Monday, November 28, 2011

Mitchell Johnson for Zaheer Khan

A week before, I had written a post regarding Zaheer Khan's inclusion for the four match test series against Australia starting next month hanging in a balance owing to injuries. And, now an Australian counterpart has seemed to have joined the party with Mitchell Johnson following suit after the Australian pacer has decided to get a surgery on his foot. In the same post, I had cited various absences of key players during crucial stages of a serious tour, who make a difference between a win and a loss. Now, it looks that my prayers are answered when another key player has joined the list.

Mitchell Johnson, though has been a noted bowler in the Australia test squad, was found to dominate with the bat during the recently concluded two test series against South Africa where he scored an impressive 40 runs to see Australia not only win the Johannesburg test by 2 wickets but also retain the trophy which they had regained on their last tour to South Africa three years back. Johnson scored those runs at a strike rate of 85.10 which speaks of his ability to step in at crucial situations. Without Johnson's knock, Australia could have never leveled the test series against the Proteas.

Johnson is one of those players in the current Australian squad who can keep up the hopes of Australian dominance live in days to come though after the retirement of Glenn McGrath - Shane Warne, the Australian team is on an all time low. Currently, Johnson has seemed to have hit a bad patch with him returning with a bowling average of 45.71 something which should have been a batsman's batting average. Whatsoever, players like Mitchell Johnson will surely make a comeback especially in crucial games like the Border - Gavaskar trophy. Johnson is a bowler with a class which is permanent.

Though form can be considered to be temporary, class of a player has been proved to be permanent which has seen many players making a comeback despite going through a bad patch several times in their career. With lack of good players (unlike what it was the case some four years down the lane for Australia) the form and fitness of Johnson should be taken seriously if at all Australian cricket has to flourish. Australia's hopes on key players like Ryan Harris, Shaun Marsh and Shane Watson still hangs in a balance and the reason for this can be none other than injury.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Is dropping Harbhajan Singh justified?

Well the news we hear at the moment is that India's star off-spinner Harbhajan Singh is dropped from the Indian squad that would be facing the Aussies in the Border - Gavaskar trophy scheduled next month. The reason for the same is thought to be his lack of form in the four tests against England where he was instrumental in taking just two wickets from the two games he played before an abdominal-muscle injury got the better off him. Since then, Harbhajan Singh was not even considered for the tests against West Indies though the series was held at home and not away.

With such an injury taking a toll on any player, nothing different can be expected by the selectors whatsoever. However, taking into consideration his form, dropping Harbhajan Singh should be a good decision to some extent. But, the other side of the coin suggests something different. Harbhajan Singh is the lone and the most successful spinner in the current India squad especially in tests. There are the likes of Pragyan Ojha and Ravindra Jadeja who have been successful but, without an experienced spinner top support from the other end, nothing special can be expected from the above mentioned spinners in this tour.

And, off-late there is the inclusion of Ravichandran Ashwin who was awarded the man of the series in the recently concluded test series against West Indies at home. That definitely deserves a lot of recognition but, things cannot be expected to be the same this time as well. The series is not played at home unlike what it was against the West Indies. Moreover, Australia is a much better outfit compared to West Indies who are not placed just above Bangladesh in the ICC points table for test cricket. In such circumstances, burdening Ashwin with such responsibility can be crucial.

It is an undisputed fact that India have so far never won a test series against Australia on Australian soil in its 63 years of test cricket history and at the same time, India have beaten them on their home tour to Australia in the previous two occasions. India still hold the upper-hand in the Border - Gavaskar trophy with Australia having lost most of its matches on home soil and with Indian team being on an all time high in confidence though their memories of a 4-0 loss to England is still afresh. Lastly, the exclusion of Harbhajan Singh might prove costly to the spin wing.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Key players' fitness always an issue

Well the latest abuzz in the world of cricket is that India's most experienced pace bowler - Zaheer Khan will have to prove his fitness in case he has to relish his dreams of touring Australia for the Border - Gavaskar trophy starting late next month. This is not the case only with Zaheer Khan and not the case only regarding India - Australia tests. The most important players be it in any department, are found to withdraw during the serious phase of a test series. I remember Sachin Tendulkar missing out for the Border - Gavaskar trophy in 2004-05 played at home.

This proved a trump card for the Aussies who tasted victory on Indian soil after 34 years. So was the case in the Ashes 2005-06 where Shane Warne was found missing from the game which England won by three wickets. And, Glenn McGrath missed out in the only two tests which England won in that series consisting of five games. South Africa always have a problem with Jacques Kallis regarding his fitness whenever an important tour would kick in. But, luckily during such phases, we see Amla doing the job for the Proteas. The Pakistani pacer Wasim Akram was found warming the benches during crucial stages owing to injury.

The problem regarding fitness has more often got to do with fast bowlers than batsmen or spin bowlers. The reason regarding the same may be due to the fact that fast bowlers have to sweat it out more at the nets compared to players from other departments. Fast bowlers move their arms more often than players from any other department in cricket. The players who make it to the top ten can be cited as Sreesanth, Glenn McGrath, Allan Donald, Zaheer Khan, Javagal Srinath, Waqar Younis, Chaminda Vass, Brett Lee, Shoaib Akthar and last but not the least Shane Bond.

Very few from other departments like Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Jacques Kallis, Ricky Ponting make it to that list and that too seldom. Of course, in the last decade or so, Ponting has been on the top to miss a test match or a test series owing to injury. And, coming to spin bowlers, Anil Kumble tops the charts followed by Shane Warne, Muttiah Muralitharan and Harbhajan Singh (noted spin bowlers of the world). Added to injuries, the impact of injuries are also found to target fast bowlers more than any other players. An injury to a fast bowler can be career threatening which would not be the case regarding players from other departments.