Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Will the Indian cricket board display some will?

All said and done, World Cup 2007 has turned out to the worst world cup outing for the Indian cricket team since 1979, when it lost all three of its games. What is perhaps most galling is that the team went into the world cup as one of the favorites, as opposed to in 1979 when it played in the World Cup for appearances sake alone. The team had on paper one of the strongest batting line-ups. It had the highest paid coach in the game - a former cricket great. What was missing quite clearly was the desire and will to win. For this reason alone, the youthful Bangladeshi's and the figthing Irish deserve to be playing in the Super 8 instead of the Indians.

So whats ahead? The Indian board has called for a review of the World Cup performance on April 6th and 7th, ostensibly to decide the course for the future. We will have to see if the board learns from its mistakes and from the success of the other teams in the competition. Can it display the will itself? Can it begin planning for the future by getting rid of the Dad's army in the Indian team. Can it start picking players for potential rather than reputation. The team that lost to Sri Lanka had four people clearly playing on reputation - Tendulkar the most conspicuous. Can the board show the gumption by getting rid of a player who is a shadow of his former great self and who at age 33 is consistently late on the ball against fast bowling - a quality you hate to see in an international quality batsman.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

England appears the weakest amongst test playing nations

On the strength of todays performance against New Zealand, England to me at least, appears to be the weakest side in the World Cup amongst the top 8 test playing nations. Based on what one saw today, they seem to have only four players in the entire team capable of making a difference in a game - Pietersen, Collingwood, Flintoff and Panesar. The rest of the team is pretty ordinary and collectively the team appears to justify its low ICC one-day ranking. Vaughan and Bell are worthy test match performers but appear to be pretty pedestrian in the one-day version of the game. Vaughan's dismissal today betrayed his lack of maturity as a one-day batsman. He had been beaten trying to pull time and again prior to his dismissal. The number of times he missed out on his favorite pull shot should have given him some idea of the slowness of the pitch. But that was not to happen and he finally played on trying to pull. What was particularly baffling was that Pietersen had just picked three fours of the previous over. Good sense would have dictated that Vaughan give support to Pietersen rather than chance his own arm.

I will not be surprised if we see a close finish in the game between Kenya and England ahead, especially if Pietersen and Collingwood fail to fire in their batting. The English bowling is definitely much weaker compared to competition. Only Panesar and Flintoff are bowlers who can create opportunities irrespective of conditions. Anderson and Plunkett will be picked off quite easily against tougher opposition. Dalrymple is quite clearly not international class. It might behoove England to think about bringing in either Sajid Mehmood or Jon Lewis in his place unless they have tremendous faith in his batting abilities.

Monday, March 12, 2007

South Africa start favorites for WC 2007

I know I am taking a punt here but based on everything I see at this point of time, I think South Africa have a great chance of winning their first world cup ever. They seem to have all the strengths and firepower necessary to win a big tournament. A good set of experienced one-day batsmen to start of with. Messrs. Graeme Smith, Herchelle Gibbs, Jacque Kallis and Mark Boucher are all one day batsmen who could walk into any one day team in the world (may be not together). All these guys are explosive batsmen and are capable of winning big games on their own. Add the solidity of Ashwell Prince to it and you have a very good batting outfit. Looking at the bowling Makhaya Ntini is clearly one of the best fast bowlers in the world capable of bringing that edge to an attack which other wise is fairly steady with Pollock, Nel and Langeveldt who can be trusted to be very disciplined and not give too much away.

However, two big risks remain. The first is the matter of selection. South Africa needs to be able to field the best 11 for every game without bringing politics into it. More importantly, there should be a semblance of fairness to the process because anything perceived to be unfair could bring a distraction to the team which could prove fatal at a competition of this level. The second major risk that South Africa will have to counter is the absence of a genuine slow bowler in the ranks who could pose questions to the best batsmen in the world on slow pitches. If they are confronted with a slow pitch on an important game and South Africa cannot negate the disadvantage of not having a great spin bowler (due apologies to Graeme Smith), it could prove a handicap that its good batting lineup cannot overcome.