Posts Tagged ‘R Ashwin’


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.

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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!



Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

There are few instances that beat the experience of waking up to the sight and sound of waves splashing against rocks along the coastline. What didn’t help was the showers that followed, adding fuel to our fears of rain playing spoilsport this tournament.

Nevertheless, the appeal to walk along the beach while it rained was tempting enough to get us ready within ten minutes, and park aside thoughts of rain persisting. The present was too valuable to let go of.

We checked back to the hotel café after witnessing sunshine (much to our relief) to order coffee and tea. Unfortunately, for Goutham and Suneeth, the coffee turned out to be an indigenous version of Ragi-Malt! So much for rounding of a fine morning!

Chamara’s Lasith Verdict

We stopped by Pizza Hut for brunch (thanks to a delay – yes another one – in the taxi arriving at our resort) and realized that we were supposed to head to Premadasa and not P Sara stadium, as we’d most certainly assumed, for the warm-up game between India and Pakistan.

The taxi driver, Chamara, told us that he was another Sangakkara fan who rated Nuwan Kulasekara better than Lasith Malinga, calling the latter an actor whose only concerns were centric around colouring his hair. It was an interesting comment given the cricket fan’s perception of Malinga in Sri Lanka – you could’ve got away if you’d thought he enjoyed a Warne-like image among the public.

Rohit Sharma’s Visa

We made it to the Premadasa by the second over of the Indian innings. Gambhir, who we’d assumed wouldn’t play after reading the reports that suggested he was injured, didn’t last for too long – Umar Gul the predator who disturbed his furniture. Sehwag, with his idiosyncratic ‘just-another-game-in-the-park’ approach was victim to a brilliant catch taken by Shahid Afridi off the bowling of Saeed Ajmal.

The entry of Rohit Sharma prompted Triyambak to scream “Who gave this fellow his visa to enter Sri Lanka?!”, something that got most of us in to chuckles. The scorecard at the end of the innings would suggest otherwise, but certainly Rohit’s tryst in the international circuit, highlighted through frequently packed zip-code resembling scores with the odd show of class, would’ve irked other cricketers who’ve been shown the door after a single failure.

The picturesque R Premadasa stadium.

Kohli’s purple patch doesn’t seem to show signs of crashing in to a dead end, and along with Hashim Amla, he’s been having a remarkable set of two years in the International Circuit, notwithstanding the formats.

Unfortunately for us, the Indians lost their way during the second half of Pakistan’s innings and made heroes out of Kamran Akmal and Shoaib Malik – batsmen whom international bowlers, in general, would’ve fancied for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The Cricket Shop

Goutham had got in touch with a few Gray Nicolls cricket gear dealers prior to the trip to check if he could procure gear in Sri Lanka. And a box of Kookaburra cricket balls to take back home so that the CECC boys could get accustomed to bowling/facing the Kookaburra in line with their preparations to tour Sri Lanka later this year.

We zeroed down on a pretty popular shop (through internet ratings) called The Cricket Shop, located at Urban Colombo. We chanced taking a couple of tuk-tuks – envisaging options of a cheaper ride, as compared to a taxi from the Premadasa.

The route to The Cricket Shop seemed a detour, given that the drivers had little idea of the location we were talking about. Suneeth’s concerns over the rate the driver would charge us fell to deaf ears – both parties being unable to understand what the other was saying. The only word the driver seemed to know was “No Problem.” To add to that, the other tuk-tuk had taken a different route, and Suneeth seemed certain that this was a game to rob a few foreigners off their cash.

Suneeth was in half a mind to get down and call a cab, but we figured any adventure (or mis-adventure) was an experience worth shouldering. Fortunately, we made it there eventually and ended up paying 600 Sri Lankan Rupees for the ride.

In discussion with Rila Mohamed, Director – Administration, The Cricket Shop, Colombo.

The Cricket Shop, at St Anthony’s Mawatha (Mawatha means ‘Road’ in Sinhalese) seemed the one-stop-solution for cricketers, ranging from amateur to pros, for procuring gears. The very purpose of our visit there, as mentioned earlier, was to check out Gray Nicolls gear. The cheapest Gray Nicolls willow was priced at around 45000 Sri Lankan Rupees, with a top end willow costing close to 70000 LKR.

The shop had an impressive range of display spanning Kookaburra, Stanford (SF), Puma, CA, Gunn & Moore, and SS – a fast moving brand since Sangakkara and a few other Sri Lankan crickets started endorsing it.  The shop Proprietor and Director, Rila Mohamed, was a very friendly man who took time off to explain in detail how he imports bats from India and why SS has become the brand being sought after by youngsters.

He boasts of photos and autographs from some of the best players from around the world, while mentioning that since most of the players are sponsored by manufacturers themselves, they stop by in case of an urgent need to procure a quality willow. Trust, he says is the factor that brings most cricketers back to The Cricket Shop.

Our hopes of buying a box of Kookaburra cricket balls went for a toss when we discovered that a single piece cost close to 14000 LKR. Maybe it’s time we believe in our players and understand that they, after all, can spontaneously adjust to the demands of the Kookaburra cherry when we get here.


 Goutham Chakravarthi

On a day were only 38 overs were possible, it was still a day of two halves for the Kiwis. The first 19 overs had them losing their last 5 first-innings wickets, with Ashwin and Ojha continuing to tie them down with nagging flight, dip and slow, but significant turn off the wickets. The last 19 were an improvement in approach and batting as they were made to follow-on by Dhoni.

Zaheer and Yadav started with pace at either end with Yadav sending back van Wyk soon. Barring James Franklin, the Black Caps seemed starry eyed by the Indian slow bowlers. Ojha’s nagging length and discerning spin had Doug Bracewell caught between slogging and defending and finally perished trying to charge Ojha only to have Dhoni uprooting the stumps.

But for dealing with the Indian medium pacers, the Black Caps’ lower-order lacked conviction and failed to provide support to the hard working Franklin. With the 30-run partnership broken between Franklin and Bracewell and the introduction of Ashwin, any hopes of avoiding the follow-on disappeared into the dark and gloomy skies of Hyderabad.

Ashwin was the undoubted star, needing only a handful of deliveries to clean-up the Kiwi tail. Soon he sent back Jeetan Patel (10), Boult (4) and Martin (0), there by ensuring India would make the Kiwis follow-on for the first time since 1956.

Ashwin would be keen to run through the Black Caps batting line-up to wrap up the test match soon.

With the various administrative changes happening in the Kiwi set-up, this batting performance on a typical sub-continent wicket wouldn’t have pleased the new coach Mike Hesson. And for a team that looked suspect against the spin of West Indies not so long ago, and coming in to this series with no practice game, perhaps this was expected.

Perhaps Mike Hesson did have a stern word with his wards at the end of the first innings even if it meant he did have a word with the third umpire on a couple of decisions through the first innings (no UDRS in this series). McCullum and Martin Guptill looked up to the task of dealing with the spin and guile of Ojha who opened the bowling for India looking to extract any bounce and bite off the wicket.

The openers looked compact and more determined even as the threat of thundershowers loomed large. As play carried on under dark skies and artificial lights, the battle the Kiwis seemed to be battling were with that of discipline.

Ojha’s nagging length and turn eventually induced the edge only for Kohli to put down the chance to give Guptill a life. Just when Guptill thought he had done the hard yards of seeing through the initial period and having had a chance put down, he was given out shouldering arms to a straight Ojha delivery. Replays suggested that the ball had turned enough to perhaps miss the stumps.

Rain came to the Kiwis’ rescue soon after with only 38 overs bowled in the day. With rains expected through Sunday, the Kiwis would hope the overnight not out batsmen McCullum (16) and Williamson (3) would show the same grit and determination they showed in the hour before the stoppage to give them a chance of saving this Test.

As the Kiwi spinner Jeetan Patel said leading in to Day 3, “It’s still low and slow with the seamers – it’s not bouncing as much – but it is starting to take some more turn, which you’d expect.” There is indifference bounce, but the turn is not sharp once the ball gets a bit old. SG balls are prone to aid reverse-swing when the ball gets old, but the pace of the wicket is slow enough for the Kiwis to handle that threat.

The rains have been relentless all across the southern portions of India and Sri Lanka. With rain and thunderstorm predicted over the next few days, it is a question of Kiwis surviving the time they get in the middle that is keeping their hopes alive in this first Test.

Dhoni and team would look to wrap-up the Test on Sunday though.