Archive for February, 2008
After India’s miserable World Cup 2007 campaign, the BCCI management decided to take some radical decisions. They realised that whereas brilliance could be expected from senior players like Sehwag, Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, Agarkar, Pathan, Zaheer Khan etc, what Indian cricket is looking for is something different, a raw energy that wants to prove something.
Hence a different formula was favoured. There was an unexpected and unprecedented injection of youth in the Twenty20 Cup, which surprised everyone as India thwarted the likes of Australia and South Africa, and defeated a strong Pakistani side in the final.
Today Indian cricket stands on a different pedestal to where it was this time last year. There is a feeling around the team which has permeated towards the BCCI and in turn has touched the entire nation. This is a feeling of belief, of the knowledge and determination to succeed consistently at the highest level. There is a sense of responsibility, of confidence and more importantly than anything else, of professionalism not witnessed in Indian cricket for a long time.
Where the going gets good, every team management faces delicious dilemmas. Tendulkar is not yet a dispensable aspect of India’s top order. He still scores runs consistently and definitely scores a big knock or two when he is provoked by stinging media criticism. Gambhir has proven to be an inspirational find, especially in the ODI arena. There are too many positives about Gambhir to go through in the context of a small mention in an article, but the most impressive aspect of his form is that he is scoring when it matters, under pressure and against quality bowling. Gambhir has managed to provide an odd sense of stability in what was up to now an unstable top order, its general batting genius notwithstanding. Not only is he contributing with match winning knocks, he is also scoring at a very handsome strike rate of 82, this series. It goes without saying that he has been thus far the batsman of the tournament, ahead of the likes of Ponting, Clarke or Tendulkar.
And then we have Ishant Sharma, who could be mistaken for a fast bowler from Punjab across the border. He is tall, fiery, bowls at a good pace, is determined to make a name for himself, and (we have recently discovered) has a bit of an attitude to go ahead with his splendid bowling. Ishant’s imperious form has provided a dilemma to the Indian selectors- would he be preferred over the likes of Zaheer, Sreesanth and Munaf in the coming future?
Uthappa is another fascinating find. If you look at his body language there is nothing to suggest he bears a demon within, which can unleash and destroy any bowling attack in a matter of moments. His recent sixer off Brett Lee, which resembled swatting an irritating mosquito more than flicking the fastest bowler in the world for a maximum, will stay in the memory for some time. Ravi Shastri and Michael Slater pointed out his immaculate defence, which is a rarity for someone who has such a flamboyant style of batting.
Finally we have Praveen Kumar, a deceptive and sly medium pacer who can also bat lower down. The best thing about Praveen is his presence of mind and temperament. He can swing the ball both ways and carries the propensity to surprise the batsman. In this way he is a bit like Fawad Alam from Pakistan, who appears to be a very ordinary spinner at first sight but gets most of his victims out because of that reason. Praveen deserved to in the MOM award today and this will do wonders for his confidence, as he was only playing his third ODI.
An article praising the Indian youngsters cannot go without complimenting their brilliant leader. Dhoni is exactly what Indian cricket has been looking for. He can bat aggressively and defensively according to the situation although mainly he loves to slog. He is an excellent planner, possesses superb temperament and knows the game like the back of his hand. His captaincy is inspirational. He is practical minded and knows exactly about the capabilities of his players. One of his greatest assets has been to utilise those bowlers that are needed most according to the requirements of the situation. He is mature, wise and best of all, very humble, despite his gargantuan achievements ever since he made his debut.
As has been mentioned previously on numerous occasions, India now is a major threat to good teams in world cricket. Perhaps the best illustration of India’s newly-discovered glory is that for the first time in a long, long while, there is a realistic likelihood of India defeating Australia 2-0 or 2-1 in the finals and hence winning the CB Series.
Recently Andrew Symonds made a point about the difficult issue of “loyalty vs money.” BCCI is the richest cricket board in the world which has already created problems for cricket boards for countries like England and Australia, and now the world also has to contend with ICL and IPL.
Money means a lot of things to a lot of people. Playing in the IPL provides the players with an opportunity to earn enviable amounts of cash, like never before.
Players have started being auctioned. This has never been witnessed in cricket, on such a scale anyway. What is the future of international cricket? Is the time looming where private leagues will be able to afford more money than the ICC? Will the most talented and prolific players draw themselves rigidly to private leagues and ignore national cricket boards? What ramifications does this have on the competitiveness of international cricket?
These are just some of the questions that come to mind. On this thread the CJ Management would like to read your comments regarding what you feel is the future of these private leagues and the future of international cricket.
In other news, it has become known now that Australia may decide to shorten its schedule and tour Pakistan after all. Whereas this is a welcome development, there is a possibility that a “B” or second-grade team may be sent to Pakistan. I believe this will be welcomed by the Pakistani public and it must be welcomed equally by the PCB. Knowing the current form of the Pakistani team, a “B” (or a seemingly weak “A”) team of Australia will offer the Pakistani players a tough time and the series will be very competitive. Not only will this be fruitful for the cricket starved Pakistani public, it will also help identify key youngsters for the future, which Pakistan so desperately needs.
The Under-19 Cricket World Cup 2008 has commenced in Malaysia and will feature 16 teams. This is a high profile event which will be viewed by thousands of people worldwide. The U-19 Cup, played every two years, provides a key platform for national cricket boards and national public to identify players for the future.
In my view one of the biggest advantages of such a platform is that will help identify mentally strong players, the types who have learned from an early age to not let pressure get to them. This type of tournament will especially benefit players from less developed cricketing nations such as Pakistan and Bangladesh because they will get a chance to compete with players from teams like Australia and England who have benefited from a high level of technology in their training as well as top quality coaching. What countries like Pakistan and India are also looking for are players who can play their natural game in foreign conditions, massive stadiums, against players from more privileged and developed backgrounds.
Following is a list of the past U-19 Cup finalists, with the winning team mentioned first, in bold:
1988- Australia vs Pakistan
1998- England vz New Zealand
2000- India vs Sri Lanka
2002- Australia vs South Africa
2004- Pakistan vs West Indies
2006- Pakistan vs India
Many players who featured in an U-19 Cup have gone on to become superstars in the international arena. Brian Lara, Sanath Jayasuria, Chris Gayle etc are all high profile players who started from the U-19 Cup. From Pakistan and India’s point of view, the following players played in the U-19 Cup and went on to become international superstars:
Inzamam, Mushtaq Ahmed, Harbhajan, Sehwag, Kaneria, Razzaq, Yuvraj, Malik, Kaif etc.
The key players that feature in India and Pakistan’s squads at present are:
1) Virat Kohli- attacking right handed batsman, highly respected player with a cool head
2) Ravindra Jadeja- left handed all rounder who scored a 50 on his first class debut
3) Perry Goyal- highly regarded wicketkeeper who was also once touted to play for the national team, when Dhoni was not discovered
4) Iqbal Abdulla- highly regarded left handed all rounder who was also once reported to have impressed BCCI for an international assignment
1) Imad Wasim- Welsh born left handed all rounder who is the captain of the team
2) Ahmad Shahzad- attacking top order batsman, right handed
3) Umer Akmal- right handed batsman, younger brother of disgraced wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal, and averages 78 currently in first class cricket
4) Ali Asad- an admirer of Sourav Ganguly, Asad is an attacking wicket keeper batsman who has been knocking on the doors of international selection for some time
Pakistan and India are not scheduled to play in the preliminary matches, but may well contest in the quarter finals. Both of these teams contain some very talented cricketers who may represent their country in Test cricket, in the not too distant future. Pakistan have won the last two Cups and will look to carry the same momentum this Cup as well.