Thursday, February 5, 2015

Bowling of Ajmal and Hafeez would be missed in World Cup

If any team has suffered the most by ICC’s recent crackdown on the bowlers having suspect actions, its Pakistan. First Saeed Ajmal was banned and then, it was Mohammad Hafeez and neither of these two bowlers got their action cleared ahead of the World Cup. Ajmal was not even named in the final squad of Pakistan for the tournament. Hafeez got in, but, as a batsman only. The bowling of these two gentlemen would have made Pakistan a serious threat in the World Cup. They are still a good team, Pakistan, but, they do not look to have as dangerous an attack as they used to have in most of the past World Cups.

One would say that the ball does not spin in Australia and New Zealand and thus, Ajmal-Hafeez would not have been as effective as they are in subcontinent. That’s not true at all. These are the two bowlers who never depended on turn that much to beat the batsman or get him dismissed. Their bowling was more about their speed variations, the use of the crease and of course the presence of mind. Somebody like Hafeez would never let you come down the pitch easily to him and play the lofted shot. He was such an expert at shortening the length of the ball at the last second and getting the batsman to play a false shot.

Ajmal was a master at using the crease. He would change the angle, would go over the wicket, around the wicket citing the strengths and weaknesses of the batsman and he would also bowl from the corner of the crease at times. Of course, he had that gift of ability to turn the ball both ways, but, even in non turning conditions, he would fetch wickets for his captain.

Had Ajmal and Hafeez been there, people would have seen some class off spin bowling in the World Cup 2015.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Sanjay Patel, Rajeev Shukla in frame for BCCI presidency

The Srinivasan group in the BCCI seems to have started to come to terms that their main man would not be able to grab the prestigious post of the president for the second successive time. They are mulling over the name of other people who can be suitable candidates from their side for the elections. Sanjay Patel’s name is being talked about. He is the current secretary of the board and has been overseeing everything for the past one year since that spot fixing matter popped up and he has run the affairs pretty well.

The other candidate that might be there for the consideration is Jagmohan Dalmiya. He is an ex president. But, he is too old now. BCCI presidency is not easy to handle. You have got to travel to different places to attend meetings. So, it’s quite difficult for a person who is over 70 already. Experience is a good thing, but, still, you have to be active enough to run such a big board. So, Dalmiya might not get too much of support.

Rajeev Shukla also has healthy relationships within the board especially within the ruling faction. But, he is from congress which is an opposition party in the central government and most of the people ruling the state boards at the moment are from BJP. But, Shukla is a very powerful political personality and his rapport with Arun Jaitley, the man whose words carry a lot of weight in the board, is good.

This time the presidential candidate has to be nominated by the East Zone. At least, two East Zone state boards must be in favour for a person to stand for the elections. Otherwise, the candidature can’t be valid. Patel and Shukla would easily get the support of two boards from the East Zone.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Indian players enjoying the short break before the World Cup

The Indian Cricketers, who are there in Australia, have been given a short break by the board. They have been freed to explore Down Under for a few days before they get all their attention back to Cricket again and try and win the biggest prize in the game i.e. the World Cup.

The Indians have been in Australia for about 10 weeks. They had landed there back in November. Since then, they have played a couple of warm up first class matches, a full test series of 4 games and then, almost the same team played the Carlton Mid Triangular ODI series as well. So, they must be mentally drained and you don’t want to be playing a World Cup in a drained mental condition.

This break period has been nicely timed by the BCCI. There are seven days to go for India’s first practice game against Australia. A couple of training sessions before that would be fine. So, if the players get back to the team camp on Friday i.e. 6th February, they would be ready for that game. The sources say some of the Indian players actually wanted to meet their families and they had even requested the board to give them the permission to take the flight back home. But, Australia is not a nearby country. Returning from there and then going again within 3-4 days, it would take its toll. So, the board did not allow anyone to return, but, is planning to arrange for the families of some players to travel to Australia to meet them.

India’s second practice game before the World Cup is against the Associate team Afghanistan on 10th. And, then, the big game, the much awaited India Vs Pakistan fixture, would come along on 15th.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

South Africa the strongest contender in the World Cup

The South African public is quite excited about the World Cup this year as they feel that their team is strongest in the One Day International format right now and if their players don’t choke at a crucial stage as they have been doing for the last 22 years, the team can bring the trophy home this time.

Ahead of almost every World Cup, South Africa happens to be one of the most spoken about teams, but, rarely do they make it big when the actual show time comes. They would obviously say that luck has played tricks with them a couple of times and that’s true, but, they have lost opportunities by themselves as well. The last time around when the World Cup took place in the subcontinent, they beat India in the group stages, but, then, in the quarter finals, they lost to New Zealand which was a shock for everyone.

The South African players seem to get into the occasion a bit too much. They should learn from some of the other teams, India for example. India would fall far behind South Africa in terms of talent, but, when it comes to big nights, the Indian players just don’t get flustered and believe themselves to beat any team that they come across. South Africa needs the same sort of belief because if all the departments click for them, they can be bullish, absolutely bullish.

When the World Cup had happened Down Under in 1992, South Africa had made the final 4 and could have made the final too, but, the untimely rain and the strange setting of the revised target denied them that opportunity. They needed 22 runs in 13 balls to beat England in the semis and then, after rain, their revised target was set to 22 off 1 ball. It was heart breaking for them to lose that way.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Dhoni looking to play two left arm spinners

It seems India are planning to play two similar sort of spin bowlers come the World Cup. MS Dhoni always likes to challenge the conventions of the game. He had done something similar in the last World Cup too when he had gone with two right arm off spinners Harbhajan Singh and Ravichandran Ashwin. This time around, he has two left arm spinners in the squad i.e. Ravindra Jadeja and Akshar Patel and he is looking to use both of them in tandem.

It’s not that Dhoni doesn’t have options. He has an off spinner in the squad too currently, but, because of the fact that Jadeja and Akshar give him more control in those middle overs and they both can bat a bit too, the Indian captain is in favour of having both of them together in the XI.

This move can be costly against those teams that have got a lot of left handers because the deliveries of Jadeja and Akshar would fall right into the hitting arc of the left handers. But, Dhoni is blessed to have a part timer like Suresh Raina whom he can always bring in as a bit of a variety. Raina has, over the years, turned into a very handy One Day off spinner.

With Jadeja and Akshar batting at 7 and 8 respectively, Dhoni feels a little secured and goes for his big hits a little earlier thinking that even if he gets out, there are guys behind him who can take the attack to the opposition. But, when Jadeja doesn’t play and it’s only Akshar to follow after him, he plays circumspect cricket and playing that way, he does not quite bring the best out of himself and that hurts India too. That’s another reason why he wants the combo of Jadeja and Akshar. It makes India’s batting line deeper. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Warner being criticized for on-field act

David Warner is not in the Kangaroos’ squad for their third game in the tri series against England, but, that has nothing to do with his on-field behaviour against India at Melbourne. The official word from the Australian camp is that the left hander has just been rested due to the hectic schedule in the rest of the summer. Warner was slammed by the critics for the way he had talked to the Indian opening batsman Rohit Sharma during India’s innings at MCG.

The incident took place when Rohit pushed a length ball towards cover point and tried to go for a single. But, seeing Warner getting to the ball quickly, he returned back to his crease. However, Warner still threw the ball and it ricocheted off Rohit’s pads to short fine leg and taking advantage of that, the two Indian batsmen changed ends.

Warner did not like that at all. He was of the view that morally Rohit should not have taken that run as the ball had ricocheted off one of his cricketing gears. If he had been out of the way of that throw, it would have gone straight to the wicketkeeper Brad Haddin. Warner was absolutely correct on his stand there, but, it’s his way of talking which caused his criticism. He animatedly went to Rohit and seemed to be saying some harsh words to him in anger. It was a bit ugly, whatever was happening and the umpires finally stepped in to separate the two.

Warner has breached ICC code of conduct quite a few times in the recent seasons and the critics believe that some serious action needs to be taken against him otherwise there comes a day when he would cross his line on the ground. The Cricket Australia officials are also said to have taken it on board, but, they have clarified that Warner’s exclusion from the team is only to keep him fresh for the World Cup and not for disciplinary reasons.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

India needs a change in game plan

The Indian fans would be a little worried to see India go down the way they went against England at Gabbatoire yesterday. It’s perhaps the worst that India has played in a One Day International game in the last two years. A 9-wicket defeat is not something that you want against your name with just weeks to go before the World Cup especially when you are the reigning champion. And, more than the defeat, it’s the body language of the players on the round which sends the message outside how they are feeling as a group and the boy language of the Indian players in Brisbane was negative to say the least. It seems that they just don’t believe that on a quick surface against a good bowling side, they can put on a decent score on the board.

India’s game plan was just so strange. First of all, they won the toss and batted first and that itself was a wrong decision as they should have tried to take advantage of the liveliness of the wicket first up, but, one can understand that. They perhaps wanted to experiment a little bit and see how they go batting first on a fresh wicket. But, if you are batting first and there is something in the surface, it means you have got to grind your way through. You have to look for bad balls. But, the Indian batsmen were just too outrageous. They were playing their shots and that too coming out of the crease against the moving ball. They were lucky that they were not in good enough form to nick a few, otherwise, half the side would have been back in the hut inside the first 10 overs.

There are many more such quick wickets which India will come across over the coming weeks and if they play like this, there might be a few more defeats on the way.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

MS Dhoni smashed the Aussie net bowlers in Melbourne

After almost two weeks, MS Dhoni was in the nets again and he was as calm as ever. He did everything that he does ahead of a game. Everyone knows his love for bowling. He looks for opportunities to bowl a bit of seam off and he starts almost all his practice sessions by rolling his arm over and he did the same thing in Melbourne too. He bowled a few deliveries, out of which a few were half trackers, then, he had a short chat with the coach Duncan Fletcher whom he still considers the boss though no one knows where the power in that Indian dressing room is centred at the moment.

And, then, at the end, the Indian captain had a long batting hit and boy, was he in a mood? A few youngsters, who had been brought in as the net bowlers, were pretty excited to be going to have the opportunity to bowl to one of the fiercest hitters in the game. Very soon they found out what they were up against because they were getting hit everywhere. They were in fact getting smashed, not hit because Dhoni never hits a cricket ball, he smashes it. Those teenagers were trying their best to keep the Ranchi talisman silent, but, all their efforts were resulting into failures. The helicopter was in full flow there at MCG practice wicket.

If any opponent player would have seen that practice session, surely a bit of fear would have crept in his mind. What is this dangerous wicketkeeper batsman up to? He is widely known as a player of big tournaments because he always delivers on big platforms. By the looks of it, he is gearing up for another of his big shows. And, why wouldn’t he be? After all, he is in charge of India’s World Cup defence.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Morne Van Wyk got his first international ton

They say that ‘talent always gets its due’ .Morne Van Wyk would believe in that saying after what happened in yesterday’s T20 match between South Africa and West Indies. The 35-year old wicketkeeper would have wondered a few times over the last couple of years that he might never play for his country again. The emergence of younger wicketkeepers had made Van Wyk go down the pecking order. But, De Kock’s injury brought him in the mix for this T20 series and boy, did he make use of the opportunity? He failed in the first two games, but, in the last game, he smashed the ‘White little thing’ to each and every part of Kingsmead.

The size of the boundary there in Durban was embarrassing, that’s true. But, the sixes that Van Wyk hit, well, they would have been sixes even if the game had been played at Melbourne Cricket Ground. Yes, they were that big especially the one that he hit off Dwayne Bravo in the last over of the game. That went well over the roof, out of the stadium. It was clean hitting. It was not as if the mistimed shots were going for sixes.

Van Wyk peppered the square boundaries on both sides. With a low back lift and a bat speed of knots, he took a liking to the West Indies bowlers, especially the quicker ones. He slowed down when the pace was taken off the ball by West Indies from 10th to 15th over, but, he finished with a blaze, taking South Africa’s score very close to 200, which despite those small boundaries and the giant sized Caribbean batting line up, was a challenging number.

South Africa won hands down in the end though. The series, however, went to West Indies.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

India’s batting must step up in the World Cup

The first part of the long tour of Australia is done and dusted for the Indian team and it actually did not go as bad as it could have been or as it was hoped to be. Four-Neil was the predicted score line of the series, but, it happened to be two-Neil at the end. With a little bit of luck, it could have been 1-1 or even 2-0 in the favour of the visitors.

The Indians had to score about 150 in Adelaide to win the game with 8 wickets in hand, while, in Brisbane, they were leading by about 160 when Australia’s tail came in to bat. But, on both the occasions, they lost. In Brisbane, it was their fault in the sense that they over attacked the opposition tail-enders with the short balls. They probably got a bit emotional there, trying to give it back to Mitchell Johnson and all those sort of stuff. It backfired.

But, one thing that was proved during the test series that this new generation of Indian players, they have come to Australia with some steel and if they are to go down, they would go down fighting. The opposition teams, be it Australia or someone else, will have to earn their wins. These youngsters are not going to just get steamrolled, certainly not batting-wise.
Bowling is not India’s forte yes. It’s not that they just can’t bowl. They can of course. But, their bowling is not able to win them games to be frank. If the World Cup is to be defended by India successfully, a couple of their batsmen will have to score in excess of 500 runs in the tournament and the men in blue have got such sort of batsmen in their touring party who can be deadly lethal if the ball does not move that much.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Why are the Indian fast bowlers not bowling correct line?

The Border-Gavaskar series 2014-15 is over and the clear difference that was between the two teams i.e. India and Australia during the series was the quality of pace bowling. Yes, it can be said that the attack that Australia had was much more experienced that what India had, but, that can’t be used as an excuse to hide the failure of the Indian pace bowlers. The pitches have been flat yes, but, still on those same pitches, the Aussie quickies got wickets and that’s because they bowled a disciplined channel. They did not try too hard. They set the batsman up.

One of the keys to success on flat wickets for a paceman is to make sure that the batsmen don’t get the runs quickly and he has to earn it. You, as a bowler, must not give him any freebies. If you apply constant pressure, you don’t let the runs come freely, the batsmen would definitely try something different and that’s where your chance to get wickets as a bowler lies. That’s what the Aussies did and they were successful. Yes, they could not get 20 wickets either in Melbourne or Sydney, but, they could have done that with a bit of luck. On the other hand, India were miles behind. Forget getting 20 wickets, they did not even look like getting the opposition tail out which was a shame for a top international side.

It’s actually the domestic pitches of India which should be blamed for this. The pitches that these fast bowlers get to bowl on in India are so low and slow that they can’t afford to keep the deliveries outside the off stump. If they keep it there, then, because of the low bounce, the batsmen have the opportunity to play the square drive or even the cover drive for that matter.

So, the pace bowlers in domestic cricket in India have no option but to bowl with in the three stumps and they carry that tendency to international cricket too. When they go to places like England and Australia, where the conditions demand the ball to be kept in the 4th or the 5th stump channel, they are not able to do so. They bowl the middle-stump line and the batsmen pick easy runs. So, the BCCI must consider asking the curators to prepare a few bouncy pitches in India so that these bowlers get this habit of bowling the correct line.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Virat Kohli, the aggressive leader India required

Virat Kohli has slowly become a run machine now. Wherever India play in whichever conditions, the 26-year old scores hundreds. Well, you would obviously like to pick that England tour and say that he could not do much there. Yes, he certainly did not, but, that’s the only place where he failed. Barring that, he has just smashed bowlers in every series and one can be sure that when he goes back to England again in future, he would definitely do better.

He is such a quick learner, this young man who is obviously the captain as well now with that sudden MS Dhoni exit and his mindset is so positive. He just does not get himself believing that the opposition is dominating the game, even if that is actually the case. He does not mind sledging and he does not mind listening to the words coming from the opposition either. He takes it all on the chin. He plays cricket his own way. That’s the thing about Virat and that’s his nature. People often criticize him for that and say that such hot temper would take him nowhere, but, that’s how he is as a person.

You can beat Virat’s team. You can get him out cheaply. But, you can never demoralize him. He would always come back all guns blazing. He can never be down and out and that’s why the Indian fans have high hopes with him as captain. He would always get his team playing the positive way. Even if that means a couple of failures, a couple of defeats, he would take it. But, the team would walk on the right path under his leadership. He can become as great a captain as he is as a batsman if he gets good response from his teammates

Monday, January 5, 2015

Raina to play in Sydney, Dhawan might be dropped

With the Border-Gavaskar series having gone out of the hand now, the Indian team management might like to play a few fringe players in Sydney. The guys who are in contention are Suresh Raina, the middle order batsman who is considered ODI and T20 specialist, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the bowling all rounder who has been injured recently and Varun Aaron, the fast bowler who had not played the last game because of a family tragedy.

KL Rahul, the Karnataka boy who had appeared in test match cricket for the first time in Melbourne and had got out playing shocking shots in both the innings, might also be retained as the Indian team management believes he is a good player and those shots that he went for there at the G was only because of the nervousness. If Rahul and Raina both play, it’s more than likely that Shikhar Dhawan would miss out and that might well be the end of the test career of the left handed opener.

Dhawan has repeatedly failed on overseas grounds, barring New Zealand. His technical issues don’t let him survive against the new ball. And, because of the fact that he gets out early almost all the time, India’s no. 3 gets to face the new ball which starts the collapse. So, getting rid of Dhawan is perhaps the right idea for the Indian team management.

It remains to be seen if Cheteshwar Pujara, who had batted at no. 6 in the second innings in Melbourne, gets back to his original no. 3 position or not. If Rahul opens, then, Pujara would surely have to bat one down as Raina is probably not good enough to bat in the top order in test matches and India would not like to change Ajinkya Rahane’s batting slot as he is doing so well there.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Oh Captain, you came in a flash, you went in a flash

In the final session of the Boxing Day test, India were trying to dig in deep as there was a game to be saved there. An ultra attacking field was set. Two slips, two gulley, silly point, backward point, short extra cover and forward short leg. Mitchell Johnson came firing in and bowled it short. Any other player, in that sort of situation, would have tried to get on top of that ball and defend it cautiously. But, not MS Dhoni. Guess what he did? Bang he went with the big mighty horizontal bat and the red cherry whistled past the short point fielder to the advertisement hoardings down there at the boundary line.

That’s what he was and that’s what we would always remember him for. The former Indian test captain who always approached the game differently. He knew attack was his best defence and playing the cut shot was the best way he could have survived that Mitchell Johnson delivery and so, he went for it. He never thought he could easily be held out by one of those fielders placed in almost a ring on the off side. If he had indeed been held out and India had gone on to lose the test, he would have been crucified by the critics. But, not for a single second did that thought cross his mind and that’s because he never played to prove a point to the critics. He always did what he thought was right for his team, his Indian team. The team which he took to the no. 1 rankings.

Dhoni is perhaps the only Indian captain in the recent times who has overseen the transition. He saw three generation of cricketers in his captaincy. He saw ups and downs. He saw the downward curve of those ageing greats of Indian Cricket and then, he saw the upward curve of some excitingly talented youngsters. He took everything in his stride. He always tried to make the team keep moving on. Of Course, if you are the captain for such a long period of time, the bad times would come somewhere down the road. You would lose games. Dhoni lost too. But, he never let either success or failure get to him. He remained the same in success as well as failure. The same calm, graceful Dhoni.

There have been Indian captains in the past who did not mind taking their shirts off in the players’ balcony and hurling a few abuses on the field occasionally. But, that was not Dhoni’s cup of team. He never let anyone in the team feel small and that itself was the sign of a great leader. Forget the numbers. Forget the World T20 win in South Africa. Forget the CB Series win in Australia. Forget the Asia Cup win in Sri Lanka. Forget the World Cup win in Wankhede. Forget the Champions Trophy win in England. Forget everything. Can we please remember Dhoni only for being the true gentleman of the game? Somebody who never associated himself with the limelight and stardom. He came in a flash, went in a flash.