My Thoughts

Posts Tagged ‘Sri Lanka

The year 2011 could be split into two parts, before the world cup and after the world cup. Before the world cup the Indian team was world number 1 test team, top 3 in the ODI and was doing very well on tours. After the memorable world cup win the team completely fell flat, the batting struggled, the captain lost his plot and the team became extremely inconsistent. After a very sluggish series win against West Indies, India were trashed by England 4-0 and lost the number 1 rankings. Late the same year India travelled to Australia, only to suffer yet another whitewash.

In 2011 though the ODI team did pretty okay, except for the rain marred 3-0 loss to England the team did quite well. In 2012 though the ODI team has been extremely inconsistent too, the team failed to make the CB series final and also lost an opportunity to reach the Asia cup finals. Overall the last year and a half has been pretty poor for the Indian team and when India begins their season against SL tomorrow they would want to make a fresh and confident start. The season is only going to get tougher.

Rahul Dravid’s retirement from the test team means that India need to quickly find a replacement for the legend. Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman aren’t going to be there for long, so identifying replacements for them will also be in the agenda. The bowling combination also needs some working out. Umesh Yadav showed lots of promise in his first year of International cricket, not it is time for him to translate that to results. Zaheer Khan is on his last legs and needs to be preserved for important games and it is time for the young bowlers to step up. It will also be nice to see Ishant Sharma rise to the occasion leading the Indian attack over the next year or so.

The team has a pretty hectic schedule following the Sri Lankan series and would hope to have their prime players fit for most of it. Sri Lanka is no alien to the Indian team as they have played there quite often in the recent years. The Sri Lankan team though has just come off a series win against Pakistan and will be in high spirits. The Indian team though will be rusty as they are coming off a long but deserved break. This will be an important year for the Indian team as identifying the right combination will be of paramount importance. The Indian team will not be touring till mid of next year and this will give them ample time to test young players in the home series.

The series itself will be a close one. Sri Lanka is always a strong outfit at home and will be a tough opposition to deal with. The series can go either way but I will put my neck out and predict a 3-2 win for the Indian team. The Indian team has had a wood over Sri Lanka over the past couple of years and have won lost an ODI series there in the last couple of visits. Dhoni and Fletcher will know that this series marks the beginning of a grueling and tough season and they would want to begin this with a good win.

Irfan Pathan replaces Vinay Kumar for the Sri Lankan ODI series to begin later this month. Vinay Kumar suffered from an hamstring injury and has been ruled out for 3 weeks. The addition of Irfan for sure is a blessing for India as this gives them an all-round option in the line up.

Speaking to the press after the announcement Irfan said he is ready for the series and hopes to give his best.

“Obviously, when I was overlooked initially, I was thinking about what are the areas I needed to work upon and was focusing on my training at the National Cricket Academy,” Irfan told PTI.

“I am pretty satisfied with the hours that I have put in at the nets and in the indoor sessions there. After this call-up, the focus will shift to the Lankan series.”

Irfan will be hoping for a good show in this series and would hope to cement his place in the ODI X1. He seemed to have his swing back when he played in the Asia cup earlier this year and his batting would be a definite advantage for the Indian team lower down the order.

“I played 8 ODIs after my comeback and have got 13 wickets. I have scored around 100 runs in the five innings that I have batted. For someone like me, the more I play international matches, the better I will get,” signed off Irfan.

 

 

The Indian team for the Sri Lankan tour was selected last week and there weren’t a whole lot of surprises in the squad. Sachin Tendulkar has been rested for limited overs tour of Sri Lanka as per his request. Sehwag and Zaheer who were rested for the Asia cup make a comeback to the Indian team. India will be playing 5 ODI’s and 1 T20 in a short tour to Sri Lanka.

The rest of the team is on the expected lines. The biggest surprise though was the exclusion of Varun Aaron. Aaron who was injured prior to the Australian tour looked in good form in the IPL. Considering he is one of the quickest bowlers India has it is surprising to see him missing out once again. Dinda makes it to the 15 due to his good performances in the IPL and the India A tour to West Indies. Vinay Kumar retains his place in the ODI squad and Umesh Yadav makes a comeback after missing the Asia cup.

Ravindra Jadeja has been dropped after poor performances in Australia and the Asia cup. Jadeja did not have a good IPL either. The spin department will be led by Ravichandran Aswin along with Pragyan Ojha and Rahul Sharma. Irfan and Yusuf have been ignored in spite of the Indian team not having a genuine all-rounder in the squad.

The batting feature the usual suspects with Sehwag and Gambhir returning at the top of the order. Rahane might play at number 3 followed by Rohit, Kohli and Raina in the middle order. Manoj Tiwary makes the squad too but will be interesting to see if he will get a game in this series. MS Dhoni will captain the side and Virat Kohli will be his deputy in this series.

The team is on the expected lines and there hasn’t been much experimentation by the selectors. The bowling department especially will be boosted by the arrival of Zaheer and Umesh. Aswin will most probably play as the lone spinner with Raina and Rohit filling in as the 5th bowling option. The Indians have once again ignored Irfan Pathan who would have lent a good balance to the squad. His presence would have allowed the team an extra option of spin. Overall this is probably the best possible squad at the moment and it looks pretty strong. The series will be interesting and will for sure be a good practice ahead of the World T20 which is supposed to take place in Sri Lanka. This series will give the players a good chance to acclimatize themselves to the conditions in Sri Lanka ahead of the marquee tournament in September.

Squad for the Sri Lanka tour:

MS Dhoni (capt & wk), Virat Kohli (vice-capt), Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Manoj Tiwary, R Ashwin, Vinay Kumar, Rahul Sharma, Ashok Dinda, Pragyan Ojha, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan, Umesh Yadav, Ajinkya Rahane

Virat Kohli is definitely the toast of the nation at the moment. The last few ODI innings of his has for sure cemented his status as one of the premier ODI batsmen in the world. Virat has had brilliant last couple of years in ODI cricket and his elevation to vice-captaincy status at a very young age shows that the selectors see him as a future Indian captain.

My first look of Virat was in 2008 Sri Lankan ODI series. The test series for India was absolute dampener and the series was more famous for the emergence of another mystery spinner from Sri Lanka Ajanta Mendis. India was missing experience in the batting order and in the absence of Sachin and Sehwag, Virat was sent to open the innings. Virat showed great grit and stuck to his task admirably well. His stats weren’t earth shattering but it did show the fighting spirit of the youngster. He handled some difficult conditions pretty well and helped India win the ODI series.

It was surprising to see that India ignored Virat after that series for almost a year but the youngster took the break into his stride and came back stronger. The break also meant that Virat travelled to Australia to take part in the Emerging players trophy where he was the top scorer for India. Since he made his comeback to the team in 2009, he has been an indispensable member of the Indian squad. With exceptional technique and great concentration Virat Kohli has established himself as one of the finest young players in the world. He has already won lots of ODI games for India batting second and has an enviable average doing so.

He has 11 hundreds in just 82 ODI innings, making him the youngest to get to 10 ODI hundred at an impressive average of 50.56. Virat has everything going for him in ODI cricket. Virat Kohli though did not have a smooth sailing in test cricket. In spite of having everything going for him as a player, he did struggle at the test level though. He did not have a great start to his test career but by the end of Australian tour he did find his groove. He was the only Indian to score a test hundred in the Australian series and proved that he did belong at the bigger stage. His two fifties at Perth and a brilliant hundred in Adelaide should give him lots of confidence for more challenges ahead later this year.

Even though he has had a great start to his career, his aggressive celebrations and use of expletives too often has got him into trouble with the experts and the media alike. Even though I personally feel that being an aggressive cricketer playing with lots of passion, he does get little carried away which is fine with me. Virat has the talent and performances to pull off such behavior as a brash youngster, similar to another great Ricky Ponting. But Virat needs to keep one thing in mind as such behavior will for sure look great when the team is doing well but will look ugly when the team is struggling. I guess he for sure will learn as he gets older.

For now let’s enjoy the success of the genial superstar, India has unearthed once again. I hope that he continues to scale more peaks and helps India to get to the top once again in world cricket.

It seems like Ishant leart nothing during his stint with the legendary Wasim Akram

Sri Lankan batsmen hammered the Indian attack on day 1 at Galle when they finished on 256/2 in just 68 overs. The bowling performance by the Indians was lackluster and without any imagination for most part of the day. Abhinav Mithun though did not do himself any harm as he turned out to be the best bowler on view on a day when the bat dominated the proceedings.

When Sreesanth and Zaheer pulled out due to injuries everyone knew that the Indian bowling would struggle but one thought that with added responsibility Ishant might get his form back. But it seems like Ishant hasn’t learnt anything during his sabbatical from the Indian team. His stint at Kolkata Knight Rider’s camp under the tutelage of the legendry Wasim Akram seems to have had no impact on the lanky pacer. Ishant Sharma is a classic case of modern Indian bowlers who start their careers with a bang and lose their steam with one full year of International cricket. As my numerous articles on this topic suggests the list is endless. Zaheer was the only one who managed to escape the trend with an inspired comeback couple of years back.

With the day 2 washed out it seems like this test might meander to a boring draw unless the Indian batting fails dramatically. It’s unfortunate that the last test of the great Murali has to end this way. If the rain continues he might not have the opportunity to go past 800 test wickets which begs the question whether he should have retired after this series rather than just the first test.

All in all it was a disappointing performance by the Indians as the bowlers looked pretty flat on the opening day. Sri Lankan batsmen were untroubled for most part of the day and Indian bowlers, pace and spin alike did not have any impact on the batsmen. If the play resumes on the 3rd day, it seems like the batsmen would continue to dominate and the Indians are facing a huge first innings total. I am thinking that the Indian batsmen would be praying for more rain in the coming three days of the test.

After the brilliant win over Sri Lanka last week in the Asia cup finals, India now will face up to the same team in a 3 test series. The Indian squad for the series was selected on Saturday and the team was very much on the expected lines. The selectors did not go for any new names except for couple of surprises thrown in.

As expected Dravid and Laxman return to the squad in the middle order and so does Sachin. With Ghambir and Sehwag settled at the top of the order, it just leaves one vacant spot in the middle order at number 6 which is still unclaimed. Even though Yuvraj has occupied that spot over the last couple of series, he has hardly made an impact to warrant an immediate selection in the test team. There were few more names thrown in before the selection like Pujara, Badri etc but the selectors have gone with Raina who has had a brilliant year in the shorter formats.

Yet another disappointment for Pujara as the youngster has been piling on the runs in the domestic as well as on the A tours. I hope that he gets a chance soon. Vijay retains his spot as the backup opener, even though Dhawan and Mukund are right on his heals with brilliant performances on the A tour. Dhoni remains the skipper and the number one keeper for India on this tour. Dhoni’s back up though left everyone surprised as Saha was selected out of the blue.

Karthik has been Dhoni’s backup for a long time now and considering his experience one would have expected him to join the team to Sri Lanka but was not to be. Karthik will be really disappointed as he was pretty good with the bat in the Asia cup, winning the man of the match in the finals. The bowling too lacked any surprises as India went with the experience of Zaheer, Ishant and Sreesanth in the pace department and Harbajan, Mishra and Ojha as the spinners.

Sreesanth and Ishant get a call back after both of them were overlooked for the shorter formats. This begs the question as to why these two did not get picked for the A tour to England or to Zimbabwe for that matter. Both these bowlers haven’t had any competitive cricket for a while and getting some games on the A tour would have helped them to get some confidence back. BCCI’s planning is lot left to be desired as they would have known way before that these two have very good chance of partnering Zaheer in the upcoming test series.

All in all I feel that this is a decent team with the experienced hands returning to their favorite format. I hope that Dhoni and his men put up a great performance and win the series which has been eluding us for 17 years now. As Dravid said India will not worry about Mendis anymore as he seems to have been worked out by the Indians. Still the batting needs to be careful as Mendis and Murali in Sri Lanka will be more threatening than their exploits earlier in India. Hope for a great contest and a win to the Indian team to maintain their status as number one team in the world.

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.

Dinda has been very disappointing in the ongoing tri-series in Zimbabwe

The ongoing tri-series in Zimbabwe has proven one thing for sure that India will continue to struggle with the bowling well into the future. When Ishant Sharma made his debut he looked the part. He troubled the best of the best and bowled with pace and accuracy. There was never a doubt that he had enormous talent. The only frustrating part is that he let it all go within the matter of a year.

This has been the problem with the Indian bowling over the years. They all come in with a bang but fade away in couple of years. The list is endless; Nehra, Pathan, Munaf, Sreesanth, RP Singh, Ishant Sharma etc. have followed the same pattern. But looking at the current set of bowlers in Zimbabwe, they seem well short of International standard. None of them have even troubled a Zimbabwe team who has hardly played any international cricket.

This shows that we don’t have any good prospects coming up in the near future to take over the bowling mantle. So with the Indian team having a busy schedule ahead of them this year we surely need Ishant and Sreesanth back to their best. With India playing tests against Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa this year, we need one of these two to be back to their best. Even though BCCI had a noble thought of playing almost an A team in the Zimbabwe series I feel that they missed a trick by not having an experienced bowler to guide these youngsters.

If not Zaheer, they should have at least had Irfan or RP Singh as it would have also given them a chance to make a comeback to the Indian team. With all the bowlers being new and with zero international experience, they have come well short of expectations. Losing to Zimbabwe two games in a row is unacceptable even for an Indian A team.

Umesh Yadav, even though looks promising is way inconsistent to bowl at the international level, so is Dinda. With the spinners also disappointing in the current series it seems like it will be difficult to look past Bajji for some time to come. India needs to really unearth a potent combination soon as they have few important series coming up.

So it will be interesting to see what the bowling combination would be for the upcoming series in Srilanka and the Asia cup. I am expecting Zaheer and Bajji to be back in the test team but the rest of the attack is still undecided. I guess it’s time to go back to Ishant and Sreesanth and hope that they hit form.

India's Fielding was a concern to the Indian captain in spite of a comfortable win

In the post-match presentation after India beat Sri Lanka convincingly, Mahendra Singh Dhoni said that it was “Fishy” the way both the teams fielded in the second T20 game at Mohali.

“I have never seen a team dropping so many catches. But there was something funny going around, something fishy. Sri Lanka also missed so many run-outs. We have to improve our bowling, apart from fielding. Not only in T20s, but also in ODIs,” Dhoni had said after the Mohali tie.

He said that top sides don’t make so many mistakes in the same game and he felt something was not right.

This comment was made as both teams fielded awfully in the game as India dropped as many as 6 catches and Sri Lanka missed a bunch of run outs adding to couple of catches they dropped as well.

Even though Dhoni’s statement above might have been an innocuous one, I hope that it does not stir up any controversies. Dhoni later said that it might have to be something with the ground or lights which may have caused such appalling fielding by both the teams, but his choice of words were really interesting. Hopefully, this won’t cause more reading between the lines and turn this into another match-fixing saga.

The India-Sri Lanka series touted as the race to number one rankings had a disappointing start with the first test match in Motera ending in a dull draw. The test match in Ahmadabad is all that is wrong with Indian cricket. When there have been calls to save the oldest form of the game around the world, BCCI have dished out boredom to drive the fans away from the grounds. Its seems like BCCI is only worried about the money they can make out of sponsorships and IPL and not a bit bothered about the state of pitches in India.

Sambit Bal last year wrote an article on cricinfo blasting Pakistani pitches after the Karachi game but the pitches in India are not that far behind. Sambit’s intentions may have been good by singling out pitches in Pakistan was not the right way to go. Reading the recent article by Dileep Premachandran, it seems like there is not much of a difference between the pitches in Pakistan and India. India has one of the worst percentages of results when compared to other cricketing nations.

According to the article, India has hosted 24 games in the past 60 months out of which 11 have been draws. This is a pathetic statistic for a team who is trying to become the best side in the world. With ever increasing T20 leagues in India I guess the BCCI have to take more interest in improving the quality of test cricket in India. I don’t think that anything of that sort has been even tried yet by the board. As Sourav Ganguly rightly mentioned in his column, even though Rahul Dravid and Mahela scored those brilliant hundreds the Motera pitch was a real disappointment.

No one wants to watch a game where the bowlers are just mere participants with not effect whatsoever and the batsmen are running the show. The unfortunate part is that the grounds men in India are in so much pressure to make matches last for 5 days for the BCCI to make money out of TV rights. Already we have seen paltry crowds for test matches in India and with these sorts of pitches ardent lovers of the format like me will also be driven out of the stadiums in the future.

Test cricket is still the premium form of cricket around the world and efforts should be taken to improve the quality of pitches around the world. The ICCI should crack down heavily on boards that encourage pitches like Motera for International fixtures. Kanpur (Venue for the second game which concluded last week) test was heading the same direction as Motera after the first day’s play but was saved by the result.


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