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Mountains out of molehills

by Homer

or why I am not too disappointed with India's early exit from the Champions Trophy.

1. India has historically been slow to get off the blocks. Every single time we have gone into a break, we have taken our own sweet time to get back into the groove. It happened in 2004 after the Pakistan series. It happened again before the West Indies series in 2006. And the South Africa series in 2006.Sri Lanka 2009 was an aberration.

2. No Sehwag, Yuvraj and Zak. No Sachin for the final game. No Sreesanth, Irfan, Munaf or Rohit Sharma. No Ojha either. RP, Ishant and Yusuf on the bench because of poor form. And yet, I have to hear an argument about India not playing its best team. And I think that is the biggest gain for India. The fact that we can whistle up players to fill in the gaps ( and quality players too) speaks volumes of our bench strength.

3. There are no apparent weaknesses in this team. We have all bases covered, whether in power batting, pace bowling or spin. Unlike 2007 when we were scrambling to put a team together on the park.

The problem is form. The team as a whole is battling pre season form.Which is a product of the 2 month layoff.

4. The luck factor. The teams batting first at the Centurion, with the exception of New Zealand, scored in excess of 300 runs and won. Rain played spoilsport in the match against Australia. For what its worth, I would have backed India in the run chase only because the Australian bowling is not quite there and because India performs at its best with its back against the wall.

But like everything else, the worm will turn. And if we continue to win inspite of the luck factor rather than because of it, it augurs well for us in the future.

The blue print and  the tools for 2011 are there in place. Between now and then , every game played is another exercise to fine tune our game plans.Sure, we should win all. Its a good target to achieve... But I will not accept that this team has suddenly become ordinary because it did not win the Champions Trophy or make it to the semis.

39 comments:

Krish said...

Wake up, buddy!

1. This is a problem for all series.

2. Some/Many of these players won't be there for 2011 and poor form is a perpetual problem.

3. Results matter, not apparent strengths.

4. Luck is a problem for all tournaments. As for the Australia match, we will never know, shall we?

Dhoni should be fired and somebody with a little less tendency to try stupid tactics should be put at the helm.

achettup said...

Homer, please justify Rohit Sharma's exclusion and Virat Kohli's inclusion. Please justify Dhoni's decision to bowl two overs himself in the middle of a must win crunch game. Please tell me why with all this bench strength in the bowling department, three of the options you mentioned were not bowling in place of a totally out of form Ishant. Sreesanth is awful at ODIs anyway. If we can stick a few firecrackers up Munaf's @$$ to awake the alleged demon inside of him, he might be pretty good too.

Yes, this team has magnificent potential and their recent success should not be dismissed because of two poor matches in this tournament. But there are also a lot of questions that need to be asked and answered if they are to pull themselves back to that level. We can start of with Dhoni's captaincy which has plummeted in recent times, ever since he started blaming the bowlers for all the team's problems. Someone has to manage them you know!

I agree with Krish here. Soulberry's recent article on TCWJ also stresses several of these points.

Bhaskar Khaund said...

Homer old chap , have a heart and spare us this just for today, won't you ?

Homer said...

Krish,

1.Starting slow has been an issue for donkey's years. Its not a new trend.

2.And you have more than suitable replacements for them, a luxury we did not have for donkey's years

3. 5-0 vs England at home, 4-1 vs Sri Lanka away, 3-1 vs NZ away, 2-1 vs WI away. Results matter, but what about expectations? And big picture?

4.Since we will never know, the argument that India depended on Pakistani largesse is equally flawed no? We controlled what we could, and if a critique is made in that context, I am more than happy to agree.

Krish, we had Rahul Dravid as captain of the ODI team, the very antithesis of Dhoni. And what happened?

Cheers,

Homer said...

Bhaskar,

You can always choose not to read, you know!

Cheers,

Homer said...

Achettup,

"please justify Rohit Sharma's exclusion and Virat Kohli's inclusion" - form and an unfortunate injury to Yuvraj Singh.

"Please justify Dhoni's decision to bowl two overs himself in the middle of a must win crunch game" - a left field call that worked.Which is much better than having the opposition at 76/6 and letting them get to 274/8 because you could not deviate from the script of resting your front line bowlers and pushing the field back.

"Please tell me why with all this bench strength in the bowling department, three of the options you mentioned were not bowling in place of a totally out of form Ishant" - because the team is limited to a total of 15. And because even with them missing, and Ishant out of form, you could still call up Nehra and Praveen Kumar to share the new ball.

I have no issues with questions being asked, but just dont make it so that this loss heralds the end of the world.

Cheers,

Wasim said...

Homer

Australia, England and Newzealand are also missing key players but they still made it to the semis. No team has been more affected by injuries than New Zealand.

There is a reason why IP, Sreesanth, Munaf and Rohit Sharma failed to get selected.

Their is a genuine problem with India's bowling.

Sameer said...

I agree with you.

India wont become a bad team all of a sudden due to 2 and fourth games.

Yes there are couple of grey areas like ;

1) # 7 batsman.

2) 3rd seamer

3) harbhajan singh

Ashish Nehra has sealed his place with his bowling as new ball partner to Zaheer Khan.

So the question remains who would be the 3rd pacer. why not have a rookie and give him ample of chances by 2011.

Batting seems more or less settled. just a matter of finding form.

Sehwag, Gambhir , Tendulkar form a formidable trio along with Yuvraj at 4, Dhoni and Raina to follow.

Problem is with the number 7. No Rohit Sharma or Yusuf Pathan.

Krish, this is a bit of over the top suggestion to sack Dhoni on just one failure on a basis of 2.25 games....

Anonymous said...

I think warm up games should be player on every away series and the result of the warm up game should count for something. Bench the players who don't perform well in that or make them work harder in the nets.

adverbin said...

OK, India is not a bad team. But the performance has been below par/potential. As for pre-season form, was this the same in the T20 world cup where we lost even more comprehensively?
As for absence due to injury, semifinalists, England are without Pietersen and Flintoff, NZ lost the services of 3 players etc. Indeed I can not remember any tournament of this level (world cup, champions trophy, Benson & hedges 1985, Nehru Cup 1989 etc.) so beset with injuries in all teams.
My point is we fans can deny problems; but should the team/selectors/management not identify/accept/correct them?

K said...

Homer,

Apropos point 4 regarding luck, I think it was beause of luck that India won against Srilanka (2009), New zealand (2009),and also Srilanka in
2008. Batting first in Sri Lanka wins you mathes. And in the two series against them, how many times did we bat first? Same with New Zealand. We happened to get lucky, win the toss, post ridiculously huge totals, and managed to defend it.

This defeat was not due to lack of form or luck, but due to lack of ability. And this inability was not apparent in all the bilateral series we managed to win.

We are certainly not making a mountain out of a molehill. There was no molehill in the first place. There only was a mountain, hidden deep by layers of cloud. The cloud lifted, and now we can see it.

Homer said...

Wasim,

And what might that problem be? W have both depth and variety in our bowling line up. The only problem I see is about getting the balance right, given what we have and to ensure that players are in peak form.

Australia, New Zealand and England are carrying injured players. South Africa and Sri Lanka weren't. And that proves what exactly?

Cheers,

Homer said...

Sameer,

Its a question of balance and form.

We have plenty of options to choose from and I dont think the #7 spot is as much an issue as is made out to be.

If we have our part time bowlers bowling, we can play a genuine batsman at 7. Or we can slot Pathan or Nayar in that spot. Either ways, we have options.

Cheers,

Homer said...

Anon,

Good point on lead up performance being a barometer for team selection.

But given the 30 chosen for the Champs Trophy, the selectors left themselves very little wiggle room to begin with.

Cheers,

Homer said...

Adverbin,

But is exiting the Champions Trophy such a major catastrophe that we lose all sense of what as been achieved before and what this team is capable of?

"My point is we fans can deny problems; but should the team/selectors/management not identify/accept/correct them?" - Sure the management needs to correct the problems. But arent the fans over reacting to what is nothing more than a minor setback?

If we had gone all the way and won the Champs Trophy, what would it have proved? naysayers would have pointed out that since India did not play South Africa and Sri Lanka, it is not a proper assessment of where this team stands.

Cheers,

Homer said...

K,

Its a bit of s stretch to suggest that a team can hide its inability in bilateral series but spring it forth in multi lateral fora.

So we have a finals jinx. And we cannot win multilateral tourneys. And the 2007 WC win was because no one took it seriously. And beating England 5-0 is no big deal because England are not flash. And we were lucky to win the CB series too.

And yet we are at the top or the near top of the ICC rankings.. Which should then speak volumes about how crappy the other teams are :)

Cheers,

Wasim said...

Homer

The problem is that with the exception of Zaheer Khan no Indian pacer can bowl an effective yorker or a vicious bouncer, their pace at best is gentle medium pace, Ishaant showed some promise with his swing and pace but he has lost both.

A lot of people blame Sachin that why most of 100's were not match winning ones? It's only because India's bowling have always let down their batsmen. With a decline in Harbhajan's bowling the problem has compunded, I think other teams have worked him out.

I agree SA and SriLanka didn't had any injured players but doesn't it make their problem more serious that other teams which were running thin on resources still managed to beat them their bench players were stronger then the regular players of these teams.

Wasim said...

I do agree with your point that the fans who are calling for Dhoni's head are over reacting, exiting early from this tournament and T20 WC does not diminish their cricketing power house status but to enjoy the staus of #1 or #2 team in the world India will have to correct its bowling problems.

Bhaskar Khaund said...

Homer , i choose to read it today ! Btw , no one's saying its the end of the world. It's only a game , remember ? Nor is anybody denying India are one of the 4-5 better sides around.Even calls for MSD's exit must have been spur-of-the-moment at best...Anyway , just curious to know what you consider molehill as opposed to mountain. Clear inference is that CT 2009 is a molehill but WC 11 is a mountain. What about T20 WC 07 ? and T20EC 09 ? ..and bi lateral series..- which are mountains and which molehills ? Just curious...Cheers

Homer said...

Wasim,

Fir points.. But then, lets turn the argument - Pakistan, after scoring 300+ against India, bowled 7 no balls. And but for India's batting ineptitude, would have lost the game.

England, defending 300+, conceded 301 odd against South Africa, with one man (Graeme Smith) scoring the bulk of the runs. Australia's bowling suffered a huge scare, courtesy of the West Indies - at 170/3 the game was pretty much wide open.

Had the results gone the other way, what would the consensus on India's bowling ability be?

On the flip side, India dismissed the West Indies for 129 - the lowest score WI managed to achieve in thier 3 matches :)

Cheers,

Homer said...

Bhaskar,

I do apologize for the rather nasty comment in response to your previous comment.

That said, just about every newspaper and cricket website is making the exact same calls you say are not happening - how India has not progressed in 3 of the 4 ICC tourneys, how our bowling and batting sucks, how this exit marks the beginning of the apocalypse :).

For mine, the 2011 WC is the only thing that matters. There is the small matter of the WC being at home and also the other small matter of correcting the performance of 2007.

Bilateral/multilateral series matter so far as fine tuning the game plan and consolidating our standing on the ICC table.

But is losing in a tourney in England or South Africa going to have a major bearing on the WC in the sub continent? I think not.

I would say that the 7 ODI set against Australia is a better gauge of how far we have come and how much further we have to go to get our act together for 2011.

Cheers,

Bhaskar Khaund said...

No probs , Buddy...always up for a bit of verbal with a guy who supports the same team ! didn't find that particularly nasty anyway :-)Very tempted now to get into the bit about the Aus 7 ODI series being bigger than the CT but let's leave it , shall we - this will obviously be an impasse until kingdom come - but gotta hand it to you , you're one Silver Lining guy , wish i cud be too !
:-) Cheers !

Aditya said...

Well, We are making mountains out of molehills..

It was poor bowling and bad luck which cost us the Champions trophy!
coming to the t20 wc ..can anyone ever predict a winner in a t20 competition? honestly after 2 t20 wc's and 2 ipl's i am sure none would have got the winner right before the tournament! it's generally the underdogs who win ! i am sure they way India lost out was due to some inept batting and stupid mistakes( sending jadeja in) but still .

we lost out beacuse of Harbhajan Singh and Ishant Sharma and some 2 crucial run outs and a 50-50 decision (read gautam,dravid and raina dismissals) ! India would have done well against Australia chasing! (if not at least would have made 260+ or there abouts)

anyhow we have had a wonderful couple of years and have a very strong team.

just have a look at the ICC awards .If dhoni was such a pathetic captn why would they name him captn of the Test as well as ODI teams of the year? we just missed out on this tournament!

we have a very strong team and were badly hit by injuriesa nd luck!

i am open to any question which says we are an ordinary team!

and rankings are based on a teams consistency and that is the real mettle of a team and to the best of my knowledge India has only lost a test series to Sri lanka ( counting the most recent test series with a nation) and has won against all and has drawn 1-1 with south africa ! and I am sure India will win against SL at home this year (SL have never won a test match in India till now!)

We have a great team ! It will bring us greater glories in the coming seasons! not to worry !

Ind vs aus ODI series My prediction 5-2 India ! That will surely shut some mouths up at cricinfo!

Homer said...

Bhaskar,

The thing about silver linings is that I have lived through the regular beatings we used to get at Sharjah. And the "Noel David who" episode.

And losing after having the South Africans a 76/6. Or allowing Ravi Bopara and Stuart Broad see England through chasing 160 odd after having them at 107/7.

Its in the last two years or so that I have seen the emergence of genuine bowling depth in the Indian team. We have all bases covered - left arm and right arm swing, seam , leg spin, off spin and left arm orthodox too.

And given that this is genuine talent and not some impostors who are masquerading as bowlers, there is every reason to feel enthused.

And they are young, which means that they can only get better.

Sure they will have off days, but for the most part there is more to like about where we are today than were we were 10 years ago.

Cheers,

K said...

Homer,

I still maintain that some of India's weaknesses were never brought to the fore when we were winning, particularly in the bowling department. But there were indications. Death overs bowling was dismal. And the bowlers often had the luxury of a mountain of runs to cover for their weakness or they had the better of the conditions or both. And when they didnt have the better of the conditions, they faltered.

K said...

I saw your last post just now. And I agree. I have been through the Sharjah days as well, and the late 90s where Mohanty, Kuruvilla, Harvinder Singh used to bowl for India. I agree that India are in a much better position now, and have the required talent. But are we fielding the most talented 11 in a game? I dont think so.

K said...

Homer,

I apologize for the series of posts, but I just had to make this comparison.

Your analysis is like looking at a control chart and finding a point way out of control. Instead of reacting to it, you dismiss it as a false amarm!

Homer said...

K,

Lets talk death bowl bowling first. If a bowling attack is so penetrative, the death over scenario does not arise at all - vide our performance against WI. And if the bowling is not penetrative, then it requires all the help it can get from the surface.

For all the talk of how ineffective our bowling attack is, we beat England 5-0 at home. And their pace attack wasn't too different from the one they are fielding here. And didn't they lost 6-1 to Australia?

When South Africa beat Australia in the CB series in Australia. At that time, all the talk was about how complete the Protea attack was. And yet, they crashed out of the CT.

Ditto Lanka with all manner of freakish bowlers.

Long story short, if it was that easy to bowl block holers, games would not extend to beyond 5 overs.

I would refer you to this post by Prem Panicker that captures the problem more succinctly.

One of the by products of this is that we dont pick the right personnel in turn - the ones we pick are either jaded or so much in a groove that they find it difficult to alter what they are doing. But thats where the paid selection committee is expected to step in.

And we know what their master plan for the CT was!

Cheers,

Homer said...

Aditya,

I am with you :)

Cheers,

Mahek said...

Bowl touch shorter in Sri Lanka? Gee I wonder what Vaas was doing all those years bowling full and swinging the ball.

Kiwis bowl a fuller length? When?

England and Australia bowl fuller in England? Yeah right!!!

Wayne Parnell bowling short? Have I been watching different matches as Mr. Panicker?

Didn't the selectors panic when the Indian batsmen were "found out" against the short ball in England? Didn't they pick Dravid because he handled the short ball better (supposedly)? So they were expecting bouncier tracks, no?

Resting players for big series? But didn't they just come off a two-month layoff? How much more rest do players need? They can always not play in the IPL like some of the Aussies, isn't it?

Everyone knows there isn't a lot of emphasis on long-term results in Indian cricket. But to make up ridiculous examples to prove one's point is pathetic. There is a bowling coach and it's his job to ensure the bowlers know where to bowl. Last time I checked, bowling two feet outside offstump was a cardinal sin on ANY pitch. And I'm not even getting into the crap Harbhajan has been dishing out for months. It's an insult to an offspinner if he keeps getting cut behind point for four.

Mahek said...

I'm also curious as to what return series Panicker is talking about. Sri Lanka's tour of India is part of the FTP. They won't be touring India for another series until after 2012. Just another example of a so-called wise man indulging in intellectual masturbation and showering his wisdom on his loyal subjects.

Homer said...

Mahek,

With respect, I dont think Mr Panicker is way off the mark here

South Africa v Sri Lanka

South Africa v New Zealand

South Africa v England

India v New Zealand

Sri Lanka v India

Sri Lanka v India

Cheers,

Mahek said...

Not too much short stuff after the first couple of overs, isn't it? I'm still curious as to why he thinks you're supposed to bowl a shorter length in Sri Lanka. There's always some movement in the air and/or off the pitch there, especially in the second innings of day-night games. Also, if you're supposed to bowl fuller in South Africa then was there really a need for Dravid to "negotiate" short-pitch bowling?

Here's the thing. There is always one kind of bowling that will work better than anything else. It's called hitting the top of off. Now, Parnell may have bowled quite a few bad deliveries but he got a number of batsmen out bowled and LBW. Some of his dismissals were off the slower ball too. You don't take 11 wickets in 3 games if you've bowled badly.

K said...

Right Homer, the Indian bowlers werent able to hit the right line and length due to a scheduling blunder by the BCCI, is that it? And that they couldnt adjust to the different conditions in SA after playing in Sri lanka, whereas NZ actually did well because they bowled crap in srilanka, but it was good enough in SA? Thats priceless.

I would think a bowler who is playing at the highest level would realize how to alter his length based on the conditions, but apparently they dont.

And as I mentioned, the victories over England and Srilanka actually masked our weakness, and these were brought to fore in the CT, were brought to fore in the T20 WC. So I dont think I can console myself by saying India beat England 5-0 and Srilanka 4-1, so they cant be such a bad team after all.

Quoting a line from your response 'And if the bowling is not penetrative, then it requires all the help it can get from the surface'.......Any surface cannot help a bowler if he repeatedly bowls short and wide outside the off stump, leaking runs behind point. In short, if he bowls without skill.

adverbin said...

Disclaimer:In my book, Cup winning is more important than ranking. It is just my opinion and other fans may choose to disagree; which is OK with me.
One consequence of my thinking is that bilateral/tri-series are grounds for blooding/grooming cricketers to win the World Cups/Champion trophy.
For me, the mountain is India's poor performances in these tourneys post-2003. The molehill is excellent performances home and away in bilateral series in the last 12 months.

Wasim said...

Homer

There is a huge difference of perception here, you overlooked an important fact that India's batting ineptitude was caused by some fine bowling.

England prevailed over South Africa because they had the bowling,Smith is some one who can tear apart any attack in the world.It was a close contest on a true batting pitch. You cannot blame the bowlers there.

You also forgot to mention that India was on it's way to concede 300 runs against Australia in its match against Australia.

The problem is there but if we want to bury our heads in sand then I guess it will never get resolved.

Homer said...

ek,

I cannot argue for Mr Panicker.. That is something you will have to do on his blog.. But the point he raises is a valid one.

Looking back at the tapes of the 2007 T20 WC, the lengths are noticably different. Is it a coincidence that the T20 WC came at the back of a long tour of England? Or is it because we were playing cricket and were in mid season form and therefore could adjust our game better as compared to now, when we are basically starting cold?

As far as he Dravid selection goes, I had called it a mistake the moment the probables were announced and I have found no reason to change my mind.

Cheers,

Homer said...

K,

"I would think a bowler who is playing at the highest level would realize how to alter his length based on the conditions, but apparently they dont."

Thats true.. Otherwise, why would we be making such a song and dance about it? Why is it that India continue to attract the poor travelers tag ? And why is it that we are considered to e poor players of the short ball?

If it was a matter of getting up and hitting the right lines, can you imagine how totally monotonous cricket would be?

And no, I am not suggesting that the BCCI schedule cock up is solely responsible for the exit.

What I am saying is that it could have played its part. And what I have been emphasizing on is that India are notorious to start slow every time they come from a break. Couple that with form and there is a fairly plausible reason for our underperformance.

But the notion that we lack the ability or that bowling is a weakness is laughable.

Cheers,

Homer said...

Wasim,

"England prevailed over South Africa because they had the bowling,Smith is some one who can tear apart any attack in the world.It was a close contest on a true batting pitch. You cannot blame the bowlers there."

And the pitch that India played Pakistan was what exactly?

"You also forgot to mention that India was on it's way to concede 300 runs against Australia in its match against Australia."

Australia was also on its way to win comfortably against Pakistan, at 140/2. And India may have be on its way to do anything, the point is, we will never know, will we?

"The problem is there but if we want to bury our heads in sand then I guess it will never get resolved."

The problem is of form, nothing more nothing less. It is as exaggerated as India's perceived weakness against the short ball or the supposed Dhoni-Sehwag rift during the T20 WC in England.

Cheers,