India cricket news
Australia will get to declare again. Maybe this is presumptuous on our part. Maybe they were batting for a declaration but have now got a taste for scoring at ten an over and will carry on tomorrow. It seems unlikely though. If there’s one thing Australia like more than scoring at ten an over, it’s declaring against India.
In their eight innings in this series, Australia have been bowled out just twice. In Brisbane they made 505 and in Melbourne they made 530.
This definitely feeds the narrative of the weak Indian seam attack, but the fact is that Australia haven’t actually been able to restrict India either. The tourists have made at least 400 in every first innings, so the pitches must be at least partly to blame. We’re not a fan of declaration cricket. We like to see teams bowled out.
One of the worst aspects of this from India’s perspective is the unravelling of several of their seam bowlers. They’ve certainly brought some of it on themselves with their inconsistency, but if you weigh the promise of ‘what might be’ in one hand and the cooling excrement of ‘what has been’ in the other, the balance has certainly shifted in the last few weeks. And that ‘what has been’ hand will never be so clean again.
We can’t be bothered finding the exact quotes, but before the series Kohli listed the qualities of his attack. It was one of those ‘on paper’ exercises. You are never more likely to look at what a player might do rather than what they will do than when assessing a side on paper. The gist of his words was that several of his bowlers were quick and several could swing it while Ishant offered height and bounce.
A different piece of paper summarises what’s actually happened. Mohammed Shami has the best average – 35.80 – but has conceded 4.24 runs an over. Ishant Sharma has been more economical, conceding 3.24 runs an over, but averages 48.22. Beneath them, it only gets more horrendous.
Umesh Yadav has averaged near enough 50 and has conceded 4.62 an over. He’s bowled 118 overs, so that economy rate is no fluke. Varun Aaron bowled 64 overs and conceded 5.64 an over, averaging 72.40. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has one wicket at 168.
The truth is, none of Australia’s bowlers has averaged under 30 either. The difference is, they have happier days to fall back on. For India’s seamers, a tour to Australia should have represented a nice break from slow ‘n’ low, but if anything it’s been worse.
You’re meant to benefit from experience. Unfortunately, most of India’s seam bowlers’ experience is of declaration bowling.6 Appeals
Our friend who was once known as Uncle Jrod has written a piece for Cricinfo about the impact of the IPL on India’s Test performances. We can’t work out whether he’s been done up by the site’s subeditors or whether the headline and teaser are part of the general mischievousness of the piece. Probably the former.
Blaming the IPL for India’s Test defeats is tired, easy and to a great extent wrong. It’s one aspect of a bigger picture. As Jarrod is at pains to point out, the lack of first-class cricket is probably the bigger problem, even if the IPL contributes to that. There’s also the fact that this is nothing new. India were weak away from home and lacked reliable pace bowlers long before the 20-over format became such a huge, stinking beast.
But this isn’t actually what we want to talk about today. One passage in the article reminded us of something we’ve been meaning to say for a while.
“Umesh Yadav is big and strong. He’s the most moose like of Indian quicks. His strike rate is amazing. His pace is impressive. Dhawan at slip goes low, the ball hits the middle of his hands, he roles forward athletically. But it’s kind of a mirage. It’s the best of India, and what they can do. But not often what they do.”
Oddly, our focus here is not Umesh Yadav’s moose-like qualities, nor the misspelling of ‘rolls’. No, it’s actually a key difference between Twenty20 cricket and Tests. We think we’ve got this idea clear enough in our head that we can get it across in a couple of sentences, so we’ll give it a line all of its own and maybe even put it in bold.
Twenty20 is about what you might do. Test cricket is about what you will do.
To help us outline our point, India have helpfully recalled Suresh Raina to their Test team. He seems as good a player as any to use as an example.
Raina might hit a hundred in India’s first innings. Make no mistake, he’s a player who sometimes comes off and when he does, it’s eye-catching. Thing is, he’s not what you would call reliable. He averages 28.44 in Tests.
In Twenty20, what you might do is useful. Most innings feature a lot of batting failures – it’s the nature of the format. If five batsmen fail and one makes a hundred, you’ll probably win. Failures are less costly because wickets don’t always affect the outcome of the game. You can afford to select a whole bunch of high-risk, potentially high-reward batsmen because doing so isn’t actually risky at all. In 20 overs, there’s always another batsman to come in.
In Test cricket, wickets define the game. If five batsmen fail, you’re conceding an awful lot of ground. You simply can’t afford to carry too many people in a Test match because everyone’s needed. Consequently, it doesn’t pay to select players on the basis of what they might do. Far better to choose on the basis of what they (probably) will do.
While there’s huge overlap in the qualities needed to succeed in both formats, there’s also a fundamental difference. The ability to maximise what you can get from a finite number of deliveries is not the same as maximising what you can get with time constraints of minimal importance.
People get confused though. As Twenty20 leagues get more coverage, perception is skewed. A handful of match-winning innings will always draw more attention than a whole slew of solid but unremarkable ones and the players who deliver the former are more likely to get talked up. People say these players have more ‘ability,’ but this overlooks the fact that it is often high-risk, high-reward ability in a format that rewards such an approach.
Funnily enough, India are actually pretty good at distinguishing. Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Lokesh Rahul weren’t elevated to the Test team off the back of intermittent Twenty20 overachievement, which is another reason why it’s misguided to blame the IPL for away Test defeats. Or at least it was. Now Suresh Raina’s back and he seems to owe his selection to his proficiency at a high-risk, high-reward style of play.
Maybe Raina can adapt. Only time will tell. He might well score a hundred tomorrow. But then again, long-term Test success is never built on what you might do.25 Appeals
The normal reaction when one of cricket’s biggest stars retires from Tests is a kind of pained collective whine, mourning their departure. Never again will we get to see them do all those things that we’ve only just realised we took for granted. But MS Dhoni is different. Everyone – even his fans – is just sort of saying: ‘Yeah, that makes sense’.
People can be a bit black and white about these sorts of things saying that Dhoni never liked the longest format. That’s rubbish. He played 90 Tests and you don’t do that unless you give at least half a toss. It probably is true that Test cricket is his least favourite format however – and as is the case for all top cricketers, something eventually has to give.
Once upon a time, you could afford to give your all in even your least favourite format, but with today’s fixture lists, enthusiasm has to be rationed; carefully apportioned where it will have the most impact. Does anyone want to see MS cruising through big matches? It’s not hugely satsifactory, but the truth is it’s probably better to replace him with a lesser, but more ravenous player.
It shouldn’t come to that really. Ideally there would be little enough cricket that the top players would be completely full-on in every match in every format. But at present that’s simply unrealistic. Everyday cricket every day is what we’ve found ourselves with.
Some countries have more of their best players retiring early from Tests to prolong their short format careers; other countries will see their best players retiring early from one-dayers to prolong their Test careers. All else being equal, this difference is enough to determine who wins at what. International cricket as one country’s true best eleven versus the best eleven players the opposition can possibly muster is a rare thing indeed. Perhaps we never truly see it any more.19 Appeals
If the Gabbattoir is seeing anyone slaughtered, it’s not the Indians but the home team’s bowlers. Ryan Harris was rested because he’s slightly injured and while Peter Siddle was flat-out dropped, he might be back for the next Test because the Aussie bowlers who actually are playing have been attempting to rotate at too great a speed.
Josh Hazlewood and Mitchells Starc and Marsh all suffered in some way on day one of the second Test. A third Mitch – Johnson – only suffered in terms of his bowling figures, which were 0-64 off 15. Hazlewood and Starc should be okay to bowl on day two, but Marsh, in a respectful nod to his absent captain, has done his hammy. They’re even being a bit vague about whether he’ll bat.
All this cramp and nigglage hasn’t done much for the over rate either. Despite 22 overs of spin, only 83 overs were bowled in the day, which is shocking. India still found time to make 311.14 Appeals
Let’s leave Alastair Cook until tomorrow and instead take a quick look at how India’s run-chase went in the first Test.
The tourists lost and Nathan Lyon alone took as many wickets as they did, but somehow it doesn’t feel like it was that bad a performance. India somehow managed to enter the final session as favourites and that in itself is enough to combat the déja vu that has plagued their touring avatars in recent years.
The main person responsible was Virat Kohli, who smartly pretended it was merely a one-day run-chase. A target of 364 sounds intimidating, but then translate that to a 50-over match with Kohli at the crease and you’d bet on it being reached.
But not everything was as normal. We’ve heard that Kohli celebrated his hundred non-angrily. We’ll believe it when we see it, for no-one on earth is as enraged by their own sporting success as Kohli. If he ever takes Lara’s record, he’ll surely claw himself to death like a crazed animal.
When he was out, India were out, but a nod to Murali Vijay as well for notching a daddy fifty.4 Appeals
If you get the daily email from this site, you’ll already know whether India have made a decent fist of day five of the first Test against Australia. We’re writing this at the end of day four and have conflicting feelings about how things might pan out.
On the one hand, India’s tours to Australia and England over the last few years seem to have been characterised by the wheels falling off. It doesn’t always happen straight away – their win at Lord’s this summer was excellent – but wheellessness does tend to feel like an inevitability. Once off, the wheels roll away and maim children while MS Dhoni placidly looks on.
See something often enough and you become conditioned to expect it. India’s first innings 444 was a decent riposte to Australia’s 517-7 declared, but they now face 98 overs on the fifth day and it feels like they’ll be bowled out for 71 with the rest of the tour a painful purgatory where they’ll get to relive the misery again and again. That’s what normally happens.
On the other hand, India have looked an improving side for some time now and this XI in particular seems detached from its implosive predecessors. In England, the almost comically ineffectual Gautam Gambhir provided a link to previous touring sides but he’s gone now, as is Dhoni.
Dhoni has many qualities, some of which are even apparent in the Test format, but he has also gained an almost tangible air of blank-faced acquiescence on these tours. When the AI finds itself sinking towards an unwinnable position in a computer game, it doesn’t throw a strop and hit the reset button; it just plays on, emotionlessly, acceptant of its fate. That’s what Dhoni has become: an automaton with no white flag.
If this is unfair on a player who showed real grit with the bat in England, then perhaps we have to acknowledge that life is complex and no player is a wholly positive or negative influence. Perhaps we can even draw some conclusions based on India’s fourth innings performance. Is Dhoni himself the problem, or was he merely presiding over an Indian side that is the problem?23 Appeals
That nickname seems a tad unfair, no? The guy’s just made his second one-day international double hundred.
In 50 overs, that demands a phenomenal scoring rate, but it’s interesting to note that Rohit Sharma played himself in. Here’s the breakdown of his innings:
- 50 off 72 balls
- 100 off 100 balls
- 150 off 125 balls
- 200 off 151 balls
- 250 off 166 balls
- 264 off 173 balls
After 20 overs of the innings, he was on 41. Remember that, because one-day tactical analysis is often reductive. People look at the final scorecard and assume it was sixes from the off, but that’s rarely the case.
It’s also easy to see this as proof of run inflation, but headline stories always elbow the broader picture aside. You’ll remember Rohit’s 264 because it seems significant, whereas you’ll already have forgotten the recent Pakistan v Australia one-day series where the highest total in three fixtures was 255-8.
Modern one-day totals vary so much that different matches are almost like different sports. The ability to cash in when the going’s good is a different sort of skill to working up a competitive total when conditions favour bowlers.
Is it a lesser skill? Of course not. The value of one or the other will vary depending on the conditions on the day.
What all of this means for England’s World Cup chances
In a relatively low scoring one-day game, England are actually all right. If they get organised, we think they’ll at least give most sides a run for their money. What they can’t do – and we don’t see this changing any time soon – is win a flat track runfest. It’s just completely beyond their ken.
Rohit Sharma has played on high scoring pitches before. He’s got experience of that. He knows what to do and he’s got confidence in how he goes about things. He doesn’t fret when he’s got 41 after 20 overs because he knows he can catch up. A theoretical English batsman with exactly the same ability won’t see those situations anywhere near as frequently. If he finds himself playing in a match where runs are flowing, it’ll all be new to him. That brings a degree of uncertainty which doesn’t do a right lot of good when you’re trying to muller 400.
Moral of the story
A run doesn’t have a set value. It derives it from the match in which it is scored. Modern one-day cricket isn’t always about making 350 plus scores – but it does sometimes demand this.23 Appeals
Is MS Dhoni’s arm made out of just one super fast-growing bone? We’re imagining an ever-extending protuberance that requires regular pruning based on the following from Cricinfo:
“On the eve of the meeting, a BCCI insider revealed that Dhoni was recovering from a “right forearm” injury. By the time the selectors finished the meeting, an aide close to Dhoni said it was a “wrist” injury. Two hours later, BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel told reporters that Dhoni had been advised rest after hurting his “right thumb”.”
Dhoni was apparently carrying the injury during the aborted series against the West Indies when it was presumably some sort of shoulder problem.
In Chittagong, something very unusual is happening. Bangladesh are making a dominant start to a Test match. They’ve already won the first two Tests against Zimbabwe and appear to have drawn some confidence from this. At the time of writing, they were 213-0 and both Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes had made hundreds.
We were going to bring you some exciting statistics about Bangladesh partnerships like a proper media outlet, but Statsguru isn’t working so we’ve quickly lost interest. Someone put something in the comments. Make it up if you want.
Pakistan are still battering New Zealand. It’s odd how each of their recent Tests appear to have taken place on two different pitches. You’d think the opposition would object to having to bat on a pitted minefield when Pakistan do all their run-scoring on a complete featherbed.11 Appeals
We consider the Spirit of Cricket – the branded, upper-case initial letter creation of the MCC – to be a nebulous pile of bollocks. You can quote us on that. However, that isn’t to say that there is no such thing as the spirit of cricket.
The Spirit of Cricket (branded) is all about fair play and doing the right thing. The spirit of cricket (unbranded) is the way the game really works; the unspoken rules of the sport as they have naturally evolved. As such, the West Indies abandonment of their tour of India is most definitely in contravention of the spirit of cricket.
The board’s argument is that they had no choice but to call the tour off once the players had announced their intention to return to the Caribbean. What utter, utter horseshit.
Since when have cricket matches demanded that both sides have their best players, or indeed sufficient players, available to them? Cricket in its purest grassroots form demands only one individual to represent his or her side. That person phones round available players in a vain attempt to drum up an eleven – any eleven – for the next match. If they fall short, the team either plays short-staffed or the opposition provides a few spam-handed incompetents to supplement their numbers.
On no account is the match called off.
A West Indies XI… or VIII or IV or whatever
Obviously, as this is international cricket, the West Indies cannot make use of Ajit Agarkar or any other Indians as they are the wrong nationality and therefore ineligible for selection. That’s fair enough, but surely they can still get a few blokes out onto the park?
Richie Richardson’s there; he’s a decent bat. Stuart Williams is assistant coach; he can open. Clive Lloyd’s knocking about and Curtly Ambrose has been working as bowling consultant. You’ve already got a half decent side there in our opinion. Rope in a few physios and management figures for fielding duty and they could still beat most sides in the world.
Stop your bleating and get on with it.25 Appeals
Moeen Ali made 44, 10 and 55 in his first three one-day internationals (ODIs). He was opening the batting. Then they dropped him. Today he made 67 batting at seven.
Chris Woakes opened the bowling at Cardiff and took 4-52. He also opened the bowling in Nottingham. Today he was the fourth bowler used.
Harry Gurney took nine wickets at 22.55 in the series against Sri Lanka. He was dropped for the first match of this series.
Gary Ballance was England’s number three for that Sri Lanka series. He was clearly in form after the Tests. He too was dropped for the first match of this series.
James Tredwell has been the team’s most reliable bowler. He also made his highest ODI score in the last match. Today he was dropped.
It’s hard to avoid changing the team when they’re this bad
But it’s hard to avoid being this bad when the team is changed this much. We know ODIs demand a certain amount of squad rotation, but the players being rotated aren’t ready for it. They’re new to the side. They’re insecure. You rest stalwarts because they can cope with it, but England don’t have any of those because everyone’s tweaked out of the first XI long before they’ve had chance to settle.
Even Steven Finn, who’s played 40 times, said that he was nervous coming back into the side. Well why not prolong that nervousness by dropping him for the next game? Or why not change his role in the side so that he still feels new, even when he’s played several matches on the trot.
There are plenty of things wrong with England’s one-day side. This is another.25 Appeals