Friday, March 31, 2006

The Good The Bad And The Ugly

The Good:
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 Bad
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 Ugly
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

India's Reliance on Pathan

Increasingly it is becoming clearer that when Irfan Pathan does well with the ball India are in good shape. When he does not, we struggle.

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 : 8
Two Wickets in his 1st over of a odi : 2
One Wicket in his 2nd over of a odi : 13
Two Wickets in his 2nd over of a odi : 1
14 times wicketless...india won 3 lost 10 n/r 1
Overall 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

Duniya Hain Mere Peechche ... Lekin Main Tere Peechche ...

Perhaps this is not the best time to write this piece what with Sachin Tendulkar suffering a shoulder injury and having to undergo surgery and all. But this was a very pertinent observation made by Navin Desai, a mate whom I interact with in a Yahoo! Group - the SachinTendulkarFans group.

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

Sachin Tendulkar ...

since his 35th hundred averages less than 19 in 10 innings ... hmmm.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Dream Teams

Here is an interesting exercise. I try to come up with 4 different teams to play 5-day cricket consisting of current players only but these are not your usual World X1 teams - their selection criteria are quite different and hopefully, very interesting.

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:
Justin Langer
Andrew Strauss
Shivnarine Chanderpaul (captain)
Paul Collingwood
Jacques Rudolph
Mohammad Kaif
Kamran Akmal
Abdul Razzaq
Ashley Giles
Rana Naved
Matthew Hoggard

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.
Salman Butt
Marwan Atapattu (captain)
Yousouf Youhana
Mahela Jayawardene
VVS Laxman
Damien Martyn
Andrew Flintoff
Irfan Pathan
Tatenda Taibu (Difficult to classify a wicket-keeper batsman as an artist but whatever)
Shane Warne
Shane Bond

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)
Chris Gayle
Kevin Pietersen
Shahid Afridi
Andrew Symonds
Jacob Oram
Mahendra Dhoni
Brett Lee
Shoaib Akhtar
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.
Matthew Hayden
Rahul Dravid (captain, opener (SORRY) had to fit in 4 other players)
Ricky Ponting
Sachin Tendulkar
Brian Lara
Jacques Kallis
Adam Gilchrist
Shaun Pollock
Chaminda Vaas
Muttaiah Muralitharan
Glenn McGrath

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 ...

Of Great Matches

With all the brouhaha over the 434-game between Australia and South Africa I was dying to at least catch a glimpse of the highlights to see what all the fuss was about. Well I still haven't had time to watch the whole thing but I did see the first 30 overs of South Africa's innings (ie. the Hershcelle Gibbs (and Graeme Smith) show) and it was no doubt breathtaking. Perhaps once I get the whole thing I will be able to appreciate it better ??

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

Random Post

Okay ... so I was away for 55 hours and I come back to find that nothing is quite what it was like before nor will it ever be. Because of this.

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

Longer Series Please

The events in Mohali have further strengthened the case for a 5-Test series. This is the third time in the last 3 series involving India that at least one test has been badly affected by weather. Luckily against the Lankans we were overwhelmingly dominant in the other 2 tests, so it was not such a problem. But against Pak we were faced by a meaninglessly flat highway in Faisalabad that precluded all possibility of a result and in Nagpur neither team was strong enough to force the issue.

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

A Tale Of Two 21-Year Olds

Alastair Cook took the cricketing world by storm and proved to be a real thorn in India's side in Nagpur. However, for some reason, he never gave me the impression of being invincible and that it was only a matter of time before some weakness could be found in him. That was found today by Irfan with relative ease and plenty of aplomb and that is a very good sign, that this team is picking out weaknesses in opposition quickly.

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.

Aashayen ...

... khule Dil Ki, Ummedein Hasein Mann Ki, Ab Mushkil Nahin Kuch Bhi ...

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.

Of Rising And Falling Stocks

Whether a player's star is on the rise or in decline can often be found from his place in the pecking order. Yuvraj Singh, at the start of the Sri Lanka series was clearly fifth favorite for the middle order slot behind Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman and Ganguly. (Some might make a case of even Kaif being ahead of him thanks to his (Yuvraj's) failures in meaningless matches in Zimbabwe.)
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

Coincidence Thwarted

Sreesanth's unavailability for the Mohali test due to illness has put paid to the chances of a grand coincidence. In December 2001 at the same venue against the same team India had as of now gone for a complete reshuffle of the seam bowling department. At that time Tinu Yohannan of Kerala and Iqbal Siddiqui of Maharashtra were making their debuts.

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.

A Grand Achievement

Muttaiah Muralitharan just completed his 50th 5 wicket haul in test cricket. 50 !! That is some number, man !

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.

Fourth Innings Blues

Several cricket fans I interact with on cricket discussion groups or sometimes in person often wonder why a huge deal is made of batting in the fourth innings. If a team can score 400 at 4 an over in the first second, third innings why not in the fourth ? Why is it that when faced with anything close to such an ask teams go for the draw from the word 'go' and are happy to achieve it ? Why is it that this happens even on good pitches ? Well, needless to say most of these are lay fans who do not understand the intricacies of the magnificently beguiling game that is Test Match Cricket.

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

Tidbits from here and there

Sorry been extremely busy lately and no real time for concerted blogging. But here are some of the tidbits picked up in the news today.

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

The Nagpur Test As It Stands

End of Day 2 and India still hold the edge but only very slightly. The day belonged to England just as Day 1 belonged to India. Luckily India managed to win the last session otherwise they would have been in deep trouble.

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.

The Batting:
Paul COllingwood was just superb - no 2 ways about that. No amount of cribbing about our poor bowling should take away credit from him. The way he picked the gaps was great and he showed that he had the big shots too when he lofted Harbhajan for 2 huge sixes.

Harmisson played a cameo as he is capable of every now and again, but the real surprise was Monty (and a pain he was)

For India, both jaffer and dravid batted really well - did the best they could given a negative (err, tight) line bowled by England. Initially I thought they could have taken a bit more initiative - but the end result was good for India and that probably justified the means.

For all the beautiful shots Jaffer played I do think he has a technical vulnerability that will be exposed in places like England and New Zealand to the ball pitched on and coming in. Lack of a long stride forward and a tentative prod is what I see. Though he is better than Gambhir at leaving balls outside off and judging them. but i didnt happen to see any horizontal bat shot from him (not that the wicket allowed it) so cant yet comment on that aspect of his batting.

Skipper Freddie
OK .. I will hop to Freddie - I think he was too negative ... bowled a line well outside off and a length very short - and I don just mean Freddie the bowler but England in general - so trying to judge Freddie as captain here - Hoggard alone was looking dangerous. On a wicket that was slow and occasionally kept low it made sense to bowl wicket to wicket but it seemed the English were too afraid of the strokeplay of the Indians on the on side. India played well, really the way england bowled it would not have been possible to score much quicker without taking some risks.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Waiting Like Vultures

I log on to MSN Messenger and happen to glance at the MSN Today thing (one thing whose purpose I have never really understood) and am irritated but not totally surprised (nor sad) to read a feature titled "Battle Ahead". It alludes to that great artist Vangipurappu Venkata Sai Laxman and says that there will be no great tears shed if Laxman is dropped.

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.