Tag Archives: Zaheer

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.

Sachin rested as Zaheer and Sehwag return

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

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

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

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

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

Squad for the Sri Lanka tour:

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

Bowling worries for India ahead of the first test

India is about to begin their test series against Australia in few days and as it was in England earlier this year; the team is struggling with injuries. India had lost Varun Aaron and Praveen Kumar already before leaving the Indian shores and now it seems like Ishant Sharma would also struggle to make to the test team. If Ishant misses out India might field a very inexperience attack unless the replacement/cover is Irfan Pathan.

This scenario makes the presence of Zaheer very important for India throughout the series.

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Irfan Pathan the missing piece

The venue was Sydney and it was the 4th test of a fascinating series between India and Australia. Irfan Pathan who made his debut for India earlier in the series was bowling to Steve Waugh with Australia comfortably placed at 311/4. Pathan bowled a quick full outswinger which took the outside edge of Steve Waugh’s bat and watching that I thought here is another brilliant quick bowler for the future. Pathan then bowled Adam Gilchrist with a searing Yorker which reminded me of Zaheer’s debut against Kenya few years back.

Pathan was a brilliant find for India then. A bowler capable of swinging the ball both ways at speeds in the excess of 140 + was something India were looking for.

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West Indies tour – The pull outs continue

The West Indies tour continued to suffer as more first choice players from the Indian team continue to pull out ahead of the test series. This time it is the turn of Zaheer and Sreesanth. The Indian team will now be without their first choice seamers for the test series. Abhinav Mithun and Praveen Kumar have been named as the replacements. Sometimes it is hard to understand the thinking behind some selections and Praveen’s is a curious one.

Mithun though I understand as he did not do that badly in the test series against the Sri Lankans last year but Praveen’s selection comes as a surprise. If Praveen gets a game this will be his debut for India in the longer format. Munaf and Ishant are already part of the squad, so I am assuming they will be in the starting X1 for the first game at least. Mishra and Bajji will most probably play in most of the games considering how poorly West Indies batsmen have handled spin on this tour. If the need arises to play a third seamer it will be interesting to see who India will play in the X1. So the Indian team who are already light on experience in batting will be suffering the same in the bowling department too.

The Indian team needs to win 3-0 in the test series in order to not lose any points in the test championship race. With the pull outs it will be miraculous if they achieve the same. The batting now will completely rely on Dravid and Laxman and the bowling on Bajji and Mishra. I hope that the youngsters can perform well and continue the good work they have been doing in the series already. The team under Suresh Raina has already won the ODI series and now Dhoni’s challenge would be to captain a young team to victory in tests. The pull outs though have made the series more competitive and give the West Indies a chance to upset the Indian team.

Test squad: MS Dhoni (capt), VVS Laxman (vc), M Vijay, Abhinav Mukund, Rahul Dravid, Virat Kohli, S Badrinath, Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Mithun, Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha, Praveen Kumar, Munaf Patel, Suresh Raina, Parthiv Patel.

World Cup 2011 – Problems galore for team India

Yet another inept performance by the Indian team hands them their first defeat in the World Cup 2011. The bowling and fielding problems were already well documented in the media and with this performance; the batting also joined the problem list. The middle order problem started even before this game but wasn’t taken that seriously as we were chasing miniscule totals but it hurt us big time against the saffers. The top order delivered again led by brilliant Sachin Tendulkar. The little master yet again delivered when mattered with the help of Sehwag first and then Ghambir got India to a commanding position.

Once the top three were back in the hut, the rest fell like a pack of cards. Dhoni was furious after the game, accusing the batsmen of playing to the gallery rather than for the team. It might be true but I got the feeling that the batsmen wanted to score big and make sure that SA are batted out of the game but failed miserably in their quest. Losing 9 wickets for 29 runs is something which even the associate nations would be embarrassed about after the position India were in at that time. The problem now for India is that they have to wait for 1 more week before they can try to rectify the situation. As Ricky Ponting said at the start of the tournament, the gap between the matches are ridiculously long. The gap probably is affecting the Indian team as there can be no momentum for the team and there is very good chance that the Indians will turn up rusty for every game they play.

The bowling too had their issues as except for Zaheer and Bajji (Second spell), the rest were pretty pedestrian. Munaf and Nehra were all over the place and were not able to bowl at the death and for some reason Dhoni did not use Yusuf Pathan that much during the middle overs. The decision to play three seamers kind of backfired for the Indians as Nehra’s lack of match practice was shown up against the Saffers. To give such an important last over to Ashish was a tactical error by Dhoni as Bajji would have been a better choice. The fielding too did not help the Indians as they dropped couple of dollies in the outfield. Ghambir and Yuvraj were the major culprits on that front.

India now has to win against the WI to make sure they don’t end up fighting for the Quarter-final spot with England and Bangladesh. I hope that India plays Ashwin in the all important game against the WI. At the moment it seems like India would find it hard to go past the Quarters with this bowling and fielding performance. India is lacking in all three disciplines at the moment and I don’t think they have enough time to fix any of those. Suresh Raina might also get his first game against the WI next week replacing Kohli as he gives an extra option with the ball for Dhoni. India needs to do lots of thinking with the squad and come up with a better all round performance in the next game if they have any thoughts of advancing beyond the quarters. Based on the performances so far it does not look that promising for India in this word cup.