Thursday, 17 October 2013

Tendulkar will always be a legend but India need to move on!

Some people call him a national treasure, some call him their idol and a few even call him God, but to me he will always be known as the greatest batsman in my lifetime of cricket. 

The date was 15 November 1989, this day was a very special day for Indian cricket. A young boy from Bombay made his way to the crease in the toughest of circumstances. To start your career against the arch enemy in their own back yard must be one of the toughest starts a cricketer could ask for.

Back on this day no one could have predicted what was to come over the next twenty four years. He has countless records to his name, but the one that sticks out in my mind is him being the first player to score a double century in a ODI. What is great about Tendulkar is that he seems to take joy in every shot and every century. 

On many occasions it could be said that Sachin carried India, he has seen it all in Indian cricket. Throughout the early to mid 90's he had very little support from a fledgling Indian side which struggled. Tendulkar kept this team afloat with his class. Playing with the likes of Kapil Dev, Ganguly, Dhoni and Virat Kohli he has gone from the kid of the side to father figure. It is hard to imagine the pressure that this one man has had to deal with but as with everything nothing lasts for ever.

Over the last five years Sachin has enjoyed a good run of form, helping India to world cup glory and raising the team to world number one in test cricket. This probably was his last hoorah. The last year and a bit have been slightly tougher for the little master. It is evident that like Dravid before him, his seeing of the ball is getting slightly slower. 

The announcement that Sachin will retire after the West Indies series comes as no surprise to anyone who has seen him play. The only surprise is that it had not come slightly earlier. The state of Indian cricket is the healthiest it has ever been, with many young players in the system. 

The man that I predict will be given the first opportunity to replace the great man is Rohit Sharma. A very similar type of player, he know deserves a long run in the test side to prove his quality. No one is expecting him to do exactly what Sachin did but they want him to make his own name. If Rohit does not succeed there are plenty of others waiting in the wings for their chance. 

I could go as far as saying with Dhoni and Kohli at the helm India have the best side they have ever had. These two names mentioned above are the two players who now carry the mantle of Sachin. They ironically grew up watching Sachin the superstar, now they call him bhai or paji.  

Its with a heavy heart I say that Sachin Tendulkar retiring is a good thing for Indian cricket. He has given me so many good memories that I am sure I will treasure for a life time but I think it is time to keep these as good memories. Lets hope that the last few games of his career will highlight his whole career. Goodbye Sachin, have a great retirement in what ever you do. 

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Who is the greatest cricket captain?

There has always been a debate as to who is the greatest cricketer or best ever captain. So here is my opinion as to whom I believe should get the title of the greatest ever captain. This man being current Indian captain M.S Dhoni. Below is a list of the best and my opinion of them. Hansi Cronje and Mohammed Azurhudin were left out the list as they have been disgraced for match fixing. 

Every country has had at least one great captain and some having two that could argue that they are the best. Off the top of my head I would name the following captains in a list of greats:

10: Michael Vaughn: He was the England captain in the famous 2005 Ashes. Like many of the other captains on this list he had the aid of a fantastic side and in particular a fantastic player in Andrew Flintoff. It has to be said that he built on the foundations laid by the previous captain Nassir Hussain. The foundations had been good but it is clear to see that he was a good captain and will go down in history as one of the England's greatest. It was a close call between Vaughn and Strauss for the number 10 spot.

9. Arjuna Ranatunga: People may be surprised to see his name on such a list but his tenure as Sri Lanka captain changed the perception of Sri Lanka as a cricketing force and as a nation. His country were not ranked in the top tier of cricket nations when he started off as captain but he guided them to a world cup title and established them as a cricketing force.

8. Nassir Hussain: In my opinion he started off the 2005 Ashes victory. England didn't always perform on the pitch under his stewardship but what he did off has made England one of the best teams over the last ten years. Working closely with Duncan Fletcher he put down the blueprint for a new aggressive England which the side are still benefiting from. He unlike most on this list did not have the great side around him but still in my opinion is England's best captain over the last twenty/twenty five years. 

7. Stephen Fleming: Similar to Hussain he did not always have a great team to work with, but it was evident that he was a great captain  I believe New Zealand have missed Fleming since his retirement and have not fully replaced his captaincy. He is one of the youngest and longest serving captains in world cricket after being appointed at the age of 23. 

6.Clive Lloyd: The reason he may be low on the list of all time best captains is that I have never seen him play. His record as captain is really good, he oversaw West Indies dominant period in world cricket. Under his reign The West Indies went on a run 

5. Rikky Ponting: One of the best players to have graced the cricket pitch, he guided Australia to their period of dominance. Winning back to back world cups as captain and keeping the side at number one in test cricket. His record of captain has to put him up their with the best. His innings in his first world cup final as captain will be one that will last in my memory foe ever. 

4. Saurav Ganguly: There will always be a debate in India over who has done more for India out of Ganguly and Dhoni. The simple answer is that both have changed Indian cricket. He was the first real captain to go toe to toe with the Australians. The side he captained probably was the best ever India have had. If India had won the world cup final that Ganguly's side lost he may have been top of the list. He was once described by Yuvraj Singh as a leader of men. The only reason that I have placed Dhoni higher is that he exceeded the great heights of Ganguly.

3. Graeme Smith: The South African had been identified as captain from a relatively early stage of his career. Being captain from 2003 onwards he has overseen a dramatic change in South African cricket. South Africa are currently the most feared team in world cricket. The protection that Smith has provided for his players have allowed the rest of the team to flourish. 

2. Steve Waugh: Some of the things which Waugh has achieved as Australia captain are truly remarkable. A record 16 straight test wins still is the greatest achievement ever recorded in cricket. He also guided his country to a world cup victory. He did push Dhoni very close to being the greatest but the iconic match winning innings in the world cup final swings it his way.  

1. M.S Dhoni: Under his captaincy he has guided India to a world T20 trophy, world cup victory and to world number one. He has a remarkable gift of never feeling pressure. He also is a great thinker of the game, knowing every situation. The fact that he turns losses into easy wins makes him very unique. There has never been a captain to win so many games for his side. He has every accolade in the book and the worrying thing for his rivals is that he is going strong. 

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Who is the real England T20 captain?

The captain of a T20 side really is not as important as a captain of the longer formats, but the man given the responsibility is likely to become the long term vice captain in ODI and test cricket. The current man in charge is Stuart Broad.

He has been in charge for a year and a half now, unluckily for him though England play very little T20 cricket so he has had little time develop his skills. There is no doubt that Broad is England's most important bowler in limited overs cricket and given his age he will be the leader of the bowling unit for years to come, but there is slight doubts over his captaincy credentials.

What Broad has going in his favour is that he is young, which will mean he can be the captain for a long time to come. He is a player who is always in the side in all forms of the game and he has ample experience for a player of his age.

However I believe there is also a downside to his leadership. He seems to be an angry man. His press conference before the this summers T20 series sums him up for me. He refused to answer a good question from the press in regards to resting of the squad, branding the question as stupid. Call me old fashioned but this is not how I expect an England captain to react to a simple question. Not sure how the other players would react to this.

He has also shown many times on the field that he is a hot head. On many occasions we have seen him angrily throw a ball at a batsman or swearing his head off after he has bowled a bad ball. This over aggressive nature then rubs off on the rest of the team. One key player for England in the shorter formats is Jade Dernbach, he is a naturally aggressive person, it would be hard for someone like Broad to reign him in when he himself is over aggressive.

The third and final issue I have with Broad as captain is that he does not play within the spirit of the game. Again I could be accused of living in the dark ages but I feel the majority of international captains currently are very fair. Look at Jayawardine, McCullum, Dhoni and Clark they all have shown examples of honesty and fairness over their cricket careers. One such example being Dhoni calling Bell back when Bell stupidly got himself out. 

The other man up for the job is Eoin Morgan, he has captained in both ODI and T20 games when the captains are absent. For me what I have seen of him as captain is very impressive. His latest outing as skipper is the ODI series against Australia this late summer. 

The only downside to have Morgan as captain is the fact that he does not get into the test side. So Broad may be favoured as he could be a long term leader of all the sides. There are plenty of positives for Morgan to become skipper, he in my opinion is unlucky not to have cemented his position in the test side. He is a better batsman than Bairstow in my opinion so a recall to the side could be on. 

His batting is often said to be second only to M.S Dhoni in a run chase. This is because Dhoni is a thinker, he understands situations in cricket matches and has the calmness, confidence in his own ability. Albeit Morgan is a lesser version of Dhoni, Morgan still posses these same qualities. He is a calm man when on the field or whilst batting. He has the ability to lead the team from the front and he thinks about inventive field positions. Add his brilliant fielding to this he is for me a better choice as captain.

I would also put Joe Root in the same category as Morgan and honestly believe he will one day lead England but he needs to cement his place in the side before he is even considered. It is clear to see that England have backed Broad to lead in the future but I feel that Morgan is the man England should be looking at. 

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

India trying out all options before South Africa tour

"Change can be very tough for any sports team, its all about the way you handle it." Those were the wise words of Ravi Shashtri at the time Rahul Dravid and V.V.S Laxman retired. The last two years have seen India go through a massive change both on and off the pitch.

The selection committee has to be praised, they have realised mistakes of the past in keeping big names in the team despite poor form. Sehwag, Gambhir Yuvraj, Zaheer and Harbhajan have all felt the full force of this policy. New players have been a hit, the main two being Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shikar Dhawan.

Apart from the series loss against England, India have been very dominant at home and very poor away from it. This massive change in form can only be explained by poor preparation in the run up to these tours. It seemed that India were packing in matches meaning that they could not fully concentrate on one series. For example during the period that the England team went home for Christmas, they played a ODI series against New Zealand. 

There seems to have been a change in mentality for the upcoming tours of South Africa and England. India last played in June a tri-nations series against West Indies and Sri Lanka. The next year sees a comparably light year ahead with slightly more space between big games. 

The fact that India finish the last test match against South Africa on the same day that they are scheduled to play a ODI match against New Zealand is slightly puzzling. This indicates that either India will be sending a team minus all their test players or this match is in doubt. 

The gaps in the fixtures has allowed India to prepare fully for the upcoming year, with many India A games being played. Players such as Dhawan and Pujara were sent to experience South African conditions in the India A tour in July. 

Others such as Sehwag, Gambhir, Yuvraj and Zaheer Khan have been picked for the A team for the upcoming A team series against West Indies. The squads that have been picked for India A seem to be either giving fringe players a chance to impress as well as a second chance to those who had been culled before. 

Not only does this give team India the luxury of resting all the established stars, it allows for every person who is in and around the squad to be given a fair chance. I feel the current idea from the BCCI gives India a better chance to succeed in what will be one of the hardest years. It seems that if Dhoni succeeds in the tour of South Africa and/or England he will go down as the undoubted best captain in the history of modern cricket.  

Friday, 9 August 2013

England will win the Ashes but Australia will take all the positives

After three Ashes tests the score stands at two nil to England. Considering this score and the fact that one test match had been rained off it may seem on first glance that England have had it all their own way. To think this would be wrong, it could be argued that Australia with a bit of luck could quite easily have been two one or even three nil up.

Before the first test match every person had written off this Australian side as being one of the worst to tour England. This criticism and the Darren Lehman factor probably was the reason for Australia performing so well in the first test. This was a test match which was only won by fourteen runs. There were parts of this game where some of the so called best bowlers in the world struggled to bowl out tail-enders.

The second test was a write off for Australia, the match where they most likely lost the whole series. I can imagine that the heavy loss of the first test played on Australian minds whilst it had the opposite effect on England. This was a match that was played only a few days after the first loss. Imagine if Australia had scrapped through the first test, England would have had the added pressure on them.

The third test saw Australia dominate from start to finish. The only good point for England in this match is Kevin Pietersen. His century and England’s unsporting behaviour in delaying every ball meant that England beat the weather to avoid an inevitable loss. Australia actually had KP out before his century but failed to review the decision, much to the annoyance of Watson. 

If this ball had been reviewed it could be argued that England’s first innings would have finished on Saturday afternoon instead of Sunday morning. This meaning that Australia would have had more time to put on quick runs and bowl England out again, even with bad light on the Sunday and rain all day on Monday.

As I write this on the end of day one of the fourth test match, Australia is once again in a strong position. They have got England down to nine wickets. The bowling is Australia’s strong point, there is a group of young bowlers who could worry any batsmen in world cricket. Pattinson, Starc, Bird, Faulkner head the list of young bowlers guided by the more experienced Siddle and Harris. Add to the list Mitchel Johnson who can’t make the squad. All these bowlers and Nathan Lyon make up a very decent attack. Ashton Agar in my mind will come back into the side one day as a batsman only, he can be a similar player to Steve Smith.

Believe it or not Australia actually can take some positives from their batting line up. With the return of Warner and addition of Khawaja they have a team full of potential. It seems that Khawaja has all the shots in the book, he is just waiting for that one innings to kick start his career. England also have some positives to take from this series.

The first being that they will probably win, the second is the form of Joe Root and Ian Bell. They also have some serious questions to answer, the first being how they have not totally put Australia to the sword apart from one match on their own turf. The second being the form of Jonathan Trott, it seems the Aussies have worked him out. The third and probably most concerning is that James Anderson seems to be carrying the bowling a little bit. Without him I feel the series would be very much closer. Whatever happens in the last two tests it seems that the Ashes series in Australia will be very much closer. 

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

"DRS has not worked well" Flower - India vindicated?

There was a time when every person in the cricketing world laughed at the BCCI and Indian cricket team for not using the decision review system. Even I had a few questions for the ICC in not implanting the system for all test series. I would like to take this opportunity to say that I was one hundred percent wrong over this issue.  

On tour to England a few years ago English commentators Nassir Hussain and Ian Botham both laughed every time an Indian batsman was given out wrongly. The famous words from Hussain were "India do not want a fair game Rahul you have to walk." I may suggest that under the current decision review system which is being used a bad decision like that would not be over turned. 

This Ashes series will go down in history as one of the most controversial, both sides have suffered bad decisions. The only consolation for the teams are that these decisions are balancing themselves out. The review system will now always be tarred with the image of Stuart Broad standing his ground taking full advantage of the two reviews or the awful reviewed decision to give Kawajha out. 

It is likely that both England and Australia will now scrap DRS for the next series starting in December with England coach Andy Flower joining the debate. He does not state in his interview that they will scrap the idea totally but states it needs better umpires. Until a new system comes in which is fairer I do not believe India will ever sign up. In the mean time other nations may join them in not using the flawed system.

So much controversy has been caused by the technology aid that it has now overshadowed what has been a fascinating series. Quite frankly Australia can count themselves very unlucky not to have won a game by now. 

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