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ishant sharma

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Aggression in the time of Virat Kohli: Justified or not?


Aggressive teams win, right?

That’s the conventional wisdom.

What if I told you it isn’t so?

It’s not aggressive teams that triumph but offensive ones i.e. teams that play offense as against defence.

Note the difference.

Why is this relevant?

It’s of significance because Team India—in cricket—have turned over a new leaf under Virat Kohli’s leadership and Ravi Shastri’s stewardship.

They are playing aggressive cricket—always looking to win and willing to give as good as they get on the field.

This is the New India—the India borne of the BCCI’s clout and Indian cricketer’s early exposure via the IPL to the rigors and pressures of international cricket.

They are fearless, they will not give a damn or that’s what they would have you and I believe.

They have something their predecessors lacked—attitude.

It’s not that Indian cricket hasn’t seen aggressive skippers before.

Sourav Ganguly was a brat as skipper—irrepressibly keeping Steve Waugh waiting for the toss and tearing off his shirt at Lord’s when they clinched the NatWest trophy.

He was also extremely successful—but his success came from his recognition that to win overseas, he had to build a conveyor belt of world-class pacers to be able to take on the English, South Africans, Australians and New Zealanders at their own game in their favoured conditions.

Ganguly’s churlishness was reactive; he had a point to make. Indians did not like to play tough or rough but would do so when push came to shove. They were not to be cowed or rolled over that easily.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni for all his tactical acumen in ODI cricket wasn’t as successful as Ganguly when it came to playing abroad.

He was more a defensive skipper; he would rather ensure that the game was not lost before seeking the win.

Virat Kohli’s assertion that he would play five bowlers  and let the specialist batters do their job is a breath of fresh air.

If he can find the right personnel to do the job, it is a strategy that can pay huge dividends.

What would Kohli not give to to have had Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman and Tendulkar—in their prime—in this side? No disrespect to the current bunch of cricketers but they have miles to go before Indian fans sleep.

What is aggression?

An essay titled “Aggression in sport” on site believeperform.com defines it as “any form of behaviour directed toward the goal of harming of injuring another live being who is motivated to avoid such treatment”.

While viewed as a negative psychological characteristic, aggression can improve performance.

Assertive behaviour happens when a player will play within the rules of the game with high intensity but has no intention of harming his opponent(s).

The essay states:

“In sport, aggression has been defined into two categories: hostile aggression and instrumental aggression (Silva, 1983).  Hostile aggression is when the main aim is to cause harm or injury to your opponent. Instrumental aggression is when the main aim is achieve a goal by using aggression. For example a rugby player using aggression to tackle his opponent to win the ball. The player is not using his aggression to hurt the opponent but rather to win the ball back. Coulomb and Pfister (1998) conducted a study looking at aggression in high-level sport. They found that experienced athletes used more instrumental aggression in which they used to their advantage and that hostile aggression was less frequently used. Experienced athletes used self-control to help them with their aggression.”

What could be the source of this aggression?

Frustration due to goal blockage is considered one reason.

Situational and personal factors are other reasons i.e. a player’s personality and socially learnt cues that trigger an outburst of emotion are determining factors.

Stress can have a negative impact on performance and can even increase the possibility of injuring oneself.

The pressure to perform constantly, poor form and high expectations can all affect players adversely.

It is also not easy for focused athletes to balance their lives especially their non-sporting commitments.

Mitch Abrams, in his book “Anger Management in Sport”, writes:

Anger is a normal emotion. Anger is neither good nor bad, and no judgment need be attached to it. Some people believe that a problem arises if a person becomes angry. This idea is not true. To pass judgment on anger and condemn those who admit to becoming angry is the equivalent of robbing people of their humanness. Disallowing oneself from any part of the human experience weakens the experience in its totality. Sadness gives a reference point that makes happiness more appreciated. Tension can be better understood when compared with relaxation. It is about time we stopped making value judgments about anger. No one has ever gotten in trouble for becoming angry. You could be furious right now, but no one would know it unless you demonstrated some behaviour associated with the anger. The belief that anger is bad is so strongly engrained that people will sometimes deny its existence even when it is spilling out all over the place. We have all heard someone with a red face expel incendiary words accompanied by saliva and then follow up by saying, ‘I am not angry!’.The bad rap that anger has received has made it even more resistant to examination.

Truth be told, anger can be harnessed and used as fuel to assist in performance. Can it interfere with performance? You bet! Does it have to? Absolutely not. I have helped athletes compete harder with greater intensity for longer periods, motivated by their anger. The issue is not a matter of eliminating anger; it is a matter of keeping it at a level where it assists, not detracts from, performance.

Studies have shown that as anger increases, cognitive processing speed goes down, fine motor coordination and sensitivity to pain decrease, and muscle strength often increases. So for some athletes doing some tasks, anger can be helpful. For example, the defensive lineman who must make his way past a blocker to make a tackle might benefit from having some level of anger. For other tasks, anger would be a hindrance. The quarterback who needs to read the defense before deciding which receiver to throw to would likely perform better if he was not angry. In fact, some research supports this thesis. Players at football positions that require a lot of decision making tend to demonstrate lower levels of anger than players at positions that do not.

Therefore, when we talk about anger management for peak performance in sport, we are not always talking about making athletes polite and calm. Rather, we are referring to their ability to self-regulate their emotions to what their tasks require.”

Abrams has this to say about reactive aggression:

“Reactive aggression is behavior that has as its primary and sometimes solitary goal to do harm to someone. Usually, this action is in response to a perceived injustice, insult, or wrongdoing. This form of aggression is related to anger and is the behavior that gets athletes in trouble, both on and off the field. An example of reactive aggression may be the pitcher who is furious that the last time a certain batter came to the plate, he hit a 450-foot (140-meter) homer that cleared the bleachers. Still fuming, the pitcher aims his 95 mile-per-hour (150-kilometer-per-hour) fastball between the hitter’s shoulder blades.”

Abrams also elaborates on the difference between incidental and reactive or hostile violence in sport.

He says:

“Incidental violence is an extension of acceptable behavior. Checking in hockey provides a useful example. The line that differentiates checking from cross-checking or boarding, both of which are penalties, is often blurry. Overzealous players can certainly have their behavior spill over to being illegal. This behavior is different from reactive violence, in which the behavior is retaliatory. This kind of behavior can also be broken down into two categories. The first is the spontaneous response. There are some players who pride themselves on their ability to get inside their opponents’ heads and will deliberately provoke them to take them off their game. New York Rangers forward Sean Avery, often described as an agitator, is particularly proficient at this. So, the player provokes the other repeatedly, perhaps by checking them with their stick. Finally, the provoking player checks the first player one too many times, and the player turns and swings the stick at the opponent’s head. The response, although extreme, was not planned. This is spontaneous reactive aggression and is directly related to anger. Anger management programs specifically target reducing this type of behavior. More immediately though, the league or organization must penalize, fine, or suspend players engaging in such behavior as it can very easily cause serious injury.”

Ishant Sharma’s outbursts on the field in Sri Lanka that led to a one-match ban is an example of  reactive aggression. Sharma was reacting to what he believed was provocative behaviour on his opponent Dhammika Prasad’s part. He also appears to take his cue from his skipper’s aggressive nature on the field.

Virat Kohli was not seen to be rebuking his star ‘pupil’.

Instead the Delhi player glossed over his Ranji mate’s behaviour.

He said:

“I was very happy with the incident (argument with Prasad) when he was batting. It happened at the right time for us because we had to bowl yesterday and they made him angry It could not have happened at a better time for us. And the way he (Ishant) bowled in the second innings, he didn’t concede a boundary for 19 overs. That’s the kind of pressure he created on those batsmen because of one incident. He bowled his heart out like he has always done when the Indian team has needed to defend scores in Test matches. An angry fast bowler is a captain’s delight. I was really happy to see what happened yesterday and it switched some things on in the right ways. It had to be controlled but in the end it benefitted us.”

Kohli, too, doesn’t seem to believe that he has matured as a skipper despite the historic series win in Sri Lanka.

He added:

“I don’t want to say that I have grown as a captain as the moment I make a mistake, I will be treated as a child again.”

Former players are a divided camp when it comes to their reactions to Virat’s all-out-aggression.

Fast bowlers Sreesanth and Venkatesh Prasad were quite enthusiastic about Kohli’s handling of Ishant.

Sreesanth said:

“Look at any pacer playing any form of cricket and you will see that he wants to be aggressive. Being aggressive is in the DNA of a fast bowler. Without aggression, a pacer cannot be at his best. What is aggression? It’s a quality that brings the best out of a pacer. I must say I was delighted to see Virat Kohli support Ishant Sharma. Virat is naturally aggressive. I like his style. Indian cricket and world cricket need captains like him.”

Prasad said:

“It’s always nice to know that your captain backs you in all situations. A captain’s backing always builds confidence.”

Former cricketer Akash Chopra had other thoughts.

He said:

“Aggression for me is not just verbal aggression. For me the kind of determination and grit shown by Cheteshwar Pujara during his unbeaten century in the third Test was also aggression. Virat might have backed Ishant in front of the media, but I am sure he will not be pleased to lose his premier bowler for the Mohali Test. The Mohali pitch has been known to assist pace bowlers in the past.

Ishant bowled superbly right from his very first ball of the first Test in Galle. There was no doubt that the defeat in the Galle Test was demoralizing for the team. We are not privy to conversations in the dressing room, but the entire team, and Ishant in particular, seemed pumped up for the challenge for the second Test at the P Sara Oval.

His behaviour against Dhammika Prasad, however, was pretty surprising to me. The Sri Lankan paceman might have been bowling deliberate no-balls and bouncers, but that’s nothing new in international cricket. The Ishant that I know doesn’t behave like that with anyone. I watched him bowl bouncers at Lord’s as well but at that time, he didn’t lose his.”

Ganguly is, however, quite pleased with Kohli.

He said:

“I am a big fan of Virat Kohli. He is a captain who always wants to win matches on the field and I love that passion in him. It is also a proud moment or all to see him lead a side with such passion. I want Kohli to do better than me as a skipper. But his main challenge will be when India tour abroad. Australia, England and South Africa will test his captaincy. All the best to him for the South Africa series.”

Steve Waugh believes that every cricketer should be passionate when he turns out in his country’s colours. He feels that Kohli is in the Ganguly ‘mould’.

He said:

“I don’t know what a gentleman’s game means. But as long as it is played in the right spirit. You’d be disappointed if the Indian side had no passion because they are representing 1.2 billion people. The Australian side represents 24 million people.

There is a lot at stake when you are playing for your country. You want passion. Sometimes that can bubble over but you want to see the emotion and see them really wanting to do well. You don’t want to cross the line where it becomes unsportsmanlike but that can happen occasionally in any sport. We want to see players with emotion and passion.

He (Kohli) plays aggressively and I guess his captaincy is a bit in the Sourav Ganguly mould, where he can be in your face and he can be a bit prickly at times. But I don’t mind that, I am happy to see that.

As a captain, he is never going to back down or be trampled upon by the opposition and that’s a good thing for India.

He will do well. He had a good win in Sri Lanka and few sides in the past decade have won away from home, so that’s a good feather in his cap. I haven’t seen him captain much but I assume by the way he plays the game that he is out there to win.”

Ishant Sharma’s childhood coach Shravan Kumar is displeased with his ward’s new-found aggro.

He said:

“He bowled very well but got too aggressive. That is something he could have avoided. Aggression is fine as long as you are not making a physical contact or abusing. There should not be any body contact. If you do that then you are penalised. That is what happened with Ishant.

It (Ishant becoming overtly aggressive) is because of Kohli’s aggressiveness. He believes in playing fearless cricket and doesn’t hold back. The atmosphere of the dressing room is to play fearless and that rubbed off on Ishant too. But fearless does not necessarily mean that you become ill-mannered. What happened was in bad taste.

Ishant is back home but I have not spoken to him yet. I will give him my piece of mind when I meet him. Aggression is acceptable if you are getting the batsman out, else there is no point of being belligerent.

Sledging is to distract the player but there should not be any physical contact. It (sledging) has been there for many years but there is a way to do it. Now that he has got a one match ban, it is not good for him as well as the team.”

Sanjay Manjrekar is another who has his doubts over Team India’s newly adopted philosophy.

In an article for Cricinfo entitled ‘”What’s eating Ishant Sharma?”, the former India player wrote:

“India may say, ‘We won the series, and this is what you need to be a winning team – a bit of aggression.’ A simple retort would be: ‘Why didn’t aggression win you games in Australia?’

What I can’t fathom about these send-offs is: when a wicket falls, it means the batsman has failed and the bowler has succeeded, but it’s the bowler who is angry for some reason. Why should anger follow success?

When the anger of the victor is aimed at the vanquished, it’s a brawl waiting to happen.”

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Ishant Sharma: Angry and suspended but still his skipper Kohli’s delight


Ishant Sharma is earning both plaudits and criticism.

If the bouquets are for his stirring performances with the ball, the brickbats are for the blatant aggression on the field that has not just seen him fined 65% of his match fee but also found him in violation the ICC’s Code of Conduct.

The new-found aggression and maturity (as a fast bowler) has not gone unnoticed.

Dilip “Colonel” Vengsarkar considers the lanky pacer his find.

He said:

“He has been bowling at good speeds, hitting the good length often and getting bounce because of his height and action.”

Amit Mishra had this to say about Ishant’s efforts with the ball in the first innings of the second Test.

“The way Ishant bowled with the new ball was important on a slow track. His effort in the heat, that spell set the game up for us.”

TA Sekhar, India fast bowling coach, said:

“Basically, he is bowling a good line and length. There is an increase in speed from what he used to bowl earlier. After starting (his career) by bowling 145 kmph, he reduced in pace. But now he has gained speed and touching 140. He is expect to give breakthroughs in the first spell with the new ball. Ishant has played a lot of Test matches but doesn’t have a great record. He lacks variation like what Zaheer Khan had and this is something that he has to start working on.”

Another former fast bowler, Chetan Sharma, believes that Ishant is a much improved player now.

He said:

“Ishant is bowling well. I was in Sri Lanka and I spoke to him for half-an-hour. He sounded a very mature fast bowler. There used to be shy bowlers who used to sneak past their seniors in order to avoid a talk with them, but not Ishant, who comes and speaks to you. And that tells you about his confidence. He understands what he is doing. And, he has the backing of a lot of talented youngsters like Varun Aaron, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and (Mohammed) Shami. I don’t think there is a problem in the pace department. If a pacer can pick up 2-3 wickets on the sub-continent tracks, then I believe he has done his job.”

Fellow Delhiite, Ashish Nehra, was slightly back-handed with his compliments.

He said:

“I am a big fan of Umesh Yadav — talentwise even though he has not fulfilled his true potential as to what he should have achieved by now. He is somewhat similar to me but my case was more to do with injuries. Varun (Aaron) and Bhuvi (Bhuvneshwar Kumar) are also talented.
But Ishant Sharma, who has played 60 Test matches (62) is the least talented among them but one of the most hardworking guys around.
If Ishant has played so much and for so long, it is a testimony that talent alone can’t be the recipe for success. Talent can only take you till certain point but is nothing without hard work.”

If Nehra is right in that Ishant is the least talented among the current crop of pace men, then Indian cricket is blessed indeed.

Nehra spoke at length about Sharma.

Asked about his higher-than-normal strike rate, Nehra said:

“Look, there is a perception about Ishant. I agree his strike-rate is on the higher side but in last one year, he has taken five-fors in New Zealand and England. So he is improving. Don’t forget, he is only 27 and has already played 62 Tests because he started at 18. We should not put undue pressure on him and start saying ‘drop Ishant Sharma and get someone new’. What will happen if he is dropped? Nothing will happen. BCCI should just ensure that a fast bowler is given enough time and confidence to settle down. Dropping a bowler after one bad series can’t be a solution. A new fast bowler would take at least two series to just settle down.”

The Delhi bowler believes that fast bowlers do better when they enjoy the confidence of their skippers.

He added:

“Look the bottom line is, if you are bowling well, then you need nobody for help. But there will be times when even if you keep a deep point, the batsman will still hammer you. Then you have no option but to listen to your captain and bowl as per the field set by him. Michael Clarke was a great captain till last Ashes and today Alastair Cook has suddenly become a great captain. If you look at history of fast bowler-captain relationships — for example Sunil Gavaskar-Kapil Dev or Mohammed Azharuddin-Javagal Srinath, that has always been the case. When the going is good, nothing matters. Everything comes out when the performance level dips.”

Sharma seems to have no such problems on this score with his current leader, Virat Kohli.

Scribes might have expected some censure from India’s fire-brand captain given that Sharma will now miss the first home Test against South Africa for his aggressive send-offs in the third Test and the war of words with opposition players.

Kohli, however, was unperturbed.

He said:

“I was very happy with the incident (argument with Prasad) when he was batting. It happened at the right time for us because we had to bowl on Monday and they made him angry. It could not have happened at a better time for us And the way he (Ishant) bowled in the second innings, he didn’t concede a boundary for 19 overs. That’s the kind of pressure he created on those batsmen because of one incident. He bowled his heart out like he has always done when the Indian team has needed to defend scores in Test matches.An angry fast bowler is a captain’s delight. I was really happy to see what happened yesterday and it switched some things on in the right ways. It had to be controlled but in the end it benefitted us.”

The spring in the step is back and very much evident. After two hard-fought series in England and Australia where the Indians came off second-best, they appeared a much more hardy bunch in Sri Lanka. The score-line could very well have read 3-0 instead of 2-1 if the Indians had plugged away as they did in the last two Tests. It is a team sport and moments of personal brilliance and stellar performances can at most win you a Test or two. It takes consistent togetherness and toughness to pull through a gruelling series.

South Africa at home will be the real Test. Can Team India do an encore?

Chris Rogers: What he said, really meant and definitely didn’t


Chris Rogers unwraps a ‘Boxing Day’ quote.

English: Chris Rogers playing for Northamptons...

English: Chris Rogers playing for Northamptonshire against Cambridge UCCE at Fenner’s on 15 April 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What he said:

“I’d like to say it’s hard to miss, but I won’t.”

Chris Rogers quips away on being hit in the  box by Ishant Sharma in the first over of the Melbourne Test on the 26th.

What he really meant:

“Balls! Ouch!”

What he definitely didn’t:

“What an apt beginning to the Boxing Day test.”

The Big Test: Post-mortem analysis


The carcass that is Indian cricket is laid out on the coroner’s slab. The post-mortem begins afresh.

It all seems to be an exercise in futility.

Every serious Indian cricket lover, ex-cricketer, administrator or even current cricketer knows what ails Indian cricket. But not one wants to make a concrete effort to alter the status quo.

The ‘chalta hai’ attitude comes to the fore.

All this will change when we play in India on our dust-bowls” is the constant refrain.

And that is how it has panned out. The die-hard fans are consoled by wins eked out at home in conditions that suit flat-track bullies.

And the sponsors are happy all over again and our cricketers are worshiped as demigods once more.

What is wrong with Indian cricket?

Why are our players “Lions at home, lambs abroad”?

It is a combination of several factors.

There exists a paucity of quality fast bowlers to take advantage of conditions abroad because Indian pitches do not encourage them. They prefer to be medium fast rather than bowl their hearts out with little reward.

Diagram showing the correct grip for bowling a...

Diagram showing the correct grip for bowling a fast ball in cricket. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Except for Mohali, there are very few pitches that offer the fast bowler any help. It is time that the BCCI drew up a plan to create sporting pitches that will dot all the Test venues in India. It should be a mandate dictated from the top.

Imran Khan wished his team to win abroad and at home in all conditions. He institutionalized a culture of encouraging raw pace as well as facilitated  pacy wickets on the north-west Indian sub-continent.

There are no excuse for saying that it cannot be done. Look due north to our ‘Pathan’  neighbours for inspiration.

Fast, bouncy wickets at home would also make sure that our batters adapt quickly to English, Australian or South African ones.

Secondly, the Indian team selection especially for overseas tours has to be such that core players are constantly challenged by the fringe ones. No one should be allowed to rest on their laurels. A place in the side has to be constantly earned. There should be no passengers in the chosen 16.

Fast bowlers should be groomed and rotated so that they do not succumb to injuries.

Additionally, certain batsmen and bowlers with special or limited skills should be set aside for a specific format. You would expect a Ravindra Jadeja or a Stuart Binny to be a useful asset in one-dayers or T-20s. But expecting them to play stellar roles in Tests is wishful thinking. Similarly, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ishant Sharma are well-suited for Test cricket only.

A system that rewards format specialists is the need of the hour. The BCCI could look into that.

Yes, the Indian team would do better if they had all-rounders in the side. But the unfortunate truth is there is none of the calibre of a Kapil Dev or even a Manoj Prabhakar. The cupboard is bare.

The Indian Test team is thus better off with six front-line batsmen and five strike bowlers.

The series in Australia will show if the lessons learned from the unmitigated disaster in England have been absorbed.

If not, the Indian cricket fan can expect his cup of woe to overflow. Certainly not a good augury for the World Cup to follow!

Humiliating innings defeat completes the debacle at Old Trafford


Team India conceded the initiative  and the series lead once again. The Indian team capitulated in three days at Old Trafford. It could have been all over sooner if it was not for the twelfth man for the Indian side—the rain.

The signs were ominous from the start. Pankaj Singh retained the confidence of his skipper and his place in the side.

Varun Aaron came in at the expense of Mohammad Shami. I truly feel for the UP bowler; he has been bowled into the ground since his début and is not the bowler he was at the start of his exciting career.

Aaron did enough to justify his place in the side. The inclusion of Ishwar Pandey could have made things even more interesting. I would rather have an express bowler in the side than a medium pacer on these pacy wickets especially when the journeyman is not a Zaheer Khan, that is, he lacks variety.

But the real story was that our much-vaunted batting line-up failed once more; the senior bats were made to look like novices against the moving ball.

The attitude of the new batting stars should undergo a sea change. Instead of muttering that things will be different when the English come to India—it was not, they beat us 2-1—it might be better that Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli consider a stint in county cricket to build their technique in overcast, murky conditions. The question is how and when? Will their IPL and Team India commitments allow them to do so? Or are these fancies to be indulged in only by players on the fringe of national selection?

What can MS Dhoni do to stem the rot?

Gautam Gambhir and Shikhar Dhawan failed to deliver when it mattered. It is time that the selectors selected in-form batsmen for crucial overseas tours and not hope that they strike form on tour—a strategy fraught with obvious dangers.

Dhoni can gamble and have Naman Ojha or Rohit Sharma open the batting. I would go with the latter.

There appears to be no option but to persist with Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli and hope that their twin  failures galvanise them to improve their performances and live up to the reputations of their predecessors—Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar.

Ravindra Jadeja is another perennial favourite with his skipper. It is time he sat out.

Why does one have a sneaky feeling that the Indian skipper prefers  either his Chennai Superkings teammates or players from the North?

Ishant Sharma makes his return to the side conditional on a full recovery from his ankle injury.

Pankaj Singh—at last—made the record books claiming two wickets in his second game. He is more suited for the shorter format of the game where containment is the name of the game.

My team choice for the Kensington Oval:

Rohit Sharma, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, MS Dhoni, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Varun Aaron, Mohammad Shami/Ishwar Pandey.

The Big Test: India fail at Southampton, options for Old Trafford


It was the same old story all over again. Ishant Sharma, the hero of the Lords test, looked on dejectedly, while his teammates squandered all his hard work and repaid him with a Sisyphean task for the final Test—if it comes to that.

Sharma injured his ankle and will be sitting out the fourth Test as well.

His replacement, Pankaj Singh, proved to be an inadequate replacement. His time is past though he is a game trier.  A few chances of this bowling went a begging  but if Dhoni was brave and honest with himself, he would have admitted that Varun Aaron or Ishwar Pandey were better bets. You do not replace your main strike bowler with a medium-pace trundler.

Rohit Sharma’s entry into the squad in place of Stuart Binny upset the balance of the squad. Just four main bowlers and two-three part-time spinners is hardly the recipe for a side looking to seal the series.

The Indian skipper does not have a lot of trust in his top order and preferred to either go in with an extra batsman or a couple of all-rounders. This decision seemed sound in the first two tests in retrospect; it was the lower order that saved the team blushes in the first three innings.

It is time MS Dhoni had a hard look at his resources and what he’s trying to do with them.

Gautam Gambhir should come in. Shikhar Dhawan exits.

Gambhir has the gumption and the patience to play long innings. Bring to mind his effort at Napier, New Zealand in 2009.

Cheteshwar Pujara and Virat Kohli stay. Class will tell.

Rohit Sharma goes out. The talented Mumbaikar has even his most ardent fans tearing their hair out in frustration; I am but one amongst them. Duncan Fletcher should have a quiet word with the young man and tell him  that if this continues he will be touring a lot more—with the India ‘A’ side.

Dhoni continues and should back himself to the hilt about being aggressive with the bat.

At the start of the series, Dhoni said:

“I’ve realised that I have to be far more aggressive in my batting because I play much better that way than when I try to play like a proper batsman. It’s important to back your instincts and not think too much about the situation. I shouldn’t look to bat out time because there are other batsmen who can do that. If the ball is in my slot – whether it’s the first or the last – I should go for it.”

Ajinkya Rahane and Murali Vijay have done more than enough to silence all debate.

They were not the most heralded of the Indian bats when the series began. But they have quietly become the mainstays of the line-up.

Ravindra Jadeja, bat and moustache twirled, sits out. Ravichandra Ashwin comes in.

(How the selectors could overlook Amit Mishra and Praghyan Ojha for such an important series is anybody’s guess. Among the back-ups, are two wicket-keepers who may probably never get a game. It is effectively a 15-member squad.)

Varun Aaron and Ishwar Pandey lend much-needed support to Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mohammad Shami.

My side for Old Trafford:

Gautam Gambhir, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, MS Dhoni, R Ashwin, B Kumar, M Shami, V Aaron and I Pandey.

India versus England: Ishant bounces out the Pommies


Australian cricketer Mitchell Johnson fielding...

Australian cricketer Mitchell Johnson fielding during a tour match against Northamptonshire during the 2009 Ashes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ishant Sharma at Adelaide Oval

Ishant Sharma at Adelaide Oval (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ishant Sharma came to the party and how! Since he made his debut in 2008, the lanky pacer has disappointed more often than not. So much so that Indian fans came to believe that his name was not Ishant but “I shan’t”.

But on a Monday afternoon, the Delhi native bent his back with the old ball and destroyed the much-vaunted lower half of an English side in rebuild mode. Joe Root and Moeen Ali may have hoped to lead England to a much needed morale-boosting victory, especially for beleaguered skipper Alistair Cook.

But it was not to be. Once Ishant Sharma started bouncing them, it was all over bar the shouting.

Were the English recalling the pummelling they received at the hands of a venomous Mitchell Johnson in the recent Ashes series down under? Or did they feel they could pull off a Ravindra Jadeja as well? Whatever the reasons, the spectators were bemused to find a procession of English batters making their way back to the pavilion. The English plan to counter-attack merely provided catching practice for the Indian fielders.

The spectacle prompted Bob Willis to remark:

I have seen fewer hookers in Soho on a Saturday night.

India had its first win at Lords in 28 years.

The similarities between MS Dhoni and Kapil Dev keep piling up eerily.

India go into the next three Tests leading 1-0. They will hope that they can emulate Kapil’s Devils of 1986 and clinch a memorable series win. This Indian side does not look very strong on paper, lacking experience at the highest level. But most members of the squad have put their hands up and performed when needed, unlike the side of 2011.

A captain is only as good as his team and , right now, Dhoni’s boys are making him look so much better than the recent past.

Ishant Sharma: What he said, really meant and definitely did not


Ishant Sharma Negates Team Australia’s Mind Games

What he said (via Espn Cricinfo):

“They (the Australians) are better at playing mind games than they are at playing the game.”

India pace spearhead Ishant Sharma has sensible words of advice for Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav for the upcoming tour of Australia.

Speaking to Mail Today, the lanky fast bowler expressed satisfaction with his performances this year. Sharma missed out on Team India’s ODI World Cup party.

Sharma said:

It has been a very good year for me. I am happy with my rhythm and pace. Even though I didn’t get wickets on some occasions, I am pleased with the way I have bowled this year.But the learning process never stops. Even someone like Sachin Tendulkar says he is still learning about the game after 22 years. So I am always learning to improve. For me, every day is a new day.

Sharma will lead the inexperienced Indian attack if Zaheer Khan does not fully recover from his ankle injury.

Sharma said:

Obviously, having Zaheer would be a huge bonus. But if he is not there, it would be an honour to lead the attack in Australia. It would be a great responsibility. Every fast bowler dreams of leading the attack for the country.Australia is going to be very exciting. But the key would be not to put pressure on yourself. If you keep thinking about results and wickets, it would only add to the pressure. So I would look to just enjoy myself. This time in Australia, patience will be the key.The thing is that Australian batsmen don’t like to be tied down and if you bowl patiently at them, you can pick wickets. So bowling tightly would be the best strategy.

Sharma looks forward to bowling in tandem with pace prospects, Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron.

Sharma said:

Bowling with Umesh and Varun is quite exciting. They have the pace and the best thing is they are willing to learn. The more they bowl, they more will learn to exploit the conditions.

What he really meant:

“Cricket’s played more in the mind than anything else and ,boy, don’t the Aussies know it.”

What he definitely didn’t:

“Sledge me if you can.”

India Cricket: Of Young Legs, Heller Pacers and Non-Finicky Squads


Taken from http://india.usembassy.gov/gallery2...

The English came, saw and were conquered.

The freshly crowned No.1 Test team were all at sea when it came to negotiating the sub-continent’s slow turners.

A 5-0 trashing might satisfy MS Dhoni and his young brigade ;the true test is to come when Team India tour Australia at the end of the year.

The Indians looked sharp in the field owing to young legs in the side.

A consolation T20 win for Graeme Swann, no little thanks to a belligerent knock by the man he termed not captaincy material in his autobiography, “The Breaks Are Off”—Kevin Pietersen.

The hoi polloi were not impressed; the stands were less than full for the games.

A surfeit of cricket coupled with the dismal surrender in England implies that fans cannot be taken for a ride—surely not all the time.

The squad picked for the first Test in the return series against West Indies at home has three express bowlers, each capable of bowling at 140+ kmph.

Does this mark the dawn of a new era?

Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron are chomping at the bit to have a go and make their mark on the selectors before the crucial tour Down Under.

Harbhajan Singh,however, has been sternly castigated by Krishnamachari Srikkanth and his merry men; he remains out of favour.

Rahul Sharma, Ravindra Ashwin and Praghyan Ojha are the twirlers chosen by the wise men of Indian cricket.

Virender Sehwag returns, Ajinkya Rahane is rewarded for his fine displays and Yuvraj Singh makes it back to the Test side and ‘Grade A’.

Virat Kohli has yet another chance to prove his credentials in the longer format of the game—should he play.

Kohli and Ishant Sharma have moved up in the Indian cricketing world—rewarded with Grade A contracts.

Ashish Nehra is the surprising omission from the list of contracted players. Why is he being punished?

The first Test match is scheduled for November 6, 2011 in Delhi at the Ferozeshah Kotla.

Two spinners and two pace bowlers are par for the course on sub-continent wickets.

Will Dhoni risk a Sehwag without adequate match practice? A similar move did not quite work wonders in English conditions. But then this is home advantage and the Kotla is the Nawab’s home ground.

Can Dhoni leave him out?

The second pace bowler’s spot is a toss-up between Yadav and Aaron—Dhoni’s call.

Rahul Sharma is the least experienced amongst the trundlers. Safe to say, he will not play.

The squad picks itself:

M S Dhoni (capt & wk), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag (Ajinkya Rahane), Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, R Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav (or Varun Aaron).


A thing well said will be wit in all languages.
—John Dryden

Varun Aaron: What he said, really meant and definitely did not


What he said:

"And it’s a lot of fun to hit people on the head."

Young Indian pacer from Jharkhand, Varun Aaron, has no intention of sacrificing pace as his career progresses.Aaron has been called up for the India-England ODI series, replacing the injured Ishant Sharma.

What he really meant:

“What’s the point of bowling quick if you don’t intimidate the opposition?”

What he definitely didn’t:

“I’d rather hit heads than wickets.”

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