Tuesday, August 23, 2011

England vs India - Series Review

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

No words necessary. © Getty Images

The Cricket Musings can be pretty pessimistic, but I don't think anybody on earth saw this coming. What transpired over the last month was a performance so pitiful and even the West Indies and Bangladesh would go home crying in shame. Make no mistake, it was nothing short of an atrocious performance with no excuses. One would even feel sorry for the Indians, if not for their overly smug and brash attitude (jealous are we?).

The Numbers Don't Lie:

  • India were bowled out every single innings, that's 80 wickets lost. They made it to 300 once, their average score being 256.
  • England only had to bat six times, and were only bowled out twice, and one of those was a total of 554. Their average score? A whopping 468 and that too with four declarations.
  • Only Rahul Dravid managed more than 300 runs for India. He was nearly 200 runs shy of the next best in Tendulkar, and his series average 76.83 made him a man among toddlers.
  • Only Praveen Kumar operated at a bowling average under 30, England had three.
  • Of the ten centuries scored, three belonged to India, all Dravid. 
  • The last time India was white-washed was 11 years ago in Australia. 

And don't forget those were the days when India would bat like rag dolls anywhere outside the batting paradises of the sub-continent. This Indian team came to the English shores boasting a #1 world ranking. They go home as #3.

Doing a report card on the players would be an utterly pointless exercise, as every Englishman deserves at least 8 and every Indian who is not named Rahul Dravid deserves at most 2.

So what the heck happened? 
Is it even possible to pinpoint how a team can suddenly be so abysmal? A team only putting up a show in one match only for Tim Bresnan to blow them away? Perhaps surprisingly, the answers were always there, the cracks were merely invisible under the shiny gloss of big talk, the world cup victory and the so called world number one ranking. 

The truth is:
  1. India were always unfit. For many years a number of key players were constantly breaking down with injury. Previously slim players are suddenly lazy, paunchy and tired. Handling this for fifty overs was possible and made it look like there was no issue. When it becomes 450 overs, it becomes painfully clear.
  2. India never could field. The number of dropped catches, misfields and lumbering chases for the ball has been nothing new. Only Suresh Raina had any sort of energy and ability.
  3. India have 1.5 bowlers. And one of those was Zaheer Khan, who's injury sealed the fate of the 'attack'. Praveen Kumar is the 0.5, who deserves special mention for his tireless and lionhearted efforts out there. Bhajji was always dead wood. Ishant and Sreesanth only bowl one or two good spells a series. Mishra and RP Singh never had the experience or the tools to do anything meaningful. Without a McGrath or Steyn, we will always be behind.
  4. India don't win much. Perhaps the harshest reality of all. "But, but we are number one!" you say? Look at the recent results, in the past five years, India have drawn a ridiculous 19 matches, nearly equalling their win record of 22 matches. These draws came about with their gun batting line-up flaying the bowling on dead pitches, and an inability to take 20 wickets. 
  5. The batting machine had to fail finally. How often did Laxman or Dravid (or even Bhajji!) bail them out of embarrassing situations with the bat. With any number one team, there will always come a time where the bowling and fielding will be tested, and India were never up to standard there. A team built on batting alone can only go so far.
Time to cut down on the Pakodas son. © Getty Images

The Bottom Line
If you look at the facts, India only really made it to the top as a place-holder for the declining Australians. A heavy weight of drawn series and matches is definitely an improvement from the 90's, and they are rightfully third on the ladder. But its time to stop being delusional and pretending this team was good enough to hold down the top ranking for very long.

It is a harsh wake up call, but a necessary one. You cannot take test matches for granted, a champion team is built on eleven players forming a batting, bowling and fielding unit with the mental fortitude to outlast the opponent over five days.

England, in other words.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dear Ravi Shastri, Please Shut Up

With the Indian team crumbling into a miserable heap at the hands of the English seamers, perhaps the time was ripe for an off-field battle between some of the big heads from either camp. But before we get to that, lets make a few things clear about the status quo:

  1. India have no excuses. Losing Zaheer Khan is probably the only piece of bad luck they may rue. Apart from that this is (more or less) a full strength Indian line-up.
  2. India are not number one. And in fact they never were, they only ended up there as a temporary place holder in the lack of a true champion team.
  3. England could be the real deal. The England's of the past would flatter to deceive, winning an important series before falling flat in those that follow. Not this one it seems, and once they get their ODI game in order, who knows... the next Australia?
But now to the point of the article. 

The Bombing of Pearl Harbor

Nasser Hussain, renowned for having a rather big mouth, made it clear what he thought when Harbhajan was unfairly given out lbw with a big inside edge. His two cents worth included “using incomplete DRS is disgraceful by BCCI”, as he correctly said that Harbhajan could have been there if complete DRS was allowed, and that hotspot is in fact less accurate than the ball tracking system, and yet India have opted for that. 

Granted the choice of words are not politically correct, Hussain is more or less right. But this is a very unflattering stick thrust smartly into the BCCI bee hive. How dare he criticize the big shots of India! 

The Atomic Bomb

The rebuttal, came from Mr Ravi Shastri. He struck back with this:

"They are jealous about the way the Indian Premier League is going. They are jealous about where India is in world cricket.
"They are jealous about the fact that India are world champions. They are jealous because of the money being made by the Indian cricket board.
"The bottom line is that they have never been bloody No 1 in the world in Test cricket.
"So don't criticise unless you have been there and know."
Do you Mr Shastri really think that India is *that* good? That they can flat out accuse someone of being jealous of their cricketing abilities, their money and even more laughably, the IPL? Take a good look at how this series is going sir, and learn some humility and respect. It is 2-0 and looking like 3-0 at the moment. Your commentary sounded like you were at a funeral as it was so depressing to see your beloved team being so soundly trounced. Tim Bresnan, the England number 9, is straight driving your best bowlers like they are club level rookies.

Your "bloody no 1 in the world" are playing like the no 1 joke. Beating a few teams on flat decks by out-batting them does NOT make a world number one team, and you will find out in due course don't you worry about that. Here's a fact, if it weren't for the soon-to-retire VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid, India would be third at best. They would have lost to the West Indies. 

I used to think you were one of the few grounded and well informed Indian commentators, how wrong I was. You are just as delusional and arrogant as the rest of the muppets you are surrounded by. Funnily enough, as arrogant as they were, did you see the Australian commentators openly brag about how good they are? No. They only beat teams to a pulp and let the scoreboard talk.

Ravi Shastri, grow up and shut up.