Thursday, June 4, 2009

Sufficiently warmed up

Watching a game starting at GMT 1630 hrs from a zone +8.00 hours is no fun. When there is a meeting to attend at 10 am, the following morning, it is downright foolhardy. But what of it. I had stifled the yawns well enough. This was no ordinary warm up match, you see.

While I believe Australia Vs India is the marquee contest these days, the intensity of an Indo-Pak clash has not diminished one bit. The atmosphere was magical. Admittedly India have lesser headaches coming out of this encounter but here are a few thoughts.

Praveen and Irfan seemed like just looking to pitch the ball with the result that the ball sat up nicely in the early overs at the right pace to hit. The length & pace of Ishant, and the inexperience of the Pakistani top order allowed India to get the toe in the door. And good teams will tear that door down, as India did.

Dhoni and Irfan kept their heads while Afridi lost his, but fact of the matter is Irfan is nowhere close to his bowling best. Facing tougher opposition in the super 8s (assuming they get there), he could get plastered (as in the past). More worrying is the lack of swing and thereby penetration from RP in English conditions.

The spinners did the job once again. While Harbhajan was adequate, Ojha seems to have progressed. One moment stood out for me. After getting Shoib Malik, there were no celebrations from Ojha this time. He just walked up to his captain and mates with a straight face, almost as if expecting the dismissal. No smile. No surprise. He was just pointing out (to Rohit, I think) as to how he got his man. Such confidence is desirable.

In the field Raina, was exceptional as ever. His celebrations after the direct hit and the catch (taken Aussie style) showed how keen he is to make a mark in his first WC of any sort. Tiredness be damned. Boys like to play. Apart from one early fluff by Harbhajan (nerves perhaps) Indians were largely safe in the field

Dhoni did not bowl out Ishant but kept Praveen and RP for overs 19 and 20. Good move again (like keeping Pathan on for Afridi, whom he riles to no end) .Both bowlers obliged like good neighbours with 15 and 14 runs allowing Pakistan to post a challenging total.

It is tempting to think of Rohit as an opening option. But it is a stop-gap solution and needs to be that way whenever Viru returns to partner GG. Rohit and Raina ahead of Yuvraj, YP and Dhoni would be my line up, though I suspect the last two would be swapped.

That said, let us give credit where it is due. Rohit, it appears had jumped at the offer when the team asked him to step in for Viru. For long he has languished at 6 and 7 and being dropped from the 11 in ODIs for accomodation. He relished the opportunity to play a decent knock and dismantled the Pakistan bowlers in such a way that you were left wondering who was the senior partner and who was the stop-gap man. In earlier posts I have written about his abilities and also his lapses of concentration, both of which we witnessed, but happily more of the first. The disdain with which he batted against Umar Gul, Afridi and Tanvir (a cause of concern for Younis, as these are three of the most effective bowlers in the circuit in this format) shows that he needs to bat in the top 4. Commentators were waxing lyrical about the extra time he has to play his shots. Hope for his sake and India's that he plays to potential. Perhaps, a case for Yuvraj and Dhoni to play Miandad-like (or Dravid like, can’t offend anyone here) roles and take the team home and empowering RS and SR with the responsibility of setting the tone.

As for Pakistan, Younis has more worries.

- - Extras ( Nothing new here)

- - Afridi ( Nothing new here, either)

- - Trigger happy young batsmen at the top, who need to realise 20 overs are a long enough time to bat.

- - When to bowl Umar Gul and Tanvir

- - Fielding under pressure

What has Younis got going for him

+ + The calming presence of Shoib Malik and Misbah, the latter looking in good touch. Let us not underestimate their value while admiring flashy 'teenaged' openers.

+ + Mohammed Amer holding his own against Rohit and GG is a good sign

+ + Favourable pool

+ + Possible Super 8 Group without the Big Three

++ No Shoaib !!!

Cannot underestimate the last named factor.


  1. Good wrap here Late.

    I was reading today's paper here in which it was mentioned that things are not all that snugly between MSD and Viru. The injury to the latter and the temporary success of Rohit opening has added more fuel to the fire that Viru might lose his place. Of course, the disclaimer here is that the newspaper I read is ToI , which has a fetish for cooking up things.

    I too feel that regardless of the high scores, Viru should open the innings with GG (provided the former is fit), with Raina, Rohit, Yuv, YP, MSD (which I think is exactly in line with your thoughts)
    MSD pushing himself up the order doesn't make too much sense anymore. This is not a one-day team from 3 years back where we sometimes needed the impetus on the loss of a quick wicket. I believe that the combo of batsmen mentioned ahead of him are better at playing that role and shifting gears, and probably have a better chance of succeeding than MSD itself. MSD going up the order of late for me doesn't cut it for 3 reasons:
    1. I think the opposition has him figured out a bit and he is unable to accelerate as he did in the beginning of his career.
    2. The other players are better batsmen and have the ability to really up the rate, if that's his reasoning of moving up the order
    3. Him going up there and losing his wicket is the time when it adds even more pressure on the others.

    I am not sure what exactly is happening at the end overs and why they aren't able to bowl the right lengths. If you bowl the yorker length and get hit, its well deserved. Why be so generous otherwise? I was really expecting RP to be a little more miserly at the death than his last few games have indicated.

    Interestingly, Shoaib Malik and Raina have a similar "pause" in the action. Maybe that's what makes them relatively successful?!

    I wish one of Rohit/Yuv/Viru/YP was more of a medium pacer. Could be useful in such conditions.

    Great point about Akhtar. It's definitely addition by subtraction for them. He's destructive on his day, but those days come rare, and on the rest - he often self-destructs.

    Phew! that's one loooong comment!

  2. TOI has a penchant for rumour mongering. Page 3 is what they are good at. Its the Indian crab mentality I guess. The innate urge to pull the high-flyers down. They sense they have a win-win scenario. If India go on to do well, then the same papers will write that the internal disagreements (despite Dhoni's statement and all that) motivated them. If India stumble, they will turn around and say "I told you so"

    MSD's batting - You are spot on. More of the same in the comments section here

    RP - perhaps the ideal length for England and South Africa would be different.

    Noted Shoaib's pause and you wouldnt beleive if I said I recalled your earlier comment.

    Few people remember he started out as a specialist off-spinner and Saqlain's understudy. Hence the copycat Saqlain action, right upto splayed fingers on the left palm to hide the grip till the last possible moment. Recall Saqi had a slightly different grip for the Doosra (his baby incidentally)

    Raina's case the action is more side-on that the chest-on Malik.

  3. Good work here Late inswing though your point abt Pakistan being in the Super 8 Pool with the big 3 is something I don't udnerstand.. The Super 8 pools are:

    Group E: India, Australia, South Africa, England / Netherlands

    Group F: Pakistan, New Zealand, Sri Lanka / West Indies, Bangladesh / Ireland

    So who are the big 3?

  4. Thanks Q, at the time of writing this, I meant Australia, India and South Africa which were widely billed as the the pre-tournament favourites. Running into them at the do-or-die stage (rather than Super8s) would serve a mercurial Pakistan outfit better - that was my thinking.

    Having said that, Chris Gayle and the Netherlands team (with help from Broad) have caused re-thinks everywhere :)

  5. Late! I was desperately trying to comment here during the India vs Ban game , especially when MSD pushed himself up the order yet again :-)

    Something was wrong with the connection at home. Did you catch all the games?

  6. Most of them, Fark.Although took awhile to pen my thoughts, this being a typical Monday.