Sunday, August 28, 2005

Ricky Ponting's Outburst

I can understand one getting so upset. After all, he was well set ready to play another match-saving innings. But for crying out loud, this substitute method has been going on for years in England and no one has complained before. Not least the Aussies when they were winning so comprehensively last 3 tours.

And on this occasion definitely the reason for the sub was genuine with Simon Jones out with a serious injury. He did point out to this whole sub thing at the start of the series but well there is no excuse for taking a poor run like that.

I can understand his outburst but I would like to see him punished. Not just get off with an apology. Let's see if Ranjan Madugalle has the gall to adequately punish an Australian captain. After all, if it was a certain Indian prince in Ponting's shoes he would have probably been banned for 6 Tests by now ...

Too Harsh ?!?!

The Aussies appear to have taken most the defeat (sorry I should say the way they have been outplayed so far) rather sportingly. Of course there was the Ponting outburst and a couple of small things with Hayden at the start - but they have accepted the decisions that have gone against them most sportingly and have not hesitated in praising the English performances and admitting to their poor ones.

Similar is the case with the Aussie press. But on the latter front, they seem to have gone too far. Especially Peter English here in this article on Cricinfo:

"The first innings was a batting embarrassment expected from Zimbabwe or Bangladesh. Perhaps even those teams would be upset to have their efforts compared to this limp display. Folding for 218 in 49.1 overs, Australia followed-on for the first time since playing Pakistan in 1988, the year the country celebrated its bicentenary of European settlement, Brisbane hosted the World Expo, Shaun Tait cheered his fifth birthday, and England held the Ashes."

Really ?? Isn't that exaggerating a bit too much ?? I mean Bangladesh and Zimbabwe for God's sake !!


The other day, I saw Simon Jones duck into a Brett Lee bouncer, get hit on the head and the ball thudded onto the stumps. But the bails did not come off and Jones survived. The rules say that the bails have to be dislodged. Fine.

Now the question: Why is the lbw mode of dismissal still prevalent then ?? Why can't the batsman or umpire claim that yes, the ball would definitely have hit the stumps, but I can't be 100% certain that the bails will be dislodged. And hence the benefit of the doubt has to go to You-Know-Who.

Fair question, ain't it ?? After all, this is a batsman's game.

And just FYI, the question did not occur to a cricketing guru like me. It occured to my mom - any justifications you experts can give to the lay cricket fan ??

Saturday, August 27, 2005

The New Boost Commercial

Just saw the new Boost commercial with Brett Lee and Sachin Tendulkar. Surprising how Lee agreed to a commercial in which he is clearly shown to come out second best. Of course the ad must have been made for Indian audiences so ...


It is always exciting when a young tearaway is going to make his debut. Hang on, as of now there are only 2 "tearaways" in the game and we know who they are. But both Shoaib Akhtar and Brett Lee made their debuts over 5 years ago and to be frank, at least in Shoaib's case I did not know he was a tearaway before he made his debut. It was after a couple of games that it struck. With Brett Lee, yes, he was hyped as Australia's answer to Shoaib and hence we had more of an inkling. However, I thought that Lee on debut, though express, was not really in the Shoaib category as far as speed goes.He gradually got there. There was a little bit of a murmur caused in most part by Ian Botham when Simon Jones and Steve Harmison were going to make their debut. Though fine bowlers both, they didnt really threaten to force Lee and Shoaib to extend the membership of their very exclusive club. That Shane Bond did before injuries did him in. Today, another young tearaway stands on the doorstep. Shaun Tait will be making his debut for Australia and I am quite eager to see him in action. From the reports he gave Justin Langer a really torrid time in the nets the other day that in the end clinched him his spot.

Powerful Questions

When the match has been reduced to say, 44 overs like the other day, there will be two powerplays: one with 5 overs and one with 3. Now is there any restriction on whether the longer powerplay should be used before the shorter one ?? If so, what is the logic behind it ?? Also in the Afro-Asia Cup, when the game was reduced by 2 overs one of the powerplays was reduced by 1 over. Now here the game has been reduced by 6 overs and the powerplay has been reduced by 2 overs. So what exactly is the mathematics here ? Or is it just heuristics ?? In the same breath, now even 20 overs per side constitutes a game. So will there be no powerplay at all ?? Again, if the game is halted sometime after it starts will there be different rules of powerplays for the 2 teams. Will that be really fair then if one captain has full freedom to decide his powerplays while the other will be facing severe restrictions ??

Gavaskar On Vettori's Selection

Sunil Gavaskar is vehemently supporting Daniel Vettori and defending his decision to include him in both the Test and ODI squads of the World X1. Well we all know what are the kinds of actions that require such vehement defence don't we ? After all, there is no need of defending the inclusion of Jacques Kallis or Brian Lara in the both the squads. The fact that Sunny finds it necessary to defend Vettori in intself tells a story. For me, I think Vettori was included just to please New Zealand and make sure that they don't feel left out. Because definitely Anil Kumble and then Harbhajan Singh (and perhaps Danish Kaneria) deserved the nod ahead of him.

Different Levels Of Cricket

Really, if what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Old Trafford over the last fortnight manifested the best in this great game of cricket, what is happening around the World right now certainly comes somewhere close to the first. No doubt one cringes to think that the humiliation New Zealand are imposing upon ZImbabwe is also classified as Test match cricket along with the magnificent classic that Australia and England are playing out. But even that is not so bad compared to the absolute farce that is the Afro-Asian series which is officially being played for the benefit of cricket in Africa but which no doubt is just a ploy to further enhance the coffins of the BCCI. Obviously the patriotic feeling so inherent in a cricket match is lacking but what's more there is not even any sort of team spirit - there can't be because this is a set of individuals who hardly ever play together. No wonder that Africa managed to pull home in the end - the whole team was comprised mostly of South Africans !! But I would have to admit that even that does not seem so bad when one witnesses the absolute 20-20 farce that is going on today in Bangalore in the name of the great Don Bradman. Organising a tournament like this in the name of the greatest legend of the game is playing with the boundaries of indecent behavior.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Gavaskar On New Rules And Spinners

Gavaskar says that the powerplay and supersub rules won't put the spinners out of the game. He says that quality spinners will always have a role to play. Really Sunny ?? Well, how would you explain what is happening to Kumble ? Who are the quality spinners left in the game today anyway ?? As far as I know it is just Warne and Murali, Kumble and Harbhajan. Some others might vie for Rafique and Giles, Vettori and Kaneria. Warne has already retired from the ODI game, Kumble is being forced out. Murali is preparing to leave after the World Cup and Kaneria also is used really sparingly in this form of the game. So who are these quality spinners that Sunny is talking about ??
Vow ! It feels nice to see Harsha again on TV.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Shut Your Big Mouth, Will You ??

There is a fine line between exercising your right to free speech in a candid, frank, honest manner and in making rash, irresponsible claims. Virender Sehwag might just have crossed that this time. The decisive factor in these delicate situations often boils down to how much authority one has over the matter.

He threatened to do that earlier on 2 occasions in the recent past. First at the start of the last season he went on record to say that he would prefer Akash Chopra as an opening partner to Yuvraj. Really not his to decide although he did have some sort of interest in the matter. Then last season after the defeat to Pakistan in the Bangalore Test, he very publicly announced that he knew that he was the only one who could have won the Test for India. True and at that moment felt very right - but again really responsible ?? What would the other members of the team feel ? Luckily, that story died a natural death.

And now, he comes up for no rhyme or reason with this statement that Dada is the best man for captaincy- well you are entitled to your opinions but certainly, one should think twice before voicing them in public !! Next time, when he is having a partnership with Dravid won't this issue rankle at the back of Dravid's mind ?? Worse, when (rather than if) Ganguly is injured or suspended again and Dravid has to lead, what trust will he have in Sehwag ? Was that the reason why Sehwag was so ordinary as a bowler in the Sri Lanka tri-series ?? Worse scenario, if following Sehwag's example other players like Yuvraj, Kaif and the rest start stating their preferences for skipper wouldn't that lead to a steep rift in the side ??

And this guy is looked upon and to be groomed as future captain ...

Chuckster here seems to agree with my views

Friday, August 12, 2005

Team For Zimbabwe Triangular

Now that the unfotunate (and sadistic, populistic, regressive and ultra-political) decision of restoring the captaincy to Sourav Ganguly has been made it is time to look at the composition of the side.

Me, I would bring in Agarkar instead of Zaheer Khan. GC needs to take a look at all resources before the WC and meaningless series such as this are the perfect scenarios for doing something like this. Zaheer was very much average in the Indianoil Cup and pathetic in the finals. While Agarkar could do worse, it is worth trying since he brings in much more value definitely in the field and hopefully with the bat.

I would also bring in Powar for Kumble. I'm not necessarily writing off Kumble as an ODI bowler but again we need to find some bowlers who can contribute handy runs with the bat and in that spirit are the 2 changes.

Also I would drop JP Yadav as we can accomodate only 15 players and I have never been a fan of his type anyway.

Im prepared to give Dhoni another chance although I was fairly shocked by his keeping the other day. Another couple of poor performances and he should be out.

Hence the team would look like:

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

So What Went Wrong ?

Another final ... another toss lost ... another big score conceded ... another time the batting chokes under pressure ... all too common. Nothing unexpected about it.

India went into the match with 5 bowlers. They had played with 7 batsmen and 4 bowlers all through the series to conclude that the bowling lacked firepower and that the top oder was too complacent and took things easy because of the presence of an extra batsman. Hence the decision. What happened ?? It was the bowlers that took things easy now - Zaheer Khan though economical was a pathetic trundler who looked like he was 55 years old, Pathan was up and down and never recovered from the atrocious way that increasingly annoying Mahendra Singh Dhoni kept to him, Nehra was good with three early wickets and three late ones but still conceded 6 an over. Harbhajan was tidy without threatening and Kumble was back to being his old self of 1997 where Jayasuriya (with DeSilva) would play him with disdainful contempt.

And then the batting - the start was pretty good - Sehwag for once did his job well - and the fact that we were in the hunt up until the 35th over was a pleasant surprise. But when you play with 5 bowlers we need to realize that we cannot expect ANYTHING from thwm with the bat. Yes - all 5 of them flatly refused to even reach double figures. Add to that Mahendra Dhoni's inexplicable shot to a straight ball from Chandana and it was patently evident how the 5 batsman ploy emphatically backfired. I would not like to condone Dravid and Yuvaraj here for throwing away their wickets at exactly the wrong time - but to put things in perspective such things happen - it is usually upto the lower order to shore things up - not many teams chase 280 with 2 wickets down too often - the fact that that represented India's only chance of a win itself is a disgrace. When Sri Lanka chased down 221 in the league game against India how great a support role did Chandana play in aiding Jayawardene ?? Today even after Dravid's departure Kaif was eager and willing to take the fight - but the pathetic lower order flatly refused to give him company - either that - or they are just horribly incompetent with the bat - either way it is really worrying.

Now coming to the fielding - the less said about it the better. To be brutally frank and harsh the likes of Nehra, Zaheer, Kumble and Ganguly are a disgrace to fielding anywhere in the outfield. Contrast this with how well the Lankans fielded, even when the Dravid-Yuvaraj partnership was going great guns. It was their fielding and not letting the ones being converted into twos that kept them in the game ultimately forcing Yuvaraj to play a big shot. And look at the way the Arnold-Jayawardene partnership put the pressure on the fielders. At 122/4 with Jayasuriya gone things looked rosy for India but without hitting any risky shots or even flamboyant shots the 2 kept ticking the scorecard so well - Harbhajan was the only one who displayed some sense of commitment in the outfield.

All in all, a well-deserved and expected defeat. It will be interesting to see what happens from now on. Hopefully this would have given Greg Chappell a clear-cut idea of the mess Indian cricket finds itself in. It is now that he comes into picture - what he comes up with from between now and the next triangular in Zimbabwe - there too we should reach the final comfortably but going by our record we should lose it - let's see if Chappeli can do something to avoid that.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

When Lady Luck Has Her Way ...

Less than half-a dozen hours ago it was Australia that held all the aces in the Ashes series. Now things have not quite undergone a U-turn but are almost threatening to do so. All courtesy a freak injury to the greatest fast-medium bowling machine of modern times. With McGrath out, Australia look a ghostly shadow of themselves.

England on the other hand seem to have come up with the only possible way they could - go on an all-out attack and boy, it has been exhilirating stuff. I had said that a lot would have to go right for this English lineup to fire - the one factor I had overlooked (well disregarded) was Marcus Trescothick. I felt that his batting against Australia was always a lottery. Guess what - when the luck is with you the heavens will burst without restraint - Trescothick, no doubt a bit fortunately goes on to biff a great 90 and with support from Strauss England fairly raced along.

Well a bit of a comeback by Australia when the Vaughan-Bell pair yet again floundered, but Pietersen and Flintoff finally live up to the expectations of a grand symbiosis. Flintoff is especially surprising. I had reservations about his ability against quality spin and still do but he has played one magnificent innings - attacking Warne with full intent - really the best strategy - looking forward to more glorious strokeplay after tea.

Some people say McGrath may be out for Old Trafford too, others rumor that he may be out for the whole series ... wow !! Now we have a contest on our hands !!

9:34 - Flintoff OUT immediately after tea. Gillespie strikes. Australia get a foot back in the door.

The Master Craftsman

Mahela Jayawardene

The Master Craftsman finally produced a masterpiece yesterday at the Rangiri Dambulla stadium. Mahela Jayawardene makes batting look astonishingly elegant. A mystery why he is the underachiever he is. Not for nothing do the ones who really know him talk about him in the same breath as the great Aravinda Desilva. He is one of those rare Sri Lankan batsmen these days who do not frustrate me to death by their clinical and at times artless performances.

Lots of praise for Jayawardene all over the media today - surprisingly quiet in the blogosphere though.

As far the Indian team's performance I think it is a real royal mess and I'm really not in the mood to comment on it right now ...

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Surely Not ?!?!

After Michael Vaughan's injury people have already started talking about the comeback of Graham Thorpe but Graeme Hick ?!?! First impression, I though it was preposterous but on second thoughts it is not totally inconceivable !! Wouldn't that add to all the excitement of this series ??

If Anything Can Go Wrong ...

... IT WILL.

Michael Vaughan has injured his elbow (remeber hearing of a famous batsman with a broken elbow in the news elsewhere in the past year ?) - interestingly, his right elbow (the significance of that side amusing some here) and hence must have surely caused the English setup some deal of anxiety - I would say panic but the English are staunchly refraining from using that word. This, coming when the top and middle order was so ruthlessly exposed in the last game would have really set the cat among the pigeons.

Now if Vaughan (fingers crossed) makes it to the lineup Thursday, a major crisis could still be averted; but in case that does not happen England face the daunting prospect of playing with a #3,#4,#5 with a combined experience of 7 Test matches (Bell 4, Pietersen 1, Collingwood 2) against an attack that has close to 1400 Test wickets between them. Add to that the fact that Strauss is just a year-old in the game, a "veteran" of 15 Tests and in what can be generously described as "indifferent" form; Flintoff averages 12 against India, 20 against Sri Lanka and 1.5 against Australia (the 3 sides in the World to possess quality spinners) and Trescothick's eternal susceptibility against the new ball and you have a classic recipe for disaster.

Jagadish says he can already picture the selectors pleading before Thorpe and I fully endorse that view. I think this Ashes campaign has gone horribly wrong. After all the hype, the talk and the bravado, a combination of poor scheduling, absurd and populist selection decisions, indifferent form and mental diffidence has shaken this English batting lineup to the core and it is very difficult to bet against a 2-0 lead for the Aussies by the time they leave Edgbaston.

I could go on about strategies and batting orders but I'm afraid it is too late to recover now. It is up to these 6 players to lift their game to their highest ability; perhaps even beyond to salvage anything worthwhile from the situation.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Amazing - To Say The Least

Just read this article - it is quite amazing. Perhaps a tad pathetic, a tad true, a tad reckless but definitely quite amazing. It is true that Ashley Giles is an ordinary spinner but he has played his part in England and still deserves his spot for the lack of options if nothing else. The criticism he has been receiving has bordered on a witch-hunt but to come up with this sort of public response full of self-pity ?? I don't think the Aussies will forget to remind him of this once play starts at Edgbaston - boy, whatever happens it is going to be exciting.

He Is Back

Probably a defining moment in the history of Indian cricket when (rather than if) Sourav Ganguly plays under Rahul Dravid tomorrow. This will be the first time that he will be playing under his best mate and vice-captain for 5 years. As things stand, it is uncertain whether the roles will be switched at the end of the series. My gut feeling is that they won't. However, Sourav has apparently not yet decided to give up the throne voluntarily as he says here:
"Actually, I don't mind it [lack of attention]. I had a lot of attention for five years. If for the next three or four games, or whatever happens in this series, I am not too worried. Whatever will happen, will happen."
Personally I think Ganguly should attempt to give Rahul Dravid all the support that Dravid gave him when he himself was in charge. And I don't just mean in the form of expert advice but also in terms of sheer weight of runs. And Dravid should make Ganguly feel very much at home.

When the 2 made their debut on that rainy summer morning at Lord's 9 years ago, it was the beginning of an indelible chapter in the annals of Indian cricket. For years after that when one thought of Sourav Ganguly he could not but think of Rahul Dravid in the same breath. In recent years that might have changed - first because they took slightly different paths to greatness. Dravid became the World's leading batsman leaving Ganguly far behind in that respect while Ganguly went on to be the most influential (and successful) Indian captain ever - both monumental achievements and in harmony with each other. However, disturbingly in the last season and never more prominently than in the last Pakistan series there were whispers of a growing rift between the two.

It would be sad if that rift was allowed to grow. This is the time for the 2 stalwarts of Indian cricket to shake hands, have a nice chat about the old times, accept the switched roles and move on for the good of the team. It would be a fitting finale if Ganguly scored the winning runs and took the Man Of The Series Award in the World Cup Final in Barbados 2 years hence under the leadership of Dravid.

Asia vs Africa (Rubbish)

The squads have been announced
Inzamam-ul-Haq (capt), Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, Kumar Sangakarra, Sanath Jayasuriya, Yousuf Youhana, Shahid Afridi, Abdul Razzaq, Muttiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas, Naved-ul-Hasan, Irfan Pathan, Mohammad Ashraful, Anil Kumble, Shoaib Akhtar. Reserves Marvan Atapattu, Mashrafe bin Mortaza, Khaled Mashud

Shaun Pollock, Graeme Smith, Boeta Dippenaar, AB de Villiers, Jacques Kallis, Ashwell Prince, Albie Morkel, Mark Boucher, Monde Zondeki, Jacques Rudolph, Nicky Boje, Justin Ontong, Steve Tikolo, Collins Obuya, Thomas Odoyo, Heath Streak, Tatenda Taibu, Andy Blignaut, Dale Steyn

You would think I would have more to say when it comes to squad selection - but this is such a pointless affair, it is best ignored.

Predictions Predictions

I still feel that Sri Lanka is the strongest team in the competition. But I am not sure if they are playing their best cricket. India, on the other hand, are beginning to warm up. I would not be surprised if they end up as winners of the tournament and Man of the Series is none other than Ganguly himself. For he is that sort of a man.
This is not me talking. It is that wily old fox of Sri Lankan Cricket - Arjuna Ranatunga on Cricinfo. I tend to agree somewhat. I have this feeling we are going to see a special performance from Ganguly in these coming matches.