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Sight Screen

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Murali versus India?

A story I found in the Indian Express suggests that the upcoming triseries will pretty much play out along those lines: The offie, versus the Indian batsmen.
Not to take away from Murali -- who, without at this point going into the question of his action, is one of the most dangerous bowlers in international cricket today. But surely it is counter-productive for Team India to set him up as some sort of bogeyman for themselves -- in the process committing the kind of error England regularly does against Shane Warne?
Play the ball not the bowler remains good advice; in this context, am reminded of something Martin Crowe once said, in a piece on Rediff, about how New Zealand prepared for the 1992 World Cup.
One key element of the Kiwi preparation, Crowe said, was to demystify the opposition -- thus, in team meetings, the Kiwis spoke of the opening bowler of the yellow team, but never, say, of Australia's Glenn McGrath. A mistake most teams make, Crowe suggested, was to see key members of the opposition in larger than life terms; a state of mind that put them on the back foot right at the start.
The Kiwis, he said, avoided that by not eulogising past performances of opposition bowlers/batsmen, not building individual players up as threats -- instead, the talk was all about lines and lengths to bowl, and to counter.
Hopefully, this whole Murali versus India line is just a media creation, and not indicative of the thinking within the team. Preparing to play him is one thing -- elevating him to King Kong proportions is something else again.
In passing, it's amusing what a reporter can do with statistics, to support his basic premise -- in this instance, that India start as no-hopers against Murali. Says here, none of the Indian batsmen have a particularly good record against the Sri Lankans, especially in this decade. Says so in facts and figures. For instance:
Rahul Dravid has hit only two half centuries in 15 one-day internationals, totaling 502 runs, against Sri Lanka.
VVS Laxman has featured in no more than five one-dayers with 133 runs and one half century to show while Virender Sehwag hardly appears the batsman that he is in figures: 321 runs from 13 ODIs at 29.18 against the Lankans.
Young guns Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif do not offer any light either.
Yuvraj has managed 319 runs from 16 one-dayers at 26.50 while Kaif has not hit a single half century in nine matches, only 133 runs at 26.60.

And in contrast, the writer says, Murali has been devastating:
Murali, on the other hand, has grown to eye-straining height in this period.
With 'doosra' and all that, he has taken 286 wickets in his last 41 tests; and 182 scalps in 134 one-day games in the last five years.
Against India, Murali has 23 wickets from three tests and 23 scalps again from 11 one-dayers since 2000. Indian fans painfully remember his 7 for 30 in a one-dayer and 8 for 87 in a test.

Um... just curious, is 23 wickets in 11 games a frightening statistic -- especially if 7 of them came in one game? It's all in your point of view, really -- Murali, for the Indians, can be as deadly -- or playable -- as you imagine him to be.


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