My Thoughts

Archive for the ‘Champions League’ Category

Another overseas tour comes to an end and the Indian bowlers come under the scanner as usual.The Indian bowlers struggled to get wickets and except for the first innings in Wanderers they struggled to bowl out South Africa. The Indian pacers took 18 wickets at an average of 47.94 and at a strike rate of 82.1. The biggest disappointment is the economy rate, SA batsmen scored at the rate of 3.50 against the Indian pacers. There were no 5 wicket hauls by the Indian pacers. This is a major cause of concern for the Indian team.

Shami Ahmed was playing his first overseas tour but there is no such excuse for Zaheer and Ishant. The Indian team almost lost the first test trying to defend a humungous 458 in the 4th innings. The bowling lost its sting and looked completely clueless against the South African batting. Ishant Sharma is a major enigma in Indian cricket. The guy has played 50 test matches and still isn’t the bowler India wants him to be. It is strange that he continues to make it to the Indian team in spite of mediocre performances. He plays in the team only based on his experience but I guess time has come for India to look past Ishant as a test bowler.

Zaheer Khan is on his last legs and agreed that he was coming back from a long break from cricket but lot was expected of the veteran fast bowler. Zaheer was expected to lead a young bowling attack in South Africa but he lost his steam after the first test. India needs a firing Zaheer if they have to groom the young fast men. It is good to see that Ishwar Pandey has been selected for the New Zealand tour and the selection of Varun Aaron for the ODI games is also a welcome move.

The New Zealand tour gives India with an opportunity to play a completely new attack and test out these youngsters. Varun Aaron should play in the ODI team along with Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shami Ahmed. India needs to play Umesh Yadav in the test team ahead of Ishant Sharma. India needs to find a way to give Ishwar Pandey few chances in the series and not just have him to carry drinks. This series gives them a great chance to test out some young bowlers and hope for couple of them to come through.

India have a chopper block schedule this year and with IPL and Champions trophy thrown in India needs to make sure that their bowlers are fresh and fit for the 2015 world cup. Since India will be on the road throughout the year, it is going to be mentally and physically taxing for the bowlers and India needs to take care of that. This year also gives Dhoni and Fletcher ample opportunities to test some new bowling talent and India needs to rotate their bowlers to keep them fit and ready.

New Zealand series is going to be an important one. Even though India did not win anything in South Africa, they showed fight and application which was rarely seen during the 8-0 whitewash in Australia/England in 2012. The young Indian team will be hoping to carry on with their good performance with the bat and will be hoping for the bowling to step up. This will be a good series and I hope that the Indian team can unearth couple of good bowlers for the future.

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It was 1991 and the game was India vs. Pakistan at Sharjah. I had never watched a cricket game before and I thought that Sachin was this young boy who just appeared with Kapil Dev in the Boost advertisement. Pakistan had batted first and score 257 in 50 overs and India was chasing a difficult score against a great bowling lineup. India had a great start but lost their way in the middle when this young boy walks in and plays a beautiful innings getting India close to the target. I still remember Sachin hammering Mushtaq Ahmed for two consecutive sixes and getting out trying to go for the third.

That was the day I got glued to the game of cricket and the reason for the same was the little master. Everyone knew that this young boy is going to be a great player then but even his strongest supporter would not have imagined what this great player went on to achieve in his 24 year career. Sachin Tendulkar gave the Indian fans lots to cheer in a particularly poor decade for Indian cricket. This was the phase where the Indian hopes in every game lay on just his wicket. The opposition knew that and so did every Indian fan. There were lots of fans who would just turn off their televisions as soon as their idol got out.

We need to understand that Sachin was still just a young man and to handle that amount of pressure was truly remarkable. I remember he was the only batsman who always looked at home even on the overseas tours when all his fellow team mates struggled to put bat on ball. The brilliant hundred in Perth and the fantastic innings in Johannesburg as a 19 year old were able testimony to the fact. Sachin had amazing composure for a young man and his balance at the crease was phenomenal. He did not have any noticeable weakness and even if he had he had the ability to iron them out before he stepped out to bat again.

 His child like enthusiasm for the game and his great dedication made him a stand out player of his generation. His achievements are there for everyone to see. In spite of enjoying a god like status in India, he still remains a humble human being. He has achieved everything a cricketer could dream of. The 2011 world cup win for sure completed his cricketing resume and for sure will give him utmost satisfaction. Sachin was also part of the world number 1 test team and his IPL team Mumbai Indians gave him a fitting send off with a CLT20 win.

It will be sad to see Sachin go. I have watched Sachin Tendulkar throughout his career and he has been part of my growing up years. As a cricket fan in the 90’s Sachin has given me lots of fond memories which I would always cherish. The brilliant hundred in Benoni, the desert storm innings, his brilliant performance in the 1996 world cup and many more such performances will forever be etched in my memory. Sachin Tendulkar will be sorely missed by every Indian cricket fan. It will be hard to imagine an Indian cricket team without the little master in the lineup. I hope that he has a great farewell in the final two tests he will be part of later next month.

I wish Sachin remains attached to the sport in some vicinity, imparting the vast cricketing knowledge he has. Thank You Sachin for all the great memories and as a diehard fan of yours I will for sure miss watching you don the Indian colors again.

Fast bowlers are a rare breed in India. India haven’t had many world class fast men and have only 3 bowlers in their entire cricketing history who have gone past 200 test wickets. Zaheer Khan is the last fast bowler who has gotten anywhere close to being world class. In the 90’s India struggled to find a decent third seamer to consolidate the good first spells of Srinath and Prasad but at the end of the decade there were some promising additions. Zaheer was the first to emerge in 2000, followed by a plethora of young fast men who promised a lot but faltered to deceive in the long run.

The problem with the Indian pace men over the years has been their fitness. Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel, Irfan Pathan, RP Singh, Sreesanth etc.  All began their career with lots of promise bowling quick and swinging the ball. But none of them were able to convert their earlier promise into performance over a sustained period of time. The trend is extremely disturbing. The emphasis on fitness is something which seems to be lacking in these fast men. Within just a year in international cricket, these bowlers have lost their fitness, pace and ability to swing the ball.

The number seems to be increasing over the years. In 2007 India possessed one of the best pace attack for a long time. Zaheer, Sreesanth and RP Singh bowling in the excess of 135 KMPH and swinging the ball both ways was a great sight for an Indian fan. The joy just lasted for a year before RP Singh lost his way and pace. Sreesanth has been plagued by injuries throughout his career. Ishant Sharma who bowled India’s fastest delivery in Australia and troubled the best batsmen in business with his length and bounce has lost the attributes which made him an instant success in his first year of international cricket.

It is hard to understand how a cricketing board can turn deaf to the problems causing this decline of the fast bowlers. Fitness is an important aspect for a bowler in International cricket. It is also important for the bowlers to keep evolving and learn new tricks as they advance their careers. The Indian pace men have faltered on both counts. The reason can be many and one of the most important reasons in the recent times has been the excessive cricket the bowlers have been subjected to. The IPL/CLT20 followed by countless international games can only break a bowler.

 Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav spend more time recouping from an injury than to play for their country. Playing excessive T20 games also gives no option for the bowlers to work on their bowling. The Indian board has to realize that Zaheer’s stint in county cricket in England was the reason for his evolution as one of the best bowler in the world for about 4 years. The BCCI has blocked that avenue too. The county cricket can be a great learning ground for these bowlers and will be much more beneficial than playing in meaningless T20 games in India.

Now we again have talented new crop of bowlers like B Kumar and Shami Ahmed and it will be interesting to see how the board handles these bowlers. The BCCI have the finances and resources to keep the promising Indian bowlers away from the T20 leagues and keep them fresh for International cricket. It will be great to have Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron, B Kumar, Sreesanth, Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar and Shami Ahmed fit and available for an international series. Constant cricket can only be detrimental to Indian cricket future. If India needs to become a force to reckon with at the international level we need a pool of good pace bowlers and this is the time to preserve the resources we have.

Recently while lecturing at the cricket club of India, India’s legendary fast bowler Kapil Dev said that Indian fast bowlers lack the attitude and fitness. It’s an age old debate which has been going on forever and in spite of having a steady supply of bowlers in the recent years we haven’t found a single decent partner for Zaheer in the test team. There have been various debates and discussions over this matter in the past and none of them have conclusively come up with any plausible explanation for this scenario.

Whenever a bowler makes his debut for India, it seems like he comes with an expiration date. He bowls fast and is fit for a year and then his speed drops and his accuracy deserts him and finally loses his spot in the team. What causes this decline? Is it fitness and attitude, like Kapil said in his lecture or is it general unwillingness to do hard work. I feel that it’s the combination of all three. There has been a cry over too much cricket all the time but even then we see cricketers hardly missing the Champions League and IPL unless they are unfit to play.

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A demoralizing and humiliating 4-0 whitewash, India’s first such loss overseas since their 3-0 loss to Australia in 1999. The team which had made a huge headway over the past couple of years collectively came down crashing against a team which was much more organized. The Indian bowling has always been a cause for concern.

The bowling attack sans Zaheer has always struggled and this series was another example for the same. The failure of the batsmen did not help their cause either.

The spinners are struggling; the fast men are not consistent enough. Everyone knew that if India had to stay at the top of the rankings they need to develop a good bowling attack. India has failed to do the same and it showed in the current series.

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Watching the Indian team during the 90’s was extremely frustrating. The team which functioned like a well-oiled machine at home played like a bunch of novices when they toured abroad. The batting struggled and the bowling lacked any sort of bite. The current series in England brings back the bad memories. It is sad because since the turn of the century, it seemed as though India had left the ghost of the 90’s behind.

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I call myself as a cricket fanatic. Give me any cricket game and I will watch it. It may be a International game or a domestic game or even a club level game, if it’s on TV then I will give it a go. It’s just the love for the game which drives me and not the level at which it is played. So IPL is something which I cannot let pass. Who wouldn’t want to see legends of the game all under the same roof? Even though I don’t agree with the elaborate and boring format of the tournament overall but watching young Indian players locking horns with International stars is something which makes IPL special.

Franchise based sport is new in India and it will take a little time to catch on. The American style will not work in India as the country has a national team which is playing throughout the year. So the Indian fans will be mostly loyal to the Indian team rather than Chennai or Mumbai or Kolkata. The fact that the teams are shuffled every three years also makes it hard for the fans to relate to their teams. You suddenly have Rohit Sharma playing for Mumbai Indians while he was playing for Deccan Chargers in the previous editions.

For me watching IPL is an avenue to have a look at future Indian prospects. It’s an opportunity for the youngsters to get noticed. This year has thrown some interesting names too. There were some known names that reaffirmed their status and there were some new names too. The biggest impact this year was made by two cricketers, one was Paul Valthathy and the other was Rahul Sharma.

Paul Valthathy did an excellent as an opener for Kings X1 Punjab this season. He was explosive and impressed one and all with his stroke play. He even held the orange cap for the while during the course of the tournament. Now we have to wait and see if he is a one tournament wonder (Asnodkar, anyone?) or if he would back up these performances in the domestic arena. The other standout performer was Pune Warriors Rahul Sharma. The young leggie who fought a career threatening injury to stage an inspiring comeback to competitive cricket was absolute joy to watch this season. A bowler of Anil Kumble mould was brilliant and one of the most economical bowlers of the season. He was the only shining light in an otherwise disappointing season for Pune Warriors. The other bowler to impress was Varun Aaron of Delhi Daredevils. Varun bowled with extreme pace and troubled the batsmen with bounce. It was unfortunate that we did not get to see more him in this IPL. I just hope that he keeps working on his bowling and hopefully will get selected for team India sooner than later if he maintains his consistency.

Ajinkya Rahane and Manoj Tiwary were others who impressed with the bat. Both these youngsters are rated highly by the experts and we got to see why during the course of the IPL. The others such as Iqbal Abdulla of KKR, S Aravind of RCB and Abu Nechim of Mumbai Indians impressed in the IPL 4.

There were few comeback stories too. RP Singh and Ishant Sharma made a great comeback after being out of radar for the Indian team selection. Ishant was brilliant with his bowling and it seems like he has regained his pace and control which he had lost about a year back. He has been rewarded with an Indian call up for the upcoming West Indies tour. RP Singh too was brilliant for Kochi Tuskers. He bowled with pace and troubled the batsmen with movement of the pitch. I hope that he continues on this trail and makes a comeback to the national side in the near future. The others who were consistent among bowlers were Ashwin, Mishra, Bajji and Munaf, all of whom will be travelling to West Indies earlier next month.

In the batting front, Subramaniam Badrinath was rewarded for having a brilliant domestic season and for performing brilliantly for CSK in the current IPL. His selection for the West Indies tour was a great reward for his consistency. Rohit Sharma also continued his great form in IPL and we have to wait and see if he can translate that form to International cricket. The biggest disappointment of the season was Irfan Pathan, who albeit returning from an injury was way off color with both bat and ball. He did bowl some good spells but lacked consistency with the ball. Ambati Rayudu was brilliant once again for Mumbai but Saurabh Tiwari was unable to replicate his success from last year for Royal Challengers Bangalore.

All in all IPL 4 was great as it threw some new names into the mix of youngsters. Even though these names add lots of spice for the future we have to keep in mind that IPL performances cannot be considered as a yardstick for national team selection. I guess this just gives the selectors a list of names whose progress needs to be followed in domestic cricket. All these players are extremely talented but performance in domestic cricket and “A” tours need to be given more importance for the Indian team selection. IPL 4 has been great for the new talent but I am still disappointed with the franchises reluctance to try out young players. A tournament which began as platform for young talent has just become a money making exercise. The teams are mostly interested in playing established International stars. Players like Varun Aaron did not get enough opportunities due to the same reason. Even though long, IPL 4 has been good viewing this year and if the organizers can cut the tournament little shorter we might actually have more people interested in the same.

The IPL “Tamasha” auction just concluded last weekend and the biggest surprise of all was non inclusion of Sourav Ganguly. Sourav was one of the high profile players who found no takers at the auction. West Indians Brian Lara and Chris Gayle were the others to not find any bidders. Sourav who was an icon player for his home side Kolkata Knightriders for the first three seasons was not retained by his franchise. He entered this year’s auction with a base price of $400,000.

The biggest surprise was the lack of interest in one of the greatest captain’s of the Indian team. He did not have a bad IPL III either. Kolkata who did not retain him also did not make an attempt to get him back in the auction. I would say that it would have been a very bitter pill to swallow for Sourav and I don’t think he deserves such treatment. There have been lots of money shed over few players who I feel have been extremely lucky as some of them haven’t played any form of cricket for a long time.

Sourav’s snub should rank as one of the worst in the IPL till date. Being one the greatest players for the Indian team he deserved better and I hope that he gracefully exits the IPL scene. I do not want him to accept any sort of coaching opportunities presented by Kolkata owners as the damage has already been done.

Rahul Dravid and Laxman who also weren’t retained by their respective franchises were extremely lucky to have been picked up by the Rajasthan Royals and Kochi respectively. . Anil Kumble though made the wisest of choices as he decided to pull himself out of the auction at the last moment. He might have had to play for a different state team which probably he might not have wanted or he probably thought that he might also be snubbed in this auction so wanted to stay ahead of the game. Not exactly sure what the reason behind his decision was but it was a brilliant one. He has been made as the “Chief Mentor” for his former franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore.

With most of the teams already settled, it’s sad to see that Sourav Ganguly had to bow out this way as a player from the IPL. I am not sure if he would continue playing domestic cricket either. For all the laurels he had brought to the team India, he for sure needed a better send off. The Kolkata team owner Shahrukh Khan in an attempt to pacify the angry Sourav fans offered him a management position but I am not sure if Dada would be interested in the same. The damage has been already done and a severe blow has been dealt, so accepting a coaching role would only add insult to injury.

Champions Trophy (Cricket) and Davis Cup (Tennis), the two major events which took place last month had one thing in common. The common factor was Chennai, my hometown. The Champions Trophy cricket was won by Chennai Super Kings and the Davis Cup tie between India and Brazil was held in Chennai. I was in India while both these events took place and was fortunate enough to witness them at a convenient time zone.

The Davis Cup was held in Chennai’s Nungambakkam stadium where the yearly Chennai open takes place. The venue was chosen by India’s number 1 player Somdev Devvarman as hard court is his favorite surface and he felt that the city’s heat and humidity will work against the visitors. But when Bopanna took on Thomaz Bellucci who happens to be ranked 27th in the world, the weather in Chennai was uncharacteristically pleasant. The game which was supposed be an easy one for the Brazilian turned out to be a 5 set marathon.

Bopanna played a brilliant game and should have won it but mistakes at crucial times in the final set cost him the match. With Brazil leading 1-0, Somdev stepped on the court to face Brazil’s second best player Ricardo Mello. This game was supposed to go India’s way and after the first set it did not seem otherwise. Somdev breezed through the first set and it seemed like the first day will end with the honors even between the two teams. After the first set Ricardo Mello upped his game quite a bit and Somdev started wilting under the pressure exerted by the Brazilian. It was another 5 set epic and another victory to Brazil and India got off to the worst possible start. Brazil would have been thrilled to be 2-0 up after the first day. The decision to play on the hard court seemed to have back fired and it seemed like the Brazilians were not minding the Chennai weather either.

After the disappointing first day the onus was completely on the champion doubles team of Leander and Mahesh to keep the Indian team in the hunt. Leander and Mahesh played a brilliant game defeating the Brazilian pair of Marcelo Mello and Bruno Soares in straight sets to get the first victory for India. The third day began with India needing to win both the reverse singles game and boy did they play well. Both Somdev and Bopanna played brilliant tennis to win their respective games to had India one of the most famous Davis cup victories and an entry into the world group.

The other major event which concluded just a week ago was the Champions trophy. The event this year was held in South Africa and three IPL teams participated in the same. Chennai Super Kings who were the IPL Champions began their campaign in style when they demolished Central Districts by 57 runs in the opening game. Chennai seemed to have the best team suited to the conditions in South Africa. Their batting was strong and had one of the most balanced bowling attacks for the pitches in South Africa. Chennai just lost a single game in the round robin stage to Victoria and that too in the super over.

Things weren’t that rosy for the other IPL teams in the championship. Mumbai struggled for consistency in both batting and bowling and Bangalore had issues with their bowling attack. The Royal Challengers though made it to the semis with the help of couple of big wins as Mumbai Indians made a sorry exit from the event. The Royal Challengers faced the Super Kings in a one sided semifinals where Suresh Raina hammered an unbeaten 90 odd to steer his team to the finals. Bangalore though struggled throughout the game after their strike bowler Steyn injured himself taking a difficult catch to dismiss Hussey. Their bowling and fielding completely fell apart and they allowed Chennai to pile up 170+ in 17 overs. In the end the target proved too much for the Royal Challengers team who succumbed without a fight.

Chennai’s opponents in the finals were the home team Warriors who had been brilliant till then in the competition. The finals though again was a one sided affair as Chennai demolished the Warriors batting to dismiss them to a modest 128. Chennai knocked of the required runs without much fuss in 19 overs with 8 wickets still in hand. It was a brilliant win for the team from Chennai and they once again proved that they are one of the most consistent teams in the IPL pack. This was also an emotional moment for the franchise and the players as this was a last game for them as a team before the players will be shuffled again in a fresh auction later this year. In a way this was a nice farewell for a bunch of players who had worked extremely hard and have emerged victorious in the IPL 3 as well as in the champion’s league becoming the first team from IPL to achieve the double.

All in all a brilliant win for Dhoni and Chennai Super Kings. Hopefully we will see the franchise carrying this legacy forward, no matter what team they put forward next year. All in all a good month for Indian sports and I had a blast watching all of it during my vacation without the worries of losing my sleep in doing so.

Since I have not posted for a while I decided to compile all the happenings in the sports world in a single post. I have decided to split this into two parts.

World T20 – Bounced out once again

Indian batsmen were sitting ducks against short pitched bowling in the recently concluded World T20

The Indian team cut a sorry figure in the recently concluded World T20 as they were bounced out yet again two years in a row in the super 8 stage of the championship. This year was an exact replica of the 2009 edition in England where the Indian team failed to win a single game in the second stage of the tournament. The batsmen looked sitting ducks against the pace of the Australian and West Indian bowlers and handed the games without a fight.

The performance of the Indian batsmen was baffling to say the least as they very well knew what to expect after their experiance in England last year. Raina, Sharma, Pathan and Ghambir struggled last year in England against short pitched stuff and they repeated the dose once again in West Indies. The bowling was bad a usual as except for Harbajan Singh everyone else was either unfit or inconsistent. The team selections were confusing and the fielding appalling.

This year’s exit was made even worse when the team coach lashed out against few players calling them unfit to play any form of cricket. The coach Gary Kirsten even said that he was fitter than few players in the Indian team at 42. And there was also a report of few players engaging in a pub brawl after their defeat against Sri Lanka. All in all it was another pathetic ICC World event for India under Dhoni. The silver lining though is that India has chosen a young team under Raina to participate in the tri series in Zimbabwe and I hope that we unearth some good players in that series.

Formula two – Armaan sizzles in Morocco

Armaan Ebrahim was brilliant in Morocco as he finished 6th in both the races

Armaan Ebrahim finished 6th in both the races in Morocco to cap off a brilliant race in the 3rd and 4th rounds of Formula two championship. Armaan’s top 6 finishes was despite the fact that he did not do that well in the qualifying as he finished at 8th and 11th respectively. With a brilliant performance in the Morocco leg of the championship he currently sits at 7th in the overall championship race.

Ajith Kumar also had a good race in Morocco as he finished identical 13th in both the races. Ajith would be really happy with this performance as he was able to finish 4 races in a row and would like to improve on his standings in the upcoming races starting with Monza on the 23rd of May. Parthiva Sureshwaran though had a mixed round 3 and 4 as he finished 11th in the first race and had to retire in the race 2.

All in all it was a good performance from the Indian contingent and it seems like we are not that far away from a podium finish. Please visit Formulatwo.com for the latest updates on the Monza race.


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