Monday, February 28, 2005
So why the break ? While in the shower 5 days ago, I was reflecting on what I usually spend my time doing - I figured I spend a fair amount of time reflecting on the game - besides the half an hour I spend blogging everyday and another half surfing the web for news. This here in the United States Of Ignorant Cricketless America not back home where I spend a good deal of time watching matches of varying interests and intensity as well.
And so I thought - what if I decide to take a complete break from cricket for some time ?? I remember during school and college years my parents used to advice me to keep my cricket craze in perspective lest it should hamper my academics. Well I very rarely did it back then. Now however since I felt the need and the urge from within I decided to give it a shot. What would I do with all the time that I did not spend on cricket ? Would I utilize it in some productive work ? Would I waste it away ? Would I discover some new interest or try out some other activity I had never done before ??
I decided to carry out this experiment for 4 days. I noted 3 primary reasons for this exercise:
1. To test my ability to control and conquer myself
2. To be ready for the big India-Pakistan series refreshed
3. To simply carry out and analyse a personal experiment
It was not as hard as I thought it would be. Never did I feel an irresistible temptation to go to good old Cricinfo to check out the latest news - maybe helped by the fact that there were some pretty uninteresting matches going on all around the World. Of course I did read the headlines on Times Of India - I was not going to go out of my way to keep these out - and at times I did drift into thinking about them - the selection of Yuvraj over Kaif in the Indian Test Team being the main tempter. But soon enough I was able to realise it and shut out my thoughts. Also the stray thought of whether Rahul Dravid will scale the heights he did last season did try to enter the mind while walking through the snow but these were similarly dispelled. I accidentally did once land up onto Will's Corridor Of Uncertainty (a very good cricket blog I read regularly) out of habit but moved away within a second as I remembered my resolve.
So I did to a great degree succeed in what I set out to do. So what did I do with the time I saved ? Nothing much !!! I spent a lot more time than I do following tennis - I saw the Dubai Open - a superb match between Federer and Agassi - and little more of work. Although I do not think my net productivity was very greatly increased. So in that respect it didn't really help. Although I realised I can in fact survive without cricket and can indeed think and talk about other topics - something which several people doubted (me included).
Overall I would say yes I can very well survive and conquer myself and that makes me feel good. But I don't think there is too much that I am gaining by it. So I would end by quoting 2 lines from a very famous Hindi song:
"Tere Bina Zindagi Se Koi Shikava To Nahin
Tere Bina Zindagi Bhi Lekin Zindagi Nahin"
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Plus point coming from the match - Ganguly scored 170 - great !! On a day when Dravid scored 6 runs in 2 innings, Laxman 14 in 2 (or something like that) and Tendulkar 4 in 1 the skipper's good form is indeed a respite.
The South vs West match might turn out to be a cracker (indeed it is) what with Kumble and Powar completely destroying Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman !!! Bowlers rule in this year's Duleep Trophy and that is great news !!
Amidst the slaughter, the good contributions of talented youngster Venugopal Rao need special mention and praise. I don't think it will be long before he makes his way into Team India.
NZ need to sort out their own problems. They have no batsman to play the #3 role - I asked yesterday why Fleming who should be able to do it is not. The Sinclairs and the Papps for all their worth are not going to be daunting #3s at international level. The bowling is in shambles - Tuffey at his best can be described as a gentle giant who might throw in an odd winning performance here and there. He is out of form. They have oscillated between Styris, WIlson and now Adams and yet none of these really should fill anyone'e heart with terror. Mills has been so-so. They are desperately in need of Oram and preferrably Bond to recover from injuries. Until then it is upto the old warhorses Vettori and Cairns to lend some respectability to the "attack".
Finally, I did not comment on this before, but I simply loved Stephen Fleming's ban on using the A-word. That is the right attitude to have - but needs to be matched with performances. If they keep up that attitude and raise their game several notches NZ may still stand an outside chance.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
The title character as can be seen in the picture is going to threeing officiate in the upcoming India Pakistan series.
This could well threeing mean that the series could turn into a fouring lottery what with a twoing, sixing madman in charge. Everyone knows what a fivey fourious umpire he is and a fiving sevening threer of a man. He played a threeing huge role in denying India a series victory over Australia last year.
He has also on several occasions deliberately twoed the Indian players - first Ganguly - (who gave him a oneing threeing zero thank you very much) and then he had the fouring audacity to threeingly and twoingly insult and humiliate an absolute gentleman like Rahul Dravid in the VB Series.
Pakistan aren't too amused about his twoing fiving ways either - so it may well turn out to be a lottery of a match whenever he is in charge. And now the ICC is going to fouringly celebrate the fivey fact that this Monkey-fiver is completing his sixing 100 Test Matches !! (Five the foury six of him !! For sixing God's sake)
And that too the hallowed turf of Eden Gardens will be fiving desecrated by his foury oney sixy self. Really sixing sad. I hope that the oner, sixer, fiver, threer, fourer, twoer, sevener decides to sevening call it a sixing day after this. World Cricket is better off without fiving sevening sixers of umpires like him.
OK. I need to find answers to a few questions. Why this whole mess ? Why can't the BCCI give it to Zee if it is the highest bidder ? Because it has no prior experience ? OK .. if that is the case why can't it give it to ESPN-STAR ? Because clearly I think they have stated that monetary value of the bid would not be the sole criterion ?? Why can it not let Zee go to hell in that scenario ?
OK. I realise that the above questions are a bit naive but they were necessary to get the basics right. Now, the situation as I understand is that the BCCI had in fact decided to give the rights to ESPN-STAR but Zee who had the highest bid went to court. Now once it enters the courts in India, it can be a real mess. (Don't get me wrong - I have great respect for the judiciary of India and their judgements) The problem is the delay, isn't it ?? A temporary solution was found for the Australia series but clearly that resulted in great losses for the BCCI.
I think with the delicate political angle to the series, the Government could persuade the courts towards a speedy resolution one way or the other without a compromise as happened last time. Until such time, our respected Board President better keep his mouth shut and start selecting his X1 for the warm-up match in Dharamshala.
Monday, February 21, 2005
Australia might have won the first match courtesy a poor show by New Zealand, a great spell by McGrath and gratuitous umpiring by Billy Bowden but they look far from the champion side they are. This is the third match in a row now that they have failed to reach 250 and third time running against NZ that they have suffered a middle-order collapse. The young hopes, Clarke and Katich somehow seem unable to turn on the magic against the Trans-Tasman rivals and Kaspro is also having an ordinary time against them (while otherwise he has been brilliant) Hence I would bring back Dizzy immediately in the team.
I think the moment has to come sooner than later that Australia's luck and the benefit they derieve from being able to intimidate opponents pschycologically will run out. They have come close several times this season - both Pak and NZ have threatened to beat Aus - and I wonder if the turning point is around the corner.
I read an article recently in The New Zealand Herald which says that Fleming is keen on Brendon McCullum opening the innings in the ODIs in the forseeable future. He goes on to say that that might not happen just yet - while Astle and himself are still going strong. My advice - put him up there immediately. New Zealand need a dasher up the order. Also Fleming and Astle are 2 of New Zealand's best ever batsmen in ODIs. It works at times (like with the Ganguly-Tendulkar duo for a long time) but not always - the 2 best players opening the innings. I think NZ would be better served if Fleming plays the crucial #3 role. That way the NZ lineup looks more middle-heavy. In fact I'd make the change as early as the next match.
Btw, Scott Styris' abscence is gonna be a big blow !!!
Saturday, February 19, 2005
"Ask him to pick one Indian batsman he has not met and would love to. Ashraful’s quick answer is: Mohammed Azharuddin. ‘‘He played some wonderful innings and I have heard a lot about him. I know it will be difficult but I will try and meet him during the Duleep Trophy,’’ he said. But if that doesn’t materialise, Asharful would compensate it by meeing Sachin Tendulkar. The young batsman’s turnaround in the December 2004 India series is credited with the famous Tendulkar-Ashraful chat in Dhaka. ‘‘Who would not want to meet him, he is an institution. Not just me, the whole team will learn something from him,’’ said Ashraful."
Click here for a link to the complete article.
And on a happy sidenote, an extremely exciting ODI - maybe there might be a renaissance of some sorts in ODI cricket waiting to happen. Again as I have theorized many times the best matches are the ones where teams score 230s and 240s not 320s and 330s.
Thursday, February 17, 2005
Well, the BCCI (often lambasted unfairly) has really done a pathetic job this time. I wonder why this new trend of delaying all matters to the eleventh hour has started - not only have the venues not been finalised; they haven't announced the date for the team declaration, they haven't even announced the team for the side game. Of course, the whole mess about the TV rights continues - but one would have thought at least they would get these other issues in order. The players are also surprisingly restrained about the whole thing on either side - no grand proclamations from Ganguly - or no hollow threats from Shaoib Akhtar - no everyday update and gossip about Sachin's fitness ... COME ON ... HAS EVERYONE FALLEN ASLEEP ??
Finally I hope that India will be just as gracious and hospitable to Pakistan off the field as they were last year though very different on it. Here is an article on Cricinfo on this issue. I find it pretty interesting - particularly the part where he explains how the grand welcome the Indians received from the common Pakistani was a sudden unexpected and unplanned outpour of emotion. He goes on to say that this phenomenon can be explained scientifically - in fact it has been in the book The Tipping Point where a series of small uncoordinated events culminates in a widespread outpouring - very interesting I must read this once !!! What we would like is a repeat of Delhi 1999 or even Chennai 1999 but certainly not Kolkata 1999.
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
I also do not think too highly about Shib Shankar Paul - and guess what, he has come up with a 6-wkt haul as well !!! God help me !! Well, I think with Zaheer Khan and Irfan Pathan (subject to fitness) sure to pick up the first 2 seamers' spots, Nehra, Paul and Balaji would fight for 2 places - I think the selectors will go with Nehra in the end - as Balaji is also coming back after an injury and it would be too risky to go with 2 bowlers coming back after an injury !!!
If you want more details of why I hate Ashish Nehra and the list of his poor performances, ask me. I could write a new post on that.
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Sunday, February 13, 2005
Just to recollect a few horrendous decisions in recent times:
1) The way Steve Bucknor helped Australia save the Sydney Test in January 2004
2) The way David Shepherd gave a palpably plump Ricky Ponting not out in Adelaide on 0 when he went on to score a 240
3) The way Ganguly stood in total disbelief after David Orchard gave him out lbw although he was about half a kilometre down the wicket
And this is not just cribbing about poor decisions against India so:
4) The way Marcus Trescothick was given out at Kolkata in January 2002 when the ball had clearly pitched outside leg.
5) Even the best make mistakes - The way Venkat gave Mark Waugh out caught bat pad in the Chennai Test of 1998.
6) Also the dodgy decision by Javed Akhtar to give Graham Thorpe out lbw to put England out of the 1999 WC and India into the Super Six
Point is - it is not home country umpires that are the problem - let us assume all umpires are neutral - it is the poor quality of umpiring that is the problem. Let us face it - today there exist only 2 good umpires in the World - Simon Taufel and Rudi Koertzen - the rest are in varying degrees poor - now that Venkat has retired and Bucknor and Shepherd have gone from being pretty good to pathetic.
I would not concur with Woolmer entirely. In particular, I do not support his idea that the third umpire with technology at hand should have power to overrule umpires. What I think can be done to improve the umpiring, is utilize this technology to evaluate the performance of the umpires in an objective, unbiased and transparent manner. Currently, the captains rate the umpires on a scale of 1 to 10 (I think). This information is considered top secret for reasons unknown - although it not always remains so - remember Ganguly giving umpire Bucknow a 0 last year ?? Well, anyway insted of having this secretive and subjective assessment, why not have an open and objective one ?? Why not have a review at the end of every series which says that umpire A had to adjudicate on say 50 decisions and got 35 right, 12 wrong and 3 uncertain - or something like that. For certain decisions which are not conclusive even after the technology, the umpires could be given the benefit of the doubt or a probability value of the decision being correct could be associated with it.
Based on the performance of the umpires, the ICC can decide whether to continue with them or opt for new ones. Of course, those who have been dropped would be eligible for consideration in the future again by good performances at the first-class level and so on. A selection commitee could be appointed to make these decisions. So that they will use the stats so obtained as a guide in making their decisions. Just as players figures in first class cricket or their performances are a guide to selection in the national team, so will be the situation with umpires. Of course then if a very senior umpire has a really bad series he could still hold on to his place based on his reputation since there is a human element involved. However 3 or 4 bad series in a row will not be tolerated. The key idea here is make the numbers public; make that objective and then let the selectors follow a subjective procedure.
Of course something similar could already be in place (the way Asoka Desilva was shown the door after a series of poor performances is indeed heartening) - the main complaint would still be the lack of transparency in decision-making. We all know Steve Bucknor had a poor series Down Under last year - why not the ICC publish their figures and assessment to the public to check if they are on the same wavelength with their patrons ??
If anyone having anything to do with the bosses at the ICC are reading this, I would request them to please consider this suggestion seriously.
Saturday, February 12, 2005
Friday, February 11, 2005
Dravid and Kaif have combined for the third match in a row to take India A home and to the Challenger Trophy glory. Hope the Super Duo keeps their good form going and take us to victory in the matches against Pakistan.
The series ends with finally the bowlers playing some kind of role in the game. Zaheer impressive; the new guy Rudra Pratap - also a left-armer - good; gosh why are all up-and-coming Indian seamers left arm ??
Clealry the English management does not agree with my views. In an earlier post I had said that Andersen and Wharf need to play in the last few ODIs for England. Well they stuck with Hoggy and Ali and the result another loss - built once again on a largely lacklustre bowling performance.
Let me make one thing clear. I am not for a moment implying that Wharf and Andersen are champion bowlers. They are definitely not as good as Hoggard so far in their careers. However the important point is Hoggard is justifiably tired after playing a major role in a gruelling Test Series. Very understandably the body and mind will be just a little bit less than 100% after such an ordeal in the relatively less important ODI series. Clearly one of the major reasons for South Africa's success is that they lost the Test Series and hence are desperate to salvage some pride and prove a point. Clearly the English do not feel that urgency. Little surprise that the 2 star turns for England have been those that did not play in the Tests (Gough and Pietersen).
In such circumstances clearly the fresh faces of Andersen and Wharf need to be played simply because they would be the most eager to prove a point. As I said it is about bringing new new ball bowlers. (not necessarily more accomplished ones).
The inevitable has happened - Darren Lehmann - the jolly old fellow has been axed. It was going to happen sooner or later although I thought he might be given one more chance. Anyway Michael Bevan has not made a comeback despite an excellent domestic season which probably means the doors are shut on him tight. Let's see what Hussey comes up with.
Here is a really nice article on The Australian.
Thursday, February 10, 2005
Also don't forget - another 100 by Graeme Smith - weren't people saying he is an overrated batsman ???
As was feared all along, this Challenger Trophy has been a showcase for batsmen - with bowlers playing as little part in the game as Kajol in Kal Ho Naa Ho - for the love of God why is Harbhajan Singh not playing ???
I think the one needs to seriously analyse whether it is indeed worth holding this event annually.
The first one almost stares you in the face - Andrew Flintoff - or rather the lack of him. True he did not set the World alight with the bat in the Test series, but his bowling at crucial times was invaluable. If not a couple of key wickets there was always guaranteed a tight spell to pile on the pressure. That is exactly what England have missed him in the ODIs. In the second at Bloomfontein, the way South Africa choked received worldwide attention - what was forgotten was that at 1 point England had a fair chance to win comfortably but did not have the bowling to blow out the middle-order. That came back to haunt them again in the 3rd ODI and at Cape Town the "attack" was positively shred to pieces as it was today at East London. Truly, Flintoff was missed with the ball.
But was he missed with the bat ?? Maybe not. The kind of innings Kevin Pietersen played today would have been difficult to better even for Freddie. Before this match I thought he was fairly talented but perhaps got just a bit too lucky at the start of his career. Also, the likes of Atherton kept stressing about certain technical deficiencies - well to hell with technical faults if you are capable of playing an innings like that !!! Under intense pressure chasing a target of 300 and coming in with the team in dire straits it was simply great !! And deserved to be on the winning side.
When Freddie does come back, the idea of the pair going at the bowlers together promises to be a mouth-watering prospect.
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
I think I am with the PCB on this one - yes, Chennai would be a much better option - for me - the best part is Chennai is 100 times more likely to give a result than Ahmedabad !!!
Narhari Amin - stop crying.
Shikhar Dhawan and Ambati Rayudu - very good - it seems Indian batting is in safe hands for a few more years to come when the Fab 4 eventually hang up their boots - keep those scores coming guys !! And some day you will constitute the formidable lineup that India boasts. Also great to see Laxman strike some form - he needs to find his touch quickly after a poor year in Tests.
It is painful to see the bowling in such poor shape. Is Harbhajan playing in this series ?? I didn't notice his name anywhere in the scorecards - maybe I missed it - anyway Pathan's injury is a cause for concern. We have got to have Zaheer and Pathan fit and firing against Pakistan !!!
Mohammad Ashraful will lead Bangladesh in the Duleep Trophy. This should be a great experience for the young Bangla side who are on the up. This has been one of the better decisions made by the BCCI - to invite international A teams to participate in the Duleep Trophy. (although the purists might have some valid objections to it).
Last year England A added great value to the tournament while also deriving several benefits. They produced some tough cricket before they bowed out to South Zone courtesy a mammoth run-chase and an innings from young Y Venugopal Rao that helped him make his mark. Rngland also benefitted - Pietersen developed in leaps and bounds as a player and Simon Jones got just the tonic needed to recover from injury.
I hope Ashraful and his team reap benefits from this and in the process play some attractive cricket.
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
Yuvraj has once again proved that he should remain the next-in-line in case any one is injured - which means if Tendulkar is unfit Yuvraj should find a place in the Test squad.
Zaheer Khan's performance should be extremely encouraging and Sourav Ganguly's pretty depressing.
Another case in point where go all out to praise others while belittling our own like fools.
With Steve Harmisson going public about his lack of interest in being in South Africa and his figures in the last match backing his words, England face a serious selection problem before the fifth ODI. Matthew Hoggard is understandably exhausted after a gruelling Test series and his performances also proved that in the last game he played.
So England might need to go back to the enigmatic, mercurial, talented but out-of-form James Anderson and hope he finds form in comditions similar to where he bowled so devastatingly in the World Cup almost 2 years ago. Although I suppose Alex Wharf is also an option - why didn't he start in any of the matches so far ??
I always thought it was not a smart move to send Simon Jones home - his type of bowling could have been useful here particularly given that Harmisson was never likely to be a big threat this series.
Sunday, February 06, 2005
The Aussie performance on the whole not entirely impressive - still Champion stuff but looking less unbeatble by the day. New Zealand should stand a chance of pulling off an upset - they are after all the #2 team in the World - should be a cracking series.
I think the Aussies need to unearth another young batsman like Michael Clarke - the top order is in patchy form and of course ageing, to say the least. I don't see Darren Lehmann being part of this line-up for much longer. Any names my Aussies friends would like to suggest ???
Saturday, February 05, 2005
Of course, SA need to consider seriously if Smith at such a young age can perform the 2 functions effectively. He is too good a batsman - matchwinner - to lose to the pressures of captaincy. I do believe that Smith, Kallis, Gibbs really need to start pulling their weight in this SA side if it has to achive its old glory days.
He who was convicted of match-fixing, He who did not give up even in the face of greatest adversity, He who has had a superb year for Delhi and North Zone - he who still might be one of the top fielders in India - BRING HIM BACK !!!!
The ban on Ajay Jadeja (and there is no reason now to go into the debate over the ban was legitimate) has been legally overruled by the Courts and his performances deserve reward with a recall to the ODI side. The selectors have been extremely unfair in "not considering" him for the Challenger Trophy. The Indian ODI team is in desperate need of a batsman coming down the order who can play a dual role - moving the scoreboard along and providing a blast - and Jadeja fits the bill perfectly. India cannot afford the luxury of ignoring him. Ajay Jadeja - great fielder, match-winner, intelligent cricketer - we want you back.
Friday, February 04, 2005
Coming to the game, I think almost all of the blame can be laid to the inane cricket played in the last over - Ashwell Prince !!! - what the hell is he doing in this team ?? Sending Gibbs down the order was a good idea altho Id prefer if Smith came down and Gibbs continued to open. It would be real unfair to blame Kallis again. All in all, South Africa just weren't good enough and failed to draw level. They have not beaten any side other than Bangladesh in the last 14 matches !!!
Thursday, February 03, 2005
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
If Pakistan manage to beat Australia in the finals of the VB Series it would be a great tonic to the dying game of One Day Cricket. Yesterday's match against the West Indies was a really good win - made all the more enjoyable because it followed the old-fashioned pattern - slow and steady start, gradual shift of momentum and explosion at the end. The chase was also maintained for a reasonable period to sustain interest. I'd rather have these matches with slow starts and a push in the middle overs than the modern day style that involves a dreadful 15-40 over period.
Again, I am in a dilemma who to support here - so I just call on for good hard old-fashioned cricket - and may the better team on the day win.
Ryan Patrick more or less agrees with my sentiments - and he is willing to give Bennett King more chances before judging him.