The whatsit cup final

Remarkably little heartburn in the papers Saturday, following India’s collapse chasing an improbable target of 308 against a well-rounded bowling attack backed by superb fielding. Nice. The team after all is easing back into competitive cricket after a decent-sized layoff, so any breast-beating at the symptoms of rust would have been premature. Come to think of it, if India loses the Compaq Cup final today, I still wouldn’t worry.

That said, there are signs that should begin to seriously worry selectors — and the first is Suresh Raina. Along with Rohit Sharma, Raina is being groomed to bat at 3 or 4 in the order in the new dispensation. Watch him play Shane Bond, though, and you realize just how far he has to go before he can live up to that billing — Raina was distinctly discommoded by anything that didn’t pitch in his own half and, in fact, was in such a state of chronic apprehension that once, ludicrously, he jumped onto the back foot to a ball of good length, and got into a horrid tangle. He may have been working on remedies, but clearly he has a heck of a long way to go still, and that opens up a major vulnerability within the lineup.

The other was the Yuvraj Singh sideshow on Friday. The one time contender for captaincy is a notoriously slow starter even when in prime form, but at the start of a season he is just plain flat-footed — and that is in large part the result of a lifestyle that avoids anything remotely resembling practice in favor of the bright lights of the Mumbai party circuit. During his time as coach, John Wright had identified the tendency to slack off during the off season as the single reason why the team invariably starts the new season slow. Years later, though the symptom was identified, there still seems no cure in sight. Do we even have an off season schedule, and does anyone actively monitor what the players get up to when there are no international commitments?

The third problem, unfortunately, is not something the selectors or the team can do much about just now. In ODIs, you need the ability to maximize the possibilities of the first ten overs — and absent Viru Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir, the team lacks that ability. A slow start, compounded by Dravid at three, means pressure all the way down the line, and that pressure is falling on the likes of Raina and Yuvraj who, at this point, are just not equipped to turn it around.

At the end of Friday’s game, MS Dhoni said the toss was 50 per cent of the battle and if you can put up anything in the region of 250 batting first, that is 80 per cent of the game won. I don’t know if it is that simple — the team at this moment has a sluggish look about it, especially in the field [against Lanka, fielders routinely conceded twos where there should have just been brisk ones; against that, the Lankan inner ring routinely denied singles and had the Indians under enormous pressure]; even if they were to win the toss today, I don’t see them winning the game, not with rust so thick in all three departments of the game.

In any case — how many of you watched the two India games thus far? Just taking the temperature. 🙂 I’ll likely watch the first half of today’s game, anyway, before heading off to meet some friends just in from London — thoughts, as and when the occur, on my Twitter stream.

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11 thoughts on “The whatsit cup final

  1. Watched neither games. I unsubscribed my sports package just last week. 🙂

    And I did not follow the games on the news, internet, whatever. The first time I read about the games is here on your website!

  2. Noticed the comments during the two games at many forums and people are hung about Dravid’s scoring rate-if you noticed in the second game-he was faster than Yuvraj and Dhoni.Dhoni has also been a slow starter of late-it’s the reputation that MSD & YS have that they can accelerate any moment.I believe if RD is at 3 ,the team has to bat around him,and if at 5 he has to be the finisher,and at 3 ,he should not be accused of slow scoring.In the first match Bond bowled a torrid over at RD ,and always looked as if he will survive ,when SR was batting it looked he doesnt have a clue and may not survive.Prem your point about offseason regime and monitoring will go for a toss because they will not disclose their whereabouts citing privacy

    • Mahesh, the privacy/WADA issue does not even remotely come in. These are contracted players; if the BCCI therefore figures on the need for an extensive pre-season camp and not a three-day farce, the players have to attend, period.

      Secondly, I remember how Wright and Leipus/Kokinos went about it. At the end of a season, they would prescribe for each player. One part of the prescription would be a fitness regimen they were supposed to follow, that the physio/trainer worked out in extensive detail. The other part was a skills regimen, where Wright would give each player a note on those aspects of his game that had fallen off and suggest remedial work.

      Wright and the physio kept in loose touch with the players during the off season to make sure things were on track [no privacy issues involved in calling a mobile number and chatting]. Then just before the start of the next season, when the conditioning camp was called, the coach and physio tested the individual players on the basis of the prescriptions given to them, to ensure they had worked both on their fitness and their skills.

      I was merely wondering if any such system was still in place.

      About the other part of the comment, with ref Rahul: I am not complaining about his strike rate in total. 47/53 is decent, all things considered. The problem is more apparent when you watch him play: there is way too little in the form of strike rotation. Defending every ball bowled by the top guy in the opposition, “keeping him out”, is good in Tests, but in ODIs you look more for active defense — tapping the good bowler around, bleeding him for singles and rotating strike, not batting out four, five deliveries back down the pitch, which creates a sense of stasis in the innings, allows the bowling to get on top and the fielders to tighten the circle, and piles on the pressure. Note incidentally that I am not criticizing RD or the others [Sachin too has largely batted in that vein] — merely pointing out a problem area they will need to address before the Champions Trophy begins.

      • There you go Prem-it’s about continuity which is lacking in Indian Sports/Cricket-the good work done by Wright etc has gone down the drain,we are more individual oriented than a process oriented team.
        My grouse about the strike rate of current team is it is overrated-we have too many stroke makers(They all look good when the conditions are friendly),and not many play makers around which a team can build when there is a wobble and able to play in all conditions.
        So far in today’s game the two oldies have given a decent start.

  3. Yeah, Yuvraj in SL eyes was a walking wicket — the moment he walked in they began moving the ball away outside off with catchers in place, and from the first two, three balls he faced you sensed that is where he was going to perish. Sangakkara’s reaction when the edge was finally taken had all the triumph of a plan well thought out, and perfectly executed.

    A problem with Sachin that we are going to see increasingly is that he bats to the bowling, where in his glory years he made his own rules irrespective of what the bowler did. Not a criticism, merely an observation that age has changed the way he plays, likely forever.

    • I wish I can see Sachin murdering Kulasekara, Mirando, Malinga and co, today, just the way he tore apart Waqar, Shoiab and co few years back…

      One more Time pls…

  4. One more observation, IMHO Srilankans have clearly studied each and every indian batsmen and have a plan to tackle him…
    look at the way they bowled to Yuvi (outside off and he kept chasing each and every delivery and finally realised he had crossed the boundary and already landed in the pavilion)
    slow balls to Sachin, no room to Dravid, MS, Pathan…
    And they didn’t plan anything for Raina coz they knew that Raina’s mind is already filled with short balls… so whatever u bowl to him he will clearly duck (even if the ball is rolling on the pitch!! may be i’m bit exagerrating) but overall Srilanka would have won that match even if they had batted second…

    One glitch in SL game plan… U may plan against Sachin, Rahul, MS, Yuvi etc once but everyday is not a sunday…

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