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.

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Sehwag rules and Big Two falter – India in SL Galle Test Day 1

July 31, 2008

Sehwag played an almost uncharacteristic innings to steer India to a respectable total. As he got to his fifty, he played a very responsible hand sans the traditional “I am holier than thou” atttitude. It might seem hypocritical of me to brand Sehwag with attitude, as it is that very aggressive nature that has got him (and India) double and triple centuries. But that’s the way its been with Viru. Even while he played the responsible hand, punishment was meted out to the bad balls – a very Hayden-esque manner. Or maybe that takes credit away from Viru. I particularly enjoyed both his and Gambhir’s onslaught of the flatter of Mendis of Murali’s deliveries. Atta, boy(s)! Way to show the kid his place. Gambhir gave good company too. Maybe India has found it opening combination in Tests too.

If you’re wondering why the above reads Big Two falter (instead of Big 3), according to the laws, Sec 32(e) to be precise, Dravid should not have been given out. While there is speculation if the ball first hit Dravid’s own helmet or the fielder’s shoulder, it seemed to have hit the fielder’s helmet before Warnapura took the catch. Skeptics check it out here.

I have no words for Tendulkar and Ganguly and some sympathy for Dravid (although that should have been a better shot) – he finds a way to be given out in the most bizarre ways. Critics and Vengsarkar will only see the scores not the trivia. Dravid! Wake up! Please!

While we’re on the topic of Dravid, I find it interesting that two other #3 batsmen have been struggling for some time now: Michael Vaughan and Jacques Kallis (not to mention Ponting, who has aside of some aberrations, been in rather woeful form since Oct 2007). While Kallis seems to have found it this evening, Vaughan is still looking for it. What is it with these #3s? Is it us? Do we notice their failure more than others because the #3’s success or failure can psychologically, if not really, turn the course of game?

Meanwhile the umpiring referral has taken a new turn. The on field umpire seems to be becoming more conscious of his shortcomings and keeps his fingers in his pocket if he isn’t sure. Should they have always been this way? Given batsmen out only when they actually are? In case you’re wondering, I’m still ambivalent of this referral/review system.

At stumps with Laxman and Sehwag at the crease, India would do well to reach 300, though I doubt if that will be enough to win the game. If there’s anything to be thankful for it’s the toss. At least this way, India wouldn’t be batting in the fourth innings. With the pitch being all cracked-up even on Day 1 and the rain adding its bit to the already complex looking wicket, I think it would only be fair if Sri Lanka get to play through the wicked phases of the pitch.