Category Archives: Rahul Dravid

India’s Survival Plan Against New Zealand

They’ve got to have one, right? The obvious hope is for V.V.S Laxman to yet again pull off a miraculous escape (either with Singh, Ohja, Sreesanth or Khan) and then leave too little time for the Kiwis to chase down whatever target is set.

That means: get past the first 30 overs to lunch; keep scoring (either through inevitable tail-ender hijinks or Laxman’s own fluency) and then pray for the best (170? 200?). (Pray, also, that the Kiwis will falter in their chase as they move from underdog to expected winner. Pressure works wonders.)

But, as hard as I try, I can’t fathom why we’re in this position at all (apart from the fickle wishes of the Test gods). Who the hell is Chris Martin? And did this pitch have anything to do with his (awesome) success, or was it a batting failure?

A lot has been said of India’s near-perfect record at home of late, but there have been noticeable cracks — too many of the recent games have been far closer than series results suggest, and I’m not sure why (a gap in concentration levels? Exhaustion? Complacency?).

At some point, we’ll have to address the team’s weaknesses: Harbhajan seems to be failing, with no spin successor in place; Gambhir’s form has fallen off, as has Dravid’s; our bowling attacks relies too heavily on Zaheer, who’s leading a weak pace attack.

But other than that, you know, India is No. 1. And they’ve won all their close shaves of late, so I’m rooting for them. But only just.

The New-Look India Test Team

The Old Batsman wonders what the Australian team will look like if they planned a bit more for the future (or if they want to beat England this summer).  I wonder the same thing for the Indian national team, whose Test side has remained largely stable while the ODI team has changed immensely in the last few years.

So what would they look like sans Tendulkar, Laxman, and Dravid? Gambhir and Sehwag stay as openers, but a team with both Raina and Yuvraj makes me shudder (besides, I think Yuvraj at this point may need to look at the writing on the wall and focus on ODIs and T20s, where he is most needed). Let’s pick Raina ahead (for now), and bring in M. Vijay (who really impresses me, though I’d like to see him play outside India more), and S. Badrinath (whose relative experience at the first-class level might be a virtue).  That leaves one more spot — but for who? Rohit Sharma (too inconsistent)?  Virat Kohli (too much of a one-day player)? Manoj Tiwary? I see there’s a Twitter campaign to bring in C. Pujara.

So: Gambhir, Sehwag,  Badrinath, Vijay, Raina, Dhoni — how do we feel about that line-up? Are there other top-runners you think should be included?

The Case For V.V.S. Laxman

Confessions Of A Forced Spectator digs through the statistics and columns and figures and comes out with a surprising conclusion about V.V.S. Laxman. Usually, commentators talk about Laxman’s Hyderabadi style (“My, what gorgeous wrists you have!”), but he’s also the mainstay of the India’s lower-middle batting line-up. And, judging from the numbers, he’s been getting better and better of late:-

Tendulkar leads the team when it comes to away performance while Laxman is a close second. Sehwag is third but his average and percentage of 50+ scores drop considerably when he plays away from home. One thing these stats don’t tell you is that Laxman has been better than Tendulkar if you exclude performances against Bangladesh. In fact, his average drops to 44 if you take out that opposition. Laxman, though, has maintained his performance by averaging 50.52 if you exclude his innings against Bangladesh. He’s also more consistent than Tendulkar, going past 50 in 42% of his innings while Tendulkar has done it in just 34% of his innings. There is definitely a case for Laxman being the most reliable middle order batsman in the side.

India’s batting line-up works because it has a great opening pair (Sehwag being the potential match-winner); an unbelievable No. 3 (who may or may not be slipping of late); and then one of the best batsmen of all time. This means you give little thought to Laxman (Fives never get as much as respect as they should, no?), but I’ve seen enough matches when the top-order fails to know not to give up until Laxman is done.

That Indian T20 World Cup Brawl

Incredibly bizarre news from Cricinfo, re: Indian players scolded for fighting in a St. Lucia nightclub:

The incident took place on the evening of May 11, after India lost to Sri Lanka to ensure their elimination from the tournament. The players, who had been placed under restricted movement till then, were allowed to go out. A few – including some named in the report – went to a local nightclub where some Indian fans were also present. It is believed the fans, upset by the team’s performance, taunted the players, following which the situation escalated.

Incidentally, Biswal denied reports of the brawl when he returned to India. “There is no truth at all about the brawl. It is all media creation that is doing the rounds,” he said last week.

First of all, Indian fans hanging out in St. Lucia nightclubs, if you meet a collection of superstar athletes, it’s best to ask for an autograph, or offer to buy them a drink, rather than taunt them. This love-hate thing needs to cool down.

Second of all, Indian players, I realize you’re all 20-somethings eager to have some fun after being cooped up in a hotel. But the next time this stuff happens, turn up the Rihanna and start dancing. Or something. We’re not Australians. (Another tip: ask yourself, “What would Rahul Dravid do?” and act accordingly.)

Third: Kudos to Cricinfo staff for pointing out Biswal’s change-of-mind regarding the facts. As a journalist, I can tell you there’s nothing more satisfying than calling out sources when they tell you absolute bullshit.

The Uniformity Of Modern Cricket

Harsha Bhogle has an interesting new column in Cricinfo about the rote-learning at Indian cricket “academies”:

Ten-year-old kids are going to academies of various hues, largely dubious, to learn the forward-defensive stroke and the cover drive. They must learn almost by rote, and therefore not too differently from the way they study history; they are taught about where the front foot should be, about how bat and pad must go together, where the elbow should be, where the toe should point, about how the follow-through must end with the bat over the left shoulder. All perfectly correct, except that they don’t learn to hit a ball; instead, they become obedient pupils.

Bhogle’s point mainly deals with the danger of “mollycoddling” coaches, but I think there’s a bigger problem in store with cricket if most of its recruits learn at the hands of textbooks and manuals. Because of its geographic and ethnic diversity, cricket has always produced its outliers and eccentrics — Murali and Mendis; Jack Russell and his strange wicketkeeping stance; Paul Adams and his unbelievable bowling action.

More broadly, there are different types of players (consolidators, Michael Bevan-type pinch-hitters; Jayasuriya/Sehwag openers). I’m not saying Bombay alleys are the ideal breeding ground for cricketers, but I think there should be a fair enough space left for experimentation and fun. Rahul Dravid is beautiful to behold, with his classical shots, but we all need a little Dilshan scoop now and then.

Anil Kumble And Rahul Dravid Make It Work For The IPL

Have a look at these highlights from Match 14 between the Bangalore and Mumbai. Watch for Anil Kumble bowling a hapless batsman with a slower ball (and a modified delivery action), as well as Rahul Dravid’s unbelievable one-handed catch. Like I said: retirement is obsolete.

India’s Younger Generation

Give them time, I say. M. Vijay threw away good starts, as did S. Badrinath, but they both looked solid enough to merit places in the squad. I’m still unsure how the team will accommodate them as time goes on; I’d rather not have a situation where Dravid and Laxman are missing again at the same time.

Perhaps if Laxman moves up to No. 3 when Dravid eventually retires (he’s 37 now), that will give the younger ‘uns space to breathe in the middle order, nuzzled among the likes of Tendulkar and Dhoni. But these newbies will have to answer a generational challenge that few have matched before. Across the world, we will soon see the end of Kallis, Ponting, Dravid, Tendulkar. Is this the end of the batting wave? Will bowlers finally have their time on the pitch?

The Luckiest Indian: W.P. Saha

Who the hell is Wriddhiman Saha? And how did he end up on our television (OK, computer) screens? Let’s recap the wonderfully insane story:

A Bangladesh bouncer hit Rahul Dravid in the jaw. Yuvraj Singh suffered a “ligament tear on his left wrist.” V.V.S. Laxman injured his finger while fielding against the Bangladeshis. Rohit Sharma, called up to play for the injured Laxman, was injured during morning practice (no doubt by some cosmic devil).

And so we have: W.P. Saha, perhaps the only person the Indians could find on short-notice hanging about in Nagpur. Add to this the fact that the South Africans won the toss, and it looks like a long five days ahead for us.

Rahul Dravid Only Sweetened The Ball

But Shahid Afridi ate it. Here’s the video of the incident I mentioned in my previous post, when Rahul Dravid was accused of sweetening a cricket ball to tamper with it (oh, the gourmet possibilities go on and on!):

Change The Rules On Ball-Tampering

Shahid Afridi’s ball-chewing isn’t the first time a cricketer’s mouth has been accused of breaking the rules. A few years ago, Rahul Dravid took some flack for shining the ball with saliva illegally enriched by a sweet he was chewing at the time. (How that affected his saliva’s potency still remains a scientific mystery.)

Over at Short of a Length, achettup tries to make a facetious argument in favor of ball tampering. Putting aside the jokes, there is a more difficult question here: why do we allow players to shine one side of the ball, but not pick at its stitching?

The typical answer has been that in cricket, we account for an extraordinary amount of latitude in certain areas — no set size for cricket fields, for instance, or standard pitch conditions– but we don’t mess with the equipment. But is that right? Didn’t Adam Gilchrist put something or the other in his glove during the 2007 World Cup final? Haven’t bats changed and evolved in the last twenty years (and why isn’t there a set bat ‘weight’)?

There’s another, simpler answer to the puzzle: the ball in a cricket match does a lot more than the bat. The ball drives the plot; the bat, like a fictional character, merely responds. The ball sets things in motion, even if it’s a batsman’s game after that. If bowlers were to decimate the ball — basically reduce it to pieces so it won’t bounce — then the game would end prematurely.

That’s better reasoning, but I’m still not satisfied. After all, balls are still battered against advertising boards, and they’re still replaced — sometimes by a mandatory policy — after a certain point. Perhaps we should allow for a more flexible standard: let the bowling side do what they want with the ball, until the umpires — who expect it every over — decide it needs to be changed. If we’re going to stack the odds against bowlers with friendly pitches and fields, we might as well throw them a bone once in a while.