Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Chuck de Dravid

On hindsight, India could have won the Natwest series 7-0, but should have lost it 7-0. Let's take them one by one.
1. At the Rose Bowl, teams batting first in day-night matches have usually won, because the pitch freshens up at night and makes the ball zip. Dravid chose to field first, probably going by his experiences in India where the dew gets so heavy in winter day-nighters that the ball gets wet and loses all movement. This decision cost India the match.
2. At the next day-nighter in Bristol, Dravid chose to bat first, thus acknowledging his regret at choosing to field first in similar circumstances in the previous match. India was lucky none of the batsmen failed, except Karthick, because it went in with a batsman short as Dravid wanted to play two spinners and also retain all his three seamers. The fifth bowler made little difference as England came within nine runs of India's mammoth 330.
3. At Edgbaston, Dravid went back to fielding first because it was a day game, and he remembered the early help his bowlers got in the matches against South Africa in Ireland before the Test series. But he failed to take into account the record at Edgbaston where teams batting second have lost because the pitch slows down, making shot-making difficult. To compound matters, India was still one batsman short, which meant Yuvraj ran out of partners even though the asking rate was well within grasp.
4. In Manchester, Dravid switched back to batting first, but this time encountered typical English conditions and got bowled out for 212, the batting lineup paying a heavy price for carrying five specialist bowlers. England got into trouble too, losing seven wickets for 114, but India could not finish the job, underlining the futility of playing the fifth specialist bowler.
5. At Headingley, Collingwood chose to bowl first, going by Headingley's record of favouring bowlers early on. It was a sunny day, however, and India piled up 324 in balmy batting conditions, with Dravid having finally switched back to playing six batsmen plus keeper. It started drizzling when England batted, and when Duckworth-Lewis entered the equation it put the final nail in England's coffin.
6. At the Oval, Collingwood switched back to batting first, and piled up 316 thanks to Dravid's largesse of handing Yuvraj the ball for the last over in spite of his most economic bowler Ramesh Powar not having completed his quota. Finally, the sixth batsman Robin Uthappa's heroics in the last two overs saved Dravid the blushes.
7. At Lord's in the World Cup final of 1999 Wasim Akram discovered why you should field first when in doubt. Dravid probably stung by all the flak he caught for choosing to field first at Edgbaston, went against his inclination and chose to bat first. The pace, bounce and movement sorted out the Indian batsmen who were all at sea. The margin of loss was so huge that I don't think Aleem Dar's error in giving Tendulkar out was the decisive factor, even though that's what Dravid was happy to draw attemtion to after losing a series with bad captaincy.
In sum, Dravid lost the first and last ODIs after taking wrong decisions after winning the toss, and lost the third and fourth ODIs by playing five specialist bowlers. For India's sake, he should chuck the captaincy. We can no longer keep finding excuses for India's flop show in one-day cricket before, during and after the World Cup. We need an astute captain and coach, better selection and competent administration.


John said...

It is unfair to visit the team's deficiencies on the captain alone. India ia sub-standard one-day outfit, and the NatWest series did not draw out the vast gulf between the teams very well. Good teams can easily recover from tactical mistakes and can make the best out of good captaincy. How many times can we honsetly say that the decision at the toss was the most decisive factor in a match? In the last game for example, it was India's inability to eschew the hammer and tongs approach for graft that cost us the match. Perhaps, Ganguly and Gambhir read the conditions wrong and thought a large total was needed when 250 would have been competetive.

What we need to realize now is that the Indina ODI team is not going to be competetive overnight, and a change in captaincy is just going to load the same problems on yet another hapless individual.
What should ideally happen is that in a year and a half, India should evolve a team that is nimbler on its legs, and has the basics of fielding and bowling-at-the-death right. At such a point, the team should be handed over to another captain who can take it to the next level. After all, who better to handle a repair job than Dravid?

Sumit Chakraberty said...

john, you may be right but here are a few counters... india was going at less than four an over - so it was not over-ambition that did us in. none of the batsmen could handle the bounce and seam movement... this england team even got beaten by the windies who near the bottom of the odi pool. and they were without hoggard and flintoff was only half-fit... we had tendulkar, ganguly and yuvraj in good form, two spinners bowling beautifully, and zaheer khan very effective both up front and at the death. dhoni kept well and chipped in with a few runs, and dravid too had the one or two good knocks. unfortunately, uthappa got only two games, and rohit sharma none - but we had promising youngsters too in this team. no, john, it isn't a team lacking in talent. under yuvraj and whatmore, this team would've smashed this ordinary england side 7-0.

Golandaaz said...

I don't see how anyone can suggest that we could have won 7-0 when the reality is we won 3-4!

Looking at one side and claiming a superiority on analysis alone is a gross neglect of acknowleding your opponents.

India lost to WI in WI (ODI), failed in the WC also had lost the ODI at home to Pak not so long ago and have not changed their team, strategy or thinking. England on the other hand is a new look side and did better than India at the world cup and after falling to the WI, played exceptional cricket under a new captain against India. In fact England should bemon the 4-3 scoreline and feel that they should have won 6-1.

There are several factors that collaborate to make winning teams. Captaincly and getting the toss right is only an subset of these factors. Winning teams are teams that can sustain an occasional lapse in captaincy and toss but win based on other strenghts. India can win in "sunny day" scenaios. And those scenarios require many things to fall in place and not all like "the toss" are elements the team controls

Wake up and give England their due

Sumit Chakraberty said...

point taken, golandaaz, but i feel bad captaincy and coaching have been india's chief bugbears for the past couple of years.

Golandaaz said...

I agree but that should not be an excuse to hide other short comings under the carpet. We need some fresh talent and committment. When I see people like Munaf it pains me. Where is the spirit in him?

Homer said...

Astute captain is a chimera Sumit.. When was the last time you used the adjective "astute" for any Indian captain?

As golandaaz rightly points out, our problems are more endemic... And unless our approach to the game changes, this discussion will go on till the cows come home.

Sumit Chakraberty said...

yes. munaf was a bad selection in the same way that we kept picking zaheer when he was unfit. the break did zaheer good, and munaf needs a long break from the team. as for fresh talent, we're just not letting them breathe. dravid preferred agarker to rp singh initially in spite of rp's sterling temperament and performance in the test series. he picked uthappa only for the last two games. poor rohit sharma did not get a single game in spite of holding the indian record for the fastest century in t20 cricket. bad administration, bad selection, no coaching, and bad captaincy, in that order, have been the bane of indian cricket. vengsarkar bemoans the lack of talent, but i think that's a lame excuse. talent is there in abundance. just nobody competent to harness it.

Soulberry said...

Sumit, this is an interesting analysis...I'm going to save it up for balanced perusal at leisure.

The team was poor in many departments and certainly captaincy contributed it's bit in different ways, but I am sure it is not all an issue of captaincy here...the men were all on furlough!

John said...

Talent is there. Yes. But can we say that Bangladesh is without talent? Can we say that Pakistan is without talent. Or for that matter, the Windies?? If a change in captaincy was the simple solution to their chronic troubles, I am sure someone would have thought of it and implemented it. The sheer depth of the English batting order, the intelligence and pace of Flintoff's bowling, their fielding and running, and the performace of their several fifth bowling options are crucial factors in ODIs today. And none of these are factors are within the captains control: they all depend on the resources that are given to him. As of now, India is hoping that their best batsmen outbat the opponents' best batsmen, or the best bowlers to outbowl those of the opponents. Sadly, this is simply not enough to become a consistent side.

Sumit Chakraberty said...

john, fielding and running have never been india's forte, and yet we reached the pinnacle of one-day cricket in the eighties, and again in 2002-2003. i cannot accept lack of resources as an excuse for india languishing near the bottom of the odi pool for three years now. how long is this team-building going to go on? it's interesting that you should mention pakistan and the windies, because the cricket there is just as badly administered as in india, and it shows. but even they're doing better than us at the moment. inzamam lost his captaincy after the world cup and lara got dropped from the test side even though he wanted to go to england. only dravid has not paid the price. he's been given too long a rope. we should've made yuvraj the odi captain by now, and also sacked vengsarkar as chief selector because they're the ones calling the shots and failing time and again. but what can you expect from such a sham of a board? pity cricket is not seen by the indian government as a vehicle for projecting india's image.

tubby said...

Unless India gets its balance right, the team is not going to win. dravid or no dravid as captain.

When you are going to have duds like Karthik or Munaf patel along with Agarkar, the team is not expected to create miracles.

Sumit Chakraberty said...

tubby, but why did dravid pick duds like agarkar and munaf in his playing eleven ahead of rp singh? why did he pick a dud like karthick ahead of uthappa and rohit sharma? i'm afraid the real dud is dravid.