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Sunday, October 18, 2009

My take on India Australia series

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When Dravid was selected for Sri Lankan Series and the Champions Trophy, I had pointed out that it was merely a selection for the South African conditions. With the BCCI unceremoniously dumping the nicest man of Indian Cricket (perhaps the nicest of all active cricketers), my fears have come to be true. It is highly unfortunate that the selectors chose to treat such a senior cricketer like a spare tyre. They would have been much better off trying out Rohit Sharma or Virat Kohli in the Champions Trophy with future in mind.

As far as the other selections go, it is good to see both Viru and Yuvraj back. They are sorely missed and it once again goes to show that India (despite two seasons of IPL) does not have a great bench-strength. On the other hand, Australia’s wicket-keeper Paine, a replacement for the injured Haddin impressed in the ODI series against England. That proves that IPL does not necessarily promote the right kind of talent.

I really wonder why Ishant Sharma is still being retained. This is a good time for giving him a rest. Moreover India does not play any test matches in the near future, so this could be a good time when he can rethink his game. This is his second season in International Cricket, which is always much tougher than the first because by now batsman have worked him out. This is quite similar to what happened to Irfan when he came to the international stage as a 19-year old in 2004. After tremendous success for the 1-2 seasons, he faded out didn’t make it to the 2007 World Cup, but made a comeback in the World T20 Cup.

Amongst the other players who have been omitted are Dinesh Kartik, RP Singh and Yusuf Pathan. While it was ok to drop RP who didn’t have any success in the Champions Trophy, I am not sure about the other two. Dinesh Kartik was made to open the innings in place of Viru something which isn’t quite used to. He had a good IPL season and can serve as a good backup keeper for Dhoni.  The selectors instead chose Kohli, which isn’t that bad move either as he was outstanding in the ICC Emerging Players Tournament, which India won.

As regards to Yusuf Pathan, I think it is highly unfair to drop him. He came into the side on back of a brilliant performance in the IPL Season 1, where he was the man-of the tournament. He is capable of doing what Symonds did for Australia, bat explosively at six and bowl his part-timers. He isn’t as good as Symonds in the field though. But in the last one year, Dhoni has consistently made him bat at number 7. With Indian batting working so well during this time with Yuvraj, Dhoni, Sehwag and Tendulkar all in good form, he has hardly got any opportunities to bat. He either comes in the last 10 overs  or he comes in when half the side is gone early and he is forced to play defensive game.  Even in bowling, Dhoni hardly seems to trust him. In the series in Sri Lanka, Dhoni preferred to use Yuvraj’s part-time spin over Pathan. He has been reduced to merely a traveler who just gets to field in every match. Dhoni could have tried him up the order, may be even make him open the batting in place of Sehwag who was injured. Unfortunately, the Team Management, Dhoni and Kirsten do not really believe much in his abilities. Moreover, he is not very good against the short-pinched stuff. My advice to him would to play for one season of county cricket. This should improve his game overseas.

Now I am not sure what Ravindra Jadeja has done to make a comeback. Perhaps he is coming in place of Yusuf Pathan as a possible contender of second spinner spot in the side. He too isn’t good against short pitched stuff. He is no match to Pathan as far as explosive batting is concerned but is a much better fielder. However, looking back at his innings in World T20, I can only say that he isn’t good under pressure and Yusuf is a much better bet for he shows any nerves. He can bowl even in the death or at the start of the innings. Warne used him to open bowling in IPL. He is explosive and doesn’t fears while taking on any bowler.

As far as the bowlers is concerned, its good to see Praveen Kumar opening the bowling attack. He is a genuine swing bowler, and should make a lethal combo with Nehra. Though I am not sure how good he will be in Indian conditions. The problem is that he doesn’t have the pace, nor is he a good fielder. He can bat though and must improve his batting to permanent cement his place. Mishra is a fine bowler and at the moment number one choice for the leg spinner, ahead of Piyush Chawla who still hasn’t managed enough control over his leg-spin and prefer the googly far too often.

Champions League
I never believed that this was a good idea and lacks of crowds have proved it. The football version of the UEFA Champions League is played with teams playing two games with each other on a home and away basis. The final though is played on a neutral venue. But this home and away format is possible as UEFA Champions League is played among the clubs of Europe only. In cricket such a format would involve huge amounts of travel and thus difficult to accommodate in the ICC calendar.

Moreover, I am not sure whether this can be treated as tournament to promote domestic talent. In the football version of the Champions League, a player can play for only one club. In case there is a mid-season transfer, he cannot represent the new club for Champions League. In cricket however, players like Mahela, and Mecclum played in the Champions League despite the fact that their IPL teams have not qualified. Gibbs is playing for Cobras and not Chargers whom he represented at the IPL. Ideally this choice should not remain with the players. A player must specify which club he shall represent at the Champions League before the start of the season.

Finally, it’s good to see that the Deccan Chargers have not even made it to the Super Eights. They might have won the IPL, but I still don’t regard them too highly. They are far too dependent on their foreign recruits like Gilly, Symonds and Gibbs. That’s exactly what happened in IPL 1 when neither of them fired. In IPL 2, all of them fired and they won. T20 is an unfair format, which gives only 4 over’s to a bowler but no such restriction is put on batsman. One batsman alone can potentially win a match. That’s what happened when Gilly outplayed Delhi in the IPL semi-finals. The team composition is hardly representative of Hyderabad. Pragyan Ojha hails from Orissa which comes under the catchment area of KKR. VVS Laxman and Venugopal Rao hardly got to play in IPL 2. Only other player Suman who I suppose is also the region. Rest of the lot has been recruited from other regions of India. I do not know how this will boost cricket of the region and why did Hyderabadis come out in support of the team when there is hardly any localite in the team.

India-Aus Series
Steve Waugh has predicted the series to be a close affair with a result 4-3 in favor of either of the two teams. Bret Lee on the other hand has set a target of 7-0 whitewash. I would go somewhere in between. My take is 5-2 in favor of Australia. This should be a fair call considering India’s recent concerns in the bowling and fielding departments. I am assuming that despite all these struggles, the likes Sachin, Sehwag and Yuvraj can come good and win at least 2 of the 7 matches. As for Australia, Ponting is the key.

The Aussies have one obvious weakness in the spin department. I really hope that all matches are close affairs. A lot will depend on how India’s bowlers perform.
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