Thursday, April 28, 2011

Whats in a Name?

Something inside feels very happy on seeing the name published. It could be for any silly reason like a comment published on cricinfo. The first time they published a comment of mine, this blog happened. (Thank You Cricinfo & Ian Bell). So this one deserves at least a post of its own.
Was reading the pre-game commentary for the Delhi vs KKR IPL match. Someone mentioned that Ryan ten Doeschate has a name which is too fancy for a cricketer. In reply our commentator came up with this
Napolean Einstein has to be the awesomest name ever and not just in cricketing circles. I remembered reading this name in connection with the Under-19 World Cup. But after having played for India Under-19s he seemed to have disappeared. Even his  List A career is weird to say the least. Played for Tamil Nadu in 2007, 2 matches, 2 innings with a best of 92 and never played again. Now to sort out this little mystery, asked our helpful commentator via the feedback and this is what got published after the 3rd ball of he innings.

Nishant: "Napolean Einstein - Remember reading about it during one of the Under-19 World Cups. Saw his stats, 2 List A games in 2006-7 season 92 runs in 1 innings and a total of 2 matches in all. Anyone know what happened to him after that?" Well, he got busy with physics and world domination. He was picked in the CSK team a couple of years back ...

Another cricketer lost while going up through the ranks?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The IPL Experience

Almost one year (362 days to be precise) to the date, I went to a stadium to watch the match. And it was between the same two teams as last time. The location and result were diiferent though. An unplanned trip to Wankhede, (or rather planned very late in the day) certainly made it a "Good" Friday.

The Journey
There was a dash from my office in Navi Mumbai (yes, my office was open on the day when probably everyone else was on holiday). The dash felt like being part of "The Amazing Race". Auto ride, followed by a train ride, followed by a taxi and reached Wankhede, only to realize that had arrived at the wrong gate. Entry gate being at the opposite end of the stadium meant taking another train (might be sounding unbelievable but thats what it was), and then a little walk. Add the uncertainty of whether tickets had been arranged or not, and it made for a pretty mad cross-city dash. During the second train ride heard the famous IPL bugle and the roar of the crowd to signify that the game had started.
Despite all this managed to be inside the stadium, having missed only the first over, though Sathish was out by that time. By the time settled down into the seat, Sachin was also gone. Settled down for the rest of the game.

The Stadium
First up the stadium looked real good. The renovations for the World Cup were in place, which reminded me of the fact that barely 20 days before India had won the World Cup in this very place. The gaps between stands ensured the cool evening breeze from the sea. Though it also had the effect of killing most attempts at the Mexican wave. The gaps in the stands ensured that the Waves just broke out in between.

The Seat
Had a seat in the Sachin Tendulkar stand. Located at the "cow corner" for the right handed batsman opposite the pavilion. So any sideways movement of the ball was not visible. But spotting the ball running/flying around the ground wasn't difficult at all. The camera operated on the crane was creating quite a bit of nuisance though. It would often rear itself bang in the middle splitting the view of the pitch. The crane operator was definitely the most abused guy from our stand.

The Crowd
Stadium was packed and filled with blue shirts supporting the Mumbai Indians. A few yellow shirts could be seen here and there though. One of our party turned out be a Chennai Super Kings supporter."Is he a Chennai supporter?" was the query raised by a bunch of teenaged girls seated behind. On getting the answer in affirmative, it was followed by a non-stop hooting to the chants of "Chennai harega" with whistles & horns blasting through out. Personally, suffered some collateral damage as the hearing seemed to be gone for some time.
Have to add this, the crowd was quite well behaved throughout.

The Match
As for the match itself, a good innings by Rohit Sharma, a Michelle for Bhajji and some outstanding fielding throughout helped Mumbai to a 8 run victory. Badrinath played a lone hand for the Chennai Super Kings. And the crowd was happy with the result.

Other Random Thoughts
  • Now I have seen our T20 world cup winning hero, Joginder Sharma (a.k.a Sir Jogi) bowl in person. Nothing more to say.
  • The 10'o clock rule for loudspeakers was strictly followed. No music after the 10, but the crowd was noisy enough to make up for it.
  • Time moves faster in the stadium. The strategic timeouts, gaps between overs, wickets just went by unnoticed.
  • Must feel for the section of the crowd, which finds itself in front of a cheerleaders' stand only to find the cheerboys from CSK dancing there.
Overall Experience - Excellent

Thursday, April 21, 2011

IPL Thoughts - April 21, 2011

First up, the larger effects of the IPLon the cricketing world. West Indies cricket is suffering, Pollard, Gayle & Dwayne Bravo have more or less decided that IPL is far more important than playing for West Indies. And with the West Indies season always in a partial clash with the IPL, the situation is likely to go worse. In a sad sort of way, it a good that there are not many West Indians who actually are saleable to the IPL franchisees. So most of the team will still be playing for West Indies rather than IPL.
Cricket Sri Lanka, the Lankan players and the BCCI are involved in another tangle. The board wants the team to prepare for England and leave the IPL early, which the players certainly won't like. The issue here seems more to with politics than anyhting else. Otherwise why would everyone associated with a World Cup runner-up team resign immediately after the tournament. On last count, the captain, vice-captain, coach and the selectors have all resigned. And it will all end with the BCCI named as the bad boy and accused of destroying world cricket.

Now some thoughts on the matches
  • The trend in the IPL seems to be that the team with the higher points going into a game is likelier to lose. Hence the closed points table. Everyone almost bunched together. A rained off game here and there just adds to the fun.
  • The fan loyalties would have been under severe test when Rahul Dravid would have played against RCB in Bangalore. That would have been interesting to watch but the rains played spoilsport.
  • Some of the matches are needlessly close. Others just swing around one way or the other. Predictions are becoming more and more difficult here.
  • Ravindra Jadeja is the comeback hero for all to see. Probably the most abused cricketer in the country today, he has come back strongly in the IPL after being banned the last season. Taking wickets, scoring runs, hitting big sixes, he is doing it all.
  • Manoj Tiwary is another Indian to have impressed so far. One of the unluckiest cricketers, got injured before his likely international debut against Bangladesh in 2007 (place went to Rohit Sharma), he might not make a come back to national contention but is certainly playing well.
  • Similar is the case on Venugopal Rao, played a few ODIs for India then slipped out. Now making big runs.
  • Ishant Sharma bowling at 150+ was a good sight. Hopefully the company of Dale Steyn might bring his speed back on track.
  • With quite a few players likely to be rested for the West Indies ODIs, performances in the IPL could quite likely bring immediate rewards to some. The IPL could act like an extended selection tournament for the Indian team.
P.S. The ICC has finally decided to review its decision on the 2015 World  Cup. A good first step. Lets see what happens next. My views 10 team world cup with evryone playing everyone else is not a bad idea, but there should be a qualification process and everyone has a chance to play there.

Monday, April 18, 2011

IPL Thoughts - April 18

The World Cup is over. The 4th edition of the IPL has begun. Its been over a week. But still not feeling any enthusiam for the IPL as yet. I do watch the matches or at least follow the scores. But the World Cup hangover is still there. And with the changed teams, things are yet to settle into place.
The story of the IPL  has been provided by Paul Valthaty. Not a single first class game to date, just a single List A game. And then he comes up with a match winning century against CSK. This might have been dismissed as a one-off performance. But the very next match he follows it up with another blistering innings and tops it with a 4-wicket haul. In fact, he has single handedly lifted his team Kings XI, whom everyone had dismissed as an also ran when the tournament had started. Now lets see if he can continue this run of form. And if he does, there is a pretty good chance of landing a berth in the Indian team for the West Indies ODIs.
The expanded 10 team league has ensured that more and more Indian domestic players are getting a chance to play. And so far this year, they have been grabbing these opportunites. Ambati Rayudu, Bharat Chipli, Valthaty have been the performers so far. Performances in the IPL have given the India cap to quite a few players. Lets see who the benficiaries are from this time.
Sachin Tendulkar's maiden T20 century ended in a defeat. And as usual some jokers have started saying that when SRT scores a ton, the team loses. And this without any statistical evidence to back it up. Given the number of centuries he has scored, there is a chance of ending on the losing side more than any other batsman. And it was fun to see Sachin play the "helicopter shot" 
The unpredictability of the T20 format has ensured that no one starts favorites in any game. Everyone has one at least 1 game by now.  My prediction for the Top 4 as of today are - MI, CSK, KKR, Pune.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The IPL Begins

April 8, 2011. 6 days after the World Cup Finals, the 4th edition of the Indian Premier League is about to begin.  After the grand display of, umm...., "patriotism" over the past few weeks, its quite difficult to feel enthusiastic about the IPL. 
Given that there have been large scale changes in the personnel across most teams, the erstwhile player associations that I had have also disappeared. KKR without Dada, Dravid not playing for RCB, Gambhir not in DD, Yusuf Pathan in KKR colours. All this will take some time to rebuild. With the player associations gone finding a team to support has become slightly more difficult than it was earlier. (Here is a post I had written about the team I support in the IPL)
The one good thing about the IPL is that it has thrown up some new Indian talent every year. Lets see who we are going to see this year. I would certainly be following with interest the performances of a couple of Jharkhand players who won the recent Vijay Hazare Trophy. Varun Aaron, who reportedly bowled the fastest recorded ball by an Indian bowler, playing for Delhi Dareveils. Saurabh Tiwary is now a known face, while Ishank Jaggi is another one to watch. Other players to be followed Shadab Jakati, T Suman and Abhishek Nayar.
Andrew Symonds and Harbhajan Singh playing in the same team. That would be something to be looked at.
The end of World Cup had left a void in the evening entertainment. Now the IPL is here to fill up that void.
Cheerleaders will be back :)
Unfortunately the IPL also will mark the arrival of "DLF maximums", "Citi Moments of Success" and similar other commentary tortures. Wondering if we get to see the "Marvel of Technology" the MRF Blimp this time?

So here is to the return of the cricket filled evenings.

P.S. The IPL and this post seem very trivial compared to the national movement going on right now. I support   Sh. Anna Hazare and the fight against corruption. Here is his letter to the Prime Minister of India. One man inspiring a country to stop and think. Total respect Sir.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Fire in Babylon

The title doesn't suggest this to be a cricket related movie or documentary. Yet, "Fire in Babylon" seems like a nice documentary/film on the West Indies cricket era of the 1970's & 80s. Here is the trailer.

Waiting for the documentary on the rise of the West Indies empire. Hope this motivates the current lot of West Indies cricketers

The Decision of Madness

ICC has restricted the World Cup to only 10 teams in 2015, and then shut down all doors for Associates by restricting it only to the Test playing Nations. A decision which makes no sense at all. It has almost ensured that cricket doesn't expand beyond the 10 countries. And we are not likey to see the 11th Test playing country emerging anytime soon.
The decision has been met with large scale indignation. I am yet to come across any forum where there has been a single comment in favour of this decision. Yet it has been done. I am specially feeling bad for the Irish cricketers who for 2 World cups have provided the story of the tournament. And been my second favorite team in this one. To top it all they are actually ranked no. 10 as per ICC's own rankings ahead of Zimbabwe (who are a Test playing nation but don't play any Tests). I am not much aware of the economic situation but Ireland would certainly provide a better market than Zimbabawe.
As Graeme Swann rightly put, "This decision is like taking the World out of the World Cup"
P.S. The biggest beneficiary from this decision is likely to be England. Now the Irish & Dutch players can play with them without any guilt.

There is now an online petition doing the rounds against the ICC decision. Here is the link in case you are opposed to the decion.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

We Are the Champions of the World

With the Cup that Counts

We did it. We won the World Cup. And as Queen would have said - "We are the champions my friend! We shall be fighting until the end. We are the champions. We are the champions of the World!"
I don't even know how to begin this post. I guess just sticking to my usual to the random thoughts as they come up to mind.
  • Before the match I had 3 wishes - India to win, SRT to get the 100th & Murali to sign off with a wicket off his last international ball. Only the first one happened (And thats all was required)
  • Most members of the Indian team said they wanted to win the cup for Sachin. And they did it. I guess Virat Kohli summed it up best when he said, "Sachin has carried the nation for 21 years, so he deserves to be carried around".
  • Dhoni led from the front. Saved his best for the last. And sealed the victory with a straight six. The leader everyone wants, and not just for a sporting team.
  • Last time the India played the World Cup at home it ended in Vinod Kambli's tears. This time around it also ended in tears but of a different note. The one of happiness.
  • Zaheer Khan's second world cup final ended the way the first one had begun. But this one started brilliantly though.
  • Mahela Jayawardene became the first man to be part of the losing side after scoring a century in the final. Still this was one of the great innings of the tournament (though later got eclipsed by the efforts of Gambhir & Dhoni). The innings also provided a nice little family scene with his wife imploring him to bat on after he had reached his half-century.
  • Aleem Dar finished with a spotless world cup. Not a single decision reversed. Needless to say why he is the best umpire in the world.
  • Simon Taufel finally was able to stand in a World Cup final, because Australia failed to qualify. This must be one weird feeling. Taufel must be the only Australian cricket personality who gets benefited when Australia doesn't perform well.
  • Jeff Crowe continued his incompetent ways as a Match referee. Presided over the farcial finish in the 2007 final and then had the toss fiasco at the start of today's final.
  • Have to say the run chase was nearly four hours of sheer nervousness which ended in total joy.
  • Thanks to Gary Kirsten, for giving us this team. It was a sight to watch the support staff walking arm in arm behind the Indian team and then Kohli & Raina carrying Kirsten around the stadium.
  • Farewell to Muttiah Muralitharan, a true legend. 
  • Gautam Gambhir top scored in T20 World Cup final and now in the big final also.
  • Piyush Chawla & Sreesanth are now in a select group of players to have won the 50 over & the T20 world cup. The full list (all Indians so far) - Dhoni, Yuvraj, Sehwag, Harbhajan, Gambhir, Yusuf Pathan, Sreesanth & Chawla 
  • Commentary Moment of the Match - Gavaskar & Nasser Hussain discussing the number of bats carried by cricketers. Gavaskar mentioned Sourav Ganguly carrying 10-12 bats. To which Nasser Hussain replied that Ganguly did not carry them himself, somebody else did it for him.
  • And in the end, Lets not forget Praveen Kumar, who missed out due to an injury
  • The comment of the day - "Anhoni ko honi kar de, honi ko anhoni, ek jagah jab jama ho teeno, Rajni, Ghazini aur Dhoni":D. (Rajnikanth was there, India couldn't have lost)
  • Just wondering - What about Poonam Pandey's promise. Her letter to BCCI is certainly interesting.
In the end, a big thanks to the Indian Team, for winning the World Cup for us, the ordinary Indian fans.
And now for the victory pictures (all from cricinfo)

The Victory Moment - Dhoni blazes it away, as Yuvraj celebrates

Thank You - Gary Kirsten

Thank You - Sachin

Friday, April 1, 2011

World Cup Final - One day to go & Arbit Statistics - 6

Its less than 24 hours to go for the final of the 2011 ICC World Cup. It shouldn't get any bigger than this, but given India's last two games, the final seems a bit anti-climatic. In fact there is a worrying lack of nervousness in me regarding the outcome of this game. Here are the thoughts for the match.
  • India vs Sri Lanka. The very idea of this fixture is irritating. How many times do these teams have to play each other.
  • Sri Lanka has called up Chaminda Vaas (I thought he had retired by now) as injury cover for Angelo Matthews. All the paperwork must be in place for an emergency replacement and proceed efficiently as well. Shouldn't there have been a deadline for such changes?
  • For India Ashish Nehra has a broken finger while attempting a catch diving forward. This is what happens when you do things which you are not used to doing.
  • If required India should replace Nehra with Joginder Sharma. After all Sir Jogi has been Dhoni's lucky charm (though mostly in the T20 format). And he is a proven winners' medal winner.
Wish for the Match
  • SRT scores his 100th international 100 as India wins the game, while Muralitharan signs off with a wicket off his last ball in international cricket (his only wicket though). [Or is this a bit too fairytalish finish? In that case I'll just settle for an Indian victory only]
Arbit Stat for the match
  • If India win (and they will win), they would have beaten all the past 4 World Champions in a row in the sequnece in which they became World Champions (West Indies, Australia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka) [Stat courtesy - RameshSrivats on twitter]
India to WIN, Bleeding Blue (the Indian shade, not the Sri Lankan one)