Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Twenty14 Line-up

Slipstream Cricket presents the cricketing line-up to remember the year Twenty14 A.D. by.

1. Phil Hughes, 63 Not Out
The cricketing world was united in grief at the shock demise of Phil Hughes after being hit by a bouncer during a Sheffield Shield game. 63 not out and 408 acquired new importance in cricket. 

2. The West Indies Mess
The West Indies have been in a mess for years. But somehow they managed to reach even lower depths. Contracts disputes between the players, board and the players' association led to an unprecedented pull-out from the middle of a tour to India. Given all the financial troubles they are in, angering the cash-rich and supremely powerful BCCI seems to be a step of truly messed up minds. Wonder what new level they will reach next year.

3. Old is Gold
Younis Khan & Misbah-ul-Haq, combined age of 80 years, led the Pakistanis to a 2-nil whitewash of the Australians, their first series victory in over twenty years. Younis reeling off one century after another while Misbah became the first ever 40 year old to score twin hundreds in a Test.

4. The Beard Rules
Hashim Amla, Moeen Ali, Anton Devcich - need we say any more. Not surprising as the father of modern cricket, Dr. W G Grace had a magnificent beard of his own.

5. McCullum's Runs
Brendon McCullum gives up keeping, becomes captain and then scores a triple century (the first by a Kiwi in Tests), then gets two more doubles and as the year closes, almost smashes the record for the fastest double century. Now that's quite some run.

6. 264
Rohit Sharma scored his second ODI double century and wen past the highest individual batting score record by a huge margin. Certainly the year's most memorable ODI innings, although Corey Anderson's 36-ball century also deserves special mention.

7. Ugliness on the Pitch
There is too much bad behavior going on the pitch. And the authorities need to intervene immediately otherwise things are going to get worse. There were many stand-offs but the Pollard-Starc fracas in the IPL was certainly the worst of the lot and yet the players just received fines as penalty. The ICC needs to act fast before things go completely out of hand.

8. The Clampdown
For once, the ICC acted. And its stand on suspect actions showed how effective it can be when it wants to act. Saeed Ajmal, Sunil Naraine, Pragyan Ojha, Mohammed Hafeez, Sachitra Senanayeke, Kane Wialliamson, Prosper Utseya, Malcolm Waller, Marlon Samuels are just a few names in the ever-growing list of bowlers who have been banned from bowling.

9. The English Civil War
There is a civil war situation in English cricket. And it is taking a heavy toll. The coaching staff has changed, Kevin Pietersen's reintegration has been a failure and there are tell-all books being written all-around. All this while the Captain was barely hanging to his seat. And just prior to the World Cup, a cop has taken place with Captain Morgan taking over the helm of the English ship from Captain Cook.

10. Words Coming Back to Bite You
When BCCI announced a second string team for the ODI series in Bangladesh, their captain Mushfiqur Rahim announced commented the records will show that Bangladesh would be beating an India team and India A team. Then they proceeded to get all out for 58 against this "A" Team with Stuart Binny recording unbelievable figures of 6 for 4. 

10. Welcome new members
Papua New Guinea became the latest member to join the ODI club with a victory over Hong Kong, while Nepal joined the league of cricketing nations with an appearance in the T20 World Cup.

11. Tussle of the Year
The most engrossing tussle wasn't played on the field but off it with the Supreme Court of India taking on N Srinivasan. Hopefully the outcome will provide some clean-up of the game.

12th Man - The specter of the upcoming World Cup loomed large with all teams fine-tuning their squads for the big one down under in March.

Wishing all readers a very Happy Cricketing Year 2015 :)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Ranji Trophy 14-15: Jharkhand vs Tripura

Match Summary: Jharkhand (142 & 409/8d) drew with Tripura (362 & 12/0)
Points: Jharkhand 1, Tripura 3

This was supposed to be an easy home encounter against the perennial minnows. Yet Jharkhand managed to barely hang in after innings defeat was looming up.

Jharkhand made three changes from the 1st game with Subroto Ghosh, Manish Vardhan & Kumar Deobrat replacing Ishan Kishan, Virat Singh and Rituraj Singh. After choosing to bat first they were knocked out cheaply in the 1st innings. In reply, Tripura batted long and took a big lead. Jharkhand stuttered again. An innings defeat was certainly on cards as tripura looked good to record only their 8th ever outright first class victory. However Ishank Jaggi and the tail put in an excellent rearguard and batted out the match. It was fantastic batting by Jaggi after a rather lacklustre start to the season. Jaggi scored his 2nd career first class double hundred and endured that Jharkhand scraped through with a point.

Highlight - Ishank Jaggi's match-saving career-best 201 not out in the second innings. Also Kumar Deobrat's solid contributions in both innings. Scoring 75 out of team's 142 makes a special innings

Season Stats
Top Scorer: Ishank Jaggi 238 runs @79.33
Most Wickets: Samar Quadri - 8 wickets @22.75

Standings: 4 points from 2 games. Currently in 6th place. Need to get in some outright victories to secure a knockout berth.

Coming Up Next: Kerala who are one place and 2 points ahead of Jharkhand.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Ranji Trophy 14-15: Jharkhand vs Assam

Match Summary: Assam (191 & 235/9d)  drew with Jharkhand (217 & 78/4)
Points: Jharkhand 3, Assam 1

After sitting out the 1st round, Jharkhand faced Assam away in Guwahati for their opening encounter of the new Ranji season.

It was a typical low scoring affair. Jharkhand won the toss and put Assam in first. Assam were all out for a lowly 191. Jharkhand were looking good to take a big first innings lead but collapsed on Day 3 to secure a small but critical 26 runs lead. Neither side could make any more headway through the game and eventually after some brief excitement in the 4th innings the match ended in a draw.

3 youngsters made their first class debut for Jharkhand. Ishan Kishan the wicket-keeper who is the youngest player in this season so far. Virat Singh, another 16 year old would be hoping for a career as good as his namesake in the Indian team. Virat Singh was the top scorer in the Vijay Hazare Trophy for Jharkhand. Middle order batsman Kaushal Singh was the 3rd debutante.

Highlights for Jharkhand - Ishan Kishan's half-century on first class debut and Ajay Yadav's 4 wicket haul in Assam's 2nd innings.

Season Stats
Top Scorer: Ishan Kishan 66 runs @ 33
Most Wickets: Ajay Yadav - 6 wickets @ 9 

Standings: 3 points after 1 game, having missed the 1st round. Currently 5th in Group C having played one game less. Leaders Assam are just 5 points away.

Coming Up Next - Zonal minnows Tripura. Hoping for a big win here which will help the team's cause in the league.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Adelaide 2014: The AfterThoughts

Australia vs India, Adelaide 2014

It was a Test like no other. Matches have been held in the shadow of death before. One of Australia's greatest batting talents Archie Jackson died of ill-health while an Ashes tour was on in Australia. The Chennai Test of 2008 was played in the immediate aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks. And one of the greatest series of all times, the 2005 Ashes was played with the backdrop of the London bombings. 

However this match was different. An international player dying during the course of play in a first class match was an unprecedented event. The entire cricket community was in a state of shock. Something as innocuous as a cricket delivery had taken away a cricketer's life. Phil Hughes's sudden death and the subsequent outpouring of grief had rightly lead to the rescheduling of the India-Australia matches.

The rejigged Test series was cricket's way of saying "The Show Must Go On". There were lots of tributes paid to Phil Hughes during the game. 63 not out and 408 became the new landmarks in the scorebooks.

And above all this was Michael Clarke. The man had been in a row with the selectors  over his fitness when the incident happened. He was immediately on the scene, all animosity forgotten. As a leader of men, Clarke's stature has grown tremendously over the last few days. He took the field inspite of fitness issues and scored a century. However in the process, he picked more injuries. And there is a chance that he might never play again. Yet, I doubt that Clarke would have missed this game for the sake of prolonging his career.

The bouncer has always been a thrilling sight to watch. Now it had blood on its name. So I was wondering who would be the first bowler to bowl a bouncer in this game. And how would the crowds react. The answer came soon enough. Varun Aaron bowled it in the very initial stages. What was heartening was the crowd's reaction. There was applause for the bowler. A sign that people wanted things to become as normal as possible.

However Day 3 proved that things can never be the same again. Mitchell Johnson hit Virat Kohli bang on the helmet.  The entire Australian team, the non-striker and even the umpires ran in to check on Kohli. Thankfully no harm had been done. Yet Johnson was looking more terrified than anybody else. In earlier times, the bowler would have followed it up with a stare and/or some choice words with the close-in fielders also adding their two bits. Things have changed.

Yet nothing symbolized how much nature wants to back into balance than the verbal altercations between Aaron, Warner et al on 4th day. For some odd reason it was actually good to see that things were moving towards normalcy. Not that sledging and rude gestures are any good, but somehow it certainly helped in the healing process.

And finally a few words on India's performance. India's bowling is in a terrible condition. The bowlers are fast but too wayward while the spin department is itself in a spin. There is no way we can win Test matches with this attack on any half decent pitch. India's batting has no sting in the tail. The top order can bat firmly but is more likely to collapse under pressure.

However what was refreshing to watch was India's approach towards the 4th innings chase. With such a target, 80 percent of the times we would have collapsed quite early in the day and showed no fight. Other times we might have batted out a draw with the opposition under no threat. However Kohli and company actually went for the target. And for this very reason the defeat did not hurt as much. Yes we suffered a spectacular collapse losing 8 wickets in under a session. Yet the approach was there to win it.

Probably it was the stop-gap captaincy of Kohli which made India go for the target with Kohli himself leading the way with twin hundreds. However his captaincy shouldn't be judged on one off instance. After all as a stop-gap arrangement till Dhoni returned, Kohli could easily take more risks than the incumbent.

So in the end a grieving Australian camp turned up and outplayed the Indians. The first Test match is out of the way. And hopefully normal service will resume from Brisbane onward.

P.S. A word on Sean Abbott. It must have taken tremendous mental strength to come back and play in the very next match. That too in the very same ground. After all that he had to go through, he came up and got his career-best bowling figures. Hats off to the young man.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Arbit Stats 38: Virat Kohli

India vs Australia - Adelaide, 2014

Virat Kohli scored 115 in the first innings and followed it up with 141 in the second. In the absence of MS Dhoni, Kohli was leading India for the first time in Tests.

In the process, he has created a record for the most runs (256) scored in a Test match by a player on his captaincy debut.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The 1st World T20 Final

In the Air...Sreesanth… Takes It…India WINS” – boomed Ravi Shastri as Misbah-ul-Haq’s attempted scoop shot was caught much short of its intended destination. And with that final act, India became the inaugural World Twenty20 champions.

For the Indian fan, it was a perfect finale to a near-perfect event. A world tournament final victory, coming over your historical arch-rivals was just the balm needed to heal the wounds from the ODI World Cup earlier in the year.

The tournament had been a grand spectacle. Music, player introductions, bowl-outs, fireworks and dancing cheerleaders were some of the innovations which were well received by the audience. For the marketing men, the final was a dream match-up like the perfect icing on the cake. The finalists— India and Pakistan – historical arch-rivals, both seeking redemption for their respective horrendous show in the ODI World Cup. They had played a thrilling tie earlier in the tournament which India won 3-nil in a bowl-out.

India suffered a setback before the start with Virender Sehwag missing the final through injury. In came debutant Yusuf Pathan as his replacement. Dhoni won the toss and chose to bat first. Pathan began his international career in a spectacular fashion launching the very second ball he faced from Asif into the stands but he fell soon after. Gautam Gambhir played a steady hand while wickets fell regularly at the other end.  The most memorable moment of the innings arrived when Gambhir smashed a six straight into the scoreboard. “That’s one way to get the scoreboard moving” was the gem from the commentary box. India ended up with a seemingly below-par total of 157.

Pakistan should have chased this in a canter but the World Cup final has its own pressures. Tight bowling and fielding combined with some reckless shots had handed over the initiative to India. The Indian fans thought the match was in the bag but Misbah had other ideas. There was a flurry of big shots while wickets kept falling at the other end.

Pakistan needed 13 runs off the last over with Misbah on strike and only one wicket remaining. Here Dhoni made the crucial choice. He handed the ball to Joginder Sharma ahead of the much more experienced Harbhajan Singh. Dhoni’s sheer gut feeling seemed to be the only logical explanation for this choice as Joginder bowled a wide and then was hit for a straight six. Everyone’s nerves were all over the place and Misbah seemed to be the only calm one. And then the third ball of the over. Misbah tried the scoop shot, the ball seemed to have been hit perfectly rising in the air as we saw the crowds in the background. With bated breath, we saw the ball begin its descent. Was it going to cross the boundary or was it falling short? The ball came down and landed safely into the hands of the waiting short fine leg fielder. Misbah was down to his haunches and the Indian team was celebrating.
I was watching the game with some hundred others in my college common room, which had never been so crowded before. There had been a hushed silence with everyone doing their best not to jinx the Indian team by any sort of movement. Sressanth caught the ball and the whole room erupted. An instant party followed.

All thoughts of assignments and submissions for the next day had gone for a toss. They would wait. After all we were now the World Champions.

P.S. - This article was written as part of the ongoing #BeACricketWriter Contest being conducted by Harsha Bhogle