Category Archives: Rahul Dravid

That Dravid Bouncer…

Quite brutal stuff, though it looks like Rahul Dravid fared better than poor Daniel Flynn. But bouncers are strange things, extremely violent but also the truest expression of the game. On the one hand, you have the sheer terror of the delivery. On the other, it’s clear that bowlers don’t mean to hurt, only intimidate or draw on the mistake of reflexes. Think of the many bowlers who run to the batsmen after they fall down in a heap.

The bouncer is the fine line between savagery and civilization, which cricket nicely negotiates with its norms about good sportsmanship and fair play (and, you know, its stricture that no one should kill anyone on the field). There’s a recognition of man’s violent nature, but also the prospect that it can be properly guided and channeled in modern society.

But I wonder: does the bowler owe anything to a batsman he’s hit? It’s always cheering to see a concerned bowler, but I also love hearing the crowd roar — as if watching a Roman gladiator match — when a batsman gets hit. (Though I also liked watching a Bangladeshi in the crowd break down in tears after Dravid retired hurt.) A hurt batsman is, usually, a batsman’s fault, not a bowler’s (which is why we allow bouncers in the first place; they’re meant to test a batsman’s skill. It’s fair play, but to a point — hence the infamy of the Bodyline series).

Didn’t we all thrill inside when Harmison cut Ponting and simply turned the other cheek (back to his run-up)?

Ravi Shastri Puts A Time Limit On The Fab Three

With M. Vijay at the crease in India’s first innings, Shastri said, “I do believe he’ll be a regular in the side in a year, year in a half.” So who goes first, gentlemen: Dravid, Tendulkar or Laxman?

A Tale Of Two Australia-India Series

Back in 2007/8, Australia came to India after before a blisteringly controversial Test series to play what turned out to be an unbelievably tame seven-match ODI tournament. India lost 4-2 (with one game washed out), though it would have lost 5-1 were it not for an improbable partnership between Zaheer Khan and Murali Kartik (which ended with an ethical quandary about walking).

The current series has been far more entertaining. Back in 2007, the Australians had yet to be fully knocked off their pedestal, and they still a methodical way of dismantling opposition teams. It was a thing to behold, but not completely thrilling.

That’s all done with. If you look at the 2007 series stats, you’ll note Australia benefited largely from a solid batting line-up that has been subsequently shaken to the core. Symonds, Hayden, Clarke and Gilchrist were among the top 5 batsmen then, and all of them aren’t playing this series (and three of them won’t play internationally again). The new replacements are obviously handling themselves well (and Hussey, Ponting and Watson are in the top 5 in the 2009 series), but they’re clearly not as domineering as the 2007 foursome.

The worrying thing for India is how little it has changed. It’s been two years of “invest in the youth” strategy, and yet, the main players are still the veterans: Dhoni, Yuvraj, Tendulkar. Robin Uthappa is nowhere to be found; KD Karthik disappointed in 2007 (but may appear yet again in 2009); Suresh Raina has obvious potential but has yet to prove himself reliable; Rohit Sharma is gone, as is Irfan Pathan.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the current Indian outfit is better than the 2007 edition, but at this point, I wonder if Australia has proven better at finding and managing new talent. Let me know if I’ve gotten this completely wrong because I normally am the last person to give Australia anything by way of praise.

Are ODIs Dead?

Samir Chopra has been making the point about ODIs again and again lately, and really, it’s quite persuasive. The current exhibits on display don’t inspire much confidence; who cares if Australia beats the hapless England, or if India beat the West Indies or if they win this Compaq Cup?

But could this sudden ODI problem be solely a function of the rise of the Twenty20 and the IPL? Or are we just seeing trends we’ve always known, like: 1) British people don’t care about ODIs, only Tests, and that too, only the Ashes; 2) No one cares about cricket in the West Indies, especially now; 3) Imagine you’re a Sri Lankan, and you have the choice to watch New Zealand — a team with no current stars other than their nerdy but excellent captain — play India. Would you go to the stadium?

Really?

So, I don’t know what we’re seeing. Still, I like the idea tossed around of dividing the ODI into two innings of 25 overs for each team, which would add a measure of complexity and nuance not inherent in the T20 edition. But a bigger question is this: if the ODI format does die, and broadcasters soon decide it isn’t worth the satellite fees — would it matter all that much?

The Flexible Indian Batting Lineup

Must-read blogger Samir Chopra has a post on Cricinfo’s Different Strokes (“Samir Chopra: Because One Blog Ain’t Enough“) about flexibility and the Indian lineup. My thinking isn’t completely sorted out in the matter, but I think I disagree with Chopra’s reasoning. I’m afraid we haven’t fully appreciated the difficulty of balancing stability and adaptability.

Chopra mainly argues that Dhoni wrongly tries to achieve a flexible batting lineup rather than flexible batsmen. So, as Dhoni recently said, who went in as No. 3 depended on who fell first; if it was Rohit Sharma, then Raina would enter, if Gambhir, then Dhoni came in. Chopra argues Dhoni should just tell each batsman to play according to the match situation and be done with it, rather than indulge in a game of musical chairs every match. Good players, Chopra writes, adapt:

If you are a No. 3, and an early wicket falls, you play a little differently than you do if there are a hundred runs on the board. If you are a No. 6, and the team is in trouble, as opposed to looking for a declaration, you bat a little differently. And so on.

OK. So far, so good. But then I’m a tad confused when Chopra talks of one benefit of a more established lineup:

Sure, sending them in at different positions challenges them. But why not give them stability in their expectations of where they are to play and instead demand adaptiveness in their responses to match situations?

And here’s my problem: if we go with Chopra’s argument and each batsman must come in and adapt accordingly to each game (and each situation), then surely that batsman doesn’t enjoy much stability, regardless of where he comes onto the field, right? So, if you tell me I’m your No. 3 no matter what, but that how I play depends on what’s going on, I’d not feel all that stable.

At the very least, I’d feel just as stable as if I had a fixed role in the lineup — pinch-hitter, anchor, whatever — and was sent in whenever my captain felt best. Say I’m Yusuf Pathan and I eat bowlers for breakfast. Why don’t I just hone that skill and then display it whenever my captain thinks the score needs to be accelerated?

My point isn’t that the first system is better than the second. I only mean either way, there’s not that much stability. In the first system, I may be a great pinch-hitter at No. 6, but if a few wickets have fallen quickly, I might end up having to hit singles around for a good 10 overs. Not ideal. In the second model, I don’t even know when to get my pads on. Either way, I have to balance stability and flexibility.

I’ll just add two independent points: first, I think Greg Chappell first introduced this notion of a roving lineup as coach because he felt players had ossified in their traditional roles, stifling creativity and on-the-go thinking. Rather than see a player think for himself during a particular moment in a match, we’d witness too many revolve around the team’s Big Guns — Ganguly, Dravid, Tendulkar — with no one having a credible answer when the three failed. In a way, then, a flexible batting lineup encourages what Chopra wants; it’s a teaching tool. Some may say international cricket isn’t the place to learn the game, but others won’t dismiss it lightly given the average age of this young Indian team.

And secondly, I think we only get to an ideal place in a lineup when everything works according to plan. That’s why the Australians did so well for so long: their openers regularly saw off the new ball (and then some); their No. 3 went on to nicely bridge the middle order along; their lower-order and tail nicely finished off any hint of opposition.

When something gets misplaced in this elaborate jigsaw, things fall apart, as they did for India. No Sehwag at the top and a flailing Gambhir almost ensured things would go screwy. You send Rohit Sharma to No. 2, but then what happens to No. 4 or No. 5? By 2011, however, I’m sure the top-order will look like this: Sehwag, Gambhir, Sharma, Raina, Yuvraj, Dhoni, and Y. Pathan. Good enough for me, no matter who’s where.

Did Indian Players Fail The ‘Indian’ Premier League?

Now that the IPL circus is over, we can look at which players performed (and earned their price-tags), and which didn’t.

First off, I think Uncle J Rod was correct about Rahul Dravid, ex-captain of the Royal Challengers Bangalore. Over $1 million earned and he produced 271 runs at an average of 22.58. His silly parting shot in the final — an attempted flick off the legs, even though fine-leg was near — helped his team lose an eminently winnable match. Continue reading

Has Rahul Dravid Left The IPL?

Yes, but only temporarily, so he could attend the birth of his second child. From Dravid The Wall:

When he left, most of his Royal Challengers teammates were around to congratulate him in advance but the team management will now be sweating over his return.”He is absolutely vital to our team structure and we would like him back as soon as possible,” a member of the team management said on Saturday.

What effect does fatherhood have on a cricket player? We hear constant talk of players finding “maturity” as their careers progress, sometimes only two or three years after their debuts. Would Kevin Pietersen “settle down” on the pitch if he ever became a father?

Matthew Hoggard recently wrote a semi-readable account of his time away from the English team after he was dropped. It included this moving passage:

Still, there’s a silver lining, and that has been the chance to watch Ernie grow up this winter. I’m enjoying every minute of it, but I’m also getting an understanding of how hard it is as well! It’s not a walk in the park by any stretch, but you share the experiences and grow with them, and just live life as a normal person. A lot of people don’t get to do that – not just sportsmen, but people who have to work away from home. I was lucky enough to do it for six months, and I loved it.

Is Rahul Dravid Worth His IPL Money?

Over at Cricket With Balls, J Rod makes the case against Rahul Dravid (whom I praised in a recent post):

‘08: 14 matches, 371 runs, High score of 75*, Average of 28, Strike rate of 124. Throw in the dodgy captaining as well. He also had the 2nd worst strike rate of anyone in the top 12 run scores, only Graeme Smith had a lower strike rate, but he averaged 48.

Cricket players are notoriously difficult to measure, in spite (or because) of all the statistics. But in this case, I disagree with the Aussie blogger. Saying that Dravid had the second worst strike rate of the best batsmen in the tournament is like saying, “Out of the three best batsmen ever, Ricky Ponting comes in dead last, after Don Bradman and Sachin Tendulkar.” It’s really not that damning.

Rahul Dravid’s Suprisingly Strong IPL Career

I read somewhere that former India captain Rahul Dravid dislikes the nickname “The Wall,” because it implies he can’t do anything but block and return what comes at him. And while many believe it’s a compliment, Dravid’s right that it’s somewhat back-handed. After all, most Indian fans think he scores too slowly or is too defensive and are only too happy when he makes way for Sachin Tendulkar or V.V.S. Laxman in the Test line-up.

In the frenzied, supposedly hip IPL, however, he hasn’t disappointed at all. He is currently the top scorer (wearing the orange or pink or whatever gimmicky cap) in the 2009 edition. And in the last one — an atrocious season for his team, which saw forced resignations, multiple strategies, public apologies and angry owner rants — he was among the top 10 scorers, notching up 371 at an impressive strike rate over 124. Even then, he was blamed: he picked the wrong sort of team, the owner said; he scored too slowly, others said.

What does it mean? Continue reading

Was Brendon McCullum’s Catch Legal?

I’m coming late to this, but My Two Cents argues Brendon McCullum’s catch off Rahul Dravid’s paddle sweep should have been disqualifed. Law 41 states:

7. Movement by fielders
Any significant movement by any fielder after the ball comes into play and before the ball reaches the striker is unfair. In the event of such unfair movement, either umpire shall call and signal Dead ball.

He then links to AGB Cricket, who has a nice letter from someone at the MCC. The letter says two factors need to be considered in these situations: a) How significant is the movement? (After all, wicketkeepers regularly move behind the stumps before a delivered ball reaches the batsman.) b) Is the movement anticipation of a batting stroke? The paddle sweep requires an elaborate set-up and every fielder knows it’s coming. McCullum only moves after Dravid has chosen the stroke, which makes it less shady.

So, yes, the McCullum catch seems perfectly cricket to me, especially when you consider we allow batsmen to move significantly after a bowler has delivered a ball.

More importantly: is this the end of the paddle sweep?