Monday, January 31, 2005

Clarke - Australia's Player Of The Year

Congratulations to Michael Clarke on being selected Australia's player Of The Year (The Allan Border Trophy ?). Also Damien Martyn is the Test Player of The Year while Andrew Symonds (surprised ? What a difference a few months can make !) is the ODI player of the year.

Great to note that the Australian awards hold so much credibilty as opposed to the Indian awards where we tend to vote for Tendulkar every time no matter how ordinary his performances.

Here is a link to the BBC photo page that features all these cricketers and their wives/partners.

Go Bangla !!

Many Congratulations to Bangladesh on their first ever ODI series victory. To come back from 2-0 down is a grand effort especially since it has only ever been done once before in a 5-match ODI series. Moreover, the manner of this last win was particularly impressive. 198 is an easy target for most teams but not for Bangladesh. Prior to this they had only ever won 1 match chasing a bigger target - that against Kenya in 1998 at Hyderabad - so to get there with just 2 wickets down and a whopping 17 overs to spare is amazing !!

I am impressed by the strokeplay of young Aftab Ahmed. And Whatmore did the right thing by sending in Rafique to open because Bangladesh need an impetus to their batting while chasing targets. Question: Why was Rajin Saleh not playing today ???

More - Bangladesh have a 3-prong (actually 4-prong if they so desire) left-arm spin attack which could prove potent against many teams on the slow low subcontinental surfaces. Of the 4, Rafique is a veteran, Enamul a prodigy and Manjural has turned in a few useful performances - it augurs well for the future - at a time when Ashley Giles, Daniel Vettori and Nicky Boje need to be considered the top left-arm spinners in World Cricket.

Mission Accomplished - Victories in both Test and ODI series over Zimbabwe

Congratulations Pakistan

Any victory against Australia needs to be congratulated - and so is this one by Pakistan - after two and a half years and 7 defeats. Abdul Razzaq has come up with a match-winning performance - wow, I didn't know he can still do it - and has shown once againt that it is the Razzaqs of this World who can win you matches not Shoaibs.

Anyway, it has nicely set up the final game of the VB Series. The pressure will be on the West Indies to put up a similar show to the one they did in Adelaide. Inzamam has done very well in this series so far as a batsman and some of the criticism levelled at him is downright harsh.

My heart is with the West Indies but my head says this is likely to be a 50-50 affair.

A Load Of Rubbish

The South African Team that took on England at Johannesburg yesterday was essentially this. No I'm not discrediting some very talented players like Smith, Gibbs, Kallis, Boucher, Pollock or Ntini. I am speaking against the absolutely ridiculous selection policy followed by the South African selectors.

As Wisden Cricinfo rightly says South Africa needed more than half the Test series to get their team right and if that is the way they are going to go about it in the ODI series as well England should be thanking their stars. Not that England would not be able to beat a full-strength South Africa side with some ease, but this is a mockery of the game.

Anyone remotely knowledgable about Cricket would endorse my claim that the lineup put forth by South Africa yesterday was ridiculous. Most would also back me on what the ideal South African XI should be: DeVilliers, Gibbs, Smith, Kallis, Hall, Rudolph, Boucher, Pollock, Boje, Ntini, Nel. The name that stares you in the face is the first one - AB DeVilliers - the one bright talent unearthed by South Africa in the Test series - what was he doing in the dressing room ?? What the hell are Bacher, Kemp, Prince - all making comebacks after a century or so doing in the XI together ? Isn't there any concept of backing current form ??

Of course the selectors will go on to say that they wanted to provide rest to the players, follow a rotation policy (maybe make no explanation at all), but by Jove - South Africa have lost everything under the Sun in 2004 - they are not a team that can afford the luxury of experimentation. As it is, World Cricket is suffering from a spate of one-sided games and artificially weakened teams - it can do without such stupid whimsical selections.

I urge England to beat this South African Team as soundly as possible ... 7-0 would be great. There is no place in World Cricket for rubbish like this.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Match Referees ... GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE !!!

Clive Lloyd is in the news once again. He has said that Michael Vaughan is a rude and uncouth lad and much more and blah blah.

I feel that Clive Lloyd, very much in the style of Bishen Singh Bedi is seeking to hog the limelight in any which way he can. This is not the first occasion he has done something like this and definitely won't be the last. Due to some strange reasons known only to the ICC, the players are treated like naughty children who need to be punished and ticked off at any slight offence while the umpires and the match referees have some God-like aura about them that no matter how pathetic their performance no one can utter a word against them let alone punish them for their deeds.

Before the Michael Vaughan incident, Clive Lloyd had pulled up Ganguly for slow over rate and again made some inane comments after his verdict was overturned by higher authoriy (thank God there is some means of appeal now) and exactly a year ago he had hauled up the most gentlemanly of the modern day players Rahul Dravid for "cheating".

Clive Lloyd was a great batsman and captain which is why it pains me when I have to say that he is behaving like an absolute lunatic and is best ignored. (The same goes for Bishen Singh Bedi when he speaks anything).

Looking at the broader picture I think the concept of match referee has been a big curse to this wonderful game. For over a hundred years the game could do without them and it went on just fine. Over the past 10 years or so that they have been introduced they have done immeasurable harm to the game. While those intent on misbehaving will continue to find ways to do so, all this match referee thing has managed is to either create robotic characterless cricketers or to punish the polite and dignified (Dravid, Vaughan, Tendulkar (remember the Mike Denness affair ?)) while letting the offenders (Donald, McGrath etc) carry on their own sweet talk. They have on at least one occasion led World Cricket on the verge of being divided on racial lines.

Of course, there are the few decent people who genuinely have the interests of cricket at heart. Mike Proctor for example has done a splendid job as match referee simply by remaining inconspicuous. That is how a match referee should perform (if at all he should). Like a wicket-keeper his job is well-done when he is not in the limelight. Unfortunately the Lloyds and Denneses of this World go all out seeking it tarnishing reputations of great cricketers and making fools of themselves.

The World would be a better place without match referees.

Friday, January 28, 2005

That's The Way !!!

Maahi Ve ... !!! (Sorry just got a bit carried away there !!)

Great to see the West Indies perform as they can and should. All the best to Brian Lara and his team in the VB Series.

Brilliant !!!

Latest News From Adelaide - Brian Charles Lara (There can never be another like him) has scored a superlative 156 off 138 balls against Pakistan with 12 boundaries and 5 sixes lifting the West Indies to 339/4 in their crucial match against Pakistan.

Keep those DVDs ready for as soon as I have a chance I want to grab a copy of this match - blast this God forsaken place where they show no cricket (boo hoo)

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Kallis ... selfish ??

Personally I have a great amount of respect and admiration for Jacques Kallis. However as this article on Wisden Cricinfo suggests people seem to find him selfish - particularly afer his innings at Centurion the other day - and also unlovable.

I wonder what it is about high quality players that keep us wanting more ... is it the same sentiment that we Indians feel about Tendulkar - that with his talent he should be able to win more matches, that the Pakistanis feel that Shoaib Akhtar.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Congratulations England !!

Congratulations to the English cricket team for their well-deserved victory ovre South Africa. It further confirmed the belief that England are indeed a quality team and one of the best-suited to challenge Australia along with India.

The victory was not without hiccups however. Harmisson's form is a big worry. One hopes he does not turn out to be a one-season wonder. Otherwise I will have to eat my words that I had written in an earlier post. The middle order was inconsistent to say the least. I have serious reservations about Robert Key as an international #3 and Vaughan, Thorpe and Flintoff had 2 very good innings and very little else. Luckily the openers (Strauss in particular) had done so much of the hard work and 1 of the middle order players usually fired so it didn't matter except in Cape Town.

Jones was also not at his best (actually both Jones were not at their best). Giles did a fair job. All in all, it was a ard fought victory - they did not really demolish South Africa but played well at crucial times and did just enough to win.

Id still go 3-1 to the Aussies for the Ashes but England are improving their chances all the time

Monday, January 24, 2005

Team India

While the World plays - Australia go about their business, England and South Africa slug it out, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe fight for the wooden spoon and New Zealand find solace in playing unofficial cricket to help out tsunami victims - Team India relaxes at home.

This break would be (at least should be) a very good one for the team. It will help them think about the last season and the coming season as well - reflect on the events that occurred on Tsunami Day - I am referring to the defeat against Bangladesh - and of the shoddy performances preceding it in the Asia Cup, Champions Trophy and a host of insignificant matches; while at the same time they can take hope from 2 good series victories over Pakistan and South Africa and a reasonably well-fought series against the World Champions.

So now is as good a time as any to start thinking about the team composition for the upcoming Pakistan series. Let us start with the Test Team first because a) it is easier and b) the Test matches come before the ODIs (thankfully).

After the Australia series I had raised questions against Ganguly's captaincy but subsequent victories over South Africa and Bangladesh mean that he should be the undisputed leader for some time at least. There needs to be no debate about who the vice-captain should be - Rahul Dravid - and yes, I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up leading occasionally given Ganguly's recent fitness and track record with match referees.

Happily and as a refreshing change, I have to think no longer than a second to decide the openers - Sehwag and Gambhir should do the job. The big question remains about the fitness of Tendulkar - if unfit, Kaif should find a place in the XI. Laxman has been in patchy form but he would still walk into the side.

Karthik has done reasonably well as keeper. Pathan and Zaheer would be the first 2 choices for the seamers. I would persist with Paul to see what he has and if Balaji is unfit, retain the other youngster Gagandeep as well. This effectively means I would blank out both Nehra (happily) and Agarkar (sadly) for the Tests at least. Kumble, Harbhajan and Karthik would be the 3 spinners. Pretty neat huh ??

Ganguly (c)
Dravid (vc)
Tendulkar (or Yuvraj)
D. Karthik (wk)
Balaji (or Gagandeep)

Sunday, January 23, 2005

England v South Africa

What a fascinating series this is turning out to be !!! I remember posting at the start that it was likely to be one and have I been proven right !!!

The cricket has not always been of the highest standards as is the case in a series involving Australia. But the see-saw battle has swung both ways so consistently and beautifully, it has made this a series to remember.

There have been times when England have been good but were also helped by a shoddy performance by South Africa. In Cape Town, when South Africa raised it up one notch, England capitualted completely. The net result has been a really close and well-fought series.

And it looks like England are going to get home ... safe and "wet" ... heheh :-) ... but are there any more surprises in store ???

The Big Picture

I find this picture quite amazing !! I could go on describing it ... but as they say "A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words" ... so appreciate it for yourself !

I only hope I am not violating any copyright laws here ... Cricinfo, I have only linked to your page , not stored the image anywhere ... if there is a problem, lemme know and I'll have it removed

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Oh What A Joy !!!

It is indeed a great pleasure to see the West Indies perform as a quality team again at least as far as the ODIs are concerned. The win in the Champions Trophy received unfairly little credit and although they lost to Pakistan last week they gave Australia such a terrible scare that one finally can state with some degree of confidence that a revival is very much on the way.

The only issue being that on numerous occasions in the last decade the West Indies have flattered to deceive similarly. However the big difference this time is that it is not just the brilliance of Lara that is contributing to the revival. It features all-round contributions from the team members. In fact, Lara has personally done precious little in victories in the Champions Trophy and the good performances in the couple of matches here - it is Hinds, Gayle, Sarwan, Bradshaw, Collins - and a very talented young all-rounder Bravo who are doing it.

This can only be good news for World Cricket - ODI cricket in particular, that is in serious danger of either dying out due to its drab nature or killing the spectators with it.

The West Indies are one team who I love to see do well - even if it is agianst India - and I wish them all the best in the next couple of years leading to the WC at home

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

2004 Memories Part 2

After a well-deserved break, India entered the Asia Cup as favourites. Predicatbly, they failed miserably. India always do better when they start as underdogs or as equal competitors than when they start as favourites. A singular victory over Sri Lanka by the narrowest of margins in a game in which the opposition had nothing to prove allowed India to sneak into the finals. But they could not chase an eminently gettable total on a slow Premadassa wicket under lights. How predictable !!! Tendulkar top scored. How predictable!!! He could not carry India home. How predictable!!!

Things went from bad to worse. India did not make it to the finals in an absolutely meaningless tri-series in Holland, lost to England, who were then an extremely ordinary One Day unit themselves 1-2; and for the first time failed to reach the semifinals of the ICC Champions Trophy. Tendulkar suffered one of his worst injuries and missed all the action - and the young guns Yuvraj and Sehwag failed miserably throughout.

Against this backdrop, India geared up to defend the final frontier against Adam Gilchrist's Australia. For 35 years, the Aussies had tried and failed. Would they succeed now ? India held some hope. So what if Tendulkar did not play ?? It was the Dravids and the Laxmans; the Kumbles and the Harbhajans whom the Ausies feared the most: after all, despite a terrible ODI season India were expected to hold their own in Test matches.

A host of factors contributed to ensure that that did not happen. One, the Aussies were better prepared than ever before. They gave up on the idea of mental disintegration to the extent that they took fairplay to new and at times excessive levels (what with the walking and all that); they gave up on their attack at all costs approach; bided their time well, set defensive fields and squeezed the life out of India at Bangalore and at Nagpur. Unfortunately the law of averages caught up with Rahul and Laxman just at the wrong time and the best efforts of Harbhajan and Kumble proved insufficient.

Also luck finally smiled upon the Aussies and turned its back completely on India. An extremely gettable run-chase on the last day at Chennai was washed out - a match which India dominated. When India went on to clinch a thriller on a minefield in Mumbai thanks to the efforts of the spin trio and an extremely rare masterpiece of 55 from a returning Tendulkar; that day in Chennai gained all the more significance. It could easily have been 2-2 and that would have been a fantastic result for India. As it happened, India lost only their second series in the last 30 months (the other was in New Zealand 2003). Still nothing to be ashamed of. The frontier was defended well for 35 years and finally won over by worthy opponents.

It looked as if the light at the end of the tunnel was becoming visible slowly but surely. However India had to endure a most boring draw at the hands of a most boring South African team in Kanpur before the tide finally turned - and rightly, it turned at the greatest Cricket theatre in the World - the magnificent Eden Gardens. Harbhajan Sehwag Dravid all finally fired together to power India to an expected but much needed morale-boosting series win.

And then there was a 2-0 hammering of Bangladesh where predictably Tendulkar came to the party with 248*. Pathan came into his own and Bangladesh were beaten comprehensively. But just when you thought that order had been restored there was another surprise in the waiting. Resting several top players, most notably Dravid and Tendulkar, India lost an ODI to Bangladesh - only their second win over a nation of any note - and though they came back emphatically to win the series 2-1 it clearly confirmed that India finish 2004 as one of the top Test teams but one of the worst One Day teams and that there is a lot of work to do.

There were several memorable performances from the players, many records set - much more on that coming soon ...

Saturday, January 01, 2005

2004 Memories Part 1

First of all, here's wishing all my readers a Very Happy New Year, although the last few days of 2004 were extremely devastating for humanity as a whole.

I will try to recollect a few moments from what has been a mixed year for Indian cricket - doing fairly well in the Test matches but failing miserably in the ODIs.

India started with a bang in Sydney, spoiling Steve Waugh's farewell party. Sachin, Laxman and Kumble starred while Irfan Pathan produced a peach of a delivery to nail Gilchrist and announce himself on the World scene. Rahul Dravid capped a quite unbelievable series in Australia with a second innings 91 not out and the Man of The Series Award. The old fox Steve Waugh however did not let India run away with all the prizes as he fought out a draw with a typically-Waugh innings of 80-odd. Of course Australia will forever remain indebted to Parthiv Patel and Steve Bucknor for their respective contributions in ensuring a drawn test and series.

Laxman started the ODI series in great form - and the victory in Brisbane was a significant one - but that was to prove a false dawn. India went downhill from there and although Yuvraj struck a century of absolute majesty in Sydney India's form slid from bad to worse to lose the VB series pretty badly.

Then came the historic tour of Pakistan. In an up-and-down series completely dominated by batsmen, India played well to eke out victories in both Tests and ODIs. The standout performances were Sehwag's 309 at Multan, Dravid's 270 at Rawalpinidi and the brouhaha over the extremely sensible Multan declaration with Sachin on 194* in Multan. That declaration set the tone for India's series victory, really. It showed how determined India were to win and how ruthless they could be in order to achieve it. Although they suffered a hiccup in Lahore they dominated all the way in Rawalpindi for a historic first-ever series win in Pakistan and the first one abroad in more than 10 years.

Then came a three month break. As the season turned from summer to the monsoons, dark clouds gathered on what looked until then, clear skies on the horizons of Indian cricket. More on this in Part 2 ...