Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Review of Asia Cup and a look ahead

Hello friends,

India had a decent outing at the Asia Cup even though they did not make it to the finals. I am not too disappointed with that since these days, with the number of matches they play, I tend to look at each match separately instead of looking at the tournaments or series as a whole. And if u look at it that way, they beat SL and Pakistan, and lost to Bangladesh. They have not and probably will not lose to Bangladesh often, so I am ok with this one-off loss. What this showed us and, hopefully the team management as well, is that India have a weak bowling attack at the moment even on Asian pitches and we need to make some changes if we want to win matches consistently. Two things I can think of are - we need a quick bowler who can hit speeds of 140+ on a regular basis while maintaining a decent line and length, and a good left-arm spinner to complement Ashwin. Yadav and Varuna Aaron answer to the first requirement, but we need to find atleast one more so that we can rotate the 3 in case of injuries and workload. Ojha answers to the second one but again, we probably need one more. Another position I would love to have in the ODI team is that of a pace bowling all-rounder - someone like Shane Watson or Albie Morkel or even Ravi Bopara. This will give some flexibility to get through 5-6 overs in the middle of the innings and also give us some good runs with the bat

Coming back to the Asia Cup, one of the most satisfying performances in recent times came in the game against Pakistan. Virat Kohli played the innings of his life and we chased down 330 with so much composure, it was scary. I hope Virat continues the form he is in, at the moment he just cannot do anything wrong. One of my friends made a very interesting observation about that Kohli innings. The last 2 people who made 183 for India ended up becoming captains within a short while. Ganguly made 183 against SL in the 1999 World Cup and became captain in 2000. Dhoni made 183 against SL in 2005 and was made captain in 2007. I like trends, so if we go by trends, Kohli should become captain soon. It certainly helps that he is the vice-captain at the moment. In that Pakistan game, it was also satisfying to see Virat and Rohit share the partnership that decided the match for us. Also Sachin batted with visibly more freedom after getting to the 100 centuries landmark in the previous game. And that is the other big plus for India from the Asia Cup - Sachin getting the monkey off his back and getting the coveted record. Now it would be very nice to see Sachin choose only one format to play in, preferably test matches.

So as you guys can see, though we did not make the finals, we had a lot to gain from the Asia Cup. Now on to the tamasha that is the IPL. I know some of u are not too fond of it, but personally I like the IPL bcos it is tension-free cricket watching and I treat it like a masala Bollywood movie - watch, enjoy and forget each game as soon as it is over. I also like to watch a few players in action, so I track their progress and enjoy watching them play. I also treat the IPL as an exercise in talent spotting. A few good cricketers have been spotted at the IPL and gone on to play for India, the biggest of them being Virat Kohli. I will write another piece in a few days about the IPL and the players I will look out for.

Lets hear it from u guys. There are a few days to go for the IPL to start and we can share our thoughts in the mean time. Like I wrote above, I will post again in a few days about the IPL and share some thoughts on it, so stay tuned.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

A look ahead to the Asia Cup and beyond

Hello friends,

It has been a while since my previous post on this blog and a few important things have happened since then in Indian cricket. India deservedly did not make it to the finals of the tri-series in Australia. Even though they gave themselves a chance with an incredible batting performance in chasing down 320 in less than 40 overs, SL and Australia were the better teams in the series by a distance and deserved to be in the finals. At least, that performance would have restored some confidence in the batting unit and that is always good because their next assignment starts very soon.

Another significant news was the appointment of Virat Kohli as vice-captain for the Asia Cup and, I suspect, for the near future. I have heard opinions that this is not fair to Gambhir who has really not done much wrong. But this is a long-term decision and if looked at in that regard, I think it is a good decision and a thoughtful one. Virat has looked like captaincy material since his early days and after his performances in Australia, this is the right time to reward him and also let him know that he is being earmarked for greater things. It remains to be seen how Gambhir will take this - as a personal slight or as a decision made in the long-term interests of the team. That will, to a large extent, determine how Gambhir performs in the next few series. I hope Srikkanth or someone in the board has taken the time and pains to talk to Gambhir and explain things to him.

Virat is good captaincy material, no doubt given his understanding of the game and situations. But where I have concerns is, in his ability at people management. One of the important facets of captaincy is getting the respect of all your teammates and extracting the best out of everyone. Virat has the respect of his mates right now due to his performances, but he needs to work on his attitude and behavior. He tends to get ruffled too easily and that does affect his behavior and performance to an extent. It is not wrong to be passionate and showing passion. In fact, I would rather have someone who shows passion on the field and gets visibly upset and shows uninhibited joy at defeats and victories respectively, than someone like Dhoni who appears so calm he gives the impression of not caring too much. But Virat needs to realize that as vice-captain and possible future captain, he will be even more in the spotlight and everything he says or does will be analyzed very deeply and that he has a certain responsibility to the Indian team and public and the world and his actions and words need to reflect that.

One other big news this week was the retirement of Rahul Dravid. I would say that Rahul has done the right thing at the right time. Given that he did so well in England, he has only had one bad series and he would have chosen to give himself one more series at home to judge for himself what he wants to do and to announce his retirement in style in the middle of a series. But this way, he has gained the respect of a lot of people, definitely mine in retiring when the thought first popped in his head and not choosing personal glory over the team and his own conscience. Sunil Gavaskar had made a classic statement about retirement that has stayed with me forever - "Retire when people ask 'why now' instead of 'why not'". In Indian cricket, I can only think of 2-3 people who retired in that fashion - Gavaskar himself, Anil Kumble and to an extent, Ganguly. In Ganguly's case, he could have (should have?) retired a year or so before he did when he was out of form and looking uninterested. But he chose to play himself back to form and then quit when people started to want him to stay a little longer. Dravid's case is a little similar to Ganguly's. He could have quit now and gained the respect as he did, or he could have played himself into form in the next home series and then quit. Having said all this, it is easy to judge from outside. Only a cricketer knows what it takes to stop doing what he has done all his life till then and go in a direction that is completely unknown, away from the spotlight and adulation of crores of people and financial rewards. Rahul will be missed for sure, but I still think he has done the right thing and this is the right time for him to go.

India play SL (once again, phew) in the Asia Cup in 3 days time. India should look to give everyone a chance in this tournament and give a decent run to people like Manoj Tiwary, Rahul Sharma and Rohit Sharma. I will watch the India-Pakistan game with interest, not for the rivalry factor, but for the fact that Pakistan are playing good cricket these days and it will be an intriguing battle between their spinners and our batsmen.

Lets hear it from you guys. This post was different from my usual posts. I wrote about events in Indian cricket rather than games. It would be nice to hear what you guys have to say about the events. There is a lot of cricket to be played in the near future, so we can always talk about the games. But lets talk about the events for now. After all, that is what I started this blog for - to talk about cricket in general, whether it is to talk about matches or people or events. I hope I can see lots of comments for this post as I know there are quite a few of you reading this regularly and have opinions to share when we chat in person or on the phone.

My next post will be during the Asia Cup, maybe after the first couple of India matches. Stay tuned.