Posts Tagged ‘Ian Bell’

Chandrasekhar Jayarama Krishnan

Head of Cricket, The CouchExpert

21 August 2011


India’s performance this series seems like a hangover from the past with no present meaning. The standards displayed on the field continue to slip the limits of cricketing propriety, and it has become clear that something fundamental is amiss.

It is understandably human tendency to stretch the truth when times are good, and hide behind it when riding through the doldrums. This Indian campaign has left public opinions on Indian cricket with a disdainful taste, none as disparagingly passive as the display on the 3rd day of the Oval test. There exists no strategy that can camouflage the current levels of incompetence on English soil, and as Australian cricket witnessed very recently, certain facets of Indian cricket could well be in for a major overhaul. At the same time, there is every fear that the administrators would respond to all this criticism with diplomatically phrased brush-offs.

Part of the problem lies with the board and the selection. The recall of RP Singh, a topic of heated debate amongst many already, tagged the selection committee with the dubious hint of a “George W Bush” about it. RP Singh, in hindsight, would have preferred to have continued his vacation along the sunny beaches of Miami, than enter the contrastingly cold grounds of England after 8 months of first-class inaction to face the current World Number One.

But that doesn’t pain the entire picture. The Indians, undoubtedly, on their day, can be incomparably strong opponents. Adding to that the monetary background of the players and the board, they may quite not appear to be a benign superpower. What was lost, amidst all this power and glory, was responsibility – a residue of which became the status that demoted us from champions to mortals.

Whereas, on the other side of the river that separates the Champions from the Mortals, England continued their dominance and aggression with Ian Bell’s maiden double hundred. To borrow the words of Norman Maclean “… all good things-trout as well as eternal salvation comes by grace, and grace comes by art, and art does not come easy …”: Bell epitomizes the art of batsmanship, with grace and fluidity being apt by products of his wonderful technique.

Bell recorded his maiden double ton in Test Cricket with an innings of the highest quality

Rahul Dravid, the other proprietor of this gift continues to be the only Indian player who can walk with his head above the surface of the water in the Ocean of Misery. He continued to battle at The Oval, the same way that he has done throughout this series. If Dravid’s success can emphasize on the work ethic, technique and commitment that any youngster should possess to reach the top, and sustain at the top, Indian cricket should frame a completely different approach to nurture young talent henceforth.

A follow-on is starkly consequential, with bad weather the only factor that can have an influence on the game’s scales titling towards a draw. With Swann back amongst the wickets, England will look to close the game out before weather can spoil their chances of a whitewash.

The Indian fan should learn to tolerate a unit that isn’t quite as world-class as he’s always imagined it to be. The signs presently look as blank as Sreesanth’s expression on getting Anderson’s wicket yesterday. It will be very interesting to see if the BCCI, an organization that has pretty much gotten its way at every turn, will be able to accept and react accordingly to this.

 Goutham Chakravarthi

 20 August 2011

This has been the most painful series to sit through as an Indian fan in years. Indian fans have had their share of bad times over the years, but none so prolonged and hopeless in the last ten years. It was heart-breaking when India were ousted of the 2007 world cup. There were tongues lashing after the earlier-than-expected ousters from the 2009 and 2010 T20 world cups as well, but never so in Test cricket.

Ishant's progress will determine India's immediate future

The Indian fan has come to expect excellence from its cricket teams. It has been a decade and more of a series of highs and a very few lows since India toppled Australians back in 2001 in Tests. Not that Indian teams never had troubles with player form and fitness issues through these years. Even the mighty Tendulkar was booed at his home ground in 2006 when injury and form seemed destined to end his career. Rahul Dravid has had a lean patch ever since captaincy weighed too much on him and his struggles to cope with a highly intrusive coach and micro-managing chairman of selectors, only to be seemingly recovering recently. Virender Sehwag has spent a couple of years in the wilderness and India’s great new ball hope, Irfan Pathan is now more a batsman than a bowler.

Amid all the troubles,India found answers. If Rahul Dravid was the lynch-pin as the lead batsman of India’s years under Ganguly and Wright, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman found some their best years under the M.S. Dhoni – Gary Kirsten combination. Anil Kumble found greatness under the former regime and became the flag bearer of Indian bowling and when the time came, Zaheer took on the mantle and the transition was seamless.

It was never a great side that dominated world cricket, but it became India’s finest. It was built as much on talent as it was on its goal to being a side that would compete on equal terms everywhere in the world. Victories in Headingly, Adelaide, Trent Bridge, Perth and Durban showed the depth of character and the desire they had to succeed. They came as a relief to a generation of Indians who were used to watching their teams turn-up in alien conditions and be handed a hammering.

The last month is a ghastly return to those dark days for the Indian fan. It is a return to the days when you would dread to switch-on the TV when you woke-up in the morning to check India’s progress in Australia and New Zealand. It was a given that we would never win overseas. It, now, looks a bit like that in England.

Sreesanth produced a good spell straight after tea. He beat the bats of Pietersen and Bell, who were both past their hundreds, in an aggressive 7-over spell. Unfortunately, it was mediocrity from Sreesanth on either side of the spell. R.P. Singh has been subject to great laughs and jokes and it is not his fault that he got picked. However, it is appalling that he is not in any physical shape to last a session of hard bowling. Amit Mishra has issues on hard flat surfaces and it is something he needs addressing if he doesn’t want to be forgotten as a Test bowler. Anil Kumble was a great support for his mates even when there was nothing on offer. He was tight and rarely leaked runs to release the pressure that was built by the quicks at the other end.

Ishant was the lone warrior. He has had his moments in the series. He was extraordinarily brilliant when he almost bowled Indian back into contention out of nowhere at Lord’s. He has lacked a bit of guidance when things have not gone well. He should have had a lot more wickets than he has to show for his efforts this series. His rhythm and lines were good and with better support, could have hurt England. This experience, one hopes, will help him to develop in to a bowler knowing how to handle himself in all conditions and all match situations. This series cannot have been great to be an Indian bowler, but he has shown great fight in all the Tests.

As India will look back and try to pick the pieces at the end of this series, the captain, coach and selectors will want to see how best to put a team together that can compete in Australia and try and build an attach with long term interests. It might mean investing on a set of bowlers with long term potential and Ishant will be at the center of it. He has often shown that he has the ability to deliver at this level. His skills and fitness need better monitoring and guidance so that he doesn’t fall by the wayside like most Indian fast bowlers do.

India needs to look ahead for the sake of its long term interests. Poor vision and preparation perhaps needs first looking into.

 Goutham Chakravarthi

 1 August 2011

Two remarkable days of Test cricket took a back seat with Vaughan’s supposedly humorous suggestion that Laxman had applied a coat of Vaseline to escape thin edges from detecting on Hot Spot. If that directed all the wrath of Indian supporters towards Vaughan’s twitter feed, the events surrounding Ian Bell run-out threatened to disrupt the entire series.

Ian Bell's run-out that wasn't: the incident that became the talking point of the day

The run-out incident

Spirit of the game is a convenience for some players. Players play by the letter of the law and stick to it and wait for the umpire to put the finger up even after nicking to first slip! Teams appeal for LBW even when they might know that the batsman may have hit it (Harbhajan Singh in India’s first Innings) or when the ball may have pitched outside leg stump. Even fielders sometimes don’t signal boundaries when they know that they were over the boundary while retrieving the ball hoping that camera angles might not be conclusive and they get away with it. Let’s go back to this incident.

Ian Bell, in an interview at the end of the day, did mention that he wasn’t going for the 4th run, but admitted to being naïve on his part to think it was Tea already. But, when asked if he would refrain from repeating it in the future, he only repeated him in being naïve on this instance and would have felt hard done if Indians stuck to their original decision that had him dismissed throughout Tea. But credit to him that he did acknowledge that he was out per the laws of the game and appreciative of his opposition captain and team chose to reverse the decision.

The entire tea session was a soap opera. Shane Warne brought the spirit of the game into discussion and it snowballed from there. Former cricketers were divided in their opinions and a history of such incidents have ensued different decisions from other teams in the past. Let’s look at them:

1. Muttiah Muralitharan in Christchurch (2006-07)

As you will see below, Muralitharan in his haste to congratulate Sangakkara upon completing his hundred, doesn’t wait for the throw to reach the ‘keeper, but turns to congratulate Sangakkara only to have the bails whipped and be given out.

2. Grant Elliott at The Oval (2008)

New Zealand cried foul following this run-out incident where Elliott is given out after colliding with Sidebottom. After the umpires offer Collingwood and England an opportunity to withdraw the appeal, England don’t, resulting in scathing criticism from Vettori and Kiwi players.

3. Collingwood at The Wanderers (2009)

In a bizarre turnaround of events, Collingwood found himself at the receiving end of this run-out against New Zealand in the ICC Champions Trophy in South Africa a year later. This time, New Zealand and Vettori withdrew the appeal.

As we can see from the above incidents, India could have stuck to their original decision and the world may not have understood, but would have had no choice but to accept it. As Rahul Dravid put it in his end of day interview, the team would have felt bad had it been one of its own players and they took a unanimous decision to reinstate Ian Bell.

Let’s hope it calls for more honesty from the players for the remainder of this series.

Ian Bell’s Century

Ian Bell looked every inch the supreme player the whole of England touted him to be when he first appeared on the scene. He was decisive in his footwork and delightful in his stroke play. He has been in remarkable form this year and continues to mesmerize opposition with strokes befitting an artist. This has been a hard fought series with England finding that extra when needed – Ian Bell in this innings.

This could well be the innings that finally breaks India’s back in this match and the series and usher a new dawn for England as the no.1 team in the world. England might have found a dominating no.3 in Bell and might want to keep him in that position for he has the game to provide early momentum for England. He is perhaps also their best player of spin and therefore will influence how well England travel in the Indian sub-continent. Increasingly, with Cook, he is becoming their most important batsman for their fortunes in the next few years.

Back-to-back tests telling on Indian bowlers

Praveen Kumar is only into his fifth test match. You can’t fault him if he feels 20 tests old for he has borne the brunt of this attack this English summer. He has shown remarkable ability with the ball and has taken wickets and kept the runs to a trickle. But all the bowling over the last two weeks are telling on him and the rest of the bowlers. With Zaheer breaking down at Lord’s and now Harbhajan rendered redundant with a stomach injury the legs are running out. As well as they may have tried their best, England have had answers this innings and Prior in the evening session ran twos hitting straight to the fielders in the deep.

Prior and England will look to pile on the misery on the fourth morning and inflict scars for the rest of the series. England have broken India’s back. Now, they will look for the kill.