Monday, June 22, 2020

281 And Beyond

281 And Beyond by VVS Laxman & R. Kaushik

The book narrates VVS Laxman’s cricketing journey, in his own words, from his early days in Hyderabad to becoming one of India’s all-time great batsmen. However, it was not all smooth sailing and the journey is full of ups and downs.

The book gives us a glimpse into the goings on within the Indian dressing room as well as the struggles of cricketers in India. This is also a story of the change that has been brought from the semi-professional 1990s to now, how various aspects of the game have evolved – from fitness, money, communication aspects etc.

The book is a joy to read for the Indian fan, especially someone like yours truly. Flipping through the pages, you relive your cricket-following career. Every tour is discussed. The book goes chronologically from the haphazard mid-90s, match-fixing saga, John Wright’s arrival, new lows under Greg Chappell and the troubles he caused, the away victories, the Monkeygate series, the heights under Kirsten all unfold as a highlights reel. Have to say this, the Indian team was quite inconsistent throughout the era. Only now do we have a relatively consistent winning record!

I liked how VVS doesn’t mince words about his relationships within the team and how he reacted to different situations. Also, he has been quite honest about the disappointments of never getting a fixed spot, being dropped from Tests on and off and never really getting a chance in the white ball format. He also touches upon the mental issues of the game as well. The book particularly highlights the lack of communication in the setup where individual players are often left to fend for themselves.

I loved the bit where he talks about getting admitted to an MBBS course post-retirement and becoming a doctor. Imagine being motivated to study for 5 years after having lived a superstar life! However, he was talked out of this dream by his family and had to concentrate on cricket related activities only!

The book is titled aptly. Begins with THAT innings and then goes about telling the rest of the story!

In summary, a good read for the India cricket fan!

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

The Fire Burns Blue

The Fire Burns Blue: A History of Women’s Cricket in India by Karunya Keshav & Sidhanta Patnaik

The Fire Burns Blue – presents the story of the journey of Indian Women’s cricket in India from its difficult initial days in the 1970s to the highs of 2017 and its aftermath. When women’s cricket became cricket in India!

‘She pervades poetry from cover to cover; she is all but absent from history’ – a line which is apt for the average Indian cricket fan for whom women’s cricket barely registered even less than Cooch Behar trophy at times. And why blame fans, the game barely registered even with cricket statisticians. Just check cricinfo, which has a massive stats section. While random Men’s games dating back to mid-19th century have first-class status and are well documented in records, the women stats cover only internationals! So somebody like Ashleigh Barty has a profile on cricinfo but no stats to tell us about her on-field achievements!

Well I digress. Coming back to the book which is a treasure trove for the fans. The book begins with Haarmanpreet Kaur’s 171 in the 2017 World Cup Semi-Finals which finally captured the imagination of the cricket lovers in India for good. And then commences the journey from the very beginning.

The game had humble beginnings with small clubs in Bombay and other places sprouting in the 70s. This was followed by the founding of the Women’s Cricket Association of India and the first national championships. The book goes on to tell the stories of the first international touring teams and the first official matches. How Railways played a big part by first becoming the employer of choice of women cricketers and using that player base to maintain its hegemony on the Indian domestic circuit. And there were the long arduous train journeys and its accompanying travails. 

The journey is also a series of missed opportunities. There were times when the game could have taken off in India but for a variety of reasons did not. In fact there have been major controversies immediately after a high! Sometimes due to administrative apathy, sometimes cash crunch, sometimes infighting and player revolt, some personnel changes, and sometimes just not getting the results on field. India even missed playing a World Cup also. But always the game found a new benefactor somewhere!

The book does a good job in narrating the stories of individual cricketers while merging them with the specific issues facing women’s cricket and even women's sport in general.

A couple of passages from the book which stand out and also gives us a peek at how the journey has evolved.
"The Indian women’s team—skilfull, stylish, solid, shy, eager, kind, hungry, hard-working, driven, very good on so many days and frustrating on others—is yet to sort through everything it is and really define what kind of cricket it wants to play on the global stage."

And the second one on the leading lights of the game
"Shantha’s stature, Diana’s grit, Shubhangi’s steadiness, Sandhya’s skill, Purnima’s cheek, Neetu’s genius, Anjum’s fire, Mithali’s class, Rumeli’s promise, Jhulan’s warmth, Harman’s spark—these are the pillars of Indian women’s cricket that have held up the edifice so far. Now, as the journey gets ready to take another turn, add to it Smriti’s fearlessness."

Fun Facts
  1. Shireen Kiash represented India in cricket, hockey and basketball - a triple international!
  2. The choice of attire was something the Women’s Cricket Association in England spent considerable time on, specifying that the skirts ‘should be no shorter than four inches from the ground when kneeling’.
  3. India win their first Test against the West Indies in Patna in 1976 (a game which is often narrated to me by my father who was actually present aat the stadium)
Interestingly, I began this book around the time of the 2020 World T20 tournament where the Indian team reached another peak in its journey. While cornovirus may have stopped play, hopefully we will see the team go onward and upward.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Cricketing Nicknames

In the times of Coronavirus stopped play, all cricket buffs can do is reminisce about the past or make your own versions of dream teams or play fun activities like following on the different social media channels! 

Got this one on one of the WhatsApp groups.

Identify cricketers by nicknames / tags: (Answers also added)

1. Lil master - Hanif Mohammed/ Sunil Gavaskar/ Sachin Tendulkar
2. Prince of Trinidad - Brian Lara
3. Mr 360 - AB de Villiers
4. Mr Cricket - Mike Hussey
5. Don - Sir Donald Bradman
6. The Wall - Rahul Dravid
7. Captain cool - MS Dhoni
8. The Postman - Gavin Larsen
9. Universal Boss - Chris Gayle
10. King of reverse swing - Wasim Akram/ Waqar Younis
11. Pup - Michael Clarke
12. Punter - Ricky Ponting
13. Rawalpindi express - Shoaib Akhtar
14. God of offside - Sourav Ganguly
15. The Madmax - Aravinda de Silva
16. Jumbo - Anil Kumble
17. Pigeon - Glenn McGrath
18. Haryana Hurricane - Kapil Dev
19. Zulu - Lance Klusener
20. Master Blaster - Viv Richards/ Sachin Tendulkar

While others were straightforward #1, 10 & 20 had more than one claimant to the moniker. So have added multiple options to each of them!

#8 is my favourite. The Postman because he always delivered. From the lovely era of 90s New Zealand "attack" - Dibbly, Dobbly, Wibbly, Wobbly!

Let's hope play resumes soon. After all resumption of sporting action will be a sign that the world is healthy again.

Meanwhile everyone take care, stay home and stay safe!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Ranji Trophy 2019-20: Jharkhand Review

Jharkhand finished 6th in the Group in a season which started with a bang and then got derailed. There was the stunning come from behind opening game against Tripura where Jharkhand became the first team in the history of Ranji Trophy to win the game after following on. However, as the season progressed, the Saurabh Tiwary lead side saw more downs than ups and eventually ended 6th in the group.

Highs & Lows
  • The opening encounter against Tripura, which got its own separate post
  • Kumar Suraj’s good start to his first-class career. 
  • Missing senior players like Nadeem, Ishan & Aaron on account of India A duties and injuries.
And I ran into the team at Hyderabad airport!

Season Summary Game by Game
Game 1: Tripura (289 & 211) lost to Jharkhand (136 & 418/8d (f/o)) by 54 runs 
Points: Jharkhand 6, Tripura 0
  • First-Class Debut: Arnav Sinha, Vivekanand Tiwari
  • First-Class Century #18 for Saurabh Tiwary 
  • First-Class Century #19 for Ishank Jaggi 
  • 1000 First-Class runs for Virat Singh & Nazim Siddiqui 
  • Ashish Kumar – 2nd 5-wicket haul, Career - Best Innings & match figures
Game 2: Assam (162 & 186) lost to Jharkhand (415/9d) by innings & 67 runs 
Points: Jharkhand 7, Assam 0 
  • First-Class Debut: Pankaj Kumar, the wicket-keeper 
  • First-Class Century #3 for Nazim Siddiqui & Career-best 173
Game 3: Haryana (371) drew with Jharkhand (408/5) 
Points: Jharkhand 3, Haryana 1 
  • First-Class Century #2 for Kumar Deobrat & Career-best 161 
  • First-Class Century #19 for Saurabh Tiwary
Game 4: Jharkhand (259 & 155) lost to Jammu & Kashmir (441) by an innings & 27 runs 
Points: Jharkhand 0, Jammu & Kashmir 7 

Game 5: Maharashtra (434 & 48/2) beat Jharkhand (170 & 311 (f/o)) by 8 wickets 
Points: Jharkhand 0, Maharashtra 6 
  • First-Class Debut – Kumar Suraj 
  • 5-Wicket Haul #1 – Utkarsh Singh
Game 6: Uttarakhand (227 & 273) lost to Jharkhand (298 & 203/4) by 6 wickets 
Points: Jharkhand 6, Uttarakhand 0 
  • 2000 First-Class Runs for Kumar Deobrat 
  • 50 Catches for Sumit Kumar 
  • 100 First-Class Wickets, 3rd 5-wicket haul & best match-figures for Ashish Kumar 
  • 5-wicket haul #6 for Ajay Yadav 
Game 7: Services (279 & 259/8d) beat Jharkhand (153 & 267) by 118 runs 
Points: Jharkhand 0, Services 6 
  • First-Class Debut for Sahil Raj 
  • First-Class Century #1 for Kumar Suraj 
  • 100 First-Class wickets for Rahul Shukla, 5th 5-wicket haul & best innings performance 
Game 8: Chhattisgarh (559) drew with Jharkhand (242 & 51/0) 
Points: Chhattisgarh 3, Jharkhand 1 
  • First-Class Century #3 for Virat Singh & highest score 
Game 9: Odisha (436 & 187/1) drew with Jharkhand (356) 
Points: Odisha 3, Jharkhand 1 
  • 100th First-Class Match for Saurabh Tiwary 
  • First-Class Century #2 for Kumar Suraj 
  • 5-wicket Haul #4 for Ashish Kumar 
Season Stats 
Most Runs:
  1. Saurabh Tiwary – 641 @58.27, 2x100s & 3x50s
  2. Kumar Deobrat – 515 @39.62, 1x100s & 2x50s
  3. Kumar Suraj – 457 @57.13, 2x100 & 2x50s
Highest Score – Nazim Siddiqui – 173 vs Assam
Most Wickets
  1. Ashish Kumar – 37 @221.78, 3x5s 
  2. Rahul Shukla – 19 @34.42, 1x5s
  3. Utkarsh Singh – 16 @40.44, 1x5s
Best Bowling – Rahul Shukla – 7/106 vs Services
Player Count: 21
First-Class Debuts: 5

Till next season! However there is the small matter of IPL in between, where the likes of Tiwary, Virat Singh, Ishan, Nadeem, Aaron and Monu would look to put in performances worth of the highlights reel. And maybe consolidate an A Spot.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

2019-20 Ranji Season: Bihar Review

After a good run in their comeback/debut season, Bihar entered 2019-20 season riding on a 6-match winning streak with a shot at Mumbai’s overall record of 8 wins in row. Although those were dashed in the very first game itself. Overall, this was an inconsistent season for the Ashutosh Aman lead side and Bihar finished 5th in the Plate league. The Plate League has also got more competitive this year unlike last season when it was a straight contest between Bihar & Uttarakhand for the top slot!

Highs & Lows
  • Ashutosh Aman had another great season picking 49 wickets and also getting 3 50s.
  • Babul Kumar, Rahmatullah and Vikash Ranjan have formed the core of the batting with each of them scoring over 500 runs in the season.
  • The initial form of Yashasvi Rishav looks good. 
  • Abhijeet Saket picking up consecutive 7-wicket hauls.
  • Meanwhile nepotism rocks – Otherwise how does Lakhan Raja keep playing after getting ducks in his first three innings. 
Here is the Match-by-match season summary:

Game 1: Bihar (173 & 196) lost to Puducherry (300 & 70/0) by 10 wickets
Points: Bihar 0, Puducherry 7
  • First-Class Debut: Nishant Kumar, Sabir Khan
  • 2nd 5-wicket haul for Vivek Kumar
Game 2: Chandigarh (420) drew with Bihar (115 & 175/6 f/o)
Points: Bihar 1, Chandigarh 3
  • First-Class Debut: Shashi Shekhar 
  • 10th 5-wicket haul for Ashutosh Aman
Game 3: Bihar (326 & 162/1) drew with Goa (470)
Points: Bihar 1, Goa 3
  • First-Class Debut: Kumar Mridul
  • 11th 5-wicket haul for Ashutosh Aman 
  •  First-Class Century #1 for Babul Kumar
Game 4: Mizoram (378 & 68) lost to Bihar (262 & 188/4) 
Points: Bihar 6, Mizoram 0 
  • First-Class Debut: Lakhan Raja, Shabbir Khan 
  • 12th 5-wicket haul for Ashutosh Aman 
  • 1st 5-wicket haul for Abhijeet Saket 
Game 5: Bihar (431) beat Manipur (94 & 154) by innings & 183 runs 
Points: Bihar 7, Manipur 0 
  • First-Class Debut: Atulya Priyankar 
  • First-Class Century #2 for Indrajit Kumar 
  • Abhijeet Saket: 2nd 5-Wicket haul & 1st 10-wicket haul 
Game 6: Nagaland (166 & 444/4) drew with Bihar (509/7d) 
Points: Bihar 3, Nagaland 1 
  • First-Class Century #2 for Rahmatullah 
  • First-Class Century #1 for Vikash Ranjan 
Game 7: Bihar (208 & 361/4d) drew with Meghalaya (179 & 138/2) 
Points: Bihar 3, Meghalaya 1 
  • First-Class Debut: Basukinath, Yashasvi Rishav, Sarfaraz Ashraf & Amod Yadav 
  • First-Class Century #3 for Rahmatullah 
  • First-Class Century #1 for Yashasv Rishav 
  • 100 First-Class wickets for Ashutosh Aman 
Game 8: Arunachal Pradesh (351 & 163) lost to Bihar (291 & 227/4) by 6 wickets 
Points: Bihar 6, Arunachal Pradesh 0 
  • First Class Debut: Nikhil Anand 
  • First Class Century #4 & #5 as well as 1000 career runs for Rahmatullah. 
  • 5-wicket haul #13 & 10-wicket haul #6 for Ashutosh Aman 
Game 9: Bihar (305 & 417/8d) drew with Sikkim (272 & 69/1) 
Points: Bihar 3, Sikkim 1 
  • 1000 First-Class runs for Babul Kumar & Century #2 and Highest score 
  • First-Class Century #1 for Shasheem Rathour 
  • 14th 5-wicket haul for Ashutosh Aman
Season Stats 
Most Runs:
  1. Babul Kumar – 822 @54.80, 2x100s & 5x50s
  2. Rahmatullah – 695 @63.18, 4x100s & 2x50s
  3. Vikash Ranjan – 570 @57.00, 1x100 & 4x50s
Highest Score – Babul Kumar – 195 vs Sikkim

Most Wickets
  1. Ashutosh Aman – 49 @18.10, 5x5s 
  2. Abhijeet Saket- 26 @15.65, 2x5s
  3. Shivam Kumar – 24 @38.75
Best Bowling – Abhijeet Saket – 7/12 vs Mizoram
Player Count: 23
First-Class Debuts: 12 – quite a high number, but expected given that this is just the second season.

Till next season!