Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Forgotten XI... Or Maybe Not

The following is an eleven comprising of Indian cricketers whose names are likely to be remembered only by either their own families or the most diehard of cricket followers. Like any "fantasy XI" I have picked the ones which I recall from my cricket watching career. There can be quite a few alternative XIs.
  1. Iqbal Siddique - In his debut Test for India, opened the bowling and batting. Also hit the the winning runs. And never played for India again. 
  2. Sujith Somasundar - Opened for India in 2 ODIs with a lineup comprising of Tendulkar, Dravid, Azhar, Ganguly and Ajay Jadeja following up. His failures lead to India experimenting with Ganguly as Tendulkar's opening partner and the rest as they is history.
  3. Gagan Khoda - Scored 89 in his 2nd ODI earning him the Man of the Match award. And never played for India again. Just plain bad luck. 
  4. Amay Khurasiya - In contrast to Khoda, An attacking 50 on his ODI debut earned Khurasiya place in the 1999 World Cup squad. The innings warded off competition from the likes of VVS Laxman and Virender Sehwag. A few games later he was dropped for good.
  5. Atul Bedade - Was the Yusuf Pathan equivalent of the pre-T20 era. A high strike rate but not too many runs ensured that Bedade represented India only in 13 ODIs. Would certainly have been in big demand in the IPL.
  6. Pankaj Dharmani - Only one game for the Ranji run machine. A wicket keeper with a first class average of over 50 but played only one ODI for India due to a career coinciding with Nayan Mongia's. 
  7. Laxmi Ratan Shukla - He is still toiling away in the Ranji and IPL circuits. Hasn't represented India in this millenium, hence the IPL considers him to be an uncapped player inspite of playing 3 ODIs for India.
  8. David Johnson - 2 Tests as Srinath's injury replacement. But never stuck around the team
  9. Noel David - Noel Who is said to have been the reaction of the then Indian captain Tendulkar, when he heard that this spinner has replaced the injured  Srinath. A brilliant ODI debut and superb fielding were good signs, But his career fizzled out within a few days.
  10. Nilesh Kulkarni - A wicket of his first ball in Test cricket followed by one more in his entire 3 Test career. A case of domestic potential not being translated into international performances.
  11. Robin Singh Jr. - Not to be confused with the more famous Robin Singh. Both played 1 Test each for India although Robin Singh Sr. played in more  than 100 ODIs also.
12th Man - Connor Williams - Slight cheating done here. He never played an international for India. or rather never played in an "official" international game for India. His only India cap came in a "Test" against South Africa which was not given Test status post the Mike Denness fiasco of 2001. 

So 4 batsman, 1 wicket-keeper who can bat, 2 seam-bowling all-rounders, 2 fast bowlers and 2 spinners - in all a very well balanced side.  

Some unable to use their chances and some plain unlucky. But all (with one exception) being part of the very few to have worn the India cap.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The West Indies - The End is Nigh

Its been just over a week since last week's dramatic and abrupt end of the West Indies tour to India. In the mean time thousands of articles have probably appeared on the web talking about the decline in everything related to West Indies cricket. Here is one more on the same.

In my opinion, the time has come for the West Indies as a cricketing team to close down.

This abandonment could be the straw that broke the camel's back. The player-board standoff has been running for years which not surprisingly has coincided with the general decline in West Indies cricket. From being the top ranked country and a widely admired opponent, they have now been sitting close to the bottom in terms of rankings. Threats of strikes, withdrawals, dubious droppings, stand-offs between individual players and the board do not augur well for the making of a team. But walking out in the middle of a tour against the most powerful cricket board is taking matters too far. The abandonment will have far-reaching repercussions. BCCI has already suspended future bilateral tours and other national boards and sponsors are extremely wary. There are even doubts on their participation in the coming World Cup.

West Indies are not the only ones with problems. Zimbabwe have worse but theirs are not just board specific but rooted in the political turmoil in the country. And Afghanistan have shown how cricket as a sport can still grow in war ravaged nation. So payment disputes are comparatively an insignificant issue.

The WICB have been consistently showing their incompetency for the past few years. The 2007 World Cup was arguably the worst organised one in history. And they had almost sold off the entire cricketing administration to Allan Stanford, an American billionaire now in jail for fraud. 

Even the cry of "Rally around the West Indies" somehow doesn't fit the players who seem more interested in becoming T20 mercenaries playing across the proliferating T20 leagues across the world than playing for their "nation".

The West Indies as a team concept are an unique example in not just cricket but across the sporting world. They transcend the national boundaries. Its not just one nation but different countries across the Caribbean region who come together to play as one on the cricketing field. In every other sports these countries have their own separate identities but cricket unites them. However the multiple national interests may also be the cause of the breakdown. 

So I feel that the time has come for the various nations in the West Indies to go their own separate ways. Most likely they are just waiting for the first one to take the plunge and go its own separate way. And maybe having separate national teams might rejuvenate the flogging interest in the game within the region. It will be sad day for cricket when this happens. But the way the events are unfolding it seems to be a question of when and not if. 

The demise of the West Indies cricket will be mourned by all cricket lovers but their current avatar will not be missed.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Missing In Action : Indian cricket @ Asian Games

Cricket has rarely appeared at Multi-sports events. Its limited playing base combined with the long playing duration (5-day Tests) has ensured that the chances of appearing at a multi-sport event was rare.

Cricket's only Olympics appearance was in the 1900 Paris Games with Great Britain beating France in  the final which incidentally was also the only game of the competition. It was almost a century later in the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games 1998 that cricket reappeared. This time the format was the 50 over ODIs. The Commonwealth Games would have been the most appropriate setting for cricket with all the big teams from the Commonwealth. However there were issues of country boundaries with Wales as a separate entity, the individuals islands of the West Indies having to appear as separate teams. However the biggest dampener was the lack of enthusiasm of the various cricket boards. And hence cricket never reappeared at the Commonwealth Games.

However the advent of T20 format and the unexpected enthusiasm of the Olympic Committee of Asia has made way for cricket's entry in  the Asian Games. And this has resulted in cricket being played in China and South Korea. An excellent platform for spreading the game across the region. However the big boys of the cricketing world do not seem to be enthused with the idea. BCCI have stayed off completely. Pakistan and Sri Lanka seem to be reluctant participants. However the likes of Bangladesh and the Associates and Affiliates certainly like the idea. After all its probably the biggest stage for them.

Test cricket is an exclusive club and the current members seem unwilling to take on new ones. ICC talks about making cricket a global game but seems to have two different parameters for the Big 10 and the others. There is a strange reluctance to let the numbers spread at the very top level. Probably its the fear of losing control of the cash cow that is the Indian cricket audience thats prompting this idea.

There was an ongoing Champions League (probably the most useless "international" tournament). The BCCI could have easily sent a youth (U-23) or an A team, but it chose not to. And more difficult to fathom are the reasons for the non-appearance of the Women's team, which did not have any other international commitments.

Whatever the reason, Indian fans have lost a chance to cheer for their team in the Asian Games. And BCCI has done a great disservice to the Indian sports fans. Its almost as if the cricket team is BCCI's and not India's (which is the legal reality). So they might as well stop associating the Indian flag for the Men in Blue.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

RIP Norman Gordon

Norman Gordon (South Africa) (1911-2014)

Cricket's first and till date only ever centurion against time bids farewell.

Well played Sir.

The longest lived Test cricketer - a record which will stand for some time.

Arbit Stats #34

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

India in England, 2014 - Numbers Don't Lie

Chart above shows the Test-by-Test batting average comparison for Pataudi Trophy. And while it is often said that numbers hide more than they reveal, the above chart tells the entire series story.

1st Test - India & England both had their moments, both tails showed fight. And India ground out a draw with a fighting 3rd innings display taking out the time. England marginally ahead in the averages on account of their small first innings lead.

2nd Test - It was a low scoring match and India were ahead. With time in hand India won.

3rd Test - The one that changed it all. Big score by England, India could not avoid follow-on. England did not enforce the follow-on and then ran through the Indian 2nd innings. Hence the big gulf in the averages.

4th & 5th Tests - India bat first, score smaller and smaller. England score bigger and bigger. 2nd time around India go worse. And England are not required to bat again.

While England picked up their batting after Lords (and their bowling as well), India went lower and lower.
Overall series averages: England - 43.69; India - 25.74. A difference of nearly 18 runs/wicket certainly indicates a wide gulf in class of the two batting units.

Overall, a terrible performance by Indian batsmen.

Monday, August 18, 2014

India in England, 2014

After the 2nd Test in Lord's, England was the team in disarray. Cook's captaincy was in question, Prior had taken a possibly career-ending break, the attitude and form of many senior players was in question, the batting had been found out by India's seam bowling, there was no proper spinning option. All signs pointed to a prolonged summer of agony for the English. While the Indian  fans exulted. This was going to be the balm of the pain caused by the summer and winter of 2011. 

And then...
After the 5th Test, just vice versa. Replace England and its personnel by their counterparts in the Indian team. The entire script turned on its head when Ishant Sharma's injury replacement Pankaj Singh had Cook dropped by Ravindra Jadeja. One moment changed the entire course of a series.

Can't really even begin to analyse what went wrong as the mind is numbed by the manner of the defeats handed out in the last 3 Tests. So venting out my feelings through powerpoint (picture above).

After such a performance, drastic measures are required. And not just changing the players or the captain. The coaching staff should be the first one on the firing line. But will the stubborn Indian cricket management respond?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Arbit Stats 32: Duck Tales

India vs England, 4th Test, Old Trafford
India win the the Toss, elect to bat first and have a nightmarish innings.

Murali Vijay, Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneswar Kumar & Pankaj Singh all got out without troubling the scorers. And with this India claimed the record for most ducks (6) in the first innings having elected to bat first after winning the toss.

Also they share the unwanted record of the most ducks in a Test innings with South Africa and Bangladesh.

Monday, July 21, 2014


300th entry on this blog. Coinciding with an amazing win at Lords with India bowlers bouncing out the opposition. So pardon my self-indulgence for feeling like this

A time for some self congratulations. The scoring rate has certainly slowed down but the posts will keep on coming.

But this post is about this little cricket blog. 
  • Named after Ian Bell's tendency to score centuries only if another batsman had scored one in the innings. An anomaly which Bell (also named the patron saint of this blog) has since corrected. 
  • Also the only dedicated blog covering Jharkhand cricket and its cricketers. 
  • Arbit Stats which appear with their own random frequency. 
  • However what this blog is not? A newspaper trying to cover every occurrence in the cricketing world.

300 posts in almost 5 years of dedicated cricket blogging. Some of the posts have managed to make an appearance on other forums as well. Special thanks to forum moderators.
  • Die Hard Cricket Fans (Link)
  • Sportskeeda (Link)

Thanks to all the readers across the forums for keeping the blogs going. 

Next target Lara's 400 mark :P

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Arbit Stats 31: Sting in the Tail

The Arbit Statistics return after a long hiatus. There were many reasons for this. Lack of motivation & laziness to write a post being the prime cause of this gap. Lack of cricket and arbit stats were certainly not one of them. But with India touring England for the fullest of the full tours, some arbitrary statistics were bound to appear, alongwith the enthusiasm to note them down.

Test Match No. 2128: England vs India at Trent Bridge, presented something never seen or heard before in the long history of the game. On a lifeless pitch more akin to Nagpur than Nottingham (a metaphor I have borrowed from a forgotten source), both sets of bowlers managed to prise out 9 wickets for a reasonable score. And then lightning struck. TWICE. First India's Numbers 9 & 11 Bhuvaneshwar & Shami helped themselves to their maiden Test half centuries, reached off consecutive balls of James Anderson.In the process they also picked up a century partnership for themselves. Guess this must have really hurt Anderson's pride. So when the England number 11 came out to bat with England in a lot of trouble, he proceeded to get his own maiden first class half century and alongwith Joe Root also managed to compile the biggest 10th wicket Test partnership of all time.

So Bhuvi, Shami, Root & Jimmy combined together and against each other to make this the first Test match ever to feature two 100+ 10th wicket partnerships. Well, everything does happen for the first time.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Mankading & "Spirit of Cricket"

Mankading - the act of a bowler running out the non-striker batsman before bowling the ball has always been a source of needless controversy. 

In fact for some weird reason it has become a test of the "sportsman spirit" of a bowler who does not do the "Mankad". Cortney Walsh has received a medal for not running out Salim Yousuf. But if the bowler does Mankad, like Sachitra Senanayake did to Jos Buttler, all hell breaks lose. The bowler and the fielding captain are accused of having destroyed "the spirit of cricket" - the greatest crime imaginable in the gentlemans's game.

Well here are my two bits on Mankading.
It is within the laws of the game. In fact there is a specific law for the situation, hence no ambiguity is possible. Law 42(15) states - "The bowler is permitted, before entering his delivery stride, to attempt to run out the non-striker. Whether the attempt is succesful or not, the ball shall not count as one of the over. If the bowler fails to run out the non-striker, the umpire shall call and signal Dead ball as soon as possible". 

So if there exists a specific law which states what are the consequences of a bowler breaking the stumps with the non-striker outside his crease, then why the hue and cry? The "spirit of cricket" has already been murdered many a time (Fixing, Corruption, Walking/Not walking etc.) by different sets of players, officials and administrators. Guess that is why it exists in "spirit" form.

Here the batsman was wandering outside the crease and with run-out decisions sometimes become a matter of TV frames, then it does become an advantage for the non-striker to back up as far ahead as possible. In this case, Buttler had been warned twice by Senanayake in his previous over. (Which is where the matter of cricket's spirit should rest, which seemingly is not the case). And when Buttler was found wandering out again he was run-out. A result very rightly deserved. 

So the right decision was taken on action justified and well within the laws and more importantly the previous over Senanayake having shown the proper "spirit" also, guess Buttler should have nothing to complain about. Don't see any justifications for the hue and cry it has raised.  Nor do I see why the batsman is being portrayed as a victim, when its his own actions which are to be blamed for his fate.

To me its clear, Senanayake and the rest were well within their rights to run-out Buttler. And no harm was caused to the so called "spirit of the game".

Closing Notes - a couple of interesting exhibits on Mankading
Exhibit A - The original report on Mankading

Exhibit B - Chris Gayle showing "spirit" of game. Again the dancing might not be agreeable to the believers in the Gentlemen's game.

Now its up to ICC to either (a) tinker with the laws, which they love to do a lot; OR (b) tell the players that Mankading does no harm done to the "spirit of cricket"