Category Archives: Australia

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

Standard

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

Standard

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

Standard

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

Standard

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

Standard

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.

Click here to read the full article.

A captain is as good as his team

Standard

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.

Click here to read the full article

The ODI series should mark the start of transition

Standard

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.

click here to read the full article

Time to think ahead for team India

Standard

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.

Please click here to read the full article

Bowling worries for India ahead of the first test

Standard

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.

Click Here to read the entire post

Australian tour – An acid test for Dhoni

Standard

Few months ago, the Indian team was at the top of the world. Number 1 test team, World cup winners and the captain Dhoni could do nothing wrong. One English tour later everything came crashing down. Even though India are still one of the top 3 teams in the world, the old quote “Tigers at home, paper tigers abroad” came to fore again. The English tour was an absolute disaster, an organization nightmare and the entire Indian cricket management needed to take the blame, not the cricketers alone.

The biggest factor on the English tour was the sudden spate of injuries to key Indian players. In spite of majority of them missing the West Indies series for rest, most of them ended up injured during the important English tour. The lack of practice games were another reason as the team had no time to acclimatize to the conditions. It seems like the Indian selectors and management have learnt the lesson the hard way. This time the players are there sooner and will be playing two practice games and will have enough time to get used to the conditions.

This tour is very important for the Dhoni and Fletcher combination. English tour scars still fresh in their minds, they will be keen to prove that the performance on that series was merely an aberration. The team this time is well prepared and most of the members are available for selection. Zaheer will be back to spearhead the attack, which is extremely important. The team management will be observing his fitness very closely as the English tour emphasized how important he is for the team. We have Ishant and Umesh to add to the pace department, literally speaking. Ishant too had a mild injury scare in the practice game but the team management has assured it wasn’t serious. Ashwin will lead the spin attack and the batting will be back to its full strength. India are coming into this tour with a good home season which started with blanking England 5-0 in a ODI series and winning the test and ODI series against the Windies.

Even though the injuries to Praveen Kumar and Aaron are a great setback, the team needs to move on with whatever resources they have. As Dhoni said ahead of the series, lack of practice cannot be the excuse this time and he is absolutely right. A series win here will restore the confidence the team might have lost during the disastrous English tour. A reputation which was built brick by brick by the Sourav Ganguly team since 2000 of a fighting unit away from home is something Dhoni would like to restore. The seniors will once again be the key and the middle order of Dravid, Sachin and Laxman for one last time will be back battling the Aussies in their own den.

A contest which has become a memorable battle since one of the greatest series in cricketing history took place in 2001. The series will be exciting and both teams have a lot to play for. The tour has already began on a good not with Dravid’s excellent speech in Bradman’s oration which was received with a standing ovation. The only thing Indian cricket fan would hope for is that India return with their first ever series win Down under. Dhoni and Fletcher know that this is their best chance and hopefully the team will click together to make that happen.