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Monday, February 20, 2012

Tendulkar to go the Ponting way?

Ricky Ponting has been dropped form the Australian ODI squad and it looks like his grand career in the limited overs format has drawn to an end.  Ponting who captained the Australian team in the last two ODIs (including the win against India), was informed by a telephone call that his services would no longer be required in the ODI format.  Punter in his last 5 innings has failed to score a double digit score and with just an aggregate of 18 runs in those 5 innings, the axing was inevitable.  According to reports, Ponting is mulling retirement from the shorter format and might make an announcement in the near future.

National selector, John Inverarity speaking on Ponting praised the former skipper and said that the team won't be the same without him.  He said,
"Ricky's record speaks for itself. He is one of the truly great performers in the history of Australian ODI cricket, with his reputation enhanced further by him captaining Australia to two World Cup victories.  Ricky's contribution goes far beyond his batting statistics and his brilliant fielding. The example he sets in every respect and his extraordinarily positive influence in the dressing-room is acknowledged by all. He is held in the highest possible regard by his team-mates and there is no higher accolade than this. Ricky being prepared to take over the captaincy in Michael Clarke's recent absence for the sake of the team is yet another example of his selfless attitude and team-first focus."

So with that announcement the curtain has come down on an illustrious 375 ODI career of Ricky Ponting for the final time.  It is never easy to drop a player, the caliber and stature of Ponting with all his past achievements in wide display.  However a call had to be made from one side and since Ponting hadn't made any calls on retirement, the selectors decided to step in.  I applaud the way the Aussie selectors tackled this sensitive issue and have put the interests of Australian cricket at the forefront, like they should.  "Elite sport, there's no place for sentiment," Inverarity said mentioning the fact that players don't always leave on their own terms and that not all exits happen on a high.

A similar storm is brewing in the Indian camp with the head of a senior player being called for.  Sachin Tendulkar who also hasn't been on the best terms is under heavy scrutiny and with the rotation policy in the Indian top-order, it becomes even more vital that someone leaves the picture and that a balanced unit is found.  Kapil Dev, today added petrol to the already enraging fire by saying Sachin should have quit ODIs right after the World Cup.

It's no secret that Sachin's prime is well past him and that he isn't growing any younger each day.  The toils of the limited overs format is hectic on the body and add to that the IPL and you got yourself one busy schedule.  So not playing ODIs would make perfect sense as it would allow Sachin to focus on test cricket and also help prolong his career playing for India a little more.  In ODIs, this man has achieved everything and the one thing that eluded him over the years was also obtained last April at Mumbai, so there really is nothing much left for the little master in the ODI arena other than to play for the love of the game. Also it is highly unlikely that Sachin would be playing in the 2015 World Cup, down under so it would make perfect sense for him to quit and let a younger player take his place in order to prepare a proper squad for the World Cup.  Dhoni has already said more than once that he would like all his World Cup teams to have players with the experience of at least 60 ODIs and there is no better time for Sachin to leave than this.  He may have missed leaving on a high last year, but surely no one will think bad of him if he does call ODIs a day now.  This series can very well be his last.

However I feel Sachin like Ponting might not go on his own terms and might need the 'extra motivation' that Ponting received from the selectors.  However again it is a very unlikely scenario that any selector would dare stand up to Sachin Tendulkar and ask him to quit.  No one in India would dare to do that for fear of a public outcry, but as Inverarity said there is indeed no place for sentiment and if the best Indian team is one without Sachin Tendulkar and surely he must be dropped and if he doesn't make up his mind then the selectors must make up theirs and give a call to him like the one Ponting received today.

One of the questions the selection panel for a new Indian coach asked candidate John Wright in 2001 was whether he'd  hesitate to drop Sachin Tendulkar if it came to that, and Wright replied no.  Wright eventually got the job and is now remembered as one of India's greatest coaches, and his success is largely because of his simple principle of doing what is best for the team irrespective of what.

So the question that both Sachin Tendulkar and the Indian selectors must be asking themselves is 'What is best for Indian Cricket?'

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dhanush's Sachin Tendulkar Anthem

From the makers of 'Why this Kolaveri?'

Comes the next biggest thing in the Indian music arena

Starring Dhanush and Anushka

A tribute song to India's legendary batsman - Sachin Tendulkar!

Here's Presenting 'Dhanush's Sachin Anthem'


Another 'Super hitu' by Dhanush.  Will this one kill the charts?  Well watch and see, mama.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Get Well Soon Yuvi

News reports are pouring in that Yuvraj Singh is battling against lung cancer.  The 30 year old star Indian batsman is currently in the USA undergoing treatment.

Though Yuvraj Singh never made it big in the test arena, I always held him in high regard.  His talent with the bat was just magnificent and on his day was a performer to behold.  Yuvraj played the entire World Cup with the tumor and was India's most valuable player in the tournament winning the Man of the Series award.  What a legend!

Here's wishing him a speedy recovery!   

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The interesting case of India's dismal performance in International T20s

In 2007, it was a young Indian team that lifted the World Cup in South Africa, and with it the began a new era in India's cricket history.  The country immediately accepted the new, shorter T20 format and India's success in it only helped spread it.  With the inception of the Indian Premier League the face of cricket was changed as Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket once did, and T20 became a format of cricket that was not only followed and adored by just the cricket fanatics but by one and all in India as it mixed Bollywood and cricket and brought out a product filled with glitz, glamour and entertainment that was just irresistible for the Indian audience.

Now more than 4 years since then, after 4 editions of the IPL and 3 editions of the CLT20, India is definitely a country well known for it's association with T20 cricket and every loss is somehow blamed on the T20 format and it's lucrative nature.  However in the entire process the Indian national team who won the inaugural edition of the T20 World Cup has been faring quite badly in it and are currently ranked 7 in the world.

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Surprisingly the Indian team's performance has deteriorated and is very sub-standard in a format where one would expect them to perform well.  In a hit and miss format of the game where being the better team and playing better cricket will not always result in a win, India have done a decent job winning a little more than 50% of all their International game still date.  In 32 matches (including the T20 match at Sydney on Wednesday), India has won 16 and lost 14.  Not figures that reflect brilliance from the Indian T20 team but still decent enough.  However since the World Cup in the 23 matches, India has won less than 50% of their matches.  

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This period includes two atrocious performance by India in the two T20 World Cup tournaments (2009 in England and 2010 in the West Indies) where India won only 4 of their 10 games.  The figures only get worse when mentioned that those 4 wins, 3 were against Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Ireland.  So out of the 20 games India has played T20 against test playing nations (Zimbabwe included) since the 2007 World Cup triumph, India has won only 7 out of 20 matches.  That is a low win percentage of just 35%.  So the failure of the Indian team in T20s is there in the open for all to see.  

Now this is the last thing you'd expect from a country that is so fond of the T20 format and one in which their players enjoy playing at least 2 months every year and something that has me bemused.  So taking the task of trying to crack this interesting case of India's dismissal performance in International T20s, I've come up with a few possible reasons for the failure.

Before England won the World Cup under Paul Collingwood, the most common excuse the English press offered for their team's repeated failures in the shortest format of the game was that the team still hadn't come to terms with the 'new version' of cricket.  This was a lame excuse as the English cricket scene was one of the first to witness the T20 format and was immediately inducted into their domestic structure.  The Twenty20 Cup competition was started in 2003 itself.  Cricket boards from other countries followed suit only later.  So the cricketers were well accustomed with T20 cricket and their failures were due to other factors.  The same applies to the Indian team with almost every single player in it having played in the IPL and being experienced campaigners in this particular form.

So what are the reasons then?  To begin with, I feel the problem perhaps can be with the way International T20s are viewed.  It is not seen at the same level as test or ODI cricket and I don't blame anyone for that, because I strongly believe that test cricket is the highest form of cricket.  However this devaluation of this particular format perhaps makes the players take it lightly.  I certainly hope this isn't the case as representing your country is the highest honor for any sportsperson, but I do have the nagging feel that some players do not consider this serious cricket and this a worry.

Also another reason might be that India and all teams all over the world generally tend to use the T20 format to test out new talent in the international circuit before bringing him in for the ODIs or the test formats.  T20 is seen as sort of a probation period for testing young talent and generally the senior players are rested for these matches.  There is hence an obvious difference in the quality, and especially in a team like India, it is quite difficult to transform from the domestic level to the international level.  Though this has been minimized to a large extent thanks to the exposure players get in the IPL, there still remains that unknown factor.  India generally tends to test their bench strengths in T20s in preparation for an upcoming ODI series and this again goes hand in hand with the fact that T20s are devalued and hence seen more as a testing ground.

Consistency is the key in any sport and it forms the backbone of a winning team.  This is one thing that is definitely lacking in the Indian T20 team and the numbers reflect that.  Unlike in tests where India generally win all home series and struggle abroad, the case with T20s is that India have been losing everywhere.  This can be attributed to the inconsistency in the selection of the team because India seldom plays the same T20. In India's last two T20s, there have been 4 changes in the playing eleven and this does affect to a certain level.  Also since India views T20 as testing ground for fostering new talent, the unpredictability of the performance of a newcomer also is a factor.  In the West Indies during the World Cup we saw the young team peppered with a barrage of short deliveries which they couldn't handle due to lack in technique and this serves as a lovely learning experience for the youngsters, but at what expense?  Being kicked out of the prestigious tournament early?  However like in any other format we have seen that though T20 cricket involves plenty of luck and is a 'hit and miss' format, the good teams perform consistently and win on a consistent basis.  India haven't been doing that and rather have been consistent in 'missing'.

In the rankings India have less than half the points that the English team who lead it have.  This certainly tells the tale of the rise of the English team and how from being a team who were languishing at the bottom, clueless about the format now are the number one team.  Rankings speak very little in T20 cricket of course, but at the same time it cannot be ignored completely as it provides some perspective of how the teams stack up against each other.  So being ranked 7th might mean little, but it also nevertheless a worrying flicker of the red alarm signal and it would be wise to heed to it, analyze the shortcomings and try to come up with a proper remedy.  

This is surely not the agenda with the highest priority for the BCCI at the moment with the dismal performance of the Indian team in tests overseas, but I feel must be looked into nevertheless.  This year there is a major International T20 tournament in Sri Lanka for the World Cup, and putting up a performance such as India did in the last two editions will definitely not reflect good on the team and also the board.

Episode 14 - The First Episode of 2012

The first episode of the year 2012 is out now!  

Recorded on 31st January 2012; Duration 33 minutes.

Description: In the first episode of the new year, Michael and I take a look at all the cricket that happened in the past month and also the cricket going on right now.  We review India's horror test series and Sri Lanka's tour of South Africa.  Also we talk on the Zimbabwe - New Zealand series and our surprise about England's performance against Pakistan.  Michael as usual presents us some interesting stats in his stats class.  

Panelists - Michael Wagener, and Christopher David

If you wish to download the podcast click here. You can also subscribe to it via iTunesor any other podcatchers.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Australia thump India yet again!

Another day, another match, and yet another defeat for the Indian team.  The only difference this time is that it was a young Australian team in the shorter T20 format.  Australia won the match comfortably by 31 runs [SCORECARD] under their new skipper, George Bailley.  Here are some of the talking points of the match.

The Stadium Australia - The venue of today's match was just breath taking.  Built for the 2000 Olympics, the stadium hosted it's first International match today and it was an amazing spectacle.  The stadium was filled with about 60K people and despite the rain, I'm surprised so many turned up.  The pink Sydney sky-line in the background created a mystical feel and had a magical atmosphere that made the cricket all the more interesting.  

The New Keeper - Matthew Wade, the Australian T20 keeper playing in his 3rd T20 scored his highest as he raced past the half century mark to score a brilliant, attacking 72 of just 43 balls.  With 5 fours and 3 sixes, Wade found boundaries at will and also ran well between the wickets putting the Indian bowling and fielding under huge pressure.  Brad Haddin watching the match somewhere, was probably thinking that his replacement has arrived.  Wade was judged the MOM.

The Debutante Captain - The Australian captain, George Bailey was making his debut as the skipper and I was looking forward to seeing how he goes.  Playing against his fellow CSK mates should have been comforting and he looks to be a good thinking mind.  What a start he has had!  A convincing win to start his career!

The Switch Hit - Switch Hits are one of the most difficult shots to play and when it comes off it just brilliant to watch.  David Warner provided that brilliance for us as he smashed Ashwin over the ropes by turning into a right hander.  Check out the video of his unbelievable shot.

The Indian Spinners - I couldn't understand why India played only two seamers under overcast conditions.  Also the field was wet from the rain so spinners would have trouble gripping the ball and we saw exactly that.  India bowled 5 spinners (Ashwin, Raina, Rohit Sharma, Rahul Sharma and Jadeja) and none of them were spared.  They bowled 13 overs between themselves and gave away 109 runs.  That is nearly 8.5 runs per over!  With the ball not spinning and skidding nicely onto the bat the India spinners sure did have a rough time.  It was good to see Rahul Sharma get a chance and despite splitting the webbing on his finger when he tried to take a return catch the very second ball off his spell, he came back with a bandaged hand and bowled some decent lines.

The Australian Spinners - The Indian spinners had a torrid time, but the story was the exact opposite for the Australian spinners.  They managed to strangle the run flow and the Indian batsmen being a little circumspect lost the plot completely against the turners.  The Australian spinners (David Hussey, Doherty and Chinnaman Hogg) conceded only 48 runs in 10 overs among themselves and managed to pick up 3 wickets.

A completely different story from earlier in the match and begs the question, what did change?

Dhoni Hits - MS Dhoni who so far looked completely out of touch in the test series finally looked to be back to his usual self and top scored for India scoring 48 off 43.  The match was truly lost by the time he came in to bat, but he did give some hope and though India lost the match, Dhoni striking the ball big is a good positive going into the ODI series.

I thought India would do better in the T20 matches and perhaps win, but that wasn't the case today.  The next match is on Friday at Melbourne and it will be a new day and a new match, and let's hope India put up a better show there.