Posts Tagged ‘Aakash Chopra’


Goutham Chakravarthi

It is remarkable how the Australian openers resemble Aakash Chopra and Virender Sehwag from 2003-04. Both pairs made of  a dasher and a blunter each. Running between the wickets being the stand out feature. And both middle orders benefited. Australia lost 10 wickets for 155 runs today, but the double century opening stand is essentially the difference in runs between the two sides’ first innings totals.

Talks of Cowan being a short-term solution at the top now needs to be revisited. Like in Melbourne, he left well and played to his strengths. His batting is constructed on good temperament and judgement, not too dissimilar to the construction of his prose. He complements Warner well and they seem to be a good pair at the top with their contrasting methods.

Umesh Yadav's maiden five-wicket haul in Tests. © Getty Images

It will be silly of the selectors to replace Cowan with Watson when the all-rounder is cricket fit. While the number at which he should bat should he move out of the opening slot has been a never ending debate, he might fit in at three should he have to sacrifice his bowling in order to prolong his playing days. Marsh has been flashy, but looks most likely to drop of out favour when Watson returns.

While it does not automatically guarantees success for the pair in England in the Ashes, they seem to have the tools to succeed and deserve to be given a long rope.

While the batting options might be in slight for the selectors, their fast bowling stocks seem to be ripe. While Harris has a remarkable record in the few Tests he has played, it is the emergence of Starc with his pace, movement and bounce that caught the eye on Saturday. Blessed with natural bounce, he seems to be destined to join Pattinson and Cummins and lead Australia’s attack for many years to come. And, given his composure and ability with the bat, Australia’s lower-order has the needed extra padding given the sporadic form of its middle-order.

In contrast, the Indian openers can’t seem to get off the blocks at all through this series. Nor has the middle-order looked capable. Australia’s bowling has been good and has created collective pressure. Patience and the game of attrition which defined this batting for a decade have deserted them for over a year now. Five years ago, this side would scrap, fight and find a way past the initial trouble and eventually break the bowlers’ spirits by batting well for long. Keeping good sides out on the field for five sessions and more is how India broke good Australian sides of the past, now seem hard pressed to bat for half hour without losing a wicket.

It has been remarkable how mentally unclear the likes of Sehwag, Gambhir and Laxman have been this series. All tough and proud individuals, but they seem to be battling more than just the opposition. Sehwag has been patchy and unconvincing throughout the series while Gambhir and Laxman have been busy nicking to the various slips. On good days, they leave well outside the off-stump, but not this series.

It is regrettable that after a day of good fightback by the Indian bowlers, that only the follies of the Indian batting are being debated. After a poor showing at the SCG, the bowlers have bounced back well. Umesh Yadav  rediscovered his MCG rhythm and ran through the top-order after the marathon opening stand to bring India back into a contest that seemed to be headed the SCG way. Australia struggled to cope with Zaheer’s mastery and Umesh’s pace. After a poor first day, Ishant and Vinay came back well to chip in with wickets.

Virat Kohli’s composure at the crease has been the high point of India’s insofar dismal batting display this Test. A big innings for him here will give him the confidence to blossom into a good Test batsman that he is capable of becoming. While day three of this Test in all probability will be the last day of this Test, India will hope that it will also be a day where Kohli takes his first strides in to hopefully a long Test career as India looks to the future without the comfort of the big names in its batting order.

When this Test is done and dusted, it is time India looked to the future. As Kohli and Umesh have shown, they are neither short on talent or ability.


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.