Posts Tagged ‘Kevin Pietersen’

Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

You can carp over England’s performance over the first three days up to a certain point all you like, with a fair sense of justification around loose strokes and a couple of idea-devoid sessions on Day 2. But you can’t accuse them of at least not trying to salvage some morale through responsible batting during the second innings.

Ian Bell, as he’d shown over many an innings post his maturity, finished the day unbeaten on a well-paced 95 – an innings that tilted the scales towards England. He’s mastered the art of wearing down bowlers; waiting for the right occasion to unleash his aesthetic drives through the off-side. He is what the likes of Phil Hughes and Rohit Sharma should become – boys who entered the international scene with immense potential, waiting to grow in to men who can carry the burden of expectations on their shoulders moving forward.

Bell's gritty, unbeaten 95 help steady a ship that otherwise was ready to run off course

Bell’s gritty, unbeaten 95 help steady a ship that otherwise was ready to run off course

Bell’s style is placed on simple principles coupled with a style that pleases the eye. But what he lacked initially was a quality that he’s gained, and gained substantially well over the last three years. The boy became a man with a few match-saving, and winning, innings in South Africa – a fluent 140 followed by a persistent 78 against the likes of Steyn, Morkel and co.

A successful Ashes followed down under, before the perils of the turning ball in the subcontinent raised a few eyebrows over his technique under such conditions. But he’s recovered strong enough to pose as a fulcrum of the middle order at 5 – acting as the meat of the sandwich between the flamboyant, boisterous Pietersen and the exuberant, young Bairstow.

Bell, like Cook and Pietersen earlier, showed a lot of intent towards occupying the crease for as long as he could. So did Broad, who refused to walk after edging one to Clarke at slip off Agar, off a deflection courtesy Haddin’s gloves. Australia had no reviews left.

How Aleem Dar failed to notice that will remain an unsolved mystery. Broad’s deadpan expression following that was a classic. But the notion of walking rarely gets mentioned especially when these two teams meet. England will point to the Hot-Spot blunder that presented Trott his first golden duck in Test Cricket as a karmic equivalence. Clarke didn’t seem too pleased. But the game already has had its fair share of contentious decisions.

Haddin made a nuisance out of himself by dropping Bell in the very next over, a fairly difficult chance though. Australia desperately needed a wicket if their dreams weren’t to feel totally futile. They’d toiled hard to get Pietersen and Cook before lunch, after which Matt Prior threw away his wicket to a needless shot that matched his wicket-throwing first innings stroke.

Australia responded to the doggedness shown by Bell and Broad, but not with too much vigor. Agar got plenty of bounce, showed encouraging signs of proving his mettle as a bowler. It was a shame that his team had no reviews left when Broad smashed one off his edge to Clarke. At the other end, Bell was given plenty of opportunities to commit himself to the expansive drive – a temptation that he intelligently restricted, especially of the bowling of Shane Watson.

He played late, played his shots with soft hands to construct an aptly paced innings given the circumstances. England had plenty of time at their disposal, with an ardent need to keep the scoreboard ticking. Any run rate freeze would’ve exposed them to the risk of a collapse resembling their first innings domino. If a lead of 250 was their first milestone, they got there comfortably with Bell and Broad well stuck in.

The Australians were forced in to redrawing their contingency plans for chasing a score that appeared to cross 300. Not every innings can script a record breaking tenth wicket stand. England’s continued resistance crystallized the notion that they aren’t a weary shadow of the team that clinched the Ashes down under last year.

There was a sense of staleness about the Australian attack when things didn’t go their way. As Broad and Bell ticked on, Pattinson tried every trick in his young repository of skills to reverse the red cherry. His valiant attempts, though, didn’t yield a wicket.

The first session of Day 4 will decide the likely outcome of the first test. Many a skeptics fear of the game unlikely to run on to the fifth day can be buried to rest, unless a dramatic Australian collapse exhibits itself tomorrow. Or if they manage to chase down 300 odd with a series of Agar-ian innings.


In this episode, The CouchExpert’s Goutham Chakravarthi, Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan and Niranjan K discuss KP’s retirement and compare it with the news space Rakhi Sawant gets and debate if he is a cricket mercenary. Also in discussions is Chanderpaul and his selfishness. They also wonder if Narine’s novelty will have worn off by the end of his first Test.

Introduction Music: Composer and singer – Rakesh Salian

Guests: Chandrasekhar JayaramakrishnanNiranjan K

Host: Goutham Chakravarthi

Goutham Chakravarthi

No matter how much Cook and his boys said in each press conference that they were going to bounce back,  fans and media were certain of the white wash. That four of the five games were decided by whopping margins, it only deepens the scars of English cricketers who have won only one game of sixteen in their last three bilateral series in India.

England is known to prepare better than most for any series and it was no different when they arrived in Hyderabad ten days before the first game. Unfortunately, their planning and strategy leaves a lot to be desired.

Bell and Pietersen should both play in the XI

It is quite apparent that they have theories in place and try to pick players to fit them into those theories. The problem is, it doesn’t always work unless the player is brilliant enough fit himself to any theory. And in England’s case, there are very few of them who are that versatile.

It is silly that they had to choose between Pietersen and Bell for one batting slot. In an ideal world, you pick the best team you have – both Pietersen and Bell would be the first two to be penciled in in that case. And once the best batting team is picked, based on the strengths, the strategy is to be formed.

India showed them how it is done even when they were in England irrespective of the one-day results. With all their power players out injured – Sehwag, Tendulkar, Yuvraj – they played to the limitations of their side and planned to not lose wickets up front and let Dhoni and Raina take to the bowling at the end. That was their best chance with the team they had and they took the common sense approach.

One look at this England team and you know for certain that they have no such concrete plan. Expecting Kieswetter to do a Jayasuriya just because the pitches allow free stroke making against the new ball is silly. Kieswetter’s limitations have exposed the flawed roleplay identified for the players. You cannot score 80 runs in the first 10 overs just because that is how it is done in the sub-continent. You need to have the players to do it.

More importantly, the match winners in the team have to be looked after. And in this team, that match winner had to be Kevin Pietersen. The only time England won anything of substance in the limited overs format – T20 world cup in the Caribbean– Pietersen was the Man of the Tournament. That he was made to think his place in team was under threat to the likes of Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler wouldn’t have sat comfortably on him.

Not that Graeme Swann chose to release his autobiography just before the start of the series help. There was nothing sinister in his revelation that he didn’t think Pietersen was captaincy material. The timing would have hurt. Also Swann’s revelation that the four day boot camp in Germany prior to the Ashes were among the worst of his life didn’t go too well with Flower. Swann dropped catches and looked very innocuous with his off-spin throughout. It didn’t help at all in their team bonding.

On the other hand, M.S. Dhoni ensures that he gives Yuvraj Singh all the confidence in the world when he is playing. He constantly tells the press that Yuvraj is India’s key to success in limited overs cricket and he has reaped the rewards as the temperamental southpaw was instrumental in India winning the T20 world cup in 2007 and the 50 overs world cup early this year. Both Yuvraj and Pietersen have massive egos and the trick to ensure that they have the full confidence of the captain and the management. They need to be told that they are critical for their team’s success.

Also the fascination towards these power hitters in Alex Hales, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow is worrying. That they are picked and placed to take advantage of the powerplays is a noble thought provided they are good enough to do it. Kieswetter has shown that be can perhaps bat in top gear or get stuck with nothing in between, while Bairstow seems to have not much idea playing spin.

It would be common sense that an ideal XI will comprise of their three best players –Bell, Pietersen and Morgan. Also, their batting positions should ensure that they get maximum opportunities to play 50 overs. How they fit the others around these three will be a good starting point, and worthy of a good planning exercise.

Also, Cook’s captaincy has been far from impressive. Pietersen looked clueless when England were thrashed 5-0 in India last time, and Cook looked not far from it. The only time India struggled against this England attack was when they got the ball to reverse. It meant they should have looked to bowl during the day and not worry about the heat. Only in Hyderabad and Kolkata did they bowl first and the heat seemed to get to them.

Mental toughness of a team is also in taking these factors into consideration, and England would have done well to let go of playing under cooler night conditions. The night dew also ensured that India chased down England’s targets with great ease as there was no reverse either. Only Finn came through with a remarkable show of strength and endurance.

It’s all right when the media points to the fact that the next world cup in 2015 will be played in Australia and New Zealand, but not to forget is the fact the T20 world cup is in Sri Lanka next year. On current evidence, it is difficult to imagine England starting favourites to defend their crown.

 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

With time, details fade and only memories remain – the sweetest and darkest. Day 4 of the 2000th Test will be remembered for an outstanding spell of 3 for 1 by Ishant Sharma. Sure, Stuart Broad and Chris Tremlett later conducted an interrogation of India’s top order, but Ishant, in a spell articulating perfect rhythm, when body and mind danced to the heartbeat, composed a telling tune that exposed the English middle order of holes it didn’t know existed.

Ishant looked nothing like the highest wicket taker in tests in 2011 in the first innings. He lacked the rhythm and confidence he exhibited in the Caribbean only a month ago. His rhythm was cranky and Kevin Pietersen bullied him. But, today, Ishant, in a magical spell of fast bowling, his long locks billowing in fresh summer air, his run-up so smooth it was a glide, he unleashed magical, unplayable deliveries. He was in such a trance that the batsmen can be forgiven for being unaware of the ambuscades about him. Whilst it lasted, each ball was poetry that warmed the hearts over and again.

Ishant Sharma produced a memorable spell of fast bowling before lunch

Even cruelly, I thought Zaheer’s absence was a useful expedient to get Ishant to a new level. Ishant had left England in tatters as lunch was taken. Former cricketers of India and England paraded the hallowed turf celebrating the 100th contest between the two countries, while the crowd feasted on the cake and the ale, and the prospect of a potentially cracking test in the making loomed deliciously upon us. But only till India came back on to the park and Raina was introduced to up the over rate!

What followed was a session of some very poorly constructed cricket by the visitors. With only three fit bowlers, the hard yards of the first innings had taken its toll and a determined Prior and Broad ran them ragged. From the Himalayan heights of titanic struggle between bat and ball, it turned to a contest of India doing the last stage of Tour de France by foot and England by motorcade. England ran the fielders and captain ragged and when the bowlers returned with fresh legs, they had already been lapped twice over by the English. Prior will get his opportunity at 6 should England struggle to bowl India out on day 5 and feel the need to go with five bowlers. His century was well constructed with almost a Usain Bolt sprint to the finish line.

Injury and illness to Gambhir and Tendulkar meant Indian had to go in with a re-jigged batting order. Facing a rampant trio of English quicks who fancied their chances against a tired batting side, they bent and bounced the ball in rapid cadence. Old hands Dravid and Laxman, architects of some of the stoutest batting accomplishments, battled and survived. It was exhilarating cricket. The old firm of Dravid and Laxman held fort for India to fight another day. Their methods so precise and contrasting, but complement each other.

Sophistication is easy to be associated with Dravid – who combines the technical mastery of his art to suit the wicket and the opposition, the situation of a drying wicket and the waning strengths of opposition trundlers. He plays the attrition game as well as anyone to have walked a cricket pitch and his powers of concentration are of a Grand Master. On the other hand, Laxman, India’s best 3rd and 4th Innings man is as intense but with a game so pleasing, it makes you wonder if batting was ever so pretty anywhere else. He can look clumsy in his set-up and dodgy wafting without much feet movement early, but he can hardly ever made an ugly run. It is almost fitting that he produces his best when his team needs it the most.

Anderson, Tremlett, Broad and Swan will believe that there is enough in the wicket to produce nine mistakes on day 5, but India will be confident that they can survive the overs. It quite resembles the Lord’s test from 2007 and it promises to be as tight this time too. England have dominated this test, but India have shown tremendous determination to be not blown away. They will hope the D/L (Dravid/Laxman) method saves this test for them.

Bring on day 5.