck, carrying his spotless IPL (fix?) form.

I have been skeptic about this Indian batting line up for some time; which is also reason why I didn’t rave about India’s victory over SA in the first stage of the tournament. I don’t see batting stability or experience apart from Gambhir (Dhoni doesn’t count for me, neither does out-of-form Yuvi). As I write this, Dhoni has already fallen. Jadeja? Who is this Jadeja (deja vu – another 90s reminder) What is Ravindra Jadeja doing? Is he in as a fielder? After the dropped catches today, perhaps we need a new term for his place in the side.

Is the bowling better?

India are 40/5. They will need more than miracle to win this one.

Looking forward to a 90-s style excuse for loosing this one.

PS: I will eat crow (and my words) if India win this!

End of 90-s style rant.

PPS: Apparently there’s another fan of the old fashioned batsmen on cricinfo. “Umair: “It’s clear no lessons have been learned from last year’s disastrous England World Cup — the young Indian bats, weaned on the flat tracks of the IPL, cannot cope with fast, short-pitched bowling on livelier tracks. Just as SA has kept faith with Kallis and Smith; and Australia with Hussey, India should have included some older players with better technique. The fact that a Dravid isn’t going to have a 200 SR in an IPL match doesn’t mean he wouldn’t add value on pitches like the ones in England last year or this one.”

Yes, Dravid should have been there and that’s not just the Dravid-fan in me.


India’s tour of Sri Lanka 2008 begins

July 22, 2008

Yes, it’s finally here. I have been waiting for this India’s tour of Sri Lanka ever since the IPL ended (to be honestly about half-way thru the IPL), and almost feverishly after that Asia cup final which gave Mendis instant fame.

While India returns to its time-tested and experienced lot, I will resume my slightly biased blogging with the occasional pretense of objectivity 😉 Why you may ask? In the recently concluded Kitply and Asia Cup ODI series, I was indifferent, almost anti-Indian, as the team didn’t feel Indian-enough for some reason. But this Indian team is our age-old one and a loved one featuring the Big Three, Fab Four, Fab Five, whatever you want to call it. There is also the added evil joy in the absense of Dhoni (sorry SP and other Dhoni fans).

There’s plenty to excitement in store: umpiring referral, Tendulkar’s record beckoning, Mendis against the famed Indian batsmen, Murali vs. Dravid, Ganguly vs. Vaas (Dada has creamed him the past), Indian spinners and Dinesh Karthik.

So time to cheer. Indiyaah! Indiyaah!


Mendis propells Sri Lanka to lift Asia Cup 2008

July 8, 2008

Ajantha Mendis was the reason for me to watch the Asia Cup final. Though I wished the result went the other way, it was an interesting cricket match to see, unlike several other matches in same tournament and the recently concluded Kitply Cup; also a good lesson learned for the Indian batting line-up and Dhoni.

To me, death-by-spin was bound to happen to this Indian batting line up. While Q states here that Mendis ran through a line-up known as the best players of spin, I say that while that is historically true, it isn’t of this batting line up. This Indian line up with “I-don’t-play-spin” Yuvraj and inexperienced youth like Rohit Sharma and Uthappa, who in my opinion lack soundness in technique that has thus far embodied Indian batting, is far from deserving of the “best players of spin” tag. Historically, India earned the tag because the batsmen had a chance to play against the some of best spinners. That is no longer the case. Other than Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, there isn’t too much of interesting stuff in India’s spin closet. And no, Piyush Chawla, though seemingly effective, has a long way to go.

As for Yuvraj, if I were captain, I wouldn’t know what to do with him. He’s doubtless got talent, but I’m of the opinion that you can’t play spin, you don’t belong in the middle order. Perhaps he can open the innings – something that if I recall correctly, he has reservations about. Even better would be to pack him off to play Ranji – and he isn’t the only one who should be going. So much for a guy who’s upset over not making to a Test XI.

Meanwhile, our “anti-Ganguly-Dravid” friend Ottayan (I took the liberty of branding you that, Ott) suggests that this web around the batting line up is likely to heighten voices “clamoring for Ganguly and Dravid” in the ODIs. Yes, Ott, it might do just that. Though I must say you surprised me with your comment as  “..itself is not a bad thing”. Guarded though it was, it was defense for “the Arms”, as Soulberry calls them. Yes, Ottayan, I will resume my own clamoring though I have done that time and again. 🙂 Thank you for egging me on.

Honestly, if were allowed to pick only two seniors, they would be Tendulkar and Dravid, who will play at the cost of Yuvraj and Sharma(?), at #4 and #3 respectively.

So what of Dhoni’s captaincy in the final? Well there isn’t much one can do if you pick Uthappa in place of a bowler. RP Singh has been off color and Irfan Pathan seems lost. These are folk, who along with Rohit Sharma (who I have lost patience with) that I will drop. The youngsters need seasoning and there is nothing like good hard Ranji for that.

Going back to Mendis, a star is truly born. He still has to a lot to prove, but judging by what we’ve seen so far, he augurs well for Sri Lankan cricket and for spin bowling.

This will make India’s upcoming tour of Sri Lankan more watchable. Mendis or not, I was interested in the ODI series for the Tendulkar-Ganguly-Dravid against Murali foremost and umpire-challenging second. But the ODI series is now spiced up with Mendis being a definte inclusion. If he is picked for Test, then all the merier.

Bring it on! I can’t wait for this tour!


The IPL and its confusions

April 13, 2008

The IPL has become a much blogged about topic ever since the auctions. Now that all that halchal is over, shall we turn to the other confusions in/as a result of the IPL?

1. Where will your loyalties be?
With your city or linguistically closest team, if you don’t have a team for your city? With your favorite Indian cricketer’s team or one in which he is in? What about when two of your favorites are in opposing teams? Would you even take to take sides? or be a swing-fan, switching sides every over?

As for me, I’m not supporting my city – Chennai – primarily because I don’t identify with it too much. To me, Mahendra Singh Dhoni is not the ideal ambassador of Chennai. I would have preferred someone from the South Zone. Even Muttiah Muralitharan would have been a better pick for me. I will instead be supporting Bangalore, for two reasons: the city and Rahul Dravid. However, when Bangalore plays Kolkata, with both my favorites Dravid and Ganguly leading the respective sides, I might turn into a swing-fan myself. 🙂

2. Does the fact that the teams are run by Bollywood stars and industrialists actually help or hamper the cause?
Some of these folk seem to be confused. Ottayan points out Shah Rukh’s ticket sales woes on his blog. On the one hand you have Shah Rukh expecting a first-day-release type of phenomenon; on the other, you have Priety Zinta autographing tickets (if the media reports are to be believed). Somehow to me, Bollywood stars running cricket teams strikes a strong resemblance to small Tech companies run by bankers and other non-Tech folk. Time will tell the fortune of cricket teams run by the non-sporting folk, but the story with the latter is often rather predictable. The non-Tech folk look for the revenue from day 1 – which is a non starter for Tech companies – and that while trying to squeeze every penny’s worth out of the developer. The end result is often a massive non-revenue generating chaotic something!

3. The format seems more sleep-worthy than the 2007 ODI World Cup.
Will the spectator interest sustain over the period of over a month?

4. Does this whole 20-20 gaga help cricket at all?
Won’t we be nurturing more Yuvrajs and to a lesser extent Dhonis – who don’t seem to be able to handle batting in Test cricket?

5. Will this help Indian cricket at all?
Or will any rivalries between the city teams blow up into conspiracy ala the Greg Chappell-Ganguly or Chappell-Dravid when the same folks end up in the national side?

Time will give us some of the answers. But meanwhile allow me cheer my (adopted) team. Go Bangalore! Knock ’em out!


Note to Mr. Dhoni: Tone down the boorish talk

March 20, 2008

Yes, we all know your “young” side won the ODI series in Australia. We saw the much-overdone celebrations and cash rain. Agreed, it was a good victory. But this is Indian cricket, where it is often the case where one is generally elevated to great heights only to feel greater impacts when pushed off the cliff.

I was pretty clear about the players I wanted in the side. It is sometimes very important to send the message across. That’s what I said to the selectors as well. You can see the kind of team I got. It’s very important because the process and the timing were criticised a lot.

Did you really have to say that? The message was for everyone to see and would have remained better, had you shut up.

The critics questioned this side but now that it’s performed you need to back it. We all knew, and you all knew, what would have happened if this side didn’t do well in Australia.…Now that it has done well, why don’t you appreciate the performance?

We all know that if it weren’t for the rained-out matches, the results could have been very different. And, the chief contributors were the bowlers and Tendulkar. The other young batsmen are yet to prove their worth with consistently good performances.

Need to watch the mouth Mr. MSD! Perhaps that is something you have yet to learn from the statesmanly Kumble.


Dhoni – villain or scapegoat?

January 23, 2008

When we are supposed to be talking about the Adelaide Test, look what’s grabbed the headlines – rifts in the team. Yet again, there is this seniors vs. juniors all over again. If new reports are to be believed, it was not Vengsarkar but Dhoni who insisted on the Ganguly ouster. Apparently, the selectors considered including Dravid too.

Dhoni doesn’t seem to be dealing with this very well. When asked about it, “…still have one more Test match to go, so I think we should wait with the questions regarding the One-Day players. We have waited for two days, let’s wait for another six days..” was what he had to say. Not pleasing the Indian media is a dangerous thing for an Indian captain – a thing Dravid learnt the hard way. On the youngsters dealing with the situation, he said “..it’s not about the people’s expectations, it’s about the players’ expectations.” Perhaps, Dhoni who claims to have learnt a lot from Kumble, also seems to have had lessons of arrogance from Ponting. You don’t want to alienate yourself from the fans, Dhoni; that could get ugly. Remember that match when the crowds at home cheered for the opposition team?

Allow me to emotionally rant here. This begs the question – is Dhoni, with head-rush from the T-20 World Cup victory, a villain or a scapegoat? If this young side with batting line up as brittle as fresh ice succeeds, Dhoni will be spared. If not, he will be made the scapegoat. Consider this, Dhoni is sure to have already lost some public favor. In an emotional country like India, his alleged back-stabbing will earn him the wrath of the Dravid-Ganguly supporters and some neutrals alike. Should his side lose out – which is almost a certainty given that it is the Aussies that they will be facing, and that too in Australia – his captaincy will come into question. His batting has already been questioned time and again; it is only now, after the T-20 success and some against Pak in the recently concluded series in India, that there seems to be some silence on that aspect. With the series lost, fans crying and burning effigies, and the media joining the party, BCCI will be back to the situation of being under pressure of media and public opinion. Then, as my friend Ottayan jokingly suggests, Dhoni may be soon playing his farewell match!


Looking forward to the India-Pakistan ODI Series

November 4, 2007

The much hyped India-Pakistan series is almost here. I see many things different about this series compared to the ones from the recent past. Firstly, both sides are young and fairly inexperienced (at least in comparison to teams from previous clashes). Secondly, both sides have new/inexperienced captains. Thirdly, I think, this time they are more evenly matched than ever before; and this is the case chiefly due to the absence of some key players from both sides: Inzamam for Pakistan, Dravid for India (although it remains to be seen if Dravid will make a comeback later in the ODI series).

The Youth vs. the Wise
If there is anything that adds the extra spice to the already red-hot series, it is the youth. The youth are known to be fearless, yet can also be reckless. The lack the wisdom that comes with grey hair and perhaps the temperament required to poke around and see through a wildly swinging new ball. This is good reason to expect more of the extremes: massive 20-20 style hitting leading ala Uthappa or Nazir leading to huge totals or low scoring matches caused by batting collapses.

New Captains
Malik and Dhoni are fairly new to the captain’s seat and this will be a test for both. But I see them as having very different personalities. Malik is the laid-back quiet type of guy (like Dravid in some ways, although not as cautious with the communication skills) who I think may not be able to inspire his young guns. Dhoni on the other hand, comes off as a no-nonsense, outspoken (enough to poke one although good-temperedly at Ravi Shastri) type of person who seems to be able to bring out the yearning from his young lads. More importantly, Dhoni is a gambler, a trait that many successful captains. If I were asked to pick the better of the both, though I have a little bit of a soft corner for Malik – I’ve never had one for any other Pakistani captain I’ve seen – it would be Dhoni without a doubt.

More Evenly Matched than Ever
I remember this thought I had from a few years ago. I always thought that Pakistan had a lot of wild cards in their batting line up: people who, if it starts to go well, could blaze away ala Moin Khan, Imran Nazir and Shahid Afridi. Today, with Tendulkar and Ganguly becoming increasingly susceptible (thanks to replays) the absence of ‘Wall’ Dravid and the featuring of the flashy Yuvraj, Uthappa and Dhoni, the Indian middle order has the shares unpredictable wildness of its Pakistani counterpart. On the brighter side for India, its bowling has a little more sting than during the times of Srinath (with due respect). Pakistan’s bowling has always been its strength and I think it will continue to be the case this time also.

Players to watch
In an India-Pakistan series, one can expect to see something special from almost every member, but these are my picks for people to watch for:

India
Strength
: Batting – 75% Bowling – 60%
Batsmen: Robin Uthappa and Mahendra Singh Dhoni for fire power; Sachin Tendulkar for experience and class
Bowlers: Irfan Pathan – can get breakthroughs and make a difference in the middle overs
* Honorable mention: Rohit Sharma (if he gets picked) – potential to become a good #3; Sreesanth – we might see some substance behind the dramatic paceman; Murali Karthik – bamboozling spin

Pakistan
Strength
: Batting-65% Bowing- 70%
Batsmen: Imran Nazir and Shahid Afridi for pinch hitting power, Shoaib Malik and Younis Khan for stabilizing capability
Bowlers: Umar Gul – consistency, Shoaib Akthar – pace power
* Honourable mention: Afridi – his bowling might bother a few in the Indian batting line up.

Happy watching!