India’s tour of New Zealand 2009: the Nitpicks

April 13, 2009

Allright folks, the party’s over. The players are headed to join their IPL teams. That means time for us to nitpick India’s tour of New Zealand.

Nitpick #1: The pitches. Ok, well, just the Basin pitch. It wasn’t typical Basin at all. That was perhaps the most disappointing feature of the tour of New Zealand. While the 02-03 tour was replete with ridiculously unbattable pitches, which embarrassed even the host batsmen, the pitches we saw here were mostly batsmen friendly. There was no shocker pitch, denying us of an opportunity of ruing an Indian batting collapse.

Nitpick#2: Ishant Sharma’s inability to use the breeze and Munaf’s to bag more wickets. Yes, this is a bit harsh. Ishant received some harsh ones from the umpires, but didn’t live up to the expectations in terms of wickets. There were some exceptional spells and there were some ordinary ones, thereby cause for some thought. Munaf’s bowling was fair. To me, he lived up to the standard of a “filling-up-the-overs” bowler, but not to that of a third seamer. The third seamer needs to consistently pick up wickets. Bowling in Tests isn’t only about economy. You can’t win matches with an economy of 2-odd, as beautiful as it might seem.

Nitpick #3: VVS Laxman and Sehwag’s inconsistency. Again, this is harsh and almost atrocious that Laxman and “careless” Sehwag are being blamed for the same thing, but there is more to this. VVS is expected to deliver. When he scores 30 we get upset because he’s capable of 40-60 every innings. Laxman’s scores read 30, DNB, 76, 124*, 4 and  61. That’s 295 @ 73.75 avg. Not something we should be grumbling about, but the issues are with the 30 and the 4. The 124 was priceless and came in a time when India needed it most. Sehwag on the other hand, truly disappointed. His scores read 24, DNB, 34, 22, 48, and 12. That’s 140 @ 28. Makes one wonder if it’s the same man who hits triple centuries at will. Sehwag played a classic innings at Galle. We all know he’s capable. It’s just about that application. We’re not asking him to turn into a Wall.

Nitpick #4: Yuvraj Singh – fielding and batting. Seriously what is he doing in a Test team, especially, a touring Test team. I see the logic in keeping him for the home series, but not on tours. He had his chance in Australia – a change which involved a needless shuffling in batting order to “acomodate” him. His fielding has also been below par this series. If you ask me, I’ll swap Murali Vijay for Yuvraj in overseas Tests. It will be worthy investment.

Nitpick #5: Dravid not making a century. Ok, this is more of a  nitpick. Dravid was the third highest run getter of the series with 314 runs @ 62.8. Given that this came in the wake of a year long run drought, it’s great. That he couldn’t turn the 83 in the first Test into a century giving it up to an uncharecteristic shot was very disappointing. Also disappointing was the dismissal for 35 at Wellington after all the hard work.

Nitpick #6: Collective lack on initiative at Wellington on Days 4 and 5 deprived us of a 2-0 victory. Should we have declared earlier? Maybe 20-30 runs earlier, not too much earlier. But the question as to whether we could have got those wickets in that time is another question altogether. Honestly, I’m fairly happy with 1-0 victory, maybe that’s the conservative Indian in me speaking. Just would have been nicer, that’s all. That’s why this is #6 and not #1.

Nitpick #7: Sehwag’s captaincy. After all the experience, we expected better from him didn’t we. This isn’t about the way he batted in that Test, though that would also count for “inappropriate” from a captain. There was something missing when he captained – maybe he know he’ll forever be 2nd choice. That X-factor that Dhoni brings was missing. Sehwag’s definitely got it. He just needs to find it.

Nitpicks done. Do weigh in with yours.

Dravid breaks fielding record – Wellington Test Day 4

April 6, 2009

With catch No. 182 of Tim McIntosh, our very own Rahul Dravid has now become the record holder of maximum number of catches in Tests (playing as non-wicketkeeper).

As a fan, this was a moment I had been looking forward to. That the matches start at an odd hour added a sense of anxiety that I would miss it. I was rather amused (and a bit relieved for I was starting to think I getting a bit crazy) when I read Sambit Bal’s article on Cricinfo today, that he too felt this way.  Bal didn’t miss the moment, but he missed a flight. As for me, I got some extra sleep but missed the catch. I must say, throughout this series, every time I switched on the TV when NZ was batting, I would wait for the full scorecard to see the moment has passed, have a sigh of relief, followed almost immediately by a sense of disappointment. Strangely enough, today, when I turned the TV on at 7-ish and NZ were 120-odd for 3, I didn’t expect that one of the 3 would have been the record breaking one. I was expecting a “c Dhoni b Khan”. But it wasn’t, that was cool too! What was even cooler was that No. 183 came shortly thereafter, and that, I didn’t miss, for whatever that is worth. I will rue having missed No. 182, until Drav’s next century or double! 🙂

As always, there will be critics, those who feel it’s the longevity that’s lead to the record. For the skeptics, here is the fielding record sorted by max matches played and here, sorted by max catches taken by non-wicketkeeper. I’m not trying to justify anything, just trying to emphasize that credit needs to given where it is due. While we’re on the topic of stats, I’d be interested knowing how many of those came against pacers and spinners. I haven’t been able to tweak stats guru for this. Maybe it takes a little more than a cursory effort.

Congratulations, Dravid. A fine feat for a fine slip fielder! Way to go!