Tag Archives: Test match

Test series – Indian Team Review

South Africa has been the best traveling team over the past decade or so. They had hardly shown any weakness over the years irrespective of the surface they play on. The South African team of the past had stalwarts like Jacques Kallis, Graeme Smith and Mark Boucher who were wonderful players. This team though lacked the experience and class of the SA teams of the past. It was always clear when the series began that it will be a battle between the Indian spinners and the SA batsmen. This time though the visitors fell well short and got hammered 3-0. For Indian team and Kohli though this was their second consecutive test series win and a step in the right direction.

So let us look at the good and the bad from the series as far as the Indian team is concerned.

The Good:

Ravichandran Ashwin (Matches – 4, Wickets – 31, Ave – 11.12, 5 wickets – 4):

When we are talking about the series we cannot look past Ravichandran Ashwin. He has been phenomenal for the team this year and once again was the highest wicket taker for India. He bowled beautifully and troubled the SA batsmen throughout the test series. He picked up 31 wickets at a ridiculous average of 11.12 and overall has a record of 176 wickets in 32 games. He has had an amazing run in Indian colors and within a short period of time has become India’s spearhead. Kohli and the Indian team would be hoping that he continues to do well for India in all formats.

Ravindra Jadeja (Matches – 4, Wickets – 23, Average – 10.82, 5 wickets – 2):

When the series began everyone knew that the all-rounder spot was the most crucial part of the X1. Virat Kohli’s 5 bowler theory meant that he needed someone who not only could bowl well but also contribute with the bat. Jadeja did that brilliantly throughout the series. His bowling was outstanding and his batting was decent enough. He made few crucial contributions later in the order to help India to decent totals. This biggest asset of Ravi Jadeja is his accuracy, he hardly gives anything away. Especially on pitches which help the spinners it is almost impossible to score of him. His economy rate of 1.76 is an able testimony to his accuracy and when you add 23 wickets at an average of 10.82, it becomes a deadly combination.

Ajinkya Rahane (Matches – 4, Runs – 266, Ave – 53.2, Hundreds – 2)

Ajinkya Rahane was the star of the Indian batting this series. He was the highest run getter in the series overall and was the only batsmen to score hundreds in this series. Rahane along with Kohli and Vijay was India’s mainstay during the overseas tours last couple of years but for some reason he never found his range in India. This series has hopefully changed that trend. Rahane was brilliant in Delhi where he batted amazingly well in both the innings to notch up back to back hundreds. He ended up with most runs with an amazing average of 53.2.

Virat Kohli (Captain) (Matches – 4, Runs -200, Average – 33.86, Hundreds – 0)

Virat Kohli as a batsman alone had an okay series even though he ended up as 4th highest run getter for India in the series. Virat as a captain though he had an outstanding series. The way he marshaled his resources on the field was very commendable. The way he kept attacking, his bowling changes, his field placements were all brilliant. He has had a dream start to his test captaincy. Even in Australia, even though we did not win, his captaincy was good. His conviction on using 5 bowlers at all cost is also helping India to be more attacking and have more options. He now has a weight of expectation on his shoulders and when India tour again, everyone would expect them to do better than what they did last year.

Murali Vijay (Matches – 4, Runs – 210, Average – 35, Hundreds 0)

Murali Vijay once again was India’s pillar at the top of the order. He started of brilliantly with crucial contributions in both the innings of the first test. He did go off the boil a bit at the end of the series but his contributions in the first couple of tests cannot be taken lightly. He once again proved that he is one of the linchpins of India batting and had a decent series as the opener under some touch conditions.

Honorable Mention – Cheteshwar Pujara.

The Bad:

Indian Batting Overall:

Even though there were some bright spots in the Indian batting department overall there were too many cracks. The Indian batting struggled and often collapsed from good positions to let SA back into the game. This was noticed in the Sri Lankan series too. India needs to look at a reliable opening partner for Vijay. Dhawan had a very poor series with the bat but probably deserves one more series before we look for a replacement. Rohit Sharma was disappointing with the bat again. He hasn’t been consistent in this format and the management must be running out of patience with him. Finally Wridhiman Saha who has a wicket keeper is brilliant but as a number 6 batsman he falls short. India needs to rethink the 5 bowler strategy if we have Saha as the keeper. Even though he looks good enough to make some useful contributions down the order but does not look like someone who would make big scores. Number 6 looks little high of a position for him in the batting order. He would be a good number 7 if we are playing 6 batsmen. Something for the Indian camp to think about before their next tour which is not for a while.

The use of Pacers:

Even though Virat Kohli has a lot of faith on his fast men, they hardly bowled in the 4 test series. Let us just look at the number of overs each pacer bowled. Ishant bowled 62 overs in 5 innings in this series which amounts to 12 overs per innings. Yadav bowled 42 overs in 4 innings which amounts to an average of 10 overs per innings. Aaron bowled 20 overs in 3 innings which amounts to roughly 7 overs an innings. These are poor numbers. The bowlers did well in the limited opportunities they got. I understand that the pitches were not conducive to fast bowling but again to underuse fast bowlers so much is not going to be good in the long run. In the 90’s India did something similar where the pacemen were just in the team to bowl with the new ball and then disappear for hours before they are brought back to give the spinners some break. We surely don’t want to go back to that era. Javagal Srinath mentioned in his recent interview how that strategy was detrimental to India’s performance overseas while winning in India was easier.

So overall it was a good series and a win against the number 1 side in the world will be sweet for the young team. They now have a long break from this format and few things to ponder over before they play test cricket sometime in 2016. Till then it has been a decent year for the Indian test team. Winning a series in Sri Lanka after 22 years and beating the number 1 side in the world should cap off a good year for Virat Kohli as the test captain.

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.

West Indies Tour – Chance for the youngsters to shine

With the IPL nearing the play offs, the Indian selectors will convene in Chennai tomorrow to select the Indian team to tour West Indies next month. It is going to be an interesting selection as it seems like almost an A team would visit the Caribbean at least for the ODI-T20 leg of the tour. The IPL has thrown up some interesting names for the selection and it will all depend on how many seniors want to actually play in the ODI’s. The West Indies team is currently struggling but as seen in the series against Pakistan they cannot be written off completely. The Indian team will also not be as lucky as Pakistan since once the IPL is done, Gayle, Bravo, Taylor and Pollard will be back to bolster the WI line up. So I am guessing that the Indian team will have a good mix of youth and experience.

So let’s look at the possible candidates for the WI tour. After great performances for Mumbai Indians in IPL, it seems like finally Ambati Rayudu might fulfill the promise which was seen in him about 10 years back. He is also a wicket-keeper, so his success will mean that we will have a capable understudy to Dhoni on tours. The other player who might get a look in is Subramaniam Badrinath, who has looked in incredible touch for CSK in this IPL and has also had an impressive domestic season prior to that. Rohit Sharma might also get a call back as he has been in impressive form in the IPL. Apart from these three there are other contenders in batting such as Rahane, Pujara (Provided he is fit) and Murali Vijay.

If Dhoni decides to skip the ODI’s, Ghambir might captain the team to WI for the ODI leg. With very good chance of senior players giving the ODI a skip, this tour will provide excellent chance for young Indian batsmen to prove themselves at international level. The bowling line up though will provide much interesting selection. With Ashish Nehra missing out due to Injury, we will see Praveen Kumar making a comeback to the national side. Ishant Sharma who bowled brilliantly for his IPL side Deccan Chargers will also be in the reckoning. It was heartening to see Ishant getting his pace and accuracy back. Munaf Patel who has been consistent and accurate for the past few months will for sure make the side.

Varun Aaron, the new pace sensation might be the wild card but I don’t think the selectors will pick him ahead of Vinay Kumar and Umesh Yadav. Zaheer I am sure will be rested for the ODI and T20. The spinning combination will be an interesting one. With lots of them doing extremely well in the IPL, it will be a tough pick for the selectors. Ravichandran Ashwin will for sure make the squad and if the selectors decide to rest Bajji for the ODI’s we might see Pragyan Ojha making the cut too. Rahul Sharma who has had a dream IPL with his consistent leg-breaks will also be in the radar for the selectors. Amit Mishra and Iqbal Abdulla who have been very economical in the IPL will also be in the discussion. I am thinking that Amit Mishra might anyways make it to the test team but they might want to try Rahul Sharma in the ODI’s to see how he does at the international level. Piyush Chawla though would be missing out as he had a bad World Cup followed by an equally awful IPL.

The seniors are for sure are expected to be back for the test series and there might not be many surprises in the test squad. With Sehwag missing Vijay might join Ghambir at the top of the order followed by Dravid, Sachin and Laxman. The number 6 spot again will be in the discussion and I hope that they give another chance to the young Pujara. Raina might probably make the squad too unless the selectors want to include another youngster in his spot. The bowling for sure will feature Zaheer, Sreesanth and probably Ishant as the three speedsters and Bajji might be joined by Mishra in the spin department. All in all this is going to be an interesting selection and I hope that some youngsters get a look in at least in the shorter format.

The WI tour will be a potential banana skin tour for the Indians as they are expected to win it comfortably. With the return of the stars WI is not going to be pushovers in either format and the Indians need to play extremely well to win the series convincingly. The number 1 test team needs to win all the three games to avoid losing any points and the ODI team needs to win the series pretty convincingly to not drop down the ODI rankings. So this will surely be in the mind of the selectors when picking the players for the tour. Duncan Fletcher is expected to join the selection meeting tomorrow in Chennai and I don’t think he will have too much of an input as this is expected to be just an introduction exercise for the new Indian coach.

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.

Collection of my thoughts

The Indian team with the trophy in SL

The Indian team with the trophy in SL

AR Rahman with the Golden Globe

AR Rahman with the Golden Globe

I have had a frustrating last few months which came to an end yesterday with the visa approval. For all of us here the extension process has been a real long and frustrating journey which controlled our thoughts for all these months. I have decided to put in a summary of the happenings in the last few months about which I was planning to write about.

Indian cricket team’s successful 2008 and the NewZealand tour

I would like to begin with the exceptional season the Indian cricket team has been having since they won the Perth test match last Jan. The only blip being the test series in Srilanka. The Indian team under Dhoni has performed really well and are in top 3 in both forms of the game. The recent series in SL where Dhoni’s men won 4-1 further emphasized their raise in the shorter format of the game. The Indian team has found great bunch of youngsters who are hungry for success and want to win every game. Having said all that Dhoni’s great test is just around the corner, the tour of  NZ. This will be his first full tour as a captain of the Indian team. India would be looking to win the test and the one-day series against the Kiwis which will not be an easy task.

The Kiwis have had a good series against the Australians recently where they drew the one-dayers 2-2 and lost the one-off Twenty20 by one run. They will be full of confidence and would be hoping to drive their home advantage to trouble the Indian team. The Indians on the other hand would want to erase the memory of their disastrous 2002/03 tour to the Kiwiland by turning in good performances in the both forms of the game. If India play to their potential they should win the series. The series gets underway with the first of the 2 Twenty20 games next wednesday. Lets hope that the series is competetive and may the best team win.

Slumdog Millionaire and A R Rahman

Musical genius A R Rahman made every Indian proud when he received the Golden Globe award for the best original score for his song “Jai Ho” in Danny Boyle’s award winning movie Slumdog Millionaire. There has been lots of speculation in the Indian media reagrding the movie as well as A R Rahman’s music claiming that both are over-rated. Few people in the media have slammed the movie and some also said that it has shown India in a poor light. As far as I am concerned the movie was just okay and was nothing great but thats my opinion. To be frank its a movie made by a British director in India and if Hollywood calls it as the best movie of the year then so be it. I dont think that this movie showed anything wrong about India.

At least the movie was made in India. How many bollywood directors make movies in the slums of Mumbai? How many Indian directors who commented on this movie can make a movie which will prove otherwise? Actually no one cares. Its just that this movie has become so big that people have decided to cash in on its popularity. The Johars and the chopras have stopped making movies in India and few more directors probably will follow suit. I guess we have to treat SM as a hollywood movie which has been made in India with Indian actors, thats about it.  We have made so many substandard movies in US and UK, they dont claim those as theirs and slam it in the their media when we give awards to those movies. So lets just be realistic, Hollywood thinks its the best movie of the year so thats where it ends.As far as the award to ARR is concerned I am really proud of him and his achievements. He has put Indian music on the world map.

Whether this is his best composition is open to speculation but there is no denying the fact that he deserves all the accolades he is receiving right now. Lets not unnecessarily dissect the music and enjoy the success of one of the finest composers in India. Congrats to ARR on his Golden Globe and hope he wins Oscars too.

Tennis in India

Tennis in India received a tremendous boost when Yuki Bhambri won the junior Australian Open title earlier this year. His victory along with the performance of Somdev in the Chennai open gives great hope to the Tennis scene in India. Mahesh won yet another mixed doubles championship, this time with our own Sania Mirza to make this the most memorable Australian Open for the Indians. Sania though continued her horror run in singles when she was beaten in the second round. Hopefully Somedev and Yuki can take the Indian Tennis forward and make a successful transition to the senior level.

Thats all for now from me. Lets hope that India continues to shine in 2009 and we have more awards and titles to add.

India crush Aussies to go one up

Zaheer Cleans up Brad Haddin on the 5th morning

Zaheer Cleans up Brad Haddin on the 5th morning

India crushed the world champions to win the second test and go one up in the series. The Indians will be really pleased with the win as this was a total team performance and was not achieved on a typical dust bowl. Almost everyone in the team contributed to the win with Dhoni brilliantly leading from the front. Dhoni had temporarily taken the responsibility of captaining the team in the absence of injured Kumble and proved that he is ready to take over the reigns when the great leggie steps down.

The Indians dominated the proceeding starting with the toss on the first day. A great start by the openers, fantastic century by Ganguly, good batting from Sachin and Dhoni made sure that India got to a competetive 469 in the first innings. Sachin and Sourav both reached singnificant landmarks during their respective knocks in the Indian first innings as Sachin became the higest run getter in tests and Sourav passed 7000 test runs.

The Indian bowlers complemented their batsmen splendidly by bowling out the Australians for 268 giving a lead of 201 runs. Zaheer and Ishant were impressive at the start with Mishra and Harbajan running through the middle and lower order. Amit Mishra had a fantastic start to test cricket grabbing 5 wickets on debut. He finished with 7 wickets in the match and seemed ready to take over the baton from Kumble whenever he decides to call it a day.

The Australians chasing an impossible 516 for a victory after yet another great batting display by the Indians in the second innings collapsed to a dismal 195 to hand a 320 run victory to the host. Ishant and Zaheer again among the wickets with Harbajan and Mishra combining well again in the second essay. Australians though will be really dissapointed with their performance as none of their top order batsmen were able to stay long enough to string a partnership and their bowlers were clueless against the aggressive Indian batsmen.

All in all it was a excellent display by the Indians to go one up in the series. It seems like Kumble will be back in the third test which means that Mishra would not be playing. Mishra has taken a gaint step towards the Indian test team with his performance which will stand him in good state once Kumble decides to hang his boots.

Even though the Indians have handed the Aussies their largest defeat in over a decade, they should not let complacency to set into their games. The Australians are still the number one team and it requires just one good innings or one good spell to reverse the situation for the visitors. Indians should continue their same ruthless approach in Delhi too and make sure that the series is won when the reach Kanpur for the final game.