Tuesday, September 18, 2007

After Agarkar

After conceding 76 runs in two games, the most by an Indian bowler at the T20 World Cup so far, it seems inevitable that Agarkar will finally be replaced, especially now that the green signal has come from Mumbai in the form of his sacking from the ODI team. He's been an enigma with his ability to produce wicket-taking deliveries undone by his inability to maintain control in his quest for pace and variety. In the end, he was the principal contributor in too many Indian losses, and did not play enough match-winning roles to compensate for that, although his six-fer in Adelaide will always be cherished. Now let's look at the possible replacements. My choice would be Rohit Sharma. I have no idea if this youngster can bat anywhere near what has been written about him, but to be picked in the team as a limited overs bat right from the Ireland series and not to get a game yet despite India's poor run since then is ridiculous. It's even more ridiculous that he now finds himself out of the ODI team! This now raises questions whether he was picked on merit or as a passenger to make a little pocket money. I hope he at least gets a chance to show it's the former in the next two games. Picking Piyush Chawla for Agarkar will be a temptation that I hope the team resists, because the first two games have shown we are light in batting resources. So Chawla should get in only if Bhajji fails. Another replacement that is again overdue (on the pattern of the series in England) is that of Dinesh Karthick. He gave that ball from Vettori an almighty heave and still failed to clear the square leg boundary. Maybe he needs to go to the gym and bulk up for the hitting required in limited overs cricket. Until then, let's save him for the Tests where he has done well to come good as an opener and put Dhoni's position under a scanner. (If Dhoni's poor form with the bat continues, he can be replaced in Tests by the many middle order batsmen knocking on the door.) Karthick's position should go to Yusuf Pathan, another player I have not seen in action. He's reputed to be a hard-hitter and can scarcely do worse than Karthick. Besides, he can chip in with his off-spin for the fifth bowler's quota or that of one of the main bowlers who starts going for too many. As for Joginder Sharma, I wasn't impressed with this bits-and-pieces player when I saw him last and his selection wasted an opportunity to identify a new bowler or batsman. Perhaps he's a passenger too. Devious are the ways of our board.

16 comments:

Soulberry said...

Rohit Sharma is the other conundrum of Indian cricket...the great sages kept him away from important cricket for over three months when he should have been playing the A tours or even the T20's. Then they sack him!

I always believed it said that Mumbai knows its cricket and cricket adminstration well. wasn't he the bloke who recorded a hundred in domestic T20? Young legs and all too?

I know there is a bias against Sehwag where stats are quoted selectively and conveniently, but the world has heaved a sigh of relief to see him out of the Indian team.

And now the decks have been cleared for the granddaddy of Indian cricket to take over as captain. Which way are we going Prez? Too much fog for me to see...can you?

John said...

I think the selectors are waiting for Dhoni to pull off a miracle against the Aussies. And then give him the Test captaincy too. If he can't, it'll go to Sachin, or Laxman (who has an outside chance).

Sumit Chakraberty said...

soulberry, it's going down, down, down i'm afraid, but we have enough time to get to the grand-daddy. let's enjoy the t20 for now... about mumbai, yes it's a paradox that the maratha prez has surrounded himself with maratha chief selector, captain-to-be, advisors, but that's not necessarily great news for maratha cricketers (except agarkar, who may stage another comeback). basically, incompetent cricket admin will screw up cricket at all levels, national or in their own backyard. and powar and rohit are the ones to suffer...
john, dhoni, sachin, it makes little diff. my choices would've been yuvraj for 2020 and 5050, and ganguly or kumble for tests. i predict a win ratio of not more than one-third in the coming season under the chosen leadership. let's see...

Anonymous said...

It is true that this monkey-faced idiot, Ajit Agarkar, has cost India far too many matches — some statistician should do a study on how many. He must surely hold the record for having made it into the India team for the maximum number of times without any domestic performance to back him up after having been dropped from the team for fatally incompetent bowling displays at the international level. If I was a typical Indian fan, I would have gone on a fast unto death demanding a complete ban on this paragon of mediocrity from ever wearing the India colours ever again.

Soulberry said...

He must surely hold the record for having made it into the India team for the maximum number of times without any domestic performance to back him up after having been dropped from the team for fatally incompetent bowling

Quote!

John said...

Why is it that no one remembers that Agarkar is the only bowler who hs remained fit for any reasonable length of time?

Given the abysmal fitness levels in Indian cricket, it is only natural that he would remain on the fringes of national selection. We went through the likes of Nehra, Mohanty, Harvinder Singh, Balaji, Tinu Yohannan, T Kumaran (and more?) during Agarkar's career. It is not as if others have not been given a chance. Those who were given a chance, just could not show the kind of fitness and wicket-taking ability to dislodge Ajit from the team. Please show me an alternative to Agarkar who - over the past decade - could have replaced Ajit in at least half the number of ODIs he has played (191)!

Oh, and another boring statistic. Ajit Agarkar picks up a wicket more often than McGrath, Flintoff, Murali and Zaheer!

I am not trying to say that we should retain Agarkar in the team. We need a bowler who can combine his strike rate with intelligent bowling under pressure. But that is no reason to diss the poor chap on the basis of some imagined Mumbai coterie. Considering the dearth of fast-bowling options in India over the past decade, he really deserved to play at least 90% of those 191 ODIs.

And remember, the supposed Mumbai coterie cannot be that strong if they haven't managed to put a Mumbai batsman in the team since Tendulkar. Not even for 191 ODIs.

Sumit Chakraberty said...

soulberry, john, anonymous, thanks for all the interesting points. john, let's understand one thing first. the mumbai coterie is only interested in serving itself, not mumbai's cricketers. look at the plight of powar and rohit sharma. agarkar's the apparent exception because of his known proximity to the coterie...
as for agarkar's wicket-taking strike rate, the point's already been made that he has contributed to more losses with his run-rate, than to victories with his strike-rate. a match-by-match analysis of agarkar's performance would prove this i think, but it's too depressing a project...
it's not true that aagrkar has struggled any less with injury. as for his longevity in spite of that, well that's the point, isn't it, whether it was deserved...
as for the TINA factor, that's just not true. even in the england series, it made no sense to make rp singh sit out a few matches while agarkar played. and what happened to the pacers from bengal and delhi who were sent packing after the test series. would they have fared any worse than agarkar? there have always been reasonable contenders for agarkar's place but they never got a chance because they did not have worthies like gavaskar, shastri et al to keep speaking in their favour.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Sumit there, though I can barely summon either the calmness of mind or the coolness of temperament required to engage in a dispassionate discussion about the merits and demerits of this so-called fast bowler who, to me at least, seems to take a masochistic delight in being carted around by players who wouldn’t find a place in Shardashram’s ‘D’ team. 191 matches! I think the morons — or jokers, as Mohinder Amarnath accurately identified them — who were responsible for him playing so many games should be sent to trial for cricket crimes, on the lines of the Nuremberg trials. Who can account for all those tears of impotent rage and frustration that I — and millions of other suckers like me —have shed every time this neckless retard came lumbering up to the crease and bowled yet another half-volley that just about sealed yet another defeat for India? There are players who are match-winners, like Yuvraj, for example, or even Sehwag, who wins a game for us maybe once every 77 matches. There may be a logic there for giving them enough chances even in the event of sustained non-performance (as happened with Sehwag), because, who knows, our ‘match-winners’ could strike form in the very next match. Remember how far that got us in the World Cup 07? But I can’t think of any reason — other than cruel whimsy, or a lobby of some sort — why we should again and again indulge in national self-flagellation by picking, again and again, a proven match-loser.

Sumit Chakraberty said...

anonymous, thanks. you capture my sentiment and i couldn't have put it better.

John said...

It really is unfair! You are castigating Agarkar on the basis of the perception that he has lost us matches. I'd like to know what criterion you have applied to come to that particular conclusion? I have watched as much cricket as anyone, so please don't use recollection to justify it. Use stats. Or if you have some evidence that is better than stats, you're welcome to bring it on.


India have lost 82 of the 191 ODIs in which he has played. And he has had a bad time (going over more than 6.5 an over) in 16 of them.
I have used the random criterion of a 6.5 economy rate for a bowler. What about a batsman?

Yuvraj Singh for instance. Of the 183 ODIs he has played, India have lost 73. And in these 73, he has scored less that ten, 31 times. Yes, THIRTY ONE times!!

Be a little fair to bowlers. It's not as if the decks are not already stacked against them.

Anonymous said...

Okay, for John’s sake, I’ll try and control my bile here, though I am not sure I’ll succeed, as Agarkar has taken a lot out of me already.

For starters, I’m afraid John is completely missing the point here. Statistics is a sword that cuts both ways and those who wield it are liable to die by it – and I don’t want to be one of those. I don’t trust numbers, especially when I have my eyes and ears. You say, “be a little fair to bowlers”. Well, if I am being anything here, I am being fair to bowlers — by virtue of not insulting the bowler community by calling Agarkar a ‘bowler’. So forget statistics. I refuse to consider a person a bowler (at the international level) if he has no clue about either the length, direction, swing and perhaps even the speed of a delivery until after he has bowled it. Take someone like Joginder Sharma (not a bowling genius by any means), who has just replaced Agarkar in the Twenty20 World Cup. As a captain or even as a spectator, you can trust the guy to bowl a certain line or length, to bowl to a field, to bowl to some strategy or plan agreed upon beforehand. Even if he gets belted, you would at least have the satisfaction of knowing that the lad did his job within his limitations, did what he was told to do, was expected to do, at least in terms of landing the ball in the right areas — more or less. Every bowler has off-days of course, when he sprays it all over. But at the international level, you usually maintain a certain minimal tidiness — even Sehwag, a part-timer, can be relied upon to fulfill that minimal tidiness requirement.

In the case of Agarkar, however, you never can. I don’t know about the captain, but as a spectator, every time he comes in to bowl, I find myself praying – praying that this time he doesn’t stray down the legside; that this time at least, having bowled five dot balls, he doesn’t spoil it all by bowling a half-volley now — and invariably I have found that he DOES spoil it all. I have no respect for an ‘international bowler’ who cannot hold his line and length for a complete spell even on his good days, even when he is in full form. And when it’s not a good day for him — which is almost every day — he cannot bowl six deliveries without bowling at least two bad ones.

As for his strike rate which his defenders keeping quoting, I can only say that batsmen tend to take more risks with him, having realised his unique mediocrity as a bowler. In the process, they do get out more often to him, but they also extract their price in terms of runs before they fall. So, while the wickets help to keep Agarkar in the team, the runs are a factor in moving India towards defeat. In any other team, he would have been cast out after the selectors have seen the nature of his poor performances. He was lucky to be born in India, where they have a zonal selection system. Also, Agarkar kept making it into the Indian team as an “all-rounder”. By what stretch of imagination is he an all-rounder? Forget his batting stats (as I said, I am not even going there), has anyone ever looked at him batting? And please, how long can one man live off the laurels of a solitary century in Lord’s and one six-wicket spell in Adelaide? Open your eyes, turn your head, and look out the window. There are more talented bowlers out there in the park. Don’t believe Vengsarkar when he says there is no great talent in India. Has he taken a look at those two Assamese bowlers who have signed up with ICL? Have you? Agarkar is not good enough to lick their bad balls.

John said...

Leave the rhetoric. Answer the statistic. If you can.

Anonymous said...

As I said before, I have no blind faith in the religion of numbers. They conceal more than they reveal. Perhaps it is possible to prove statistically that Agarkar is a great bowler. Good for him. Too bad for Team India.

John said...

"As for his strike rate which his defenders keeping quoting, I can only say that batsmen tend to take more risks with him, having realised his unique mediocrity as a bowler."

Pathan has an econ rate as bad as Agarkar's (5.07), and so with Mohammed Sami and Debashish Mohanty. Zaheer Khan gives away 0.2 RPO less - same as Maharoof.

The great Waqar Younis used to give only 0.4 RPO less than Agarkar, amd so does Lasith Malinga, Umar Gul and Shoaib Akhthar. Naved ul Hasan gives away 0.5 runs more. Dilhara Fernando gives away 0.2 runs more.

These are the only Asian medium pacers in the list of bowlers with top strike-rates. I am not comparing other bowlers since they would have played most of their cricket on more responsive pitches.

But just in case you're interested, the following is the list of non-Asian, super-strike-rate bowlers with a higher economy rate:

Stuart Clark gives away 0.3 runs more.
Dwayne Bravo gives away 0.2 runs more
Plunkett gives 0.8 runs more

I am sure you have eyes and ears, my friend Anon, but do you see? Do you hear?

Sumit Chakraberty said...

john, let me point out a couple of fallacies in your figures. a cutoff of 6.5 runs per over for agarkar would apply only to high-scoring games. in a low-scoring game, even 5 an over could be equivalent to a duck. and if he's going at over 6.5 in every 12th game, that seems too frequent. i don't think every 12th odi crosses 325 runs. on the contrary, the below 10 batting yardstick you've used for yuvraj would apply to all games whether low or high scoring. that yuvraj is getting out like that only one out of six times batting down the order seems impressive. besides, if you like at yuvraj's stats for the last two years, which are more pertinent, you'll be astounded. he's been phenomenal.

Anonymous said...

I guess what Sumit says above only reinforces my belief that statistics conceal more than what they reveal. His point is actually bang on, though I must confess I don’t have a head for numbers and it didn’t strike me. But it is a fact that if Agarkar goes for 5.07 runs per over in a low-scoring match, India is done for. Since you are so much into stats, John, maybe you should check out his figures in the low-scoring matches he's played. Or perhaps, it is time to go ahead and dig out some more statistics, and this time, who knows, you can prove that Agarkar is actually a much better bowler than McGrath.