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? :-)