Friday, January 27, 2012
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Monday, January 16, 2012
Harsha Bhogle aptly puts it in his book ‘The Winning Way’ – “At Manchester United, when Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo arrived, Ruud van Nistelroy was bid goodbye and Ryan Giggs was found more often on the bench than in the field. When young players realize they are getting an opportunity because of a stringent exit policy, they also know that they can’t linger when their time comes.”
The above statement rightly emphasizes the importance of a strict exit policy. Having a rigorous policy of this kind will ensure that the current lot of youngsters will not bask in past laurels and take their place for granted in the future when their time to exit comes. Agreed, it isn’t going to be an easy task replacing the ‘Big Three’ considering the emotional attachment to them and the invaluable service they have provided to us over the years. Also, they have performed much better than some of the other youngsters in this series. Nevertheless, this painful step will have to be taken, as it is high time for the young lot to be exposed to challenging conditions, so that they too can learn the nuances of International Test cricket before taking India to the pinnacles of success yet again.
Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath too could go on to perform for a year or more if they wished to, but they chose the right time to pass the mantle and hang their boots. Australia too remained unbeatable a few years ago because their players were challenged at all times, and even the stalwarts in their side were aware of the fact that they’d perish if they didn’t perform.
It is unfair to the youngsters if they are made to stay on the bench for too long despite giving it all in the domestic circuit. The likes of Cheteshwar Pujara, Abhinav Mukund, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma etc, have been waiting to prove a point on the international stage since quite some time. Talent of that kind deserves to be given a decent run. India is losing anyway; why not lose by having youngsters in the side? At least they can learn from such experiences and get to better themselves in the following tours.
Virat Kohli can be taken as a prime example of this. He was under a lot of pressure to perform before the start of the Perth Test. But genuine talent eventually succeeds. Although he scored just 44, his knock underlined patience and persistence. He was the top-scorer for India. Unfortunately, Kohli’s inexperience resulted in him throwing his wicket away albeit getting his eye in. Nevertheless, he is bound to get better with every match he plays.
Rohit Sharma too is one such player who possesses immense talent. Many expected Rohit to replace either Kohli or Laxman for the Perth Test. However, that did not happen. It was going to be a mountainous task for him to try and steer India out of troubled waters in his very first Test had he been selected, notwithstanding the fact that India was already trailing 0-2 in the series. There is no doubt that Rohit’s water-tight technique and experience at the domestic level could have added value and stability to this Indian batting line-up, but sadly, there was no place for him in this side despite being in top form before coming into this series.
Ajinkya Rahane and Abhinav Mukund too have been drafted in and out of the side often. Players of such caliber must be given more opportunities if they have to find a foothold in this form of the game. Unlike most of the other Indian batsmen, Rahane has proved that he is an excellent player of short-pitched deliveries. He unfortunately failed a couple of times thereafter and has remained in the sidelines ever since. Such youngsters deserve a place in the side, even if it is at the expense of a stalwart who is nearing the end of his career, as this will only augur well for the future of Indian cricket.
It is important that the ‘Big Three’ are phased out gradually and not around the same time. This will also ensure that at least one stalwart is present who is capable of guiding the youngsters drafted into the side. The head honchos of Indian cricket need to realise the importance of getting back that winning-cycle. One positive step towards attaining that cycle will be to infuse young blood in the side and groom them from the very next series.
Saturday, January 14, 2012
In my previous, Agnipariksha awaits India against four-pronged pace attack on fiery Perth, spoke in brief about the difference in attitude and mindset between the Indian and the Australian side. After the first day’s play at Perth, it can be said that the Indian batting line-up hasn’t yet learnt from the mistakes it committed at Melbourne and Sydney. How else could one explain India’s batting debacle on the same surface that David Warner stormed to a century in just 69 balls?
Surely, it appeared as though the Indians did give a lot of importance to the green tinge on the Western Australian Cricket Association (WACA) surface. Few overs into the game, it was evident that there weren’t any demons in the wicket. Yes, there was extra bounce, but Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli’s brief persistence in the middle proved that it wasn’t unmanageable. Also, one gets the feeling that India missed a trick by not opting to play a spinner in this Test.
It is true that Ravichandran Ashwin didn’t really impress with the ball in the first two Tests, but things would have probably been a little different for India had skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni persisted with him for the Perth Test. Ashwin has been an efficient spinner on the subcontinent tracks, managing to extract bounce and turn even from flat surfaces. The Perth wicket could have been helpful for Ashwin considering the fact that it provides extra bounce. Also, Ashwin was no mug with the bat down the order, and his contribution with it was certainly missed on Day One of the first Test.
However, Ashwin’s role in the side was to pick wickets. Any number of runs scored by him must be considered a bonus. Having underperformed with the ball, it would have been understandable if he was replaced by another spinner in the form of Pragyan Ojha. Former Indian skipper Sourav Ganguly too threw his weight behind the inclusion of Ojha saying, “I think the left-arm spinner could come in and do well. He's a good bowler and he's ready, and Ashwin obviously hasn't bowled well."
Unfortunately, Ojha was left in the lurch yet again.
The fact that India too decided to go in with four pacers was surprising. For decades, India’s strength has been spin. Moreover, the Australians aren’t very proficient players of spin; at least when compared to players from the subcontinent. Vinay Kumar’s inclusion did take many by surprise, although it wasn’t completely unexpected. The hue and cry around the WACA surface before the start of the third Test definitely had an impact on both MS Dhoni and Michael Clarke’s thinking, and hence the inclination towards playing an extra pacer. The move did pay great dividends to the Australians though, as Ryan Harris’ economical spell choked the Indian batsmen from one end, and ensured that they fell like nine pins from the other. He also dismissed India’s most successful batsman on this tour thus far – Sachin Tendulkar.
It is understandable that the Australians decided to go in with a four-pronged pace attack considering the fact that spinner Nathan Lyon wasn’t adding any value. Lyon never looked threatening even when he was bowling to the Indian tail. Added to that, the Indians never looked comfortable facing the quickies in Melbourne and in Sydney. Therefore, it only made sense that the Aussies had decided to use just pace against India at Perth. On the other hand, none of the Indian pacers except Zaheer Khan managed to get under the skin of the Australians in this series so far. Vinay was not going to trouble the Aussies in any manner with his medium-fast bowling. This was evident on Friday when Warner took him to the cleaners, making him the costliest of all Indian bowlers. Hence, one gets the feeling that India should have stuck with a spinner at Perth.
Ojha would have been a better choice ahead of Vinay. As Nishad Pai Vaidya wrote in his article Ashwin or Ojha Laxman or Rohit Tough questions before India's think tank, history reveals that left-arm spinners have been successful at Perth. The Australians have already found it difficult to score freely of left-arm bowler Zaheer Khan, and hence one gets the feeling that another left-arm bowler in the form of Ojha would have probably troubled the Australian batsmen further.
Nevertheless, the damage has been done. It will take a humungous effort from India to turn this match around from here. Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav will have to bowl out of their skins to script a turnaround. Vinay, too, has to focus on hitting the right areas rather than worrying about his pace. Only time will tell if India has the ability to bounce back from this situation and put up a fight.
Monday, January 9, 2012
This article was published by the author on cricketcountry.com
“It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult undertaking which, more than anything else, will determine its successful outcome.” – William James
Before the Boxing Day Test began, India was apparently the favorite to win this year’s Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Considering the fact that this Indian side was skilled, had a perfect blend of youth and experience, and that the Australian side was going through transition, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that majority of cricket followers believed India would overcome a few minor obstacles with ease and eventually regain its lost glory with a win over this Australian side. But the Australian players had one significant quality that most of the Indian players failed to express right from Day One of the First Test – the right attitude.
Uneasiness was on the rise in the Australian camp, especially after the series against New Zealand. Fingers were pointed at stalwarts like Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey. Michael Clarke’s effectiveness as a captain, too, was questioned. It was appalling to see the noose around Ponting and Hussey’s necks despite averaging close to 36 and 44 respectively during their so-called lean patch and notwithstanding the fact that their overall career averages are close to 53 and 52 respectively. That was probably because of the high standards set by Australian cricket over the past few decades.
It is said that you cannot tailor-make situations in life, but you can tailor-make the attitudes to fit those situations. Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey did exactly that as they silenced their critics for the umpteenth time by proving that they still have it in them to perform at the top of their game and contribute to their side’s cause.
It wasn’t as though they regained their form with ease. Credit must be given to the Indian bowlers for troubling the Australian batsmen to an extent in the first innings of the First Test. Runs didn’t come easily for Ponting and Clarke, and Hussey was sent back for a first-ball duck in that innings – thanks to an umpiring glitch. Importantly, they didn’t let that dishearten them. Ponting knew he could get that ton that had evaded him for so long if he was willing to stick it out for a little longer than usual.
In the second Test, he scampered like a hungry 21-year-old, often converting ones into twos and twos into threes, and appearing to value his wicket all the more. He put away the bad balls with ease and more importantly respected the good ones rather than poking at them. He deservedly got to his century, albeit that risky single which was uncharacteristic of his running between the wickets in that innings.
On the other hand, the Indians aren’t doing any justice to their talent with a lethargic approach on the field. Even when batting, there were so many opportunities for the Indian batsmen to convert singles into twos and twos into threes, but it appeared as though they were contented with a little less than what was actually available. Never did the Australian fielders appear under any sort of pressure.
There also appears to be a lack of communication while the Indians are on the field. The Anil Kumble-led team that toured Australia in 2007 always gave an impression that they were striving on the field. Who could forget Ishant Sharma’s magical spell to Ricky Ponting and the conversation that took place between Virender Sehwag, Ishant Sharma and skipper Anil Kumble before that over. After Ishant had bowled seven overs, Ponting was on strike and that’s when Sehwag went over to Ishant and asked him if he’d like to bowl one more over. After Ishant agreed, Sehwag walked up to Kumble and suggested to him to let Ishant have one more go at Ponting. Kumble agreed and famously asked Ishant, "Ek aur karega? (Will you bowl another over?)" Ishant replied, "Haan karoonga (Yes, I will)". And the rest, as they say, is history.
Sadly, such moments reoccurring this time is hard to imagine looking at the body language of the Indian players.
However, credit must be given to Sachin Tendulkar for his positive approach while batting or fielding. He is India’s highest scorer in this series so far, averaging 56.50 with 226 runs from four innings. The way he threw himself at the ball to prevent Ponting from getting to a century shows his undying passion and determination even at the age of 38. It would be for the Indian team if the rest of the team took a cue from Tendulkar’s attitude on the field. Unfortunately, he has thrown his wicket away against the run of play right throughout this series thus far and it could augur well for India if he avoids this at Perth and Adelaide.
It will be interesting to see how India approaches the remaining two Tests after being ruthlessly hammered in the first two. This side needs more than just a stroke of luck to bounce back and level the series. It’s important that they have the right attitude and a killer instinct. They need to show a sense of urgency while fielding and a sense of purpose while batting. They have the skill to succeed in testing conditions and must strive for it.
The Indians will be served an unrelenting diet of pace at Perth in the third Test. Will the beleaguered Indians survive the firing from both ends from Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus, Ryan Harris, Mitchell Starc? It’s truly anagnipariksha – ordeal by fire - for them!