Sunday, January 27, 2008

Ishant Sharma: A Matter Of Inches

I write this just after Ricky Ponting has stolen a quick single and moved on to 99, while still being unable to get any semblance of timing on shots played off Ishant Sharma's bowling. It must be noted that Sharma has come on at a rate of knots that not many would have been able to confidently predict six months ago. He has bowled well throughout the series and has easily been the unluckiest bowler on show.

However, I do get the feeling that Ishant Sharma bowls from too wide on the crease. His natural line to the right handed batsman is about three to four stumps outside off stump. This is probably two stumps too many.

To correct this habit, Sharma simply needs to land closer to the stumps by about 8-10 inches. This will shift his natural line to a position where it is one to two stumps outside off stump, thereby creating a greater level of uncertainty for batsmen and probably getting him more wickets.

This kid has a lot of potential and it is up to Venkatesh Prasad and the rest of the Indian management team to nurture him as he grows into his boots.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Is Saqlain Mustaq A Pom?

Or, more accurately, will he be accepted as one by the English public, wonders Jonathan Liew. This to me sounds like merely another example of why the 2005 Ashes success was a fluke, the English attitude to building a successful cricket team is still way off the mark.

Let's face it, the question is not whether Saqlain Mushtaq should play for England, it's who should he replace in the side.

English cricket, in it's current state of utter disarray, can ill afford to delay the inclusion of a tweaker who is better than anything that country has produce before, or will produce for a long time yet. With Monty Panesar showing predictable signs of stalling in his development, who cares if Saqlain has played a World Cup final for Pakistan, or, that he turned out for Pakistan at all (a matter that would make Poms cringe)?

The Poms need Saqlain Mushtaq and the sooner they got over their typically colonialist attitude, the sooner they might have a faint shot at winning cricket matches again.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Australia v India: Test 4, Day 1

I'm sure if Team India had been asked where they'd liked to be at the end of Day 1, they would've said 300-odd for three - or something in that region. Right now, they will take the position they're in. As an Indian supporter, not much more could have gone in Team India's favour. The Aussies dropped two catches. Virender Sehwag played a good knock. VVS Laxman pulled out some off-the-planet shots. MS Dhoni has survived to make hay while the sun shines tomorrow. And last, but not least, that man Tendulkar played the most fluent innings he's played in the last four years and survived to do it all over again tomorrow.

309/5 is an impressive first day in any conditions. It goes without saying that Team India should be looking to bat once, and only once, on this deck.

Brad Hogg proved once again that there is not a single Test-quality spinner in Australia. More importantly, he showed the kind of purchase and bounce that is on offer for Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh. If Harbhajan, in particular, slows it down, rips it hard and bowls a foot outside the off-stump he'll create havoc.

There are some, like Dinsa Sachan, that believe Dhoni doesn't deserve his place in the team on the evidence of his previous three outtings. I have a feeling (at least I hope) that they have spoken too early and will live to swallow their pride at the end of this Test match.

Just as an aside, what's wrong with Sourav Ganguly? He is one guy who manages to look so out of sorts early on in his innings, even when he's enjoying a purple patch. Some of the more sensational among us will point to his axing from the ODI team (more on that in due course), but I just cannot convince myself to buy it.

Lets wait and watch to see if Ricky Ponting puts any faith in Stuart Clarke tomorrow. He has done everything to indicate that he won't. Why would a captain under-bowl a bowler who has taken 68 wickets in 15 matches at a tick over 20? Could it possibly be the ghosts of one Shane Warne and one Glen McGrath haunting the Australian captain?

Tune in tomorrow folks, wherever you can, for this is cricket right out of the top drawer.

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Sreesanth: Mr T Thinks You're A Fool

No sooner had he been announced as a member of the Commonwealth Bank Series Indian touring party, did the "journalists" flock in their droves for a sound bite, or four. Let's just say the said reporters got all they could have asked for, and more.

Now, I'm not one for removing characters from the game. Not at all. In fact the game needs all the characters it can get. After all, there's only so many Anil Kumble's we can handle, right?

Sreesanth is alleged (you can never be sure on anything that the Indian media reports, even if it is in quotation marks) to have wondered aloud, "The Aussies should be worried I am coming."

Seriously now, I like his bowling and his flair. The dancing needs a lot of work and probably the temperament too. But, for him to ask anybody to be scared oh him? Turn it up, mate. The only bowler that scared anybody on the cricket field was big Curtly Ambrose. Until Sreesanth gets a few botox injections and a helluva lot more time under the sun, he ain't gonna scare nobody.

Except with that... err.. dancing. Maybe.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Australia v India: Are The Indians Listening?

Quite naturally, when an all-conquering side like the Australians lose a match the usual sound bites must be provided by the players and reported by the media. I'm quite sick of hearing the monotonous, "we will bounce back", "it was only one loss" and the myriad other cliches that are delivered.

However, one comment by Ricky Ponting at the end of a relatively innocuous report full of the usual dribble. Ponting had the following to say about the days preceding the all-important Adelaide clash:
"We'll work harder than India in the next week to get ourselves right."

Now, Anil Kumble and the rest of the Indian think-tank are smart men. They would have realised that any hint of complacency after the Perth win will spell doom for their team. To this end, they would undoubtedly have been imploring their your charges to work harder during the break to keep honing their games.

If the young kids need any evidence or ammunition to spur them into action, surely this comment by Ponting is it. Ponting made similar comments after he lost The Ashes in 2005, and we all know what happened in the 16 test matches thereafter. If I were Kumble I'd print out that comment in size 38 font and stick it on the dressing room wall.

The Indians will be foolish to leave any stone unturned as they prepare to level the series at one of their more favoured Australian hunting grounds. I have no doubt that Ponting's comment will not merely be a rallying call for his own team, but will also remind Team India of what needs to be done to ensure that they are not simply be remembered as one-hit-wonders.

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Ishant Sharma Climbs The Beanpole

The beanpole that is world cricket, that is. Before I come back down to Earth, can I just say that his spell on the fourth day against Ricky Ponting was one of the finest you are likely to see for quite some time. The kid will undoubtedly bowl far worse and pick up many more wickets. However, when his form slump arrives (and it WILL arrive, just ask Irfan Pathan), Sharma should watch those nine overs again and again.

The Indian fan has known for quite some time that for all the IIM's and MBA graduates in India, the term "effective management" has not been evidenced in Indian cricket. The crying need of the hour, however, is for Sharma to be managed.

The stress borne by a fast bowler's body cannot be understood by those who have not bowled a ball in anger. Ishant Sharma is not your average Ranji bowler, dawdling away at 115 km/h. He has serious zip and will only get better. For that bright future to be realised, he needs to put in a lot of hard work off the field. The bevy of support staff around him must ensure that he eats, drinks, sleeps and trains effectively and efficiently to minimise chances of injury.

Indian cricket is a graveyard for young quicks who show promise early in their careers. Anyone remember one Ajit Agarkar? I have said it before and I shall repeat for all those that missed out: it's time to hit the gym, son.

Meanwhile, see if you can spot the terror/helplessness in Ponting's eyes (he writes with much glee):

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