Sunday, December 25, 2011

Ten From 2011

Another year goes by. And leaves behind some memories. Here are the 10 cricketing "events" to remember 2011 by.

A long 28 year wait for cricketing glory ended and a nation celebrated when MS Dhoni hit the World Cup winning shot. Just curious - Where is that ball now?

2. The Wall Rises Again

As comebacks come nothing can beat the year Rahul Dravid had. Had to announce his retirement from limited overs international cricket because the selectors had panicked and picked him up. And as if there weren't enough cliched headlines about the Wall, he gave an altogether new dimesion - Creaking Terminators

3. The Quest of the Year - Like Godot we waited for HIS 100th 100.
Would it come at his favorite ground Chepauk? No. Against his favorite opponent Aussies? No. Arch-rivals Pakistan? No. World Cup final at home? No. Lords - the home of cricket? No. Trent Bridge? Headingley? Oval? No. Home tests - Kotla? No. Eden Gardens? No. Has to be Wankhede. Almost there. No, out for 94... 
The Indian fan awaits... It has to come at the MCG in the Boxing Day test (:D) 

The Irish beat the collection of nationalities playing for England. The chief architect of the victory Kevin O'Brien certainly got a story to tell, which he did as well with his book "Six after Six".

How do you describe a situation in which Australia are at 9 down for 21 and still rated as the favorites to win the match? Quite a few unwanted records (from the batting perspective) were shattered while more were seriously threatened as a crazy match ended with Smith & Amla calmly guiding the hosts to victory. (Special mention for the spectacular implosion by the Lankans against England)

6. Zimbabwe re-enter Test fold and actually play Test cricket
Zimbabwe played a series of one-off Tests to mark their return to the Test arena. Beat Bangladesh, a losing fight with Pakistan and finally a close finish in a loss to the Kiwis, Zimbabwe certainly showed lots of spark and fight.

7. A run of close tests to end the year
Zimbabwe vs New Zealand, Australia vs South Africa, Australia vs New Zealand were all pretty tight. But none came as close as the seemingly dead India vs West Indies test at Wankhede. A final day which began with a draw as the only likely result ended in a photofinish. Just when you were about to say all 4 results were possible, the teams managed the 5th one - "We flippin' murdered 'em.

8. Spot-fixing verdict - Arrested for literally crossing the line
If you play with the feelings of the games lovers, you end up losing your freedom. Period.

9.  The Speakers
Sangakkara spoke. Dravid spoke. But the speech of the year was made by Virender Sehwag. At the post-match presentation after the World Cup opening game against Bangladesh. "This was a revenge match. Bangladesh can't play test cricket. Everyone except Sreesanth had a good game".
Special mention - Zaheer Khan's Quote - "As a bowling unit, I think I am doing well"

10. The debut Michelles
A clutch of bowlers got 5-fors on Test debuts. Bracewell, Ashwin, Philander, Elias, Cummins, Pattinson - best time to make your bowling debut.

A bonus 11th one - Norman Gordon of South Africa became the 1st cricketer to hit a century against Father Time. Well played Sir. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Slipstream V - Cricketers of the Year - 2011

On the lines of Wisden Cricket Almanack, Slipstream Cricket has decided to announce its selection for the Cricketers of the Year. The list will comprise of 5 cricketers whom this blog believes to have had the maximum impact on the game in the year 2011. The selections are made solely on this blogger's bias. So the Slipstream V (Five) for 2011 (as they will be referred to) are as follows

1. Rahul Dravid (India)
The year started with Dravid's future under some cloud. The Test contributions had become average and calls were coming for infusing younger blood into the test lineup while he wasn't part of limited overs setup for quite some time. India went on to win the ODI World Cup and calls became louder. And then happened the West Indies tour. Another Kingston masterclass set up India's only test victory and the series victory. This was followed by a horror tour of England over the summer, where India were cleanly swept off the ground. Well, all of them except the man called "The Wall". 3 Test centuries in lost causes, carried his bat while opening the innings, became the 2nd highest run-getter in Tests, recalled to the limited overs setup (which prompted him to announce his retirement as well), debut and farewell in the same T20 match (his 3 consecutive sixes are my only T20 internationals memory of 2011) and then the 69 in his last ODI innings. At home against the West Indies another century followed. The Indian cricket fan learnt to respect Rahul Dravid once again. The oldest active Test player was also the highest run getter in this calendar year  with one test still to go. And if the on-field achievements were not enough came the captaincy of Rajasthan Royals for next year's IPL and the Bradman Oration. The Wall made every one sit up and listen as he delivered a master class with his speech. The "Creaking Terminator" was certainly back.

2. Brendan Taylor (Zimbabwe)
Zimbabwe had been a team in disarray since the highs of the 1999 World Cup. The multiple player walkouts and  the political environment had led to the team suspending its own Test status. The period also saw them drop below Ireland in ODI rankings. 2011 was the year they took baby steps back into the Test environment. A victory against Bangladesh, nearly pulling off a sensational chase against New Zealand and a battling loss to Pakistan, Zimbabwe cricket certainly showed that they still had the fight in them. And leading the way for them was the captain Brendan Taylor. His stupendous form with the bat certainly propped up the team. An unbeaten 2nd innings century to setup the victory over Bangladesh was follwed by some great performances against the Kiwis. Became the 1st Zimbabwean to hit back to back ODI hundreds against the Kiwis, followed by a 4th innings century in the close loss. With Taylor at the helm, some fresh talent coming up and some old hands returning, Zimbabwe cricket is certainly looking up.

3. Misbah-ul-Haq (Pakistan)
In 2011, Pakistan cricket threatened to their usual tragi-comic self. A good World Cup campaign (losing semi-finalists) was followed by the typical mess. Players chopped and changed, the captain Afridi retired and then unretired, ditto for Younis Khan, coach resigned, the spot-fixing accused were put in jail, there were whispers of a few others being involved, one Akmal replaced the other behind the stumps. In the meantime the on-field results were pretty good. The fast bowling supply never dried up, batsmen with a calm temperament also came into the picture. Misbah-ul-Haq was the man who presided over this on-field period of calm. Certainly his good batting form also helped (15 international 50s across formats in 2011), but it was his adept handling off the most unpredictable team in the world which picks him in the Slipstream V.

4. Hasim Amla (South Africa)
There is something about Amla. The bearded wonder personifies a sense of serenity all around. Certainly the best No. 3 in Test cricket (and he beats pretty stiff competition in the form of Trott, Sangakkara and Dravid for this title). Amla somehow seemed misfit for the limited overs cricket (maybe it has got something to with being a classical batsman), yet by the end of the year, a run of big scores at an average of 55+ at a very quick 90+ strike rate saw him captaining the South Africans in ODIs and T20s as well.

5. Vernon Philander (South Africa)
The man with a surname made for headlines (Philander bowls a maiden over :P). The newcomer of the year. He made his Test debut in 2011 and after a total of 3 tests has 4 "Michelles" and some 24 wickets at an average from the 19th century. The games may have been in his pace-friendly home conditions in South Africa but he managed to outshine his far more illustrious teammates Steyn & Morkel. Thats one great start to a career.

So this was the Slipstream V for 2011. More reviews of 2011 coming up.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ranji Trophy 2011-12 - Jharkhand Update -2

Sometime back had written about Jharkhand's performance in the first 2 rounds of Ranji Trophy. Since then 3 more rounds have been held. here is a small piece on the team's performance. Jharkhand had collected a total of 3 points after the 1st 2 rounds and were placed at the bottom of the pile.

In the 3rd round Jharkhand took on Maharashtra at Nashik. Maharastra batted first and got to 460 with good contributions from their top order. The captain Shahbaz Nadeem picked up 4 wickets, while keeper Shiv Gautam had a good outing with 6 catches and a stumping. In reply Jharkhand were all out for 283 with Rameez Kemat & Gautam scoring half centuries. Following on Jharkhand managed 1 run less in their 2nd outing with opener Manish Vardhan getting 88. Maharastra was set a victory target of 106 runs which they achieved in 21 overs for the loss of 1 wicket. Points - Maharastra - 5, Jharkhand - 0.

The 4th round was a home game at Dhanbad against Assam. Assam racked up a big score of 502 in the 1st innings with 3 centurions. Shahbaz Nadeem was once again the pick of the bowlers with 4 wickets for 170 runs in 61 overs, while Samar Quadri picked 3 for 158 in 51 overs. In reply, Ishank Jaggi scored a daddy hundred (188) while the keeper Shiv Gautam scored 82. The duo was involved in 200+ partnership. There were hardly any other contributions though and the team  conceded a big 1st innings lead. In the 2nd innings Assam's Dheeraj Jadhav scored his 2nd hundred of the match. Points: Assam -3 & Jharkhand -1.

The 5th & final round saw the team take on Goa at Keenan Stadium, Jamshedpur, the only ground to have hosted international cricket in the state. (India has probably their poorest home ODI track record in this ground, 1 win against 7 losses). Jharkhand batted first and managed 218 runs with Manish Vardhan top scoring with 84. In reply Goa were knocked out for 189 with Quadri picking a 5-for. 2nd time around Jharkhand scored 204 with Vardhan again top scoring with 67. Chasing a victory target of 234, Goa were seemingly cruising at 133/1 before collapsing to 188 all out. The spin duo of Nadeem & Quadri was once again in action with Nadeem taking 5 & Quadri 4. The 45 run victory gave Jharkhand 5 points for its only outright victory of the season while Goa got 0 points.

Overall Jharkhand finished with 9 points from its 5 matches and finished 4th in the group, thus failing to reach the play-offs. Absence of Aaron was definitely felt, though it was the poor form of the Saurabh Tiwary which hurt the team most. Manish Vardhan, Shiv Gautam & Ishank Jaggi were the regular contributors with the bat while Shahbaz Nadeem & Samar Quadri were good with the ball. 

Bad luck this time around, hopefully will do better next year.

P.S. Only 5 first class matches for the entire year sounds too little cricket to me. And all this within a 6 month period. Maybe a 3 level league with 9 teams each could be a better solution. That would ensure at least more matches for all teams. The Duleep Trophy & Deodhar trophy can be done away to ease out the calendar.

P.P.S. Once again thanks to the operator of the twitter handle @ranjiscores for doing a stellar job of providing regular score updates from across all matches happening in the Plate & Elite leagues. Something which BCCI should be doing through their own account.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sir Rahul Dravid

"Not everything of value has a price"

If you are a cricket fan, listen to Rahul Dravid giving the Bradman Oration. 
If you are not a cricket fan, listen to Rahul Dravid giving the Bradman Oration. And you will become a cricket fan.

I thought Sangakkara's wonderful speech at the Colin Cowdrey Lecture would be the gold standard for speeches made by cricketers. Seems I had underestimated my own hero, the Wall. 

He spoke as one of the seniors of the game (him being the oldest active Test cricketer). His speech covered a wide range of topics. He talked about India's link with Australia (cricket and the British empire), their common enemy (?, England), India's romance with cricket, its love for records, the Indian player, the state of World cricket and problems facing it (balance of the 3 formats, overkill, spectatorless grounds, match-fixing), his own experience. It was well researched with just the dash of humour (Warne's eating habits, his own "slow" batting).  

The speech just showed what the man is all about. CLASS. 
Is 2011 going to be year when the cricket fans finally give Rahul Dravid the respect he has always deserved. (Slipstream Cricket would like to confer the title of Sir to Rahul Dravid)

Audio & text of the speech is available here.

P.S. "Creaking Terminators" - WOW. Probably the best phrase to describe veteran sportspersons. Expect this to be overused in the days to come.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Sign - Manoj Tiwary

After Ian Bell & Napolean Einstein, its the turn of Manoj Tiwary to take me into the cricinfo commentary section. (A bit narcissistic to keep a record of such things, but its always nice to read your name in print).

India in trouble at 1 for 2 (i.e. 2 wickets down for a single run) after 3 balls in the Chennai ODI. In this uncomfortable situation walked in Manoj Tiwary. The text commentator says Manoj Tiwary, making a comeback, walks in to face the hat-trick ball. Me sends in a feedback, which gets published before the start of the 3rd over.
"You say Manoj Tiwary on a comeback. Isn't he always. 6th match across 5 different series" Well said, Nishant

6th ODI across 5 different series. He was actually making a comeback in his debut as well. The first of the current generation to be selected for the Indian squad post the 2007 World Cup fiasco, Tiwary got injured in practice the day before his scheduled debut against Bangladesh. Rohit Sharma took his place. The debut came much later and then he was pushed back to the fringes with players like Raina, Kohli, Saurabh Tiwary, Murali Vijay et al. Now having made a comeback in the fringe category he is getting the odd game in every series. This time around though he has made it count with a well compiled century. It was a shame that he couldn't go on and had to retire hurt due to cramps. But it was a pleasant surprise to see him field after retiring hurt.

Now, wondering if my comment was a "sign". Probably the comments publication had something to do with the hundred. (I am pretty superstitious when it comes to cricket)

P.S. Virender Sehwag must have become the 1st player to appear in a post-match presentation without playing in the match concerned. Surely a new record. ;)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Arbit Statistics - 15

Virender Sehwag plundered 219 runs over the hapless West Indies attack (ok... wrong word) at Indore to record the highest ever score in ODI cricket. Chris Gayle even described it as "child abuse" on twitter. And at the end of this innings, his career records present interesting numbers.

319 - Sehwag's highest score in First Class & Test cricket.
219 - Sehwag's highest score in List A & ODI cricket.
119 - Sehwag's highest score in T20 cricket

Unfortunately, the highest in T20 wasn't scored in an international game, where his highest is barely 68. Now if only he manages to get a 119 in T20I. Then the highest scores would present a neat reading.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Arbit Statistics - 14

The big event did not take place at the Wankhede today but another very rare event did take place.
R. Ashwin scored a century to follow with his Michelle becoming only the 3rd Indian ever to do so. The two prior ones being historic legends Vinoo Mankad & Polly Umrigar. (Pretty sure a five wicket haul wouldn't have been referred to as a Michelle then, Michelle Pfeiffer not having been born :P). Surprised to see Kapil Dev missing from that list. Full list of such happenings is here (Thank you Statsguru).

More Arbit Stats - India & West Indies batsmen have combined to score 11 50+ scores in the 2 innings between them, which is a new record for most 50+ scores. Here is the Statsguru evidence.
And also the 1st time ever all the top 6 batsman on both sides have scored a quarter century. Talk about a batting beauty.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

200 Not Out

Rahul Dravid reached the milestone of 13,000 Test runs.
Sachin Tendulkar is more than half way in the attempt for the 100th international 100.
Darren Bravo is looking more and more like the man he is often compared to, Brian Lara.

Meanwhile, almost unnoticed, Slipstream Cricket (formerly called The Crickiblog) has reached its own special milestone of 200 posts (this being the 200th one). The 100th post milestone had been reached on the  blog's 1st birthday. Since then the strike rate has improved considerably and the 2nd 100 took less than 11 months.

How do I explain this improved strike rate? The cricket world cup happened for one (India won :D), which kept the months of February and March quite busy. My posting ability improved (:P). Or maybe I had nothing better to do and becoming a bigger cricket tragic than I already was. (But my other blog seems to have hit a writer's block and frequency of posts has deteriorated quite rapidly).

In the past one year, the blog has undergone a little bit of design changes. The Arbit Statistics have got a fully dedicated section for themselves, though they keep updating pretty fast. Also the blog has made acquaintance with fellow blogs on the matters of the gentleman's game. (Point to be noted -  the blog and not the blogger). It feels good to be mentioned around here and there.

As for the content, have decided that this is not a newspaper or a review site. And I do NOT have to cover all the goings on in the cricket world (but still follow up a lot). A lot can be left unwritten. But whenever there are some thoughts assembled they ought to be jotted down and posted. So these posts are becoming the random musings of a die-hard fanatic.

Nowadays, also being occasionally published at DHCF (Die Hard Cricket Fans). The posts get published as the editor wishes.

Finally, time for a dedications.
  • To The Sledgehammer of Eternal Justice, for being the catalyst for the blog's genesis and its name.
  • To BCCI, for making our team play non-stop, so that the lack of posts can never be blamed on the lack of cricketing events taking place. Laziness will take the blame here.
  • To Pakistan cricket, its board and its players, for providing most of the off-field drama.
  • To South Africa, for continuing their proud choking traditions.
  • To Australia, for not being the dominant force that they were, so that sadist fans across the non-Australian world can gloat.
  • To England for being the most entertaining team in the cricket world (so damned good in Tests and absolutely lousy in the ODIs).
  • To Jharkhand for winning its first ever domestic trophy. Your deeds will be followed. (Aside - Can't think of any other blogger writing about Jharkhand cricket).
  • To Rahul Dravid. Just for being Rahul Dravid.
To the next century.

P.S. Hoping I haven't jinxed it (You-know-who's You-know-what )

P.P.S Hobbies can be addictive

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Vinod Kambli's allegations - Now is the time to speak out

As any cricket follower in the country would have been aware by now, Vinod Kambli has made some serious claims about the 1996 World Cup semi-finals. He claims that captain Mohammed Azharuddin went against the team's collective decision of batting first and chose to field instead. The match was later to be abandoned due to crowd trouble in India's innings and a crying Vinod Kambli leaving the field.

Any match-fixing claim has to be taken very seriously. These things have happened. Players have been banned, fined and now even jailed for such crimes. But its also very easy to make allegations about past events, where only the word of one person against the other stands.

In this case the credibility of the allegations is a bit low. The events happened 15 years ago. Given Vinod Kambli's recent antics, his trust level is pretty low. He was a case of talent truly wasted as a player. Thrown out of team on disciplinary grounds, making controversial TV apppearances (Sach Ka Saamna & Bigg Boss), announcing his retirement from cricket some 7-8 years after being dropped him from the Mumbai Ranji team, Going on proclaiming his friendship with Sachin Tendulkar on all possible forums. Sounds like a person who is despearate to be in news always.

Here the allegations have been made against a former India captain who is under a life ban from cricket for match-fixing based on evidence collected by CBI. So Azhar provides an easy target for such allegations.

If I remember correctly, all the analysts during the World Cup had agreed that Sri Lankans were very good at chasing down targets Performances against India, England certainly justify this claim. Even in the final they chose to chase against Australia knowing fully well that all the previous winners had batted first in the finals. So putting Sri Lanka into bat first seemed a logical decision. There was also talk of using a spinner to counter the marauding Sri Lankan openers in the inital overs. So Kumble opened the bowling with Srinath. Then there was the evening dew factor. Taking these factors into account bowling first does seem to be a logical decision. The one error was misreading the pitch. The pitch had become an unknown quantity due to opening ceremony fiasco. Given all these factors Azhar would have been roasted if he had decided to bat first.

Now coming to Kambli's remarks. He says Navjot Sidhu was all padded up to open. The toss hadn't been held till then. What if Rantunga had won the toss. Then there are claims of this being his last game when the truth is he played on and off for another 4 years. Also the timing of the allegations make no sense. He could have come out in the open then or when the match-fixing scandal came up in 2000. Why did he keep silent all these years?

Is there any truth in Kambli's allegations? I don't know. The only people who can answer are the other members of the 1996 campaign. So far the manager Ajit Wadekar, and other players like Sanjay Manjrekar, Nayan Mongia and Venkatpathy Raju and Azhar himself have already rubbished Kambli's claims. But it is very important that the other players like Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath et al, whose credibility cannot be questioned speak out. This is certainly not a time of maintianing a dignified silence. Its time to come out in the open and speak out. You owe this to the Indian fan.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Arbit Statisitcs - 13

India beats West Indies by an Innings & 16 runs at Eden Gardens. With this loss Shivnaraine Chanderpaul has now taken over from former team mate Brian Lara as the player with most test losses of all time (64 and counting). Says a lot of the quality of the recent West Indies teams and Chanderpaul's longeveity and importance to West Indies.

It was a bad day for Lara in statistical terms in general. Kallis has crossed him to be the 4th highest Test run getter on the opening day of 2nd Test vs Australia.

And in further Lara news, his heir apparent & cousin Darren Bravo has got the same runs (941) and average (47.05) after 12 Tests as Lara.

Update to Arbit Statistics
Arbit Statistics - 9 : With 2 sixes in his innings of 117, Rahul Dravid has broken his run of never having hit more than one six in a single Test innings.
Arbit Statistics - 4: West Indies by scoring 463 have broken India's record of most runs in an innings in an innings defeat.
These statistics are changing pretty fast now :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ranji Trophy 11-12: Jharkhand Update

The first 2 rounds of the 2011-12 season of the  Ranji Trophy are over. There have been big scores (including a triple century) some close draws, some boring draws, rare outright wins, a few weather interventions. There were 2 highly interesting games. Maharashtra beating Hyderabad by an innings in a low scoring crazy shootout to rival the one in Newlands. And the absolutely rivetting draw between Tamil Nadu & Haryana where all 4 results were possible till the end.

It seems to me that the domestic season is attracting quite a bit of attention this time around. I can think of a couple of reasons for this increased awareness. The first is the presence of big names in the tournament. The performance of recent India rejects & hopefuls like Harbhajan Singh, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, the Pathan brothers and others are being keenly watched. Long retired Saurav Ganguly is stil motivated enough to play for Bengal. Also thanks to the IPL, the domestic players are not all anonymous entities. Players like Rajat Bhatia, Mithun Manhas are no longer unfamiliar names. There is better coverage of the games. Cricinfo keeps updating scores on a regular basis. The twitter handle @Ranjiscores is also doing a great job of providing regular updates on the games happening all over the country.

Now a performance review of my team Jharkhand playing in the Plate League Group B. So far has played 2 games against Hyderabad and Jammu & Kashmir, both away. 

In the first game against Hyderabad, Jharkhand conceded a big first innings lead after bowling first, which more or less sealed the game result. Game ended in a draw with Hyderabad getting 3 points and Jharkhand 1. The first day was affected by weather. The standout performers for the team were Ishank Jaggi (81 in the first innings) and Amir Hashmi (68) with the bat while SS Rao picked 6 and Shahbaz Nadeem picked 3 wickets. 

The 2nd game against Jammu & Kashmir in Srinagar was badly hit by the weather with no play at all on the 2nd and 3rd days. As neither team could complete the 1st innings also, both were given 2 points each. Samar Quadri & Shahbaz Nadeem picked 2 wickets apiece while Manish Vardhan got a quickfire half century.

Nothing much can be read from these results though the team is lying bottom of the table with 3 points fom 2 games. Ishank Jaggi & Shabaz Nadeem seem in decent form while captain Saurabh Tiwary's indifferent run across all formats continues. Team certainly seems to be missing the pace of Varun Aaron in the bowling department, while chances of Dhoni playing a Ranji game in the near future appear very remote. 

Coming up next in the league stage are
17-20 Nov: Maharashtra
29 Nov - 2 Dec : Assam
6-9 Dec: Goa

Friday, November 11, 2011

Arbit Statistics - 12

The insane test between South Africa and Australia at Newlands provided loads of crazy statistics. This was the one which set a new record.

Nathan Lyon became the No. 11 batsman to come into bat at the lowest score ever 21/9 beating the  previous record of coming into bat at 25/9 held by fellow Australian Tom McKibbin from a match of an era gone by. Also he became the lowest highest scoring No. 11 in an innings in a test.

More arbit stats on this match by Andy Zaltzman in his special quiz.

Updates to Arbit Statistics 
Arbit Statistics - 11: Andrew Strauss has rectified the anomaly and gone past Graeme Swann in the highest 1st class scores department.

Arbit Statistics - 10: Sachin Tendulkar has snatched the crown of most 4th innings runs from Rahul Dravid. Though both being active players, this record might keep moving between the two of them for the time being.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


A memorable scene from the movie 300 comes to mind (a score which is unthinkable here)

After the events in Newlands this is is what would have been the conversation

The bowlers would have said - THIS IS NEWLANDS.

An insane day of Test cricket in Cape Town. The scorecard resembles a 19th century test match. To sum up the events 23 wickets fell, all 4 innings took place on the same day, both teams were knocked out for less than a 100, Australia at 21/9 were in real danger of recording the lowest score ever in the history of Test matches, the last wicket added more than the 1st 9 combined, and in the 4th innings the batsmen settled down as if nothing had happened. What happened after lunch, did pitch transform into a snake-pit? And then quietened down after the Aussie innings. Also there were an extra-ordinary numbers of decisions overturned via DRS while Shane Watson recorded almost T20 type of bowling figures. And to round off a crazy day, Michael Hussey dropped  a simple catch of Hashim Amla of the last ball of the innings.

In this context, I can safely say Michael Clarke's 151 has to be one of the greatest innings of all times. Nathan Lyon & Peter Siddle's 26 runs partnership maybe just helped the pitch ease out a bit. Should Australia have declared then? Dont know but certainly an interesting day's play ahead.

P.S. Wonder if ICC's pitch committee has to say anything about this pitch. Recently Kotla & Galle have received lots of criticism. Wonder what will said about this one.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

India vs West Indies Test 1 - Thoughts

It was much closer than it should have been. India in India (with an amazing record of just 2 losses in last 20 home games) taking on West Indies who have been struggling anywhere and everywhere against anyone and everyone. The first test in Kotla provided further proof that cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties. Here are the thoughts at the end of the game.
  • A home test without Harbhajan Singh and a revamped bowling lineup. His direct replacement Ashwin takes 9 wickets and picks up the Man of the Match on debut. The other spinner Ojha making a comeback picks 7 including 6 in the 1st innings. Add Harbhajan's miserable performance against Uttar Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy, the chances of a comeback soon become a bit dimmer. (In the same game another Indian discard RP Singh picked a Michelle while Suresh Raina scored a double hundred).
  • Chris Gayle was missing a result of too many ego clashes amongst West Indies cricket stakeholders. Don't know who to blame here. The board, the players's association or Gayle himself?
  • Another exclusion was of Ramnaresh Sarwan. This was a case quite similar to Harbhajan's. Born 10 days apart, both have great reputations, formidable records and a lousy current form and both out of their national teams.
  • Shivnaraine Chanderpaul was there as usual tormenting India as he has been doing since time immemorial. Probably the ugliest batting style in the whole cricketing world and also the most effective in blunting any bowling attack. But India are rendered especially toothless against him.
  • I like Darren Sammy. Many may say that he doesn't deserve to be in the team. But his dedication cannot be faulted. Bowls his heart out, takes the wickets, gets a few quick runs when his team needs them and is doing an excellent job captaining the West Indies team. I guess West Indies cricket needs players like Sammy more than Gayle.
  • India's collapse in the 1st innings was the reason that this test got all exciting. India still went on to win can say a lot about India's fighting spirit or West Indies's incompetence. Your pick.
  • Dhoni became the 1st Indian to reach 200 test dismissals whereas Mark Boucher just took his 500th Test catch. Also Dhoni remained not out on 0 in the 2nd innings. Hope nobody accuses him of remaining not out to boost his batting average this time around.
  • Sehwag was off to his murderous starts. Knocked a big chunk off the chase almost as soon as it got started both times around. 
  • Dravid was there doing his typical "Back to the Wall" jobs in both innings. He lost his crown of most 4th innings runs to Tendulkar though.
  • VVS Laxman was there to see another 4th innings chase through.
  • The stage was set. I had actually dreamed up the scenario as well. The ball bowled slightly outside offstump and it gets punched through the covers for a boundary. The crowds giving a standing ovation as India reached victory with the same shot as Sachin Tendulkar reached his 100th international 100. But alas, it wasn't meant to be... (Aside - SRT refused to take a legbye and was out LBW a couple of balls later in the same Bishoo over). The wait continues.
Now over to Kolkata.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Spotfixing Verdict

August 21, 2010 - The day the cricketing world was shaken up with following edition of the "News of the World" paper. (My post here)

In the immediate aftermath of the Lords Test, the trio of Salman Butt, Mohammed Asif and Mohammed Amir was dropped from the Pakistan team and later banned by the ICC. But this wasn't the worse to come for the trio as an year later a jury found them guilty and gave them prison terms of varying lengths.

The first thought on hearing of the outcome of the case was that just punishment had been meted out to the guilty party. The spot fixing scam had left a sense of betrayal. It was weird to imagine to what extent people were going to make money. For the players it must have been an easy option. Take money on the side, bowl a couple of no-balls (which aren't an oddity by themselves) at fixed points. During this they could still be giving their best for the country as well. I wondered there were people who actually bet on this kind of stuff. And the sums were large enough to be able to buy off the players. All this is still beyond belief.

The whole sequence of events is full of ironies

The whole saga was brought to light not by any anti-corruption agencies, ICC or government bodies but by a now-defunct newspaper which had to be closed down due its unethical ways of getting information.

Mohammed Amir actually bowled one of the better fast bowling spells in recent times. His no-ball was part of a spell in which he took the wickets of Cook, Pietersen, Collingwood, Morgan, Prior and Swann. Showing that except for the no ball he bowled his best for his country.

Salman Butt captained Pakistan to 2 test victories including the first one against Australia in around 15 years. It seemed Pakistan had found some stability when the scandal broke out. The irony of life that his son was born the day he was handed a prison sentence.

Mohammed Asif was the one who had talent, and has taken extra-ordinary measures to blow it away. Drugs scandal, physical fights with team mates and finally the spot-fixing case. Also it turns out that he was paid more than others to ensure that he doesn't change over to a rival spot-fixing gang.

The verdict has made a few things clear.

  • If you are caught fixing you are not just banned from the game, you are jailed as well. At least in England. Hopefully this would set some deterrent.
  • There are more names involved here which haven't yet come out. Comments regarding Asif certainly seem to suggest that.
Hopefully cricket is cleaner now, at least I would like to believe so, though the eveidence may suggest otherwise. But this is only the tip. Every allegation has to be thoroughly investigated. And the concerned should have immediate life bans set on them. Otherwise any odd incident would be looked at it in a different light.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Syed Mustaq Ali Trophy - Jharkhand Review

In continuation with this post here
The East Zone qualifiers were held in Keenan Stadium, Jamshedpur. Unfortnuately, the matches were affected by the inclement weather. here are Jharkhand's results
Oct 21 - vs Tripura - Match abandoned without a single ball being bowled.
Oct 22 - vs Bengal - Match abandoned without a single ball being bowled.

Oct 23 - vs Orissa - Jharkhand won by 6 wickets.
Oct 24 - vs Assam - Assam won by 17 runs.
In all Jharkhand got 8 points and failed to qualify for the knockout stages of the national T20 championships. However with only 2 finished games not much can be read into the results.

Now its over to the Ranji Trophy, where Jharkhand are in the Plate League with the first game having begun against Hyderabad in Hyderabad.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Payback Series: Whiteawashed

It had been built up as a revenge series by the broadcasters. And Team India certainly have paid back with interest (only for the ODI leg so far). Here are the thoughts for today's game at Eden Gardens and the series as a whole.
  • Dhoni enhanced his finisher reputation. The big sixes were back and he stayed not out as well. His average may have been boosted by the large number of not outs but isn't not getting out one of the criterion for a good batsman. (A post by The Old Batsman on the subject is here).
  • Rahane is looking impressive without having got that BIG one as yet. Also he is unlucky that Kieswetter keeps taking stunning catches to dismiss him when normally his keeping has been of the Kamran Akmalesque quality.
  • Manoj Tiwary has been having a pretty weird international career. Injured during practice on the eve of his debut series and since then has played 5 matches across 4 series spread over a 4 year period.
  • England had an awesome opening partnership followed by one of the most stunning collapses. 128 for none followed by 47 for 10. 
  • Varun Aaron takes his 4th international wicket. Interestingly all 4 bowled which starts the slide for the Poms.
  • Ian Bell finally played and scared the rest of the English lineup by failing to read Jadeja's spin.
  • Some apologies for the years of abuse heaped on Ravindra Jadeja.
  • In short England caught in a spin web and spun out. England in India have been worse than India's in England (only comparing the ODI parts so far)
  • India still missing most of the big guns and their first choice replacements as well. On the other hand England did not have Broad & Anderson, though they wouldn't have made too much of a difference.
Payback still remains. This is only the appetizer. It won't be satisfied till the Tests thrashing is also avenged.

P.S. Malcolm Waller missed out on a well deserved century as he finished on 99* to take Zimbabwe to a thrilling one wicket victory over the Kiwis.

P.P.S. Wishing all readers a very Happy Diwali.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Payback Series: Game 4 - Thoughts

The Payback continues, with a Comprehensive 6 wicket victory at Wankhede, Mumbai.

  • It was one of the most eagerly awaited debuts in recent memory. And Varun Aaron delivered to all expectations. A low economy, excellent clean-up of the tail and consistently over 140Ks. Certainly well begun and living to the expectations. A note of caution - Ishant Sharma & Irfan Pathan had even better starts.
  • Another poor batting display by England. And still no Ian Bell. Logic of this is certainly beyond me.
  • Suresh Raina leaving his England monsters behind while Virat Kohli produces another classic display. 
  • Steven Finn giving Raina a send off after he had smacked the pants off the English bowling was hilarious to say the least. Can't understand all the chatter from a team which is getting comprehensively pounded.
Looking forward to a 5-nil whitewash in Kolkata.

P.S. Congratulations to the All Blacks on winning the Rugby World Cup. There were quite a few parallels to the Indian victory in the Cricket World Cup earlier this year. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Payback Series: Game 3 - Thoughts

The Payback Series moved on to Mohali after a crushing win in Delhi. And though the margin was much closer, the end result was still the same. here are the thoughts  for the day.
  • Team selections. I am bored of saying it. Bell should be playing. Given Kieswetter's Kamran Akmalese  performance today behind the stumps, it would be wise to give the gloves to Bairstow and bring Bell in as the opener.
  • Team wins toss. Bats first. Bats well. Posts a big total. Total gets chased down easily due to some unimaginative bowling and shoddy fielding. This was the basic template for India's ODI losses in England (except for the toss part). Today it was just the other way round.
  • The Indian bowling lineup with Praveen Kumar, Vinay Kumar & Virat Kohli looks straight out of the Kiwi dibbly-dobbly-wibbly-wobbly template
  • The game was close. But somehow the result wasn't ever in doubt. Maybe its the T20 effect. Any total seems chaseable with 2 decent batsman in the crease.
  • The fist pump by Ravindra Jadeja after edging a boundary as a gesture must be unparalleled.
  • Dhoni's lost luck seems to have been found (:D) as he provides the finishing touch to an almost perfect team chase. 
  • Rahane & Trott missed out on well deserved 100s, as Mr. Gavaskar would have said. maybe it was this obsession with centuries that made Sunil Gavaskar one of the greatest run accumulators of all time.
The series has been won. But the Payback is not done yet. 

Syed Mustaq Ali Trophy - 2011-12

The Syed Mustaq Ali Trophy for the 2011-12 season has begun. (Detailed schedule here). For the uninitiated this is the tournament which determines India's national T20 champions (and not the IPL as everyone believes).

Here is my team, Jharkhand's schedule of play for the zonal round.
Oct 21 - vs Tripura
Oct 22 - vs Bengal
Oct 23 - vs Orissa
Oct 24 - vs Assam

After the zonal matches, we have the quarter-final stage onwards in March (!!!). Some weird scheduling.

Wishing all the best to Saurabh Tiwary, Ishank Jaggi and Co. I know the team is quite depleted with Dhoni & Aaron on national duty but still it should be a tough fight.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Payback Series: Game 2 - Thoughts

The payback continues with interest. This time at the Ferozshah Kotla in Delhi.
  • Again England did not pick Bell. Why is a mystery. Certainly hope that Bopara's military medium isn't the factor keeping him in the team ahead of Bell.
  • An even bigger mystery is what is an underperforming Kieswetter doing in the team? They have Bairstow and Jos Butler is the reserves.  In fact Butler is considered the better keeper by Somerset followers as well. Some re-juggling is certainly required.
  • Good pace generated by Umesh Yadav. Maybe a bit wayward but the pace is there. As of NOW.
  • And for a change India bowled well within time. Though I hardly see it getting mentioned anywhere.
  • Gambhir should be opening. Can't have makeshift openers like Parthiv Patel with Gambhir in the line-up.
  • Good innings by Kohli. Nothing surprising from him in that. In fact, the partnership with Gambhir had a deja vu feeling written all over it.
  • Indian conditions and the English seam bowling looks neutralized. On the basis of 2 games only. Still early days here.
  • Victory by 8 wickets with about 80 balls to spare. One word. Comprehensive.
Let the payback continue.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Payback Series: Game 1 - Thoughts

It was time for revenge and payback, proclaimed our TV channels promoting the current India - England series in India. But 5 ODIs and a T20 do not give enough opportunity to give payback for the happenings over the summer in England. Yet it was nice to start with a win in the 1st ODI in Hyderabad. I could only watch the England innings. Followed the Indian innings via online text commentary at work. Here are my thoughts for the match.
  • Why did England not play the "Sledgehammer of Eternal Justice"? Cook as captain and having to fit in Trott, KP, Bopara, Bell in one lineup. Thats an interesting conundrum. Still feel that Bell should have been the first one to be picked in this lot.
  • No debut for Varun Aaron as yet. When will I get to see a school alumnus play for India. (Aside - his Facebook fan page is here)
  • On paper, the bowling looked weaker than in England except the conditions had been reversed. This game showed how big the difference can be. (I know it is only one game. Still)
  • Do English batsman in general have a difficulty against left arm spin? Ravindra Jadeja's success here and the successful county stints enjoyed by Pragyan Ojha this season & Murali Kartik over the years certainly does point to that conclusion.
  • Random Factoid - Almost 3 years since India beat England in an international match in any format. Last victory was in the Chennai Test, 2008 post the 26/11 incidents
  • In summary, England's opening performance in India reminded of India's performance in England.
  • 126 runs - a comprehensive win
P.S. Piyush Chawla's 92 in the Challenger Trophy final the day before must definitely rank as one of the best List A innings ever.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Controversially Yours

Disclaimer - This is not a book review. And I have not read the book as yet. And more importantly I have NO intention of reading it either.

Its becoming quite a trend in the cricket world. A cricketer gets his "autobiography" (or rather a "ghost written" account of his life in first person). Now whats the use of writing it if he can't sell it. To sell it, need to market it. To market it, a little controversy helps. Whats the easiest way to do that. Take potshots at the biggest icons  in the biggest cricket market in the world. It could be anyone. Mention SRT claiming that he doesn't win matches for India or BCCI as a dictator in the cricketing world or IPL having bought the soul of cricket or poor Indian crowd behaviour or whatever comes to their mind. Now this little snippet might be just 1 line buried somewhere in the 235th page of a 600 page biography. But make sure to use selectively leak this to the Indian media, which can be always be trusted to blow up any non-event. There they would be making sure that everyone hears of the "insult" to our "holy"deities. For the cricketer and his publisher "Job Done".  

Pretty formulaic.

But then we have our own Amul find humour in this. Here is their latest billboard.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Post England Tour Post

'Twas the summer of 2011. Test No. 1 and ODI World Champions India went on a tour of England, a team which had just smashed the Aussies 3-1 in an away Ashes and had been fast becoming the most entertaining ODI team in the world. There were reams of newsprint, millions of blog posts (including quite a few by yours truly) written on the prospect of the contest which was set to unfold over the summer.

Alas the result turned out to be totally something else. Here is a short summary of the results.
  • England win the 4 Test series 4-0.
  • England win the one-off T20.
  • England win the 5 ODI series 3-0 with one game abandoned and other tied on Duckworth -Lewis scores.
And there, I have been through the painful part. Whatever happened to our champion team and Dhoni's legendary luck? In the 2 decades of my cricket watching/following career there have been a few debacles, Australian tour of 1991-92 followed by the 1992 World Cup, South African Tour in 1996-97, Australia in 1999-2000. But at no time have we returned winless in international matches (Here we did beat Kent, Surrey & Leicestershire). Here is my attempt to analyse the disaster that the tour was. So here goes  the final post of this tour.
  • England were much better than India. Period. They out-batted, out-bowled and out-fielded us. When I had done the preview for the Pataudi Trophy, I had not given too much weightage to one essential bit that the games were being played in England. Also the English unit performed like a machine, the batsman got runs, a few "daddy hundreds" were scored, the bowlers took wickets. Replacements were readily available and fitted in seamlessly. And if the team somehow found itself in trouble, there was always someone to bail them out whether it was Broad in 2nd Test at Trent Bridge or the debutante John Bairstow in Cardiff.
  • Zaheer Khan hamstrung at Lords. That was the single biggest factor contributing to this result. During the World Cup, he had remarked that "as a bowling unit I think I am doing well". Might have been a slip of tongue but he couldn't have put it any better. Given the current Indian bowling context, he is irreplaceable. Lots of talk takes place on who replaces our batting stalwarts, but that would be a simpler task as compared to replacing Zaheer.
  • Injuries. Lots of injuries. Pujara, Sehwag, Gambhir, Zaheer, Yuvraj, Harbhajan, Ishant, Sachin, Rohit, Praveen, Munaf, Nehra. All injured at some point or the other. Not a match passed without one or two injuries in the team. Its not that the Indians were the only ones who got injured, the English team also had a few but they had far better and ready replacements. And ours had the more impact. Entire bowling lineup decimated by injuries, half the batting lineup, even the replacements getting injured. Some were accidental on-field injuries like Gambhir (twice!!), Yuvraj, Rohit Sharma etc, some could only be due to poor "injury management", Zaheer, Sehwag, Tendulkar. The tour began with Zaheer limping off hamstrung on the opening day of the Lords Test and ended with Munaf being carried away in Cardiff.
  • Poor scheduling. One 3-day game to acclimatise before the Test series. 3 side games before the ODIs. I do not understand who came up with this great schedule. My suggestion always have the ODI part before the Test series, gives more time to acclimatise. And there was a 4-day gap between the 4th & 5th ODIs for some unknown reason. We managed to get Praveen Kumar injured in this period.
  • Some plain bad luck. This was true in the One-dayers. Dhoni loses all 5 tosses to start with. And there was rain to interfere in case we somehow get into a, lets not say winning, but an advantageous position.
Now the analysis over. Now for the positives from the tour. It might be shocking to discover that there were a few bright spots (albeit on an individual basis) on this dismal tour. But can't be getting all negative here.
  • Indian cricket and its fans learnt to appreciate Rahul "The Wall" Dravid again (I think I made him sound like a WWE entertainer here :P ). 3 centuries in losing causes in the Tests. Was forced to open the batting, where he carried his bat through the innings. Fell afoul of the DRS (henceforth to be known as the Dravid Removal System). Out of the blue was also picked up for the ODI leg of the tour. Shocked, he announced his retirement, but signed off in style. A hattrick of sixes in his T20 debut-cum-farewell and a typical hardworking and understated 69 in the 5th ODI at Cardiff. For a long time fan, it was great to see the Legend getting his due. And now the BCCI has named him in an enquiry committee to find out what went wrong in the tour. Now thats going to be an interesting report.
  • Praveen Kumar was the other hero for India. No one considered him test material. But a couple of tests down the line, PK was leading the bowling attack, and doing a good job of it. There was an entertaining cameo as well.
  • Suresh Raina in the white shirt looked lost. A 42 ball pair at the Oval was the low point. Suresh Raina in the blue shirt was awesome. How can the same person become so different just by changing the format of the game. Also one player who is seen in the game throughout the play.
  • Ajinkya Rahane with an awesome First Class average made his India debut in an T20 game. And performed quite well there as well as in the ODIs. Won't be commenting too much as the chances might be few given our batting resources.
  • Parthiv Patel swivelling around to take care of the short ball provided a welcome relief in the ODIs after Raina's test struggles.
In short, England were much better than us and they got a little help for our bad luck. But that was thoroughly deserved. The injuries, rains, DRS contoversies, Ian Bell's run-out and Anna Hazare combined to ensure that the Indian team did not get a roasting that it could have got from our media.

P.S. After writing out the post remembered that Sachin Tendulkar did not get to his hyped up landmark of  100 international 100s. Mind you, even getting to 99 is beyond anyone could have imagined though.

P.P.S Dear Team India, I know it was a very tough tour. And you were not able to perform to our expectations. But don't worry, I will be there to follow and support you when you play next. Lets hammer the English at home.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Rahul Dravid - The ODI Farewell

September 16, 2011, Sofia Gardens, Cardiff became the scene for the farewell of Rahul Dravid from ODI cricket. A legendary career came to an end with a typical performance from the man known as "The Wall". He played a solid, non-fussy innings of 69. However as is usually the case somebody else performed better. (In this case his seemingly heir apparent Virat Kohli's century). But this time he was not overshadowed. Whatever be the result (and as I write we are in the 4th over of England's rain-shortened chase) this will be remembered as Dravid's match. It was great to see a batsman who once wasn't thought to be good enough for the format retiring on his own terms. (Great article on this from cricinfo here)

Interestingly he shouldn't even have been playing in this series. Dravid was a panic pick for the ODI tour, which came as a shock to everyone including the man himself. The selection resulted in his announcing his retirement and also the statement that he had not done it earlier because he hadn't been picked for a while. (Video here).

Hoping now that India wins this game (Indra Dev permitting of course). That would be a fitting farewell to a legend. 

P.S. Interesting aside, exactly 4 years ago, 16th Septemeber, 2007 was the last time Dravid led India.

P.P.S Dravid the ODI batsman was great, Dravid the wicketkeeper was good, but even Dravid the bowler wasn't too bad. Saeed Anwar, Gary Kirsten, Lance Klusener and Shaun Pollock isn't a bad collection of wickets.  Check this video here from this match.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

DRS = Dravid Removal System

They couldn't manage to get him out easily. So they have found an ally in the DRS, which from now on will be referred to as the Dravid Removal System. It happened in the Oval test 2nd innings, and it happened again in the 1st ODI at Chester-Le-Street. England appeal for an edge catch. The field umpire disagrees, England call for DRS. Hotspot shows no mark. There could or could not be a deflection, depending on the camera angle and the viewers' bias. Yet Dravid is given out. 

Which again brings me to question the DRS system itself. What we have learnt is technology is not perfect. What we have also learnt is all the boards with BCCI in fore-front have forgotten the basic reason for the existence of DRS. The idea was to for players to redress umpiring howlers. It wasn't meant for close calls. The boards have blundered with the system, making it too complex and with different sets of rules operating in different venues. Right now 3 different series are going on. All have different DRS operating rules. For a single game that is the most ridiculous situation you can get into.

My suggestion would be simple. Remove the reviews from the players hands. Make the 3rd umpire more pro-active. Instead of just reviewing things when he is called for, he can step in himself. So wickets of no-balls, inside edged LBWs and other such howlers can be easily eliminated, which was what the DRS was for in the original place. Don't think ICC will ever listen though.

P.S. in other India news, Sachin Tendulkar & Rohit Sharma are out injured. Ramesh Srivats on twitter has created an excellent injury news report here. I believe that England must be practicing some form of voodoo or black magic on our players.

P.P.S. 16.3-10-8-6. Figures of Pragyan Ojha playing for Surrey against Northamptonshire in the county championships. Wonder why he is not in the Indian team.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Wall - Debut-cum-Farewell

At the age of over 38, Rahul Dravid made his T20 international debut. It was a belated debut, as he should have been leading the Indian team in its first ever T20 game, but was injured on that day. And given that he had announced from Limited overs international cricket, this was also going to be his last match as well. A debut and a farewell rolled into one. He came in at his favored no. 3 spot. Started scratchily and then smashed 3 consecutive sixes to leave an indelible memory for his fans.

It has been said that in this thus far disastrous tour of England, the only good thing has been that Indian cricket and its fans have learnt to appreciate Rahul Dravid again. With every passing day, the Wall rises higher in our esteem. RESPECT.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

England - India: The Confusion Continues

In the summer of 2011, the Indian cricket team toured England. It was a pretty confusing tour for the marketers. And the following statements will show why.

The No. 1 ranked test team in the world took on 3rd ranked England in a 4 match series. At the end of the series, England became the No. 1 rank holders while India were the 3rd rankers.

Then World Champions England will take on India in a T20 match.

This will be followed by a 5-match ODI series in which world champions India will take on England.

I don't know about anyone reading this but I got pretty much confused while writing it out. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

ICC's World Test XI for 2010-11

The ICC yesterday announced it Test Team for the year. The players selected are as follows, in batting order:
Cook, Amla, Trott, Tendulkar, Sangakkara (captain/wk), de Villiers, Kallis, Broad, Swann, Steyn, Anderson with Zaheer picked as the 12th man.
Some very deserving names in here. But I have a couple of issues with this team.
Firstly, how has Kumara Sangakkara been picked as the wicket-keeper of the team, when he does not keep wickets for Sri Lanka in Tests? Also if I remember correctly, Dilshan was keeping wickets in a couple of tests last year, with Sangakkara in the team. Given the options and performances over the last year, I believe Matt Prior, Brad Haddin or even Mushfiqur Rahim as a better choice for the keeping duties.
And then there is a minor issue of choosing the openers. Seems Cook is the only opener selected in the team. Amla opens in ODIs but in Tests he generally comes in at 3. Now here I don't have any alternatives though. If there hadn't been the debacle in England following the absence in the West Indies, Sehwag & Gambhir would have been the front-runners here. But given the context its better to have Amla open in this fantasy exercise like Dravid did for India.
Otherwise looks a good all round team though I might have gone in with Zaheer ahead of Broad.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Pataudi Trophy - Review

I remember with how much eagerness and anticipation I had written this preview. And how wrong was I? There was a section with a man-for-man comparison stating how equally matched the 2 teams were on paper (Alas as it turned out, it was only on paper). In fact we got hammered man-for-man.
In the end it turned out to be a contest between England against Rahul Dravid & Praveen Kumar. England were an efficient machine, with even the replacements also slotting in seamlessly. India on the other hand hand key components falling apart, getting damaged and replaced by Chinese made imitations. Rahul Dravid did build his Wall, but the other batsmen built tunnels under it. Praveen Kumar ran in all the time, holding one end as a stock bowler while there was no one at the other end to strike through. India just fell apart. There have been debacles in the past, England getting whitewashed in Ashes of 2006-07. But never before has such a long-anticipated top of the table clash turned so one-sided.
For England, there was someone or the other to keep knocking down the Indians if they even thought off getting up. It was simple, Excellent no-nonsense batting, sustained bowling and some decent all-round fielding. They executed it beautifully and ran India ragged.
For India, there were patches of brilliance like Dravid's batting, Ishant's spell at Lords, opening 2 days at Trent Bridge. Otherwise it was an abject surrender. There were cries heard that the team was under-prepared and needed more warm-up games. This may have been true but the way the English victory margins kept increasing through the series, it would have seemed England were the ones under-prepared at Lords.
Key moments for the series. Zaheer pulling his hamstring on Day 1 at Lords, Prior & Broad's counterattack when they were in trouble in the 2nd innings at Lords again. In Trent Bridge, India had England down for the count at Tea on the first 2 days and they managed to recover ground through Broad with both bat and ball. After that it was just a one-way road. Gautam Gambhir's on-field injuries meant a random batting order every time.
Other aspect highlighted has been the failings of the Hotspot. Technology certainly isn't fool-proof. But in trying to make technology fool-proof, the governing bodies have lost sight of the original idea of DRS, which was to remove umpiring howlers like Harbhajan given out lbw of a inside edge at Trent Bridge and not the marginal too-close-to-call situations like Dravid's at The Oval. Here due to some sheer pigheadedness of BCCI, ICC and other governing bodies, we have got such farcial scenario of different rules applicable in different places for the same game.
In the end, all I can say is England were bloody good, like they were in Australia earlier this year. I was cheering for them during the Ashes but couldn't watch them pummel my Indian team like this. Michael Vaughan's jokes which I enjoyed with relish during the Ashes were now too painful to even read.
India were under-prepared, exhausted, injured unit. Players were hopeless in the English conditions against an efficient English cricketing machine. And simply outmatched and outclassed.
Only good thing which came out was that the Indian fan learned to appreciate Rahul Dravid once again.
Also spare a thought for Duncan Fletcher, England coach for seven years and current Indian coach. His long term aim of making England the world's best test side has finally come true but at his own expense.

P.S. At least we did something about the Cricket Spirit while recalling Ian Bell, the Sledgehammer of Eternal Justice.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sledgehammer of Eternal Justice

Congratulations to Ian Ronald Bell for getting the Man of the Match for his first ever Test double century at The Oval. You are the reason this blog exists.

The Wall

Commitment. Consistency. Class

One positive thing from the disastrous tour of England has been that Indians have again learned to appreciate Rahul Dravid. But as his wont, his absolute masterclass innings might get buried in the controversy over DRS use on his dismissal.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Arbit Statistics - 11

India vs England, 4th Test, Oval
At the score of 447/3, England sent in James Anderson as a nightwatchman. A very weird decision in my opinion. But this led to a little comic and statistic. Looking at the current first class batting records of the England XI, their no. 11 Grame Swann has a higher first class score than their opener Andrew Strauss (183 vs 177). Not that it is any comparison index, but Strauss would certainly like to rectify this anamoly.

Source - A comment on BBC text commentary. Not verified as yet.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Pataudi Trophy - Test 3 - Preview

India down 2 nil after the 2nd test. Some players have gone back and some reinforcements have come in. But its the off-field non-cricket related happenings which have taken the centre stage. It seems the whole of England has been taken over by rioting mobs. Quite a few sporting fixtures have been cancelled. But the Test match is going to be held in Birmingham, another scene of the riots. Personally I am not in favour of the match being held in this climate. Given what is being shown on the BBC, no police can be diverted to the match and what if something happens there?
I am sure that if the riots would have been in India the English team would have gone back home even if the riots were not taking place in the same city. But here everyone is going ahead with the matches inpite of looting and rioting going on. I do not suggest that the Indian team come back, but at least let the situation normalise first.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Nice Guy Who Finished First

"The Nice Guy Who Finished First" - As titles of biographies goes, there couldn't have been a better one than this. Pretty much sums up what Rahul Dravid means. (Also it is something which everyone should aspire to be known as).
I was away for a couple of days with very limited internet access. Logged on to cricinfo via the mobile web and saw a headline saying "Rahul Dravid announces retirement". Now this came as a total shock. After a couple of years of patchy form, he had just regained his supreme touch (3 centuries in the past 5 Tests, all away and in difficult batting conditions). I thought maybe he wanted to leave on a high, but this announcement would still have been quite premature.
Reading it further, I realised that Dravid had just retired from ODIs and T20 internationals to focus on his Test career. Now this made no sense. After all he hadn't been a part of the one-day side for quite some time and never played in a T20 for India. (He was scheduled to captain India in its first ever T20 match, but was injured and Sehwag led the the team). Reading the article further, the full story emerged. The selectors had obviously panicked seeing the batting performances in England and picked the best performer in the current Test series for the ODIs as well.
This was of course not a new occurence. Having dumped Dravid in 2007 and then Ganguly for trying out youngsters, they had to pick Dravid back for the 2009 Champions Trophy in South Africa. The reason being given that the newcomers had been found out against the short ball. So Rahul Dravid was back in the ODI team for 2 tours. Was the second highest run-getter for the team. And was then dumped again when the tours moved to freindlier Indian pitches.
I guess the story was going to be repeated again this time. But Dravid put a stop to it before it got out of hand. He announced his retirement after the ODIs. It would be interesting if he plays the T20 match. His T20 debut and retirement on the same day.
Rahul Dravid has been the go to man for all emrgencies in the Indian cricket for the past few years. Keeping wickets in one dayers for a few years. Then one day batting position changes frequntly. Opening on a regular basis in Tests. Playing ODIs in pace friendly conditions because the younger lot cannot handle the short ball. And then getting dumped when the contests moved on to batting friendly pitches. Captaining during the Greg Chappel era. Resigning after winning a series in England, reasons for which have still not been made public.
Now that Dravid has put a stop on all this. There would be no more hiding behind "The Wall" for Indian selectors. They have to find a new solution to their problems.
There was outrage on his selection to the ODI team. This wasn't on account of him not deserving a spot in the team. But because of the mistreatment of an all time great. And his reaction of all this was simple. Play in the ODIs because the team needed him. And then retire.
I hope Indian cricket and its fans finally give the man his due. Not that he is going to ask for it. And in any case he need not worry. After all his name appears in out national anthem.