Friday, January 3, 2014

Indian Fast bowling in South Africa 2013

One could blame Indian batting for wilting on a good batting pitch in the second test at Durban, but the fact is that India really lost this series because of their fast bowling which is to describe in one word is pathetic.

At the Wanderers, the batsmen set the match up perfectly. Unfortunately our quicks bowled badly with the new ball at every opportunity ( Once in the first innings and twice in the second innings ) and it almost cost them the match. In the first innings, they got the ball to reverse, which is commendable. Johannesburg is a high altitude city with cool weather, not exactly conducive to reverse swing. It's more of a conventional swing venue. In the 4th innings, there was swing, seam and uneven bounce, but the indian quicks did their best to neutralize that. On top of that Ashwin bowled badly. The length he was bowling was unlikely to get him a wicket even on a turning track. but AB and Faf showed class, and sometimes one just has to admit that the opposition was just too good.

Durban was by no means a 500 run wicket. With the ball seaming around ( not swinging though ) on all 5 days, 400 was about where South Africa should have ended, especially with Jadeja bowling his fingers out. But on a seaming wicket, one needs to hit the seam hard on the surface. Some deliveries will seam more, some less and that is what gets wickets. That is how the Proteas got their wickets. Ishant and Zaheer were unable to put in that physical effort to extract seam movement. That Dhoni did not take the new ball until being forced to in the 146th over should give a clue about how awful these two were. Only Shami was threatening and the South Africans smartly played him out.

Shami will learn and will get better. I like what I have seen of him so far. He is naturally quick, lovely clean action, wonderful seam position, hits the deck hard and uses his brains a lot more than Srinath and Zaheer did in their early days and certainly more than Ishant ever will. Kind of hoping that he gets injured before every IPL season and recovers by the end of it. He has all the makings of an attack leader. Hope that I am proved right.

Zaheer is done in my book. He might do well in NZ, but will again be found out in England and Australia. He was fresh for the first game and did well but looked jaded in the second. His overs in Durban had a pattern- The first one or two deliveries were in mid 130's. The middle ones were in the low 120's.These weren't slower deliveries or cutters. He was ambling in. The last couple were again in the 130's. The South Africans knew when to pick him for runs. He is the leader of our pace attack and his distinct lack of enthusiasm rubs off on other bowlers. If he needs 10 days between tests to recuperate, might as well retire. Also if we are conceeding 450 and 500 on South African pitches, we might as well give chances to younger seamers and hope that one of them cashes in on the opportunity.

His holiness Ishant Sharma's performance or lack of merits an  entire post.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Indian batting on the SA tour - 2013

One of the things a tour of Oz or SA does is distinguish men from the boys. I've added a 3rd category - Impotent :)

Men - Pujara, Kohli, Rahane, Vijay and Jadeja
Boys - Dhawan, Rohit and Shami
Impotent - Dhoni, Zaheer and Ishant

India's showing with the bat was remarkable. I kind of knew Pujara and Kohli would do well, but Rahane and Vijay were a revelation. In ~20 years of cricket viewing, this is the first group of Indian batsmen I have seen that have shown so much collective application, discipline and guts on their maiden overseas tour. Credit must go to Duncan Fletcher for this. None of his predecessors had been able to do this. It was amazing to see these guys leaving so well outside off and showing decisive footwork. I think they outbatted their South African counterparts. Kohli is an awesome puller of the short ball, reminds me of Ponting in his pomp.

The only exception has been Rohit, who despite being the most talented, is also the most fickle of this next gen lineup. Dhawan belongs to the Raina & Yuvraj school of flat track batting. He can play a Sehwag like innings on subcontinental wickets and is probably worth persisting. It remains to be seen if Fletcher can iron out his flaws. With Dhoni just unable to develop his technique to survive the moving ball, India are invariably a batsmen short overseas. But he is the best leadership option we have for now and is a safe keeper. Jadeja has proved many doubters wrong including myself. He is a much better bat though than what he did in this series. Hope he works on it. Unfortunately like Ravi Shastri, he will always be undervalued and made fun of.

Exciting times certainly lie ahead, to see what this group can do.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ishant Sharma - my view

Many articles praised Ishant Sharma after the first test against South Africa at the Wanderers that he had turned a corner. He got wickets in the first innings of the first test and after that was off-color.I thought he bowled too many boundary balls in that first innings, but that was masked by the spectacular wickets he got- Amla and Kallis.

 Ishant's action demands that he get his body and wrist behind the ball. When he gets his wrist position right behind the ball, he is unplayable.He will hit the seam hard on the pitch, he will always get sharp bounce and seam movement from a good length. As soon as it falls away, he bowls only two deliveries - short and wide outside off or full on the pads. What is more concerning is in the latter case his deliveries are slower off the pitch and he gets no seam movement. It's clearly visible to the naked eye, when he gets his action right, the ball thuds into Dhoni's gloves, when he doesn't it glides in. By doing that he provides easy runs. The good Ishant and bad Ishant appear in the same over at times. Good bowlers, as they come of age, figure out a way to minimize their bad. Some like Ishant can't. Even after 50 test matches. Bowlers like Shoaib or Mitchell Johnson can blow away sides when they are good and hence their bad is worth it, but Ishant is fast medium strictly at his fastest. At his best, he is a good stock bowler.

But Ishant was never a stock bowler in his formative years, which brings me to his other problem- He does not know how to work batsmen out in a spell, which is crucial on pitches that don't provide much assistance. The reason is - he never had to do that as he was coming trough the age groups. His modus operandi is - keep bowling and one of the deliveries will turn out to be unplayable. Such bowlers are great in nets and bad in matches. Dhoni always employs a deep point and deep midwicket and fine leg to cut down runs and hopes he will bowl a wicket-taking ball sometime. It works against for domestic batsmen, West Indies or Zimbabwe and probably for Dhoni himself as they can't keep his good deliveries out. If Ishant really wants to be a great, and he can - all the ingredients are there, he needs to play a season or two in county cricket or shield cricket in Australia and learn that skill of plotting and planning dismissals and learn to adjust his length based on conditions.

For now, Dhoni is doing a disservice to India and to Ishant by playing him.

Sunday, September 30, 2012


Too much is made into analyzing T-20 matches, but the fact remains T-20 is one format where instinct and luck beats strategy hands down. Although you still have to do the basics like putting a rank bad ball away, fielding well and taking catches.

Lets take a look at the last 3 T-20 WC winners- India in 2007, Pakistan in 2009 and England in 2010. See anything in common ? They all started the tournament as no-hopes. Pakistan in 2009 in one of the warm-up games was thrashed by India ( They won by 9 wickets or so ). They won the cup and India couldn't win a super-8 game ! The moment you start thinking "Here is my T-20 strategy" , That's it ! Game Over. The successful teams in a tournament are the ones that treat each game on merit and don't think too far into the tournament. Rankings in T-20 don't make sense either. I remember in the 2011 IPL the top ranked Mumbai Indians seemed unbeatable. One day they ran into wooden spooners Kochi Tuskers and lost easily despite a Tendulkar 100 and a 180+ score because McCullum happened to have one his days.

Is Australia in form ? Maybe ! or Maybe not ! They have had best of the batting conditions so far. If they were caught on a dry pitch like today against sub-continent spinners, Watson and Warner are more likely to mishit than hit. Also they are a one-man show right now. Are India in form or are they out of form at the moment ? They thrashed England and Pakistan and were mauled by Australia. The answer is there is nothing called "team is in form" in T-20. Pakistan play spin well, but the Indian part-timers had them in knots except for a brief period where Malik and Akmal were batting. On another day they might get smashed. NZ are poorly ranked, but gave SL a serious scare. SL had two mystery spinners and Malinga, but on that day all NZ mishits were flying in vacant areas except for the super-over. On another day they might have ended up 80 all out. Are England hopeless ? I don't think so. They have some good instinctive T-20 players. If they win the toss and if one of Morgan or Wright fires, they might beat SL

If you ask me to pick a favorite in this tournament, my money would be on Australia. They came in as no hopes and are just looking to win every game without thinking too far into the tournament. All you need is a decent bowling lineup and a batter in red hot form. Australia have that.

So is there an ideal T-20 strategy ? There is none !  So what should a team do, going into a T-20 WC ? Do the basics, but go and have fun , hope for the best and not read too much into the results.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The bet

This incident happened during the 1971 tour of India to the west Indies. The tour was significant in many ways. It heralded the arrival of India's spinners as genuine match-winners.

In the 5th test at Port-of Spain. West Indies after getting India out for 360 were going strong , at 517-6. Maurice Foster was batting confidently and reached 99, David Holford and he had already added a handy 93 between them Sunil Gavaskar who was fielding at fine leg was asked by a spectator if he thought Maurice would get to his 100. Gavaskar said he would. The spectator felt he wouldn't and was willing to bet on it. They agreed that if Foster got out on 99, Gavaskar would pay him a pound and if Foster got to his 100, the spectator would give him 100 pounds.

Suddenly Foster became jittery. Three balls later, he edged one on to his stumps ! Out for 99. During tea break , Gavaskar took his pound on the field but couldn't find that spectator .. and with Foster's dismissal West Indies collapsed to 526 all out.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

After Retirement ?

By profession former English captain Mike Gatting is a plumber, before and after representing England

Pakistani cricketer Moshin Khan, joined Bollywood. He married actress Reena Roy and settled in mumbai

Michael Holding started a gas station soon after he retired in his native Jamaica before he started commentary.

Curtly Ambrose and Richie Richardson started a reggae band named Big Bad Dread and the Baldhead.

Mike Whitney started hosting travel and reality TV shows in Australia. Most notably Gladiators Australia

Monday, December 3, 2007

I need more Rotis

Flashback to 1974. There was a camp for under 16 cricketers in wankhede stadium , mumbai . Keki Tarapore was in charge of the camp. There was a young kid from the north , tall and broad shoulder who bowled quick. When food was being served, he went up to Keki and told him

Boy " Sir I need more rotis " .
Keki " Why ? "
Boy " I need strength . I am a fast bowler "
Keki " Huh ! We dont have fast bowlers in India. In India we have only spinners "
and scoffed at him.

The boy ? Kapildev Ramlal Nikhanj . who went on to become India's wisden cricketer of the century . Kapil has privately mentioned that this incident went a long way in steeling up his determination to bowl fast .

Image courstey Wikipedia