Tuesday, December 12, 2006
From an opener ? From a pinch-hitter ? From a tail-ender ?
In the slog ? In the middle overs ? While chasing a huge target ?
While batting on a minefield ? On a batting beauty ?
In all these multitude of scenarios what is the value of 10 runs ?
Clearly it is different, clearly it depends a lot on all these circumstances, maybe initially I thought it was not too much but maybe I need to analyze this further.
Actually the motivation I had for this question was initially quite different. I was working on the fact that prior to the start of 2004 Sehwag averaged 35, since then he averages 28. Is that such a drastic decline as is made out to be ? Well I guess for that I have to look at other avenues, like considering more than just averages.
But I hope I have raised some interesting questions and look forward to the opinions of all of you.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
So Australia still are the World Champions. They finally managed to win the one tournament that had eluded them and also won the DLF Triangular prior to that against opponents who were at that point of time considered, well, dangerous.
However on both these occasions they dropped one game to the West Indies and people began to talk about the West Indies emerging as a serious challenger to Australia in the near future. The same West Indies however, are not having too easy a time in Pakistan. That Pakistan who was absolutely annihilated by South Africa last month. Yes, the same South Africa whom the West Indies thrashed in the ICC Champios Trophy.
Confusing enough ?
Let us try to summarize: Australia are still the World Champs, but West Indies emerge as a strong contender by beating them a couple of times and reaching finals before losing to them. On the way they thrash South Africa whom had in turn annihilated Pakistan. But now West Indies find the going tough against Pakistan.
Such is cricket, really. So I guess one shouldn't really devastate oneself too much over India's travails in South Africa. Because it all comes around in circles ...
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Answer: Not South Africa, as many might guess, but India. The more prominent among thse include Ranjitsinghji, Duleepsinghji, Douglas Jardine, Nawab Pataudi, Colin Cowdrey, Bob Woolmer, Nasser Hussain.
Others are Emmett, Wynyard and Young.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Is this due to the implicit (and quite likely true) assumption of Shoaib's lack of mental strength ? In any case there is always a possibility that this will give him some time to introspect and return with a fervour for what will be the last 2-3 years of his career. Maybe this will provide him the strength to channelize the energies he lacked and come out and prove to the World his innate unfulfilled potential.
There is always reason to hope, right ?
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Then under the guise of giving teams a second chance the ICC increased the number of matches by making 4 groups of 3 teams each in 2002 and 2004. Of course we know what happened. Each group had one obvious weakling and 8 of the 12 group games were no-contests.
So now just to give an appearance that they are doing something different they come up with this stupid round roubin qualifying round idea where it is as clear as daylight that West Indies and Sri Lanka are going to make it to the main draw without any hassles. Really pathetic stuff. I could not care less about what is happening in these meaningless matches.
Friday, September 29, 2006
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Oh yeah, perhaps $500000 ? Wasn't that what he wanted ?
Monday, September 25, 2006
Saturday, September 16, 2006
But Flintoff had led superbly in tough conditions in India and hence should be rewarded with a return to the throne upon comeback.
The only question mark that should remain will be about his fitness. He will get a chance to prove that in India.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
Stuck in the mire of ball tampering, national honors, cheating and forfeiture and the glue that holds all this together, the Spirit Of Cricket, I thought why not move away from all this for a little while, take a breather and talk about a totally different *cricketing* issue. This is a favorite pastime of mine. To make XIs. It was around this time last year that the ICC World teams were prepared to take on
Sangakarra (SL) -- KEEPER
Flintoff (Eng) – VICE-CAPTAIN
So my captain is Rahul Dravid and the vice-captain Andrew Flintoff. There was no debate in my mind about the captain. However there were several contenders for the vice-captain’s slot viz. Sehwag, Strauss, Younis and Sangakarra. But Freddie took it in the end.
Sehwag has had an inconsistent year. He had an astonishing 254 against
Strauss has also had an up and down season until the recent series against Pak but of course he had that crucial hundred against
But despite not quite being at their best these 2 were the best openers on show. Hence Sehwag retains his spot and Strauss picks it from Graeme Smith, last year’s captain who himself has had a pretty poor injury ridden year. Besides, Sehwag was the one shining success in last year’s game.
Dravid was clearly quite the opposite in the fixture last year, an abject failure. Yet such is the class of the man and his consistent form over the season makes him an automatic reselection at number 3.
Mohammad Yousouf has quite easily been a revelation this season and easily grabs the #4 spot. The incumbent Brian Lara has had a poor year (a century in
Younis Khan also has had an outstanding year and although he has not vowed audiences like Yousouf with the beauty of his bat, his scores have been just as if not more impressive. He takes the place of injury-ridden and off-form Jacques Kallis from last year.
Sangakarra is the keeper batsmen. Quite clearly he deserved this place last year too. Really Mark Boucher was no competition. Well he gets his deserved spot anyway.
Flintoff – despite suffering an injury he is there. The fact that this is only an on-paper team helps. He is the vice-captain. He was quite superb as captain in India IMO. And his all-round skills speak for themselves.
Kumble – he gets his rightful place replacing Daniel Vettori. Admittedly Vettori did well in the ODI series last year but really in 5-day cricket (and assuming this match will again take place at
Hoggard – Again IMO deserves his spot, despite a below par series against Pak simply because of his consistent performances prior to that. In
So I have shifted to a 5-bowler attack where Freddie does not have to bear the burden of opening the bowling like he did last time.
Murali – period.
Ntini – replaces Harmison in last year’s squad. Has had a good year and is continuously on the up.
So finally in the XI we have
3 Englishmen (Strauss, Flintoff, Hoggard) as opposed to 2 last year (Flintoff, Harmison)
3 Indians (Sehwag, Dravid, Kumble) as opposed to 2 last year (Sehwag, Dravid)
0 Kiwis () as opposed to 1 last year (Vettori) – which I still maintain was a quota choice
2 Pakistanis (Younis, Yousouf) as opposed to 1 last year (Inzamam)
1 Protea (Ntini) as opposed to 3 last year (Smith, Kallis, Boucher)
2 Sri Lankans (Murali, Sangakarra) as opposed to just Murali last year
0 West Indians, Brian Lara dropped from last year
The players who merited consideration were Kallis (of course), Inzamam (again, of course), Jayawardene (in great form, unlucky to miss out), Pietersen (also in good form) and Brian Lara (patchy season) among batsmen; no other bowler really came close. Shoaib has had a decent year. Asif has had 3 great tests but he is only starting out, he can wait.
So would like to know what you guys think about the team.
Friday, August 25, 2006
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Meanwhile, here is a very interesting piece by John Stern on Cricinfo. I particularly like the part where he lays down the reason for ICC’s shift to Dubai – that they need more sand to bury their head in.
Also from Cricinfo is an article by Andrew Miller where he talks about bringing the dark arts into light. I don’t quite necessarily agree with all his suggestions but I do agree as always with the pro-bowler theme. Basically, in this hedonistic era of batsmanism, anything that can assist the bowlers in any way should be encouraged. While protecting the doosra even though it is engulfed in clouds of chucking theory is one important aspect of it, the other equally important aspect is reverse swing.
After all the doosra and the reverse swinging delivery are wonderful sights. Miller talks about Simon Jones’ delivery to castle Michael Clarke in the last summer’s Ashes, according to him the most ‘orgasmic’ delivery of the series. He talks about the wonders displayed by Wasim and Waqar. He goes on to argue that “ball-tampering”, which let us face it, is clearly a practice widely followed but never officially acknowledged except on occasions such as these, is an art, a creative, even innovative art and rather than being looked down upon as cheating should be allowed to blossom openly (within certain limits of course.) Yes, I agree. Anything to get one back on those greedy batsmen. I shall always remain a bowlers’ man.
Meanwhile, South Africa have said they would be happy to play England in case Pak pull out. Sure you would, you …’s. Not for you that London is probably as much vulnerable at this time as Colombo, isn’t it? It’s not really purely about security is it ?
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Apparently Malcolm Speed looked for other alternatives but it seems “England and Pakistan both wanted Madugalle because of his immense credibility.” Funny I never thought of him as a particularly credible person not even in the short stints of commentary he did. But such are the ways of the World
OK maybe I was being a bit too cynical about the reason for Madugalle’s unavailability. Apparently he did have this personal matter planned in advance and in fact was the match referee for the first 3 tests before handing over to Proctor. Still does not change the credibility stand as far as his refereeing goes though.
Meanwhile if Inzy is indeed banned there is bound to be loud repercussions worldwide, the merits of which is another issue altogether. So yeah, this was the best way to get this series out of the way, cool the tempers a bit and then see what happens.
Here is a question – how about Srinath, the latest entrant in the referee panel, doing the hearing instead of Madugalle ?
Also Bob Woolmer asks for the ball tampering law to be scrapped and while that may sound a bit extreme he usually has a point.
Again at first glance his suggestion that players be allowed to use all natural means to change the ball and get it to assist the bowlers might sound ridiculous at first but on deeper thought it makes lot of sense. After all he goes on to add that all bowlers in the past have tried various ways that are by today’s standards illegal to change the ball and this is unknown to umpires who have never played the game. So, isn’t this similar to the whole chucking issue where history is littered with almost all bowlers bending their arms ? Woolmer’s point about ball-tampering being similar to prohibition is one that makes a lot of sense.
Meanwhile here is a delightful story about another controversy involving Darrell Hair. Thanks Rick for the link.
Also look at this very balanced piece of analysis from The Burnt Bail.
Friday, July 28, 2006
After yet another disappointing and listless performance by Geraint Jones with the bat and despite his improved keeping, the calls are getting louder by the day for his ouster. So who will replace him? Well Chris Read is the local favorite, there are a couple of new names that I haven’t even heard of – but one name I have heard of is Andy Flower. Now he has almost qualified to play for England hasn’t he? Surely, if merit be the sole criterion, once he qualifies he should be a serious contender even at this age given the class of the man.
471 runs – Sangakarra Jayawardene
The old firm is at it again. A record 3rd wicket unbeaten partnership. One shudders to think where they will end up. With 3 whole days left, the World Record is definitely not an impossibility.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Courtesy this Steven Lynch Column on Cricinfo.
Friday, July 21, 2006
By the way how many of you who have read The Fountainhead agree with me that the characters in this saga have a bit of a matching with those in the book:
Sourav Ganguly = Peter Keating
Jagmohan Dalmiya = Ellsworth Toohey
Rahul Dravid = Howard Roark
Greg Chappell = Gail Wynand
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
England meanwhile won't learn their lessons, 20 wides and a few no balls in a 33 run loss once again with Harmisson being responsible for 9 of those wides. Phew !
Monday, June 26, 2006
How many times has a batsman hit a bowler for 6 consecutive fours in an over?
Off the top of my head I can remember 3. Sandeep Patil off Bob Willis, Chris Gayle off Matthew Hoggard and recently Ramnaresh Sarwan off Munaf Patel. Interestingly, Willis was a really accomplished bowler and Hoggard as of now seems to be well on his way there. Munaf too has shown a lot of promise in his young career. Clearly being thrashed about once is not such a big deal, it seems.
Talking of Munaf, he seems to be taking a lot of his wickets either bowled or lbw. Who are the other bowlers in history to do this? Off the top of my head I can definitely remember Waqar Younis and to a lesser extent Shoaib Akhtar. To an even lesser extent, Wasim Akram. The key factor here? Reverse swing, a liking for Yorkers.
Staying with Munaf he definitely seems to be a long term prospect for
How many times recently have
Friday, June 23, 2006
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Good job Lankans. Nice slap on the face for those critics who used to ridicule this team for being pushovers abroad. Let us not forget they also reached the finals in Australia earlier this year and gave the Aussies a scare.
Also an eye-opener for those who ridiculed our own series victories over Sri Lanka at home.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
India, for one, had definitely gone in with a less than optimal combination. While the decision to play 6 batsmen (and hence to omit Harbhajan Singh) was understandable if not agreeable to all, the decision to omit Irfan Pathan was baffling to say the least. Agreed, he was off colour and looked out of form, but with him there is always a chance that he can return to form any time and when he does he change matches with a couple of wickets at any crucial time; something that for all promise shown VRV Singh cannot do as of now.
Then India capitulated for 241 on the first day. While the fightback was commendable indeed remarkable, it was not quite enough to seal victory. Nevetherless India can proudly claim the honors in the draw. Unfortunately honors do not count as far as series results go and India will have to put in strong performances up front in the next few games as opposed to come from behind efforts if they are to make sure they do not rue this very close miss.
For the West Indies too surely holding out for the draw was an achievement. When Sehwag nailed Ramdin there were a good 20 overs to go and with only 3 wickets in hand India were red hot favourites. But the efforts of Bradshaw, Mohammed, Edwards and Collymore deserve handsome praise. Havind said that it was pretty ordinary cricket that got the West Indies in a situation where they had to fight hard to save the match. Having taken a lead of 130 their bowlers failed to create any sort of impression in the second innings although it must be said Jaffer rode his luck well.
Even as one might argue that the few overs lost due to the Dhoni incident cost India valuable balls it cannot be forgotten that the West Indies got a couple of awful umpiring decisions on the last day - the wickets of Chanderpaul and Bradshaw. Then again the ball that got Dravid in the first innings was a no ball.
All in all, not the best of games as far as umpiring goes but a good example of how despite human errors cricket can still come out the winner. Indeed a great manifestation of the greatness of test match cricket. Is it conceivable to find such drama in an ODI ? Oh Long live test cricket.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Will it be Marcus Trescothick who is back after a mystery illness that took him out of the tour of India and who has been the deputy to Michael Vaughan all these years ?
Or will it be that great warrior Andrew Flintoff who led the team with distinction in the toughest of circumstances in India, who forgoed a trip back home for the birth of his child on account of his country's desperate call and came out with flying colours ?
Update: Latest reports indicate it is likely to be Freddie Flintoff. Good move I should say - Trescothick should pay some sort of price for running away with a "mystery illness"
Monday, May 01, 2006
South Africa and New Zealand are according to me 2 of the most boring unattractive dull drab and clinical prosaic sides in World Cricket.
And Zimbabwe the less said the better.
Sunday, April 30, 2006
This just removes all doubts that fairness and cricketing sense still exists in the ICC and is further confirmation is that all that matters is money power and clout. There is no doubt that an increased vote is why Bangladesh was pushed for test status by the Asian bloc and now I won't be surprised if teams like Fiji (Australasia), Namibia (Africa) and Holland (Europe) are pushed by their respective test-playing neighbors for test status for this purpose as well.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
1. VVS - I am confident of making it to the WC Squad.
2. BC Lara - I am confident of receiving support from all (players officials etc)
Your thoughts ?
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Monday, April 24, 2006
Ironical, for a man who had attacked Tendulkar, the batsman with ball in hand made such a breathtaking spectacle, him defending Sachin with the pen looks rather pathetic.
Did Sachin appoint him as a lawyer ?? Did Sachin ask for a defense ? Defense against what ??
Monday, April 17, 2006
Tim May says that the Aussie cricketers will strike if the ICC keeps organizing meaningless ODIs with no heed to player workload and I completely back the idea.
Always a supporter of any means to reduce quantity in a bid to improve quality.
This is precisely what Tim May says in terms that are in no way uncertain and every word carries a lot of weight and truth.
"We're frustrated, we're concerned, we're disappointed the ICC and the member countries aren't abiding by principles that are supposed to be abided by in the scheduling of tours," May, president of the Federation of International Cricketers Association (FICA), told The Sun-Herald from Austin, Texas.Shahid Afridi "retiring" from Test cricket at the age of 26, Marcus Trescothick's mysterious "virus", the abrupt ending to the career of Chris Cairns, all these are early symptomns of a disease that is threatening to shake the very foundations of the game.
"It's very, very high risk. It devalues the game because your players aren't at their best. The guys don't have time to prepare professionally for games.
"The stakeholders, the spectators, miss out. You get rotation policies but even that devalues the games and the teams and the spectacle.
"Guys start going through the motions. Their bodies are extremely fatigued. They just can't keep doing it. I don't know what the next step is. Some players might take it into their own hands."
Indeed, the ones who seem to be still enjoying their game in their old age are the players who have quit playing ODI cricket like Lara, Warne or those who have been forcibly left out like Kumble and Laxman.
Get your act together Mr. Money, or strike it will be.
Monday, April 10, 2006
Absolutely brilliant. I have great belief in this young Bangladesh side and some of their talents are quite a joy to watch, none more so of course than Mohammad Ashraful but Aftab Ahmed, Shahriar Nafees, Alok Kapali all very gifted players and today Nafees has done his country proud.
Ricky Ponting clearly made a big statement when he admitted that he was wrong earlier about Bangladesh not deserving their test status and maybe Warne will have to write a sorry-note to Murali of whom he complained of using the Bangladesh batsmen to boost his wicket tally.
If you were just told the scorecard at the end of Day 1 I'm sure you would not be correct in guesstimating just who has been bested by whom !!
Monday, April 03, 2006
The best part of Mahendra Singh Dhoni is his attitude to the game which is symbolised by the smile he always sports even when sharing the success of his teammates as was evident when he took the men of the matches for a ride (literally, not figuratively).
In fact this attitude of Dhoni is shared by almost all young members of this Indian side. Irfan Pathan, Yuvraj Singh, Mohammad Kaif, Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina, Harbhajan and others - they all seem to thrive in each other's success and really seem to be enjoying themselves. This is quite a change even from the immediately preceding generation - we all know what great cricketers and human beings Sachin, Rahul, Srinath, Kumble, Laxman are and how sincerely they played the game with great passion but somehow this freewheeling attitude is a thing of this new generation. And Indian cricket is the better for it.
That is what makes me fully sympathetic towards Sehwag and Kaif and no matter how many chances they are given I feel they deserve them because they are team-men to the core, through and through. Not a long time ago they were piling on the runs when someone like Yuvraj was going through a lean trot and now the situation has been reversed. Maybe it will reverse again some time in the future. But that important thing is the team work. When one guy is out of form the other contributes and compensates for him and vice-versa.
But tell me which of Gavaskar and Shastri adds any new profound insights to the game ?? I think Sri's observations on fast bowlers are very very interesting if one listens with a keen ear. Also since he has played with quite a few of the current players he knows their personalities better than most.
But the best part of Srinath is that like Manjrekar he is very very candid. Unlike Manjrekar, he is not shrewd. He is therefore an open book and that is what I love about him the most.
Sunday, April 02, 2006
They are saying that with Tendulkar out and the top order in poor form Ganguly is likely to make a comeback again.
Which is all fine. But why do all of these stories have to have some kind of political implications associated with them ?
Sample these excerpts from this article in the DNA.
Ganguly had a long meeting a couple of days back in Delhi with Arun Jaitley, president of the Delhi and Districts Cricket Association and a political heavyweight. Jaitley, currently in Kolkata, is likely to meet the left-handed batsman again. Though he declined to comment on the issue, it was widely known in cricket circles that Jaitley favours Ganguly’s return. Sharad Pawar, BCCI president, had also said recently (in Nagpur) that he was confident that Ganguly would make a comeback.
I mean either these are meaningless rumors or there is something still shady about the issue and I tend to think it is the latter. I fail to see why he cannot be reinstated if needed and found desirable based on his own ability and potential.
Even in all those glory years his constant hobnobbing with Dalmiya left uncomfortable questions in the mind. He is not helping his cause either IMO by holding meetings with the Jaitleys and the Pawars.
For God's sake just do one thing - bat and score runs - and let the politicians sort out their things.
Friday, March 31, 2006
Suresr Raina signalled his arrival on the international scene with a superb innings. It came when India desperately needed it. It was full of brilliant strokeplay reminiscent of a combination of Yuvraj and Ganguly of yore that is what makes so many people see a potential star in this youngster. Personally I believe Yuvraj is more naturally gifted than him but he is nevetherless a damn good player.
The Indian top order continues to struggle. Sehwag got a start and threw it, Gambhir did it yet again, Dravid was out to a foolish run out. Kaif's run of single digit scores is a bit of a worry and Yuvi has dipped a bit since the unbelievable heights of Pakistan.
The brutes that call themselves the police crossed all limits today as scribes and fans were mercilessly attacked for no rhyme or reason outside the stadium. Perhaps what they show in Rang De Basanti is not such an exaggeration after all. Horrifying pictures of a 9-year old girl bleeding in her face have flashed across the national news channels. She has been admitted to a hospital in Delhi and is in the ICU. My prayers are with her and her family. Also reports indicate that several youngsters were assaulted. One such bleeding profusely was refused to be taken to a hospital by the police.
Really, this needs to be taken care of. The villains should be punished and the venue needs to be stripped off international status for a couple of years at least.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Let us rewind the clock back to September-October 2005 when Rahul Dravid took over. Since then here is a summary of the performances of Irfan and the effect it had on India.
v SL at Nagpur - Pathan picks Atapattu early - India win
v SL at Mohali - Pathan picks 4 - India win
v SL at Jaipur - Pathan has an off-day, India still win thanks to a magical innings by Dhoni
v SL at Pune - Pathan is average picks late wicket but India win thanks to Agarkar's brilliance
v SL at Ah'bad - Pathan rested, India LOSE
v SL at Rajkot - Pathan picks 3, India win
v SL at Baroda - Pathan picks 3, India win
v SA at Hyd - Pathan flops, India lose
v SA at B'lore - Pathan picks 3, India win
v SA at Eden - Pathan flops, India humiliated
v SA at Mumbai- Pathan picks 3, India win
v Pak at Peshawar - Pathan flops, India lose
v Pak at Pindi - Pathan picks 3, India win
v Pak at Lahore - Pathan picks 3, India win
v Pak at Multan - Pathan picks 3, India win
v Pak at Karachi - Pathan rested, India still win thanks to the great efforts of Dhoni and Yuvi
v Eng at Delhi - Pathan picks 3 India win
So you see in 17 matches India has won 13 and lost 4. Out of the 13 wins Pathan has played a role by picking up an early wicket or 2 on at least 10 occasions. Out of the 4 losses Pathan has been wicketless (or not played) And make no mistake invariably at least one if not 2 of his wickets is an early one - within his first 2 overs.
Digest some of these facts.
1. Track back through the last nine ODIs, dating back to the first game against South Africa, and you find that Irfan Pathan has broken through in his first or second over on five different occasions. Here, he made it six in ten.
Courtesy Prem Panicker on Sightscreen
2. One Wicket in his 1st over of a odi : 8Two Wickets in his 1st over of a odi : 2One Wicket in his 2nd over of a odi : 13Two Wickets in his 2nd over of a odi : 114 times wicketless...india won 3 lost 10 n/r 1Overall record for india :-Mat Runs HS BatAv 100 50 W BB BowlAv 5w Ct St
overall 53 706 83 27.15 0 4 91 5/27 24.61 1 8 0
matches won 29 260 83 37.14 0 1 65 5/27 16.30 1 5 0
matches w/ no result 1 - - - - - 0 - - 0 0 0
matches lost 23 446 65 23.47 0 3 26 3/34 44.07 0 3 0
When matches won he averages 37 with the bat and 16 with the ball..when we lose its 23 with the bat and 44 with the ball...
Courtesy, Saurabh Malhotra, of SachinTendulkarFans.
Now often people in discussion groups have lambasted Pathan for his so-called lack of pace and a couple of average results particularly in the Pakistan series. What they forget is for now Pathan is India. Munaf and Sreesanth may be good but so far they have not been able to make the difference consistently like Pathan has. RP Singh IMO can never be anything more than a support bowler.
Now turning our attention to test cricket and this is what first brought this topic to my mind - the question of why we are doing so averagely in test cricket while being brilliant in ODIs - this is exactly where Pathan has been less successful. However note that the 2 disasters that we have had in recent times, Mumbai and Karachi (second innings) was when Pathan was unsuccessful as with the couple of drawn games in Pak. He gave us the early breakthrougs in Mohali (first innings) Nagpur and in the Sri Lanka series. In fact the second innings of the Mumbai and Mohali tests were the only exceptions where Pathan flopped and we still restricted England. Unfortunately in Mumbai too much damage had been done in the first innings. And in Mohali that was not the case precisely because Pathan had delivered the breaks early.
Such is the reliance on Irfan Khan Pathan, 21. I think we need to give the chap a break. Stop worrying about his "loss of pace" and leave him alone. He is far from perfect but he has the golden touch and he will deliver more often than not. And when he does India will prosper, as has been proven above.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
So we were on about this discussion about Sachin's poor form. And we were wondering what it was that was possibly responsible for it. We first thought about and summarily dismissed the idea of a lack of inspiration or motivation because looking at the enthusiasm he shows in the field and with the ball that certainly does not seem likely.
So what is it that is causing this ?? Surely his skills have not deteriorated, not to that level anyway. No, it has to be something mental.
So Navin's theory goes thus. Over the years there is practically nothing that Sachin has not earned. He has been compared to Bradman himself by the man himself, he has been the destroyer, he has been the World's greatest, he has held all the conceivable records in batting in both forms of the game. If there is one thing that he has not achieved that is the tag of being Mr. Reliable or Mr. Dependable that Dravid has earned. He has never been that man whom you want out there batting for your life when the chips are down.
And that is what he perhaps aspires to. It is ironical because all batsmen and that includes Lara and Dravid have at times in the past wished that they possessed so many of the great qualities that Sachin did (does).
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Thursday, March 16, 2006
I have tried to keep the teams disjoint, so while some of the players might fit in more than one team I have put them in the team that they fit best in and put in other players more suited in the other team.
My first team will consist of cricketers who are not very elegant, not superstars nor have outstanding career records. Yet, they are tough fighters and you can bet they will fight every team you put up against them by sheer bloody-mindedness and determination. These are the ones who have often performed rescue acts, while letting others hog the limelight.
So here goes:
Shivnarine Chanderpaul (captain)
My second team is the team of the most supremely gifted elegant players. These may not have career records as outstanding as some of their peers but have often delighted crowds with their fantastic artistic skills. Well this list also includes a couple of names (note fast bowlers, wicketkeepers) who may not conventionally make the list, but it is so much more difficult to talk of these in terms of art than just batsmen so I have allowed myself the luxury of including some cricketers with supreme skills in their field.
Marwan Atapattu (captain)
Tatenda Taibu (Difficult to classify a wicket-keeper batsman as an artist but whatever)
Now come the power merchants. They too do not rewrite the record books nor are they necessarily a delight to the eye. But they are great entertainers in their own right in that they can be brutal.
Virender Sehwag (captain)
Steve Harmison (or Ntini ? Lost for a choice here)
Anil Kumble (as close to powerful as a spinner can get)
And now the World Beaters. The record holders. The prolific run scorers and wicket takers. The one with the greatest averages.
Rahul Dravid (captain, opener (SORRY) had to fit in 4 other players)
Even after asking Dravid to open I still cannot accomodate Inzy !! Wow that's the only team that I faced a problem of plenty. Also I put Dravid ahead as captain over Ponting. Whew ! Eagerly awaiting your thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, better balance ideas ...
But then after that I watched the highlights of the Ashes again ... and immediately it was patently clear again what real cricket was and what just a show.
Once again, Long Live Test Match Cricket.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Well, when I first heard of the news I was kind of awestruck. Then after a few minutes when reality sank in I was disgusted.
Now I'm still not quite sure where I stand. Is this the greatest match ever as Cricinfo and several other sources so blatantly proclaim ??
Is it just an anomaly that needs to be applauded and moved on from ?
Is this the death of cricket - which is what my reaction was in my disgust - a feeling apparently shared by the great Barry Richards ?
Or am I being too gloomy and failing to appreciate a great display of batsmanship ? Of courage and unbelievable belief and determination in the face of a monumental challenge ?
Or is it something much more dangerous ?? Is this a trend where no total is ever going to be enough ?? Where the toss is going to more and more often decide the game ? Another milestone in a journey that is taking cricket to a place where the contest is only between bat and bat ?
Friday, March 10, 2006
The net result: a shoot-out in Karachi and now for all practical purposes, in Mumbai. Eventually we lost the entire Pakistan series on the basis of 1 innings. Something which is really not desirable.
Contrast this to the great Ashes series - so many ebbs and flows, so many twists and turns - from the routine 200 run Aussie win at Lords to the 2-run thriller at Edgbaston, to a scintillating no-result at Old Trafford to the euphoric close win in Trentbridge and finally to a bit of a let-down at the Oval.
Consider now if the Ashes had been a 3-Test series and the 3 tests had been the Lord's, Oval and Old Trafford ones - what a completely different picture it would have painted ain't it ??
Hence once again I urge the administrators to get rid of those stupid God-damned ODIs and play at least 4 if not 5 test series at least with teams like Australia, England and Pakistan !!!
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Also a thought that had struck me earlier and one which was reconfirmed by the Sky Sports team yesterday was that Cook looks a lot like Nick Knight when batting.
Now coming to Irfan, I must say he has done really well in this series so far. Harshly ridiculed for his poor performance in Pakistan (which btw included a first over hat-trick and a 5-fer in Karachi) and his general lack of pace, he has consistently provided the early breakthroughs this series as he did in the Sri Lanka series earlier. Who cares about lack of pace if you are picking up the wickets anyway ?? I am confident Irfan will turn out to be a sterling performer for India over the next 10 years and will not go the Nehra or Zaheer way.
That famous song from the wonderful movie Iqbal should have been played when Munaf Patel made his debut for India at Mohali yesterday.
For Munaf's rise to glory is nothing short of a fairy-tale, a real life Iqbal if you may (except that he is not vocally and audibly impaired as the character in the movie is). Lots of articles on the boy from the village appearing in the media last couple of days and one which says that perhaps he is the only Indian cricketer who does not have even a TV and a phone at home. Well, didn't anyway, till recently.
But now he has not only leap-frogged Kaif and Ganguly but also Laxman. Clearly the team sees him the third most important middle order batter after Dravid and Tendulkar.
Not so happy is the story of another Singh - Rudra Pratap - under slightly unfortunate circumstances. In Pakistan he was almost #2 behind Pathan once Agarkar flopped and got injured. But now he is not even at #3 with Sreesanth and Munaf both having sped past him.
Clearly a case of 2 Singhs singing 2 different tunes ...
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Strangely this time too another Maharashtra player (further a Muslim again) Munaf Patel stands on the doorstep of possibly making it big. Just a pity he won't be able to partner Sreesanth of Kerala again.
Just hope that these 2 youngsters make it big and do not fade away like their predecessors of 4 years ago.
Try to remember the whole hype created around Tendulkar's 35th century. For a bowler a 5 wicket haul is equivalent to a century by a batsman. And now compare 35 to 50 !!
Really, this World is a cruel place where bowlers continue to be treated like second class citizens.
Here Richie Benaud in his book The ABC Of Cricket explains exactly what this fourth innings blues phenomenon is and I quote:
I have seen many games where the fourth innings has gone well for a time, very few where the impetus is maintained right through the innings for victory. It all comes down to fear. Not physical fear, but fear of losing and fear of the fourth innings syndrome in a cricket match. It's all right being 448 behind when you start your own first innings; you have a second chance, but to be that many in arrears when you are playing your second innings is another matter. You have no second chance. It is this psychological block that poses problems as soon as a wicket falls. Two quick wickets and suddenly there is a mist across yourr brain as batting captain and you are becoming very nervous...
Thanks Prem, for the link. Read Prem's thoughts here.
Also note that the context in which Benaud makes these comments is that of a game between Australia and England in 1995 at the SCG where the SCG wicket on the fifth day was still an excellent one for batting. Australia chasing 448 in 4+ sessions were already 139/0 at the end of Day 4 ... and yet it was not at all easy chasing down 309 runs on the last day. They ended up with 344/7 - note 205 runs on the last day !
Something for armchair critics who have been vocal in their criticism of Dravid and India in their early part of the innings on the last day in Nagpur, especially people like Tim de Lisle who have wasted no opportunity in trying to score some points by straightaway saying that if Ganguly had been captain he would have gone for it. Bull crap in my opinion. We saw what India did in a similar situation at Bangalore against Pak last year when Ganguly was captain and Dravid was out early.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Selectors are a weird species. And the Aussies are no exception. Today they have come up with not one or two but several incomprehensible pieces of selection that would make Kiran More and co. look like Einsteinesque wise men.
So Kasprowicz makes a comeback in place of McGrath (note Kasprowicz NOT Gillespie), Tait fills in for Nathan Bracken, Shane Watson has not been considered and Symonds preferred over him and most bizzarely Damien Martyn and Michael Clarke BOTH picked over Brad Hodge who had incidentally had a huge failure against South Africa in Perth - a minor matter of a double century a couple of tests ago.
Well I could go on and on criticizing and questioning these decisions but what do I care ? So I choose to enjoy the humor they create. What strikes me though is a few vital points:
1. Gillespie was always more incisive than Kasper. With McGrath out, it would have been better to have a bowler who less than a couple of years ago was considered almost on par with McGrath than one who around the same time was not even in the reckoning. Simply Gillespie is more of a wicket-taking option than Kasper I feel.
2. Shane Watson may not have impressed and may be overrated but I do believe he has greater skills with the ball than Andrew Symonds and could reasonably turn into a better all-rounder.
3. By picking Martyn, Clarke, Kasper and Tait they have basically gone back to the defeated Ashes side - I dont know what these players have done on the domestic circuit that have made this U-turn possible. I do know they haven't exactly set the World alight with their ODI performances in the last few months. So if any of the Aussies want to put in their thoughts please enlighten me. Anyway this is definitely a backward-looking selection IMO and I just hope that our Indians do not take a cue.
For surely now, the Gangulians will be up in arms demanding the reinstatement of Ganguly citing how the best team in the World has chosen to take a step backward.
Meanwhile I remember criticizing the selectors harshly for 2 moves last week -
1) Picking VRV Singh over Munaf
2) Picking Jaffer over Gambhir
Well the first was promptly corrected and in the second case the selectors turned out to be right. A superlativer performance by Wasim Jaffer that and I am extremely pleased for the much abused Mumbai lad. Not only were the runs vital - I mean how many Indians have actually scored a hundred in the last innings on the fifth day to save a test in recent times ??
Of the top of my head I can't remember any. Hell I just remember 3 and all of them were losing efforts.
a) Sachin Tendulkar v Pakistan at Chennai 1999
b) Ajit Agarkar v England at Lord's 2002
c) Yuvraj Singh v Pakistan at Karachi 2006
Oh yes, on a more detailed recollection I can remember that the last time an Indian scored a 100 in the fourth innings on the last day to save a test was in fact the great Mohammad Azharuddin himself against Sri Lanka at Colombo 1997.
Speaking of whom Nasser Hussain says and I agree that some of Jaffer's shots through the on-side remind one of the great man himself. So all in all a wonderful innings not just in the context of the match but also in terms of quality of strokeplay.
Nass was quick to point out however and I agree again that he does have a serious technical difficulty playing the cover drive where he tends to close the face of his bat. Now that is something major but hopefully something that can and will need to be sorted out. If he does that I hope he can go on to be a long term opener for India.
Now coming to the latest entrant into the side - Munaf Patel - and I have a soft corner for him for he plays for my Ranji team (although not quite a home-grown product). I wish him all the very best if he is selected in the squad come Thursday. Hopefully he can do Maharashtra proud something which the likes of Kanitkar and Siddiqui only promised but didnt really deliver upon.
Friday, March 03, 2006
Here is how the session tally goes as I see it
Day 1 DII
Day 2 EDI
So India has won 3 sessions while England just 1 and 2 have been even stevens. Yet India are only marginally ahead. THat maybe because one of the sessions I attributed to India was very marginal (Day 1 session 2) and the first session of yesterday was comprehensively England's. On second thoughts maybe I should give England the edge on Session 2 of Day 2 too. Yes that would make much more sense.
Anyway 393 was very much a par total and India need to bat well. The odds still favor them and this is not just me speaking. The fact that England got 100 runs more than they should have does not alter the fact that India need to get 550+. That is very much a constant.
I dont think it will be easy to score fast here. 300 runs a day is the max I think can be achieved. So if India find themselves around 440/5 or 440/6 with a Dhoni and a Pathan out there they should be more than happy with themselves.
England on the other hand have got to get wickets. If you dont get these batsmen out early they will make you pay. Luckily they have a chance in the morning. Overnight rain means that the outfield will be soggy play could be delayed and the pitch might have livened up. Therein lies England's chance.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
OK. It is fashionable in Indian cricketing circles to demand that Laxman be dropped. Just as it is fashionable to say that Agarkar is useless, that Kaif has no class, that Dravid cannot lead and until recently that Yuvraj is just a overhyped superstar who never delivers. Apparently when you say such things you are considered "mod".
So cricket fans from all cross-sections of Indian society say these things. In particular they allude to the fact that Laxman should be dropped either directly (in informal face-to-face meetings) or suggest that although he is making decent scores he is looking completely out of sorts (Prem Panicker on his rediff blog) ** I would have provided the link but that extremely annoying interface on rediff is so user-unfriendly that it takes an age to search for a post, so you go figure.
And then there are the Gangulians who are waiting for another big fish - here too I sense 2 categories - one who feel that by dropping Laxman somehow they will feel less bad about Ganguly's dropping. The others feel that by dropping Laxman more Indian fans will be antagonised against the GC-RD combo and hence their pro-SG stand will gather further strength.
Such is the pathetic state of affairs. That people are waiting with bated breath like vultures for the fall from grace of God himself. Hence no surprise on that diabolical MSN Today Headline. Irritation yes, because despite awareness of this underlying pessimisti, ill-wishing current for a site to come up with a statement that says no tears are likely to be shed if he is dropped even before the poor guy has come in to bat is downright deplorable.
However I am not too sad because I have full faith in VVS as well as the RD/GC combo. RD knows that VVS is too good a player to be sacrificed just like that. What I am not sure about is how much mental strength VVS has to cope with this extremely cruel pressure put on him. If it was RD himself I would have been confident that he would come up with a performance that would slap the critics bang in the face. But VVSs forte is not his mental strength - it is his God-given skill with the bat - it lies in his wrists, his eyes, his instincts, not in his feet or his mind.
Note that up until now I have not even tried to defend VVS simply because he does not need any defense. In fact if you just look at his recent performances, he has really only failed in Karachi where all batsmen except Yuvraj failed (and I stress ALL, I consider Ganguly's two thirties as failures). Prior to that he has had a fine 90 at Faisalabad, a superb backs-to-the-wall hundred in Ahmedabad and a lovely breezy 69 at Delhi. So basically in his last 4 tests that he got a chance to bat he has at least scored 69+ in one innings of 3 of them. Of course there is no point in defence because if someone's arguement is that yes, he is making the scores but he is looking like a fish out of water what can I say ? (again arguement of Prem Panicker)
So now consider this - back in the early 2000s when he was making scores of 30-70 which were extremely pretty he was being slammed for writing a beautiful short piece of poetry where a serious dissertation was needed. Now that he has decided to knuckle down people accuse him of "not quite being VVS and being a pain to watch".
Hell, just forget it. I ask you people to just clear your poisoned minds for a second. OK. Now go back to March 2001 and relive that innings of 281 - that innings which prompted writers to term it as a Laxmanayan, that innings which ensured that VVS would be immortalized in history books even if he had retired the next day - just let your head get the fact that the person you are talking about is not some average test batsman like Sourav Ganguly - he is one of the greatest artists India has produced in the last decade along with AR Rehman.
Enjoy his art while it lasts. Do not try to quantify it in terms of averages please. Please, pretty please, do not hope for and rejoice in his fall - a fall which is existent merely in your corrupt minds.
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
England in India
Marcus Trescothick - Personal problems
Australia in South Africa
Glenn McGrath - personal problems
Monday, February 27, 2006
With English players flying home quicker than the pace of Shoaib Akhtar's throws (er, deliveries) it was really upto their talisman Freddie Flintoff to stand up to be counted.
And stood up he has. Freddie will be leading England for the first time in a test at Nagpur. And as part of his duty he has decided to forgo the trip back home for the impending birth of his child sometime around the third test. A true warrior giving it his all for his nation.
Former captain Nasser Hussain, the one who lead the team so ably (some might say negatively, but he got the Indians all worked up) endorses the move and does not think it will be too much of a burden for Freddie:
"I've got no worries about the additional burden, because desperate times call for desperate measures, and England need someone who will lift them above the ordinary. Freddie definitely has the capability to do that, so I'm pleased he's been given this opportunity. He is absolutely crucial to England's success.
Here's wishing him all the best. (But not quite enough to win the test I hope)
Friday, February 24, 2006
This is just outstanding wisdom.
Now I wonder if Jaffer fails miserably in Nagpur (which I hope he doesn't btw) will they bring back Gambhir ?? What a great advertisement for consistency !
Thursday, February 23, 2006
First things first. And this is something that can never be answered satisfactorily. Why declare the team on the first day of the warm-up match ? If the performances in the game are to have no effect on the selection why not just declare it before the start of the game ? At least that would have saved a lot of disappointment for the likes of Munaf and Gambhir and an appearance of stupidity that has been associated with these selections. Or select the team on the last day, dammit.
While Wasim Jaffer rightly retains his place what wrong has Gautam Gambhir done ? As I see it, they were both selected for Pakistan, Gambhir was the incumbent, but neither played a game. So shouldn't the status quo be maintained ? What has happened is that the selectors have gone with one opener less. OK, that in itself is not a bad idea. We do not really need 3 openers all the time, but given that Sehwag has a dodgy shoulder, some back-up would have been appreciated, especially considering the special position that Jaffer and Gambhir find themselves in. And if there was to be only one open slot, I'm sorry it should have gone to Gambhir.
Now to what will probably be the most hotly debated selection - or rather the lack of - of Sourav Ganguly. As Dileep Premachandran mentions in an article here, this would have been taken to a little bit more kindly even by the Gangulians had Yuvraj actually been fit. But fact is he is not. The guys we have instead are Mohammad Kaif a sincere hard-working cricketer who has yet to prove himself at test level and Suresh Raina, a 19 year old rookie who has made all the headlines for his attractive strokeplay but who has still got a fairly average first class record. It is fine to go for youth, but I guess in a high-profile series like this it would have made more sense to stick with experience. Ganguly should definitely have been in the 15.
About the only selection that can be deemed flawless is that of the wicket-keeper Dhoni.
Coming to the fast bowling lineup, Pathan makes the cut clearly. Now do we really need 4 fast bowlers in a home test ? Couldn't one of those slots have been used for a backup opener ? OK, Zaheer Khan, although I hate him, was not too bad in the tests in Pak,also Agarkar, was just about coming into his own against the home series in Sri Lanka. I think dropping both of them and going in with 2 debutants and one bowler who has played just 2 tests is bordering a bit on the foolish IMO. In particular while Sreesanth's impressive performance earned him a place, VRV was definitely, I think a hasty selection. One of Zaheer and Agarkar could have been in his place, or as I mentioned earlier, Gambhir. And even granting selectors their impulsive wish to go with young fast bowlers shouldn't Munaf have been picked ahead of VRV ? Not only because of his spell today, but for the fact that he has been playing superbly all season while VRV on the other hand has been out a lot due to injury.
Finally the spinners, again the same concern as the fast bowlers. Are we having one spinner too many ? Are we really going to play 3 spinners ? IMO No. So what's the hurry in getting Chawla in ? He is only 17, he can wait. While it is necessary to try to groom him as Kumble's successor it can be done by simply inviting him to the dressing room than actually picking him. I mean I am a huge fan of the guy and believe he is a brilliant young talent but unfortunately the team needs at this hour do not fit with his skills.
In general, the emphasis has been on pushing the youth in, throwing out the experience without paying much attention to the team composition. One almost gets the feeling that if all the upcoming youngsters were fast bowlers, 11 of them might have been picked, same is the case, if all were openers. There seems to be a serious lack of balance.
Here is the team in the end:
Here's what my team would have looked like
So basically, Ganguly in place of Raina, Zaheer/Agarkar in place of VRV and Gambhir in place of Chawla.
I hope that despite this serious imbalance India does well. In fact I think they will. It is just that the ends won't quite justify the means here.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Not only are Hoggy, Harmy, Freddie and Jones seriously talented bowlers who amongst them have a great variety of skills with "nearly all bases covered" as they like to put it, what takes the icing on the cake is the way they are prepared to work together as a team. Pakistan at one point of time had a clearly greater attack - Wasim, Waqar, Shoaib and Saqlain for one, but somehow they never fired as a team. Their differences and clashes were well-known.
Not so with this English attack. Consider this. Hoggy knows that he will be a wicket-taker only in conditions that will help swing, otherwise he is quite happy to do the donkey's work. Harmy knows that he will have to switch between spearhead and workhorse as and when needed. Jones despite serious pace and ability to swing the ball both ways is very happy to come in second change and Freddie is well, just Freddie. There is practically nothing he won't do (and deliver mostly) when the captain asks him something.
The couple of interviews from the English fast bowlers in the last few days drove my attention to this point once again. Here, Harmisson says that all that matters is the team winning, not how many wickets he gets. And I think he is being pretty honest. In fact I have noticed that he not a particularly over-ambitious cricketer individually, but he always gives his heart out for his team. Indeed, his home-sickness on tours and willingness to sacrifice his place in the side is ample indication that he is not particularly bothered about personal landmarks. But the way he struck the Aussies at the start of the Ashes shows that once he puts his mind to the job, he will make sure he makes a damn good effort of it. Here are a few sound bytes:
"As long as the team's doing well and even if I get only one wicket, I'm not bothered,"
"I said that last year in the Ashes, and I got five wickets in the first Test but it meant nothing because we got beat. Then I got 12 wickets in the next four Tests and we won the Ashes. I was chuffed to bits. As long as we win I'm not bothered what wickets I get. If I can go up to Vaughany and say, look I've given you everything I've got, then that suits me."
"I do what the situation demands and what Vaughany requires of me. If it means containing, then I will contain and if it means going at somebody then I'll try and bring up as much energy as I can."
And now, this one from Jones a few days ago:
He said he was happy coming in to bowl after the new ball had been shared by Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison. "To be fair Hoggy and Harmy have done a very good job in the last few years. I don't see any reason to change that. I just come on first or second change. It had worked well for us in the Ashes.
"It [not opening the bowling] doesn't bother me. I like bowling with the new ball, like bowling with the old ball too. I'll do what the skipper tells me."
Indeed, Vaughan is lucky to possess an attack like this.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
Good news: Harbhajan will be fit.
Bad News: Sehwag is still uncertain
Ugly News: Yuvraj has definitely been ruled out. At least from the first Test.
To try to put it in perspective imagine what the England team might feel if Trescothick and Pietersen would be ruled out, double the effect and then you will have some idea what a setback it is.
Update: Sehwag has passed the fitness test and will play. Yippie !!
The shoe is on the other foot now. All 3 of England's spinners and their strike bowler, Simon Jones are down with a stomach bug while Paul Collingwood has a back problem. Hmm. This series is taking serious twists and turns even before it has begun.
Lot of people coming to this blog searching with the keyword Sreesanth in the last few days. 6 of them to be precise. More interesting the key phrases with which people search:
1. bowl cricket sreesanth
2. meaning of sreesanth
3. about sreesanth's personal life
4. review about sreesanth's cricket
Wow is this a sudden surge in curiosity about Sreesanth ? Or is it just one crazy teenage girl who's mad about him ? Either way here is some info about Sreesanth that is interesting:
He is India's latest fast bowling hope, having a lot of the skills that it takes for fast bowling - including swing, the bouncer, the yorker, use of the crease, a smooth run up and action but most importantly a fast bowler's attitude - body language and the tenacity to keep coming back ball after ball. He is the only Kerala bowler to take a hat-trick in Ranji Trophy cricket.
On a personal front, Sreesanth is a pretty good dancer. He was the winner of the South Zone Boogie Woogie competition in 1995. He is also a budding poet who is planning to get a book published sometime soon. He writes poems on Cricket and Kerala. He is also studying for a Master's in Sports Pschycology (or something) in Delhi, I believe. And yes, his favorite God is Ganapathy whose temple he visits often when he is back home in Kerala
Saturday, February 18, 2006
Then came Irfan, who relied much more on swing than on pace and Balaji who had some serious skill-set but he has since been sidelined bu injuries. Today nearly five and a half years after Zaheer made his first appearance we are seeing the emergence of another crop of talented pace bowlers, Sreesanth and RP Singh being in the forefront of this march. Sreesanth obviously seems the most appealing one. His body language, physique all reek of a classical fast bowler.
Well there are also the likes of Munaf Patel and VRV Singh waiting to be given the go and of course there have been a couple of impressive performances in the recent U19 World Cup.
What will happen ? Will Sreesanth do a Srinath ? Or will most of these bowlers go the Zaheer/Nehra way ?? One interesting idea is to see if indeed these fast bowlers are peaking only for short periods - couple of years - then we might as well utilize them to the fullest then. And then hope for a new crop every 3 years or so. Rather than investing on broken bones Ashish Nehra and lazy fatso Zaheer Khan somehow rediscovering their old touch.
And then horribly, out of the blue, it went all wrong. In a low-scoring final which his side clearly dominated he injured himself trying to effect one of his customary sliding stops. Clearly, had he let that ball go it would not have mattered an iota to the final result of the game. But it is just so un-Kaif to give anything less than a hundred percent on the field. Will it matter however in the long run ?? One hopes not. For in a very sad way, Kaif's career hasn't quite been the same since his comeback from injury.
Faithfully, Chappell and Dravid put Kaif back in the squad for the last 2 games against Sri Lanka as soon as he had recovered from injury. This despite Venugopal Rao having done pretty well and shown lots of promise. That faith was justified. It was reward for superlativer performances in the preceding tri-series in Zimbabwe. Besides, it was also necessary. It was important that it be let known to young, athletic, talented players in the country by example that if you perform and if you get injured trying your best you will be rewarded with a place back when fit, that you will not be punished for commitment. This was also necessary as a strong disincentive against playing with injuries for fear of losing your place in the squad.
So Kaif did pretty well in his first comeback game, scoring a patient 39 not out while he failed in the next one. However both these innings were hardly noticed the series having been already decided by then. Against SA, Kaif back to his new found #3 spot failed against Pollock in Hyderabad, a close but correct lbw decision on 0, didn't bat in Bangalore and in Kolkata in typical Kaif style faced with a back to the walls situation put up one of his many face-saving partnerships wit Yuvraj. Then in Mumbai he played a useful not out hand to help Dravid seal the much important victory. It was thought then that all would be well with the World again, for Kaif, it seemed he had seamlessly refit into his hard-earned position in the Indian side. So much so that he was selected over Ganguly in the Ahmedabad Test against Sri Lanka.
There was a slight hitch though. While Kaif did fairly decently against SA, Yuvraj Singh was playing a game from almost another planet. So breathtaking was Yuvraj's batting, so unbelievable the strokeplay and so indisputable the consistency that Yuvraj got a shot in the test squad again despite his failures in Zimbabwe (and rightly so I might add for although this is a sympathy piece on Kaif, India always comes first and Yuvraj is nothing short of God's gift to India). But Kaif got his chance in Ahmedabad and he messed it up.
But all was not lost yet. While Kaif still struggled to make his place in the Test squad, and some people rather cruelly argue that he is "not Test class" (I mean OK he is not the most naturally gifted players aroung but hullo !! He is fairly compact, has some strokes, a decent technique and superb temperament) his place in the ODI squad seemed secure.
Pakistan would be a tour Kaif would want to forget as quickly as possible. He had just come in after being dropped from the test team (again) leading UP to a famous Ranji title, scoring 92 and a 100 in the final game and in general having a very fruitful domestic season. In the first game, he came in after 45 overs when Tendulkar and Dravid got out in quick succession and watched as the tail commited harakiri in a heap, scoring 8 off 12 balls and being the last man out caught on the boundary - a very good catch going for a big hit. Failure anyone ? Well that's what the Kaif-bashers take it as.
He then had a brief not out innings in Rawalpindi before disaster struck in Lahore where he was out lbw for 0 with 100 runs needed at over 6 an over when he came in. BANG. That was the last straw for the Kaif bashers. Not for them the fact that any batsman can be susceptible when he first comes in. By the time Kaif went out to bat at Multan with the opportunity there for an easy not out innings he was pretty nervous. He flailed at one wide desperate to get going and was out caught in the slips. The series for Kaif reads 8, 5*, 0, 0. That's all the statisticians see. That's all the Kaif bashers see. Not for them the history I previously mentioned.
Not for them that even in this series Kaif had been an absolutely invaluable asset on the field. The run out of Afridi in the first game, the crucial skier of the same player in the second game when he threatened to take it away, another good catch here and there and in general brilliant ground fielding - that means zilch, doesn't it ??
Now cast your mind back to the commited fielding effort in the Challenger trophy mentioned earlier. Would you have preferred he not shown that sort of commitment - for the sake of his future, his career ?? Fact is I dont know what can be a right answer to that question. Fact remains given the same situation Kaif will do exactly the same all over again. We need to decide how we value that sort of commitment.
Well, Kaifu, tell you what ? I believe in you. And so do Dravid and Chappell, luckily. You are an integral part of this ODI side. An Indian side taking the field without Kaif is quite preposterous and unthinkable. You will get over this, we will be with you.
Friday, February 17, 2006
Twice now, in the last few months, I have found a victory significant more to defeat the enemy within than the opposition on the field. The first time it happened at Mumbai in December when Captain Courageous stood up to lead his team to a series-levelling victory after the vicous attack at the Eden and certain sections of the fans had left a very bad taste in the mouth. Today again it was the same enemy hidden in perhaps a slighly different and less-intense guise. Indeed it is a continuing legacy of Zimbabwe 2005 that is inadvertently bringing out the best in Team India, the team of Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell again and again.
Well, now coming to the match itself, this was by far the most convincing performance of the series. To bundle out a team for 161 and then get there with over 15 overs left is nothing short of comprehensive. India should be heartily congratulated for their splendid clinical effort. I do think the odd easy win like this is necessary just to give the players some breathing space, some time to relax. After all a match like Lahore does take a lot out of you physically and mentally, and even though Rawalpindi was relatively easier it was nowhere close to this dominating performance.
The bowlers deserve full credit. Pathan has been splendid throughout the series. So has Sreesanth. It is just that this time he got his due rewards. RP Singh once again got better results than his bowling deserved I think. He bowled some good balls but also bowled a lot of rubbish stuff in between. Maybe he is the kind of golden arm bowler than can just take a lot of wickets without necessarily bowling too well. If so he will last for another couple of years. That will still be good for India in the short term.
And in the batting my predicted Tendulkar failure came albeit a couple of matches too late. Indeed, the recent scores of Tendulkar make very interesting reading. Since his return from injury his scores have been
93, 67*, 2, 10, 19, 39, 2, 2, 2, 30, 100, 42, 95, 0
As can be seen in 14 innings 4 of them are over 67 (3 over 93 and even that 67 is a not out), 7 of them are below 19 and only 3 of them are in the more or less average range. A clear indication that he has trouble starting out, but once he gets set he is likely to make it count.
Anyway, just a diversion there. Coming back to the innings, the Dravid Yuvi partnership did most of the work yet again. Some of Yuvraj's strokeplay was as usual sparkling but the most pleasant surprise of the day came from Raina. Displaying a quality of strokeplay that reminded one of a positive mix of Sourav Ganguly (of yore) and Yuvraj Singh (of now) he took the team home to raise hopes of finding a long term middle order stroke maker with a mature head and an ability to finish off innings.
So we have won the series and now have some leeway to experiment a few things in Karachi. One thing I would definitely want to do is to bat first. See how good we are at defending (Rather, we know we are bad at defending, see if we can do something about it.) Then, we need to consider resting key players. Pathan and Tendulkar are the ones that come to mind immediately. But this might well be SRTs last ODI on Pak soil and he might want a last hurrah. So we could consider supersubbing him with Powar.
Just under 2 years ago Karachi saw a memorable day - a day that revived India Pakistan bilateral cricket in the grandest spirit possible that brought out not only the best cricket from either side but the best of human spirit and bonding and brotherhood on either side of the border. India was victorious that day. Today, we have come a long way with respect to our relations with Pak not just cricket-wise. Sure there have been hiccups, on and off the field. India's last visit to Karachi was particularly disastrous result. But let us hope that while we return to the city where it all started we definitely see some very good cricket played in great spirits. Of course it is difficult to live up to the phenomenon that occured in 2004 but at least an effort can be made. And from India's point of view, the result should be duplicated.
Cross posted on SachinTendulkarFans