Category: India cricket news (page 1 of 50)

Why have the England players gone to Dubai?

Dubai by night (CC licensed by Crazy Diamond via Flickr)

Dubai by night (CC licensed by Crazy Diamond via Flickr)

England are taking a break. A mid-tour holiday. There’s been a bit of discussion about the fact that they feel they need one and what that might say about international schedules, but there’s been precious little comment about why the holy hell they saw fit to go to Dubai.

We’d be interested to know how our Indian readers take this decision. To us, it sort of gives the impression that England see India as a place to be escaped. Couple of days off? Travel 2,000km to relax because relaxation would be impossible anywhere closer. Maybe they don’t feel that they get enough opportunities for air travel.

And honestly – Dubai? A friend who lives there assures us that there’s plenty to do, yet it’s hard to find a list of attractions which doesn’t list ‘shopping’ fairly high up. Why such a short hop and a skip from Chandigarh if that’s what you’re after? Why not plough on to Manchester for a full weekend at The Traff. Or, you know, India has shops too.

Perhaps this is hypocritical. In our youth we spent 10 days in Sri Lanka midway through a trip to India and it did sort of feel like a holiday. But then we also felt pretty relaxed in any number of Indian coastal towns or up in the mountains or out in the desert.

Someone should tell the England players that the major industrial cities in which they generally find themselves playing cricket aren’t necessarily representative of one of the world’s largest and most culturally varied nations.

For the record, Haseeb Hameed – who went home for surgery, not a holiday, lest we forget – will fly back to India next week to watch the remaining Tests with his family. We’re not sure precisely how many Hero Points he gets for that, but we’re prepared to allocate him plenty.


Do England play too many all-rounders?

Moeen Ali and Joe Root

The answer is no. But let’s explore the question anyway.

England have just added Liam Dawson to their squad. He joins Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes and Adil Rashid in one of the most all-rounderly squads England have ever assembled. He also replaces Zafar Ansari, another spin bowling all-rounder.

Dissipation of responsibility

If a team has nine batsmen, the majority of whom are all as good as each other, does any one individual feel that the onus is on them to score runs?

It’s not so much the by-stander effect, where people stand passively by assuming someone else will sort things out. These players are desperate to perform, after all. It’s more to do with the way they go about their business.

It’s often said that the great advantage of being an all-rounder like Ian Botham, Andrew Flintoff or Ben Stokes is that it allows a certain freedom. If you’re also a bowler, your place in the side doesn’t hinge on how many runs you score. You can still influence a match, even when you fail with the bat.

This is generally seen as a good thing as it permits the kind of freewheeling innings that a single-bow-stringed cricketer might be loath to even attempt.

Judged solely on weight of runs, the specialist batsman can often be more risk averse and this is perhaps the crux of things. There are times when it is good to take risks and impose oneself and there are other times – such as when conditions are in your favour anyway – when it is better to avoid risk and simply try and cash in to the maximum.

Mass three-dimensionality

So what is the cumulative effect of having a whole raft of players liable to think: “At least I can make up for this failure with the ball”?

Does it cant the side in one particular direction, encouraging just a little too much… let’s not say irreponsibility – that’s a little extreme.

Does it leave the team likely to err on the side of ‘taking the positive option’?

Conclusion

Our view is that even if there is some truth in this, it is surely outweighed by the benefits. If Ben Stokes alone is like having an extra man, then this current England side is incredibly well staffed.

It’s therefore a little dispiriting to think that even with 15 men they’re being totally dominated by India (although on recent evidence, the home team isn’t exactly short-handed itself).


England get a grip, but India keep a grip

Yet again, it’s one of those win the toss, win the match, if you’re India pitches. The sheer predictability of proceedings only being disrupted when the coin ended the other way up.

There’s an illusion of inevitability when India bat first, but the play is coerced down a certain path simply because the home team can exert control. The players must do long hours with those hand-squeezer thingies because given a slight advantage they always seem able to maintain their grip.

England’s isn’t a wishy-washy limp handshake sort of grip. It’s more of a ‘this is getting a bit heavy, let me just change the position of my hands’ sort of grip. They hoick their burden and try all sorts of different hand positions, but the truth is they just can’t quite take the weight.


Today’s Ben Stokes-induced happenings

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

At one point in the afternoon session, Ben Stokes accidentally spat on his own shirt. You’d think this would be a low point, but he plucked off the deposit with no obvious display of emotion. Perhaps he knew that things were about to get significantly worse.

Shortly after spraying a loose one over his off side, Stokes used the ball to find the edge of a Yadav’s bat. Alastair Cook – a man who we’re confident has dropped more chances for England than any other outfielder in history – duly did his ball-shelling thing.

Stokes looked ever-so-slightly peeved.

Three balls later, Stokes found the edge of another Yadav’s bat. Jonny Bairstow did that thing where he takes a huge step to the left while diving to the right, so that he doesn’t so much stretch for the ball as rotate around a fulcrum somewhere around his navel. The ball passed right by him.

Stokes looked ever-so-slightly more peeved.

But then the wickets came. The next five Stokes deliveries resulted in two wickets and he finished the innings with five scalps and a greater bowling workload than anyone bar Adil Rashid.

Ben Stokes made tiredness and not-quite-so-big-a-first-innings-deficit-as-might-have-been-expected happen.


Good evening, Mr Kohli?

Before tea, Che Pujara and Virat Kohli, neither of whom had looked too troubled, started to hit a few more fours. It felt predictable and seemed to foreshadow a long evening session for England.

After tea, Pujara – perhaps concerned that he might partially obscure Kohli’s halo – needlessly looped one in Chris Woakes’ general direction. This precipitated change.

Some guy who sort of looks like Ajinkya Rahane briefly continued his attempt to pass himself off as the batsman, before Kohli did Karun Nair with a magnificent piece of absent-minded ambling. The captain drew his partner 15 yards down the pitch for what appeared as if it was going to be a single before lethally withdrawing the offer. The debutant had an excellent view of Jos Buttler’s throw shattering the stumps.

Kohli quite likes everything going horribly wrong because it gives him an opportunity to look serious and deliver something more memorable. Unfortunately, a little while afterwards he for some reason momentarily imagined he was in England and feathered a seamer to the keeper. The bowler, Ben Stokes, made a hand-over-mouth mime happen in reference to yesterday’s reprimand for being a gobby get.

After that, everything went back to normal and everyone put the previous passage of play down to a brief invasion by a parallel dimension.


Where would India be given another half-revolution of the coin?

Coin tossing (CC licensed by Gerwin Sturm via Flickr)

Coin tossing (CC licensed by Gerwin Sturm via Flickr)

When trying to assess the state of play after the first day’s play, it’s often tempting to imagine a parallel world where the toss-winning captain has opted for heads instead of tails, tails instead of heads, or just totally gone off on one and gone for arms or thoraxes or some other body part not commonly associated with a coin.

Had that happened in this match, most people would reckon that India would most likely be more for fewer. We conclude from this that it was “India’s day.”

It’s worth pointing out at this point that India have a very good attack. Not so many years ago, England might have been facing one seamer, one makeweight seamer and two spinners. Virat Kohli’s India field two excellent seamers and three spinners.

That is quite a difference. There is no drifty afternoon lull. There is no part-time dob.

That is perhaps why so many of the batsmen’s contributions – from Chris Woakes’ 25 to Jonny Bairstow’s 89 – fitted somewhere on the good-effort-but-probably-not-of-any-enormous-consequence-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things scale. Amid talk of whether Jos Buttler would prove to be a success or a failure, his effort was neither, falling pretty much bang in the middle of this range.

If there’s one thing that might encourage the mandatory taking of positives in English quarters, it’s that India managed to get some reverse swing. England are unlikely to outspin or outbat their opponents, so this represents as good an area as any in which to gain an advantage.

That said, India found some reverse swing in the first Test and England pretty much didn’t. There’s a chance that the toss might be the only thing England win in Mohali.


Rishabh Pant is not India’s wicketkeeper – what possible reason is there for this?

Wriddhiman Saha is injured. India’s selectors said it was too early to hand a debut to Rishabh Pant who is still only 19 years old. They instead picked Parthiv Patel, a 31-year-old who made his Test debut against England in 2002.

In seven innings this season, Pant has made four hundreds. One was a triple, two were made in one match and he has generally scored at around a run a ball. For the second of those twin hundreds, against Jharkand, he upped his pace to two runs a ball.

He is also called Pant. He should be selected if only to see whether he shouts “Pant’s!” should an England batsman accidentally sky one.

Such an exclamation would serve as both a means of claiming the catch and also as a blunt appraisal of the batsman’s performance.

 


Mop-up of the day – guilt, great promise and grey trivialities

‘Du Plessis found guilty’ reads the Cricinfo headline. We don’t really feel it necessary to add much to your likely response to reading that. The effect of imposing black and white morality on the sport’s grey trivialities could barely be clearer.

Here’s something we wrote last time Du Plessis buggered about with a cricket ball. It’s still relevant.

Shot!

“If he does come in I think he’ll give it his best shot,” said Trevor Bayliss about the likely inclusion of Jos Buttler in England’s third Test team instead of Ben Duckett.

We’re rather hoping to see plural shots, but England are in no position to impose such lofty expectations on a man who presumably thinks of red cricket balls as being exclusively reserved for use in the nets.

At the same time, Buttler is a player for whom his first-class record appears to tell but the smallest fragment of the story. We’re excited about his return.

Had England brought him back into the team for a home Test match despite almost no first-class cricket in recent times, there’d had been an outcry. Plucked from an emaciated touring squad, his inclusion can more easily be justified.

Perhaps it was always a deliberate ploy to take Gary Ballance on tour only to instantly drop him.

Series appraisal

Basically still what we said after the first day of the second Test: “On pitches that deteriorate over the course of a five-day match, England are capable of having the better of things when they bat first. When India bat first, they are good enough that they seem almost certain to dominate. That appears to be the difference between the sides.”

Given a pitch that deteriorated quicker, England could have won the first Test. Given a pitch that didn’t deteriorate so much, India could still have won the second. The tourists need a lot more things to go their way than the home team to win Test matches here.

We’re going to stop writing about grey trivialities now.


England fans: redouble your pessimism – your country needs you

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

When they’re not favourites, sides will often talk about proving people wrong. This is all well and good, but it can leave them susceptible to the viewing public’s fickle mood swings.

At the start of this India tour, plenty of us thought England could lose every match. In the first Test, they proved people wrong.

Having proven that they could compete, the mood changed. England then set about proving people wrong once again by conceding a 200-run first innings deficit in this Test.

‘Well, this match is basically over,” many of us concluded.

‘We’re not having that,’ replied England and promptly set about having a stupendous fourth day.

Towards the end of that fourth day, many of you England supporters may have just begun to harbour faint hopes that some sort of outlandish victory could be achieved. Go on, admit it. Against your better judgement, it crossed your mind.

England duly countered.


Jayant Yadav seems a nice bloke

The second Test is progressing pretty much as you’d imagine, so this is what we’re passing off as insight today: India’s new off-spinner Jayant Yadav seems a decent sort.

We’re basing this exclusively on one interview with Sky Sports’ Ian Ward. This may be misleading because Ward’s genial curiosity does seem to get the best out of people. But even so, Yadav seemed cheery and thoughtful, which is never a bad combination in an interviewee.

He gave considered, informative answers which were underpinned by the kind of slightly giddy, faintly intoxicated demeanour which Ward himself always seems to project. We won’t go into specifics. He just had a likeable air about him and that is pretty much the full extent of the point we’ve seen fit to put forward today.

Yadav’s cricket seems half-decent too. He got a few runs, took a wicket and secured the run-out of Haseeb Hameed with the kind of turn and throw that England could have done with producing at some point during their 129.3 overs of first innings toil in the field.

This article may feel worthless and irrelevant right now, but it’s worth noting that this is just the kind of flimsy basis on which most of our cricketing obsessions are born. In years to come, you may be able say that you were here when we first started boring people with this particular hobby horse.

Okay, obviously he’s not going to be another Rob Key, but he could become a Mominul Haque or Neil Wagner kind of figure. To a great extent it’ll depend on how much he gets to play. There’s a chance he could just be the next Burt Cockley.


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