Monday, February 17, 2014

It is TIME now...

 This is to follow up with my preview. In the preview, I confidently expected India to level the series. Well, India was pretty much on course to level the series until 2 days (end of 2nd day of 2nd & Final Test) ago.  With a day to go in the final test match, NOW, it would be imprudent to expect India level the series. (Again not to forget, Cricket is a glorious game of uncertainty) 

Before any introspection, let’s rewind the tape. Teams in alien conditions mostly start on back foot. India’s story wasn’t any different. First Innings of the first test, India allowed New Zealand to run away with big total. Thanks to those drop catches that proved culprit. McCullum, Willimason & Anderson all pounced on the opportunities awarded to them and made India pay with 503. Again, Indian batsmen first outing in New Zeland wasn’t any special, when they were bowled out 300 short of opposition total. Special thanks to Indian batsman for attempting extravagant strokes little too early and causing their own downfall. Good players learn from their mistakes quickly. Indian players learnt too. The catches that went begging in the first innings found safety net in fielder’s hands in the second innings. As a result, India routed New Zealand for 105. Chasing a target excess of 400, Indian batsman spent time at the crease. That resulted in runs on the board. The lower order showed better application this time. Rather be bogged down to the second new ball, the batsmen surprised the opposition with an offensive play. After an enthralling battle, India lost the match by meagre 40 runs. Though the result ended in New Zealand’s favor, India walked into the second test with head high. Importantly, Indian players had come to terms. Even the batsman like Shikar Dhawan who has been found wanting in bouncy pitches had learnt the trade (at a most important juncture of his career and this series). It was truly impossible to believe India to lose the second test before the start of the match.

Much to the expectation, India started the proceedings well in the Second Test. Won the important toss and allowed the opposition in. They then bundled New Zealand inside 200. This was followed by disciplined batting that allowed India to post a total of 438. A total that is good enough to inflict innings defeat. Everything was falling in place when New Zealand was floundering at 92/5 during their effort to wipe the lead. And then, the match changed course. A couple of drop chances, McCullum in the company of Watling (now Neesham) reminding the historic Calcutta test. You read it right. New Zealand are sitting pretty at 578/6 (McCullum 281*, Watling 129, Neeshan 67*) with a 325 lead and a day to play. It would be imprudent to expect India level the series. We will have our answers tomorrow this time. I feel New Zealand win is a more deserving result to this test match.

I don’t want to introspect technical as many know, where India lost track. Dropped Catches, Defensive Captaincy, Flat Deck… (Feel free to fill up the blanks).

For teams to win matches, delivery should come from both Top and Bottom line. During the Tours of England and Australia (2011-2012), it was very evident that the bottom line was more of the issue to the problem. This was reconfirmed when India lost the home series to England (2012). This bottom line issues were addressed over the course of 2 years by selectors and some senior players took the onus on themselves. We witnessed, Dravid, Laxman & Tendulkar retirement. Sehwag, Gambir, Harbhajan, Yuvraj ouster. Bloated Zaheer was shown the exit while a fit Zaheer was welcomed. And then a revamped bottom line (except for few heads) delivered excellent results at home against Australia and West Indies (2013). Again for home series, the management has little work to do as skills of players are sufficient to trump average opposition. But the true test lies only outside Asia. Big question mark hung around the heads of the young Indian team before the Tour of South Africa. To be fair, the players displayed promise despite the result pointed other way at South Africa. The ongoing series against New Zealand (NZ leading 1-0 as of now) is more of an affirmation to the players promise.

For India, the bottom line seems to be solidifying every growing day. I've no doubts about the quality of this young Indian side representing India. The Time has arrived to introspect the Top line. I second Monga's article.

Bottom line: Now that the young Indian side is promising, it is not a bad idea to hand over the responsibility of managing themselves to a young Indian Captain. I would like to start with Pujara for tests. He is the most experienced player (first class) in this format of the game.

Cricket Lover

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Tests begin at Kiwi Land...

Another abroad Test Series for India to begin today. Will India’s performance in the ODI series have any impact in the Test series? Not necessary. And I don’t think so. Definitely the performance of the India’s Test Side at South Africa was stark contrast to the performance of the ODI unit against the same opposition. If recent past is any indicator, we already got our answers.
At the same time, can’t hide the disappointment of India’s abysmal performance in the ODI’s. Suresh Raina and Ishanth Sharma’s ouster from the XI during the course of NZ series was one positive. Not sure, if India has moved on from Raina and Ishanth yet. They better do. Rayudu looked alright in his brief opportunities. He could have made the most out of it with a big fifty. Never mind. Ashwin and Jadeja’s performance with the bat was eye brow rising. Can, India bank on them and play a batsman less? Your guess is as good as mine.The idea of Virat Kohli opening the innings in the 4th ODI sounded bitter. The lad is well on course to make a name for himself at No.3. Why fiddle with it? Luckily, India put him back to No.3 in the final ODI. From the looks of it, Dhawan’s place is surely hanging. If Dhawan does not have a good outing in the Test Series at NZ, he will be replaced both from Test and ODI squad without a lot of noise.
As much India disappointed, glad to see the ascendancy of Kiwis. I would say Kiwis were kind enough to India by not fielding Corey Anderson in the final two ODI’s. The side is well poised before the World Cup. By all means, they make it to the Semi Finals of the World Cup’s regularly. This time the tournament is to be played at home. So, NZ should make hay while sun shines.
Coming back to the preview of the Test Series, India cannot expect to start as favorites though. But one can expect India to draw the series against Kiwis.
It will be interesting to see what combination India will field for the first test. For starters, Ashwin may have already lost his place to Jadeja. To be precise, he lost his place to Jadeja at Durban. Now that Jadeja had a good outing with the bat in the ODI’s, Ashwin’s wait in the sidelines is likely to extend. Again, it will be exciting to see who will don the 3rd seamer role? Ishanth Sharma did not have a bad Test Series at all at South Africa (decent series is a better way to put it). It is only logical he should hold on to his place. But the dislike for Ishanth Sharma is growing every day. May be the team management could mull for a change. B Kumar did not do anything commendable in the ODI series to eclipse Ishanth Sharma for the 3rd seamer slot. So won’t be surprised if one of Ishwar Pandey/Umesh Yadav gets to play as the 3rd seamer. I’m backing Ishwar Pandey as he brings the height factor of Ishanth Sharma. While, Shami Ahmed is adequate for not considering Umesh Yadav.
India starting XI from my perspective
Dhawan, Vijay, Pujara, Kohli, R Sharma, Rahane, Dhoni, Jadeja, Zaheer Khan, Shami Ahmed, Ishawar Pandey
Bottom line: India should level the series (1-1)
Cricket Lover
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...