Bottom two on the table are having a rough time. Rajasthan’s position is understandable – they are missing their Pak stars and Shane Watson. Punjab’s story is different – the talent is there. But the team spirit seams missing. They are looking like BRC from season 1. One wonders if it has anything to do with Sangakkara and his ways.
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.
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
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! 🙂
Alright, am I the only one bored by the Delhi Test? The other stuff seems to be interesting.
The Gambhir ban has been an interesting issue. Fellow blogger ABisht sees it as a half-full-half-empty thing. As always, the subcontinent guy gets hauled up. Perhaps this is the only way the toothless ICC servants can get back at the “new-power-rich” BCCI. While the part of me that wants to be fair, might want to say, maybe this is a good lesson for the folk who indulge in unnecessary drama on the cricket field, the partisan in me is angry that it is the Indian that gets the harsh treatment. Why was Watson, the provoker, let off with a fine, that too, off a token-like 10%? This issue can be beaten to death, but it’s a dead horse. The more striking issue is the arrogance of the Indian youth. As I look at my own generation, there is a sense of disrespect for and cynicism towards almost everything. Granted this might be a generational thing, but the brashness now is too obvious to ignore. This crudeness has crept into cricket as well. Uthappa’s dig on the seniors’ fielding comes to mind. No, it’s not about the whole “respect the senior cricketers” dying horse either. It’s the needless attitude and ego that’s bothersome. Back to Gambhir. Why the “elbowing”, Gambhir? Why the street-side-boy attitude? Perhaps it is this garishness that has reduced the sympathy that Gambhir is getting on this. Perhaps he is also suffering the aftermath of the Bhajji “banned-but-not-but-then-banned-in-IPL”. To be honest, I’m ambivalent on this, but in titling in favor of the fact that the ban might be a bit too hard, but only in small measure.
Adam Gilchrist, who certainly had a lot of Indian fans, may be left with a lot lesser fans now. I didn’t feel the need to write about his comments on Tendulkar, for it seemed like the cheap old publicity trick. But now, he’s roping in Ganguly and Harbhajan. I’m not cutting any slack for Ganguly on the Nagpur 2004 Test Houdini act – a chapter in Indian cricket that will remain shrouded with several questions until someone comes out with the truth – but doesn’t Gilchrist have anything better to talk about. Apparently he wants to befriend his former teammates who don’t return phones calls and emails to the “bloke who used to walk when he was out”. Gilchrist has utterly lost my respect, for whatever that is worth. And he will NOT get my money for his book, which I have decided not to buy, despite whatever else he may have said in it. Now, we know the True Colors, don’t we?
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!
A lot can happen in two days. India’s middle order, precisely Ganguly, Tendulkar and lower-order batsman Dhoni powered India to a decent total of 469. Four quick Aussie wickets meant that the Aussies needed some damage control. That they did, but nothing more. In fact, the Aussie damage control would have looked a lot less fancier had Watson been given out by umpire Rudi Koertzen when he was actually out. That would have given the Indian think tank some food for thought about the follow on. But forget it, they would have never enforced it anyway.
A lot of things have been good for India:
- Ganguly’s silken century, his 16th ton in his farewell series enabled fans to watch Grace and helped India to a good total
- Dhoni’s “gadayudh” batting helped us get quick runs and goes to prove my earlier point that Dhoni cares to perform with the bat only when he captains (ok, ok, it was a batting pitch and I’m being a little harsh here)
- Mishra’s dream debut got him a fifer. So, the spin closet has one worthy item in it. One in hand and in form is worth ten times the weight in gold of a closet full of junk
- Gambhir and Sehwag have gotten us off to a flier.
What needs to be done:
- Viru and Gambhir need to bat some more and get more runs quickly
- Don’t know if Dravid will bat at #3 tomorrow, but this could be the best opportunity to cement his place among seniors. VVS seems like he’s currently on tenterhooks.
It will be interesting to see when – both in terms of run and timing – that the declaration comes. I would think setting Aus 450-480 in over 3.5-4 sessions would be a good ask. Will we do it?
PS: Meanwhile, for those of you looking for a daily dose of Dravid goodness, he’s only 5 short of Mark Waugh’s record for max catches in Test. Mark Waugh was really cheap in saying this, but I hope Waugh is wrong. The only person close to getting a pair is an Aussie and he’s called Matthew Hayden. Waugh! Which match are you watching?
After what seemed like an eternity, India has managed not to lose a match batting 4th. I had mentally written them off and that mostly due to the poor show in Sri Lanka. I’m still trying to tweak Cricinfo’s statsguru to spit me the results of India’s draw percent when batting second. I’m pretty sure this must be low (esp in the last 3 years). From memory I recall only 2 from the last 3 years – the one at Lords (which really shouldn’t count) and one against South Africa.
Going by that, this is an achievement. But what that also says is that the Aussies have lost some of their sting without McGrath, Warne and Gilchrist (behind the stumps). Haddin has a long way to go. Watson, Haddin, Cameron White (who also plays for Bangalore Royal Challengers) don’t really strike me as great Test cricketers. Unless they go the Symonds way with their game, we may see some mediocre results from them in the near future.
As for India, NB from Soulberry’s TCWJ puts so succinctly, what seemed so muddled in my mind. To me, here are the worries:
- Middle order: Granted, we’re getting some stinkers from the umpires from time to time, but the middle order isn’t really on strong footing. There are flashes of brilliance, but only flashes, and that’s causing anxiety. Ganguly seems best of the four at the moment. Doesn’t that tell a story in itself (with due respect to Gangs of course)? Meanwhile at the top order, Gambhir has not had too many answers either.
- Spin bowling: We all know about Harbhajan’s “I-need-a-wicket-to-start-thinking”. That apart, Kumble has been very worrisome.
- Fielding: Allright, we’ve never really been a great fielding side, not even when the Fab four where in their prime. Gambhir’s dropped catches were atrocious! So much for the “young-agile-fielding-sides”
Interestingly this time, both teams have seen some decline from previous glory. Can India put a 300 plus total? Can the middle order post 200 runs by themselves? Can India bat better than Australia? Can Australia take 20 wickets? Will they bowl better than the Indian quicks? Strange how it can become isn’t it?
Maybe we will get only 2 results from this series.