17 December 2007

Kaushik's XI for Melbourne

Kaushik has collected his thoughts on the team sheet for Melbourne, and makes some interesting observations about how to accomodate Yuvraj in the team. He argues for Dravid's exclusion from the XI pointing out (1) that we need a solid opening pair because our realistic chance lies in out-batting Australia in the first innings; (2) that Yuvraj by being a belligrent, confident batsman and part-time bowler, provides everything that the out-of-form Dravid does not; and (3) it would be an unmistakable signal of an intent to win.

12 December 2007

What about Chopra??

If Gautam Gambhir had a sore shoulder and could not be picked in the sixteen, should not the next choice in the 24 probables have had a better at the squad to Oz, than someone from outside the 24?

What impact will such a decision have on Chopra's career?! One act of selectorial stupidity (that of dropping Veeru) does not justify such contrivance.

Who is Pankaj Singh?

This is what the Cricinfo Player Profile says:
Pankaj Singh, a tall and strapping right-arm medium-fast bowler from Rajasthan, has progressed from the Under-19 level to the India A side with consistent performances since he made his first-class debut in August 2003. By 2006 he started showing signs of having matured, taking Rajasthan to the final of the Ranji Plate league, with 21 wickets at 20.95. In 2007, he was part of India A's twin tour of Zimbabwe and Kenya, and a total of 18 wickets in the unofficial Tests and ODIs in Kenya earned him a spot for the home series against South Africa A. With Sreesanth and Munaf Patel injured, he earned a call-up to India's Test squad to tour Australia.

08 December 2007

Pakistan in India, Chinnaswamy, Days 2 and 3: Ganguly, Pathan make hay, looks like it will be a batathon

After an eye-catching partnership between Ganguly and Pathan competing among them for the best sixer against Kaneria, it fell to India to slowly wrench the Pakistani batsmen out before they reached the follow on score. At the end of Day 3, India will be disappointed that they do not have more runs to play with. Misbah and Kamran, the duo that thwarted the Indians at Eden are batting and there is Mohammed Sami to follow. Only 58 runs are needed to avoid the follow on.

It was sexy stuff from Ganguly. He looked awesome, and as a person who has always been frustrated with his lack of urgency between wickets, I was really really happy that he ran 78 singles and 13 twos. Pathan too, turned it on, but I hope his selection will be determined by his bowling alone.

I don't think India bowled as well as they could have. Salman Butt had it quite easy, and I think young Ishant found the right hand-left hand combo tricky. Butt hit several boundaries on leg side, behind and in front of square.

Younis Khan is a bit of a stud. I did not think much of him when he came into the game and was stunned when Pakistan decided that he was their best number 3. But eventually he did rewrite the rules of the game in his own small way, much like Dhoni did later. That dab to third man got him thirty percent of his runs today. Like Dhoni, like Sehwag, there is not much we can complain of when he gets out. All we can mutter is, "but that's the way he plays the game!" Sad part is, Pakistan rely on him much more than we ever did on Sehwag or now rely on Dhoni. They rely much more on Yousuf, and he played a shot that he will rue, to get out.

Misbah is slowly becoming a master at the attritional game. Even today he ate up time and made the runs that will almost certainly save Pakistan from the follow-on. Kamran is his pocket-sized ally. Neither put away the shots, but managed a risk-free game.

Day 1: India go ahead, the Left turns it.
This was Chinnaswamy, and it wasn't too long back that Balaji and India fell with fifteen balls left. The Bangalore jinx had to be broken and India came close to giving Pakistan the test on a platter on Day 1. Laxman was unlucky maybe. But Jaffer, Dravid and Gambhir made errors in judgment. Gambhir flirted with one outside off, and did not do much to dislodge Karthik from the opener's slot. Jaffer misread the line and got hit right in front. He did not look anywhere near as fluent as he did in the two innings at Eden, and looked ridiculous going like that after facing 62 balls. So, questions still remain at the top. Did Dravid play one shot too many? Arafat may have put in some extra shoulder into that ball, and Dravid did not see that coming. It is a shot he plays well, so he'll be ruing his bad luck. Four down on the first session of the first day of a Test match. Though Arafat was getting the ball to move, he was not that hostile.Subsequent events showed the pitch for what it was, and had the top order shown a little more application, the heroics that followed would not have been necessary.

Yuvraj Singh has all but torn down the walls of the Test team with a counterattacking innings of real confidence. It is not the first time he has scored a Test century, but every time he has showed us that he belonged, he would paly a one-day stroke too many and get out. Ganguly rode out a stupid feud with the childish Akthar early in the innings and then hardly gave a chance through his innings. Yuvi's runscoring abilities took the pressure of Ganguly and he followed Yuvraj to a century in the third session. Gaping holes in the Pakistan bowling became apparent. Akthar was taken to hospital again, but Sami soldiered on and that certainly was not enough. Yuvraj and Ganguly played Kaneria quite easily. Younis Khan, Yasir Hameed, Salman Butt all had a ball. Three hundred runs and the new ball later, Yuvraj was out.

Karthik did not look very confident. His situation is dicey and he will need to push his claim against a ball that is still new, tomorrow. India would want to bat till tea, but if Akthar is back to bowling well tomorrow, the innings could fold before lunch and set up and see saw.

06 December 2007

Fast bowling depth

Only recently, Harsha Bhogle was complaining about the lack of depth in Indian pace bowling. The criticism came not a moment too soon, as India had just returned from England with a remarkable series win. And many credited the win to India going to England with an attack capable of picking twenty wickets. Zaheer was bowling very well, and had two capable allies in Arpy and Sree. It was even more remarkable that India won a Test match without a significant contribution from the erratic Sreesanth. Clearly, these three would be at the top of the pecking order for a while.

Prior to the England tour, both Munaf Patel and VRV Singh had been tried at various points. Munaf could only go through one complete series uninjured, while VRV seemed too raw and unpenetrative at times. At the same time, the erstwhile blue-eyed boy Irfan Pathan made a comeback in the T20 and ODI scheme of things. Astonishingly, Ajit Agarkar remained in contention for the ODI and T20 teams. After some good ODI form in 2006, Ajit returned to his pedestrian habits. Ishant Sharma played against Bangladesh but did not set the imagination on fire. He went to England, but like the line-and-length-master Ranadeb Bose, did not get to play a Test.

In Bangalore, we will probably get to see what the second level of Indian fast bowling looks like. Set to play are Irfan Pathan, VRV Singh and Ishant Sharma. Irfan is making a comeback to the Test arena after having to make a humilating return from the squad in South Africa. Slowly, he has climbed back to be in the reckoning and he would love to be in the squad to Australia where he made an impressive debut. Once promoted to spearhead status after Zaheer was dropped, he forged a useful partnership with L Balaji. For a while, we were able to forget Zaheer and Nehra and Agarkar. On his comeback trail, he has mostly permitted himself to be viewed as a cunning support bowler, and there are serious doubts about whether he can ever recapture the scorching form or the fast banana inswing that made him.

The scariest part is that there is a chance that India may play in Oz without any of the bowlers that did well in the recent past. Though Ajit Agarkar will always pick up wickets, his discipline is probably worse than Sami's. It needs to be seen just how penetrative Irfan, Ishant and VRV can be. With a depleted line-up at his disposal, Kumble cannot be blamed if he goes on the defensive.

05 December 2007

Belling the Murali

Ian Bell stood between Sri Lanka and certain victory. And failed with just fifteen overs remaining. But sport permits us couch and internet potatoes to speculate about glory and beauty in defeat. There is Gavaskar's last test innings on a minefield that is the stuff of legend. There is Tendulkar battling injury, Saqlain and his own team's frailty at Chennai.

Bell batted out 209 balls. Only King Kumar batted longer in the match. When the second new ball was taken, England which had been in complete disarray, could actually contemplate a victory. God knows if Prior thought about it because he played some crackers off Vaas.

In the end it only delayed what happened. Murali came and sent both of them backing.

04 December 2007

Murali is the champion of the world

Watching you sir, has been pure pleasure. Your competetiveness in the face of detractors, doubts and dickheads in an environment of conflict, is an inspiration to many. You deserve an unassailable peak.