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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Defensive strategies of captain Dhoni not helping Team India

Once again Team India started the series on a losing note on foreign soil. Australia won the test quite  easily at Melbourne and Team India is sulking in exile, so are the fans. What a pity, on a part of the team which was No.1 test team in the world few months ago and remain No.1 for more than 2 years but suddenly England tour happened and all those fake imagination of Indian fans washed away as Indian team was white-washed by England. With defeat in Melbourne Indian team lost 5 test matches in a row, now on foreign soil. Captain who was proud on his record of not losing any test series in last 3 years, now suddenly under grief of losing 5 test matches on foreign soil, But I think captain Dhoni have to blame himself for this debacle rather than giving any excuses about batting bowling or fielding. I believe its a case of poor defensive strategy and nothing more than that.

When Dhoni made his debut on International scene in 2004 , he made his reputation of aggressor but over the years he lost his aggression and became to defensive. Especially, after becoming captain, sudden change happened in his batting and captaincy approach. From hard-hitting Dhoni to nudger and pusher, this is quite extra-ordinary transformation. Dhoni's batting transformation affected his captaincy as well and he has become too defensive in his strategy and field placings. Although India have done well under his captaincy but I must say India lost many opportunities in new last few years where they could have easily won the series or match but lost it because of the defensive tactics of captain Dhoni. Latest example is Melbourne test, where India failed to seize the advantage twice in a match. Once Australia was reeling at 214-6 but Dhoni allowed the Australia's lower-order batsmen to get past 300 run mark by setting defensive field. In second innings Australia were 27 for 4 at one stage but Dhoni opened field for Hussey and Ponting and allowed them to pick singles easily which reduced the pressure on Aussies and that 115 run partnership proved too costly for India. Not only that, even last wicket added more than 40 runs for Australia in same innings as Dhoni allowed them to do so. Hence, India lost the game.

I must say India bowled really well in Melbourne but Dhoni's defensive field placing didn't sync well with Indian bowling and robbed the chance of winning the first test match of the series. This year in Edgbaston test match, Ishant Sharma had taken 3 wickets in 16 deliveries. England had slipped to 62 for 5 . India were back in the match. There was even an outside chance of the winning it. Suddenly there was a competitive atmosphere. England went into lunch with a knot in their stomachs. India chewed with a renewed sense of vigour. But Dhoni again failed to seize the advantage and din't gave bal to Ishant after lunch who tormented England innings before lunch. Matt Prior and Stuart Broad took full advantage of this move and got out of the tangle by scoring easy runs off Praveen Kumar who looked completely exhausted in his spell. Normal service was resumed by the end of second session as England fought back to take charge of the match. 

Poor strategy of Dhoni cost India a test win. Similar tactics, Dhoni also applied last year in South Africa and lost the test match. We have also seen how opposition tail hurts Team India regularly. Actually opposition tail wags not because of India's poor bowling, it is because of poor strategy and field placings by captain Dhoni. We saw that in home series against West indies where West Indian top-order scalped quite easily by our bowlers but their lower- order batsmen made life difficult for Indian bowlers only because of defensive field placings.

I believe Dhoni must talk to Sourav Ganguly, who always played and captained aggressively throughout his career. This will help Dhoni big time in understanding the mechanism of seizing the advantageous moments of the match. Dhoni's poor form with the bat in test matches is also a cause of concern for Team India. his batting form has dipped badly in test matches which is not a good sign.

To Dhoni's advantage, Sourav Ganguly is in Australia on a commentary assignment, so he can easily approach Sourav and immediately renew his magic touch.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Will Team India break the jinx down under : Preview - Agneepath Series

Agneepath! Agneepath! Agneepath!
9 tours, 36 test matches and only 5 wins, is the history of Team India down under. It can be considered worst performance for the country which produced legends like Gavaskar, Mankad duo, Amarnath duo, Tiger Pataudi, Kapil Dev, Mohd. Azharuddin, Dilip Vengsarkar, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Sourav Ganguly, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh and Virender Sehwag. Above all, in last 9 tours Team India failed to win series as well, in Australia. As a cricket fan I really fail to understand why we were not able to win a single series down under so far inspite of having players, who are considered as legends, kings and gods of cricket. Its really sad for the fans of this country that they witnessed only series loss and draws down under in last 60 years. There are individual performances which really kept alive the interests of Indian fans but in terms of team performance it is really a sad state of affair for the country where cricket is considered as religion.

Michael Clarke vs Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Again Team India is on tour, down under, stage is set, all tickets for the Boxing Day test  match which begins on 26th December, at famous Melbourne Cricket Ground has been sold out in advance. One last time legends like Tendulkars, Dravids and Laxmans will go at Aussies and Indian fans hoping that this time team will not return empty handed. There is reason behind this hope is that Aussies are not the best test side in the world today as they used to be couple of years back and it will  going to be easy to beat the depleted Aussies. But I must say, it will not going to be easy for Team India to win the series this time round as well, no matter how vulnerable Aussies are currently. Aussies don't have the brilliance of Waugh Duo, Gilchrist, Langer, Hayden, McGrath, Warne and Brett Lee but they have the players who will certainly upset this Indian side and main reason for this,  is poor team selection by Indian selectors. India already looks more vulnerable than Aussies atleast in bowling department as their two main bowlers in Ishant and Zaheer are not 100% fit, moreover, they have very poor back-ups in Abhimanyu Mithun and Vinay Kumar who are not test class bowlers. So Indian bowling is weak and to win the test match you have to pick 20 wickets. If any of the bowler breaks down mid-way, in the test match then it will certainly not help the cause of Indian team. So onus of bowling more is on the shoulders of young Ashwin and Yadav who will be playing their second test series of their career and that too on the soil of Australia.

Ishant Sharma
Selectors have done big mistake by not picking Irfan Pathan and Ashok Dinda ahead of Mithun and Vinay Kumar. Both Dinda and Irfan are in superb form and picking up wickets consistently in domestic tournament in India but I think selectors have already decided the fate of Team India and if fans are thinking that India will win the series this time then I think this is a day dream, because this will not going to happen. Conditions will be tough and Austrlians will come hard at Indian team. Mindgames have been already started from the Australian side and the way Aussies are preparing and targetting Indian players off the field is the indication of what will happen on the field where Aussies will try and dominate the Indian side. Only hope for India, is from its world famous batting line-up which boasts of Sehwag, Gambhir, Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman who are capable of winning the test matches  but they also need back-up from the bowlers which is not in existence at the moment. Only fully-fit and in-form bowler is Umesh Yadav in pace department and Ashwin in spin apart from these two rest of the bowlers are not fully fit or they are not in great form.

Rohit Sharma
I believe Team India must play Rohit Sharma ahead of Virat Kohli because Rohit has better technique compared to Virat and will do wonders but I know this will not going to happen as team india will go with Virat Kohli and I am 100% sure that he will fail. This is also a very important series for Tendulkar, will be remembered for long time if Tendulkar get to his epic ton because wait has become too long and fans can't wait anymore. This series will also test the cpatain Mahendra Singh Dhoni's captaincy, he will be under immense pressure during this series because of drubbing in England where first time Dhoni lost the test series as a captain. This will going to be a acid test for Dhoni and Fletcher.

Warner, Cutting, Starc and Pattinson
As far as Aussies are considered they do have the problems in plenty, but they have the advantage of playing in home conditions and their batting line-up will face mediocre bowling attack so they are in poor position, but in better condition than Team india. I am damn sure Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey will get back among the runs as both are class act and as they say 'Form is temporary and Class is permanent'. So there will be no surprise, if Ricky and Hussey  score big runs in this series. After departure of Simon Katich it looked like Australia don't have any opener but they found Warner and with the return of Shaun Marsh they have pretty good opening pair. It is good that Aussie selectors dropped Phil Hughes who failed to impress anybody but I think dropping Usman Khwaja is bit harsh, to the guy who is considered as promising youngster. Aussies have good bowling line-up now, even though they don't have Johnson and Watson in their line-up. They have some in-form bowlers like Pattinson, Hilfenhaus and Siddle who are capable of bowling in excess of 90 MHP speeds, will prove dangerous on bouncy wickets for any opposition in the world. So Aussies are in advantageous position going into the series and India has damaged their chances of winning by picking up the unfit bowlers which will going to hurt India big time.

So less than 48 hours remaining for this  'Agneepath Series' and Indian fans will certainly wake up at 5.00 AM to watch all the action from down under in a hope that Team India starts the seires with a winning note and finally win the series and end the drought but Indian selectors and team management are not serious enough to win this series.Will india  be able to hit, knockout punch on boxing day? My guess is as good as any other cricket fan.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Selection of injured players continues in Indian cricket.

Disaster of England tour is still fresh in the minds of Indian cricket lovers but I think Srikkanth led selection committee and BCCI have forgotten that disastrous tour of England and that's why they again repeated the mistake by sending injured Ishant Sharma on the all important tour of down under. How often we see injured player travels with the team and enjoy the paid holiday from BCCI. Zaheer khan returned from the tour of England after bowling just 2 overs in the  test match at Lords. Zaheer failed to complete the tour down under twice in the past and this time also scene is not that great as well.

It is good that Harbhajan is not selected for this tour otherwise one more injured player had travelled with the team. Recently it is revealed that Harbhajan is carrying the shin injury for long time and he will going to miss out entire Ranji season for Punjab. Actually BCCI don't have any plan in place to control the injuries to its key players. Cricket fan can understand that injuries cannot be controlled but BCCI can atleast take an initiative that injured player don't board the plane for the important tour. But that is also not happening. Every player try hard to get selected despite injuries and eventually fan suffers due to  below par performance of the team.I think time has come to punish the players who hide their injuries and make themselves available for selection. Recently Anil Kumble resigned from the post of Chairman-National Cricket Academy because  board didn't accepted his injury management programme. So it is clear that BCCI is not serious about injury management. Not accepting Kumble's word is disaster because Kumble is legend and he hhas played cricket at highest levels and knows all about injuries that hampers the player's career.

Even after getting to know that Ishant is not fully fit, he has been not replaced and board allowed him to continue on the tour. What happen, if Ishant play first test in Melbourne and breaks down after one or two over? Just like he broke down and  left the ground in Canberra practice match where he just bowled 5.3 overs and for rest of the match he was sitting in dressing room with his troubled ankle. Even team manager Shivlal Yadav also lied to the media and fans, stating that Ishant was supposed to bowl only six overs. What kind of excuse is this? I remember, when Greg Chappell was hooted by the Indian fans he showed his middle finger which created lot of anger among fans, but the BCCI, Vice-President Rajiv Shukla gave senseless statement in favour of Greg Chappell that finger of Chappell had some pain and he was trying to cure his finger by raising it. Such senseless statements are regular from BCCI officials and selectors in defence of their acts. If we hear some senseless statement from K.Srikkanth about Ishant's injury, we will not get surprised at all, because we Indian fans are ready for such senseless statements.

When India returned from England this summer, selectors clearly said that they will pick up only fit players for the next tour but they again repeated their mistake and picked up injured player like Ishant Sharma for the series against West Indies where Ishant performed below par and picked up just 9 wickets in 3 test matches. Everybody knew Ishant picked up ankle injury on that England tour, yet selectors selected him.Selectors still had that chance to test the Ishant Sharma ahead of all important Australia tour by asking him to play in Ranji game during ODI series between West Indies and India but selectors failed to do so and that's why injured Sharma is on that tour. Now Indian bowling looks hopeless as there is question mark on Zaheer's fitness as well and only solace India have in bowling is new pace sensation Umesh Yadav. Abhimanyu Mithun and Vinay Kumar failed to impress in the first practice game at Canberra. I think Ishant must be recalled and Irfan Pathan must replace him immediately as latter is in good form and rythm while former is injured and don't look good to complete the tour.

In the decade of 90s, injured players were easily got selected for the matches because of their good relations with then physio Dr. Ali Irani who always recommended injured players for selection just on the basis of relationship and that's why he was fired from the job and foreign physios took over but trend still continues and injured players are still finding place in the team and in-form players are ignored. I am not at all hopeful of India doing well down under this summer as well, where they failed to win single test series in past and this is just because of wrong selection. I hope BCCI wake-up before its too late.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Master, Disciple and Double Ton

It was Wednesday, February 24th, 2010 when 'GOD of Cricket' Sachin Tendulkar created world record, hitting first double ton in One-Day Internationals against mighty South Africans at Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh. No player in the history of ODI format achieved this feat before Master. It is unique club of double ton where Master ruled for almost 19 months but finally his record broken by his disciple Virender Sehwag on Thursday, 8th December, 2011 against depleted West Indian side at Indore co-incidently again in the state of Madhya Pradesh. 'Nawab of Nazafgarh' joined 'GOD of Cricket' in this unique club of double ton in ODI format. 

Well lot has been said about these two amazing records but everyone forgot that after hitting 200 Tendulkar clearly said in one of his interview that only one man can break this record and that is Virender Sehawg. How true Master was in that interview. That's why Sachin Tendulkar is known as 'GOD' because god knows everything well in advance. Now I must say, it is unfair to compare both the innings but I feel Master's inning was much better as he played that innings against world's best bowling attack of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. That innings of Master was chance less while Viru was dropped twice. Master remained not out but Viru got out.  I must say  Master's innings was artistic and all his strokes looked beautiful. Viru played the brutal innings where he butchered and muscled the West Indian attack. It was completely different innings by Viru.

After this innings of Virender Sehwag, entire media started calling him GOD but I believe it is unfair to compare Viru with Sachin Tendulkar because both have different approach to the batting and this unnecessary comparison definitely put additional pressure on Viru. No doubt Viru is master class and he is biggest entertainer in modern cricket and I can vouch nobody will ever match Virender Sehwag in batting, the way he bats nobody today or even in future will bat like him. He simply kills the bowler and their bowling skills on his day. it is impossible to break majority of Sachin's record while it is impossible to bat like Virender Sehwag and that too consistently. Look at Viru's record. When he started his career everybody labelled him batsmen of limited overs game, but over the period, he is more successful in in longer format of the game. His record in test matches is awesome. Every cricket pundit criticised his lack of footwork and technique, but he proved every cricket pundit wrong as he has scored close to 8000 runs in test matches so far with an outstanding average of 53. while in ODIs he crossed 8000 runs recently. He has scored more than 16000 runs in international cricket and in all these, he had hit 37 hundreds which is no mean achievement for a player who relies purely on hand-eye co-ordination.

Talking about Viru, I must say Virender Sehwag always admitted that he is disciple of Sachin Tendulkar, tries to learn from Sachin Tendulkar and I believe he is absolutely correct because Sehwag tries to copy Tendulkar everytime he bats and succeeds most of the time, so Sehwag is real disciple of Tendulkar and thats why he is succeeded in breaking Tendulkar's unique record. Now what else lies ahead, I believe now Tendulkar will certainly look to score another double ton in ODI, i am saying this because knowing Sachin Tendulkar for so many years, he always likes competition and take unique challenges and achieve them. 

So Nobody will be surprised, if Sachin Tendulkar go on and break Viru's record. Difficult but certainly not impossible for a man who has scored 99 hundreds in International cricket. I must say no one else will achieve the feat of scoring double ton in ODI and this privilege will remain with Master and Disciple only, for very long time.

Lastly if 'Tendulkar is GOD of Cricket' then 'Sehwag is Yamraj for the bowlers'.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Team India finally met with an accident.

After escaping two very near accidents, Team India finally met with an accident at Motera. Luck is one such thing which don't remain with you forever and that's what happen with Virender Sehwag and his team. Team India managed to win first two ODIs where luck played important part but finally luck went to the West Indies camp leaving India in all sorts of trouble. There is no surprise because this loss, expected by fans after the performances in first two ODIs. But one man who survive through these accidents is Rohit Sharma, who stood tall in all three games and helped Indian team in winning two games  and almost the 3rd one, had he got little support from one of the top-order batsman. As they say cricket is a team game and each and every player have to contribute,  if team wants to win. Rohit Sharma looked too classy in his three outings and I feel he deserves the place in test eleven ahead of Virat Kohli. Rohit Sharma is far more talented than any other youngster and this reflects in the way he approached this series.

Indian team must blame themselves for this loss because players like Sehwag and Gambhir missed the practice session ahead of this all important ODI and that lack of practice reflected in their performances where captain and his best friend scored duck. Winning combination also tampered with and Abhimanyu Mithun included at the last moment because Chief Selector K.Srikkanth wanted Abhimanyu Mithun to play this ODI, so tampering with winning combination is also one of the factor. 

Now West indies have tasted the blood and they will come hard in next two ODIs, so Team India have to play out of their skins to win this ODI  series but all depends on how well our top-order performs. I believe Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir are ideal as an opening pair and with Australia tour near, they have to start opening together to build the rapport and momentum between them ahead of all important tour. Parthiv has done nothing substantial with the bat so far in the series, so he should be batting in lower order. 

Ideal No.3 is Virat Kohli and I think Rahane deserves to be in the team in place of out-of-form Suresh Raina who looked completely off-colour in his international stints in last few months. Ravi Rampaul is one man who haunted India badly in last 2 ODIS and Indian team have to find  out the ways to tackle this Rampaul factor. Sunil Narine who made his debut  for West indies looked quite impressive. He will definitely trouble Indian batsmen in coming matches, so Indian batsmen have to adopt simple policy of attacking this mystery bowler, if Indian batsmen play him defensively then he will definitely do lot of damage in coming matches.

Now two ODIs remained and selectors have included Irfan Pathan in the team who is in sublime form this Ranji season. Pathan has picked up 21 wickets at an average of 14 in 4 games, he played so far which includes 3 consecutive 5 wicket hauls. But I must say he is unfortunate to become the victim of selection bias as after performing so well in domestic cricket he is not selected for Australia tour. instead Abhimanyu Mithun got the nod ahead of him because Mithun hails from south zone and Chief Selector is also from south zone. So its a clear bias because Mithun has done nothing for Karnataka team this season. But since he hails from south and that went in his favour.

Team India have to work hard in remaining 2 ODIs if they want to win the series. If India lose this series and top-order batsmen continue to fail then team will go to Australia without any confidence which will affect their performance in Australia as well where they failed to win single test series so far.