Archive for September, 2011
One wonders whether international cricket has witnessed such a twist of fate before. The World Cup victory a few months ago marked a new beginning for the Indian team. People spoke of a new era of dominance which would see India match up to the invincible Australians, the domineering South Africans and the ascending England team.
This was a high profile tour where arguably two of the world’s best teams would fight it out in tough conditions. Yet, India failed to provide any competition and could not win a single international fixture. In the final ODI a glimmer of hope was provided when Ian Bell was dismissed but India’s spineless bowling allowed the debutant Bairstow to steal the game from India.
It would perhaps be unfair not to offer any sympathy to India for losing Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh, their two best bowlers of the past few years, at the start of the tour. Yet, why has the rich and powerful BCCI not prepared any replacements for these cricketers? Whereas bowlers like Ojha and Mishra have made an impact at international level, they are not consistent and often do not look any more threatening than Harbhajan. As for fast bowlers, the less said the better. It is pathetic that India cannot produce consistent fast bowlers. What is the reason for this?
India had to face unfit senior players for at least half this tour. Agreed that the likes of Sehwag, Gambhir, Tendulkar, Zaheer and Harbhajan are big players, but more was expected from Raina, Jadeja and Dravid in the ODI series. In the Test series, apart from Dravid every batsman underperformed. The story with India’s fast bowlers remains the same- they just could not make an impact.
Dhoni in his post match presentation in the final ODI remarked that Munaf Patel is a crucial bowler at
the death for India. Somehow, using the word “death” in the same sentence as Munaf Patel seems very fitting because Patel’s bowling generally kills India’s chances of winning matches. One can say that India was unlucky with so many injuries on this tour but, sometimes you have to make your own luck and not having any able replacements for senior players is the fault of the BCCI at the end of the day. Plus, what good were senior players in the Test series anyway? Sehwag was a total failure, Tendulkar was nervy, Gambhir was not noticed at all and Laxman could not make any meaningful contribution.
It is difficult to remember any series where so many of India’s weaknesses have been exposed. It cannot be a coincidence that so many of India’ mighty batsmen just failed collectively. There is surely a problem with mindset or ability to play an organised and methodical opposition. Plus, how come Dravid was able to score runs in the Test series? And how come Dhoni played so well in the ODI series if there is a collective problem? The truth is that India lacks in the planning department and they were not mentally prepared to handle a dominant and disciplined opposition. Unless India works hard on its mindset it will suffer similar defeats when touring South Africa and Australia in high profile series.
Apart from planning and gaining in mental strength, India also needs to produce some quick bowlers. It is ridiculous that Indian bowlers can’t muster more than 80-83 mph consistently. When you analyse India’s lacklustre bowling you are minded to believe that the World Cup was won by Zaheer Khan’s and Yuvraj Singh’s bowling. I think someone on this blog mentioned this recently and it is probably true. It is laughable though that a part timer like Yuvraj can be expected to do the job which Harbhajan, Munaf, Nehra and RP are meant to do.
In a few months India has gone from being champions to minnows. This is high time for some introspection for the Indian think tank and this is the time to shun excuses relating to tiredness and injuries. The bottom line in India was not good enough. The BCCI needs to consider whether IPL is good for Indian cricket in the long run. India needs to get a specialist fast bowling coach who is more experienced and skilled than Venkatesh Prasad because apart from Zaheer Khan the Indian fast bowling unit is a laughing stock.
India needs to remedy these problems before they play South Africa and Australia at home grounds. If they do not, the “IPL, injury and tiredness” excuses will not work any further and they will join Pakistan at the bottom of Test rankings.
When Misbah was reintroduced in the Pakistan team, the bloggers on Legslip criticised his reselection. The basis of this was that instead of grooming younger and more talented batsmen, the PCB made a strange decision of entrusting Misbah with the responsibility of leading Pakistan’s batting attack. As a batsman Misbah never performed assertively against good teams or on bowling pitches. If the lack of sheer batting skill was not enough, Misbah also showed on occasions that he was not a pressure player. Many people claim that Tendulkar is not a pressure player as well, but when it comes to sheer batting skill disassociated from whatever the match situation may be, Tendulkar is probably the best batsman of our generation and he has this quality of scoring plenty of runs at a very consistent rate. Misbah is pathetic at scoring runs because he is a sitting duck when the ball is moving and even when the ball is not moving he just cannot score quickly.
When Misbah was appointed captain I exclaimed that Umar Akmal, Saeed Ajmal or Umar Gul (whose form has worsened since then) would have made better choices. This is of course assuming Afridi, the captain who took a broken, demoralised team into the WC semi final (which was lost primarily due to Misbah’s poor batting and secondarily Younis’s slow innings) was unavailable for whatever reason. A 10 year old kid can tell you that Afridi, with his proactive and motivational approach to his players, is a better captain than Misbah; however for some reason some commentators are hellbent on stating what is just not obvious.
Recently I researched players’ averages in Tests won, lost and drawn and came up with the following:
NAME, AVERAGE WON-AVERAGE LOST-AVERAGE DRAWN
G Smith, 64-28-52
I did not include Inzamam then but Inzamam averages a whopping 78 in matches won, 28 in matches lost and 47 in matches drawn, providing some credibility to the claim that he was perhaps Pakistan’s greatest match winner.
Whereas this research is not comprehensive, and does not take into account Sagaat’s arguments about standard deviation, for argument’s sake I will proceed on the basis that these statistics have considerable credibility, for the mere reason of how they illustrate the match winning prowess of players like Inzamam, Sangakkara, Smith and Dravid.
Do these statistics not back up what we have consistently complained about Misbah, that is batting his selfish and he is not interested in winning matches? The next worse ratio of average in matches won and drawn is Kallis’s, who is universally considered to be a selfish player, but his ratio is 1:1.23 whereas Misbah’s ratio is 1:1.98. In other words Misbah averages nearly twice as much in those matches which Pakistan has drawn as opposed to in those matches which Pakistan has won. This is where Misbah surely beats Tendulkar and Lara because those two substandard batsmen don’t even come close to averaging 83 in drawn matches!!
What is this nonsense and why is Misbah being treated as a batting legend? He is a totally mediocre player who only performs against poor teams or when the conditions favour batting. Even on batting pitches he has looked helpless against good teams. His captaincy is negative and you can see how pathetic he is at planning the team’s approach to posting a target, chasing a target, motivating his players to improve their performance etc. As a fielder he drops many catches, he misfields and his picking and throwing is lethargic.
Misbah’s supporters in the PCB and beyond need to stop dreaming that this tenure will provide some confidence or stability to the Pakistan team. Batsmen will not improve their game by gaining inspiration from someone who can’t score quickly, who can’t play seam and swing and who just crumbles under pressure. Bowlers and fielders will not gain any inspiration at someone who does not know how to make his bowlers perform consistently or who is not interested in raising his own fielding standards.
Pakistan may end up winning every match in this Zimbabwe tour under Misbah’s captaincy, but will this really be a victory for Pakistan fans and Pakistan cricket?