Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Importance of Average Bowling

A superb performance of deliberately average bowling from both sides confirmed that the relatively low scores could not take away from the glory of the India-South Africa series ensuring in the process that cricket remained the winner.

The rank unadulterated failure of the Indian bowlers in turning the recent home series against New Zealand into a batathon (including lack of long-hops bowled to Jamie How, Ravichandran Ashwin’s inability to live up to the selectors’ expectations of being toothless, despite New Zealand bolstering their batting lineup with the considerable prowess of Martin Guptill) has now been atoned for in the South Africa series. The two bowling units, well aware that their batsmen could not resist throwing away their wickets on friendly pitches, have tactically reduced the quality of their produce. They ensured that they at the very least cut out dangerous seam and swing movement, before reducing their respective speeds and stopping short of dishing out utter trash.

The epitome of the mastery of the two units over well-intentioned average bowling came in the second ODI at Cape Town, brilliantly making up for the batsmen’s indulgence in picking the fielders, by toning down their deliveries to straight, harmless medium-pace offerings and ensuring that the batsmen’s appalling lack of quality would not be the only thing to be remembered. Then when the batsmen looked around sheepishly as fielders plucked their offerings, they made sure the lack of venom and quality in the deliveries that brought about their dismissals did not go unnoticed in the process deflecting heavy criticism away from some of the batsmen.

For their part, the batsmen will be delighted that having underperformed with such determined persistence, they were able to prove that ultimately ODI cricket is still a batsman’s game. A few of them did show good form and would be hoping that they will be shown the same consideration by the bowlers in the future when the inevitable law of averages catches up with them.

The bowlers from England and Australia are also averaging out spectacularly. England in particular will be happy at allowing Australia to wriggle out of jail in Hobart while Australia would be content in the knowledge that despite winning in Melbourne so convincingly their bowlers allowed the opposition to reach a highly respectable 290. A couple of low scoring games at this stage would likely have proven fatal for the success of the World Cup.

Australia have been preparing for average bowling throughout the Ashes series avoiding the IMC (involuntary momentum carry) that organizers of ODI cricket fear. (It was an admirably consistent performance throughout the series akin to Ram Gopal Verma dishing out flop movies or Roger Federer winning Grand Slam titles.)

Mitchell Johnson’s throat infection also bodes very well for the hosts. He should not be able to come up with one of those inexplicable great destructive spells of bowling by happenstance.

New Zealand bowling out Pakistan for 120-odd in Wellington (described as “not a good advertisement for cricket” by Daniel Vettori) should not detract from their expertly executed average bowling efforts in their 11-match losing streak that preceded this game, whilst their opponents will be overjoyed that they resisted any hint of temptation of taking the bait and returning the Kiwis’ favor. Indeed, their only worry would be whether their bowlers inadvertently make the return in the next game against the game plan.

Sri Lanka and West Indies should be relatively certain that their bowling units wont defer from mediocre harmless averageness in the forthcoming series given the nature of the wickets in the island nation, whilst Bangladesh will be hoping that their whitewashing of New Zealand had little to do with any special exploits of their own men with the ball. All in all, cricket is still a batsman’s game.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Does India Really Want To Find The Right Combination ?

This series is being billed as a test-ground for India to find its "right combination". Personally, I'm not so sure they want to do it at all. Anyone can see that in ideal circumstances - Sehwag, Tendulkar, Gambhir, Yuvraj, Dhoni will form India's top 5 - and with a little more persuasion - will agree that Raina will take up the last slot in the order. So there is nothing really to "find" in the batting order.

The all-rounder's slot has been thrown open by Yusuf Pathan's ouster - and Ravindu Jadeja looks the likely candidate to be given a trial.

Once fit you would also have Zaheer in the squad and no matter how poorly Harbhajan continues to bowl he will always find a place in the side. So the battle essentially boils down to two key questions:
1) Who will be the two medium pacers backing up Zaheer ?
2) Will Amit Mishra be the second spinner given that the World Cup is going to be held in India ?

For the first question we presently have Nehra, Ishant, Praveen, Tyagi and Munaf in the race. Nehra has resurfaced out of nowhere - thanks purely to IPL performances. Ishant has inexplicably lost it - although I feel he should really focus on only real cricket - Praveen is at best an enigma, Tyagi is totally new - and Munaf is a play-one-match-sit-out-the-next-eight kind of person.

We tried RP Singh and he flopped - mind you we are not always known for showing patience with bowlers - and given that Dhoni and Harbhajan are in power at the helm it is impossible for Sreesanth to play cricket for India ever. Again.

So I go back to my original question - do we really want to find the right combination ?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Empty Stadiums Make No Noise !

Congratulations Mumbai for winning the Ranji Trophy for a record 38th time - but what's with the empty stands for the premier domestic game in the country ? While the sad state of support for domestic teams is well-known that effect was exacerbated this year due to the decision by the BCCI to hold the knockout games at neutral venues - the argument being somewhat moronically that people don't come to see these games anyway. None less than Sachin Tendulkar has come out strongly against this policy.

What is your opinion ? Should knockout games in the Ranji Trophy be held at neutral venues ? Moreover should there be knockout games at all ? Why can't we just have a league system like the premier leagues in football where the team with the most points wins ? Get your thoughts flowing in ...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Most Promising Young Batsman ?

This seems to be a good time for raising this question what with a couple of test spots beginning to open up - Yuvraj has staked first claim to Ganguly's spot - largely thanks to Dhoni's friendship I think - and Badri has been in the hunt - however I don't really think of these batsmen as young.

So I have come up with this list of 6 - Virat Kohli- India U19 captain and stylish strokemaker, Suresh Raina - a consistent performer for India in the ODI squad this year, Robin Uthappa - audacious right hander who has gone off the boil a bit, Rohit Sharma - classy, elegant, cool, will deliver under pressure, Cheteshwar Pujara - scores triple hundreds as easily as brushing his teeth in the morning and Ajinkya Rahane - has had a very consistent domestic season for Mumbai.

My vote clearly goes to Rohit but that may be just because of my weakness for lazy elegance. What do you guys think ? Vote away !

Friday, May 02, 2008

New IPL Blog !

I am blogging at The DLF Indian Premier League for the duration of the IPL. Please visit and bookmark it. Will also occasionally post here, especially on non-IPL issues, but the main action will be out there. You can also subscribe to the feed directly by email.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Pleasure ....

Fabulous to see Dravid bat the way he did today. Didn't help the team in the end, but looked so fluent and confident and showing signs of returning to the Dravid of old ! This is great news for Team India in the near future !

On The Rise, Slipping Up - IPL Table

Teams on The Rise:

1. Rajasthan Royals: After a slow start the overwhelming underdogs have humbled three major teams. Definitely the biggest surprise package so far.

2. King's X1 Punjab: Another slow start with Yuvraj looking completely clueless in the first 2 games, but they have got their act together with back to back wins. Finally, the impressive star cast is coming to form - Sangakkara, Katich, Lee, Hopes, Yuvraj, Jayawardene all delivering.

3. Deccan Chargers: A terrible start finally seems to have been halted with a Gilchrist special. If Gilchrist continues in this vein, this is the team to look out for.

4. Mumbai Indians: The worst imaginable start with 4 defeats in a row but finally a great win over the Knight Riders with the overseas stars coming to the party has got the campaign going. With the imminent return of Tendulkar, things might have turned a corner for the Mumbai Indians.

Teams Going Down
1. Kolkata Knight Riders: Two defeats after two wins and the batting really coming up with nothing after McCullum's fireworks.

2. Bangalore Royal Challengers: After a painstaking win at Mumbai, things are going from bad to worse for Dravid's men. Three consecutive losses and the morale can't be anywhere but in the dumps.

Holding Steady
1. Delhi Daredevils: One of the more consistent lineups, had a bit of a hiccup at Mohali, but got their campaign back on track with today's win.

2. Chennai Superkings: Yes ! Rock solid baby ! Right at the top ! With no competitor in sight ! This is beginning to look more and more like a seven team competition to see who can challenge the roaring Lion !!

What is Ashok Malik Trying To Say ?

There is a line of thought which believes a rape victim owes some responsibility in the crime in the form of provocation. I think this article by Mr. Ashok Malik subscribes to that philosophy.

Throughout the article Mr. Malik finds no reason to delve into specifics satisfying himself with very broad and general terms. He says this about Sreesanth's behavior in the IPL:

He has sledged, abused and provoked rival players, even junior batsmen and plain tyros.

Pray, could you give at least one specific instance ? I do not deny Sreesanth has been chattering away but no one has come up with any complaint with regard to abuse, sledging and provocation. What is sledging anyway ? Sledging is a term that is used very loosely these days. In its classical sense sledging is one gets abusive personally and starts talking in terms of the opponent player's family tree in not very polite language. Well Sreesanth might have done that but there has been no specific incidence, evidence or complaint from anyone. On the other hand several other players have also clearly been indulging in it.

With this solid start, he launches in a further attack:

The fact is Harbhajan is not the best behaved sportsman in the world. Sreesanth hasn’t slapped anyone yet but, overall, he’s even worse.

Fact ? Wouldn't it be more realistic to base this as your perception or opinion ? Or at least the majority opinion ? Do you know how a fact is defined ? Pray what kind of behaviorometer did you use to measure these players, do let me know.


Waving his bat, exercising his pelvic muscles mid-pitch, screaming and shouting, bearing his teeth, grimacing menacingly without reason, Sreesanth is the most visible face of this cricket boor; at least on television. The face, let us accept, is ugly.

Boor ? The English dictionary defines a boor as a churlish, rude or unmannerly person, a peasant, rustic, country bumpkin or a yokel. You might find the face ugly Mr. Malik, I personally found the waving of the bat and shaking of the hips charming and like a breath of fresh air. Yes, he is not a choir girl. No one claimed he was. But why should we just accept what you want us to ? And why should the face matter so much ?

As a parting shot here is what Malik comes up with:

By making a public scene, playing the wronged guy, crying on camera, blaming it on his “fever in the morning”, Sreesanth has betrayed a streak for exhibitionism and a low emotional quotient.

I mean come on - give the guy a break. He is going through a rough phase in his career. His teammate slaps him in public. He is a temperamental emotional guy. Does Malik seriously believe that those tears were fake ? It is one thing to say he could have handled it like a man, some men are different.

The whole piece rakes of callousness deep-seated hatred against one individual.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

No Country For Old Men ?

So what are these old buggers doing playing the IPL anyway ? Ganguly Dravid and Laxman ? There has been a positive uproar amidst sections of followers over the place of these guys in their respective sides.

My take on this is simple - this is club cricket, not international cricket. Traditionally in such games there are always the old local pros who have been around for donkey's years. They are there to knock some sense in the heads of the young tyros. Imagine how much Kohli would be learning sharing space with Dravid ! Not just about how to bat in this hit-or-miss thing (of which perhaps Dravid might know precious little) but of approach to cricket in general which would help the young kid in the long term in what really matters - his test career.

Often it might happen that these old pros might not come up with the goods. I'm totally okay with that. I think they should be afforded that luxury for their services and reputation. They are the ones who are giving identity to these local teams after all.

Bravo Bravo

West Indies cricket is alive folks ! Continuing in the list of gloriously gifted batsmen from time immemorial to Sobers, Lloyd, Richards, Lara etc. is Dwayne Bravo !!

What an innings that was against the Knight Riders ! What wrists ! What strokes ! What grace ! What Calypso flavor !

Do not miss out on the highlights - will post the Youtube link when it arrives !

Shivamani and Dhoni and Rayban Glasses in Kolkata

Some of the search terms that attract visitors to this site:

1. sivamani bangalore cricket
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I loved #3 and #5 the best