Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ten from 2012

'Tis that time of the year when you think about the time gone by. And then you compile the lists. Here is Slipstream Cricket's list of 10 cricketing memories from the year 2012.

1. The year of Retirements
Dravid, Laxman, Strauss, Ponting, Boucher, Simon Taufel retired from all formats of the game through 2012r. And the year  ended with Mr. Cricket Mike Hussey announcing his international retirement at end  of the current Australian season. Then there was the  retirement of Sachin Tendulkar from ODIs (only) which led to millions of Indian fans saying that they will retire from watching the ODI game.

2. The year of Michael Clarke
He is the new batting machine. Starts the year with a triple against India. Followed it with a double against Indians, added 2 more doubles against South Africa in a losing cause and then ended the year with a meagre 106 against Sri Lanka. Purple patches don't get purpler.

3, The Gangnam Style
There was a universally loved West Indies victory in the T20 world cup. They won it in style and celebrated in Gangnam style. There was a certain pride in playing for the West Indies shown by their maverick T20 mercenaries showing glimpses of a revival in West Indies cricket. Hopefully it is not another false dawn.

4. The Hundredth Hundred
The entire country and multiple statisticians waited for the hundreth hundred to come for over a year. It did not come in World Cup 2011 or in England or at home in India or in Australia. People kept waiting and waiting. And finally when it did come it came in a defeat to Bangladesh in Asia Cup

5. The Virat Kohli run chase formula
Give any target, provide some extra parameters (have to win in x overs or get a bonus point, lose early wickets). Then comes to bat Virat Kohli. And Job is done.

6. Misfiring strategy of the year
India had to avenge last year's blanking in England. Given England's poor display against Piyush Chawla & Harbhajan Singh in the T20 world cup, spin was the weapon of vengeance. And the weapon needed to be carefully hidden. So no spinners picked against the English in the practice games. Only  the Indian think-tank forgot that they had Swann, Monty & Mustaq Ahmed to practice during the nets. End result - first series loss to England in 28 years.

7. Cricketing jargon of the year
Reintegration - Kevin Pietersen behaves like a bad boy off the field. So he is dropped. But England need  him as they get knocked out early in the T20 World Cup and lose the Test top dog status to South Africa. So they pick him again after talks. And they call the process - Reintegration. Result - England win their  first Test series in India in 28 years. 

8. The Curse of the Golden Mace
After India England arent able to hold on the mace for long. 'The curse strike them as they keep losing till finally handing over the mace to South Africa. South Africa barely survive the Clarke juggernaut and have retained the mace. Not sure for how long South Africa they can hold on to it though.

9. Surprise of the Year
There was no new controversy emerging from Pakistan. None that I can recall any at the moment. And that in itself I would call as a major achievement.

10. Newton's Law of Gravity award.
To the Indian team. From the highs of 2011 World Cup victory to 4-0 demolitions in England & Australia & a series loss in India, failure to reach finals of CB series & Asia Cup and early elimination in the T20 World Cup. Yet the arrogance in BCCI remains.

P.S. RIP Tony Grieg. Slipstream Cricket had differences of opinion with you but your voice would be sorely missed. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ranji Trophy 12-13: Jharkhand vs Kerala review

Match Summary: Jharkhand (120 & 170) lose to Kerala (325) by innings and 35 runs
Points: Jharkhand 0, Kerala 7

It was the do or die moment, Unfortunately Kerala had Sreesanth coming back from injury for this game. He took 4 wickets in the fist innings to knock out the Jharkhand team for 120. Then Kerala managed a big lead by scoring 325 through 2 top order centuries and not much else with Nadeem taking 4 wickets. Second time around Ishank Jaggi got 90 but the rest of the brittle batting order was exposed again and they could only muster 170 to lose by an innings and 35 runs. Though Sreesanth did not manage a single wicket in the 2nd innings.

The result was a major setback for the quarter-final hopes. Though all is not completely lost yet. Need to win against the table topper Services at the minimum while hoping other results also go in our favour.

All the best against Services.

Season stats
Lead Scorer - Saurabh Tiwary - 568 @51.64
Most Wickets - Shahbaz Nadeem - 33 @24.00

Sunday, December 23, 2012

His ODI Retirement

December 23, 2012. 

Sachin Tendulkar announced his retirement from One Day International cricket.

Co-incidentally the day a team was being picked for the upcoming home series against arch-rivals Pakistan.
Just wondering about the timing of the retirement announcement. Did he jump or Was he pushed? If the latter case is true then it would be a sad end.

I belong to the camp which believes that he should have retired after the 2011 World Cup. And this decision was delayed. Still the retirement makes me a little sad (though the first feeling on hearing the news was only ODIs!). After all even I was an SRT fanboy once and probably would be forever.. Nonetheless the manner of the end shouldn't tarnish his career. And it has been statistically the greatest career ever.

463 Matches, 18,426 runs, 49 centuries at an average of 44.83. Sometimes sheer numbers are enough to convey the magnitude of a player's achievements. And just to add an icing to the cake add 154 wickets as well.

This post is an attempt to recall top of the mind, the ten greatest SRT ODI moments, as I remember them.

1. 134 vs Australia, Sharjah, 1998, in the final of one of the many Coca-Cola Cups played that year. Incidentally on his birthday and coming on the back of the another brilliant 143 in the previous game against the same opponents, which took India to the final.

2. 175 vs Australia, Hyderabad, 2009 in a lost cause. A really heart-breaking game for any fan. Sachin scores 175 and yet India fall just short of Australia's 350+ target.

3. Hero Cup semi-final against South Africa. Taking responsibility to bowl when even Kapil Dev was reluctant to.

4. 98 vs Pakistan , 2003 World Cup at Centurion. Especially that upper cut six off Akhtar.

5. Mcgrath attack, 2000, ICC knock out, Nairobi. Provided the perfect start to a match which will be later remembered for being the 1st innings of Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer's yorker to dismiss Steve Waugh and Venkatesh Prasad hitting the last ball of the Indian innings for a six.

6. That six off Caddick, India vs England, World Cup 2003.

7. The ODI double century vs South Africa, Gwalior, 2010, coiniciding with my 1st ever chopper ride.

8. The dismantling off Henry Olonga, Sharjah, 1998. Another of the Coca Cola trophies in Sharjah in 1998. Olonga had the audacity to dismiss SRT off  a bouncer in the league game. The final was a different story altogether as Sachin and India cruised to the title against a then quite strong Zimbabwe.

 9. 140 vs Kenya, World Cup, 1999. A real gem of an innings in sad circumstances.

10.  The perfect swansong which could have been. The world cup victory at Wankhede, 2011.

And many many more over the past 23 years. 

Goodbye, Mr. Tendulkar. Thank you for all the entertainment and the memories.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Ranji trophy 12-13: Jharkhand vs Andhra

Match Summary: Jharkhand (257 & 295/9d) drew with Andhra (410 & 32/4)
Points: Jharkhand 1, Andhra 3

This was a crucial game in terms of deciding who goes through into the knockouts. A top order collapse in the 1st innings put Jharkhand in big trouble but a century by Saurabh Tiwary and some good lower order partnership with Nadeem helped put on a decent total. Andhra were in a big spot of bother with 6 wickets gone and still trailing by almost 90 runs, but a big hundred by Amol Mazumdar, the all-time leading Ranji run getter took Andhra to a comfortable lead. Wicket-keeper Shiv Gautam took 5 catches in the Andhra innings. Tiwary missed a second century in the match getting out for 99 while Akash Verma scored 82. Though Jharkhand declared and gave Andhra some fright there wasn't enough time and the match ended in a draw.

So Jharkhand get only 1 point taking their tally to 18 for the season. The team has now dropped to the 3rd place 2 points behind Andhra having played the same number  of games. With 2 matches in hand, it could turn out to be a very close race for the 2 quarter-final spots.

Coming up next -  a must win game against Kerala who are in 8th place in the group, starting December 22.

Season Stats
Lead Scorer - Saurabh Tiwary 554 @ 61.6, over 300 more than the next highest Akash Verma
Most Wickets - Shahbaz Nadeem 29@ 24.6, with Sunny Gupta close behind with 26

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Ranji Trophy 12-13: Jharkhand vs Tripura

Match Summary: Tripura (106 & 86) lost to Jharkhand (139 & 553/3) by 7 wickets.
Points: Jharkhand 6, Tripura 0

After taking a break in the 5th round of games, Jharkhand were back in action in 6th round, playing against Tripura in Agartala. And what an action packed return it was with the match finishing inside 2 days. Either the pitch must have been something extra-ordinary or the bowling out-of-this-world or the batsmen totally incompetent. Given the records of the players concerned I would like to believe in the extra-ordinary pitch theory. The contest was unfair with the dice being heavily loaded in favour of the bowlers, but I would rather have this kind of pitch than some of the flat tracks being dished out in the Ranji trophy.

Coming back to the match. There was a total of 1 big partnership in the game between Saurabh Tiwary & Ishank Jaggi and that basically sealed the fate of the game in Jharkhand's favour. How valuable was the parthership? It was 7 runs more than the entire Tripura 2nd innings & was more than double the combined total of the other nine Jharkhand 1st innings partnerships. Ajay yadav playing only his 2nd First class match was the star performer with the ball taking 10wickets in the match while Shankar Rao took a 5-for in the 2nd innings. The two highest wicket takers for Jharkhand this season Nadeem & Sunny bowled a total of 8 overs in the entire game, such was the impact of the 2 new ball bowlers. But the star performance was undoubtedly the Tiwary-Jaggi partnership which helped secure the 6 points.

With this win Jharkhand take their points total to 17 with 3 games in hand. they are very much in the race for the Quarter-final spot right now. Hoping to see my team in the Ranji knock-outs.

Next Game - vs Andhra starting December 15.

Season Stats
Top scorer - Saurabh Tiwary - 336 runs @ 48
Most wickets - Shahbaz Nadeem - 26 @ 20.42

P.S. It was interesting to see that former India keeper Ajay Ratra is now playing for Tripura

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Eternal Optimists

Sometimes I hate VVS Laxman & Rahul Dravid. 

Their partnership on 15th March, 2001 at Eden Gardens are part of cricketing folklore. A partnership which turned around a hopeless situation into a winning one. And scripted the most dramatic turnarounds in the history of the game. India went on to win the match and took the momentum generated from the game to win the next match and the series as well.

But in addition to all this, what the duo also did was to convert Indian fans into eternal optimists. The situation can be as hopeless as it can be, but the Indian fan will remember that glorious day in Eden Gardens when Laxman & Dravid stopped the all-conquering Australians from taking over the "Final Frontier".

They made us believe in miracles. And I guess that enhances the pain of losing a little more.

Also in this list of believing-it-ain't-over-till-its-over was the Kumble-Srinath match-winning 9th wicket partnership against the Aussies in Titan Cup (1996). That single game is responsible for keeping me awake till the game is actually won or lost ever since. I might have ignored it as a-once-in-a-lifetime but something similar happened again when Zaheer Khan & Murali Kartik repeated the dose to the another bunch of Aussies in another ODI a few years later.

As I write this the 9th Indian wicket has fallen in the 2nd innings and an innings defeat looks likely but in some little corner of the heart there is a still a flicker of hope as I keep following the match.

P.S. Come to think of it, the miracles only seem to be happening against the Aussies.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Farewell Ricky Ponting

2012 - Dravid, Laxman, Strauss & now Ponting... Some big names hanging up their bats. 

How to describe Ricky Ponting? He was one the best batsmen in the last 2 decades. And undoubtedly one of the finest ever. But unlike his predecessors & contemporaries one of the lesser liked big names on the cricket ground. 

From an Indian fan perspective, I would describe him as a person who has caused a lot of pain to the us on many an occasion, but very rarely was the pain caused by on-field performances with the bat. Barring, of course, the one glorious innings which took away the 2003 World Cup final away from us. As a batsman he mastered conditions everywhere except India. Probably India got the worst out of him, as a player and captain. He presided over the most acrimonious series in which India has involved in the last couple of decades. The 2007-08 tour of Australia was one of the most bitter ever witnessed. Even millions of dollars of IPL money has been unable to heal all the scars so far. 

But I digress. Ricky Ponting was statistically the most successful cricketer ever. 108 test wins and 3 world cup wins. These numbers speak volumes about the Australian dominance, Ponting's longevity as well as ability to be part of such a team for a long time. However he has also had to witness the decline of the Aussies from being an all-conquering team to one of the leading contenders. More than anything else those 3 Ashes defeats must have really, really hurt. He certainly bears the scars of those battles.

He was never a favorite of mine (his habit of continuously spitting into his own hands was disgusting to watch) but his struggles over the later part of the career, for some odd reason, made him more likeable. A heavy defeat to South Africa wasn't the way for a legendary career to end. But at least he got the satisfaction of calling time on his own career.

Farewell Ricky Ponting. May you retire in peace.