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.