Posts Tagged ‘Sachin Tendulkar’

Ganguly possibly out for Australia Series

September 8, 2008

Irani Trophy 2008-09

Mohammad Kaif is the likely candidate to replace Sourav Ganguly in the Rest of the India middle order

Sourav Ganguly has been left out of the Rest of India squad for the Irani Trophy match in which I think is a signal from the national selectors that it is time to start phasing out India’s veteran middle-order. Other notable exclusions for the season-opener are Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma and S Badrinath – but Mohammad Kaif has returned to the reckoning after his 94 for India A against Australia A.

The Rest team for the match against Delhi, which starts in Vadodara on September 24, is meant to feature probables for the Australia Test series in October. Ganguly’s exclusion raises once again a question mark over his international future – he is already out of the ODI picture.

A national selector and a senior BCCI official said the selectors consulted Anil Kumble, the India Test captain, and Gary Kirsten, the national coach, before dropping Ganguly. Both Kumble and Kirsten were completely on board with the decision, they said.

One of the selectors also spoke to Ganguly about the decision and the former India captain has “accepted it”, the selector said.

I think it is a signal to the team, he’s 36-37 and it was getting increasingly tough for him to cope with the fielding and fitness levels expected from him at the international level. I think it’s time to start the process of bringing in the next set of players.

While the decision to drop Ganguly was based on a dip in form and his diminishing fielding skills, selectors said, the selectors were not convinced that Yuvraj was completely fit.

However, both insisted that Ganguly’s Test future could still be revived by the new national selection committee, which will pick the Test team for the four-Test series against Australia starting on October 9.

Apparently, the selectors are hoping that Mohammad Kaif, who impressed them with a well-made 94 in the India A vs Australia A match in Bangalore last week, will fill Ganguly’s slot in the middle. “There is also a good chance for Badrinath (the India A skipper),” the selector said. “Badrinath came up with a convincing display in Sri Lanka last month and he is a fantastic fielder too. But again, it is up to the new selection panel.”

He said that Yuvraj’s fitness was the main reason why he was dropped – the left-hander has been dogged by a knee injury, and is also believed to be nursing a shoulder injury.

Meanwhile, Ashok Dinda, the Bengal medium-pacer, got a surprise call-up to the squad while Sachin Tendulkar, who declared himself fit for the match has made it along with Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. Parthiv Patel, the other promotion from the India A side, is likely to open the batting with Wasim Jaffer.

Badrinath, meanwhile, will continue leading India A side, in the limited-overs tri-series, involving Australia A and New Zealand A, starting on September 15. His deputy will be Suresh Raina, fresh from impressive showings in the Asia Cup and in Sri Lanka. Dinesh Karthik, who lost out on the Irani Trophy slot to Parthiv, will be India A’s keeper in the tri-series.

There were rewards for those who did well in the inaugural IPL: Swapnil Asnodkar, Abhishek Nayar, Dhawal Kulkarni, Yusuf Pathan and Wriddhiman Saha found themselves in the 15-member squad. Hyderabad opener DB Ravi Teja was included, as was Saurashtra’s Jaydev Shah. Irfan Pathan and Praveen Kumar, India’s ODI regulars, will also play in the series, while Piyush Chawla and Robin Uthappa, dropped recently, get another chance to impress the selectors.

Rest of India squad: Anil Kumble (capt), Sachin Tendulkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Wasim Jaffer, Mohammad Kaif, Pragyan Ojha, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, Parthiv Patel, RP Singh, Ashok Dinda, Harbhajan Singh

India A squad for tri-series: S Badrinath(capt), Suresh Raina, Robin Uthappa, Swapnil Asnodkar, Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Abhishek Nayar, Irfan Pathan, Praveen Kumar, Dhawal Kulkarni, Piyush Chawla, Ravi Teja, Yusuf Pathan, Jaydev Shah, Wriddhiman Saha

– About Cricket –

Sandesh Kumar

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

India’s injury woes

August 10, 2008

India took the field on the third day of the Colombo Test against Sri Lanka without Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Ishant Sharma who are nursing injuries which were sustained on the second day.

An MRI scan revealed a swelling in Tendulkar’s left elbow which he jarred while attempting a catch in the 47th over of Sri Lanka’s innings. His hand was immediately wrapped in an icepack and his elbow movements are not comfortable at present. Laxman was still unable to bear full weight on his left ankle which he sprained before the second day’s play while doing a fielding exercise. He did not take the field and underwent an MRI at a local hospital. Both Laxman and Tendulkar were expected to bat in India’s second innings.

India’s bowling attack took a hit when Ishant limped off the field after falling to the ground while bowling his 16th over. A muscle in Ishant’s right buttock was the source of his discomfort and he was unable to continue bowling. He has a right glutues muscle contusion confirmed by an MRI and is unable to bear weight on that side.

Parthiv Patel also copped a blow on the nose from an edge off Sangakkara’s bat and suffered a minor cut. He was kept under observation overnight but was passed fit to keep on the third day.

– About Cricket –

Sandesh Kumar Jaggi

Sehwag decrypts Mendis

July 31, 2008

After two batting collapses in the first Test it was imperative that India got a solid start. Sehwag provided that by using a simple mantra: if the ball is there to be hit, hit it. Circumstances rarely affect Sehwag and he put the pedal to the metal. A whip off the pads past midwicket got him started, a wild sweep that was unsuccessfully referred didn’t stall him, and when he charged Ajantha Mendis and swung him over cow corner for six, Sehwag was at full throttle.

The stand-out feature was the effortless manner in which Sehwag handled Mendis, who was virtually unplayable in Colombo. The key, in his own simple words, was that here Sehwag “picked Mendis off the track, from where the ball pitched”, something only he and and Sachin Tendulkar have managed to do in this series.

When Mendis tossed the ball up on middle and off, Sehwag smothered the spin, and when the bowler drifted on to middle, he went back and turned it fine. If it spun in sharply, Sehwag adjusted his back leg and brought his bat down quickly to kill the ball. Sehwag also picked the two-fingered googly and moved back to cut or punch through the off-side. He failed to beat cover with the drive once but replayed the shot two balls later with more power and placed it to perfection. Mendis’ first four overs cost 29.

Sehwag accelerated and yet remained in control with Gautam Gambhir, fleet-footed against spin, in the passenger seat. There were cracks at one end of the pitch and Nuwan Kulasekera asked a few questions but Sehwag steered clear of them. He cut Muttiah Muralitharan’s first ball, a doosra from around the stumps, to reach his half-century off 50 balls. His strike rate, like a speedometer, fluctuated from 60 to 98 and beyond. India’s 100 came from 115 balls and Sehwag’s contribution was 59.

Like Sri Lanka did at the SSC, he and Gambhir ran hard, hustling for the second, and constantly looking for scoring opportunities. Sehwag and Aakash Chopra, another Delhi team-mate, did this effectively during the majority of their 19 partnerships, notably in Australia in 2003-04. Some of today’s singles were risky but the intent was obvious and it frustrated Sri Lanka.

In the over before lunch, Sehwag put his arm around Gambhir’s shoulder and had a word. Gambhir reached his fifty off the next ball and a beaming Sehwag rushed to congratulate him. When Sehwag dabbed a single behind point to raise the 150 partnership, he punched gloves with Gambhir as they crossed. How many batsmen can power a side to 150 for 0 at lunch? The camaraderie was plain to see.

After a four-hour rain delay, Mendis tested Gambhir with his variation but at the other end Sehwag disdainfully smashed Vaas over cow corner off his second ball after the resumption. Two balls later he played a booming straight drive to reach his century, which he celebrated with a proud wave of the bat to the dressing room and an embrace from his partner. His 15th hundred took only 87 balls with 15 fours and two sixes but the message was deeper.

At the MCG, in 2003-04, India were 311 for 3 but collapsed for 366 after Sehwag was dismissed for 195 at the end of the first day. In Adelaide earlier this year Sehwag scored 151 out of India’s 269 in the second innings. Today, Sehwag had driven India to a position of strength at 167 for 0 before four wickets fell in 20 balls for 11 runs. As he had done against England in Galle during the winter, Chaminda Vaas, rejuvenated after the rain delay, struck twice in an over. Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly were dismissed with the score on 178 and the morning’s work had come undone.

“I didn’t notice any change in my batting after the four-hour break in play,” Sehwag said. “Every batsman has his own mindset with which he plays, but I just played my shots.” Even as stumps approached, Sehwag relied on his base instinct. Mendis went around the stumps and Sehwag used his feet to smash him down the ground and hit two consecutive fours through cover.

Sehwag had fulfilled his responsibility of providing a sound start but the collapse meant that he had to hold the innings together. His unshakeable approach did not change. “I am not satisfied because there’s plenty left in this game,” was Sehwag’s closing statement. “If I can convert this into a double-century or more tomorrow, get India above 400-500, apply pressure on Sri Lanka, then I will be satisfied.”

Crushed in Colombo, India arrived in Galle needing to find a way to bounce back. Only a vivid imagination could have conceived of a fightback without it being led by Sehwag. Like the white breakers of the Indian Ocean, lashing across the rocks in the background of the Galle International Stadium, Sehwag has injected life into a one-sided series.

He has brains alright, and he’s used them rather well.

– About Cricket –

Sandesh Kumar Jaggi