Why India lost to Pakistan? – ICC Champions Trophy 2009

September 28, 2009

The freakish record we held against Pakistan is gone now and I can’t say it doesn’t hurt. Granted, Pakistan weren’t the strongest team of the 8 that play the Champions Trophy. But there have been other times lately when they weren’t as strong, but we weren’t this disrespectful either.

India went about this pompously. We didn’t respect Pakistan as a worthy opponent on the cricket field. We expected to throw some stuff at them and for them to fall prey to it. They don’t have batting solidity; their bowlers don’t have the experience; Afridi is a freak; Yousuf is selfish; Asif may not play. All this we said; maybe for a second, even if we forgive such arrogance, we cannot pardon the disrespect for the history that has been India-Pakistan cricket. India didn’t see this a match they must win, didn’t see it as stepping stone to the semi final, didn’t even see it as a clash worth its popcorn money. They saw it as just some cricket match. If we lose this, we need to win the other two.  That’s all it was.

If India lose to Australia and the West Indies and don’t make it to the semis, I won’t feel as let down as I felt after this loss. India-Pakistan was special, and it doesn’t seem to be anymore. That is a loss that’s hard to explain but will leave most Indian cricket fans with a dull headache that ceases to throb.


South Africa choke again – Champions Trophy 2009 Roundup

September 28, 2009

What a roller coaster it’s been thus far? Sri Lanka beat South Africa and then loses to New Zealand and a Aussie-battered England. South Africa beat New Zealand but lose to England.

In the other group, tournament favorites (despite their issues) Australia suffer a scare against what they called a “second string” West Indies. Pakistan almost lose to West Indies and then embarrass the #1 ODI team India (more on this in my next post).

All these developments make the tournament more interesting upto the semi finals, but it remains to be seen if the interest levels prevail if the top 3 ODI teams don’t make it to the semi finals. Forget the ICC ratings, don’t we want to watch the best battle it out? Does wining two games in a row make a team better than one which has won several games in trott in the past which has bought them the interest and respect of cricket lovers world wide? Many questions that need answering. I will hold my opinions till the end of the trophy.

Who shall we blame now? Chokers South Africa or free spirited England? Shall we blame Andrew Strauss for denying Smith the runner? I do actually, because runners have been provided before for cramping batsmen, esp from the sub continent, and by denying the runner Strauss showed how insecure he was about Smith being there. Isn’t it easier to effect a run out when you’ve got three people trying to communicate with one another about taking a run? Returning to the blame game, shall we blame the injuries for India’s loss?

The organizers need to wake up about the pitch making malpractices. I have seen at least two games so far where the pitch played a Man-of-Match worthy role in a team’s victory. Not to take away from Shah-Collingwood or Malik-Yousuf in the games England and Pakistan played against South Africa and India respectively, but there was nothing in this for the seamers. If ODI cricket dies, let us not blame the format, for there is more to this than meets the eye.


A drab series ended: India-Pak 2007

November 20, 2007

Is it just me or was this India-Pak series just a little drab. There wasn’t too much of see-saw or nail-biting. Granted India did well, after a seemingly long draught of ODIs series victories, but this wasn’t what the India-Pak fan expected to see. There was no Shoaib-Tendulkar/Ganguly frenzy nothing much to look forward to with excitement.

For me the most disappointing thing in the series was Pak’s lack of enthusiasm. They just weren’t being Pakistan barring the final ODI esp after they got Tendulkar. Tanvir’s mad punch in the air after getting Tendulkar was the essence of what Pakistan represents. They thrive in aggression and aggression helps them raise the level of their game. Seriously, this was a tame Pakistani side; so tame, that they looked like India under Dravid (don’t get me wrong, Dravid is a fine batsman, but I was never a fan of his captaincy).

Shoiab Malik’s captaincy was fairly boring. He seems to lack the courage to try something different, let alone gamble. In fact, I can draw many parallels between Malik and Dravid’s captaincy, the chief one being defensive techniques employed. But one feels sorry for the man who has been recieving flak for everything he seems to be doing. Ramiz Raja seems to be heaping it truckloads. The other disappointing factor from the Pak side was the absence of Imran Nazir in the first 4 ODI. Nazir, to me, is a classic Pakistani one day opener who can thrill with all the frills (but can also fail miserably under trying conditions)  ala Afridi (who also disappointed big time) and provide a good platform for the middle order.

From the Indian side, there isn’t much for me to say aside of what I have I already been saying about the past few matches. A good victory, but this isn’t anything to gloat about; if Pakistan had been even 10% better, the result could have be harder to achieve if not different. Many things worked for India:
– Dhoni’s captaincy
– Good opening partnerships
– Tendulkar’s in sublime form (or should I say holy)
– Yuvraj-Dhoni’s consistent contributions
– Better pace bowling
Some things look good for the future:
– Rohit Sharma’s gritty innings in the fifth ODI
– RP Singh and Irfan Pathan’s contributions through the series

Having said all that, the fifth ODI was a little bit of an aberration for the current resurgent India. Not just because that they lost, but the manner in which they did. If you were wondering what it would have been to watch Indian cricket in the 90s, this was what it generally was: mediocre bowling from the spearheads, abysmal part-time bowling, lazy fielding, and batting collapses. Ok, the fifth ODI wasn’t as bad, but fearfully close. The fielding was back to its lackadaisical style; the bowling was fairly poor except for flashes of brilliance from Sreesanth (which was followed by some big-time ball-spraying). Praveen Kumar had a fairly good debut, but I was more impressed with the new Pak wicketkeeper Sarfraz Nawaz and new-kid-on-the-block Fawad Alam. I had written about Rohit Sharma earlier and he definitely a promising prospect for post-Dravid India at #3. Indian batting fell apart with flashy and almost reckless Tendulkar dismissed after a dangerous shot; ditto for Sehwag. Gambhir was unfortunate but not as much as Yuvraj. Uthappa at #3 was a mistake; to me he is more of an opener (in the right conditions) or excellent #5. Even the 2 sevens on Dhoni’s borrowed shirt couldn’t save India.

One other aspect of this series that has been on my mind is the relative ease with which both teams are being fined. First for slow over rate, then heavily fining Afridi and Gambhir and then Yuvraj for dissent (though I saw the coming the moment he gestured to the umpire). One wonders why a baby-face Ponting who blinks after lbw decisions and close stumpings doesn’t get the same treatment. If we are to copy the Aussies here, shall we call this racism?


India-Pak ODI series leveled at Mohali

November 9, 2007

As an India-Pak series fan, if you were wondering what happened to the see-saw effect, well, you just got a dose of that at Mohali. I had written earlier that the two teams are more evenly matched this time than ever before; yesterday’s match, I think, proved what was not obvious on paper.

India entered the Mohali ODI as favorites to win the match, but complacency saw them lose a match that was until the last 10 overs very much in their bag. After scoring 300+ batting first, India let Pakistan cut loose with Afridi doing his boom-boom in the last few overs.

Although things don’t look too bad for India, there is plenty to think about. Looking at the Indian batting there are still plenty of holes to be plugged. Sachin and Gambhir did very well, the overly hyped Yuvraj and Dhoni flopped big-time, and Uthappa went cheaply and is becoming a favorite lbw candidate (much like Andrew Strauss) for many bowlers. Indian fielding, while a smidgen better than Pakistan, has still a long way to go to near the high standards set by South Africa and Australia. I can recall at least 4 catches that should have been taken. Speaking of temperment, while much is being said of Sreesanth’s ‘making-faces-and-staring-aggro’, Yuvraj needs to keep his temper too. Yuvraj’s on-field behavior yesterday made one think that there might be more than one reason why he was not made captain and isn’t much of a serious favorite.

Pakistan on other other hand didn’t really win the match, as much as India lost it. Credit must be given to them for pulling it off, but in my opinion, for the first 25 overs, they didn’t look to be even trying to win. It was shocking to see the Pak run rate plummet to 4-odd when Shoiab Malik was at crease; you would expect the captain of a side to show and tell, or at least try. What was more shocking was to see Misbah, now touted as India’s best friend, fall to the same paddle shot (although in slightly different manner) as in the T20 World Cup final. What Pakistan did yesterday in their batting was what most commentators say chasing sides should do while chasing big totals: bat through the entire 50 overs; and the run certainly came, with India’s mediocre bowling and shoddy fielding in the middle overs contributing considerably.

With Rahul Dravid’s continued absence in the ODI side, it remains to be seen if the selectors will see the need for his presence. While the outcome of the Mohali ODI has brought some life back into the series, India still have a small edge in this series, lest they don’t let it slip!


Looking forward to the India-Pakistan ODI Series

November 4, 2007

The much hyped India-Pakistan series is almost here. I see many things different about this series compared to the ones from the recent past. Firstly, both sides are young and fairly inexperienced (at least in comparison to teams from previous clashes). Secondly, both sides have new/inexperienced captains. Thirdly, I think, this time they are more evenly matched than ever before; and this is the case chiefly due to the absence of some key players from both sides: Inzamam for Pakistan, Dravid for India (although it remains to be seen if Dravid will make a comeback later in the ODI series).

The Youth vs. the Wise
If there is anything that adds the extra spice to the already red-hot series, it is the youth. The youth are known to be fearless, yet can also be reckless. The lack the wisdom that comes with grey hair and perhaps the temperament required to poke around and see through a wildly swinging new ball. This is good reason to expect more of the extremes: massive 20-20 style hitting leading ala Uthappa or Nazir leading to huge totals or low scoring matches caused by batting collapses.

New Captains
Malik and Dhoni are fairly new to the captain’s seat and this will be a test for both. But I see them as having very different personalities. Malik is the laid-back quiet type of guy (like Dravid in some ways, although not as cautious with the communication skills) who I think may not be able to inspire his young guns. Dhoni on the other hand, comes off as a no-nonsense, outspoken (enough to poke one although good-temperedly at Ravi Shastri) type of person who seems to be able to bring out the yearning from his young lads. More importantly, Dhoni is a gambler, a trait that many successful captains. If I were asked to pick the better of the both, though I have a little bit of a soft corner for Malik – I’ve never had one for any other Pakistani captain I’ve seen – it would be Dhoni without a doubt.

More Evenly Matched than Ever
I remember this thought I had from a few years ago. I always thought that Pakistan had a lot of wild cards in their batting line up: people who, if it starts to go well, could blaze away ala Moin Khan, Imran Nazir and Shahid Afridi. Today, with Tendulkar and Ganguly becoming increasingly susceptible (thanks to replays) the absence of ‘Wall’ Dravid and the featuring of the flashy Yuvraj, Uthappa and Dhoni, the Indian middle order has the shares unpredictable wildness of its Pakistani counterpart. On the brighter side for India, its bowling has a little more sting than during the times of Srinath (with due respect). Pakistan’s bowling has always been its strength and I think it will continue to be the case this time also.

Players to watch
In an India-Pakistan series, one can expect to see something special from almost every member, but these are my picks for people to watch for:

India
Strength
: Batting – 75% Bowling – 60%
Batsmen: Robin Uthappa and Mahendra Singh Dhoni for fire power; Sachin Tendulkar for experience and class
Bowlers: Irfan Pathan – can get breakthroughs and make a difference in the middle overs
* Honorable mention: Rohit Sharma (if he gets picked) – potential to become a good #3; Sreesanth – we might see some substance behind the dramatic paceman; Murali Karthik – bamboozling spin

Pakistan
Strength
: Batting-65% Bowing- 70%
Batsmen: Imran Nazir and Shahid Afridi for pinch hitting power, Shoaib Malik and Younis Khan for stabilizing capability
Bowlers: Umar Gul – consistency, Shoaib Akthar – pace power
* Honourable mention: Afridi – his bowling might bother a few in the Indian batting line up.

Happy watching!