Monday, 26 November 2012

Lifeless, Lacklustre, Limp - India need some changes fast

First thing that should be said is that England deserved this victory, and look a class above India, in all departments. Kevin Pietersen laid the foundations for a classy win and Panesar completed the job. It gets me thinking about why the England management do not play him more often, being one of the best spinners in world cricket currently.

My main concern is for India, the performance was the worst on home soil for a very long time. It highlights everything wrong with Indian cricket at the moment. 

All the signs were there in the last two away series, in both series team India came back with their legs between their tails. Nothing was changed from these annihilations. Then came the series against New Zealand where India were unconvincing against an average New Zealand side. 

Let me start with the bowling attack, this has to be one of the worst bowling attacks in world cricket currently. In my eyes only Yadav is worthy of being mentioned as good, yet he is the first to be dropped. Zaheer Khan has not performed well for a long time now, he brings bags of experience but he is becoming very predictable. I don't blame him much for two reasons, one that he is getting old and two India do not currently make pitches to help him. He has been a great bowler and will always be remembered as one of the best Indian bowlers, but for me if it came to a choice of him or Yadav, then the younger guy should be preferred. 

Harbhajan and Ashwin likewise have been very poor, both are capable of producing good things but have not done it for a long time. Like Zaheer it may be time to dispense of Harbhajan. In my opinion he is now a better batsman than bowler and therefore pretty useless for India, as Ashwin does a better job in both departments. When was the last time that England had two better spinners than India? The funniest thing I have heard today was that many Indian fans outside the ground were saying about Panesar being Indian, that India should poach him, this is something I would love although it would never happen. 

In the batting department there is a definite problem. The once champions of spin now struggle badly on turning tracks, this is more concerning considering that the last two tours also highlighted that they cant play on seamer friendly wickets either.

Laxman had been pushed out, but was he playing any worse than Sachin has done in test cricket over the last few series? The guy is a legend but every great player has to end some time. I think he should definitely consider his retirement now, maybe wait to finish against Pakistan.  

The batting expectation is left on the two most inexperienced players in the team. Pujara and Kohli, this is something that seems rather unfair, as they have not played many tests yet. Kohli himself seems to have caught the disease, there were signs in the last test. He was very scratchy, looked nervous and his wicket in the second innings was disgraceful. A dolly catch off a full toss, I will allow him a little bit of a dip as he has been great for India in the last two years and every player has a dip.

Others who were guilty of being stupid in the second innings at Mumbai are Ashwin and Harbhjan. Both needed to knuckle down but instead played a fast cameo by trying to hit sixes. 

Lets not start on Dhoni, who has underperformed badly with the bat for the last year or so. In my eyes he has been a great captain, the best captain but he is in danger of loosing his great record as captain. 

I am not advocating dramatic changes through this series, just saying that these players need to have a serious think about their positions. They should have a bit of pride and work harder to change things. That is the only way that India can regain the lead in this series. 

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Could anyone beat Sachin Tendulkar's century record?

He is treated like a God in India, he has pretty much broken all batting records, including having scored the most amount of runs, the most test centuries and most ODI centuries. The question is if Sachin Tendulkar will retire soon, if he does there are some players who could possibly break either his test match century record or ODI century record. Personally I think it will be hard to break his combined ODI and Test century number (100 centuries).

If I were to have said this about 5 years ago, many would have said that these records would last quite a while, this was because Sachin at the time was out playing his closest rivals Ponting and Kallis and did not look to be anywhere near retirement. But now things have changed as Sachin's rate of centuries has slowed down, Kallis has regained form and retirement is on the cards this could go. Sachin could still add to his tally before he retires.

Lets look at some of the possible candidates:

Jacques Kallis: This is the most likely guy to challenge Sachin's test centuries. Currently he needs six centuries to equal Tendulkar, that's if Sachin does not add to any. He has been on fire recently with his latest century in the first test. He is now 37 and still in good shape, he could get pretty close to the record if he plays another two years. 

Ricky Ponting: He like Kallis was pretty close to Tendulkar's test record a few years back, but has seriously tailed off now. He needs 10 more test centuries to break the test record. This would take some turn around in recent form, I can see him getting another one or two but not more than five. 

Kumar Sangakara: He like Ponting has 30 test centuries, at the age of 35 he has around 3/4 years left in the game. If he were to score four centuries every year for four years he still would have only 46 test centuries. So it is a hard task for him, I don't think he can.

Virat Kohli: At only 24 I am in no doubt that if he continues his ODI form of the last two years he will smash the 49 ODI centuries that Tendulkar has. He already has 13 centuries to his name and if he stays fit and away from injuries I think he will play around another 12 years. Even if he only scores 4 centuries every year for these twelve years he will pass Sachin's record.

A.B Devilliars: He like Kohli has 13 ODI centuries to his name, although he is four years older than his RCB colleague. I think he will struggle to get near 49 ODI centuries but could be around the 40 mark. He has a lot of pressure on him, being the captain, wicket-keeper and best batsmen. 

For me the only player who could challenge the test record is Kallis, there may be a younger player who can challenge the test century record. Some names to throw into the hat are: Amla, Cook, Clarke. 

As for the ODI record I can see Kohli eventually breaking this, although it will take some time. There could be some other players coming through who in the future but Tendulkar is so far ahead that it will take a young guy to beat this record. 

Australia Surprise South Africa as Clarke breaks more records

Let me first say that I didn't think Australia would be a match for South Africa in this series, I guess I have been proved wrong. I did however write an article last month where I predicted Australia would rise again, but I never thought it would have been so soon. 

The score 482 on day one is only 12 runs short of the all time highest score on day 1 of any test. This is largely down to Warner at the top of the innings setting the tone, with a strike rate over 100. 

In the first test the Aussies proved that their batsmen were a match for South Africa if not outplaying them. The plaudits will go to the inform skipper, he has been on the form of his life since taking over and has subsequently put to rest all doubts about his captaincy. 

In making his fourth double century of the year Michael Clarke now has over taken fellow Australian legends Ponting and Bradman for making the most double centuries in one calender year. If he gets one more double century any time in his career as captain then he will equal Brian Lara as the player with most double centuries as captain.

It seems that Clarke now has a team to slowly work their way back to the summit of test cricket, he is just pushing them on a little quicker. Having a few strong sides in test cricket is important, and right now Aus, SA, Eng and India have pretty strong teams, which makes for great matches. 

I think that some people thrive on the pressure of captaincy, this can defiantly be said of Clarke and I believe Alistair Cook as well. I still hold that the next Ashes will go to England as they are playing at home, but Australia will no doubt put up a good show. All of that is after this great series against South Africa, who are by no means out of the match and series yet.  

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Why Dhoni has no leg to stand on without DRS

Those who were watching the match today will have seen Dhoni arguing with Aleem Dar over a decision to give to give Nick Compton not out for LBW. The fact that India are against the DRS system means that India should not have the right to appeal. 

The actual decision was later proved to be a good decision, as the ball was going on to miss the stumps. I do not have a problem with the way the appeal was conducted, even thou some may think this was excessive. My main problem is that India are against the decision review system, but still want the right to appeal to an umpire after he has made his choice. 

The fact that Dhoni vigorously was pointing his finger at Aleem Dar today smacks of unsportsmanlike behaviour. I am a massive fan of Dhoni who I regard as the best ever captain of India, but he really should get a good telling off for his actions today. The fact that there is technology in place which can clear up decisions is a good thing, it is what separates cricket from football. The longer India take to adpot this system the more it will result in costly decisions as well as these football style rants on the umpire.

We still do not know the reason why the BCCI and Indian cricketers have refused to use the system in their matches, despite all the other teams in the world using it successfully.

As Sky Sports are giving the alternate Indian commentary I had been switching between both commentaries to gauge the differences in opinion. It was laughable the positions that they took. The English commentators were saying that India are gutted because they don't adopt DRS this means that bad decisions should cost them, and India should not complain (does this mean the England players can? as they are in favour). The Indian commentators were saying that India are well within their rights to complain. All this proves is that all commentators are pretty biased depending on what country they are from.  

The system seems to make it fairer for both teams, if Dhoni really believed that Aleem Dar made an incorrect decision then he could have referred it. I hope this is the last straw for Dhoni who will now accept the DRS system. 

On the pitch India seemed pretty dominating, but there are signs of a slight England comeback. After Compton hit a four, sweeping Ojha it seemed to lift him and Cook. India then slowly started pushing fielders back, meaning it got a little easier for England who still trail. I still think India can push a win, but England will look for a much better batting performance to pull off an unlikely draw. 

Friday, 9 November 2012

How England could surprise India but South Africa will prevail

The excitement of test cricket returned last night, two fascinating series between some of the best teams in the world will run simultaneously. In my opinion India are the best team in the sub-continent and when they are on form they are almost unbeatable at home. 

The question which should be asked is if England can take advantage of India's new batting line up. The retirement of Laxman and Dravid could be the chance that England have been waiting for. Add to this the poor form which Sehwag and Gambhir have been going through, India's well known batting strength could struggle. 

England also have players such as Bairstow (even if he doesn't play), Bell and Pietersen who are all on form with the bat. Samit Patel looks the real deal as a test allrounder and the bowlers are pretty good. The good news for England is that Broad and Finn seem likely to be fit for the first test. Another factor that may favour the Englishmen is that they now have three genuine spinners. They could actually play all three in a match, not that I think they will. Over the winter England struggled against Ajmal and Hearth, so alot rests on Ashwin. We do not know how England will play Yadav but it is clear to see that Zaheer Khan is not the same bowler which has troubled world batsmen all these years.

I personally think that Sehwag and Gambhir had tons of experience so either or both of them will click very soon. The middle order has talent, even if they are inexperienced. Virat Kohli hasn't played that much but already looks like the real deal as a test player. I can only see this being a close series, but I think India may just edge it, even though England could cause India alot of problems.

The other series may not be as close. After day one of the first test South Africa are 255/2. The number one side in the world looked like that on day one. The ever reliable pair of Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis should both score centuries tomorrow. This could be a hard day for Australia to come back from. The second day will be important for them. The pitch does look like a good batting wicket, but surely after South Africa are done with it, the pitch could change.

The loss of Shane Watson does not help to the cause. Saying all that I think if Watson was fit for the next few matches and Australia happened to find a good spinner from somewhere they could have made the series closer than it will be. One thing is clear though, Australia always have fighters in their team, people such as Peter Siddle and Ponting will battle hard. 

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Do you agree with Day/Night tests?

It seems to me that cricket is a sport which is very adaptable to new ideas. We have seen many changes in cricket over the years, the main being the rise of the two other formats of the game. It is a sport which embraces technology, and seems way advanced of sports such as football which allow controversy to take place despite calls for help.

The ICC added rules such as power play, free hit for no balls and even toyed with the super sub rule over the last ten years. This all shows that they embrace change. This is one area where the ICC should be credited for keeping the sport fresh. The sport in general seems to promote innovation, and the players have also shown this ability. Over the last few years we have seen changes to batting play (switch hit, dil scoop) and new innovative ways of fielding and bowling have also been implemented. 

Despite all these changes the ICC have never really changed much about test cricket. They have in a way provided the purists to keep their form of the game whilst changing the other formats keeping people who embrace change rather happy also. It is unknown if many of these purists will dislike the idea of day/night test cricket, only time will tell on this. This could be as simple as people not liking change. Things such as lunch probably would be scrapped in this new type of test cricket, this is something that not everyone will like. 

I for one agree with the new idea in principle for day/night test cricket, but believe it has to be done rightly. Is the pink ball the right ball to play with? According to Samit Patel who has played in the trial of day/night test cricket it isn't the right ball. He states that the pink ball does nothing in the day, but as soon as the lights came on the ball did too much. If this is true this could give a team an unfair advantage. 

Another disadvantage of this is the due factor, especially in Asia. The team bowling under lights may struggle to field properly and the ball could slip from their hands. In particular if you watch Dhoni, when playing a day/night ODI in Asia he will always bowl first if he wins the toss. This could mean that a team bats terribly in the evening and improve because of due in the night, only because of the due factor.  

The advantage of having day/night tests could mean more great test cricket. Can you imagine the first test at Sofia Gardens where Monty Panesar and James Anderson blocked out the match versus Australia under lights? The atmosphere was already very good, it would have been even better. Another advantage of having this is that a whole new audience will watch test cricket. The kids who may not be into test cricket may actually sit and watch because their dad is home from work and watching. 

I am pretty sure that advertisers and players would prefer the new timings as well, giving them more tv time. In my opinion it could work, and the benefits definitely out way the negatives of this, but they ICC should work on finding the right ball and a proper solution to the due factor. Why not try having the red ball during the day part of the game and use the white ball in the night? This probably would mess up a teams bowling plan as many teams believe that certain players bowl better with the white ball and not the red. 

I wonder if anyone is really in favour of day/night tests or really against, I would love to know in the comments section. 

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