Friday, 21 December 2012

2012 - Cricket Review

The year 2012 has been one of mixed fortunes for international cricket teams. On the whole it has provided many memories, some good and some bad. The year started with Australia finishing off India to take the test series, this was a signal of what was to come from India

The year has had many ups and downs for England, starting the year as world number one but failing to deliver in Pakistan and Sri Lanka. They then took on South Africa who de-throned them from the summit. This series provided the best of test cricket with all the big players stepping up, especially Hashim Amla and Jaques Kalllis. The fallout from this series was the Kevin Pietersen saga, this also saw captain Strauss step down. 

Australia had a good year, kicking on from the win against India. The year was good for them in particular to steady their sinking ship of the past few years. A new captain and a new crop of players who look encouraging. India on the other hand have had a terrible year, narrowly beating New Zealand and then being thrashed by England. For Pakistan it has been a good year, the win over England showed signs of improvement. In particular Ajmal has lead the fight.

There have been many good ODI performances this year, one particular game I remember was from January where Dhoni had a repeat of his world cup final heroics to hit the winning runs in a CB series game against Australia. Virat Kohli smashing around Pakistan scoring 183 in the Asia cup. The performance of Bangladesh to get to the final of the Asia cup only narrowly loosing. The rain effected England v South Africa series was also very fascinating as there were many young players on show from both teams. In particular I enjoyed watching Jos Buttler play a magnificent cameo in one the games to win a match. 

As for T20 cricket, this year was all about the World T20. This competition started off slowly with many games effected by rain, but the West Indies lit up the tournament. Winning their first international trophy since there heyday in the 1970's. Samuels and Narine playing a key part of this win. 

This year has seen the retirement of cricket greats, Ricky Ponting, Rahul Dravid, V.V.S Laxman and Mark Boucher. The later having to retire after being hit in the eye with a bail in a practice game. It could also be a year where Sachin Tendulkar plays his last test match. He has had a poor year by his standards. It has seen the rise of a new group of captains. These being Michael Clarke, Alistair Cook and the part time captaincy of AB Devilliers. These three will have many battles to come in the next few years. It has also been a good year for Yuvraj Singh who had made a successful comeback to international cricket after suffering a life threatening illness. 

In domestic matters Warwickshire won the county championship, but lost to Hampshire in the CB40 who also won the FLT20. KKR won the IPL, despite my team Delhi Daredevils being the best team through out the competition. (Actually it seems if they threw away the semi final, by leaving out the leading wicket taker Morkel.) The champions league was rather dull, it was finally won by Sydney Sixers, who were by far the best team in the competition. 

Some records have gone this year as well, despite having a bad year Tendulkar scored his 100th international century this year. This coming in a ODI match versus Bangladesh in March. The fastest test century and T20 century were hit by Dave Warner and Richard Levi. Graham Smith also became the captain with the most test wins. Michael Clarke scored four double centuries this year which is a record for a calendar year. England's new captain Alistair Cook became the English player with the most centuries as well the youngest player to 7,000 runs. A record for the Indian captain is that he is the first captain to be run out on 99 in a test match, not one that he really wants. 

Match fixing also reared its ugly head this time in County Cricket. Mervin Westfield was jailed for his involvement and a life ban was given to Pakistani spinner Danish Kaneria

All in all the year has been good for cricket, although with big matches coming up in 2013 it can get even better. 

Monday, 17 December 2012

England and India going in different directions - Series Review

The first thing that has to be said is well done England, they outplayed India in every single department. The signs are good for Alistair Cook as he and his team have done something that no other England team has for twenty eight years. For India however they will need to have a serious look at where they need to improve in the future. What makes the win even better for England is that they were thrashed in the first test and improved then after, showing  that they have a lot of mental toughness.


Apart from the nine wicket loss in the Ahemedabad, they never looked in trouble. This was down to England being very clinical and India being poor. Alistair Cook's first series after being made captain could not have gone any better. He has passed the test with flying colours and the experience of captaining in India will stand him in good stead. 

Monty Panesar's selection for the second test onwards played a big part in England winning. In my opinion he is probably the best English spinner, and far better than any spinner India had to offer. James Anderson also played a massive part of this win, he on past tours of India has been clueless, this time he was prepared and performed well. In all the tests Matt Prior has shown why he is now regarded as a top keeper/batsman. The demoralising effect he kept inflicting on India, probably helped out the bowlers. The last test cameo from Joe Root and the century by Ian Bell showed some encouraging signs for the coming year.

There probably is not too many of the players who didn't feel they contributed much in this series, the only exceptions are Stuart Broad, Sammit Patel and  Tim Bresnan. 


At the start of the series Virat Kohli declared that this was the chance for revenge. This was a total wrong thought, India should have concentrated on winning first, then revenge would have come.They lost the series pretty abysmally, didn't show any fight at all. There were problems in all three departments, the most worrying has to be the much lauded batting line up. The openers did not perform that well, Gambhir in particular looking dodgy despite making some runs. Cheteshwar Pujara did his job with the bat well and sometimes showed the senior players how to bat. His only flaw was to drop Cook in the fourth test whilst he was only on seventeen, going on to score a big century. 

It could be the end of the great career of Sachin Tendulkar, if it is then it will be a shame he could not have gone out on a high. There is a series against Pakistan coming up, where he could finish against the team where it all started. 

The series has already seen Zaheer, Yuvraj and Harbhajan cut from the team, it is very likely there test careers are over. Up until the last innings of the last test M.S Dhoni did not do anything. The pressure is mounting on him as captain, but I do not think there is anyone on form who is good enough to take over. It also has to be shown that he battled well for his 99 runs. One positive for India is Ravi Ashwin, this was for his batting. In my opinion he could fill a higher role as a batsman, possibly the position vacated by Yuvraj. On the other hand Ashwin has been very disappointing with the ball. 

The Future:

England will go home for the Christmas period after a few T20 games and come back refreshed for a ODI series where India will still be favourites. Then then travel to New Zealand all in preparation for the big summer. India take on Pakistan, the pressure on the team will double. I would hope by then India accept the DRS system, and make some big changes to the team. 

Sunday, 9 December 2012

India ring the changes, but is it the answer?

Indian cricket is in a bad state, at the moment it is probably the worst it has been for at least 20 years. The alarm bells must have been ringing after the bad tour of England or the disaster down under, on both occasions not much had been changed. The signs of a home defeat were also highlighted after a poor showing against New Zealand which covered up the cracks. The final straw seems to be the loss of the 2nd and 3rd test against England. 

For me the old selectors who did nothing after the bad away tours took too long to act, I just hope the new selectors have made the changes out of future thought and not just for a way to differentiate between the old selection committee and new. The players who have got the chop for the last test Zaheer, Harbhajan and Yuvraj. It seems pretty clear to me that these players test careers are finished, they all have been playing for a while and a recall will only now come through influence and not form. 

What is worrying is that Zaheer Khan is a shadow of the player he was, he is not worthy of being called an international cricketer any more, but there is no one to replace him. I am a fan of Yadav, but am not sure if he is injured or just left out. Awana is a good bowler and worthy of a call up in place of Zaheer, but is he a bowler which will scare England? All in all the dropping of Zaheer is a decision I agree to. 

Harbhajan Singh has also been chucked out AGAIN, I am still not sure why he had been brought back into the team, but he definitely will not get another chance. Where has the passion gone for him? He was once the most passionate player for India, always giving his all for the cause. In my opinion he is egoistic, when he was first dropped he did alot of TV work, this is probably his new career. 

My gripe about the squad is the dropping of Yuvraj. He has been one of a bad bunch of batsmen. By far not the worst of them either, it seems that the selectors have singled out one of the batsmen to drum home their message. It really could have been any of the batsmen to get the chop apart from Pujara. 

It is now really clear that the more Sachin plays, the more his reputation will be tarnished. Dhoni seems to be playing with the weight of the world on his shoulders, maybe a change of captaincy could help. All I know is that something is wrong, Gambhir quite easily could have been the man instead of Yuvraj. 

Ashwin showed some late fight on the last two days, a brilliant 91* as well as two wickets on the last day. If it wasn't for this I believe his position in the team could have also been under threat. He probably will get a promotion in the batting, possibly moving above Dhoni in Yuvraj's place allowing an extra bowler in the team. 

The selection committee have no authority to change the coach, if they did I would suggest that they would Fletcher. He has been an absolute disaster, especially as he came with a big reputation. It seems that Gary Kirsten had the right idea leaving India when he did, at number 1 in test cricket as well as world cup winners. He probably foresaw the upcoming problems. 

Whatever happens in the next test, India need a change. People like Ganguly need to be more involved in the selection/coaching process. Pressure needs to be taken off Dhoni, it is not clear what Fletcher does for him. India have made some small changes but surely there is much more to come. 

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Punter gambles no more whilst captain Cook slays India

This has been a big week of cricket, especially for two players in particular. It was a week which drew the curtain on the great career of Ricky Ponting as well as being the week where Alistair Cook broke two records. 

Ricky Ponting:

For me Ponting is unlucky as he is playing in an era where it could be easy to forget his achievements because of players such as Tendulkar, Lara and Kallis. Despite having 41 test hundreads and 30 ODI hundreds he will only be considered the second greatest Australian batsman, after Sir Donald Bradman.  

Being the captain after the great Steve Waugh he had massive boots to fill, this was the challenge that Ponting faced, a challenge which he successfully negotiated. In fact I think his period in charge of Australia was more successful than Waugh.  The doubters of his captaincy will always say that he had an easy job as captain, because he had the best players on his side. This is undeniable that he had the best team, but the pressure of leading such a great team also has its burdens. These burdens did not once effect his batting form.

He was part of the team which won three world cups in a row, winning it twice as a captain. An aggressive captain on the pitch always made watching his side exciting. As with Waugh before him and Clarke after him, it seems that being the captain aided his batting performance allowing him to lead from the front.

My lasting memory of him will be the 2003 world cup final, where he destroyed all Indian bowlers especially Srinath in a brilliant display of power and technique. In England he will be remembered as the captain who lost three ashes, while the world will remember him as the captain with the most wins. 

Alistair Cook:

This guy seems to be getting better and better. It is even ludicrous to think that England considered not taking him to the last ashes tour because of poor form against Pakistan the series before. He is the heartbeat of this England side, the captain and the leader with the bat. 

As captain he seems to be in his element, taking everything in his stride never once showing that he is flustered. Just like the new Australian skipper it seems that his form has improved as captain, it will be fascinating to see what happens in the ashes. 

All that said it should be noted that he was dropped by Pujara on 17 runs today, and the bowling attack he is facing is not great. Cook is only 27 years old but has become the highest England century maker. He has one hundred more than Pietersen, who is the only player who could overtake him any time soon. The other record which he broke today was that he is the youngest player to score 7,000 runs. This is something, as he has broken Tendulkar's record. 

India gave him a second chance today, quite frankly that probably will be the difference of winning this match and loosing. It could possibly by the difference of drawing the series and loosing it. If his form stays as it is, he could guide England to a historic win in India, thus putting his name as a legendary captain after his first test tour. 

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