Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
It is a long way off to the CT (as fellow bloggers refer it), but then, such is the nature of Indian cricket that a debate will be ignited even before the team has returned from the ongoing series. So while the team takes a break, this debate will go on and intensify when the current 30 is cut down to 15 or 16 (with or without Dravid) as per the tournament's dictates - 'pruning' they call this process. One of the sports channels has already started the show and irate fans are calling from all over to voice their opinions.
For me, the move baffles on two counts:
1. Having more or less picked a core group keeping in mind the WC 2011, the selectors should stick to that group and certainly Rahul Dravid is not part of that group. Hence if Raina/ Rohit are inadequate at No3, either by technique or temperament, then try out the other players in your core group. For instance Badrinath, who has done just about everything but get even a sporadic look-in into the playing XI or Murali Vijay (who was deemed good enough to open in a Test match against Australia). By going to Dravid, the wise men are signalling that they lack confidence in the group that they picked and groomed all along and the same group who has given them a string of victories in T20 and ODIs (which are too well known to be repeated). If the youngsters (like Suresh Raina) were not equipped in 2007, there was no evidence in the interim to suggest that they were better equipped to fast, short-pitched bowling now. And if you think that this lot is not the best, then dropping Dravid for the CB (Australia ODI) series was a mistake in the first place. (And now don't tell me it is the other selection committee, we all know that MSD got the team he wanted). Hence the move does not look good.
2. Is this move intended to give a 'message' to the Rainas and Rohits, that " You guys have to hone your technique/temperament, or we will not hesitate to drop you. Youngistan-2011 be damned." If so it fails, because the other (wrong) message goes to unintended parties - like Badri for instance - that "We will pick you in the 15, but will not insist on you being played. We do not notice your presence. And hence we will go back to the grand master, whom we avoided all along". The right thing to do is straight forward: Having identified R and R as the future, send them on India A Tours/ Emerging Player Tours , where their technique and temperament will be tested. Have a wise man go with them full time to see how they are faring, if need be. As for Badri/Vijay/Ojha/Nayar - see how they fare against international opposition over an extended period of time. Having them as passengers on a tour is helping neither the team nor them. if you just want to make up the numbers, you could take Sreesanth along. He is more fun than any of Badri/Vijay/Ojha/Nayar. He will keep you entertained for sure.
Monday, July 6, 2009
Friday, July 3, 2009
This is case has been dead and buried for all purposes. VVS Laxman's ODI record. The idea is to put things in perspective, question the perils of stereotyping cricketers and seeing them through blinkers.
VVS Laxman is one of the greatest batsman India has produced. With close to 7000 test runs, he is arguably the best cricketer in the world to have never played a single World Cup match. The two reasons cited for which he was kept out or missed out (depending on which way one looks at it) were 'Running between the wickets' and 'not the best fielder'.
Let us consider his two contemporaries, great batsmen, who were not great runners and not the best fielders (ground fielding and run saving ability, NOT catching) either and use them as a benchmark for various comparisons. Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly.
Career Stats as of datePlayer/Matches/Innings/NO/Runs/Average /Strike Rates/HS/100s/50s Dravid/333/308/40/10585/39.49/71.22/153/12/81
At first sight, Laxman's record suggests an inconsistent underacheiver. One has to note that the played his 86 matches staggered over 1998 to 2004 as opposed to the other two who were sure starters in this period. Confidence and assurance of a place plays no small part in performance as you will see.
One interesting column is the strike rate. Notice that, even with the staggered 86 matches and even with Dravid and Ganguly improving their ODI play in the middle and later stages of their careers, Laxman has the same SR as Dravid and only 2.5 runs per 100 balls less than Ganguly. So much for Ganguly's big hitting and fast scoring abilities.
So how did Dravid and Ganguly fare in their first 86 matches?
Overall Records in the same number of matches
Same number of innings would have been a better indicator, but since I could not find such a filter in cricinfo (maybe I did not look hard enough) hence this. Even so, being top order batsmen all, it would be a fairly accurate reflection of performance.
Player /Matches/Inns/NO/ Runs/ Average/SR/HS/ Hundreds/ Fifties/ Period
Dravid/86/79/6/2738/37.50/68.70/145/5/18/1996- 5 Jun 1999
Ganguly/86/81/7/2998/40.51/68.87/124/5/20/ 1992(1996)-10 Jan 1999
(Forget the 'on-paper' debut in 1992)
Laxman/ 86/ 83/ 7/ 2338/ 30.76/71.23/131*/6/10/ 1998-2006
Here Laxman's runs and average are low compared to the other two giants. One obvious reason is in the last column. While the other two played out those 86 matches within 3 years, VVS had them staggered over a 12 year period, being in and out of the ODI side. That is not a recipe if one is looking for consistent run of scores. Had he been given a consistent run at No 3, who knows what might have been possible. Plus one must consider he did not make many runs against the minnows of those days. Although it is not clear from this bit of statistic, there were innumerable matches with likes of Bangladesh, Kenya, Zimbabwe and weak bowling sides ( in the subcontinent) like NZ against which Ganguly especially scored a lot of runs. Bringing them into the equation is beyond the scope of the subject.
One measure of how good a player is would be how you fare against the best in the business. It is known that Laxman enjoyed playing against Australia. However, the other point is that Australia were(are) the pre-eminent ODI side in the world, winning ALL the ODI World Cups in question, in this period of later half of 1996 to 2007. To score runs against them in ODIs, one would have to be exceptionally talented to find the gaps, or clear the field, and/or be fleet of foot to beat their super-strong fielding side. None of this three were exceptional runners, although Dravid was/is a great judge of the single. So how have this three gentlemen fared against the Aussies?
Record against Aus in 86 matches
For Laxman, these are the only ODIs played. For Dravid and Ganguly, these were the first 86 Matches they played.
Player /Matches/Inns/NO/ Runs/ Average/SR/HS/ Hundreds/ Fifties/ Period
Dravid/5/5/0/125/25.00/65.44/56/0/1/ 1996 - 5 Jun 1999
Ganguly/8/8/0/213/26.62/64.74/72/0/2/ 1996 - 10 Jan 1999
Laxman/21/19/3/ 739/46.18/77.05/106*/4/2/ Till Date
VVS strike rate against Australia 77.05 is considerably better than his career average. Nothing surprising here. This is more than the career strike rates of all three.
The stats also show that for an Australia series VVS was more likely to be selected. Hence he high proportion, almost 25% against Australia.
Obviously in their first 86 matches Dravid and Ganguly were not very 'seasoned' and pitted against Australia in that period, their records are fairly ordinary. Comparitively VVS's most productive matches against Australia came on the back of his most productive test series against them (2001 India and 2003-04 Australia - confidence and assurance of a place). As for Dravid and Ganguly , undoubtedly, as they grew in class and stature, their career records improved vastly.
Hence a better measure would be to compare how each of them has fared in similar number of outings against the best. This is by no means conclusive, since each batsman tends to have his 'favourite' opposition. Ganguly's in this stage was Pakistan who was still India's bogey and that spoke for temperament. But Austalia were top dog any day.
Record against Australia in same number of matches played
Player /Matches/Inns/NO/ Runs/ Average/SR/HS/ Hundreds/ Fifties/ Period
Dravid/19/19/0/543/28.57/64.56/80/0/5/ Upto 14 Oct 2003
Ganguly/20/20/0/466/23.30/64.36/100/1/3/ Upto 10 Jan 2003
Considering similar number of innings/matches against Australia, Laxman is head and shoulders above the other two while Ganguly's is the poorest in terms of average. Strike Rate wise too Laxman is streets ahead. The Aussies really had Ganguly sorted out on the offside, while Dravid's 6 fifties (seen here and few more 40s not seen here) are proof of his growing assertiveness in the middle overs. Finally, let us see how Dravid and Ganguly fared against Australia till date. Laxman's stats, as expected, remain unchanged. Surely Dravid and Ganguly cannot beat that average of 46 plus by Laxman against Australia.
Career Stats against Australia as of date
As expected, Dravid and Ganguly are nowhere near that average. Although had Laxman played another 14-15 matches against his favourite opponents, his average might have come down, but that again is arguable. Curiously, Dravid has regressed in terms of average but has got one fifty plus score in every 5 outings. Ganguly has not improved by much. Possibly an older Laxman in ODI's may have deteriorated performance wise.
Comments and Conclusion
The reason for choosing Australia has been mentioned - that they are the premier one day side and it is a fair indicator of the ability of the man in question and he has played most matches against them. It would not have helped to track Laxman's record against, say, Pakistan (against whom, perhaps Ganguly played some of his best knocks) since Laxman played only 10 matches against them (including a matchwinning 107(104) in a ODI Final in Lahore)
It must be noted that this is THE BEST form of Laxman in ODIs. Dravid and Ganguly had similar runs against different opposition in different times. This is a question - 'What if?'
This is not meant to be a critical assessment of Dravid and Ganguly, but it is notable for two things. One - Dravid and Ganguly were far from their usual best against Australia in their ODI game and Laxman raised his ODI game against Australia. Two - how much perception influences reality. Given 330 odd ODIs what could have Laxman done?
Laxman's best place was No 3, but due to the Saurav/Sachin/Sehwag opening conondrum in the later years, the No 3 spot was not available for him.
Call it Laxman'sbad luck or whatever, but the earlier half of his career ODI specialists JAdeja and Robin Singh were around and later half, Yuvraj Singh and company had made it, hence the theory that there were 'better' players for the ODI game. (BTW Ajay Jadeja's career SR was 69.80 - another statistical quirk? or perception becoming reality? Truth was , Jadeja was an established matchwinner in ODIs when Laxman came along)
One final statistic. Please consider the following list.
Ajay Jadeja 196
Ajit Agarkar 191
Harbhajan Singh 185
Venkatesh Prasad 161
Nayan Mongia 140
Robin Singh 136
MS Dhoni 134
Manoj Prabhakar 130
Mohd Kaif 125
Vinod Kambli 104
Kiran More 94
VVS Laxman 86
Dinesh Mongia 57
Hemang Badani 40
The above list shows names of certain players and their ODI caps for India. Now ask yourself - What if?
All stats from Cricinfo
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
The vice captain in Indian cricket is an interesting animal. It surfaces in overseas tours and multi-lateral tournaments. It is generally unseen in home series. For tours it has been either the most experienced player besides the captain, or the next best player and someone who is sure of his place always in the starting XI.
Dhoni is the captain for the foreseeable future but who should be the deputy for a long term? If the selectors were to look for a succession plan, the next generation of cricketers are to be considered. Run through the following names of cricketers who are the gen next to the Dhoni/Yuvraj crop - Irfan Pathan, Dinesh Karthik, RP Singh, Rohit Sharma, Raina enough already. None of them is a shoo-in for all three versions of the game and each of them has his own problem(s) to worry about. Gilchrist was gushing about Rohit's leadership in the IPL, but the Indian team is a very different beast. While Irfan P and DK strike as future possibilities, they too are not sure starters and hence in the present scheme of things just cannot be.
So much for succession planning. So the VC has to be an experienced guy, from the Dhoni/ Yuvraj crop, possibly senior even and perform the kind of role Dravid did and what Sangakkara used to do until recently - Contemporary of the captain, may not have a similar long tenure, but experienced leader and will slot in without trouble.
Sehwag and Yuvraj obviously fit in here and Sehwag is the first among equals. He is as street smart as anyone else and there is not much against him except an apparent laidbackness. Yuvraj did not seem too inspirational in both the IPLs. In fact in the first version Jayawardene and Sangakkara were running the ship in tense situations. When Dhoni was chosen over him, there was the impression that he was irked, but now he seems to have made peace with the reality. He must be allowed freely to do what he does best - that is singlehandedly win matches for India.
As for the rest, there is Zaheer, Harbhajan and Gautam Gambhir. Appointing Harbhajan in any kind of leadership role would be the biggest practical joke the selectors can play on the team, its supporters and Harbhajan himself. Gambhir is young enough to serve for another 7-8 years. He is a sure starter for all versions of the game, looked in control in his IPL stint (unlike Bhajji and Yuvraj) and has grown in stature by virtue of his performances and will hence command the respect of his peers and juniors.
For me though, Zaheer is the most impressive canditate. He took the leadership role in the field during power-plays in ODIs, mentored Ishant, set fields with great effect, importantly looked in control. Lastly, he has the respect and trust of the main man in charge. He would command respect by being a sure starter, a match-winner and a man who has fought his way back to the top by hard work and performance. In his comeback avatar, he has made himself counted with the bat more often than not showing the willingness to hand in there. In close test matches in the recent past, the resoluteness of the Indian tail has tilted things their way. Zaheer has contributed to this in a big way.
So all things being equal, Zaheer it has to be for me as VC, till the next generation stands up to be counted.