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Sight Screen

Monday, August 29, 2005

Same team, another day, same difference

It's always a mistake to extrapolate entirely from statistics; so maybe there are things about the India-Zimbabwe game those who were watching saw, that I -- who for once decided it wasn't worth the lost sleep, especially heading into the first working day of the week -- did not.
Here is what, from looking at the scoreboard, the player versus player stats, the wagonwheels, et al see, though:
1. A team that increasingly doesn't seem to know which batsman belongs where in the batting order: vide Venugopal Rao opening (you mean his batting performances thus far have filled the management with such confidence they believe he merits a try in that slot, even as a stop gap measure? If Sehwag was unfit, surely Dhoni at the top against a bits and pieces attack, with Raina coming into the middle, made more sense?); and vide Kaif at number three (surely now that he doesn't have to keep any more, the time has come to nail Rahul Dravid into that slot -- the rare exception being when the team feels the need to employ a pinch-hitting option)?
'Experimentation' is fine -- but wouldn't the logical thing to do be to fix firmly the slots you are sure of (Dravid at 3, Kaif at 4, Yuvraj at 5 suggest themselves) and *then* experiment with the other slots in order to get the mix right?
2. A team that, two years ago, was characterised by a seeming overdose of self-belief now seemingly shorn of that very commodity (when I checked the run-rate comparision charts I thought I was seeing things: 54/1 in 15 overs at 3.2 against this attack?!).
3. A lost opportunity for Saurav Ganguly to get some runs against his name, against an attack that in his prime he would have taken apart with silken efficiency.
4. A continuation of Dravid's alarming slump (his batting was the best thing about the first half of the Lanka tour -- since then, he seems to have lost his way, especially near that off stump; played on the other day misjudging distance and bounce, bowled today)
5. And finally, on a somewhat lighter note, a license for Ajit Agarkar to give away the next few games, against good opposition.
But then, I forget -- scoreboards apparently do not tell the whole story; both skipper Ganguly and coach Chappell appear to have seen the match in a different light (or a different match, altogether?)
Again, I am not suggesting that everyone get together and trash the team, individually and collectively -- but I do wish that if public comments have to be made (post match interviews, whatever), they hold up to the test of logic. If, as they say, the pitch was the sort where the ball was not coming on to the bat, how do you explain hugely experienced players going at 17 dot balls to 8 singles (Saurav); 21 dot balls to 7 singles (Rahul) and 82 dot balls to just 29 singles (Kaif, whose USP is the ability to work the ball around)?
The match reports I just read are pretty much as lethargic, tired, as the game itself was if you judge by the scorecard. Here is Ram Mahesh in the Hindu; the Hindustan Times, with an unsigned recap; and PTI's take, as carried by Mid-Day. Indian Express, among the major papers, seems unsure of what to say -- it is around 3 in the morning in India as I write this, and IE's site still leads with the curtain-raiser to the Zimbabwe game.
There is also Dileep Premachandran's match report, and S Rajesh's summation, on Cricinfo -- both, I notice, have refrained from going into ecstasies over the result.
PS: A quick note on schedules: You guys have over time gotten used to checking the blog around 11 am for the first update of the morning; here on in, that will happen at 2 pm my time, once I have caught up with the morning load at work.

28 Comments:

  • Ganguly needs to go to Domestic Cricket to get back his batting skills.Otherwise he does not deserve a place in the eleven as a opening batsman. It is time for ganguly to get a break.

    By Blogger Shyam Prasad, at 17:03  

  • Rao is a misfit. I was hoping, he will play anchor. Probably, he played his last ODI. YS, MK, & AA did a insurance act. Assured of places for next 10 matches.
    I don't take anything positive from this win.

    By Blogger Rajg, at 17:17  

  • I guess shastri must have passed on his theory of "how to maintain your place in the team with performance spurts" to this current team. Almost every member seems to follow shastri's model of playing cricket

    By Blogger sachin, at 17:20  

  • Yeah, they goofed up with the opening slot again. What kind of start did they think we would have with SG & VG, with SG perpetually out of form & VG never having opened, even in Ranji. Kaif at 3 was also a goof-up. The Alarm bells over RD's form have got to be ringing. He seemed hurried in his approach, playing more off the front foot when the pitch was basically a back-foot one.

    YS struggled at the start but got going eventually, so perhaps a plus points for him & time in the middle. Dhoni played as if he was playing in the streets of Ranchi or wherever he is from. He did give the much needed thrust to the innings though. He would not have lasted as long against a half-decent attack. I think his contribution was as important as the bowlers. It is semantics but why AA was sent before JPY or IP in the last over was bemusing.

    The bowling was good, no doubt. But taking Nehra after 3 overs was strange as he was swinging it as well as IP. Seemed like AA was brought on while the batsmen were on the backfoot a bit, but he snared 2 wickets in his first over.

    SG actually was starting to open up & playing the short ball better than he has (mind you the pace was'nt that fast), when he played a shot which he probably would not have played had he known there was a fielder at short fine-leg. To look at the positive side, he was hooking & pulling. The ball he got out to was also a short ball but the hook played well, ergo in the air.

    This game will do good for the mental state of SG, MK, YS, MSD. I am hoping the batting will come together in the next one. My line-up after today - SG, VS, RD, MK, YS, MSD, JPY, IP, AA, HS, AN & (MK).

    Any comments?

    By Blogger Akshay, at 17:23  

  • Prem,

    What do you think about match referee's (as well as media) reaction to Ponting's outburst? To me, it sounds muted. Looking back at the 'excessive appealing' episode against the Indians in SA and more recently Steve Bucknor's admonition of an Indian player, it seems that the same yardstick is not applied to all.

    Regards,
    Anand

    By Blogger nandab, at 17:23  

  • Nandab,

    I strongly believe if this gesture had been done by Saurav , Inzi or Atapattu, they would have received a ban for the next couple of matches.

    However, I also think that Ponting's immediate public apology may have led to the softening of the verdict.

    I believe they should take this rule about code of manners out completely. Come on, it is a man's game, people are bound to get rough. It is worse when you make them bottle it up. Also, it gives character to the game.

    By Blogger Akshay, at 17:29  

  • Akshay's right.

    Either take out the whole "gentlemanly" conduct and only punish serious offences (e.g.someone getting physically violent)or apply the same yardstick to everyone.

    I can't understand the logic of excessive appealing as an offence- on the other hand if he forgets to appeal and celebrates on getting someone out, that's an offence too.

    But since these rules are in place how come Inzy gets a suspension (he ony swung a bat outside the ground) while Ponting os only fined (when he abused everyone around him.

    As for apologies, Inzy was highly apoogetic after the incident too. If anyone should get off on good behaviou, Inzy probaly counts among the top 5 probables in cricket arena to do so.

    By Blogger suraj, at 17:46  

  • Prem,

    I think you are being too judgemental. True the team is not learning the basics and playing the zim bowling with much more respect than it deserved but that stems from 2 things 1. having gone through the mauling at the hands of shane bond they were understandably shaky.
    2. You said it confidence. Confidence comes from winning matches and performing. Confidence could be the difference between half hearted prod or thumping shot. Admittedly the team is low on confidence. They need to get themselves out of this and not wait for the shrink to do it everytime. The tendency to go to the Shrink evrytime can be addictive.

    You hit the nail on its head with RD's form. It should be a concern.

    Also too much experimentation is going on.But i don't agree we should treat Dravid, Kaif and Yuvi as settled positions. That is what lead to the "predictability" that Dileep Premchandran mentioned at the start of the season. Bu experimentation should be tempered a bit fot the sake of stability of the team.

    An interesting article in HT points out that some players have been pampered by the rest of the team performing most of the time (when they were performing) so they could get away with occasional performances . And this trend is very worrying. It suggests Individuals getting complacent everytime they perform and think their work is done.
    That attitude is one of the things (among others) that GC will have to address

    By Blogger Amit, at 17:49  

  • Dileep (on Cricinfo) says that Ganguly and Kaif were right to be cautious due to swinging conditions, and superb bowling by Streak. But they and Dravid ought to have taken more singles. Yuvraj struggled against spinners, but upped his game with Dhoni being the catalyst. Their partnership of 103 runs in just 87 balls set up the game nicely. Pathan bowled with genuine menace: accuracy, marked inswing, and nip of the seam.

    Here is my take. Rao is viewed as a technically good player (e.g. his innings against Murali, consistently good FC performances, big innings under pressure) who is best suited for test cricket where the going is usually tough. From this view, Rao must be pitted against the best bowlers in tough conditions. Emerging Indian batsmen rarely face the quality of bowling of Bond, and Streak on this pitch. Pathan and Yadav (and Dhoni to an extent) are not meant to fare so well on tough conditions with the new ball. Yuvraj has failed in the top three (or four) in ODIs. Neither Yuvraj - with his technical failings- nor Kaif - with his shortened innings- are strong candidates for the middle order test berth (just yet). Perhaps Greg feels Rao is the right person and backs him to have the talent, temperament and the attitude (to work hard, maintain his focus) to eventually succeed.

    Gambhir and Chopra did well in tests (to an extent) without playing much ODI cricket. This could have been the case with Rao but he has competition from Kaif and Yuvraj (who are in the test squad).

    By Blogger IssaicN, at 18:36  

  • Prem...You seem to have fixed Dravid at 3, Kaif at 4 and YS at 5. Well if thats the case then VS at 1 and Dhoni at 6 also seem to be fairly obvious, which leaves just one slot at 2. Question is how do we accomodate SG and SRT in one spot?...Or is it 7 batsmen again? Also I dont agree with Kaif & Dravid clubbed together. I guess its an open invitation for opposition to impose Powerplay. Ideally I would like to see them separated by a strokemaker so that they dont come together too often. a be Dravid, SRT, Kaif, Yuvraj/Raina might be better.

    By Blogger N, at 18:41  

  • Its stupid ness to give away some more games to AA based on this performance. I think Indian cricket falling into doldrums. From captaincy to team attitude nothing is right in recent times. Being one of the ardent SG fans, I sincerely think that he should have proved himself in batting rather showing penchant for captaincy.

    The composition changes for every game baffling me to no extent. The poor guy Venu must be thinking what his future was. Hopefully he will get some more chances to prove his mettle. I think he is a good number three bat in the mould of Rahul. He should be given some more chances at the right position.

    AA selection itself is not a step in the right direction to the future. Balaji should have been in team. In the same way I have no sympathy for Zaheer or for that matter Harbhajan.

    As of now my 12 looks like this Shewag, Ganguly, Dravid, Venu, kaif, Yuvraj, Dhoni, RP Singh, A Nehara, Pathan, M Kaarthick, S Raina.

    By Blogger omasthas, at 18:41  

  • I did not see the game either and depended on the scorecard and match reports to get an idea. Still, my thoughts are that a win is a win, even if it was a given.

    The batsmen have a lot to think about all across the board. The bowlers, even Ajit Agarkar, seem to be doing ok.

    And I totally agree with the apparent loss of form for Rahul Dravid. I have of course decided to take an extreme stance this season just to counterbalance the anti-Sachin/pro-Dravid noise. I have always been a fan of Dravid but I have decided to chronicle his innings and point out exactly what people used to point out for Sachin - that he only scores against low-lying teams, that he does not win it for India, etc.

    But if the Wall slumps, and the opening batsmen cannot put up more than 30-40 runs, you know India has problems - a lot of them.

    By Blogger RPM, at 19:05  

  • Overreaction again. Dravid had his share of decent innings in SL. So we are talking about a couple of games in a series that isn't over yet. Also, I do not see India just "surrendering". All of the games that India lost be it vs SL or the one vs NZ- India were in those games. Heck, a team that climbs from 44/8 to within range of victory is not a "surrendering" side. They just have a few key players who are out of form. In fact, lets assume that even 2 of these guys turn it around big vs NZ e.g. Sehwag, Dravid- NZ will be in trouble. See off Bond (I know easier said than done), and they are there for the taking. Pretty soon, some of these "close" games are going to swing India's way. And also games like today's that looked like they were going to be close, were broken open for big victories. Few of those, and everybody will speak of these same guys like they are reincarnations of Vishnu.

    By Blogger Vijay, at 20:24  

  • for both the lovers of dravid and ganguly here are their statistics..in 2004 odI
    StatsGuru - R Dravid- ODIs - Innings by innings list
    R Dravid (Rahul Dravid) [Player Page] - RHB; OB
    Born: 1973-01-11 (present age: 32y 231d)

    ODIs: India 1995/96 - 2005/06 (23y 83d - 32y 230d); Asia XI 2004/05 (31y 365d - 31y 365d)
    Also: Test Player 1996 - 2004/05.

    Filter: in season 2004.
    Sort order: chronological.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Mat Runs HS BatAv 100 50 W BB BowlAv 5w Ct St

    unfiltered 259 8338 153 39.89 10 62 4 2/43 42.50 0 157 14
    filtered 13 371 104 37.10 1 3 - - - - 13 2


    StatsGuru - SC Ganguly - ODIs - Innings by innings list


    SC Ganguly (Sourav Ganguly) [Player Page] - LHB; RM
    Born: 1972-07-08 (present age: 33y 53d)

    ODIs: India 1991/92 - 2005/06 (19y 187d - 33y 52d); Asia XI 2004/05 (32y 186d - 32y 186d)
    Also: Test Player 1996 - 2004/05.

    Filter: in season 2004.
    Sort order: chronological.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Mat Runs HS BatAv 100 50 W BB BowlAv 5w Ct St

    unfiltered 276 10071 183 40.93 22 60 93 5/16 36.96 2 95 0
    filtered 13 480 90 40.00 0 5 0 - - 0 6 0

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    now gangulys worst average..in his career
    SC Ganguly (Sourav Ganguly) [Player Page] - LHB; RM
    Born: 1972-07-08 (present age: 33y 53d)

    ODIs: India 1991/92 - 2005/06 (19y 187d - 33y 52d); Asia XI 2004/05 (32y 186d - 32y 186d)
    Also: Test Player 1996 - 2004/05.

    Filter: in season 2005.
    Sort order: chronological.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Mat Runs HS BatAv 100 50 W BB BowlAv 5w Ct St

    unfiltered 276 10071 183 40.93 22 60 93 5/16 36.96 2 95 0
    filtered 9 178 55 19.77 0 1 0 - - 0 2 0

    -------------------------------------
    ---dravids worst run in his career--
    StatsGuru - R Dravid - ODIs - Innings by innings list


    R Dravid (Rahul Dravid) [Player Page] - RHB; OB
    Born: 1973-01-11 (present age: 32y 231d)

    ODIs: India 1995/96 - 2005/06 (23y 83d - 32y 230d); Asia XI 2004/05 (31y 365d - 31y 365d)
    Also: Test Player 1996 - 2004/05.

    Filter: in season 1998.
    Sort order: chronological.



    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Mat Runs HS BatAv 100 50 W BB BowlAv 5w Ct St

    unfiltered 259 8338 153 39.89 10 62 4 2/43 42.50 0 157 14
    filtered 8 120 49 15.00 0 0 0 - - 0 6 0

    if the selecters were to axe non perrforming players..ganguly should be axed now and dravid should be doing television commentery.

    By Blogger suraj, at 21:46  

  • ISSACIN AND SURAJ,

    You seem to be very good with stat.
    How about some take on current ODI bowlers and all time ODI bowlers from India? and for Current bowlers, their overall average v/s last 20 games.

    In ODI strike rate is imp and perhaps average per wicket as it will capture RPO indirecly.

    Bit of work..thanks.

    By Blogger CrickTip, at 22:33  

  • Suraj,
    I do not think one can measure Tendulkar, Dravid Sehwag and Ganguly with the same stick for success or failure as you would with Raina or Badani or Mongia or Rao. This is even more obvious in Test arena. I assume you are trying to make a similar point with your #s !

    By Blogger CrickTip, at 22:46  

  • Hey Prem,

    How come the blog allows same usernames for 2 different guys. I am also Suraj and there's another suraj (stats guy). I thought it's supposed to give a message that the username has already been taken by someone else.

    By Blogger suraj, at 00:03  

  • Prem...on the 'safe' approach taken by Indians ...we do know and agree that sure the Indian ODI team is low on confidence, and haven't performed well in recent times, have lost most of their important matches. What, given the situation they are in, should a team do, when faced with a match situation as India was today ? Go for the glory or bust approach, or the sensible way of securing a non-spectacular but safe win. And build on that victory momentum into more important matches. This, to me seems much more sensible approach, given the poor form of some of the Indian players, the experimentational nature of the lineup, and the importance of securing a victory here today in the bigger context of the series (the entire Zim tour) and the whole new season.

    And sure, there was scope for improvements(which Ganguly also agreed), mainly visible in rotating the strike (btw I would check carefully those dot balls as to how many were actually played out dot, instead of missed) but then thats the second step on the ladder. The first is to show application to stay at the wicket, which the struggling batsmen out there tried their best to do. Biggest case in point were yuv and kaif, the two biggest defaulters in recent times, stayed there for long times.

    And on the batting order, I felt that Kaif (from SL onwards) has been given the role of anchor, alongwith dravid, and GC wants him to bat as much time as possible to get match experience in that role. Sure, what better time to experiment that against Zim ? Also given that RD himself is a bit off lately.

    And why have Dhoni at the top when its clearly identified by team management (and rightly so) that his regular spot if lower down the order, as a late innings hitter. So let him get used to that role, which he did to near perfection here.

    Rao is the biggest case of hit-and-trial experiment. I think they are not sure where to put him, given his style of game, and they also want to give him fair time in the middle. And anyway if they had decided not to have Dhoni at the top, then the choice was JP or Rao. And I have a feeling we may yet see JP higher up next time round.

    And I agree all this does not look pretty, but the rebuilding process, IMO, is often thus. As long as the Indians can take it further from here, I'm all for it.

    By Blogger worma, at 04:11  

  • It doesn't matter whether India wins or looses to Kiwis in the next match. What is most important is the final match on 6th September. It has to be seen whether India will be able to reverse the trend and change their habit of loosing the all important final match. Kiwis are an excellent ODI side which bats up to the last man and they have Shane Bond in bowling and a super fielding outfit.

    By Blogger Dennis, at 04:23  

  • yeah dennis...we are not in the same league as the kiwis in ODIs...haven't been up there for some time now...it wud be a huge win if we can pull it off

    By Blogger worma, at 04:44  

  • Even if this india improves from here on, there is no guarantee the momentum will be sustained. Its just hard to fathom that in two years the ODI team has plumbed to such depths with practically the same personnel. I am glad the team has staunch supporters, but i just forsee bleak future for the ODI team.

    By Blogger sachin, at 08:36  

  • Worma...I think we are in the same league as the Kiwi's...The only difference between our teams is Mr.Bond and that lightning has already struck...This time the batsmen should some good against him or at the very minimun keep him at bay...If I may venture a bold prediction - I think we will win this tri-series..primarily due to our bowlers..

    By Blogger ilovecricket, at 09:08  

  • ilovecricket....I was talking in terms of 'overall ODI performance' in 'long term'(not just one match or one series). We are not in the same league as Nz by this criteria. Dont look at what the individuals are doing. Look at the team performance. And mind you, Nz have been retaining their high ODI ranking despite non-availability of Bond for almost a year, so their ODI setup is not overly dependent on individuals.

    Sure if you are talking of matching them in a 'single' match...then heck...we can beat them on any give one day. We have been capable of doing this 'one day' act for past 15 years or so :-)

    Only if we lift our game, as we did under Wright, we can be in the same league...i.e. a team consistently capable of challenging Nz, Eng, Aus, SL

    By Blogger worma, at 09:21  

  • Worma..Very true...However to lift our game up..we (the Indian Team) have now to inch out of the hole we have found ourselves in..and the only way to do that is taking each match as it comes...building confidence through winning or playing well in each match...winning this tri-series will be a much needed shot in the arm for us..I do believe we have the players to do it..we just need to click together..and hopefully GC will be the catalyst..

    By Blogger ilovecricket, at 09:30  

  • Yep..which is why I made my original comment above to Prem's post. That I dont agree that there was no positive from this game, and I dont agree that this was not the right approach to take. As you said, its a deep hole we are in, its not like Aus loosing a game to b'desh and coming back strongly next game onwards.

    By Blogger worma, at 09:34  

  • ..and this does not mean that we did everything right in the game itself...far from it, as SG himself said, improvment needed. But I saw a planned out tentative step in the right direction.

    By Blogger worma, at 09:36  

  • Worma...and that tentative step is quite heartening in itself...what is more heartening is to look at the bowlers..I think they are doing good in this trip so far..I will be watching the New Zealand game with a lot of interest to see how the batsmen now face up to Mr.Bond.

    By Blogger ilovecricket, at 09:44  

  • Prem,

    I'm not sure if you're going to get around to reading this, but there's something I've been noticing in your writing. You're very careful in your analysis of the bigger stars but less so when you're writing about the fringe players. For instance, you make sure that you treat the likes of Ganguly, Dravid, Sehwag with as much neutrality as possible (praising good performances and criticising bad ones) which is admirable, but how about making the same concession to a chap like Agarkar. The deal seems to be that because the aforementioned batsmen have a huge fan following (or atleast polarize opinion strongly), you are careful when criticising them too much (this is counterbalanced by the natural viewpoint of a critic). However, putting down Agarkar is easy, because most of us hate him for one reason or another. It seems as if you do that without any consideration. Case in point - this is a game where he bowled well, recovering from a bad outing on his first comeback game. Instead of saying that he bowled well or even just leaving the matter alone, you find a reason to put him down. I grant that he hasn't been the epitome of consistency since racing to 50 ODI wickets faster than any bowler ever did. But he seems to have turned over a new leaf since winning us the Adelaide test that Dravid and Laxman set up. True, he still has the odd bad day, but most of the time he has been a notch above the others, which goes unnoticed because M/s Zaheer and Pathan are leaking runs worse than a sieve and negating the effectiveness of Agarkar and the spinners (another thing I cannot comprehend is how someone like Anil Kumble, who's the best bowler in the side is not in the team; if it's because of his fielding, what're Ganguly and Nehra doing in the side?) I'm not going to talk about AA's batting because the poor guy has been pleading to whoever will listen that he is not an allrounder. But his fielding is better than anyone in the side, apart from Yuvraj and Kaif and certainly several notches above Zaheer and Nehra.

    How about treating him on a game-by-game basis? If he does badly in a game, by all means lambast him. But if he bowls well in a game, please give him the due credit.

    By Blogger Sudo Nima, at 11:59  

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