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?

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.

Bye Bye MS Dhoni (Legend)

Following on from the poor showing in Australia, MS Dhoni has decided to call it time on his test match career. This was something that was on the cards (read my article after the 2nd test finished). India’s most successful captain will continue in ODI cricket where he will look to defend the world cup. It would not surprise me if he called it quits totally after that is up.

Unfortunately his test career slightly fizzled out, I am not certain that his heart was in playing on at test level for a while now. This seemed to come across in the way he was playing. That apart he has been a phenomenal player for India in test cricket. As mentioned above his record for India makes him their best test match skipper. His combined test and ODI record would also see him in the top 10 captains of all time. The icc rankings (taken from the icc website) puts him at number 3 in this list. Read my blog from 2012 here questioning why Dhoni was so hated.

All this is not bad for a player who many said is not cut out for test cricket. Six centuries and many more fifties later he is having the last laugh. I remember a few of those hundreds, in particular the magnificant 148 he scored against Pakistan in only his second test series. Or the match winning 224 scored with SIX sixes and TWENTY FOUR fours against Australia.

He also holds the record for most dismissals by an Indian, the third highest all-time runs scored by a wicketkeeper and the only Indian to captain a test side to four consecutive test wins. I will also remember him for his calm persona as well as being one of the last fair players. Calling back Ian Bell when the Englishman was clearly being stupid was one such example.

Under his stewardship India reached number 1 in test cricket as well as thrashing most teams at home. Where he will be questioned is the performance of the side away from India. The double whooping by England and Australia and defeats to South Africa and New Zealand away is something that may stick to his name. But lets forget that and remember the good things.

MS Dhoni leaves Indian test cricket in a good place, with Kohli at the helm with lots of exciting younger players the times will be good. Good luck to Virat Kohli who has big big boots to fill. Thanks for the memories Captain Cool.

England v India – My Thoughts

Following a sports team can bring many highs as well as many lows. Especially if that team is the Indian cricket team. I can’t quite bring my self to understand what happened in the test & ODI series, but be sure we won’t be hearing the last of these problems for both sides.

Where to start with India’s problems? The same old problems of a test series abroad still haunt Indian cricket. On paper India should have performed far better than they did in the test series. The only players who can take any consolation from the series are Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Murali Vijay, Ajinke Rahane and MS Dhoni at a push (a big push).

Talking of Dhoni, he did well in patches with the bat but not to the level we expect from him. He seems to be playing within himself. His captaincy was at times to safe in the test series. India started the series very well, with a battling performance on that flat pitch at Trent Bridge, and a great win at Lords. But after that game we saw the same Indian performance that we got in the UK last time around, albeit with different players.

I have said it for a while now but India have a great bowling attack to compliment the star studied batting. Bhuvneshwar Kumar is looking more and more like a young James Anderson, while Sami and Ishant scared the English with their pace. Shame Ishant Sharma got injured after Lords, his injury made a difference. Punkaj Signh tried very hard but wasn’t really up to the standard.

There were two other talking points for India to think about in the test series. The first being the situation between Jadeja and Anderson. This odd little saga, seemed to take the stuffing out of India. For some reason the accuser (Jadeja) was found guilty of his offence, while the accused (Anderson) was not tried at all for another two weeks. What’s more is that Anderson was let off scot free forcing the ICC to re-asses the Jadeja charges also.

There has been lots of talk that Dhoni and his players felt let down by the coach and board not supporting them. Since the Anderson hearing India seemed like a team who didn’t care. I would like to clarify that both players were found innocent, but have you ever seen MS Dhoni so animated, ever? “Captain Cool” got angry, definitely one of the most sporting players around currently. For this reason I know what speculation I should believe. I also believe that Jimmy Anderson is a great bowler but on the field he seems to cross any sporting line constantly.

India bounced back well in the ODI series with Raina even adapting to lots and lots of short pitch bowling. One big disappointment was Virat Kohli, we need him to come good.

England’s main problem is Alistair Cook. He had a poor test series, not reaching three figures once. He was called out by many pundits as being tactically out of his depth as captain also. In many ways India’s shockingly bad batting in the last few test matches has prolonged Cook’s captaincy.

The England selectors now have a massive headache in the selection for the World Cup and Sri Lanka tour before that. Cook is still the ODI captain, yet 99% of people that know anything about cricket know that Alistair Cook does not merit a place in the ODI side.

A special mention needs to go out to Moin Ali, England seem to have found a rough diamond there.

Questions to answer:
Should Dhoni step down a test captain to concentrate on limited overs captaincy?

Should India replace Duncan Fletcher?

Should England pursue with Cook in ODI cricket?

Who are the next captains for both sides?

 

Poll: Who will win the ICC World T20 2014?

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Who is the best wicket keeper batsman in the world?

Since Adam Gilchrist the role of a wicketkeeper has changed. The trend in international cricket is that the wicketkeeper should be an extra batsman. This almost compensates sides who do not have a genuine bowling/batting allrounder.

There are plenty of examples in cricket where a wicketkeeper has been picked over another on batting abilities, pre Gilchrist as well as after. One such example could be picking Alec Stewart over Jack Russell or even the fact that James Foster (by far the best English wicketkeeper) does not get a look in.

The next generation of international wicket keepers looks interesting, seeing as they are the first real generation to have grown up with Gilchrist/Boucher. Many of these players are showing potential to play in a very similar style. England have Bairstow and Butler in the wings, South Africa have a very exciting prospect in Quinton De Kock (who is a carbon copy of Gilchrist) and India have Sanju Sampson.

Currently in international cricket it seems that every team has gone for a batsman who can also keep wicket. Some of these names include Dhoni, Sangakara, Haddin, McCullum, Prior and De Villiers. Many of these players seem to have developed their keeping skills once in the role. A good example of this is Dhoni and De Villiers. Both were not the greatest wicketkeepers when they started but have developed good skills as they have gone along.

Over the last three years Matt Prior has developed into one of England’s most important players with the bat, he has saved England almost every time they were in trouble over this period. His aggressive batting always puts bowlers under pressure. If you watch Sky Sports coverage of England matches they constantly call him out as to being the best. I personally do not agree that he is the best but think he is up there. A reason I believe he has done so well is that England’s lower order is a good batting unit. His actual wicket keeping is sound, but he has recently shown a drop in this form also. He is more a player who knows his roles and abilities inside out.

M.S Dhoni, Brendon McCullum and Kumar Sangakara are all probably considered as better batsman than keepers, for differing reasons. Sangakara probably was the best all round wicketkeeper after Gilchrist had retired. But in recent years he has slowly given up his role behind the stumps, it seems age and injuries have caught up with him, meaning he cant be the top of the list anymore.

McCullum is up there for best wicketkeeper batsman in T20 cricket, but is far behind the others in all other formats of the game. Like Sangakara he is slowly giving up his keeping duties and should rightly concentrate on his batting. I would rank Kamran Akmal with similar attributes as McCullum. His wicket keeping lacks real quality to be considered in any list of top keepers but his batting is good in T20 and ODI cricket.

Dhoni currently is the best batman keeper, he is suited to batting in al forms of the game and has shown he is apt at batting in any of the main batting positions. He is still good and has improved his keeping so much but still falls slightly short of Haddin in terms of wicketkeeping. He is the perfect keeper for India, especially in ODI chases. Making him my choice for ODI wicketkeeper.

The South African captain AB Devilliers had a big job on his hands replacing Mark Boucher, after his eye injury forced him to retire. The transition does not seem to have affected Devilliers that much. He has shown his ability to stand up to the stumps against the quickest of bowlers as well as great agility. He has international experience solely as a batsman, and bats in the top three in limited overs cricket. He is near the top of the batting tables also. I would choose De Villiers as my T20 wicketkeeper.

I would consider Brad Haddin the best keeper in the list, although if De Villiars keeps improving then he could take this mantle one day. The Aussie keeper is also very agile in the field and is currently on great form. He has shown he is capable of bating at the top of the order in T20 cricket and ODI cricket. His batting and keeping is slightly better than Prior, the most similar of wicketkeepers currently. In test cricket Haddin has shown his capability to turn a poor score into a good one. Very similar to prior in the fact that he has a long tail to bat with. The only difference is that Haddin can build innings aswell as play the aggressive role. My choice for the test role.

My Choice:

T20 = De Villiers

ODI = Dhoni

Test = Haddin

South Africa v India series COULD have been as good as The Ashes!

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The Indian cricket team have set off for their mission to conquer South Africa. This much anticipated series has been dubbed as a make or break series for the current side. The current crop of talent seems to be able to destroy most teams at home, barring England. Conversely they have failed miserably on their last two big tours abroad. Another pounding on an away tour will result in this side being labelled as flat track bullies, but a win will change public opinion to something more positive.

My problem with the tour is that it is a very short tour. The whistle stop tour means that we probably will not learn too much about both teams. I believe that cricket is all about personal battles, I would have loved to see how Virat Kohli faced up to Dale Stein over a five test match series. What is surprising is that there are only three ODI internationals, normally India play at least six or seven.

The two match test series is pretty pointless. Winning or not loosing this series could be down to luck. For example the first match could be rained off, this then becomes a one match series, then anything could happen. It doesn’t make one side better than the other. Factors such as winning the toss in the first match could play a part in winning this series.

Questions must be asked of the scheduling, why did India fit in a silly home series against the West Indies to facilitate the retirement of Sachin? Instead India could have had a longer tour of South Africa, adding to the importance of this series between two of the giants in international cricket. In my opinion the longevity of an Ashes series makes that a much more intriguing series to follow. The BCCI seems to be making Indian cricket cheap, thus loosing die hard fans by making the Indian side play constant short series’s. It is not fair on the Indian players who will not get a chance to adapt to the South African conditions, they will be back home before this adaptation period will take place.