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...