Posts Tagged ‘Kumble’

India’s Fielding; never learning from past mistakes

August 10, 2008

Robin Singh, India’s fielding coach, sent a report to the BCCI assessing the players’ fielding skills after a five one-day international series against Pakistan in November last year. It praised a couple players’ throwing arms, spoke of others’ poor agility, and lamented the concentration and commitment of a few, but there was almost one strand tying Robin’s observations together: the need to improve anticipation and technique.

After another poor day in the field, you have to wonder what has happened since November 2007. At the SSC, where India lost by an innings and 239 runs, Mahela Jayawardene was dropped by wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik on 55 and 93 and Thilan Samaraweera was dropped by Gautam Gambhir at short leg on 53. Matters weren’t much better in Galle, where Karthik and Gambhir were the culprits again.

Today India refused to learn from their mistakes. Close-in fielders repeatedly reacted too late or too early, flat-footed rookies and veterans tripped over balls and failed to reach down in time, Harbhajan Singh kicked a ball away in frustration only to allow a single, and Parthiv Patel missed a stumping.

Sri Lanka meanwhile struck the first blow with a sharp catch off Virender Sehwag by Thilan Samaraweera at gully; then they hammered in the final nail when Sachin Tendulkar, perhaps wary of three lurking close catchers, padded up to Ajantha Mendis late in the day. It was in stark contrast with India’s attempt to apply pressure.

Anil Kumble began the day with three short legs in, one behind the wicket and two in front. In the third over of the day Gambhir stood up too early instead of crouching in anticipation and saw the ball fly past. Then Karthik reacted too soon and couldn’t dive to reach a catch in time. India cannot expect to win consistently unless half chances are regularly converted.

Throughout the first session, Prasanna Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara worked singles past three short legs, especially between the first of the forward short legs and backward short leg fielder. And when Kumble called his fielders in to try and prevent the single off the last ball of the 98th over, they were slow to react. Four balls later Pragyan Ojha, one of three substitutes, made a mess of a stop at backward point and allowed three, much to Kumble’s fury.

India also missed two run-out chances: Sangakkara turned down a single to sell Prasanna down the river, but Rohit Sharma returned a wayward throw to Parthiv. Run-outs don’t come easier than that. In the 129th over Mendis pushed the ball towards Sourav Ganguly at mid-on, Parthiv screamed for the return to the non-striker’s end, but Ganguly missed the stumps with Dammika Prasad out of the frame. Rohit later mis-fielded and allowed two runs and received a nasty glare from Kumble. To cap it off, Parthiv missed a regulation stumping down the leg side off Kumble.

To makes things worse the fielders weren’t helped by their bowlers. With six men on the off side, Harbhajan bowled far too many deliveries on the pads. And kicking the ball, only to concede an overthrow, is unacceptable behaviour. Zaheer Khan did the same during a one-day match in England last summer after a catch had gone down off Matt Prior. At mid-off Kumble could only shake his head.

For the most part of this series Sri Lanka have been disciplined, sharp and athletic; Tillakaratne Dilshan and Prasanna have epitomised this. Dilshan has been outstanding, diving around at forward short leg, leg slip, backward square leg. Even late in the day, three wickets down, he wasn’t complacent, flinging a hand out to stop a single off the pads. In comparison Gambhir and Karthik, who repeatedly stood up near the bat instead of crouching low, allowed easy singles.

Karthik and Parthiv have fumbled regulation takes. Rated India’s best wicketkeeper and one of the better in-fielders, Karthik’s display this series has been substandard. Parthiv has improved marginally since 2004.

Sri Lanka’s infielders dove around and cut off singles while India’s struggled. While Mendis and Chaminda Vaas, newbie and old hand alike, returned throws into the wicketkeeper’s gloves, Ojha and Ganguly had a hard time getting it in on one bounce from the outfield. There was no discipline or ruthlessness from India, who seemed wilted to the extent that they hardly ever touched the stumps.

Reflexes and anticipation are key elements of a good close-in fielder and India haven’t had one since Aakash Chopra’s vigil at the position. Memories of Chopra’s batting may not evoke a smile, but his fielding was top notch. Among his better ones are, his catch off Anil Kumble’s bowling to get Adam Gilchrist in Mumbai in 2001, his brilliant one-handed effort to get Abdul Razzaq at Multan in 2004, when Pakistan trailed by 162 runs, and his catch at forward short leg off a Justin Langer pull in the Australian series of 2003-04, which was unfortunately a no-ball.

Chopra created half-chances, and in Tests that counts for a lot. India soon need to find another such fielder, for they have struggled to create half-chances and take the ones that were there to held. Instead of reports, the BCCI should asses the ground realities.

– About Cricket –

Sandesh Kumar Jaggi

Sehwag hits double century, probably his best one!

August 1, 2008

So far, this match has steadfastly refused to tilt in favour of any team. After another day of twists and turns, heroes and under-performers, and fascinating subplots, neither team can claim ascendancy. Barring rain, the Test looks poised to produce a result and the nicest thing about it is that it will be a while before a favourite can be identified.

But as it was yesterday, the morning belonged to Sehwag. He had promised his team a double-hundred and he never looked like reneging on it. Sri Lanka set deep fields to him from the start and time and again he found his space. There was an early charge against Vaas, who had shifted the balance yesterday with two late wickets, and a fierce cut sped past the man positioned at the point boundary to save it.

The feature of his innings was his remarkable certainty against the spinners. Throughout the morning, Muttiah Muralitharan bowled his off-spinners with six men on leg, and Sehwag kept hitting him through the off side against the spin, deftly manoeuvring the ball with an open blade. There were dabs for singles, a few punches past the cover fielder, and a breathtaking cover drive after dancing down the track. It was far from violent; instead it was artful, delicate and cheeky. And successful: Murali didn’t beat him once.

It was Mendis who came the closest to taking his wicket but he failed in the face of Sehwag’s determination to dominate him. When Mendis replaced Vaas at the Pavilion End, Sehwag cleared his front leg and slog-swept so hard the top edge nearly carried to the man on the fence – but ended up a six.

Sehwag has scored many gigantic hundreds but this must rank among his best. It came against massive odds, and it came when India needed a saviour after the two Sri Lankan spinners had humiliated their batsmen. Seen in isolation, he destroyed them. He scored 128 of his runs off the spinners; Mendis alone yielded 70 runs off 77 balls, including 3 sixes and five fours. He hit five more fours against Murali. It was a mark of his commitment to the team that he didn’t attempt to reach his double hundred with a six and even denied himself an easy single on 199. It would be absolutely reasonable to say that throughout his innings he occupied a different plane from his team-mates.

It is to Mendis’s credit that he retained his poise despite being roughed up by Sehwag. As he did yesterday, he provided the breakthrough that led to the collapse. Laxman was guilty of throwing his wicket away but Mendis had set the trap with a man midway to the mid-wicket boundary. Laxman managed to elude him once but not the second time. Once Laxman was removed, Mendis’s deception was too much for the tailenders – and, on current form, Dinesh Karthik must count as one.

In the last session, India found an unlikely saviour in Harbhajan who – out of nowhere – rediscovered his wicket-taking form to halt Sri Lanka. Both he and Kumble had looked pedestrian until Harbhajan managed to break through against the run of play. That done, he was a transformed bowler. He varied both his length and pace, and began to give the ball rip. With sharper fielders close to the bat, he would have had a fiver by the close. But Mahela Jayawardene has survived to keep Sri Lanka in the game.

– About Cricket –

Sandesh Kumar Jaggi

Kumble plays down Mendis threat

July 20, 2008

Ahead of the tour to Sri Lanka, Anil Kumble, India’s Test captain, has played down the threat posed by spinner Ajantha Mendis, who scythed through India’s batting in the Asia Cup final earlier this week.

“He must be a tricky bowler. But I cannot see how he can remain a surprise element for very long,” he told the Mumbai Mirror. “To be honest I cannot see how someone like Rahul [Dravid] would not have sorted him out. Rahul would have played straight and not heaved across the line.”

Kumble insisted he had nothing to say on Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s decision to withdraw from the Test series as “it was his (Dhoni’s) personal decision. He knows his mind and body”.

However, he stated he had asked the selectors to pick two specialist wicketkeepers for the tour. “As captain I am aware that there could be problems if the specialist were to pull a muscle or have a runny stomach on the morning of a Test. There was a suggestion Rahul be the second wicketkeeper, but I persuaded the [selection] committee to view things from Indian cricket’s point of view and advantage.

“I contended there was nothing wrong in taking the additional specialist wicketkeeper. I know Rahul would not like to be saddled with such a responsibility.”

When asked whether he rued not getting the captaincy earlier in his career, he said: “After the Australian tour that was riddled with controversies, I told myself that I had handled the most provocative of situations well.

“And maybe in that state of mind, I did think I could have served Indian cricket better had I been offered the captaincy earlier. Apart from Sachin [Tendulkar], I was senior in the team to others. But then these things happen and one has to learn to take these in one’s stride.” He said being made captain on a series-to-series basis did not provide him “much scope to plan”.

India kick off the tour with a three-day warm-up match on July 18