Tuesday, July 31, 2007

India, the better team

I guess it boils down to just that. The Indian team played better cricket than England and ended up winning the match. That is the short term gain from the match: a win. But the long-term gains for India from the match is what makes the win so remarkable and crucial.

For one thing, we are now one drawn game away from a famous series win in England. A victory that will serve in lifting the haunting cloud of 'poor travellers' from Indian cricket.

But the most outstanding achievement, I believe, has been that we have won despite some low scores from Rahul Dravid. A look into Indian overseas performances in recent years will show you that in almost every match that India have done well Rahul Dravid's has been a prominent contribution. Many a time he has won matches single-handedly in very hostile and un-subcontinental batting conditions. Not this time though. And a lot of the credit for that should go to the new success of the opening pair of Dinesh Kaarthick and Wasim Jaffer, a find which is another heartening outcome from the match. Of course the other batsmen were up to the task too. That in a score of 481, there was no century involved itself points to an even contribution from all the batsmen: something to feel happy about.

The next best thing was the heroics of the pace bowling department. Except for the first day in the Lords test match when they seemed to have lost their composure a bit, they have been consistently outstanding. The English bowlers were clearly overshadowed by their Indian counterparts. Something that doesn't happen very often.

All in all it was five days of consistently good cricket from the Indian side that ensured a win. A comfortable and dominating win away from home. What more could you ask for? A repeat performance, probably.


The Twenty20 World Cup must be a nightmare for the umpires

While the anticipation builds, plans are carefully laid and tickets sold by the gallon for the Twenty20 World Cup, nobody spares a thought for the umpires.

Imagine a Twenty20 match between India and Pakistan! A one-dayer is bad enough for the umpires with a lot of excited screaming and slogan shouting happening in the crowds making the umpire's job a very unenviable one. So when the overseers of the game are subjected to the nerve-racking experience of concentrating on even the subtlest happenings on the field with a million frenzied fans driving themselves crazy around them in a twenty20 match, we will have to expect a few fallen hairs and sweaty brows among them. Poor men!

Add to that the International Cricket Council's ruling that the umpire's have to remain calm during the match, and you will see just how how pathetic their situation is. I mean, how can you expect two men to remain calm in the middle of a raging storm? Boy, its going to be tough work!

Nine umpires are chosen for the job during the Twnety20 World cup: Mark Benson, Billy Doctrove, Daryl Harper, Asad Rauf, Simon Taufel, Steve Davis, Ian Howell, Nigel Llong and Tony Hill. And I suppose you could safely bet on atleast nine men badly cursing the guy behind the Twenty20 idea.

And by the way, it is sad that we will not have Billy Bowden(yeah, he's the one who introduced the yellow card in cricket) officiating during the World Cup thanks to that World Cup final fiasco. That man is literally cut out for the Twenty20 format. Take a look at this little cartoon I found on the Internet.


Monday, July 30, 2007

What has Harbhajan Singh been upto?

Harbhajan Singh did not find a place in the Indian squad to England. But that does not prevent him from taking wickets on English soil and that too in heaps.

The 'Turbanator' is playing county cricket in England for Surrey and seems to be enjoying himself rather well so far. The match against Worcestershire landed a huge haul of 9 wickets for him. 29 - 7 - 6 - 44 & 34 - 12 - 64 - 5 read his figures for the match which is all the more impressive when you consider that only 5 Worcestershire wickets fell in the second innings of the drawn game and all five went to Harbhajan.

Obviously, he has been busy and very effective in English conditions, the same conditions where the Indian team happens to be playing right now. So, do these figures indicate anything about what he could do as part of the Indian team on this tour of England? I know there is no use speculating. Especially so given the huge gap in standards between county cricket and international cricket. But then, I just couldn't help wondering.


Mellowed Ganguly

Yesterday, the 3rd day of the ongoing test match against England, Simon Taufel gave Sourav Ganguly out when he clearly wasn't. Now, you can't blame me for having expected Sourav to stand rooted to his crease and given Taufel his trademark 'incredulous stare' like he has so many times done in the past. Surprisingly, Ganguly didn't do that and just chose to walk away, flaying his bat in the air.

I tell you, that can mean only one thing. The man has mellowed down a lot in the past year. Is that good or bad? I don't know. But going by how patient he has been with his cricket in this series against England, maybe it is for the good.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Already smelling victory

What a day of cricket for India! Frankly, as an Indian supporter I very rarely get to see the team play two consecutive days of near perfect test cricket and every time that happens, it is a reason to celebrate.

When the second day started with England at 169/7 after a rain-shortened first day's play, I had numerous memories of occasions when India have allowed themselves to be frustrated by the opposition's tail, playing in my mind. Thankfully, none of that happened as Kumble and Khan made quick work of Tremlett, Panesar and Anderson. And exactly as the doctor ordered, India had England bundled out for less than 200 runs.

Now, this is when I realized what a pessimist recent Indian batting performances have made me into. Soon as Kaarthick and Jaffer came in to bat, I started thinking on the lines of 'what if the batting collapses?', 'what if the batsmen, yet again, succumb to their reputation of being good only on paper?'. Fortunately, though, my fears were misplaced. After a long long time a solid and comforting opening partnership of 147 runs was effected by Kaarthick and Jaffer. Sure, they were lucky at times. They played and missed and survived some pretty 'dead-duck' lbw decisions. But they got those vital 147 runs, the foundation on which the whole batting line-up can now build upon. Infact they better build upon the rock-solid foundation.

India will go into into the 3rd day at 254/3 with old friends Ganguly and Tendulkar taking guard at the crease. With Laxman and Dhoni still to come and lots of time still left in the match, to expect a lead of atleast 250 runs is, I think, reasonable(provided Ryan Sidebottom continues his poor run with the ball!) . Yes, I can smell victory here.

After all, a lead of 250 runs playing on a Trent Bridge pitch is about as good a formula for victory as you can get. And yes, Kaarthick and Jaffer seem to have made an optimist out of me.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

Trent Bridge does swing

So everything that I have been reading and listening to about Trent Bridge has been proved true so far. The ball is swinging and seaming around like a mad cow and inspite of the Indian bowlers not being all that spectacular England are still on the mat. All their top batsmen are gone. It is clearly advantage India now. And it has been so throughout the day since Rahul Dravid win the toss and chose to bowl first.

I think it is obvious that one big reason why England could even get so close to victory before rain came in the way in the first test at Lord's was the first innings lead of 97 runs that they managed to get. And that in turn was more because of some very inept bowling by the Indians, caused by over-excited nerves, on the first day rather than good batting from the Englishmen. They did recover later, but the damage was done. Now, since the same excitement and nervous anticipation of playing at Lord's in the first match of an important series cannot spill into the second match, this match was always going to be a better one for the Indian bowlers. England are on 169/7 at the end of the first day's play and to think that the score could have been even worse is very exciting for India's prospects in this series.

It could have been worse because, I feel, Sreesanth and RP can bowl a lot better than they did. Both were guilty of sending the ball down too wide away from the batsman on more than just a few occasions. But then, the surprising factor was clearly Ganguly. Luckily, he was able to bowl his gentle pace with a lot more precision and sometimes even outshone our leading bowlers, excepiting Zaheer of course. Zaheer was awesome throughout the day. That ball that got Vaughan was a total peach!

So now, I suppose it is upto the batsmen not to squander the advantage India have gained. We might get England bowled out for less than 200 and a mighty lead in the first innings could be the first step towards achieving that series win in England that has been eluding the team for a long long time. Tomorrow, the 2nd day, will bring a lot of answers and I am looking forward to a good day's cricket.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

And so the ICL grows...

As the Indian cricket team has been busy touring England and almost losing the first test match of the tour, something quite different has been brewing here in India. Suddenly the Indian Cricket League is full of stars and is seeming to be a reality after all. Till a few weeks ago there was just a lot of talk happening and a lot of controversies adding on to the hype surrounding the breakaway league.

The details are of course still as murky. Subhash Chandra, the architect behind the ICL, is a man who has spent an entire lifetime promoting television channels and programs and what not and knows exactly how excitement and expectations can be created amongst an audience by just keeping them mostly in the dark and every now and then allowing a tiny shaft of light to come through.

And as such the latest news that Brian Lara, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath (all big, big names) have confirmed their interest in joining the League is not just pleasantly surprising but also makes the Indian Cricket League something to look forward to.

Apart from the promise of good twenty20 cricket cricket sometime in October, it is the composition of the teams that would take part in the ICL that makes it all the more acceptable. The teams will apparently consist of four names from international cricket, two Indian cricket stars and the rest would be from Indian domestic arena. Such a formula is bound to ensure a very effective breeding ground for quality cricketers from India, something more than what Ranji cricket been able to achieve.

Of course the reality will only be evident when the matches actually happen. Till then we'll just have to sit and watch and occasionally speculate.



Yeah, you know what I am talking about. The Sri Lanka-Bangladesh series. What was imminent has happened. The Bangladesh batsmen have caved in for another low score and that means a meaningless and torturous Bangladesh tour of Sri Lanka has mercifully come to an end. One in which Bangladesh has managed to lose all the 3 test matches and all the 3 one-day internationals played.

And that too without ever putting up even an inkling of a fight in any of the games. Which makes me think that maybe the series was not all that meaningless. It serves to show us how difficult it can be for a new team to climb up the ladder in international cricket and how little is done to help them in this task. The odd series every now and then will only result in demoralizing victories. There has been no evidence to the contrary so far in the previous years since Bangladesh embraced test cricket.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The difference between the two sides: Kevin Pietersen

So the India-England match is drawn and what a close shave it was! One wicket to be taken and around 30 overs left in the day. The only hope of saving the match was the rains and the fading light and save they did. Should be really frustrating for the English camp and surely a huge relief for the Indians. Atleast I am relieved.

But then the feeling of not having fought as-hard-as-we-could-have is still there. The most disappointing part is no doubt the inability of any of Laxman, Dravid, Tendulkar and Ganguly to make a big score. Had any one of them been able to do that, like Pietersen did, we would have doubtlessly been in a much better situation. Ofcourse the English bowlers were good. But what is most intriguing is that Kaarthick and Dhoni, relative newbies in the Indian side, looked more comfortable against quality swing bowling than the 'senior' players inspite of them being less familiar to English conditions( to be fair, Laxman was looking good and was a little unlucky in the second innings to get a freakish delivery that kept a little low). There is a lot of talk of the 'pressure of expectations' on the senior players in the team and I think a lot of that is true.

Anyway, what is important is that there were some great moments for the Indian camp too. The bowlers, especially RP Singh, were good throughout the match except for the first day. The Kaarthick-Jaffer opening combination seems to be working nicely and I hope it can continue to survive(irrespective of whether Javed Miandad likes it or not, Kaarthick is almost a regular in the team now). And it was good that the Indian batsmen could survive for 92 overs in the last innings of the match, though the tail could have wagged a little more.

Totally, things are still bright. There are two more matches to go and India still have a very good chance of clinching a series win. The only selection decision that would be given great thought for the mext match, I suppose, should be Yuvraj Singh. And thanks to Kaarthick and his exploits with the bat, talks of leaving out Dhoni might again resurface. This England tour is going to be very interesting.


Monday, July 23, 2007

One last hope

Obviously the Indian top order batsmen have been very ordinary in the ongoing match against England. Our bowlers, especially RP, did a great job since the second day. But really, it wouldn't be too unfair to say that one day of some wayward bowling on the first day messed things up a lot.

Anyway, the 'awesome trio' of Ganguly, Tendulkar and Dravid too failed to contribute substantially all through the match and so now its only rain or bad light that can save the match! Our one last frickin' hope! Come on Mr.Bucknor and Mr.Taufel, give us the good news! Tell us the match is called off!


Australia's new spinning talents

Shane Warne is no more on the cricket scene and Brad Hogg and Stuart McGill aren't getting any younger. And so the Australians are in the process of unearthing some new spin talent which could prove to be something to ponder about for the Indian think tank(if there does exist any) when the Australian team descends on Indian soil for seven one-dayers by late September and also later when the Indians begin their tour of Australia during the December of this year.

Dan Cullen and Cullen Bailey are the 'promising young men' and the Australians are already counting on them to be able to cause trouble to the Indian line-up. Atleast Darren Lehmann thinks so:

Lehmann is confident his South Australian team-mates(Cullen and Bailey) can cope against India's intimidating batting line-up. "It would be a great learning curve for them," he said. "Indian batsmen play spin well, but they don't traditionally play spin that well in Australia. It would be more making sure Bailey and Cullen are ready. They are both ahead of the game and where they want to be."
They are both part of the Austraian 'A' team scheduled to tour Pakistan shortly. Will be interesting to see if the duo are really deserving of all that praise from Lehmann.


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Gulliver and the liliputs!

Bangladesh are skittled out again. This time it is one-day cricket. The only reason why I am keeping track of the Sri-Lanka Bangladesh series is to find out just how low Bangladesh can possibly go. Infact, taken together, this series must achieve some sort of a record. Maybe if you add up the victory margins in all the matches played so far in the series it should come up to a gigantic record-breaking figure.

One-day cricket is always easier for the new teams in cricket as you only require to be consistent for one full day rather than five days. But any hopes of Bangladesh putting up a fight atleast in the one-dayers, after being dismally ripped apart in the tests, proved baseless. The loss was by 70 runs and that after having been able to restrict the Lankans to a low score of 234. And considering that Sri Lanka were without Murali and Vaas, their main bowlers, that paltry score of 164 that they could manage just proves how clueless Bangladesh are in international cricket.

And so they continue to struggle. I wonder for how long.


Friday, July 20, 2007

Awesome bowling!

It really took some great swing bowling by Zaheer, Sreesanth and RP Singh to reduce England from 257-3 to a mere 298 all out. Its been a great day of cricket so far for India at the Lords.

The first day was marked by some frustratingly wayward bowling, dropped chances and good English batting. There was still Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell and Matt Prior, all dangerous batsmen, to be taken care of when the second day's play started today and I guess every Indian supporter was entitled to worry about England setting up a huge 1st innings score that could have resulted in a big threat to India's chances.

Luckily the new ball and the new ball bowlers had other ideas. The Fall of Wickets was really rapid: 5-272 (Sidebottom, 82.5 ov), 6-286 (Pietersen, 85.1 ov), 7-287 (Prior, 86.3 ov), 8-287 (Tremlett, 86.6 ov), 9-297 (Panesar, 90.4 ov), 10-298 (Bell, 91.2 ov)

And now it is time for the England bowlers to peg away at the Indian batsmen. While I type Jaffer and Sachin are looking pretty solid. The score is at 89/2 and it certainly looks like the ball has gotten older and batting is getting easier. The early fall of Kaarthick and Dravid doesn't seem to have hurt much. With Ganguly, Laxman and Dhoni still to come I can already see some exciting cricket coming!

Hmmm...Monty is into the attack now and Tendulkar has just paddled swept one to the boundary. Fine shot! 93/2. Monty is not pleased.This is going to be good!


Javed Miandad's crazy ideas

I get the feeling Javed Miandad sometimes talks just for the heck of it. He has an opinion about anything and everything and sometimes goes on air making the craziest statements on cricket and cricketers. I am hugely aware and respectful of his stature as a former international cricketer but when he comes out with his out-of-the-blue ideas it really does tick me off.

The report in question:

Heaping praise on Yuvraj, Miandad said the Punjab player's abundant talent and electrifying fielding made him an automatic choice."It would be a great folly to ignore a player of Yuvraj's calibre," Miandad said."He is a supreme talent, one of the best in the game today. Besides, he brings the X-factor to the side with his fielding," the former Pakistan captain told Cricketnext.Com.Asked how could be Yuvraj accommodated in the Indian battling line-up, Miandad said Dinesh Kaarthick, despite his modest success, could be left out with flamboyant Mahendra Singh Dhoni continuing behind the stumps.
All the 'praising Yuvraj' stuff is okay. Yuvraj is a very useful batsman and can belt some runs down the order apart from putting in some overs with the ball, not to mention his electrifying presence on the field. But Yuvraj in place of Kaarthick? Now, that could only mean Miandad is not following Indian cricket all that well. After a long time India has been able to put up an opening pair of Kaarthick and Jaffer that is showing atleast a semblance of promise. The most foolish thing that could be done now is to break this budding pair and foolishly resume the hapless search for another opening pair!


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Excitement in the air!

So this is the day when the Indian cricket team begins the quest for that elusive series victory in England. The ground where it all begins is Lords where the atmosphere is always perfect for cricket. Expectations, apprehensions and opinions are hanging thick everywhere. Both teams are coming in from very satisfying series wins after a poor showing in the World Cup. Both teams are well matched and the promise of great cricket to come in the next few weeks has me all pumped up!

As I said there are opinions everywhere. But of special interest is Tendulkar's form and how he will fare through this series especially considering the sudden surge in form he has displayed against South Africa in the one-day series and now in the warm-up games in England as well.

Alec Stewart says:
The stellar batting line-up that India possess will be worth the admission money for those lucky enough to obtain tickets and I am sure that cricket lovers around the world will be hoping that Sachin Tendulkar will eventually get his first long-awaited century at Lord's - and thus get his name up on the honours board in the visitors dressing-room. Not to have two of the greatest players of the modern era in Brian Lara and Tendulkar scoring Test hundreds at the home of cricket would be a travesty. This could well be Tendulkars last opportunity and with England's very inexpeienced bowling attack on show he has a great opportunity.
Tendulkar will be happy to note that, wouldn't he? He averages 19.20 in five innings, with a highest of just 31 at Lords! If he can get a big one here then that could provide a real prop to the Indian chances as well as remove that unfitting Lords record from against his name.


Is two a crowd?

Whoa! These are the kind of moments when you suddenly realize that time has indeed been ticking past at quite a rapid pace. Remember those times when a good clean wicketkeeper batsman for India was as rare as water in a desert? Rahul Dravid had to handle the job then inspite of being, primarily, a batsman with very limited wicketkeeping abilities. Then came along Mahendra Singh Dhoni and almost immediately became the dream man the whole country was looking for. He came and conquered and within no time cemented a permanent place in the team.

And now suddenly the selectors even seem to have the luxury of pondering over leaving such a marvellous 'find' as Dhoni out in favour of yet another man who can do the job with no less finesse, Dinesh Kaarthick.

Dhoni has been involved in a few fumbles behind the wickets of late during the tour matches and though during other times, with no Kaarthick breathing down his neck, those would have gone unnoticed, it is very much possible that these are counted against him this time round and the selectors may hand over the job to Kaarthick who has been looking more and more reliable with every passing day.

It will be interesting to see what the selectors decide for Kaarthick will also be opeing for the Indian team and handling both jobs of full-time wicketkeeper and opening batsman might prove to be a burden on Kaarthick's shoulders.

All the same, Dhoni will have to be wary about his position in the team. No longer is his place granted. Neither is Kaarthick's. You can never be sure when the selectors will decide that two wicketkeepers in a team is a crowd. And that means continuous improvement should be the mantra for the duo which in turn can only mean better performances from the point of view of Indian cricket.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Cricket News and Matches at Top Samachar

There is a lot of talk(and rightly so) on the blogosphere about cricinfo's coverage being very England centric. They better do something about it lest other cricket news websites such as Top Samachar take over. Top Samachar neatly aggregates all the cricket news(mainly India-centric) from around many websites into one place and presents it to the user in a very simple navigation-friendly interface. Ofcourse there are also other news sections such as Bollywood news, business news etc. But for me it is the cricket section that is most attractive. After all, the promise of all the news at one place sorted out by topic has to be attractive. Plus you could watch cricket matches live on the website. The ongoing India-England tour will be available for live viewing and I am totally going to be following it.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Congrats Murali!

I know this is belated, but nonetheless congratulations are totally due to Murali for having achieved that amazing feat of capturing 700 test victims. What an achievement! And that too in the face of all the criticism and bad mouthing that has happened against him and will continue throughout his career. Inspite of all that he has smiled his way to that mark like a real sport.

With just eight more to go to equal Shane Warne's record of 708 wickets, it is very ironical that he will most probably achieve it in the land down under which is Shane Warne's homeland and also happens to be the land where he has been heckled the most. Will the crowd give him a standing ovation or will he be subjected to some extended booing? With the Australian crowd you can never say. Should be real fun to watch!


Monday, July 16, 2007

All eyes on VVS Laxman

Vengipurappu Venkat Sai Laxman has always been one of my favourite test cricketers. But I, and many others I am sure, have sorely missed watching him in action in many games in the recent past where he was very unfairly sidelined. However this time round Laxman has made sure the selectors cannot turn a blind eye at him by scoring that typical free-flowing Laxman 95 in the first warm-up match leading to the England tour. But then, unbelievably, even that cannot guarantee a place for the flamboyant, free-stroking in the team. What that innings will ensure, as I said before, is only that he will be in contention for a spot.

To qoute Siddhartha Vaidyanathan from Cricinfo:
Early in his international career, he was caught between opening the batting and playing in the middle order; now he often faces the dilemma of whether to flow or graft. Initially he struggled for a place because of the batting riches India possessed; recently he's lost out, twice in the last year, to the five-bowler experiment. For the first few years, everyone waited for the real VVS Laxman to emerge; of late they've longed for the real VVS to re-emerge.
That is the kind of life Laxman has led in international cricket. The once celebrated Hyderabadi hailed as 'Very Very Special' Laxman man has had to go against his natural nature to try and satisfy the unrelenting selectors. Really, it wouldn't be very unfair to say that the selectors policy of 'promoting youth' has pushed him out of the fray so many times that the pressure on him to perform well and prove his natural ability has had a major hand in some of his failures at the international level.

Even this time, I wouldn't be surprised if Ganguly and/or Yuvraj are selected ahead of Laxman for no apparent reason other than that they have done well in recent one-dayers. What the selectors don't understand is that one-day international cricket and test cricket are totally different forms of the game and anyway Laxman never got a chance to play in the one-dayers at all. Irrespective of how much Laxman toils, I fear it will again be the same old story for Laxman: 'I am disappointed at being left out, but I will perform well and hope to make a comeback soon'.

Though I hope the selectors are somehow convinced by Laxman, if his past trysts with them are any indication, he will have a tough time finding a place in the squad inspite of being so deserving of one. Yet I hope.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

West Indian cricket

West Indian cricket is a real enigma. I, for one, just cannot see why a side with such big names as Gayle, Sarwan and Chanderpaul and such awesome talent as Marlon Samuels, Fidel Edwards, Dwayne Bravo, Runako Morton and Daren Powell should perform as badly as they did in the World Cup(that too playing in their own backyards) and then later in test matches on the English tour. Almost weird.

But what a series of ODIs they have had against England! Chris Gayle and his mates truly deserve every bit of the joy and celebration. Frankly, I least expected the West Indians to even give a fight leave alone winning the series 2-1 after what happened in the tests. But as I said, West Indian cricket is truly a total enigma. One neither me nor anyone can ever hope to unravel.

You can always try by first saying West Indian cricket and their players are more suited to the shortened form of the game and hence the sudden improvement in results in the ODIs. But then, they will surprise you and as if to refute your observation they will descend on the field on another day fielding the same team in similar conditions and end up losing. Not just losing but losing pathetically.

Then you will perhaps the say ODI win on English soil was just a flash in the pan and the Carribeans are not all that good after all. But within days of that statement they will surprise you with a performance so fantastic that you can only watch and marvel.

And then you will be at a total loss. You will then, like me, stop analysing and forecasting results of cricket matches involving the Carribeans and learn to live with the extremely unpredictable roller-coaster ride that is West Indian cricket.

Still I cant help hoping this thumping win against England will signal a more successfully consistent future for West Indian cricket.


Monday, July 9, 2007

Cricketing action as an Art

These pictures are taken from Cricket=Action=Art, a cricket blog maintained by Marty D, bent on portraying cricket in a totally different way than what we all perceive.

Marty takes pictures of cricketers in action and photoshops them to give them a radically new look and feel. These are pictures that we will have come across every day and yet we will have failed to seen them as cool and artful as they are at Cricket=Action=Art.

Some more pictures:

Check out the blog for many more of these.


Sunday, July 8, 2007

A laboratory for innovation?

With all the hype, controversies, speculations and expectations surrounding the Indian Cricket League, it better amount to something. So far there has not been much information about what is going on except for stray rumours and spats with the BCCI.

However, Subhash Chandra, the man behind the plan, does make it all sound very exciting in the letter he apparently wrote to Sharad Pawar explaining what he intends to do with the ICL (apart from making a few quick bucks)

'The idea is also to develop India, a leading cricketing nation, as the laboratory to innovate new models of cricket so that we set the agenda for innovation for others to follow,' Chandra wrote in a three-page letter to Pawar faxed April 3, the day he announced the formation of ICL under the Essel group banner.
'The Essel initiative on cricket involves a 3-D approach that integrates the vision and action on diligence, discovery and display,' Chandra wrote in the letter, a copy of which is with IANS. Chandra said he plans to innovate, unearth talent and transform 'midgets' into mature, mentally strong and confident players.
India as a laboratory to innovate? That sounds interesting. Especially given that Indian cricket has not really been known as 'trendsetting'. If Chandra can actually achieve what he propounds then this might well be the best thing that could happen to Indian cricket. But even if Chandra can put in a downright honest effort into bringing this concept into the realm of reality then that in itself will be a feat worthy of praise.

Maybe the BCCI and the others concerned would do well to shed their rigid stance and consider exending their support to the initiative.


Friday, July 6, 2007

Why no Dravid?

The ongoing SriLanka-Bangladesh series is no doubt a joke on the face of cricket. Everybody knows what the result will be and yet the two teams put on a facade of 'battling it out' and play out the whole test match as some sort of a routine. But as if to push that joke aside. Here is another joke.

Frankly, I don't understand much about the need for coming up with dream teams at the drop of a hat. But apparently some men have some together to form an all-time great India XI:

To mark 75 years since India played its first cricket match against England in 1932, eight former Indian captains -- G R Vishwanath, Dilip Vengsarkar, S Venkataraghavan, K Srikkanth, Ajit Wadekar, Nari Contractor, Syed Kirmani and Abbas Ali Baig -- were requested to pick their all-time India best Test XI.
And the joke is that the list of players left out of the XI also includes, wait for it, Rahul Dravid!

Here is the team:
Sunil Gavaskar (captain), Vinoo Mankad, Vijay Hazare (vice-captain), Sachin Tendulkar, Mohammed Azharuddin, G R Vishwanath, Kapil Dev, Syed Kirmani (wk), Javagal Srinath, EAS Prasanna, Subash Gupte. 12th Man: Vijay Manjrekar.

No doubt these are big names and I don't claim myself to be an authority on Indian cricket. But given the sheer number of away victories Rahul Dravid has won for us alone, I think it should only be logical that Rahul Dravid should figure in the XI. Any list of Indian greats without that name has to be a joke.


Thursday, July 5, 2007

A joke of a match

It is going to take a long time before Bangladesh recover from the sound thrashing they have received at the hands of the marauding Lankans. Scores of 62 all out and 78/5(before Mohammed Ashraful and Mushfiqur Rahim decided to stem the rot, but only for a while) in two innings almost seem like a demeaning joke! The Sri Lankans have so far in the series literally toyed with the Bangladesh batsmen as well as bowlers ending up with embarrasingly one-sided victories, something that is sure to plant a huge spear right at the heart of the Bangladesh players' collective ego.

To Bangladesh's credit they certainly did come up with a relatively better performance in the second innings but that was only courtesy the efforts of two players. And two good players in a team of eleven is just not enough. Of the two, Ashraful has always had us expect good things from him. So it turns out that the only player who has had the cricket world sit up and take notice is Mushfiqur Rahim. When in a young team, there is only one man showing signs of improvement, I am afraid that doesnt augur well at all. Clearly, only further humiliation awaits Bangladesh cricket in the 3rd test and many more tests after that.

When Sri Lanka had made a quick job of their first test victory against Bangladesh, I had made a mention of their amazing regularity with which they have ensured, not just wins, but really big wins against the minnow nations. And this time they have done that again.

This comment probably sums up the miserable Bangladesh performance:

"You can only write an obituary on this scorecard but not a report."
A veteran journalist reacts after Bangladesh were bundled out for 62 on Tuesday.

Funny Yet true.


A proud captain...and why not?

An impressive array of trophies huh? Thats Ricky Ponting posing with the World Cup, the Champions Trophy, The Ashes, the ICC ODI trophy and the ICC Test trophy. Just more reason for envy.

Wonder when Rahul Dravid will get to pose like that. Wishful thinking? Yeah. Totally wishful thinking.


Such a shame

Aw! I was totally looking forward to the India-Pakistan one-off clash at Glasgow. The beauty of a one-off game is that all the effort and rivalry is concentrated on winning one single match at any damn cost. Especially when it is a India-Pakistan encounter the voltage was sure to be high. Such a shame that the rain had to spoil it all.

Irrespective of any claims made by the Pakistan side to the contrary, India was always a favourite against a new look Pakistan team with a new captain in Shoaib Malik at the helm. And that makes me all the more disappointed, if not livid, at having been denied the pleasure of witnessing the match. Goddamn rains! Covers on a cricket pitch is such a grim and sorry sight.


RIP Dilip Sardesai

Vijay Merchant had given him the title of The 'Renaissance Man' of Indian cricket.

He was one of the more outspoken men among the former Indian cricketers. I clearly remember having read an interview of his in which he had blatantly registered his reservations about Shoaib Akhtar's bowling action and had even gone on to call the umpires toothless for having failed to bring the chuckers to justice. He had once even labelled Steve Bucknor's umpiring 'useless'!

Read Dilip Sardesai's profile at Cricinfo.


Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Enough! Lets look ahead.....

Its amazing how the table of opinions can turn with just one series win. And it is especially amusing when the series in question, in classic terms, is not a series at all. Just three stray one-day international matches carelessly flung into the calender for no reason whatsoever, for that is what the three-match India-South Africa 'series' at Glasgow was. India manages to win two of them. One of the wins involved an all too familiar middle-order collapse which was thankfully checked by a neat Yuvraj innings accompanied by Kaarthick. The other win involved a failure of the top order leaving the team dangling at 38/3. If not for the calming and steadying presence if Dravid, a role on which a disturbingly significant number of India's wins have rested, God knows what score we would have managed.

And yet talks are afloat on the lines of 'having left behind the ghosts of the World Cup' and the team having revived itself to world-beating standards again. Just how much of all the hype and praise is actually necessary?

When cricket fans in India took out processions and went about burning effigies after India's humiliating exit from the first round of the World Cup, everyone was very quick to suggest over-reaction. Yes, that was over-reaction. I agree. But isn't this unnecessary hype over two stray wins also over-reaction? Why doesnt anyblody want to point that out?

Dravid had said after the win:
"After the World Cup disappointment, we needed to regroup and get our confidence back. We have worked hard as a team and deserve all the success that comes our way"

Maybe that comment has come a little too early, skip. Sterner tests await at England. And if we can get out that contest unhurt, then and only then can you count on your 'hard work' having borne fruits. Lets not get overexcited please.


Sunday, July 1, 2007

So..has Sachin finally hit form?

17.4 Nel to Tendulkar, SIX, awesome! Nel drops short outside off stump, and has to watch the ball sail over deep backward square leg for maximum! A powerful pull shot for six!

That was the shot that sent shivers of elation down my spine. A ferocious pull for a six...none less! And that at a time when Sachin Tendulkar struggles to even make clean contact with the ball. Plus the treatment was meted out to Andre Nel, that big bully whom any opposition would love to hate, which pleased me no end.

Reminded me of that six Sachin had scored off Caddick in the 2003 World Cup. Check out the video.

Of course, I do realize the Caddick shot was way better and classier. But during these troubled times, the Andre Nel six will do. And congrats to the man on reaching the 15000 landmark. Truly a colossal achievement. The fruit of a lifetime of total dedication. It is sad indeed that, inspite of all his achievements, he has had to swallow lowly insults from the unforgiving Indian fans during the course of his career. All in the game, I guess.