Sunday, December 25, 2011

Ten From 2011

Another year goes by. And leaves behind some memories. Here are the 10 cricketing "events" to remember 2011 by.

A long 28 year wait for cricketing glory ended and a nation celebrated when MS Dhoni hit the World Cup winning shot. Just curious - Where is that ball now?

2. The Wall Rises Again

As comebacks come nothing can beat the year Rahul Dravid had. Had to announce his retirement from limited overs international cricket because the selectors had panicked and picked him up. And as if there weren't enough cliched headlines about the Wall, he gave an altogether new dimesion - Creaking Terminators

3. The Quest of the Year - Like Godot we waited for HIS 100th 100.
Would it come at his favorite ground Chepauk? No. Against his favorite opponent Aussies? No. Arch-rivals Pakistan? No. World Cup final at home? No. Lords - the home of cricket? No. Trent Bridge? Headingley? Oval? No. Home tests - Kotla? No. Eden Gardens? No. Has to be Wankhede. Almost there. No, out for 94... 
The Indian fan awaits... It has to come at the MCG in the Boxing Day test (:D) 

The Irish beat the collection of nationalities playing for England. The chief architect of the victory Kevin O'Brien certainly got a story to tell, which he did as well with his book "Six after Six".

How do you describe a situation in which Australia are at 9 down for 21 and still rated as the favorites to win the match? Quite a few unwanted records (from the batting perspective) were shattered while more were seriously threatened as a crazy match ended with Smith & Amla calmly guiding the hosts to victory. (Special mention for the spectacular implosion by the Lankans against England)

6. Zimbabwe re-enter Test fold and actually play Test cricket
Zimbabwe played a series of one-off Tests to mark their return to the Test arena. Beat Bangladesh, a losing fight with Pakistan and finally a close finish in a loss to the Kiwis, Zimbabwe certainly showed lots of spark and fight.

7. A run of close tests to end the year
Zimbabwe vs New Zealand, Australia vs South Africa, Australia vs New Zealand were all pretty tight. But none came as close as the seemingly dead India vs West Indies test at Wankhede. A final day which began with a draw as the only likely result ended in a photofinish. Just when you were about to say all 4 results were possible, the teams managed the 5th one - "We flippin' murdered 'em.

8. Spot-fixing verdict - Arrested for literally crossing the line
If you play with the feelings of the games lovers, you end up losing your freedom. Period.

9.  The Speakers
Sangakkara spoke. Dravid spoke. But the speech of the year was made by Virender Sehwag. At the post-match presentation after the World Cup opening game against Bangladesh. "This was a revenge match. Bangladesh can't play test cricket. Everyone except Sreesanth had a good game".
Special mention - Zaheer Khan's Quote - "As a bowling unit, I think I am doing well"

10. The debut Michelles
A clutch of bowlers got 5-fors on Test debuts. Bracewell, Ashwin, Philander, Elias, Cummins, Pattinson - best time to make your bowling debut.

A bonus 11th one - Norman Gordon of South Africa became the 1st cricketer to hit a century against Father Time. Well played Sir. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Slipstream V - Cricketers of the Year - 2011

On the lines of Wisden Cricket Almanack, Slipstream Cricket has decided to announce its selection for the Cricketers of the Year. The list will comprise of 5 cricketers whom this blog believes to have had the maximum impact on the game in the year 2011. The selections are made solely on this blogger's bias. So the Slipstream V (Five) for 2011 (as they will be referred to) are as follows

1. Rahul Dravid (India)
The year started with Dravid's future under some cloud. The Test contributions had become average and calls were coming for infusing younger blood into the test lineup while he wasn't part of limited overs setup for quite some time. India went on to win the ODI World Cup and calls became louder. And then happened the West Indies tour. Another Kingston masterclass set up India's only test victory and the series victory. This was followed by a horror tour of England over the summer, where India were cleanly swept off the ground. Well, all of them except the man called "The Wall". 3 Test centuries in lost causes, carried his bat while opening the innings, became the 2nd highest run-getter in Tests, recalled to the limited overs setup (which prompted him to announce his retirement as well), debut and farewell in the same T20 match (his 3 consecutive sixes are my only T20 internationals memory of 2011) and then the 69 in his last ODI innings. At home against the West Indies another century followed. The Indian cricket fan learnt to respect Rahul Dravid once again. The oldest active Test player was also the highest run getter in this calendar year  with one test still to go. And if the on-field achievements were not enough came the captaincy of Rajasthan Royals for next year's IPL and the Bradman Oration. The Wall made every one sit up and listen as he delivered a master class with his speech. The "Creaking Terminator" was certainly back.

2. Brendan Taylor (Zimbabwe)
Zimbabwe had been a team in disarray since the highs of the 1999 World Cup. The multiple player walkouts and  the political environment had led to the team suspending its own Test status. The period also saw them drop below Ireland in ODI rankings. 2011 was the year they took baby steps back into the Test environment. A victory against Bangladesh, nearly pulling off a sensational chase against New Zealand and a battling loss to Pakistan, Zimbabwe cricket certainly showed that they still had the fight in them. And leading the way for them was the captain Brendan Taylor. His stupendous form with the bat certainly propped up the team. An unbeaten 2nd innings century to setup the victory over Bangladesh was follwed by some great performances against the Kiwis. Became the 1st Zimbabwean to hit back to back ODI hundreds against the Kiwis, followed by a 4th innings century in the close loss. With Taylor at the helm, some fresh talent coming up and some old hands returning, Zimbabwe cricket is certainly looking up.

3. Misbah-ul-Haq (Pakistan)
In 2011, Pakistan cricket threatened to their usual tragi-comic self. A good World Cup campaign (losing semi-finalists) was followed by the typical mess. Players chopped and changed, the captain Afridi retired and then unretired, ditto for Younis Khan, coach resigned, the spot-fixing accused were put in jail, there were whispers of a few others being involved, one Akmal replaced the other behind the stumps. In the meantime the on-field results were pretty good. The fast bowling supply never dried up, batsmen with a calm temperament also came into the picture. Misbah-ul-Haq was the man who presided over this on-field period of calm. Certainly his good batting form also helped (15 international 50s across formats in 2011), but it was his adept handling off the most unpredictable team in the world which picks him in the Slipstream V.

4. Hasim Amla (South Africa)
There is something about Amla. The bearded wonder personifies a sense of serenity all around. Certainly the best No. 3 in Test cricket (and he beats pretty stiff competition in the form of Trott, Sangakkara and Dravid for this title). Amla somehow seemed misfit for the limited overs cricket (maybe it has got something to with being a classical batsman), yet by the end of the year, a run of big scores at an average of 55+ at a very quick 90+ strike rate saw him captaining the South Africans in ODIs and T20s as well.

5. Vernon Philander (South Africa)
The man with a surname made for headlines (Philander bowls a maiden over :P). The newcomer of the year. He made his Test debut in 2011 and after a total of 3 tests has 4 "Michelles" and some 24 wickets at an average from the 19th century. The games may have been in his pace-friendly home conditions in South Africa but he managed to outshine his far more illustrious teammates Steyn & Morkel. Thats one great start to a career.

So this was the Slipstream V for 2011. More reviews of 2011 coming up.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ranji Trophy 2011-12 - Jharkhand Update -2

Sometime back had written about Jharkhand's performance in the first 2 rounds of Ranji Trophy. Since then 3 more rounds have been held. here is a small piece on the team's performance. Jharkhand had collected a total of 3 points after the 1st 2 rounds and were placed at the bottom of the pile.

In the 3rd round Jharkhand took on Maharashtra at Nashik. Maharastra batted first and got to 460 with good contributions from their top order. The captain Shahbaz Nadeem picked up 4 wickets, while keeper Shiv Gautam had a good outing with 6 catches and a stumping. In reply Jharkhand were all out for 283 with Rameez Kemat & Gautam scoring half centuries. Following on Jharkhand managed 1 run less in their 2nd outing with opener Manish Vardhan getting 88. Maharastra was set a victory target of 106 runs which they achieved in 21 overs for the loss of 1 wicket. Points - Maharastra - 5, Jharkhand - 0.

The 4th round was a home game at Dhanbad against Assam. Assam racked up a big score of 502 in the 1st innings with 3 centurions. Shahbaz Nadeem was once again the pick of the bowlers with 4 wickets for 170 runs in 61 overs, while Samar Quadri picked 3 for 158 in 51 overs. In reply, Ishank Jaggi scored a daddy hundred (188) while the keeper Shiv Gautam scored 82. The duo was involved in 200+ partnership. There were hardly any other contributions though and the team  conceded a big 1st innings lead. In the 2nd innings Assam's Dheeraj Jadhav scored his 2nd hundred of the match. Points: Assam -3 & Jharkhand -1.

The 5th & final round saw the team take on Goa at Keenan Stadium, Jamshedpur, the only ground to have hosted international cricket in the state. (India has probably their poorest home ODI track record in this ground, 1 win against 7 losses). Jharkhand batted first and managed 218 runs with Manish Vardhan top scoring with 84. In reply Goa were knocked out for 189 with Quadri picking a 5-for. 2nd time around Jharkhand scored 204 with Vardhan again top scoring with 67. Chasing a victory target of 234, Goa were seemingly cruising at 133/1 before collapsing to 188 all out. The spin duo of Nadeem & Quadri was once again in action with Nadeem taking 5 & Quadri 4. The 45 run victory gave Jharkhand 5 points for its only outright victory of the season while Goa got 0 points.

Overall Jharkhand finished with 9 points from its 5 matches and finished 4th in the group, thus failing to reach the play-offs. Absence of Aaron was definitely felt, though it was the poor form of the Saurabh Tiwary which hurt the team most. Manish Vardhan, Shiv Gautam & Ishank Jaggi were the regular contributors with the bat while Shahbaz Nadeem & Samar Quadri were good with the ball. 

Bad luck this time around, hopefully will do better next year.

P.S. Only 5 first class matches for the entire year sounds too little cricket to me. And all this within a 6 month period. Maybe a 3 level league with 9 teams each could be a better solution. That would ensure at least more matches for all teams. The Duleep Trophy & Deodhar trophy can be done away to ease out the calendar.

P.P.S. Once again thanks to the operator of the twitter handle @ranjiscores for doing a stellar job of providing regular score updates from across all matches happening in the Plate & Elite leagues. Something which BCCI should be doing through their own account.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sir Rahul Dravid

"Not everything of value has a price"

If you are a cricket fan, listen to Rahul Dravid giving the Bradman Oration. 
If you are not a cricket fan, listen to Rahul Dravid giving the Bradman Oration. And you will become a cricket fan.

I thought Sangakkara's wonderful speech at the Colin Cowdrey Lecture would be the gold standard for speeches made by cricketers. Seems I had underestimated my own hero, the Wall. 

He spoke as one of the seniors of the game (him being the oldest active Test cricketer). His speech covered a wide range of topics. He talked about India's link with Australia (cricket and the British empire), their common enemy (?, England), India's romance with cricket, its love for records, the Indian player, the state of World cricket and problems facing it (balance of the 3 formats, overkill, spectatorless grounds, match-fixing), his own experience. It was well researched with just the dash of humour (Warne's eating habits, his own "slow" batting).  

The speech just showed what the man is all about. CLASS. 
Is 2011 going to be year when the cricket fans finally give Rahul Dravid the respect he has always deserved. (Slipstream Cricket would like to confer the title of Sir to Rahul Dravid)

Audio & text of the speech is available here.

P.S. "Creaking Terminators" - WOW. Probably the best phrase to describe veteran sportspersons. Expect this to be overused in the days to come.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Sign - Manoj Tiwary

After Ian Bell & Napolean Einstein, its the turn of Manoj Tiwary to take me into the cricinfo commentary section. (A bit narcissistic to keep a record of such things, but its always nice to read your name in print).

India in trouble at 1 for 2 (i.e. 2 wickets down for a single run) after 3 balls in the Chennai ODI. In this uncomfortable situation walked in Manoj Tiwary. The text commentator says Manoj Tiwary, making a comeback, walks in to face the hat-trick ball. Me sends in a feedback, which gets published before the start of the 3rd over.
"You say Manoj Tiwary on a comeback. Isn't he always. 6th match across 5 different series" Well said, Nishant

6th ODI across 5 different series. He was actually making a comeback in his debut as well. The first of the current generation to be selected for the Indian squad post the 2007 World Cup fiasco, Tiwary got injured in practice the day before his scheduled debut against Bangladesh. Rohit Sharma took his place. The debut came much later and then he was pushed back to the fringes with players like Raina, Kohli, Saurabh Tiwary, Murali Vijay et al. Now having made a comeback in the fringe category he is getting the odd game in every series. This time around though he has made it count with a well compiled century. It was a shame that he couldn't go on and had to retire hurt due to cramps. But it was a pleasant surprise to see him field after retiring hurt.

Now, wondering if my comment was a "sign". Probably the comments publication had something to do with the hundred. (I am pretty superstitious when it comes to cricket)

P.S. Virender Sehwag must have become the 1st player to appear in a post-match presentation without playing in the match concerned. Surely a new record. ;)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Arbit Statistics - 15

Virender Sehwag plundered 219 runs over the hapless West Indies attack (ok... wrong word) at Indore to record the highest ever score in ODI cricket. Chris Gayle even described it as "child abuse" on twitter. And at the end of this innings, his career records present interesting numbers.

319 - Sehwag's highest score in First Class & Test cricket.
219 - Sehwag's highest score in List A & ODI cricket.
119 - Sehwag's highest score in T20 cricket

Unfortunately, the highest in T20 wasn't scored in an international game, where his highest is barely 68. Now if only he manages to get a 119 in T20I. Then the highest scores would present a neat reading.