Posts Tagged ‘Suresh Raina’


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.


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

Indian juggernaut rolls on. India’s dream run at home continues. Sports journalists showered words of praise on the Indian cricket team for their recent one day international series victories over England and West Indies in India. They have forgotten the Indian team’s pathetic show in England recently. With a tri-nation series in Australia approaching, what purpose these home matches have served for Indian cricket is a matter to ponder for cricket aficionados.

Injuries combined with the overdose of cricket compelled the BCCI to rest many senior stars for these home ODIs. But this also dished out a golden opportunity to the Indian selectors to groom new replacements for the current stars. But to everyone’s dismay, the BCCI and its selectors have proved once again that they are least interested in the future. What have they done wrong? The answer to this question, though lengthy, will be easier than finding an answer for what they have done right.

BCCI could have used the home season as an opportunity to build on a younger opening pair in Rahane and Patel

Circumstances forced the Indian team management to find a new opening pair of Parthiv Patel and Ajinkya Rahane in England. They did considerably well in the trying circumstances in England. It is more difficult to groom a new opening pair than a new player. Knowing this well, the Indian selectors could have continued with them for the ten ODIs in India. Even though both these players were part of the team, the selectors never seemed to imagine about such a possibility. This pair was never given a continued run and both these players were on trial thereby spoiling their confidence. Were the selectors expecting 38 year old Tendulkar and 33 year old Sehwag to continue as openers for a long time? With Gambhir being injury prone and a one dimensional player, it is time the selectors start looking for a new opening pair. The selectors and the team management should have guided Parthiv and Ajinkya and molded them as a reliable opening pair.

Number three or one down is a very crucial batting slot in any form of the game and India is yet to find a good replacement for Dravid for this position. Virat Kohli has relished this position and has done well in the recent past. The Indian selectors and the team management could have instilled confidence in him to take over this responsible role.

Lack of a fast bowling all-rounder has been haunting the Indian side ever since the retirement of Kapil Dev. Apart from Irfan Pathan, the Indian selectors have not unearthed any other options so far. But India seems to have discovered a spin bowling all-rounder in Ravindra Jadeja. He is a compact batsman and should be sent ahead of Raina in the batting order. Ashwin and Vinay Kumar also seem to have batting abilities and the ODI series at home could have been used to unearth their batting talents. Rahul Sharma was given a chance only at the end of the West Indian series and so was Manoj Tiwari. If they were not needed for these matches, instead of sitting in the dressing room, the BCCI could have released them to play Ranji Trophy matches for their state.

Umesh Yadav and Varun Aoron demonstrated the importance of pace in international cricket and the selectors still seem unwilling to shed their old habits. They have gone back to Mithun and Vinay kumar who lack pace. T P Sudhindra of Madhya Pradesh, Shami Ahamed and Ashok Dinda of Bengal should have got a look-in in these inconsequential ODIs. Going by the current form, Abhishek Nayar also should have got a recall as a seam bowling all-rounder.

The stand in captain Sehwag was not good enough and openly criticized the top order for their failure thereby putting pressure on the top order. But he still continued to play some irresponsible shots. India need to look beyond Dhoni as captain and the selectors wasted a golden opportunity to groom Virat Kohli for the future.

The BCCI should stop treating ODIs at home as sources of revenue. Each series should be planned with future in mind. For example, a series in Australia should not be preceded by a series at home. The selectors should have confidence in their abilities and should not drop a player based on public opinion. The case of Ravindra Jadeja clearly proves how the public opinion can go wrong.

Can we expect any planning for the future from the BCCI who is unwilling to listen to Anil Kumble’s plan for NCA? If Kumble is giving up, I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.


Goutham Chakravarthi

In an attempt to make India a fitter unit, BCCI has roped in the services of Usain Bolt as India’s running coach with immediate effect. Indians are expected to train with the world 100 meter record holder for a week in their quest to give them an added edge before they head to Australia for a 4-Test series. Talking of the appointment, K Srikkanth said, “Taking a leaf from Gavaskar’s famous commentary usage of converting ones into twos and twos to threes, Bolt will help team India convert each single into a three at least – and in some cases to a five or even a seven – and thereby helping our batsmen increase their scores three-fold!.”

Talking of his appointment, Bolt, who joined the team at Vishakapatnam, said, “The last day of the third Test at Wankhede had the whole island interested and I had a couple of friends wake me up at the dead of the night to catch the game when my phone rang. N Srinivasan was on the line and I told him the super slow motion pictures were outstanding and I congratulated the BCCI on the quality of their TV production when Srinivasan told me that it wasn’t super slow motion pictures I was seeing, but Ashwin running in full throttle!”

India train to sprint their way to success in Australia under the supervision of Usain Bolt

He added, “I couldn’t believe someone could actually sprint so slowly. When asked if I would help them fix the problem, I was skeptical. But when they dangled a 2 million dollar contract for a week’s training, I couldn’t resist. I asked Fletcher to send me tapes of their running training, and now I am here in India for a week to help them train.”

Of all Indians, Laxman and Ashwin seemed the most excited after their first training stint with Bolt this morning. Laxman said “I sprint the 100m in just a little under 44 seconds just behind Ashwin who does it in 41.43 seconds. Bolt has given us specific training routine that should ensure both Ashwin and I break the 40 second barrier by the end of the week. Finally, there is hope for us to look for the quick second run.”

Ashwin added, “He seemed to be able to point to the mistakes in my technique straight away. He could pin point to my technique that I seem to have followed from my childhood subconsciously – that of Rajnikanth running in slow motion in his high adrenaline fighting sequences. I am unlearning the technique and move towards the modern running method of complicated leg strengthening exercises that will give us enough power to our legs. Also the key is to ensure that the feet not being in contact with the ground for more than 0.2 seconds while in full sprint. Laxman and I, the smarties that we are, have already come-up with a formula that’ll help us get there. Expect us to run like the wind in Australia.”

Bolt is also introducing the sprint runners’ set block positioning for the non-striker while backing up. You will see the likes of Suresh Raina now crouched on one knee without the bat and both hands just behind the popping crease with his upper body in a 45 degree angle that the sprinters use to generate pace off the starting block. Bolt claims that Raina this way is able to run his twos in one-sixth of time he would take otherwise – in the traditional method. Bolt claims that this technique will ensure that there will not be many dot balls as it ensures players are quick enough to run a single even when the batsman lets go of a delivery to the keeper. He insisted that in places like Perth where the keeper tends to stand far back, Raina, Kohli and Dhoni would be able to run twos to the keeper and promised that we will see byes contributing more to team scores going forward. If the wicket-keeper is slightly slack, batsman might run a bye to him even off spinners!

Duncan Fletcher, the Indian coach said “Bolt’s insight into running and the transformation that is possible with his inputs is quite amazing. Even I have been able to move from one side of the ground to the other in less than 20 minutes now. Munaf Patel, Aashish Nehra now run quicker than they bowl. That was the easy part. We are now trying to translate this to field positions as well. The increased agility of the fielders will ensure that each fielder can now control two positions. Jadeja will now man both point and covers and Kohli mid-off and extra-cover, where as, Raina will cover the whole of the on-side and Dhoni alone now will cover for the keeper and three slips. Our not-so quicker fielders will stand on the boundary and strategize thereby giving us an unprecedented edge over all teams that have played cricket before us. Sehwag now can charge down to spinners and hit it almost off the bowlers’ hands as he is now that quick!”

With the whole of the nation very excited by this development, Bolt was convinced that India would start favourites in Australia this time. He signed off by saying, “India will run away with the cup in Australia. I think they should. If they did, don’t think there is anyone in Australia quick enough to chase them down. Let’s just hope they don’t assign the task to Laxman or Ashwin yet. They will get chased down for they are not quick enough just yet”


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.