Tag Archives: Raina

Selectors need to look past Rohit Sharma

In spite of having a great 2013, Rohit seems to have fallen back to his inconsistent self. I still maintain that Rohit needs a break from International cricket. Rohit was the in-form batsman before the South African tour but has struggled over the past couple of months with the bat. Rohit has made 85 runs in all forms of cricket at an average of 12.14 in the 6 matches he has played since the start of South African tour. These are very poor returns for a top order batsman. I still stick by my article which I wrote a year back. Some things never change. The second ODI against New Zealand might be his last chance to show that he still deserves to be at the top of the order in the Indian batting line up.

My Thoughts

When Rohit Sharma walked into bat in the 2008 Commonwealth Bank Series final in Australia, India were in a bit of strife. Chasing 240 to win India were 87/3 in the 20th over. Rohit Sharma joined a set Sachin Tendulkar in the middle and played one of the most mature innings you would see a youngster play. Rohit was only 20 then and the kind of composure and confidence he showed at the crease made everyone think that here is a guy for the future.

Unfortunately for the Indian cricket team and fans Rohit was never able to consistently replicate that performance in the 5 years he has been part of the Indian set up. The 2007/08 season was probably the best time in Rohit’s career as a player. Rohit Sharma has received unanimous support from the selectors and the team management over the years but he hasn’t been able…

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Pujara – Best young player to play tests for India in a long time

I wrote this article 2 years back when Pujara made an impressive debut for India. Pujara still continues to prove that he is head and shoulders above the other youngsters (other than Kohli off-course) with his brilliant performance in West Indies.

My Thoughts

An amazing domestic record and with loads of runs behind him, Cheteshwar Pujara was considered as one of the future stars to play for the Indian cricket team. He not only scored heavily in the domestic scene but also performed incredibly whenever India toured abroad on the A tours. His great technique and concentration was praised by “The Wall” of Indian cricket team Rahul Dravid, who said that Pujara will for sure play for India for a long time.

Pujara finally got his chance to prove himself against the Aussies in the home series and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands. He scored a brilliant 70 odd in a fourth innings chase helping India to defeat the Aussies in the second test to seal the series 2-0. Now the problem was that with Indian middle order already sealed where would he fit in? The only vacant spot in the…

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A tour of missed opportunities for the men in blue

Yusuf pathan was the biggest positive to emerge out of the ODI series for the Indians

The Indian team is back after a grueling two month tour to South Africa, where the team drew the test series and lost the close ODI series. The team will be a bit disappointed with the result though. Even though the tour started with a humiliating innings defeat in the first test, India was in the best position to win their first test series in South Africa. The biggest gain of the series was India’s back to the wall comebacks throughout the tour. After the humiliating loss in the first test, the stunning comeback by the team in Durban was an amazing effort. The bowling which looked toothless in the first test performed brilliantly to level the series.

Even though the series was a hard fought one, the Indian team will be really disappointed with their efforts in the third test match. With the scores even after the first innings in the third test, India had the hosts 130/6 in the second innings. India was unable to dislodge the Boucher/Kallis pair to let them stretch the lead to over 300. I would probably say that this was our best chance of a series win in South Africa with all the greats still in the team. I am sure that Dhoni will consider this as a missed opportunity.

The series was once again a brilliant one for Sachin Tendulkar as he emerged as our best batsmen along with VVS Laxman who has now made rescuing his team under pressure a habit. The biggest positive to emerge out of the series was the response of the Indian bowling unit after the thrashing in the first test. The bowling of Sreesanth and Harbajan Singh were the stand out and obviously Zaheer was very consistent. Cheteshwar Pujara, even though did not score any runs looks like a player who belongs at this level and needs to be persisted with. The biggest disappointment of the series was Ishant Sharma; never in this series did he look like picking up any wickets.

The ODI series too was really close and in the absence of Sehwag, Ghambir and Sachin, it kind of gave us an insight on future of Indian cricket team. The insight though was not that pretty to be honest. The Indian batting struggled to counter the pace attack of the South Africans. The top order batting with the exception of Virat Kohli struggled.

The ODI series also followed familiar pattern to that of the test series, big loss in the first game and stunning comeback in the second. India went into the fourth ODI with a chance of winning their first ODI series in South Africa and once again the bowling and fielding let us down. With South Africa 117/5, JP Duminy did a Kallis on India this time. India was unable to separate Duminy/Botha pair who played brilliantly to rescue the home team to a match winning 265 from a precarious position. The Indian batting once again collapsed losing the game comfortably and thereby squandering a chance to win the series.

The one thing which was noticeable with the Indian ODI performance was that young Indian batsmen, baring Kohli did not have the necessary patience to hang in there. For example in the third ODI, Kohli and Raina had formed a decent partnership and Kohli had just hit a six earlier in the over. Raina, who was under no pressure to go for a big hit, charged the bowler and got stumped. There were various scenarios in the series where some patience was necessary in the middle and the Indian batsmen played some atrocious shots to hand their wickets. The biggest plus for India was the form of Yusuf Pathan who almost singlehandedly won the series for India with a brilliant hundred in the final game and also the bowling form of Harbajan Singh and Munaf Patel who performed brilliantly throughout the series. Yusuf’s performance has almost put paid to the all-rounder debate at least for the world cup.

Overall this wasn’t a bad tour for the Indians as they came unscathed in the test series with a 1-1 draw. The ODI series was disappointing though very close. The biggest worry for Dhoni was lack of form his batsman displayed. With just a month left for the World Cup we have 3 batsman who lack practice (Sachin, Ghambir and Sehwag), 3 who are out of form (Dhoni, Raina and Yuvraj) and one in crackling for but cannot get into the X1 (Kohli). So there are plenty of headaches for Dhoni and Kirsten when they sit down to pick the X1 for their first game against Bangladesh. Will they play Kohli and drop either Raina or Yuvraj? We have to wait and see.

Pujara – Best young player to play tests for India in a long time

Young Pujara impressed one and all with his composure and technique on his debut against the Aussies

An amazing domestic record and with loads of runs behind him, Cheteshwar Pujara was considered as one of the future stars to play for the Indian cricket team. He not only scored heavily in the domestic scene but also performed incredibly whenever India toured abroad on the A tours. His great technique and concentration was praised by “The Wall” of Indian cricket team Rahul Dravid, who said that Pujara will for sure play for India for a long time.

Pujara finally got his chance to prove himself against the Aussies in the home series and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands. He scored a brilliant 70 odd in a fourth innings chase helping India to defeat the Aussies in the second test to seal the series 2-0. Now the problem was that with Indian middle order already sealed where would he fit in? The only vacant spot in the order was taken by Suresh Raina, another Indian youngster who was trying to cement his place at number 6.

Suresh Raina though did not do himself any favor by having an indifferent home series against the kiwis. He hardly scored any runs and doubts were being raised about his inclusion in the test team. Raina is an amazing ODI and T20 player but test cricket is not his forte as far as I am concerned. He does not have the technique nor the patience required for the longer format. His technical inadequacy was exposed by the South African bowlers in the first test when he succumbed to tame dismissals in both innings.

With India needing to win the second test at Durban to level the series Pujara replaced Raina at number 6. Even though scores of 19 and 10 in two innings does not paint a pretty picture, his innings told us more than the quantity of the runs scored. This guy is here to stay. He looked comfortable during his stay at the crease and the ease with which he handled the pace of Steyn and Morkel was commendable considering this was his first game in South Africa. He is not a suspect against the short pitched bowling which has been the bane of Indian youngsters of the IPL era and he has the required patience to grind when required in test cricket.

After trying Yuvraj first and then Raina at the number 6 slot, I guess Pujara needs an extended run at that position. Pujara has the technique to withstand the pressures of International cricket and the runs for sure will come. Finally we have seen a player who does not seem a sitting duck against pace and bounce. This hasn’t happened since the debut of Virendar Sehwag 9 years ago. So we should welcome Pujara with open arms to Indian test team and I am sure that he will serve the country for a long time.

India needs to regroup after the first test disaster

To call India’s performance in the first test against South Africa a disaster would be an understatement. That’s how bad it was. India entered this series as number 1 side in the world, but judging by what transpired over the 5 days in Centurion, the team looked far from being the best side in the world. I agree that losing the toss on the first day was a recipe for disaster but it wasn’t a 136 all out pitch for sure. The pitch had some bounce and SA bowlers were exploiting it quite well but a batting unit as experienced as India is expected to counter them.

The Indian batting looked clueless and except for Sachin Tendulkar, Dhoni and Harbajan looked ordinary. The first innings batting collapse meant that India needed to show some fight with the ball and try to restrict South Africa to a reasonable first innings total but it was not to be. The bowling was very poor to say the least, never looked like taking any wickets on a pitch which eased out a little bit. The fast bowlers were unable to provide the initial breakthrough and it was too much to expect Harbajan to get the wickets on a flat second day pitch.

Even though the pitch was flat, the bowlers still had some bounce to work with, but the Indian bowlers looked listless. The problem for Dhoni was that not only his bowlers were ineffective but the runs were coming at a fair clip for the South Africans. The South African batsmen were scoring at almost 5 runs per over which meant that they could declare sooner than the Indians would have wanted them to. The only reason the Indians managed to pick up couple of wickets at the end was due to the fact that the home team was throwing their bats around for quick runs.

It was a great game for Kallis as he scored his first double ton in test cricket and De Villiers scored fastest test hundred for South Africa. Once South Africa took a 484 run first innings lead, the Indians were just hoping for a miracle.

The batting in the second innings though showed some fight as the top order finally came to the party. Sachin Tendulkar once again showed why he is a class apart from his team mates as he looked comfortable against a confident bowling attack and scored his 50th test century. It was brilliant innings under pressure as he tried his best to save the test for his team. Dhoni, Sehwag, Ghambir and Dravid batted well too, but the lead was too much for them to overcome. As loss by an innings will be a bitter pill to swallow for the Indian team.

So what can the team do to reverse the trend? First things first Zaheer has to be back in the team. His experience and skill will add much needed potency to the pace attack. With Zaheer being fit and available, that should be taken care of for the second test. The second most important thing would be getting Pujara in the place of Raina. Raina unfortunately does not look cutout for test cricket but Pujara does. I think the experiment with Raina in the middle order should end. When Harbajan Singh can bat better than your designated number 6 then for sure the team has an issue with that position in the order. So that change has to happen immediately.

With just few more days left for the second test to commence, the Indian team does not have too much time to regroup. I don’t think they can drastically improve from what we say few days back in Centurion. The only silver lining for the team is the fight the batting put up in the second innings but the concern with the bowling will still remain. I hope that the bowlers put up a better performance at Durban to give India a better chance of coming back into the series. It will be for sure an interesting thing to see, how the team responds to the loss in the first test. As the best side in the world they have a point to prove and another loss will only raise further doubts regarding the current rankings.

Team selection for the first test at Centurion

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

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

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

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

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

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

12th Man – Jaidev Unadkat

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

Indian Batting – World Cup 2011

Here is the second installment of my team India preview for the world cup 2011, this time we take a look at our batting. As we saw India’s bowling resources are thin and pose quite a lot of selection headaches, the Indian batting though has no such issues. This is one discipline India is quite settled ahead of the world cup. The batting order picks itself and even though Sachin Tendulkar hasn’t played in too many ODI’s this year, he will automatically return to the top of the order with Sehwag. So this means that Ghambir will have to fall to number three in the order. Sachin returning also means that Virat Kohli has to step aside from the X1 unless India decides to go with 7 batsmen.

Yuvraj in all probability should return to his customary number 4 spot followed by Raina and Dhoni. The reserves should be Kohli, Karthik/Uthappa (Any one of them can be keeping back up for Dhoni if the need arises) and probably Vijay or Pujara as the other backup. India has a settled top 6 and the number 7 spot is where the team management will be in a fix. The confusion would be to whether play Jadeja/Ashwin as the all-rounder or to play an extra batsman at number 7.

Even though such decisions can be based on the pitch conditions, this will be something which India needs to think about in the coming months. Ravindra Jadeja has hardly done anything spectacular with the bat and Ashwin is rather untested at this level. So this will be an interesting selection. The best way to determine who of these two will be the best fit is to give them chances in all the 5 ODI’s against New Zealand. Since most probably Bajji will be rested, it will be a great opportunity to play both Jadeja and Ashwin in the X1 together. It will also be important to give both these players an opportunity to bat in these games to see who can handle pressure at this level.

Now let’s look at the reserve batting options, Kohli sure will be in the squad and is actually very unlucky to miss out from the X1. In a big tournament like the world cup you surely need a keeping backup for Dhoni and the options in that case is very limited. Since Dhoni has hardly missed a game, none of the probable options have been tested. The only option who has played few games is Dinesh Karthik who opened the batting a few times during the absence of either Sehwag or Ghambir. The other interesting option is Robin Uthappa, who offers an attacking option with the bat and is decent behind the stumps. With Kohli sealing one spot in the batting, there might be just enough space for another player in the squad which will be an interesting pick. Vijay has struggled in the ODI’s and so has Rohit Sharma. The dark horse though might be Cheteshwar Pujara who impressed one and all with his match winning fifty against the Aussies. So again a lot can change in 3 months and some new candidates can emerge for contention.

But unlike our bowling the batting though looks pretty much settled with 7 batsmen almost sure of making the squad. India’s strength over the years has been their batting and they have bailed out the team very many times after an insipid bowling display. So even in this World Cup, India’s trump card will be their batsmen. If the batting clicks, India has a very good chance of giving the title a shot, but the bowlers have to do their bit too for that to happen. A great bowling performance in a tournament like the world cup can lift any side and India will be looking for such a hero in the 2011 edition.