Category Archives: Australia

Ravichandran Ashwin – Overseas Blues?

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Ravichandran Ashwin

Ravichandran Ashwin is India’s premier spinner and needs to be backed.

Ravichandran Ashwin has played a grand total of 5 tests overseas, 4 of them in the “Subcontinent” spin bowler’s graveyard Australia. Many greats from the subcontinent in the past have struggled to pick up wickets in Australia. Anil Kumble first visited Australia during India’s 1999/00 series when he had already played around 7 -8 years of International cricket. He picked up 5 wickets in 3 tests at an average of 90 and SR of 175.

Mastering the overseas pitches hasn’t been easy for subcontinent spinners especially Indian spinners over the last couple of decades. Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh are the two major spinners who played for India during that time and both of them struggled overseas. Anil Kumble was never effective overseas until the 2000’s after almost a decade of international cricket. Harbhajan Singh except for few games here and there never mastered the art of bowling on overseas pitches. So why are we expecting Ashwin to be great before he has even played 10 tests overseas?

India isn’t in the Bedi, Chandrasekhar, Venkat and Prasanna era anymore, those days are long gone. Ravichandran Ashwin’s career is similar to how Anil Kumble or Harbhajan started their careers with team India. They were Match winners at home but ineffective overseas. Anil is an Indian legend and you don’t pick up 600+ wickets without being one but even his craziest of fans would accept that his performance in the 90’s overseas was largely underwhelming. The Indian spinners have struggled to master the right length to bowl on pitches in Australia, England and South Africa especially.

The Indian spinners are used to bowling on Indian pitches which assist them a lot. They don’t have to bowl too full on Indian pitches as bowling short of a length is more than enough as the bounce and turn on Indian pitches will take care of the rest. The reason why most of the overseas spinners struggle in India too is because they bowl too full. The Indian spinners when they go to Australia or England struggle to find the right length. They bowl the same short of the length which they bowl in India and it becomes too short on those pitches as there is no help for them. Batsmen easily pick them off of the back foot. If you look at Anil Kumble’s footage from the 90’s in Australia you will get the gist.

As a good spinner you are supposed to adapt but again you need time. Spin bowling is a difficult art, especially in conditions which isn’t helpful. You need to be able to adjust your line and length according to the pitches you play on. Also spinners mature later than the fast men. It took 10 years for Anil to find the right way to bowl overseas. Once he figured that out he started winning games for India overseas.

I am not saying give Ashwin 10 years to learn the trade but don’t discard him just after 5 tests. He can be an incredible asset for the Indian test team. He bats very well and averages almost 40 with the bat and is a good slip fielder. The Indian team needs to give him confidence and allow him to mature a little bit overseas. Unless he bowls on such wickets he is not going to learn. Anil Kumble got the chance to learn and we should not deny Ashwin of the same. We know Ashwin can pick up wickets; he just needs to know how to do it consistently overseas. It is unfair for the critics to expect magic from him when our last two major spinners had the same trouble overseas.

Ashwin has the talent and that needs backing. He has been brilliant in home conditions and now needs to translate that success to overseas games. He will do that and needs to be persisted with. I hope that the think tank play him on this tour as he would add amazing value to the team and if there is even a little help in the pitch he is bound to provide you with better attacking option.

Champions Trophy – Top order and Bowling a major concern for India

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India takes on South Africa in couple of days in Sophia Gardens and they still have few issues to address before the big game. The team selected for a major trophy like the Champions Trophy has a few gaping holes which might prove to be India’s undoing in the tournament. Murali Vijay has failed in the two warm up games and so has Dhawan. Rohit Sharma’s continued lackluster showing at the international level isn’t helping India’s already inexperienced batting lineup.

The batting entirely depends on the experience of Dhoni, Raina and Kohli. Dinesh Karthik has shown excellent form in the two warm up games and Dhoni will be hoping that he takes that form into the tournament. The opening combination of Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan does not inspire a huge amount of confidence at the moment. It seems like Dhoni will not open with Rohit in the Champions Trophy which means that India has to stick with the Vijay/Dhawan combo for the tournament unless they push either Pathan or Karthik to the top of the order.

The bowling too lacks experience in the absence of Zaheer. Ishant Sharma isn’t consistent enough to lead the attack and Irfan Pathan isn’t the same bowler he was at the start of his career. It will be interesting to see the combination India go in with for the first game against South Africa. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has done enough to retain his place in the squad and I am thinking that Umesh Yadav will share the new ball with him. Ishant’s good performance against the Aussies in the second warm up game will help him hold on to the third pace bowling spot. Jadeja is almost a certainty for the all-rounder spot in the X1 and Ashwin might just hold on to the specialist spinner spot in the team ahead of Mishra.
The top order is still a concern for India and so is the death bowling. The Indian bowlers were carted all over the park by the Sri Lankan batsmen in the first warm up game. Even though the bowlers made a great comeback in the second game, the concern still remains. The consistency of the pace bowlers and the spinners is to be questioned. Dhoni will hope that the Indian bowlers hit their straps when they take on South Africa in the opening game of the Champions Trophy.

The top order has crumbled in both the games only to be saved by Kohli/Karthik in the first game and Dhoni/Karthik in the second game. Vijay and Dhawan have both failed to get going in both the warm up games and it will be one of the areas of concern for the think tank. India found themselves 62/3 in the first game and 55/5 in the second. The top order need to get their act together if India is looking to progress to the Semi-finals. Rohit Sharma also hasn’t spent any time in the middle and has thrown his wicket away at least once in the two games he played ahead of the Champions Trophy.

This will be a difficult tournament for both Dhoni and Fletcher. The team is inexperienced and also it will be difficult for the players to shun all the commotion which is happening currently in India post IPL. Dhoni has been in the center of it all and he along with Duncan Fletcher has to make sure it does not affect the team performance. This will be an interesting tournament for the Indian team and it will be interesting to see how the youngsters perform at the highest stage. Champions Trophy is a tournament where there are no easy games and the teams need to hit their straps right away. India will know that and will be looking for a good start against South Africa.

Champions Trophy – Confusing team selection

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The Indian team for the upcoming Champions Trophy was announced a few days back and there were for sure some surprises. The biggest surprise was the selection of Murali Vijay. Vijay had a great home series against Australia in tests but he hasn’t done anything for India in shorter format to inspire any confidence among the fans. He has struggled for CSK in the ongoing IPL season and does not look like a right candidate for the ODI’s.

The selector’s argument is that Vijay is technically equipped to see off the new ball in England but again is he the right candidate to accelerate in the ODI format is the question everyone has in their mind. This seemed in the lines of Rahul Dravid’s selection in the 2009 Champions Trophy. Gautham Gambhir should probably have been selected in the squad for some experience in the top of the order. Gambhir has struggled in the recent times in all forms of cricket but again in the absence of Sehwag, Gambhir would have been an ideal player to have in those conditions.

Dinesh Karthik’s selection raised little concerns considering his brilliant form in recent times. He has been in excellent form in domestic cricket and also has done brilliantly well for Mumbai Indians in the current IPL edition. Shikhar Dhawan is another expected selection as he has been in wonderful form recently. He has been in brilliant form after returning from injury for the SRH in the current IPL season. Irfan Pathan makes a comeback to the Indian team as the bowling all-rounder. His comeback was expected as the champions trophy is being held in England and a pace bowling all-rounder in the X1 is an asset.

Amit Mishra’s selection raised a few eyebrows too as India already have Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja already in the squad. Mishra has been in brilliant form and his IPL performances this year have probably forced the selectors to include him in the squad. It will be interesting to see how he fits into the overall picture considering India already have two inform spinners in the squad.

The bowling attack is on the expected lines. Ishant Sharma will be leading the pace attack in the absence of Zaheer Khan. Umesh Yadav is back in the squad after a long injury layoff and so is Bhuvneshwar Kumar after his brilliant performances in the home series against Pakistan and England. Ashwin will lead the spin attack with Jadeja taking the spin all-rounder spot. Vinay Kumar is yet another baffling selection. His good performances for RCB notwithstanding, he hasn’t done anything great in the past in Indian colors. Shami Ahmed who impressed one and all with his pace in the home series against England and Pakistan would have been a better choice. It will be a huge disappointment for the youngster to lose out after a good performance in the home series.

The team overall seems to light on experience especially in the batting department. The absence of Gambhir at the top of the order and Yuvraj in the middle will be a huge disadvantage for the team. In the absence of the experienced campaigners the onus will be completely on the trio of Dhoni, Raina and Kohli, since the rest of the batting order is either inexperienced or inconsistent.

The absence of Manoj Tiwary due to injury also played a part in selection but one would have expected Pujara to be selected in the squad to add some solidity. It will be very interesting to see the combination India would play in the tournament. It is going to be a tough tournament for India and it will be a challenging one for Dhoni and Fletcher to get the combination right.

Squad: MS Dhoni (capt & wk), Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik (wk), M Vijay, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Irfan Pathan, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Amit Mishra, Vinay Kumar

Give Ashwin an extended run

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When Anil Kumble retired in 2008 everyone expected Harbajan to easily slip into the role of India’s lead spinner. Unfortunately 4 years since then Harbajan finds himself out of the Indian test team and fighting for a spot even in the ODI/T20 teams. Harbajan has had a long run in the Indian team and can still make a comeback with age on his side. But for the moment, Ravi Ashwin has done a great job for the Indian team in all formats. His test performances at home have been brilliant. He also has consistently contributed with the bat averaging 39 at number 7 which is an added bonus.

He just had one away tour of Australia and he did not perform well. Australia isn’t a great place for young spinners to tour and sometime for even experienced ones. Murali averages 75 in Australia and almost all visiting spinners average in mid to late 30’s there. So Judging Ashwin on just one away tour to Australia is not fair. The experts crying about Ashwin’s performances in Australia need to realize that Harbajan himself hasn’t done anything of note on recent away tours.

Harbajan was given an extended run in the Indian team after his breakthrough series against Australia in 2001 and Ashwin deserves similar run as India’s premier spinner. So far he has done a good job and needs to be persisted with for now. He needs to be given the confidence that he will not have to worry about his place in the side. Harbajan is 32 now and is not getting any younger and India needs to keep the future in mind. Bajji can still make a comeback but at the moment he hasn’t done anything of note to displace either Ojha or Ashwin in the test team.

Currently though his partnership with Ojha has been good for India in home tests and there is no need to tamper with that combination. Harbajan needs to prove himself again by playing few first class games and force his way back in. As of now let Ashwin lead the Indian spin attack for the next 10-15 tests and then take a call on his place

Amazing Kohli moves to a higher league

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Virat Kohli is definitely the toast of the nation at the moment. The last few ODI innings of his has for sure cemented his status as one of the premier ODI batsmen in the world. Virat has had brilliant last couple of years in ODI cricket and his elevation to vice-captaincy status at a very young age shows that the selectors see him as a future Indian captain.

My first look of Virat was in 2008 Sri Lankan ODI series. The test series for India was absolute dampener and the series was more famous for the emergence of another mystery spinner from Sri Lanka Ajanta Mendis. India was missing experience in the batting order and in the absence of Sachin and Sehwag, Virat was sent to open the innings. Virat showed great grit and stuck to his task admirably well. His stats weren’t earth shattering but it did show the fighting spirit of the youngster. He handled some difficult conditions pretty well and helped India win the ODI series.

It was surprising to see that India ignored Virat after that series for almost a year but the youngster took the break into his stride and came back stronger. The break also meant that Virat travelled to Australia to take part in the Emerging players trophy where he was the top scorer for India. Since he made his comeback to the team in 2009, he has been an indispensable member of the Indian squad. With exceptional technique and great concentration Virat Kohli has established himself as one of the finest young players in the world. He has already won lots of ODI games for India batting second and has an enviable average doing so.

He has 11 hundreds in just 82 ODI innings, making him the youngest to get to 10 ODI hundred at an impressive average of 50.56. Virat has everything going for him in ODI cricket. Virat Kohli though did not have a smooth sailing in test cricket. In spite of having everything going for him as a player, he did struggle at the test level though. He did not have a great start to his test career but by the end of Australian tour he did find his groove. He was the only Indian to score a test hundred in the Australian series and proved that he did belong at the bigger stage. His two fifties at Perth and a brilliant hundred in Adelaide should give him lots of confidence for more challenges ahead later this year.

Even though he has had a great start to his career, his aggressive celebrations and use of expletives too often has got him into trouble with the experts and the media alike. Even though I personally feel that being an aggressive cricketer playing with lots of passion, he does get little carried away which is fine with me. Virat has the talent and performances to pull off such behavior as a brash youngster, similar to another great Ricky Ponting. But Virat needs to keep one thing in mind as such behavior will for sure look great when the team is doing well but will look ugly when the team is struggling. I guess he for sure will learn as he gets older.

For now let’s enjoy the success of the genial superstar, India has unearthed once again. I hope that he continues to scale more peaks and helps India to get to the top once again in world cricket.

All is well with the Indian ODI side

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The colored clothing and the white ball seem to bring out the fighting spirit in the men in blue. The team playing in the CB series does not look anywhere close to the clueless test team earlier in the series. Dhoni seems at ease leading this young team and the young team is responding brilliantly. Dhoni himself has looked in brilliant touch and the performance of the team has improved considerably.

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A captain is as good as his team

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There is a famous saying in cricket “Wicket keeping is a thankless job”. For 6 years in the Indian team Dhoni has donned the keeping gloves and he should be pretty aware of the saying. The Indian cricket team has for sure hit a road block, all the good work done by Kirsten and Dhoni seems to have been undone but Dhoni alone is not to be blamed for this fiasco. When a team is doing well, whatever the captain does is appreciated. The captain makes a change and the ball goes there and people say that he is an astute captain; he has a great cricketing brain etc. But as soon as the team starts to lose he becomes a villain.

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The ODI series should mark the start of transition

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The disastrous test series is finally over and with yet another overseas whitewash there have been calls for sweeping changes in the team. The fact is that this time it is kind of justified. The Indian middle order which has been the pillar of strength for the team over the years has started to crumble. Changes are meant to happen and this is the right time to do it.

The final test in Adelaide could have been used to blood Rohit Sharma in the middle order an opportunity which I felt was wasted.

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Time to think ahead for team India

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The Indian test team has hit a road block and has pretty much gone downhill over the past year or so. In spite of the high of winning the world cup in 2011, the Indian team has for sure taken a step back in test cricket. The legends Sachin, Dravid and Laxman are at the cusp of retirement and we still havent got any replacement tested at this level. The big three have been great servants for the Indian team and with more than 35000 test runs and close to 100 centuries between them they have been one of the best players in the world. Replacing them is going to be hard task for the management. Let us look at some possible candidates for the middle order.

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Bowling worries for India ahead of the first test

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India is about to begin their test series against Australia in few days and as it was in England earlier this year; the team is struggling with injuries. India had lost Varun Aaron and Praveen Kumar already before leaving the Indian shores and now it seems like Ishant Sharma would also struggle to make to the test team. If Ishant misses out India might field a very inexperience attack unless the replacement/cover is Irfan Pathan.

This scenario makes the presence of Zaheer very important for India throughout the series.

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