BCCI advisory board making the right noises

BCCI had recently announced an advisory board for the national team comprising of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman. It wasn’t clear what the actual role of these greats were as a part of the advisory board. The advisory board though has started making recommendations within weeks of their appointment suggesting that improvement of the national and domestic scene would be their primary role.

Here are some recommendations made by the board to BCCI:

Identify a pool of 30 bowlers:

This is probably the most important recommendation of all. Bowling has been a major trouble for team India over the years and this if implemented probably will help towards correcting that. The recommendation was to identify 15 pacers and 15 spinners from domestic as well as U-19 and U-23 cricket and appoint mentors for both disciplines to take care of them. But it is not clear as to what taking care means. Whether they will coach them actively or will these bowlers be part of some sort of camp is not something which is mentioned yet. It will be great if these bowlers are also kept away from IPL and are only played in domestic/A-tours. BCCI selection committee will be responsible to identify these 30 bowlers and it will be interesting to see who makes it to the final list.

Increase the number of A-tours:

This is something BCCI has been already doing. India does play quite a lot of A-tours. The recommendation though suggests that BCCI should schedule A-tours few months ahead of an international away series. This will be a good one as this will allow players to get acclimatized to the conditions ahead of time and will help them to plan for the tour. BCCI did do this last year with A-tour to SA months before India toured there for 2 tests but this isn’t something which is happening more frequently.

Renew the Talent Resource Development Wing (TRDW):

This was something which was introduced way back and was scraped for some reason. The new advisory board wants to renew or reinstate the TRDW again. The Talent Resource Development Officers (TRDO’s) used to attend domestic games and identify bright talents across the country. The primary role of the TRDO’s was to just do that but again this idea was scrapped and this is no longer happening. I read somewhere that the match referees are doubling as the talent scouts which does not make sense. So this seems like another good recommendation.

So these are some interesting developments after the BCCI initiative with the advisory board. The board has made some important recommendations but again it will be interesting to see how and when BCCI implements these. It is great to see the advisory board taking their role seriously but again unless these recommendations actually take effect we cannot read too much into them.

Bowlers need a mentor too

Zaheer Khan did excellently well as a mentor for young bowlers in the Delhi Daredevils team this season.

Zaheer Khan did excellently well as a mentor for young bowlers in the Delhi Daredevils team this season.

Rahul Dravid has been recently announced as the coach for the Indian A teams and the U-19 teams. This is great news for the Indian cricket fans as Rahul Dravid is an international great and has been often mentioned as a great mentor for young cricket players. Ajinkya Rahane and Sanju Samson have spoken highly about Rahul during his time as Rajasthan Royals captain. Dravid also has great eye for talent as he has spotted players like Rahane, Lokesh Rahul and Samson as future international prospects way before they were picked for India.

This is indeed as great move by BCCI after Rahul declined to be part of the advisory board which BCCI announced recently comprising of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and VVS Laxman. The only negative I see about all this is that there has been no bowler in sight in any of these panels. The Indian team as we all know has always struggled with the bowling and batting has never been a huge concern in the long run. India always churns out good batsmen and the advisory board consisting of only batting greats is disturbing. It would have been great if BCCI had requested Javagal Srinath or Zaheer Khan to be part of the U-19 and Indian coaching team to mentor the young bowlers.

Even though Zaheer hasn’t technically retired, it was seen that he was able to mentor young bowlers effectively in the IPL and looked like someone who could work with the U-19 bowlers and pass on some valuable tips. Zaheer and Srinath have been the best pace bowlers for Indian over the last 20 years and it will be great if the BCCI could use their expertise effectively. The advisory panel for the Indian team too needs a bowling component. If BCCI cannot find an Indian bowler to join the coaching or the advisory panel they should try and get an overseas coach. If India needs to become a force at the international level they need a good bowling unit.

The current crop needs guidance and help which will be paramount for their development. Young bowlers like Sandeep Sharma need the required support and advice before they make the transition to the national side. The Indian bowlers like Mohd Shami, Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron need to be groomed and be taken care. The BCCI has always ignored development of the bowlers and it is the same with the current advisory board. Even though this is a welcome change and a good initiative, it can be better.

I hope that new advisory board recommends such initiatives for the bowlers. Rahul Dravid is a smart individual and I hope that he includes a good bowling coach/mentor for the u-19 and India A teams. The bowlers need to be developed at the grass roots level and need good guidance from someone who understands fast bowling. Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly can be great asset to the coaching staff but again I would have loved to see a bowling component to the team. BCCI should work with the greats and come up with a plan to help the bowlers. If India does not take care of the current crop we will once again end up losing these great talents and end up looking for new brigade as we have been doing over the last 15 years. Hope some sense prevails and we see some development towards this in the coming months.

VVS Laxman – A magician with the bat

Laxman has been a fantastic player for India. His absence in the Indian middle order will be felt more considering how badly the Indian batting has performed over the past year or so. Here is my tribute to the great player. Laxman will be for sure missed in the middle order when India take on Australia in couple of months.

My Thoughts

The first time I watched VVS Laxman was in the home series against South Africa in 1996. It was in the Ahmadabad test where both the teams were even after the first innings and India needed a decent enough lead on a crumbling pitch. Laxman batting at number 6 scored an important fifty on debut which helped India to an unlikely victory. That innings showed Laxman’s fantastic temperament which he displayed throughout his career. In spite of the great talent he possessed Laxman struggled to establish himself in the Indian middle order. Part of the issue was the position in the lineup Laxman was batting. Since India struggled for consistent opening combinations through the 90’s Laxman was pushed to open which proved to be his undoing.

Laxman’s talent was evident as he kept piling on the runs at the domestic level. He truly arrived at the international scene with a…

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VVS Laxman – A magician with the bat

The first time I watched VVS Laxman was in the home series against South Africa in 1996. It was in the Ahmadabad test where both the teams were even after the first innings and India needed a decent enough lead on a crumbling pitch. Laxman batting at number 6 scored an important fifty on debut which helped India to an unlikely victory. That innings showed Laxman’s fantastic temperament which he displayed throughout his career. In spite of the great talent he possessed Laxman struggled to establish himself in the Indian middle order. Part of the issue was the position in the lineup Laxman was batting. Since India struggled for consistent opening combinations through the 90’s Laxman was pushed to open which proved to be his undoing.

Laxman’s talent was evident as he kept piling on the runs at the domestic level. He truly arrived at the international scene with a blistering 167 which he scored against a fantastic Australian attack. An attack which boasted of McGrath, Warne and Lee in their ranks and the fact that the runs came in just 190 odd deliveries showed what Laxman was capable of. Even though that innings should have been a turning point in his career, he struggled at the opening spot which he was clearly not comfortable batting in.

In 2001 when Australia toured India and Laxman finally returned to the middle order and only then did the real legend of VVS Laxman emerged. His innings in Kolkata of 281 while following on is considered as one of the best test innings of all time. The partnership with Rahul Dravid was truly special and for sure paved way for many more such match winning partnerships between the two legends. VVS was an incredible player. A player with magic wrists could play both pace and spin with equal ease. A soft spoken individual and a true team man, Laxman became an integral part of the Indian middle order for a decade.

Laxman’s biggest trait was how he always came to party when his team was in trouble. Most of his best performances in test cricket where when India was in trouble. His 73 n.o chasing 200 odd against Australia in 2010 was one of the best innings played in recent times. He did better that innings in the same year with an unbeaten hundred in the fourth innings against Sri Lanka chasing a 250+ total. He has shared some of his fantastic partnerships with Rahul Dravid who announced his retirement just few months back. It isn’t hard to imagine why these two shared such special rapport as both of them are similar individuals and extremely humble human beings.

VVS Laxman was always fantastic against the Aussies and it was ironic that his last tour to Australia was a disaster. Laxman had many memorable innings against the men from down under. He scored 2434 runs at an incredible average of 49.67 against Australia.

Laxman wasn’t a bad ODI player either, even though his ODI record pales in front of his test achievements. His biggest disappointment was not making it to the 2003 world cup squad. He did come back to the ODI team later the same year and had his best year in the shorter format where he again dominated Australia in the CB series.

It is sad to see both Laxman and Dravid retire within the span of few months. Laxman was one of the main pillars of Indian middle order and one of the chief architects of many of India’s overseas wins. He along with Dravid, Sachin and Sehwag were instrumental in taking India to the top of the test rankings. Laxman will for sure be missed and it will be hard to imagine the Indian test team without him walking in to bat at number 6. Laxman would end his career with 134 test caps, scoring 8781 runs at an average of 45.97 with 16 test hundreds. He played 86 ODI’s scoring 2338 runs at a modest average of 30.71 with 6 hundreds.

Laxman was a special player and was an important cog in the Indian batting wheel. He will for sure be missed and I hope that he continues to succeed in whatever career he decides to take over after his retirement. Laxman will still continue to play first class cricket and I hope that he gets involved in Indian setup in some vicinity.

The A tour raises more questions about the Indian batting reserves

The India A tour to West Indies started off with lots of promise. The series was supposed to showcase the best of Indian talent. With the retirement of Rahul Dravid, his replacement in the test team was of paramount importance. The selectors will be happy that Pujara gave a good account of himself throughout the series to emerge as the prime contender for the number 3 spot in the test team. The major disappointment though was the performance of Rohit Sharma.

Since his debut in 2008 Rohit has been considered as a player with enormous talent. He has represented India in the shorter format for about 4 years now and it does not seem like he is ready to make the step up. He started off the tour with a great 94 in the first innings of the first unofficial test but that was about it. He continued to struggle with his control in the longer format. He continues to throw his wicket away with ridiculous shots after getting set. More importantly he continues to disappoint his fans. It seems like Rohit has to work very hard in order to stake the claim for the test spot.The other person to disappoint this series was Ajinkya Rahane. Another player with brilliant technique and great domestic record who failed to impress on this A tour. Rahane struggled to get of the blocks most of the times in this series and seems to have the same issue as Rohit.

Pujara though was the only success of this test leg of the tour. The man once again proved the gulf between himself and the rest of the pack who are vying for a test spot. He played a brilliant innings in the first test to single handedly win the game for his team and scored runs consistently throughout. The batting was the big issue for the Indians in this A tour and the struggle of these youngsters against West Indies A team is not a good sign for the future. The West Indies gained more from this series than India. The other batsman to impress a bit was Tiwary who looked good in couple of innings. Saha did well with the bat in couple of knocks but none of them were consistent. Mukund was another player who disappointed throughout the series.

It seems like once the shorter format started the youngsters are back in their elements. Rahane and Rohit looked their part in the two T20’s which followed the test series. Does this mean that these players are just good enough for the shorter format? We will not know for sure unless we test them out longer. Is the IPL making these players lose their technique? This can only be answered by the players themselves. It will be interesting to see how these youngsters bounce back from this debacle. All these players are talented but to be able to succeed in test cricket talent alone isn’t enough. The will to fight it out in the middle when the chips are down is something these youngsters need to learn. For now though a test spot seems to be long way away for these youngsters.

A tour of missed opportunities for the men in blue

Yusuf pathan was the biggest positive to emerge out of the ODI series for the Indians

The Indian team is back after a grueling two month tour to South Africa, where the team drew the test series and lost the close ODI series. The team will be a bit disappointed with the result though. Even though the tour started with a humiliating innings defeat in the first test, India was in the best position to win their first test series in South Africa. The biggest gain of the series was India’s back to the wall comebacks throughout the tour. After the humiliating loss in the first test, the stunning comeback by the team in Durban was an amazing effort. The bowling which looked toothless in the first test performed brilliantly to level the series.

Even though the series was a hard fought one, the Indian team will be really disappointed with their efforts in the third test match. With the scores even after the first innings in the third test, India had the hosts 130/6 in the second innings. India was unable to dislodge the Boucher/Kallis pair to let them stretch the lead to over 300. I would probably say that this was our best chance of a series win in South Africa with all the greats still in the team. I am sure that Dhoni will consider this as a missed opportunity.

The series was once again a brilliant one for Sachin Tendulkar as he emerged as our best batsmen along with VVS Laxman who has now made rescuing his team under pressure a habit. The biggest positive to emerge out of the series was the response of the Indian bowling unit after the thrashing in the first test. The bowling of Sreesanth and Harbajan Singh were the stand out and obviously Zaheer was very consistent. Cheteshwar Pujara, even though did not score any runs looks like a player who belongs at this level and needs to be persisted with. The biggest disappointment of the series was Ishant Sharma; never in this series did he look like picking up any wickets.

The ODI series too was really close and in the absence of Sehwag, Ghambir and Sachin, it kind of gave us an insight on future of Indian cricket team. The insight though was not that pretty to be honest. The Indian batting struggled to counter the pace attack of the South Africans. The top order batting with the exception of Virat Kohli struggled.

The ODI series also followed familiar pattern to that of the test series, big loss in the first game and stunning comeback in the second. India went into the fourth ODI with a chance of winning their first ODI series in South Africa and once again the bowling and fielding let us down. With South Africa 117/5, JP Duminy did a Kallis on India this time. India was unable to separate Duminy/Botha pair who played brilliantly to rescue the home team to a match winning 265 from a precarious position. The Indian batting once again collapsed losing the game comfortably and thereby squandering a chance to win the series.

The one thing which was noticeable with the Indian ODI performance was that young Indian batsmen, baring Kohli did not have the necessary patience to hang in there. For example in the third ODI, Kohli and Raina had formed a decent partnership and Kohli had just hit a six earlier in the over. Raina, who was under no pressure to go for a big hit, charged the bowler and got stumped. There were various scenarios in the series where some patience was necessary in the middle and the Indian batsmen played some atrocious shots to hand their wickets. The biggest plus for India was the form of Yusuf Pathan who almost singlehandedly won the series for India with a brilliant hundred in the final game and also the bowling form of Harbajan Singh and Munaf Patel who performed brilliantly throughout the series. Yusuf’s performance has almost put paid to the all-rounder debate at least for the world cup.

Overall this wasn’t a bad tour for the Indians as they came unscathed in the test series with a 1-1 draw. The ODI series was disappointing though very close. The biggest worry for Dhoni was lack of form his batsman displayed. With just a month left for the World Cup we have 3 batsman who lack practice (Sachin, Ghambir and Sehwag), 3 who are out of form (Dhoni, Raina and Yuvraj) and one in crackling for but cannot get into the X1 (Kohli). So there are plenty of headaches for Dhoni and Kirsten when they sit down to pick the X1 for their first game against Bangladesh. Will they play Kohli and drop either Raina or Yuvraj? We have to wait and see.

IPL 2011 Auction– Sourav’s Snub and Kumble’s wise decision

The IPL “Tamasha” auction just concluded last weekend and the biggest surprise of all was non inclusion of Sourav Ganguly. Sourav was one of the high profile players who found no takers at the auction. West Indians Brian Lara and Chris Gayle were the others to not find any bidders. Sourav who was an icon player for his home side Kolkata Knightriders for the first three seasons was not retained by his franchise. He entered this year’s auction with a base price of $400,000.

The biggest surprise was the lack of interest in one of the greatest captain’s of the Indian team. He did not have a bad IPL III either. Kolkata who did not retain him also did not make an attempt to get him back in the auction. I would say that it would have been a very bitter pill to swallow for Sourav and I don’t think he deserves such treatment. There have been lots of money shed over few players who I feel have been extremely lucky as some of them haven’t played any form of cricket for a long time.

Sourav’s snub should rank as one of the worst in the IPL till date. Being one the greatest players for the Indian team he deserved better and I hope that he gracefully exits the IPL scene. I do not want him to accept any sort of coaching opportunities presented by Kolkata owners as the damage has already been done.

Rahul Dravid and Laxman who also weren’t retained by their respective franchises were extremely lucky to have been picked up by the Rajasthan Royals and Kochi respectively. . Anil Kumble though made the wisest of choices as he decided to pull himself out of the auction at the last moment. He might have had to play for a different state team which probably he might not have wanted or he probably thought that he might also be snubbed in this auction so wanted to stay ahead of the game. Not exactly sure what the reason behind his decision was but it was a brilliant one. He has been made as the “Chief Mentor” for his former franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore.

With most of the teams already settled, it’s sad to see that Sourav Ganguly had to bow out this way as a player from the IPL. I am not sure if he would continue playing domestic cricket either. For all the laurels he had brought to the team India, he for sure needed a better send off. The Kolkata team owner Shahrukh Khan in an attempt to pacify the angry Sourav fans offered him a management position but I am not sure if Dada would be interested in the same. The damage has been already done and a severe blow has been dealt, so accepting a coaching role would only add insult to injury.