Friday, March 31, 2017

The Rivalry

Which is the biggest rivalry in cricket these days? Is it

  • (a) England vs Australia - for the hopeless tragics? But it only come alive during the Ashes. OR
  • (b) India vs Pakistan - well, they don't seem to be playing each other often enough except for the big tournaments, where Pakistan always seem to be falling short :). OR
  • (c) India vs Australia - produce great cricket and controversies. Yes they are very close to the top, OR
  • (d) BCCI vs Supreme Court? Not much of a contest as the Supreme Court always seems to be winning, OR
  • (e) West Indies Board vs West Indies players - this one seems to have been going on forever. Should be the next challenge for India's Supreme Court which has taken serious interest in cricketing matters.
But for pure on-field action and actual "context", nothing beats the nascent rivalry which has developed between Ireland and Afghanistan. There can't be more disparate nations. And yet here are two teams who find themselves in the same boat and fighting for a similar cause - Test Status - the Holy Grail for all cricketers.

Both Ireland and Afghanistan add the feel-good factor in these murky times (and not just from a cricketing perspective). The Irish for being able to produce one upset after another at the biggest stage - Pakistan, England, West Indies - that's an impressive lineup. In earlier times, even one big victory  would have been good enough to get Test status (Bangladesh beating Pakistan in 1999 World Cup). But not anymore. The Irish have staked their claim as the best Associate nation for the best part of last decade. In the limited chances they have got, they have proved that their performances haven't been just a flash in the pan. They have shown remarkable consistency given the limited opportunities, while at the same time seeing their best players being regularly poached by English! ICC certainly needs to take steps to ensure that England stop using their annual game against Ireland as a campus recruitment exercise!

On the other hand, Afghanistan have brought a fairy-tale story to life. Coming from a war-torn country, the fact that they play itself was considered a big story. Not any longer. They show that they can compete with the big boys. Although they haven't got the big scalps like the Irish. But they are consistent. Unlike other Associates, they do not depend upon expats but home-grown players (rather grown in refugee camps). Their sheer presence at the global level warms the heart. And their players back it up with flair and competition. Just how loved the team is can be seen, when the losing team joins them in a victory dance (West Indies in the last T20 World Cup).

In the light of this, comes the Inter-continental Cup, with the winner getting a chance to play a series of First-Class matches against the bottom placed Test team (Zimbabwe, whom both Ireland and Afghanistan regularly beat) to get Test status. Hence the special context which this rivalry has got. Ireland have been the more consistent ones, with Afghanistan coming up fast. Even their contests have got the dash of controversy. (Remember Nabi running out Joyce).

So two well-matched teams, representative of the greater Associate cause, Test status at stake, and with a dash of controversy adding to the bite in the rivalry. They may be just off the spotlight, but this is "the rivalry" on the global cricketing stage.

Although now the Irish are showing signs of decline while the Afghans are on acsendancy as was evident in the recent series played in India. With ICC showing signs of bringing more teams into the Test fold, we certainly don't want to see Ireland going the Kenya way. Hopefully recent performances are just a blip.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Vijay Hazare 2016-17: Jharkhand Review

Jharkhand followed the successful run in Ranji Trophy with another good run in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, the national List A tournament. The team had a good outing in the Group stages winning 4 and losing 2 to enter the Quarter-finals edging past Hyderabad on Net Run Rates. The Quarters were another walk in the park against Vidarbha before the team lost in the semi-finals to Bengal.

It was an eventful run for Jharkhand, both on and off the field with a fire incident in the team hotel causing the semi-finals to be delayed by a day. Dhoni's presence as captain lead to an increased media coverage of the team, which certainly put the spotlight on the good performers. However, it was the usual suspects who made the most of the spotlight - Saurabh Tiwary, Ishank Jaggi, Ishan Kishan and Shahbaz Nadeem - all of whom strengthened their claims for an India A berth.

The batting at the top remains an area of concern with the middle order of Tiwary , Jaggi and Dhoni having to regularly bail out the team.

Best Perfomance: Dhoni's 129 vs Chhattisgarh, almost single-handedly taking the team to victory.

Top Scorers:
1. Saurabh Tiwary - 368 runs @ 52.57
2. MS Dhoni - 330 runs @ 66.00
3. Ishank Jaggi - 279 runs @ 55.80

Most Wickets:
1. Shahbaz Nadeem - 15 wickets @ 18.00
2. Varun Aaron - 14 wickets @ 21.64
3. Rahul Shukla - 13 wickets @ 26.54

Overall this was a good season for Jharkhand with the zoanl T20s being the only blip. They have moved deeper in both Ranji and Vijay Hazare this year. Hopefully next season we will get our hands on that elusive Trophy.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Arbit Stats #64: Like Father Like Son

WICB Professional Cricket League Regional 4-Day Tournament 

In Guyana's first innings score of 262, there were three well compiled 50s. Two of which were scored by the father-son duo of Shivnarine and Tagenarine Chanderpaul. The Chanderpauls thus becoming the first father-son pair to make a half-century in the same first class game ever!

Now that's a stat which will take some beating!!!

Monday, February 20, 2017

IPL 2017 Auction: Jharkhand

As the dust settles on the IPL Auctions for 2017, here is taking a look at how the Jharkhand boys have fared. 

The Retained
  1. MS Dhoni - retained by Rising Pune Supergiants but has been removed from captaincy. For the first time in IPL, Dhoni will be playing just as a member of the playing XI and not as captain.
  2. Shahbaz Nadeem - retained by Delhi Daredevils. After being the top wicket-taker for 2 consecutive Ranji seasons, he is now an India A team regular with a national call-up not too far away. With Tahir and Negi released, should be a first choice spinner for the team. Has competition from Jayant Yadav and M Ashwin.
  3. Ishan Kishan - retained by Gujarat Lions. Coming from a prolific domestic season which has seen him get regular India A call-ups, this youngster will be fighting for the keeper's slot with Dinesh Karthik. Should certainly get a few games.
  4. Pratyush Singh - Retained by Delhi Daredevils. He started playing for Delhi but made his first-class debut for Jharkhand in this very season! May not get a game this year as well.
The Newly Bought
  1. Varun Aaron - released by Royal Challengers Bangalore and now bought by Kings XI Punjab for 2.80 crores. He has pace, but is injury prone and often expensive. Might not be a first choice but could get a few games in.
  2. Saurabh Tiwary - released by Pune, now returns to Mumbai Indians for 30 lakhs, the team from which he got into the national XI. Might not be part of a first choice eleven but should get a few games. 
  3. Ishank Jaggi - returns to IPL action after a long time after some headline making knocks in the Ranji Trophy and Syed Mustaq Ali Trophy. Sterling performances in the Mustaq Ali Trophy saw his name added to the draft after initially missing out. Picked at base price of 10 lakh by Kolkata Knight Riders. But will he get a chance to play?
Not picked in the Auctions - Rahul Shukla, Virat Singh, Vikash Singh, Monu Kumar.

Over the last few seasons, Jharkhand cricket has been on  an upswing with the team reaching Ranji knock-outs on a regular basis. Quite a few players are putting up their name for the A squad. All they need is one superlative season like Saurbah Tiwary's 2010 run to come up with a national call. Lets see who of the seven grab this opportunity.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Arbit Stats #63: Kiwis sneak in on the Tigers

Test Match #2246: New Zealand vs Bangladesh

Continuing with the recent trend that a good 1st innings score of the visiting team is just not good enough by the end of 5th day's play. And 5 days is a long passage of play.

595/8 - Bangladesh are now the owners of the unwanted record of the biggest 1st innings total ending in a loss, breaking 19th century record

5 - Number of catches held by Imrul Kayes as a substitue keeper. 

5 days is long time. And this 3rd innings is proving decisive these days.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Ranji Trophy 16-17: Semi-Final Jharkhand vs Gujarat

Match Summary: Gujarat (390 & 252) beat Jharkhand (418 & 111) by 123 runs   

At the fag end of the 4th day's play, Jharkhand's dream run came to a brutal and quick end. In a seesawing game, fortunes swung one way and then the other. Gujarat began briskly on Day 1, Jharkhand hauled them back on Day 2 but the 8th wicket partnership resisted long and took the score to 390. Jharkhand were in trouble early in the innings but Ishank Jaggi and others dragged them to the crucial first innings lead of 18 runs. But in a 5 day match, with a brisk run-rate from both sides only an outright victory was going to secure the result. Gujarat set a competitive target of 235. And then in the 4th innings, Jharkhand capitulated against the pace duo of RP Singh and Jasprit Bumrah and lost by 123 runs. The margin does not do justice to the intensity of the battle.

In the end it wasn't to be. Although this certainly was Jharkhand's greatest run in the Ranji Trophy (not counting their previous avatar of Bihar, who once finished runners-up).  The season has thrown up a lot of youngsters like Ishan Kishan, Virat Singh, Kaushal Singh who are ready to take on the mantle. The senior lot of Saurabh Tiwary, Ishank Jaggi and Shahbaz Nadeem are also likely to be in the mix for some more time.

  • It was refreshing to see Jharkhand's batting being more than just Saurabh Tiwary for a change who had another 500+ run season. Ishank Jaggi and Ishan Kishan added lots of firepower to the batting.
  • Meanwhile Shahbaz Nadeem is set to top the wicket-taking charts for a second year in a row. Wonder what else he needs to do for the national call-up now. 
  • Fitness issues have plagued the team's bowling attack with Varun Aaron missing most of the season. Ashish Kumar's injury during the Quarter-finals also hasn't helped.
  • The opening partnerships were another area of concern throughout.

Good performances in the forthoming Vijay Hazare Trophy should see some of the youngsters in contention for IPL contracts which could be their stepping stone to the A Squad and then onwards to the national team.

Season Stats
Top Scorer: Ishank Jaggi 890 @59.33
Most Wickets: Shahbaz Nadeem 56 @25.61
Player Count: 17

Hopefully this season has set the tone for another good run in the next one.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Twenty16 Lineup

We are just a couple of days into 2017. And the cricketing action is already in full gear with South Africa-Sri Lanks Test matches, Big Bash League and Ranji Trophy semi-finals and that most intriguing off-field battle between Supreme Court and BCCI underway But before we move too far ahead, Slipstream Cricket continues its annual tradition of picking the year's cricketing moments to remember.

1. 6, 6, 6, 6 – Carlos Brathwaite – Remember the name
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. And Carlos Brathwaite certainly came big time. With 19 needed off the last over in the World T20 finals, Brathwaite hammers 4 consecutive sixes to win the game with 2 balls to spare. "Remember the name", boomed Ian Bishop from the commentary box.Ben Stokes certainly wouldn't be forgetting this one. 

2. Speech of the Year - Darren Sammy
The West Indies men and women had just won the T20 World Cups. Just weeks after their Under-19 team had also become World Champions. The skipper, Darren Sammy, chose this moment to bare his heart out to the world. It was quite a damning indictment of the West Indies Cricket Board. And this was the last time Sammy has played for the West Indies.

3. Going Out on a High - Brendon McCullum
The much loved Kiwi skipper decided to hang up his boots and give his back a rest from the wear and tear of international cricket. And did he bow out in style by smashing the record for the fastest century in Test cricket. It wasn't enough to prevent a defeat to the Aussies, but it was a fitting farewell to the man who really launched the IPL with his blazing bat.

4. Celebrations of the Year - Misbah-ul-Haq
He is now well past 40.Yet when he gets a century he celebrates by doing push-ups on the ground. We all know the end is nigh, but will Misbah to go on and on. After all he is the senior statesman the world cricket needs.

5. And they all fall down 
Win toss, bat first, score over 400 and still contrive to lose, by an innings. Happened only twice in over 2200 Tests till November 2016. In December, happened thrice, England twice and Pakistan once. The 3rd innings collapse became the new statement.

6. The Run Machine - Virat Kohli
Regardless of the format, Tests, ODI, T20I, IPL, the Virat Kohli run machine just kept chugging on. All tricky chases turned formulaic. India's batting revolved around one single man. And he kept delivering, time and again. The only batsman to have an average of 50+ in all three formats of the international game.

7. The Year of Comebacks
2016 started with Ashish Nehra opening the bowling for India after 4 years, somewhere in the middle Gautam Gambhir opened the batting after 3 years and capping off the year of comebacks, Parthiv Patel was keeping wickets for India in Tests after 8 years. And all of them doing a decent job. At this rate we might get to see Munaf Patel and RP Singh leading the Indian attack soon. 

8. The run-outs
The batsmen trying to sneak a run. The fielding team taking the ball and breaking the stumps just before he makes it to the ground. No better sight in cricket. And this year we had two memorable efforts - Dhoni preventing a last gasp Bangladeshi win and Temba Bavuma acrobatically running out David Warner.


9. Doing it all by yourself - Shania Lee-Swart
You see weird scorecards and then you see one person making 160 runs in a team total of 169. 

Isn't cricket supposed to be a team sport?

10. Contest of the Year
Unfortunately for the fans this wasn't played out on the field. The BCCI's attempts at revamping itself haven't satisfied the Supreme Court. The Board gave an inch when it was asked a mile. The shadow boxing continued all year long. Finally the Lodha committee had the last laugh, with the new year beginning with the suspension of current administration. Lets see how 2017 pans out in this legal battle.

11. 1009 Not Out
How does someone score 1009 runs in a single innings. Albeit it was school cricket, played in a smallish ground against a junior popgun attack, but Pranav Dhanawade managed to break the 1000 run barrier in a single innings. His later goings on haven't been exactly cricket though!

12. And for the 12th Man
Dwayne John Bravo took his DJ initals very seriously. And came up with the Champion song, where he put in his own name along with the likes of Nelson Mandela!!! Well it is his song. It did become the de facto celebration of the cricketing world.


That was cricketing year 2016. Now lets see what 2017 has in store for us!!!

Wishing all readers a very Happy New Year 2017 !!!