Archive for the ‘India in South Africa 2010-11’ Category


Srikrishnan Chandrasekaran

Bangalore

26 January 2011

I have been watching cricket over last two decades and am a great fan of Indian cricket. I am sharing my comments on how I look at each game in the last series in SA and what ways we could have improved / done well. There will be definitely other cricket fans who will disagree to my comments, but this is something what I feel they can improve on.

MS Dhoni: Too defensive?

—This was one of India’s better performances on SA soil. In short, India played better cricket than SA in the whole series (Test, ODI, and T20). They gave a very good fight and managed a decent show.

—The top order of Indian team batting line-up failed to show their strength in both ODI and Tests. There had been few notable performances in the bowling department, but they should have done better in their batting. This Test team is one of the best Indian sides in recent years and they had a good opportunity to win the series on SA soil, but their inconsistent batting and inefficient captaincy gave an edge to SA in making it 1-1 easily and also win the ODI series.

—Looking at the each day’s play closer with session-to-session, it was not really as tough a series as expected. India would have outplayed SA if Dhoni had put some effort in being more aggressive with his captaincy. He is not as attacking captain as other Indian captains of yesterday, but one should at least make an attempt to learn something either by experience or looking at the way the past cricket captains’ performances.

Below are some of the highlights where Dhoni should have taken a much better decision than he eventually did

Test Matches:

1. Should have attacked SA batsmen in 1st innings of 1st Test, especially on Harbhajan’s bowling.
2. Should have shown some amount of fighting spirit in the South African 2nd innings of the 3rd Test. By setting a field of 5 fielders outside the ring in a Test match will allow the opponent to play comfortably. At one instance, it given a feel like 3rd test involved some match fixing. Kallis was not comfortable playing, but there is no effort from Dhoni to put pressure on him.
3. When you have bowler with 300+ Test wickets, one should have three fielders round the batsmen irrespective of match condition. Spreading a field will not give any confidence to the bowler. If Dhoni had bothered to set even a 10% attacking field while Boucher-Kallis were batting, I think we would have easily won the Test series
4. It looked at one point, Dhoni was not interested in bowling out the opposition as Indian team would be in trouble if the target was less than 200 with 120+ overs to bat on.

ODIs:

1. As a captain Dhoni should have tried to stay till the end of match in the 3rd ODI. There is much to learn even looking at Botha on how he likes to stay at the crease.
2. In the 4th ODI, he should have brought in front-line bowlers when SA lost 5 wickets for 140-odd. As an outsider, I can very well judge Duminy is good against spinners, it was really bad to see Dhoni bowl the spinners at him till he got settled.
3. In the same game, while chasing their target and there was possible chance of rain later that night, why didn’t the middle-order batsmen try to stay on for some period in the middle when Kohli is playing a superb innings?
4. In the 5th ODI, again after the loss of de Villiers when Duminy walked in, no fast bowler was brought into the attack. If Dhoni is so confident on the spinners, at least he would have tried with pace at one end. Zaheer bowled exceptionally well against left-handers. It was very difficult to understand the strategy of Dhoni in not bringing Zaheer on with the series up for grabs.
5. When everyone clearly knows it’s going to rain heavily during 2nd half of the day, no body in the world will win the toss and elect to field especailly with the D/L method in place. It gives a feel like Dhoni had decided not to win the series when he sent the opponent in after winning the toss.
6. While chasing a mammoth total (also since we didn’t scored more than 225 in the series), one would have tried with pinch hitters especially Harbhajan / Zaheer. These 2 players are sometimes more sensible than the top-order players. No idea why Dhoni came at no. 4 only thrown his wicket.

In short, it is really Dhoni’s incapability of captaining the side that has lost the opportunity of winning both the Test series and ODI series.  In my view, the selectors should think whether Dhoni should continue leading the side. I am unable to recollect if there has been an instance wherein Dhoni has led India to win a series with his captaincy skills alone.

Appreciate your patience on reading this post!


Prasad Moyarath

Bangalore

25 January 2011

India playing five one day internationals against South Africa in South Africa, just one month before the World Cup in India raised the eye brows of many Indian cricket aficionados. In the past, India could never do well against the hosts in the fast and bouncy pitches there. What will Indian players gain by playing matches on fast and bouncy pitches when the World Cup is going to be held in the flat batting tracks of the subcontinent? – This question puzzled many except those in BCCI. To the Indian surprise, all the matches were held on comparatively slow pitches and the Indians came out of the series winning 2 out of the 5 matches. Only the time will tell what the Indian team gained out of this series but a post mortem of this series reveals many interesting facts.

Sehwag, Praveen Kumar and Gambhir returned to India even before the start of the series with injuries. With Piyush Chawla, Ashwin and Rohit Sharma in the squad, the first two matches were looked upon by many as chances for the Indian selectors to try out these players before declaring the Indian team for the 2011 World Cup.

Team composition for the first two matches clearly proved that the selectors or the team management didn’t have any well thought out plans. Ashish Nehra looked completely out of sorts and Rohit Sharma sent in as replacement for Sehwag batted at No.4 and No.7 in the first two matches. Indians were beaten outright in the first match but won a thriller in the second despite Dhoni’s lackluster captaincy almost presenting a victory to South Africa. Even when it was very clear that India’s only winning option was to bowl out the South Africans, Dhoni kept persisting with part time bowlers and brought back Munaf only when the South Africans were very close to a victory. Luck was with Dhoni and India on that day.

Tendulkar returned to India with an injury and Parthiv Patel was sent in as a replacement. Indian team for the World Cup was announced and that seemed to confuse the team management more. Lack of a specialist opener forced the team management to thrust the role of an opener on the World Cup discard – Rohit Sharma and Dhoni didn’t have the gumption to use this contingency to test the disaster management skills of his team. He could have opened with Kohli and promoted himself to No.3. Though India won a thriller in the third one dayer through some hard hitting by Yusuf Pathan and presence of mind of tailenders, rain denied a century to Kohli and an outright win for South Africa (though they won by D/L Method) in the fourth one dayer.

Fifth one dayer showed the display of individual brilliance by Amla and Pathan. Cricket fans wondered what would have happened had Amla been caught by Ashwin at 70 and Duminy given out in the second ball he faced and rain not interrupted South African innings. Though South Africa won a thriller as shown by score card, apart from Pathan and Parthiv Patel to a small extent, none of the Indian batsmen took the fight to South African camp. Though the official Man of the Match was Amla, there was no doubt that the fifth one dayer would always remain etched in cricket lover’s memory for Yusuf Pathan’s innings.

India lost yet another one day series in South Africa but the fact that this team went down fighting even without 3 reputed players is a consolation. Indian team management and selectors never had a plan and was confused on the selection of players. They neither selected the team with an aim to win the series nor with an aim to give exposure to World Cup players. But with days to go for the 2011 World Cup, this series also exposed many weak links in the Indian side. Ashish Nehra’s lack of form and the inconsistency of Yuvraj, Raina and Dhoni are sure to create sleepless nights for the team management and selectors. Lack of a good fifth bowler was clearly visible from the way South Africa recovered several times after an initial collapse. A world class side should be able to overcome any eventuality and this Indian side’s inability to overcome the opening problem that surfaced due to the injury to openers will pose a question mark on the quality of team selection. Rohit Sharma and Murali Vijay turned out to be complete failures and it got forgotten due to the fact that they were not included in the World Cup team. Kohli, Pathan, Zaheer, Munaf and Harbhajan did something of note.

A diffident captain, a brittle middle order and a bowling attack with inconsistency written on it, this Indian side has flooded the minds of Indian cricket aficionados with doubts. “The big learning from this game is to keep wickets in hand for the last ten overs” – the parting words of the Indian captain summed up the whole picture. Did Dhoni become Indian Captain without knowing the basics of the game?

Dhoni Should Go

Posted: January 7, 2011 by The CouchExpert in India in South Africa 2010-11, Opinion

Prasad Moyarath

Bangalore

6 January 2011

“A captain is only as good as his team,” is a popular saying in the cricketing world and if this holds good, Mahendra Singh Dhoni should be the best Test captain in the world at the moment. No doubt, the Indian Test team has been doing well under his captaincy and has attained the no.1 ranking. Fighting back and winning Test matches abroad has become a habit for India, but still find satisfaction in drawing a series abroad and are not disappointed in not winning it. Indian team still gets worried about the green top wickets even though they boast of the best batting line-up in the world. Don’t you think that there is something missing in the overall performance of the best Test team?

Though India with Azharuddin as captain and Ajit Wadekar as coach won a lot of Test matches, those wins were never appreciated by critics as the majority of these wins were in India and on spinning pitches. It was Saurav Ganguly who changed the face of Indian cricket team with his aggressive captaincy. Those who switched off their TV sets after the exit of Sachin Tendulkar till then started watching the whole innings. Ganguly was a players’ captain and also a people’s captain. He stood for the players through thick and thin and instilled confidence in youngsters. Don’t forget that when Saurav Ganguly took over in 2000, Indian cricket was in dire straits after the match fixing controversy. That young Indian team has matured under the subsequent captains Dravid and Kumble. Now under Dhoni, the team is still winning due to the performances of the experienced players.

Any cricket fan following the development of Indian test team will notice that the performance graph of this team is not on a big ascent after the exit of Ganguly as captain. From a losing team abroad, India reached the level of drawing team abroad under Ganguly and now after a few years under Dhoni, the team is expected to be a winning team abroad. That has not happened and don’t seem to happen in the near future and that is when we look at the strategies and skills of a captain. No new strategies, poor man management skills and the team lacking killer instinct, Dhoni as a captain stands exposed after the South African Test series.

Attacking the opposition team verbally before a Test match is a common tactic used by Australia and South Africa and Dhoni played into their hands by criticising Sreesanth in public. Sreesanth’s good bowling in South Africa despite his captain’s public criticism shows his strength of character and not Dhoni’s man management skills. He forgot what Andre Nel and Allan Donald had done to Indian batsmen years back and found fault with Sreesanth. This was never expected from an experienced captain.

With South Africa in dire straits in the fourth day of the final Test, Dhoni had no back-up plan to counter Kallis and tail enders. The fact that the fielder who went to the boundary to fetch the ball after Kallis reverse swept Harbhajan never came back to his actual fielding position showed Dhoni’s lack of confidence. With Harbhajan bowling well from one end, any captain would have bowled a left arm seamer from the other end to help the off-spinner with the rough created by the left-arm seamer’s foot marks, but not Dhoni. He preferred to start the fourth day with Sreesanth.

Dhoni doesn’t seem to nurture talent like Ganguly. Abhimanyu Mithun, who bowled decently in the dead tracks in SriLanka was never selected to represent India again even though Dhoni had praised his performance. There is no doubt that Mithun would have bowled better than Ishant Sharma in the bouncy tracks in South Africa. Is Dhoni like Azharuddin, not having the back bone to fight for his favourite players with the selectors? If India was playing for a draw on the final day of the third test, why didn’t he send Pujara at No.3 after the fall of Sehwag? That would have given a big boost to the confidence of this youngster.

India is an ageing side and if they have to escape the phase that Australian team is going through now, BCCI has to take some bold steps. Dhoni doesn’t seem to have the skills to take India to the next level and we should not get fooled by the statistics. It is time to think beyond Mahendra Singh Dhoni as captain.


John van der Westhuizen

Johannesburg

6 January 2011

 

It seems like just yesterday the TV news networks were advertising Test Cricket’s clash of the titans. The series was eagerly anticipated and commercially it promised to be the series that ‘has it all’. Seems like the ponytails weren’t far wrong. Aside from there being no clear winner, the series served to stand as a great advertisement for Test cricket, and a confirmation if there was ever any doubt, of the two teams’ respective rankings in world cricket.

After the first Test at Centurion where SA won by an innings, many punters predicted a landslide series win for the local side. SA punters mostly. That India is ranked number 1 for their performances over time, should have warned us that they would come back fighting. And so it turned out to be, much to the relief of Indian fans I am sure, who knew all along their team was better than the Centurion result indicated.

On a difficult wicket in Durban, the Indians gave as good as they got (no, they gave better than they got), and we were all set for a series decider in Cape Town. That the third Test and indeed the series was drawn should not detract from what was a great series. In the hearts and minds of neutral supporters (if those even exist anymore) this series competed for face time with another reasonably well-followed rivalry, The Ashes. While England grow from strength to strength, even they will concede that the current Australia team is a shadow of its former self. Apart from the fact that Australia were outplayed in every facet, and England fans got to enjoy a long awaited series win, the series was never in the balance, there was always one team with the ascendancy.

The SA-IND series offered both sets of fans a glimpse of potential glory, and when Boucher strode out to the wicket on Day 4 at Newlands, a billion people thought the time had come for India to break their duck in South Africa. 4 hours later, SA would have definitely fancied their chances having set a 340 target for the visitors on a tricky final day wicket. As it turns out, the Indian top order held on for the draw, and fought the pace battery off with distinction to obtain it.

Only 6 centuries were scored in the 15 day battle, and 3 of them belonged to 1 man. Kallis was at his vintage best and any thoughts of him being past his prime must now well and truly be out the window. For now. You see the thing is, as Mark Boucher so rightly put it in his press interview after day 4 in Cape Town, that we have “one of the greatest cricketers in the history of the game” right here among us, and that many South Africans still do not appreciate his value to the team over the last 14 years. Despite 40 Test tons, and over 250 wickets, many local fans still somehow point out his low strike rate as a weakness. I choose my words carefully when I say that despite Tendulkar’s longevity and ability to perform at the very highest level for such a prolonged period, I believe Jacques Kallis to be the greatest cricketer that ever lived. Better than The Don, better than Viv Richards, better than Ricky Ponting. As a batsman alone, obviously Tendulkar is the best ever, but Kallis’ wickets in the Test arena puts his nose in front as a cricketer.

It must be pointed out that Tendulkar’s contribution to the series and the way he fought especially in Cape Town, went a long way to securing the draw for India. Without his ability to stick around and keep the board ticking, the relative failures of Sehwag, Laxman and Pujara would have cost India the series. The same could be said about SA to a lesser extent, where without King Kallis’ 498 runs, only Amla really stood up to be counted, with 250 runs at an average of 50. For SA, Prince, Petersen and Smith were all disappointing.

Since the series was not played on a host of flat tracks, it was a rare chance for bowlers to see their names up in lights, and for the most part, as long as Neither Kallis nor Tendulkar were at the crease, the trundlers took their opportunities. 5-wicket hauls however, were in relatively short supply despite consistently good bowling from each teams’ top 3. Dale Steyn was head and shoulders above the rest, and is destined to get a career haul over 400. Along with his 21 wickets, he often bowled wicketless spells where one felt he deserved better.

For India, Singh, Khan and Sreesanth were the standouts, but in the end they weren’t as consistently menacing as Steyn and to a lesser extent, Morkel. It must also be said that SA got the benefit of the toss in 2 of the 3 games, and as a result SA’s bowlers would have enjoyed marginally better conditions over the course of the 3 Tests.

All said and done, I think 1-1 is a fair result. A one-eyed South African supporter can seldom say that without going into the ifs, ands or buts. The reality is that whenever SA had India on the rack, the Indians fought back. When SA were in trouble at Newlands early on day 4, they too fought back. An excellent series that lived up to its billing, long may the rivalry continue.

Bring on the ODI’s.


Goutham Chakravarthi

Bangalore

2nd Jan 2011

Cricketers come in all sorts. Some restless who can’t sleep a wink before the Test, some carefree, some free spirited, some meticulous, some superstitious. None of which can guarantee success, but each in pursuit of individual excellence and collective results. It can get complicated – money, fame, expectation and the pressures that come with it. The better ones understand what works best for them and try to remain in the mental frame that gives them the best chance of succeeding.

It is often overlooked that it is young boys and men with varying personalities and back-grounds (most certainly in both India and South Africa) come together for five days on the field to achieve a result. Some succeed. Most fail. Also, the ones delivering at the final stages of the game walk away with the limelight though victories are constructed and achieved over the five days. And often, it means different things to people within the team itself – some on their last legs who may never experience it again; some for the first time who don’t know how many more is in store for them, and some after a long time who don’t know if they will be around when it is the next time!

And often, for a lot of them, including the game, certain things matter more than the result itself. When Duminy and de Villiers scripted a famous chase in Perth two years ago, it showed the giant strides post-aparthied South Africa had made as a cricket nation. True that the quota system still rankles many in that country and have affected a lot of cricketers who seek refuge in the UK as Kolpak players and even those who try to qualify to play for England. But, it also showed progress of cricket in a nation that is spread across the society and colour.

The day might not be far when a Muslim with Indian roots will lead South Africa. It is a huge statement considering that football is still seen as predominantly a black man’s game and rugby as that of the white man. Recently, they embraced the idea of playing two spinners in spin-friendly conditions, not seen previously as their forte. They might not have always won under extreme-pressure, but perhaps, they have got it right with regards to their cricket and its progress and development. Kallis, Donald, Pollock have been great cricketers – the best of their kind. Who is to say Amla, de Villiers and Steyn won’t? And they are not far away from being the best Test side in the world either. Perhaps that vindicates their progress on all counts.

On the other hand, India has its own tussles. A country brimming with growth and confidence but also a nation where corruption is widespread and cricket a national pastime like no other. All Indians are armchair critics with opinion more from the heart and widely fluctuating from one game to the other. After all, million dollar business acquisitions and million dollar scams can appear side-by-side on its newspaper front pages on the same day. Success and failure can be measured by the quantity of runs and wickets than the quality of wickets and opposition. Relative comparison is the order of all Indian families – from entrance exam results to cricket scores.

Cricket has managed to survive the many changes with the country – the many divides from culture to class, language to religion – it has managed to survive the chaos it can be and move on – from the time when each religion fielded its team in the Bombay Pentangular to the top of the official Test rankings and conceiving the most successful and controversial cricket league.

Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman may never tour South Africa again. But they represent the India who fight odds but still make it big in their fields. It shows endurance, courage and more than anything else that pursuing excellence often yields results. May be that is the lesson many of the IPL generation needs to learn from them.

So when India square-off against South Africa in a few hours’ time in what would be a crucial Test for the many that take part in it and how it might change the lives of many based on its outcome, and how the winning team and its supporters might lay claim to be best team in the world, let’s also understand that they are best two cricketing nations for they may have embraced a lot more than just cricket to be best in the world.

Let the game begin!