Empty thoughts and mutterings

Friday, January 27, 2012

Stop this retirement madness

After a really bad series like the one we are in, it is critical not to over react. Don't get me wrong - I am saying that we need clear and sure corrective actions but dropping the
wrong player or expediting the wrong player's retirement will also hurt India's recovery process. As Indian cricket fans we are all hurt by how badly we lost this series. Some Ex-players
call for axing of basically all the senior players - without realizing how irresponsible their comments are.

Cricket fans (Indian fans particularly) have the tendency to confuse bad form/technical flaws with aging. Several fans called for Sachin's head when he was going through a rough patch in 2007. Looking back at the past few years - would that have been good for India? - Absolutely not!

I also believe in the Australian way of retirements (for our board in the future). We don't need to squeeze every ounce of cricket from our legends. I think Steve waugh, Mark Taylor, Allan Border etc were good for a few more hundreds when they retired. The board should discuss retirement plans with the player well ahead of time and these plans have to be executed (with all reasonable concessions made). This would also allow the younger cricketers to be groomed in time. All it takes is reasonable long term planning which will prevent us from staring at 3 debuts (or close to it) and 3 retirements in a few months time frame. This medium to long term approach seems to be severely lacking with the committees appointed by BCCI.

The decision to drop legends should be made based on objective comparisons. The fact that a player didn't do well in a series shouldn't automatically lead to a decision to drop him.
For eg: Sachin had a very poor series by his standards - but make no mistake about the fact that he's still the best batsman we have for his position in India.

As for aging criteria - I think it is best judged by how the player moves on the field and his reflexes. Laxman still has signs of his lazy elegance and will still be able to get a few big scores here and there - but he's clearly slowed down on the field (not that he was fast before - but he was at the very least a safe slip fielder). Dravid's reflexes have also started to fail him. Our slip cordon once extremely reliable, is a shadow of what it was.

Dravid's failure this tour in my opinion was due to a new-born technical flaw. In the lifetime of a first class cricketer (even the technically superior ones), you see some technical flaws and bad habits creep in before getting subsequently sorted out. The gap between the bat and pad that Hilfenhaus used to his advantage, was the cause for his bad run. This should not be confused with aging.

Will talk about Dhoni the captain and Dhoni the WK in a separate post.

Ranji Trophy Final

I was glad to catch some action from the Ranji Trophy final between Rajasthan and TN - Thanks BCCI TV. These are some mental notes from the game.

The wicket was not a sporting one not worthy of a first class game let alone a Ranji Final. In a game of this magnitude it's a shame that the toss played a vital part in the final outcome.

That said, Rajasthan seized the opportunity provided to them with both hands. Vineet Saxena was a picture of concentration and to play that long without playing a false shot is testament to the character in the guy.

Aakash chopra played a wonderful supporting role and ensured that TN would have to play out of their skin to even have a shot.

I was very impressed with the batting technique of Robin Bist in both the innings. The Indian selectors I am sure will be taking deeper looks at this guy in the coming months.

3 of the big 4 of TN (Abhinav, Vijay, Badri) did not do enough in this all important game to give TN a chance.In this format, one failure is enough to cost a team the cup.

Dinesh Karthik toiled manfully and it's great to see him do his part to remind the selectors that he can still play.

J.Kaushik seems like a very good prospect for the future. He would do well to focus on keeping the line to outside the off to the off stump. His natural angle seems to take the ball toward middle and leg and good players will take advantage of flaws like those.

Young Aushik srinivas worked hard with decent returns. To bowl 80 overs even for a spinner is a mammoth task and it was good to see him do the task without complaints. He should however look at bowling a little slower and try to beat batsmen in the air.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

What's ailing Indian cricket?

I write this piece right after the Perth test match where India surrendered meekly to Australia to go down 3-0 in the Border-Gavaskar series. While this is clearly one of the low points in the recent past for Indian cricket, it also provides a valuable learning opportunity if the
people in charge look at it as such. While people are carelessly throwing names out to bring under the proverbial axe, it is critical for the think tank to not go berserk and be prudent with a long term vision in their decisions. The bottom line here is to accept the fact that we are really not a good test team. The #1 test team achievement is a thing of the past. And it is OK to not be good. It only serves as an opportunity to go into the rebuilding mode and find ways to be a good team for a long time to come. Here are my thoughts on a few of those decisions.

Virender Sehwag:

No action required. Yes, it is disappointing that he did not come good in 6 innings. But, let's be honest here - no good can come out of asking Viru to bat a certain way. Viru derives his success from his flamboyance and to take that away from him will not be wise. In my opinion, he is a known commodity and we die by the same sword we live by. I dont believe he has lost his ability to decimate opponents. He is just going through a rough patch.

Gautam Gambhir:

Presents an interesting conundrum. The positive is that he has shown intent to stay at the wicket and play a long innings. If only intents were enough. It's still better than not having one, isn't it? His performance down under poses a few questions.

1. Is Gautam Gambhir not as good as his record suggests or is he just going through a lean phase?

GG really is a fantastic opening batsman that has shown tremendous temparament and hunger for runs over the years. His record really is no fluke.
Having said that, his technique absolutely needs to be sorted out to be able to succeed in seaming, bouncy overseas conditions. Watching him play in australia this series, it struck me that his preparation was either not good enough or did not target some critical areas. He has to learn to leave the ball outside off stump with conviction and that comes with targeted preparation. Some of the decisions he made in the series were questionable to say the least.

2. Should he be allowed to go back to domestic cricket and sort out his issues?

I don't think that's going to be a useful exercise - here's why. He will comfortably dominate the weak bowling attacks and be a top performer at the Ranji level. I also think that he will continue to be successful in test series held in the subcontinent and those againt weaker oppositions overseas. Sending him back to Ranji will not address the problem at hand. GG would be much better off thinking about playing a season in county cricket.

3. How is our bench strength as far as opening batsmen are concerned.

We have 2 front runners - Ajinkhya Rahane and Abhinav mukund. From initial evidence, these guys also have the same issues i.e. outside the off stump issues in seaming conditions.

In essence, GG will continue to be successful in easier conditions and not so successful in bouncy conditions if status quo continues. He has shown the temperament to succeed in overseas conditions (as was seen in Capetown and in NZ). He will definitely need to sort out the issues if he doesn't want people to look for alternate options.

Virat Kohli:

Definitely a positive to come out of the series. Kudos to Sanjay Manjrekar (and other experts) who called for Virat to stay in spite of failures in the first two tests. Virat's 75 and 44 at perth (pretty average numbers by regular standards) will serve to transform him as an Indian test cricketer. It is critical for youngsters to be given a long rope to establish themselves and even more so in testing conditions like in Australia. If he was dropped him in place of Rohit, Virat would have looked at test cricket and cricket in australia very differently from how he does today. One relatively small action of keeping him in the lineup might have saved his test career. And don't worry about Rohit - he will get his due!


Ian Chappell blames the selectors for being short sighted and not rolling the dice earlier with some younger talent. He's infering that the Indian middle order should not have been RD, Sachin and VVS in that order. That opinion of his has the huge benefit of hind sight. The selectors picked a team that had the most experience playing in australia before and who would have thought that all of India's legends would pick this series to collectively lay an egg? Yes, you need to groom younger talent to fill in when seniors leave the team eventually. But for a marquee series like this one, you go with what's worked in the past.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The fever's back!

After a sabbatical 0f 2+ years, the world cup brings me back to the blogging world!

Will post one soon..

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Racism and Hypocrisy.

What did you guys think of this whole harbhajan affair ? I am glad it's all done and dusted but can't help but notice a few things that came out of this. First off, calling a white guy a monkey is racist ? I know if it was directed at a black guy it's racist. Since when did calling a white guy a monkey become racist ? Also I wonder if Harbhajan did it with any "racist" intentions. I am inclined to think that he would have called him that to irritate the heck out of symonds or to stand up against the smack talking aussies. I would be surprised if bhajji actually understood the implications of the word. All that said and done, I am sure there were thousands of instances where extremely offensive, sexist and racist remarks have been exchanged on the cricket field in the past especially by the bad behaving aussies. For eg: the remark made by Mcgrath at Sarwan (also Mcgrath could not take it well when it was given back to him). Now why this cry baby approach to escalating this one alone ? Hypocrisy I thought.

Having said that, this power show by the indian board is getting way out of hand. One word - Childish. The aussies are not going to make up stuff when it comes to something like this. But we'll leave the "what actually happened" out of this conversation. Why does the indian board have this stupid - charge him, we'll take the next plane home - suspend him, we're pulling out- attitude. This attitude absolutely stinks. They have no idea how many enemies they are making for themselves here.I just hope they stop treating this like a "Victory of Rama over Ravana" and start behaving professionally. Standing up for your player is one thing, but playing big stack when it's completely unnecessary will not bode well for the board in the long term. I understand the aussies' frustration over how it all transpired. Afterall if saying the magic word makes him guilty, regardless of the actual intentions and if it was provoked, then according to them, he is guilty. And he's getting out scot free because there's millions of $ to be lost if he's charged.

About 10 years back when Shastri and Gavaskar were new to the commentary arena, I used to think "aah, we have 2 really good cricket minds and mature people to represent india". Not that there are any battles to be won here. Now I have officially scratched one of them off the list. Shastri is doing a terrific job and I thought his decision not to carry on after the bangladesh tour was a master stroke. He quit while he was ahead and was a winner in a field where there are no winners, from a reputation perspective. Also, his comments about the indian team and world cricket in general seems to be well thought out, analyzed and even his criticisms seem to have a constructive flavor to them. I think he balances neutrality and patriotism beautifully. On the other hand, Mr. Sunny Gavaskar seems to land himself in trouble quicker than Wasim jaffer can get out on australian wickets. His recent criticism of Mike Procter, I thought was completely uncalled for especially since his comments were based on assumptions and not facts. I think he should stop talking for some time to protect what's left of his dignity.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Trent Bridge test

Just some thoughts and take aways from the second test...

  • After England's near victory in the first test, almost everybody predicted an easy 2 nd test victory for england. Only one intelligent commentator said "underestimate India at your own peril". Afterall, India have always been slow starters in every away series.
  • Of the top 6, 5 indian batsman scored fifties. If I had told you that before the test match start, who in the top 6 would you have thought didn't get that 50? Guess 1 - wrong Guess 2 - wrong .....okay all 5 guesses wrong. The answer's Rahul Dravid.
  • Everybody talks about Dinesh Karthik's gritty show. And I agree that he is playing beyond his potential and scoring on every opportunity that's given to him. But the way Wasim Jaffer handled the swing bowling with impeccable technique was a treat to watch. Jaffer's a true opening batsman, and I hope that the board and the seniors would do the things needed to keep his confidence up. Every now and then he's going to get a pair. But that shouldn't put his place in jeopardy. He's the only true opener we've got and he'll be a steady force for a long time to come.
  • It was great to see sreesanth hit back at the batsman with the verbal volleys when he first burst into the international scene. It was a refreshing attitude. But now, I think he's over doing it. You challenge a batsman and get in his head (and make him do something stupid) when you've beat him 3-4 times. Not after he hits you for 4 boundaries. Just brings back memories of one unwanted scene in Indian cricket history. WC 2003 - Zaheer - Ponting....ring a bell ?
  • Michael Vaughn's century was a purist's dream. Technical perfection combined with a fierce determination to save the test match leading from the front. The way he played kumble and made him a non entity for a significant part of the innings was fantastic. Like everybody else, I thought Vaughn was a subject of the same old british hype ( a la Henman) with very little stuff to back it up with. I stand corrected.
  • A lot of talk about Chris Tremlett's potential as a future star of england. He bowled well at lords and used his bounce to cause some problems to the batsmen. My thoughts: He will not last longer than 1-2 years in the international scene.
  • Monty Panesar is definitely among the top spinners in the world right now. His consistent line and variety are definite strengths. But, if he doesn't learn to flight the ball a little more, people will learn to play him soon.
  • And just some noticeable features from Nasser hussain's interview with Dinesh Karthik after the 147 stand

Nasser: So how did you think you played today ?

Karthik: Phenomenal !

Nasser: It must have been difficult with the ball swinging so much.

Karthik: Yes, Yes, definitely. I think I had some very good "well-lefts" today.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Nail on the head

Mohammed asif on Sehwag ..

"Asked whether Asif believed he could get Sehwag's wicket every time he walked out to bat, he said: "We keep teasing Sehwag all the time arrre tere to pair hi nahi hilte, tu kya run banayga? (Your feet don't move, how will you score runs?). It'll never work against smart bowlers." "

You can score runs in Ranji trophy and Duleep trophy without moving your feet. Not in international cricket on pacy wickets, not to mention against quailty fast bowling.

Friday, June 01, 2007

The King

He can't shoot the ball, he's a pass first player.

He doesn't want the ball down the stretch. He'd rather somebody else take the shot.

He lacks heart.

He's not a clutch player. He's a 3 quarters player.

With the game on the line, I don't know if I want him to have the ball.

We're all witnesses..............