Tag Archives: Shami Ahmed

India gear up for New Zealand challenge – ODI series preview

India kicks off their New Zealand tour at Napier tomorrow where they play their first ODI against the hosts. India had a pretty disastrous ODI series against South Africa. The bowling completely disintegrated and the batting struggled to stand up to South African pace attack. The disappointing series could have been attributed to lack of practice prior to the ODI series but the team does not have such excuses this time.

The Indian squad has some changes for the New Zealand tour from the team which lost to South Africa earlier last month. Bowling again is going to be of great concern for the Indian team considering the small grounds and short boundaries. Let us look at the ODI squad selected for the New Zealand tour:

Squad: MS Dhoni (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Ambati Rayudu, Suresh Raina, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Amit Mishra, Ishwar Pandey, Stuart Binny, Varun Aaron

The squad is pretty good and except for Yuvraj the batting is almost the same as the one which toured South Africa in December. The absence of Yuvraj means Rahane and Rayudu fight for a single spot. Ajinkya Rahane was one of the bright spots for India in the South African series and is also a great fielder. He will most probably play in the first ODI ahead of Rayudu. The rest of the batting is expected to remain the same. Dhawan and Rohit would want to forget the South African series in a hurry and would want to put up a better performance at the start. The middle order is almost settled with Kohli, Rahane/Rayudu and Raina. Jadeja will play as the all-rounder and it will be a tossup between Ashwin and Binny.

MS Dhoni has always been fascinated with a medium pace all-rounder, so it will be interesting to see if he will play Binny ahead of Ashwin. The New Zealand pitches will aid seamers and Binny will be a useful option. India already has Jadeja and can use Rohit Sharma and Raina as off-spinning options if needed. The other interesting selection will be the pace bowlers. Varun Aaron makes a comeback to the squad after almost 3 years and provides a quick bowling option for the Indian captain. Shami Ahmed will be a sure starter for the first ODI but it will be interesting to see who will take the new ball with him.

Ishant Sharma is in the squad but I expect Bhuvneshwar Kumar to play ahead of him. Ishant had a pretty bad tour in South Africa and India would benefit playing a completely fresh attack in New Zealand. Ishwar Pandey is another option India has to mull over ahead of the first ODI in Napier. It will be interesting to see what combination India will play in the first ODI.

This is an important tour for the young team. They are ranked number 1 in the world and they are expected to beat the 8th ranked New Zealand team comfortably. Dhoni will hope that the team can step up to the challenge and put up a good performance. It will be an interesting series and it will be great to see the young team battling out in conditions unfamiliar to them. The batting came out with flying colors at the end of the South African tour and now it is time for the bowling to step up.

Can India take care of the new crop of fast bowlers?

Fast bowlers are a rare breed in India. India haven’t had many world class fast men and have only 3 bowlers in their entire cricketing history who have gone past 200 test wickets. Zaheer Khan is the last fast bowler who has gotten anywhere close to being world class. In the 90’s India struggled to find a decent third seamer to consolidate the good first spells of Srinath and Prasad but at the end of the decade there were some promising additions. Zaheer was the first to emerge in 2000, followed by a plethora of young fast men who promised a lot but faltered to deceive in the long run.

The problem with the Indian pace men over the years has been their fitness. Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel, Irfan Pathan, RP Singh, Sreesanth etc.  All began their career with lots of promise bowling quick and swinging the ball. But none of them were able to convert their earlier promise into performance over a sustained period of time. The trend is extremely disturbing. The emphasis on fitness is something which seems to be lacking in these fast men. Within just a year in international cricket, these bowlers have lost their fitness, pace and ability to swing the ball.

The number seems to be increasing over the years. In 2007 India possessed one of the best pace attack for a long time. Zaheer, Sreesanth and RP Singh bowling in the excess of 135 KMPH and swinging the ball both ways was a great sight for an Indian fan. The joy just lasted for a year before RP Singh lost his way and pace. Sreesanth has been plagued by injuries throughout his career. Ishant Sharma who bowled India’s fastest delivery in Australia and troubled the best batsmen in business with his length and bounce has lost the attributes which made him an instant success in his first year of international cricket.

It is hard to understand how a cricketing board can turn deaf to the problems causing this decline of the fast bowlers. Fitness is an important aspect for a bowler in International cricket. It is also important for the bowlers to keep evolving and learn new tricks as they advance their careers. The Indian pace men have faltered on both counts. The reason can be many and one of the most important reasons in the recent times has been the excessive cricket the bowlers have been subjected to. The IPL/CLT20 followed by countless international games can only break a bowler.

 Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav spend more time recouping from an injury than to play for their country. Playing excessive T20 games also gives no option for the bowlers to work on their bowling. The Indian board has to realize that Zaheer’s stint in county cricket in England was the reason for his evolution as one of the best bowler in the world for about 4 years. The BCCI has blocked that avenue too. The county cricket can be a great learning ground for these bowlers and will be much more beneficial than playing in meaningless T20 games in India.

Now we again have talented new crop of bowlers like B Kumar and Shami Ahmed and it will be interesting to see how the board handles these bowlers. The BCCI have the finances and resources to keep the promising Indian bowlers away from the T20 leagues and keep them fresh for International cricket. It will be great to have Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron, B Kumar, Sreesanth, Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar and Shami Ahmed fit and available for an international series. Constant cricket can only be detrimental to Indian cricket future. If India needs to become a force to reckon with at the international level we need a pool of good pace bowlers and this is the time to preserve the resources we have.

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.

Indian youngsters fight it out for a test spot

The IPL is finally over and the concentration has now shifted to the Indian A tour to West Indies. The India A team comprises of possible middle order options for the Indian test team and it will be interesting to see how the team performs in West Indies. It will be interesting to see how the players go about on this tour as a lot rests on their performance on this tour. Let us look at the main contenders for the Indian test squad.

Ajinkya Rahane (Top order):

There is no doubt that Ajinkya Rahane is probably the most talented on the Indian youngsters in the domestic arena. He had a brilliant IPL V for Rajasthan Royals but his career is much more than just a T20 tournament. Rahane has been a consistent performer in the Indian domestic scene and on India A tours. He has an impressive tally of 4862 runs at an amazing average of 68.47 in first class cricket. He has already broken into the Indian set up in the shorter format and would like to cement his place in the test side as well. He has an impressive technique against the new ball and impressed one and all with his composure during the English tour last year. He will be looking to impress the selectors with good performance in the A tour to West Indies.

Rohit Sharma (Middle Order):

It seems like Rohit Sharma has been around Indian cricket for ages. For a batsman as talented as him, he should have already been a regular in the Indian test team. Rohit Sharma has been a brilliant performer in the domestic cricket for Mumbai over the years. He has scored an impressive 3748 at a healthy average of 63.52 in first class cricket. There is no denying the talent of Rohit but his temperament has often been questioned. For a player who has a triple hundred in first class cricket he has been rather impatient in the Indian colors in the shorter format. In spite of playing 80 ODI’s for India he is still to cement his spot in the ODI team. This will give Rohit a great chance to prove that he belongs in the test team. He has begun the tour brilliantly with a fighting 94 in the first unofficial test against West Indies A. He would like to continue performing to make a case for a test debut later this year.

C Pujara (Top order):

He is one player who has already debuted for Indian in the test arena and has been acknowledged as the player most likely to replace Rahul Dravid at number 3. Pujara impressed one and all with his technique against the new ball and has been noticed by his sheer weight of runs in domestic cricket. He was singled out by Rahul Dravid himself as one for the future and had a great debut game against the Australians with a match winning fifty. Pujara has been injured for a long time over the last year or so but he for sure will be in line to get the number 3 spot just vacated by Dravid when India don whites again later this year. Pujara averages a brilliant 53.50 in the domestic arena and has been one of the consistent performers in the away tours with the India A team. He also has begun the tour with a fifty in the first test against the West Indies A team and would like to keep scoring to seal his place in the Indian top order.

A Mukund (Opener):

A Mukund impressed one and all with his technique against the new ball in West Indies and England in 2011. Even though he did not score lots of runs he did occupy the crease for long time in few games. A Mukund is an opener with great technique and with sheer weight of runs in domestic cricket broke into the Indian squad last year in the absence of Sehwag and Gambhir. He has overtaken his team mate from Tamil Nadu Murali Vijay as the third opener in the Indian test squad and would like to perform well on the A tour to get back in the reckoning. With more than 4700 runs in domestic cricket at and impressive average for 57, Mukund is yet another youngster knocking at the door of Indian test team.

W Saha (Wicket keeper):

Wriddhiman Saha has overtaken Kartik and Parthiv to become India’s second choice keeper in all form of cricket. He is one of the best wicket Keepers in domestic cricket at the moment and with excellent technique with the bat he becomes India’s number 1 choice in the absence of Mahindra Singh Dhoni. He has a wonderful record with the bat in domestic cricket and will look forward to seal the backup keeper’s spot in the Indian test team with consistent performance in the Caribbean over the next couple of months.

The other players who have an outside chance of making it to the Indian squad are Manoj Tiwary and Shikar Dhawan. Both these players have been consistent performers in the domestic arena for their respective sides over the years. M Tiwary’s last ODI innings was a hundred against West Indies and would be hoping that this tour would make him a regular in the ODI team. Dhawan too had few ODI’s last year against West Indies but failed to cement his place in the one-day squad. He will be hoping to make an impression too. The interesting aspect is the bowling attack where apart from Dinda the rest of the attack is very inexperienced.

The likes of Shami Ahmed and B Kumar are rather unknown quantities and would be interesting to see how they perform. One would have hoped to see Varun Aaron on this tour as he is probably knocking at the door of the Indian test squad at the moment. Also another interesting miss is Piyush Chawla who was once India’s leading candidate to take over from Anil Kumble once he hung up his boots. The selection of Rahul Sharma was rather surprising as he was never considered as a test bowler for India. There were some calls for Harbajan Singh being a part of the India A squad to regain his form. Overall the India A squad has some interesting names and it will be great to see some good performance from the youngsters. This tour will for sure give a fair indication of the future of Indian batting and bowling.