Saturday, September 29, 2007

Lots of talking going on

Where the Australians are involved, you can be sure of one thing. There will be a lot of verbal play and mental games before the start of the actual game. And this time is no different.

Symonds tries to taunt the Indian players:
"Something has been sparked inside of me, watching them carry on over the last few days. We have had a very successful side and I think watching how we celebrate and how they celebrate, I think we have been pretty humble in the way we have gone about it. And personally, I think they have got far too carried away with their celebrations. It has definitely sparked passion inside of us. It has certainly spiced it up as well."

Ponting makes the age-old "Pressure is on them" quip.

Uthappa retorts:

"We are looking forward to carry on our winning momentum when we meet Australia in the first match on Saturday and there will not be any pressure on us. We are just looking forward to take on Australia"

Knowing that Sreesanth can get overly excited pretty easily the Aussies seem to have singled him out saying "he does not scare us" and that they have "seen how he plays and will not be surprised this time".

Sreesanth, typically, seems to have taken some of the banter to heart:

"Now I hear that Ponting and his team have singled me out, this is in fact a boost to my confidence. This means that I have the stuff in me. I think if I am aggressive, only then can I perform better and I would be back to my normal self."

Now, that is a lot of talking, isn't it?

In about 8 hours time we will get to know who comes out on top on the field.


Friday, September 28, 2007

The Australians are here

Whoever said ODI cricket would lose its appeal with the advent of the Twenty20 format. India's Twenty20 triumph seems to have only added to the excitement behind the India-Australia ODI series Chinnaswamystadium set to begin at Bangalore tomorrow. The series is billed as a battle between two World Champions and I have to say that when put that way, it does make the 'battle' one to look forward to.

Its been a long long time since international cricket was played at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore. That is, if you don't count the Afro-Asia Cup matches. Naturally, the whole of Bangalore is looking forward to this match. Infact, I was passing by the Chinnaswamy Stadium the day when the ticket counters opened and you wouldn't believe how long the queue for the tickets was. Almost about a couple of kilometers is my guess. Many people received a cash advance from their employer and immediately went to the Chinnaswamy Stadium.

The tickets were, not surprisingly, sold out the same day.

Some 50,000 spectators are expected to turn up and, while it will be a headache for the security personnel, the atmosphere at the stadium is going to be absolutely electric!

The schedule for the series of seven one-dayers and one Twenty20 international:

September 2007
Sat 29 (D/N)
14:30 local, 09:00 GMT 1st ODI - India v Australia
M.Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore
October 2007
Tue 2
09:00 local, 03:30 GMT 2nd ODI - India v Australia
Nehru Stadium, Kochi
October 2007
Fri 5
09:00 local, 03:30 GMT 3rd ODI - India v Australia
Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Uppal, Hyderabad
October 2007
Mon 8
09:00 local, 03:30 GMT 4th ODI - India v Australia
Sector 16 Stadium, Chandigarh
October 2007
Thu 11
09:00 local, 03:30 GMT 5th ODI - India v Australia
I.P.C.L. Sports Complex Ground, Vadodara
October 2007
Sun 14
09:00 local, 03:30 GMT 6th ODI - India v Australia
Vidarbha C.A. Ground, Nagpur
October 2007
Wed 17 (D/N)
14:30 local, 09:00 GMT 7th ODI - India v Australia
Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
October 2007
Sat 20 (D/N)
19:00 local, 13:30 GMT Only Twenty20 International - India v Australia
Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai

Here's hoping for a well fought, high intensity series!


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Who won the Twenty20 cup...the players or the BCCI?

When a jubilant Indian team was enjoying the sweet results of all their hard-work, when the players were celebrating victory, when the men-in-blue were posing for the team photograph; on all these occasions Sharad Pawar and all his BCCI chums somehow got their faces complete with broad grins in the way too, didn't they?

Alright, forget that. But what can you say about this:
One would have thought that the 15 cricketers who brought India the glory at the Twenty20 World Cup were the heroes being felicitated at the Wankhede Stadium, but a look at the dias would have suggested otherwise.

The front row was filled with BCCI top brass and Maharashtra state ministers with skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni the only Team India member finding a place among the 'elite'.

In fact, the whole spectacle seemed like a carefully organised political rally with Board President Sharad Pawar, who is the Union Agriculture Minister and a political heavyweight of the state, playing to the galleries in his short speech as if it was an election rally. He was clearly trying to take full mileage out of the unexpected victory that Dhoni and his bravehearts achieved at the Wanderers in Johannesburg.

And to think that is same 'BCCI top brass' had actually voted against the Twenty20 format at an ICC meeting!!

Useless bunch of opportunists! Get your hands off that cup Mr.Pawar!


ICL is obviously slipping

Mohammad Yousuf, along with Abdur Razzaq and Imran Farhat, had signed the contract agreeing to participate in the Indian Cricket League just a few months earlier. Apparently he was miffed over not having been selected into Pakistan's Twenty20 team for the World Cup. He then went missing for over a month and could not be reached. And now he comes out and says this:
"Whatever I have achieved is because of my country and I am willing to do anything for Pakistan. I didn't know this clause in the ICL contract that priority had to be given to the league instead of Pakistan when international matches are happening simultaneously."
Now that looks a bit shady to me. With all the controversy surrounding the Indian Cricket League, I think it was only too obvious that the National Cricket Boards were not particularly happy with the ICL luring their players away. It was common knowledge that the boards wouldn't think twice before banning players who chose to shore up with the ICL from representing their respective countries in international cricket matches.

The point I am trying to make is that whether Yousuf knew of that little clause in the ICL contract or not, he should surely have been aware that he was putting his international career in jeopardy when he signed that contract.

I suspect Yousuf's change of heart has more to do with the ICL-BCCI tussle and the public launch of the BCCI's own 'Indian Premier League' rivaling the ICL. These developments might have dented his confidence in the ICL's success. I had suggested in an earlier post that the cricket boards were losing the battle with the ICL and they might have to swallow their egos. But things seem to be turning around. Yousuf's withdrawal might only be the first of many to come. If not, it will atleast make other players think twice before considering shaking hands with the ICL.

The ICL is obviously slipping. But it still has one advantage on it's side. Money.


The unsung hero

I think it is almost unfair that Yuvraj performed so well for India that the other real hero in India's triumph really did not make it big in all the news stories going around about the new 'n' young team. Dhoni was praised for his captaincy and Rohit Sharma for a fearless debut and the bowlers for containing the batsman.

But another deserving person that has really not recieved as much attention is Gautam Gambhir. Just take a look at his stats and you will see what I mean. He scored 227 invaluable runs for India in the World Cup at a very impressive average of 37.83 runs per match. What's more is that he was the second most prolific run getter in the tournament after Matthew Hayden and I suspect he would have bettered Hayden had the Scotland match not been rained out.

Maybe the cause for his not really being in the media eye was his strike rate. 129.71 is obviously lower than the strike-rates of some of the other players but the steady starts that he gave certainly proved very useful for those coming lower down enabling them to chance their arms around.

Infact I really think Gambhir deserved to have been awarded the Man of the Match award ahead of Irfan Pathan for his extremely sensible innings in the finals when the 'big stars' couldn't come up with the stuff. He scored almost half of the team's total in that game and his delightfully risk-free and clean, yet run-fetching, strokes were truly of the finest class. If not for him, I doubt if we would have been able to reach that score of 157.

Anyway, I am pretty sure the unsung hero's consistently good performances have not escaped the notice of the selectors and he should be opening the innings with Sehwag in the home series against Australia which leaves an unanswered question: Where in the batting line-up will the selectors find a place for Ganguly and Tendulkar? Only time will tell.


Monday, September 24, 2007


The perfect finale! An India-Pak cricket match can never disappoint. Never ever. And this was the first time India were meeting Pakistan in a World Championship final since 1985 and it just couldn't be dull. It being dull would mean going against the laws of nature.

And accordingly, even as India was cruising away for a disappointingly unexciting and easy victory, the Gods sent in Misbah-Ul-Haq and Sohail Tanvir to re-arrange things as they are meant to be. Man, quite a shock they both gave!

From a hopeless 77-6 when they lost Afridi to getting as close as one boundary away from victory, it was nerve wrangling to watch Pakistan's sudden revival. Pakistan suddenly needed just 6 runs of 4 balls.

And then came the ball from Joginder that Misbah-ul-haq scooped up to send it over and above short fine leg. The camera panned to show the ball in the air. Every Indian was only too aware of fine-leg being inside the 30 yard circle and for a few moments I felt unparalleled despair. But the fairy tale story had to have a fair-tale ending. The ball came down. It had not gone beyond short fine-leg and Sreesanth had the ball in his hands. Victory!

Wow! What a moment! Only the second time India have been crowned world-champions and that too so much drama preceding the moment. It's 1983 all over again. Maybe even better.

Some great moments captured in pictures:


Sunday, September 23, 2007

India wins. Pakistan wins. We all win.

What a dream run this is proving to be. The Australians came up against the opening batsmen with their tails up. The plan was obviously to intimidate the Indian batsmen with extremely aggressively tactics. But none of that ancient ploy worked. The start was steady and the middle and end were truly booming. Yuvraj is the man of the moment and you will hardly see a cleaner striker of the ball. Dhoni's shrewd captaincy, Sreesanth's accurate bowling and Harbhajan's clever guiles did the rest.

Earlier Pakistan had already won their semi-final match against New Zealand with ease and thus were through to the final clash of the Twenty20 World Cup. And when India won against Australia at Durban, the crowd went berserk. I suspect the excitement was only half because India have reached the final, the other half being in anticipation of a mouth-watering India-Pak battle for the cup.

Really, Twenty20 couldn't have asked for a better brand ambassador than such a final encounter. And to think that these two teams couldn't even get through among the top 8 teams about 6 months ago. It certainly makes this final look like pre-ordained destiny. Just hope another Indian victory and another gem from Yuvraj is part of that pre-ordained destiny.

And by the way, do we really need a coach?


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Yuvraj's six sixes

Easily the most exciting six balls of the Twenty20 World Cup so far. Who wouldn't enjoy such clean hitting?

India take on Australia today in the semi-finals of the Twenty20 World Cup and I only hope, along with a few billions of other Indians that we win. I also hope Pakistan win the other semi-final so that the final would then be an India-Pakistan showdown. What a cracker of a match that would be!

On another note, it is sad and almost unfair that the South Africans couldn't get through. There really is something about the South Africans and the World Cups. It happened in the 1999 World Cup when South Afirca fell short of a solitary run in order to enter the finals. It happened in the 2003 World Cup too when they were done in by the Duckworth-Lewis system, again falling short of a mere run. And now it has happened in the first Twenty20 World Cup too when they needed just 126 tuns from 20 overs; an easy task that looked certain to be completed until they made a real mess of it. It does look like someone has cursed the team to never taste World Cup glory.

Anyway, all that is yesterday's business. Today is the day when the teams that play the finals will be decided and it is going to be one hell of a day.

This Twenty20 World Cup is proving to be far more entertaining and well-organized than its 50-over counterpart.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Twenty20 is good!

Well, I was away from home for a long time and had to do some catching up with some pending work when I was back and hence the long period of inactivity on this blog. So now, here I am. Back to blogging on my favourite sport after the hiatus.

But whether I have been blogging or not, I have, needless to say, been very keenly following the cricket action. As Harsha Bhogle said on ESPN said when the Twenty20 World Cup began, cricket now 'has a new baby'. And as it turns out, the new baby is awesome!

There were people complaining, and rightly so, about how the on-day game sometimes becomes too predictabile. The first 15-20 overs and the last 8-10 are always meant for thrashing the ball around and the period in between for knocking the ball around when everyone relaxes and the game is almost in a dormant phase. The new powerplay rules could do nothing to better the situation as fielding captains almost always opt to have the powerplays back-to-back and get finished off with them.

But now what the Twenty20 format does is to remove the period of 'knocking the ball around' from one-day cricket. So all you have now is 'thrashing the ball around'. All that the batsmen care for is to amass more and more runs. And which means the bowling team is always thinking about plugging the leaks.

Everyone is on his feet. There are no let-ups. The game is fast paced. A match ends quickly leaving you hungry for more. Moreover, after the long drawn and boring World Cup this is the perfect antidote we all wanted.

Purists, stay aside. Here is undiluted action and we want more of it!