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!