Posts Tagged Indian Fab Four
The Legslip Management pays tribute to India’s greatest “unsung” matchwinner
Anil Kumble, like many great cricketers, was enigmatic for most of his career. He was a legspinner with an aggression and appetite of a fast bowler. Unlike most legspinners, he was never a great turner of the ball and instead relied more on variation in flight, pace and angle to pick wickets.
Hence, Kumble provided international cricket with a package that was perhaps never seen before- he was tall, aggressive, hungry for wickets and his legspin was unconventional. Yet Kumble was an immensely successful bowler and more than natural ability with the ball or his wrists, it was his combative mindset and sheer intelligence that enabled him to make a name for himself.
Consider Kumble’s technique against Inzamam for instance. Few bowlers troubled Inzamam more than Kumble did and Kumble nearly always succeeded in trapping the legendary batsman before his wickets. Kumble was also gifted in the sense of, pitching the delivery at the exact location where he wanted it to land. It was this continuous meticulous effort of being accurate with the line and length that forced the batsmen to make mistakes against Kumble. In fact at times you almost felt he was a mind reader.
Kumble never received the appreciation he deserved. His consistency was never in doubt and despite being known in circles as an aggressive and intelligent cricketer, he was considered for captaincy too late; when he had already been playing international cricket for 17 years. Kumble’s record as captain (3 wins, 6 draws and 5 losses) may not seem outstanding, but as a captain he was shrewd and tactful. Perhaps a good way to phrase it is, that Kumble was not particularly bad; Dhoni is just too good.
619 Test wickets at an average of 29.65 and strike rate of 66; somehow one never really saw the value in these figures as the Indian batting maestros Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly always stole the limelight. Yet Kumble was very modest and humble and never asked for undue appreciation. We give credit to Tendulkar for being the torch bearer of comtemporary Indian batting mastery, yet we seldom give Kumble credit for being arguably India’s most successful bowler ever; Kumble, with 619 Test wickets, is the 3rd highest wicket taker in Test cricket, after Murali and Warne.
Speaking of Murali and Warne, they were perhaps in a different league to Kumble as their bowling strike rates demonstrate. Yet when it comes to how useful a bowler is for his team, Kumble was never any less than Warne or Kumble. Warne had McGrath by his side and he also had Brett Lee; Kumble, for most of his career, did not play with any world class bowler who could give him support from the other end. In fact, Harbhajan only really came into the limelight when Kumble had already started fading as a world class spinner.
Kumble had setbacks and controversies in his career, but he was always picking up wickets and applying pressure on the opposition. Kumble was never very animated, nor was he ever excessively reserved- he applied a balance to his game and he was always up for a challenge. If one considers the ratio of India’s victories to Kumble’s 4 or 5 wicket hauls, one would genuinely discover Kumble’s value to the Indian team.
Anil Kumble will be an icon for his heroic qualities- his mental strength, his resilience but most of all, his modesty and relentless consistency despite being deprived of most of the limelight by Tendulkar, Dravid and Ganguly. The point of being a hero is, believing in a cause and accomplishing it even if if you don’t get your due for it. That is what heroes are made up of, and Kumble was the definitive Indian hero. He retires as a great model for Indian youngsters, and he will be remembered as India’s greatest unsung matchwinner.
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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.
Khansahab previews the much anticipated India vs Australia series starting October 9th and the T20 tournament featuring Pakistan in Canada which starts October 10th.
INDIA VS AUSTRALIA
Indian fans will have high expectations with this one. India fought back well against Sri Lanka after the Test series loss and won the ODI series. This series is crucial for many different reasons but the obvious ones are as follows:
1) India rise in world cricket and Australia’s newly discovered vulnerability means that both teams are on a level playing field, almost
2) Australia face a threat against genuine spin and Indian spinners particularly Harbhajan, have performed well against the Aussies of late
3) Ganguly has announced that he will retire after this series. Hence all eyes will be on Ganguly and his fans will hope he bows out gracefully
4) There is tremendous rivalry between the Indians and the Australians. Both teams have not been friendly to each other in recent memory. Sreesanth and Harbhajan have had trouble with the Aussies, Ponting was severely criticised by Gavasker for claiming a catch, and both teams have complained about the behaviour of the other. Perhaps the triggering incident of this animosity was when the Australian players rudely pushed the BCCI chief when they were having a photograph taken in a past series.
In terms of the pitches and climate, October is generally warm in India and the pitches are expected to play as standard- conducive to swing in the early overs but then favouring spin generally as the days progress. India’s biggest advantage will definitely be its spinners. Whereas Kumble has not been in prime touch recently, he has a great record inside India and Harbhajan has benefited from a resurgence of form.
There must be a mention of the Fab Four of the Indian batting line up. As stated earlier Ganguly has announced his decision to retire after this Test series. There have been reports from the BCCI circles that this is the last straw for the Indian Fab Four. Tendulkar has been granted an opportunity to break Lara’s record (he is just 76 runs behind) whereas the recent Wall built in Bangalore in Dravid’s honour seems like a subtle message to the legendary batsman to consider his retirement and exit from the game with some grace.
To conclude then, this is a very important series for various reasons and is being considered as a marathon battle between two cricketing giants. It will be great to see the Indian batting legends pile up runs and retire on a good note.
T20 TOURNAMENT IN CANADA
Although most cricket fans will consider this to be a meaningless tournament, it has gained some interest from Pakistan fans simply because of the absence of cricket in the country. A decent performance in this competition can provide some relief to the depressed Pakistan cricket fan.
The squad has been announced and is as follows: Shoiab Malik (c), Misbah ul Haq (vc), Shahid Afridi,Salman Butt,Shoiab Akhtar, Sohail Tanvir, Younis Khan,Kamran Akmal,Khalid Latif,Umer Gul,Anwar Ali,Abdul Rauf, Saeed Ajmal,Fawad Alam,Sohail Khan
Nasir Jamshed’s exclusion has been queried who has been replaced by Khalid Latif. Although Latif has been a prolific scorer in domestic cricket, he appeared out of form in the RBS domestic T20 Cup. Nasir was out of form too, but deserved a chance in this tournament. Disappointingly Malik is still captain.
A surprising name in the squad is that of Shoaib Akhtar who performed poorly against Surrey and then did not pick many wickets in the RBS Cup, although he was economical.
There have been many calls to drop Shahid Afridi although he was brilliant with the ball and effective with the bat in the RBS Cup. Afridi is in form and there will be enormous expectations from him.
This T20 Cup will not do much to alleviate the Pakistan team’s hapless standing in world cricket, but it will provide some entertainment to the cricket starved Pakistan cricket fans.