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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

County Championship- Durham preview


I would like to preview all the nine teams in the first division of the county championship. First up, I would like to have a look at Durham. Durham played their first first class match in 1992, but were able to win the county championship in just 16 years in 2008 and they repeated the feat in 2009 as well. It is indeed a great achievement that Durham could win a county championship so soon and were able to repeat the feat last year as well.

Durham have been well served by a battery of quick bowlers and this time too they have a very good attack. I always felt that Riverside ground at Chester-le-street would have some encouragement for the quicker bowlers. Durham fans would know better than me, but whenever I saw a match at the Riverside, there was some sideways movement on offer.

The bowling attack

To win first class matches a good bowling attack is necessary and if I look at the Durham side, I can safely say that they do have a good attack. Harmison in County cricket looks a different prospect altogether and his pace and bounce has always been too hot to handle for the County batsmen. I really like Onions as a bowler as he never seems to lose his focus and makes the batsmen play more often than not. To be frank, making the batsmen play nowadays has become a rarity and it is refreshing to see someone doing it regularly. I also reckon that he has a decent bouncer which can be hard to pick as he has a quick arm action. The one drawback I can see is, he tends to take a few overs before he gets into his rhythm. He has had problems with a back injury in recent times and it seems to be more serious than first thought. If fit, he also would likely play for the England side, but whatever games he would be available, I'm certain that he can make a mark.

Durham also have Plunkett, Davies, Thorp, Claydron etc. I have always liked Plunkett as a bowler as he can get late swing at decent pace. His action was changed by Shine which doesn't help, but seems to have gone back to his old action and got wickets last year in CC. I do get the feeling though, when things aren't going right for him, he can lose his way quickly. Davies has been a consistent performer for Durham and I do think he is a decent bowler as he can bowl line and length, but the problem can be, he always seems to get injured. If I'm right even now he has got an ankle problem. Durham would be hoping that he can soon get fit as he is a important member of the side. The Aussie Thorp did well last year and the Durham management would be hoping he can do the same this year. The problem though can be Onions, Plunkett and Davies are recovering from injuries. So their bowling maybe tested with younger players like Evans or maybe Breese getting a chance. Borthwick is also in the squad, but I always get the feeling that unlike Aussies, the captains at county level or those who lead the England team just seem to be frightened of using the leg spinners as they can get hit.

Batting line up

Durham is captained by Smith and to his credit he has led them to a championship victory in 09. Having said that, I'm not convinced about his batting as with his open stance he always seems to be a candidate to be opened up by outswingers and edging it to the slips or getting out lbw. He was very good in 2008, but hasn't been consistent enough as a batsman. I have always liked Benkenstein as a batsman as he looks like a compact player. In the late 90's he was tipped to take over from Cronje as the South African captain, but for some reason it didn't work out for him, but has done well for Durham. Of course the mainstay of their batting is DiVenuto. He is a typical Australian batsman as he is strong square off the wicket on either side. Actually, if not for Mark Waugh and Gilly he would have played lot more onedayers for the Australian team, but there is no doubt that he has been a prolific run-getter in county cricket. Let it be for Durham or Derbyshire, he has consistently scored runs.

Among other players, Muchall looked like a decent prospect at the under 19 level, but hasn't been able to do well for Durham. If I'm right he did well back in 04, but hasn't been consistent enough. I think it is high time he starts getting runs and the same can be said about Coetzer. Stoneman too has to perform this season and to be frank from whatever I have seen of him, I wasn't that impressed. Phil Mustard is a hard-hitting wicketkeeper batsman and I still can't understand why he was dropped from the England one-day team. I haven't talked anything about the gritty Colly, but with him having a central contact and and England team playing so many matches, I don't see him being available most of the time.

All-rounders
The first name that can come into anyone's mind would be the former Somerset all-rounder Blackwell. The beefy Blackwell has a very simple approach to batting as he uses his power to hit through the line. The day he does well, the opposition would be in real trouble as he can score quickly and demoralise the opposition ranks. I think his left arm spin is a bit underrated too as he can bowl clever changes of pace. Durham also do have Gidman, Ben Stokes and Ben Harmison. Gidman is usually compared to his brother Alex, but unlike his brother it looks like he is more of a bowling all-rounder. He has also struggled to break into the main side. Stokes impressed everyone with his all-round skills in the under 19 world cup and hopefully he can do well in CC as well. Ben Harmison can bowl decent medium pace and can bat a bit, but has been in and out of the squad. If a few of their main players are injured, he may still get few chances this season. The side also has Breese, but he has rarely played for them in recent times.

Finally, it won't be a huge surprise if Durham win the 2010 championship as the side looks well balanced, though Notts may challenge their supremacy this season. If I have to ever pick a weakness, it could be some of their main bowlers like Onions, Plunkett and Davies are recovering from injuries, so the team may find it a bit tougher during the first few matches and both Onions and Plunkett can play for England. Having said that they still have Harmison to terrorise the county batsmen and youngsters like Evans may do well .

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mullah Yousuf to reitre


It is sad to see that bearded wonder from Pakistan, Yousuf is set to announce his retirement from cricket. I don't know much about the politics of Pakistan's cricket, but to ban him just doesn't look right. Banning players isn't a joke and the PCB seems to have kept everyone in dark regarding the exact reasons for banning players of the stature of Yousef and Younis. Anyway, I do hope that Yousef is remembered for his cricketing achievements.

Yousef made his test debut against South Africa in 1998. He had a modest start to his career. The Aussies who toured Pakistan in 1998/99 weren't said to be impressed by his habit of opening the face most of the times in an attempt to run it down to the third man region, but weren't they wrong as he was able to amass over 7000 runs at an average of over 53.

He became an established member of the Pakistan squad in 99 as he started to show his class in the one-day arena, but for me the turning point of his career came when he scored 95 at Brisbane in 99/00. Yes, the wicket was a belter, but his ability to play late and his wrist work just dumbfounded the Aussies. He and Saeed Anwar seemed to be taking the fight to the Aussies before they came-back strongly to win the match. Anwar was very lucky to be dropped by a great fielder like Mark Waugh early in his innings as he doesn't drop many, but it was good to watch both play attacking cricket. The Aussie players including their captain Steve Waugh did acknowledge that Yousuf had improved as a player beyond recognition.

As the years went by, he became a very consistent run-getter for the Pakistan team. In 2006 he became the run-machine of the Pakistan's side as he scored 1788 runs at an Bradmanesque average of 99.33. To average 99 is simply an awesome achievement. During that period, he scored a fantastic double hundred against England in Pakistan. It was a series in which Harmison and Freddie had troubled him with short pitch stuff, but Yousef came good in the last test and helped Pakistan to win the match and the series against England. He also scored heavily against their arch-rivals India and the Caribbean team. To be frank, he was always a thorn in India's flesh. Kumble and Harbie must have got fed up with seeing the face of both Yousef and Younis. Khan as both of them scored very heavily against India during that period. He also was in great form in England in 2006 though Pakistan lost the series 0-2. In England, he seemed to be toying with the opposition bowling as England's bowlers never looked like getting him out! It was no doubt the golden period of Yousef's career.

His troubles started in the 07 world up as Pakistan couldn't progress beyond the first round and Pakistan were hit by the controversy surrounding Woolmer's death. Pakistan's cricket is always troubled by internal fights and politics and it seemed like they didn't want Yousef anymore in the side. Yousef took the step of joining the ICL and as expected wasn't allowed to play for the Pakistan team. It looked like we may never the graceful batsman from Pakistan again.

Thankfully he came back to play for Pakistan in 2009 as he left the ICL. Yousef immediately made an impact by getting a century in Lanka, but the ability to consistently get big scores seemed to be missing. The politics in Pakistan meant that Younis. Khan resigned from the captaincy as Yousef took over the mantle of captaining the side in NZ. He never looked like the right man to lead the national side and to be frank was lackluste in Australia as a captain and didn't even do well as a batsman. In his defense, it has to be said that it isn't just the captain, but other players also have to take the blame for their disastrous performance in Australia. Now, Pakistan did lose the series 3-0, but if the PCB wanted him out they could have asked him to gracefully retire, but the ban just seemed to be harsh.

Yes, Yousef did struggle in places like Pakistan and Australia, but there is no doubt that he was a world class player and it is sad to see that he has to retire from the game with controversies surrounding him. Fans will surely miss the graceful batsman from Lahore, who made batting look very easy with his customary high back-lift and great wrist work.

I would like to thank Yousef for bringing joy to millions of cricket fans around the world with his graceful batting.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Congrats Vettori!


It is great to see that Vettori has now played 100 tests for the Black Caps. He has been a great servant for the NZ team as he has got over 300 test wickets and has scored over 3000 runs.

Vettori has carried NZ’S bowling attack on his shoulders for many years. Chris Cairns got wickets, but he was injury prone. Bond had so much talent, but again was injury prone and now has retired from test cricket. So, Vettori has done a great job for the Black Caps as he has been consistent as a bowler. He has scored vital runs lower down the order too.

One first saw a bespectacled Vettori against England in 97. It was a series in which he showed great control for a 18 year old and troubled all England’s batsmen. He has never been a big spinner of the ball, but clever changes of pace, a bit of flight, the arm ball and more importantly his control has helped him to become a good bowler.

Early in his career, he showed his class by taking crucial wickets in places like Srilanka. If I am right, he even helped the Black caps to defeat Lanka in a test match in 98 as he teamed up with the off spinner Wiseman to take NZ to victory.

In England in 99 Dion Nash and Cairns bowled superbly, but Vettori did chip in with crucial wickets. It was also the time when he started to improve his batting. I do remember him playing a gutsy innings at Oval with Chris Cairns playing a magical innings to turn the match on its head as NZ won that series, but one can't forget Vettori's contribution in that match. At that time he used to score lots of his runs through the third man and the square leg. He still does it, but nowadays he has a better range of shots and a better defence too.

One also has to remember that he had to battle with back problems and it looked like it may threaten his career! He had to even change his action slightly, but he has made a fine come back from it.

As the years went by, Bond came into the attack and bowlers like Tuffey started to do well, but Bond being injury prone and after he left for ICL, it was Vettori who became the main bowler. He took up the mantle of captaining the side as well, as Fleming retired from international cricket. He continued to bowl well and even played some fine knocks like one can remember his hundred against India recently. He almost took NZ to a fine victory against England at Old Trafford in 08 with a fine spell of bowling, but only to see his inexperienced batsmen throwing their wickets away to Monty and England winning the match. He also played an important part in a fine victory against England in NZ at Hamilton in 2008. The Black caps had to depend on him even against Bangladesh in 08, as he took wickets and scored runs to help them from avoiding embarrassment in Bangladesh. He continued to show his worth against the Lankan team away from home in 2009 by scoring a gallant hundred in the second test though others couldn't support him and they lost. He was consistent as a all-rounder against Pakistan at home and even in this series against Australia, he has come good both as a batsman and as a bowler. To be frank, he has become the Mr. reliable for the Black Caps team.

As a captain too he is doing an admirable job, especially when one considers the limited resources he has at his disposal.

So, one can think of him as a very good bowler, as a batsman he has improved, a decent captain and nowadays he is also a selector! A very good cricketer indeed.

Good day for the Kiwis!


Did it actually happen or am I dreaming as the Kiwis have had a great first day with Australia being bowled out for just 231! The bowling was purposeful and they executed their plans well though, some of the Aussie batsmen threw their wickets away.

Shane Watson looked to be too aggressive and got out trying to pull on the front-foot, Ponting was run out, Clarke got out to a soft dismissal and the theory of him losing his concentration against the spinners worked. North played all across his front pad and got out lbw. He seems to be a bully of bad bowling as even if the opposition bowl decent stuff he seems to be all over the place with his footwork. Hussey again went searching for the ball and even Katich, who played well won't be happy with his dismissal. Overall a very disappointing day for the Aussies as the pitch is a decent batting track.

The Kiwis would be over the moon with their efforts as they executed their plans well though, were helped by some indifferent batting by the Aussies. Southee bowled a fuller length and got the rewards. He can still be inconsistent, but has a good release and that helps. Vettori playing in his 100th test gave him good support as with his subtle changes of pace troubled the batsmen.

So, can the brittle batting line up of Black Caps do well? McIntosh is already back in the hut as another Kiwi batsman got out to a left arm swing bowler. Oh god they really struggle against the left armer's angle, especially those who can swing it. Skippy has shown decent technique, but has this problem of either just blocking everything or hitting it. He needs to rotate the strike more. Kiwis need their batsmen to do well as they can't depend on Vettori and McCullum all the time.

The Black Caps have done very well on the first day, but for Kiwis to have any chance of winning this test, their batsmen have to stand up and be counted.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Having a look at the Australian side


As expected, the Kiwis were steamrolled by the Aussies in the first test and it seems like the Black Caps poor record of not winning a test match in the last 17 years against the OZ team would continue. So, what can the Black Caps do to stop the marauding Aussies? I don't see too much of hope for the inexperienced Kiwis against a fine team like Australia, but I just thought of having a look at some of their players to see whether they do have any flaws.

So here are my views

Shane Watson- Has improved his technique as he doesn't move too far across like he used to and plays with a straighter bat. He still has a tendency to play with a bit of angled bat early in his innings, so a swing bowler like Southee can look to bowl full and attack the stumps. I don't think one should be afraid of Watson driving the swing bowlers for a few boundaries as he can be vulnerable to the swinging ball. He has also become a decent swing bowler and has really lent the balance to the Australian side.


Katich- His main strength is that he knows his off stump and plays within his limitations. As he moves so much across the stumps, the bowlers will have to adjust their line a bit and also look out for occasionally going around the wicket to target his leg stump as he sometimes does expose his leg stump. The Kiwis did try that tactic of going around the wicket and finally Katich missed one as Arnel got him lbw. It can again be tried though, the Kiwis should try it as a surprise weapon as Katich is strong on the leg side. He is also ok against spin, but can be a nervous starter against spinners. If the seamers don't get it right, Vettori can come in early and look to bowl that arm ball. Vettori doesn't seem to get bothered by a relatively newish ball either.

Ponting- He is very strong on the onside, but early on in his innings can be vulnerable to the inswinger. The Kiwi bowlers can really bowl full and look to get him lbw. Once he gets in, it is very tough to get him out, but the bowlers can look to bowl good length and bowl it a touch wider, as Punter has the habit of going hard at the ball. A few times he has inside edged onto his stumps and has been caught in the gully with Punter looking to force it off the back foot. I still don't understand, why aren't the captains hesitant to use the gully against Punter. Martin can be tried as he does hit that good length spot consistently.


Clarke- He has really tightened his technique against swing and as a result has got better, but occasionally can flirt at deliveries outside the off stump. He is a very good player of spin, but in recent times the spinners have troubled him a bit more. He is no doubt in very good touch and doesn't seem to get bothered by his problems in personal life either.

Hussey- Has looked vulnerable outside the off stump as he seems to go searching for the ball. After a relatively disappointing series in South Africa and in England, he has found his form back yet, seems to be vulnerable to deliveries that goes across him. The Kiwis did trouble him in the first test and got him out by bowling a touch fuller and angling it across him. He has also shown a weakness to sharp bouncers, but the Kiwis don't have any express pace bowler to try it.

North- North scored a century in the last match and seems to have got his form back.He is a good player on the off side, but can get his front foot too much across. If there is some swing on offer, Southee can look to bowl his natural variation of swinging it into the lefthander and get him lbw as he moves his front foot too much across. If there is no sideways movement on offer, they may have to bowl a touch shorter and continue to angle it away from him as he does like to go for his shots on the off side and can play away from the body. For instance, Jimmy Anderson kept pushing it away from him at Edgbaston and North finally obliged by playing away from the body to get the edge.

Haddin- Does not like being kept quiet by spinners, so one can test his ego by bringing the long off and maybe even the long on up in the circle against Vettori and Vettori does have a good arm ball. The seamers have also got him out by hitting that good length and bowling it a touch wide of off stump to get the edge. Th fact is, he doesn't like being kept quiet.

The bowlers

Johnson- He generates lots of pace through a quick arm action and gets awkward bounce. I think the Kiwis would play him better than the swing bowlers in the opposition ranks as they like it to come onto the bat and Johnson's pace may just be ideal for strokemakers like Taylor, or McCullum as they all like pace on the ball. The left arm swing bowlers have troubled the Kiwi batsmen in the past, but Johnson isn't a swing bowler. He can also be a dangerous lower order batsman and can really hit sixes through the mid-wicket region, but in England, the seamers deliberately banged it into the pitch and didn't give him the chance to come well forward. Can any of the Kiwi bowlers do it is the question? maybe Arnel or even Martin can bang a few into the pitch. He also looks to go after the spinners, so Vettori's arm ball can come in handy.

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Hauritz- He has improved as a bowler as he does flight it a bit and gets a bit of turn. The pitch at Hamilton sometimes tend to help the spinners as well. Actually, he is a typical Australian off spinner, who would look to bowl a touch outside the off stump. The Kiwis should be careful of playing across the line against Hauritz as his tendency to bowl outside the off stump would likely lead to batsmen getting leading edges.

Bollinger- I had said it in my article of previewing the Australia v Black caps one-day series that Kiwis have usually been vulnerable against left arm swing bowlers like Siders, Vaas and of course the great Akram himself as most their batsmen lack footwork. It didn't maerialise in the one-day series, but in the first test Bollinger got seven wickets. I don't think the management can do much as it is very difficult to change the way a batsman plays as he would have played with that technique for a longtime. It would be good if they show better shot selection and maybe they can open their stance to play the left armer's angle better.

Harris- He is yet another swing bowler though, thankfully for the Kiwi batsmen he isn't a left armer, yet even right arm swing bowlers have troubled the Kiwis in the past. The best one can expect again would be better shot selection.

I do hope the Kiwis show some fight in the second test. Yes, the Aussies are definitely the better team, but it would be good to see Kiwis atleast giving them a run for their money.w

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cook and KP take England to victory


In the end, it was a comfortable victory for England, but Bangladesh seem to be improving as they played reasonably well in the Kiwiland and showed some fight in this series as well. Bang. batsmen did play reasonably well in the second innings of the first test and in the second test at Dhaka, they gave England a run for their money.

At the start of the day, Bangladesh needed Sakib to do the bulk of the scoring with others supporting him, but leaving S.Islam none of them gave him good support. Naeem too seemed to be showing some patience, but the shot that Naeem played to get out was better suited for street cricket! In the end, Sakib lost his patience and finally got out. On a easy paced wicket 209 was never going to be a challenging target and as expected England won in a canter.

Poor Sakib, it was the fourth time he got to the 90's, but hasn't been able to convert any of them into a hundred. He scored 99 against Steyn, Morkel, Ntini and Kallis and has also scored 96 against Murali and Vaas. I have seen some saying that he is over hyped, but IMO he has done very well for a 22 year old. Today too he played a fine knock as he mixed caution with aggression.

As far as England were concerned, Cook again played a fine knock and deservedly got a hundred. He seems to have worked hard on his back-lift as it is coming out a lot more straighter. It was also good to see KP getting some runs. Yes, he couldn't do well in South Africa nor in the onedayers in Bangladesh, but that was mainly due to him coming back from a serious injury. I don't see much wrong in his technique and in the past he has shown ample times that he can succeed against the best. It was also good to see him opening his stance a bit to play more shots against the left arm spinners on the off side. The way he used the depth of the crease against the spinners was a treat to watch.

Bangladesh won't be happy about the number of decisions that went against them though, Trott may say he too was unlucky with that run out as with the available evidence there was no way he could have been given out. In simple words, the umpiring was been sub standard.

I do have to say that Bangladesh have a promising batting line up as Rahim, Mohamudullah, Sakib and Iqbal are all talented and hopefully they will mature with age. I really liked Mohamudullah's batting as he plays late and can be easy on the eye though, he has the habit of playing away from the body. The problem for Bangladesh is, the bowling attack looks weak. Bangladesh need to find a decent seamer and maybe another decent spinner to support Sakib. If they find some decent bowlers they would seriously challenge both the Black Caps and the Caribbean team at home.

For England, Bresnan was impressive as he consistently bowled at the good length spot with the odd full delivery to get the edge. He was the only England bowler who found some reverse swing with the old ball. Swann was as expected impressive but Broad was lacklustre. He continued to bang it into the pitch and didn't find much joy. Of course Broad keeps getting away with his antics and doesn't get punished by the match referee. Bell had a very good tour, but needs to continue the good work. Cook had a very good tour as well, but I'm not impressed by his captaincy. KP too looked in decent touch.

Finally, I think it is right to say that everyone have to show patience with Bangladesh as it isn't easy to play test cricket and to their credit they have been improving.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tendulkar's classy knock


I haven't followed all the matches of the IPL, but I was able to watch a bit Tendulkar's knock yesterday and it was great to watch the ageless Tendulkar again doing well. The beauty of any Tendulkar's knock is he doesn't slog, but is very easy on the eye. In T/20 cricket there are lots of agricultural shots played, but thankfully Tendulkar is still playing.

I liked the fact that Tendulkar played that pull shot yesterday. He seemed to have left playing that shot due to injuries, but yesterday he repeatedly played that shot against Sharma. Yes, the pitch was slow still the way he picked the length and dispatched Sharma over fine leg and when he tried it again he was hit over the mid wicket region were fine shots. His drive of Bond when he slightly opened the face to find the gap between mid off and extra cover was also a treat to watch. I won't forget those wristy shots he played of spinners by using soft hands either. He is no doubt a genius at work.

I also thought that KKR bowled the wrong line to Tendulkar. The likes of McGrath, Siddle and co. have shown that if anything, Tendlkar is slightly vulnerable when the outswinger is bowled slightly wide of off stump as in recent times, Tendulkar has played a bit away from body early in his innings. Having said that most players are vulnerable to outswingers early in their innings. Ganguly may have also tried Kartik a bit earlier as the pitch was gripping a bit.

Finally, it was great to watch Tendulkar play yet another sublime knock, but for KKR they seem to be down in dumps as their top order aren't scoring quickly

Monday, March 22, 2010

Kiwis show some fight


The Aussies may likely win this match, but it is good to see the Kiwis showing some fight. After the Aussies enforced the follow, I thought the Kiwis would again fall like a pack of cards, but they have showed a bit of fight in the second innings.

I'm not a huge fan of McIntosh, but he did play better in the second innings, as he didn't try anything fancy, but played within his limitations. The Black Caps would have still lost on the fourth day itself, but thanks to Vettori and McCullum they have a slight chance of even drawing this match.

Vettori is very unorthodox and can irritate the best of bowlers by walking across the stumps and leaving his leg stump exposed, but amazingly most of the times somehow gets some bat on it and gets runs! He has no doubt become Mr. reliable for the Black Caps. McCullum has lots of talent, but is prone to playing reckless shots, but in this match he has played a mature knock. Actually, I don't think anyone would say that he should leave playing shots as he has such quick hands and great hand eye co-ordination, but just needs to show better shot selection and today he played a superb knock as he didn't try to blindly slog everything. I really liked it when he didn't lose his cool with Hauritz bowling outside the off stump and troubled him by bowling on those rough patches and got it to turn and bounce.

As far as the match is concerned, the Aussies should still fancy their chances as it is mainly about getting McCullum out though, Tuffey has given him good support. Hauritz may cause them some problems as he is getting it to turn by pitching it on the rough patches and the pitch has bounce, but the quicker bowlers did struggle today as there was such a gusty wind blowing around. Kiwis would be hoping that McCullum can continue to mix caution with aggression and Tuffey gives him good support. Tuffey can look vulnerable against the short pitch stuff still has shown decent technique. Of course the Kiwis won't mind if weather comes to their rescue again on the final day!!!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

England hit by a cyclone called Tamim Iqbal!


Bangladesh is known for some devastating cyclones because of Bay of Bengal. Cyclones that have caused mass destruction in Bangladesh and have led to loss of lives.

On this tour of Bangladesh, England have been hit by a different kind of cyclone called Tamim Iqbal. His ability to hit it powerfully through the off side has perplexed Cook so much that he has looked lost for ideas.

Let it be his century in the first onedayer, his 86 in the first test or his blistering knock in this test, Iqbal has shown time and again that he can take the bowling attack apart. Yes, he has been given a few chance like in the ongoing test at Dhaka, but he has made use of those chances.

His knock in the ongoing match at Dhaka was great to watch. He doesn't hold back as he throws kitchen sink at anything just outside the off stump and I'm just amazed by his ability to hit so well through the line. Any bowler who gives him a bit of width would be smashed to smithereens. I still think his knock against India in the final test was better as he mixed caution with aggression, but that doesn't mean his blistering knock against England was bad. It is just that I feel he played better against India.

I would like to see how he copes with conditions in England. Yes, he may have to show a bit of caution as he can't hit everything through the line in May in England, but it is more about minor adjustments that he has to make to succeed in England. Having said that he has done well in seamer friendly conditions in Kiwiland which shows that he can succeed away from home too.

I do hope Iqbal matures as a player and at the same-time doesn't lose his natural attacking instincts. I would also like to make it clear that comparisons between cyclones in Bangladesh and Iqbal was made just to show how destructive he has been in this series against England.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The story of Sinclair's career


In cricket, to judge the worth of any player, usually averages are looked at. It isn't a bad measure of how a player has done as it gives an indicator regarding the player's ability. Any player should also be given a decent run in the side as if a player is dropped on the basis of him failing in a couple of games, it won't do his confidence any good.

If I look at Sinclair's career, it can be said that he has been shabbily treated by the selectors as he has rarely ever been given a decent run in the side. Sinclair made his debut against the Caribbean team in 2000 and straightaway made an great impact by getting a double hundred. The bowling attack that he faced may not have been a world class attack as Walsh wasn't at his peak and Ambrose didn't play in that series yet, getting a double hundred in his first test match itself is an  stupendous achievement.

He failed to get going against the formidable Aussies in 2000. The Aussies at that time had a great team and it wasn't much of surprise that he couldn't do well as Aussies have destroyed the confidence of many young players. His weakness against spin was exploited very well by the OZ team. So, the pressure was on Skippy when the Black Caps toured South Africa at the end of that year, but he responded magnificently by doing well against the formidable Saffers on some bouncy tracks. Most other NZ batsmen struggled, but Skippy got a 150 at Port Elizabeth and showed his class. He scored more than half the team's runs in that knock against the likes of Donald, Ntini, Pollock and co. and that isn't some pop gun attack for sure!

After succeeding in South Africa, some experts tipped a bright future for Skippy, but they had not taken into consideration that NZ's management always seem to believe in revolving door policy, as players have rarely been given a decent run in the side. It got worse under Bracewell's regime with few of the senior players like Fleming, Astle and Macmillan retiring from international cricket as they didn't like the way Bracewell ran the side. Anyway, coming back to our man Sinclair, he got dropped after failing in a few onedayers against Lanka in 2000/01. Yes, onedayers are different from tests, but any player would lose confidence if he is dropped after a few games. He was atleast picked for the test series against Pakistan and again there was pressure on Sinclair as he didn't do well in the first test against Pakistan, though one has to remember that he made a 150 against the Saffers in the previous test series he had played. He made a great comeback in the second test against Pakistan as he scored a double hundred. Yes, the pitch was flat, but to get a double hundred with the selectors ready to wield the axe isn't an bad achievement. He was also able to play his tormentor Saqlian with ease.

The double hundred helped him to get back into the one-day set-up for the tri-series in Sarjah. In that tournament, he got couple of hundreds and showed that he can be successful even in the onedayers, but trouble was brewing underneath for Skippy as after not doing well in a test series in Australia, he was again dropped for the away tours of Pakistan and the Caribbean. He made yet another come back in the Champions trophy in Lanka in 02 and did ok, but yet again wasn't picked for the test series against India. To be frank, any player wouldn't liked to have played  in that series against India as most of the tracks in that series were very difficult for the batsmen. Unfortunately for Skippy, he was selected for the one-day series against India and the pitches again had too much sideways movement on offer. Any batsman who would have averaged 20 in that series may have been satisfied. To his credit, Skippy played a couple of decent knocks which again showed that against the quicker bowlers he had a good technique and averaged about 25 in that series and that can be considered as good enough. Now, don't ask about strike rates in that series as it was mainly about survival! The reward for battling it out in that series was being made to sit on the bench for the 03 world cup. A few players like Vincent and Macmillan were struggling for runs in that tournament yet, Sinclair got only one chance to play in that tournament and in that game he didn't bat. NZ could have atleast tried him in a few matches.

If Sinclair had thought he may still get a decent run in the side he was completely wrong as in came Bracewell and the situation got worse with senior players like Cairns, Astle and Fleming not being happy with his coaching methods. As far as Skippy was concerned, the situation as expected got worse for him as he was dropped after one poor series in Lanka, only to comeback again in 04 against the Saffers for the last test. In the crucial last test with NZ leading the series 1-0, he played a vital knock of 74 against the likes of Pollock and Ntini. The Black Caps lost the test, but Sinclair did show that he can still be considered for selection, but as expected wasn't picked to tour England in 04. He came back to play Bangladesh and did well against a weak team, but believe it or not Skippy got dropped after he had a bad second test against Australia. For the umpteenth time, it was about one bad series or it can be better said as one bad test that made Bracewell to wield the axe once again on Skippy. It wasn't any better in the onedayers, as he had made 224 runs in 5 matches in 04/05 which isn't bad by any standards, but Bracewell and co. dropped him from the one-day side as he had one bad one-day series against Australia in 04/05. The story of Bracewell and Sinclair though won't end so quickly as he again got selected to play against the Lankans in 06/07 and he did struggle against Murali, but couple of bad matches was enough for Bracewell to drop him once more!

If a few thought Sinclair won't be seen again they were completely mistaken as for the umpteenth time he was selected for the one-day series against the Saffers in 07/08. For a player not known for his ability to rotate the strike, he did a wonderful job as he averaged 105 and had a strike rate of over 100 in that series! He also played in the middle order in that series, though he is mainly a top order batsman. Bracewell wasn't going to make life any easier for him though, as he got dropped after having couple of bad games in Australia. Hmm! a batsman averages 105 and gets dropped after having couple of bad games in Australia?

The revolving door policy continued as he was recalled to play against England in 08. Skippy looked fed up and seemed to have lost confidence in his ability. To be honest, if I was in his postilion, I would be fed up as well. He seemed to be a nervous wreck in that series and played some atrocious shots with Sidebottom being the main beneficiary. It didn't surprise me that he was dropped once more by Bracewell and co. after that series, but funnily enough, he played one more onedayer during that time, but with their management one can't expect much as he got dropped after one bad game!

I see that he has been selected for the series against Australia, but should he have accepted the offer of playing for the Black Caps as he may likely get dropped very soon? If he plays in the second test can he succeed? It won't be easy for him as the past would be haunting him.

Sinclair could have been a fine player for the Black Caps especially, against the quicker bowlers, but looking at his career, it can be said that Skippy has been shabbily treated by the selectors.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Impressive stuff from Swann


Yes, I know that it is just Bangladesh, but Swann continues to impress me as a off spinner. He is a late developer, but since he made his debut for England against India he has gone from strength to strength.

Swann doesn't have the doosra, but gets a bit of drift, subtle variations in pace pace has the slider and that slider has troubled many batsmen. He also goes around the wicket and that helps him against the lefthanders as it forces the batsmen to play at more deliveries. It isn't a huge surprise that 44 of his 76 victims are lefties.

The young Finn too was impressive. He had a bad start which wasn't surprising as on his debut he must have been nervous, but once he got a few overs under his belt has bowled well for a 20 year old. I have been saying it for a while that Finn's ability to bowl a touch fuller may help him to be more successful than other taller bowlers who, have played for England in recent times like Broad, Tremlett and co. He also has good pace and as he is tall gets bounce, but it is his ability to bowl a fraction fuller which is going to stand him in good stead in the future.

Leaving Rahim's fighting knock, England as expected have dominated the test, but not enforcing the follow with England having a lead of over 300 against a team like Bangladesh is a bit hard to fathom.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

KKR upset the apple-cart!

Wow great to see KKR starting the season with a victory. KKR won the wooden spoon in the last edition of the IPL as they finished last, but they have started this season well by defeating last year's champions Deccan Chargers. It does show that all teams in the IPL are evenly matched.

As far as the match was concerned, KKR had a bad start as they lost quick wickets at top of the order with Vaas making good use of the bit of movement on offer. Shah and Mathews struggled a bit at the start of their innings as they took time to adjust to the spongy bounce that one got to see yesterday. Once they got their eye in, they were able to accelerate beautifully. Shah played those typical slog sweeps, or flicks through the on-side and Mathews used his raw power to help KKR reach 161. Shah may not be the best runner between wickets and his fielding is usually below par, but there is no doubting the fact that he can hit it a long way, but England's selectors even selected the walking wicket, Denly ahead of him. Shah would do better if he doesn't make so many premeditated movements in the crease. Mathews is a powerful hitter and bowlers would better not bowl to him length deliveries in the end overs as it would likely disappear into the orbit!

As KKR scored 161, one can say that they had a good chance of making a match out of it as there was spongy bounce in the wicket which meant that getting the big hits wasn't going to be easy, but KKR made life difficult for themselves by dropping couple of catches of Gilly. Now, the catch that Hodge dropped was a tough one, but Langveldt should have taken the other catch offered by Gilly. As expected Gilly smashed the KKR bowlers and scored a half century. Dropping catches of a player like Gilly can really demoralise the opposition teams as he has the ability to take the the game away from the opposition ranks, but thankfully for KKR he got out after making a half century and was followed to the pavilion by Symo, Sharma and Gibbs. All three played some weird shots especially, Sharma who seemed to be playing tennis and not cricket! Langveldt bowled well in the end overs as he mixed it up well and I.Sharma too responded well by bowling a good last over to help KKR beat last year's champions. KKR though have to improve their fielding as they made too many errors in the field.

I liked the way Sharma bowled as he did hit the bat hard and got appreciable bounce from a wicket that suited him and with a bit more luck he could have got three or four wickets in the match. Langveldt too bowled well and he is known for his bowling in the T/20 format.Deccan chargers would be wondering what made their experienced batsmen play such weird shots to get out!

Delhi Daredevils preview

I would also like to have a look at the Delhi DareDevils squad. The team has done well in both 08 and 09 but haven't been able to win the IPL trophy.

In 2010, Gambir has taken over the role of captaining the side from Sehwag. It would be interesting to see how Ghambir would respond to the extra responsibility of captaining the side.

Among the Indian players, Ghambir and Sehwag would be the mainstays in the batting. Both have been excellent for the Indian team in the recent past. Sehwag of course can just take the opposition attack to the cleaners with those powerful shots through the off side. His record for India in T/20 may not be good, but any opposition bowling attack would be having nightmares of a top order of Sehwag, Dilshan and Gambir. Among other batsmen, Karthiik is a bit underrated as he has a wide range of shots and as he plays a bit on the up can really look good on tracks that have even bounce and do come onto the bat. Manhas has been a prolific run-getter in India's domestic cricket for a long time. Kedhar. Jedhav has a good record in domestic cricket and would add to their bench strength.

Joginder. Sharma and Bhatia are both experienced all-rounders and can come in handy. In-fact, Bhatia has a few impressive performances under his belt in the IPL and looks like a very competitive cricketer, who gives 100% on the field.

DareDevils would be banking on the experienced Indian medium pacer Nehra to get wickets upfront. He was dropped from the Indian side, but seems to have got fitter and is back to his best. Mishra is also in the present Indian team. Yes, he has been inconsistent, but does have the talent to succeed as a leg spinner as he has a good googly and a decent stock delivery. Sarandeep is a experienced off spinner, who has already played for India. Umesh. Yadav is rated highly as a medium pacer in the domestic circuit and the left armer Sangwan has done well for the under 19 Indian team. Salvi is also in the squad, but seems to have lost some pace.

Foreign players
Among the foreign recruits, one has to think about Dilshan. Once he started opening the innings he has become more aggressive and just like Sehwag can be devastating on the off side. Occasionally he looks like the carbon copy of Sehwag! Sehwag and Dilshan opening the batting can be a daunting prospect for any opposition team. Of course they also have De Villiers in the line up. He is a extremely talented batsman as he has the ability to play text book shots and also can be innovative. The batting line up of Delhi does look very strong as they also have warner in the squad and he can really club the bowling to all parts of the ground.

Maharoof, McDonald and Henriques are the all-rounders in the side. Maharoof ha lost his way a bit as he has been dropped from the Lankan side. He has the ability to clear the boundary with ease, but as a bowler he has been beset with no ball problems. McDonald has been a consistent performer for Victoria and one can't fathom why he hasn't played more for Australia as he gives nothing away for the batsmen to hit and and as a batsman can be useful lower down the order. Henriques has the ability to hit huge sixes but hasn't yet performed as well as he should have done for his state side.

Among their bowlers there is Nannes. The left armer is quick and has one of the best bouncers going around as it leaves the righthander making it hard to pull him. Parnell can be expensive but can bowl those yorkers and get wickets in the end overs.

My team

Sehwag
Dilshan
Ghambir
De Villiers
Manhas
Karthik
Bhatia
McDonald/ Parnell
Mishra
Nehra
Nannes

The team looks very strong and they do have good bench strength too. I don't think it would surprise anyone if they win the IPL in 2010, but again cricket isn't played on paper!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mumbai Indians Preview


The sixth team I would look at would be the Mumbai Indians. Mumbai Indians have been disappointing in both 08 and 09 as they couldn't make it even to the semifinals in either 08 or 09.

Indian players

Now let us look at the Indian players in the side.

Of course the first name that can come to anyone's mind would be Tendulkar. He doesn't play the T/20 format for India, but his wealth of experience can come in very handy for the team. I won't like to analyse too much about his batting as a lot has been written about his batting. The simple fact is, he is a great batsman and can be a asset to any side. It is another chance for him to prove that he isn't a bad captain. If anything, there have been question marks over him being a good captain, but this year it is a good chance for him to prove his doubters wrong. Among other players, Dhawan has been a consistent run-getter in domestic cricket and they would look up-to him to do well. Rayudu has already been spoken of highly by many experts. He played for a brief period in the ICL, but has made a comeback into domestic cricket and has been in good form. Rahane has been another consistent run-getter for the Mumbai team in domestic cricket and may have to open the batting as Jayasuirya is out of form.

As far as the all-rounders are concerned, Nayar has played for the Mumbai Indians in both 08 and 09 and has done ok as a player. He may not be the most talented cricketer going around, but his ability to get those big hits and bowl useful medium pace can come in handy. He is also a fine fielder. R.Satish is another all-rounder in the side and did well in the ICL, but it remains to be seen how can he perform in the IPL.

Among the bowlers, I don't see much doubt about Zaheer being a class bowler, as he can bowl well with the new ball and and has the ability to mix his pace in the end overs. He can also get reverse swing. Harbajan too is in the side and has got enough experience to bowl well in the middle overs with his restrictive off spin and can even use the long handle well as a batsman. Kulkarni has already played for India, but the medium pacer from Mumbai seems to be on a downhill path as 2009/10 wasn't a great season for him in domestic cricket. He reportedly had problems with bowling no balls.

Mumbai also have a slew of unknown players like Murtaza Ali, Shalauddin, Tiwary, Malhotra, Madan and co. Tiwary seems to have already made a impression in domestic cricket as a batsman and looking at his records it can be said that Shalauddin is a experienced medium pacer who can also bat a bit.

Yes, the Mumbai Indians have stars like Tendulkar, Zaheer, Harbie yet, they seem to lack the bench strength and that may create problems especially, if few of their main players get injured.

Foreign players

MI still have Jayasuriya, but he seems to be past his best. All those swashbuckling shots through the off side seems to be a thing of the past, but one can never rule out a player as good as Jaya and may still come good. His bowling as well isn't as effective as it used to be. Dumminy too is out of form and surprisingly he is struggling against off spinners bowling from around the wicket. Yes, he does jump in the air and can be in trouble against the short pitch stuff, but I'm surprised by his struggles against spin as he can play late and with soft hands, but when a batsman starts using his pad instead of the bat then it can be said that he lacks confidence. He has been in good form in T/20 cricket as he did well in the CL and I expect him to play for MI in most of the matches.

Among the all-rounders, Pollard is a exciting prospect as he can hit it a long way. He can play cricketing shots and still get those big hits. I do believe he is better than just a slogger as he can even rotate the strike well. He can be very good for MI and if he believes that cricket is not just about hitting huge sixes he can be a fine cricketer for the Caribbean team. He can also bowl a bit of medium pace. Bravo can always be so dangerous in T/20. As a bowler he can bowl slower deliveries by using different grips and really flummox the best of batsmen. He is also a fine batsman as he is a wristy player and can annoy the best of bowlers and captains by playing late to find the gaps, but at present he is bogged down by injuries and maybe a bit rusty. I know that MI also have McLeran and Napier, but they are more of hit or miss players, but if their main players fail, MI may give them a chance. IMO of the two, Napier is a better T/20 bowler. It can be seen by the fact only Arafat of Pakistan has taken more wickets in T/20 than Napier. Napier has 88 wickets in the T/20 format.

As far as the bowlers are concerned, Fernando can be a fine bowler in the T/20 format as he hits the bat hard, has a well disguised slower delivery and can bowl the surprise bouncer, but he can be very inconsistent and has a habit of bowling no balls. Yes, he has had his moments like his 4 for 18 couple of years ago in the IPL, but IMO is too inconsistent and is behind Malinga and Zaheer in the pecking order. As far as Malinga is concerned, what can I say? as with his unique round arm action he can even bowl six toe crushing yorkers in a over and that is amazing as believe me, it isn't that easy to have such good control with that sort of round arm action. He can occasionally lose his yorkers and the batsmen have taken advantage of the length deliverers and smashed him all over the ground, but more often than not he has been very good in the T/20 format as can be seen by his record in the IPL 09.



My team

Tendulkar
Rahane
Rayudu/Dhawan
Duminy
Pollard
Bravo
Nayar
Harbie
Madan wk
Zaheer
Malinga

I still have faith in Duminy that he would come good in the T/20 format and unless needed I won't like to invest in hit or miss players like McLeran and Napier. Jayasuriya seems to be past his best, but if Rahane can't get runs at the opening slot, Jaya can still come into the equation.

If their stars fire, MI can be a force to reckon with, but their bench strength isn't that strong. One has to always remember the likes of Pollard and Bravo would miss a few matches as they are still playing a series against the Zimbabwe team. MI may have a decent chance of reaching the semifinals, but for that to happen they need their stars to fire.

Chennai Super Kings preview


Chennai Super Kings have been a formidable unit in the IPL. CSK finished runner up in the first IPL and were able to reach the the semifinals in 09. The title has eluded them on both occasions, but they would again be considered as strong contenders in the third edition of the IPL.

As we know that CSK are captained by the present Indian captain Dhoni and by the looks of it he is a very good man manager. It has to be said that Dhoni and Fleming make a very good combination of captain and coach respectively.

Indian players

Of course among the Indian players the first name that can come to anyone's mind would be Dhoni. He has been fantastic for India, especially in the shorter formats of the game. He has shown enough times that he isn't just a powerful hitter, but can also play with a cool head and rotate the strike well. Surprisingly he hasn't done that well for India in the T/20 format as he has a strike rate of just over 100, but there is no doubting the fact that he can be fantastic in the T/20 version as well. His wicketkeeping too has improved and as I said before, as a captain he seems to be a very good man manager. Parthiv Patel has again been selected in the squad. The former wicketkeeper of the Indian team has improved his batting and did reasonably well for the CSK team in 08 as he gave good support to the bully Haydos, but on the bouncier tracks of South Africa he did struggle a bit as the bowlers were able to cramp him for room easily, maybe he can again do better in Indian conditions. He is powerful square off the wicket and the bowlers would better stay away from giving him the width. Vijay too has played for India and he is a fine strokemaker, but didn't done well for the CSK team in 09. If he gets some form under his belt he can open the batting with Haydos as Patel is more of a stop gap option at top of the order. Raina did well in 09 and his aggressive game is suited to the shorter formats of the game. Another player, who likes width and on his day can just make a mincemeat of the opposition bowlers. Badani is a experienced cricketer who also has played for India. I don't know whether this fluent stroke-maker would get a chance to play as the side does look strong. Badrinath has scored tons of runs in domestic cricket, but may not be suited to the T/20 format as he may struggle to score quickly. Among the all rounders, they do have Ashwin. He did get selected for the one-day series against the Saffers, but wasn't selected to play in any of the matches. He seems to be a utility cricketer, who can bowl steady off spin and can score quickly. He is the sort of cricketer that most team would like to have in the T/20 format.

Among the Indian bowlers, they do have Gony, Balaji, Jakarti, Tyagi and Ganapathy. A good bunch of bowlers and it can tough for the management to select the bowlers as there are some fine foreign player too.

Balaji got injured a few years back and as a result seems to have lost pace. He may never again play for India in test cricket, but has developed good variations of pace and disguises it well. He has a very effective slower bouncer. Gony is tall and gets bounce and did well in the first IPL, but can also give width and get smashed. He is still too inconsistent for my liking. Tyagi can hit the bat hard and enjoyed the bouncier tracks of South Africa as it suited his bowling, but would be tested in Indian conditions. He is also known to get reverse swing and that may just help him to get a place in the side as reverse swing has become a important weapon in the subcontinent. IMO Tyagi can be a fine bowler for the Indian team. Jakarti did well last year in the IPL as well. He can bowl restrictive left arm spin and as I said before, left arm slow bowlers like him can be hard to get away and can be a asset to the side in the subcontinent. Ganpathy has a good record in domestic cricket, but may have to warm the benches as there are some fine bowlers in the side.

The squad has some fine Indian players and that should help them. One has to always remember that seven of the 11 players in IPL should be Indian players and foreign player won't be available all the time.

Foreign players

Among the foreign recruits, one can't easily look past Haydos. He uses his reach and has the ability to just bulldoze the bowlers down the ground. Thankfully for other nations he has retired from international cricket as he would have been devastating even in the T/20 format. Just like last year, he would be the key player at top of the order. CSK have also bought Kemp. He is another player, who likes to hit down the ground. He did play for a brief period in the ICL, but has made a come back and has been in good form in South Africa's domestic cricket. His bowling may not be as useful as it used to be, but can be a good buy for the CSK team as he is a fine striker of the ball. I have never been a huge fan of Albie Morkel, though he has been rated highly. He hits only in certain like either he would make room and hit it through the off side, or would look to heave it through the mid wicket region. If the bowlers do look to cramp him for room he can really struggle. He is a bit better against the slower bowlers but IMO is overrated. His bowling too is very inconsistent. Hussey too is in the side and he can be useful in this format. IMO he is a bit underrated in T/20 cricket. He can rotate the strike well and has the shots to score quickly. If he plays at number 5 for the team he can be very useful. Hussey is also a fine fielder and that is another plus for the side. The only caveat though, is just like few other players he is at present playing for Australia in the Kiwiland. Bailey seems to be a decent prospect and did reasonably well for the Tassie side in the Ford Ranger cup. Oram, the big all rounder at present is injured and to be honest other than Bangladesh, I can't remember the big Jake scoring lots of runs against any other team for ages. Perera, the young all rounder from Lanka can smash it a long way and can surprise the batsmen for a bit of pace. Ntini is still in the squad, though one could see in the recently concluded against England that he is a spent force and may have to warm the benches.

My team
Haydos
Vijay
Raina
Badrinath
Hussey
Dhoni
Kemp
Ashwin
Jakarti
Balaji
Tyagi

I do rate Kemp higher than Morkel and he is in good form in South Africa's domestic cricket. I do have a feeling though, they would go for Morkel purely based on reputation and maybe as he did well in the first edition of the IPL, but off late he has been found out by the opposition bowlers and has lost form as a bowler. As Huss would play test matches in NZ, I may have Bailey for the first few matches of the tournament as he would be available after Australia play those five onedayers in the Kiwiland. I'm not yet convinced about Badri, but he seems to be a better option than Patel. I do rate Tyagi better than Gony as he is more consistent and Ganpathy is perhaps a bit unlucky to miss out, but there can only be 11 players in a side!

CSK have suffered a few injuries yet, they do have the required artillery to be considered as one of the contenders for this edition of the IPL.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Kings XI Punjab Preview


The fourth team I would like to preview is the Punjab team. In the first IPL they reached the semifinals, but in the second edition they couldn't even reach the semifinals. In 2010 Sangakkara has taken over the mantle of captaining the side and Tom Moody would continue to be the coach of the side.

Indian players

Now let us have a look at the Indian players in their squad.

To start with, one has to surely think of their former captain Yuvraj. At present he is being bogged down by fitness problems, but make no mistake, the Kings team do need a fit Yuvraj as he has the ability to demoralise the opposition bowlers with his clean hitting. His high back-lift and enormous power makes for a devastating combination, but as we know at present he is bogged down by injuries so, may not be match fit. Yuvraj is also a very good fielder and that is another plus for the side. Tamnay Srivastava was a prolific run-getter in the under 19 world cup in Malaysia, but unlike Kohli and Pandey hasn't yet lit up the domestic cricket with his batting, but he is known for his ability to score quickly and the IPL being a T/20 tournament may just suit his game better. Goel has already featured in the first two editions of the IPL, but hasn't been successful. His domestic records in the shorter formats of the game though isn't bad. The Kings team have also bought Kaif. If used in the right manner, he can be good for the team as he has the ability to rotate the strike and plays well under pressure.

Among the all-rounders, they do have Irfan Pathan, Sodhi and Chawla. All three have played for the Indian team. Pathan may have lost the ability to swing it late, nor does he bowl that famous in dipper anymore, but his ability to bowl well disguised slower deliveries and mix it up with the odd quicker delivery has served him well in T/20. So, he is a vital cog in their line up. Sodhi did play for a brief period in the ICL. He is known as a utility player, someone who bowls a bit of medium pace and can bat a bit. Chawla has some potential as a leg spinner as he does have a good googly, but has been inconsistent and can go for runs as he lacks control, though can't expect a young leg spinner to have control. He can also bat a bit.

Sreesanth, Malik, Powar and Abilish are the Indian bowlers in the line up. Sree has the talent, but I guess one can never predict what is he going to do next. His temperament has been questioned quite a few times. As a medium pacer, Malik was just about ok last year. Abilish has played in the ICL, but since his come back to India's domestic cricket, the left armer has done well and deservedly got a chance to play for the Kings team. Powar is a very experienced off spinner and he does toss it up well and gets a bit of drift going, but can be a liability in the field. He can also bat a bit.

Foreign recruits

Shaun Marsh was great for the Kings team in the IPL 2008, but has been bogged down by injuries and at present isn't playing in NZ due to a back problem. So, his participation in the IPL can be doubtful. Yes he was struggling for timing in recent times, but at his best he can be a very good T/20 batsman. I'm still not fully convinced that Marsh is as good as what many think. The management have bought Barath and he is a exciting prospect for sure. The little dynamite is very strong on the back-foot and on his day can tear apart any opposition attack. Of course one can't leave out their captain for this season Sangakarra. Sanga is a very reliable batsman who, also has the ability to play the big shots. His experience should come in very handy for the team. I'm still not convinced about him as a captain as he doesn't like to attack, but seems to be a good man manager. His Lankan teammate, Jayawerdena is another vital cog in the side. A lot would be expected of both Sanga and Jaya. Boapra too is in the side and he did reasonably well last year. Yes, he has been dropped from the England team, but he is a attractive player to watch. Bopara has the habit of throwing it away after getting a good start, but in T/20 if he can score 30 or 40 at a good rate it is fine as it is only about 20 overs.

Among the bowlers, there are still doubts over the participation of their strike bowler Lee. At his best he is a great asset in the shorter formats of the game as he can bowl at pace and has the ability to bowl those toe crushing yorkers. The other advantage of Lee being in the side is, Indian domestic players would have hardly faced a bowler of his pace. So, if he isn't fit it is going to be a huge blow for the side. The South African seamer, Abdulla has good variations and mixes it up well. He does have a quick arm action and that does help him to disguise his variations well. Hopes too is in the side and he can be a useful member of the side with his medium pace bowling and power hitting in the end overs.

My team

Marsh
Barath
Sanga
Singh
Sodhi
Kaif
Pathan
Chawla
Sree
Abdulla
Abilish

If Marsh isn't fit I would have Bops and until Lee isn't fit Abdulla would play. The squad has decent depth in both batting and bowling yet, I'm doubtful about them reaching the semifinals.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Rajasthan Royals Preview


The third team I would like to have a look at is, the Rajasthan Royals side. Royals were the surprise winners in first IPL in 08, but couldn't reach the semifinals in the second edition in South Africa in 2009. Yes, they had their moments in the second edition of the IPL, but weren't consistent enough and as a result failed to qualify for the semifinals.

The Indian players

First up, we would look at the their Indian players in the squad. If one has a glance at their side, they don't seem to have the depth as far as Indian players are concerned, but the side has shown in the first IPL that they can overcome the lack of talent mainly thanks to the inspirational leadership as Warne.

Among the Indian players, the one to look out for would be the explosive Asnodkhar. He was a big hit in the first competition in 08, but failed to click on the bouncier tracks of South Africa as he couldn't handle the bounce on those tracks. He does look to free his arms and has got good bat speed, but the small guy can be cramped for room. Other than making room and smashing it through the off side he doesn't seem to have a Plan B, but on Indian wickets he may still be a handful as bowlers won't be able to get the bounce. Yusuf Pathan can be dangerous and even in 08 and 09 he made vital contributions, maybe Warne has helped him with his batting as unlike other sloggers he seems to hit a lot in the V and that is a good sign. He can bowl few overs of decent restrictive off spin too. The Royals management have also recruited Jhunjunwala and he did well in the ICL. By all accounts he doesn't seem to be a flash in the pan. The team's middle order does lack a bit of class and Jhunjunwala may have a very important role to play. Ojha seems to be a experienced wicketkeeper batsman, but other than him, they have a slew of youngster like Raut, Kamran Khan whose action came under scrutiny last year, Fazal or journeymen like Pauniker and Quadir. Royals do have a few experienced seamers in their ranks like Patel, Amit Singh and Trivedi. Munaf Patel though seems to be already 62 and not 26 as he just lacks the fitness. I see him being a huge liability in the field. Trivedi is another experienced seamer and the Royals may bank on him to get early wickets. As far as Amit Singh is concerned, his action was questioned as well in the last IPL. I see that Pankaj Singh wasn't successful in the IPL, but from whatever little I have seen of him in the IPL, the tall bowler has a bit of potential as he does hit the bat hard. but his failure in the first IPL perhaps have made sure that Royals have shown him the the exit door. Of course the Royals would miss the services of their all rounder Jadeja as he has been banned.

Foreign players

Among the foreign recruits, Morne Morkel is in the squad, but I don't see him being a good bowler in the shorter formats of the game as he is too predictable and would likely struggle in India. Tait can be a good buy as with his express pace he can trouble few of the Indian domestic players who, wouldn't have faced such extreme pace before. He can be good in the end overs too as he can bowl those yorkers. Martyn too is in the squad, but I don't understand the reason behind his inclusion as he retired from international cricket a few years ago and can be rusty. Lumb can hit a few and if used in the right manner, Masca can do reasonably well as he can bowl a few tidy overs and if they can give him the chance to bat at say 5 or 6 he can be good. He does take bit of time before he goes after the bowling. Botha can bowl few overs of restrictive off spin, but after he was reported for suspect action he seems to have lost his confidence and doesn't even bowl that doosra. The Royals squad still have the services of the South African captain Smith and if fit he is going to be the key at top of the order. The other key player for them, Watson is going to miss this season as cricket Australia have asked him to take rest. So, it would be again up to Shane Warne to motivate a young squad.

My team for Rajatshan Royals

Smith
Asnodkar
Lumb
Jhunjnwala
Pathan
Fazal
Ojha
Warne
Patel
Trivedi
Tait


The side would depend on Smith and Asnodkhar to give good starts. The team would heavily bank on maybe Jhunjunwala to steady the ship in the middle order with Pathan looking to get the big hits. If Lumb fails, I may pick Masca, but I would like to see him bat at say number 6.

In the bowling department, they may depend on Trivedi and Tait to do the trick as Munaf Patel at the age of just 26 seems to be past his best. One can can't leave out the veteran Warne either as even at the age of 40 he may create problems for the opposition batsmen with his leg spin.

It would be tough for the Royals, as they lack the depth in the squad, but with Warne as the captain they may still surprise a few.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Kolkata Knight Riders preview


After having a look at last year's champions Deccan Chargers, I would like to preview the Kolkata Knight Riders. KKR have been very disappointing in 2008 and in 2009 as well. In the first edition they finished sixth and in the last year's competition they finished bottom of the pack. It is hard to fathom the reasons behind their failure in both 08 and 09 as they had players of the calibre of Hodge, Ganguly, Gayle, McCullum and co.

In both 2008 and in 2009 they were coached by Buchanan. Now, I won't like to analyse too much about his coaching methods, but his theories like having multiple captains and having so many coaches around would likely lead to chaos. It wasn't surprising that even with some fine players in the side, KKR looked out of their depth in the first two editions. For this season, Whatmore is the coach of the team and IMO he is a better choice. Ganguly has been again reinstated as the captain. At the age of 37 he may not score too many runs, but his leadership skills would come in handy.

Indian players in the side

As I have said before, I would always look at any team's Indian players as only four foreign players can play in a side. Of course the first name that can come to anyone's mind would be Ganguly himself. Ganguly was a fine captain of the Indian team as it was he who instilled the self belief in the Indian team. He seems to have the ability to motivate his players. As I said before, at the age of 37 he may not find it easy to bat against the likes of Roach, Tait, Steyn and co, but make no mistake, KKR at this juncture need his leadership skills. The management have recruited Pujara, who is rated highly by many experts. He is known for his ability to get big scores. Pujara doesn't seem to be a power hitter, but if a team has the likes of Hodge, Ganguly, McCullum and Gayle in the side what they need is someone who can rotate the strike at the other end. I won't mind if a batsman has a strike rate of around 125-130 and gets a nice 30 or 40. The problem would come, when any batsman has a strike rate of under 100 and eats up lots of deliveries which would just put pressure on other batsmen. Rohan. Gavaskar is a experienced batsman and another player to look out for is, Tiwari as he has been a consistent run-getter in India's domestic cricket. From what I have seen of Tiawri in the IPL, he can play the big shots. The team also has a few all rounders like Shukla, Vignesh, Abdulla, Khadiwale and of course the wicketkeeper Saha. Vignesh did very well in the ICL as a allrounder, but may find life not so easy in the IPL as the standard is higher. Abdulla's records in domestic cricket suggests that he is a utility player. He would likely bowl a few overs of restrictive left arm spin and can hit a few big shots. Khadiwale is a bit of unknown quantity but his domestic records in the shorter formats of the game suggests that he can surprise a few as he has a good strike rate. Any T/20 team needs such type of utility cricketers. Shukla is very a experienced all rounder. Saha played recently in the test match at Nagpur against the Saffers. His technique seemed to be exposed in that match at Nagpur, but may find it easier in the T/20 format.

Among the Indian bowlers, they do have Dinda, Agarkar, Sharma and Karthik. Ishant Sharma has the attributes to succeed in the shorter formats of the game as he mainly brings it back into the batsmen and can hit the bat hard. In the shorter formats of the game, I do prefer bowlers who can mainly bring it back into the righthander as the batsmen can be cramped for room, but Sharma isn't making use of his ability as he seems to have lost pace and is trying too many variations instead of sticking to the basics of hitting the bat hard and bowling full in the end overs, hence the reason for his decline. From what I have seen of Dinda in the IPL, he is a skiddy bowler, who can get some swing at sharpish pace, but needs to be used mainly upfront as he can get a few wickets with the new ball. His main weakness is, he just doesn't seem to have the necessary control to bowl in the death. Agarkar is a experienced cricketer, but just has stagnated as a bowler. Unlike many others, I still say that he had a bit potential as he could get some genuine swing, but his major weakness can be instead of knowing his limitations has the habit of trying to bowl quick. Kartik is a very experienced left arm spinner, who has played for India and ha done reasonably well in T/20 matches for county teams like Middlesex. He is a decent bowler as he tosses it up and can get some drift going, but his record in the IPL 09 was modest as he only took 4 wickets at over 50, but it doesn't take away the fact that he is a fine bowler. I also have a feeling that Ganguly doesn't rate left arm spinners highly, maybe as he himself is a very good player of left arm spin.

If I have to make a comment on the Indian players in the squad, I would say that they do have their bases covered as in the squad one can see experienced batsmen, utility players and a few decent bowlers.

Foreign recruits

Among the foreign recruits they have some big names like Gayle, McCullum, Hodge and of course the new recruit Bond.

If I look at some of the batsmen mentioned above like McCullum, Hodge, Gayle etc I can safely say that they have the firepower to demolish any bowling attack, but haven't clicked as a team. A opening pair of McCullum and Gayle can be as devastating as it gets. Gayle using his reach to play lofted shots down the ground and McCullum being very strong square off the wicket can frustrate any bowling attack, as bowlers have to bowl different lengths to both players. Hodge is powerful striker of the ball, but his weakness of going hard against the spinning ball has been his undoing in the past. It can be a dilemma for the team as Hodge is a outstanding T/20 batsman, but his technique suggests that he should open the batting as he is weak against spin. It is just that I can't look beyond Gayle and McCullum opening the batting as they can be very destructive and of course there is Ganguly as well! Shah has been bought from the Daredevils side, but is unlikely going to play a game. He can be a handful against the spinners, but his awful running between the wickets and below par fielding won't be liked by any management. Mathews is a powerful hitter, but I'm not convinced about his bowling as he lacks control and can get hit around in the T/20 format yet, he can be worth a gamble.

Among the bowlers, Langveldt is a wily customer as he has good variations and to keep the batsmen guessing, can bowl the odd delivery a touch quicker. Of course they have bought Bond at a hefty price. I don't see much doubt about Bond being a genuine strike bowler. He can bowl at good pace and genuinely swings it back into the righthander. As I have said before, bowlers who mainly bring it back into the righthander can be very effective in the shorter formats of the game, as they won't give any room for the righthander to free his arms. Bond can also bowl good yorkers and can mix it up with slower bouncers and off cutters. So, he is a ideal bowler even at the death, but the only problem is, occasionally he tries to bowl too quick and can lose his control in the end overs. For a bowler as good as him, it is a bit surprising why he tries to bowl too quick in the end overs. Mendis too is in the side, but unfortunately for Mendis batsmen seem to have worked out his variations.

I would now pick their team

Gayle
McCullum (wk)
Hodge
Ganguly
Pujara
Tiwari
Abdulla
Agarkar
Kartik
Bond
Sharma


If all players are available a problem can arise at top of the order as Hodge, Gayle, Ganguly and McCullum would all like to open the batting. IMO I can't look beyond McCullum and Gayle, as they can be so destructive. Hodge likes to have pace on the ball so would play at number three with Ganguly occupying the number four spot, as he can play the spinners well and can guide the middle order.

I did consider the veteran all rounder Shulka, but I just about pipped for Abdulla as he is young and I have a feeling that utility players like him, can come in very handy on Indian pitches as on Indian tracks it is about taking pace off the ball. KKR would have Gayle, Abdulla and Karthik as spinners and that can be to their advantage as this time around IPL is going to be played in India and on Indian tracks slower bowlers can come into play. Having said that KRR management would likely pick Shukla, but I just feel that in Indian conditions Abdulla can be a better pick. I also looked at Dinda, but maybe Agarkar can be given another chance as he can bat a bit.

Finally, my opinion about KKR is, they have a good side as they have some big guns like Hodge, Bond, Ganguly, McCullum, Gayle and co. and do seem to have a decent bench strength. Cricket though isn't played on paper as even in 2008 and 2009 they had a good side but were insipid.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Deccan chargers preview


So, with IPL coming up I thought of previewing all the 8 teams in the championship. First up, I would look at last year's champions Deccan Chargers.

Deccan Charges finished at the bottom of the pack in 2008, but what a turnaround it was in 2009 as under the captaincy of Gilly and Lehmann being the coach of the side they lifted the IPL trophy in 2009. So, can they repeat that feat this time around?

If I have a look at their team they have some big guns like Gilly, Symonds, Ryan Harris, Rohit Sharma, Dwayne Smith, Roach and the promising youngster from Australia Mitchell Marsh. Gibbs too can be considered, but he isn't in the form of his life, though if he gets a chance on good batting tracks in India he can be on fire.

The one major factor I always look at would be Indian players as only four foreign players can play in a match and they won't be available for all the matches. So, it is important to have promising Indian talent.

If I look at this team, it can be surely said that Rohit Sharma is a fine T/20 player as he can play some powerful shots and has the ability to innovate. He hasn't been good in one-day cricket as it looks like he can lose his concentration and not get big hundreds, but in T/20 cricket a quickfire 30 or 40 would go a long way in helping the team's cause to get a good score as it is only about 20 overs. In T/20 cricket, strike rates can be a huge factor. Sharma was superb in the 2008 IPL and even in the 2009 edition he did well. Deccan Chargers have the trio of Suman, Teja and Rao, but none of them possess good strike rates, nor do they have good averages. Yes, I see that Suman made a few decent contributions last year, but it can be a achilles heel for the team as three of their Indian players don't seem to pull their weight in the side. Of course there is Laxman, but since relinquishing the captaincy after a disappointing 2008 season when they finished last, he has rarely been selected in the team and whenever was selected he looked out of sorts. I don't think T/20 suits his style of batting as he takes time to settle down before playing his shots.

Among the Indian bowlers, there is the experienced RP Singh, but the last time I saw him he was bowling at about 75 miles per hour. It is true that a drop in pace would affect any bowler. At his best he can keep the batsmen honest by bowling at about 85 miles per hour. Yes, last year Singh was very good as he took 23 wickets, but at the moment seems to be a bit off colour. Harmeet Singh is another medium pacer in the side, though hasn't been penetrative enough in the IPL. Among the Indian bowlers, I reckon their trump card would be Ojha. The left arm spinner did well last year and his restrictive bowling is well suited to the T/20 format moreover, on Indian pitches he should be even more effective.

If I look at their Indian players I may have gone for Absolem and Rayadu. I have seen a few saying that Absolem can bowl good line and length. He was also successful in the ICL. Rayadu too seems to be a promising batsman and did well this season, but I see that he has been picked up by the Mumbai Indians.

Among the foreign recruits, they have some fine players like Harris, Roach, Symonds, Gilchrist, Gibbs, Smith and the promising Mitchell Marsh. Symonds has retired from international cricket and would be likely available for the entire season. He is a great asset for the team with his power hitting, fielding and him being a decent bowler in the shorter formats of the game. In that sense he is a game breaker. Gilly too has retired and in 2009 did show that he has lost none of his ability to get big scores in quick time in crucial matches. For instance, he played well in the semifinals against the Dare Devils, who were just shell shocked by the clean hitting of Gilly and lost. Gibbs too can be dangerous, but hasn't been in the best of touches in recent times. Dwayne Smith did reasonably well last year and can be a dangerous customer as he with his power hitting can take the game away from the opposition ranks very quickly.

Among the bowlers, Harris has improved beyond recognition. He used to struggle to get into the Queensland side in the Sheffield Shield, but nowadays is known for his ability to bowl at good pace and can get those yorkers in at the death. He can come in very handy for the team as Vaas has retired from international cricket and at the age of 36 he is no more the bowler that he was in the past. Roach is young and quick and in T/20 quick bowlers can make a huge difference as they can take wickets. T/20 is a fast paced game and a wicket can change the nature of the game. So, if the quick bowlers can get it right they can be very useful for the team. Mitchell Marsh impressed everyone in the under 19 world cup and is one of the players to watch out for in this tournament.

Now I would like to pick their team

Gilly
Teja
Symo
Sharma
Smith
Rao
T Suman
Bilakhia
Ryan Harris
RP Singh
Pragyan Ojha

I have pipped for the big hitting Dwayne Smith, though I really thought of picking Roach as he can get wickets early in the innings. I gave a thought to picking Laxman, but Bilakhia is a young player and Laxman just doesn't seem to be suited for this format and his fielding too isn't good. I still feel that management could have bought both Absolem and Rayadu.


IMO the batting would depend on Gilly giving them quick starts with good support from the likes of Sharma, Symo and Smith. The bowling attack is reasonably good as there is Harris and of course a lot would be expected from Ojha in the middle overs. I do expect Smith and Symo to offer good support, but at the moment I'm not convinced about Singh.

Deccan Chargers have a good team, but if big guns like Sharma and Symo don't fire in the middle order it can be their achilles heel as few of their Indian batsmen in the middle order don't seem to be very good T/20 players.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The old warrior comes good for the Black Caps


Good to see the old warrior Styris doing well. I haven't been a huge fan of his attitude, but today the Black Caps have to thank him for the victory as they looked dead and buried when they lost 8 wickets.

Ingram and McCullum gave them a good start and Taylor looked in great touch though the captain won't be happy about getting out at a crucial time, but Guptill played a very strange knock as he took 30 deliveries for his 9 runs! Franklin coming ahead of Styris or even Broom didn't make much sense either as he isn't good at rotating the strike, but thanks to Styris, who took the game to the opposition ranks by playing some fine lofted shots NZ won the match.

It is interesting to note that he wouldn't have played today, but for Vettori failing a fitness test just before the match! One shouldn't forget the contribution of Bond either as he gave Styris support and even scored a few boundaries. I don't think one can expect more from someone, who is essentially a number 11 batsman.

Australia's fielding was patchy and their bowlers did bowl a bit short still they looked certain of winning the match before Styris turned the match around on its head.

As I have said before NZ did bowl well too as Tuffey celebrated his 100th wicket and even their fielding was good. So, it was the team effort that helped NZ win this match. The Black Caps have just shown to Pakistan and Westindies how to win a match against Australia.

Daryl Tuffey gets his century!!


It is good to see the hardworking Tuffey getting his 100th wicket in one-day cricket. He would never make the headlines as he is the workhorse in the team, but any captain would like to have a bowler, who can consistently bowl line and length and get just enough movement to trouble the opposition.

The Black Caps have always looked better when Tuffers and Bond are in the team. Bond with his hostile pace and control would do the damage and Tuffey would keep it nice and tight and give nothing away. It is always vital to have a strike bowler, who is supported by a steady bowler like Tuffey.

Tuffey didn't had the best of starts to his career as he took a pasting from the all conquering Aussies in his debut test in 99/00. In his first year itself he also had to play the battle hardened Saffers as he again got hammered, but he is a bowler with a good temperament and came back well from those early setbacks. Tuffey also had a few fitness problems and played for sometime in the ICL, but since his come back from the ICL he has been good for NZ. Today as well he did a good job by picking three crucial wickets.

Most may not rate him at all as whenever I take up his name on any cricket forum the answer would be, he is a innocuous bowler, but his record shows that he is a good bowler, especially when one thinks of the fact that pitches these days are flat and have nothing for the bowlers.

As far as the match is concerned, Tuffey and co. have done a decent job by restricting the Aussies to 275 on a flat pitch. I was impressed by the death bowling from Southee, Bond and Tuffey. I had questioned about their ability to bowl well in the end overs in my preview of the Kiwi team as I felt Bond was trying to bowl too quick and not mixing it up, but he was better today and Southee is developing into a fine death bowler, though with the new ball he has been expensive.

So, can the Kiwis chase this target down? The pitch at Napier as expected is flat but sometimes the Kiwis have the habit of falling like a pack of cards. Add to it Generalissimo isn't playing today and the big Jake has got injured, though I can't remember the last time Oram at least showed that he could hold a bat against better teams.