Archive for the ‘Ind v SA 2006’ Category

It’s indeed very rare that India goes into the final Test of an away series with a chance of winning the series. They do have the chance this time around and would be foolish not to have a go.

But they are also in a peculiar situation because a draw would allow them to come back home without losing the series and that doesn’t happen too often when India travels! But the first thoughts must be to try and win and if not, then draw. Well, d-uh!

But for India to win, there are some things that need to happen:

  • Sehwag must not play: Apart from a couple of good catches, he has contributed nothing to the team so far. Sure he picked up Morne Morkel’s wicket in the SA 2nd Innings at Durban, but that cannot be why he is in the team. He is an opening batsman and scores of 4, 33, 0 and 8 (avg: 12.25) are simply not good enough. On the other hand, Gautam Gambhir, who played the makeshift two-day game between the first and second Tests, managed a 79*. So if Irfan Pathan can be sent back on grounds of being ‘not in form’ without even playing a Test, Sehwag can surely be sent back after failing in two.
  • Munaf Patel should play: VRV Singh has done a pretty good job of it so far, considering he has played only 4 Tests so far, but if India are serious about winning the series, Munaf Patel simply has to play. And now that he’s fit and Vengsarkar feels he has had enough practice too, it won’t do any harm in fielding him in the final XI.
  • Someone needs to talk to Dravid and Tendulkar: VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly have shown signs of a fight. Tendulkar did that only on the third day until he threw his wicket away. Someone needs to tell him that his wicket is the most important in the team and losing that has psychological effects on both sides. Of course he knows it, but reinstating that could not hurt. As for Dravid, maybe one of the touring commentators (like Gavaskar or Shastri) could have a word with him and tell him to just hang around… he is crucial to India’s success and the link between the top order and middle order. His failure is instant pressure on an already underperforming middle order.
  • Umpiring needs to be fair and consistent: While neither team can control this, the ‘uncertainty’ from umpiring decisions needs to be taken away. Asad Rauf giving Dravid out both times to bad decisions is unacceptable. So is Sreesanth’s decision in the fourth innings at Durban. Who know what could have happened after that? And while it has been said often, there is a desperate need for more umpires on the ICC Elite panel. Even David Shepherd thinks so. And yes, I think the third umpire too should be neutral.

I sincerely hope India makes it through… not often that the bowling is making the opposition (home) dance to its tunes! And please watch out for Ntini!

1st Test Scorecard | 2nd Test Scorecard

Oh, and about the other Test series going on (yes, the Ashes), England may as well forfeit the game, say it’s 0-5 and save themselves some pride for the ODIs coming up. The stage (with three retirees) is simply too big for them to perform on now. Prediction: Australia should win by an innings and plenty!


India v South Africa (2nd Test, Durban): Scorecard

Far too much frustration has come around. India has suffered at the hands of tailenders on many occasions. But this particular effort by SA may just hurt badly.

The 10th wicket partnership between debutante Morne Morkel and Makhaya Ntini was worth 32 runs. Prince and Morkel put together 39 for the 9th wicket. So the last two wickets cost India all of 71 runs. When the opposition top 8 have fallen for 257, you expect to wrap up the innings for approx 275. Tsk!

Australia would have!

UPDATE: India has been bundled out for 240. Conceding a lead of 88 runs. As predicted above, the last two partnerships that yielded 71 for SA have proved costly for India. Else the lead would not have been more than say 30 or 40. How costly? Two and a half days to go to find that out!

Ganguly throws?

So what exactly is he trying to say here?

A bit more clarity would be better, eh?

Sreesanth’s Tango

Just had to post this one. Sure it’s available all over, but this shows my support of his actions! So, enjoy the Sreesanth Tango!

The first Test between India and South Africa had its share of controversy even before the first ball was bowled. There was Graeme Smith (and coach Mickey Arthur) doing the mandatory lip service about how India would face the pace music and how he had plans for India’s batting with his pacers. Well, they worked to some extent. Then there was the delay on day 1 because of too much sweating due to an over-enthusiastic groundsman getting the pitch wetter than necessary. But then, the games began. And SA seemed to be on top!

S Sreesanth Until the SA bowling ran into a man making a comeback with much to prove. Sourav Ganguly was the only man to cross 50 in both first innings and remained unbeaten on 51 when the last Indian wicket fell for 249. Not the best score when you have won the toss and elected to bat, but given the pitch (and how it was doctored to suit pace), this looked competitive.

Little would the curator or either team or the fans have guessed that this score would be big enough to afford India a 165 run lead! Thanks partly to Allan Donald who put some sense into the Indian bowling advising them to stick to line and length! S Sreesanth who has always been hyperactive and shown great promise, made good this time and came up with figures of 5/40; his best ever. And as all commentators repeatedly said, it was the upright seam that made the difference.

India’s second innings tottered for a while until M/s Ganguly and Laxman steadied the ship. India already have a lead in excess of 311 but half the team is out and on this pitch which is easing up marginally, chasing 350 may still be possible. Having said that, the Indian bowling attack does have more variety than the SA team does and with Anil Kumble already having tasted blood, the odds are heavily in favour of India.

A special note about Andre Nel: I like the man for his energy but I find him extremely anal when it concerns his behaviour. He needs to grow up and quickly considering he is already 29! No matter how much you can outtalk the batsmen, it’s finally the wickets you can pick that will make the difference. And he doesn’t seem too smart either. All his short stuff was dealt with pretty easily by the Indian batters and the couple of wickets he did pick up were off good-length or just short of a good length deliveries. Line means nada to him and I am talking of the lines he would bowl with the ball not his mouth!

For once, India has a chance to go has gone 1-up after the first Test on an overseas tour and I would hazard the prediction that India would win. A caveat: India needs to ensure that SA are chasing more than 400 (ideally, more than 450). This means Laxman, Dhoni, Kumble and Zaheer (and now VRV Singh) need to ensure another 90-odd runs are scored among them. Not too tough one would think, but stranger things have happened in this Test. Remember, all 10 SA wickets have fallen for 84 in the first innings! (Told ya!)

Update: Well, my prediction came through (whew!). India did manage to set SA more than 400 (402, to be precise!) and are now 1-0 up in the series. Not a normal situation for India to be in. The interesting part here would be how they handle the pressure of being the favourites to win a series. For the South Africans will come back hard at them. The next Test is at Durban, not the most favourite of India’s venues, but they should hold on based on the performance in the first Test. The only missing link really now is the opening batsmen’s forms…

What was also really good to see was that Sreesanth delivered in the second innings too. This goes to prove that he is not flash in the pan and can become one of the strike bowlers if he can stay fit, focussed and add to his repertoire without losing what he already has: a natural flair for the game.

And, oh… the lips seem to have gone a little numb now:

“The wicket played quite slow on day one but it quickened up quite a lot on day two. But for us to get bowled out for what we did was obviously not good enough. Credit to them, they got the ball in the right areas and created chances consistently. They were a lot more precise than us the whole Test match. We did get the highest total of the game in the fourth innings but all credit to India. They have got their first win and congratulations to them.”

Yes, Graeme, the pitch was slowed down with extra water before the game and then quickened by drying on day 2. Way to go, Einstein.

Morne Morkel Do you know a right-arm fast bowler by the name Morne Morkel? I did not. But now you will. For he has crushed the Indian top order in their tour game. As India tottered at 69/5 (Lunch, Day 1), Morkel was responsible for 4 of those wickets including those of Sehwag (0), Laxman (23), Tendulkar (10) and Dhoni (6). Was he bowling hand grenades?

And these are the Big Guns of the Indian batting. God save India in the Tests! Incidentally, Ganguly (who has just flown in and has not had a chance to acclimatise, etc., etc.) was on 20* at last check. That’s twice as many as Tendulkar and well, more than 20 times as Sehwag! Go figure!

Live Scorecard [Cricinfo]

He’s a “peaceable” man, as Dileep Premchandran says on Cricinfo, but is VVS Laxman the next Indian captain? I doubt it. But he does have the unenviable task of leading India against the Rest of South Africa in the only tour match before the Tests begin. Of course, that’s because Virender Sehwag was releived of his responsibilites as vice-captain during the ODIs.

VVS Laxman with Rahul Dravid and Virender Sehwag But the thing to remember here would be that Rahul Dravid [Captaincy Record] is still injured. And while everyone wants to believe that he will be back by the time the first Test begins, what if he doesn’t? VVS Laxman would have to lead India in the Test (s).

He has been praised for his captaincy in domestic cricket, but this is a different ballgame altogether! The pressure of a Test, the world watching… not easy. To top it all, there are three former captains: Sourav Ganguly [Captaincy Record], Sachin Tendulkar [Captaincy Record] and Virender Sehwag [Captaincy Record]. This, of course, not counting Anil Kumble who has been vice-captain and stand-in captain on random occassions!

So VVS won’t really have any problem in getting advise, but the true test of a captain is what he stands for. And that, I think, is where Rahul Dravid went wrong. But VVS has had a good time with the bat in SA averaging in the high 40s. So in terms of confidence, he must be ok…

In effect, the tour game against a second string SA team has just become more important than it should have been. Thanks to some poor performances and injuries, India sees (once again) too many changes when on tour.

My $0.02 worth: Don’t expect too much. Even if VVS can score 50+, that’ll be a bonus. A drawn game would be a huge fillip to confidence. (What have expectations come to!)

The recent drubbing of India in South Africa would qualify as the worst ever in recent memory. Normally, touring teams have managed at least one win. Although, the more recent ones under Sourav Ganguly had gotten the fans used to much more. Like winning. But that’s not the point. In true Indian sense, let me say “we competed”. Or did we?

India battered and beaten I really think there’s no point in looking back at the matches and trying to figure out who’s fault it was that India lost. It’s pointless because it cannot change the result. What needs to be done is understand what India learned from this ignominous defeat. I think (actually, hope) there is a lot that the team learned.

  1. The team cannot change at a whim: Irfan Pathan had some success as a No. 3 batsman in ODIs and then, was shunted down suddenly. Any explanations? If loss of form was the reason,  shouldn’t he have been given more chances? All that this move achieved was a loss of confidence for Pathan. And then the bowling went downhill. Moral: Let players get used to a spot. And let them try to make it their own. I think it’s called solidity in a batting/bowling order.
  2. Who is the captain?: Is it the coach or the on-field appointed captain who will take the tough calls? For the first time in a long time, India looked like a team without a captain. Dravid was listless and Sehwag looked like he would prefer to be anywhere else. A strong captain like Ganguly brought much more to the table (or field) than batting capability. And Mark Taylor of Australia was another perfect example of a captain being an inspirational leader despite poor batting form.
  3. Flexibility needs to be introduced: This point may look like I contradict what I say in point 1, but let me explain: Point 1 would have to hold true when you have a winning streak or the team is in good form. In a slump like India is experiencing right now, the batting needs to be shuffled around. MS Dhoni looks like the only batsman who has any clue about what he’s doing. Maybe offering him more than 20 overs (he did get it, so no problem!) that he may at the end of the innings could be wiser. So when (not if) Sehwag and Sachin fail, having an in-form batsman come in early could help the team. It may also have a positive impact on other batters to follow. I mean, what was the point of sending in VVS Laxman at No. 3 when he had arrived in SA just 48 prior to the game? And then, the media takes off again!
  4. Bowlers need to know where to bowl: This is something that has long been the bane of Indian bowling. The spinners bowl too quick and the quicks are not quick enough. This may work out well on the dustbowls of the subcontinent, but on faster tracks like the ones in SA, length and line plays a bigger role than pace and our bowlers seemed totally lost on where to bowl. Except for Zaheer Khan, no one seemed to have any idea where to bowl.
  5. Fans need to be patient: It is a fan’s right to criticise the team. Or is it his privilege? As supporters of the team, Indian fans need to show some restraint. Writing this after a 0-4 drubbing may be the wrong time, but fan discomfort was visible right after India lost the 2nd ODI. Sure there were a string of bad performance prior to that which would have triggered this off, but still… And fans should not barge into dressing rooms at any cost.
  6. Media needs to know when to stop: Going after out-of-form players is a good way to fill pages and TV time. But the way the media has taken off against the current crop, it would appear that India were on the verge of annihilation and not in Cricket! Very little positive has come out and while it’s not all without reason, there could well be a reason to be a little more ‘circumspect’ on what’s written. Sure most would not agree with this point, but think of the impact it has on the team. For instance, VVS Laxman’s performance should not be an indicator of his capability. He has been there for just 48 hours and may not have even got out of jetlag, leave alone getting used to the conditions.

I think we all agree and know that India performed below par. There did not seem to be any good reason for the team selected was good based on the capability. But a fact of life is that at least 12 of the 15 in this group will represent India in the upcoming World Cup.

So will tearing them to shreds help? Or would being a little positive with the criticism be a better idea?

From bad to worse

When things are going wrong for you, they just go wrong all the way. The Indian team at this point must be wondering who in the world is conspiring against them that they are facing a new problem everyday of this tour.

First it was the injury to Virender Sehwag, then Munaf Patel and now Rahul Dravid. The first two may just get back in time to make some difference to the tour, but Dravid’s return in time seems difficult. Initial reports suggest that he’s out for about 3 weeks and that rules him out of the first Test. Not a good sign considering he was the only one showing any signs of coming to terms with the conditions.

And if that wasn’t enough, the replacement who is flying in is none other than VVS Laxman. The man not good enough to be in the first 15. To top it off, there is now also talk of Sourav Ganguly making it back to the team. Which just means more controversy and less content on the field. The tour just got murkier, no?

Another day, another dismal performance. And this time, they even looked like they could have won it. But to allow South Africa to reach 274 after having them at 76/6 is not just shocking, but shameful. Rahul Dravid, for once, would have to take a lot of the blame.

There did not seem to be any planning in the bowling and once Kemp was given his second life, he played as if he knew that nothing could stop him. I don’t even want to get into any more analysis of this. As I may have mentioned before, I would be very surprised if India manages to win even one match on this tour. Theoretically, they still have a chance to make it 2-2, but seriously, how many of us believe they can? Not me.

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 Right. So India is on another tour of South Africa, a country where their record, for all practical purposes, is non-existent. And they lost one of the tour practice games before capitulating in the second ODI at Durban. Since that loss, the Indian media has worked overtime to impress the fact that this is bunch of underperforming, overpaid cricketers who need to be pulled up.

Sachin Tendulkar is bowled by Andre Nel in the 2nd ODI

Not just the media, even politicians have jumped into the fray. Anyting for a minute of fame, I think!

[Photo courtesy: Cricinfo]

Deja vu?

India finally got their tour of South Africa off the ground. And I am sure they must be wishing they had not! For their performance last night was a hark back to the 1996 tour I remember vividly. The bowlers (M/s Prasad and Srinath) got the team on top with a fiery spell of bowling in the first Test only to have the batsmen bungle up royally. And how badly they bungled up last night at Durban… Incidentally, the venue for this debacle is the same as the match referred to in 1996.

The bowlers looked and perhaps played their part but the batsmen never got their bearings about them. A look at the scorecard would reveal that three of the top four batsmen were clean bowled (Jaffer’s wasn’t as clean, but he was bowled nonetheless) and this only shows a lack of application. The technique is there, but fear has been struck in the hearts of the mighty Indian batsmen.

Going by last night’s performance, India would be very lucky to come away with even one victory in the remaining three ODIs. Wonder what Mr Chappell had to say after the match…

Update: Some others in the blogosphere lament India’s performance here. It’s real good! By the Greatbong!

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