Posted by: nestaquin | November 11, 2008

Border Gavaskar Trophy 2008 Indian Player Review

joy1With India still celebrating their well earned win in the Border Gavaskar Trophy, The Tooting Trumpet, continues his series of player reports this time with an emphasis on the series as a whole.

Virender Sehwag – Such are the expectations placed upon the Destroyer from Delhi that some will see this as a quiet series for Viru. Yet he scored more runs than any Aussie bar Hussey and biffed away at a strike rate of 82, when all the Aus bats except Hayden crawled along between 37 and 50. Carried a threat whenever he had the ball in his hand, which wasn’t often enough.

Gautam Gambhir – Scored almost twice as many runs as Matthew Hayden, despite missing the final Test through naïve unprofessionalism. Inked in for the foreseeable future as partner for Sehwag, with a range of strokes to challenge new ball bowlers anywhere.

Murali Vijay – Latest bright young thing off the batting talent production line, his debut Test showed promise with the bat and the electric fielding MS Dhoni will demand, as he shapes the squad in his own image.

Rahul Dravid – A great servant to cricket, but his form is so wretched that India can be said to have won the series with ten men. Probably deserves a swansong versus England, but cannot complain if the new captain wants new blood.

Sachin Tendulkar – Has the ability now to parcel out his effort over a series, playing the big innings when most needed. Some of the old liquidity has gone from the strokes, but the hard interior remains behind the benign exterior. Having been accused of scoring some cheap runs in the past, he seems only to score vital runs these days.

Sourav Ganguly – Loved every second of his farewell series, even the fielding! Played his two best innings at crucial times in the two Tests India won, bowing out of Tests with a golden duck and a series win over the World Champions – which is somehow right for this most combative and infuriating of cricketers.

VVS Laxman – Did the VVS thing against Aus posting the Bradmanesque average of 95.25 to take his average against Australia ten ahead of his career figure. Like Sachin, he has become more pragmatic in his mid-thirties and lacks some of the fluency of old with the bat and in the field. If firing, Flintoff and Harmison will test his technique to the hilt in the series to come.

MS Dhoni – The burden of keeping, acting as a frontline batsman and captaining was beginning to catch up with this remarkable cricketer towards the end of the series. He is, in every sense, the symbol of a new vibrant, dynamic India on and off the field, but needs to surrender the gloves for his own well-being. A dream series for India’s new hero.

Anil Kumble – Like Dravid, a wonderful career should not be over-shadowed by a dismal series. Can retire in the sure knowledge that he gave everything to the cause and left his country immeasurably better off than he found it.

Harbhajan Singh – Seemingly at ease with himself, he was able to channel all his energies into his cricket, undistracted by opponents or team-mates. Bowled within himself with few doosras and few big rippers, but saw his subtle variations garner 15 wickets in the three Tests he played. Batted sensibly when he needed to and looks, after 72 Tests and over 300 wickets, to be delivering on his teenage potential at long last.

Amit Mishra – A throwback to the days of smiling little men tossing up balls that turn this way and that, wryly amused at the batsman’s bewilderment. His round the wicket wrong’un to dismiss Michael Clarke from the last ball of the second day of the Second Test was the highlight of the series, as brilliant in execution as it was in conception.

Zaheer Khan – Toiled away on some unresponsive pitches, but was never less than fully committed and provided the perfect foil for the prodigy at the other end. His high average and strike rate belie his contribution to the cause. His batting and fielding showed how confident a player he has become.

Ishant Sharma – At the start of the series, with RP Singh, Sreesanth and Munaf Patel in the wings, we wondered if he was the best young paceman in India: we finished the series wondering if he was the best paceman in the world. With hair, hostility and height reminiscent of the young Jason Gillespie and a body action and wrist position to match, India will have to look after their Jewel in the Crown if he is not to be too damaged by the inevitable injuries that will come. Alongside, Ajantha Mendis, the biggest young bowling talents in world cricket.

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Responses

  1. a pretty cool write up. and a lot of patience to sum up the series.

    Cheers, Mani

  2. Agree with Mani, nice work Toots.

    Are you suggesting that India rest Ishant for the ODI series against England?

  3. Thanks TT, great write-up as always, and I’m intrigued by the suggestion that Dhoni shouldn’t be keeper. I don’t quite agree for three reasons. He’s improved a lot (the last test was an aberration, really) in the last year, and secondly, I’m a bit sceptical of his merits as a batsman on tour. Lastly, there is no one good enough waiting in the wings – Parthiv and Karthik are atrocious. I’d let him remain keeper for the foreseeable future.

    Moving to Ishant, if you’ve seen him in ODIs in the subcontinent, you’ll notice that he gets a bit frustrated by the designer flat pitches. He pitches far too short, the ball ends up as a dipping long hop and gets smashed quite a bit, as you could see in the pointless Asia Cup and that other farce with Bangladesh, not to mention the IPL. I’m afraid it can’t be good for him to bowl too much in ODIs at home. In my view, India has 5-6 good ODI pacemen, so let there be full rotation, with Ishant playing maybe 2-3 v England, for his own sake as well as the team’s. His Test bowling is another matter though, absolutely indispensable.

  4. Rajesh, I think you are spot on about the need for rest for Ishant Sharma during the home ODIs. We need to handle him with care and not burn him out. And as you said, we need to give adequate opportunity to Munaf Patel and RP Singh so that they remain match fit and do not lose confidence and rhythm.

    RP Singh is already a cause for concern – he has not been able to reproduce the form he of last season – after his injury during the Adelaide test. He was a mixed bag during the IPL – infuriatingly inconsistent and it was only during the final stretch of the Asia Cup, did he look in some semblance of form.

    MoTM/TTT, Dhoni is indeed going to be a dilemma for the selectors. His calm demeanour, luck and those little but significant gestures like asking Ganguly to lead the side for few overs in the final test (he had asked Piyush Chawla – the youngest member of the side to lift the Commonwealth Bank Tri-Series in Australia earlier this year) makes him so charismatic. Yet, the sheer physical strain of batting, keeping and captaincy in Tests, ODI and T20s will put tremendous pressure on him. But at this juncture, neither is he good enough to bat in the top 6 purely as a batsman and nor are the current back-up keepers – Parthiv and Karthik any good with their keeping. What do the poor selectors do?

  5. On another note, I think it is time to look back at a generation of cricketers who made India vs Australia who made their rivalry so special. Warne, Mcgrath, Gilchrist, Damien Martyn, Jason Gillespie, Hayden, Steve Waugh and other great cricketers on one side and Sachin, Laxman, Kumble, Dravid, Sehwag, Harbhajan, Ganguly on the other. Two teams who competed hard but masked their respect for each other with aggression. Other than 1999, every single series has been so special. Even the relatively dull test matches of this series were just awesome.

    Next time we meet in 2011, both teams will have a completely new look. I hope Michael Clarke, Shaun Marsh, watson, Dhoni, Sehwag, Ishant Sharma, Gambhir and co. can continue this fierce rivalry.

  6. oops…..i should have edited the comment………but I guess my emotions got the better of me

  7. Nice summing up here, Toots.

    Ishant- Agree with RK that he should be used sparingly in ODIs because he will anyway have to play all the IPL matches.

    Munaf is probably the best at reverse swing in India now and should be given opportunities in place of one of the spinners, whenever we travel overseas.I just hope Irfan Pathan will rediscover his bowling mojo.He is as talented as any young cricketer in the world, but has been mismanaged so far.

    Dhoni- I know people are calling Dinesh Kartik rubbish based on the series in Sri Lanka, but believe me he is probably the best glovesmen in India at present.If Dhoni can improve his batting, I would pick Kartik as the keeper.

    In the Hyderabad Heroes ICL team, there is a fantastic keeper-batsman by name Ibrahim Khaleel.Sadly, ICL players are not considered for the national team.Otherwise, Khalil would pip Karthik as he is a better batsman.

    I feel it is best to rest Dravid for the England test series, and allow him to regain form in the domestic cricket.

    VVS- I give him another year or 18 months at best.

    Sachin – Head says 1 more year at best, but we never know with Tendlya.He is capable of playing till 2011 world cup ! Expect more workman like hundreds from him.

    But one thing is for sure – if we all thought that Sourav and Anil got great, emotional farewells, it will be nothing compared to what Sachin will get when he decides to retire. The whole country will come to a standstill, and even the President of India and PM will be expected to say a few nice words.Political parties may clamour to give him the highest award of the nation- Bharat Ratna.

    You know, I should have been in a great mood after this 2-0 win.But I am not. Yes, I am happy about regaining the B-G Trophy. But I am also feeling a bit melancholic – Anil Kumble’s retirement is still sinking in.Now Sourav has left.Soon it will be Rahul, then Laxman and Sachin.All these guys are my age group (born between 71-74), and I am not sure if their replacements will fire my imagination in the same way.

    Inexplicably, I am feeling sad for two Australians – Brett Lee and Ricky Ponting. Lee is probably one of the best loved cricketers in the world. Here’s hoping that he will regain his form and mental peace, and that Ponting will get the respect and benefit of doubt he is due, from the Australian fans, ex-players and officials.I will definitely be supporting Australia against SA. As for the Ashes, I will root for individual players like Freddie and Lee.

  8. I enjoyed your article and in particular Kumar’s gracious comment. I am saddened by this series. Not by Australia’s loss but the manner of their loss. They seem distracted and not themselves. The last time they seemed like that was Ashes 05 and they bounced back for 16 straight wins. I hope they can get it together after this loss. To lose in India is no great feat. It remains that at tea on day 4 they should have attacked. Tim Neilsen’s comments beggar belief. I am saddened by Ricky’s comments about it and I hope he gets good advice from past captains. A quiet word in the ear out of the glare of the media is all that is required. Good on India. Cricket fans needed other teams to raise their standards and make Test matches more competitive and India have done that. In Sharma they have the best young fast bowler I have seen. I hope his career is a long and glorious one.

    We’ll see how Australia bounces back. The only thing I doubt their strength in is spin bowling. On this score I am of the opinion that White is not the utter waste of time people have slated him to be. He’ll improve, he bats well and he has a fine cricket brain. I would not be surprised if he wasn’t the captain some day.

  9. Good one sir. Summed up very neatly!

  10. Thanks for the comments.

    Re Dhoni, he is strong of body and mind, but no person can shoulder the burden he now carries without buckling from time to time. I thought he was a terrible keeper in England in 2007, but he is much improved until fatigue kicks in. He has already sat out a series – he won’t be able to do so as captain, hence he must hand over the gloves in Tests at least.

    Ishant? I’m no biomechanist, but he is twenty years old and is putting a growing body under stress. If he were English, there would be a clamour to reserve his talents for Tests only, but priorities are different in India. When (not if) he is injured, the priority will be to get him back as soon as possible AND bowling at 85mph+. If he returns as a medium pacer at 80mph, he has been ruined.

    Irfan? I’d love to see him back.

  11. Not sure what has happened to Irfan after his MoM performance at Perth. He is missing cog in this test lineup.

  12. kumar, yes, Dinesh Karthik is definitely the best glovesman among PP, DK and MSD. But that doesnt say much for wicket keeping talent in India :-)

    MSD was chanakyan in skipping the tour of Sri Lanka – he would have been worse than DK in SL. You saw what happened in this series – he dropped Hussey and Hussey took the match away in Bangalore. He did the same in Nagpur but luckily, because India won nobody is complaining.
    Obviously, in 2-3 years, his luck will turn, as it does for everyone – and if we continue with MSD, he will one day drop the World Cup or a series against Australia – and that would not be the day to cry about spilt milk, though I guess TV channels and media analysts and bloggers willt hen go agog with “MSD has lost his Wicket keeping ability” when the truth would be that he was always a crappy wicket keeper and just is lucky that his mistakes arent costing India as of now.
    Like I said, destiny unfairly favours some people

  13. TTT, will there be a round up on Australia or you are going to take the Border stance “I am glad Aussie players cannot read my mind now…”?

  14. Raj – I’m expecting Nesta to oblige us with a review of the Aussies very soon.

  15. Nice round up Toots.

    With regards to Dhoni, he sould give up keeping in the ODIs sooner rather than later. This will not hamper the team balance and prevent burning the candle from both ends. But in tests he should remain the keeper because I am not convinced that he can be picked as a batsman alone (esp. outside the sub-continent).

    I am a huge fan of Dizzy and Ishant does remind me of him. If he can match Dizzy’s heart that will be quite a package.

    A final note. India, in the past, does not look as intense when they are not playing Australia. It remains to be seen weather that changes under Dhoni. That is why the England series is so interesting (albeit woefully short). I fervently hope the aussies do not make wholesale changes to personnel and their style of cricket. All said and done they play a unique brand of cricket and I for one support them (when they are not playing India).

  16. A great summary as always toots.

    I also feel that Dhoni’s multi faceted roles might catch up with him

    SL have toyed with the idea of giving Sangakkara the captaincy ones of twice but I feel they always fear of over burdening him.

    Dhoni is young so he can probably deal with all of this.

    But I think its a good idea to take the gloves off him in the ODIs, in contrast to how SL goes about it where Kumar hangs the gloves up in the tests.

    I think the only reason we do that is because Prasanna is an exceptionally good keeper. Im always a big miffed when people dont even talk about him when considering the best keeper in the game today.

    In tests India should let Dhoni keep so that they always have the option of playing the bowler or extra batsmen.

    In ODIs this is less important and can experiment with a keeper while Dhoni just bats.

  17. Btw Nesta, do you mind updating the flyslip link with
    http://www.theflyslip.net/

    I moved to a custom domain :) Feel free to drop by !

  18. Damith – watching Mendis bowl while Prasanna Jayawardene keeps is a pleasure I am very much looking forward to. Most international keepers I would score at 5 or 6 on a ten point scale – Prasanna in about 9 1/2.

  19. Ahh the mesmerizing Mendis. I cannot wait to see him in action.

    Along with the need to wrap Ishant in cotton wool, doing the same to MSD is just as, if not more, important.

    Early days yet but I have not seen an Indian team respond this way to a captain since Ganguly

  20. The conviction Raj brings about MSD shoddy glovework is shocking.

    Last test match, he did mistakes and nobody denies that.

    Over the last few years, I have seen EVERY single commentator (from Ian Chappel, Shastri to Gavaskar) mentioning how his glove work is severely under rated and he has become an amazing wicket keeper!

    And to say Dhoni avoided SL so Karthik and others face the wrath of SL pitches, as an escapist act – I have to ask, WHAT ARE YOU SMOKING PAL?

    It sure is keeping you in a world cut off from reality as seen by everyone else.

  21. Dhruv, well, I dont mind sharing it with you.
    Anyway, no need to get personal – looks like whatever you have been smoking has blinded you to the fact that last test match wasnt the only time he made mistakes. Never mind, you have a right to be ignorant.


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