The curious case of Harbhajan Singh

Ashes 2010 preview with Lawrence Booth and Jarrod Kimber in Amit Masram’s Cricket Central show

Lawrence Booth, acclaimed English cricket writer and award winning Daily Mail columnist and Jarrod Kimber , the maverick Australian writer preview the Ashes 2010 series, predict the player to watch out for and the plan to win the Ashes with Amit Masram on the Cricket Central show .Ashes 2010 preview with Lawrence Booth and Jarrod Kimber in Amit Masram\'s Cricket Central show

Cricket Central -Ricky Ponting Prolific 196 against England at Gabba ,2006


New dawn for West Indies cricket ?


Balls matter !


Zaheer Khan

Swinging both ways


India retained the Border Gavaskar trophy against Australia and further consolidated their number one ranking in test matches .The test series, having produced results in both the test matches , amid popular fear of pale draw ,made the battle between bat and ball pulsating, The joy of test cricket is back with reverse swing coming to the rescue of “bowlers”.

The series again reinforced the aid bowlers get when the SG ball is used as it reverses and then it is up to the skill of the bowler to use it to his advantage. The reverse swing was the most important weapon that Andrew Flintoff and Simon Jones unleashed in the summer of 2005 to win the Ashes, after twenty years. Though the dukes ball were used then but it certainly created a lot of buzz and captivated the attention of the crowds.

It is worth contemplating whether the different  cricket balls can restore the balance between the bat and the ball, which is heavily loaded in favour of bat at the moment?

With the pronounced seam of the SG ball, Zaheer Khan made the ball to talk and struck at the right time, to enable his side a great chance to force a result. Zaheer Khan reaped rich reward of 12 scalps for bowling extreme precision with the old ball and often to one side of the wicket with a consistent line. This tilted the game towards the Indians. With the successful run of T-20 cricket and no respite for bowlers around the world, thanks to some real flat tracks and boundary ropes shrinking like jobs in journalism, a thought needs to be spared to the tribe called “bowlers “who toil hard and gets punished .Who would not love to see batsman scoring those fours and sixes and dominate the bowlers .However, this has turned the sport into a computer simulated game, with a predictable result, the bat dominating the ball almost at will!

While there is a lot of debate of whether to have one ball across the world or to have different balls to test the players mettle to adapt and champion the conditions. It may well be solution to answer of an equal contest between the bat and the ball .And, unsurprisingly; this can produce more results and bring crowds back to the test matches.

VVS Laxman –Love for Australia continues to grow

The Australian skipper Ricky Ponting fades away in history after failing to register a win against India. This is one of the few boxes that still need to be ticked on this illustrious résume.Come November, when the Ashes gets underway, all this disappointment will be gone and Ricky Ponting will have renewed his motivation to get  “Ashes winning captain” alongside his name.


VVS Laxman- Reaching the acme of success.


While the Indian experience may have dented the confidence of the Australian team, it is no secret that lack of spin bowling options cost them the series. There is also truth in the allegations that field placing also played a significant  part in releasing the pressure on the opposition by letting them the easy singles.

Ponting would have had the feeling of déjà vu, when VVS Laxman walked out to bat in the first test at Mohali. While it’s a different matter that Australia still lost the Bangalore test, their third successive defeat since 1988. Laxman played a stellar role to help India get out of an imminent defeat, with the support of Ishant Sharma, as India sneaked with a victory by one wicket.

It almost escapes our attention that his batting average shoots up to shade more than 55 , against the Australians as opposed to  his overall career average of 47.He not only showed he relishes the Australian bowling attack but also reminded us that he still remains the  unsung hero to many Indian wins from hopeless situations, amid the often featured Sehwags, Dravids and Tendulkars .Laxman’s  prolific form and resurgence in the last 3 seasons tells a story in itself as he scored 2626 runs at an astounding average of 66.27 , with 6 tons.

With most of his runs in the last three years coming in the winning cause and through the most precarious situations, often batting with the tail, he is a complete team man who doesn’t bat at his favourite number three position. As five more tests are to be played in this season, against New Zealand and South Africa, his confidence and assurance will be the key to consolidate India’s position as number one test team in the world.

Ricky Ponting’s progress will be closely watched

Amidst the headlines captured by the common wealth games, as it draws nearer , there is some cricket being lined up as well .The Australian team is here to play two tests , followed by three One Day Internationals .Both Mohali and Bangalore , venues for the tests should be able to hopefully produce result.

The last time India played Australia at Mohali, Australia were handed a heavy defeat of 320 runs margin and that should certainly give them a lot of confidence .India enjoy a good record at the PCA stadium in Mohali, only losing to the West Indies in the first match played on this ground, while the ground has produced five draws out of nine matches played.

With Bangalore also reciting the same tale of eight draws out of seventeen tests played so far, it should be interesting to note that the declaration might just be an important factor to compel a result .While India has rewarded Cheteshwar Pujara’s form and consistency at the domestic level , his name would only be in the team sheet if there is an injury amongst the top six in the batting line up .Suresh Raina would occupy the number six slot after his fruitful tour of Sri Lanka , with Sachin Tendulkar Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman constituting a potent middle order.

The last time India played Australia in 2008, Dravid had a forgettable series aggregating 120 runs at an average of 17.14 in 7 visits to the crease. While Rahul Dravid would be aware of that statistics and keen to settle the scores with the Australians, runs in this series would pep up the confidence to do well against south Africa and New Zealand in future .The batting would determine the winner in the series as Australians would have done their homework on Virender Sehwag continues to get attention of the opposition .

The Australian spin department looks suspicious with no real match winner and one wonders what happened to Jason Kreja after his 8 wicket burst in Nagpur, during the last Australian trip in 2008.

It would be also an important series for Ricky Ponting. Ponting’s last ton came nine months back against the Pakistan and he is showing signs of decline already and this series well might ascertain if the time is ripe to hand over the captaincy reins to Michael Clarke. He averages 40 in the last ten test matches and looks a far cry from the batsman he once was, with 209 coming in a single outing to the crease, way below his career average of 54.66.

From an Indian standpoint, Harbhajan Singh, doubtful starter for the Mohali test would be wondering how to bring that strike rate down, as he appears to have lost his wicket taking ability.

Shane Watson has started of f the tour in style with back to back hundreds and should give Indians food for thought.

A series win in India will give tremendous tonic to Ricky Ponting for his next high profile assignment. He must have spent endless time mulling over the combinations to register an Ashes win on his illustrious resume.