Sachin Should Plan His ODI Exit

Both Dravid and Ganguly have been phased out of the ODI team in favor of youth. Sachin is the last of the veterans so to speak remaining in the side. It is unfortunate that both Dravid and Ganguly were not given a more formal send off from the ODI team. The Indian selectors and Sachin himself should ensure that the same fate does not befall Sachin. The timing is perfect for him to announce a formal withdrawal from the ODI side.
There is no question that MS Dhoni is a captain who appears to know exactly what he wants. Of late he has shown that he can have his way as well. The upcoming finals against Australia would a be perfect time for him to score a heavily and then make an announcement of his plans. Instead, if Sachin chooses to wait too long, Dhoni won’t hesitate to act. There is plenty of opening talent waiting in the wings to take on the opening slot in ODIs. This is not a reflection of Sachin’s form. He still has it in him to be successful in ODIs but the reality is that the man at helm believes in having younger players (and rightfully so!) and so far his strategy has paid off.

Final Debate: Same Old, Same Old

Last night’s debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama was the third and final one on one debate and her last chance to state her case. After watching this race closely it boggles my mind that despite having Bill Clinton and an army of high paid consultants on her side Senator Clinton has been unable to come up with a winning strategy.

Firstly, there was no substantial difference in her approach last night. Secondly, Senator Clinton seems to take a stay the course strategy, quite surprisingly. Senator Obama on the other hand seems to be growing in strength and stature with each debate.

Why Bicker over Health Care

Most voters are not aware of the details and in most cases aren’t even interested in them. So to bicker over whose plan covers what is a meaningless argument. It is completely ridiculous for Senator Clinton to continue to focus on this when there are plenty of experts to beat the details to death and argue over them. At last night’s debate she continued making a huge deal about the differences in the health care plans.

Why Claim to be the Candidate of “Change”

The concept of “change” has been completely co-opted by Obama and co. There is absolutely no point in fighting over the fact that she can bring about better change without a convincing rational. Thankfully, she mentioned it only in passing.

35+ Years of Experience

The focus here appears to have been more on her experience and less on Senator Obama’s lack thereof, with the result that the 35 years has become an issue of debate in itself! Unfortunately, this is probably Senator Obama’s only weakness at this stage of the race. However, he does a fine job of covering for it by legitimately claiming to have good judgment (war in Iraq being an example).

Attacking Senator Obama’s lack of experience does create a tricky situation. She could be jeopardizing her parties’ candidate by driving home this point, where he to become the ultimate nominee. At last night’s debate she chose not to attack him openly for lack of experience instead highlighted hers. She deserves credit for taking the high road here, but the truth is that she can’t hope to win the nomination without taking this issue head-on.

Cribbing Doesn’t Help

Senator Clinton raised the issue last night that the press was giving Senator Obama a free ride (a fairly valid claim. Putin’s hand-picked successor question being an example). “Cribbing” of this nature is best left to surrogates and smacks of desperation when coming from the candidate herself. Again, a a failure of her strategy team.

Please, No More Debates!

Lastly, these debates should stop. Hopefully there are no more. Senator Clinton has no new strategy in place, making these debates dull and boring to say the least. It gives the voters no new insights and is a complete waste of air time.

Hunan Chili in Mountain View

I have visited Hunan Chilli restaurant on Castro Street in Mountain View several times in the past. The most recent visit seemed no different until the day after. I was hit by food poisoning (or possibly a stomach flu). The net result was that I ended up with non-stop vomiting for an entire day! Never ever experienced anything like this ever before. Everything I ate or drank came right out. It was a dreadful experience.

In general, I have liked the food at this restaurant. I have no idea if my sickness had anything to do with my visit there. But it sure sounds like it because I hardly ate anything else that entire day (barring some home made soup at night). I plan to stay away from there for the foreseeable future! Presently, I am on the road to recovery and hope I have no further surprises in store for me!

India Can Beat the Aussies

India lost to Australia in the most recent ODI. The important fact is that India came within striking distance of the Australian total. A creditable recovery after being four down for 51 runs. A clear indication that this team is capable of putting up a fight. Thus far Australia has beat India consistently in this series despite being restricted to small totals until the most recent ODI.

However, this Indian team has what it takes to beat the Aussies in this series. The top order has been a little flaky, but it is possible that it will come together in time for the finals. Barring Sehwag, most players in the top order have at least one 50+ score in this series, which is a positive sign. The running between wickets is by far the best India has ever had. The ground fielding good but the direct hits could use some improvement.

On the bowling front, Harbhajan appears to be the weak link (though I have never seen this mentioned ever in the press). I can’t remember the last time Harbhajan grabbed a bunch of wickets. He almost always picks up one or two wickets at the most. At the top of the order, Ishant Sharma has proven to be a wicket taking bowler. But India badly lacks a wicket taking bowler in the middle overs. In fact, Sehwag (or Piyush Chawla) might be a better bet as the fifth bowler. In the most recent match against SL, coming into bowl with more than half the side back in the hut, Harbhajan failed to get any breakthroughs. Thus, India let SL off the hook to end up with a total of 179 runs.

With a small tweak or two and some luck, Dhoni and his boys have a great opportunity to beat the Aussies in the finals. It remains to be seen how effective they can be.

My Pick: Sehwag, Sachin, Gambhir, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj, Dhoni, Uthappa, Pathan, Praveen, Sreesanth, Ishant. (Or play Chawla in place of Sehwag and open with Uthappa).

US Election Thoughts: Hillary’s Uphill Battle

The Clinton campaign officials have recently been shuffled around. She has lent her campaign $5M. She wants to debate Obama, while he prefers to be on the stump instead (quite understandably). Bill Clinton’s race card attempt backfired and his core voting block of African Americans seem to be firmly in the Obama camp. Women and older folks seem to be gravitating towards him, white Americans clearly don’t seem averse to an Obama presidency, and Hispanics could be next in line to be swept by the Obama wave.

The Obama mania seems to have swept the country. His cries for change accompanying his impressive and powerful oratory has captured the imagination of many, especially the young. The Obama campaign is managing to raise huge amounts of money (approaching a record of 1M donors) while the Clinton campaign is clearly stretched.

In short, Senator Clinton faces an uphill battle. Can she start winning again after 10 straight loses?

Operational Failures

Senator Clinton has run a long and tough campaign but clearly the momentum has shifted to Obama. About a year back, Senator Clinton was widely believed to have a war chest of cash. Despite hordes of cash, a clear head start and plenty of name recognition the Clinton campaign has faltered. How It begs the question as to how Obama has a better ground operation (purportedly the reason for his caucus victories) than Senator Clinton does? Did they under estimate him or is he simply better on the organizational front?

It is hard to imagine that Senator Clinton can reverse the momentum when the campaign appears to have faltered on a fundamental aspect of operations resulting in lost caucuses and shortage of cash. It is commendable that a young, relatively unknown first time Senator has won a string of victories to challenge the front-runner who claims to have “experience”. It is arguable that given enough time Obama might have picked up California and possibly Massachusetts.

Experience vs Change

There is no question that she lost this argument for the most part partly due to poor campaign strategy. After 8 years of George Bush and a clear move to the right, the country is more than ready for change. Without a doubt, Obama has grabbed the right narrative so to speak and has run with it. His campaign themes of “turn the page”, “yes we can”, “fired up and ready to go” seem to have taken center stage and are starting to resonate both with the people and the media. In fact, John McCain used it the other day when he said “I am fired up and ready to go!”

Interestingly, Senator Obama has been able to achieve this despite the fact that some (I suspect “many”) of his supporters have little insight into his legislative accomplishments! (If you are wondering the same, click here for a brief!)

Never Say Never. So What Next?

Though it does appear a hard road ahead for Senator Clinton, she could still stage a comeback like she did in New Hampshire. The victory there was possibly influenced by the teary-eyed moment. It appeared genuine and it certainly worked for her. So don’t be surprised if an encore is being planned by her political consultants as a last ditch effort to turn the tide.

The upcoming debates should give Senator Clinton a chance to regain some ground. In general, Obama seems to do better when giving speeches. On the other hand, Senator Clinton seems especially more comfortable in a relaxed table and chair setting than he is. If she succeeds in raising some doubts in the minds of the people about Obama in the debates and subsequently holds on to Ohio and Texas, then there could be an outside chance for her to claim the nomination. If not, it appears to be game over for Senator Clinton.

Obama vs. McCain

A defeat for Hillary Clinton will please many, especially the Hillary-haters. But it is bound to make many in the Republican camp nervous because Obama might prove to be harder to beat in the general election. While its easy to brush aside Obama as “all oratory and no substance”, if Obama were to be the Democratic candidate, it is impossible to ignore the contrast with Senator McCain (with all due respect), who comes across as absolutely low on energy, hope and inspiration. This could be a tired Bob Dole-Bill Clinton-like match up all over again. Unfortunately for the Republicans, there wasn’t much to chose between an erstwhile Senator McCain, a slippery Romney and the smooth-talking Huckabee.

The Protracted Primary

The long primary is likely to favor the Democrats than hurt them. Firstly, it gives them an opportunity to raise more cash. Secondly, they get to remain in the news and grab “mind-share” of the public, unlike the Republican race which is more or less settled and lacks the glamor. Besides, if Obama were to be the candidate, a long primary helps him gain name recognition across the country.

p.s: If want to know were the candidates stand with regard to your own views on various issues try this or this.

Aus-India ODI: Poor Tactics, Yet Again

For the second time in a row, team India lost due to poor tactics. After a brilliant bowling performance which helped India restrict Australia to a very achievable target of 204 runs, India made a complete mess of the run chase. Once again it was a case of poor tactics on the batting front.

Irfan Pathan at Number 3

With a seemingly achievable target at hand, sending Irfan Pathan at number 3 was a questionable decision. The bigger issue though was that Irfan didn’t appear to be batting to a plan. Was he supposed to attack? Was he supposed to bat like a regular number three? If he was sent in to pick a few quick runs to ease the pressure on the rest it certainly didn’t look like that was his intent. He was neither here nor there when it came to helping India achieve the target. He ended with 14 from 30 balls. It appears to be a case of a capable batsman not knowing what he was supposed to do!

What is even more alarming Dhoni’s defense of the decision.

“The Kookaburra ball does a bit in the first 12-15 overs, so it’s important to keep wickets in hand. Once the ball gets old, it becomes easier and is to the batsman’s advantage,” he explained. “Sending Irfan up balances the batting order and keep it stable. And Irfan at 8 or 3 doesn’t make too much of a difference.”

Pathan was sent in to conserve wickets! Sounds like Dhoni has more confidence in Pathan’s ability to survive at the crease than Uthappa, Yuvraj, or Rohit Sharma? How can it make no difference whether Irfan bats at 3 or 8?

Rohit Sharma – Rash Shot

With the loss of a couple of wickets and score of close to 50 on board, Rohit Sharma’s goal would have been to stick it out to the very end, rotate the strike, and build an innings while the stroke makers kept the score moving. Instead he played a completely reckless, airy drive and lost his wicket. Sounds like a case of complete lack of instructions from the captain and the think tank, yet again. If he was indeed instructed to stick around, then it signals a complete lack of responsibility on his part.

Yuvraj at number 3?

This match might have been a perfect opportunity to get Yuvraj back into his groove. At number 3 he would have had plenty of time to settle down and get some runs. Besides, he would have had an eye in before facing up to Brad Hogg (his nemesis of late). Instead Dhoni seems be shielding (or hiding him!) in the batting order, which is truly bizarre. One could argue that the early loss of Yuvraj would have put pressure on the batting. Not really. There would have been Rohit Sharma, Uthappa, Dhoni and Pathan to follow. Moreover, it would given India a good feel for what to do with Yuvraj if he failed yet again.

Munaf is a Misfit

Munaf has lost all his pace. He barely manages to cross the 130+ mark. Matt Hayden tonked him for a 6 in his first over like he was playing a spinner! Munaf can’t bat and his fielding is poor. Apart from being young, his inclusion is contrary to Dhoni’s desire to put together a good fielding side. To top it all, his body language is telling. Wearing a watch, sporting a stuble and ambling up to the wicket, he comes across as someone stranded in line at the electricity board office waiting for things to happen. Surely, he can display some minimal enthusiasm and excitement.

Uthappa Needs Some Exposure

Robin Uthappa has been languishing at the bottom of the batting line up leading the tail. He has shown in the past that he is an aggressive batmen in the Sehwag mould. The Australian pitches might actually suit his style provided he is sent early enough to settle down and get his eye in. With Sehwag not in the team, this would a been a perfect opportunity for Uthappa to come up the order and make some runs. Besides, it would have been a good measure of his current form.

Poor Handling of the Batsmen

Dhoni deserves credit for handling his bowlers extremely well (besides doing a terrific job with the bat). The five bowler combination is a winning strategy and the return of Pathan as the all rounder makes this possible. However, Dhoni’s approach to handling his batting arsenal has been very poor to say the least. Yuvraj is out of form, Sachin and Sehwag haven’t really fired in a big way, Uthappa has not really been tested, the backups Dinesh Karthick and Suresh Raina (both terrific talents in their own right) are busy warming the benches (along with Manoj Tiwari), and the series has already crossed the half way mark. On the bowling front, it might make sense to try Piyush Chawla in place of Harbhajan Singh. Chawla is a better batsman and Harbhajan seldom takes more than a couple of wickets though he does bowl 10 fairly tight overs. Piyush Chawla could be a better wicket taking bowler.

Does Dhoni not have an active team management?

The Indian think tank includes Kirsten, Dhoni, Yuvraj, Sachin, Venkatesh Prasad and Robin Singh? Surely, they could together come up with a better overall strategy and sensible tactics to orchestrate these easy victories. The sad part is that this is a terrific one day side and clearly has what it takes to beat the Aussies and the Lankans. The match against Sri Lanka will be key to getting their act together and gaining some momentum for this series. Another defeat will make it three in a row and might be harder to recover from.

India -SL ODI:Tactical Errors

The rain shortened ODI between India and Sri Lanka was an exciting game. Sri Lanka knocked off the D/L target rather comfortably thanks to Jayasuriya’s rollicking start. Analyzing the match after the result it surely sounds like the Indian think tank missed a trick or two.

Runs are Never Enough When the Weather Can Intervene

With the match shortened to 29 overs, and a clear likelihood of rain, Team India’s goal should have been to get as many runs as possible. Under these circumstances, India got off to a decent start with 49 runs in 8.2 overs (a run rate of over 6 runs an over) when Sachin Tendulkar was out. With just 20 overs to go on a ground with at least a couple of short boundaries, and free stroking batsmen like Yuvraj, Uthappa, Dhoni and Pathan still to come, India goofed badly by sending in Rohit Sharma. No offense to the young man. Rohit Sharma is a terrific talent and has a bright future ahead of him, especially in Test cricket. But the decision to send him in at number four in the match ultimately caused India the game (Sreesanth bowling performance coming in a close second).

Wrong Batting Order

Rohit Sharma is an “anchor player” in the Rahul Dravid mould, who is incapable of the brutal strikes that one could associate with Yuvraj, Uthappa, Dhoni and Pathan. His natural game comes in handy when there is a desperate need to contain the fall of wickets. In this match, this was hardly the need of the hour. With still 20 overs to go, an out of form Yuvraj or a match practice hungry Uthappa might have been a better bet at number 4 especially with Dhoni and Pathan to follow.

Poor Planning

The net result was that India ended up with a score of 195 at a run rate of 6.72, a marginal improvement over the run rate at the end of the first 8 overs. Most importantly, India failed to give Yuvraj, Uthappa and Pathan a chance to have a go. Rohit Sharma’s final score and strike rate hides the fact that he struggled mid-way through his innings and team India lost the momentum required to set a big score. If Yuvraj or Uthappa had managed to settle down, India might have been able to end with a flourish that would have set even an aggressive T20 total. Unfortunately, it looked like India was playing throughout assuming that this was going to be a 29-over match when in reality India should have planned for the eventuality of a further curtailment.

By the time the target was reduced, India was defending a modest T20 total of 154 on a ground with short boundaries against one of the most aggressive batsmen in the game with an erratic Sreesanth. It was pretty much game over then and there. Having keenly observed Dhoni’s leadership, his performance as a captain in this match was easily one of the low points in his captaincy stint thus far.

Moral of the Story

Never save your best hitters on a rainy day.

p.s: If you are wondering how Rumsfeld made it to a cricket story, its because he has become synonyms with tactical errors.