AUGUST 22, 2014

66 for 6 and all that

Samir Chopra: How does an Indian fan react to this most evil of numbers?
If you stepped outside for a walk, it was likely you missed India's entire innings at Old Trafford and The Oval © Associated Press
AUGUST 22, 2014

The ECB's blueprint for success for India

James Marsh: If they want to win like England, they need to muck about with their captain, coach and best player
AUGUST 21, 2014

Indian cricket

Shastri could play Upton role

During Gary Kirsten's time as India coach, Paddy Upton performed an important role in the backroom, as the mental conditioning coach whom the players could go to for a heart-to-heart chat, and a 'mate they went to in times of trouble'. Since the time Duncan Fletcher took over from Kirsten, India have lacked an Upton-type figure. Writing in Wisden India, Dileep Premachandran says Ravi Shastri could perform that role.

Right now, Virat Kohli could probably do with a drink and a chat with someone who's been where he is now. The recurring theme when you speak to the greats of the game is that fallow runs and troughs usually coincide with the joy being sucked out of the game. When it becomes a chore, you need to step back and try to see things differently. It's no secret that the three prolific years Rahul Dravid enjoyed at the end of his career - he made 10 of his 36 centuries then - had much to do with taking a more relaxed approach.

Shastri will certainly help with that. Bharat Arun, who comes on board as one of two assistant coaches, would have worked with some of the players at Under-19 level. Sanjay Bangar would have played against a few of them in domestic cricket. These are young coaches with the hunger to succeed. For those on the outside, this may seem a stopgap arrangement. For them, it's akin to an audition.

Ayaz Memon, writing in Mint, says Shastri's straight-talking approach could help the players, and his time with the team could bring benefits even beyond his short tenure.

Purely from personal knowledge of the man over the years, I can see Shastri providing some robust pep talks. He has a positive, never-say-die attitude which can instil self-belief and confidence in the players. He will also be unafraid to spell out the riot act to players who deserve it.

In the changing dynamics of Indian cricket, Shastri's elevation as cricket director is much more than just a fancy-sounding designation. He has been put in charge of cricket affairs for the next fortnight, when five One Day Internationals (ODIs) will be played. This gives him sweeping powers, including a say in team selection, which is significant. I would imagine he is also going to speak to all the players, support staff, assess the issues, concerns, etc., and submit a report to the BCCI on why the performance has been so mercurial.

Not everyone is convinced by Shastri's appointment, though. In the Hindustan Times, Pradeep Magazine reckons Shastri was rewarded 'for aligning himself with the cricket establishment'.

And people like Shastri, adept at speaking the language that pleases their masters, are guilty of professing that their heart bleeds for the demise of the India Test team. Just a few gems from Shastri in the past should remind everyone what this former all-rounder stands for. He described Lalit Modi as the Moses of world cricket for creating the biggest T20 brand called IPL. Today, as Modi stands condemned in the eyes of the world, this accolade is reserved for N. Srinivasan, the man who is controlling the reins of Indian cricket in his iron fist.

In Shastri's view, the Decision Review System is an evil that is to be shunned because the Indian Board believes so. For him, IPL was the greatest thing to have happened to Indian cricket and we were told its benefits will help India conquer the world. These benefits are so evident now that India can't even last 50 overs in Test cricket. In the final embarrassment at the Oval, India lasted just nine overs more than the 20 they are so adept at playing. I can go on and on, but suffice to say by making such sweeping changes after the horse has bolted, that too when the team will now be engaged in a format they are very good at, makes little sense.

AUGUST 21, 2014

Indian cricket

'Dhoni's captaincy not up to Test standard'

Contending that they came up "against really top- quality seam and swing bowling on the grassiest set of pitches I can remember", Mike Brearley, writing in the Telegraph, has some sympathy for India's batsmen following the 3-1 Test series defeat in England. He isn't too impressed with MS Dhoni's captaincy, though, and says it was not 'up to Test standard'.

Captaincy is the art of balancing attack and defence. In the field, usually up against it, Dhoni has been determined to keep attacking fields, even when England were miles ahead. I wonder if anyone has calculated how many runs England scored to third man at the Kia Oval; while England's total raced on, India retained three or four slips.

Poor Varun Aaron in particular, a raw but promising fast bowler, was given no protection, and, it seemed, little guidance. By Sunday morning, India were run ragged, the ball coming off every part of the bat as Joe Root and Stuart Broad played attacking shots at every ball. Did Dhoni even think of posting a third man? Or did his philosophical capacity to put the past behind him amount to a failure to learn from experience?

AUGUST 21, 2014

English cricket

My flair turned out to be productive - Gower

That elegant left-hander, David Gower, talks to KC Vijaya Kumar of the Hindu about his style, and how it was all about scoring runs, whether your batting looked good or not.

Yes in terms of left-handers, for me it was always pleasant when people said that there was elegance and style but then none of that works unless you get runs and spend 10 to 15 years playing Test cricket. For me to walk out to bat at Lord's, the Oval, the Eden Gardens, the SCG, wherever it might be, I am not thinking hope this looks good, I am thinking hope I get some runs.

AUGUST 21, 2014

The Demon of Embarrassing Capitulation

Alex Bowden: Why Jadeja dropping Cook was the defining moment this summer
AUGUST 21, 2014

It's home advantage, not doctored pitches

Michael Jeh: Why do columnists look for conspiracy theories every time a visiting team collapses abjectly?
AUGUST 20, 2014

West Indies cricket

Can CPL rival the IPL?

While the poor results of the West Indies Test team drove people away from the stadiums in the longest format of the game, the glitz, glamour and global appeal of the Caribbean Premier League has gone a long way towards winning back the crowd, writes Nick Sadleir for Cricket365.

It is unclear whether the CPL is proving to be a financial success or not but there is no doubt that its longevity is safer than the T20 leagues in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Without doubt it would have been watched by two or three times more viewers outside the West Indies this year than in the first edition. The standard of cricket may be behind that of the Australian Big Bash and is probably no better than South Africa's Ram Slam competition but it is more advanced in its commercial product than the Ram Slam, despite its time-zone disadvantage.

AUGUST 20, 2014

The role

Satish Acharya
AUGUST 20, 2014

India don't need to succeed in Tests

Andy Zaltzman: What are India likely to do to rectify their batting horrors? Frown, and let it pass
AUGUST 20, 2014

Time for a refund?

Andrew Hughes: Two middleweight boxers faced off. After two rounds, one chose to stop fighting
AUGUST 20, 2014

Performance and result analysis of Test teams

Anantha Narayanan: A look at Test teams across the years, measuring the peaks of each team, and the highest peak across teams
AUGUST 19, 2014

Indian cricket

India's scars will run deep

The biggest setbacks of India's debacle in England will be the team's reluctance to play more five-Test series in the future, and the self-doubt creeping into the minds of the younger players, writes Sriram Veera for the Mumbai Mirror.

To win a Test and still feel like having been part of a whitewash must be a cruel feeling. Like losing a Test under three days and still being fined for slow over-rate. Oh the cruel irony of it all. And it only worsens as even the past also gets tarnished by the present. This team did perform decently in seaming conditions of South Africa and New Zealand but as it's been said, what would have happened if those were also five-match series?

AUGUST 19, 2014

England cricket

England's unforgettable summer

The Guardian's writers pick their most memorable moments from an English summer season which included a thrilling draw and loss to Sri Lanka, a short-ball collapse to India at Lord's, a baptism of fire for the captain Alastair Cook, and a remarkable revival culminating in a 3-1 series win at The Oval.

In the minutes after the humbling defeat to India at Lord's, waiting for the post-match interviews to see if Alastair Cook would announce his decision to surrender the captaincy - as so many were demanding at the time - news broke that England's captain had retired from all internationals with immediate effect. It seems an odd moment for Steven Gerrard to have chosen.

AUGUST 19, 2014

Younis Khan: unsung and endearing

Hassan Cheema: Despite being part of a dysfunctional set-up, he has managed to get the best out of himself and players partnering him
AUGUST 18, 2014

Is Jesse really another Paul Gascoigne?

Beige Brigade: The boys discover that the NYPD actually has a cricket team, provide a lowdown on former New Zealand quick Michael Owens, and offer a musical tribute to Shahid Afridi
AUGUST 18, 2014

Pakistan cricket

A welcome, but overdue landmark

Younis Khan took his 100th catch in Test cricket during the SSC Test against Sri Lanka. Writing in the National, Osman Samiuddin wonders how it took so long for a Pakistan cricketer to reach the landmark, considering Younis was the 32nd player overall to get there.

There are 11 Australians in that list, eight Englishmen, four each from the West Indies and India, two South Africans and one each from Sri Lanka and New Zealand. It is a list in which every major Test-playing country has long had a representative. That Pakistan has only now produced a representative is mostly an indictment of the casualness with which it has treated fielding institutionally.

A long time ago, it was easy to use the generally grassless, bumpy grounds a lot of the country's players grew up on as a valid excuse. Fielding was an accident waiting to happen. Even now, with so many players starting cricket on the streets, the excuse holds true to some degree.

But once a player has been identified as a prospect, at the national or domestic level, this becomes less and less valid. There are decent, well-nurtured grounds available in most major cities. Not having specialist coaches at lower levels is a problem, but the most important thing about fielding is that the desire has to come from within. The best fielders are generally those who love it.

AUGUST 18, 2014

India in England 2014

Hard to gauge how good England were

India have performed so lamentably since their victory at Lord's that it is hard to gauge the scale of England's improvement, writes Vic Marks in the Guardian.

So here was a swift and jubilant end to a strange summer of Test cricket in which the post-Ashes angst was suddenly swept away by three massive victories. As well as joy this brings puzzlement - not just about the true worth of this new England team. In the brave new world of the Big Three India were one of the parties expected to maintain and enhance the status of Test cricket. With performances like these their players are doing the opposite.

AUGUST 18, 2014

Overfishing outside off stump endangering runs

R Rajkumar: Ecological crisis brought about by behaviour of Indian batsmen
AUGUST 18, 2014

How much practice is enough practice?

Jonathan Wilson: Deciding how much time to set aside to unwind is a dilemma in any profession. In sport, it's all down to the player, not the coach