Harsha Bhogle

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  • India doesn’t understand fast bowling

    There's little support for the peerless Zaheer Khan, and India need more than the occasional brilliant spell from Ishant and Umesh.

    Zaheer swung the Kookaburra ball as he did the Duke.India were comprehensively outbowled here in Australia in much the way they were in England. On both occasions, India had their moments but moments don't win you games. Relentless attack does. And India didn't have the armoury or, dare I say it, the know-how to do it.

    Zaheer Khan was once again India's best bowler and for sheer skill he has few peers in the world game. He swung the Kookaburra ball as he did the Duke and his ability to set up batsmen, especially left-handers, of whom there has been an extraordinary crop in recent times, was wonderful to watch. But Zaheer now needs to be handled carefully and the opposition knows that. They aim to play him out (except of course for Warner at Perth!) and reap a harvest at the other end.

    It was the other end that India are struggling with and I say this in spite of the strides that Umesh Yadav took on this tour. Clearly, he wants to be a fast bowler and anyone who advises him otherwise doesn't have India's interests at heart. He bowled a

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  • Proteas Must Look To A New Peak

    While the world has cast its attention towards England and Australia and, inevitably, India, one country has quietly enjoyed a break (one of those things we thought cricket hadn’t heard of!). South Africa have stayed below the radar and that is not surprising because that is the way they tend to do things. Hashim Amla embodies that. Quietly he scores his runs, quietly he creeps up on records and he does it without a fuss.


    South Africa win more matches than most and it is very difficult to go over there and win. But now they must look to a new peak. The next ICC tournament is about ten months away and even though it is only over 2 overs, they must convert what looks like an excellent squad on paper into one that poses with a trophy. And they must ascend to number one in the world in Test cricket. They have the team to do it, certainly as long as Jacques Kallis allows them to play with five bowlers.


    The world, or certainly those that like to see South Africa play well, would

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  • This is still the best time to beat Australia

    The rebuilding still has some distance to go but Australia need to be wary when up against a good bowling side.

    It's a long time since I've seen Australia get into a series with so many untested players. Maybe 1978, when they were hit by the Packer exodus, or maybe 1985-86, when they were bottom of the heap and were forced to rebuild, but to have five newcomers in the playing eleven and two seemingly hanging by a thread told the story of inexperience, even insecurity. But beneath the overwhelming 2-0 scoreline lie issues that they will need to address and they concern four out of the five players.

    True, Ed Cowan made a debut half-century but I found it a touch unusual for Australia to pick a blocker; they don't normally do that. True, David Warner carried his bat for a century in that thriller against New Zealand but he is still work in progress.

    True, Shaun Marsh made a fine debut in Sri Lanka and was the one most likely to find his way into international cricket but if Australia were 2-0 down there would have been questions about his suitability. True, Nathan Lyon tosses his off breaks well and

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  • India need a renaissance in 2012

    This business of losing the first Test is part of Indian cricket's DNA. It shouldn't be.

    Winning from a perpetually one-down position is virtually impossible.India's batting, so celebrated in terms of numbers, ended 2011 scarcely breaching the 300 mark on tour. It hasn't got the attention it deserved.

    Except for brief periods in India's history, the batting has tended to dominate and has needed to put runs on the board to give the bowlers something to play with. But Rahul Dravid apart — and even he added a touch of rust to the chrome in the last week of the year — the rest have fired sporadically. At Melbourne the bowlers largely did their job but the batsmen capitulated. Little has changed. India still need the openers to play the new ball to achieve both runs and comfort.

    The bowling provided two bright sparks in 2011 if you briefly cast aside Yuvraj Singh's emergence as a bowler that gave India the balance the team needed at the World Cup. Ravichandran Ashwin suggested that he could be a regular No. 8 in addition to a hard-working spinner. And while Praveen Kumar's injury prevented us from looking at him in greater detail, the arrival of

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  • Tendulkar's pleasant problem

    Nature has a way of denying you what you want desperately until you don't crave it any more.

    Sachin Tendulkar adjusts his bat grip during the team's training at the MCG on Friday, Dec. 23, 2011. (AP Photo/David Callow)The last time Sachin Tendulkar was in Australia, he got a standing ovation every time he went out to bat and every time he returned to the pavilion. He told me earlier this year that while he really liked the reception he kept asking himself whether they thought he wouldn't ever return!

    But back he is and with a rather pleasant problem to surmount. While many batsmen on either side are wondering if they can cement Test places or enhance their reputation, Tendulkar has to think about whether he can get a hundredth hundred. It tends to put things in perspective.

    Personally while I would be delighted if he got it on Boxing Day, I am not losing sleep over it. A century is an outcome of good batting and if he bats well it will arrive at some point. It is not a brand launch or a movie release; it cannot be pre-determined and planned. It must happen and when it does we must celebrate that moment not brood or lament over why it doesn't come when we want it to.

    Nature has a way of denying you

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  • Australia were caught in the headlights

    Teams play bad cricket and teams lose, indeed Australia have lost too,
    even from winning positions as they did at Eden Gardens in 2001 and from strong
    positions like at Adelaide in 2003-04. But with good teams the losses become
    events and that is why Australia
    were such a good cricketing nation. They had good players because they had a
    good system and they played tough. Beneath that excellent winning record lie a
    number of matches that could have gone the other way had it not been for bold,
    decisive cricket.

     

     

    And Australia
    never admitted they were down because that would have made the opposition
    strong. They always talked a good game, said the right things and hardly, if
    ever, revealed chinks in the armour. And that is why I am a little baffled at
    some of the recent statements coming out of their camp.

     

     

    "There was panic" one of the players said while the now infamous and, for
    many in the opposition all these years, memorable collapse was underway. You
    wondered, and you hardly

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  • Must stamp out verbal abuse in cricket

    England were deplorable in India and while it had been apparent in England that they would struggle here, the capitulation came as a surprise. I had expected better only because I rate this England side, but to be honest I felt let down by a couple of things.

    One was the disinclination to use their feet and hit the ball in the gaps. While much has been talked about the need to clear the boundaries on the sub-continent, much of it valid, there is also a great need to rotate the strike. England's DNA has always been to sweep and it is a dangerous shot in India if you don’t sweep for length. Their batting coach Graham Gooch and their coach Andy Flower were extraordinary players of the shot but that doesn’t mean everyone can do it as well.

    The other aspect I was disappointed by was the assumption that a verbal confrontation can upset a player. It is one of the more disagreeable aspects of our game, which, at its best, is a contest between bat and ball across different conditions. Teams

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  • Real Joy in Seeing Lesser-Knowns Shine

    There is a reason I like the Champions League very much and it has very little to do with the IPL (which I am quite happy to say I enjoy) or indeed the fact that it airs on ESPN-Star sports (with whom I have had a very long relationship). I like the Champions League because it gives the simple, hardworking cricketer a platform to showcase himself. Bombarded as we are by international cricket, those that play just below the stars, and are actually pretty good themselves, play in anonymity, before small crowds; they become a statistic in First Class records that only their relatives will see.

     

     

    These are people who must make the most of the opportunity they get and so you get to see a fantastic range of emotions. You felt for the Auckland Aces, you rejoiced with Somerset and as always, you get carried away by the energy and joy that Trinidad and Tobago bring to their cricket. There is a charm in seeing them play on the big stage, giving the fancied teams a run for their money,

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  • Farewell, England and the summer of despair

    With six overs to go in the last game of what will go down as India's summer of despair, Mahendra Singh Dhoni looked around the field for a bowler and threw the ball to Virat Kohli. None of his bowlers had bowled out but his favoured death bowler Munaf Patel - and that is a story in itself - had been carried off the field. There can be no more telling statement on the poverty of Indian bowling.

    At Cardiff, India scored what looked like enough, as they did at Lord's and Southampton, indeed even more so. But in neither case was it enough and another man might have made his frustration apparent. India's best bowler on this tour, Zaheer Khan, lasted a few overs and the next best, Praveen Kumar, wasn't playing. Dhoni might have looked at Ravichandran Ashwin, might have worried about whether the ball was too wet, but that doesn't take away from the fact that there was no one on the park the batsmen would have felt discomfort towards.

    In this form of the game, I don't think India need worry

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  • Too much cricket risks player burnout

    So MS Dhoni thinks India need a rotation policy for players in the national team. He is right, of course, for either you play less cricket or have more cricketers. It is not that difficult to follow. And since it is unlikely that India will play less cricket - nobody does these days - you need to rest players occasionally to ensure they are fit for the biggest contests.

     

    But at the heart of a rotation policy lies trust. A player will never agree to be rested if he is insecure; if he worries that his absence would give someone else the opportunity that could ultimately unseat him, he will never take a break. And for that trust to be established, while there must be complete honesty and openness in selection, there must also be a plan for each cricketer.

     

    The two players who need rest more than anyone else are Dhoni himself and Suresh Raina. At least Dhoni asks for rest, and he knows his place is secure, but Raina is like one of those Energizer bunnies...just going on and on and on.

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