Tag Archives: Sreesanth

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.

West Indies tour – The pull outs continue

The West Indies tour continued to suffer as more first choice players from the Indian team continue to pull out ahead of the test series. This time it is the turn of Zaheer and Sreesanth. The Indian team will now be without their first choice seamers for the test series. Abhinav Mithun and Praveen Kumar have been named as the replacements. Sometimes it is hard to understand the thinking behind some selections and Praveen’s is a curious one.

Mithun though I understand as he did not do that badly in the test series against the Sri Lankans last year but Praveen’s selection comes as a surprise. If Praveen gets a game this will be his debut for India in the longer format. Munaf and Ishant are already part of the squad, so I am assuming they will be in the starting X1 for the first game at least. Mishra and Bajji will most probably play in most of the games considering how poorly West Indies batsmen have handled spin on this tour. If the need arises to play a third seamer it will be interesting to see who India will play in the X1. So the Indian team who are already light on experience in batting will be suffering the same in the bowling department too.

The Indian team needs to win 3-0 in the test series in order to not lose any points in the test championship race. With the pull outs it will be miraculous if they achieve the same. The batting now will completely rely on Dravid and Laxman and the bowling on Bajji and Mishra. I hope that the youngsters can perform well and continue the good work they have been doing in the series already. The team under Suresh Raina has already won the ODI series and now Dhoni’s challenge would be to captain a young team to victory in tests. The pull outs though have made the series more competitive and give the West Indies a chance to upset the Indian team.

Test squad: MS Dhoni (capt), VVS Laxman (vc), M Vijay, Abhinav Mukund, Rahul Dravid, Virat Kohli, S Badrinath, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Mithun, Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha, Praveen Kumar, Munaf Patel, Suresh Raina, Parthiv Patel.

Karun to test for Lotus and Sreesanth replaces Praveen Kumar

Karun Chandhok will be testing for team Lotus, this Sunday at Valencia, Spain. Karun Chandhok who said that he was considering an opportunity as a third driver in a good team would want to grab this opportunity with both hands. Good performances here would for surely help him to return to the starting grid in 2012. Team Lotus Principal Tony Fernandes said that Karun was with the team as a guest in the pre-season testing in Valencia last week and now will have some time in the car.

On a telephonic conversation from Malaysia Tony Fernandes said

“We would like him to be reserve driver but we’ve got to see whether it all works out, that’s the plan,”

“He is going to get a couple of slots in the testing now in Jerez and Barcelona,” added the AirAsia airline boss. And then we’ll decide after that.”

“(Technical head) Mike (Gascoyne) and (team CEO) Riad (Asmat) and everyone else feel he’s the right guy to add value to the team.” He added.

Elsewhere in cricket India’s world cup preparation hit a road block when injured pacer Praveen Kumar was deemed unfit to take part in the event. Sreesanth has replaced Praveen Kumar in the world cup squad. Sreesanth would be really happy with this opportunity and would want to take advantage of the same with some good performances.

Speaking to the media a visibly elated Sreesanth said “It is a great opportunity and a great challenge to be a part of Indian team for the World Cup. I am lucky to be a part of it and am looking forward to giving my best in the tournament,”

“I am just looking forward to giving my best in the World Cup. I am absolutely fine with any role given to me. Whatever I would be asked to do I will perform accordingly.” He added.

So Sreesanth will join the pace attack along with Zaheer, Nehra and Munaf. Praveen’s absence for sure will be a big blow to Indian chances as he provides a steady option with the new ball. Praveen has been economical with the new ball for India and often provided the team with crucial breakthroughs. Sreesanth for sure will have to match that consistency when he does get a chance. So injury claims yet another victim for the Indians ahead of a major event. Let’s hope that it not a major loss and Sreesanth Justifies his position and delivers for team India.

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.

Dhoni’s safari, his biggest challenge yet

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.

India claim the series with a convincing win

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.