Posts Tagged ‘Harbhajan Singh’

Shridhar Pandey

Only a couple of days away from the beginning of the Test series between India and England, I realize that I have never before looked forward to a Test series with such desperation as this one. There is more than one reason behind the excitement. Whatever the score-line might read at the end of four test matches, one can rest assured that both teams will have some interesting challenges coming their way. Though this series has been constantly billed as the “revenge” series, I believe that would not affect the teams much, for they have far bigger issues at hand to deal with.

As far as the English line-up is concerned, the return of Kevin Pietersen will surely boost the morale of the side but they cannot afford to get carried away. Of late their middle order mainstay Jonathan Trott has not been able to keep up to the high standards he has set for himself over the last couple of years. Injuries to Stuart Broad and Steven Finn have given them more reasons to worry about. Nonetheless, flamboyant KP is always a force to reckon with. If he can successfully put his frailties against slow left arm bowling behind him, the English supporters will be in for a delight.

Yuvraj and Pietersen make comebacks in to their sides and their form will be watched closely by fans and selectors. Pic: NDTV

To add to that, they have not yet gotten to taste the kind of spin bowling they are about to face in the upcoming Test matches. I would not bother myself going into the details of the reason behind that (that sure is worth another story in itself). But that does bring me to an over-hyped issue about the fragility of English batsmen against spin bowling. This is not the first time they are touring the sub-continent. Neither is this the best spin attack that India has had in the recent times. So give them a break. They know what they are doing. In case they aren’t, they better do!

The Indian outfit, on the other hand, will take on a serious opposition without Dravid and Laxman for the first time in years (no offence meant to the Kiwis). This series shall prove to be the litmus Test for the likes of Gambhir, Sehwag and Zaheer. Gambhir will have to prove that he is not just good for small innings and that he can go on to score some big runs as well. Sehwag will have to make his followers believe that he has not lost his touch while Zaheer’s fitness will be tested once again.

Pujara and Kohli showed promise in the series against New Zealand. If they continue their form into this series, England sure would get a run for their money. Yuvraj has given the selectors reason enough to select him for the no. 6 spot. For some reason, he has not been able to do justice to his talent. By now he should have been a permanent member of the Indian test line-up. Ashwin will be the one to watch out for. He has done extremely well in home conditions. He might prove to be the eyesore to most English batsmen.

Inclusion of Harbhajan in the squad renders the equation pretty interesting and open to speculations. It would be interesting to see if Dhoni leaves out Harbhajan from the playing eleven to include Ojha. If he doesn’t, it would be a huge injustice to poor Ojha who did very well in the New Zealand series. Dhoni himself has a few questions to answer as far as his batting goes. A batsman of his mettle batting at no. 7 is always a huge advantage to any side provided he is in good touch – or at least in the kind of form he is in the limited overs cricket.

Moving on to the last and certainly the most talked about issue of late – would Sachin Tendulkar announce retirement after this series or maybe after the series against Australia? All these speculations have gained some credibility after Sachin himself hinted that he cannot keep playing forever (contrary to what I had been thinking for the last 16 years). He has always been known to hit back hard whenever he has been criticized. Now is one such time. How well does he come back will be a key factor in determining how long he keeps playing from now on. Though there is still some part of me that believes he would keep playing till eternity!


Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

The day was almost entirely consumed by our journey back to Colombo via Galle. We stopped by Galle to say hi to Jayanananda Warnaweera, who happened to introduce us to Mr. Ajit Jayasekara, CEO of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC). We exchanged pleasantries and updated him on our trysts in Sri Lanka.

TCE team meet Jayananda Warnaweera and Ajit Jayasekara, CEO of Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC)

The halt at Galle was brief – we wanted to thank Mr. Warnaweera for the wonderful opportunity he’d provided us to get to know about Sri Lankan Cricket and Galle a few days ago. We promised to visit Galle soon and headed off to Colombo – just in time for a check in to the hotel and a taxi to take us to the India England game at the Premadasa.

Now who’d have thought …

We spent the best half of the pre-toss period running through a derisive critique of names that had no rights to be here as part of the Indian setup – triggered by observing Piyush Chawla practise his leggies on the field.

The Bharat Army © Badrinarayana Vengavasi

The popular topic was, in truth, about Gambhir’s struggles (longer formats inclusive) in the middle and how he suddenly – and unconvincingly – lost the ability to play those long innings’ we’d seen him play that landed him the ICC award a couple of years back. His innings of forty odd yesterday was quantifiable, if desultory, but this should be the natural predicate for a man who desperately needs to get his act together at home (extended to subcontinent wickets) prior to tours overseas.

The idea of opening with Pathan, at the cost of Sehwag (not in the XI), was a bad one. Pathan has been enduring through some tough times, with his name amongst a few included in the suspect-list. A low score would, in all probability, dip his confidence scales to levels resembling those that unfortunately kept him out of the Indian radar prior to this year. He looked out of sorts – period.

With Kohli extending his purple patch to another innings, it must’ve been hard on Gambhir, at the other end, to have curbed his instincts to go after the English attack – which was being made look amateurish by Kohli. To his credit, he stuck to his game plan – although one would imagine he ended up consuming a few balls too many. A strike-rate of 118 doesn’t seem to indicate that.

And the Barmy Army © Badrinarayana Vengavasi

Both Kohli and Gambhir decided to play Swann out (although the former did hole out to Swann at deep mid-wicket)– his 4 overs yielding a miserly 17 runs. I thought Swann was brilliant – I’ve seen him live quite a few times, but as I tried to observe Kieswetter’s work from behind the stumps (and how he reacted to Swann), I couldn’t help but admit that the Englishman is one of the best in the trade. I know Harbhajan ended up with match-winning figures, but out there, if I had to pick between the two of them, Swann looked better. But yes, I do know this is Harbhajan’s first outing in over a year – he will take his share of credit, for sure.

I know it might sound convulsive, but the Indian batsmen were sensible in paying Swann his due respect whereas, the Englishmen played shots they’d never want to see videos of against the two spinners. One striking thing about the England innings was how closely it mimicked the debates over their inability to conquer spin in the sub-continent. I almost got a feeling that Piyush Chawla was Anil Kumble in disguise – pardon the pun please.

Kieswetter, on the other hand, looked suspect behind the wickets against spin. There have been numerous occasions when deliveries flighted in line with the stumps have tempted batsmen charging forward – only for them to miss and Kieswetter to fumble. His missed stumping of Gambhir highlights the problems that he’s been carrying in his baggage for quite some time.

And finally, I know I’ll be spelt a villain if I don’t mention Rohit’s accolades here. To his credit, he played a crucial knock – his innings would’ve been more valuable had the English batsmen applied themselves on this wicket to put up a better fight. After Swann’s arrest, when the Indian run rate looked a touch below par, he did outstandingly well to push the score to 170. His six over covers off Jade Dernbach was my shot of the day – purely for its timing and (lacklustre – but popped-eyes) execution.

India will be satisfied, whereas Stuart Broad will have to recognize (in case he hasn’t already) that his young artillery has to handle spin if they want to entertain any hopes of progressing to the later stages of this tournament. We managed to spot a couple of England fans outside the stadium after the game. They were happy to agree for a chat – the video will be uploaded shortly.

PS: You can see the video here

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.

Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

In a dramatic twist of events leading up to the Adelaide Test, former Indian skipper Saurav Ganguly has done a Shahid Afridi and has announced a sensational return to International Cricket, citing Paul Scholes of Manchester United as an inspiration to make this decision.

“Coming from the state of Bengal, football is followed with an equal intensity as cricket is. I have been playing football with a cricket ball for some time now, combining my two loves, and it has helped me sight a cricket ball now like a foot ball. When a friend of mine called me from Kolkata and said that the streets are flooded with posters calling for my return and citing Scholes as an example, I told myself that if Scholes does it, then Sourav does it too” announced Dada at a press conference outside Perth airport.

Dada returns from the saloon to save Indian cricket

“And it wasn’t just about Scholes. It was more. I averaged 53 this domestic season and even blew out Delhi’s tail in a terrorizing spell of less-than-medium-medium-slow-reverse-swing bowling where I took 3 for 1 off 7 deliveries. Besides, I am in fine nick playing Howzat cricket online. Of course, I wanted to step up for what I represent – Pune Warriors. They haven’t got anyone playing this series. Yuvi is out injured, as is Tim Paine,” he added.

When asked whether he’d be captaining the side at Adelaide, a thoroughly pleased Saurav said “I would have thought that was obvious. Now that Dhoni is suspended, I will be filling in. Coming to think of it, why do you even think Dhoni was suspended in the first place?”

When questioned on how he feels his form is, Dada looked pleasantly surprised. “I scored 135 against Haryana – any of you read that? Haryana is Kapil Dev’s state, and I’ve literally scored 135 runs against one of the greatest all-rounders the game has seen. Do I need to justify my selection anymore?”

Tom Moody, who was present at the vicinity, was pleasantly surprised by the nature of the announcement.

“I had no idea Saurav would do something like this,” said Moody when questioned whether his co-commentator during the series had shown any signs of interest in returning to International Cricket. “All he kept mentioning was Dinda, Dinda and more Dinda – Dinda bowls faster than Umesh, Dinda bowls craftier than Zaheer, Dinda can spin the ball better than Ashwin, Dinda is taller than Ishant, heck, he is even taller than you Tom … and every now and then, he questioned why Dhoni wasn’t bringing Dinda in to the attack.”

ESPN STAR Network, on the other hand, acknowledged that they were informed about the decision made by Saurav by his agent the previous day.

“Dada’s agent called us the previous day to inform on his decision,” said an unknown representative of STAR. “He has a commentary contract to honor – and he said he’ll stand by it. He will commentate while on the field in Adelaide – while batting, bowling and misfielding. He will even stop the cricket when the replays are being shown so that he could dissect them to closure and call the umpire names should he get a decision wrong – in the capacity of an expert. It is understood that it will not be considered as dissent. He will also hold up play till all commercials in the ad breaks are complete and ensure cricket resumes only after that.”

Meanwhile, a delighted Harbhajan Singh was seen running around Jalandhar, bare-chested, twirling his shirt with more vigour and spin than his bowling has seen in a decade. He was heard screaming that his shin had healed miraculously and reckoned he was worth his place in the Indian team as a batsman alone given his overseas batting record is as good as any of the Indian top-order. Also, re reckoned that he will unleash his new mystery delivery – the reverse-spinner – on Ponting & co very soon.

Reactions from the Indian camp are awaited.

Prasad Moyarath

The MCG pitch was the best thing about this Test. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

Yet another Boxing Day Test debacle for India or another usual Indian start for an overseas tour. The Boxing Day Test match result can be interpreted by an Indian fan in either way but irrespective of the result, this Test match between India and Australia provided a great advertisement for Test cricket. Though this match lacked the usual intensity of an India – Australia duel and finished in four days, the entertainment it provided was worth for any Indian who woke up early morning in this chilling winter to watch it on television. The Test match which started on a cloudy day with a few rain interruptions on the first day proceeded in bright sunshine leaving a doubt whether the rain Gods were sitting and watching with awe.

Not a single century scored, only a single five wicket haul, what was that made this Test match so special? For those who did not follow this match, its scorecard won’t provide the right answer either.

Going into the Boxing Day Test match, concerns were many for both the teams. The career of Ponting and Hussey hung in balance and they were contemplating playing Christian in place of one of the two. Hilfenhaus was making a come back and Cowan making his debut. For India, the fitness of Zaheer and Ishant was the major concern and so was the ability of their batsmen to adapt to the Australian conditions.

Michael Clarke’s decision to bat first on a cloudy day though raised the eye brows of many, considering the poor batting record of India in Melbourne, was a daring one which was vindicated in the coming days. Warner gave an explosive start to the Australian innings but an incisive spell of fast bowling by Umesh Yadav helped India fight back. Ponting despite been hit on the helmet by Yadav at the start, made his critics eat their words with a fluent innings which was cut short by a Yadav’s beauty. Two dubious umpiring decisions against Cowan and Hussey ignited the debate on UDRS and BCCI once again. Ponting and Hussey proved that they are still good enough to play for Australia with some fine batting in the second innings. Australian tail wagged in both innings, thanks to some unimaginative captaincy from Dhoni. Hilfenhaus made a remarkable comeback was well supported by Pattinson and Siddle.

Sehwag played in his own style in both the innings and luck favoured him only in the first. Australian bowlers never looked like bowling in the right areas on the second day and Sehwag, Dravid and Sachin capitalised on it. Sachin was the only batsman who looked comfortable in both the innings. Dravid getting bowled in both the innings has put a question mark on the technique of this great player. Gambhir and Dhoni continued their poor run outside the subcontinent and Ashwin made Harbhajan’s absence inconspicuous. Indian pace attack put relentless pressure on the Australian batsmen and Ishant and Umesh clocking 140+kmph consistently was a delight to watch.

Three of the four days ended like a television serial leaving the viewers to ponder what next. Scores of both teams in each innings drew a slanting graph line putting a question mark on the quality of the pitch. But for those who watched this Test match on a drop in pitch, the curator was the Man of the Match ahead of the official choice.