Sunday, January 29, 2006

Really Like This Guy

I really admire Kamran Akmal's batting. Often he has come in at very critical situations and virtually taken the game away from the opposition. The frustration at Mohali last year had only just begun to sink in, while he has come up with another gem here in Karachi.

For all the mountains of meaningless runs, piled on by the likes of Younis and Yousouf, it is this innings that is likely to be the most crucial of the series.

I think Dhoni has some way to go before becoming coming to Akmal's level

The Moment Of Truth

... has arrived for Sourav Ganguly. He has got exactly the kind of opportunity he would have been hoping for. To prove he can still make a difference to this Indian side, to make the kind of contributions no one else can. A hundred, if he had got one in the run-glut at Lahore would have probably meant nothing, but a hundred here can virtually ensure a decent first innings lead for India, and that all that has happened in the past 5 months is history. It will probably also signal his reuniting with his best friend Rahul Dravid ala estranged brothers coming together in Hindi movies. For the stakes simply cannot get bigger than this.

On the other hand, a failure here will almost certainly signal the end of his career.

Will Ganguly be up to it ??

Will, as Siddharth Vaidyanathan on Cricinfo asks, there be a romantic twist to this fascinating tale ??

Thursday, January 26, 2006

1 Minute Of Pure Joy

Sitting at home pretty depressed and what happens is in a cricket forum I visit often a guy called sahir provides this link.

Oh for a cricket buff that just takes your mind off from all the mundane issues of this drab life, you suddenly realize all you are thirsting for is another retake of another grand Azharuddin innings.

If you are in India and are unable to view click here.

It's Happened Again !!

Shoaib Akhtar's ankle injury has mysteriously resurfaced and he is likely to miss the last test. WOW. Am I surprised or what ??

Come to think of it, completing one test series in the last 3 years should be quite satisfactory for his Highness, ain't it ?? Why bother completing another one.

This can only be good news for Pakistan and bad for India. After all, any team would love to play a bowler who has talked all the talk and refused to walk the walk for over 3 years against them now. Now India have to face the daunting prospect of a fired up Umar Gul instead.

Meanwhile, reportedly the coach Bob Woolmer is at sea as to why Shoaib did not bowl more than he did in the match. Maybe he conveniently injured Shoaib before the Karachi test ?? After all, they are best mates aren't they ?? Together they will do whatever they can for the betterment of the Pakistani team ?? It's all fair in love and war ain't it ??

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Good On You Lankans

Sri Lanka beat Australia at the SCG. Remember them doing the same back in 2003 too. For a team that had lost 9 out of 10 matches not long ago, winning 3 off their last 4, 2 of which were against Australia and South Africa is brilliant.

Wonderful 100 by the 36-year old Marauder from Matara. The old fox still has it in him.

Note: Phil Jacques was dropped despite a wonderful debut the other day. No effigy burning or protests reported.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Faisalabad Facts

Some pieces of history relevant to India:

- Venue of the debut of the great Kapil Dev

- Venue at which Sachin Tendulkar scored his first international fifty

Cross posted on SachinTendulkarFans

Friday, January 20, 2006

India Squad Composition

OK. Lets get down to business. Firstly the players about whom there is no question.

Which leaves us with 2 middle order spots and 2 bowling slots to mull over. This assuming we will go in with 4 bowlers again. If not, as some reports indicate, we have just the one middle order slot and this is the more interesting scenario.

In the first case, Ganguly and Yuvraj will obviously take the 2 slots. I dont see a surprise being sprung in the form of Jaffer/Gambhir being brought back, not after that grand opening partnership between the skipper and his deputy. Then we have Agarkar, Zaheer, RP Singh, Harbhajan fighting it out over 2 slots. As Faisalabad has traditionally not been a great hunting ground for spinners, we might just see Harbhajan miss out. Then if reports are any indication, Agarkar will retain his spot with a shootout between Zaheer and RPS for the last slot. Here too, earlier reports suggested that RPS might make it. He was, after all in the team ahead of Zaheer for the SL series and needs to be given a chance. Zaheer on the other hand has all that experience behind him. Of course to add to the confusion is the fact that if the surface were to be disregarded and the notion of "Play your best bowlers" is to be followed Harbhajan comfortably scores over both Zaheer and RPS.

My take in this scenario: Agarkar and RP Singh will play.

Now coming to the second and more interesting scenario. The line of thinking is that on a flat batting track
a) We will need more firepower in the bowling.
b) With our batsmen in such good form (particularly VS and RD) we could do without a genuine #6.

Both points are debatable, actually. If 4 bowlers cant do it, can 5 ?? Can we expect Veeru to fire with such ferocity again ?? Nevetherless the issue of playing an extra batsman/bowler is a problem faced by cricketing teams since time immemorial and no definitve solution has yet been obtained. Suffice to say that in the abscence of a genuine all-rounder, on a majority of the occasions teams go with 6 batters. But there have been several memorable successful 5 batsmen campaigns as well. Well bottomline is in that scenario you need your Numbers 6 and 7 to contribute healthily with the bat and here I do believe Irfan and Dhoni have given us sufficient confidence to believe they can do it.

So assuming we go in with the 5-1-5 combination, I for one would definitely like to see Yuvraj ahead of Ganguly. And this is what I think will happen. Whether or not there are external pressures, I believe everyone now agrees (RD and GC most importantly) that we have GOT TO play Yuvraj. So that leaves Sourav Ganguly out, effigy burning, protests and parliamentary discussions notwithstanding. Then obviously Harbhajan plays. And once again it is a straight shoot out between Zaheer and RPS for the last spot.

Pretty neat and mathematical what ??

OK, so what have we got here:
Case 1: 6-14 Case 2: 5-1-5
Sehwag Sehwag
Dravid Dravid
Laxman Laxman
Tendulkar Tendulkar
Yuvraj Yuvraj
Ganguly Dhoni
Dhoni Irfan
Irfan Agarkar
Agarkar Kumble
Kumble Harbhajan
RP Singh RP Singh

Lots of analytical work which could very well flop. Who knows ? Let's see.

Update: From Cricinfo, here's why pace bowlers hold an edge over spinners at Faisalabad -
Since 1995, spin has yielded 86 wickets at 38.07 and a strike rate of 81.26 while the fast bowlers have done far better: 150 wickets at an average of 26.13 and strike rate of 51.33.

Cross-posted on SachinTendulkarFans

India v Pak Second Test Preview

OK. Trying to filter out the information from the noise that forms all the pre match reports before the second test at Faisalabad. Here goes.

Firstly, it looks likely that Mohammad Asif might be included in the squad. Is he likely to be a threat ?? I would think not. For someone like Virender Sehwag, who has in the past treated Shoaib Akhtar like a club bowler, these Shoaib wannabes should be easy meat. What I do wonder is whether Rana Naved will play or not. For me, he was going to be the danger man for India, more so than Shoaib. I read conflicting reports about his selection, all I can say is that if indeed he is dropped it would be great for India.

Now coming to the surface. This is likely to be a batting track again but possibly more sporting than Lahore. In that most likely a draw will be a foregone conclusion slightly later in the day than it was at Lahore. No, seriously I think it will be a hard, keen battle. Not too much in it for the bowlers, but the batsmen wont find it so easy to score. So the team that applies the pressure well, produces the odd moment of brilliance has a fair chance to come out on top. Win the toss and bat first.

Zainub gives the preview from a Pakistani perspective here.

Wanted to post in more details about India's team composition but it looks like it deserves a post of its own, so.

Hmm ... Some guy this

Just having a look at the cricinfo profile of Brett Dorey, the new Aussie fast bowler.

In particular, note the following:

He represented Western Australia at Under-17 and Under-19 level in 1995 and 1997 before heading to Europe on a travelling adventure, where he worked as a bodyguard to the children of a wealthy Russian businessman

It's Not So Easy In ODIs !!

Debut centuries are pretty frequent in Tests these days. Not so in ODIs. Just look at that stats and they tell an astonishing tale.

In 1781 tests, 45 batsmen have scored debut hundreds at the rate of one almost every 40 tests.

In 2316 ODIs, the corresponding figure is only 4 - at an astounding rate of one every 579 ODIs !!

Why this imbalance ?? Any guesses ??

Well I guess in ODIs with the over restriction only the openers or Number 3 or 4 realistically have a chance of scoring a hundred unless the team has lost lots of early wickets and for a debutant to score a hundred keeping up with the rate all the time while the team has lost wickets could well be a severely daunting proposition.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Good Stuff

Finally !! A win for Sri Lanka !! Must do their confidence a lot of good ahead of a as-tough-as-it-can-get VB series.

I feel bad for them, they are going through a real lean time and I know well how it feels to be in the middle of that only too well.