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!


Of Dhoni, Yuvraj and the Commonwealth Bank ODI Tri-series

February 17, 2008

Took a rather unplanned blogging break since early Feb. Catching up with mundane things and what not. Ok, on to cricket.

I had written earlier that India would get thrashed in the Tri-series. Well, thrashed may not be the right word, considering that the rain gods played their part to wash out of couple of matches; however, till date, I stand correct and predictably so with my hunch about this batting line up.

What I didn’t expect was the success of the young seamers. Ishant has become the man of the Tour carrying his dream Test form to the ODI series, scalping crucial wicket at important junctures, making the Aussie batting line up look the weakest I have ever seen (given their standards).

With Yuvraj fizzling out as fast the Reliance Power IPO and the Dhoni-Yuvraj pact that seems to be going on, I think captain Dhoni needs a rap on his head (not to say that today’s match hasn’t done that). To persist with an out-of-form Yuvraj and making adamant media statements that he will play in every game seems like an emotional (not instinctive) decision to me. Rewind back to the ODI series against Australia in India in late 2007, an out-of-from Dravid was benched and then hideously shown the door as far as the ODI team is concerned. Isn’t it fair to expect similar stands taken with Yuvraj also, or rather the other way around, shouldn’t the team management have persisted with Dravid? Old questions being asked again and again, on the face of every Indian defeat. To me, the equation is as follows:

1 out-of-form Yuvraj + a thin as ice batting line up = -2 batsmen OR 3 out-of-form Dravids

Pick your worst. If you are anti-Dravid-ian, my guess is you would pick the second one. As for me, any day, I would pick 3 out-of-form Dravids over an out-of-form Yuvraj.

As a result of today’s match, many questions will be asked of Dhoni. Picking Munaf over Sehwag, promoting Pathan, selecting Uthappa who hasn’t been among the runs even in the Ranji matches, not playing Dinesh Karthik or Piyush Chawla and many more.

As for the rest of the series, I don’t think this Indian batting line up deserve to make it to the final. Actually what would be entertaining would be to see a toss up between the Sri Lankan batsmen and the Indian pacers headed by Jayawardena against the Aussies. Now that would be a match to watch!


India thrill at the WACA – 3rd Test at Perth

January 20, 2008

India has made it into the history books once again, after this victory at the WACA becoming the only sub-continent country to trounce the Aussies at their home-advantage ground. A memorable feat considering that India were 2 down in the series, embroiled in controversy, and written off completely. This was supposed to the be the match in which Australia would steamroll their way to a 17-match winning streak, in which Shaun Tait would sizzle by bowling at 170 kmph, in which Australia could crush India with a 4-pronged pace attack and make mockery of the halchal that India raised after the controversial Sydney Test, but that wasn’t to be. India thwarted the Aussie streak yet again.

There were several memorable moments in this game for me, Dravid in the first innings, Laxman pulling it off yet again in the second, and so on, but if I were to chose one, it would be Ishant Sharma’s magical 7+ over spell. The young teenager had one of the best batsmen in the world poking, leaving, and beaten before he finally claimed Ponting for the second time in this Test match. And this was the boy who, even as recent as the Pakistan series, looked too raw for Test cricket. This awe-inspiring story will definitely live on for years to come. Three cheers for Ishant!

Another heartening thing from this match was to see the so-called inexperienced Indian bowling attack blossom. It may be a tad too early to call this the beginning of a new age of Indian pace bowling, but it certainly instills a lot of hope. It was also good to see Sehwag and Pathan back in the squad contributing all round. Way to go India! Way to square the series!


India put Australia on back foot at the WACA – 3rd Test, Perth

January 17, 2008

A Chak de moment for India today, as they bowl out Australia without even one-full day of play. All this in none other than the WACA, known for pace and bounce and as an Aussie stronghold. It took India only 50 overs with Pathan striking early to remove both openers, Ishant coming good with the prize scalp of Ponting and Clarke, Kumble doing his usual magic and RP Singh blazing through to bag 4. Ricky Ponting, if you are listening, we can get you even without Bhajji. What have you got now? 🙂

I’m starting to like Ishant Sharma more and more now. I initially didn’t think much of him. Give him one wicket and he seems like a different bowler. He seems sure to get better. Sreesanth, you have some competition! R P Singh has been a revelation for India in the past year; he bowled beautifully in England, was impressive in the 20-20 World Cup in South Africa and now seems very promising.

The batsmen need to cash in on the bowler’s hard work. Hopefully Sehwag will fire tomorrow and the middle order make its contribution. If India set the Aussie a total of 430+, they have a chance of wining this Test.  Chak de India!


“The Princes” Yuvraj and Ganguly Rock Bangalore – 3rd Test Day 1

December 8, 2007

What a day of cricket! After having won the toss and electing to bat first, India were off to a disastrous start. If Rahul “Wall” Dravid’s fall very early in the day to a very un-Dravid-ian shot seemed like a bad omen, the unthinkable happened when Laxman was shockingly bowled for a meager 5. Within the first hour and a half, India had lost 4 wickets and were tottering on 61-4. It was then that that Ganguly and Yuvraj brought forth a mind-blowing, record breaking 300-run partnership to electrify the crowds at the Chinnaswamy Stadium (and TV viewers alike) and take the momentum away from Pakistan. Both played their natural games: Ganguly with his experience-laden vintage knock and Yuvraj with his aggressive attacking style that is bound to give the shivers to many opponent bowlers.

The experienced southpaw offered good support to his younger teammate; and I say support not because Ganguly merely supported: his consecutive ton in this series deserves all the praise and more for the endurance, adamant patience, and positively attitude. I say Ganguly supported only because Yuvraj bedazzled everyone with strokes of absolute brilliance. Sambit Bal writes it was a touch of Brian Lara, but to me Yuvraj replaced Tendulkar in a very different way: he made batting look ridiculously easy; that, a statement often said of Tendulkar.

The Ganguly-Yuvraj partnership had many things in common. Apart from the fact that both were left-handers, they played several strokes with the arrogance fitting of their princely nicknames. The positive attitude shown in a trying time sets an example for many young and upcoming cricketers. All cricketing apart, to me the most wonderful moment of the day was Ganguly’s celebration on Yuvraj’s century.

Dada celebrates teamates's landmark
Sourav celebrates Yuvraj’s landmark
Pic courtesy: Hindustan Times

It was honest and from the heart – almost like an older brother, ebbing with pride of his younger sibling’s success – so much that Ganguly celebrated his own century with much less ado. Sambit Bhal puts this beautifully; he writes of Ganguly “..Not that he would have grudged it [Yuvraj’s belligerence] a whit: his eyes shone brighter when he celebrated his team-mate’s century than when he reached his own” (emphasis mine).

Ganguly and Yuvraj celebrate Yuvraj's ton
Ganguly congratulates Yuvraj on ton.
Pic courtesy: Cricinfo

But sadly, like all good things must end, so did the Yuvraj-Ganguly partnership after reaching a landmark 300 runs with only 5 overs to spare till the end of day’s play. I had expected Ganguly to fall earlier and Yuvraj to reach 200, but it was Ganguly’s partner who perished to a shot that he didn’t seem to have commited to. With the spectacular innings from Yuvraj coming at a time when everything from his technique to temperment in the longer version of the game have been questioned, he leaves the selector’s with a happy headache.One couldn’t help but notice the difference when a rattled and tentative-looking Dinesh Karthik took Yuvraj’s place at the crease. Karthik seemed to be looking to survive the day, and he did having scored 3 from 10 balls with Ganguly on 125. Personally, I would like to see Ganguly get to 150, though a double ton to him would be a great morale booster before the tour of Australia. As long as Dada stays, India will see some runs, after that, only Pathan (if he doesn’t run out of partners very quickly) might add some quick runs. Until then. Go Yuvi! Go Dada! Way to show ’em how its done!