Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Twenty15 Line-up

With the last day’s play of the year approaching, Slipstream Cricket presents the cricketing XI of Twenty15 A.D.

1. Pink Ball 
30th November, 2015: The first ever ball bowled using a pink ball in international cricket. History was witnessed. It was well received and hopefully it will open up Test cricket to more audiences.
The First Pink Ball
2. Australia - The World Champions
At their home turf, Australia regained the World Cup, while New Zealand became everyone’s favorite second team. Special mention - The Kiwi captain Brendon McCullum’s letters requesting leave for his supporters & asking for Indian fans to support the Kiwis in the finals.

3. Picture of the Year 
Grant Elliott smashes Dale Steyn for a six and then comes down the pitch to offer his hand to the bowler who is lying flat on his back. A better picture for sportsmanship could hardly have come.

4. Corruption
The cricketing world continues to reel with corruption charges. Some more players and officials got banned. N Srinivasan, the ICC & BCCI chief honcho had to step down because of Supreme Court intervention. 2 IPL teams were suspended. A Test match was conducted by an independent judge. Chris Cairns faced a perjury trial in London where his own team-mates gave evidence against him. While he was acquitted, the charges made by the likes of McCullum, Vettori and Ponting do not really absolve him in the public eyes. And there were many other unfounded allegations. Mohammed Aamir is back after serving a 5-year ban and his own team-mates are not exactly happy on his return
The corruption net is only growing wider.

5. Safety First
Umpire Paschim Pathak wore a helmet while officiating in a Vijay Hazare Trophy match. Given the increasing number of on-field incidents it is a good idea and hopefully others will also emulate him.

6. Cricketing Promos
It was a great year for the cricket promotional campaigns with Star Sports mauka series and the Ashes promo “We didn’t start the fire" being standout ones.

7. The Afghan fairy tale continues
Afghanistan became the first Associate to beat a full member in a bilateral series by beating Zimbabwe. They continued their rise by breaking into the Top 10 of the ODI rankings by the year-end. They bring a ray of hope into the increasingly murky world of cricket. Certainly deserve Test Status alongwith Ireland.

8. Contest of the Year – Wahab Riaz vs Shane Watson
It was an attritional battle with Shane Watson managing to see through the Wahab Riaz spell in the World Cup Quarter-final. It was fiery and engrossing spell in the midst of an ordinary match.

9. The English Turnaround
England entered the World Cup and then made a quick exit after getting hammered by all and sundry. The whole cricketing world came as one to have a good laugh at the English expense with the likes of Malaysia, Singapore & Japan challenging them for a game on their return. But fortunes turned around as a revamped England ODI team started playing brave cricket and registering big victories. Brave cricket basically meaning selecting players who could belt the ball to all corners of the ground from the word go. A philosophy the rest of the world had adopted some 20 years back.

10. Comment of the Year
Kumara Sangakkara was an under-achiever – so said none other than his own father. All this after nearly 28, 000 international runs (:O)

11. Arbit Stat of the Year - 542
That is Adam Voges’s current batting average against the West Indies. A statistical anamoly which will get corrected in due course if West Indies start thinking about playing Test Cricket

12th Man - Ian Bell
The patron saint of Slipstream Cricket lost his Test place after announcing his ODI retirement. It will be a pity if this was the last that we had seen of him in international cricket. After all he does hold some unique records like being the highest ODI run-getter for England and the only English player to win the Ashes 5 times.

That’s all for the year. Wishing all readers a very Happy cricketing year 2016.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Vijay Hazare Trophy 15-16: Jharkhand

The Jharkhand campaign came to a halt in the Qaurter-Finals stage against Delhi. Put into bat, Delhi racked a total of 225 on a two-paced dodgy pitch with uneven bounce. The Jharkhand chase got derailed with a completed failure from all the batsmen, save for Dhoni who remained unbeaten on 70 in a combined team total of 126. Finally Dhoni got going but the other batsmen could not put in the kind of performances which had carried them to the knock-out stage.

Overall, it was a good campaign for Jharkhand with 5 wins and 2 losses. And there was a lot of media spotlight with Dhoni playing. And with Ishan Kishan appointed India Under-19 captain for the World Cup, the media coverage only increased with the game being telecast live. Good media coverage backed by a decent performance should certainly improve the chances of the players especially the likes of Nadeem, Tiwary, Jaggi, Rahul Shukla, Kaushal Singh et al.

Trivia: Varun Aaron was leading the team which had the national team and the U-19 team skippers in the line-up.

Season Stats:
Top Scorers
  1. Ishank Jaggi - 237 @ 39.50
  2. Saurabh Tiwary - 193 @ 38.60
  3. MS Dhoni - 179 @ 35.80
Top Score - Saurabh Tiwary, 87* vs Kerala

Most Wckets
  1. Shahbaz Nadeem - 13 @ 13.15
  2. Rahul Shukla - 13 @ 17.62
  3. Sonu Singh - 7 @ 5.00
Best Performance - Sonu Singh 4/15 vs Railways

Player Count: 15
List A Debuts: Ankit Dabas, Sonu Singh, Vikash Singh

Coming Up Next: Syed Mustaq Ali Trophy from January 3rd.

P.S. - Group Stage Reveiw (Link)

Friday, December 18, 2015

Vijay Hazare Trophy 15-16: Jharkhand Group Stage Review

Dhoni playing in a domestic game after many seasons dramatically increased Jharkhand’s media coverage. in a first, we had full page articles in Mumbai Mirror for a Jharkhand List A Game. And the increased attention helped the team's cause as they marched into the quarter-finals after winning 5 of their 6 games and topping the Group stage. 

Game 1: Jharkhand [210 (50)] beat Jammu & Kashmir [205/7(50)] by 5 runs
Points: Jharkhand 4, Jammu & Kashmir 0
Team: Ishank Jaggi, Ankit Dabas, Anand Singh, Saurabh Tiwary, MS Dhoni, Kumar Deobrat, Kaushal Singh, Shahbaz Nadeem, Varun Aaron, Rahul Shukla, Jaskaran Singh
List A debut – Ankit Dabas
Key Performances: Ishank Jaggi (54), Kaushal Singh (53), Shahbaz Nadeem (3/28)

Game 2: Jharkhand [177/7(47)] lost to Gujarat [179/4(40.5)] by 6 Wickets
Points: Jharkhand 0, Gujarat 4
Key Performances: MS Dhoni (44), Nadeem (2/36)
Team Changes: None

Game 3: Kerala [236/8(50)] lost to Jharkhand [240/5(47)] by 5 wickets
Points: Jharkhand 4, Kerala 0
Key Performances: Rahul Shukla (3/47), Saurabh Tiwary (87*), Kaushal Singh (48)
Team Changes: None

Game 4: Haryana [133/10 (33/50)] lost to Jharkhand [134/1 (29.4)] by 9 wickets
Points: Jharkhand 4, Haryana 0
Key Performances: Shukla (3/33), Nadeem (2/17), Aaron (2/21), Jaggi (62*)
Team Changes: In – Monu Kumar; Out - Jaskaran

Game 5: Jharkhand [216/8(50)] beat Karnataka [169/10 (45)] by 47 runs
Points: Jharkhand 4, Karnataka 0
Key Performances: Jaggi (50), Deobrat (47*), Nadeem (3/15), Sonu Singh (3/20)
Team Changes: In – Sonu Singh (making his List A debut); Out - Monu Kumar

Game 6: Jharkhand [211/5 (45)] beat Railways [96/10 (37)] by 115 runs
Points: Jharkhand 4, Railways 0
Key Performances: Tiwary (49), Sonu Singh (4/15), Nadeem (2/21), Ankit Dabas (2/20)
List A debut for Vikash Singh, who has previously played 10 T20 games
Team Changes: In – Monu Kumar, Vikash Singh; Out – Aaron, Shukla; Deobrat leading the team

Season Stats
Top Scorer: Ishank Jaggi - 236 @ 47.20
Highest Wickets: Shahbaz Nadeem 13 @ 11.15
Player Count: 15
Captain Count: 2
List A debuts: 3

Coming Up Next: Quarter-final against Delhi on 23rd Dec

Monday, December 7, 2015

Ranji Trophy 2015-16: Jharkhand vs Hyderabad

Match Summary: Hyderabad (145 & 269) lost to Jharkhand (388/8d & 29/0) by 10 wickets 
Points: Jharkhand 7, Hyderabad 0 

Jharkhand continued their fantastic turn-around with a third bonus point win on the trot. And qualified for the quarter-finals after a gap of 2 years.

Hyderabad collapsed in the first innings with Jaskaran Singh, Kaushal Singh and Shahbaz Nadeem taking 3 wickets each. Jharkhand scored briskly and built up a huge lead riding on Saurabh Tiwary's unbeaten double century. Hyderabad resisted strongly in the second innings and managed to turn around the deficit. But Jharkhand easily chased the small target without any loss and racked up their third consecutive bonus point win.

Game Notes
  • Team Changes: Rahul Shukla came back in place of Samar Quadri.
  • 2nd first-class century for Shiv Gautam.
  • 15th first-class century for Saurbah Tiwary.
  • 3rd fifer for Rahul Shukla and second for the season.
  • 3/32 - Jaskaran Singh's career best bowling figures 
Season Stats
Top Scorer: Saurabh Tiwary 677 @ 67.70
Most Wickets: Shahbaz Nadeem 45 @ 17.16
Player Count: 21 from 8 Games
Captain Count: 3 from 8 Games

Points Tally - 31 from 8 games. Finished second in the league table behind Saurashtra (36). Earns them a place in the knock-outs as well as a promotion to the big league of Group A or B next season, which provides a better platform for the likes of Tiwary & Nadeem to be noticed by the national selectors.

Coming Up Next - The Ranji Quarter-finals begin 3rd February, but before that we have the Vijay Hazare Trophy commencing on 10th December, where Jharkhand fight it out in Group B. With the national team unlikely to have any tours, there is a likelihood of the likes of Dhoni and Aaron playing for Jharkhand which will be a real boost-up for the team

Monday, November 30, 2015

Arbit Stats #47: Pink Ball

Test Match #2190
Australia vs New Zealand, Adelaide

It is the first international cricket game to be played with a pink ball. 
Enough hype already generated. And it also generated its own series of firsts, for the trivia aficionados.

Mitchell Starc - 1st Bowler to bowl with a pink ball.
Martin Guptill - 1st Batsman to face a delivery in pink. 
Martin Guptill - Also the 1st Batsman to be out with a pink ball.
Josh Hazelwood - 1st bowler to take a pink ball wicket.

In the meantime, Australia have now emerged victorious in
  • 1st Test Match (vs England)
  • 1st ODI (vs England)
  • 1st Day-night ODI (vs West Indies)
  • 1st Indoor ODI (vs South Africa)
  • Ist T20I (vs New Zealand)
  • 1st Day-Night Test (vs New Zealand)
A sign of Aussie willingness for innovation and their domination.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Ranji Trophy 15-16: Jharkhand vs Himachal Pradesh

Match Summary: Jharkhand (337) beat Himachal Pradesh (133 & 133) by an innings & 71 runs
Points: Jharkhand 7, Himachal Pradesh 0 

Jharkhand team seems to have found a rich vein of form just at the right time. A second straight innings victory that too against Himachal Pradesh has propelled them into the 3rd place in the table with a very realistic chance of making it into the knock-outs.

It was a strange match. A tale of two different days. On Day 1, Jharkhand ran up a total of 306 for the loss of 4 wickets riding on the back of some excellent to order batting with Shiv Gautam scoring a brilliant 122.  It looked like a match to be decided on the first innings lead basis. Then on second day, it was a dramatic change as first Jharkhand collapsed to 337 all out and then Himachal were knocked out for 133. Twice. Within a day. Wonder what went wrong for the batsmen.

Day 1: 306/4
Day 2: 297/26

Game Notes
  • Shahbaz Nadeem remains the captain. 
  • Team Changes: Out went the seamers Ajay Yadav and Rahul Shukla and in came the spinners Samar Quadri and Sonu Singh.
  • Sonu Singh made his first class debut
  • 2nd first-class century for Shiv Gautam.
  • Samar Quadri reached the milestone of 100 First-Class wickets in his 30th game.
  • Nadeem registered his career-best figures of 7/45 which is his 8th career fifer and third for the season 
  • This is quite a depleted Jharkhand squad with Varun Aaron on national duty while youngsters Ishan Kishan & Virat Singh are currently away on national Under-19 duty. 
Season Stats
Top Scorer: Saurabh Tiwary 462 @ 46.20
Most Wickets: Shahbaz Nadeem 40 @ 16.40
Player Count: 21 from 7 Games
Captain Count: 3 from 7 Games

Points Tally - 24 after 7 games. Moved up two places to 3rd. Now, lying 1 points behind Kerala who are currently in place for the second knock-out spot from the Group. Jharkhand are now in a 5-way race for the two Group C knock-out berths. A win should be good enough to secure the second place otherwise may need a combination of favorable results for a place in the quarter-finals.

Coming Up Next - Away game against 7th placed Hyderabad. Would follow keenly the other Group C games specially Kerala vs Himachal Pradesh which might turn out to be straight shootout for the 2nd berth behind Saurashtra who take on J&K, while Services, who have an outside chance take on Tripura.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Raymond van Schoor, R.I.P.

Raymond van Schoor, 1990-2015

275 senior level games, over 8000 runs & 50 wickets. A career cut short at a young age of 25 due to a stroke suffered while batting in a domestic List A game. 

15 Not Out For ever!
Rest in Peace!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Ranji Trophy 15-16: Jharkhand vs Tripura

Match Summary: Tripura (166 & 161) lost to Jharkhand (394/4d) by an innings & 67 runs
Points: Jharkhand 7, Tripura 0 

This was the best possible result for Jharkhand's qualification chances. A win with a bonus point as well. Knocked out Tripura for 166 riding on the back of Rahul Shukla's 6-wicket haul. The opening partnership was dodgy but the rest of the line-up all batted big and achieved a huge lead. Second time around also Tripura were found wanting as Nadeem ran through the lineup. The Tripura batsme were just about able to extend the game into the 4th day.

Game Notes
  • Shahbaz Nadeem remains the captain. 
  • Team Changes: Ajay Yadav and Sumit Kumar returned while out went Ishan Kishan and Samar Qaudri.
  • 11th first-class century  for Ishank Jaggi who seems to have recovered from his bad run of form.
  • A career-best 6 for 40 for Rahul Shukla, his second career fifer
  • Nadeem got his 7th career fifer and his second for the season.
  • Sumit Kumar pouche 5 catches behind the stumps in the Tripura 1st innings.
Season Stats
Top Scorer: Saurabh Tiwary 383 @ 42.56
Most Wickets: Shahbaz Nadeem 29 @ 19.52
Player Count: 20 from 6 Games
Captain Count: 3 from 6 Games

Points Tally - 17 after 6 games. Moved up one place to 5th. Now, lying 7 points behind Himachal Pradesh who are currently in place for the second knock-out spot from the Group. With 2 rounds left, it is still mathematically possible though need quite a few results going in our way.

Coming Up Next - Away game against second placed Himachal Pradesh. Full points here would do the qualification chances a world of good.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Farewell Mitchell Johnson

"He bowls to the left, 
He bowls to right,
That Mitchell Johnson,
He bowls a lots of shite"

Thus sang the Barmy Army, every time their favorite target, Mitchell Johnson came on to bowl in one of the rare England's Ashes wins Down Under.

But there was another Mitchell Johnson also, a bowler who could strike terror in batsmen's minds. Ask the English team who were at a receiving end of an Ashes mauling where Johnson took 37 for 517 over 5 Tests, or a Graeme Smith who had his right hand broken in one Test and his left hand in another in back to back series by Johnson's missiles.

He was a different character - making a cartoon of himself for his misplaced sledging of James Anderson (Video) but being visibly shaken up after hitting Kohli (video).

He finished up with 313 Test wickets only behind Warne, McGrath & Lillee for Australia. And he also had a test century. Not bad returns. Farewell Mithcell Johnson!!!

He bowled to the left, 
He bowled to right,
That Mitchell Johnson,
He ended up quite all right

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Ranji Trophy 15-16: Jharkhand vs Jammu & Kashmir

Match Summary: Jharkhand (551/8d) drew with Jammu & Kashmir (309 & 265/4 (f/o))
Points: Jharkhand 3, Jammu & Kashmir 1

Finally, the Jharkhand batting lineup came good with solid all-round batting display. They racked up their biggest score of the season, managed to impose a follow-on against J&K. And 2 quick 2nd innings wickets at the end of Day 3 made one believe that an innings victory with bonus points was waiting. But that was not to be as a fine rear-guard action from the J&K batsmen ensured that the match ended in a draw.

Game Notes
  • Shahbaz Nadeem remained the captain. 
  • Team Changes: Ishan Kishan, Jaskaran Singh and Kaushal Singh returned while out went Prakash Munda, Sumit Kumar and Sunny Gupta. 
  • All season not a single century, now two of them came in the same innings.
  • Ishan Kishan scored his maiden first class century in his 10th game. This kid is certainly one to watch out for.
  • Anand Singh also playing his 10th first class game got his maiden half-century and proceeded to convert it into a big one.
  • Kaushal Singh recorded his best innings figures with a 4-wicket haul in the first innings.
  • Nadeem vs Parvez Rasool. Two similar players in competition for an India A slot. Nadeem was better with the ball, Rasool better with the bat.
  • Ishank Jaggi got more runs (93) in one innings than his previous 4 matches combined (87).
Season Stats
Top Scorer: Saurabh Tiwary 289 @ 36.13
Most Wickets: Shahbaz Nadeem 23 @ 21.48
Player Count: 20 from 4 Games
Captain Count: 3 from 4 Games

Points Tally - 10 after 5 games. Moved up one place 6th. Now, lying 11 points behind Himachal Pradesh who are currently in place for the second knock-out spot from the Group. With 3 rounds left, it is still mathematically possible but getting more and more improbable.

Coming Up Next - Away game against Tripura, who are at the bottom of the table. A good chance to take full points and keep the knock-out hopes alive.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Ranji Trophy 15-16: Jharkhand vs Goa

Match Summary: Goa (302 & 102/5d) drew with Jharkhand (209 & 105/6)
Points: Jharkhand 1, Goa 3

After the high of victory against Kerala comes a one-point draw against Goa. In a match effectively reduced to three days owing to a wet outfield on first day, Goa chose to bat first after winning the toss. Goa scored 302 and it was set to be a clash for the first innings lead. Jharkhand's batting misfired again as they conceded 93 run lead. Having secured the first innings lead, Goa scored a few quick runs, and set a target of 196 in 36 overs in search of an outright victory. Jharkhand avoided a complete collapse and managed to secure a single point from the game

Game Notes
  • Jharkhand captaincy changed hands again as Varun Aaron sat out the game and former skipper Shahbaz Nadeem led in his place. 
  • Lots of team changes as out went Ishan Kishan, Jaskaran Singh, Kaushal Singh, Varun Aaron and Ashish Kumar. Kumar Deobrat, Rahul Shukla and Samar Quadri came back into the squad while Sumit Kumar and Sunny Gupta got their first game of the season.
  • Sumit Kumar scored his maiden first class half-century in his 3rd game.
  • Rituraj Singh who turned out for Jharkhand last year played against them for Goa in this season.
  • Samar Quadri's 6-wicket haul in Goa's first innings.
Season Stats
Top Scorer: Saurabh Tiwary 226 @ 32.29
Most Wickets: Shahbaz Nadeem 18 @ 17.94
Player Count: 20 from 4 Games
Captain Count: 3 from 4 Games

Points Tally - 7 after 4 games. Moved down to 7th spot. Lying 13 points behind Himachal Pradesh who are currently in place for the second knock-out spot from the Group. The task is certainly getting more and more difficult though still not improbable.

Coming Up Next - A home game against Jammu & Kashmir, who are one spot ahead in the table. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Farewell Virender Sehwag

By now, many things would have been written about the man who revolutionized the art of batting by keeping things simple. The ball was meant to be hit. And gaps in the field were not only along the ground but also over the fielders' heads. These were some of the Sehwag basics which made him the endearing success that he was.

And he liked to keep things honest. Whether calling Bangladesh an ordinary side or saying, everyone except Sreesanth had a good game (World Cup 2011), he would always call a spade a spade.

The greatest tribute to Sehwag, the batsman. Everyone used to say that a pitch should be judged only after Sehwag gets out. The true nature of the pitch would come up only after the next batsmen who came to the crease. And given that  it was the maestro duo of Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar who came in next, makes this even more special. After all Sehwag would play his own way regardless of the surface and the bowling attack.  And his sheer presence in the line-up often prevented opposition captains from setting aggressive 4th innings targets for India.

My favorite Sehwag memory: Well, there are lots to choose from but my favorite one is his refusing to take a single while batting on 199 in order to protect the number eleven and extend the score further (Match score). What a refreshing change in a milestones obsessed sport.

After all as he said in farewell note"I also want to thank everyone for all the cricketing advice given to me over the years and apologise for not accepting most of it! I had a reason for not following it; I did it my way!"

Farewell Virender Sehwag! You certainly did it your way.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Ranji Trophy 15-16: Jharkhand vs Kerala

Match Summary: Jharkhand (202 & 262) beat Kerala (148 & 183) by 133 runs
Points: Jharkhand 6, Kerala 0

A win at the third attempt. After two consecutive losses, the season seemed to be going downhill for Jharkhand but they recovered handsomely to record a big win away in Kerala. Put into bat after losing the toss, Jharkhand's batting continued its collapsing ways by being shot out for 202. The highlight was Saurabh Tiwary's defiant knock of 75 despite retiring hurt midway through the innings. Prakash Munda playing his first game of the season got a half-century but their was hardly any other contribution. The bowlers though hit back to secure a 54 run lead with Varun Aaron taking a 5 wicket haul. Second time around the batting was slightly better with solid contributions all round boosting the score. Kerala were set a target of 317 were knocked out for 183 with Nadeem taking a seven-wicket haul. 

Game Notes
  • The faltering batting lead to quite a few changes from the previous game. Out went Rameez Nemat, Virat Singh, Kumar Deobrat, Samar Quadri and Vinayak Vikram. Jaskaran Singh came back after missing the previous game, while Prakash Munda, Shiv Gautam, Anand Singh and Ashish Kumar got their first game of the season.
  • Shiv Gautam bagged a pair in his first game of the season.
Career best 7-wicket haul for Shahbaz Nadeem in the second innings.

Season Stats
Top Scorer: Saurabh Tiwary 207 @ 41.40
Most Wickets: Shahbaz Nadeem 13 @ 17.31
Player Count: 18 from 3 Games

Points Tally - 6 after 3 games. Moved up to 5th spot. Lying 7 points behind Saurashtra who are currently in place for the second knock-out spot from the Group.

Coming Up Next - Jharkhand sit out the next round of games. And then they play their first home game of the season against Goa who are 1 place and 4 points ahead of them in the group.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Farewell Zaheer Khan

"The toughest call in a cricketing career is when one has to walk away from the game itself. You almost 'will' yourself and want to push that few, extra miles but then the body, after nearly two decades, decides not to respond."

These were the opening words of the farewell statement by Zaheer Khan, without doubt one of India's greatest fast bowlers and cetainly the best left-hand pacer the country has produced.

The numbers first - 610 wickets in 92 Tests, 200 ODIs, 17 T20Is in a career spanning 14 years. These are numbers to be proud of. And to this add being a member of a World Cup winning XI. But sheer numbers cannot define his contribution. He was the leader of India's pace attack and its de facto bowling captain over a large part of his career. And he left quite a few memories to cherish for the Indian fan. Here are my favorite ones.
  1. The yorker to knock out Steve Waugh's stumps in the ICC Knockout event in Kenya in 2000. What a wonderful sight it was to see a yorker delivered by an Indian fast bowler.
  2. 4 consecutive sixes off Henry Olonga to end the innings against Zimbabwe. Yet India contrived to lose that game.
  3. The jellybean incident against England which riled him up so much that he proceeded to destroy the English batting and take India to a rare away series victory.
  4. World Cup 2011 - where he finished as the highest wicket-taker and came up with this memorable quote - "As a bowling unit I think I am doing quite well". Probably a slip of tongue but truer words have seldom been spoken.
  5. The atrocious opening over in the 2003 World Cup final, where he was bowling wides and sledging Gilchrist. But this was more than compensated in the 2011 final where Zaheer started with 3 maidens on the trot.
  6. And the sometimes comical, sometimes exasperating but always entertaining batting.
  7. And finally for this - from a game in which he was not even playing
Thank you for all the wonderful memories Zaheer Khan!

As he himself closes out his statement.
'Zak is Back' is perhaps a headline that may come my way again, as I have every intention of giving back to this game and our wonderful country which gave this kid from Shrirampur the opportunity to chase and live his dream!

Full Text of the statement

Friday, October 9, 2015

Ranji Trophy 15-16: Jharkhand vs Saurashtra

Match Summary: Jharkhand (168 & 122) lost to Saurashtra (205 & 86/2) by 8 wickets
Points: Jharkhand 0, Saurashtra 6

A second consecutive loss and the season goes from bad to worse. This time the game barely lasted 2 days. The pitch was a minefield with both batting sides unable to do much about it. The home team though had the inspirational figure of Ravindra Jadeja who picked 13 wickets and top scored in his team's first innings. And that made all the difference in the result.  This was the Sir Jadeja performance which the Indian team expects but rarely gets.

Game Notes
  • Varun Aaron is leading the Jharkhand squad.
  • Quite a few changes made from the first game by the Jharkhand team with seamers Ajay Yadav, Rahul Shukla & Jaskaran Singh dropped and their places taken by Aaron, Kaushal Singh and Vinayak Vikram
  • Vinayak Vikram made his first class debut
Young Ishan Kishan's blistering 87 off 69 balls in the 1st innings. An innings which got a whole cricinfo article for itself (Link)

Season Stats
Top Scorer: Ishan Kishan 118 @ 29.59
Most Wickets: Shahbaz Nadeem 6 @ 17.67

Points Tally - 0 after 2 games. Lying at the bottom of the table. Still there is some time and we need to get in a few wins now.

Coming Up Next - Another away game against Kerala.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Ranji Trophy 15-16: Jharkhand vs Services

Match Summary: Jharkhand (45 & 192) lost to Services (161 & 78/1) by 9 wickets
Points: Jharkhand 0, Services 6

Being shot out for 45 on the first day of the new season is not the kind of start anyone was expecting. The game was over in the first innings itself. The bowlers did fight back, but the Services last wicket stand added 43 crucial runs and ensured a healthy (given the context) lead of 116 runs. The batsmen performed slightly better (not much though) in the second innings. Services were left chasing a target of 77 which they managed easily but lost a wicket and lost out on the bonus point as well.

Game Notes
  • Varun Aaron not playing was a surprise given that a big home series against South Africa is around the corner. 
  • Services was supposed to be one of the easier games. We had beaten them easily last time around. 
Nothing much to note here except for a couple of 50s in the second innings by Virat Singh & Saurbah Tiwary.

Season Stats
Top Scorer: Virat Singh 62 @ 31.00
Most Wickets: Rahul Shukla 4 @ 21.75

Points Tally - 0 after 1 game. Currently lying in 8th place. 

Coming Up Next - An away game against league leaders Saurashtra who thrashed Tripura in their opening encounter.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Farewell Brad Haddin

First the hard numbers – nearly 7000 runs and 500 dismissals in 66 Tests, 126 ODIs, 34 T20Is in an international career spanning 14 years. All pointing out to the fact that Brad Haddin was certainly one of Australia’s better wicket-keepers (and coming from the land of Marsh, Healy, Gilchrist et al thats quite something)

He had to wait a while to make his Test debut due to the presence of a certain Adam Gilchrist. Yet Haddin ensured that the absence of even the irreplaceable Gilchrist wasn’t felt much in the Aussie line-up. A feisty character, a team man but he was also the kind of player who took the “Gentleman” out of the Gentleman’s game.

Exhibit A 
He sledged the Kiwi players in the 2015 World Cup Final because they had been “nice” to Aussies in an earlier group game. In an interview to a radio station Haddin is quouted as, “You know what? They deserved it. They were that nice to us in New Zealand and we were that uncomfortable. I said in the team meeting: 'I can't stand for this anymore, we're going at them as hard as we can … I'm not playing another one-day game, so they can suspend me for as long as they like.” 

Exhibit B
From another New Zealand – Australia match (Link)

Dislodging the bails with your hand while claiming a bowled - might have gotten away in earlier time but not in HD era.

Why do the Kiwis get his goat so much? Maybe because they are nice folks.

So farewell Brad Haddin. You had a good run in international cricket but the sport will be a lot nicer, albeit less interesting, without characters like you.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Arbit Stats #46: Opening Low

The ongoing India-Sri Lanka series has been a a bad one for the opening partnerships. After 12 completed opening partnerships, the highest opening stand is 15 - which is the lowest, opening stand in any series featuring three or more Tests ever.

Kudos to Dhammika Prasad, Ishant Sharma and co. for this achievement.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Galle 2015 - The Soon to be Unremembered Classic

Test Match #2176, Sri Lanka vs India, Galle

It had all the ingredients for a Test Match Classic – A match about which reams of newsprint should have been written and thousands of blogs published. One to been remembered for ages. Yet somehow it wasn’t.

Day 1&2: The home side began by winning the toss and getting knocked over for a paltry score on the very first day. The tourists take a huge lead of 192 runs built on the back of a huge third wicket stand which itself surpasses the home side’s tally. And then quickly remove both the home team’s openers for ducks by the close of the second day’s play. They are in the driver’s seat with not many thinking of the match going beyond the third day.

Day 3: The nightwatchman is dismissed off the very first ball. Little partnerships happen but the big wickets keep coming. At lunch with half the side back in pavilion, the home team trails by nearly hundred runs and an early finish to the day is on the cards. But their wicket-keeper has other ideas and produces one of those fearless, nothing-to-lose counter-attacks. The deficit is chipped away rapidly and then the lead starts building up. A small one at first, it soon enters the irritating category and then progresses into the “we have a match on our hands” zone. The home side eventually get dismissed after setting a 176 run target. The visitors lose one of their openers but watch out the rest of the day’s play. They are still very much in driver’s seat. 

Day 4: Its the Independence Day for the tourists. But the runs are very hard to come by as the batsmen are shackled up by the home spinners. The same spinners who had no effect in the first innings. The wickets have start tumbling. One after the other, the visiting batsmen are snared. And the home side manages to secure a big come-from-behind victory. Meanwhile the visitors are left stunned, trying to figure out how this dramatic turnaround came into being.

As if the dramatic action on the field wasn't enough, there were lots of other stories
  • The series is the last for one of the home side legends. The home supporters are taking every opportunity to bid a grand farewell to their hero. 
  • The tourists have a new captain who has been talking a lot about playing aggressively and getting the results after having spent quite some time getting hammered all around the globe.
  • The tourists get a big first innings lead based on one big partnership featuring a man playing with a hairline fracture in his hand. Add the chance that he might not even have played this game if his regular opening partner had not been injured.
  • The home side’s wrecker-in-chief in the second innings is an ageing, rotund spinner who himself is coming back from injury. He picks up seven in the second innings after none in the first. Quite a turnaround in fortunes.
  • In between one of the visiting players sets a new world record for the most catches by a non-wicket-keeper in a Test match.
  • And finally, it was one of the Big Three playing against a (relatively) tiny cricketing nation. The richest team in the world taking on a team whose players sometimes are not paid (One of their ex-captains on being fined by ICC said, first I need to be paid to be fined).
An exciting match, a dramatic turnaround, a potential David vs Goliath battle, a retiring legend, records getting broken, players battling through injury, umpiring errors – in short all the ingredients to be count as an all-time classic.

Except it was another India vs Sri Lanka match – already forgotten.

A lesson for the cricket administrators here - contests need a context. And rivalries are developed with time not frequency

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Jharkhand Domestic Schedule: 2015-16 Season

The home season is around the corner and as is wont with all the cricket boards, some more tinkering has been done by BCCI for the coming season. While the Ranji Format remains the same, the Vijay Hazare & Syed Mustaq Ali Trophies have undergone a revamp. The zonal structure has been dropped and the teams have been divided into four groups. Also the Mustaq Ali Trophy has been brought forward to be played ahead of the IPL Auctions (although there is a question mark on IPL itself, but that's another issue) so that the teams get a better idea of the domestic players. 

Slipstream Cricket will try to continue following the Jharkhand team's fortunes in the new domestic season. Last year wasn't a good one though the team did try some promising youngsters. Lets see what the new season has in store.

Following is the team's schedule

Ranji Trophy - Last season was a bad one, though there was a flourish at the fag end with two outright wins in a row, but the team is still in Group C.
  1. October 1-4, 2015: vs Services (A)
  2. October 8-12, 2015: vs Saurashtra (A)
  3. October 15-18, 2015: vs Kerala (A)
  4. October 30 - November 2, 2015: vs Goa (H)
  5. November 7-10, 2015: vs Jammu & Kashmir (H)
  6. November 15-18, 2015: vs Tripura (A)
  7. November 23-26, 2015: vs Himachal Pradesh (A)
  8. December 1-4, 2015: vs Hyderabad (A)
The knock-out matches will take place after the conclusion of the Vijay Hazare & Mustaq Ali Trophies.

Vijay Hazare Trophy - In the revamped groupings, Jharkhand is in Group B
  1. December 10, 2015: vs Jammu & Kashmir
  2. December 11, 2015: vs Gujarat
  3. December 13, 2015: vs Kerala
  4. December 14, 2015: vs Haryana
  5. December 15, 2015: vs Karnataka
  6. December 17, 2015: vs Railways
All matches in Karnataka
These will be followed by the knock-out stages. The Vijay Hazare Trophy winner also plays in the Deodhar Trophy

Syed Mustaq Ali Trophy - Groupngs have revamped like the Vijay Hazare Trophy. Also a great opportunity for the players to shine and land an IPL contract. And maybe stake claim for a place in the 2016 T20 World Cup squad as well.
  1. January 3, 2016: vs Tripura
  2. January 4, 2016: vs Rajasthan
  3. January 6, 2016: vs Punjab
  4. January 7, 2016: vs Jammu & Kashmir
  5. January 9, 2016: vs Saurashtra
  6. January 10, 2016: vs Kerala
All matches in Kerala. 
These will be followed by the knock-out matches

Jharkhand play Jammmu & Kashmir is all three formats.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Arbit Stats #45: Spinning Ducks

Test Match No. 2176 - India vs Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka 2nd Innings
FDM Karunaratne b R Ashwin 0
JK Silva b A Mishra 0

Thus becoming the first pair of openers to be both dismissed for zero by spinners in the same innings.

Combination of spin-friendly pitches, innovative captaincy, good bowling and scorecard pressure.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Bell Rings in 5 Urns

Slipstream Cricket would like to congratulate its patron saint, Ian Bell on his tremendous achievement of being part of five Ashes winning campaigns - only the second Englishman after Sir Ian Botham to do so since the Second World War.
Says a lot about the longevity of Bell and also the frequency of the Ashes Clashes - he has also been part of 2 losing campaigns including 2 whitewashes Down Under.

Image Source - Cricinfo

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Arbit Stats #44: Surnames

Found this gem from twitter.

England's playing XI for the Trent Bridge Test:


11 names comprising of a total of 53 letters between them - the smallest tally in the 2175 match history of Test cricket.

Just to put a perspective to this figure - Sri Lankan XIs usually have more initials than this.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Arbit Stats #43: Cardiff

From the opening Test of the 2015 Ashes, come a nice little useless tidbit

The Sophia Gardens Stadium (earlier know as Swalec) in Cardiff, Wales becomes the first venue in the world to see a total of 400+ in the first innings of the match in its first three Tests

Source: BBC Text Commentary Screenshot (Link)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ajinkya Rahane: The Quick Turnaround or Setup for Failure

June 20, 2015 
Ajinkya Rahane is dropped from the playing XI for the second ODI against Bangladesh. Captain Dhoni explains the decision "We have seen that he plays a lot better on pitches that have some pace. But on a slow pitch, whenever he has batted at No. 4 or 5, he does have a problem in freely rotating the strike at the start of his innings. I think Ajinkya will have to wait."

June 29, 2015
Ajinkya Rahane is appointed captain of the Indian team to tour Zimbabwe.

That must have been one of the quickest turnaround in player fortunes ever witnessed in the history of the game. From being dropped to being appointed captain albeit of a team which has rested most of the senior players, within a week must be some sort of a record. Also does his elevation imply that he is on pole as Virat Kohli's deputy in Tests?

But from the squad selected for the series, one gets a feeling that Rahane has almost been up for failure. A victory against Zimbabwe will mean nothing, even if achieved with a second string team. However, failure to win might end up some careers. 

The absence of a genuine wicket-keeper is an obvious hole in the squad. Seems like we might be going back to post-Mongia period when the keeping duties became a musical chairs with many new keepers (Prasad, Karim, Dasgupta, Dahiya, Dighe, Ratra, Patel) being tried and ultimately the job getting handed to a specialist batsman like Dravid.

There are two intriguing selections - Harbhajan Singh and Manoj Tiwary. Picking up Harbhajan seems a sign that his rehabilitation into the national squad is complete, although no numbers justify his cause, and also shows the paucity of spin options in the country. Manoj Tiwary makes his umpteenth comeback into the national squad. In fact the man has made more comebacks than play actual games for the country. Seems to be one destined to be forever on the fringes and yet is always there on the fore-front when the seniors take a break.

In all, lots of weird selections. The chosen ones have to perform well. But good performance will only ensure that they stay on the fringes because the places will be taken up by returning senior players. And if they perform badly, they will be out of reckoning for quite some time (Case in point, the team picked for the 2010 tour to Zimbabwe). And Rahane as captain, certainly has his task cut out, with his own place (in limited overs) at stake as well. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Women's Cricket in India

Today morning, I was flipping through the sports channels. Landed on Star Sports 2 which was broadcasting a live ODI between India and New Zealand Women's teams. Batting first, India were in a spot of bother and ended up with a total of 142 on the back of Jhulan Goswami's fighting half-century and little bit of support from the tail-enders.

The coverage was normal, though with fewer cameras. The commentary was also quite good, but there was hardly anyone watching the game in the stands. On a Sunday, an international cricket match being played in India, involving the Indian national team, and near-empty stands! Also don't remember seeing even a single promo for this series on TV or even in print. Then I looked up the series schedule. All five ODIs and the three T20s are scheduled in Bangalore. 

Makes me wonder if there in any interest amongst BCCI top honchos in the promotion of the women's game in the country. The game is being telecast live but there was no marketing in the lead-up to the game. India is a country with a tremendous capacity of watching cricket, Almost all internationals and T20 leagues from around the world and even regional T20 leagues are lapped up by us. But they have to be aware that the product exists before they can consume? 

Also, why hold the entire series in one city which anyways hosts the mens team and IPL games on a regular basis. Why not take it to the smaller towns which do not get to see much international sporting activity. I remember a women's ODI between India and West Indies being held in Dhanbad a few years back which was played before quite a decent sized crowd. So why did this practice stop? Don't think it could really be due to any cost cutting. I don't think playing in front of near empty stands would be much of a motivation to any of the players

The BCCI marketing team needs to wake up and market the women's game better. A few suggestions to them
  1. Live telecast is great but a few more TV promos would also be quite helpful for the cause.
  2. Have the games spread out in Tier 2 cricket venues which do not get much international sports action.
  3. Billboards, flyers in the town hosting the game would certainly help in the marketing.
  4. More coverage in the newspapers in the lead-up to the games along with some detailed post-match coverage would help the cause.
  5. Why not have  Women's T20 league on the lines of the IPL to showcase the game's talents. If a Kabaddi league can become successful, there is no reason for a Women's T20 premier league to not be a success, provided it is promoted well.
Enough of ranting, now back to the watching the game, as the Kiwis begin their chase of the smallish Indian target of  143. Meanwhile hoping that the BCCI top mandarins wake up and cash in on this potential revenue stream.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Ashes Promo - "We Didn't Start the Fire"

The Ashes maybe nearly a month away. And both England and Australia have to complete other tours before they take on each other in the latest edition of one of the oldest rivalries in international sport. While we wait, Sky Sports has come up with this promo. 

They have reworded Billy Joel’s lyrics of “We didn’t start the fire” and giving voice are the likely series commentators Holding, Atherton, Hussain, Warne, Lloyd. The whole montage is brimming with Ashes history. 

Here are the lyrics 

Donald Bradman, Peter May, At The Oval, Final Day,
Little Urn, Bob's perm, W G Grace
Walter Hammond, Mitchell Johnson, At The Gabba, Big Decision
Chris Broad, Ponsford, Riiiiiiiiiichie Benaud
Larwood's Bodyline, Athers slips on 99
Laker, Jones' dive, Gower flying in the sky
Baggy Greens, swing/seam, Warnie's ball in '93
Ricky Ponting, Pratty gets him, Freddie makes the bails fly!
We didn't start the fire... 
10, 11 whitewash, Nasser and that toss
Tubby Taylor, Sher-minator, Brigadier-block
Swansongs, follow-ons, Headingley '81
Mark Waugh, Steve Waugh, Harmy's shocking first ball
Brett Lee, on his knees, Aussies got a winning team
Davy Warner, third man, Andy Flower's England
John Snow, final Test, Manchester, yes, Chef!
Thommo, Lillee, fierce pace, Bumble smacked in that place...
We didn't start the fire... 

The big names of Ashes - Grace, Bradman, Posford, Hammond, Warne, the Waugh Twins, Larwood, Laker, Johnson, Botham, Willis, Benaud are all there, alongwith the footage from the Bodyline series, Warne's ball of the century to Gatting, Headingley 81 & Edgbaston 2005, as well as even the funny nicknames Sherminator (Ian Bell) & Brigadier Block (Collingwood). It even has the Sprinkler dance to round off this celebration of the Ashes rivalry.

This is another great promo in the year of great sporting promotional campaigns.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

World Cup Semi-Final: India vs Australia – How It Unfolded (For Me)

I am wide awake much before the usual waking time. And why not? After all not everyday in a World Cup semi-final featuring your team. If this is how nervous I as a follower feel, wonder what goes on in the players’ minds?

Start getting ready for office. I am not bunking work to watch the match? Why, because the team won on the days I went to work. So why jinx it? On the eve of the game I have changed my mobile wallpaper to the “BleedBlue” logo. My way of supporting the team. Meanwhile Star Sports has suddenly realized that there are other sports being played on this played also. And shows a montage of the coming live action from Football, Badminton, F1, Tennis etc. Actually a good line-up for any sports fan.

Toss Time: Australia win the toss and elect to bat India out of the game. But We Won’t Give It Back. The commentators are already talking about this game being a home game for India. Finally, we are realizing the virtues of a huge population and the brain drain. Any corner of the big wide world and you will find Indians, lots of us Indians.

Anthem Time: I sing along to Jan Gana Mana. There is no music more rousing than your national anthem. Can there be? During the anthem, they show the entire team, then the support staff, a few crowd shots and then the lone figure of Dhawal Kulkarni. A player who has been around the team for the whole World Cup but not officially part of the World Cup team. Wonder how must that feel. Binny, Rayudu & Axar also did feature in a single game but they are World Cup players while Kulkarni is not. Okay back to the game now.

1st ball – Shami misses the edge of Finch’s bat. And I am off to work.

I hear snatches of commentary blaring out from the shops on the roadside. They are discussing those number things which mostly do not make any sense. But its early part of the game, so the commentators need to be kept busy. On the way, twitter keeps me company. Finch seemingly in trouble but surviving. Warner looking to hammer them all away and WARNER is OUT. (yay 15/1). Smith joins Finch and the milking of the Indian bowling has started.

I have reached office in quick time. The traffic was much less than usual but more than expected. And went to my desk instead of going to the Food Court, where a big screen had been put up for the live telecast. There will be a time, but it’s not now.

89/1 (15): Not looking terribly good at the moment. Need wickets pronto. All online commentary channels have been fired up. I might be in office but being focused on the work seems highly unlikely.

132/1 (25): Expecting to chase 340 odd. Need wickets. Lots of them and fast. Steve Smith has hit fifty and is looking ominous. Finch has also reached a fifty now. [Aside - A home team wearing yellow had been utterly destroyed in the previous World Cup that I had followed. That doesn’t seem to be happening here].

155/1 (30): Old wisdom says you double the score after 30 overs. Post T20 era, you score 200 in the last 20. Whichever way its going to be a tall chase for India.

181/1 (33): Australia take the Powerplay early. And Steve Smith gets another 100 against India in the 2014-15 Season. Not good at all from our perspective. 

197/2 (34.1). And Smith is OUT. And Maxwell walks in. This could go anywhere now.
Maxwell threatening to take the game away. Lands a few hefty blows as well. But Ashwin has got him. We need a collapse like India’s 29/9 against South Africa in last World Cup. Umesh gets Finch. Are the Aussies collapsing? 235/4 (39). [Aside - Successfully postponed a bit off work which was threatening to come my way. Cricket and my nation need my undivided attention].

250/5 (43). Now Clarke goes. 42 balls left. C’mon India get those 5 wickets and maintain your neat wicket taking record.

271/5 (45): 5 overs to go. How much can they score? 50 more? We are still looking at a BIGGG chase :( The Aussies have been losing wickets at the death, very like India, but unlike India the big hits have kept coming as well.

328/7(50):Australia the first team to not get all out against India this World Cup. India actually need to tie this game to go through to the final. That would be FUN. 

Time for Lunch. The Food Court looks different. Its more crowded because of the game telecast. The openers stride out to loud cheers in the food court. Lunch is gulped down amidst oohs and aahs across the food court.

Haddin drops Dhawan? Has he dropped the World Cup. India breathes. And scores runs easily.

Back at desk. Dhawan out. And so is Kohli. And Rohit. Now Raina is out. Need to get away from the desk. This has been quite a wicket-taking spell. :(

156/4 (32): Rahane & Dhoni have been becalmed. Afraid the game is meandering away to an end. (179 off 108 balls). Well Played India. You had already exceeded the expectations.

178/5 (36.2): Rahane OUT! Suddenly work seems to have become more interesting. DRS used for the sake of using it by the Aussies and they get a positive result in their favour. Some days the dice just does not roll your way.

183/5 (38): It’s THAT Score. Now the question – Will we crawl to a defeat, a la UAE, or go out all guns blazing, like the West Indies? Prefer the 2nd option but Dhoni is playing like the first.

196/5 (40): 132 off 60 balls. Well-nigh impossible now. It has all gone down since Dhawan’s dismissal. Nothing much to write home about.

232/7 (45): Dhoni also gone. And the last flickering embers die out.

233/10: Its all over at SCG. Australia win by 95 runs. 

Brad Haddin did not drop the World Cup. Well played Australia!. Though methinks the country happiest with this result is not Australia but Bangladesh. Which reminds me all Asian teams knocked out of the tournament at the first possible opportunity.

India certainly exceeded the expectations by reaching the semis with a clean slate. It was a complete team effort with no individual standing out throughout the course of the tournament. Well Played. Team India. Thanks for all the entertainment.

Random Thoughts: Was this the last India game for Dhoni. What will we remember India's tournament for? How many casualties from this World Cup lineup. How different will the team be when they next take the ground. But these questions will wait. After all the World Cup final is still to be played.

And for me, I will finish off the pending work and go home. Also feel sad for a while. And then tomorrow is another day. After all one of the side-effects of growing up is that such defeats don't hurt for long, unlike earlier.

So off to the MCG. The Kiwis are waiting. This is their mauka for the first ever World Cup victory.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

World Cup 2015 - Quarter-Final Predictions

The battle-lines are drawn. The Quarter-finalists identified. 7 games remaining, 7 teams to be knocked out. 1 winner. On the eve of the first of the 4 Quarter-finals, its Divination time – the time to predict the teams still left standing after four days of hopefully intense battle.

Quarter-Final 1 – South Africa vs Sri Lanka

The foremost question - Will South Africa choke again? AB de Villiers has said they won’t. History suggests otherwise.

It’s an intriguing clash between two teams with very evenly matched records against each other. Both are coming in with 4 wins each. South Africa have a suspect record while chasing and a tendency to not make through to the knock-outs. Sri Lanka on the other hand have regularly been reaching the last stages of ICC events. They also have been losing players through the tournament and have a question mark on their bowling.

The toss will be crucial. Both would want to bat first and avoid the scoreboard pressure while chasing.

Prediction – Sri Lanka to win toss, bat first, put up a fairly decent total. South Africa would begin the chase in earnest, then falter, and asphyxiate, resulting in a Sri Lankan victory.

Quarter-Final 2 – India vs Bangladesh

Both teams have had a much better than expected Group Stage. Powered by their bowlers (!!!), India sailed through to the top of the Group with 1 full game to spare. On the other hand, Bangladesh punched out England and gave a good scare to the Kiwis on their way to the knockouts. The MCG is expected to be filled with Indian supporters, some Bangladeshi supporters and a decent contingent of the Barmy Army. 

India are the favorites but will do well to remember the 2007 World Cup. Bangladesh don’t have anything to lose but a win would certainly be the greatest day in their sporting history. 

Prediction – India (what else to expect from an Indian blogger)

Quarter-Final 3 – Australia vs Pakistan

On one corner, the home team, who are an efficient mean machine out to destroy all opposition with both bat and ball and powered by a sense of not giving it up till the last ball has been bowled. They have had a smooth ride into the Quarters with only one bump in the road. Even in that loss to the Kiwis they showed the true Aussie grit. Where many teams would have given up after being knocked out for 150 odd, Australia fought back hard and the Kiwis barely managed to scrape home with one wicket to spare.

On the other corner, you have Pakistan, a team which is the very definition of mavericks. The Irish were knocked out by Pakistan, not because of their own loss to them, but due the hammering which Pakistan got from the West Indies. After years of using one Akmal or the other, Pakistan have finally learnt that it pays to have an actual wicket-keeper doing the job behind the stumps. A good bowling combined with some brittle batting make up for a totally unpredictable combination.

Prediction – Australia to win.

Quarter-Final 4 – New Zealand vs West Indies

The Kiwis go into the knock-outs with a cent percent record while West Indies have barely managed to make it on the basis of net run rates. The Kiwis have looked set to destroy the opposition batting and then chase down the small targets as fast as possible. Though sometimes the batting does implode but so far they have survived on this tactics. West Indies, on the other hand, seem to have no plan but just individuals doing the job either fantastically well or spectacularly badly with no middle ground. Gayle can get a double century all by himself or the bowlers can tie down the Indian top order but chances of both events happening together seem quite unlikely.

The result could well depend on which version of West Indies turns up to play.

Prediction – New Zealand to win. Or a Chris Gayle explodes (which hasn’t ever happened in any crucial game in any format for any team).

Now its time to see how good my "inner eye" is.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

World Cup 2015: Short Notes - March 15th

The Group Stages of the World Cup 2015 have finally drawn to a close. It was a long-winded affair (but we already knew that). The 8 Quarter-finalists have been identified (with 7 of them being the usual suspects). There were upsets but not as many as we would have liked. There were mismatches, many more than we wanted with the team batting first generally knocking the stuffing out of the bowling. India won all their games (a pleasant surprise) as did New Zealand, Pakistan stumbled along as did the West Indies but in the end both made it, England were punched out by Bangladesh, Australia, Sri Lanka and South Africa duly made it into the knock-outs, while the Associates won the hearts but not many games except for the Irish who also won a few games. And now we are at the business end of the tournament. 7 matches, 7 teams knocked out, 1 winner remains. But before that its time for a look back at the performances of the teams which won't be making any further progress into the tournament.

UAE - a team made up of people who hold regular jobs (like you and me) but have the passion to play the game (unlike most of you and me). Their approach to the games was simple. Try to bat out as many overs as possible getting the runs which came along regardless of how many the other team has got. Only against fellow Associate Ireland did they provide some serious challenge. May not play at the World Cup ever again and probably will not be missed at all. Which would be quite ironical given that ICC has a global academy in UAE and they also play home country to Pakistan and Afghanistan. 

Scotland - This was Scotland's 3rd appearance in World Cup cricket and it is the third time they are going home winless. Another team which has been regularly found wanting at the top level. They never even challenged the big teams. Though they did have a very close game with fellow Associate Afghanistan. The team ran out of steam by the end of its run. Worse, it ran out of team spirit with Majid Haq having to be sent home on disciplinary grounds.

Afghanistan - They have been the fairy tale story of the cricketing world. Their rise is well documented. The players are icons in their own right. And they can actually play cricket. They won a game against Scotland and gave Sri Lanka a mighty scare. They might have been well beaten by the others but they also provided the heart-warming story. There might not be a more impressive sight in cricket than Shapoor Zadran running down to bowl. This is a team with the potential to be competitive. And ICC better make sure that they stay so and not let them drift away like Kenya.

Zimbabwe - Zimbabwe had provided the template for growth of a modern cricket nation. Repeatedly qualify for the World Cup. Win the occasional big game. Get Test status. The wins then start coming in more frequently. Reach the knock-outs of the World Cup. And then the story changes. However it wasn't cricket at fault, it was the country itself imploding. Cricket bore the collateral damage and they have been a mere shadow of their former self. And since the last ten years they have been trying to make the best out of limited resources which keep ever depleting. Brendan Taylor joins a long list of cricketers who couldn't carry on any further due to the various constraints. However he might well be back. In the Cup, Zimbabwe weren't outclassed and were far more competitive than expected. Can we expect better days for them? Maybe or Maybe not. They might miss out if ICC does implement its 10 team format in 2019.

Ireland - On the Irish shoulders fall the responsibility of not just carrying the hopes of their own nation but also those of the entire Associate cricketing world. A responsibility which they have carried gamely but would certainly wish would be shared around a bit more. They played well, won three games adding two more full nation scalps into their World Cup collection. And yet were finally knocked out after the last game on the basis of net run rates. This is a team which deserves more chances to improve. Should they be the 11th test playing country? Certainly. Should ICC amend laws to prevent England poaching their players? Definitely. Imagine Morgan and Rankin in their ranks. Well played Ireland, You deserve better.

England - The butt of all jokes. In a format designed to ensure that the big boys are through to the quarter-finals, somehow England have contrived to not do so. Last World Cup, they were the entertainers, losing to Ireland & Bangladesh while beating South Africa, West Indies and tying with India. This time there was no such roller-coaster ride. They beat Scotland and lost to everybody else (heavily). So heavily that Malaysia, Singapore & Japan are trolling them with challenges. Yet England will be there lining up as hosts in 2019. Important question - Are England still the best limited overs team in Europe? Probably yes, though many would disagree, most certainly Ireland. Or if you were Peter Moores, you would first be looking into the data.

Arbit Stat#42
Wins against Test Playing Nations in ODI World Cup
Ireland (since 2007) - 5 wins - 2007 (Pakistan & Bangladesh),  2011 (England), 2015 (West Indies & Zimbabwe)
England (since 2007) -  4 wins - 2007 (Bangladesh & West Indies), 2011 (South Africa & West Indies), 2015 (0)
Head-to-Head - 1-1
Well the "data" says Ireland are better.

Now awaiting the knock-outs where the real action begins.

Monday, March 9, 2015

World Cup 2015: Short Notes - March 9th

Tigers have tamed the Three Lions.

England, the inventors of the Gentleman's Game, have been knocked out of the World Cup by Bangladesh. 

A result which has made them the butt of jokes in the cricketing world. On Twitter they have already been invited by Malaysia and Japan for a challenge game. Lets see what their response is. Although judging by Peter Moores' reaction, they would be looking into the data before making any response. During which time, a couple of other countries would have surpassed them in ODI cricket.

However, this was not really a surprising result, given that Bangladesh had beaten them in the last World Cup as well. Bangladesh in quarters seems to be a just reward for their most loyal fans who have been supporting the team from one loss to another, with the occasional win thrown in. But most of the wins had come in home conditions (Asia Cup 2012, and the Kiwi whitewashes) or in Zimbabwe. So good to see them qualify in the conditions Down Under.

On the other hand, England have been on a seemingly never-ending downward spiral, at least in World Cup cricket. Can they go down any further? They are hosting the World Cup in 2019. So does it mean a direct qualification as hosts or do they still have to fulfill the Top 8 criteria or go through qualifying, if they do not? ICC, we are still looking for a response.

In other news
  • 5 of the 8 quarter-finalists have been identified and 4 are in running for remaining three spots, all in Group B. South Africa are more or less through with Pakistan also in a comfortable position while Ireland still need to do some running to ensure a knock-out spot ahead of West Indies. The final week of games will see teams jockeying for positions.
  • England will be looking to avoid embarrassment against Afghanistan, otherwise more Associates and Affiliates will be clamoring for a game against them.
  • Pakistan are back at their unpredictable best and South Africa are already preparing their supporters for the coming "choke".
  • Sri Lanka's injury list keeps growing with every game. 
  • How is Sangakkara even thinking of retiring from any format of the game. 
  • Jason Holder is the new Darren Sammy. Contributing more that his fair share with bat and ball, yet coming up short because of his team.
  • John Mooney - was the foot on the line, when he caught it? Did Sean Ervine walk off before he was given out? 
  • The DRS debate will never end. Just shows how tough is the field umpires' job when even the TV umpire makes mistakes/has to make judgement calls.
  • Eoin Morgan is in the wrong team. Among other things, can ICC create a system of ensuring that Associate players are not stolen by the likes of England. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

World Cup 2015: Short Notes - March 5th

After a break of 1 day, in which the cricketing world's focus was on BCCI's presidency battle, the World Cup resumed on Tuesday. 
  • Seems like ICC had had enough of the brickbats. So they asked the big boys to go all Sparta on the Associates. Result - South Africa, Australia & Pakistan hammering the little fellows to pulp, with all of them recording huge wins.
  • We now bid farewell to Scotland whose purely mathematical chances of qualifying have evaporated. They were never in with a chance but at least they had the best kit.
  • These one team bat-a-thons are getting ridiculous to watch. The mind is numbed from seeing teams score at 15 an over for the last 10 overs. What are the bowlers supposed to do? And the big scoreboard pressure gets to the team chasing and the contest is all but over within a few overs into the chase. Not good for any game.
  • Krishna Chandra Karate - the best name of the tournament.
  • Shaiman Anwar of UAE leading the run-charts. Who would have thunk this?
  • Sachin Tendulkar apparently wants a 25 team World Cup. Well that will be just a series of mismatches. My suggestion is have 16 teams in 4 groups (like in West Indies) followed by straight knock-outs (unlike the long unending Super 8 stage in West Indies). Or you can have 2 groups of 4 each in the 2nd round followed by semis & finals (like the T20 World Cup). Enough said.
  • No some crucial games coming up. More than that hoping for a few genuine contests. Need not be a edge-of-the-seat cliffhanger all the time but is a contest too much to ask for?