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Friday, April 30, 2010

West Indies

The team from the Caribbean have been very unpredictable in major tournaments. Yes, they have shown that on their day, they can beat any opposition, but have also crumbled under pressure. The Caribbean team were dumped out in the first round itself in the 07 world cup as Bangladesh defeated them, but did better in the last edition as they reached the semifinals. The present team is captained by Gayle.

Key players

Gayle- As a captain, Gayle has his fair share of critics, but his players seem to like him as a captain. If the players like him, then he should continue to be the captain of the side. Of course, he is a key component of their batting line-up as he can just blast the opposition into submission by getting big scores at a very good strike rate at top of the order. The tall Gayle uses his reach to good effect and when in form he is unstoppable. For instance, he scored that blistering hundred against South Africa in 07 and in the last edition of the tournament, the Australians got a taste of the Gale force as he played another quickfire knock. Gayle can also bowl useful off spin and should prove useful on the slow tracks of the Caribbean.

Pollard- I won't forget the highest paid cricketer in 2010 IPL either. The frightening thing is, he can hit it even further than Gayle! I have a feeling that on some small ground most of the time the ball would have to be searched on the roads or some nearby park! He is one of the most powerful hitters I have seen in cricket. Yes, he can be vulnerable against spin and opposing captains should always keep an over of their main spinner for the sake of Pollard and should set straight fields, but make no mistake, if Pollard gets going, he can cause mayhem in the opposition ranks. He can also bowl useful medium pace and his tendency to bowl a few short and mix it up with cutters worked for him in the IPL.

D.Bravo- He was in wretched form in the IPL yet, is one of the key players in the side. Bravo always looks for wickets and I'm still amazed by his ability to bowl different types of slower deliveries. He is a fine bowler in the end overs and that is another thing to consider. As a batsman, he is wristy and can hit in unusual areas, so setting a field for Bravo can be bit of an headache.

Benn- He isn't a star, but the tall Benn can be very useful on the slow wickets of the Caribbean. He is tall, so would get bounce, but more importantly has a fine temperament. People shouldn't be surprised, if he opens the bowling in some of the games. Benn can also slog a few as a batsman.

Taylor- He has been bogged down by fitness issues and controversies, but for the team to do well, they need a fit and firing Taylor. He is a fine seam bowler, who can get wickets upfront and has the ability to bowl yorkers backed up by a good change of pace in the end overs.

I would also like to mention both Sarwan and Chanders. Yes, they aren't renowned for scoring quickly, but both are experienced campaigners and for the team to do well, they have to come good.

The major worry for the team is, few of their bowlers have had fitness issues and their attack can be suspect under pressure. I have already mentioned Taylor, but even Rampaul, who too can be useful in the end overs has been bogged down by fitness issues. Roach is quick, but hasn't yet found his feet in the shortest version of the game. So, they have to look at Benn for consistency and hopefully Bravo can regain his form. The other problem of course is, they depend too much on individual brilliance as for instance in 07 in South Africa, Gayle scored a superb hundred, but their bowling and fielding was atrocious.

The team from the Caribbean are unpredictable, but have the skill to upset the big boys like Australia, India and co. I think at most, they can reach the semifinals. I also hope that they do well as I won't like to see the home team making an early exit from the competition.

New Zealand

I have always liked the New Zealand team as they don't have a huge base to select the players from yet, manage to do well in major tournaments. NZ would be captained by Vettori.

Key players

Vettori- Since the retirement of Fleming, Vettori has done an admirable job as the captain of the side. NZ depend a lot on Vettori, as he is easily their main spinner, a fine batsman lower down the order, captain of the side and for sometime was even managing the team! I have to surely talk a bit more about his spin bowling prowess. It isn't a huge surprise that he is one of the better bowlers in this format. He doesn't get much turn nor does he get bounce, but the ability to bowl subtle changes in pace, backed up by a very good arm ball, makes him a huge threat on the slow wickets of the Caribbean. He has improved his batting too and can annoy the best of bowlers by hitting in unusual areas. In short, for NZ to do well, they need Vettori to perform in every game.

Bond- As we know that Bond is a genuine strike bowler, though has been troubled by injuries. Bond these days, doesn't always bowl quick, which is expected as he is 34 now and has been let down by injuries, but has developed a slower bouncer and that has helped him to get wickets in the T/20 format. He is still a threat as he gets such enormous inswing with the new ball. The only thing that Vettori should be wary of is, Bond bowling in the end overs. In the past, Bond hasn't been at his best in the end overs and as a result I think Vettori shouldn't use him in the end overs. He is very good with the new ball, so why can't Vettori use him only as a new ball bowler?

McCullum- He is the highest run-getter in T/20 internationals and has the ability to get big scores at a very good rate. McCullum recently scored 116 against Australia and that is a great achievement as scoring a century in the T/20 format isn't easy. Just like most short players, he is very strong square of the wicket. McCullum is a decent keeper too, though seems to be very reluctant to do the job in the T/20 format. NZ do have a decent middle-order, but I have no doubt about the fact that the key player in their batting line-up is McCullum.

Taylor- He doesn't have a very good record in T/20 internationals and failed in the IPL. His tendency to smash everything on the on-side didn't help him as everyone started to bowl a bit wide of off stump, still he is a vital cog in their middle order. Ross is also a fine fielder.

Styris- Many may be surprised that I have included Styris, but his dibbly dobblers can be the key on those slow wickets. It wasn't surprising that he got 4 wickets against the Caribbean team in the warm up game. As a batsman, he has the ability to rotate the strike and that is another key factor to consider as they are playing on slow wickets. If fit, NZ could have also selected Elliott as he is also good at rotating the strike and has a fine temperament. Just like Styris, he too can bowl dibbly dobblers.

I would also like to mention Mills, as he is a good bowler in the shorter versions of the game. He can get swing with the new ball and has developed a clever change of pace. Mills is also underrated as a batsman as I have seen him showing decent technique when it is assisting the swing bowlers and is a clean striker of the ball. I once saw him hit a full strength Australian attack all over the park and almost won them the game. NZ should use him as a floater as Oram hasn't been in good form as a batsman, but the management have been reluctant to do that. Of course, just like many other players in the side, Mills too has been troubled by injuries and that is a bit of worry.Ryder is also in the side, but he is coming back from an injury.

The major worry for NZ is, to have 11 fit players to take the field! The Kiwis also tend to depend on McCullum for runs, so they need the likes of Ryder, Taylor and co. to fire.

NZ' main strength is, they have a decent bowling attack as they have many options like Vettori can even ask the likes of Styris, Ryder and Oram to bowl medium pace and all three can do well on those slow wickets of the Caribbean. Southee has shown that he can bowl well in the end overs and that is going to help Vettori as Bond has struggled a bit in the end overs. Actually, Vettori can use Southee only as a death overs specialist as he was recently very effective against Australia and has also tended to go for runs with the new ball.

First of all, they have to think of not just Lanka but even Zimb. as they too have the line up to do well at Guyana and if they progress to the super eights they can be a dangerous team.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

T/20 world cup Afghanistan


The journey of this war torn country from the lower divisions of cricket to qualifying for the T/20 world cup has been nothing, but extraordinary. Just about 8 or 10 years ago, they were nowhere in the picture, but now they have even qualified for the the world cup! Afghanistan have shown that they can match the best associate team Ireland as well and have even defeated them recently as they beat Ireland in the finals of the qualifying round for the T/20 world cup and again defeated them yesterday in a warm up match.

Key players

Hamid Hassan- Hassan who usually wears a blue headband is a big fan of Freddie. Hassan has the ability to bowl at a nippy pace and can swing it both ways. He is also a fine outfielder. Just like other players in the side, he just plays with so much enthusiasm and that is what one would like to see in a amateur team.

Nabi-He is a very useful all-rounder and a key member of the Afghan team. He is a very useful off spinner and showed his mettle by being the highest wicket taker in the qualifying round for the T/20 world cup and a fine middle/lower order batsman as well.

Shahzad- Shahzad is a talented young batsman, who showed his class by smashing the Irish team all over the park in the finals of the T/20 qualifying round. Shahzad also came up with a brilliant effort against Canada in the intercontinental tournament as he scored a double hundred to help the Afghan team chase down a mammoth target in excess of 400. He is just 18, but has a bright future ahead of him.

Mangal- The captain himself has been in excellent touch in first class cricket, but hasn't found it easy to get runs in the shorter formats of the game. The team no doubt would require their captain to lead from the front.

I would also like to mention the left arm medium pacer, Zadran as he has chipped in with crucial wickets for Afghanistan.

The Afghans have always come across as a team, who enjoy playing the game. Yes, they would likely be thrashed by heavyweights like South Africa and India in their group, but it has no doubt been a remarkable journey for this war torn country.

T/20 world cup Srilanka


Since Srilanka won the world cup in 96, they have been consistently talked about as one of the contenders for either one-day tournaments or of course the T/20 world cup. Srilanka are good to watch as they play with flair and as a result they are one of the few teams who people would pay to watch them play. Anyway, they are captained by Sangakkara, though I still believe that Jayawardene is the better captain, but having said that, Sanga has done a good job as the captain of the side as they reached the finals of the T/20 world cup in 2009.

Key players

Dilshan- He is no doubt one of the key players in the side. He was in wretched form in the IPL 2010 as he averaged just 7.25, but in recent times has done well for Lanka, so I expect him to get his form back. He is very strong square of the wicket on the off side and can play some innovative shots like that scoop shot. Dilshan is also a fine fielder and on those slow wickets of the Caribbean, can be useful with his off spin bowling. For Lanka to do well, Dilshan has to fire at top of the order.

Malinga- Malinga has a very unique round arm action, but astonishingly still has great control over his toe-crushing yorkers and slower deliveries which is unbelievable. He has the ability to bowl six yorkers in a over and has a great change of pace. Malinga can be hard to pick as well as he has such a round arm action. Malinga is no doubt a key component of the side and Lanka would expect him to take wickets especially, in the end overs.

Murali- The highest wicket-taker in test cricket wasn't in great form in the IPL yet, was able to perform well in crucial games and that shows his class. Since he developed that doosra and started to go around the wicket to righthanders has flummoxed most batsmen. He should thrive on those slow wickets of the Caribbean especially, when one considers the fact that Lanka are going to play both their matches at Guyana.

Mahela- He isn't a power hitter, still in few game of the IPL showed that he can score quickly. I don't think anyone would forget his century against KKR in the IPL in a hurry. He is a great timer of the ball and good to watch. His ability to pick the gaps by playing with soft hands would be very crucial to Lanka's success on the slow wickets of the Caribbean.

Sanga- The captain of the side, just like Mahela is a pillar of strength in their middle order. He too can score quickly without resorting to slogging and is a great asset to the side. Of course, I haven't forgotten that he is a competent keeper and a decent captain too.

I would also like to mention Mathews. He is a powerful hitter who can come in handy in the end overs of the match and as a bowler has a good change of pace.

Many may point out that I haven't mentioned Jayasuirya, but he hasn't been in good form in recent times. It can be seen by the fact that he has scored more than 30 runs only once in his last 10 T/20 matches in international cricket and averaged only 8.25 in the IPL. He may still come good, but his form in recent times hasn't been anything to write home about. Of course, he can be useful with his restrictive left arm spin bowling.

I have no doubt that Lanka's main strength is in their bowling attack. The team easily has the most balanced attack for the conditions in the Caribbean. Malinga would be even more deadly on those Caribbean wickets as he is skiddy through the air, Murali would always be a threat and I haven't forgotten Mendis either. Batsmen have played him far better in recent times, but on Caribbean tracks that are slow and tend to stay low, he can come in handy as he bowls wicket to wicket. Mathews is a good back up option and they also have other slow bowling options like Jayasuriya and Dilshan.

Lanka have some worries with regards to their batting, as both Dilshan and Jayasuriya didn't do well in the IPL. I do expect Dilshan to fire as everyone can go through a bad patch, but Jayasuriya is more of a concern as he has been in bad form for a while now and seems to be past his best.

Srilanka have a good middle order and the bowling to restrict the opposition to a low score, but for Lanka to win the T/20 world cup, they need their top order to fire.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

T/20 world cup Zimbabwe


If I think about the Zimbabwe team in the 90's, they had a side that could give the big boys a run for their money. Andy Flower was a great batsman, Streak was a fine bowler, Goodwin was a good batsman and they also had some decent players like Grant Flower, Campbell, Olanga, Johnson etc, but because of the political situation in Zimbabwe, not just senior players like Andy Flower left the scene, but even upcoming players like Ervine, Bilignaut and co. left the team. It was a bad time for Zimb. as greenhorns were forced to play international cricket and Zimb. as expected lost their test status.

At present, Zimb. are in a rebuilding phase, but with the political situation getting a bit better, senior players like Streak coming back to help the team as a coach and players like Bilignaut and Taibu returning back to the set up, the situation is looking somewhat better. Anyway, the present team is captained by the calm Prosper Utseya and to be frank, he has done a decent job as a captain.

Key players

Price- Price is a key member of their spin attack. The left arm spinner is a real miser with the ball and IMO should be called a robot as he can pitch most deliveries in a over on and around off stump and rarely ever bowls short. In a recently concluded T/20 match in the Caribbean, Price and co. won the match for Zimb. by giving away just 79 runs in 20 overs as Westindies slumped to a shocking defeat! Price as expected was a miser as he gave only 18 runs. His E/R is believe it or not 3.5! I know that it would go up as he has only played 5 matches, but it tells you that it is hard to smash him out of the park especially, when one considers that Zimb are playing both their games at Guyana.

Utseya- The captain is a perfect foil for Price. The off spinner can be another miser with the ball as he too hates to give away easy runs. If Price gave away 18 runs in that match against the Caribbean team, Utseya gave away just 12 runs! His E/R in T/20 cricket is just 5 as well. If anyone is participating in cricinfo fantasy competition they can keep an eye on both Price and Utseya. Utseya has also done a decent job as a captain.

Chigumbura- I'm still wondering why Chiggy didn't get picked by any IPL franchise as he is a very underrated hitter. People have seen Pollard smash everything, but also look out for Chigumbura as he can send the ball into the orbit as well. He has already shown a glimpse of what he can do in the warm up game against Australia, as he smashed 70 odd in just about 30 deliveries. He can bowl useful medium pace too, though has problems with bowling no balls. Chigumbura can be another decent pick in fantasy competitions.

Mazakadza- He is a good batsman who can do well at top of the order. He has the ability to rotate the strike and can play the big shots.

Brendon Taylor- He is another key player in the top order as he too can mix caution with aggression. Zimb would depend on Taylor and Mazakadza to fire at top of the order. Taylor can also become a decent wicketkeeper.

I know that Taibu is in the squad, but he has just comeback into the squad and it would take a while before he gets back his touch. Just like many other payers he had left the squad, but thankfully has made a comeback. He is a fine keeper and can play well in the middle-order.

Zimbabwe are in group B and play both their games at Guyana. The ground at Guyana is a new stadium, still I expect it to be on the slower side, which should suit the spin dominated attack of Zimb. Zimb don't just have Price and Utseya, but they also have Maruma, Cremer and Lamb to exploit the conditions. Maruma is unique as he has almost stopped bowling leg breaks due to him losing confidence and only bowls googly. First I thought, he is the only guy to ever bowl just the googly, but I now remember that there was a South African guy called Reggie Scharz who used to perhaps bowl only googlies. Anyway, the batsmen would take time to adjust to the fact that he only bowls googlies. Cremer bowls leg spin and there is Lamb and he too can bowl off spin.

The worry for Zimb is, they are starved of top quality international cricket and as a result their batsmen are inexperienced. Taylor, Mazakadza, Taibu( his experience would come in handy),C.Ervine(younger brother of S.Ervine), Sibanda( the player who can play a glorious cover drive and follow it up by throwing his wicket away the next ball lol) and Coventry can all play well, but if the opposition bat first and get a huge score they perhaps would lose their way.

If the top order can get some runs and build a solid platform, the lower order consisting of Chigumbura and Bilignaut can cause headaches to the opposition ranks as both have the ability to send it into the orbit. As far as Bilignaut is concerned, he is another player who has made a return to the Zimb squad and that is good news for the team as he is a decent swing bowler, a fine outfielder and along with Chigumbura, is expected to come good lower down the order.

Zimb are in a tough group as they have both Lanka and NZ to contend with, but if either of them take Zimb lightly they can cause a upset. It isn't like there is a good chance of them upsetting the apple-cart as especially, Lanka with their bowling attack suited to the conditions in the Caribbean look too strong for them, but if certain factors go right for them, like winning the toss and batting first, getting a respectable score on the board then they can give the opposition a run for their money as they have the attack to do well at Guyana.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

T/20 world cup Bangladesh


I would also like to have a look at the final team in group A, Bangladesh. Bangladesh have struggled to make a mark in test cricket, but in theory they should be more suited to the T/20 format, though the tendency of their batsmen to slog everything has let them down. Bangladesh did creditably well in 07 as they beat the Caribbean team, but were humiliated by the Irish team in the 09 world cup and were packed off in the first round itself. Anyway, let us have a look at the key players in the side.


Tamim Iqbal- The day Tamim gets going it seems like the great cyclones of Bangladesh has hit the poor bowlers, but also has the habit of throwing it away by trying to hit everything on the up. In T/20 cricket, it is always important to mix caution with aggression, but Bangladesh's batsmen seem to believe in only aggression. Tamim though should like the Barbados track as unlike his teammates, he is good at cutting and pulling.

Sakib Al Hassan- Bangladesh's captain is a key component of the side. Sakib has the ability to score at a brisk pace and can bowl useful left arm spin. Just like his teammates, he should be cursing his luck that they are playing Australia at Barbados.

Abdul Razzack- Is another useful left arm spinner, but is quicker through the air than Sakib and just like Sakib has a decent arm ball. He should come into play in the second match against Pakistan at St. Lucia.

Mohammadullah- I think he is a underrated batsman as he is a fine timer of the ball, but just like other batsmen can look to slog and get out. He is too good a player to keep playing those mindless slogs. His bowling isn't up to scratch, but mark my words that Mohammudullah can become a good batsman.

Rahim- He is a gutsy batsman and perhaps the only player in the side who doesn't get tempted to slog everything. Bangladesh have to understand that 20 overs doesn't mean a team is going to face only 20 balls! Anyway, coming back to Rahim, I have to mention that his keeping can be inconsistent and that can be a bit of worry.

Among others, the medium pacer Rasel can be a useful new ball bowler in T/20 cricket as he bowls decent line and length. I know that I haven't mentioned Murtaza, but I'm not sure about his fitness.

As I said, the main worry for the Bangladesh team is, their batsmen try to play some of the craziest shots ever seen and throw their wickets away. I see that Bangladesh have Aftab Ahmed and that Crashraful in the squad and both are renowned for playing crazy shots. The other disadvantage is, Bangladesh are playing Australia at Barbados. Bangladesh's fans and players can cry or curse the organizers as with their spin dominated attack, they would have liked to play Australia at Trinidad or Guyana. The last time they played at Trinidad and Guyana in the 07 world cup, they were able to defeat heavyweights like India and South Africa. If not those grounds, even St. Lucia would have been good for them as it is another slow wicket, but nothing can be done about it as they have to play Australia at Barbados. If the Aussie pace battery get it right, Bangladesh can be in for a bit of hiding.

Bangladesh have a decent team for the T/20 format, but their batsmen's tendency to slog everything may make sure that Bangladesh won't win any matches.

T/20 world cup Pakistan


Pakistan were last year's champions and even in 2007 they did well as they reached the finals. As expected, Pakistan yet again find themselves in trouble as senior players like Younis Khan and Yousef were sacked as captains and then banned. I still see rumours about infighting in the team as well. Pakistan is one side, which seems to be always having problems, but even with all those problems around, no one can rule out Pakistan as their team is suited to the shortest format of the game. Anyway, let us have a look at the key players in the side.

Key players

Afridi-The first name that can come to anyone' mind would be Afridi. He is a powerful hitter and in the last t/20 world cup even showed a bit of maturity in his batting as he didn't try to slog everything in the semifinal or in the final, but showed better shot selection. If not for his batting, he would be certainly in the side for his bowling. His ability to bowl the wrong un, top spinners, flippers and occasionally even off spinners can come in very handy in the T/20 format. Of course, he is also the captain of the side now. Yes, he was recently involved in that infamous biting incident, but if he doesn't get involved in such foolish acts on the field he can be a decent captain in T/20 cricket as just like his cricket, he would likely be a aggressive captain and that is good for T/20 cricket.

Umar Akmal- The younger brother of Karman has shown that he has a wide range of shots and can get runs without resorting to too much slogging. Yes, he is young and occasionally tries to slog, but with senior players like Younis Khan no more in the side, Umar Akmal has to show better shot selection and to be frank, has the ability to get run without resorting to too much slogging. The bad news for Pakistan is, at present Akaml is troubled by a side strain and the side strain problem can really trouble any sportsmen.

Abdul Razzaq- He has lost a yard of pace as a bowler, but against England in Dubai, Razzaq showed that he is still a very effective slogger as Razzaq played a match winning innings to take the game away from England. Opposition have tried to follow him and cramp him for room, but his style of making room by taking his front leg out of the way to slog through the mid-wicket or the long on region has been effective. He must have a very good eye for sure. Anyway, for Pakistan to do well, they need Razzaq to fire as the top order looks suspect.

Ajmal- He is a very good restrictive off spinner, who is suited to T/20 cricket. Has the ability to bowl doosra and his tendency to stop midway though his action before he delivers the ball has confused many batsmen in the past. I'm not surprised that he has a E/R of just 6.58 in T/20 cricket. Pakistan would depend on him and Afridi on those slow wickets of the Caribbean.

Amer- The young Amer has showed a lot of promise as a left arm quick. He gets bounce, can be useful with the old ball as he mixes it up well and more importantly has a big heart. He is also a useful batsman.

I would also mention Alam as unlike other players in the side, Alam is a useful fielder and his ability to play with soft hands can come in handy on those slow Caribbean wickets. He can also bowl a bit of left arm spin and Afridi should use his bowling on Caribbean pitches.

Pakistan have some worries too, especially with regards to their top order. Hafeez, Latif or Butt struggle to score quickly. Latif can slog a few, but his tendency to stand and deliver likely won't help on Caribbean tracks as one has to play with soft hands to rotate the strike. Kamran Akmal likely would be one of the openers and compared to others in the line up, he is a better option. In T/20 cricket, the wicketkeeper also has to come up to the stumps to stop the batsmen from advancing down the wicket and it becomes even more important on slow wickets of the Caribbean but can Akmal do it??? Pakistan are also missing Gul, which is a huge blow as he is a terrific T/20 bowler.

Pakistan's strength of course is in their spin department as they have both Afridi and Ajmal and have also selected the left arm spinner Rehman. Left arm spinners can come in handy on Caribbean tracks. I don't think he would play as Pakistan have spinners like Ajmal and Afridi, but he is a good back up option to have in the side. Pakistan also have a strong middle/lower order as they have Umer,Afridi, Misbah( though struggling for form) and Razzaq. Pakistan are also not playing Australia at Barbados and that would help as Pakistan historically haven't liked bounce in the wicket.

Pakistan have always been a mercurial side, but in big tournaments have shown that they can put all those internal fights behind and rise to the occasion. Yes, they do have chinks in their armour as their top order is suspect and Gul isn't in the squad, but I won't write off Pakistan.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

T/20 world cup Australia


I thought of briefly looking at all the teams in the world T/20. First up, I would look at group A teams consisting of Australia,Bangladesh and the current champions Pakistan.

Australia

Australia haven't been good in the T/20 format, as they lost in the semifinals of the first edition and were thrown out in the first round itself in the last edition of the T/20 world cup. The Australian side though, this time around seem to be taking the T/20 version a bit more seriously under the new captain Clarke. Anyway, let us have a look at the key players in their side.

Key players

Shane Watson-Shane Watson was a revelation in the first edition of the IPL in 2008 and since then, he hasn't looked back as he has become an integral part of the Australian side in all three formats of the game. He is a powerful hitter, who can get big scores at top of the order and a underrated bowler too. I like the way he mixes it up as a bowler. As a batsman, he can be vulnerable on those slow and low tracks of the Caribbean, as he isn't very good against spin and can occasionally succumb to short pitch bowling by looking to pull on the front foot. Make no mistake, for Australia to do well in this tournament, Watson has to click as a player.

Nannes- He played for Netherlands in the last edition, but is going to now play for Australia lol. Anyway, he is no doubt a fine T/20 bowler as he is quick, has the ability to bowl yorkers, has a very good bouncer as it leaves the righthander and is equally good at going around the wicket to cramp the batsmen for room. He has also shown that he can adjust to slow tracks as he has bowled well in the IPL.

White- I still think he could have been the captain of the Australian T/20 side. Anyway, he has a fine temperament as a batsman as he can rotate the strike and is equally good at playing powerful shots down the ground. He wasn't successful in the IPL, but coming in at 6 or 7 he didn't get many chances to bat. He is also a fine fielder. One warning is, never give him the chance to bowl as he is rubbish as a bowler lol.

Steve Smith- If anything, Australia may lack good spin bowlers though, Hauritz is a fine restrictive bowler. Having said that, Smith looks like a good prospect. He still doesn't have the control as a leg spinner, which is expected as he is young, but can be a wicket taker. He is a powerful hitter and is also a brilliant fielder. He can be one of the stars of the tournament.

Warner- He is made for T/20 cricket as he is a very powerful striker especially, square of the wicket on either side. The slow wickets in the Caribbean may not be to his liking as he likes to play on the up. He is another fine fielder.

Prediction
The worries for Australia would be can the pace dominated attack of Johnson, Nannes, Tait and Lee do well on those generally slow and low tracks of the Caribbean? On Caribbean tracks I would like to have a left arm spinner as on those pitches left arm spinners who can bowl wicket to wicket can come in handy. Australia could have also selected Bollinger as he has been excellent in the IPL in India and unlike others he won't be wayward. Of course they would always miss the services of their all-rounder Symonds as he is no more available to play for Australia.

The one good thing for Australia is, they won't likely play Bangladesh on a slow pitch as the Barbados track reportedly has a bit more pace otherwise, it could have been a headache for the Australian batsmen as Bangladesh would always have a couple of left arm spinners lol.

The other worry is their captain Clarke has a strike rate of 108 in T/20 cricket which isn't good enough. The squad looks good and they can go all the way to win their first tournament, but their pace dominated attack though, looks good on paper can prove to be their achilles heel on Caribbean wickets.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hampshire


I would also like to have a look at the Hampshire squad. The side is captained by Mascarenhas, who at present is injured and as a result Pothas is captaining the side. Hampshire play their cricket at Rose Bowl and I always thought that it is a decent track for batting though, my friend Dimi/ half tracker may have something to say lol. Anyway, let us have a look at their squad.

Batsmen

The veteran Jimmy Adams was very good for Hampshire last year. Yes, he seems to be a late developer, but even this season he has been in great form as he has already got a huge century against Essex. His opening partner Carberry played recently for England against Bangladesh. Just like Adams, Carberry too scored over 1000 runs last season and in 2010 as well he has already scored a hundred. I'm not yet convinced that Carberry is good enough to play for the England team as he rarely scores runs in the V and can be a lbw candidate. The former Yorkshire player Lumb too was in fine form last season. He may not be a purists delight and can occasionally premeditate his shots, but is very strong square of the wicket on either side. It is good to see that he has been selected to play for the England's side in the T/20 world cup. He was also playing in the IPL and that meant he would miss the first few matches of the season and going by the struggles of Hampshire in the first couple of matches one can see that they are missing Lumb.

Among others, I have never been convinced about Benham, but he still is in the squad, so I guess he must be doing something right. Hampshire have signed McKenzie as a kolpak player. He isn't a bad player of pace bowling, but looks frightened against spin. Of course Hampshire' players have to get used to all his superstitious beliefs lol. James Vince is rated highly, but just like any other young player would take some time before he gets a permanent place in the side. Of course they do have Pothas as their wicketkeeper batsman and with Masca out of the side, he at present is also captaining the team. The veteran South African has been good for the Hampshire side over the years as he has usually chipped in with crucial runs as a batsman and he is also a fine keeper. Bates is also in the side as a wicketkeeper and is rated highly. I know that I haven't talked about England's best batsman KP, but he has only played one CC match for Hampshire in the last let me guess 3 years? I think Hampshire' fans and players have forgotten that they do have a player called Pietersen.

All-rounders

Hampshire have some fine all-rounders, who can come good at crucial times. Of course their captain himself Masca is a fine all-rounder at county level. He may not be the most talented cricketer going around, but can be very useful with both the bat and ball. Many think that Masca is a big hitter as a batsman, but I always believed that he takes his time before he can really go after the bowling. He bowls medium pace, but with clever changes of pace and a bit of swing either way he can come in handy in English conditions. Liam Dawson is a youngster who can develop into a fine all-rounder. Shane Warne rates the left arm spinner highly and having seen a bit of him, I can say that he can have a bright future ahead of him. He can also be a useful batsman lower down the order.

Among others, Ervine has been a decent player for Hampshire in the past and had a good 2009 season as a batsman. He is a clean striker of the ball and can bowl few overs of medium pace and he does have a decent slower delivery. I'm still not convinced that he should be a permanent fixture in the side. Having said that he has come up with decent performances over the years for the Hampshire side. Cork is still in the squad, but I don't know how many matches he would play for the Hampshire side this season as he is almost 40 now. He is a real fighter and even in the 2009 season he did reasonably well as a bowler and even as a batsman. He may no more get the prodigious swing that he used to get in the 90's which troubled batsmen like Dravid on A tours and the Caribbean team in 1995, but make no mistake about him being a fighter.

Bowlers

Griffiths has been in the squad for sometime now and is rated highly by everyone. Just like most other other young quick bowlers, he has already suffered a stress fracture on his back. Having seen a bit of him, I can say that he is quick and unlike Meaker of Surrey, Griffiths is a good prospect. Of course he is still raw, but if he stays fit he would one-day play for England. Meanwhile, he has to do a important job of bowling well for Hampshire especially, as Hampshire have finally given up hopes of Tremlett being fit for a entire season lol. The management is also looking at developing former under 19 quick bowlers Riazuddin and Wood. Hampshire have signed Kabir Ali, who has left the struggling Worcestershire side to join the Hampshire team. Ali can bowl at nippy pace and can get prodigious away swing. At his best, he can settle into a immaculate line and length and trouble the best of batsmen especially, on pitches that assist the quicker bowlers. He may consider himself unlucky not to have played more matches for the England team.

The Hampshire side also have the left armer Tomlinson and he is another quick who has had problems with his back. He has made a come back into the team though, hasn't been able to get wickets consistently. I remember him being rated highly as far back as 2002, but hasn't been able to do justice to his potential. Hampshire have also signed Jones, but I guess him being fit for a entire season is always in doubt. The left arm spinner Briggs whose favourite player is Vettori, seems to have a mature head on his young shoulders. In the ongoing match against Durham he has shown that he is no mug with the bat either.

Hampshire have signed Mendis as their overseas player, but Mendis known for his carrom ball seems to have been found out. Herath is in the squad as a cover for Mendis. I think Herath isn't a bad spinner and to be fair to him, he has outperformed his Lankan teammate Mendis in recent times.

Finally, it has been a bit of struggle for Hampshire this season, but make no mistake, they do have a good side. The problem is I always felt that they lack the ruthlessness to win crucial games.

Shane Bond


To start with, it is sad to see that one of the champion fast bowlers of recent times, Shane Bond has retired from test cricket. As a fast bowler, he was a thoroughbred and is one of the few cricketers I would pay to watch on a cricket field.

The lion-hearted fast bowler from Canterbury was first spotted by Dayle Hadlee as he made his first class debut in 1997 for Canterbury, but early in his career he didn’t had much success as the likes of Shayne O’ Connor, Drum, Tuffey, Penn, Franklin, Chris Martin etc all leapfrogged ahead of him as New Zealand looked for support bowlers for the likes of Nash and Cairns. Actually his cricketing career looked to be in jeopardy when he joined the New Zealand’s police force in 1999 and found little time to play first class cricket. He did comeback to play first class cricket and made a fine impression in 2000/01 as it seemed like his career was back on track.

For Shane Bond, it all changed in 2001/02, when he was selected to play for the A team as he got to play a few tournaments like the Moin ud dwalah trophy in India and the great Sir Richard Hadlee is said to have helped him with his bowling during that time. At that time, New Zealand were touring Australia, but were hit by injuries to key bowlers like Dion Nash which made New Zealand to go for Shane Bond as he could bowl quick and that perhaps was the reason behind the selectors plumping for Bond. It all didn’t go to plan for Bond as in his first series in Australia he could only pick 3 wickets at 96.33 yet, everyone was impressed by his pace and the ability to swing it back sharply. I still remember him troubling none other than the tenacious Steve Waugh himself with those huge inswingers at Hobart as he finally got him lbw. It was a series in which the Kiwis played well and they even came close to winning the series at Perth, but only for a couple of decisions being turned down by by the umpire Ian Robinson. Nevertheless, our man Bond showed in this series that he had lots of potential. He had a successful time against the hapless Bangladeshis in 2001/02 and after winning that series against Bangladesh, New Zealand returned back to Australia to complete the one day leg of their tour. It was a tri-series played between South Africa, the Kiwis and of course the hosts Australia. It was in that series in which Bond really made his mark as he took 21 wickets at just 16.38. In his first match itself at Melbourne he troubled the likes of Mark Waugh, Steve Waugh, Ponting and co. as he took 3 wickets to help the Kiwis defeat Australia in a low scoring match. I still remember his superb spell at Adelaide as well as he took a 5 wicket haul. He bowled with fire on a flat deck and the inswinging yorker he bowled to Gilly was a gem as it swung so late to uproot the stumps of Gilchrist. All Aussie batsmen on a flat deck were running for cover as Bond helped the Black Caps to crush their Trans Tasman rivals by 77 runs. It can be said that Bond was the main factor behind Black Caps reaching the finals of that tournament. He couldn’t repeat the magic in the finals against South Africa as he was hampered by a knee injury, but there was no doubting the fact that the Black caps had suddenly unearthed a strike bowler they so desperately needed.

As I briefly said in my last paragraph that he was troubled by a knee problem in the tri-series in Australia and that prevented him from playing against England at home and touring Pakistan in 2002 though, after that bomb which exploded near the hotel in which the Black Caps were staying in Pakistan, Bond may have thought to himself that he was lucky to have missed the tour of Pakistan and that tour as expected was immediately cancelled because of that bomb explosion. Anyway, he came back to play in the Caribbean as Fleming led the Black Caps to their first ever series triumph over the Caribbean team in a test series in the Caribbean. Stephen Fleming surely has to thank his number one speedster, Shane Bond for that as he took 7 wickets in the first test at Barbados to help NZ script a famous victory. The Black caps were able to draw the second test and hence they were able to win the two test series 1-0. In that series, Bond showed his class by troubling none other than the great man Lara himself.

As 2002 came to an end, the Back Caps met India at home and on some spicy wickets the Black Caps were able to easily defeat India in both tests and onedayers. The pitches in that series may have offered too much sideways movement for the quicker bowlers, but no one can take away the credit from Bond as he constantly troubled the likes of Tendulkar, Sehwag and Dravid with those huge inswingers and the odd delivery that straightened from the righthander. I still remember the cracking inswinger he bowled to Dravid at Wellington in the first test as he found a bit of gap between Dravid’s bat and pad to send his stumps cart-wheeling out of the ground. It has never been easy to find any flaw in Dravid’s technique, but Bond with his pace and swing was able to find that gap between Dravid’s bat and pad and the shows his class!

He had a great time in the 2003 world cup as he took 17 wickets at just 17.94. His spell at Port Elizabeth against Australia was a top drawer for sure as he took a 6 wicket haul. The like of Haydos, Gilly, Ponting, Martyn and co. were all at sea against him. It surely looked like the Black Caps would crush the Aussies, but again their brittle batting line up was a let down as in the end Australia won quite comfortably. Actually, leaving the round robin match against South Africa, the Black Caps’s batting line up just flopped in that tournament as they were ousted at the super six stage itself by India at Centurion. It was a match in which, their brittle batting lineup couldn’t stand up to India’s disciplined bowling and though, Bond made a few early breakthroughs, Dravid steadied the ship to help India defeat the Black Caps and with that the hopes of Black Caps progressing further in that tournament went up in smoke.


At that time, it looked like the Black Caps have last found a bowler who could carry their bowling attack like Hadlee did in 80’s, but Shane Bond is a bowler who seems to put lots of pressure on his back and ankle and when the Black Caps toured Lanka in 2003 the disaster struck for Bond as he was diagnosed with a stress fracture on his back. He tried hard to make a successful come back, but to no avail as he was sent back home from a tour of England in 2004 as that back problem came back to haunt him. It looked like he may even retire from international cricket, but thanks to Hadlee and bio-mechanical experts he made some changes to his action and returned back to play for the Black Caps in Zimbabwe. As expected in the test series against Zimbabwe they had no answer to his accurate quick bowling, but he showed his class even against better opponents like India on that tour of Zimbabwe. India was the third team that was taking part in a tri-series in Zimbabwe and they felt the force of Bond in the first match itself at Bulawayo as Bond bowled a fiery spell and took a 6 wicket haul. The Indian team may have thought as to why they only had to face Bond again and again as Bond had tormented the Indian batsmen a lot in 2002/03. As expected, with him making a come back in such a grand fashion, the Black caps were able to win that tournament. The Black Caps always look so much better with Shane Bond in the side as he is a genuine strike bowler.

He did well at home against both the Caribbean team and the Lankans in 06 and in the tri-series in Australia he troubled both England and Australia. He took 11 wickets at just 26.36 in that tri-series. He did take a hat-trick at Hobart against Australia and in the crucial match at Brisbane against England which became a virtual semifinal for both the sides as the winner of that match was going to progress to the finals, Bond made early breakthroughs. I do remember the inswinging yorker he bowled to send Vaughan’s stumps cart-wheeling and that was the second over of the match. At that time, England’s captain Vaughan was struggling with knee injuries and he would have been cursing his luck that he got such a good delivery. It didn’t help the Black Caps to progress to the finals of that tournament as they were let down by some poor fielding and Fleming though scored a century took too much time to get it as England narrowly won that crucial match to reach the finals. During that time, Bond also bowled some fine spells on the flat wickets of India against champion teams like Pakistan and Australia in the champions trophy. It helped the Black Caps to reach the semifinals. I still remember the slower bouncers that he employed against the Pakistan's batsmen in that tournament. It surely took Pakistan’s batsmen by surprise as Bond reaped the rewards. He also helped the Black Caps to crush Australia 3-0 in the Chappell-Hadlee trophy by taking a 5 wicket haul at Wellington.

He had a successful 2007 world cup as he took 13 wickets at just 16.38 to help the Black Caps to reach the semifinals, but unfortunately for them Bond couldn’t make much of an impact against the marauding Lankans in the semifinals as Jayawerdena played a breathtaking knock to crush the Kiwis. Shane Bond in 2007 was already 32 and with his history of injuries and the advent of T/20 may have made Bond to think of newer avenues as he signed for ICL. At that time, he had just played for the Black Caps against the South African team in South Africa as he picked up yet another injury, but as he had signed for the rebel ICL league, the BCCI and the ICC banned him from playing for New Zealand. I won’t like to again get into this debate of whether that ban on Bond and other international players were right, but it was a massive loss for the Black Caps as he was their one and only strike bowler. It looked like Bond may never return to play for the Black Caps, but the ICL was scrapped in 2009 as Bond and other players were given amnesty which helped Bond to play for the Black Caps again.

In 2009 when he returned back to play for the Black Caps, it can be said that they had a very inexperienced side. Their inspirational captain, Fleming, Astle, Cairns, Macmillan and co. had retired which made sure that Vettori had too much responsibility on his shoulders as he suddenly became their captain, their main bowler, one of their main batsman and with the sacking of their coach Moles he took over the role of being the coach for a temporary period of time! So, it was great to see that Bond had come back into their line up as with him in the side, the burden on Vettori was expected to get less. The critics thought that Bond had lost a bit of pace and was not getting too much swing and to an extent they were right as Bond struggled a bit in the recently concluded champions trophy and the one-day series played against Pakistan in the Gulf, but Bond is no doubt a class bowler and he showed it once for all as even at the ripe age of 34 he took 8 wickets to help the Black Caps defeat Pakistan at Dunedin the first test. It was great to see Bond again bowling at over 90 miles per hour and troubling all Pakistan’s batsmen including their captain Yousef with some snorters as he helped the Black Caps to defeat Pakistan, but with Bond one can never be sure about his fitness and he again broke down with an abdominal strain. Bond has always come across as a honest man and I have a feeling that he must have thought his injury problems were letting down the Black Caps as he announced his retirement from test cricket on 23rd of December. A sad to end to one of the best fast bowlers in recent times.

Finally, he played only in 18 tests but a bowling average of 22.09 and a phenomenal strike rate of 38.7 shows that he was up there with the best. At his best, his run up, action and the amount of sharp swing that he used to get was just a connoisseur’s delight. His ability to bowl quick and send the batsman’s stumps cart-wheeling out of the ground in test cricket would be missed, but thankfully he has said that he would still play the shorter versions of the game. It is really sad that at present there aren’t too many genuine quicks going around and with Lee too struggling because of injuries it can be said that only Steyn is the genuine quick left though, Roach did show some potential in Australia. Anyway, I would like to salute Bond for his services to New Zealand cricket and for bringing joy to millions of cricket fans around the world!

I thought of again posting the article of Bond as I like him as a player lol

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

All time Pakistan team


Just like cricinfo I thought of picking an all time Pakistan team. Pakistan have produced some great players, so it was tough to select just 11 players but here is my team

Anwar
Hanif
Miandad
Yousuf
Haq
Imran(c)
Moin
Akram
Younis
Qadir
Fazal

Openers

I went for Anwar and Hanif. It was tough to leave out Sohail, Mudassar, Majid Khan and Sadiq as all were said to be fine players, but I couldn't look beyond either Anwar or Hanif. Of course Hanif's concentration prowess are legendary and all cricket enthusiasts would know about his great knock against the Caribbean team at Barbados in the 50's when he played a marathon knock of 337 to save the game. Saeed Anwar was a beautiful player to watch. He didn't have great footwork, but had good balance and his ability to play late made him a joy to watch. I can never forget his near perfect century at Brisbane. Yes, he was dropped of all people by Mark Waugh( it can be said that number of catches dropped by Mark in his test career can be counted with fingers) but leaving that lapse in concentration Anwar was just sublime. The Aussies tried everything from bouncers to bowling it a touch wide of off stump to lure Anwar to playing a false shot, but he was unstoppable. He played some wristy shots and timed the ball beautifully. It was one of the best knocks I have seen in test cricket. I won't leave either Anwar or Hanif, but I also have a soft spot for Sohail. Yes, his temperament can be questioned, like who can forget him sledging Prasad in the 96 world cup and as a result losing his concentration and his wicket. Sohail never had the talent of Anwar either, but he was a real fighter. I have to mention Majid Khan as well. He was known to be a very elegant player and played some fine knocks in his career, but having grown up watching Anwar I can't leave him out and I don't see anything wrong in picking players one has actually seen and Anwar himself was a very good player. Majid Khan also underachieved as a batsman as he ended his career with an average of under 40.

Middle-order

I went for Miandad, Yousuf and Haq. All three were world class players and got big scores. Miandad was the sort of in your face character who could annoy the opposition. He was a real fighter and gave some sleepless nights to Pakistan's arch rival India. I don't think any Indian fan would forget that match winning knock at Sarjah so many years back when he took Pakistan from a hopeless position to a sensational victory by hitting the last ball of the match for six. He also guided the young Haq in that unforgettable match against the Kiwis in the 1992 world cup semifinal. His class can be seen by the fact that he scored over 8000 test runs at an average of over 50.

The recently retired Yousuf was another world class player. Old-timers would perhaps say Z.Abbas was better, but again having grown up watching Yousuf, I was influenced by his lazy elegance. The high back-lift and the great wrist work was just great to watch. I would never forget his hundred at Lords against England as it was a innings oozing with class or his century on a seaming track at Capetown in South Africa, when he was able to do well against his nemesis South Africa. I know that Abbas was world class, but having seen Yousuf bat I can say that he was world class as well and when it came to choosing between two world class players I went for the player that I saw and admired. I don't think there would be much debate about Haq being in the line up. His concentration prowess was amazing as even if he got beaten all six balls in a over, it never seemed to worry the big fat guy lol. Everyone of course would remember his knock in the semifinals against the Kiwis in the 92 world cup, but one can't forget vital knocks like his crucial fifty against Australia at Karachi in 94 when he helped Pakistan to win a thrilling test match by just one wicket or even helping Pakistan chase down the target against the minnows Bangladesh in 2003. Pakistan looked like they would lose against the minnows of world cricket, but Haq saved Pak. from blushes by coming up with a heroic last wicket partnership with Mustaq to help Pakistan win again by one wicket! He scored over 8000 test runs and that itself shows how good he was.

Others like Salim Malik was good too and I can never forget his glorious knock on a pitch that assisted seamers at Headingley in 92. He was also one of the best players of spin I have seen. Ijaz was successful against a very good team like Australia. Yes, he had a unorthodox technique, but it doesn't take away the fact that he was a fine player, but unfortunately everyone can't be selected!

All-rounder

I don't think one can ever look beyond the great man Imran Khan. He was a champion fast bowler who was superb at getting it to reverse. He also became a better batsman as the years went by and that helped him to prolong his career. He was also a great captain as he was able make sure that Pakistan's mercurial players played like a team and helped them to win a world cup in 1992. He would be the first name in the Pakistan's team sheet. Mushtaq Mohammad may not have been a very talented cricketer but did well as a all-rounder. Razzaq and Azhar occasionally came up with brilliant performances and even Afridi had some success in test cricket as a all rounder, but none of those three players can even hold a candle in front of the great Imran.

Wicketkeeper

Bari was said to be Pakistan's best wicketkeeper, but as in my team Imran is batting at six I would go for the better batsman Moin Khan. Moin too was a fine keeper and was a better batsman than Bari. I don't think I would lose much as Moin Khan was a good keeper and him being the better batsman meant that I picked him. I can't have Imran at six and Bari at seven in my line up.

Latif himself was a fine keeper and I have to also mention the aggressive Salim Yousuf who for some reason is underrated. Akmal isn't considered as he is a substandard keeper. In the end, I can select only one keeper and looking at my team the best bet in my view was Moin Khan.

Bowlers

Pakistan have no doubt produced some great bowlers. IMO among those great bowlers, the first name that comes to my mind would be the most talented bowler I have seen Akram. He could do anything as who can forget those couple of deliveries he bowled in the 92 world cup to Lamb an Lewis.

Here is something from Wisden cricket about Akram's delivery to Croft,

"Halfway down the pitch towards the right-hander, the delivery seemed innocuous. Delivered left-arm from round the wicket by Wasim Akram, it had the usual slithery speed, and was up there in length - an attempted yorker probably, but too full. It began to angle down the leg side, a low full-toss just ripe for Robert Croft, the England offspinner, to flick away to fine leg for an easy boundary. Croft planted his front foot and began the process of turning the ball away. He missed, the ball thudded into his pad, and Wasim roared his appeal. Negative, said the umpire, and we in the press box nodded knowingly: missing leg by miles.

Then came the replay, in super slow motion, and it was so astounding it left mouths gaping. For in the last 10 feet or so, the ball ceased angling down the leg side and instead swung back the other way, eluding Croft's bat by six inches. Unquestionably it would have hit middle stump, but it all happened so fast and late that it deceived the eye of everyone, not least the umpire. The single most astonishing delivery that I have witnessed failed to produce a wicket"

It just shows how good he was! He also scored a double hundred as a batsman, but one gets the feeling that he underachieved as a batsman.

The tearaway quick Younis was Akram's partner for a long time in the 90's and he along with Akram terrorised the opposition teams. Younis was really quick and relished to get reverse swing and bowl those toe-crushing yorkers. As the years went by, he lost pace, but was able to bowl better with the new ball.

Pakistan have produced some fine spinners too, but I would go for the leg spinner Qadir. He was another magical bowler, but perhaps didn't have a good temperament for a spinner. Just for carrying on the art of bowling spin in a era made up of great fast bowlers I would pick him. Mushi was another fine spinner though, I thought that he used the googly too much. Saqlian too was a fine spinner as he founded the doosra, but he used the doosra so much that he lost his stock delivery, the off spinner.

The final slot in my line up would go to the ever consistent Fazal Mahmood. During his playing days he was even compared to the great Sir Alec Bedser. He was really difficult to face on matting wickets as he had the ability to get it to cut and seam at a decent pace. He can also be compared to McGrath, but Fazal likely bowled a little bit fuller than McGrath. Sarfraz was said to be a quality quick and not many would forget his magical spell against Australia at Melbourne, but his temperament wasn't said to be good. Fazal's partner, Khan Mohammad was another fine bowler. Shoaib Akthar of course can bowl at great pace and he is also a fine exponent of reverse swing, but I can safely say that he has wasted his talent. Asif can become a great bowler in the future, but for that to happen, he has to stop getting involved in drug controversies. In the end, I pipped for the consistency of Fazal. I have to say that any opposition team would be in huge trouble if they are facing a bowling attack of Younis, Imran, Akram, Fazal and Qadir!!

It was tough to choose just 11 players, but based on what I have seen and whatever I know about players that I haven't been able to watch live, I have selected the team.

I just hope that Pakistan would again start to do well as a team as world cricket needs a strong Pakistan side!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Essex


Yes, Essex have played a couple of matches and have made a great start to their championship campaign by stunning Hampshire in a thrilling last over finish and holding the upper hand even against the formidable Durham side, but I would like to have a look at the Essex squad.

Essex secured second place in the second division and as a result got promoted to the first division this year. Essex play their cricket at Chelmsford and the captain of their side is the relatively young Mark Pettini. Anyway let us have a look at the squad.


Batsmen

As I said, the young Pettini is the captain of their side. Pettini was known more as a one day player, but in recent times has been in decent form in the County Championship. He is a ok player though, hasn't been able to get big scores. Pettini also has done a fine job as the captain of the side. Essex this season have signed Middlesex's opening batsman Godleman. He is a promising player and had a decent start to his career, but in recent times has struggled to do well and could only get 160 runs at an average of 17.7 last season. He has started this season on a better note as he scored 92 against Hampshire. Godleman is very much a bottom handed player and can struggle to get runs in the V, but is very strong square of the wicket especially, on the on-side.

Essex do have both Cook and Bopara in the squad. Alistair Cook would be a asset to any County side, but just like other England's players one expects him to miss most of the matches. Of course, at present England aren't playing any internationals and him being not selected in the T/20 squad has made him him available to play for the Essex team. Bopara only played couple of matches last year, but was able to flay second division county attacks. Bopara though at present is playing in the IPL and has been selected to play in the T/20 world cup, still should be available for at least some of the matches as he has been dropped from the test and one-day side. He can be good to watch, but his habit of playing across the line has got him into trouble in test cricket. In first division his technique can be tested as he would be up against bowlers like the destroyer of county teams Harmison, Plunkett, Mahmood, Woakes, Chapple, Amjad, Shreck, Adams and co.

Among others, they do have Walker. He is a very experienced campaigner as he has been around for about 18 years, but has had an up and down career though, has done far better in recent times. Maunders looked a decent prospect when he first came onto the scene but has become a journeyman in County cricket. His average of just over 30 and him having already left both Middlesex and Leicestershire proves that fact. Essex's wicketkeeper Foster was in good form last season and has started this season as well on a bang by getting a big hundred against Durham. Foster has improved his batting and his keeping has always been good, but England's selectors have given him a raw deal. Mickleburgh is a young batsman and to his creidt has had a decent start to his career. Tom Westley is another promising player and this season has already made an impression by getting a crucial fifty against Hampshire.

All-rounders

The first name that can come to anyone's mind would be the Dutch all-rounder Ryan Ten Doeschate. He is a game changer as he can take crucial wickets or get a quickfire 50 under pressure. He showed his class by getting a crucial fifty against the formidable Hampshire side but wait, as he came back to destroy the opposition ranks by getting 5 for 13 and that included a wicket in the last over of the match which helped Essex to win against Hampshire!! If I'm the captain of a team I would always like to have players like Ryan in the side. Among the associate players, I would always keep an keen eye on Ryan. Napier too can come in and take crucial wickets and tear apart opposition bowling attacks. Essex are lucky to have both Ryan and Napier in the side.

Bowlers

Maurice Chambers from Jamaica can bowl at good pace, but just like other young quicks would take his time to bowl line and length. He is still a work in progress player but has potential. The former Kent medium pacer Masters is a expereinced campaigner and has consistently taken wickets. He isn't quick, but knows how to bowl in English conditions by bowling a nagging line and length and keeping it tight. Masters has started well this season by taking a 6 wicket haul against Hampshire. The left arm spinner Tim Phillips has been injury prone, and has struggled to get a permanent place in the side. Philips this season has started well by taking seven wickets against the formidable Durham side. The medium pacer Palladino had a decent start to his career, but has been beset by injury problems.Chris Wright has struggled to make an impression for the Essex side and the same can be said about Westfield but both are young.

Among their foreign players, they have Kaneria and he has been a asset to the Essex side over the years. I rate this spinner from Pakistan highly, but still can't believe that he hasn't become mad as Pakistan's fielders likely have dropped at least 50 chances of his bowling lol (it is by no means an exaggeration) He would certainty expect better effort from the Essex's fielders! He depends more on bounce and has a well disguised googly though, the feeling is he uses that googly too much. Kaneria though is under the scanner for alleged spot-fixing charges and that won't help. Chris Martin of NZ has been signed by the Essex side as a cover for Kaneria as Kaneria is playing domestic cricket in Pakistan. Martin though seems to have lost the zip in his bowling as he struggled against Australia recently. He had the ability to get late swing back into the righthander, but that is missing from his armoury now. Of course, I do hope I won't have to talk about his famous batting abilities lol.

It has been a great start for the Essex side as they beat Hampshire and dominated the formidable Durham side. The bowling attack can be a bit of worry, but it should get better once Kaneria joins the side. Actually, it is great to see Essex unlike other second division teams giving the big boys a run for their money.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Lancashire preview


The next team I would like to preview is Lancashire. Of course if I think of Lancs, it is hard to get away from the fact that though the team has usually been good yet, haven't won a championship since 1950 which is a sad fact for any Lancs fan though, it can be said that weather doesn't help lol.

Lancashire play most of their cricket at Old Trafford. I always reckon that Old Trafford ground usually has the best pitch in England as there would be something in it for all the bowlers and batsmen too can enjoy the true bounce.

Lancashire would be again be captained by the experienced all-rounder Chapple and are coached by the former England's coach Moores. Anyway let us have a look at the squad.

Batsmen

I think most Lancs fans would agree with me that the team does lack batting depth and it has been the case for sometime now. Lancashire have paid big amount to get Moore from Worcestershire. Moore has had his moments in the second division, but the jury is still out on him. Occasionally he has looked like a decent player, but in first division hasn't had much success. Paul Horton was consistent for a few seasons, but had a lacklustre season last year. His tendency to play from the crease hasn't helped him. After not doing well for sometime, the former captain of Lancashire Chilton proved his worth as a middle-order batsman in 2009. Perhaps opening the batting didn't help, but he has to be consistent as succeeding for just one season doesn't make anyone a decent player. Lancashire need him to do well for sure as the batting can be fragile. Prince was in superb form last season and the management would hope the gutsy lefthander can do well again. Sutton the former Derbyshire player is a decent wicketkeeper and can get useful runs lower down the order though, struggles to get big scores and it can be said that some may get bored by his defensive batting lol. I think Lancs should look at selecting Cross as Sutton isn't getting any younger.

Lancashire would miss the services of Laxman, Loye and Plessis. Laxman was in great touch in 07 and 09 but won't play this year, Loye has been a consistent run-getter for Lancashire for a considerable period of time, but has gone back to his old county Northamptonshire and Plessis can't play under new regulations. Lancs have signed the experienced and the classy Sangakkara, but it doesn't look like he may play too many matches for the team because of international commitments. The management would likely sign the banned Pakistani cricketer Younis Khan as their overseas player for the next season as Sanga won't be available for most of the time. Shankar and Brown are decent prospects, but haven't yet got a permanent place in the side.

All-rounders

The captain of the side Chapple can be considered as a all-rounder. He started his career as a out and out quick as I remember him and another local lad Henderson terrorising batsmen, but with age has lost pace and looks to depend on accuracy. In recent times he has also improved his batting. The problem with Chapple is, he has a tendency to over bowl himself. Tom Smith can be considered as a all-rounder as well, but I still can't fathom him opening the batting as he isn't good enough to open the innings. The management likely want to go with 5 bowlers, but even if one considers that, it is still hard to fathom Smith with a fc average of below 30 opening the batting. As a bowler Smith does have a fine inswinger and I still think that he should concentrate mainly on his bowling. Of course there is Freddie Flintoff, but it doesn't look like he will play any time soon as at present he is still recovering from a knee injury. The hard hitting batsman Croft has been below par for Lancahsire, but has started this season on a good note as he scored a fifty in the first innings against Warwickshire. He can also bowl a bit medium pace, but is more useful for one-day cricket. The nippy seamer Kyle Hogg is still in the squad, but just hasn't been able to fulfill the potential that he showed when he first played for Lancahsire in 2001 and I have to add that injuries haven't helped him.


Bowlers

Of course there is Anderson, but these days he is a regular member of the England team. Yes, he may play in a few matches like at present he is playing against the Bears team, but one expects Lancashire to miss the services of their main bowler for most of the season. I have always liked Newby as a bowler as he can get a bit of bounce and is sharp, but has been in and out of the side. Mahmood has already played for England, but even after playing in CC for about 8 years he still struggles to bowl line and length. He has the talent but just hasn't fulfilled his potential yet, it can be said that Mahmood has been a decent bowler for Lancashire in CC. I still can't understand why Powell was signed by the management as he has been below par for the Caribbean team. He can occasionally bowl a great spell like at Guyana in 2004/05 against the Saffers team when he destroyed the Saffer top order on a flat deck with sheer pace and bounce and troubled KP in a few T/20 games, but other than that he has been wayward and listless. The big blow for Lancahsire is, their main spinner Keedy is out with a fractured collarbone and may not play for months together. It is a huge setback for Lancahsire as he has been consistent as a spinner.

Among others, Parry seemed to be promising but has been leapfrogged by another spinner Kerrigan who, at present is playing instead of Keedy. Cheetham is a tall young quick bowler, but may not get too many chances as Lancashire's management seem to be wary of blooding youngsters.

Lancashire have a decent line up, but again would likely miss out on winning the championship as the squad lacks depth in batting.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Kent preview


Th fourth team I would like to preview is Kent. Kent did well to get promoted to the first division as last year they finished first in the second division, but most second division teams who get promoted to the first division have naturally found it tough. The experienced Robert Key would again captain the Kent side.

Kent play most of their cricket at St. Lawrence ground, though it is sad to see that the famous lime tree isn't there anymore. Anyway let us look at their squad for 2010.

Batsmen

As usual, Kent would be depending heavily on their experienced captain Key and the Saffer, Van Jarsveld. Both were very good in 2009 as they amassed over 1000 runs in the second division. To be frank, I'm not a fan of Key, but he is a fine player at the county level. You know what you would get from Key as he won't leave too many bad deliveries go unpunished and can do a fine job as a opener, though perhaps lacks the ability to play at the highest level. Similarly, Van Jarsveld has been a consistent run-getter for Kent. In the few opportunities he got, he struggled to make his mark as a international player for South Africa. His tendency to shuffle across the stumps made him a candidate for lbw and his habit of going hard at the ball doesn't help against good spinners either but he too has done a very good job for Kent in CC.

Kent also have batsmen like Stevens, G.Jones and Denly. Darren Stevens has been a consistent run-getter for both Kent and even Leicestershire in CC. I think he deserved to play for England in the shorter formats of the game, but his name has hardly ever cropped up for selection. If my memory serves me right, he did get selected in the provisional squad for the world cup in 2003, but for some reason his clean striking has rarely been considered by the selectors. His non-selection is a bit of mystery but coming back to CC, he is no doubt one of the key members of their batting line-up. Denly showed some promise as I remember him making a classy 90 against Warne and Stuart Clark a few years back, but I can see technical flaws in his batting. His habit of not moving his feet and leaving a gap between bat and pad leaves him vulnerable to getting bowled or lbw. He still averaged over 40 last year in second division and for Kent to do well he needs to score runs this season as well. The former England wicketkeeper Jones was in terrific form last season. Just like Read he has quick hands, but can be vulnerable to the full swinging delivery as he doesn't like to come forward. It would be interesting to see whether the first division bowlers can exploit his weakness. His wicketkeeping has improved a bit in recent times.

Among others, they do have the promising Northeast, Goodman and Hockley . Northeast is a gifted player as he is wristy and fine timer of the ball. I think he has a bright future ahead of him. Goodman too is rated highly. Hockley has been in their squad for a considerable period of time but has never been impressive. Having said that he did a bit better last season.

All-rounders

Kent would miss the services of their big hitting all-rounder Kemp this year. McLeran too isn't in the squad as he has opted to play for South Africa, but they do have Azhar Mahmood. I'm not convinced that Mahmood is fit enough to bowl in fc matches but he is in their squad. Adam Ball is said to be an exciting prospect.

Bowlers

Kent have signed the medium pacer Clark but I think he is on the wane. He has struggled with injuries and form in recent times. Amjad Khan has a history of injury problems but on his day he can very good. He doesn't have what is known in cricketing circles as a repeatable action, but can bowl at good pace and is useful with the old ball. The Antiguan Robbie Joseph is another bowler who has a bit of raw pace, but not sure about his accuracy. He is still one of their main bowlers in the side. Tredwell always seemed to be a bit of journeyman, so I was surprised that he got selected to play for England. Having said that, he is a type of bowler who can do a decent job in CC. D. Nel plays for Scotland and he looks to mainly choke the batsmen from one end and let others do the trick at the other end. Kent also have Phil Edwards, but I don't know why he is still in the squad as he has been no good in CC. The experienced Saggers has retired from cricket.

If I look at the Kent team, they do have a good batting line-up but I'm not convinced that Kent have the bowlers to take 20 wickets. I think they should look to aim at staying in the first division this year and gradually improve in the years to come.

Friday, April 9, 2010

All time Srilankan team


Just like cricinfo, I also thought of picking an all time Srilankan team. I have always been fascinated by the flair that Lankan players bring to cricket and they are no doubt one of the few teams who I would pay to watch. It has been only about 28 years since they gained test status, so most fans would pick similar all time teams, though it has to be said that they have produced some really good cricketers over the years.

My team

Jayasuriya
Attapatu
Desilva
Sangakkara
Jayawerdena (c)
Dias
Goonatilleke
Vaas
R.Ratanayake
S. Desilva/ De Mel
Murali

Openers

If I think about openers, it is hard to look beyond Jayasurya and Attapatu. Jayasuirya and Marvan formed a good partnership at top of the order in the 90's and in early 2000's. Compared to one-day cricket, Jayasuriya may not have been that good in test cricket yet, when one thinks of knocks like his double hundred in England at Oval in 1998, his blistering knock against Australia in 1995/96 at Adelaide, when for the first time he was given the chance to open the innings in test cricket and his swashbuckling century against Australia in 2003 at home, it can be safely said that he has been good for the Lankan team in test cricket. Attapatu had a dreadful start to his test career as he got lots of zeroes. It really speaks volumes for that guy as he made a comeback and did well in test cricket. It requires very good temperament to make a comeback after having such a dreadful start to one's career. I picked Attapatu for his ability to get big scores which can be seen by the fact that he has four double hundreds and an 185 to his name. He was technically good and more importantly he and Jayasuriya opened the innings for Lanka for a considerable period of time.

I did consider Whittemuny, Mahanamma, Dilshan and Hyne. Whittemuny was said to be a fine player, but wasn't consistent enough as a opener and strangely struggled more in home conditions. Mahannama had his moments in test cricket as no Srilankan fan can forget his exemplary knock of 225 against India in 1997, when he and Jayausirya put together the highest ever partnership for any wicket. It has to be said that his knock of 225 came at number 3. The factors that go against him are, he was inconsistent and ended his career with an average of below 30. I also thought that his biggest problem was his fitness. He had the tendency to get dehydrated and I haven't see any batsman, who got retired hurt more than Mahanamma. He was no doubt a fine player through the on-side and his wrist work was always a delight to watch. He also had the patience and determination to play long innings, but just wasn't consistent enough and was hampered by fitness problems to get into an all time team. I'm sure that aggressive Dilshan would get into an all time team in a few year time. It is just that I would like to see him continue to perform well as an opener for another couple of years before, I pick him in an all time team. I have to mention Heyn as well. I didn't pick him as he didn't play test cricket, but some knowledgeable cricket fans do agree that he was quite good, but unfortunately for him, Lanka got test status only in 1982 and Heyn at that time had retired from cricket.

Middle-order

If I look at the middle-order, the player who is missing is of course Ranatunga. Yes, he was a fine captain as he led Srilanka when they stunned the cricketing world by lifting the world cup in 1996 and was a gutsy batsman, but Dias was said to be a very elegant player. I always have a soft coroner for elegant players and that is why I went for Dias. I have seen a few saying that Greg Chappell once opined Dias was the best batsman going around. Added to it, Jayawerdena was a very good captain as one can remember the fact that Mahela captained the side well in the 2007 world cup and they did reach the finals in that tournament. I think he is a very underrated captain and it is a shame that he isn't leading the side at present. So, in my view Jayawerdena can also do a fine job as a captain. I don't think there can be question marks regarding the selections of Sanga, Desilva and of course Mahela himself. I always thought that De Silva in his prime had a great technique against the quicker bowlers. For instance, he played some fine knocks against both Donald and the fiery Schultz in 1993 and that is why I selected him to bat at the crucial number 3 position. Both Sanga and Mahela have great records and it is interesting to see that Sanga has a very good record away from home as well. Both are no doubt world class players.

I also have to mention the names of D. Mendis, Tennekon, Gurusinha and Samaraweera. The general feeling is Tennekon was a very fine player, but just like Heyn, he retired from cricket before Lanka got test status. Mendis was another fine player, and was known for being a brave batsman against the quicker bowlers. Both Dias and Mendis were the pillars of the Lankan batting in the 80's and both mesmerized the Indian attack in 1982/83 with their masterful strokeplay. It came to be famously known as Roy and Duleep show. Samaraweera has a very good record in test cricket, but I'm not yet convinced that he can be good when playing away from home. The left-handed Gurusinha was a fine batsman too, but unfortunately everyone can't be selected.

wicketkeeper

Most may go for Sangakkara as a wicketkeeper, but if one looks at his stats it can be easily seen that he plays so much better when he isn't the wicketkeeper. As a wicketkeeper he averages 40.48 which is quite good, but has a stunning record when he just plays as a batsman as he averages 73.86! I would surely like to maximise his batting potential especially, when one can thinks of the fact that Lanka have produced some fine wicketkeepers like Goonatilleke, P. Jayawerdena, little Kalu and Alwis. The general feeling is Goonatilleke was the best wicketkeeper Srilanka has ever produced, though I have to say that P. Jayawerdena has impressed me as a keeper.

Bowlers

Among the bowlers, One can easily pick the world record holder Murali and the ever reliable left arm medium pacer and maybe a touch underrated Vaas, but the problem comes when one has to pick the other two. Ratnayake and De Mel at best were said to be more of stock bowlers, Malinga hasn't yet proved himself at the test level and has had fitness issues, Zoysa looked promising but couldn't do well, Fernando too hasn't made his mark, S. Desilva was said to ok as a spinner, A. Desilva is rated highly as a leg spinner by a few Lankan fans but only played four tests, Dharmasena was at best a steady bowler, Warnaweera and Anurasiri( I do hope I have got their names right lol) wrecked Kiwis and England's batting line up in the early 90's, but I do remember there was some suspicion regarding the action of Warnaweera and both disappeared from the scene very soon. Mendis seems to have been found out and Herath shows some promise, but has a long way to go before he can get into an all time team. I also have to mention DLS Desilva, and I got to know about him from my Srilankan friend and knowledgeable cricket fan Bath maruwa, but unfortunately he died in a motor bike accident. The rest like Wickremasinghe, Kalpage, Ravi Ratanayake, J. Silva, Sujeewa. Desilva, R. Perreira, S.Perreira and co. weren't any good.

In the end I picked De Mel and if the track offers assistance to the spinners I would go for S. Desilva or if it helps the medium pacers Ratnayake. I know that Ratnayake could bat a bit, but the general feeling is De Mel was a marginally better bowler. I did consider Malinga, but hasn't been playing test cricket in recent times and I'm not convinced about his fitness. I do hope Malinga with that unique round arm action can succeed in test cricket as he has some potential with his pace and those toe crushing yorkers. He is unique and exciting to watch. Both Tushara and Walegadara have been impressive, but I would like to see both of them perform well for a considerable period of time. A. Mendis started with a bang and if I was picking the team couple of years ago I would have likely picked him, but recently the batsmen seem to have worked him out and that can be seen by the fact that even the Kiwis played him reasonably well and that spells a bit of trouble as one expects the inexperienced Kiwi batsmen to roll over on those Lankan wickets. In fact he has been out bowled by Herath in recent times. In my opinion, the he jury is still out on both Herath and Mendis. For Lanka's sake I do hope that Malinga, Mendis, Tushara, Welegedara,and Herath can come good as Murali can't play forever

The team may depend too much on Murali and Vaas for wickets, but I don't see much doubt about the fact that they have been great for cricket as Lanka play with so much flair and enthusiasm. I do hope that Srilanka can continue to produce cricketers who can make cricket a pleasure to watch.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Nottinghamshire preview


To start with, Nottinghamshire did well to finish second last year, but can they go one step further and overthrow the formidable Durham side is the big question. The team is captained by the former England wicketkeeper Read.

Leaving Durham, all other teams struggled to win too many matches in 2009 and that was the difference between Durham and other sides. It generally shows other teams may have to improve with regards to their bowling attack as it is always important to have an attack that can take 20 wickets.

Now let us look at the batsmen of the Notts team

Among their batsmen, the Australian player Voges had a very good season last year, but their overseas players this season are going to be Amla and David Hussey. Amla would be with the Notts team for the first seven weeks of the season. He was in fantastic form in India as he played late and of course he is very wristy. His greatest strength seems to be that he can get big scores. David Hussey has been a prolific run-getter for the Notts team for a considerable period of time. The highest run-getter for the Notts team last season was their captain Read. Few cricket fans may find it surprising as Read isn't known for his batting, but in recent times he has been a consistent run-getter in CC. He has great hands, but plays very much from the crease and that leaves him vulnerable to the full swinging delivery. His form in CC in 2009 was great and the Notts management would hope that he can continue to score lots of runs in 2010. I don't have to talk much about his keeping as he is well known as a keeper. It is also interesting to see that Read has done reasonably well as a captain. The former Surrey player Ali Brown too had a decent season. His approach has always been simple as he would back his eye and try to hit through the line. The veteran player seems to have found a new lease of life at Nottinghamshire.

Among others, Mark Wagh did reasonably well in 2009. The former Somerset opener Matthew Wood too is in the side, but in recent times he has found it hard to do well. Shafayat and Edwards have been inconsistent to say the least. The Notts management would be hoping that the promising Alex Hales can do well as a opener this season.

All-rounders

Among the all-rounders one can think of Patel, though his left arm spin bowling is more useful for the shorter formats of the game. He had a disappointing season in 2009 and there have been question marks over his fitness, but unfortunately he doesn't seem to work on it. The Kiwi all-rounder Andre Adams too is in the squad. The NZ management may no more want him, but he has been a fine performer for the Notts team. As a medium pacer, he can hit the bat hard and surprise the batsmen for a bit of pace. He is also a fine striker of the ball. The right arm seamer Paul Franks is the vice-captain of the side, but has been injury prone and hasn't performed as well as many thought he would. He can also be a useful batsman lower down the order. The Notts team no doubt would miss the services of the very reliable Ealham this year as he has retired from cricket.

Among others, the former Lancashire all-rounder Mullaney has joined the Notts team as he struggled to get into the first team at Lancashire. One more all-rounder that can be talked about would be the promising White. Of course I haven't talked about England's number one bowler Swann as he is likely going to play lots of matches for England. He can of course be an asset to any side with his ability to take crucial wickets by bowling off spin and can be a useful batsman lower down the order as well.

Bowlers

The Notts bowling attack look a lot better with the tall Shreck being able to consistently take wickets for the Notts team. He is a typical seam bowler as he looks to bowl at a good length spot to get some bounce and a bit of sideways movement on offer. Siders has been a consistent performer in CC, but has struggled with injuries in recent times and wasn't at his best in the 2009 season. The one test wonder Darren Pattinson is also in the side. He is a handy bowler in English conditions and would likely do a fine job. The young medium pacer Luke Fletcher was impressive in 2009 and has taken over from Fottit as the young bowler to watch out for in the Notts team. I haven't talked anything about England's opening bowler Broad as just like Swann, he would play most of the time for England.

I think they have a good chance of winning the CC for the first time since 2005 as their bowling attack looks reasonably good.