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.