Tag Archives: Rahul Sharma

Indian home season – Time for test cricket

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

Indian T20 team needs a revamp

The Indian team’s performance in the World T20 was not a bad one but the think tank must now think ahead. The biggest problem for India in the championship was their bowling. The next T20 world cup is in 2014 and this is time for India to build for that tournament. The fact that India improved quite a lot from the last two editions should not pull down the wool over the frailties of the bowling attack.

The Indian team was highly reliant on Ashwin and Yuvraj with the ball and the new ball pair of Irfan Pathan and Zaheer Khan was not consistent enough. The rest of spin attack wasn’t given that many opportunities but again the sight of Chawla and Harbhajan with the ball did not instill the necessary confidence among the Indian fans. The Indian batting too struggled with the consistency. The lack of runs from the openers was a huge disappointment and it is time for India to look past Sehwag in the T20 format.

India needs to probably take the queue out of the 2007 T20 world cup. The team was in shambles after the shock exit from the World Cup and the decision to go to South Africa with a young team worked wonders. I am not sure if Dhoni is the right captain for this format either. He is good but probably the time has come to bite the bullet and make Kohli the captain of the T20 team. India also needs to identify a good wicket keeper for this format. The name of Robin Uthappa comes to mind immediately. He did keep wickets for Royal Bangalore Challengers in the IPL and he is pretty good with the bat too. Ambati Rayudu is another player who will be excellent in this format and he kept wickets too for Mumbai Indians in the IPL.

Ajinkya Rahane needs to get a look in as an opener. The bowling too needs a rethink. It is hard to imagine Zaheer and Balaji playing in the 2014 T20 world cup, so I guess India need to unearth some quality pacers suited for this format. Varun Aaron comes to mind and he seems well suited for the shorter format. The spin combination too needs to be rethought too. Piyush Chawla isn’t consistent enough in this format to be a regular, so probably someone like Rahul Sharma can get a look in. He has the bowling style of Anil Kumble and can be more suited to this form of the game than Piyush. Again like Zaheer it is hard to imagine Harbhajan playing for India in the T20 World cup in 2014.

India needs to look to have a young set of players in the T20 format and needs to implement the same starting immediately. Even though people will argue that 4 wins out of 5 isn’t a bad result, the team combination just did not look right. The selection by the team management wasn’t smart either in the individual games but those are just in the hindsight now. India hasn’t been great in this format for a long time now and the selection committee needs to completely revamp this side with some young blood. The selection committee has changed and possibly will have some tough decision to take in the coming months. Let’s hope that the committee comes in with some fresh ideas and gets the right kind of people for this format.

Sehwag, Dhoni, Harbhajan and Zaheer have been brilliant for India over the years but the time has come for them to bid adieu to this format. They are still the key players for India in the other two formats but realistically India needs to look past these legends keeping the 2014 world cup in mind.

Pujara guides India A to a thrilling victory

Pujara once again proved that he is one of the finest young players in India at the moment with a brilliant match winning 96 in the second innings of the first unofficial test against West Indies. The innings was much more memorable considering the next highest score in the Indian second innings was just 27 by Shami Ahmed. The Indian captain came into bat with his team tottering on 28/4 and played a superb knock without much support by the middle order.

The batting was inconsistent in both the innings. Apart from Pujara and Rohit, the rest of the batting struggled on a pitch which was consistently up and down. The openers Mukund and Dhawan struggled to put up a decent partnership in both the innings where the former grabbed a pair. Rahane too did not get off the blocks but was unlucky getting run out in the first innings though. Tiwary got to a start in the first innings but did not kick on. The batsmen seemed to be in T20 mode as none of them showed any temperament to dig in and graft on a difficult pitch. It will be interesting to see what the management does for the second test. They might probably push Rahane to open with Dhawan and play another middle order bat in the place of Mukund.

The bowling was very good in both the innings. B Kumar and Shami Ahmed were spot on as both of them troubled the WI A batters consistently in both the innings. The team management might be little worried about the performance of Dinda though as he did not make the necessary impact in both the innings. The pitch had a lot for the bowlers and Dinda came up with modest figures in both the innings. We have to wait and see if P Awana gets a game in the second test. Rahul Sharma was decent but was out bowled by Rohit Sharma in the second innings which again is a cause for worry.

But all in all this was a great victory. It was thrilling game and Pujara’s brilliance and S Ahmed’s grittiness got India A just over the line with 2 wickets in hand. Pujara has the temperament and technique to take on the challenge as India’s number 3 in test cricket a position just vacated by the great Rahul Dravid. The biggest disappointment for me though has been the lack of media coverage for this series. This series is much more important in terms of identifying India’s future players but the coverage in the media has been poor to say the least. Now that the IPL is over and India isn’t playing any international cricket the interviews of IPL stars finds more press than this A tour.

With this win India A has taken a 1-0 lead in the 3 match series and it will be interesting to see if there will be any changes for the second test.

Emerging Talent makes IPL special

I call myself as a cricket fanatic. Give me any cricket game and I will watch it. It may be a International game or a domestic game or even a club level game, if it’s on TV then I will give it a go. It’s just the love for the game which drives me and not the level at which it is played. So IPL is something which I cannot let pass. Who wouldn’t want to see legends of the game all under the same roof? Even though I don’t agree with the elaborate and boring format of the tournament overall but watching young Indian players locking horns with International stars is something which makes IPL special.

Franchise based sport is new in India and it will take a little time to catch on. The American style will not work in India as the country has a national team which is playing throughout the year. So the Indian fans will be mostly loyal to the Indian team rather than Chennai or Mumbai or Kolkata. The fact that the teams are shuffled every three years also makes it hard for the fans to relate to their teams. You suddenly have Rohit Sharma playing for Mumbai Indians while he was playing for Deccan Chargers in the previous editions.

For me watching IPL is an avenue to have a look at future Indian prospects. It’s an opportunity for the youngsters to get noticed. This year has thrown some interesting names too. There were some known names that reaffirmed their status and there were some new names too. The biggest impact this year was made by two cricketers, one was Paul Valthathy and the other was Rahul Sharma.

Paul Valthathy did an excellent as an opener for Kings X1 Punjab this season. He was explosive and impressed one and all with his stroke play. He even held the orange cap for the while during the course of the tournament. Now we have to wait and see if he is a one tournament wonder (Asnodkar, anyone?) or if he would back up these performances in the domestic arena. The other standout performer was Pune Warriors Rahul Sharma. The young leggie who fought a career threatening injury to stage an inspiring comeback to competitive cricket was absolute joy to watch this season. A bowler of Anil Kumble mould was brilliant and one of the most economical bowlers of the season. He was the only shining light in an otherwise disappointing season for Pune Warriors. The other bowler to impress was Varun Aaron of Delhi Daredevils. Varun bowled with extreme pace and troubled the batsmen with bounce. It was unfortunate that we did not get to see more him in this IPL. I just hope that he keeps working on his bowling and hopefully will get selected for team India sooner than later if he maintains his consistency.

Ajinkya Rahane and Manoj Tiwary were others who impressed with the bat. Both these youngsters are rated highly by the experts and we got to see why during the course of the IPL. The others such as Iqbal Abdulla of KKR, S Aravind of RCB and Abu Nechim of Mumbai Indians impressed in the IPL 4.

There were few comeback stories too. RP Singh and Ishant Sharma made a great comeback after being out of radar for the Indian team selection. Ishant was brilliant with his bowling and it seems like he has regained his pace and control which he had lost about a year back. He has been rewarded with an Indian call up for the upcoming West Indies tour. RP Singh too was brilliant for Kochi Tuskers. He bowled with pace and troubled the batsmen with movement of the pitch. I hope that he continues on this trail and makes a comeback to the national side in the near future. The others who were consistent among bowlers were Ashwin, Mishra, Bajji and Munaf, all of whom will be travelling to West Indies earlier next month.

In the batting front, Subramaniam Badrinath was rewarded for having a brilliant domestic season and for performing brilliantly for CSK in the current IPL. His selection for the West Indies tour was a great reward for his consistency. Rohit Sharma also continued his great form in IPL and we have to wait and see if he can translate that form to International cricket. The biggest disappointment of the season was Irfan Pathan, who albeit returning from an injury was way off color with both bat and ball. He did bowl some good spells but lacked consistency with the ball. Ambati Rayudu was brilliant once again for Mumbai but Saurabh Tiwari was unable to replicate his success from last year for Royal Challengers Bangalore.

All in all IPL 4 was great as it threw some new names into the mix of youngsters. Even though these names add lots of spice for the future we have to keep in mind that IPL performances cannot be considered as a yardstick for national team selection. I guess this just gives the selectors a list of names whose progress needs to be followed in domestic cricket. All these players are extremely talented but performance in domestic cricket and “A” tours need to be given more importance for the Indian team selection. IPL 4 has been great for the new talent but I am still disappointed with the franchises reluctance to try out young players. A tournament which began as platform for young talent has just become a money making exercise. The teams are mostly interested in playing established International stars. Players like Varun Aaron did not get enough opportunities due to the same reason. Even though long, IPL 4 has been good viewing this year and if the organizers can cut the tournament little shorter we might actually have more people interested in the same.

West Indies Tour – Chance for the youngsters to shine

With the IPL nearing the play offs, the Indian selectors will convene in Chennai tomorrow to select the Indian team to tour West Indies next month. It is going to be an interesting selection as it seems like almost an A team would visit the Caribbean at least for the ODI-T20 leg of the tour. The IPL has thrown up some interesting names for the selection and it will all depend on how many seniors want to actually play in the ODI’s. The West Indies team is currently struggling but as seen in the series against Pakistan they cannot be written off completely. The Indian team will also not be as lucky as Pakistan since once the IPL is done, Gayle, Bravo, Taylor and Pollard will be back to bolster the WI line up. So I am guessing that the Indian team will have a good mix of youth and experience.

So let’s look at the possible candidates for the WI tour. After great performances for Mumbai Indians in IPL, it seems like finally Ambati Rayudu might fulfill the promise which was seen in him about 10 years back. He is also a wicket-keeper, so his success will mean that we will have a capable understudy to Dhoni on tours. The other player who might get a look in is Subramaniam Badrinath, who has looked in incredible touch for CSK in this IPL and has also had an impressive domestic season prior to that. Rohit Sharma might also get a call back as he has been in impressive form in the IPL. Apart from these three there are other contenders in batting such as Rahane, Pujara (Provided he is fit) and Murali Vijay.

If Dhoni decides to skip the ODI’s, Ghambir might captain the team to WI for the ODI leg. With very good chance of senior players giving the ODI a skip, this tour will provide excellent chance for young Indian batsmen to prove themselves at international level. The bowling line up though will provide much interesting selection. With Ashish Nehra missing out due to Injury, we will see Praveen Kumar making a comeback to the national side. Ishant Sharma who bowled brilliantly for his IPL side Deccan Chargers will also be in the reckoning. It was heartening to see Ishant getting his pace and accuracy back. Munaf Patel who has been consistent and accurate for the past few months will for sure make the side.

Varun Aaron, the new pace sensation might be the wild card but I don’t think the selectors will pick him ahead of Vinay Kumar and Umesh Yadav. Zaheer I am sure will be rested for the ODI and T20. The spinning combination will be an interesting one. With lots of them doing extremely well in the IPL, it will be a tough pick for the selectors. Ravichandran Ashwin will for sure make the squad and if the selectors decide to rest Bajji for the ODI’s we might see Pragyan Ojha making the cut too. Rahul Sharma who has had a dream IPL with his consistent leg-breaks will also be in the radar for the selectors. Amit Mishra and Iqbal Abdulla who have been very economical in the IPL will also be in the discussion. I am thinking that Amit Mishra might anyways make it to the test team but they might want to try Rahul Sharma in the ODI’s to see how he does at the international level. Piyush Chawla though would be missing out as he had a bad World Cup followed by an equally awful IPL.

The seniors are for sure are expected to be back for the test series and there might not be many surprises in the test squad. With Sehwag missing Vijay might join Ghambir at the top of the order followed by Dravid, Sachin and Laxman. The number 6 spot again will be in the discussion and I hope that they give another chance to the young Pujara. Raina might probably make the squad too unless the selectors want to include another youngster in his spot. The bowling for sure will feature Zaheer, Sreesanth and probably Ishant as the three speedsters and Bajji might be joined by Mishra in the spin department. All in all this is going to be an interesting selection and I hope that some youngsters get a look in at least in the shorter format.

The WI tour will be a potential banana skin tour for the Indians as they are expected to win it comfortably. With the return of the stars WI is not going to be pushovers in either format and the Indians need to play extremely well to win the series convincingly. The number 1 test team needs to win all the three games to avoid losing any points and the ODI team needs to win the series pretty convincingly to not drop down the ODI rankings. So this will surely be in the mind of the selectors when picking the players for the tour. Duncan Fletcher is expected to join the selection meeting tomorrow in Chennai and I don’t think he will have too much of an input as this is expected to be just an introduction exercise for the new Indian coach.