Thursday, December 06, 2012

Dhoni needs to step up - Day 1 India England Test 3 @ Kolkatta

Quick recap of the day 1. India dug a hole for themselves and England have almost buried them in.

I thought the pitch was usual and expected - Slow, low, but overall not as bad as Mumbai, not as good as Ahmedabad. It was shocking to see Ravi Shastri say "Best pitch of the series so far". Of course in the next sentence he clarified himself by saying "It will be good for batting". How can a pitch - good only for batting - be called "the Best"?

Team selection: Not many surprises, though I would have liked to see the young Ashok Dinda instead of Ishant Sharma. Interesting to see how the "Most Unlucky Bowler" (Ishant Sharma) in the world performs on this track. Zaheer is getting old and we need to grrom the next generation of fast bowlers. I thought England missed a trick by playing Samit Patel. My opinion on him is that he is a compromise cricketer. Not good enough to take a risk on him by playing him as an all rounder. Not good enough for bowling, not for batting. The good thing was that they dropped "The Prodigal Son" Stuart Broad. I have seen him bowl wonders and take a hat-trick. But he is very inconsistent. By showing that they had the guts to drop a  guy with so much of backing - (He is the son of the influential match referee Chris Broad) and he is also their vice captain - England have shown their positive attitude. I reckon that with KP back in the team, they will continue to be a real force in the Tests.

Indian batsmen, probably only with the exception of Kohli & Ashwin have themselves to blame. The run out was so embarassing... I did not know whether to laugh or frown :-) Pujara was playing too far across the line too often and was brilliantly setup, though he was largely at fault due to his shot selection. Sachin was a misery. Though he scored, he played too many false shots and you knew all the time in this innings that he will soon get out. His denial to retire is now leaving a very bad taste and these unpleasant memories of the great man will unfortunately linger longer than his great deeds. He should take a leaf out of Ricky Ponting, accept that he is unable to play well and just walk away with whatever dignity is left.

Yuvraj played many shots in the air but the shot he got out on was horrid. Had there been no fielder, had the ball not stopped on him - if at all it did - even then the shot was high risk low return. I thought he was reckless, much like in the previous innings and he should be given a mouthful by the captain/coach.

That brings me to the man under the radar. The Captain Cool MSD. The important thing is he was not out. But in my opinion, his batting has become too defensive. He has totally given up on his natural game and that's never good. Maybe its a team strategy but its clearly not working. He is not playing poorly - his scores are mediocre, not bad. But his impact has been reduced dramatically. I will watch with very keen interest - whether he takes on the bowlers when playing with the tail. If he goes out poorly, pressure will mount on him. He already has enough on his plate with adamant seniors, non performing juniors, a hostile press and probably the worst performance patch of the Indian team. Hope he grows his hair, brings back the old flair and puts England on the defensive. If he can get a fifty plus and can take India to a respectable, defend-able total, he would have silenced his critics. The other bowlers needs to bat around him and show some fight. Its okay if they don't score too many - but they should not give it away. They should make England work hard for their wickets and should play for time, if not for runs.

Overall, given the number of wickets we lost after winning the toss on a flat pitch - it was clearly England's day. With this momentum, I feel its likely that they will get a huge first innings lead and bat India out of the test match. All the best Dhoni, you need our wishes...

Friday, September 28, 2012

Should Dhoni play Viru Sehwag? India @ World T20

With a new selection committee announced, I guess Dhoni has a control, albeit temporarily - over who plays in the final 11. Should he keep Sehwag out? I think he should. Will he? I think he will..

Dhoni - when he started his captaincy was known to take bold decisions. He is slowly degrading to being too defensive especially in the last year. He has take a few good decisions - in sidelining Harbhajan, in playing a part in Laxman's retirement (not to take away any credit from the great batsman, but his time was up, really) and in rotating and letting seniors know that they can become a burden.

Now is really the time for him to go for the kill. He must ensure that right decisions are made in an un-emotional manner - which will improve the chances of India in the long term. If that means getting rid of Sehwag, so be it. If it means, preserving Zaheer only for 1/2 formats of the game, so be it. Ideally these decisions should be taken by the selection committee. But the Indian Selection Committee is a hopeless entity. They don't even feel it important/confident to convince the press about their selections.

I think the decision to open with Irfan Patahn is a good gamble with a hope to groom a future all rounder. Even if he is used as a pinch hitter, no issues he will more often than not make up for it with his bowling.

I will really look forward to this decision more than anything else for India in the coming matches of World T20. May the decision in the best interest of the team, be taken...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Twenty20 World Cup Cricket - Luck factor

The Twenty 20 cricket world cup is on in Sri Lanka - though some people call it Entertainment and not Cricket :-) The question to be asked is how much part really does Luck play in determining the champion in this format?

To begin with, we can compare it with the Triangular one day CB Series in Australia, the IPL & the One Day world Cup. In my opinion, Luck plays the least role in the Australian CB series. There are plenty of league matches and most importantly, the finals are best of 3. You are hence most assured that the most consistently better team will win. However on the flip side the tournament contains only 3 teams!

The IPL contains lots of teams, too many league games and a winner-takes-it-all final. Hence the luck factor is reduced during initial stages but really increases at the end, especially in the T20 format. Note - this only has Semi Finals and Finals, so only 3 knock out matches.

The World Cups (T20 & 50 over) also have a league round but due to the group concept, the risk is high even at the start. Loose a couple of games and you are out. Loose a Quarter/Semi/Final game and you are out, regardless of what you did earlier. And hence a team needs to perform consistently well enough in this format to win the trophy. Whereas in the CB Series/IPL a team can loose a few times, recover and still win or at least make it to the last stages (IPL).

I feel the T20 world cup has the largest window of opportunity for Luck. Test matches give teams chances to come back - offer same/similar conditions to two teams more or less. That does not happen in limited overs and especially in T20 - a couple of wickets/overs/sixes can change the game decisively. That too in a format like World Cup - and its almost impossible to predict a favorite! I tend to watch this tournament more neutrally. Maybe favor India a bit, hate the Australians a little, but just a bit in it, not much.

Would you like to predict a winner? :-)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The shocking facts - Mumbai Terrorist attacks July 2011

Its been a while since I read/watched any Indian news. But I watched this talk show today - India Today by Karan Thapar in "Mumbai Blasts, experts discuss terror tackling strategies". Then as a follow up, tried to read in as much about the attacks on the internet as possible. While doing that, I came across a number of shocking incidents that I feel the need to protest against. And hence this blog

  1. Lack of leadership and intent from the government. No angry speech by the ministers, Just a lame duck release by the man in charge.
  2. And a stupid comment from the home minister saying "After 31 months, Mumbai was attacked" What? Excuse me Sir - What then do you expect - one per quarter? Please...
  3. From the Home Minister: "The blasts is not a failure of intelligence agencies". Oh really, this is not a time to make false baseless boasting claims, it was time to nip it in the bud and say Yes we failed.
  4. Despite places like the Zaveri Bazaar being on the radar repeatedly, the CCTV cameras did not function and stopped working!
  5. There were hardy any ambulances to take the injured and they were carried in trucks! Where is the preparedness to respond to situations?
  6. A big leader of the ruling party accusing the opposition party's partner organization to be probably behind making the bombs. How long can he be allowed to continue with this nonsense?
  7. So many months after 26/11 the ATS is only half of its approved size! Why are enough security guards not recruited?
  8. The police reforms that were so much talked about after 26/11 have still not been implemented!
  9. The Community police partnership of the Mumbai police has been abandoned
  10. I was in airport at Mumbai 48 hours after the blasts and NOBODY yes nobody checked my bag at least till it went over the belt after check in! Don't know why they have removed the mandatory X-Ray scan which used to be there around 5 years ago!
  11. Death in custody of a man detained for questioning.
  12. No police cordoning off the areas and constant TV/media coverage of the fires, the bodies and the cries!

Going by the over exuberance of the Maharashtra police in cases like the Pune Bakery Blast, they might soon announce this case as Solved. But it won't be possible for them to prove it in courts. I am completely astonished and outraged at the issues mentioned above - on top of feeling for those who have lost their dear ones.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

French Open Semi Final review Federer Vs. Djokovic

This one was not for the light hearted. Those who thought that the best tennis games of our times can only be played between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were proved wrong. It was a tense game of high class tennis, rich with creative strategies and shot making. The Swiss champion remained calm throughout the game but it was the Serbian who lost his temper frequently. As it happens so often, that reflected in the score line.

For me there were many interesting little plays in the four setter. The first was when the duo broke each other at the start of the match, thereby giving a good indication of how closely they would match each other in this semi final. They both came out of this even. Then came the tie breaker where the experienced Roger sneaked ahead by a thin margin and looked like the better player to win it and so he did. Afterwards came the shocker of a set when Novak lost his cool, his father from the support team and his complete rhythm. It looked like this is one more of those straight sets-walk in the park games for the Swiss maestro. But the match started taking another turn for the better at the end of that second set, when Djoko fought back valiantly and Roger almost gave away the advantage.

The Nole onslaught then continued through the 3rd set and brought him right back into this match. Fed-ex started tiring a bit as expected. It became evident that a fifth set would no doubt favor the younger legs of Novak. And thus began the best set of the match. Both players brought out every trick in the bag including the drop shots. Novak made Roger run hard to fetch his powerful forehands and Roger in turn trying to slow the pace down. In the end, a player with better nerves prevailed but it was a very closely contested game.

Of special interest was Federer's improved service - a weapon that would come so handy against the mighty Rafael Nadal come the finals. The dream run of Novak had to come to an end some day and though the end was disappointing, he can be proud in his achievements on the tour this year. For Roger, it was a very important match, since a loss would have meant that the talks of him aging would have gained more weight.

Fast forward to Sunday to the final of Roland Garros 2011 and the mouth watering contest of another grand slam final between the best players of this decade awaits us. Given that it is on clay and looking at Roger in that 4th set in the semis, my money would be on Rafael. But Roger Federer continues to be my all time favorite player and I will continue to cheer for him :-)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Selection of Indian Cricket Team for West Indies Tour - ODIs

Its been more than a month since the Day Of Joy. When the Indians held their nerves just a bit more than the Lankans and lifted the World Cup trophy for the second time. It was an unforgettable match and tournament for all of us alive in India. To me it was an experience of the purest forms of joy.

With that victory in mind, it will be very interesting to see what comes out of tomorrow's selection committee meeting. The Indian team will travel to the West Indies later this month to play an ODI series and then a Test Series. I think the following two factors should be most important when considering the team

  • Rest to Key players. Dhoni, Zaheer, Sachin have been playing without rest for months together now. They definitely deserve rest. Almost everyone deserves rest. But the best ones will get it. Seniors will definitely get it and the juniors will have to take up their tasks. E.g. Gautam Gabhir might replace Mahendra Singh Dhoni as a captain. I think it will be a very good move to do something like that.

  • Phase out the seniors and bring in more youth. I think this is the key if India is to keep up the good form of the last decade into the next one or two. E.g. Harbhajan Singh should slowly be phased out and a new spinner or two should be groomed. Pacers who were tried and tested should be asked to work hard. And new ones should be given a longer run in the national team. E.g. the Sresssanths, Nehras, Irfans & Ishants should be phased out with young talent, who need exposure E.g. Vinay Kumar & S. Aravind. This is a perfect opportunity to groom the next pool of cricketers since India has won a big series and is going on for a relatively easy assignment.

And hence it will be interesting to see if the selectors take these risks for long term rewards. Hope that the new coach Duncan Fletcher also gets a say.

3 Cheers to the World Champs and Bring it On in the Caribbeans

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Indian Premier League Year 3 - My wish-list

It is that time of the year you know :-D The brainchild of Subhash Chandra of Essel Group / Zee, the 20-20 cricket in India has sky-rocketed in the last 5 years. It all started when he launched the India Cricket League (ICL) - challenging the BCCI. That he forced BCCI to think differently - was in itself a victory according to me. Hats off to those who have taken the initiative to change the market scenario. Welcome to the new millennium!

Here's what - as a die-hard cricket lover, I would like to see from this year's IPL

  • A few medium pace bowlers. Who can vary the pace. Bowl the yorkers. The slower ones. The leg cutters. The length balls. And the bouncers. Like Chris Harris and Gavin Larsen.

  • Some spinners succeeding - like Pragya Ojha did in the last version of the IPL. Bowling early on in the field restrictions. Stopping the runs and then picking up wickets. Choking the big hitters in the slog overs - the way Harbhajan Singh did in the Version 1.

  • Some fast bowlers consistently blocking the flow of runs in the last few overs. Like Umar Gul did in 2009 in South Africa.

  • Batsmen getting more innovative - like the Tilakaratne Dilshan scoop. Or the Kevin Pieterson switch hit.

  • A Jonty Rhodes - like live wire, picking up an extra wicket or two every game by virtue of brilliant anticipation, reflexes, movements, pick-ups and throw-downs.

  • A lot of new stars born - like Yousuf Pathan, Shuan Marsh, Dirk Nannes, Shane Watson, Manish Pandey

Bring it on folks, let the fun begin...


Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Cricket: South Africa India One Day Series

  • What a stunning fight back by the lower order SA batsmen in the 1st game! Truly remarkable... Never stop believing till the end. Always playing for a win. Never give up...

  • Double century for Sachin Tendulkar. Over hyped? I am not a fan of centuries and doubles. Buts hats off to the old man's fitness. 3 cheers!

  • Dhoni's batting in the 2nd ODI was really deadly. Hit flat sixes off the bottom hand. What strength, what eyes, what hands, WHAT A PLAYER!

  • It was nice to see Yousuf Pathan back in the thick of things. I really look forward to see him perform well. After all, he is Shane Warne's find!

  • In the 3rd match, nobody was interested. Even more proof of the fact that none of these 2 teams belong to the champions league like the Australians do. All were wanting to relax before the IPL

  • Why do all ODIs end up in more than 600 runs per day nowadays? Or more than 300 in an innings? I hate to say this.. But if this continues, I will loose interest in watching cricket. This is Bowlers' Mass Murder. Pull back the short boundaries. Resolve the due. Bring the back foot no ball rule back. ICC - are you listening?

  • Why is S. Sreesanth given an extended stay in the India Team? Does he have a god-father in the selection committee? Is Dhoni over-doing the risk? For the last so many matches, he has turned out to be the most expensive bowler in the team! Just sack him.

  • Why was a potential all-rounder like Abhishek Nayar dropped from the squad without giving him any chance to perform? Is that fair? Something evil cooking up in the selection process?

  • Friday, February 19, 2010

    India South Africa 2010 Test Series: Match 2 Day 3

    What a day for India!

    • Once again, a marriage across generations. On one side, you had the fluent Laxman and on the other side, a brutal Dhoni. Let's compare their style a bit

    • VVS Laxman is for a purist. Elegant, beauty to watch him bat, correct technique, minimum efforts for the maximum results, superb timing, accurate placement. Great efficiency while batting. Very patient. E.g. he played 6-7 overs without a run on this day. Hardly ever plays a shot in anger.

    • Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Backhand specialist. Hits every shot - even a single with a lot of power. Belongs to the Symonds, KP, Polard, Gilchrist generation. Great personality and charm. Outgoing, outspoken and successful

    • South African agony was increased after they put down the catches. Catches Win Matches. & Drops Loose Matches. What a good prrof of that in the whole series.