Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Review of India's performance in ODI series so far

Hello friends,

India started the ODI series quite well, and looked to be putting the disappointment of the test series behind them with some solid, if not spectacular, performances. But the last 2 games have shown that they have regressed badly and now seem to be just waiting for this series to end and to catch the flight home. The zip in the body language, even on the field, is missing. The batting seems to be stuck in a rut on the Aussie pitches and the bowling looks good till about the 38th over or so, then they give it all away in the last 10-12 overs.

It is frustrating as a fan to watch our own team give it up mentally when there are still some matches to be played and a tournament that can be won, simply because no team is looking invincible. The body language and attitude of this team looks similar to the one that lost everything in England about 6 months ago and they dont seem to have learnt from their experiences there.

The main problems are in the batting and the death bowling. It is shocking to see Sehwag make the same mistakes in match after match and get out in similar fashion. It is obvious that opposition teams have now formed plans to get Sehwag and stick to that plan and sure enough, he obliges every time. He needs to do some serious thinking if he wants to continue playing for India for the next 2-3 years. I read a good article by Akash Chopra on Cricinfo where he write about Sehwag and what he needs to do to make the progression to being an all-time great from the very good batsman that he is today. Sachin is now merely going through the motions in batting and fielding and that landmark century seems so far away now that seemed very close at the start of this tour. Like I said before, it will be interesting to see how Sachin plays or what he decides once he does get to the much-awaited landmark.

In bowling, we are badly in need of some good death bowlers who can keep the runs down and the pressure up during overs 40 to 50. Yadav may be a prospective candidate, given how he continues to surprise and hurry batsmen with his pace, but there is some work to be done there and I hope someone can take over the task of preparing him specifically for this. Also, PK needs to come back to this team since he is one cricketer who I have seen that always gives his best on the field and has good attitude and body language. Even during the England series, he was one of the positives for India. Also, it is time to give Manoj Tiwary a chance, even more so now that Rohit has been benched. In yesterday's match against SL, Sehwag came in for Rohit and so we ended up with all 3 seniors playing together. I agree with Dhoni when he said that the seniors cost about 20 runs in the field. In my opinion, they cost more than that because they contibute to releasing the pressure on the opposition when the game is tight and bring down the confidence of the fielding side to an extent with their slowness and resigned attitude.

For a long time, I have advocated the theory that for the shorter formats, we need a team of 11 individuals who will give everything on the field and simply cannot accept losing as an option. The key to building a team that will be consistently successful and feared by opposition in all parts of the world, is to go in with such players. Skill is second to this in my opinion.

There are still 3 matches to go in this series for India and it is still very possible that India makes it to the finals, but on current form, I dont think it will happen unless there is a drastic change in attitude. The one long-term good to come out of this series, is that the core of the Indian batting and bowling for the future, has gained good exposure to Australian conditions and pitches that should help them when they go there for the 2015 World Cup. But 3 years is a long time and a lot of things can happen in that time.

My next post will probably be after the league stage is completed for the ODIs. Stay tuned.


Monday, February 6, 2012

Review of T20s and first ODI

Hello friends,

It was a relief to see India notch up their first win of the Aussie tour in the second T20. And what made it even more satisfying was that the win was setup by the fielding. If the BCCI or the selectors needed any more proof that youth is the way forward, even in tests, this T20 provided that in ample measure. The fielding was truly athletic and it was great to see very good fielders with accurate throws posted in the inner ring by Dhoni. Players like Jadeja, Rohit, Raina put a lot of pressure on the Aussie batsmen and as the game went on, you could see the hesitation that crept in to their minds regarding the running between wickets. That is the ultimate goal that this team should achieve - doubt in the minds of opposition batsmen when it comes to taking sharp singles and running twos. Once we achieve that consistently, we will automatically save runs in every game and make things easier for the batting line up. Teams like NZ, Australia and South Africa do this in every game and that is why they can never be taken lightly as opposition.

In the first ODI, India lost but I am not putting too much importance to that since it was a truncated game. However, the strategy of going in with 3 spinners on an MCG pitch, especially when they knew that rain was forecast, was a little absurd. I am not too convinced with Dhoni's explanation that having Irfan play would mean that we had no variety in the pace department with all of them bowling in the upper 120s. The variety in my opinion is with the fact that Irfan is a left-arm bowler and would have posed different questions to the batsmen. We could see clearly that when the rain stopped and India had almost exhausted their pace options, they struggled to contain the batsmen with their 3 spinners. One more pacer would have been handy at that stage. This is what worries me with Dhoni's captaincy these days. He seems too rigid in his thinking and appears reluctant to have and use plan B and plan C. I hope they dont go in with 3 spinners in Perth :)

Since we have some part-timers who are all spinners (Sehwag, Raina, Rohit), we should look to play with 3 pacers in most of the games. And at this time, the best person to be swapped with a pace bowler appears to be Ashwin. I agree with the friend who commented on my previous post. Ashwin seems in need of a break and needs to go back to the drawing board a bit to re-think his strategy and resort to a slightly defensive line and length if he is being hit too easily and frequently.

I also hope that Sachin gets his 100 in this series and then is given the option to choose one format over the other. Looking ahead in the ODI series, the team management should look to give Gambhir and Kohli a rest at some stage. It is a long series (I think 10 matches for each side before finals), so it would not be fair to expect them to play all matches. We have a large squad and should look to give everyone a fair run in this series. Players like Manoj Tiwary and Irfan Pathan definitely deserve to be tried out for a few games at least. Lets hope the team management uses all the available options sensibly and rotates the players properly.

One more update for all of you is that I now have a Twitter account that I created exclusively for cricket. I want to post tweets during India games and hope to interact with you guys instantly during matches. My twitter account is drinks_break. Please 'follow' me and I will try to post comments as I watch the games. Lets hope for a good performance from our young Indian team in the ODIs. I will continue to post on this blog during the ODIs, but not after every game. Maybe a post after every 3 India games or so. Lets make our conversation more interactive with Twitter. It will almost feel like we are watching the game sitting together in one room and I am excited about that.