Friday, October 26, 2007

Don't miss this match for anything

Pakistan can't afford to lose the ongoing ODI series against South Africa since it is a home series and they have already lost the test series 0-1. Losing the one-day series too can be too embarrassing for them.

On the other hand, South Africa would love to finish off the tour on a high and stamp their authority. They'll be especially eager to prove a point to the cricket world since a few questions have been raised about their vulnerability against spin bowling.

And to top it all, the series is in the balance at 2-2 with one match to go which means the 5th match scheduled to take place at Lahore on the 29th of October is going to be the decider.

Then there is Afridi on one side, who is in smashing form, and there is Gibbs on the other who really gave the Pakistan bowlers some spanking in the 4th ODI.

So take my advice and make sure you catch the match live. If you love cricket, this one is going to be a treat! Atleast, it has all the potential to be one.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Gavaskar has a point

I don't agree with all that Gavaskar says. Infact, I really dislike his brand of cricket commentary and normally mute the television set when his commentary is on. But I think he has made a pretty pertinent point when he criticised the match referee and match umpires for not having taken any action against the concerned players for the ugly scenes that were on display throughout the just concluded India-Australia ODI series.

Gavaskar's views on the matter:
"One is not privy to the report the match referee may have sent to ICC but the fact that not even one player from both sides has been reported and reprimanded shows the referee and the umpires did not do the job assigned to them and that was to see that the game was not brought into disrepute and the spirit of cricket maintained.

"He [match referee] is there not just to protect the umpires from the players but to see that the game goes on without any untoward incidents and what happened between the two players was definitely not cricket. By abdicating their responsibility, match officials let the game down big time and have raised a big question mark on their ability to control the game and players.

"It would be sad if the ICC turns a blind eye to what happened during the series, for even while accepting that the game has changed and become far more aggressive than yesteryears, what was seen on the cricket field did not do any good to the image of the game nor enhance the quality by any stretch of imagination."

When you come to think of it, it is really strange that in a series that has been more in the media eye for poor on-field behaviour, not one player was actually reprimanded by the powers that be.

Players have been openly critical about the opposition's unhealthy tactics and there have even been obvious cases of dissent against the umpire's decicions. Yet, somehow, no one is found guilty.

Whatever the reasons, such apathy on the officials' part towards on-field events will only work towards taking healthy aggression towards vulgarity, which should not happen.

Hope someone takes note of what Gavaskar is trying to say.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Australia would be itching to get back

The Aussie captain had this to say after his team tasted an uncharacteristically comprehensive defeat at the hands of India:
"We fell short by 15 runs. We gave away too many extras - 23 extras means four extra overs. We did it the other night also and we need to buck up. Harbhajan and Kartik bowled well. Gambhir batted well. We would like to play more matches against the new generation Indian players."
Two Twenty20 defeats in a row and I think that last line (in bold letters) can mean only one thing: Punter badly wants another Twenty20 game against the "new generation" Indians to try and get back at them.

I have a feeling that this is only the beginning of a healthy rivalry that is going to get started between the Indian and Australian teams in Twenty20 cricket.

Ponting and all of us will have to wait till the 1st of February when India and Australia will meet at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for another Twenty20 international game. That's a long wait but let me tell you, the action on that day is going to be well worth the wait!


India keep the winning streak going

The Indian team has just proved why they are World Champions in the shortest format of the game. Inspite of some not-terribly-impressive fielding, sharp and clever bowling and extremely sensible batting saw them through the one-off Twenty20 match against the Australians with 7 wickets in hand and 11 balls to spare.

I had mentioned in an earlier post that it was important for India to win this Twenty20 match to prove it too critics around the World that the World Cup win was not a mere fluke. Well, they have done more than just win the match. They have sailed through to victory with some ease.

There were some good individual performances in the game coming from the Indian side. Harbhajan & Gambhir once again played a pivotal role in India's win. Infact, I have a feeling it is going to be either Gambhir or Yuvraj who will score the first century for India in Twenty20 cricket.

But it was made amply evident that team effort is what will eventually win matches for you in Twenty20 cricket. There are only four overs per bowler and each of them have to do well in order to keep the opposition under pressure. Likewise, lightning quick cameos from each batsman will do more damage than, say, a 70 off 60 balls from one or two batsman like it happens so often in ODI cricket.

Ponting made a good 76, but other batsman didn't have much to show and I guess that is where the Australians lost the match. In contrast, the Indians have a 63, a 35 and a 31* from the top four batsmen and that is where they proved superior.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Looking forward to the Twenty20 match

The lackluster performance of the Indian team in the just concluded India-Australia ODI series not withstanding, I find myself looking forward to the India-Australia Twenty20 game that is to be played today with total anticipation.

For one thing, this is the first time I will watch India go into a match as World Champions. And the other reason is simply because Twenty20 cricket is so damn exciting, especially when it is Australia we are playing against!

I suppose this is the only format where India could be termed as atleast ' slight favourites' against the ODI World Champion side and I hope it remains so even after this match.

It will mean a lot of good things if India win this match. There are people out there who think India's triumph in the Twenty20 World Cup was a mere fluke. I honestly think that is not the case and that India played some pretty consistent good cricket to clinch the World Cup against all odds. A win here will work towards proving that.

Besides, Australia will very obviously be hurting from having to taste defeat at the hands of India in the semi-final of the World Cup; a defeat that prevented them from adding the Twenty20 cup to their cupboard of trophies. And if India win here too, it might just trigger off an India-Pakistan-ish rivalry between Dhoni's and Ponting's men in this format of the game, just like India's test series victory in the 2001 home series set off an Indo-Australia rivalry of sorts in test cricket. If that can happen then it can only be too good for cricket!

I am all for this Twenty20 format of the game and I am all for an Indian win today!


Friday, October 19, 2007

A victory inspite of the batsmen

India's batsmen did all they could possibly do to try and ensure India lost even the final match of the India-Australia series but fortunately the tail-enders snatched an unlikely victory for India and saved the team from utter embarrassment. Anyway, inspite of the continuing display of incompetence by the Indian batsmen, it was a good match to watch for two reasons.

The first reason is that India won against Australia, which does not happen very often and therefore deserves celebration.

The other reason was Murali Kartik's beautiful spin bowling. Watching him bowl was like watching an artist at work. I can't believe he was out of the team for so long. Just take a look at the way he took his wickets. Every single one of them (except that of Symonds, maybe) was a result of totally tactful spin bowling. The fact that he was on a hat-trick two times in the match is, I feel, ample proof of what a thorn he was in the Australian flesh.
19.5 Kartik to Hodge, OUT, and thats that, as Hodge, with limited footwork, pushes at a shorter and quicker delivery outside off stump and gives the wide slip catching practice, ending a scratchy innings in which he couldnt force it against the spinners

19.6 Kartik to Symonds, OUT, and the big man goes first ball! The ball's pretty ordinary, short and wide outside off stump and Kartik's extremely lucky to get Symonds, cutting at it and looking on as Tendulkar, in the covers, dives forward and takes a good catch!

31.1 Kartik to Haddin, OUT, Kartik gets him with the arm ball! Haddin gets a half-stride forward to a delivery pitched on middle and straightening. The ball strikes him low on the front pad and that was an easy decision for Umpire Saheba

31.4 Kartik to Hogg, OUT, bat-pad! flighted on off stump, Hogg gets a stride forward and appeared to get an inside edge onto the pads. Uthappa at forward short-leg takes the catch and the rest are certain they've got the wicket. Hogg looks rather unhappy with Saheba's decision though

31.5 Kartik to Lee, OUT, Kartik takes five! flighted on off stump, draws Lee onto the forward drive and succeeds in getting an outside edge to RP Singh at gully. Kartik's on a hat-trick here...again!

35.5 Kartik to Hopes, OUT, Hopes misreads the turn! flighted around the middle stump. Hopes goes back and the ball spins from middle, goes through and clips the off stump. Big daylight between bat and pad on that one. That's six for Kartik... what a comeback!
Yeah, what a comeback to international cricket! Coming in to bowl against the Australians when they are on top at 108/2 off 17 overs and going on to take 6 wickets to reduce them to 193 all out is a great feat indeed. And I feel this is the only comeback he'll need to make for a long time to come.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Proof that Sreesanth is overdoing it

The recent comments Sreesanth has been making in the press are, I think, obvious proof that Sreesanth is over-thinking and overdoing the aggression part instead of just trying to play good cricket. This is what he has reportedly said(from cricinfo):

"It's not a new Sreesanth. I am trying to find that exact limit between really bad and really good. See how far I can go."

Sreesanth has been flicking through a book on temperament during the series and said the game was "almost 90% mind". "How you manage yourself on the field is important and even if they are playing mind games on it or off it, cricket is very funny, it always wins," he said in the Australian. "That's what happened in the lead-up to the Twenty20, everybody was questioning our ability but we still won the World Cup.

Well, what can you say to that "almost 90% mind" quip?! And the "managing yourself is important" quip?!

He is very much a fresher to cricket and I have no idea why he wants to complicate things for himself. I really feel he should be thinking: "good bowling is almost 90% about putting the ball in the right areas".

Why care about mind games at all? Just go out there and bowl well. Should be simple for an international bowler. And he can do that. We all know that. Just why do these people complicate things unnecessarily?

Sreesanth, shut up and just bowl. You are selected into the Indian team for that. Not to ponder over mind games and such crap.


Monday, October 15, 2007

India deserving losers

Ponting had said before the Nagpur match that the match was like a final and I thought India would have a go at the Australians with all their might. Instead they really proved how unprofessional they are. In such an important match, if an international bowler bowls as bad as he did then there is no surprise in the fact that India lost. Yeah, I'm talking about Sreesanth, There really is no use of carrying him around only for the odd spark of brilliance. If he is not consistent, then there really is no use for him in the team.

And then the batsmen. It is very rarely nowadays that Sachin bats the way he did yesterday. In a must-win match and from a pretty comfortable situation the batsmen showed total lack of professionalism and the way they wilted from a very winnable situation with so many wickets in hand is shocking to say the least.

Surely, India deserved to lose the series.


Take a look at this stat

As usual I was browsing through cricinfo and I came across this stat that should be shocking but is not actually that shocking since it involves India and Australia.
The last time India successfully chased a target against Australia was way back in 1998, in Sharjah, in what came to be known as Sachin Tendulkar's 'Desert Storm' series. Since then, India have attempted the task, either willingly or otherwise, 18 times, and failed on 15 occasions, with three matches, including the first game of this series in Bangalore, having no result.
Speaks volumes, doesn't it?


Friday, October 12, 2007

Pakistan lose the series. Inzamam retires.

Cricket has a way of not allowing its players the privilege of a happy ending. Inzamam, a big man, both literally and figuratively, bid adieu to cricket after a truly amazing and glittering career. But his retirement had to coincide with a drubbing for Pakistan.

These scenes,

had to be accompanied by these,


I thought the Indian cricket team was improving.....

Looking at the trend in the India-Australia series so far, I thought India was improving with every game. The first match of the India-Australia series got rained out. But consider the 2nd, 3rd and 4th games. The 2nd match at Kochi, India lost by a rather huge margin of 84 runs. We again lost for the second time in the third match at Hyderabad. But this time the margin was slightly better at 47 runs. Then came the Hyderabad match where the Indian team won the match by a small margin of 8 runs.

And just when I thought another win could be around the corner this happens(from cricinfo):
A nine-wicket win for the visitors, as comprehensive as they come. The pace bowlers, lead by Brett Lee and five-wicket hero Mitchell Johnson, suffocated the trigger-happy top order and with only two partnerships to speak of, one worth 41 from the last two batsmen, India limped to a total of 148. They failed to even bat out 40 overs. Only four men reached double figures.

Australia then cantered to a nine-wicket win. Adam Gilchrist had a great day, pocketing six catches, being part of a run out, and then getting into some form with an unbeaten 79 from 77 deliveries.
I would not have minded much had it been a loss in a well fought match. But this is just atrocious, not to mention extremely frustrating.

I just don't know for how long Dhoni can stand straight and look the Australians in the eyes when congratulating them after yet another loss.


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A win!

Yeah, India won! I know that is unbelievable but that is what happened! I never thought much about India's chances(my bet was on 6-0) but they have yet again proved how unbelievable they are.

At last the batsmen came together and rocked the party. Dhoni found his timing. So did Uthappa. And everything went right. I still feel Tendulkar is not doing enough to justify his place in the team though.

Anyway, now this win means India is still in the hunt for a series win. Which in turn means Australia will come at us even harder in the coming matches.

This is when the real challenge begins.


Sunday, October 7, 2007

Does Vengsarkar mean what he says?

Here is what Vengsarkar, India's chairman of selectors, has said:
"There are many players like S Badrinath and Suresh Raina who are performing with the India A side. These guys are waiting for their chance and you cannot ignore them. It's a professional set-up and nobody can take their place for granted."

Clearly, Vengsarkar had some people in mind when he said that. A warning for the seniors' ears? Could be. It really is time to think about Tendulkar's, Ganguly's and Dravid's role in the team. These men have been invaluable for Indian cricket in the past. But then, that is the past and people have a tendency of softening up with time

In a match where India needed 290 runs off quality Australian bowling, Tendulkar managed 43. But these 43 runs came off 71 invaluable balls in the powerplay overs. Compare and contrast that with Yuvraj's score of 121 off 115 balls or Dhoni's 33 off 37.

It is an obvious and un-ignorable case for promoting Yuvraj and Dhoni up the order. It is also an obvious case for the demotion of Sachin Tendulkar. But would he fit in the middle-order? As Vengsarkar says, there are good middle-order players such as Suresh Raina waiting at the sidelines for some time now.

So where would Tendulkar fit in, or would he? That is the million dollar question that everybody has been avoiding for a long time. I guess it is now too long.

Come on Vengsarkar. It is time for some bold decisions. Let's cut the talk. Show us what you can really do.


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Hair's case

Hair has always been a hard umpire. He has made decisions that other umpires would never dare to make. One such decision cost him his job.

But knowing his particular style of dealing with issues, this recent lawsuit against the ICC, protesting against his sacking, shouldn't come as any surprise. Hair is surely going to give this all he has and he clearly intends to drag the ICC, and thereby the game, through as much mire as possible.

His particularly sharp remarks on the alleged 'racial discrimination' issue provide ample indications as to how scandalous this could be.
"If I had been from West Indies or Pakistan or India, I might have been treated differently, like Doctrove.

"At the time we told Inzamam-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, that we believed the marks we found on the ball were deliberately put there. After the match I was continually pilloried in the media by Shaharyar Khan, the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, and Inzamam, which was clearly in breach of ICC conduct ... and yet it did nothing to prevent this.

"I asked Speed if it could possibly be performance related but he agreed that my performances since joining the elite panel had been generally very good and I had been continually ranked in the top three umpires. I was at a loss to understand how my career could possibly be effectively ended unless it was by a racially motivated and racially-discriminated process."

Whatever the outcome of the case, this lawsuit is easily one of the biggest cricket has seen so far.
And if Hair wins it, the ICC could probably have to shell out millions as compensation. Surely, that is motivation enough for ICC and Speed to defend with all their heart!!


Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Aussies stamp their class

You might have read a zillion articles with the same title as this one. The reason is simply that you just cannot think of a more apt title when you sit down to write about a match after having been witness to as clinical a performance as the Australians came up with against the Indians today. And since it concerns the Australians, that happens pretty often too.

I had mentioned about a lot of talking having happened between the players even before the series began. The first match at Bangalore was when we were to find out which team could back up the talking with a solid performance. That match got washed out (luckily for India, perhaps). But, nevertheless, the Aussies did give us enough evidence, at Kochi, as to which is the better team. Their bench strength in unbelievable and the way someone always puts his hand up when the other has failed, is fast becoming a hallmark of the team.

That said, the Indian team obviously has a lot to do if they are to see any success in the ODI format in the near future. The problem of not being able to seize the initiative even when we have been able to get one foot through the door, is an old one. Add to that the other worry of giving away too many runs in the death and the problem becomes massive.

The need for a genuinely quick bowler is, once again, quite apparent. Dhoni's boys migh have won the Twenty20 cup, but the sooner they (and us) realize how less the win means when it comes to ODI cricket, the better.

No one could put it better than Gilchrist did:
"The quicker we move on from this Twenty20, the better. Everything keeps getting drawn back to that. Congratulations to India, they had a wonderful victory, beautiful celebrations ... we all enjoyed it, we've never seen anything like it. But I'm more interested in the fact that we're 1-0 up in this one."
Very hard to disagree.