Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dhoni Leads World XI

Sydney Morning Herald aptly underlined the erosion of Australia's position in world Cricket as only one Aussie found place in World Test Team for 2008. Not long ago such World XI outfits used to have at least 5 - 6 Baggy Green caps. Times change quickly. A couple of all time greats quit, but Ponting and his arrogant buddies find it hard to come to terms with the reality.

Only two Indians (Gautam Gambhir and MS Dhoni) find place in the selection, with MSD as Captain of the side. While choice of most of the players appears to be obvious one, the selection seems to based on figures rather than quality. The skillful swing bowling of Zaheer on the unresponsive Indian pitches ought to have earned him a berth in the eleven in place of Sidebottom. Even Ishant Sharma, who as Peter Roebuck acknowledges, was outstanding, but is not there. I would have preferred Sehwag to Gambhir as a partner to Smith because of his effective spin bowling capability. Daniel Vettori too, has done well enough this year to warrant his inclusion.

Nomination of Andrew Symonds as twelfth man is amusing. Probably the panelists were embarrassed to find only one Australian , Mitchell Johnson, winning place in the eleven. While others have earned their place on the basis of their performance, Symonds too deserves his place, on the basis of his performance, off the field!

Read article in Sydney Morning Herald:

Only one Australian in best XI of the year

Sunday, December 21, 2008

From Perth to Perth : Story of Aussie Decline

On the morning of January 16th this year, Australian Cricket was on top of the world as Ricky Ponting went for the toss on the WACA ground in Perth. With the team oozing with confidence on the back of record sixteen consecutive wins, the Aussies seemed invincible. But they came in for a rude shock at the hands of inspired Indian team, which was carrying bitter feeling of being cheated in the earlier test. The downward slide of the Australian team that started then, completed its course today at the very WACA where South Africa brought them crashing to earth by easily chasing down second highest target in the history.

If we trace Australia's journey from Perth to Perth, we can say that their fall from grace today was in the offing. ( So far 13 tests, 5 wins, 4 losses)They of course lost tamely to India. But even the two series victories against WI and NZ were far from convincing.

In May this year in first test in Windies, Ponting's men folded up inside 200 in second innings, but hosts could not chase a target less than three hundred. In the second test too, Aussie bowling attack could not break through Sarwan and Chandapaul even though they had 372 runs lead. Even in the final test, WI could get close to four hundred chasing a target of 475. Considering that Caribbean Cricket is in deep doldrums, the staunchest Aussie supporters won't treat this as a convincing show by their team.

The vulnerability of Kangaroos was again exposed by their arch rival neighbours, the New Zealanders. In first test earlier this month, the Kiwis had a upper hand for the majority of the play but probably lost their nerve and thereby lost chance to emulate their fellow Rugby team to defeat Aussies in their own den. Ponting's team duly won the second test, but by then chinks in their armoury were wide open and shrewd Graeme Smith exploited it perfectly to register a demoralising win so much so that Ponting today can't make out what let him down - bating or bowling!

Aussies have lost the crown. Fight is between SA and India. Both teams are a fine blend of experience and youth with captain leading from the front. The Ashes this summer are relegated as a bronze medal match. But if the English Critics are to believed, their team, even though being battered badly by the Indians, is good enough to humble Australia. Indians will be keen to watch who's a better loser!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Moment of truth for Rahul Dravid

Different players find themselves on the verge of losing their place in the team because of different reasons. Ganguly went out as success went to his head, Last year, Sehwag was dropped because of his reckless approach. Yuvi lost his vice-captaincy as a result of uncertain temperament. Today, people are asking for Dravid’s head although he is unlikely to be dropped. But why the things have come to this point? Is it the form? Fitness? Fatigue? No it is his obsession to succeed that is leading to his downfall!

Rahul Dravid, as everybody knows, is a very intense character. He always is in pursuit of perfection. In early part of his career, he used to miss the centuries regularly. Eventually, he mastered the art of going past the century mark. He proved the experts wrong as he transformed himself into a useful ODI batsman even if it meant lifting extra responsibility as wicket keeper. Dravid is not a natural leader. But he took captaincy too seriously at the expense of his batting consistency. Tendulkar realized it very early that captaincy is not his cup of tea. For Dravid, the realization was too late to rediscover his batting form. As soon as he left the captaincy, he promptly lost his ODI berth and that seems to have hurt him so much that it started to affect his batting in tests.

If nothing succeeds like success, nothing fails like failure too! Rahul Dravid cuts a very sorry figure in the field these days. The poor bating form seems to have rubbed off to his catching prowess too. Second most catches to his name, but he's seen dropping absolute sitters regularly.He appears to be a loner more than ever, quietly reading something in a corner of dressing room after getting out early.

The captain, the team, selectors, everybody is with him. There's no pressure from them. Ironically, the pressure on him is from him only. At the moment, it doesn't seem likely that he will be able to overcome his own pressure. Fortunately his failures are not costing the team much right now. When the things will change one never knows. Hence Mohali Test starting today is really his last chance either to redeem or relinquish.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Saina Breaks into Top 10 || Sania Fades out of 100

The year 2008 has been of contrasting fortunes for the Hyderabadi ladies of Indian Sport. Saina Nehawal’s exploits over last few months have earned her a top ten spot in World Women’s Badminton rankings. Unfortunately, for the Sania Mirza , the glamour queen of Indian sport, her WTA ranking is having a free fall and is out of world top Hundred!

Sania’s meteoric rise had caught the imagination of Indian teenagers a few years ago. Her triumph at Wimbledon Junior doubles, quickly followed by impressive runs in a couple of Grand slams was enough to earn her the adulation from public and media. Endorsements and off the court controversies probably came too early for her. Her competitors too, had a measure of her game. Frequent bouts of injuries also didn’t help. For Sania, it is a long battle ahead as she starts a new season.

Saina Nehwal, on the other hand, is a low key figure. In fact, till her spectacular show in the Olympics where she reached quarter finals, very little was known about her, even though she had won a major title (Philippines Open) in 2006 and being runner-up in World Junior championship in the same year. But the lack of media attention was a blessing in disguise for her as she could continue to improve and impress. Gold in CYG and World Junior championship at Pune and impressive performances in the Super Series has ensured that she becomes the highest ranked Indian female Shuttler ever.

Both Saina and Sania are the potential medal winners for India at London Olympics in 2012. They lead the pack of ambitious and aggressive breed of new Indian sportsmen. So it is important that Indian sports loving public backs both them. I see a few self styled critics coming down heavily on Sania Mirza. Considering that Tennis is more competitive, being popular across the world, than Badminton which is more Oriental in the sense dominated by East Asian countries, Sania’s feat of reaching top 30 position is also no mean achievement. Age is still on her side. Let us hope she bounces back to her best form in coming days.

Conrgats to Saina and Best of Luck Sania!!