Saturday, November 25, 2006

India vs South Africa - Match 3 Preview

During my time on this planet I have managed to deduce that my fellow citizens who proclaim membership of the Team India fan club, are a very passionate lot. Extremist, even. Nothing to do with terrorism here, trust me.

I am sick and tired of hearing all the negativity surrounding India's loss to South Africa last Wednesday night. I am not sure that many of the people who propagate this negativity have actually seen the match or the manner in which the wickets fell.

First things first, the Indian bowling effort was pretty solid. The ground fielding needs to be improved and Munaf needs a rest for the remainder of this series. What is it with these young fast bowlers running in like granddads once they have cemented their place in the team. Zaheer was dropped for this very reason and Pathan was going down the same path. These guys are young and virile and should be running in and bowling with intent, if nothing else.

On the topic of Zaheer, it seems the hard yards on the County circuit have done him a world of good. He's banging the ball in again looking like he's interested. This game is played in the mind, if you're interested, you'll win more often than not.

The batting:
  1. Jaffer got out trying to play away from his body. No trouble with bounce or pace there (come on, it was Pollock bowling).
  2. Tendulkar was undone by late inward movement - no trouble with bounce in his dismissal either.
  3. Kaif made the mistake of not going hard at the ball, he would have scored a boundary had he done so. Bounce had a part to play in his dismissal, but he was looking a million bucks while he was out there.
  4. Dravid (read Tendulkar's dismissal). No trouble with bounce here either.
  5. Dhoni was beaten by the umpire. He too was looking assured in his short time in the middle. The ball bounced a little, but he wasn't disconcerted by it, in fact he played that ball quite well.
  6. Raina was dying to catch some fish and was caught hanging his bat out. Nothing to do with bounce, but the kid needs to be sent back to domestic cricket after this series. He's been in woeful form for some time now.
  7. Dinesh Mongia was fetching a wide one and was done by the movement, not bounce.

Forget the tail for this exercise. I want to know the reason behind all this talk of pace and bounce getting the better of the Indian batsmen. Hell, it wasn't pace or bounce. It was seam exaggerated seam movement on a dewy surface (the same on that India used to their advantage against England in the World Cup) that also managed to get the better of the Australians earlier this year - for a similar score, might I add.

Sure it is no excuse, I'm not using it as one. However, when you look through all the posturing and the score sheet, you'll find that there wasn't that much that the players did wrong that they cannot correct for the rest of the tour. None of the players need to change their game and nobody needs to take a pay cut.

Virender Sehwag should be brought in for Raina, with Wasim Jaffer playing at 3. Shift everyone down one place in the order. I would bat Mahendra Singh Dhoni at 7 with Dinesh Mongia at 6. Munaf Patel was lacklustre and should be given some time off to reflect on his lack of motivation. Bring in Pathan as an all-round option at 8 and, for God's sake, ask him to bowl at top pace. Then, and only then, will he return to his destructive ways.

All hope is not yet lost with this series. Despite the heavy margin of defeat, the team did not do all that badly. With application and trust in their own abilities, the batsmen will deliver. I am seriously looking forward to a contest, in every sense of the word, during Match 3 of this ODI series.

The behaviour of some fans in a situation that cries out for support and understanding is absolutely deplorable. If you think you were hard done by because the players aren't allowing you to get the most out of your cable TV subscription, then cancel it. If you cannot logically and constructively put forth your criticisms, then start supporting another team, for I can guarantee you that the players burn a lot more than any of us put together when they perform badly.

Grow up people. Life ain't all about the good times.

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