Posts Tagged ‘Dravid’


Bini Sathyan

They came in fast. They charged in furious. They delivered in precision. And they never stopped coming. We fell in a heap. The story repeated. The fall continued. Again and again. The pace battery of Australia assumed the proportions of a battering ram and the battering continued unabated. Until The God fell from his pedestal and was brought down to earth. Until the wall cracked and crumbled. Until the legends lost their greatness and fell from glory. The big guns were silenced. And Indian cricket lay in tatters.

Another series whitewash. The fall from grace that started in England was completed with another similar script in Australia. From the first innings of the first test to the last innings of the last test, the Indian story was the just the same. Repetitive and boring. The story scripted by Clarke & Co. failed to generate thrills because the storyline seemed too predictable. Four venues. Four matches. Four failures. Same players. Same story copied and pasted. Only the duration changed.

Billed as the Agneepath series, with India considered the favourites and Australia the underdogs, Clarke & Co. made sure that the Indians faced the heat rather than them. At the beginning of the series, there was a talk that the Australian camp had a few problems in the batting department. Irregular openers, an out of form middle-order and a captain fighting to gain the respect of his team. Whereas India was a team which had the two greatest run scorers of all times, an opener who could end the game before it all actually began, a very special batsman who took a special liking to Australian bowling and a captain considered to be the shrewdest of cricketing brains around. The four tests that followed resulted in busting many myths about the various sentiments about some India’s all time greats.

Their faces tell the story. © Getty Images

More than the defeats the manner in which it was brought upon them was saddening. In all the series that preceded this, even though the series was lost, the Indian team always put up a tough fight and it was remembered for the valiant effort than the defeat. And at times they were brilliant enough to turn the tables on the invincible team of the times and that is what made these men legends. So when the first test ended in four days, there was still hope that they would put up a fight in the next. But that turned out to be a bigger shocker when it ended in four days again with the Indian team refusing to put up a fight. The third one was the most humiliating when they could not fight for more than two and a half days. Australia should have invited Bangladesh rather. They would have done better.

Retirement calls started for the ageing brigade. But though not valiant enough on the field, they shamelessly fought on off it. When the young guns continued their wait for ever to be blooded, the greats continued to hold on to selfish motives. Little did they realize that other legends before them had moved on to bring them in.  Little did these guys seem to care about a series white wash. The hope was that the billions back home would be pacified with that one ton even if they went down 4-0.

After three failures, luck had it that the captain was banned. A new captain and a new keeper could change the fortunes of the team. Expectations were that the maverick Sehwag would surprise with his unorthodox ways. Since the series was lost after trying the same tricks in the first three tests, the fourth one could have been taken up for experimentation. Two spinners could have been brought forth. May be Ojha could have replaced Ishant. Kohli could have been sent to open the innings or brought in at no.3. A new opener like Rohit could have replaced Gambhir. Sehwag could have come lower down the order. But it was not to be. He stuck to the conservative and traditional thinking of the think tank. Same field placings. Same mistakes. Same body language. Batting collapse. Some catches dropped. Another record for the Clarke-Ponting pair. The agony continued. Retirement calls grew louder.

The experts analyzed that the Indian greats have outlived their sell by date and could not survive in the swinging conditions in England. And the pacy pitches in Australia. Come Adelaide. It was a batting beauty. A much better batting display was expected from India. Australia’s 600 runs in the first innings gave the Indians the much needed hope. But then Siddle’s riddle caught them unawares. He made the batting pitch look like a lively track. The way he bowled, the Indian’s had no answers again. This test would also have ended in four days had it not been for Clarke’s concern that India could bat them out of the game. But he failed to understand that the Indian cricketers were spineless and had lost all interest for a fight after all the battering they received. Clarke tried to show some sympathy to the Indian batsmen by withdrawing his quick guns and giving them an opportunity to play a game they are experts in. May be the Australians were concerned about the dipping revenues as the first three tests did not last five days. But Lyon proved to be trickier than they expected. The web was spun and the plot only got murkier. He accounted for Sehwag, Sachin and Laxman all great players of spin bowling. And to add insult to injury, Clarke then put all his fielders around the night watchman! Such was the state of the famed Indian batting.

Virat Kohli’s performance was the only blessing that India had. He fought well and used his chances to declare that he is India’s batting mainstay in the future. Ravichandran Ashwin and Umesh also proved that they have it in them to excel in the big stage. Saha too has shown that he is a fighter. They need to cement their places through consistent performance and constant improvements. There are many more spinners, pacers and batsmen waiting in the ranks to grab their opportunities which are sadly not coming by. They will have to bide their time till the big guns call it a day. Or they will have to keep waiting till the selectors realise that the future of Indian cricket lies not in record holders whose glorious days are past but in youngsters who can bring back those glorious days for the country.


Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

16 September 2011

Had it not been for image, power and charisma, Indian cricket’s state of affairs would be contracting even more than it has over this English summer. By not turning up for the ICC awards ceremony in London, deliberate or not, the force of the critics’ arguments have carried on in to the abyss.

The indications, thus far, are that Team India is unwilling to acknowledge mistakes on its part. The focus on their absence might have temporarily found some of the underperformers’ relief from being a part of obscure passages in tabloids, but the road away from London towards Wales will finally put an end to what has been nothing short of a disastrous series for India.

The Indians will certainly be hoping that crossing the English border would hopefully see a turn in their fortunes as batting stalwart Rahul Dravid, under strange circumstances, gets ready to wear the Indian blue outfit for the last time in his limited-overs career. That Graeme Swann had to openly admit that seeing Dravid for the last time would make the bowlers around the world heave a sigh of relief is a testament to his wonderful, illustrious career.

Rahul Dravid will bow out of the ODI arena at Sophia Gardens on Friday

Dravid has been the most perfect iteration of the textbook approach candidate. At various instances, during an era ruled by the hard hitters and shorter formats, a serene eye would squint as it witnessed Dravid attempt an odd slog, so unnatural of him, in the middle: open-chested, sweat-laded shirt, high elbowed, and ramrod straight – he could have so easily been the strict disciplinarian amidst pampered souls, lost in a world ruled by chaos.

The next-gen fan seems to have a primal need for watching the ball travel high and afar; cricket has become the modern day equivalent of The Epic of Gilgamesh. It is common wisdom among great cricketers that there are preconditions for attaining success at the very highest level – they key factor being mastering the basics. It is a trait that even fetched two of England’s top three batsmen, batting-order wise, highest honours during the ICC Awards ceremony in London a few days ago. The icing on the cake for both Cook and Trott would be to send the visitors back home without a win all summer.

History-making is rarely free, and the Englishmen are on a roll with the momentum backing them as they approach Cardiff. Broad’s injury would definitely deprive them of their star performer this summer, but the manner in which the replacements have slotted in and performed would give Andy Flower little headache.

India’s addiction to picking youngsters on tours outside the subcontinent and not giving them a run is very much like American addiction to Oil. Why Varun Aaron hasn’t been given a look in yet is a question that beats most of us. If they thought he was ready before he boarded the flight to London, one can’t seem to concretize on a reason why he wouldn’t be ready now. Even if Cardiff were to script a remitting horror story so reflective of this summer, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to witness what this youngster has in store.

Plenty of words have been written, both supportive and critical of the visiting team on and off the field. A victory in Cardiff wouldn’t alter the writing on the wall to an extent that the scars will heal effortlessly. But certainly, a win over the current World Number One would offer some credibility to a unit that has appeared as dry as dates with a loyal fan base slowly swallowing the bitter seed that they never would have imagined to have germinated after a memorable world cup win earlier this year.

As the curtains are about to close on a series that has been haplessly one-sided, a war hero from the victimized camp will slowly, and humbly, walk away from the arena in which he has amassed over 10000 runs at an average close to 40. As he bows out, so will an integral part of the art of classical batsmanship, from the shorter format of the game!


 Goutham Chakravarthi

 3 September 2011


It is a slightly bizarre moment in the tour for both India and England. England have looked utterly dominant thus far and there is little that Indian have done to get the spirits up of any of their fans for the ODIs. But a lot is at stake – that England finally want to showcase that they give One Day cricket its due and India are serious enough to impose themselves in a format they really thrive in. India even went to the extent of trying out their ODI combination in the Old Trafford T20 game.

It will be interesting to see how India approach their batting poweplay

Both sides have issues to address. England’s batting order is always a concern with Cook and Trott in the top 3 and Bell at 5. While Trott has been the backbone of this side with consistent performances in the ODIs in Australia, world cup and earlier in the summer in England, Bell’s position is suspect at 5. In an ideal world, Bell would bat in the top 3 in the ODIs. At 5, he bats too low down the order to have the same impact that he can have at the top of the order. It also puts immense pressure on Morgan to anchor the middle order and also act as the finisher. Bopara at 6 is trying to become the finisher for England. While he has the power game to be more effective than Bell, England is still trying to fit 5 batsmen in the top 6 who all are best fit to bat in the top 3! A long batting order might help, but better management of personnel will help them evolve into a better batting unit that they can become.

India’s issues have been with bating collapses. They are clearly terrified of the batting powerplay and have no convincing method of countering it of late. They messed it up many a time in the world cup and in the recently concluded series in West Indies. While they largely won the world cup on the back of Zaheer Khan and their top 7, their batting collapses left a lot to be desired. The wickets might suit the Englishmen, and like Sri Lanka found out earlier in the summer, it might be hard work for their batsmen too outside of Lord’s and The Oval.

The series might hinge on the bowling form of the English seamers. Dernbach’s match winning performance at Old Trafford on Wednesday might mean one of Samit Patel or Graeme Swann will miss out. Patel’s batting might weigh in his favour, in which case Raina and Jadeja will be relieved.

Cook, Bell and Trott batting at numbers 1, 5 and 3 respectively might not work for England

On the other hand, Indiawill in all likelihood open with Tendulkar and Dravid and approach it the traditional way – keep the wickets in tact during the first 15 overs and capitalize in the last 15. The form of Dravid and Tendulkar will be crucial for India as their young batsmen have not shown the needed technique to survive the new ball. They will be at their dangerous best when the start is solid and there are not many catching men around when the stroke makers come in to bat. Knowing the limitations of this batting side, it will be a surprise if England opt to go with anything less than 4 seamers.

Indian bowling will be tested in the death overs. Both Praveen Kumar and Munaf Patel rely on change of pace and cutters in the end overs. Wickets early will be the key for the Indian bowlers as well as the depth in bowling is negligent. Jadeja is largely a restrictive bowler and Ashwinor Mishra are not consistent yet at the top level. It will be interesting to see if they throw in Varun Aaron and give him the new ball. England can’t have seen much of him, and if it comes off, it will be gamble worth it.

There is enough to look forward to. Hopefully, it will be well contested.


Chandrasekhar Jayarama Krishnan

Head of Cricket, The CouchExpert

22 August 2011

 

There is a growing sense that our best days as a Test Cricket Superpower are behind us, and that England, currently is in the driver’s seat to ride on this throne for the foreseeable future. A sense of anguish seems to dominate any conversation that runs around India’s future in Test Cricket – the consequence of a whitewash whose coffin was nailed at The Oval.

There is, of course, some truth to this concern. Even Real Madrid’s 5-0 loss to Barcelona last December wouldn’t have had enough quantity of remorse to outweigh that suffered by the Indians lately. If at all anything was common, it was that both the Los Galacticos and Indians succumbed to the presence of sheer class amongst their opponents, coupled with bad errors of judgment intrinsically.

England dominated the series with the aura of a historical superpower that has never been colonized. The script of the fourth test could’ve well been written before the first ball was bowled at the Kia Oval, but what was heartening to see from the Indians, for a change, was resistance of some sort. Dravid’s defiance had thrown seeds of hope in to the Indian dressing room, two of which managed to last through a session without having its wicket thrown away.

The media-frenzy of a Tendulkar milestone that dominated headlines preceding this series is likely to continue until it is reached

Tendulkar’s near-repeat of his World Cup Semi Final innings against Pakistan, one filled with numerous chances that the opposition failed to grasp hold of, and Mishra’s battling (and splendid) innings – one that had to have had the other ‘batsmen’ hang their heads in shame- saw India through their first session without losing a wicket. Mishra’s guts, and temperament, are now widely endorsed with a large section of the Indian public willing to forgive him for lack of ideas while bowling – only to tout him to contention for the number six slot as a batsman.

That it had to end this way for the Indians was a certainty. A curious selection towards the end of the series had depicted a thought, or even a belief, that the Indians were as adept in conference rooms, where selections were made, as their players had been on the green wickets of England. Indeed, the uncontrolled fall of morale, confidence and the exposure of weaknesses and inability overshadowed all imaginable pretenses – not least helped by the fall of seven wickets for a paltry twenty odd runs to bring this series to a close.

Some of India’s most exciting one-day players were victims of the English soil’s greenish vengeance. Less gullible but no less feeble were the bowlers who ran out of ideas at the rate at which gas-guzzling SUVs drink fuel. Predictable responses to events of such drastic inconvenience hovered around packed calendars and lack of preparation – but lack of application, barring Rahul Dravid, stood out among the key culprits. England played brilliantly well, no doubt, but was made to look even better by the hapless Indians at various instances during this series.

England’s progressive rise in performance of their players, with Swann completing the cycle with his dominant performance in the second innings of the final test, picking up six, pretty much summarizes their state of confidence. A few of the statistics from the recent past – backed by innings victories and large integers – plant a scary proposition to the rest of the world: they’re right on top, and there seems to be no roads that descend anywhere near the British Isles.

It may now appear ironic that Man of the Series Stuart Broad was a doubtful starter at Lords, owing to his unimpressive form leading up to the series

Broad’s consistent lengths throughout the series, ones that would have made even the best of the long-jumpers proud, and high scoring cameos with the bat earned him the Man of the Series award, one for which there existed many a contestant from the English dressing room. Dravid, from the other dressing room, was parsecs ahead of any other Indian in terms of achievements this series. That, in itself, is a reflection of how the series eventually panned out.

Most of the Indian players, subsequently, will have to bite the bullets once the post-mortem verdicts are out; not that most of these facts aren’t known anyway. Some of their ‘shorter-format’ skill sets have probed in and out like Somalian pirates in the Gulf of Aden. Apart from the self-inflicting damage that it has caused to most of them, more than anything else, it has left a billion sullen faces staring at this plight back home.

On the contrary, the Englishmen have found themselves a bed of roses to recline on – their tale to reach the top of the rankings, followed by a whitewash of the previously reigning champions, couldn’t have had a better script in the making. The quality of their quests henceforth will decide whether they build their fortresses across the globe in sand or stone. They have had a remarkable time stamping their intentions, but the real game of governing unconquered territories is about to begin this winter.