Friday, February 29, 2008

Top order failure costs India another game

India's top order again Succumbed to the pressure of chasing a huge score against Australia. When Australia ended up with a score of 317/7, I thought that India had done a reasonable job as at one point it looked like they would get more than 350. It seemed like a very gettable target and by no means an easy one. India lost too many early wickets to slip to 51/4, leaving Gambhir and Dhoni to perform the repair job. Apart from Gambhir, the Indian top order has been really inconsistant and has failed to deliver putting too much of pressure on the middle and lower order.

Dhoni has had no luck with the toss which has made sure that India chase in most of their games. Except for one game against Srilanka, India has failed to put up a decent opening stand in this series. Sehwag and Gambhir have taken turns in partnering Sachin in this series and it doesnt seem to be working till now for the Indians. Uthappa has been wasted down the order and has been stuck with the tail in most of the games. Gambhir has been very consistant at number three and as Dhoni rightly pointed out he would not to move him to open with Sachin. The other choice would be to open with Uthappa and Sehwag and push Sachin to number 4 in the order which might actually help him with his batting.

India has always struggled to perform as a unit in ODI's in Australia. The problem is that there is always two batmen who is very consistant and the rest inconsistant which has always been the case when we play in Australia. In 91/92 it was Sanjay Manjrekan and Tendulkar, in 99/00 it was Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly, in 03/04 it was VVS Laxman alone with the others blowing hot and cold. The problem for India is that Sachin Tendulkar who has played most matches in Australia is having a poor CB series. This is his 4th full tour to Australia adding to the 1992 WC. Australia is kind of jinx for Tendulkar as he has always struggled to be consistant here in ODI's since the 91/92 season, where he was our best player down under.

India's inexperianced middle order needs an in form Sachin Tendulkar for us to succeed in Australia which has been a problem for Captain Dhoni. Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Sachin and Sehwag have been totally out of form which is putting too much of pressure on Ghambir, Dhoni, uthappa and Pathan. India is going to play Srilanka in an important game on the 26th which will determine who will join Australia in the finals. The Indian Batsmen have to come to party if they have to beat Srilanka at Hobart. India would be hoping that the law of averages should be catching up with Sachin and Sehwag and this time they will fire.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Aggression - A misunderstood concept

I was recently reading a great article on sledging by Harsha Bhogle and it got me thinking what does aggression on the cricket field mean. Aggression on a cricket field has been a hugely misunderstood concept.
I never understood the concept of sledging and mental disintegration. We have never seen a player like Tendulkar resorting to such on field theatrics and has still managed to score runs all around the world.

Australians have been the pioneers in the art of Sledging over the years. What once started as a friendly banter on the field between the batsmen and the bowlers has now become personal attacks in the name of Sledging. The happenings in the recent series between India and Australia has surely proved that sledging needs to be put to an end soon in cricket.

So now coming back to my original question, What is Aggression? What does it mean by being aggressive on a cricket field? Aggression as far as I am concerned is nothing but positive intent by a player on the field. By intent I mean, positive body language. Courtney Walsh, being a great fast bowler was also one of most likeable one. A good ball by him was followed by a stare at the batsmen on his follow through, which was scarier than an offensive comment by our mordern day pacemen. That was more than enough to put the fear in the batsman's mind. Sachin Tendulkar and Brian lara, two greatest cricketers of our time did not require sledging but are still considered most aggresive cricketers.
The recent Indias tour to Australia will be remembered for all the wrong reasons, even though it was one of the most competetive series involving the world champions. As Harsha had mentioned in his article its really sad to note that Dhoni wanted the youngsters to learn the "Art of sledging" from Australia. Being aggressive means to sledge according to the mordern day cricketer. Pointing the batsmen back to the pavilion, as if he doesnt know get there isnt aggression. Ishant Sharma is a great talent and he should remember that performances on the field are judged by your wickets and not by your words.
The Indian team is a very talented bunch and they should put behind this tour and concentrate on being more consistant and if they do that they will be the number 1 side by the end of this year. India will face Australia, England, Srilanka and SA this year and winning against each of them would mean that they will be the best team by a long way. Things could have been handled little bit better by the management of both the teams in the last couple of months which would reduced the media coverage, putting more emphasis on the action on the field.
I hope that both Kumble and Dhoni, sit with the youngsters and cool them down and explain to them that the Australian series is now behind them and it would be better if they concentrate on the season ahead. There were lots of distractions for both the teams with the IPL auction and also the constant media coverage on anything or everything sorrounding the "Turbunator" but still the focus remained on cricket for the Indians atleast.
I hope that we play good cricket throughout the year and become the number one cricket team in the world and not number 1 sledgers in the world.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Crucial Game for India

Sunday's contest between India and Australia is a very crucial game for both the teams. Its almost certain that India would join Australia in the best of 3 finals after Srilanka's loss in Melbourne on Friday. Srilanka will be very dissapointed as this is not the first time their batting has let them down against the Aussies in this series. Srilanka though need to win both their matches from here on and hope India loses theirs.

The Indian team though pulled off a crucial win against the Lankans on Tuesday to go up by 6 points on the table. One thing which is common to all the three sides in this series is that their batting has struggled. The bowlers from all the three sides have had great success in this series and the fact that there has been just two 250+ totals in this series is shocking considering the batting strength of the sides.

India would hoping to keep the trend going as I think the best possible scenario would be for India to bat first and post a challenging total on the board. Dhoni who has had pretty ordinary luck with the tosses would want to win one soon. Teams have generally found it difficult to chase as the pitches have been really difficult to bat on. The Australian batsmen except for Clarke and Hussey have found it really hard in this series to get the ball off the square. The Indians would hope to keep it that way. The Indian bowling has been great throughout the tour with Ishant Sharma being the find of this series. Ishant has been getting able support from Sreesanth, Munaf and Irfan and as a unit they have been able to keep the Australian batsmen quiet.

Both the teams have each won one game in their previous three meetings and whoever wins this one will get a slight edge before the finals. India would like to win this one and completely eliminate Srilanka from the picture. All in all this promises to be a great game and we hope that it lives up to the expectation.

Is too much money good for youngsters?

Five years ago when India won the Natwest finals against England, we had unearthed two batting stars in Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif. All of us thought that those two along with Virender Sehwag would form the crux of Indian batting line up in the future. Almost six years after the Natwest final, Kaif is no longer part of the Indian team, Yuvraj is still inconsistant and Sehwag's one day average keeps diminishing with every innings he plays.

The Indian team though have found few batsmen for the future in Gambhir, Uthappa, Rohit and the captain himself Dhoni. India's future after Sachin, Dravid, Sourav and Laxman looks really uncertain. Sachin who is still a part of the one day scheme of things is trying his best to help the youngsters in the team with his valuable inputs and that should do them a world of good. Yuvraj and Sehwag being the two most experianced members in the batting line up after Sachin, should take more responsibilty in guiding these youngsters and making sure that they dont fall out like a few have in the past few years.

When Kaif played that wonderful innings against England in the Natwest trophy he was considered to be a captaincy material and was expected to be a part of the team for a long time. Currently he is not even in the reckoning. The youngsters need to realise to be on the top, the performances need to be consistant over a period of time. I still remember Vijay Bharadwaj, who was man of the match in a series in kenya few years ago and suddenly dissapeared from the scene. We can see so many such instances in Indian cricket over the past few years.

Now that IPL has made sure that these youngsters have become overnight heroes. There is lots of money involved in the game these days and its easy to lose focus of the job in hand. When you consider Ishant Sharma who has had just few matches under his belt being auctioned at $950,000 at IPL, you cant help but wonder is this good for these youngsters. When you have players come into international cricket and have few successful games the hype in India is so much that they become overnight stars and dont know how to handle the same. The reason why Sachin, Dravid and Laxman have been so successful over a period of time is due to the fact that they have both their feet firmly grounded inspite of all the hype and hapoola surrounding the game these days.

With so much money involed in cricket these days its easy for these youngsters to lose focus on the game itself. Thats what we saw with Irfan, Sehwag, Yuvraj and few others who had to be dropped from the team to make them realise that you cant be in the team if you are not performing. I guess India has great talent coming through in both batting and bowling and we need to make sure that the IPL's and the ICL's dont ruin it for us. The players are currently made to believe that they are greater than what they are and it will be better for them to realise that what matters the most the their performances on the cricket field.

Ten years down, no one is going to remember how much you were auctioned for in IPL. The reason we kept getting great batsmen over a period of time was due to the fact that, playing cricket was their main focus. Now a days, you just need to be a part of one series win and you dont have to play cricket anymore. I will be very interested in seeing in couple years time, which of these youngsters make it through to become the next Sachin or Laxman or Dravid of Indian cricket.

I have been a fan of Indian cricket and I am very excited looking at these youngsters performing so well in Australia. I just hope that this continues and these youngsters go from strength to Strength rather than being weighed down by this recent media frenzy and the money involved. I want India to be a cricket team which is respected throughout the world for their performances on the cricket field rathen than being the financial powerhouse which they are right now. Cricket is India has become more of a business than a sport which was the case 10-15 years back. Hopefully the game survives and will be still be remembered for your exploits on the cricket ground.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Indian Batsmen need to step up

The Indian team lost the last two ODI's in the ongoing CB series. The Indian batting has failed to fire in this series and has never looked convincing. The batting is lacking experiance in the middle order and the constant failures of Sachin, Sehwag and Yuvraj is causing Dhoni lots of headaches on the eve of their crucial match against the Lankans.

The Indian bowling has been fantastic throughout the series and has been let down by some irresponsible batting. The game against the Australians should have been won by the Indians, if only there was someone who displayed a mature head as Clarke did for the Aussies. Dhoni has been the only batsman in this series who has shown the will to stick it out in the middle and play according to the situation. The rest of the batting has struggled to handle anu sort of pressure.

Sachin has been throwing his wicket away after getting starts in almost all the matches. Being the most senior member in the squad, I guess he needs to be more responsible and guide the youngsters in the team. India is missing the solidity of Rahul Dravid in the middle order. India also needs to stop experimenting with Irfan Pathan at number 3 as Robin Uthappa is getting wasted at number 7. He is an attacking player and needs to be playing in the top order. Irfan can be more effective at number 6 or 7 rather than in the top 3.

Once in a while Pathan can be used at number 3 to surprise the opponents but not everytime. On the positive side the Indian bowling led by Ishant Sharma has performed brilliantly. They had set up the game against Australia, only to be squandered by the batsmen. I wouldnt say that it was a easy target but was definitely gettable. India now face the tough task of winning two of the next 3 games and their next game against the lankans being the most important. India winning this game would put lots of pressure on the Lankans as they would remain in the third spot in the table.

The Indian batsmen need to fire and make a big enough score to give the team an opportunity to put pressure on the Lankans. Well this game is sort of Do or Die scenario for the Indians and hope that they rise up to the occasion.