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Posts Tagged ‘Ashwin

The 2012 World T20 is just few days away and the Indian team once again enters the competition with lots of hopes. The team though hasn’t played a lot of international T20 this year and will have to make the most of the two warm up games ahead of the competition. India is about to play first of their two warm up games in few days and let us look at few of India’s main players in this year’s competition.

Virat Kohli (M: 11, RS: 278, Ave: 34.75, SR: 134.29)

There is no doubt that Virat Kohli is India’s best player this year across all formats. He has been in scintillating form throughout this year and will be the key for India’s progress in the world T20. Kohli would be hoping to carry on his good form into this competition and will be hoping to make an impact. It was interesting to see Virat opening the batting against New Zealand and it is unclear if that is what the Indian think tank has in mind for the world cup.

Suresh Raina (M: 27, RS: 658, Ave: 32.90, SR: 137.94)

Raina is probably India’s most experienced player in this format. Considering that he has played in all 5 IPL’s for Chennai Super Kings and hasn’t missed many games, he probably has played the most T20 games by an Indian. His explosive style of batting with his amazing fielding makes him a very important member in the T20 squad. He also has India’s only hundred in the International T20 and will be again a key member in the top order. Suresh Raina also provides Dhoni with an extra bowling option. His strike rate and Average in this format is excellent and he will be a huge impact player for India again in 2012 edition of World T20.

Harbhajan Singh (M: 23, W: 18, Ave: 30.5, ER: 6.44)

Even though Harbhajan Singh hasn’t been seen in Indian colors for almost a year, he is expected to play a very important role in the world T20. Ravichandran Ashwin, who is a key component in the Indian ODI and test squads, surprisingly hasn’t done much in the 20 over format. Harbhajan who was part of India’s winning campaign in 2007 is still probably is India’s best spinner in this format. Harbhajan has the experience and his economy rate of 6.44 is brilliant over 20 games. Harbhajan seemed to be getting back to form in his last few games in county cricket and the warm up games will give us more information about his form. Harbhajan will be an important member in the Indian team and I expect him to play most of the games in this tournament.

Zaheer Khan (M: 13, W: 14, Ave: 25.28, ER: 7.75)

Even though Zaheer’s T20 record is nothing to write home about, he is still India’s premier bowler with the new ball. Zaheer’s presence in the team is for sure a great advantage for the Indian team. He is brilliant with the new ball and the Sri Lankan pitches help bowlers who can swing the new ball. He can be handful bowling under lights and India would be hoping for some early wickets from him.

Irfan Pathan (M: 19, W: 23, Ave: 21.60, ER: 7.88)

The return of Irfan to the Indian team earlier this year was a welcome relief. Irfan has been brilliant with both bat and ball since his comeback. He has got his swing back and has been bowling with decent pace. He was just involved in a series in Sri Lanka and the experience would help him a great deal. He has also been striking the ball beautifully with the bat making him the vital member of the team. He will be sharing the new ball with Zaheer and will for sure cause a lot of problems for the batsmen with his late swing.

Yuvraj Singh (M: 24, RS: 601, W: 8, BTAve: 31.63, BLAve: 26, SR: 150.25)

Yuvraj Singh can be called as the superman of cricket. When last year the news broke out about his cancer people were worried about his career. The man though has great heart and the way he has made a speedy recovery shows his dedication and courage. Even though people called the selection of Yuvraj as an emotional one, his presence in the T20 team is a huge bonus. He batted without much match practice against New Zealand and scored a brilliant 36 and it seemed like he had never been away from the team. He also gives Dhoni an option with the ball and also is a fantastic in-fielder. You cannot go wrong with selecting Yuvraj in any short format and he will be India’s trump card in this tournament.

Others players who could make an impact:

G Gambhir (M: 28, RS: 755, Ave: 30.20, SR: 122.56)

Gambhir was India’s premier batsman in 2007 victorious campaign. Gambhir has been struggling for form recently in all formats. He along with Sehwag has struggled to provide good starts at the top of the order. India would hope that both the openers come back to form in the T20 world cup. Everyone knows Gambhir’s expertise against spin and he can be devastating if he gets going. India would be looking to play both Gambhir and Sehwag in both the warm up games and would hope to see them scoring some runs. Gambhir has an impressive T20 record and would want to turn it on at the biggest scene.

The comeback man:

Lakshmipathy Balaji makes a comeback to the Indian team after 5 years. He would most probably be fighting for the one spot with Dinda in the X1. Balaji makes the squad due to his brilliant performance in the IPL 2012 where he was extremely economical and also picked up wickets for KKR. It will be interesting to see how he goes in this tournament. A good performance in the World Cup might give him a decent run in the Indian team again.

The rookies:

Manoj Tiwary and Ajinkya Rahane will be the rookies for the Indian team this tournament. Extremely talented neither of them will be first choice pick in the X1. Rahane impressed one and all with his brilliant batting as an opener in England and Tiwary has done extremely well in the middle order in the limited opportunities he has received in the ODI team. Tiwary will be battling for one spot with Rohit Sharma and Tiwary has a difficult task of competing with Sehwag and Gambhir.

Ravichandran Ashwin and Rohit Sharma form the rest of the squad who could make a huge impact. Both these players are extremely talented and have done very well for their franchises in the IPL. For Rohit Sharma though this might be the make or break tournament and would want to make solid contributions to the Indian middle order. Ravichandran Ashwin’s case is pretty confusing as he is India’s premier spinner in ODI’s and his struggle in T20I’s is rather perplexing. He has done extremely well in the IPL for CSK and it will one be a matter of time before he translates that success to T20I’s. For now though I guess Harbhajan might beat him to make the final X1 considering his experience and current form. MS Dhoni will be India’s captain and wicket keeper. He has struggled to make an impact in this format with the bat and would want to correct the same. His leadership in the shorter format this year has been brilliant and his calm demeanor on the field will be extremely important in a high profile tournament like this.

India has a very balanced squad and has a great chance of repeating 2007 success. So I wish the team best of luck and I hope they put up a good show in the World T20.

When Anil Kumble retired in 2008 everyone expected Harbajan to easily slip into the role of India’s lead spinner. Unfortunately 4 years since then Harbajan finds himself out of the Indian test team and fighting for a spot even in the ODI/T20 teams. Harbajan has had a long run in the Indian team and can still make a comeback with age on his side. But for the moment, Ravi Ashwin has done a great job for the Indian team in all formats. His test performances at home have been brilliant. He also has consistently contributed with the bat averaging 39 at number 7 which is an added bonus.

He just had one away tour of Australia and he did not perform well. Australia isn’t a great place for young spinners to tour and sometime for even experienced ones. Murali averages 75 in Australia and almost all visiting spinners average in mid to late 30’s there. So Judging Ashwin on just one away tour to Australia is not fair. The experts crying about Ashwin’s performances in Australia need to realize that Harbajan himself hasn’t done anything of note on recent away tours.

Harbajan was given an extended run in the Indian team after his breakthrough series against Australia in 2001 and Ashwin deserves similar run as India’s premier spinner. So far he has done a good job and needs to be persisted with for now. He needs to be given the confidence that he will not have to worry about his place in the side. Harbajan is 32 now and is not getting any younger and India needs to keep the future in mind. Bajji can still make a comeback but at the moment he hasn’t done anything of note to displace either Ojha or Ashwin in the test team.

Currently though his partnership with Ojha has been good for India in home tests and there is no need to tamper with that combination. Harbajan needs to prove himself again by playing few first class games and force his way back in. As of now let Ashwin lead the Indian spin attack for the next 10-15 tests and then take a call on his place

This was a question posted to Ravichandran Ashwin, can you believe it? The constant need for the journalists to drag Sachin’s name to every article or interview in India is mind boggling. Ashwin gave a very honest and straightforward answer that he knows his trade very well (off-spin bowling). He did not bring Sachin into his answer. Now a bunch of kids (on the comments section) jump on Ashwin criticizing him for the answer he gave. They would have been happy if he had said “Sachin is the greatest cricketer and I cannot do anything better than him”. Sachin is arguably the greatest batsman of his era but he cannot be good at everything.

Ashwin’s answer was spot on and there is no reason for Sachin fans to jump up and down.

India is about to begin their test series against Australia in few days and as it was in England earlier this year; the team is struggling with injuries. India had lost Varun Aaron and Praveen Kumar already before leaving the Indian shores and now it seems like Ishant Sharma would also struggle to make to the test team. If Ishant misses out India might field a very inexperience attack unless the replacement/cover is Irfan Pathan.

This scenario makes the presence of Zaheer very important for India throughout the series.

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The team selection for the upcoming West Indies series shows the immense faith the selectors have on the youngsters. The team has the right balance of youth and experience and it will be interesting to see how they fare in the longer format. The series also proves an ideal ground to prepare for the future. West Indies aren’t a force anymore and this young team playing in India will gain immense experience.

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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 Indian team for the ODI/T20 leg of the West Indies tour was announced last Friday. Even though the team was on the expected lines, as it has been a routine these days with our selection committee we do have one surprising selection. In the world cup it was Piyush Chawla and now it is Wriddhimaan Saha. While everyone was expecting a call up for Ambati Rayudu who also is a wicketkeeper, the selectors once again surprised one and all with their choice. There was no doubt that Parthiv was going to be the first keeper but his deputy was the one in question.

Saha probably is a very good keeper but I haven’t seen him do anything special in the domestic level or in the IPL to warrant a place ahead of Dinesh Kartik or Ambati Rayudu. Rayudu who is a decent wicketkeeper and an excellent attacking batsman in the top and middle order and would feel extremely disappointed on being left out. This again is a very controversial selection by the Indian selection committee and it will be interesting to see how Ghambir and the team management will utilize Saha on this tour. I hope that he will have a better time on this tour than what Chawla had in the world cup

The rest of the team though was on expected lines. With the absence of Dhoni and Sehwag, Ghambir has been appointed as the captain for the ODI/T20 leg. Rohit Sharma and Badrinath make the team, based on their excellent domestic season and IPL performances. Ishant Sharma makes a comeback to the team and so does Praveen kumar who missed out from the World Cup due to injury. Vinay Kumar also makes a comeback to the team on the basis of good consistent performances at the domestic level. Munaf Patel retains his position in the squad after some wonderful performances in the shorter format of the game over the past few months. The selectors have gone with three spinners, Mishra, Ashwin and Harbajan. Mishra has been rewarded for having bowled brilliantly in the IPL and for probably being the best leg spinner in the country at the moment. Ashwin and Bajji made the squad as expected.

Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh and Yusuf Pathan make the rest of the squad. It’s overall a good team and the selectors have played it safe this time. They probably did not want to repeat the mistake of the Zimbabwe tri-series in 2010. The selectors also warded off the temptation of picking the young Rahul Sharma, who is having a brilliant IPL this year. He probably needs more time at the domestic level. It’s nice to see that the selectors have not taken the IPL performances entirely for the team selection and have awarded consistent performers in the domestic arena too. Apart from that one controversial selection, I feel that the selectors have done a great job in picking a good squad with fine balance. I hope that the young players under Ghambir do well and emerge victorious in this campaign.

Team for the ODI and T20:

Gautam Gambhir (captain), Suresh Raina, Parthiv Patel (wk), Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, S Badrinath, Rohit Sharma, Harbhajan Singh, R Ashwin, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel, Vinay Kumar, Yusuf Pathan, Amit Mishra, Wriddhiman Saha (wk).

India had a rather comfortable win over the giant killers Ireland yesterday. Yuvraj’s great all-round performance was the highlight of yesterday’s game for the Indians. Dhoni won the toss and elected the bowl first and Zaheer struck right away. Zaheer bowled a brilliant line and had the Irish 2 down in quick time and it seemed like Dhoni’s decision to bowl first was vindicated. But when NJ O’Brien joined Porterfield in the middle the balance started to shift. The pair played sensibly to launch a brilliant counterattack. At this point India’s weakness in the bowling department raised its ugly head again.

Pathan, Bajji and Chawla were rather ineffective against the Irish pair as they looked geared up for a big total. Chawla was once again disappointing as he erred on the shorter side time and again to get cut and pulled by the batsmen. Bajji was steady without being threatening and same with Yusuf Pathan. When the proceedings seemed to be running out of control for the Indians, Dhoni introduced Yuvraj into the attack and suddenly everything kind of fell back in place for the men in blue. Yuvi broke the threatening partnership and the wickets started falling in regular intervals for the Irish. They were finally bowled out for 207 with Yuvi finishing with career best 5-31, his first five wickets haul. What a brilliant and timely spell that was for the Indians. After his introduction the luck changed for the Indians so much so that they even had couple of reviews going their way.

India had to chase 208 in 50 overs under lights and this was the first time Dhoni’s team was batting second in the world cup 2011. The top order stuttered a bit during the chase and was struggling at 100/4 when the captain joined India’s bowling hero of the day Yuvraj. Both of them played sensibly picking up ones and twos and hitting occasional boundaries. When Dhoni got out to Dockrell, the game was almost over. Yusuf Pathan came in and calmed the nerves of the fans by hitting couple of sixes. India won the game by 5 wickets with Yuvraj getting to 50 not out. It was a great game for the left hander as he took 5 wickets and a fifty in the same game.

It was a good win for the Indians as this got them back to the top of group B. India play Netherlands on Wednesday and that would be the best time to look at some options in the bowling ahead of the more important games. Chawla for sure needs to be rested as he has looked completely out of depth in the two games. Ashwin can be tried in his place. Munaf has been steady but can be rested for one game to see how Nehra has shaped up after the injury. India needs to try these options to make sure that all the bowlers are match fit. The game against Netherlands could be the last chance for India to try out some new combinations in the bowling department. The bowling and fielding except for the spells from Zaheer and Yuvraj looked rather flat again.

This would for sure be a big worry for the Indian think tank. So I hope that there would be few changes in the squad for the next game.

Dhoni and Kirsten will have serious headache when sitting down to decide on India’s bowling combination for the next game against Ireland. After watching the Irish win against England, the Indians would have known that this is anything but an easy game. The Indians tried 3 pace/1 spin option in the first game and then tried 2 pace/2 spin in the second but both combination met with limited success. The failure of the Indian bowling attack to defend an imposing 338 runs against England at home will be a bitter pill to swallow.

The problem for the Indian team right now is that except for Bajji and Zaheer there is no sure starter in the bowling department. Munaf Patel has been steady without being threatening and Chawla was treated with disdain by the English batting who are traditionally suspect against legspin. So there lies a problem for the Indians. The team does not have too many options either. There is Ashish Nehra in the pace department who hasn’t been tried and there is Ashwin who is yet to get a chance. Sreesanth was poor in one game he played and so was Chawla. One thing which is certain is that we will see a change in the bowling for the Sunday’s game.

The confusion though would be whether to go with the tried and tested formula of 3 pacers or give the 2 spin option another try? This will be something for the Indian think tank to ponder over the next 48 hours. The Indian team would know that Nehra is prone to injuries and should be played only if he is 100% fit. The other option they would want to look at is Ravichandran Ashwin, but that would make too many offspin options in the team. As far as I am concerned, even though Chawla had one bad game he still gives the team an attacking option. The Irish struggled against Swann, so spin I feel is the best way to contain them as the pitches aren’t pace friendly.

The batting of the Indians again will be the most important factor in Sunday’s game. The Indian batting order needs to make another huge score as we know that any team can chase over 300 runs. The pitches are so flat that it does not matter if you are playing Ireland, Netherlands or England, the result could be the same. India doesn’t have the firepower of the Aussies in pace nor the variety of a Pakistan or South Africa so they need to play on their strength. As Dhoni said it seems like the batsmen need to score 350 every time they step on the field. It’s daunting but that’s how it is right now. Whatever may be the combination India goes with, a good solid performance in the field will go a long way in resurrecting India’s campaign. Dhoni and India will for sure know that.

Time is running out for Sreesanth to stake his claim for a world cup berth

World Cup 2011 is back in the sub continent and while everyone is hoping this to be the magical farewell Sachin deserves let’s look at India’s chances in a two step exercise. The first major discipline the Indian team most often struggles is their bowling. India has failed to get a consistent bowling partner for Zaheer over the past couple of years thereby putting lots of pressure on our premier bowler. Zaheer to his credit has responded incredibly well but let’s look at the possible bowling combinations India could try in the lead up to the World Cup.

Even though we have struggled in the bowling department, India has still managed to find some sort of consistency in the selection of the ODI squad. Praveen Kumar and Ashish Nehra have done a commendable job over the past year in the absence of Zaheer Khan. There have been few others tried in the meanwhile with limited success. So going by the latest trend, India might open the bowling with Praveen and Zaheer with Nehra being the first change. Since the world cup takes place in the subcontinent, I feel that pace is a very important factor rather than the swing. Unless we are playing in the northern part of India under cloudy skies, I don’t see the bowlers getting too much of swing. Praveen Kumar might have a lot of struggle under conditions which are not favorable to the bowlers.

So who could be the backup options? Ishant Sharma is one of them and of course Sreesanth might be in the squad too. Both of them have the pace but both of them are way too inconsistent to bank on. The unfortunate part is that Ishant Sharma got injured when he was looking like getting back to some sort of rhythm against the Aussies and Sreesanth who replaced him for the next game looked very rusty. India has around 10 ODI’s to try various combinations and I hope we do try everyone who might be part of the squad in all those games and make sure that the main bowlers are fit for the major event.

So currently the pace bowling list looks like this, Zaheer, Ishant, Praveen, Nehra and Sreesanth. There are other names too in the list who have played on and off in the team like Munaf Patel, Abhinav Mithun and Vinay Kumar. Since the world cup is in the subcontinent I am thinking that we will not be looking at more than 4 pacers in the 16. I wouldn’t want to be one of the selectors for sure when they sit down to pick the team for such a major event. A home tournament means that you at least have easy access to replacements when someone gets injured. The spin department too throws quite a lot of names with Bajji being the only settled bowler in the X1. The other spinners who could make the 16 are Ashwin, Ojha, Mishra and Jadeja. The chances of Ashwin and Jadeja being the second spinner is more likely as they both are in the squad as the allrounders. The BCCI’s plan of sending the Indian test squad early to South Africa to get acclimatized to those conditions would mean that the selectors can try out different combinations in the home series against New Zealand.

Even though we should have identified our combinations by now, it seems like we have fallen little back on trying out few players. Ravichandran Ashwin has just played couple of ODI’s till date and Ojha has never gotten a consistent run in the team. Mishra too has not been part of the squad for a considerable length of time. This probably shows that we are one of the most underprepared team right now among the favorites in the bowling department. With teams like South Africa, England and Sri Lanka playing with almost settled squads for close to a year now, India is still looking for the right combination ahead of the world cup.

Captain Dhoni said in his latest interview that he will be looking to play the full team in the ODI series against the proteas, which leaves the selectors with just the ODI series against the Kiwis to experiment. With various combinations to try and with bowlers like Vinay Kumar and Mithun in the wings, I am not sure how we are going to pick a 16 at the moment. Except for Zaheer, Nehra, Bajji and Praveen the rest of the bowling just looks like a lottery at the moment. It will an interesting selection and the coming months will give us a clearer picture. Whatever may be the squad, I just feel that the selectors have left this too late for comfort. We just have to hope that the prime contenders hit form at the right moment for the big tournament.


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