My Thoughts

Posts Tagged ‘Ishant Sharma

India takes on South Africa in couple of days in Sophia Gardens and they still have few issues to address before the big game. The team selected for a major trophy like the Champions Trophy has a few gaping holes which might prove to be India’s undoing in the tournament. Murali Vijay has failed in the two warm up games and so has Dhawan. Rohit Sharma’s continued lackluster showing at the international level isn’t helping India’s already inexperienced batting lineup.

The batting entirely depends on the experience of Dhoni, Raina and Kohli. Dinesh Karthik has shown excellent form in the two warm up games and Dhoni will be hoping that he takes that form into the tournament. The opening combination of Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan does not inspire a huge amount of confidence at the moment. It seems like Dhoni will not open with Rohit in the Champions Trophy which means that India has to stick with the Vijay/Dhawan combo for the tournament unless they push either Pathan or Karthik to the top of the order.

The bowling too lacks experience in the absence of Zaheer. Ishant Sharma isn’t consistent enough to lead the attack and Irfan Pathan isn’t the same bowler he was at the start of his career. It will be interesting to see the combination India go in with for the first game against South Africa. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has done enough to retain his place in the squad and I am thinking that Umesh Yadav will share the new ball with him. Ishant’s good performance against the Aussies in the second warm up game will help him hold on to the third pace bowling spot. Jadeja is almost a certainty for the all-rounder spot in the X1 and Ashwin might just hold on to the specialist spinner spot in the team ahead of Mishra.
The top order is still a concern for India and so is the death bowling. The Indian bowlers were carted all over the park by the Sri Lankan batsmen in the first warm up game. Even though the bowlers made a great comeback in the second game, the concern still remains. The consistency of the pace bowlers and the spinners is to be questioned. Dhoni will hope that the Indian bowlers hit their straps when they take on South Africa in the opening game of the Champions Trophy.

The top order has crumbled in both the games only to be saved by Kohli/Karthik in the first game and Dhoni/Karthik in the second game. Vijay and Dhawan have both failed to get going in both the warm up games and it will be one of the areas of concern for the think tank. India found themselves 62/3 in the first game and 55/5 in the second. The top order need to get their act together if India is looking to progress to the Semi-finals. Rohit Sharma also hasn’t spent any time in the middle and has thrown his wicket away at least once in the two games he played ahead of the Champions Trophy.

This will be a difficult tournament for both Dhoni and Fletcher. The team is inexperienced and also it will be difficult for the players to shun all the commotion which is happening currently in India post IPL. Dhoni has been in the center of it all and he along with Duncan Fletcher has to make sure it does not affect the team performance. This will be an interesting tournament for the Indian team and it will be interesting to see how the youngsters perform at the highest stage. Champions Trophy is a tournament where there are no easy games and the teams need to hit their straps right away. India will know that and will be looking for a good start against South Africa.

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.

The Indian team for the first two tests against the visiting English team has been announced and as usual there are some surprising inclusions in the squad. This is the first international series for the newly appointed selection committee and everyone was keen to know how they will go. Looking at the team for the first couple of tests it seems like they are no different from the selection committee they just replaced. They did not make a great impression with the selection of the India A squad which played England about a week back.

The new leadership hasn’t brought about any major changes in the selection of the team. So let us look at the picks. Out of the 15 members selected 10 players pick themselves due to their performances in the recent home series. The only spot which was up for grabs was the number six in the batting order. Raina was preferred in the home tests against West Indies and New Zealand but did not make any impact in both the series. Yuvraj with his good performance in the first tour game for India pretty much sealed the spot. He also provides variety to the bowling attack with this part-time left arm spin. Raina is left out of the 15 which is perplexing as he was persisted with for about a year and now suddenly he finds himself out of favor.

Murali Vijay makes a comeback to the squad due to his performances in domestic cricket this season. This is where it gets confusing. India has Gambhir and Sehwag as the openers and then has Rahane as backup in the squad. The selection of Vijay completely defies logic, that too only for the first two tests. I don’t see a reason to pick 4 openers for a home series. The best logical selection would have been someone like Manoj Tiwary who would have added extra strength to the fragile middle order. Manoj Tiwary seems to find himself out of favor for some reason with the selection committee, no matter who heads them. The guy just scored 90 odd against the touring English side but still finds out of the test team.

The other selection which makes no sense is inclusion of Harbhajan Singh. Harbhajan has done nothing of note in recent times and his recall to the Indian side just shows the complete lack of good spinners in domestic cricket. The fact that Ashwin and Ojha are sure starters for the first test makes Harbhajan’s selection even more perplexing. It would have been better for Bajji to play in domestic cricket to regain some form instead of sitting in the dressing room and carry drinks. Unless India is planning to play three spinners (Which I doubt considering India don’t have a pace bowling all-rounder in the squad) and 5 bowlers this selection isn’t making any sense at the moment.

Ishant Sharma as the third pacer also is an interesting selection but we can give benefit of doubt to the selectors on this as he has been India’s third seamer for about a year now. Bowling in home conditions which doesn’t encourage any swing, his type of bowling might be more suited. Even though the squad is mostly on the expected lines, the selectors have basically regressed and made some populist choices without keeping Indian cricket’s future in mind. Let’s just hope that when they sit down to select the team for the final two tests they do make the correct decision and include some good young players in the squad.

The playing X1 though would be a strong one and wouldn’t differ too much from the team which beat New Zealand couple months back.

India X1 (first two tests): Sehwag, Gambhir, Pujara, Tendulkar, Kohli, Yuvraj, Dhoni (Capt. Wkt.), Ashwin, Zaheer, Yadav, Ojha

12th Man: Rahane

With the ICC World T20 out of the way, the focus now shifts to test cricket. The Indian team takes on England in a highly anticipated 4 match series. India was blanked 4-0 on their England tour in 2011 which has made this series much more important for the hosts. The English team struggled in UAE against the Pakistani spinners. They struggled to cope up with the spinners in the recently concluded World T20 where Harbhajan and Chawla bowled them out for 80. In the absence of Kevin Pieterson, the English team will be thoroughly tested in unfamiliar conditions and it will be interesting to see how they hold up against the Indian spin combination.

The team selection will be an interesting one. Harbhajan Singh’s comeback might trigger confusion to the newly formed selection committee. Ashwin and Ojha have done extremely well but considering England’s frailties against spin, India might look to add Harbhajan’s experience to the squad. The pace combination will be an interesting one. Ishant Sharma has come back from injury and has been playing domestic cricket. Praveen Kumar was India’s best bowler in the England and West Indies tour last year. So it will be interesting as to whom India would pick as the third seamer in the squad with Zaheer and Umesh being certainties.

The batting combination too will be an interesting one. Rahane and Rohit are already knocking on the doors of test selection with Rohit being the popular choice. Suresh Raina hasn’t done anything of note at number 6 in the test team so his place might be up for grabs. In all probability Sehwag and Gambhir will return to their respective spots followed by Pujara, Tendulkar and Kohli. The other school of thought is to drop Sehwag to number 6 and get Rahane to open with Gambhir. This will be an interesting option considering Sehwag’s comfort in playing in that position by his own admission.

The new selection committee will be under the scanner considering the amount of flak the former committee under Kris Srikkanth received. The challenge for the new committee will be to make the correct choices with some many options at their disposal.There are other players who might be up for consideration too, such as Manoj Tiwary who hasn’t done much wrong in the chances given to him in the Indian team till now. He will be in consideration for the middle order spot too along with Rohit Sharma.

Will India go for Harbhajan Singh as the third spinner or will they go with Rahul Sharma as the third option considering the variety he provides? This will be an interesting selection. With Zaheer and Umesh fit, they are most likely to take the new ball. The third seamer spot is up for grabs with Praveen or Ishant battling out. We will have to wait and watch what combination the selection committee puts out for the first test.

Below is my X1 for the first test:

Ajinkya Rahane, G Gambhir, C Pujara, Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, V Sehwag, MS Dhoni (Capt. Wkt.), R Ashwin, P Ojha, Z Khan, U Yadav

12th man – Rohit Sharma

When India tour Australia later this year pace will come to the forefront. In India though most of the times the pacers are just supporting acts to the spinners but when the team tours abroad the roles are reversed. This is the reason India is so heavily reliant on Zaheer Khan, who without a doubt has been India’s premier performer over the past few years.

Click here to read the full article

The second test between India and New Zealand just concluded at Hyderabad earlier this week and it was another boring draw. India, who were expected to roll New Zealand over considering the huge difference in the rankings have found this series pretty hard till now. With two draws in two games, the kiwis will be swelling with pride as none of the teams baring South Africa have gone away from India with a drawn series in recent times. The major problem for the home team has been the pitches and the lack of bite in the bowling department.

India has always been a tough place to tour for the western teams but in recent times with pitches getting flatter, teams have started to adapt much better. New Zealand has always done well in India as their previous tour was also a drawn series. Did the Indian team expect an easy series? Probably yes. Even though all the Indian players came in the media and claimed that they were not taking the Kiwis lightly, I am sure in their minds they thought it was going to be a piece of cake. The intensity was missing and the players seemed to go through the motions. It was just couple of brilliant innings from Harbajan which has helped India from trailing in this series.

So two draws in two games, which has been a very rare sight in the past year or so in India. Almost every series has produced a result and most of the games have been result oriented. So if we analyze closely, the problem is that both the teams have struggled to bowl out the opponents on flat pitches. Indians always have had issues with their bowling and it has shown through in this series. Harbajan has struggled to pick wickets, Sreesanth has been very inconsistent, and Ojha has been steady but doesn’t seem like someone who will run through sides. New Zealand again is a one man bowling team, in spite of an inspired spell by Martin in the first test; they still rely heavily on Vettori to pick wickets. Indian bowling though has been really disappointing, especially in the second test.

India was 122 runs in front of New Zealand with two days to go and you would expect the number 1 team in the world to win from that position. Indian bowling looked toothless and did not look like taking any wickets in the absence of Zaheer. Zaheer has been India’s stand out performer for Indian over the last 2 years and without him the bowling looks toothless. The below table shows the Indian bowling performances over the past couple of years:

Performance of Indian bowlers over the last 2 years

If you look at the list you will see that Zaheer has been exceptional, considering that India has played most of the games in the subcontinent. But the rest have been pretty ordinary. India’s premier spinner Harbajan averages little over 35 and the rest to put it mildly, have been mediocre. So how have India been winning games? Well the answer is pretty simple, the batting. Indian batsmen have been in supreme touch over the past couple of years and they have racked up huge scores. When India batted first they have scored big and even when they had to chase a big score they have matched the opponent or scored more than them. So the Indian bowlers have had the luxury of picking up wickets at an expensive average. So on an average the Indian bowling combination (Zaheer, Sreesanth/Ishant, Ojha and Harbajan) has to concede 374 runs for their 10 wickets going by their record over the last 2 years. It’s Hardly a mark of a top ranked test team.

India now needs to win the final game at Nagpur to win the series which is not the situation the team would have assumed at the start of the series. The team bowling combination has to be looked at seriously with an important series against the saffers looming large next month. The Indians would also be hoping that Zaheer is fit for the all important series as he has been our premier bowler over the last couple of years. I hope that we do better in the final game and win the series against New Zealand which will give us some confidence going into the next series against South Africa

It seems like Ishant leart nothing during his stint with the legendary Wasim Akram

Sri Lankan batsmen hammered the Indian attack on day 1 at Galle when they finished on 256/2 in just 68 overs. The bowling performance by the Indians was lackluster and without any imagination for most part of the day. Abhinav Mithun though did not do himself any harm as he turned out to be the best bowler on view on a day when the bat dominated the proceedings.

When Sreesanth and Zaheer pulled out due to injuries everyone knew that the Indian bowling would struggle but one thought that with added responsibility Ishant might get his form back. But it seems like Ishant hasn’t learnt anything during his sabbatical from the Indian team. His stint at Kolkata Knight Rider’s camp under the tutelage of the legendry Wasim Akram seems to have had no impact on the lanky pacer. Ishant Sharma is a classic case of modern Indian bowlers who start their careers with a bang and lose their steam with one full year of International cricket. As my numerous articles on this topic suggests the list is endless. Zaheer was the only one who managed to escape the trend with an inspired comeback couple of years back.

With the day 2 washed out it seems like this test might meander to a boring draw unless the Indian batting fails dramatically. It’s unfortunate that the last test of the great Murali has to end this way. If the rain continues he might not have the opportunity to go past 800 test wickets which begs the question whether he should have retired after this series rather than just the first test.

All in all it was a disappointing performance by the Indians as the bowlers looked pretty flat on the opening day. Sri Lankan batsmen were untroubled for most part of the day and Indian bowlers, pace and spin alike did not have any impact on the batsmen. If the play resumes on the 3rd day, it seems like the batsmen would continue to dominate and the Indians are facing a huge first innings total. I am thinking that the Indian batsmen would be praying for more rain in the coming three days of the test.

When India decided to send a second string team to Zimbabwe, everyone in unison was in approval of the same as the Indian team has a packed schedule ahead of the World cup. But what transpired as the final squad left everyone little bit bemused. There were three squads announced, one for the ODI tri series, and the other for the T20 and finally the squad for India A tour to England.

One thing which was noticeable with all the three squads was that most of the players selected weren’t even in fray to make it to the national squad. People like Ishant, Irfan, Munaf, Sreesanth, Yuvraj and few others were ignored in the squads selected. This is the fact which makes us question the planning by the BCCI and the selectors. Now the team for Sri Lanka has been selected and Ishant and Sreesanth have been included in the same. Both of them have been cooling their heels for some time now and are coming in with zero match practice.

The A tours should be used to give much needed practice to the fringe players but that is not the case with the squad currently playing in England. This would have been a perfect platform for someone like Irfan Pathan to get back into form. The BCCI have also denied the contracted players from playing the county cricket, which means that during the domestic offseason, the players have basically no match practice. So on what basis are the players getting picked in the national squad? What have Yuvraj, Ishant or Sreesanth done to make a comeback in the squad, since they were dropped?

Cheteshwar Pujara’s non inclusion is also shocking. The youngster has been piling on the runs like a machine over the past couple of years and he is nowhere in the vicinity of a National selection. We have listened to countless experts speaking about him as the future of Indian batting but for some reason the selectors don’t think so. The guy is 22 years old, scoring hundreds at will wherever he plays and for me should have been in the squad to Sri Lanka. Saha’s selection over Dinesh Karthik is another baffling one as the keeper from Tamil Nadu would have been ideal as a backup keeper and a opener in case of an injury to either of the first choice openers.

With the world cup less than a year away, the selectors have to really wake up to the fact that we don’t have a settled set of 15-20 players to pick from for the major event. The selections over the past year or so have been pretty inconsistent and I hope that it changes over the coming months as India is playing a lot of cricket before the 2011 world cup.

Praveen Kumar has been one of the few successful Indian pace bowlers in IPL 3

When 39 year old Anil Kumble is the best bowler in a T20 competition then you have serious issues. This is exactly the story of IPL III this year where Anil Kumble and Muthaih Muralitharan have been the best bowlers by a mile in terms of economy and wickets tally respectively. Even though the overseas pacers have done reasonably well, the Indian pace bowling continues to suffer in the ongoing IPL.

Ishant has been ordinary and the less said about Irfan Pathan’s bowling exploits the better. RP Singh looks jaded and the other young bowlers like Tyagi and Sangwan lack consistency and pace to survive at the international level. So why is India struggling to unearth one good pace bowler to compliment Zaheer in the Indian team? Praveen Kumar has been bowling very well for Bangalore Royal Challengers and Zaheer has been in decent form for Mumbai Indians but that about does it for Indian pacers till date.

Chaminda Vaas who hasn’t played for Sri Lanka for a while has easily out bowled every Indian bowler in this tournament. That says something about the plight of Indian pace bowling in the past few months. So it seems like the selectors are in for a headache when they sit together to pick a team which will best represent India in the upcoming T20 WC in West Indies. Zaheer and Praveen probably will be automatic selections considering current form but who will claim the third seamer spot is anybody’s guess at the moment.

Sreesanth has been poor, Nehra injured and Irfan Pathan not in the 30 probable’s picked for the T20 WC. The selectors might look to play 2 spinner, 2 pacer attack to counter this situation with Mishra or Chawla joining Harbajan in the bowling line up or they could give a chance to a untested youngster such as the promising Mithun or Umesh Yadav who has bowled with pace and heart for Delhi Dare devils. I guess some investigation should be done as to why our bowlers regress after a strong start in their careers to avoid such situations in the future. Is it the money? Is it the fame? Is too much cricket affecting them? Someone has to find an answer to that question.

The team selection will be an interesting one, whatever the combination the selectors come up with. I am not hoping for any drastic changes or any major surprises in the squad so we have to be prepared for Nehra, Ishant to be back in the squad. We will see Indian bowlers leaking lots of runs yet again the onus clearly will be on the batsmen to perform. Bowling continues to be a problem and looking at the IPL performances there seems no light at the end of the tunnel.

Abid Nabi - Considered one of the fastest in India, does not get even mentioned in team selections

Abid Nabi - Considered one of the fastest in India, does not get even mentioned in team selections

India is almost out of the champions Trophy and barring a miracle, they will pack their bags and head home tomorrow. As I wrote earlier India’s bowling problem hurt their chances in the Champions Trophy. The Indian bowlers were pathetic against Pakistan in their first game allowed them to escape from a precarious 65/3 to 302 which in the end proved too much for the depleted Indian batting lineup. This has been the problem with the Indian team for the past 1 year or so.

The batting strength was able to shield this weakness but with the absence of couple of key players it was exposed even further against the Pakistanis in the Champions Trophy. So the perennial question is where are the bowlers? So much of domestic cricket being played, so much of talent but why do we keep hearing the same names again and again? Are the selectors good at actually tapping good talent? India has loads of talent in the Domestic arena but has been reluctant to try out new players in the National squad. Three years back when Guru Greg was at the helm there was a bowler named Abid Nabi who was touted as the next big thing in Indian cricket. He was even summoned to bowl at the Indian batters in the nets but where is he now? He signed up for the ICL and could not be considered but still his name was never mentioned during selection anytime. He is now in the list of players who has accepted the BCCI “Amnesty” program. Another one of BCCI’s ridiculous act but at least he can be in contention now.

And then there is Sudeep Tyagi who has been performing very well in the domestic cricket, had a good IPL and also performed brilliantly in the recently concluded Emerging Players trophy in Australia but he is nowhere close to selection. The Indian selectors are known to waste talent in domestic cricket for ages now and it has hurt Indian cricket. There are loads of names which come to mind. Where is Piyush chawla, Pujara? Both have been performing consistently in the domestic arena. Chawla though has done quite well when he has been given chances at the National level but still continues to be ignored by the selectors. The Indian selectors are short sighted which is the major problem. They always look to fix the current issues but fail to look at the larger picture.

When we speak of All rounders, it always has to be the Pathan brothers but what about Ravichandran Ashwin who has been brilliant for Tamil Nadu? Ashwin has been brilliant for TN and could be an asset in the Indian team but has never been in consideration. The Indian team needs to find some good bowlers to complement Zaheer and unless they do that we cannot claim ourselves as the contenders for the Number 1 spot. Ishant Sharma needs a break to sort himself out and if possible needs to take a break from the IPL to concentrate on his bowling. India has the talent to develop into one of the best teams in the world even after the retirement of the greats but the selectors need to be smart about this.

Grooming and nurturing young talent is really important and unless that happens, Indian cricket will continue to suffer. Right talent needs to be encouraged irrespective of where they come from. Players like Ashwin, Nabi, Pujara, Tyagi, Chawla, Mishra, Kohli, Badri, Vijay etc have to be in the Indian plans for the future and need to be given chances regularly to prove their worth. India play a 7 match ODI series against the Australians and it will be the right time to rest some bowlers and give chances to youngsters. They cannot perform worse than the current pack. Keep Ashish Nehra and change the rest of the bowling, RP Singh, Ishant and Harbajan need a break and have to be challenged. They have been performing badly for about a year now without being shown the door in ODI cricket and need to be given a break.

If India needs to be considered as the number 1 team in the world they have to work towards it. I hope that Dhoni and the selectors are listening.


My Thoughts

My Tweets

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 365 other followers