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.