Monday, June 29, 2009

The meaningless series

While the shoot-out stands at 1-1 before resuming next weekend, what exactly are the takeouts for Team India.

Gautam Gambhir needs a break and soon

It is not as though he has become a bad player of short-pitched bowling overnight, although, successive dismissals in the same mode will do two things. One, put some doubt in his mind and two, encourage even average quicks to pitch it short since the word has gone around. Nothing to worry about though. He did not have an outstanding run in Tests and ODIs with glaring weaknessess in his technique against the short ball. All he needs is a break, since, after Dhoni and Ishant he has been the most overworked Indian cricketer on view. The remaining 2 ODIs, even if he gets decent score will not matter much in the long run. It may be a better idea to give Murali Vijay a couple of outings whilst the series is alive. He did not look out of place in the Nagpur Test and also in the (very) limited opportunities he had in the IPL.

Rohit Sharma needs a wake-up call

Since his matchwinning 80 odd in the T20 Warm Up against Pakistan, this guy has been sleep-walking, first throught the T20WC and now, the first two matches of the meaningless series. Forget the two inconsequential wickets during the Windies chase. He should have been counted with the bat, more so in the second encounter and he failed. Some people do not revel in competition and would like a free range. Rohit had fared well in Australia, but since the arrival of Raina, his opportunities at 3 and 4 have been few and far between and he did not seem to enjoy batting at 6 (if at all in the playing XI). With no Raina aroundand hence no 'peer-pressure', and the team management seemingly inclined to give him an unbroken run as opposed to giving Badri a look-in, Rohit had the right platform. He then proceeded to shoot himself in the foot but mis-hooking once and flailing outside off in yesterday's game. As in Gambhir's case, these two failures do not put him in the 'bad batsman' category. However, serious questions need to be asked on his temperament and focus. For someone spoken of as the next big thing in the test middle-order, T20 cameos are not good enough.

Yuvraj is the key in LOIs

If this point was ever missed, these two games have only served to reinforce that. True that Sehwag found some consistency in ODIs. True that GG had been in unprecedented form. True that MSD's output in ODI's were Dravid-esque. True that the bowling as a unit has worked, but the undoubted star was Yuvraj. When not blasting hundreds , he has been crucial in injecting momentum at other times with timely big hitting. Counting those innings he has made 25 or above, he has scored 828 from 714 balls faced (pounding 30 x 6 and 93 x 4 for good measure, exactly 66.66 % of those 828 runs). In retrospect, it is such brilliance that has reduced pressure on GG and MSD and I would say, allowed them to prosper. (Latest bit of evidence of extra-ordinary ability - that half-flick, half swat off Rampaul that went miles over square leg for six, bowler looking bemused).

Ishant needs a breather

If playing under Bookha Naan for the Whipping Boys II of the IPL dint wear him down, the cumulative effect of the last 18-20 months certainly did. It showed in the T20WC and here too. He will learn to vary his length depending on the surfaces and be a better bowler. It is too early to compare his apparent decline with Irfan Pathan's. For one thing, Pathan had another suit to his game while Ishant has none. He seems focussed enough to recover his bowling mojo. His strength was to keep running in over after over tirelessly. Now, 18 months after Perth, it is natural that he is jaded.

Harbhajan plays true to form

Enough has been said about his bowling and attitude. Bottomline is that he is a passenger and doing just enough to keep the axe away. His admittedly brave efforts while batting should not hide the fact that he is in the team for taking wickets and 18.1-0-101-1 are poor returns for this wicket taker. His apologists in the 'expert' commentary panel, wax eloquently about how the 'compulsions' of limited overs cricket has caused him to cut down the flight, drift and fire it on the pads of the batsmen. Point taken. So where is the flight, drift and loop in the test matches? Shane Warne was Australia's premier bowler in WC '99. He had more than 300 test wickets already and was primarily an attacking bowler. Yet he displayed commendable control and accuracy and took two 4-32 and 4-33 in the SF and Final and handed Australia the cup. In such times of need, Harbhajan invariably goes AWOL and that is my case against him. How can we, therefore, expect any earth-shattering deeds from the turbanator, that too in the 'meaningless' series?

As I see it, the BCCI missed a trick. They could have compulsorily 'rested' some of the players who have been on the road for quite some time. It was in one such 'meaningless' 3 match ODI (initially scheduled to be 5 match) series in Canada against the Windies that Ganguly led India for the first time in Sachin's absence and came back with a 2-1 win. It was notable for the way he staggered himself, Sadagopan Ramesh and Dravid (the only international experience) at 1,3,5 in a weak batting order and optimised it. Such 'meaningless' series are just right for identifying such signs of leadership and ability.

While the board will continue to milk their cash cow to the last ounce, it is also upto the captain and coach to see who are really the motivated individuals and play them.


  1. good compilation of facts...

    gambhir need to sit with upton to 'program' his that we can bat with other batters too in the absence of sehwag...

    harbhajan has been the biggest culprit going scott free...even in the first odi his death bowling was pathetic and almost cost us the match...

  2. Thanks SP & welcome to this space.

    True abt Gambhir needing to sit with Upton. This happens to the best of people. Having become a more complete batsman after NZ, I would bet on him to be back.

    On Bhajji - he is thuggish with body language and gives the impression that his contribution is more than it actually is - flag waving, rolling on the ground, growling, tail wagging and what not. If performance is what matters, he would be the fifth choice spinner after Powar, Ojha, Mishra and Chawla.

  3. Good point about Ganguly. It would have been good to try a different captain and rest Dhoni. That way, the new captain would have tried some different tactics that, if successful, could provide a new direction for India.

  4. Cheers Krish!

    That would have been the way forward i.e to discover the next leader even though Dhoni is still the best captain we have seen in terms of results.

    Sehwag, to my mind is not a long terms option. More like Sachin being Rahul's deputy and not a sucession plan.