My Thoughts

Posts Tagged ‘Sports

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.

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.

Saina and her coach P Gopichand return to a warm reception in India after her fantastic win in the Indonesian Open.

In India it would seem for an outsider that cricket is the only sport in existence. Hockey (India’s National game) has been on a wane for a long time now and nothing has been done about it. Indian Hockey team had to face the ignominy of not qualifying for the world cup and have pretty much struggled at the world stage over the past decade or so. So even though until the last few years we haven’t achieved anything great in cricket the major difference between cricket and other sports were the stars and individual achievements.

Cricket has always given its fan a star to idolize, which was something lacking in other sports. In the 90’s Leander and Mahesh captured the imagination of the Indians with wonderful performances and so did Gopichand with this All England title but not much from the other sports. But the last few years has changed the trend. Starting from Abhinav Bindra’s brilliant gold at the Olympics to Saina Nehwal’s wonderful run in Badminton, Indian sports has come a long way in that time. We have Vijender Singh in Boxing, Somdev in tennis, and Saina in Badminton and Abhinav Bindra in shooting and Viswanathan Anand in Chess. Saina I feel will end up as the best Indian women sportsperson in the history of Indian sports. At just 20 she has scaled enormous peaks and has become world number two and I hope that she becomes the best player in the world soon.

That is quite a line up I mentioned above, adding to that list is Armaan Ebrahim (Formula Two racer), Parthiva Sureshwaran (Formula two) and Karun Chandhok (Second Indian after Narain to represent in Formula 1) and Narain himself in NASCAR (US) reviving India’s interest in motorsports. So considering all this the last 10 years has been a golden period for Indian sports. I always believed that you need stars in other sports to get the kids interested. Media needs to play an important role in this too.

The next major hurdle now is the sponsors. Recently I was in conversation with one of our American colleague’s at lunch during the Soccer world cup and we asked him why American youngsters are not taking up Soccer as their career considering how well their National team performed at the event. He said it all came down to the money. Other sports in US such as Football, Baseball and Basketball ensure million dollar contracts, scholarship in a good college etc which soccer doesn’t here. Which was a very valid point as for parents to encourage their kids to take up a sport as a career, they will consider the financial aspect as their major criteria. That’s where cricket scores over the other sports in India.

Now with stars like Saina, Abhinav and Vijender in the mix I hope that these sports receive sponsors too. All the money right now goes only to one sport and it will be great if the respective associations try and get sponsorship and promote other sports to encourage youngsters to take up the same. I know this will be a long process and cannot be achieved overnight but we have to move in that direction.

A good talent should not be lost due to lack of money. We have a world number 1 middle weight boxer, World number two badminton player, Olympic gold medalist in shooting, Top 100 men’s tennis player and 4 players in world motorsports. This is indeed the golden era for Indian sports and we need to make full use of the same and hope that this scenario is not wasted. Good luck to Saina and others for the Commonwealth games in India. I hope that they make India proud win lots of medals in the upcoming CW games.

Indian sports has always been about cricket. Since the time India won the world cup in 1983, Indian sports scene has been dominated by cricket. It enjoys largest fan base and highest money flow and sponsorship when compared to other sports in India. The difference is so huge that even comparing them isn’t worth it. It is unfortunate that our national game Hockey went down the drain around the same time. Sportsmen from other fields rarely get their due. Viswanathan Anand is one such sportsman, brilliant chess player, and undisputed world champion but rarely gets the attention he deserves. Lots of my friends don’t even consider chess as a sport which is quite ridiculous. Chess is very much a sport and we have a player who is damn good at the same.

Even though a common man might not place him in the same bracket as a Sachin Tendulkar, the government of India does though. He was the first sportsman to receive Padma Vibhushan (India’s second highest civilian honor) before Sachin received the same one year later. We all know the status the cricketers have in India but I feel that sportsmen from other fields should get similar coverage to encourage others to take up such sport.

India needs heroes from other fields to be projected much better in the media for the people to recognize their achievements. Viswanathan Anand became the first player in the chess history to win the world championship in all three formats (Knockout, tournament and Match). You don’t have to be a chess enthusiast to appreciate an icon in Indian sports.

Anand has been an undisputed world champion for the past 4 years and also has won the chess Oscars 7 times in his career. Not many people know that. He is a brilliant role model for the youth with his modest and down to earth personality. Fantastic in what he does, his achievements are just known to the chess lovers across the country and not to the common sports fans. For a normal sports fan anything which does not involve running around on an open field is not a sport.

When I was talking to my friends over lunch they completely dismissed any sort of recognition to this brilliant champion ahead of Sachin Tendulkar. I am a Sachin fan myself but not oblivious to the achievements of other sporting icons in the country. I am no Chess fan and would not sit through an entire game but for sure respect the laurels this man has brought to our country.

So this is my salute to one of the brilliant sportsmen from India to compete on the world stage. I hope that Vishy Anand breaks more records and remains the best player in the world for many years to come.


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