Posts Tagged ‘cricket’

India’s problems against Moeen Ali are due to lack of backfoot use

August 10, 2014

The Indian cricket team slumped to an innings and 54 run defeat at the hands of England after a terrible batting display at Old Trafford and have fallen behind after being 1-0 up in the series. Contrary to the pre-series opinions, the toothless Indian bowling has managed reasonably, but it is the much expected batting that has failed miserably.

The batting has failed against quality swing/seam bowling which is disappointing but to an extent understandable, but the abject display against a spinner who just bowls orthodox offspin and does not spin it a mile is  inexcusable.  Mooen Ali has 19 wickets at the lowest strike rate for the series. More wickets than Shane Warne ever managed in a series against India.

As most commentators have pointed out, initially he was being treated with contempt by the Indian batsmen and wickets were lost in that process – Shikhar Dhawan and Roger Binny for example in the first Test. Later the Indian batsmen realised that he is not a push-over and also they found themselves struggling to save defeat in the second innings after falling way behind in the first and completely going into their shells trying to ‘block everything off the front foot’. They have been beaten both on the outside and the inside edges of the bat and have looked more at sea than the Indian batsmen looked against Ajanta Mendis when they played him for the first time.

Some of the commentators have simply been suggesting that the Indian batsmen simply try to hit him and put him under pressure – quite a difficult task when you are trying to save a Test match. Some are suggesting that the Indian batsmen have not been facing quality spin recently either due to declining quality in domestic cricket or being on tours where the emphasis is mostly on bowling/facing seam bowling.  Excuse me ? The South African domestic cricket is as poor it gets in terms of spin bowling and they just held out for a day on a Sri Lankan pitch against Herath and co.

My opinion is that the Indian batsmen should use the crease and play him off the back-foot more. Currently the Indian batsmen are not able to gauge how much his balls are going to turn evidenced by Pujara getting caught at slip and begin LBW in separate innings – defending off the front foot on both occasions. In such a situation thrusting the front foot every ball is just entering a minefield blindfolded. It is only a matter of time before you step on one.

If one watches old footages of Indian batsmen putting spinners to the sword, one can see how quickly they get on to the back foot. They had reasons to do that. Playing off the back foot obvioulsy gives more time for late adjustments, crucial when some balls are turning and some are not. Playing off the back foot is dangerous only one scenario – some balls keeping low. There weren’t too many balls doing that at Southampton and Manchester. It is not necessary that they play attacking shots of the back foot, just turning the ball around for one or two would do. This would have an effect on the bowler as well as he would need to pitch a little further up and this could make drives easier.

To lend a bit of weight to my theory, if one looks at the statistics of Indian batsmen against off spinners in the recent times (This was showed during the telecast repeatedly on Star). The best Indian batsmen against offspin were Dhoni and Ashwin, who always hang slightly back and try to get forward only for driving. Even in the Old Trafford second innings Ashwin looked to be batting on a different pitch and against different bowlers.

One more thing the Indians can try against Moeen is sweeping,.We did see the sweep being attempted a couple of times by Kohli and he did play it reasonably well.  but it does not come naturally to some batsmen and I am not sure how much progress one can make in 5 days in developing that shot.

But one thing is for sure, if they continue doing what they are doing now, Moeen will bag at least 5 wickets when it starts turning at the Oval in the second innings.

A Dream Left To Chance

January 3, 2010

I saw the fixtures  of the 2011 Cricket World Cup a couple of weeks ago. What a shocker it is! The format is such that the cup is almost a lottery. Ok! No more build up. I come to the matter.

There are two groups of seven teams each. During the first round, each team plays against every other team in its group (similar to 2003).Now comes the twist. Unlike 2003, when top three teams from each group qualified and competed in the super six, now top FOUR teams will qualify and compete in quarter finals.

The administrators might have chosen this format for the following reasons.

  1. In the last world cup there were 16 teams with top two from each group making it to the super-eight. The super-eight was thought to be too long by many people (24 games).The idea is by replacing the super-eight by quarter-finals they are reducing the number of games.
  2. They might have wanted to make it tough for the minnows to proceed to the later stges of the tournament by making them play more games in the first round. In the last World Cup each team played 3 games in the first round. A minnow had to upset one big team and beat the other minnow in its group to qualify (two teams did this – Ireland and Bangladesh). After the minnows made it to super-eight they were easily beaten by the other big teams and those games were pretty boring.

Why is this new format a lottery ?

Let’s look at the two groups.

Group A:Australia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Kenya , Canada

Group B:India, South Africa, England, West Indies, Bangladesh, Ireland, The Netherlands

If Bangladesh and Zimbabwe had been competitive in international cricket, this format would have been fine. But, currently they are not. Isn’t it obvious which eight teams will qualify for the quarter-finals? Practically, only eight teams compete in the World Cup.

With Bangladesh and Ireland in Group B, there is some chance for upsets, whereas there is no such question in Group A. This means that all the 21 games in Group A are inconsequential! What a genius format!

Group B would become interesting only if the minnows win one or two games. Hope they do not win against your favourite team , because it is gonna be tough for you if you lose to a minnow.

The administrators have put Bangladesh and Ireland – two minnows that caused upsets in the previous World Cup- in the same group. If one of them were in Group A , things could have been more interesting.

Assuming all the big names come through to the quarters, (this is very likely because Bangladesh and Ireland cannot qualify by virtue of beating just one big team like the 2007 World Cup) it is a matter of winning three games in a row. That is, even if a team is flat for one and a half months and hot for just that one week, they will be World Champions. This is an advantage for slow starters like Pakistan and West Indies.

Compared to this scenario, in the 2007 World Cup if a big team was flat for just one game in the first week, you will be knocked out. This happened to two teams last time and it can happen to ANY team.

Both ideas are bad I feel. Personally, I think the 1999 World Cup format was the best. If you were flat in the first month, you will make things tough for yourself later, but you won’t be knocked out. For example, India in Group A and Australia in Group B “just about qualified”  for the super-six in that World Cup. This meant that both teams had to win all their three games to make it to the semis, whereas teams like Pakistan and South Africa which did very well early on had to win one or two games only. Australia executed that tough task beautifully and went on to win the World Cup.

Many cricketers usually decide to quit after a World Cup with the hope of giving one last try to achieve their dream.I feel sorryfor those guys. I wonder if many cricketers have  seen this format. When they see it, they might feel that their dream of winning a World Cup has been left to chance.