Thursday, October 24, 2019

Shahbaz Nadeem - the Feel-Good Story

Every once in a while, Indian cricket amidst its many shenanigans, comes up with what can only be described as a feel-good story. A player from one of the lesser teams with consistently good performances over the years, finally getting his hand at the elusive India Cap. He might return back to the anonymity of the domestic circuit soon after because of lack of space at the top. But does become a fan favorite for all-time. 

Remember Jasu Patel, who played 7 Tests in all but took a historic 9-wicket haul after being recalled at the age of 36! Or Gagan Khoda, who played 2 ODIs but had a Man-of-the-Match winning 89 in his last innings. Or Faiz Fazal who in his solitary ODI for India scored an unbeaten 50 and then returned to the domestic scene to lead Vidarbha to back-to-back Ranji and Irani Trophy titles. Or the recently retired Abhishek Nayar who played 3 ODIs without getting any opportunity to bat or bowl!

Then there is the other category, domestic stalwarts who never got a chance with the national team - Padmakar Shivalkar, Rajinder Goel, Amol Mazumdar, Amarjeet Kaypee et al. 

Thankfully, Shahbaz Nadeem, after years of toil for Jharkhand and India A squads and even a T20 call-up got his due with a Test debut on his domestic home ground. 15 years since first-class debut, over 400 first-class wickets, two consecutive Ranji seasons as the highest wicket-taker, world-record List A figures. 4 wickets at an average of 10, a catch and a run-out. Overall an excellent performance. Fully justifying the faith of the selectors who picked him as a last-minute injury replacement.

The feel-good balloon has got pricked because Nadeem has been dropped form the squad for the next Test. A justified decision, keeping in line with the recent policy of a replacement making way for the first-choice player who is fit again. Karun Nair got dropped after scoring a Triple Century! But still the decision is difficult to accept for the fans (especially like this blog which has covered Nadeem and his fellow Jharkhand mates' performances over the years).

Hopefully, this will not be Nadeem's last India Cap. And he returns to Jharkhand & A teams and keeps churning out figures which keep him in the selector's radar. After all, having got a taste of international cricket, he should be ready for another bite of the cake when the opportunity presents itself!

And even if Nadeem doesn't get another India Cap well he will go down as one of the best stories from Indian cricket in recent times.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Vijay Hazare Trophy 19-20: Jharkhand Review

After a good run to the semi-finals last year, Jharkhand had a middling season this time around. Having been promoted to Group A, they were in contention till the very last game but ran into Yashasvi Jaiswal, who hammered a double century. Jharkhand gave a valiant chase but fell short. Overall, it was a decent run for the Ishan Kishan led side. 

There were good all-round performances from Anukul Roy and Utkarsh Singh, while Virat Singh led the way with bat alongwith the ever-dependable Saurabh Tiwary However, most of the star players Shahbaz Nadeem, Ishan Kishan, and Varun Aaron had average tournaments which reflected in the team’s performance also. Here is the season summary. 

Game 1: Karnataka 285/9 (50) beat Jharkhand 162/10 (37.5) by 123 runs 
Key Performers: Rahul Shukla 4/43 (10), Anand Singh 4/52 (10) 
List A debut: Shubham Singh 

Game 2: Goa 266/8 (50) beat Jharkhand 224/10 (48.1) by 42 runs 
Key Performers: Rahul Shukla 6/33 (10) 

Game 3: Jharkhand 258/5 (36) beat Kerala 253/10 (36) by 5 runs. Match reduced to 36 overs each. 
Key Performers: Kumar Deobrat 54, Anukul Roy 31 & 4/31 (7), Utkarsh Singh 4/38 (8) 
List A Debut: Vivekanand Tiwari 

Game 4: Hyderabad 192/7 (34) lost to Jharkhand 193/4 (33.4)) by 6 wickets. Match reduced to 34 overs each. 
Key Performers: Kumar Deobrat 56, Saurabh Tiwary 61* 

Game 5: Jharkhand 259/10 (48.4) beat Saurashtra 129/10 (37.4) by 130 runs 
Key Performers: Utkarsh Singh 100 & 4/34 (10), Virat Singh 52*, Vivekanand Tiwari 3/17 (5) 

Game 6: Jharkhand 119/10 (29) lost to Chhattisgarh 123/3 (28.3) by 7 wickets. Match reduced to 31 overs each. 

Game 7: Andhra 265/6 (50) lost to Jharkhand 266/7 (49.4) by 3 wickets 
Key Performers: Virat Singh 74*, Saurabh Tiwary 56 

Game 8: Mumbai 358/3 (50) beat Jharkhand 319/10 (46.4) by 39 runs 
Key Performers: Virat Singh 100, Saurabh Tiwary 77. 
Mumbai’s Yashasvi Jaiswal became the youngest player to score a double century in List A cricket, and this was his 3rd century in just his 5th game! Certainly one to watch out for! 

Season Stats: 
Standing: 5th in Group A with 16 points from 8 games & 8th across Groups A & B. 
Highest Scorers 
  1. Virat Singh – 335 @83.75, 1 Century & 2 50s 
  2. Saurabh Tiwary – 328 @ 54.67, 3 50s 
  3. Ishan Kishan – 204 @25.50 
Most Wickets 
  1. Rahul Shukla – 15 @22.53, 1 6-for 
  2. Vivekanand Tiwari – 8 @21.63 
  3. Anukul Roy – 8 @30.63 
Highest Score: Virat Singh – 100 vs Mumbai, Utkarsh Singh 100 vs Saurashtra 
Best Bowling: Rahul Shukla – 6/33 vs Goa 
Players Used: 15 
List A Debutantes: 2 

Coming Up Next: Syed Mustaq Ali Trophy in December.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Vijay Hazare Trophy 19-20: Bihar Review

The 2019-20 season of the Vijay Hazare Trophy was a harsh turnaround for the Bihar team. After gaining a promotion from Group D the team had a cruel reality check as they lost all matches and were relegated back. The lack of experience clearly showed in the performances. Nothing much to highlight about in the tournament except Babul Kumar’s batting. Here is how the season progressed for the Ashutosh Aman led side.

Game 1: Railways 289/6 (50) beat Bihar 155/6 (43) by 84 runs (VJD)
Key Performers – Vivek Kumar 3/55 (9), Shasheem Rathour 86* 
List A Debut – Sachin Singh, Vivek Kumar, Kamlesh Kumar, Rohan Kumar

Game 2: Bihar 217/7 (50) lost to Tamil Nadu 218/3 (46.5) by 7 wickets
Key Performers: Babul Kumar 110, Sachin Singh 2/36 (8)
List A Debut: Kumar Aditya
Babul Kumar captained the side in the absence of Ashutosh Aman

Game 3: Bihar 137/10 (40.4) lost to Madhya Pradesh 138/3 (27.4) by 7 wickets
List A Debut: Nikku Singh

Game 4: Bihar 126/10 (42.4) lost to Gujarat 128/3 (19.1) by 7 wickets

Game 5: Jammu & Kashmir 326/6 (50) beat Bihar 128/4 (30.2) by 65 runs (VJD)
List A Debut: Utkarsh Bhaskar, Shivam Kumar, S Gani

Game 6: Bihar 216/7 (50) lost to Bengal 217/1 (40.2) by 9 wickets
Key Performers: Babul Kumar 93, Rahmatullah 53
List A Debut: Sashi Sekhar, Vipul Krishna

Game 7: Rajasthan 268/5 (50) beat Bihar 109/10 (36.3) by 159 runs
Key Performers: Sarfaraz Ashraf 3/34 (10)
List A Debut: Chiranajivi Kumar

Game 8: Bihar 267/7 (50) lost to Services 269/5 (48.4) by 5 wickets
Key Performers: Babul Kumar 66, Shasheem Rathour 71, Rahmatullah 63
Babul Kumar led the side.

Game 9: Bihar 251/10 (49.5) lost to Tripura 253/3 (43.4) by 7 wickets
Key Performers: Shasheem Rathour 76, Babul Kumar 52
List A Debut: Vikash Yadav

Standing: Bihar finished bottom of the Table with zero points from 9 games.

Season Stats: 
Highest Scorers
  1. Babul Kumar – 391 @55.86, 1 century & 3 50s
  2. Shasheem Rathour – 296 @37.00, 3 50s 
  3. Rahmatullah – 265 @29.44, 2 50s
Most Wickets
  1. Shivam Kumar – 6 @29.50
  2. Vivek Kumar – 6 @39.00
  3. Ashutosh Aman – 5 @58.40
Highest Score: Babul Kumar – 110 vs Tamil Nadu
Best Bowling: Sarfaraz Ashraf 3/34 vs Rajasthan
Players Used: 21
List A Debutantes: 13

Coming Up Next: Syed Mustaq Ali Trophy

Thursday, July 25, 2019

World Cup 2019: Endgame

14th July 2019, Lords 

To borrow from Dickens - It was the best of times (for some), it was the worst of time (for others). 

It was also sport at its cruelest!

There was the jubilant English squad with members incorporated from across the cricket playing world. And on the other side was New Zealand, led by Kane Williamson, who could still smile despite the apparent (to the rest of the world) injustice of it all! 

The neutral cricket viewer was sad. The greatest game of ODI cricket ever played (move over Edgbaston 1999) had resulted in not one but two ties. And yet we had to somehow contrive a winner because there was only one trophy. And what a weird way to find a winner, boundary count (where 4s & 6s are counted as equal!). Couldn’t they have at least let both captains pose with the trophy together? 

Cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties. And like all sport its always a matter of the finest margins. There were so many “What Ifs”. What if Trent Boult had not stepped back or just dropped that catch? What if Martin Guptill’s throw from the boundary was not so perfect? What If Kumara Dharmasena had interpreted the overthrows differently. So many ifs & buts. Come to think of it, the same Trent Boult had caught Carlos Brathwaite’s final heave at the boundary, and the very same Martin Guptill had produced a magical throw to run-out Dhoni in the semi-finals. You win some, you lose some, but it still doesn’t make the result feel right. 

The neutral cricket viewers were sad. There was a sense of injustice. Yes, it was all within the rules and those rules had been around for a long time but still. The sadness and injustice of it all was exacerbated by the complete calmness of Kane Williamson! 

And a final word for England. Congratulations on being crowned the Men’s ODI World Champions. What a remarkable turnaround for a team which did not even make it to the Quarter-finals last time around. 

Now for a truly Arbit Stat (#70): England have become the first ever chasing team to win the game inspite of being bowled out. 

And a final word for Jofra Archer’s twitter account – The man had a tweet for all remarkable events taking place in this World Cup! 

And thus, comes to an end the ICC Men’s ODI World Cup. A remarkable tournament with a stupendous finish to be also remembered for a bit of rain, bails not coming off, Pakistan’s 1992 comparisons, and also some decent cricket with the best games having 230-250 targets! What a throwback to 1990s!

For me, after many years did an India exit hurt so much. We were close, but the semi-final swung away in a few overs, then there was hope which was finally dashed! It just did not feel good!

Till next time!

Friday, July 12, 2019

World Cup 2019: India vs New Zealand at a glance

न्यूजीलैंड से भारत का हारना

क्रिकेट अनिश्चितता का खेल है। किसी मैच मे कोई शतक ,दोहरा शतक तो अगले ही मैच मे शुन्य पर आउट हो जाता है। बालर एक मैच मे बहुत कम रन देकर पांच-छः विकेट लेता है पर दुसरे ही मैच मे बिना विकेट लिए काफी रन दे देता है। कभी कोई फिल्डर नामूमकिन कैच पकड़ लेता है तो कभी आसान सा कैच भी ड्राप कर देता है। इनसब का मतलव यह नही कि क्रिकेट का खेल बिल्कुल ही भगवान् भरोसे है। इसमें भी भारी तकनीक है, काफी वैरीयेवलस है जिसे समझने के लिए एक दशकों कड़ी मेहनत और दिमाग लगाना पड़ता है। गवासकर, कपिलदेव, तेंदुलकर, गांगुली, बेदी, प्रसन्ना, चंद्रशेखर, धोनी .....का नाम ऐसे ही नही है। पर एक चुक हूई और आप गए। 

इसमे मौसम का भी बड़ा रोल है। मौसम शुष्क है आद्र है।हवा तेज है धीमा है। एक बार किसी चेन्नई मे हो रहे टेस्ट मैच मे वेंकटराघवन बालिंग कर रहे थे उन्हें सफलता नही मिल रहा था । कुछ देर बाद उन्हें दूसरे तरफ से लगाया गया तो सभलता मिलने लगी। बाद मे जानकारी आयी पहले छोर से हवा का रूख बाधक था जबकि बही दूसरे छोर से सहायक हो गया। कोई बालर आद्र मे तो कोई शुष्क मे ,कोई नयी बाल मे तो कोई पुरानी बाल या सफल होता है।

एक कैप्टन को और टीम को सभी बातों का ख्याल रखना होता है। एक सुझ आपको मैच जिता देगी एक चुक मैच हरा देती है।

न्यूजीलैंड के साथ हो रहा मैच मे पहला दिन वर्षा नही होता और मैच उसी दिन समाप्त होता तो भारत की जीत होती।पर वर्षा हुआ ,मैच दूसरा दिन वहीं से शुरू हुआ ।न्यूजीलैंड के दो तीन विकेट धड़ाधड़ गिरे भारत को होशियार हो जाना चाहिए था। पर हो गई चुक ।विकट गिरने लगे।नामी लोग पवेलियन लौट गये।

जब पहला विकेट रोहित का गिरा था तो मौसम को देखते हुए विराट को मैदान पर जाना एक चुक था , वाचमैन के रुप मे पांड्या को भेजना अच्छा होता ,कुछ देर टिकता तो रन भी बनता और मौसम मे भी सुधार होता। पांड्या अच्छा खेला पर दबाव मे आ गया।मारने के चक्कर मे विकेट गंवा दिया।अनुभव की कमी के कारण ऐसा हुआ। जाडेजा अच्छा खेला।तारीफ करनी होगी। धोनी को कुछ पहले तजी लानी चहीये था।दूसरे रन का रिस्क घातक हुआ।

दूसरे सेमीफाइनल मे उम्मीद के मुताबिक ही इंगलैंड की जीत हुई। इंगलैण्ड एक मजबूत टीम है और फाइनल मे भी इंगलैण्ड के जितने की प्रबल संभावना है।

Monday, July 8, 2019

World Cup 2019: The Slog Overs

Finally, the long winding league phase comes to an end. And surprise, surprise we have our 4 semi-finalists revealed to us – India, Australia, England and New Zealand! A list which had been predicted within the first fortnight itself! But that is not to say that the dead rubbers were meaningless. The very last game changed the order of the semi-finals leading to change in many travel plans!

Sporting outcomes depend on very fine margins. If that shot from Carlos Brathwaite had reached its intended destination, New Zealand would have been out of the World Cup and Pakistan would have qualified! In the end New Zealand’s campaign faltered badly but they had enough initial momentum to nudge ahead of Pakistan. 

Pakistan’s campaign showcased their one quality – unpredictability. Or, in simple terms basically being Pakistan throughout! Everyday their supporters found new similarities with the 1992 campaign. They even supported other teams including India and New Zealand, while their own kept stumbling through. Finally ran into an impossible task with the Net Run Rates where their heavy defeats and narrow wins came back to haunt them. And then, finally the 1992 comparisons stopped!

But this is cricket fandom. So we move on to the next set of analogies. In the 2008 U19 World Cup, India beat New Zealand by 3 wickets in the semi-finals. The captains on the day – Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson. The same duo who will step on the field for the toss on July 9th.

South Africa, for the first time ended a World Cup campaign on a winning note, beating Australia and changing the semi-final lineups also. They have had two ties as well, and some rain involved. Maybe this is the luck they needed to turn around their future campaigns.

England’s stumble against Sri Lanka was the result which made the league phase interesting. But Sri Lanka couldn’t use that platform while England returned to their merry ways. Meanwhile, England reached semi-finals in 1992!

West Indies started with a win, ended with a win and had nothing else to show in between! Except that the signs of revival are very much there. Sheldon Cottrell has developed his own fan following with the Salute though!

Shakib-al Hassan had a sensational tournament. And in my opinion should be the Player of the World Cup. Bangladesh certainly are no pushovers. It has taken them (a lot of) time but they have arrived on the big stage. And it is the inspiration for all other newcomers and Associates.

Afghanistan were the fan favorite. Everyone would have liked to see them win a game or two. However, no one wanted to see them beat their own team though. However, the Afghan fairytale has hit a rough patch. Player indiscipline, administrative problems and fan trouble. Hope these are sorted out soon.

Australia are becoming the imposing machine again, but the ruthlessness is yet to fully come back. Wouldn’t have expected Australians of Waugh-Ponting-Clarke era to lose the last game!

And finally, India. After the weirdo game against England, easily dispatched Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Rohit Sharma has got 5 centuries in this edition with potentially two more innings to go. And yet still generates lot of social media hate, especially from the so-called fans who still do not realize that the red-ball and white-ball are two different ballgames entirely! Well, can’t do much about it.

We bid farewell to Chris Gayle, Shoaib Malik, Imran Tahir, JP Duminy and Ian Gould– in different forms. However, Ian Gould is the only one who has actually done his last game. Others might still be seen in different T20 leagues or even internationals!

So India vs New Zealand & England vs Australia. Let the Endgame commence!

Monday, July 1, 2019

World Cup 2019: The Powerplay

We are approaching the business end of the World Cup. Some of the excitement created in the not so boring middle overs has fizzled out. The top teams have shown that they still mean business barring the odd hiccup on the way. The banana skins have been (mostly) avoided by the big guns. Sri Lanka and West Indies dropped out of contention from the semi-finals with results not going their way, while the hopes of Pakistan and Bangladesh hangs in balance. 

We had India taking on England, a mouth-watering top of the table clash with an added zing of an India win keeping alive the hopes of sub-continental arch-rivals Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka! Even the Pakistanis were rooting for us. Adding to the excitement was India’s first ever appearance in orange & navy blue (a truly weird color combination IMO). Alas it was not meant to be, and the last overs left a bitter taste. The Indian team approach was baffling to say the least. England were undoubtedly the better side on the day, but there was something wrong with the Indian team. 

The Pakistan-Afghanistan match showcased all the wrongs of the sport. The game itself was close but middling affair. But it was marred by political slogans flown over the ground, fist-fights between the two sets of supporters and shambolic fracas in the ground. Terrible day for cricket. 

Meanwhile, the Aussie juggernaut rolls on like a well-oiled machine. All the parts now seem to be in place and they are just razing over all opposition. Plus, they have the experience and legacy of multiple victorious campaigns with them. 

Unlike South Africa, who just have the legacy of multiple bad endings. Now, that they are out of running, they played their best cricket and derailed Sri Lanka’s campaign as well! 

New Zealand are suddenly not looking so good with back-to-back losses. Let’s see where they end up. Most likely losing semi-finalists as is their tradition!

Pakistan’s campaign seems to find a new analogous data point with their 1992 run daily. Let’s see how long the similarities run! 

The race for the Top4 reaches its final bend – Australia are through, New Zealand and India are nearly there, while England are marginally ahead of Pakistan and Bangladesh. Most importantly, Bangladesh and Pakistan face-off against each other in their last game. 

Joke of the week - the worst possible team combination – Kiwi openers, Indian middle order, West Indies spinners, Sri Lankan pace attack (minus Malinga), Pakistani fielding with South African choking talent. What a wonderful opponent that would be!

Monday, June 24, 2019

World Cup 2019: The “Not Boring" Middle Overs

Once upon a time, not too long ago, ODI cricket was stagnating. At least the ICC thought so. Especially the so called “boring” middle overs. So, ICC kept tinkering with the format for years. Extra powerplay, mandatory ball changes, powerplay at the time of choosing, two balls, field restrictions changes etc. They also came up with T20 which did away with these “boring” middle overs altogether!

So here we are in the middle of the league stage. And this one has certainly not been boring. The rain has stayed away (mostly), there have been close games (a bunch of them) and even an upset! Another game could have gone in a different direction altogether if the last shot had been hit a fraction of a second later or before or with just a little more power. And in the most shocking turn of events, the bails have started falling off, when earlier they had stubbornly stayed put!

Afghanistan & South Africa are the first two teams to be knocked out of the competition. It’s been a disappointing run for both. Being out of contention they can turn up and play spoilsport for the others in the race for the Top 4.

India nearly got a shock against Afghanistan. New Zealand were almost stunned by West Indies. Bangladesh made a hearty chase of Australia’s 383. And England find themselves with the task having to win against the Top 3 after being tripped up by Malinga and company. 

Meanwhile Pakistan are playing in a different World Cup altogether. It seems that there are two different Pakistani teams which turn up for the game. Depending on which side has turned up the results can be (a) hammering England/ South Africa, or (b) getting thumped by India/West Indies. They do not even need a personnel change. But we never know which version has turned up till the game ends.

Race for Top 4: Getting slightly heated up with England losing to Sri Lanka. Australia, New Zealand and India should make it through. While England have to face all three in their remaining games. Sri Lanka & Pakistan are still with a good chance while Bangladesh & West Indies must wait for permutations and combinations to come up in their favour. If only, Carlos Brathwaite had managed to hit that six, the table would have been even more interesting!

The “middle overs” have certainly not been a boring one!

Monday, June 17, 2019

World Cup 2019: Warming Up

The league phase of the World Cup is well and truly underway with a few marquee matches done and dusted. After the opening salvos, the teams are gradually getting into their grooves and a clearer picture of the likely Top 4 is emerging. It is still early days, but we have had many permutations & combinations thrown haywire not on account of any surprise results but with the rain pouring down! Here are the highlights.

Player of the tournament – On current form, it is the English weather which has played a major part in turning the points table topsy-turvy. West Indies & Bangladesh would certainly feel robbed of a point each against South Africa & Sri Lanka respectively. Sri Lanka meanwhile have clambered to 5th spot based on two rained-off encounters! Also rain put in a dampener at the end of the India-Pakistan clash but didn’t do enough as the teams were forced to take the field for five more overs!

7-Nil: India-Pakistan was the marquee match of the tournament, with some over-zealous reporters hyping it up further on account of recent tensions between the countries. But the gulf in class between the teams is just too wide as India extended their dominance over Pakistan in the World Cups! There is more hype than substance in the rivalry now as it was another emphatic win for India.

Something is rotten - After South Africa, it was now Afghanistan’s turn for some team chaos. Mohammed Shahzad was declared unfit and replaced. However, he claims otherwise and now wishes to quit the game altogether. The first signs of tensions in the Afghan fairytale!

The injured brigade – The list keeps going bigger and bigger with every passing game. Some players replaced (Steyn, Shahzad), others have their replacements in place but are not officially out yet (Dhawan, Stoinis).

The Complaints - Sri Lanka have been in a complaining mode, about accommodation, pitches, facilities etc. They have even missed a press conference and yet not one word against their own misfiring squad.

The Mirror Images - Bangladesh & West Indies have a similar story – Started with sensational wins, then close losses, abandoned games and suddenly both find themselves close to the exit. And they face off aginst each other today.

The Likely Top4 - On current form, India, England, Australia & New Zealand look set to make the Top 4. There still is some way to go though. Nobody expected it - but somehow Australia are sitting at the top of the points table - thanks to a combination of weird scheduling and rains!

We as fans need close matches. Otherwise it is going to be a long boring league stage. Get in more teams and break them into groups, have another knock-out round as well, that will add some fun! But when does ICC listen!

Hoping for some exciting games as we enter the middle stages with teams jostling for positions!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

World Cup 2019: Opening Salvos

Finally, everyone has got a game in the World Cup. Even India! Fans were worried for a while that Team India might not have been a part of tournament. But worry not we are still there! 

So what can we take away from the opening salvos of the tournament? 
  • India let everyone have a go before turning up and showing they are in the game. For the first time in history, have a more exciting bowling option than the batting ones. 
  • New Zealand have been resilient and winning. They are still very likable but also getting a tad boring. 
  • Pakistan have shown they are the unpredictable (how predictable is that statement). Blown away against the West Indies and then smashing almost 350 against England 
  • England have settled on the formula that they perfected over the last 4 years. Keep smashing the ball. Strong batting with a not so strong bowling. Can deliver most games but you can’t account for the maverick factor, that is Pakistan. 
  • Afghanistan have fighting spirit but it doesn’t seem to last for longer periods. 
  • Sri Lanka were smashed one day and got lucky the next to hang in there. 
  • Bangladesh are a much improved ODI side and with some luck could have been the first to 2 wins. 
  • West Indies have a fast bowling arsenal and capable batsman and a surprisingly united team. Can be the surprise element of the tournament. 
  • Australia clinically dispatched Afghanistan. The Warner-Smith reintegration seems to be working. 
  • South Africa is the one definitely in trouble, having lost all 3 games and ravaged by injuries. And have an off-field headache in form of news that AB de Villiers had made himself available for selection for the World Cup just a day before the final squad selection. An offer rejected by the team management (IMHO a very reasonable stand by the management. Also diluting AB’s stature in the game). 
Good to see the variety of pitches on offer for the tournament. The fears that the English pitches would produce bat-a-thons have been unfounded so far. But its still early days and a long way to go for everyone. 

Interestingly, saw Duckworth-Lewis return a lower target score for the first time in the Afghanistan- Sri Lanka game. It’s a different matter that Afghanistan couldn’t make most of this generosity. 

For the highlights reel 
  • Prince Harry declaring the Mens ODI World Cup open. Just a matter of an extra word there but with huge implications for the game. 
  • Ben Stokes catching Andile Phelukwayo 
  • 3 Sri Lankans diving over a well-defended ball as Afghanistan get a boundary. 
Interesting first week, just enough to whet the appetite but lots still to go.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

A Tale of Two Pictures

The Men’s ODI Cricket World Cup is almost here. We are just hours from start. To fill the time, lets look at the captain’s pictures. If pictures can talk, these two will give a true perspective of the extent of cricket and its different formats
Pic 1 – Captains lounging around
When the teacher is not around, the boys lounge around, one of them even has the audacity to sit with feet on the sofa. The picture of the cool relaxed T20 atmosphere.

Pic 2 – All in formals, meeting the Queen. The new Queensguard!
Looks like a formal class photo with everyone looking prim and proper. The very picture of the Gentleman’s Game i.e. Test cricket, embodying the “game’s spirit” as well.

Some random thoughts on the pictures.
  • Her Majesty, the Queen is the only one from England & Wales in the picture! 
  • All the World Cups have been held under Queen Elizabeth’s reign. In fact she was the Queen even before the limited overs game actually started. Fun fact, if the picture was taken at the start of her reign, Bangladesh did not exist as a country & Afghanistan wasn’t playing cricket at all. Talk about longevity!
  • Nice to see Sarfaraz Ahmed drop the tie and Faf du Plessis bring a scarf for the picture, bringing their own national identities to the fore. Would have liked to see all captains do the same. Probably next time around in India.
Photos done. Now lets play

The Indian World Cup Moments

The biggest cricketing show on the planet is about to start. The players and viewers have warmed up with two games each amongst them, sorting out their lineups, giving finishing touches to their strategies, using DRS, even getting a taste of the fickle English weather with games getting washed off. Only M/s Duckworth-Lewis didn't make an appearance.

While we wait for the actual tournament to start, its time for a nostalgia trip. So here we go presenting Slipstream Cricket’s favorite memories of the Indian World Cup campaigns starting from 1992 onwards (I have barely any recollection of 1983 & 1987 editions and wasn’t around for the first two). Instead of whole games, I have selected passages of play. So here we go Slipstream Cricket’s favorite Indian World Cup Moments (in no particular order).

1. The Toss (2011) – Kumara Sangakkara forgetting (or pretending to) what he called in the Toss in the 2011 Final!. Referee didn’t/couldn’t hear the call over the crowds and they had to do the toss again leaving a bemused Dhoni! (Somehow, seems very fishy in hindsight).

2. The Winning Moment (2011) – Dhoni smashing Kulasekara for 6 as India lifted the World Cup for a second time ending a 28-year wait. Will we see an encore? Hope so. 

3. The Response (1996) – Venkatesh Prasad to Aamer Sohail. Hit for a boundary, sledged by the batsman and then sends his stumps cart-wheeling the very next ball. The perfect response.

4. The Opening Salvo (2003) – Tendulkar upper-cutting Akhtar for 6 as India set to chase down Pakistan’s 274 run target.

5. The Tumbling Catch (1992) – Ajay Jadeja running in from the boundary to catch Allan Border
The Smash (2003) – Tendulkar smashing Caddick out of the ground.

6. The Banana (2003) – In the same game Ashish Nehra swung the ball like a banana to scythe through the English Line-up and then proceeeded to puke out one.

7. The Earthquake (2007) – Dwayne Leverock diving at 1st Slip to catch out Uthappa.

8. The Fight (1992) – Kiran More vs Javed Miandad. Whatever More’s sledge was, Miandad started jumping up and down in kangaroo land.

9. The Tango (1999) – at Taunton. Ganguly-Dravid scoring 300+ between themselves.

10. The Blazing end (1996) – Ajay Jadeja smashing Waqar Younis’s last 2 overs in Bangalore with a little help from Kumble and Srinath.

11. The Quote (2011) – Everyone except Sreesanth played well – by the one and only Virender Sehwag

12. The Promo Campaign (2015) – Mauka Mauka run by Star Sports as Pakistan still chase that elusive World Cup victory over India! Will they be 7th time lucky. Hope not! Funnily I couldn't recall off-hand anything else from the 2015 World Cup. 


And now that we are sufficiently warmed up, Let the Games begin!

Sunday, April 14, 2019

My World Cup XV

'Tis the year of the World Cup. The Brits are chanting, as is their wont, that its coming home. Well, unlike last year's FIFA World Cup, the ICC Cricket World Cup is going to be at Lord's, the "Home of Cricket". Its a different matter that it might not be staying there come July!

Meanwhile, the ten Boards have commenced the task of selecting their squads for the tournament. New Zealand have been first off the mark in this regard, while India are about to announce their XV on April 15, i.e. tomorrow. So in anticipation of the 3 wise men, Slipstream Cricket decided to announce its probable lineup.

As is always the case, most of the squad picks itself. Yet, there are some pieces which refuse to fit in the jigsaw. We have the vexed No. 4 debate, plus the back-up bowling attack composition and the extra wicket-keeping debate.

Certainties - Kohli, Rohit, Dhawan, Jadhav, Dhoni, Hardik, Bumrah, Shami, Bhuvneswar, Kuldeep, Chahal

Now for the debates
  • I pick Ishant for his experience and the fact that he is a much improved bowler than his current record. Otherwise we have Navdeep Saini (yet to make his international debut), Deepak Chahar (not too experienced), Siraj, Khaleel & Umesh (too wayward).
  • Ravindra Jadeja takes the second all-rounder and 3rd spinner slot ahead of Kruna Pandya.
  • Vijay Shankar has done enough at international level and in the IPL to retain the No. 4 slot and he bowls a few overs of seam as well.
  • KL Rahul gets the back-up batsman and the backup keeper slots ahead of Karthik & Pant. 

In case of injury, BCCI has enough financial muscle to even get Jet Airways up and running to fly-in any replacement even at a short notice. Or they can have the reserves move around as part of the support staff, like Dhawal Kulkarni was last time around!

So here are Slipstream Cricket's pick for the India's World Cup squad.
Batsmen - Kohli, Rohit, Dhawan, Jadhav, Rahul
Wicket-keepers - Dhoni
All-rounder - Hardik, Vijay Shankar, Jadeja
Seamers - Bumrah, Shami, Bhuvneswar, Ishant
Spinners - Kuldeep, Chahal

Lets see what the slection panel comes up with tomorrow!

Monday, March 18, 2019

Arbit Stats #69

Men's Test #2351: Afghanistan vs Ireland

Time Murtagh batting at No. 11 scores 54* & 27. Thus becoming the first ever No. 11 to score 25+ in both innings of a Test!

Source: NDTV Sports

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Syed Mustaq Ali Trophy 2019: Jharkhand Review

Overall, it was a decent campaign for Jharkhand topping the Group stages and then starting well in the Super League but faltering in the end. They certainly missed the services of their star players Ishan Kishan and Shahbaz Nadeem in the later stages of the tournament. 

Group Stage 
Game 1: Jharkhand 158/4 (20) beat Delhi 155/5 (20) by 3 runs 
Key Performers: Virat Singh 70*(49), Shahbaz Nadeem 2/26, Rahul Shukla 2/35 
T20 Debut: Anukul Roy 

Game 2: Jammu & Kashmir 168/9 (20) lost to Jharkhand 170/1 (16.4) by 9 wickets 
Key Performers: Rahul Shukla 5/36, Monu Kumar 2/31, Ishan Kishan 100* (55) 

Game 3: Jharkhand 219/1 (20) beat Manipur 98/9 (20) by 121 runs 
Key Performers: Ishan Kishan 113* (62), Virat Singh 73*(46), Utkarsh Singh 3/7, Rahul Shukla 3/14, Anukul Roy 2/17 
T20 Debut: Utkarsh Singh 

Game 4: Jharkhand 219/1 (20) beat Manipur 98/9 (20) by 121 runs 
Key Performers: Ishan Kishan 113* (62), Virat Singh 73*(46), Utkarsh Singh 3/7, Rahul Shukla 3/14, Anukul Roy 2/17 
T20 Debut: Utkarsh Singh

Game 4: Jharkhand 197/3 (20) beat Nagaland 143/3 (20) by 55 runs 
Key Performers: Ishan Kishan 52 (39), Kumar Deobrat 69* (32), Anukul Roy 47* (23) 

Game 5: Andhra 179/10 (19.5) beat Jharkhand 176/10 (19.5) by 3 runs 
Key Performers: Shahbaz Nadeem 3/26, Varun Aaron 3/49, Rahul Shukla 2/33, Saurabh Tiwary 54 (32) 

Game 6: Kerala 176/6 (20) lost to Jharkhand 180/5 (19.1) by 5 wickets 
Key Performers: Rahul Shukla 2/40, Vikash Singh 2/34, Saurabh Tiwary 50* (24), Anand Singh 72 (47) 

Jharkhand qualified for Super League topping Group A. 

Super League 
Game 1: Jharkhand 148/7 (18) beat Gujarat 147/8 (18) by 1 run 
Key Performers: Anand Singh 45 (36) & 2/26, Ishan Kishan 39 (19), Utkarsh Singh 2/22, Vikash Singh 2/25, Anukul Roy 2/25 
T20 Debut: Supriyo Chakroborty 

Game 2: Railways 135/8 (20) lost to Jharkhand 136/5 (19) by 5 wickets 
Key Performers: Rahul Shukla 2/19, Anand Singh 53 (39), Virat Singh 50* (40) 

Game 3: Jharkhand 126/9 (20) lost to Bengal 127/2 (13) by 8 wickets 
Key Performers: Varun Aaron 2/24 

Game 4: Maharashtra 153/4 (20) beat Jharkhand 139/8 (20) by 14 runs 
Key Performers: Varun Aaron 2/22 

Jharkhand finished 3rd in the Super League rounds and were eliminated. 

Season Stats 
Top Scorer: 
  1. Virat Singh 339 @56.5 
  2. Ishan Kishan 333 @55.5 
  3. Anand Singh 316 @31.6 
Highest Score – Ishan Kishan 113* vs Manipur 
Most Wickets 
  1. Rahul Shukla 16 @17.63 
  2. Varun Aaron 9 @ 15.89 
  3. Utkarsh Singh 7 @ 13 
Best Figures – Rahul Shukla 5/36 vs Jammu & Kashmir 
Player Count: 17 
Debutantes: 3 
Captain Count: 2 (Ishan Kishan, Anand Singh) 

Thus, we come to an end of Jharkhand’s 2018-19 season. The team has been performing consistently well, but just coming short. Hopefully, the elusive final appearance and trophy drought would end next season! 

Till next year!

Monday, March 4, 2019

2018-19: Syed Mustaq Ali Trophy: Bihar Review

Bihar’s T20 debut as a team. Unlike the Ranji & Vijay Hazare Trophies, there was no separate Plate Group for the newcomers. And the inexperience showed in the results and numbers. Overall, a disappointing performance. Finished 6th in the Group, after scraping through with a win against Meghalaya. Hopefully it will have been a good learning experience! 

Game 1: Bihar 103/8 (20) lost to Vidarbha 104/3 (14.2) by 7 wickets 
Key Performers: Vivek Kumar 2/27 
T20 Debut: Mangal Mahrour, Vijay Bharti, Babul Kumar, MD Rahmatullah, Asfan Khan, Ashutosh Aman, Vivek Kumar, Prashant Singh, Vishal Das 

Game 2: Bihar 131/9 (20) lost to Tamil Nadu 132/4 (18.5) by 6 wickets 
Key Performers: Ashutosh Aman 2/19 
T20 Debut: Piyush Singh 

Game 3: Bihar 78/10 (18.5) lost to Himachal Pradesh 81/1 (10.3) by 9 wickets 

Game 4: Gujarat 199/4 (20) beat Bihar 116/7 (20) by 83 runs 
Key Performers: Keshav Kumar 61* (62), Vishal Das 2/40 

Game 5: Meghalaya 124/8 (20) lost to Bihar 126/9 (19.5) by 1 wicket 
Key Performers: Ashutosh Aman 4/15, Prashant Singh 2/16, Keshav Kumar 43 (40) 
T20 Debut: Puneet Malik 

Game 6: Rajasthan 129/8 (20) beat Bihar 110/8 (20) by 19 runs 
Key Performers: Prashant Singh 3/23, Vivek Kumar 2/29 

Season Stats 
Top Scorer: 
  1. Keshav Kumar – 145 @ 36.25 
  2. Asfan Khan – 70 @ 11.67 
  3. Mangal Mahrour – 58 @ 9.67 
Highest Score – Keshav Kumar 61* vs Gujarat 
Most Wickets 
  1. Ashutosh Aman – 7 @ 18.43 (Who else!!!)
  2. Prashant Singh – 6 @ 21.17 
  3. Vishal Das – 5 @ 24.80 
Best Figures – Ashutosh Aman 2/19 vs Tamil Nadu 
Player Count: 13 
Debutantes: 11 
Captain Count: 1 (Ashutosh Aman) 

Overall, a big learning experience on being the first time out of the comfort zone of the Plate League. No big standout performance as such. 

Till next season for Bihar!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

2018-19 Ranji Trophy: Bihar Review

On their return to first-class cricket, Bihar had a decent outing finishing 2nd in the group. However, their fate was effectively sealed in the first game itself against Uttarakhand, or to be more precise when they were shot out for 60 in the very first innings. There were more early jitters as the game against Puducherry was washed out, leaving them with a mountain to climb. This proved to be too big an ask for Bihar as they finished 4 points of adrift of Group winners Uttarakhand and missed a knock-out berth. 

Ashutosh Aman was the stand-out performer with 68 wickets at an average of 6.49. He broke Bishan Singh Bedi’s record for most wickets in a single Ranji season. Picked up nine 5-wicket hauls and five 10-wicket match hauls in just 8 games, including one wash-out. And also scored a century to finish the season with a batting average of 48+. Rewarded with captaincy by the time the season ended. 

Samar Quadri had a good season after shifting to Bihar from Jharkhand ably supporting Ashutosh Aman with 35 wickets. 

Bihar lost captain Pragyan Ojha due to injury quite early in the season and had Babul Kumar and Ashutosh Aman leading the side as the season progressed. 

Round 1: Bihar (60 & 169) lost to Uttarakhand (227 & 4/0) by 10 wickets: Bihar 0 Points. Effectively the game which decided the group topper. 
First Class Debut: Vikash Ranjan, Kumar Rajnish, Vivek Mohan, MD Rahmatullah, Ashutosh Aman, Anunay Singh, Himanshu Hari 

Round 2: Bihar had a break 

Round 3: Bihar vs Puducherry: Abandoned after toss: Bihar 1 Point 
First Class Debut: Harsh Singh, Indrajit Kumar, Vishal Das, Vivek Kumar 

Round 4: Bihar (288 & 296/7d) beat Sikkim (81 & 108) by 395 runs: Bihar 6 Points. 
First Class Debut: Utkarsh Bhaskar 
Player of the Match: Ashutosh Aman 
Highlights: Ashutosh Aman (89 in 1st, 5/19 & 5/22), Samar Quadri (5/32 in 2nd) 

Round 5: Arunachal Pradesh (84 & 135) lost to Bihar (536/5d) by an innings & 317 runs: Bihar 7 Points. 
First Class Debut: Rehan Khan 
Player of the Match: Indrajit Kumar 
Highlights: Indrajit Kumar (222), Ashutosh Aman (4/26 & 7/14) 

Round 6: Meghalaya (125 & 46) lost to Bihar (242) by an innings & 71 runs: Bihar 7 Points. 
Player of the Match: Ashutosh Aman 
Highlights: Ashutosh Aman (8/51 & 6/17) 

Round 7: Bihar (150 & 2504/8d) beat Nagaland (209 & 173) by 273 runs: Bihar 6 Points. 
First Class Debut: Mangal Mahrour 
Player of the Match: Ashutosh Aman 
Highlights: Ashutosh Aman (7/47 & 5/49), Mangal Mahrour (177 in 2nd), Rahmatullah (107 in 2nd) 

Round 8: Bihar (440/97d) beat Mizoram (77 & 147) by innings & 216 runs: Bihar 7 Points. 
First Class Debut: Anshuman Gautam, Abhijeet Saket 
Player of the Match: Ashutosh Aman 
Highlights: Ashutosh Aman (111, 1/20 & 5/28), Vivek Kumar (102) Samar Quadri (6/19 & 4/50) 

Round 9: Manipur (156 & 238) lost to Bihar (257 & 140/7) by 3 wickets: Bihar 6 Points. 
First Class Debut: Aditya Kumar, Kundan Gupta 
Player of the Match: Indrajit Kumar 
Highlights: Ashutosh Aman (4/39 & 7/71), Samar Quadri (5/49 & 3/93) 

Season Stats 
Top Scorers: 
  1. MD Rahmatullah – 375 @34.09
  2.  Ashutosh Aman – 337 @48.14 
  3. Indrajit Kumar– 307 @43.86 
Highest Score – Indrajit Kumar 222 vs Arunachal Pradesh

Most Wickets 
  1. Ashutosh Aman – 68 @6.49 
  2. Samar Quadri– 35@15.54
  3. Vivek Kumar– 15@26.20 
Best Bowling – Ashutosh Aman – 8/51 vs Meghalaya 

Player Count: 23
Debutantes: 18
Captain Count: 3 , Pragyan Ojha, Babul Kumar, Ashutosh Aman

Coming Up Next: Syed Mustaq Ali Trophy

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

2018-19 Ranji Trophy: Jharkhand Review

It was a season where Jharkhand can look back and feel they were hard done by Tripura. Firstly, Tripura batted out 1 session and then frustrated Jharkhand by bowling only 22 overs in two and a half hours of play. Resulted in 3 points instead of 6 for Jharkhand who finished 3rd in the group just a single point behind 2nd placed Uttar Pradesh and miss out on a knock-out berth.

Jharkhand should look back with pride at their performance in this season. In 9 games they got 5 outright wins including one with bonus point, 3 with first-innings lead and one loss to Rajasthan. And all this was achieved with two of their first-choice players missing out on many games. Ishan Kishan on India A duty, while Shahbaz Nadeem got a maiden India call-up (although he did not get a game). 
  • Varun Aaron continued his rise back in the ranks. Looking back that IPL snub seems to have done him a world of good, with that county stint and Deodhar Trophy selection, he continued his return to form with 2 fifers and now has been rewarded with an IPL recall. 
  • Saurabh Tiwary got 2 centuries but not much else as he produced another 500 run season. But both 100s won the games for his team. 
  • Anukul Roy was the stand-out performer with his all-round shows. The debutante finished with 30 wickets and 374 runs performing a few lower-order rescues. One to watch out for the future. 
  • For Kumar Deobrat, this was a sort of coming of age season, as he lead the batting charts and got his maiden first-class century!
Round 1: Jharkhand (344 & 230/4d) drew with Assam (298 & 139/2); Jharkhand 3 Points 
First Class Debut: Anukul Roy 
Player of the Match: Ashish Kumar 
Highlights: Ishan Kishan (120 in 2nd), Ashish Kumar (5/32 in 1st) 

Round 2: Haryana (81 & 72) lost to Jharkhand (143 & 12/1) by 9 wickets; Jharkhand 6 Points, missed opportunity for bonus point. 
Player of the Match: Ajay Yadav 
Highlights: Varun Aaron (6/32 in 2nd) 

Round 3: Rajasthan (100 & 379) beat Jharkhand (152 & 235) by 92 runs: Jharkhand 0 Points 
First Class Debut: Alok Sharma 
Highlights: Varun Aaron (5/22 in 1st) 

Round 4: Goa (364 & 131) lost to Jharkhand (390 & 108/3) by 7 wickets; Jharkhand 6 Points 
First Class Debut: Rahul Prasad 
Player of the Match: Anukul Roy 
Highlights: Anukul Roy (127 in 1st), Rahul Prasad (6/45 in 2nd) 

Round 5: Jharkhand (172 & 288) beat Odisha (201 & 257) by 2 runs; Jharkhand 6 Points 
Highlights: Saurabh Tiwary (132* in 2nd) 

Round 6: Jharkhand (354 & 213/5d) drew with Uttar Pradesh (243 & 174/1); Jharkhand 3 Points 
Player of the Match: Rahul Shukla 
Highlights: Shahbaz Nadeem (109 in 1st), Rahul Shukla (5/65 in 1st) 

Round 7: Jharkhand (193 & 343) beat Services (267 & 188) by 81 runs; Jharkhand 6 Points 
Player of the Match: Utkarsh Singh 
Highlights: Utkarsh Singh (114 in 2nd), Shahbaz Nadeem (7/62 in 2nd) 

Round 8: Tripura (253 & 308) drew with Jharkhand (409 & 144/7); Jharkhand 3 Points. Jharkhand just fell short by 9 runs while Tripura bowled only 22 overs in two and a half hours of play in the final session! 
Player of the Match: Kumar Deobrat 

Highlights: Kumar Deobrat (140 in 1st), Nazim Siddiqui (134 in 1st) 
Round 9: Jammu & Kashmir (151 & 120) lost to Jharkhand (319/9d) by an innings & 48 runs; Jharkhand 7 Points 
Player of the Match: Saurabh Tiwary 
Highlights: Ajay Yadav (5/16 in 1st), Saurabh Tiwary (134 in 1st) 

Season Stats 
Top Scorers: 
  1. Kumar Deobrat – 631 @57.36 
  2. Saurabh Tiwary – 536 @41.23 
  3. Ishank Jaggi – 506 @33.73 
Highest Score – Kumar Deobrat 140 vs Tripura 

Most Wickets 
  1. Anukul Roy – 30 @22.70 
  2. Varun Aaron – 25 @23.68 
  3. Rahul Shukla – 23 @21.35 
Best Bowling – Shahbaz Nadeem – 7/62 vs Services 

Player Count: 17 
Debutantes: 3 
Captain Count: 2, Ishan Kishan & Nazim Siddiqui (when Ishan was on India A duty) 

Coming Up Next: Syed Mustaq Ali Trophy

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The Final Frontier

7th January, 2019: Sydney –a rained out day and not a ball bowled. Yet, it would go down as a red letter day in the annals of Indian cricket. India had finally conquered Australia, the first ever Asian team to do so. It has taken 71 years of toil but we finally did it. 

Yes, this was the weakest Australian team that I can recall. But it still had a world-class bowling attack which needed a special blunting down by Pujara. And for their batting lineup, missing Warner & Smith, while not a single one of them would walk in to any of the other Test teams, they were a collective pest, scoring 20s & 30s, stitching together little partnerships down to the No. 11. Yet, we did beat them in their own backyard. Something none of the Indian (or Pakstani or Sri Lankan or Bangladeshi) teams had ever done. 

Our fast bowlers outgunned their counterparts, our batsmen were better at survival and blunting attacks and our wicket-keeper gave it back as good as he got on the sledging front. A 2-1 victory doesn’t really reflect the gulf between the two teams, thanks to the washed out last day in Sydney. 

While I do not believe in Ravi Shastri’s hyperbole about this being bigger than 1983 or 201, it certainly is special. After all every India fan carries mental scars of multiple maulings received in Australia over the years. Personally, I recall horror details from the many tours of Australia. 
  • 1991-92 – when we were thrashed 4-Nil with a Ravi Shastri double century, which included walloping of the debutante Shane Warne, in Sydney nearly winning us the game. Then there was Sachin Tendulkar’s coming of the age kind 100 at Perth. But we were smashed in every other game. 
  • 1999-2000 – A 3-nil thrashing, which was the actual prediction of the Mr. Niranjan Shah, the then BCCI secretary. The highlight of the series was a VVS Laxman 167. It didn’t affect the result in one bit but it was the first sign of the torment that VVS would unleash on the Aussies. This became part of the 16-game winning streak for Australia, which ended in Eden Gardens at the bats of Laxman and Dravid. The tide had started to turn. 
  • 2003-04 - we won in Adelaide, squandered a start in Melbourne and just could not close it out in Sydney. A 1-1 draw was certainly not a fair reflection of the series. But we had tasted a Test victory in Australia and it only served to whet the appetite further. Now we wanted a series victory. 
  • 2007-08 – Lost 2-1 after not being able to hold on for a few more minutes in the bad tempered, “monkeygate” scandalized Sydney Test, but outgunned Australia in Perth. The series may have been lost, but we took solace in Captain Kumble’s famous declaration – “Only one team was playing cricket” and we could keep replaying videos of Ishant Sharma making Ponting hop around. 
  • 2011-12 – 4-nil smashing as this proved to be one tour too many for the golden generation of Indian batting. Dravid & Laxman retired and we wondered if we could ever win another Test in the country, let alone a series. There was a little matter of a certain Virat Kohli getting a maiden Test hundred. 
  • 2014-15 – A 2-nil loss with two draws. Another era ended for Indian Team as Dhoni retired from Tests and Kohli took over and hammered centuries at will. There was a different approach which shunned safety first for a crack at chasing a 4th innings target of 360 odd on the final day. We still lost. (nothing new about that) 
With this perspective, a series victory in Australia is special. How many days we have woken up on cold wintry mornings to check the score, only to see a position of relative strength at stumps on the previous day having been brutally taken away. A collapse triggered at the hands of a McDermott, Reid, McGrath, Lee, Gillespie, Johnson, Starc or a quickfire knock from the likes of Boon, Slater, Ponting, Hayden, Clarke, Gilchrist or being blocked out of the game by a Geoff Marsh, Steve Waugh, Mark Taylor, Healy. Many times our tail was simple blasted out while their tail wagged all day (this still happens!) and sometimes we ran into the likes of Steve Bucknor! And having to listen to the gloating & condescending Aussie commentary as well. 

Life certainly hasn't been easy Down Under. And that’s why this win is such a momentous one. 

Australia isn’t really the Final Frontier. South Africa awaits (I know, we have two more frontiers popping up – Ireland and Afghanistan). But winning a Test series in Australia certainly does feel like having conquered the Final Frontier!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

The Twenty18 Lineup

The calendar changes to 2019 and we have Jimmy Neesham & Cheteshwar Pujara starting the cricketing year in contrasting yet effective styles. Before the year runs away any further, time to look back and present the 2018’s Slipstream XI – a collection of interesting & not-so-interesting events to remember the cricketing year 2018 by. 

0. Let’s begin at the beginning. 
All these years we were sending a coin up in the air for the all-important task of finding who bats first. But the smart fellows at the Big bash League decided that sending a coin up in the air doesn’t seem exciting, so let’s throw a specially designed bat! Which lead to an amusing incident where the bat landed on its side!!! 

1. Debutante(s) of the Year 
Ireland & Afghanistan became the 11th & 12th Test playing nations respectively. While Ireland ran Pakistan close, Afghanistan were overwhelmed by India. Meanwhile Nepal made their ODI debut with a narrow win against Netherlands. It was reported in Nepalese newspaper as “Nepal hammer Netherlands by one run”. 2019 is going to be a bumper debut season as all Associates get international status for T20s.

2. Sandpaper Gate 
Cameron Bancroft was caught with his hand in his pants as he tried to hide away the bit of sandpaper used to rough up the ball. Ball tampering is a taboo and usually leads to a temporary suspension of the guilty party. But this one snowballed into a major crisis for Australian cricket leading to extended bans for Bancroft, Captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner and departures for Coach Lehmann and CA chief Sutherland. Heads continued to roll and Australian cricketing culture itself was called into question, while the rest of the cricketing world watched in glee!

3. Cricketing Jargon of the Year 
The culture review of Australian cricket brought in a new terminology - Elite Honesty. Now you could not just play hard and fair, but you also had to show “Elite Honesty” at all times (:O). However, giving it close competition was SENA (short for South Africa, England, New Zealand, Australia). Cricketers, especially from the sub-continent, now had their career numbers judged with their performance in SENA regions. Only a favorable comparison here would ensure a place in the pantheon of greats! 

4. Technological improvement of the Year - Stump Mics 
Stump microphones were turned up mainly to catch the faintest of the snicks on the snickometer, but it became a more useful tool for catching the discusssions/ banter/ sledging going on in the field. Special mention here of Tim Paine and Rishabh Pant’s talks (!). So amusing that often the actual commentators just kept quiet while these two were standing up to the stumps. 

5. Run-Out of the Year 
Azhar Ali added a new chapter in the glorious tradition of Pakistan cricket’s comical run-outs. The batsman hit the ball towards the boundary and then proceeded for a mid-pitch chat oblivious to the facts that (a) the ball never crossed the boundary, (b) the fielder had jogged down to retrieve the ball, (c) the keeper had rushed up to collect the throw and break the stumps & (d) the umpire had not made any signal. 

6. Retiring on a high 
A century in your last innings to go with a century on debut, and ending the year with a knighthood. What a way to go, Sir Alastair Cook! 

7. Battle of the Year 
The war against corruption continues as does the infighting for controlling the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI in short). Last year with the ODI World Cup, Women’s cricket had finally become cricket. This year it added its public controversy with the spat between Mithali Raj and coach Ramesh Powar, leading to the latter’s dismissal. Well, being in the limelight is great but should be for the right reasons! 

8. Finally getting its due 
The Ranji Trophy – India’s premier domestic first-class competition. There was a major expansion with NINE new teams added. India’s domestic competition now has 37 first-class teams. Well we also have 1.3 Billion people, so no big deal. But it was commentator Kerry O’Keefe’s on air jibe about its quality which lead to everyone singing paens in praise of the Ranji Trophy and how important a role it plays in establishing India’s dominance in world cricket! 

9. Scaling New Heights - Indian Pace Attack 
During the India-Australia series, an interesting graphic came up. India’s pace troika of Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Shami had collectively taken more wickets in an year than any other pace bowling trio. They broke the 34 year old record of Marshall, Holding & Garner. An Indian fast bowling trio being spoken in the same breath as these legends while outgunning home attacks. With Bhuvaneswar Kumar and Umesh Yadav as back-up, never before had we had so many fast bowling riches. 

10. The Sleeper Hit of the Year 
A tri-nation T20 series involving India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – who would be interested, especially after India rested most of the big guns. But the Nidahas Trophy proved to be an action packed entertainer. Bangladesh irritating the Sri Lankan home fans to such an extent with their Naagin Dance celebrations that they switched support to India! And then there was Dinesh Karthik belting the last ball for a six to win the final for India. 

11. The Sponsors! 
Was flipping through the sports channels, Star Network was showing the Burger King Super Smash while Sony had the KFC Big Bash on air! Junk food companies sponsoring elite sports events. Nothing new given that McDonalds sponsors the Olympics. And cricket has always been the less athletic of sports, which prioritizes Lunch, Tea and Drinks breaks even over the actual action at time. Case in point – lunch taken during an India-South Africa ODI when India needed 2 runs off 31 overs! 

12th Man – Free riding of the year 
Adil Rashid did not bat, did not bowl, did not take a catch and ended up on the winning side of a Test match. 

That was cricketing year 2018, lets see what 2019 has in store for us with a World Cup looming and new international teams coming up all over the globe. 

Wishing all cricket tragics a Happy New Year!