Indian Cricket needs to transform for good

The Indian cricket has always been revolving around the batsmen and their stardom! Barring one Kapil Dev or Anil Kumble, it was always about those flat pitch heroes and tigers at home who would demolish any bowling attack in the world for sixes and fours. The crowd would roar at 200 decibels when Tendulkars and Sehwags hit fours and sixes but mostly would give an indifferent applause when a fast bowler takes a wicket after 15 or 20 overs of toiling. It’s a fact and it’s unfortunately part of our culture.

Unfortunately, the ‘celebrated’ batting lineup would cease to exist in an year or so as our heroes prepare to retire soon. This would definitely leave a huge void for a team that’s so much dependent on batsmen. Unfortunately the upcoming heroes are not even 50% as competent as our current batting heroes, nor they have the temperament to play longer versions of the game. This makes me think that, it’s about time we recognized our bowling unit and upcoming fast bowlers and changed the composition of the team to favor bowlers and batsmen equally.

After the Kapil Dev and Javagal Srinath eras, we were fortunate to identify 5-6 good quality fast bowlers in the past six to eight years. Unfortunately, since we had to help our batsmen (and even Anil Kumble) for home matches, we ended up making dead pitches forever until our pace bowlers consistently developed injuries. Their plight and cry were never heard nor they were recognized like the way batsmen were felicitated. And the result was, many careers were cut short and/or ended with mediocre career statistics whereas the flat pitch heroes kept on evolving.

Change the system

I could think of the following game changers if we have to sustain for long term as a good cricketing nation.

  1. Convert half our pitches to super fast bowling tracks
  2. Play more away matches with countries like South Africa, England and Australia than the usual Sri Lanka
  3. Change the composition of the test team to 5 batsmen, 1 WK batsman, 5 bowlers
  4. Reassure and develop fast bowlers and fast bowling allrounders

3rd one has to be a very strong decision and that is the only way we can avoid injuries and shame to our bowling unit. Based on the pitch requirements it can be either 4 fast bowlers and 1 spinner or 3 pacemen and 2 spinners. However, this can work very well ONLY if we have a fast bowling all rounder.

Why a fast bowling all rounder is important?

If you look around all top performing international cricket team, they always had a fast bowling all rounder such as Jacques Kallis, Shane Watson, Abdul Razaq, Dwyane Bravo, Angelo Mathews etc. All these teams had such all rounders in the past as well. India, barring Kapil Dev or Mohinder Amarnath, didn’t quite have any such top performing all rounders. All that we get to see is mediocre batsmen with no technics but could turn their arms a bit to do crappy spin bowling. The fact is that unless you find somebody in that critical #7 position, you are always going to pick 7 batsmen (including wicket keeper batsman) and four bowlers thereby having to fill the gap of the fifth bowler with part-timers.

How good fast bowlers evolve?

Good quality fast bowlers and fast bowling all-rounders can only be evolved if you have the pitch infrastructure to suit the same. This will also help good batsmen as they try to negotiate fiery bouncers and genuine fast bowling thereby making them successful abroad as well.

In short…

It’s all about the pitch infrastructure now! If the authorities have the guts to do something about it, we can be a great cricketing team who can perform consistently better than even Australia under any given conditions. We need a balanced team that give equal opportunities for batsmen, pacemen, spinners and the wicket keeper. If not, Rainas and Gambhirs will continue to thrive and become major heroes at home! There’s no dearth of money here with the authorities, it just needs one bold step!

Australia runs over South Africa

Just a little post to mention how well the Australians came back strongly to win the test series in South Africa sweetly avenging their home series loss a couple of months ago.

The big difference between the two sides has been Mitchel Johnson who ran in with all his energey ball after ball and over after over to stun the South Africans with some exceptional fast bowling. Ponting’s captaincy was superb as well after he was hit out at by the Australian media and ex-cricketers recently. They also found a good bowling combination with spinners and part timers doing a good job.

If Brett Lee comes back to this side, Australians will be able to reign their number one position for some more time though South Africa will keep challenging them once they figure out what was missing this time!

PS:- The South African cricket seems to be a in a little bit political mess recently with coach Mickey Arthur and captain Graeme Smith having differences with Mike Procter, the new Convener of Selectors

New Zealand series follow up

A couple of weeks ago I had written about how Indian batsmen may suffer in New Zealand. Fortunately for the Indians, the Kiwis opted to prepare flat pitches for all ODIs except for the last one in Auckland.

I might sound like a negative character here. To be frank, I didn’t enjoy this series at all. Hard-hitting flat-pitch bullies from India proved that they are the best (?) in this world on small grounds and flat pitches in NZ. Some mediocre bowling added spice to their slaughter as well.

I do not know why in the last several years almost all the cricketing nations are preparing flat pitches when playing against India. Money involved could be the main factor! That is when the whole 50 overs a side is played and 300+ runs scored, fans will be happy and what suffers is Indian cricket!

While I am writing this India were all out for 150 in the last ODI. I am sure the case would have been the same had they prepared similar pitches in other matches as well.

Well, as long as flat pitches are there let the likes of Rainas and Gambhirs rule. On fast bouncy pitches they are nothing but rabbits in the headlights of a car! Once Sachin Tendulkar is out of this side, I am sure people will dearly miss somebody like Rahul Dravid, who probably was the only adaptable batsman of the recent times.

It would be interesting to see what kind of wickets will be made for the test series 🙂

The REAL Test Cricket only in Australia, South Africa and England?

If you check the difference between the ongoing Australia-South Africa test match and the Pakistan-Sri Lanka one (or West Indies-England) you will understand one thing. One is real test cricket where as the other two are comedy cricket choreographed for the respective flat-pitch heroes in those countries.

Quality of pitches

It is really pathetic that countries like Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and now West Indies as well are making one sided pitches that suit only the batsmen. Of course, majority of the fans do like big scores but that doesn’t mean that a 5 day match can accomodate only two innings of 600+ runs per innings. The first two tests in West Indies during the past two weeks were pathetic. Even worse was the Karachi encounter of the Sri Lankans last week where Younis Khan became a greater hero. The batting records of the current leading test batsmen are actually farce compared to the greats like Sunil Gavaskar, Greg Chappel or Garry Sobbers. At the moment mostly people get to play in flatter tracks and hence a realistic comparison based on batting average or records is not really worth that effort.

South Africa – Australia Series

The first test match between the touring kangaroos and proteas is looking really awesome where fortunes changed every day. The commitment of these two countries towards test matches is amazing and the battle between them makes me skip every other stupid match around. Only in England I can see the same level of interest which basically means that only Australia, England and South Africa are really serious about test cricket where as other countries are busy selling Twenty 20 cricket or creating a generation of flat pitch bullies.

I wish they spent 10% of the money saved from IPL etc to create 4 or 5 test quality sporting pitches!

Controversy over Test Ground, Stanford and the IPL lord…

The past few days’ good cricketing action between Australia & New Zealand and West Indies & England have been offset by some controversies. At first it was with the Antigua test ground, then cases of fraud against the Mr. Allen Stanford – the billionaire behind the Stanford 20-20 – and finally the number of FIRs (First Investigation Report) filed against the IPL master brain, Mr. Lalit Modi.

Antigua Test Ground

Antigua was in news twice this week and both for not-so-good reasons. The second test between West Indies and England was abandoned after just 10 deliveries the reason was a sandpit ground which apparently put bowlers at risk. It was pathetic to see how the sand was being showelled out by bowlers’ run up. Finally the captains and umpired called it quits and an enquiry has been ordered into this controversy putting the WICB in huge embarrassment.

Sir. Vivian Richards was of the opinion that the WICB should do justice to the grounds named after him by at least maintaining reasonable quality there in. I am sure the past heroes of the game should not loose their faces due to the current pathetic conditions of their homegrounds.

Allen Stanford admits errors

Another Antiguan, Mr. Stanford – the brain behind the lucrative Twenty 20 initiative in the West Indies – has been charged with multiple frauds related to his company’s insider and illegal activities while listed in the US markets. Stanford has been charged with the way he manipulated the past and present numbers of his listed entity thereby cheating the investors. God alone knows what’s awaiting him now! Antigua, the beautiful island, into shame once again!

Modi bowled by allegations

A similar rich administrator, Mr. Lalit Modi of Indian Premier League has been charged with misappropriation of funds and illegal ways by which he won the RCA (Rajasthan Cricket Association) president role in 2005. As it looks, the change in state politics has affected Modi’s fortunes as his dissidents (apparently jealous of Modi’s IPL stature) and opponents are trying to corner him. Mr.Modi is alleging foul play and has threatened to take all IPL 2 home matches of Rajasthan Royals out of Jaipur. With the RCA elections around the corner and most importantly with IPL 2 gaining momentum, even those who are opposing Lalit Modi can gain a lot of popularity! Nice plot!!

(PS: I could not write about the wonderful 20-20 match between Australia and New Zealand last week. It was the 20-20 at its best with some exceptional hitting, ground fielding and controlled spin bowling)

A Historic Series Win for South Africa in Australia

It was just amazing to see the way the South African bowlers ran through the deep down under Australia to win the boxing day match at Melbourne and hence the series. With just one test remaining in Sydney next week, I would not be surprised if the South Africans go for the kill and win the series 3-0. This would also mean that South Africa can be the #1 team on the ICC rank table soon.

Everything is right about S.Africa

The only missing factor in this South African test side was Shaun Pollock who was magnificently replaced by Dale Steyn. The aggressive Smith lead from the front even in fourth innings’ and youngsters Duminy and De Villiers came in too good both with bat and exceptional fielding. And the rejuvenated team even inspired Jack Kallis as he was an unnaturally aggressive player through out this series. So bowling, batting (despite missing Prince) and fielding was exceptional and the team spirit (just like the current Indian test side) without too many old faces out there outplayed the oldies like Hayden, Symonds and an injured Lee.

What is going wrong with Australia?

Right from the top order, with Hayden failing, Australia is having troubles. Michael Clark played a couple of good knocks but the ever-reliable Mike Hussey was not in good form and that was the main difference. To make things worse, Australia recalled Symonds who looked overweight and out of touch. Looks like the Australians have not fixed their main problem for the Sydney test team selection as well except for sitting out Lee and Symonds. They really need to get rid of Hayden who is no teenager anymore!

Difference between India’s & South Africa’s outings down under

India could not win the series down under earlier this year. The main difference was captaincy. Anil Kumble may have been a match winner for years for India but he was not aggressive enough in Australia this year. This is the era of aggressive test captains (Ponting, Smith, Pietersen, Dhoni etc) and hence, if not for Kumble as the captain, I thought India could have won the series despite the controversies

Going forward, I strongly believe that Australia’s dominance is over and the top four test teams Australia, South Africa, India and England may now compete each other for the top spot.

Once again Kudos to Proteas!