India cricket news
It’s the fashion these days to look back on a losing streak and say that you were playing well in patches and that you knew all it would take would be a slight improvement and everything would be hunky-dory again. This always gets on our nerves, because of course you played well in patches. You’d be hard pressed to go through an entire Test match without having any decent patches.
But yet India seemed to just about manage it. In the third Test, they were widely considered to have lost every single session, but still they played well in patches – Ajinkya Rahane got a pair of fifties and they made over 300. Even at Old Trafford, they had one patch – MS Dhoni’s partnership with R Ashwin.
But at the Oval, there was nothing. Dhoni made more runs, but there was no good patch because his biggest partnership was with Ishant Sharma for the tenth wicket. Every run they scored merely enhanced the horror of what had preceded it.
Start by bending your fingers
We’ve thought and thought about India’s performance because we’re still not happy with the easy response that they’d simply given up. Watching their final innings of the series unfold, unravel and spontaneously combust, it seemed to us that it wasn’t so much lack of fight as having no real idea how to form a fist.
Watch the highlights again and they’re not peppering the slips cordon apathetically. They’re just displaying an almost frightening lack of adaptability; playing the same non-shots to swinging balls outside off stump as they had been doing innings after innings. It was as if they simply had no alternative.
Wicket-taking strategies in England are no great mystery and presumably India’s batsmen know what slips fielders are for, but yet most of them seemed to stick with doing exactly the things most likely to result in their dismissal.
What was it like?
It was rather like someone had said to them: “Could you retrieve my hat from this active threshing machine? You’ll just have to reach in with your hand and try and grab it.”
To which they said to themselves: “Oh well. Guess I’ll be losing my hand in the threshing machine,” rather than doing something – anything – different.12 Appeals
There have been some major revelations about Ravi Shastri this summer. Apparently, he can be interesting and insightful and also possesses a sense of humour. Who knew?
We learned this while watching Sky’s oddly watchable Test discussion programme, The Verdict, on which he has been a regular guest. Before that, all we’d really known of him as a broadcaster was that he was a relentless purveyor of booming cliché. In fact, he is so well-known for it that for a time there was a bot on Twitter which would reply to your cricket-themed tweets with lines of Shastri commentary.
It was painfully accurate, including gems such as: “Just what the doctor ordered”, “He’s given it the full Monty” and of course, “That went like a tracer bullet”.
But having finished on The Verdict, Shastri’s now taken on a new role. He’s been named India’s ‘director of cricket’ – surely a somewhat threatening job title for Duncan Fletcher, who remains as coach.
Fletcher might notice a few more Indians about the place. Trevor Penney, the fielding coach, has been ‘given a break’ according to the BCCI’s press release and R Sridhar will take up that role. Bowling coach, Joe Dawes, is also being given a bit of time off and Sanjay Bangar and B Arun take up positions as assistant coaches.
Will Shastri help India recover? Dunno, but they can’t do much worse and at least the standard of Indian commentary has been improved by this decision.24 Appeals
We think you’ll agree that it’s been very difficult to watch England methodically pan India without concluding that they are vampires. If you see Alastair Cook in your neighbourhood, don’t invite him into your home.
While England have found ever greater vitality, India have been looking more and more tired. It cannot be coincidence that the changes have been proportional. The home team have clearly been exsanguinating the tourists. How else to explain India’s listlessness and painfully slow thinking versus England’s staggering rejuvenation?
Look at Stuart Broad’s innings in the fifth Test. Here was a nervy batsman with a broken nose, sitting on the back foot and awaiting the inevitable. Yet when the short ball came, it was so insipid that he could larrup it for six. Then India batted and eleven pale, ghostly, bloodless men repeated the same mistakes as always, simply because it was all they had the strength to do.
Apparently, a bloodless coup can still involve comprehensive destruction.21 Appeals
Here’s a question: can you lead by example if no-one follows that example? If there’s no-one behind you, you’re not really leading, are you? You’re just ambling around on your own while everyone else sits around having cakes and tea.
In the first innings at Old Trafford, MS Dhoni played with grit and resolve and showed the way for the rest of his team. No-one followed him. In the second innings, they buckled like a belt.
Here at the Oval, he made 82 out of 148. You could call it a captain’s innings, but that perhaps highlights just how meaningless that phrase is.31 Appeals
Sometimes the bowling’s good and the ball’s moving around and the fall of wickets seems inevitable. At other times, relentless pressure causes a side to break. Then there are those other days when it seems like you need to take every opportunity presented to you. Day three at Old Trafford was one of those days – only it was the batting side who took the opportunities.
One nose-broken bowler was off the field, another had the shits (it’s uncertain how wild they were) and two more were bowling a fair amount of filth – yet India contrived to be bowled out for 161. That is no mean feat.
If there were any opportunity to lose a wicket, India grasped it. They barely let a single chance go unclaimed. It was very, very impressive.32 Appeals
Luckless at the Rose Bowl, mediocre at Old Trafford, Pankaj Singh has thus far found two ways to avoid taking a Test wicket. Our worry is that two will prove enough; that he’ll fail to take a wicket in this match and will never return to the team.
It’s become a ‘thing’ now. People talk about how many balls he’s bowled without success. “Oh, Pankaj!” they cry as another impassioned appeal peters out, unfulfilled.
We’ll be at Old Trafford today and we’ll be delighted if Pankaj gets that first wicket. If he gets a second, we’ll be nonplussed. A third and we’ll basically hate him.20 Appeals
There have been a few stats of late about James Anderson and Stuart Broad as a bowling partnership. Something about lots of wickets. We forget how many.
On paper, they’re a wonderfully complementary duo. One’s a devious swing bowler; the other’s rangly and hits the deck hard (a phrase which sounds to us more like the individual in question isn’t particularly handy in a fight). It’s like having Ian Botham and Curtly Ambrose in your team. You’ve got all scenarios covered.
Except it doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t work like that at all.
Who is Stuart Broad?
Stuart Broad is James Anderson. He’s James Anderson a bit back, but make no mistake, that’s who he is. He rushes in, lets fly some away swing and wickets ensue. What he doesn’t do is bowl anything like the man he said he wanted to bowl like round about the time he came into the England side. Glenn McGrath he is not.
Does it matter?
Well, to paraphrase a generic England cricketer – he is who he is. There’s no changing that. It’s odd that he somehow always seems to bowl like a much smaller man, but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing so long as he bowls well.
If there is an issue, it’s that thing we mentioned before about covering all scenarios. Faux James Anderson doesn’t so much complement Real James Anderson as compound him. When the ball swings – hey-hey, we’re quids in! When it doesn’t, you’ve got all your new balls in one box.
Today it swung.33 Appeals
You wonder whether Ishant Sharma’s ‘sore leg’ might have resulted from his workload. And how did Bhuvneshwar Kumar look in the third Test, MS?
“I think Bhuvi seemed to be a bit tired.”
Maybe you shouldn’t have picked just the four bowlers then.
“In the first couple of games we played with that extra bowler, who was part of the side. But we never really used him to that extent, giving him only eight to 10 overs. That’s the reason we thought of making our batting stronger by getting Rohit in.”
If only someone, somewhere had the power to ask a fifth bowler to deliver more overs.19 Appeals
Might as well call for at least one of the captains to be sacked.
His batsmen have crumbled against bowling they should be comfortable against, his senior players aren’t ‘standing up’, he’s insisting on fielding a part-time spinner instead of a specialist and he hasn’t made a hundred in his last 20 Test innings. He has to take responsibility for these things.
It’s the young, inexperienced players who are showing the way. It’s time to move on.
It’s not just us saying this. Someone who once played cricket internationally has also criticised Dhoni’s captaincy for some reason – possibly to do with tactics. They said they’d have done things differently and that what they’d have done would have worked, unlike what Dhoni did. It’s hard, if not impossible, to argue with that.
When will the BCCI finally accept that this team is at a low ebb and acknowledge that it is time for change?34 Appeals
There are two types of spin bowlers:
The first kind is the attacking kind. They bat at number 11, but with the ball in their hand, they can take wickets. Early in their career, they can be a bit hit and miss, going for a few boundaries, but you try and allow for that because if they become more consistent, they’re invaluable.
The second kind is the batsman-who-bowls-spin. You’ll see them all the time in one-day cricket. They seem to have confused the batsman’s legs with the stumps and spear everything in this direction. The captain’s never scared of bringing them on because nothing bad can ever happen.
What England want
England haven’t been able to find an attacking spinner, so they’ve had to settle for a batsman-who-bowls-spin. Except they haven’t, because Moeen Ali’s actually no such thing.
Moeen Ali is a young spinner, a developing spinner, but he’s not a batsman-who-bowls-spin according to the definition above. People assume that England have selected someone to block up one end so that the seamers can take turns attacking from the other, but from what we’ve seen this isn’t the way Moeen approaches his bowling.
The poor lad’s being assessed by the wrong criteria. It’s often said of Graeme Swann that he was two bowlers in one – he could keep it tight and he could also attack. Now everyone’s wailing because we can’t even find someone to do the first of those things.
But they’re not sequential. You don’t go from trying to concede no more than two runs an over to taking eight wickets in an innings. If anything, the first approach will hamper your efforts at the second.
Moeen Ali bowls a decent number of four balls. If you’re Paul Harris, that’s criminal, but Moeen also bowls more potentially wicket-taking deliveries than Harris did. If he’s aspiring to be Paul Harris, he needs to erase both these extremes. Let’s take a vote on whether that’s the best course of action…29 Appeals