Archive for October, 2008
The Feroz Shah Kotla stadium has been a welcome venue for the Indians. India has won its last 7 Tests at this ground and the captain Kumble has picked up 55 wickets at this venue in 6 Tests at an outstanding average of 15.71.
Kumble has to be the spotlight of this preview, because his performance of late has not been anything to write home about. Although Kumble is fit and raring to go at his favourite ground, he was not the captain in the previous Test where India registered the famous record victory. It has been reported that Kumble is quite confident going into the 3rd Test, but even his most ardent supporters admit he is feeling the heat, more so because of Mishra’s revelation in the 2nd Test.
Speaking of Mishra, he may well have to lose out due to Kumble’s inclusion. The Mohali Test has presented the Indian team management with almost a delicious dilemma. As of now, there can be no question of dropping Kumble because he is the captain. Yet, Mishra’s performance at Mohali warrants a place. Harbhajan is stuck in the middle and at the moment it is unclear whether the toe injury he sustained in the Mohali Test has been cured. The slight problem India may have is losing some of the psychological advantage that is present when Harbhajan is playing against Australia, if Harbhajan has to sit out.
The curators have attempted their best to produce a spin friendly wicket for Kumble. Keeping this in mind Kumble may want to gamble and play the third spinner instead of either Laxman or Dravid. However historically speaking the Indian team management has never liked to compromise on batting. An interesting statistic about the Kotla is that spinners on this ground have taken nearly two-thirds of all the wickets that have fallen, so this may be something Kumble perhaps would want to consider.
The Kotla is also a friendly ground for the aggressive Indian openers Gambhir and Sehwag, both of whom hail from Delhi and are very comfortable with the local conditions. They are expected to set some fireworks at this ground.
The Indians have hit Australia where it hurts and it appears Australia will have to play out of their skins to win this one. One change is likely to be made in the Australian line up, with Stuart Clark replacing Peter Siddle. One might cynically consider if that is likely to make any difference keeping in mind that Siddle was not particularly bad in the Mohali Test. Australia is missing a quality spinner on these types of tracks and for the first time perhaps the fact that there is no Warne to bamboozle the opposition is showing in Australia’s performance.
Cameron White is a prospect but he needs more experience as this Indian attack has the potential to handle him pretty comfortably.
Ponting demanded his seniors to perform and with good reason. Hayden has expressed devising a new strategy to counter Zaheer Khan and Clarke has also pledged to bat with more responsibility. Australia have been pushed back and most pundits are already predicting an Indian win, but this is an excellent opportunity to see just how much juice is there in the Australians after their humiliation at Mohali. It is interesting how both the captains of the opposing teams are under pressure to perform. Speaking from Australia’s perspective, their strength is pace bowling and they will have to pick up early wickets. As for their batting, Hayden & Co will have to attack and show positive intent. Otherwise we will probably bear witness to yet another humiliation for Australia.
Khansahab analyses India’s record victory against the Aussies…..
Did we see it coming? Many would say, not. Yet India did seemed to do the unthinkable by beating the Aussies by a margin of 320 runs, which is India’s biggest ever margin of victory in terms of runs.
The noticable aspect of this victory was that we saw a rare team effort from India which completely demoralised the Australian pscyhe. Dhoni’s captaincy deserves special mention, but not for the first time.
Mahinder SIngh Dhoni has provided India with a fresh and delicious change which Indian cricket had been finding for more than a decade. Dhoni’s calmness, commitment, professionalism and above all, motivational skills took India to victory against the strongest team in the world. One had to observe and almost celebrate the look of resignation and submission on the face of Ricky Ponting, whose visage was nothing like the usual confidence and brashness it usually exudes.
Never in the past two decades has this question been more appropriately asked- “Is this the end of Australian domination in world cricket?” And never have we felt so compelled to answer in the affirmative.
Amit Mishra exceeded all expectations and bamboozled the Aussies. Mishra seemed to be the essential replacement for Anil Kumble, whose captaincy has come under the scanner and whose bowling seems to have lost its potency. There have been subdued calls for Kumble to quit for over a year, but now it would be the right time for the spinning legend to call it a day.
In fact, Mishra is not the only competitor for Kumble. Ojha is another spinner who has been knocking the doors of selection for some time and has lost out due to Kumble’s presence. India’s recent successes have been most attributable to the injection of youth; why should the spin department be bereft of talented youngsters? There are already calls to keep Dhoni as captain for the remainder of the series and Kumble is definitely feeling the heat.
Gambhir was effective and showed his good form with a commanding century in the 2nd innings. However, Sachin Tendulkar’s 88 was very special, not because it helped set the momentum of the Indian innings and was scored at an impressive strike rate of almost 80, but because he broke Lara’s record and became the leading run scorer in Tests. Tendulkar’s record breaking seemed to convey a mystical effect to the Indian pysche- it was a feeling of domination, a feeling of conviction and a feeling of genius almost, which actually has epitomised Tendulkar’s batting over the years, but much more so when he was at his enviable peak.
No batsman has played Australia better than Tendulkar has and even though Tendulkar is often criticised for lacking pressure handling skills, it takes a lot of guts and determination to raise your game level against the best in the business. Tendulkar has verily been Australia’s nemesis. For various reasons, Tendulkar is commonly perceived to be the most accomplished batsman in the history of cricket and this fact in itself has helped the Indian team to raise their confidence and feel pride in themselves.
Other than Tendulkar, Ganguly’s superb century also deserves to be applauded. Mishra has already been praised but Harbhajan also deserves mention for his 5 wickets in the test. Indian commentators have always spoken about the need for the whole team to contribute, and this test is a testament to that suggestion. There are many positives to take from this test- where does one begin? The opening was solid, the middle order of Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dhoni clicked and the bowling was penetrative and consistent. It goes without saying that the pair of Zaheer and Ishant complement each other very well and both have a lot of firepower within them, able to rattle any batting line up.
To conclude, this was a memorable test in many respects, not least because of Tendulkar reaching a milestone and the margin of victory. The cricket world is coming to terms with India’s resurgence and Australia’s vulnerability. Every tide has an ebb, and this is surely Australia’s ebb. Australia has been pushed to the ground, but because of the aggressive nature of the Australian psyche and mental strength, the remaining two tests are likely to be competitive.
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Khansahab reviews the 1st Test between India and Australia and also considers the T20 Canada tournament.
INDIA VS AUSTRALIA
India will take heart from the fact that they managed a hard fought draw after Australia imposed a commanding total in the 1st innings. Apart from notable contributions from Dravid, Sehwag and Ganguly there wasn’t much to write home about as far as the top order is concerned. However it was the fighting spirit and commitment of lower order batsmen Harbjahan and Zaheer Khan that was a cause for celebration for the Indians. Both of these players have performed consistently with the bat in the recent past whenever the Indian top order has failed to click.
Zaheer Khan was superb in this match and thoroughly deserved the Man of the Match award. Zaheer has come a long way since he yorked his way into international cricket 8 years ago. He line was on target and he caused considerable disturbance to the Australian batsmen and his 1st innings spell of 29.5-4-91-5 will remain in memory for a long time.
India will also take heart from the fact that, all of the Fab Four players performed in bits and pieces. This might disappoint those critics though who want fresh blood to be infused into the Indian middle order right away. Tendulkar could not break Lara’s record, but his 49 played under pressure did potentially save the Test for India. Dravid will probably have secured a place in the 2nd Test by scoring a 50 in the first innings whereas Laxman showed resilience in the 2nd innings. Ganguly, who has snatched away most of the spotlight due to his retirement decision made before the series started, looked convincing in both innings.
Questions are being raised about Kumble’s declining bowling performance. He is struggling to grab wickets and appears far from from his best. It will be interesting to see when the retirement decision comes from him. Most people will agree Dhoni is ready for Test captaincy.
The second Test starts on Friday and India will probably go with the same line up. The Mohali pitch traditionally favours pace bolwing more although in the very recent past it has also produced cracks to assist the spinners. It has been discussed on LS before that Harbhajan is the in form player for India and Kumble is the captain, so India has no option but to go with two spinners. It is recommended to go with an extra pacer but that would mean one of India’s Fab Four would have to sit out.
CANADA T20 REVIEW
We saw a highly charged and for most period, competitive T20 tournament. There have been far more negatives than positives for Pakistan in this tournament and this review will analyse those. Shoaib Malik’s captaincy again came under the scanner as he made some unforgivable mistakes. In two crucial matches Malik did not let Umar Gul bowl his full quota of 4 overs.
Speaking of Gul, he was fantastic in his tournament and appeared very threatening. Gul bowled with an average of 9, an economy of 4.5 and a strike rate if 12. In terms of bowling statistics only Mendis outperformed Gul. Gul’s spectacular performance raises questions if he is the best T20 pacer in the world? The reason why Umar Gul is successful in this format is because he bowls wicket-to-wicket, uses good variation and the limit of 4 overs allows him to bowl many fast yorkers.
Another success story was Fawad Alam, whose 3 sixes were the turning point of the match against Sri Lanka which enabled Pakistan to enter the final. His talent was never in doubt but he needed a platform to showcase it and was lucky that he got a chance despite going against his natural style of batting, which is similar to Michael Bevan’s.
The new PCB administration needs to decide how it will handle the following concerns:
1) Shoaib Akhtar’s lack of commitment- Shoaib was a liability in this tournament and single handedly lost Pakistan the final
2) Sohail Tanvir’s ineffective bolwing performance- will he go down the same route as Mohammad Sami and Rana Naved?
3) Malik’s uninspiring captaincy. Consider a) The different batting positions Afridi was used in, b) Fawad being sent in at no 9, c) Gul not being able to finish his quota, being the most reliable bowler in the squad, d) Attitude towards Sohail Khan who only got to bowl 1 over in the whole tournament, e) The over utilisation of Shoaib Khan who appeared mediocre at best, f) Inability to handle Shoaib Akhtar and Sohail Tanvir……no captain has been able to handle Akhtar’s destructive behaviour but Malik should have advised Akhtar to bowl with some sense in the final
4) Misbah’s role in the team- in this Cup Misbah only made 60 runs with a strike rate of 97- clearly not in line with what is expected from a T20 specialist
5) Selection issues- the time has come to decide, a) whether Malik should remain as the captain, b) whether Younis Khan is needed in limited overs’ cricket, c) what role Misbah ul Haq is performing in the team as he has not been able to win matches for Pakistan, d) whether people like Nasir Jamshed, Saeed Ajmal and Khurram Manzoor should be considered to serve Pakistan cricket in the future.
Bear in mind that nothing positive is expected to materialise from the new PCB administration because we are expected to see the same faces that have ruined Pakistan cricket like Saleem Altaf and Aamir Sohail.