Monday, 28 May 2007

Host's lack of application was appalling

The gulf in class was clearly evident. And with every passing over it only became apparent that Bangladesh lacked in many parts to make a good Test side. The win even though it came against a weak side would do a world of good to the Indian side's confidence after it found itself at it's lowest ebb after the mauling in the World Cup.

The batsmen found their bearings and it is only good that they had this series before they go on to take tougher opponents in the near future. Dinesh Karthik to me was the biggest discovery. Regular or not he has taken to the task of opening in Test cricket like duck to water. With Wasim Jaffer for company Karthik should establish a fine opening pair.

The top-order will definitely not be short on confidence when they go on take England shortly. There is nothing like runs in the bag that counts. The run rate achieved in the second Test was another huge positive for the side.

With the seamers taking time out regularly with different injuries the mantle of spearheading the attack has fallen on the shoulders of Zaheer Khan. The left armer to his credit looks fit to carry the good job and more importantly has the wickets under his belt for him to look at the ensuing season with optimism. To have returned with a bagful of wickets on a bone dry wicket in oppressive conditions required a big heart and he displayed just that.

R.P. Singh and Anil Kumble as ever played the percentages well and struck to their task. RP was consistent and with his high arm and straight wrist has developed the uncanny knack of making the ball rear off the surface. He should continue in the same vein for his own good.

Ishanth Sharma, was a bit of a let down, I am surprised he did not try the bouncer enough. As to any youngster he could have been overawed by the stage but the youngster with proper guidance should move up the ladder quickly.

Finally the lack of application on part of the hosts was appalling. There was no intent to occupy the crease for a longer duration. The very essence of Test cricket was killed. The second innings is usually where teams try and eradicate the mistakes done in the first but there was no sense of learning on part of the host's.

Barring Mohammed Ashraful, no one else looked like taking the match to the opponents. Ashraful built in the Sehwag mould goes after the bowling from the word go and he did his job to perfection , only if the others had grinded the Indian attack for a longer duration then they would have at least saved some embarrassment.

The match was dead and gone for Bangladesh the moment they asked India to make first use of the track. Dav Whatmore seen as a master tactician was more intent on pleasing the men who count with Indian cricket rather than concentrating with his job on hand.

Friday, 25 May 2007

Team would be served better with Laxman

It was happy to note a few cricket reporters come to the defence of V.V.S. Laxman and the travails the stylish Hyderabadi has faced in his career. To enjoy one of the better overseas records and averaging better in Test cricket other than Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid from the present squad, Laxman has his reasons to be miffed.

Laxman always had to be the first name to be chopped if the team composition underwent a change. When the team is up against faster and bouncier conditions they always look up to Laxman to deliver while the others feast on the easier wickets. The team management has not treated him fairly and in my opinion he is the third best batsman in the side and should take his rightful place in the playing eleven.

There are far too many problems in the team at the moment. Lack of force with the ball is first on the list. Take Anil Kumble away from this attack, there are hardly any signs India can get 20 wickets against a good side. Rahul and his men could emerge with a win in Dhaka but problems when up against a better batting side is bound to surface.

The first Test proved the inadequacies of the Indian attack beyond doubt. And this is going to be the team's biggest problem. With half the pace attack nursing injuries, it is time we went back to our strength, spin at least when conditions afford Dravid the luxury of playing more than one spinner.

Lack of all rounders has also hit the team hard. The five-bowler theory has its side effects on a lively surface. If the batting crumbles, it could act on the reverse. If Anil is fully fit I would approach the game only with four bowlers as Sourav and Sachin can fill in 12-14 overs per day as part timers. Anyway the fifth bowler is only under bowled and if the team can pack in one more batsman, it can lead to quicker scoring and a more positive approach at the crease.

A series victory is paramount to win the confidence and respect of the fans back home. The team is in short supply of that commodity too and a win would be a shot in the arm. A win over Bangladesh might not be a Herculean achievement but in terms of getting things back on track, there is nothing better than a few wins to have under your belt.

As far as the team composition is concerned I would draft Laxman in place of a bowler, preferably V.R.V. Singh, even if it means the playing XI would have two left arm seamers. The batting order would only undergo a minor change, as I would put Laxman ahead of Sourav.

Whatever be the final team nothing less than a win is acceptable, unless weather intervenes. India should take this one comfortably but whether that would indicate the right standing of the team's form remains to be seen.

My XI (in batting order): Wasim Jaffer, Dinesh Karthik, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, V.V.S. Laxman, Sourav Ganguly, M.S. Dhoni, Anil Kumble, Ramesh Powar, Zaheer Khan, R.P. Singh.

Friday, 18 May 2007

India should wrap it up, weather permitting

As the focus shifts to the longer version, India's problems with their team composition begin. With only one specialist opener in the squad the think tank is back with their perennial problem of whom to make Wasim Jaffer's partner. In an ideal situation Dinesh Karthik should have walked out with Jaffer, but the claims of both V.V.S. Laxman and Yuvraj Singh cannot be discounted.

Given this scenario, unless Rahul Dravid or M.S. Dhoni open the innings the team will have to be content with four bowlers. It is a catch 22 situation no doubt. Senior members cannot be dumped and at the same time it is clearly a case of one step forward and two steps back.

The attack will revolve in the hands of Anil Kumble, Ramesh Powar and the seamers Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel. This is the best combination the team could afford given Sreesanth's injury and it does seem to posses to have the ammunition at least on paper to bag 20 wickets provided a minimum of four days of cricket is permitted by the weather gods.

The climatic conditions in these parts of the World can get cruel to the average cricket buff. When it rains in Bangladesh, it pours and given the grounds poor drain facilities, it would be impossible to get the wicket and the area near by in condition for play quickly. The series itself has not really evoked any interest to be honest and as followers we can only hope at least Test series throws up some good cricket.

Bangladesh have always trained their thoughts on the shorter version and have never really tested the big guns in the traditional format - Except once when they came close to get the better of Pakistan before a resurgent Inzamam-ul-Haq guided his team home.

The Bangladesh batsmen don't posses the temperament for Test cricket - to play out sessions in Test cricket is the key to set up games - and unfortunately they don’t have batsmen who have the technical wisdom to attain that. The bowlers too have been found wanting and an attack that consists primarily of flat left arm spin can never buy 20 wickets in Test cricket.

The Indian's would be itching to get off to a good start and begin the repair work post the World Cup that already received a shot in the arm with the ODI series win. It should be a continuation of the good work, weather permitting.
My XI for the first Test: Wasim Jaffer, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, V.V.S. Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, M.S. Dhoni, Anil Kumble, Ramesh Powar, Zaheer Khan and Munaf Patel.

Friday, 11 May 2007

Team India Has A Lucky Escape

What should been an easy path was made treacherous by a top-order that is yet to shed rustiness. The failure of Sehwag and Gambhir to carry on after getting their eye in almost fuelled in another disaster, but the methodical effort of Dhoni and Karthik saved India a defeat that would have plunged the team into greater self-doubts.

The manner in which Dhoni and Karthik rotated the strike was gleaming. The secret in run chases lies in the ability of the batsmen not to let go of the singles and twos and still ensure the loose balls don't go unpunished. The duo got the act right embedding boundaries in between and looking busy with singles that not only helped rotate the strike but also ensured the bowlers did not get enough at a stretch to a certain batsman.

Dhoni coming in at three was a refreshing change, I have always vouched for Dhoni to bat higher and so many names made the rounds for the number three slot it was a bit of a surprise that his name never did the rounds. Technically Dhoni may not possess all the ingredients to bat higher, but one-day cricket is hardly going to probe the batsman enough. Dhoni has cut the frills and shown in the recent past that he can handle tight situations with composure and it was good to see him guide the team home in Karthik's company in spite of being down with a hamstring pull.

With Karthik improving as a fielder with every game, India's long search for a stable middle-order bat to compliment Yuvraj looks finally over. There is an air of assurance with the way he bats and never looks lost even in a tight situation. His running between the wickets and shot selection were both impressive. The hunger was evident in his eye and that augurs well for Indian cricket.

Though India registered a win, no praise would be less for the manner in which, Bangladesh fought. Their confidence is on a high after their exploits in the World Cup and they set foot believing they can win. If they have done it once there is no reason why they cant do it again and they backed themselves to the hilt and almost pulled off another upset.

Bangladesh's decision to bat on a rain-affected wicket was a brave move and the batsmen played to plan, keeping wickets intact for a late surge. Team India after all the talk of a rejunavated show still moved at a pace that had more questions attached. There was no resolve and the body language of some of the players left a lot to be desired.

It might be a touch early to expect results from the fielding and bowling coach but there was hardly anything on offer as starters. Quickness is going to be an integral part of the one-day game and there are place for slouches. India might have escaped further embarrassment with this five-wicket win but there was not much to give them confidence. The team is not moving with an assurance an aspect one would expect at least against a team like Bangladesh.

The scorecard might not be really reflecting what happened on the field, most of the other internationals teams would have made Team India pay dearly for their lapses.