Sunday, December 25, 2011

India's chances down under Part 2

In the second part of the article as promised, I would look at few other key factors that can play a major role in India winning the series down under.

India's much vaunted batting line-up

In the last decade or so, India's success away from home at places like Headingley, Trent Bridge, WACA, Adelaide has been due to its fantastic batting line-up finally fulfilling the promise it showed over the years. The big scores that India have been able to get away from home in the last decade has in turn helped their slightly weaker bowling attack to take 20 wickets.

Recently in England though, the ageing batting line-up came unstuck against a brilliant pace attack operating in home conditions. Was it just an aberration or was it a warning signal that the ageing batting line-up just doesn't have it in them anymore to do well away from home? In my humble opinion, the Indian batsmen failed as they didn't play enough warm up games to acclimatise to the alien conditions.

Even arguably the greatest batsman of his generation SRT, needs to play warm up games to succeed in England, as the pitches in England offer seam/swing bowlers more assistance than what is found in most other cricket playing countries. I see that India have learnt their lesson the hard way, as they have played few warm up games in Australia. It can also be said that Indian batsmen will enjoy the Australian conditions more as there won't be too much movement on offer for the bowlers.

The key to India's success in Australia will be Sehwag, as if he gets going on couple of batting friendly tracks, the inexperienced Australian attack may just panic. Pattinson may have looked great against the Kiwis, but up against a quality batting line-up, he may have to work a bit harder as Indian batsmen won't likely edge every outswinger he bowls. Another bowler who will be tested is Lyon. The Kiwis rarely used their feet against him, but the likes of S'wag, VVS and SRT will certainly look to take on the young spinner.

Of course, when we talk about the Indian batting line-up, one has to always think of  the grand old man of world cricket SRT, who even at the ripe age of 38 looks like he  has it in him to get more hundreds. The weight of getting his 100th international hundred seems to have affected even the great man  yet, I expect him to do well in Australia.

Yes, Australia will look at finding chinks in master's armour which to be honest is very difficult to find as SRT has a watertight technique. SRT though, has to be a bit cautious against the full swinging delivery bowled on a off-stump line. Since the canny Fannie De Villiers found at least a way to dismiss SRT, it has always been an option against the master blaster, as he tends to play the straight drive without moving his feet early in his innings. Even the disgraced Saffer captain Cronje found success with that plan. In recent times, Anderson has repeatedly got him out by bowling full on a off-stump line. Having said that SRT's balance is so good that once he gets going, he rarely will miss playing a straight drive against the full swinging delivery.

A classic example of SRT looking to drive without moving his feet and being bowled by a superb delivery from the swing king Damien Fleming.

Now, how can I leave out Very Very Special Laxman as here is a batsman, who seems to do well every-time he plays Ozzies. In-fact, I am sure Clarke, Punter and co. must be calling him as Very Very Sick Laxman. The reason for his success in Australia basically stems from the fact that he is very strong on the back-foot. I reckon on the back-foot, he is slightly better than even SRT.

Finally, after discussing about VVS, Sehwag, SRT, I can't leave out the great wall of India, Dravid. A few years ago, Dravid looked completely out of sorts, but everyone knows that he is a gutsy batsman  and this year, he has returned with a bang by getting about zillion runs in England. In tough conditions in England, it seemed like a contest between Dravid and England, rather than India and England.

As far as playing in Australia is concerned, Dravid did struggle in his first series against the metronomic McGrath, but since then, he has made his mark down under by showing his class especially, at Adelaide in 03/04, when he played a match winning knock to take India to a historic test victory.

From the above points, it is clear that for India to succeed in Australia, they need their strong batting line-up to again come to the party which in turn can give the slightly weaker bowling attack a chance to take 20 wickets.

How to tackle the Australian batsmen?

In the past, it would have been a herculean task for the opposition to  come up with strategies against the Australian batsmen, as they had world class players.The present line-up though, looks vulnerable and prone to collapses. Yes, they still have the likes of Clarke, Punter and Huss, but someone like Punter looks a pale shadow of the player he was. In my opinion, Punter always had a couple of flaws, but his brilliant strokeplay and his mental toughness helped him to cover it up. With him being 37 now, those flaws are getting exposed.

I see the Indian think-tank employing the same tactic that others have employed against Punter, which is to bowl full early in his innings and get him out lbw with Punter falling across his off-stump. Once he gets set though, bowlers should look to bowl back of a length on a off-stump channel as Punter these days struggles to score runs bowled on a off-stump channel. Even Ashwin can come into play with his carom ball as Punter does push hard at the ball.

Among the senior batsmen, Clarke has been in better form, but he is another player, who can struggle against consistent back of a length bowling with the odd full delivery to tempt him to drive. England used that tactic well in the Ashes.

Clarke has a reputation of playing spin very well, but I am not fully convinced. Last year in the Ashes, when Clarke tried to come down the wicket there was too much premeditation involved. In-fact,  Swann constantly troubled him by going around the wicket and cutting off his run scoring areas through the on-side. It is something that Ashwin can have a look at.

Australia also have a very inexperienced top-order with Cowan making his debut and their wicket-keeper batsman Haddin just doesn't seem to learn from his mistakes, as he keeps chasing everything that is just outside the off-stump. Basically, the present set of Australian batsmen just don't seem to have the toughness that was associated with past Australian sides. Every-time I see Australian batsmen play, they seem to be chasing deliveries outside the off-stump and getting out. It is again a clue to the Indian seamers like Sharma that they should pitch it up!

Series prediction

This is one of the toughest series to predict, as we are thinking of two flawed equally matched sides. On occasions, I have thought maybe Australia are slight favourites. Just before the series though, I am leaning more towards India, as I have a gut feeling that India may have a slight edge provided, their batsmen click and they get a bit of luck with the toss at places like MCG and WACA. Yes, cricket fans can argue that famed Indian batting line-up came a cropper in English conditions, but England have a very good pace attack and Australia don't. It can also be argued that playing in Australia should be easier for subcontinental batsmen as it won't swing/seam around that much in Australia.

I predict a 2-1 result in favour of India, though 1-1 will always be a safe bet, as we are thinking about two evenly matched sides.

India's chances Down Under

It has been a longtime since India gained independence from its erstwhile masters Britain. In those 60 odd years, India has had its fair share of problems, but one fact that unites the entire nation from rich to poor and all religions is the game invented by British empire called cricket. Let it be on the streets of Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and all other places, Indian fans danced with joy, when the great hope of the entire nation, Indian cricket team won the WC in 2011. Now, at the end of the year, the question on every Indian cricket fan's lips is can the Indian team under Dhoni's able leadership do what has looked improbable for the last 65 years, which is to win a test series down under in Australia. If the Indian team is able to achieve the goal of beating Australia in their own backyard, about 1.2 billion cricket crazy fans will again dance with joy on the streets of India.

The Indian team is embarking on a trip to Australia, when on paper the opposition has an unsettled side. Compared to the great Aussie sides of the past, the present line-up has a callow bowling line-up,  the top order batsmen too are inexperienced, the middle-order consisting of Punter, Clarke, Huss and Haddn have the experience, but it can be said that the likes of Punter and Huss are coming to the end of their illustrious careers. So from outside, it looks like it is India's best chance of winning in OZ, since coming close to a test series win against a Packer less Australian side in 77/78 and against a weak Australian team in 85/86. In 85/86, India were a bit unlucky not to win at MCG, as rain reportedly robbed them of a certain victory.

The signs of a side in decline was very much evident last year in the Ashes, as even after gaining a vital first innings lead at Gabba,we saw England raking up 517 for 1  which was followed by three innings defeats. In-fact, after the match got over at Gabba, even as a England fan for sometime I felt blank as I grew up watching Aussies ruthlessly dismantle every opponent they came across, but this Australian side is different as their body language seems to be of a defeatist team. If anything, the Australian team has got weaker since the thrashing they got at the hands of England last year and worse, they have been ravaged by injuries to key bowlers. Yes, they showed a bit of fighting spirit in the Safferland, when a Cummins inspired Australia beat Saffers at Wanderers, but a shock loss to the Kiwis at Hobart is something that I wouldn't have envisaged even in my wildest dreams.

So can India finally win a series in OZ after nine failed attempts? The problem for India is, just like Australia, they too have their own share of problems, especially in the bowling department. Last year, England won on the back of a very good pace attack, but if I look at the Indian team, I won't feel confident that a pace attack consisting of Zaheer, Ishant and Yadav will help them to win a test series down under. The batting line-up looks strong on paper, but even though veterans like SRT, Sehwag, VVS and Dravid have toured Australia innumerable times, it will always take a bit of time to adjust to the conditions in Australia. They all have the pedigree to do very well in Australia, but they have to acclimatise to the conditions quickly. The biggest worry for India though is, do they have the attack to take 20 wickets.

Without wasting anymore time, let us look at certain key factors like conditions in Australia, Indian pace attack, India's much vaunted batting line-up and what can be the strategies India can look at to defeat the Australian team

A bit of luck at MCG and WACA

I reckon India definitely need a bit of luck with the toss at MCG and WACA, as their pace attack just may lack the firepower to take 20 wickets. On the first day, MCG can assist the seam bowlers with a bit of movement off the pitch. If the cloud cover is there, it will be even better. The wicket does flatten out as the game progresses and helps bowlers to get reverse swing. First day though is the key for India, so bowling first can help. Last year, England led brilliantly by Anderson ripped through Australian batting line-up with incisive bowling in helpful conditions.

WACA too tends to help the seamers on the first couple of days, so toss can again help India massively at Perth. One key factor which is in India's favour is, there is no WACA specialist to bowl at them! Mitch can bowl rubbish at most places, but at WACA, he is a different kettle of fish as along with awkward bounce, he gets late swing. Last year against England, he was unplayable as he swung it so late that most of the batsmen couldn't even touch the ball!

India's bowling line-up

If I look at the pace attack it is crystal clear that India depend massively on their spearhead Zaheer. Zaheer has all the skills to trouble the inexperienced top-order and top of it, he has a terrific record against left-handed batsmen.

The question mark over Zaheer is, whether at the age of 34, will he be able to play all four tests on hard wickets of Australia. Australian wickets always test the fitness of any pace bowler which can be seen by the fact that even one of the fittest bowlers going around, Anderson looked dead tired after bowling on Aussie wickets last year. Even if he stays fit, it will be interesting to see whether Zaheer can bowl long spells with the older ball.

Zaheer's pace partner in crime will likely be Sharma. He is yet another bowler who is struggling with ankle problems. The tall lanky seamer showed a lot of promise, the last time India visited the shores of Australia. Having said that Sharma has regressed in recent times as he hasn't learnt from his mistakes. Even after playing in more than 40 tests, Sharma continues to bang it short. Yes, Sharma is well over 6 feet, but he is a bit skiddy through the air, so the length he should perhaps aim at is to bowl a touch fuller. In-fact, the more I see of Sharma, the more I remember Dizzy, who too tended to bowl short early in his career, but once he started bowling a fuller length, he got the rewards. Sharma just doesn't get the steepling bounce of Tremlett to bang it short.

Indian fans would be hoping that he bowls a fuller length. but as a neutral, I am still not sure whether Sharma will do it. There is always hope though, as if after 30 odd tests, Broad decided to pitch it up, maybe Sharma too will realize that he has to bowl fuller!

Among others, Yadav looks like a decent prospect, but he is still a greenhorn. Dhoni will be grateful, if he can do something similar like Bracewell did against the Ozzies recently. After his first spell at Gabba,  Bracewell's consistency was phenomenal as he just kept hammering around the good length spot, got just enough movement either way and made the batsmen play most of the time. It was said that last year, Anderson bowled about 70% of his deliveries on a good length and I think Bracewell did something similar.

I'm not convinced that Yadav will be as good as DB, because he tends to waste the new ball by bowling it far too across the left-hander.  Dhoni though will be happy even if he is half as good as Bracewell.

I understand almost every Indian cricket fan don't rate Kumar, but to me, he doesn't look as bad as what everyone makes him out to be. He has a repeatable action, bowls decent outswing and his success on barren tracks of India shows that he knows when to hold his length back. The problem with him is, he lacks an effective inswinger and his lack of pace may mean that when the wicket gets flat, Kumar can become predictable.

Yes, Kumar likely won't play in the test series, as he is well down in the pecking order, but if India again suffer injuries and they have to play Kumar, I back him to do a decent job. Yes, some may think, I am out of my mind, but I stand by what I have said that he just doesn't look like a bad bowler. The only caveat is, he has to be given the new ball as swing bowlers and that too someone who lacks pace will struggle as a first change bowler in OZ.

Among the spinners, I will opt for Ashwin as he has the variations and I see him troubling Punter with his carom ball. Even if either Ojha or Ashwin do what Swann did last year in the Ashes,  Dhoni should be delighted. On Australian wickets, only wrist spinners can succeed as they impart more spin than a finger  spinner and along with that they can use the extra bounce on offer to their advantage. As a finger spinner, either Ojha or Ashwin should offer Dhoni the control that is required with the old ball and take couple of wickets on the way.

In the second part of the article, I will look at India's much vaunted batting line-up, a few strategies against OZ batsmen and series prediction.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Saluting Tiger

It is 23rd March of 1962, there are two captains walking out for the toss at the test match in Bridgetown. On one hand, there is the great Sir Frank Worrell, but Worrell would have been stumped to see a greenhorn all of 21 walking out with him to toss the coin. Just about ten years ago, the same cricketer at the tender age of 10 was travelling on a ship to England for studies and was the shipmate of Worrell, but ten years later, he was the leader of a national team! If you haven't guessed the great man yet, I was thinking about none other than the Republican prince Nawab of Pataudi, the cricketer who charmed everyone with his calm demeanour, his visionary captaincy, batting with full of flash and dash and his electrifying fielding at cover point. He could do all this with just one eye as he lost his right eye in a tragic car accident.

Tiger Pataudi came from a family of great cricketing lineage. His father Pataudi senior played for England in the famous bodyline series and interestingly fell out with Jardine's method of restricting the run machine Bradman from making about million runs with his bodyline tactic. Pataudi senior even went onto captain the Indian side in 1946. As he came from a rich cricketing background, it  was on expected lines that at an young age, he was passionate about the game. Pataudi though, unfortunately  lost his father when he was just about 10, but he took it in his stride and made his mark as a batsman for his school at Winchester. The young boy must have felt a bit awkward at his school in Winchester as that was the time when India had just gained independence from Britain, but here he was studying in a British school where he was the only Indian.  Pataudi though, soon started to break all types of records in school cricket including the record for the highest individual score. Interestingly, the previous record was held by Douglas Jardine.

In a few years time, he was already playing for Oxford and seemed to be destined for greatness.In 1961 at the height of his prowess, the young man made more than 1000 runs at an average of well over 50. Pataudi also became the first Indian to be honoured with captaining Oxford University in 1961. Pataudi's attacking batsmanship made many experts and former players to sit up and take notice of this young prodigy. His captain at Oxford, AC Smith even went onto say that he is the best 19 year old batsman, he has seen. I reckon that he would still say the same. Just when it seemed like the young prodigy would blossom into the next great batsman, fate played a cruel joke as in a road accident, he tragically lost his right eye. Pataudi  though, wasn't known as Tiger for nothing and in a few months time, he was back in his flannels and was playing domestic cricket in India. Most would  have cursed their bad luck, but instead of getting into depression mode, Pataudi in-spite of his handicap went onto play test cricket for more than a decade!

At the end of 1961 season, he was even playing for India against England. He soon made his presence felt by getting 64 in his second test and a century in the final test of the series. Those were the days, when newly independent nations like Pakistan and India seemed to have a defeatist attitude and were always looking to escape with draws. Pataudi's batting though, was said to be like a breath of fresh air in a team seemed to be made up of dour batsman with a defeatist attitude written all over their face.

After the series against England, India soon set sails to the Caribbean Islands for a test series. I am sure the Indian cricketers would have loved every bit of the serene beauty of Caribbean beaches. Those beautiful Caribbean beaches though, can be a bit misleading, as when every test series starts, batsmen would have to face fast bowlers bowling deliveries that were as dangerous as the SS-N-25 Onyx missile. One such missile like beamer from Charlie Grifftih smashed into the then Indian captain Contractor's head and his test career was all over.The team was said to be in a complete mess as they had lost the test heavily and their captain was battling for life. In such trying circumstances, the charming prince Pataudi was appointed the captain and that too at a young age of just 21.

Pataudi passed the baptism by fire as even though India lost the series, everyone who played under him at that time thought of him as a positive influence on the team. It is always said, his visionary captaincy made sure that players who got picked to play for India were first of all said by Pataudi that they were no more playing for their state or province, but for the country. The morass defeatist attitude which was said to be in veins of every Indian cricketer was replaced by a new positive outlook of a team that would go all out for a win. It is not a mere co-incidence that India won their first test series away from home under Pataudi's captaincy in the land of Long White Clouds. Yes, the Kiwis were very much the lightweights of cricket world yet, any series victory would help to lift the morale of an upcoming team. In-fact, it can be said that Pataudi guided a generation of young cricketers including famed spinners like Bedi, Venkat, Pras and Chandra. Even little Vishy has always said that if it wasn't for Pataudi, he may have struggled to make an impact as a batsman.

As a captain, Pataudi always believed that he had to push the players from behind rather than pull them from the front. Due to his handicap, Pataudi wasn't always able to lead the team by getting big scores, so he had to push the players from behind. It would have been tough for captains like Brearley or Pataudi as they weren't great players themselves, but hats off to them, as they were able to motivate teams with moderate resources and help them to win matches.

Pataudi's strategy as a captain was very simple, play the best four bowlers and he didn't mind that his best four bowlers were spinners. I tend to agree with that theory, as there is no point in picking a medium pacer if he isn't good enough. On occasions, it came unstruck like on a greentop at Melbourne in 67/68, when Pataudi was forced to bat first as he didn't have a decent pace bowler to take advantage of the juice in the wicket, but more often than not his strategy worked for him. Pataudi was also said to be a very intuitive captain and with experience he just became better. In his last series as a player and captain in 1975, he straightaway introduced a freak bowler like Chandra against a newbie like Viv. I am sure he introduced Chandra into the attack because he was able to see that only a freak bowler like Chandra could trouble someone having a great hand-eye co-ordination like Viv. It was said that every-time Viv played Chandra, he had no clue of how to bat against him

As a batsman, Pataudi's handicap of  playing with just one eye meant that he couldn't play to his potential yet, he was able to play a few top notch knocks. Cricket aficionados who saw Pataudi's knock at Leeds in 67 against Snow and co. won't forget it in a hurry. India were trailing England by million runs after the first innings, but Pataudi is said to have played a  glorious knock and helped India to even gain a small lead. From the few clippings I have seen from that knock, I think of a batsman going for all out attack against a bowling line-up thirsting for blood.

Pataudi's greatest  knock though, is said to be the 75 he made on a greentop at Melbourne against Mckenzie, Connelly and co. Pataudi had opted to bat first on a greentop, as he didn't have a decent pace bowler. On expected lines, McKenzie and co. went for the kill and in no time, India were smashed to smithereens with five wickets falling for next to nothing. In walked Pataudi and in-spite of having to play with one eye and a hamstring injury, he tore into the Aussie pact attack with grit and gumption. He is said to have hooked and pulled anything that was marginally short and that too with just one eye and on one leg! I just visualise a tragic war king with a bunch of dozen soldiers fighting a huge army and meeting fire with fire. Maybe it was the anger of not having a decent pace bowler in helpful conditions which made him play like the way he did, but to play like that with just one eye and on one leg is something that is hard to imagine.

After watching Pataudi's knock, the great Lindsay Hassett said,
 "That's the way Bradman used to attack the bowling."

All good things though, have to come to an end which happened to Tiger as well, as he was unceremoniously dumped as the captain of the team after a closely fought series against Australia in 69/70. I don't know about Tiger, but if anyone else was in his position, he would have been a bit frustrated watching the very team that was built and nurtured by him, going onto create history by defeating heavyweights of cricket, West Indies and England, but that is fate for you. Pataudi did make a comeback in 1975 as a captain against the Windies, but observers who saw him play during that series opine that he was a pale shadow of  his former self. It can be said that the newest missile from the Caribbean Islands, Andy Roberts had him for breakfast, dinner and supper. Even in that series though, Pataudi showed he was a brave captain, as he made sure that it was a closely fought series with his attacking captaincy. After the series was over, Pataudi realised that he no more had it in him to play test cricket and he announced his retirement from all forms of the game.

Yes, Pataudi wasn't a great batsman nor did he have a great record as a captain, but a man who fought a handicap and faced the best of bowlers like Lock, Snow, Arnold, McKenzie, Griffith, Sobers, Mallett and co. is worthy of being remembered.

I also won't do justice to Pataudi, if I don't bring out the fact that he came across as a honest man, who played the game in the right spirit. For instance, when India's former spinner Nadkarni stood his ground even after being given out by the umpire in a match, Pataudi is believed to have shouted; comeback to the pavilion. I also remember his honest and forthright answer, he gave in an interview on cricinfo. The question that was asked to him was, would he have done better, if he hadn't been thrust with the burden of captaining the national team at the age of just 21. I really liked the answer he gave, as he said that more than captaining the side, he was worried about playing with one eye and his personal safety.

I understand that in modern times, where every minute detail is analysed, there would be experts who will come and tell Oh! this Pataudi averaged just 34 as a batsman and under his captaincy, India didn't win too many tests. I though, will remember MAK as the vision behind India's success in cricket in the last few decades and as a mighty fine batsman, who played with just one eye against bowlers bowling at 90mph. May the man who played cricket with brio, elan, vigour, joie, de vivre and vitality RIP.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Twatto comes to the party again

The day is July 13th of 2010, a cricketer by the name of Shane Robert Watson is having fun, as the batsmen in the Pakistan team seem to be thinking that they are still kids and as a result should bludgeon every ball that Watson bowls into the orbit. One by one, every batsman in the team loses his wicket to a bowler whose run-up borderlines on being lazy. It was surreal to see Shane Watson of all bowlers taking a five wicket haul and with a sense of bewilderment, I saw his name being mentioned on Lord's honours board.

The day is September 1st of 2011, the obdurate Paranavitana and the man who seems to bat till the cows come home on Lankan tracks, Samaraweera are straining every sinew in a bid to take Lanka out of troubled waters. What more, they both seem to have succeeded in their endavour of taking Lanka into a safer position, but again, the friendly pace of Watson destroys Lanka's middle-order and they are all out for just 105.

 Looking at the above two instances, a casual cricket viewer may feel a bit jealous by thinking that God has bestowed Watson with divine luck, as here is a bowler, who seems to pick wickets with innocuous deliveries all the time. I though, don't think Watson's bowling is all about being lucky. So in this article, I would look at why Watson keeps surprising his critics by taking wickets at a crucial juncture in a match.

Watson doesn't have McGrath's zen like mind-set of hitting the top of off-stump every-time he bowled, neither is he Jimmy Anderson to swing it like a boomerang yet, when Australia desperately need a wicket, it is invariably Shane Watson who takes the wicket. So what is the secret behind Watson's success as a bowler in test cricket? In my opinion, the prime reason for his success is, Watson is a bowler, who unlike a few other present day Australian seamers has an excellent cricket brain. A few may laugh aloud, when I say that Watson has brains, as he is known as a knobhead, but the more I see of Watson as a bowler, the more convinced I am that Watson is a clever seamer.

To understand it, just compare the overrated Hilfy and Johnson with Watson. In the Ashes, it seemed like the famed Australian cricket academy had manufactured a robot by the name of Hilfenhaus, who was remote controlled to bowl every delivery with a mechanical action and that too well outside the off-stump.  I even thought that Hilfy's monotonous bowling could be a good cure for insomnia. The fact is, a bowler who never uses the crease, bowls almost every delivery at the same spot and rarely makes the batsmen play, won't succeed. In the first test at Galle, Johnson's bowling wasn't much different to what Hilfy did in the Ashes either. Only when there is pace and bounce in the wicket, does Johnson look threatening in test cricket, unless of course it is something to do with his zodiac signs which may have helped Mitch to swing it late at WACA against England.

Now, compare those two bowlers with how Watson bowled at Galle. The one dismissal I can clearly remember is, Watson bowling a brute of a delivery in the second innings to remove the dangerman in the opposition ranks Sangakkara. Yes, he could bowl that brute of a delivery mainly due to the pitch which was playing tricks on the batsmen, but the way Watson went wide of the crease to create a bit of angle showed that here is a bowler, who puts his thinking cap on, to outsmart the best of batsmen. Watson also banged it into the pitch to create a bit more variable bounce which in turn, helped him to dismiss Sanga. In the first innings, before Watson came onto bowl, the Australian seamers were tending to bowl just outside the off-stump, but Watson just zeroed in on the stumps and reaped benefits on a wicket that was keeping low.

After the match got over, Srilankan batsmen were perhaps left wondering how on earth could they have got out to a Mickey mouse bowler like Watson? The fact is, it is high time the Lankan batsmen take Watson seriously as on dry tracks, he can be a threat.

He was good in the Ashes series against England as well. Yes, he didn't take too many wickets, but that didn't stop Watto from looking at ways to outsmart the batsmen. For instance, he was perhaps the only bowler who looked to bowl a good length and outside the off-stump to Ian Bell, as even now Bell has the habit of chasing a delivery that is bowled around the good length spot and just outside the off-stump. When everyone tried to attack KP's stumps by bringing it back into the right-hander, it was Watson who  realised that KP was more vulnerable against the outswinger. Anyone remembers Aussie bowlers bowling wide of off-stump to Trott at Gabba, before Watson came into bowl and got a bit of cut back into the right-hander to uproot his stumps?  Here, Trott has the habit of walking across his stumps, but before Watson came into bowl, a few robots were trying to bowl well outside the off-stump to him. On expected lines, Trott was leaving all those wasted deliveries to go by harmlessly into the keeper's gloves.

In the WC played in the subcontinent this year, Watson yet again showed his class by trying a short delivery at S'wag on a pitch that was very slow. Most medium pacers wouldn't have tried bowling short on that slow pitch. Watson though, took a gamble of banging it into the pitch, as S'wag can occasionally be vulnerable against the short delivery and was rewarded with S'wag's wicket.

Watson's success as a bowler is based on subtle changes in the way he uses the crease, the cutters he bowls on dry wickets like at Galle and how quickly, he is able to assess the slightest weakness that a batsman has. Watson can swing it conventionally and as we saw at Galle, he can also get a bit of reverse swing with the old ball. He though, takes crucial wickets mainly because, he is a clever bowler. Watson may come across as a annoying character on a cricket field, but with a ball in hand, he is a smart operator.

Finally, I may have showered praises on the way Watson bowled at Galle, but to be honest, I underestimated his prowess as a bowler by considering him as a batting all-rounder in my last article. In my defence though, on twitter, I did predict that Watson can be the surprise package at Galle after seeing a dry pitch lol.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Having a look at Australia's bowling attack

 As the Australian think-tank consisting of captain Clarke, the coach Nielsen and co. sit around on a table to discuss about the bowling combination for the upcoming test series against Lanka, they will have to think long and hard about what can be the best combination to play Lanka in their own den.

Gone are the days of Australian bowlers choosing themselves on the morning of a test match. When Australia had McGrath, Warne, Dizzy, Lee, Macgill and company, all an Australian captain needed to do was to think about whether anyone of them wasn't fit enough to play in the test match. Now though, Australia have a set of inexperienced fast bowlers, led by the enigmatic and unpredictable fast bowler Johnson. In the spin department, the Australian captain can't call upon a cricketer by the name of Shane Keith Warne to bamboozle the best of batsmen with his bag of tricks, instead he has to think of couple of hard-working, but journeymen spinners. Now, it doesn't mean that Australia have a weak attack as the likes of Johnson, Siddle, Harris and Copeland can still bowl out sides, but they no more have the aura of the great Australian sides of the past. So, it becomes important for the Australian think-tank to pick the right combination for the upcoming test series in Lanka.

If I look at present set of bowlers, first and foremost, I would say that they should play to their strengths which is in their fast bowling. Both spinners are greenhorns and the likes of Lyon and Beer are rarely going to trouble class batsmen against spinners.  I would pick three seamers, one spinner, who in the side will have to take up the mantle of doing a holding job with Watson as the batting all-rounder.

A few may argue that Srilankan conditions offers nothing for the seam bowlers. I beg to differ with them, as over the years, most Lankan tracks have offered a bit of help for the quicker bowlers early in the morning. It is just that wickets are slow and whatever help is there for the quicker bowlers will disappear after the end of the first session. I just don't see anything wrong in a team picking three seam bowlers and one spinner for a test match to be played in Lankan conditions provided, the three seamers hunt as a pack and utilize the helpful conditions on offer in the first session.

So who are the bowlers Australia can play in the first test against Srilanka? can they pick a steady seamer, but someone who lacks pace in Copeland? In this article, I would just look at all the bowlers in the Australian squad and finally list out the bowlers, who in my opinion should play the first test. 

Seam bowlers

Johnson- When the enigmatic Johnson gets it right, he is the most devastating bowler going around,  but there is also another side to Johnson, as he can lose his control very easily and bowl like a club level bowler. In short, you never know what you will get with this unpredictable bowler, as he can occasionally be an out and out match winner, but can suddenly lose his control and bowl utter tripe.

Johnson also depends on pace and bounce as he can get awkward bounce. Johnson isn't a swinger of the ball, so he can struggle on wickets when it doesn't have pace and bounce. Yes, he swung it very late at WACA against England, but for me, I still can't fathom how he did it, as the seam was all over the place wobbling on a diagonal line yet, it swung very late. For me, it defied logic.

I am not sure about whether Johnson will bowl well on Srilankan wickets. He bowled well in the onedayers in Lanka, but Johnson usually does well in One-day cricket. Australia though, will need the unpredictable Johnson to fire on all cylinders in the test series. 

Siddle- If I am the captain of a side and I have a bowler like Siddle, he would be one of the first names on my team sheet. As a bowler, Siddle doesn't do much with a ball in hand. So why do I rate him  highly? The fact is, here is a bowler, who runs in all day and bowls at good pace. It seems like even if there is a brick wall in front of Siddle, he will still be ready to run into it and bowl! Siddle doesn't have the talent of Mitch or even Harris, but more than makes it up with his effort. 

Copeland- I have to confess that I have seen Copeland only once and that too in a warm-up match against England before the Ashes. From whatever little I saw of Copeland in that One-day match, I was impressed by his bowling.  England's batsmen took him apart in that One-day match, but I believe it was more due to the fact that Copeland comes across as a bowler, who can be predictable with what he does, so it wasn't surprising to see him leaking runs in that match. In the longer format though, Copeland is perhaps the bowler, who can just do what Australia needs the most, someone who bowls with good control. In that match against England, Copeland was bowling steady stuff and moving the ball just enough either way which is why I feel that he can do well in Lanka.  Copeland bowls at just about medium pace, but on slow wickets of Lanka, Australia can select Copeland as he bowls line and length and would likely utilize whatever little bit of movement, the Lankan pitches may offer in the first session of the test match.

Actually, it is great to see that Copeland has done exactly what I thought of him by taking a five wicket haul in the warm-up game. It is now up-to the selectors to pick him and for Copeland to perform well not just in warm-up games, but also in test cricket. I would like to see more of Copeland, but he seems to be a bowler, who isn't over coached and that is why his brain isn't muddled with millions of theories. He just sticks to the basics of running up straight and hitting the top of off-stump. Now, it doesn't require rocket science to understand that if a bowler runs up straight and hits top of off-stump he will succeed. 

Ryan Harris- Harris popularly known as Rhino is more talented than Siddle, as he can swing the ball and when cracks develop in the pitch, he has the ability to just sit on it all day yet, I may just go for Siddle over Harris. The only reason I am looking at Siddle is, because he is fitter and it requires a bowler to be really fit to bowl in those hot and humid conditions of Srilanka. I was also impressed by what I saw of Pattinson in the final onedayer against Lanka, as he was generating good pace and extracting a bit of bounce, but he is perhaps not yet ready to play test cricket. 


The two spinners Australian selectors have picked are Beer and Lyon. Among those two spinners, I have seen Beer bowl in a test match, but to be honest, he didn't impress me. The problem with Beer is, he seems to think that flighting the ball means to bowl as slow as you can which is just the wrong way to go about bowling spin. I have also not seen Beer bowling the arm ball and he struggles to make subtle changes in pace. He may have improved in the last six months or so, but from what I saw of him at Sydney against England, I would say that he isn't the spinner that Australia should play in test matches. The only left arm spinner who looks ok is Keefe, but Australia seem to pick everyone but Keefe.

I am surprised that Australia have shown faith in SLA in recent times, as they have picked both Doherty and Beer for test cricket. I have watched a lot of Australian cricket in the last twenty years and I can't remember a single SLA playing for Australia in test cricket. Australians usually look out for wrist spinners, but at present, they don't seem to have any decent wrist spinner in their ranks. In-fact, wrist spinners like Brad Hogg, Bob Holland, or even Peter McIntyre would have walked into the present Australian side. As far as the other spinner in  the side is concerned, I have heard a few good things about the off-spinner in the side Lyon, but his first class record is poor and has played only five games.

If I was the selector, I would have gone for Hauritz as the main spinner, as he is a steady bowler and can occasionally get bounce.  He is perhaps the right sort of bowler to bowl on Lankan tracks. As the selectors haven't picked Hauritz, I may look at Lyon, as I just wasn't impressed by what I saw of Beer at Sydney. From Australia's point of view, I fear that likes of Mahela and Sanga will milk Beer for runs. So, for the first test against Srilanka, my bowling attack would be Johnson, Copeland, Siddle and Lyon with Watson as the batting all-rounder. Australia though, may pick Harris and a second spinner in Beer.

The fact is, whoever bowls for Australia in the upcoming series against Lanka, they will have the daunting task of bowling  on slow wickets and against batsmen, who are born and bred by playing on slow wickets in Lanka. The likes of Sanga, Jaya and Samaraweera are outstanding at converting their starts into big scores when they play in Srilanka. So, as a cricket connoisseur, I am waiting with bated breath to see how the new crop of Australian bowlers will bowl in Srilanka.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Well done England!

Thirteenth of August 2011 is a red letter day for every fan, who supports England cricket team, as after years of watching the team trudge from one defeat to another, one can finally feel proud of a team that ruthlessly dismantles every side they play. Yes the opposition they faced during the English summer didn't seem worthy of being called the number one team, as every-time the England team put pressure on them, they crumbled like a house of cards.The simple fact though is, the present England team play a brand of aggressive cricket that usually makes the opposition look worse than they actually are.

Couple of years ago, on a sunny bright day at Kingston though, it looked all different as up against a bowler, who was just bowling fast and straight, England's batsmen crumbled without even a trace of fight. The critics were laughing at the team by calling them all sorts of names. For a cricket fan like me,  it seemed like the side was divided and there was no unity among the players. At that time, I even thought that there was no light at the end of the tunnel, as it can't get much worse than losing to a weak side like West Indies and that too getting bowled out for just 51 runs. Two men though didn't give up on England; one was a former Zimbabwean cricketer, who seemed to have the spirit of Toledo steel when he played for Zimbabwe. The other one was a captain, who always comes across as a very good man manager. Both the coach Flower and the captain Strauss step by step have taken England to the number one position in test cricket.

The seeds of success were sown in the series in which England were bowled out for 51 itself. Flower and Strauss decided it was high time to build a team made up of players, who don't play for themselves, but play for the team. Players who looked disinterested when they toured, or were injury prone, were soon phased out. A set of new bowlers, who were hungry for wickets and success were given the chance to play test cricket. The backroom staff worked hard on fitness of the players and as a result, the cricketers became more athletic. It is unbelievable but true that in two years, from World Chumps, England have become World Champions of test cricket.

In this article, I would like to list out a few factors that have helped England to become a successful test side.

Attack leader- Any team needs a pace bowler to lead the attack. If I think about England's team, Jimmy Anderson is no doubt the leader of the attack. Even when he was down in the dumps, I had lots of faith in Anderson's ability as here was a bowler, who could swing it late and that too both ways with no discernible change in his action. Nowadays though, he bowls with good control as well, which makes him a real handful.

Yes last year, many were questioning about whether Anderson can succeed in Australia which looked rather funny, as it was mainly based on how he performed in the Ashes 06/07. Comparing Anderson of 06/07 and the present day Anderson is like comparing chalk and cheese. In 06/07, Anderson didn't have a repeatable action as the coaches kept tinkering with his action and at that time, he had just comeback from an injury. In 2010/11 though, Anderson was a thoroughbred swing bowler as he had developed a smooth action and he could bowl with good control. On expected lines, he kept taking wickets in Australia and his critics had to shut their mouths. These days, Anderson sometimes even reminds me of what I saw of Hadlee in a few highlights package. Yes, he still doesn't have the control, nor the patience of the great man Hadlee, but Anderson's great exhibition of swing bowling on the fourth day at Edgbaston reminded me of Hadlee at his peak. Anderson was moving the ball both ways at respectable pace, he kept guessing the batsmen with regards to which one will swing back into the righthander, he was using the crease to create subtle changes of angles and even used the bouncer well. The only thing that Anderson may have to improve is to show a bit more patience, when bowling to the lower-order batsmen.

Back up bowlers- We all now that cricket is a team game, so a single pace bowler can't do much if other bowlers in the side can't take wickets. With England though, it is different, as it hasn't just been Anderson who has looked a real threat against India, but Anderson along with Broad, Bresnan/Tremlett have hunted like a pack of hungry vultures about to pounce on a set of clueless batsmen.

To be honest, it was a pleasant surprise to see Broad bowling full in the series. I do hope he keeps bowling full and doesn't again try to test middle of the pitch by thinking that he is the reincarnation of Larwood.  When Broad bowls full, he gets just enough movement and bounce to take wickets. As far as Bresnan is concerned, I have already said in one of my previous articles that he is the unsung hero of the side. Bres can run in all day, bowl line and length, get awkward bounce and more importantly, bowl at good pace. There are bowlers, who lack fitness and can't bowl reasonably quick throughout the day, but Bres is a different kettle of fish, as he can bowl at about 85-87 mph at 10 'O' clock in the morning as well as bowl at a similar pace during the last session of a day's play. CT just played in one test, but his ability to get awkward bounce from a good length would always make him a threat. If I think about the lone spinner in the side Swann, he has had a poor series, but I don't remember too many spinners doing well against the Indian team. I am sure he will do well against Pakistan in UAE as they can't play spin.

Settled batting line-up-  In my twenty years of watching cricket, I have never seen England having such a settled look to the batting line-up. When I used to watch cricket in the 90's, I used to sometimes bite my nails as it looked like England's batsmen may get out at anytime. It changed a bit with the likes of Tres, Vaughan, Thorpe and later on Strauss, KP doing well, but the present batting line-up looks even better than the one that played in the Ashes 2005.

At top of the order, Cook has shown great prowess of concentration  and has constantly got big hundreds. His knock of 294 in the third test at Edgbaston just proved that point again. Yes, I realise that Cook can get better, if he starts scoring more runs between mid off and cover region, but I feel that he doesn't need to do it. The fact is, he has great prowess of concentration which helps him in leaving deliveries that are full and just wide of off-stump. Strauss has struggled for form in recent times, but looked in decent touch at Edgbaston. The biggest plus for England though, has been the emergence of Trott. In the past, one of the major problems for England was the number 3 slot. To an extent, Butcher and Vaughan did well at that position, but Trott has taken it to another level by getting big hundreds. Trott with his batting brings a calmness to the side that wasn't seen before. My favourite batsman KP too has regained form which is great to see. Last year, it looked like KP was caught between whether he should continue with his old style of live by the sword, die by the sword attitude, or should he look to only defend which in the end, it  didn't help him. In this series though, KP has mixed caution with aggression which is the right way to go as the conditions haven't exactly been batting friendly, but at the same-time, a player like KP should play his natural game. One more batsman, I would like to talk about is Bell. There was a time, when it seemed like he didn't believe that he belonged to the big stage, but nowadays, you look at Bell and you feel that here is a cricketer, who believes in his undoubted ability.

Lower-order grit- More than anything else, it has been a pleasure to watch how well the lower order batsmen have played for the last couple of years. There was a time when Mullaly, Tufnell and co. used to gift away their wickets, but if I look at the present batting line-up, it is completely different as Broad, Bresnan, Swann and even Anderson can score valuable runs lower down the order. One could notice that lower order batsmen were showing far batter application in the Ashes 09 itself, as Anderson and Monty helped England to escape from defeat with their gritty batting at Cardiff. Onions showed it yet again in the Safferland by playing couple of gritty knocks and helped England to draw both those matches. I have always maintained that when lower order batsmen show grit by hanging around with a bat in hand, it is a sure sign that there is unity in the team.

The two Andy's- Of course, how can I not talk about the two Andy's; Andy Flower and Strauss? When Flower was appointed as the coach, there were many people who were skeptical about his appointment as they thought that he neither had the experience to run a national team, nor he had succeeded as a batting coach of England. Flower though, has silenced his critics by helping England to become the number one side as well as helping the team to finally win a ICC tournament in the West Indies.

So what makes Flower tick as a coach of the side? First and foremost, he comes across as a honest man, who won't try to praise his team just to keep himself in good books of the players. He also keeps the cricketers grounded. For Andy Flower, every success is viewed as just another stepping stone in a bigger picture which is to dominate world cricket.

Flower's never say die attitude as a player has also rubbed on his players. Who can forget some of his epic knocks during his playing career? There was a series in India in 2000/01, when he scored more than 500 runs. In that series, in the first match Flower got a vital half century on the last day, but as expected, the weak Zimbabwe team still lost the test. Flower though, always looked for excellence and in the next test, he played even better as he played for couple of days, scored a double hundred and saved the game for Zimbabwe. England team too play in a similar fashion as each player keeps getting better and during a crisis situation, someone will perform well. Along with Flower, I also have to say a few good words about other coaches like Saker, Gooch, Mushie and company, as they too have played their part in helping England do well.

If Flower has been great for England, then what about Strauss? He too has played a major role as a captain to help England reach its goal. Strauss may not have the tactical nous of Taylor, or Brearley, but he is no doubt a very good man manager. It can be seen by the fact that Strauss has helped Anderson to fulfill his potential. Before Strauss, captains like Vaughan, KP, and to a lesser extent Freddie never believed that Anderson's brand of attacking swing bowling can help England to win matches. Strauss though, has shown great belief in Anderson which in turn has helped Anderson to grow as a bowler.
Now a question may arise about whether England can win overseas? So, in future can we see a famous test match victory  at Colombo, or Nagpur? Only time will tell whether this team can do it or not, but at present, I can safely say that England deserve the number one position in test rankings and it is nice to be a fan of England  cricket team at the moment!

On the other hand, what about India? In simple words, the much vaunted batting line-up crumbled like nine pins and the bowling hasn't been consistent enough. Less said the better about India's fielding. In-fact, there were times when it looked like men were playing boys. Let me make it clear that I am not trying to indulge in schadenfreude just because I don't like BCCI, but you expect a team consisting of players like SRT, VVS, Dravid and co. to at least show a bit of fight.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

KP shines at home of cricket

The man whose swagger and attacking batsmanship made the best of bowlers feel like they should wear a helmet while bowling to him was in a spot of bother going into the Lord's test against India. Yes, he had scored a double hundred at Adelaide in the Ashes and played very well in the T/20 WC in 2010, but other than that England's most flamboyant batsman of his era had struggled for consistency. There were question marks raised over whether his unorthodox technique has been found out by opposition bowlers, but like a true champion, KP  made his critics eat humble pie by playing perhaps his most mature knock and for the umpteenth time in his test career took England to a strong position at Lord's.

As a microcosm of life, a sportsman's career will also have periods when they seem to be out of sorts, but true champions are the ones, who would be able to wade through all those swamps and marshes that come their way and attain the ultimate goal of having a successful career. During the last couple of years, KP had to  wade through lots of marshes and swamps including serious injuries like the Achilles injury he suffered in 09, or the hernia problem during the 2011 WC, but you can't keep a gifted player down for too long and as expected, he made a big hundred at Lord's.

Pietersen's double hundred at Lord's was different from most of his other knocks. In tough conditions, the genius, who could play jaw dropping shots like pulling a 90mph bowler on the front-foot, the flamingo shot against the spinner, or that incredulous switch hit was playing like a mere mortal, who was just looking to survive with two meals for the entire day. KP though, showed to his critics that he could buckle down, when the conditions were tough and once the sun came out, he took the opposition bowlers to the cleaners by playing his natural aggressive game.

On the first day, KP  respected the conditions by playing straight and waited for the Indian bowlers to bowl on his pads. Once he crossed 150 though, KP unleashed some breathtaking shots especially, the shot when  KP came down the wicket and flicked Sharma like a spinner for a boundary was breathtaking to watch. At Lord's, he also played a clever knock, as he moved way outside the off-stump and took the LBW out of the equation. In-fact, I just thought that Indian bowlers tried to attack his leg-stump too much, as they believed that by going way outside the off-stump, KP was leaving his leg-stump open and they can get him out bowled by targeting his leg-stump. The simple fact is, for batsmen like Azhar, Junior, VVS, Trott, KP and company, a flick shot through the on-side is like a cover-drive and even if they leave the leg-stump open to be targeted by the bowlers, they rarely ever get out. 

As expected, the critics are lapping up his double hundred at Lord's by saying that it has been a very mature knock and praising him to the skies. I am sure though, the same critics would be waiting for KP to fail in a few innings, so that they can again start cribbing about his lack of technique, whether he works hard on his game and him being a team-man or not.

Actually, it is laughable that people talk about him as being not a team-man. If he wasn't a team-man, why would he have got a hundred, when the score was 1 for 2 at Mohali, or again at Napier with England losing early wickets. The same can be said about his knocks at Oval in the Ashes 05, at Trent Bridge against the Kiwis in 08, against South Africa at Oval in 08, his hundreds against India at Lord's and Oval in 07, the battling hundred against a fiery Akthar in 05/06 at Faislabad, his breathtaking knock against Murali and co. on a sluggish wicket at Edgbaston in 06, the superlative knock at Brisbane against McGrath and Warne in the 06/07 Ashes and many more. All those knocks helped England to  get out of a crisis and get the team into a position of strength. I just don't care about what he does in his private life, but on a cricket field, he has played numerous good knocks when the team was in dire straits.

The next question mark of course is, whether he has a technique to play in test cricket. First and foremost, a player without a good technique, won't score over 6000 runs at an average of just around 50. Secondly, for someone who has admired his game for the last 8-9 years, there is no doubt in my mind that he has improved his game. When KP first came onto the scene, he tended to play lots of shots in the air, but nowadays, he looks to play a lot more ground-shots. He has also worked hard on playing shots with a straight bat. Last year, when he was trying to play straight, he was getting out caught and bowled, but this year, he has shown better control when it comes to playing shots straight down the ground and as a result, he isn't hitting it in the air and getting out. Yes, he still plays across the line a lot, but one can't curb the natural instincts of a player, who has been successful by playing across the line. 

I just don't care whether KP would become a great or not. For me when KP plays, he is a joy to watch and with his double hundred at Lord's, he has also shown that he isn't a one trick pony, who can just smash the bowlers. In-fact, long after he retires and reminisces about his test career by sitting on a armchair, he would likely look back at his knock at Lord's with great fondness as he had to work hard for it and strain his every sinew. I don't think there is anything better than tasting success after working very hard for it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Indian batting line-up Part-3 and series prediction

In the last part of the article, I will look at probable strategies against the remaining batsmen in the Indian line-up, which includes the captain marvel Dhoni, the young batsman Raina as well as the mercurial lower order batsman with a technique of his own Harbhajan. I will also come up with my prediction for the upcoming mouth watering contest between England and India.

Raina- For the last few years, Raina has been touted as the next big thing in Indian cricket. It is no doubt a fact that Raina is a powerful striker of the ball, who on his day can smash the opposition bowlers to smithereens. He is a typical modern day batsman, who relies on power rather than timing. If I look at some of Raina's strengths like him being a very powerful striker of the ball, it is crystal clear that he is perfectly suited to the shorter formats of the game. At the same-time, as he is young, he still has enough time on his hands to improve his defence which in turn can help him to become a better test batsman.

As far as Raina's test match batting credentials are concerned, he looked like a fish out of water on bouncy tracks in South Africa. Any batsman, who seems to have a premeditated forward press and looks to  smash even back of a length deliveries on bouncy tracks in the Safferland over the mid-wicket region, will have his fair share of problems against the bouncing  ball. It isn't just hit the deck bowlers, but spinners and swing bowlers too will fancy their chances against such a batsman.

So with Raina having major flaws in his technique, is there no future for him in test cricket? The good news for Raina's fans is that he seems to be working very hard on his defence hence, he is  looking to play late as well as trying to improve on his non-existent back-foot play. In West Indies, Raina played a few decent pull shots,  but against better bowlers in tougher conditions Raina has his task cut-out.

Yes, Raina has shown signs of improvement in his technique, but Tremlett with the bouncing ball and Anderson with his late swing will likely trouble Raina. Raina's tendency to sometimes go hard at the ball means that Swann too will fancy his chances against Raina.

Dhoni- At present, captain of the Indian team seems to have a golden touch as he has led the Indian side to so many glorious triumphs including the WC triumph which in turn sent a cricket mad country into a frenzy. Dhoni is a captain with a midas touch. So, can the golden boy of India do anything wrong?

Critics may point to the fact that Dhoni is lucky as he is captaining a good team yet, with so many victories under his belt as the captain, he is already up there with the pantheon of great captains, who have led the Indian side over the years. Dhoni though, isn't a God, but just a human-being, which can be seen by the fact that his batting average over his last 20 test innings is just around 30. So, have the opposition bowlers found a chink in Dhoni's technique, or  just like the old slogan of form is temporary and class is permanent, Dhoni will comeback to form?

If I analyse Dhoni's technique, it is clear that he has a technique of his own, as he has an open-chested stance and plays shots which aren't written in the coaching manual. The helicopter shot is a good example of it. Dhoni though, in test cricket tries his best to play late and at least early in his innings, doesn't go hard at the ball. The fact though is, in helpful conditions for swing bowlers, a decent outswing bowler can open him up like a can of worms. So, by just looking at his stance itself, I will go for JA as my first attacking option, as with his outswinger, Anderson can trouble Dhoni and get the edge. As sometimes, Dhoni has a tendency to go hard at the ball, Swann  can bowl at the other end. If Swann bowls, he can try the drifter as Dhoni has the tendency to favour the on-side.

Last but not the least, I will also discuss about the mercurial Harby. You like him or hate him, there is no doubt that any team should have plans for Harby as well. Here is a cricketer, who doesn't seem to have a defence, but with his pyrotechnics, Harby has the ability to occasionally take the game away from the opposition with some brutal hitting. So what makes Harby occasionally a dangerous proposition to bowl to? I think Harby has a great eye otherwise, how can anyone flat bat an 85+ mph short delivery for a six? He can be a very awkward customer to bowl at and as he hits in unusual areas, the captain may have to sometimes scratch his head as it is hard to set fields for such type of batsmen. Harby isn't a tail-ender, but as he has a high-back-lift, I still see the bouncer and the yorker as the best combination against him.

At the start of the article, I also promised that I will predict the scoreline for the upcoming series. My prediction for the series is, England will win the series 2-0. The safe bet would be 1-1, but I do believe that India needed to play couple of warm-up games as it would have helped the Indian team to acclimatise to alien conditions. Yes SRT and co. are great batsmen, but even if a player has played over 100 tests, it would still take maybe a week or so to get acclimatised to tough conditions like in England.

India's bowling attack too looks a bit suspect to me. The major worry is of course about India's pace spearhead Zaheer's fitness, as he doesn't seem to be match fit. He has hardly bowled in recent times and even in the match against Somerset, he only bowled a few overs.  Unless a bowler is as well built as the great Ambrose, he needs miles in his legs and that can be done by bowling lots of overs. If I think from India's point of view,  I worry that Zaheer may again suffer from an injury in middle of the series. Sree too seems to be lacking match fitness. So the bowling attack may depend on Sharma, as Harby can't be expected to run through a side in alien conditions. On the other hand, England don't seem to have any worries except for the fact that for some bizarre reason, the enforcer in the team would likely get yet another chance to play test cricket ahead of a more reliable bowler.

Finally, I just hope that the series between the number one ranked team and the challenger for that number one spot lives up-to the hype surrounding it and we get to see nail-biting edge of the seat contests. Let the series begin with both teams showing plenty of brio, elan, vigour, joie, de vivre and vitality.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Having a look at the Indian batting line-up Part-2

In second part of the article, Having a look at the Indian batting line-up, I would look at batsmen occupying the key number three slot as well as the strong middle-order. In the 90's, when India travelled abroad their batting line-up was too heavily dependent on the great man Tendulkar and as a result they used to invariably lose, when playing away from home as after all, it is a team effort that helps any team to win the match.  In the last decade though, the Indian batting line-up has become a lot more stronger and it can be even considered that it is India's batsmen, who have helped them to win matches in alien conditions by getting big scores. So, let us have a look into the legends of Indian cricket, who at present occupy key positions in the batting line-up.

Dravid- Dravid occupies the key number three position in India's batting order. Batsmen who play at the number three slot, carry a great responsibility on their shoulders, as they would likely come up against the new ball. The player occupying the number three slot becomes even more important in England, as the batsman who plays at that position would have to likely play in tough conditions with the ball doing a bit in the air, or off the pitch.

Over the years, Dravid at the number three slot has done a wonderful job of weathering the early storm of facing a newish ball. In-fact, he has done even better in England which shows his pedigree as playing in England is always tough for subcontinental batsmen because they aren't used to playing the moving ball. Dravid's ability to play the ball late and his eagerness to come forward at every given opportunity makes him a tough batsman to bowl to.

So what are the options a captain has when it comes to attacking the Great wall of India? In recent times, the Great wall has shown a few cracks and it looks like there are some options available for a captain to attack Dravid. One of the key factors to note in Dravid's technique nowadays is that his judgement outside the off-stump isn't as good as it used to be. It is on expected lines as Dravid is 38 now. I have especially seen left arm seamers getting Dravid out caught in the slips with deliveries that is angled across him. Dravid's bat speed for some reason has become faster because of which he has sometimes gone hard at the ball and has got caught in the slips. Dravid also favours the on-side. Yes, he has certainly developed his game through the off-side with sheer hard-work, but early in his innings, one always gets the feeling that he can play with a slightly closed face which in turn leaves him a bit vulnerable against the outswinger.

The two bowlers I would look at against Dravid are Anderson and Swann. Even at worst of times, Anderson's outswinger can trouble the batsmen as he has the ability to slant it slightly into the batsmen then  shape it away from the batsmen. Dravid's tendency to close the face slightly may leave him vulnerable against Anderson's outswingers. In the past, Anderson has troubled Dravid a few times especially, when there is a bit of movement.  I can surely remember Anderson getting Dravid out in the 07 series at Lord's with an outswinger that swung late and took the edge of Dravid's bat. Even in that innings Dravid played with a slightly closed face and it is something Anderson  may look at and try to bowl a similar delivery this time around.

From the other end, I would look at Swann as my attacking option. Swann bowls a nice drifter and I have a feeling if he does bowl that delivery against Dravid, he may just produce the edge with Dravid looking to play Swann on the on-side.

Tendulkar-I must be kidding if I ever say that great Tendulkar has a weakness. He is the greatest batsman I have seen and would get into any list of great batsmen. So is there no option to get Tendulkar out? First and foremost, just like other batsmen in World cricket, one mistake can spell the doom for even the great man Tendulkar and make him take the long walk back to the pavilion. I also wrote a few lines on what a bowler can do when up against the great man in my article Tribute to Tendulkar. I would just like to reproduce a few points from that article.

In my humble opinion, if there is any weakness in his game, it is when he plays a straight drive. It is one of his favourite shots, but occasionally, he can play that shot from the crease which can leave him vulnerable against a swing bowler early in his innings. Jimmy Anderson has got him out five times by bowling a fuller length and Hoggy too has dismissed him. Couple of examples I can remember include Anderson bowling full at Oval and SRT getting bowled as he didn't move his feet. Hoggy too got him out at Lord's by bowling a similar delivery. The fact though is, both those dismissals came early in his innings and once he gets in, more often than not he doesn't miss out when playing the straight drive.

Seam bowlers have looked to get him out by bowling a short delivery which tends to leave SRT.  McGrath got him out at Edgbaston in the 99 WC by hitting back of a length and getting awkward bounce to catch Tendulkar's edge, Flintoff did something similar at Mohali in 05/06, though when compared to McGrath's length, it was slightly shorter, I have seen Lewis troubling him with some decent bouncers and even Olonga is said to have got him out in a tournament in Sharjah.  SRT is no more than a school ruler, so however good he maybe, sometimes it can become difficult to play a lifter. The fact though is,  as Gavaskar once said, no one likes facing bouncers and every batsman has to look at ways to counter it. So, if a batsman gets out to a very good delivery once in a blue-moon, it can't be called as a weakness.

In the England team, it will be very difficult for even Tremlett to reproduce the delivery that McGrath bowled in the WC as he bowled a great length and it got big on SRT. Nowadays, SRT doesn't play the pull shot too many times yet, he is an expert  in leaving the short delivery. Jimmy Anderson can be more of a threat against Tendulkar as he bowls a full length and gets swing. As I have said it above that early in his innings, Tendulkar sometimes doesn't move his feet while trying to play the straight drive which can leave him vulnerable against the full swinging delivery.

Laxman- Along with Dravid and SRT, Laxman has been the backbone of India's middle-order for the last decade. Laxman seems to be more of a wizard than a batsman, as he uses his wrists like magical wand to play delightful shots on either side of the wicket.I haven't seen a single batsman having better hands than Laxman. Even deliveries that are around the off-stump are sometimes flicked through the on-side for four by Very Very Special Laxman.

Yes, he is a great player to watch, but it is also a fact that VVS hasn't made a single century against England. One of the key reasons for that is, his technique is more suited to bouncy tracks as he stands tall and uses his wrists to play shots. At the same-time, he doesn't move his feet much which leaves him vulnerable against the moving ball in England.

When up against Laxman, I would look at Anderson as my first option, as he bowls full and gets it to swing late. Anderson though, has to attack the stumps rather than bowl just wide of off-stump to Laxman. As VVS has great hands, he has the ability to punish anything that is slightly wide of off-stump. Yes, a few may have a counter argument that with his lack of footwork, he may chase a slightly wide delivery and get caught behind, but he has such great hands that more often than not he is able to manoeuvre the field by finding the gap through the off-side. So, the best option is perhaps to attack the stumps as with Laxman staying on the back-foot, there is always a chance of the delivery going through his defenses. Yes, there is also a good chance of Very Very Special Laxman flicking a delivery that is slightly off-line which is drifting towards Laxman's pads for a boundary, but a bowler should be ready to get hit while bowling to class batsmen like Laxman.

Tremlett can be the second option against Laxman. He bowls a shorter length when compared to Anderson, but especially  in the second innings of  a test, there is a decent chance of Tremlett extracting variable bounce by hitting the pitch hard and a few deliveries can keep low. As VVS plays most of the times on the back-foot, Tremlett's variable bounce can cause problems provided, Tremlett attacks Laxman's stumps. Tremlett can very well remember Laxman playing a delightful cover-drive on the up in the second innings at Lord's in 07, but the next delivery Tremlett attacked the stumps and cleaned up Laxman with Laxman again hanging on the back-foot.

Tremlett can also just look to bowl the odd surprise bouncer as VVS has the habit of hitting it in the air. Anyone remember Corky trying a short delivery at VVS and VVS hitting it straight to the fielder in 2002 at Trent Bridge? He is a great puller but doesn't look to keep the pull shot down.

In the last part of this article, I will look at rest of the batsmen including the captain of the Indian team Dhoni. Finally, I will  also predict the scoreline for the series!

Having a look at the Indian batting line-up

A father and his young son are watching Indian maestros like Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman and co. grind down the opposition in a clinical fashion.  The opposition seems to be in a rabble as none of the bowlers look like can trouble the legends of Indian cricket.The son asks to his father, are these batsmen from Mars as they don't seem to ever get out. Father replies, son, they are legends of Indian cricket and one of them, who isn't taller than a school ruler called Tendulkar seems to be playing cricket for  about million years and scores centuries for fun.

Now, the above para includes a bit of exaggeration, but I don't think any player in the England set-up underestimates the enormity of the task that awaits them.The players know that they are up against a set of batsmen, who have the class, the temperament and the hunger for runs and that too at an age when most batsmen would have retired and taken up a job in the commentary box. Yes, the likes of SRT and Dravid may have failed in the ongoing match against Somerset, but unless you're a gambler, who is even ready to sell his own house, no one would bet against them of doing well in a four match series.

On expected lines, many questions would be oscillating in the minds of cricket fans as well as experts as to what can be the minute weakness one can find in players like SRT and Laxman. I already see lots of discussions and expert opinions on how to tackle the Indian batsmen. Let me make it clear that I am no expert, but  just like I have done it before, I thought of writing an article on what are perhaps the options England's bowlers can look at when bowling to the Indian batsmen. This time around though, I would also look at what were the plans that England's bowlers tried after every test and analyse whether  there are other options against the legends of Indian cricket.

So how can England's bowlers take up the gauntlet of bowling to batsmen of such high calibre? Of course, first and foremost any bowler should stick to the basics of bowling line and length and not lose heart when any of them look in ominous form, as just like any other batsmen in World cricket, one mistake may mean that SRT, or Laxman would have to take the long walk back to the pavilion. 

Dissecting the technique of Indian batsmen and the options available to England's bowlers.

Just like in any cricket match, where the openers go into bat first up, I will look at the two openers for the first test at Lord's.

Mukund - My first  impression of the young Mukund in West Indies was of a batsman, who lacked a defence to survive in test cricket. In-fact, he reminded me of all those openers cum tailenders, who played for India in the 90's. I looked at him as a typical front-foot bully who struggles to play in the V. The more I saw of him though, I started to believe that yes, he lacks the defence, but to an extent  makes it up  with his fighting spirit.

As Mukund has a tendency to go for a premeditated forward press and has a nonexistent back-foot play, it results in him favouring the cover region with lots of shots being hit on the up.The Windies bowlers though were shorter than England's bowlers, were still able to trouble him by just bowling it across Mukund. As he got more confident, Mukund started to play a bit better as he left more deliveries outside the off-stump and tried to drop his wrists against those short deliveries that were bowled at him. The fact though is, when a player has a premeditated forward press, it makes life difficult for the batsman, as he would likely struggle to play on top of the bounce on the front-foot.

Mukund's tendency to have a premeditated forward press and his inability to play straight means that England's bowlers have the options of either getting him caught behind, or there is also a chance of Mukund inside edging one of the deliveries onto the stumps.

I would look at Tremlett and Bresnan as my two options to bowl at Mukund. Tremlett gets natural lift even from a good length and should trouble Mukund big time by bowling it across him and getting him out caught in the slip cordon. Bresnan doesn't get the bounce of Tremlett, but he bowls a slightly fuller length and there is a decent chance that Mukund may get tempted to look for a few boundaries against Bressy as he doesn't get the lift, nor he bowls slightly short like Tremlett. In an attempt to hit on the up through the off-side, there is a good chance of him inside edging a delivery onto the stumps.

In West Indies in the final test, it looked like Mukund was getting used to the angle across him, but Edwards used his brain by shaping one of the deliveries back into Mukund and got him out LBW. It is something England's quicks can try as a surprise weapon because Mukund would be always expecting all the quicker bowlers to bowl across him. As he is a left-hander, Swann too can be a good option, as he is a very good bowler against the left-handers, but I see Tremlett and if selected, Bressy as the main options against Mukund.

Gambhir- When India were about to embark on a tough tour to the Safferland, most critics opined that Gambhir would be a failure on bouncy tracks in the Safferland. I though had no doubt about Gambhir succeeding in South Africa as whatever technical flaws he has, Gambhir more than makes it up with his sheer mental toughness. Yes, he may struggle in the first few tests in the Old Blighty, but  you should be a brave man to bet against Ghambir doing well in at least one of the tests. Here is a cricketer, who is always looking at ways to improve his batting and is a battle hardened cricketer.

The question mark against Gambhir is his tendency to stay leg-side off the ball which in turn can leave him vulnerable against taller bowler, who can tuck him up for room. The tall quick from South Africa, Morkel tried every trick in the book which included going around the wicket and tucking him up for room. Gambhir though, came out of that series with flying colous as after getting out in the first innings of the first test against a lifter bowled by Morkel, he stood toe to toe with Morkel for rest of the series on bouncy tracks and chipped in with useful scores.

In England too Tremlett would try the same option of tucking up Gambir for room, but if he is ever selected, Bressy can again be the trump-card against Gambhir. With Bressy bowling slightly fuller than Tremlett, there is always a chance of Gambhir looking at more scoring options against Bressy and getting out. Gambhir also used to fail against bowlers, who could bowl full and across him as he used to struggle to get his weight forward into the drive, but nowadays he seems to have corrected that flaw.

As soon as the opposition have a left-hander in their ranks, people will invariably bring up the name of Swann as he is a fantastic bowler against left-handers. Ghambir though is already a great player against spin, as he is prepared to take the risk of coming down  the wicket, is wristy and more importantly, is light on his feet which helps him to use the depth of the crease beautifully against any spinner.

Strauss and Swann can definitely look to do what Sanga tried against Ghambir in the 2011 WC final. Sanga packed the off-side field and left the on-side field almost open with the off-spinner Randiv bowling to Ghambir around the wicket. The ploy almost worked as Ghambir couldn't play one of his favourite shots against the off-spinner, which is to come down the wicket, make a bit of room for himself and look to smash the off-spinner over the long-off region. Ghambir tried his best to play the waiting game, but in the end lost his patience and tried to play against the turn through the on-side and was beaten by the flight and the turn imparted by Randiv. Luckily for him, he got a slight inside edge and Sanga couldn't effect the stumping. In the end, the simple fact is,  there are lots of battles to look out for in the upcoming series and one of the battles can be between Swann and Ghambir. Can Swann outwit Ghambir, or will Ghambir continue to take any spinner he faces to the cleaners?

I will write rest of the article in part 2 of Having a look at the Indian batting line-up, as otherwise it can lead to paralysis by analysis!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Bresnan- Unsung Hero

A year ago, he wasn’t considered good enough for England's test side. Everyone from cricket fans to experts opined that he should never play test cricket. A few fans like me even held the opinion that he isn't anything more than a club cricketer, but the tough cookie from Yorkshire has proved us all wrong with his splendid performances in the Ashes, in the WC as well as in the recently concluded One-Day series against Sri Lanka.

When Bresnan runs up and bowls, not many cricket fans would like to switch on their television sets, or in excitement run to the stadium to watch him bowl yet, he is a vital cog in the England set-up, as he has the hunger of a lion and the stamina of an ox.  Bresnan will never be known as rolls royce of fast bowling, but he more than makes it up with his stamina and enthusiasm for cricket. In-fact, Bres's bowling can be compared to a woodcutter as he does all the hard-work by bowling long spells and keeps it tight with others benefiting from it by taking wickets.

So what made one of his biggest critics like me change my perception about Tim Bresnan? For a minute, let us rewind back to Ashes 2011 in Australia. Everyone from commentators, journalists in the press box, or the fans are debating on why the success story of the Ashes, Finn has been dropped and the unheralded Bresnan has been selected to play the third test at Melbourne. On expected lines, Andy Flower and co. are getting criticised heavily for taking such a decision, but in the end, Flower and co. got it bang on right with their selection as Bres in that series didn't just provide the wicket-taking option that the greenhorn Finn did in the first two tests, but also bowled long spells and gave England the much needed control in the middle overs by bowling line and length. Bres also got reverse swing which completely flummoxed the Aussies at Melbourne.

With England winning at Melbourne, the team was able to retain the Ashes, but there was still the unfinished business of winning a 50 over cricket World Cup. The hard grind of playing the Ashes and seven meaningless Onedayers down under  took heavy toll on England's players as one by one got injured. Rest of the players looked like they had just fought in the Towton war and had no more energy to play cricket. Bresnan though, like a true gladiator came up with a splendid performance at Bangalore against India in the WC. The pitch at Bangalore was so flat that it looked like an expressway. In-fact, those groundsmen who prepared that pitch can be used to prepare the upcoming Indian Grand Prix track! Bres like a typical Yorkie didn't lose heart as he kept hitting the good length and during the death overs bowled a sensational spell to rip through India's batting line-up and give England a semblance of chance of winning the match. If India had scored another 20-30 runs,  the match could have been over after the first innings itself. England team  flopped miserably in the WC, but Bres showed that he is a true fighter. Bresnan though, wasn't lucky with injuries as at the start of the English summer, he got injured yet, in the recently concluded series against Lanka, he made a fine comeback by picking up crucial wickets.

What makes Bres tick as a bowler? He is neither lightning quick nor can he swing it like a banana, but it is his ability to bowl old fashioned line and length and get just enough movement off the seam either way that helps him to get wickets. Bres hits the bat hard, has now got a yard quicker and can bowl reverse swing, but let it be on those flat wickets in Bangladesh,  in the Ashes, or in the WC, it was his ability to bowl line and length and the stamina to bowl long spells which helped him to succeed. At present, he is no doubt the unsung member of the side, who bowls with good control and keeps it tight. I haven't even talked about the fact that he is a decent bat, as he is a powerful striker of the ball and for a lower order batsman, has a decent technique. I do hope Bresnan gets selected ahead of Broad against India, as in the few chances he has got in Bangladesh, Australia, or in the WC, he has shown that he is a very reliable player, who can come up with consistent performances. 

To be honest, I see him as a key member in the team that will take up the gauntlet of playing the number one side India. Jimmy Anderson with his late swing is always a threat and the same can be said about Tremlett as he gets awkward bounce from a good length. England though, require Bres as he bowls long spells and keeps it tight which in turn will help Anderson and Tremlett to remain fresh and go for the kill. I also do believe that Indian batsmen won't like to face his bowling as he hits a good length and brings it back into the batsmen sharply. Leaving Laxman, none of the Indian batsmen like to pull but love to cut (Tendulkar has almost cut out the pull shot from his armoury due to injury problems). Bresnan's length can just tuck them up for room as he shapes it back into the batsmen sharply. One of the key reasons for South Africa's success story in the 90's against the Indian team was, because most of the bowlers leaving Donald and the tearaway Schultz, tended to do what Bres is doing at present, bowl a good length and give no room for the Indian batsmen to cut.

Having said all that do the selectors have the courage to drop the so called enforcer, who has a nasty streak from the side and pick Bres? We as cricket fans can just think of wishing the wholehearted cricketer from Yorkshire all the best and hope against hope that selectors have the brains to pick him for the mouth watering clash against the Indian team.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Why is Tremlett special?

About 18 years ago, a tall, dark and handsome fast bowler with a stare that would make the best of batsmen feel that he is going to murder them the next ball blitzed Australia's top-order by taking 7 for 25 on a  trampoline wicket at WACA. It seemed like the Australian batsmen consisting of players like Waugh twins, Boon, Taylor, Border and co. were lilliputs facing up-to a giant, who was hurling hand grenades at them. Fast forward to present time, another very tall fast bowler built like a bulldozer was killing Lankan batsmen of the calibre of Jayawerdena and co. like flies in the first innings at Rose Bowl. He also made fans like me   a bit nostalgic and think about those great spells by the tall, dark and handsome man from the Caribbean.

You all must have guessed it by now that I was thinking about the great Antiguan fast bowler Ambrose and the other bowler is of course, the quiet and shy man from Southampton, Tremlett. The Lankan  batsmen though won't agree as when Tremlett is playing cricket, he is perhaps the meanest and the most intimidating fast bowler going around at present.  Now, for not even one minute I am comparing Tremlett to Amby, as Amby was in a class of his own, but it was a pleasure to watch a fast bowler intimidate the batsmen in an era made up of big bats and flat pitches.

Looking at the way Tremlett has been bowling since his return to test cricket in the Ashes, a casual cricket fan may think Oh! what is the big deal as he is built like a giant and has the natural attributes to bowl fast and frighten the batsmen. The fact though is, it isn't all about having the talent, as to succeed in any field, mental toughness and a bit of luck is a must. In his younger days, Tremlett seemed to be a cricketer, who didn't believe that he had the talent to bowl fast and suffered from ill-fated injuries. Michael Vaughan's comments about him not being mentally tough didn't help either, but thankfully, he has comeback stronger and a better bowler.

Turnaround in Tremlett's career

So, how could a bowler who was down in dumps transform himself from an injury prone, shy fast bowler to a fitter, stronger and a bowler, who frightens the batsmen to death with awkward bounce and a big stare?  Around the same-time last year, Tremlett was released by Hampshire County and there were even whispers in County circles that his days as a cricketer in County cricket was numbered as no one would like to gamble on a player, who seemed to be made of glass. Surrey though, took the gamble and picked him in their squad for the 2010 season. The move by Tremlett to Surrey can be said as the turning point in his career, as it has helped him to become a better fast bowler.  By bowling lots of overs on flat wickets at Oval, Tremlett has definitely got stronger and has learnt the art of bowling on flat wickets. In-fact, when he bowls, it looks like a bulldozer has been ordered to crush the opposition team's batsmen. Surrey's coach Chris Adams may have failed as a batsman  in test cricket, but he is always renowned as a tough guy and the association with him at Surrey surely has helped Tremlett to become better.

Tremlett with experience has learnt that bowling in test cricket isn't just about bowling short and intimidating the batsmen. It looks great when a tall fast bowler bowls a bouncer and the batsman tries to duck under it, or sway away from the line, but to get wickets, the key is to use the short ball as a surprise weapon. It was evident when Tremlett first made his  debut against India in 2007 that he got carried away with bowling short. Yes, Tremlett did get few wickets in that series by bowling short, but at Oval the experienced Indian batsmen decided that instead of playing at those short deliveries, it is better to leave it and as a result, Tremlett came a cropper in that test. Even during his comeback trail in the practice games before the Ashes, I again thought that Tremlett bowled a touch short.  For instance, in the first innings at Hobart against Australia A, he bowled a touch short, but it was in the second innings, he finally showed  his class on a wicket that had become considerably flatter by constantly hitting the good length spot, making the batsmen play and using the bouncer only as a surprise weapon. Since that game, he has hardly put a foot wrong. In-fact he has got better as one could see in the first innings at Rose Bowl, as after somewhat of an indifferent start, he pinged the batsmen in the crease with awkward bounce and forced the batsmen to edge it behind to the keeper. He also used the bouncer and the full delivery as a surprise weapon to keep the batsmen on tenterhooks.

Final Words

Here is a bowler, belonging to the bygone era of tall fast bowlers, who kept coming hard at the batsmen and made cricket a joy to watch as back then it was an equal contest between bat and ball. So, in a nutshell Tremlett belongs to the rare species of tall fast bowlers whose very existence is cricket is threatened due to big bats, too much cricket and flat wickets. In near future, we may not find a single fast bowler, who would make the batsmen think twice about coming onto the front-foot, but at least at present, let us all enjoy the the  tall fast bowler from Southampton built like a Coast Redwood tree of California frighten the batsmen to death with his bounce and a big stare. I just wish that Tremlett can play for a few more years without too many injury problems and continue to bowl like he has done at Perth, Cardiff and Rose Bowl.