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! 🙂

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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!


Thoughts on the concluded India-Aus Future Cup series

October 24, 2007

With the Future Cup series concluded, we get a fair picture of the T20 champs’ position in the ODIs. Realistically, I doubt if any serious Indian cricket follower would have expected India to win this series. I certainly didn’t; however, after the Bangalore ODI was abandoned, I thought India stood a good chance to draw the series. What I did expect to see was fighting Team India and was fairly happy to see that happening. To me, although the series ended with Australia winning 4-2, this could have very well been 3-3.

Looking back I think the Vadodara ODI disaster was the only thorn that cut deep into the faith that one had in Team India; that is where India were comprehensively outplayed. Again, even in that match, if Ganguly had stayed on for a few overs, the result might have been different. In Vadodara, the Indian batsmen lost the psychological battle to the swinging ball and Mitchell Johnson. Backtracking a little bit further to the Kochi and Hyderabad ODI there were issues in all the departments; the bowlers struggling in the middle overs, the opening batsmen weren’t the greatest and the middle order were in 20-20 mode. The Chandigarh ODI was another close where things started to fall in place for India: batting clicked; bowling got better, although still errant and spray-prone, especially from the speedsters. In the Nagpur ODI, the Indian team’s fight started to really threaten Australia; that is a match they should have won, either by conceding lesser runs or batting a tad more responsibly. In the four matches that India lost, they missed the #3 batsman very badly. Does the word responsible come to mind? I had written earlier about my thoughts on Dravid in this series. Looking ahead to the upcoming Pakistan series, India will need Rahul Dravid to come to terms with himself; much will depend on him if some consistency is to be expected from the middle order.

Here are my votes for the some of the best and worst performers from either side:

Best Batsmen:
India
: Tie between Sachin Tendulkar and Robin Uthappa.
Australia: Tie between Andrew Symonds and Michael Clarke
Rationale: For India, this was a tie because both shone in their own ways. Sachin was brilliant in a few innings and managed to plod through when that was required, especially in Chandigarh. Check out what I wrote about Sachin’s Chandigarh innings. Uthappa’s positive aggressive cricket rocks and adds a new dimension to Team India. To me, he’s the best bet looking ahead beyond the Big Three, for the opening slot. While Symonds’ the runs speak for him, Clarke seemed brilliant in the early knocks; would make a great #3 after Ponting retires; definitely a promising one for Australia.

Best Bowler:
India: Murali Karthik; honorable mention: Sreesanth
Australia: Mitchell Johnson
Rationale: Murali Karthik was sensational in his comeback. I’ve written more about that here. I had to mention Sreesanth got under Hayden’s skin several times this series, even in the T20 match, Hayden seemed to struggle against him; in spite of the high economy of 7 odd runs, Sreesanth is a fiery wicket taker and remains a good option despite the downside. As for Johnson bothered the Indian batsmen the most and thus ends my best bowler winner for Australia.

Most Influential Player:
India
: Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Australia: Ricky Ponting
Rationale: There are players who can add value the team with their presence alone. No surprises in either category; perhaps it not a co-incidence that they lead their sides! For India, Dhoni has shone light on a face of Team India that we never knew they had. As for Ponting, his experience and presence-of-mind makes part of what Australia are and this could be gathered when Gilchrist lead the team.

Most disappointing Batsman:
India: Rahul Dravid; dis-honourable mention Yuvraj Singh
Australia: Brad Hodge
Rationale: No surprises here. I had to include Yuvraj due to sheer lack of consistency: a few fair knocks, one patient century, and few single digit scores.  If you were wondering why I didn’t mention Sourav Ganguly after the 2 ducks, we are looking ahead aren’t we?

Most disappointing Bowler:
India: R P Singh
Australia: I don’t think anyone disappointed enough to make to it to this list; dis-honorable mention to Bret Lee.
Rationale: After an amazing T20 world cup and a fairly good England tour, R P Singh set the expectations high and disappointed. As for Lee, he makes the list for some average (compared to the high Aussie standards) performances towards the end.

Having said all that, I think this series will be remembered most for the off-field action; two names come to mind instantaneously: Symonds and Sreesanth. When Sreesanth said of Australia, earlier this series “I am a child, they are all legends” he may well have been talking about sledging as well. They are after all the legends and Sree is just taking a leaf from their book. Sreesanth was right on another account: he is still a child and needs more match-wining performances to reach the legendary levels. As for the so-called line, I don’t think Sreesanth in particular crossed the line; if he did indeed cross the line, then Aussie are guilty of that too, not just in this series, but in the past 10 years of their cricketing history.  As for Symonds, the racial row got hyped and blown up. Even, Steve Waugh, former Aussie skipper joins many others in questioning the racial nature of monkey chants. I am not in support of what sections of crowd allegedly did to Symonds. It is definitely bad behavior and a stark contrast to the culture of India where guest are to be treated like God. My take on the crowd behavior is that it is a reaction to on-field sledging exhibited by both sides. Such disturbing crowd behavior wasn’t as pronounced earlier perhaps due to the fact that the India media wasn’t as aggressive with its reports on sledging earlier. The honest remedy for such behavior lies in remedying sledging: when the on-field abuse stops, the crowd will behave. But I don’t see that happening at the moment as the players and the spectators seemed to be enjoying the added “spice”.

 All in all, an eventful series and India looks more promising than ever before; looking forward to a successful one against Pakistan. Go India! Go!