We’ve moved!

Yeah, so after another year of inactivity here, I have moved the blog. In case some of the readers of this blog miss it (yeah all 5 of them), you can visit us at http://rootofall3vil.info – We are getting there.

Dhoni’s No. 3 Position – An Average Booster or something more?

Scenario 1:
India, batting first, are 85/1 at the end of 15 Overs, One of the openers is still going strong, and other just got out after making a significant contribution. Pitch is a beauty to bat on. Now, Guess who will you see walking out to bat? Yes, You guessed it right, the captain himself, taking this huge responsibility on his very strong shoulders.

Scenario 2:
India are 80/1 chasing 300 something under lights, batting is not easy, there is some assistance in the pitch for the bowlers, and who do we see walking out? Most probably the designated #3 or a guy playing his 5th International ODI.

So what does this imply?

Yes we know it is hard to keep up an ODI average above 50. Ask Michael Hussey, the stark realty of variable form is catching up with him. Unfortunately for Hussey, he does not lead the Australian side and can not make the decision at which position to play by himself. Well, if he ever gets to make that decision, he can take inspiration from the Indian Skipper.

Initially, under Rahul Dravid’s captaincy, MSD had been assigned to the No. 3 position to leverage his hard hitting abilities on flat tracks. That 148 against Pakistan in Visakhapatnam and 183 against Srilanka in Jaipur being the notable examples. However, It did not become a standard practice mainly because his technique and footwork were not trusted with in challenging conditions.

Soon after Rahul Dravid stepped down and Dhoni was trusted with the responsibility. Around that time, the concept of flexible batting order was coined. While the concept is good and applied successfully by some of the teams in the limited overs game, it brought mixed results for the Indian outfit.

This was also around the time where MSD started utilizing himself frequently as # 3 mostly to the team’s advantage. Everybody was happy since big run chases were made and big totals were posted during this era. India had a good balance of early smashers, middle order anchors and hard hitting finishers in the batting line up. However, this all has changed a bit in last few months. When India is chasing a big total, in a difficult situation, with either of the opener(s) gone early, you expect to see someone like MSD walking out and anchoring the chase. But mostly you will see a different man walking out, not the captain himself. Compare two matches in the recently played Compaq cup series, and you will know what i am talking about. Same pattern falling into place in the ongoing Champions Trophy match against Pakistan. So, make notes, Mr. Hussey, That is how you keep your average from going below 50! It is going downwards very quickly.

Ponting, one of the greats…. Really?

A few days back, one of my favorite cricket writers/bloggers, Samir Chopra did an elaborate tribute to Ricky Ponting at cricinfo after he surpassed Allan Border’s record of most test runs by an Australian. Samir admires his aggression and stroke play along with his very good all round fielding abilities.

While I agree with most of the points made about his batting and him scoring runs at the crucial times, I bag to differ on the opinion of considering him as one of the greats in the game for variety of reasons and one of it is NOT that I am an Indian. Just to make sure, I will not go into who faced more quality bowling among the three (Lara, SRT and Ponting) or the known and well documented weaknesses of all of them.

I disagree to the common notion of separating a person from his cricketing persona. i.e. analyzing the cricketer and a person separately. This is the very reason that Mohammad Yousuf will never be in the Greats list no matter for how long he tops the test batting charts or he keeps making 2000 test runs every year.  Ganguly too, falls short of greatness due the similar reasons. Similarly, in my book Ricky will never be one of the greats no matter how many test runs he goes  on the score or how much better his test average is compared to Lara or Tendulkar.

There are plenty of reasons that keep Ponting away from the adjective great.  I differ on Samir’s opinion that Ricky is not a very popular man in the cricket world because Indian fans make up a majority of the cricket fan base.  Ricky has earned very few friends elsewhere. The recent behavior by English crowds will stand as a testimony to that. Add number (Most?) of South Africans and quite a few of Aussie Cricket fans and ex-cricketers.

Another common voice in the comments section (Quite funny – a few of them) is that Ricky’s achievements are bigger than Lara or Tendulkar because he performed over the years in spite of having an added responsibility of captainship.  In a team consisting names like Hayden, Langer, Hussey, Gilchrist, Clarke, Warne and Mcgrath, one does not need any extra ordinary leadership skills. In fact, Ponting benefited from the efforts Steve Waugh put in to build that team. All he had to do was accept captain’s baggy green and walk onto the field once Steve Waugh retired. Results under his captainship speak for themselves after most of the above mentioned retired. And, over the years, he hasn’t much improved as a captain, as echoed by Jeff Thomson and many other ex cricketers and writers.

I have seen quite a few arguments that another reason behind Ricky’s unpopularity among other cricket fans is the dominance Aussies had over the other teams in the past few years.  Some even argue that it is because they play their cricket the hard way and other teams can not come to terms with it. Now, if those arguments hold true, shouldn’t Aussies and especially Ponting become a very likable bloke now that they aren’t really dominant in the world of test cricket since the past year and half?  Still a very strong team yes, but not the one you expect to win 16 test matches in a row. Also, if it were true, how come Aussie players of this dominant era like Adam Gilchrist, Brett Lee, Shane Warne and Steve Waugh remain popular even amongst new and old rivals like India and England?

To me, what makes Ponting the most unpopular among others is his inability to accept defeat in a dignified manner. He wants to win at any cost, which should ideally be a good thing. But that attitude brings the worst out of him. One can see him arguing with umpires for the catches taken by other team members, arguing with players of the opposition team and the ‘mental disintegration’ methods that seem to be back firing off late with not enough substance to back it up.

As someone eloquently put in the comments, the elderly statesman image will never fit him. To me, he will remain a fascinating batsman and fielder for Australia, but never one of the greats in world cricket.

Ricky is Surprised by the heckling at Lord’s

There are more surprises for Ricky in the store. Just the way he discovered the ‘spirit of the game’ during first test, this week he discovered he is ‘the bad guy’ with the fans.

LONDON: Australia captain Ricky Ponting admitted on Saturday that he had been surprised by the aggressive nature of the crowd at Lord’s during the second Ashes Test against England.

“I’m not sure why I was so much the bad guy with the fans,” Ponting wrote in the Daily Telegraph.

He goes on further to say this:

“But I guess any Australian captain is going to cop it over here. Some people have said it’s because I’m the last one out of that group of players who had a lot of success in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Perhaps it’s just payback time.”

Not Any Australian Captain, Rick, It is just you. Steve Waugh for one, was the toughest nut to crack, played your favorite  ‘hard but fair’  kind of cricket and was still generally liked all over. You are the only Aussie captain to have lost the ashes in the aforementioned period.

And, it is not just ‘there’ in England.  People across the world can see you arguing with the umpires, bending the rules when it suits you, sledging the opponents endlessly over the years.

What goes around comes around!

If you are following the Ashes 2009 at this time, you must know what i am talking about! It is the Aussies at the receiving end of Poor umpiring decisions. England have snatched aussies’ much practiced art of claiming bumped catches. Ricky had to strike off his endorsed campaign of taking fielder’s word as far as catches are concerned. It has probably to do with absence of Steve Bucknor. Now, to complete the merry-go-round, Prior needs to take a bail off with the gloves and claim a dismissal of Haddin.

Adding some more hype to the most overhyped test series

It is all over the media. End of the first test of the Ashes series, two significant discoveries have been made. Ricky Ponting has discovered (finally) what the ‘spirit of cricket’ is and with that, he also made a sensational discovery that England did not play with the ‘spirit of cricket’. England on the other hand, has discovered that the most significant player in the team is the 12th man.  Some more observations on the first test of the most overhyped test series:

One of the two most overhyped English players, Andrew Flintoff took a wicket!  He certainly did not want to disappoint the English cricket writers like Simon Barnes  so he got a wicket! The mammoth effort he had to put in to get that wicket has earned him an injury and may not play the next test.

Kevin Pieterson, The other one of the two most overhyped English players, kept finding more silly ways to get out.

The sissy of English cricket team, Stuart Broad, tried to get out of that image by trying to shoulder Peter Siddle, but the whining sissy he is, he took care that he did not bump into siddle full on, if he did, he might have ended with a broken shoulder. True to the sissy spirit, when he was declared LBW – plumb as it looked, stared at Umpire like he wanted to rewrite LBW laws all over again. I do not understand, why does this guy get away with all this? Oh wait, I forgot the Broad in his name.

Jimmy Anderson, overhyped for his ‘abilities’ to swing the ball, managed to swing it for whooping 30 minutes in 5 days. But at least he made up with his batting.

4 Aussie batsmen including Brad Haddin made a century, which speaks a volume about the quality of the pitch at Cardiff.

Nathan Hauritz for all the criticism he got for his spinning abilities or the lack of it, put up a pretty decent display and got some wickets to his name too.

Paul Collingwood did what he does the best. Stay put at the middle when wickets were stumbling around him. He looked like getting out once or twice every over but hung in there.

Monty Panesar, on the other hand, never looked like getting out at any of the deliveries and deprived us from the wild slogs we expect every time we see him at the wicket.

Ricky Ponting discovered the ‘spirit of cricket’. Yes I know, I said it earlier, but it is such a huge discovery I will keep saying that.

Making a case for Harbhajan Singh.

Recent ouster of India from the T20 World cup has driven the trigger-happy bunch of people and TV journalists in frenzy. The News media went overboard in hurry to find every possible scapegoat in the Indian side and slaughter it. In this madness, even when the popular ones like MS Dhoni got caught in the fire, how can we expect the bad boy of Indian cricket to be spared? A lot of criticism has been directed towards Harbhajan Singh for giving away 10 wides in the crucial match against England .

Now, why did Harbhajan need to bowl those death overs? It was because Indian pacers could not do it. Bhajji has done this constantly and with good results. Apart from those 5 wides in the last over (Which was partly Yuvraj’s fault as well – It should have been just two) he did bowl an excellent spell. His Economy rate along with Pragyan Ojha’s was better than all other Indian bowlers in the tournament. Bhajji bowled excellent tight spells in T20 WC 2007 as well except that one over in finals where a well set Misbah took on him. While some people criticized him for bowling flat and not looking for wickets, it was the role he was given to. When other bowlers could not contain the flow of runs, the task was given to Bhajji. When there is pressure from one end, the other end can be attacked you can not do it when Ishant Sharma is leaking runs from the other end.

A lot of people have questioned his place in the current test side accusing him of bowling flat, not turning the ball enough, not caring enough and his attitude in general.

I disagree to the general notion that he balls flat all the time, on the spinning tracks, I have not seen any other spinner apart from Kumble generating same amount of bounce as Bhajji does. In the last series against Aussies, he bowled with spin and bounce and his Doosra really baffled likes of Michael Hussey. He only bowls flat and straight when he is not getting any assistance from the pitch. A big turn has never been essential in getting wickets – Kumble’s 600+ wickets are perfect examples of that. People who compare him with yester year’s great spinners like Bedi and Prasanna forget that things were not that batsman friendly back then. If we put things into context his achievements are only second to Kumble’s. His batting has improved a great deal in last 2-3 years and I can count at least 3 match saving/winning cameos from him when top order crumbled. He is a gutsy batsman and is not afraid of any bowler at the crease.

In limited overs cricket, he has an excellent economy rate of 4.23 in ODIs and 6.55 in T20s. Even Kumble had the economy rate of 4.30 in ODIs. Compare this with India ’s main pacer Zaheer’s 4.86 and 7.23 respectively. To add to that, he is an excellent fielder in the outfield and has one of the best throwing arms in the squad. Do you remember him dropping one at the ropes? I surely don’t. He is a naturally aggressive guy who does not give up easily.

The problem is that Bhajji’s aggression is mostly driven by emotions rather than logic. This aggression which turns him into a fighting cricketer, has landed him in trouble over the years. This emotionally driven aggression is the reason he will be never trusted with any responsible position within the Indian team. He has been part of some ugly incidents like ‘slapgate’ episode during IPL season 1 and the racial abuse allegations by the Australian team. Now we all know what Sreesanth can do to you. The guy has a knack of rubbing people in the wrong way – mostly at the wrong times. I still remember him sledging Hayden in IPL2 after being hit for 20 odd runs in an over. Bhajji has always been at the loggerheads with the Aussies. Australians learnt years ago that he was not one of the nice quiet Indian boys they were accustomed to in when he pissed off Ricky Ponting after getting him out in his early days. (Don’t remember the year exactly but Ricky got angry and ambushed Bhajji with bat in hand – I believe it was in Sharjah – any pointers will be appreciated).

Bhajji has played a significant role in the Indian team’s steady rise in the decade, both in LOIs and Tests and he will continue to do so as long as he plays. He will, in my mind remain the perfect example of the revamp Indian cricket and cricketers went through starting from late 90s and continuing in this decade – Gutsy, and motivated with a belief that they can win no matter what.

Damien Martyn confirms it!

Just after Jeff Thomson confirmed the profound truth that Ponting sucks at captaincy, Damien Martyn has come out with what has been apparent to almost everybody – John Buchanan is no good at what he does or did. He did not prepare Aussies enough for ashes 2005. He also went on to mention that whatever Warne and MacGill have been saying for Buchanan is right and suggests that everyone in Aussie team believes it but are just keeping mum.

It might be the right time for Damien to come out and say it now that Buchanan has joined hands with English team to give them tips for ashes. I wonder what kind of tips he will be giving to the English. Like the ones he gave to Aussies in 2005?

I hope the KKR Management learns a lesson from this and just kicks the guy out. He shouldn’t complain. After all, he has been paid handsomely to do nothing for them for  two years.

India vs. WI 1st ODI – Observations

So, India won the first of the four ODIs and started their very less anticipated Caribbean campaign. WI almost chased down India’s very good looking 339 Total. Some observations: 

  • Indian top order still has a problem with the Short pitched stuff. Gautam Gambhir playing what  a No. 11 would consider his trademark shot. A half hazard attempt to pull a short ball with head ducking down praying to mother earth.  Rohit Sharma fetching the ball from way outside the off stump to play a pull shot.
  • Dinesh Karthik is still eyeing that test opener slot. Solid forward defense on display in yesterday’s match. 
  • When Yuvraj Singh decides it is time for a short break, he hits it long and far and invariably out of the ground.  
  • MSD is trying to get his big hitting abilities back but is not quite there yet. Instead, he seems to have developed new abilities to get run out when ball has gone somewhere near the wicket keeper and responding any question with “Yeah, Obviously, You know…” 
  • Harbhajan Singh reads Dwayne Bravo’s slower one even before Bravo decides to bowl one.

Yet Another Postmortem!

As the postmortem continues for India’s early ouster from t20 World cup, I could not resist but add the 10000th reason why India did not perform like a champion side they were supposed to be.

India needed a reality check! That’s it. That’s how Pakistan did it. They got their fair share (and more) of reality checks earlier. They lost to India in the warm up games; they lost to the side that lost to Netherlands. That’s how Younis discovered that T20 is not just a fun game, nor is it anything like WWE. Once they saw the light, they were right on the cue.

India, on the other hand, had no reality check. The opening slot replacement for Sehwag was filled in by the illusive swashbuckling knocks of Rohit Sharma. They won the initial round of matches against, hold your breath, Ireland and Bangladesh. They did not look anywhere closer to convincing. No batsman absolutely murdered the minnows bowling nor did any bowler looked threatening. Nobody bowled the toe-crushing Yorkers or ear-ringing bouncers. They did not need to play that kind of cricket. They just had to wait for oppositions to make mistakes. And they made plenty of them. India’s reality check came too late against WI, when they discovered that Pragyan Ojha is not the solution to all their bowling problems. That he can have a rough day in the field. Had they met a tough opposition in the initial rounds, they might have known what was in the store for them (Yes including a lot of bouncers) and may have been slightly prepared for it.

The upcoming ODI series against WI will be significant in more ways than one. It will reflect whether India have learned anything from this defeat. If they are willing to accept their mistakes instead of shrugging it off as just a rough patch as they have in the past.

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