Monday, 29 August 2011

5 things India needs to do

After the humiliating 4-0 drubbing of India at the hands of the English cricket team, Players, support staff and board members are running helter skelter to hide their faces. Nobody knows exactly what happened to the no. 1 team with champion players in a month. Everybody is keen to know what steps India should undertake to regain their position and repair their system to build a champion team once again. I hereby list 5 things India must do to be a good test team again.

1.  Remove politicians from BCCI- Board of control for cricket in India, this essentially should be a cricket body run by people involved with cricket at present or in the past but what we get is a business firm run by money-hungry politicians treating its cricketers like mere machines. I mean how can people who know nothing about cricket decide what is good for players and what is not. They have no knowledge of what goes on in a cricket field, how tired a player feels after a tournament, how matches must be scheduled to give rest to players and how the National cricket academy must be run. They only know how to make money out of everything. Its time the BCCI is run by former players or coaches who have played cricket and know what is actually good for a player. they are the ones who know what goes on in a cricketer's life. they would then be able to take efficient decisions about cricket. Until then Indian players would keep playing series after series and India would continue getting whitewashed again and again.

2. Quality Coaches and Physios- This is one area where India needs to improve in both domestic as well as international cricket. Players these days hide injuries and play far too many matches than their capacity and aggravate injuries. Quality Physios are required that look after a player and provide rest to the player as soon as even a minor niggle comes along. BCCI has got more than enough money so its not a problem to hire quality physios. Coaches are required at the various academies that cater to a particular type of players and help nurture their talent. Like a bowler should be treated like a bowler and should not be asked to bat or cut down on pace or anything like that. Those things can be done once he is ready for the international team. This can be done only if quality coaches are available in every state cricket team. there should be different coaches for batting, bowling and even fielding. The national Cricket academy has become a joke and money has to be spent to ensure it actually looks like a cricket school where you can learn techniques and start from the scratch. Once again money is no problem so this can be done easily.

3. County stints- In the series against England our top choice players like RP Singh, Sreesanth, Raina, Mukund were found wanting against conditions different from home. Bowlers did n't know how to bowl in bowling friendly conditions while the batsmen were clueless against seam and swing with a little bit of bounce. They all need a stint at county in the free time when they are busy in the IPL or silly reality shows. We all know what a county stint did to Zaheer Khan. these players can gain invaluable experience in the testing conditions and would be fresh and ready to cope with the top international teams. Bowlers specially Sreesanth and RP need to learn how to bowl properly in conditions where there is swing and seam. They would learn to bowl in proper areas while the batsmen like Raina need to  learn to play short balls and the moving balls as quickly as possible. The talent would be wasted if they fail to cope with different conditions. Instead of our faulty domestic cricket or the national cricket academy these players should look to go to county or Australian domestic cricket to fine tune themselves.

4. Rotation of players- Now this is the first thing team management has to learn before they can dream of becoming no. 1 again. Players were injured because the same players were required in all the formats continuously by the Indian team. Add to it the IPL and the ill timed tours like West Indies and what we get is a fatigued team which surrenders meekly to a strong team. India have significant amount of young players who can take each other's position in different series. Every series some or the other player is injured and new selections are made. But the new players keep warming the bench. One chance and a failure and they are gone for years in the waiting. New players need to be given a chance for atleast 1 or 2 series. Regular rotation of fast bowlers and other players would ensure everybody is fit for big series like the one against England.

5. Revamp Domestic Cricket- India's domestic cricket is one of the silliest and boring things ever made. I mean pointless 4 day matches on wickets where keeper gets the ball after 3 bounces, batsmen score 700 runs while the bowlers look on and the team wins on 1st inning leads. This needs immediate attention. Wickets have to be improved considerably and the system needs reforms. Teams winning on first innings lead is unjustified. That makes it a batsman's game and the result is we don't get quality bowlers. Instead points must be awarded according to the team's chances of winning and losing. Whether they can actually chase down a target or take 10 wickets depending on the situation. Money has to be spent on quality soil from abroad so that some pitches become genuinely bouncing and seaming. That will ensure fast bowlers enjoy bowling rather than throwing balls to let batsmen pile on runs. And more than fast bowlers, I think India now lacks quality spinners too. On these wickets they might take wickets but on true pitches abroad, they look like lambs. These wickets make sure neither the batsmen nor the bowlers get enough confidence for international cricket. Domestic cricket experience in India does n't count much for youngsters in international cricket as we have seen players putting up stellar performances in Ranji look clueless in international cricket.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Would England dominate cricket for long?

England has clinched the top spot from India in tests in style sparking off the debate whether they would be the long time dominators like Australia and West Indies or the 4 month dominators like South Africa or maybe the India like dominators, who just manage to dominate for 2 years and are then buried off. Seeing England's recent performance against the previously no. 1 ranked side particularly beating them 3-0 in 3 tests with 1 to go(going England's way again). Their recent ruthless performance in the past 2 years make them look like serious contenders to be the world beaters. But would England really be the same force for a long time?

Well there is no reason as to why they won't be one. They have all their players in their late 20's, at the peak of their forms and apt replacements ready at all time. Players like Cook, Trott, Pietersen, Bell, Morgan and Prior are in top form and look set to decimate bowling attacks for atleast 5-6 years without cries of old age retirement. Their bowlers look fresh and are devastating the best batting orders with ease. Its very hard to find a team that can field 5-6 top priority fast bowlers at the same time. They have Tremlett, Anderson, Broad, Bresnan, Finn and Onions who all are international quality fast bowlers. It was exceptional to see a replacement (Bresnan) for Tremlett troubling the Indians to the same extent if not more than Tremlett would have. They have a top class spinner in their ranks and they bat deep until almost no. 10 and sometimes even 11 considering Anderson is their nightwatchman. You get their batsmen out but still there is no respit as the tail wags everytime. England have got a new found professional attitude where they go around and beat teams ruthlessly. they always try to win the match be it by bold declarations, quick scoring rates or clever field placements. They are this well planned bunch of players who know how to play in almost every situation. They seem to have a nice skipper-coach co-ordination which is doing wonders for the team and most importantly their players know what role they have to perform.

But England have got challengers who would be desperate to bring them down. The first and foremost challenger would be South Africa who are always up there in the ranking but lose important games to remain at no. 2 or 3 only. They were no. 1 for a short period of 4 months in 2009 but were toppled by India. They too have a nice bunch of players with players like De Villiers and Amla the forever performers with the experienced and sublime Kallis. they have the perfect combination of young and old players who back each other well.Their bowling attack is 2nd to none with Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel among the world's best. Steyn is up there in the list of current crop of best fast bowlers. South Africa have this habit of losing out on important opportunities. They have been the statistical no. 1 but its time when they should look to win all their games and storm to the top of the rankings. They have got the team, they have got the charisma, i don't know what separates them from glory.

Australia can also be never looked down with a strong domestic system and fast bowling talent. But they have been seriously bruised by the sudden retirement of all those players who were world beaters for over a decade. they have not quite recovered and apt replacement batters have not yet come. The team depends on Ponting, Hussey and Clarke with Watson at the top. Rest all players are uncertain and the fact that they have not yet found a good spinner after Warne remains their biggest problem. Their fast bowling unit is decent but not of the quality it used to be. But they still have got the armour to challenge the English. After all you can never count out the bruised old lion.

Another challenger I feel would be India. Inspite of what all has happened to them in this series, I think this might act as a wake up call to the players.I mean after tasting 20 months of leadership, it does n't feel good to be second to someone. The players cannot forget how to play in just a month. They were plagued with injuries and they did play badly but they can come back. And it all can start from a great home series. The team despite its aging and injury woes can still be the world beater at full strength. But they might not do it for long as replacements for the Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman have not been found yet.

So again would England be no. 1 for a long time? i would say YES but I feel that this time the no.1 position might be juggled between 2-3 teams unlike the Australia and West Indies era. England are great but they have some great challengers who can topple them any time. And well England have not yet proved their mettle in the sub-continent yet. So till then the debate continues.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

India-England series- A Mental Pain

Humiliation for India once more as England win even the third test by an innings and 242 runs. The current India-England series looks more like an Australia-Bangladesh series of the last decade. The India-England series is rather inflicting mental pain and trauma to the loyal Indian fans like me who are in no position to watch India getting beaten and battered everyday by the English. Even though its just a game but the way Indian tam surrendered and lost cannot be ignored.

India had their moments in the first and the second tests but the third test was worse where India did not look convincing in even a single session. Eyes hurt when at Lords India allowed Matt Prior and co to pile on the runs when India had them struggling at 107-6 with a chance to win the test. Depression struck when India surrendered and collapsed from 267-4 to 288 all out in the 2nd test. The chance to push England out of the match was lost and instead India themselves were put under pressure. New lows were hit when in the 2nd test England scored like it was a one day match and notched up 500+ runs in just about a day and a quarter. And the final trauma was given in the 3rd test where India put every foot wrong. India scored only 224 on a normal pitch and allowed England to score 700+ runs to be stripped of their reputation once more. In the midst of all this the fans suffered.

There were mostly 2 scenes that the fans saw in the India-England series. Cheers from the crowd when England hit fours after fours with players scoring hundreds and double hundreds and almost triple hundreds. The other one was the cheers from the crowd whenever Indian wickets fell in a heap. Indian batsmen scored 0's and 1's and 10's while the English bowlers bettered their averages and strike rates. Some took hat-tricks while some cherished their 5 wicket hauls. The Indian fans had little to cheer with just 2 hundreds from Rahul Dravid that too when it was clear India will lose while the lone 5 wicket haul from Praveen came in not so happy conditions. The fans never felt like switching their televisions on as it always showed India's plight. It brought back memories of 1990's when on a tour to Australia, I used to switch on the TV at 6 am only to find India struggling at 65-5 or Australia piling on the runs. The Indian fans suffered a betrayal from the Indian team and the long waits for this big series proved futile as Indian fans get ready for probably more mental pain starting this Thursday.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

India 2-0 England

The title of the post is opposite to what the current scoreline reads in the India-England series going on. But this might be the scoreline when England tours India. Earlier everyone used to say that India are tigers at home but mice overseas. But then India started winning overseas and now we give many examples to say India can not only play but even win overseas. But seeing India's performance in England and their recent performances in the sub-continent, I think the statement has to be modified to say- "India are tigers at subcontinent but mice overseas."

Many would argue saying we won in West Indies, England, New Zealand, drew in South Africa and won a test at the fastest pitch in the world in Australia. But I would like to say that we have received only partial success overseas. When we won in West Indies in 2006, we won just 1 test in a series of 4 and that too against a West Indies side declining seriously not even The West Indies of 1990's, let alone 1980's. The win in England in 2007 was again against an inexperienced and rather confused English side with new inexperienced players and a skipper uncertain about his future. There too we won just 1 test and were set to lose 1 just when the rain gods smiled and saved India.

The New Zealand win came in 2009 against the weakest New Zealand side in years and there too we won only 1 test and in 1 we were on the verge of losing but we batted out of our skins for 5 sessions to save that match at Napier. The South Africa series was probably India's best performance overseas amongst these with India drawing a series against the most lethal fast bowling attack. We lost 1 comprehensively but then came back to win the next one. In the 3rd one we had to save the match which we did courtesy Sachin Tendulkar. But the fact remains we could not beat South Africa. Similar was the case in Australia in 2007-08 where we did win a test but lost the series owing to some unfair means by Australians but then who cares. India lost 2-1.

Cut to subcontinent where we have beaten every single team comprehensively, we have pulled off miraculous wins, the tailenders suddenly rise to the occassion and the bowling looks lethal. Against South Africa in 2008 we wrapped up a test within 3 days thanks to the cracker Kanpur pitch and Harbhajan's turning deliveries. Against New Zealand in 2010 at home Harbhajan scored 2 centuries in difficult times but nothing of that sort is happening here in England. When we beat Australia 2-0 at home Ishant and then Pragyan Ojha against Sri Lanka stood there to guide India to miraculous win with Laxman but they are not showing similar resilience against England. Our seamers bowled out teams at the unresponsive sub-continent pitches but on the helpful English conditions they are not able to take 20 wickets.

Thus there is a strong feeling that India might take their revenge once the English are in the sub-continent. Indian fans don't need to worry. The out of form players would suddenly rediscover their form when they come back to home and might just beat this English side 2-0.

Monday, 8 August 2011

"Why me"- By Dravid

After hearing all about Dravid's surprise selection in the India ODI team for England, some say it was the best move,  some say it was a mistake, I am trying to figure what the man must be feeling about it. Is he embarrassed about it or by announcing his retirement after the series, does he want to try to show the selectors his worth who did not consider him for the ODI format in the series or is he happy playing the Test format only?

"Ah! Again another new responsibility. I have to don India colors in an ODI yet again. I thought I was doing enough for the country in tests. In a way I don't mind donning India colors again but why again after putting me aside 2 years back, after shoving me away 4 years back. This has happened to me all my career. I have been always asked to perform the tough task while the rest remained in their protective backyards. Before the 2003 World cup, my skipper Ganguly told me that we need an extra batsman but at the cost of a keeper. That means somebody not a regular keeper had to keep wickets. As always it was me who was chosen. My love for my team and nation made me practice day and night and well I did not do it that bad. We reached the finals in a very successful world cup. When Saurav lost his captaincy due to some controversies with our coach Chappell and bad form, somebody had to step up and captain a relatively new side torn apart by the controversies. It was me yet again captaining India. Although it was my dream but it was not the best of times but I loved to take it. Then the new players like Raina, Uthappa, Pathan etc had to be encouraged and required to bat at the top. Again it was me who sacrificed my top order position and fit in the role of a finisher. Then when I was not able to play as fast as i was required to, I was thrown out. But did they realize they asked me to curb my defensive game that is apt for no. 3 position to play the role of a finisher. I tried and did well for a while but as soon as I failed all my contributions were forgotten. Then I decided to focus on my real game, Test cricket. But when the team were short of a regular opener It was "only" me who had to sacrifice his favorite no. 3 position, I don't like to open but who cares. In 2009 when India had to play the champions trophy on the bouncy tracks of South Africa, I was called back because they knew my technique was good. But as soon as we got back to the flat lifeless Sub-continent tracks I was ignored again. I felt like I had been used and thrown like cheap trash. And now again when the team is in turmoil on the seaming tracks of England I have been called again. I am happy to contribute to the team once more but I am afraid I might face the same I did in 2009. I am kind of embarrassed to see India in such state. The young players with faulty techniques and inability to play short stuff. I love my nation and would never shy away from sacrificing but then I feel now why. Why can't I be left alone to play gracefully in tests. I have announced my retirement in ODI's after the series but I hope such things never happen in future to other players.  

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

5 reasons for India's loss at Trent Bridge

Ad mist all the hype this series generated particularly being a fight between the top 2 teams, England has emerged clear winner after the first 2 tests with India giving absolutely no competition to a rampaging England. India has lost both the tests comprehensively. Even though they may argue of not having a full strength team, the loopholes can't be ignored and so I try to list 5 reasons for India's loss.

1. England's Wagging Tail- England's tail continued to wag and spoiled Indian bowler's heartiest efforts. India reduced England to 124-8 in the first innings of the 2nd test. But just when India had to do the wrap up work, they allowed Broad to get away and helped them score a decent 221. In the 2nd innings they had England at 339-6 but then yet again the tail wagged again and this time Bresnan took England past 500 when India could have folded them up for 400 odd runs with an achievable target of around 340. Its frustrating when you get the best batsmen out but you just can't take the remaining wickets. It was a result of lackluster bowling and excess experimentation on tailenders and most importantly bad field placements. I mean even if the tailender is smacking a few balls , How can you set your field back knowing that the bowling which got the top order can easily account for the lower order as well.

2. India's Domino Style Batting- This is one of the major reasons why India failed in the 2nd test. In both the innings whenever one wicket fell , 2 followed in quick succession for India. India were placed at 267-4 when they could have stretched the lead to 200 runs or so but as soon as Yuvraj fell Indian batsmen fell like dominoes as India folded for 288. India's old batting nightmares are back as India again stares at repeated batting collapses. We all remember the collapses in the World cup and now in Tests as well. In the 2nd innings we had absolutely no chance as the 5 Indian wickets fell pretty early. Bhajji and Tendulkar showed that it was not that difficult to play the old ball but till then India had no batsman left from the top order. Lack of partnerships was the nemesis for India in the 2nd test.

3. IPL effect on youngsters- In the famed Indian batting line-up there were 3 future test players like Yuvraj, Raina and Mukund. And each one of them showed the limited overs habit in Test Cricket. Mukund on a seaming pitch pushes the ball. Something which you see in T20's. Another example was when Raina was darted with short balls with a deep fine leg. As expected Raina in his IPL habits would hook and thus got caught out at deep fine leg. Indian grounds in IPL are small so maybe he could have got the six there but in test cricket this is not acceptable. Yuvraj was playing expensive drives early on knowing its a test match where there will be 4 slips and a gully so edges would be caught. These 3 cannot hope to tackle test match bowling with these T20 habits.

4. Defensive Field setting- This surprised everyone as Dhoni is known to be an attacking captain who sets attacking fields. But he was completely different this time. When Broad started smashing the ball in the first innings, Dhoni in a very defensive approach decided to keep fielders at boundaries instead of catching positions to stop the flow of runs. How foolish was that considering Broad is a taileneder who could have got out in the slips like the other batsmen. Then in the 2nd innings our dear captain refused to keep a third man and a fine leg despite almost 180-200 runs being scored in that region. Instead he kept fielders at positions like deep backward point and deep square leg. This way neither he could stop the runs flowing off the edges in the 3rd man area nor could the well timed shots off the covers could be stopped. England scored more than 400 runs on the 3rd day. Had the field settings been proper and accurate, India could have stopped England from atleast scoring so many runs.

5. Bruised Leader- Dhoni who has led India to victory in almost every prestigious tournament and who had been India's strength was looking weak. His batting form has dipped to the lowest in his career. His keeping is miserable in the series. His decisions have not paid off. And the team does not look like a champion unit it used to look like. It seems Dhoni's Midas touch  is off for a vacation as every decision continues to backfire. Whenever the team needed him, he disappointed and even behind the stumps he gave away extra runs and spilled important catches. Without the leader leading the way, how could we expect the Indian team to tame the English in their own backyard.