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.

South Africa Test series – India team report card

The short and quick tour of South Africa comes to an end and India leave the SA shores with continued concerns with the bowling attack. While Kohli, Pujara and Rahane did exceedingly well with the bat, the Indian bowling continued to struggle to take 20 wickets overseas. The Indian lower order is also a cause for concern as Dhoni and Jadeja do not look reliable number 7 and 8 in tests. Below are the ratings of Indian players based on their performances in SA test series.

Shikhar Dhawan- (Matches: 2, Innings: 4, Runs: 76, Ave: 19, HS: 29) – (Rating: 2)

Shikhar came into this series with some very good performances in ODI’s. Even though there were some concerns over his technique, he was expected to make some runs on this tour. Dhawan had some starts on the tour but failed to convert any of those. His struggle against short pitched stuff would have been noted by bowlers of the other countries. He should be ready to be tested a lot on his upcoming tours. Shikhar will be extremely disappointed with his performance on this tour and will be hoping to correct the same in New Zealand next month.

Murali Vijay – (M: 2, Inn: 4, Runs: 148, Ave: 37, HS: 97) – (Rating: 6)

Murali Vijay showed that he has the technique and patience required to succeed overseas. He did an excellent job seeing off the new ball and played with lots of conviction against Steyn, Morkel and Philander. Vijay though will be extremely disappointed that he did not convert his starts to big scores and he loses some points for that. He would like to correct that in the upcoming tours. Being an opener, he needs to make most of the good starts and score big hundreds as it would take some pressure off the middle order.

Cheteshwar Pujara – (M: 2, Inn: 4, Runs: 280, Ave: 70, HS: 153) – (Rating: 9)

Pujara was one of the success stories on the short tour to South Africa. The youngster once again showed that he has the technique and temperament to carry the Indian batting forward for years to come. He showed excellent technique against the new ball and also proved that he can attack once the bowlers were little tired. His innings of 153 was an absolute gem and the way he attacked the SA bowlers in the final session was great to watch.

Virat Kohli – (M: 2, Inn: 4, Runs: 272, Ave: 68, HS: 119) (Rating: 9)

Before the start of this tour, Virat was the only Indian batsman with a test century outside subcontinent and was expected to lead from the front. Virat did that with flying colors in the first test with a brilliant ton against Steyn, Morkel and Philander on a pitch which was swinging and seaming a lot on the first day. Virat looked extremely comfortable and once against proved that he is one of the best young players in the world at the moment. Along with Pujara, Virat held the Indian batting together in both the tests and with an average of 68, he was one of the rocks of Indian batting on this tour.

Rohit Sharma – (M: 2, Inn: 4, Runs: 45, Ave: 11.25, HS: 25) (Rating: 2)

Rohit Sharma had an extremely poor tour and there is no two ways about it. It is not that he is not talented but his penchant for chasing wide deliveries outside off stump came back to haunt him again in this series. An average of 11.25 with a high score of 25 shows the predicament India find themselves with Rohit. He was the in form player at the start of this series and a lot was expected of him in this series. Rohit would want to quickly forget about this tour and would want to make an impact in the upcoming New Zealand tour. The only reason he gets any ratings at all is because he took couple of catches in the slips.

Ajinkya Rahane – (M: 2, Inn: 4, Runs: 209, Ave: 69.66, HS: 96) (Rating: 9)

Ajinkya Rahane was the surprise package of the tour. Everyone knew that this young man was talented but the ease with which he played the South African pacers was something unexpected. Rahane showed that he is one for the future and can serve the Indian middle order for a long time. Most of the times in the series he ran out of partners, if not he would have scored more runs. India needs to stick with him and along with Virat and Pujara; he can form a great middle order for years to come.

MS Dhoni – (M: 2 Inn: 4, Runs: 87, Ave: 21.25, HS: 29, Cat: 3) (Rating: 4)

MS Dhoni will be extremely disappointed with the way he batted in this series. It is a known fact that Dhoni isn’t a reliable batting option overseas but on this tour he was guilty of throwing away few good starts. Especially in the first innings of the Durban test when India were 320 odd for 5, Dhoni had a great opportunity to drive home the advantage with a good partnership with Rahane but it was not to be. Knowing how fragile the Indian lower order is, India cannot afford to have a non-performing Wicket keeping option. Dhoni needs to contribute more with the bat overseas if he wants to continue as the Indian wicket keeper. His captaincy too came in for lots of criticism and his usage of bowlers were bizarre in the first test while India were pressing for victory.

Ravindra Jadeja – (M: 1, Inn: 2, R: 8, Ave: 4, HS: 8, W: 6, Ave: 25.66, SR: 62.3) (Rating: 7)

Ravindra Jadeja played in the Indian team in the second test as the specialist spinner and as an all-round option. He was brilliant with the ball and troubled the South African batsmen. He was kind of a lone warrior in the first innings in Durban where he picked 6 wickets while the rest of the bowling struggled. He has probably sealed his spot as the premier spinning option overseas with this performance. The only thing which will concern the Indian think tank is his batting. His irresponsible batting in the second innings in Durban when India was looking to save the test was shocking. He had Rahane batting beautifully at the other end but decided to attack Peterson and got caught. Considering how poor Indian lower order has been India needs substantial contribution with the bat from Jadeja who is playing in the team as an bowling all-rounder.

Ravichandran Ashwin – (M: 1, Inn: 2, R: 18, Ave: 18, HS: 11*, W: 0) (Rating: 2)

Ashwin began this tour as India’s premier spinner but at the end of the series has lost out to Jadeja. Ashwin did not have any redeeming factors in the first test. He did not bowl well and his batting too did not set the world on fire. He did bowl economically in the second innings of the first test but as the premier spinner he was expected to take wickets which he did not. It will be interesting to see his role in the future tours as Jadeja looks a sure starter in the first test against New Zealand next month.

Ishant Sharma – (M: 2, Inn: 4, W: 5, Ave: 62.60, SR: 108.0, BB: 4/79) (Rating: 3)

It was yet another frustrating tour for Ishant Sharma. An average of 62 and a Strike rate of 108 will do a batsman proud but for the premier bowler of a team with 50 tests behind him those are shocking numbers. The only reason Ishant finds himself in the team is because of his experience and I am not sure how long the selectors will continue placing faith in him. India needs to look past Ishant as he has been mediocre over the years. He needs to get back to the basics and probably spend couple of years in domestic cricket. The only reason he gets a rating is because of his good spell in the first innings of the first test.

Zaheer Khan – (M: 2, Inn: 4, W: 7, Ave: 45.71, SR: 75.8, BB: 4/88) (Rating: 4)

This was the comeback series for Zaheer and much was expected from him as the leader of the back. Zaheer has been with the Indian team thrice to South Africa prior to this series and was expected to use all of his experience to guide an inexperienced team on this tour. He started off well in the first test but lost steam by the time India reached Durban. The veteran though went past 300 test wickets becoming only second Indian pacer after Kapil Dev to reach that number. Zaheer will be hoping to do better in the New Zealand test series where he has a brilliant record in the past. We need him to guide the Indian pacers in some vicinity, if not a player at least as a consultant.

Mohammed Shami – (M: 2, Inn: 4, W: 6, Ave: 43.83, SR: 75, BB: 3/107) (Rating: 5)

Shami was the least experienced Indian bowler on this tour and even though his numbers don’t show it, he bowled with great heart. He was the only bowler who looked threatening and was always attacking the stumps. Shami needs to be persisted with and hopefully he will become a reliable bowler India has been looking for a long time. India would be hoping that he will continue to develop and will lead the Indian bowling for years to come after Zaheer hangs up his boots.

Tough task ahead for team India

After a disastrous ODI series, India would be looking to put up a better show against the hosts in the upcoming test series. The Indian batting and bowling failed collectively in the ODI series to hand South Africa an easy series victory. It will be interesting to see how this young team will bounce back from the humiliation they suffered at the hands of the hosts.

South Africa hasn’t been an easy place for the touring teams over the last couple of years. Both Pakistan and Australia have been bowled out under 50 in the respective previous tours on these pitches. Steyn, Morkel and Philander have been brilliant at home and been a nightmare to the visiting teams. It will be a great test of character for the Indian young batsmen to stand up against this bowling attack on difficult pitches.

The Indian bowling too will have a great part to play in this series. Even though the focus is squarely on the young batsmen, the bowling has to deliver good performances on these wickets. The South African batsmen have shown vulnerability against good swing bowling in the past and have been bowled out for sub 100 scores both by India and Australia in the past few years. Here is where inclusion of Zaheer will play a great part. He will bring the consistency which was lacking from the Indian bowling in the ODI series. It will be interesting to see who will take the new ball along with him in the first test.

Ishant Sharma’s great performance in the final ODI might put some doubts in Dhoni’s mind. Shami seems to be a sure starter along with Zaheer and it will be between, Ishant, Bhuvneshwar and Yadav for the third seamer spot. Ashwin probably will be the lone spinner in the team and India is likely to go with 7 batsmen.

The Indian batting will always be placed under scrutiny when they travel abroad. The young batting order sans the retired greats will feel the pressure after the dismal showing in the ODI series. This is not the first time though that an Indian team has struggled in the ODI series in South Africa. In 2006, India were hammered 4-0 in the ODI series but managed to shock the hosts in the first test to go up 1-0. The Indian team has performed well in their last two yours here which might give them some confidence going into the first test on the 18th.

The opening stand will be of huge importance in the upcoming series and the new middle order of Pujara, Kohli and Rohit will have to bat with responsibility. It will be between Rayudu and Rahane for the 6th batting spot. India might even think of playing Saha as a specialist batsman at number 6 considering he has done that in the past in Australia. It will be interesting to see what combination India will field in the first test.

It will be a huge test for this young Indian team and will probably set the tone for a tough 2014 ahead. The young batsmen have lots to prove and this will be a huge step in the right direction if they can put up a good show. This tour also will determine how good the Indian bowling resources are and in the presence of Zaheer it gives the young pacemen a chance to learn a trick or two from the veteran.

This will be an interesting series and India enters the same as the underdog and rightfully so. The fact that no one expects a miracle from them might work in the favor of this young team. The ODI series is done and dusted and this is a new format and the young Indian team should approach the same with confidence. I hope that we have a very competitive series and I hope that the young Indian team put up a fighting performance in the two test series.

Probable Indian X1: Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, C Pujara, V Kohli, R Sharma, Saha/Rahane/Rayudu, MS Dhoni (Capt. Wkt.), R Ashwin, Mohd Shami, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma/Umesh Yadav.

England will look to seal the series at Edgbaston

Already 2-0 up in the series, England has no worries ahead of the third test at Edgbaston. For the visitors though the series turned nightmarish when Yuvraj and Harbajan also were ruled out with injuries earlier last week and later Zaheer was deemed unfit to take further part in this series. India will again be missing the services of their premier bowler in Edgbaston and it is hard to see the Indian bowling attack taking 20 wickets in the absence of Zaheer.

England though have no such worries, their bowling is functioning like a well-oiled machine. Even though they missed Chris Tremlett at Trent Bridge, Broad and Bresnen combined well to dismiss the Indian batsmen.

Click here to read the full post

Lack of experience in batting did Pakistan in

First of all let me congratulate both the teams for playing out a brilliant game of cricket. Amidst ridiculously long IPL, it was wonderful to see two teams slugging it out in the oldest format of the game. When Pakistan was leaving for their Caribbean tour, there was confusion between the West Indies superstars and the WICB. The young West Indies team was completely written off and Misbah was primed to create history. He was all set to become the first Pakistani captain to win a test series in West Indies.

But when I looked at the composition of both the teams ahead of the first test, there was little to choose between them. Both the teams lacked experience and Pakistan was seriously down on batting to be called as the favorites. The absence of Younis and Yousuf in the middle order meant that they just had Misbah to guide the youngsters. Pakistan batting had too many players who had little experience in the longer format of the game, which eventually made the difference. The pitch wasn’t a great one to bat on and required great skill and patience from the batsmen to survive and unfortunately for Pakistan none of the young players stood out to be counted. West Indies though had nothing to lose and with the addition of Chanderpaul and Sarwan in the middle order they had the much needed experience on the batting front.

The game was fascinating to watch. Both the teams were low on batting which probably made it even more interesting. The bowling attacks of both teams though was well balanced and for sure was their strongest suite. West Indies had 2 good quick bowlers, an excellent young leggie and a steady medium pacer perfectly suited to the wicket in Guyana. Pakistan boasted of excellent spinners and two good young pacers. So the contest was always between the batsmen of both the teams.

Pakistani batting though struggled on a sluggish wicket and was completely at sea against the wicket to wicket bowling of Sammy. Their bowling though was very good led by Saeed Ajmal who was brilliant with 11 wickets in the match. Umar Gul though was disappointing as he failed to claim a single wicket. The other spinners in the team Rehman and Hafeez supported Ajmal well to keep WI to low totals in both the innings.

For West Indies their captain Darren Sammy led from the front as he claimed 7 wickets in the match including a fifer in the second innings. The batting though had some good contributions from Chanderpaul, Sarwan, Roach, Bishoo and Simmons. Ravi Rampaul was excellent on his return as he bowled with fire and pace claiming 7 wickets in the game and he was well supported by Roach. Bishoo was excellent on his debut as he picked 4 important wickets in the first innings and also contributed with the bat in both the innings.

It was an impressive performance by the West Indies team which wasn’t given any chance by the experts. The Pakistan team management will be terribly disappointed as they would have expected to win this series comfortably. The selection of the team again was baffling as Yousuf I think should still be part of Pakistan middle order for couple of years at least. The young Pakistan players need guidance and who better than Yousuf to give them the same? Younis (Who had to leave the team mid-way due to a family tragedy) also was missing from the X1 and their batting was entirely dependent on Misbah and the unreliable Akmal.

I guess having a team which is so less on experience on an overseas tour is suicidal to say the least. Except for Asad shafiq and Azhar Ali all the other young batsmen look out of depth at this level. Umar Akmal who is an excellent talent needs to take more responsibility. With just few days to go for the second test at St Kitts to begin, the Pakistan team needs to pull themselves up and put up a decent show for their fans.

The West Indies team though would extremely happy with this performance. This was their first test win in two years and the first in 18 games. The team played with Great Spirit and looked hungry for success. I hope that this sparks a turnaround in WI fortune and hopefully the fans will get interested in cricket again. For a great contest of cricket it was sad to see empty stands in Guyana. I am used to seeing a party crowd in the 90’s when WI was still a force in world cricket for test cricket. I hope this marks the return of calypso in West Indies cricket and we see an excellent atmosphere in St Kitts.

India tour England amidst chaos


The Indian team prepare for one of the toughest series after the World Cup. Even though they beat Bangladesh in both tests and one-dayers, Rahul Dravid would be the first one to admit that England would be a different proposition altogether. The Indian team is without a coach for this tour also, thanks to the coach hunting fiasco by the BCCI. The board has not made things easy for themselves and the team with a very poorly conducted selection process which caught the attention of the media world over for all the wrong reasons.

Rahul Dravid has already mentioned his concern over touring England without a coach and also regarding the teams preparation. The good thing about this series is that India got to play South Africa in a three match series in Belfast, Ireland in similar conditions to what they would be facing in England. India won the hard fought series 2-1 and registered their first overseas series victory against South Africa. This series should give India the much needed confidence before the all important tour.

The Indian team selection for the English tour had little surprises, Sehwag was dropped from both the one-day and the test squads as expected. The problem with Sehwag was not the lack of runs itself but the way he had been throwing his wicket away after getting promising starts. The recently concluded Afro-Asian cup was an example of the same. Sehwag got to decent starts in the first two games but played atrocious strokes to get himself out. Harbajan Singh and Pathan were the other notable absentees from the Indian touring party, more so due to their lack of bowling form in the past few months.

The Indian team would be relieved to see Sachin scoring some runs in the recently concluded series in Ireland, in the meanwhile crossing yet another milestone. Sachin became the first batsman in One-Day internationals to cross 15000 runs. A great achievement when you consider that he still has a batting average of 44 and a strike rate of 85. The Indian team would take lots of positives from the series against SA, as most of their batsmen made runs and would also be happy with the performance of Zaheer ahead of the test series. Anil Kumble might be the lone spinner in the team with Sreesanth, Zaheer along with another medium pacer would form the bowling combination atleast for the first test.

The Indian batting order might face a few headaches with Yuvraj scoring some valuable runs in the one-day series, making it very difficult for the captain to leave him out of the playing X1 for the first test starting on July 19th.Well all in all the Indian team would want to finish this tour by winning both the Test and the one-day series against England. Captain Rahul Dravid would be hoping that the seniors in the team including himself, can inspire the team to achieve success on this tour.

Another tour abroad

Its time for the Indian team to forget the dissapointment of the Champions Trophy and concentrate on their SA tour. Well the tour in itself did not start on a happy note as Sehwag injured himself during the practice session and has been ruled out of the first one-day. The Indians had a disastrous first outing in SA as they lost their practice match against the South Africa A team. The Indian team is already without the injured Yuvraj Singh and now Sehwag joins that list.

The Indian batting failed again in their practice match as only 3 batsmen managed to make a decent contribution towards the final tally. Dravid as usual was the saviour with some decent contributions from Kaif and Pathan. This tour is very important to India in finalizing the middle order before the world cup. The Indian team has been chopping and changing the middle order especially the positions from 3-6 for the past one year.

Sachin and Sehwag at the top with kaif at number 3 would be a good option for the Indian team to try out in this series. Rahul Dravid at 5 and Dhoni following him in the batting order should be the best option for the team. I think Suresh Raina needs to be sent back to play some domestic cricket before he can come back to the national team. The yuvraj should bat at number 4 which is the ideal batting position for him in one-dayers. India will be in deep trouble if yuvraj is not fit for the world cup. In the absence of yuvraj India should be choosing between Laxman, Mongia and even sourav ganguly.

The Indians should be happy with the return of Anil to the Indian one-day team after more than a year. Zaheer also made it back to the Indian team after a long absence owing to injuries and bad performances. Its great to see two experianced bowlers in the team on one of the most difficult oversees tours for the team. Munaf and sreesanth got wacked around a bit in their final spells against the South African A team with both of them going above 6 runs/over. Irfan bowled a decent spell in the match but we have seen him to inconsistant over the last few months. Irfan has to work on his consistancy in bowling. Munaf Patel had a forgetful match as he was India’s major performer in the last couple of one-day tournaments.

Ajit Agarkar did not play this match but I am sure that he would be in the playing X1 for the first one-dayer which starts on 16th of this month. Indian team should be contemplating going with 2 spinners and three fast bowlers combination for the first one-dayer. Anil doing so well on his come back has put pressure on the selectors for the spin bowling spot in the team. Munaf Patel and Sreesanth may lose their spot to a much improved Zaheer in the first match. The batting order must be easier to pick with sehwag out of the game it should be Jaffer to open with sachin with Dinesh or Kaif at number 3 followed by Dravid, Dhoni and pathan.

All in all it seems a very interesting contest with hopes of india winning is not too high. The Indian team would be hoping to put up a better show against the SA in the first one-dayer. Being an Indian fan I will watch this match with keen interest and hope that the Indians put up a decent show.