Posts Tagged ‘Ishant Sharma’


Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

A few days out from Team Australia High School, Micky Arthur’s policy suit has played its role in providing the necessary smokescreen to deflect attention away from what really went wrong in Hyderabad. Some of the reactions reflect a general belief – ranging across the Australian Test playing alumnus from disciplinarians to rebels and a few average folks in between (Michael Vaughan) – that the punishment is what, in Mark Waugh’s words, an Under-6 team would deserve.

True, Arthur hasn’t been perfect in his judgment.

His attempts could prove naïve if the result doesn’t go their way in a Mohali track that would, in theory, have had James Pattinson licking his lips. But to his credit, he has succeeded in the most important thing – conveying the message that the baggy green doesn’t come easy to anyone.

It serves as a stark reminder to those who’ve taken the easy way to the top – through T20 blitzkriegs and the odd show of brilliance – that the likes of Mike Hussey and Matthew Hayden, among others, had to carry a baggage in excess of thousands of runs to work their way up the ladder. Although circumstantially, the moment couldn’t have been more indecisive.

These aren’t exceedingly complicated problems. Discipline is a less significant, but more dangerous problem. Australia has faced bigger and more embarrassing challenges through Warne and Symonds, but this incident is likely the totem pole around which the third test will be fought.

Sehwag and Watson: Dropped for different reasons. © Getty Images

The incident, on the other hand, shows how diametrically apart the Indians and Australians are in the context of discipline. Pattinson has been Australia’s most dangerous bowler. It would have been hard to conceive the Indian team dropping R Ashwin on account of him failing to deliver an email to Duncan Fletcher. The old Zimbabwean would’ve faced the sack had such a thought materialized!

Having said that, the Indians will find themselves morally well-placed prior to the toss tomorrow. Indeed, the overwhelming reactions from the media have created a sort of joyous confusion in the Indian dressing room. They’ve made a brave call too, and it was about time, to drop Virender Sehwag and infuse young blood through the likes of Dhawan. Yes, even this decision had drawn a lather of complaints from the media and a few former cricketers – and some of the dust is justified.

The situation illuminates a larger dilemma for the selectors who’ve, rightly, placed the focus on youth: this is likely to be a big year for the youngsters, but not an easy one. And Dhawan’s performance, for one, premature and unfair as it may seem for a judgment, could have a script in the making that would determine if Sehwag would ever make it back to the Test Eleven. And by taking this call, the selectors may force themselves to spend most of their time discussing the weakest point of the Fletcher era – overseas victories.

Mohali isn’t likely to be a dress rehearsal given that Australia’s best pacer isn’t available for selection. It would act as a slow build up to the contest between the Sehwag doubters and the Sehwag backers. The result, for all you know, might be of lesser significance as compared to the never-ending debate of Experience versus Youth.

Team Compositions

India is likely to field the ‘winning combination’ with Dhawan replacing the dropped Sehwag. While the batting and spin departments look good, Ishant could well re-visit a few YouTube videos of him castling Ricky Ponting at Mohali when the Aussies toured in 2008-09. He’s looked the weakest link in the chain thus far, and had it not been for the injuries / absences of Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron, he might have found himself on the fringes of selection. He’s got plenty to prove this Test.

Australia, on the other hand, have too few to choose from. With four absences, and Haddin being flown in to act as a cover for Matthew Wade, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Wade play as a pure batsman in case there are doubts over his fitness doing the job from behind the wickets. Haddin would add the necessary experience in holding the lower order together. Siddle, who’s looked a touch underwhelming all series, would have to step up in the arena where he’d made his debut in 2008. Australia need a leader, and he’s certainly the one Clarke would be looking at for support.


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.


Prasad Moyarath

It is time for desserts, sweets and ice creams. A team of young and enthusiastic chefs who are specialists in these items are being flown in to appease those who are disappointed with the quality and taste of their main course prepared by some expert chefs renowned for their tasty main course. The management and admirers of these chefs look bewildered and they pin their hope on this new team to deliver quality and tasty food in their frantic efforts to restore their shattered pride. Can tasty desserts make people forget their horrible main course?

Selectors may have missed an opportunity to build a nucleus for 2015 World Cup by picking old stalwarts in the squad

This was the dilemma plaguing the BCCI and their selectors when they selected a team for the two T20s and eight ODIs involving Australia and Sri Lanka. The team selected looks a perfect blend of youth and experience. The baffling part of Indian cricket is the fact that a few cricketers are allowed to pick and choose their matches and tours while the others will be picked and chosen as per the whimsies and fantasies of the selectors. 39 year old Sachin Tendulkar included in the squad as he made himself available while the promising Ajinkya Rahane thrown out. Zaheer Khan is back. Sehwag included despite his horrible form. Are these three going to play any part in the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand? Have not the selectors squandered a wonderful opportunity to blood at least three youngsters in these testing conditions and build a nucleus for the 2015 World Cup team? Debate can go on but nothing more can be expected from this selection panel whose decisions have been criticized and questioned in every nook and corner of the country after the continuous Test debacles outside the subcontinent.

Though Sri Lanka is the third nation in the triangular tournament, they cannot be ignored as a weak opposition considering the fact that they are coming after a tough tour of South Africa. Their players will be better accustomed to the bouncy pitches than the Indian players who were either injured or playing Ranji Trophy matches in the dust bowls in India. Australians are well planned as usual and will be a tough nut to crack in their home conditions. This gives a picture of the tough task ahead for the current World Champions to conquer Australia.

In the big grounds in Australia, Dhoni’s captaincy skills are going to be tested. Athletic fielders like Raina, Jadeja, Kohli, Tiwary and Rohit need to be placed tactically to contain the runs. Running between the wickets will have to be improved. Suresh Raina’s vulnerability to short pitched bowling will be exploited. With Sehwag and Gambhir not in good form, there is every chance of the middle order getting exposed to the swing and bounce of the two new balls from both ends. The selectors seem to have anticipated this problem and their decision to include Parthiv Patel as a reserve keeper is a testimony for that.

The two new balls from both ends will surely play a decisive role in Australia than in India. Will the ageing Tendulkar survive the rigors of an ODI series with the new rule not permitting runners? Umesh’s performance in the Test series has clearly proved what extra pace can do in Australia. With Ishant and Varun unavailable, the selectors could have included Ashok Dinda in place of Vinay Kumar for his speed. In Vinay, Praveen and Irfan, India has 3 similar bowlers and the Australians gave a glimpse of what to expect from Vinay Kumar by the way they treated him in the WACA Test.

The Indian selectors have again selected a ‘strong on paper’ team more suited for Indian conditions like they did for the Tests but unlike the Test team, this team has some characters who can give a fight to the opposition. Praveen Kumar coming back after an injury, Irfan making a come back, Sachin and Zaheer having question marks on their ODI fitness, Dhoni, Sehwag, Gambhir and Vinay Kumar low on confidence, the Indian team management needs to get the right combination from the day one to make their presence felt in Australia.

Some bold decisions will need to be taken and some youngsters will need to be persisted. Umesh Yadav needs to be handled with care and it is a pity that there is no fast bowler in this team to replace or support Umesh. This Indian ODI team does not inspire confidence and optimism in the Australian conditions and I foresee the Indian top order batting and medium pace bowling creating more headaches than other areas in the coming days. Let us wait and watch.


Prasad Moyarath

History repeats. For a cricket team which depends a lot on history, this can be a solace after its comprehensive innings defeat in SCG. India is 2 down going into the WACA Test like in 2008 but unlike 2008 this team doesn’t inspire any confidence in its followers to remain optimistic. When the captain of this side which has now lost six consecutive Test matches outside the subcontinent says “We can beat this team in Perth”, it draws only laughter.

Not much to celebrate for the Swami Army this Australian Summer so far.

SCG has always been a favorite venue for India for its comparatively low bounce and help to spin. Batting is easy on the first few days and there are many memorable knocks by Indians there including those from Tendulkar and Laxman. Those who anticipated the Indian batting greats to flourish in SCG were treated to a show of their fading antics which were rustic and devoid of any flamboyance or passion. The realization that the Great Wall has developed cracks, Laxman – no more Very Very Special, Sehwag – a lottery and Tendulkar – trepid while nearing his personal milestone, was a jolt for many.

Dhoni looked courageous but was unrealistic with his decision to bat first. The Indian procession to the dressing room started in the first over. Sehwag looked like playing club cricket in both the innings and it is time for someone to remind him that he cannot continue in the side as a once in a while performer. Though Gambhir put up a brave face in the second innings when the conditions were good for batting, he never looked convincing whenever the ball moved or bounced. Dravid never lived up to his stature and Australians succeeded in rearranging his stumps for the fourth time (once of a no ball) in this series. Laxman looked rusty though he scored a half century in the second innings. Ageing footwork and reflexes of Dravid and Laxman have been exposed in Australia. Kohli showed glimpses of his talent but did not utilize the opportunity. Only Tendulkar looked assured but his continued inability to play a long innings should be a worry for the Indians. Dhoni once again proved to be a non performer outside the subcontinent and his unbeaten half century in the first innings came more because of the Clarke’s decision to attack the tail enders than his batting ability. Ashwin once again proved that he has the abilities to become an all-rounder. Indian fast bowlers never looked menacing except Zaheer on the first day. This can be attributed to the good batting conditions and also to the short gap between Melbourne and Sydney Tests. Dhoni’s mediocre captaincy made run making easy for the Australians. Seeing the Australian bowlers correct their mistakes after each session, the Indian supporters were forced to wonder whether this Indian team really has a bowling coach.

After a poor start, the Australians sent Indians for a leather hunt. Unlike the Indian veterans, Ponting and Hussey seemed to improve with age. Clarke assured an Australian victory in the 100th Test in Sydney with a captain’s knock and a prized wicket and declared the innings without bothering about his personal milestone. Will this open the eyes of those Indians who see every Test match as a venue for Tendulkar’s milestone? Haddin had a very poor match behind the stumps. The pace trio of Pattinson, Siddle and Hilfenhaus once again tormented the Indians. The Australians had a plan for every Indian batsman and executed it to perfection like in Melbourne.

Australians made a remarkable comeback after their poor performances against South Africa and New Zealand and made the 100th Sydney Test, their own. The innings defeat in SCG has flooded the Indian camp with gloom and now it is up to the team to sit together and find a way out. The WACA pitch is well known for its pace and bounce and the Indian win there in 2008 might have prompted Dhoni to express optimism in the presentation ceremony after the SCG Test. For the moment, all the Indian fans are heart broken not because of the Indian team’s loss but because of its lack of passion, professionalism and willingness to fight. Swami Army summed up the Indian minds in their song “Why This Kolaveri Di”.


Goutham Chakravarthi

There are many ways to look at Clarke’s declaration. For now the divide is even. Some say it was Pup putting team before self: the Australian way. And some say it is more to do with Pup was deliberate to declare there to show he put his team before self: desperately wanting to show that he does it the Australian way. He still has some way to go before he can win the public over. But, it is certain that an Indian captain wouldn’t have declared with another two and half days left, bowlers jaded, fielders disinterested and with a batsman closing in on a world record. And Clarke’s celebrations on reaching 100, 200 and 300 were stories in themselves. He has said the right things through the summer and has been intuitive and impressive for a young captain.

Clarke: Ace batsman and captain. He'll hope his image of a person with questionable lifestyle is all about to change.

Not another wicket fell for the visitors in another day of uninspired effort on the field. Barring Ishant, the bowling lacked penetration. It was like watching a perfect cover drive over and again. It is hard to forget that Clarke walked in to a crises on Tuesday. Those who remember it as a big score on a flat track against a blunt attack have short memories. It could all have been a different story if he had nicked one early. It has been Clarke’s Test so far, and might have firmly established himself in to the job and begun the turn around for Australia.

For the Indians, there is little point in staring at the obvious. It is all fancy to call Dravid as the wall with an open gate after he has been out bowled thrice this series. And Sehwag can be more annoying than gum sticking to your shoe on his bad day. There are reasons for them being on this tour and that cannot be forgotten. Gambhir’s determination came through and Haddin will have played his part should Gambhir go on to play a marathon innings. India will rely on Gambhir to anchor and Tendulkar and Laxman to find their Sydney magic. Their best deeds have come in this land, and there is still hope that there is time for magic even on their last series in Australia.

India’s fall from grace has been spectacular over the last year. They, evidently, seem to find more holes than they can sew every passing Test and seem to lack direction. Their reputation on being a tough side to beat seems now to be a fading memory, in black and white. India are now at crossroads and need something spectacular to lift them up (and not Kohli’s finger-lifting kind).

It is but obvious that changes are inevitable sooner than later. India’s rebuilding cannot mean dismantling the current, but needs vision on how best to use the tools at hand to be in a position to challenge for a top spot at the test level in 18 months’ time. India’s administration and selection aren’t known for forethought and vision. It might throw Indian cricket back a decade nullifying the efforts of a generation of committed players.

For now, the immediate goal of salvaging this Test should be its sole objective. There is enough happening during a Test to be worried about introspection. That can happen when the Test is done. For now, the mission would be to bat determinedly and put up a fight.

Though much of the last hour was a struggle for survival, it is apparent that the wicket has not played any tricks. Australia might have to work harder than earlier in the series to bowl India out this time around. Their quicks have been impressive and they would love to see Lyon give them some control from one end. Australia are still odds on favourites to win this in a canter, if anything, it is only a question of day 4 or day 5.