Monday, November 24, 2008

Sachin's role in ODI team

I had argued in a column for DNA that the return of Sachin to the ODI team would be disruptive in several respects (Sachin's return is mistimed). Not surprisingly, it got a vitriolic reaction from the legions of Sachin fans. The Bangalore match, however, only confirms my basic premise. It is not that Sachin does not deserve a place in the side. But is the Sachin-Sehwag opening combo better than the Gambhir-Sehwag pairing? I don't think so. In fact, if Sachin had not got out when he did, we might have fallen short of what we eventually got. In the middle order, he would lend stability, but only if we need to consolidate. On Indian pitches, that is rarely a requirement. Besides, when we've already won the series, should Sachin's place not be used to groom a future star?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bowl first in Kanpur

After the two huge wins batting first, MS Dhoni would I assume automatically choose to bat first if he were to win the toss in Kanpur tomorrow. I believe that would be a mistake. Although this is based only on what has happened in Kanpur in the past, there is no reason to think the conditions have changed there. Once winter begins to set in, the early morning start can give the bowling side a big advantage on some grounds, especially in the north. That is probably what prompted Pietersen to pick bowling when he won the toss in Rajkot, but it turned out there was hardly any dew or moisture in the air to aid the quick bowlers. In the next match in Indore, India almost got into a deep hole after losing three wickets in the morning as the ball was doing quite a bit. Luckily, things eased up quickly and the pitch also dusted up later on for the spinners to come good. In Kanpur, I don't think the conditions will ease as quickly as it did in Indore, and batting will likely be much easier in the afternoon. This is what Rahul Dravid discovered when he won the toss, chose to bat against a relatively weak Pakistan side, and got hammered. MSD should not repeat that mistake. As for Pietersen, it will be interesting to see how much homework he has done on the Kanpur ground. I would be impressed if he were to pick bowling again, despite the hammering he got for that in Rajkot.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Anybody missing the seniors?

I've been saying for more than a year now on this blog that Indian cricket in all its three forms stands to gain, not lose, by the retirement or sacking of seniors. Dhoni's captaincy in Mohali and Nagpur, Mishra's series-turning five-wicket haul on debut in Mohali, and the rapid maturing of Gambhir into a Test opener show what is possible if the door is opened to new talent. The awesome display against England now, especially the fielding and running between the wickets, clearly shows India can be the number one in all three forms of the game if non-performing seniors like Dravid are pushed out sooner rather than later. More on this in Fast track to No.1.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The retirement was overdue

It seems churlish not to say nice things when somebody retires. And I do admit I was a little touched when Kumble walked up to bowl his final over after 18 years of international cricket, during which time he bowled India to victory more than anybody else, albeit on helpful Indian pitches. But it has to be said that he did not deserve a place in the side for this series, or even the previous one in Sri Lanka. He averaged nearly fifty runs a wicket in the last four series, three of them played on sub-continental pitches.
Kumble also has been less of a team-man than it appears. He played in the first Test, and maybe even in the third, with a dodgy shoulder. It was ironic to hear him say that he decided to announce his retirement because he did not want to play in the fourth Test without being fully fit as that would be unfair to the team. I mean, with eleven stitches in his hand, and with only a four-day break between the third and fourth Tests, there was no way he could have played anyway. And given his fitness, bowling form, and lacklustre captaincy, there was every likelihood of his being dropped from the side. So to turn the retirement into a noble gesture was a bit grandiose. And so was that last inconsequential catch he took of Johnson, and the flinging of the ball in anger to chide the team for dropping all those catches. His angry reaction to Amit Mishra dropping a catch off his bowling was equally out of wack, considering it was Kumble who started the rash of dropped catches with the vital one of Hayden off Mishra's bowling on the third day. Anyway, I'm looking forward to watching Amit Mishra now, instead of the predictable Kumble. Ever since the Lankans figured out that Kumble could be played like an in-swinger, he really lost his wicket-taking ability. Nobody played for the leg-spin, and everybody kept their pads out of harm's way. Q.E.D Kumble.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Will Bowden do a Bucknor?

Billy Bowden has cooked India's goose in the past, and I wouldn't be surprised if he does it again, although umpires may be a little more wary after what happened to Steve Bucknor. In the last Indo-Oz series in India, Bowden should be credited as much as Kasprowicz for the Aussie victory in Bangalore. There's no chance of an Aussie win, of course, this time, but if Bowden keeps turning down plumb LBW shouts like that of Amit Mishra in the last hour of the second day, then the Aussies can escape with a draw in Delhi, and who knows how the newly laid pitch in Nagpur will behave. Let's keep a close eye on Bowden tomorrow. It would be a pity if there's biased umpiring, because otherwise it's a mouth-watering contest between Mishra and the Aussies on a pitch that is still playing easy and true.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Here's to a Kumble swan song

On the eve of the Test, it looks like Bhajji's toe is Mishra's only hope of getting to play in spite of bowling out half the Australian side in the first innings of the Mohali Test. Kumble wants to give Bhajji time until the morning of the Test to see if he can "declare himself fit". One can only hope his desperation to have Bhajji in the eleven is prompted by the need for balance in the side, as he says, rather than a reluctance to compete against Mishra on the same pitch. Having said all that, I do expect Kumble to get among the wickets at the Kotla even if he is only half fit, although he claims to be 100 per cent. This is the only pitch which is rough enough for him to turn the ball past the bat. That, combined with uneven bounce on a hard surface, means he will be difficult to handle if his shoulder allows him bowl at something like the speed at which he usually does. But so what? On every other pitch, Kumble will continue to struggle to get wickets because his in-dipper is old hat, and nobody gets trapped LBW to that any more. For his sake, I hope he bowls India to a series win in Delhi, and immediately announces his retirement.

Monday, October 27, 2008

No place for Kumble in this team

Debutant Amit Mishra got 7 of the 20 Australian wickets in Mohali, 5 of them in the first innings which really set up the victory for India. This against the top team in the world, and on a flat, easy batting wicket. But he didn't get the man-of-the-match award. Worse, he can't even be sure of being included in the team for the next Test in Delhi. Instead, a bowler who has averaged 46 runs per wicket in the last 11 Test matches, and bowled 50 wicketless overs in the first Test, is "raring to go" as he puts it himself in his signed column. This is the problem with Indian cricket. We're stuck with players who can walk into the team on the basis of past records, rather than current form and fitness. Is it more important to squeeze a few more games out of a 38-year-old bowler who has already got 18 years of international cricket under his belt, or to encourage a bowler who has shown the potential to serve Indian cricket for the next 10 years? Don't you think India might have won the Bangalore Test or even the series in Sri Lanka if Mishra had played instead of Kumble?
Even if Mishra gets to play in Delhi, I suspect he will be forced to play third fiddle to the KumBha mela, and that can only be to the advantage of the Australians, who clearly have no clue to his googly. And if Laxman is dropped to accommodate Kumble, that might be just the opening the Aussies need to come back in this series because it would weaken the Indian batting. Is it more important to figure out how Kumble can be accommodated, or to decide what is the best way to ensure India wins the series? Why are the interests of an individual taking precedence over those of the team? If you factor in the captaincy, where Dhoni is clearly way ahead of Kumble, the answer my friend is blowing in the wind.
More on this in an article I wrote a couple of days back: India's Diwali gift to Ponting

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Match the Aussies in pace

It was clear in the first Test that India's pace bowlers Ishant Sharma and Zaheer Khan were on par with, if not better than, the Aussie speedsters. But they were outnumbered. Two pacers can't compete against four. The captain tends to use them in long spells, rather than in shorter, attacking bursts. And they run out of steam.
It was also clear in the first Test that Kumble was even less effective than the rookie Cameron White, who at least ensured Sachin Tendulkar takes yet another Test to reach his milestone of highest run-getter in Tests. And Bhajji was not any more dangerous than part-timer Michael Clarke.
So, why not go into the Mohali Test with four pace bowlers? Or pick Amit Mishra as the lone spinner for variety. Of course, I know that's not going to happen, given the track record of this Test team's leadership to keep newcomers benched. Nor will they even consider something radical like a Caribbean-style pace battery, with Sehwag playing the foil like Viv Richards. But, why not day-dream?
Everyone knows the Mohali pitch either favours pace early on and then settles down to a sleeping beauty, or it's flat from the outset. Either way, the pacers are more likely to do damage, and India can fight firepower with firepower, as in Perth.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A captain in denial

One bad game doesn't make him a bad player, says Kumble. True. But he averages 46 per wicket in the last 11 Test matches, including three series before this one. Even part-timer bowlers in Test cricket have better averages than that. Before the Test, he had said players should not be judged by one bad series in Lanka, a similarly misleading statement. He had also said it should be performance and fitness that should matter, not age. But, performance and fitness are exactly the problems. I said at the start of the Lanka series that Kumble is a spent force, and I was right. I made the same prediction before this series, and so far it is even worse than what I thought. I don't expect him to do much better in any of the matches, except the one in Delhi. India needs a new spinner and a new captain. Although Ricky Ponting was a bit too conservative in the first Test, at least he led by example. To be led by Kumble in his current form is an embarrassment for the Indian team. I wrote about this in - A contrast between two captains.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

One down, four to go

I think Sourav Ganguly made the declaration a little too late, and lost the opportunity to become a hero. Just like he lost the opportunity to win a series Down Under by not making the Aussies follow on in the last Test at Sydney.

Imagine if Ganguly had called it quits at the end of the Pakistan series in India, where he got his first century at his home ground of Eden Gardens, Kolkata, and his first double century in the next Test at Bangalore (both in drawn games played on 'patta' wickets designed to help India hold on to its one-nil lead in the series).

Now, although he deserves all the nice things that everyone inevitably says in such situations, his grand farewell has been shorn of some dignity because of his terrible current form, the talk of him being dropped for the current series, and the quid pro quo deal reportedly struck between him and the board - that he can have his last hurrah, provided he in turn announces his retirement before the series (something everyone obviously denies).

The only thing that will make it a decent exit for him would be to hit a century or at least a fifty of some consequence against the Aussies. That would be fitting for a man who took over the Indian team at a time when it had been undermined by the taint of match-fixing, who put some spine into the team to handle aggressive opponents like Steve Waugh's band of sledgers, and who backed new talent like Sehwag, Yuvraj, and Bhajji who had all been shunted by the establishment.

Now the writing is even more clearly on the wall for other current non-performers in the team, starting with Rahul Dravid. He may have a little bit of a breather because Krish Srikkanth chose to induct S Badrinath from his home state of Tamil Nadu, ignoring the claims of Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina who are more likely to do well against international bowling, simply because they have already shown that ability in other formats of the game. But eventually, the more deserving young talent will get in and the ones hanging on by dint of their past records will have to make way.

To a lesser extent, this also applies to the Australians. I'm extremely surprised at Shaun Marsh not finding a place in the eleven for instance, despite the obvious ease with which he played in Indian conditions during the IPL. For India, there is even more proven talent available to take the place of their illustrious seniors, and I think the claim that the next gen is not yet ready is hogwash. They can never be ready because the only way you can establish your Test credentials is by playing Test cricket. What were Michael Clarke's credentials when he made his debut in India during the last series which he helped to win for Australia? I have dwelt more on this in an article I wrote for DNA - There is no alternative... Really?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Srikkanth plays with a dead bat

The selection was even more conservative than I thought. All five seniors have been included. A promising strokeplayer like Rohit Sharma, who has already played some memorable knocks at the international level, has been discarded from the Test side after warming the bench in Sri Lanka. His replacement is a defensive Badrinath, who has done nothing spectacular in the few international exposures he's had. He may well deserve a place on the strength of his domestic record, but certainly not ahead of Rohit Sharma who has already earned his international spurs. The only positive is the inclusion of Amit Mishra, ahead of the claims of Piyush Chawla, who I think lacks bite, and Pragyan Ojha, who looks steady without being dangerous. But then, Mishra is unlikely to get a game barring injury to Kumble or Bhajji, and he too may find himself out of the team after hanging around with it for a while, like Sharma.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A quick SWOT analysis

The absence of Ganguly from the pre-series camp in Bangalore makes it quite clear that he's not going to be picked for the Tests. That's a good opportunity for Rohit Sharma, the most likely candidate for Ganguly's slot in the eleven, to cement his place in the Test side. I hope they give him a run of four Tests, and not rotate the one open slot between two or three newcomers during the series. The replacement of Ganguly with Rohit will strengthen the batting, in my view, although I would have liked one more opening to have been created in the middle order. As for the bowling, the pacers are looking in fine fettle: Ishant, Zaheer and Munaf all impressed in the Irani trophy. The odd guy out is captain Kumble. He's averaging 40 plus per wicket these days, and looked far from threatening in the Irani Cup match. In fact, Chetnya Nanda of Delhi looked more likely to get a top order batsman out. I feel Kumble will be India's Achille's heel by blocking a more deserving spinner (on current form) like Amit Mishra or Pragyan Ojha. Even in captaincy, he lacks the dynamism, confidence and astuteness of MS Dhoni. The only match where Kumble is likely to be an asset may be his favourite hunting ground - Ferozeshah Kotla, Delhi. I hope he gets a bunch of wickets there and announces his retirement. It's painful to see one of India's greatest bowlers (in home conditions) struggle like this.

So what's your ideal team to take on the Aussies? To check out mine, you can go to this article in DNA: Kaun banega selector?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

All competing for one vacancy!

The Irani trophy will be a showcase of talent, but to what end? Only one place in the side is open, it seems, that of Ganguly.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Long live the leagues

On the mass defection of Bangladeshi players to the Indian Cricket League, most people have focussed on what it tells us about boards like that of Bangladesh and the players' lot. But to me it's more fundamental than that. It shows that cricket is finally going the way other major international sports like soccer and tennis have gone: the leagues, clubs and circuits are primary, while national contests get pushed to the periphery. With TV providing the main sporting audience, it's now a question of bringing international talented players together in formats like ICL and IPL and that can actually be good for the game, and also globalise it more effectively than by say getting cricket into the Olympics. A fuller exposition on this is in an article I wrote for DNA: Why cricket should go the soccer way

Monday, September 15, 2008

Double speak on fading stars

"Australia have ceased to think that their team’s fortunes depend on one or a group of individuals to get them victories... Australia have learnt to live without their star players," says former Australian coach John Buchanan in an interview to DNA. In the same breath, he says he's surprised by Sourav Ganguly's omission from the Irani Cup, a sentiment also expressed by Ponting. I can only surmise that either their Kolkata IPL connections are a factor, or that they prefer to have Ganguly in the Indian team. Because, when it comes to the Australian team, they've wasted no time in moving on from Gilchrist, Martyn, Langer, etc, and that's the key to their success over so many years. The message from Buchanan and Ponting seems to be that Australia doesn't need fading stars, but India does!
Mickey Arthur, the South African coach, appears to be more on the side of youth in this matter, defending Gary Kirsten, India's coach from South Africa, who had suggested Dhoni is ready to take over the Test captaincy from Kumble. "Kumble is 38, for goodness sake. He has back-to-back series against Australia and Pakistan coming up. How long do people expect him to carry on?" The question, Mickey, is how long the seniors expect to carry on, because I doubt any of them will retire of their own volition with so much money coming into the game. And that's also why it's hard to give them a nice send-off, like the Australians do by hinting to a senior player that maybe it's time.

Friday, September 12, 2008

For whom should the bell toll?

Kirti Azad pretty much hit the nail on the head I thought. "The decision to drop Ganguly itself is not wrong as his form in recent times has not been impressive. But the question is why the same treatment shouldn't be given to Rahul and Sachin, who are out of form as well," he said at a function in Delhi. But instead of generally venting my spleen on this, I decided to do a little tallying up, and came up with some interesting results. Check them out at this article on DNA - For whom should the bell toll?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Why Kirsten is right

Whatever prompted Gary Kirsten to come out with it - that Dhoni is obviously ready for Test captaincy - he should be commended for setting off a debate on what is in everyone's mind. For me, his follow-up remark was more telling - "but there's no rush". Why on earth not? That's the question I've raised in an article in DNA where I've compared our two captains - Why Dhoni is a better captain than Kumble

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Of form and fitness

The previous post Who needs the famous five? predictably had strong reactions for and against. We're talking of players who have become icons over the years with the joy they've provided to fans. I've admired them too and have no intention of belittling their achievements. But to me it's more important to see India play somewhere near its potential, and currently the test team is not doing that. The loss to Sri Lanka was embarrassing not because they lost, but the manner in which they were rattled by Mendis. How can Dhoni, who is just a wicketkeeper-batsman, figure Mendis out in a couple of one-days, and the fab four fail to do that in three five-day matches where they could even afford to block everything? And don't forget we avoided an even more embarrassing loss at home to the South Africans only with the aid of an under-prepared pitch in the last test at Kanpur. And, was it an accident that the teams led by the fab four failed to make it to the semis of the IPL? I think it's not a question of their talent. I think their fitness and reflexes are letting them down, affecting their form and attitude. Yes, there are older players on the circuit, like Jayasuriya, but look at their fitness and fielding. Dravid has been one of the best slippers in the game, but how frequently do you see him drop catches now? To be in denial of this is unfair to fans who want to see India win in Tests and know that we have the talent for it. Or at least let's develop new talent, instead of seeing our icons struggle. Isn't it a pain to see the greatest bowler on sub-continental pitches going at over 40 runs a wicket, as he has done against South Africa at home and on spin-friendly tracks in Lanka? How can anybody expect him to magically do better against the Aussies?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Who needs the famous five?

It's a pity Dhoni let the Sri Lankans off the hook in the last ODI after having them down on the mat six down for a little over a hundred runs. His inexplicable denial of three overs to Munaf Patel showed a lack of killer instinct that has characterised Indian sport over the years. But no matter. I think Dhoni and his young team have again shown they are - on current form - playing better than their more illustrious counterparts in the Test team in all aspects of the game. I think it is Dhoni who should lead a young Indian Test team to take on the visiting Australians later this year. More on this in an article I wrote for DNA: Now change the Test team.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Dhoni da jawab nahin

Dhoni got most things right in the third ODI. First, the playing 11 was perfect, given the available resources. Although India again could not finish off the Lankans after getting them down 94-7, the bigger problem remains the batting with four out of seven failing. So I hope Dhoni ignores the exhortations of the TV commentators led by Tony Greig to play five bowlers. But, if he does induct a fifth bowler, it should be RP Singh, because Pathan has become too slow to be able to take wickets. Four pacers bowling the first 20 overs at the brittle Lankan lineup seems tempting, but whom would you drop? By rights, it should be Yuvraj, but that's too tough a call at this stage. Maybe in the fifth ODI if India lose the next one.
The second thing Dhoni almost got right was the batting lineup, with Yuvraj moving up to number three. But sending Badrinath ahead of Rohit was wrong. Rohit's just had a couple of failures. He shouldn't lose his batting position so easily, after having shown his class over the past year.
The third and most important thing was to win the toss and bat because the ball did more for both the pacers and spinners in the cool atmosphere of the evening. And he topped it up with a captain's knock to rescue the team. It's a pity he ran Raina out, though, when he was looking set for a big one.
The one area where Dhoni continues to expose his rawness in captaincy is the field placement. Munaf bowled without a slip to Mahela even though that was the last recognised batsman standing. And Bhajji had no forward short leg for Mahela even though the ball was turning and jumping. The Indians allowed the Sri Lankan captain to bat himself back to form with a 94, and he can make them pay for it in the next two ODIs.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

That's why we need referrals

"Excuse me?" exclaims Homer's blog, detailing the double standards evident in two ICC match referees' interpretations of offensive behaviour by players. While Aleem Dar let Flintoff go scot-free in an SA-England match, Chris Broad slapped Munaf Patel with a level 2 offence for a far lesser misdemeanour in the second ODI between India and Sri Lanka. Broad's harshness also rekindles the white-man-not-taking-the-brown-man's-word argument that snowballed into a crisis after the Sydney Test when Mike Proctor banned Harbhajan Singh. So, when I saw pictures of a Cuban taekwondo fighter kicking a match referee in the face after some dubious decisions at the Olympics on Saturday, I thought it isn't far-fetched to expect a similar incident in cricket one of these days if the ICC persists with arming undeserving people like Broad with so much power. And yet, there's an easy way to prevent such ugliness, and this was evident in the Test series. I mean the referral system, of course, which defuses all the rancour in the middle, just like it did for tennis. More on this in an article I wrote, titled Back to the middle ages, because that's what it feels like to watch cricket again without the referral system which has been put on the back-burner after its trial in the Tests.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

More luck than pluck

It was astounding to hear Dhoni after the toss - that he really wanted to bat first but couldn't with makeshift openers filling in for the injured Sehwag and Gambhir. This despite playing on the same Dambulla pitch where they got bowled out for 146 two days back. Wonder if he still feels he should've batted first after bowling out Lanka for 142 and levelling the series? The fact is that if he had done the right thing in the first ODI in terms of the toss and team selection, India would've been 2-0 up.
Anyway, kudos to Dhoni for holding things together at the end and squeaking through to a victory. The replacement of Ojha with Praveen Kumar was also a good thing even if it was obvious, and likewise about bowling Zaheer Khan seven overs on the trot. It was also great to see Badrinath grabbing the half an opportunity he got to prove his worth. But many holes remain.
Predictably, Pathan failed as an opener. Even though Kohli got important runs, the way he got out reminded me of the IPL where he displayed this tendency to give it away even on the few occasions when he does get going. Yes, he's a youngster, he did lead India to an under-19 world cup, and we should give him a long rope - but not at the expense of more deserving players who are not in the team.
The lack of penetration in the Indian bowling was again evident when we could not finish off the Lankans even after getting their six main batsmen out cheaply. We missed a bowler with pace like Ishant. And, at Galle, we'll rue the fact that India does not select a wicket-taking bowler like Amit Mishra.

Welcome new blogger

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Think outside the box, MSD

Sachin and Sehwag injured. No other opener available. So shove the newbie into the vacant slot and let's see what happens. Didn't work? Okay let's try Pathan who has a reasonable technique...
Basically, the injury to Sehwag has exposed the fact that a 16-member team has been chosen with no contingency for an opener getting injured. Now it is left to Dhoni to find a partner for Gambhir by a process of elimination and he has four more shots at it. So I thought we should give him a hand at it.
To me Kohli was the wrong choice for the team itself (as Sampath said in response to my previous post Dumbness at Dambulla), because he hasn't done enough to deserve the position ahead of others available and the selectors should've taken his IPL flops into account.
Now I think they will push Pathan in, but that would be a mistake on two counts: 1) Pathan can use his feet well to spinners, and he can be put to better use if he's asked to chance his arm against Murali and Mendis to throw them off their rhythm, 2) His bowling has become so pedestrian that it may be better to replace him with somebody with more zing, although RP Singh and Praveen Kumar have also gone off the boil.
The out-of-the-box idea would be send Yuvraj in as opener. Think about it. He's a sitting duck for Mendis and Murali, anyway, because it's unlikely he can get his feet moving overnight. He has to go back to domestic cricket and work on his technique against spin. At the same time, with Sehwag gone, there's no harder hitter than him in the team. So why not send him out as opener and give Vaasy the heebie jeebies?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Dumb at Dambulla

Yes, Mendis continues to mesmerise. But the real damage was done before he came on to bowl. Four of the top five batsmen fell to the Lankan pacers, even when they're without the services of Maharoof, Malinga and Fernando. Dhoni said after the toss that the wicket had grass but would not help the pacers. Duh!? There was clearly both seam movement and bounce in the morning, and the Indian top order got bogged down and then threw their wickets away thinking they had to get quick runs before Mendis and Murali came on. It's a pity Ishant Sharma, who rattled the Lankans in the Tests, has not been made available to Dhoni. But if Dhoni is not going to give his bowlers the advantage of bowling first in helpful conditions, then I guess it makes no difference. India's homework was zero on the Dambulla pitch, which has grass imported from Australia, and has produced low scores for teams batting first recently. If only Whatmore had been our coach!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Too poor to win?

India is too poor a country to pour resources into sports. We are so liberal that we can't do what the Chinese are doing, or the East Europeans did before them... These were also the kinds of excuses that used to be trotted out to justify the 'Hindu' rate of economic growth at one time. With political will and leadership, India need not be such an under-achiever in sports, even without having to resort to draconian methods. And it's more about professional administration than resources alone. Just look at cricket, where we have by far the richest board in the world but lose to tiny Sri Lanka, anyway. I think the real problem is a lack of appreciation among those who run the country of the 'soft power' of sports. I've written about this in more detail in an article for DNA - No sports please, we're Indian.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Big blow or big relief?

MS Dhoni says the absence of Sachin Tendulkar is a big blow for India leading up to the one-day series with Lanka. Before that, he said players of the calibre of Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid don't have to prove themselves.
All that these statements tell me is that Dhoni is settling in nicely to the political side of his role as captain. It's all very well to say nice things about players when you know they are not going to be in your team.
Actions speak louder than words, however. It's quite well known that it was MSD's strong opposition that kept Ganguly and Dravid out of the one-day team Down Under. As for Sachin, Dhoni must have mixed feelings.
Tendulkar did hold the innings together in the finals of the tri-series in Australia, although the main credit for those victories should have gone to the bowlers. Anyway, his form and fitness have been poor since then - a duck in the only innings he played against South Africa, a groin injury that kept him out of half the IPL, a below-par scoring rate in the IPL, an average of just 15 in his six innings of the Test series in Lanka...
But more importantly, Sachin's absence saves Dhoni from having to split India's terrific opening combo of Gambhir and Sehwag. So methinks Dhoni would be counting his blessings while lamenting the "big blow".

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Will the younger lot handle Mendis better?

Before the start of the Test series, I wrote an article about the Mendis threat - The man with the golden finger. It basically suggested two things -
1. That Mendis would prove to be a bigger threat than Murali.
2. That India's ageing batsmen would struggle despite their experience.
Now the question is if the younger one-day batsmen will fare any better. I think they will, except for Yuvraj.

Will the younger lot handle Mendis better?

Before the start of the Test series, I wrote about the Mendis threat in The man with the golden finger. It basically made two points: 1) That Mendis would prove to be a bigger threat than Murali, and 2) That India's ageing batsmen would struggle against him despite their experience. Now the question is if the younger one-day batsmen will fare any better. I think, except for Yuvraj, they will.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Cricketkeeper 2.0

Hi. I'm back. Apologies for going AWOL without a word. Wanted a rethink on this blog. Conclusion: I'll be posting here regularly, and also linking to the best stuff on cricket I find on the web.
I'm also writing a web column these days, one or two a week. Here's the link: