Harsha Bhogle

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Blog Posts by Harsha Bhogle

  • More time in domestic cricket will benefit young Indians

    Ajinkya Rahane's success so far, and it is important to remember that it has only been two innings as I write this, is an interesting development for both young cricketers and selectors.


    For those who think that getting your front foot out of the way, tonking a few and eyeing an IPL contract is the way ahead, the news is that the longer you bat the better you seem to get. Rahane has an outstanding first class record, has seen success and frustration and has shown the right attitude towards playing cricket. And 17 first class hundreds means he doesn't only know how to bat but also how to get runs. And those are two rather different things! He's shown himself to be quite capable in the T20I and the rained-out ODI against England as well.


    He was India's top performer with the bat according to the Castrol Index in the T20I and contributed with a helpful 40 runs in the one-day match, too. The former was in a losing cause, but the ODI looked promising for India until the weather spoiled

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  • World Cup champs in English challenge

    India may have relinquished their world No.1 status in Tests, or maybe just handed over tenancy, but they now have the World Cup-winners tag to carry. There is little doubt that India are better in the shorter form and though some might argue that anything would be better than what they have just seen, there are a couple of issues they need to resolve.


    India have picked nine batsmen and seven bowlers which isn't unusual in itself except that none of the batsmen really bowl and none of the bowlers really bat. There isn't a Sourav Ganguly anymore to bowl seam up, neither is there a Yuvraj Singh to give MS Dhoni seven or eight overs consistently.


    And so, if you choose to play five bowlers, which has never really been the Indian way, somebody has to bat number seven. After the revelation from Amit Mishra at the Oval, maybe he could be that person, though Ravichandran Ashwin probably has greater credentials at this stage.


    It is more likely, though, that India will play seven batsmen

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  • The Spin Kings struggle in England

    In the late 70s and 80s batsmen were judged by how good they were against the West Indies. It was as if a formal seal of approval on your ability had been stamped if you got runs against them. Then it was Australia and some batsmen almost tried too hard against the men from Down Under. You could be a very good player, but if you hadn't done very well against those two it tended to come out in most arguments!



    It's been much the same with spinners against India. Sri Lanka and Pakistan have produced wonderful players of spin, too, but India has always been seen as the final frontier in that regard, some even holding it against the great Shane Warne. I remember seeing Muralidaran bowl in the 1994 series and conceding a lot of runs for his wickets. The doosra changed all that and that was the weapon Saqlain Mushtaq had when he took five wickets in each of four Test innings in 1999 against India in Chennai and Delhi.



    So where does that leave Graeme Swann? He's in the midst of one

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  • Inexperienced bowlers must shine for India

    India take one of their most inexperienced bowling attacks into a crucial Test match and yet it is something they cannot afford to think about. Too often, when you miss out on a star, you focus on what you don't have and there will be moments when England's batsmen get set that that thought will return. But it doesn't count for much and India must focus on what they do have.


    For a start, they must hope they have four bowlers at any one point on the ground during the match. It has been a much-ignored fact amidst all the criticism that at almost all times during this series MS Dhoni has been a bowler short. Everytime he has looked for a fresh pair of legs he has found nobody. At Edgbaston India will at least take the field with four bowlers.


    With Zaheer Khan out of the series a lot will depend on the other seamers. RP Singh has been included in the squad, but he hasn't played for India in a good long while. Zaheer, critically, also had experience. With 79 Tests to his name, he equals

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  • Team India on the look-out for young stars

    While this tour of England has been a logistical disaster, so far it has also been a batting failure for India. Yes, Rahul Dravid has stood out, VVS Laxman has produced a couple of half-centuries and Sachin Tendulkar has shown fleeting glimpses of his greatness, but 15 years after the three first played for India together there doesn't seem to be a challenger in sight. India know, and England do too, that it is this triumvirate, collectively aged 112, that holds the key to India's batting.


    To be honest, I would have expected a challenger to have emerged by now. Rahul Dravid went through a lean patch - now delightfully erased - but there should have been a youngster snapping at his heels. And for all his great form over the last two years, Laxman should have been looking behind him to check who is on the way. It hasn't happened and while we have seen vignettes of ability, a challenger hasn't stood up yet to be counted as a replacement to either of these great cricketers.



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  • The weight of history and the lure of the future

    In 1932 a group of romantics led by a benevolent leader descended upon Lord's to play a Test match for India against a country that still colonised it. I haven't figured that out honestly, for it means that India was regarded as an independent Test-playing nation long before it was regarded as a sovereign independent nation! Ah, the vagaries of cricket.


    And it is therefore appropriate, even in an era that marginalises history and lives in the immediate, that the two nations play their 100th Test at the same venue exactly one week from today. England and India are bound by a colonial past, by literature, by the railways, by the English language, but most notably by cricket. But not only will this Test be the 100th such meeting between these two teams, but it will also be the 2,000th Test match ever, a phenomenal milestone.


    It was here, in a dressing room and pavilion steeped in tradition and often pedantic practices, that an Indian captain took his shirt off and waved it in victory

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  • England Cook up a storm for visiting Lankans

    While watching Novak Djokovic dismantle the fittest tennis player on the planet at Wimbledon, I switched briefly to the cricket and my luck, or my timing, couldn't have been better. For at that moment, Mahela Jayawardena played one of the most exquisite cover drives you will see, in the third ODI against England. It was unhurried, in itself a sign of confidence. It was, therefore, stately and I thought I heard it say, "When was the last time you saw this on a tennis court?" He went on to make 79 in that match, which followed his career-best score of 144 in the second ODI - a performance that helped him take the Man-of-the-Match award as well as the top batsman's spot on the Castrol Index.



    Eventually, though, the compelling occasion of a Wimbledon final prevailed, but Jayawardena showed why Sri Lanka, so graceful on the field and so haphazard in its administration off it, must protect him and hope he plays for them as long as Muttiah Muralidaran did. He's a simple, quiet man who

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  • West Indies tour shapes and builds a young Indian team

    A tour of the West Indies between the World Cup and the IPL on the one
    hand, and the rather more newsworthy tour of England on the other, was
    always going to be like a meagre piece of cheese in a sandwich - the
    kind where you only have a bit left and four slices of bread to spread
    it over! So I wasn't surprised that a few players opted to stay out;
    when you can't eat everything you are served you pick the food you like
    the most!


    It did however, allow the youngsters to be tested in relatively calmer waters and that is a luxury you are rarely allowed. And most of the batsmen, brought up on one-day cricket, discovered that the going can be tough. It is a realisation that is best arrived at early and best discovered rather than taught. Some players will become better for the experience, while others will buckle under with self-doubt. That is the way of evolution and that is why I was always positive about this series.


    These players would have seen how Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman

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  • Of a middle-overs slowdown and a batting collapse

    There are many unanswered questions after India's three-wicket defeat by South Africa in Nagpur on Saturday but one unmistakable fact: We are privileged to be watching this sport and making a living from it. This World Cup is coming alive and India vs South Africa fanned the delightful fires.


    With three overs to go India had the opportunity but the yorkers, as my son would have said, were 'out of syllabus'. And so India bowled length balls that had a 'give me my due' written on them. Sometimes you may know what to do but unless you do it, it isn't of much use!


    We thought 350 was on, run-a-ball with nine wickets in hand would have taken India to 330, Playing out the overs would have put 300 on but, as India captain MS Dhoni said in a delightfully frank assessment, you play for the country not the crowd. You don't always need million-dollar shots, You don't need a Lamborghini when you can walk a few steps.


    Losing nine wickets for 29 runs was unlike anything I have seen, even from

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  • Yuvraj’s form is a big plus for India

    India is on top of Group B; it is knocking a few cottages down but it is huffing and puffing to do it. They say at Wimbledon that a few tough early rounds are good for you and if that is the case it must augur well for India. But to go the distance it must get a decent new ball attack going (and that need not necessarily mean two fast bowlers as we now know!) and fielders in the deep must be convinced that a run can be saved when the ball is hit in their direction.


    But it is not all darkness and gloom. Indeed, in spite of centuries from Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag earlier in the tournament, the biggest plus has been the form of Yuvraj Singh. As you enter the knockouts, you need match-winners to be in good touch and Yuvraj is coming along quite well now, rising to the second spot behind Sehwag in the Indian team on the Castrol Index.


    To be honest, I am more enthused by his batting than his bowling because that is his stronger arm – as is reflected by the Castrol Index where

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