Monday, December 18, 2006

India’s first test match victory on South African soil. A wonderful feeling.

India have left behind the disappointment of the one-day series thrashing and have firmly planted one foot forward in the test series. It has to be said that the better team finally won. The best part has been that India have won by a huge 123 runs even without their best batsmen striking. Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Mahendra Singh Dhoni failed collectively(actually with the exception of Sehwag and Jaffer no batsmen, to me, really looked very uncomfortable) . Yet India have won and that too by a huge margin.

Credit should go to the whole team though individual performances like that of Sreesanth, Laxman and Ganguly helped. But contributions from low down the order from the tail such as Zaheer’s batting and VRV Singh’s slog in the first innings were crucial factors too.

But more than the batting it is surely the bowling quality that has enabled this Indian cricket team to register it’s first test match win on South African soil. Zaheer was again impressive as he was in the one-day series. Sreesanth was exciting in every sense of the word. VRV could have gotten more wickets with more luck. Kumble was as usual incisive, cunning, deceiving and fast(the tail enders were quite bamboozled by his quick yorkers)! It is fantastic to see the Indian pacers dishing it out to the opposition as opposed to quite the opposite that this Indian team is used to. Makes me think that India’s poor showing overseas has mainly had to do with the quality of pace bowling than anything else.

But the series doesnt end here. The South Africans will realize their mistake in making a pitch that aided the Indian seamers and will more than make up for it in the next game. Having said that the next match is a good one week away. Ample time for the Indian batsmen to sort out any problems and come good next time round.

And I think its time for Jaffer to be done away with. He is looking more and more cueless and Gambhir deserves a look in. If Munaf is declared it is likely that VRV Singh will give way. The rest of the team seem okay. Wishing you the best TEAM INDIA for the next match.

All said and done the one-day series is still not out of my mind and I wonder whether India would have fared better had the test series been scheduled before the one-dayers as is the normal practice in the cricket world.


Sreesanth, Nel and the joys of cricket!

Take that Nel, you hyperactive maniac sledger! Nel was going too far with his verbal crap. Someone had to shut him up. And who better than Sreesanth! Next ball after Nel, for no reason, mouthed something silly Sreesanth charges down and sends the ball crashing into the stands. And then he scripts one of the most hilarious moments of cricketing history with a Red-Indian style jig right in front of a helplessly embarrassed Nel. See it to believe it. This man from Kerala is just too good. And I am in total splits.

And someone once said one-day cricket is the saviour of test cricket. I say cricket needs no saviours if we have (bloggers like me :-} and) characters like Sreesanth and Nel in the game! One big thanks to you for making the day so interesting.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Gilchrist's batt(er)ing

Unless there is another dramatic turnaround of events, Gilchrist has sealed the fate of the Ashes Urn. He has mauled the English bowlers into submission WWF style. He has the second fastest test cricket century against his name and the Barmy Army will soon have one-way flight tickets back to home. So much for England’s much hyped Ashes defense.

The absence of Vaughan, Trescothick and Simon Jones has been a factor in England’s poor showing but all said and done Australia has proved to be the better team. Very sadly, England’s exciting victory in the previous Ashes seems to have only been an aberration. Even more unfortunate is the fact that had the team selection not been so illogical England might still have been in with at least a glimmer of hope of winning one of cricket’s foremost contests. Looks like the selectors wanted it this way.

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Maybe Ganguly's ouster from the Indian cricket team was only for the good

I cant remember the last time Ganguly played the role of an anchor on a paceman friendly track with such unpredictable bounce and threatening seam movement. And when was the last time you saw a Ganguly trying to stretch himself to the limits trying (atleast trying) to catch a totally uncatchable cricket ball? He couldn’t hold on to the catch at the deep square leg boundary because it was impossible but he tried.

Clearly, there is a very perceptible change in the ‘Prince of Kolkata’. The prince is now, very sportingly, willing to do the boring yet vital task of the common man. He is willing to work his back out, concentrate every moment and fight for every a single run. The fiery determination is obvious, and out from that determination sprouted some beautiful cricketing strokes that are the mark of an artist at work.

I had mulled over how Ganguly and Laxman will fare and quite evidently they have done well. Of course this is not the end and the good work should go on…….

Sreesanth, Dhoni and Nel

If VRV Singh’s performance in the practice game was impressive, he didn’t get much chance to show his cricketing skills here in the first innings. This was thanks to a certain Sreesanth who managed to grab a fiver with accurate and pacy bowling; two attributes not often attributed to Indian speedsters. How often do we see 7 wickets falling even before the spinner is brought on? The fact that this happened in this game reflects how good India’s fast bowlers have fared.

And what about Dhoni and Nel? Well, actually I see a Dhoni-Nel battle coming tomorrow. They had some interesting exchanges in the one-day series. Nel, as usual, barked something to Dhoni and Dhoni replied with a beautiful six. Nel again barked and was promptly smashed for an electrifying boundary. Later Nel caused Dhoni’s dismissal with a superb catch. Now, Dhoni will be at the crease tomorrow and is already looking damn aggressive and dangerous for the South Africans. Nel will be fresh and charged up. Will be very interesting to watch.
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Friday, December 15, 2006

What will Ganguly and Laxman do?

India's test cricket series against the South Africans begins today and all eyes are on Sourav Ganguly. He is hardly India's trump card, yet there is something in the air that makes me feel that one good match for him here and it will rub of on the whole team.

We have always come to expect good things from Dravid. If Sachin or Sehwag does well it will only mean they are back to good times. But if Ganguly can get a big one, it will be a massive statement, almost analogous to the rise from the ashes of the mythical Pheonix.

Another man in a slightly similar situation is VVS Laxman. He has been a very unreliable batsman who can come up with world class knocks on one day and fail wretchedly in the next. I can only hope for this match to be one of his better ones.

As far as the bowling selections are concerned, I think we have a very strong bowling unit much on the lines of what I had envisaged. Harbhajan’s omission was predictable. And Kumble will surely play a huge role in the whole series as also the others to come. Too bad Munaf in unavailable.

On paper it’s a world class cricket team with players you can only dream about. Yet on the field one can only keep their fingers crossed and hope for the best.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Jaunty Monty gets a bounty!

It's official. A selection blunder has cost England two matches(atleast one) in one of cricket's foremost contests. It is now obvious that Monty Panesar's presence, especially in the second match, could have had England in a much better position than of now.

The respect and admiration that I feel for the Superb Sardar cannot be described in words. His very first Ashes match. A huge stage with loads of expectations. Relentless Aussie sledging. The man soaks in all that like a sponge and comes out with a sterling performance worthy of a Shane Warne or a Muttaiah Muralidharan. You think I am going overboard with my praise? Maybe. But Monty, let me tell you something. You have a fan for life. 

And as for Ashley Giles. He should be taking the Boje way out of cricket. I better get a farewell post ready.

Oye! Balle Balle!


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Boje follows Martyn out of international cricket

I had never known of a player retiring from international cricket only days after a recall to the test side. That was until I read this : S Africa's Boje announces retirement.

If Damien Martyn's retirement decision was surprising then what is this?

Just as the South African selectors announced Boje's name for the test squad and everyone was talking about how happy they were for him, comes this announcement. I thought it has to be every cricketer's dream to represent one's nation; more so when you have been there once and are looking for a comeback.

Mr.Boje. What is on your mind?


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Unravelling Indian cricket's greatest enigma

Here is a question that poses itself in front of everyone who has been following Indian cricket for the past year or so: Is Sachin's cricketing career converging to an end?

I have asked myself this question a few times and quite frankly, I have got no answer. Sachin’s batting form has really been a mystery to unravel. People say he is short of confidence. Short of confidence for such a long time? Very unlikely. A professional cricketer like Sachin surely cannot take more than a year sorting out problems in his head. Then what is it? Aging? Dwindling reflexes? Or just pure bad luck?

Thinking logically, ‘aging’ and ‘dwindling reflexes’ again seem very unconvincing arguments. Look at Brain Lara. Past 36 and yet going strong. What is it that he has got that Sachin hasn’t? And it is not that Sachin has not been able to put bat to ball at all. The first match in the ongoing India-SA cricket series had a Sachin taking it to Makhaya Ntini of whom he played such exquisite strokes that Ntini for no fault of his, was reduced to a mere school-boy with a lollipop in his mouth. But then, just as I thought “here is the 16 year old vanquisher of bowlers that we know”, he decided to go down without as much as a flicker in the next three matches. Quite an enigma, is he.

So, as of now, the only other reason that I can possibly think of is this: bad luck. Yes, that is the reason. I know it sounds strange and very amateurish but give me a better reason if you can.

And as I come to the end of this post I again have the same old question hovering before my eyes: Is Sachin's cricketing life converging to an end?

You want an answer? I'll tell you what. Just take a look at this little clip at the end of the post. Combine what you see with this adage oft quoted in cricket circles  that says Class is permanent and you have the answer!


Monday, December 11, 2006

When money seems bigger than cricket....

The stinking sewers behind the beautiful monument called cricket:

This article had me feeling sick in the stomach. 

Come what may, cricket retains the loyalty of the Indian sponsor. Despite the Men in Blue turning in a series of uninspiring performances, industry sources estimate that the country would be contributing as much as $800 million out of $1.1 billion -the ESPN-Star Sports bid value which won ICC’s global broadcast rights from late 2007 to 2015.

‘‘It is true that the biggest market for cricket is in Asia and India is a very important partner,’’ an ICC spokesperson told TOI on Sunday.

‘‘The broadcaster will get maximum returns from Indian sponsors. About 94% (close to $800 million) of $850 million from the sub-continent is expected to come from India in 7 years with 155 days of live cricket (165 matches going by current schedule).’’ an industry source said.

Makes me feel like some cheap casino slot machine. Yuck. ICC should have kept these gory details to themselves.


The muttaiah muralitharan run-out issue

Cricket's bizzare moment:
What happened was this(from the commentary at cricinfo) : "Sangakkara whips that down to fine leg and the single brings up his century, but Murali touched down at the striker's end, turned around and left his crease to congratulate Sangakkara, the throw came in and McCullum whipped off the bails to run-out Murali, what a way for the innings to end. The ball was not dead and Murali should not have left his crease, it's all very unfortunate for Sri Lanka."

It was bizarre and something very rare. Yet it was very much within the ambit of cricket laws and rules. Muralidharan was certainly out. But the debate out there seems to be whether New Zealand was justified in appealing for the wicket or should they have just left Murali to celebrate with Sanga.

Opinion seems to be divided. In fact I am quite surprised that opinion is divided. I did not watch the match but from what I hear and read it really does seem like Murali has made a fool of himself.

How many times have batsmen scored centuries and how many times has the non-striker run over to congratulate the centurion, in each case first making sure of his own safety. A batsman must guard his wicket first and then think of anything else. In a game such as cricket where a team wins only at the cost of the other you cannot expect the other team to be compassionate and benevolent towards you. This is a competitive game where every player is hell bent on winning. Would NZ have forgiven themselves if the partnership had gone on to effect their defeat? You can call it cowardice, desperation or anything but New Zealand have got a win, while playing within the game’s rules, and at the end of the day that is what should matter for every player playing for his country. We don’t have saints here. These are hardcore professionals out there.


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Selection quandary for Indians

The biggest positive to come out of India’s game against Rest of South Africa was according to me VRV Singh. How often do we see an Indian bowler hit the 145 kph mark? The fact that VRV achieved that very mark itself qualifies him as an exciting prospect for Indian cricket. Add to that accuracy and bounce and he becomes as menacing as any bowler. He is surely a very strong contender for a Test team slot.

Now, Zaheer has been bowling as well as anyone could. So he is a surety into the squad. Sreesanth has been impressive in the one-dayers. Kumble is always a matchwinner. Munaf is out of contention with an injury. Pathan and Harbhajan are the others with a chance. If Pathan makes it, it will only be because of his success with the bat, and I feel it would be a very negative decision if a bowler is included in the squad only because of his batting skills. However, given the kind of hole the batsmen have dug for themselves, Pathan’s inclusion will be tempting. Very interesting times ahead for the selectors.

My choice: Zaheer, VRV, Sreesanth and Kumble.

Only this quartet, I feel, is capable of taking 20 South African wickets with a very low score (this I can safely assume) to defend.


Thursday, December 7, 2006

Welcome to the PCB show

Just take a look at these turn of events (in sequence as reported in cricinfo) 

-       Asif and Akhtar to return home 
-       PCB to have zero-tolerance on doping (??!!)
-       Shoaib and Asif banned for drugs use
-       Shoaib and Asif acquitted           (Whoa!!)

Smell a rat? I cant bear the stench. I thought England's Ashes loss was cricket's greatest turnaround. This beats it by miles. 


Ganguly - the messiah of Indian cricket?

W Jaffer lbw b Hayward 0 3
V Sehwag b Morkel 0 1
VVS Laxman c Kemp b Morkel 23 61
SR Tendulkar c Kemp b Morkel 10 27
SC Ganguly not out 70 121
MS Dhoni c van Wyk b Morkel 6 13
IK Pathan not out 54 88

Looks like Ganguly's inclusion has paid off. Good for him and for Indian cricket.  Dont know about Chappell though (Cant help taking a dig at this guy).



Tuesday, December 5, 2006

England lose. What?!!

Cricket's greatest turnaround : At the moment I am as speechless as England probably are. Australia have achieved the unthinkable. England too has achieved the unthinkable. Just when I thought they had a chance. Ponting and Warne think this is Australia's greatest win. And why not?

And England have managed to pull off some very dubious distinctions, the least of which isnt this one : They are now only the second team to lose after declaring for the 500-plus total in the first innings of a Test. The only other team which managed that was West Indies at Port-of-Spain - ironically against England.

And the Australians meanwhile continue to indulge in their favourite sport : Pom Thrashing.


Monday, December 4, 2006

Chappell speaks.....

Cricket coach's cracks :

“We set out to bat as well as we could and make sure we batted 50 overs, which we managed to do. But obviously, it wasn't enough. This type of a wicket does a bit in the morning, and they bowled well under the conditions. Having said that, 200 wasn't enough. We should have made more."

(Thanks for telling us that Mr.Chappell but can you tell us how?)

"The remedy has got to come from within the players"

(Oh yeah. The coach is a guy who cooks food for the players)

"I can't keep giving messages to the Indian cricket fans”

(Thanks. You are so kind. Can I kiss you?)


Sunday, December 3, 2006

South Africans humiliate India. *Yawn*

Cricket talk: What a beautiful day for Indian cricket. We crossed 200 runs!!!! Can you believe that?!!! And we lasted 50 full overs!(A million more ‘!’s here)

One person who has to come out with some answers is this nice old man with thinning grey hair from Australia who calls himself the coach(and what does that word mean?) and who has devised this brilliant, innovative and hugely successful strategy called ‘experimentation and rotation of players’ which neither allows youngsters to settle nor gives seniors the time to rub in some of their experience.

And why has the experimentation stopped with the Rainas and the Kaifs? And what about the batting order? Sehwag and Sachin are not at the top of their games. Why couldn’t Dhoni have been promoted? Come on Mr.Chappell. Give us some answers.



Cricket talk: Cricket is truly a very funny game. 2 days ago the title of this post would have had me rolling on the floor laughing. But now I find myself asking this very question. All credit to England for coming back so strong after the drubbing they got in the first test.

Collingwood , Pietersen, Hoggard and co. have played with pride and purpose. Well done guys! This is what we want to see. Give the Aussies some stick. Show them they can’t always win. Only that can make cricket and the Ashes more interesting.

Three cheers for the English!


Saturday, December 2, 2006

Nice game this Twenty/20 - Cricket's new Avatar

This is clearly the future of cricket. Cricket sure has come a long way. From the gentlemen’s game of test cricket to the game of fun, dance and music.

India played its first Twenty/20 (pro20?) game yesterday and I saw a twinety/20 match for the first time. Kinda liked it. Has the atmosphere of a soccer game. The crowd cheering at their loudest. The loud music between overs. The dancing cheerleaders. The players and coach sitting just outside the boundary ropes egging their teams along. And above all the endearingly exciting and hectic pace of the game.

It was almost bizarre. Well, India won. Can it get more bizarre than that?