Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Zim in test matches

India would really have to play well in test matches. Indian batting is in a bit of a bother, Sachin is not there. And Zim bowlers are decent enough with Streak and Blignaut leading the charge.

Andy Blignaut is the under-rated guy in their side. He bowls fast (I remember around 87mph !) and has the ability to charge up and raise his performance. A couple of good bowlers are enough to trouble a side. I also think Blignaut is a more than decent batsman. Would be interesting to watch him out.

And now that Sachin has withdrawn from the tests, there would be a healthy competition or the available spot between Yuvraj and Kaif.

And its good that the team management got an opener as replacement (I don't know if they asked for it, but the message seems to be that he is not in contention for the middle order spot left vacant by Sachin. That is for Yuvraj or Kaif to fill)

I would be really surprised, and maybe sad, if Jadhav gets to play any game ahead of Yuvraj or Kaif in the middle order.

Having the right perspective

So, Nz scored 230 odd allout against Zim. And we said, for our Indian 220+ (6 down) score, a lame performance 'from which no positive can be drawn' !

Consider these points :

1) Nz has been in Zim for almost a month now

2) They have played these bowlers on these pitches

3) They are high up in their ODI performance, and are consistent

4) They chose to go for more aggressive approach, yet reached the same stage as the under-confident Indian side. Goes on to show that our approach wasn't that bad after all. Something which I stated in my previous post.

But I'm sure there would be no 'reviewal' of the various critical opinions regarding the Indian approach anywhere.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Sense and umm...Nonsense

First the sensible part. Duncan Fletcher here says that England are not yet the best side in the world, although he 'concedes' that his side has dominated the Aussies for most of this series.

Quite true too. Eng are definitely better than Aus in this series, but lets remember Aus reached the number 1 place not just because they defeated Eng last time around. They've defeated ALL countries at home and away series, and they've done it repeatedly. So just like India did not switch positions with Aus when they defeated them at home and held them to a draw down under (or even if they had defeated them again at home), so shall Eng remain number two for quite some time yet.

And I'm surprised at the declaration of world championship of Eng by the likes of Tony Greigh and Geoff Boycott ! Boycott, during his tv commentary, went to the extent of saying that the World Series down under later in Oct would be a misnomer if Eng defeat Aus ! Wow, man, are they going overboard or what !

Ok, time for the non-sense. Here at cricinfo S Rajesh says that India gains precious little from the game against Zimbabwe. The batting was tepid, and they hardly learnt anything.

Well, sure the Indian ODI team is low on confidence, and haven't performed well in recent times, have lost most of their important matches. But that is a known fact. What, given the situation they are in, should a team do, when faced with a match situation as India was today ? Go for the glory or bust approach, or the sensible way of securing a non-spectacular but safe win. And build on that victory momentum into more important matches. This, to me seems much more sensible approach, given the poor form of some of the Indian players, the experimentational nature of the lineup, and the importance of securing a victory here today in the bigger context of the series (the entire Zim tour) and the whole new season.

I know this does not look pretty, but the rebuilding process more often is not. As long as the Indians can take it further from here, I'm all for it.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Ind loose to Nz...but gain a minor hope

Yes India, as expected, lost to Nz today. But they gained a minor hope of a new permanent member in the team in JP Yadav. He should definitely be given a few more chances and watched closely.

And meanwhile Fleming agreed that he lost a bit of ground in letting the 9th wkt partnership build for India. He's damn right. It was as close as 6 balls away from loosing the match, when Bond got Pathan with his last ball of 9th over. Had they seen of Bond, there was not much threat in Nz attack. Ofcourse if the rest of them had even 'thought' of this statement, Pathan would not have needed to bat.

Sure they can only go up from here ? I mean, how much lower can the batting go. Surely one out of top six will fight, and get support from some others, next time (when we face Nz). Ofcourse with Zim if we put a good show, which we normally should, we win comfortably, and if we don't, we can still manage to scrape through.

And the bowling is coming off nicely, except Harbhajan, who has to figure out a few things. He was getting bounce on the pitch, and should have made it count. But I still expect the same team to play Nz next time around. For Zim game, there may be changes. Maybe RP comes in place of Agarkar. And Raina in place of Rao ? But I don't believe its largely a 'team combination' problem. I think they all will struggle. Its a bigger thing.

Aussie Panic

I just saw for the first time Aus bat in this series. And they are bloody panicking ! I don't know since how long they have been doing it this series, but its now written all over their face. And in their body language while batting.

They remind me of the Indians when we toured down under in 1998-99. The batsmen had 'out' written all over them even as they walked out. Barring Sachin, none looked ready for a fight. And the same thing happened with Aussies themselves in the 2001 Indian series.

They are gone, they're loosing this. They deserve to loose this series.

And oh, their bowling is so pedestrian, that we are now actually applauding Tait for doing something (a few times) what ALL of the English bowler did in ALL of their overs ! This is how downright pathetic their bowling has been. And I don't joke at all when I say that our Indian bowlers would have done much much better that 'this' !

Monday, August 22, 2005

The Indian Captaincy debate

So many times, in the past week, have we seen different people express their opinion on the whole 'handling of the captaincy' issue. Analysts, past players, critics, present players, bloggers all have had something or the other to say. From taking straight-forward Rahul-vs-Saurav positions to the neutrals 'we are not against either, but it should have been handled better' ones. Here Kapil, yes the same cricketer turned 'entertainer' Kapil, joins the list.

I have a simple understanding of the issue, based on what I read. There may be others with 'insider' information. If so they should reveal that they are using such information (with or without revealing the sources) otherwise the case is as simple as this.

Saurav was possibly not available for the whole series. He could have missed minimum 2 and maximum 4 games of the series. In case of latter, he would not have joined the team in SL at all. The actually verdict was not known at the time of selection of team and captain. Also, assuming that the selectors were sure about appointing Saurav as captain once he completed his ban (we are not sure, but its quite likely). So, given these sets of conditions, what were the options for selectors ?

a) Declare Rahul as captain of first two games, extendible to full series in case Saurav does not join. This would have hampered team preparations in the absence of Saurav (who was still in England for his county stint) and would have been a nightmare scenario for Rahul, something which he clearly dislikes (as commonly known and agreed by everyone around). This scenario is bad for Rahul, and for the team. Saurav would not have minded this, as he could have done without the additional tension of thinking about 'retaining' captaincy when he clearly knew that in reality he should only be thinking about retaining his batting position (and captaincy should come by default, given his good record in that aspect)

b) Declare Saurav as captain and wait till the verdict comes out. When its not completely revoked (as was the case) but only reduced, THEN name Rahul as captain for the period Saurav is sitting out. In fact such 'naming' would not have been necessary as he is the vice captain and therefore captaincy goes to him by default. The minuses of this scenario are same as above. Bad for Rahul, and the team. No impact on Saurav.

c) Named Rahul as the captain of the WHOLE series (and only that series) just to avoid the downfalls of the above two scenarios. What they also did was to 'explain' the reason for making Rahul the captain of the whole series. It was quite obvious from those explanations that it was done only to give Rahul, and the team, a better chance of preparation. It was NOT a judgment on Saurav and his captaincy. And by extension, this means he would be captain after the series (now this is what they did not state, and I think they would have to start doing it more often, to avoid such controversies as our media is capable of creating in the most simplest of situations!). I hope (and I think I read it also somewhere) that this much was made clear to Rahul as well, when handing him the captaincy. Anyway, it SHOULD have been.

Note that the third (and actually chosen) scenario was probably the WORST out of the three for Saurav. And yet people feel that the whole thing went 'against' Rahul !

If some are arguing that the selectors should have not taken the condition 'Saurav is the captain and will be the captain as soon as he is ready to play' in mind then let me ask this. If Saurav had NOT been fined by the referee, wouldn't he be the captain for SL and subsequent series by default ? Would we still be having this debate ? He may have batted badly recently, but still does not justify exclusion from the team (and this is topic for another debate). So where is the question mark on his captaincy ?

Btw, Kapil also mentions in the same article : Asked about the team'’s slide down the performance chart, Kapil said, “the media wrote so highly about the team last year, they hailed (John) Wright. Tshey should now explain, if he was a good coach why was he sacked? - so he still thinks John Wright was 'sacked' ?? I would like to see any article, report, interview mention his 'sacking'. As far as I know, he had given his ultimatum for almost a year (or atleast a long period).

Why do I feel I will soon be hearing more from Kapil on this issue, on the lines of 'What I meant to say was actually...'

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Pot, Kettle, black..etc. etc.

Waqar Younis says: but the cricketers must realise that once he has done the part and is no longer good enough, he must give the youngsters a chance. and also But I don't see this happening in the Indian side, they have scored 10,000 runs but is it good enough?

Now, let me dig into archives and try to search something important. Hold on, you'll know when I get it.

Oh ok, I'm trying to find out if Waqar has actually retired. No, seriously...I dont joke ! I remember the PCB actually hosting an 'honour' ceremony last year(?) for him and Wasim. Just to give them, you know, a gentle reminder that they are, from now on, being officially considered as 'retired'. Being tired of waiting for the announcement which Wasim grudgingly did post the WC04 fiasco, and Waqar openly denied considering.

What more can I comment on this.

Maybe he is the Kapil Dev of Pakistan ?

Friday, August 19, 2005

Calm before the storm ?

Yes, these are relatively calm days in world cricket. Probably indication of the thunderous storm that lies in store for the cricket fans around the world with the start of the Indian-Zimbabwe test series.

Ok, I'm kidding. I mean when the action resumes in the Ashes :-)

SO, meanwhile, here are some snippets of update.

A lot has been said about Zimbabwe's poor form and the need for revoking their test status. But here is some words of sanity from probably the most intelligent cricket captain in business today **"It took us so long to win a Test ourselves, and I don't feel qualified to make a statement on their cricket"
Stephen Fleming remembers New Zealand cricket's dark ages when asked to comment on the current Zimbabwe side**

I personally think Zim has been a good team, and now struggling due to various internal reasons. Its not fair to over-criticize them or talk of taking away their match status. Also, Zim case is a bit different from B'desh. They are in the middle of a slump, after having reached decent levels in test cricket. And its not correct to strip the test status of a side as a punishment for slump, whatever may be the reasons for that low period. Their current results are almost as bad as what some of the better test playing nations had during their bad periods. Its just that there is a 'visible' reason in Zim, that of the departure of their top players, that we are reacting more. As for the cheap runs that likes of Vettori (and Hayden with that triple ton) are accumulating against them, I think that has existed in all generations. All generations of cricketers have had their share of Zimbabawes and Bangladeshes to get some cheap runs. Some of those countries went on to becomes big names later on, but that should not hide the fact.

Harsha Bhogle here talks about the team combination that India should have, and makes it sound so simple ! He puts in one paragraph, what we struggle to articulate over pages ! **Ideally a team would like to play five batsmen, a wicket keeper, an all-rounder and four bowlers. More specifically, three of those should be seam bowlers, it would help if the all-rounder can too and one of the five batsmen should be a decent slow bowler.**

He's also hopeful that this is a good team selected for the ODIs and should serve India well **In the end though, the rules are the same for both sides. It is the spark that will count and this team has a better chance than some others in recent times. Or so it seems!** - I personally don't want to be that hopeful. I do agree that more or less, this is the team we all hoped for (give or take an in-form Zaheer) but I'm not so sure about the kind of form some of these players are in. For example, Sehwag has been failing at the top for a long time. He averages 27 in his last 25 innings, and around 32 in his career. If you take away the odd centuries he scores once in every 10-12 innings, it would be much worse. Its not good enough to have an ODI opener who gives you a century in every 12 games, and around 20-25 runs in rest of the games. Today ODI opening is a 'privileged' position, and therefore candidates need to be judged (as compared to other batting positions) with a certain weightage against them.

Elsewhere Ganguly says that this is the best possible team picked, and not necessarily with World Cup in mind. What he is trying to say is that Kumble and Laxman have been dropped on performance basis, and not because some feel that they are too old to carry-on till the World Cup. Perfect response, and this is how it should be. If Kumble and Laxman start performing exceptionally well in test matches, and are in prime form around the World Cup, would we ignore them just because of age ?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Not enough fun ?

It seems that the Ashes series is not entertaining enough for some folks. Having this for the next two games also might ?

Quotes and Thoughts

"It's not about how you look, it's about how many runs you score" - Saurav Ganguly about his perceived weakness against short bowling. And I totally agree. Now lets just get some runs going.

"I worked really hard but I thought I'd cocked it up at the end." Ricky Ponting on his dismissal and "It was a big game in the series and it was a big result for us after being out-played in the first few days." on being happy with getting the draw in third test. Surprisingly candid for an aussie captain. A Waugh veteran would have said 'we were in the hunt till about 10 overs to go, with me and Shane batting well..' ! He also said that a win was not likely (about his thoughts at the start of the day). Somehow, I'm not convinced :-)

"It's been very nerve-wracking - I'm not sure if I can keep going through this sort of thing." - Lee on the tense batting periods he had to undergo in the two tests. Totally agree with him. Too much for a tailender, and too well performed so far.

Lee and McGrath also said, in a BBC interview, that the instruction sent to them just before the last over (via water bearer Stuart McGill) was 'to bat two feet out of the crease to negate scope of LBW'. That was one very smart move. It shows how deep the Aussie thinking and planning goes. They must have tuned it further after last match where they fell just 3 runs short. And more importantly, this was an instruction sent to number 9 and 10 against one of the most fearsome bowlers in business today ! Lee did say that he batted just one feet outside, and tried to manage :-)

"But I've been working hard (on my batting) and I've been on at Ricky to move me up the order." - Lee on his batting. Also McGrath told BBC that he's telling Ricky that he's wasted at number 11, especially since he not been dismissed so far in this series ! Nice bit of fun there, by the tailenders. Surely trying to calm their own nerves. But well batted. These two matches, from Aus point of view, have been all about Shane Warne and the tail. And some Ricky Ponting toppings :-)

For England its been Freddie again. He's not yet a strike bowler, wont 'run through' good sides yet. But he's an aggressive support act. At Lords it was for Harmison, at Edgbaston it was shared, at Old Trafford it was Simon Jones. Time for Hoggard to stand up ?

Meanwhile, Aussies have a selection dilemma. Surely Gillespie would go out, but do they bring in Kasper or Tait. I think, having drawn this game, they would be in a position to take the more risky approach of blooding Tait than going safe with Kasper. Unless they think Trent Bridge surface is going to help reverse swing as much as Old Trafford. McGrath hinted that they need to tackle that issue (of getting the ball to reverse)

And Hayden ? I think they may not yet drop him, backing him to turn the corner like Ponting. The difference is, Ponting was in flow even at Edgbaston, and I'm not sure how fluent Hayden has been in any of his outings (not having seen any live action).

Thankfully there is an intermission in the drama. In the context of this series, 10 days is long time for dramatic changes. Maybe Flintoff will step of one of those balls one morning ;-)

Monday, August 15, 2005

More about the end of 'it all' you know

Is this the first time this great Aus team is loosing a match, a series ? Is this the first time they are looking hopelessly out-thought (yet fighting, as any trained fighter would) in the field. Is this the first time they are being outplayed ? Yes..right, its all happened in India. And then it was even worse. Their bastmen, all bar one, were totally trampled upon by the Indian spinners. Their top bowlers, the ones still going strong (more than their normal self) here in this series were then rendered useless.

Yet, surprisingly, I did not hear a word about end of any era, the fall of the empire !

The English mindset

The BBC commentators during the post match discussion, while talking of the momentum going England's way, with English bowlers faring better than Aussie, said that they think, at this point, given a chance, Ricky Ponting would be happy to walk away with a 2-2 result in the series ! They just don't get it. This just shows what the English themselves would have been ready to accept, given the same situation and choice.

This Australian team does not indulge in regulation bravado when they say they think they can win all the games. Glen McGrath, in his post match comments, said sure, he has revised his final verdict from 5-0 to 3-1 ! And I think he means it.

However much I (and many others) may dislike this Aussie team for their arrogance (especially off the field, and in media outings) I have to conceded that they have this 'playing to win' mentality etched in their minds.

And its this mentality because of which, over a 12 day period when Eng played better cricket than them (only slightly, though) they could still have had a series hanging at 2-0 instead of 1-1! It was only one cricketing shot away. That's how close they came while playing 'bad cricket' ! And somewhere deep down, atleast the old Waugh armymen of this team would be moving beyond this past week with a feeling of 'missed opportunity' rather than the 'great escape' which most of us, in their shoes, would have felt.

I wrote before this series that, if Eng play well, it would be a series of tough cricket, but the Aussies are better even at fighting and gritting than anyone else. These past 2 weeks they just proven that.

So, the English should be well aware, because the Aussie batting is bound to click decently atleast once, and soon. And when it does, it will not let English fight their way back.

Michael Vaughan and his bunch should avoid listening to the hype about them having the momentum (although I have a feeling some members in this team are as gritty as the Aussies when it comes to a tough battle). Their bowlers need to keep bowling their hearts out, spell after spell. And oh yes, he needs to keep winning those tosses...or maybe Ponting needs to keep electing wrongly ;-)

What end ?

Peter Roebuck says that the end of this Aussie team is near. I say, what end ?

He and one half of the cricketing world (including more than half of Eng) think that whatever happens now in the series, we've already seen enough to know that this Aussie team is going down. And why ? Because they are 'aging' !

Interesting, this 'aging' theme. So who are the aging cricketers in the team ? McGrath, Warne, Gilchrist, Hayden. We know what the first two can do, are doing. The only team going down due to them is the Eng team! Gilchrist, so far not firing in the series, has been in good touch recently, and I doubt if a single cricket fan/analyst in the world would still choose anyone besides him for the first choice wkt-keeper of a world 11. Hayden is probably struggling for a long time, and time will decide if he remains a permanent member of this side or not. He has been there before, and may still have enough juice in him to come back strongly.

Anyway, I don't think Hayden's bad form (even retirement) means the Aussie team is going down. And I am no Aussie fan, just want to bring some perspective here.

what's happening is that their batsmen are facing a strong bowling attack for the first time(ever!!). They are reacting as they ever would have, in their 10 year domination period. Its unfortunate for the rest of the cricketing world that we never got to see this earlier. That's all. They still are the same team as they were before this series. Now we just get to know how close England has come in this time duration.

I have no doubts that they will go on thrashing the world after Ashes. And maybe Eng will do the same.

Oh, and yes, Gillespie is also out of form. Does that mean his career is over. What nonsense, he's just 30 ! One bad series, and we predict end-of-reign for top cricketers, top teams ?

And by the way, the series is not over yet, I think.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Final observations

And here are some key observations from the final match :

1) India has a big problem in their batting order. Some of it is actually a challenge of multiple choices, and some of no choices at all. But anyway, I believe it is here that Chappel should exercise the much publicized flexibility more often. E.g. kaif could have come above Yuv when the need of the hour was consolidation. Or Dhoni/Pathan could have come in place of Kaif where need was few quick runs before arrival of Murali. I think THIS is where India lost the game

2) Say bye bye to Kumble in ODIs. There is no doubt that he will still come up with some good performances, against opposition like WI who don't know much about him. But he just doesn't make the cut against top teams, and that's what matters. He's going to win matches which India should anyway win without him (although they sometimes don't)

3) Playing seven batsmen is still the best strategy. And by 7 batsmen I mean 7 players who can, on their good day, win the match with their batting. And on their bad day, they should be coached to, apply themselves to still make a contribution.

4) This means making Sachin, Sehwag, Yuvraj etc practice more often with their bowling. Or making Pathan a better batsman. Whatever it takes, but there have to be 7 matchwinning batsmen. And ofcourse there are these arguments that what 6 can't do, seven cant either. But there is not proof of that. And anyway, if you extend that argument it can read as 'what 5 batsmen cant do, 6th cant'. And you keep reducing the number ! Because there is no rule book saying how many batsmen are good enough. But if you look at the top teams of the world, they follow this seven batsmen theory, and get good results.

5) Make the bowlers understand that when they are in good rhythm, nothing justifies them getting mauled in a match, in the middle of a spell of good performances. They can go wicketless, but absolutely nothing justifies going for runs.

The dissection

On the face of it, India's loss to SL in the final match of the Indian Oil Cup was purely strategic. The run chase was on the right track till the 35th over. The plan was well made, although a bit tight. It required Dhoni to click and give atleast 30-40 quick runs. That was an absolute must. This is why I called the plan tight. Had we been playing 7 batsmen, it would have been '1 of these 2 had to click'. Not that I am blaming Dravid for going with 6 batsmen. We hardly had anyone worth a crucial 7th place for the finals of a high pressure tournament.

But that's just the problem in yesterday's match. India's biggest problem last season, and by the look of it, in this season so far, has been of consistency. Consider this : Chaminda Vaas is in good nick. What do you expect of such a bowler in good rhythm in last outing ? Be economical, on the dot, take a few wkts if possible. And that's what he delivered. Now, who in the Indian team was in good rhythm as a bowler. Was it Pathan ? Or Bhajji ? Or Nehra ? Or Khan (!) ? Or Kumble ? They all have been good in a match, or two matches, or three. But not consistently throughout. And not only have they not been able to not break through in the other matches, they've been expensive as well. Now that's not good form.

And the same goes for the batsmen. Barring Rahul Dravid, who do you call in good form ? Although all of them came good in atleast one match ! In the ones they failed, they didn't even appear to be trying hard enough. That's inconsistency. When a batsmen is in form, he should make his failures also contribute something to the team cause.

So, the deeper problem is of basics. Remember during WC04 days it was the motto of Indian team management that each key player of the team should be contributing in atleast 2 aspects. It lead to strong decisions like leaving out Laxman over Mongia, making Dravid keep wickets etc. Now compare it with today's scenario. Players are not doing justice to even their 'first talent', leave aside the second contribution. And that's where, I believe, Chappel's biggest challenge lies. Should he make Dhoni focus on his batting aspects, or first he should sort out his 'keeping. Should he make an allrounder out of Pathan or first a good bowler ? Should he ask Yuv, Sehwag to focus more on improving their bowling or first sort out the batting.

It may seem complicated looking at it this way. But I think some of the answers are simple. Get the players to focus more on their prime job (Dhoni's is to 'keep) and the second would, if they have that additional talent, fall in place. If they don't, then anyway Chappel or anyone else cannot build it in them at this level.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

WIndies come to the party

So, when Freddie was single handedly raising the status of his team, WI did that through, as it seems, more regular method of planning. Chanderpaul opened the innings, something which he should have done from match 1. He anyway faced the opening bowlers in almost all matches !

And the pitch at Colombo seems more genial, atleast not much assistance to spin. Does seem to have more runs in it. I hope Indian team have noticed that. And I hope the lessons learnt from Dambulla do not translate to non-suitable actions here ! Ind should still have atleast 3 seamers (and 1 spinner if playing with 4 bowlers only). But more importantly, they should revise the mode in which they approach their innings, especially if batting first. This pitch may not require the same caution in the opening spell. I myself was thinking that maybe moving Sehwag down the order can be one option. But on this pitch, maybe not.

And before this match, almost everyone was taking it for granted that WI will not win any matches. That Ind facing SL in finals is a given fact. This includes all players, coaches, critics, analysts, bloggers etc ! No-one realised that WI are really bowling well, and all they need is to get their batting act together, that too just slightly. Which they did. And its not going to be easy for India as well, especially if chasing. Because I don't believe this WI side has enough batting to chase a decent total.

Anyway, all this means that tomorrow is an interesting day of cricket. For Indian fans as well as any fan of good cricket. I would be torn between following Eng and Indian progress.

As I write this, Eng are one step away from victory at stumps. Aus surely have shown signs of nerves in tough situations. Lets see how Eng can use this to their advantage in the rest of the series.

First things first

Yes, WI defeated SL, so that means more trouble for India in the Indian Oil cup. But first, about the birth of a champion. Andrew Flintoff is his name. I've always known that if Eng has to defeat Aus this summer (and they haven't actually done it as I write this, but are close enough) then he would have to come to party. In so many of the crucial matches that this Eng team has won in the past, he has chipped in with crucial burst with the bat, or with the ball, or both. Strategically he's like Gilchrist with the bat and also with the ball, independently. Ofcourse he's not as good a batsman as Gilchrist. Not yet atleast. But the rate at which he is maturing, I can easily imagine him getting there. This series is going to be very important in his career growth.

I must say that I've never seen Botham in his prime, but I would be surprised if it felt any different that watching this modern champion. Lets hope he continues to develope this way. And as for Eng, for all the chances lost in this match (and earlier at Lords) all that would matter is the result. And if they win this one for their fans, then no-one would remember what ugly acts Vaughan did with the bat, or how Strauss was playing Warne like a schoolboy.

They would remember Bell though. And Thorpe. And what this series could have been if they had planned it well. Its almost like the Indian victories. Sheer talent and effort of the 15-16 members of the squad. No help from outside.

And then there is Giles. However much we may dislike him as a bowler, he has his place in the team. He needs runs to play with, and he got those in this match. And we know the result. He's especially effective against aggressive batsmen like this bunch of Aussies (who are also not technically the greatest against spin).

And finally about the Aussie batsmen...well I always felt that they haven't been tested in tight chases enough (not their problem, they win most of the matches without the need for tight chase), but still knowing how this Aussie team works, they have their problems there. I get a feeling that almost the entire team is trying to do 'a Gilchrist' each time they are walking out to bat. They all want to have that 'zone of glory' where they are hitting their way to success. That's not how test cricket works. And that's not how successful batsmen in test cricket reach their status. Gilchrist is able to do that 'because' there are others in the team to keep their head when he deliberately goes about loosing his.

I wonder if Aussies would realize that. They still should be the favorites to win the series, despite loosing this match (if they do) if only because Eng has more problems than they have.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

In hindsight

Ok, first without hindsight. What did India do wrong going into the game. Nothing. The combination was almost right. All bowlers, except Zaheer, looked in decent rhythm. So Balaji took his place. Ganguly came in for Yuv, quite ok, seemed to be an automatic solution for opening problems. Laxman in place of Rao, not much to choose, not knowing Laxman's current form. And not choosing Kumble again, well the three seamers seemed to be doing the job well, so ?

Now, with hindsight, what could have been different ? This is easy, Ganguly could have gone on for a few more overs, since he was accelerating. Got India those additional 20-30 runs (well, who knows if Pathan would have got the chance to plunder, in that case), Dhoni could have learnt from his mistakes and stayed at the wicket, Dravid could have got an frontline pacer to break Jayawardane - Chandana partnership. Sure, lots of these in hindsight, but nothing which should have been different at the start of the game.

One thing we do know for sure is the terrible form of their part-timers. Ganguly should not be judged too much in his first match, but Sehwag and Raina seem to be under-confident. Sehwag in particular is missing the simple trick of bowling tight, something that was his specialty until last season. India seems to be taking a big risk with the fifth bowler, without extra fall-back options of Sachin, Yuv, Mongia. And the risk multiplies in case one of the frontline bowlers has an off day (like Harbhajan had, surely that's normal. Do we know Kumble to be a miracle worker, and that too against SL ?)

So, what did we learn from today (if this was another experiment). Again, not much. Maybe that Dhoni still has a long way to go before he secures his place in the ODI side (both in batting and keeping).

Maybe Jayawardane played too well. Maybe we don't panic, and continue building.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Greg's notes

A sneak peek at Greg Chappel's personal notes after match 2 :

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Notes to self

Indian Oil Cup : Dambulla, Sri Lanka : 31st July 2005

1) No bowling to Suresh in future. Dude cannot bowl, need to judge him on pure batting potential

2) Tell Mahindra that he is the 'keeper batsman of the side. No-one's better than Rahul if we wanted a batsman 'keeper. So focus on 'keeping as the primary skill.

3) Tell poor Ashish to cheerfully greet the umpires and match referee before the start of each game. What else can he do ?

4) Tell Virendra to try and go out there and 'play like a test match' since he seems to be more successful in test matches, despite scoring at one-day strike rate !

5) Suresh was nervous and tentative in batting. Need to chat with him, and also work on his backfoot game, especially short stuff.

6) Meanwhile, keep eyes open for future batting prospects for India, the search may not yet be over

7) Tell Yuvraj to go 'chill out'. This was a bowling attack tailor made for his liking. There's something really messed up with his mind it seems. Need to talk to him.

8) ...ummm..after he returns from Mumbai from his 'People for Ethical Treatment of Celebrities' Social Event on Tuesday

9) Remember to nominate Rahul for Nobel Prize towards the end of the year. Note for logbook.

10) Talk to Mahendra. Check if the dude has heard about 'backfoot'

11) Talk to Anil, remind him how great a human being he is, and he is doing great sacrifice for humanity...uhh...Indian cricket team.

12) Tell mother to ask Ian that he should refrain from criticising me too much during his commentary. After all, it reflects poorly on our family. Promise to make it up to him for his LPs that I lost during summer camp in '63.

13) (looking left and right)...hide these notes from media.

Another 'Referee verdict' for India

"Nehra pleaded guilty to the charge of celebrating the dismissal before the umpire had made his decision and of not turning around and appealing to the umpire," the ICC said in a statement forwarded by Sri Lanka Cricket on Monday. This in rediff . And he was fined for excessive appealing ! Aren't cricket rules wonderful. Especially the 'new' ones.

What I would like to see is 'appealing frequency' of each and every bowler in the past 10 ODIs of all countries to see who all exceeded this limit. And how many were punished. I am not intending here that this is again a consipiracy against India (which is topic of debate for some other time), but surely there is inconsistency. And that too, in a matter which could easily have been resolved with clear set of directives, and strict instructions to match referees to impose the rules in ALL conditions. Not leaving much on their judgement.