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The Indian slip catching has been poor in the recent times and has cost India in tests.

The Indian slip catching has been poor in the recent times and has cost India in tests.

As the old adage in cricket goes “catches win matches” and obviously that holds true for all formats of the game. Catching has been a big problem for this young Indian side. There was a time when Indian slip cordon consisted of the Dravid and Laxman with Sehwag, Sachin ET all making up the other slip. The catching was brilliant and it was the main reason for India to climb in the rankings. Yes there were few drops here and there but mostly all catches were taken.

It was not only the slip catching but overall the Indian fielders were good in taking catches. The one criticism that Indian team had then was that their ground fielding was really poor. Now with the current team India faces quite the opposite problem. The Indian ground fielding is one of the best but the catching overall has been very poor. Over the last few months the Indian fielders have dropped some crucial catches which has changed the course of the game. The slip catching has been tentative and the overall catching has been casual. Statistics say that India has tried as much as 5 fielders in the first slip in the last 19 tests and as much as 8 catches have been dropped in the slips by India in the last 7 tests. This is a very revealing stat and something which has been completely ignored while blaming our bowling.

The Indian bowlers aren’t world beaters and they require all the assistance they can get from the fielders. The drop chances have really hurt India and their chance to win few games. The Wellington test comes to mind immediately, the drop chances of Williamson and McCullum cost India the test which they were well on the way to win. In the first test at Lord’s Rahane dropped Robson but luckily for him the batsman did not make most of that chance. India let a chance slip of Gary Ballance in the first innings and he went on to score a hundred. Alastair Cook was dropped in the first innings of the 3rd test which allowed him to get of the wretched form he had been under to post a career saving 95. The captain Dhoni himself hasn’t been a safe catcher himself in the recent times.

Young players like Jadeja, Rahane and Kohli have been pretty bad and have dropped some crucial takes over the last few months. Virat Kohli has been the biggest offender among the young brigade. His casual attempt at nabbing Brendon McCullum’s feeble drive at short mid-on in the second test cost India dearly. Jadeja has dropped couple of crucial ones. Dhawan has been a reluctant first slipper and has hardly shown intent to go after difficult takes. Rahane has dropped a few in the slips.

This has been a disturbing trend for the young Indian team. The young players who have been brilliant in saving runs and effecting run outs have been poor catchers in the slips as well as in the outfield. This problem has not only been in tests but also has been in the ODI’s and T20 games. India needs to arrest this problem fast if they have to compete at the highest level. Good players will always make you pay if you give them a second chance. India has found that out in the recent times to a devastating effect. The team needs reliable slip fielders and the outfield catching needs to be sorted out too.

India has two more tests after the current one at the Rose Bowl in this series and then they travel to Australia later this year. India needs to take all their chances to compete in these games. Top teams will make you pay if you drop catches. The coach and captain need to find a way to get through to these young players and figure out what is going wrong with the catching. If they do not arrest this trend soon, India will be finding themselves chasing the leather most often than not and the only ones to suffer will be the bowlers.

Another Sachin Article I would like to re post.

My Thoughts

For Indian cricket fans that started following the game in the early 90’s it is hard to imagine an Indian team without Sachin Tendulkar. I started watching Sachin play for India when he was 18 year old and boy he was special. He was the sole reason I got hooked on to cricket then, write about cricket now and will follow cricket in the future. For a player that young he had enormous composure and maturity beyond his years. He carried the Indian batting for almost a decade until Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly made their debut in the mid-nineties.

Sachin is still the pillar of Indian middle order at 37. He has been in brilliant form over the last couple of years, broke countless records, and scored loads of runs. The most important thing for his fans is that he is still winning games for India. In spite of…

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As Dhoni said after India’s loss at Perth, the seniors need to be phased out. The Indian selectors during the golden Dhoni-Kirsten period did not try too many middle order candidates and sudden influx of young players isn’t going to help the situation. India needs to start by giving Rahane and Rohit Sharma a chance in the final test. The series is already lost and this will be a great chance to try out these youngsters.

The phasing out should be carefully planned. There are reports that VVS Laxman might retire after this series so this will be ideal time to test out Rohit Sharma at number 5

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Sachin Tendulkar has carried India's hopes for more than 2 decades - A tribute to the master

For Indian cricket fans that started following the game in the early 90’s it is hard to imagine an Indian team without Sachin Tendulkar. I started watching Sachin play for India when he was 18 year old and boy he was special. He was the sole reason I got hooked on to cricket then, write about cricket now and will follow cricket in the future. For a player that young he had enormous composure and maturity beyond his years. He carried the Indian batting for almost a decade until Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly made their debut in the mid-nineties.

Sachin is still the pillar of Indian middle order at 37. He has been in brilliant form over the last couple of years, broke countless records, and scored loads of runs. The most important thing for his fans is that he is still winning games for India. In spite of being arguably the best player of his generation, he has received quite a lot of criticism too. His game and his statistics have often been dissected, the most among his contemporaries. He has had to endure plenty of mindless comparison. Indian fans of the later generations have had different heroes to look up to but fans of my generation had just one.

It was hard following a very ordinary Indian cricket team in the early 90’s as a young boy. Sachin was our only solace and only hope during those days. The reason lots of Indian cricket fans during that time, cared more about Sachin’s achievement rather than Indian teams result can also be attributed to that fact. A Sachin great innings meant that India won or at least lost respectably. If he failed, India failed. There were no saviors in the squad then, our chances rose and died with Sachin’s wicket. The opponent knew that, Indian team knew that and so did the fans who watched the game.

Sachin carried Indian batting in spite of the debuts of Dravid, Ganguly and Laxman in the mid-nineties. It took a while for these players to establish themselves, I would say that Dravid and Ganguly did not arrive until 1999/00 and Laxman until 2001. The Sachin phenomenon is much more than just wins and losses that people care about in the current generation. He carried the hopes of millions of fans during a time when there was not much to cheer about the Indian cricket team. He made tons of runs in difficult conditions against great bowlers without any support. It’s hard to describe the impact he had on the Indian cricket fans during that time.

Now 21 years later, he still continues to enthrall his fans. Still scores tons and tons of runs. Still is one of India’s best players while playing abroad. Sachin is much more than just another cricketing great. He is an inspiration, an icon and a wonderful role model to every Indian youngster. People might have their favorites and might pick various stats to pull the great man down but for me Sachin’s impact on Indian cricket and fans is much beyond the numbers. I am proud to be born in the same era as Sachin. I am extremely happy that he is part of one of the best Indian teams ever as he deserves to be in one. Sachin for sure needs his time under the sun as he has been part of frustrating Indian losses in the past. Sachin is according to me the greatest Indian cricketer and arguably the best player of his generation in the world. I hope that he scales many more peaks before he hangs up his boots.

Please also share your thoughts on the Little Master.

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 (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.

The test series came to an end earlier this week with a convincing win from the home team. India virtually demolished the Kiwis in the final test to win the series 1-0. New Zealand though hung in well in the series until their wings came off in the final test. It seemed like they had given it all till then in the series and did not have much to contribute in the final test. But Vettori’s men should be proud of what they achieved in India after their disastrous campaign in Bangladesh. Playing against the number 1 team in the world they gave quite a scare to the home team in the first test, only to be denied by Harbajan Singh’s brilliance.

For the home team though this wasn’t the performance they would have hoped at the start of the series. India was starring down the barrel in the first test only to be saved by Laxman and Bajji and their bowling looked listless in the second test after claiming a huge first innings lead. So to be frank the final test win would have been more of a relief to Dhoni and India. India came into the series with a chance of improving their ranking points but ended up losing one point due to the final margin of victory. The good thing for India was that even South Africa did not have a great time in Abu Dhabi against Pakistan where they drew both their tests.

The series though had some positives for the Indian team. Rahul Dravid getting back to his best was the best thing for the Indian team ahead of a touch South African tour. Ishant Sharma getting his form back was another highlight of the series. Even Sreesanth gradually improved as the series wore on and was bowling brilliantly at Nagpur along with Ishant. It was heartening to see Ishant bowling quick and accurate after a long time. Gautham Ghambir also returned to some sort of a form in the final test and Dhoni’s runs should also give the Indians some confidence.

The other positives include Bajji’s batting, even though he could have taken more wickets as he himself admitted after the conclusion of the series. Laxman and Sehwag have continued their good form with the bat which will also be one of the major positives from the series. There were lots of good induvidual performances in the series but as a team they could have performed better. Their fielding for instance, as the captain himself mentioned after the series wasn’t special as there were far too many drop catches. The bowling from the spinners wasn’t that special either. Both Ojha and Harbajan did not look like running through sides at any time in the series.

All in all a convincing performance in the final test of the series but overall the team management will be disappointed with the victory margin. The focus now shifts to the ODI series which is all set to begin on Sunday and Ghambir has been named the captain for the first couple of ODI’s. The decision to rest the senior members of the squad for the one-day series is definitely a good move by the selectors as they could do with some rest before an important series against the proteas.

After the brilliant win over Sri Lanka last week in the Asia cup finals, India now will face up to the same team in a 3 test series. The Indian squad for the series was selected on Saturday and the team was very much on the expected lines. The selectors did not go for any new names except for couple of surprises thrown in.

As expected Dravid and Laxman return to the squad in the middle order and so does Sachin. With Ghambir and Sehwag settled at the top of the order, it just leaves one vacant spot in the middle order at number 6 which is still unclaimed. Even though Yuvraj has occupied that spot over the last couple of series, he has hardly made an impact to warrant an immediate selection in the test team. There were few more names thrown in before the selection like Pujara, Badri etc but the selectors have gone with Raina who has had a brilliant year in the shorter formats.

Yet another disappointment for Pujara as the youngster has been piling on the runs in the domestic as well as on the A tours. I hope that he gets a chance soon. Vijay retains his spot as the backup opener, even though Dhawan and Mukund are right on his heals with brilliant performances on the A tour. Dhoni remains the skipper and the number one keeper for India on this tour. Dhoni’s back up though left everyone surprised as Saha was selected out of the blue.

Karthik has been Dhoni’s backup for a long time now and considering his experience one would have expected him to join the team to Sri Lanka but was not to be. Karthik will be really disappointed as he was pretty good with the bat in the Asia cup, winning the man of the match in the finals. The bowling too lacked any surprises as India went with the experience of Zaheer, Ishant and Sreesanth in the pace department and Harbajan, Mishra and Ojha as the spinners.

Sreesanth and Ishant get a call back after both of them were overlooked for the shorter formats. This begs the question as to why these two did not get picked for the A tour to England or to Zimbabwe for that matter. Both these bowlers haven’t had any competitive cricket for a while and getting some games on the A tour would have helped them to get some confidence back. BCCI’s planning is lot left to be desired as they would have known way before that these two have very good chance of partnering Zaheer in the upcoming test series.

All in all I feel that this is a decent team with the experienced hands returning to their favorite format. I hope that Dhoni and his men put up a great performance and win the series which has been eluding us for 17 years now. As Dravid said India will not worry about Mendis anymore as he seems to have been worked out by the Indians. Still the batting needs to be careful as Mendis and Murali in Sri Lanka will be more threatening than their exploits earlier in India. Hope for a great contest and a win to the Indian team to maintain their status as number one team in the world.

Dravid and Laxman were both injured during the test series in Bangladesh

When the selectors meet tomorrow to pick the squad for the upcoming home series against the South Africans, they have quite a few headaches. The injuries to Laxman, Dravid and Yuvraj has created quite a few vacancies in the squad. Even though Laxman hasn’t been ruled out yet there is a possibility that he might not make it. This series is one of the most important one for India as they have to at least secure a draw to retain their number 1 ranking and South Africa has to win the series to snatch it from the hosts.

The good news for India is that Sachin was in the field on the fourth day of the second test match against Bangladesh, which means that he will play. In the absence of Dravid and Yuvraj, the selectors need to fill two vacant spots in the batting order. It’s safe to assume that Vijay will occupy one of the spots but there are quite a few contenders for the second spot in the lineup.

So the options are Kaif, Raina, Badrinath, Pujara, and Manish Pandey. I will rule out Raina as he is more suited to the shorter format and also due to his well known weakness to short pitched bowling he might struggle against Steyn & Co. Among the other four, I will eliminate Manish too. In spite of his good showing in the domestic season, he is too young and lacks experience for as important a series as this one. So that leaves Kaif, Pujara and Badrinath. All three of them have been in great form and have been knocking at the door for some time now. I would personally prefer to have either Pujara or Badri in the squad as selecting Kaif would be a backward step for the team.

The bowling department needs a replacement too with the injury to Sreesanth. I hope that the selectors tryout either Tyagi or Mithun in the squad rather than going back to Munaf or RP Singh, who have failed to grab on to the opportunities given to them. Irfan Pathan also is an option as the third seamer as he would give the team an all-around option. He has been performing well in the domestic season. I am thinking that the spinners who played against Bangladesh will be retained for the home series too. All in all this is going to be an interesting selection.

India’s 2-0 win over Bangladesh has extended Dhoni’s unbeaten run to 11 (out of which India have won 8 ) tests now. I hope that his dream run continues against the saffers too. South Africa is in quite a quandary themselves now with the sudden resignation of Coach Mickey Arthur, after which the Cricket South Africa sacked all their selectors.

Dhoni with the trophy after India completed a 1-0 win in the test series against the Kiwis

Dhoni with the trophy after India completed a 1-0 win in the test series against the Kiwis

41 years of wait finally ended as India completed 1-0 series win in New Zealand. This win will be particularly sweet for the seniors in the team as they have been on the receiving end on more than one occasion. It was a fantastic performance by the Indian team and was a total team effort.

I was little bit disappointed that we were unable to close out the 3rd test and win the series by 2-0 margin. When the rain halted the proceedings on day 5 with New Zealand on 284/8 the only thing which came on every Indian supporter’s mind was If only we had 10 more overs. If we look back at the 4th day’s play India batted too long I thought. We should have probably given NZ a target of 550-575. I don’t think that the Kiwis would have had a realistic chance of scaling that score against the Indian bowling attack.

Anyways that’s just in the hindsight. Nothing should be taken away though from the team as they have completed another major victory. They just have two more mountains to climb, Australia and South Africa. If they can achieve this while Sachin, Dravid and Laxman are still in the team it will be really great. Yeah there is one more location India hasn’t won that often which is Sri Lanka. Twice in last ten years we lost the series after going in to the final test with 1-1 score line.

For India to win in Australia and SA they have to improve their fielding and catching as this let them down badly in New Zealand. If Ishant hadn’t spilled a sitter of Ian O’ Brian of Sachin India probably would have won 2-0. So that’s one area which we have to work on. The second area of concern is the third seamer. I would prefer Sreesanth to come into the squad in the place of Munaf. Munaf is a good bowler but sometimes he looks lifeless on the field. I am not even talking about his bowling but just his body language which sometimes is not that encouraging.

Well overall this has been a fantastic series for the Indians. Winning the one-day series 3-1 and later winning the test series 1-0 will give lots of satisfaction to the Indian captain. There were some great individual performances from Ghambir, Zaheer and Harbajan. Sachin, Dravid and Laxman also batted brilliantly and gave consistent performances throughout the tour. Dhoni’s captaincy throughout the tour was excellent and aggressive. All in all a fantastic performance and a great win by Team India.


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