Thursday, March 31, 2011

Preview of World Cup final

Hello friends,

Finally, after almost one and a half months of non-stop cricket action, we are at the one match that matters the most, the finals. Fortunately for us Indian fans, India has made it to the finals and will play Sri Lanka, a team that is at the top of its game and very, very dangerous in sub-continental conditions. Let us look at a few aspects of this upcoming game in detail.

Indian team selection

I just read that Ashish Nehra has broken the middle finger of his right hand, and looks doubful to play in the final. If that is true, Ashwin will come back for sure. Even otherwise, Ashwin's selection was very much on the cards. Sri Lanka have 2 left-handers in the top three, and Ashwin's job should be to take out Tharanga, who has been in great form this tournament. I dont see any other change in the playing eleven for India.

Sri Lankan team selection

I am thinking SL will play Kulasekara in the final, even though he did not play the semi-final. I dont know whom he will replace, the choice is between one of the spinners, or Angelo Mathews, who is injured. The only other pacer SL have is Malinga, and I dont think they will go into the finals with 1 pacer, 1 half-fit pacer and 3.5 spinners (Dilshan is the half spinner). Murali will most likely play, even though he is very injured.


The one thing that is on my mind more than anything else regarding the conditions, is the dew. Mumbai has a fair bit of dew in the night and it was seen in one of the earlier matches. Even though this is early April, I think dew could be a factor. If medium or heavy dew is expected, then I would look to field first if India win the toss. That could reduce the threat from the SL spinners under lights in dewy conditions. If dew is not going to be a factor, India should look to bat first and put runs on the board.

Once again, like the semi-finals, the strategy for Indian batsmen should be to get after at least a couple of SL bowlers, maybe the second pacer and one of either Mendis or Herath. SL, like Pakistan, have a couple of very good bowlers - Malinga and Murali - and a few others who have been performing above potential. They also rely on Dilshan for a few overs in the middle and have 5 players who hardly ever bowl - Tharanga, Sanga, Mahela, Chamara Silva and Samaraweera. So if India can put Sanga out of his comfort zone by targetting a couple of bowlers, he will have some big worries, which, in a game like the World Cup final, is always good for the opposition.

One other change I would like to see is, Raina batting above Dhoni. Raina has shown with his 2 performances in crunch situations, that he deserves to bat higher up the order. That will give him a few extra overs to play himself in and then dictate terms to SL, which he has not had the chance to do because he has been fire-fighting in both his games so far. I want to see the Raina of last 2 years where he bullied bowlers on sub-continental pitches

With the ball, the strategy is simple - look to make SL 3 down as soon as possible. Their middle-order and lower middle order is largely untested in this World Cup and could be under serious pressure if they have to bail out the team in the World Cup final on a foreign pitch against the home team and crowd. As I said earlier, Ashwin should open the bowling with Zak and look to take out Tharanga early. If the opening partnership is broken early, that would be a big blow for SL hopes and strategies, since they have been very successful in this World Cup and in my opinion, is one of the main reasons for their success. Having a good platform is always important, especially in a World Cup final and SL, with their relatively weaker middle order below Mahela, plan their strategies around that. Even if Ashwin does nothing of note other than take Tharanga or Dilshan out, and returns analysis of 10-0-45-1, he would have done his job in my opinion.

While batting, Indian batsmen face the main threat from Malinga and Murali. Murali is at the top of his game and will definitely perform at his best in his last international game. To counter Malinga's yorkers, I would suggest that the Indian batsmen should stand at least 1-2 feet outside their crease or deep inside it. I know this is easier said than done, but at this level, I dont think pace will worry the Indian batsmen. So if they stand 1-2 feet outside or deep inside their crease, Malinga will have to alter his length and that is never easy, especially in a final. That could throw him off and it would be a huge advantage for India if their main weapon is nullified.

One other thing in terms of strategy I can think of is, the batsmen should look to target Murali in the field. Since he is carrying multiple injuries, he is hobbling around in the field. If the batsmen play to his area in the field, they can look to get extra runs. I know this sounds cruel, but this is professional sport and we are talking about the World Cup finals, so teams will look to take every advantage they can without breaking the rules. Even a few extra runs can make a difference, as we all know.

One other thing for India to watch, is the SL fielding. They are the best fielding side in the sub-continent by a fair margin, so there will be no easy runs in the field. India will have to watch their running between the wickets, or we could easily see 2-3 run-outs in this game.


This is a match between 2 evenly matched sides, who are both playing their best cricket at the moment. So I am not going to predict the winner. But I believe the battle is between the Indian batsmen and the SL spinners, so whoever wins that one, should win the game. However, I will say this. India look the better side in terms of all-round skills, while SL are dependent on a few players and have more weaknesses than India. Having said that, one of the ways this match can be won by India, is if one of their esteemed batsmen produce a one-man show, like a blistering hundred or a big hundred.

Key performer

My pick for the final from India is Virat Kohli. He has had a quite tournament by the standards of his recent form, so I am counting on him to come good. With the ball, it has to be Zaheer once again. If he can take care of Sanga and Mahela, India will breathe much easier.

The final is on Friday night in U.S.A. Lets talk about it and get into the mood from now itself. Whatever happens in the final, I think India have done very well to come this far, having beaten WI, Australia, Pakistan, and tieing a game that seemed lost against England. So as Indian fans, we can be proud of that achievement. Having said that, it would be absolutely fantastic if India can produce one more performance like the semi-finals and win the World Cup !! Lets hope that happens in 1.5 days time.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Thoughts on India-Pak SF

Hello friends,

India are in the finals of the World Cup !! Lets savor this moment for a few seconds :)

OK, now that is done, so lets look at today's semi-final in some detail.

Indian batting

First of all, it looked like a mistake, and Dhoni admitted as much at the presentation, to leave out Ashwin on this track. But as it happens so often with Dhoni, it turned out to be a master stroke, by virtue of some luck :) I was not too unhappy with the omission of Ashwin considering that Pakistan play spin quite well, and have no left handers in their entire line-up. They are suspect against pace, so taking Nehra was not that bad of an idea.

India got off to a flyer yet again, courtesy Veeru and Sachin. When Veeru bats like he did today, he makes it look as if it is a flat batting track where 300 can be easily scored and chased down as well. But again, he gave it away. But he made one important contribution that needs to be highlighted in retrospective. He made their best bowler Umar Gul, look like a club bowler and shattered his confidence, from which he never recovered. It just makes us think, if a small cameo from Veeru has so many benefits, what are the possibilities if he bats for 20-30 overs in the innings ? Lets hope he has saved his best for the finals.

Sachin played a very strange innings. Once Veeru got out, he just could not find his timing and looked very shaky in the middle. I wont put it down to nerves. It looked like he could not read the surface properly and also struggled to pick the off-spinner Ajmal. It just goes to show, that no matter how many matches you play and how great a player you are, each game is different and you start from scratch each time. But credit to Sachin, he showed that he wanted to grit it out and take India to a safe total. Gambhir and Virat, once again, were looking good and then gave it away. Yuvraj got a real beauty first ball, and it was simply unplayable. It looked like the Pak think-tank had made special note of Yuvi's high backlift and worked out that the best first delivery to him is a yorker. I am sure Sri Lanka would have noted the same and will look to give the ball to Malinga when Yuvi comes out to bat in the finals.

The important and somewhat pleasing aspect of India's batting today was that India did not get bowled out and that the tail-enders scraped together some 50-odd runs with Raina. That turned out to be a match-winning aspect of the game in the end. If India had been bowled out for 220 or 230 (they were 205 or so when Dhoni got out with only the bowlers to come), I suspect that Pakistan would have chased it down. For this alone, I believe Raina is a better bet than Yusuf since he is a proper batsman and is full of confidence after his heroics against Australia.

Indian bowling

It was good to see that India defended the par-score with contributions from all bowlers. Each bowler took 2 wickets. You cannot plan such things, but it is the perfect recipe for a semi-final and will give the bowlers and Dhoni lots of confidence going into the final. Yuvi once again bowled well and is proving me right time and again that he is a key member of this side for his bowling alone. That he is also batting wonderfully well is a great bonus for Dhoni and us fans. Yuvi has become a very smart bowler these days. It was nice to see him assess the conditions and use the slowness of the pitch by throwing it up very slow and getting the ball to grip on that surface. He also varies the pace and turns a few, even if very slightly, and bowls a few straight ones to keep the batsmen guessing.

Once again, it was pleasing to see Dhoni apply pressure on the batting by keeping close fielders and creating lots of dot balls. I think he may have read my blog before this game since he did quite a few things that I suggested in the preview :) He chose to bat first, the batsmen hit their main bowler Gul for a few boundaries early on, and also denied Afridi a wicket for his entire 10 overs thereby putting pressure on their entire bowling attack. Also, when India bowled, there was pressure created by lots of dot balls.

The fielding was good, with Raina, Kohli and Yuvraj standing out. It was nice to see Yuvi once again at his athletic best in the field. This, to me, is the final indication that the old Yuvraj is fully back and feeling really good about himself. As Indian fans, what more can we ask for going into the finals ? Nehra and Munaf had a nice confidence-boosting game ahead of the final, which is also good for Dhoni and the think-tank. Also, it was nice to see a couple of wickets against Harbhajan's name. He is an important part of this attack and needs to take wickets for India to do well in the bowling department. In fact, when Harbhajan started bowling today, I thought it would be nice to see his analysis as 2 or 3 wickets for 45 from 10 overs, instead of 0 for 35 from 10, and that is exactly what happened.

So there we are. One match away from glory. Can Dhoni and his men do it one more time ? The finals are against an opponent very different from the semi-final one. I will post a preview of the final later today or tomorrow. But for now, let us enjoy this important victory for India and discuss about this game and share thoughts for the final as well.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Preview of India-Pakistan SF

Hello friends,

The buildup to the semi-finals has reached feverish pitch and it has been fun reading all the articles regarding the biggest match of the World Cup so far, the India-Pakistan clash in the semi-finals. Lets look at some aspects of the game in detail.

Indian team selection

The only possible change I see is Munaf being replaced with another pacer. The options for Dhoni are Nehra and Sreesanth. It is a difficult choice, because Sreesanth has not played in the middle for more than 1 month and Nehra does not inspire too much confidence especially after his previous two outings. Given that Dhoni's theme this World Cup has been of giving multiple chances to players before replacing them, I suspect that he will give Munaf another chance and not want to make major changes for such a huge game. The Mohali pitch should suit Munaf with good bounce and carry, so Munaf could get another chance. The others select themselves, unless there is an injury to Sehwag or some other player.

Pakistan team selection

Pakistan may also play the same team that has given them success in the last 2 games. But, with Mohali being good for pacers, I am tempted to think that Afridi may give one last chance to Shoaib Akhtar and see if he can test the Indian batting. The other choice they have to make is between the off-spinner Saeed Ajmal and the tall left-arm spinner Abdul Rehman. Since India have 3 left-handers in the middle-order, I suspect that Ajmal will be the choice.


India should look to bat first if they win the toss. It is a semi-final and Pakistan's weak point is their batting. So I would look to put runs on the board and test their batting.

The theme for India in this semi-final should be 'pressure'. The main focus of the team should be to create as much pressure as possible for Pakistan. They are riding a wave of confidence and have been performing above expectations. But everyone knows they are one performance away from imploding dramatically and giving it all away. If they have not done that so far, I believe it is because they have not been put under too much pressure in this World Cup. The one time they were, was by NZ and particularly Ross Taylor in the last few overs of NZ batting. NZ had scored 92 runs in the last 4 overs in that game and Pakistan looked completely clueless with the ball.

So India should look to attack from the outset if they bat first and even if they take a few risks, they should look to target their form bowlers and attack them early, just to see if they will give it away after that. Their form bowlers are Umar Gul, Hafeez and Afridi. Indian batsmen should look to hit a few boundaries off them early in their spell.

If India bowl first, the bowlers should look to put together lots of dot balls. Pakistan batsmen always look to score quickly, particularly their openers Kamran Akmal and Hafeez, and could play a rash shot if they are kept quiet. To that end, I would suggest that Ashwin continue to get the new ball as he seems capable of keeping the openers guessing and quiet with his variations. Their middle-order of Asad Shafiq, Younus Khan and Misbah are solid, but in my opinion, are a little slow in scoring and India should look to capitalize on that. Dhoni should once again do what he did against Australia in the field. Keep the good fielders close to the bat in the circle and prevent them from taking too many singles and twos and release the pressure.

Their lower middle-order of Umar Akmal, Afridi and Razzaq are X-factors and could score quickly and take the game away. But once again, they can be contained and taken out with pressure applied with dot balls and close fields.

One other thing I noticed is that Pakistan have 6 bowlers, but the other 5 players cannot bowl at all - Kamran and Umar Akmal, Misbah, Asad Shafiq and Younus. Okay, Younus can turn his arm over, but is a part-timer at best. What this means is, they are looking for most of these bowlers to bowl well and not get hit. If India can spoil the analysis of 2 of their bowlers, Afridi will be in a very tough situation to get through the 50 overs. And such pressure can lead to mistakes in decision-making on the field. I hope Dhoni and Kirsten have noted this fact and will use it in their plans while batting.

All in all,. it appears to be a contest between Pak bowling and Indian batting, and the team that holds its nerve under pressure, will win.


It is a semi-final between India and Pakistan in front of a full-house and on a pitch that will be good for batting and bowling. What more can we ask for as cricket fans ? This time also, I am not going to predict the winner. Lets hope for a good game of cricket overall, with no security and crowd issues.

Key performers

For India, it is high time that Sehwag produce another big innings like he did in the first match. Also, given that the theme is pressure, he is the right man to exert maximum pressure on their strong suit, bowling. In my opinion, there is a good chance that he will do well in this game.

With the ball, Indian bowlers, especially the spinners, should enjoy the extra bounce of Mohali and if there is some grass on the pitch, as is usually the case, the ball should grip the surface and turn as well, which Harbhajan and Ashwin will enjoy. But I am not predicting any key performer with the ball.

My next post will be after the India-Pakistan game. Meanwhile, lets talk about it. I am sure all of you are as excited as I am. Lets share our thoughts and get into the swing of things.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thoughts on India-Australia QF

Hello friends,

What a match we had once again !! The situation got really tense for India and us fans, but I am absolutely delighted that India won in the end and knocked the 3 times defending champions out of the 2011 World Cup. Reflect on that statement once again. It is a huge achievement that must be applauded and savored for a while. Australia had not lost even one match in World Cups since some time in the league phase of the 1999 WC, and now they lost 2 in 2 and crashed out of the 2011 WC in the quarter finals itself. Lets look at some aspects of the game in detail.

Indian bowling

India, in retrospect, made a very good move by bringing in Raina in place of Pathan. I had mentioned in my preview that I was ok with Raina playing, but I was not sure he was definitely needed for this game. The Ahmedabad pitch was perfect for Raina and he took full advantage of that and played very well to see India through along with Yuvraj.

I was surprised that everyone from the commentators to the captains were suggesting that India should bat first if they won the toss. Luckily for everyone, that decision was taken out of Dhoni's hands with Ponting winning the toss and batting first. It worked for India in the end and I was proved right.

The bowlers used the conditions very well to keep Australia to a chaseable score of 260. I was impressed by the fielding and Dhoni's captaincy in the first half of this game. The fielders in the inner-ring were placed close to prevent easy singles and exerted pressure on Australia. The choice of fielders was very good as well. Dhoni had his good fielders - Virat, Raina, Yuvi - in the circle saving one for the most part. The bowlers also bowled to their field and did not give too many freebies to the batsmen with loose bowling. All bowlers except Munaf bowled well. Munaf, like I said in my tournament preview, was quite predictable with his line and length and the Aussie batsmen correctly identified him as the weak link and went after him successfully. Zak bowled very well as usual and Ashwin supported him nicely up front and also did his job in the middle and at the end. Harbhajan bowled well without looking as threatening as he did against SA, and Yuvraj came back well after Ponting went after him in his first couple of overs. Yuvi once again proved his worth with the ball by picking up 2 crucial wickets and he also kept the run rate in check.

Other than Ponting, none of the other Aussie batsmen looked to bat through the overs and got out at wrong times, some of them to bad shots. One other aspect of Dhoni's captaincy that impressed me was his bowling changes. He kept trying different things, like bringing Sachin to bowl, which is a rarity these days, and giving Virat one over. What the multiple, sudden changes does, is throw the opposition off their plan and make them think as well. It was good to see Dhoni think a lot about his bowling resources and making all those frequent changes.

Indian batting

The first good thing about the chase was that India did not give early wickets to the Aussies. When defending a par score, the opposition always counts on getting early wickets and thereby, exerting pressure on the batting side. This did not happen. So even though the opening partnership was not a huge one, it was important because it denied the Aussies an early breakthrough. Also, by that time, the openers had seen off the opening spells of Lee and Tait, two of the Aussies' most potent weapons with the ball, and forced Ponting to think.

Sehwag got out to the short ball again, but Sachin played very well. He gauged the conditions perfectly and played percentage cricket. He looked good for a century, but fell once again nicking to the keeper. Again, Sachin's was not a huge contribution, but an important one because it gave confidence to the others till he was around that the total could be chased. In fact, that was the theme of this chase. No major huge innings, but nice cameos that contributed to the overall cause. It was a collective effort with the bat, and that was heartening to see. Usually, when India wins while chasing, we are used to seeing one huge innings and a few smaller ones. This time, almost everyone contributed and India won, the kind of batting we are used to seeing from South Africa or the New Zealand teams from the 1990s.

Gautam played his part, but for no reason, suddenly became very jittery and his body language changed in the period before he got out. Virat once again got out playing a bad shot, for the second game in succession. Hopefully, he learns from his mistakes and does not repeat this in the semi-final. Today, Yuvraj was looking like the Yuvi of old, confident and purposeful and determined to see the chase to the end. After Dhoni flopped yet again, Raina played well and justified his worth and selection. Like I had mentioned in the preview, Australia were hurt by the lack of penetration in their spin bowling and the 5th bowler. Also, Tait had an off-day like I had predicted. In the end, 260 was chased down with some comfort, which should give a lot of confidence to the batsmen, who were in need of such a game after repeatedly giving it away in the earlier games.

India ticked off most of the boxes in the match today. There are 2 obvious concerns at the moment -Munaf's predictability with the ball and Dhoni's horrible form with the bat. One other concern is the panic that seems to set in in the middle overs while batting. This Indian team used to chase down totals in the range of 280-290 without too much trouble, not too long ago. What happened to that team ? Hopefully, even after today's panicky batting in the middle overs, India would have gained some confidence from the end result and can translate that into a cool, measured approach with the bat in the semi-finals.

So lets enjoy this great victory and as India fans, lets unwind from today's game by watching/following the next 2 QFs which are tension-free for us. My next post will be a preview before the semi-final against Pak.

Lets hear your thoughts now. We have almost one week before the SF, so lets discuss and celebrate this.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Preview of India-Australia QF

Hello friends,

Right. We are now in the quarter-finals stage of the World Cup and the top 8 teams have made it through the initial rounds to the business end of the tournament. The one thing about this World Cup that stands out is, all the teams are beatable on the day and there are no clear favorites going into the knock-out stage. For a cricket fan, this is great news because we can now look forward to 7 good, competitive games of cricket where either of the two teams competing on the day, can win and knock out the other team. Lets look at the India-Australia game in some detail.

Indian team selection

Ashwin will be a definite starter in the line-up, so the strategy will most likely be, 2 pacers and 2 spinners. Regarding the batting, someone suggested that Gautam Gambhir can be dropped in order to bring in Raina. I have no problems if Raina is accomodated in place of Gambhir or even Pathan. Anyway, Dhoni has not been using Pathan properly and that means, his effectiveness is reduced considerably. Besides, we have Harbhajan and Ashwin to provide off-spin, besides Raina. So Yusuf is not needed for his off-spin. Bottom line is, if we go with the thought that Raina should play, it makes little difference if Gambhir or Yusuf are dropped for him. In fact, I am inclined to think that Dhoni may drop Yusuf in that case and retain Gambhir. I am also ok with India retaining their original eleven and keeping Raina out. Anyway, Australia have 3 quick pacers, so Raina if he plays, will be severely tested with the short ball that he is obviously uncomfortable playing. So Raina is not a must-have against Australia in my opinion.

Australia team

Their strength is their pace bowling trio of Brett Lee, Shaun Tait and Mitchell Johnson. Lee has made a very good comeback to the Aussie side and is bowling very well in the WC so far. Tait is an X-factor in their bowling, he can be a bit expensive, but needs to be watched because he has serious pace and can grab a few quick wickets and put pressure on the Indian batting. Johnson is also capable of taking a few wickets, and equally capable of a having a bad day as he showed so often in the Ashes recently.

The weakness of this Aussie side is the lack of a good spinner who can take wickets in the middle overs. Krejza has been mediocre in the WC so far, but the issue has been masked by the performance of the pace trio. Also, their fifth bowler is a combination of Shane Watson and Steve Smith. They dont look too threatening and are steady at best, and can be milked for 50-60 runs in my opinion. So it is important for India to start well and preserve wickets against the new ball and look to attack the 4th and 5th bowlers.

Another weakness in the Australia team is the lack of explosive batsmen in their line-up. Almost all their batsmen score around at a strike rate of around 80-85. So Indian bowlers should be confident going into this match that their bowling analysis will not take a big beating against this Aussie line-up. Having said that, they are all capable of big hits if Indian bowlers bowl badly and are not to be taken lightly. My point was, the Aussie batsmen look to get set and then score quickly, unlike some batsmen from other teams who hit out from ball one onwards.


India should look to field first on winning the toss. Let me explain the reasoning behind this. I agree that it is a quarter-final and one school of thought is, that for knock-out matches in tournaments like the World Cup, it is better to have runs on the board and look to defend that and put pressure on the team batting second. But we have seen several times in this WC that Indian batting loses its way in the end overs when batting first. One reason could be that they dont have a definite target in front of them which they will have while chasing. Once they get to a position of relative strength, they appear to relax a bit in the mind and that leads to embarrassing collapses.

If they bat second, they have a definite target to chase. We have a few batsmen at the top who are capable of battng through the innings, like Sachin, Gambhir, Kohli. If the batsmen have a target in front of them, the chances are higher that someone like Sachin will put his hand up and look to bat through the innings so that the others can play around him and look to keep up with the required run rate.

If we bowl first, the bowlers should look to make use of the slowness of the pitch in the afternoon session and restrict Australia to a reasonable score. Now, what is a reasonable score to chase ? In Ahmedabad, I dont think there is an issue with dew and the pitch too will most likely behave similarly in both sessions. If anything, the ball may come on to the bat a bit better under lights. If this was any other team India was playing, I would have said that 270-280 was a gettable score. But Australia have good quick bowlers who attack and look to take wickets all the time. Also, they are brilliant in the field and will not give an inch. So in my opinion, anything under 250 or maximum 260, is the score India should look to chase if they bat second. Anything more than that will be tough because the Aussies exert so much pressure on the field, either with the fielding or just by talking. So chasing anything more than 260 is going to be a very difficult task in my opinion.

One more point about strategy. Since the Aussie batsmen are not explosive, they will look to exert pressure on the Indian fielders by running quick singles and lots of twos. So the field positions have to be perfect and the fielders in the circle should be placed to actually do that and not deep. India should look to open the bowling with Ashwin again. Zak and Harbhajan should be used with attacking fields and should be allowed to exert pressure on the batsmen by bowling lots of dot balls. Ricky Ponting is a danger man even though he is not batting well in this WC because he is one batsman who can really score quickly once he is set, and India should look to Harbhajan or Ashwin to take him out early.


I am not going to stick my neck out by making a prediction for the QFs, SFs and finals. But if India bowl first and keep the Aussie batsmen from taking too many easy singles and twos, they should be able to chase down the total set to them.

Key performers

Again, I am not going to single out one performer for either team. It has to be a collective effort. But both teams will go into the match with the confidence that the other team can be beaten. As a cricket fan, that is all we ask for - somewhat equal teams playing tough cricket at a critical stage in the World Cup in front of a huge crowd.

Lets hope for a great game and ofcourse, an Indian win at the end of it :)


World Cup schedule - updated

Hello friends,

One of the conmments in my previous post asked me to update the schedule with the names of the QF teams. So here is the updated schedule with the names of the quarter-finalists.

Updated World Cup schedule

I did a separate post for this because I realized that the old post was way down the list, so it would have been a pain to look it up.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Thoughts on India-WI match

Hello friends,

India beat WI as expected before the start of the match, and finished the group stage of the World Cup as number 2 in their group. Lets take a look at the India-WI match in some detail

Indian batting

The same story of the matches against England and SA, was repeated against WI as well. We got a good start and were looking good after 40 overs, but collapsed and could not even bat out the 50 overs. After losing 9 for 29 against SA, we lost 7 for 50 against WI. Dhoni looked at this as an improvement, but I would not look at it this way. This will take the focus away from the basic problem. India need to be ashamed about repeated batting collapses, and need to address this issue immediately, otherwise we will not get past Australia in the QF.

It was good to see Yuvraj back in form, and he looked close to his peak form in this innings. The reason I say 'close to peak form' is because he was not hitting the ball with the fluency and ease that characterizes his batting when he is on song. But whether that was because of his illness or whether he was deliberately holding back his flamboyance to ensure that he batted through the 50 overs, is not known. So lets just say that Yuvi is looking very good at this time and be happy about it. Virat Kohli looked to be very happy back at his favorite number 3 position and batted in his usual manner till he played that horrible shot that got him out. Once again, this is a pointer for Dhoni to not mess with the batting order and let people come in at positions they are familiar with and perform best at.

The big concern with the batting is the lack of contribution from all batsmen from number 5 downwards. Dhoni's lack of form will hurt us big very soon, and the total non-application from the bowlers is also shocking. Harbhajan somehow does not seem to be able to score any runs in ODIs, and Zaheer is batting like a tail-ender unlike the decent batsman that he can be when he applies his mind to the job. Ashwin looked like he wanted to bat out the overs and add whatever he could to the total. I think he needs to bat above Harbhajan at this time. India should stop looking at past performances and pedigree when deciding batting line-up and other aspects of the game as well. When the 6th wicket falls, Harbhajan automatically walks out as if he owns that number 8 position. Nothing is given on a platter in sport or any other walk of life, and he should be made to realize this.

Similarly, Dhoni should walk out only at number 7. He seems to walk out whenever he fancies, which, given the form he is in at the moment, is too much of a luxury that he needs to give up on in the interest of the country. Dhoni not only consumes too many deliveries, but also does not get runs and gets out at the wrong time always.

Indian bowling

It was nice to see Ashwin get the first over, and bowl 6-7 overs in the powerplays. He produced a good performance and showed everyone why he should have played earlier in the tournament. He is also a good fielder and provided some spark in the field. Zak provided the crucial breakthrough once again, but it was Harbhajan's maiden over and Munaf's frugal over following that, that was the turning point of this match in my opinion. After 30 overs, WI looked on course to win comfortably, but I was still hopeful for the simple reason that this was WI, and I knew that all we needed was a couple of tight overs and something would give from the WI side. They outdid us in the collapse department on the day :)

Yuvraj bowled well once again, and is proving me right with every game that he is one of the key players for India in this WC, both with bat and ball.

The fielding was ordinary in the first 30 overs, but visibly picked up once Smith got out and there was an obvious difference in the energy levels and confidence. In my opinion, Dhoni's comment that India is a mediocre fielding side and nothing can be done about it, was a bad one and India in the field seem to be giving up quite easily which is showing in the body language. Top sides like Australia and SA, never falter in the field and in the body language, no matter what the situation of the game is. This helps them get back into matches that seem lost, sometimes on the strength of their fielding alone. India never seem to make things happen in the field, they just go through the motions in a resigned manner, especially when the opposition appears to have the upper hand.

One thing is sure. There will be no freebies against Australia like there were today. So India will have to make their own opportunities, they will not be given absolutely anything by Australia.


Once again, Dhoni was passive in the field and allowed too many easy singles and twos by not placing fielders in run-saving positions. It is easy to accept that fielding is bad and resign oneself to that, but he should be trying to squeeze out the best from the resources at his disposal by placing them in positions where things could be made difficult for the opposition batsmen. On the positive side, his decision to give Zak only 2 overs up front and not use Munaf at all till the ball became old and aided reverse-swing, worked well and showed he was still using his head in making some decisions.

So there we go. The next match is huge for the Indian team and us fans. Australia have already been woken up from their arrogance about their invincibility (if there was any) and will come at us really hard. I will post a preview of that game in the next day or so. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, lets chat about the WI game. Lets hear it from you guys.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Preview of India-WI match

Hello friends,

India play WI in the last match of the league phase on Sunday. Here are some of my observations and thoughts regarding that game.

Indian team selection

I know I have said this for the past two games in vain. But for this game, I again say that Ashwin should play. I would make only one change to India's playing eleven, swap Nehra for Ashwin. Having seen the effect the England off-spinners had on WI today (they took 7 wickets between them), I hope that if Dhoni had any hesitation to play Ashwin, it would have been removed completely. Ashwin is from Chennai, and plays all his cricket at Chepauk where India will play WI. Sometimes, such bowlers can come up with little things based on their knowledge of the conditions, that could prove very valuable to the team.

WI team selection

I think Chanderpaul will come back for WI, but the difficult decision for Sammy will be regarding whom to drop. Their batting lineup looked weak, with Pollard slated at 5, and then the allrounders Sammy, Thomas and Russell. In today's England match, Sammy did a good job by making some changes to the batting order and made it look like they had a longish lineup. But the fact is, WI are playing with only 5 proper batsmen, out of which Gayle and Pollard are X-factors who could get out very early. Their bowling is ok, not too threatening. Roach needs to be watched bcos he can generate good speed and gets some movement as well. Russell is not consistent, he can produce a few wicket-taking deliveries, but gives at least one four-ball every over. Benn gets bounce with his height and is pretty accurate, but does not turn the ball much.

I was pretty impressed with Bishoo, the young leg-spinner who made his debut against England. He turns the leg-break and bowls in good areas, but I did not see much variation. He will be tested against the strong Indian batting lineup.


The toss was not too much of a factor in the Eng-WI game at the same ground. Dew was not a concern either. So it does not make too much of a difference if India bat first or second. But if Dhoni wins the toss, I reckon he should bat first, simply because WI can be put under pressure if India post a big total and take out Gayle early. Also the afternoon conditions provide no movement to the pacers, Roach in particular and Veeru, Sachin et al can simply hit through the line. WI just played today and play again in 3 days. Chennai is pretty warm at this time of the year and if WI have to field first again in 3 days, they could be tired and India should look to exploit that. These little things matter, and being arm-chair critics and fans, we can see it clearly and strategize accordingly. I hope Dhoni also uses his head and makes good decisions.

One thing I noticed in the Eng-WI match was that the pacers got some movement in the air and off the pitch from the 20th over to the 34th over. This is because the pitch was very dry and abrasive, which resulted in some reverse swing and seam movement. India should have noted that and should look to have Zak or Munaf, preferably Zak, bowl a few overs in that phase. After 34th over, the ball is changed and movement is not assured.

With the ball, India should definitely look to give the new ball to Ashwin. If he can take Gayle out early, WI can lose their way as it happened against England. The other danger man is Pollard. India should look to bowl very full, yorker-length to him mixed in with a few short ones aimed at his body. He will simply destroy length bowling, so that should be avoided at any cost. Yuvraj might be a good option against him, because Yuvi does not flight the ball too much, and skids on to the bat, so he could get Pollard out lbw or if Pollard tries to hit him, he may get a leading edge if the ball turns a bit, which Yuvi does get these days.

Another thing that Dhoni should avoid is shuffling the batting order. I badly want to see the original batting order for at least one match. Kohli was in great form coming into this tournament, now for no fault of his, he has a few failures against his name. I am sure he must be itching to have a good hit out there, so he must get the chance to bat at his normal position of number 4.


India should win this one. WI possess good talented crickets with a couple of match winners with the bat. But they are very brittle and for the opposition, there is always hope that they will collapse. So India should look to keep taking wickets as one wicket often leads to another quick one, with this WI team.

My next post will be after the India-WI game, so stay tuned.


A look at top four positions in Group B

Hello friends,

I watched today's match between England and WI all the way from start to finish, mainly because I was interested to see how today's result would affect India's standing, and also to have a look at India's next opponents.

Before I post my thoughts for the India-WI game, here is a breakdown, by scenario, of the final 4 positions in Group B.

Scenario 1 - Bangladesh beat SA

If this happens tonight, here is how the final positions will be formed after the India-WI match

Scenario 1.A - India beat WI

If this happens, the top four from Group B will be

India - 9 points (number 1)
Bangladesh - 8 points (number 2)
SA - 8 points (number 3)
England - 7 points (number 4)

WI will be eliminated.

Scenario 1.B - WI beat India

If this happens, the top four from Group B will be

WI - 8 points (number 1)
SA - 8 points (number 2)
Bangladesh - 8 points (number 3)
India - 7 points (number 4)

England will be eliminated

Scenario 2 - SA beat Bangladesh

If this happens tonight, here is how the final positions will be formed after the India-WI match

Scenario 2.A - India beat WI

If this happens, the top four from Group B will be

SA - 10 points (number 1)
India - 9 points (number 2)
England - 7 points (number 3)
WI - 6 points (number 4)

Bangladesh will be eliminated

Scenario 2.B - WI beat India

If this happens, the top four from Group B will be

SA - 10 points (number 1)
WI - 8 points (number 2)
India - 7 points (number 3)
England - 7 points (number 4)

Bangladesh will be eliminated

I am not accounting for tied games or rained-out games in either of the 2 matches where both teams will get 1 point each. Also, I am assuming that the wins will not be by huge margin. I am assuming the wins to be by around 20-70 runs or with 3-4 overs to spare, such that there will not be a big difference in net run rate.

Hope this helps to get an idea regarding India's potential QF opponents. Watch for my next post in a few minutes which will be a preview of the India-WI match.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Thoughts on India-SA match

Hello friends,

Out of the two wishes that I had posted in the preview of this match, one got fulfilled and one did not. It was a very good match, but India lost. Let us look at a few aspects of this game.

Indian team selection

I cannot understand the reluctance of Dhoni to bring Ashwin into the playing eleven. Today was a good chance to brng him in. The only acceptable reason for his exclusion would have been Dhoni going into this game with 3 pacers, and he did just that, so I reluctantly agreed with that tactic.

For SA, it must have been difficult to leave out their form bowler, Imran Tahir. I also thought they would give a chance to Tsotsobe, given that he did very well against India just before this World Cup. But they chose to go with 2 full spinners in Botha and Peterson, to complement the pace of Steyn and Morkel, and I was ok with that.

Indian batting

Dhoni got it right with his call to bat first after winning the toss. As I had mentioned, India's best chance lay in batting first in friendly conditions and posting a big total. They started very well, Veeru and Sachin got out of the blocks in a hurry, no doubt boosted by the fact that Steyn and Morkel did not get any help from the conditions.

Veeru got out a little earlier than he should have, a hundred was there for the taking, but he fell when India had SA on the mat. But it was nice to see Gambhir get a decent outing in the middle and converting his 20s and 30s to a good score. Sachin batted excellently as usual, not taking too many risks and just riding the great batting conditions to notch up another hundred.

Even after what happened in the batting powerplay, I dont have any complaints regarding the timing of it. I still believe the batsmen were right to take it around the 38th-39th over when the changed ball was still a little hard and giving themselves 7-8 overs after the powerplay to really push the pedal to the floor. But what followed was pathetic, and very similar to what happened against England. Batsman after batsman came, tried to be a hero, and perished early. As Dhoni mentioned in his post-match interview, batting powerplay and slog overs are not about pleasing the crowd, but doing what is best for the team. Not one batsman seemed to think in that direction, and fell trying to hit every ball to the boundary. Dhoni himself did not try to be a hero, but in my opinion, went to the other side too much and actually looked and played defensive, which is also a crime given the situation.

I feel that this trend of taking the foot off the pedal when the opposition is down and out, especially when India is batting, is going to cost us very dearly in this World Cup. This needs to be rectified ASAP. How that is going to happen, is anyone's guess. But today, I felt Dhoni made another bad decision by sending in Yusuf at the fall of the second wicket. I understand that the powerplay was on, and he probably saw this as his chance to shut the opposition out of the game. But Yusuf is like a lottery, he cannot and will not click every time. More often than not, this will give another quick wicket to the opposition and against a team like SA, they will seize this chance to get back into the game, like they did today. Also, this causes confusion in the minds of batsmen like Virat Kohli and Yuvraj, who will try to be a Yusuf when they get a chance at bat.

Also, I keep harping on predictability being a thing for teams to avoid in this World Cup. By always bringing in Yusuf when India has a huge total and the potential for an even bigger score, Dhoni is being predictable and  teams will exploit that. In such situations, having Yusuf in the hut still to come, is a huge psychological matter for India and the opposition and that alone could result in some pressure bowling from the opposition, which will help India. Also, it is worrying to see no contribution in this WC yet from the bowlers and also the form of Dhoni is a worry.

At all times, but especially in World Cups where teams bring their A game at all times, it is absolutely criminal to not bat out 50 overs and India have done this twice already in this WC, against both the top teams they have played so far. That is another thing that needs to be addressed immediately.

Indian bowling

This Nagpur track this time actually suited India more. It was not the absolute belter that it was expected to be. There was some turn and bounce and the ball was stopping a bit. So 296 was very defendable on this track. I thought India bowled quite well early on and did not allow SA to get off to the flier that they wanted to. That pressure even resulted in Smith giving away his wicket. Kallis and Amla batted well, but I thought they could have asserted themselves a bit more. They seemed content to get 4 runs an over. Anyway, things were even almost right through the chase and fortunes fluctuated both ways often, making for a good game of cricket overall.

As I had mentioned in my preview, Harbhajan proved to be the difference for India as he looked like taking a wicket every over. That is one big plus for India from this match. If he can carry this form to the rest of the tournament, India will be in much better shape with the ball and this, along with the return of Ashwin and the form of Yuvraj and of course Zaheer, will help India to look like a decent bowling side, which is much more than was expected at the start of the tournament.

Things looked in India's favor even going into the last over. Zak had bowled a fantastic penultimate over, giving only 5 runs and left SA to get 13 from the final over. At this stage, I was shocked and absolutely outraged to see Nehra get the last over. In my opinion, giving it to Bhajji was a no-brainer. In cricket, especially in ODIs and 20-20, the form of the bowler on the day is the most important thing. To any viewer, it was obvious that Nehra had had a bad day till that point and Bhajji had had a very good day. Any sensible captain would have gone with the bowler that looked better on the day. I cannot for one moment buy Dhoni's argument that a pacer would have been the better choice at that time. A left-hander was on strike at the start of the 50th over, so an offspinner was the logical choice as well. Any way you look at it, Dhoni got it wrong big time when he gave the final over to Nehra. I was almost sure at that time that India would lose, and that is exactly what happened.

India's future in this World Cup

India is still at the top of Group B, but that will change quickly over the next few days. The task for India is pretty simple. They need to beat WI and if possible, by a comfortable margin to give them some confidence ahead of the quarter finals. I think India will go through to the next round even if they lost to WI, but they could end up being fourth in that situation, which means they may play Australia in the QF.

I will be watching the England-WI game with interest, not just because it is a match between 2 of the top sides, but because that could be a factor towards India's position in this group. England need to win that one to help them qualify for the next stage, but that would also help India in my opinion.

My next post will be after the England-WI game on Thursday, where I will post a preview of the India-WI game. Stay tuned.

Let me leave you guys with a final thought. My wife, who watched most of the game with me, had one comment about the Indian batting after the collapse that I think I should mention here. She said, after all these years, Indian batting still revolves around Sachin and after he departs, Indian batting still looks brittle and she was reminded of the 90s. It is definitely food for thought.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Preview of India-South Africa match

Hello friends,

This weekend's game is a big one in the World Cup and for both the teams involved. India plays SA at Nagpur. It promises to be a cracker, 2 of the top teams playing in batsmen-friendly conditions in front of a huge crowd. Lets look at a few things about the game and the teams.

Indian team selection

Ashwin needs to play in this game. I mentioned in my post after the Netherlands game that playing Piyush against the strong SA lineup could be expensive for India. Also, I had mentioned 2 reasons why I think Piyush was preferred over Ashwin till this time. There is an article on Cricinfo by Sharda Ugra and that also mentions the reasons I gave for this. If Dhoni really reckons Ashwin is his big-match player, then Ashwin should play this game since this is about as big as it gets for India in this WC. If Ashwin plays, he should get the new ball. With his variations and a hard new ball in hand, he could get us an early wicket. If he can get Amla, that would be one big obstacle removed for India.

Another change from the previous game would most likely be the return of Munaf in place of Nehra. Ashish did not have a bad game, but Munaf definitely is a better bet, especially since he is bowling well at the moment.

SA team selection

I think they are going to play Tsotsobe in place of Tahir. Tahir has broken his left thumb, and though it is not his bowling hand, I think they will choose to rest him for this match. Also they seem to believe that Tsotsobe has the handle on the Indian batsmen given his performance in SA before this WC. But, in my opinion, it could work to India's advantage, since Tsotsobe will not be near the force he was in SA, in Indian conditions.  So I would be happy if Tsotsobe plays.

Indian strategy

As I said, India should look to open with Ashwin and take early wickets. The danger men for India are Amla and De Villiers. Kallis and Smith are very good too, but Kallis has not been the same player since he came back from injury and Smith has a weakness against Zaheer, which I am hoping Zak will exploit and pick him up early.

SA's lower middle order looks a little vulnerable after De Villiers. There is Duminy, but I believe he can be controlled and taken out with good spin bowling. The others like Du Plessis and the allrounders Peterson and Morne Van Wyk dont look too threatening in my opinion. So India should look to get past De Villiers as that could put pressure on the SA lower middle order.

Regarding Indian batting, India did not play a full strength batting side in SA, so it should be a more even contest between this full Indian batting lineup and the SA bowling.

Nagpur is a pretty flat track, so we could see a high scoring game. In my opinon, India should win the toss and bat first. The main reason for this is to minimize the threat of Dale Steyn with the new ball under lights. I want to see Steyn and the other bowlers against the Indian batsmen in the afternoon session with little or no help from the conditions. That would make India slight favorites in this match.


If India bat first, I would back India to win this game. If they bowl first, it would be 50-50 or maybe 55-45 in favor of SA.

Key performers

For India, my pick is Harbhajan. The reason for this is the fact that Bhajji has not done much in this WC so far and he is a big-match player. I expect him to take a few wickets in this game. With the bat, it could be any of the top 7, so I am not going to make a prediction there.

For SA, my pick is De Villiers with the bat. With the ball, Steyn is the obvious threat. Morkel will not be the dangerous bowler in Indian conditions, that he was in SA.

So tell me what you think. I am enjoying writing these pieces, I hope you all are having a good time reading them.

Lets hope for a good game and an Indian win. My next post will be after the India-SA game, so stay tuned.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Thoughts on India-Netherlands match

Hello friends,

Today's game against Netherlands did not provide too many surprises for India, who won comfortably with overs to spare. Here are some quick thoughts on today's game.

As I mentioned, India's best chance for this game was in bowling first and restricting the opposition to a small score. They did just that, though Dhoni mentioned he would have batted first had he won the toss. I was surprised to find Ashwin missing from the playing eleven yet again. I cannot understand this stubborn persistence with Piyush Chawla, especially knowing that Ashwin will play in some of the future games. So instead of bringing him in from the cold for the big games against SA and WI, India should have given him a chance here. I can think of 2 possible reasons why Dhoni chose to not play Ashwin so long into the WC. One, he has too much confidence in Ashwin and is not concerned about his ability to deliver the goods when he gets the chance. Another reason could be that he did not want Piyush to be rotated out of the eleven when he was low on confidence, so he decided to give him one more chance to get his confidence back by playing him against a smaller side.

Anyway, I dont see Piyush playing against SA as that would be taking too much risk since Piyush could go for a lot of runs there. So maybe Ashwin could have got his feet wet in this game and taken the confidence from his good performance here, in the matches against the bigger opposition.

It was nice to see Ashish Nehra get a game today. Though, I think that by not resting Zaheer for this game, India is taking a chance with his fitness since the next game is only 3 days away. Once again, Dhoni brought on Yusuf for the 4th over, which was nice. It will be interesting to see whether Ashwin is given the new ball when he plays.

Also, sending Yusuf at number 3 when chasing was a good idea, even though it did not click this time. It shows that the think tank is prepared to think out of the box and is flexible with their batting lineup, which is good since predictability is one thing all teams should look to avoid, whether with bat or ball, in this World Cup.

The chase was pretty comfortable, though they lost 5 wickets and had to depend on their last specialist pair to see them home. They achieved the objective of a significant increase in the net run rate, so no complaints there. One more heartening aspect is the form of Yuvraj with bat and ball. I have always maintained that Yuvi is one of the most important members of this side, not withstanding the presence of Sachin, Sehwag and other stars. He has quietly notched up 3 half centuries and also provides an attacking option with the ball in the middle overs. This is helping to mask the fact that Harbhajan has hardly taken any wickets in this WC so far, and has been restrictive at best, which is not his role. But Harbhajan needs to discover the art of taking wickets soon, otherwise it will affect the Indian performance at some stage.

With the matches against the lesser teams out of the way, it is now time to focus on the bigger games against SA and WI and trying to win both so that India can end up at the top of the group.

Lets chat about the SA game and the WI game.My next post will be before the SA game.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Preview of India-Netherlands match

Hello friends,

Here are my thoughts on the upcoming India match with Netherlands.

Team Selection

As I mentioned in the review of the Ireland match, Ashwin should have played in that one. Anyway, now that Dhoni gave another chance to Piyush and he failed badly, it is looking very likely that Ashwin will play against Netherlands. Another change I would like to see is Raina in place of Sachin or Sehwag. It would be nice to see what Raina can bring in to this side, and though he did not play well in SA and might be short of confidence, this is the perfect time to try him out and get him match-fit and ready if he is needed in the future. He also provides an extra bowling option to Dhoni and will improve the fielding as well.

One other change I would like to see is Nehra in place of Zaheer. Zak needs a rest and Nehra can be tried out for the same reason as Raina, to get him match-fit and ready to play if needed. Practice in the nets and hanging out with the team will never replace actually bowling in the middle and it is important that all our players are ready to play, so trying all of them out is good.


Once again, bowling first is the way to go for India, in my opinion. The Delhi track plays slow and low of late, so it would be a good idea to bowl first, and keep Netherlands to a low score using the many spinners at our disposal. Then once we have a target, the batsmen can look to have a dash to get there as quickly as possible and improve the net run rate. The NRR is going to have an important part to play in Group B, which looks very open at this point. So numbers 1 and 2, and possibly 3, may be decided on the NRR. So India should definitely have an eye on that if they want to finish in the top 2 among the group.

Also, if Ashwin plays, Dhoni should look to give him the new ball. He is an attacking bowler and could get us early wickets, which will put more pressure on the Netherlands team. Also, this is the match to try out this strategy since it appears to be the way forward for India in this World Cup. When a lot of other teams are trying it with success, I cannot understand why India has not tried it yet. Anyway, it was nice to see Dhoni try out the strategy somewhat in the Ireland by giving Yusuf the 4th over. Also, in Ashwin, they have a bowler who likes bowling in the first powerplay and is suited to do so as well. If Dhoni can give Ashwin the super over in the IPL (remember the match against KKR in IPL 3 which went to the super over and instead of giving it to Bollinger or Murali, Dhoni chose to give it to Ashwin who went for lot of runs and cost Chennai the match ?), then it is a no-brainer to open with him in Indian conditions.

Netherlands players to watch

Ryan ten Doeschate is the one world-class player they have. He got a hundred against England in this WC and Netherlands ran them pretty close in that match. They also have a couple of decent spinners, Peter Seelaar is a good one to watch, a left-arm spinner with a good economy rate over about 25 matches. Bas Zuiderant is a talented batsman. I remember him playing for Netherlands in the 1996 World Cup in the sub-continent as a very promising 18-year old.

Summary and prediction

India should win this one comfortably. I would be keenly watching the performance of Ashwin and also Raina and Nehra if they play. If India can improve their NRR and get a good performance from Ashwin, it would be a completely satisfying game.

Lets hear it from you all out there. I know this is one of the less important games for India in this WC, but we can still chat about it and discuss about the other, bigger games coming up.

My next post will be after the Netherlands game. So stay tuned.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Thoughts on India-Ireland match

Hello friends,

It was a hard-fought win for India against Ireland, but there were a few positives to take away from this game, which will stand them in good stead for the tougher matches ahead. Lets look at the India-Ireland match in some detail.

India in the field

First of all, it was nice to see Dhoni get it right with his call of bowling first on winning the toss. As I had mentioned in the preview, India's best chance for this match was in bowling first and restricting Ireland to a chase-able total and using the strong and deep batting lineup to get to the target. They did just that. It was also nice to see India give Yusuf Pathan the ball as early as the 4th over. So they still did not open with spin, but at least introduced spin very early in the game to take the pace off the ball on the slow afternoon wicket.

I wanted to see Ashwin get a chance in this game and in hindsight, I am sure Dhoni also must be thinking that this would have been a good move. Well, Ashwin for the next game now looks a certainty. Piyush looks down on confidence at this point, and that is affecting his bowling. He is giving away too many runs and is not even using his googly, which is his wicket-taking delivery, that well. So a break will do him good and will be definitely better for the team. Harbhajan bowled well, and looked like taking a wicket, at least in his first spell, but they played him out cautiously. Zaheer bowled well as usual, and his delivery to take out the opener was fantastic, a dream ball and wicket for any left-armer. Munaf bowled ok, I thought he could have bowled a bit better and tried out a few variations in his length. The fringe bowlers, like Munaf, Ashwin, Nehra, should use these 2 games against lesser sides, to try out any variations in the middle. For example, it would have been nice for Munaf and India if he had tried out a few yorkers and bouncers, just to mix it up and get the confidence to bowl them in bigger games. As I have mentioned, Munaf is a little predictable and could go for runs against bigger sides and needs to try out a few variations so that the batsmen cannot predict where he will bowl.

Yuvraj, I have always mentioned, is a key component in this World Cup for India with the ball. He proved me right today and bowled very well. He is becoming a very useful bowler because he is able to think while bowling and bowls according to pitch conditions. It was nice to see him bowl very slow through the air because the ball was not coming on and he used the straight one quite well today. Yuvi does not turn the ball much, but he spins it just enough to put the doubt in batsmen's minds, so that his straighter one becomes a potent weapon for getting the batsmen lbw.

Indian batting

The batting was tested a bit today by the pitch and the fielding of the Irish. Like Dhoni said at the presentation, the 208 that Ireland got, looked like 240 bcos of their excellent fielding. But, I am not going to panic and say that even our batsmen look shaky, just because they struggled to get 208 against a minnow side. If u look at the dismissals, only Dhoni got out because of decent bowling. Sehwag got out to the slowness of the pitch, which I am sure he will be more careful of next time, Gambhir's was a freak dismissal and he probably did not see that the fine-leg fielder had come inside the circle, so he will fix that as well. Sachin got out to a very bad shot and Kohli got run out. So the Indian batting still looks ok in my opinion and there is no need to worry about that aspect as of now. Once again, Yusuf came out and played like he was batting on a different pitch. What I like about this Yusuf is the fact that he does not look to slam ever ball to the boundary. I saw him take some good singles and even the winning hit was a risk-free shot. So he appears to have reduced the risk element in his game by a fair bit, which can only be great news for Indian team and us fans.

Yuvraj looked good from the start of his innings and looked determined to finish it off and not let his bowling effort go to waste. It will be great news for Indian fans if this innings gives him confidence to play like the Yuvraj of 2005-2006 when he and MSD used to chase down huge totals in home conditions with ease.

On the whole, India will gladly pocket the 2 points and look to the Netherlands game with more confidence as a chance to increase their net run rate.

Lets hear it from you guys. What do u think about this Indian performance ? Do you feel better about our chances, or do u feel they should have won with more comfort and are now more concerned about India's chances against the bigger teams ?

My next post will be a preview of the Netherlands game. So stay tuned.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Preview of India-Ireland match

Hello friends,

This World Cup was supposed to provide the life support to the 50 over format, which was dying quickly. And the last few games have not only made it stand up on its feet again, they have made ODIs run like Usain Bolt !!

When the WC started, the India-Ireland was supposed to provide no more than practice to the mighty Indian team and there was little interest in the contest itself. Now, after what happened in the last 2 ODIs at Bangalore, this match is being looked at in some quarters as a match between almost equally matched teams and I am sure there are several people who are praying that Ireland dont beat India and hope that India can somehow eke out 2 points from this game. Let us look at the upcoming game in more detail.

Indian team selection

One change I would definitely make is, bring Ashwin in place of Chawla. Ashwin deserves to be tried out to see what he can bring to this weak bowling lineup and this is the right time to do it. If India had beaten England comfortably or if England had won easily over Ireland, I would have recommended resting Zaheer for this game. But since both events did not happen, I think Zak needs to play this one. He is due for a rest, but we can rest him for the game against Netherlands. In any case, there has been 1 week of rest after the previous game, so his body should be ready to go. The Netherlands game is 3 days after this one, so it makes sense to rest him for that one instead.

The other change I recommend would be to bring in Raina for Sehwag if Viru is even at 90% fitness. He has gone to Delhi to consult a doctor regarding some rib injury, so it makes sense to rest him for this match and try out Raina.


India should look to win the toss and bowl first. Having seen that teams batting second are chasing down totals of 330-odd pretty easily, we should look to bowl first, use the slowness of the pitch and try and restrict Ireland to a total around 250-270. If we bat first, I dont think any total looks safe at the moment. This Indian team may probably get another score around the 350 run mark, but then we need to change things a little in the bowling that was done badly in the England match.

One thing that should be tried out, is opening the bowling with a spinner. If Ashwin comes in, he is the obvious choice to open the bowling. He bowls well in the powerplays and has a few variations that can be useful. Besides, he is an attacking bowler, so there is a good chance he will get us a couple of early wickets.

Also, the field placements have to be spot on. Dhoni faltered badly in that department in the England match. Here, he should look to have the inner ring fielders close to the bat so that the batsmen cannot take singles every time. If Raina and Ashwin come in, we will have 7 good fielders and only 3 slow movers, unlike the England game where we had 5 and 5. I hope Indian think tank would have closely watched the England-Ireland game, so that they can learn about the Irish batsmen and make plans for each batsman in terms of where to bowl and what fields to set.

One more thing I would like to mention is the timing of the batting powerplay. I have noticed that a lot of teams have not taken this at the right time. They have either taken it a little later than the ideal time, or simply taken it blindly after the ball change in the 34th over. In my opinion, the best time to take the batting powerplay is between the overs 30 and 40, especially when you have two batsmen who are set and middling the ball well. If you enter the 32nd or 33rd over and have 2 batsmen who are middling the ball well, that is the best time to take the powerplay. Teams should not think too much at that point, just go ahead and take it.

Ireland players to watch

Kevin O Brien is definitely one to watch, especially after his blistering hundred against England. His brother Niall O Brien is also a good batsman who is the keeper as well. The openers are Porterfield, the captain and Stirling. Porterfield is a solid bat and Stirling is somewhat of a basher. So they could be dangerous. Ireland bat deep, with Trent Johnston at number 8 also being a capable bat who can get a few quick runs.

Among bowlers, Boyd Rankin is a very tall guy who will get bounce, but has not been having a great WC so far. Their main spinner Dockrell is a pretty good left-arm spinner who appears to have a good loop and varies his lengths well.

Summary and prediction

India should win this one, but Ireland cannot be taken lightly and could give a tough fight. However, sometimes the smaller teams perform miracles in one game and then tend to relax a little, because they are still floating in air with the previous performance. India should look to pounce on Ireland if they start off a little relaxed and should really attack them hard from ball one, whether it is with bat or ball.

My next post will be after the game, hopefully after an Indian win.

Lets hear your comments.