Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Controversially Yours

Disclaimer - This is not a book review. And I have not read the book as yet. And more importantly I have NO intention of reading it either.

Its becoming quite a trend in the cricket world. A cricketer gets his "autobiography" (or rather a "ghost written" account of his life in first person). Now whats the use of writing it if he can't sell it. To sell it, need to market it. To market it, a little controversy helps. Whats the easiest way to do that. Take potshots at the biggest icons  in the biggest cricket market in the world. It could be anyone. Mention SRT claiming that he doesn't win matches for India or BCCI as a dictator in the cricketing world or IPL having bought the soul of cricket or poor Indian crowd behaviour or whatever comes to their mind. Now this little snippet might be just 1 line buried somewhere in the 235th page of a 600 page biography. But make sure to use selectively leak this to the Indian media, which can be always be trusted to blow up any non-event. There they would be making sure that everyone hears of the "insult" to our "holy"deities. For the cricketer and his publisher "Job Done".  

Pretty formulaic.

But then we have our own Amul find humour in this. Here is their latest billboard.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Post England Tour Post

'Twas the summer of 2011. Test No. 1 and ODI World Champions India went on a tour of England, a team which had just smashed the Aussies 3-1 in an away Ashes and had been fast becoming the most entertaining ODI team in the world. There were reams of newsprint, millions of blog posts (including quite a few by yours truly) written on the prospect of the contest which was set to unfold over the summer.

Alas the result turned out to be totally something else. Here is a short summary of the results.
  • England win the 4 Test series 4-0.
  • England win the one-off T20.
  • England win the 5 ODI series 3-0 with one game abandoned and other tied on Duckworth -Lewis scores.
And there, I have been through the painful part. Whatever happened to our champion team and Dhoni's legendary luck? In the 2 decades of my cricket watching/following career there have been a few debacles, Australian tour of 1991-92 followed by the 1992 World Cup, South African Tour in 1996-97, Australia in 1999-2000. But at no time have we returned winless in international matches (Here we did beat Kent, Surrey & Leicestershire). Here is my attempt to analyse the disaster that the tour was. So here goes  the final post of this tour.
  • England were much better than India. Period. They out-batted, out-bowled and out-fielded us. When I had done the preview for the Pataudi Trophy, I had not given too much weightage to one essential bit that the games were being played in England. Also the English unit performed like a machine, the batsman got runs, a few "daddy hundreds" were scored, the bowlers took wickets. Replacements were readily available and fitted in seamlessly. And if the team somehow found itself in trouble, there was always someone to bail them out whether it was Broad in 2nd Test at Trent Bridge or the debutante John Bairstow in Cardiff.
  • Zaheer Khan hamstrung at Lords. That was the single biggest factor contributing to this result. During the World Cup, he had remarked that "as a bowling unit I think I am doing well". Might have been a slip of tongue but he couldn't have put it any better. Given the current Indian bowling context, he is irreplaceable. Lots of talk takes place on who replaces our batting stalwarts, but that would be a simpler task as compared to replacing Zaheer.
  • Injuries. Lots of injuries. Pujara, Sehwag, Gambhir, Zaheer, Yuvraj, Harbhajan, Ishant, Sachin, Rohit, Praveen, Munaf, Nehra. All injured at some point or the other. Not a match passed without one or two injuries in the team. Its not that the Indians were the only ones who got injured, the English team also had a few but they had far better and ready replacements. And ours had the more impact. Entire bowling lineup decimated by injuries, half the batting lineup, even the replacements getting injured. Some were accidental on-field injuries like Gambhir (twice!!), Yuvraj, Rohit Sharma etc, some could only be due to poor "injury management", Zaheer, Sehwag, Tendulkar. The tour began with Zaheer limping off hamstrung on the opening day of the Lords Test and ended with Munaf being carried away in Cardiff.
  • Poor scheduling. One 3-day game to acclimatise before the Test series. 3 side games before the ODIs. I do not understand who came up with this great schedule. My suggestion always have the ODI part before the Test series, gives more time to acclimatise. And there was a 4-day gap between the 4th & 5th ODIs for some unknown reason. We managed to get Praveen Kumar injured in this period.
  • Some plain bad luck. This was true in the One-dayers. Dhoni loses all 5 tosses to start with. And there was rain to interfere in case we somehow get into a, lets not say winning, but an advantageous position.
Now the analysis over. Now for the positives from the tour. It might be shocking to discover that there were a few bright spots (albeit on an individual basis) on this dismal tour. But can't be getting all negative here.
  • Indian cricket and its fans learnt to appreciate Rahul "The Wall" Dravid again (I think I made him sound like a WWE entertainer here :P ). 3 centuries in losing causes in the Tests. Was forced to open the batting, where he carried his bat through the innings. Fell afoul of the DRS (henceforth to be known as the Dravid Removal System). Out of the blue was also picked up for the ODI leg of the tour. Shocked, he announced his retirement, but signed off in style. A hattrick of sixes in his T20 debut-cum-farewell and a typical hardworking and understated 69 in the 5th ODI at Cardiff. For a long time fan, it was great to see the Legend getting his due. And now the BCCI has named him in an enquiry committee to find out what went wrong in the tour. Now thats going to be an interesting report.
  • Praveen Kumar was the other hero for India. No one considered him test material. But a couple of tests down the line, PK was leading the bowling attack, and doing a good job of it. There was an entertaining cameo as well.
  • Suresh Raina in the white shirt looked lost. A 42 ball pair at the Oval was the low point. Suresh Raina in the blue shirt was awesome. How can the same person become so different just by changing the format of the game. Also one player who is seen in the game throughout the play.
  • Ajinkya Rahane with an awesome First Class average made his India debut in an T20 game. And performed quite well there as well as in the ODIs. Won't be commenting too much as the chances might be few given our batting resources.
  • Parthiv Patel swivelling around to take care of the short ball provided a welcome relief in the ODIs after Raina's test struggles.
In short, England were much better than us and they got a little help for our bad luck. But that was thoroughly deserved. The injuries, rains, DRS contoversies, Ian Bell's run-out and Anna Hazare combined to ensure that the Indian team did not get a roasting that it could have got from our media.

P.S. After writing out the post remembered that Sachin Tendulkar did not get to his hyped up landmark of  100 international 100s. Mind you, even getting to 99 is beyond anyone could have imagined though.

P.P.S Dear Team India, I know it was a very tough tour. And you were not able to perform to our expectations. But don't worry, I will be there to follow and support you when you play next. Lets hammer the English at home.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Rahul Dravid - The ODI Farewell

September 16, 2011, Sofia Gardens, Cardiff became the scene for the farewell of Rahul Dravid from ODI cricket. A legendary career came to an end with a typical performance from the man known as "The Wall". He played a solid, non-fussy innings of 69. However as is usually the case somebody else performed better. (In this case his seemingly heir apparent Virat Kohli's century). But this time he was not overshadowed. Whatever be the result (and as I write we are in the 4th over of England's rain-shortened chase) this will be remembered as Dravid's match. It was great to see a batsman who once wasn't thought to be good enough for the format retiring on his own terms. (Great article on this from cricinfo here)

Interestingly he shouldn't even have been playing in this series. Dravid was a panic pick for the ODI tour, which came as a shock to everyone including the man himself. The selection resulted in his announcing his retirement and also the statement that he had not done it earlier because he hadn't been picked for a while. (Video here).

Hoping now that India wins this game (Indra Dev permitting of course). That would be a fitting farewell to a legend. 

P.S. Interesting aside, exactly 4 years ago, 16th Septemeber, 2007 was the last time Dravid led India.

P.P.S Dravid the ODI batsman was great, Dravid the wicketkeeper was good, but even Dravid the bowler wasn't too bad. Saeed Anwar, Gary Kirsten, Lance Klusener and Shaun Pollock isn't a bad collection of wickets.  Check this video here from this match.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

DRS = Dravid Removal System

They couldn't manage to get him out easily. So they have found an ally in the DRS, which from now on will be referred to as the Dravid Removal System. It happened in the Oval test 2nd innings, and it happened again in the 1st ODI at Chester-Le-Street. England appeal for an edge catch. The field umpire disagrees, England call for DRS. Hotspot shows no mark. There could or could not be a deflection, depending on the camera angle and the viewers' bias. Yet Dravid is given out. 

Which again brings me to question the DRS system itself. What we have learnt is technology is not perfect. What we have also learnt is all the boards with BCCI in fore-front have forgotten the basic reason for the existence of DRS. The idea was to for players to redress umpiring howlers. It wasn't meant for close calls. The boards have blundered with the system, making it too complex and with different sets of rules operating in different venues. Right now 3 different series are going on. All have different DRS operating rules. For a single game that is the most ridiculous situation you can get into.

My suggestion would be simple. Remove the reviews from the players hands. Make the 3rd umpire more pro-active. Instead of just reviewing things when he is called for, he can step in himself. So wickets of no-balls, inside edged LBWs and other such howlers can be easily eliminated, which was what the DRS was for in the original place. Don't think ICC will ever listen though.

P.S. in other India news, Sachin Tendulkar & Rohit Sharma are out injured. Ramesh Srivats on twitter has created an excellent injury news report here. I believe that England must be practicing some form of voodoo or black magic on our players.

P.P.S. 16.3-10-8-6. Figures of Pragyan Ojha playing for Surrey against Northamptonshire in the county championships. Wonder why he is not in the Indian team.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Wall - Debut-cum-Farewell

At the age of over 38, Rahul Dravid made his T20 international debut. It was a belated debut, as he should have been leading the Indian team in its first ever T20 game, but was injured on that day. And given that he had announced from Limited overs international cricket, this was also going to be his last match as well. A debut and a farewell rolled into one. He came in at his favored no. 3 spot. Started scratchily and then smashed 3 consecutive sixes to leave an indelible memory for his fans.

It has been said that in this thus far disastrous tour of England, the only good thing has been that Indian cricket and its fans have learnt to appreciate Rahul Dravid again. With every passing day, the Wall rises higher in our esteem. RESPECT.