My Thoughts

Posts Tagged ‘Balaji

Indian bowling has always been under the scanner. Every premier tournament starts with same concerns for India and this time is no different. In the 2011 World Cup India’s bowling was brilliantly led by Zaheer Khan. He was not only economical but also ended up as the highest wicket taker of the tournament. Zaheer also received great support from Nehra and Munaf in the crucial games.

The biggest issue for Indian in the ongoing T20 World Cup is the lack of form Zaheer has displayed. He has struggled with the new ball and his death bowling has been awful. The important thing to note is that Zaheer has never been a great T20 bowler. He has always struggled even in the IPL to control the flow of runs. The other two pacers have struggled too. Irfan Pathan has gone for runs and so has Balaji. The Afghanistan match was an eye opener where the pace bowlers were largely ineffective with the new ball.

So India currently just relies on Ravichandran Ashwin and the part-time spin of Yuvraj Singh to put the brakes on the scoring. This is surely not an ideal scenario and for sure not a strategy for a team which is considered as one of the favorites to win it all. India does have Dinda in the dugout who probably could get a look in. Even though Dinda hasn’t played too many international games he seems to be someone suited for the shorter formats. He has a decent international record in the few games he has played and his IPL record is impressive. So India should look to play him in the game against England and probably rest Zaheer for a game? This is something which the think tank needs to weigh in before the super 8’s start.

The selectors have ignored Praveen who would have been handful in Sri Lankan conditions and also someone like Munaf Patel would have been an asset. The lack of Yorkers in the bowling armory of the Indian pacers is disappointing. India has more often than not gone at 10-11 runs an over against good sides in the death overs.

The other major issue for the Indian team has been their openers. Sehwag and Gambhir have struggled to put up decent partnership and in the current scenario look completely out of touch. Gambhir especially has been struggling for form and his confidence seems to be really low at the moment. India probably should try and test out Manoj Tiwary in the middle order and possibly move Kohli to open with Sehwag for the game against England to see how he goes. I would have thought the think tank doing something like that for the warm up games but that was not to be. India have won their easy first game and have booked their spot in the Super 8’s and will have to seriously think about their options.

The bowling surely needs to improve and the batsmen need to find form. In the previous two editions India failed to win a single game in the second stage of the world T20 and on the current evidence it seems like this year might be no different.

Sudeep Tyagi is the only new face in the Indian squad for the Australian series (Pic: courtesy Cricinfo)

Sudeep Tyagi is the only new face in the Indian squad for the Australian series (Pic: courtesy Cricinfo)

The Indian team for the upcoming Australian series was announced last week and the only new face in the squad was Sudeep Tyagi. Tyagi is the latest addition to the search for a good young Indian fast bowler. Tyagi had a great beginning to his domestic career but could not repeat the same in his second year of the championship. His success in the shorter format of the game has resulted in his selection in the Indian ODI team.

Tyagi is not an out and out quick bowler and fortunately he does not claim to be one. He bowls around 135-140 Km/hr and swings the ball both ways. He had an impressive showing in the Emerging Players tournament in Australia and also in the recently concluded Challenger Series in India. India will be playing the Aussies later this month in a 7 match ODI series where I am sure the selectors would want to test him out. Only time will tell if he breaks the familiar pattern of the current and past Indian seamers have been following.

Since 2000 the Indian team has had promising entrants in the pace bowling department like Zaheer, Nehra, RP Singh, Irfan, Sreesanth, Munaf, Ishant, Balaji, VRV Singh etc. If you take the careers of all the above mentioned bowlers one thing is common among them which is lack of consistency. All the above mentioned bowlers had a great beginning and an impressive first year in the International scene but could not sustain the same in the coming years. Bowlers starting to bowl at 135-140 to start with, in their second year average around 130 or lower. They lose their swing and pace and look pretty mediocre.

Ishant who had an impressive Australian tour earlier last year bowling consistently over 140 K is now looking ordinary averaging less than 130 K in speed and bowling freebees. What is causing such a drop in performance is something to be investigated. The BCCI have now taken the easy way out by sacking the bowling coach, which I don’t think is a solution to this conundrum.

Lots of theories have been floating around in the media to explain this situation like, too much cricket, too much money etc and I feel that it’s a bit of both. The adulation and recognition the players receive is tremendous and I feel that it becomes too much for them to handle. Players like Zaheer, Nehra and Munaf had to be dropped from the team for them to come back as better bowlers. The treatment seems to work, which means that the bowlers need a kick on their back side once in a while.

The other aspect is too much cricket which cannot be ignored either. Tests, ODI, and T20 which includes two BCCI tournaments now every year cannot be good for the bowlers. The big money and fan following so soon in their careers can only lead to drop in performance of these youngsters who are barely 20 when they make the side. Either the BCCI should follow the Aussie path by bringing in the players who have considerable domestic experience or should have performance based points system which will mean that their IPL place or the Indian team contract will be affected.

Now that another youngster is making his debut we have to be careful the way he is treated. We don’t want to hype him too much after couple of good performances. My suggestion would be that once the player makes his debut in the International arena, he should be made to concentrate on the National side rather than playing in the IPL or any other meaningless tournaments. Tyagi needs to understand that he has the best chance now to cement his position in the squad and not follow the path of his seniors.

In a recent interview he mentioned that he wants to perform like Zaheer Khan and I hope he was talking about the performances of Zaheer in the last two years only. Hopefully we can see a break in the trend of the last few years in the pace bowling department. Once Zaheer comes back we can have a good pool of bowlers which can augur well for the future of Indian cricket. I sincerely hope that BCCI does something about the bowling problem rather than adapting the drop and pick option.

I am from Chennai and there is no doubt in which team I will be supporting in this year’s edition of IPL. Chennai Super Kings were in the finals last year and I hope that this year they can go one step further. Chennai Super kings have an interesting squad. This year they have added Andrew Flintoff to their ranks. I don’t rate Flintoff too high for his batting but he is a fantastic bowler.

The Chennai Super Kings this year have a balanced squad. Hayden will be available for the entire season which will be a big boost for the team. Stephen Fleming will be the coach and the player for the Super Kings. The bowling looks much stronger this year with the addition of Andrew Flintoff. So Makhaya Ntini, Jacob Oram, Balaji, Gony, Flintoff, Albie Morkel and Muthaih Muralitharan form the bowling for the Chennai super Kings.

The batting last year was the strong point for the team. Viydut and Parthiv formed a good opening partnership with Raina, Badrinath and Dhoni forming the middle order followed by the all rounder Albie Morkel. With Hayden available for the entire season, this year the selection is going to be a head ache for the Super Kings captain and the coach. Hayden might get into the side and they have to juggle the bowlers a little bit this season. Since the Kings have three all-rounders at their disposal, it’s going to be interesting as to who they are going to pick in the eleven. The four international players rule will make sure that there is going to be just one international batsman who will make the eleven. So that spot will be taken by Hayden.

Morkel might be one of the All-rounder’s in the squad along with Andrew Flintoff. They might juggle between Morkel and Oram for the initial part of the season till Flintoff leaves to play for England. Balaji and Gony might play in the team as the bowlers with Murali and Ntini forming the rest of the order. So my starting eleven at least for the first few games will be as follows,

Team: Hayden, Parthiv (Or Viydut), Suresh Raina, Badrinath, M S Dhoni (Captain), Andrew Flintoff, Albie Morkel, L Balaji, Gony, Murali and Ntini.

That makes it very balanced squad. They might have few changes here and there during the course of the competition as they have young talents like, Murali Vijay and also Srilankan Thilan Thushara. Jacob Oram might get into the squad once Flintoff leaves. So there is an embarrassment of riches for the Chennai super kings this year.

The biggest advantage for the team is having Dhoni as their captain as he was fantastic last year leading both the Indian team and the Chennai super kings. He had limited resources last year and did a fantastic job with the team and with two South Africans in the team he will have a great chance of making it to the final four this year too.

Good luck to the super kings and it will be a fantastic learning experience for the Indian youngsters as they will be playing in SA and will be surrounded by greats of the game. They can learn a lot by speaking to the international players and see how they prepare for a game and also learn about the right areas to bowl on wickets which have some pace and bounce for the bowlers. I was looking at the cricinfo round table about the IPL, where the experts said that the Indians will struggle in SA, which is absolute nonsense as we just won the world cup couple of years back with inexperienced players.

I guess the Indian players will just do fine there and will surely come back as better and confident players after the IPL is over. Let’s hope that this edition of IPL is as good as the previous year in terms of quality of the cricket games. I know that the atmosphere cannot be matched as the games are not in India but I am sure that the SACB will try their level best to generate interest among the general public in SA.

The first test begins tonight and the Indians will have some selection headaches. Dhoni and his team have had a fantastic one year in ODI’s but the same cannot be said in the traditional format of the game. Indian performance in tests last year has been patchy. The year 2008 began with India losing to Australia in the controversial Sydney game and followed that up with a fantastic win in Perth. The next series India played was against the South Africans at home which they drew 1-1.

The team under Kumble was very inconsistent in that series too. They had the highs like in Perth and lows such as the 3 day defeat in Ahmadabad. The Srilankan series also saw the Indians performing inconsistently and lose 2-1 to the home side. The year ended on a high note with the wins against the Australians (2-0) and against the English (1-0) under Dhoni’s captaincy.

Even though the year ended well, the performance of the team in test cricket was rather inconsistent overall last year. Now India plays New Zealand at the start of 2009 after winning the one day series convincingly. This is an important and most significant series for the Indian team in a long time. The scars of the 2003 series still fresh in the minds of the players and the fans needs to be erased. The team’s quest to become No 1 in all forms of the game can be majorly hurt if they lose here in New Zealand.

New Zealand though will be happy to be underdogs and let Dhoni face all the pressure. Daniel Vettori will be thinking that no one will blame them if they lose to the No 3 side in the world and a win will give them a huge push up in the rankings. Dhoni will know that this series very important for his team and his captaincy.

This Indian team though will be confident and would want to turn in some consistent performances in this series. Dhoni will know that if they play up to their potential then they should win this comfortably. The Indians though have few selection headaches before the start of the play tonight. The first one will be that of a batsman. It will be between Yuvraj and Vijay.

Yuvraj though will be the first choice but looking at his performance on the only pitch which aided seam movement is not that encouraging. M Vijay though made a solid 90 odd for the NZ state side in a domestic game. So the choice will be interesting but I feel that Yuvraj will be still selected for the first game. The second selection will also be an interesting one between Kulkarni and Balaji. Munaf probably will not be in the running for the third seamer spot after his inconsistent performance in the ODI’s.

Kulkarni had a good spell in the domestic game in NZ where he picked up 3 wickets and Balaji also turned in decent performance in the game he played. So this is also going to be an interesting selection for the team management. I am thinking they might go with Balaji for the first game or probably even go with Munaf to see how he goes. We have to wait till the morning of the play to find out the same.

All in all rain permitting its going to be an interesting contest. I hope that we get a full game without any rain interruptions and may the best team win. I am just fed up of seeing high scoring draws, so hopefully this is not one of them.

The Indian team who has already won the series 3-0 would want to keep the momentum going by winning the final ODI at Auckland. The Indians probably will rest few of their key players but still would want to retain the core. Dhoni would probably want to rest Zaheer and give Munaf or Balaji or Kulkarni (If available for ODI’s) a chance as it will help him to decide on the third seamer for the first test.

I guess Ishant will still play as he looked very rusty in the 4th game. The batting though will be interesting but I would assume that Dhoni and Kirsten would not want to make too many changes in the squad. The Kiwis confidence has been dented in the ODI’s and India would want to leave it that way. Any let up in pressure would give the hosts enormous confidence for the upcoming test series. The Indians though would want to guard against complacency which could creep into their games.

In the past year or so they have not been that good in the dead rubbers. In Srilanka last year the Indians were leading 3-1 going into the final game and lost badly chasing a modest target. Earlier this year they repeated the same mistake as after leading 4-0 they let up the pressure in the final game. This series though is not just about the ODI’s but since the test series is just around the corner the Indians would want the New Zealanders to be under constant pressure to win.

This has been yet another great series for the Indians but there have been some flaws which were eclipsed by the batters. The fielding has been very poor, catches have gone down at crucial times, bowling has lacked discipline but in spite of that they have won which should give the team confidence. But to be at the top Gary Kirsten needs to work on ironing out the flaws. The Indian one day team is made of youngsters and should not be having any issues with fielding.

The New Zealand captain though would be looking for a win to end the series. They have been battered to submission by the Indian batting but would want to end the series on a high. The test series is just around the corner and a win here would give the team a lot of confidence. Vettori would know that and would want to reverse the trend a little bit. The key for the home team to win is to bowl with more discipline and get rid of the Indian openers fast which they haven’t been able to do since the Twenty20 games.

Once they do that the Indian middle order will be under pressure and would have to consolidate. Lets hope that this game is also as exciting as the previous ones and I am predicting an Indian win again.

My Thoughts

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