Archive for the ‘Series’ Category


Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

November 13, 2011

The real story of test cricket has little to do with what was exposed in the newspapers on the morning of day three of the Newlands Test, and has everything to do with us fans – some who’ve challenged the entertainment plausibility of having to watch 450 overs of cricket spanning five days. The articles and reactions to the second day of the Newlands Test were only the meekest ghosts of a summary that the numbers depicted.

The build up to the clash between the Southern Hemisphere’s cricketing giants now seems inadvertent, given the fact that this battle would have given the Anglo-Zanzibar war of 1896 a run for its money. It had taken the British only 45 minutes to overthrow Khalid Bin Bargash, when five warships of the Royal Navy opened fire to commence and complete what would become one of the shortest wars fought in the history of the world.

Just as one began to wonder the chronic consequences of not having played test cricket in over ten months time, the residual effects of which were blatantly vivid during South Africa’s first innings, the landslide that followed painted a bizarre picture on how the art of temperament has gone for a toss, without doubting South Africa’s resilient response and character. It is, in one way, ironic to imagine that the teams that had once been involved in the highest ever run chase in ODI history had to enact a drama that would dubiously place itself at the other end of the spectrum.

The emergence of shorter formats seemed to have stamped its presence when a few Aussie batsmen – the main culprit being Brad Haddin – appeared to have played shots that they’d never want to see replays of. The entertaining form of attacking batsmanship was decisively rejected by the challenge posed by Test Cricket. It would now seem ironic to quote Michael Clarke in the past tense – a common ploy used by many who know that the words of the captain will appear on print post the result – just after the toss when he’d said he would have batted on this wicket.

Australia now finds itself in the middle of a two match series, with many believing that by stating the complexities of an ‘insidious’ wicket, the visitors can hope to bounce back after a break. A large part of Australia’s problems lie within their own camp – from the ineffective, unguided missiles of Mitchell Johnson to the questionable form, but not the class, of Ricky Ponting. To add to this heavy bag of questions exist a very fragile opening pair, whose lack of efflorescence against the moving ball would have undercut the post mortem’s storyline.

The Aussies certainly did well to ensure that their Trans-Tasman rivals held on to their dubious Test Record of the lowest score in an innings

Historically, the Australians are believed to be constitutionally averse to strategies adopted by other cricketing nations. If form-based remedies are displaced by class-based remedies, the number of young Australian cricketers staking a claim to play test cricket will fall incredibly. However, the recent trend scripts a contrary story, and rightly so – David Warner’s call up to replace the injured Shaun Marsh adds fuel to this theory.

Mental toughness has always been embedded into the DNA of Australian sport, but for once, ability seems to be posing a colossal question. But knowing the Australians well, they cherish pride and victory way too much to let it slip away – and no one would know that better than the set of men who’ve thrown their hats hoping to fill the vacancy left by Tim Nielsen.

In this process, the other side of the contest has been overlooked. If it probably weren’t for Amla and Smith’s centuries, it is for anyone to guess whether the other South African batsmen would have been found wanting, as they were during the first innings. But debutant Philander’s baptism of fire certainly prevented what otherwise would have been a very unpleasant courtroom featuring the batsmen responsible for a collapse during South Africa’s first innings on home soil during the month of November since 1921.

The Law of Large Numbers states that the result of performing the same experiment a large number of times would yield the expected result. The method adopted by Steyn, Philander and Morkel was to constantly hit the channels on and around off-stump – and the expected results were obtained.

The result has Australia in free fall now. Unlike gravity, a bad result can often push a team to the extremes of possible reactive decision making. There will be a temptation to replace the misfiring Johnson with the young and quick Pat Cummins – but as the late Peter Roebuck wrote in his very recent article: “Ambitious selectors and captains understandably seek players of high potential to replace time-servers, but cricket is also a game of skill, stamina and experience, and it takes time to learn its lessons.”

Sun Tzu’s Art of War states that what the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease. Certainly, the South Africans wrapped up the game so. And they’ll look to repeat the same, excluding the first innings debacle, in Johannesburg.


Srikrishnan Chandrasekharan

Indian team will be very much pleased with their performance over the last 3 weeks against England in the ODIs. Even though the series score tell us that England beat India 3-0, the psychological feeling of players reveal that the team India played much better cricket than England. The Indian team was fooled by ICC / ECB / BCCI in awarding the shorter format cricket through D/L method as 50 Overs One Day international Tournament. England captain won the toss for five consecutive games reveals that there is fair amount of good time / luck surrounds him and his team.

ICC cheated fans across the globe by completing a 50 over ODI series without a single match completing the quota of 50 overs by both the sides. This is ridiculous act by ICC and shame on them on not utilizing the basic technology available to them in framing the fixtures of the series. When there was a clear indication of weather issues before start of the ODI series ICC either would have called off ODI series or changed to a format of 35 over new International format for the 5 games scheduled for the tour. One should not measure the performance of Indian bowlers during this series as none of the match played the quota of 50 overs.

A series that will be remembered as much for the rains as anything else.

Injuries to several key players during the tour, the Indian team shown exemplary performance on their batting and improved show in the bowling with the resources at their disposal. The weakness of England bowlers was exposed during so called the ODI series. Except Swann, every other English bowler failed to make any impact against this young and inexperienced Indian lineup. Indian bowlers tried their best but it was really hard for them to bowl in English conditions where the match format changed after every rain interruption. India would have ended up with a more respectable series scoreline if any of the match been played the quota of 50 overs on both sides.

Parthiv making a comeback, Rahane on other hand making his debut, Rahul inclusion to the side after to ODI format and these 3 players formed the most critical batting position and made a reasonable contribution to the team in the series. On the other hand, Dhoni and Raina, short of runs in Tests, came back strongly and played some wonderful cricket. Jadeja played some good cricket when the team needed. India made a commendable total against tough bowling attack in English soil [274 (50) – 1st ODI, 187 (23) – 2nd ODI, 234 (50) – 3rd ODI, 280 (50) – 4th ODI, 304 (50) -5th ODI]. Once the top players are fit and make a comeback to the side, team India might easily score 300 to 350 against this English attack on Indian soil.

The team management and BCCI should look at the positives from the tour and build the stronger team for the future. The focus of BCCI should be picking right talent and framing a team that can play for next 5 to 8 years. Also BCCI should not make any hasty decision on players / captain / coach of the team based on one or two series failures. India needs to have backup players and use them effectively in the case of injuries to their main players. They need to be given fair chance to play in every series by resting the main players.

The team management should keep focus on these players and enhance their skills both in Test and shorter variants (Kohli, Raina, Rahane, Rohit, Manoj Tiwary, Jadeja, Ashwin, Praveen, Munaf, Varun, Parthiv, Ishant, RP Singh). In the recent series Indian pace bowling lacked line, length, mixing of deliveries and pace. Former fast bowlers should come forward and guide the young bowlers to scale up to the next level. Also, the batsmen should stay at the crease for longer duration and convert their scores in to bigger ones.

The truth of life was revealed during this series. The team which is World No. 1 on Test International and World Champion on ODI’s failed to win a single match on the tour with their class players who helped the team to win plenty of series for India at home and abroad. Before start of the series, fans, reporters and former players across the globe predicted that India will beat England on their home soil comprehensively. The reality is different of course and may there be enough steps taken to get the team back on track. And quickly.


Srikrishnan Chandrasekharan

Aizaz Cheema had an impressive series for Pakistan with the ball

Pakistan completed a clean sweep in the ODIs against Zimbabwe. It was a very good performance from the Pakistan team with some new faces in their bowling line up. Aizaz Cheema made an impressive debut for Pakistan in the series and led the wickets tally. It was a significant performance by the 32 year old making his debut taking wickets with a good strike rate, average and economy. The experienced Younis Khan won player of the series award. The Pakistan openers did a tremendous job in giving a good starts when the team needed.

It was a tough series for Zimbabwe playing against Pakistan that had a good mix of experienced and young blood. Zimbabwe team played good cricket throughout the series. The first match of series had a nail biting finish; the second match was a complete domination by Pakistan openers. In the 3rd match there was plenty of expectation that Taylor would continue his good form with the bat to save their side from the whitewash. Unfortunately he got out early and wickets fell down at regular intervals to eventually push Zimbabwe short by 28 runs.

Team and management of Zimbabwe Cricket should focus on the positives out of the tour. They were able to score 220-plus in all the matches and given a good fight. The team needs to invest more time towards areas of improvement and rebuilding the team for the upcoming T20 against Pakistan followed by New Zealand and West Indies series in the month of October.

On the other hand, Pakistan needs to strengthen their team for their upcoming series against Sri Lanka. The series will be held in Dubai due to security constraints at Pakistan. It promises to be a good contest with Pakistan showing good promise.

 


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!


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.