My Thoughts

Posts Tagged ‘World Cup 2011

The Indian team has had non-stop cricket since the World Cup 2011. If IPL after 7 days of World Cup was ridiculous the 1 off T20 in South Africa beats that hands down. South Africa themselves are coming back after playing New Zealand and they have to get ready to play a one-off game against the Indians. I agree that both teams have rested some of their key players but this is an absolute overkill.

I would have understood if India is travelling to SA for a decent length tour probably for few T20 games, followed by an ODI series or something but just for one game defies logic. This seems like a shameless money making venture by both the boards. Not only do these players have to travel for this ridiculous 1 off game but they have to get ready to begin the 5th season of IPL within few days of returning back. The India team have been playing non-stop cricket since the IPL 2011 (Tour to WI, England tour, Home series against England, Home series against WI, Australian tour, Asia Cup) and they could have very well used these few days as a break.

The BCCI should be more concerned about player fitness and regarding their availability for important games. The one-off T20 does not make any sense to anyone except for the two boards involved. The grueling IPL is about to begin next month and I sincerely hope that we don’t see any injuries ahead of the ICC World T20 later this year. The ICC needs for sure step in here and stop these mindless and meaningless games. They can play as many T20’s as they want when the teams are on a full tour. This particular game does not serve any purpose and cannot be good for either team. The ICC has been always quiet about scheduling issues and I hope that at some point they will stop these stupid money generating games which does not solve any purpose.


India would be entering this world cup not only with the pressure of being one of the host nation but also one of the favorites. The favorite tag is not something given to them just for being the host nation but has been gained by Dhoni’s men through consistent performances over the last couple of years. So let’s take a look at the Indian team composition.

Everyone knows that the strength of Indian team is always their batting and rightly so. The batting is power packed with the addition of Yusuf Pathan lower down the order. The top order comprises of Sachin Tendulkar, Sehwag and Ghambir followed by Yuvraj Singh, Raina/Kohli and Dhoni forming the middle order. So a fantastic batting line up who can on their day destroy any bowling attack on the subcontinent pitches. Sachin joining Sehwag at the top means that Ghambir has to drop down to number 3 in the order.

Virat Kohli’s excellent form with the bat for over a year means that Suresh Raina would most probably have to give way to him in the X1. Yuvraj will hang on to the number 4 spot followed by the captain Dhoni and Pathan to provide the finishing touches. The bowling though will be a huge concern for the captain and the coach. The combination for their first game in just couple of day’s time will be a huge headache. None of the pace bowlers looked threatening in the couple of warm up games which India played. The spinners though did a brilliant job. So now the question is whether to play a 2 pace/2 spin combination or go with the tried and tested 3 pace/1 spin attack.

The spinners Chawla, Ashwin and Harbajan have for sure out bowled the pacers in the lead up games which means that Dhoni might want to go with two spinners. Zaheer will be for sure one of the pacers in the team but his partner is still to be decided. Nehra, Sreesanth and Munaf have struggled in the lead up and none of them has looked like picking up wickets or containing the batsmen with the new ball. So the tossup can be random as it probably wouldn’t make too much of a difference. So all in all I think the onus is for sure on the batting. The batsmen cannot have too many off days in the middle during this world cup. The Indian bowling is thin and on flat batting decks will struggle to contain the opposition.

The Indian team for me resembles the 1996 Sri Lanka team when they won the world cup. Sri Lanka’s plan was simple during that time, bowl first and chase with their powerful batting line up. They like India only had one good pace bowler and one experienced spinner. They relied heavily on the part-timers to choke the opposition in the middle overs and it was extremely successful. So India needs to also play to their strength which is their spinners. Harbajan and Chawla/Ashwin will be the way to go for the Indians.

So with great batting and adequate bowling for this conditions, India for sure are one of the favorites for the world cup. I think if the bowling stands up to be counted this time, they have an excellent chance of going the distance. Dhoni also has to use the part-timers wisely and has plenty of options in that regard. India have had a decent track record at world cup’s played in the subcontinent as they have at least reached the semis on the previous two occasions (1987 and 1999) and would want to go one step further this time. This world cup also marks the last for Sachin Tendulkar and he would for sure want to sign out from the 50 over format in a grand style. I hope that team India can give us fans with plenty to cheer about in the coming month and a half and I wish Dhoni and his men all the success.

My Indian X1 for Bangladesh clash: Sachin Tendulkar, Virendar Sehwag, Gautham Ghambir, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh, Dhoni (Capt, Wkt), Yusuf Pathan, Piyush Chawla/Ravichandran Ashwin, Harbajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Sreesanth (I go with sree as he has the ability to produce match winning spells)

I have decided to group England and South Africa together as both of them have lots in common. Both the teams are yet to win the tournament and would be keen to set the record straight. England who reached the World Cup finals on three occasions would want to go one step further this time if they get another chance and South Africa would want to be in the finals for the first time.

If we look at both the teams, they haven’t had a great year in the shorter format. England reach the world cup after a 6-1 loss against the Aussies and South Africa with a hard fought 3-2 win against the Indians. Both the teams have some exciting players in the X1 and have a good balanced bowling attack. South Africa comprises of a very strong batting line up led by Smith and Amla at the top. The middle order consists of Kallis, Devilliers, Ingram and Duminy followed by Mark Boucher. So a very strong batting line up capable of raking up huge scores on flat subcontinent wickets. The bowling too is extremely potent with Dale Steyn and Morkel leading the pace attack. The spin bowling also received a great boost with the inclusion of Imran Tahir (Leg Spinner) along with Johan Botha.

That lends an excellent balance to an attack which normally is pace heavy. So I would say on papers the proteas are one of the strongest contenders for the title. They bat deep and also have an attack which can be dangerous on these wickets. So overall I would say South Africa has come with the best combination to succeed on these wickets for the first time and they would like to make the most of it. England also has a similar team to the Proteas. Pieterson and Trott give them the solidity in the middle order along with Collingwood and Morgan (If he does play). Strauss is a calm head at the top and the captain would surely want to lead from the front. The English bowling has great balance with Anderson leading the pace attack and Swann leading the tweakers.

Swann being arguably the best spinner in the world at the moment will be a huge advantage for the English. He also has featured in a full series to the subcontinent in the past which should give him an advantage to bowl in these conditions. All in all both the teams have an excellent chance to make it to the semis but it all depends on their temperament. Both these teams have had chances in the past but have not been able to grab the same and have faltered at the crucial stages. So Smith and Strauss will be mindful of the fact and would want to make this world cup memorable for their respective teams.

With just few days to go for the cricket world cup 2011 to begin, I have decided to take a look at the top contenders. In the first part I am going to take a look at Australia. Australia has won the cup 4 times and is the defending champion. That’s precisely the reason I decided to write a separate preview on them.

You can never count Australia out of any major sporting event. The team is still the best in the world in the 50 over format and has just had a crushing 6-1 victory over England in the ODI series. The current Australian team does not have the aura of the past 3 world cup teams and has only one great player in Ricky Ponting. The batting has been a struggle for the defending champions over the past year or so but their fighting spirit has kept them afloat in the shorter format. The Australian batting will be lead by the inform Shane Watson. Watson who has been brilliant for the Aussies over the past couple of years in all formats and will be a key member at the top of the order.

Ricky Ponting off course will be vital to their chances and the middle order comprising of David Hussey, Cameroon White and Michael Clarke need to step up to the occasion. Michael Hussey’s sudden removal from the squad due to injury is a major blow to the Australian chances as that has put enormous pressure on an inexperienced Australian middle order. The bowling though does not have such issues as Brett Lee’s return has given a definite edge to the pace department. Jason Krezja did a good job in the warm up game and will definitely be a good addition in the sub continental condition.

Even though Australia have struggled in the longer format in the recent years, their ODI form hasn’t dipped that much. They are still the best team in the world by a wide margin according to the rankings and would have to be considered as one of the favorites. I would place them as the top contender to win the world cup as they know how to raise their game for a major event. I am sure they will be one of the semifinalists this time and I wouldn’t be surprised if they are one of the two teams competing for the title on the 2nd of April at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai.

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

On a telephonic conversation from Malaysia Tony Fernandes said

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Here is the second installment of my team India preview for the world cup 2011, this time we take a look at our batting. As we saw India’s bowling resources are thin and pose quite a lot of selection headaches, the Indian batting though has no such issues. This is one discipline India is quite settled ahead of the world cup. The batting order picks itself and even though Sachin Tendulkar hasn’t played in too many ODI’s this year, he will automatically return to the top of the order with Sehwag. So this means that Ghambir will have to fall to number three in the order. Sachin returning also means that Virat Kohli has to step aside from the X1 unless India decides to go with 7 batsmen.

Yuvraj in all probability should return to his customary number 4 spot followed by Raina and Dhoni. The reserves should be Kohli, Karthik/Uthappa (Any one of them can be keeping back up for Dhoni if the need arises) and probably Vijay or Pujara as the other backup. India has a settled top 6 and the number 7 spot is where the team management will be in a fix. The confusion would be to whether play Jadeja/Ashwin as the all-rounder or to play an extra batsman at number 7.

Even though such decisions can be based on the pitch conditions, this will be something which India needs to think about in the coming months. Ravindra Jadeja has hardly done anything spectacular with the bat and Ashwin is rather untested at this level. So this will be an interesting selection. The best way to determine who of these two will be the best fit is to give them chances in all the 5 ODI’s against New Zealand. Since most probably Bajji will be rested, it will be a great opportunity to play both Jadeja and Ashwin in the X1 together. It will also be important to give both these players an opportunity to bat in these games to see who can handle pressure at this level.

Now let’s look at the reserve batting options, Kohli sure will be in the squad and is actually very unlucky to miss out from the X1. In a big tournament like the world cup you surely need a keeping backup for Dhoni and the options in that case is very limited. Since Dhoni has hardly missed a game, none of the probable options have been tested. The only option who has played few games is Dinesh Karthik who opened the batting a few times during the absence of either Sehwag or Ghambir. The other interesting option is Robin Uthappa, who offers an attacking option with the bat and is decent behind the stumps. With Kohli sealing one spot in the batting, there might be just enough space for another player in the squad which will be an interesting pick. Vijay has struggled in the ODI’s and so has Rohit Sharma. The dark horse though might be Cheteshwar Pujara who impressed one and all with his match winning fifty against the Aussies. So again a lot can change in 3 months and some new candidates can emerge for contention.

But unlike our bowling the batting though looks pretty much settled with 7 batsmen almost sure of making the squad. India’s strength over the years has been their batting and they have bailed out the team very many times after an insipid bowling display. So even in this World Cup, India’s trump card will be their batsmen. If the batting clicks, India has a very good chance of giving the title a shot, but the bowlers have to do their bit too for that to happen. A great bowling performance in a tournament like the world cup can lift any side and India will be looking for such a hero in the 2011 edition.

Time is running out for Sreesanth to stake his claim for a world cup berth

World Cup 2011 is back in the sub continent and while everyone is hoping this to be the magical farewell Sachin deserves let’s look at India’s chances in a two step exercise. The first major discipline the Indian team most often struggles is their bowling. India has failed to get a consistent bowling partner for Zaheer over the past couple of years thereby putting lots of pressure on our premier bowler. Zaheer to his credit has responded incredibly well but let’s look at the possible bowling combinations India could try in the lead up to the World Cup.

Even though we have struggled in the bowling department, India has still managed to find some sort of consistency in the selection of the ODI squad. Praveen Kumar and Ashish Nehra have done a commendable job over the past year in the absence of Zaheer Khan. There have been few others tried in the meanwhile with limited success. So going by the latest trend, India might open the bowling with Praveen and Zaheer with Nehra being the first change. Since the world cup takes place in the subcontinent, I feel that pace is a very important factor rather than the swing. Unless we are playing in the northern part of India under cloudy skies, I don’t see the bowlers getting too much of swing. Praveen Kumar might have a lot of struggle under conditions which are not favorable to the bowlers.

So who could be the backup options? Ishant Sharma is one of them and of course Sreesanth might be in the squad too. Both of them have the pace but both of them are way too inconsistent to bank on. The unfortunate part is that Ishant Sharma got injured when he was looking like getting back to some sort of rhythm against the Aussies and Sreesanth who replaced him for the next game looked very rusty. India has around 10 ODI’s to try various combinations and I hope we do try everyone who might be part of the squad in all those games and make sure that the main bowlers are fit for the major event.

So currently the pace bowling list looks like this, Zaheer, Ishant, Praveen, Nehra and Sreesanth. There are other names too in the list who have played on and off in the team like Munaf Patel, Abhinav Mithun and Vinay Kumar. Since the world cup is in the subcontinent I am thinking that we will not be looking at more than 4 pacers in the 16. I wouldn’t want to be one of the selectors for sure when they sit down to pick the team for such a major event. A home tournament means that you at least have easy access to replacements when someone gets injured. The spin department too throws quite a lot of names with Bajji being the only settled bowler in the X1. The other spinners who could make the 16 are Ashwin, Ojha, Mishra and Jadeja. The chances of Ashwin and Jadeja being the second spinner is more likely as they both are in the squad as the allrounders. The BCCI’s plan of sending the Indian test squad early to South Africa to get acclimatized to those conditions would mean that the selectors can try out different combinations in the home series against New Zealand.

Even though we should have identified our combinations by now, it seems like we have fallen little back on trying out few players. Ravichandran Ashwin has just played couple of ODI’s till date and Ojha has never gotten a consistent run in the team. Mishra too has not been part of the squad for a considerable length of time. This probably shows that we are one of the most underprepared team right now among the favorites in the bowling department. With teams like South Africa, England and Sri Lanka playing with almost settled squads for close to a year now, India is still looking for the right combination ahead of the world cup.

Captain Dhoni said in his latest interview that he will be looking to play the full team in the ODI series against the proteas, which leaves the selectors with just the ODI series against the Kiwis to experiment. With various combinations to try and with bowlers like Vinay Kumar and Mithun in the wings, I am not sure how we are going to pick a 16 at the moment. Except for Zaheer, Nehra, Bajji and Praveen the rest of the bowling just looks like a lottery at the moment. It will an interesting selection and the coming months will give us a clearer picture. Whatever may be the squad, I just feel that the selectors have left this too late for comfort. We just have to hope that the prime contenders hit form at the right moment for the big tournament.

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