Tag Archives: Kirsten

World Cup 2011 – India’s bowling conundrum

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.

Team India preview – Weight of Expectations

India would be entering this world cup not only with the pressure of being one of the host nation but also one of the favorites. The favorite tag is not something given to them just for being the host nation but has been gained by Dhoni’s men through consistent performances over the last couple of years. So let’s take a look at the Indian team composition.

Everyone knows that the strength of Indian team is always their batting and rightly so. The batting is power packed with the addition of Yusuf Pathan lower down the order. The top order comprises of Sachin Tendulkar, Sehwag and Ghambir followed by Yuvraj Singh, Raina/Kohli and Dhoni forming the middle order. So a fantastic batting line up who can on their day destroy any bowling attack on the subcontinent pitches. Sachin joining Sehwag at the top means that Ghambir has to drop down to number 3 in the order.

Virat Kohli’s excellent form with the bat for over a year means that Suresh Raina would most probably have to give way to him in the X1. Yuvraj will hang on to the number 4 spot followed by the captain Dhoni and Pathan to provide the finishing touches. The bowling though will be a huge concern for the captain and the coach. The combination for their first game in just couple of day’s time will be a huge headache. None of the pace bowlers looked threatening in the couple of warm up games which India played. The spinners though did a brilliant job. So now the question is whether to play a 2 pace/2 spin combination or go with the tried and tested 3 pace/1 spin attack.

The spinners Chawla, Ashwin and Harbajan have for sure out bowled the pacers in the lead up games which means that Dhoni might want to go with two spinners. Zaheer will be for sure one of the pacers in the team but his partner is still to be decided. Nehra, Sreesanth and Munaf have struggled in the lead up and none of them has looked like picking up wickets or containing the batsmen with the new ball. So the tossup can be random as it probably wouldn’t make too much of a difference. So all in all I think the onus is for sure on the batting. The batsmen cannot have too many off days in the middle during this world cup. The Indian bowling is thin and on flat batting decks will struggle to contain the opposition.

The Indian team for me resembles the 1996 Sri Lanka team when they won the world cup. Sri Lanka’s plan was simple during that time, bowl first and chase with their powerful batting line up. They like India only had one good pace bowler and one experienced spinner. They relied heavily on the part-timers to choke the opposition in the middle overs and it was extremely successful. So India needs to also play to their strength which is their spinners. Harbajan and Chawla/Ashwin will be the way to go for the Indians.

So with great batting and adequate bowling for this conditions, India for sure are one of the favorites for the world cup. I think if the bowling stands up to be counted this time, they have an excellent chance of going the distance. Dhoni also has to use the part-timers wisely and has plenty of options in that regard. India have had a decent track record at world cup’s played in the subcontinent as they have at least reached the semis on the previous two occasions (1987 and 1999) and would want to go one step further this time. This world cup also marks the last for Sachin Tendulkar and he would for sure want to sign out from the 50 over format in a grand style. I hope that team India can give us fans with plenty to cheer about in the coming month and a half and I wish Dhoni and his men all the success.

My Indian X1 for Bangladesh clash: Sachin Tendulkar, Virendar Sehwag, Gautham Ghambir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Dhoni (Capt, Wkt), Yusuf Pathan, Piyush Chawla/Ravichandran Ashwin, Harbajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Sreesanth (I go with sree as he has the ability to produce match winning spells)

Team selection for the first test at Centurion

With just a day to go for the first test between India and South Africa at Centurion to begin, the excitement is already in the air. Players of both the teams have been pretty vocal and there has been lot of things said and written about the strategies and plans of the two teams. The South African coach has been pretty vocal in the media but on the contrary his counterpart Kirsten has remained in the background.

So what combination will India field for the first test? If the reports in the media are to be believed, the pitch will be fast and bouncy. Pace bowlers will rule the roost in the first test for sure. South Africa only naming one spinner in their 12 for the first test seems to suggest that there will be no respite for the Indians. South Africa has a great advantage of having a genuine pace bowling all-rounder in their lineup which gives them the edge. So they can play 3 pace bowlers with kallis as the fourth seaming option.

India though do not have that luxury. Anyways let’s look at the likely combination India could field in the first test. The batting is almost set with Sehwag and Ghambir to open followed by the experienced middle order of Dravid, Sachin and Laxman. I am guessing that Raina (Even though I will prefer Pujara at 3 and Dravid at 5) will for sure occupy the number 6 slot for the first test followed by Dhoni. So that makes the top 7 for India with Sehwag becoming the spinning all-rounder in the squad.

Now comes the most important part the bowling. With the pitch sure to assist the pace men, the bowling lineup for sure is going to be Zaheer, Ishant and Sreesanth with Bajji being the lone spinner in the squad. The Indian selectors have gone for inexperienced pace backup options with Umesh Yadav and Jaidev Unadkat in the squad. Looking at the reports this morning it seems like there is a concern over the fitness of Zaheer Khan which kind of upsets the plans a little. But in case of him missing out, I would believe that Unadkat might get his first test cap. Unadkat being a left-arm bowler himself will pip Umesh yadav as he will add the variety to the line up in the absence of Zaheer as the other two (Sreesanth and Ishant) are right arm bowlers.

India’s X1 for the first test should look like this:

Sehwag, Ghambir, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Raina, Dhoni, Harbajan, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Sreesanth.

12th Man – Jaidev Unadkat

The first test which starts on the 16th promises a mouth watering contest between two equal teams. The pitch though will play an important part and I am sure that we will see a result at the end of the 5th day. Best of luck for Dhoni and his men and I hope that they can come back victorious and prove that they are the best team in the world beyond dispute.

Dhoni’s safari, his biggest challenge yet

Dhoni (right) and Kirsten (Left) know that this will be a make of break series for the Indian test team

We are just a week away from India’s first test against South Africa at Centurion and Dhoni is about to face his biggest challenge as a captain. Since he took over as the Indian skipper in 2008, he has been only on three overseas tours and two of them have been in the subcontinent. Whatever the world says, Dhoni does have an impressive resume as a captain. He hasn’t lost a test series and has lost very few games as a captain of the Indian team.

India does not have any practice game ahead of the first test which is a worry but the BCCI did the right thing by sending the test specialists ahead of the schedule to get the feel of the conditions. The Indian coach Gary Kirsten and the bowling coach Eric Simmons being South Africans might be the trump cards India need. Their combined knowledge of the conditions there might help the Indian bowlers and the batsmen to prepare for the South African challenge. So does India realistically have a chance to topple South Africa in their home turf? I think they do.

When India visited South Africa in 2006 they were expected to be rolled over and after a 4-0 drubbing in the ODI series it did not seem otherwise. India on the contrary rolled over the hosts in the first test and South Africa had to dig deep to come out of that hole. South Africa finally won the series 2-1 and if not for the poor batting on the 4th day of the final test, the result would have been otherwise. That series showed that India can compete on those pitches and looking at the current team they can in fact do more than just compete this time. The biggest advantage for the visitors this time is their pace attack. In 2006 it was just Zaheer and Sreesanth, the third pace option (VRV Singh) wasn’t that effective which was a huge setback with the lack of all round option in the team. This time though we have three in form pacers in the squad, Sreesanth and Zaheer are back with Ishant as the third seamer.

If the tracks are pace friendly these three can trouble any batting team. Ishant bowling brilliantly against New Zealand in the third test should give the Indian team management loads of confidence ahead of the much important series. The biggest worry for Dhoni though will be the spinners. Harbajan’s form with the ball will be a huge worry for the team management and he bowling well in tandem with the pacers for me will decide the series. I am not sure if Ojha will get any chances in the series but he did not look that threatening either in the home series against the Kiwis. Even though the SA series is all about the fast men, spinners are equally important as well to keep the pressure up.

The Indian batting though hasn’t changed that much since the 2006 tour. The core of the team still remains with Sehwag, Sachin, Laxman and Dravid still in the team with the welcome additions of Ghambir and Raina/Pujara. The Ghambir/Sehwag opening combination will be very important for the team against the South African new ball pair of Steyn and Morkel. I am not sure who their third pacer would be but the new ball bowlers from the home team will attack the Indian openers. India has loads of experience at 3, 4 and 5 followed by the edgy Raina at number 6.

Sourav Ganguly did a brilliant job at number 6 in India’s previous tour and after his retirement the team management has failed to find an able replacement for that spot. After trying Yuvraj unsuccessfully for few games, the management has now kept faith on young Suresh Raina. They probably expect his enormous ODI experience to finally show through in tests as well. Raina though had a disastrous home series against New Zealand and his frailty against the short pitched stuff will surely be exploited by the South African fast bowlers. He needs to figure out a way to counter the barrage. If he fails to do so, I am thinking that Dhoni has to seriously consider replacing him with much more technically sound Pujara. The other important batting spot will be the captain himself at number 7. He needs to shed his poor form and perform consistently for the team with the bat at that position and of course his leadership on the field will be very important.

The Indians will be entering this series as the best side in the world and a win would give them tremendous boost and confidence. Dhoni and Kirsten will be aware that in case of a slip up, their rankings will be questioned again. They are playing a team who are second in the rankings and have been fantastic over a sustained period of time. They are a hard team to beat anywhere, especially at home. Their pace attack will be a threat and their batting led by Amla and Kallis will be hard to dislodge. The Indians will be very much aware that they will face much sterner test of character than the just concluded home series against the Kiwis. Dhoni I guess has all the ammunitions this time to turn this series onto a memorable one for the Indians. If they manage to win the series they will for sure be undisputed number 1 team in the world and I hope that Dhoni and his men put up a great performance in this series.

Inconsistent batting costs India the series

Doug-Bollinger

Doug Bollinger takes 5 to hand India a series defeat

India lost yet another bilateral series to Australia yesterday after an inept batting display by the home side. The Indian batting display in this series would be a great cause for concern in the Indian camp. The Australian team though has done a wonderful job with a depleted side, missing almost 7-8 regular players in the squad. The Indian captain would be very disappointed with result as after the first 3 games it seemed as though the home team were the frontrunners.

The Indian problems though are 3 fold, batting, fielding and bowling. Australia were better in the above three disciplines. This has been the problem with the Indian team over the past few months. When the batting clicks, they are a very hard team to beat as they usually rake up a huge total but if it fails the bowlers are not good enough to win those games. The fielding has been a problem too, lots of drop catches and misfield punctuates Indian efforts in the field these days.

When the team was doing well all these faults were overlooked as winning was more important at that time but recently we have seen that this team is far from becoming the number one team in the world. India has to seriously look into their ODI combination as we are just over a year away from the WC. The bowling looks thin and the batting inconsistent and this in addition to poor fielding makes India’s chances in the 2011 WC very slim.

A 4-2 series loss against a severely depleted Aussie team will not go well with the fans and the management alike but Dhoni and Kirsten would be relieved that the Sri Lankan series starts right away.

In search of an all rounder

Bajji walks back after playing a blinder against the Aussies in the first ODI in Vadodara

Bajji walks back after playing a blinder against the Aussies in the first ODI in Vadodara

In a recent interview Bajji (Harbhajan Singh) told the media that his captain Dhoni had told him to concentrate on batting a bit more. This shows Dhoni’s desperation for a good all rounder in the team. Bajji for his part has done a brilliant job as he has been contributing consistently in Tests and scored 4 fifties last year. But is this the right path for the premier spinner in the Indian team? Bajji’s primary role in the team should be to take wickets and help his side to win more games and anything other than that should be a bonus.

Since Kapil retired from all forms of cricket in 94/95 the Indian team has been in search of an able all rounder to replace the legend but has been largely unsuccessful in doing so. India tried out various options in the mid and late nineties but none of them were able to fill the big void Kapil had left in the squad. In the last 15 years the only player who came close to filling that spot was Irfan Pathan. Irfan was a brilliant bowler when he made his debut in 2004 and was more than useful with the bat.

But unfortunately things went downhill for Irfan after his first year in International cricket. During “Guru” Greg’s tenure as Indian coach things changed for Irfan as he was used more as a batsman in the ODI squad. He bowling declined due to that switch and Irfan now is no more a regular fixture in the Indian team. Dhoni and Kirsten need to be careful as they wouldn’t want Bajji to follow that route.

India needs to unearth a bowling all rounder from the domestic scene to fill the all rounder spot. Irfan himself is an option. In the recent ODI against the Aussies, Bajji and Praveen almost pulled off an improbable victory. Can Praveen Kumar be a candidate for the all rounder spot? You never know. The Indian think tank need to make sure that they don’t put too much pressure on the Indian bowlers to perform with the bat, since that may affect their bowling. Yes the bowlers need to contribute with the bat but should be a bonus and not their primary role.

Australia during their prime played with some bits and pieces all rounders but was still able to win due to a good bowling attack. India needs to keep that in mind, even though an all rounder is an important cog in the wheel of a successful team, specialists are essential too. As the Indian team continues to search for an all rounder, the Bajji’s and Praveen’s can concentrate on what they do best that is to win games with their bowling and their batting contributions should just be a bonus.