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Sight Screen

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Random thoughts on the Indian innings

1. This will likely start more of that 'anti-Ganguly' stuff, but the point needs to be made: If Saurav Ganguly wants to prolong his international career (I hope he does -- in top form, he brings much to the table in the Indian middle order), he needs to stop running away from his single biggest problem -- to wit, the short ball.
Anyone who has watched him play will tell you he has a problem with the short ball -- and the name for that problem is fear; the minute the ball is banged in short, he is intent on saving himself from injury, and he ends up taking his eye off the ball and poking at it blind, which is guaranteed to get you injured, or out, or both.
And any cricket reporter who has spent his time watching Saurav in the nets will tell you this: When bowlers bang it in short, in the nets, Saurav tends to imperiously order them to pitch it up, rather than have them bowl the shorter length and use nets time to work out his problem. He needs to face up to the fact that bowlers -- even as inexperienced as this Windies attack -- are aware of this and will exploit it to the hilt; the only way out of this problem is through it and that means getting into the nets and having bowlers bowl short at him, with Greg Chappell (who better than a coach who is a master craftsman, and with whom you already have a rapport?) guiding him to where he can, if not bat against the short stuff with absolute assurance, at the least do a Steve Waugh and get to where he can grit it out.
Today's innings proved that there is no escape, even in the one day format with its bouncer limit, against short pitched bowling -- the Windies quicks, rather than bowl bouncers, dug it in just that touch short and lifted it into the rib cage and Ganguly was immediately defused. If, as he says, he wants to fight his way back into the opening slot, he needs to address this problem...and that right soon.
2. Virender Sehwag has his own problems -- his timing is woefully off, and if this keeps up, it will impact on his form in Tests as well. In his case, the solution is easier -- more than anything else, he needs quality time in the middle and he is not apt to get it if he keeps trying to blast away at everything, when he clearly is not in anything approaching prime touch. The key? Time in the middle -- and the only way he is going to get it is by cutting out the huge swipes, and focussing, for the first half of his innings, on tapping the ball around and running singles, as he has tended to do in Test matches.
3. Apparently what Yuvraj Singh needed was a shock -- and being dropped from the team seems to have woken him up to the fact that his place is no sinecure, but must be worked for. His innings today was close to vintage Yuvraj -- almost immaculate shot selection, an eye for the well placed single; a willingness to run his partner's singles as hard as he runs his own (which, to be fair, he has always done) and above all, an air of confidence at the crease.
4. The number three slot has become hugely problematical for India. When VVS Laxman plays in the XI, that is about the only slot you can play him in -- but much though I love watching the man bat, the fact is he isn't. Batting, that is. And if VVS is not able to cut the mustard today, he is a no-hoper for WC2007. Which means India's search for that number three batsman has to start now -- and my personal pick is Rahul Dravid, to bat there always, irrespective of who else is playing or not playing.
If RD can lock down the number three position, India can then focus on getting Sehwag back into form; deciding on the ideal partner for him; and bring Yuvraj and Kaif into the numbers four and five slots. When and if SRT comes back into the side, he slots himself in at number two if India has not discovered a viable opening option in the interim. And Ganguly? Again, when and if he is in form, he slots into the middle -- either ahead of Yuvraj at four, or between Yuvraj and Kaif.
5. The real pity about team selection in this game is the continued absence of JP Yadav. He may be no messiah... the trouble is, no one knows, and no one will until he gets a chance. The management, IMHO, missed an opportunity to blood the lad in competition, to get a look at what he can do out there.
6. Mohammad Kaif has got to be just about the most unselfish runner of his partners' singles in international cricket (Unselfish player period, if you also consider the way he played second fiddle, letting Yuvraj get the bulk of the strike through the consolidation phase). At the 40 over mark, his stats read 43 dot balls, 28 singles and 3 twos in an innings of 49 off 78; more to the point, Yuvraj Singh was 44 dot balls, 31 singles and 5 twos at that point -- and he owed those twos, and a good few of those singles, to the way Kaif was prepared to race, often dive, into the danger end. (Kaif incidentally is the poster boy for fitness -- not muscle, just fitness; he was as sharp, and alert, and quick in the last over of the innings as he was when he first came in, and looked good enough to go for another 10 overs if need be).
And the way those two shaped the partnership is close to perfect as a template for how to bat in Lankan conditions (check out the rate of each 50 of the innings, in context: 94 for the first, 79 for the second, 50 for the third, 38 for the fourth, 38 for the fifth) -- controlled run-accumulation right through to the 40 overs, the board never static and the batsmen making it tick over without risk of losing wickets through extravagant shotmaking.
7. You didn't need to be a lip-reader to know what Yuvraj said to his mates when he got his 100 -- leads me to think he was ticked off for the way he played earlier in this series and if that is right, about time, too. More than anyone else in the side, Yuvraj needs tough love to push him into maximising his ability.
8. If you were the captain/coach and you saw Yuvraj struggling as he was in the slog phase, would you have withdrawn him after he had completed that 100 and let Dhoni or Pathan have a go, in the interests of the team? YS was obviously in no position to either play the big hits, thanks to cramped footwork, or to run the brisk singles and convert them into twos, as you would want to at the death. (As I was typing this, YS whacked 2 fours in succession in the 46th -- but the thought, I think, is still valid).
9. 262/4 is about 30 more than I thought, at the start of the innings, India needs to win this game. But -- and this is an interesting but -- the four main bowlers now have an added burden. Ganguly cannot bowl (and not just because he is injured either; he has been off the field all morning); Yuvraj was cramping and unless he can recover, he is likely out too. So who does that leave to fill in the fifth bowler's quota, outside of the off form Sehwag? It is here that India has a problem -- and it is here that Rahul Dravid's captaincy will really be tested today.

21 Comments:

  • Prem: Agree with most of your comments. However, if we are thinking WC07 (i.e. long term), it is time to phase out Kumble, VVS, and Ganguly from the 1-day squad..and develop raina, venugopal, JP, whoever and another good spinner.

    Ganguly's career is in a serious decline. Let's accept this fact...and catch someone who is on the up.

    By Blogger losing now, at 08:14  

  • well.. with this west indian line up ,and with this pretty good score anybody can take up the fifth bowlers' slot.. I dont think Rahul Dravid would need one before 25-28th over..

    By Blogger Raju, at 08:28  

  • I think that the person to watch is Zaheer. If he can keep the pressure and give away runs then WI will be under tremendous pressure since Pathan and Nehra are bowling well and the fifth bowler can run thru his overs
    But if Zaheer gives up runs, then Dravid has a big problem protecting Zaheer and the fifth bowler.
    I think Kumble is a good move. I don't think of the WI batsmen have ever faced Kumble and he might take a couple of wickets
    Hopefully Yuvaraj can make it on
    to the field because I am sure that we will need his bowling since the SL wickets tend to get slower as the evening progresses.

    By Blogger Crickup, at 08:42  

  • I was hoping to see a 5-1-5 team today but we have persisted with 7 batsmen.
    and it look slike our strik ebowlers ar ebeing creamed today. 263 in Colombo may be only as good as 220 in Dambullah

    By Blogger suresh bala, at 09:01  

  • I would have thought that with Zaheer's history of profligate 1st overs, India would have started with Nehra.

    By Blogger Tiger, at 09:01  

  • 4 fours in 4 overs..

    By Blogger Tiger, at 09:02  

  • Maybe Dhoni could bowl and Dravid keep!!

    By Blogger Tiger, at 09:03  

  • Prem...why can't Ganguly bowl ? he was out of field because india was batting :-)) I think he can bowl if he comes in and fields for some time. Isn't that so ?

    On his short ball problem, I wonder why/how it has come back. He had taken the Steve Waugh route to solution, thats what I felt, during the past 2-3 years. Esp so in test matches.

    About playing JP yadav, well no time to experiment in a do-or-die situation. I mean we can happily say that we want to treat this series as an experiment, I dont think GC has that luxury. He cannot afford a blot of being pushed out of the tournament by WIindies. This is is paid job, after all :-)

    I agree abt Dravid being regular no 3, except for few exceptional cases when Dhoni can be promoted (like maybe chasing 300 and loosing one early etc)

    And I also feel, as I've said earlier, that maybe one way to Sehwag's problem solving can be to get him lower down the order (dunno who shud open with SG, maybe Lax if we are playing him at all). Do tell me what do you think of this....if not y ?

    By Blogger worma, at 09:22  

  • WI are rolling at 6+ an over. of course a wkt can change things but bowlers don't look threatening at all.

    my views on Prem's random thoughts:

    1. remains to be sen if YS will show a semblance of today's form going fwd.
    2. hard to understand how SG got so many run sin hi scareer of he is so vulnerable to teh short ball. he has looked miserable and the 51 he scratched up in the last game was very laboured. it i s obvious to all that his best is behind him. SG is not going to make WC07 so why not drop him from ODI's for now. JPY cud easily have been substituted for him, may not be as an opener but surely as a 5th bowler
    3. though i am a VVS fan i think he need sto be preserved for tests. so how do we fill 3-4 batting slots with the spotty talent we have on teh bench? i don't know if u guys agree, but Raina seems a little unripe for this level and Rao has not been fully tested. So we probably need another camp to find and groom prospects. all said n done, SRT, even in his depleted state has left ahuge void. we certainly need him for WC07.

    By Blogger suresh bala, at 09:23  

  • Prem,

    Great analysis spot on. If I make an additonal suggestion - Balaji for Zaheer. Balaji trumps Zaheer with his fielding.

    After that, we could see Sachin take Ganguly's spot. I wish we would get Yadav in instead of Laxman. If Yadav is a decent bits and pieces player in the mould of Robin Singh that would be good enough. Laxman really cannot graft in ODIs because of the field settings.

    If either Ganguly or Laxman are in the side, we are guaranteed not to win the WC 2007

    By Blogger Jiet, at 09:31  

  • Prems analysis is spot on i think India has to decide whose gonna play in WC 07 and who is not they especially need to decide on VVS & Kumble. Ganguly i wud still give him a chance given his record. Also i think we need to learn how to use Dhoni all said and done he can def whack a cricket ball

    By Blogger Karthik, at 10:12  

  • The consensus appears to be SG will not make it to WC'07, the same with VVS and probably Kumble. We need to blood the newcomers in a low-profile series like this because of this reality.

    Clearly we are missing SRT. Even at half strength, need SRT for WC'07 for a real shot at winning it.

    By Blogger c111, at 10:55  

  • I am not terribly impressed with Dravid's captaincy Prem. Seems to be too predictable in the middle overs. No intelligent change of bowlers. Its hurting India in all the games.

    By Blogger worma, at 11:29  

  • ..and I write this as Ind wins the match by 7 runs...we ran terribly close. I thought RD did not change the bowlers well in the middle...gave Yuv one-two overs too many...when it was clear VS was bowling well....he should have brought in pathan (who btw had 2 ovrs unbowled)..despite knowing that teams are looking to exploit our 5th bowler weaknes almost in all matches RD has had, at some point of time, irregular bowlers bowling in tandem.

    By Blogger worma, at 12:21  

  • as if part-timers is a matter of 'just getting over with' as quickly as possible. No real thinking going in that period.

    By Blogger worma, at 12:22  

  • "And any cricket reporter who has spent his time watching Saurav in the nets will tell you this: When bowlers bang it in short, in the nets, Saurav tends to imperiously order them to pitch it up, rather than have them bowl the shorter length... "

    I agree with you that SG's career is on a sharp decline, and that he may not play in the WC'07. Anyways,
    the best eleven should play. PERIOD.

    However, I don't agree with the above statement. On a particular
    evening when almost everyone had
    left for their hotel, I was witness to SRT and SG who stayed back in the nets to work for some more time on their batting. There were about 3-4 local bowlers who were banging wet tennis balls hard into the ground and SG was trying to either sway or hook; this continued for several minutes. I am sure this is not his only practice session with short balls;
    and I am sure batsmen worry more than us about their evident shortcomings. Some genius like SRT overcome them, most don't. Let us not dismiss them as "lack of effort". Someone who has scored 10,000 ODI runs couldn't have done so without a bit of effort.

    Prem, you are a journo yourself, and when you start something like "any reporter who has..."
    it almost means that you are writing a personal account; but you may always come back and say that I never said it was me. Had I not dropped in at the net session on that particular day (which made me realise why SRT is SRT, and SG is SG), I would have probably believed you as well.

    You may have seen one particular`day when he was trying to perfect his drive, or trying to improve on his tendency to edge/slash outside the off stump. So he may have asked the bowler not to bowl short. But that does not allow you to generalise.

    All of us have our own opinions and are entitled to them. But lets not make them blasphemous and personal in nature. Did you see Yuvraj today? After scoring his century, he screamed something which to me seemed like mother*. It was definitely targeted at journos and its a very very sorry state of affairs. why are you trying to make it an almost "us-versus- them" story? If you are so good, why did not you apply for GC's post? I am sure BCCI pays better than rediff.

    By Blogger Santanu De, at 12:30  

  • Prem,

    I partly agree with shantanu's comments about SG? Indians have the tendency to worship match winners like god. YS came with a real gem today, but he has to continue. He will be there for next few games. If he gets dropped and India loses, then questions will be asked about his omission, where was YS? Why has SG/RD dropped YS, especially after scoring a century of late? Today SG failed and now people are asking to drop him for JPY. Well is it because he has failed in this inning? Are we going to decide what to do with players on an inning-by-inning basis? Are we? This is ridiculous!! Don't forget he was the top scorer in the last inning. People were talking about the 110 balls he faced but they don't understand the fact that this was the first good opening partenership in the series for India. Why did India slump after he lost his wicket? Why couldn't the so-called big guys like Raina etc scored the necessary runs? Why did Dravid fail? Why did we struggle to reach 220? Personally I think he did a great job last game to seal one end till the 30th over.

    Lastly I want to go back to Prem's statement that he prefers pitched up balls in the nets!! Well, then Prem please explain how he scored 10,000 runs in one-day internationals? I just don't get it!! Can someone with such a suspect technique score so many runs? Especially when you have Inzi and SRT along with him in that club!

    Regarding his short ball technique, I thought he had done a Steve Waugh where he would sway away to short deliveries or if it is not that short, then he would pull it to square leg. The shot that he played today was again the old SG where he took his eye off the ball. He has to stay away from this technique which he has in the past. No wonder he has 10,000 ODI runs.

    In this blog someone was talking about ST that we were missing him where he was hammered big-time after the Pak series for not scoring runs. God we have short memories. I think we the selectors should make up their minds. They have 2 ways to go. One, stay on course where they would back a senior to the hilt. Indian selectors have the tendency to not drop a player at all. On the other hand, they have to turn themselves into an Australian selector who are very brutal. Who would have dropped Steve Waugh after 1 tournament loss? Kiran More would have been crucified live. I am serious he would have been killed unless he gets a Z-plus security like LK Advani. Do you guys think they have it in them to drop SG/ST for JPY? Can they? Think about the pressure from commercial firms on Dollarmia!! We even got Azhar back and was very close to being a captain again after being dropped. Think about the pressure on JPY since he is replacing them. A couple of failures and every journalists would scream out loud to get SRT/SG back.

    By Blogger Mayur, at 13:58  

  • Mayur,

    Dravid said about Ganguly, on the off side first there is God and then there is Ganguly.

    If even his greatest fan can honestly say that of him today your argument would be valid. No one ever says he was not the best there ever was in ODI. And that is the operative word. "Was" and not "Is".

    Anyone watching him can tell that.

    It was the same with Dravid when he began his ODI career, he was as bad if not worse than Laxman today. But he had he sense to remedy and he can today without doubt be counted among the top players in ODI too. Was and Is my friend.

    Evryone knows that Dravid is a safe hands in the slips, don't we all. Remember one snippet from the India Pakistan in India? Dravid misses a catch, the ball bounces off the stiff palms. A while later the camera turns to the dressing room, and there he is trying to analyze what went wrong. You can see him making the action of reveiving the ball several times.

    Even Ganguly himself had to fall back on his past glory to justify his claim in Asian eleven. He could not say, did not have a performace to say it about, of recent times.

    By Blogger Shakeel Abedi, at 21:29  

  • Don't forget we have some talented players who can be like the ol Ganguly.....like he was in his prime. Bob Woolmer was higly impressed with S Sriram when Pak played a warm-up game. He called him one of the 3 dimensional cricketers. He also named 3 or 4 others (Dhoni was one of them..i forget the rest), but I believe they were already in the team.

    Its time we gave a lengthy chance for Sriram, JPY, Raina etc. I believe Rao and Rayudu are more of test prospects.

    Having VVS, Ganguly, Nehra and Kumble in the same team would mean the captain has to hide atleast 4 average fielders. Not to forget the rest are not that great either.... except for a few.

    By Blogger Vins, at 23:35  

  • Prem: " Apparently what Yuvraj Singh needed was a shock -- and being dropped from the team seems to have woken him up to the fact that his place is ..."

    I thought Yuvraj had fever (as I read on either rediff/cricinfo) and hence didn't play in the previous match. No?

    Takeiteasy.

    By Blogger Take it easy, at 16:25  

  • Prem: "And Ganguly? Again, when and if he is in form, he slots into the middle -- either ahead of Yuvraj at four, or between Yuvraj and Kaif."

    So, Ganguly @4 or @5, Yuvraj @5 or @4, which means Kaif @6. IMO, that is disaster (Kaif @6). Kaif almost always failed @6, he can neither slog nor stay for long (rotating the strike). If Kaif is not expected to start batting before 35 overs, better he is not selected.

    Takeiteasy.

    By Blogger Take it easy, at 16:36  

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