India oscillates to number 3

Rahul Dravid
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While the country was carried in the enthusiasm led by Anna Hazarre, half-way around the world, Team India lost 4 test matches against England to loose their #1 position. While England thrashed India in all departments across 4 match series and went ahead to take number 1 spot, India lost not just the matches, but also the series and their pride as as a cricket team.

However, this is the same team, who just a few months back were basking in the glory of World Cup victory. Around that time, when everyone was simply looking at the way India was ruling the Cricket arena, I looked into how India reached at the top. In my article, I wrote about some of the glaring reasons on how India managed to reach at the top:

  • India played less matches compared to others and a lot of them were at home;
  • Australia played bad and even though they were way ahead, they lost a lot of ground;
  • Other teams like South Africa and England were not doing significantly better and were kind of neutral

It was all a time-bomb waiting to explode and it did explode in England, when India were away from home and they did badly. England who were sitting just around the corner, won all the matches against #1 team and hence they jumped to the top. In another article around the same time, I quoted:

I ended up finding that we are where we are because of the fact that Australia failed to achieve the top standards they have been in the past. India’s efforts have only been marginally better than those of Australia between a period of 2008-2010. And, it was so hurting for me to realize that we are just as good as their worst. I do hope that going forward we can do so much more better than we have in the past and take it to the top level cricket. Australia between 2005 and 2008 have had 70% winning percentage and only 15% each of lost and draw. We managed to equal their worst performance to be #1.

During all this there was another just one man who stood like the Wall – Rahul Dravid. He was averaged so much better that the rest of India. In fact, if it was not for him, there would have been innings where India would not have scored even 100 runs. Sachin did not shine as bright as we expected him to. At the start of the series there were talks of Sachin getting his 100th 100, but it never came. In the last test Sachin did come close to when he got out at 92 runs. Samit Bal quotes

It was just as well that Sachin Tendulkar didn’t go on to get his 100th hundred at The Oval. It denied India a distraction, a glimmer of feel-good in their hour of misery. Indian cricket doesn’t need the blow to be softened at this moment; instead it needs to feel the full impact of this devastating loss, feel the pain, look within and ponder the future with a clear understanding of their failings.

I totally agree with him for last many months that India need to look into their own self and find ways to set benchmarks. They just can not be happy to be on the top when they really did not do enough and the position was a gift by others. Next few months can see India slip even below with Sri Lanka, South Africa and Australia playing 2 series each and have a good chance of winning and overtaking India.

The next step for India is the one-day series. Lets see how the world’s best team handles the pressure of Test Matches against the newly crowned Kings of the Test Arena

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Right vs. Right

Sachin Tendulkar celebrates his century agains...
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On Sunday, during the 2nd test match between India and England something happened that has once again trigerred the debate of “what’s the right thing to do?”. It was the Ian Bell’s run out and India’s decision to take the appeal back allowing him to come out and bat again. The next day, India lost the test match in a very humiliating manner; however Ian Bell added only 20 more runs after being recalled and his recall had no influence on the result of the test match. Yet, the media has started to talk about it in all sense. Not just media; some people I know are also talking about if it was the right thing to do. If you read about the dismissal and watch it on YouTube, you will realize very soon that Ian Bell was out as per the rules and there was nothing wrong on part of Dhoni to make the appeal. It is a simple fact that umpires reviewed the same, and eventually ruled Ian Bell out. All of this happened within a day of another incident where VVS Laxman was accused of cheating by Andrew Strauss. An article in Times of India shows two sides of what people are feeling. One side said – “Why does India have to be on the good side always, when teams like Australia and England do all sorts of things in this Gentleman’s game”. The other side says – “We don’t want to follow or setup wrong examples. They can do what they want to; we will do the right thing”. In another article, they revelaed the influence Sachin had on this decision; goes to show the kind of leaders we have in our team how great this team is.

It was “right” to dismiss Ian Bell; he was silly to take the run; but it was also “right” to recall because of the confusion. When I think about it; it seems like a choice I have been asked to make so many times – “The Practical thing” vs. “The Right thing”. India decided to recall was the right thing to do; although it was not as per rules. They could have decided to let go of Bell and play on and nothing would have been wrong about it as per the rules of the game, but it would have be such a sad thing to do. All those people who in India, who are currently critisizing Dhoni for this; are not thinking if there was a role reversal and it was Sachin Tendulkar instead of Ian Bell. In most cases, knowing England they would not have recalled him; just think how we would have felt about it. We would have been all over the English side and critisizing them for this “right foresaken” thing. But, now when we have chosen to do the right thing – why are we upset. We should be happy that we have a team who thinks on moral ground and while they play to win, they also understand the importance of fair play.

Revelation beyond expectation | Indian cricket team has work to do

Mahendra Singh Dhoni of India in action during...
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In some sense I am happy that I did this and sad that no one in BCCI or Indian camp is talking about it. Unless we know where we are we cant look to get better. We need to know our missing points. I rather be a critic to point out the things that didnt go well for my team than be a fan who sits back and enjoy what could be a short-lived victory. I am forced to make to make a comparison with good intentions towards my team. I know, some people will still think me being naive to think all of this and not just be happy, but I want someone to listen and maybe they do.

It started a few days back when my cousin started to propagate Dhoni’s leadership skills over the team members in CSK in IPL. I had liked Dhoni always, but the fan base that called out Dhoni’s captaincy so good that it started to show off other players in the team worthless – was something that ticked me off. In one of the discussion my cousin actually mentioned that players like Bollinger and Raina and Morkel are performing because Dhoni was motivating them.

I took it personally because it meant that the WC victory was only Dhoni’s doing and so was every feat India has achieved in Cricket in last few years and it was hurting. I know she meant no harm and she loves Indian cricket as much as any other Indian, but it was the ticking point for me.

All of this went into hyper drive when I had another discussion with Vineet Malani on Facebook where he was chanting about Dhoni’s captaincy and ignoring facts of what has happened around India and world of cricket. His point was simple – all that India has achieved is because of Dhoni’s captaincy and I wanted to tell them No – any captain in this scenario would have does what Dhoni has done.

I do agree to the fact that Dhoni is a good captain and maybe the best of what India has had, however he is not Great. However, in my zeal to find facts I ended up dissecting India’s path to being no#1 in test cricket and it was a revelation. In my post Deep dive | India route to Test#1; I ended up finding that we are where we are because of the fact that Australia failed to achieve the top standards they have been in the past. India’s efforts have only been marginally better than those of Australia between a period of 2008-2010. And, it was so hurting for me to realize that we are just as good as their worst. I do hope that going forward we can do so much more better than we have in the past and take it to the top level cricket. Australia between 2005 and 2008 have had 70% winning percentage and only 15% each of lost and draw. We managed to equal their worst performance to be #1.

India team – please do so very well in future; my best wishes are with you. Dhoni you are lucky for India and I wish you can take us to peaks where we are untouchables just like Australia were a few years back. I wish that day comes and I will write about you and how you took us to be on the top of the world so convincingly; where we will set benchmarks.

India under Dhoni

Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Indian cricketer. 4 Test...
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A chat discussion came up with the following questions quoted to me

Unbeaten in test series, t20wc, one day wc, vb series etc can all be somehow attributed to dhoni’s luck ;). btw, which captain has won 3 world cups?

My response is as follows:

India lost a match just last year to SA. The best winning streak India has had in Tests is 2 maybe 3 matches in 2010. Their best not loosing a match (includes win or draw) is: 7 in 2008 and 2009 which is not close to Australia who have had streak of 16 wins  in tests twice – 1999 to 2001 and again in 2005 to 2008.

Also, since 2009 where they have won India has played more matches at home than abroad – something India has not been doing in the past.

Again, I dont want to degrade the test status or anything that India has achieved – simply conditions have been favorable for us in last 4 years and we have had a great team which has not changed in recent era. Something that even Ponting had at his disposal in last decade. This is not an individual effort and definitely our captain has not done  enough “just yet” in adverse of the situations. All the “handle pressure situations” we have found ourselves in has been a result of bad planning. Sure, we came out well – but if we see some of the choices during the match and hear what some of the experts have to say (at this point I am not referring to my analysis), a lot of those dont make sense to anyone. Now we can say – all experts are wrong and Dhoni knows something that no one else does – I wont speak another word on this topic ever again. However, Dhoni sure has best that India has had – no questions asked and no caveats presented.

And maybe it is not Dhoni’s luck – it is simply India’s destiny/luck and Dhoni is in middle of all of this just like every other player is. However, I see other players perform on the field and Dhoni is so patchy with his batting and wicket keeping. Even in the World Cup, everyone around me had lost hope he will do anything and then one day he hits a big one – he has been so inconsistent recently – now that is a result which we cant debate. WC is a classic example where until the elimination round, India was hitting itself in every pressure situation – England, Ireland, Dutch, SA – also 2 cases I can recall clearly were in bowling department where we went down in pressure. In elimination round we did good but it was all in batting department and in those too Dhoni went down to pressure in 2 matches against Australia and Pkistan. It was Yuvi and youngsters that got us thru. Finals – he did very well and he was brave or desperation to do something. Whatever it was is was good as the result was good.

I was referring to Ponting who took Australia to 2007, 2003 and 1999. I checked and found 1999 it was Steve Waugh. So I am back to 2 WC and 25 match winning streak (1 match led by Waugh remainder by Ponting).

India’s Test Results from last 2 years

Year Opponent Result Where
2010 Bangaladesh Won Away
2010 Bangaladesh Won Away
2010 SA Lost Home
2010 SA Won Home
2010 SL Lost Away
2010 SL Draw Away
2010 SL Won Away
2010 Aus Won Home
2010 Aus Won Home
2010 NZ Draw Home
2010 NZ Draw Home
2010 NZ Won Home
2010 SA Lost Home
2010 SA Won Home
2009 NZ Won Away
2009 NZ Draw Away
2009 NZ Draw Away
2009 SL Draw Home
2009 SL Won Home
2009 SL Won Home
2008 Aus Lost Away
2008 Aus Won Away
2008 Aus Draw Away

Dhoni is the best captain but not the Greatest

Dhoni keeping the wickets
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Yes he is Period.The stats say is all – 2007 T20 WC victory, #1 Test status and now prestigious WC in 2011. No one else has done it in the past. He is the first one to do it. Dhoni is the best captain India has ever had; but he is not the greatest. He needs to prove himself. This is just the beginning.

But my debate does not end here – the question that everyone really wants to ask is “Why is Dhoni the best captain?” Many don’t want to get into this debate even. Some are avid fans and others don’t know how to think and rationalize. I can understand the fan because that’s what passion is all about. But either ways if a ration debate happens it will become clear that what Dhoni does is pure luck. Don’t get me wrong, I love this man and respect him for his results but not his ways. But, why he is the best captain has many things behind it than a simple fact:

  1. He has the best team ever that India has played in cricket. I cant recall a time when India had a strong bench in every department – bowling , batting, fielding, all-rounders. This is the period when we have bench in every department and people who are capable of replacing one another.
  2. Australia saw some major retirements in last few years – Gilly, Hayden and may more. Pointing is not playing well. But Australia is no longer invincible. Everyone is beating them left-right and center. England beat them in Ashes in Australia. Why is Dhoni great? If this logic applies, every captain should be a great captain because Australia is no longer in shambles.
  3. We played in SA and lost 3-2. What did he do? Nothing. because he could do nothing. We do not perform well in foreign pitches and we did fail again. In last 4 years we have played more matches at home than abroad. Last 2 T20 WCs we did pathetic – why because they were not played in India. What has Dhoni did to improve the team to play well abroad. Nothing. Where is his foresight and captaincy.

Now lets look at the decisions he made in the WC and lets understand the rationale behind it

  1. Bring Piyush Chawla in the squad when he was not performing. We had 2 spinners with same spin type who were performing better. Eventually the next series after WC Piyush has been dropped and others come in. Then during the WC campaign, Dhoni quoted – “I am playing Chawla because he needs the match more than the team”. With Ashwin going into the SA without any match practice – is that a rational decision. Not but Ashwin did great and it was his capability and Dhoni’s luck. Remeber Chawla never played another match after that. Why did he need another game?
  2. He brought in Sree in finals quoting – “Sree is lucky for us. We won T20 WC with him on the team”. I need not say more
  3. Yuvi was in the squad for his vintage. yuvi was in no form for a WC squad and there were players sitting on bench in much better form. Where was his captaincy to call out lets sit Yuvi out (if not for the WC at least a match or two). But, he went with what was safe and took a chance. Yuvi was man of the series; lucky for Dhoni. But not a rational decision.

I am happy that all is going well for India and I am happy for it. But, please stop propagating how “Great” Dhoni is. He is damn lucky and I am glad for it.Dhoni is where Tendulkar was in 1996 just starting to prove himself. He has at least 12 more years to go to show what he can do for India. Ponting did it for Australis over a long period and it is just getting started for Captain Cool. But it is a long road and I wish he does well and starts to do what makes sense; eventually luck will run out – Sachin, Yuvi will retire; Zaheer and Bhajji will loose their speed and turn. I would like to see what he does to prepare the team for that day. If we make Dhoni the captain of Bangladesh team he wont do that good, but he can be greatest given what he does around him with a sub-optimal team. Time will test him when great guns retire and it is then he has to come on top. It is then the luck will expire and leadership will come out.

IPL 4 | A twist in the fairy tale

MI have led the points table for almost all of the tournament, until today when they found themselves loosing 2 matches in succession (first time this season) and in the process they are stranded on 3rd position and still not qualified.

I posted a few days back some of the very interesting matches and how the tables stand, and a lot of those permutations are coming alive. Top 4 teams have all played 12 matches and standings are RCB, CSK, MI and KKR with RCB clear by 1 point (17 points); CSK and MI tied on 16 and KKR behind by 2 points on 14. KKR have bigger worries – KXIP winning all matches and tying on 16 points or maybe overtake them.

With the following matches that can change the course of playoffs it is open table for RCB, MI and CSK.

  • 5/15: KXIP vs. DD
  • 5/17: RCB vs. KXIP
  • 5/18: CSK vs. KTK
  • 5/19: PW vs. KKR
  • 5/20: MI vs. RR
  • 5/22: RCB vs. CSK
  • 5/22: KKR vs. MI

But the matches RCB has against KKR and CSK are the most important. I still do not have all of KXIP’s matches because I still feel they will loose their next match against RCB and then it will back to these 4. Also, the match against KKR and MI being the last one in this set may hold a huge bearing on the end and also knowing where they will be at that point.

This is getting more interesting; will MI or CSK have a fairy ending tale??

IPL4 – RCB is a force to reckon

So with today’s win RCB move to 2nd spot and equals MI and RR with the most consecutive wins in IPL.

The top 4 teams have now played 11 matches and the standings are MI, RCB, CSK and KKR. With 3 matches to play, and separated by just 2 points (MI: 16, RCB: 15, and CSK/KKR: 14); they are playing for top 2 positions. In terms of matches RCB has the most difficult of matches and also the ones that will decide where they finish compared to CSK and KKR. Also, it will be a real test of their mettle against those teams.

The matches that I am waiting for that will decide the fate of playoffs and will also tell us in a way who may win the IPL 4 are:

  • 5/12: CSK vs. DD
  • 5/14: RCB vs. KKR
  • 5/14: MI vs. DC
  • 5/17: RCB vs. KXIP
  • 5/18: CSK vs. KTK
  • 5/19: PW vs. KKR
  • 5/20: MI vs. RR
  • 5/22: RCB vs. CSK
  • 5/22: KKR vs. MI