The Four Most Important Indian Cricketers

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Since his debut ten years ago in 2005 you will be pushed to find any player who’s had as much impact on his side than MS Dhoni. There is no doubt that along with Graeme Smith he has been the best international captain of the last decade. Playing in a side where fans hero worshiped Sachin and Kohli it has naturally been a challenge to stand out, but Dhoni has made sure he stood out.

Being a massive fan of MS Dhoni I would say that he rightly deserves his place in the pantheon of Indian greats. His achievements particularly as captain should not be underestimated. There are four Indians who have changed Indian cricket and Dhoni is part of this illustrious group. Without these four players we would never have seen the likes of Sachin and Kohli.

Gavaskar the first of these, brought Indian cricket its  first real hero. He stood up to the great West Indian side and brought a belief to India. Gavaskar was a big inspiration to Sachin Tendulkar. Who knows the little master may not have come to the fore without a hero like Sunil Gavaskar.

The next man to change Indian cricket has to be Kapil Dev, in my opinion Indian cricket owes all to him. He was the first Indian who could physically match the English and Aussies. His all action game took a mediocre Indian side to win their first world cup. That one match has changed the course of international cricket. Without that world cup win, would India have been as cricket mad as they are now? It would have taken a lot longer for the sport to fully develop.

In terms of the next most important man, it has to be Ganguly. This man brought the much needed aggressive side to Indian cricket. He proved to many that we will not be bullied by teams. His sides were exciting to watch and played an attacking style of cricket. Ganguly stabilised the Indian captaincy at a time where Indian cricket could have potentially gone backwards.

Dhoni is next on this list. His role as captain over a period of time has been the most successful in the countries history. The transition of India becoming a cricketing superpower was under Dhoni’s captaincy. Off the field politics and corruption are just one of the challenges he has had to overcome. Another challenge was to guide India in a period where legend after legend retired. Despite this his record is second to none, having won the T20 World Cup, World Cup, IPL on numerous occasions and guiding India to Test World No 1.

In my opinion the four above named players have laid the foundation to India becoming the side they are. They have allowed players to flourish and become superstars. Honourable mentions have to go to Sachin Tendulkar who himself has inspired a generation mainly due to natural talent and hard work. Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Signh and Virat Kohli who will all join the Indian Hall of Fame. Despite having not seen Dhoni’s legacy it is safe to say he like the others has all changed Indian cricket. The next question is to see it Kohli can make it onto this list?

Interesting Indian Squad For SA Series

I am very much looking forward to the South African tour India. At home in Indian conditions there is no better team, conversely South Africa are good travellers. This all makes for a a great series coming up. Looking at the India training squad makes interesting reading.

One name sticks out. Harbhajan Signh, if I were to be honest I do not see how he got back into the side. One can only presume it was Virat Kholi bringing back his mate into the squad. Out of the spinners Mishra, Jadeja, Ashwin and Oja are all better options, Patel and K Sharma are younger with potential. For this reason I think its a joke that he has been retained in the side.

I like all the seem bowlers India have, but the only problem they face is that if India make seem friendly pitches then it will suit South Africa more. This means we will see South Africa on trial by spin.

Batsmen: Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Karun Nair, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav, Manish Pandey

Wicketkeepers: MS Dhoni, Wriddhiman Saha, Naman Ojha

Allrounders: Stuart Binny, Ravindra Jadeja

Spinners: R Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Harbhajan Singh, Axar Patel, Pragyan Ojha, Karn Sharma

Seamers: Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron, Mohammed Shami, Mohit Sharma, Dhawal Kulkarni

England Did Not Win The Ashes, Australia Lost It

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I do not want to take anything away from England but quite frankly they were the slightly better side of two poor sides.

We have just seen one of the least competitive series of cricket played for a long time. Despite the 3-2 scoreline it can be argued that this Ashes was less competitive than some of the 5-0 white washes that England have seen in the past. There was no one session that was close. No match went into the 5th day and most struggled to get a 4th day, 18 days play out of a possible 25, this included rain delays in two of the tests.

There was a bit of drama but nothing really that will be high on my memory in years to come. The fact of the matter is that Australia could not bat in grounds that had a bit of sideways movement while England could not bowl on flat pitches. Cardiff did not suit the Aussie quick bowlers, the English bowlers did not have genuine pace to trouble Australia at Lords or the Oval. Edgebaston and Headingly were the two games where Australia proved once again that they lacked any basic skill or patience when it came to playing a swinging ball. If Australia had knuckled down a bit in that one crazy session at Edgbaston it would have been a totally different story. They showed no fight at all, England put the balls in the right areas and Australia helped them out.

Chris Rodgers was the only player to show anything in this regards. Despite all this negativity there are positives for both sides. Australia have shown enough on the Lords and Oval pitch that they will comprehensively beat England in their own country next time round unless England find a genuine fast bowler. For England the positives have to be the way that Broad bowled on pitches that aid him, Cook’s captaincy has to be praised and also the form of Joe Root is a major positive.

On the negative side for England the problems of an opening partner for Cook have been masked over by the win. Lyth had a shocking series and as a result is under pressure. There is talk about Ali coming into to open against Pakistan. This would be a good move to play two spinners but him opening is a short term move as he would struggle in the next series
on pacy South African pitches. Maybe he could take the place of the out of form Ian Bell and move into the top order? There is definitely a tough winter coming up for England.

As for Australia they have a new era beckoning. Smith takes over from the retired Clarke, whilst they have also lost Haddin, Watson and Rodgers most likely. They need to identify the replacements and give these guys a good run in the side. They like England have a tough time coming up.

Wow – Aussies Blown Away

Wow, just wow. Have you ever seen a test match such as today? Australia were blown away within an hour this morning for a measly 60 runs. This shocking performance can only be put down to bad batting, no matter how good the bowling was there should not be an international test side from Australia being blown away in such manner.

Some credit has to go to Stuart Broad and the other two bowlers who backed him up, they bowled really well. But I feel that over the course of the last two games Australia were just poor. I have a funny feeling that this match will not last more than day two, and if it does then it will be wrapped up very quickly on day three.

So like many others I will make the not so bold statement that England have won the Ashes. Now lets just see if the Aussies are more competitive in the ODI series to follow. For the sake of cricket lets hope for this.

Do not write of the Aussie’s!

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These days the media are very quick to jump on the bandwagon when someone or some team has an off day. All that we have heard over the last week since England’s great victory is about the disharmony in the Australian camp, the age of their senior players and how their confidence is totally smashed.

One game does not make a side bad or conversely doesn’t make an average side into the worlds best. What this one game does mean is that we have two evenly matched sides who will make a great series of test cricket. If I had to pick a winner I would now switch slightly towards England. This is because of their better knowledge of the conditions, this was more evident with England’s batting.

One area where Australia rather disappointed was the spine of their batting, Smith and Clarke are the two batsmen who need to perform both gave their wickets away cheaply. A better showing from these two and the fresh blood of Mitchell Marsh should help the Aussies find better form. A lot will also depend on the fitness of Mitchell Starc, who they should not risk if he is not 100% fit.

Another area where they will undoubtedly improve is Mitchell Johnson, the Cardiff pitch was not any help to him. With a few better pitches he will improve greatly. For England there were encouraging signs especially from Root and Ali, who both performed with the bat and ball. There is no questions being raised of bringing in Rashid just yet, although I think there will be space for him too in the very near future.

All in all we have some great cricket coming up in this series. So I can’t wait, roll on the 2nd test.

The Ashes Key Battles

There is plenty of excitement surrounding English cricket here in the UK at the moment. This is largely due to the great attacking cricket which was played by both England and New Zealand in the first summer series. It was in some ways the perfect build up to the upcoming Ashes series. As with all series there will be key battles that will have a large say in who wins this summers Ashes series. The one that I am looking forward to most is Steve Smith v Joe Root.

Joe Root  v Steve Smith 

These two players have much so much in common, they are both the vice captain of their countries, both are the form batsman in their sides and both are the back up option if the front line spinner fails. Both Root and Smith were involved in the last Ashes series but were not really established fully in the test sides at the time. Root even was dropped for the last match of the series somewhat surprisingly. This is just the start of this rivalry, surely the next time these two sides meet in England these will be the captains. I feel that home conditions will mean that Root will win this battle this time, although Smith can change games with his fielding and his bowling is slightly more reliable if needed.

Alistair Cook v Michael Clarke

The two captains are the highest run scorers in both sides. Clarke is the key wicket for the English bowlers, knocking off his wicket quickly will be a huge psychological blow for Australia. On batting ability there is not much separating these two players, although I much prefer watching Clarke bat over Cook. In terms of captaincy they are polar opposites too, Cook is over cautious while Clarke is very attacking. He is very similar to McCullum in the fact that his sides will play hard and aggressive. If Alistair Cook wants to regain the Ashes he will have to change his ways slightly.

James Anderson/Stuart Broad v Mitchell Jonhson/Starc 

Another good battle a few of the worlds best bowlers. Although Anderson is not the player he was about 2/3 years back he still can turn it on, especially on home soil. Traditionally English pitches have helped bowlers that swing the bowl more (hence why Anderson has always done better in English conditions) which swings the balance a little bit back to Anderson. Broad is still a handy bowler to have too. His batting has now dropped below that of Starc and Johnson though (lower order runs will be vital). On the other side to that the two Mitchell’s are tall and quick. Its a hard one to call, it may actually come down to which of the other bowlers perform. This could be a Stokes v Watson or Wood v Siddle battle also.

In my opinion those are the key battles which will decide which ways the Ashes will go. I predict Australia to slightly edge this series, although England will most defiantly step up their game from the New Zealand test series.

Chennai ALMOST perfect

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From the very first IPL the Super Kings have been a dominant force, they were runners up in year 1. Once again CSK stands out above all the other sides.  They have not won the IPL every year but have always been close to the final stages.  There are a few reasons why this:

1. MS Dhoni – They have the best captain in world cricket. There has not been many captains like Dhoni in the past and probably won’t be an Indian captain as good as him for a long time. He backs his players and knows when to make huge decisions. The best thing about Dhoni is that he usually performs when others fail. What will CSK do when he retires?

2. Balanced Squad – From the beginning CSK seem to have known what works in T20. They have identified player types that they need in the side and kept to it, whilst others keep chopping and changing playing styles. The simple formula they use is to have two aggressive openers, Raina at 3. An out and out batsman then Dhoni followed by 3 allrounders and then a few handy bowlers. They had Hayden, who got replaced by Hussey, who then got replaced by McCullum. Not bad is that. They also retain the most players, they have built up a squad type of atmosphere, where most key players are the same every season.

3. Raina – He has not missed an IPL match yet in all the seasons. He is Dhoni’s right hand man but he is also the best number three batsman that you could have in T20 cricket which is played in India. He destroys most bowling attacks and is the all time leading run scorer in IPL. He is pretty crucial to CSK’s success, although I do not agree with him being the vice captain.

4. Fielding – Raina, Jadeja, McCullum, Bravo, Du Plessis, Smith are the star names in this department. As a group they are definitely the best fielding unit (sorry Mumbai, CSK are better). This saves them in tight matches, the saying is that catches win matches. Well in T20 cricket good fielding wins matches.

All these reasons are why CSK are almost the perfect T20 team. They have the best batting line up, best fielding and a good bowling attack. The reason is say they are nearly perfect is that the bowling can sometimes be found out, especially if Ashwin is injured. Mohait Sharma is good but I sometimes worry for Nehra and Bravo. Jadeja has been a bit off form too. CSK are still winning matches easily so this is not really a big problem currently. It was nice to see two young Indian bowlers given a chance, More and Negi given a chance.

What I suggest CSK may have to do is take out Dwayne Smith from opening and either replace him with a an Indian opener of a similar fashion, this would mean they can next season get in a world class international strike bowler. I suggest the side would be complete if they managed to prize Morne Morkel or Stein to the side. The other option for this season is to push Du Plessis back into opening and play either Irfan Pathan or Rahul Sharma. This would give them that extra bowler for balance. It could be something that makes them PERFECT.