Thursday, September 13, 2007

Another series lost !! Aleem Dhar spoils it all !!

Aleem Dhar ensured that India's party is over at Oval and raised that dreaded finger against Sachin and the rest of the match was a formality. Indian batsmen and their familiar wobble came up - Ganguly has not played one fluent innings for years and it looked as if he was blindfolded after nearly getting out on the 1st ball of the match. The rest came and went and the total was all too easy for England to mop it up.
I am going to be too busy to post regularly for the T20 WC but I will still try.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Uthappa keeps his cool ! Meomorable win at Oval !

India had the 6th ODI in control till the 40the over of the England innings, when Dravid started getting brain cramps. I had warned about the ferocity of hitting from Luke Wright (in my comments on the 1st ODI) and he not only creamed the bowling with 100+ strike rate but also helped the none too confident Shaw to a maiden 100. Then came the much debated last over call up by Dravid. Dimi Masc had hit 5 6s in the first ODI and England selectors did not display much spark in not having him for subsequent games. When Yuvaraj came on to bowl, I thought - may be 15 runs..but the 5 consecutive 6s were simply too much and in the end, India looked a spent side, when they walked back for the break.
When India batted, Sachin played a rare innings of absolute freedom in stroking. His initial go at Anderson were all cricketing shots and India was motoring fine at almost 7 an over, inspite of the none too fluent Ganguly. Then came the usual wobbles and when Yuvi and Dravid got out, it looked that India had messed up another series. Dhoni, for some reason is not able to strike the ball at all (he has not hit a single 6 this whole series but forget that - he did not even hit a single 4 that was convincing; the only ones he got was a 'Powar/Munaf' type misfield by Pieterson and the scoop to fineleg from off). Dhoni was shaky and almost put too much pressure on Uthappa and inspite of poor cricket from Indian lower order, India was thro' since Robin kept his cool.
Now, India go to Lords with momentum and confidence but invariably after such a memorable match, the final matches are an anti-climax. India has to really bat well in Lords so as to seal the series. They better watch out and rectify their faiures against English lower order too.

Monday, September 03, 2007

India Win !! Inspite of Ganguly and due to D&L method

Going into the 5th ODI, India's chances were none too bright and series defeat was starring at them. Their state of mind was best described by a cartoon in Deccan Chronicle (" Never mind, we have lost 3 consecutive matches, remember -we won the toss in all 3").
Dravid did not have the guts to drop Ganguly and went with 4 bowlers and adding Gambhir. Collingwood inserted them in and after 4 overs, the card read 7/0. Sachin, then uncorked 3 glorious cricketing shots off Jon Lewis and India were on their way, inspite of Ganguly's inability to rotate strike. Sachin batted quite well and his innings reminded of visions of last world cup and India were motoring on with Ganguly unable to do anything special or anything ordinary either. A typical over faced by Ganguly read like 004400 (21st over for example) and to an ordinary follower that will be perhaps a feast but out of the 2 4s, one will be an edge after a heave or be a predetermined shot and not a cricketing shot. Another over- this time the 24th, read like this 600000, with the six coming from another shot that was not that convincing to me. Ganguly was unable to rotate the strike and when he got out in the end, his 59 off 79 balls had as much as 49 dot balls.
Ganguly has been getting away with this kind of batting (that is totally not suitable to ODI innings) for years, with a few heaves here and there. If my memory serves me right, the last time he hit a match winning 100 - it was perhaps a decade ago in Asia cup. He has single handedly been spoiled the momentum so many times in the past and even after this match, he was talking to the interviewers about his consistent performance and that is the pits !! Agreed that he took 2 wickets (that were more due to Dhoni's efforts rather than anything special with the ball itself) and when you compare his innings Vs that of Collingwood's or even Sachin's, he definitely did not deserve the MOM and in my opinion does not deserve a spot in the ODI side (the catches he dropped were the usual dollies as well). How many more matches can he ruin?
Gambhir was struggling for the most part and was dropped twice but he somehow scratched around before getting out to his trade mark mode of dismissal - the pull shot, which does not cross midwicket boundary.
Yuvaraj played another belligerent innings and the 300+ total became possible with little cameos in the end from Dravid and Dhoni (BTW,, I don't think Dhoni has hit a 6 this whole series). Dravid perhaps got wind of what I was advocating - promoting ZK and Zaheer's last ball 4 ended the innings in high note.
When India bowled, they grassed 2 in the first 10 minutes and I could see heads dropping. Somehow, the important breakthrough of sending back Pieterson was achieved and when Bell too got out, it was left to Colly, who almost pulled it off single handedly. Agarkar of all fielders, dropped John Lewis and another tight finish was coming up but he played one too many and Dhoni mopped his 6th victim. I felt that the D&L method definitely helped India (for a reduction of 5 overs, the deduction was a mere 14 off the chase). So, India lives to fight for another day. They go to London now and they have to win 2 out 2. Not easy, considering that the wickets will be hard (in Headingly like conditions, Indian bowlers perform but when the wickets are hard - they will have a tough time). Let us see..

Friday, August 31, 2007

Can't bat, bowl and definitely can't field !!

4th ODI - There was a small tit bit when Powar and Yuvaraj were batting. The camera showed Ravi Boppara and Gavaskar comapred the 2 and said Powar can bat (and I could not avoid a laughter - Powar is a joke in the field and with the bat).
The familiar story emerged with Indian top order failing for the umpteenth time. Ganguly has not played an important innings for well over a decade (his claim to fame was innings against countries like Kenya in WC) and he was scratchy as ever. Tendulkar is a liability anywhere in the order and except, Yuvaraj, the rest came and went. The lower order is a joke (can't understand, why Dravid sticks to sending Agarkar and Powar ahead of Zaheer. ZK atleast tries to put bat to ball and succeeds with a few ugly swipes; the rest can't even do that). In the end 213 is not a big target but when I went to sleep with England down in the dumps after loosing 7, I never imagined that Boppara and Broad will win them a match; but, we are talking about India - which always manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory !! The fielding was attrocious and the rest of the energy level was pathetic.
If Dravid does not have the guts to drop Ganguly, then God only save India !!

3rd ODI - It was the same old story. Bell has discoverd his ODI potential, thanks to unimaginative Indian bowling and horrible India fielding. In the end, 282 proved too much, after Ganguly played a Chris Tavare like innings with 63 dot balls. The lower order did not distinguish itself and the looong Indian tail is a serious liability.

Dravid plays a dream innings at Bristol

The fact that India was able to score a 320+ score (even in a small ground like Bristol) was a testimony to the great innings played by Dravid; and this in inspite of the selfish Ganguly and lacklustre Sachin - combination planning to ruin things with a start - that read 30 out of 10 overs. Dravid played an innings of unbelievable proportions, stroking his way to a fluent, effortless 92 out of mere 63 balls. Some of his shots were astounding and it was one of those days, where if the Indian lower order had some sense, he could have got a 100 too. Agarkar and Ramesh Powar decided to be heros, rather than giving the strike to Dravid and RD was denied a 100. This failing of the lower order - starting with the miserable Agarkar onwards, puts in a lengthy tail that lasts to a full 5 mugs with the bat.
Anyway, when India bowled - their fielding was so absymal that they almost lost the match, Numerous run outs were missed (starting from the 1st over itself, when Yuvaraj could have got Prior with a direct hit) and the amount of catches floored became countless when jokers like Powar and careless Ganguy made a mess o simple catches. When Broad stroked 20 from 5 balls off the last over from the listless Munaf, an unlikely victory was within sight but thankfully, Munaf did not bowl a no ball. It was a horrible end and somehow India scrapped through.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

India fried at Rose bowl !!

What a beating it was ? The bowlers got fried, the fielding was ragged and batting, which was supposed to toy with the English bowling failed miserably - all of it combined to give a nasty drubbing at the 1st of the 7 ODIs at Roes bowl, Southampton. I did not watch all the overs in the match but from what little I saw, it was sufficient to conclude that this series will go the world cup way for India.
Signs of trouble brewing were evident even in the match against England Lions, when Luke Wright went on a pace, which looked like that he will get a 200 before the 50 over mark. The 1st ODI, revealed that the white ball is not going to swing and Indian batsmen don't have the luxury of the lethargic boundaries they have been hitting in tests (with aggressive field placing).
Sachin again proved that he is only a paper tiger and as far as Ganguly's run out - it looked school boyish. Did anyone notice that this the 53rd time, he is getting run out involvement in a ODI ? What a joke that was since he got run out off throw from Monty !!..what followed was even more pathetic. Gambhir (what is the meaning of all the useless runs he made in side games) was loose outside the off and did not appear fluent and the rest (including Yuvi) came and went.
I think that things will be very very tough for India, unless there is some drastic change.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Series win after 21 years !! Dravid allows Oval test to drift to a draw !!

In this hour of glory, especially after a long 21 year gap, let us not loose our objective in evaluating a test match performance - Dravid came a poor 2nd in terms of strategy and allowed things to drift and that allowed England to escape with a draw at the 3rd test match at Oval.
English batting in the 1st inning got a lease of life when Kaarthik spilled a regulation catch at leg slip (in fact, he has a habit of messing simple ones, for some reason). Cook went on to score a 50+ but Kumble fooled Vaughn at the right time and things could have gone worse had the Howell chap, not rejected that plumb LBW to Colly. Zaheer was not the same force as in Trent Bridge but the 2nd new ball worked wonders and there was a real chance to enforce the follow on by the end of day 3; but, Monty hung in there with Tremlet, who wanted to prove that he is a better bat than Sidebottom, who was sent ahead of him. In fact, this pair hung in there for 8 more overs on day 4 as well and that really delayed things for India.
In my opinion, Dravid should have enforced the follow on but somehow, he decided to play on and then came the familiar 2nd innings wobble of India. I wish, Karthik had struck it out for another 1/2 hour - that would have made a huge difference but he too got out and when the paper tiger - Sachin got cleaned out, like a tail ender, 11-3 was starring at Dravid and Ganguly. Dravid, then played an inexplicable slow killer that virtually eliminated the possibility of a result. Ganguly played a brilliant counter attacking innings but with Dravid not rotating the strike, precious time was lost and the eventual target of 500 came at least some 15 overs later than it should have.
The English batting in the 2nd innings was anhored by the peerless Pieterson, who again showed that he is the best of the lot (both teams put together); Kumble was not at all penetrative and the match petered out to a tame draw, not withstanding some artificial excitement in the end.
Indians certainly have reason to celebrate since test victories abroad have been as rare as sighting Haley's comet but let us not forget that they drew the test at Lords due to intervention by weather and by a proverbial whisker. Otherwise, the score line would have been 1-1, which would have proved nothing. The positives for India were the opening pair, a re-born Ganguly and a hungry Zaheer. The test series also revealed the old flaws of Tendulkar but as usual, everyone will forget about them, especially after a rare series win.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Kumble's Swansong !!

If someone had told me that in a 3 test series aginst England, the only batsman to score a 100 will be Kumble, I would have simply laughed it away and said that 'you must be nuts'; but that is what happened on 2nd day and Jumbo weaved, swatted, swayed, hoiked his way to a memorable 100, that produced as much delight in the dressing room as if some one had hit a Brandmanisque 300 in one single day. I was saying y'ay that the tail must hang around and they did that precisely and the English morale kept dropping.
The morning session began with the sedate Tendu (what is new ?) and a classy VVS, who almost overtook Sachin with a cream of boundaries on the leg side. Dhoni then consolidated things with a clinical assault when he cleaned up the useless post prandial dollies from pie throwers. (I infact liked the way, Dhoni made Kishore Bhemani look silly in the post match interview. Kishore said - Ah ! Mahi- you have not been in the best of form to which MSD quitely replied with a wry smile - the only innings I did not score was in Trent Bridge).
As the evening wore on, Jumbo's 100 became a reality and Shreesanth (man !! if he can show some more of a temperament, he looks a better batsman than even Zaheer/RP) and he got it with a typical mess up (by who else but Prior) between keeper's legs, the Indian dressing room is a scened to be seen. Wide smiles from Karthik to Ramki and Venky Prasad, whistling to celebrate his B'lore buddy's 100.
I did not know why Dravid did not declare that very moment since that could have been used toturn the screw even further. Strauss messed up an easy bouncer but Cook looks to be in good touch and the pitch is still full of runs. Kumble must be waiting to turn his arm over in a typical India like pitch.

Karthik proves his value !! Ian Howell goes blind !!

As expected, the oval wicket was a batsman friendly one and Dravid was glad to win an important toss. Jaffer and Karthik eased to an early pattern, where runs were easy to pick and Jaffer in particular looked to be in good touch. His upper cut 6 was a stand out but there were other pleasing strokes as well during his brief innings. His reach out shot to 3rd man, must have disappointed him since this is a kind of wicket, where a 100 is there for the asking. Dravid played positively and Karthik upped the anty by playing an innings full of utility - hurrying for every single run and egging his partner to run as well. Karthik's glorious off driver 6 off Monty was all class and some of his straight drives and cover drives were a treat to watch. Karthik has come off age for sure and just when things looked good - a double strike happened. Dravid got a very good yorker but I doubt very much whether Karthik feathered a touch or not.
Then came the excruciatingly painful innings, which we are quite used to from Sachin. He refused to play the hook or pull and looked every bit out of touch. He was tested by Anderson repeatedly and when Prior dropped him, he promptly shut shop. In the mean while, Ganguly was all class- his off drives, hoik off Monty and the leg side pulls were show casing a degree of class which we are used to; and then came the blinder from Howell (or Howler as Shastri put it). SG got a huge inside edge but Howell went blind and raised his finger and that was that. I wonder why Dravid and the rest of the India team did not stand out and do repeat of a Pieterson incident at Lords. The mistake was so huge and so obvious.
Anyway, VVS walked out and looked to be in good touch and if he can come up with a big score, India can put some big numbers. The tail must use Prior's benevolent byes since a mere 20 or 30 partnership can become 50 or 60 with Prior's handy contribution. India is still capable of messing up such a good start (it should have been easily 360 but for Tendu) but again, the pitch should help them to chart where they want to be.