First let me talk about the ban itself. In my opinion, the reason for the ban is 100% valid. I myself have noticed and commented on this a number of times ... it is amazing that all teams manage to cover their overs in time but India without any fearsome fast bowlers who run in from far far away always manages to exceed the time and not by a short margin either. It is not in the recent ODI series that this is happening. If memory serves me right, this has happened time and again in the past two years ... only difference is that no one really put their foot down. So in my opinion, if the captain has to be blamed for this (and the ICC rules are very clear on that) then Ganguly deserves his punishment. However, the length of the ban (6 ODI matches) is something I cannot comment on ... coz I don't know the standards by which the number of matches to be banned is decided upon. Ganguly is definitely a repeated offender on this score (I don't know really how many times he has got official warnings ... I am basing this comment on the basis of my observations) and if he complains, then I don't know what to say. Surely he has a watch; surely the coach has a watch; surely he knows how to tell time. However he invariably is late in covering his overs.
This mess is really a blessing in disguise for India ... my opinion on Ganguly is clear; as a test batsman he is finished but as a ODI batsman he is just going through a form slump. I seriously believe his batting slot is the main thing to resolve in ODIs ... in tests, his batting is the main thing to resolve and that is no small matter.
What the ban does for India is give them a chance to bring in a contributor till the time Ganguly's slump continues (in ODIs it is a slump, remember). It sounds cruel coz the only way to come out of a slump is to spend time in the middle but look at it this way - there r two matches left and the scenario is hardly condusive to batting oneself into form ... he can try to hit himself into form but that might do more harm than good. Once this series is over, there would be some decent interval of time and who knows, he might just rediscover how to make the ball meet his bat when he next steps out to the middle. Form is like that ... one day u can't touch the ball ... the second day, u just can't edge it ... it just keeps hitting the middle.
Speaking of bringing in contributors, the guy they chose to replace Gangs in the 11 is Sriram ... Ok, so he is not bad but is he the best we could come up with? Anyone who they bring in shouldn't be brought in with the idea of filling the slots ... it should be someone who can challenge for a slot in the long run ... is Sriram really a challenge for a slot in the 11 in the long run? I doubt it, really. Anyway, good luck to him. Laxman might be feeling a bit hurt that an open slot didn't bring him an invitation but if Dhoni is gonna bat at 3 ... what is Laxman gonna do ... come after 30 overs and accelerate the scoring????
The biggest gain by India in this ODI series (forget the current score of 2-2 ... that is looking at the smaller picture) has been the obvious mindset change by SRT. For the past two years or so, he has changed his game deliberately in the belief that it would make him a better player. Don't know why but it obviously seems a good idea to him to change the way he played for the majority of his career; basically the approach that made him what he is today. In this series, in the first ODI, he got out for a very low score but what was noticeable was his going for the pull shot in the first couple of overs which he eventually miscued and holed out. His score is not important here; the approach is. The SRT of recent times would have taken 15 over to get his eye in and ended up with a safe 35 off 71 balls. Even in the second ODI, he edged to slips while trying to drive one on the up - a shot he was almost removing from his arsenal in recent days. Again, the intent was there if not the result.
The difference between Gangs and SRT in my eyes (though they might be coming up with similar scores in recent times, barring the century in the last match) is that Gangs is technically deficient in his technique while SRT is mentally deficient (yeah yeah, he has a great cricket brain so he decided to cut out all his shots and play like SS Das). Many may say mental deficiency is harder to overcome (Laxman in ODIs is an example ... he still grumbles about being left out of the 11 whereas u couldn't fit him in with a forklift ... don't ask why forklift; it just occured to me) but SRT has been in this confused state for over 2 years now and if he is seeing light finally, then glory be. If he just stops trying to be the biggest batsman of them all and just concentrates on playing as he can (and why should age change that anyway ... i never understood that one) he can bring India so much ... when he was at his peak, his team was useless ... now his team is pretty good, he is useless. If a good SRT and a good team combine, I can just imagine the fun. Yummmmmmmy. Note - Two sixes to the spinners in one match ... stepping out and hitting them over the top (I saw the six off Afridi ... heard about the six off Kaneria) ... when was the last time u saw that one? The last many number of times I remember him stepping out to the spinners, he invariably mishit it and got out caught. Finally he re-learns how to tonk them over the ropes. Lets hope this was not a one off. Jai Tendulkar.
Anyway, Imzamam's innings was so cool ... SRT's over was so cool too. Really, I was disappointed when India lost but oh man, it was almost a dream over. Almost 11 years back, in the Hero Cup against SA in the semis, SRT bowled the last over with 6 runs wanted and gave 3 to win India the match. Today with 3 wanted in the last over, he gave two in 5 balls and that last ball ... oh that last ball .... it was bowled well, to be very honest ... full and fast and Imzamam was so lucky to get it through the field which had totally come in for the last ball. Seriously, Inzy kept his cool but there was really no blame on part of the bowler in that last ball ... it was a fraction outside off which gave Inzy the chance but with the entire field in, it was lady luck smiling on the Pakistan captain ... all credit to him though.
BTW, didn't read about this in any of the reports (of course I could have missed it) but Dhoni missed an easy chance of Afridi off Nehra ... the ball took the edge and went between keeper and a widish first slip ... any decent keeper should have taken it ... Dhoni lunged for it but never really tried for it. Nehra was understandably pissed off.
On Dhoni, in my last post, I had written of him as a raw diamond. A friend of mine commented on that being a bit of an excess in terms of praise for someone who was effectively a slogger. To clarify here, when I talked of comparing him to Gilly, I agree it was going overboard (seeing someone score 148 does that sometimes, u know). Gilly is a complete batsman ... if he was not the keeper, I still would pick him into any Indian eleven. Dhoni is effectively a slogger with a great eye and brute power ... a deadly combination when it comes off. He looks ugly playing his shots many times but when u get four, who cares? I would put him as a "Afridi types" ... who in my eyes is again a raw diamond. The thign is that u cannot depend on the Afridi types, as I feel u cannot depend on the Dhoni types. On their day, they will go to the opposition, kick him in the balls, take the game and bring it to their own team ... on other days they will play atrociously and get out trying to hook a yorker (ok, that is an exaggeration too ... heh heh). The idea is - in my book, there is always room for such players ... u have a set of players who can anyday get u in a comfortable position ... players like SRT, Dravid, Laxman etc (coz I am considering Dhoni also from the test point of view, so Laxman comes into the picture ... an integral part of my test team) ... and the keeper in recent past has not really been special (Patel's batting has been very good but no way special) ... so if u have someone who does ordinarily 7 times out of 10 but grabs u the initiative the remaining 3 times, I would take it every time. In that way, Dhoni is a raw diamond and now it really depends on his temperament and the team management's skills on using him to decide if he can be a potent weapon or not.
Saw a funny piece on TV the other day ... NDTV had a programm on cricket controversies on which they were talking about the recent expose on Azhar ... surprisingly a lot of attention was devoted to SRT's reported suspicions on Azhar at that time whereas the only new thing there was the supposed note written by Azhar which is the first I am hearing of it ... Seriously, SRT's suspicions etc r old news ... in fact, the Chuckster gained fame (some called it shame) by penning this article on SRT's suspicions - http://www.rediff.com/cricket/2000/nov/11sri.htm - way back in 2000. Anyway Sidhu was on the hotseat talking about it being media trash etc ... and there being no proof etc ... and saying Azhar had suffered enough and the media should stop hounding him and digging up old dirt etc etc etc. Basically he was being Sidhu ... extremely irritating. Aniruddha Bahal (Outlook editor or director or whatever) was also on the show and basically his magazine carried the expose ... he kept trying to speak and Sidhu would start shouting his comments ... and at one point of time Bahal says - "Mr. Sidhu, stop playing to the galleries ... when u were talking, I was silent and allowed u to speak ... now I am talking so kindly stop shouting and let me talk ... don't play to the galleries" ... and Sidhu says - "mumbmle mumble (I didn't catch it) ... I am not afraid of u" and Bahal is like - "That is fine ... I didn't even try to scare u" ... LMAO.
Fifth ODI tomorrow and really if SRT is gonna play his normal (old) self again from now on, it is gonna be really interesting from now on ... really, u can have a Sehwag, Dhoni or Yuveraj ... a SRT in flow easily beats them all ... there is so much of grace ... so much of majesty ... drooooooooool.
Haven't seen Sri Lankan bowler Malinga's action yet ... can blame it on my married life which really gives me minimum amount of time to spend on cricket ... there have been questions as to how his bowling action is allowed since it really doesn't come from proper over his shoulder ... but the way I see it (and I could be wrong), the rules talk about the bend in the elbow ... they really don't talk about the trajectory the arm takes if the elbow doesn't bend. If anyone of the readers can shed light on it, would be glad to hear.
Many of u who follow this blog leave ur comments ... and most of the times I do not answer ... but let me emphasize I read all comments ... and those of u who leave links to ur own blogs etc, I do take a peek at what u r pointing to ... but I can't really talk a lot on ur views ... simply coz I barely get time to make these posts and do my work in office ... don't have a laptop else I could have browsed from home ... still getting adjusted to married life ... man, I never knew a wife could take up so much of one's time ... before marriage I was like "Ok, after marriage I wake up in the morning, I read the newspaper (sports pages word by word), eat breakfast, kiss wifey goodbye and go to office ... after office, go home, change eat food, watch TV, read newspapers if not read completely in the morning ... kiss wifey goodnight (no naughty comments please) and sleep dreaming of Tendulkar and Ganguly. U know what ... it don't happen that way, kid.
But I don't really mind ... ;-)