Wednesday, December 12, 2007

India-Pakistan Series Round Up.

Congrats to all the Indians for managing to beat Pakistan in a test series at home for the first time in 27 years. It could have been 2-0 or even 3-0 had the Indians prepared less batting friendly wickets. In my preview of the test series I had made some predictions and here's how wrong I was. To recap, I had said the following:

"I predict results in all 3 matches, a decider at Bangalore, 500+ runs for Sachin Tendulkar, 20 wickets for Shoaib Akhtar, a Yuvi 100 in the 3rd test where he would have replaced Laxman, 2 centuries for Faisal Iqbal, question marks over Dravid's lack of runs, a career ending series for Kamran Akmal, the retention of Anil Kumble as captain for the series against Australia, and praise for skipper Shoaib Malik."

There was only 1 result, Bangalore wasn't a decider, Sachin didn't get 500+ but Ganguly did, Shoaib didn't get 20 wickets and no one else did either, Yuvraj did get the 100 but he hadn't replaced Laxman, Faisal didn't get 2 centuries but Misbah did, Dravid's form is being questioned, Akmal's batting form saved his a$$, Anil Kumble has been retained and praised, and Malik conveniently sat out the series.

Clearly the crystal ball isn't functioning well.

Top 5 of the series

1. Misbah Ul Haq - The 464 runs at an average of 116.00 don't speak as loudly as the manner in which they were scored. Batting with the tail in each test he managed scores of 82, 161*, and 133* and bailed Pakistan out of trouble each time. Had he not jumped in the 1st test he would have walked off not out in that innings too. He was the difference between a 1-0 and a 3-0 scoreline in this series. Hats off to the man. Pakistan have found the perfect replacement for Inzamam.

2. Saurav Ganguly - 534 runs at 89.00, 4 wickets at 19.25, a test best of 239, and a man of the series award. Who would have thought that a man fighting for his place in the test side a year ago would deliver in this way. Many thought his international career was over and many were calling for Yuvraj to replace him but Ganguly ended the series as the top scorer on both sides. People may say that he got a double hundred, a hundred, and a 91 against a below average bowling attack but it was the same attack that Sachin and Dravid faced. For me his best innings was the 48 at the fag end of the 4th day of the 1st test - the way he played on a pitch that other batsmen found impossible to bat on showed the kind of form he was in.

3. Anil Kumble - As always he was at his best with the ball. He was the highest wicket taker in the series with 18 wickets at 26.50. He kept at it like he always does. His captaincy though I am not impressed with. In the 1st test he looked very good but then a victory makes every captain look good but in the following 2 tests he wasn't attacking enough, lacked innovation in the field, lost his cool several times when the wickets weren't coming, and appealed desperately. Australia will be a test for him, especially when his own wickets will dry up.

4. Wasim Jaffer - This man will open for India for the next decade and get plenty of runs. With the bat, he reminds me of Azharuddin in his younger days. The double hundred he got was an exquisite and flawless knock and he had a very bright future to look forward to. He was the 2nd highest run scorer for India after Ganguly and that is some feat considering he plays in the same XI as Sachin, Dravid, and Laxman.

5. Yuvraj Singh - In the only test he played he scored 169 on the 1st day and took 2 wickets on the last day. And yet he doesn't have a permanent place in India's XI. Goes to show how much stronger the Indian team was going into this series. Its hard to keep Yuvi out of a top performer list these days - he has been in the best form of his life this year and India need to find a way to fit him into the team sheet before Kumble goes out for the toss with Ricky Ponting in 2 weeks.

Players for the Future

Yasir Arafat - His morning spell on his 1st day of test cricket could have squared the series for Pakistan but Ganguly and Yuvi had different ideas. He bowled with pace and aggression and looked the fittest of all Pakistani pace bowlers. He has been on the fringes of selection for a long time now and had a brilliant debut with both ball and bat - looks like a bright future is ahead of him.

Ishant Sharma - are you kidding me? No chance in hell. Those who criticized him before he took his 5 wicket haul were right when they said the man doesn't have it for this level. He proved them right in Pakistan's 2nd innings as well. Ganguly's grand mom could have taken a 5-for against Pakistan's tail the way they played during this series.

Sohail Tanvir - He needs to work a bit with Wasim Akram and learn how to get the ball back in but he's a star in the making. I can feel it. The ball he got Dravid with in the 1st test will remain in memory just like Shoaib Akhtar's yorkers from the 99 tour to India.

Disappointments of the Series

Danish Kaneria - Much was expected from him and he flattered all of us with his shorter run up and all that jazz in the 1st test. But from thereon it was down hill. Pakistan need a quality spinner and they need one soon.

Mohammad Yousuf - his form of last season has ditched him and an average of 32.00 is well below his standards. Pakistan needed him more than ever without an Inzi to follow but Pakistan's premier batsman failed to deliver.

Dinesh Karthik - Prior to this series he was India's highest scorer in tests during 2007, but against Pakistan he just couldn't get going till his last innings of the series. Moreover his performance behind the stumps would have put a smile on Akmal's face.

Other Ramblings

The only reason I haven't put Shoaib Akhtar on that list is because I have realised that an unfit Akhtar is better than a fit Pakistan bowling attack put together. The man managed 3 tests in a row - how many times has he done this before?

Mohammad Sami gets full marks for trying but his days as a bowler look over. Maybe Pakistan can use him to solve their opening problems.

India go of to Australia now and I'm looking forward to that series - it has the potential to be a cracker!

Pakistan, on the other hand will host Zimbabwe for a 5 match ODI series and that should be a good opportunity to test some fresh legs. The likes of Khalid Latif, Anwar Ali, Fawad Alam, Najaf Shah, and Sarfraz Ahmed should get the chance to show their talent in that series. Let see if the selectors agree with me. Knowing how the selectors' minds and my crystal ball function, not many of those names will feature in the squad when its announced.

Make your pitch on this post...



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10 Pitched:

  1. Uncle J rod said...
     

    lets hope Yasir Arafats career ends better than other dudes with that name.

  2. Q said...
     

    I have the same hope Uncle J :-)

    He hascome through the ranks aftyer representing Pakistan in the U-15WC in 1996 and then the U-19 in 2000. Played a lot for Pakistan A and has been in and out of the ODI side.

    Inzi always used to say that as long as Razzak is in the team Arafat will find it difficult. Only apt that he makes his place permanent now that Razzak is not one of PCB's favorites.

    He is a good replacement for Razzak with more penetrative bowling but not the same hitting power as him. The only worry is that he's a bit too expensive for ODIs...

  3. Ottayan said...
     

    Q,

    Yasir Arafat seems nothing more than a honest trundler. Lets hope he proves me wrong in the coming years.

    Shoiab Akthar, was a stumbling block, his continued particpation ensured that Pakistan was always a bowler short.

    Misbah has blossomed, hope he continues to have the same application and does not fall prey to politics.

    Somehow that team seemed uncooked through out the series.

    The prime issue to be settled out right is the 'Captaincy' issue. As an outsider , I feel there is a lot happening away from public gaze regarding it.

  4. Miriam said...
     

    I like Yasir Arafat. He's quite familiar to those of us who follow the English county scene so it was good to see him play a Test.

  5. Straight Point said...
     

    PCB and other ex cricketer should sit together and seriously look at pak captaincy and what is the role of shoain in pak cricket...

    pak team seems to go nowhere coz of lack of willing leadership and in am with OTT that much is gong in backroom than filtering out...i really don't think that malik has it in him with regard to test captaincy...he looks bewildered and his permanent expression of doom in his face is anything but encouraging...

    shoaib...remained 'fit' by remaining in boundary line and physio rooms than on field where he was needed...with him you are neither going ahead nor getting anything worthy...with new bowler, like yasir showed, at least pak would have got a willing bowler with an eye on future...

    please don't take these as rantings of indian fan but i was looking forward to good series and i really want fit shaoib sorting out pretenders out of real batsmen...

  6. Q said...
     

    Yes ur right Miriam - Arafat has done well on the county scene. He's done well on Pakistan's domestic circuit as well.

    He's more than a tundler Ottayan - he bowls at good pace - 140Ks plus...his problem has always been his waywardness. Waqar Younis needs to coach him.

    I know a lot is being said of Shoaib Akhtar by bloggers as well as former cricketers. Seriously guys, u saw him bowl and u saw the other Paki bowlers bowl - he was the only one who looked like getting an Indian wicket. I'll say it again a half fit Shoaib is better than a fully fit paki attack at the moment. Unless Asif and Gul can come back under 100% fitness.

    As for the back room happenings suggested by Ottayan and SP. It is obvious that there is a problem with leadership. Malik does not have command over the players the way captains should and its no surprise considering half the team is senior to him. The PCB is backing him cos there is no one else - Younis will not get Imran Khan like attention, Yousuf is not a cricket thinker, Akhtar is too volatile as is Afridi.

    In public these players seem to be backing Shoaib Malik but behind closed doors it is no secret that Afridi was hurt at not being considered for the ODI captaincy and Yousuf declined to play under Malik. These matters were sorted by PCB intervention, however the cracks remain.

    The only way Malik can succeed as a captain is if he is given a completely new team with players that look up to him. That obviously cannot happen. How can u expect players of the calibre of yousuf, younis, misbah, etc look up to this guy? They cant! When a player knows that he is not one of the best players in the side nor is he the most senior, how can he lead the side confidently? He cant!

    Ive heard stories that Malik was not unfit and could have played the 2 tests he missed but didn't cause of fears of captaining a Pakistan side that lost a series to India in India after 30 years..those could only be rumours but the fear my friends is there and u can see it on the poor boys face.

    PCB has only 2 options. Dump all the seniors and give Malik and Lawson a new bunch of players to work with - there's enough talent.

    OR

    Make Younis captain and accept all his demands.

  7. Straight Point said...
     

    if only it would be more pressure on YK to come up with results with everything on his tow he asked for...

    what worse can happen if they bow to his demands...???

  8. Soulberry said...
     

    A nice round-up of the series, Q.

    I'd like to see Yasir Arafat on livelier pitches and swinging conditions. maybe he should have played at the Kotla, in hindsight.

  9. Q said...
     

    Thanks SB - if you've follow Yasir Arafat in the county scene u would know that he swings it both ways and that too at pace.

    SP - If YK is made captain that Shoaib Akhtar, Afridi, Salman Butt, Akmal, Kaneria, Sami, Shoaib Malik would all be out of the team in favour of many domestic stars - i heard that hes given a list of players he wants under him at international level and there is no way that the PCB will bow down to his demands cause all the players mentioned above are either backed by sponsors (pepsi, etc), bring in advertising revenue for the PCB, and / or are in the team due to one reason or the other apart from cricket.

    Such are the ways of PCB.

    Lots happening behind the scenes these days with YK lobbying for captaincy, Nasim Ashraf backing Malik and so on...

    I'll try and cover all this soon..

  10. NAzhar said...
     

    i agree with Ottayan - we were always a bowler short because of Shoaib's being in the team - if he is unfit he should not play - I would rather have a fit Sohail Tanvir or any other bowler over an unfit Shoaib which would force all my batsmen to be bowling.

    Also on Kaneria - remember Indians play spinners the best and even Warne and Murali have not had the success they are used to when playing in India.

    Great round up, as always Q - and full marks to India for playing amazing cricket!

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