Bet matches and our first win as a team

Sharing one of my finest memories of playing cricket in India

My Thoughts

A typical cricket maidan where kids in India spend their weekend mornings playing cricket A typical cricket maidan where kids in India spend their weekend mornings playing cricket

When you look back at your childhood some memories always linger in your mind. For me as a kid growing up in India playing cricket was normal. The best memory of playing cricket was when few friends form a team and start playing matches with random teams we find in the ground. We wake up at around 6:00 AM, gather around at a common spot and leave to the ground with our kit. Sometimes we would have a pre-scheduled game and sometimes we would go to the ground, find a great spot, pitch the stumps and wait for find another team who are looking for a game. It was fantastic experience. We had a decent team and had lots of fun playing together. We had players from all age groups and it was fun to play as…

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Strategic Break, really?

Yesterday’s game between KKR and RCB was interrupted by rain. The game was on hold till the rain stopped and the ground was ready for play. The game stopped when RCB were 100/3 in 14.1 overs. After the match resumed, the bowling team just bowled 5 balls and the umpire called for strategic break. Are you kidding me? Why would either team want to strategize when they had just spent about an hour in the dressing room with the coaching staff.

What is there to strategize after just 5 balls when nothing much had changed? If BCCI wants to give an advertising break, why not just call it that? It is funny that BCCI dictates and forces teams to take a break when they don’t want to and thereby cause unnecessary break in play. If BCCI wants to sell airtime to make money they should call the break as advertisement break. If they really want to give the teams a strategic break, it should only be taken when the teams want to take it.

It was extremely funny when teams had just come in after a 45 minute break and within 5 deliveries had to go back in to strategize nothing.

India’s home season

India’s long home season ended with a brilliant series win over touring Australian team. India were brilliant throughout the season and it was a dominant home performance. India also reached the top of the rankings table during the season and have taken a nice lead over the second ranked team. The team had lots of positives over the season which spanned 13 tests none more satisfying than the performances of the pacers. Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami were excellent and provided timely breakthrough’s throughout the season. They both were pacy and kept their intensity whenever they were called up on by the captain. Bhuvneshwar Kumar also was brilliant in the chances he received and pocketed couple of 5 wicket hauls on wickets which assisted him. Ishant Sharma did not play a lot during the home season but he did give his all whenever he made the X1.

The spin combination of Ashwin and Jadeja were devastating throughout the home season. Ashwin was brilliant in West Indies as well when India toured last year for a 4 match test series. Jadeja though kept improving throughout the season and ended up as the number 1 bowler in the world at the end of it. The left-armer was brilliant with the ball and by the end of the season was contributing with the bat as well. The duo was also received good support from Jayanth Yadav and Kuldeep Yadav in the games they made the X1. The biggest positive for India though was the fact that they played as a team throughout and most of the wins were a thorough team efforts. There were many instances of young players stepping up to the challenge and putting in match/series defining performances. Jayanth Yadav’s maiden test hundred against England, Karun Nair’s triple hundred and Kuldeep Yadav’s 4-fer all were extremely important in the context of the match and the series.

The senior members also stepped up to the plate when required. The captain himself was brilliant throughout the season except for the Australian series. Murali Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane, Saha, Ashwin, Jadeja, Lokesh Rahul all made crucial contributions throughout the season. The all-round contributions from Jadeja and Ashwin, gave Kohli the opportunity to play 5 bowlers when required. The solidity which Saha discovered during the home season also gave Kohli a great chance to experiment with the X1.

Now that the home season is done and dusted, the team would know that they are in for much tougher challenges in the coming year or so. Overseas tours are not something new for this bunch. Most of the members from this present team were part of India’s long overseas season from 2013-2015. The team already knows what to expect and would hope to be better prepared this time around. Kohli’s first challenge obviously would be to defend India’s Champions Trophy crown which would be right after the IPL. This Indian team has shown that they could compete on any type of wicket and now they would want to put in more consistent performances overseas. Things are really looking exciting for team India under the leadership of Virat Kohli and as Ashwin had mentioned in his interview, hope he can take India to the newer heights in the coming years.

Back Again

I wrote my last post more than a year ago. Lots of things have changed since then. I no longer live in the US, I have a new job and the most exciting change is that my wife and I are parents now. Things have changed rapidly and the last year an a half has been a roller coaster. Lots of frustrations, tensed moments and happiness marked the year 2016 and early part of 2017. I just wasn’t able to write anything over that time. I just wanted to get out of that rut and I thing I finally have.

I have started a new life in a new country and I feel this is the right time to resume writing again. I will be starting to write about the important cricketing/sporting moments over the last year and a half. Even though the content might be little old for everyone, it is new for me as I wasn’t able to express my thoughts on those moments during the time of its occurrence. It is really nice to be able to be posting after a long time with clear thoughts and mindset.

Young players will be under the spot light for India

India has never played a bilateral ODI series in Australia before, so this will be a new experience for the Indian team. The Australian team is always difficult to beat at home and India traditionally hasn’t done well in Australia. The Australian team is the current world champion and it will take a huge effort by this young Indian team to compete in this series.

The Indian team is young but has a seasoned leader in MS Dhoni. This tour will be a new experience for the youngsters in the team and they will be under spot light throughout the tour. Let us look at the Indian ODI squad for picked for this series:

ODI squad: MS Dhoni (capt), R Ashwin, Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Axar Patel, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Gurkeerat Singh, Rishi Dhawan, Barinder Sran

There are some new faces in the squad and with Shami’s injury Ishant and Umesh will be expected to lead the pace attack. The batting will depend on the experience of Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan. Ajinkya Rahane who has been in great form will also be expected to contribute in the middle order for the team. With 5 batting spots already taken there are two open spots in the middle/lower order ODI series. One spot is for sure going to an all-rounder. The front runner for that spot should be Rishi Dhawan. Rishi Dhawan has done well in the practice games ahead of the series and has some experience playing in Australia representing the emerging players X1 for India. He is expected to get a look in in the first ODI. The number 6 batting slot will be a tossup between Manish Pandey and Gurkeerat Singh.

Manish Pandey batted brilliantly in the warm up game and also is a brilliant fielder. Gurkeerat Singh also is a very good young player and he offers India with an option of an additional spin bowling option. So this will be an interesting decision. Also it will be interesting to see if India will go with 2 bowling all-rounder option with Ravi Jadeja and Rishi Dhawan. Ashwin will most probably be India’s lone spinner for the first ODI and with injury to Mohammed Shami, Ishant and Umesh are most likely options to take the new ball. If India opts to go for 3 pace bowling option then Barinder Sran is most likely going to make his international debut at WACA.

This is going to be an interesting series for India and the young players will be under pressure to perform and make an impact. Gurkeerat Singh and Manish Pandey have been waiting in the wings for some time now to make it to the ODI X1 and this will be a perfect launch pad for them to stake their claim. MS Dhoni would be hoping that India can turn their ODI fortunes around at the start of 2016 and his leadership will play a crucial part in this series. The experienced top order will be expected to make consistent contributions if India is going to push Australia in both ODI and T20 series. Below is the likely X1 for the first ODI at the WACA. I am expecting Jadeja and Axar to miss out from the X1. I don’t think the Indian team is going to play two spinners at the WACA. The closest tossup will be between Gurkeerat Singh and Manish Pandey but I think Gurkeerat might get the nod as he is a decent spinner as well.

Indian X1 for First ODI (Likely): Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Manish Pandey/Gurkeerat Singh, MS Dhoni (capt), Rishi Dhawan, R Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Barinder Sran

Even though this will be a tough series for the young team, I expect them to give a good account of themselves and may be even win the series with contributions from the senior players.

Top 5 best test performers in 2015

The year 2015 was a very good year for the young Indian team. The team just played 9 tests last year and managed to win 5 of them and just lost 1 test. Even though the record for the year doesn’t look bad the test team is not without its issues. The batting has been highly inconsistent there has been lots of chopping and changing in the X1. Virat Kohli’s aggressive captaincy though has been the talking point of the year and the hopes of India turning their fortunes around overseas are high in the coming years.

Let’s look at top 5 performers for India in tests in both batting and bowling.

Top 5 batsmen 2015 (Table 1):

Player Mat Inns NO Runs Ave 100 50
V Kohli 9 15 0 640 42.66 2 2
AM Rahane 9 15 2 593 45.61 3 1
M Vijay 7 12 1 522 47.45 1 3
S Dhawan 6 10 1 485 53.88 2 0
CA Pujara 5 8 1 347 49.57 1 1

 

India had a highly inconsistent year with the bat in tests. The batting against spin especially has come in for lots of criticism. The low point of the Indian batting was their capitulation against the left-arm spin of Herath chasing a modest 4th innings total. The table 1 shows the top 5 run getters for India in tests for the year 2015.

Even though Virat Kohli scored the most runs in 2015 the star performer for India was Ajinkya Rahane. Ajinkya was brilliant with the bat again in 2015 and was one of the lynchpins of Indian middle order along with Virat Kohli. Murali Vijay once again had a great year with the bat. He missed the entire SL tour due to injury but did well for India at the top of the order. Shikar Dhawan though ending up as one of the top run getters for India at the top has been highly inconsistent. His struggles against the South African pace bowlers begs the question if he is indeed our long term opening prospect. He did make couple of significant contributions against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The other bright spot for Indian batting this year was the return of Pujara at number 3. He scored a brilliant hundred on his return to the team in the 3rd test against Sri Lanka and also made some useful contributions against South Africa.

Virat Kohli would assume that Rahane, Vijay, Pujara and himself will form the core of the Indian batting line up in tests for the next few years. India still is looking for a reliable number 6. Rohit Sharma has been employed in that position without much success over the last couple of years. India will do well to try out few young players at that position. The other spot in question is of Shikhar Dhawan. Dhawan is a good bet on flat wickets at the top but his weakness against quality fast bowling was once again shown in the test series against South Africa. With KL Rahul waiting in the wings, it will just be matter of time before he is replaced at the top of the order in tests.

Now let’s move on to the bowlers.

Top 5 bowlers 2015 (Table 2):

Player Mat Inns Wkts Ave Econ SR 5 10
R Ashwin 9 17 62 17.2 2.83 36.4 7 2
RA Jadeja 4 7 23 10.82 1.76 36.7 2 0
A Mishra 5 10 22 15.72 2.83 33.2 0 0
I Sharma 7 12 14 31.5 2.77 68.1 1 0
UT Yadav 6 12 11 45.9 3.74 73.6 0 0

As you can see in the table above, Ashwin had a phenomenal 2015 with the ball. With India playing most of their tests in sub-continent it is expected that the spinners will be among the top wicket takers for the year. Ashwin is not only India’s best bowler; he also topped the wicket takers chart for the year 2015. Ravindra Jadeja made an excellent comeback into the Indian team for the series against South Africa. Even though the pitches were conducive to his style of bowling he did bowl with amazing accuracy and control. He also made some vital contributions with the bat lower down along with the wickets he took. The third spot goes to Amit Mishra who also had a wonderful year with the ball. Mishra though was unlucky as he did not get to play all 4 tests against South Africa. He probably bowled the least amount of overs among the three spinners but ended up getting a decent haul of wickets with excellent average and SR.

The pacers hardly had anything to do in 2015. Since most of the tests were played in the subcontinent the Indian pacers hardly had any chance to make an impact. In spite of that Ishant Sharma returned with decent figures for the year. His 14 wickets at 31 cannot be underestimated considering the wickets he bowled on. His performance in Sri Lanka was brilliant and he was regularly able to exert pressure from one end and was also able to price out some crucial wickets. It augurs well for India that Ishant is finally the leader of the pace attack which India want him to be. Umesh Yadav like Ishant did not have much to do this year with the ball but in the limited chances he got he was highly inconsistent. He did have some excellent spells with the ball but in between all that he did leak a lot of runs. His reverse swinging spell against South Africa in the final test was brilliant but such spells were few and far between and he released the pressure built by other bowlers regularly.

It was a decent year for the Indian test team in 2015. They had a young leader and a young team and they have done a reasonable job in their first year. They will have tougher assignments in the coming years but 2015 has been a good stepping stone.