Monday, October 31, 2011

India vs England: The good, the bad, and the slightly unattractive

Personally, I love my metaphors on a plate.
Apparently, we have been avenged.
For me, it’s only close to 30% done – because Tests do matter that much.
But I’ll take the 5-0, mostly because it was fun to watch the English team constantly complain about the cold dish they were being served. (See picture above)
Anyway, here’s what we learned from this series:
  • Even if you hate Ravindra Jadeja (which you probably do), you have to admit that he really has worked hard, and is now the ideal all-round option for India, given the lack of Irfan Pathan other options. He was the highest wicket-taker in the series, with 11, and an average of 17. With the bat, he averaged 37 from 3 innings with a good lower-order strike-rate of 110. He isn’t going to single-handedly win you one in fifteen games like Yusuf Pathan, but he’s pretty steady. For now.
  • Ashwin, unlike Harbhajan, takes wickets. One Challenger Trophy won’t save you, Bhaj.
  • Selection is still weird. Why on earth would you have Rahane open, when there’s no way he can bat in the top 3 in a full-strength XI? He did well enough, but from his innings of 91, he looks like a much better middle-order batsman to me.
  • Take Vinay Kumar’s 4-30 away, and in the four other games he gave away 150 runs in 24 overs, taking just 2 wicketsReally shouldn’t be a regular in the side.
  • Umesh Yadav was erratic too, but his pace was clearly an asset at several points in the series. I’d keep him around. And what a great debut for Varun Aaron!
  • The world’s #1 spinner fails at the home of spin? What’s that about?Swann took only 2 wickets at 95.5, conceding 5.3 rpo.
  • It’s all #trottsfault, for scoring 202 runs at 50.5, at a strike rate a shade under 80.
  • Virat Kohli (270 runs @90) doesn’t know what ugly batting is. Dhoni(212 runs, not dismissed), on the other hand, knows it better than anyone else, and excels at it.
  • Parthiv Patel had a rare bad series since his comeback, but no one cares since he’s just a stop-gap opener, like Dinesh Karthik before him. This can’t happen to Rahane, which, again, is why he should be in the middle-order. Unless someone retires from ODIs soon.
  • Do English fans feel the same way about Dernbach as I do about Vinay Kumar?
    Took me five minutes just to decide whether to put the comma after "bitch".
Series against Windies coming soon, I’ll be back.
Contributed by DHCF Rishabh Bablani
Rishabh’s personal blog

Blackouts, Whitewashes and Red Faces, England’s One Day Tour of India

Perhaps it was an omen? As the five-match One Day International series between India and England kicked off at Hyderabad on October 14th, Sky Sports were forbidden from broadcasting the game by the BCCI. Normal service was thankfully resumed shortly thereafter, much to the relief of the England fans watching back at home.
At that stage of course optimism was still rife that England could compete in the series, making up for a wretched record in India of only 1 win from their previous 13 matches. Hell, some of us even thought a series win was possible!
Ah the innocence of wild optimism…
India were 129 for 4 batting first at Hyderabad and at one stage England felt they were in with a chance. But then Mahendra Dhoni came in and scored 87 runs off 70 balls including 10 fours and 1 six, all during the supposedly slower “middle overs”.
It’s not just that Dhoni is an incredible finisher; it’s that he can do so on any type of wicket, and at any stage of the match. He played well in England during the summer, apart from Rahul Dravid India’s best player all tour, and he’s been even better back home.
England could do worse than try to emulate Dhoni in their search for a credible wicketkeeper-batsman rather than looking for the next Adam Gilchrist, as has been their want of late.
Craig Kieswetter’s wicket-keeping was erratic and inconsistent this series, taking stunners and dropping dollies in equal measure, but given the explosive nature of his batting, (seldom seen on this tour though to be fair), it is likely he will be given another chance.
In truth though, all of England’s batsmen struggled. Too many starts were not converted and as a result England only batted out their allotted 50 overs once in 5 matches. That simply isn’t good enough in One Day cricket.
Eoin Morgan is England’s best limited overs batsman, particularly when it comes to scoring aggressively against spin, and his absence was sorely missed in India. All of England’s batsmen struggled to keep the runs coming when India’s spinners came on, often giving their wickets away when trying to force the issue. The likes of Ravi Bopara may struggle to come back from this series, failing again to prove that he’s quite up to this level of cricket.
England also failed to embrace spin in their bowling attack. Promising young leg-spinner Scott Borthwick was in India but his only appearance came when replacing Graeme Swann in Mumbai, the series already dead and buried, rather than being picked to bowl in tandem with Swann, which would have been a much braver and more aggressive move on sub-continent wickets.
You can’t pick a spinner just to make up the numbers but if England didn’t think Borthwick was ready for India, why didn’t they take Monty Panesar instead, who at least has the experience to cope with the pressure of playing in front of India’s vociferous fans. Either way, playing two competitive spinners is crucial if you are going to restrict runs and take wickets in India.
Another man sorely missed was Stuart Broad, and perhaps if he had been in India, England would have been more inclined to bowl a second full-time spinner. His inclusion, possibly at the expense of Samit Patel, could have allowed Borthwick to play without having a detrimental effect on England’s batting lineup.
Of course we have to offset the disappointment of this series with the “bigger picture” and that of course comes in the shape of the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand 2015. England will still fancy their chances there on the harder, bouncier wickets, but England’s One Day form down under wasn’t much better in January, losing 6-1 against Australia.
The back drop to that series of course was that England had won the Ashes earlier on that tour, and therein lies the biggest obstacle to England’s success of in One Day cricket; their obsession with test cricket.
Domestic cricket in England is set up to produce successful test match players, and obviously we have seen the success of that policy over the past 12 months.
However as a result, One Day cricket comes second. Limited overs County Cricket is still 40-overs-a-side and that immediately puts England at a disadvantage when it comes to the international scene. The middle overs that England failed to convert successfully in India are exactly the part of the game they miss out on when playing domestically. This needs to change if England are to compete in 50 overs international cricket.
Despite 2011 being an incredibly successful year for English cricket generally, this side will return home from India disappointed. 2015 is a long way off, but England will need all of that time to ensure they are competitive at the next World Cup, otherwise there could be a few more England players with red faces in 2015.
Tom Huelin for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Tom on Twitter @tomhue1

Friday, October 28, 2011


Behind the stumps he has taken so many catches,
With the bat he has won India numerous macthes.
Helicopter shot is his favorite shot,
With his captaincy he has fascinated the World a lot.
By his performance he shakes the sun and moon,
He made the Poms with their tears fill the swimming pool.
With the Indian team renewed,
Over the Poms, this series, the Indians ruled.
Dhoni our captain coooool,
We will be No .1 again very soon.

Gokul Garg for DieHard Cricket Fans

Thursday, October 27, 2011

WICB and West Indies living in denial

West Indies are fresh off a series victory against Bangladesh and have achieved that feat away from home. Bangladesh is known to be a tough opponent in their backyard but after losing a series to Zimbabwe a loss to West Indies was almost inevitable. A West Indian cricket fan would have hoped for some records to be broken but the one that was achieved would not have brought a smile on the face of anyone from the caribbean islands. West Indies posted their second lowest total ever in the final one day international against Bangladesh- a meagre 61 runs!
Now before I continue, it would be worth noting that this article is not an exaggerated reaction of the events that occurred in the final ODI but simply a look into what West Indies has to face in the coming months. If West Indies cannot withstand Bangladesh’s bowling attack for a single day then they are bound to struggle in the upcoming Tests where the challenge will continue for five days. What’s worse is that if West Indies cannot withstand Bangladesh then they do not stand much of a chance against India in the upcoming Test series. In my mind there are just two names that pop up as an answer to these forthcoming problems, Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo.
To think that these two talented cricketers are not required and that young blood is the only way forward would be thinking on the lines of the West Indies Cricket Board. Frankly to live with such thoughts is the equivalent of living in a fool’s paradise. There is no way West Indies can even afford to ignore players of such quality. There was a time when the WICB could be picky and choosy but that was when there was a Viv Richards or a Clive Lloyd certainly not now.
West Indies are no longer the force they used to be, an obvious fact that the WICB must know and more importantly must be willing to face. To throw in a few numbers to prove my point, in the last three years West Indies has not registered a single Test victory outside the caribbean islands. A glance at the stats beyond the three year mark will show that West Indies have recorded just one overseas win out of the 20 Test matches that they have played away from home. This amounts to an appalling 0.09 win-loss ratio. So how then will two men solve a problem that is so grave?
For starters, the one man I named is in the form of his life and to top it all this form has been seen in the subcontinent conditions, the same place West Indies has to play at now, albeit courtesy some T20 cricket. Chris Gayle has been scoring at a blistering rate and more importantly has played quite a few long innings in the shortest format of the game. There is no doubt that his services can be used to good effect in the longest version and in fact his selection in the shorter formats should be a no brainer. Well actually a man who has scored 13 centuries, 33 half centuries and a highest of 333 should walk into the playing eleven of any Test team. Unfortunately the WICB seem to think differently and do not seem to be willing to put egos aside. A clash between the player and the board has led to West Indies losing one of its greatest talents at the moment- a match winner to say the least. Really the WICB must realize that on this occasion the player is bigger than the board. Instead of living in denial the board should really try and resolve the issue at the earliest which according to me is now!
Gayle’s case is clearly an ego clash between the player and the board but then what is stopping the board from selecting Dwayne Bravo? Someone’s got to be blind not to pick a talent like him, a man who can wield the willow and use the cherry cleverly. In my opinion Dwayne is actually better than the man leading this West Indies outfit- Darren Sammy. His batting is surely far superior than the skipper’s, Sammy has a highest of just 48 in Tests and yet he can lead the side whereas 13 half centuries and a highest of 113 is not enough for Dwayne to simply find a place. That is simply bizarre! If West Indies want Sammy to be there leader based on his bowling prowess then so be it, but someone has got to make way for a talented cricketer like Dwayne and there is simply no logical reason as to why he must be left out.
With a poor Test record in the last five years and a tough task ahead West Indies are going to find it very tough to prosper with the current side. I honestly do not see them improving on their record of one away Test victory in five years unless they include class players like Gayle and Dwayne. The WICB needs to awaken from its slumber and needs to start making the right moves. If I was a WICB selector I would take a good hard look at the mirror and ask my self if the decisions being taken out there by my board and I are the right ones.
Shashreek Roy for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Shashreek on Twitter @shashreek

Badla: Revenge Only Half Done !

Cricket is inseparable from Indian culture. It runs in our arteries and Cricket bridges the gap between the nerves. Even when our national team is doing badly, we bide our time for that one moment that can turn things around. This optimism keeps us alive and helps us to forget and forgive Kalmadis, Rajas, Yeddis and a thousand scams. Here are some of the trivia from the “Badla” series !
Though Dhoni has brushed aside the talk of this being the “Badla” or “Pay Back” or “Revenge” series, there was steel in the Indian camp’s determination. They were thrashed in the Test Series and their luck crashed during the ODIs. But home pitches, a fitter team and a lame duck English side helped in achieving this complete reversal of fortunes.
Back from ‘Hell’ and back in the hunt is how we can describe Dhoni and his boys today, while we dedicate a song to the the visiting English team.
The youth brigade has turned the hunter into the hunted and India remains ‘Haunted’ for the World No. 1 Test Team !
Just One Day Match: On the flip side though, England hold an unenviable record of winning just one ‘One Day match’ against India in India in the recent past. That takes a little bit of sheen from an otherwise fabulous show by the young side. 
The turning point: The British did hold the advantage during the first 35 overs of the series. It was the determination shown by the much maligned Captain Dhoni finally sank the ship of Captain Cook and his motley bunch of  over-aggressive crew. 
Media Complex: Somehow, our print and visual media alike are stuck in a strange kind of inferiority complex. Team India bat well, bowl well and filed well in home conditions; we are flat track bullies and tigers at home. Other teams come cropper in India; our pitches are to be blamed. Our players can’t play on good pitches. Funnily, India have lost just one test series since the controversial 2008 tour down under. 
The barking Poms: On filed behavior of the English team has been pathetic at best. Andy Flower has been unapologetic about it. That team which wanted India to call Bell back, has not shown an iota of sporting gesture in return; neither in England nor in India. From Indian point of view, it should be fine. It gives more pleasure to bash an arrogant opponent than a down to earth one. But the average Indian is just a little curious to know how the British crowd, which booed Team India for the Bell run out would react to their own unsporting players. 
The plight of Kohli: Virat Kohli has impressed one and all with the maturity he has shown in ODI Cricket. But soon after his century on his home-ground, a tweetable tweet went thus: “Well played Kohli, that was sexy. But remember Dude, you aren’t even the second best batsman in your own town”. That is a Classic way of saluting the Champion Opening pair of Gautam Gambhir and Viru the Sehwag ! 
India B Plus: Tendulkar, Sehwag, Yuveraj, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan, Nehra, Munaf, Rohit, Sreesanth, Ishant, Pathan, Badrinath and Murali Vijay missing from the 14 member team means England are playing at best India B Plus team, not even India A. 
Suspended Animation: This thumping win against a team that had mauled team India just a month ago has forced the Indian fans to keep in suspended animation, the lingering thought of the Century number 100 of a certain Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. 
Taken for granted: The fatigue to too much of Cricket showed in the thing attendance during the final two matches. Or was it because the crowd took the ‘White wash’ with Indian Blue for granted ? 
Mother of all collapses: England just wanted to get out of here, quite like Dhoni and his boys wanted to leave the Old Blighty only a few weeks ago. 129 without loss to 176 all out doesn’t need much elaboration. This was the mother, grandmother and even great grand aunt of all collapses ! 
Ra1 Factor: Going through a promotional overdrive for his latest Sci-Fi movie Ra-1, Shah Rukha Khan somehow forgot to show up during the post match presentation. Neither at Mumbai, his adopted home not at Kolkotta home to his KKR team. Surprising !
Return of the Jade-ja
His Highness Ravindra Singh Jadeja has been best remembered for his T-20 World Cup flop shows so far. Given a lifeline by Dhoni’s fondness and his equal dislike for Yusuf Pathan, Jadeja has grabbed his chances and done brilliantly during the series. His fielding has always been good. He is a decent fifth bowler in ODI Cricket. But this time, he batted well in given chances and has earned his place in the team to Australia. 
Pace the Music: Umesh Yadav and Varun Aron generating pace was music to the Indian ears. But we ought to be careful because Ishant, Munaf and many more began their careers as raw energy pacers only to be either sidelined by injuries or turn into line and length trundlers. The motto should be“Don’t Hype them till they are Ripe” ! 
Positive for the Poms:Samit Patel and Steve Finn were the only positives for the English side. World’s best spinner was taken to cleaners and he couldn’t hold on to the ball. They too missed Anderson, Broad, Strauss and the lack of experience showed !
Ab Dhoni ko kaun taal sakta hai ?
They just couldn’t get him out throughout the series. He played the waiting game, the blasting game, nudges and edges, helicopter shot and his trademark bludgeoning drives. Leading from the front was redefined !
Finally it was a fair and square blue wash for the Poms with Brand India Bleeding Blue ! Happy Diwali to all Indians !
The Poms will come back next year for the Test Series. They are way too far better a Test Team than their ODI credentials. A wash in white flannels is what a ‘Real White Wash‘ constitutes. Can Dhoni and Co achieve that ?
Govind Raj Shenoy for DieHard Cricket Fans

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

India Shining, England Whining

At the onset of this series, most of the Indian fans labelled this as a “payback/revenge” series (conveniently forgetting that winning a series against a 5th ranked side does not compensate for losing the Test crown in a humiliating manner), whereas most English fans dismissed this as a pointless ODI series (how would one determine that, I would love to know). The truth lies somewhere in between; that India would win the series was almost a foregone conclusion, but more than anything else, they needed to experience the winning feeling again. Not to forget, they had a bunch of youngsters to groom for the future. For England, this was a chance for the new ODI skipper and young players to test themselves in unforgiving conditions. In the end, the final scoreline was a just reflection of the gulf between the two sides when it comes to ODIs on the subcontinent, despite the absence of a few star players from the Indian side. Here are a few other thoughts from the series:
    • The continued absence of Tendulkar and Sehwag meant that there was yet another opportunity for Parthiv Patel and Ajinkya Rahane to press their cases for permanent inclusion. While Patel flattered to deceive, Rahane’s solidity was reassuring to watch, though the tendency to throw away starts was a bit infuriating. Either way, a Test call-up is not too far away for the Mumbai youngster.
    • Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli were the bulwarks of the middle order. In particular, Kohli continues to rise and rise. He had a good Champions League prior to this series, and his purple patch refused to stop. Despite a poor Test tour of West Indies, his maturity and form warrants him another shot in the longer format.
    • What is left unsaid about MS Dhoni? Calm, cool, unflappable, the man with a plan….and by the end of the series, he was invincible too, as England just couldn’t out him at all. Experts are falling over themselves to anoint him as the best finisher in ODI history, and few would disagree.
    • Ever since his debut, I was never too enamored with Ravi Jadeja; but with impressive back-to-back series, he has won me over. While his batting is not as destructive as a certain Yusuf Pathan, he is more consistent, and he is a much smarter bowler. Also, along with Kohli, Raina and Rahane, he has lifted the Indian fielding by several notches. Deserves a prolonged run in the team.
    • With Harbhajan Singh getting dropped from the side after a long time, there was no small amount of pressure on the shoulders of Ravi Ashwin to perform. To his credit, he didn’t disappoint, with his maturity standing out. While calls for a place in the Test team is a bit premature, he should have cemented his place in the ODI team with this performance.
    • Praveen Kumar was steady, Vinay Kumar was consistent, Umesh Yadav was lacklustre – but the one pace bowler to stand out from the Indian camp was the young Varun Aaron. He had pace, but more importantly he hit the right lengths too. He has four wickets as of now, all of them coming through knocking the stumps down. Now, if only he does not get ‘Munna-fied’, India might actually possess a ‘fast’ bowler.
    • To see India put up such a commanding performance in the absence of stars like Tendulkar, Yuvraj, Sehwag and Zaheer was a reassuring sight for Indian fans. With the likes of Rahane, Kohli, Raina, Jadeja, Ashwin and Aaron still in their 20s, the future looks bright for the Indian ODI team.
    • It was a baptism by fire for Alastair Cook, for whom it was the first ODI series outside England as official skipper. He book-ended the series with a couple of 60s and failed in between. As a captain, he was outsmarted by Dhoni, while his failure to exert any authority over his team-mates during a fractious series was disappointing. Looking on the bright side, it can only get better from here.
    • Craig Kieswetter might as well be called Kies-dropper. In a series where the opposition keeper shone with the bat and barely made any mistake with the glove, Kieswetter had a shocking series, even by his own standards. As an opener, he could never convert his starts, and with the gloves (barring a couple of sensational catches), he was unusually sloppy, none more damning than the fluffed run-out of Jadeja in the fourth game. With the likes of Bairstow, Buttler and Davies jostling for places, it is hard to see if Kieswetter will get to keep his place for the next ODI assignment.
      Behind every successful batsman, there is Kieswetter
    • Jonathan Trott might be wondering what he has to do to get some love from the fans. Despite being the most successful ODI batsman of the year, there are calls for Bell to replace him in the playing XI (this despite Trott possessing a far superior average and strike rate compared to Bell). In a side consisting of batsmen who looked completely out of their comfort zone, Trott was perhaps the only player who seemed to have a measure of how to play the spinners. Whether the English accept it or not, Trott is the only batsman who warrants his place in the side, based on current form.
    • While I have never been convinced that Bopara is one of the top 6 batsman England have, his performance in the series was utterly non-descript and has done enough to justify his future exclusion from the team. The real disappointment was Kevin Pietersen. Despite one good innings, it is alarming how his batting has fallen away in ODIs. For a player who was once the most exciting batsman in the game, it has been a steep decline, and one hopes that he still has it in him to resurrect his brilliance.
    • A lot was expected from Samit Patel and Jonny Bairstow in this series. While Patel had one good match with the bat and a mixed series with the ball, Bairstow found out for himself how much different the subcontinent is, compared to England. Ashwin and Jadeja toyed with him and by the end of the series, Bairstow’s inexperience was clearly exposed. This will be a valuable tour for him though, and he can only get better for the experience.
    • Graeme Swann came into this series with the reputation of being the world’s best spinner. In the end, he was outbowled by his own team-mate and will be remembered for his unflattering figures, churlish outbursts against team-mates, dropped catches and a poorly timed autobiography.
    • In the absence of Stuart Broad and James Anderson, Tim Bresnan was the leader of the pace attack; but the real hero was Steven Finn. Easily, the biggest positive to come out of this series for England; While his boorish behaviour and misplaced aggro can be put down to his age, his bowling was the only thing which kept most of the games competitive. Like most of the youngsters in the team, this experience will be invaluable down the road.
    • Jade Dernbach has been hyped for a long time now, but over the course of three games, his ‘variations’ were dismissed to all parts of the ground and sometimes over it. In the end, all he showed was poor discipline on and off the field.
  • Overall, the English team was completely different to the one which defeated India in the rain-affected home series a month ago. They were clueless against spin and the batting always seemed one wicket away from a collapse. A lack of support for Finn meant that the bowling was never going to contain a rejuvenated Indian line-up. The biggest shock of all, was their huge drop in fielding standards, as the Indian side outperformed them in the department by a mile (Donkey jibes, anyone?). When they were not busy getting into verbal battles with the Indians, they occupied themselves berating their own team-mates. Normally, this would point to a side in decline; but in Andy Flower they have one of the top coaches in the world, who is capable of turning the fortunes around. While it has been yet another whitewash in the subcontinent for them, the players will be wiser for the experience and hopefully, it will lead to wiser team selections in the future.
All in all, it was a great Diwali gift from the Indian side to their fans. While it will not erase the memories of the Test series humiliation, it has gone a long way in applying balm over the wounds.
Benny for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Benny on Twitter @tracerbullet007

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

England in a Spin Over Selection in India

Desperate Decisions or Time to Experiment?
4-0. Not quite Manchester United vs Manchester City (ouch!) but still a fair hammering for any side in any sport.
England have been out-played in every department for the duration of this One Day Series and even a shuffle of the pack for the forth One Day International in Mumbai couldn’t stop the rot for the tourists.
Scott Borthwick and Stuart Meaker, two young, promising bowlers who went to India optimistic, part of a young England squad that was building for the World Cup in 2015, came in for Graeme Swann and injured Jade Dernbach in Mumbai, a dead rubber, hardly the stage they were hoping to perform on.
England’s selectors have developed a reputation for being loyal to a fault to the players they put out to play each match, a policy that has reaped dividends in test cricket, but with a One Day side that didn’t look right from the first ODI in Hyderabad two weeks ago, changes should have been made earlier than the match after this series was already settled.
Of course that’s incredibly easy for me to say sitting on my comfy chair with my soft cushions, but England have played only one front line spinner in all four games on this tour of India, yes India, you know that country that notorious for slow, spinning wickets, and that’s just madness.
Swann and Borthwick should have bowled in tandem in Mumbai, if not earlier in the series which would have given England 20 overs of spin that would have taken the pace off the ball and made scoring harder to come by for India.
Instead, with three seamers trying their best to extract some life out of the dry, dead Indian wickets, the part time spin of Samit Patel and the medium pace dibby-dobbers of Ravi Bopara, the solitary spinners just haven’t had enough support to build pressure on India, and the home side cruised past England’s totals in each of the four innings played.
Clearly the batting has struggled to post enough runs too, and whilst there has been ridiculous criticism of Jonathan Trott, again on this tour, questions still remain above the heads of both Craig Kieswetter and Ravi Bopara.
Eoin Morgan has been missed and presumably he will come in for Bopara when he returns from injury, and it may be that Kieswetter drops out of the team, again, this time for Ian Bell to return?
I’m not sure if it’s mildly embarrassing or even insulting for Bell that he has not been given the chance to play in this tour, or perhaps the selectors know only too well what Bell can do and therefore don’t feel the need to test him out in India, but why take him if he wasn’t in the selectors thoughts?
But none of the batsmen have excelled in India, and that includes captain Alastair Cook. In fact, Cooks form is perhaps the most worrying of all the top 6. It hardly fills a team with confidence if their skipper is putting the side into bat (as Cook has done all tour) and then falling cheaply, as Cook has also done all too often.
Cooks appointment as captain was always a curious one given the fact he hadn’t played any One Day International cricket for several years before hand. In fact, he wasn’t even in the One Day squad for the World Cup earlier this year, also in India.
Cook is still new in the role, and deserves time to build his team now he had been appointed, but whether he was the best candidate for One Day captain, rather than simply the next in line for the test side, is another question.
Oddly, worryingly, sadly, England will return home from India with more questions about their One Day policy than they had when they headed out to the sub-continent just a few weeks ago.
The selectors have been loyal for a long time, but perhaps their decision to back the side when it wasn’t set up correctly to begin with was a mistake on this occasion? Sometimes no change is good, other times you need to cut your losses, be strong and make positive changes. That hasn’t happened in India.
It will be interesting to see what England’s One Day side looks like when they play Pakistan in the UAE early in 2012, but I expect some changes from the side that has lost so meekly in India.
Tom Huelin for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Tom on Twitter @tomhue1

Payback Series: Whitewashed

It had been built up as a revenge series by the broadcasters. And Team India certainly have paid back with interest (only for the ODI leg so far). Here are the thoughts for today’s game at Eden Gardens and the series as a whole.
  • Dhoni enhanced his finisher reputation. The big sixes were back and he stayed not out as well. His average may have been boosted by the large number of not outs but isn’t not getting out one of the criterion for a good batsman. (A post by The Old Batsman on the subject is here).
  • Rahane is looking impressive without having got that BIG one as yet. Also he is unlucky that Kieswetter keeps taking stunning catches to dismiss him when normally his keeping has been of the Kamran Akmalesque quality.
  • Manoj Tiwary has been having a pretty weird international career. Injured during practice on the eve of his debut series and since then has played 5 matches across 4 series spread over a 4 year period.
  • England had an awesome opening partnership followed by one of the most stunning collapses. 128 for none followed by 47 for 10.
  • Varun Aaron takes his 4th international wicket. Interestingly all 4 bowled which starts the slide for the Poms.
  • Ian Bell finally played and scared the rest of the English lineup by failing to read Jadeja’s spin.
  • Some apologies for the years of abuse heaped on Ravindra Jadeja.
  • In short England caught in a spin web and spun out. England in India have been worse than India’s in England (only comparing the ODI parts so far)
  • India still missing most of the big guns and their first choice replacements as well. On the other hand England did not have Broad & Anderson, though they wouldn’t have made too much of a difference.
Payback still remains. This is only the appetizer. It won’t be satisfied till the Tests thrashing is also avenged.
P.S. Malcolm Waller missed out on a well deserved century as he finished on 99* to take Zimbabwe to a thrilling one wicket victory over the Kiwis.
P.P.S. Wishing all readers a very Happy Diwali.
Nishant Kumar for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Nishant on Twitter @NishantSKumar

Monday, October 24, 2011

Back to Winning Ways

My last post on 14th August pointed out reasons for India’s loss in England, so if a cricket fan is there to point out the mistakes of his team and criticize their performance then it’s the duty of a fan to also appreciate good performance and bring out the good points
First of all congratulations to Team India on the winning series, although the captain cool MS Dhoni is saying that this is not a payback series or a revenge series but as a cricket lover this series was a matter of lost pride. A loss here would have really created doubts on the commitment of the team and especially the loss would have come after the champion’s league which would have again given a chance to people to criticize IPL and CL T-20. This series loss would have also affected the morale of Team India. Although I feel people are actually not appreciating this performance of the team, as they feel it’s because of home conditions that India is winning, but then consider that even England had home advantage. It’s like when you are expected to win a series your performance isn’t appreciated but if you lose such a series then people are ready to cut heads off and abuse players so I feel team should be given its due credit and the performance should be appreciated. It’s like when you win against a weak team like Zimbabwe then it’s no big deal but when you lose against them then it’s bad, why not appreciate each and every win. A win is a win and will always be a win. And winning is a habit which is good to cultivate. And I feel India’s performance in the ODI series in England was good, weather played a spoil sport in all the 5 ODI’s, and it was always to the advantage of the host team.
So now to the points where I feel India have done well in this series.
1) Fielding and Catching: Team India’s fielding and catching in this series has been outstanding. I can hardly recollect Indians misfielding or dropping a catch. It’s the most important aspect in ODI Cricket specially, and if you look back at India in England we were lacking behind in this aspect. A old saying catches win you matches still holds a lot of truth, and I can’t recollect team fielding so well in recent past.
2) Selection: Selection in this series has been good. Unfit players are not been drafted in the team, out of form players have been dropped irrespective of their seniority. Dropping of Harbhajan singh gives out the message to other seniors as well that no one can take his place in the team for granted and it’s the performance that gets you in the team and it’s the performance which helps you cement your place in the team. This would benefit India in long term. Although I feel Harbhajan singh will be back for the West Indies tests. I feel the problem with Harbhajan is the lack of patience, so I feel he should play only longer version of the game for some time to get that flight and guile back. So I feel he should stop playing limited over game for some time and concentrate only on 4 day Ranji cricket and Test cricket. Longer version of the game will help him get his guile and flight back. Selecting Umesh Yadav and then selecting Varun Aaron will also benefit the team in times to come and giving Rahane/Parthiv pair a longer duration to settle is also a good sign for the team.
3) Initiative: The Indian batsmen in the series have not thrown away the initiative. If a batsman has got into rhythm then he has made sure that he will finish the match. Be it Dhoni in the 1st match while setting the score or Gambhir and Kohli in 2nd match and in 3rd match after good innings played by Rahane and Gambhir, Dhoni sealed the match for India. Raina played beautifully to set up the match for Kohli to end the match convincingly in 4th odi at Mumbai. So batsmen who have got in have tried to finish the game off on their own. Especially Kohli has learnt a lesson and rectified his mistake of throwing away a good start after 1st match where he threw away a good start; he rectified his mistake by remaining not out in 2nd and 4th match and finishing the game off in style for India. Indian batsmen failed to grab the initiative and didn’t convert the good start to a big score during England series especially during tests.
4) Margin of Wins: The margin of wins especially in the 1st two ODI’s have actually affected the English morale and has given confidence to team India and their morale is high after such big wins in 1st two odi’s. The high confidence level can be seen even while chasing 300 in 3rd odi at Mohali the team didn’t succumb to pressure and after losing 3 early wickets in 4th odi the batsmen who followed were attacking from the start specially Suresh Raina. This is what confidence does to a team it’s like virus that spreads quickly and to everyone in the team.
5) Team effort: This series win has been due to complete team effort it’s not that only one player is playing well and rest of the team isn’t contributing. Everyone has performed well at some given point, be it Raina and Dhoni will the bat in 1st odi or Kohli and Gambhir in the 2nd or Rahane in the 3rd and Kohli/ Raina combination doing the duty in 4th odi. Even the performances of bowlers have been outstanding. They have done well to bundle out England for low scores. Jadeja, Ashiwn, Vinay Kumar, Umesh Yadav and new boy Varun Aaron have bowled well throughout the series. For me Ashwin is the most exciting bowler in world cricket today, he looks like he will pick up a wicket every ball he bowls. He is someone like Lasith Malinga of Sri Lanka who looks of taking a wicket every ball.
This series would help India unearth a few younger players which would serve Indian team for the times to come. This series is followed by the 3 Test’s and 5 ODI’s against West Indies which should again allow the selectors to give chance to younger talent. Wish to see Varun Aaron in longer version of the game against the West Indies; with his pace and ability to get the ball reverse he would be a handful against the touring West Indians. I feel Ajinkya Rahane, Varun Aaron, R Ashwin, Manoj Tiwary and Abhinav Mukund should be given a chance in test team.
England has also helped the Indian team by not selecting the right set of players. Not selecting Ian Bell in any of the matches is shocking. Ian Bell is one of the few players in English side that plays spin well and he was in good form against India during the tests but still was not selected to play. In fact England team is having the same problems that team India had during the England tour.
India didn’t select right set of players during tests and odi’s and England have done blunders in their selection
India struggled with their bowling and England has been no different. I feel where England have suffered the most is the form and performance of Gramm Swann he was their trump which has not worked for them and their batsmen have thrown away good starts, haven’t made a huge score.
So in the end it’s nice to see India back to winning ways, be it at home. A Win is a Win and will always be a Win. It’s so much relaxing to see India back to winning ways.
Ricky Singh for DieHard Cricket Fans

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Jonathan Up The Creek? Trott On!!

If people think that taking Jonathan Trott out of England’s One Day International side will result in a transformation of England’s fortunes in this form of the game, they’ve clearly not been watching much One Day cricket lately.
Trott scored 98 of England’s 298 runs at Mohali in the 3rd of this 5 match One Day International series against India, yet all I’ve read about since the match is that his place is in jeopardy!
Never mind the fact Alastair Cook fell cheaply again. Never mind “The Next Gilchrist”, Craig Kieswetter can’t get past 30 and keeps dropping sitters. Never mind England are playing 3 seamers on slow, flat wickets and only one front-line spinner. Yup, if Trott was dropped, things would be alright!
For me, Trott is the key man in this One Day side along with Eoin Morgan, who is sorely missed in India by the way.
Morgan can win a game from nowhere, killing opponents in seemingly dominant positions, and you cannot underestimate the loss of a player like that on this tour. India have Dhoni, an equally capable “finisher”, and he has won 2 of the 3 games in this series for India almost single-handedly.
Morgan can attack even when facing spin from both ends, a pre-requisite for excelling on the sub-continent and something all England’s other players struggle to do, even Trott.
But, Trott is so hard to get out. Even Morgan goes cheaply sometimes and in those situations, it’s essential Trott is there, otherwise England’s innings can and usually do fall apart.
If Trott is in, the players at the other end can go for their shots. Pietersen and Patel both filled their boots yesterday, and 298 is actually a decent total. The fact England didn’t defend it isn’t attributable to Trott in my opinion.
England’s fielding has been abject in this series, a surprise given recent high standards, but at the risk of sounding like a broken record, you’re never going to excel in India playing 3 seamers and only 1 decent spinner.
I know it extends the tail, but I honestly think Scott Borthwick needs to play in the last 2 games. England are desperate for more spin options, so why not give Borthwick a go, he has already played international cricket and done well, albeit at T20 level.
I like Ravi Bopara but there is an ongoing debate as to whether he has the stomach for cricket at this level and with a change in fortunes required, perhaps Rav is the man to step aside? his part time medium pacers don’t seem to be fancied by Cook and he just isn’t delivering runs on this tour.
Kieswetter is also a question mark. He looks good in home conditions, but a delicate touch is required on the sub-continent, and I’m not sure Kieswetter possesses one. Ian Bell has to return to the side now, he is too good a player to sit on the margins and, incredibly, bring the drinks out, as he did in the last game. He could replace Kieswetter and Bairstow could keep wicket.
Finally, let’s play a fast bowler who is suited to these conditions. Stuart Meaker is a skiddy bowler who should be able to serve up plenty of yorkers at the death, something amazingly England’s current attack seem incapable of doing, so give him a chance too.
There’s plenty of changes that could and perhaps should be made to this England side to make them more competitive, certainly on the sub-continent anyway, but Trott isn’t one of them.
They’re up the Creek, but Jonathan Trott must stay.
Tom Huelin for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Tom on Twitter @tomhue1