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.
it.

Nitpicks done. Do weigh in with yours.


“The Princes” Yuvraj and Ganguly Rock Bangalore – 3rd Test Day 1

December 8, 2007

What a day of cricket! After having won the toss and electing to bat first, India were off to a disastrous start. If Rahul “Wall” Dravid’s fall very early in the day to a very un-Dravid-ian shot seemed like a bad omen, the unthinkable happened when Laxman was shockingly bowled for a meager 5. Within the first hour and a half, India had lost 4 wickets and were tottering on 61-4. It was then that that Ganguly and Yuvraj brought forth a mind-blowing, record breaking 300-run partnership to electrify the crowds at the Chinnaswamy Stadium (and TV viewers alike) and take the momentum away from Pakistan. Both played their natural games: Ganguly with his experience-laden vintage knock and Yuvraj with his aggressive attacking style that is bound to give the shivers to many opponent bowlers.

The experienced southpaw offered good support to his younger teammate; and I say support not because Ganguly merely supported: his consecutive ton in this series deserves all the praise and more for the endurance, adamant patience, and positively attitude. I say Ganguly supported only because Yuvraj bedazzled everyone with strokes of absolute brilliance. Sambit Bal writes it was a touch of Brian Lara, but to me Yuvraj replaced Tendulkar in a very different way: he made batting look ridiculously easy; that, a statement often said of Tendulkar.

The Ganguly-Yuvraj partnership had many things in common. Apart from the fact that both were left-handers, they played several strokes with the arrogance fitting of their princely nicknames. The positive attitude shown in a trying time sets an example for many young and upcoming cricketers. All cricketing apart, to me the most wonderful moment of the day was Ganguly’s celebration on Yuvraj’s century.

Dada celebrates teamates's landmark
Sourav celebrates Yuvraj’s landmark
Pic courtesy: Hindustan Times

It was honest and from the heart – almost like an older brother, ebbing with pride of his younger sibling’s success – so much that Ganguly celebrated his own century with much less ado. Sambit Bhal puts this beautifully; he writes of Ganguly “..Not that he would have grudged it [Yuvraj’s belligerence] a whit: his eyes shone brighter when he celebrated his team-mate’s century than when he reached his own” (emphasis mine).

Ganguly and Yuvraj celebrate Yuvraj's ton
Ganguly congratulates Yuvraj on ton.
Pic courtesy: Cricinfo

But sadly, like all good things must end, so did the Yuvraj-Ganguly partnership after reaching a landmark 300 runs with only 5 overs to spare till the end of day’s play. I had expected Ganguly to fall earlier and Yuvraj to reach 200, but it was Ganguly’s partner who perished to a shot that he didn’t seem to have commited to. With the spectacular innings from Yuvraj coming at a time when everything from his technique to temperment in the longer version of the game have been questioned, he leaves the selector’s with a happy headache.One couldn’t help but notice the difference when a rattled and tentative-looking Dinesh Karthik took Yuvraj’s place at the crease. Karthik seemed to be looking to survive the day, and he did having scored 3 from 10 balls with Ganguly on 125. Personally, I would like to see Ganguly get to 150, though a double ton to him would be a great morale booster before the tour of Australia. As long as Dada stays, India will see some runs, after that, only Pathan (if he doesn’t run out of partners very quickly) might add some quick runs. Until then. Go Yuvi! Go Dada! Way to show ’em how its done!