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Archive for the ‘Pakistan’ Category

Shikhar Dhawan

The return to form of Shikhar Dhawan will be a huge sigh of relief for the Indian camp.

The one thing that the India-Pakistan game showed us was that if the bowlers bowl with pace and accuracy, you can cause lots of trouble to the batsmen on these wickets. The Indian bowling led by Mohammed Shami bowled with pace and aggression to dismiss the Pakistani batting line up for 224 runs thereby defending their total of 300 at the Adelaide oval last weekend.

The Indian bowlers need to maintain that intensity throughout the tournament if they harbor any thoughts of getting close to defending their title. MS Dhoni though will be extremely pleased with the efforts of the top order batting. The batsmen except for Rohit showed excellent application and developed partnerships to get India to a good total. The one thing he would disappointed is the collapse in the final 5 overs which rendered India 25-30 runs short of what they could have achieved.

Coming back to the Indian bowling, the combination India used against Pakistan might form the crux of the Indian attack for the world cup. Mohammed Shami will expected by Dhoni to lead the pace attack in the absence of Ishant Sharma. Dhoni will be hoping that he does what Zaheer did for India in 2011 world cup. Umesh Yadav, even though wayward, still bowled with lot of pace. He needs to work on his accuracy with the new ball. The other positive for India was the bowling of Mohit Sharma. Mohit bowled at the right pace and kept a good line throughout his spell. He was difficult to get away and was rewarded with two wickets for his efforts.

The spin bowlers also came to party. Ravi Ashwin bowled really well and was clearly the best spinner on view in the first game. Ravi Jadeja looked rusty but his batting and fielding along with his accurate bowling almost makes him a certainty in the X1. The Indian X1 currently looks much more settled than the one which played the tri-series and the warm up games preceding the world cup.

MS Dhoni and Duncan Fletcher will know that for India to progress in the world cup the bowling needs to click. The pace bowlers need to bowl well and keep the pressure on with the new ball. It is very important for India to stick to a combination and back their bowlers to deliver. The other heartening thing in the first game was Dhoni’s captaincy, which was brilliant and he was attacking throughout. The fielding also was fantastic and the Indians for sure looked much more ready for the world cup than the Pakistan team.

The team combination looks settled and I don’t think that there is going to be many changes for the upcoming games. Ravi Ashwin and Stuart Binny might be playing musical chairs for the second all-rounder spot in the X1 based on the conditions. The batsmen coming back to form and the timely runs by Shikhar Dhawan means that India will breathe a sigh of relief as they don’t have to tinker with the batting order at the start of the world cup.

India will now travel to MCG where they will take on South Africa who is one of the favorites like always. South Africa has explosive batting and great bowling attack. They are also one of the best fielding sides in the tournament. India would need to be at the top of their game to compete against a strong South African outfit. India would be hoping that their bowlers keep their good work going. The batting which is looking in good touch needs to fire and keep putting up good totals for the bowlers to defend. It will be an interesting game and India would be hoping to keep their winning form going. A win here against South Africa would be a huge confidence booster for a team who has had a nightmare series down under preceding the world cup.

India takes on South Africa in couple of days in Sophia Gardens and they still have few issues to address before the big game. The team selected for a major trophy like the Champions Trophy has a few gaping holes which might prove to be India’s undoing in the tournament. Murali Vijay has failed in the two warm up games and so has Dhawan. Rohit Sharma’s continued lackluster showing at the international level isn’t helping India’s already inexperienced batting lineup.

The batting entirely depends on the experience of Dhoni, Raina and Kohli. Dinesh Karthik has shown excellent form in the two warm up games and Dhoni will be hoping that he takes that form into the tournament. The opening combination of Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan does not inspire a huge amount of confidence at the moment. It seems like Dhoni will not open with Rohit in the Champions Trophy which means that India has to stick with the Vijay/Dhawan combo for the tournament unless they push either Pathan or Karthik to the top of the order.

The bowling too lacks experience in the absence of Zaheer. Ishant Sharma isn’t consistent enough to lead the attack and Irfan Pathan isn’t the same bowler he was at the start of his career. It will be interesting to see the combination India go in with for the first game against South Africa. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has done enough to retain his place in the squad and I am thinking that Umesh Yadav will share the new ball with him. Ishant’s good performance against the Aussies in the second warm up game will help him hold on to the third pace bowling spot. Jadeja is almost a certainty for the all-rounder spot in the X1 and Ashwin might just hold on to the specialist spinner spot in the team ahead of Mishra.
The top order is still a concern for India and so is the death bowling. The Indian bowlers were carted all over the park by the Sri Lankan batsmen in the first warm up game. Even though the bowlers made a great comeback in the second game, the concern still remains. The consistency of the pace bowlers and the spinners is to be questioned. Dhoni will hope that the Indian bowlers hit their straps when they take on South Africa in the opening game of the Champions Trophy.

The top order has crumbled in both the games only to be saved by Kohli/Karthik in the first game and Dhoni/Karthik in the second game. Vijay and Dhawan have both failed to get going in both the warm up games and it will be one of the areas of concern for the think tank. India found themselves 62/3 in the first game and 55/5 in the second. The top order need to get their act together if India is looking to progress to the Semi-finals. Rohit Sharma also hasn’t spent any time in the middle and has thrown his wicket away at least once in the two games he played ahead of the Champions Trophy.

This will be a difficult tournament for both Dhoni and Fletcher. The team is inexperienced and also it will be difficult for the players to shun all the commotion which is happening currently in India post IPL. Dhoni has been in the center of it all and he along with Duncan Fletcher has to make sure it does not affect the team performance. This will be an interesting tournament for the Indian team and it will be interesting to see how the youngsters perform at the highest stage. Champions Trophy is a tournament where there are no easy games and the teams need to hit their straps right away. India will know that and will be looking for a good start against South Africa.

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 upcoming ODI series against England was announced yesterday and the selection committee dropped Sehwag for the first 3 ODI’s. Sehwag has been pretty poor over the past year and has been rightly dropped for young Ajinkya Rahane. Since the double hundred against West Indies in December 2011, Sehwag averages just 23 from 11 games. Rohit Sharma retains his spot in the squad in spite of having a poor 2012. Rohit averaged just 13 over the last 14 games which makes his selection pretty perplexing. The selectors said Rohit’s selection was due to lack of alternatives. Manoj Tiwary’s injury also was another reason for Rohit to retain his spot in the squad. 

Cheteshwar Pujara received his much deserved maiden ODI call up after some great performances in domestic cricket. The rest of the squad which recently lost to Pakistan was retained for the first 3 ODI’s against England.

The performances of B Kumar and Shami Ahmed meant that they retained their spots for the England series too. Ishant was India’s second best pacer in the series against Pakistan behind B Kumar and seemed to have gotten his groove back. R Jadeja too retained his spot with a good all round show in the final ODI against Pakistan. Dinda and Mishra who were in the squad against Pakistan were also retained for the series against England.

The biggest concern for India has been their batting over the past few months and the addition of Pujara to the lineup seems to be an effort to strengthen the fragile top order. It will be interesting to see though if he gets in to the X1 though. Sehwag’s absence means that Rahane will open the batting with Gautam Gambhir. Kohli will come in at number 3 followed by Yuvraj, Dhoni and Raina. Jadeja and Ashwin will be the specialist spinners in the squad followed by B Kumar, Ishant and Shami Ahmed.

India will hope that their batsmen get into some sort of form against an English attack which got better of them in the just concluded test series. Virat Kohli’s form will be a big concern as he was India’s best player over the past two years in the 50 over format. The bowling looked in decent shape against Pakistan in the just concluded series and the bowling of young B Kumar and Shami Ahmed was particularly impressive with the new ball.

This will be an interesting series as England is not known to be a great ODI squad but have had a great 2012 in terms of results in the shorter format. India though had pretty mixed 2012 and hasn’t begun 2013 on a great note. Both teams will go all out and it will be interesting to see how the Indian batting lineup fares against a good English pace attack.

Indian Squad:

MS Dhoni (capt), Cheteshwar Pujara, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Ashok Dinda, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shami Ahmed, Amit Mishra.

Probable X1 for the first ODI:

Gautam Gambhir, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni(Capt), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, B Kumar, Shami Ahmed, Ishant Sharma

While there is a huge hue and cry right now about Sachin’s 100th hundred, I have decided to recollect one of my favorite memories as a young cricket fan. This was in 1999 when Pakistan and India met in bilateral series after a hiatus of 12 years. There was a lot of hype around the series and the first test was held in my hometown, Chennai. As a young cricket fan I had two wishes, one to watch my idol Sachin Tendulkar score a hundred live and the other to watch team India win a test match.

The Chennai test was an incredible one, completely worth of all the hype surrounding its start. Pakistan team was filled with great bowlers and incredible batting line up and India prior to this series were unbeatable at home. The battle of Sachin with Waqar, Wasim and Saqlain was much talked about prior to the series. The game began and both teams were neck and neck after the first innings. India gained a slender lead of 16 after the first innings and Saqlain Mushtaq enhanced his reputation of being the best young spinner in the world at that time with a 5 wicket haul.

Pakistan began their second innings on a positive note and in spite of losing wickets at regular intervals, it seemed like they would set India a huge total to chase. Afridi was great with a brilliant hundred and with useful contributions from Ijaz and Inzamam, Pakistan was well on course for a huge total. At 275/4, already leading by 259 India’s chances seemed glum when Venkatesh Prasad probably bowled one of the best spells of his career. He took 6/33 as Pakistan collapsed to 286 as their last 6 wickets fell for just 11 runs. India began their second inning needing 271 to win with more than 2 days to go.

Indian second innings did not get to an ideal start as Waqar dismissed both the Indian openers with just 6 runs on the board as Sachin Tendulkar joined Rahul Dravid in the middle. Both these players took India to safety without further loss and it was all set for a brilliant 4th day at the MA Chidambaram stadium. This was when I got a chance to go to the stadium. I had watched the first 3 days on television and my uncle who could not go to the ground on the 4th day, offered me the ticket and along with my cousins I headed to the ground with lots of expectations.

We reached the ground early and watched the players practice. This was my first visit to any international match and it was really exciting to see the players warm up ahead of a great game of cricket. The crowd cheered as Sachin and Dravid walked out to bat, to continue India’s chase. Wasim Akram’s peach on the fourth morning went through the wall’s defenses as India was in early trouble at 50/3. Azhar and Ganguly got out to poor decisions to leave India tottering at 82/5 when Nayan Mongia walked out to join Sachin Tendulkar.

Both these players saw India through to lunch and in a sedate partnership took India to tea with 5 wickets still in hand. The match was in balance and we in the crowd knew that a wicket at that point will mean that India had no chance. After tea though the mood changed, Sachin and Mongia had decided to attack and the runs flowed quickly and India were racing towards the target. It was exhilarating to watch the proceedings as the bowling attack of Pakistan was brilliant and the world’s best player was involved in a fierce battle to win the game for his country. It was a privilege to watch Sachin counter Saqlain on a wicket which was turning square. He was battling back spasm too in the middle of all this which made this innings even greater. Sachin reached one of his best hundreds and I was in the stands applauding. This was one of the best moments for me as a cricket fan.

India was 218/5 with just 53 to get and we could see Pakistan losing hope. They had taken the new ball to no avail as Mongia and Sachin were scoring runs at a fair clip. This is when Mongia decided to display one of the biggest brain freezes of his career. Trying to loft Wasim over the top, got himself caught at mid-off leaving a struggling Sachin to take India to victory along with the tail. Sachin got out to Saqlain trying finishing the game with only 13 needed and the Indian tail collapsed in a hurry as India fell short of the Pakistan total. It was a heartbreaking loss and a very hard one to take as an Indian fan. It was so near yet so far for the Indian team.

When the game was over unlike all the other grounds in India, in spite of an Indian loss the crowd stuck around. Then one of the most brilliant thing happened when even now when I think back makes me proud of being an Indian. The Chennai crowd rose in appreciation of the Pakistan team as the victorious neighbors took a victory lap in India. Who would have thought that it was even possible? It was a brilliant moment as the fans clapped till the end and it was a victory for the game. Chennai is considered as one of the most knowledgeable crowds in India and I saw it with my own eyes for the first time. Even though there was a disappointment of an Indian loss that evening, I was proud as a cricket fan. Cricket is a sport and it’s beyond borders and the crowd that day proved the same. I got one of my wish granted that day but had to wait for another 3 years to watch India win a test match but that memory will forever be etched in my mind.


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