Sunday, January 29, 2012

Positives from Another 4-nil

I would describe myself as a firm believer in my Indian cricket team. But this Australian tour coming on the back of the hammering received in England has shaken up the Indian cricket supporter in me as well. As the tour went by I had absolutely no enthusiasm in switching on the TV to watch the match. Similarly often forgot about checking the net for the scores while at work. Tried to avoid opening cricinfo on coming back from work. None of the players may have retired so far but after this Australian tour I am certainly thinking of taking retirement from from active cricket following. But within hours of the end in Adelaide came the Pakistani victory in UAE and the enthusiasm got a bit restored.

Everyone I read is going hammer and tongs at the team. Calling for drastic action, yet no one knowing what the action should be. Calls have been made for the seniors to be dropped (me also did the same), some have asked for a ban on IPL (too drastic, too much money), restructuring of the Ranji Trophy (my suggestion 3 levels of 9 teams each, no Duleep trophy or Deodhar Trophy), firing Duncan Fletcher (probably the easiest job and most likely to happen), overhaul of BCCI (how?). 

Oh I digress...
This post was meant to be finding positives from this disaster. And surprisingly I could think of a few. And they are
  • The fast bowlers (Zaheer, Ishant, Umesh) stayed fit throughout the 4 tests. And they did have loads of bowling to do in the series. At least someone looks to be doing the job properly.
  • We have bowlers who can bowl above 150 Kmph. Ishant & Umesh both crossed the barrier.
  • Virat Kohli shows that he has the fight in him. The century in Adelaide should do him some good.
  • Zaheer out-sledged Haddin. 
  • Shaun Marsh may have been reduced to playing in IPL only or he like a phoenix he may rise from these Ashes and score 30 Test centuries for Australia.
  • Ricky Ponting has become more vulnerable and somehow more likeable.
  • Sachin Tendulkar not getting the 100th 100. I might be the only Indian supporter who was happy  that SRT did not reach the so called landmark Too much useless hype on a meaningless stat. 
  • And...Rahul Dravid gave a good speech to start the tour. CertainlyTHE highlight for India.
Well thats it, no more positives from the series.

P.S. Dear Indian team, please always remember, the Indian fan will always support you. Thanks for all the good memories.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Year is a Long Time

An year is a long time.
Things change... a lot
Just look at the cricketing world.

A year ago early 2011... India were the Test No. 1. A No. 1 ranking which looked more and more deserved after having survived a thorough examination in South Africa. England were on the ascendancy handing out innings defeat after innings defeat to the once mighty Aussies who seemed in terminal decline. Pakistan were moving from one crisis to another. Zimbabawe were not playing Test cricket. The Kiwis were getting beaten by Bangladesh.

A year later, India are getting hammered by the Aussies (who had to suffer a 47 all out and a home defeat to the Kiwis). England blanked out India to reach the Test ranking pinnacle. Yet managed to lose at the first available instance to an increasingly stable, controversy-free (!!!) Pakistan. South Africa have forgotten how to string together 2 test victories in a series. Kiwis beat Oz in a Test. Zimbabwe are playing Tests. India played a Test without any spinners.

David Warner is now the first choice Test opener for Australia (!!!). South Africa now use Dale Steyn as a support act rather than the main one.

The time they certainly are a changin'

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Jinx & The Request

Writing a 2-in-1 blog, i.e. 2 remotely related posts in 1 post :)

The Jinx
This is every sports fans boo-boo. When a game of their favorite team/player is on, the true sports fan will try to avoid doing anything which might get the stars misaligned and the team's performance gets affected. It might be wearing the "lucky" shirt, ordering the same food, not shifting from your seat during an important passage of play. I remember, while watching in hostel common rooms, we used to immediately throw out anyone whose entry resulted in a fall of Indian wicket. These days, there is a new dimension added to the jinx. Facebook and twitter networks fall relatively quiet when some milestone is approaching. People try not to post anything related to the approaching milestone.
Today I tried to test this theory. 2 wickets down in Perth on 1st morning. Sachin Tendulkar batting. And not a single post about the 100th 100. So I posted the following message -"Sachin batting and no one talking about his 100th 100. Weird." This was with Gambhir on strike. Lo and behold, within 3 minutes of posting, of the first ball he faced, Sachin Tendulkar was out lbw to Ryan Harris. If this was not a jinx then I dont know what is. :D

The Request
Dear ICC
It seems (though there is no proof except faith) that the milestone of 100 international centuries is weighing down Sachin Tendulkar.  He doesn't look out of form. He just gets out in the vicinity of the 100 (it could be 100 runs away also). The only solution would be to find some match in which Sachin has got a hundred and declare it as an international match. Thus adding to the tally of Sachin's hundreds. I have a couple of suggestions on the subject.
Mumbai vs Australia - in 1998, SRT got his 1st double century.
Diana Memorial match, at Lords, in 1998 when Sachin scored 125.
I'd recommend that 2nd game, which would also give SRT an international 100 in Lords.
Yours sincerely
An Indian cricket fan

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Its time for a change

Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman

3 Absolute Legends of the game
Forming the most formidable batting trio in the history of Test cricket, Statistically. 
Some 35 thousand odd runs, nearly 450 tests, over 100 Test centuries between them. There is no doubting these numbers. These have been built over years, across all sorts of conditions and match circumstances. Together or as individuals they have given us some of our most cherished victories in the past decade and a half. The current Australia tour was to be the Final Frontier for them. But like Steve Waugh's India dream, this also remains unfulfilled.

Since the World Cup win India's test performances have moved from one disaster to another. The batting has been a total disaster. 17 innings without a score above 300. Whatever be the conditions certainly does not bode well for a team which went to No. 1 Test ranking based on its batting might. And the results have shown. 1-nil victory in 3 Tests against West Indies, 4-nil hammering in England (all matches lost by huge margins) and now seemingly halfway to another 4-nil hammering in Australia. 

Last 4 overseas Tests have resulted in 3 innings defeats. If nothing else this statistic alone calls for a large scale change in the personnel. And provides a golden opportunity to build the team for the future and the present as well.

The time is apt now for Indian cricket and its fans to thank Dravid, Tendulkar & Laxman for the services they had rendered and bid them farewell. The newcomers would have a nice opportunity to begin afresh without any baggage. With no further overseas tour planned for some time, it also would allow the batting lineup to settle down. And frankly speaking the newcomers cant do much worse than this. Rahane, Pujara, Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary, Kohli, Manish Pandey and even Badrinath, Raina and Yuvraj are all waiting in the wings. 
The golden oldies can take a leaf out of Sourav Ganguly's book and retire on their own accord rather than being dropped. And if they don't the selectors should not wait any more. The time is set to move on. The selectors have shown in the past that they can take some big decisions, e.g. bringing in Murali Vijay (who initially did quite a good job) as replacement for Gambhir rather than going back to Jaffer or Akash Chopra.  Or when Pujara was brought in ahead of Yuvraj. 

Certainly this is not going to be an easy task. To give an idea of how hard the task is going to be I can give this illustration  
After the first innings in Sydney I had put this idea on Facebook. Immediately a few outraged comments  arrived. "Sachin ko rehne do yaar"... "I dont see next generation performing either"... "Sachin & next gen will retire at the same time"  were some of the comments which were made to this post.
The idea might seem outrageous. After all, Dravid was the highest run-getter in 2011, VVS won so many matches through his 4th innings specials and Sachin is "God". But the results of last one year show only one way forward. Tough decisions are required. The selectors may face lots of flak if they do take the decision to drop the trio but it would certainly be good for the team. 
And can the replacements perform? Well I don't know but Harbhajan Singh, the highest active wicket-taker in test cricket has been replaced very easily by Ashwin. So we won't find out till we try them out.

Team India, this is the time to move on.

P.S. The current England team took the major step towards becoming the top ranked Test team when they blooded in Trott ahead of growing calls to recall Ramprakash or Trescothick for the Ashes decider in 2009. Certainly some valuable lessons are in there.