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.