Monday, June 8, 2009

Upsets galore

The result reminded me of the opening encounter in Italia 90, when unknown Cameroon shocked mighty Argentina (the last time we saw them as defending champions). The scale of the upset was not quite so much when England went down. We know for a fact that England do not enjoy the shorter versions of the game, but the result has thrown up interesting possiblities (as most upsets do) going into the tournament. For instance, a strong Dutch performance against Pakistan and given Younis Khan's apparent indifference to the format itself, could mean Pakistan's early exit. And if SL runs Australia close or even win ( I doubt it happening) and then go on to beat WI, then Australia will precede them on the way out. How is that for an upset?

Some random thoughts on this weekend's match-glut. Shakib Al Hasan is a gem. To find motivation to do your best day after day, when your team is beaten is not easy. A reference (in Q's blog, I think) calls him 'another Vettori'. Yes, Vettori and Andy Flower rolled in one.
South Africa will generally crush the minnows in the first round. Kirsten, Hudson, Cullinan and Kallis have filled their boots in the past and so has Herschelle Gibbs with 6/6. Proteas, like all strong teams will put things in place, send the right message, find the motivation etc and make all the right noises, but I look forward to see how they end the tournament. That is where they have not been quite a 'strong team'.

Pakistan floundering continued into the tournament itself. They had their best chance yesterday to bat first, bat big and ease themselves into the tournament, but no. Bowling first in a must-win match for your opponents is not agreeable, though understandable. Younis said something about D/L, but went on to say he had two spinners in the side and wanted to make use of the pitch. Well, best use of the pitch is done by spinners when bowling second, one would think. One can question the tactics, team selection, batting order, bowling line up, Younis Khan's indifferent attitude etc, but still feel that all it takes for them to find form is to beat Netherlands by the required margin and get into the Super8s. Once they beat a 'major' team, they could be a different side.

West Indies beating Australia is not an 'upset' in the sense of the word, but a shellacking in this fashion was surely not expected. More so after Australia put up 170 on the board. There were guests at home for dinner and before I could send them off and return to the TV, the match, as a contest was over. Watching the re-runs gave an idea of that Lee over and what it must have done to the Aussie team as a whole. The black bandanna sits nicely with the Caribbean pirate imagery. The sheer arrogance, the splendid camera work and the crunching sound the bat made every time Gayle connected - heady mixture for sure. The bad press he has been getting in recent times could have galvanised Gayle. He was even seen pushing hard for a single at one stage!!! Must reserve a special round of applause for young Fletcher who matched the Cool Dude in stroke-play. In fact it was he who started the carnage and gave Gayle a bit of time and space. The Sri Lankans (last team to enter the fray) would be supported by the rest of the cricket community for today's clash. If they slay the beast tonight, it would be a Semi Final line up sans Australia for the first time in a World Cup since '92.

And what of India? Just as South Africa continue crush minnows, India make heavy weather of them (recall Netherlands in 2003 S. Africa). One might argue Bangladesh are not minnows, but this Indian team is a strong contender and expected to put up big wins against such opposition. Though the 25 run margin looked convincing, Bangladesh had a vice like grip on things in the middle 10 overs of Indian innings, or, let's say about 25% of the match.

Few complaints about the win. Bright spots:

1. Rohit continues to impress in the new role. 2.Ojha is ready, I mean for Tests and the wise men need to look at him closely.

3. Going into the business end of the tournament, Yuvraj will once again be the main man. He seems to have found his groove, thankfully.

Some things continue to baffle:

1. Harsha Bhogle said before the toss that India are going in with 5 bowlers. I counted Zak, Ishanth, Ojha and Harbhajan. Who was the fifth?

2. Dhoni taking his batting too seriously, at the team's expense. In this space, I had questioned this tactic of Dhoni's in the IPL, which effectively scuttled his team's chances.

3. So far no one seems to have told Rohit Sharma that his strike rate is fine (compared to the damage Dhoni is doing these days). He can play normally and still strike at 150. He need not belt every ball while opening.

4. Tactical error - in form Raina at 5. At the risk of sounding repetitive - the batting should read VS& GG, Rohit, Raina, Yuvraj , YP and MSD. If Dhoni continues in this fashion, better teams will tie him down all too easily.


  1. 1. Harsha Bhogle said before the toss that India are going in with 5 bowlers. I counted Zak, Ishanth, Ojha and Harbhajan. Who was the fifth?

    Ha! So we're not the only ones who don't think Irfan Pathan is a bowler!

    Even though he gets Afridi almost every time.

  2. Not since 2006 at least Q. And I don't buy this stuff about Greg Chappell ruining his bowling by batting him in the top order.

    Yes - Afridi sees the red rag whenever he bowls. That alone is worth keeping him in the XI for Indo-Pak encounters.

  3. Nice tongue-in-cheek remark there on Irfan - Late . The irfan pathan from his down-under debut to what he is now is a marked difference. He still has some days where he prodigiously swings the ball and the shape is absolutely beautiful to watch, but those days do come very rare. I actually think he's quite the batting talent - he's got fairly good technique and footwork, a range of shots and actually plays pace and spin well. He sometimes convinces me that he's better than many of the top order batsmen that we've seen in the past. If he could somehow regain his bowling form consistently, i think he's quite a talented chap. I concur though, it had nothing to do with Greg. IP just needs to keep watching his own old videos and figure out what he he has been smoking since then, and stop it.

    Yuvraj on his day is just extremely fearsome and unstoppable. To me, he was clear difference in our batting when Dhoni and Gambhir looked so constipated. Yuvraj, along with Sehwag, in my opinion are the 2 players in the indian team who can absolutely mentally destroy a bowler. Don't get me wrong, I do like Sachin, Dravid or Raina/Rohit more, but those 2 guys just really can psyche out a bowler- any bowler.

    Ohja's very promising indeed. lovely flight and variations. A treat to watch!

    @Ottayan - PK wasn't in the XI. I was a little peeved ;he could be useful in these conditions, and moreover , I have him in my fantasy team :-). So points are going wasted.

    Late - Argie fan? :-) (Disclaimer : i hate the '90 team. The 2006 team prove why I love them!)

  4. Fark / Ottayan :

    On PK - feel he has not pulled his weight in batting. We are told repeatedly by SMG that he opens for UP in Ranji one dayers. Haven't seen that application or nous in internationals nor in the IPL. Munaf does better.

    Viru and Yuvraj - my take too.Sachin wound the clock back in a NZ ODI in March.

    Argie fan - Not quite!Just that the first match upset triggered memories. On 2006 - When did the Germans lose a shoot-out?

  5. Late Inswing,

    I concur with you on PK's batting. However your comparison of his batting with Munaf may well be the sting needed for him to display his batting wares. :)

  6. Cheers Ottayan,

    Lets hope it does. With MSD doing what he does these days, India needs all the firepower it can get.