Observations On India Australia ODI Series 2009

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Observation 1: While we came very close to becoming the statistical number 1 ODI team in the world, the fact remains that we have far too many fundamental problems to claim that we rightfully deserve the top rank.

For one, Australia showed us where exactly we stand in one of the defining  criteria for excellence as a sporting country—depth of talent.

The Australia of 2009 is a pale shadow of that of 2007 in terms of ability. On top of that, more than half of their first team were not available due to a rotten run of injuries. And yet second and third-choice players  like Bollinger were able to turn in match-winning performances in conditions, totally foreign to them and with very little preparation since many of them were hurriedly drafted into the squad. In contrast, the Indian side seems to be unable to recover from the absence of just one player—-pace-spearhead Zaheer Khan for several series now, an absence we have had sufficient time to plan for.

Observation 2: Another place where the gulf between us and what it takes to be number 1 has been tragically exposed has been in the domain of basic skills—-running between the wickets and fielding. The errors that we were told had ended with Ganguly and Azhar and Laxman— of not getting between the throw and wickets, of not diving and sliding, of taking extra steps to avoid throws—was manifested again and again and in multiple players. And the lesser said about the fielding the better. This is one aspect where the Indian team, never the best team in this respect, has fallen sharply even from its 2006–2007 levels with even on the day where it fielded the best it had in many years (Dhoni’s own admission) it was still upstaged by Ponting’s men.

In the field, Sehwag moves about like he is taking an afternoon stroll. Kim Sharma would hit the stumps more often than Yuvraj Singh. Now before you say “Hey these Gen Next players are also not as young anymore” it is worth looking at the way players like Ponting and even Hussey (who is not a natural athlete) maintain spectacularly high standards of fielding, despite them not exactly being spring chicken. It is evident that the problem has got less to do with age and more to do with the traditional Indian “we are seniors we can take it easy” attitude, an attitude I was given to believe went out with the Oldistan generation.

Observation 3: The Indian bowling cupboard looks totally bare, either because our sensational pace discoveries lose their pace [ a condition known as Prasaditis] one or two seasons after their arrival (first it was Irfan, then it was Munaf and now it is Ishant) or because they lose their mind (example too obvious to be stated). Of course that we knew for some time now. The Australians with their immense depth in pace bowling stocks seemed to make this shortcoming even more damning.

Observation 4: His batting may have improved out of sight but Harbhajan Singh, bar an isolated performance or two, is one of the side’s biggest weaknesses. In the match at Guwahati on a spinning track with India defending a low score and the captain needing to call in his main strike bowler as soon as possible (no sense in holding him back) Dhoni tellingly turned first to, no not Harbhajan, but spinning all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja. And throughout the innings, it was Jadeja who looked the most dangerous, threatening a wicket whenever he had the ball. In contrast, Harbhajan delivered a phone-in performance and even though he got 2 wickets to Jadeja’s none, he never looked like he would run through the Australians.

One couldnt help but think of a tall, bespectacled intense looking man who, in countless matches where the Indian batting had failed and where the pitch was taking turn, would bowl his heart out prising batsmen one by one. Not that he could bring victory every time (he still won more than the present “India’s No 1 strike bowler” can ever hope to) but as long as he had an over to go, we fans always knew there was some hope.

With Harbhajan there is little.

Observation 5: It was perhaps as much as indictment of Harbhajan’s spinning skills as that of  Youngistan’s weakness against spin that Hauritz, for most of the time, looked the best spinner on both sides.In the past,  touring spinners far better than Hauritz have met their Waterloos in India because players like Dada, Sidhu and Laxman used their legs to play them unlike today’s Indian batsman who favor playing from the crease. With the exception of old-school Sachin in Hyderabad, not one Indian player tried to give Hauritz the charge or throw him off length in the manner that the previous occupants of their batting slots used to. The result was that he got away looking far better than he is.

Observation 6: Okay. India is in a must-win game. In Guwahati with a very early morning start and fog around coupled with Australia’s strong pace bowling lineup and India’s well-known problem against the swinging ball, Dhoni  still decides to bat on winning the toss. I do not know why he thought that batting first would be less risky than chasing on a pitch which would spin later and where the opponent bowling attack did not consist of Mendis and Murali but Hauritz and Vosges. But even if we consider that he trusted the Indian batsmen to last out the opening hour, why then did he pick three seamers (despite Munaf having a very poor match) and not play Amit Mishra , considering his game plan was based critically on the assumption that playing spin on this pitch would be much more difficult than playing pace?

Observation 7: Given the right teams and given the right timing (i.e. in the holiday season and not in April) one day internationals can be as money-making, crowd-pulling and exciting as T20 cricket.

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45 thoughts on “Observations On India Australia ODI Series 2009

  1. Never knew that I will miss Kumble so much. When anyone talks of commitment and determination, I just feel like pointing them to Kumble.Can fault him for quite a few things but that man always put in a heartfelt performance whenever he played.

    Why was not Sehwag used as a bowler in this series? Yusuf Pathan needs to be groomed better than just throwing him away.
    Bhajji should be dropped. He has forgotten that a spinner is supposed to flight the ball sometimes too. Ashwin looks like a good prospect.

  2. Very well put!

    I have another grudge against the Indian Commentators who keep gushing about our players on every instance of their success and who provide some very inane expert insights to the match.

    While on the other hand, ppl like Ian Chappell had rightly predicted that Indian Fielding will be the main difference between the 2 teams at the start of the series.

    Ask any commentator in India on what is required at the start of the series. They can only think of Sachin (making 17K runs), sehwag and yuvi blasting out, etc, and why Indian batting is the best in the world, and all those hyped things. They are usually not alone enough to win matches.

    Heart breaking series this!

    On a side note, Bhajji said on picking a 5 wkt haul after quite a while, how can one take 5 wickets every other match 🙂 And he predicted a 5-2 win for India 🙂 If only he lets his bowling do the talking!

  3. Inconsistency is what defines the current Youngistan team. Blame it on IPL or whatever, it looks like we are going back to the dark old ages otherwise known as the early 90’s.

  4. Agarkar vs Akram

    Guys, if you take the records of these great players after they had reached a milestone number of ODIs then you will be surprised at the results.

    Ajit Agarkar vs Wasim Akram
    5 matches – 10 wickets vs 5 wickets
    10 matches – 24 wickets vs 11 wickets
    20 matches – 44 wickets vs 25 wickets
    30 matches – 58 wickets vs 36 wickets
    40 matches – 72 wickets vs 54 wickets
    50 matches – 80 wickets vs 65 wickets
    191 matches – 288 wikets vs 278 wickets !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Agarkar played only 191 matches !!!!!

    his BB is also better – he has a 6/42 vs akrams 5/15. thats 20% more wickets in 10 overs !

    5 matches – 4 runs vs 2 runs
    10 matches – 13 runs vs 2 runs
    20 matches – 102 runs vs 42 runs
    30 matches – 177 runs vs 70 runs
    40 matches – 216 runs vs 146 runs
    50 matches – 237 runs vs 206 runs

    Agarkar not only has more wickets but outscores Akram in batting too !!! This is unbelievable!!! Akram has only gone ahead because he played more ODIs not by outbowling or outscoring Agarkar?!!!

    All hail the great Agarkar.

  5. Well.. I seem to wonder if Dhoni is any different than his predecessors.. Seem to be hearing a lot of ‘ bowling failed’, ‘ top order failed’ and other such stuff from him.. But what about the captain?? Is he above all??

  6. “But even if we consider that he trusted the Indian batsmen to last out the opening hour, why then did he pick three seamers (despite Munaf having a very poor match) and not play Amit Mishra , considering his game plan was based critically on the assumption that playing spin on this pitch would be much more difficult than playing pace?”

    Because teams are chosen before the toss, so if we were asked to bowl first, then it would have been better to have three pacers. Not that we were short of spinners even without Mishra. Apart from Harbhajan and Jadeja, there were Yuvraj and Raina too to exploit the conditions if the batsmen had lasted the first hour and put up a decent score.

    “Given the right teams and given the right timing (i.e. in the holiday season and not in April) one day internationals can be as money-making, crowd-pulling and exciting as T20 cricket.”

    But the problem with international cricket is satisfying those conditions, since there are so few “right teams” (Aus, SA and maybe SL as opponents as far as India is concerned – Pak is out due to political tension). But there is an idea for Modi. Have another tournament of 50-over cricket between IPL teams.

  7. @Adhi
    Just try repeating that statistical analysis with the Test matches these two played. I like Agarkar who is given way more grief than he desrves, but trying to prove that he is better than Akram based on ODI figures is a little funny.
    What do they say about lies, bigger lies and statistics?

  8. @Mohan,

    “Because teams are chosen before the toss, so if we were asked to bowl first, then it would have been better to have three pacers. Not that we were short of spinners even without Mishra. Apart from Harbhajan and Jadeja, there were Yuvraj and Raina too to exploit the conditions if the batsmen had lasted the first hour and put up a decent score.”

    Let’s follow on this logic here. If we were asked to bowl first, we would be bowling in conditions where the ball would in any case be doing a lot (Dhoni knew that) and you have two bowlers who can bowl 10 overs (5 & 5 each) minimum (make them even bowl 12 or 13). Dhoni knew the pitch would ease out later and it was only a matter of getting pace power for the first 10 overs and later on pace wouldnt make much of a difference(spin would then be better than pace). It wasnt as if Munaf had had a good match and was in form. To top that off the Australians hadnt played Mishra before in the series.

    And as to Yuvraj and Raina exploiting the conditions—we saw how well that worked out. Not a surprise though of course because irregulars dont “do” it against the best of opposition.

  9. gb, I wouldn’t say it was only a matter of getting pace for first 10-12 overs. We struggled against the pace for the first 25-30 overs and it was only later that the pitch eased out a bit. Had we gone in without a third seamer and bowled first, it could well have turned out this way – our 2 fast bowlers make a couple of breakthroughs in the first 10 overs and then without a third seamer on a pitch still supporting seam, we would have released pressure on the aussies and then struggled to chase.

    Yes, Yuvraj and Raina couldn’t exploit the conditions, but that’s also because we didn’t have a decent total for them to bowl at. But the point is, there were some options to bowl on what Dhoni hoped would be a spin-friendly surface to bowl on. But if we had bowled first on a pace-friendly pitch, there were no options other than the 2 pacers.

  10. Hey greatbong, give Indian team a break. What can Dhoni do if more of his teammates don’t get injured? I’m sure India would have been leading 6-0 if Yuvi, Bajji etc were “unavailable”. But then, the way they field, there’s no chance of them getting injured anytime soon. Unless they slip on one of the sachets of shampoo they keep peddling around..

  11. Another Observation:

    India is somehow always bulding a team for the future /for the world cups and in doing so, gets in relative greenhorns with a few spectacular performaces in the domestic league. Whereas, Australia rarely does that. It reposes faith on proven/consistent performers with tons of runs over multiple seasons – its not rare to see people wearing Aussie colors after 25 years of age.

    Therein, lies the difference. Some of these youngsters take it too easy when success comes relatively early and easy. They should be made to toil for a India cap and which will make them place value on it.

  12. “We struggled against the pace for the first 25-30 overs and it was only later that the pitch eased out a bit.”

    That was because at the end of the 10th over we were 27/5. You dont “struggle” after that because of the bowling or the pitch. You struggle after because you want to minimize all risk and play out 50 overs. That Praveen Kumar could hit at the end was because Dhoni and Jadeja closed shop from 10th over onwards. It wasnt the bowling or the pitch condition that made them do that but the small matter of 27/5.

  13. What we need is “Chota Dada” in our team.

    Manoj Tiwary symbolises Bengal’s new brand of cricket, one built on youth and fearlessness.Tiwary has a minimalistic approach towards batting; bowlers are meant to be hit, and the purpose of batting anywhere is to make runs. He goes about doing that in the most aggressive of manners. He has idolised Kevin Pietersen, evident through his mannerism on the field, and favours the front foot more.

    An aggressive and passionate Bengal cricketing fraternity has already nicknamed him chota dada (in reference to Ganguly’s nickname, dada)

    http://www.cricinfo.com/ci/content/player/35565.html

  14. VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, and Anil Kumble are the Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva of Indian cricket respectively. VVS Laxman creates lots and lots of runs for the team, Rahul Dravid sustains them by taking care of the innings and scoring lot more runs, and finally Anil Kumble kills all the opposition team batsman by taking wickets. All the remaining 8 players are just ashtadikpalakas, just taking care of formalities. The present Indian team is missing this trio. I strongly suggest bringing back all three of them in T20 and one day teams also. Otherwise, there will only be doom for Indian cricket.

  15. Observation 8 :
    I thought that the whole point of having the IPL was to give new cricketers a chance to get acquainted with world class cricket. But which new players has the IPL discovered? Instead we have the same old tired faces who have lost their hunger for success and are too comfortable in the team to put in any effort.

  16. gb: ok, point taken. So the best we can say is that we can’t say for sure what the conditions were like after the first 10 overs, because the Indian batsmen had already gone into shutters down mode. But in any case, expecting that Dhoni should have foreseen that conditions will help seam bowling only for first 10 overs and hence two seamers will be enough even if we are asked to bowl first is a bit too much. As I asked in my previous comment, what if we had bowled first and conditions were favourable to pacers for the first 20-25 overs and we were without a third seamer to make use of those conditions and apply pressure on Aus? As I see it, this was the thinking behind the decision. Pitch will assist spin in the second half. Yes, conditions will be helpful to seamers in the first half of first innings, but our batting should be able to handle that (especially against a weakened Aus attack) and post a fighting total and on a helpful pitch the two spinners, three seamers and the part-time spinners should be able to restrict the aussies (on a low, slow pitch in the second innings, seamers can be effective too). So, if I win the toss, bat first for sure. But since you can’t rely on winning the toss, be prepared for the eventuality of losing the toss by having a third seamer. Yes, it reduces your bowling strength if you bowl second, but not by as much as having 3 spinners would reduce your bowling strength if you bowl first. Specially so considering there were plenty of back-up spinners but no back-up seamer among the batsmen.

  17. Mohan,

    I really can’t understand what u r arguing for and why u r arguing on such an obvious thing. Electing to bat first in seamer-friendly conditions is an unforgivable blunder. All your araguments are futile and lack logic.

  18. @ mohan: i don’t think anybody would expect dhoni to know that the pitch is going to help seamers for 10 overs or 11.5 overs or 23 overs etc.
    what can be expected is that he read the pitch correctly and correctly figures out that there will be early assistance for seamers. then he can be expected to make a decent enough judgment call on how long the assistance would last in terms of time, and arrive at a likely band of overs. for this match, if the pitch had been read right, it would have been something like for the first 10-15 overs.

    @gb: noticed that in your references to the past batsmen, one r.s. dravid is missing. he too played the spinners well and his strike rate in ODIs is marginally lower than Ganguly’s and higher than Sidhu’s.
    also minor spelling mistake, in observation 4, shouldn’t it be ‘His batting may have improved out of sight ‘ rather than ‘His batting may have improved out of side ‘?

  19. “Dhoni should have foreseen that conditions will help seam bowling only for first 10 overs and hence two seamers will be enough even if we are asked to bowl first is a bit too much”

    He actually did. I think he said that himself (at least thats what the commentators reported him saying). No rocket science there. Commentators did too. Its not uncommon when you have an early start for the ball to seam about for the first 10 overs and then the bite to disappear. Other challenges in the pitch may manifest itself–uneven bounce, turn but the swing and the bite is unlikely to come back. However knowing that their greatest strength is bowling fast and out greatest weakness is playing fast batting first makes little sense. It makes even lesser sense when you dont even equip yourself with the proper spinners since you have put a bet on the pitch spinning.

  20. I visited your page after a few months, observations as sharp as ever. The only change – some ad links… Apart from that keep up the good work

  21. gb: “He actually did. I think he said that himself”

    That must have been after he had won the toss and decided to bat. Of course, he is going to minimise the early swing effect in his statements, but that need not be the same assumption he would have made in his internal planning.

    “It makes even lesser sense when you dont even equip yourself with the proper spinners since you have put a bet on the pitch spinning.”

    That’s where we disagree. In general, while picking your team you assume that you are going to lose the toss. That way you are hedging your bets. If you win the toss, you have the advantage of doing what you wanted to do (in this case bowl second), albeit with a team that may be slightly weaker than ideal for doing so. If you lose the toss, you are doing what you didn’t want to do, but with a team that is suited for doing so (in this case bowling first with 3 seamers). If you pick the team for toss winning situation, then you are basically betting on winning the toss. You will have double advantage if you win the toss, but are left high and dry if you lose (like here, bowling first with only 2 seamers).

  22. It is surprising that you rate Azhar as a bad runner. Yes he and jadeja used to walk instead of running. Even Agassi doesn’t wait for Sampras to hit a forehead in the last point before going to his chair for the break. Its a way to express coolness without compromising the output.
    Running pairs like Azhar/Sachin, Azhar/Jadeja, Kaif/Yuvi, Dhoni/Yuvi, Sehwaj/Gambhir were always good.

  23. Azhar had run himself out many times by 1) not grounding his bat and 2) running zigzag and 3) not coming between throw and stumps. Now that may have been because of various reasons but yes he was a bad runner despite being a very good fielder.

  24. 1. Tendulkar as opener doesn’t suit India’s interest. it’s best left to Viru-Gati.
    2. Bhajji the bowler was subdued because Chris Broad is match referee. Remember Broad din’t take broad view of Bhajji’s doosra and reported him twice in the past.
    3. Next-gen players are legeless wonders. Can’t play spin, can’t play real fast. Mere flat-track bullies.
    4. Once T’kar-Dravid-Laxman quits, India would be as good a Test nation as Bangladesh.
    5. You don’t have a single decent slip fielder, other than Sehwag, when the above mentioned trio retires.
    6. Ishant is as good as the pitch. He shud settle in Perth.

  25. and seriously dhoni’s doing things these days which all point to one thing … the man should be married pronto (or he’s hooked onto A1 Banarasi Bhaang Chai Patti)

  26. I think one observation you might have missed Greatbong is the fact that the players we grew up watching played with a sense of dignity (barring a few “fixed” characters)…… these chaps seem to be full of themselves and care only if they remain in the popular limelight …… general attention to professionalism seems to have reduced ….

  27. Sreesanth is back! And he has added several new dance steps to his repertoire, through which he will terrorize rival batsmen. Word has it that Malit Lodi has roped him in as a dancing and jumping cheerleader for next years IPL, and lucky draw winners are going to get the chance to match his wild dance moves on huge hot-air balloons floating above the stadia!

  28. Actually, this series was not won or lost in the areas of talent (anybody saying that the Indian contingent lacking talent has no idea of its abundance), strategy or team selection; It was lost in the mind, because we disintegrated mentally in the face of pressure. Consider the first match. 10 runs off the last over, and it could have gone either ways. The bowler held his nerve, the batsman lost his. Subsequently, India demolished the Aussies with Dhoni going on the rampage and then cantered home on the shoulders of a Yuvi-Dhoni partnership. Brilliance ensured that no last minute pressures was applied. Enter match no. 5, and we could only celebrate Tendulkar’s masterpiece, as the team visibly choked. I think, that is where we actually lost the series, the mental stuffings knocked out of a team that simply couldn’t handle the pressure. By the time they came to Guwahati, and had their top order swung out, it was curtains. The Aussies won, because they are trained to handle pressure, to play within their limitations and rise above them, whereas we are just too brilliant, and too outrageously talented to bother about such petty issues. A series is actually a small price to pay to continue harboring such glorious delusions…

  29. I dont know whay are you guys against Sreesanth..
    He consistently bowls above 140.. hasnt lost his pace.. he can cut the boll both ways.. even in Indian tracks he is an sset… unlike a Munaf patel or Praveen Kumar.. and above all, is a much better fielder than the other pace bowlers.. and we badly need a bit of his attitude and aggression..

    The issue with him was never cricket..
    If he is ready to clear up those issues, then he will be the next name in my list of Zak’s…

  30. Cheers to Sreeshanth’s comeback , am celebrtating wit couple of litres of toddy,i am sure Sree downs few shots of toddy before he gets on the field

  31. Hey greatbong, give Indian team a break. What can Dhoni do if more of his teammates don’t get injured? I’m sure India would have been leading 6-0 if Yuvi, Bajji etc were “unavailable”. But then, the way they field, there’s no chance of them getting injured anytime soon. Unless they slip on one of the sachets of shampoo they keep peddling around..

  32. whoever made agarkar comparison forgot that there is some thing called economy ratio while bowling. Particularly ONE DAY!!!

  33. Pingback: Blog cancelled due to lack of cyclone « Smoke Signals

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