new zealand

Dhawan: Do I stay, or do I go?

Testing times….

Did we crown him the new Sehwag, too soon?

Shikhar Dhawan has all the flair and strokes that the Nawab of Najafgarh has; and after a dazzling debut innings much like Viru’s, hopes were high. A Man of the Series performance at the Champions trophy later, it was settled. Shikhar Dhawan was the new batting star.

Alas, reality has come crashing down.

Dhawan looks terribly out of sorts. If he fails in the remainder of this series, should Dhawan be persisted with? Would it mean the return of Gambhir? Or does India need to look to blood newbies? Jiwanjot Singh? Vijay Zol?

Personal opinion: Dhawan needs to be persisted with. At least for another series. He has the class and the ability. Take the case of Murali Vijay. Who would have thought at the onset of the South African tour that he would be the most reliable opener of the two? Give Dhawan the opportunity to redeem himself. If he still fails after enough chances, it might be time to look elsewhere.

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ICYMI – February Flashback

 

The lack of information on number of attempts to frame this tweet is disappointing

The lack of information on number of attempts to frame this tweet is disappointing

RETIRING IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

The day was coming, you would think. Given the increasing relevance of social media in cricket today, it was about time some player used Twitter or Facebook for something other than copy-pasting philosophical quotes and informing us what food they “smashed” recently. Kiwi batsman and pioneer freelance cricketer Lou Vincent drew curtains on a very unfulfilled career by  tweeting the ‘only’ useful stats us cricket fans are interested in and informed his followers about his decision. While scoring a century on debut in Perth against the likes of McGrath, Lee and Warner will remain as the highlight of his career, using all of his allotted 140 characters to tweet his retirement is no less feat.

“This is the face of ruthlessness. Fear me.”

FROM KING OF SPAIN TO RUTHLESS COACH OF ENGLAND  

England’s newest cricket coach, albeit only in the limited-overs version, Ashley Giles has made a promise to maintain a stiff upper lip while it comes to choosing the right combination of players for the Champions Trophy in June. With the success of their new star Joe Root, England are in a dilemma as to which player to leave out of their top order – KP, Trott, Bell, Morgan, Root. This is complicated by the fact that Trott and Bell are former team-mates of Giles at Warwickshire. My advice to Giles would be to ask himself the question – ‘What Would Dhoni Do’. Then go ahead and pick a combination that no expert will be able to understand. Also pick more Warwickshire players in the squad.

“Ineffective? Gulity as charged. You got me!”

THE CONTRASTING FORTUNES OF SINGH AND SUPER KINGS

MS Dhoni had a dream test at his second home, as India packed off the Aussies in the first test. He scored a double century and his spinners sealed the fate of Clarke and company. Dhoni, Ashwin and Jadeja rose to the occasion at a ground they should be knowing very well by now. On the other hand, Harbhajan Singh returned to the venue where he sealed a famous win against the same opponents 12 years ago, only to highlight his declining effectiveness, even on a helpful track against inexperienced batsmen. Harbhajan is now the Ashwin of two months ago, and Ashwin is now the Harbhajan of twelve years ago.

“I got the wicket of Harbhajan…that counts, right??”

CAN MOISES LEAD THE AUSSIES ACROSS THE INDIAN WILDERNESS?

Matthew Hayden, Michael Clarke and now Moises Henriques. If it is an Australian tour of India, you can rest assured that it will kick-start an Aussie cricketer’s career, or at least rejuvenate it as in the case of Hayden. While Clarke was always the known threat for the Indian bowlers, they wouldn’t have expected resistance from a 26 year old Portuguese born  cricketer playing his first test ever, let alone his first on the subcontinent. 280 balls faced, 149 runs scored, 11 fours and 2 sixes later, the Australian top order excepting Clarke might have just found a template on how to tackle spin for the remainder of the series. And no, you cannot request to “re-debut” against the Indians now.

“This international cricket is easy-peasy…yawn…”

A DIFFERENT KIND OF ABBOTT-ABAD

It is not even funny anymore. As if facing Steyn, Morkel and Philander is not bad enough as a batsman, there is a new South African pacer on the block. Kyle Abbott, all of 25 years and 38 first class games old, made a stunning debut against Pakistan, picking up 9/68 at the Centurion test.  Granted, it was against a brittle Pakistani line-up and his pace hovers in the mid-130s kph; but his modus operandi is very much similar to Philander, and look where the Vern is now. If there is any cheer for the opposition, they can breathe easy as Abbot is only the sixth choice bowler for the Saffers. Yup, with the likes of Steyn and Philander to terrorize you, why worry about him? Yet?

“You mistake me…I eat only the red ones!”

THE RETURN OF AFRIDI: THE SEQUEL TO THE TRILOGY

I don’t know which is funnier – that Shahid Afridi is making his umpteenth comeback or the words of chief selector Iqbal Qasim, “this is Afridi’s last chance and he has to perform”.

“Vaas” my name? It’s Chaminda

SRI LANKA IS “GETTING THE BAND BACK TOGETHER” 

Sanath Jayasuriya is chief selector, Chaminda Vaas is bowling coach and Muttiah Muralitharan is a special adviser. Hey Sri Lanka, the late 90s called and they wished you best of luck. After all, these are exciting times for the island nation, as they start afresh under new captains, and who better to show pointers than a bunch of cricketers who were responsible for their golden era?

“This knock should help….urm….uh….my team to win!”

CHRIS GAYLE TWITTER STAR

Gone are the good old days when Gayle garnered sympathy for his stand-off with the WICB. Now that he is back, he is expected to exhibit that annoying trait expected of any cricketer worth their salt – “consistency”. After a disastrous run over the last two series against Bangladesh and Australia, the Jamaican Hulk decided that he had enough, skipping the one day series against Zimbabwe to take a break. If you thought that Gayle takes this break to spend some quiet time with family or work on his game, you obviously don’t follow his Twitter account. It’s only a matter of time before he jumps ship and becomes a Reality TV star.

[This article was originally published in Sportskeeda on February 28, 2013]

11 Thoughts on Cricket from January

The first month of 2013 is almost over, and already it has shown signs of what to expect in the coming months. Here are 11 stray thoughts on the month that is (not quite) gone by:

1. NEW ZEALAND IS THE NEW WEST INDIES 

"If that is true, we will win the next T20 World Cup...huzzah!"

“If that is true, we will win the next T20 World Cup…huzzah!”

Get bowled out for scores of 45 and 121 en route to a crushing Test series loss to the Saffers before turning the tables on the hosts during the ODI series, which included a 1 wicket heist in the opener (from 105/7 while chasing 209) and a match winning ton from future great Kane Williamson in the second game. Only a last ball six from McLaren in the third game prevented a series whitewash. The average Kiwi supporter must have gone through the full range of emotions possible, in the past month.

2. MIKE HESSON IS THE NEW JOHN BUCHANAN

"That is a low blow, Mr Bullet"

“That is a low blow, Mr Bullet”

Problems with team’s star player and favorite punching bag for all? Check. It makes perfect sense that the former Australia coach is responsible for Hesson’s appointment as New Zealand coach.

3. ENTER THE FAF

"Move over Jacques, there is a new rock in town"

“Move over Jacques, there is a new rock in town”

In the span of three months, Faf du Plessis has gone from being a replacement in the Test squad and a fringe player in LOIs, to a certainty in all formats of the game. It culminated in him becoming captain of the ODI side in their series against New Zealand after de Villiers copped a ban for slow over rate in the first game. Despite the loss, he is already being talked of as future captain in all three formats. This proves that good things happen to those who play for Chennai Super Kings.

4. DE KOCK WILL GIVE ‘RISE’ TO NEVER ENDING PUNS

"The name is de Kock. The 'de' is silent"

“The name is de Kock. The ‘de’ is silent”

South Africa’s newest member and interestingly named Quinton de Kock is a talented and hard-hitting batsman, who is capable of keeping the momentum flowing at the top of the order. As a keeper, his soft hands and ability to let the balls come to him instead of grabbing at it make him a valuable addition to the team. Any puns detected in the previous sentences were intended.

5. MAHELA IS THE PAST, ANGELO IS THE PRESENT AND PERERA IS THE FUTURE

"Bad boys..bad boys..what you gonna do? what you gonna do? when they come for you......"

“Bad boys..bad boys..what you gonna do? what you gonna do? when they come for you……”

Dilshan, Sangakarra and Jayawardene are on their way out; but Lankan fans need not despair as the next generation take over. In Angelo Mathews and Thissera Perera, they have their next stars who seem destined for great things. Nerveless batting, attacking bowling and electric fielding – they are the new age cricketers, as it was always meant to be.

6. TO ROTATE OR NOT TO ROTATE, THAT IS THE QUESTION

"Psst...Mickey...don't look now...but the KFC sponsor guy is coming over and he doesn't look happy"

“Psst…Mickey…don’t look now…but the KFC sponsor guy is coming over and he doesn’t look happy”

If it’s Australia and January, it is ‘talk about rotation policy’ time. Last year, India took the heat for theirs, and now it is the turn of Clarke’s men…or Bailey’s. Their one day series against Sri Lanka ignited a fresh debate over the polarizing topic, throwing up references to A-teams and B-teams and free publicity for McDonalds after a bizarre put-down of George Bailey by the Channel 9 chief. Lost in all this hullabaloo was Phil Hughes’ impressive start to his ODI career, Kulasekara’s deadly bowling and a farcical abandonment of the 4th ODI. At the end of it all, the debate over rotation continues to rage.

7. THE WORST BEST DEATH BOWLER IN ONE DAY INTERNATIONALS

"The Girl with the Ridiculous Tattoos"

“The Girl with the Ridiculous Tattoos”

He is supposedly the death overs specialist for the number one ODI team in the world (before the conclusion of the series against India). Like Shakira’s hips, statistics don’t lie though: In 22 ODIs, Jade Dernbach has 30 wickets at an economy rate of 6.28, which is the highest for any international bowler who has bowled over a thousand deliveries; and this is the same man, Nasser Hussain said that India would desire to have in their side. No thanks, Nass. We already have Sreesanth.

8. JOE ROOT IS THE REAL DEAL

"Size doesn't matter"

“Size doesn’t matter”

After playing a supporting role in England’s historic Test series win in India last year, Root took the center stage for the English in the ODI leg of the tour. He emerged as the find of the series for them as his reliable batting and disciplined bowling was all they could take away at the end of it all. Unlike a few others in the side, he seems grounded and is set for greater things ahead.

9. ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK

"Next stop...Test cricket!"

“Next stop…Test cricket!”

Positives: India won an ODI series against previously top-ranked side after a disappointing loss to Pakistan earlier, and in the process found quality seamers in Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Shami Ahmed, while reiterating Suresh Raina’s value to the team.

Not-so positives: Gambhir continues to throw away starts, Kohli’s purple patch is over, Rahane and Yuvraj appear clueless against pace and spin respectively, Rohit booked his place for the next year after a solitary fifty while Pujara warms the bench till Tiwary returns.

10. WHAT IS ASHWIN?

"Pictured: Highly intelligent player who talks a good talk. Not pictured: An Indian spinner the opposition dread to face"

“Pictured: Highly intelligent player who talks a good talk.
Not pictured: An Indian spinner the opposition dread to face”

When Ashwin came on to the scene, most Indian fans breathed a sigh of relief that an alternative to Harbhajan Singh was found. After disciplined performances in LOIs, he made a stunning entry into Test cricket by decimating the West Indians and Kiwis at home. That was as good as it got. Against England on the subcontinent, he has failed in Tests, T20s and now ODIs to pose a threat to an opposition ripe for the picking, as he has been comfortably out-bowled by ordinary bowlers like Tredwell and Root. It’s a matter of time before the Indian selectors and management decide if they want to persist with Ashwin in their plans – as a batsman who can bowl part time spin. In that case, the Turbanator can confidently say, “I’ll be back”.

11. MOVE OVER SHIV, TAG IS IT

"The cricketing world waits with bated breath to see if the gene for the crab stance has carried over"

“The cricketing world waits with bated breath to see if the gene for the crab stance has carried over”

From the maker of countless bore-athon knocks apart from the odd whirlwind ton in Tests, comes “Chanderpaul 2: Tagenerine”. Junior is said to be a carbon copy of his illustrious father, and as he makes his first class debut for Guyana at the tender age of 16, the WICB will hope that he turns into a future star capable of saving many Test matches for the team.

 

 

Indian Cricket on the Road to Somewhere

0-8. Never forget.

Over the course of two tours, to England and Australia, Indian fans were treated to soul crushing and legend shattering performances from the team, as the number 1 ranking was surrendered, and then the retirements of long-time servants of Indian cricket were hastened. Indian cricket was well and truly forced into the transitional phase, which it kept talking about for years, but never really took any steps towards it.

That is why, the series against New Zealand raised a lot of interest and expectations towards how India is going to plan ahead. With tough home series against England and Australia, and an overseas assignment against the current number 1 team to follow, the situation called for some bold and visionary thinking from the selectors to pick a squad keeping the future in mind.

Well, if you know anything about Indian cricket and its selectors, you know what was always the most likely thing to happen. Kris Srikkanth and gang opted for the safe route and picked pretty much the same squad which had been failing overseas, but could be trusted to deliver in home conditions. Retirements forced the hand of the selectors, allowing come-back opportunities for Che Pujara and Suresh Raina, but there seemed to be no tangible measures taken in response to the drubbing in two consecutive overseas tours.

On the basis of the two Tests against the Kiwis, most of the issues remain un-resolved. I’m going to take a look at some of them and give my ideas about how to tackle it.

The opening conundrum

When Gambhir and Sehwag notched a 50 run partnership in the second innings of the Bangalore test, it was their first in 12 innings. It is hard to believe that this is the same pair, who just a couple of years back, formed one of the best opening pairs in international cricket. They were instrumental in India’s rise to the top of the rankings, and it is not a surprise that India’s fall coincides with a decline in their performances. Of late, Gambhir seems to be more assured in the shorter formats than in Tests, and his dismissals mirror that fact. He keeps edging deliveries to the slip cordon while trying to run the ball down to third man, and for an opener that kind of misjudgment is career suicide. All the qualities which made him one of the best openers in Indian cricket history, seem to be in short supply and it doesn’t help that his partner is going through a similar crisis himself.

Sehwag has never been a conventional opener and his success to date has defied belief. He averages over 50, has two triple tons apart from several other big centuries, and gives rapid fire starts just about every time he gets into a groove – all this despite a very unorthodox batting style bordering on the very definition of risk. Most of the time, he gets out to a poor shot and immediately is excused, saying “that’s the way he plays”. Unfortunately, nowadays we are treated to short cameo knocks from Sehwag before he gifts his wicket away, and coupled with Gambhir’s inconsistency, his inability to play the big innings he is famous for, is starting to cause headaches for India at the top.

So what is the solution? Can we afford to drop either or both Gambhir and Sehwag? Should India stick with them, trusting and hoping, that the proven performers will shine against England and Australia?

Personally, if there was any time to drop either opener and blood new batsmen, it was the series against a low profile team like New Zealand. With England dropping in soon, it is unreasonable to expect a replacement to perform immediately against quality opposition, when under a lot of pressure. The next best step is to give the pair another go, against England and hope they regain their appetite for huge knocks. If it doesn’t work, it is time for the team to take a leap of faith and try new players, regardless of reputation. Pujara and Kohli are good examples of youngsters who have grabbed their opportunities to replace batsmen who were considered irreplaceable till recently, and there is no reason why the likes of Rahane or Mukund can’t do the same.

The middle-order blues

While two batsmen established themselves firmly in the plans for the upcoming contests, Sachin Tendulkar and Suresh Raina had a forgettable series against the Kiwis, despite looking good in patches. Tendulkar is the last of the old guard and while he may resist any overtures, his time is drawing to a close. It is a just a matter of, how he is going to leave the game – in a blaze of glorious run-scoring or a series of painful torturous innings. On the other hand, Raina is still trying unsuccessfully to convince everyone that he can handle Test cricket. These are two batsmen at different stages of their careers, but at a time when the team is going through a metamorphosis, the management has to decide whether they figure in their long term plans.

In the case for Tendulkar, his experience is invaluable considering the newly re-modeled middle order is still finding its feet. While the manner of his dismissals in the series indicate a slowing of reflexes, I have seen many a Tendulkar slump before an inevitable deluge of run scoring silences the critics. He is a proud cricketer who will be hurting from the whitewashes in England and Australia, and I wouldn’t put it past him to raise his game one last time against high quality opposition.

As for Raina, he’s got to go. The likes of Rahane, Badrinath and Tiwary will wonder what else they can do to get a place ahead of him, considering his inferior record in first class cricket. Despite a scratchy fifty in the first innings of the Bangalore Test, his dismissal in the second innings confirmed the fact that he does not have the temperament to be consistent in this format. If he continues to be in the XI, England and Australia are bound to feast on him. This should perhaps be the easiest decision to take for Dhoni, when the next series starts.

The captaincy question

While many agree that MS Dhoni is one of the finest skippers in international cricket when it comes to the short forms, the opinion is more divided when it comes to Tests. The arguments are mainly ‘he is too defensive’ and ‘he doesn’t deserve a place in the XI’. They have some merit, but are they really viable at this stage?

Yes, Dhoni was captain during the two disastrous tours, but would any other captain have made a difference? If your batsmen experience a collective loss in form and your bowlers cannot maintain a consistent line and length, it wouldn’t matter if you were Mike Brearley. Apart from that, there are no quality alternatives at this stage. Gambhir and Sehwag are not in the best of form, and Kohli is too raw. Instead, it would be wise to groom Kohli for the captaincy, so that there is a smooth transition at the appropriate time, at least when it comes to leadership. At the moment, Dhoni is still our best bet as he commands respect and more importantly, with his performances in this series, no one can ask questions of his place in the team…for now.

Whither the fast bowlers?

India has never been known for producing quality speed merchants, or for that matter any pace bowler who can compete with the best in the world. Despite that, India had two decent options this series in Zaheer Khan and Umesh Yadav. Thanks to the spinners, they didn’t really have to do much apart from taking the shine off the ball and occasionally coming on, to provide the spinners some respite after long spells. That is why it was disappointing to see their underwhelming performances, even in limited roles.

Zaheer Khan is in a steady decline at the moment. He is no more the bowler he was at his pomp, and at the moment, its his guile and experience which still warrants him a place in the side. It is up to the team management to use him wisely in the coming months, as contests against quality teams are lined up. Stop using him in ODIs and T20s; preserve him for the Tests. Use him to mentor the youngsters; and given the way, Yadav bowled in the series, he has his work cut out.

Umesh Yadav was one of the rare positives from the ill-fated tour down under, and much is expected from him. Unfortunately, his pace seems to have dropped off a little and he still has trouble with control. Given that Ishant Sharma faces the same issues and the remaining reserve of fast bowlers are even more inexperienced, there doesn’t seem to be any easy solution on hand.

This is where the role of bowling coach Joe Dawes is amplified. By this time next year, India may have to depend on a completely fresh pack of fast bowlers  and it is imperative that between now and then, the management identify who they think are going to stick around for a long time and prepare them for the long haul. If India are serious about retaining their number 1 ranking, they can ill afford to neglect their fast bowling resources.

To summarize,

  • Give Sehwag and Gambhir one more chance during the England series. If they continue to fail, bite the bullet and blood replacements for them.
  • Tendulkar’s presence is vital for the team till the South African tour to provide experience and guide the freshly re-modeled middle order. Raina has run out of chances, and it is time to try someone else.
  • MS Dhoni remains our best option when it comes to captaincy. Make Kohli the permanent vice-captain and groom him for leadership in the future.
  • Manage Zaheer wisely and build a good reserve of fast bowlers.

Indian cricket is notorious for its disregard to planning ahead and taking corrective measures. Here is hoping that there is someone in the Indian cricket hierarchy, who can look past the eye-pleasing win over New Zealand  and identify the short-comings. Then, hopefully we won’t need to experience anything as painful and harrowing as an 0-8 score line.

Never forget.

What I learned from the Hyderabad Test

  • MS Dhoni’s improved luck with winning the toss continues.
  • Sehwag ‘s role in the Test team has been modified to be a pinch hitter at the top, and to take the occasional sharp catch, which he can boast about to the press after the game.

  • Tendulkar’s strike rate in the only innings indicated that he was trying his best to ensure that the Indian team did not miss Dravid’s absence.

“…but, how did you know??”

  • Raina has devised a new solution to deal with his perceived weakness against short balls: – Get out to spinners.
  • Pujara is bringing ‘Che’ back in to pop culture.

  • Ravi Ashwin has been working extra hard on his fitness, apparently. When he bent down to take a sharp catch from Jeetan Patel’s blade in the first innings, the surprised expressions on the faces of his team-mates was something to behold.

  • Umesh Yadav and Zaheer Khan duly made up the numbers as they pretty much had to take the shine off the new ball and hand it over to the spinners.
  • Oh, and apparently all the New Zealand batsmen have been watching the ‘Learn to bat like Chris Martin’ DVD.

Nobody does ‘bowled’ like Chris Martin

Where Them Future Stars At

Peter Roebuck recently wrote an article on CricInfo, asking a simple question – ‘Who are cricket’s future greats?’. Unfortunately, apart from a statistical look at the modern greats and an expressed fear for the future, he didn’t really talk about any future stars in particular. So, I decided to make up a list of players from each Test playing nation, except Bangladesh, whose progress I am following and who I feel are more likely to be international cricketers of great caliber in the next ten years or so.

PS: I apologize in advance for the mangled statistics table!

KANE WILLIAMSON

Country: New Zealand

Age: 20 years

                Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 4s 6s Ct St
Tests 5 9 0 299 131 33.22 698 42.83 1 2 28 0 1 0
ODIs 15 14 2 352 108 29.33 514 68.48 1 0 22 3 3 0
First-class 29 49 2 1998 192 42.51 3732 53.53 6 9 242 12 27 0
List A 46 43 10 1537 108* 46.57 2054 74.82 4 7 105 15 18 0

I noticed Williamson for the first time during a nondescript tri-series in Sri Lanka last year. It was his debut series and he looked so out of depth at the international level that I wondered what the fuss was all about, as he was touted as the next big thing in New Zealand cricket by the experts; but it was during the Test series against India later, when I was won over. The way he tackled the spinners and batted with a calm assurance indicated a mature head, and while tours of South Africa and England will be challenging in their own right, I foresee a great future for him; I wouldn’t be too surprised if he is the Kiwi captain when the 2019 World Cup rolls around.

DINESH CHANDIMAL

Country: Sri Lanka

Age: 21 years

          Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 4s 6s Ct St
ODIs 4 4 2 143 111 71.50 168 85.11 1 0 9 5 4 1
T20Is 5 4 0 59 29 14.75 58 101.72 0 0 2 2 0 0
First-class 33 52 7 2733 244 60.73 3653 74.81 9 13 306 56 62 11
List A 42 41 5 1010 111 28.05 1266 79.77 1 8 73 25 35 2

Early last year, when India sent a weakened team to Zimbabwe under Suresh Raina for a pointless ODI tournament involving the host nation and Sri Lanka, they had their bottoms forcefully kicked by both teams. Apart from that, I remember the tri-series for a brilliant century by Chandimal against the Indians in just his second ODI innings. Later, I found that he has a stellar record in First class cricket, while there is scope for improvements in the short formats. Still, he has impressed many with his attitude and leadership skills right from the U-19 stage; and with the likelihood of Sri Lanka losing the services of stalwarts Sanga, Jayawardene and Dilshan in the next few years, the spotlight is going to be focused on him for the foreseeable future.

RILEE ROUSSOUW

Country: South Africa

Age: 21 years

               Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 4s 6s Ct St
First-class 39 69 1 2967 319 43.63 4675 63.46 9 13 431 22 45 0
List A 48 47 2 1656 131 36.80 1786 92.72 4 9 186 24 26 0

I have to admit that I have not seen much of his actual game, but in the few matches I have seen him play for his domestic team, he has looked the part of a quality player. I noticed him first during the 2008 U-19 World Cup where he turned in some decent performances, and then saw him again during the initial Champions League T20; and I came away with the feeling that he is steadily improving as a player. He could very well turn out to be a major batsman in Gary Kirsten’s new Proteas. Like the previous players in this list, he has every chance of becoming the future captain of his country.

BEN STOKES

Country: England

Age: 20 years

                Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 4s 6s Ct St
First-class 26 38 5 1541 185 46.69 5 5 16 0
List A 19 19 3 509 150* 31.81 540 94.25 1 2 40 14  5 0
                   Mat Inns Balls Runs Wkts BBI BBM Ave Econ SR 4w 5w 10
First-class 26 32 1398 1046 28 6/68 7/145 37.35 4.48 49.9 2 1 0
List A 19 9 236 207 14 4/29 4/29 14.78 5.26 16.8 1 0 0

Stokes fulfills the first criteria to become an English player – He was born outside the country 🙂 …. specifically in New Zealand, where his father played rugby for the Kiwis. Once he moved to England and started playing cricket though, people started to take notice. Like most others in this list, I noticed him first during the last U-19 World Cup, where he scored a century against India. Apart from being an aggressive batsman, he is also more than a handy performer with the ball; he has already put in some eye-catching performances this season before a dislocated finger brought an early end to his season. Still, he looks to be the most promising young cricketer in England and it seems to be a matter of time before he makes his debut for the senior English team.

ABHINAV MUKUND

Country: India

Age: 21

          Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 4s 6s Ct St
First-class 40 61 3 3446 300* 59.41 6207 55.51 13 9 435 17 29 0
List A 28 28 1 1550 130 57.40 1869 82.93 5 10 151 10 16 0

Such is the strength of the Chennai Super Kings, that they could afford to leave out one of the best batsmen in the country from the playing XI throughout their victorious campaign. Mukund is well known throughout the domestic circuit for his gluttonous appetite for runs. Along with his opening partner Murali Vijay, he has decimated many a new ball attack in the country. For his consistent performances throughout the last two seasons, he has won himself a place in the Indian Test squad to the West Indies in the absence of Sehwag and Gambhir. Don’t be too surprised if he edges out Vijay for the third opener’s slot when the two return to take their places.

JAMES PATTINSON

Country: Australia

Age: 21 years

                Mat Inns Balls Runs Wkts BBI BBM Ave Econ SR 4w 5w 10
First-class 6 11 1156 560 19 4/52 5/76 29.47 2.90 60.8 2 0 0
List A 15 15 760 659 26 6/48 6/48 25.34 5.20 29.2 0 1 0

It would be an understatement to say that there are not enough quality bowlers out there today. It doesn’t look too bright for the future as well. One bowler who might prove to be the odd exception is James Pattinson. While his elder brother shot to prominence first with an infamous debut for England in 2008, it was always the younger Pattinson who was being talked up as a future star. With the gift of swing, he is slowly working his way up the ranks, from the U-19 side for his state, to the Australia U-19 to Australia A, and now to the senior squad. Even as Australia struggle to retain top position in the international rankings, they would do very well to look at a fresh crop of players, with none more promising than the young Pattinson.

JUNAID KHAN

Country: Pakistan

Age: 21 years

                Mat Inns Balls Runs Wkts BBI BBM Ave Econ SR 4w 5w 10
ODIs 7 7 288 223 9 4/12 4/12 24.77 4.64 32.0 1 0 0
T20Is 1 1 12 15 0 7.50 0 0 0
First-class 35 63 7110 3562 167 7/46 13/77 21.32 3.00 42.5 6 13 3
List A 34 34 1590 1279 46 4/12 4/12 27.80 4.82 34.5 3 0 0

Who else but a fast bowler would be the most promising young cricketer for Pakistan? While I would have normally gone for Mohammed Amir, I will settle for a less controversial choice in Junaid Khan. Like Amir, he is a left arm pace bowler who has been turning heads with his impressive ability for pace, swing and success in the domestic scene. Playing for the now famous province of Abbottabad, who are supposedly one of the weaker teams in Pakistan, he has built up an impressive reputation for himself. It was going to be only a matter of time before he made his debut for the senior side, and sure enough, he made his debut in ODI colors against West Indies a couple of months ago. His performance in that series indicate that with the right guidance and care, he can turn out to be one of the best fast bowlers in international cricket within the next few years. As long as Ijaz Butt and cronies don’t come up with an ingenious way to screw his career too.

DARREN BRAVO

Country: West Indies

Age: 22 years

              Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 4s 6s Ct St
Tests 5 8 1 313 80 44.71 767 40.80 0 4 30 6 1 0
ODIs 26 23 3 635 79 31.75 872 72.82 0 4 46 15 3 0
T20Is 3 3 0 83 42 27.66 75 110.66 0 0 9 2 0 0
First-class 23 35 2 1231 111 37.30 3 6 22 0
List A 48 44 6 1491 107* 39.23 2 10 10 0

Even if you have not been following West Indies cricket for the last year or so, you might be knowing that Darren Bravo bats like his famous relative Brian Lara. Fortunately for him, he has a decent record at both First class and Test level to back that fame…somewhat. While his half brother Dwayne has been an integral part of the senior side for a while now, Darren has earned a name for himself on the international scene only in the last two years. While his domestic records don’t scream run machine, his short stint in Tests and ODIs so far, indicate there is substance beneath the style. At the moment, he is not in the best of form, but for a team which comprises of batsmen who struggle to cope with quality international bowlers, his progress to a fully fledged champion batsman can’t come soon enough.

Letter to South Africa

So near and yet so far...

Oh South Africa. Your best chance in 19 years to win the World Cup and you ‘Faf-fed’ it. I am not going to say that you choked; because everyone else will, anyway.

This was your year. You had it all. Two of the world’s in form One day batsmen. A world class all rounder and a tough captain. You had two of the world’s most feared fast bowlers. To top it off, you even had three different kinds of spinners! Most importantly, they even managed to turn the ball…

You rolled over all opposition in the league stages, except for England. In fact, the only two games you struggled were the one against England and in the close win against India. Still, everyone believed that they were aberrations. That this was the World Cup where you could go all the way. After all, you have managed to get knocked out of major ICC tournaments in every possible way. Get knocked out due to bizarre rain rule. Check. Get knocked out due to bizarre understanding of bizarre rain rule. Check. Get stuffed by a team who rarely win any games. Check. Come within one run of a final, and then lose your head in a ridiculous run out. Check. Only the 2007 World Cup semi final loss was the result of a superior team having its own way with you. Still, you managed to make it easy for them with some daft shot selections.

So what could you possibly do this time? You had an easy quarterfinal match lined up with the Kiwis, who had 5 overs of mayhem against Pakistan to thank for their one meaningful victory in the league stages. Their big players were coming off injuries, and they could have been forgiven for just wanting to compete with you on an even scale before getting knocked out. It was no horror pitch, even as it was slow; and the bowlers were disciplined while not threatening. Their fielding was brilliant, but it was always going to be the case.  There was no sane person outside New Zealand, who would have predicted that you could screw this up.

Well, as it turned out, you did. From 108/2 to 172 all out, it was the same old story. In 1999, I watched with disbelief and shock as you squandered a golden opportunity for your first World Cup triumph. This time, I watched with resignation and a little amusement as you contrived to do it again. While I was not as gutted for you as I was then, it was still sad to see the best team in the competition go out.

What now? Who is going to take over the ship? Smith did a fine job for the last 8 years, and he can hold his head high; but someone else will have to stand up, and start from square one. As much as you hate the term ‘chokers’, there is only one way that it ever gonna go away. Win a World Cup.

Well played guys, and thanks for the entertainment against England, India and New Zealand. Cheers!

Yours truly,

tracer007

The polls are in..

Hello World…So, I have been away from cricket for a few days attending to non-cricket matters; and when I return, I see that apart from a Sehwag thumping, a Lankan mauling and a couple of other Associates-bashing matches, I didn’t miss much.

Anyway, I was checking my blog stats when I was stunned to see that my World Cup preview post had got a total of 3,844 hits since it was published on Feb 2, and that the highest number (765) was on the day before the World Cup opener. Still, only about 196 people voted in the opinion poll as to who will lift the trophy on April 2, and this is what I learnt.

  • India lead the way, with 44 percent believing that they will win; I suspect this is more out of optimism than anything else.
  • There is a broad consensus that a subcontinent team will lift the trophy, as the 2nd, 3rd and 4th placed are Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
  • Shockingly, South Africa only got 8 votes, which is a vast underestimation of their ability and overestimation of their choking skills.
  • Australia and West Indies got three votes each, with England getting just two. When West Indies are given more of a chance to lift the trophy than England, there is something wrong somewhere.

What?? You can't be serious!!

  • New Zealand got no takers, while there is at least one person who believes that any one of the associate nations can walk away with the trophy.

Anyway, the World Cup is just getting warmed up, and predictably it is the minnows who are facing most of the heat; but a week of interesting clashes is coming up – South Africa vs West Indies, Australia vs New Zealand, Sri Lanka vs Pakistan and India vs England. It will provide the earliest indicator of which teams are serious contenders for the title.

ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 – A Preview and Opinion Poll

The World Cup is finally upon us! The premier ODI competition which comes around every four years and confers bragging rights as the World Champion in that format is being held this time in the subcontinent, which should heavily favor teams such as India, Sri Lanka and dare I say, Bangladesh. Despite the arrivals of the World T20 championships, IPL, Champions League and doubts over the future of ODIs, the World Cup continues to stay relevant as it has for the last four decades; for the simple reason that it has history behind it, and that present day cricketers grew up watching their heroes battling it out in the biggest stage of their days. So, the competition will be intense, and the players have the chance to make/break their careers based on their performances. Without much further ado, here are the chances of the 9 Test playing nations based on their team composition:

SRI LANKA

The squad:

Kumar Sangakkara (capt & wk), Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Upul Tharanga, Thilan Samaraweera, Chamara Silva, Chamara Kapugedera, Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Dilhara Fernando, Muttiah Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis, Rangana Herath.

My starting XI:

Dilshan-Tharanga-Sangakarra-Jayawardene-Samaraweera-Mathews-Perera-Herath-Kulasekara-Malinga-Muralitharan

Player to watch:

Angelo Mathews

Chances:

One of the best placed teams to win the tournament. They have the ingredients needed to go all the way through: an attacking opening combination, two world class middle order batsmen, power packed allrounders who can win a game with either bat or ball, a spin legend in home conditions, tricky combination of sling, seam and pace and the best Asian fielding, to boot. Anything less than an entry to the Final should be considered a failure.

INDIA

The squad:

MS Dhoni (capt & wk), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel, Piyush Chawla, R Ashwin

(Edit: Praveen Kumar replaced with S Sreesanth)

My starting XI:

Tendulkar-Sehwag-Gambhir-Kohli-Yuvraj-Dhoni-Pathan-Harbhajan-Khan-Patel-Nehra

Player to watch:

Yusuf Pathan

Chances:

The last time India played in a World Cup at home, the campaign ended in tears at Kolkata in the semi-finals. This time, nothing short of winning the tournament will do for thousands of cheering, crazy fans. They have one of the most balanced teams in the fray with a power-packed batting order and a canny bowling attack. In home conditions, expect the likes of Yuvraj, Dhoni and Pathan to play some big innings, and for Harbhajan and Zaheer to be among the wickets. The team as a whole, will be under a lot of pressure; but in Dhoni, they have one of the calmest skippers in the game; and they would love to win the Cup for Tendulkar in what could be his last outing in a tournament which he has owned since 1992.

SOUTH AFRICA

The squad:

Graeme Smith (capt), Hashim Amla, Johan Botha, AB de Villiers (wk), JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Colin Ingram, Jacques Kallis, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn, Imran Tahir, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Morne van Wyk (wk)

My starting XI:

Amla-Smith-Kallis-de Villiers-Duminy-Ingram-du Plessis-Botha-Morkel-Steyn-Tsotsobe

Player to watch:

Dale Steyn

Chances:

With the team they have, they can go as far as the semifinals. After that, it is all a matter of coping with the pressure of doing what no other SA cricket team has done before – not screw it up! They have a fearsome pace attack and a couple of batsmen in good nick, but the likes of Smith, de Villiers, and the spinners will have to do their part if they want to make Smith’s last ODI assignment as skipper, memorable. This is one of their best opportunities to shake off the ‘C’ tag once and for all.

AUSTRALIA


The squad:

Shane Watson, Brad Haddin (wk), Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey, David Hussey, Cameron White, Tim Paine (wk), Steven Smith, John Hastings, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Hauritz, Brett Lee, Shaun Tait, Doug Bollinger.

(Edit: Michael Hussey and Nathan Hauritz replaced with Callum Ferguson and Jason Krejza)

My starting XI:

Watson-Haddin-Ponting-Clarke-Ferguson-White-D Hussey-Smith-Johnson-Lee-Bollinger

Player to watch:

Shane Watson

Chances:

It is typical of the Australian team, that when you start to write off their chances, they come back with a fighting performance, as they did recently against England. They are ranked number 1 in the world, but I don’t give them much chance of reaching the semis, as their selections are flawed and they have injury concerns regarding their main players. Their only spinner who was good, is injured and the remaining one in the squad is not fit to be in the squad either for his batting or bowling. Their batting is prone to collapse, and the bowling attack is comprised of players who are too injury prone. They will make it to the quarters, but hard to see them progressing beyond that. Still, it is the World Cup, and the last time Australia was beaten in a WC encounter was more than a decade ago! They have a proud record to maintain, and it might yet see Ponting and his men cock a snook at their detractors. Unlikely, but possible.  Also, this will be the last hurrah for the likes of Ponting and Lee in World Cups and they will be keen to cap off their ODI careers in style.

ENGLAND

The squad:

Andrew Strauss (capt), James Anderson, Ian Bell, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Paul Collingwood, Eoin Morgan, Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior, Ajmal Shahzad, Graeme Swann, James Tredwell, Jonathan Trott, Luke Wright, Michael Yardy

(Edit: Eoin Morgan replaced with Ravi Bopara)

My starting XI:

Strauss-Bell-Trott-Pietersen-Collingwood-Bopara-Prior-Yardy-Swann-Broad-Anderson

Player to watch:

Graeme Swann

Chances:

It is hard to justify my predictions for England reaching the semis, given their performance down under. Still, they have got a supremely talented ODI side, and this is the best placed English team to win their first ever ODI World Cup (injuries aside). They have a lot of talented batters, who if they get going, can set up a big total or chase one down. In the bowling stakes, they have the world’s best spinner and two talented pacers who can win a game on their own. They are also a very good fielding unit, to boot. Now, if they can only elicit some sort of consistency and stability from their batting – they will go a long way towards lifting the trophy at the Wankhede stadium on April 2nd.

NEW ZEALAND


The squad:

Daniel Vettori, Hamish Bennett, James Franklin, Martin Guptill, Jamie How, Brendon McCullum, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Jacob Oram, Jesse Ryder, Tim Southee, Scott Styris, Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson, Luke Woodcock.

My starting XI:

Ryder-Guptill-Williamson-Taylor-Styris-B McCullum-Oram-Franklin-Vettori-Southee-N McCullum

Player to watch:

Ross Taylor

Chances:

When you take a look at the players in this squad, it is a wonder that they don’t win more often. The Kiwis have always been good at the World Cup and make it a habit of making it to the semifinals before getting knocked out. This time, on the back of two consecutive heavy series defeats in the subcontinent, it is hard to see them making it past the quarterfinal stage. Still, they are one of the most multi-faceted teams in the fray, packed with batsmen who can bowl and bowlers who can bat (allrounder, in other words!) and they are traditionally a brilliant fielding side as well. So, if Vettori can inspire his men in his last outing as captain, they have all the talented players needed to win their first ever World Cup.

WEST INDIES


The squad:

Darren Sammy (capt), Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Darren Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Devon Smith, Sulieman Benn, Nikita Miller, Carlton Baugh (wk), Andre Rusell, Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Adrian Barath.

My starting XI:

Gayle-Barath-Darren Bravo-Sarwan-Chanderpaul-Dwayne Bravo-Pollard-Sammy-Baugh-Benn-Roach

Player to watch:

Kieron Pollard

Chances:

Another multi-faceted team, which has been playing below its potential for a long time. When a team has the likes of Gayle, Bravo and Pollard to explode, complementing the stability of Sarwan and Chanderpaul and the youthful exuberance of Darren Bravo and Barath – they should not be in the bottom rung of the rankings. Of course, it is much harder when a number of your first choice bowers are injured for the most part of their careers. Their bowling, despite the likes of Sammy, Dwayne Bravo, Roach and Benn, is their weakness and it will take the best of their abilities and discipline to get to the knockout stage ahead of Bangladesh. If they do make it to the quarters, they stand as good a chance as anyone else to make it all the way to the final.

PAKISTAN:


The squad:

Shahid Afridi, Misbah-ul-Haq, Mohammad Hafeez, Kamran Akmal (wk), Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Umar Akmal, Abdul Razzaq, Abdur Rehman, Saeed Ajmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, Sohail Tanvir, Ahmed Shehzad

My starting XI:

Hafeez-K Akmal-Younis-Misbah-U Akmal-Shafiq-Afridi-Razzaq-Riaz-Gul-Rehman

Player to watch:

Abdul Razzaq

Chances:

It is safe to say that despite all the turmoil and uncertainties surrounding Pakistan cricket, they will make it to the quarterfinals and give a serious challenge for the title. Afridi, Razzaq and Younis Khan are veterans who have seen it all and they are complemented by a bunch of players who will be itching for World Cup glory. They have a talented batting lineup, which is rather prone to implosions and a disciplined bowling attack which might not run through any line-up but will definitely keep the opposition batsmen honest (Thank you, Mr Shastri). Still, there will be a tremendous load of pressure on a team whose board did not even bother announcing the skipper till the 11th hour and who will be the only subcontinent team not to play their matches at home. Anything better than getting knocked out in the quarterfinals can be considered a major success.

BANGLADESH

The squad:

Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Junaid Siddique, Shahriar Nafees, Raqibul Hasan, Mohammad Ashraful, Mushfiqur Rahim, Naeem Islam, Mahmudullah, Abdur Razzak, Rubel Hossain, Shafiul Islam, Nazmul Hossain, Suhrawadi Shuvo.

My starting XI:

Iqbal-Kayes-Siddique-Raqibul Hasan-Shakib-Rahim-Mahmudullah-Shuvo-Razzak-Shafiul Islam-Rubel Hossain

Player to watch:

Shakib Al Hasan

Chances:

Personally, the dark horse of the tournament. They have had two back to back successful home series against New Zealand and Zimbabwe, and are riding on a crest of confidence right now. They will be playing their games in familiar conditions backed by a raucous home crowd. They have one of the finest openers in Tamim Iqbal and the best allrounder in Shakib al Hasan – who will be reinforced by players who have learnt to punch above their weight in the shorter formats of the game. I favor them to get to the quarters ahead of West Indies and with a bit of luck can go even further.Also, be prepared to see an endless loop of left-arm spin bowling, when Bangladesh is on the field.

As you can see, at least six teams will back themselves to win this tournament and as a consequence the World Cup will be the most open contest since 1999. Will Murali end his ODI career the same way he ended his Test career? Will Tendulkar get to taste World Cup glory at home, in his 6th and possibly final attempt? Or will Smith or Vettori sign off as ODI skippers in style? All these answers and more will be finally answered in Mumbai on April 2nd, at the end of what promises to be a fascinating and well fought tournament. May the best team (hopefully, mine!) win…

Don’t forget to take part in the following opinion poll-

King Daniel steps down from his throne – New Zealand Cricket

'This ship is all yours, mate!'

So, Daniel Vettori will not be the Kiwi skipper after the World Cup. I don’t really think it matters either way. Be it Ross Taylor or Brendon McCullum who take over, they will always rely on Vettori for advice. So, his influence is not really going to wane much.

Vettori has captained the side during some trying times, with a mostly mediocre team with few world-beaters. He came within 2 wickets of securing a historic Test series victory in India, but it was not meant to be. Instead, his tenure will mostly be remembered for the end, as New Zealand hurtled to embarrassing ODI series whitewashes against Bangladesh and India. Perhaps, it is better after all if he is relieved of major responsibilities and allowed to focus on his own game so that he can win more matches single-handedly!

Now, he has one last chance to lead his team to glory in February-March. Given the team’s recent form though, don’t hold your breath.