Archive for the ‘ODI’ Category

What was that run out about?
I saw it in the highlights and I could not fathom it.

What was Sehwag doing? From half way on the pitch, he was so casually ambling away to his crease. WHAT WAS HE THINKING?

For being so casual, more amateurish than a school boy cricketer, and what could have lead the team to defeat, he should be dropped from the team. If not forever, then at least for a couple of games. Just like they penalise cricketers for some games on disciplinary grounds, the coach and the team management should do the same, for such shocking work on the field!

In the world cup.

The aces in the sleeves as per me, are not the batting, but the seamers. In Zaheer, Agarkar and Munaf, we have a very decent ODI attack.

Zaheer’s stint in England has done him a lot of good. Learning to bowl well, day after day, in that county atmosphere obviously taught him a thing or two. Imagine learning all that, and then coming to bowl for your country makes him a genuine leader of our bowling attack.

Ajit Agarkar, to my mind, has always been a good ODI bowler. Someone who bowls extremely well, within his known limitations. Works up a good pace, varies the pace too, works out a batsman’s wicket by strategy, is reasonably accurate early in the innings, almost always generates early wicket taking opportunities. And at this time, he seems to be in excellent nick. Perhaps spurred by the ‘competition’ for pace bowling slots in the team.

Munaf, the fastest of the trio, has figured that he needs to be very accurate. Somewhere he has got it ingrained in his head, that he has to be like a McGrath, and not like a Shoaib Akhtar. He does an excellent job of keeping the score under control, and then forcing a mistake from the batsmen.

And to think that a Sreesanth with all his energy and enthusiasm, and never say die spirit, with an eagerness to keep learning, is the fourth bowler. And then there is the very promising, at one time our pace hope for the next decade, currently, slightly out of form, Irfan Pathan, waiting in the wings. And it makes me say with confidence that indeed, our aces are this pace attack.

If Greg Chappell, Dravid, Sachin and others can find a way to train the 5 boys to NOT panic against a serious counter attack (think Gilchrist or Jayasuriya or Afridi) and keep bowling intelligently, then we have one area completely covered.

Now coming to the batting. Yes, it has the biggest names and one would feel that its the batting that should be our strong point. While I believe that its good, is it good enough for the world cup? Lets examine details.

Up in the opening slot, what options do we have?
Ideally, Ganguly and Uthappa.
Ganguly is of course, in the best of form. And his resolve and determination to prove himself should see him continue doing well, right through the world cup.
Uthappa has a lot of promise. He does not seem to have many nerves. But its the technique that I would wonder about. Is it good enough to face up to really class bowling – a Shaun Pollock or a McGrath, or even a Chaminda Vaas? Lets hope so..
In case either of these guys are injured, what options do we have for the opening slot? Sehwag, Sachin or even Dravid. All of them have played the parts in the past.

Sachin can be a good bet, but I think the team will be better served if he comes in at 4. More about that later. Sehwag would be the one who would be first choice for opening slot, if there is any problem with Uthapa or Saurav. And of course, like everyone else in India, I can also only hope that he strikes some sort of form, soon. Yes, he can be destructive and take the game away. Just when will be start delivering now, I am not sure. He is under huge pressure, and will remain so, inspite of the best of confidence that his captain has in him.
Dravid would be the last option to go to the opening slot. If it comes to that, I would believe that we would be in serious trouble. Nothing else worked out, or 2-3 people on the injury list, is what may warrant such a step. But if it comes to it, he is fine. One with such good technique can certainly manage the opening slot too, if required.

Then on to the middle order. We have names like Dravid (number 3), Sachin (4), Yuvraj (5) and Sehwag or Karthick (6). Dhoni at 7 and then 4 specialist bowlers is the way I see it going, in most cases. Unless we have tremendous respect for our 5 batsmen, I think we will continue to play with 4 bowlers and 6 batsmen, plus Dhoni. In case we play 5+5+1, then of course, the 6th batsman (Sehwag / Karthick) will be out.

In batting then, there is no doubt about Dravid and Sachin. They are strong middle order batters. Yuvraj’s form looks good if the last game against Sri Lanka is any indication. And if that is true, then we have a good 3,4,5 combination there. It is the 6th batsman or the bench strength beyond these main working team that is worrying. Karthick has played some good knocks, but I just can’t see him as a reliable batsman against quality bowling. And Sehwag.. well, we all know. He is out of form. If the first 1-2 games don’t redeem him, I would believe that he will have to sit out through the competition. There will just be no point in carrying on someone in the world cup team, who has lost all confidence and where, we just continue to ‘hope’ that he fires! And then when you see the reserves, there is really no one else left, as far as batsmen go. Will we consider using Pathan in that case, as a batsman who may also bowl? I suppose. There is no choice left. We may yet miss a Raina..

So in batting, I would believe that there is a genuine weakness of one slot, and there is no adequate cover against a possible injury to our top batsmen.

The wicketkeeper-cum-batsman position is in good hands with Dhoni. He has great temperament as a batsman, and is quite good (though not flawless) as a wicketkeeper. He can certainly slam the bowling around, and is quite mature too. However again, I have a question on genuine technique and ability to face quality bowlers. Here we just need to hope for the best. Karthick is a good cover in case the wicketkeeper’s position needs to be filled, but then, if he is anyway a part of the team, as a 6th batsman, then who do we get as a replacement? This is in the event that Sehwag does not get into form at all…

So in short, that one batsman’s position may still hurt us. We may be forced to go with a 5+5+1 combination and hope that the bowlers compensate for the one lesser batsman, then.

Coming to spinners, I think we are just so-so. Harbhajan and Kumble may keep the scores down, against lesser teams or against batsmen who are not adept at playing spin. Better batsmen who have faced these guys for many years, may actually get a lot of runs against them. We will probably play only one of these two guys, and it may be a case of regular swapping between these two. Unless one of them makes the most of his opportunities and succeeds in the early games, and seals his seat in the team. Or if there is a known weakness against one of them, from the opposite side. Kumble can be successful against lesser teams, and also against lower order batsmen, and he can potentially run through the tail. But against that, he is a huge liability in the field and nowadays, also with the bat. Even if he can hang around on the crease as a batsman, he cannot run fast between the wickets, he will not be able to rotate strike (say he has a batsman at the opposite end) and he will not be able to seriously wallop the bowling for some big hits and big runs.

So I would again see the spinner’s slot as a kind of weakness. Depending on the pitches then, we may actually like to play 4 seamers and no specialist spinner. The spin part, if necessary, can then be handled by Sachin, Yuvraj, and Sehwag, if he is in the team. Its good to also have Saurav who can back up as a slow medium pacer and take care of few overs. In such a case, if Pathan is the fourth seamer, then our batting would look even better and deeper.

So indeed, the team composition gives some flexibility in that sense. To an extent, Chappell’s efforts towards this endeavour, from the time that he has taken over, may have delivered us these options.

But one thing that he worked for, and which has clearly not converted into results, perhaps on account of the final composition of the team, is the fielding. The young and fast guys, like Raina and Kaif, are not in the team at all. Off the current lot, only Yuvraj qualifies as a great fielder. Who is going to cover the inner circle and stop the singles? There is no one that I can think of. Maybe Uthapa. Perhaps a Karthick. But that is it.

Guys like Sachin, Sehwag, Pathan, Agarkar, Ganguly and Dravid are decent, but not very sharp. Unless they raise their levels, inspired by the occasion! All of these guys can cover the boundary ropes too, decently. Zaheer and Harbhajan are also okay, on the field. But out there in the deep field, there are some people whom we would have to hide on the ground. Guys like Munaf Patel and Kumble. There is an extra run written all over it, when the ball goes to either of them. Forget about a sharp, fast return, with possibilities of run-outs!

So sure, we are not the perfectly equipped team. I am not sure if any other team is, anyway. But there is a lot going for our team, there are many strengths there, which makes me feel that we stand a decent chance, this time around.

Lets see how it goes..

The Australian cricket team has been playing with what looks like its bench, against New Zealand, in the Chappell Hadlee series. And they have got beaten twice in a row, and have also lost the number one position in international ODI ratings, to South Africa, in the process. They lost the first game big time – by 10 wickets, after getting bowled out for under 150. And then in the second game, they put up a big total of 336, and New Zealand chased it down!

It tells me a few things.
So much for Australia’s famed bench strength. Perhaps its not quite as great as its been made out to be. The little that I saw of these games, I could sense that there were just 2-3 batsmen who looked good (Hussey, Hayden – both regulars, and Hodge), and in bowling, there was not much to offer beyond McGrath and Bracken. Watson also got hit and Hogg got thumped big time. The rest of the guys looked quite ordinary.

A much stronger Australian side got beaten by England in the tri-series finals. Ponting, Lee, Clarke, Gilchrist were all there then. And still they lost – in straight games. Which proves that they are certainly beatable. Over the recent years, they had created a feeling of invincibility. Heck, that is out of the window now.

And I am going to stick my neck out and say that they will NOT win the World Cup. I am not saying who will win; at this time, all I am saying is that Australia won’t.

Which brings the question of the quality of the Australian team, over the next couple of years. With Warne, Langer and Martyn already gone, McGrath to go after the WC, there are going to be few new faces there.

Clarke and Hussey look like great inheritors of the Australian spirit. Of course, Ponting will be around for a while. And Hodge holds a lot of promise. There is of course, Hayden, Gilchrist (don’t know for how long, though) and Symonds should get fit soon. So the batting looks okay as long as all of these guys maintain decent form. But its the bowling that looks pretty vulnerable.

Lee appears to be the only real strike bowler. Bracken, Stuart Clarke in pace, or Hogg in spin, don’t look like matchwinners by any circumstances. I don’t know what has happened to Stuart McGill. He should finally get his chance without Warne’s shadow lurking behind him, and he can be a good prospect. But overall, if a team wants to beat Australia in the next year or two, they have their best chance in out-batting Australia, by going after a weak bowling attack.

Meanwhile, the eternal underdog down under, New Zealand, should be feeling fabulous, and so also the traditional arch rivals, England, both of them having beaten Australia, going into the World Cup!