Super 8 Round-Up: India vs. Sri Lanka

Another match, another loss for the Indian team as we bow out from the Twenty20 World Cup taking, in all probability, the West Indies with us. This match was particularly bad for us because we made a great start to a game and some apathetic batting once again prevented us from not only winning the game, but winning by the 20-run margin that we required to keep ourselves in the running for a semifinal spot.

A good start, for the first time in the Super 8 stage…

India started out well with a new opening partnership of Gautam Gambhir and Dinesh Karthik. Karthik looked energetic and lively and gave India a good start along with Gambhir. Karthik fell to a ball that stopped on him and produced a leading edge, but Raina and Gambhir steadied the ship. In fact, India reached 90/1 after the first 10 and it looked like we were really well-placed to make a strong score and be in with a chance to remain in the West Indies.

However, it was important to note that we weren’t really scoring our runs in boundaries or sixes–more in singles and twos. The pitch and outfield were certainly slow (it took GG about 3 overs to figure out that he shouldn’t pose after each of his drives, which cost us about a run every shot), but it seemed like we were content with poking it around and building a base. Fair enough…

Anti-climactic finish to the innings…

With a finishing crew boasting of big hitters such as Yuvraj, Yusuf, Dhoni and even Rohit, who can tee off on his day, it seemed like the stage had been perfectly set. But what ended up happening was extremely strange and anti-climactic. The hits just never came. As we moved into the 13th/14th over, I began to worry that we had left it too long. Big hitting doesn’t just happen. You can’t flip the switch and start stroking sixes. But it appeared like that’s what we thought. The overs leading up to the slog overs actually decreased our scoring rate. Instead of getting at least a run every ball, we were getting 3-5 runs an over.

When the time came to slog, we all began playing Jadeja-esque cover drives (you know, the type where we need three sixes but he middles it straight to cover?). I think mentally we were already out of the tournament and the players just didn’t make the effort to adjust to the different pitch. We ended up with just 163 runs on the board, scoring a measly 73 runs in our last 10 overs. Worse, we lost only 4 wickets. There was no intent and no execution. To keep ourselves in the hunt, we’d have to bowl the Lankans out for 143 or lower.

Great start with the bowling…

Our bowling innings got off to a dream start with Jayawardene and Jayasuriya back in the hut in the first 2 overs. I believe Sri Lanka were 6/2 at one stage with captain Sanga and Tillakaratne Dilshan at the crease. Dilshan clearly held the key, from my viewpoint at that stage. He was the one who was capable of keeping the scoring rate going while Sanga dug in and prepared to last it out till the end. And Dilshan did exactly that. He took a sword to the Indian attack that should have been rampaging. Instead of keeping the runs down in the Power Play after taking the two early wickets, we leaked them.

Luckily for us, Dilshan holed out to deep mid wicket off a mis-time sweep shot, both physically speaking and from the context of the game. Sanga gave him a piece of his mind, and it looked like we were back in the hunt again. The very able Angelo Mathews joined his captain at the crease… I can’t remember off-hand but I think this guy has been a thorn in our flesh in the past.

A Sanga special followed by a bludgeoning finish…

Sangakkara built a wonderful base based on singles, twos and the occasional boundary and then did what our top order should have done–hit out. He rendered Harbhajan Singh largely useless today and smacked a few sixes off our part-timers as well. Sri Lanka looked to have been out of the hunt from the perspective of the game, but always kept the magic target of 143 at an easy 7.5RPO with wickets in hand. By the time Sanga perished to a Vinay Kumar slower ball, Sri Lanka were well on their way to knock India out.

Angelo Mathews ensured that with a series of powerful strokes that found and crossed the boundary with ease. Again, the distinct contrast between the Sri Lankan death bowling and our death bowling was easily evident, as was the application and intent of their finishers compared to ours. They just wanted it more and it couldn’t have been more obvious. When Angelo Mathews was run out, Sri Lanka had not only knocked India out, but they were well back in the game, requiring 3 runs off the last ball. They had done this courtesy of 3 consecutive sixes–2 off Vinay Kumar and 1 off Nehra. With 3 runs required off one ball, the advantage had to be with India, since the Lankans basically needed a boundary to win the game. Perera, who had bowled so well earlier in the game to restrict the Indians, finished with a flourish and dispatched the ball over the cover boundary to complete a magnificent win for the Lankans.

What it means for the West Indies…

India can now confirm their return tickets from the Carribbean, but Sri Lanka and West Indies are still in the hunt for the second semifinal spot (it would take quite a massive loss for the Aussies to be knocked out). The equation for the Windies is as follows:

Batting First: West Indies need to win by 24 runs or more
Fielding First: West Indies need to chase down the total between 16 and 18 overs depending on the target.

Super 8 Round-Up: India vs. West Indies

Both India and West Indies needed a win to keep their chances in this tournament alive at more than a statistical improbability. Once again, it was the former World Twenty20 champions India who played a poor game of cricket and thus have effectively booked an early flight home. Just as in the previous edition, where back-to-back losses against England and South Africa led to our non-statistical elimination, we now rely on a rickety-bridge sequence of events to occur for us to have a chance. More on that later.

Starting off with poor team selection…

When captains stick to players who have failed, they are putting a vote of confidence in those players. This is generally a good thing to do, except if the player you are putting your confidence on is as pathetic a Twenty20 player as Ravindra Jadeja. I singled Jadeja out for a bashing in the previous match and I will do so here, again. However, today Dhoni takes the blame for selecting him in the first place. Once again, Jadeja made his effect felt in the match in all facets of the game. He started off with a misfield off a simple pick-up in the circle early in the game. He then went on to drop Chanderpaul, who added only 9 more runs but more importantly allowed a huge opening partnership to set the platform for a late onslaught.

When he came on to bowl, Jadeja leaked 27 runs in his 2 overs, which puts his total at about 60 runs in the 4 overs he has bowled in this edition’s Super 8. His first over featured 2 sixes in the first four balls, which coupled with the fact that he had given 6 sixes off his last 9 balls in the previous match, meant that Jadeja has given 8 sixes off his last 13 balls. That’s better than a six every other ball. That’s 4 sixes an over. Yet, he gets selected by Dhoni.

Finally, Jadeja was issued a vote of no-confidence by Dhoni when Harbhajan was sent in ahead of him in the batting order. A good decision, too, because Bhajji actually knows how to wield the long handle. Jadeja couldn’t even clear the infield when he was batting. In fact, he couldn’t even hit the ball in the air when we needed it to rain sixes. Sure, you don’t have the talent or strength to smack a maximum, but what about intent?

To summarize this tirade, please get Ravindra Jadeja the hell out of the Twenty20 squad. I don’t care if  you select him for ODIs or Tests but this guy should be way behind in the pecking order. India would have been so much better off by picking a real bowler and not going in with three specialists only. Sure, there’s the thought that our batsmen would be skittled out by the short deliveries (which they were. But if 7 batsmen are going to get out to bouncers, the 8th one isn’t likely to play a game-changer. Jadeja contributes nothing with the bat or ball. We should have played Piyush or Vijay Kumar.

Batting continues to struggle against short bowling…

The Indian team has NO EXCUSE for this one. They could have played the “surprise” card at the World Twenty20 in England last year when we were bounced out by the West Indies and then England. However, we’ve now had 10 months to fix it. We’ve known that the Twenty20 World Cup is going to be in the West Indies for a couple of years, now. We’ve known that we are shit against short bowling. But instead of doing anything, we prepare for the fiesta that is the IPL and its flurry of flat tracks. The fact that we don’t have a single pace bowler who can hit 140k’s is embarrassing in itself. The fact that international grade cricketers can’t pull the ball is pathetic. How the hell are these guys going to play ODIs and Tests outside of the subcontinent?

The mathematical uncertainty…

There is a tiny ray of hope for India to qualify to the next round. First, Australia will need to wallop both Sri Lanka and West Indies. Then, we will need to wallop Sri Lanka. This will put Australia at 6 points and India, West Indies and Sri Lanka at 2 points. However, for this to happen, Sri Lanka will need to be destroyed by both Australia and us since their NRR is at an imposing +2.850 compared t our -1.575.  I’ll post a mathematical update at the completion of the Australia-Sri Lanka game in the event that Australia win. To recap, if Sri Lanka win, India is mathematically eliminated. This will put Sri Lanka at 2 wins and since Australia and West Indies both have 1 win each and play each other, one of them will have 2 wins, which is more than India can manage.

Australia go in with 5 front-line bowlers. India went in with 3. </discussion>

Super 8 Round-Up: India vs. Australia

India played Australia today in the first Super 8 match-up of their group in a pretty one-sided match. Both teams looked pretty strong on paper but one team came out strong and played almost perfect cricket (Australia) while India faltered at almost every juncture. The only change Australia made was to play Mitchell Johnson in place of Ryan Harris. India made 3 changes: GG for Dinesh Karthik, Rohit Sharma for Piyush Chawla and Zaheer Khan for Praveen Kumar (who was injured, anyway). The extra batsman (Rohit) raised some eyebrows, but in hindsight ended up a good decision (more on this later).

A rare maiden followed by some ordinary bowling…

India started out really well with Harbhajan opening the bowling in an increasingly obvious “change-up” move. Bhajji started things off with a well-bowled maiden in an over that featured flight, variations in pace and length. While Watson and Warner were still getting their eye in, Bhajji stuck to the basics and bowled good line and length. That’s something no other bowler managed throughout the rest of the innings.

For one, all our bowlers save for Harbhajan had some sort of addiction for the long hop. I don’t know if it was because they were nervous and were letting go of the ball late or if they were just inept. Everyone from ZaK to Nehra to Ravindra Jadeja to Yuvi to Yusuf bowled rank long hops. Watson (who has modified his Twenty20 game to feature a baseball-like swing) and Warner made the most of it by taking advantage of the short boundaries to amass sixer after sixer. At one stage, Ravi Jadeja had given away sixes in six straight deliveries (although 3 of them were the end of one over and the other 3 the beginning of his next). It was particularly frustrating that I, the viewer, knew exactly what the problem was. Ball after ball our bowlers would pitch it short and the batsman would hoick it away for a maximum. The Aussies hit 16 sixes, which is just one short of the record for most sixes in a Twenty20 innings.

Pulling it back to make it a manageable target…

When I left to watch the rest of the game at the local Manchester United Pub in Phoenix Mills, the Aussies had about 160 in 16 overs. By the time I reached my destination, India had pulled it back to give only 25 runs in the last 4 thanks to some decent bowling by Yuvraj, Zaheer and Nehra (I didn’t get a chance to watch any of these overs). 185 against a quick Aussie line-up on a flattish pitch is no easy task, but it was certainly better than staring at a 200+ target. I was quietly optimistic, although my cousin had suggested before leaving that the Indian batsmen, having seen the Aussies smash short balls from their spinners all afternoon, would attempt the same unsuccessfully against the Australian fast bowlers. A more accurate prediction had never been made…

Poor shot selection leads to an ordinary start

Gambhir and Vijay seemed to start off on the right foot–the front foot, that is. I didn’t expect Australia to feed us with a barrage of delectable long hops, but it seems like our batsmen expected it. After a quiet, but safe, start, the innings began to unravel. Vijay, Gambhir and Raina fell within the space of 10 balls, all to pathetic shots. Vijay tried to force a delivery to the leg side that could have been comfortable hit down the ground, Gambhir hit an extremely ugly mistimed pull to mid-wicket and Raina top-edged a horrible pull shot off Tait that is guaranteed to get him some short bowling for a few more years of his young career. The three shots not only effectively gave us an extremely poor start to a difficult run chase, but demonstrate that even our batsmen hadn’t come to the game with their brains in their heads. First it had been the bowlers who seemed adamant to drop every ball short with their lack of pace, and now the batsmen were trying to pull 90+ mph bowlers across the line with all their power. It was a disaster waiting to happen, and it happened.

Rohit shines as the middle order collapses

At 17/3, you’d expect some sanity entering the proceedings and the batsmen at the crease trying to play themselves in. Unfortunately, that was not to happen. Yuvi was outdone by a brilliant yorker from Nannes (I think it was the first yorker of the day, too, I don’t recall our bowlers bowling anything but long hops) in what I thought was the only Indian wicket where the batsman could be given the benefit of the doubt. With Yuvi dismissed, I lost all hope of a miraculous comeback. Dhoni and Yusuf confirmed this, the former with a completely unrequired slog to long-on and Yusuf with a mindless swipe that caught an edge and flew in the air before being pouched smartly by Warner, running in from the deep cover-point boundary. At that stage, India were 42/6 and it looked like we would be bundled out for less than Bangladesh a couple of nights ago, and in fact less than 100.

Luckily, Rohit Sharma began playing a beautiful innings that allowed us to save some face and, more importantly, some net run rate (although we still ended the day with a NRR of -2.45). Sharma was the only top-order Indian batsman who tried playing straight (apart from Dhoni, I guess) and he was the only one who demonstrated how short the straight boundaries were. Rohit ended up with 4 fours and 6 sixes in his innings and even mistimed lofted drives were clearing the boundary with ease. While Watson and Warner played awesomely powerful innings, there’s no doubting that they were aided by the small field–something that no Indian batsman attempted to use to their advantage.

Harbhajan and Zaheer played cameo innings before the innings fizzled to a close on the back of a Shaun Tait over (Rohit probably should have sheltered the two instead of putting them on strike against Tait–but it would have taken a very optimistic and egotistical batsman to do that with 2 wickets in hand and 50 odd runs to get in 3 overs). In fact, Harbhajan was the second highest scorer at 13 runs (third was Extras) and he outscored Murali Vijay, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Yusuf Pathan and MS Dhoni. Combined. I think that statistic tells all, really–the Indian batsmen didn’t really apply themselves at all (except for Rohit).

Things to take from this game…

India still have 2 games to go and if we manage to win both of these, we could possibly still qualify to the semis. Of course, being beaten so strongly isn’t going to do any favours to our NRR. As I type, it looks like the West Indies will fall short against the Sirils, so we have to hope that they beat the Aussies and that the Lankans lose to the Aussies (and we win, of course, against both of these teams…that’s a necessity). It’s never nice to play the NRR game, though. In the two previous editions of this tournament, we have been in a similar situation–requiring victories of our final two Super 8 games to go to the semis. In the first edition, we won against England and South Africa and the rest, as they say, is history. Last year, though, we lost to those very teams and hence were knocked out. I would definitely take West Indies and Sri Lanka over England and South Africa, but it’s safe to say that it is an uphill climb from here.

Other comments I have to make are as follows. First, Ravindra Jadeja. I don’t know how this bloke still makes it to our Twenty20 team. He was a crap Twenty20 player last year and he is still an insult to many more qualified players in our country. The guy’s only saving grace is his economy while bowling (I believe his economy hovered around 7.00 before this game) and that went for a toss today. His batting just isn’t aggressive or imposing enough to be a factor in a Twenty20 game–he’s not going to win games as a finisher and he doesn’t rotate the strike well enough to recover from early wickets (such as today). As I remarked around this time last year, when Jadeja almost single-handedly lost us the game against England, he just does not deserve his Twenty20 cap. Today, he caused a massive momentum shift from a decent first 2 overs to one where he gave away 19 runs. I’m all for him playing in ODIs and Tests (in a few seasons, of course), where he has more time to work his game, but he’ s not a good player for this format.

Second, short-bowling. It is obvious that we have troubles with short bowling. This was evident in the game we played last year, against the West Indies, where all 7 of our wickets fell to Bravo/Edwards and our first three wickets had been snaffled out for 29 runs. Not a lot has changed this year. It seems our batsmen still feel like every short ball must be pulled, regardless of pace, line and (lack of) talent. Yuvi is the only batsman in our team who I can confidently say knows how to pull the ball. The other guys need to work it out in the nets, not in the middle of a crunch game against Australia. We will likely be tested with the short balls against the West Indies on Sunday with Kemar Roach and Jerome Taylor both 90+ mph bowlers. Sri Lanka will be slightly better, but we may well be out of the tournament by then (not to mention our old tormentor, Ajantha Mendis, seems to have hit some form).

Finally, opening is an issue for us. We have been spoiled by the ease with which Virender Sehwag dents opening attacks. Sehwag is good at using the pace of the bowlers he faces to get his runs. Although he struggles against the short balls, he is smart enough to know that he can’t pull a brisk pace bowler against the line and instead employs an uppercut shot. With the boundaries as short as they are, Sehwag could well have got a couple of sixes in that direction and made the Aussies rethink their bounce strategy. As it stands, our openin lineup right now is very weak indeed. Gambhir has looked like he misplaced his bats in his kit and Vijay only looked good against Afghanistan, against whom he only scored at a strike rate of a shade over 100. Our opening partnership needs to click if we want to survive till the next round of this tournament.

ready, set, rant!

It has been a bloody long time since I have made an entry into this blog. My French Euro Trip series has been abandoned with 3 days to spare. Any enthusiasts can see the rest of the photos in my Facebook album. If you’re not my Facebook friend, then I probably do not want to share any more of the details of the trip with you, anyway. 😉

So the subject of this post is, quite simply, “rant”. A number of things have annoyed me in the last few days so I have decided that instead of keeping them all in my head, I will transfer them over to teh interwebs where they will stay published forever (or until a server crashes, or I delete it, or something). Without further ado, let the bashing begin!

1. Satellite TV in general, DirecTV in particular

I know satellite TV is still this kinda new thing (yeah, right) and I was excited to see all the discounts I could get on a new DirecTV installation. So, last week, I finally decided to take the plunge on getting TV in my apartment and signed up for a DirecTV account. I think it was actually around 10 days ago. I was able to get about $21 off on their “new user” discounts in addition to a $10 discount for using a referral code from someone at NI. So I was saving a sweet $31 a month for 12 months, and getting TV at about $40/month. Or rather, going to get all this. Of the several appointment days available, I decided to choose the Saturday 8am-12pm slot, since I was gonna be at work the rest of the time.

My first mistake, perhaps? Turns out Saturday is a super-busy day (who woulda thunk it?). So naturally, DirecTV’s local field office should have been a little bit better staffed, right? Wrong. Pity me, who woke up at 8am, excited for the smell of new TV. It wasn’t until 12.15pm that I felt miffed enough to call and when I called, I was told I would be called within 20 minutes. I received a call from the local office to confirm that a technician was present. I told them quite curtly that there was no technician present, while reminding her that it was already 30 minutes past my rather-large-time-range appointment. She said she’d call back in 20 minutes but only a fool’d believe her. I was a fool.

Luckily I was able to get a lot of stuff done in the mean time, such as getting a “permission form” signed from Riata that allowed me to get a satellite in my patio, as well as getting some batteries from the Food Mart nearby and figuring out a rent check error with Riata. I also figured out rent/expenses issues with Hubert at that point.

Still nothing. I called DirecTV again at around 1.30pm and asked them, in kinder terms, “What the hell?” They told me they’d get in touch with their local office again (with whom their only method of communication happens to be, wait for it, …. email). This time the local office called me, apologetically, saying that the technician was late (no, shit!) and that he’d be there in 35 minutes. I got some other errands done and finally the technician arrived.

And after waiting for more than 5 hours for him, our meeting lasted less than 5 minutes. Apparently the satellites are located in the “southern sky” whereas our patio can only see satellites in, well, the rest of the freaking sky. So, no DirecTV. I called and cancelled and checked Dish Network’s availability. Looks like they used to be in the “northern sky”, which would have been perfect, but they are now operating in the “southeastern sky” area. So no Dish. So… no satellite. Humph. I have sold my soul to AT&T (see next gripe).

2. AT&T U-Verse: An arm and a leg for TV

After my failure with satellite and my ever-growing appetite for television (in particular, trash TV) I decided to look at my options. Basically it was down to the two “cable”-esque providers: Time Warner Cable and AT&T. I wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of dealing with either of them, to be honest. I have heard very bad things about TWC and I have experienced very unprofessional behaviour from AT&T. I don’t think I ever disclosed the shenanigans that took place when I first moved to Austin and tried to get my own Internet.

Basically, to save some time, I decided to order my AT&T internet from Houston a few days before I reached Austin. That way, I hypothesized, I would minimize the amount of non-Internet time. As it happened, AT&T’s dysfunctional website decided to eat my apartment number and hence the modem+router never got delivered. When I tried to call them to ask them to call FedEx and have it redelivered, I found out that their phone department and internet department is not connected. This is absolutely ridiculous, in my opinion. What’s the point of having a tech support line for online orders, then?

Once I got all that cleared out and billing time came around, I received two bills–one for the account that was never created and one for the fixed account. To make matters worse, the second account took me for a business and hence charged me nearly double. A long phone call later, everything seemed to be figured out, but I’ll be keeping an eye on my next few billing cycles.

Anyways, I finally brought the wallet out for AT&T U-Verse and went with a pretty expensive plan that is supposed to give me $200 cashback after I activate. At this point, you are probably asking me why I fell for the AT&T trick again, and I have no valid response. I am hoping that somehow the stars will align and everything will miraculously work. Unfortunately, there has already been a slight issue, since right after I placed my order, the confirmation page said, “If you have an AT&T DSL service at that location, that account will be cancelled.” I immediately opened up a tech support chat window to figure out what’s up.

Turns out AT&T has TWO SEPARATE INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS. It’s as if they are purposely inventing stuff to confuse the consumer further. I have an AT&T High Speed Internet account, whereas since I’m going with AT&T U-Verse for TV, supposedly my account will be transferred to an AT&T U-Verse Internet account. I foresee further issues.

That’s it. I grew tired after those two rants, but I was planning to rant on the Indian cricket team. Then I realized that I never really cared about the ICC Champions Trophy, so I didn’t care that India got knocked out early. I am a little unhappy, though, that I will miss out on the opportunity to watch/DVR the Twenty20 Champions League or India-Australia ODI series later this year. Oh well, I guess Dish/DirecTV are saving me some money, after all.

india-england post-mortem: india out

Well that’s that. India’s batting let them down in a major way and we are now officially out of the tournament. As expected, the English bowlers bowled it “around the earholes” of the Indian batsmen with good effect; we managed only 59 off the first 10 overs. It is pretty pathetic to be in an international side in any format of the game and not be able to play short deliveries. I guess it points out a major shortcoming in the Indian domestic cricket structure.

Openers

Rohit Sharma and Gautam Gambhir failed once again as Sharma unluckily pulled one onto his stumps. I suppose the loss of Sehwag is beginning to show here–a part-time opener can go only so far. It may have been worth surprising the English, who had obviously made “bouncer” plans by sending in an unconventional opener, such as Yusuf Pathan. However, Dhoni left his “thinking out of the box” to make another ‘brilliant’ move. Gambhir looked in fluent touch for once, though, so I suppose that is one positive.

Middle Order

I haven’t seen an Indian batsmen play so pathetically against a short ball as Suresh Raina today, since the days of Sourav Ganguly. Not something you’d expect from one of the 5 cricketers named as the cricketers of the next century by Wisden. All the same. It appears he did not work on facing the short delivery in the nets, since he looked even worse against it than in the game against the West Indies. And instead of putting the pull shot out of the playbook, he decided it would be more intelligent to attempt it and obviously holed out. Sigh. This is the downside of picking “youngsters” I suppose. They do some really stupid things on the way up their learning curve.

Next came Dhoni’s “mastermind” move. Ravindra Jadeja. In my earlier post, I conceded that Dhoni may have made a correct choice by picking Jadeja, but any thoughts of that quickly vanished after his pathetic display of batting today. I believe Dhoni had sent Jadeja in to play the same role as England had sent Mascarenhas in to play: get some quick runs at the cost of a relatively cheap wicket. Unfortunately, Jadeja neither got quick runs nor got out nor rotated the strike. If his performance in the warm-up game against New Zealand was bad, this was downright unacceptable. I said after that New Zealand game that I hoped Jadeja was no where near our starting XI. I was wrong. I change that now to say that I hope Jadeja is never near an Indian international cricket squad in his life. He’s just not good enough–not for Twenty20 anyhow. He has now displayed that he not only lacks the ability to finish games, but he doesn’t have the ability to build a base for someone else to finish the game. He clearly shouldn’t be opening, so the only way I can see him in the game is as a pure bowler. I actually think Irfan Pathan would have been a hell of a lot useful with the bat than Jadeja was, today. All the same, it was still Dhoni’s mistake to send Jadeja in instead of coming in himself. As a result, Yuvi didn’t come in until the equation was too imbalanced (11+ runs per over required) and hence he was negated.

Lower Order

Yusuf Pathan showed why form players should be pushed up the order. Dhoni continued to struggle with the bat, but the two made a valiant effort to save the game, and got within 3 runs. Yusuf, in particular, hit a one-handed six to get the equation down to 9 from 2, but was only able to dig out a block-hole delivery the next ball to secure the win for England. Yuvi, who looked in good touch, was dismissed by a quickfire stumping opportunity by Foster off Swann, and that was honestly where we probably lost the match.

General Thoughts

A lot of the current crop of batsmen seem to display no on-the-field intelligence. Jadeja, for example, pulled 5 out of 6 balls in a Stuart Broad over. 3 of them were miscued and 2 of them he missed. In the age of innovative paddle shots, reverse sweeps galore and walking across the stumps, it is absolutely unacceptable that you stand in your crease and get eaten up by bouncers. You’ve had 2 days to plan against it and if you aren’t comfortable pulling it, think about other ways to counter it!

This was again in evidence in the penultimate over bowled by Stuart Broad. Broad bowled in the same area every single ball. The commentators knew what he was going to do, so the Indian think tank should definitely have had that knowledge. Yet Yusuf Pathan and Dhoni both stayed on their leg-stump guard and tried to hoick it to the midwicket boundary every single ball. Seriously? Move across the stumps. Walk down. Take guard inside/outside your crease. Don’t just follow the pig in front of you on the way to the slaughterhouse!

Fielding

After everything is said and done, the two glaring points of this match and this tournament was our poor fielding and our inability to play the short-pitched delivery. If you simplify the match naively, India would have won this game if Harbhajan hadn’t bowled one down the leg side on the last ball of the over, and Yuvraj hadn’t misfielded it. We gave away 5 runs on that ball and we lost by 3. England saved at least 15-20 runs more than us in the field, which is not acceptable seeing that we are not lugging around any of our “seniors”. These are all youngsters and should be at the peak of their fitness and athletic ability.

The Future

I will be supporting the Lankan team now. Mendis, Murali and Malinga seem to be the package that could just stop South Africa on what appears to be a clear path to the championship now. Sri Lanka’s batting still depends heavily on their openers firing, but their bowlers seem to have the ability to defend almost any total, regardless of how low it is. It’ll be interesting to see how their semifinal and perhaps final opponents address that problem.

india-england, mid-innings break

It’s a do-or-die match for India and Dhoni won the toss and opted to chase. Interesting that Dhoni almost knew that he was going to win the toss. Not that he can be faulted. It feels like he wins about 90% of the tosses that he’s participated in! Anyhow, he decided to go in with Jadeja to bolster the chase. It would have been interesting what he would have said had England won the toss and opted to field first.

Anyhow, India changed their line-up to bring in RP Singh for Irfan Pathan and Ravindra Jadeja for Pragyan Ojha. My initial thoughts on this line-up was not too positive. Jadeja had not impressed in the warm-up match against New Zealand and Irfan had been our most accurate bowler in the loss against West Indies, as I had pointed out earlier. Definitely Ishant should have been the one to go, but it appears that he retained his spot simply for being a right-armer, since evidently Praveen Kumar (PK) is not good enough (although he averages <30 in ODI’s, if I remember correctly).

India struck really early with RP removing Luke Wright in his first over. However, KP and Bopara led a good revival and built a quick partnership. Ishant continued to disappoint and ended up going for 36 off his 4 overs with no wickets but plenty of poor balls. Dhoni tried all the gimmicks, including getting Yuvi to bowl to KP, an experiment which, unsurprisingly, failed. It appeared that KP and Bopara were running away with the game until Harbhajan was brought on and he tightened the run rate up a bit. At the other end, Ravindra Jadeja shined with the ball, snaring both Bopara and KP in his spell.

That really spelled the end of England’s momentum as Mascarenhas, who was promoted at the fall of Bopara’s wicket to push the scoring, failed to get any sort of rhythm. England ended up posting 153 for the loss of 7 wickets, which is not a mammoth total, but is one that could cause the Indian team trouble if the English bowlers pick up a couple of early wickets.

Finally, a note on our ground fielding. It was worse than pathetic. Luckily we aren’t dropping any catches, but we continue to be extremely shoddy in the field. I think we are probably only ahead of Pakistan in terms of fielding, taking into account all the Super 8 teams. This was in evidence in what should have been the final ball of the innings with England on 148. Harbhajan bowled one down the leg-side (a cardinal sin given that it was the final ball and he should have been looking at just getting it to pitch rather than being a full toss). Yuvraj misfielded at short fine leg and the ball ran away for 5 wides.

Anyhow, Sharma and Gambhir have now come to the crease so it’s time to watch the game. I will have another update at the end of the match… a post-mortem, if you will.

india-west indies post-mortem

India have just dropped their opening Super 8 game against Chris Gayle’s West Indies side and are now precariously placed in the last position of what is inarguably the the Super 8 “group of death”. What this means is they now have their backs to their wall and will be confronted with must-win games the rest of the tournament. Before I take a look at what they need to do, let’s take a look at what they did and didn’t do in this game.

Indian innings

MS Dhoni won the toss and chose to bat, in this game, a throwback to his “bat-first-no-questions-asked” policy of the 2007 World Twenty20. It seemed like the correct decision in the time and probably was, in retrospect, the correct decision, but the Indian batsmen came up a bit short, literally, against the West Indian bowling attack. Gautam Gambhir looked in decent enough touch but the in-form Rohit Sharma fell after just 3 deliveries, trying to pull his Deccan Chargers teammate Fidel Edwards twice in a row. The first one was not well-timed but ran down the hill for a boundary; the second was a touch fuller and caught the top edge, with a good catch being taken by Lendl Simmons to give the Windies an early breakthrough.

The batting didn’t get much better for a while, with Suresh Raina being sent in at number 3 for the first time since India has arrived in England. Gambhir and Raina didn’t last long, with Edwards snagging Raina as he played a nothing shot after being softened up by two bouncers. Gambhir fell an over later, trying to hook Dwayne Bravo out of the ground and becoming the second Indian batsmen of many to fall prey to the short delivery. Dhoni finally arrived at the crease, having sent Yuvi in at number 4, and the two built a slow, but steady, partnership. Unfortunately, it was more slow than steady, with the two adding only 37 runs in a ball short of 8 overs, before Dhoni played an awkward square cut straight to the fielder stationed at deep point.

India had a breath of good luck after Yuvi was dropped in the same over, and him and Yusuf Pathan breathed some air back into India’s innings, adding 64 runs in about 5 overs. Yuvraj was in great touch and leant into the Windies bowlers, including the nippy Taylor, before becoming yet another victim of Edwards’ short ball. With him, India’s hopes of posting a big enough total also disappeared, although a cameo from Bhajji at the end gave the bowlers something, 153, to bowl at. As it happened, it was not near enough.

West Indies innings

The West Indies got off to a lacklustre start, with Gayle looking a shade of himself from the Australia match earlier in the tournament. In fact, he played out only the second maiden of the tournament against Harbhajan Singh! Andre Fletcher fell pretty early while trying to smack Irfan Pathan away, and Lendl Simmons came in to replace him. The two didn’t do anything flashy, but added the runs at a quick enough rate to keep the Indians on their toes. Both players were taking too long to score the runs, though, and Gayle finally fell while trying to slog-sweep Yusuf Pathan away.

The team then pulled off their most critical move of the tournament, by opting to send Dwayne Bravo in ahead of Shiv Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan. Critics and pundits alike have been screaming hoarse for Bravo to be given a bigger role in the West Indies batting, and he showed today why they have been wreaking this pain on their throats. He played a brilliant knock that reminded me of these two match-winning innings he played in the span of 3 days against India the last time we toured the Carribbean.

Although the required run rate was hovering between 9 and 10 when Bravo came in, he and Simmons knocked the ball around intelligently and with a boundary every couple of overs to keep it manageable. When Simmons top-edged one trying to execute the final push and Chanderpaul in, the game was evenly poised. That is, however, when Dwayne Bravo took over. Seeing that Chanderpaul would be more of a liability, he took most of the strike and dispatched our bowlers all over the park. A booming six over cover to end the game showed what pretty batting Bravo exhibited on the day, and also showed his pure match-winning capabilities. All the sixes he hit were in the 90-100 m range, and would have cleared any ground in the world.

India’s bowling woes continue. After getting off to a good start and strangling the opposition in the middle overs, the death bowling again let us down. Dhoni is going to have to think seriously of bringing someone more accurate, such as Praveen Kumar, into the mix in place of Ishant, who has been, quite frankly, deplorable after a good spell in one of the warm-up games. Luckily Zaheer looks like he’s back, and Irfan is swinging it at 85+ mph, so getting our death bowler straightened out could be the missing key in our bowling attack.

A thought on the fielding

Our fielding today was horrible, in contrast with the West Indies’ who, although they dropped a couple of chances, took a couple of brilliant catches, including Simmons’ dismissal of Gambhir. In particular, their ground fielding was almost flawless, with only a couple of fumbles and I think no misfield. In contrast, India gave up 4 runs at least twice when a fielder misfielded the ball in the inner circle (the culprits I remember being Harbhajan Singh and Yusuf Pathan). Our ground fielding is already several rungs below South Africa’s and England’s, and if we don’t pull our socks up there, we have no hope of pulling off a miraculous jump into the semifinals.

A thought on the captaincy…

For a man whose gut instincts are usually pretty good, I thought Dhoni made several mistakes today. Obviously, he’s been under undue pressure from external sources (namely, the Indian media who continue to wrangle him about the Sehwag episode). However, the couple of oversights I would like to point out are as follows.

First, I think Dhoni should have come in at number 3 when Rohit fell. Not only has he habitually been coming in at number 3, but, in retrospect, a calming, nudgy innings is just what we needed at that stage (as Lendl Simmons proved later that evening). Sharma fell in the second over and both Indian batsmen already showed signs of struggling against the extra bounce and pace of Jerome Taylor and Fidel Edwards. Instead of exposing the young and aggressive Raina, Dhoni should have taken the onus to come in ahead of him and take some on the chest. Raina hasn’t had much batting in this tournament because of our opposition as well as the strength of our batting, so dumping him in at the deep end of the pool could potentially have been a bad decision.

Secondly, Dhoni mis-used Irfan Pathan. Pathan was the bloke who was getting the most swing and troubling the batsmen the most. He, ironically, brought home the best figures of 1/9 but bowled the fewest number of overs (2). Irfan should definitely have been bowling in the end instead of Ishant, who was coming on to the bat nicely. I was surprised Dhoni didn’t use him, in fact, since he has trusted Irfan with this role in the past, and since Irfan made his comeback into the ODI team. Again, maybe this was just an instance of the gut instinct going wrong.

What do India need to do?

Strangely, this result places us in almost the same situation that we were in the last edition of the cup, in 2007. Then, we had been placed in a group with England, South Africa and New Zealand. We dropped the first game to New Zealand by 10 runs (NRR of -0.5, here we have one of around -0.7) and then beat England and South Africa (in that order, which is the same order we have the games this time) to qualify to the semis ahead of both those teams. They say lightning doesn’t strike twice, but this coincidence is a little too much for me to keep up with!

In my opinion, we definitely have to beat South Africa if we want to go through. We won’t be able to do this with just one win (over England) and let the NRR do the rest for us. We’re already at the bottom of the table when it comes to NRR. If West Indies beat South Africa tomorrow, they’ve all but guaranteed their spot (unless England/India drop all their games, in which case it will become a three-way tie). I expect South Africa to beat West Indies, though. This group is wide open, right now, with South Africa being the clear favourites. It’ll be interesting to see how it pans out, but I have confidence in our team performing with their backs to the wall. It’s going to be a good few days of cricket!

making blunders out of thin air

As many of you may know, the International Cricket Council (ICC) is currently hosting the Twenty20 World Cup in England. The tournament thus far has been pretty exciting and has seen a couple of upsets, including ODI champions Australia crashing out, but the tournament structure has come in for a lot of criticism. Most of this criticism, I agree with. Let me dissect the issue by round.

First Round

The 12 teams were put into 4 groups of 3 each, with the allocation of the groups being determined by the team’s performances in the previous edition of the World Cup. This was used since there are no Twenty20 rankings that have been devised by the ICC, that could be used to better predict the skill of each team when it comes to this version of the game (not to mention that it is highly unpredictable in the first place). The seedings based on last year were as follows:

  1. India (winner)
  2. Pakistan (runner-up)
  3. Australia
  4. New Zealand
  5. South Africa
  6. Sri Lanka
  7. England
  8. Bangladesh
  9. Zimbabwe
  10. Scotland
  11. West Indies
  12. Kenya

The seeding system, then, is pretty straightforward. Seeds 1, 2, 3, and 4 are placed in different groups and 5, 6, 7 and 8 in different groups in reverse order (so that 1 is paired with 8, 2 with 7 and so on). That’s a conventional seeding system. After doing this twice, these are the groups:

Group A: 1 – India, 8 – Bangladesh
Group B: 2 – Pakistan, 7 – England
Group C: 3 – Australia, 6 – Sri Lanka
Group D: 4 – New Zealand, 5 – South Africa

That’s when the logic breaks down, though. With Zimbabwe and Kenya being replaced by Ireland and the Netherlands in this edition, how will those teams be seeded? I am not aware of what algorithm the ICC used, but they ended up putting Ireland in at 9, Netherlands at 10 and Scotland at 12. I’m not sure why Scotland was moved around. The logical thing to do would have been to remove the teams that did not play and then move the teams below them up. Hence, Scotland would be 9 and West Indies would be 10. Then Ireland and the Netherlands would be placed at 11 and 12, presumably using their ODI ranking as a tie-breaker. I have no idea why Scotland was moved down, even though they played in the last edition, and why Ireland was automatically placed above West Indies, given the latter is a Test nation and undoubtedly stronger. In my opinion, the ICC messed up (no surprise). The first round groups should have been:

Group A: 1 – India, 8 – Bangladesh, 9 – Scotland
Group B: 2 – Pakistan, 7 – England, 10 – West Indies
Group C: 3 – Australia, 6 – Sri Lanka, 11 – Ireland
Group D: 4 – New Zealand, 5 – South Africa, 12 – Netherlands

This would still result in a group of death (Group B), but this time Ireland and Netherlands would be correctly placed below Scotland and West Indies, who were obviously better enough than them to qualify for the last edition of the tournament. I suspect the organizers used fuzzy logic, instead, to make the going a little easier for hosts England, who had a higher chance of being knocked out if grouped with West Indies instead of Netherlands. As it happened, the Dutch beat the English, but did not have enough luck to do the same to Pakistan!

Second Round

As if the first round wasn’t riddled with problems, the logic really goes for a toss in the second round. In the Super 8’s (the second round), last year’s results are again used as a way to pre-seed the teams. Hence, India is A1 and Bangladesh is A2. Pakistan is B1 and England is B2. The trend continues. Groups E and F (the super 8 groups) are then comprised as follows:

Group E: A1, B2, C1, D2
Group F: A2, B1, C2, D1

This is the same silly concept they used in the 2007 World Cup (and what a farce that was!). Since 2 out of 3 teams qualify from each group in the first round, if a seeded team is knocked out the unseeded team simply takes no their seed. Which makes no sense whatsoever. Essentially, the second round is seeded based on the way the teams were playing Twenty20 in 2007! What it also means is that it doesn’t matter how you perform in the first round as long as you notch up enough on the board to get through to the second round. This has resulted in the last 3 first-round games being dead-rubber games with nothing to gain for either team involved except pride and momentum. This seeding system has created a whole host of issues. Let’s look at the Super 8 groups fleshed out:

Group E: A1 – India, B2 – England, C1 – Australia, D2 – South Africa
Group F: A2 – Ireland, B1 – Pakistan, C2 – Sri Lanka, D1 – New Zealand

Not bad, if you look at their performances last timea round. Two semifinalists in each pool, right? Except, let’s take a look at this year’s ACTUAL results (hypothesizing that India beat Ireland and Sri Lanka beat West Indies; I will append a _T to signify this is the “True” seeding of the team based on the most current results):

Group A: A1_T – India, A2_T – Ireland, A3_T – Bangladesh
Group B: B1_T – England, B2_T – Pakistan, B3_T – Netherlands
Group C: C1_T – Sri Lanka, C2_T – West Indies, C3_T – Australia
Group D: D1_T – South Africa, D2_T – New Zealand, D3_T – Scotland

This would create the following Super 8 groups:

Group E: India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand
Group F: Ireland, England, West Indies, South Africa

These groups look a LOT more balanced to me, given the way each team has played in the competition thus far. Instead, what we are going to see is two solid teams being knocked out from Group E (which contains both pre-tournament favourites!) and one weak team in Group F (Ireland) making it a three-way race. So the structure is indeed fraught with problems and someone at the ICC obviously took their thinking cap off while devising it. Mind you, it appears that the ICC has been long suffering from a shortage of thinking caps over the last decade or so.

The worst part is it won’t get any better next year, either. In effect, by creating a group of death and eliminating one Test nation guaranteed every year, you are going to make sure the group of death effect is present the next year, as well. See, next year Australia will be in West Indies’ position and Ireland in Bangladesh’s. Which means Australia will be in the group of death again next year while the winner will probably have a group with Ireland and another associate nation.

Some people seriously need to be out of jobs, which is a pretty bad thing to say now, in the current state of the economy. Oh well, I’ll pray for a revolution every night, anyway.

upcoming posts

This is a whet-your-appetite combined with a reminder-for-me note alerting the both of our parties about the upcoming posts coming up on my blog. I’m putting it down in concrete form so that if I don’t forget what happened, I can recount my experiences in word form, and if I do (forget) then you (and I) at least have a brief idea of what happened.

  • Sohum eats mangoes
  • Sohum watches 99 with his mom
  • Sohum learns to cook Indian-style chicken curry
  • Sohum watches Aa Dekhen Zara on DVD
  • Sohum gets batteries and a film-roll for an old-school Canon EOS 3000QD
  • Sohum thinks about the ICC World Twenty20 event a bit more

So that’s what’s coming up. I may just have to wake up early tomorrow and get all this done as if it were some sort of paper. Naah….

enjoying the hot heat

It has been a while since I updated this blog, but that does not mean I have not been eating mangoes in plentiful proportions (not that there is any direct connection between those two events). The last few days have been quite “busy” where business contains large expanses of time where I’m lazing around doing nothing in front of the television.

First and foremost, I want to give a shout out to the gym here at my parent’s new apartment. It is quite possibly better than the gym at Rice, though probably containing a fewer number of equipment. This is probably because the gym just opened and hence all the equipment is in mint condition! Anyhow, what this means is that I’m working out pretty much 4-5 days a week (the gym is closed on Mondays). What this also means is that I’m waking up at an unreasonable hour for a vacation (between 8.30am and 9.30am). Oops. Need to work on that and maybe workout in the evening.

I also played basketball at school last Tuesday, and am planning to go tomorrow, as well. ASB has changed a hell of a lot, but my performance in the MPH was torrid as usual. I don’t think I scoerd a single point on offense, although I did have the most number of layup opportunities (and I missed all of them). My jump shooting was poor. I’m hoping it’ll have improved by tomorrow! Not only was I playing basketball after a couple of weeks, but the conditions were alien as well (shut up, Shulmith!). Hopefully I’ll cab it tomorrow so I can stay later.

Another thing I have been doing the last few days is trying to get a decent grounding on the Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF). One of those summer-projects of mine is a cricket simulator for an online cricket community I’m a part of, and I’m trying to work the UI through WPF instead of WinForms, since I have limited knowledge of both. It has been a steep learning curve, especially compared to the fun world of web UI programming. I’ve managed to find a few solid resources, though, so hopefully I should have a first version of the UI up later this week.

Our family went through the 2 dozen mangoes we purchased in little under a week, and we then purchased something like 2-3 dozen more. So there are a plethora of mangoes available for efficient consumption from the fridge. I’ve taken a few photos, but the camera and all the supportive cabling is too far away so that’ll have to wait for another day. Meanwhile, you can just trust me for telling you that the mangoes are, indeed, deliciously tasty.

Oh, I also watched a lot of the Indian Premier League (IPL) including the semifinals and finals. I didn’t really support any team after the Mumbai Indians crashed out, but I didn’t mind the Deccan Chargers, the eventual winners of the tournament. The thing that concerned me, though, is the fact that throughout the finals weekend, it was evident that the teams/players haven’t adjusted to playing after losing early wickets, yet. In all three games, the team batting first lost a few early wickets and then went into their shell and set substandard targets. In the semis, Deccan and Bangalore made short work of the targets set by their superior opponents, but in the final, Deccan managed to defend a small target thanks to a bit of luck. In the second semifinal, MS Dhoni was the key culprit after slowing down the scoring in the middle overs and being unable to accelerate towards the end. The man will have to do some thinking before going into the Twenty20 World Cup in a couple of weeks.

Also, a note on the NBA Playoffs–what the hell is going on? The commisioner must be in a frenzy as his Kobe-LeBron championship appears to be in jeopardy at the moment as the Magic have stepped it up. Although the Cavs still have homecourt advantage, the Magic look pretty good. Of course, the NBA Eastern Conference finals are not important enough to be screened on ESPN/Star here. The Western Conference games are shown… live. Go figure? Sure the Eastern Conference is usually boring thanks to teams like Detroit (=P) but still… Kobe and the Lakers have wrested back homecourt advantage after the Nuggets stole one in L.A. Game 4 is tomorrow and I’m contemplating waking up at 7AM to watch it.

I think that’s all for now. I’m just going to go back to my WPF self-training. Cheerios.