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Prasad Moyarath

If the crowd presence on the ground and the pre and post match analysis by the media are any indication of popularity, the first ODI between India and SriLanka has been indubitably cold shouldered by the cricket fans of both nations. Don’t forget, the revelation of Rahul Sharma’s drug usage during IPL had already triggered a controversy prior to the start of the series. A rustic start sans rain on a huge ground in SriLanka was not an unusual one for an Indian cricket connoisseur, but an Indian victory surprised many.

Another game that raised a debate about technology ©AFP

A huge ground with a shortened boundary and windy conditions excited many, but the dull rattling sound of the white cherry hitting the willow and the two paced wicket doused their excitement in no time. Sehwag struggling to get going and Dilshan dropping a straight forward chance offered by Sehwag, though unbelievable was accepted as symptoms of start of a fresh season.

Kohli and Sehwag made use of the fielding lapses of SriLankans and laid the foundation for a huge score. Kohli with his consistent performances in the recent past looks all set to be a new generation Ricky Ponting. Raina and Dhoni did well to maintain the momentum after the fall of Sehwag and Kohli. The SriLankan bowling attack looked toothless and Herath could not extract any turn. Kulasekara’s injury added to their woes.

The Sri Lankans had a start similar to the Indians. Irfan Pathan moved the ball in and out and looked like regaining his lost bowling form. Though his speed was in the late 120s, he seemed to bowl with his original bowling action unlike the high arm action with which he bowled, the last time he made a comeback. Umesh Yadav bowled a lot slower and raised a doubt whether he is becoming yet another Indian fast bowler who becomes a medium pacer after establishing in the squad. Ashwin extracted turn from the pitch which was missing when the SriLankans bowled. Yet another masterpiece from Sangakkara which proved that he is in top form. Perera proved his worth as an all-rounder. 16 wides from Indian bowlers led to their slow over rate, once again putting Dhoni in trouble.

While the cricketing nations debate over the introduction of new technologies into the game, this match exposed the limitation of the existing technology and the need to improve it. Sehwag was caught by Kulasekara with an acrobatic dive but the television cameras could not give a conclusive evidence of the catch and so allowed Sehwag to play a big innings. Another instance was the run out appeal against Sangakkara. Though his bat appeared to be on the line when the bails were dislodged, the cameras failed once again in giving a conclusive evidence which helped the batsman. It is time the ICC and the broadcasters sit together and find solutions for such problems. Using technology and giving the benefit of doubt to the batsman due to its limitations puts a question mark on the worth of it.

Had Dilshan caught Sehwag, had Kulasekara caught Sehwag cleanly, had Dhoni or Sehwag caught Sangakkara when he edged Umesh Yadav between the keeper and first slip in Umesh’s first over, this match provided a lot of possibilities to ponder. If what was seen in this match is any indication of what is going to happen in the coming matches, the batting of Kohli and Sangakkara and bowling of Irfan Pathan needs to be followed. Let us hope for an interesting ODI series in the coming days.


Prasad Moyarath

It is time for desserts, sweets and ice creams. A team of young and enthusiastic chefs who are specialists in these items are being flown in to appease those who are disappointed with the quality and taste of their main course prepared by some expert chefs renowned for their tasty main course. The management and admirers of these chefs look bewildered and they pin their hope on this new team to deliver quality and tasty food in their frantic efforts to restore their shattered pride. Can tasty desserts make people forget their horrible main course?

Selectors may have missed an opportunity to build a nucleus for 2015 World Cup by picking old stalwarts in the squad

This was the dilemma plaguing the BCCI and their selectors when they selected a team for the two T20s and eight ODIs involving Australia and Sri Lanka. The team selected looks a perfect blend of youth and experience. The baffling part of Indian cricket is the fact that a few cricketers are allowed to pick and choose their matches and tours while the others will be picked and chosen as per the whimsies and fantasies of the selectors. 39 year old Sachin Tendulkar included in the squad as he made himself available while the promising Ajinkya Rahane thrown out. Zaheer Khan is back. Sehwag included despite his horrible form. Are these three going to play any part in the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand? Have not the selectors squandered a wonderful opportunity to blood at least three youngsters in these testing conditions and build a nucleus for the 2015 World Cup team? Debate can go on but nothing more can be expected from this selection panel whose decisions have been criticized and questioned in every nook and corner of the country after the continuous Test debacles outside the subcontinent.

Though Sri Lanka is the third nation in the triangular tournament, they cannot be ignored as a weak opposition considering the fact that they are coming after a tough tour of South Africa. Their players will be better accustomed to the bouncy pitches than the Indian players who were either injured or playing Ranji Trophy matches in the dust bowls in India. Australians are well planned as usual and will be a tough nut to crack in their home conditions. This gives a picture of the tough task ahead for the current World Champions to conquer Australia.

In the big grounds in Australia, Dhoni’s captaincy skills are going to be tested. Athletic fielders like Raina, Jadeja, Kohli, Tiwary and Rohit need to be placed tactically to contain the runs. Running between the wickets will have to be improved. Suresh Raina’s vulnerability to short pitched bowling will be exploited. With Sehwag and Gambhir not in good form, there is every chance of the middle order getting exposed to the swing and bounce of the two new balls from both ends. The selectors seem to have anticipated this problem and their decision to include Parthiv Patel as a reserve keeper is a testimony for that.

The two new balls from both ends will surely play a decisive role in Australia than in India. Will the ageing Tendulkar survive the rigors of an ODI series with the new rule not permitting runners? Umesh’s performance in the Test series has clearly proved what extra pace can do in Australia. With Ishant and Varun unavailable, the selectors could have included Ashok Dinda in place of Vinay Kumar for his speed. In Vinay, Praveen and Irfan, India has 3 similar bowlers and the Australians gave a glimpse of what to expect from Vinay Kumar by the way they treated him in the WACA Test.

The Indian selectors have again selected a ‘strong on paper’ team more suited for Indian conditions like they did for the Tests but unlike the Test team, this team has some characters who can give a fight to the opposition. Praveen Kumar coming back after an injury, Irfan making a come back, Sachin and Zaheer having question marks on their ODI fitness, Dhoni, Sehwag, Gambhir and Vinay Kumar low on confidence, the Indian team management needs to get the right combination from the day one to make their presence felt in Australia.

Some bold decisions will need to be taken and some youngsters will need to be persisted. Umesh Yadav needs to be handled with care and it is a pity that there is no fast bowler in this team to replace or support Umesh. This Indian ODI team does not inspire confidence and optimism in the Australian conditions and I foresee the Indian top order batting and medium pace bowling creating more headaches than other areas in the coming days. Let us wait and watch.


Prasad Moyarath

History repeats. For a cricket team which depends a lot on history, this can be a solace after its comprehensive innings defeat in SCG. India is 2 down going into the WACA Test like in 2008 but unlike 2008 this team doesn’t inspire any confidence in its followers to remain optimistic. When the captain of this side which has now lost six consecutive Test matches outside the subcontinent says “We can beat this team in Perth”, it draws only laughter.

Not much to celebrate for the Swami Army this Australian Summer so far.

SCG has always been a favorite venue for India for its comparatively low bounce and help to spin. Batting is easy on the first few days and there are many memorable knocks by Indians there including those from Tendulkar and Laxman. Those who anticipated the Indian batting greats to flourish in SCG were treated to a show of their fading antics which were rustic and devoid of any flamboyance or passion. The realization that the Great Wall has developed cracks, Laxman – no more Very Very Special, Sehwag – a lottery and Tendulkar – trepid while nearing his personal milestone, was a jolt for many.

Dhoni looked courageous but was unrealistic with his decision to bat first. The Indian procession to the dressing room started in the first over. Sehwag looked like playing club cricket in both the innings and it is time for someone to remind him that he cannot continue in the side as a once in a while performer. Though Gambhir put up a brave face in the second innings when the conditions were good for batting, he never looked convincing whenever the ball moved or bounced. Dravid never lived up to his stature and Australians succeeded in rearranging his stumps for the fourth time (once of a no ball) in this series. Laxman looked rusty though he scored a half century in the second innings. Ageing footwork and reflexes of Dravid and Laxman have been exposed in Australia. Kohli showed glimpses of his talent but did not utilize the opportunity. Only Tendulkar looked assured but his continued inability to play a long innings should be a worry for the Indians. Dhoni once again proved to be a non performer outside the subcontinent and his unbeaten half century in the first innings came more because of the Clarke’s decision to attack the tail enders than his batting ability. Ashwin once again proved that he has the abilities to become an all-rounder. Indian fast bowlers never looked menacing except Zaheer on the first day. This can be attributed to the good batting conditions and also to the short gap between Melbourne and Sydney Tests. Dhoni’s mediocre captaincy made run making easy for the Australians. Seeing the Australian bowlers correct their mistakes after each session, the Indian supporters were forced to wonder whether this Indian team really has a bowling coach.

After a poor start, the Australians sent Indians for a leather hunt. Unlike the Indian veterans, Ponting and Hussey seemed to improve with age. Clarke assured an Australian victory in the 100th Test in Sydney with a captain’s knock and a prized wicket and declared the innings without bothering about his personal milestone. Will this open the eyes of those Indians who see every Test match as a venue for Tendulkar’s milestone? Haddin had a very poor match behind the stumps. The pace trio of Pattinson, Siddle and Hilfenhaus once again tormented the Indians. The Australians had a plan for every Indian batsman and executed it to perfection like in Melbourne.

Australians made a remarkable comeback after their poor performances against South Africa and New Zealand and made the 100th Sydney Test, their own. The innings defeat in SCG has flooded the Indian camp with gloom and now it is up to the team to sit together and find a way out. The WACA pitch is well known for its pace and bounce and the Indian win there in 2008 might have prompted Dhoni to express optimism in the presentation ceremony after the SCG Test. For the moment, all the Indian fans are heart broken not because of the Indian team’s loss but because of its lack of passion, professionalism and willingness to fight. Swami Army summed up the Indian minds in their song “Why This Kolaveri Di”.


Prasad Moyarath

The MCG pitch was the best thing about this Test. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

Yet another Boxing Day Test debacle for India or another usual Indian start for an overseas tour. The Boxing Day Test match result can be interpreted by an Indian fan in either way but irrespective of the result, this Test match between India and Australia provided a great advertisement for Test cricket. Though this match lacked the usual intensity of an India – Australia duel and finished in four days, the entertainment it provided was worth for any Indian who woke up early morning in this chilling winter to watch it on television. The Test match which started on a cloudy day with a few rain interruptions on the first day proceeded in bright sunshine leaving a doubt whether the rain Gods were sitting and watching with awe.

Not a single century scored, only a single five wicket haul, what was that made this Test match so special? For those who did not follow this match, its scorecard won’t provide the right answer either.

Going into the Boxing Day Test match, concerns were many for both the teams. The career of Ponting and Hussey hung in balance and they were contemplating playing Christian in place of one of the two. Hilfenhaus was making a come back and Cowan making his debut. For India, the fitness of Zaheer and Ishant was the major concern and so was the ability of their batsmen to adapt to the Australian conditions.

Michael Clarke’s decision to bat first on a cloudy day though raised the eye brows of many, considering the poor batting record of India in Melbourne, was a daring one which was vindicated in the coming days. Warner gave an explosive start to the Australian innings but an incisive spell of fast bowling by Umesh Yadav helped India fight back. Ponting despite been hit on the helmet by Yadav at the start, made his critics eat their words with a fluent innings which was cut short by a Yadav’s beauty. Two dubious umpiring decisions against Cowan and Hussey ignited the debate on UDRS and BCCI once again. Ponting and Hussey proved that they are still good enough to play for Australia with some fine batting in the second innings. Australian tail wagged in both innings, thanks to some unimaginative captaincy from Dhoni. Hilfenhaus made a remarkable comeback was well supported by Pattinson and Siddle.

Sehwag played in his own style in both the innings and luck favoured him only in the first. Australian bowlers never looked like bowling in the right areas on the second day and Sehwag, Dravid and Sachin capitalised on it. Sachin was the only batsman who looked comfortable in both the innings. Dravid getting bowled in both the innings has put a question mark on the technique of this great player. Gambhir and Dhoni continued their poor run outside the subcontinent and Ashwin made Harbhajan’s absence inconspicuous. Indian pace attack put relentless pressure on the Australian batsmen and Ishant and Umesh clocking 140+kmph consistently was a delight to watch.

Three of the four days ended like a television serial leaving the viewers to ponder what next. Scores of both teams in each innings drew a slanting graph line putting a question mark on the quality of the pitch. But for those who watched this Test match on a drop in pitch, the curator was the Man of the Match ahead of the official choice.


Prasad Moyarath

“Cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties” is a mantra repeated umpteen times by cricket commentators. These uncertainties of the game have grown manifold and have invaded the minds of the followers of the game and a cricket connoisseur’s tussle to solve these intricacies has dragged the game into excel spreadsheets and statistical calculations. The statistics involving cricket has grown into such a huge volume which can now be glorified to be among the biggest statistical data pertaining to a sport in the world. These statistics can not only be used to glorify some average cricketers but also be used to cast doubts on the credentials of some established ones. This article raises question marks on the two established stars of Indian cricket not only based on statistics but also on the commonly applied yardsticks in international cricket.

India's success in England in 2006 was built on the opening partnership of Jaffer and Karthik. Both are out of favour with the selectors today. ©The Hindu

International cricket is all about matches in various parts of the world and the stalwarts of the game are those who prove their worth irrespective of the playing conditions in various parts of the world. Test cricket is always considered as the ultimate test of character and ability for any cricketer and a match winning performance away from home conditions always draws the biggest accolades from cricket aficionados. Rating the real worth of a cricketer’s performance has become a task nowadays and adulated coverage by the media complicates it further.

Inconsistent selection policies plagued by nepotism and incompetence have made the career of Indian cricketers vulnerable to public opinion which are most often devoid of sound statistics and influenced mainly by the first impression created. Indian selection has plummeted to such a level that for a player to bloom, he should be selected at the right time and this right time is always his luck factor.

What is this luck factor in Indian cricket? It is undoubtedly a series of matches in the subcontinent for a batsman or a spinner and a series of matches outside the subcontinent for a fast bowler. A new player is always under scanner, more in Test matches than in ODIs and a few good performances in ODIs seem to protect this player from the scanner and there lies the folly. Vijay and Abhinav Mukund lost their places in Test team due to them not playing ODIs and Suresh Raina and Yuvraj got an extended run in Tests due to their ODI performances. This luck factor is something which is prevalent in any career and it has been globally accepted that the luck always favors the brave. But this luck factor is proving to be a bane in Indian cricket and the careers of two stars of the current team will reveal how this luck factor enabled them escape the initial expert scrutiny.

A Test opener’s technique is an important point of debate and scrutiny for former openers turned commentators like Gavaskar, Boycott and Arun lal during any overseas tour. S. S. Das, Vikram Rathore, S. Ramesh, Aakash Chopra and W. Jaffer were some of the players who failed to live up to the standards set for a test opener by these gentlemen. Despite all these standards, the search for a Test opening pair for India ended in two unconventional batsmen viz. Sehwag and Gambhir. How did Gambhir cement his place as an opener when some conventional openers like Chopra and Jaffer failed? Here is where statistics come handy. The answer is simple, the timing of their entry into international cricket.

Jaffer played 31 Test matches between 2000 and 2008 and 18 of them were outside the subcontinent and 5 of his first 10 tests were in West Indies and England. Don’t forget that West Indies had a better attack in 2002. Aakash Chopra played only 10 Test matches but 4 out of them were in Australia and 2 in Pakistan. He did well in Australia but went out of favor due to his slow batting. Gambhir has played 44 Test matches so far but has played only 10 matches outside the subcontinent. Out of his first 10 Test matches only 2 were outside the subcontinent and that too in Zimbabwe. And to add to these statistics, he was the only player who played ODIs continuously for India. His attacking batting combined with better understanding with his Delhi team mate Sehwag was an added advantage. Though Gambhir has played a lot of Test matches, he is yet to prove his credentials in trying conditions outside the subcontinent. He still continues to be in the team despite not scoring a century in 29 innings in 16 Tests since January 2010. Abhinav Mukund who was tried in West Indies and England has now been discarded despite his decent show and now with Ajinkya Rahane in the team, he is set to become another opener who made his entry at the wrong time. Why different yardsticks for different players?

After Nayan Mongia became a dubious character in Indian cricket, the selectors search for a wicket keeper batsman ended with M. S. Dhoni. Vijay Dahiya, Sameer Dighe, M. S. K. Prasad, Deep Das Gupta, Ajay Ratra, Parthiv Patel and D. Karthik were dropped either due to their poor keeping or poor batting or some unknown reasons. It was Kumble’s bowling more than their poor keeping that led to the downfall of Parthiv and Karthik as keeping to Kumble in Indian conditions was a tough task for a new comer. Dhoni did better and was persisted more because of the frustration of the selectors in not finding a better solution than Dhoni’s ability. Dhoni’s attacking batting in ODIs helped him escape the scrutiny of the so called experts behind the microphone. Dhoni too has fumbled with gloves like the others and his batting outside the subcontinent in Test matches is still unproved. The partisan attitude towards Dhoni is evident even in commentary when the BCCI sponsored commentators say “He almost fumbled” when Parthiv clutches on to a catch by his fingers, but keep quiet when Dhoni does the same. None of the above keepers got a continued run in ODIs like Dhoni. Dhoni has played 23 of his 64 Tests outside the subcontinent and is yet to score a Test century. All his 5 Test centuries have come in the subcontinent. If the same yardsticks applied to the other keepers were applied to Dhoni, I doubt whether he would have continued in the Test team.

Statistics clearly prove that Indian selectors apply different yardsticks while persisting with players for key positions in the Test team. Test cricket needs specialist players and ODIs should not become the gateway for the players to Test cricket.