Posts Tagged ‘Harbhajan Singh’


Prasad Moyarath

An Australian tour always provided an ultimate test of character for any cricketer and remained a tough frontier to conquer for any team. The pace and bounce of the Australian pitches combined with its bigger boundaries intimidated the batsmen from the subcontinent to such an extent that a big innings in Australia is epitomised as his ability to play quality fast bowling. Off-spinners struggling, fast bowlers bowling a wrong length, fielders struggling with their throw from the boundary, wicket-keepers fumbling are all common problems faced by the teams from the subcontinent in Australia. The Australian media are well known for their attack on opposition captain and almost all sub-continental teams have had some bitter experience in the past.

Yet another Australian tour is round the corner for the Indian cricket team. Indian selectors have announced a 17 member squad for the four test series which looks strong and well balanced in paper. But for any cricket connoisseur, this team does not inspire any confidence. Though this team has a set of talented youngsters and established stars, the way this team has been groomed as a unit and its preparation for this tough tour has raised the eyebrows of many. Having followed many Indian tours of Australia particularly the last two in 2003-04 and 2007-08, this team for me, does not look strong enough to conquer Australia even with their new look side.

Sreesanth and Harbhajan are known to get under the skin of the Aussies. They might be missed. © The Indian Express

India drew the series 1-1 in 2003-04 and lost 2-1 in 2007-08. Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman and Zaheer who were part of those two tours are still there in this team. Dhoni toured Australia in 2007-08. Team with 6 experienced players should have an upper hand against a new look Australian squad. But a look at the performances of the 6 Indian experienced stars makes me jittery. Zaheer is coming out of an injury. Though Sehwag has scored a few half centuries after his come back, his performances have not been convincing. But Sehwag is unpredictable and can fire any time and India’s performance in Australia depends to a great extent on the innings he plays there. Dravid has been in great form and should continue his dream run in Australia. The whole nation is waiting for a century from Tendulkar and this expectation seems to affect the great master. Despite his big knocks in India, Tendulkar does not look to be in a good rhythm. Laxman has always produced some wonderful performances against Australians, but age seems to have caught up with him. His feet are not moving like in his younger days and with his slow reflexes, he can be a burden on the field in Australia. Dhoni has a dubious batting record outside the sub continent and his keeping has also not lived up to the expectations recently. Australians are well known for their meticulous planning and they are sure to exploit the above weaknesses of Indian stars.

It will be the first test series in Australia for Gambhir (though he impressed in the one-day series there back in 2008). Kohli is yet to cement his place in the test squad and his weakness against short pitched balls which became evident in West Indies will be exploited by Australians. He needs to display how he has rectified this short coming. Rahane and Rohit Sharma are yet to make their debut in test cricket and don’t expect to play any part in the test team unless any of the batsmen gets injured. Only one among the two spinners will play in 3 test matches except in Sydney. Praveen Kumar, Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron will relish the conditions and it is up to them to make their presence felt. Saha will be a mere passenger unless Dhoni gets injured. India needs to play Umesh and Varun in all the test matches and knowing the leadership style of Dhoni, it looks a distant dream.

What is lacking in this “strong” team compared to the previous tours? To be honest, this Indian team lacks characters, those who have the guts to fight it out in the middle and those who can inspire others with their cameo. India will surely miss players like Saurav Ganguly, Sreesanth and Harbhajan. It is not that these players should be included in this squad, but this team lacks “something” which these players have which will help them fight against all odds.

What could have been done to improve India’s chances? The West Indian tour to India ahead of this Australian tour is a big blunder. The flat pitches here did not help the cause either. The Indian selectors and the team management never bothered to groom the players. Rohit Sharma was identified as a test batsman very late and the captain did not have the courage to play him in place of an established star even after winning the series. Same is the case with Rahane. The Indian selectors have still not identified the players to replace the 3 greats. They should have played Rahane and Rohit by resting Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman in rotation. Now it is suicidal to blood these batsmen in trying conditions in Australia in case of a crisis. Parthiv Patel as a reserve keeper would have solved the batsmen’s injury worries considering his experience in Australia. Why the selectors don’t consider him as a batsman despite some crucial knocks against Brett Lee and Shoaib Akhtar is still a mystery. By denying a chance for Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron to bowl in tandem in Mumbai, the Indian team management missed a golden opportunity to groom a new fast bowling pair. With a captain who wants the Indian test pitches to assist spinners from the first day onwards, this was not unexpected.

The years 2003 and 2007 left the Indian cricket lovers broken hearted due to the Boxing Day test matches in Melbourne. The year 2011 seems to end in the same note. Unless the Indian openers give a sound start and our team management gives up their defensive thinking and our new fast bowlers rip through the Australian batting line up, this Indian team don’t seem capable of presenting a happy 2012 to its fans. Good Luck Dhoni and team.


Goutham Chakravarthi

“Tendulkar waving the chequered flag at the Delhi Grand Prix is anti-national,” said former BCCI secretary J Y Lele at the launch of his book I Was There – Memoirs of a Cricket Administrator. He explained, “It would surmount to him figuratively accepting that he has had a chequered career. In my opinion, and as you would understand from reading my book, he was never wrong, it is just that the elders who adviced him were wrong. Sachin should only wave the national flag and no other flag.”

Is Tendulkar better than Schumacher?

The comment raged a nation-wide debate with Harbhajan stating, “When was the last time you saw Schumacher or a Vettel come to a cricket match and put up a banner for Sachin?”

Harbhajan fuelled fire to the discussion by cleverly comparing Schumacher to Tendulkar. He said, “Sachin’s straight driving is simply the best, better than even Schumacher’s driving down the straight!”

Indian Formula One drivers Karun Chandok and Narain Karthikeyan took offence to Harbhajan’s claims and said “It is time Harbhajan concentrated on cricket alone and not make comments about sportspersons or sports he has no clue about. His position in the Indian team is in jeopardy and it makes sense that he ensures that his mouth and cricket doesn’t spin out of control!”

“Spin out of control? The only time anything has spun out of control is when those two buffoons have been behind wheels in a Forumla One car. They are just rich kids who could afford to buy their way into Formula One. May be their wheelspin is more than the spin I impart on a cricket ball, it doesn’t mean they are right. Sachin’s driving is the best,” retorted the angry Harbhajan.

Meanwhile, joining from his home in Pakistan, the controversial speedster Shoaib Akhtar said, “Sachin is used to waving flags, don’t you worry. It is just that it is a chequered flag this time and it is a little different from the white flag he used to wave at me when I was about to mark my 2 kilometer run-up.”

And when asked who he thought would win the Delhi Grand Prix, he said, “I don’t care who. I bowled quicker than any of those cars can ever go and that’s that!” He strongly disagreed to having any interest in motor racing and said he would instead “spend the money eating chaat” on Sunday evening!

Asked for a reaction on Shoaib’s statement, Chairman of Selectors, Srikkanth said “Who cares as to what the buffoon says! All I am worried about is the usage of DRS in the race. After we categorically said no to any DRS, I am surprised that teams will be using DRS in the race. We are suing the ICC and FIA on this matter!”

When the Chairman of  Selectors was told that DRS expanded to Drag Reduction System in Formula One terminology, he said “They always say something but the intent is something else. The last time DRS ended up being Dravid Removal System, this time it can be Dhoni Removal System. We cannot take a chance. We are against anything DRS.”


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?