Chappell Must Quit

The BCCI paid Greg Chappell a huge premium to take on the job of Coach of the Indian cricket team. His goal was to transform Team India. Remember he made his case to Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri and S. Venkatraghavan (I think) and convinced them of his vision for Team India. Bottom line, whatever this vision was, it has not materialized. He should take responsibility and quit instead of sticking around to wait for the BCCI to decide on the future course of action. (there were rumors prior to the World Cup that he would most certainly be asked to continue). Its as simple as that.

After the World Cup debacle, there has been some talk of retaining him under the pretext that there is not much the Coach can do if the players don’t perform. Though this might be partly true, there has to be a sense of accountability especially when there is so much at stake. And it has to start with the Coach. It is important to dissociate Dravid from Chappell because Chappell is a hired gun, while Dravid is still India’s mainstay and almost impossible to replace as a player in the team. Without doubt he is far more valuable to the team than Ganguly, Sachin and Sehwag combined. So it would be a bad choice if the BCCI chose to throw the baby with the bath water!

A coach can add value to the team provided he is a good thinker and strategist at heart. If you think back to the 96 world cup, Sri Lanka won because they deployed a strategy of attacking from the get go with Jayasuriya and Kaluwathirana. These batsmen were hitting over the infield, and literally sixes were flowing from the first over! This was unconventional and took the opposition by surprise. A coach definitely has a role in developing this kind of strategy. The batting order is another area. The bowlers used in matches is something the coach can influence too. Here are a few such areas where Chappell clearly failed to deliver.

  • Sehwag has been repeatedly under-bowled by Dravid every single time? Chappell as a Coach could have influenced this trend over the last 18 months especially when India has always had a problem with the fifth bowlers quota of overs.
  • Chappell’s view was that the middle overs were crucial and hence Sachin dropped down the batting order. This was a terrible mistake. Sachin has been at his best in the opening slot.
  • Sachin was out in identical fashion (as in the match against SL) to the same bowler when SL toured India recently. The Coach can certainly point this out and get a player of Sachin’s stature to rectify this. Sachin, Sehwag, VVS and to a certain extent Dravid have all developed a weakness to the incoming ball. Mohammed Asif, SL’s Fernando and other bowlers have repeatedly exploited this weakness. Chappell as coach simply failed to address this.
  • India never had a decent fifth bowler and none of the other four are genuine strike bowlers who can grab a bunch of wickets. An out of form Pathan and an unused Sehwag is what the team was left with in the final analysis.
  • There is no credible all rounder in the team either. Irfan Pathan was a great find but he was overexposed and burnt out well before the World Cup. Rotating the players so they don’t get burnt out is a key piece of strategy that Chappell failed to put in place. Sehwag is another example of someone who should have been rested or dropped well in advance of world cup.

India had no strategy in place to address any of these shortcomings. In fact, the team that went to the World Cup in 2003 (the credit for which should go to John Wright and Ganguly) was not very different from the present team! If there was a grand vision that Chappell stepped in with, it begs the question as to what it was and what came of it and why? In the final analysis, now that the end result is there for all to see, Greg Chappell must take responsibility for all this. In any sport ultimately the players have to deliver. But the coach can’t hide behind this excuse and has to take ownership.

Lastly, the accountability should not stop with Chappell. Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri and Venkatraghavan (or whoever else), the team that selected Greg Chappell should also be quietly phased out to bring in other former players into the decision making process. These folks obviously fell for Chappell’s sales pitch. Its time to bring in some fresh thinking at the very source.

Bob Woolmer Case: The Delay Sounds Fishy

The Jamaican police have confirmed their findings that the murderer(s) are not locals. They have also said that it appears as though Woolmer knew his murderers because there is no sign of any struggle. That leaves visitors to the island as the prime suspects. A small island like Jamaica does not have data on those coming and leaving the island during a short span of a few days? The Hotel guests during those few days didn’t lead to any clues? The closed circuit TVs were not good enough? Scotland yard imports can’t help solve the case? Given all these pieces of information it appears really strange that the police has not been able to make any arrests of possible suspects.

Is it possible that the ICC and the Jamaicans are deliberately delaying the announcement of any of its findings? After all it is bad for the island and for the game of cricket. There are already some calls for an premature end to the World Cup. Its sad and shameful that Bob Woolmer was murdered. Its worse that the police are unable to make any headway.

Cricket: Australia-South Africa: Exciting Stuff!

Wow! What a terrific game! Australia was at its best but SA came back very strongly. For the Aussies, Hayden was his usual self, over powering with his brutal muscle power. Michael Clarke on the other hand was great to watch. Clarke was in truly sublime form and clearly overshadowed his captain. His innings underscored the reasons for his top billing in Australian circles.

It was a treat to watch the South African openers maintain a superb run rate right from the get go. They McGrath was greeted with three successive boundaries! Shaun Tait and Bracken were whacked around the park. Ponting & co. were at a loss until de Villiers run out. Hats off the Graeme Smith. The guy can really walk the talk. Unfortunately for him, the South African innings came apart after the loss of both openers. Kallis was too slow and simply didn’t do enough to maintain the momentum. None of the other batsmen really got going. To give credit to the Australians they came back strongly through Brad Hogg. His stumping dismissal of Gibbs immediately after being hit for a six was a classic. It was the turning point of the South African reply.

When you see these two teams performing it is very clear that Team India simply did not have what it takes to compete at this level. Andrew Hall’s final over (he conceded 4 runs to the likes of Symonds) was sheer genius at work. India’s opening bowlers in contrast gave away over 20 runs in extras in the very first 2-3 overs against Sri Lanka. The fielding standards in the match were also pretty high despite which so many runs were scored. A final between these two teams would probably be the best. But then you never know. My predictions seldom come true! 🙂

Google Themes: Really Cool

If you use the Google customizable home page facility you will find this new feature really cool. Google now has a “Select Theme” feature with a palette of themes to chose from. The best part is that if you specify your zip code (Google knows you live and they can come after you! Just kidding)the theme will dynamically change to match your time of day, including local sunrise and sunset times.

India Crash Out of the World Cup: What Next?

Team India put up a completely spineless show against Sri Lanka and simply didn’t need deserve to go to the super eight. There is no question that Indian batsmen were mesmerized by Muralitharan at his best. The total of 255 was definitely achievable provided the batsmen applied themselves. Unfortunately, barring Dravid and Sehwag (who was at his best in a long time), none of the batsmen really showed the character and the application to take India through. As for the bowling, the number of extras that India gifted away caused the team dearly and eased the pressure on the opposition. Once again, Dravid failed to utilize the services of Sehwag’s bowling but instead relied on Sachin and Ganguly. Harbhajan failed to get India the much needed break-throughs.

The question before the BCCI is about where does Team India go from here? A good place to start would be enforce some accountability. This means a change in Coach or Captain or both. Chappell has failed to deliver what he was hired for and should be let go. Dravid for his part has never shown any signs of drop in his performance as a batsmen. But at the same time firing the Coach but retaining the captain might be questionable given that the ultimate “decider” on the field is the captain. One can’t escape the fact that Dravid has not been able to inspire his team members to excel though he himself has set a high standard of performance.

It might be best for India to look at a fresh approach. One that is different but yet more suited to the game in its present form and taking into consideration deep rooted Indian issues such as super stardom of its players among other things. India could draw a leaf out of South Africa, who took the daring step of naming the 22 year old, aggressive, inexperienced Graeme Smith as captain in 2003 after their World Cup defeat. Now SA is rated the top team!

It might make sense to go in for a new look ODI outfit without any of the ageing superstars but instead a team with young and upcoming players under the leadership of either Yuvraj or Kaif. The so called superstars can be given a few years of Test cricket before they phase out for good.

This might be a good time to adopt John Wright’s recommendation of having a professionally recruited paid 3-member selection committee instead of the current zonal arrangement.

The BCCI appears to be making the right noises at the present moment. One can only hope that these are not mere responses with political overtones but a genuine desire to make fundamental changes.

John Edwards: Looking for a Surge in Support?

John and Elizabeth Edwards, the aspiring first couple, announced at a press conference that Elizabeth Edwards was once again suffering from breast cancer, this time in an incurable form. They expressed confidence that the disease could be managed with treatment, and that there would be no interruption in his campaign.

One can’t help but feel sorry for Mrs. Edwards and wish her the best of health. On the other hand, it is hard to comprehend why the couple should go public with this news in such a big way. The decision whether to continue in the race or not is entirely a personal decision and the Edwards family should be free to chose any path they like. But to make such a public deal about this, does raise questions about sincerity. Is this a crass move to gain public sympathy (as it is seems to have largely accomplished) and a blatant publicity stunt? I hope not, but its hard to argue with anyone who says it is.

World Cup: Team Selection Holds the Key

India’s match against Sri Lanka is a “make or break” event (given the current environment its best to avoid “do-or-die”) for India. If India lose, Dravid’s captaincy could be at stake, because as things stand, Greg Chappell seems destined to continue as coach, and there has to be some level accountability after all the hype and hoopla about team India. India’s team combination is far from settled and some difficult choices lie ahead of Dravid on the eve of the most important match of his captaincy thus far.

Persist with Uthappa

Virender Sehwag’s century against Bermuda means nothing. Yes, nothing. Absolutely nothing. If Sehwag can’t score runs against part time pot-bellied cricketers who earn their daily living by serving as policemen and school teachers, he might as well quit for good. On the other hand, he at least made some runs. That’s a good start. One can only hope that his captain does not promote him to open the innings once again. (In fact, in his current form Sehwag is best in the middle order) It would be prudent to persist with Uthappa at the top of the order. There is also talk of bringing back Pathan in place of Uthappa. India lost the match against Bangladesh because of a failure of it’s batsmen. To drop a front-line batsman for an all rounder whose bowling form is highly questionable would be terrible mistake.

Retain Agarkar

Agarkar is a far safer bet than Sreesanth and should be retained in the eleven despite his lacklustre show in the first two matches. He has had a slow start but can be an asset once he settles down. Sreesanth on the other hand is a bowler of extremes. On a helpful pitch he could pick up valuable wickets, but otherwise he could take a beating, something India can’t afford with just four bowlers in the side.

Harbhajan for Kumble

It was a good move to bring in Kumble in place of Harbhajan for the match against Bermuda. Kumble is a difficult bowler for the likes of Bermuda, but for more seasoned players of spin like the Sri Lankans, Harbhajan makes a much better bowler, particularly in ODIs.

Last but not the least, Sehwag’s bowling talents must be utilized to the maximum. His bowling could prove to be more useful than that of either Sachin or Yuvraj.