Posts Tagged ‘Pragyan Ojha’


Shridhar Pandey

The Indian team has many reasons to be proud of the victory over England in the first Test at Ahmedabad. After all, this would be termed as their first legitimate victory post the consecutive 0-4 setbacks in England and Australia. This win clearly showed that the English were the second best team to India in almost every facet of the game over the last 5 five days.  Their skills and strategies to play in the sub-continent needs serious re-thinking. Without overruling the fact that England can bounce back from this situation, they will have to look ahead in a very optimistic manner – without being over ambitious of course.

India clearly had a hero in both batting and bowling departments – Pujara and Ojha respectively.  Ojha was clearly ahead of any other bowler in the match – yes, even better than Swann. Bowling tight lines has always been his strength. What he also did well in this match was tossing the ball up almost every time the skipper threw the ball into his hands, therefore bagging those many wickets in both innings. His successful stint with the ball also more than made up for Ashwin’s rare failure in Indian conditions.

Pujara is impressive on and off the field. Pic: The Hindu

I like Pujara more after every match. His knocks in both innings were flawless – if I might say so. He gave glimpses of both Dravid and Laxman at times. His forward defence is almost as solid as The Wall. The way he comes down the track to play the wristy drives toward on-side against spinners sure reminds me of VVS. Yet, it would be quite premature to compare him with those batting stalwarts.  But keen observes would have already started looking at a future prospect in the dressing room like they had done when two youngsters in Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly made their debut at Lord’s more than 16 years ago. The thing about Pujara that stood out (and he admitted that himself too) was the price he put on his wicket; he seldom played a shot in the air. That reminds me of another batsman who did well in the match but got out playing a needless shot in the air – Virender Sehwag.

Sehwag’s run-a-ball century in the first innings was a trademark Sehwag knock though he was a little slow early on. He must have breathed a sigh of relief after that. I would have loved to see him return to the dressing room unbeaten though in the second innings.  Yuvraj Singh played a wonderful innings before being dismissed cheaply off a full-toss from Samit Patel. That innings did show some resolve and was a clear indication of the man’s pedigree.

Another player that impressed was Umesh Yadav. The lad bowled his heart out on a pitch that hardly had anything in it for the seamers. He looks a promising young fast bowler (yes, you read that right – fast bowler!). He also extracts some reverse swing from the old ball that makes him a really deadly customer to deal with. Zaheer Khan, though not among a lot of wickets, looked like 100 per cent after a long time. The way he set up Nick Compton before dismissing him in the second innings speaks volumes about his ability with the ball.

MS Dhoni again failed to make any difference with the bat. It won’t be long before India would need his service in that area as well. Kohli was partly unlucky in the first innings, with the ball that got him out coming out of the rough area of pitch but looked good in second. Sachin Tendulkar got out quickly after he looked like being in a positive frame of mind – obvious from the two convincing boundaries in that small innings.

Despite the lost affair, England still have some hope to draw from the match. Spare a thought for the captain, Cook and their most successful spinner Swann. Alistair Cook’s century would certainly be rated among the top by a visiting batsman in this country. Swann strengthened his claim for the best off-spinner in the world at the moment. Matt Prior would have a lot of positives to take from the fact that he outshone his Indian counterpart in at least one area – that is no mean feat!

In all, India would be more than happy with their performance and would like to keep the momentum going with few improvements in a couple of areas. The English side, on the other hand, would like to learn a lot of lessons on how to play in the subcontinent from their Indian counterparts. For them there is certainly a ray of hope at the far end of the tunnel; but only the upcoming matches would decide whether that is of an incoming train or thanks to a stag with a torch in his hand!


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!


Shridhar Pandey

It would probably be very easy to get carried away following India’s win in the first Test match against New Zealand in Hyderabad. It sure would take a brave-heart to find shortcomings out of such an emphatic win. But let us not forget the consecutive 0-4 drubbings India has had over their previous two Test outings. At the risk of being called a cynic, I would like to take this opportunity to point out a couple of areas where the Indian team still needs to pay due attention. Before that, let us have a look at the various positives that can be drawn out of this victory.

Cheteshwar Pujara justified all that was being said and written about him so far. He, no doubt, is a class act. During entire course of the Test match, he never looked like an enforcer; neither did he look like a mere survivor. He completely looked like one who belongs at that level. He might not be as aesthetically pleasing as Tendulkar or Laxman; but to call him complete (at his own level) won’t be an understatement. Virat Kohli’s half century was like a breeze of fresh air. He must be very disappointed with himself at the way he threw his wicket away for he is one player who always likes to be in the thick of things.

Taylor has an uphill task in preventing a whitewash in Bangalore. © AP

Pragyan Ojha bowled like he always does – right on the money. He may not have been successful every time he has been given a chance, but I, for some reason, get the feeling that he is someone who has not always got his captain’s backing. Ashwin yet again showed that he is a lethal weapon on a track that provides some assistance. Though he is just seven Tests old, he has shown a lot of promise. Once again, his real challenge would come when he moves out of his comfort zone and goes to countries like South Africa, Australia or England. He did not fare very well in Australia the last time he went there, but that would have been a bit too much to expect from a spin bowler who had played just three matches before that – all in the subcontinent.

There were two aspects of Sehwag that could be seen in this match; one impressed and the other disappointed. First, his slip catching was exceptional. Let us hope that he pulls off similar catches when the pace bowlers are in action. Second was his batting which was not very impressive. Though he did hit a few of his trademark boundaries on the off side during his short stint, he did never resemble the Sehwag of past.

Moving on to the pace bowlers; though they did not get much chance to bowl or assistance from the pitch, they failed to impress in whatever opportunities they got. Their Kiwi counterparts did a much better job in comparison. Zaheer Khan, who has been India’s bowling spearhead over the last few years, went wicketless – that is certainly not a good sign. Umesh Yadav did manage a couple of scalps. But his overall bowling was by no means impressive.

Suresh Raina failed to hold on to another life given to him. He is doing his chances no good. This season may prove to be his last on the Test arena if his performances continue the same way. He cannot find a place in the Test side just by virtue of his good fielding skills. The overall Indian fielding was a real pleasant surprise though – maybe the injection of young and fresh legs would have done the trick.

To sum up, a pessimist might be successful in finding out weak links in however good a Test side. But taking nothing away from the Indian team’s performance, I would like to conclude with this: they not only need to keep up the good work, but also need to focus on a few other key areas if they are to do well in South Africa in 2013 and win back the coveted no. 1 Test ranking.


 Goutham Chakravarthi

 18 August 2011


India scored over 500 runs in the first-innings at the Oval in their last two Tests here. Anil Kumble scored a Test hundred last time around! This time, however, Indian batting, has been a collective failure. In four Tests in 2007, not one top-order batsman got to a hundred though all but Dravid got close to it on multiple occasions. They were strong as a unit. This time, barring Dravid, hardly any one else seems capable of wielding the willow.

Still, it is hard to give up on this batting side. It is a far cry from the last time India were subjected to losing three Tests in a row – in Australia back in 1999-00. That was a team never expected to win and here is a team, which after three successive defeats, each progressively bigger than the previous one, there is still hope of a turn around. Only just.

Will the smiles return?

The break between the second Test and the third was expected to give them time to clear their thoughts as individuals and as a unit. Instead, they were handed a mauling by an impressive England unit with no apparent chinks. As the prospect of a whitewash looms large, India, with its perceivably wafer-thin bowling attack and a batting side equally thin on confidence, will need a remarkable turn around to stop England.

They are a team of impressive individuals made of the right stuff. Things that have defined them over the last decade – resilience, doggedness, scrap – have gone missing. Big runs have eluded their batsmen. In fact, they have been deprived of any runs at all. It has left the players and the fans stumped.

English bowlers have shown enormous precision in carrying out their plans. Their quick-bowling reserves seem to run deeper than the mental scars they have inflicted on Indian batsmen. Their lengths have been fuller, none more so than Broad, and they have managed to move the ball late both ways to make life suffocating for the Indians.

It is in this cauldron of relentless pressure that India’s batsmen have been found wanting. Rahul Dravid has been the lone exception. He has shown exceptional skill in handling the conditions and bowling. Tendulkar and Laxman have not been allowed to get away. The younger batsmen have been found out and must be wondering if they are good enough at this level.

It will take enormous discipline, grit and patience to wear such a potent bowling side. You would have expected this Indian batting side to do just that for they are good at it. For starters, they would, for a change want the openers to grind and battle conditions. Sehwag has had his success overseas giving this first session to the bowlers. He can make for lost time better than most. Gambhir needs a score. That both are coming back from injuries hasn’t helped India’s cause.

Tendulkar’s last average series came against a rampant Ajanta Mendis in Sri Lanka back in 2008. He looked unsure there like he has often done here. When he has been positive, like in the first innings at Lord’s, second innings at Trent Bridge and Edgbaston, he has hardly looked troubled. India will hope for a big innings from him and from another pillar of strength, Laxman, as it looks to pick up the pieces and put them back together.

Expect Kohli, R.P. Singh and Pragyan Ojha to be given a look in. Ojha is a tidy bowler with potential. He should exploit any spin and bounce available and R.P. Singh is a steady swing bowler who might trouble the English openers. India will sweat on the fitness of Praveen Kumar and will hope that he is available. Ishant has blown hot and cold. May be, the bounce at the Oval will be to his liking.

India needs big runs from the batsmen for its bowlers to pose a challenge to a rampant English top-order. It will be interesting to see their approach to this Test. One would think that holds the key to their success.


Prasad Moyarath

Bangalore

18 January 2011

“Horses for Courses” is an oft-repeated excuse offered by the Indian cricket selectors to pacify the soaring public demand for the non-inclusion of a particular player. By announcing a 15 member squad for the 2011 World Cup with no major surprises, the selectors have divided the public opinion there by alleviating the need for this excuse. But not all are convinced that this is the best possible squad to reclaim the World Cup. Though this squad looks perfect on paper, the ground reality is that the few debated positions can turn disastrous for the team.

In Sehwag, Gambhir, Tendulkar, Yuvraj, Kohli, Dhoni, Raina and Yusuf Pathan, the selectors have picked the best 8 one day batsmen available. Harbhajan, Zaheer and Praveen Kumar are automatic choices as the best 3 one day bowlers. Ifs and Buts come up for the next four places. The ICC World Cup rules, the playing venues and the match timings become vital for considering players to fill these slots.

Though the World Cup is going to be held in India, Bangladesh and Srilanka, the ICC rules don’t permit the participating nations to replace players without ICC’s permission. Also if a player is replaced, he will be out for the entire tournament. This makes it mandatory for each team to have a replacement player for each position to meet a crisis. This exposes a vital flaw in the Indian team selection. Though there are enough days between matches, if Dhoni is to get injured and doesn’t recover in time for the next match, the current Indian team doesn’t have a specialist reserve wicket-keeper. If Dhoni can recover from that injury in a few days’ time, asking ICC for his replacement then will make India lose Dhoni for the rest of the tournament. In form Parthiv Patel would not only serve as a reserve wicket-keeper to meet such contingency but also as a reserve batsman. Indian selection panel’s conclusion that a reserve wicket-keeper is not needed for a World Cup in India lacks vision.

All the Indian matches are Day/Nighters. This World Cup is being held in February and early March and in the Day/Night matches, dew is going to play a major role in the second innings. Spinners won’t be able to grip the ball properly in dew conditions and this makes the selection of more spinners useless. Sehwag, Tendulkar, Yuvraj, Raina and Pathan can bowl part time spin and India doesn’t need an additional off spinner. This questions the inclusion of R.Ashwin. Though Ojha is a good left arm spinner, the fact that India doesn’t have a wrist spinner compels the inclusion of Piyush Chawla. Also Chawla is a better batsman compared to Ojha.

Now we need to look at the selection of 2 pacers from Munaf, Sreesanth and Nehra. Munaf’s recent performance in South Africa and his ability to bowl tight overs in the middle makes him an automatic choice. Nehra has lost his pace and swing and is not the bowler he used to be ever since his comeback. Sreesanth is in outstanding form and his pace and swing will turn out to be an asset for the team under lights. By selecting the out of form Nehra ahead of the in form Sreesanth, the Indian selectors have committed another blunder.

No reserve wicket-keeper, an additional spinner who may never play and an out-of-form pacer who can turn out to be a burden for the team, the Indian cricket team for the 2011 World Cup is definitely not the best available as claimed by K.Srikkanth.