Tuesday, November 27, 2012

India vs England - The Dhoni Backfire

The dinner menu for MS Dhoni this week will be a nice large slice of humble pie.

India were back on track in 'The Revenge Series', having been drubbed in England and Australia in last year they got their home formula nicely sorted:
  • Prepare a pitch with less life than Valle de Luna
  • The batsmen smash a total of 500+
  • The spinners do the rest

And there you have it, twirl the ball in the same place all day long and wait for mistakes, it worked gloriously all throughout the nineties and even Australia couldn't do anything about it. The Ganguly era was a rare time when India learned to compete overseas, but last years 8-0 saw a revert back to old school tactics to at least make sure that they could wallop teams in their playground and feel a bit better about life.

Only it wasn't enough, not for a 'frustrated' MS Dhoni. 

He wanted more. The test match dragged on until the fifth day thanks to Alistair Cook, who is the real deal. The spinners had to bowl mammoth spells, and unlike the lion hearted Kumble who used to do it without fuss, our captain was having none of it. Apart from the usual anti-umpire rant along came a unique volley of demands.

"I want to see a lively pitch. More turn! More bounce! More spin!! How dare we get made to play for five days, I want the ball turning from ball one!".

I am Dhoni, hear me roar. © AFP
He got his wish and England were about to get a truer taste of Indian conditions. But two crucial things were forgotten.
  • One of the best two off-spinners in the world is English, the other is not Indian.
  • A turban clad bowler all set to resurrect his career and his name isn't Harbhajan.
Yes it became the Swann and Panesar show and the match was over in less than five days, although perhaps not in the manner MSD had in mind.

"Did he just say..  more spin?" © PA Photos

The tactic backfired spectacularly on our favourite Indian skipper, his spinners flopped, his batsman succumbed, and a certain Kevin Pietersen showed everyone how to really take the bowlers, the pitch and the conditions out of the equation. That man really does bat on a different planet to the rest of them and could have been *the* batsman of our generation, too bad he's an unlikeable twit off the field. 

The Indian batsmen on the other hand are all over the show, with Sehwag having his token good innings of the series already, Kohli in his overdue form slump, Yuvraj never could play spin for peanuts anyway. 

And our beloved Sachin Tendulkar, dear oh dear. Please don't continue to ruin your aura and legacy, we don't dare criticize you for so many years of outstanding service but you're Monty's bunny now? Really enough is enough. Pujara is proving to be a find and a true class player, a long way towards being the next Dravid but at least he can dare to dream.

In a nutshell then...
  • So its 1-1 then with two tests to play, but whatever happens England applied themselves and earned a thumping test victory on Indian soil.
  • This is something India never even looked like doing in the corresponding tour last year. 
  • Mr Dhoni, be careful what you wish for son.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Why Kallis is Greater Than Ponting

As we witness the ongoing duel between Australia and South Africa, two of the greatest cricketers of our generation have come face to face perhaps for the last time, Jacques Kallis and Ricky Ponting.  It should be no surprise though which of the two has chalked up scores of 147, 49 and an injury filled 58, and which has scored 0, 4 and 18.  Equally its no surprise that which castled the other on the first morning, and his injury helped lead to absolute carnage later that day.

Ponting may have (ridiculously) won the award for the best player of the 2000s, but the truth is Kallis is far far better. Here's why:

1.  Kallis didn't have the luxury of Australian bowlers

Yes Pollock, Donald and (much later) Steyn were there, but the South Africa bowling attack was never quite up to the mark set by the Australians.  Even if Ponting's batting flopped it could be easily disguised as McGrath, Warne and Lee ripped apart the opponents, and on the flip-side its much easier to come out and belt a century after these bowlers have reduced a team to a sub-200 score.

What happened when the bowling attack all retired in one big bang? Ponting's numbers fell dramatically while Kallis's numbers were always consistent.

2.  Kallis didn't have the luxury of Australian batsmen

Wouldn't it be nice to walk out after Hayden and Langer have softened up the opening attack? And that too surrounded by the likes of Martyn, the Waughs, Symonds, Hussey and of course Gilchrist. Kallis had buddies in the form of Smith and much later de Villiers and Amla, but for the majority of his career he has had to fight a lone hand and single-handedly prop up the batting efforts.  On top of that, he has a superior batting average and that too having to face the mighty Aussie attack.

3.  Kallis can bowl

Nearly 300 test and ODI wickets of bustling fast-medium bowling. He could nearly make the South African team on bowling alone with an average consistently in the low 30s, this is an extra burden that Ponting has never had to deal with.

4.  Kallis can play in India

batting average in India of 26 and a place in history as Bhajji's only bunny. Enough said.

Its fun to stay at the Y-M-C-A © Getty

5.  Kallis has to deal with the 'fat and lazy' tag

Just take a peek to any Kallis Youtube video and the abomination known as the Youtube Comments Section.  The scum of the earth reside here, and you will see endless tirades about how Kallis is flabby, unfit, lazy and above all boring.  This is a guy that can bat all day, take very good slip catches and then charge in and bowl at over 130km/h. Injuries have hardly been an issue in a career that started in 1996, good luck finding anyone fitter than that (aside from the machine known as Courtney Walsh).

6.  Kallis has to deal with the ch---- tag

Ah yes, the bane of every South African cricketer including Kallis.

© AFP, Getty

Imagine if the Saffa's scampered home to victory, that would be 13 years of emotional hurt, constant sledging and World Cup choking vanished! Just look at what Shaun Pollock had to deal with.

In a nutshell then...
  • Kallis is the best all-rounder of our generation and at least top five in the history of the game, he is a player who gets far too little respect.  
  • The 'Player of the 2000s' Ponting has usually been riding the wave of an amazing team around him and never had to deal with the added psychological pressure. 
  • Both are very good world class players, however there is no question which of the two is superior.