Monday, July 28, 2008

India in New Zealand

My Perspective

This was always going to be a very interesting tour and a kind of a crossroad for the Indian Cricket team. On one side was the absolutely dismal past record of the Indian team in New Zealand and on the other-the form of the present Indian team. So what do you choose? Perhaps the logical conclusion from this can be that this current Indian team may not dominate or clean sweep the series but at least can be expected to fare much better than the previous tour...........

So far, two T-20 matches have been wrapped up and the result has been 0-2 against India. India is the T-20 champion and can be expected to win in this form of the game more than the other forms. And specially on this tour, more people would have expected India to atleast win the T-20 matches, expecting the ODIs and Test Matches to be much more sterner tests for the team.

My analysis of both the games so far- Starting with the first Twenty- Twenty match.

If I am not wrong, M.S.Dhoni called 'Tails' both the times at the toss and lost it both times (I too always go for a 'tail' during coin toss, with friends or on online games etc) maybe he calls it Tails everytime! I will have to observe more closely now. I wonder though whether it was an indication that things are not going your way, and when it does, usually nothing goes your way. The same thing happened in the previous series India played with the opposing captain Jayawardene losing atleast 4 tosses in a row! M.S.Dhoni has usually always been lucky with the coin toss but here it was just a formality as Dhoni said because any ways New Zealand wanted to field first and India wanted to bat first. By the way, I wonder whether it is 'field first' or 'bowl first'? I don't think there is an official term for it as such but it would be interesting to see what word the captain uses because it can tell a lot about what he is thinking. Perhaps a confident captain would like to use the word 'bowl' suggesting they are eager to bowl out the opposition whereas one using the word 'field' might have it at the back of the mind that thay are going to have a long hard day in the field!

In the first match, India got off to a flying start, all thanks to the destroyer Sehwag. He is someone whom the whole world has now acknowledged that nothing can be done about him. He is just a kind of a freak, in a positive way. Opponents never know what to expect from him, and are perhaps just happy to see his back, whichever way it comes. In that match, it was one of the smallest grounds I had seen and with the kind of big hitters India had, it was always going to be a dilemma. And Indians tried to be positive but perhaps overdid it. They tried to hit their way out of everything, neglecting the other important aspects of the game because this was a talented, confident bunch of players who hadn't really needed to change their game, their agressiveness so far. In this game, they almost forgot to take the singles, and perhaps never even gave a thought to building partnerships. In the batting, I was only disappointed with one dismissal- that of Rohit Sharma. You might argue about the others but I don't blame the batsmen so much for the other dismissals. Gambhir and Sehwag have the responsibility of giving a flying start and with Gambhir not getting the timing right whatsoever, the onus was all on Sehwag to blast away and both perished. They might be a bit guilty, considering the way they got out, but since this was the first match and they were the openers, If I was the concerned authority- the coach or whoever else, I wouldn't have said much to them.

It was the responsibility of number 3 and 4 to carry on the innings steadily after the openers had given them a good enough start and then gotten out. It was then that Raina and Rohit Sharma should have played steadily at something like 7-8 runs per over for the next 4-5 overs and then the others would have completed the task. But Rohit Sharma showed his inexperience and it was disappointing the way he got out and the way he has been playing for the past few months, I would rather consider him playing only in the Test Matches. He has played nothing like he should in T-20.

Raina played wonderfully well, Yuvraj was just consumed by the brilliance of Vettori and Dhoni- the pitch. I knew that after this match, the team had understood where they have gone wrong and I was sure they wouldn't commit the same mistake. And in fact, they did not and played better to a plan. I was surprised to hear the commentators etc, who are supposed to be experts of the game that Indian have not learnt from the previous match. That was definitely not true. This time there was a bit of a restraint and they had thought it out. The only thing was- they still hadn't gotten the hang of the pitch. The stroke players who are so used to the ball coming on to the bat nicely, were just not able to time the ball properly and thus got more frustrated and tried to hit it even harder which made it all the more difficult. This showed the inexperience of the side in these conditions.
M.S.Dhoni in action against New Zealand

And I wonder whether people- the commentators in particular, have not noticed that fact that Dhoni's game has really changed in the past few months. He is no longer the hitter, but more the anchor and the grafter. I don't even remember the last time he hit a six whereas earlier he would end the game by hitting the winning runs with a six. And people accused Sachin Tendulkar of not remaining the same for someone who has been playing for 20 years whereas they have almost not even noticed that Dhoni's game has changed so quickly. And in the second match, after he hit a 4, I heard the commentator say that one shot can change things and perhaps this was the shot that Dhoni required, as if after this he is going to hit the remaining balls for sixes! It was absolutely clear that he was clearly struggling to get the ball away and couldn't hit even a single six even though the boundaries were short here too. He is clearly no longer the hitter down the order and after the match he said that Yusuf's wicket was crucial because such batsman who can hit the ball well are needed in T-20! Well, he himself was there, and he was there till the end! So what was he doing then?!! Can't he hit them!

Even though I was not able to see the second match completely, I felt India tried well. It was the spinners who brought India back into the game and the fact that the match ended on the last ball clearly means that it was a close match, a thrilling one, to be enjoyed irrespective of the fact of who won it.

For me right now, Yuvraj Singh is clearly the best player in our team. I am not considering Sachin Tendulkar because he is just a legend whose every moment, that you are lucky enough to view, is to be enjoyed and savoured. Just like in the IPL, he along with others were the Icons and there was no bidding for them. It is unfair to include him in any comparison as he is beyond it, just like Lata Mangeshkar did not allow her name to feature for any award after some time and Arnold Schwarzenegger stopped contesting in Mr. Olympia!

It is such a joy to watch Yuvraj bat. True Sehwag at the top of the order is just awesome but I would rate Yuvraj above him right now. He was always a talented player when he came in but it is great to see the way he has evolved. Once he gets in, he can really accelerate at any time and according to me, he is the cleanest hitter in the game who depends on his timing. It took all the ability of Yuvraj, who played a very good innings, to give India a chance in the second match. He might soon become the best ODI player in the ICC rankings.
Yuvraj Singh- one of the cleanest strikers of the Cricket ball

And as I post this blog, India has won its first ODI match quite easily and there has also been an attack on the bus carrying the Sri Lankan Cricket team in Pakistan with a few of the players suffering some injuries and the players will be going back home to Sri Lanka immediately.

It will be interesting to see now what decision they take about the World Cup which is supposed to be held in Asia!
Interesting Fact- Two Indian cricketers- Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh and batsman Virender Sehwag were fined 200 NZ (100 US) dollar by New Zealand's Ministry of Agriculture for arriving in the country with dirty shoes!
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