Saturday, July 26, 2014

How India Created History at Lord's after 28 years

History repeats itself they say. Cricket is a team game they also say. This time Team India made both these statements come true by creating history at the Mecca of Cricket. Why is this win vs England so special? Well, there are many reasons. 1st - India won a test match at Lord's after 28 years, 2nd - India won an overseas Test Match after 2011. 3rd - It came vs England who recently had outplayed Team India in India in 2012 and in England in 2011.

Jadeja hits. India wins.
What a great test match it was at Lord's. A Test Match which every cricket lover wants to see. It started on a green pitch with England being on top in the 1st session. Then a fight back by Ajinkya Rahane to get India to a good total. A century at Lord's is always special and Rahane did it in his first take at this venue. He scored a ton when his Team was under pressure making it even more special. England innings was also full of see-saw battle in which some quick wickets fell early and then Gary Ballance played an outstanding innings to score a century and take his team close towards India's score. He got out sooner after he reached the three figure mark but still England were able to take the lead. Indians started their 2nd innings differently. Shikhar Dhawan gave India a good start. He was playing attacking cricket and was looking good but unfortunately departed for 31. His partner Murali Vijay continued and played an innings full of determination and concentration. He scored 95 runs in 247 balls. He left the ball alone outside off pretty nicely. India were in trouble after Vijay got out as the lead was just 211 Runs and seven wickets were down. In came Ravindra Jadeja who had recently been in the news for his fight with Anderson in the first Test. Jadeja showed that nothing can stop a good player. He smashed 68 runs of 57 balls which included nine fours. This knock gave a new twist to the match. India had now taken their lead past 300 and pressure was on England. England now had four and a half session to achieve the target of 319 runs in order to win this Test Match. They started nicely but suddenly lost the track. Some quick wickets fell as the light was fading on fourth day at Lord's. England were 72 for four before they could realise.

Fifth day started and England fought back with a bang. Joe Root and Moeen Ali held on to their crease and also scored runs. England were looking for that target of 319 which had now become a possibility. Suddenly MS Dhoni changed his plan. He gave the ball to Ishant and told him to fire in bouncers in the last over before lunch. He succeeded and got Ali out with a good bouncer directed on his body. Ishant came back after lunch with the same strategy and kept on picking wickets. He was bowling with pace. His run up also looked good. More importantly he made the batsmen play those bouncers. Bowling bouncers with a 70 overs old ball is not easy but Ishant made it look easy. England batsmen were not able to handle the pressure and got all out an hour after Lunch. The most interesting part of this match was it's ending. Jadeja got Anderson Run Out with a direct hit to make it a perfect ending. Jadeja made sure that he replied to Anderson through his brilliant performance on field.

In the end it was a combined effort by Team India to win this Test. In a Test Match it's important that everyone contributes because it's next to impossible for a single batsman or a bowler to make his Team win. This Test Match at Lord's was surely a memorable one for every Indian Cricket Fan. Those who watched it live on TV and in the stadium can proudly say in the coming years that they witnessed India's historic win at Lord's after 28 years.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

India's Tour of England 2014 - Test of mental toughness more than the cricketing skills

Team India during a warm up game in England
England summer has started and India is also ready to start their England Tour. This time the tour is really long. For fans next 3 months are going to be filled with exciting cricket whereas for players its going to be a test of mental toughness. We don't often see India playing a 5 match test series. India last played a 5 match test series in England way back in 1959.  The real test of any team is playing a long test series abroad. Its good for Indian Cricket that we are again back playing more test matches. No doubt that results of test matches are the best way to know how good a team is.

This test series is being called ' The Big Test ' and the tagline is absolutely correct. Its going to be an all round test of every player both physically and mentally. A long test series can become a burden for players if the team doesn't do well in the 1st two test matches. This is the time when players need to buck up and keep going. Their enthusiasm and passion for country should never go down. This Indian team is young and has some extra ordinary promising talents. Their cricketing skills are superb but now its time to show that they can do well outside India in the longest version of the game.

In batting department , we have Shikhar Dhawan , Cheteshwar Pujara , Virat Kohli , Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane. We have seen in the past that when these players are in full flow they are unstoppable. In a long test series form of a batsman depends upon many factors. First and foremost a batsman needs to be patient and try to get some runs in the initial part of the series. Once the batsman is aware of the conditions and his positive factors he can quickly better his form in the remaining part of the series. If the form does not strike early its vital for the batsman to remain focused and calm. Hurrying up things will not be a solution. Its obvious that when form is bad the enviornment around a batsman changes but to become a great batsman its important to overcome the bad and be mentally prepared for the good things to come. One of our main batsman Virat Kohli has shown his determination and mental toughness in the past. When India toured Australia in 2011 , Virat was part of that squad. In the last test match of that series he scored a century even after being out of form during that tour. India lost the series and that match but his innings is a great example for every young cricketer to learn from. Its important to have a never give up attitude. I am sure many more players in this squad have this attitude in them.

Test matches can sometimes be very hard on the bowlers. Batsmen can take rest after getting out but for bowlers they have to bowl and field at the same time. It gets tougher when the opposing team is having a long partnership. In such an event we often see body language of our bowlers going a bit down. This is where the mental toughness is tested and only the bowlers who have that extra bit of firepower succeed. In bowling department, We have some good swing bowlers like Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mohammed Shami. Shami was impressive during the South Africa and New Zealand tour which took place a few months back. A lot is expected from him in this England tour as well. Ishant Sharma has also been picked. His form in the recent past has been inconsistent. Generally its seen that if Ishant strikes early he becomes a different bowler but in case he goes for some runs he gets wayward in his line and length. In absence of Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma needs to take more responsibility and become the spearhead of our bowling attack. He should keep a positive mind set. Pankaj Singh has been picked for the 1st time in the Indian Squad. His domestic cricket record is mind blowing. He should definitely be a part of the playing XI.  Ravindra Jadeja , Stuart Binny and Ravichandran Ashwin are the all rounders in this team. All the three players are equally good. Stuart binny being the new comer has less experience. Jadeja can be a sure shot pick for the playing XI as his form in the champions trophy in England was superb and he is good in all 3 departments of the game.

Now talking about the most important player of the team MS Dhoni. MS Dhoni being the captain of the side has extra responsiblity and his decision making in tough or crunch situations needs to be spot on. Many say a captain is as good as his team. Yes this is true but we have to also accept that certain decisions on the field can change the game and those decisions purely depends on how a captain thinks. MS Dhoni has said in a press conference recently that he will play attacking cricket. We have seen MS Dhoni go on defensive many a times in the past when Team India played abroad. He definitely needs to change this mind set and be attacking. We have seen Sourav Ganguly, Former Indian Captain do well abroad as he attacked. MS Dhoni needs to learn from Ganguly. Hopefully we get to see a different MS Dhoni this time.

All in all, This England tour will tell us who is the best out of the rest. The team which will play fearless and attacking cricket will have an upper hand. The players who come out fighting from tricky situations are going to taste victory. Team India needs to make sure that they never lose hope during tough times and keep fighting hard till the very end.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Can Team India again become T20 Champions?

One of the biggest cricketing event of 2014 is about to start and It's the T20 World Cup. Team India the 1st T20 champions are also ready for this event but the big question is that can they do well? As the recent results have been horrible for Team India. They lost in SA in December 2013 then in NZ in 2014 and the latest one being the Asia Cup. For sure Team India is feeling the heat. Indian Cricket Fans are also very sad seeing their team lose again & again.
Team India celebrating after winning the T20 World Cup in 2007

Team India should now forget the defeats and start afresh. Lets rewind the time and go back in 2007. 2007 is the year in which we saw Team India crash out of the 50 over world cup and then come back hard with a fresh young team to win the T20 world cup. This year also we have a Team which is young and inexperienced. Now the things players need to show is the hunger to perform and immense passion as they are representing the country in an event like World Cup

We have the players who can do it & they just need to believe in themselves. MS Dhoni's captaincy will play a vital role. Its very important for him to be pro-active and aggressive as he used to be in 2007. Openers Dhawan and Rohit need to give Team India good starts. They are free flow stroke players and T20 format is ideal for them as they can express themselves with the strokes they like to play. Kohli the man in form will hold the key for India in each game. We have to accept that he gives us the same assurance as Sachin used to give during his peak days. Yuvraj is also back and i am pretty sure he would be very eager to show that he still belongs to the international level. Other thing about Yuvraj is that no matter how bad his form may be but when he hits the ball it stays a hit. 

Team India's bowling is not that good as compared to the other teams but time has come for our bowlers to show the world that they can deliver under pressure. A team cannot become champions without good bowling performances. If Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mohd. Shami can give us the initial breakthroughs then our spinners will surely tighten the screws in the middle part of an innings.

Hoping to see a performance where Team India give their best and more importantly fight till the very end. Wishing them All the Best for the T20 World Cup 2014 in Bangladesh

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Are the days of MS Dhoni - The Test Captain over?

First and foremost before i start this post i would like to say that MS Dhoni has given us 2 World Cups, Asia Cup and a Champions Trophy. All these are limited over tournaments. No doubt that when it comes to the limited over format specially one day cricket he plans well, leads well and motivates well.

Now coming to Test Cricket and his captaincy in the toughest format of cricket. Lets go back in time, when MS Dhoni became the Indian Test Captain. During his initial days as a captain we did well in NZ in 2009 and also in SA in 2010. The main reason being Sachin Tendulkar , Rahul Dravid , VVS Laxman , Gautam Gambhir & Virender Sehwag being in their prime form and performance of them being outstanding. Then we went to Australia and England in 2011. Our openers failed to deliver and our senior batsmen didn't contribute sometimes. Everyone thought that due to the bad performance of our seniors we lost. Seniors retired after that debacle & sooner our openers were also dropped. Dhoni's captaincy was also very bad in these two tours of 2011 but it was not discussed in detail.

Now coming to 2013 and the present time. MS Dhoni wanted a young team and he got it. Team India were now ready to tour SA and NZ.  This was the time for him to showcase his leadership skills and guide this young team to victory reason being he had already toured these two nations but what happened was exactly opposite. He failed to motivate the youngsters , his on field calls left everyone stunned , he didn't select the team according to the conditions and when the team needed the captain to come forward  he didn't respond and always remained out of ideas. This didn't happen once or twice but several times.

Clearly It's quite evident that the captain doesn't want to prove himself in Test Cricket and looks disinterested to play the purest form of cricket. Lets just take the instance of 1st Test of India vs NewZealand , Jadeja and Dhoni were batting and India required around 130 more runs to win with a session and a day left. What happened is Jadeja and Dhoni started playing T20 style cricket thinking they will get close to victory but in test cricket there is need of application and patience which Dhoni being the captain should have told to Jadeja. Now may be Dhoni wanted to finish the match quickly and not wait for the 5th day or he was not confident enough in defending the ball. If Dhoni thinks he can get away by doing things like this then he is wrong. Even we saw in Test Matches played in India for example when England toured India in 2012 they applied constant pressure on India. What we saw is that the pressure always got the better of Dhoni

Now what lies in the future for Indian Cricket. Time has come to give a new young player captaincy of Team India in Tests. Indian Cricket fans are fed up with the series of losses overseas.BCCI and selectors should know the importance of Test Cricket as it reflects how much good a team is. Test Cricket tests everything and currently all the other teams like Australia, England and South Africa are doing well at the Test Level. Its now time for a change and its urgent before India tours England in June this year.