Selection headaches for India ahead of first Champions Trophy game

India have had a great start to their Champions trophy campaign. They won both their warm-up games with ease and they would be particularly pleased with the way the pace attack has performed.

The batting, however, was a mixed bag. India came into the tournament with an idea of who they would like to play in the XI, but after the warm-up games things have become little muddled.

Shikhar Dhawan has done enough to book his place in the XI, opening the batting with Rohit Sharma. Virat Kohli showed glimpses of him returning form against New Zealand – even though the innings was really scratchy, he would have appreciated the time spent in the middle. MS Dhoni’s position in the team is not in question as he batted reasonably well in the one game he played and kept wickets brilliantly.

Ajinkya Rahane’s twin failure means that he will not feature in the XI for the first game against Pakistan. But now comes the interesting part: India played Dinesh Karthik in both their warm-up games and Yuvraj did not bat in either. Dinesh Karthik scored a brilliant 94 in the Game 2 against Bangladesh and Virat Kohli hinted in the post-match conversation that he would like to give Karthik a longer run in the team.

The position of Yuvraj Singh remains unclear, however. Is Yuvraj not fully fit? If that is the case, his selection was a blunder by the selection committee. Kedar Jadhav played pretty well for his 30-odd against Bangladesh and so did Hardik Pandya, so it will be interesting to see which way the management will go in terms of the batting.

The selection of the bowling attack isn’t that simple either. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has done extremely well in both the games and for sure will take the new ball. Shami and Yadav both have done well in the chances they received, but I am not sure the team has a place for both of them. It will be a toss-up between Mohammad Shami and Umesh Yadav. Jasprit Bumrah will for sure play as the third seamer as he has been India’s best bowler in the shorter formats over the past year.

Complete Article at The Roar.

CW2015 – India get their combination right

Mohit Sharma has been the key to bring the much needed discipline to the Indian pace bowling in the middle overs.

Mohit Sharma has been the key to bring the much needed discipline to the Indian pace bowling in the middle overs.

After a crushing win against South Africa in their second game of 2015 world cup, India have strengthened their hold at the top spot of Pool B. India now has won two important games and would be harboring thoughts of finishing at the top of Pool B. India now take on UAE in their next game at Perth and would be hoping for another clinical win against the team from the middle east.

India once again got their basics right against South Africa. Dhoni won the toss and elected to bat once again. The Indian batsmen once again obliged and batted sensibly to post their second 300+ score in the world cup. A chase of over 300 was always going to be difficult at MCG. The bowling and fielding rose to the occasion and delivered a massive 130 runs win, their first win against South Africa in world cups. The South African team on the other hand looked pretty rusty and after a not so impressive win against Zimbabwe this loss should sound as a wakeup call to the pre-tournament favorites.

For India though things seem to be falling into place. All the tinkering Dhoni & co did in the tri-series preceding the world cup seems to be bearing fruit finally. The Indian team seems to have identified their core group. The team has the right combination and baring few changes here and there this should be the team which will play most of the games.

The Bowling:

The Indian bowling has finally found it’s mojo in the shorter format with excellent help from the fielders. Shami and Umesh have been great with the new ball and Mohit Sharma has brought the much needed control as the first change. The spinners too have done very well in the middle overs and have been able to take wickets at crucial times in both the games. The Indian bowling still needs to be flexible and I think that the games in Perth might see Binny replacing Ashwin in the X1. Also when India plays in New Zealand we might see Bhuvneshwar Kumar replacing Yadav as he is more suited to those conditions. I think Dhoni trying out all the bowlers in Australia prior to the world cup has very clear idea about the ability of the bowlers. Dhoni himself would be pleasantly surprised with the control the pacers have shown in the first couple of games and would want it to continue for the rest of the tournament.

The Batting:

The batting order seems to have a settled look and most of the top order batters have had a decent knock in the middle. It seems like India are using Rahane and Raina as the floaters in the order and it seems to have worked perfectly for them in the first couple of games. Virat Kohli is playing the anchor role to perfection and we all know what he is capable of with the bat. Shikhar Dhawan has been brilliant with the bat and so have Rahane and Raina. The only concern for India would be Rohit’s form and they would be hoping that he will be back to form in the game against UAE. The other concern for India would be the batting in the final 5 overs. In both games they have batted, India were at least 20-30 runs short of what they could have achieved. Jadeja has struggled with the bat and so has Dhoni. India would probably want to have them bat up the order against UAE to give them much needed time in the middle.

Overall the team looks good and it seems like they would put up a decent attempt at defending their crown. The biggest plus for India has been their fielding and that is something which will be very important for them on the huge grounds of Australia. The Indian team now has some important games coming up and couple more wins would almost secure the top spot for them in the Pool B. A top spot finish would give them a relatively easy quarter final game. There is still a long way to go but the Indian team would feel quietly confident and would not want to drop their intensity no matter which team they play.

CW2015 – Bowlers the key for India

Shikhar Dhawan

The return to form of Shikhar Dhawan will be a huge sigh of relief for the Indian camp.

The one thing that the India-Pakistan game showed us was that if the bowlers bowl with pace and accuracy, you can cause lots of trouble to the batsmen on these wickets. The Indian bowling led by Mohammed Shami bowled with pace and aggression to dismiss the Pakistani batting line up for 224 runs thereby defending their total of 300 at the Adelaide oval last weekend.

The Indian bowlers need to maintain that intensity throughout the tournament if they harbor any thoughts of getting close to defending their title. MS Dhoni though will be extremely pleased with the efforts of the top order batting. The batsmen except for Rohit showed excellent application and developed partnerships to get India to a good total. The one thing he would disappointed is the collapse in the final 5 overs which rendered India 25-30 runs short of what they could have achieved.

Coming back to the Indian bowling, the combination India used against Pakistan might form the crux of the Indian attack for the world cup. Mohammed Shami will expected by Dhoni to lead the pace attack in the absence of Ishant Sharma. Dhoni will be hoping that he does what Zaheer did for India in 2011 world cup. Umesh Yadav, even though wayward, still bowled with lot of pace. He needs to work on his accuracy with the new ball. The other positive for India was the bowling of Mohit Sharma. Mohit bowled at the right pace and kept a good line throughout his spell. He was difficult to get away and was rewarded with two wickets for his efforts.

The spin bowlers also came to party. Ravi Ashwin bowled really well and was clearly the best spinner on view in the first game. Ravi Jadeja looked rusty but his batting and fielding along with his accurate bowling almost makes him a certainty in the X1. The Indian X1 currently looks much more settled than the one which played the tri-series and the warm up games preceding the world cup.

MS Dhoni and Duncan Fletcher will know that for India to progress in the world cup the bowling needs to click. The pace bowlers need to bowl well and keep the pressure on with the new ball. It is very important for India to stick to a combination and back their bowlers to deliver. The other heartening thing in the first game was Dhoni’s captaincy, which was brilliant and he was attacking throughout. The fielding also was fantastic and the Indians for sure looked much more ready for the world cup than the Pakistan team.

The team combination looks settled and I don’t think that there is going to be many changes for the upcoming games. Ravi Ashwin and Stuart Binny might be playing musical chairs for the second all-rounder spot in the X1 based on the conditions. The batsmen coming back to form and the timely runs by Shikhar Dhawan means that India will breathe a sigh of relief as they don’t have to tinker with the batting order at the start of the world cup.

India will now travel to MCG where they will take on South Africa who is one of the favorites like always. South Africa has explosive batting and great bowling attack. They are also one of the best fielding sides in the tournament. India would need to be at the top of their game to compete against a strong South African outfit. India would be hoping that their bowlers keep their good work going. The batting which is looking in good touch needs to fire and keep putting up good totals for the bowlers to defend. It will be an interesting game and India would be hoping to keep their winning form going. A win here against South Africa would be a huge confidence booster for a team who has had a nightmare series down under preceding the world cup.

Chennai 1999 – Sachin’s gem and a standing ovation

Re posting another of my Sachin Article as a tribute to the legend

My Thoughts

Sachin Tendulkar is arguably one of the greatest ODI players ever to grace the cricket field. He gave joy to countless cricket fans over the years with his breathtaking stroke play in the limited overs cricket. He has finally decided to close the curtain’s on his illustrious ODI career. A career which spanned for 23 years and yielded 18426 runs at a brilliant average 44.83 with 49 hundreds. He was for sure the best ODI player of his times. The only time I saw Sachin bat live was the game against Pakistan in a test match in 1999. Even though this is not an ODI innings, I have decided to post this as this was one of the most memorable moment of my life as an Indian cricket fan. This is first of my many tributes to my favorite cricketer. A player I have grown up watching. A player who…

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A glittering career comes to an end

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It was 1991 and the game was India vs. Pakistan at Sharjah. I had never watched a cricket game before and I thought that Sachin was this young boy who just appeared with Kapil Dev in the Boost advertisement. Pakistan had batted first and score 257 in 50 overs and India was chasing a difficult score against a great bowling lineup. India had a great start but lost their way in the middle when this young boy walks in and plays a beautiful innings getting India close to the target. I still remember Sachin hammering Mushtaq Ahmed for two consecutive sixes and getting out trying to go for the third.

That was the day I got glued to the game of cricket and the reason for the same was the little master. Everyone knew that this young boy is going to be a great player then but even his strongest supporter would not have imagined what this great player went on to achieve in his 24 year career. Sachin Tendulkar gave the Indian fans lots to cheer in a particularly poor decade for Indian cricket. This was the phase where the Indian hopes in every game lay on just his wicket. The opposition knew that and so did every Indian fan. There were lots of fans who would just turn off their televisions as soon as their idol got out.

We need to understand that Sachin was still just a young man and to handle that amount of pressure was truly remarkable. I remember he was the only batsman who always looked at home even on the overseas tours when all his fellow team mates struggled to put bat on ball. The brilliant hundred in Perth and the fantastic innings in Johannesburg as a 19 year old were able testimony to the fact. Sachin had amazing composure for a young man and his balance at the crease was phenomenal. He did not have any noticeable weakness and even if he had he had the ability to iron them out before he stepped out to bat again.

 His child like enthusiasm for the game and his great dedication made him a stand out player of his generation. His achievements are there for everyone to see. In spite of enjoying a god like status in India, he still remains a humble human being. He has achieved everything a cricketer could dream of. The 2011 world cup win for sure completed his cricketing resume and for sure will give him utmost satisfaction. Sachin was also part of the world number 1 test team and his IPL team Mumbai Indians gave him a fitting send off with a CLT20 win.

It will be sad to see Sachin go. I have watched Sachin Tendulkar throughout his career and he has been part of my growing up years. As a cricket fan in the 90’s Sachin has given me lots of fond memories which I would always cherish. The brilliant hundred in Benoni, the desert storm innings, his brilliant performance in the 1996 world cup and many more such performances will forever be etched in my memory. Sachin Tendulkar will be sorely missed by every Indian cricket fan. It will be hard to imagine an Indian cricket team without the little master in the lineup. I hope that he has a great farewell in the final two tests he will be part of later next month.

I wish Sachin remains attached to the sport in some vicinity, imparting the vast cricketing knowledge he has. Thank You Sachin for all the great memories and as a diehard fan of yours I will for sure miss watching you don the Indian colors again.

Sehwag gets the axe as Pujara receives maiden ODI call up

The team for the upcoming ODI series against England was announced yesterday and the selection committee dropped Sehwag for the first 3 ODI’s. Sehwag has been pretty poor over the past year and has been rightly dropped for young Ajinkya Rahane. Since the double hundred against West Indies in December 2011, Sehwag averages just 23 from 11 games. Rohit Sharma retains his spot in the squad in spite of having a poor 2012. Rohit averaged just 13 over the last 14 games which makes his selection pretty perplexing. The selectors said Rohit’s selection was due to lack of alternatives. Manoj Tiwary’s injury also was another reason for Rohit to retain his spot in the squad. 

Cheteshwar Pujara received his much deserved maiden ODI call up after some great performances in domestic cricket. The rest of the squad which recently lost to Pakistan was retained for the first 3 ODI’s against England.

The performances of B Kumar and Shami Ahmed meant that they retained their spots for the England series too. Ishant was India’s second best pacer in the series against Pakistan behind B Kumar and seemed to have gotten his groove back. R Jadeja too retained his spot with a good all round show in the final ODI against Pakistan. Dinda and Mishra who were in the squad against Pakistan were also retained for the series against England.

The biggest concern for India has been their batting over the past few months and the addition of Pujara to the lineup seems to be an effort to strengthen the fragile top order. It will be interesting to see though if he gets in to the X1 though. Sehwag’s absence means that Rahane will open the batting with Gautam Gambhir. Kohli will come in at number 3 followed by Yuvraj, Dhoni and Raina. Jadeja and Ashwin will be the specialist spinners in the squad followed by B Kumar, Ishant and Shami Ahmed.

India will hope that their batsmen get into some sort of form against an English attack which got better of them in the just concluded test series. Virat Kohli’s form will be a big concern as he was India’s best player over the past two years in the 50 over format. The bowling looked in decent shape against Pakistan in the just concluded series and the bowling of young B Kumar and Shami Ahmed was particularly impressive with the new ball.

This will be an interesting series as England is not known to be a great ODI squad but have had a great 2012 in terms of results in the shorter format. India though had pretty mixed 2012 and hasn’t begun 2013 on a great note. Both teams will go all out and it will be interesting to see how the Indian batting lineup fares against a good English pace attack.

Indian Squad:

MS Dhoni (capt), Cheteshwar Pujara, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Ashok Dinda, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shami Ahmed, Amit Mishra.

Probable X1 for the first ODI:

Gautam Gambhir, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni(Capt), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, B Kumar, Shami Ahmed, Ishant Sharma

Chennai 1999 – Sachin’s gem and a standing ovation

Sachin Tendulkar is arguably one of the greatest ODI players ever to grace the cricket field. He gave joy to countless cricket fans over the years with his breathtaking stroke play in the limited overs cricket. He has finally decided to close the curtain’s on his illustrious ODI career. A career which spanned for 23 years and yielded 18426 runs at a brilliant average 44.83 with 49 hundreds. He was for sure the best ODI player of his times. The only time I saw Sachin bat live was the game against Pakistan in a test match in 1999. Even though this is not an ODI innings, I have decided to post this as this was one of the most memorable moment of my life as an Indian cricket fan. This is first of my many tributes to my favorite cricketer. A player I have grown up watching. A player who was the reason I developed this deep love towards this wonderful game. This is the account of the brilliant game which took place in my home town Chennai as I remember it.

This was in 1999 when Pakistan and India met in bilateral series after a hiatus of 12 years. There was a lot of hype around the series and the first test was held in my hometown, Chennai. As a young cricket fan I had two wishes, one to watch my idol Sachin Tendulkar score a hundred live and the other to watch team India win a test match.

The Chennai test was an incredible one, completely worth of all the hype surrounding its start. Pakistan team was filled with great bowlers and incredible batting line up and India prior to this series were unbeatable at home. The battle of Sachin with Waqar, Wasim and Saqlain was much talked about prior to the series. The game began and both teams were neck and neck after the first innings. India gained a slender lead of 16 after the first innings and Saqlain Mushtaq enhanced his reputation of being the best young spinner in the world at that time with a 5 wicket haul.

Pakistan began their second innings on a positive note and in spite of losing wickets at regular intervals, it seemed like they would set India a huge total to chase. Afridi was great with a brilliant hundred and with useful contributions from Ijaz and Inzamam, Pakistan was well on course for a huge total. At 275/4, already leading by 259 India’s chances seemed glum when Venkatesh Prasad probably bowled one of the best spells of his career. He took 6/33 as Pakistan collapsed to 286 as their last 6 wickets fell for just 11 runs. India began their second inning needing 271 to win with more than 2 days to go.

Indian second innings did not get to an ideal start as Waqar dismissed both the Indian openers with just 6 runs on the board as Sachin Tendulkar joined Rahul Dravid in the middle. Both these players took India to safety without further loss and it was all set for a brilliant 4th day at the MA Chidambaram stadium. This was when I got a chance to go to the stadium. I had watched the first 3 days on television and my uncle who could not go to the ground on the 4th day, offered me the ticket and along with my cousins I headed to the ground with lots of expectations.

We reached the ground early and watched the players practice. This was my first visit to any international match and it was really exciting to see the players warm up ahead of a great game of cricket. The crowd cheered as Sachin and Dravid walked out to bat, to continue India’s chase. Wasim Akram’s peach on the fourth morning went through the wall’s defenses as India was in early trouble at 50/3. Azhar and Ganguly got out to poor decisions to leave India tottering at 82/5 when Nayan Mongia walked out to join Sachin Tendulkar.

Both these players saw India through to lunch and in a sedate partnership took India to tea with 5 wickets still in hand. The match was in balance and we in the crowd knew that a wicket at that point will mean that India had no chance. After tea though the mood changed, Sachin and Mongia had decided to attack and the runs flowed quickly and India were racing towards the target. It was exhilarating to watch the proceedings as the bowling attack of Pakistan was brilliant and the world’s best player was involved in a fierce battle to win the game for his country. It was a privilege to watch Sachin counter Saqlain on a wicket which was turning square. He was battling back spasm too in the middle of all this which made this innings even greater. Sachin reached one of his best hundreds and I was in the stands applauding. This was one of the best moments for me as a cricket fan.

India was 218/5 with just 53 to get and we could see Pakistan losing hope. They had taken the new ball to no avail as Mongia and Sachin were scoring runs at a fair clip. This is when Mongia decided to display one of the biggest brain freezes of his career. Trying to loft Wasim over the top, got himself caught at mid-off leaving a struggling Sachin to take India to victory along with the tail. Sachin got out to Saqlain trying finishing the game with only 13 needed and the Indian tail collapsed in a hurry as India fell short of the Pakistan total. It was a heartbreaking loss and a very hard one to take as an Indian fan. It was so near yet so far for the Indian team.

When the game was over unlike all the other grounds in India, in spite of an Indian loss the crowd stuck around. Then one of the most brilliant thing happened when even now when I think back makes me proud of being an Indian. The Chennai crowd rose in appreciation of the Pakistan team as the victorious neighbors took a victory lap in India. Who would have thought that it was even possible? It was a brilliant moment as the fans clapped till the end and it was a victory for the game. Chennai is considered as one of the most knowledgeable crowds in India and I saw it with my own eyes for the first time. Even though there was a disappointment of an Indian loss that evening, I was proud as a cricket fan. Cricket is a sport and it’s beyond borders and the crowd that day proved the same. I got one of my wish granted that day but had to wait for another 3 years to watch India win a test match but that memory will forever be etched in my mind.