India won, barely. What next?

India played Sri Lanka in their 2nd match in the tri-series. India did win with 20 balls to spare, but it was anything but an easy win. India initially did well to restrict Sri Lanka to a score of 233 (in 50 overs compared to a 216 in 32 by Australia in first match). Indian bowling attack was very effective and Dhoni did not need a 6th bowler (does not happen a lot with Indian bowling). The most expensive was Vinay Kumar only at an economy rate of 5.60.

Well, after the first innings job was only half done and we needed at least 2 half-centuries to get close and 3-half centuries and a couple cameos to get across the line. Eventually, those did come – some expected and others not. Gambhir was not playing (even though he did well in the T20 win for India). Sehwag was brought back after being rested and he failed yet again (out on 10). Sachin and Kohli provided a much needed partnership. However, there was a twist in store when Sachin was out on 48, we Rohit, Raina and Dhoni scored 38 runs between them leaving Kohli to do the job. And when Kohli cramped up and got run out, India were reeling 181/6 needing 50+ runs with just 4 wickets and R. Jadeja and Ashwin playing.

I personally had lost all hope, but it seemed Sri Lanka is more screwed up then India and they let India slip away and Ashwin was the unseen Hero who took India to victory scoring 30 off 44 ball in a very serene manner – no riski shots, just common sense (all that was needed). Rohit and Dhoni were out playing needless risky shots and getting out. From test matches to one dayers, we see Kohli doing the best, Sachin trying to keep up and Ashwin being the surprise batsmen. Gambhir has had one odd good knock – rest everyone has been simply worthless. I wonder, how long will this team keep Sri Lanka at bay.

With Rohit, Raina making no impact in 4 matches they have played – we do need to ask ourselves if they are the best players to play on Australian bouncy pitches and if not not, then who else do we have? A quick look at the squad shows us that we do have Parthiv Patel, Manoj Tiwary, Irfan Pathan and Umesh Yadav on bench. to top it all, Dhoni said that because of rotation policy, he might rest Sachin / Sehwag to play Gambhir in next match.

Okay, we are struggling, but do we have to wait until all hell breaks loose to find a team that works for us. Or we start trying now and start loosing by making changes. And, if we have to make changes we have to make though full (intelligent or not will be decided if they work or not) ones like:

  • Bring in Manoj to replace Raina or Rohit
  • Pathn for Vinay Kumar
  • Parthiv to open with Sachin

These changes may not work, but will do two things a) make other players realize that they can be dropped to try new players if they do not play and b) allow new player a chance to perform. We just have to make sure we give enough some time for new players to perform (consider that Sehwag continues to play after no performance for god knows how many matches) and if they dont preform lets go back and find new players to beef up the competition and not revert back to players who are not playing. Having said all that, we should also consider to bring back old players in case they are ready to work hard and perform (fear of getting dropped for ever may do wonders).

Lets see what Dhoni does when India Plays Australia next on Feb 12.

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Cricket WC2011 – The end of the group stages

Starting March 23, it is going to be a very interesting stage and world-cup at this time is up for grabs. If I believe history repeats itself, then there are only 4 countries who can win this cup – Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand or West Indies. Wonder why – read why others are doomed because of the history of world cup.

Tomorrow is the last day of the group stages that has two matches which do not have any bearing on the qualifications on Quater-finals. However, the tussel between India and West Indies, will decide who plays who. The combinations:

  • India beats WI: they end up 2nd in the group and go onto play Australia
  • WI beats India: This will lead to a situation on where India ends up with their NRR and they could either be playing Sri Lanka or Pakistan

All those are very good sides and India will have to play very well to advance into the semi-finals. In last couple of weeks, I have heard many people saying, we should find the weakest of the opponents to play in the quarter. But, it is important for India to win tomorrow against the WI and get that confidence and momentum with them. In the entire group stages, India has not won even one match against the better teams and WI is still a formidable force that will give us the hope and confidence we have been looking for since the first day when we played against Bangladesh.

Lets focus a little bit on how the various teams fared and if I do look upto one such team as a winner at this stage. There is none. The group toppers – Pakistan and South Africa have also lost matched to big guns and in a very dis-heartening manner. Every team has just managed to qualify (more so in the Group B). No one team who is going to be playing in the quarterfinal, has looked formidable and un-penetrable. Looking back since 1996; we had certain candidates early in the world cup that had some indications to who may win the cup that year:

  • 1996: Sri Lanka came up very strong and were followed very closely by Australia and India. Sri Lanka eventually won beating India in semis and Australia in the finals
  • 1999: In England, Australia was followed closely by South Africa and Pakistan. Australia eventually won it
  • 2003: Australia and India were going all guns blazing. They met in the finals with Australia winning all their matches, and India only loosing one against Australia. Eventually, the final as predicted was between Australia and India, with India winning
  • 2007: Australia were closely chased by Sri Lanka and New Zealand. They went on to beating South Africa in semis and Sri Lanka in the finals.

But, this year there is no clear one side leading the groups and no clear winner for me. If you ask me south Africa and Paksitan have a great chance. However, South Africa has never won a single match in elimination stages – yeah NEVER – we will find out if their luck has changed when they play New Zealand in quarter-finals.  And, no host country has ever won the world-cup; so it rules out India and Sri Lanka. This time ICC’s decision of not allowing Pakistan to host the world cup may just turn out to be lucky for them.

Cricket WC2011 – Mid-term assessment

Today in World Cup cricket the 24th match was played, that takes us to just past mid-way of the group matches (total being 42). There are 14 teams which have 10 test playing nations and 4 from the associations and at this stage there are only two teams who look somewhat formidable in this stage. Let us start with Group A.

 

Group A

Pakistan looks quite good sitting at the top of the table winning all the three matches and two of them against the minnows, but their performance against the Sub-continent side Sri Lanka was impressive – and that was not expected. However, Australia who lost one against India in the pre-cup games, is doing quite well winning 2 out of 2 but not against top sides. Their first test of the cup was against Sri Lanka, but then it was washed out. So their only next test before they get into Quarter finals will be against Pakistan late in the schedule. Until that happens no one knows where Australia will be. New Zealand seems to be doing average and most probably will qualify given Zimbabwe, Canada or Kenya wont be able to win against the Kiwis.

 

Group B

This is a more interesting group. Let me start in a very interesting way. India beat Ireland, Ireland beat England, England beat South Africa and South Africa beat West Indies. This does not mean that India is doing best. It simply means that this is a very open group at this point. Ireland is a surprise package, only if they would have beaten Bangladesh they had a good chance of qualify into Quarterfinals. South Africa was doing very well until they ran into spinners from England on a turning pitch. That showed how can they not play spin well. England lost to Ireland and was a surprise win over South Africa; but overall their bowling have been dis-appointing where they gave more than 290 runs in more than 2 occasions and two times it was against Ireland and Netherlands; India was the third occasion. India has not been doing very well either. Their decision to include Piyush Chawla over Pragyan Ojha or Ashwin came back to haunt them against England where he gave away 3 sixesin the penultimate over and India ended up with a draw where they could have won. And then against Ireland he was most expensive giving a boundary in every over he bowled. But, India’s consolation is their batting looks like holding up very well , they are not cracking under pressure. Yuvraj is back in form and so is Sehwag and Tendulkar and Kohli. India’s next big test will be in last 2 group matches against West Indies and South Africa.

 

For me from Group A, Pakistan, Australia, Sri Lanka and New Zealand will qualify. And from Group B it will be India, South Africa, England and West Indies. However, I do not have a prediction of who will move to the semi-finals yet. Maybe after another 2 weeks when some of the giants have faced each other is when I can make up my mind.