Saturday, 31 December 2011

Heroes and Zeroes of Cricket in 2011

Year 2011 has come to an end and with it ends an year of grueling cricket schedules. A year which saw India lift the ODI world cup after 28 years, an year in which Australia's dominance in test cricket completely ended and an year in which England surprisingly marched up to the top. All in all it was an year that probably showed us a glimpse about the future of cricket in the decade to come. The year saw many highs and as many lows in cricket. Lets look at the heroes and zeroes of they year 2011.

Hero No. 1- The hero no. 1 this year was undoubtedly Ian Bell. He was the player whose talent was always undoubted but he was someone who always failed to perform on the big occasions. But in 2011, he was phenomenal. His exceptional batting this year was one of the reasons why England marched to the top so quickly. Ian bell played 8 tests this year and scored 950 runs at a phenomenal average of 118.75 with 5 hundreds. What more can you say. Numbers speak themselves. He is now being counted as one of world's top batsmen.

Zero No. 1- Ricky Ponting emerged as the no. 1 disappointment this year. The man whom everybody believed was catching up fast with Tendulkar until 2010 was suddenly being asked to retire by the cricketing world. Bad form hit him very badly indeed. Ponting played 7 tests in 2011 scoring 415 runs at an average of 31.92 with no hundred but 4 fifties. His high score during this period was 78 against New Zealand. And these 4 fifties have come in his last 3 tests with 2 coming in the recent test against India. Otherwise it was a very dismal year for Ponting.

Hero No. 2- 38 year old veteran Rahul Dravid is the hero no. 2 this year. Dravid was going through the same phase Ponting is going through recently. But boy what a comeback he made in 2011. Dravid played 12 tests this year scoring 1145 runs at an average of 57.25 with 5 hundreds. He was the lone ranger in India's humiliating loss in England while he was the man who took India to victory in the Jamaica test this year. Dravid defied age and proved a point to everybody who said his time was over. Lets see what the next year has in store for him.

Zero No. 2- Gautam Gambhir emerged as one of the biggest flops of 2011. Many would argue that he was the one who took India to WC victory in the final or that he scored match saving innings in South Africa. But apart from that he was a failure. This year Gambhir played 8 tests scoring 470 runs at an average of 31.33 with no hundred. Barring performances in the beginning of the year, Gambhir looks very far from the batsman he was in 2008-09.

Hero no.-3- Another hero from England. This time it is England's bowler or shall I say all-rounder, Stuart Broad. Stuart Broad played 7 tests in 2011 taking 33 wickets at an average of 22.3 with one 5 wicket haul. Even on batting front he impressed scoring 239 runs at an average of 39.83 with a best of 74. This average is better than those of the Zeroes mentioned above. He was probably the man behind India's 4-0 loss.

Zero no. 3- Sri Lanka's skipper was another flop of 2011. Dilshan played 10 tests this year scoring 589 runs at an average of 32.72 with just 1 hundred. His captaincy stint too was disappointing as Sri Lanka won only 1 test under him. That was the recent historic first time victory in South Africa in the boxing day test. Otherwise it was a bad year for the 2011 world cup finalists in tests.

Hero no. 4-  Shahid Afridi emerged as the top all-rounder this year and someone who almost single handedly brought Pakistan cricket on track. This year Afridi played 27 ODI's taking 45 wickets at an average of 20.82 with 4 five wicket hauls. In this period he scored 462 runs at an average of 22 with 75 being the best score. Afridi truly was Pakistan cricket's hero of 2011.

Zero no. 4-  Surprisingly the good bowler Morne Morkel too emerged as a zero in 2011. He bowls fast, has lethal bouncers but somehow is not able to pick wickets. Morkel played 5 tests this year taking just 16 wickets at an average of 32.43 with no 5 wicket haul to show. South Africa continued their inconsistent form this year and it looked like only Steyn was the one who took wickets in plenty. Morkel was just reduce to a supporter or rather a spectator.

2012 looks to be an interesting year starting with the India-Australia second test. Lets see what cricket has in store for us next year. Neverthless, happy new year folks.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Why India loses the first test?

India has lost the first test of a series again overseas. Australia beat India by 122 runs on the 4th day of the boxing day test at MCG. The final result was opposite to what everyone had thought considering the "weak" Australian side and a "stronger" Indian side. India's age old problems like batting collapses, bad bowling to tail enders etc. are continuously haunting them. Over the last 5 years, India have lost 12 tests abroad which include 6 losses in the first test of the series.  And India's habit of losing the first test of a series abroad ceases to go. But why does India lose the first test so often?

Reluctance to adapt- Lack of practice or being new to conditions is clearly not a reason as most of the Indian players had arrived down under almost 2 weeks before the start of the first test at MCG on boxing day. If you can't adapt in 12 days then you won't in a year. The real reason is their reluctance to adapt. Indian players do not seem to be ready to change their technique according to the conditions. They probably think that the way they bat/ball in subcontinent would get them success down under too. Gambhir in particular was trying to cut the ball as if he is on the slow and low kotla wicket. Dhoni wants to just flash the ball hard irrespective of the lateral movement. The bowlers bowled well but only in patches. They were pitching it too short even though they should know that on pitches in Australia even just short of good length would be as high as a short ball is usually in sub-continent. If the Indians don't adjust to conditions quickly, they would face trouble in the forthcoming tests too.

Casual approach- India were the number one test team until July 2011. In that golden period India won tests abroad and came back many a times from first match defeats to win or draw the series. Lack of practice was the reason cited for India's first match loss and as soon as they won in the next test, it was forgotten. All this continued until that disastrous England tour. Even after the first defeat at Lords, Dhoni and even the media and fans were confident of a victory coming soon in the 2nd or 3rd test. But that never happened. After the defeat against Aussies at MCG, Dhoni smiled and very casually said in the presentation that we always have a bad start to the series. The gentleman still thinks that they can come back. Well they might but how can these first match defeats be taken for granted. Mr. Dhoni needs to be reminded that not always do you come back like you did in South Africa. Sometimes England tour like things also happen. India should stop taking these first match defeats casually as soon as possible. Otherwise more England like tours are there to follow.

Too much sub-continent cricket- Another reason for India's poor start to series abroad is the amount of cricket they keep playing in the sub-continent. Be it the IPL, Champions League, too many home matches and plenty of senseless tours to Sri Lanka. India keeps winning in the sub-continent and take their sub-continental habits abroad too where they then suffer. Some home series which India played this year were completely useless. India playing England in 5 ODI's just after completing a gruelling(humiliating too) 3 month tour to England. Then they hosted West Indies for a test and one day series after playing them in West Indies 4 months back. India, this way might be able to avenge their losses by comprehensively beating the other teams at home but how would this help when they play the same team abroad? Also India plays most amount of one day cricket and that too in India. So this is another reason why India fail in the first test of a series abroad.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Rohit Sharma or Virat Kohli? Who should get the nod?

India is ready to face thunder down under starting with the first test on boxing day in Melbourne on 26 December. This tour of Australia is India's possibly best chance to beat Australia in Australia. Indian squad for the first test is almost set. The team is most likely to be Sehwag, Gambhir. Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Dhoni, Zaheer. Ishant, Yadav and Ashwin. The only position uncertain is the no. 6 slot that would be either filled by Rohit Sharma or Virat Kohli. Both are impressive youngsters who are very good players and both equally deserve to be in the squad. But who should be the one playing his first test in Australia?

Career so far- Well Rohit Sharma is yet to play an international test game for India whereas kohli has featured in 4 test matches, all against West indies. He has scored 191 runs at an average of 27.28 with 2 fifties and a best of 63. Not very impressive given the amount of expectations. On first class front, Rohit has played 46 matches and has scored 3748 runs at an average of 63 with 12 hundreds and a best of 309. Kohli on the other hand has played 34 matches and has scored 2322 runs at an average of 52.77 with 7 hundreds and a best of 197. So even though Kohli has some nice experience of playing test cricket for India but its Sharma who looks to be much more impressive, experienced and a better performer in first class cricket. Add to that the fact that he has been in international cricket for more time than Kohli.

ODI career- Even though we are talking about a test spot but still these 2 youngsters have much more experience in one day cricket than tests. So it would be better to compare them on that front. Rohit has played 72 matches scoring 1810 runs at an average of about 34 with 2 hundreds and 11 fifties. Kohli on the other hand has played 74 ODI's scoring 2860 runs at an average of 46.88 with 8 hundreds and 18 fifties. Kohli is the one who has made rapid progress and has impressed everyone with his technique and temperament. He has played big innings and has been a part of India's high pressure WC campaign of 2011. Sharma has been a little inconsistent and has been in and out of the team frequently. But he has shown vast improvement lately. But as far as the ODI career is concerned, Kohli is the one who seems ahead in the race.

Recent Form- This is the most important part in choosing a player. All the runs and averages may go unnoticed if current form is not good. In the last 5 months Kohli has played 15 ODI's scoring 707 runs at an average of 58.91 with 3 hundreds. Sharma in this period played in only 6 matches but has scored 305 runs at an average of 76.25. Even though Sharma's 100 column is empty during this period but its the amount of match winning innings he has played that stand out. Add to that the fact all these performances are very recent. He was the one who stood alone against the West indies whenever India was in trouble last month. In current form both are equally matched but its Rohit Sharma whose recent staggering performances might just take him ahead.

Experience down under-  Rohit Sharma has handy experience of playing in Australia. He has played 10 ODI's in Australia during 2007/08 with a brilliant innings of about 70 which he hit during the first final in partnership with Tendulkar to take India to victory in a high voltage final. Kohli is yet to play an international game in Australia. But we should not forget that in the recent tour match against Australia Kohli scored a 100 while Rohit managed 47 runs. In the first practice game at Manuka Oval Rohit scored a fifty while Kohli was a failure. So maybe the fact Rohit Sharma has had experience of playing under may tilt the scales in his favour.

Neverthless both are highly talented young batsmen and both have the potential to tackle this Australian attack. Lets see who gets the nod in the first test.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Ricky Ponting- Retirement Days Near?

As Australia continued its bad run with a "Drawn" series against New Zealand. Australia lost the 2nd test by a mere 7 runs. Chasing 241, Australia ended up with 233 losing all their wickets with Warner stranded on 123. In the 2 recent series played by Australia, they have collpased to abnormally small scores 2 times. This is so unlike Australia. Against a weaker New Zealand attack at home, they managed just 136 in the 2nd test even lower than New Zealand's 150 in the 1st innings. Although this has been a complete Australian batting failure but Ponting's failures have drawn greater highlight. He was the man who used to always deny victory to the other teams and suddenly now he is the one who struggles almost everytime. And this has been happening for the past 2 years. So are retirement days near for Ponting? Or is there still cricket left in him?

Performance in last 2 years- The former and the most successful Australian skipper's performance in the last 2 years has been disappointing to say the least. He has been in very bad form over the last couple of years. Ponting has played 20 tests in the last 2 years and has scored just 1200 runs at an average of 33.33 with 7 half centuries and just 1 hundred! His overall career average is 52.29 which clearly shows the difference. And the lone hundred was a double which came against Pakistan in late 2009. That means not even 1 hundred since 22 months. In this period he was captain for 14 matches in which he averaged 36.28 with the double hundred and in the 6 matches he was stripped of captaincy his average further dipped to 26.63. Even relief from captaincy has not been able to change Ponting's fate. Australia in this period has won only 11 of its 20 matches having lost 7. And in the last 1 year they won just 4 having lost 4. So Australia is going down day by day and it seems that Cairne was not very wrong in his saying. Maybe Ponting is, a burden for the Australian team.

What's wrong?-  Punter's decline in the last 2 years has coincided with an Australian decline on a whole. As soon as Gilchrist, Hayden, Mcgrath, Warne and Langer retired, Australia's downfall had started. But the real blow was Australia's loss in the 2009 ashes in England. After that the wound was further aggravated by losing 2-0 to India and then the final nail in the coffin was drilled by England's ashes win in Australia in 2010. At that time Ponting was stripped of captaincy, he was not in form and Australian team was heavily criticized by the media. For almost 2 years form 2007-09 Ponting had held the team together by performing and winning matches in the absence of the big players mentioned above. But Australia's new generation was not as impressive as the stalwarts. As a result Ponting's lone battle started losing steam. He did not have ample support at the opening level, new bowlers were not taking wickets and the inexperienced middle order collapsed almost everytime. Even players like Clarke and Hussey were not in very good form. As a result even Ponting's performance declined too. Afterall a skipper is as good as his team. So that might be the reason why Ponting failed to deliver in the last couple of years.

Getting back- Before the series against South Africa this November, calls of Ponting's retirement were getting louder and louder. Further Australia's shocking 47 all out further made them even more loud. But since then Ponting has tried very hard to come back and boy he has succeeded too. In the 2nd test against South Africa chasing 310 on the 5th day at Wanderers, Ponting scored a resilient 62 off 138 balls to ensure South Africa did not get away with victory. The innings was scratchy and lacking in fluency but was extremely useful and was a match winning effort. And then again in the 1st test against New Zealand at the Gabba, Ponting scored 78 valuable runs to help Australia post a big total which in turn resulted in an Australian victory. So Ponting is slowly coming back into his groove. And incidentally this come back coincides with players like Clarke and Haddin's good form. So maybe Ponting needs just a,little bit of support from his team and the old days might be near again.

Ponting it seems is starting to find good form once again. Even Rahul Dravid said that Ponting should play and he has a lot of cricket left in him. Afterall who can be better than Dravid to understand his situation. Dravid was going through a similar phase in 2010 but has since come back strongly and emerged as the highest run getter in 2011. So maybe Ponting should take inspiration from him. I feel Ponting should continue playing until he finds his form back again and then should hang his boots. A player like him deserves to leave on a high and he should do so. Australia needs young blood to steer them out of this slump as the old ones are not going to stay forever. Lets hope the champion batsman finds form quickly and entertain us with his brilliant batting once again.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Sehwag 200 vs Sachin 200

Virender Sehwag has become the highest scorer in one day cricket with a swashbuckling 219 against the West Indies yesterday in the 4th ODI at Indore. The double ton is only the 2nd in ODI history with the first one scored by Sehwag's idol Sachin Tendulkar 22 months back at Gwalior, just north of Indore. History was made yesterday as Sehwag toyed with the bowling and hit good balls, bad balls whatever balls all around the park. Since there have been only 2 double tons in ODI's so far and that too by 2 team mates, comparisons are obvious. But whose 200 was better? Was it the destructive Sehwag or the sublime Tendulkar?

Opponent- Sehwag scored the double ton against West Indies whose bowling attack comprised of Roach, Sammy, Narine, Rampaul, Russel and Pollard. The fielding unit was ordinary with a few spilled catches and misfields. Sachin Tendulkar scored his double against South Africa whose bowling attack had Steyn, Parnell, Kallis, Van der merwe and Duminy. The fielding unit was top class with tight fielding all the time. The difference is clear. Sehwag's innings came against a rather sultry opponent whereas Tendulkar's was against a tough bowling attack. So in this respect Tendulkar scores over Sehwag.

Strike rate - Scoring a 200 in a 50 over game involves mindboggling strike rates and boundaries. Tendulkar's 200* came in 147 balls with 25 fours and 3 sixes with a strike rate of 136. Sehwag on the other hand scored 219 off 149 balls with 25 fours and 7 sixes with strike rate of 147. Tendulkar reached the milestone in the 50th over while Sehwag was through with his 200 in the 44th over itself. That speaks volumes about Sehwag's ability to hit boundaries and the strike rate was much higher than Tendulkar's. So here its Sehwag who score over Tendulkar.

Innings Quality- Both the pitches at Gwalior and Indore were flat featherbeds for batsmen where records were meant to be broken. Sehwag's innings was like batting highlights. He was hitting every ball without any thought. His bat moved to just about every delivery. He did n't care if he mistimed a shot or he got the boundary off an edge. It was pure hitting. At 170 a very easy catch was dropped by Sammy otherwise the 200 might not have happened. But Tendulkar's innings was sublime. There was class, technique as well as a little bruteness in it. He manouvered the field, picked up gaps everywhere and beat an exceptional fielding unit all around the stadium to score runs. He played all type of shots and there was a special feel to it. It was an almost flawless innings. Sachin remained unbeaten whereas Sehwag played a tiring shot towards the end to hole out at the fence. While Sehwag scored most of his runs at backward point region, Tendulkar was more destructive in front of the wicket at the covers region. Tendulkar's 200 goes one notch higher than Sehwag's here.

Impact and damage- When Sachin reached his 200, the game was over but when Sehwag reached it in the 44th over, the traditional run scoring overs had just started. That shows the way in which Sehwag reached the double hundred. Sachin was limping towards the end while Sehwag was comfortably hitting the ball even after he had scored 200. Thats because Sehwag did n't run much and he does n't need to. He deals in boundaries. Sehwag shamelessly hit even good balls towards the fence. Sehwag was supposed to be Sammy's bunny but Sehwag hit him for a 6 off his first ball. Narine troubled Indians in the last match. Sehwag hit him for a 6 off his first ball. Such is Sehwag's impact. He doesn't turn jittery when he begins to reach a milestone.He infact reaches them with a boundary whereas Sachin does get a little slow as he begins to reach 100 or 200. Sehwag destroys the bowler and leaves him unable to bowl properly. Sachin can never have that kind of an impact ever. If Sachin makes bowlers feel that he is the boss, Sehwag makes them feel that he is the only one playing cricket. Impactwise Sehwag wins over Sachin.

So which one is better? Well a 200 is a 200 and only 2 men have scored it so both have a special place. While Sachin's innings came against a better opposition and was technically more correct. Sehwag's was brutal and much more damaging than Sachin's. Both the innings actually go on to show 2 different yet successful styles of batting. While one takes control and anchors the game, the other simply makes the opposition run for cover. At the end I would say- Sehwag 200 = Sachin 200.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Improved Australia? Or a declining New Zealand?

Australia has comprehensively won the first test match against New Zealand by 9 wickets on the 4th day needing just 19 runs to win in the 2nd innings. Both the teams have a new look with plenty of young and inexperienced players with Australia entirely different from what it was 3-4 years back. Players like Lyon, Starc, Pattinson, Warner were the new faces in the Australia team. New Zealand also boasts a young look. With the talk about the recent Australian decline, Australia has come up with decent performances including a drawn series against South Africa and this test win against New Zealand. But does this test win signifies an Australian improvement or is it just that New Zealand was just not enough?

Past 3 year record- While talking about improvements and declines lets look at both the team's past 3 year test record.  In the last 3 years Australia has played 34 tests out of which it has won 16 and lost 12. They have mainly lost against England and India while having a 50-50 record with South Africa.These 3 are the teams that have improved considerably in this period.Still they have won more matches than they have lost. Then why this fuss about Australia being a team in decline? Maybe thats because comparisons are being made with the Australian record of the 1990's and early 2000's which would obviously show Australia as a "weak" team. New Zealand on the other hand has played 20 tests out which they have won only 3 and lost 9. So it is clear what kind of a state New Zealand is in. India which has been highly rated in this period have played 33 tests winning 15 and losing 7 with a win % of 45 compared to Australia's 47. This suggests that though Australia have declined if compared with the Australia of the last decade but overall they have been average neither too good nor too bad.

Australia vs New Zealand 1st test- If this test match is to go by, Australia played average cricket. They restricted New Zealand to 295 which was a good job done by bowlers but still they were largely found wanting when Vettori took back the attack on them. New Zealand were disappointing, if Vettori was n't there, probably they would have folded for about 150 which they did in the 2nd innings. Australia scored 427 in the first innings aminly due to Ponting, Clarke and Haddin. The new batting faces did not do much. While chasing down 19 runs Australia lost a wicket which was in stark contrast to the professionalism showed by the Australia of previous times. Australian batsmen played rash shots in both the innings. New Zealand was sloppy as usual and were just not upto the mark.Only when they had picked up 7 wickets with Aussies leading by just 50 runs did they look like a challenging them. So maybe New Zealand were just not enough for Aussies. Australia otherwise were not so good. A good team would have made life tough for Australia. Only Australia's bowlers were somewhat good even though they are yet to find a good spinner. Well its pretty early to talk about Lyon but still till the time he does n't anything noticeable we can assume Aus have not found a good spinner.

Final Verdict- I think Australia have not improved much. They are playing average cricket for the past 3 years winning sometimes losing the other times. The uncertainty displayed by them in the past month where in one match they got out for 47 while chasing down 300+ scored in another match, Australia was just so unpredictable. While the black caps are largely a poor team who have players who perform occasionally and independently and never together. Leaving Vettori no player is consistent. So Australia have not improved. They are rebuilding and are still what they were a year back. Also New Zealand have not changed much since last 3 years. They too are what they were a year back. Its just that New Zealand was neither enough for Australia 5 years back nor they are now. Australia's victory is largely Australia's average performing youngsters being better than than the Kiwi youngsters. So lets just not talk about an Australian improvement until they win against England or win in the sub-continent.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Darren Bravo- The Silver Lining in the West Indies

India as expected have won the test series against West Indies. India won the 3 match series 2-0 even though they missed the 3-0 victory by a whisker infact just a run. India performed clinically at home in the first 2 tests while they came back very strongly in the 3rd test. On the other hand the West Indies were jittery and not up to the mark in terms of test performance and were highly inconsistent. But one good thing that has emerged from this West Indies side is Darren Bravo. Darren Bravo is the nephew of the great Brian Lara and is showing early signs of another Lara in making. He is already being tipped as a future great and the world is taking notice of the young man's talent.

Performance in series against India- Darren Bravo has impressed one and all by his good performance against India. He was the highest run scorer in the series against India. In 3 tests he amassed 404 runs at an average of 67.33 with 2 big hundreds and 1 score close to 50. In the 2nd test at kolkata with West indies following on he was the lone ranger who was denying India an early victory. In the 3rd test on a flat Wankhede wicket he took advantage and scored the 2nd 150+ score of his career. At a time when your team's batsmen are struggling to get runs, it is not easy to play a long innings but Bravo showed that he is a long innings player who would not throw away his wicket easily. And considering the fact that foreign players usually struggle in India against spinners, his performance here is surely a sign of a good batsmen in making.

Emulating uncle Lara- Being the great Brian Lara's nephew, it was obvious that comparisons would be made but the guy actually reminds everyone of the great man. Be it his face or walking style or mannerisms or batting style, everything seems Lara like. Darren Bravo has so far played 13 tests and has scored 1155 runs at an average of 52.5 with 3 hundreds and 6 50's. And all the hundreds are big hundreds. His lowest above 100 score so far is 136. Even Brian Lara had scored about a 1000 runs in his first 13 matches and had an average of about 53. The comparison does n't end here. Bravo's high backlift, the way he shuffles while playing a ball and the free flowing drives he plays, all resemble Lara. But that does n't take anything away from his ability as a player. He has made a place for himself in cricket and is the man everyone will monitor closely in the following cricketing season.

As a player- Darren Bravo as a player is brilliant. He is the only batsman in the West indies line up who looks to be a long inning player. He has almost all the shots in his armory. his drives are fluent, he does n't poke at the balls and is a fierce player on the leg side. He has a cool head on his shoulders and has a good temperament. Till now he is showing ample promise as a batsman but many players are there who show a lot of promise in the beginning but then fade away as time passes. Bravo is receiving a lot of attention and every team would now be looking upto him. Opposition captains would plan and try hard to get him out. This might lead to a dip in form and a dip in form for a new player is always lethal. He might lose confidence. As Lara has said Bravo needs to pull up his socks even more as he is now being noticed by everyone. This is the time he needs to make leaps in his international career and try to work hard to become a better and better batsman. Being Lara like for 2 years is easy but emulating the kind of success he achieved over 16 years is a challenge. Lets see if the nephew can emulate his uncle and become the next legend from the Carribean.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Shahid Afridi- A Bowler or an All-Rounder?

Shahid Afridi's clinical all round performance in the game against Sri Lanka gave Pakistan the 5 match ODI series as they wrapped it in 4 matches with 3-1 with a game to spare. Shahid Afridi scored 75 runs off 65 balls to take Pakistan to 200 and then took 5 wickets for 35 runs to single handedly take Pakistan to victory. Over the last 2-3 years Shahid Afridi has been bowling brilliantly while his batting declined. But some or the other day he comes up with a batting performance like the one above to aserrt claims of being one of the best all rounders in the game. But is Afridi really an all-rounder like Kallis or Watson or is he just a bowler who can bat well like maybe Harbhajan or Stuart Broad?

Career Stats- Focusing on his ODI career, Afridi has transformed from an exciting over attacking batsman who bowled well to a player in decline and then finally into a phenomenal bowler or you may say an all-rounder in the last 3 years. In his overall career, he has played 329 ODI's and scored 6814 runs at a very meek average of 23.65 with 6 hundreds but an exceptional strike rate of 114.02. In bowling he has taken 327 wickets at an average of 33.39 with 6 wicket hauls. His batting average is low with a few hundreds but the high strike rate shows that even a brief stay on the wicket might be disastrous for the opposition. His bowling performance has only a few 5 wicket hauls(equal to the no. of 100's)  and an ordinary average. Seems to suggest he is an all-rounder but an average one if overall career stats are to go by even though the good performances he has are match winning and have helped Pakistan on numerous occasions.

Performance in last 3 years- Cut to performance in last 3 years where as stated above the former Pakistani skipper has gone a transformation in which he has emerged as a very good bowler but has declined as a batsman. He has played in 61 ODI's in the last 3 years and has scored just 1297 runs at a very ordinary average of 24.94 with 2 hundreds that too one was against Bangladesh while the other one against Australia was in a losing cause. In bowling he has taken 85 wickets at an impressive average of 28.71 with 4 of his 6 five wicket hauls in this period and all of them coming in matches Pakistan won. In the last 3 years there has been a stark improvement in his performance as a bowler. Infact he was the highest wicket taker in the 2011 cricket World cup. His batting performance has remained average as ever but he has the potential to come up with a good performance. In the last 3 years he has been one of Pakistan's best bowlers and has emerged as a main bowler for Pakistan rather than a part timer.

Final verdict- Pakistan's former skipper Shahid Afridi's career analysis clearly shows that from being considered as an attacking batsman with nice part time bowling abilities he has emerged as a main bowler with part time batting abilities in the last 5 years. Earlier he was an average all rounder but now he has become a very good bowler who can bat well. So maybe giving him a seasoned all rounder's status would not be justified. Due to Afridi's all round status Pakistan tend to sometimes take one batsman less in their team and sometimes suffer. I think Pakistan should treat him as a bowler first and batsman later. Afridi has come out of retirement just recently and in this day and age where Pakistan cricket is always surrounded by controversy Afridi has done a brilliant job to bring a smile on the face of Pakistani cricket fans. Hope the "bowler" continues doing so!!!!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Ashwin and Ojha- India's new age Bhajji and Kumble!

India has clinched the 3 match test series against West Indies by winning the 2nd test comprehensively by an innings and 15 runs. India posted a massive total in the first innings for the first time since the England series and then bowled out West Indies twice to wrap up the proceedings.  Ashwin and Ojha performed brilliantly in both innings accounting for 10 of the 20 WI wickets. They performed well in the first test at Delhi as well taking a bagful of wickets to give India the victory despite an ordinary batting performance by India. With Harbhajan dropped from the team and Kumble retired 2 years back, Are Ashwin and Ojha towards becoming the new age spin duo of Bhajji and Kumble of the last decade?

Performance in the current series-  If performance in the current series is to go by, Ashwin and Ojha have been simply brilliant. In the first test at Delhi, Ojha picked up 6-72 in the first and 1-37 in the 2nd innings while Ashwin picked up 3-81 in the first and 6-47 in the 2nd innings with the spinners taking 16 of the 20 wickets on a deteriorating pitch. In the 2nd test at Kolkata, Ojha picked up 4-64 in the first and 2-104 in the 2nd innings while Ashwin picked up 2-49 in first and 2-137 in the 2nd innings on a good batting track. Ashwin and Ojha have consistently bowled a good line and length and have been successful in stopping the run flow as well as building pressure on the batsman to pick up wickets. It is refreshing to see both of them bowl attacking lines with 4-5 fielders surrounding the batsman. They have picked up wickets at regular intervals and have evoked memories of an Indian spin duo dominating a match at home after almost 3-4 years.

Career stats- Bhajji and Kumble have had a lot of success in their careers. In combination they have broken the spines of the best of batsmen over the last decade. Kumble- India's leading and 3rd on all time wicket takers list has played 132 tests and has taken 619 wickets at an average of 29.65 with a 65.9 strike rate. Bhajji has played 98 tests and has taken 406 wickets at an average of 32.22 with a 68.1 strike rate. While Ashwin has played only 2 tests and has taken 13 wickets at an average of 24.15 with a 47.3 strike rate, Ojha has played in 13 tests and has taken 55 wickets at an average of 35.89 with a 75.5 strike rate. Bhajji and Kumble have iconic careers and it would be difficult to fill their boots. Ashwin and Ojha have a lot of work to do before they can emulate Harbhajan and Kumble's success.

Future- Kumble has retired and Bhajji owing to a loss in form has been dropped. India is looking towards youngsters in the bowling department and so that means Ojha and Ashwin are India's most promising spin prospects. India as a test team has always flourished when it has spinners in top form. From 2007 to 2010 India had a golden period in test cricket and much of this was due to Harbhajan and Kumble's success. Even after Kumble's retirement till the time Bhajji was in top form India flourished. As soon as Bhajji showed signs of decline India succumbed to that big defeat in England. Now once again good performance from Indian spinners, this time Ashwin and Ojha have brought back good times for Indian cricket. In the present scenario, it seems Bhajji would not find a place in India's tour down under this year, so it is important that Ashwin and Ojha are trusted and both respond positively to the trust bestowed so that India once again rise to the top in the Test arena. Both Ashwin and Ojha are good bowlers but their real test would be against Australia in seamer friendly conditions. The future is here and who knows Ashwin and Ojha might well be the new age Harbhajan and Kumble.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Can anyone break Sachin Tendulkar's record?

Sachin Tendulkar has become the first man in world cricket to reach 15,000 runs in test cricket. But at the same time he failed to reach his 100th ton against the West indies in the first test in Delhi though his 76 run innings ensured India easily got home for their first test victory after almost 5 months. Sachin Tendulkar's record is stretching day by day and everytime he comes on to bat some or the other record is smashed by him. Tendulkar was the first man to reach 12k, 13k, and 14k runs in test cricket, has the most centuries in test cricket and the most runs obviously. But can anyone reach his record? Would someone be able to surpass Tendulkar's runs or centuries in future? Lets have a look at the possible prospects.

Jacques Kallis-  Kallis is another batsman of the modern contemporary legends and infact one of the all time legends of the game. In allround ability he is no doubt the greatest in the world but in his batting abilities he always has competition with Tendulkar, Ponting and Lara. Kallis' record is phenomenal. He has played 145 tests and scored 11,947 runs at an average of 57.43( Tendulkar's is 56.14) with 40 hundreds(Tendulkar has 51). So is Kallis the man who will break Tendulkar's record? Well in terms of runs and average, he might well be that man. Plus he is 2 years younger than Tendulkar. Lets say tendulkar and Kallis retire at the same age with a 2 year gap. Also lets assume Kallis continues with the same average and plays 10 tests a year. So in 2 years he will get about 2000 runs. But Tendulkar would still be ahead by about a 1000 runs. So either he would have to play another year to surpass him or score with an average of      about 75 to get there in 2 years. So maybe Tendulkar's most runs record looks safe. But what about the tons record considering Kallis is only 11 behind Tendulkar's 51 tons. Kallis has scored 16 hundreds in the last 5 years. So at an average he hits 3-4 hundreds per year. So in 2 years he will score about 7-8 hundreds and still be 3 hundreds behind Tendulkar. But Kallis is improving day by day and an extra year or an improved performance might help him to surpass Tendulkar's century record. So Kallis' chances of reaching tendulkar are pretty slim but yet possible if there is a stark improvement.

Ricky Ponting-  Ricky Ponting is another modern legend who has a chance of matching up to Tendulkar. He has played 154 tests and scored 12,487 runs at an average of 53.13 with 39 hundreds. He is 1.5 years younger than Tendulkar but he has often said he wants to play the 2013 ashes so he would play for another 2 years. At this average he would reach about 14,500 runs and still be short of Tendulkar. But he has seen a dip of form lately and after losing the captaincy and seeing Australia's recent decline Ponting has been a bit scratchy. He has not scored a hundred in the past 22 months. He has scored only 8 hundreds in the past 5 years and at this rate he would definitely not reach Tendulkar's 51 tons. Seeing Ponting's current situation he does n't seem to catch up tendulkar on the record front but being the man he is, you never know, a purple patch might see him threatening Tendulkar's numero uno position again.

An impressive youngster- Apart from these legends, there is another man who can surpass Tendulkar. And that man is the hypothetical future great test batsman who will score tons of runs for his country. But would he still be able to reach Tendulkar? Tendulkar started his career very early at the age of 16. But nowadays careers begin not earlier than a player's 18th birthday. Lets say that great player starts his career at 18 years of age. He scores at a phenomenal yet realistic average of 60 in tests. And he plays 8 tests a year and approximately 15 innings. But considering injuries lets reduce his innings per year to about 12. So this way he can score 15000 runs in 21 years, i.e. till an age of 39 years. That goes on to show how tough it would be to reach Tendulkar's record.

Thus I feel probably only Kallis has a slight chance of reaching Tendulkar because he is the closest with a little bit of age on his side and form too. While the hypothetical player might never reach there because test cricket's popularity is dwindling day by day among youngsters and that great hypothetical player might never get to play sufficient number of tests even if he wanted to. Cricket is becoming commercial day by day and who knows as test cricket becomes more and more extinct, Sachin Tendulkar's record might stay forever.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Varun Aaron Or Umesh Yadav?

As India gear up for the 3 match test series against West Indies starting 6 November at Delhi, the Indian team looks more or less set with no major choices to make in the batting order. But in the bowling attack, there is a dilemma. Most probably India with go with 4 bowlers. And since there are 3 pace bowlers and 3 spinners in the squad, thus India would most probably go with 2 spinners and 2 pacers. the 2 spinners would likely be Ashwin and Ojha. It is highly unlikely that uncapped Rahul Sharma would be given the nod ahead of Ojha. While among the 2 pace bowlers, Ishant Sharma's place is set considering his experience and decent performance in the West Indies. So that leaves the team management with the dilemma. Who to play- Umesh Yadav or Varun Aaron? Both are fast bowlers and can clock speeds of 140 kmph and above regularly.

Umesh Yadav- Umesh Yadav has played only 6 matches so far in his career and that too all one dayers. He has taken 5 wickets at an average of 56.4 with a 54.4 strike rate. His best was 2/32 against England. His economy rate is 6.22. He played in the first 3 matches of India's home series against England recently and dropped thereafter. Since the international career does n't have much to show thus we move onto his domestic performance. He plays for Vidarbha in the Ranji.  In 20 first class matches he has taken 69 wickets at an average of 25.91 with strike rate of 49.1. His best performance was 7/74 in an innings and has 4 5-wicket hauls and 2 4-wicket hauls. There is no doubt that Umesh Yadav has speed but his performance against England was not up to the mark. He was found lacking in line and length and had less variation. But his speed can be a great asset and if he improves his game, he has the potential to be India's "real" fast bowler.

Varun Aaron- Varun Aaron's international career is very short, infact shorter than even Yadav's. He has played only 2 ODI's in his career, that too all against England. He has taken 4 wickets at an average of 10.75 with a 13.7 strike rate and an economy rate of 4.69. His best was 3/24. He played in the last 2 matches of India's home ODI series against England. Moving on to his domestic career, he plays for Delhi in the Ranji. He has played 12 first class matches and has taken 26 wickets at an average of 41 with a 77.2 strike rate. His best is 5/17 in an innings with only a single 5 wicket haul to show. Varun Aaron too has speed and his performance against England in the 2 matches was pretty good. Out of the 4 wickets he has taken , 3 were bowled off quick yorkers which was a very refreshing and rare sight to see especially with Indian bowlers. In his short career, he has shown potential. But his performance in the domestic circuit has been sultry. And he has also been pretty expensive in the IPL.

So who should be picked in the team for the first test? Well considering the short international career Varun  Aaron has been better than Umesh Yadav but the domestic performance sees a reversal with Yadav better then Aaron. But I would still go with Varon Aaron simply because his recent INTERNATIONAL performance was better than Yadav and he bowls yorkers and can variate his line and length more than Yadav. Both are fast bowlers with high speeds but for the first test i think Aaron should be given the chance. If he performs badly, then in the 3rd test Umesh Yadav can be given a chance too. The decision is with the team management. Lets see who they pick...

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Kumar Sangakkara- An Unsung Legend

Sri Lanka's former skipper Kumar Sangakkara batted out of his skin to save Sri Lanka from a humiliating defeat against Pakistan. Sangakkara scored a double ton to help Sri Lanka salvage a draw from the worst of situations of test match cricket. Pakistan scored a mammoth 511 in reply to Lanka's 197 and then Sri Lanka scored 483 runs courtesy Sanga's double ton to secure the draw. Sangakkara's 211 run innings showed his character and showed that among Tendulkar, Ponting and Kallis even his name deserves a special mention. He is Sri Lanka's ultimate unsung legend.

Sangakkara has been one of Sri Lanka's greatest batting assets for the past 11 years. His performances in both tests and one dayers have been phenomenal. Lanka's Wicket keeper batsman has an amazing record to his name. The 101 test veteran has scored 8864 runs at an average of 56.45 with a strike rate of 54.82. He has 26 centuries and 36 half centuries to his name and a best of 287. He bats at number 3 and has an impeccable batting technique. The stylish left hander has been performing consistently for Sri Lanka for the past 10 years and has been one of the main reasons for Sri Lanka's ascent to the top teams in the last decade. He is that kind of a player who keeps hitting the purple patch now and then and comes to the rescue whenever the team requires him.

Sangakkara has many a times saved Sri Lanka from defeats by playing out of his skin. The recent innings against Pakistan and the one against England this June where in a similar situation he scored a hundred in the 2nd innings to help Lanka secure a draw clearly show his resilience and focus. Sri Lanka was always considered a force at home but minnows outside. But what is startling about Sangakkara is his performance away from home. In 43 tests away from home he has scored 3713 runs at an average of 50.17 with 10 hundreds. that shows he is the same regardless of the venue. Also he averages 71 in matches Sri Lanka has won. Also another feature of his is his performance in the 3rd or 4th innings of a test match. In the 3rd or 4th innings he has scored 3341 runs at an average of 54.77 which is quite comparable to his overall average of 56! Also 11 of his 26 hundreds have come in the 3rd or 4th innings!

Then why is such a great player not included in the list of contemporary legends. Whenever we talk about great test batsman of modern era, we talk about Tendulkar, Ponting, Kallis, Lara or Dravid but nobody says Sangakkara. Even in Sri Lanka people worship Ranatunga, Jayasuriya or Murali but Sangakkara's contribution is often ignored. The man has consistently scored runs for Sri Lanka and deserves to be mentioned alongside Tendulkar, Ponting and others. Infact he is one of the major contributors to Sri Lankan cricket and also world cricket. Sri Lankan team is heavily dependent on his services and alongwith Jayawardene he is the pillar of Sri Lankan middle order. Its time to include one more man among the contemporary legends. KUMAR SANGAKKARA!!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Kohli- The Next Tendulkar?

India have beaten England in the 2nd ODI and that too comprehensively. Chasing 238, India lost just 2 wickets and romped home with about 13 overs to spare. Kohli and Gambhir(Delhi guys) guided India to this victory in Delhi. Kohli scored an 89 ball hundred while Gambhir supported equally well with an 84 run innings. But one thing is certain, Kohli has cemented his place amongst the Indian batting mainstays at the moment. He has scored 7 hundreds in his 60 odd one day career. Is he on way to becoming the next Tendulkar or is it too early to talk about this?

Game- Talking about his game, no one can deny that his game is top notch. Kohli has stormed into the top batsmen very very early in his career and walked ahead of many young, talented but more experienced players to play in India's successful 2011 WC campaign. He bats at no. 4 in ODI's and has the right kind of game that is required in a one day game. His game is pretty much like Tendulkar's  who hits boundaries and also runs hard between the wickets. His career so far has been near perfect with runs and centuries coming regularly. He has now become one of the pillars of Indian middle order and you can trust him to stay on in difficult conditions. He plays shots all around the park. He pulls well, cuts well and drives frequently. He can hit sixes as well and can accelerate when required. Kohli has this quality of molding his game easily according to the situation. He has no major weakness for any type of bowling or any type of pitch. He focuses on finishing the game rather than throwing it off like in the one dayer against England yesterday. The fact that he flourished in India's last 2 losing ODI campaigns, one in South Africa and the other in England clearly show his potential.On this basis he clearly matches up with the best and might as well go on to become the next Tendulkar.

Numbers- Kohli has played 66 ODI's and has scored 2496 runs at an excellent average of 45.38 with a nice strike rate of 82.70. Kohli has 7 hundreds and 16 half centuries to his name. Comparing with Tendulkar, the average certainly matches up though it would be unfair to compare Tendulkar's 45 average in over 450 matches to Kohli's 66 match average but Tendulkar had a less average at this point of time in his career. Considering Kohli's average currently if he goes on to play the same no. of matches as Tendulkar he will go on to score 20,000 runs which will place him ahead of Tendulkar but it is too early to compare such a short career with Tendulkar's long consistent career. But again Kohli has certainly got the potential to become an all time legend if he continues playing the way he is playing today and is not marred by a severe injury.

Personality-  Kohli has got a dynamic personality and a nice on and off field conduct. Kohli has the right kind of aggression required and at the same time keeps his cool and behaves well socially which make him a good sportsperson. Kohli has got nice looks(no concern with playing ability) and is poised to have a good advertising career like Tendulkar(again no concern with the game). He has also captained the Bangalore Royal Challengers and can be India's future captain. So all in all Kohli has got all qualities to make him the next Tendulkar. But he still has a long way to go particularly in test matches where he performed poorly against a relatively weaker West Indies team and has a little tendency of playing rash shots at important junctures.

Its for time to tell whether Kohli actually goes on to become a player of Tendulkar's level.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

New powerplay rule promises run feast!

India have beaten England in the first ODI yesterday in Hyderabad by 126 runs. Yesterday was also the day when the new ICC rule of having the batting and bowling powerplays necessarily between the 15th and 40th overs was applied for the first time. Result- the rule completely favoured the batsmen. India scored 300 runs and half of those runs came in the last 15 overs including the powerplay overs of 35-40. So does the rule tilt the game more and more in batsmen's favour or is it a nice rule to make the captain think even more or is it a mere crowd pulling strategy to save ODI cricket? Lets checkout the implications of the rule.

1. Run Fest rule- This rule does one thing for sure. It favours the batting team and promises sixes and fours in the ending overs. Powerplays are meant to favour batsmen so that runs are scored quickly. But the new rule says that apart from the first 10 mandatory powerplay overs, the rest 2 have to be taken in between the 15th and 40th overs. The bowling team earlier used to get rid of the  bowling powerplay as soon as the mandatory one ended unless too many runs were scored in the first one while the batting team used to take it in the last 10 overs to hit as many runs as possible. But now the new rule means that the bowling team would have to risk the powerplay at times when batsmen are set and raring to go. For the batting team it would be an extension to the overs they virtually have to hit mercilessly. The last 10 overs are always more or less powerplays for the batting team. Add to that the first 10 and the 10 in the middle. So effectively 30 high scoring overs are expected in each match. This was clearly visible in the India-England match. India were 150-4 at 35 overs.India took the powerplay and in the next 15 overs 150 more runs were added. Had the rule not been there India would have taken it after the 40th over most probably and maybe so many runs would not have been scored. So the game has turned more hostile for the bowlers.

2. Think skipper think- This rule has also made captaincy tougher. The skipper's decision has become very important in taking the powerplays. Earlier 9 out of 10 times the bowling skipper took the bowling powerplay immediately after the 10th over and got rid of it. But now he has to think when to take it after the 15th over. He cannot take it straightaway after the 15th over if the batsmen are set. He would have to take it at an appropriate time and also he would have to bowl his best bowlers at that time and maybe that might lead to dearth of good bowlers in the ending overs. So the skipper has to take all that into account. Same holds for the batting team. They can't just simply take it in the last 5-10 overs and hit the ball all around the park. He would have to take it at a time when the batsmen are set while the wickets are in hand and also the best bowlers would be in operation so maybe they might lose wickets and not score much runs in the ending overs. Thus the rule makes the game more strategic and interesting.

3. Crowd puller rule- Well this is the reason why ICC has implemented this rule. ODI's are fast losing popularity to T20 cricket. To make them interesting i.e. to incorporate more sixes and fours and wickets in the game the rule was made so that high scoring games become more frequent than ever. The India-England game showed that even after a slow and sloppy start, a team can get to 300 runs courtesy the new powerplay rule. It surely would pull the crowds but then this is bound to have serious impact on bowlers as the game is turning more and more into a batsman's game.

It is for the fans to decide, which is better? The old powerplay rule or the new one?? 

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Can India beat England?

The one day series between India and England is due to start in 2 days time with India as hosts this time. The series is being touted as a "Revenge" series by all the Indian cricket fans. Before this series, India toured England where they lost all the matches they played in all the formats and were humiliated by the English team. Indians lost the no. 1 ranking in tests and were displaced from the no. 2 ranking in ODI's. So this series becomes all the more important to the Indian players and fans alike. The 5 match one day series starts on 14 October at Hyderabad. But can India actually take revenge from the English and beat them? Which factors favor them and which do not?

Venue- This is the biggest favorable factor for the Indian team and the reason why most people believe India can beat England in the series. The Indian team becomes an all-together different team when India is the venue. They have been playing non-stop cricket at home for the past 2 years. They played the ODI world cup in 2011(which they won), the IPL and the Champions league T20. Grounds in India are small and the boundaries even smaller with slow and low pitches. These are conditions tailor-made for Indian batsmen who simply love playing here. Also the bowlers have become habitual in bowling in these conditions and Indian spinners will come into play. On the other hand the English batsmen will find it a little difficult to adjust to these slow pitches from the seaming and lively pitches in England. Their bowlers are expected to struggle in India's "non bowler friendly" pitches.

Team- India's team is still not full strength and as many as 5-6 top choice players are facing injuries. Thus this might prove to be India's undoing in the upcoming series. This was the same reason why India lost the ODI series in England. India will miss Tendulkar, Sehwag, Zaheer, Rohit, Yuvraj and others. The young replacements look good but do not seem to be capable of taking India to victory. They play well in patches but certainly the lack of experience makes them throw the matches at crunch situations which was clearly visible in England. The pitches and conditions might favor the Indians but what can they do when the team itself is not at full strength.

Dhoni- It seems Dhoni has lost the Midas touch he had until a few months ago. Before the disastrous England series, Dhoni won almost every tournament he played in, be it the World cup, no. 1 test ranking, IPL or the champions league. But since 3 months, he has lost the no. 1 test ranking, no. 2 ODI ranking, succumbed to first test series loss and failed to make even the semis in the CLT20 with his dear Chennai Super Kings.. He looks badly fatigued and out of form. His body and mind clearly need rest. He was given rest for just the ODI series in West indies and before and after that he has been playing non-stop cricket. Even the luck seems to be turning its face away from him. Nowadays his keeping skills and his decisions on the field are also being criticized. In such a situation how can a team do well. Dhoni definitely needs rest and in this condition an Indian win looks highly unlikely.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Why Champions League T20 is a flop?

The Champions League T20 2011 is in its final leg with the knockout stage to go. The tournament was no doubt full of nail biting finishes with wickets tumbling at the last moments or batsmen hitting a six off the last delivery to seal the match but what has been shocking is to see the CLT20 still facing empty stands in the most cricket crazy country in the world. So what actually makes Champions League T20 a big flop?

1. Too much of India- This is the prime reason that I believe makes Champions league T20 a flop amongst the global audiences. Almost everything in CLT20 involves India. From sponsors, venue, advertising to teams and players, everything banks on India. Out of the 3 Champions league tournaments held so far, 2 have been in India while the first one in 2009 was in South Africa that too because it was election time in India. I don't know why the T20 competition involving the world is always held in a single country. Also the Indian teams in the tournament have been increasing from 2 to 4 across the 3 seasons. Each season saw an additional Indian team added and the new season proved to be an even bigger flop than the last one. All the focus is on India to bank upon the cricket popularity in India but in this the basic character of the tournament is lost. But CLT20 being a flop in India is mainly due to the second reason.

2. Cricket Overdose- India is continuously playing cricket throughout the year be it International cricket or IPL. Indian fans seem tired of watching the same cricketers playing again and again. There is no dip in viewership of India's international matches against the major teams while IPL is always awaited as March to May is usually a big off season in Indian cricket. In all this Champions League T20 suffers as by this time fans are actually bored of domestic T20 cricket. The reason for poor response to CLT20 is thus India's packed International calendar.

3. Similarity with IPL- Another reason why people are not much interested in Champions league is that there does not seem to be much difference between IPL and CLT20. Even though obviously the basis of the 2 tournaments is completely different with one being India's domestic T20 championship while the other a world domestic T20 championship but with 4 IPL teams in CLT20 and venue being India with Indian sponsors and India centric approach it seems pretty similar to the IPL. Other countries are mostly ignored.. This year's tournament had 4 IPL teams, 2 teams from South Africa and Australia each and 1 each from West indies and England. Where is the world in the world championship of domestic T20 cricket? There is no Pakistan, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. Why is all the focus on just 1 country? 40% of the tournament is IPL and why would an average Indian fan waste his time on "IPL" twice a year.

4. Dominance of Sponsors- The sponsors have made the cricket tournament more like a business where decisions are based more on money than cricket. The venue is India because the sponsors think its only in India mad cricket crazy fans would spend their money on these matches. They are responsible for increasing the no. of IPL teams each year as they think IPL teams will bring in more money and viewership. This year's IPL had the play off system where the 3 teams for CLT20 were clearly decided eliminating the need for a third place match but then a 4th IPL team KKR was suddenly given a chance to feature in the CLT20. Why? Because this year NOKIA was one of the sponsors and also the main sponsor of KKR and thus influencing the tournament authority to incorporate their team too to maximize profit. That is why this tournament is an overdose of India, there is less focus on cricket and the world and the tournament is a big FLOP.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

So Why did India lose in England?

India's misery in England has come to an end and India lost against England in all formats of the game. This is the same team which was no.1 2 months ago and won the ODI world cup 2011 in April. So how can the players forget to play well in a month or 2? Here are the main reasons why India lost in England and that too so badly.

Injuries- India were rocked with 9-10 injuries on this England tour and that is one of the main reasons why India lost. India's top choice players Zaheer, Tendulkar, Gambhir, Sehwag, Praveen, Ishant, Harbhajan, Rohit all got injured and left India with a second or a third string team to face England even worse than the one which faced West Indies in June. India did not have openers, middle order batsmen were injured and their main bowlers were limping. turn by turn in tests, T20 and ODI's players kept getting injured leaving India with lesser and lesser top players. How could we then expect them to beat a top class English side. Add to that India's bad luck Why so many injuries happened are very much connected with the next reason.

Hectic Schedule- Many people disagree on this saying players all over the world have to cope with this or they could have taken rest anytime but that is easier said than done. In December-February, India were busy in the grueling tour to South Africa where they did well. Then 15 days later the biggest mental and physical challenge came in the form of the ODI world cup and that too at home. The 40 day extravaganza took heavy toll on most of the players mind and body. They won it by the way. After that happened the cruelest thing to them. They did not get any TIME to CELEBRATE the hard earned victory as 5 days later their IPL contracts came to life with another 45 days of non stop cricket expected from them. I am not gonna get into the country-club debate right now but IPL was really tiresome for the players. Result- Most of the players picked up minor niggles here and there. Though many took rest during the West indies tour, it was not enough as they had to gear up for another big test against a very strong England side.

Below Par Bench Strength- In the middle of so many injuries, time had come for India's bench strength to be tested. And they reacted awfully. Replacements for injured players gave unsatisfactory performance as it came to everyone's notice that India lacks apt replacements. Sehwag's replacement was Mukund who could not manage much more than a fifty. As Gambhir got Injured, there was no spare opener so Dravid(India's best batsman on tour) had to sacrifice his no. 3 position for the opening slot. One spot in the middle order was uncertain and both Yuvraj and Raina could not do justice to it. Pujara did well in that spot in South Africa but he was injured too. And bowlers were pathetic. India could not find a replacement for Zaheer Khan throughout the tour and can't still. If they could have played a decent bowler in place of Zaheer in Trent Bridge test, the result might have been different. Harbhajan was replaced by Mishra who did nothing better than giving easy runs to English batsmen. In ODI's absence of Praveen Kumar brought in Vinay Kumar who also disappointed. And one question remained unanswered. Why was Varon Aaron given just a single chance?

Zaheer- Well thats another big reason why India lost both the tests and the one dayers. Zaheer played the first test and bowled 14 overs and even picked up the English openers' wickets but then limped off the field and did not come back in the whole tour. If he would have been there India could have challenged England in the first 2 tests atleats. India did take wickets but let England off with the old ball again and again. Zaheer would definitely had posed problems with the old ball if he was present. In the ODI's too India required Zaheer badly many a times but there was no one who could fill his boots. India's ascent to the number one slot in tests and the World cup victory cannot be imagined without Zaheer. So how could India win this time without him against a strong side like England. India needs to preserve him as he is getting older and also need to find an apt replacement for him as soon as possible.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Good Bye Dravid

Dravid is now officially unavailable for selection in India's ODI and T20 team as he has announced retirement from limited overs cricket. He had already made the decision when he was surprisingly selected in the ODI and T20 team in the England tour. Even though his presence made almost no difference as India lost both the T20 and ODI's but certainly the great team man was there whenever India needed him.

Dravid was always considered as a test player who could not play ODI's. Infact whenever he played the ODI's nobody remembered those innings when he saved India, all people remembered was how slowly he got his runs. Though he actually got them slowly but then why did you select him in the first place if you think he is not suitable for limited overs cricket. Who knew at that time that this non-six hitting guy would go on to play 344 ODI's and score in excess of 10K runs.

Dravid, India's former skipper, played 344 ODI's in his career scoring 10889 runs at an average of 39.16 with a decent(well a little less improved from his 90's days) strike rate of 71.24 with 83 half centuries and 12 centuries. And boy he did hit 42 sixes in his career. Who says he does n't hit sixes. And he has done some bowling too. He has bowled 32 overs spanning over 8 innings of his career and has taken 4 wickets with best being 2/43 against South Africa where he picked up the wickets of Gibbs and Kirsten. And his bowling economy rate is 5.48 which is not very bad as compared to India's current batch of bowlers. In the all time run getters list in ODI's he is at the 7th position ahead of Lara and Gilchrist. Meanwhile he also retired from T20's though he played only 1 and that too recently where he scored 31 runs in 21 balls hitting 3 towering sixes. Certainly in the lone T20 match he showed his 6 hitting skills again.

Dravid had his golden period in 1999-2004 and in 2005 he was made India's skipper. So the man who was considered unnecessary in ODI's has led the team when it was in a  turmoil after Ganguly was stripped off his captaincy in controversial circumstances. Dravid is given opportunity only when no option is left. Such has been the treatment of the great man throughout his career. In the 2003 world cup India wanted to play an extra batsman in place of a regular keeper. So who would keep wickets? It was again Dravid whether he liked it or not. Such has been the nature of the great man.

While numbers say that his ODI career was great. But he was mistreated by the team management time and again. He was always dropped for not being fit for limited overs cricket and then was called back whenever the team was in trouble on bouncing and seaming tracks of South Africa or England. As soon as the team returned to the sub-continent he was ignored. But inspite of all this he batted well and played a lot of games and is one of the greats of the ODI game. In his last match he did well for India once more as he hit 69 valuable runs but given the current state of the Indian team, even this effort went futile as England defeated India once more. The team for which this man sacrificed so much could not even gift him a win in his last appearance. I am happy he has retired now gracefully and now the team cannot drop him unfairly. Thankfully his services are still available for test cricket. Wonder who they will bring back now when the  Indian ODI team is in trouble. Laxman???

Thursday, 15 September 2011

3 captain strategy for India

England has defeated India in all the 3 formats of the game in this summer's India's tour to England. England started with a much debatable 3 different captains in 3 different formats strategy and have triumphed with it. Strauss in tests, Cook in ODI and Broad in T20 have led well and have taken their respective teams to victories. So what if India also go in with a similar strategy? Who would be the 3 Captains for India?

Tests- In the long format, I would prefer to retain Dhoni as the skipper simply because he does n't deserve to be stripped off the test captaincy only after 1 disastrous series having won India many series before and also because of the fact that there is no one else who can lead in tests. Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman have n't got age on their side while Gambhir, Zaheer and Sehwag are not test captain material. The rest are too young to be given the responsibility. Dhoni has command and respect over the team so he should continue leading the test team. Zaheer or Sehwag can be made the vice captains as they are experienced enough to be the second men in charge.

ODI's- The skipper in this format has to be experienced as well as young. While Dhoni has both the qualities but since we have to relieve him , thus the new skipper should be Gautam Gambhir. Gambhir has been India's dependable top order batsman for the past 3 years, has a cool and intelligent head on his shoulders and is young yet experienced. His form has been good for the past 2 years and has a nice experience of leading India to a 5-0 victory over New Zealand in ODI's at home and has led KKR for the first time to the play-offs in IPL 2011. The successful captaincy experience suggests he can take over the reigns from Dhoni for the ODI's while vice captain can be Raina who is IndiĆ”'s future skipper. I would not prefer Yuvraj as captain or vice captain because he is a man who would play well if he is unburdened and free minded. Captaincy just does n't seem to be his area.

T20- After winning the inaugural T20 WC in 2007 in South Africa, India have been pretty poor in T20's with more losses than victories and poor performances in the next 2 World cups. This format needs a change of leadership and the new leader should be Virat Kohli. Virat Kohli is the most promising young player in Indian team right now. His technique, temperament and on-field conduct is brilliant and he is definitely India's future skipper and mainstay batsman. He has experience of playing at the top level being in the world cup winning squad of the WC 2011 and being part of all the high voltage matches. He has also lead the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the absence of Vettori and has led well. But right now T20 captaincy would be enough as it will not burden him too much at such a young age and at the same time would help him groom to be the leader of India's ODI and test team in the future

Monday, 12 September 2011

Luck against India in England

Rain gods snatch away another one dayer from India's hands as they look set to register their first win in the England tour. Really luck has totally eluded India on this tour with everything going against them. All the glory India collected in the past 4-5 years in all the formats of the game is being lost very quickly in England. While not all of this can be attributed to luck but there have been many instances where luck spoiled the party.

1. ODI losses- The first and the fourth ODI of the India-England series could have been won by India but instead ended up as a no result match. The first ODI saw an inspired performance by the Indians after the drubbing in tests as they put up 274 runs on the board and had England in trouble at 27-2 but then the rain came down and the match was abandoned. The fourth one dayer saw another good performance by the Indian batters as they scored 280 runs. The match went down to the wire with England at 270-8 needing 11 runs off 7 balls. The rain came again and the Duckworth-Lewis method ensured that this time the match if not abandoned was tied. Again India were robbed off a potential win.A run less could have given the win to India but luck doesn't seem to love India much on this tour.

2. Trent bridge Test- After the loss in the first test at Lords, India came back strongly in the 2nd as they had England down at 124-8. But then Stuart Broad and Swann took the attack on India. They played wild aerial shots which on any other day could have landed in the fielder's hands but that day they all ended up in no man's land as England reached 221 which on a seaming pitch was enough to beat India. The next 2 tests were forgettable as India lost all 4 tests. Luck again was not on India's side.

3. Injuries- This can be blamed on the IPL and the busy schedule or player's fitness but injuries to so many players at the same time is definitely not a common phenomenon. The list includes Tendulkar, Yuvraj, Zaheer, Gambhir, Sehwag, Harbhajan, Rohit and not all of them picked up niggles, cramps or tears. Gambhir fell down taking a catch on his head while Rohit got hit on his finger. Tendulkar's old toe injury had to show up only when he was in England while Zaheer broke down just before the all important England series. All the injuries together have seriously hampered India's chances against England. That is one of the reasons why India has lost every match against England. Luck certainly is not on India's side.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Zimbabwe-Minnows on the Rise

The lone test between Zimbabwe and Pakistan concluded recently as Pakistan defeated Zimbabwe by 7 wickets. While the margin suggests that it was a very easy win for Pakistan but Pakistan had to work hard for this win against Zimbabwe. And what is certain is that there is a vast level of improvement in the Zimbabwe team.

The win wasn't easy for Pakistan as the match went on for 5 days with Zimbabwe scoring in excess of 400 in the first innings and letting Pakistan take a lead of only 54 runs. One of their players Mawoyo even scored a big hundred(163). The fight went longer than most of the India-England test matches this summer. The fact that they collapsed in the 2nd innings shows their inexperience which can certainly be improved upon if they play more such matches. They last month played a test against Bangladesh too which was their first test after 6 years(the last one being vs India in 2005) and they won it comfortably by 130 runs. The 5 match one day series against Bangladesh was won 3-2 with Zimbabwe winning the first 3 matches. In the past 2-3 years everyone had been talking about the rise of Bangladesh and their prospects of becoming a strong team. But the sudden rise of Zimbabwe has surprised everyone. They were in an exile for 6 years in test cricket and have returned with a bang winning the one test against Bangladesh and losing but fighting it out in another test against Pakistan.

Zimbabwe had always been the strong minnows who troubled teams and did not lose easily. But political turmoil in the country saw several top players retiring together leaving the team in a mess. Zimbabwe declined while Bangladesh went from strength to strength. But the talent was always there. The fight of black and white did not let the real talent come out. but as the problems receded, the quality came out which is visible today. It seems that during the exile years the whole country's cricketers worked hard so that once they came back, they would show everybody their capabilities. They have some very good players like Masakadza, Taylor, Ervine, the experienced Taibu, Ray Price, Mpofu and others. They are players who need matches, who need good teams to come to their country, who need to go and play with the top teams and support from ICC to transform Zimbabwe from the minnows to a top ranked side. Remember even India, Sri Lanka etc were minnows before they set the world ablaze with their game. They were able to do so because they regularly played in the top league. Young talent is coming in the Zimbabwe team and players are capable of scoring centuries and taking wickets and playing the long format of the game.

While they have performed well against the 2 teams, lets hope they continue doing so after all cricket needs more countries than just the 8 or 9 top teams. ICC needs to stop giving only Bangladesh regular tours with the top teams. Teams like Zimbabwe and even Ireland demand similar treatment. Zimbabwe is back and ready to fight with the world. The Minnows are certainly on the rise.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

DRS inaccurate again!

Rahul Dravid was given out in controversial circumstances in the 1st one dayer between India and England at Chester-le-street today. On a delivery bowled by Stuart Broad, Dravid poked and there was a noise and much noisier appeal by the English team but was turned down by the umpire. Broad asked for the review immediately. What happened afterwards was baffling to say the least.

To review a knick, as obviously hot spot was used first but it did not show any sign of hitting the bat. Everyone thought Dravid had survived. But then the 3rd umpire decided to have a look at the snickometer and well it did catch a sound when the bat was close to the ball. Now 2 technologies were leading to 2 different decisions but sadly(being an Indian fan) the snickometer was trusted more. Now this raises serious questions on DRS and particularly the effectiveness of even hot spot. The rules are not there to tell what the umpire has to do if 2 technologies do not agree on each other's decision. As soon as everyone specified problems with hawkeye and banned it and trusted hot spot to be highly accurate, problems have come up in accuracy of even hot spot. Earlier in the test series between India and England, Laxman was given not out as the hot spot did not detect anything but allegations were made as to may be he had applied vaseline to the bat etc. etc. just because there was a sound and no one was sure where it came from. And then this decision. In the Laxman case, the snickometer would have suggested there was an edge but Laxman denied it and being the gentleman he is, he cannot be mistrusted. Same could be said about Dravid. A clear edge would have made him walk off the field even before the final decision would have been made.

So which technology should be believed. Hot spot or snickometer? To my opinion, I find hot spot much more reliable than snickometer. Snicko catches sound but it is not clear whether the origin of the sound is actually ball hitting the bat or a brush of the batsman's feet or something else. While hot spot has its share of problems too with it being inconclusive on faint edges and the fact that the shiny smooth stickers on the bat might make its job tougher. But on a whole hot spot is definitely more reliable than snickometer. Snicko can add on to the hot spot's prediction but cannot be used in isolation. But what all that comes down to is that the DRS on the whole has been found incapable of correctly correcting decisions. Rahul Dravid's dismissal was bizarre whether he edged it or not and that means DRS still needs vast levels of improvement. The technology is just not up there to review the marginal decisions. Earlier everybody thought that only LBW decisions command controversy and caught behind decisions would not create such stir and reviews would be peaceful. But that has not happened.

Controversy and inaccuracy lead to hawkeye's ban, so would even hot spot be put off the DRS list? But then why should DRS exist at all if all its technologies are banned one by one? It was a lot easier to accept human errors than such technological errors. The DRS debate continues.