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Onto the Challengers

by Homer

I had started putting together a post for the Challengers, but Cricinfo pipped me to the post. And for the most part, I agree with what is written. But there are a few points I would like to highlight, nonetheless.

  • While the India Blue has the strongest batting lineup on paper, it is also true that Yusuf Pathan is in the midst of a crisis of confidence. Being benched is hardly a shot in the arm as far as confidence goes. As is Abhishek Nayar. After all, having your skipper bowl an over or two when you are chosen as the fifth bowler will hardly do wonders to the confidence. Neither will making your debut 3( or is it 5) matches after you have been penciled in in the playing XI. Also, just how much faith will Dhoni have in Dhiraj Goswami, Kedar Jadhav, Suresh Kumar and Jalaj Saxena remains to be seen.
  • Then there is the Sreesanth factor. Dhoni and Sreesanth have history, vide Dhoni's remarks post slap gate. And Sreesanth's celebrations after bowling Dhoni in IPL 2009. And there is the Harbhajan Sreesanth equation. Not just slap gate, but the fielding antics in the Pakistan test series and after. Which makes for a very uneasy dressing room. And with no Tendulkar in the picture, there is no leadership in the dressing room.And in such circumstances, I will be very surprised to see the Blues progress very far. Which will renew the calls for Dhoni's ouster as captain.And given Sehwag's stated ambitions and Ganguly's support, may happen sooner rather than later.
  • The most heartening thing about the India Red is the pace attack they are fielding. And no, not Munaf and Ishant but Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Sudeep Tyagi. Coupled with Praveen Kumar and Piyush Chawla, is it any surprise that I am picking U.P to take home the Ranji this year? Batting wise too, the Reds are on terra firma.Shikhar Dhawan, Wriddhaman Saha and Ravindra Jadeja form a formidable 4,5 and 6 while Sunny Sohal and Murali Vijay at the top should give the team the necessary impetus. And a bench comprising of Ishank Jaggi, Ameya Shrikhande and Harshad Khadiwale is nothing to be scoffed at. R. Ashwin will play, because you cannot be on the BCCI contract list and a probable for the Champions Trophy and not get a look in. The wild card for the India Reds is Badri. Specifically Badri the captain. I was not particularly impressed by his handling of Tyagi in the Irani Trophy. And while he can perform with the best of them when not under the spotlight, Badri is a different animal altogether when the spot light is squarely on him. That said, the sheer depth of talent in the team roster should see them home.
  • What I like about the India Green team is the man they have selected to be captain. If Suresh Raina can bring half the nous he brings to constructing his innings and his bowling, we may have something here as a long term prospect for India captaincy. And having apprenticed under Md. Kaif does not hurt either. Bowling wise, the India Green team has no bowling to speak of, although a one-two of Chaitanya Nanda and Shadab Jakati may cause more than an odd headache for the opposition. Batting wise, this is the most exciting lineup there is in the Challengers. I particularly like the look of a Rahane, Srivastava, Tiwary and Raina 1-2-3-4. What I do not like is the selection of daddy's little boy. Is it the selectors argument that Srikkanth Anirudha is a better prospect than a Stuart Binny or an Ambati Rayadu? Or even Romesh Powar? Losing finalists is where I see them, but I will be particularly keen on how Raina progresses as captain.


straight point said...

a nice round up of challengers homer... i too am eagerly looking fwd to how raina reacts being captain coz something tells me he will be cool and calculated... he posses lots of acumen as players than he shows on ground or he thinks and added responsibility of captaining wont hurt in developing and understanding his over all game...

i am partuculary amused by the injury of irfan... how the one who isn't even playing can be injured or he thinks he will be exposed again hence denting his slimmest of chances in making him come back campaign...?

Homer said...


I wonder if anyone really understands how to use Irfan anymore.

Dhoni did a good job with him in the CB series but after that, Irfan and his captains have both gone off the boil.

I wont give up on Irfan yet. He is 22-23 and has time to think about both his game and his role in the team. Once he establishes that and is clear about it in his mind, I think we will have something good long term.


PS:- Dont you think its funny that on the one hand we are making calls to bench Ishant Sharma while on the other we bemoan the lack of bowling options available to us. :)

Mahek said...

I don't know how hard it is for Irfan to understand he doesn't have the pace to bowl short. It can't be too hard to understand no one can bowl wide or down the leg side.

Homer said...

The Chocolatecream Soldier,

Easier said than done.. And isnt pitching short the first resort of a bowler who is struggling mentally?


Mahek said...

The guy is being paid almost a million dollars to play for Punjab. If he can't get himself to bowl full and in line with the stumps then who the hell will? How is Irfan supposed to gain his confidence by bowling short? Isn't the bowling coach supposed to drill it into these bowlers that they CAN'T bowl short?

straight point said...

tho i agree with you that irfan should be used smartly that can pave the way for his self belief confidence and subsequently comeback... but our options don't start or end with him... there are still other promising bowlers who are not given proper look in coz either they done belong to the 'group' or are not seen 'sellable' these days...

raj said...

Homer,as it happens Daddy's boy has done pretty well ,w ith the bat and a pretty nifty contribution with the ball, too :-). I dont know - i didnt see - so may be a lot of dropped catches and luck, just like his father used to prosper from. Rahane failed, while Jaffer, of all people, had abig run a ball century.

I am not sure what to interpret from these :-)

As you predicted, though, Dhoni didnt have a clue about Suresh Kumar, who is more of a part time bowler, and half-decent batsman. He didnt bowl him ,instead taking the ball himself. I thibk he is making a mockery of the challengers - iisnt the tournament about finding domestic talent - what purposed oes it serve to bowl dhoni, when we expect him to keep for international matches? Really, condemnable and someone in BCCI mus tpull him up

Homer said...


Given that the Greens are out and the Blues are into the finals, I wont place much premium on my predictive qualities :).

That said, it was not hard to the way Dhoni handled Suresh Kumar.

This has been a pattern for a while now - Dhoni is not comfortable with the choices Krish Srikkanth's committee makes and so shows less reliance on the fringe picks than that benefits the captain of the team.

Post the bust up with the selectors over the Irfan Pathhan -RP Singh selection controversy, Srikkanth has shown less inclination to trust his captain's picks and rather pushes his own picks on the captain. Dhoni in turn pushes back by reducing the fringe to just that - the fringe.

I think the BCCI will do well to sit the selection committee and Dhoni in a room to thrash out their differences. And the sooner they do this, the better it will be for Indian cricket.