Irani Trophy Day 2: What is a good total?

September 25, 2008

On a day that seemed the best for batting, given the nature of the pitch, Delhi squandered what could have been a good opportunity while Kumble’s Rest of India did well with the ball and surprising fielded rather well too. I must add here that I didn’t expect much from ROI’s fielding, thus the relieved sense of surprise has set in. Of the Delhi batsmen, Aakash Chopra impressed the most and if you ask me, deserves another stint with India. He’s not exactly a youngster, but when did being 19 alone become the most important criterion for selection?

Munaf, I thought was very impressive and is perhaps another good option for the Indian attack. I have a feeling he might wrestle his way through this time. From the the Delhi’s side, Nanda impressed to pin down a decent-looking Dravid and a hungry Badrinath. A few of his overs really tested them.

On Rest of India’s batting front – Jaffer did it again and threw it away. Dravid is playing his normal grafty innings, getting closer to and closer to confident. Badri, on the other hand seems to be in a mood to make ammends for the mess he made on Day 1. If Dravid and Badri hang on and put up another 50-80 runs, the middle order can chip in. Something tells me that the second half of Day 3 can be the decider. The pitch’s bounce is getting lower by the hour and is not likely to have too many runs to offer. However, catches might also be harder to get as the match progresses. If ROI bat through tomorrow and put up a total of about 280-300 they could consider themselves to be on the top. I’m hesitant to be more certain as the wise will never write off a side with Sehwag in it. Anything less than 300 will be gettable with time but will require effort. If Sehwag and Chopra fail, it may be the end for Delhi.


Irani Trophy Day 1: Rest of India vs. Delhi

September 24, 2008

Never trust the media! For the umpteenth time I have rediscovered this truth. Ok, it was not the best of innings from the Rest of India batsman, but when a team scores over 220-230, it is NOT a collapse. Why was Jaffer’s innings “fine” and Dravid’s innings circumspect ? They scored 50 and 46 each in 91 and 95 balls respectively. Jaffer’s list of boundaries reads 5 while Dravid’s count is 4. So much for that.
What I gathered from the first hour and a half of the game, which I caught before heading to work, was this: it was a warm up match and this could very well have been the score that India would have got in the first Test against in Aussies had they played without a warm up, with many batsmen taking a break of over a month. The truth is Jaffer was his “domestic-player” self and looked a bit better than “finding-my-form” Dravid, in comparison. Dravid was initially very shaky, so much to have this fan very worried and sad, but he picked it up later and played some very positive shots. Yes, there are still concerns; yes, he did struggle against Ishant Sharma, as I had I predicted yesterday; yes, the back foot isn’t moving to guard the off stump – a sure sign of out-of-form-ness, but there were some cracking shots which suggest a better comeback is near. Apart from the openers Jaffer and Dravid, no one else made an impression. Laxman was elegant in pieces but threw it away too quickly. The hypes of the day – Kaif and Badri remained hypes. They did not impress with strokeplay or with thier reading of the bowling and ended up with strike rates in the 30s, lesser that both Jaffer and Dravid. Harbhajan played an impressive innings, seriously! 🙂 Ishant bowled as per hype and is at the moment worthy of all the hype. It would be interesting to see Chopra and Gambhir feast off an Ishant-less Rest of India.

As for Delhi, I thought Sehwag’s captaincy was initially defensive. I won’t comment on my gatherings from the highlights as it will tantamount to picking a team looking at scorecards alone 😀 .  Delhi have a fire-power laden batting line up, but if the top 3 fail, it looks a bit brittle. The pitch might slow down after lunch tomorrow to make Day 2 the best day for batting. I’m starting to like Aakash Chopra very much and should find a place in the Indian XI, if Tendulkar doesn’t make it. Speaking of India, we still need Ganguly, the Kaif and Badri’s won’t do at the moment. After all, when you’ve got better, it would be foolish to not use it.

Tomorrow we shall find out if Harbhajan and Kumble feast off the pitch or fizzle away.


The Irani Trophy beckons!

September 23, 2008

Well almost – it’s tomorrow and I can’t wait. This Delhi vs. Rest of India clash, touted as the the dress rehearsal to the Australia series, has everything in it to be a cracker. Everybody will have everything to play for. Weather permitting and pitch (and cable operator) willing we should see a good contest. I’m not a Delhi-ite but I think they have the psychological edge with the “we can afford to mess this up” factor helping them; at least they will be the lesser of the stressed. It is the Kumble lead Rest-of-India who will need to prove points. Every single middle order batsmen in their line up – Dravid and Laxman in particular – have everything at stake here. Actually, apart from Badri/Kaif, depending on who will play, and the aforementioned India seniors, there isn’t too much of interesting batting in the Rest of India line up. When I read the name Wasim Jaffer, I tend to to mentally skip it and am not too excited about Parthiv Patel either – he has no technique whatsoever. Delhi, on the other hand seems to have a more interesting batting line up. I use the word interesting for it is the kind of batting that could swing to either of the extremes. They could thrill us all, with attacking stroke play or have us screaming and lamenting about the future depending upon how things go for them. Delhi batsmen to watch out for will be Aakash Chopra, in-form Virat Kohli and Shikar Dhawan, though I feel the latter might turn out to be just a bit of hype. And that’s aside of perennial surprise package that is Virender Sehwag and “purple patch” Gambhir.

Two contests I will eagerly look forward to are Ishant vs. Dravid and Ishant vs. Laxman. While Ishant got Dravid in the IPL opener at Bangalore, it is his nagging off-stump line that is likely to bother Dravid in particular as he has been dismissed by such deliveries thrice (as far as I can remember) in the last year to Sohail Tanvir, Dale Steyn and Ishant Sharma. Laxman who has a similar approach, though not identical, might fare a little better against such stuff. My predictions on Ishant – he will get the top four of Rest of India with Jaffer and Parthiv being the bunnies. I’m not familiar with the rest of the Delhi bowlers and will leave that discussion to the expert opinion of my Delhi-ite blogging friends.

Another contest to look to is Sehwag against Zaheer; the other Rest of India pacers, R P Singh and Munaf may get it from Sehwag big time! I would also like to see the look on Harbhajan’s face when Sehwag hits him over the top for six 🙂 ! Also interesting would be to see how the young Delhi middle order cope with the spin duo of Kumble and Harbhajan.

For Delhi, top order will be key, and middle for Rest of India. I already feel that this is an India vs. somebody else match with scale titled in favor of the “somebody else”. Rest of India, prove me wrong!


Why Ganguly?

September 17, 2008

I cannot help but ask. Why? Why Ganguly? Is it because something had to be done? Someone had to go? Some stop gap arrangement needed to be made to smother the screaming for including young talent? Or is it Peter Roebuck? We’ve reacted to Chappell’s remark on Sehwag before the tour of Australia late last year. So is that the new mantra to selection – listening to the Aussies? But now Ponting is questioning Ganguly’s omission. What do we do now?

The bigger question is this. Is Sourav not even good enough for the Irani Trophy. Well, the condescending talk from some of the “unnamed” selectors does make it seem that way. But then, I have another question. Why Jaffer? What has Jaffer done between his disastrous run in Australia earlier this year and now, to justify an inclusion to the dress rehearsal for the upcoming Aussie series. Or was he an automatic selection given that we are playing Australia at home or because Jaffer plays for Mumbai?

Turning our attention back to Dada, if you asked me, I could argue both sides: for and against the exclusion of Sourav Ganguly from the Irani Trophy squad. The argument against is jaded, so I’ll pass on that. Why does a Ganguly fan think this exclusion is good for him? Because it will wake up the lion in him – thought I’m not sure how many times he needs to prove his worth. Honestly, if he gets selected for the series against Australia, which he should, it will only have helped to have the lion (or should I say tiger) in Ganguly to be awake and growling. But one wonders, how long will he fight this sort of battle?

On the Kirsten/Kumble’s hand in this, I think the media has again sensationalized the story. I suspect it had more to do with Kirsten than Kumble. But maybe that’s just me, for I’ve never hid my dislike for Kirsten.

So why was it Ganguly? There are times like this when being a team man counts for more than anything else; when just that fact that you’ve tried as hard as you could have counts to your advantage. There is something about Ganguly that makes you think he took a situation casually. Maybe it’s his persona. Perhaps it is way he projects the facts. Maybe it is deju-vu from the old “I-don’t’want-to-play-the-new-ball” tactic. This is when you feel a little sad, that someone so gifted has thrown it away, almost arrogantly, like the straight sixes Sourav hits. This is why, I think, Dravid escaped the axe. If Dravid wasn’t the team man that we know him to be, even Kumble could not have saved him. But all isn’t well for Dravid either, for he scored two, yes, 2, in the Buchi Babu tournament in the match against Tripura. For once, I don’t think that’s very good news and feel a bit more apprehensive about this than I have before. If Dravid makes it past Irani, past Ausralia, he will have a good run for a year or so. If not, well yikes! God save Dravid and India.

Most of all this selection for the Irani Trophy seemed to me like the populist union budged this year. It tries to make everyone happy: the senior fans sans the Ganguly fans and the young aspirants. But the inconsistencies are glaring and it has been so through the years. Dravid was dropped from the ODI squad 3 matches after a brilliant match-winning 92 in Bristol. Yuvraj was persisted with after several failures for over a year, not more than 2 innings over 50. But that is Indian cricket for you!