Australia – New Zealand test series – 1st Test Review

We had an exceptional test match at the Gabba, Brisbane that highlighted the bowling performances mainly, by both the teams. Barring Michael Clarke and Simon Katich in the first and second innings respectively there were not any great batting performances. Good to see that Michael Clarke is getting more and more ready to take over the reigns where as the always sidelined and soft spoken Katich is suddenly everything of Australia’s top order with Hayden and Ponting miseries continuing.

New Zealand’s Lazy approach after initial spurt

Time and again this has happened. I thought, New Zeland got out of this mode after Vettori started showing more and more fighting spirit and pouring in more inspiration. But none of the New Zealand batsmen showed the intend to stay longer and infact, they lost the match on second day itself. After restricting Australia to a mere 214 in the first innings, they should have taken a vital 40-50 runs lead in the first innings. Had the game spread into the whole of 4th day, things could have been different.

Pace Bowling…

This is the first time I am seeing the teenager Kiwi, Thimothy Southee bowling! In fact, after seeing him ripping through Aussies’ top order in the first innings, I thought a new star is born for NZ. Anyways, Chris Martin is getting a little older. The Martin-Southee-O’Brien pace combo looks good though the main difference between the New Zealand pace team and other test playing nations pace battery is that NZ doesn’t have a quality left hand pace bowler. Nevertheless, this is one of their finest attacks in years.

I guess we are talking too much about the NZ bowling here. Australian bowling attack seems to have regrouped very well after they fell apart in the dead pitches of India.

Hayden and Ponting

Both these old stalwarts failed miserably again. Ponting is also finding it difficult to cope with his low over-rates yet again. According to me the main problem here are two:

1. Not having a quality spin bowler who could bowl 20 or 25 overs in two or three spells every day. The all-pace attack usually consumes more time.
2. Too many left-right hand combinations in the opposition team.

It is high time the Australian think tank did something about this issue. This can also prove to be bad for the opposition team as their momentum is sometimes lost due to Ponting overdoing stuff on the field.

Despite the victory, the Australian team is not the same again and I am predicting that their downside is yet to be seen (along side the recession that the world is witnessing right now)

Tail Piece: The media seems to be too much obsessed with what Andrew Symonds is doing on a daily basis. I guess, it’s time to leave the talented all rounder alone so that he gets back on track as early as possible.

Not A Single Buck-Worth-Lewis Rule plays spoil sport again!

India has just clinched the home ODI series against England after taking an unassailable 4-0 lead in the 7 match ODI series. The Indian team did an exceptional job so far in the ‘friendly and used to’ pitch conditions. What’s exciting to see is the new energy, vibe and aggression in the Dhoni-led Indian team. And kudos to Garry Kirsten who along with Dhoni seems to be the luckiest pair in years.

The England team on the other hand, has been still getting used to the Indian conditions and before they realized whatever happened the series was out of their hands. To be fair on England, they have been steadily improving – though not at a great pace – in the past two-three games.

What really marred England’s hopes was the controversial Duckworth-Lewis method of calculating the target in the case of a cut-short game. It’s really worth investing some time to see whether this 12 year old method is good enough to cover all scenarios of an interrupted game.

What happend in Kanpur?

The early morning smoggy conditions in Kanpur delayed the start of the game. It’s known to the locals (and may be even to the Indian umpire) that it gets darker in the evening, even as early as 4:30. If the game was delayed by 45 minutes in the morning itself, and likely to have an early closure by 45 minutes or so, why didn’t they go for a 40 over match? Giving the advantage all of a sudden to the team batting second was really unfair. And as Ravi Shastri mentioned in the post match review, why can’t the use the flood lights and complete the remaining 9 or 10 overs?

Bangalore

It was clear from the beginning that it was a rainy day. The rain interrupted the match a couple of times and Indian scored 166 in 22 overs. And the target for England was 198! Now that’s RIDICULOUS by whichever rules. I mean, how can they ask somebody to score 20% more runs than actually required to win a match, just because some stupid rule is applied?

The Duckworth-Lewis system. Is it really worth?

The D/L method was introduced in 1996-97 and it was the pet project of two undergraduate students. For the past 12 years it has created several controversies and raised many questions already. Moreover, since the rule has been introduced the one-day game rules have changed several times with introductions like power play, ball change after 34th over and also too many day and night matches. If ICC can’t come up with a better alternative, why can’t they even scrap the rule and if possible do a re-match else declare the game as draw?

If you are interested, please take a look at the Online Duckworth-Lewis Calculator.

My sympathies are still with the England team, though Indians played better cricket! However it’s high time the authorities looked into the laws and rules under dispute.

Selection Controversy & Leak out of confidential BCCI matters

Mahendra Singh Dhoni is in spotlight for a not so good reason for the first time! Apparently the Indian skipper is not happy with the selection of Irfan Pathan, at the cost of R.P. Singh, for the reminder of India-England ODI series.

Now, the key thing here is that neither Dhoni nor the BCCI spokesperson has talked about it! The media has been talking about this ‘FLASH NEWS’ continuously and even made statements that Dhoni is willing to relinquish his captaincy. Dhoni later clarified that he’s not commented anything to the public or media and that slowed down our stupid TV channels’ energy levels for good.

Scenario 1

Supposing that Dhoni has taken a stand against the dropping of R.P.Singh, I would think that he’s living in fool’s paradise. It’s not even a year since he got the most prestigious and responsible role in Indian cricket. He has really proved his worth and continuously improving as well. At this point of time, if he wants to flex his muscles, he may become nobody in no time. Also, just in case he has been speaking to the media on this topic, it is again bad for the Indian team and Dhoni himself.

Scenario 2

If Dhoni fought in the selection committee meeting with his playing eleven in mind, but played it diplomatically (which I think he would have done), somebody else within the BCCI selection panel or in the office is leaking out confidential news to the media. This is not the first time that confidential matters have been leaked out (They even leaked out Greg Chappel’s mail to BCCI on Ganguly matters).

If scenario 2 is the case, somebody within BCCI or in the vicinity there in is making money out of all these backdoor activities.

I thought things were getting better with the Indian cricket – both on and off the field, on the game as well as governance. It seems not everything is fine yet!

Good Bye Dada and Jumbo!

Kumble and Ganguly have called it quits! Two extremely different personalities with altogether different skills but had one thing in common between them – The never ending fighting spirit. The way they showed their spirit were different as well. Ganguly was more outspoken, aggressive and controversial where as Kumble was a typical soft spoken and diplomatic Bangalorean.


Kumble and Ganguly, along with three other stalwarts of Indian cricket formed the so-called Fab 5 that redefined Indian cricket and marched along into an era of professional cricket that showcased exceptional talent. This, according to me, was the transition phase whereby the Indian cricket rediscovered its winning ways. Before that period, barring the Prudential World Cup win in 1983, the Indian cricket was all about less agressive tactics and test cricket always had a draw oriented approach.

Anil Kumble

Anil Kumble, according to me, is well up there along with Murali and Warne as the finest spinner of modern cricket. When I say ‘finest’ it may not always mean the quality of spin but the altogether package of getting the work done! To be frank, I never enjoyed watching Kumble bowl – neither his action and run-up nor his poor athleticism and bad fielding. However, the never ending fighting spirit and patiencez is what anyone would fall for! 600 plus wickets in test cricket in twenty years is nothing but exceptional!

However, when I look back I still have the opinion that Kumble should have retired an year ago instead of taking up the captaincy. The reason was that since he took over the captaincy his bowling steadily deteriorated. Also, he was becoming something that is not ‘him’ as he put an artificial aggression around him during this period which was a major requirement for modern cricket captains. Other than this, I thought Kumble is/was as important as Sachin Tendulkar to Indian cricket though the fans almost always adore ONLY the batsmen here!

Saurav Ganguly

Whenever I think about Saurav Ganguly, I always wondered how he managed to play 100+ tests! Because, here is somebody, who was an accidental captain and more or less a One-day cricketer with limited technical abilities. But he became everything of Indian cricket, especially post 2000! There is no doubt that Saurav was a great fighter, but unless it was for his inclusion in the team as captain, there was no way he could have played 100 test matches for India – especially in a batting team comprising of Sachin, Rahul, VVS, Sehwag etc. I thought he played his role in Indian cricket extremely well, probably until the controversial exit, a couple of years back. But again, only Ganguly could have come up with the kind of resurgence – like a phoenix – that we saw in the past one year.

I would still call Saurav, one of the finest one-day cricketers and a good leader. At the same time he was a good politician and manipulator as well. He always knew what power, tactics and skills it takes to sustain the politically ruined (at least until a couple of years back) BCCI. And needless to say, he was the one who really took the fight on the opposition – including the off-field attacks. How many times has he got on to the nerves of Aussies?

Kudos to Ganguly and Kumble for whatever you have done to the World Cricket!

Question to the readers: What are the typical careers that these two could take up post their retirement?

Border Gavaskar Trophy series review – One hell of a performance by the Indians :)

For the last one and half months, cricket fans around the world got to see one of the best test series ever involving two great test playing nations. The Border – Gavaskar Series 2008 was exciting not just because the Indian won the series 2-0, but it also put an end to Australia’s dominance in World cricket. More importantly, India seems to have combined high energy, great motivation levels, team combination and the urge to perform under its new captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and coach Gary Kirsten.

Turning Points and deciding factors

According to me, the folowing were the turning points of this series that took things in India’s favour.

  • Excellent opening stands in almost all tests by Sehwag-Gambhir as well as Sehwag-Vijay combo
  • The partnership between Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh, in the drawn Bangalore test, when Australia was on top. India managed to save the first match, just like the rain hit first test in the 2003 series down under, where the draw inspired the things to come
  • Kumble sitting out in the second test at Mohali, Mahendra Singh Dhoni taking the reigns and inspiring the team to a win. Dada proved why he’s a fighter yet again! Amit Mishra, the debutant, ran through the Aussies lineup with a Fiver in the first innings. An allround bowling performance in the second innings proved too much for the Australians
  • The Delhi test will only be remembered for batting feast and Kumble’s retirement. I personally thought that he should not have played that match but gracefully retire when Dhoni showcased his leadership skills!
  • Fab 4 one last time together, in the fourth test, proved too much for the Australians after a Dhoni led team decisively beat the Australians. Ponting’s decision to continue with his part timers to escape a match ban cost him the test and the series!
  • The ‘lucky’ Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni winning all his tosses meant that there was no stopping for India. Toss is a real decider in the Indian conditions, so…

What was the difference between the sides?

Barring the injured Anil Kumble and out of form Rahul Dravid, it was really an excellent series show by Team India. India’s bowling attack was versatile and almost all the time pinging for wickets. Batsmen and all-rounders backed up each other and performed as a team. Dhoni’s leadership by example was a treat to watch and so was the spirit within. The only improvement area, perhaps, is the ground and slip fielding.

Australia on the other hand were marred by their poor team selection, especially in the bowling department. Their speedsters could not reverse swing the SG balls and their spinners were not causing any major challenge to the Indian batsmen. Australia’s major batsmen really did not click nor were they consistent. This added additional headache to the bowlers.

Ponting’s captaincy was below par as well and he even showed his personal grudge against own team mates on and off the ground.

Learnings

Phasing out the old warhorses one by one and inducting the right people at the right time is something India is doing great and it is really working (at least within India). Australia on the other hand is still struggling in the bowling department after improper succession plans once McGrath and Warne were out.

Another learning is that the Australian team right now is just like any other team and they can be beaten by anybody. They may regroup and try to attack the way they used to do, but the skills do not seem to be the same anymore.

Two stalwarts going out

And for the stalwarts – Anil Kumble and Sourav Ganguly – that are going out, I will be dedicating separate posts soon…

When do they learn to bow out gracefully?

Last week Sourav Ganguly made some controversial statements at the press complaining of bad treatment by the selectors and criticizing about the lack of planning! Yesterday, Anil Kumble, in his news paper column, lashed out at the Indian media for speculating about his retirement and shoulder injury.

These two stalwarts have certainly contributed heavily to Indian cricket in the past. Now the time has come for them to retire gracefully. Instead of calling it a day with pride, they are not able to come to terms with the fact that all their fame and steady income will be suddenly stopped now! And this is the curse of not only the Indian cricket but all other professions and careers in India as well. Even our politicians and actors just won’t quit until defeated in the poll or kicked out!

The game of Cricket is changing really fast! The focus now is shifting to packed Twenty 20 leagues and club cricket. There has been a time when the cricketers had careers lasting up to 18 or 20 years but that won’t be case any longer. Kumble and Ganguly should be happy that they could play for India for such a long time, create a few records and even captain the Indian team! What else is left to prove for them?

‘Just retire gracefully’ and ‘stop blabbering in the press!’ Remember, you are still playing for India and if you want your contributions to be remembered for ever, stop creating unwanted controversies!

PS:- If Kumble doesn’t realize yet, he was so pathetic in the first test match and hasn’t been having a good time for the past few matches as well. Another thing, the next test in the Ind-Aus series is being played at Mohali which is a fast pitch. Ideally, India should have played three pacers and a spinner there and Kumble’s presence would make the team selection for this test very interesting! I hope they don’t loose out in this match due to imbalance in bowling attack.