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Monday, January 30, 2012

Indian Cricket.....The Lost Giant

In 1989-90 season when India lost the series in New Zealand, Bishen Singh Bedi, then coach of the Indian team said that 'Throw this Indian team in Pacific Ocean'. These were very harsh words used by any Indian coach. Now 22 years later, after drubbing in England and Australia, I must say 'Throw This Indian team in Indian Ocean' but before that throw entire BCCI in Arabian Sea which is very near to the BCCI headquarters. 8 consecutive overseas defeats in the span of 7 months is really hard to digest and that too for the team which enjoyed No.1 ranking in test cricket for more than 2 years. Really fail to to understand this dismal turnaround in performance of this very talented team which is considered as best batting line-up in the world and 2 of the highest run-getters are part of this team.

There are 3 reasons for this dismal turnaround. No.1 Defensive Captaincy, No.2 Poor Team Selection and No.3 Too Much Cricket.

Many cricket fans did not agreed upon defensive captaincy of MS Dhoni when I raised this issue in this blog 1 and half years back.  Dhoni's defensive captaincy started 2 years back, but team was winning consistently so nobody bothered about it. But I must say, although Team India earned the No.1 ranking in test matches but never won series in England, Australia and South Africa in last 4 years. It means Team India won most of the matches at home. Many will say Indian team won in West Indies and New Zealand, but one must remember that both West Indies and New Zealand are way below in ranking and not considered quality side these days. So there is big question-mark on that No.1 ranking of Indian team. Indian team had a chance of winning more test matches in South Africa, England and Australia, if Dhoni had tried aggressive strategies instead he opened the field for opposition batsmen after putting them on mat and this happened in South Africa last year, it happened in England and it happened in Australia. Even in the series against West Indies(Home and Away) last year, Dhoni did same mistakes but fortunately we won the series. Dhoni's batting also affected because of the captaincy pressure and wicket-keeping  skills were never great.

Poor team selection is also one of the reason why Team India lost the plot. Last year Rajasthan won Ranji Trophy but none of the player from Rajasthan team got selected in Indian team. Fast bowler Pankaj Singh who is among top wicket-takers in domestic cricket this year and last year, completely ignored by the selectors. Pankaj Singh bowled is heart out  on slow-low pitches and played important part in Rajasthan team's glory. Instead bowlers like Abhimanyu Mithun and Vinay Kumar who hails from South Zone played ahead of Pankaj Singh just because chief selector is from South Zone. Deepak Chahar had a wonderful debut season for Rajasthan last year, also ignored by selectors for England tour where he could have proved lethal because of his swing. But not selected. Varun Aaron warmed the bench on that entire England tour. Abhinav Mukund was clearly ignored after 2 failures. He started well in England with 49 run innings in his first test at Lord's but not persisted after second test, instead Sehwag was brought back, though he was not fit enough to play and result is in front of everybody. Suresh Raina was persisted even after repeated failures at test level ahead of talented players like Rahane and Rohit Sharma. If this is not enough selectors still not learnt from their mistakes and dropped Rahane from the Tri-Series down-under. Rahane spent close to one month with this team in Australia has come back home without playing a single test match on this tour. Ishant Sharma has done nothing except one good tour of West Indies, got selected for the tour down-under ahead of Irfan Pathan who is in  fantastic form and rhythm this domestic season not selected for test series down-under. So selection played pivotal role in debacle. This year also Rajasthan won the elite trophy and man who made it possible for Rajasthan are ignored once again. It is pure bias of the selectors towards players like Pankaj Singh and Rituraj Singh. There are many more examples but space is less.

Too much cricket is also one of the major reason for this debacle. Look at Indian team's cricket schedule of last year and half and one can easily understand the effect. Not a single month passed without cricket.

- Starting from Oct'10, India played Australia at home (2 Test Match and 3 ODIs). 
- Nov'10-Dec'10, New Zealand toured India (3 Test Matches and 5 ODIs). 
- Dec'10- Jan'11,  India toured South Africa( 3 test Matches - 5 ODIs). 
- Feb'11-Apr'11, World Cup ( 9 ODIs). 
- Apr'11-May'11, IPL (74 T20 Matches). 
- May'11-Jun'11, India toured West Indies (3 Test Matches and 5 ODIs). 
- Jun'11-Sept'11, India toured England (4 Test Matches and 5 ODIs). 
- Sep'11-Oct'11, Champions League T20. Oct'11, 
- England toured India (5 ODIs). Oct'11-Nov'11, 
- West Indies toured India (3 Test Matches and 5 ODIs). 
- Current : Dec'11-Feb'12, India touring Australia(4 Test Matches and Tri-Series(15 ODIs). 
- Future : March'11, Asia Cup.  April'11-May'11, IPL. 

So not a single month gone without cricket which involved Team India starting Oct'10. It is easy to question the performances, but one must understand this work-load which affected team India's performance. It is easy to blame legends like Sachin, Dravid and Laxman but one must not forget Sachin is playing best cricket of his life since 2007. Dravid has scored plenty of runs in last one year and has only one poor series down-under. Laxman failed only in 2 series in last decade. So it is not good to question the performance of these legends. Dip in performance bound to happen in one or 2 series if you play hell of the cricket non-stop for years.

I think if Indian cricket have to come on track then administrators and selectors have to take important decision regarding scheduling of the matches and series. They also have to look at rotation policy. Otherwise, Indian cricket will die soon. Moreover, now Pakistan coach, captain and administrators are making mockery of India team's debacle. Pakistan has won 8 test matches out of last 14 and lost just one. they also defeated No.1 ranked England recently. But one must not forget, those Pakistanis who are laughing at Indian cricket, have won matches  against teams like Zimbabwe, West Indies and  Bangladesh. They have beaten England recently on spin friendly tracks and everybody knows the weakness of English team. But Pakistan is taking revenge because their players are banned in IPL. But our administrators has also given them a chance to laugh at us. Indian Cricket has lost the ground in last few months and its upto the administrators to bring it back on track with some wise decisions.



Saturday, January 21, 2012

Respect the legends.

Over decade and half fab four served the country to the best of their abilities. One of them retired 3 years back from International cricket who Is still remained most successful captain of India and that is Sourav Ganguly. It's been 3 years, Team India failed to find his replacement and now entire media and few so-called cricket experts who don’t even stand near to these legends, talking about axing Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. 


I think these former cricketers who have become experts on TV, at times behaves like supreme authority and talks rubbish about the legends. Some of these cricketers must introspect their records. Talking about legendary trio, I think there is lot of cricket left in them and they must not retire under pressure. Look at Sachin Tendulkar, he went through lean patch between 2005 and 2007, but made grand re-entry on cricket field and haven’t looked back since. He scored first ever double century in One-Day Internationals after his re-entry and he’s been playing best cricket of his life since 2007. Although, he has not scored test century in last 1 year but scoring runs consistently with healthy average and still contributes heavily to the team. Tendulkar is necessary for Team India because he play dual role of player as well as mentor.

Talking about Rahul Dravid, one must not forget that he was the highest test run scorer in 2011 calendar year. He scored 6 centuries last year and has been in sub-lime form. Not to forget he went through lean patch in 2009-10 season but got among runs last year. He was the most successful player on that disastrous tour of England with 3 centuries to his credit in testing conditions. Moreover, he opened the batting for the sake of team’s cause. He is a great team-man and always lived upto the expectations of the team. There is lot of talk about his dismissals in the ongoing series, where ball gone between his bat and pad quite often in the ongoing series and crashed into the stumps, but one must not forget that he is having this technical flaw right through his career and in-coming deliveries always troubled him, so it’s not new to Dravid. It only came into lime-light when team is not doing well overseas. But Rahul is still scoring runs. He is the only batsmen in Team India, whose overseas average is better than his home average. Do not forget that he is second highest run-getter in test cricket after Sachin Tendulkar with more than 13000 runs to his credit with 36 centuries. Rahul is still going strong and youngsters in the team can learn a lot about batting from this great wall.

What to say about VVS Laxman, man is known as ‘God of Crisis’ in Indian cricket. In last test series against West Indies he scored brilliant century (176*). This wrist magician has bailed out Team India India from many crisis situation. In his debut test against South Africa in 1997, he bailed out India from trouble with brilliant half-century. He did fantastic partnership with Anil Kumble and helped India to win that test match from hope less position. I think it is unfortunate that touch player like Laxman don’t have lot of centuries to show but he has scored 17 hundreds and that too batting at No.6 position where he didn’t get much support from the other end. Had he batted up the order I believe, he would have easily ended with more than 30 hundreds. But he never complained about his batting order and did his best for the team and won many matches for India from hopeless situations. After Sachin Tendulkar, he is the biggest enemy of Australian bowlers. In current series things are not going well for him but I am damn sure, this lean patch will get over very soon.It is VVS Laxman who scored brilliant 96 against South Africa last year at Durban, which helped Team India winning the test match. So, it is wrong to say that Laxman is burden for the team. If we look at his career in last decade starting 2001, he hasn’t hit lean patch. He has failed in only two series in last decade. So, Laxman is still very special.

I feel, we must respect these legends and have to back them till the time they don’t decide to retire. I feel, trio of Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman has lot of cricket left in them and they have lot to offer. Cricket is a team game and 3 players can’t win you matches. It is upto all 11 players to put up combined effort to win matches. Don’t forget, it is Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman have given us lot of enjoyable moments in last decade and brought back smile on our faces which was non-existent in our cricketing history barring one or two incidences.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Acid Test is awaiting Dhoni at Perth...

Acid test is awaiting captain Dhoni at Perth, when Team India will take on resurgent Aussies in 3rd test match of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. India already down 2-0 and will be playing at Perth to save the series. Loss at Perth will shatter all the hopes of Indian fans and win will certainly bring smile on the grim faces. But it is not going to be that easy for Team India. Although, history is with Team India, if Team India take some inspiration from last tour, in which they won at Perth, then I believe their task will become simple. 

Talking about resources, I think team India have all the arsenal in the world to beat Aussies, only thing required is little application by batters and bowlers, also require some impeccable and offensive strategy from Captain Dhoni. If Dhoni continue his defensive tantrums, then it will going to be difficult task for Team India at Perth.First of all, Dhoni will have to select correct personnel to fight this battle and first change he has to make is to replace out of form Virat Kohli with talented Rohit Sharma. Everybody knows Rohit Sharma is far more talented than any other youngster at present. So its right time for Rohit to make his debut. There is also good sign for Team India, as all the batsmen except Kohli have the half century under their belt going into this test, so form of the batsmen is not going to be a problem. Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman, Gambhir and Sehwag had spent fair bit of time out in the middle in last two test matches only problem they faced, that they couldn't convert those 50s into big hundreds and that's where these batsmen have to be careful. Especially, for Tendulkar, it will going to be a important test match to score his 100th ton and he can take inspiration from his 1991 innings, in which he scored brilliant hundred at the same venue and announced his arrival in International cricket. Tendulkar must get rid of that monkey on his back which is haunting him for last one year. 

Talking about bowling, I believe India have all the resources in place in this department and bowlers need little cushion of runs. Bowlers also need aggressive and appropriate field placings as Umesh, Zaheer and Ishant are bowling quick with good rhythm, if they get little support from Dhoni, then I think they can pick 20 wickets without any problem. Conditions in Perth will also favour the bowlers as pitch is going to be green top and will have lot of bounce which will assist quickies to pick wickets, only thing is required from the bowlers is to put the ball in right areas and allow the pitch to do the trick. Perth wicket is heaven for the fast bowlers, if bowlers apply their mind then they will be able to trouble all the Aussie batsmen. Toss will going to be a crucial factor in this game as whoever wins the toss will opt to field first. So, its important for Dhoni to win the toss and go for the kill. Ashwin will certainly enjoy bowling at Perth due to good bounce from the pitch. He is tall and will extract good amount of bounce which will trouble Aussie batsmen. It's going to be golden chance for Rohit Sharma to prove his batting prowess, if he gets the nod to make his debut. 

As far as Australia is concerned, they will be under no pressure, whatsoever, going into this test match, as they are enjoying unassailable lead in the series. Ponting and Hussey are back among runs and got rid of sword which was hanging on their heads before  start of the series and this is not going to make life  of the Indians easy as they allowed Ponting and Hussey to got among the runs in last two test matches. Captain Clarke is in sublime from, must be in immense confidence after hitting that brilliant triple hundred at Sydney. So Aussie batsmen are in full form and looking good to score few more runs. Bad news for Australia is that, young bowling sensation Pattinson is ruled out of the series due to injury which can be a good news for India but Aussies have able replacement for Pattinson and that is Ryan Harris, who had dream test match against England on the very same venue last time when he appeared for Australia. Siddle, Hilfenhaus and Harris makes formidable combination to trouble Indian batsmen, taking into account, the pitch condition. I believe they will certainly trouble Indian batsmen. So, Indian batsmen have to apply themselves hard to   tackle these world class bowlers who are deadly dangerous in their home conditions.

News of rift between Sehwag and Dhoni will certainly not going to help the cause of Indian team and they have to forget all the differences going into this test match. So, its going to be hard fought contest at Perth and looking at all the points, I believe Aussies are favourite to win this test match as well unless they make any mistake, as they say 'Cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties'. This 3rd test will also decide the future of Dhoni as test captain of Team India. Hope, India come out of Perth with flying colours, just like they did last time. But, at the moment it is highly unlike.  

 


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

From Captain Marvel to Captain Zero...

Entire media is after Dhoni's blood after 6 consecutive test defeats overseas. The same media which called Dhoni ' The Captain Marvel' or 'Captain with Midas Touch' or 'Captain Cool' is now projecting the him as a villain and zero. What a turnaround this has been for Dhoni. But this is the cruelty of life. Faster you climb up the stairs of success, eventually come down at double speed. Dhoni, man who made Indian team World T20 Champion, World Champion in ODIs and also made Indian team No.1 in Test cricket has become the biggest threat for Indian cricket nowadays, according to media.

But I must say this has not happened overnight. It all started with the transformation in the mindset of Dhoni some two years back when he changed his batting style from offensive to defensive and similarly that mindset also affected his captaincy. Dhoni won matches in last 2 years but more with luck and not because of his captaincy skills. I wrote this in my earlier posts as well, that although Dhoni is winning matches but he has become defensive captain and lacks vision. But the damage has been done and now situation is such that if India lose next two test matches down-under then that will end the Dhoni's career as captain.

Team India won many matches under Dhoni's captaincy but he failed to win test series in England, South Africa and Australia. India only won test series outside sub-continent was one in West Indies and another in New Zealand and everybody know that both, West Indies and New Zealand are bottom ranked teams in world cricket. So Dhoni has not done anything special overseas in his captaincy stint so far. We won in England and West indies under the captaincy of Rahul Dravid. But failed to win series in England under the captaincy of Dhoni last summer and lost the test series in shameless manner where England white-washed Team India. We drew the series in Australia under the captaincy of Sourav Ganguly but there is no possibility of winning or draw in ongoing series against Australia under the captaincy of Dhoni. So I don't think that Dhoni is extraordinary captain as he made out to be by media and he has become villain overnight for same media. But fact is that zing and buzz we used to see in Sourav's captaincy is completely missing in Dhoni.

There is no denying that India won the World Cup of ODI under his captaincy, also won the inaugural T20 World Cup and became No.1 team in Test matches but one should not forget that the team through which Dhoni achieved these success were built by Sourav Ganguly, Anil Kumble and Rahul Dravid. So giving full credit to Dhoni for these successes will not do justice with former captains whose blood and sweat involved in building this Indian team. Dhoni also lacks the sight of picking up talent. Sourav Ganguly was excellent in picking up talent. If we look at Dhoni's captaincy stint, we will fined that none of the players picked up by Dhoni. Players, whom selectors found suitable got into the team which was not the case with Sourav Ganguly who gave us fabulous players like Zaheer Khan. VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh, Ashish Nehra and list continues. 

I still believe Dhoni lacks leadership qualities and I think Sourav Ganguly and Anil Kumble were far better captain and man-managers than Dhoni. End of captain Dhoni has already begun. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Series win for Team India is a distant dream....

Yet again visitors lost the  1st test match of  series. It has happened end number of times in the past gets repeated again and again. This time also many excuses given but I think those excuses are of no use because, Team India reached Australia well in advance. So Team India had enough time to prepare for the series and get used to the conditions down-under. Team India can't complain about practice matches as well because they got 2 practice matches, which I believe enough for the preparation. Team India lost the first test match because of poor selection and some defensive strategy by its captain. So what lies ahead for Team India. There is close possibility of England tour horror show to continue. Series loss is confirm and I can bet on it anytime. I won't be surprised if result will be 4-0, which  is likely to happen, after watching India's performance in the 1st test match at Melbourne.

2nd test match of the series starting tomorrow at Sydney Cricket Ground, it is a happy hunting ground for few Indian players and conditions will be home like, so I think Sydney provides best chance to Team India for squaring the series. But this is not going to  happen because Indian team have the problems in plenty. Gambhir is not in form. Big question-mark on Sehwag's consistency. Captain Dhoni is going through rough patch in test matches. VVS Laxman didn't look in commanding position, as he was in past against Australia. To top of these selection will going to play crucial part as well. If team management decides to play Virat Kohli again, who failed to impress everybody, especially overseas, will back fire badly. Although, as I mentioned SCG is like home away from home for Team India but this time it is going to be a green top as per the curator and Team India will not going to get the rank turner which is the basic nature of SCG pitch. So ghost of trouble waiting for Dhoni and his men at Sydney.

So, What India can look forward to in 2nd test match at Sydney. I think to win SCG test, they have to play out of their skins. Gambhir, Dhoni and Laxman have to get among runs and Rahul Dravid will have to rectify the chinks in his technique, which often result in his downfall. Incoming delivery which passes between his bat and pad, get crash into the stumps. As far as master is concerned, I think he has to forget about his ton of tons and play naturally. Sydney is happy hunting ground for master where he averages over 200. After Sachin, if anybody like SCG the most, is VVS Laxman, who has distinction of scoring 3 consecutive hundreds on this very ground in last 3 outings, if he scores one more here than I believe Indian team have the chance of winning this match but that is highly unlike at the moment because of poor performance in first test. 

I believe, time has come for Rohit Sharma to make his debut. We all know how much capable and talented Rohit Sharma is among all the youngsters but team management have to take this call by dropping out of form Kohli, who don't have the technique to survive in test arena. For Gautam Gambhir, this test match is going to be a do or die game. One more failure and he will be out of the squad as Rahane is waiting in the wings to replace him, so he will be under immense pressure going into this test match. But we all know Gambhir is a very good batsmen and hopefully will get into the form in 2nd test match as he has done in the past and he is class act. But to come out of the slump he has to play straight and play few shots through cover, mid-off and mid-on rather than playing them through slips and gully. He also have to bring out his pull shot which he used early in his career. If Gambhir does this minor adjustment, I am confident he will get big runs. 

Aussies are ready with all their arms and ammunition to tame this Indian team. They successfully did that at MCG and they are sighting victory at SCG to take that unassailable lead. Mindgames started once again which includes, putting Sachin Tendulkar under pressure by talking about his 100th ton. They are talking because they have fire power to tame this Indian team and top of it all their experienced pros in Hussey and Ponting are back in form, thanks to the poor strategy of captain M.S Dhoni. Aussies have very good bowling unit and will go on all out attack tomorrow at SCG. 

So, looking at the situation, this time also, series win is a distant dream for Team India and I am sure about it. I hope they prove me wrong but that is highly unlike. Experts like Sunil Gavaskar and Ian Chappell has already written-off this Indian team. This is centenary test match for this Sydney Cricket Ground and both team will give their best to make it more memorable.


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