Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Pleasure ....

Fabulous to see Dravid bat the way he did today. Didn't help the team in the end, but looked so fluent and confident and showing signs of returning to the Dravid of old ! This is great news for Team India in the near future !

On The Rise, Slipping Up - IPL Table

Teams on The Rise:

1. Rajasthan Royals: After a slow start the overwhelming underdogs have humbled three major teams. Definitely the biggest surprise package so far.

2. King's X1 Punjab: Another slow start with Yuvraj looking completely clueless in the first 2 games, but they have got their act together with back to back wins. Finally, the impressive star cast is coming to form - Sangakkara, Katich, Lee, Hopes, Yuvraj, Jayawardene all delivering.

3. Deccan Chargers: A terrible start finally seems to have been halted with a Gilchrist special. If Gilchrist continues in this vein, this is the team to look out for.

4. Mumbai Indians: The worst imaginable start with 4 defeats in a row but finally a great win over the Knight Riders with the overseas stars coming to the party has got the campaign going. With the imminent return of Tendulkar, things might have turned a corner for the Mumbai Indians.

Teams Going Down
1. Kolkata Knight Riders: Two defeats after two wins and the batting really coming up with nothing after McCullum's fireworks.

2. Bangalore Royal Challengers: After a painstaking win at Mumbai, things are going from bad to worse for Dravid's men. Three consecutive losses and the morale can't be anywhere but in the dumps.

Holding Steady
1. Delhi Daredevils: One of the more consistent lineups, had a bit of a hiccup at Mohali, but got their campaign back on track with today's win.

2. Chennai Superkings: Yes ! Rock solid baby ! Right at the top ! With no competitor in sight ! This is beginning to look more and more like a seven team competition to see who can challenge the roaring Lion !!

What is Ashok Malik Trying To Say ?

There is a line of thought which believes a rape victim owes some responsibility in the crime in the form of provocation. I think this article by Mr. Ashok Malik subscribes to that philosophy.

Throughout the article Mr. Malik finds no reason to delve into specifics satisfying himself with very broad and general terms. He says this about Sreesanth's behavior in the IPL:

He has sledged, abused and provoked rival players, even junior batsmen and plain tyros.

Pray, could you give at least one specific instance ? I do not deny Sreesanth has been chattering away but no one has come up with any complaint with regard to abuse, sledging and provocation. What is sledging anyway ? Sledging is a term that is used very loosely these days. In its classical sense sledging is one gets abusive personally and starts talking in terms of the opponent player's family tree in not very polite language. Well Sreesanth might have done that but there has been no specific incidence, evidence or complaint from anyone. On the other hand several other players have also clearly been indulging in it.

With this solid start, he launches in a further attack:

The fact is Harbhajan is not the best behaved sportsman in the world. Sreesanth hasn’t slapped anyone yet but, overall, he’s even worse.

Fact ? Wouldn't it be more realistic to base this as your perception or opinion ? Or at least the majority opinion ? Do you know how a fact is defined ? Pray what kind of behaviorometer did you use to measure these players, do let me know.


Waving his bat, exercising his pelvic muscles mid-pitch, screaming and shouting, bearing his teeth, grimacing menacingly without reason, Sreesanth is the most visible face of this cricket boor; at least on television. The face, let us accept, is ugly.

Boor ? The English dictionary defines a boor as a churlish, rude or unmannerly person, a peasant, rustic, country bumpkin or a yokel. You might find the face ugly Mr. Malik, I personally found the waving of the bat and shaking of the hips charming and like a breath of fresh air. Yes, he is not a choir girl. No one claimed he was. But why should we just accept what you want us to ? And why should the face matter so much ?

As a parting shot here is what Malik comes up with:

By making a public scene, playing the wronged guy, crying on camera, blaming it on his “fever in the morning”, Sreesanth has betrayed a streak for exhibitionism and a low emotional quotient.

I mean come on - give the guy a break. He is going through a rough phase in his career. His teammate slaps him in public. He is a temperamental emotional guy. Does Malik seriously believe that those tears were fake ? It is one thing to say he could have handled it like a man, some men are different.

The whole piece rakes of callousness deep-seated hatred against one individual.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

No Country For Old Men ?

So what are these old buggers doing playing the IPL anyway ? Ganguly Dravid and Laxman ? There has been a positive uproar amidst sections of followers over the place of these guys in their respective sides.

My take on this is simple - this is club cricket, not international cricket. Traditionally in such games there are always the old local pros who have been around for donkey's years. They are there to knock some sense in the heads of the young tyros. Imagine how much Kohli would be learning sharing space with Dravid ! Not just about how to bat in this hit-or-miss thing (of which perhaps Dravid might know precious little) but of approach to cricket in general which would help the young kid in the long term in what really matters - his test career.

Often it might happen that these old pros might not come up with the goods. I'm totally okay with that. I think they should be afforded that luxury for their services and reputation. They are the ones who are giving identity to these local teams after all.

Bravo Bravo

West Indies cricket is alive folks ! Continuing in the list of gloriously gifted batsmen from time immemorial to Sobers, Lloyd, Richards, Lara etc. is Dwayne Bravo !!

What an innings that was against the Knight Riders ! What wrists ! What strokes ! What grace ! What Calypso flavor !

Do not miss out on the highlights - will post the Youtube link when it arrives !

Shivamani and Dhoni and Rayban Glasses in Kolkata

Some of the search terms that attract visitors to this site:

1. sivamani bangalore cricket
3. price of Rayban glasses in Kolkata
4. about sreesanth
5. Harbinger singh slapping sreesanth
5. ball trajectory bowling cricket images
6. cricket spectators boundaries want cheer four banners
7. dhoni support of sivamani
8. chennai crowd cricket

I loved #3 and #5 the best

Monday, April 28, 2008

A Tale of Two Cities

Cross-posted on Chennai Super Kings Fans.

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. It was July, last year. I was coming off a painful period in life, when the whole World seemed against me. I arrived in Bangalore for a three month internship. I fell in love with the city immediately. Bangalore literally recalled me to life. I owe a lot to the city and my stay there.

The period was pretty much like the present. I landed in Chennai earlier this year. I was to spend a semester as a visiting student at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences. It wasn’t quite love at first sight. Chennai taught me a lot, and I am richer for the experience. I remain indebted to this city for that.

Bangalore was truly my first home away from home – a wonderful experience. The city was amazingly free, a wonderful cosmopolitan place where I enjoyed the good life. Chennai seems to be more conservative but very friendly and more personal. Here, I am really enjoying getting to know the local people and their way of life. Bangalore was explored on a bike, Chennai in trains.

So when these two lovely cities go head to head in the IPL clash this evening, I have more than a minor conflict of emotions in my heart. I know that for the locals this is a needling rivalry and I have friends on both sides who wouldn’t really like me sitting on the fence over this one.

Picking up the cricket connection I have reason to support Bangalore, as Rahul Dravid my most favorite cricketer ever, is leading the side. But the cricket loving people of Chennai have endeared this place to me. My forays at the Chepauk for the test match and the IPL games have left indelible memories of the place. I guess when the curtain lifts on this blockbuster clash – I’m going to have to say “Go Super Kings!”

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sieving Out The Trash

Lot of people crib about the fact that T20 has no role for bowlers. In fact this IPL has shown this to be completely untrue and quite contrary. One can easily see what an impact the likes of McGrath, Warne, Lee, Chawla (occasionally), and a few other genuinely talented bowlers in the odd game have made in this championship.

In T20 cricket, like in Test cricket, only the best of the best bowlers can survive. That is why a McGrath will always survive over a Bracken, a Lee over a Sanjay Bangar. These dibbly dobbly bits-and-pieces type bowlers (think Styris, Harris, Larsen, Robin Singh, Bangar, and a whole bunch of others) who made a career out of bowling the "boring" middle overs in a 5050 game will have no place. They will be ruthlessly shown the door and that can only be good for the game.

Look out for more big names among the bowlers to shine - Dale Steyn, Zaheer Khan, Mohammad Asif - just to name a few. Oh how I wish Shane Bond was here.

Umpiring The Umpires

So the umpires in the IPL can award team points for fair play but who will judge the umpires ? Just today, Rudi made two howlers in a 20-20 game. This would have been an ideal testing ground where captains could have rated umpires publicly just like the fair play award, so that everyone knew where we stood with umpires.

Good (K)Night Kolkata !!

This post of mine also appeared on Chennai Super Kings blog where I am now a part-time co-author.

The Biggest Crowds

So far, I had been lucky to be able to travel in largely empty, comfortable trains to and from the stadium. All that changed today, with the infrequent afternoon local train being crammed with an ocean of humanity in a narrow pipeline bursting at the seams. There were cricket fans, of course, flocking in large numbers to attend the “big game” but there were also non-cricket-fans, notably a group of young girls, extremely annoyed with the unexpected hardships in travel they were subjected to. Initially, I was quite thrilled by the rush, for, what is the experience of train travel in an Indian metro if not one defined by one such? Later, however, it got a bit irksome, as I discovered I was being acted upon by several external unbalanced forces, made to undergo random Brownian motion over which I could exert no control. In all the chaos, I was most concerned about guarding my Ray-Ban glasses and more importantly, my match ticket. Luckily, I managed both. Such chaos continued out of the train onto the platform and all the way till I entered the stands, where, luckily things were more orderly.

Up Close

As earlier, the Chennai Super Kings were going through their warm-ups close to our stand. Stephen Fleming was so close he could have virtually heard any whisper in the crowds. Fleming’s is an awesome presence – watching him on TV all these years, did not give me the true picture of how tall he actually is. Of course, Ishant seems actually taller and he too made his way towards us during their practice. Besides, Ravi Shastri also passed by a couple of times, he went past the stands somewhere and I could have literally shaken hands with him through the fence if I wanted to. And then there was the large Zimbabwean Pommie Mbangwa, who, quite astonishingly looks even more deadly up close than on TV with his flashy hair locks.

The Game

As was speculated, Shah Rukh Khan did not make an appearance at the game. Perhaps, he knew his superstar status would have competition here in the South, unlike in the rest of the country. Perhaps he feared that the Chennai team was going to be too strong for his Knight Riders anyway and he stayed away. Perhaps he was simply busy with something else. Anyway, he did send over a couple of his giant 10-feet tall knights (the mascots) over.

Like he did to Steve Waugh in that famous 2001 tour, Ganguly chose to keep Dhoni waiting at the toss too. I must say, it is a most annoying and unsportsmanlike gesture. Back then, I had joined the rest of the Indian fans and applauded it as a masterstroke. But sitting in the stands I appreciate that it leaves a bad taste in the mouth if both captains do not walk out for the toss together.

As the game began, McCullum’s massive six hit the roof of our stand just a few meters away from where I was sitting, it was a phenomenal stroke but soon after that he got out and then Ponting followed; and that was the beginning of what was to be an extremely one-sided game.

The Lights

I have now been at the Chepauk for day games and night games but today was the first time I was there in day-night game, so to say; and I had the pleasure to see the lights turning on. They follow a very systematic pattern - it is the two central columns which light up first, starting with the top row and going down to the bottom. Then the adjacent columns light up and so it spreads outwards. Llike almost any other landscape in the World, a cricket stadium looks its prettiest at twilight; when illuminated partly by nature and partly by man. It was in this light that Parthiv Patel hooked a short ball from Ajit Agarkar up in the air right into the hands of Ishant Sharma in the deep, one whose trajectory I am happy to say I followed from start to end.


Lastly, I was honored to have the opportunity to shake legs to the beats of the living legend Sivamani. This guy is absolutely amazing. I already mentioned the fact that he moves around the stadium with his drums so that all sections of the crowd can enjoy him. But what I noticed yesterday was that he also plays while he is on the move and his assistant is carrying the drums for him. Besides a great percussionist the guy is also a magnificent showman as I discovered and has the ability to carry the crowds with him. When he parked himself at our stand and beat the drums for our dancing pleasure, I focused on the way his hands moved the sticks.

It was as graceful and subtle as a very skilled batsman with a bat in his hand.

Unfortunately the cricket today was all about brute force and lacked that grace and beauty.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

On Site View: IPL Rocks Chennai!!!

This article of mine appeared under a guest column at Chennai Super Kings Fans Blog by Robin.

The IPL Party finally arrived at Chennai yesterday – the last of its eight stops all around the country. I had returned to Chennai only the day before and presumed that I was too late to join in. Tickets, it seemed, had sold like hot cakes and I had resigned myself to watching the game on the TV in the hostel room.

With the match scheduled to start at 8 pm, I set out with some vague plan after 5. I had been told by sources that the best chance of picking up tickets at this late hour would be at one of the Landmark bookstores in the city. I tried and failed. Faced with the choice of returning home and taking a chance at the stadium, most likely on a black ticket, I opted for the latter without much hope.

Even before getting off from the train at the Chepauk station, the floodlights from the stadium stared right into my eyes. It was an awe-inspiring sight. I had seen the same light towers day in and day out when I was there for the test match, but at night, the towers are a completely different spectacle. By the time I detrained, and joined in the thronging crowds I was welcomed by the loud music that was doing the rounds inside. The ticket counter was surprisingly still open. Anxiously, I asked for the ticket and I could scarcely believe my luck as the old man calmly told me to hand over Rs. 1000 and tore out one. For the second time in a month, completely unexpectedly, and hence unprepared, I found myself walking through the gates of the Cognizant stand and into the Chidambaram stadium. I had done the right thing by taking the chance.

Though there was still more than a hour and a half to go for the game, the players were already on the field doing their warm-ups, the crowd was already sizeable and the entertainment show was on full blast. This was my first time at any live sport event played at night and the spectacle is awesome! The lush green outfield blends beautifully with the blue of the Mumbai Indians and of course, the yellow of the Chennai Super Kings. Once I was in my seat I tried to figure out who the performer was. Luckily the stage was right opposite to our stand; yet it was too far away to identify the people. Then I vaguely remembered reading somewhere that it was Hariharan who was supposed to be the artist today. Later of course they showed him on the big screen. I haven’t been following that guy’s music too closely but it seems he is projecting himself as more than a musician, more like some sort of a rock-star and he did some dance moves that appeared a bit scary, to be polite. His music was good though and he mixed Tamil numbers with Hindi ones – notable among those I remembered were “Kay Zala?” and “Krishna”.

The crowd was understandably, quite different from the test match crowd a month ago. It was very young, very vibrant crowd, mainly of teenagers and people in their early twenties. And it was a completely festive atmosphere with everyone partying their hearts out, dancing and singing. There was ample amount of cheering and applause for players from both teams as well as for the entertainers. And in the middle of it all suddenly everyone went crazy and I couldn’t understand why – and later realized it was Vijay, the super star of South India and the Star Ambassador of the Super Kings who did the rounds of the ground.

Once Hariharan was done with his show some time before the toss, Sivamani, the famous Tamil percussionist took over with his drums. He was great – throughout the Chennai innings he stirred up the crowds with his beats and moved all around the perimeter of the ground so that all sections got a chance to soak him in. Dance and music was the theme of the night and for once, a purist like me, did not crib about cricket being only a part of the whole. If you have been watching IPL on TV thinking it is big, you haven’t seen anything yet. You have just got to go out there in the stadium to feel what passion, what heat this thing has generated all over young India.

As the game began and Chennai Super Kings batted each boundary was greeted with a new piece of music from Sivamani and others, and the crowds rose to his beats and tunes. There were cheerleaders, yes, of both camps; and the poor gals and guys of the Mumbai Indians got very few chances to cheer during the Chennai innings. But we loved their anthem and some of their numbers. In fact I could relate more to some of the Mumbai numbers because naturally I was unaware of some of the super-hit Tamil numbers that had the rest jumping from their seats and me a bit confused. The weird part though was that the cheerleaders were fully clad in trousers perhaps bearing in mind the relatively conservative culture of Chennai. I mean what next? Cheerleading with sweaters on in this heat?

Coming to the cricket, I can now appreciate how difficult it is to catch those high catches under lights. Several times looking straight up into the lights I completely lost the ball. Yet several wonderful catches were taken – notably by Bravo, Joginder, Raina and Badrinath. We cheered Hayden as one of our own yet he didn’t really show much appreciation after reaching his 50. The strokeplay on either side was spectacular – Raina for Chennai and Bravo, Jayasuruiya, Utthappa, Nayyar and Bhajji from Mumbai. The new fast bowler Gony from Chennai was most impressive. He was bowling away from us and I could feel the weight his ball generated troubling the top players like Jayasuriya. I also noticed Harbhajan completely lost as a captain and towards the end of the innings Jayasuriya was taking the lead helping him out adjusting the field and swapping fielders.

As the match reached a climax, the crowd tensed up just a little bit. It was an open game with three balls to go but somehow with Dhoni on our side I never believed we could lose. It was oh so similar to the T20 World Cup final with Joginder messing up at the start before holding his nerve to win. It was a massive roar and a collective sigh of relief that followed the win. It had been an amazing game and an astonishing spectacle of cricket and one grand party. To make it even more special the presentation lasted beyond midnight which meant it was Sachin Tendulkar’s birthday. There were several attempts to attract attention to this fact and that we remembered it by the crowd, unfortunately Tony Cozier during his presentation didn’t quite lap it up and I don’t know if Sachin received our wishes. Of course, he was cheered everytime he made an appearance on the big screen.

The Indian Premier League like a superhit Bollywood (or Kollywood) movie has enjoyed a grand opening. I hope it can sustain this success because it is just great. It has managed to harness the passion and energy of a whole generation of Indians. There is no reason to believe why it can’t go on to match the Premier Leagues of football in Europe. I want to be there again when Chennai take on Kolkata on Saturday. I want to be part of the phenomenon of this cricket revolution. The party has only begun. There are going to be many more such wild and glorious nights to follow. Cheers!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Dear Dear ! Rahul Will Never Change !

When Mohammad Kaif was going through a bad patch during the West Indies tour of 2006, he approached the then skipper Rahul Dravid for help. What he expected was probably a couple of technical tips and lots of words of encouragement. Whether he got these or not I'm sure but what he definitely got was a book about batting to read. He was, apparently, completely befuddled and did not know what to say.

Such incidents resulting from Dravid being the erudite, classic scholarly captain leading a team of brash young street-smart cricketers from the play-station generation little intent on bookish knowledge with short attention spans did ultimately contribute to his having to resign from the post.

Now, the other day, when leading BRC against the Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede, when Mark Boucher went in to join Jacques Kallis at a crucial juncture, Dravid chose to encourage him in his own unique style again - instead of a pat on the back or exhorting words, he merely reminded Boucher that he and Kallis had at the same venue 8 years ago built a match-winning partnership to win a Test match against India.

This time it worked !

Monday, April 21, 2008

Rahul's Statesmanly and Magnaminous Gesture

It is no surprise that no-one noticed this gesture - tiny, subtle and easily glossed over, but at the same time magnaminous and one that has prevented potentially cataclysmic effects in the cricketing world. As usual it is the gentleman at the fore of it all. As usual, simply because he chose to do it with so little fuss, he will never get credit for it. As usual, he did it in this manner because it was the right way to do - even though it was not going to help him get the limelight.

When Harbhajan got him caught and bowled, there was sufficient reason to question the catch and Dravid did for a moment. One could see him shake his head and actually look at the square leg umpire before he asked Bhajji and took Bhajj's word for it. Whether or not it was a clean catch is another question. I'm sure Bhajji was in his mind, completely honest he had caught it. But I'm also sure if it had gone to the third umpire, Rahul would have got the benefit of the doubt.

But I'm sure after that initial instinctive reaction Rahul immediately looked at the bigger picture. What repercussions would there have been all over the World especially in Australia if the picture was painted that Indian players themselves did not trust Harbhajan's word ? It would have been Christmas in Australia, it would have damaged Harbhajan's international career and had at least some medium term effects on the morale of Team India.

Kudos to the great man for his statesmanship and big-heartedness once again. Salute !

Friday, April 11, 2008

How Do You "Leave It Be" ?

There is this commentator on Cricinfo - I suspect it is George Binoy, who today seems to be using this phrase quite often often for deliveries not played a shot at. I mean, I have heard of "letting it go" and "leaving it alone" ... but how the hell do you leave a delivery be ?

Weird. Here is a sample commentary.
56.4 Sreesanth to de Villiers, no run, better length outside off stump, de Villiers leaves it be this time

On a related note - what's up with Sreesanth and all these slower balls ? So boring.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Dhoni - Shape Up or Ship Out !

Daryll Cullinan is not too far off the mark when he says that India's focus is not on the game but on the IPL to follow. In particular I'm terribly mad at Dhoni. This guy is getting a free ride in the Test team IMO and has done extremely averagely for the last 6 tests or so. In fact other than that match-saving innings at Lord's and his sole hundred against Pakistan Dhoni has practically nothing to show for as a batsman at this level. Yes he has a couple of 60s and the odd 90 but overall, terribly inconsistent. His average of 33 tells a story.

If anyone in this team needs to be under the scrutiny it is this man - MS Dhoni. Mr Superstition who believes in sacrifising lambs and in exercising his power over senior players who have achieved heights he can only dream of at this stage.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Cricinfo has gone bonkers. It is crazily exaggerating the so-called 20-20 fever that has gripped the country. It might be the most lucrative form of the game – I don’t know why that should make writers like Dileep Premachandran jealous of its success. Anyway it is highly doubtful if it can be classified as the least-skilled form of the game as from whatever I have seen it extracts more skills out of bowlers than the boring 50 over format.