Archive for the ‘India Cricket’ Category


Muthukumar Ramamoorthy

It was another pleasant morning to the start of the day with overcast conditions that delayed the day’s play by 25 minutes. Just as I wrote yesterday, the Indians were almost there reaching the 450 figure. But for the late aggression shown by the home side, it was quite evident that 500 was gettable. The visiting side was expected to exploit the overcast conditions and run through the Indian line-up. However the captain cool Dhoni played sensibly along with Pujara for a 127 run stand for the 6th wicket.

It was Pujara who started off the aggression trying to hit over the long-on only to find the safe hands of Franklin. But he managed to go past the 150 mark with a terrific innings that lasted for almost 8 hours in total. The skipper continued to show the aggression and paid the price – failing to convert his 20th Test fifty to a 100. Thanks to a brisk and classy short innings from Ashwin who managed to time all his 5 boundaries into the gaps with immaculate precision.

The Kiwi bowlers did not make much of an impression with their performances. However Patel and Boult did manage to pick 4 and 3 wickets respectively. Patel’s bowling did give a hint of what was to later come with the Indian spinners bowling on a track that offered turn. The Indian dressing room must have been happy to put up a decent first innings total.

The NZ team would have thought of sticking on to their own free batting style which was obvious in the way McCullum played his shots. The Indian speedsters Zaheer and Umesh did bowl to their strength but did not help enough to give the Indian team the early breakthrough. It was no surprise from Dhoni in bringing on the spinners as early as in the 8th over of the innings. Ojha was brave enough to have flighted the ball and McCullum paid the price for his aggression by getting caught by Kohli at covers.

Williamson – the next man in who scored his Test century against India in his debut game got off to mark in style with a boundary. However Dhoni did not wait too much to bring in Ashwin, the other spinner. Be it ODI, T20 or Test, Dhoni always seems to have immense trust in his ace off-spinner, Ashwin. True to it, with excellent field placement, Ashwin began with a wonderful delivery to send back the other opener Guptil to the pavilion.

It was largely expected that the Kiwi captain who came in to bat next at no 4, would bat through saving his team. However it was another beauty from Ashwin that Taylor did edge it marginally to Kohli at backward short leg. It was 3rd consecutive catch by Kohli. Ashwin continued to bowl with his magicial skills turning the new ball. He was rewarded with the wicket of Flynn as well who was trapped infront of the wicket.

Ashwin & Ojha

The duo spun well to rip through the New Zealand top order batsman setting a possible Indian victory

When the 4th wicket fell with score just then had crossed 50, the Indian off-spinners looked more confident of reducing the visitors to the tail by the end of day’s play. However a little resistance was shown by the duo Williamson and the wicket-keeper batsman Wyk adding 44 runs for the 5th wicket partneship. When everything looked set at last for the Kiwis, Ojha came back to send back the set batsman Williamson.

At the stumps of day 2, the Kiwis are in real trouble with the Indian spinners reducing the Kiwi side to half already. The weather seems to be threatening; however Ashwin and Ojha are well set to finish the Test match favouring an Indian win much earlier! Let’s wait to see if they could restrict the visitors and make them follow-on!


Muthukumar Ramamoorthy

Ah! A Test match again for the Test match lovers of India. Strangely for the first time without the greats – Dravid and Laxman – the legends that guarded the Indian test middle order batting line up along with Tendulkar for more than one and half decades!

It was a wonderful day to start the tour in a beautiful ground. The little grass on the pitch that indicated more the monsson than any assistance to the Kiwi pacers, the all-green quick outfield and well built new-look Hyderabad ground was all a pleasure to watch with Dhoni winning the toss and electing to bat – a perfect wicket to bat on. A lot must have been discussed before the test match to identify the right player to be groomed in filling the no 3 and no 5 positions and also the playing XI also.

Looking at the wicket, it was right choice to have had the regular opening pair to open the innings. Sehwag and Gambhir did get off to a good start despite some trouble from the seamers. Both the seamers were initially giving enough trouble to the batsmen although both the openers did punish the odd loose ball with ease.

India’s indiscretion in getting out to poor strokes seemed an extension of the one-day series from Sri Lanka than that of early season rust. Gambhir started off with that and followed by his opening partner Sehwag who seemed to be set for another 100 in his own style. It was glad to see those ‘confident trademark Sehwag boundaries’ before he got out. That must have boosted the confidence in him and also the millions of fans who are desperately looking for a big score from him after sometime in Test Cricket.

Like me, most of us would have for sure expected what we saw when Gambhir walked back. The number 3 slot – the Dravid slot! Pujara came in as no surprise choice to bat at number 3. From the very first ball that he faced, it seemed obvious that he was sent and set to make it big today. With Pujara settling down slowly, it was anticipated a big stand between him and the little master Sachin would unfold. However to the disappointment of the nation, Sachin was undone by a beauty of a delivery that nipped back a bit to knock back his middle-stump.

Then came Kohli who is fast becoming Mr. Dependable and Mr. Flexible to bat at no.5. Kohli started off with his typical wristy shots. It was pleasure watching Kohli playing those forward drives with so much ease. It was a very well scripted 50 from the young man who could have easily converted and tasted his maiden Test hundred on Indian soil.

It was a perfect come back innings from Pujara which could potentially cement his place in Indian test team as No.3 batsman

With Kohli, Pujara carried on to bat unleashing all the shots as he raced from 50 to 100 at run a ball. For what we know him more as a strong on-side player, he showed his class in those back-foot guided punches, square cuts and cover drives on the off-side too. Pujara’s eloquence was as impressive as his temparament as he laced pretty drives and cuts that laced the green turf. With his maiden Test century in the very first match after returning to the international side after more than 18 months, definitely Pujara did justify his recall and played with his head to cement his place in the side – not just in the side but also the batting position for the near future at least.

Another debate in the team selection is the choice of Raina ahead of Badrinath / Rahane. Raina continued his poor form once again. It wasn’t the usual Kiwi side on the field with few dropped chances costing them dear. However Pujara was lucky to be still in with umpire denying a caught behind appeal. The Kiwi captain did make his spinner Patel sweat a lot who doesn’t seem to have succeeded enough except taking the wicket of out-of-form Raina. So with Dhoni looking solid in the crease, and with a well set determined Pujara, I am hoping for a 450 plus total on board although half the side is back in the pavilion.


Shridhar Pandey

This piece of writing (on the squad selection for the upcoming home series against New Zealand and T20 World Cup) may be a little late in its arrival, but its better late than never.  A lot has already been said and written about the last assignment of the outgoing selection committee. But I believe everyone has their own way of looking at things and that is the fuel on which the entire business of sports critics runs.

Before I begin, let me pay due tribute to the career of arguably the most stylish Indian batsman of his generation, VVS Laxman. Another important pillar – that held together probably the most glorious period of Indian cricket – has finally called it a day. Speculations on his selection in the squad for the NZ series and he placing his individual aspirations before team’s interests have finally been put to rest. That he could have easily chosen to retire after playing the farewell test in his hometown Hyderabad and might have given himself a chance to reach the 9,000 runs milestone, has made him even a greater person in my eyes than ever before. It takes a man of great values to turn his back on such a tailor-made opportunity for a farewell match. VVS has always set examples for the coming generations to follow. Though numbers might not speak all about his talent and contributions, he will certainly be placed among the best to have played the game. His innings in the very famous Eden Test would always come up in discussions about the most stellar performances in the history of the game. The person replacing him in the squad would have big shoes to fill.

Popular? Spineless?

Coming back to the original agenda of selection of the squad for the NZ series and T20 World Cup, it disappointed more than surprising me. Not that I was expecting radical changes in the squad; BCCI selection committees have never been known for that.  But I sure was not expecting to see a couple of names that I can see and was expecting to see some that I cannot.

The biggest element of surprise was Piyush Chawla’s inclusion in both the squads. That would have been a surprise even if he would have possessed talent in the bowling department comparable to what Rohit Sharma has in batting, given his performance off lately. His return to the team after such dismal shows in recent future in all forms of cricket did not go down well with anyone (I won’t trouble myself with the statistics; those could be found at various other sources). What was the basis of that move is beyond the grasp of a mere mortal.

Piyush Chawla has been included at the cost of a more promising young leg spinner Rahul Sharma. He did not get enough opportunities to prove himself before being dropped. I fail to understand the rationale behind this move. If at all Rahul Sharma paid the price for the alleged doping charges, this is truly a sorry state of affairs.

Moving on to another selection – that of Harbhajan Singh in the T20 World Cup squad. None would doubt his talent. He has good numbers against his name to back that up. But his recent performance both is domestic and county circuit won’t testify for his inclusion. Given the fact that he is in the squad, he is almost certain to make it to the playing eleven – you don’t generally leave out such experienced players to warm your bench, at least not in India. Let us hope that he comes back to his lethal self that made him claim the top spot in Indian bowling in past.

Yuvraj Singh has been reinstated to the Indian team for T20 World Cup. Before I go on and say anything about his selection, let me congratulate him; for he is a real fighter. I think the selectors have hurried on to their decision in this case. He must have played a couple of games before being selected. But this could still be passed as a calculated risk because he might play in the T20 matches against NZ and be aware of his standing. If he is fit and does play in the World Cup, that would be a big boon for India; for we all know how devastating and impactful he can be.

Another decision that surprised me was of Ishant Sharma being picked for the test series. A lot has been said about the effort that he puts in and his commitment unlike Rohit Sharma’s. But the numbers don’t reflect likewise. Besides, he has not featured in a single game after his recovery from injury. Opportunities to play in the national team cannot be handed out like this – that too coming on back of not so impressive performances.

Similarly, Suresh Raina has been rewarded for his good showing in the limited overs game by giving him a test berth. He is a class act in any limited overs game, but has failed to prove himself one in the longer format. These are certainly not good indications to the youngsters waiting on the fringe for their chances.

Gambhir’s reinstatement as the vice-captain in place of Kohli could be termed nothing but a vague decision. If Gambhir has done reasonably well in this period, what did Kohli do wrong? Though I believe this might come as a blessing in disguise to Kohli who should just be left alone with his batting given the sublime touch he is in currently.

There are a few more names that I could go on and talk about. But before that lets wait for the new selection panel to join the office and see how they fare with all the responsibilities or maybe liabilities that the outgoing committee has left for them.

The Impregnable Fortress Calls It A Day

Posted: March 9, 2012 by binisajan in Cricket, India Cricket, Opinion

Bini Sathyan

‘If I wanted someone to bat for my life, it would be Rahul’ said one of Crickets finest batsman, Brian Lara.

There could be no better compliment to Dravid, the Wall of Indian cricket and no better expression on the style of play that Rahul Dravid adopted.

Always the silent warrior who never got his due. Fought pitched battles across the world and defended with his life. People call you ‘The Wall’. In fact, you were ‘The impregnable Fortress’ who held up one end all through your career. But the mighty blows that you took for more than a decade has worn you down and the cracks started showing. There should surely be a way to mend those cracks. But then, you have decided to let time pass you by. To us, you are one of the bravest warriors India has seen.

You were the savior that team mates and we fans looked upon to carry the team when it was all at sea. You were the silent warrior who kept the wolves at bay when the lambs were being slaughtered. You were the ray of hope when all else seemed lost. With a rock solid defence that the best in the game had no clue about breaching, you built a wall brick by brick that many a time held its fort and saved India from defeats and many times brought victory with some master strokes.

Rahul Dravid is one of the greats of the game who got late recognition. He went unnoticed whenever he played a valuable innings as fate would have it or call it bad luck, some one else would always steal the limelight.

In 1996, on debut, in the swinging pitches of England, when the Indian team was writing its famous collapse story, Dravid walked in and and almost made a century but then the innings was not so much noticed as the century crafted by the elegant co-debutante Ganguly. Even though Dravid and Ganguly made dream debuts and both of them went on to play many good innings together, Ganguly always had the luck to come out better. The 145 runs that he scored in the 1999 world cup match against Sri Lanka was also not praised much as Saurav Ganguly again pipped him when he made 183 in the same match. Even though there was a world record partnership there, it was the 183 that naturally caught everyone’s attention. Then in a test regarded as one of the most remarkable turnarounds by any country, Dravid started the resistance and went on to score 180 valuable runs but the test later came to be known as Laxman’s Test as the flamboyant Laxman played a gem of an innings which Wisden has rated as the second best innings ever played in cricket.

One of India's finest calls it a day

Dravid’s valuable contributions always came as partnerships which served the team’s cause but little did it contribute to individual glory. The two partnerships with Laxman in Tests and the partnerships with Ganguly and Sachin in ODIs are world records. He is involved in 80 century partnerships for India which is another world record. He may not be as elegant as Ganguly or as flamboyant as Laxman. He might not match the master stroke for stroke. But with a great technique and tons of determination he was a selfless fighter who went on climbing heights and created a space of his own. Most of his contributions to the team were overshadowed by the big trio’s achievements.

Dravid also was a team player who adapted very well to all forms of cricket and any conditions better than anyone else though rather slowly. When he was labeled as a misfit in ODIs for being a slow run-getter and faced the axe, he went onto score at a faster pace. There came a time when the team needed a keeper-cum-batsman to accommodate an extra batsman and Dravid was more than keen to play the role for the teams benefit. His fans thought it as an insult or a punishment but he took it all in his stride. Wonder whether any other star cricketer of India would have done that. But here was a great player who put team before self and was ready to play any role that would benefit the team and make sacrifices regardless of individual concerns.

And it was at this time that he produced some of his finest knocks in ODIs. The match that he scored 145 against Sri Lanka in the world cup was the first in which he kept wickets for India. This not being enough his batting position was constantly changed to find out where he fitted best. This landed the team management in more trouble as he excelled in any position he was thrown in. When he was tried as an opener he fitted in easily. Once when he came as a finisher, he had scored 50 runs from a mere 22 balls against New Zealand which is the 2nd fastest for an Indian in ODIs. I still remember a shot hit by him which looked like a square cut but went for six. And I don’t think there is someone more adaptable to the game than Rahul Dravid.

After the epic Test against Australia, he slowly started emerging from the shadows of the giants. He came on his own and achieved a near Bradmanesque feat when he hit 4 consecutive centuries in Tests in 2002 and also went on to score 5 double tons in all which was an Indian record before Sehwag overtook him recently. No one else in the world has scored Test centuries in all the Test playing nations. He has produced his best outside India in the hard and fast difficult pitches. Especially in England. He has another unique record of scoring 23% of the teams total runs in wins which came under a single captain, Saurav Ganguly. Now that makes one ponder whether it was Ganguly’s captaincy skills or Dravid’s silent contribution which made this team the most successful one. He went on to forge century partnerships with 18 different partners and partnered Sachin in 19 of his centuries.

A hard working, selfless cricketer, he was the rock on which the Indian team was built in the new millennium which saw India rise to the No. 1 status, slowly and steadily. And the beginning of the new decade which also saw the decline of India in Tests in harsh conditions, India looked to Rahul Dravid to stand up and deliver. And he delivered in style. In his favourite land, England, he was the lone man standing with three centuries. But the next battle in Australia was the defining moment which has led to his decision to retire from the game he loved most. He must be respected for the decision to bow out with grace.

The Aussie paceman Glen McGrath is believed to have said ‘if there was one Indian player who would get an automatic entry into an Australian team filled with stars, it would be Rahul Dravid’. That sums up the respect that he earned from the team known as the invincibles.


Prasad Moyarath

An Australian tour always provided an ultimate test of character for any cricketer and remained a tough frontier to conquer for any team. The pace and bounce of the Australian pitches combined with its bigger boundaries intimidated the batsmen from the subcontinent to such an extent that a big innings in Australia is epitomised as his ability to play quality fast bowling. Off-spinners struggling, fast bowlers bowling a wrong length, fielders struggling with their throw from the boundary, wicket-keepers fumbling are all common problems faced by the teams from the subcontinent in Australia. The Australian media are well known for their attack on opposition captain and almost all sub-continental teams have had some bitter experience in the past.

Yet another Australian tour is round the corner for the Indian cricket team. Indian selectors have announced a 17 member squad for the four test series which looks strong and well balanced in paper. But for any cricket connoisseur, this team does not inspire any confidence. Though this team has a set of talented youngsters and established stars, the way this team has been groomed as a unit and its preparation for this tough tour has raised the eyebrows of many. Having followed many Indian tours of Australia particularly the last two in 2003-04 and 2007-08, this team for me, does not look strong enough to conquer Australia even with their new look side.

Sreesanth and Harbhajan are known to get under the skin of the Aussies. They might be missed. © The Indian Express

India drew the series 1-1 in 2003-04 and lost 2-1 in 2007-08. Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman and Zaheer who were part of those two tours are still there in this team. Dhoni toured Australia in 2007-08. Team with 6 experienced players should have an upper hand against a new look Australian squad. But a look at the performances of the 6 Indian experienced stars makes me jittery. Zaheer is coming out of an injury. Though Sehwag has scored a few half centuries after his come back, his performances have not been convincing. But Sehwag is unpredictable and can fire any time and India’s performance in Australia depends to a great extent on the innings he plays there. Dravid has been in great form and should continue his dream run in Australia. The whole nation is waiting for a century from Tendulkar and this expectation seems to affect the great master. Despite his big knocks in India, Tendulkar does not look to be in a good rhythm. Laxman has always produced some wonderful performances against Australians, but age seems to have caught up with him. His feet are not moving like in his younger days and with his slow reflexes, he can be a burden on the field in Australia. Dhoni has a dubious batting record outside the sub continent and his keeping has also not lived up to the expectations recently. Australians are well known for their meticulous planning and they are sure to exploit the above weaknesses of Indian stars.

It will be the first test series in Australia for Gambhir (though he impressed in the one-day series there back in 2008). Kohli is yet to cement his place in the test squad and his weakness against short pitched balls which became evident in West Indies will be exploited by Australians. He needs to display how he has rectified this short coming. Rahane and Rohit Sharma are yet to make their debut in test cricket and don’t expect to play any part in the test team unless any of the batsmen gets injured. Only one among the two spinners will play in 3 test matches except in Sydney. Praveen Kumar, Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron will relish the conditions and it is up to them to make their presence felt. Saha will be a mere passenger unless Dhoni gets injured. India needs to play Umesh and Varun in all the test matches and knowing the leadership style of Dhoni, it looks a distant dream.

What is lacking in this “strong” team compared to the previous tours? To be honest, this Indian team lacks characters, those who have the guts to fight it out in the middle and those who can inspire others with their cameo. India will surely miss players like Saurav Ganguly, Sreesanth and Harbhajan. It is not that these players should be included in this squad, but this team lacks “something” which these players have which will help them fight against all odds.

What could have been done to improve India’s chances? The West Indian tour to India ahead of this Australian tour is a big blunder. The flat pitches here did not help the cause either. The Indian selectors and the team management never bothered to groom the players. Rohit Sharma was identified as a test batsman very late and the captain did not have the courage to play him in place of an established star even after winning the series. Same is the case with Rahane. The Indian selectors have still not identified the players to replace the 3 greats. They should have played Rahane and Rohit by resting Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman in rotation. Now it is suicidal to blood these batsmen in trying conditions in Australia in case of a crisis. Parthiv Patel as a reserve keeper would have solved the batsmen’s injury worries considering his experience in Australia. Why the selectors don’t consider him as a batsman despite some crucial knocks against Brett Lee and Shoaib Akhtar is still a mystery. By denying a chance for Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron to bowl in tandem in Mumbai, the Indian team management missed a golden opportunity to groom a new fast bowling pair. With a captain who wants the Indian test pitches to assist spinners from the first day onwards, this was not unexpected.

The years 2003 and 2007 left the Indian cricket lovers broken hearted due to the Boxing Day test matches in Melbourne. The year 2011 seems to end in the same note. Unless the Indian openers give a sound start and our team management gives up their defensive thinking and our new fast bowlers rip through the Australian batting line up, this Indian team don’t seem capable of presenting a happy 2012 to its fans. Good Luck Dhoni and team.