Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Indian Injury Conspiracy

India vs Bangladesh Test Series, 2010
As expected the Indians are on their way to a 2-nil victory over Bangladesh in the Idea Cup Test Series. Cricket Wise it was a decent performance. Barring the the odd hiccup here and there, its been more or less a comfortable victory in terms of the field performance. But there is something else which is worrying me here.
Prior to first Test Dhoni & Harbhajan get injured, but they recover in time for the second and were not really missed. But after that the story gets grim.
Sreesanth - Hamstring injury (normal injury for any fast bowler)
Laxman - Hand (never heard of Laxman missing Tests due to injury)
Yuvraj Singh - Wrist Ligament Damage
Dravid - Broken Jaw (Hit on the side of the helmet while batting)
Tendulkar - Shoulder (while fielding)
And all this just prior to the South African series which is being billed as the "World Championship of Test Cricket" (with the top 2 ICC ranked Test teams taking on each other). The entire Indian middle order is injured and in doubt for the the tests against South Africa.
Is this a mere coincidence or are the South Africans performing some sort of Voodoo/Dark Arts/Black Magic/Witchcraft/Sorcery on our team? (Or are the Pakistanis involved following the IPL auction?)
Just wondering...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Living the Hype

An India-Pakistan World Cup Knock-out match always lives up to the hype, whatever level it would be at. In a match reduced to 23 overs a side, the Pakistan beat India in the Under-19 World Cup Quarter-final by2 wickets. Pakistan won the toss and put India into bat first. The Indian innings never got going after losing 2 wickets in the very first over. They ended up with 114. In reply Pakistan kept losing wickets at regular intervals but somehow managed to scrape through with 2 wickets in hand and 3 balls to spare.
I managed to catch most of the India innings (woke up on time) and the first few overs of the Pakistan innings (had to leave for office, I have working Saturdays). Managed to keep track of the score. What impressed me most was the quality of seam bowling on display from both the sides. The conditions were helpful but still credit must go to these youngsters who managed to use these conditions. I specially liked the Indian new ball pair of Sandeep Sharma & Saurabh Netravalkar, who bowled at a fair pace (in the 130s) and swung it around as well. Hopefully they will be able to continue with this.
Post game there were some interesting observations from PCB & ex-Pakistan players. According to them it was payback on India because of all the tamasha at the IPL auction. Illogical & completely out of context, thats what this statement was. Is not being selected for IPL such a big deal? Whatever happened to playing for your own country?

There are rumours floating of the Sri Lankan board planning a series against India this year. (NOOOOOOOOO,..........)
Tomorrow is the day for Gautam Gambhir. Overnight not out on 26 against Bangladesh in the 2nd Test. Richards & Bradman are waiting.

Friday, January 22, 2010

India vs Pakistan: Low Hype Match-up

I could not find many articles on this match. So as a real cricket fan felt it was my moral duty to hype up this game. As I write this, 4 hours from now, in the distant country of New Zealand, India take on Pakistan in the 1st quarter-final of the Under-19 World Cup. The stakes are pretty high for both teams. Its a straight knock-out with the winner advancing and the loser getting their championship hopes dashed. This is also the first match at any level between the two sub-continent rivals after the tamasha at the IPL auction. This should add to the interest levels for the game.
I really dont know much about the players from either of the teams, but this is their chance to shine. There aren't many platforms better than this to get noticed.
Hoping & praying for an Indian win tomorrow.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

An "Ordinary" Win

This was supposed to be a pretty boring & one-sided series with Test cricket's top ranked team taking on the bottom ranked one. But from the start, actually from the build-up itself, it was anything but boring.
Virender Sehwag started the pre-game hype by calling Bangladesh an "ordinary" team who weren't capable of taking 20 wickets in a match. His words were met with uproar. Bangladeshi captain Shakib-al-Hasan questioned India's No. 1 rating saying that Australia & South Africa were better. Their coach Siddons said that Sehwag's words would "come back and bite him in the bum". It was funny to have such a big war of words before an India-Bangladesh Test Series.
India lost the services of Dhoni & Harbhajan before the game & Sehwag led in Dhoni's place. India were put into bat. And were shot out for 243 with Shakib taking Sehwag's wicket. Sachin Tendulkar's unbeaten century saved it from being a complete disaster. Bangladesh in reply in big trouble before Mahmudullah & Rahim bailed them out and they ended up one run behind the Indian score. Second time around India batted much better with Gambhir getting a hundred. They declared and set a target 415 for the home team. Mushfiqur Rahim scored a century in vain as Bangladesh lost by 113 runs.
The match was played under foggy conditions with bad light ending it prematurely on all days. Sehwag's statement really hyped up this match. In the end he was proved right that Bangladesh could not manage 20 wickets against India but they ran them close in the first innings. However it must be said that somehow the Indian team gave the feeling that they were never out of control in the game.
There were some good performances from both sides. Sachin's 1st innings century (which got him the Man of the Match award); Shakib & Shahdat's 5-wicket hauls; Mahmudullah-Rahim partnership; Ishant's bowling, Amit Mishra's nightwatchman 50 & 7 wickets, Gambhir continuing his golden run with another century; and finally Mushfiqur Rahim's fighting last innings hundred.
Coming up in the second match, the limelight would be on Gautam Gambhir. He has scored a century in his last 5 tests & could equal Sir Don Bradman's run of 6 consecutive centuries. With fifties in his last 10 tests, he is one behind Viv Richards's record of 11 consecutive fifties. Now that would be a nice company for sharing records.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The IPL Auction Tamasha

As I write this the India-Bangladesh 1st Test in Chittagong is on. India is in a commanding position after being in some trouble in the Ist innings. Gautam Gambhir has now scored centuries in his last 5 Tests & 50s in his last 10. And now has a good chance of equalling the records of Don Bradman & Viv Richards, respectively, in the next test.
Now over to the main theme of this post.

Date: 19.01.2010, Mumbai, India
Event: Players’ auction for the 3rd Indian Premier League
66 players from different nationalities had been registered for the auction. Between the 8 franchisees they had 13 slots available and a cap of $750K on the spending. Very few players were bought this around. Kieron Pollard, Shane Bond, Wayne Parnell & Kemar Roach were the ones with highest price tag. No Pakistani player was picked. Australians were also avoided. Very few franchisees seemed to be willing to spend too much this time around on others. Some highlights in this year’s auction were

  • Champions League is the perfect stage to be noticed. Kieron Pollard would definitely agree. 4 franchisees wanted him at $750K & went though a “silent tie-breaker” to decide where he goes.
  • Franchisees are looking for availability rather than just star power. That’s the only possible reason why in-form players like Haddin & Swann were ignored.
  • Not a single Pakistani player was selected. This has already led to huge uproar across the border. There is no cricketing logic as to why Afridi, Gul, Aamer, the Akmal brothers would all be ignored. The turbulent political situation between the two countries was the main reason. I personally don’t think that it was a deliberate conspiracy by all the franchisees; they were just playing it safe.
  • The “Silent Tie-Breaker”: Now this was the one issue which really made the auction into a big tamasha. If more than one franchisee had bid the maximum amount (750K) for a player, then the silent tie-breaker would take place. Those franchisees would then put in a figure on a piece of paper and give it to Lalit Modi, who would announce the highest bidder. This amount is not disclosed and goes to the IPL and not the player. Now, if this is not bribery, then what is? Lalit Modi does seem to continue finding innovative ideas of making money.
  • The drama of Mohammed Kaif was even weirder. He was the lone Indian in the auction and a last minute entry at that. Nobody picked him in the first round. And in the second round there was great interest with 3 franchisees bidding for him. Curious!
  • Players from Associate countries are overlooked. Picking Damien Martyn over Ryan ten Doeschate or Rizwan Cheema simply makes no sense.

So all this tamasha has ended (hopefully). And now I wait for the actual one to begin. I like watching the games. They are fun and good evening entertainment. But all this drama does leave a bad taste.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Bat-Ball To Cricket

I guess you can call me a cricket-crazy guy. And I have no hesitation in saying that you are right. I think the Star Cricket channel was made solely for people like me (which shows that I am not the only one).
Probably its all in the blood. My grandfather had a big register. In that he kept a log of all cricketing action which he was able to catch on TV/Radio (not much in these days). The book had ball-by-ball account of these games. The entire scorecard was recorded. In the pre-cricinfo era, it was a virtual treasure trove of cricketing information. And I felt really proud when I was permitted to make entries into that book. The sports book (or rather books, it ran into multiple volumes) hasn’t been use in years now.
Interest in the game was further aided by Big Fun. In the Nineties, it was a pretty popular chewing gum. People would keep chewing while playing, in a bid to emulate the cricket heroes. Now with Big Fun would come a cricket player sticker (probably the real reason for its popularity). In the mid-nineties they started giving Trump Cards with player career stats. I had a pretty huge collection of over 100 cards. Name labels for school books with cricketers on them were amongst the more popular ones.
Then there were a plethora of board games. They were totally unrelated to cricket, but the scoring pattern was in runs & not points. Computer & video games hadn’t really come in a big way those days. So these were the main pastimes.
Then there were the cricket books. I have read all of Sunil Gavaskar’s writings, Keith Miller’s autobiography, World Cup books and many more. Television coverage had also improved with matches being telecast from all over the world.
In the “noughties” came the internet in a big way. Cricinfo became one of favorite websites. I could follow multiple matches from all over the world at the same time, while continuing with other activities also.
And with all this the simple game bat & ball was transformed into cricket.
My cricket watching career roughly follows Sachin Tendulkar’s cricket playing career. And I remember almost every match result since then. Amongst the 3 forms, Test Cricket is my favorite, ODIs have been over-killed and T20 should be limited to national level and World Cup, there shouldn’t be any bilateral T20 matches.
Among the activities/hobbies picked up at Planet-I was blogging. The blog was supposed to be about and every thing in this world. But quite a few posts turned out to be on cricket. So I decided why not have a fully dedicated cricket blog? And hence this blog came into existence. It was also a part of my New Year resolution (do something which I love doing). I liked writing, I loved cricket, so why not write about cricket. And hence the birth of this blog. I am not sure if anybody would read another website/blog on cricket. However the posts would keep on coming, mostly on the current happenings. An occasional down the memory lane kind of post would also be there.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Game of Bat & Ball

Cricket is not just any other sport. It’s the “Gentleman’s Game”. And it is probably the only sport which has its own “spirit”. Not sure about the meaning of all this, but cricket certainly is one of the most complex pass times invented by human kind. The rules are complex, the duration is long, it can be beautiful without producing any result and be boring while producing one, it’s a game filled with numbers and more numbers, a true statistician’s delight. One can’t learn cricket at one go. It’s a process which evolves with time. For me it evolved from the game of Bat & Ball.
As a kid growing up, I remember a plastic bat & ball set amongst the first toys. The game was pretty simple then. Hit the ball, which was thrown towards you with the bat (Me holding the bat, and my father doing the bowling). From this humble beginning the game grew on me.
As I stepped out into the neighborhood play area the game evolved further. Slowly concepts like runs and getting out also came in. The bat became wooden. The ball would become a tennis ball, and occasionally the proper cricket ball. One learnt the rules as one played along. Bowled, caught and run out were the only modes of dismissal available. Of these the bowled was the most controversial as the stumps being a set of 3 lines drawn on the wall. There were interesting rules made up for our own convenience.

  • Hitting the ball in specific areas got different amount of runs (2,4,6)
  • Late Run was not allowed. The batsmen should have started the run immediately after hitting the ball. (Generated quite a few controversies)
  • Double Bat – Contact twice with the bat was out.
  • Ulta Bat – Getting hit on the back of the bat was out.
  • Half crease No Ball – It was a no ball if the ball bounced before the half way mark on the pitch.
  • One Hand One Bounce – During certain games, if the fielder catches the ball with one hand after it has bounced once you can get out.
  • Single Batsman playing - Generally the last man played alone.
  • Half Pitch Run Out - With single batsman on the crease, for a batsman to be run out, the throw had to hit the stumps on the side towards which the batsman was closer.
  • Multiple Times Out for really young fellows in the team. They had to be dismissed more than once before they could be finally given out.
  • Batsman exchanging bats - Generally only one decent bat would be avaialable. Sometimes after completing one run, the two batsmen would start off. If the throw was coming in fast then, they would stop mid-pitch and exchange bats, claiming that this had been their real intent throughout.
  • No Bad Light - It would be pitch dark, but the overs had to be completed. Nobody winning the toss ever chose to field.
  • No LBW - Well to be honest as an youngster nobody really knew the rules of this method of getting out, so wasn't ever used. (Quite a few pronounced it as LPW for some reason)

However once the game shifted to playground more of the traditional rules came into play. And these became obsolete. In such games depending on the number of players available, the non-striker would serve as the umpire; both teams would be fielding etc. Games were played in the evenings with 5-10 overs a side games being played. (Twenty20 is the form of the game closest to the one which I have ever played. Although it certainly is not my favorite form)
So this was the story of how the game began for me. As a simple game of Bat and Ball.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ranji Trophy Final - A Real Thriller

Date: 14.01.2010
Venue: Mysore, Karnataka
Ranji Trophy Final, Mumbai vs Karnataka
A most memorable Ranji Trophy Final. Mumbai just about managed to hold their nerves in the end and win by 6 runs. Ajit Agarkar catching S Aravind off his own bowling brought the curtains down on one of the most enthralling games in recent times. Karnataka were the in-form team winning most of the matches while Mumbai went through mostly on the basis of the first innings lead. The contest was said to be that between Karnataka's bowlers & Mumbai's batsmen. And Karnataka as hosts chose the bowler-friendly Mysore over Bangalore as venue for the final. Wasim Jaffer won the toss and elected to bat first. Mumbai were in trouble early but their lower middle order came to the rescue (as it has the entire season), and they managed to reach 233. Mumbai's fast bowlers responded by bowling out Karnataka for 127. Mumabi were in trouble again in the second innings but Dhawal Kulkarni & Abhishek Nayar fought back. Karnataka had to chase 338. Agarkar removed the top order. But Manish Pandey & G Satish hung around with a double century partneship with Pandey making 144. But after their dismissal, the rest of the batting could not take their team home. And Mumbai became the Ranji champions for the 39th time.
This was a really enthralling match. The pitch was helpful to the bowlers but not unplayable. And this in my opinion was the biggest reason for such a fantastic game. Such a pitch ensured a result and not a batathon for the first innings lead. If all pitches could be a bit like this, cricket would be really benefited.
Going by the feedback on the cricinfo commentary there was a lot of interest in this game. And this despite the national team playing at the same time. The teams were well matched though Mumbai had more experience in their ranks. There were a few former India players in the contest (Agarkar, Jaffer, Powar, Salvi, Uthappa, Sunil Joshi). And thanks to the IPL quite a few others were known names (Pandey, Vinay Kumar, Kulkarni, Rahane). So despite the absence of big names (Tendulkar, Dravid, Zaheer, Rohit Sharma) the interest level was pretty high.
And there were plenty of good performances and some drama too. Karnataka pace duo of Vinay Kumar & Abhimanyu Mithun spells in both innings, Agarkar's controversial run out in the first innings, Vinayak Samant's fifty, Avishkar Salvi's five wicket haul, Nayar & Kulkarni's batting in the second innings for Mumbai, Manish Pandey's century, the Pandey-Satish parthership and Agarkar's 5 wicket haul in the second innings. But the highlight of the match was Manish Pandey's unbelievable catch to dismiss Abhishek Nayar. It was immediately dubbed as a Youtube classic. Just see it to believe it.
I am wondering what would have happened if the game had entered the last day. With a solar eclipse scheduled for tomorrow, things would have become interesting. Would play have taken under the eclipse? Any laws of the game regarding this?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

India-Sri Lanka ODI Overdose

Date: 10.01.2010
Venue: Mirpur, Bangladesh
Idea Cup, League Stage Game 5: India eased to a comfortable 8 wicket win over Sri Lanka with nearly 18 overs to spare in a completely one-sided game.
Nothing special about this game. Except that this was the 120th ODI between India & Sri Lanka. This makes it the equal best with Australia-West Indies as the most number of bilateral games between any countries. In fact, in the recent times, the frequency seems to have increased even more now. India seems to be playing Sri Lanka more than any other team.
2008 - Tests & ODI series in Sri Lanka
2009 - ODI series in Sri Lanka (as a result of the cancellation of the Pakistan tour)
2009 - Compaq Cup in SRi Lanka
2009 - Tests, T20, ODI series in India
2010 - Idea Cup in Bangladesh
And with today's win now a India-Sri Lanka final is assured in the Idea Cup also. So another ODI (not again...). As a fan, I am truly bored of so much bilateral cricket.
There are 8 other Test nations plus some 6 ODI playing nations. Why not have matches spread amongst everyone. Better scheduling of the international calendar is definitely required.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

England and the last wicket rescue

And my yesterday's prediction turned out to be absolutely correct. England's last pair managed to help them scrape through with a draw. And this has become a frequent happening for England in recent times. Just check the following match links
Cardiff, July 2009, vs Australia, 1st Ashes Test
Centurion, December 2009, vs South Africa, 1st Test
Cape Town, January 2010, vs South Africa, 3rd Test
In fact West Indies also managed to scrape through with the last pair at the crease against England in the Wisden Trophy earlier in 2009.
All matches England were on the mat, they fought back, then a dramatic collapse and then the last pair resolutely defends everything thrown at them. Anderson-Panesar in Cardiff, Collingwood-Onions at Centurion and now Swann-Onions at Newlands.
The coincidence is simply too great.
Still it was a fabulous test match to watch. Century by Graeme Smith; great resistance by Paul Collingwood and the much maligned Ian Bell; fantastic spell of fast bowling by Dale Steyn; the late drama. The final day was tense. There weren't many runs scored and in fact no one bothered keeping track of them. Survival was the only issue at hand. And it was really gripping stuff (I totally ignored the India-Bangladesh ODI going on in parallel)
And for all the doubters, test cricket is very much alive and kicking (This is the last time I am going to say it). With England to add dramatic twists nearly every time they play, there can't be any other way.
So the Basil D'Oliviera Trophy goes into the fourth and final test with South Africa having totally outplayed England in two of the three matches but still finding themselves 1-0 down in the series due to one afternoon of poor batting.
No sport can beat Test cricket.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Pakistan lost, Cricket won in Sydney

My first match review on this blog
This was Test cricket at its exciting best. Lots of twists. And a come from behind victory.
But first the match summary. Ricky Ponting won the toss and elected to bat first. Decision backfired in a big way with first the comeback man, Mohammed Sami and then Mohammed Asif struck to get Australia all out for 127 putting Pakistan in total command of the game. Pakistani openers Salman Butt & Imran Farhat gave their team an excellent start with a century partnership but Pakistan lost their way after that ending up with 333 on board. trailing by over 200, Aussie openers got a good start with Shane Watson continuing his habit of getting out in the 90s. Danish Kaneria however ran through the lower and middle orders. At the end of Day 3, Pakistan were in total command of the game. Australia were 8 down and leading by just 80 runs. Day 4 and the real drama began. Michael Hussey, who had been dropped thrice by keeper Akmal, along with Peter Siddle combined for a century partnership for the 9th wicket. Hussey remained unbeaten on 134. Pakistan had a target to 176 to chase. But they simply wilted under pressure and Australia won by36 runs.
It was not the most likely result when play for Day 4 began, but Pakistani unpredictability and the single minded Australianism prevailed. It was a Test match in which Pakistan were in command but never took their opportunities to finish it off. They always released the pressure. Poor batting and dropped catches marked the test. And Australia seized the opportunity in a manner only they can. In fact Pakistan did not seem like wanting to win the match at times. They seemed to be scared by the thought of beating Australia in a test. In the end Australianism - the single minded determination to win and not give up at any cost - prevailed
And from what I got through on twitter, most people (including yours truly) were praying for a Pakistani victory. Seems almost blasphemous for an Indian. But most Indians now consider Australia as their arch enemy in cricket and were rooting for the underdogs.
And after such matches, there is a plethora of comments stating Test cricket is not dying. My view, of course it isn't. So why are we even worried about it? There is no need to bring the doomsday predictions after every Test match.
Some Comments on the match
"Pakistan seemed to be terrorised at the thought of winning the match" (he he... quite true)
"Test Cricket is the finest sporting endeavour known to humankind" (agree 100%, 4 days of build up and then a dramatic result. Which other sport do you get this?)
"Pakistan lost, It wasn't just Australia but Cricket which was the true winner" (made by yours truly)

P.S. For the South Africa-England Test in Cape Town, for tomorrow, I predict a tense draw with the England last pair fighting it out in the end.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Debut

Date: January 4, 2009
Venue: Newlands, Cape Town, South Africa
England vs South Africa, 3rd Test, Day 2
England are in trouble at 36/3 after restricting South African first innings to 291. Alistair Cook & Ian Bell try to consolidate the innings. Cook falls for 65. Sometime later Bell gets out for 48. A thought suddenly comes to the mind of Mr. Nishant Kumar following the score while tending to his crops in Farmville. He sends a comment to the cricinfo website. A few minutes later his joy knows no bounds as he reads the following on his laptop screen.
"Bell would have reached his 100 only if Cook had reached his," says Nishant. "So all this is Cook's fault." Sounds about right.
His comment had been published with the text commentator agreeing with his views. This was the push he needed to start his new blog on the thing he is most passionate about. The game of cricket. And that's what this blog will be all about. All things cricket.

The comment appeared after the 64th over in England's first innings. Link is here.