Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ojha and Ashwin: The New Arshad Ayub and Narendra Hirwani?

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For all the criticism from everyone; including this blog; over the nature of the Wankhede pitch, the Mumbai Test produced the most thrilling draws of all time. Why Test Cricket cannot be marketed and turned into a profitable venture is a mystery to me.

The emergence of R. Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha is heartening. However having seen Arshad Ayub and Narendra Hirwani deliver a similar performance (41 wickets in 3 Tests) against a much stronger New Zealand in 1988 and then fritter away their careers; I know we must all pause and see where the new spin pair stand a couple of years from now and how they perform away from India against quality opposition; before we can truly hail their arrivals. After all for spinners getting wickets in India and winning Test matches is not such big of a deal. L Sivaramakrishna, Narendra Hirwani, Rajesh Chauhan, all have done that. May be Ashwin and Ojha are different. Only time will tell.

After Dominica, India's willingness to go for a win,chasing a challenging target on Day 5 must be commended. However, why a side with VVS, Dravid and Sachin, can't pull off these chases is infuriating. Even more infuriating is the fact that the trio have acquired a sacred status and criticizing them is akin to blasphemy. 

This is the 3rd series in succession where the trio has done nothing of note. West Indies, England and now at home, they failed to get the points needed to look good in the ICC rankings. If they think that the Test ranking points are just a bunch of numbers in just another table of randomly selected countries; then some sense needs to be talked into them.

There is no point getting emotional about the service the trio has given to India. It is their current indifference to deliver anything beyond just their personal numbers (led by Sachin of course) that is being criticized; not their careers. Even Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh can deliver a batting average of 40 odd in Tests in India. Sachin needs to do better.  In the West Indies Sachin did not show up because he was tired from doing a few circus stunts. Then he flopped in England; then he failed in a run chase at his home ground against the friendliest of attacks. If this were Ricky Ponting, I can understand the "open invite" to the team. Its not like Australia have men like Kohli, Sharma, Rahane, and Pujara waiting in the wings. India do. Yet Sachin's sub-par, indifferent and selfish legacy enhancing performances find unanimous support and a ready spot in the Test team for a tour of his choosing. Sachin is a clear cut case of a man getting bigger than the game in spite of him maintaining all the humility of his teenage years. 

In sum, India lost an opportunity to win a vital point which would have helped them reclaim the #1 spot sooner.


Vivek said...

Get your facts right first, buddy before writing biased articles. Dravid has been playing consistently well for all the last 3 series's, 2nd highest scorer in the series with a 100 and 2 50's. Sachin, I agree did not play well in England but has played well this series, with almost a hundred and a 70 odd in the second innings, which won us a match. Laxman scored a big 100 and a 50 this series. I am not sure why the hell people keep on drumming about dropping them when they keep performing. Only in England, Sachin and Laxman failed but then so did the entire team with the exception of Dravid.

It is easy to blame after just considering the 2nd innings of the last match, but then everybody failed to score there as the pitch was not all that batting friendly on the last day, in case you noticed how 16 wkts fell on that day alone, when only 22 fell in the first 4 days.

Vivek said...

And comparing Raina/Bhajji? to the trio is not even funny! Since when they had a 40 average in tests(unless you mean bhajji's recent bowling avg, which may be still higher :)), I would like to know very much! Enlighten me please! Raina is good only in ODI/T20s, and lets not talk about Bhajji's batting in tests, for gods' sake he is supposed to be a bowler first.

Golandaaz said...


I am questioning the collective performances of the 3. Not individual 100s.

Also SRT averaged 40. Which even Harbie and Raina can and have done in the subcontinent

I think we are working off the same facts.

Vivek said...

What exactly you mean by collective performances? As a batsman, you score as much as you can in a test match, which all 3 have done at different points in the series. I don't know why people seem to think that if you score a hundred, that is a personal achievement and not the team's! As if those 100 runs are not being added to the team total and only to the batsman's stats :P

SRT's avg was 43.6 this test series which is not as bad as you are making it look. And just answer one question, do you really think Bhajji/Raina can consistently play at 40 avg? They can barely touch that average in their purple patches..which are not many to show..

Vidooshak said...

Vivek -
I think Golandaaz is trying to highlight exactly what you are defending. From his perspective, scoring centuries on featherbeds is wonderful, but scoring well and as a unit in a tight chase is where great batsmen assume greatness. While Sachin, VVS and Dravid did very well, they didn't rise to the level of greatness that you seem to be assuming automatically. In Gol's view and mine, Sachin, VVS and Dravid didn't exactly play like greats in the past two series. We are huge fans of these batsmen too, but their time is unfortunately up.

Vidooshak said...

Gol -

I think Ashwin is the real deal, like Kumble was in the Ayub and Hirwani era. He emerged slowly, but became integral to India's winning strategy domestically. I have extremely high hopes out of Ashwin. I don't think he'll run through sides all the time, but like Kumble he is likely to deliver big time in friendly conditions and be solid in unfriendly ones. His first innings bowling performance is a sign of huge maturity and smart thinking. I'm not so sure of Ojha. I think he's not sound temperamentally yet. He might not go the Raju route, but he'll have to work to stay in contention.

Vivek said...

I still disagree that their time is up. Dravid has been in awesome form this year(the ONLY batsman to reach 1000 test runs this year), Sachin looked in great touch whenever he went beyond 50 this series and Laxman has played well too, besides his fav opposition is coming up in Australia. I think they still have 1 year to play if not more.

And suppose we replace them, but with who? Pujara has been out of action due to unfortunate injuries for a long time so obviously will take some time/matches to get into the groove again. I don't believe Raina is a test batsman, at least until he gets rid of the ugly hoick to mid-wkt and I am still not really convinced about Rohit Sharma, he is a good player but has some serious shot-selection and temperamental issues. I think Rahane is more promising than any of the young guys. Guess we just have 2 possible players right now that can be given test cap, Rohit/Rahane and I am not sure Rohit will last long.

And nobody seems to notice that Gambhir has been failing since a long long time.

Vivek said...

Agree regarding Ashwin. He is not going anywhere, unless Bhajji does some serious miracles in domestic cricket. He is very composed, smart and has good temperament, reminds me always of Kumble(not for the skill but the general approach).

Vidooshak said...

Vivek -

Gavaskar left after scoring 96 in his last test. He had scored a few nineties in that series against Paksitan. He was good enough to play a few more series. Neither Arun Lal, Sidhu nor Srikanth were anywhere near Gavaskar in terms of class. But he knew and most of us knew at that time that it was Gavaskar's time to make way for the next gen.
We can continue to keep playing our warhorses and eke out victories on featherbeds and dustbowls, but at some point we have to blood Sharma, Kohli, Pujara and Rahane as a group. We feel this is the time. You are free to disagree.

Golandaaz said...


The case of Gambhir and Sehwag is different. Their evaluation has to be from a long term perspective. Agreed they too have failed and no one is appluading them for that; but the point is about calling for retirement not dropping.

Also this is not about individual 100s. This is about what India is gaining by allowing the 3 to continue their careers..

3 wins (all against the WI), 4 losses (in the most important series from a ranking standpoint) and 2 draws which should have been wins.

It is India's batting that has let India down. In 2011 the trio colectively has 6 100s, and an average in the 40s. This is not what India needs.

Rohit, Virat and co could have delivered these numbers and even if they hadn't the bottom line would have been better.

My real point is that the loss in England is being swept under the carpet under the guise of "bad luck" and "injuries". I am not buying that. The England loss is an indicator that the 3 are past their prime. They have no desire left to make impactful decisions beyond their own little innings...and that too they are unable to do...

Make this Dhoni's team now and we will be #1 for a long time. Allow these 3 to linger on and we may have left it for too late with Kohli and co

Vivek said...

Let's leave Sehwag out of it since we know his value and his style of play.

So, let me get this straight, it is ok to be young and mediocre and not ok to be experienced and scoring a ton every other match? Thank God, the selectors agree with my point of view otherwise if they thought like you, we would have new faces in the team everytime team looses a series and you drop everybody over 34, regardless of how they performed.

I am not aware of the scenario when Gavaskar was dropped or retired but if he was indeed playing well and good for some more series he should have stayed and won us more matches. Of course if it was his decision to retire then we should respect that but there is no reason to retire somebody solely on the basis of age, if he is performing really good.

My point is simply "Don't fix it if it ain't broke".

And England loss had to do with everything whether you buy it or not. We had some incredible bad luck, injuries and we were short on preparation. It happens once in a while, if you remember similar(or worse) series we played in NZ just before 2003 WC(or against SA in SA in late 90's). I think after NZ this was our worst loss, that is we badly lost a series after 8 years.

Virat failed miserably in WI(where conditions are supposed to be easier than Eng) if you remember. I consider him the best of the young guys but there is no basis for assuming that they would have played better in Eng than the other guys did(especially in hindsight)

The 2 draws you are talking about, 1 of them Dhoni intentionally drew it when we had 15 overs to chase 70-80 runs with 7 wkts left when he could have gone for it, so you can't blame the seniors for that. The other one we almost won it, if we had not lost wkts at wrong times on a pitch which was not so easy to bat(and for god's sake give some credit to WI bowlers, who bowled really admirably). Also please consider the chases we have done successfully these last 5 years in tests which were some of the highest ones, and something we were not good at before.

I just think that these 3 greats have done enough to decide their retirement on their own and nobody should force them into it. I think they would themselves step down when they think their time is up. It is definitely not now and probably for 1 more year at least.

Golandaaz said...

Up until the England tour we too never called for SRT to retire.

However there is nothing wrong in your view point and indeed it is the majority view point.

Golandaaz said...


Firstly thanks for voicing your opinions. I would like to discuss the following points you bring

Vikek Says - So, let me get this straight, it is ok to be young and mediocre and not ok to be experienced and scoring a ton every other match?

Ok, the performance of India with the seniors in the team is not exactly spectacular 3 Wins-4 Losses-3 Draws is medoicre for a top team. Their individual performances have been even less exciting;filter=advanced;orderby=batting_average;qualmin1=5;qualval1=matches;spanmax1=31+Dec+2011;spanmin1=01+Jan+2011;spanval1=span;template=results;type=batting

Dravid is at #8, SRT and VVS at #15 and #16 respectively. Even Matt Prior and Pietersen and Misbah have done better this year.

Don't get seduced by Dravid's 1K runs; he has played a whole 3 tests more than Bell for just 100 runs more.

On performance alone this year, India's and their own the criticism of the 3 is valid and not entirely outrageous.

Vivkek Says - I just think that these 3 greats have done enough to decide their retirement on their own and nobody should force them into it

This has been India's policy as far as I know. However it has not always worked in India's favor. Kapil Dev, Gavaskar, Bedi, etc all decided their own retirements. The result have largely been harmful to India. Only when the last of the great spinners retired were India able to break free of the 'spin-mindset' and won the World Cup. Only when the sulking and brooding of the seniors post WC 2007 was ridden off; did India win the T20 WC. India today needs to get rid of the 'we-are-players-only-and-victims-of-the-syste' mentality that SRT, Dravid and VVS bring that we need to rid of fast. If you are not willing to influence the game beyond your little innings that your value to the team is that much diminished. Virak, Rohit and co. can esily do what the trio has done in 2011 without the baggage.

Curiously you support players decisons to retire on their own timeline but also suggest that Gavaskar should have played longer. That's a bit of a contradiction.

Vivek Says - My point is simply "Don't fix it if it ain't broke".

Firstly this is debatable as a universal strategy. Secondly what is your definition of 'broke'

Whan a top side gets humiliated by England 0-4. Dude, the thing is definitely broke.

Golandaaz said...

The correct link

Vivek said...

Stats can be interpreted anyway to make or break a point.

About the English players in that list, they played less matches(obviously average tends to increase if you consider smaller number of matches) and whatever they played it was in England or Australia(more or less the same conditions). It is not a big surprise if they play well in their home conditions against weak Aus/Ind bowling attacks and score high. Whereas we played against WI(in WI), England(in England) and WI(in India) and SA(in SA). So, you have to give Dravid more credit than others, show me one batsman who has consistently scored well at all places this year(all places meaning subcontinent and outside).

Tendulkar and Laxman too have quite healthy averages of 46+,45+, agree they are not at their best but that is still better than most other Indian players. You seem to imply that only 1,2,3 ranked batsmen should be in the team, if they are senior :)

I was not sure Gavaskar retired himself so I said he should have played more if fit. Anyway, I already mentioned before and repeat again that, if it was his decision to retire, it should be respected, and that is what is my point basically. Allow them to retire on their own, unless they become serious liability to the team by having a 20-30 run avg.

There is no evidence to prove that if India's spinners didn't retire we would not have won the WC and that if seniors played T20WC we would not have won it. All those if's and but's basically amount to nothing. They should not be in the argument at all, unless you have a way to go to parallel universe and test those theories. By the way, seniors themselves were sane enough and opted out of T20 WC and that's my point.

You just can't go jumping the gun about test teams based on 1 series performance. If we lost 0-4, it was as much due to bowlers as batsmen. And everybody was equally responsible(for instance we never got proper opening stands in that series, which increased the pressure on middle order right from the start) We were simply not ready for England and things go wrong buddy. It is a sport after all, you do lose matches, can't win all the time! We are still not as great as Aus in their prime-time. It will take time. Tell me, haven't you had off-days in your work when things go wrong and you can't give your 100% even when you try? Fans must be passionate but considerate too, cricketers are humans after all.

Places to do experimentation with younger players is Indian test matches or against quite weaker oppositions, where we did give chances to Kohli/Raina/Mukund and they all more or less failed, so obviously the selectors will want to be more sure about young guns before they give them the cap.

Golandaaz said...

If anything we are finiding more points to diagree lets just leave it.

I cannot excuse the seniors for flopping in the one series that mattered to me as a fan v/s England, and you are willing to let it go as a "one off"...we had not lost to England in England since 1996 and it meant a lot. So no point in discussing further

You also suggest that England and Australia are similar conditions. Next you will say that Rakhi Sawant and Shabana Azmi are similar.

Lets just cut this debate while the disagreement is only if the seniors should retire. Because the more points you bring up the more I see how we see the same things and interpret it differently.

Enjoyed the discussion though

Vivek said...

Well, we all know England plays most matches in England and Aus, so for them at least the conditions are similar. Only the sydney pitch has more spin where of course they loose some matches. It is akin to we continuously playing with SL and SL with us. While not completely similar, the conditions are mostly the same.

Since 1996, we travelled to England thrice and twice we won. Granted this loss was an especially bitter one, but that should not warrant knee-jerk behavior like dropping people without logic. We are fixing the bowling depts, both fast/spin and have Sehwag back with us along with Ajinkya/Rohit and entire squad seems fit and match-fit as well, so lets talk after Aus series results.

Enjoyed the discussion too, thanks for the time :).

Golandaaz said...

England go to Australia as often as India does; once every 4 years.

Also SRT, VVS have played between 7-10 tests Ian bell and the others 8.

You are discounting my data without even giving it lipservice. and conluding incorrectly that it is no big deal if England do well in Australia because somehow they are more familiar with the conditions; which they are obviously not