Pujara in, Yuvraj out for Test against Aus

September 21, 2010

Finally the call has been answered. Pujara gets what he has been long due. I’m personally happy that Pujara made it without Dravid losing out – some were expecting that. Hope he gets into the playing XI and makes his mark.

Yuvraj on the other hand, deserves the ouster. The temperment has been off color and that added to his current form and fitness woes and other weaknesses, esp against spin must have played a role in the selector’s decision. While I have my reservations with some of Cheeka’s methods, this team is decent and there wasn’t a need for major amends (apart from Yuvraj). In the back on my mind, there is a slight bit of feeling for Yuvraj – it is the ODIs and T20 that have gone bad for him. The last 2 test innings weren’t too bad; but unfortunately, that ‘s how things work.


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!


Some Grace for the Fab Four

September 18, 2008

There aren’t too many Indian cricket journalists who write anything other than jingoistic match reports. Picking among the few that do write well, Pradeep Magazine is one of my favorite. He writes here on how the onus is on the selectors to allow our Fab Four an exit befitting their accomplishments and stature. Indeed, they’ve scripted some very famous victories in India and overseas and have given us some wonderful memories. Thank you, Mr. Magazine! Yes, Ganguly, Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman need to be given some space and a respectful farewell when it comes to it, not unceremoniously shoved through gaps between the door and its sill. Vengsarkar! Are you listening?

And there is no need to hurry this. While the argument of picking players on merit and form is valid, there aren’t enough quality replacements, especially in Tests. In fact the young ODI side is yet to prove itself overseas. Somewhere between ’96 and now, the quality of India recruits seems to have either gone down or gone unnoticed, especially in the batting and spin departments (though spin is a different story altogether and merits a separate post). There hasn’t been another decent batting recruit after that of Ganguly and Dravid in 1995-96. Yes, there was Sehwag, but aren’t we still debating his worth? Yes, that might also be because we try to shove all of them in the opening spot, but we still don’t have a decent opening pair. Thanks to T20 cricket and IPL, the  batting situation may only get worse unless deliberate efforts are put in. The India-A tours are a step in the right directions. In a few years, we should have a good idea about who from the India A is worthy of the India cap for a decent term. That should be way to go.


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!


Mission 2011 World Cup: Wrong Path?

August 19, 2008

The Indian ODI side has lost another battle to Mendis. I’d written them off even before a single ball was bowled in the series. Soulberry is postively miffed and strangely I thought they should have been doing exactly what SB suggests.

But the anxiety and emotion isn’t just about this series. It is about the so-called mission to win the World Cup in 2011.

While there is value in the vision itself (I do have some reservations on the over-emphasis that the World Cup is getting, but I’ll save that for another day), for some time now it has taken precedence to common sense. I think the selectors and us, the serious-Indian-cricket followers, have mostly overreacted to the T20 victory. Just because a young side that won us a World Cup in a abridged format does not mean that was the way to go. Again, we also overreacted to the ODI series victory in Australia, which I have said time and again was largely due to Tendulkar and some good fast bowling from the younsters: not the Uthappas and Rainas.

This reaction has brought about precisely two things: a meteoric rise in the importance of Dhoni and wholesale recruiting of inexperienced youth from an U-19 cricket team. Dhoni’s recent success has hidden his rather mono-dimensional-nature as captain and less-than-solid batting from scrutiny. Dhoni isn’t a thinking captain, Azharuddin was. Dhoni is a lucky captain, at least so far: his troups have delivered. While there is nothing wrong with that the lack of ingenuitity or depth is bothersome. Perhaps this is the series which might expose these aspects of Dhoni further more. I’m not suggesting that we sack Dhoni now. That would be knee-jerk and the problem isn’t really with the captaincy, though I must add he hasn’t been doing much either. Besides, we don’t have a replacement captain. Please don’t suggest Yuvraj, he’s even worse! This itself is a crisis unprecedented in the last 10-15 years. When Azhar had to go, there was Tendulkar; when Ganguly was sacked, Dravid was ready. Even when Dravid stepped down, Dhoni made it because there was no one else, not out of his own merit. The second issue is of more importance. We’ve had a good deal of failures even the recent past of 3+ years from the Chappel era of recruiting U-19s to the Indian team. A cursory look at these names leads credence to the view that this really isn’t the way to go: Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and Mohammed Kaif. In Rohit Sharma, Kohli and Ohja we perhaps have our next failed experiments. Domestic cricket is there for a reason and cricket is not a boys’ game. It involves either genius talent ala Tendulkar or just pure hard work. Gambhir learned it the hard way and is now back after having spent some time in the domestic circuit. Barring Tendulkar, the other Indian batting greats of today, Dravid, Ganguly and Laxman roughed it out before they were even considered to represent the country at the highest level. The selectors need to look back this tradition, gather strength and change the way things are being done, though I fear it might already be a bit too late. Give it another year or a few more failed U-19 stars, and we might have to wait another generation for a set of solid batsmen.

Honestly, on the mission World Cup 2011, I honestly don’t see it happening. Teams that win World Cups generally have about 4-5 members who have played in an earlier version and have a mix of solid and swashbuckling batsmen and quality bowlers with variety. Australia in ’99 was probably the best Aussie WC team in the recent past. India’s 2003 WC squad was also probably our best and will remain that way for some time to come. I won’t comment on the 2007 WC here, much has been said about it. If honest effort is made to nurture good batting and bowling we might have a competitive 2015 WC squad, and unless anything miraculous happens I don’t see this particular ODI side winning a 50-over World Cup for us.

Meanwhile, in Soulberry’s thread, some have suggested what I have been ranting about for over eight months now: the reinstatement of Dravid in the ODI side. I would suggest that we include Ganguly too. We need some stability and some sanity. We need a batsman to hang around so the youngsters can learn what it takes to build an innings. Right now there is no mentor in the ODI team for the younsters. And please, Dhoni isn’t one! What happened to the rotation policy?  We seem to only have a senior-elimination policy at the moment. Dhoni was picked as captain of the ODI side because he supposedly had a good rapport with the seniors, but the first thing that he did was sack Dravid and then Ganguly. We need to rotate the Big 3, not eliminate 2 and let Tendulkar chase his records. Having said all that, given the nature of BCCI, do I see it happening? No. But do I continue hoping? Yes.

I think at the end of this tour of Sri Lanka, we would have learned more lessons than we did in the past decade. The last instance of such a lesson-filled tour that I recall is probably the 99-00 tour of Australia.  We need a good mix of the old and new to win matches and to build for the future. The veterans need to be around to show the way and the transition to the new order gradual. We have learnt a valid lesson from the ODI squad and one only hopes that after the 1-2 defeat in the recently concluded Test series, the same mistakes aren’t made with the Test squad.