Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ten from 2012

'Tis that time of the year when you think about the time gone by. And then you compile the lists. Here is Slipstream Cricket's list of 10 cricketing memories from the year 2012.

1. The year of Retirements
Dravid, Laxman, Strauss, Ponting, Boucher, Simon Taufel retired from all formats of the game through 2012r. And the year  ended with Mr. Cricket Mike Hussey announcing his international retirement at end  of the current Australian season. Then there was the  retirement of Sachin Tendulkar from ODIs (only) which led to millions of Indian fans saying that they will retire from watching the ODI game.

2. The year of Michael Clarke
He is the new batting machine. Starts the year with a triple against India. Followed it with a double against Indians, added 2 more doubles against South Africa in a losing cause and then ended the year with a meagre 106 against Sri Lanka. Purple patches don't get purpler.

3, The Gangnam Style
There was a universally loved West Indies victory in the T20 world cup. They won it in style and celebrated in Gangnam style. There was a certain pride in playing for the West Indies shown by their maverick T20 mercenaries showing glimpses of a revival in West Indies cricket. Hopefully it is not another false dawn.

4. The Hundredth Hundred
The entire country and multiple statisticians waited for the hundreth hundred to come for over a year. It did not come in World Cup 2011 or in England or at home in India or in Australia. People kept waiting and waiting. And finally when it did come it came in a defeat to Bangladesh in Asia Cup

5. The Virat Kohli run chase formula
Give any target, provide some extra parameters (have to win in x overs or get a bonus point, lose early wickets). Then comes to bat Virat Kohli. And Job is done.

6. Misfiring strategy of the year
India had to avenge last year's blanking in England. Given England's poor display against Piyush Chawla & Harbhajan Singh in the T20 world cup, spin was the weapon of vengeance. And the weapon needed to be carefully hidden. So no spinners picked against the English in the practice games. Only  the Indian think-tank forgot that they had Swann, Monty & Mustaq Ahmed to practice during the nets. End result - first series loss to England in 28 years.

7. Cricketing jargon of the year
Reintegration - Kevin Pietersen behaves like a bad boy off the field. So he is dropped. But England need  him as they get knocked out early in the T20 World Cup and lose the Test top dog status to South Africa. So they pick him again after talks. And they call the process - Reintegration. Result - England win their  first Test series in India in 28 years. 

8. The Curse of the Golden Mace
After India England arent able to hold on the mace for long. 'The curse strike them as they keep losing till finally handing over the mace to South Africa. South Africa barely survive the Clarke juggernaut and have retained the mace. Not sure for how long South Africa they can hold on to it though.

9. Surprise of the Year
There was no new controversy emerging from Pakistan. None that I can recall any at the moment. And that in itself I would call as a major achievement.

10. Newton's Law of Gravity award.
To the Indian team. From the highs of 2011 World Cup victory to 4-0 demolitions in England & Australia & a series loss in India, failure to reach finals of CB series & Asia Cup and early elimination in the T20 World Cup. Yet the arrogance in BCCI remains.

P.S. RIP Tony Grieg. Slipstream Cricket had differences of opinion with you but your voice would be sorely missed. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ranji Trophy 12-13: Jharkhand vs Kerala review

Match Summary: Jharkhand (120 & 170) lose to Kerala (325) by innings and 35 runs
Points: Jharkhand 0, Kerala 7

It was the do or die moment, Unfortunately Kerala had Sreesanth coming back from injury for this game. He took 4 wickets in the fist innings to knock out the Jharkhand team for 120. Then Kerala managed a big lead by scoring 325 through 2 top order centuries and not much else with Nadeem taking 4 wickets. Second time around Ishank Jaggi got 90 but the rest of the brittle batting order was exposed again and they could only muster 170 to lose by an innings and 35 runs. Though Sreesanth did not manage a single wicket in the 2nd innings.

The result was a major setback for the quarter-final hopes. Though all is not completely lost yet. Need to win against the table topper Services at the minimum while hoping other results also go in our favour.

All the best against Services.

Season stats
Lead Scorer - Saurabh Tiwary - 568 @51.64
Most Wickets - Shahbaz Nadeem - 33 @24.00

Sunday, December 23, 2012

His ODI Retirement

December 23, 2012. 

Sachin Tendulkar announced his retirement from One Day International cricket.

Co-incidentally the day a team was being picked for the upcoming home series against arch-rivals Pakistan.
Just wondering about the timing of the retirement announcement. Did he jump or Was he pushed? If the latter case is true then it would be a sad end.

I belong to the camp which believes that he should have retired after the 2011 World Cup. And this decision was delayed. Still the retirement makes me a little sad (though the first feeling on hearing the news was only ODIs!). After all even I was an SRT fanboy once and probably would be forever.. Nonetheless the manner of the end shouldn't tarnish his career. And it has been statistically the greatest career ever.

463 Matches, 18,426 runs, 49 centuries at an average of 44.83. Sometimes sheer numbers are enough to convey the magnitude of a player's achievements. And just to add an icing to the cake add 154 wickets as well.

This post is an attempt to recall top of the mind, the ten greatest SRT ODI moments, as I remember them.

1. 134 vs Australia, Sharjah, 1998, in the final of one of the many Coca-Cola Cups played that year. Incidentally on his birthday and coming on the back of the another brilliant 143 in the previous game against the same opponents, which took India to the final.

2. 175 vs Australia, Hyderabad, 2009 in a lost cause. A really heart-breaking game for any fan. Sachin scores 175 and yet India fall just short of Australia's 350+ target.

3. Hero Cup semi-final against South Africa. Taking responsibility to bowl when even Kapil Dev was reluctant to.

4. 98 vs Pakistan , 2003 World Cup at Centurion. Especially that upper cut six off Akhtar.

5. Mcgrath attack, 2000, ICC knock out, Nairobi. Provided the perfect start to a match which will be later remembered for being the 1st innings of Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer's yorker to dismiss Steve Waugh and Venkatesh Prasad hitting the last ball of the Indian innings for a six.

6. That six off Caddick, India vs England, World Cup 2003.

7. The ODI double century vs South Africa, Gwalior, 2010, coiniciding with my 1st ever chopper ride.

8. The dismantling off Henry Olonga, Sharjah, 1998. Another of the Coca Cola trophies in Sharjah in 1998. Olonga had the audacity to dismiss SRT off  a bouncer in the league game. The final was a different story altogether as Sachin and India cruised to the title against a then quite strong Zimbabwe.

 9. 140 vs Kenya, World Cup, 1999. A real gem of an innings in sad circumstances.

10.  The perfect swansong which could have been. The world cup victory at Wankhede, 2011.

And many many more over the past 23 years. 

Goodbye, Mr. Tendulkar. Thank you for all the entertainment and the memories.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Ranji trophy 12-13: Jharkhand vs Andhra

Match Summary: Jharkhand (257 & 295/9d) drew with Andhra (410 & 32/4)
Points: Jharkhand 1, Andhra 3

This was a crucial game in terms of deciding who goes through into the knockouts. A top order collapse in the 1st innings put Jharkhand in big trouble but a century by Saurabh Tiwary and some good lower order partnership with Nadeem helped put on a decent total. Andhra were in a big spot of bother with 6 wickets gone and still trailing by almost 90 runs, but a big hundred by Amol Mazumdar, the all-time leading Ranji run getter took Andhra to a comfortable lead. Wicket-keeper Shiv Gautam took 5 catches in the Andhra innings. Tiwary missed a second century in the match getting out for 99 while Akash Verma scored 82. Though Jharkhand declared and gave Andhra some fright there wasn't enough time and the match ended in a draw.

So Jharkhand get only 1 point taking their tally to 18 for the season. The team has now dropped to the 3rd place 2 points behind Andhra having played the same number  of games. With 2 matches in hand, it could turn out to be a very close race for the 2 quarter-final spots.

Coming up next -  a must win game against Kerala who are in 8th place in the group, starting December 22.

Season Stats
Lead Scorer - Saurabh Tiwary 554 @ 61.6, over 300 more than the next highest Akash Verma
Most Wickets - Shahbaz Nadeem 29@ 24.6, with Sunny Gupta close behind with 26

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Ranji Trophy 12-13: Jharkhand vs Tripura

Match Summary: Tripura (106 & 86) lost to Jharkhand (139 & 553/3) by 7 wickets.
Points: Jharkhand 6, Tripura 0

After taking a break in the 5th round of games, Jharkhand were back in action in 6th round, playing against Tripura in Agartala. And what an action packed return it was with the match finishing inside 2 days. Either the pitch must have been something extra-ordinary or the bowling out-of-this-world or the batsmen totally incompetent. Given the records of the players concerned I would like to believe in the extra-ordinary pitch theory. The contest was unfair with the dice being heavily loaded in favour of the bowlers, but I would rather have this kind of pitch than some of the flat tracks being dished out in the Ranji trophy.

Coming back to the match. There was a total of 1 big partnership in the game between Saurabh Tiwary & Ishank Jaggi and that basically sealed the fate of the game in Jharkhand's favour. How valuable was the parthership? It was 7 runs more than the entire Tripura 2nd innings & was more than double the combined total of the other nine Jharkhand 1st innings partnerships. Ajay yadav playing only his 2nd First class match was the star performer with the ball taking 10wickets in the match while Shankar Rao took a 5-for in the 2nd innings. The two highest wicket takers for Jharkhand this season Nadeem & Sunny bowled a total of 8 overs in the entire game, such was the impact of the 2 new ball bowlers. But the star performance was undoubtedly the Tiwary-Jaggi partnership which helped secure the 6 points.

With this win Jharkhand take their points total to 17 with 3 games in hand. they are very much in the race for the Quarter-final spot right now. Hoping to see my team in the Ranji knock-outs.

Next Game - vs Andhra starting December 15.

Season Stats
Top scorer - Saurabh Tiwary - 336 runs @ 48
Most wickets - Shahbaz Nadeem - 26 @ 20.42

P.S. It was interesting to see that former India keeper Ajay Ratra is now playing for Tripura

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Eternal Optimists

Sometimes I hate VVS Laxman & Rahul Dravid. 

Their partnership on 15th March, 2001 at Eden Gardens are part of cricketing folklore. A partnership which turned around a hopeless situation into a winning one. And scripted the most dramatic turnarounds in the history of the game. India went on to win the match and took the momentum generated from the game to win the next match and the series as well.

But in addition to all this, what the duo also did was to convert Indian fans into eternal optimists. The situation can be as hopeless as it can be, but the Indian fan will remember that glorious day in Eden Gardens when Laxman & Dravid stopped the all-conquering Australians from taking over the "Final Frontier".

They made us believe in miracles. And I guess that enhances the pain of losing a little more.

Also in this list of believing-it-ain't-over-till-its-over was the Kumble-Srinath match-winning 9th wicket partnership against the Aussies in Titan Cup (1996). That single game is responsible for keeping me awake till the game is actually won or lost ever since. I might have ignored it as a-once-in-a-lifetime but something similar happened again when Zaheer Khan & Murali Kartik repeated the dose to the another bunch of Aussies in another ODI a few years later.

As I write this the 9th Indian wicket has fallen in the 2nd innings and an innings defeat looks likely but in some little corner of the heart there is a still a flicker of hope as I keep following the match.

P.S. Come to think of it, the miracles only seem to be happening against the Aussies.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Farewell Ricky Ponting

2012 - Dravid, Laxman, Strauss & now Ponting... Some big names hanging up their bats. 

How to describe Ricky Ponting? He was one the best batsmen in the last 2 decades. And undoubtedly one of the finest ever. But unlike his predecessors & contemporaries one of the lesser liked big names on the cricket ground. 

From an Indian fan perspective, I would describe him as a person who has caused a lot of pain to the us on many an occasion, but very rarely was the pain caused by on-field performances with the bat. Barring, of course, the one glorious innings which took away the 2003 World Cup final away from us. As a batsman he mastered conditions everywhere except India. Probably India got the worst out of him, as a player and captain. He presided over the most acrimonious series in which India has involved in the last couple of decades. The 2007-08 tour of Australia was one of the most bitter ever witnessed. Even millions of dollars of IPL money has been unable to heal all the scars so far. 

But I digress. Ricky Ponting was statistically the most successful cricketer ever. 108 test wins and 3 world cup wins. These numbers speak volumes about the Australian dominance, Ponting's longevity as well as ability to be part of such a team for a long time. However he has also had to witness the decline of the Aussies from being an all-conquering team to one of the leading contenders. More than anything else those 3 Ashes defeats must have really, really hurt. He certainly bears the scars of those battles.

He was never a favorite of mine (his habit of continuously spitting into his own hands was disgusting to watch) but his struggles over the later part of the career, for some odd reason, made him more likeable. A heavy defeat to South Africa wasn't the way for a legendary career to end. But at least he got the satisfaction of calling time on his own career.

Farewell Ricky Ponting. May you retire in peace. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ranji Trophy 12-13: Jharkhand vs Himachal Pradesh

Match Summary: Jharkhand (236/10 & 244/2) draw with Himachal Pradesh (442/7 dec)
Points: Jharkhand 1, Himachal Pradesh 3

A poor first innings effort by the Jharkhand batsmen led to the team slipping up in the 1st innings against some disciplined bowling by Himachal. Only a fighting century by Saurabh Tiwary, the first by any Jharkhand  player in this season and a 130 run stand with Sunny Gupta provided the saving grace. In reply Himachal went on to take a big lead with the bowlers being largely ineffective. Shankar Rao took 3 wickets while Sunny took 2. Himachal in a bid to enforce an outright victory declared but a more discplined second innings effort took Jharkhand to safety and secured 1 point. Akash Verma playing his 1st game of the season scored a century while Manish Vardhan (94) narrowly missed out.

The result has hampered the qualifying chances a little, with Jharkhand having slipped down to 4th place in the group with 11 points. They now rest in the coming round beginning December 4th with a must win game against Tripura beginning on December 8th.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ranji Trophy 12-13: Jharkhand vs Goa

Match Summary: Jharkhand (360/10) vs Goa (208/10 & 292/8 following on)
Points: Jharkhand 3, Goa 1 (1st innings lead basis)

A solid batting & bowling performance got Jharkhand 3 points from their 3rd game of the season against Goa. The Goa side lacked international names but had some domestic IPL star performers like Asnodkar, Bisla & Jakati. And it was Bisla's 2nd innings heroics which stood between Jharkhand & an outright victory. With 5 rounds left every game is becoming crucial.

Jharkhand made a few changes from the previous games with Nemat & Jasakaran missing out due to injury. Ajay Yadav made his First Class debut, while Deobrat came in for Nemat. Consistent scores from the entire top order with half centuries for Vardhan, Sunny (who opened in this game), Jaggi & Deobrat took the score to 360. Nadeem took another 5 wicket haul with Sunny & Rao taking 2 each to knock out Goa for 208 and enforce the follow on. (in a 4-day game a 150 run lead is sufficient for the follow-on). In the 2nd innings Goa hung in against the spin of Sunny (6 wickets) & Nadeem (2 wickets).

Nadeem is currently the leading wicket-taker in the Ranji season with 24 wickets already from 3 games. Should start to figure in the plans of Indian selectors soon.

The result ensures that Jharkhand retain the 2nd position in the Group C points table with 10 points. Coming up next is Himachal Pradesh who have former India opener Aakash Chopra in their ranks and are currently in the 3rd place with 7 points. Match begins Nov 24th. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Ranji Trophy 12-13: Jharkhand vs Assam

Match Summary: Assam (179/10 & 207/10) beat Jharkhand (174/10 &159/10) by 53 runs at Jamshedpur.
Points: Assam - 6, Jharkhand - 0

Coming on the heels of a good victory against Jammu & Kashmir, this was a bad result. Specially given the fact that there were many instances Jharkhand were in full control of the game. And the defeat coming at home makes the qualification chances slightly  slimmer. A golden opportunity to be in pole position for the race to quarter-finals has been squandered. Instead its now Assam leading the way in the group.

Batting collapses in both innings and allowing Assam lower order to get away with a lot of runs in the second innings were the key contributors to this loss. The pitch was spin-friendly and batting difficult but this was a match which should have been won. 

Assam's 1st innings was restricted to 179 thanks to 4-wicket hauls for Nadeem & Sunny Gupta. Jharkhand in response were cruising along before losing the last 7 wickets for just 32 runs to concede a 5 run lead. Nemat was the top scorer with 53. Nadeem picked up another 4 wicket haul while Sunny got 3 to restrict Assam to 207. It could have been quite worse but Assam's last 3 wickets added 82 runs which in the end proved decisive. In the 2nd innings chasing 213 Nemat was once again the top scorer with 42 but another collapse saw the team fall short by 53 runs.

Overall a bad result. Hoping for a better performance against Goa in the 3rd game starting on November 17th. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Jharkhand Ranji Trophy 2012-13: Game 1

What a start to the season! Jharkhand beat Jammu & Kashmir in the season opener by an innings & 31 runs. Not only did they win, they also got the bonus point and have the best quotient (2.179) amongst the Group C teams. Which means they are right on top of the table after the 1st round of games with 7 points. Alongside are Assam (also with 7) and there is a chance to get clear pole position when these 2 clash in the 2nd round of games beginning November 9th.

Match Summary: J&K (195/10 &151/10) lost to Jharkhand (377/10) by an innings & 31 runs. Venue Jammu
Points - Jharkhand - 7, J&K - 0

Saurabh Tiwary was the only player with international exposure in the game. It was a good all round bowling performance in the 1st innings by the Jharkhand team with Nadeem & SS Rao picking 3 wickets while Sunny Gupta (of the infamous IPL knockout game) took 2. A combined batting performance took Jharkhand to a decent (though not imposing) score. Nemat (75), Tiwary (72) & Gautam (80) got 50s while there were a couple of others in the 20s & 30s. However this score was more than enough as Nadeem ran through the J&K line-up in the 2nd innings picking 6 wickets while Jaskaran took 2. 

Hopefully Varun Aaaron will be fit for the games which lie ahead. Thouh I wonder why Dhoni wasn't playing while almost all Indian players played in the opening Ranji games. In fact some turned up to play for their states just a day after the India A-England match.

Its still early days in the season and tougher tests lie ahead but as they say, "Well begun is half Done"

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Ranji Trophy - 2012-13: Jharkhand Team

For the upcoming Ranji season, this is the team selected to represent Jharkhand for the first 2 games.
Shahbaz Nadeem (c), Manish Vardhan (vc), Deepak Chogule, Kumar Deobrat, Shiv Gautam (wk), Sunny Gupta, Amir Hashmi, Ishank Jaggi, Jaskaran Singh, Rameez Nemat, Samar Quadri, Shiv Shankar Rao, Rahul Shukla, Saurabh Tiwary, Ajay Yadav.

Jharkhand's Ranji record is nothing much to speak of. Hopefully they will get some success in the revamped Ranji format. MS Dhoni playing any game looks a very remote possibility but Varun Aaron might get a few games if he is fit. 

The victory of East Zone in the Duleep Trophy owed quite a lot to the contributions from the Jharkhand boys, in the absence of some key players appearing in the Champions League. Centuries by Saurabh Tiwary in the semi-finals and Ishank Jaggi in the final were the chief contributors to the East Zone victory. 

Performance of the Jharkhand boys in the semi-finals against South Zone - 
  • Manish Vardhan (5 & 0)
  • Saurabh Tiwary (145 & 0)
  • Shiv Gautam (11 & 4)
  • Samar Quadri (4 &1, 2/37 & 0/4)
Finals vs Central Zone
  • Ishank Jaggi (100*)
  • Saurabh Tiwary (0)
  • Shiv Gautam (34 & 4*)
Will make an attempt to capture the team's fortunes through this blog. 

Here is wishing all the best to Shahbaz Nadeem and team for the Ranji Trophy. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Podcast: Thoughts on Cricket - T20, India

After having reviewed India's Olympic performance through a podcast, presenting the second podcast done by the trio of Karthik, Ajay & Yours truly.
Though the discussions went on for long, the podcast has been restricted to less than 20 minutes play duration. 
Among other things we analyse and find why picking Chris Gayle for your T20 team is not a good idea.

A podcast reviewing the World T20, the currently underway CL T20, talking about the IPL and looking forward to India's upcoming series.

01:15 - Thoughts on the World T20 
06:00 - Quick thoughts on Anil Kumble becoming the ICC Cricket Committee Chairman 
07:50 - Champions League T20 Thoughts - Lack of champions, proposed future formats 
10:50 - Proposed changes to CL T20 
12:50 - The IPL, teams being terminated and feasibility 
15:00 - A few thoughts on domestic cricket 
16:45 - India's upcoming calendar and the case of the missing SL series 
18:30 - Closing comments

If you like what you hear, follow us @ajay_prasad @kcgadiyar and @nishantskumar

Thursday, October 18, 2012

T20 World Cup - 2012 Review

Apparently a T20 Champions League is currently underway in South Africa. Quite a misnomer given that some of the Champion teams had to play in the qualifying while a 4th place finish gets a direct entry for some one else. BCCI be a little less greedy. Get 4 IPL teams but restrict direct entry to only two.
Also this is a perfect example of cricket overdose, coming as it does close on the heels of the T20 World Cup. I have hardly been following the Champions league. And am sure there are many other ardent fans who are also suffering from this excess.
Now for the main agenda for this post. Here are some thoughts on the T20 World Cup with a little focus on the Indian performance.

West Indies winning was liked all around. They certainly brought joy to all the cricket followers  through the "Gangnam style" cricket. But will this mark a turnaround in their fortunes. I don't think so,  given that most of the current West Indies lot is more interested in performing in one T20 league or the other across the world. Will the likes of Pollard, Gayle, Bravo, Sunil Naraine show the same commitment when matches of West Indies clash with the Big Bash or IPL etc?

Sri Lanka again lost in a major final (4th in last 5 years). But they have certainly been the most consistent of all teams in the limited overs format.

There was a strategic decision by Mahela Jayawardene to handover the captaincy to Kumara Sangakkara to avoid getting a ban. A move which raised a few eyebrows about the slow over-rate rule. Tony Grieg, the Cheerleader-in-chief of Sri Lanka went all gungho hailing this "tactical" move by the Sri Lankan team management. I don't have any issue as all this was not illegal. But what about the "Spirit of Cricket" nonsense which Mr. Grieg had harped on about earlier this year at the MCC lecture. In my opinion, Mr. Greig if this is not hypocrisy, then I wonder what is?

Shane Watson was a deserving Man of the Series. One player who certainly owes a lot to the IPL

A pattern has been observed in the tournament winners. They generally have very bad starts to the tournament. In fact, 3 of them have gone on to win the tournament without even a single win in the first phase. Here are the opening round performances of the 4 winners
  • 2007 - India - 1 No result, 1 Tie (win in bowl-out)
  • 2009 - Pakistan - 1 loss, 1 win 
  • 2010 - England - 1 Loss, 1 No Result 
  • 2012 - West Indies - 1 Loss, 1 No Result
ICC needs to review the necessity of a Super Over in League stages. Use it in the knock-outs, but why is required at all in a League game? A tie is after all a perfectly acceptable result in any league format across sports.

England, I am worried about you. If you could make Piyush Chawla look like Shane Warne, then a 4-nil thrashing is in the offing in India. Have to admit that the better players of spin (Pietersen, Cook, Trott, Bell)weren't in the squad. Which begs the question, why weren't they there?

Now for India. The team doesn't give the feeling of a team at all. A few thoughts on the Indian performance.
  • Batting has become Virat Kohli + support. Only if, just in case, Kohli might have an off day (an increasingly rare occurence), the batting collapses completely. 
  • There were some very strange team selections. The presence of Piyush Chawla, absence of Umesh Yadav/Praveen Kumar. Manoj Tiwary being forever benched. Rohit Sharma getting game after game. Irfan Pathan opening when there are 6 other specialist batsmen waiting in the dug-out. Quite logic defying.
  • One highlight was the return to fitness, though not complete form of Yuvraj Singh. His return from cancer is certainly more than just cricket.
  • Dhoni is looking weary. Its said captains have a shelf life. He seems to be at the end of his. All this non-stop cricket is certainly taking a toll. But no replacement seems to be ready to take over the mantle from him.
  • Yet insite of all this, India did win 4 out of the 5 games they played. So there is hope.
  • And yes, we continue our DOMINANCE over Pakistan in the World Cups (:D)
So these were my thoughts on the Gangnam style World Cup.

P.S. More than the Champions League, what I have been following is the ongoing Duleep Trophy. To be covered in the next post.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Jharkhand Domestic Schedule: 2012-13 Season

For all followers of Jharkhand team, here is the calendar for the domestic season 2012-13 (Source - cricinfo)

Ranji Trophy - In the domestic first class tournament, Jharkhand is in Group C which will send 2 qualifiers to the quarter-final stage . This being the weakest group does mean that chances of qualifying for the knock-out stage is pretty good. Lets see how the results pan out. Here is the schedule.
  1. Nov 2-5, 2012: vs J&K (A)
  2. Nov 9-12, 2012: vs Assam (H)
  3. Nov 17-20, 2012: vs Goa (H)
  4. Nov 24-27, 2012: vs Himachal Pradesh (H)
  5. Dec 8-11, 2012: vs Tripura (A)
  6. Dec 15-18, 2012: vs Andhra Pradesh (H)
  7. Dec 22-25, 2012: vs Kerala (A)
  8. Dec 29, 12 - Jan 1,13: vs Services (A)

Vijay Hazare Trophy -  Jharkhand's only silverware till date has come in the 2010-11 edition of the 50 over domestic tournament. The tournament which launched Varun Aaron to stardom. An added incentive is that the winning state goes on to play in the Challenger Trophy. Lets see what the schedule holds for this year.
  1. Feb 16, 2013: vs Tripura
  2. Feb 18, 213: vs Bengal (the defending champions)
  3. Feb 20, 2013: vs Assam
  4. Feb 22, 2013: vs Odisha (earlier Orissa)
Syed Mustaq Ali Trophy - May sound surprising to all, but this is the national domestic T20 tournament and not the IPL. Like the Vijay Hazare trophy this is also played on zonal basis. Here is the schedule for the  group stage matches.
  1. Mar 18, 2013: vs Tripura
  2. Mar 19, 2013: vs Bengal
  3. Mar 20, 2013: vs Odisha
  4. Mar 21, 2013: vs Assam

So this was the schedule. Lets see what Varun Aaaron, Saurabh Tiwary, Shahbaz Nadeem and company achieve this year. Not including Dhoni in the list as he is unlikely to make any domestic appearance given India's hectic schedule.

Wishing the best to my team.

Monday, September 3, 2012

India-New Zealand 2012 Tests Review

The 2012-13 home season began early for India, in fact the earliest till date. New Zealand were not  expected to be more than a warm-up for the tougher challenges coming up in the form of England & Australia. Here is the immediate post-series review.
  • If India had been on the receiving end of as many dubious decisions as the Kiwis had, am pretty sure enough hue and cry would have been raised and the umpires would have been removed from officiating in any India matches in the future. But hardly hear the Kiwis complaining.
  • For dodgy umpiring there is a very simple solution which for some reason ICC does not want to use. Give review powers to the 3rd umpire. Any "obvious" error can be overturned at the the 1st replay itself. Marginal calls stay with the field umpires.
  • The Kiwi bowling lineup of Martin, Bracewell, Boult & Southee can trouble many a batting lineup. But their batting lineup remains worrying.
  • India went into the series with 2 gaping holes left by VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid and many questions about the lineup. Unfortunately most questions have still not been answered and some new ones have been created.
  • The openers continue their dodgy form. Gambhir and Sehwag are not providing the solid starts that they used to. maybe its time to bring in Rahane and maybe put Sehwag down the order.
  • Virat Kohli continues to impress.
  • Cheteshwar Pujara's comeback beginnings are good. But he is not the new "Wall" as everyone has started projecting him. As yet.
  • Raina at no. 6 is not working out well. Either try out someone new (Badrinath, Manoj Tiwary ?) or bring down Sehwag and put in Rahane at the top.
  • Ashwin & Ojha have made a decent spinning pair. Their record, albeit after 5 tests at home against West Indies and Kiwis, is staggering to say the least.
  • The slip catching by Sehwag & Kohli was excellent. At least Dravid & Laxman were not missed in that department.
  • Sachin Tendulkar has given more ammunition to his critics. But he is needed in this lineup for now especially with Dravid & Laxman gone. Maybe he can let Kohli take over the No. 4 position and drop down the order.
In all, India won the series but questions remain unanswered.

P.S. Suggested lineup for the England tests - Gambhir, Rahane, Pujara, Kohli, Sachin, Sehwag, Dhoni, Ashwin, Zaheer, Yadav, Ojha.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Very Very Special

Its been a couple of days since VVS Laxman announced his retirement with "immediate effect" from international cricket. Millions of blog posts have already been written about the man in the interim. Here is one more tribute to the man who made Indian fans believe in miracles.

I have actually seen him bat. That was in 1998. It was a Ranji Trophy match between Bihar & Hyderabad played in Keenan Stadium. To be honest it wasn't VVS whom I had gone to watch. It was the 2nd or 3rd day of the game. Hyderabad was batting. VVS and Venkatpathy Raju were the batsman. But I was more interested in getting a glimpse of my then idol, Mohammed Azharuddin, who would occasionally wander into the pavilion balcony and receive loads of cheers. That I got to see a triple hundred from VVS was a small sideshow at that time.

I was too young to probably realise it at that time. But that certainly was an example of how a beautiful innings is constructed. I am no master of words. And hence won't be able to do any justice to the artist that was VVS Laxman. "Lazy Elegance" must have been a phrase coined to describe VVS Laxman. The elegant wristwork, the flicks, the cuts. An inninigs could be built at a great tempo without the man even breaking into a sweat. An example of a great innings when all was lost was Sydney, 2000. India staring at a 3rd consecutive defeat while Laxman pulling off one shot after another to get to his maiden century which included 100+ runs in a single session of play.

Probably that was the innings which set up his love affair with the Aussie bowling attack. Guess that explains why the first cricketer to comment about VVS's retirement was the Aussie Captain Michael Clarke :). Jokes apart I doubt there has been any innings greater than the 281 at Eden Gardens. It was a freakish innings and had a Dravid special to complement it. An innings which has changed the way captains worldwide have perceived the follow-on. Enforcing the follow-on has become more and more debatable amonst captains worldwide.

A look at the Greatest Innings of Modern times.

If Laxman hadn't done anything else he would still have been remembered for that 281. But of course he isn't called Very Very Special for nothing. There were a sequence of 4th innings chases. The Aussies were sick of him. There was a case where Laxman got a big score and Australia lost even though they were playing in different continents.

Its a question often asked about geniuses. Individually brilliant, but was he a team-man? Well, all I can say is he refused the marquee player status in the 1st IPL and let Deccan Chargers pick him at a much lower price than he would have got otherwise (15% higher than the highest bought DC player). All this to ensure that limited money is spent wisely. That his team failed him is a different matter altogether.

With the retirement of Laxman coming soon after that of his most-oft partner-in-crime, the Indian Test batting order will bear a totally different look. Their retirements have been much discussed. But now that the reality is here, how the replacements will perform is still to be seen. And it is not just the batting lineup which will become different. There is big void created in the slip cordon. No Dravid at 1st slip and no VVS at 2nd. Who will be the replacements to fill in these legendary boots? Pretty tough to fathom.

In the end, thank you VVS Laxman for giving endless hope to the Indian fan. After all till you were at the crease, miracles did happen.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Cricket & Olympics

The Olympics are over. The India-New Zealand Test series is still 10 days away. And there is no India-Sri Lanka series to fill in the vacuum that has been created.

Cricket's involvement in the Olympics has been bare minimum. It was part of the Paris Olympics in 1900, with Great Britain beating the Gentlemen of France (?) to win the Gold. Silver went to the French team. And there was no other participant due to withdrawal of cricketing powerhouses like Belgium & Netherlands. Easiest medalists ever in my opinion.

There have been a few cricketers involved in Olympics through other sports e.g. Johnny Douglas, The Nawab of Pataudi Sr. etc. But still cricket has such hasn't had much to do with the Olympic movement as such.

This time around there was a big involvement. Though not many would have noted that. And I am not talking about Lord's the home of cricket being used as an archery range. It was the England-South Africa 2nd Test at Leeds underway at the same time. Olympic movement has had quite a few sports as Demonstration sports which are not counted in the final tally going on in parallel with the main event. Though ICC or IOC may not be acknowledging it, but this was a perfect example of a Demonstration Sport as a sideshow to the Games.

Friday, August 10, 2012

India-Sri Lanka - July-Aug 2012 edition

So while the whole world, including yours truly was busy watching the Olympics, the Indian cricket team came out of  hibernation by playing against their familiar opponents, Sri Lanka. Here are a few thoughts on the series went by.
  • The India-Sri Lanka series reminds you of your boyhood days. Every evening you went out into the ground with the same bunch of kids and played cricket. And returned the next day to play some more. Thanks to the mandarins at BCCI & Cricket Sri Lanka for making us relive those old days.
  • This was "supposed" to be a Test series. Then why was it converted into an ODI series with one meaningless T20 thrown in? Just maybe, Tony Grieg was right (:P)
  • If the idea is to prepare for the T20 world cup coming up in Sri Lanka, then why play just 1 T20 and not more instead of the ODIs.
  • Did we learn anything new from this series? From an India perspective - nothing. Except that Rohit Sharma has some very very powerful backing in the squad. Performances & recent form certainly don't justify his continued place in the squad.
  • The others were usual - Virat Kohli continues his astounding run, Gautam Gambhir continues to give the occasional good century, Suresh Raina is a very good batsman on subcontinental pitches, Manoj Tiwary still does not get a chance and performs on occasion. And the bowling lineup continues to be dodgy.
  • Irfan Pathan - the mystery continues. He has become a bits and pieces player rather than a specialist bowler. The bowling towards the end of the series was good. But the questions still remain. He is a more than capable 5th bowler, but a place amongst the 4 lead bowlers remains a question mark.
  • India for some odd reason doesn't know how to handle left-arm spinners. Pragyan Ojha's entries and exits continue to confound.
  • Lasith Malinga over 10 overs is much easier to handle than over 4 overs.
  • And the last query - Is Sehwag interested in playing any more? Maybe he was bored of another Sri Lanka series, but how long do we go with his maverick nature.
  • Just hate it when product placements are done during commentary. Where is the "spirit of cricket" business here?
So thats it. One more meaningless series over and we learn nothing new.

P.S. Looking forward to the Test series against the Kiwis. After all someone has to come up to replace Rahul Dravid. Who will raise his hand to do that?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Arbit Statistics - 17: Farewell Mark Boucher

South African wicket-keeper Mark Boucher announced his retirement from all international cricket following an eye injury caused by a bail. A great fighter, he was always up for the challenge. A more dogged fighter there weren't many others. Over 5500 runs & 550 dismissals in Tests showed his class. And he is still only 35. The untimely eye injury has certainly robbed him a couple of years of international cricket at least. 

For the statistically minded (and which cricket fan is not) there were a couple of landmarks which have been taken away as well. A chance to be playing his 150th Test at Lords later in the English summer. And a chance to be the 1st wicket keeper to complete 1000 international dismissals. (Current tally stands at 999).

Just wondering, Will Mark Boucher's 999 international dismissals be the wicket-keeping equivalent of 99.94?

P.S. Helmets should be made compulsory for all wicket-keepers standing up and praying for a quick recovery.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Timeless Steel

An absolutely apt name for a book on a legend.
And I got my copy (This blog post is meant for showing off only)
Even more impressively, my copy was delivered on July 3rd, a whole day before the official release on July 4th. All this, thanks to the efficient folks at Flipkart (see free endorsement done, where is my royalty now :P)

P.S. Review coming soon.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

MCC Lecture - 2012 & Tony Greig's India Obsession

The annual Colin Cowdrey Spirit of Cricket Lecture was held on June 26. After a highly impressive oration by Kumara Sangakkara last year, I had begun to look forward to the annual Spirit of Cricket Lecture. On learning that Tony Greig had been asked to deliver the lecture, was certain that somehow BCCI and IPL would be mentioned in his speech as being responsible for all the evil in the world. And he certainly did not disappoint. Where did I get this surety? From following his twitter account. Mr. Greig never misses any chance to take potshots at the Indian board in the limited to 140 characters medium and to provoke caustic remarks from Indian followers. And he certainly wasn't going to miss this hour long opportunity.

To his credit, he has acknowledged the financial power of BCCI and the good use which has been put through it (e.g. the one-time benefit package to past cricketers, bonanza for boards hosting India, Indian TV viewership rights etc.). However at the same time he is saying that BCCI is taking the spirit out of cricket. Well, to be honest, BCCI is not the only wrong-doer in this regard. And for the "Spirit of Cricket" business, in my humble opinion, it is a concept without any actual basis, based purely on an individual's judgement and applied arbitrarily as and when required. So lets not tread into such waters.

Tony Grieg makes a point about BCCI having sold off part of cricket to private investors. Point taken but   hasn't all sporting activity been funded through private investors for their entertainment. I mean if there hadn't been private investors, how would anyone make a living playing any sport. Ignoring this global point, lets say BCCI commited this crime. But does selling off franchisees in IPL compare to selling off your entire T20 tournament to a private investor (West Indies & Alan Stanford). Given that the West Indies board is poor, they didn't have any option, what about the English board who got swayed by the sight of Stanford landing in Lords with suitcases full of dollars? Greed is present everywhere, why just blame BCCI?

Then he has an issue of BCCI promoting T20s over Tests. I can only say one thing. Come to your sense Mr. Greig. Check India's schedule and compare it with any other Test playing country. You will find that India plays the least number of T20 matches. And they have the most heavy international schedule. Post 2011 World Cup, India has played 14 Tests and 6 T20s. For the 2012-13 home season 10 Tests are scheduled. Does it show lower priority for Tests? Even the domestic calendar is being revamped with emphasis on getting more first class matches for the state teams. Yes there is a 2 month long IPL, but beyond that there is hardly any T20 participation from Indian players.

IPL is referred to as the main killer of the "spirit of cricket". Players are not choosing to play for IPL franchisees over their countries. Fair enough, everyone would want to have more and easy money, thats just human nature. Mr. Greig himself did the same when he went to Packer's side, which he was very honest about in acknowledging.. And when he chose to be part of the now-defunct Indian Cricket League, was it for any "Spirit of Cricket" business or just money?

Tony Grieg takes on his favorite point of beating BCCI by raising the DRS issue. I do not support BCCI's stand of opposing the DRS implementation. With different models of DRS operating in different series, it gets weird for the watching fan. Uniformity should be there across. However, I would leave the DRS to umpires and not to the players. Let 3rd umpires have a more pro-active role and review howlers rather than the challenge coming from the players. Guess would be better for the so called "spirit of cricket". Wonder why none of the esteemed commentators including Tony Greig raises this point.

Tony Greig does put some interesting ideas like expanding IPL into an Asian Premier League with teams from Pakistan, Bangladesh & Sri Lanka (Hangover of ICL which had Lahore & Dhaka teams???). SImilarly including the Kiwis in the Big Bash, having an African League & a European one with West Indies included. But will this not be contrary to his own statements on Tests getting less and less priority.

In short, to sum up my understanding of Tony Greig's speech. "BCCI, we want the money you bring to the game. But we do not want you to control the game". Mr. Grieg Sir, Is that even possible?

Lets see what all, if anything comes out of this speech.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

India Domestic Overhaul - 2012

Some interesting development are underway for anyone who follows Indian domestic cricket. The Technical Committee of BCCI (consisiting of former captains like Ganguly & Kumble) have made some major recommendations for overhauling the domestic cricket structure in the country. Quite a few very interesting proposals are here. Here is my take on the recommendations. (These are yet to be ratified and BCCI can just opt for Status Quo)

Ranji Trophy - The current 27 teams are proposed to be divided into 3 groups/tiers with minimum 8 matches guaranteed for all teams. This is to be followed by an 8 team knock-out stage. There are also promotion & relegation involved. 
  • I like the idea of having more 1st class games given that the teams in the existing Plate league got only 5 games per season. More 1st class games should certainly help the players. Also a longer season would help in players recovering from injuries/loss of form etc. 
  • However a league cum knock-out system with promotion & relegation is a bit confusing to me. Does it mean a team from Group C can hope to win the Ranji Trophy and yet be eligible to play in Group B and not the top tier Group A? 
  • There are also concerns that some of the performers in the lower leagues may not get noticed. But this may be a bit unfounded given that quite a few players in the current national team represent the Plate teams (Dhoni, Yadav, Aaron) while none from the two time defending champions Rajasthan are even close to the national cap.
  • Having 5 day matches from the Knock-Out stage onwards is also a good idea, giving more chances of outright results rather than just 1st innings leads issues.
  • Also, the Under-22 teams will be referred to as A teams with scope of having upto 3 players under-25. Does this mean that these matches also will be given 1st class status? 

Duleep Trophy - Tournament has been shifted to the start of the season. This implies that the zonal teams will be selected on the basis of the previous season's performances? Makes little sense to me. 1st of all given that the zonal system has been removed, why have the Duleep Trophy at all? And if has is to take place, why not hold it after the Ranji league stage at least or after the finals. These would be reward for good performances in the current year. Alternatively, Duleep Trophy might be used as warm-ups for the home Test season. Only if all national players are available. Hardly see this happening as our seniors prefer resting during Tests also.

Irani Trophy - Should have continued as the season opener. Instead has been shifted to the season ender. Given that the domestic season ends with IPL, the concept seems misaligned. As the season opener can act as the one warm-up game for the Indian home Test season.

Vijay Hazare Trophy - Is the tournament to be played in zonal format or in the 3 tier league format? Zonal format would reduce the number of games and the duration of the tournament as well. The winning team getting to play in the Challenger Trophy seems to be an interesting incentive for the winner.

Challenger Trophy - Never understood the concept of this tournament. 3 teams picked without any basis and playing 2/3 games over a 4 day period. Seems more like a warm-up camp than anything else. This time they want one of the 3 teams to be the Vijay Hazare trophy winner while the other teams would be picked from the rest. Seems like an extended 50 over Irani Trophy now.

Deodhar Trophy - Again like Duleep Trophy is an outdated concept. Don't know why it is still being held? If I remember correctly, BCCI once tried to remove the tournament, but had to roll back its decision after threats from certain quarters, as it hurt certain regional "pride".

Mustaq Ali Trophy - The national T20 tournament. And hardly in the limelight. The performers in the inaugural edition of the Mustaq Ali tournament in 2007 were picked for the T20 World Cup which India won. Since then the teams have been picked on the basis of the IPL performances and India has been getting knocked out early. Shows the value of this tournament (Just Kidding!). Also can be used as a good feeder for the IPL teams domestic players. Suggest the tournament be held before the IPL auctions for domestic players in the coming years. Performers will be instantly rewarded.

Other Changes - Uncovered pitches, 12 overs per bowler in the 50 over matches, 2 bouncers per over etc. These are the kind of things one regularly hears. Lets see if the experiments have any positive result on the Limited Overs game as such.

Nice to see the BCCI getting into an overhaul mode of the domestic game, with emphasis on getting more 1st class matches. With the 2 "A" tours (West Indies, New Zealand), an extended rest for the national team and hosting 10 Tests, the board certainly seems to be planning in the right direction. Hopefully we don't go into participating in meaningless ODI series and one-off T20s.

P.S. These are still at proposal stage and yet to be ratified.

Monday, June 4, 2012

IPLV - Jharkhand Review

After having decided to champion the cause of Jharkhand cricket and the cricketers, I thought why not a post on the performance of the players. There weren't many of them, so not too difficult to track. Here we go.
  1. Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Chennai Super Kings) - Team Captain - 19 matches, 357 runs (SR 128), 12 Catches, 2 Stumpings. Not a great IPL by his standards. Played a few crucial knocks and his famed luck returned and CSK went to the play-offs. Some of his famous helicopter shots were back in action.
  2. Saurabh Tiwary (Royal Challengers Bangalore) -  15 matches, 191 runs (SR 112), 3 catches. One of the more expensive buys in last year's auction. Shift from Mumbai Indians has not done him much good. Why he came to bat before de Villiers is a mystery. Hit one match winning six of the last ball though. On current indifferent form doesn't look like adding to his 3 India caps soon. (Aside - RCB not playing Pujara more frequently was another mystery)
  3. Varun Aaron (Delhi Daredevils) - 8 matches, 1 run, 8 wickets (ER - 8.74), 1 catch. Missed the initial games due to injury which had caused him to miss the Australia tour as well. Along with Morne Morkel & Umesh Yadav formed part of the fastest pace attack in IPL. May have gone for a few runs but likely to keep rattling the batsmen with sheer pace. (Aside - Should have been touring West Indies with the A Team)
  4. Shahbaz Nadeem (Delhi Daredevils) - 12 matches, 8 wickets (ER - 7.06), 3 catches. One of the finds of the tournament. Bowled economically, opened the bowling, held up one end while the Daredevils' extreme pace attack took care of the other. Got the Player of the match on 2 occasions. Why he wasn't played at the later stages of the game specially in the 2nd eliminator is still a mystery to me.
  5. Ishank Jaggi (Deccan Chargers) - 3 matches, 15 runs (SR 71), 1 catch. A very ordinary start saw Jaggi being dropped from an under-performing Deccan team (not that it improved the team much). And he didn't get a chance after that.
  6. Rahul Shukla (Mumbai Indians) - 1 match, no wickets (ER 10.33). Just one game in which he got hit for a few runs. Chances very hard to come by in a team like Mumbai Indians.
  7. Sunny Gupta (Delhi Daredevils) - 1 match, no runs, no wickets (ER15.67). Technically not a Jharkhand player. He was earlier part of the Jharkhand team, now playing for Tamil Nadu. Shock selection ahead of Nadeem in the 2nd eliminator. Daredevils in an attempt to catch CSK by surprise ended up shocking themselves with this selection.

So 7 (including Sunny) players from Jharkhand in IPLV of which 4 were regulars. Nadeem was the standout performer amongst them. Hopefully next edition will seem more players emerging from Jharkhand.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Arbit Statistics - 16

This headline caught the eye after the IPL final.

IPL1 Final - 2008 - Rajasthan Royals beat Chennai Super Kings 
IPL5 Final - 2012 - Kolkata Knight Riders beat Chennai Super Kings 

Only common player in both winning elevens - Yusuf Pathan (Lots of common losers though in the CSK sides)
So Yusuf Pathan becomes the 1st player to be in the winning XI in the final for 2 different teams.
Laxmipathy Balaji is the only other 2 team winner but wasn't in the playing XI.
Ravindra Jadeja in the mean time becomes a winner for RR (2008) & runner-up for CSK (2012). Achievement shared with Dwayne Bravo (runner-up (2010, MI) & winner (2011, CSK).

Headline worth an arbit stat.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

IPL5 - Post 4 - Qualifier2 Thoughts

Hadn't planned on writing much during the IPL. And a single match review was certainly out of the question. But the way the events in the 2nd Qualifier between Delhi Daredevils & Chennai Super Kings unfolded have left quite a few uncomfortable questions in my mind.

Chennai played extremely well. After losing the toss and being asked to bat first, their entire batting line-up came good while Delhi's bowling failed. The score of 222 was highly unlikely to be chased down and Delhi imploded in the run chase. Nothing much to be read out in the way the game played out. A one-sided game in the knock-outs is nothing unusual and in itself shouldn't warrant any suspicion except in some nutcases. But there were quite a few events which lead to lets just say, doubts in the mind.
  • Morne Morkel not in the playing XI. Why? No cricketing logic can explain the absence of the lead wicket-taker of the tournament in a knock-out game. And if he was injured then why aren't Delhi open about it.
  • Shahbaz Nadeem had a good start to the tournament, winning 2 Man of the Match awards.. Then later on was dropped in favor of Pawan Negi (maybe because of Negi's better batting abilities). But still did not return for the eliminator. Instead a newcomer Sunny Gupta was handed an IPL debut. Logic of playing Sunny & omitting Nadeem, if any exist, are not easy to figure out.
  • Murali Vijay, who was a bit out of form steps down the track to loft Sunny Gupta's first ball for a boundary. The confidence probably coming out of a sense of familiarity. After all, Sunny plays Ranji Trophy for Tamil Nadu. But why was he handed the first over. As a shock weapon?
  • Some fielding mishaps. Happens. Not much should be read in here.
  • Now for the chase. Sehwag, for the first time ever in IPL does not come out to open the innings. The logic looks quite dodgy given that he is the best bet to chase down the target.
So a series of strategic(???) decisions which Delhi took backfired badly on them. And CSK romped home in a pretty convincing fashion. But for the neutral viewer, all the events taken together make it look really fishy. Its hard not to jump on to the "scripted" conclusion. And N. Srinivasan's conflict of interests (BCCI & CSK head) makes the jump even easier. 

I hope the match was clean. But there has been a seed of doubt sown in the mind. (And not just mine, my facebook & twitter feed also has similar views). 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

IPLV: Post 3 - More Scandals & Less Cricket

IPL becoming less about cricket and more about drama.
  • To begin with a so-called sting operation from a 3rd grade TV channel. They had good material exposing the underhand dealings for domestic players & franchisees. Instead attempted to turn it into a more sensational "fixing" scandal. Haven't seen much worse journalism. But then can't expect much more from a channel whose primary content is showing aliens abducting cows and similar stuff.
  • Then some team owner vs stadicum fracas. Don't give a damn.
  • One player arrested. Charges very serious. But its for the player to handle. Dear Media, don't blame IPL for this.
  • Politicians calling IPL corrupt (Perfect example of pot, kettle, black etc.). One ex-cricketer turned MP goes on fast against IPL (Annaji, see what have you done to the country).
Now over to the real stuff, the cricket
  • Chris Gayle - redefining T20 standards. I can only redirect to a far better write on the subject (The Old Batsman)
  • Rajasthan Royals crash out. Every neutrals favorite team couldn't make it to the play-offs. Just wondering - Is Sunday going to be the last innings for the Wall. Will Dravid return next year? (Want to see him play, dont want him to do be gone like Dada)
  • KKR have finally started winning. Good to see them being on top. Some toned down egos probably doing the team a world of good.
  • Its not too late. Parvinder Awana should be fast-tracked into the India A squad for West Indies.
  • The least likeable team. On current on-field behaviour has to be the Mumbai Indians.
  • Indian death bowling - only one conclusion can be drawn. It does not exist.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

IPL5 - Post2

Not following the IPL much this time around. Sign of cricketing overdose. But still switch on to SET Max every night because it is the best thing on air. Random observations on the IPL so far.
  • Too many last over finishes making things seem a bit fishy.
  • Add the messed up points table where almost every team except the Chargers is near to the top of the table. Things become fishier
  • Indian performances going backwards compared to the foreign contingent. Not good signs for the future. Where is this year's Paul Valthaty or Manish Pandey? Shahbaz Nadeem is the only domestic player who has made some name for himself.
  • Saurav Ganguly still HAS the passion. And thats why he keeps coming back. And thats why I admire him.
  • IPL 5 certainly seems to be the last time we will be we seeing Gilchrist and Murali. 
  • Dravid & Rahane - what an elegant combo. Period.
  • Wondering if the drama & hoopla behind IPL will last longer with the sponsors reducing (most of the ads are for Sony SIX, MIX, MAX & PIX and Indian Idol), owners in trouble (Mallya's airlines), and stars fading away.

Friday, April 13, 2012


IPL5 has started, with presumably much less interest than the earlier editions. (I know why my following has been reduced). But still have managed to catch a few glimpses of the games going on so far. A few random observations on the events so far.
  • I get to see the retired fellows again. Rahul Dravid batting & Dada's captaincy are good  enough reasons  to follow IPL
  • Is there a more "elegant" T20 batsman than Ajinkya Rahane? He is making even Dravid look a bit ugly. (Aside - Have declared Rahane as Dravid's successor in the Indian team)
  • How does Rajasthan Royals put up such a fight with hardly any big names?
  • How does KKR continue to find itself near to the bottom of the heap even after picking proven & effective T20 performers.
  • Why Mumbai Indians wasting so many talented players in the reserves?
  • West Indies cricket is the biggest loser in IPL
Just a few thoughts to open this season of IPL.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Farewell - Rahul Dravid

To the Nice Guy Who Finished First,

Thanks for all the wonderful memories.

A Fan

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Just Another Loss...

Since the World Cup 2011, the Indian team has been on a downward spiral. And just when you thought they couldn't go down any further, they prove you wrong. 
The Post World Cup record speaks for itself. 
  • Barely won in West Indies (1-nil in Tests, & 3-2 in ODIs). Excuse - bunch of new players sent. But no excuse can cover up abandoning the chase in Dominica (86 required in 15 overs with 7 wickets in hand).
  • Hammered in England (Tests 4-0, T20s 1-0, ODIs 3-0 with 1 tied). Excuse - Lots & lots of injuries. 
  • Whitewashed England at home. The sole high of the last one year.
  • At home beat West Indies 2-0 with 1 test tied draw. 4-1 win in ODIs. 
  • 4-nil hammering in Australia. The Aussie team itself was in a state of transition (They lost a home test to new Zealand). And yet we lost. Excuse - none
  • A couple of fighting wins in the initial 2 rounds of the CB series, before the hammering starts again.  And we hurtled from one defeat to another. Excuse - none.
A truly miserable record. The personnel havent changed much over the last one year. Harbhajan Singh is the only key change in the playing unit. How come all the others have lost their form together. Has Gary Kirsten's departure affected the team so much?

The team needs a drastic overhaul. But do the selectors have the guts to make the changes. Can some of the big guys be given the Harbhajan treatment? 

P.S. About the mankading, obstructing the field. handling the ball incidents. All I can say is this "Spirit of Cricket" business is pure hypocrisy, which shouldn't be existing in professional sport.

P.P.S. Brilliant time for other sports to make a mark in the national consciousness. The hockey team just did that too qualifying for the Olympic finals with a thumping 8-1 win over France.

P.P.P.S. This might just end being the last post here. I hope it doesn't though. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

When a Hero Falls

"You either die a hero or live long enough to become a villain" - Harvey Dent, The Dark Knight (2008)

Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar was my hero since the time I remember watching cricket. My cricket watching career neatly coincides with his international career. Incidentally he has never been my very favourite Indian cricketer in team (That honour has been taken by Mohammed Azharuddin & Rahul Dravid) but he has been the hero of the team. I have religiously followed his achievements, remember his exploits all through the 1990s when he single-handedly carried the team with him. And it was a joy to watch him finish a World Cup winner in 2011. (Refer some old posts here, here and here)

Since that high, for some arbit reason Sachin Tendulkar seems to have lost respect. I am not sure why. I can give some instances .
  • Maybe it was him skipping the West Indies Tests or 
  • maybe his stubbornness (as I perceived it) to bat at No. 4 in England Tests despite the rest of the batting order being thrown into chaos with injuries or
  • his Refusal to play in the T20 against England
  • or the media hype on the meaningless 100th 100 (certainly shouldn't blame him for the media hype)
  • or picking and choosing tours without rhyme or reason (why is he in the current ODI squad?)
  • Or maybe its just that the 8-nil blanking in England & Australia have numbed my senses and I want to have someone to blame it upon.
There used to be a time when people used to switch off the TV when SRT got out. Last Sunday when I saw Tendulkar come to open the innings, I switched off the TV. In fact, I am really beginning to enjoy not seeing him get to reach the 100th international 100 (Mind you, even 99 is a phenomenal number). 

Seeing a hero fall in your eyes is never a good thing. Probably the only thing that might redeem Sachin is if he quits on his own terms. But letting go has never been easy for any sportsperson, has it.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Positives from Another 4-nil

I would describe myself as a firm believer in my Indian cricket team. But this Australian tour coming on the back of the hammering received in England has shaken up the Indian cricket supporter in me as well. As the tour went by I had absolutely no enthusiasm in switching on the TV to watch the match. Similarly often forgot about checking the net for the scores while at work. Tried to avoid opening cricinfo on coming back from work. None of the players may have retired so far but after this Australian tour I am certainly thinking of taking retirement from from active cricket following. But within hours of the end in Adelaide came the Pakistani victory in UAE and the enthusiasm got a bit restored.

Everyone I read is going hammer and tongs at the team. Calling for drastic action, yet no one knowing what the action should be. Calls have been made for the seniors to be dropped (me also did the same), some have asked for a ban on IPL (too drastic, too much money), restructuring of the Ranji Trophy (my suggestion 3 levels of 9 teams each, no Duleep trophy or Deodhar Trophy), firing Duncan Fletcher (probably the easiest job and most likely to happen), overhaul of BCCI (how?). 

Oh I digress...
This post was meant to be finding positives from this disaster. And surprisingly I could think of a few. And they are
  • The fast bowlers (Zaheer, Ishant, Umesh) stayed fit throughout the 4 tests. And they did have loads of bowling to do in the series. At least someone looks to be doing the job properly.
  • We have bowlers who can bowl above 150 Kmph. Ishant & Umesh both crossed the barrier.
  • Virat Kohli shows that he has the fight in him. The century in Adelaide should do him some good.
  • Zaheer out-sledged Haddin. 
  • Shaun Marsh may have been reduced to playing in IPL only or he like a phoenix he may rise from these Ashes and score 30 Test centuries for Australia.
  • Ricky Ponting has become more vulnerable and somehow more likeable.
  • Sachin Tendulkar not getting the 100th 100. I might be the only Indian supporter who was happy  that SRT did not reach the so called landmark Too much useless hype on a meaningless stat. 
  • And...Rahul Dravid gave a good speech to start the tour. CertainlyTHE highlight for India.
Well thats it, no more positives from the series.

P.S. Dear Indian team, please always remember, the Indian fan will always support you. Thanks for all the good memories.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Year is a Long Time

An year is a long time.
Things change... a lot
Just look at the cricketing world.

A year ago early 2011... India were the Test No. 1. A No. 1 ranking which looked more and more deserved after having survived a thorough examination in South Africa. England were on the ascendancy handing out innings defeat after innings defeat to the once mighty Aussies who seemed in terminal decline. Pakistan were moving from one crisis to another. Zimbabawe were not playing Test cricket. The Kiwis were getting beaten by Bangladesh.

A year later, India are getting hammered by the Aussies (who had to suffer a 47 all out and a home defeat to the Kiwis). England blanked out India to reach the Test ranking pinnacle. Yet managed to lose at the first available instance to an increasingly stable, controversy-free (!!!) Pakistan. South Africa have forgotten how to string together 2 test victories in a series. Kiwis beat Oz in a Test. Zimbabwe are playing Tests. India played a Test without any spinners.

David Warner is now the first choice Test opener for Australia (!!!). South Africa now use Dale Steyn as a support act rather than the main one.

The time they certainly are a changin'

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Jinx & The Request

Writing a 2-in-1 blog, i.e. 2 remotely related posts in 1 post :)

The Jinx
This is every sports fans boo-boo. When a game of their favorite team/player is on, the true sports fan will try to avoid doing anything which might get the stars misaligned and the team's performance gets affected. It might be wearing the "lucky" shirt, ordering the same food, not shifting from your seat during an important passage of play. I remember, while watching in hostel common rooms, we used to immediately throw out anyone whose entry resulted in a fall of Indian wicket. These days, there is a new dimension added to the jinx. Facebook and twitter networks fall relatively quiet when some milestone is approaching. People try not to post anything related to the approaching milestone.
Today I tried to test this theory. 2 wickets down in Perth on 1st morning. Sachin Tendulkar batting. And not a single post about the 100th 100. So I posted the following message -"Sachin batting and no one talking about his 100th 100. Weird." This was with Gambhir on strike. Lo and behold, within 3 minutes of posting, of the first ball he faced, Sachin Tendulkar was out lbw to Ryan Harris. If this was not a jinx then I dont know what is. :D

The Request
Dear ICC
It seems (though there is no proof except faith) that the milestone of 100 international centuries is weighing down Sachin Tendulkar.  He doesn't look out of form. He just gets out in the vicinity of the 100 (it could be 100 runs away also). The only solution would be to find some match in which Sachin has got a hundred and declare it as an international match. Thus adding to the tally of Sachin's hundreds. I have a couple of suggestions on the subject.
Mumbai vs Australia - in 1998, SRT got his 1st double century.
Diana Memorial match, at Lords, in 1998 when Sachin scored 125.
I'd recommend that 2nd game, which would also give SRT an international 100 in Lords.
Yours sincerely
An Indian cricket fan

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Its time for a change

Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman

3 Absolute Legends of the game
Forming the most formidable batting trio in the history of Test cricket, Statistically. 
Some 35 thousand odd runs, nearly 450 tests, over 100 Test centuries between them. There is no doubting these numbers. These have been built over years, across all sorts of conditions and match circumstances. Together or as individuals they have given us some of our most cherished victories in the past decade and a half. The current Australia tour was to be the Final Frontier for them. But like Steve Waugh's India dream, this also remains unfulfilled.

Since the World Cup win India's test performances have moved from one disaster to another. The batting has been a total disaster. 17 innings without a score above 300. Whatever be the conditions certainly does not bode well for a team which went to No. 1 Test ranking based on its batting might. And the results have shown. 1-nil victory in 3 Tests against West Indies, 4-nil hammering in England (all matches lost by huge margins) and now seemingly halfway to another 4-nil hammering in Australia. 

Last 4 overseas Tests have resulted in 3 innings defeats. If nothing else this statistic alone calls for a large scale change in the personnel. And provides a golden opportunity to build the team for the future and the present as well.

The time is apt now for Indian cricket and its fans to thank Dravid, Tendulkar & Laxman for the services they had rendered and bid them farewell. The newcomers would have a nice opportunity to begin afresh without any baggage. With no further overseas tour planned for some time, it also would allow the batting lineup to settle down. And frankly speaking the newcomers cant do much worse than this. Rahane, Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary, Kohli, Manish Pandey and even Badrinath, Raina and Yuvraj are all waiting in the wings. 
The golden oldies can take a leaf out of Sourav Ganguly's book and retire on their own accord rather than being dropped. And if they don't the selectors should not wait any more. The time is set to move on. The selectors have shown in the past that they can take some big decisions, e.g. bringing in Murali Vijay (who initially did quite a good job) as replacement for Gambhir rather than going back to Jaffer or Akash Chopra.  Or when Pujara was brought in ahead of Yuvraj. 

Certainly this is not going to be an easy task. To give an idea of how hard the task is going to be I can give this illustration  
After the first innings in Sydney I had put this idea on Facebook. Immediately a few outraged comments  arrived. "Sachin ko rehne do yaar"... "I dont see next generation performing either"... "Sachin & next gen will retire at the same time"  were some of the comments which were made to this post.
The idea might seem outrageous. After all, Dravid was the highest run-getter in 2011, VVS won so many matches through his 4th innings specials and Sachin is "God". But the results of last one year show only one way forward. Tough decisions are required. The selectors may face lots of flak if they do take the decision to drop the trio but it would certainly be good for the team. 
And can the replacements perform? Well I don't know but Harbhajan Singh, the highest active wicket-taker in test cricket has been replaced very easily by Ashwin. So we won't find out till we try them out.

Team India, this is the time to move on.

P.S. The current England team took the major step towards becoming the top ranked Test team when they blooded in Trott ahead of growing calls to recall Ramprakash or Trescothick for the Ashes decider in 2009. Certainly some valuable lessons are in there.