Monday, September 29, 2008

Team selection on Wednesday

The Indian selectors get together this wednesday to pick the team for the upcoming test series against the Aussies. Everyone is keen to find out if Ganguly who was left out of the ROI team in the Irani trophy would be considered for the test series or not. The team selection itself proves to be quite interesting if Ganguly is left out of the team which will be the most likely scenario.

The top four for the first test at least pick themselves. Sehwag and Ghambir are most certain to open the innings followed by Dravid at number 3 and Sachin at 4. Laxman might bat at number 5 but there is one spot which will be vacant in the Indian middle order. It will be interesting to see who will replace Ganguly at that spot. There are quite a few contenders fighting for that one spot in the Indian middle order. The two most likely to occupy that spot would be either Badrinath or Rohit Sharma but there are few others with an outside chance. Mohammed kaif with a good knock in Irani trophy could have got himself in contention but his twin failures could work against him. Then there is Virat Kohli who had great Srilankan tour performing with great consistancy in the one day series.

A year ago if some one had asked me as to who would be the likely candidate to replace Sourav in the test team, I would have no hesitation to say Yuvraj’s name. But in the current scenario he has as much chance as the guy we are talking he can replace to make the team. It seems though that either Badrinath or Rohit Sharma might make the test team this time. So I guess the top 6 might look something like this,

1. Sehwag
2. Ghambir
3. Dravid
4. Sachin
5. Badrinath or Rohit Sharma
6. Laxman

The top 6 will be followed by Mahindra Singh Dhoni who will be proceeded by the bowlers. The first test might see Kumble and Harbajan bowling in tandem with Ishant and Zaheer taking the new ball. Munaf might be in the 15 but may not play at least in the first test.

All in all its going to be an interesting selection with a possibility of Sourav still making the team.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Calls to axe the seniors immature

“Heroes to zeroes” is the phrase which can be used to best describe the current status of the so called Fab Four. A dismal batting performance in Srilanka did not help their cause either. But the question everyone need to ask themselves is that “Are we ready to play test cricket without the Fab Four?” . If you asked me that question I would say that we are not. The Indian one-day team has its flaws but has been able to be successful most of the times. The credit for the same should actually go to Dhoni and the recent incredible form shown by Raina and Ghambir.

Even though we have done well in the shorter format, except for Ghambir, Dhoni and Raina none of the other batsmen have been able to be consistant. Yuvraj seems to have lost the plot and might not find a spot in one day squad when India play next, Rohit has been patchy, Sehwag is just making a comeback and Badrinath has just played 3 games. About 5 years back everyone thought that Sehwag, Yuvraj and Kaif will be India’s backbone in the coming years when the fab four decide to call it quits but thats not the case now.

Yuvraj is badly out of form, Sehwag has just made a comeback and kaif is fighting to get a chance again to play for India. The selectors need to be really smart about the transition in tests. India need to play Sachin, Dravid and Laxman in the middle order for next couple of years and rotate the youngsters in the squad so that they gain some experiance. Badrinath and Rohit Sharma seem to be the future of Indian middle order and they need to be gradually moved into the test team.

Replacing Sachin and Dravid in the Indian middle order can be a overwhelming experiance and a smooth transition from ODI to test cricket will help them a great deal. Sachin, Dravid and Laxman for sure have 2 more years of cricket left in them and calls to drop them from the test team seems immature. Sachin had a great tour to Australia and Laxman has never really been out of form. Dravid and Ganguly were the ones who would have been under discussion and it seems that the selectors have gone on with the overall ability rathar than the recent form.

The Indian team needs the experiance of Sachin and Dravid for the upcoming series against the Australians. Badrinath and Rohit sharma if selected can learn a lot in this series. The Indian selectors need to plan for the exit of the seniors by giving opportunities to the players whom they think would be replacing them in the future. I would think that Virat kohli, Badrinath, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma would form an excellent middle order for the Indians with Ghambir and Sehwag opening the batting.

The current series against the Australians will be very interesting and India would be hoping that they will be able to regain the Border-Gavaskar trophy. It will be interesting to see who would be replacing Ganguly in the test series which is about to start on the 9th of October. All in all the series would be a great watch and I am going for a 2-1 series victory for the Indians this time.

Dhoni and Yuvraj receive ICC awards and Ganguly gets the axe

Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh received top ICC honours for one day and Twenty20 performances respectively. For Yuvraj though it was a week of mixed emotions as he was dropped from the Rest of India (ROI) squad for the Irani trophy. This makes it almost certain that he will not be considered for the upcoming test series against the Australians. To be frank even Yuvraj wouldnt be that surprised about his omission from the test team.

He has been really inconsistant and in my opinion does not deserve a spot in the test team. The other omission which has again led to some controversy is of the former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly. The selectors have been called as biased and unfair in the media and by the supporters of the former captain on this decision. Well to be honest everyone including the people who are complaining now knew that Ganguly would be the first one to get the axe from the so called “Fab Four”. Even though Ganguly had been the most consistant player for the past two years in tests for team India, the selectors it seems have gone based on the overall ability.

The problem for Ganguly is that he has failed in two of the three away series this year which has not helped his cause. Even though it might seem unfair as he played couple of important innings against the touring South African team earlier this year, he should have seen this coming. Rahul Dravid though has been really lucky to find a place in the Indian team after poor performances away against Australia and Srilanka and at home against the South Africans. Apart from couple of contributions here and there he has been really inconsistant over the last one year.

Calls to drop Sachin Tendulkar from the supporters of Ganguly seems overboard as the little master’s only real failure this year has been in Srilanka. He has been nominated for the best ODI player award and was instrumental in India’s performances down under. Laxman has been never in bad form and has turned in some consistant performances throughout the year. Rahul Dravid has been retained in the team due to his proven ability to win matches for India and I guess his 60 odd runs in the final innings of the test series against SL helped his cause.

Even though Ganguly’s exclusion from the team seems unfair, I feel that by no means its a bad decision. I guess it sends across a clear message to all the seniors that if they dont perform they could be the next to get the axe. India is in the process of rebuilding and they need to approach the same with caution. We cannot replace all the seniors with youngsters as we have done with our one day team. Players like Rohit, Kohli and Badrinath need to be in the presence of experiance during initial phase of their test careers. Yuvraj who was supposed to be that experianced person in the team is now finding it difficult to even hold his place in the one day team.

Sourav Ganguly could have received a better send off for his services to the Indian team but as Tony Greg said in one of his interviews “Indian players dont retire but get kicked out”.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The champ is back

Roger Federer ended a dissapointing year in Grand Slams on a high note by winning the USOpen title for the fifth straight time. After he lost both the French and Wimbledon finals to Nadal the critics had written him off in spite of him being the defending champion at the open. Federer silenced his critics in the best possible way by winning the championship and thereby becoming the first player to win two separate grandslams 5 times in a row. In my previous article I had mentioned that being not in the focus might actually help Federer which turned out to be true.

There is a saying in cricket that “Form is temporary but class is permanent” which is true in any sport. Its true that Federer is no longer the dominant force he used to be a year ago but is still a great player. I have no doubt that he will break Sampras’s record to become the player with most grand slam titles by the end of 2009. If he can add a French crown to his already impressive resume he will be the greatest player in the history of the game.

I hope that year 2009 brings more success to this great cham

A greatly underrated cricketer II

When Srinath made his test debut in 1991 Kapil Dev was almost at the end of his career. Watching Srinath in that tour of Australia was a great experiance as he was by far the fastest Indian bowler at that time. The major problem with Srinath was his stamina in the initial part of his career. He could bowl really quick but always looked tired after a short spell. Srinath was also lucky to have started his career when Kapil was still leading India’s pace attack.
Srinath had a good tour of Australia and was in the team which went on a historic tour to South Africa later. Srinath when he made his debut was different from other Indian bowlers of that time. He was a bowler who hit the deck pretty hard and extracted plenty of bounce using his height and a strong action to his advantage. After the tour of SA, he dissapeared for over a year and returned after Kapil had hung up his boots in the 1994/95 season when WI toured India.

In the initial part of his career Srinath was a one dimensional bowler who mostly bowled in dippers to the right handers which made him very effective against the left handers. Brian Lara always had problems facing Srinath. I guess Srinath was one of the reasons why Brian Lara has a pretty modest record against the Indians. Later in his career Srinath developed a good slower delivery and a leg cutter which made him a more all round bowler at the international level.

Srinath was a perfect team man. His career was shortened due to injuries to his shoulder. Srinath’s career ran parallely with Glenn Mcgrath and Allan Donald. The major disadvantage for Javagal was that he never had the back up which both Mcgrath and Donald enjoyed in their respective teams. Most of the time Srinath was the only pace bowler in the dust bowls of India during the early 90’s when India prepared doctored pitches to suit their spinners.

Srinath lacked any support from the other end till Prasad made his debut in 1996. Srinath could have played more test matches and got more wickets if only India had good pace bowlers to support his initial bursts. He was particulary overbowled during the mid nineties under the captaincy of Sachin Tendulkar. He picked up his shoulder problem after the tour of SA in 1996/97 as he along with Prasad were the only bowlers who looked like taking any wickets on that tour. Srinath manfully toiled hard bowling long spells in mid and late nineties while the rest of the Indian bowlers except for Prasad turned up with mediocre perfromances abroad.
Srinath never got his due as a player as the Indian media is all about the batsmen in the team. Srinath retired after the 2003 WC without much fanfare. Srinath is only pacemen after Kapil Dev to have picked up 200 test wickets for India and the only Indian fast bowler to pick up 300 one day wickets. He was always a team man and stood up to be counted whenever his captain needed him. Srinath was always my favorite Indian bowler. India now can boast of a formidable pace attack with great bench strength which was not the case in the 90’s.

Srinath’s name may not figure in many “All time X1’s” but still he was one of the best India has ever had. I salute Srinath for his great contribution to Indian cricket and for being a wonderful team man that he was. I also wish him all the best in his new role as the ICC Match Refree. I am sure that he would perform this new role with the same passion and commitment as his did for team India as a player.

Federer not the focus this time

US Open is nearing its completion and for the first time in 5 years Federer is not the favorite to win this championship. Federer has lost to Nadal in two grand slam finals this year which included his shock defeat in Wimbledon. Federer who has won US Open 4 times before this and is the defending champion this year finds himself not in the headlines for the first time. Djokovic defeating him in the Australian and Nadal defeating him French and Wimbledon has given the others the confidence that they can also beat him.

This might actually work to Federer’s advantage as the focus this time is shifted to Nadal and he is the number one player this tournament. Federer this time has less pressure as people have realised that he can be beaten. Even though the champion himself would want to shrug off the bad performances this year in the Grand slam finals to win his 13th.

I am an ardent fan of Roger Federer and I am sure that he will make a grand comeback. The great champion that he is will surely want to end this year on a high note. This will be first year since he won the wimbledon in 2003 that he will end with out a major title if he doesnt win US open. I am sure that Federer will continue to win more slams and break Sampras’s record and once again become the number one player in the world.

Good luck to Federer as he will be playing his quarterfinals match against G.Muller later today.