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?