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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

England's Report Card, India vs England, Mumbai 2012

KP - The mauler celebrates his century.
Yesterday I took a look at the woeful Indian performance at Mumbai, and today I look at England's resurgent performance. What a turn around the England team has achieved from the first test where they were totally outplayed to come and outplay India on an absolute turner. The inclusion of Monty Panesar seems to have worked magic as he and Kevin Pietersen put up some of the best performances by an Englishman in India. England now level the series and go into Kolkata full of energy and belief. However before that, here's the report card of the England team that won by a  memorable 10 wicket margin.

England report card - read as name: TWP performance score (1st innings; 2nd innings) 
(pass = 4/10; DNB = Did not bat)

Alstair Cook: 10/10 - (122 runs; 18* runs)
Cook once again was unmovable as a boulder as he was at Ahmedabad and set up England's first innings beautifully with Kevin Pietersen. His heroic century unlike last time did not go in vain and as a captain, there is nothing more that Cook would have loved than leading from the front in a memorable win. Cook looks very technically sound and has proven to be a thorn in the Indian bowlers side so far and England will be hoping that the trend continues. It's always good to have a very consistent opener  at the top and Cook gives England just that. His huge 206 run partnership with KP was the highlight of the test and when they were batting the pitch looked as if it was a feather bed with no demons. Great batsmen have that ability to make unsuitable conditions look very conducive to batting and there's no doubt if Cook is a great batsman.

Nick Compton: 5/10 - (29 runs; 30* runs)
Playing just his second match, Compton still looked very much at sea against the spinners on a turning track. However he showed much grit and determination and tried to desperately survive making his way to 29 in the first innings before he eventually succumbed. However by then he had done his job and put on a half century partnership for the first wicket. In the second innings with just a handful of runs to get, he looked completely different and played some expansive shots and looked to dominate the bowlers, which he successfully did. Compton wasn't very special, but nevertheless his contributions were vital and by the looks of it he seems to be getting acclimatized slowly to the Indian conditions.

Jonathan Trott: 0/10 - (duck; DNB)
Trott had another horrible test match and bagged yet another duck. He is woefully out of form and that is a big worry for England. Trott has been one of England's most consistent performers for the last 3 years, but now all the sudden looks very ordinary. He'd be hoping his fortunes quickly turn around.

Kevin Pietersen: 10/10 - (186 runs; DNB)
 What does one say about KP's knock at Mumbai? It was one of pure genius and one that defied all logic. Something which only KP can provide. And to think England were thinking twice over his inclusion in the team before the tour! I have absolutely no words to describe his knock. It was just outstanding to watch him play the Indian spinners on a turning wicket that offered them assistance as if he was batting against some school boys. All his other teammates except for Cook struggled and when these two batted the world stood still and the natural order of things reversed. KP's 186 came in just 233 balls and that just tells you the ferocity of the innings. It completely knocked all wind from the Indian players and they meekly capitulated in the second innings. Few can play the innings that KP played, and a score of 10/10 is a disgrace to such a knock. It surely must be above all scales. 14/10 perhaps? 

Jonny Bairstow: 4/10 - (9 runs; DNB)
Bairstow had a regrettable start in Indian conditions. He was unlucky to be given out as the ball bounced of the grille of a helmet before the catch was taken. However Bairstow was very impressive fielding at short leg and silly point and made a few difficult catches look very easy. As Ian Bell is likely to return for the next test, he'd be unfortunate if he is dropped.

Samit Patel: 4/10 - (26 runs; DNB)
Samit Patel's role in the match was very different from that of the previous test. Here he was more of a batsman and he bowled just 4 overs in the match. There was much to be desired from his batting, but nevertheless he stuck it out in the middle and bid his time, scoring some vital runs for England that eventually helped put them ahead. With Monty definitely in the team, Patel's role is more of batting and he better pull up his socks and contribute with more runs.

Matt Prior: 4/10 - (21 runs; DNB)
Prior looked in great touch during his limited time in the middle and he must be kicking himself for getting out run-out. He was in an aggressive mood and could have damaged the Indians more, had he not had a rush of blood moment. Prior's keeping was good to the spinners and he looks to be in good form all-round.

Stuart Broad: 0/10 - (6 runs; DNB)
Stuart Broad like Trott had a forgettable match. His 12 overs in the match went for 60 runs and Cook lost all faith in him that he never even bowled him during India's second innings. He went without a wicket yet again and it will be interesting to see if England persist with an out of form bowler who has failed miserably in two tests till now.

Graeme Swann: 9/10 - (1* runs & 4 wickets;  DNB & 4 wickets)
Swann along with Monty Panesar were the wreckers in chief of the Indian batting order. Swann looked very impressive again and picked up 8 Indian wickets in the match. He bowled beautifully and worked in tandem with Monty. I think Swann is the best spinner currently and has a lovely action and approach that kids would do well to watch and learn. Unlike the two Indian off-spinners, Swann bowled the conventional off-stump line, spinning the ball into the right hander and made the most of the track. It's not often that someone who picks up 8 wickets in a test match takes the back seat, but that just tells how great Monty Panesar bowled.

Panesar goes full Monty!
James Anderson: 5/10 - (2 runs & 1 wicket; DNB)
Anderson of old seemed to be back and he got a wicket of the very second ball of the match trapping Gambhir leg before. He didn't bowl many overs as expected on a spinning track but nevertheless looked very different from the first test. He got the ball to reverse swing and managed to keep the pressure as the two spinners did their magic. 

Monty Panesar: 10/10 - (4 runs & 5 wickets; DNB & 6 wickets)
A ten wicket haul in a test match is always special and for Monty Panesar it was the dream comeback. None of the Indian batsmen had any answer to his fast, left-arm spin which was a delight to watch even for an Indian fan. There's just something so joyful watching Monty operate. He's like a young boy lost in a world full of toys, and one can see the passion and delight in those huge eyes of his at the opportunity of playing for England again. Panesar managed to snare the great Sachin Tendulkar at his home twice making the 'son of sardar', Mumbai's most hated man. He sure did manage to show England what they missed in the very first test and has pretty much cemented his place in the side with this performance. In Swann he found a willing ally and together they ripped through the Indian batting, one which is known for playing spin bowling particularly well. It's great to see Monty back in action and surely he has gone 'full Monty'!

Overall team England's average - 5.5/10

England outplayed India in all departments and it was a great victory for the visitors. Their score of 5.5 compared to India's score of 3.1 tells it's own story. It is also a vast improvement from their previous team score of 3.5 at Ahmadabad. England still have a couple of zeros in their ranks which they will need to think about. However they would be mighty pleased by this performance and be looking to now perhaps even win a historical series in India.

Check out the mini-session analysis of the match here. 

You can also check out team India's report card of the Mumbai test, here.  

Monday, November 26, 2012

India's Report Card, India vs England, Mumbai 2012

Centurion Pujara top scores for India again!
The second test in Mumbai has taken a completely different turn from the first one and we saw the Indian team capitulate to a resurgent English side who bolstered with the inclusion of Monty Panesar ripped through the Indian batting. For the Indian team, it was once again the story of Ojha and Pujara who did most of the contribution. However even that wasn't enough to stop the humiliating 10 wicket loss [SCORECARD]. Here's a look at the performance of each Indian player in the match and their respective grades.

Indian report card - read as name: TWP performance score (1st innings; 2nd innings) 
(pass = 4/10)

Gautam Ghambhir: 4/10 - (4 runs; 65 runs)
Gautam Gambhir was out the very second ball of the test match after dispatching the previous delivery for a boundary. However in the second innings he got runs next to his name and this gets him a passing grade, but unfortunately he was the only Indian batsman to do that. He scored 65 of India's total score of 142 and looked like he was going to carry his bat through in the second innings before Swann trapped him LBW. Gambhir had his moments of brilliance in the second innings, but at the same time he also was lucky on numerous times. Gambhir finally has a fifty in the series and hopefully he can take his second innings touch into the Kolkata test.

Virender Sehwag: 2/10 - (30 runs; 9 runs)
Sehwag who was playing in his 100th test, and in great form coming from a century at Ahmedabad looked all set to continue his domination of the English bowling attack. However Monty Panesar had other ideas and in both the innings snared the dangerous Indian opener. Sehwag looked on song in the first innings, but he played across the line to Monty who was spinning the ball away from him. He did the same thing in the second innings too and survived some nervous moments before he was eventually picked up at gully. India need a strong opening partnership at the top and that means Sehwag not just playing his shots, but also applying himself and playing within himself for the team's cause.

Cheteshwar Pujara: 8/10 - (135 runs; 6 runs)
The Indian first innings was once again all about Pujara. He held the innings together and helped India reach a par score of 327. Pujara is a treat to watch and he shows maturity far beyond his age. England who never dismissed him in the Ahmedabad did so twice in Mumbai, but not before he helped himself to another stunning century in the first innings. The English bowlers must have rejoiced at learning that Pujara was indeed a mortal and can be defeated. Fielding at short-leg he was once again brilliant and was under the line of fire many times. But he managed to keep his eye on the ball and show some outstanding reflexes. Pujara has filled the number 3 spot left void by Dravid's retirement, and has done a remarkable role. However India mus realize that they can't expect to have a 24 year old dig them out of trouble and hold the innings together every single time.

Sachin Tendulkar: 0/10 - (8 runs; 8 runs)
Tendulkar. Where does one start with him? His bad run keeps continuing and it's unfortunate to see such a legendary player struggle for runs. He would have loved to turn it all around at his home, but fate had other ideas and his failure again raises the question, is Tendulkar becoming a liability to the Indian team? Like Ricky Ponting, Tendulkar is another ageing warrior for whom time is running out. 

Virat Kohli: 1/10 - (19 runs; 7 runs)
The young talent that set the world on fire with his exploits in T20s and ODIs looks to be a pale shadow of himself in test cricket. Kohli without a doubt is one of the most talented batsmen out there and he has a sound technique, but still he continues to fail. At Mumbai he threw away his wicket both times, playing some very loose shots and Kohli must tighten his game. He has immense focus, but what about his patience and application? Questions are arising over his future in test cricket and Kohli best answer them with some runs quickly.

Yuvraj Singh: 0/10 - (0 runs;  8 runs)
When Yuvraj Singh was selected, I wondered if it was a decision based on his performance or rather just sentiment. I concluded it perhaps could be a good opportunity for him to prove that he can play test cricket, even if it might not have been a very good decision. In the first test, he played a lovely innings before he threw it away. But here that Yuvraj was missing and he looked completely in the sea against some quality spin from Swann and Panesar. Yuvraj Singh can't be expected to keep his pace in the side with performances such as these and he needs to set the record right in the next match. His rope is very short indeed and this series perhaps could be his last shot at test cricket.

MSD - Captain Uninspired
MS Dhoni: 0/10 - (29 runs; 6 runs)
MS Dhoni was an aberration this test match. His batting was woeful, his keeping just awful and his captaincy totally uninspired. He did run out Prior, and that was perhaps the lone moment of inspiration from MSD. I won't talk about his batting and keeping but rather focus on his captaincy. In the Ahmedabad test I felt he managed his bowlers really well, but here it was the very opposite. He under-bowled Harbhajan Singh, and over-bowled Ravi Ashwin. He had no answer to Kevin Pietersen's assault and during that huge partnership between Pietersen and Cook, he looked almost to sit back and hope for something to happen. His captaincy used to be so proactive a few years ago, but in the match not once did Dhoni look like that. He was reacting the whole match and waiting for things to happen. Has captain cool gone too cold?

Pragyan Ojha: 8/10 - (0* runs & 5 wickets; 6* runs)
Ojha was again the star for India with the ball and he was the lone bowler who looked to trouble the English batsmen. Ojha played the role that Graeme Swann played in the first test and single handed took on the English batting. Ojha's left arm spin was a treat to watch and though I feel he could have bowled a little fuller as Swann and Panesar did, he nevertheless made his mark taking the wickets of all top order batsmen. The Indian bowling seems to rest on Ojha's shoulders for the time being and his performances in the next two test might be the deciding factor for India.

Ravichandran Ashwin: 4.5/10 - (68 runs & 2 wickets; 11 runs)
Ashwin's knock of 68 in the first innings was very crucial for India in putting up a decent total on board and the score of 4.5 is mostly determined by that innings. His bowling was simply not good, and on a track that offered assistance to spinners from day one, he struggled. Ashwin struggled in the second innings of the Ahmedabad test too, and this performance of his with the ball should set the alarm bells ringing. Ashwin was over-bowled in my opinion and I don't know what Dhoni saw in his ineffective spin that was causing the English batsmen to bowl him so many overs. He did manage to get rid of a well set Cook, but as a specialist bowler the wicket of a batsman and a number 11 isn't saying much about you. Ashwin with the bat is impressive, but it's with the ball that India needs him to perform and it seems that man who till now had a fairy tale entrance to test cricket has finally hit a hurdle and he is struggling to get around it.

Zaheer Khan: 3/10 - (11 runs; 1 run)
Zaheer Khan was the lone fast bowler in the Indian ranks and it was an interesting prospect seeing him shoulder that entire load by himself. I felt that Zaheer bowled mighty well and that he was unlucky not to pick up a wicket. The pitch wasn't assisting him and he bowled a tight line,keeping things quiet. However as India's spearhead that is not enough and what India needs most from is wickets, which he failed to deliver.

Harbhajan Singh: 3.5/10 - (21 runs & 2 wickets; 6 runs)
Harbhajan Singh found himself in the Indian team after 11 months in the wilderness. He was part of India's grand plan of playing three spinners on a turning wicket to exploit the English weakness against spin, and the plan backfired and unfortunately with it Harbhajan is likely to lose his place in the side for the next test. Though his figures don't fully reflect it, I felt that Harbhajan Singh bowled decently well. He did bowl some absolute rubbish of deliveries gifting Pietersen runs, but overall looked more impressive than Ashwin. He bowled just 21 overs compared to Ojha's 40 and Ashwin's 42.3 and I just wonder what Dhoni was doing with Harbhajan. He wasn't properly utilized in my opinion. 

Overall team India's average - 3.1/10

India were completely outplayed and the overall team average of 3.1 is less than what England scored in the first test (3.5). India have plenty of things to think about. The worrying form of some of the middle order batsmen and the form of the bowlers have to be looked at and some difficult decisions have to be made. Other than Pujara and Ojha, the entire team played some horrible cricket and didn't even bother to put up a decent fight. 

Check out the mini-session analysis of the match here. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ponting's time running out

Punter's end is near.
Ricky Ponting is without a doubt one of the greats of modern day cricket, and a legendary figure in Australian cricket, but recent performances or rather the non-performances have put a question mark over his name, and one cannot help but wonder if Ponting well past his prime is a liability to the Australian test team now.

Ponting so far in the South Africa series has scores of 0, 4 and 16 next to his name and the calls for his head is just getting louder with every failure. He had a poor series in West Indies earlier this year where he scored a lone half century in his 6 innings in the series. He averaged a low 24.33 which compared to his career average of 52.21 is an abomination.

Ponting is a great warrior but even great warriors age. Their reflexes slow (he's been bowled twice - though one was from an absolute jaffa from Kallis - in the series which generally is a reflective of that), and no matter how much they try to bring back the glory days of their youth, it simply doesn't happen. What once used to be a fight for supremacy now turns into a fight for basic survival and we see Ponting do exactly that. However it's not a simple open and shut case with Ponting as mentioned above. Going into the series against South Africa, Ponting was one of the leading run-getters in the Australian domestic circuit with 353 runs from just four first class matches at an impressive average of 117.67. This consisted of 2 fifties and one grand century - an undefeated knock of 162 against Victoria. In the Ryobi one day cup, the numbers don't exactly reflect the same form as he managed just 86 runs from 3 matches, but nevertheless one can safely assume that Ponting was in relatively good form leading to the South Africa series and this fact only makes the situation more complex.

In the last 12 months (not counting the Adelaide test), Ponting has averaged 47.58 with 809 runs from 11 matches, which is quite good. However of those 809 runs, 544 came in the 4 match series against India where he scored 3 fifties, a century, and a double century, suggesting that Ponting of the past had returned. However the second wind was soon knocked out of him in the West Indies. Taking away the Indian series, where Ponting scored so much runs, he has struggled. If we omit that series, his average drops all the way down to 20.38.

Whatever the case, the reason for Ponting's inclusion in the team is becoming less reasonable. It's only a matter of time before the selectors and even captain Michael Clarke (who has time and time again stated that his mentor - Ponting's place in the side is not under any doubt) find themselves with no alternative but to show the former Australian captain the exit. Ponting has stated that he wants to have one last go and play in the Ashes starting July 2013, but by the look of things, if his inconsistencies remain, then he might not be given that opportunity.

Ponting's contribution to the team as Clarke says goes much beyond just his batting. His role as a senior figure in the team, makes him a mentor for the new, young blood in the team, but that role won't be enough to justify his selection. Runs, and runs on a consistent basis is the only thing that will do that, and Ponting needs to set that right.

Ponting understands the pressure on him to perform with the gun on his head. He fully realizes it, and before the Adelaide test said,
"I don't mind it, I don't shy away from it. I've been around enough and played in enough high-pressure situations, whether it's a big game or a game where you're under pressure because you haven't scored runs yourself. Most players who've played international cricket have found themselves in that position at least once in their career. It's not always plain sailing; it's the way cricket's supposed to be." 
Ponting's legacy as a great Australian captain and a player is also taking a hit. The general perception is that he is desperately hanging on, denying a place on the team for a youngster, for a shot at his old glory days. While that might seem a little harsh considering his huge contribution to the team for over a decade now, the truth is that unless he scores runs, his place will be gone. His reputation and past performance will not buy him many more opportunities and his rope is running out.

I always believed that a player as big as Ponting should be given enough time, because even though he might not be in his prime, he nevertheless is still a very big player. However what happens when the player eventually starts becoming a liability to the team? There's no choice then but to axe them. Has Ponting reached that stage? People might argue for both sides and the verdict is split. I still think Ponting has some more cricket left in him, and it's still not over. However that matters little as he needs to convince the public, and the selectors that and the only way to do it is score runs.

In India, there's another legend who is going through the same thing Ponting is. With every failure, doubts over Sachin Tendulkar's future arise in the media and like Ponting, the only way for him to reverse it all his by scoring runs. This is professional sports and there's no room for sentiments and emotions. It's either perform or perish and time is running out for both.

For Ponting, this South Africa series is pivotal in determining the future of his career. It's always sad to see an ageing lion being torn apart by the hyenas in the media, and the public. It's an unfortunate thing. Ponting the lion still has sharp teeth and the ability to score runs off his blade, and as he walks into what perhaps could be his last few days, month or perhaps a year of International cricket, here's hoping that the lion can roar once more and walk into the sunset on a high with runs. And perhaps with even the Ashes in his hand. Now wouldn't that be a fairy-tale ending to the career of a stellar batsman!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Episode 22: Cricket in America

Recorded on 18, November 2012; Duration 42 minutes.

Description: In the latest episode, Michael and I are joined by American cricket journalist, Peter Della Penna and we talk about cricket in America, the challenges faced by an associate nation, USACA's administration of the game and plenty more. In Stats Class, Michael talks about the significance of the magic number 40 has in T20s and looks at some very interesting numbers on how that number influences a win.

Panelists - Peter Della Penna, Michael Wagener and Christopher David

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

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

England's Report Card, India vs England, Ahmadabad 2012

Cook and Prior waged a lone battle.
Yesterday I took a look at the Indian team's performance in the Ahmadabad test and graded the players. Cheteshwar Pujara scored a perfect 10. No surprises there, is there? Today it's the English team's turn and though England had a miserable outing in the first innings, they managed to put up quite a strong fight in the second innings, dragging the match into the very last day. They showed much spirit and despite losing by a heavy margin, can take heart in the fact that they made India work hard on the last two days. So without any further delay here's the report card of the English players from the test match.

England report card - (read as name: TWP performance score (1st innings; 2nd innings)

Alstair Cook: 10/10 - (41 runs; 176 runs)
The English captain was an epitome of a leader fighting against all odds and hoping against hope that his performance will see his team salvage a draw. His heroics like King Leonidas' ended in failure of his side, but not before it got the world's attention. Cook's innings in the second innings was everything that a captain's knock should be and he simply looked unmovable. While his team mates struggled to even survive in the middle, Cook made batting look easy and until Ojha got one through him after 556 minutes, he seemed invincible. His captaincy however was found wanting and he lacked inspiration, and I was tempted to make his score 9, but his brave knock in the second innings made me change my mind. I just wonder how big a positive influence this knock will have on the other English batsmen in the side.

Nick Compton: 3/10 - (7 runs; 37 runs)
Coming from a family with rich cricket history, plenty of pressure must have been on Compton's shoulder. He managed to score a total of 44 runs in his debut match and though he never once looked settle, he tried his best to brave out the Indian bowling and his century first wicket stand with Cook was a fighting, hard-working effort. It's a very steep learning curve for any foreign player making his international debut in India, and Compton has some of the most alien and difficult conditions to brave very early on in his career. If he manages to show grit like he did in the second innings and commitment to toil it out, then he'd be able to survive this tour, and perhaps even emerge as one of England's heroes.

Jonathan Trott: 1/10 - (duck; 17 runs)
Jonathan Trott is one of the pillars of this English batting and his failure greatly affected the team. He managed to get out on both accounts to spinners, and though he has good technique, there seems to be a lack of application of that against the turning ball. England will be hoping he can quickly put this behind him and get back to his run scoring ways.

Kevin Pietersen: 2/10 - (17 runs & 1 wicket; 2 runs)
The big man of England who on his day is one of the most beautiful and dangerous players never got going. His IPL stints were said to have helped him with the Indian conditions, but we saw that test cricket is very different from T20s and Pietersen who has a long troublesome history against left-arm spinners fell both times to Ojha. KP did manage to get a wicket, and England can use him as a change-up bowler. His bowling isn't so far from Samit Patel's bowling.

Ian Bell: 1/10 - (golden duck; 22 runs)
Ian Bell is normally such a beautiful player and has good technique against spinners, but his dismissal in the first innings was one of the strangest and he gifted away his wicket the very first ball. In the second innings he tried to make amends, but he never looked at ease and soon was trapped leg before off Yadav. Bell is missing the next match, and it will be interesting to see who replaces him.

Samit Patel: 2/10 - (10 runs & 1 wicket; golden duck)
The selection of Samit Patel was interesting. While he isn't a proper spinner, England probably thought that he could exploit the conditions well and become a 'good' spinner with the pitches assistance. Also he can bat and that always is a plus. However Patel did neither of the two. His bowling was uninspired and the lone wicket he got to his name was a free gift from Yuvraj off the worst delivery. Likewise his batting was clueless and England have quite some thinking to do regarding Patel's selection.

Matt Prior: 7/10 - (48 runs; 91 runs)
Apart from Cook, the only other English batsman who managed to get a good score on the board next to his name was Prior. Prior is without doubt one of the best wicket-keeper batsmen currently and is quite underrated. However he managed to show his worth by being a thorn in team India's plans. His knock in the second innings was particularly brilliant and like Cook, he seemed to have figured out the Indian spinners. When he batted, the pitch looked flat and he truly deserved a century in that second innings.  

Tim Bresnan: 1/10 - (19 runs; 20 runs)
When one of your bowler scores more runs than KP, Bell, Patel and Trott, you know you're in trouble. And you're in further trouble when that bowler goes wicketless in the match. As a bowler, he's expected to pick up wickets and he didn't do that. The English quicks - all three struggled under the hot Indian sun and a pitch that offered them little help. It was strange to see England go in with three seamers on a track where the ball was turning sharply on day one.

Graeme Swann: 9/10 - (3* runs & 5 wickets;  17 runs & 1 wicket)
Alstair Cook at least found some helpful company in Prior. Swann didn't have that privilege and he was really England's lone bowler in a sense. He was the only one who looked to pick up wickets and he did exactly that. He sent down 51 overs in the 160 overs that England bowled to India in the first innings. That's almost a third of the bowling. He got little support from Samit Patel or the other bowlers and if not for Swann I just wonder how big, England would have lost by. Swann is a world class spinner and without a doubt England's best spinner in the last two decades and perhaps even more (in fact he is England's leading spinner), and he bowled beautifully, but Swann alone cannot be expected to pick up 20 Indian wickets and it's time England understand that.

Stuart Broad: 1/10 - (25 runs; 3 runs)
Like Bresnan, Broad too went the match without a wicket and he struggled. His economy was over 4 when the Indian first innings run rate was just 3.25 and the 24 overs he sent down didn't seem to have any wicket taking abilities. He was unlucky on a few occasions  but overall his bowling was just plain bad. India is a tough place for seamers, but the English pacers never did manage to get the ball to swing properly and do what Flintoff did in the previous tour of India.

James Anderson: 2/10 - (2 runs & 1 wicket; 0* runs)
The English bowling spearhead did much better than the other two pacers and actually looked threatening at times - something Broad and Bresnan never did. However his one wicket from the match simply won't suffice and if England are to win matches in India then they need more wickets from this man. Like mentioned before, Swann cannot do all the work alone, and Anderson as the senior bowler must take his share of the load.

Overall team England's average - 3.5/10

England were thoroughly outplayed and their overall average of 3.5 against India's 5.6 tells it's own story. England have a lot of things to address and instead of forgetting the horror defeat of the Ahmadabad test, they'd do well to learn from it and draw from the positives of Swann's and Cook's performances. Plenty of team changes are bound to on the cards for the Mumbai test and it will be interesting to see if England can pick themselves from this defeat.

Check out the mini-session analysis of the match here.

You can also check out team India's report card of the Ahmadabad test, here.

Monday, November 19, 2012

India's Report Card, India vs England, Ahmadabad 2012

Che Pujara - perfect 10 on 10.
The Ahmedabad test is over and India have won a convincing win by 9 wickets [SCORECARD]. The test match saw plenty of action and the dust bowl of a pitch managed to produce a wicket. India saw a couple youngsters of the  coming to the fore and a very bright future awaits Cheteshwar Pujara after the performances that put up. England as expected struggled against the turning ball, and everyone except Alastair Cook and Matt Prior in the second innings seemed to have no answers to the spinners. Here's a report card of the Indian players from the test match.

Indian report card - (read as name: TWP performance score (1st innings; 2nd innings)

Gautam Ghambhir: 4/10 - (45 runs)
Gambhir unfortunately had to miss two days of the test match as his grandmother had passed away. His contribution hence was with the bat alone in the first innings and at the top managed to score 45 runs giving India the ideal start on day one. He did fail to capitalize on his start, but nevertheless with Sehwag managed to put on a century opening stand, laying the platform for India's mammoth score.

Virender Sehwag: 8/10 - (117 runs; 25 runs)
Sehwag with a century set up India in the first innings and in the second contributed with a quickfire twenty odd, propelling India to the target faster. Sehwag's century managed to completely deplete the English morale on the first day and the way he treated their bowlers with absolute disdain semmed to take the fight out of everyone except Graeme Swann. When he was at the crease, India were going at a run rate well over 5 runs an over, and Sehwag as usual provided the heavy battery clearing the way before the Indian middle order cashed in and built on his innings.

Cheteshwar Pujara: 10/10 - (206* runs; 41* runs)
Is there a way to give Pujara more than 10? Surely some bonus points for that brilliant double century (206*) in the first innings? Pujara was India's rock and he held the innings together batting undefeated for 513 minutes. His innings was a treat to watch and Pujara is one very, very talented batsman whose name, I'm sure we'll be hearing for a long, long while. He batted sensibly and it looked as if Rahul Dravid never really retired, when Pujara flicked through the mid-wicket. His innings in the second innings was a beauty as Pujara started to attack the English bowling without remorse that Sehwag was playing the second fiddle through it. Pujara's cover drives and flicks through mid-wicket have a stamp of authority and his defense is rock solid. He is hungry for runs and I just loved what he said after scoring his incredible double.
"Even after scoring a double hundred I never wanted to give away my wicket. That’s the reason why I’m able to score big runs.” 
India will be hoping for many more runs from this young man's blade.

Sachin Tendulkar: 1/10 - (13 runs; DNB)
Sachin Tendulkar went cheaply with the bat in the first innings and his contribution to the match was very little. Luckily, India weren't affected by it, but hopefully he can gets some runs at his home in Mumbai.

Virat Kohli: 2/10 - (19 runs; 14* runs)
Virat Kohli looked good in the first innings, taking his own time to get in, but then a magic delivery from Swann saw him back. In the second innings he knocked off the last few needed runs with ease and though his contribution wasn't much, this match must have surely been a great learning experience. In the field, he was ecstatic, running up to Dhoni to regularly have a word with him about something and it's great to see him being so involved in the game.

Yuvraj Singh: 6/10 - (74 runs; DNB)
The comeback man had a memorable match. His half century in the first innings propelled India to the 500 mark. His innings was full of aggression and the way he treated the English spinners was a sight to watch. Watching him give away his wicket with a wild swing was sad to watch, and he needs to convert a good score to a big score as Pujara did. Having a left hander in the middle order gives more variety and Yuvraj this time looks to cement his place in the test side. It's just one innings, but nevertheless a step in the right direction.

MS Dhoni: 3/10 - (5 runs; DNB)
why am I giving Dhoni 3? Well it's 0 points for his batting and 3 for his captaincy. He didn't contribute with the bat, but he did manage his bowlers well and made all the right moves.

Left-arm orthodox spin never looked so good before!
Pragyan Ojha: 9.5/10 - (5 wickets; 4 wickets)
Ojha was was the mastermind of India's win and his contribution is equally valuable as Pujara's. On a turning track, he exploited the conditions well and made sure that the English batsmen were in for a very difficult time in the middle. He brought his A game, and with his flight, sharp spin, and variations in speed, trajectory and spin, Ojha managed to become India's leading wicket taker. England apart from Cook were clueless against him, and even cook after batting for over 500 plus minutes fell to Ojha. His two wickets today of Prior and Cook sealed the game in India's favor. Never has left-arm orthodox spin looked so good before!

Ravichandran Ashwin: 5.5/10 - (23 runs & 3 wickets; DNB & 1 wicket)
Ashwin in the first innings bowled beautifully and got 3 wickets to his name. However in the second innings, he fell away. It wasn't that he was bowling badly, but it was just that the wicket never arrived and for once Ashwin was feeling the heat as he went over 50 overs without a wicket. He eventually did pick up Swann at the end, to avoid being wicketless in the second innings. The second innings was surely a steep learning curve for him and it will do him good to learn to be patient when the batsman get in. He looked frustrated and tried a little too much, compromising on his consistency. On a dust bowl, and a track that turned square on the last two days, he would have loved to have more wickets, but 4 from the match is a decent return.

Zaheer Khan: 5.5/10 - (7 runs & 1 wicket; DNB & 2 wickets)
The Indian bowling spearhead was up to his usual tricks and magic and though the condition wasn't very helpful for seamers, Zaheer Khan toiled hard. The three wickets don't really do him justice, and he bowled much better than that. He kept the pressure constantly on the English batsman and once the ball started reversing, he made the English batsmen's life even more difficult.

Umesh Yadav: 6.5/10 - (1 wicket; 3 wickets)
Umesh Yadav like Zaheer Khan toiled hard in conditions not very helpful to seam bowling and it was great to see the youngster bowling his heart out and generating some speed. His performance like Zaheer's are much better than what the number shows. Though he was a bit inconsistent, Yadav seems to be a good bowler and with the ability to reverse swing the ball, he is a lethal force to be reckon with.

Overall team India's average - 5.6/10

All in all, a very good performance by India and if India can repeat this performance at Mumbai, then they'd surely be on their way to clinching the series.

You can also check out team England's report card of the Ahmadabad test, here.

Check out the mini-session analysis of the match here.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Skipper Clarke no longer a pup

Clarke celebates his 200. © Getty Images
Australian skipper, Michael Clarke today achieved a very rare feat and became only the second batsman in modern day era to score three double centuries in a year, equaling Ricky Ponting's record. The only other person to have done the same is the legendary Don Bradman. Looking at the three names, one can see that Clarke is in an elite club.

The three also share some similarities. All three were right hand batsman who played for Australia and were also the captains of their teams. They all batted in the middle order and were known for their stroke play. But the thing that is most common is that all three were vital members forming the backbone of the Australian team during their prime. Ponting is now well passed that stage and Pup has stepped up, to take his place.

Clarke has transcended to a new level ever since he was bestowed captaincy and has looked unbeatable. On a day four track, facing the world's best bowling attack, he just went on and on, helping himself the runs. The South Africans were left bamboozled. As Bryan Coverdale writes, 'match-altering, lead-from-the-front innings have become Australia captain Michael Clarke's trademark over the past year' and it is this new trademark of the Australian captain that suddenly makes this inexperienced Australian batting order, with a couple of names well past their prime, still one to fear. If the world's best bowling attack managed to get just a wicket from the day and that too, from a run out, then that tells you something about this team's middle order.

Ed Cowan who scored his maiden century today looked pretty solid and it seems that Australia have a bright prospect in him. South Africa have to do something special now, as Australia try to push for a victory on the last day. Clarke has finally become a big dog.

Skipper Clarke is now a very serious run machine and that is certainly very, very good news for Australia.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Australia's not-so-secret plans revealed

When I first saw the headline that a dossier with Australia's plan to tackle South Africa in the upcoming test had been leaked, I rushed my hand to the mouse to click on the link. I was expecting the Australian team to have found some way to have changed the red cherry into a nuclear bomb that detonates at the South African batsman or found some new version of the doosra called the x-oosra, or something even unthinkable. But instead it had a straight forward plan that left me disappointed. Here is the Australian dossier.

TOP SECRET - For members of the Australian test team only - Nov 7, 2012
From: Cricket Australia
Subject: Plans for Brisbane test against SA

Agenda: To defeat South Africa in the Brisbane test

The Plan:

The plan to defeat South Africa will be discussed in three complex steps.

1.) Bowl well
2.) Bat well
3.) Field well
4.) Secret weapon X

Now we'll look at each point in detail.

1.) Bowl well
Pick up South African wickets. Our research says that we would need to pick up at least 20 wickets.
Plan Pigeon - Don't give away too many runs. Bowl miserly.
Try trapping Graeme Smith LBW. He moves across his stumps.
Pepper Hashim Amla with short-deliveries. He is an Indian.
Unleash secret weapon X (to be discussed below)

2.) Bat well
Score runs. Plenty and plenty of runs at a fast rate.
Plan VVS - Bat for long hours. Session, after session. Day after day, like VVS Laxman.
Attack impatient Imran Tahir. Our batsmen play spin well.
Go after Morne Morkel. He bowls like Mitchell Johnson.
Don't. Under any circumstance, DON'T go after Dale Steyn.
Tire out Vernon Philander. He has no stamina.
Don't lose 20 wickets. Research shows we will lose if that happens.

3.) Field Well
Catch the ball. Catches win matches.
Affect run outs. This gets us wickets.
Restrict runs.

Unleash secret weapon X (to be discussed below)

4.) Secret Weapon X
We have two secret weapons.
Secret Weapon X1 - Michael Clarke's captaincy. This is a sure winner!
Secret Weapon X2 - Psychological warfare. Sledge, sledge, sledge.

If we do this right, we should win. Good luck boys.

- CA


Now we all knew this even before reading a word of it, didn't we?

Monday, November 5, 2012

New beginnings for Yuvi and Bhajji

India have announced the squad for the first two tests in Mumbai and Ahmadabad. The two major eye catching changes are the inclusion of Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh. Yuvraj's fairy tale comeback continues and remains an inspirational story. After his performance with both bat and ball, it was pretty clear that he was a favorite to be included, however going by his past records and questions over his fitness it still had to be seen if the selectors would pick him ahead of Suresh Raina.

Yet another go for Yuvi in India Whites.
Yuvraj Singh has had a long, long try at test cricket and has never managed to cement himself a  place. However he remains one of India's best batsman and his crafty left-arm spin is a bonus. So does one go with him or not? He has runs under his belt and his form is good at the moment, but is this wholly based on that, or is it an emotional decision as the one rushing him into the T20 WC squad? And most of all, is Yuvraj's fitness up to test match level?

So many questions remain unanswered, but I think that if Yuvraj's fitness is good as he says it is, then this is a very good move. If not, all this can backfire and perhaps even play a point in ending Yuvi's test career. I'm a firm believer in his talent and think that he can very well succeed in test cricket. His last test match against England in Chennai where alongside Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj batted on a difficult last day pitch to see India home to a memorable win, told that Yuvraj can indeed play test cricket. There was never a question about that. The question was always over his performance in the whites. He has played 37 tests, and still remains as a provisional member of the team, which doesn't look very good. Yuvraj did get his opportunities, plenty of them, but with the likes of Sachin, Ganguly, Dravid and Laxman in the team, his place was always threatened. This promises a new start for him with 3 of those names having called it a day. Yuvraj nevertheless will feel pressure from the likes of Raina and Badrinath for the number 6 spot, but right now, for the next two matches, if his fitness is good, then it's his and Yuvraj can take comfort in that. This might or might not be Yuvraj's last chance for India. Perhaps if he fails, he might get a try against Australia in 2013, but nothing is certain but one fact, that time is quickly running out for Yuvraj to make an impact in test cricket. This is a great opportunity not only to repay the selectors' confidence in him, but also to perhaps now try to get into the Indian test team on a permanent basis.

Likely to sit out, yet this is promising for Harbhajan.
Harbhajan Singh is also in, and it's good to see him. He's a match winner and though he has gone of the radar in the last couple of years, he remains one of India's best spinners. I'm not sure if Bhajji will get a chance to play. MSD might not want to play two off-spinners in Ashwin and Bhajji in place for Pragyan Ojha, while at the same time with Yuvraj's inclusion and his ability to bowl left-arm spin, might make a small case for Harbhajan. However, I don't see him in the first test, and maybe in the second test only if something goes drastically wrong with the spinners in Mumbai.

Harbhajan can still take heart from the selection since it means that the selectors still consider him as an important member for India and like Yuvraj Singh, it's a new beginning  and anything can happen.

As much as I want to see India defeat England to avenge for the 4-0 loss in England last summer, I also am looking forward to see where this new beginning for the two Singhs leads them.