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.