My Thoughts

Posts Tagged ‘Champions League

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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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.

Indian team became the number one test side after defeating Sri Lanka 2-0

India recently have been crowned as the number 1 test team in the world in the latest ICC rankings after their impressive 2-0 win against the Sri Lankans earlier last week. Even though I am really proud of the achievement I am also little bit frustrated by the fact that the Indian team isn’t playing any test cricket till October of 2010 after their short series against Bangladesh earlier next year. BCCI have canceled the test series against the South Africans which was supposed to take place in the month of February next year to accommodate the IPL.

It’s really baffling considering that India will still be playing the ODI series. Sachin Tendulkar has already expressed his displeasure over this situation. The Indian team has worked really hard over the past 18 months to achieve something which has been a dream for every Indian fan but it’s unfortunate that they don’t have an opportunity to maintain their position. While all the other nations have their itinerary packed with test matches throughout the year, India will be playing a bunch of ODI’s and T20 games.

So after the ODI series against the proteas, India will be playing the IPL at home followed by the T20 WC in West Indies, ODI series against the Aussies and then will be playing the champions league later the same year before they host the Black Caps for a full series. I would have been happier if the BCCI had canceled the ODI series against the South Africans and just played the three test series as that would have given an opportunity for India to widen their lead over the second placed team in the rankings if they had won the series. Unfortunately that will not be the case for Dhoni and his men at the moment.

BCCI has been rightly criticized in the media for their decision to cancel the test series to accommodate the IPL. The criticism seems to have worked though as suddenly the BCCI have discovered the necessity for India to play more test matches as they have requested both Australia and South Africa to consider a revision in the schedule to reduce the ODI games for couple of test matches. Even though it does seem like a ploy to clear their name in the media and the bad press they have been receiving for the past few days, I am at least happy that they are trying something. This is an excellent opportunity for the BCCI to popularize test cricket in India as we are now the number 1 team in the world.

Adam Gilchrist and Anil Kumble in a press conference ahead of CL T20

Adam Gilchrist and Anil Kumble in a press conference ahead of CL T20

The inaugural CL T20 began yesterday with Bangalore Royal Challengers taking on the Cape Cobras from South Africa. CL T20 has been touted as the first global domestic league and has received lots of press. The Challenger trophy event which is being played simultaneously has almost gone unnoticed. The Challenger trophy for me is more the measure of a young talent than the Bang Bash CL T20. Anyways keeping that aside lets analyze the IPL teams participating in this event and how they stack against the rest.

Bangalore Royal Challengers:

Touted as the Test X1 as opposed to a T20 team in the first edition of IPL, they surprised one and all by entering the finals in the second edition. Yesterday they played the Cape Cobras and put up a decent show. BLR scored 180 batting first only to be defeated by a great innings from Jean-Paul Duminy who remained unbeaten on 99. Bangalore team is a mix of youth and experience but very light on bowling. Yeah they have Kumble but he doesn’t bowl often these days and if they don’t choose Steyn then their bowling is pretty thin. Kallis has not had a great time with the ball in T20 and Praveen Kumar does not have the pace to trouble the batsmen in the final overs. It seems like the bowling depends too much on Steyn and Kumble. Batting wise they have some exciting talent. They have Ross Taylor, Virat Kohli, Manish Pandey (Scored the first hundred by an Indian in T20) and then experience with Rahul Dravid, Kallis, Uthappa and Boucher. But when you compare BRC with the rest of the teams in the competition, it will be a surprise if they make it to the final stages.

Deccan Chargers:

They are the winners of the IPL 2 and have a balanced lineup. The team has fire power in batting as well as in bowling. The bowling has pace with Edwards and batting has Adam Gilchrist and Andrew Symonds. They will do okay in the competition if they bat well. RP Singh has been in a really bad form which means that they have to play Vaas in his place. The spin department will be taken by Pragyan Ojha who has been great whenever he played for the country. But one thing noticed in the IPL 2 was that their bowling lacks consistency and they rely too much on Gilchrist to get them off to a flier.

They will miss Hershelle Gibbs in CLT20, who was one of the main contributors in the IPL 2 for DC. Even though they have some good youngsters in the middle order, their chances squarely rest on how Adam Gilchrist plays. That probably might be a big disadvantage for the team. Rohit Sharma off course will have to play a major role along with Venugopala Rao. I guess they have the fire power to make it to the semis, more so than BRC.

Delhi Daredevils:

Probably the best team among the three IPL entrants in the competition. Explosive batting and a good bowling lineup makes DD one of the favorites where ever they play. Batting comprises of Sehwag, Dilshan, Ghambir, Devilliers and also Dinesh Karthik. The batting is solid and the bowling also is pretty solid with Nannes, Nehra, McGrath (If he plays), and Mishra. So that sums up the squad pretty much. The batting has quality and aggression and bowling has consistency and pace. Sehwag is making a return to competitive cricket after a break and would want to get back to his groove before the all important series against the Aussies. Ghambir newly named as the captain of the Daredevils has been in fantastic form. Dilshan has been explosive over the past year and has played some blinders for SL in that period.

The bowling also has pace with Nannes, consistency with McGrath and Nehra and spin will be in good hands with Mishra. All in all DD have the best chance of reaching the finals of the three IPL entrants in this competition. They play Victoria later today and I hope that they start their campaign on a winning note.

That pretty much ends my analysis of the three IPL teams in the competition. I would have personally preferred youngsters like Kohli playing in the challengers rather than in the CLT20 but thats my opinion. I hope the youngsters in the teams take this as an experiance and pick the brains of the stalwarts they are privileged to share the dressing room with. Dhoni pretty much summed up the T20 leagues after India’s CT exit when he said “T20 should not be the yardstick for the team selection”. So I dont think this is going to help any youngster to improve their skills but can be used as a experiance to play against the best in the world.

Sehwag will be playing for Delhi Daredevils in the upcoming CLT20 (Pic Courtesy Cricinfo)

Sehwag will be playing for Delhi Daredevils in the upcoming CLT20 (Pic Courtesy Cricinfo)

The CLT20 starts in few days and no one is excited about the same. India’s early exit from the CT has barely evaporated our minds and we have this meaningless tournament from BCCI. CLT20 is money making venture from BCCI to cash in on the success of IPL. It has domestic teams from other countries too but I can care less as to whom they are. Deccan Chargers (IPL Champions), Delhi Daredevils and Bangalore Royal challengers will participate from the IPL in this event which is set to begin in few days time.

India’s exit from the CT and also the World T20 has left people questioning their rankings and I hope that the players take this time to work on their weakness. India is going to take on the Aussies at the end of this month and this extravagant circus cannot be an ideal preparation. I am happy that Ishant and Bajji aren’t a part of this. I would have been happy if the Indian players hit the nets and practice harder on developing their skills rather than participate in this meaningless tournament.

No matter what Amit Mishra says, the Indian bowling has been a disappointment over the past year and Dhoni was right to criticize the same. No matter how good your batting is, you cannot expect them to score 300 every time they walk out to bat. Ishant Sharma has lost his pace and seems pedestrian and so does RP Singh. It seemed as though the Indian bowlers are just going through the motions thinking that the batsmen would dig them out of the hole as they have done often in the past. When that does not happen, the Indian bowling gets shown pretty badly.

Bowlers have to be rotated especially in a busy season like this. We cannot keep going back to the same bowlers again and again. If RP was injured, he should have played domestic cricket to prove himself before making a comeback into the Indian team. He looked pretty listless in the CT. The selectors have to get Sreesanth back into the team and have to try out Sudeep Tyagi in the X1 against the Aussies. It seems like Munaf also looked good in the recently concluded Irani Cup game. If kick on the backside is something what the Indian bowlers are looking for then the selectors have to give it to them. It has been proven in the past that the Indian bowlers start well but within their first year lose their effectiveness.

Does money and adulation play a part? Yes it does. Ishant Sharma gets paid $950000 to play 40 days of cricket in the IPL, so why will he work on his fitness and improve? If getting bashed around for 40 days can earn you that much why work on your bowling and improve? It seems like only the players who want to make a comeback to the Indian team take even IPL seriously. India has a long season ahead of them and just a year and a half away from the WC. I hope that the selectors take the hint from the captain and blood some youngsters in the team.

Dhoni’s comment of IPL not being the gauge to pick players for the longer format is not far from the truth. Yusuf has proved the same over the past year. India needs to do something with their bowling otherwise they will be left behind in the race. I hope that India becomes the number 1 team in both the formats but for that to happen, we need a good bowling attack. Sudeep Tyagi, Sreesanth, Ishant, RP, Nehra, Munaf, Zaheer, Mishra, chawla and Bajji are the bowlers for India for coming few years and we have to identify the right combination by rotating them often.


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