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Sight Screen

Thursday, September 08, 2005

India's needs...

...is the theme of Shane Bond's latest column.
But India still need a quality quick bowler who can also be a genuine batsman at number six spot. If you can have somebody like Chris Cairns and Jacob Oram, guys who are basically two cricketers in one, you would have a genuine advantage over others.

Fair enough, but -- and this is not bitter words in the hangover of defeat, merely something I have felt for a long time -- we might unearth a Kapil Dev tomorrow but we still will lose more than we win.
Because our real problem is not what we have and what we do not have; the glitch really is in the approach. The team needs, going in, to have a very good feel of who can do what, in what situation. It needs 11 players who are told what their jobs are -- overall, and on a match by match basis -- and who are held responsible for carrying out those assigned jobs. Above all, it needs to get out of the mindset of lamenting what it does not have, and maximising what it does.
Sound simple? Consider this: On the basis of what we have seen so far in Sri Lanka and here, would you say Mohammad Kaif has a clear idea what he is supposed to do? Is he the anchor, placed at number three so he can play to his single-taking strengths at one end, and let the others bat around him? Or is he supposed to score runs at the rate of knots, never mind if he gets out? He should be a pretty confused bloke around now -- he started off neat, joined Sehwag in setting a very smooth tempo, saw Sehwag and Dravid perish in one over, throttled back (wisely, I thought -- did we need wickets falling at both ends?) and looked to bat through -- and has been drawing flak for it. Duh!
Move down a pace -- what exactly is Rahul Dravid's role? At three, he knew he was there to anchor; at four, you don't need an anchor unless your number three is having an off day, you need instead a batsman who will lift the tempo. Is that really his job? Is he the one best fitted for it? (For instance, can he even keep that job if Sachin returns, fit and match-ready? No? Then what do you do with him -- move him back up to three and mess with Kai's head all over again?)
Is Venugopal Rao aware of what he is in the side to do? They named him all rounder when they picked him; he probably thought at the time that is what he is supposed to be. But then, how does he explain to himself, how does someone explain to him, why he has never bowled, except once? In fact, he is so little the all-rounder he is supposed to be, that he was supersubbed out before India took the field in the final -- ironically, on a pitch that suited spin, with even part timers looking unplayable.
You can go on, in this vein -- but hopefully, the point I am driving it is clear: the way to build a team is not to go 'We lack a good pair of openers, one decent middle order batsman, one all rounder, one wicket keeper, two fast bowlers and oh, maybe a spinner or two more would help'.
What I would like to see is some effort to examine, carefully, what we do have. To find the best possible slots for existing players sure of their place in the side. To then examine the slots left vacant, analyse the possibles for those slots, those roles, and thus build the team, brick by brick.
The way we are going about it now is, we have the same bricks. We place one here, right where the foundation is, and a moment later yank it out and go, duh, maybe the brick is better placed right on the very tippy-top... and maybe that brick, there, on the dome, is best buried underground.
Seems a rather peculiar way to build a team, you ask me.


  • I think this is where GC comes into picture. I expect him to materialize a change in this approach that team India has been adopting to build a team. And this certianly stems from our good old Board and its honorary selectors who force up their selections on the team management (and sometimes even the batting order and playing XI and...)
    Its too early but GC with suposedly all the powers bestowed on him should start making these changes (like the one Prem brings up) tangible.

    By Blogger Anand K, at 14:14  

  • Prem, i agree with anand to the extent that this is where GC comes into picture. isnt he supposed to do this, and as I commented yesterday, hasnt he asked for time to do this (esp these two series). Then why jump gun, let him figure out and lets wait for him to say 'ok now we have figured out the formula...come have a look' ? Or dont we trust him ?

    That also brings me to the second issue I raised in yesterdays comments, why this whole 'review' thing? What are we reviewing? Unless GC asked for it himself, its a disservice to him and to the judgement of those who selected him(ironically in the review committee) that we review the results of his actions when he clearly said its an experimental phase, and he clearly needs time?

    By Blogger worma, at 14:19  

  • Gautam Gambhir should be tried in ODIs as an opener. VS, GG, RD, SRT, MK, YS, JP Yadav, MSD or Dinesh Karthick, rest bowlers.

    SG will do a great deed to Indian
    cricket if he retires now.

    By Blogger Rajg, at 14:21  

  • Prem,

    Don't agree with your comment on Kaif. I think that has been one of the few successes of GC's plan. The youngster has now shown the capability of filling in some very big shoes- of Rahul Dravid. Everyone knows kaif is not capable of blasting the bowling like VS. He was and is expected to be an accumulator and innings builder. For long Dravid has been the only one performing the role and I am sure he will be glad if some of the pressure is off him in this regard.

    As you said "To find the best possible slots for existing players sure of their place in the side"- at this time Dravid and kaif both fit the bill fo rno. 3 but the fact is that Dravid has performed admirably at no. 4 and 5 too and at his senority I think he can handle being flexible in terms of match to match situation.

    Agree with your other comments specially about Rao- I am totally confused about his role right now. It seems GC has seen soomething good in him so wants to fit him somewhere but it has not been working- other mistakes we have recntly made have been discussed often so won't go into those again.

    A final thought is that I do see a method to GC's madness- I think he is trying to do what you said- make the best use of what is available- time willl only tell how brilliant he is in managing this but 2 things absolutely essential to succeed are:

    1. A constant thinking in terms of the future- serious back office work; observing domestic matches, spotting new talent and preparing them through serious cricket at domestic/junior level without bias (zonal, religious whatever): This is really wishful thinking but we cannot perform well consistenly without this

    2. Execution: After all the coaching strategies and back office work- ultimately the players have to perform responsibly on the field otherwise everything else is a failure

    By Blogger suraj, at 14:26  

  • Prem,

    Any chance you can move the name of the poster to the top of the post in the main blog page ? No offence meant to Worma, Ravi, Sujata et al, but most of us came to this blog because of you, and its your comments we look for first.


    By Blogger NB, at 14:28  

  • Prem...I got the answer to my query on 'why the review' from your other response already, thx. My only worry is that GC may not take this well...hope he doesn't take it the way I mentioned above...that the board called for a review despite his call for patience.

    By Blogger worma, at 14:29  

  • I for one is very skeptical about this review. (just look at some revies done in the past). I don't know whats the real intent of Ranbir and JD here?

    By Blogger Anand K, at 14:36  

  • Prem,
    You said what happens when sachin comes back fit and ready do we mess with kaif and dravid again....
    and again we come back to the same point, Ganguly goes, sachin slots in beside VS at the top and we dont mess with kaif, dravid, yuvi et al.

    By Blogger indiansportsfan, at 14:39  

  • anand,

    The real intent is cover up- everytime situation gets this bad there is announcemnet of some review, some action plan just to quite people down.

    Hope I have not become more skeptical than I should be but history has shown just that.

    if someone has insight- how does Ranbir's functioning compare to JD-is he more or less sincere in really making an effort and getting some politics out of this?

    By Blogger suraj, at 14:40  

  • Well said indiansportsfan- this would be the perfect scenario but don't count on it

    By Blogger suraj, at 14:41  

  • If approach and attitude is the problem
    Why doesnt the board ask for the services of Sandy Gordon?( Anyone remember him). What is appalling is the fact that the so called professional organization cannot see this. Or is it the money factor?

    By Blogger Sriram Vanamamalai, at 14:46  

  • bhupathi/hantuchova win US open mixed doubles title!

    By Blogger Tiger, at 14:56  

  • that's awesome

    By Blogger suraj, at 14:59  

  • sriram, you miss the point, the approach and attitude problem doesnt start with the 11 or 15 in the national squad, it starts at a much higher level, namely the board itself, if it didnt the A tours would be better, the domestic structure would be better, there would be more transparency etc etc etc

    By Blogger indiansportsfan, at 15:01  

  • :-) yep i was just going to post an off topic saying Hesh won yet another grand slam... its great

    By Blogger indiansportsfan, at 15:01  

  • in straight sets too!!!

    By Blogger suraj, at 15:01  

  • gr8 going by Hesh!

    By Blogger rp, at 15:04  

  • Well done Hesh and Hanutuchova...watched most of the 2nd set and really there was hardly any competition. This is really a great achievement by Bhupathi to win Wimbledon & US Open mixed doubles this year. Hantuchova has now won all 4 grand slams in doubles...haven't seen her play much singles. I guess her game is not that well-rounded. Uh, gotta say she is quite a cutie. ;)

    By Blogger ClannZú, at 15:15  

  • I dont know why you keep talking on Dravid batting at 3. Do you have any numbers to support his case that he did greatly at that position ever in his ODI career? His last few years success has come when he has mostly at number 4 or 5.
    I think GC finally has found right batting order. And by the end of this series it did start performing. Except for lower middle order failure in the final batting did quite well. Yes we should have scored 30-40 odd runs more if either of Dhoni, Yadav, Pathan had stick around. Only issue in batting order i see is position of Pathan. This guy should be used before yadav and Aggie.
    Another issue will come up when SRT makes a come back. Who we will drop? In all probability it will be Yadav as you dont need a 4th seamer in Indian conditions(thats where we are playing next few months). Best thing to do will be make Veeru play @4. His presence in the middle over will keep our run rate up. Middle overs have been our problem and this may solve it.
    SRT and SCG as openers have records backing them. And they should be given 8-10 games to prove their credentioals back. If they fail be can bring back Veeru.
    Also SRT & Veeru should be good enough to do the job of 5th bowler. And we should always have Kumble/karthik as our super sub in Indian conditions. So play with this team.


    Anchors: Kaif & Dravid (Should be told to never lose their wicket untill over 40. And dont stick around after that if not too many wickets have fallen)
    Hitters: Veeru, Yuvi, Dhoni & Aggie(yeah he can if he comes in last 5 overs). keeping Veeru in middle will also force opposition captains to use all three power play @ the start. Which means SRT and SCG can take advantage of it.
    Normal 80-90% Strike rate: SRT, SCG, Pathan

    By Blogger Vick, at 15:30  

  • As indiansportsfan suggested, if SG goes, there's no need to think of where to fit in SRT. And I dont think VS is best suited for the middle overs. The first ten overs definitely have field restrictions and VS is the best person in the team to make use of it.

    By Blogger Toney, at 16:00  

  • Ho hum boring "news", though I wonder if the word news is even appropriate
    Nehra out of Zim tests thru injury.. anyone surprised?

    By Blogger indiansportsfan, at 16:10  

  • I agree Suraj and share the same skepticism. Does someone have any conspiracy theory as to what Ranbir et all are going to achieve from this review? (and importantly how?) - remember this time they have formed a committee of non-BCCI ppl. Had it been in just a BCCI committee it would have been obivious that they are looking for some reason to target someone (or some following) within the team!

    For now, its not clear why all this?

    By Blogger Anand K, at 16:15  

  • Prem,

    It is annoying to see you deliberately misspell Sourav as Saurav. Obviously, you do NOT need a spell checker for doing this right!


    By Blogger dapolice, at 16:27  

  • Come on dapolice, what would he achieve by misspelling his name? This discussion is becoming hilarious.

    Gimme one good reason Prem will win anything by doing this.

    By Blogger suraj, at 16:44  

  • About the review. It is all cover up. Similar such populist action was "brainstorm for the dearth of spinners"

    Nothin comes out of such actions This is just a gimmick to lure the public.

    Someone mentioned Sandy Gordon. We can't be going to shrinks evrytime we lose. The players have to figure out a way to motivate themselve. (if playing for the nation is not enough)

    By Blogger Amit, at 16:56  

  • Unless we have accountability and transparency in Indian Cricket, there is no way we can improve. We will always be the team that fails to live upto its potential. We are a bunch of losers, that is why we always find a way to lose from winning postions consistently. I don't see any post mortem from the captain or coach, or self-analysis by players. That will be useful only if the players are honest enough to admit their mistakes or shortcomings. But the big EGOS that they have is stopping them from doing that. It took more than a year for SG to accept that his batting is getting worse ( Remember his, "I have an average of 40 + in ODIs" and "I have more than 10,000 ODI runs" comments ). I don't know how long it will take Harbhajan to realise that hw is not bowling well. We can have the best coach, best support staff etc etc, but it is ultimately the players who play and if they are not willing to improve, there is nothing much one can do. I know this has been a cliche, but most of the players think they are bigger than cricket.

    I would like to see Prem's response on this, if he is not too busy.

    By Blogger sv, at 16:58  

  • Have we wondered why Shane Bond (and Justin Langer earlier and a few others writing paper columns) are talking about Indian cricket? Why can't he talk about NZ cricket and his life and his comeback?

    Why meddle in others' affairs, possibly fuelling the fire???

    By Blogger RPM, at 17:07  

  • Amit, If the review is just a gimmick (all the BCCI actions are) then
    1. why do the review now in the midst of the season? (does BCCI really care about the growing dissent in the fans). I mean, BCCI could have just announced some superficial things like discussion with players, coach, some announcement of actions that they don't intend to follow, etc. My point is why the action?
    2. why appoint a non-BCCI committee and make it harder to keep it just as a gimmick.

    sv, yes, the players with their EGOs are definitely the part of the malaise. But all this stems from or is fueled by the great BOARD and its (un)professionalism that has been discussed a lot.

    By Blogger Anand K, at 17:20  

  • Anand K, Agreed the Board has to change and should be professional. But it is still the players that has to perform on the field. We cannot just blame the board for everything. Players need to have the hunger to do well and improve constantly. I don't see that happening. For example, taking the case of Harbhajan, he has not been bowling well for a while now. Has he taken any steps to rectify this? Has he tried anything different? Certainly, the board is not to blame for this. He has been provided with enough assistance for him to contribute. But why is he not doing so ?

    By Blogger sv, at 17:33  

  • Geez, debate on why I would "deliberately misspell" Ganguly's first name?


    Did a Google search -- and there seems to be as many Sauravs as Souravs out there.

    Then again, this could be the conclusive proof that I am anti the Indian captain. *L*

    By Blogger Prem Panicker, at 17:45  

  • The review appearss to be a sham and BCCI's way to deflect criticism from itself.
    BCCI chief sort of is defending ganguly -"the parent's" selection and yet wants a review?
    I think the review is more of a discipline action on few members.
    But that would suggest that SG cannot enforce discipline as a captain--off the field (in the nets).
    Does the BCCI have the power to dismiss the selection committee for its lack of ability to choose a team that can win finals?

    By Blogger rajan, at 17:58  

  • Why not have two diffent Indian teams - one for test matches and the other playing only ODIs? That will be a start in defining roles for everyone. There will be some, e.g, Sachin, Sehwag, Pathan, etc. who will be eligible for both forms. Others will play in one form, e.g., Dravid will be number 3 in test matches and Kaif will hold number 3 slot for ODIs. Thanks. -- Rajiv

    By Blogger Miyazaki, at 19:54  

  • LOL Prem abt the spelling

    By Blogger Toney, at 21:36  

  • good pair of openers, one decent middle order batsman, one all rounder, one wicket keeper, two fast bowlers and oh, maybe a spinner or two more would help

    Prem, IMHO, all of India's troubles seem to start with that "all rounder". For starters, a lot of us (starting with the board) seems to have lost track of the definition of an all rounder. Acc. to me, an all rounder is someone who will get into the team solely on the basis of his bowling or his batting alone, as the case may be. If one of the batsmen, say Dravid, is injured or something, this all rounder comes in solely as a batsman and should ideally not be required to bowl. However his bowling is a bonus and he can be banked on to bowl a few.
    At the same time, if a bowler cannot play, then the all rounder comes in solely as a bowler to bowl those 10 overs and the runs he gets is a bonus. Case at point, Chris Cairns or for that matter any "all rounder" that the other teams (incl. Pakistan) throw up!
    But, in India we have this idea that an all rounder will play as the 5th full bowler, bowl his full quota of 10 overs, take a few wickets and then ideally play a major role in the run scoring as the 6th batsman. In short we want Superman and we have seen where our search has gone!
    So the way to go is to either set our standards higher than it is now and look for that kind of person that the rest of the world calls an "allrounder" or ditch the all rounder and settle for a 5+5+1 option. And now that we have seen that Dhoni can throw his bat around (and keep decently too?), why should we look at another all rounder? Get 5 pure batsmen plus 5 pure bowlers and sandwich them around Dhoni at no.6 and persist with these guys for sometime! Saying that we dont have those numbers and that "we are not England" (What has the world come to?) is not going to solve things. We might as well play with the ones we have and hope they blossom into the batsmen and the bowlers we need.
    So essentially after meandering for so long, my point is that our search is misplaced! We don't need an allrounder!

    By Blogger anantha, at 22:03  

  • 5+5+1
    >>No team in currently follows it. Those days of playing with specialist bowlers are over. Most teams are playing with 3 or 4 bowlers these days. And even these bowlers are capable of thorwing the bat arround.
    India's recent problem in ODI has been because of not performing at same instensity in the whole game. We also dont play well in middle overs whether bowling or batting.
    Fine tuning these couple of problems should bring in better results.

    By Blogger Vick, at 22:50  

  • Do we have the guts?

    Do we have the guts to play 5 bowlers in a test match and play pathan at no 7 and say AA at No 8? This is a golden opportunity to try this combination in sachin's absense. but we won't. How can you make IP an all rounder by batting him at No. 10 in ODIs and No. 8 in tests? Give these guys the opportunity and if they fail help them out on their technique and batting skill fine tuning, approach to build an innings etc, no one became sucessful overnight not even freddie (look at his record for the the first4-5 years).
    bob simpson helped him lancashire and that is why he blossomed and is full filling his potential

    By Blogger Avinash, at 03:34  

  • Vick: Teams go into a match with three bowlers? Wow..I don't really agree with that. 4 bowlers, yes. Just 3 bowlers is taking it too much.
    But ya, that most countries don't do that "5+5+1" any more. But if their "5+4+1+1" is working, that is because that 1 all rounder can do either task really well. And we mostly seem to see the words "fifth bowler was hit out of the park" only when the bowling side is India. That might be because of un-intelligent bowling changes, the abilities of the bowlers in question, particularly those with the all-rounder tag around their necks plays no small part! Most teams don't even throw the ball to their all rounder till they find one of their major bowlers having a bad day on the field. Don't see that happening with India!

    By Blogger anantha, at 10:56  

  • Prem, my reading of Bond is that India needs a quality Quick bowler! There is ample supply of medium pacers and a quality quick bowler would enhance the effectiveness of the other pacers. A few could be tried in the A tours or warm up matches and given special coaching.

    I disagree with you about assigned jobs. Rather than being more rigid, India needs more flexibility. Each player should be able to (and have the skills to) play according to the situation. The young players have shown some desire to improve their skills. I would like to think they can achieve the desired flexibility India needs.

    In your example, Mohammad Kaif should have a clear idea of team goals. Placed at three, he ought to use the field restrictions wisely. Later, he should dictate terms by taking singles or by taking the boundaries if the runrate is getting too high. He can’t expect a new player (even a tailender) to make all the running. Take Kallis at three for SA. He has skills of a boundary player. He can occupy the crease and nudge singles. But once set, he can also increase the scoring rate. What happens if Kaif is unable to up the tempo when required- simply, the opposition would not mind if stayed in, and he will put the pressure on the new batsmen who has not had the luxury of settling down. The result is a sub-par score and another loss!

    Rahul Dravid at three is not good as he becomes very defensively minded (eg. in the league matches of WC2003 v Australia). Like Kaif, his job is to deliver according to the situation and team goals. Simple. Luckly he is more flexible at four and especially five. The reason for having him at three would be to counter the threat of losing early wickets on a seaming track. The older ball does less and allows the stroke player (and Dravid if he is still around) to go for quick runs.

    In a sense, India needs their YOUNG players to be more flexible (in scoring) and have the skills to play on all conditions and every type of bowling. In effect they need six Sachins. Compared to him, others are obvious faults.

    Kaif >>> usually unable to accelerate. Until recently, had lost concentration.
    Dravid >> becomes too defensive and often does not accelerate.
    Ganguly >> negative mentality and technically poor. Loses wicket when accelerating.
    Yuvraj >> obvious technical problems. Poor shot selection.
    Dhoni >> hit and miss against the new ball and not fully tested.
    Sehwag >> better than Sachin in hitting boundaries, but often does not build his innings after a good start.

    Rao obviously was not expected to justify his place on account of his bowling. Rao’s role cannot be defined- management wanted him to showcase his batting talent (ideally with good strokeplay). Why would any captain try out a rookies’ bowling in the final?

    My final thought is that in ODIs, the situation can develop exceptionally fast (ie. India 8 wickets down within 15 overs). Players need to be flexible in their approach and be accountable for the way they batted in the situations they find themselves. Limited players are not good ODI players.

    By Blogger IssaicN, at 15:42  

  • Speaking about all-rounders: for years, India has sought a competent wicketkeeper-batsman for its Test squad, going through over numerous failed candidates. Dhoni is doing well in ODIs but has not shown the adhesiveness to succeed at the test level. Dinesh Karthik has done nothing to suggest he is a long-term solution either.

    All this time, the selectors have inexplicably overlooked the man who has been the most consistent run-scorer in Indian domestic cricket - at any position - for the past 5 years or so. This man is Punjab's Pankaj Dharmani, who, by the way, is also excellent with the gloves as well. Another example of how little sustained attention they pay to domestic cricket.

    One might accept such foolishness given that India's selection process has been long been ruled by politics and indifference. But I expected things to change a bit when Greg Chappell was hired. Yet, while he is presumably responsible in part with infusing the team with new blood, he has inexplicably not made much of a case for Dharmani. Yes Dharmani is now 30 years old, but so is Jai Prakash Yadav, who was brought into the team but whose batting average is nearly 15 runs lower than Dharmani's.

    By Blogger sunki, at 18:17  

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