Thursday, August 20, 2015

Galle 2015 - The Soon to be Unremembered Classic

Test Match #2176, Sri Lanka vs India, Galle

It had all the ingredients for a Test Match Classic – A match about which reams of newsprint should have been written and thousands of blogs published. One to been remembered for ages. Yet somehow it wasn’t.

Day 1&2: The home side began by winning the toss and getting knocked over for a paltry score on the very first day. The tourists take a huge lead of 192 runs built on the back of a huge third wicket stand which itself surpasses the home side’s tally. And then quickly remove both the home team’s openers for ducks by the close of the second day’s play. They are in the driver’s seat with not many thinking of the match going beyond the third day.

Day 3: The nightwatchman is dismissed off the very first ball. Little partnerships happen but the big wickets keep coming. At lunch with half the side back in pavilion, the home team trails by nearly hundred runs and an early finish to the day is on the cards. But their wicket-keeper has other ideas and produces one of those fearless, nothing-to-lose counter-attacks. The deficit is chipped away rapidly and then the lead starts building up. A small one at first, it soon enters the irritating category and then progresses into the “we have a match on our hands” zone. The home side eventually get dismissed after setting a 176 run target. The visitors lose one of their openers but watch out the rest of the day’s play. They are still very much in driver’s seat. 

Day 4: Its the Independence Day for the tourists. But the runs are very hard to come by as the batsmen are shackled up by the home spinners. The same spinners who had no effect in the first innings. The wickets have start tumbling. One after the other, the visiting batsmen are snared. And the home side manages to secure a big come-from-behind victory. Meanwhile the visitors are left stunned, trying to figure out how this dramatic turnaround came into being.

As if the dramatic action on the field wasn't enough, there were lots of other stories
  • The series is the last for one of the home side legends. The home supporters are taking every opportunity to bid a grand farewell to their hero. 
  • The tourists have a new captain who has been talking a lot about playing aggressively and getting the results after having spent quite some time getting hammered all around the globe.
  • The tourists get a big first innings lead based on one big partnership featuring a man playing with a hairline fracture in his hand. Add the chance that he might not even have played this game if his regular opening partner had not been injured.
  • The home side’s wrecker-in-chief in the second innings is an ageing, rotund spinner who himself is coming back from injury. He picks up seven in the second innings after none in the first. Quite a turnaround in fortunes.
  • In between one of the visiting players sets a new world record for the most catches by a non-wicket-keeper in a Test match.
  • And finally, it was one of the Big Three playing against a (relatively) tiny cricketing nation. The richest team in the world taking on a team whose players sometimes are not paid (One of their ex-captains on being fined by ICC said, first I need to be paid to be fined).
An exciting match, a dramatic turnaround, a potential David vs Goliath battle, a retiring legend, records getting broken, players battling through injury, umpiring errors – in short all the ingredients to be count as an all-time classic.

Except it was another India vs Sri Lanka match – already forgotten.

A lesson for the cricket administrators here - contests need a context. And rivalries are developed with time not frequency

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Jharkhand Domestic Schedule: 2015-16 Season

The home season is around the corner and as is wont with all the cricket boards, some more tinkering has been done by BCCI for the coming season. While the Ranji Format remains the same, the Vijay Hazare & Syed Mustaq Ali Trophies have undergone a revamp. The zonal structure has been dropped and the teams have been divided into four groups. Also the Mustaq Ali Trophy has been brought forward to be played ahead of the IPL Auctions (although there is a question mark on IPL itself, but that's another issue) so that the teams get a better idea of the domestic players. 

Slipstream Cricket will try to continue following the Jharkhand team's fortunes in the new domestic season. Last year wasn't a good one though the team did try some promising youngsters. Lets see what the new season has in store.

Following is the team's schedule

Ranji Trophy - Last season was a bad one, though there was a flourish at the fag end with two outright wins in a row, but the team is still in Group C.
  1. October 1-4, 2015: vs Services (A)
  2. October 8-12, 2015: vs Saurashtra (A)
  3. October 15-18, 2015: vs Kerala (A)
  4. October 30 - November 2, 2015: vs Goa (H)
  5. November 7-10, 2015: vs Jammu & Kashmir (H)
  6. November 15-18, 2015: vs Tripura (A)
  7. November 23-26, 2015: vs Himachal Pradesh (A)
  8. December 1-4, 2015: vs Hyderabad (A)
The knock-out matches will take place after the conclusion of the Vijay Hazare & Mustaq Ali Trophies.

Vijay Hazare Trophy - In the revamped groupings, Jharkhand is in Group B
  1. December 10, 2015: vs Jammu & Kashmir
  2. December 11, 2015: vs Gujarat
  3. December 13, 2015: vs Kerala
  4. December 14, 2015: vs Haryana
  5. December 15, 2015: vs Karnataka
  6. December 17, 2015: vs Railways
All matches in Karnataka
These will be followed by the knock-out stages. The Vijay Hazare Trophy winner also plays in the Deodhar Trophy

Syed Mustaq Ali Trophy - Groupngs have revamped like the Vijay Hazare Trophy. Also a great opportunity for the players to shine and land an IPL contract. And maybe stake claim for a place in the 2016 T20 World Cup squad as well.
  1. January 3, 2016: vs Tripura
  2. January 4, 2016: vs Rajasthan
  3. January 6, 2016: vs Punjab
  4. January 7, 2016: vs Jammu & Kashmir
  5. January 9, 2016: vs Saurashtra
  6. January 10, 2016: vs Kerala
All matches in Kerala. 
These will be followed by the knock-out matches

Jharkhand play Jammmu & Kashmir is all three formats.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Arbit Stats #45: Spinning Ducks

Test Match No. 2176 - India vs Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka 2nd Innings
FDM Karunaratne b R Ashwin 0
JK Silva b A Mishra 0

Thus becoming the first pair of openers to be both dismissed for zero by spinners in the same innings.

Combination of spin-friendly pitches, innovative captaincy, good bowling and scorecard pressure.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Bell Rings in 5 Urns

Slipstream Cricket would like to congratulate its patron saint, Ian Bell on his tremendous achievement of being part of five Ashes winning campaigns - only the second Englishman after Sir Ian Botham to do so since the Second World War.
Says a lot about the longevity of Bell and also the frequency of the Ashes Clashes - he has also been part of 2 losing campaigns including 2 whitewashes Down Under.

Image Source - Cricinfo

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Arbit Stats #44: Surnames

Found this gem from twitter.

England's playing XI for the Trent Bridge Test:


11 names comprising of a total of 53 letters between them - the smallest tally in the 2175 match history of Test cricket.

Just to put a perspective to this figure - Sri Lankan XIs usually have more initials than this.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Arbit Stats #43: Cardiff

From the opening Test of the 2015 Ashes, come a nice little useless tidbit

The Sophia Gardens Stadium (earlier know as Swalec) in Cardiff, Wales becomes the first venue in the world to see a total of 400+ in the first innings of the match in its first three Tests

Source: BBC Text Commentary Screenshot (Link)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ajinkya Rahane: The Quick Turnaround or Setup for Failure

June 20, 2015 
Ajinkya Rahane is dropped from the playing XI for the second ODI against Bangladesh. Captain Dhoni explains the decision "We have seen that he plays a lot better on pitches that have some pace. But on a slow pitch, whenever he has batted at No. 4 or 5, he does have a problem in freely rotating the strike at the start of his innings. I think Ajinkya will have to wait."

June 29, 2015
Ajinkya Rahane is appointed captain of the Indian team to tour Zimbabwe.

That must have been one of the quickest turnaround in player fortunes ever witnessed in the history of the game. From being dropped to being appointed captain albeit of a team which has rested most of the senior players, within a week must be some sort of a record. Also does his elevation imply that he is on pole as Virat Kohli's deputy in Tests?

But from the squad selected for the series, one gets a feeling that Rahane has almost been up for failure. A victory against Zimbabwe will mean nothing, even if achieved with a second string team. However, failure to win might end up some careers. 

The absence of a genuine wicket-keeper is an obvious hole in the squad. Seems like we might be going back to post-Mongia period when the keeping duties became a musical chairs with many new keepers (Prasad, Karim, Dasgupta, Dahiya, Dighe, Ratra, Patel) being tried and ultimately the job getting handed to a specialist batsman like Dravid.

There are two intriguing selections - Harbhajan Singh and Manoj Tiwary. Picking up Harbhajan seems a sign that his rehabilitation into the national squad is complete, although no numbers justify his cause, and also shows the paucity of spin options in the country. Manoj Tiwary makes his umpteenth comeback into the national squad. In fact the man has made more comebacks than play actual games for the country. Seems to be one destined to be forever on the fringes and yet is always there on the fore-front when the seniors take a break.

In all, lots of weird selections. The chosen ones have to perform well. But good performance will only ensure that they stay on the fringes because the places will be taken up by returning senior players. And if they perform badly, they will be out of reckoning for quite some time (Case in point, the team picked for the 2010 tour to Zimbabwe). And Rahane as captain, certainly has his task cut out, with his own place (in limited overs) at stake as well. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Women's Cricket in India

Today morning, I was flipping through the sports channels. Landed on Star Sports 2 which was broadcasting a live ODI between India and New Zealand Women's teams. Batting first, India were in a spot of bother and ended up with a total of 142 on the back of Jhulan Goswami's fighting half-century and little bit of support from the tail-enders.

The coverage was normal, though with fewer cameras. The commentary was also quite good, but there was hardly anyone watching the game in the stands. On a Sunday, an international cricket match being played in India, involving the Indian national team, and near-empty stands! Also don't remember seeing even a single promo for this series on TV or even in print. Then I looked up the series schedule. All five ODIs and the three T20s are scheduled in Bangalore. 

Makes me wonder if there in any interest amongst BCCI top honchos in the promotion of the women's game in the country. The game is being telecast live but there was no marketing in the lead-up to the game. India is a country with a tremendous capacity of watching cricket, Almost all internationals and T20 leagues from around the world and even regional T20 leagues are lapped up by us. But they have to be aware that the product exists before they can consume? 

Also, why hold the entire series in one city which anyways hosts the mens team and IPL games on a regular basis. Why not take it to the smaller towns which do not get to see much international sporting activity. I remember a women's ODI between India and West Indies being held in Dhanbad a few years back which was played before quite a decent sized crowd. So why did this practice stop? Don't think it could really be due to any cost cutting. I don't think playing in front of near empty stands would be much of a motivation to any of the players

The BCCI marketing team needs to wake up and market the women's game better. A few suggestions to them
  1. Live telecast is great but a few more TV promos would also be quite helpful for the cause.
  2. Have the games spread out in Tier 2 cricket venues which do not get much international sports action.
  3. Billboards, flyers in the town hosting the game would certainly help in the marketing.
  4. More coverage in the newspapers in the lead-up to the games along with some detailed post-match coverage would help the cause.
  5. Why not have  Women's T20 league on the lines of the IPL to showcase the game's talents. If a Kabaddi league can become successful, there is no reason for a Women's T20 premier league to not be a success, provided it is promoted well.
Enough of ranting, now back to the watching the game, as the Kiwis begin their chase of the smallish Indian target of  143. Meanwhile hoping that the BCCI top mandarins wake up and cash in on this potential revenue stream.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Ashes Promo - "We Didn't Start the Fire"

The Ashes maybe nearly a month away. And both England and Australia have to complete other tours before they take on each other in the latest edition of one of the oldest rivalries in international sport. While we wait, Sky Sports has come up with this promo. 

They have reworded Billy Joel’s lyrics of “We didn’t start the fire” and giving voice are the likely series commentators Holding, Atherton, Hussain, Warne, Lloyd. The whole montage is brimming with Ashes history. 

Here are the lyrics 

Donald Bradman, Peter May, At The Oval, Final Day,
Little Urn, Bob's perm, W G Grace
Walter Hammond, Mitchell Johnson, At The Gabba, Big Decision
Chris Broad, Ponsford, Riiiiiiiiiichie Benaud
Larwood's Bodyline, Athers slips on 99
Laker, Jones' dive, Gower flying in the sky
Baggy Greens, swing/seam, Warnie's ball in '93
Ricky Ponting, Pratty gets him, Freddie makes the bails fly!
We didn't start the fire... 
10, 11 whitewash, Nasser and that toss
Tubby Taylor, Sher-minator, Brigadier-block
Swansongs, follow-ons, Headingley '81
Mark Waugh, Steve Waugh, Harmy's shocking first ball
Brett Lee, on his knees, Aussies got a winning team
Davy Warner, third man, Andy Flower's England
John Snow, final Test, Manchester, yes, Chef!
Thommo, Lillee, fierce pace, Bumble smacked in that place...
We didn't start the fire... 

The big names of Ashes - Grace, Bradman, Posford, Hammond, Warne, the Waugh Twins, Larwood, Laker, Johnson, Botham, Willis, Benaud are all there, alongwith the footage from the Bodyline series, Warne's ball of the century to Gatting, Headingley 81 & Edgbaston 2005, as well as even the funny nicknames Sherminator (Ian Bell) & Brigadier Block (Collingwood). It even has the Sprinkler dance to round off this celebration of the Ashes rivalry.

This is another great promo in the year of great sporting promotional campaigns.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

World Cup Semi-Final: India vs Australia – How It Unfolded (For Me)

I am wide awake much before the usual waking time. And why not? After all not everyday in a World Cup semi-final featuring your team. If this is how nervous I as a follower feel, wonder what goes on in the players’ minds?

Start getting ready for office. I am not bunking work to watch the match? Why, because the team won on the days I went to work. So why jinx it? On the eve of the game I have changed my mobile wallpaper to the “BleedBlue” logo. My way of supporting the team. Meanwhile Star Sports has suddenly realized that there are other sports being played on this played also. And shows a montage of the coming live action from Football, Badminton, F1, Tennis etc. Actually a good line-up for any sports fan.

Toss Time: Australia win the toss and elect to bat India out of the game. But We Won’t Give It Back. The commentators are already talking about this game being a home game for India. Finally, we are realizing the virtues of a huge population and the brain drain. Any corner of the big wide world and you will find Indians, lots of us Indians.

Anthem Time: I sing along to Jan Gana Mana. There is no music more rousing than your national anthem. Can there be? During the anthem, they show the entire team, then the support staff, a few crowd shots and then the lone figure of Dhawal Kulkarni. A player who has been around the team for the whole World Cup but not officially part of the World Cup team. Wonder how must that feel. Binny, Rayudu & Axar also did feature in a single game but they are World Cup players while Kulkarni is not. Okay back to the game now.

1st ball – Shami misses the edge of Finch’s bat. And I am off to work.

I hear snatches of commentary blaring out from the shops on the roadside. They are discussing those number things which mostly do not make any sense. But its early part of the game, so the commentators need to be kept busy. On the way, twitter keeps me company. Finch seemingly in trouble but surviving. Warner looking to hammer them all away and WARNER is OUT. (yay 15/1). Smith joins Finch and the milking of the Indian bowling has started.

I have reached office in quick time. The traffic was much less than usual but more than expected. And went to my desk instead of going to the Food Court, where a big screen had been put up for the live telecast. There will be a time, but it’s not now.

89/1 (15): Not looking terribly good at the moment. Need wickets pronto. All online commentary channels have been fired up. I might be in office but being focused on the work seems highly unlikely.

132/1 (25): Expecting to chase 340 odd. Need wickets. Lots of them and fast. Steve Smith has hit fifty and is looking ominous. Finch has also reached a fifty now. [Aside - A home team wearing yellow had been utterly destroyed in the previous World Cup that I had followed. That doesn’t seem to be happening here].

155/1 (30): Old wisdom says you double the score after 30 overs. Post T20 era, you score 200 in the last 20. Whichever way its going to be a tall chase for India.

181/1 (33): Australia take the Powerplay early. And Steve Smith gets another 100 against India in the 2014-15 Season. Not good at all from our perspective. 

197/2 (34.1). And Smith is OUT. And Maxwell walks in. This could go anywhere now.
Maxwell threatening to take the game away. Lands a few hefty blows as well. But Ashwin has got him. We need a collapse like India’s 29/9 against South Africa in last World Cup. Umesh gets Finch. Are the Aussies collapsing? 235/4 (39). [Aside - Successfully postponed a bit off work which was threatening to come my way. Cricket and my nation need my undivided attention].

250/5 (43). Now Clarke goes. 42 balls left. C’mon India get those 5 wickets and maintain your neat wicket taking record.

271/5 (45): 5 overs to go. How much can they score? 50 more? We are still looking at a BIGGG chase :( The Aussies have been losing wickets at the death, very like India, but unlike India the big hits have kept coming as well.

328/7(50):Australia the first team to not get all out against India this World Cup. India actually need to tie this game to go through to the final. That would be FUN. 

Time for Lunch. The Food Court looks different. Its more crowded because of the game telecast. The openers stride out to loud cheers in the food court. Lunch is gulped down amidst oohs and aahs across the food court.

Haddin drops Dhawan? Has he dropped the World Cup. India breathes. And scores runs easily.

Back at desk. Dhawan out. And so is Kohli. And Rohit. Now Raina is out. Need to get away from the desk. This has been quite a wicket-taking spell. :(

156/4 (32): Rahane & Dhoni have been becalmed. Afraid the game is meandering away to an end. (179 off 108 balls). Well Played India. You had already exceeded the expectations.

178/5 (36.2): Rahane OUT! Suddenly work seems to have become more interesting. DRS used for the sake of using it by the Aussies and they get a positive result in their favour. Some days the dice just does not roll your way.

183/5 (38): It’s THAT Score. Now the question – Will we crawl to a defeat, a la UAE, or go out all guns blazing, like the West Indies? Prefer the 2nd option but Dhoni is playing like the first.

196/5 (40): 132 off 60 balls. Well-nigh impossible now. It has all gone down since Dhawan’s dismissal. Nothing much to write home about.

232/7 (45): Dhoni also gone. And the last flickering embers die out.

233/10: Its all over at SCG. Australia win by 95 runs. 

Brad Haddin did not drop the World Cup. Well played Australia!. Though methinks the country happiest with this result is not Australia but Bangladesh. Which reminds me all Asian teams knocked out of the tournament at the first possible opportunity.

India certainly exceeded the expectations by reaching the semis with a clean slate. It was a complete team effort with no individual standing out throughout the course of the tournament. Well Played. Team India. Thanks for all the entertainment.

Random Thoughts: Was this the last India game for Dhoni. What will we remember India's tournament for? How many casualties from this World Cup lineup. How different will the team be when they next take the ground. But these questions will wait. After all the World Cup final is still to be played.

And for me, I will finish off the pending work and go home. Also feel sad for a while. And then tomorrow is another day. After all one of the side-effects of growing up is that such defeats don't hurt for long, unlike earlier.

So off to the MCG. The Kiwis are waiting. This is their mauka for the first ever World Cup victory.