India Win Compaq Cup

September 19, 2009

But could have almost lost it. Credit to Sri Lanka, the top 5 – barring Mahela – gave India a run for its money, and us bored fans something to bite nails about.

Quick thoughts on what went well:

1. Tendulkar: Need I say anything? What a sublime innings to count for his 44th ODI ton.

2. Dravid opening: Despite the fact that he didn’t score big, he with Tendulkar set the platform for the other to build on. After a long time, Dravs did not look nervous and didn’t elicit the “oh my god, is he going to be out now” feeling I’ve had almost every ball of some his innings last year and in late-2007.

3. Harbhajan: He and Tendulkar won the match for us.

What didn’t go well:

1. Do we have a pace bowling attack? Where are the bowlers? RP, Irfan, Nehra, all disappointed.

2. Butterfingers fielding: Dhoni, Yusuf, Nehra, Kohli et all dropping catches like hot potatoes. Pathetic 😦

There will be a lot of ground to cover for this team in the Champion’s Trophy. On current bowling and fielding form, they don’t belong in the semi finals. A berth there is almost as dicey as it used to be in the early 90s.


IPL 2: So it isn’t boring after all

May 4, 2009

I must admit that I’m the one who vowed not to watch the IPL 2, who wore my thoughts on my sleeve about how this season can be nothing short of very boring. I’m now very guilty for I’ve watched more IPL matches this year than the last.

Credit must be given to the pitch masters of South Africa. It isn’t for nothing that the T20 World Cup in 2007 was such a hit. It isn’t just about the Bollywood babes, catchy tunes, and scantily clad cheerleaders. If the cricket’s boring (and the tickets expensive or spectators’ conditions poor), the tournament becomes doomed. By getting the pitches right and the ticket prices right (if the commentators and other tournament-folk are to be believed), cricket South Africa have ensured the success of the tournament.

Perhaps this even balance so produced by quality pitches have ensure that insipid sides like Rajasthan and weekend ones like Punjab don’t seem that great this year. Suddenly the Asnodkars and the Mascarenases don’t seem that valuable. You’ve got to get the cricket right here, which is why the good old folk – Dravid, Tendulkar, Boucher, Kumble – and those among the new who are worth their salt – Badrinath, Duminy, RP Singh – and the like are making merry.

The teams and their fortunes

Royal Challengers Bangalore and Deccan Chargers

The shift away from India has benefited two teams that found themselves at the bottom of the table last year: Bangalore and Deccan.

We all knew Deccan had it, it just wasn’t clicking for them. That RP Singh has had a lot of success in South Africa adds a lot to their attack.

Bangalore’s is the miracle recovery. I think it has more to do with team spirit and Kumble’s captaincy than Ray Jennings’ coaching. Besides they are the side with almost an all South African combination with Indian stars. They lucked out that the tournament moved to their real home. Bangalore doesn’t belong in India! 🙂 On yesturday’s thumping victory over Mumbai that involved chasing a score of over 140, while Uthappa’s innings might be a flash in the pan, Kallis I think has indeed found himself in the T20 version. I cannot end a paragraph about the BRCs without mentioning Dravid. He started the tournament with a sparkling 66 of 40-odd. That he is back in the squad will add the much needed backbone to the Bangalore team. Dillion du Pree, the debutant yesturday seemed like an inspired pick. Four overs might be too early to judge, but he may yet become the star of Bangalore attack, surpassing a certain lackluster Dale Steyn.

Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab

For those who just couldn’t understand how the Royals won the tournament last year, myself included, this year, so far has been a vindication. The team has little value in the young mavericks. Veteran Saffer batsman Smith isn’t exactly setting anything on fire; they are missing Sohail Tanvir the most. Watson might have been another flop here – not a huge fan of him.

Kings XI is kind of neither here nor there. Their bowling department has lucked out with the selection of Abdullah. They are missing Sreesanth, Lee and Shaun Marsh. Jayawardena isn’t in cracking form. For me this is a 50-50 team. Could go either way.

Mumbai Indians and Delhi Daredevils

The two most balanced sides – Mumbai and Delhi – have got fairly good results so far, the latter more than the former. Mumbai’s bowling has expectedly been bolstered by Malinga’s form and Zaheer’s presence. Is it just me or does somebody else also think Zaheer seemed more lethal when he was bowling for Bangalore?

Delhi lost Shikar Dhawan this year, but thankfully for them, he isn’t in form. Viru is yet to blast away that 10+ an over rate for the first 6-8 overs, but it might only be a matter of time.

Chennai Super Kings

Last year’s uber geek team is languishing in the table. Why that is the case is beyond me. Dhoni and Albie aren’t contributing too well. But that apart, you’ve got to believe it’s a matter of a few wins to see them in the top four where they belong.

Kolkata Knight Riders

The most woeful of the teams this year. Given the degree of off-field woe which seems to be propagating on-field, they probably deserve to be where they are. The batting isn’t clicking, McCullum’s batting looks stressed; he’s not the free flowing carefree man from last season. Ganguly is smug, Ishant erratic and unsupported by horrible fielding which reminds of Indian team from the early 90s, Agarkar is well, just plain Agarkar. Buchanan and his army needs to be shown the door and Ganguly or somebody else made sole captain.


India’s tour of New Zealand 2009: the Nitpicks

April 13, 2009

Allright folks, the party’s over. The players are headed to join their IPL teams. That means time for us to nitpick India’s tour of New Zealand.

Nitpick #1: The pitches. Ok, well, just the Basin pitch. It wasn’t typical Basin at all. That was perhaps the most disappointing feature of the tour of New Zealand. While the 02-03 tour was replete with ridiculously unbattable pitches, which embarrassed even the host batsmen, the pitches we saw here were mostly batsmen friendly. There was no shocker pitch, denying us of an opportunity of ruing an Indian batting collapse.

Nitpick#2: Ishant Sharma’s inability to use the breeze and Munaf’s to bag more wickets. Yes, this is a bit harsh. Ishant received some harsh ones from the umpires, but didn’t live up to the expectations in terms of wickets. There were some exceptional spells and there were some ordinary ones, thereby cause for some thought. Munaf’s bowling was fair. To me, he lived up to the standard of a “filling-up-the-overs” bowler, but not to that of a third seamer. The third seamer needs to consistently pick up wickets. Bowling in Tests isn’t only about economy. You can’t win matches with an economy of 2-odd, as beautiful as it might seem.

Nitpick #3: VVS Laxman and Sehwag’s inconsistency. Again, this is harsh and almost atrocious that Laxman and “careless” Sehwag are being blamed for the same thing, but there is more to this. VVS is expected to deliver. When he scores 30 we get upset because he’s capable of 40-60 every innings. Laxman’s scores read 30, DNB, 76, 124*, 4 and  61. That’s 295 @ 73.75 avg. Not something we should be grumbling about, but the issues are with the 30 and the 4. The 124 was priceless and came in a time when India needed it most. Sehwag on the other hand, truly disappointed. His scores read 24, DNB, 34, 22, 48, and 12. That’s 140 @ 28. Makes one wonder if it’s the same man who hits triple centuries at will. Sehwag played a classic innings at Galle. We all know he’s capable. It’s just about that application. We’re not asking him to turn into a Wall.

Nitpick #4: Yuvraj Singh – fielding and batting. Seriously what is he doing in a Test team, especially, a touring Test team. I see the logic in keeping him for the home series, but not on tours. He had his chance in Australia – a change which involved a needless shuffling in batting order to “acomodate” him. His fielding has also been below par this series. If you ask me, I’ll swap Murali Vijay for Yuvraj in overseas Tests. It will be worthy investment.

Nitpick #5: Dravid not making a century. Ok, this is more of a  nitpick. Dravid was the third highest run getter of the series with 314 runs @ 62.8. Given that this came in the wake of a year long run drought, it’s great. That he couldn’t turn the 83 in the first Test into a century giving it up to an uncharecteristic shot was very disappointing. Also disappointing was the dismissal for 35 at Wellington after all the hard work.

Nitpick #6: Collective lack on initiative at Wellington on Days 4 and 5 deprived us of a 2-0 victory. Should we have declared earlier? Maybe 20-30 runs earlier, not too much earlier. But the question as to whether we could have got those wickets in that time is another question altogether. Honestly, I’m fairly happy with 1-0 victory, maybe that’s the conservative Indian in me speaking. Just would have been nicer, that’s all. That’s why this is #6 and not #1.

Nitpick #7: Sehwag’s captaincy. After all the experience, we expected better from him didn’t we. This isn’t about the way he batted in that Test, though that would also count for “inappropriate” from a captain. There was something missing when he captained – maybe he know he’ll forever be 2nd choice. That X-factor that Dhoni brings was missing. Sehwag’s definitely got it. He just needs to find it.
it.

Nitpicks done. Do weigh in with yours.


The Arrogant Boys Get a Slap – India vs. NZ T20

February 25, 2009

No, I’m not a NZ supporter in case you were wondering. But today’s T20 match between India and New Zealand at Christchurch could make many an Indian supporter emote in such a way.

It’s nothing but arrogance and over-confidence that many Indian batsmen displayed today. While there is some leeway to be given since this was a T20 and that success or failure in T20 doesn’t tell you much, many questions- old ones which were asked when an uninteresting Indian side landed in South Africa for the first T20 World Cup – come to mind. I will excuse Sehwag, for he plays the same way whether it is a Test, ODI or T20, and has been doing so from his debut. Just the same arrogance throughout, which comes with skill and a load of runs to back it. As for the other folk – Gambhir, Yuvraj, Dhoni and the Pathans – the true test begins now. Can Gambhir adjust to the NZ conditions? Can Yuvraj/Dhoni bat when the pitch isn’t flat and the opposition isn’t England or a meek Sri Lanka? Raina escaped today and played a decent innings. I would have bet (for an expensive lunch at a fancy restaurant) when Raina came to the crease that he wouldn’t last 2 overs. He proved me wrong and fortunately for me I don’t owe anyone a fancy lunch. 🙂 Harbhajan is becoming a very sensible batsman – maybe the IPL ban did the trick. I hope I didn’t speak too early on this.

The Indian bowling seemed fairly decent. It would have been hard to defend a total of 160 odd on a small ground. The score only gave us a chance.

What is most heartening about this match is that it gives us feeling that this series might be fun, not as one sided as some of the hype-inspired folk prophesied. Take it from me people, there will be failures, batting failures. The better batsmen will gain and the great, prevail. The bowlers might end up better than the batsman (given the quality of batsmen we have on tour).

Meanwhile, somebody called Manoj Tiwary might be pondering if his debut in T20 against Australia wasn’t so bad after all.

Well played, New Zealand!


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! 🙂