India – SriLanka. The Indian tour of SriLanka could not have been more satisfying for Indian cricket fans. Dhoni as usual led from the front and had a great series . The difference between the two teams was that India played as a team with each player knowing exactly what needed to be done . Much of the credit for this must go to Dhoni and to the coach , Gary Kirsten. I remember the flak that Kirsten took when he was appointed coach and all those critics who were howling that an Indian should have been appointed coach. Their silence now is deafening.
India did lose the last ODI after being up 4-0 but were able nevertheless to get a look at some of the bench warmers. Jadeja in particular looks destined for a promising future. I do wish though that Balaji had gotten more of a workout.The five overs that he bowled were hardly enough to assess his comeback performance.The punctuation point to the tour was the incredible T20 win scripted by the Pathan brothers. Yusuf Pathan is a real find and seems to have the ideal temperament for the T20 format. I hope it rubs off on Irfan.
Sorry to see Mahela Jayawardene announce that he would be stepping down from the captaincy after the Pakistan tour. The SriLankans were not a match for the Indian team in this series but that wasn’t his fault.He led them to some notable wins earlier and he’s a class act . I hope he regains his batting touch once he is freed from the cares of captaincy.Incidentally, what is it with the SriLankans initials ? What do they stand for ? DMPD Jayawardene ? WJUPC Vas ? M is for Mahela and C is for Chaminda but what do the other letters indicate. In any case, I like Mahela and Chaminda much better.
New Zealand Tour. The teams for the Indian tour of New Zealand were announced today and , as usual, Indian cricket fans are not happy. Allegations of regionalism ,selectors playing favorites ,etc. are flying around. Why can’t we realise that with so few slots and so many contenders vying for a spot in the national team, there is no way everyone will be satisfied ?
On the whole, I think the selectors have done a good job and given the nod to some deserving youngsters. There are a couple of things that could have been done differently but , on the whole, this is a good blend of youth and experience and should do well in New Zealand if they are able to acclimatize themselves quickly. New Zealand performed creditably in Australia but I just can’t get a handle on their true abilities . With the weather conditions so markedly different they make it difficult to predict how the matches will shake out.
If I had been the lone selector, these are the changes I’d have rung in. I’d have dropped Rahul Dravid who has been in wretched form and brought in S. Badrinath. They both played for South Zone in the Duleep trophy final and while Dravid was dismissed for 5 and 0 , Badrinath scored 100 not out and 59 . I’d also have dropped Munaf Patel because I think his fitness is in question . His only attribute is pace and he has never been able to bowl as fast as he once did. Glad as I am to see Balaji back in the Test team, I wonder if his type of bowling is best suited to NZ conditions. The rest of the pace attack is OK, though if RP Singh was fully fit I might have slotted him in. Sreesanth, I suspect, was left off because of his behavioral shennanigans and I’m glad of it.Good to see M. Vijay and Dhawal Kulkarni rewarded for their efforts in domestic cricket though I feel for Aakash Chopra who has been out in the cold for no fault of his own after a good debut in Australia in 2003. In the ODI squad, Rohit Sharma needs to come good; he’s certainly had a number of chances. After Irfan Pathan’s heroics in the T20 match , I am not surprised to find him in the ODI and T20 teams. I understand the value of an all rounder who can bowl medium pace and bat , but Irfan has yet to live upto his early promise. His bowling is expensive and lackluster and his batting so-so. He batted superbly in Sri Lanka but one swallow does not a summer make. If Irfan doesn’t perform on this tour , it’s time to give him the heave-ho. Overall, I hope this is the swansong for the seniors and that , after this tour, Dravid and Laxman bow out gracefully and that Badrinath and Pujara/ Rahane get a look see. It’s too much to expect that Sachin will decide to call it a day but I wish he would take himself out of the ODI squad and concentrate on the Tests.
The Kookaburra , the SG and the Duke are types of cricket balls and a Cricinfo article by Aakash Chopra piqued my interest in them. In his article, Chopra mentioned how the BCCI decreed that the Australian manufactured Kookaburra be used for the Duleep Trophy . Because the Kookaburras are so expensive ( Rs. 3,000 or about $ 65 each compared to Rs 800 or about $18 each for the SG) , only the barest minimum number of balls was made available. The article led me to look into the various types of balls . There are a lot of opinions on this subject but this is what I was able to glean.. The Australian-made Kookaburra has a flatter seam and is closer to a perfect sphere enabling bowlers to extract more pace and swing in the early overs. However , it is less durable and loses it’s shape after only 20 overs or so. In later overs, it doesn’t afford as much reverse swing .The SG ( full name: Sanspareil Greenlands) has a more prominent seam and enables less swing than the Kookaburra early on but more in the later overs . It’s also more rugged and holds it’s shape much longer. The Duke ,which is used in England ,is closer to the SG than to the Kookaburra. The Kookaburra and Duke are more consistent in quality since they are machine made; the SG is handmade. England uses the Duke and India the SG while all the others use the Kookaburra. How much difference does the ball make ? Not much, according to Venkatesh Prasad, India’s bowling coach. Prasad says ” As a bowler, there’s no need to make any technical changes to bowl with different types of balls.” The success of Zaheer and Ishant Sharma in Australia would seem to prove the truth of his words.The expensiveness of the Kookaburra does not mean that it is superior.
The Aussies use the Kookaburra because it aids their pacemen .Indians use the SG , I suppose , because it is less expensive and better suited to the hard pitches on the subcontinent.
By the way, aren’t you shocked at the cost of cricket balls. I know I am.
Australia – New Zealand ODI’s . With the final ODI having been abandoned, the two teams drew the series 2-2 with Australia retaining the trophy. I think this was the only fair result as the rain shortened decider was more like a T20 match rather than an ODI. After trailing 0-2, the Aussies did well to come back to tie the series though it’s too early to say that they’re b-a-a- c-k. They will be leaving for South Africa to face a tough, confident Springbok team on the latter’s home ground . It should be a torrid contest with the winner likely to ascend to the top of the points table in both Tests and ODIs.The Aussie batting has some promising newcomers and looks pretty strong though Clarke’s health is a concern. It is the bowling which is a questionmark. Siddle, Johnson , Bracken and Co. are triers but they will be hard put to contain the Proteas. If the Aussies can pull off series wins, it will be a terrific achievement but after the form South Africa displayed on their tour of Australia they should be favored to win handily.