Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Touring Teams In Trouble

The world's top 2 teams have undertaken 2 very tough tours right now and both are in trouble thanks to injuries and personal problems. Just check out the casualties here.

England in India
Marcus Trescothick - Personal problems
Michael Vaughan
Simon Jones
Kevin Pietersen
Paul Collingwood

Australia in South Africa
Glenn McGrath - personal problems
Ricky Ponting
Andrew Symonds

Monday, February 27, 2006

A Great Warrior

Cometh the hour, cometh the Man.

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

Another Slap On The Face For The Selectors

... this time by Gautam Gambhir. What the wise men have done is keep the 2 men in form (Gambhir and Munaf) and those who have had England worried out and kept Jaffer (who was OK) and VRV (nothing great) in.

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

At A Loss For Words

The selection of the team for the first test against England has frankly left me struggling for words. After More and Co. had done more or less a good consistent job till the Pak series (the pressure-induced Ganguly selections and droppings notwithstanding) today they have given the impression that they distinctly want to hog the limelight. Pity, because selectors job is done well when it is talked about very little.

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:
RP Singh
VRV Singh

Here's what my team would have looked like
RP Singh

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

A Captain's Dream

For long I have been a huge fan of England's pace attack. From prior to the Ashes I believed that this was England's strength and would play a key role if they were to win, which they did.

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.

Bangladesh BEAT Sri Lanka !!

Hip Hip Hooray !!

Need I say more ?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Injury Concerns Hit Team India

And hit them hard.

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

Another "Pace" Revolution ??

Well, pace by Indian standards anyway. We had one in 2000-2001 when Zaheer and Nehra came on and Agarkar was around. Srinath was still occasionally around it seemed that he had kickstarted the tradition of pace in Indian bowling. Well, we know what happened. Zaheer was very good for about 2 years, Nehra in patches and that was it.

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.

Mohammad Kaif - Keep going, We are with you !

The World must seem a really cruel place for Mohammad Kaif. In September 2005 he would have believed that he had finally arrived as a top Indian batsman on the scene. Greg Chappell believed in him, he preferred his hard working methods over the mercurial but otherworldly talent of Yuvraj. He looked upon him as the number 3 that would take India to the World Cup. He was already talked of in terms of the future captain and was appointed to lead India Seniors in the Challenger series in the abscence of Dravid and Sehwag. He did a fine job and earned many plaudits.

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

Sultans of Multan ... and Karachi beckons ... AGAIN

This series win for India is very significant. Most importantly because it had come on the back of an unexpected if not upsetting defeat in the test series. The vultures, the Gangulians and other species were once again looking to jump upon the opportunity to call for the head of the captain and the coach. In the scenario only an emphatic series win would have silenced these.

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

Thursday, February 16, 2006


A 3-1 series win over Pak in Pak !!

Congratulations TEAM INDIA !!

Well done to the Dravid-Chappell combo !!

More to follow ...

Match 3 Review and Match 4 Preview

Oh what a fantastic victory !! This has to rank up there with the 2 back to back wins at Lahore 2 years ago. Great ! Now we have beaten Pak in Lahore 3 times in a row.

The highlight of the day was of course Sachin Tendulkar's wonderful innings. As I mentioned in an earlier post this has got to be one of his best innings in recent times. Not just because it took India to victory but because of the quality of the strokeplay. This was just the kind of innings we had been missing from Sachin for a long time - chasing a big total under pressure. Today he clearly outshone Dravid in their partnership as well a fact jumped on by mediamen and bloggers with alarming haste.

Anyway, Sachin's innings alone would have been insufficient. It also took a masterpiece from Yuvraj and an unbelievable finishing act from Dhoni to seal it. Unfortunately I could not quite see the Dhoni - Yuvi partnership but it must have been absolute treat to watch.

So can we wrap it up at Multan ? I tend to think Pak will bounce back with a bang injuries notwithstanding. But I do believe we have a fine side which can take Pak on even at their best now. I would say a very difficult call to make. Head says Pak may have the edge in this one but of course the heart beats for India.

The First Blow Struck ??

Should we consider India's thumping win over England in the U19 World Cup (abject humiliation as Cricinfo likes to put it) as a sign of things to come in the upcoming England series ??

Of course not, I realise. It is a nice boost though. It is as if our boys have shown what they are capable of and that should have shaken the English just a bit while giving our men confidence.

Well done kids. Now onto the final.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

A Poem on Tendulkar

Forwarded to me by a friend whose friend has composed it.

Tendulkar's Best

There has been an uproar and justifiably so in the media about Tendulkar's wonderful innings yesterday so I thought it apt to note down a few of Tendulkar's memorable innings in recent times - once that I really appreciated. In chronological (or anti-chronological) order:

95 v Pak Lahore 2006
93 v SL Nagpur 2005
141 v Pak Pindi 2004
102 v NZ Hyderabad 2003
98 v Pak Centurion 2003

Monday, February 13, 2006


For all you bloggers out there how do you go about writing a review of a match ?? I find it a tricky task indeed, although it sounds quite simple, for a cricket expert. Funnily I find it easier to write a piece on statistical analysis or expound some idea or criticize/analyze something abstract say a player's form, a strategy, a team's run than a 7-hour long day of cricket.

The reason I believe is that most people already know what has happened. So essentially what I try to bring out is some points that are not entirely obvious. But these needs to be done in keeping with the flow of the game. Plus one needs to make sure one does not go overboard with one's ideas and drift away from the actual game.

I noticed this while writing the review yesterday. I had all my points sorted out, yet when I sat down to write often I felt I was drifting away and rambling on. Any ideas, co-experts ??

India v Pakistan Match 2 Review, Match 3 Preview

Such is the lopsided nature of the scheduling for this ODI series, that while the yawning gap between the first 2 matches made you wonder whether there were transportation problems in Pakistan, these back to back matches will give a lazy bum like me the ideal opportunity to combine the review of one and the preview of another.

Let me admit at the onset, that India's victory at Rawalpindi came as a huge relief to me as I'm sure it would have to the Indian team. I did mention that I expected India to rise to the occasion, nevetherless, the victory though not unexpected is extremely significant. For the obvious reasons - the difficulty of bouncing back from a 0-2 deficit, the fact that India had yet to win a game on this tour and the impatient and fickle nature of the common Indian fan. Not for them the fact that basically the first ODI was an extremely close affair and that Pakistan had beaten India less over a whole test series than in one innings.

So coming to the match, I think Shoaib Malik's run out was the turning point of the match. Sreesanth's throw from the deep was fantastic. More on the lad, later, but at that point of view Pak seemed to be cruising along destined for a 300 score. That in itself was thanks to a pretty average display by India in the field and with the ball. Indeed India's performance in the field was extremely spiky - long periods of listlessness interspersed by moments of brilliance. Pathan got India off to a great start by picking up Butt but Sreesanth oscillated between extremely encouraging and disappointing to leak a few runs. But overall he bowled with a lot of heart and skill and very little luck. But Pathan brought India right back with the wicket of Akmal and the suicide of Yousouf and the soft dismissal of Inzy put India decidedly on top.

It could have been so much better had Shoaib Malik not chosen to kick the ball and all concepts of sportsmanship and the spirit of the game away. Man, this is the team who talked about sporting behavior just 2 days ago and that **$#*#)q*^)^#$%& comes up with such a pitiably pathetic display !! If that was not cheating at its worst I dont know what is. This guy better stay away from me or I'm likely to do him grievous bodily harm and I don't care if I sound too crude or unsophisiticated here.

I wonder if after the Inzy incident in the last game the Indians chose to act with more restraint because I was pretty sure Yuvraj wanted to appeal, but Dravid asked him to let it go. Indeed fitting that Malik should miss out on his hundred and that his team should go on to lose. This was not the only controversial incident though - there were incidents of missile throwing at Ajit Agarkar in this game and Irfan Pathan in the last one. Maybe the hospitality of the Pakistanis was limited to just 1 series and is beginning to get run out here ??

So Malik got poetically run out for 95 but India were still looking at a mountain to climb where arrogance cost Afridi his wicket. Some sections of the Pakistani crowd were demanding that Afridi show no mercy to the Indians and in particular Pathan (I stress on particular) because let's face it being a Muslim and a Pathan at that these issues tend to be more sensitive. It was indeed great to see Pathan obtain revenge. That's this X-factor about this guy that I like. He was not quite at his best in this game (as indeed this entire tour) yet he manages to deliver the crucial punch more often than most. All 3 wickets today were EXTREMELY vital and though he bowled pretty average stuff in between, his Man of the Match was well-deserved.

But Pakistan's endless list of all-rounders meant that the Indians couldn't afford to relax even with Afridi back in the pavillion and the wicket of Razzaq was also very crucial. The direct hit from Raina was a beauty - though the throw in itself was relatively simple, it needed to be a direct one. The off side cordon really looks very strong these days with Yuvraj, Kaif and Raina and that is likely to be a great asset for India come the World Cup. I mean seriously this could be one of the best off-sided fields in the World. Oh what an irony that India should boast of a fielding talent among the best in the business !!

And these youngsters are not just brilliant fielders but extremely confident ambitious kids - the India shining generation kids who love to give back as they get it. As I said Yuvraj was eager to appeal for the Malik kicking incident and when that pain in India's back Younis finally got out jumping around the crease the way Kaif jumped up imitating him was a fantastic thing to see. Having said that India does need to find a way to tackle Younis Khan. I refuse to believe he is as good a player as his scores suggest and that he has no weakness. There must be one. We just have been unable to find it. Something for Dravid and Chappell to ponder.

Talking of Dravid and Chappell I thought some of the captaincy today was pretty disappointing, in particular the way he allowed Malik and Younis cheap singles early in their innings. Then the idea of putting a slip towards the end overs was also befuddling. I am all for attacking new batsmen but honestly no bowler ever looked likely to take an edge on this wicket. It seemed more like a bowled/lbw kind of wicket at least once the ball lost its shine. So this slip fielder was not only wasted it put extra pressure on the likes of Sreesanth to keep the ball way outside off thus negating his chances of attacking the stumps.

265 was a reasonable total but one which needed a good start. Sehwag and Tendulkar did just that. After a long time I was very happy with Sachin's innings. I liked this innings much better than that 100 and Im glad he proved my pessimistic predictions wrong. Perhaps I should keep making them more often. The best part of Tendulkar's innings was the quality of the strokeplay. The lofted off drive off Asif was a class act - a statement that the Master had finally come to terms with the challenge posed by the young tyro. Also the hook off Rana Naved was pure delight to watch.

Great as Sachin's innings was the knockout punch was delivered by Sehwag very early on, delivered perhaps so hard that he had to sacrifice his shoulder for that but with that 6 and the carnage that followed in the rest of Rana Naved's over he put Pakistan completely on the backfoot. Surprisingly they never tried to hit back and just hoped for the mistakes which never really came. In fact it was a surprise Pak chose to field first given the records of the 2 sides particularly India in recent times. Perhaps he was looking for the wicket to turn, perhaps he was counting on a better batting performance. But it was a move that backfired big time.

Sehwag's dismissal was a fluke, nothing more and by that time the platform had been well set. Extremely nice for Veeru to get a score though. After all, the vultures had been circling round him for no real reason - after all he had scored at 30+ at a strike rate of 85 for the entire home season which is pretty close to what Gilchrist does anyway.

Then Messrs. Reliable Dravid and Yuvraj batted with such calm and composure that victory was very much a formality right from the start of their partnership. This has been a career-making tour for Yuvi as far as the test spot goes and probably will establish him as the single most important ODI player in the lineup finally occupying the coveted #4 spot and deservedly so.

It has been a rather long review and left me with very little time to actually go ahead with the promised preview of the match starting in less than 80 minutes. Ill just say here that Lahore is likely to be another belter so I expect a 290-ish score. I back India to win, to carry the momentum, mostly batting second again. Sehwag will not play and this might sound surprising but I dont think it will be too much of a bother because the beauty of this new look Indian team is that everyone is willing to contribute to make up for someone else on a particular day. That has been evident not just in these 2 games but the entire home season. I hope Gambhir comes up with a good knock which he is capable of.

Also looking forward to seeing Sreesanth progress even more.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

U19 World Cup Results

Well Australia might have suffered at the hands of Sri Lanka in their own backyard but they can take solace from the fact that their colts have returned the favor to their counterparts by thrashing SL in the quarterfinals of the U19 WC.

The other results include England getting past Bangladesh, Pakistan past Zimbabwe and yes of course India defeating the West Indies. Piyush Chawla has as expected been great in the series but on the whole the entire Indian team has lived up to its favorites tag.

So the semifinal lineup now reads:
India v England
Pakistan v Australia

Dejavu anyone ??

Friday, February 10, 2006


They have done it !!

Australia have lost a home final for the first time since 1998.

Magnificent performance by the Lankans especially Tillekaratne Dilshan in the field.

GO Lankans GO.

The job is only half done.

India v Pakistan Match 2 Preview

This is a must-win game for India. Quite frankly, I do not see this team being able to bounce back from a 0-2 deficit. It has been done by Pak as late as last year but even then it was a 6 match series. In a 5 match series I believe it has been done only once before although coincidentally against Pakistan in Pakistan by South Africa a couple of seasons ago.

Anyway, I do think India, if given the option would prefer to bowl first. This I say without even knowing too much of the wicket simply because that has been the favored way for India this season. Ever since Rahul Dravid took over, India have never lost a game chasing and have hardly won a game defending - a record very similar to Michael Vaughan at the start of his career as captain.

Coincidence or not Irfan Pathan has always bowled MUCH better when India has been fielding first than when defending a target. And that has often paved the way for India to set up a victory. Also I have this feeling that Rawalpindi will likely not be a 325 pitch like Peshawar. That would play to India's advantage especially if they field first.

I predict that Tendulkar will fail in at least 2 of the next 3 games and this will very likely be one of them. In fact it is highly probable that he will get a single digit score here. If not here then one of the next 2 games. Nothing against him, this is just a prediction based on close observation of his career.

Finally, I think India will manage to pull off this game. It is likely to be a reasonably modest scoring game.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Aussies 3-1 Favorites But Scared

The Aussies are worrried, make no mistake. Yesterday it was Hussey expressing wariness about playing Sri Lanka in Adelaide and Sydney, and now it is the turn of Ricky Ponting.

Although the article boldly states that he will go for an all-out attack against Sri Lanka, there are certain indications that make you feel that the Aussies are just a wee bit worried like.

It's important we start the game off well, they're a very good front-running side and when they get started they can be hard to peg back with bat and ball so we've got to start really well.

Also he states the obvious when he says:
"Looking at the way they've played their cricket, the toss is going to be pretty important because they'll want to bat first."

You cannot quite imagine this Sri Lankan team winning a match chasing a total. In particular you cannot imagine them winning in any way other than the tried and tested and oft repeated formula of big-total-slow-wickets-choking-bowlers. But at the same time give them these conditions and they are very likely to make them count as they did in Sydney earlier against Australia and against South Africa a couple of times.

For years, I have been hoping to see a team beat Australia in the VB Series finals. The last time it happened was in 1993 against the West Indies. Twice since then, 1996-97 (Pak vs WI) and 2001-02 (SA v NZ) they have been knocked out before the final, but never have they LOST IN A FINAL. Pakistan came close last year, India flattered to deceive the year before. Can the youngest of the subcontinental brothers go one step ahead and beard the lion in its own den ??

Cricinfo edits out English translation of obscenity, leaves the original intact

We have been accustomed to sportsmen using abusive language in their native tongues to escape scrutiny at major sporting events but now it seems former cricketers will get away with it being published at Cricinfo, the World's leading cricket portal.

Check out this article.
Towards the bottom it mentions Javed Miandad's comments on what Asif is likely to do England.
In short here it is:

What they say No. 2 - Javed Miandad, on Asif's prospects at Headingley later this year

- ("He will blow the a*****es of the English")

Maut Wohi Jo Duniya Dekhe Ghut Ghut Kar Yun Marna Kya ??

Funny that this rather innocuous article about Graham Thorpe and his plans with New South Wales should remind me of this rather forceful yet beautiful line from the evergreen Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya of the legendary Mughal-e-Azam.

But then there it is. I tend to exaggerate. OK, coming to the point. I have always been a huge fan of Graham Thorpe. Trust me I am not a huge fan of too many English batsmen, well not of the 90s era anyway. But I always admired Thorpe as much for his compact skilful batting as his determination and ability to come up with a big show when the chips were down.

So I was extremely disappointed when he was omitted from the England squad for the Ashes. And I was even more disappointed when he retired in a huff because honestly after the Lords debacle I believed he stood a chance of making a comeback. I would have loved to see him there at Trent Bridge guiding England's historic chase of 130, there at the Oval on the last day in partnership with Pietersen. It seems tragic that such a great servant of England, a veteran of many a famous battles should have to bow out just before the moment of triumph which he would have been awaiting probably more than anyone else. The hurt there would have surely been immense. What I wanted was for him to go out in a blaze of glory.

But now as this article suggests he is limping out - first announcing his retirement from international cricket, then from first class cricket in England, then playing the role of a coach in NSW possibly playing a couple of games if he gets an opportunity ... and what's worse he seems to be enjoying this ... come on Thorpey ... we know you deserved better.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Several Steps Forward, One Step Back

The BP XI squad to face England has several promising inclusions and one glaring omission. The negative being the abscence of Piyush Chawla, the most exciting teenage prospect since well, The Master himself. For a fleeting moment I almost gave the selectors full marks when I thought that Chawla's abscence had more to do with his playing in the Under 19 World Cup, sadly that is not the case. That tournament is ending a good 4 days before the start of this match, and unless the selectors deem that Piyush will be in need of some rest, it has to be assumed that the selectors dont consider him ready for the big stage yet.

Now to the several positives: The pace attack looks really exciting - Munaf and VRV will fight it out for the tearaway bowler's slot, with Sreesanth also finding a place, along with the Bengali military medium pacer, SS Paul. Gambhir, Jaffer, Raina, Rao, Jadhav are the batsmen in contention and no one will grudge them their well-deserved spots. The one I am not sure about is the selection of Badrinath over his team-mate Badani (who has always for some reason gotten a raw deal) and perhaps Abhishek Jhunjhunwala.

Pragyan Ojha is the wild-card, of whom I hate to admit, I know zilch. If anyone does, please fill me up.

If anything looks weak, then it is the spin department. As mentioned earlier Chawla's abscence is at best baffling, at worst diabolical. What has Mishra done all this season ?? Is Ramesh Powar really an attacking option ?? Is this the best we have got ?? What about Lahiri from Bengal ??

As usual questions arise, but on the whole a fairly good job by More and Co.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Justice Done

Ramesh Powar has been included in the squad as cover for Harbhajan Singh. Cover for Harbhajan he may be, but honestly he should have easily made it over the consistent failure that is the legend of Murali Karthik. Please let us not see Karthik again come Friday night.

Did Long Drinks Break Cost India ?

According to this report in Cricinfo the third drinks break was "unusually" long resulting in a 2-over delay by India (20% fine for Dravid and 10% for the rest of the team) but more importantly did it deny India a shot at trying to win the match ?

Brilliant Lanka Set Up Date With Aussies

Often in the recent past, I have commended a good Sri Lankan performance. This is mainly because they get my sympathy because they are usually lambasted around pretty unfairly in the Indian cricket fan circles. Plus, maasochists love to take the opportunity of disrespecting India's strong 6-1 home series win over Sri Lanka under the able leadership of Dravid and Chappell, by claiming that it was, well, over Sri Lanka.

Well, this will hopefully show them. It is no mean feat to make it to the final of the tri series edging out a team as strong as South Africa, even more so when you have lost 3-1 in NZ and 6-1 in India just before. They have earned the right to challenge the Aussies and my best wishes are with them. Hope they can pull off their best performance. Hope Murali can dig deep to find that last bit of inspiration so that when he plays possibly his last match on Aussie grounds he would have silenced those foolish spectators (nay rowdies) with a match-winning performance. Hope the old fox Jayasuriya can conjure up a magical 100 for one last time. Hope that that immensely likeable bloke Marwan Atapattu can leave the Aussie shores victorious.

Thoughts added later:
On a related note, this guy Bandara seems to have something about him. Maybe SL have finally discovered a spinner worthy of partnering Murali.

We Will Miss You Gilo !!

Ashley Giles will not be touring India.

We will miss his good old self, his "I am no Shane Warne" - esque epoch-making discoveries, his columns full of courageous self-defence in the face of media attack, last but not least his negative bowling.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Something for Dravid to Ponder

India's 2 heaviest defeats (in terms of runs) in its Test cricket history have come under Rahul Dravid's captaincy.

1) By 342 runs

2) By 341 runs

The Darkest Cloud ...

... yeah all that stuff. Well, what do you know ?? It might indeed be true.

In the despair and gloom of India's shabby surrender to Pakistan, Yuvraj's grand century stands out like a beacon, like a diamond amidst the coals, like a Brian Lara amidst the rest of the West Indies.

Indeed, so breathtaking is Yuvi's batting and in particular yesterday's innings that I am tempted to say the strokeplay was almost Laraesque in nature. The hooked six off Razzaq was a shot to be remembered for a long long time. In all my cricket watching career I have never seen any Indian batsman other than Tendulkar hit a six like that. (Incidentally that is one shot Lara does not quite play so well)

But that was just one of the many handsome shots on display. The garland of drives from square point to mid wicket off both front and back foot punched crisply was a beauty in itself. Particularly encouraging was the way he handled Kaneria.

Yes, he does have some problems with his balance, in particular tends to put too much weight on his front foot at times and is a bit shaken up sometimes by Akhtar's pace but hey who doesnt have his weaknesses ??

I do think this is not an insignificant little relief act in a tragedy of Titanic proportions. On the contrary it is a harbinger to what I think is going to be a long career at #4 for one of India's most naturally gifted stroke-makers since the incumbent #4 himself. And that in turn will go a long way in shaping Team India's fortunes over the next 10 years.