Review of India’s ODI and T20 tour to Australia

The 2016 Indian tour to Australia featured 5 ODI and 3 T20 matches. India lost the 1st 4 ODI in a row before India got a consolation win in the 5th Match. India however won the T20 series 3 Nil. In India’s 1st 4 ODI losses the talking points were India’s ineffective bowling, Skipper MS Dhoni’s ineffective batting and even more uninspiring captaincy. Luckily India prevented a whitewash by winning the 5th ODI. They went on to win the T20 series 3 nil and in the process becoming the top T20 team in the world.

Let us take a look at the overall tour and whether it was overall a gain or a loss

Batting/ODI/Positives.

There is no doubt that it was a big success overall. India’s successive scores in the 5 ODI’s were 309, 308, 295, 323 and 331. However they still lost the 1st 3 matches despite setting record targets for Australia in 3 different venues at Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne. The 4th match was at Canberra and India scored 323 while the 5th match was at Sydney where India by scoring 331 finally won a match. 323 and 331 were India’s highest ever scores at Canberra and Sydney respectively too. So isn’t it incredible that in 5 consecutive matches India registered their highest ever scores at 5 different venues. Even if it can be theorized and said that ODI pitches are the same nowadays in every place it was definitely an awesome performance.

The individual batting positives for India were Rohit, Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, even Shikhar Dhawan ( later in the series) and Manish Pandey. Rohit and Virat especially were outstanding as regards their considtency . Rohit had scores of 171 , 154, 41 and 99  while Virat had 91, 59, 117 and 106 in 4 of their 5 knocks. Rahane had 2 important scores of 89 and  50 while  Dhawan’s significant knocks were 126 and 78. His 68 i am discounting as it was off 91 balls which contributed in India being 30 runs short. Pandey scored a matchwinning 104 not out in the last match. Its incredible that Wasim Akram said on live commentary that after Virat scored 91 in the 1st match, he told him that he missed a hundred and the reply of Virat was “ Wasim Bhai, i will have 2 hundreds before the series is over” and he indeed walked the talk and did it. It can therefore be seen that the entire top order for India performed for all the 5 matches.

Manish Pandey deserves a special mention for doing well in a match where Virat failed and Dhoni was clearly struggling. He not only did well but remained till the end and scored winning runs against a huge Australian total of 330. Well done Young Man, and keep it up

Batting/ODI/Negatives

In the 1st 4 matches after the top order did remarkably well, the rest of the batting fell away and for all the 4 matches India finished 30 short. This is excusable for a match or two but not 4 in a row. Ashwin later said that India miscalculated the Par score and did not aim for more than what it had as in world cup in Australia less than a year back teams were winning after setting a target of 300. This however is not enough of an excuse and deep thought is required. Did we drop Raina a series too early ?

Dhoni was a big disappointment as regards batting His scores if one sees were 18 in 18,  11 in 10, 23 in 9, 0 and 34 in 42 balls. However one has to realise that time and tide wait for none. What he was doing effortlessly the last several years suddenly became so difficult for him. Especially in the last ODI when he came in India needed around 100 in 90 balls and suddenly it was 40 in 24. Luckily we won in the end but the doubt remains as regards his batting.

Bowling/ODI/Positives. The only positive seems to be Jaspreet Bumraah who with his unusual action impressed with his change in pace and attitude. I hope he continues like this and no cricketing Pundit asks him to change his action to lengthen his career.

Bowling/ODI/Negatives. There are many. In 3 venues, despite weak death over batting India set up record targets at 3 different venues but could not defend. In the 4th and 5th ODI too Australia scored 348 and 330 type. We need to ask ourself many questions. Including can any Captain do well with such bowling ?

Captaincy- Positives. Not much to think about, even with a long hard look. Probably the silver lining is that Dhoni and Kohli seem to have excellent camaraderie which is good for the team

Captaincy- Negatives. Many negative points come to mind. Was it required to state that we have no quick bowling allrounder when rishi Dhawan was in the playing 11. And then play him in next match. Was it required to play 2 spinners in Australia. And if so, was it required to drop Ashwin who is supposed to be our no.1 bowler. Was it correct to drop Manish Pandey after he had played only 2 matches and did not bat in 1. After all, if Rahane had not been injured Manish Panday would not have even got a chance to play in the 5th match at all.

T20 Series/Batting/Positives       Well, the Indian team batted splendidly in all the 3 matches , outbatting Australia in the 1st 2 and in the 3rd rattling up 200 in a spirited chase, with a last ball finish. Kohli batted supremely in all the 3 matches and as Sunny Gavaskar says he is in such form that he can bat at night without floodlights

Batting/Negatives. NIL.

Bowling/Negatives. Not many really. Yes in both the 1st 2 matches the Aussies went off to a great start and then lost their way after the spinners came in. In the 3rd too there was nothing much wrong with the bowling. If a special batsman like Shane Watson scores 126 most teams will concede 197. However will Hardik Pandya provide the needed balance to the team. Not too impressive, time will tell.

Bowling/Positives            The bowlers did not give up in the 1st 2 matches after the Australians went hard at us in the 1st 10 overs. That was commendable. Bumraah impressed in this form as well. So did Jadeja and Yuvraj.

Captaincy. Overall, fine , no issues.

Is it a 4-4 series. No, it is 1-4 for ODI series and 3-0 for T20 series. Still it was refreshing and positive of Virat Kohli to say after the 4 th ODI was lost in a row that its time to think of it as a 8 match series and that they will try to win the next 4.

Conclusion. Maybe we need to think of a new ODI captain in Kohli. That may allow Dhoni to play freely and we may get the best out of him as a batsman wicketkeeper once the stress and strain of captaincy is away from him. Will he play under Kohli ? Well, he should. Anyways, he is one of the top 5 ODI greats of all time, and i would like to see him play for some more time as a player only.

Overall this is a satisfying tour for us. India has established itself as a batting superpower in ODI and T20 at least. Winning the T20 series 3 Nil is important as it will help us for the T20 World Cup. Ending the tour on a positive note by winning is in itself satisfying.

Looking forward to the nest series which will be covered in detail as well. Thanks

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Random thoughts on allrounders in cricket

My simple understanding is of an allrounder is one who can be selected in the team either as  a bowler or a batsman. Obviously there will be batting allrounders (Like Jayasuriya) as well as bowling allrounders (like Hadlee), in the sense that the former is one whose batting is more important and for the latter bowling is more prominent to the team.

A generally accepted rule is that the batting average of a player should be better than his bowling average. It is interesting that only three players in the history of the game , Sobers, Kallis and Water Hammond have a difference of more than 20.   Walter Hammond i would however not figure in my list of great all rounders simply as he has less than 100 test wickets.

Is Sir Gary Sobers the Greatest all rounder ever ? After all he has scored more than 8000 runs at an average more Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara, apart from taking 235 test wickets. Is it recently retired Jacques Kallis. What about Ian Botham who has the feat of 5 wickets in an innings and 100 in the same test match as many as 5 times which even the great Sobers and Kallis have done twice.

My view is that it is Gary Sobers. His 1st test ton at 21 was 365 and he broke the world record for highest test score. He was the 1st to hit 6 6’s in an obver. He was a brilliant fielder too and as a bowler could bowl both spin and pace

Is a wicket-keeper an allrounder. Many call Adam Gilchrist and MS Dhoni as allrounders as they could perform more than one roles. I would prefer to call them batsman-wicketkeepers instead as an allrounder for me is one who can perform the roles of batsman and bowler with equal alacrity

Who was the last great all-rounder ? Undoubtedly, its Jacques Kallis. As a batsman he was as important to the team as Rahul Dravid . He scored as many runs as the Wall  with more test tons and a better average. As a bowler he has performed as well as Zaheer Khan with 292 test wickets compared to Zak’s 311. What a dream for any captain. No wonder, after his retirement South Africa are finding it difficult to have team balance as for 1 player they are having to field two

In the 80’s and early 90’s the cricket world was fortunate to see at the same time 4 great All rounders namely Botham, Imran Khan, Sir Richard Hadlee and our very own Kapil Dev. All 4 were great exponents of the game and are among the finest all rounders the world has ever seen. If one were to rank them batting talent wise i would go in with Botham at the top followed by Imran, Kapil and Hadlee. For bowling i would go in with Hadlee at the top followed by Imran, Kapil and Botham. These all rounders are players any Captain would literally speaking kill for.

After the era of these 4 great all rounders we could say that Wasim Akram, Andrew Flintoff and probably  Shahid Afridi were the all rounders in world cricket. Flintoff was probably a genuine all rounder with almost 4000 runs in test cricket as well as more than 200 wickets. Wasim definitely while being probably one of the top 5 pace bowlers of all time was hardly an all rounder if one takes his batting into consideration. Same is the case with Shahid Afridi, especially if Test performances are taken into account.

The quality of allrounders has almost certainly deteriorated with passage of time. From Imran Khan to Wasim Akram, from Ian Botham to Freddy Flintoff ,from Kapil Dev to Chetan Sharma and from Kallis to Ryan mclaren shows in each case the predecessor being of higher quality. In India the deterioration is even more drastic in recent times with a few ( apology for using the derogatory term)  pretenders  like Stuart Binny, Ravindra Jadeja, Rishi Dhawan and Hardik Pandya playing for the country.

Did we miss a trick somewhere by not holding on to and persisting with Irfan Pathan. Was he badly handled ? we will never know.

Who is the best allrounder now. Currently Four new exciting allrounders have emerged, namely Angelo Matthews, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell and Ben Stokes. However while Angelo and Mitchell bowl mostly up and down stuff, Maxwell, who is called the Big Show plays ODI and T20. However the shining star definitely is Ben Stokes who in 27 tests already has 4 test tons, 7 Fifties and 71 test wickets including five in an innings twice. One of the test tons was an extraordinary 258, which was the 2nd fastest 200 off only 167 balls. Stokes as a bowler too is capable of running through a side. Interestingly both his Fivers so far were against the redoubtable Aussies, including a devastating 6/36 recently. His is a career one can look forward to.

The spin bowling allrounder one can also think about in world cricket is Shakib al Hassan who has almost 3000 runs and 3 tons in his 42 Tests along with 147 wickets. He is one of only 3 cricketers to take 10 wickets and score a century in a Test match, other two being Botham and Imran.

Currently the best 2 allrounders in world cricket are Shakib and Ben Stokes and it seems only a matter of time that Stokes occupies the Numero Uno spot.

Rest in Peace dear Half Blood Prince

Alan Rickman, at 69, has left us. Alan, a giant figure in British screen and stage was also extremely popular for his baddy roles as Sheriff of Nottingham, as Rasputin and as Hans Gruber, adversary of Bruce Willis in Die Hard.

For me however, Alan Rickman will always be in my memory as the inscrutable Professor Severus Snape. This is because Snape played an important part in the early childhood and growing up into teens of my elder daughter and he was part of a magical journey of several years we took together, throughout the Harry Potter series of books and movies. This being a pleasant memory, I will briefly take you all through it. Very briefly, since this Harry Potter journey of Dad and kid daughter I would like to write a separate blog post in itself.

The journey began one pleasant evening in the year 2004 in Darjeeling where my wife, 6 year young daughter and myself had gone to spend a few days. Walking across Mall Road (all Hill stations of India have a Mall Road) we came across someone we knew in Kolkata, a pleasant lady from Israel named Mrs Cohen. She was Executive Assistant to a most dynamic CEO I knew and had worked with too. This was the 1st time she saw my daughter and instantly took a liking to her. Among her 1st questions to her were “Do you read Harry Potter?” On hearing “not yet”, she took my daughter to Oxford Bookstore, Darjeeling and presented her the 1st book of the series. Thereby Mrs Cohen introduced her to a magical world which had so many interesting characters including Professor Severus Snape.  The books came first and the movies later and both were interwoven into each other, adding to each other’s charms.

If one word comes to mind again and again while thinking about Snape, it has to be the word ‘Inscrutable’. The character itself was imaginably complex. Only a wonderfully gifted actor could have portrayed such an incredibly complex role and Alan Rickman played it to perfection. Imagine the diverse range of emotions he had to portray. Lost Love, Unrequited love, Scorn, hatred, anger, pathos, sadness, sorrow and more. Snape had to show all of this and Rickman did it with aplomb. His was a character which developed more and more with each book (and each movie) and became more and more complex. Finally in classic JK Rowling style, everything was explained and Rickman was the person, the actor who did it with consummate ease. After intense deliberation, however, I think I would like to correct myself- Alan Rickman did not just play Severus Snape, he was Severus Snape.

One thing more I just have to say regarding our journey was that my daughter and I used to have theories about the next Harry Potter Book coming up and later after the Book was released we used to compare and tick how many of the theories were correct and how many were wrong. Astonishingly and almost unbelievably we got what we had thought was a far fetched theory of Professor Snape and his relationship with Professor Dumbledore and Harry Potter correct.

Today he left us. By the way Its coincidence that in the same week another great exponent David Bowie died in the same age of the same dreaded disease. Rest in peace , David Bowie.

Since this is a tribute to Rickman it will not be complete without quoting 2 persons irrevocably linked to him. Here goes-

Tribute of Daniel Radcliffe- “Rickman was one of the greatest actors I will ever work with as well as one of the loyalist and most supportive people I’ve ever met in the film industry”

Tribute of JK Rowling- “There are no words to express how shocked and devastated I am to hear of Alan Rickman’s death. He was a magnificent actor and a wonderful man”.

I have to mention that apart from the baddy roles and Professor Snape, Rickman also played a memorable role in a supernatural romance “Truly, madly, Deeply”.  He had 3 important roles with Emma Thompson in two movies “Sense and Sensibility” and “Love Actually” and also in a BBC Drama “The Song of Lunch”. He will go down in history as one of the most compelling talents to grace his work on Stage. You will always be in our memory Alan. I am sure that right now too you are performing on Stage and that too wonderfully well in your Life after Death.

Coming back to Snape, the best tribute to Rickman as an actor is that he was the only person whom JK Rowling had given a hint of information about Snape as a double agent even before he appeared on camera. Remember, when the movie started only 3 books had been written and no one knew how the journey would unfold. That was the trust she had in him as she wanted him to get into the complexity of the character. Which he did with panache by becoming the character.

Rest in Peace, Half Blood Prince.