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Monday, 24 October 2011

England Must Play Their Best Side

Come now! Grow up and smell the leather. Neither India nor England are dominant as the sledging Aussies once were, so a lot more to emulate yet. Everyone likes a bit of banter, certainly lots of intensity, but not consistent chatter, screaming abuse and being chastised by the umpires time and again. The ICC might charge the two boards a school head-teacher's fee!

Back to the game then, shall we?

The Indians with a fresh look side have played good cricket, dominating in all three departments so far. They have had a few good finds in Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron, athletic speedsters. Long may their fitness last.

Another good omen for India is that they have found a new dependable middle order, at least in home conditions. Although the opening spot does beckon one Mr. Sehwag. This Indian side re-charged with the return of the experienced campaigners, will give the selectors some good headaches.

One does need to spare a thought for the workload of skipper Dhoni. Should he hand over reigns in the limited over format to a younger deputy?

The English have struggled to compete in this series, barring a few good individual performances and one close finish at Mohali. It does appear that the think tank is going into each game without much of a plan. It is a bunch of very skilled cricketers this lot. However, with all the experience, video footage, etc. not much evidence of application, adapting to the conditions or even picking the best side for the conditions!

The lowlight for me was the dropping of Swann, the best spinner in the game, on a spinning slow track at Mumbai! So was it just a gamble or "lost cause, let's experiment", or worse still, a mind-block to playing three spinners irrespective of conditions, despite one being a proven all rounder?

Admittedly it has also been a shock to see Ian Bell, the most gifted English stroke-player, sit out the series so far. With big runs against India recently, his presence in the middle was certainly deserved and possible, especially with two middle order batsmen failing in the first three games. Again, can't really find an explanation.

With a 5-0 result in the series now looking imminent, Eden Gardens could be another one way street. The track there slows down dramatically as the game progresses. The temperature and humidity will not be much help either to the England lads. Hopefully they will field their best eleven to try and avoid the indignity of a white wash.

Are there Indian fans wishing there were four test matches against England to follow the T20 encounter at the Eden Gardens?

How the tables have reversed in a few short weeks? Maybe the rhetoric about England world domination will have to take a short break, despite their recent climb to rank one of the ICC Test and T20 chart. Dominant teams dominate in all conditions, so the task ahead is cut out clearly, for Andy Flower and his band of English captains.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Toughest English Exam at Mumbai

Here we go again. Mumbai temperature above 30 degrees, high humidity and a promised slow track by the curator. The fourth game today will be toughest exam for England on this current tour of one dayers.

The last game at Mohali was the best chance for England to come back into the contest. The pitch had a tinge of green and the weather dry and pleasant, at least in the evening. England did well to set the target of 300. But then the rub of green seems to going against them too. England surrendered the series in the field, despite a good batting performance.

This young Indian side, with seven new faces, compared to the world cup winning side of earlier this year, is playing the conditions rather well. Building partnerships, using the pace well, rotating the strike and working hard on the field. It is all coming together. Being used to the tracks and with strong home support, suddenly they are making the English summer look a bit distant.

The chatter on the pitch is spicing proceedings, more so when the Indian skipper comments on infighting in the English camp. Mind games, sledging, no DRS, it does feel more traditional, honestly. The series makes the recent white-wash in England very stark by contrast.

Worth looking forward to Ian Bell back in the playing eleven, and hopefully leggie Scott Brothwick making his debut for England. From the Indian side, it would be good to see two likely debutants, leggie Rahul Sharma and speedster Varun Aaron.

This series maybe decided, but there is still much pride at stake for both England and India. It will be hard fought, but a real tough one for England, this one.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Slow Low Turners

Later this week England arrive in India to play 5 ODIs and a solitary T20 in
the second half of Oct 2011, starting at Hyderabad on the 14th of Oct. Short and sweet, this return tour will miss Test matches. Not a series really, but a real test for both sides.

We all recall the drubbing India received at the hands of the English this summer, not so long ago. The domination was complete, in all internationals and in all formats.

England proved that they have well and truly arrived. Displacing the number one test side, and thrashing the world champs of the ODI format, convincingly, game after game.

But then cricket is one sport that has much to do with conditions. And the conditions, the pitches and the weather, did work to England's advantage during the home series. While the weather was not the primary cause for India's debacle, it was certainly a big factor. Wish the late September weather was around during the series, but let's just blame that on global warming, shall we?

For England to prove it's mettle and justify their top billing, the subcontinent conditions will be a true test. The pitches will be slow and low, with more turn than any pitch played on, during the summer.

Full credit to the England team management, who preferred the curators prepare a slow turner at the Oval for the 23 Sept T20 tie against the West Indies. It was certainly an effort to prepare for the subcontinent conditions. The result was unfavorable, which is not bad news. It highlighted the challenge of the subcontinent visit ahead. And it's one thing we know about Andy Flower, he will ensure complete preparation.

It is heartening that despite their detractors, selectors on both sides have worked on exploring new options, futuristic and specialist. New names on both sides will be exciting talents to watch. Look out for Jonathan Bairstow, Scott Borthwick, Jade Dernbach, Stuart Meaker, Chris Woakes, Jos Buttler, Alex Hales, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, Varon Aaron, Umesh Yadav, S Aravind, Rahul Sharma and Manoj Tiwary. That is one long list!

Go on young men, make use of the opportunity and give us a great contest!!

Having said all that, I do believe that the limited overs formats, a curtailed ODI and particularly the T20 format does not truly reflect the real game. What with the D/L method limiting a T20 game to 9 overs. Seriously? That's more like "Tukkaa" 20 cricket. To explain, "Tukkaa" means "Fluke"!

It will definitely be a different kind of contest, with conditions changing a 180 degrees. Heat and humidity, bald slow low turners - that's a tad different from Trent Bridge, me thinks.

Expect a better contest than the recently concluded series in England, but don't you go and write off England, not this hungry bunch of fighters.

Happy viewing.

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