Monday, February 28, 2011

World Cup Thoughts - Feb 27

After watching a CRAZY tied match between India & England, well, there is lots and lots to say. If I was commentating like Ravi Shastri, I would have said "In the end, cricket was a winner". 
  • Virender Sehwag's edgy start. Should have been out 3 times in the 1st over. Wasn't and helped the team get off to a flier.
  • Sachin Tendulkar's brilliant century. And seeing him hit those big sixes off Swann was special. The best one though was the first one off Collingwood and here is what Cricinfo had to say about it, 
    Collingwood to Tendulkar, SIX, the ball was straight, but the bat much straighter. Tendulkar with one, simple movement has lifted this over the bowler's head and straight into the advertising boards. First six of the match, made to look indecently easy
  • Tim Bresnan was brilliant in the end. And he was in my Fantasy League team along with SRT.
  • Munaf Patel ran out Zaheer trying to take an impossible second run, after having run the first one short. A little thing but in the proved decisive. 
  • Forget Sehwag, this time around even the entire team could not bat out the 50 overs.
  • At the halfway stage, it seemed India would romp home but our bowling attack (sorry, wrong word) just wasn't there for most of the England innings.
  • Strauss played an innings hardly expected from him or in general any English batsman for that matter. But Zaheer's yorker took him out.
  • Ian Bell (the hero of this blog) was playing fine till he got a cramp. Also involved in a bizarre decision review. Started walking off on seeing the replay but umpire stood by his original decision and gave him Not Out on a technicality.
  • The Batting Powerplay seriously scares the Batting side. India lost their way a bit, while the English almost lost the match.
  • And when the Indians seemed to have the match under control, a flurry of sixes from Swann, Bresnan & Shahzad sealed a tie.
  • England nearly choked. Well, with so many South Africa born players in their ranks, what else could we expect.
  • India & England both have a good batting and pathetic bowling lineups. Not sure how longer they can go on with this.India's in particular starts and ends with Zaheer, the rest are just kind of running through the motions.
  • The "Movies Now" channel was showing all 6 Rocky movies. Manged to catch quite a bit of action in between overs. Just wondering how awesome it would have been to watch the match with the Rocky theme on rather than the cliched commentary. 
In the end I can say this was probably the best match of the past 3 world cups. The best since Edgbaston 1999, another tied match.
And a day earlier, Pakistan beat Sri Lanka in another close game further strengthening my belief of Pakistan as a dark horse for winning the Cup. Still a long way to go.
Now over to some boring matches from tomorrow. Predictions Zimbabwe & West Indies to win.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

World Cup Thoughts - Feb 26th

Finally a good game between Ireland & Bangladesh, taking the count for good games to 2 out of 9 played so far (Netherlands-England being the other one). And both my predictions made yesterday came true. Here are the thoughts for today.
  • The groups are looking more and more lopsided. The stronger Associates have landed in a group which was already far more competitive than the other. West Indies, Bangladesh, England & Ireland are fighting for 2 QF slots with the Dutch also a tough team.
  • New Zealand - Zimbabwe match is going to be the decider for the 4th quarter-final spot in Group A, and I have a feeling that Zimbabwe might sneak in.
  • This is going to be a spin dominated world cup. Except Australia everyone is playing more and more spinners.
  • I was watching the post-match show after the South Africa - West Indies game. There was a discussion on the issue of taking the fielder's word for low catches. Saurav Ganguly then recalled an incident from a test played in 2008 when he took the fielder's  word for a low catch and walked. However the ball had touched the ground and India went on to lose the Test. He did not name the fielder or even the opposition but it was obvious which match he was referring to. The Sydney Test (monkeygate scandal) of 2008 still hurts every single Indian player involved in that game. Maybe thats the reason India haven't lost to Australia in a single Test match since then (Played - 8, Won - 5, Draw - 3).
  • Fantasy Team performed well with both trumps Watson & Tamim putting on a good show. Tamim's Man of the Match award was a bit surprising given Shafiul Islam's late spell, but I am not complaining.
  • Today's prediction - Pakistan are playing, can't predict the unpredictable but they should win.

Friday, February 25, 2011

World Cup Thoughts - Feb 25

Writing this while New Zealand & Australia are facing off for the Chappell - Hadlee Trophy (preview here).The 7th wicket pair of Nathan McCullum and Jamie How are trying to stage a recovery as the Kiwis are now at 118/6 in the 28th over. Now for the previous 2 games.
  • Kenya are on the wane. Sad to see them reduced to such a state.
  • Pakistan are mercurial and now I consider them to be the dark horses for the tournament. But then you never know with Pakistan. Though the team is playing as a unit these days.
  • West Indies don't look like having any sort of bowling attack. And if the batting misfires then the game is as good as over.
  • Darren Bravo is probably the best batting talent to have emerged from the West Indies for quite a few years.
  • AB de Villiers was awesome.
  • South Africa played 3 (yes THREE) spinners, one of whom opened the bowling (Still cant think of anything to say about that)
  • Imran Tahir lived up to the hype. It was a good performance on debut for the cricketing nomad.
  • My Fantasy cricket team had a few nervous moments with the rains but they stopped and ABdV (also my trump player) completed his century and got the Man of the Match.
  • And why has ICC scheduled a day match (and a big one at that) on Friday and only one game each on Saturday & Sunday.
  • Today's predictions - Australia to win Chappell - Hadlee Trophy, while Bangladesh will beat Ireland (Aside - Ireland & Netherlands certainly are in the wrong group)
As I write the 7th Kiwi wicket has fallen.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Match Preview: Australia vs New Zealand

Trying my hand at writing a preview for the first time.

Australia vs New Zealand in Nagpur.
This is going to be one tough match for the New Zealanders following the devastating earthquake in Christchurch which has left over 100 people dead. A couple of New Zealand team support staff have rushed back home to their families. It must be really tough for the players to set their mind on a game of cricket now.
But this is a World Cup match and New Zealand have been known to punch far above their weight in World Cups (they did defeat the Aussies in 1999, among the last 2 teams to beat the Australians). The game has got an added significance with the Chappell-Hadlee series also being put on stake here. And New Zealand certainly have a great record when it comes to ODIs against Australia falling under this category. 
Form Guide
Both teams recorded comfortable victories in their opening encounters. New Zealand were ruthless against Kenya, while Australia overcame Zimbabwe after being in a spot of bother initially. Batting against spin looks a difficult proposition for the Australians, while the Kiwi batting lineup looks brittle and would undergo a severe test by the Australian pace battery of Lee, Tait & Johnson. 
If we look at recent form, Australia look a comfortable winner having just come off a 6-1 victory against England while New Zealand have lost against Pakistan, India & Bangladesh. This is also confirmed by the   Team Performance Index (182 for Australia against 163 for New Zealand). Australia outscore the Kiwis in both Batting (321-281) and Bowling (195-169). 
Likely Result
I think Australia should win but a New Zealand victory would certainly lift up the national morale a little bit. 
This post has been published as a part of CASTROL CRICKET MATCH PUNDIT HUNT brought to you by BLOGJUNTA If you like this post then FAVE it here and read other entries as well. Match Pundit Castrol Cricket contest at Blogjunta

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

World Cup Thoughts - Feb 22nd

After 4 boring matches finally a close one. Netherlands certainly embarrassed England though they just did not have the bowling attack to beat them. While Australia certainly proved too good for Zimbabwe. Here are some random thoughts
  • Ryan ten Doeschate (RTD) was awesome with the bat and the ball. But if he had not misjudged that Ravi Bopara six shot, who knows what could have happened next.
  • The ICC qualification rules for players do need an overhaul. Or else playing for country will soon become similar to playing for a club.
  • If Dirk Nannes had still been playing for Netherlands, things certainly could have been different.
  • Shane Watson is now the Aussie for all season.
  • Australia cant play spin.
  • Ricky Ponting's behaviour is certainly tarnishing his legacy. Breaking a TV now ???
  • After a pathetic start my cricinfo fantasy team finally has taken off in style (Thanks to Watson & RTD)
  • RTD has to be a good batsman. He has "ten" in his name. (After all we do know what a certain batsman whose surname starts with "TEN" is capable off)
World Cup boring so far. Where are the big matches? ICC has to be blamed for some atrocious scheduling.

And finally, thoughts are with people in New Zealand who have been impacted by the earthquake there.

Monday, February 21, 2011

World Cup Thoughts - Feb 20th

The ICC has decided to reduce the number of particpating countries to 10 in the next World Cup. A decision which has been universally slammed. Today Kenya & Canada did everything to justify ICC's stand.
Kenya crashed to 69 all out which the Kiwis chased in 8 overs and the match got over before lunch. In the 2nd game Canada got thrashed by 210 runs. Two heavily one-sided games on a Sunday.
Thoughts for the Day
  • Tournament Scheduling - Why couldn't we have 2 big teams playing on a Sunday rather than such lopsided encounters.
  • I hardly watched the games today. Not much off the Kenya-New Zealand game (there wasn't much on show either). And the Sri Lanka - Canada i saw 2 balls off the Canadian innings. Rizwan Cheema faced off against Murali and hammered one big six. So at least I did get to see somethingcome true.
Now hoping Australia - Zimbabwe is not as lopsided as the other games. And I expect Australia to run over Zimbabwe though hoping for Zimbabwe to show some fight.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

World Cup Thoughts - Feb 19th

And finally thee 10th Cricket World Cup has begun. India beat Bangladesh in the opening encounter by 87 runs. Virender Sehwag had revenge on his mind and did just that. A first ball 4 to start the campaign and silence the crowd. And he also lived up to his promise of batting for long. And in the process achieved that immortal Indian score of 175 (must be a special number for Indian batsmen Kapil Dev, Sachin Tendulkar & now Sehwag have scored this figure now). Virat Kohli also scored a century as India smashed through to 370 in their 50 overs. Bangldesh fought well but the total was always out of reach. Man of the Match Sehwag wasn't done though and provided some more fireworks in the post match interview.
  • This was a revenge match
  • Bangladesh are not good enough as a test side
  • Everybody played well except Sreesanth (that must have hurt)
So Port of Spain 2007 has been avenged. My wishes were fulfilled, not fully but I'll take this.

Now looking further in the tournament. India next play England 8 days from now, where Sehwag can seek revenge for all those years of British rule. For the immediate future New Zealand take on Kenya while Sri Lanka face Canada. Prediction - Both New Zealand & Sri Lanka to easily win. 
My wish for tomorrow, some fireworks from Rizwan Cheema and maybe a calm well composed innings from that fellow with the coolest, calmest, most composed name Seren Waters.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The World Cup - Still Waiting to Start

We have had many warm-up matches. India has beaten Australia, thrashed New Zealand, Dhoni scored a whirlwind century, Piyush Chawla justified his selection. England were nearly embarrassed by Canada, while Ireland flexed some Associate muscle. Then there was an opening ceremony which seemed like a bundle of random programs (which were pretty good, but the package did not fit somehow).
And after all this we still have England & Pakistan playing another warm-up game. Are they planning to play a World Cup at all?
Anyways, it seems tomorrow the official matches are finally going to start with India taking on Bangladesh. Only wish India absolutely hammers Bangladesh. Nothing less will do. After all that defeat in 2007 still hurts.

And to show my support for Team India, here is my symbol (Thanks to The Cricket Watcher's Journal)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cricket & India

I was watching the press conference of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh earlier today. The news editors asked quite a few queries on matters of national importance. Corruption, Inflation, Budget, Egypt crisis, Issues with Sri Lanka, Internal Security etc, quite a few matters were raised. In between one editor asked a pretty weird question.
"Sir the cricket world cup is about to be held. And people think India will win. Do you think India will win the World Cup?". The prime minister obviously agreed with the public sentiment here. Immediately this was followed by a supplementary "Who is your favorite cricketer?" And like he had been doing with other queries the PM avoided giving a straight answer by declining to name the player. (Aside - Wonder if he really knows many or he could have just mentioned SRT)
And then the questions again moved back to the serious matters; corruption, inflation, budget... (subjects not under the scope of this blog).
Just goes to show the importance of cricket to us Indians.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The World Cup Memories - 2007

The 9th edition of the World Cup was held in the West Indies. It was promised to be a fun-filled tournament, pictures of the sand and the sea were used for the promotions. One of the stadiums even had a party stand with a swimming pool (!!!). But these turned out to fe false promises and the Caribbean World Cup turned out to be the most forgettable one of all.It was too long, boring, marred with a death and ended in darkness with a total chaos in the final.
I had returned to college doing my MBA. India's early exit ensured that the hostel atmosphere could not reach anywhere near the levels of the engineering days. The auditiorium had been booked for telecasting the matches. But after the first few people hardly turned up for them. Soon all the matches were being followed only via cricinfo. During the later half of the cup the summer internship had started and the live viewing reduced even further. 
India's campaign was disastrous. Losing to Bangladesh and then to Sri Lanka knocked India out off the cup. In between we did win very big against Bermuda. Ireland beat Pakistan to provide the upset of the tournament. Bob Woolmer's death following this defeat put the tournament under total gloom. And the botched up investigations made things worse.
Memories of the on-field actions, very few. Dwayne Leverock's earth-shaking catch to dismiss Robin Uthappa, Herschelle Gibbs' 6 sixes in an over, Malinga's 4 in 4 when South Africa nearly choked (couldn't resist using this word). Lara's farewell words (Did I entertain you ?). And then there was the Easter Sunday special match slated to be India vs Pakistan. Only it was Bangladesh and Ireland instead who turned out to play.
The final match between Australia and Sri Lanka summed up the utter chaos of the tournament. Rain reduced the match to 38 overs a side (a completely wrong decision in my opinion, the finals should have lasted the full duration). And further rain led to the last few overs being played in complete darkness as the match officials forgot the playing conditions (minimum 20 overs had been bowled already). And the most tragic part was that these were the best umpires available. Australia won in the end after another undefeated run through the tournament.
The Irish team provided the story of the Cup tieing with Zimbabwe, beating Pakistan and reaching the Super 8s. There was this great story of the players having to extend their leaves from their respective workplaces so that they could continue playing.
Overall a totally forgettable and chaotic tournament.

With this ends my world cup memories series of posts. Hoping to have a very pleasurable 2011 World Cup.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The World Cup Memories - 2003

The 8th edition of the World Cup was held in South Africa in 2003. This time around I was living in a hostel for my engineering course. Saw almost all the matches in the hostel common room, which was filled to capacity throughout the duration of the cup. Have to say watching in a room stuffed with almost 100 people was pretty near to the stadium experience. Most of the matches started in the afternoon. Quite a few second half classes were missed. Bunking classes had to be done with extreme care to ensure that the attendance did not fall short in any of the papers. This was also the cup where the pre-match shows went on for hours and hours and Mandira Bedi became a cricket presenter (?)
The Indian team was now being referred to as the Men in Blue. They had come off a disastrous tour off New Zealand where 100 runs per innings seemed to be the par score for the entire team. The after effects of this series continued with the first 2 games. But after the bad start the Men in Blue picked up and went from strength to strength to reach the finals, where they lost to the Australia. This has been the most successful Indian campaign in the World Cups that I have watched. The team also provided quite a few moments to remember for their fans. The victory against Pakistan which included the upper cut sixes by Tendulkar of Sohaib Akhtar; Tendulkar's pulled six off Caddick, Ashish Nehra swinging out 6 English wickets and then puking on the ground, Ganguly's minnow bashing with 3 centuries against Kenya & Namibia, Zaheer Khan's misplaced sledging in the finals. But above all this would be the memory of the Indian team huddle (which has since been copied by every other team).
The Australians continued their dominance in the World Cup winning all their matches to win the cup inspite of losing Warne in a drugs scandal. South Africa choked again. In 1992 it was the rain rule, 1996 it was Lara, 1999 there was a tied match. In 2003 all the factors jumped in together. Lara smashed another 100 against the Proteas, Duckworth Lewis jumped in to help New Zealand beat them while the game against Sri Lanka was tied because of rains & wrong reading of the Duckworth Lewis chart. The sight of a dejected looking Shaun Pollock after the Sri Lankan game summed up another great South African choke.
With the tournament expanded to 14 teams the established ones indulged in lots of minnows bashing. However sometimes the so called minnows dished back the same medicine. Top of the list would be Kenya reaching the seni-finals. And there was John Davison of Canada hammering the West Indies but the rest of the team could not sustain the momentum provided by him.
For all the on field action there was none which could compare with the black armband protest by Andy Flower and Henry Olonga. Their actions to protest against the "death of democracy" in Zimbabwe effectively ended their playing careers but was definitely amongst the bravest messages ever sent out by a cricketer through his actions. 
In all, this was one memorable world cup. The good performance by the Indian team combined with the viewing atmosphere in the hostel was an experience which I do not think will come again.

Next Stop - West Indies 2007

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The World Cup Memories - 1999

The 7th edition of the World Cup moved to its old home in England. The format was interesting and confusing at the same time (with the concept of Super 6s being introduced). In terms of timings this was the most Indian viewer friendly tournament with the tournament being held during the summer holidays and all matches starting in the late afternoon. I was in Std 12 then , with IIT-JEE coaching classes taking up quite a bit of time then. But still managed to catch up with most of the happenings in the tournament.
This was a cup with quite a few memories. The initial league stage threw up quite a few surprises and no team seemed to be a clear favorite after its completion. India started badly by losing to South Africa and then getting stunned by Zimbabwe. The tournament's rules ensured that Henry Olonga's final over to India would come back to haunt them again. India regrouped with some great individual performances (the Dravid-Ganguly partnership against Sri Lanka, Tendulkar's 100 against Kenya) and then reached the Super 6s. The Indian campaign then got derailed in the Super 6 stage. India though maintained its 100% winning record against Pakistan, a match played in the backdrop of the Kargil war. I guess the patriotic fervor had never been higher in India than on that day when India beat Pakistan. Two countries at war playing a game of cricket. It was a time when cricket was irrelevant yet people took it for much more than just another game. 
Australia like India had a stuttering start to their campaign but unlike India they just went on to win every game and onwards to the Cup. The two games against South Africa provided the most abiding memories of that tournament. Steve Waugh's "You have just dropped the world cup" line to Herschelle Gibbs and the tied semi-final (In my opinion the best ODI ever played). The sight of the Aussies jumping around after Donald was run out and Klusener who could have been the hero just no where in the picture is the enduring memeory of this tournament. The tie ensured that regardless of any number of close matches they won, South Africa would always be remembered as the great chokers of the game. Zimbabwe gave the most heartening performance of the tournament with what was certainly their strongest lineup of all time. The tournament also set the trend for boring final matches and the Australian unbeaten march.

Next Stop - South Africa, 2003

Friday, February 4, 2011

The World Cup Memories - 1996

The World Cup came to India (and Sri Lanka & Pakistan) in 1996. In a sense it has been the most relateable World Cup so far. This time around I was in Jamshedpur having just completed Std. 8 and entering Std 9. I remember our final exams having been shifted a week or so early so that we were not distracted too much (:D). I remember the fat world cup special supplements which had arrived with almost all the newspapers and magazines. And it seemed to me that almost everyone was sure of an Indian victory as well. But it ended with a complete heartbreak.
Now for some memories from the tournament. The joint India-Pakistan XI which played in Sri Lanka in a (not so successful) bid to declare Sri Lanka as a safe location for matches. The opening ceremony which was well, a fiasco with a much hyped laser show. The Indian campaign was a quiet progress to the quarter-finals and then it moved from the absolute high of an amazing win over Pakistan to the despair and heartbreak against Sri Lanka in the semis in Eden Gardens. The India-Pakistan encounter also gave the most memorable moment of the tournament, the Aamer Sohail-Venkatesh Prasad encounter with the bowler coming out trumps. The most roller coaster campaign definitely belonged to the West Indies. They lost to Kenya and then beat Australia and knocked out South Africa before somehow managing to lose against the Aussies in the semis. And the last memory would be of Arjuna Ranatunga lifting the cup in Lahore.
Everyone seemed to be in a world cup mood at the time. I remember Asian Paints running a "Mera Wala Blue" print campaign featuring the India shirt on all India match days. For the finals however they switched to a Sri Lankan shirt with the tagline, "Tumhara Wala Blue".

Next Stop: England 1999

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The World Cup Memories - 1992

The 10th edition of the ODI World Cup is almost here. So its time to turn back and recall some of the memories I have associated with the World Cups. The 1992 edition is the first one which I remember.  The 1975 & 1979 editions belong to the Before Nishant era. 1983 - I was barely born. 1987 may have watched it but certainly do not remember it. So 1992 is what I would call my debut World Cup. 
I was in Std 5 in Patna then. Cable TV had just arrived and Prime Sports was the channel which showed all the matches, although DD also was showing most of them as well. The matches in Australia & New Zealand meant waking up early (and unlike now those days host countries did not keep Indian viewers in mind while scheduling the games). Most of the matches would be over by the time I returned from school. Even the final was held on a week day. 
India had just been through a long, loss filled tour of Australia. And the disasters continued in the World Cup. Close losses against England and Australia opened the campaign and it went on going worse and worse. The only saving grace from that tournament was the win over Pakistan. This game also gave the never to be forgotten scene of Javed Miandad jumping up and down in front of Kiran More after a few heated words. A few other things which come to mind about this edition, the rain rule which robbed South Africa in the semi-finals, Inzamam's stunning daylight robbery in the other semi-final, Jonty Rhodes flying in to run out Inzamam, Ian Botham taking out Australia single handedly. And also all teams in coloured clothing which was a first. And finally Imran Khan lifting the cup.
So this was 1992 World Cup as I remember. Hope to follow up on the other editions soon.