28 September 2007

Very Very Strange

I got damn excited when hours before the T20 finals, I noticed that a certain VVS Laxman was batting at 54 off 54 balls, for Lancashire in the fourth innings, chasing a county record 489 to win against Surrey and keep their title hopes alive. For a while there, the clash with Pakistan was not at the top of my mind. Sitting in office, all I could think of was VVS, imperious at the Oval. He eventually made a run-a-ball hundred which went a long way in denting that imposing total - but it was not enough. Lancashire fell short by 24 runs.

I will admint that I have a fondness for VVS Laxman, that borders on the insane - and I am probably never objective enough when discussing him. It is not a complex relationship. Just one of blind idolatry. Very simply, there is no other batsman in the world (now that Lara is out) that I'd rather watch make a hundred. There are similarly gifted people, of course, and Mohammed Yousuf and Jayawardene are almost in the same league, and perhaps Michael Clarke and Ashraful too, but as far as I am concerned, there is only one Laxman. He has his critics too, and I have never listened to them.

He has a modest Test batting average of 42.71. It is not so bad, considering that he has played 37 of his 83 Test matches at number 6, and only recently has there been the fairly decent buffer of MS Dhoni between Laxman and the tail. Three hundreds and thirteen fifties from this uneviable position is really not a bad record, if you have to go by numbers alone, and in Laxman's case, numbers don't come close to doing justice. He has remarkable records against the best team of his generation, and I will never regret having slipped away from home three days before my Std XII exams to watch him make the epic innings, whose burden he is forever destined to carry, every time the team is in trouble.

A consummate team man, Laxman has always batted at whichever psotition has suited the management of the day. Even as late as last year's tour of Pakistan, he was asked to open the innings. It was nothing new for Laxman. He has opened the innings without complaint on 25 occasions, never compalining even though his average drops to 29. Opening the innings in a losing cause in a dead rubber in sydney in '99, he scored one of the majestic Indian innings' of the last decade against a fire-breathing Lee and co, making 167 in a team score of 261. Laxman was the emperor on the burning deck.

Over the last couple of years, the penchant of scoring massively seems to have petered out, but he has contributed handsomely in some famous Test victories. On a minefield in Mumbai, he earned India a consolation win against the Aussies with a superbly executed 69. In the home series against Sri Lanka that followed, he made a 69 and a 104 in the second and third Tests, both of which we won. In the Jo'burg Test, he was the highest scorer in the second innings, propping India to a comfortable 236 to set up the win. In the historic series win in England, he continued on his recent trend of being more safe than spectacular, collecting two fifties on the way. Of late, he has played his part in some tough fought drawn matches too. Facing defeat at the hands of the Windies in St Kitts, he made 100 and 63, batting at number 3 in both innings.

He has played in 83 Test matches and has represented India with distinction, and unless the selectors decide to play spoilsport, should be around to shepherd the younger generation of Uthappa, Sharma, Gambhir, Tiwary etc. even after the Big Three (phttth!!) retire. For some reason, he has a Grade B contract. Perhaps his omission from ODIs is the reason, in which case, I guess it is fair. But if the reason is that his spot in the Test team is not as certain as Ganguly or Dhoni (!!), then I think he is entitled to be angry. Like me. But perhaps this will produce from him the kind of heroics we saw from Zaheer to earn a propulsion from C to A.

To me, he also looks an automatic candidate for Test captaincy. Experienced and a usually attacking batsman, the only problem is that he is no longer an automatic choice in the team when India play five batsmen. But then is Dhoni assured of a spot? Don't we have two keepers in the team already and another (Parthiv) with a Grade D contract?

26 September 2007

Easy on the chest-thumping, says Premachandran

Dileep Premachandran is probably my favourite cricket writer. Of late, he has been writing for the Guardian and in this article, cautions against all the chest-thumping. There's also a snipe at ToI, which I just loved.

25 September 2007


In the end, what transpired, was the stuff of India-Pakistan matches only. It was always going to be down to who held their nerve best after Dhoni called right and chose right. I will remember Misbah getting out just like I remember Sohail and Prasad, Sachin's lone hand and Akram's lap of honour at Chennai, Sachin against Shoaib, Miandad and Chetan Sharma, Jadega and Waqar, Miandad and More, Hrishikesh Kanitkar, Saqlain Mushtaq, Anil Kumble getting pumelled in Chennai, Ijaz Ahmed on a rampage, ten wickets in an innings, Sachin's debut, Akthar bowling into Ganguly's ribs... and the several other pearls that pepper conversations.

Poor Misbah. The brave lone act that brought his team to the brink - certainly not unique in the history of Indo-Pak cricket: he did the same thing just a fortnight ago. But it was difficult to feel sorry for too long. Shock had taken over.

It was an Indian win, and I was shell-shocked until very late into the night, while crackers, dancing, alcohol, rowdiness - general happiness, I guess, embraced New Delhi. Phone calls from across the country certified that similar scenes were being xeroxed all over. That photo on top is a scene from India Gate, way past midnight. I was there among the sweaty men, milking the "Chak De" song for all it was worth. Nobody cared enough to notice my disapproval of the anti-Pakistan slogans, "Pakistan ki maa ki ..." interspersing the "Bharat mata ki jai".

What a match!! What excitement! What pressure! Robin dropped Misbah and I thought it had come full circle, but then Sreesanth held on, didn't he? Dhoni again went with Joginder for the climactic over, and a charmed choice it turned out to be yet again, Pakistan falling five short of a target that Misbah had all but dragged into the Pakistan dugout. A see-saw from the very first over, Yousuf Pathan striking a clean six, then a stumble, then the repair act by Gambhir, and finally a little eruption from Mister Rohit Sharma - all adding to a score that seemed less-than-competetive. But nobody - nobody but my ever confident friend Baban - wanted to make a call on the outcome of the match. Context was everything, and there was a history of pressure-cooker accidents.

And then after the break, the tension really started to mount and mount till something had to give every now and then. RP Singh, you beauty, you made the match competetive. And honestly, I am still surprised at what an amazing bowler you've become, capable bowling at 140 plus, mixing it up with some bhaiyya guile, and looking threatening on the flattest of pitches. You're a hero today, and people will remember you as a champion. And Irfan!! Haven't you put our selectors in a bit of a pickle? The third left-arm seamer to have a great season, and what an astounding performance to wrench the game back after Younis seemed quite likely to win the match with his dabs to third man! And then there were the others. Joginder Sharma, the unlikely man who wanted to bowl the last over again, Sreesanth - the man who took the catch with just a few billion people breathing down his neck, Yousuf Pathan - who walked in to open the innings with a swagger, Bhajji - whose tight bowling in his first 2 overs contributed to Pathan's wickets. People stepped up to be counted. Or more, like Yuvraj. Time and again. Debutante or experienced, here was a team that played absolutely fearless cricket. Only a captain without fear would nonchalantly open with Yousuf Pathan, or throw Joginder Sharma the ball when the cauldron was bubbling over, or know exactly what to do in the event of a bowl-out, or look beyond the storm during a particularly average spell of bowling from Sreesanth.

Cheers all of you. I don't know when we'll see that again. But last night, it really paid off being a crazy fan of Indian cricket.

24 September 2007

Dhoni, take a bow.

And you too, Yuvraj, Sreesanth, Arpee, Bhajji, Uthappa and Joginder

Even though I will be delirious if India win tonight, I just cannot be bitter. Shorn of the weight of experience and reputation, Dhoni and his men in blue had already pulled off the impossible, by the time they made it to the semis. Of course, the benefit of hindsight means that many experts have mysteriously pulled out a few I-told-you-so's from their hats. Now, Nasser Hussain cannot stop talking about how this format of the game is most suited for subcontinental cricketers who started life with the see ball-hit ball sort of cricket. I just don't think it is as simple as that, Nasser. South Africa possesses some of the cleanest hitters in Gibbs, Boucher and Pollock; and Pietersen, Luke Wright and Dmitri were capable of the same as well. Why is it so difficult to believe, Nasser, that this Indian team was not only talented, they were also led astutely by a captain who backed the strengths of this team? Such an explanation also blinds one to some of the most intelligent bowling from Harbhajan and Arpee. And certainly, Sreesanth's spell to Australia and Gul's to the Kiwis, you cannot pin that on the street can you? Or is "street" a euphemism for oriental sorcery, just like the days when Waqar and Wasim were vilified to death in the English press?

Tonight's key battle: Yuvraj Singh versus Umar Gul. It looks like Shoaib Malik is comfortable leaving Gul with three overs - overs 15, 17 and 19. And if Yuvraj Singh is still batting through these overs, it will probably decide the tournament. Super performers, both of them, throughout the tournament.

And finally a word on a tournament that captured my fancy from the first match itself! I never thought I'd give into Twenty20 that easily. But now, a wonderful tournament, that has displayed cricket of the highest quality, has made me think again. I am closer to concluding that Twenty2o is as much about skill and pressure as Test cricket is - maybe different skills are required in either format, and different pressures may come into play as well. Don't pooh-pooh it on the basis of some hypothetical "soul-of-cricket" principle, Mr Soumya Bhattacharya!

21 September 2007

Was that India playing out there?

It was a performance too clinical to believe, one worthy of India's next opponents - the Aussies. Recovering well from a stumble on a lively pitch against the quality bowling of Pollock, Morkel and Ntini, they bowled and fielded with an intensity that not only got them through, but in an amazing reversal of fortunes, the knocked out the previously unbeaten South Africans. A young Indian team, under its young captain, posted a comprehensive victory without its best player. And that is far more significant than the Aussies thumping the Lankans without Ponting.

Anyway, Arpy again. What a bowler he is turning out to be! After a three-over first spell when he showed Sreesanth the virtues of bowling the new ball on a tight line and length, he returned to fire in yorkers and bouncers in a last over where he clocked 143 kmph. Pietersen certainly wasn't lying when he called him a "highly skilled swing bowler".

And Rohit Sharma. Eased into international cricket with four off his first fourteen deliveries, and then caught the South Africans napping with some sensational driving and cutting. A deserving man-of-the-match, he also got a crucial run out of Justin Kemp to cap a sensational night for the young batsman. He seems to have the attacking technique and temprament to make it at the highest level in all forms of the game. Quite significantly, his first international effort has come on a fresh pitch at one of India's least favourite grounds, when the chips were stacked high against him.

What of MS Dhoni? His batting in this series has been a revelation. I know that many will disagree and say that captaincy has made his eschew his customary hammer-and-tongs approach, but I have four words for them. Proof of the pudding. Especially at a time when our line-up is filled to the brim with lovely shotmakers, it is not a sin, even in T20, to have someone around to shepherd the innings. And the fact that he has done so quite a few times in this series, speaks highly of his thinking - someone capable of looking beyond the immediate.

Against Australia though, India's traditional failings might stand exposed. Today India were placed in a situation where Rohit Sharma absolutely had to fire. Giving the Aussies an opportunity like that would be akin to suicide. Similarly, the Aussies would certainly make the several extra deliveries bowled by India count. Sreesanth has to be careful.

20 September 2007

Method in the madness

That was almost perfect limited-overs batting from India. An almost old-fashioned assault on English bowling, it was an exhibition of how, when batting first, wickets in hand can be converted into runs on the board. Top marks to Sehwag, Gambhir, and of course, the man of the moment, Yuvraj Singh for a clinical batting display. Of course, we could crib over how Uthappa was foolish to lose his wicket, but the 21 year old has hopefully learnt his lesson.

Sreesanth hasn't learnt anything! Of course I could keep heaping blame on Prasad, but if Sreesanth cannot clean up his act now, there is real danger that he could be the next Agarkar. Agarkar has been the one constant in India's fast bowling over the last decade. Nehra, Mohanty, Tinu Yohannan, Harvinder Singh, T Kumaran, Balaji et al have all come and gone. He has bowled alongside Srinath and also with Pathan. A man of immense promise like Agarkar, he will always be on the fringes of national selection, because of an athletic disposition that makes him less likely to get injured - like Agarkar. Going on with the comparison, both of them had dream starts to their careers, Agarkar becoming the fastest ever bowler to reach fifty wickets. Sreesanth had a sensational tour of South Africa. However, very early on their careers, both of them also displayed an inability to stick to a plan. Neither seems to believe in the notion that when things are not going your way, drying up runs can produce wickets. It comes as no surprise then that Agarkar's golden run in Australia in 2003, was a result of fantastic attacking bowling, built on a foundation of simple line-and-length. He was the most economical and also the only one among himself, Zaheer, Nehra and Pathan to play all four Test matches and that says a story.

Sreesanth has a lot to learn from Agarkar's career. For a person on the selection radar for ten years now, Agarkar has only played 26 Test matches. In contrast, an injury and inconsistency-ridden Steve Harmison, has already played 54 in the six years that he has been around. And for those who think Harmison is not an appropriate comparison, Mohammed Sami who had a glittering start to his career in 2001, has played 30 Test matches. Irfan Pathan, despite being in the wilderness for a year, has played 25 Tests since his debut in 2003.

And finally a word on a man who I have always looked at suspiciously. I never thought he looked the sort of bowler who could cut it at the international level. Arpy Singh did really well to pull the Indian bowling back into some kind of rhythm yesterday, continuing an impressive run over the last couple of months. Hopefully he can remain fit, and continue bowling with the same sort of accuracy. It is always useful to have more than four fast bowlers to pick from.

18 September 2007

Biting the bullet.

The selectors have made the tough decision. This signals a new era in Indian cricket. India is going to be captained by a "small town" boy. It is also pretty clear now that an Indian ODI team will never again be led on to the field by Sachin or Saurav or Dravid - and that is momentous. They have not gone for the safe harbour of Sachin/Saurav. Instead, they have thrown Dhoni into the deep end of the pool. His first assignment? Seven ODIs at home against the Aussies.

It is no secret that many in the establishment believed that Dhoni did not have the necessary experience to take on the mantle, and I would tend to agree with that. But now that they have decided to go ahead with him, it is important that he be given a reasonable period to prove himself. And as far as captaining the Indian ODI team is concerned, nothing less than a year is good enough to make our assessment. The selectors - not to mention the cricket fan - should be patient with the results that Dhoni will bring home.

In time, Dhoni will probably need to choose between captaincy and wicketkeeping. However, it is for him to decide, and it should not be forced on him on the basis of some mythical "burden". But since he is a certainty with the bat in the ODI line-up and he can afford to do so, particularly since both Karthik and Parthiv Patel are legitimate contenders for a middle-order berth in ODIs.

17 September 2007

Prasad needs to take some of the blame.

So far, I ve managed to keep my high expectations from Venkatesh Prasad intact. For the first time ever, we toured England with a bowling attack that looked capable of taking twenty wickets in a Test match. But since the memorable Test series, where Zaheer and Arpee were exceptional, and Sreesanth brilliant in spurts, the ODIs and now the T20 WC have left Prasad open for attack. Why does India suffer from what seems to be a chronic inability to dam the flow of runs at the death? Why is the vastly experienced Agarkar bowling length on off stump? Where is the yorker, the well-disguised slower ball? For all his other talents, Sreesanth's slower delivery will seem quite obvious for an international batsman. Yesterday, McMillan slapped one straight past him.

If there are bowlers who can consistently get the yorker going, should they not be preferred over Agarkar at the death? The bowling coach will also need to examine Sreesanth's decision to go around the stumps every now and then. As of now, it seems that such decisions are made at random, leaving poor Dhoni with very limited time to make adequate fielding changes. Confusion reigns, and Dhoni I had a brain explosion when he preferred to bowl Yuvraj Singh when Pathan had two overs in the bag.

And what of team selection? Should we have Chawla come in place of Agarkar. This will mean we have a wonderfully varied bowling attack - two left arm swing bowlers, one right arm swing bowler, one off-spinner and a leg-spinner.

15 September 2007


Last night, there was a chance that the last fifteen minutes spoilt what was forty overs of riveting, edge-of-the-seat stuff. We could've done without the comical bowlout, especially since there was no need for it, given that both teams had found themselves in the next round. Quite foolish, especially when cricket fans have lived with the idea that it is possible for a cricket match to not have a winner, for more than a century. By all means, please devise a method to decide crucial knock-out encounters that end in a tie, and perhaps a bowlout might actually be the fairest that the imaginative administrators could think of - so let it be.

This match had as many twists and turns as a compelling Test match - all rolled into three hours, and proved the conventional wisdom that the best cricket is played on tracks with a little in it for the bowlers - no matter which form of the game it is. What this match has also done is that it has ensured that the most financially important fan bases for the game at the moment, are hooked on to the shortened version - for life, perhaps. The match had everything you may expect from a classic India-Pakistan encounter. Poor top-order batting against good guality swing and seam, excellent rearguards from both teams, bowlers losing their cool and some bowlers keeping their cool.

Asif, Pathan, Arpee, Sohail Tanvir, Harbhajan, Sreesanth, Uthappa, Misbah, Dhoni - all put their hands up at different points in the match, and both teams fielded a couple of notches above what we have seen them do in recent times. The biggest plus for India however, was undoubtedly the relaxed return of Irfan Pathan, and credit to Dhoni for handling the situation well.

14 September 2007

Dravid resigns from captaincy

Has Rahul Dravid resigned from captaincy? CNN-IBN has just carried a headline saying exactly that. More on that soon, I guess.


Well it's confirmed. He has asked to be relieved prior to the arrival of the Aussies. The only reason that Dravid has cited in his letter to the BCCI is that he wants to concentrate on his batting. He has also pledged complete support to his successor.

Under Dravid, India won eight Tests. However, his ODI record was patchy. He began on a winning streak, where India set a record for 16 consecutive successful chases. However, this was a man who captained India through a very tricky phase. He had to handle a team that was being eaten from inside by a rift between senior players and coach. At the end it also has to be said that he handled Ganguly's tricky return to the team very well. Given all these, it is remarkable that he led us to Test series victories in West Indies, Pakistan and England, and also one of our greatest ever Test wins, when we knocked South Africa down in their Jo'burg citadel. His captaincy will also be remembered for the fall-from-grace of three pillars of the Ganguly era: Sehwag, Harbhajan and Zaheer - the third of whom also made a sensational comeback under Dravid. Wasim Jaffer, Dinesh Karthik, S Sreesanth and M S Dhoni were fairly consistent performers during this all-too-brief period.

But it was also clear that captaincy was taking its toll on Dravid the batsman. The tours of South Africa and England earned him mixed returns which were well below the standards that he set himself as a professional. With a tough tour to Australia looming, India needed Dravid the batsman to be firing, and so perhaps it is just as well.

It is also quite typical of Dravid the person that he realized earlier than anyone else that his time at the helm, and in the team, would soon come to a close, and decided to make way in an understated manner.

13 September 2007

Zimbabwe on course...

Two teams with heaps of domestic T20 experience: West Indies and England. The former has been booted out by Bangladesh, and Zimbabwe is giving England a run for their money. And England have to face an angry Australia tomorow.

For a brief period today, Bangladesh showed glimpses of the role that spinners could potentially play in this format. Most teams though, seem to favour loading the side with medium pacers. And just to emphasize the point Dmitri Mascarenhas has just done what none of Broad, Anderson or Flintoff could do: threewickets down for Zim, all of a sudden.

And India will play their first match today, against Scotland. The World Cup rout still fresh in their minds, Dhoni will want to put his best foot forward today. Also helping India's case is that the team is crtain to be filled with batsmen who are crying out for a spot in the regular side. Hopefully the batting will thrive in an atmosphere of internal competition: Sehwag, Gambhir, Uthappa, Karthik and Rohit Sharma. The trouble however is with the bowling. Neither Agarkar nor Sreesanth are miserly customers in ODIs at the best of times. Both have a reputation for taking important wickets, though, and I'll be happy if both of them together can manage 8 overs for 60-70, if they take at least three wickets. The lefties, Pathan and Arpee, the former an unknown quantity, the latter on the back of an English tour where he has shown a surprising capacity for economical wickets. I say surprising, because he can look really tame at times.
Now comes the biggest decisions that Dhoni'll need to make. I don't see him keeping Harbhajan out of the side. Chawla though, is an intriguing question. And as I write this, Schofield, the English leg-spinner has taken two wickets off four balls. Wow.

Ashraful is the man!

Mohammed Ashraful is the most exciting young batting talent in the world at the moment. A scoop from outside off, over the top of fine-leg for six, followed by a thumping straight drive: just two from the array he unleashed today.
With a whole generation of superstar batsmen saying goodbye, the man who is already Bangladesh captain will be one to watch out for.

Zimbabwe stun us, and Australia

I don't want to write too much on T20 because I really haven't seen enough of the format to even come cloase to understanding it. Do good Test batsmen remain good T20 batsmen? Will the minnows find it easier to topple an established Test outfit? Two days into the tournament, there is a flurry of results that refuse to show up any "trend". But Zimbabwe and Taylor, that was awesome. Cricket fans everywhere bar Australia rejoiced with you.

And to continue the focus on the future Indian ODI team..

Suresh Raina
Suresh Raina was the poster-boy when Chappell was still Guru Greg. Prodigiously talented and reminiscent of the young Yuvraj Singh, at nineteen he was toasted by many as the "next big thing" when he calmly walked in at five wickets down for under a hundred, and proceeded to polish off a large total against England with crisp and elegant shotmaking. Raina was also one of the exciting young fielders that formed part of a creditable offside cordon that also contained Yuvraj and Kaif. However, the same notions of "flexibility" that showcased the versatility of a deep Indian batting line-up, returned to haunt Raina. Shuttled up and down the batting order, he became a confused shell of his former self, and that was severely exploited by bowlers in the Champions Trophy. In his last seventeen ODIs, he did not cross fifty once and was pretty much a big hole in the Indian batting line-up, averaging under twenty for that period. The horrow finally culminated in his axing prior to the World Cup, and he joined compatriot Mohd. Kaif in the domestic circuit. An injury to his knee also ensured that unlike other international discards Sehwag, Pathan and Harbhajan, he was not on the team to South Africa for the Twenty20 World Cup. Raina was as much a victim of his early success as bad man-management. Making it back to the team will not be easy given that Kaif, Rohit Sharma, Sehwag, Karthik and Uthappa can all legitimately lay a claim on limited middle-order positions. But if he does, he will have learnt that inner demons have no place in international cricket.

11 September 2007

After the anti-climax

The last match proved India the weaker one-day side in an anti-climax of a match, a certain let-down after the firecracker at the Oval. Notably, the Indian media has not been too critical, and for a change, most reporters were keen to admit that this was a team that had won a Test series in England, and so one should not be too hard on the boys. I hope this climate of tolerating mediocrity in the one-day format can continue for a year. For that is how long India will need at a minimum to rebuild itself into a competetive one-day outfit. The ingredients are all there, floating around in Twenty20 World Cup or random domestic tournaments, but for them to coalesce into a whole, is the challenge. Starting today, I will profile the few who I feel could comprise the Indian ODI team of the future.

Mohammed Kaif has always been unfairly treated by selectors and fans alike. His ungainly batting technique is probably the reason why we have refused to let his runs - mostly scored in crucial circusmtances, do the talking. Once rumoured to have been in the reckoning for a future captaincy, the 27 year old has been out of reckoning since November 2006. Even though people tend to remember his fielding at cover or his sensational batting at Lords in the NatWest final, there were other nuggets that fans and media have not given the same kind of respect. His 91 at Nagpur, scored in the company of the doughty Anil Kumble, in a drawn Test match against England was one such. At the same time, one needs only to look at his overall statistics to note that he has not made the most of his opportunities. In 125 matches, he has an average of 32. Batting away from home, this modest figure plummets to 26.5 from 52 matches, and the 87 not out at Lords remains his highest. Only against England and Bangladesh does he average over 40, while it is abysmal against Sri Lanka (9 matches) and New Zealand (7 matches).
A furious runner between the wickets who places a high price on his wicket, he could be a top-order batsman for the future. However, there are deficiencies in his ability to clear the ropes consistently which will need to be addressed before he cements a place in the team.

And by the way, let the games begin!

06 September 2007

ODI cricket regains some sheen

After a lacklustre World Cup, ODI cricket as a format needed a shot in the arm. And it was delivered - with all the drama, skills and emotion that sport is about. Oval 2007 will be remembered by Indian fans. Like Lords 2002, and the Sharjah '98 Double Bill still are.

On the back of a dismal World Cup campaign, something extraordinary was necessary to win the whimsical Indian cricket fan back, and Tendulkar, Ganguly and Uthappa delivered it yesterday.

05 September 2007

Four bowlers or five?

Was it the extra padding at the lower end of the batting order that allowed Sachin and Saurav to play with more freedom? I am sure there have been occasions in the past where the two have gone after the bowling even when the batting wasn't too deep. But does it make sense to do the same even on a ground where the average score of the team batting first has been 234, and has been known to assist spin? This may a good occasion to back Yuvraj, Sachin and Saurav.

I am not a great fan of the "four bowlers as formula" approach. Flexibility is required in composing the bowling attack, and five bowlers can be really handy on a subcontinental belter. I also have the feeling that Dravid would be ready to stick to the four-bowlers strategy even on shirtfronts, if only he had the services of Sehwag too.

03 September 2007


I hope some people I know watched him bat yesterday. If they did, they would shut up about the whole "retirement" thing.

India is still the weaker team in the tournament. Despite Ganguly's success as a bowler at Headingly, he is less than a good fifth bowler, and desperately needs helpful conditions (Toronto!) to be succesful. And Sachin's tendency to leak runs in between good balls is also hurting us. Collingwood on the other hand, has bowled very well, and England have not had to rely too much on Bopara, Pietersen or Mascarenhas. Fielding and catching was still below par, and it was only superior batting and wicket-keeping that won us the match, apart from some probing overs from Zaheer and Powar.

01 September 2007

Karthik should be dropped.

I am a big fan of Karthik. So much so that if it came down to a Karthik-Dhoni showdown for a place in the Test team, I would pick Karthik. And my guess is that Dravid is also a big fan of the pugnacious Tamil Nadu 'keeper. But it is time for some tough love. He has proven awkward at one-down, and unnecessary below Dhoni. The only way Karthik can be valuable in this one-day batting line-up is when one or more of the Big Three start leaving. As things stand now, not only will his confidence get dented, there is a good chance that an air of purposelesness may creep into his game - the pointless waft outside offstump in Bristol (?) was a symptom. He is better off spending time batting with one of the counties or in Indian domestic cricket, preparing for the Pakistan challenge. Uthappa, with the ability to do a demolition act at the top of the order, is the best available option - considering neither Dravid nor Yuvraj will come one-down.