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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ashes 2010/11- Perth cricket ground


Having looked at cricket grounds in Brisbane and Adelaide, let us think about the Perth cricket ground, or as famously known as WACA.  Just like Brisbane and Adelaide, the WACA has got its own charm. Test cricket has been played on this ground only since 1970, but with factors like fremantle doctor, the pitch being hard with bowlers getting pace and bounce which in turn, would test a batsman's technique and his temperament makes watching cricket at Perth a worthwhile proposition.

History

If we look at the history of Perth cricket ground, it can be seen that cricket was played for the first time on a turf wicket way back in 1894, but due to lack of connectivity meant that test cricket wasn't played till 1970. Yes, as the years went by, trans-continental railway was built yet it took days to travel to Perth. It was only after flights were introduced that WACA really became an part of the Australian cricket community. Since test cricket has been played, many quick bowlers  have enjoyed the pace and bounce at Perth and have taken plenty of wickets. A few batsmen also have been forced to visit the hospital with a broken nose or a cut in the face.

With the WACA ground being used as a multipurpose stadium as the ground was used even for AFL, soccer and other sports, it was upgraded in the 80's and 90's. Now though, AFL have shifted their venue from WACA which has led to a financial crisis for the association and as a result, they have reduced the playing area and grass hills have replaced the seats.

Conditions at WACA

The uniqueness of WACA is well known as it is famous for offering quick bowlers pace and bounce. Throughout the 70's, 80's as well as 90's, fast bowlers like Lillee, Thomson, McGrath, Hughes, Ambrose, Walsh, Bishop, Marshall, Holding and co. or let it be swing bowlers like Alderman, Fleming and WA swing bowler Bayhem have all enjoyed bowling on the Perth strip.

In-fact, when I started watching cricket in the 90's, quick bowlers didn't just had the pleasure of bowling on the quickest wicket  in the world, but they also could exploit the cracks that would open up on the fourth and fifth day because of extreme heat. I wasn't able to watch Ambrose running amok in the first innings at Perth in 92/93, when he took seven wickets for just one run in a spell, nor Bishop's efforts in the second innings of the same match. In 96/97 though, I was able to watch the same pace quartet of Ambrose, Walsh and Bishop use their height to advantage by destroying the formidable Aussie batting line-up by hitting those wide cracks that had opened up. I do remember especially, Walsh deliberately bowling short to aim at the cracks that had opened up and poor Australian batsmen were all at sea against the giants from West Indies! It wasn't just great bowlers, who exploited the tendency of the pitch to crack up,  but even the unheralded seamer from New South Wales, Simon Cook from nowhere roasted the Kiwi batting line-up the very next year, by taking advantage of those cracks that had opened up.

In recent times though, the track has flattened out and unfortunately it has become more of a batting paradise. At the beginning of the century, it was still quick, which can be seen by Brett Lee terrorising England's batsmen in the 2002 Ashes with Tudor becoming another victim of the pace and bounce on the pitch as he was hit on the helmet by Lee and had to be carried off the field on a stretcher. In 2005/06 though, the pitch for the first time looked really flat as after giving a bit of assistance to the seamers on the first two days, the pitch got so flat that on the final day Australian bowlers could only get three wickets as the Saffers escaped with a draw. Worse was yet to come as in 2008/09, Saffers this time around were able to go one better as they defeated Australia by chasing down a target in excess of 400. It perhaps left Punter wondering what has happened to the famous WACA pitch. In between, Indian swing bowlers like RP Singh and Pathan had some success in 2007/08, but it was mainly due to the advise they received from Lillee regarding the fremantle doctor which helped the Indian bowlers to swing the ball.

The WACA ground which was built on a old swamp suddenly came under heavy criticism from former players like Lillee and Alderman as it was losing its uniqueness, but the curator Sutherland has promised that pace and bounce would return back at WACA. In recent times, they have imported clay from a place called Waroona to bring back the pace and bounce, though the jury is still out on whether it would work. The recent test match against West Indies and a few T/20 internationals played on the ground does show that Sutherland to an extent may have succeeded in his endavour as one could find a bit more carry for the quick bowlers during those matches.

Fremantle doctor 

One of the interesting aspects at the WACA is the breeze which is famously known as fremantle doctor.  The breeze which occurs in the South West coastal areas of Western Australia brings some relief during the summer season. So, a question maybe asked regarding  what is the connection between the fremantle doctor and cricket? The fact of the matter is in the past, bowlers like Lillee,  Bishop, Ambrose, Thomson, McGrath, McKenzie, Kasper, Alderman, Massie, Fleming and the WA bowler Brayshaw have all been successful by choosing the right ends at the ground.

I am not an meteorologist or someone with extensive local knowledge to have an in-depth knowledge about fremantle doctor, but the general thinking is, with the wind blowing from south-west, swing bowlers would look at bowling into the wind from the northern end, so that they can get it to hoop and curve in the air and taller hit the pitch bowlers, would bowl with the wind behind them. Alderman was superb at using it to swing the ball and Brayshaw used it to great effect by taking a 10 wicket haul against Victoria in a Sheffield Shield match in 1967. On the other hand, the one and only Curtly Ambrose is said to have bowled with the wind behind him and annihilated the Australian batting line-up by taking 7 for 1 in a spell in 92/93. There is also a thinking that in the morning an easterly wind can occasionally come into play which just shows that it is very important for any team to know about the  fremantle doctor. It isn't just quicker bowlers, who can use it to their advantage, but even finger spinners can exploit it by bowling into the breeze. I have heard a few saying that nowadays it doesn't play an huge part in the outcome of a game because the dimensions of the ground have changed yet, it is important especially, for the visiting teams to know about the Doctor!

Australia at Perth

With Australia having produced quick bowlers like  Lillee, Thomson, McGrath and swing bowlers like Alderman, Massie and Fleming, they have been able to dominate at Perth. In-fact, just like Brisbane, WACA was like a fortress for the Aussies. The only team that used to dominate the Aussies at Perth was the great Windies  side, who won all their first five matches at the ground which includes three victories by an innings!

Australia's domination at the venue can be seen by the fact that between 1990 to 2000, they won seven of the ten matches that were played at Perth. As expected, two of their losses came against an West Indies side which was still a force to reckon with and  they drew one match against Kiwis, who escaped from a certain defeat thanks to their captain Martin Crowe's battling knock. Actually, Crowe played with what can be said as one leg as he was suffering from a chronic knee injury.

Even between 2000 to 2010, their record has been great as they have won six out of ten games with two losses and two draws, but if I just scratch the surface beneath it I can see some cracks as teams like India and South Africa with pace attacks nowhere as good as the mighty West Indies sides of 80's were able to defeat Australia and in 05/06, Saffers were able to escape from a certain defeat.  I can even remember the Kiwis almost winning a match in 01/02.

The present bowling attack of Australia should do well at Perth as they have all the bases covered with Hilfy and Bollinger being the swing bowlers and Siddle as well as Johnson being the bowlers, who will look to hit the pitch hard. Hauritz is a steady bowler, who should do slightly better than Warne and I am not drunk as finger spinners usually do get a bit more success than wrist spinners at Perth.  It can be proved by the fact that Sheikh of tweak got his wickets at Perth at a cost of more than 35.

Australian batsmen have always enjoyed batting at Perth as they are good at playing horizontal bat shots and this time too it shouldn't be any different. For instance, who can forget Ricky Ponting's superb knock against a pace attack consisting of bowlers like Akram, Akthar and Saqlain in 99/00. He came in with Australia in a spot of bother as they had lost four quick wickets  and played an majestic knock. I can't remember the number of times the ball went scurrying to the boundary as Pakistan's fielders were sent on a leather hunt. Australian fans would wish for something similar from Punter, though it has to be said that he isn't getting any younger and his recent form hasn't been anything to write home about. Leave alone Punter, as batsmen like Hussey and Katich have played lots of matches for WA at Perth and have loads of experience of playing on that track.

 England at Perth

With Australia being so dominant at Perth, it is on expected lines that England have got crushed every-time they have played at WACA since 1990.  Since 1990, England have played five times at Perth and every-time Australia have pummelled England into submission, but this time around with Australia being not as strong as they used to be and England having a decent pace attack, the story can be a little bit different.

I would be interested to see how England's pace attack would bowl at Perth. It would be vital for Jimmy Anderson to bowl from the right end as he can make use of the fremantle doctor to get swing. If he is going to bowl into the wind, it would be important that he cuts down on pace and looks mainly for swing. In the past, I have seen a few quicker bowlers from visiting teams talk about how tough it is to bowl into the wind, so it won't be easy for Anderson. Taller quickies like Finn and Broad may operate with the wind behind them. The onus would be on Saker as he has the task of guiding the young pace attack to choose  the right ends.

England shouldn't even mind about asking Lillee for advise as he has bowled a lot at the WACA and knows every minute detail about the fremantle doctor. After all, it was Lillee who plotted the downfall of the Australian side in 07/08 by passing on valuable tips to his one time student at the MRF pace academy and  India's bowling coach Prasad about the fremantle doctor. It surely helped Indian swing bowlers as they took vital wickets to help India to a famous victory at WACA.  I have always felt that at WACA, a swing bowler should bowl as full as he can to take advantage of the Doctor.

In the past, England's batsmen have always been troubled by the extra bounce at WACA, but with the pitch not having as much bounce as it used to, they can look to fare better this time around. All of England's batsmen,  should still expect the Aussies to come hard at them and really look to playing horizontal bat shots to counter the Australian pace attack.

As far as the toss is concerned, I am sure if Strauss wins the toss, he would elect to bat first, though the team shouldn't be disheartened if Strauss loses the toss as if there would be something in the pitch, it would be on the first morning of the first day. One can remember England dismissing Australia for a paltry score of just over 200 in the last Ashes series, though leaving KP,  England's batsmen came a cropper and were bowled out cheaply. In 05/06, Saffers were able to dismiss Australia cheaply and even in 08/09, Australia found themselves in a spot of bother as they were reduced to 16 for 4 by the Saffer pace attack. It just shows that there would be something for the bowlers on the first day.

Finally, I just hope that if not this year, at least in the future we would see pace and bounce returning back to Perth. In the past, every cricket fan  used to look forward to seeing a game at Perth as it was like watching a boxing match between Frazer and Ali as with the track having pace and bounce, quick bowlers could challenge the batsmen who in turn, would have to play shots like the pull,hook and cut to survive.

Ashes 2010/11- Perth cricket ground

After having a look at cricket grounds in Brisbane and Adelaide, let us think about the Perth cricket ground, or as famously known as WACA.  Just like Brisbane and Adelaide, the WACA has got its own charm. Test cricket has been played on this ground only since 1970, but with factors like fremantle doctor, the pitch being hard with bowlers getting pace and bounce which in turn, would test a batsman's technique and his temperament makes watching cricket at Perth a worthwhile proposition.

History

If we look at the history of Perth cricket ground, it can be seen that cricket was played for the first time on a turf wicket way back in 1894, but due to lack of connectivity meant that test cricket wasn't played till 1970. Yes, as the years went by, trans-continental railway was built yet it took days to travel to Perth. It was only after flights were introduced that WACA really became an part of the Australian cricket community. Since test cricket has been played, many quick bowlers  have enjoyed the pace and bounce at Perth and have taken plenty of wickets. A few batsmen also have been forced to visit the hospital with a broken nose or a cut in the face.

With the WACA ground being used as a multipurpose stadium as the ground was used even for AFL, soccer and other sports, it was upgraded in the 80's and 90's. Now though, AFL have shifted their venue from WACA which has led to a financial crisis for the association and as a result, they have reduced the playing area and grass hills have replaced the seats.

Conditions at WACA

The uniqueness of WACA is well known as it is famous for offering quick bowlers pace and bounce. Throughout the 70's, 80's as well as 90's, fast bowlers like Lillee, Thomson, McGrath, Hughes, Ambrose, Walsh, Bishop, Marshall, Holding and co. or let it be swing bowlers like Alderman, Fleming and WA swing bowler Bayhem have all enjoyed bowling on the Perth strip.

In-fact, when I started watching cricket in the 90's, quick bowlers didn't just had the pleasure of bowling on the quickest wicket  in the world, but they also could exploit the cracks that would open up on the fourth and fifth day because of extreme heat. I wasn't able to watch Ambrose running amok in the first innings at Perth in 92/93, when he took seven wickets for just one run in a spell, nor Bishop's efforts in the second innings of the same match. In 96/97 though, I was able to watch the same pace quartet of Ambrose, Walsh and Bishop use their height to advantage by destroying the formidable Aussie batting line-up by hitting those wide cracks that had opened up. I do remember especially, Walsh deliberately bowling short to aim at the cracks that had opened up and poor Australian batsmen were all at sea against the giants from West Indies! It wasn't just great bowlers, who exploited the tendency of the pitch to crack up,  but even the unheralded seamer from New South Wales, Simon Cook from nowhere roasted the Kiwi batting line-up the very next year, by taking advantage of those cracks that had opened up.

In recent times though, the track has flattened out and unfortunately it has become more of a batting paradise. At the beginning of the century, it was still quick, which can be seen by Brett Lee terrorising England's batsmen in the 2002 Ashes with Tudor becoming another victim of the pace and bounce on the pitch as he was hit on the helmet by Lee and had to be carried off the field on a stretcher. In 2005/06 though, the pitch for the first time looked really flat as after giving a bit of assistance to the seamers on the first two days, the pitch got so flat that on the final day Australian bowlers could only get three wickets as the Saffers escaped with a draw. Worse was yet to come as in 2008/09, Saffers this time around were able to go one better as they defeated Australia by chasing down a target in excess of 400. It perhaps left Punter wondering what has happened to the famous WACA pitch. In between, Indian swing bowlers like RP Singh and Pathan had some success in 2007/08, but it was mainly due to the advise they received from Lillee regarding the fremantle doctor which helped the Indian bowlers to swing the ball.

The WACA ground which was built on a old swamp suddenly came under heavy criticism from former players like Lillee and Alderman as it was losing its uniqueness, but the curator Sutherland has promised that pace and bounce would return back at WACA. In recent times, they have imported clay from a place called Waroona to bring back the pace and bounce, though the jury is still out on whether it would work. The recent test match against West Indies and a few T/20 internationals played on the ground does show that Sutherland to an extent may have succeed in his endavour as one could find a bit more carry for the quick bowlers during those matches.

Fremantle doctor 

One of the interesting aspects at the WACA is the breeze which is famously known as fremantle doctor.  The breeze which occurs in the South West coastal areas of Western Australia brings some relief during the summer season. So a question maybe asked regarding  what is the connection between the fremantle doctor and cricket? The fact of the matter is in the past, bowlers like Lillee,  Bishop, Ambrose, Thomson, McGrath, McKenzie, Kasper, Alderman, Massie, Fleming and the WA bowler Brayshaw have all been successful by choosing the right ends at the ground.

I am not an meteorologist or someone with extensive local knowledge to have an in-depth knowledge about fremantle doctor, but the general thinking is, with the wind blowing from south-west, swing bowlers would look at bowling into the wind, so that they can get it to hoop and curve in the air and taller hit the pitch bowlers, would bowl with the wind behind them. Alderman was superb at using it to swing the ball and Brayshaw used it to great effect by taking a 10 wicket haul against Victoria in a Sheffield Shield match in 1967. On the other hand, the one and only Curtly Ambrose is said to have bowled with the wind behind him and annihilated the Australian batting line-up by taking 7 for 1 in a spell in 92/93. There is also a thinking that in the morning an easterly wind can occasionally come into play which just shows that it is very important for any team to knowabout the  fremantle doctor. It isn't just quicker bowlers, who can use it to their advantage, but even finger spinners can exploit it by bowling into the breeze. I have heard a few saying that nowadays it doesn't play an huge part in the outcome of a game because the dimensions of the ground have changed yet, it is important especially, for the visiting teams to know about the Doctor!

Australia at Perth

With Australia having produced quick bowlers like  Lillee, Thomson, McGrath and swing bowlers like Alderman, Massie and Fleming in their ranks, they have been able to dominate at Perth. In-fact, just like Brisbane, WACA was like a fortress for the Aussies. The only team that used to dominate the Aussies at Perth was the great Windies  side, who won all their first six matches at the ground which includes four victories by an innings!

Australia's domination at the venue can be seen by the fact that between 1990 to 2000, they won seven of the ten matches that were played at Perth. As expected, two of their losses came against an West Indies side which was still an force to reckon with and  they drew one match against Kiwis, who escaped from a certain defeat thanks to their captain Martin Crowe's battling knock. Actually, Crowe played with what can be said as one leg as he was suffering from a chronic knee injury.

Even between 2000 to 2009, their record has been great as they have won six out of ten games with two losses and two draws, but if I just scratch the surface beneath it I can see some cracks as teams like India and South Africa with pace attacks nowhere as good as the mighty West Indies sides of 80's were able to defeat Australia and in 05/06, Saffers were able to escape from a certain defeat.  I can even remember the Kiwis almost winning a match in 01/02.

The present bowling attack of Australia should do well at Perth as they have all the bases covered with Hilfy and Bollinger being the swing bowlers and Siddle as well as Johnson being the bowlers, who will look to hit the pitch hard. Hauritz is a steady bowler, who should do slightly better than Warne and I am not drunk as finger spinners usually do get a bit more success than wrist spinners at Perth.  It can be proved by the fact that Sheikh of tweak got his wickets at Perth at a cost of more than 35.

Australian batsmen have always enjoyed batting at Perth as they are good at playing horizontal bat shots and this time too it shouldn't be any different. For instance, who can forget Ricky Ponting's superb knock against a pace attack consisting of bowlers like Akram, Akthar and Saqlain in 99/00. He came in with Australia in a spot of bother as they had lost four quick wickets  and played an majestic knock. I can't remember the number of times the ball went scurrying to the boundary as Pakistan's fielders were sent on a leather hunt. Australian fans would wish for something similar from Punter, though it has to be said that he isn't getting any younger and his recent form hasn't been anything to write home about. Leave alone Punter, as batsmen like Hussey and Katich have played lots of matches for WA at Perth and have loads of experience of playing on that track.

 England at Perth

With Australia being so dominant at Perth, it is on expected lines that England have got crushed every-time they have played at WACA since 1990.  Since 1990, England have played five times at Perth and every-time Australia have pummelled England into submission, but this time around with Australia being not as strong as they used to be and England having a decent pace attack, the story can be a little bit different.

I would be interested to see how England's pace attack would bowl at Perth. It would be vital for Jimmy Anderson to bowl from the right end as he can make use of the fremantle doctor to get swing. If he is going to bowl into the wind, it would be important that he cuts down on pace and looks mainly for swing. In the past, I have seen a few quicker bowlers from visiting teams talk about how tough it is to bowl into the wind, so it won't be easy for Anderson. Taller quickies like Finn and Broad may operate with the wind behind them. The onus would be on Saker as he has the task of guiding the young pace attack to choose  the right ends.

England shouldn't even mind about asking Lillee for advise as he has bowled a lot at the WACA and knows every minute detail about the fremantle doctor. After all, it was Lillee who plotted the downfall of the Australian side in 07/08 by passing on valuable tips to his one time student at the MRF pace academy and  India's bowling coach Prasad about the fremantle doctor. It surely helped Indian swing bowlers as they took vital wickets to help India to a famous victory at WACA. Strauss also has the advantage of having a world class spinner like Swann in his side. Actually, it is the first time since I started taking interest in cricket that I can remember England having the better spinner. Just like Hauritz, Swann too would look to use the breeze to his advantage.

In the past, England's batsmen have always been troubled by the extra bounce at WACA, but with the pitch not having as much bounce as it used to, they can look to fare better this time around. All of England's batsmen,  should still expect the Aussies to come hard at them and really look to playing horizontal bat shots to counter the Australian pace attack.

As far as the toss is concerned, I am sure if Strauss wins the toss, he would elect to bat first, though the team shouldn't be disheartened if Strauss loses the toss as if there would be something in the pitch, it would be on the first morning of the first day. One can remember England dismissing Australia for a paltry score of just over 200 in the last Ashes series, though leaving KP,  England's batsmen came a cropper and were bowled out cheaply. In 05/06, Saffers were able to dismiss Australia cheaply and even in 08/09, Australia found themselves in a spot of bother as they were reduced to 16 for 4 by the Saffer pace attack. It just shows that there would be something for the bowlers on the first day.

Finally I just hope that if not this year, at least in the future we would see pace and bounce returning back to Perth. In the past, every cricket fan  used to look forward to seeing a game at Perth as it was like watching a boxing match between Frazer and Ali as with the track having pace and bounce, quick bowlers could challenge the batsmen who in turn, would have to play shots like the pull,hook and cut to survive. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Ashes 2010/11- England's squad


The suspense is over as the touring party for the Ashes series in Australia has been announced. The squad so selected is more or less on expected lines, though there would always be a debate over the selection or non selection of  a few fringe players.

The squad

 Andrew Strauss (capt), Alastair Cook, Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Ian Bell, Eoin Morgan, Matt Prior, Steve Davies, Stuart Broad, Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Steven Finn, Chris Tremlett, Monty Panesar.


I would like to share my views over a few fringe players  like Tremlett, Panesar, Bresnan, Rashid and Shahzad

Tremlett- The tall and gangly seamer was earmarked for success even during his under 19 days in 2001 as he has the ability to bowl at reasonable pace and get disconcerting bounce. As the years went by, Tremlett seemed to have lost the plot as few other tall bowlers like Broad and Finn were picked ahead of him. The reasons behind Tremlett's non selection was him being injury prone and there have been question marks regarding his temperament. Anyway, it is good to see that he has made a comeback by doing well for Surrey and selectors have rewarded him for the hard-work by selecting him in the Ashes squad.

Tremlett made his test debut against India in 07 and  had reasonable success against an very experienced batting line-up. In that series, England's coaches seemed to have instructed Tremlett to bang it into the pitch and bowl short. Tremlett succeeded in the first two tests by banging it into the pitch, but batsmen like Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman and co. aren't dumb as they saw that he was rarely making the batsmen play, so there was no need to play all those short deliveries that he kept bowling. In the final test at Oval, Tremlett got zero wickets as batsmen just didn't had to play at his deliveries.  I even remember when Tremlett bowled in a few onedayers in Australia during that ill fated tour in 06/07, commentators like Tony Greig said that when Tremlett bowls short, he bowls gun-barrel straight.

The above mentioned points indicates that Tremlett isn't good at bowling the heavy ball like Freddie and it would be better off, if he bowls a fuller length. He does get a nice shape into the right-hander when he bowls fuller and if a tall bowler consistently hits the good length spot,  he can create doubt in a batsman's mind as it isn't easy to decide in a split second to whether come forward or to go back against a tall bowler who can get bounce. Actually, one interesting point to note about the squad is, there are three tall quick bowlers in the squad. Yes, it is an advantage to have three tall bowlers, but they can fall into the trap of bowling short on Australian wickets. Nowadays, Australian wickets don't offer as much bounce as it used to do and Australian batsmen are always good at playing horizontal bat shots.

Question marks over Tremlett's temperament and fitness

In the past, people have raised doubts over his temperament and fitness. In-fact, even England's former captain Vaughan has questioned about his temperament. I have seen Tremlett losing the plot like when Oram smashed him to smithereens at Perth in a one-day match during the ill fated tour of Australia in 06/07. By taking wickets on a flat pitch like at Oval for Surrey and the fact that he was able to play most of the matches without getting injured seems to have assuaged the fears of the selectors regarding his temperament and fitness for the time being. 

Panesar- In 2009, after a string of poor performances Panesar lost his place to Swann. This season though, Monty was in good form for Sussex albeit in division two and coupled with the fact that in the past, he has enjoyed success on tracks that have bounce seems to have convinced the selectors to pick him as the second spinner.

Experts have said that Monty is an one dimensional bowler and should look at adding subtle variations to his armoury. To be frank, I don't think it would help Monty, if he develops an arm ball or looks at bowling with subtle changes of pace as his strength has always been good control and the ability to get bounce. In-fact, as soon as he tried to bowl differently, he lost his way and couldn't take wickets. It would be better for Monty,  if he sticks to his strengths and if he ever gets a chance in the Ashes, Monty  can prove to be a good pick as Australian tracks  would offer more bounce than the tracks seen in most other countries.

Rashid- Just like in the past, there were a lot of people asking for Rashid to be included in the squad. He had a great season with Yorkshire as he took more than 50 wickets and got over 800 runs. It is no mean feat to get 50 wickets and almost get 1000 runs in a season. If anyone thinks about his form in county cricket, there would be no question about not picking Rashid, but the other point of view would be, should Rashid make his debut on those hard wickets in Australia?

In my opinion, if Rashid had to be picked in the side, selectors could have picked him against Bangladesh. I would prefer a leg-spinner to get selected against weaker teams like Bangladesh, New Zealand, or the West Indies team. Young leg spinners should be handled carefully as they can lose their confidence very quickly because leg spinners can always go for  runs.  If Rashid plays weaker teams, he can get some confidence under his belt by taking wickets which would help him in the long-term. The simple fact is, everyone won't be like Warne, who made a comeback into the team after he got a mauling at the hands of Shastri, Tendulkar and co. in his first test at Sydney in 1992.

Let me also say that it isn't a child's play for a young leg spinner to bowl on hard wickets of Australia. Yes, Aussie wickets would always help leg spinners as it would offer more bounce, but it also demands more consistency from a leg spinner as the wickets are true and good for batting. Even spinners of the calibre of Kumble and Qadir had little success when they toured Australia for the first time.  Qadir when he first toured Australia in 83/84, took just 12 wickets at 61 and Kumble in 99/00 was worse as he took just 5 wickets at 90, but the same Kumble on his second trip to Australia in 03/04, took as many as 24 wickets at under 30. It just illustrates that even spinners like Qadir and Kumble, though had played many test matches before playing in Australia struggled on their first trip to Australia and people are thinking of introducing a 22 year old leg spinner in Australia! In that regard, it doesn't make any sense that Rashid hasn't even got picked for the performance squad. It was a perfect opportunity for Rashid to play a few games in Australia, so that he would get used to the conditions in Australia. In the future,  Rashid would no doubt play test cricket for England and the Ashes, or would he be wrapped  in cotton wool forever?

Bresnan- I have made it clear in the past, that I am not a huge fan of Bresnan getting picked to play test cricket. People who support him, would say that he is a good team man and can be used as a stock bowler. He maybe a team man, but perhaps lacks the skill to play test cricket.  If a bowler is going to do the job of tying up one end, so that others can take advantage of it by taking wickets at other end, then he has to show good control with a ball in hand. I have my doubts over Bresnan having the necessary control to do the job of a stock bowler as every-time I see him bowl, he has the habit of pushing it too much down the leg-side and gifting away easy runs. Bresnan is neither very good at using the old ball. Yes, in Bangladesh he showed a bit of promise as he got the old ball to reverse a bit and got Tamim Iqbal out, but leaving that series in Bangladesh, I can't remember him reversing the old ball.

His supporters would also point to the fact that he can bat a bit. Yes, he scored a vital half century albeit against Bangladesh, but even in that innings a few decisions went his way. It can also be said that there is a bit of difference between doing well against Bangladesh and Australia! Basically, it seems like selectors have picked him as he can be a utility cricketer, but my feeling is there isn't much use in picking a cricketer, who may get a few runs with the bat and get at most a wicket or two.

Shahzad- I for one, think that Shahzad was a touch unlucky to miss out. Experts have talked about his ability to get reverse swing with the old ball, but I don't think he is that good as he seems to only reverse  the old ball back into the batsmen. The one advantage England would have with Shahzad is, when it is reversing unlike Anderson, he bowls a fuller length. It is a known fact that fuller a bowler bowls, the better it is as the batsmen would have lesser time to counter late swing. In-fact, it is hard to fathom why Jimmy Anderson doesn't bowl a fuller length when it is reversing, though he can reverse it both ways. If he does it, he has a good chance of  forcing his critics to look for some other job.  As far as Shahzad is concerned, I surely think if Anderson would get injured, Shahzad would have been a better replacement than Bresnan.

Whenever any squad would be picked, there would be a debate over the selection of a few players, but I think the selectors have done a good job this time around. As far as the fringe players are concerned, they may not get a chance to play even one of the test matches, but if anyone of them ever gets a chance, he should grab it with both hands as it is a golden opportunity to play in a Ashes series and if he performs well, it would go a long way in helping him to become a permanent fixture in the side.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

India v Australia preview

With the spot fixing, match fixing allegations and of course the god of PCB, Ijaz Butt joining the fun, cricket is facing  a crisis, but amidst the chaos there would be a series played between two top teams like India and Australia in India. To be frank, I am never a fan of a series consisting of just two matches, but with such a cramped schedule, it seems to be a reality now.  Anyway, let us have an in depth look into the upcoming test series in India.

Conditions  

If any  cricket fan thinks about cricket in India, he would think about heat, unhelpful tracks for the seamers and of course the vastly experienced batting line-up of the Indian team having the ability to get big scores on Indian pitches. This series won't likely be any different as all the above motioned factors would definitely come into  play at some point in the series.

The first test match would be played at  Mohali on 1st of October. Mohali is historically known as the only track in India which would offer the seamers pace and bounce. The first test played at Mohali itself showed ample proof of pace and bounce in the pitch as Walsh and Kenny Benjamin ripped through India's batting line- up by using the bounce on offer to their advantage. It wasn't just that as Walsh even broke the Indian all-rounder Prabakar's nose with what was said to be a brute of a bouncer.

As the years have gone by, the pitch has become flat and batsmen have enjoyed batting on that surface. Yes, occasionally seamers have found some life in the pitch like Dion Nash in 99, when he took a six wicket haul, but the fact is, in recent times the track is a lot more drier and may even assist reverse swing. A few seamers have still found some success like the underrated Tuffey, who in 2003/04 took seven wickets for 110  runs in 43 overs on a very flat deck which can be seen by the fact that rest of the seamers including Zaheer got just one wicket between them!  In 2007/08, Australia struggled against Indian seamers like Zaheer and Sharma as they were able to reverse swing the old ball. So, it is crystal clear that a quick bowler should either bowl with the consistency that Tuffey displayed in 03, or should be good at reversing the ball. The pitch offers something for the spinners on fourth and fifth day and one could see it when India played Australia in 08/09 as Mishra was successful at Mohali. One factor I haven't mentioned till now is the fact that there is a forecast for heavy rains, so the conditions maybe damp and the Aussie seamers would be glad to bowl in such conditions.

The second test of the series would be played at Bangalore. The track at Bangalore has also been flat and seamers as well as the spinners may find it difficult to get wickets at Bangalore. Any team would like to win the toss, bat first and make a big score at Bangalore. I see that  in recent times it has been so flat at Bangalore that even reverse swing may not work! Both teams don't have good bowling attacks either, so both captains would be just praying that they can win the toss in the second test.

Now, let us look at both the teams in detail

Australia


If I look at Australia's batting line-up, it seems formidable on paper as they have got a batting line-up consisting of players like Katich, Ponting, Huss and Clarke. The problem though, is that their only great player, the captain himself Punter isn't in great form. Leaving that double hundred against Pakistan earlier this year, when he was dropped early on in his innings, he has been ordinary. I think it is high time he realises the fact that he is 35 now and can't play like a 25 year old and just like Tendulkar looks at being more of  an accumulator of runs. Ponting has also been troubled by the slow tracks  in India  as he goes hard at the ball and everyone knows that he has been a bunny of Harbie. The other batsman who can look vulnerable is Shane Watson. After tasting success as a opener, Watson struggled in England though in India he won't have to counter too much swing or seam movement. Watson is clearly not an opener in any sense and his tendency to premeditate too much has landed him in trouble against the moving ball.

Among the Aussie batsmen, Katich, Clarke and Hussey play well on slow tracks. Katich won't bring too many people onto the ground, but he is an effective player of spin which can be seen by his success in India in 08/09. Clarke is easily the most attractive batsman against the spinners in the batting line-up,  though I feel that on a overall basis Hussey is their best player of spin as he shows very good shot selection which is very important, when it comes to playing on slow tracks of India. Australia would likely prefer Haddin to Paine as the feeling is Haddin is the better batsman of the two, though Paine in England showed that he is no mug with a bat in hand and of course I have always rated Paine as the better keeper.


When it comes to bowling in India or even in the subcontinent, it can be seen that Australia have an inexperienced pace attack as only Johnson and Siddle have played a series in India.  The present pace attack of Australia would be on paper led by the enigmatic Johnson. Everyone knows that he can be unpredictable and even his record outside the bouncier pitches of  Australia and South Africa is nothing to write home about. As far as the rest of the attack is concerned, Bollinger is a honest trier, though  the jury is still out on him as he has only taken wickets against weak batting line-ups like the Kiwis, Pakistan and WI. Bollinger though, has shown that he can get a bit of reverse swing. Doug the Rug has been praised to the skies by cricinfo experts like Manjrekar and Chappell, though I guess a bowler has to prove himself in different conditions and against good batting line-ups. Siddle is another honest trier, but is coming back from an injury and I am not sure whether he would be match fit to bowl in tough conditions in India. Hilfy has a beautiful outswinger, but it is high time that he learns to bring it back into the righthander as well, as batsmen have started to leave most of his deliveries as he only swings it away from a right-handed batsman.

The spin department would be led by Hauritz. He is nothing more than a steady spinner, but seems to have a good temperament. It would be a good learning experience for a young all-rounder like Smith as he would be bowling to some of the finest players of spin and may even get a game if  Australia thinks of  playing five bowlers.

Australia also have picked a young quick bowler like Peter George. The South Australian is said to be a bowler who bowls like McGrath. Hmm! every tall bowler is nowadays compared to McGrath.  Hazlewood is yet another tall guy who has been compared to McGrath, but unfortunately is out of the tour with a stress fracture on his back. In his place, they have named the one test wonder Daren Pattinson's younger brother James Pattinson and Strac as standbys. I haven't seen either of them, though I have seen a few good things being written about the NSW  seamer Strac. The left armer is said to be reasonably quick and can swing the ball. Actually, every-time a player from NSW is selected, eyebrows would be raised by others as the feeling is selectors are partial to NSW players. I have even seen comments like Queensland's young and successful seamer Ben Cutting could have been selected. As an outsider, I would just say that if so many players from NSW are picked, they may have to someday recruit club level players or even under 15 players.

India

I don't think I have to say too much about the experienced batting line-up of India as a lot has been said about Tendulkar, Sehwag, Dravid, Laxman or even Ghambir and the keeper batsman Dhoni. All have great records and it would be a challenge for the Aussies to bowl against that line-up in India. If Australia are worried about the form of their captain, India would be worried about the form of Dravid. With age, the wall of Indian cricket seems to be showing a few cracks as leaving a couple of series albeit against ordinary bowling attacks, Dravid's form hasn't been good in recent times. The key to India's success would be again Sehwag as he can score at a rapid pace and can take the game away from the opposition. The little master Tendulkar is still around and has been in great form and there is Laxman, who just loves playing Australia.

India also have a couple of youngsters like Raina and Pujara. We have seen Raina bat in one-day cricket and he showed good temperament even in test cricket in Lanka. I still get the feeling that he may find life difficult on tracks that offers bounce to the seamers, but on Indian tracks should be able to get runs. Pujara has built an reputation of a player, who has a sound technique and can get big scores in domestic cricket. He may  not get a chance to bat in this series, but it is good to see selectors rewarding a player for being consistent in domestic cricket. My friend and fellow blogger Soulberry would be surely happy with Pujara being picked!

India is the number one side in test cricket, but the bowling attack doesn't reflect it. Zaheer has easily been the best seamer for India in recent times. His ability to use the old ball well by getting it to reverse and constantly out-think the batsmen by coming around the wicket and changing the angle has helped him to be successful on flat tracks. Age though is catching up with Zaheer and in recent times has been injury prone. Sharma has loads of potential, though seems to be lacking in confidence at present. Sreesanth? he can consistently bowl with an upright seam which even a bowler like Zaheer struggles to do, but less said the better about his antics.

India has always been known as a land of great spinners, but with the retirement of Kumble, the Indian team suddenly don't have a great spinner in their ranks. Harbie has taken over 350 wickets, but nowadays bowls flat and doesn't look for wickets. He was mediocre in Lanka and I feel that I have been kind to him by using words like mediocre. Indian selectors seem to have completely forgotten that a bowler called Karthik exists on this planet and continues to take wickets on flat wickets like at Taunton. India also have other spinners like the left arm spinner Ojha and the leggie Mishra. Ojha can be a steady bowler and can improve with experience. Mishra is talented, but to be frank he tries too many things. Any spinner needs to show patience, but Mishra seems to be a bowler who wants to take a wicket with the every ball he bowls.

I would watch the series not just for it being an battle between top teams, but to keep an eye on Dhoni's captaincy. Dhoni was strangely very negative in Lanka, though it maybe due to him having a weak bowling attack.  Finally, it can be said that both teams have strong batting line-ups, though Australia have shown in recent times that they are prone to collapses. I just feel that on Indian tracks, the Indian batting line-up may consistently get big scores which perhaps would help India to win the series by an 1-0 margin.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What is up with women's tennis?


The quality of tennis on display during the US open wasn't of the highest standard, but at least when it comes to men's tennis there were more than just a few matches which  were really good, but the same can't be said about women's tennis.  For the last few years, women's tennis has been in a rut as most of the players on the circuit play a similar brand of tennis and it can get very boring. The upcoming players on the tennis circuit seem to be following in the footsteps of the established players which doesn't bode well for the future of women's tennis.

Let us look at the problems of women's tennis

Lack of depth- The major worry with  women's tennis is that it lacks depth. Beyond Williams sisters and the two Belgians, it is hard to find quality players in women's tennis. Yes, Williams sisters too just look to play from the baseline, but at least they play an attacking brand of tennis. Clijsters can hit crisp ground-shots and at her best, Henin is a classy player to watch as she is one of the very few players on the circuit, who has variety in her game and her single-handed backhand is legendary. In-fact, women's tennis desperately needs Henin to recover from that foot injury she suffered a few months ago and comeback to form. Among others, Stosur has the potential, but seems to lack the temperament to succeed.

The Ovas of tennis- At present, there are plethora of Ovas. If I am right, among the top 100 ranked players in tennis, around 40 players are from East and Central European countries like Czech Republic, Belarus, Slovakia, Ukraine, Serbia and of course Russia. Now, it is great to see so many players from Central and East European countries, but it seems like they all have been manufactured in a factory as most of them specialize only in retrieving skills. In tennis circles, it is known as moonballing  where both players just play defensively and not go for the winner. At her peak, Sharapova at least had a stinging serve and at the Australian open in 08, she even showed a bit of variety in her game, but since her comeback from that career threatening shoulder injury, she has looked a pale shadow of the player she once was.  Dementiva can occasionally play an attacking brad of tennis, but Kuznetsova, Zvanerova and co. seem to be clones manufactured in tennis academies.

The newcomers- It would have been good if at least some of the newcomers, who are making a mark looked at breaking away from the stereotype tennis that we nowadays witness in women's tennis, but the sad fact is they are following in the footsteps of the well established players. Wozniacki is a cute girl and has rapidly climbed up the rankings,  but she hasn't tried to bring variety into her game either. I can never understand why won't a player like Wozniacki, who can't play power tennis like Williams sisters won't concentrate on improving her game near the net, or try a few drop shots. It would surely give her an extra weapon when confronted with Williams sisters. A few players like Kvitova, Pavlyuchenkova, Lisicki and co. have shown a bit of promise, but there is no doubt that women's tennis is in a rut.

It is sad but true that women's  tennis nowadays is known more for hot tennis players than the skills shown by the players on a tennis court. So ladies, it is high time that you all wake up and show that why should female players earn equal prize money.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Ian Pont as the bowling coach of Bangladesh

                          Ian Pont- Bowling coach of Bangladesh

During the last week or so with a bit of hype surrounding CL and the retirement of Freddie Flintoff, one interesting piece of cricket news that seems to have slipped under the radar is the appointment of Ian Pont as the bowling coach of Bangladesh.  I have read a few articles of Ian Pont and I surely think that  an emerging side like Bangladesh would benefit enormously from his appointment as he keeps it simple. He doesn't seem to be a type of bowling coach, who would try to tinker a bowler's action just for the sake of showing that he is doing some work.   

Ian Pont wasn't very successful as a bowler for teams like Essex and Notts, but has done some good work as a coach with teams like Essex, Kent, Warwickshire and even Netherlands.  If I look at the Bangladesh team, they have Shahdat Hossain and Shafiul Islam, both are promising but need guidance. Every-time I see Shahdat bowl, I can see that he gives his 100%, but rarely have I seen his pace match the effort. The reason behind it is perhaps he doesn't flick his wrists and loses on pace. Shafiul Islam is another bowler, who shows  promise but is raw. I think we can look forward to seeing both of them improve with Ian Point as the coach.

In the past, bowlers have suffered due to wrong guidance like Jimmy Anderson's action was changed thrice and that too once they changed his action during the middle of a tour in Zimbabwe which is ridiculous. I have heard a few well respected Kiwi fans talk about how their academy coach in the late 90's tinkered with the way bowlers like Bond, Butler and co. would bowl, so that they can bowl quicker, but  in the end, it led to major back problems.

The well respected New Zealand's fan Waikato fc on New Zealand's bowlers,
 
“Greyblazer, there is a reason for it – bad coaching and flawed technical ‘expertise’ offered by a technical adviser who no-longer works for NZC …basically, he had quick bowlers doing things that bodies aren’t designed to do … it generated a bit of extra pace, but virtually crippled a generation of bowlers in the process …”

The above points so mentioned just shows that any board should be very careful when selecting a bowling coach as we are thinking about young bowlers, who with wrong guidance can suffer stress fractures and it may even end a young bowler's promising  career.  Anyway, I just hope that Bangladesh's bowlers would benefit from the appointment of Ian Pont as the bowling coach and if they get a couple of decent quick bowlers, Bangladesh can challenge teams like New Zealand, West Indies, or even Pakistan.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Well done Nottinghamshire


In this competitive world, any sport requires a sporting contest ending with a great climax. Sports fans come to see a contest, where players stretch their every sinew and flex every muscle to achieve glory for themselves and for the team. Now, edge of the seat nail biting finishes can't be manufactured, but when we come across close finishes with the result not being known till the very end, it makes any fan to love their sport.  In the past, fans have thronged the stadiums to even catch a glimpse of great contests like Frazer v Ali, Ashes series 05, India v Australia series in 01, numerous battles between Prost and Senna, Agassi and Sampras, Bird and Magic Johnson or Nadal and Fedex. Yesterday, if we think about County cricket,  something similar happened as till the very end, no one knew who would win the championship. Now, the skill level on display in county cricket can never be compared to the above mentioned great contests, but it  kept the fans on tenterhooks. It was no doubt a fitting finale to another good season of county cricket. It can't get better than the fact that three teams were in the hunt to win the championship and it went down to the wire before we came to know the winner.

Anyway, let us now look at the final day of the county championship.

Nottinghamshire- Notts were the dominant side of the season, but couple of untimely losses to Durham and the White Rose team Yorkshire meant that  it completely changed the scenario as suddenly Yorkshire and Somerset had a very good chance of  coming from behind and stealing the championship from Notts's grasp. It looked worse when the fickle weather of Manchester came into play and the first three days of the match was more or less ruined by bad weather. It can be seen by the fact that only 24 overs were bowled for the first three days of the match! Somerset too were in a strong position in their match against Durham which didn't help Notts either.

Going into the last day, Notts required 400 runs and 3 wickets which would give them enough bonus points to lift the title provided Somerset don't get an outright victory against Durham.  Notts started the day steadily, but it was the partnership between Voges and Patel that lifted the spirits of Notts. Now, Voges may not bring too many fans onto the ground, but has always come across as a effective batsman. Patel too chipped in with a useful score. Many jokes may have been cut regarding his weight, but those 96 runs were worth in gold for Notts. At 353 for 5, Notts looked set to reach their first target of 400 to get maximum batting points, but there was another twist in the tail as Notts lost quick wickets including Voges and suddenly they were staring down the barrel with nine wickets down and 10 runs still needed to reach the target of 400. Siders and Pattinson though, were able to somehow get those 10 runs needed to reach 400. Pattinson isn't anything more than a rabbit with a bat in hand, but one-day he may  talk about those four vital runs he scored to his grandchildren!

Notts still needed three wickets to achieve their vision of winning the championship for the first time since 2005,  but it looked possible as they were up against a side whose batting line-up can be considered as brittle. Horton has been nothing more than a walking wicket this season,  Karl Brown hasn't achieved any success at top of the order and Chilton can stay around for a longer time at the crease, but is never known for getting big scores. The fact that Lancs have had to depend on Saj Mahmood for runs shows that batting line-up is brittle. It worked for Notts as both Siders and Adams came out firing and took three quick wickets and with Somerset not being able to achieve an outright victory, Notts deservedly got their hands on the trophy.

If I look at the Notts team, it is crystal clear that their ability to consistently  take 20 wickets was the main reason behind their success. Andre Adams was the star performer with the ball as he took 68 wickets. Since I saw him play for the Kiwis, I have always liked Adams as he is a man of boundless energy. He was never given a decent run by the Kiwi selectors, but that is something which would never surprise me as they have some of the worst selectors on the planet. Adams no doubt has been a valuable member of the Notts team and even on the last day he got couple of vital wickets. Franks, Patel, Pattinson and when available Siders, all chipped in with wickets. Yes, for most part of the season they missed both their international stars Broad and Swann, but in the couple of matches he played, Broad was able to make an impact by taking 15 wickets.

The batsmen weren't so consistent as they depended on their overseas players like Voges, Hussey and especially the bearded wonder Amla. Youngsters like Hales, Mullaney and veteran players like Brown, Wagh, Franks  and especially their captain Read chipped in with useful scores from time to time, but their batting always looked vulnerable. I surely have to say a few good things about their captain Read. I have no doubt that he has been shabbily treated by England's selectors, but nowadays he seems to be happy  captaining the Notts side as he is getting lots of runs and as usual is taking catches behind the stumps. I just feel great that unlike 2008, Read has something to cheer about. The young Hales showed some promise and seems to  have now fully recovered from the heart problem he is said to have suffered in his younger days. I do hope he would one-day play for England.

Somerset- If it was joy for one side, it was despair for another. I am gutted for Tres as he is one of my all time favourite cricketers. It has been  an frustrating season for them as they  lost out on winning the t/20 trophy due  to them losing more wickets and now the heart-wrenching result on the final day of the county championship. Can it get worse for them? who knows?as something similar may happen in the 40 over competition!

Somerset played very well against Durham and looked to be in the pole position going into the last day, but their inability to bowl out the opposition quickly second time around cost them in the end. If I have to think about their players, I have to give special mention to Hildreth. He finally seems to be doing justice to his potential and this season has shown that he is more than just a good batsman on that bowlers graveyard Taunton by getting lots of runs in other places too. Hildreth has always come across as a talented batsman, who may have a suspect technique as he used to leave a gap between bat and pad, but this season, he has been in tremendous form and we do hope that he gets selected to play for England in the World cup. I for one, have always rated Hildreth. Banger may not have been as prolific as he was in 2009 yet did well. Among the bowlers, Karthik was yet again a revelation and I would never understand how can Indian selectors ignore him, though he keeps taking wickets on flat wickets like at Taunton. Among others, Thomas again picked up crucial wickets as did another seamer from South Africa Willoughby. I have always liked Thomas as he is a honest trier and any county team would like to have a bowler like him. The all-rounders, Tree Trego and Bruyn as well as Phillips made important contributions throughout the season.  I hope that Somerset would win the Clydesdale 40 over trophy as they have been unlucky this season and a cricketer like Banger deserves better.

Yorkshire too were in the race to win the championship, but they lost their match against Kent. Kent's overrated batting line-up  though, made a meal of a low target of 90 before winning the match by four wickets.

The quality of cricket may not have been outstanding as I see that Darren Stevens opened the bowling for Kent this season and even got wickets and batsmen like Chilton, Denly and co. continue to play for their respective counties inspite of being ordinary for sometime now, but the last day of the season kept the county fans on their toes and it was a great end to the county season. If not for anything else, I would remember this season as for once, I got my prediction that Notts have a good chance of winning the championship right lol. Finally, first class matches are the life blood of cricket as it produces future cricketers and  I just wish that more fans would support first class cricket.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Rafa has done it!


I can only think of saluting  Rafa as achieving a career grand slam in men's tennis is one hell of a task. In the open era, only Laver, Agassi, Fed and Rafa have done it and during Laver's time  there were no hard-courts either. It has been a great metamorphosis for Rafa as critics called him a one trick pony, but now they have to eat their own words and have been made to look foolish as he has achieved a career grand slam.

It was about five years ago, when the lovable Aussie Pat Rafter said in a interview that look out for this new kid on the block Nadal as he has a huge forehand and can generate enormous top-spin. Since that  interview, I have kept track of Rafa's career.  He has improved his game beyond recognition and with him winning the US open, it is proved beyond doubt that he is an all court player. Here is a player, who didn't even had a decent back-hand, when he took Roger to four sets at Wimbledon in 06, but with time, he can hit cross-court winners of his back-hand, can play the slice back-hand, has improved his game at the net and even his serve has improved. Of course, he has a huge forehand and covers the court beautifully. In short, he is a complete player now. I also liked the fact that Rafa played just couple of tournaments going into the US open and he didn't even play the Davis cup. In 08, he was in great form too, but came into the US open looking fatigued as he had won the gold at Olympics and had played more tournaments. In 09, his troublesome knees didn't help him.Actually, if he works on his schedule by focusing mainly on the majors like Roger does, he can last a lot longer than many expect him to.

Critics though, won't like to be left behind as they would  point out that he didn't play Roger, Murray, or the injured Del Potro, so his victory is hollow. My simple question is don't they have any other work? The fact is, top seeds can get easier draws. So, can I say let us not count Fed's victory at the Aussie open in 06? Fed. reaching the final at the French in 08? or even his French open victory in 09? In the 06 Australian open, the only seeds I can remember Fed. meeting were Davydenko and Kiefer, who was seeded only 21. I am not sure whether Baghdatis  was seeded in that tournament. In 08 French open, the only seed he met was perhaps Gonzalez, who was seeded as low as 24 and in 09, he won the French open without beating the emperor of clay Rafa himself. Nadal in this US open atleast had to beat the number  three seed Djokovic, who had just beaten Federer, beat the number eighth seed Verdasco, who surprised many including me by playing better than expected and also the 14th seed Youzhny.  So, who else could have beaten him? Soderling? Murray? Berdych? or even Davydenko? I don't think Soderling played any better than Verdasco, Berdych and Davy aren't in good form and as as far as Murray is concerned, it isn't Rafa's fault that he lost to a player like Wawrinka. He surely can't play Del Potro as he is injured!

I would again like to salute Rafa on his stupendous achievement. I can't leave out his mentor Toni Nadal either as he has helped him to improve his game and Rafa has to surely thank Toni for changing him from a natural right-hander to a left-hander. As far as Djokovic is concerned, he  tried his level best, but in the end just couldn't match Rafa's physical fitness,  his all-round game and he is mentally one of the toughest players I have seen on a sporting field.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Neil McKenzie and Champions league T/20


For the last few days, the champions league has been in full swing, though unfortunately, I haven't been able to catch much of the action as I have been a bit busy. From whatever little live action I have been able to catch, I was impressed by McKenzie's batting against the Mumbai Indians. Yes, youngsters like Theron and South Africa's under 19 star Vandiar have impressed one and all with their cricketing skills, but McKenzie's positive approach against the Mumbai Indians was quite a revelation for me.

Since his debut, McKenzie has always come across as a steady player, who can look tentative against spin. Even when he was forced to open the batting and achieved success in England in 08, he was intent on defending most of the deliveries.Yes, he would play the odd pull, or the cut shot, but McKenzie's batting was more about defence first. In the match against MI though, he was a revelation as he came out with all guns blazing. The couple of shots I really liked were the pull shot he played of Zaheer and the inside out shot he played through the covers of Murtaza Ali.  Yes, the six he hit of Zaheer was a half-tracker, but McKenzie of old may have even thought of nudging it for a single, but in the match against MI with his customary short-back-lift, he smashed Zaheer for a six. The shot that was even more impressive was the boundary he smashed of the bowling of Ali. McKenzie has always come across as a batsman, who is very tentative against the spinners, but in the match against MI, he made room and played a glorious shot through the covers. So, the question would be, was that knock just a flash in  the pan and would he look to play in a aggressive fashion  even in fc matches?

Anyway, it is also good to see that youngsters like Theron and Vandiar are doing well in the champions league. Tournaments like CL T/20 are good for youngsters as it gives a platform for them to showcase their talents to the cricketing world and it is great to see a few youngsters already making an impact in the tournament. Actually, I just can't believe that Theron hasn't yet played for South Africa in the shorter formats of the game as with his control, he can be an asset to South Africa's bowling attack.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Central districts preview on Paint it, Black blog

Visit Suhas's Paint it, Black  blog  to know more about New Zealand's team Central Stags in CL T/20! I would be supporting them for sure as I do like New Zealand's cricket.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What about Murali Kartik?


In test cricket, it is a common knowledge that bowlers win matches as in the end, it is all about taking twenty wickets, but if I look at the best team in test cricket India, it can be said that India's bowling attack isn't penetrative. The batting line-up consisting of great names like Sehwag, Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman and not to forget Dhoni and Ghambir have helped the Indian team to get big scores, which has in turn allowed the bowlers to bowl with attacking fields. It is great that India have an excellent batting line-up, but for India to maintain their number one ranking, they need some fine bowlers.

If we look at the Indian attack, it can be said that at best, they have an average bowling attack. Sharma has loads of potential but seems to be lacking in confidence, Zaheer is a good bowler but is injury prone, Mithun is raw, Praveen Kumar is a decent bowler but as he doesn't have pace selectors have unfairly ignored him, Munaf, Pathan and Sreesanth have gone downhill. In the spin department, India have Harbie, Mishra and Ojha, but leaving a few games, Harbie has been ordinary for sometime now and in Sri Lanka, I even thought Sehwag was the better spinner! Ojha and Mishra have potential, but both seem to be lacking in confidence. The other spinner I can think of  Chawla showed some promise, but the last time I saw him he was bowling flat.  It seems like a country that produced great spinners like Gupte, Kumble, Bedi, Pras, Chandra and co. is struggling to get quality spinners. I have seen good things being written about couple of young spinners like  Harmeet Singh and Srinivas in a few forums, but they are too young to play in test cricket. So, in the backdrop of India struggling for spinners, I thought why can't Indian selectors again have a look at Murali Kartik?

Today, while  I was using twitter, the well respected commentator Harsha Bhogle said that whenever he looks at county scores, the one bowler who is constantly among the wickets is Kartik himself. Before anyone pounces on me and rips me apart for taking into consideration county cricket,  I would make it clear that I know county batsmen  may not be as good as Indian batsmen, when it comes to playing spinners, but just the fact that he is taking wickets at Taunton shows Kartik is in good form. Most cricket fans would agree with me that  wickets at Taunton can be a bowler's graveyard. At the end of the season, just like any other wicket, it can get dry and may assist the spinners, but it is usually a batting paradise. Even if one doesn't take into consideration the fact that Karthik has taken 44 county wickets at 17.36, I would just say that won't it be better to select a bowler who is in form? Kartik is surely a good bowler as he flights the ball, bowls with subtle changes of pace,  has the arm ball and more importantly has a good temperament, which is the reason behind his success on that bowlers graveyard Taunton.

Actually, if I track Karthik's career,  without a shadow of doubt I can say that he has been shabbily treated. He made his debut way back in 2000 against South Africa and straightaway found  a bit of success. He though soon found himself in the wilderness and didn't play in that epic series against Australia in 2001. Kartik came back with a vengeance and did well in a few onedayers against Australia in 03, but was made to sit on the bench for most part of the tour of Australia in 03/04. He finally got a chance on one of the flattest wicket seen at Sydney and the Aussie batsmen took him apart. Having a wicket-keeper like Patel didn't help him either, but one bad match against a top side like Australia was enough to discard him. Kartik made yet another comeback and took a five wicket haul later that year albeit on a dust-bowl at Mumbai, but leaving a few more onedayers, he  has rarely played for India in recent times.

Most fans reckon that as Ganguly himself was a brilliant player of left arm spin, he never rated Kartik highly, though strangely Kartik was selected to play for KKR in IPL, a team captained by Ganguly. If I look back at his career, he was surely under-bowled in a few matches, when Ganguly was the captain like at Dhaka against Bangladesh and in a match against Zimbabwe both in 2000/01, but at the same-time I can notice that another left arm spinner Joshi wasn't under-bowled in either of those matches. Whatever maybe the reason behind Ganguly's lack of faith in Kartik, the fact is, he didn't get a decent run in the side. Kartik has also been unfairly labeled by a few  as a bowler, who succeeds only on dust-bowls like at Mumbai in 04 and 07 both against Australia. I for one surely think that he has the guile to bowl on flat wickets and succeed.

Yes, Kartik is no spring chicken as he is 33 now, but looking at India's spin bowling stocks my gut feeling is, Kartik can be considered for selection and can play for another couple of years. Isn't it right to say that a cricketer in form should always be considered for selection??? If India don't want him, Somerset or some other County team would happily have him in their squad.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Roy Dias-One of Srilanka's finest


Srilanka is one of the youngest nations in test cricket, as it has been only twenty eight years since they were given test status, but in just those twenty eight years, they have enthralled the cricket fans all over the world with their flair.  Most fans would remember Jayawerdena, Sangakkara, De Silva and Jayasuriya  for their daring and eye catching stroke-play, but if we look back at the history of Srilankan cricket, there were a few more cricketers, who played at a time, when either Srilanka had just gained test status or even before they gained test status. One such player was  the elegant stroke-player Roy Dias. When Dias would bat, it was said to be all about timing and grace. I don't remember anyone saying that he played a shot in anger.

Roy Dias's early career

Srilanka could gain test status only in 1982, but Dias had already played a few one-day matches and the Gopalan trophy (an annual contest between Srilanka or Ceylon against the Indian state team Tamil Nadu). From a few articles that I have read and from the accounts of few old-timers, I could make out that he mesmerized  those who saw him play in that Gopalan trophy with his silken drives and square cuts.

Dias makes his test debut

In 1982, Srilanka finally got the chance to play test cricket and as expected on of their top batsman at that time Dias made his debut, though at the age of 30, he had already lost a few years of his prime. He immediately couldn't make an impact as Bob Wills sent him packing back to the pavilion for a zero in the first innings,  but he came back strongly by scoring a half century in the second innings against an attack made up of both Botham and Wills. He continued to make his presence felt by aggregating almost 300 runs against Imran Khan at his peak. Those were the days, when Imran Khan could bowl as fast as anyone and made life  very difficult for the batsmen by getting reverse swing. I do remember a famous story of the Indian batsman Vishwanath being bowled by a delivery that is said to have swung a mile and took Vishy's off stump with it on flat wickets of Pakistan. Vishy, one of India's finest against pace is said to have just shouldered his arms to that delivery. It just shows how tough it must have been to bat against Imran Khan, but Roy Dias only in his second series was able to counter Imran Khan at his ferocious best with his elegant stroke-play and that too with the top order consisting of batsmen, who were nothing more than walking wickets in that particular series.

Dias was said to be at his best when Srilanka toured India in 82/83. I can guarantee you ask anyone who has watched that series and they would talk about Dias's  mesmerizing stroke-play. He had a great partner too in Mendis. Mendis, the former Lankan captain was known for his daring stroke-play against quick bowlers, but in contrast Dias's batting was all about touch play yet, they came good many times when Lanka would find themselves in trouble.  In the test at Madras in 82/83, Mendis scored centuries in both innings, but from  the accounts of few Indian fans, who saw that match I can say that it was Dias, who got the standing ovation from the crowd for his knock of 97. To get an standing ovation from the home crowd shows that the crowd must have thoroughly enjoyed this  elegant batsman from the Emerald islands.

Dias continued to make his mark in international cricket and in 84/85 in Australia, Greg Chappell is said to have showered praises on Dias for his brilliant stroke-play and after watching him get few fifties against the mighty West Indian side in the tri-series in Australia, he even called him the best batsman at that time. Leave alone scoring a fifty, as many batsmen were frightened to even go out and bat against the likes of Marshall, Garner, Davies and Holding. During that time, Dias helped Lanka to register even their first test victory against their neighbours India by scoring twin fifties in both innings at PSS Colombo.

Dias and retirement

One has to remember that  Dias made his debut at the age of 30, so it was a foregone conclusion that he won't have a long career. At the age of 35 he played his last test against New Zealand. It is always difficult for a player to do well at the age of 35 as his reflexes and eyes would start to diminish. Dias though, continued to play one-day cricket and in his last tournament, the World cup held in the subcontinent in 87, he made his presence felt by averaging over 40.

I would just say that when we think about players like Dias,  one can't measure their ability by just averages. He played at a time, when the Lankan batting wasn't strong and as a result, he had to usually look at rebuilding the innings and more so, he made his test debut at the age of 30. I am sure those cricket fans, who saw him bat would remember him for his artistic stroke-play and the ability to come good in crisis against the likes of Imran Khan and the mighty West Indian fast bowlers.

It is sad but true that when Lanka got their test status a lot of their players were either past their best or were already aged around 30 like Dias. World cricket would surely liked to have seen more of Tennekoon, Hyne, Tissera or even Goonatilake(said to be the best wicketkeeper ever produced by Lanka but quit international cricket and joined the rebel series played in South Africa)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Ashes 2010/11- Adelaide cricket ground

                                        Adelaide cricket ground

If we think about cricket or any other sport for the matter, one of the greatest changes that we have come across is the way grounds all over the world have been modernised.  If we think about our beautiful sport cricket there was a time when we would see more than a few grounds having  grassy banks, but nowadays, we hardly see grounds with grassy banks instead we can see concrete stands. I am all for redevelopment, but it would be better if some of aesthetics of the ground are kept to give a traditional feel to it. If we think about the topic on hand, Adelaide cricket ground, redevelopment took place last year, but even now we can see  trees with St. Peter's Cathedral in the  backdrop. It is a ground  which has been able to retain some of its tradition.

After having a brief look at the picturesque  ground, let us focus on the all important battle for the Ashes at the Adelaide cricket ground.

Conditions at Adelaide cricket ground

If the Adelaide ground can look like a beautiful paradise for a cricket connoisseur, the same can be said for a batsman  too as the pitch at Adelaide is a batting paradise. I do remember Martin Crowe saying that whenever he would play at  the Adelaide cricket ground, he would think about scoring a century as the pitch is great for batting. The toss is always crucial at Adelaide as teams batting first would get the first chance on that batting beauty, though it doesn't mean that batsmen can just show up at the ground and he can get a century as just like most test hundreds, one has to work hard for it, but any batsman would love to play atleast once at Adelaide.

So, does it mean that there would be nothing for the bowlers? It need not be the case as there would be a bit of rough created on the fourth day and fifth day and as the wicket would be dry, it is the only ground in Australia which would help the quicker bowlers to get reverse swing.  Actually, I can't remember Adelaide ground getting soaked by a downpour since  the first day of the match between India and Australia in  1992.  So, the conditions would be usually dry. Yes, thanks to the rough created by natural wear and tear spinners can come into play on fourth and fifth day, but unlike some of the other Australian tracks, spinners won't get the advantage of bounce and that is one of the prime  reasons why Sheikh of Tweak Warne has got 56 wickets but at 30.44. The fact is, spinners can take wickets at Adelaide, but they have to work hard for their wickets.

At Adelaide, it is all about winning the toss, getting a good score on the board and once a team gets a good score, there would be pressure on the opposition of chasing down a huge score. Yes, couple of teams like India in 03/04 and Australia in 06/07 have won after the team batting first got a good score on the board, but such occasions are rare.

Australia at Adelaide

If we look at Australia's record in recent times, it is crystal clear that they have dominated at the Adelaide cricket ground. It won't surprise anyone as the Aussies have been blessed with some great players in the past.  In-fact since 1990, they have won thirteen tests, lost three and drawn five games. Since 2000, they have been ever more of a dominant force at Adelaide as they have won seven games, lost one and drawn two matches. The only loss came against India in 03/04, but both McGrath and Warne weren't playing in that match.

The only encouraging sign for England is, both McGrath and Warne have retired now and in the last three tests at Adelaide, couple of games have been drawn. So, it remains to be seen whether Bollinger, Johnson, Hauritz, Siddle and Hilfy have the ability to bowl out opponents on tracks like Adelaide. Bollinger can be a key bowler at Adelaide as he can find a bit of reverse swing with the older ball in hand.

England at Adelaide

As expected, England have struggled at Adelaide in the last two decades as the team has suffered three losses, won just one game with the match in 90/91 ending in a draw. The only match  England have been able to win was way back in 94/95,  when Australia had a good side, but they weren't yet the invincibles.

To get wickets at Adelaide, the quicker bowlers have to be extremely disciplined and as I said should extract some reverse swing with the older ball. If the spinner in the side is a wrist spinner it would be handy as he can get more turn. The fact is, spinners who are mainly stock bowlers like Giles would likely struggle big time at Adelaide.

If I look at England's attack, it is no brainier that Swann has to be the key bowler as he imparts more turn than say Giles and has enough variations to trouble the batsmen. Of course, as Aussies have few left-handers in their side, he would be more than a handful.   Jimmy Anderson these days has got the ability to not just reverse it back into the right-hander, but can also shape it away from a right-handed batsman with the older ball. Anderson though, has to bowl fuller with the old ball as the fuller a bowler bowls, harder it would be for the batsmen to play late swing. For instance, at Old Trafford against Bangladesh, Anderson was getting enough reverse swing to trouble the Bangladeshis, but as he wasn't bowling full enough, batsmen were able to escape as they were given that little bit of extra time to play the late swing. At Oval though, he bowled full and sent Yousuf's stumps for a walk and even dismissing Powell and Nash at Trinidad by bowling a fuller length can be considered.  Even if a bowler bowls a full toss with the old ball he shouldn't worry as if it is reversing, a bowler has to bowl full and look for yorkers. Broad can give him good support with the older ball as he can bowl cross seam, but would someone please tell him not to test the middle of the pitch?

So, it can be seen that having an attacking spinner and bowling with the old ball can be a key factor at Adelaide. In-fact, one of the reasons for England's humiliating defeat at the hands of Australia in 06/07 at Adelaide inspite of getting a good score on the board was because only Hoggy used the old ball well, but he didn't have the pace of say Simon Jones to cause massive damage and as a result had to work harder for his wickets. It is also a fact that England had a spinner who, at best can be considered as a stock bowler.

As far as the batsmen are concerned, it is very important that they get a good score on the board. I have seen more than a few times when the batsmen haven't been able to get the runs even on flat tracks and the bowlers have been blamed for it. Any team should be able to get a good score at Adelaide. 

Finally, England should go into the test match at Adelaide thinking that they can win it as there won't be much bounce on offer to trouble the batsmen. England's batsmen though have to get the runs on the board and more importantly, unlike  Freddie in 06/07, Strauss has to look for wickets as if a captain spreads the field on a track like Adelaide, any good batsman can get a hundred, though would Strauss ever take the bull by its horns and attack is a huge question mark.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The spot-fixing saga continues


It has been almost one week since the cricketing world was jolted by allegations of few Pakistan's cricketers being alleged to be involved  in spot-fixing, but when a person of the rank of a high commissioner joins the race to steal the limelight from others, it looks like we are in for a long haul.

Wajid Shamsul Hasan is a high commissioner, but when he told that  I know they are innocent and NOTW, or even ICC are conspiring against Pakistan, it made me think whether  is he also a hypnotist, a sleuth, or even a sorcerer.  His stance was all the players were withdrawn from the one-day series as they couldn't stand the mental torture and Lorgat initially agreed to it,  but in the end did a U turn  and suspended the players. Hmm!  I saw the mental torture on their face, when Butt and co. were caught smiling by the camera. I am sure  Samuels, Juventus football club, Higgins, Gibbs, Azhar, Malik and co. would wonder whether they should have approached him to save them from fixing allegations. A few other government officials too seem to be taking a similar approach that we are seeing with Hasan and I guess the great Ijaz Butt would soon start shouting from the hip too. The PCB surely looked better organised,  when it was run by Raja, or Sharyar Khan was the chairman during the Oval fiasco  in 2006.

ICC on their part have taken the right decision by suspending the three tainted players as we are thinking about serious allegations here, though they haven't exactly said for what offence they would be charged for. I also see that there is news about marked notes found from Butt's room matching the NOTW'S notes, so it seems like the case is getting stronger. One just gets the feeling that at the end of this week NOTW may spill more beans as they have spent huge amounts of money on this sting operation and would surely like to get a return on the investment they have made.

The way Pakistan's officials are defending their players with even suggestions that Indian intelligence having a hand in helping NOTW to frame the players, the situation is looking grim. I expect the cricketing headlines for atleast the next few months to be dominated by even more allegations and more so, the headlines would be about  the boxing match between the Pawar led ICC and PCB, which would likely be comparable to the rumble in jungle in Zaire in 74.  The one to lose out because of this mess would be as usual  the poor fans. Actually on second thoughts, why should we all create so much fuss about spot-fixing, when the commissioner cum sleuth from Pakistan has said that I know they are innocent. Let all the investigators pack their bags and go home and fans can think there is nothing wrong as the case has been closed!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Wishing a speedy recovery for Onions

                                      Onions in happier times

I just saw the sad news that England's fast bowler Onions would undergo surgery on what seems like a career threatening back injury. One could see that  there was something wrong with Onions, when he was left out of the last match in South Africa and it looked worse in Bangladesh as he couldn't play because of back problems.I think question marks may have to be raised about England's coaching methods  as quite a few of the younger  bowlers have suffered career threatening injuries in recent times.

If one thinks of Onions's early career, it can be said that he struggled a bit as a bowler and seemed to be lacking in confidence, but as the years went by, he improved beyond recognition and finally got the chance to make his test debut last year for England against the West Indies. He also has had his fair share of injuries, but when he is fit, Onions is a fine bowler.

I really like his approach towards bowling as he keeps it simple  by getting  close to the stumps and can just settle into bowling in the corridor of uncertainty and no batsman likes to play a bowler, who consistently  makes the batsmen play. Yes, he tends to take a few overs before he settles into a good rhythm, but there are lots of things to be liked about of his bowling. His spell last year against Somerset, when he made players of the calibre of Trescothick look mortal by sending his stumps for a walk and of course, his spell at Edgbaston against Australia just illustrates my point about Onions being a bowler, who keeps it simple by coming close to the stumps and forcing the batsmen to play at his deliveries. In fact, a few old-timers with whom I discussed about Onions even compared him to Statham and that is a high praise indeed.  I also have to mention about his heroic efforts with the bat in South Africa as he saved England from what looked like certain defeats at both Centurion and Capetown.

The absence of Onions is no doubt a huge blow to England's chances in  the Ashes as he would have been useful at places like Brisbane. The pitch at Brisbane does help the seamers, but it demands consistency from the bowlers and Onions is a bowler who could have provided it.

Yes, a lot of jokes have been cracked about his name, but there is no doubt that Onions isn't just a fine bowler, but comes across as a nice bloke too. I just wish that he makes a speedy recovery from what seems like a career threatening injury.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Can KP comeback to form?


I see that England's selectors have dropped KP from both T/20 and the one-day side, though him venting his frustration on twitter became more of a front page news. Oh! don't these social networking sites bring the worst out of people? Anyway, let us comeback to the topic on hand and that is, whether it was right to drop KP and can he comeback to form?

 I don't think there is any doubt about KP not being in good form in the last 18-20 months. His form in one-day cricket has been rather poor as he hasn't even got a fifty in his last 17 matches and his test form  hasn't been bad but he has rarely looked at his best. Yes, his T/20  form has been good as he won the player of the series award in the world cup, but won't it be better to play county matches than to play hit and giggle cricket?

So, a question would also arise about how could a player who was on the top of his game suddenly lose his form? I just don't think  KP hasn't yet recovered from whatever happened between him and Moores in 08/09. I think he stands vindicated about Moores not being a good coach as England are doing better after he left the scene and even Lancashire aren't doing any better under Moores, but it has surely hurt his ego as ever since that fiasco, he hasn't looked at his best  and his game has gone to pieces. KP'S achilles injury didn't help him either as that was a very bad injury and it clearly affected him on the tour of South Africa. I still wonder whether England's management rushed him back too quickly to play international cricket as he clearly looked short of match fitness in South Africa.

Another point to note is, nowadays KP doesn't look to play his natural instinctive game. He is at his best when he comes out with a positive attitude and looks to play his shots. The Moores episode didn't help him, nor does the fact that many so called experts want him to play a different game. For instance, if Sehwag tries to hit a six in Srilanka and gets out when he is on 99 everyone says that it is his natural game, but if KP tries to smash Benn when he is on 98 and gets out, the reaction can be a little bit different lol!  KP is a guy who always seems to attract attention and him being a Saffer never helps.

Now, the next question is, can KP comeback to form? Having seen KP's batting for a longtime,  I still maintain that I don't see much wrong with his technique, but what he needs is to spend some time in the middle before he starts playing his natural game. Yes, some are saying that he has been worked out, but the fact is, as he is England's most talented batsman, opposition teams tried very hard to get his wicket and when a batsman is out of form, he  would look out of sorts and short of technique.  For instance, at Lord's he tried to drive a wide delivery with his front-foot struck in the crease and got out, but the same KP was creaming the world's best bowler Steyn to the boundary by playing cover-drives couple of years ago. It just shows that he needs to spend some time in the middle, which would help his confidence and his footwork.

If KP can get some runs for Surrey and if he again starts loving the game, he can comeback to form. His technique is still good enough, he likes to play on the rise which should help him in Australia and moreover, he scored about 500 runs against a much better attack on England's last trip to Australia. England's management too would surely like KP to fire again as he is still key to England's chances in the Ashes. He is one batsman in the line-up, who can take the attack to the Aussies. He is a crucial player for the WC too as in India, scores of around 300 is a par score and England at present have a batting line-up made up of Bopara, Trott, Strauss and company, who all have strike-rates in low and mid 70's. Finally, I just hope that KP gets his form back as when in form, he is a treat to watch.