The openers are supposed to complement each other. It is not going to work if only one of them is going to score boundaries while the other blocks his way to ensure his place in the side is not jeopardised. Since starting as opener, here is a list of his ODI innings in countries other than India. The format used is *(Runs)(24 balls)* and *(Runs)(Balls played)*. The list is in reverse chronological order. If India was victorious in the match, it is indicated with a (W) in the final column.
Conclusion: Rohit Sharma wastes too many bowls at the beginning of his innings and is thus not an ideal ODI player. A List A average of only 36.77 is testament to the fact. The fact that India has a relatively weak bowling attack and is thus either chasing huge scores or needs to set a substantial target only exacerbates the problem.
Solutions: Ask Rahane to open. He has displayed maturity in opening the innings at IPL. If he doesn’t want to open, ask him to suck it up and open for the team’s sake. Even Sehwag did it, even though he always wanted to play in the middle order. If it does not work out, the two left field options are Utthappa or Unmukt. Gambhir’s return would also not be a bad idea at all, he has proven himself to be a very capable cricketer.
The #4 Spot
Yuvraj Singh has been shambolic since his comeback, Raina simply does not have the patience or the class to build an innings and Rayadu (the current contender in the squad) does not inspire enough confidence against the moving ball. While Rahane can prove to be an option, in my opinion, it would be better to ask Rahane to open with Dhawan with Pujara occupying the #4 spot. A list A average of 54.57 (not to mention the immense class he has shown in the test arena) suggests that he has the technique and the mental ability to build an innings.
In the last year (26 matches) he has 32 wickets from 26 matches at an average of 38.18 and RPO of 5.27. In all matches (38) outside India, he has 41 wickets at an average of 38.82 with an RPO of 4.97. Given that his batting style is more suited to the test arena anyway (not to mention his pathetic fielding), he does not deserve a place in the Indian ODI team. Better options would be Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha (as spinners) or Rishi Dhawan, Irfan Pathan and Stuart Binny (seaming all rounders and in that order).
Much as he is derided Ishant Sharma is not the root cause of our problems at this level. We suffer from a collective malaise where our fast bowlers are not good enough. An average of 31.44 at en economy of 5.72 suggests that Ishant is not a very bad bowler, just an average one. These bowlers can fill in the complementary roles in teams, but our problem lies in the fact that he often turns out be the best (or the least worst) performer in our ODI team.
With Shami we seem to have found a bowler who can hustle the batsmen though he is equally prone to leaking runs in the latter part of the game. Sadly, Umesh Yadav has been seriously disappointing with his line and length in the limited version of the game. I would prefer if the likes of Varun Aaron are given a go. From what I’ve seen of him so far, he looks like a very capable bowler (he came across as a better bowler than Umesh, though that is not saying much). Sadly, his performances in the last two games have been disappointing.
Regrettably, our tactics have been to defend rather than look for wickets. Perhaps, we simply do not have the bowlers but if that is the case, we need to look for new bowlers. At this stage, our bowlers are neither capable of defending nor attacking.
I will probably be ridiculed for reiterating this but the problem with our ODI team was not Ishant Sharma. The problem was the collective failure of our bowlers to take wickets, and Ishant was not the biggest contributor to that problem. Bhuvi is no longer providing us with regular breakthroughs at the beginning of his spell, while Shami and company have been generous at the death. Ashwin is not taking any wickets to justify his place in the side.
Not to mention the elephant in the room, which is our batting. Even in the series against Australia, our middle order was poor and it continues to be so. There, the top order saved us. Here, a misfiring top order has been a huge problem. Sharma does not know how to rotate strike, Dhawan seems to not want to stay at the crease long enough to actually do something while whoever we play at 4 and 6 (or 5, depending on Dhoni’s mood) seem to be perpetually ineffective to the point that they appear cursed. India desperately needs a number 4 who can bat and a 6 who is technically sound.
Get back Dhawan to open, get Pujara at 4, move Sharma at 6 and tell Rahane that if he wants to play he has to open.
As for bowling, change the spinner. Ashwin is not taking wickets. Give Mishra a chance. For fast bowlers, god only knows what to do. Maybe annex Pakistan.
In this piece Sambit Bal highlights the very thought that I have been trying to avoid throughout India’s shambolic performance down under. However, considering the fact that India do not play another test match for almost 8 months, and the clamour for change in the test side, it is now impossible to now avoid this thought.
This is probably the last test match that Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman will play together.
Ever since I understood the intricacies of test cricket, ever since I started watching test cricket seriously, these guys have been around. Around to carry the immense expectations that surrounds the Indian team, and how well did they carry those expectations! Until Gambhir and Sehwag came together at the top of the order, we never had an opening pair worth comparing to the other test teams. Yet, our batting was lauded as one of the strongest. We didn’t flinch when both our openers would make their way back to the pavilion even before the team had crossed the fifty run mark. We might have even looked forward to that, for then we could see Dravid and Tendulkar bat together. They did enjoy batting together, and they did well too. They are the most prolific batting pair in the history of test cricket (barring openers). Laxman was always the man for a crisis, taking the team to victory from situations from where even a draw was not imaginable.
Winning test matches in India was never a problem for us. However, when Australia came calling in 2001 on the back of an impressive run in test cricket and thrashed us inside three days in Mumbai, it looked like we would lose at home as well. But then, Kolkata happened. Batting again after a follow-on, Laxman and Dravid came up with a flawless batting display and took the team to a victory that not even the most ardent fans would have dreamt of on day three. That match was the turning point. To the Indian fans, it gave belief that the Indian team is also capable of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat (before, often it was the opposite that came true). From that time on, each time “India were in a dire straits” we had a reference point to fall back on. We believed that we could get out of jail, and we did. Tendulkar’s cover drives, Dravid’s cut towards backward point and Laxman’s flicks to the leg side all invariably found the boundary rope. Everything started to fall in place, we suddenly had fast bowlers who could bowl on friendly pitches, we had batsmen who could score run on them. Heck, we even got openers who could give us an opening stand. And we became the highest ranked test side in the world. Lest we forget, dreams of such an achievement would have been considered lunatic at the start of the decade.
Everything might have become pear-shaped in our last two overseas test series. We stand at the brink of losing 8 consecutive away test matches. I don’t remember when was the last time we achieved this feat. And yes, the infallible three are the blame. They are to blame because over the course of these two series they have failed to live up to the impossibly high standards they have set. They are to blame, because they have failed to paper over the cracks of the rest of the team. Now that they have failed, the failings of others have been magnified and the resulting scene is not pretty.
As the realisation that this might very well be the last time I see them representing India, I understand what they gave me. Hope. Over a period of a decade and a half, these men provided me hope. The impossible hope that redemption is possible, The hope that tomorrow will be a better day, a better performance. More often than not, it came true. Hopefully, the new crop of cricketers can provide the same hope, can show the same resilience. Watching India play test cricket without these three will be a lot less involving experience for some time, until the new players can start filling the shoes left behind.
The probability that these three play again is remote (but it is there), however the probability that we will see another set of Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman play in the same Indian team is zero.
The walking wounded came, they saw and they so nearly conquered the warriors from across the shores. They were true gladiators, true Romans. What did I expect with half the team on the treatment table, what did I hope for with De Rossi suspended and a limping Totti? Did I expect a crooked Juan, or a struggling Pizzaro to start? What more could have I asked from a hugely unproven and untested defender making his first champions league start? I could go on and on, and if truth be told, I expected them to falter, and yet hoped for the Romans to show up.
But they did not falter. They belied me, they exceeded the faintest of my expectations and continued to do so for over 120 minutes. This was a performance to be proud of, a performance to be recorded in the annals of history, a performance to remember and cherish. This was one of those performances where the result was inconsequential.
Did they deserve more? Yes they did! A kid making his second champions league appearance had his more accomplished counterpart in his back pocket (Motta vs. Clichy). A debutatnt (Diamoutene) had an accomplished champion (Van Persie) shackled. A truly good player was reborn (Riise as centre back), an injured soldier gave us the early goal that we wanted (Juan) and a legend walking on crutches inspired us all (Totti). And a man kicked, pushed and repeatedly fouled just refused to say no, he kept coming back (Pizzaro).
But we had to bow out, because in life there are no happy endings like fairy tales.
16th straight test victory for the Aussies at the SCG as they equal the record set by Steve Waugh. If I were Steve Waugh I would be hanging my head in shame at this moment. The current Australian team has blighted the game like no other has. It may have won matches and trophies galore but it has failed to win any hearts. I liked watching the Aussies play, they were quite good to watch at the 96 world cup. Under Taylor and then Waugh, they were a competitive side, tough to beat but gracious in defeat. However, during the past three years or so they have degenerated in a bunch of rowdy school boys who only care about winning. They are a bunch of school bullies who abuse, sledge and play hard but when someone gives it back to them they have no stomach to digest it. All went well at the Melbourne test – and why was that? Because Australia was winning comfortably, they had no reason to complain. Cut to the Sydney test. India have Australia on the mat, 6 wickets down for 134. And they have a chance to make it 7 when Symonds nicks one from Ishant Sharma and Dhoni takes it comfortably behind the stumps. The nick might have been easily heard in the Australian dressing room, but the umpire did not hear it. And of course Symonds did not walk, the Aussies only walk when they are not in trouble, he would not have walked and left his team in tatters. And then there is Micheal Clarke, he did earn my respect when he played in India in the test series in 2004. Seemed a very promising player. Nicks (or rather hits) one from Kumble to first slip. The deflection was probably wider than the Amazon, and he waits for the umpire to give him out. Can’t blame him, with the standard of umpiring that was on display he might have had the chance to survive. But if this is the man that is being groomed to be Ponting’s successor then there is something wrong with the Australian selectors. Or is there something wrong with the current Australian team which teaches its members to cheat? For while not walking might not be cheating, hoping to carry on through an umpiring mistake is surely cheating. Or something that school boys would do.The last day was not different, was it? Hoping to equal to Steve Waugh’s record, the Aussies played with an intensity that was expected of them. And they had an unexpected ally in Bucknor who seems to have developed a panache of ruining India’s chances in every game. He might have been a brilliant umpire once but he is surely past his prime. If the events in the world cup final of 2007 were not enough, Steve Bucknor had more in offer for us. Dravid is given out while the ball clearly hits his pad, and Ricky Ponting’s word is taken on two controversial catches when there was clearly the option of referring to the third umpire. And yes, I am openly questioning Ponting’s integrity here. As for Clarke, the mere fact that his word can be trusted for a catch is joke, he had already shown what he was capable of on the fourth day. And when it comes to close catching calls, the Australians do not have a great history, do they? Remember Slater and Dravid?
As for Harbhajan Singh, I highly doubt that words of racial nature were uttered by him. And even if they were, the fact that there must have been enough provocation for it, can not be denied. The Australians are afraid of him, because he has got their number. His partnership with Tendulkar was frustrating them, and it is now a common site to see the Aussies muttering insults out of the corner of their mouths. Heis a hot headed guy, Harbhajan is, and he just gave some back to Symonds. The first question that arises is why was there no censure on Symonds for provoking him. Or is there a category of insults – you can insult someone personally, but as soon as you fire a racial slur you are in trouble. That, in my opinion, is pure nonsense. Even if Harbhajan abused Symonds racially, the lack of evidence ( the on filed umpires nothing, and it was again the word of the Australian team that was taken for it) and the presence of several mitigating factors should have ensured a better handling of the case.
As for the Indian team, they must surely be gutted. They at least deserved to draw the Sydney match and had the umpiring decisions gone their way, or had the Aussies played in the spirit of the game, they might have even won it. If the supporters can not swallow this defeat it must surely be impossible for the team to swallow it. I personally no reason for the team to stay in Australia, there is no respect for them there. Kumble, Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly are some of the most respected and talented cricketers to have graced the game of cricket in the past two decades and to play against a team which has neither respect for the game, nor for the opposition must surely pain them. 2.3 million, that is the price that they have to pay to bunk the tour. The Indian board is more than capable of paying that price. No reason for the team to stay and endure more contempt, for the current Australian team does not deserve to share the same space with the Indian team.
Come back, Team India!
Table Tennis – A sport which I enjoy immensely and yes I can proudly say that I am quite good at it. And when there was an opportunity to display my talents, I didn’t shy away from it. I didn’t fare well in the singles tournament and went down fighting in the third round. Though the doubles tournament was fun, me and my partner Umair, were quiet good for most of the people and we sailed to the finals of the tournament easily enough. We were lucky enough to be given a bye in the semi-finals as the other team didn’t turn up. (Maybe they were afraid of the South-Asian torpedoes, he!he!). Anyway, the finals was quite a contest and it went down to the wire. Each point was furiously contested for, each smashed blocked, each spin counter-spun. We were a set up, but the other team came back strongly and they managed to eke out the last two sets to win the game an take the trophy home. Sad as it was, we still managed to finish runners up and that was quite an achievement. Maybe next year, we would be able to improve and take the trophy home with us. Till then, good bye from the South-Asian torpedoes.
Though one of the best post-tournament highlights was playing a doubles game against Krenar and his friend from Macedonia with the Krupp College Master, on my side. Now, that was fun. He is an awesome player and together we managed to beat the other team quite comprehensively.