Just before first ODI against SA
Greg Chappell made a comment as to how the Indian fielding has never been better and for those of u who haven't seen it on TV and have to rely on reports etc, let me assure u as one who saw two of the matches live and saw highlights of the others, he ain't kidding. As an example, there was this shot in one of the ODIs where the ball went to the region between deep square leg and square leg (it was a left hand batsman who played the shot ... I forget who) ... the ball was almost into the boundary when the fielder in pursuit, a certain Suresh Raina launched himself in a dive which took him sliding on his stomach for quite a number of meters and just before the ball touched the ropes, he managed to flick it back while still being in motion of sliding on his tummy ... the ball didn't exactly go back but started running parallel to the ropes. Yuveraj who was following right behind then lunged and prevented the ball from rolling back over the ropes (since Raina hadn't completely changed the direction of the ball which had the momentum of moving towards the ropes) and flicked it back again and himself crossed the ropes in the process. He then crossed the ropes back into the ground, picked up the ball and threw it to the keeper. The batsmen who were sauntering the runs comfortable in the knowledge that it would cross the boundary were suddenly made to hurry ... the fourth run (yes, they did manage to run four but that ain't the point here) ended with the batsman running towards the striker's end lunging to get his bat in as the throw from Yuveraj reached Dhoni and he took the bails off ... the decision went to the third umpire and that is how close it was. In the end, it was not out but more importantly a) it made the batsman run four runs, thus making them a teeny bit tired b) it gave them a heck of a scare since the decision went to the third umpire and c) it definitely made them wary of taking the Indian fielders less than seriously.
Raina was in the thick of things again in the same match when fielding at the mid on position, he grabbed the ball going to his left, turned on the run and unleashed a throw at the bowler's end which missed by a whisker and which (replays showed) would have led to a run out had it hit.
Then there was Bhajji who two matches back (or was it the last match) fielding at square leg went diving to his left and saved a certain four. And JP, the old man being targetting currently by Ganguly-supporters, fielding at short third man in one of the matches making a diving stop inside the circle to prevent a certain four and a couple of overs later, scoring a direct hit from the same position to run out a Lankan batsman. There were many other direct hits over all the matches which I can't remember (as in who threw and which batsman was in danger etc) ... some of them led to a run out and many of them didn't ... but man, they were hitting the stumps like mad. One funny comment from one of the commentators (I think, Maninder) in the last match when yuveraj from inside the circle threw to Dhoni who collected really well and executed the run out ... Maninder goes "it was Yuveraj's effort actually ... Dhoni really didn't have too much to do with it" ... firstly, the throw still had to be collected cleanly and it was a pretty sharp throw bouncing just before Dhoni (the Chuckster has been the keeper in many matches where he spectacularly failed to latch onto chances 25 times simpler than that one) ... and secondly, hey ... u don't really need to put down the effort of one to recognize the effort of the other ... u can give credit to both ... it ain't hurting anyone. Anyway ... I just hope Maninder doesn't try out for the coach's position anytime in my lifetime.
Earlier there were Yuvi and Kaif who lent the fielding a sharp look ... seriously, now with Raina added to the list, suddenly the off side patrolled by Yuvi, Kaif and Raina will be pretty hard to penetrate. More importantly, there r no "gaddas" who have to be hidden ... no VVS, Ganguly, Kumble who - for all their other important qualities - move with the agility of Giant Robot (remember the dubbed Japanese serial on Doordarshan many years back ... Johhny Soko and his Giant Robot ... man, I used to love it).
Anyway, lets just say I concur with Greg C when he says he hasn't seen the Indian team field better ... I don't think any of us have. However, there r areas to be worked upon ... areas which haven't hurt us "yet" but which still may ... earlier, we have three great slip catchers in Laxman, Dravid and Sehwag ... today Laxman is not in the ODI picture, Dravid has moved to mid-on to better synch with his bowlers and for some reason (maybe an experiment here too ... to see the possibilities), Gautam Gambhir and Venugopal and the likes have been manning the slips. Gambhir dropped a sitter in one of the matches (to be fair, in the second match, I think, Dravid dropped a sitter in slips too) ... Venu took one good catch bending to his left and took another to his right but the second one, he juggled so many times that the bowler would have cussed him four-five times before he finally pouched the ball. I dunno what Greg C's strategy is towards slip catching but I am sure he will have one ... till now he hasn't slipped up once ... lets hope that continues.
U know what ... in this entire squad, Sehwag probably is the only one who looks unfit physically ... I dunno whether it is his balding top (he seems to have lost a LOT of hair in the recent past) or what ... but he looks short and fatter (rather than fitter) than ever before. He is short ... and that is nothing to worry about coz short people can be good cricketers ... but I am sure Greg C will be counting his paranthas in the coming months in an effort to cut down on his paunch.
Coming to my favorite topic of SRT ... well, from his rousing innings in the first two ODIs, he seems to have suddenly dried up. I am not worried coz the only thing wrong with SRT was his mindset and if that changes, sooner or later, the runs will flow as consistently as they did. The long layoff is evident by some of the shots he plays even though his first two innings seemed magical. One shot was a charge down the wicket and a cross batted slog against Vaas which resulted in his off stump flying out of the ground ... SRT has charged the quicker bowlers before but he usually does not completely miss the ball as he did here .... rust, nothing else. It seemed unnecessary bravado but then when it comes off it results in a six or a four ... the man has played shots like this before and successfully ... so lets just give him time.
This post of mine might be a bit mixed coz I started writing it after the 5th ODI (I think) ... and today I am continuing it on the day the first ODI against SA is currently in progress. So bear with me ... office pressures.
On the bowling front, one thing strikes me ... Sreesanth seems to be a millionarire kind of bowler ... he comes up with good deliveries every now and then but then bowls a hit-me delivery every now and then too. He needs to improve on his control and it would be good if he does that coz with nice run-up and delivery and the pace he generates (upward of 140), he is a very good prospect ... but he also has to learn that in his first few matches, going at 6 per over will not matter too much ... but he better start learning fast coz there r many others who r waiting ... the fun part about this whole Chappell way of doing things is that for every spot, there r more than 2 possible contenders and that is good. Sreesanth has to remember that there is one Zaheer Khan sitting out of the team who might be back anytime. In my opinion, Zaheer has a much much better chance of making a comeback than Ganguly simply coz a Zaheer with a different attitude will be a very big asset to the Indian bowling line up. A Ganguly with a different attitude will still suck at batting. Anyway, there r those who think Zaheer has been targetted simply for being Ganguly's boy but to those I say this - Bhajji, Sehwag and Yuveraj r Ganguly's boys too ... they r in this team coz they r able to follow the stadards laid out by the boss. In Zaheer's case, look at it this way ... look at his old tapes when he was new and bowling 145 kmph ... look at his tapes of couple of series back. U can see why he bowls 135kmph now ... loads of fat ... a huge butt ... he really doesn't take this fitness thing seriously ... u can see that just by comparing the Zaheer of 5 years back with the Zaheer of today. That when he is a young man ... its not as if with old age, his fitness is also coming down ... he oughta be peaking now ... he isn't.
Still on bowling, can someone tell me where RP gets his pace from? I mean, he is pretty well built and all but his run up and delivery doesn't really suggest great pace and he clocks 140 + on the speed radar.
On Ganguly (since I mentioned him in the previous para), he scores two ducks in the Duleep finals ... lol ... both times falling to Zaheer. Hmmmm, Ganguly's boy??? LoL - here is Zaheer trying to make a comeback into the team and if he has to run over Ganguly in the process, so be it. Good for Zaheer. Bad for Ganguly coz Zaheer is definitely a class bowler as he has shown many times ... one good knock against an attack led by Zaheer would have gone a long way in showing people he still had it in him.
On Ganguly yet again, Ranatunga shows off his stupidity / whatever u want to call it in an article titled "India should learn to respect its heroes" - http://dnaindia.com/report.asp?NewsID=9897 - in which he says the treatment given to Ganguly is bad blah blah blah ... I wonder how he wanted it handled? Have Ganguly in the team till he decides he wants to retire? Ganguly has a very simple job before him and that is to follow the set of guidelines given to all the players in the team by the coach in terms of fitness and fielding ... make runs in the domestic circuit to show he is in form (and no, one hundred, one 14 and two ducks does not show he is in form of any kind). That is the problem with the Ranatunga types ... they themselves stuck onto their seats for far beyond their expiry dates simply by being captain or being influential in different ways ... they naturally can associate with a guy like Ganguly whose only claim to be in the team today is that once he used to make runs. Geez!
Finally to end this post with reference to an article from Harsha Bhogle. I used to admire his writing a lot in the beginning but then there was a phase of time when Bhogle became a terrible fence sitter ... he would decorate his articles with extremely flowery language and use plenty of beautiful expressions but really wouldn't give his opinion one way or the other on many issues. Anyway, in this article - http://cricket.expressindia.com/fulliestory.php?content_id=81606 - Bhogle talks about some "pitiable" person writing some "crude" banner which reflected badly on Ganguly. Sigh, Harsha ... u r so right but I would have respected u so much more if on the day in SA a couple of years back, when Ravi Shastri said "Sehwag is not fit to tie Tendulkar's shoelaces", u had said even one word of support for Sehwag or indicated in any way that Shastri was out of line in stating that. Shastri did not make any banner that day but while u couldn't do anything about the banner in Ahemdabad, u could have done something about Shastri's comment ... but then calling some fellow in the stadium as "pitiable" and calling a Shastri or a Gavaskar the same would be two different cups of tea ... u don't have the nerve for that, do u??? Apart from that one instance, there have been instances time and again when ur co-commentators, whether it be Shastri or Gavaskar or Sidhu have bad mouthed or made cruel fun of players ... and u sat alongside them and pretended nothing happened. I agree u urself didn't say anything but when u can't comment on the Shastris and the Gavaskars and Sidhus, really, it is pathetic to make a comment on some spectator in the stadium who puts up a poster. And believe me, the contents of the poster in Ahemdabad were a lot more creative than "Sehwag is not fit to tie Tendulkar's shoelaces".
Ok guys, the first ODI just finished at Hyderabad with India losing to SA ... I guess I will end my post here. Maybe post after I see highlights or maybe later.
Anyway Cheers ... and keep coming back.
BTW, check out the blog http://onlyindian.blogspot.com ... the guy is really Ganguly-mad.