Harsha Bhogle

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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.

     

    Suresh

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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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  • Castrol Index shows how closely the Irish ran India

    India's victory over Ireland in Bangalore shows
    how far the popular, and tough, Irish have come in the ICC Cricket World Cup
    2011.

     

    Two weeks ago, this game would have been
    regarded as a pushover, as a gentle walk in the park, as two points in the
    bank. As it turned out, the two points arrived but as the Castrol Index worms
    constantly kept telling us, there were moments when we couldn't be sure. That
    is not only a tribute to the challengers but also an indictment of India's
    position.

     

    When India lost Sachin Tendulkar and Virat
    Kohli fairly quickly together, you will see the worms fairly interlocked. That
    is a fair assessment because the track was slow, the Irish were handling what
    seemed like thin resources pretty well and India was really an accident away
    from being in trouble. The final result suggests a relatively easy win but that
    is the result of a ferocious assault by Yusuf Pathan; it was more difficult
    than that.

     

    And yet, while that shows up bowling and
    fielding weaknesses,

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  • Bell’s dismissal was a huge turning point

    I've had the privilege of watching some great matches over the years but few can match the one between England and India for drama and emotion.

     

    Eventually, that is what sport is about and this game was a great commercial for cricket. It had valour and courage, fear and nervousness, skill and stupidity....human frailties were on show even as a legend constructed another masterpiece only to be upstaged by one who batted brilliantly but will not occupy the same page in history.

     

    To be honest, I thought the Castrol Index was being very kind to England at the start, rating India ahead only 171 to 169. But the moment a game is played on a flat deck India lose its great advantage in batting since conditions tend to even that out and bowling then becomes the differentiator; that is also why India's best chance is to play on tracks that help bowlers a bit so that its weakness gets evened out and the batsmen can provide the edge.

     

    From that point of view, the Castrol Index got it spot on; it

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  • India makes a powerful statement in winning opening game

    Some thought India's first game in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 would be a banana skin game. It had the potential to be one but eventually class told and the greater statistic prevailed. It wasn't about 2007, it was about India having beaten Bangladesh in 20 out of 22 games! The Castrol Index made it 77-23 to India before the game started and, as it turned out, that was a fair reflection. In fact, the Castrol Index for the game put India well ahead with a 235-120 margin.

     

    Virender Sehwag was brilliant, not just with his strokeplay which illuminates stadiums at most times, but with the manner in which the innings was organised. Small wonder he finished with a Batting Momentum Index of 289. He said two things before the game: One, that he wanted to bat for as long as possible and two, that it was a revenge game. The first of those is a valuable trait to possess and one that Sehwag had, for some reason, forsaken in limited-over cricket. This could be the coming of him in One-dayers for

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