Thursday, December 30, 2010

10 From 2010

Twenty Ten is almost gone. Time for an annual list making exercise. So here are 10 cricketing stories from 2010  (A couple of other such selections are here: Arbit & Music).

1. Jai Shri Laxman
VVS Laxman is the man. The rest of the Indian top order can safely not turn up in the 2nd innings as they know Laxman is there. Match winning innings against Sri Lanka, Australia, South Africa, a match saving one against New Zealand. It seems he needs a crisis on a regular basis to perform. The Australians are specially wary of him. After all VVS scored and Australia lost though they weren't even playing against each other.

2. The Non-stop Tragicomedy of Pakistani cricket.
Dont even know where to get started on this. Spot Fixing, Captaincy changes, Players banned/retired, Bans reversed, Afridi biting the ball, Zulqarnain Haider going missing, Ijaz Butt's comments. The Pakistani cricket was in a total mess and it kept getting messier. When at the end of the year Shoaib Akhtar's presence became a calming influence then something is seriously wrong.

3. Sachin Tendulkar - The non-stop record breaking machine
Sachin Tendulkar has already gone past many landmarks in his 21 year international career. But this year was a new high even for him. Won the ICC Player of the Year award for the first time, Became the first man to score an ODI double century in Gwalior,and then went on to become the first player to score 50 Test centuries. A World Cup victory is the only thing left to attain now.

4. The Aghan Fairytale
Afghanistan provided the fairytale story of the year. Rose through the ICC World Cricket Leagues to gain ODI status. Participated in the T20 World Cup and later in the year won the silver medal in the Asian Games. A truly heroic perfomance from the war ravaged country.

5. The Sprinkler Dance
England went to Australia with the hope of becoming the first Englaish team to retain the Ashes in Australia in 24 years. Excellent all round performances led to the target being achieved in the 4th Test in Melbourne itself. And to celebrate the English team performed the Sprinkler Dance (video).

6. Mount Murali
Before the series against India, Muttiah Muralitharan announced that the first Test would be his last (Maybe he was also tired of playing against India). He was on 792 wickets. Duly picked up the 8 Indian wickets and retired from the game becoming the 1st man to take 800 Test Wickets.

7. The No-Ball - Suraj Randiv
Virender Sehwag on 99 with one run to win. Suraj Randiv bowls a BIG no ball which Sehwag dispatches for a six. However due to idiotic rules, Sehwag doesn't get the six as the match ends at the no ball itself. Leads to a fair bit of outcry in the Indian media. It gave me hope that India-Sri Lanka cricketing relations would be spoiled and we wouldn't play against them ever. (Alas, it was not to be).

8. The ever going India-Sri Lanka series
Test Series, 5 match ODI series, Tri-Series, T20 Matches. India and Sri Lanka seemed to be a continuous ongoing series. Somehow both the teams had space in their calendars at the same time. Everyone grew tired of it. A catchy tagline for promoting cricket was suggested - "Cricket - It is beyond India-Sri Lanka matches also"

9. England T20 World Champions
England somehow managed to reach the 2nd stage of the World Cup in West Indies. And then produced a clinical display to win their first ever ICC trophy. In fact it was said that only after winning against Australia in the finals did we realise how good the English were.

10. The Unnoticed One - Rahul Dravid
In the 1st Test against South Africa at Centurion, Rahul Dravid reached 2 big landmarks. However, a national media obsessed with cricket missed both. In the first innings, SRT failed to reach his 50th century by 65 runs (Dravid crossed Lara to become the 3rd highest run-getter ever) and in the 2nd innings SRT reached the 50th (Dravid reached 12000 mark). In the very next test, Dravid became the first non-wicketkeeper to take 200 catches, a feat which was duly recorded. And then almost got lost in frenzy of the win. Some people seem destined to play in the shadows.

The Ball

India vs South Africa, 2nd test Durban
Now this is one image which I dreamt about seeing but never thought was possible. An Indian bowler making the batsman jump up as the bouncer rose into his head, take the glove and lob off to a catch in the gully. And that the batsman was no less than Jacques Kallis was just the icing on the cake. Way to go Sreesanth.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Wall - 200 Catches

India vs South Africa, 2nd Day's Play, Durban
Rahul Dravid dives to his left at 1st slip to take the catch of Dale Steyn off the bowling of Harbhajan Singh to become the 1st non wicketkeeper ever to take 200 catches. A truly awesome achievement to say the least. And his reaction to the catch summed it all up.

In the mean time, the match keeps swinging like pendulum. India can be said to be marginally ahead at the moment though.

End of the Ponting Era ?

Pathetic. Humiliating. A Disgrace
This is how the BBC had started the text commentary for the 2nd day's play in Melbourne. This was to describe the reaction in the Aussie papers about the home team's perfomance on Day 1. But this could easily be used to describe Ricky Ponting's behaviour towards Umires Aleem Dar & Tony Hill today.
Kevin Pietersen given not out. Australia referred it and the 3rd umpire could not see any reason to change the original decsion. But then Ponting started bickering with the umpires as well as KP. Pretty much everything is against Ponting here. On field umpire gave not out. Bowler (Ryan Harris) and slip fielder (Watson) did not even appeal. Australia referred it. And the 3rd umpire upholds the original decision. Still Ponting bickers. If this is not dissent then what is?
Ideally should have been suspended for the next match. Even Ian Chappel called for his suspension. (I remember half the Indian team getting fined while Sehwag was suspended for excessive appealing against South Africa in 2001). But the match referee has given only a 40% fine. (Aside - This decision is deifnetely not going to go down well with the Indian supporters who have always felt that Australians are able to escape with lighter verdicts).
So Ponting is most likely to play the Sydney Test. But would that be his last one? Most probably the last one as captain. Clearly he hasn't been able to handle the decline that the Australians are facing. And today's outburts clearly shows his frustrations coming out. If this is his last series as player (Aussies generally do not prefer ex-captains in the team and they have been pretty ruthless in removing captains who have been deemed to be past their sell-by date) it would not be a good sight. Ricky Ponting has been one of the all time great batsman and does not deserve to go out like this. But given the recent happenings does not deserve any better.
The Barmy Army were singing "You are getting sacked in the morning". If it does happen would be a sad sight.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Day Stories

It was an enjoyable Boxing Day for the cricket fan located in India. Action all day in the Southern Hemisphere. Quite a bit of it happened while I was still asleep. The Kiwis won a match after a long long time in the T20 against Pakistan. Pakistan started the innings with a bang and ended with a bang. In the middle Tim Southee took a "Michelle" including a hattrick.
Then to the action in Melbourne. Australia all out for 98 as another allround batting failure with even Hussey & Haddin not saving them. So I woke up to see Cook & Strauss coming in to bat and then put on a 150+ unbeaten partnership. An example of total domination.
It was nice to see the home team in such trouble and the Indian fan in me hoped for the same fate to befall the home team in Durban. Alas, it wasn't to be as Dhoni lost the toss (again) in cloudy conditions on a greenish pitch. I had flashbacks of Durban 1996 when India were shot out for 100 & 66 in the 2 innings. Bad light and rain stopped play early. Given the conditions 6 down for 183 is not too bad. Hoping the conditions remain same when Zaheer comes onto bowl. Highlights of the Day's Play Laxman's 5th career 6 and Tsotsobe's catch to dismiss him.

P.S. Given the number of tosses Dhoni continues to lose and the impact of the toss, it really is a wonder that India are the No. 1 test side. So maybe people might consider this factor before questioning India's numero uno status.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

ICC All time ODI XI

To mark the coming 40th anniversary of One Day International cricket on January 5, 2011, ICC has come up with a shortlist for selecting the greatest ODI XI of all time. As usual picking all time XIs is not exactly an easy task and would involve lota and lots of debate. Here is my lineup for the alltime ODI XI picked from the ICC shortlist.

Openers: Sachin Tendulkar & Saeed Anwar.
Middle Order: Vivian Richards, Aravinda de Silva, Brian Lara
All rounder: Imran Khan
Wicket Keeper: Adam Gilchrist (could have opened as well)
Fast Bowlers: Wasim Akram, Glenn McGrath, Allan Donald
Spinner: Shane Warne

Likely Bating Order
Gilchrist, Sachin, Anwar, Richards, Lara, de Silva, Imran, Akram, Warne, McGrath, Donald.

And for the greatest ODI of all time. My vote goes to the tie between Australia & South Africa in Edgbaston on June 17, 1999.

P.S. The team is being picked via an online poll. Somehow I can see more Indians in the list when the ICC announces the results.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Arbit Statistics - 4

1st Test, India vs South Africa, Centurion
South Africa win by an innings & 25 runs in a match which will forever be remembered for Sachin Tendulkar's 50th Test Century.

Now for the arbit stat of the match. India's score of 459 in the 2nd innings is the highest innings score made by the losing team in an innings loss. Now as an India fan I dont know what to feel about this stat.
  1. India lost by an innings - :(
  2. India scored 459 in 2nd innings - :)
  3. India lost by an innings in spite of scoring 450 odd in 2nd innings - :O
  4. India were hopelessly pathetic in the 1st innings - :'(
  5. Not just batting, India were pretty bad with the ball as well in the 1st innings. - :(
So, basically one stat just sums up the match quite well.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar - 50 Test centuries...

Looking at the reactions, nobody cares that there is still a test match going on.
Nothing else is there to say...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Lets Get it Over with

As I write this, SOuth Africa have just declared their 1st innings at 620/4 with a lead of 484 (now thats big). This are the kind of matches which actually don't hurt you as an Indian fan. They are plain embarrassing. Thats all. A massive innings defeat is probably lined up. The top 5 of the Indian batting lineup have enough reputation & experiance to save the match. A draw is possible but not probable. Rains and some resolute batting are the only hope. Otherwise we can simply move on to the next one.
Highlights - Kallis reaching his first ever double century, while debutant Unadkat also got (hit for) a hundred on debut. On first view Unadkat doesn't look like he has it in him as yet to be playing at the international level. Neither pace nor swing. Raina's bowling figures were just a joke. And if he doesnt do something special in the 2nd innings there is a good chance of him getting replaced by Pujara in the next test. And hopefully Zaheer will be fit and come back into the lineup for the next test.
I am not too worried about the innings defeat though. Earlier this year, they beat us by an innings in Nagpur and in the very next match we beat them by an innings in Kolkata.

And over in Perth the English are staring down the barrel. The Australians simply keep coming back. Don't they? Must be the Australianism.

As I type this post, there have been a couple of run-out chances missed already in the first 3 overs, while Sehwag & Gambhir have started blazing away. Lets get it over with. Lets also have some fun while we are on it though.

Friday, December 17, 2010

"Improvement" continues

This is written during the post lunch session of the 3rd Ashes Test at Perth.
After the Day 1 1300% improvement in batting, its the bowling unit which has now started improving. Here it has been far more drastic. Across Brisbane & Adelaide, the Aussies conceded over 1000 runs to pick 5 English wickets. In Perth they took 5 wickets while the English first innings score progressed from 78 to 98. So from a 1000 runs for 5 wickets to 20 runs for 5 wickets. If this is not improvement then I dont know what is?
Yesterday I was actually starting to feel a bit (only a very tiny bit) sorry for Ponting & Co. Not any more. Let the contest continue.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Unadkat, Collingwood & other Dec 16 stories

First of all, congratulations to Jaidev Unadkat for becoming the 267th player to represent India in test match cricket. Interestingly he is the first player to have been born after Sachin Ttendulkar's international debut to play for India. (On a side note what happened to Abhimanyu Mithun?)
So Day 1 of the InSaf series, Indian batsman were knocked out with only the last pair of Dhoni & Unadkat holding fort. Its going to be one uphill climb for the Indian team. Though it was the Indians who were at the receiving end of it, I still loved the sight of the ball bouncing all around and the fast bowlers in full flow. Harbhajan Singh's weird runout was the highlight of the day. Morne Morkel took out Rahul Dravid to claim his 100th test wicket. Rahul Dravid scored just enough to cross Brian Lara as the 3rd highest run getter in Test history.
The day had started with the Aussies in trouble against the English in Perth (another fast bouncy track). The highlight of the day has to be Collingwood's catch to dismiss Ponting. Here is the picture of the day.

Now this is ïmprovement"

Adelaide - Australia 3/2 early on Day 1
Perth - Australia 3/28 early on Day 1

I dont know why some Aussies are cribbing. Haven't they already improved by some 1300% over the course of one game. 

Must say it though, there is a no better early morning mood uplifter than seeing the Aussies in trouble after having seen them as the dominant throughout my 20 year cricket watching career. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

What did he say?

Following excerpt is from a cricinfo article.

"I look back on this one-day tour [of India] as one of the worst tours for me as a New Zealand cricketer," Vettori said in Auckland. "That hurts a lot and it's embarrassing."

What does Dan the Man mean. How can losing 5-0 to India in ODIs be worse than losing 4-0 to Bangladesh?
Or maybe his mind has been numbed by the series of successive defeats that he doesn't know what he is saying.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Indian XV for World Cup - Post Kiwi Whitewash

India whitewashed New Zealand and won the ODI series 5-0. This should not be all that surprising given that New Zealand had just lost 4-0 to Bangladesh. But for an Indian fan it was a rare moment. The Indian team hardly clean sweeps series. They always tend to lose one match in the series, regardless of the opposition. I can recall a 5-1 victory over Sri Lanka (2005), 4-1 win in Pakistan (2006), 6-1 over England (2006), 3-1 in New Zealand (2009) and a few others (there is even a 2-1 victory over Bangladesh (2004)also). There had been a 5-0 victory over England (2008) but it was a 7 match series with the last 2 matches cancelled due to the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai.
The margins of victory in the 5 games can lead to either of following conclusions, India are Awesome (they very well might be, remember, this was effectively a second string team) or New Zealand are totally pathetic (more likely). Only in the 4th game was there a semblance of a contest. Otherwise India just stormed over the Kiwis with the last game ending before the mid innings break itself.
The tour was a part of the buildup to the next year's World Cup to be held in the subcontinent. With the seniors resting this was a good chance for some players to seal spots for theWorld Cup. And a couple of them like Kohli & Yusuf definetely have. While some others have strengthened their cases (Ashwin, Munaf, Parthiv).
Though there are 3 months still to go for the World Cup, I pick my XV for the tournament. This could definetely change post the tour of South Africa. Baring injuries this is what the team could look like.
Sachin,Sehwag, Gambhir, Kohli,Yuvraj, Raina, Dhoni, Yusuf, Zaheer, Nehra, Praveen, Harbhajan, Ashwin.
There are 2 more slots left: One fast bowler - one of Munaf, Sreesanth, Ishant & one batsman - Rohit, Saurabh Tiwary or Parthiv Patel (can also act as back up keeper). Right now I would choose the Patels (Munaf & Parthiv) for the 2 slots.

Now over to the South African series

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Only One Team Was "Playing" Cricket

After Australia's humiliating defeat at the hands of the English in the 2nd Ashes Test in Adelaide, the press are certainly having a field day. Here is one sample line picked straight from the Bodyline series which would certainly rankle the Aussies. 

Pic - Courtesy Cricinfo's Facebook Page

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sehwag, Shoaib & Sachin

A little anecdote about the Little Master, by Virender Sehwag. Said during the Sahara Sports Awards 2010.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Greg Chappell is the One to be Blamed

After Day 2 of the 2nd Test Australia are looking more and more unlike Australia. England are looking set for a big score before letting the Aussies try to bat out to save the Test. There is already a joke going around that the Australian performance has improved drastically as they have picked 2 English wickets in a single day's play (:P).
Well, all I have to say is the Australians had it coming. After all they have appointed Greg Chappell as the chief selector. We Indians all know what he happened to the Indian cricket team while he was our coach. We failed to even qualify for the Supe 8 stage of the World Cup 2007. Team not settled, players chopped and changed. Nothing much different from the current Australian setup. Random spinners being picked (Doherty picked because he is a left armer and KP has a tendency to get out to left arm spinners). Hilfenhaus dropped for no particular reason.
Greg Chappell was a great batsman. But so far his stints with the national teams havent been great. So I do some history match, put my neck out and say Greg Chappell is the one to be blamed for the current state of affairs in the Australian cricket team.

Friday, December 3, 2010

3 wickets for 2 runs

Woke up today morning and switched on the TV to watch the score in the 2nd Ashes Test.
Saw it as Aus 3-2. Felt happy before realising that this is a match being played in Australia. So the score was not  2 down for 3 runs as I had read it but was actually 3 down for 2 runs. Felt HAPPIER :D
For some reason the Aussies & Kiwis like to put the score the other way.