My Thoughts

Archive for the ‘Rahul Dravid’ Category

Before we search for an answer to the question in the title, let’s look at the last two world tournaments India have been part of. After a heartbreaking loss at the 2017 Champions Trophy India made a host of changes in the years leading up to the World Cup in England. Most of the changes were welcomed by the fans and experts alike. The biggest failure of the Kohli-Shastri era in the limited overs format was their lack of patience.

When we look back at the 2019 WC, fans might say that India did very well. You cannot argue with them as the team reached the semi-finals in one of the toughest formats in recent times. India won most of the games in the league stage and were comfortable entrants into the knockouts. While the above was true, the wins in the league format just papered over the cracks which existed in the squad ahead of the tournament. While all of us wanted India to do well and win everyone knew the squad picked wasn’t right.

In the 2018/19 season India were touring Australia where the former managed to win their first Test series down under. Not only did they win the Test series, they also won the ODI series there. From Australia India travelled to New Zealand where they once again won the ODI series 4-1. The success of the above two mentioned wins along with an impressive 5-1 in South Africa a year ago was due to the fact that the Indian top order was in blistering form. The bowling was doing exceptionally well with Kuldeep & Chahal picking up wickets with their spin in the middle overs. Ambati Rayudu was India’s preferred number 4 and even though Virat hardly played the same XI in two consecutive games, the team did look settled.

The series in Australia & New Zealand was just a few months before the World Cup and for some reason every thing went haywire between those series and the WC in England. The squad selection was all over the place and India discarded Rayudu who was with the team for 2 years prior to that and picked Vijay Shankar from nowhere. Rishabh Pant made it to the squad as well despite not doing much in LOIs prior to the tournament. India did enter the tournament banking a lot of the top 3 which showed in their performances through the tournament. Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan were all in great form and they did kind of drag India to wins in the early part of the tournament and helped mask the mess which was the middle order.

India did get a glimpse of what could happen against Afghanistan but again a narrow win in that game made sure they did not learn much from it. The biggest problem for India was that for 2 years after Champions Trophy India failed to settle the middle order. The top order form meant that middle order hardly had to do much and players who were part of the teams over that time were discarded prior to the tournament. Shreyas Iyer who had some good games for India lost his place, so did Rayudu who did well for India averaging 50 over that time. The squad selection was so absurd that India ended up playing 3 genuine wicket keepers in the semi-finals against New Zealand. The injury to Shikhar Dhawan did not help India’s cause but again you don’t go to a tournament without a proper replacement for the openers. KL Rahul who started in the middle order was moved up to open and that left a huge hole in the middle order in the absence of Ambati Rayudu who was playing at that spot for 2 years prior to that tournament.

Vijay Shankar who played the first few games was discarded and India started playing random players in the middle order. When the top order failed in the semi-final the inexperienced middle order struggled to pull India out of the hole they dug themselves into way before the match began. The 2021 WC was similar in the sense, India went in with an unsettled batting order again depending on the top order who this time weren’t in form. The 2022 T20 WC in Australia unfortunately resembles the chaos India had before the 2019 WC. India’s first choice top 3 aren’t in greatest of forms and KL Rahul hasn’t played for a while.

The middle order isn’t any better with a host of names being thrown around but the only solace for India is the return to form of Y Chahal and Hardik Pandya. Majority of Indian first choice players are resting for this series against West Indies and for sure will not travel to Zimbabwe as well. This would leave a bunch of undercooked players turning up for the tournament with many of them not in form leading up to it.

I have lots of respect for Rahul Dravid as a coach but I feel he needs to make sure the mistakes of the last two tournaments aren’t repeated this time as well. Virat Kohli is a sure shot selection for the T20 WC but has no runs behind him leading up to the tournament and he isn’t playing any games right now. Rohit Sharma is shaky form and he isn’t playing much games either. KL Rahul is injured and hasn’t played much this year either. These are worrying signs. India are basically playing the next two series with second string teams with many of them vying for a spot in the squad. Squad selection is crucial and I hope players who have been performing well over the past year are given priority. Shreyas Iyer & Suryakumar Yadav should be in the squad and so should Deepak Hooda who will most probably play the games leading up to the WC.

India also need to make sure they have appropriate backups for each position and do not go in expecting there will be no injrues. Shubman Gill needs to be in the squad as well as an opener. The WC is still 3 months away but with limited games in hand, the selectors along with coach/captain combo need to make sure they pick the right players for the tournament. India have struggled to win major tournaments for a while now and this year will be crucial for Rohit/Rahul combo. They have had a good run in ODI/T20’s but again WC is a completely different challenge to the bilateral series they have been winning. India need to figure out their ideal playing XI which cannot be done with majority of the payers resting for most of the year. WC isn’t the place to experiment and if India want to make a mark in this world cup, they need to make sure they know what their best playing XI will be.

India has been traditionally been a poor traveling team. The team has hardly won overseas even with some legends in the team in the past. India has only won 40 tests overseas out of 247 games with a W/L ratio of 0.377. India’s overseas record post Ganguly era is impressive. India has won 27 tests overseas since November 10, 2000 (The first time Ganguly captained in tests) out of 91 tests since that period. The W/L ratio since that period is very respectable 0.75. So if we take that period out we have 13 test wins overseas in 156 games at a W/L ratio of 0.185 which is extremely poor record.

The Ganguly era basically made the overall test record slightly better than the horrible record we had prior to that. It is not like the India had a poor test team  before that. India lost all those tests with legends in the team like Sunil Gavaskar, Bedi, Prasanna, Kapil Dev, GR Vishwanath, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Amarnath, Venkatraghavan, Mohd Azharuddin etc. The Indian team was mentally weak and was not able to turn good performances into wins overseas and was mostly blow away by the opposition. Now all the experts from the past are expecting this young team who are nowhere near the capability of the teams of the past to suddenly start hammering teams overseas.

Let us look at the current Indian team. Except for Murali Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli, the rest of the batting order is still up for debate. The bowling has been extremely inconsistent with a young brigade led by very inconsistent Ishant Sharma. The spin attack hasn’t played too much overseas (Ashwin has played a grand total of 9 tests outside Asia). The attack on Kohli and this young team by past players and media for not winning overseas seems little over the top. I agree that the fans want Indian team to win overseas and compete but again we need to give this team a chance. Almost all the players played their first games overseas in 2013-14 and gave a decent account of themselves, much better than some legends did in the past.

Sourav Ganguly started kind of a golden era of Indian cricket but again he had much better team at his disposal. Sourav and Virat are similar captains, both are aggressive in your face leaders but Virat Kohli is developing a core while Sourav already had a core available to him. The task for Sourav was to channelize and guide a group of legends to perform as a team and start winning games overseas but the task for Kohli is much tougher. He does not have legends in his team but has few good players who are still finding their feet at this level. He does not have a batting line up consisting of Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman. He does not have a bowling attack of Zaheer Khan, Javagal Srinath, and Anil Kumble at his disposal to turn this around immediately. So the media and experts need to be patient with this young team.

There is no reason to crucify this team now. They have just started to gel and perform. They just won a test series in Sri Lanka which even the best of Indian teams were not able to do for 22 years. Sourav Ganguly had a bunch of players who were experienced and were playing in the team for 10-13 years. Srinath, Kumble and Sachin were playing for a long time and except for Sehwag the rest of the team at least was 5 years behind them. So let us not hammer this team now. The ex-players should understand this better than anyone. I can agree if the media is doing this as they like to sensationalize things but the former players who have played at the highest level should know better.

I can understand the frustration of Virat Kohli and he is completely justified to feel aggrieved. The Indian teams of the past won home games like how Virat and his team is doing now and except for post Ganguly era performed worse than the current team outside home. Expecting a bunch of players who hardly have any experience to suddenly turn that horrible overseas record overnight is ridiculous. I hope that we support this young team and back them and give them some time to figure themselves out and I am sure we will see the results getting better when they travel overseas again. This is a young team with a young leader after legends exited the game. We can see how badly South Africa and Australia played in the sub-continent after their legends left the game so give these players some time and encourage them. No need to throw your own players under the bus for winning home games the same way the teams of the past won their games at home.

The Indian slip catching has been poor in the recent times and has cost India in tests.

The Indian slip catching has been poor in the recent times and has cost India in tests.

As the old adage in cricket goes “catches win matches” and obviously that holds true for all formats of the game. Catching has been a big problem for this young Indian side. There was a time when Indian slip cordon consisted of the Dravid and Laxman with Sehwag, Sachin ET all making up the other slip. The catching was brilliant and it was the main reason for India to climb in the rankings. Yes there were few drops here and there but mostly all catches were taken.

It was not only the slip catching but overall the Indian fielders were good in taking catches. The one criticism that Indian team had then was that their ground fielding was really poor. Now with the current team India faces quite the opposite problem. The Indian ground fielding is one of the best but the catching overall has been very poor. Over the last few months the Indian fielders have dropped some crucial catches which has changed the course of the game. The slip catching has been tentative and the overall catching has been casual. Statistics say that India has tried as much as 5 fielders in the first slip in the last 19 tests and as much as 8 catches have been dropped in the slips by India in the last 7 tests. This is a very revealing stat and something which has been completely ignored while blaming our bowling.

The Indian bowlers aren’t world beaters and they require all the assistance they can get from the fielders. The drop chances have really hurt India and their chance to win few games. The Wellington test comes to mind immediately, the drop chances of Williamson and McCullum cost India the test which they were well on the way to win. In the first test at Lord’s Rahane dropped Robson but luckily for him the batsman did not make most of that chance. India let a chance slip of Gary Ballance in the first innings and he went on to score a hundred. Alastair Cook was dropped in the first innings of the 3rd test which allowed him to get of the wretched form he had been under to post a career saving 95. The captain Dhoni himself hasn’t been a safe catcher himself in the recent times.

Young players like Jadeja, Rahane and Kohli have been pretty bad and have dropped some crucial takes over the last few months. Virat Kohli has been the biggest offender among the young brigade. His casual attempt at nabbing Brendon McCullum’s feeble drive at short mid-on in the second test cost India dearly. Jadeja has dropped couple of crucial ones. Dhawan has been a reluctant first slipper and has hardly shown intent to go after difficult takes. Rahane has dropped a few in the slips.

This has been a disturbing trend for the young Indian team. The young players who have been brilliant in saving runs and effecting run outs have been poor catchers in the slips as well as in the outfield. This problem has not only been in tests but also has been in the ODI’s and T20 games. India needs to arrest this problem fast if they have to compete at the highest level. Good players will always make you pay if you give them a second chance. India has found that out in the recent times to a devastating effect. The team needs reliable slip fielders and the outfield catching needs to be sorted out too.

India has two more tests after the current one at the Rose Bowl in this series and then they travel to Australia later this year. India needs to take all their chances to compete in these games. Top teams will make you pay if you drop catches. The coach and captain need to find a way to get through to these young players and figure out what is going wrong with the catching. If they do not arrest this trend soon, India will be finding themselves chasing the leather most often than not and the only ones to suffer will be the bowlers.

The Indian team for the upcoming Champions Trophy was announced a few days back and there were for sure some surprises. The biggest surprise was the selection of Murali Vijay. Vijay had a great home series against Australia in tests but he hasn’t done anything for India in shorter format to inspire any confidence among the fans. He has struggled for CSK in the ongoing IPL season and does not look like a right candidate for the ODI’s.

The selector’s argument is that Vijay is technically equipped to see off the new ball in England but again is he the right candidate to accelerate in the ODI format is the question everyone has in their mind. This seemed in the lines of Rahul Dravid’s selection in the 2009 Champions Trophy. Gautham Gambhir should probably have been selected in the squad for some experience in the top of the order. Gambhir has struggled in the recent times in all forms of cricket but again in the absence of Sehwag, Gambhir would have been an ideal player to have in those conditions.

Dinesh Karthik’s selection raised little concerns considering his brilliant form in recent times. He has been in excellent form in domestic cricket and also has done brilliantly well for Mumbai Indians in the current IPL edition. Shikhar Dhawan is another expected selection as he has been in wonderful form recently. He has been in brilliant form after returning from injury for the SRH in the current IPL season. Irfan Pathan makes a comeback to the Indian team as the bowling all-rounder. His comeback was expected as the champions trophy is being held in England and a pace bowling all-rounder in the X1 is an asset.

Amit Mishra’s selection raised a few eyebrows too as India already have Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja already in the squad. Mishra has been in brilliant form and his IPL performances this year have probably forced the selectors to include him in the squad. It will be interesting to see how he fits into the overall picture considering India already have two inform spinners in the squad.

The bowling attack is on the expected lines. Ishant Sharma will be leading the pace attack in the absence of Zaheer Khan. Umesh Yadav is back in the squad after a long injury layoff and so is Bhuvneshwar Kumar after his brilliant performances in the home series against Pakistan and England. Ashwin will lead the spin attack with Jadeja taking the spin all-rounder spot. Vinay Kumar is yet another baffling selection. His good performances for RCB notwithstanding, he hasn’t done anything great in the past in Indian colors. Shami Ahmed who impressed one and all with his pace in the home series against England and Pakistan would have been a better choice. It will be a huge disappointment for the youngster to lose out after a good performance in the home series.

The team overall seems to light on experience especially in the batting department. The absence of Gambhir at the top of the order and Yuvraj in the middle will be a huge disadvantage for the team. In the absence of the experienced campaigners the onus will be completely on the trio of Dhoni, Raina and Kohli, since the rest of the batting order is either inexperienced or inconsistent.

The absence of Manoj Tiwary due to injury also played a part in selection but one would have expected Pujara to be selected in the squad to add some solidity. It will be very interesting to see the combination India would play in the tournament. It is going to be a tough tournament for India and it will be a challenging one for Dhoni and Fletcher to get the combination right.

Squad: MS Dhoni (capt & wk), Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik (wk), M Vijay, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Irfan Pathan, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Amit Mishra, Vinay Kumar

The team for the test series against New Zealand was announced earlier today and there weren’t many surprises in the squad. As expected Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman return to take their middle order spots. Sehwag and Gambhir will open the innings and Virat Kohli will take the number 5 slot which he made his own in Australia earlier this year.

C Pujara will most likely occupy the number 3 position vacated by Rahul Dravid. Pujara has been in brilliant form with the bat and made a huge impact in the India A tour to West Indies earlier this year. Rahane also finds a spot in the squad and so does Suresh Raina. Even though it is unlikely that either of them will make it to the final X1. The bowling though had couple of surprises. The selection of Piyush Chawla is a major surprise. He hasn’t been considered for selection for quite some time now and his inclusion is for sure a surprise. The selection of Ishant Sharma also is something which is unexpected as it was said that he hadn’t fully recovered from the ankle injury he had sustained after the Australian tour.

Ravi Aswin and Pragyan Ojha will handle the spin department and Zaheer will share the new ball with Umesh Yadav. It will be interesting to see what combination the Indians will employ in the first test. Ishant has been out of cricket for a long time and has had no match practice. In all probability India will go with 2 spin, 2 pace attack in the first test.

The batting also will not have many changes, except for Pujara taking the number 3 slot. Rahane might have a shot at number 3 but it is highly unlikely he will make it to the X1. This is probably the best available squad at the moment and the only absentee is Rohit Sharma who travelled with the test team to Australia. Rohit did not do himself any favor by performing poorly in the ODI’s this year and also did not do well in the India A tour to West Indies.

The team looks quite strong for a home series and considering the recent performances of the Kiwis in test cricket it will be hard to bet against the hosts to win convincingly. The New Zealand team also will be without their ace spinner Dan Vettori and it will be interesting to see how this inexperienced team will fare in the tough subcontinent conditions. This will be an important series for both the teams. New Zealand will want to put up a good show after their disappointing performance in West Indies and India would want to begin the season on a winning note. The Indian ODI team had a winning start to the season and it will be interesting to see if the test team follows suit.

Probable Indian X1 for the first test:

Sehwag, Gambhir, Pujara, Tendulkar, Kohli, VVS Laxman, MS Dhoni (Capt., Wkt.), Ravi Aswin, Zaheer Khan, Umesh Yadav, Pragyan Ojha

Reserves:

Piyush Chawla, Ishant Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina

The year 2011 could be split into two parts, before the world cup and after the world cup. Before the world cup the Indian team was world number 1 test team, top 3 in the ODI and was doing very well on tours. After the memorable world cup win the team completely fell flat, the batting struggled, the captain lost his plot and the team became extremely inconsistent. After a very sluggish series win against West Indies, India were trashed by England 4-0 and lost the number 1 rankings. Late the same year India travelled to Australia, only to suffer yet another whitewash.

In 2011 though the ODI team did pretty okay, except for the rain marred 3-0 loss to England the team did quite well. In 2012 though the ODI team has been extremely inconsistent too, the team failed to make the CB series final and also lost an opportunity to reach the Asia cup finals. Overall the last year and a half has been pretty poor for the Indian team and when India begins their season against SL tomorrow they would want to make a fresh and confident start. The season is only going to get tougher.

Rahul Dravid’s retirement from the test team means that India need to quickly find a replacement for the legend. Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman aren’t going to be there for long, so identifying replacements for them will also be in the agenda. The bowling combination also needs some working out. Umesh Yadav showed lots of promise in his first year of International cricket, not it is time for him to translate that to results. Zaheer Khan is on his last legs and needs to be preserved for important games and it is time for the young bowlers to step up. It will also be nice to see Ishant Sharma rise to the occasion leading the Indian attack over the next year or so.

The team has a pretty hectic schedule following the Sri Lankan series and would hope to have their prime players fit for most of it. Sri Lanka is no alien to the Indian team as they have played there quite often in the recent years. The Sri Lankan team though has just come off a series win against Pakistan and will be in high spirits. The Indian team though will be rusty as they are coming off a long but deserved break. This will be an important year for the Indian team as identifying the right combination will be of paramount importance. The Indian team will not be touring till mid of next year and this will give them ample time to test young players in the home series.

The series itself will be a close one. Sri Lanka is always a strong outfit at home and will be a tough opposition to deal with. The series can go either way but I will put my neck out and predict a 3-2 win for the Indian team. The Indian team has had a wood over Sri Lanka over the past couple of years and have won lost an ODI series there in the last couple of visits. Dhoni and Fletcher will know that this series marks the beginning of a grueling and tough season and they would want to begin this with a good win.

Looking at the performance of the youngsters on this A tour, it shows how priceless Rahul was for the Indian middle order. We will miss Rahul for sure in the test team. This was the tribute I wrote when he retired and I wish he stayed a little longer.

My Thoughts

It was 1996 and India was touring England. This was the first time I got to see “The Wall” Dravid bat for India. The media coverage those days wasn’t so great for domestic cricket so knowing a player before debut was not that easy. The series did not start well for India as they lost the first test in Edgbaston and as with the case in the 90’s Sachin was the standout performer with a hundred. India decided to go with 2 debutants for the Lord’s test. The 90’s wasn’t a great decade for debutants for India until that point and considering the criticism vented on Ganguly at the start of the tour I wasn’t hoping too much from either Dravid or Ganguly on their debut. How wrong was I?

After dismissing England for 344 in the first Innings, India found themselves in early trouble as usual at 59/2. After…

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The India A tour to West Indies started off with lots of promise. The series was supposed to showcase the best of Indian talent. With the retirement of Rahul Dravid, his replacement in the test team was of paramount importance. The selectors will be happy that Pujara gave a good account of himself throughout the series to emerge as the prime contender for the number 3 spot in the test team. The major disappointment though was the performance of Rohit Sharma.

Since his debut in 2008 Rohit has been considered as a player with enormous talent. He has represented India in the shorter format for about 4 years now and it does not seem like he is ready to make the step up. He started off the tour with a great 94 in the first innings of the first unofficial test but that was about it. He continued to struggle with his control in the longer format. He continues to throw his wicket away with ridiculous shots after getting set. More importantly he continues to disappoint his fans. It seems like Rohit has to work very hard in order to stake the claim for the test spot.The other person to disappoint this series was Ajinkya Rahane. Another player with brilliant technique and great domestic record who failed to impress on this A tour. Rahane struggled to get of the blocks most of the times in this series and seems to have the same issue as Rohit.

Pujara though was the only success of this test leg of the tour. The man once again proved the gulf between himself and the rest of the pack who are vying for a test spot. He played a brilliant innings in the first test to single handedly win the game for his team and scored runs consistently throughout. The batting was the big issue for the Indians in this A tour and the struggle of these youngsters against West Indies A team is not a good sign for the future. The West Indies gained more from this series than India. The other batsman to impress a bit was Tiwary who looked good in couple of innings. Saha did well with the bat in couple of knocks but none of them were consistent. Mukund was another player who disappointed throughout the series.

It seems like once the shorter format started the youngsters are back in their elements. Rahane and Rohit looked their part in the two T20’s which followed the test series. Does this mean that these players are just good enough for the shorter format? We will not know for sure unless we test them out longer. Is the IPL making these players lose their technique? This can only be answered by the players themselves. It will be interesting to see how these youngsters bounce back from this debacle. All these players are talented but to be able to succeed in test cricket talent alone isn’t enough. The will to fight it out in the middle when the chips are down is something these youngsters need to learn. For now though a test spot seems to be long way away for these youngsters.

I wrote this article 2 years back when Pujara made an impressive debut for India. Pujara still continues to prove that he is head and shoulders above the other youngsters (other than Kohli off-course) with his brilliant performance in West Indies.

My Thoughts

An amazing domestic record and with loads of runs behind him, Cheteshwar Pujara was considered as one of the future stars to play for the Indian cricket team. He not only scored heavily in the domestic scene but also performed incredibly whenever India toured abroad on the A tours. His great technique and concentration was praised by “The Wall” of Indian cricket team Rahul Dravid, who said that Pujara will for sure play for India for a long time.

Pujara finally got his chance to prove himself against the Aussies in the home series and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands. He scored a brilliant 70 odd in a fourth innings chase helping India to defeat the Aussies in the second test to seal the series 2-0. Now the problem was that with Indian middle order already sealed where would he fit in? The only vacant spot in the…

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Pujara once again proved that he is one of the finest young players in India at the moment with a brilliant match winning 96 in the second innings of the first unofficial test against West Indies. The innings was much more memorable considering the next highest score in the Indian second innings was just 27 by Shami Ahmed. The Indian captain came into bat with his team tottering on 28/4 and played a superb knock without much support by the middle order.

The batting was inconsistent in both the innings. Apart from Pujara and Rohit, the rest of the batting struggled on a pitch which was consistently up and down. The openers Mukund and Dhawan struggled to put up a decent partnership in both the innings where the former grabbed a pair. Rahane too did not get off the blocks but was unlucky getting run out in the first innings though. Tiwary got to a start in the first innings but did not kick on. The batsmen seemed to be in T20 mode as none of them showed any temperament to dig in and graft on a difficult pitch. It will be interesting to see what the management does for the second test. They might probably push Rahane to open with Dhawan and play another middle order bat in the place of Mukund.

The bowling was very good in both the innings. B Kumar and Shami Ahmed were spot on as both of them troubled the WI A batters consistently in both the innings. The team management might be little worried about the performance of Dinda though as he did not make the necessary impact in both the innings. The pitch had a lot for the bowlers and Dinda came up with modest figures in both the innings. We have to wait and see if P Awana gets a game in the second test. Rahul Sharma was decent but was out bowled by Rohit Sharma in the second innings which again is a cause for worry.

But all in all this was a great victory. It was thrilling game and Pujara’s brilliance and S Ahmed’s grittiness got India A just over the line with 2 wickets in hand. Pujara has the temperament and technique to take on the challenge as India’s number 3 in test cricket a position just vacated by the great Rahul Dravid. The biggest disappointment for me though has been the lack of media coverage for this series. This series is much more important in terms of identifying India’s future players but the coverage in the media has been poor to say the least. Now that the IPL is over and India isn’t playing any international cricket the interviews of IPL stars finds more press than this A tour.

With this win India A has taken a 1-0 lead in the 3 match series and it will be interesting to see if there will be any changes for the second test.


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