India’s outting in the Kiwi land…

Recently I was talking to one of my friends who happens to be a great Indian cricket fan.

Definition of Indian Cricket Fan: Somebody who enjoys batsmen under all conditions, but particularly savors flat pitches. He doesn’t care if Zaheer Khan or Javagal Srinath get trashed, break their backs and get no recognition as long as his favorite batsmen have trashed opposition bowlers on his favorite flat pitches

Now coming back to the topic. This person claimed that what we have today is the best cricket team in many years and they will trash the Kiwis. I gently reminded him that many of our recent heroes have won great matches played in the sub-continent alone. I also told him that even many of those technical correct Indian batsmen from the past did not shine in the New Zealand and over importance given to Twenty 20 cricket has actually managed to make cricketers fish brains because they always think for short term.

What we saw in the first Twenty 20 matches is exactly this short thinking problem. If you hit two or three sixes in a row, doesn’t mean that you should hit the fourth one for a six as well. Yuvraj Singh may have done it on his day but that doesn’t happen every day! Gautam Gambhir may pull bowlers mercilessly in India and Sri Lanka but some of the New Zealand wickets are slightly different. And for god’s sake, don’t blame it on conditions. The lack of confidence and patience were visible on the Indians’ faces.

If they have forgotten what had happened in the 2002-03 series, I have a tip for them. If they can – if it’s possible at all that is – try to save as many wickets as possible for the first half of the game. All your heroics can be tried later on the show. If they learn to do this, chances are they may win two or three ODIs and manage to draw the test series. If not, they may get trashed in Twenty 20 matches, ODIs as well as test matches!

And stop blaming the conditions! If you want to be the best side in the world, you should prove yourself in all conditions! Flat pitch bullies!

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!

India – England Series: What a boring test match @ Mohali!

Mohali is supposed to be the best pitch in India and it also boasts a state of the art stadium as well as support facilities. Unfortunately, all that cannot be good enough if a test match conducted there was not played for the full five days

The weather – not rain – was the culprit this time. There was not a single day of the 2nd test between India and England that has gone without a delayed start or an early stop. Essentially the match was played for only about 4 days if you count the number of overs played.

To top it all, some really negative game tactics by Mr. Dhoni led Indian team, put what could have been a decent finish into a terrible draw.

Though England conceded a 150 run lead in the first innings, the Indians wanted to play out the remaining time instead of leaving a good 60-70 overs on the last day for the Englishmen to try their luck. Instead of stepping up the gas and declaring with a set target of 325 or so, the typical Indian mindset played its tricks there. Dhoni seems to be no better than the other Indian captains, who invariably played for personal records – especially that of batsment – during possible draw matches.

Thought of the day: Instead of helping the batsment to achieve their personal milestones, why don’t the captains help their bowlers to achieve some milestones?

Chennai: December 15 2008 – A day to remember in Test Cricket

What a test match it was! I have not seen such a run chase in test matches in my whole life, that too in a Day 5 sub-continental pitch that’s damaged and causing uneven bounce. Yes, we are talking about the first test match between England and India in Chennai

As I mentioned in a previous post, Dhoni and his team at the moment looks unstoppable! Mainly due to the amount of positive energy that the captain himself brings in. And this is a super test combination despite Rahul Dravid’s failure at No.3.

Steps to a historic win!

  • Day 1: KP wins the toss and decides to bat on what looked like a super batting wicket. England puts a hundred run opening partnership in a display of controlled and patient batting. Eventually Strauss hits a century and England close day 1 at a reasonable 229/5
  • Day 2: Mat Prior takes England to 300+ and in reply the Indian top order collapses (37/3) with the debutant spinner Swann striking twice. England does exremely well to restrict India to 155/6
  • Day 3: Another day that belonged to England again! They get India all out for 241 taking a 75 runs lead. England puts another strong display in the second innings by finishing 172/3. Strauss again was the man!
  • Day 4: England progresses till lunch but collapses from 257/4 to 311/9 in a display of extremely defencive batting. KP declares with 29 overs remaining for the day and England failing to cross the psychological score of 400. India needs 387 to win with a day and 29 overs remaining! Indian openers walk in, as cool as ice! And it was calm before the storm. Even before KP realized whatever happened, India close their day 4 at 131/1 from just 29 overs! India’s fortunes changes for good! Sehwag scores 83 from just 68 balls!
  • Day 5: With just 256 runs required from 90 overs and a whole day, Sachin Tendulkar plays an innings of his life and takes India to the shore, very well helped by Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh! Nobody has ever seen Tendulkar playing such a patient and beautifully crafted innnigs in his whole career
  • India wins a historic test match with a sub-continent record run chase and fourth best run chase in the history of test cricket!

It’s unfortunate that despite back to back centuries from Andrew Strauss England ended up loosing. But nobody could have stopped a determined Sehwag who changed the course of the game in a matter of an hour and a half during the fag end of Day 4.

The BCCI Annual Contracts are out!

The BCCI’s annual contracts were announced at the right time soon after the famous test win and fittingly enough Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag etc got promoted to the next respective grades. People like Sreesanth who had attitude problems on top of injury and underperformers such as Wasim Jaffer and Robin Uthappa have been downgraded. By dropping Ramesh Pawar, Akash Chopra and Ajit Agarkar the BCCI has sent out a strong message that they are looking forward to the future. At the moment Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar are the only 30 plus players on the side.

The BCCI also showed appreciation towards some of the Under-19 world cup winners by offering them one-year contracts under Grade D.

International Test Teams For the Forthcoming Series

Champions League is gone and so are some one-dayers… So what? Some exciting test match series is in the offing – that too between the closest possible competitors in the current ICC rankings – i.e. No.1 Australia v/s No.2 South Africa, No.3 India v/s No.5 England and No.7 West Indies v/s No.8 New Zealand. It cannot be any better match, right?

Team Selection

Australia: Since it is a home affair for the Australians, they haven’t announced their squads yet. I doubt if they will think anything different in the batting department, especially the top order. In all probabilities Matthew Hayden will be still around. Since there is no match in Adelaide, I feel that Shane Watson might a chance in place of Nathan Hauritz, at least for the Perth encounter. And I hope to see Andrew Symonds fully recovered in this series.

South Africa: No surprises but as usual the spin department – that neither the South African selectors nor the captain himself ever cared about – is weak. They have two of them but both Paul Harris and Peterson are slow left arm orthodox spinners and hence no variety. And moreover, they may not have the skills that bowlers like Nikki Boje had. No changes in the batting department but where is Andre Nel in their famous pace battery? Did he get injured or something?? Nel and his aggression could have been handy in Australia.

The pre-series press encounters have started already and this time, for a change, between the coaches.

India: Yuvraj Singh coming back to the test side is the big news and RP Singh, who seems to be captain’s favorite, is out. The spin department looks versatile and with a lot of options. Pragyan Ojha gets a chance and Amit Mishra is retained as well. But I thought Piyush Chawla would have been a better choice with his batting abilities as well. Batting line up has not been changed except for the retired Ganguly. Rahul Dravid has been given more time and it is a sensible act. Another good decision is not to drop M. Vijay who showcased exceptional temperament in the series against Australia. If it was for the old selection panel, they would have probably dropped him by now. Badarinath, though not so convincing yet in the international arena, gets blessings from the selection committee chairman! The pace team looks good as well without any change. However, I wonder whatever happened to S.Sreesanth? Is he permanently out of the team due to his on and off field heroics or is it genuine injury and lack of match fitness? India’s test team looks really strong and versatile right now!

England: I doubt if England will do anything good in this test series mainly because of their batting line up. Except for Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell and Alistair Cook, their batting line up looks very weak. As for bowling, Panesar should add the required punch especially under the Indian conditions. Pace bowling would have been great if Ryan Sidebottom was in and Harmison was doing a good job. So Indian, especially under the Indian conditions, should be going for a kill in this series.

West Indies & New Zealand: Unfortunately both New Zealand and West Indies do not have quality batting line up to excel in test matches. The New Zealand team can be a good one day side but they need to figure out what it takes to build a test team. With some experienced players still around, the West Indian team may look better in the batting. But in the bowling department the New Zealand pacemen and Vettori together may do a better job than WI. This series still can be a close encounter – that between two under-prepared teams.

Looking forward to an exciting test season!

Test Cricket Round Up This Week & Forthcoming Series

This week witnessed a couple of one-sided test series deciders – Australia v/s New Zealand and South Africa v/s Bangladesh – and an one-sided ODI series between Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.

Australia got a chance to come out of their blemishes in India and won the test series against New Zealand 2-0. Even in the batsman friendly Adelaide Oval, the Kiwis could not do much due to the ‘Lee’thal bowling by the Aussies! The paceman seems to be back on track, for the time being. Australia’s bowling performance was very good overall, with Johnson doing a good job again. I particularly liked the balance that Nathan Hauritz brings to the team.

South Africa trashed a clueless Bangladesh by an innings in both test matches. South Africa’s flat pitch bullies and permanent-centurions-against-Bangladesh, Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla and Neil McKenzie did extremely well as usual (I count Ashwell Prince in a different league). To make things worse for Bangladeshis, their key spinner, Abdur Razzak (though he didn’t play the test series) has been banned from international cricket due to a wrong action! As I mentioned sometime ago, I still wonder whether Bangladesh deserves to play test cricket!

As for the one-dayers, Sri Lanka white washed Zimbabwe 5-0 while all matches were low scoring – some due to cut-short matches. Not a single match, even when Sri Lanka batted first, did not last for 50 overs and there was not a single score above 200!. This ODI series overall was pathetic, even for the Lankans.

Despite the huge loss in the ODI series, Zimbabwe cricket board seems to be putting a lot of weight around them as they declined Kenya’s plea for an alerady announced bilateral series citing ‘busy schedule’. That was the biggest joke ever as Zimbabwe’s cricket calendar is almost empty for the next two-three months!

ICC Test Rankings

India’s temporary rise to the second spot was short-lived as South Africa, retained that position again. New Zealand fell to a pathetic 8th spot and looks like their newly appointed coach has got a lot to do in the forth coming West Indies tour.

Upcoming Series

The most exciting thing that is awaiting test cricket lovers is not exactly the India-England Series. South Africa is touring Australia this Christmas and I am sure that we will receive a great Christmas and New Year feast this time! Though, Australia is not going through the best of their forms, I expect the Kangaroos to win the series 2-0 or 2-1.

Hail Test Cricket!