My Thoughts

Posts Tagged ‘Praveen Kumar

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.

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England captain Strauss will be a happy man now. His team has achieved what they had set out to do at the start of the series, which is to become the best team in the world. They have done it with clinical precision and throughout the first 3 games there was only one team which had the hunger to succeed. For India and Dhoni though this series is a rude awakening, nothing worked for them and losing the number 1 ranking probably was be the right kind of shock the team needed.

The only thing to look forward in the Oval test would be to see if England can complete the whitewash. India will have nothing to play for but the pride.

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The West Indies tour continued to suffer as more first choice players from the Indian team continue to pull out ahead of the test series. This time it is the turn of Zaheer and Sreesanth. The Indian team will now be without their first choice seamers for the test series. Abhinav Mithun and Praveen Kumar have been named as the replacements. Sometimes it is hard to understand the thinking behind some selections and Praveen’s is a curious one.

Mithun though I understand as he did not do that badly in the test series against the Sri Lankans last year but Praveen’s selection comes as a surprise. If Praveen gets a game this will be his debut for India in the longer format. Munaf and Ishant are already part of the squad, so I am assuming they will be in the starting X1 for the first game at least. Mishra and Bajji will most probably play in most of the games considering how poorly West Indies batsmen have handled spin on this tour. If the need arises to play a third seamer it will be interesting to see who India will play in the X1. So the Indian team who are already light on experience in batting will be suffering the same in the bowling department too.

The Indian team needs to win 3-0 in the test series in order to not lose any points in the test championship race. With the pull outs it will be miraculous if they achieve the same. The batting now will completely rely on Dravid and Laxman and the bowling on Bajji and Mishra. I hope that the youngsters can perform well and continue the good work they have been doing in the series already. The team under Suresh Raina has already won the ODI series and now Dhoni’s challenge would be to captain a young team to victory in tests. The pull outs though have made the series more competitive and give the West Indies a chance to upset the Indian team.

Test squad: MS Dhoni (capt), VVS Laxman (vc), M Vijay, Abhinav Mukund, Rahul Dravid, Virat Kohli, S Badrinath, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Mithun, Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha, Praveen Kumar, Munaf Patel, Suresh Raina, Parthiv Patel.

The Indian team for the ODI/T20 leg of the West Indies tour was announced last Friday. Even though the team was on the expected lines, as it has been a routine these days with our selection committee we do have one surprising selection. In the world cup it was Piyush Chawla and now it is Wriddhimaan Saha. While everyone was expecting a call up for Ambati Rayudu who also is a wicketkeeper, the selectors once again surprised one and all with their choice. There was no doubt that Parthiv was going to be the first keeper but his deputy was the one in question.

Saha probably is a very good keeper but I haven’t seen him do anything special in the domestic level or in the IPL to warrant a place ahead of Dinesh Kartik or Ambati Rayudu. Rayudu who is a decent wicketkeeper and an excellent attacking batsman in the top and middle order and would feel extremely disappointed on being left out. This again is a very controversial selection by the Indian selection committee and it will be interesting to see how Ghambir and the team management will utilize Saha on this tour. I hope that he will have a better time on this tour than what Chawla had in the world cup

The rest of the team though was on expected lines. With the absence of Dhoni and Sehwag, Ghambir has been appointed as the captain for the ODI/T20 leg. Rohit Sharma and Badrinath make the team, based on their excellent domestic season and IPL performances. Ishant Sharma makes a comeback to the team and so does Praveen kumar who missed out from the World Cup due to injury. Vinay Kumar also makes a comeback to the team on the basis of good consistent performances at the domestic level. Munaf Patel retains his position in the squad after some wonderful performances in the shorter format of the game over the past few months. The selectors have gone with three spinners, Mishra, Ashwin and Harbajan. Mishra has been rewarded for having bowled brilliantly in the IPL and for probably being the best leg spinner in the country at the moment. Ashwin and Bajji made the squad as expected.

Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh and Yusuf Pathan make the rest of the squad. It’s overall a good team and the selectors have played it safe this time. They probably did not want to repeat the mistake of the Zimbabwe tri-series in 2010. The selectors also warded off the temptation of picking the young Rahul Sharma, who is having a brilliant IPL this year. He probably needs more time at the domestic level. It’s nice to see that the selectors have not taken the IPL performances entirely for the team selection and have awarded consistent performers in the domestic arena too. Apart from that one controversial selection, I feel that the selectors have done a great job in picking a good squad with fine balance. I hope that the young players under Ghambir do well and emerge victorious in this campaign.

Team for the ODI and T20:

Gautam Gambhir (captain), Suresh Raina, Parthiv Patel (wk), Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, S Badrinath, Rohit Sharma, Harbhajan Singh, R Ashwin, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel, Vinay Kumar, Yusuf Pathan, Amit Mishra, Wriddhiman Saha (wk).

Karun Chandhok will be testing for team Lotus, this Sunday at Valencia, Spain. Karun Chandhok who said that he was considering an opportunity as a third driver in a good team would want to grab this opportunity with both hands. Good performances here would for surely help him to return to the starting grid in 2012. Team Lotus Principal Tony Fernandes said that Karun was with the team as a guest in the pre-season testing in Valencia last week and now will have some time in the car.

On a telephonic conversation from Malaysia Tony Fernandes said

“We would like him to be reserve driver but we’ve got to see whether it all works out, that’s the plan,”

“He is going to get a couple of slots in the testing now in Jerez and Barcelona,” added the AirAsia airline boss. And then we’ll decide after that.”

“(Technical head) Mike (Gascoyne) and (team CEO) Riad (Asmat) and everyone else feel he’s the right guy to add value to the team.” He added.

Elsewhere in cricket India’s world cup preparation hit a road block when injured pacer Praveen Kumar was deemed unfit to take part in the event. Sreesanth has replaced Praveen Kumar in the world cup squad. Sreesanth would be really happy with this opportunity and would want to take advantage of the same with some good performances.

Speaking to the media a visibly elated Sreesanth said “It is a great opportunity and a great challenge to be a part of Indian team for the World Cup. I am lucky to be a part of it and am looking forward to giving my best in the tournament,”

“I am just looking forward to giving my best in the World Cup. I am absolutely fine with any role given to me. Whatever I would be asked to do I will perform accordingly.” He added.

So Sreesanth will join the pace attack along with Zaheer, Nehra and Munaf. Praveen’s absence for sure will be a big blow to Indian chances as he provides a steady option with the new ball. Praveen has been economical with the new ball for India and often provided the team with crucial breakthroughs. Sreesanth for sure will have to match that consistency when he does get a chance. So injury claims yet another victim for the Indians ahead of a major event. Let’s hope that it not a major loss and Sreesanth Justifies his position and delivers for team India.

Time is running out for Sreesanth to stake his claim for a world cup berth

World Cup 2011 is back in the sub continent and while everyone is hoping this to be the magical farewell Sachin deserves let’s look at India’s chances in a two step exercise. The first major discipline the Indian team most often struggles is their bowling. India has failed to get a consistent bowling partner for Zaheer over the past couple of years thereby putting lots of pressure on our premier bowler. Zaheer to his credit has responded incredibly well but let’s look at the possible bowling combinations India could try in the lead up to the World Cup.

Even though we have struggled in the bowling department, India has still managed to find some sort of consistency in the selection of the ODI squad. Praveen Kumar and Ashish Nehra have done a commendable job over the past year in the absence of Zaheer Khan. There have been few others tried in the meanwhile with limited success. So going by the latest trend, India might open the bowling with Praveen and Zaheer with Nehra being the first change. Since the world cup takes place in the subcontinent, I feel that pace is a very important factor rather than the swing. Unless we are playing in the northern part of India under cloudy skies, I don’t see the bowlers getting too much of swing. Praveen Kumar might have a lot of struggle under conditions which are not favorable to the bowlers.

So who could be the backup options? Ishant Sharma is one of them and of course Sreesanth might be in the squad too. Both of them have the pace but both of them are way too inconsistent to bank on. The unfortunate part is that Ishant Sharma got injured when he was looking like getting back to some sort of rhythm against the Aussies and Sreesanth who replaced him for the next game looked very rusty. India has around 10 ODI’s to try various combinations and I hope we do try everyone who might be part of the squad in all those games and make sure that the main bowlers are fit for the major event.

So currently the pace bowling list looks like this, Zaheer, Ishant, Praveen, Nehra and Sreesanth. There are other names too in the list who have played on and off in the team like Munaf Patel, Abhinav Mithun and Vinay Kumar. Since the world cup is in the subcontinent I am thinking that we will not be looking at more than 4 pacers in the 16. I wouldn’t want to be one of the selectors for sure when they sit down to pick the team for such a major event. A home tournament means that you at least have easy access to replacements when someone gets injured. The spin department too throws quite a lot of names with Bajji being the only settled bowler in the X1. The other spinners who could make the 16 are Ashwin, Ojha, Mishra and Jadeja. The chances of Ashwin and Jadeja being the second spinner is more likely as they both are in the squad as the allrounders. The BCCI’s plan of sending the Indian test squad early to South Africa to get acclimatized to those conditions would mean that the selectors can try out different combinations in the home series against New Zealand.

Even though we should have identified our combinations by now, it seems like we have fallen little back on trying out few players. Ravichandran Ashwin has just played couple of ODI’s till date and Ojha has never gotten a consistent run in the team. Mishra too has not been part of the squad for a considerable length of time. This probably shows that we are one of the most underprepared team right now among the favorites in the bowling department. With teams like South Africa, England and Sri Lanka playing with almost settled squads for close to a year now, India is still looking for the right combination ahead of the world cup.

Captain Dhoni said in his latest interview that he will be looking to play the full team in the ODI series against the proteas, which leaves the selectors with just the ODI series against the Kiwis to experiment. With various combinations to try and with bowlers like Vinay Kumar and Mithun in the wings, I am not sure how we are going to pick a 16 at the moment. Except for Zaheer, Nehra, Bajji and Praveen the rest of the bowling just looks like a lottery at the moment. It will an interesting selection and the coming months will give us a clearer picture. Whatever may be the squad, I just feel that the selectors have left this too late for comfort. We just have to hope that the prime contenders hit form at the right moment for the big tournament.

Virendar Sehwag ruled out of World T20

With just a week left for the start of World T20, India received a body blow when Virendar Sehwag was declared unfit due to a shoulder injury. This is indeed a huge setback for the Indians as Sehwag is a key member at the top of the order along with Ghambir. Sehwag had missed the 2009 version of the tournament too under similar circumstances.

Sehwag absence means that Murali Vijay gets a chance at the top of the order. Vijay has been in brilliant form for the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL III but I am not sure whether he would be able to replicate the same at the international level. Sehwag played all the games for the Dare Devils in the IPL III, so his shoulder injury is kind of a surprise to me. He couldn’t have suddenly picked up the injury, so he should have been having it for a while. This raises the question as to whether the franchises should be more careful with the Indian recruits when they have a major tournament coming up right after the IPL.

IPL is a long tournament and I would be happy if the Franchises kind of rotate the Indian team players over the course of the series. I don’t think it is necessary for the players to play the entire tournament. Especially when the Indian team is going to participate in a major tournament right after the IPL, the team management needs to be little bit careful. I know that an injury can be picked anytime as we have seen players getting injured on the morning of the match while training but with a hectic tournament like IPL the possibilities are more.

With number of games increased for the next year’s edition, the teams have to be more careful about player fatigue. Resting major players in the team for few games in between shouldn’t hurt I feel. Indian Players representing CSK (Chennai Super Kings) and Mumbai Indians hardly get any rest before they fly to WI and will have to immediately get going. India does not even have breaks between matches as both their games are back to back in the World T20.

There is just couple of games left for the conclusion of the IPL and I hope that none of our bowlers get injured in the process as Vinay Kumar, Praveen Kumar, Zaheer and Bajji will be playing over the next two days. Sehwag’s injury should be lesson to the team management and the Franchises as representing India is more important.

Sehwag’s absence was felt in last year’s world cup when the youngsters struggled against short pitched bowling. Whether Vijay will be able to step into the shoes of Sehwag is something we have to wait and see. Ghambir will have the added responsibility of guiding the youngster through in a major event like the World T20. Hope that the rest of the team can pull their weight and guide the Indian team to their second title.

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.

Rahul Dravid castled by Jeetan patel in India's warm up game against NZ

Rahul Dravid castled by Jeetan patel in India's warm up game against NZ (Courtesy Cricinfo)

Captain MS. Dhoni will have a lots to think about between now and Saturday when India take on a buoyant Pakistan team in the first match of the ICC Champions trophy. India played NZ in their only warm up match before the tournament started and were badly beaten by 101 runs. The problem for India was again the bowling. India for sure has one of the worst bowling line up among the top 7 teams (excluding WI) and it’s going to certainly diminish their chances of winning the Champions Trophy.

Ishant, RP and Praveen yesterday were pretty ordinary and went for more than 7 an over. Only Mishra, Yusuf and Raina were economical which again puts the Indian captain under lots of pressure. Spinners being the best bowlers might force the captain to go with Mishra and Bajji in the lineup compromising a fast bowler. Praveen might be shown the door after yesterday’s performance but the rest aren’t that great either.

Ishant Sharma has been really poor over the past year and has consistently gone over 6 runs per over. He has never been able to restrict the runs or take wickets. Nehra after his comeback had a good WI series and bowled well in patches but again lacks consistency to lead the pace attack. RP Singh has just made a comeback after injury and is yet to regain his pace and swing. So India has to totally rely on Bajji and the part-timers to restrict the run flow if they decide against 2 spinners.

The batting also seems a little bit rusty but expecting them to chase 300 every time is expecting too much. The Indian batting is strong but they can collapse once in a while like they did yesterday. Yeah agreed that Sachin wasn’t playing but to rely on just one player is taking the team back by 10 years. The news from the team management is that Ghambir isn’t 100% fit, which is a shock as he has been picked in the squad. I don’t know why you would pick a player for an important trophy if he not 100% fit.

I think that they have to think about Yusuf Pathan’s position in the team too. He hasn’t done anything significant with the bat in the 50 over game and has bowled okay in the chances he has been provided. I guess Irfan will be a better all rounder for India in limited overs format. Looking at the current scenario the Indian team is long way away from being the number 1 team in the world. Probably in the current scenario we are good enough to be number 3 team but unless we improve our bowling we can’t claim to be the world’s best.

As far as the champion’s trophy goes, India will be hard pressed to beat Pakistan and Australia who have a good batting lineup and much better bowling lineup than India. I will not be surprised if we don’t make it to the semis. It all depends on how our batsmen play against the Aussie and the Pakistani bowlers.


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