2 Declarations from Kohli and Smith. But Who was right?

On the fourth day of the fifth Test against England, India batted on and on, eventually declaring at 7/759. This was India’s highest ever Test score, but that was not the reason for the delayed declaration.

The reason was to provide young Karun Nair a chance to scale the batsman’s equivalent of Mount Everest – scoring a triple century.

Was Indian captain Virat Kohli right in allowing him time to get to 300? Or should he have declared earlier, when Karun was on 250, so as to give India’s bowlers extra time to make a late break-through.

To be fair to Karun, he upped the ante and took just 33 balls to progress from 250 to 300.

The pitch was supposed to be placid. The majority of the pundits were of the opinion that England should have been put in with an hour or so of play. England survived the five overs they had to play. They even survived the first two hours of the fifth day and went in for lunch with all ten wickets left. However afterwards, they spectacularly lost all ten wickets in the next two sessions to lose by an innings. This was the first time any team lost by an innings after putting up 477 in the first innings.

Was Kohli right in allowing his young batsman a chance to reach a triple century?

Sunil Gavaskar in his article before the fifth day’s play had said a few “churlish” questions will be asked, especially if India does not bowl out England, as to why an individual landmark was given importance. However, i feel Kohli was right, even if England had held on for a draw

300s don’t happen often. Only 19 batsmen in Test cricket’s history have scored a 300.The series was already won three-nil. Even if England drew, there was little difference to the overall series result.

If India couldn’t bowl England out in 95 overs, then there was no guarantee that they would get him out in 105-107 overs.

By allowing Karun to reach a triple century, he gave him the rare honour of being only the third batsman, after Sir Garfield Sobers and Bob Simpson, to reach the milestone during their maiden Test ton innings.

The achievement may also give him the confidence to play many more long innings for India, while improving the morale of the entire dressing room.

In contrast, during the first Test between Australia and the West Indies in 2015, captain Steve Smith declared his innings at 4/583 when Adam Voges was 269 not out. This declaration denied his batsman a chance to go in for a historic triple century. However it was in line with the Australian thinking that personal landmarks have no role in a team game.

But i feel Steve Smith was wrong to declare.

Australia were 583/4 in only 114 overs. Their run-rate was over five runs an over. It was not even lunch time on the second day and time was not of the essence.

Adam Voges was 269 not out in 285 balls at a strike rate of 95. His strike rate, in fact, was better than the team’s.

A historic 300 was missed, without any material advantage for the team.

And as things had it, West Indies batted for a combined 106 overs in both innings put together.

It is not that individual landmarks are more important than the team’s interests. They are not, and can never be. However, when the team’s interest is not hampered, there is nothing wrong in allowing a personal landmark. It may lift the morale of the individual and the team, thereby helping team interest overall.

What do u think friends, of these two declarations ?

Is there any such thing as a great Captain?

In football, the coach is the boss, however in cricket, the captain rules the roost.

The skipper makes the crucial decisions from the toss until virtually the last ball of the match.

He also plays a major role in team selection – he is invariably consulted while the team is selected and plays a crucial role in selecting the playing 11. Once the team is selected, the captain makes all the important decisions, like batting order, bowling changes and field placements.

With regards to the captain being a selector, there are contrasting views. Some feel that the captain’s biases get in the way, while a selector will be detached and impartial. Others feel that since it’s the captain who has to deliver the results he should be allowed the players of his choice.

The role of Australian captains over the years makes for interesting study. Allan Border was particular about his players and once reportedly had a heated telephonic discussion when Geoff Marsh was dropped, so much so that he delayed the match by 20 minutes.

Steve Waugh was not interested in being selector, while Ricky Ponting fought his entire career to be a selector but did not succeed. Ironically, when Ponting stepped down Michael Clarke was given the role of both selector and captain, although he stepped down when Australia lost 4 nil to India, and since then the captain is no longer a selector.

In India, while the captain is not a selector, his views are given importance. Earlier selectors in India were even more powerful and in fact took part in panel discussions on TV and wrote much awaited syndicated columns in newspapers.

Currently, the BCCI does not allow selectors to write columns and during both Sourav Ganguly and Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s tenure it was apparent that the captain played a very important role in selection. This is justified as the captain is expected to get the results on the field and hence is entitled to get the players of his choice.

The problem is that when it clicks, the captain is praised. When Tom Moody was reportedly not in the Aussie team for 1999 World Cup and Steve Waugh had a long argument with the entire selection committee ending in his selection, it proved a masterstroke, with Moody playing a vital role in Australia regaining the World Cup. In contrast, Sourav Ganguly, who is regarded by many as India’s best ever captain, was severely criticised for selecting Dinesh Mongia over VVS Laxman for 2003 World Cup, for bowling first in the 2003 World Cup final, and for dropping Anil Kumble for that crucial match.

What about other areas where a captain is expected to show leadership skills? First is the Toss. Don Bradman said, “One bats first, or thinks, then bats first.” Sunil Gavaskar said, “Give the first hour to the bowler, next five hours are yours.”

However, of late, the captain has decided to bowl first – if it clicks, he is called brave, although if it doesn’t, and the opposition runs away to a big score, then his decision is criticised bitterly.

Next is batting order. Normally in Test cricket the batting order is more or less certain but in ODIs pinch hitters are often sent in. It may click, may not. Dhoni’s decision to promote himself in 2011 World Cup final was a captaincy masterstroke, after he hit 92 not out, including the winning six, to lift the World Cup.

However, if he had failed, he would have been howled down, as he promoted himself above the in-form Yuvraj Singh, when he himself was not in form.

Bowling changes and field placements are two other important areas. Here too, if the decisions taken by the captain clicks, it is praised and he is termed inspirational. If it doesn’t, then he is shouted down for allowing the game to drift.

Success or failure determines a captain’s legacy. It also shapes his temparement. Dhoni was praised as ‘Captain Cool’, but when his team did badly, the coolness was frizzled. Similarly, Alastair Cook is relaxed, but in the on-going Test series versus India, he has displayed irritation in press conferences.

If a captain has a terrific team, his job is simpler. When Ricky Ponting had Brett Lee, Jason Gillespie, Glenn Mcgrath and Shane Warne as bowlers and a terrific batting line up, including Adam Gilchrist, his record was second to none. But was he a great captain?

In contrast, if a captain doesn’t have such riches, his job is very difficult.

To sum up, a captain is as good as his team and captaincy is an overrated concept.

India-England Series Review

India by winning the 4th Test match versus England at Mumbai have won the Anthony D Mello series 3 Nil with one match to spare. Interestingly the series in England is known as Pataudi trophy. Sharmila Tagore’s request to name the series here as Pataudi trophy was not accepted by BCCI which instead started the Pataudi Annual lecture, a much awaited annual event with Gavaskar,Dravid,Kumble and Laxman as earlier speakers and Farokh Engineer as the speaker in the event scheduled for 13th Jan 2017

A super, clinical performance by team India so far. Lets look at various aspects of the game and how the two teams fared.

Toss. Too often the toss is given huge credit for wins in India. Yes, toss is crucial, but more important is utilising it. India’s wins are even more highly creditable as they lost 3 tosses out of 4. In the 1st test England amassed 537 but India batted well to get a commendable draw. Two of the 3 Test wins were after losing the toss. Especially at Mumbai it was commendable to win after  England put up 400 which is a huge 1st innings score at Wankhede.

Batting. Overall, India batted better as a team. The stark difference of course was Virat who led from the front.  At Mumbai he conjured up a genius 235 on a difficult track to get his side a 231 run lead. At Vizag he scored a century from 22/2 and in the second innings on a dreadful track too he got 81. Virat already has 640runs in the series so far. Pujara is now settled at 3. While Vijay and Rahul too show that they can be a settled opening pair. For India , Rahane had a couple of low scores in this series. However he is too valuable for the Indian team and has shone in adverse circumstances abroad. It is only a matter of time before he shines in India as well. I expect him to score big versus Australia.

Patience to bat long has been a highlight of Indian batting in this series. Both at Rajkot and at Mumbai they played for a long time which always helps in Test cricket. At Rajkot batting for 160 overs helped them get a creditable draw. At Mumbai they outdid that and went on to post 631.

India has performed creditably as regards the lower half of the order. Ashwin, Jadeja and Saha have chipped in with important knocks. Parthiv stepped up as an opener and did well. Jayant scored a century at Number 9 at Mumbai and earlier in the series too had critically important knocks as well. In contrast, England batted reasonably of as regards the top end of the order but not in the lower end. Even at the top, they did not function well as a team except in the 1st test and that helped India win 3 out of 4 Tests.

The bonus batting gain for India has been that their 3 spinners, Ashwin, Jadeja and Yadav batted very well. Ashwin shows assurance and provides comfort. Jadeja is consistently getting 30’s and 40’s. Jayant of course is batting like a proper top order batsman. Apparently he bats at 4 or 5 for Haryana in Ranji trophy and it shows in the composure and confidence he brings to his batting.

One thing India needs to think about for the future is a 3rd opener. Parthiv did the job superbly here, but may not be able to do so overseas. However there is time. Let us see what the 5 wise men think about this issue.

For England, the silver lining is that for 3 years they struggled to find an opening partner and now suddenly both Haseeb Hameed and Keaton jenning have impressed.In fact Duckett too is promising and should be retained in future scheme of things.

However they lack  an effective number 4. Probably Root can now go back to 4, with Cook, Hameed and Jennings at the top 3.

Captaincy. Here too Kohli is ahead. Cook had a chance in the 1st Test but gave India a too difficult task of scoring 310 runs in 53 overs. Probably a target of 270 or so in 65 overs should have been given. Who knows, an attacking Kohli could have taken up the challenge and England could have gone 1 Nil up. That potentially would have changed the course of the series. Cook may have missed the bus there. Virat deserves credit for constant attack and keenly looking for a win.

Bowling. Ashwin has once again shown himself as India’s leading bowler. He now has 247 wickets in 43 Tests, and is on the way to break Dennis Lillee’s record of fastest to 250 in 48 Tests. Indian greats Kapil Dev and Bedi had 25 plus wickets in a series 4 and 3 times each , and now Ashwin  has achieved it 4 times. With Jadeja as 2nd spinner and Jayant as the 3rd the spin attack seems secure. The pace attack too seems settled with Shami, Yadav, Bhuvneswar Kumar and Ishant Sharma available.

What about abroad. Jadeja has been criticised as being ineffective. So maybe he will make way for a 3rd quick abroad, especially as Jayant with his solid batting will be helpful in all conditions. Or possibly India would like to go in for an extra batsman abroad. Time will tell. I expect this Indian team to do well abroad too.

English bowling was severely hampered by lack of an authentic spinner. Moeen Ali was supposed to be their number 1 spinner, but his lack of effectiveness hurt England badly. They also seemed to have gone in for a wrong selection in Mumbai by going in with 4 quicks. A bowler of calibre of Chris Woakes bowling his 9th over when the team had bowled 170 shows how badly this selection had gone wrong. Trott, Cook and Root all admitted that this was a mistake. Jimmy Andersen getting 4 wickets in 3 Tests shows how ineffective the English bowlers were.

Overall, the better team won against a competitive team – in fair conditions.

India has now won 5 consecutive series in a row. Congratulations.