My Thoughts

Posts Tagged ‘Sehwag

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.

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.

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.

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.

By now everyone knows the Randhiv no-ball incident, so I will directly cut down to the chase. Yes Randhiv bowled a no-ball and Sehwag was denied a hundred, so what? It has been happening for ages in cricket. I agree that the spirit of the game was breached but this is not an isolated incident. Even though the deliberate over stepping by Randhiv looks bad, the banning of him for a game is even worse.

If this is taken as a precedent then no international cricketer would be able to play two games in a row. Randhiv did not break any laws and spirit of cricket has always been a grey area in cricket. So what would you call a fielder kicking the ball over the boundary to keep a tail ender on strike? Isn’t that against the spirit of the game? Bowler appealing, perfectly knowing that the batsman is not out and Batsman standing his ground knowing that he has nicked the ball etc are examples where the spirit of the game is brought to disrepute. Players play the game hard and there are lots of scenarios where we can argue that the spirit of the game has been compromised. We can’t be banning people for such things.

It was absolutely ridiculous to ban the player for this; a simple warning would have sufficed. Randhiv apologized to Sehwag after the game and that should have been enough. Now by over-reacting on this one, the Sri Lankan board has set themselves a precedent which will be hard to follow. ICC has some rules defined and if any player breaches that code of conduct then it is a different scenario but this incident isn’t one of them.

Randhiv has been harshly dealt with and there was no necessity for him to have been imposed with such a punishment. Sehwag himself should not have tweeted that Randhiv apologized to him when SLC had told that they were going to probe the incident. Sangakkara was right on that count when he said that you cannot expect just one side making advances. Sehwag sensationalizing the issue was not the right thing to do. Overall the handling of the scenario was messy which should not have been an issue at all. Indian media is always happy when such things happen and their over the top reaction to any on field incident is a known fact. Bishen Singh Bedi never loses a chance to undermine modern cricketers. I know that he was a great bowler once but sometime he comes across as a very bitter person to me.

I hope that poor Randhiv is able to put this behind him and concentrates on his bowling. He is a wonderful young cricketer and has a bright future for Sri Lanka. I hope that he has learnt his lesson after this incident.

Mahindra Singh Dhoni will want a good performance from the team after the debacle at the World T20 and Zimbabwe

The team for Asia cup was announced earlier this week and as expected the seniors have returned to the squad after being rested for the tri-series in Zimbabwe. The experiment of playing an A team in Zimbabwe back fired badly as India crashed out without making the finals losing twice to Zimbabwe. The Indian bowling was poor and the batsmen were inconsistent. The star performers from that tri series have been retained though in the squad to Srilanka for the Asia cup (The other two teams being Pakistan and Bangladesh).

Rohit Sharma who made two centuries in Zimbabwe makes the squad, so does Virat Kohli. The selectors have given another chance to Dinda who was ordinary in Zimbabwe and also Ravichandran Aswin who turned in a decent performance in the only chance he got on the tour. Ravindra Jadeja has been retained in the squad after he scored couple of valuable 50’s on the tour, even though his bowling and fielding has been largely disappointing.

Yuvraj Singh has been dropped for the Asia cup due to his poor form and fitness. He was one of the members in the squad pointed out by Gary Kirsten as being unfit to play any form of cricket. Yuvraj’s form has deserted him since his return from injury and I hope that he takes this break on his stride and really works on his fitness and form. He is a brilliant limited overs player and India would want him fit and firing for the World Cup next year in India.

Sachin Tendulkar has been rested for the Asia cup as per his request to be able to spend more time with his family. The rest of the squad pick themselves with Dhoni returning as the captain of the team. Ghambir and Sehwag will return to the top of the order with Raina, Kohli and Rohit forming the middle order. The all-rounder spot will be up for grabs and will be a tossup between Aswin and Jadeja. Dhoni will be back donning the gloves followed by Bajji, Zaheer, Praveen and Nehra completing the X1.

Saurabh Tiwary makes his India debut after a brilliant IPL for the Mumbai Indians. I doubt that he will make it to the final X1 though unless there is a injury or a dead game where India can experiment. I hope that he gets a chance though as he is an exciting talent.

All in all a decent job by the selectors considering the options they had. The onus will be on the experience of Sehwag, Ghambir and Dhoni. The bowling even though experienced might do okay on the slow Lankan pitches. Bajji will be crucial and so will the part-time spinners. I hope that we put up a decent performance this time and hopefully will reach the finals.

Squad: MS Dhoni (capt & wk), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Pragyan Ojha, Ashok Dinda, R Ashwin, Saurabh Tiwary.

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 and Ishant need a break from test cricket

With 2 days to go the Indian team is starring down the barrel in first test of a two test series in Nagpur. Sehwag’s positive comments notwithstanding, it would be a miraculous escape if India does manage to save this game. This match is the exact replica of the 2008 series where South inflicted an innings defeat on India in the first test.

The batting yesterday was for sure a disappointment and in spite of the heroics of the debutant Badrinath the Indian team fell 325 runs behind the South African first innings total. Sehwag and Badri held the Indian innings together after a top order collapse which left India 50 odd for 3 wickets. The partnership, which added 136, looked to have pulled the hosts out of the woods but a late order collapse meant that India is fighting for survival at the start of the fourth day.

Dale Steyn was the chief wrecker for the tourists as he picked up 7 wickets in the Indian first innings, one more than what the Indian bowlers managed collectively. It’s amazing to know how the focus always remains on the batting failures as no one seems to be critical of the pathetic Indian bowling performance. The South African bowlers have managed to bag 12 wickets on the pitch where the Indian bowlers toiled just less than 2 days for a grand total of 6.

The Indian bowling is a real cause for concern, there is no support for Zaheer in the pace department and as far as the spin bowling is concerned less said the better. Harbhajan Singh has been really disappointing and has really struggled to step into the shoes of Anil Kumble. Amit Mishra also has failed to fulfill his early promise which leaves India with not many options in the spin department. Pragyan Ojha and Piyush Chawla are the only options left for the selectors.

Ishant is nowhere near international standards and has looked clueless. His performance against Bangladesh has been ordinary and for sure needs an extended stay away from the team. The Indian team somehow needs to unearth some decent bowlers if they have to stay on the top of the rankings. It seems like the team has to look past Harbhajan and Ishant for the test matches. Sreesanth will be available for selection for the second test and I am sure he will be replacing Ishant Sharma. I would have really liked to see Abhimanyu Mithun in the lineup as I am sure he couldn’t have done worse than Ishant. This test match seems all but lost barring a miracle so I guess the think tank would already be thinking about the second test in Kolkata.


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