Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Line-up from Twenty13

Like most other things, the cricketing year 2013 is also coming to an end. So here is an year-end list. Just giving it some cricketing context by making an eleven to remember for (or not) from Twenty13.

1. The final one
Sachin Tendulkar c Darren Sammy b Narsingh Deonarine 74
Thats how a 200 test career ended on the scorebooks. There was a little more to come when he gave a touching farewell speech calling it his "life between 22 yards for 24 years" Millions of fans also promptly announced their retirement from watching the game. (How many kept this promise during the Johannesburg Test is a matter of conjecture). (Click here and here for Slipstream Cricket's coverage of the last match)

2. Fairy tale beginnings
Australia are in major trouble. 9 down facing up to a huge deficit in the opening game of the Ashes. A 19 year old, who wasn't even originally picked in the squad, comes into bat on debut. And then proceeds to score 98, the highest ever by a number 11. Its the stuff fairytales are made of. However Ashton Agar's career did not really take off. There is still plenty of time for it though.

3. The Power of the Moustache

Shikhar Dhawan had played for India before,but he only exploded on the scene, twirling his moustache, this year. Ravindra Jadeja transformed from the being the most abused one to to now being a  revered one. David Warner returns from Zimbabawe and starts scoring Test centuries. Mitchell Johnson from a Barmy Army punching bag becomes the sledgehammer  who destroys England. The only thing in common between all these characters is the Moustache. 

4. To Walk or Not to Walk - That is the Question
Stuart Broad edges Ashton Agar (he of the fairy-tale start from 2 above) into the waiting first slip. Umpire Dar does not raise his finger. Australia have used up all their reviews, Broad does not walk. The social media erupts declaring that this is as big an incident as Bodyline. The Spirit of Cricket (whatever that is) is called into question. Everyone jumps into the debate. Meanwhile the most common sense solution (empowering the TV umpire to initiate decision making) is not even breathed about. 

5. The Irony
We are living in an era where the health of the game is being questioned. Test cricket is supposed to be dying due the arrival of ODI cricket, which in turn is dying to the arrival of T20 cricket and the non-death of Test cricket. Then we had the Champions Trophy's last edition (as of now) this year. The tournament was keenly contested raising ratings. But being held in England rain also joined the party redcuing the final (of all games) to a 20 over contest. The Irony...

6. The Fixing Saga
Sreesanth, Chandila, Chavan arrested during IPL, Ashraful banned, 3 former Kiwi internationals facing Anti-corruption inquiries, Umpire Rauf getting dropped from the international panel, Team owners facing illegal betting charges, bookies attempting to buy franchisee in Sri Lankan Premier League (which failed to take-off). The fixing saga continues but the corrupt are being weeded out. Can it be completely eradicated? Well human greed has no limitations but "constant vigilance" is what is needed to keep the game as clean as possible.

7. Homework Gate
4 Australian cricketers are dropped from the squad ... for not completing a presentation on how to improve the team. No wonder they were absolute rubbish at that time. Not too much after the coach was the one who got dropped and slowly the team also rediscovered its mojo.

8. Karma bites back
England were all gung ho after winning the 3rd consecutive Ashes. They celebrations ended with some of the team members taking a leak on the Oval pitch displaying no sense of respect for the hallowed turf. Well karma came back  to bite them and since then England have been humiliated by the same opponents in the next 4 matches.

9. Pakistani Enigma
The Pakistan team performs like a sine curve. Hitting rock bottom and then immediately scaling new heights. The same set of players can lose a Test to Zimbabwe (who are struggling to arrange a match) and then a couple of weeks later beat up the top ranked South Africa. And to ensure that the sine curve is complete they lost to South Africa in the very next Test.

10. The Associates battle on
The likes of Ireland and Afghanistan continue to keep the Associate flag fluttering. Although they face severe resistance from the big 10. England keep stealing Irish players and using them (Morgan & Rankin) to beat them. A 16 nation qualifying tournament is held to find 6 Associates who get to play in the qualifying rounds for the next T20 World Cup. Yet the likes of Irealnd, Afghanistan, Nepal et al keep on playing. Guess they are the truly passionate cricketing countries.Hats off to the Associates.

11. Comeback of the Year
From who else but the ever-youth comeback kid, the one and only Shahid Afridi. After having retired for the 20th time in the past 20 years, he comes back to the national squad and destroys West Indies with bat and ball. 76 runs (coming in at 47/5) and following it up with a 7 wicket haul . If not the greatest all-round ODI performance, this surely has to be the greatest all-round comeback performance of all time. May he keep retiring and coming back.

12. The 12th Man (a purely cricketing concept)
For the 12th man presenting some off-field action. Here is a video of Brett Lee trying to kill bowling an over at Piers Morgan. 

Well that was the line-up from the year as we bid farewell to the legend Jacques Kallis who retires in the ongoing Durban Test. Wishing for good cricket in the next year.

Wishing all readers a very happy and prosperous new year ahead.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Ranji Trophy 13-14: Jharkhand vs Vidarbha

Match Summary: Jharkhand (332 & 161/9d) drew with Vidarbha (218 & 164/3)
Points: Jahrkhand 3, Vidarbha 1

Not a great performance overall but Jharkhand take away 3 crucial points from their encounter against Vidarbha. For a change Saurabh Tiwary failed, albeit only in the 1st innings but also for a change the likes of Nemat, Jaggi and Kumar Deobrat helped to prop the innings. Samar Quadri then recorded the best season fugures by any Jharkhand bowler to give a chance for an outright victory. But a familiar second innings collapse put paid to such hopes. They did set a target of 276 runs but Vidarbha ran out of time and the game petered out into a draw.

Season Stats:
Leading Scorer: Saurabh Tiwary - 815 runs @74.09
Top Wicket-taker: Varun Aarom - 18 wickets @20.28

Standings: 9 points from 7 games. Moved upto 8th place. Relegation fight with bottom placed Haryana (7 points) is on. 

Coming Up Next - Last game of the season. Against Punjab who have the likes of  Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Manpreet Gony and Jiwanjot Singh in their ranks. The match could be quite critical to avoid being relegated back to Group C. 

P.S. If you are a Jharkhand fan, you might like to keep an eye on Haryana's last game against Odisha.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Arbit Stats - 28: Cook + Clarke = SRT

3rd Ashes Test, Perth

The two opposing captains Michael Clarke and Alastair Cook are both playing in their 100th Test in the ongoing game in which England is heading for another walloping. Now given cricket's obsession with statisitics it was, but natural, that the two batsmen's numbers would be compared. And their batting stats are pretty similar. Not much to choose between the two here. However some really "bored" soul went a step further and added the two figures up. And lo and behold something magical happened. Sometime in the Test, the Cook & Clarke's combined career aggregates (matches, runs and centuries) added up exactly to those of the only man to play 200 Tests. Our own Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. And a stats obsessed and trivia loving social media ensured that such a "unique" aggregation of numbers doesn't go unnoticed by anyone.

Guess Cook got inspired by this uniqueness and got out for a golden duck in the second innings.

In summary
Alastair Cook           (100 Tests, 7955 runs, 25 centuries)
+ Michael Clarke     (100 Tests, 7966 runs, 26 centuries)
= Sachin Tendulkar  (200 Tests, 15921 runs, 51 centuries)

To "celebrate" such a "unique" stat, Slipstream Cricket is going to make its own "arbit" prophecy. 
The unique circumstance where "stars" are numerologically aligned, a child will be born who will break all existing and future batting records. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ranji Trophy 13-14: Jharkhand vs Mumbai

Match Summary: Jharkhand (351 & 278/7d) drew with Mumbai (278 & 115/5)
Points: Jharkhand 3, Mumbai 1

How happy does a fan feel, when his team, the perennial underdogs gives a bloody nose to the top dog in their backyard? Well, being a Jharkhand Ranji follower this was the almost fairy-tale like game of the season. 

40 times Ranji champion Mumbai were playing without most of their stars. But they were up against a Jharkhand lineup which has been totally spineless with the exception of Saurabh Tiwary. And they lived true to form. The batting lineup collapsed around Saurabh Tiwary and it seemed that we were headed for another defeat. But then No.10 SS Rao decided to hang around while Tiwary decided to launch into his "Dhoni" avatar. A score of 238 out of a total of 351 has to be one of the best Ranji knocks of all time. Well, statistically it was the highest first class score ever by a Jharkhand batsman breaking teammate Ishank jaggi's record. The knock seemed to have a morale-boosting effect on the bowlers as well. Aaron's pace was too hot to handle even for the likes of Wasim Jaffer while skipper Nadeem also rediscovered his mojo. Against all odds Jharkhand took the first innings lead.

Second time around jharkhand threatened to collapse again but this time Jaggi shored up the innings with a century. probably losing his record to Tiwary was the motivation. In my mind Jharkhand messed up a good winning chance by delaying the declaration. They had Mumbai on the mat but then ran out of time. 

Quite a few takeaways from this "moral" victory. Saurabh Tiwary has been consistency personified in this season with 6 50s from 8 innings but this was a truly sensational performance. He also became the top scorer in this Ranji season. 

Aaron's pace and form are being discussed all over again. A couple of more consistent performances for the the rest of the season and there is good chance, he might be back in the national team for the New Zealand tour early next year

Season Stats
Leading Scorer: Saurabh Tiwary - 761 runs @84.56
Top Wicket-taker: Varun Aarom - 17 wickets @18.06

Standings: 6 points from 6 games. Still at 9th place but equal on points with Haryana. Relegation still a very distinct possibility

Coming Up Next - Jharkhand sit out the next round of games before taking on Vidarbha at home. Good chance to score a win there given that Umesh Yadav will not be available.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Arbit Stats - 27

December 5, 2013 - India vs South Africa ODI in Johannesburg.
While India got hammered by the South Africans, they still managed to create a couple of quirky records. And more importantly in the true spirit of a team game that cricket is, this time the records were also collective ones in nature.

1 - When Shikhar Dhawan scored the first runs of the Indian innings he not only opened his and the team's run account but in the process took India past Australia in the aggregate ODI runs scored tally. India is now ODI cricket's leading run getter as a team.

2 - India became the first team to hit 2000 sixes in ODI cricket when Dhoni hit Morkel out of the park.

Well, bad result on the day. Yet we managed to create a couple of "important" and totally useless statistics in the process.

On a more sombre note, Slipstream Cricket is saddened by the passing away of Mr. Nelson Mandela, who was one of the greatest human beings ever born. Also without whose struggles, apartheid in South Africa may not have ended and the South African sporting ban could have gone on for longer. Mr. Mandela was also one of the rare leaders who understood the role of sports as an unifying factor rather than just as an arena of supremacy.

RIP Sir.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Ranji Trophy 13-14: Jharkhand vs Gujarat

Match Summary: Jharkhand (289 & 166/7) drew with Gujarat (352/9d)
Points: Jharkhand 1, Gujarat 3

The run of defeats has ended but it was a pretty close call. Saurabh Tiwary continued his outstanding season and carried the team to safety. In the process he also crossed the personal milestone of 3000 first class runs. Apart from Tiwary there has been a complete lack of consistency from the other batsman. 

This game also followed the season's script. Jharkhand batted steadily with Nemat alongwith Tiwary scoring half centuries but with no support from others. Jasprit Bumrah doing most of the damge for Gujarat. In reply Gujarat built their innings around Parthiv Patel's189 which was enough to get them the all important first innings lead. Jharkhand almost collapsed in the 2nd innings till two retired hurt batsmen Tiwary and Thaker came back to scored 50s to bail them out.

Have to say the Jharkhand lineup is pretty unsettled with constantly changing batting order, bowlers moving in and out, even a change in wicket-keeping duties. Nadeem has not been able to continue his last year's form while Ishank Jaggi is badly out of form (1 run in last 4 innings). Scenario looking quite bleak here.

Season Stats
Top Scorer - Saurabh Tiwary - 485 runs @69.89 (head and shoulders above the rest of the Jharkhand lineup)
Most Wickets - Varun Aaron 11 wickets @ 21.45 (missed this game)

Standings - 3 points from 5 games. Bang at the bottom of the group but closing in on Haryana. Would need a couple of 1st innings leads if not an outright victory to move out of the relegation phase.

Coming Up Next - Against 40 time Ranji Champions Mumbai in their backyard. Not much to hope for from that game. Well, on a bright note Mumbai would be missing the likes of Rahane, Rohit Sharma & Zaheer Khan. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ranji Trophy 13-14: Jharkhand vs Odisha

Match Summary: Jharkhand (221 & 194) lost to Odisha (307 & 109/1) by 9 wickets
Points: Jharkhand 0, Odisha 6

Another game and another loss. The batting with the honorable exception of Saurabh Tiwary is just not clicking as a unit. Even changes in personnel didn't help Jharkhand this time around. The top order was blown away by Basant Mohanty both times around. Nothing much to write home about.

For Jharkhand, opener Shamseed Rathour and wicket-keeper Pappu Singh made their First-Class debuts. Welcome to the senior cricket to both of them. Also Ajay Yadav had his first game of the season and picked up another 5 wicket haul. His career is still in its infancy but 4 5-wicket hauls in 6 first class matches is quite a good beginning. 

Season Stats
Top Scorer: Saurabh Tiwary - 344 runs @ 57.33
Most Wickets: Varun Aaron - 11 @ 21.45

Standings - 2 points after 4 games. Right at the bottom of the table and 4 points below 8th place Haryana. Relegation is becoming a distinct possibility.

Coming Up Next - Gujarat at home. Lets see if the batting holds up this time around.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Ranji Trophy 13-14: Jharkhand vs Haryana

Match Summary: Haryana (309 &128) beat Jharkhand (231 & 172) by 30 runs.
Points: Jharkhand 0, Haryana 6

As I had written previously, this was expected to be a result oriented game, Unfortunately Jharkhand ended on the wrong side of the result. This is a game which we should have won, but in the end just fell short.

Haryana batted first and reached 309 helped by some solid contributions all round. Varun Aaron was the pick of the bowlers taking 4 wickets while Nadeem got 3. In reply, as usual, Saurabh Tiwary was the sole big contributor with 95 as the team conceded a 78 run lead. In the second innings Haryana were 16 for 5 at one stage but Sachin Rana's 84 took them to 124 setting Jharkhand a target of 203. Bhavin Thaker & Ishank Jaggi's got half centuries but their was no support from anyone else with only Rahul Shukla reaching double digits.

Only positive - Varun Aaron's 7 wicket haul in the match.

Season Stats
Top Scorer: Saurabh Tiwary - 220 runs @ 55.00
Most Wickets: Varun Aaron - 8 wickets @ 18.63

Standings - 2 points after 3 games. Jharkhand slides down further to the bottom most postion. Knock-out chances getting slimmer and relegation highly probable. Not a good sign. Come on guys.

Coming Up Next - Familiar East Zone rivals Odisha away. More evenly matched teams though Jharkhand does have a slight upper hand.

P.S. Where is Ajay Jadeja? Has he also retired again?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

#ThankYouSachin - One Last Time

Continuing from yesterday

Nov 15 - Day 2

The Dream - Well, let me be honest, I had a fitful sleep. And a part of it had a dream sequence in which SRT reverse sweeps Tino Best over Chanderpaul's head (who is at first slip) for 6. Rest of the dream has slipped away from the waking up memory. Dream might be explained but certainly no cricketing logic can explain the shot. Just remembered his "personalised digigraph" (nice work by BCCI) told me to chase my dreams as they do come true. Now I am wondering...

Woken Up - see a overnight message about the possibility of a ticket. But too late by then.

9:30 A.M: The Delight - Gotten ready in time. Have a ten minute window for watching the game on TV. And what do I say. Loud cheers for Pujara for taking a single and giving strike to Sachin. Sachin takes a single to retain strike. Next over from Shillingford - a square drive boundary. YES. Next ball, goes for a sweep... Has he missed it?... Its going fine and going for a four. Consecutive boundaries... and I now head for work. Not that much work is going to be done while he keeps batting.

In transit: He has crossed 50. Tino Best is sledging him. Seriously Tino, you got to be out of your mind. Meanwhile office is reached in record times for a working day. But as I enter and settle down. I get the news. Its OVER.

10:39 A.M. - Sachin Tendulkar caught Darren Sammy bowled Narsingh Deonaraine 74. (Probably the last batting entry ever). All participants are now to be lodged in quizzards memories like Eric Hollies. Also a certain Cheteshwar Pujara who in all likelihood was his last batting partner.

Mind is numbed. Nothing feels right. Reality has to be accepted. But...
Virat Kohli walks in as SRT walks out. The baton has passed on.

Surreal scenes - Pujara & umpire get booed because he is given not out. Indians - the masters of "jugaad" already thinking of ways to get Him to bat in the second innings.
Kolhi goes out after a fifty [Aside - Why does his century hunger from ODIs disappear in Tests]. Rohit Sharma in, Pujara gets a 100.

End of Day's Play - It has started to sink in. Meanwhile Rohit Sharma is putting his hand firmly on the baton taken up by Virat Kohli. West Indies are imploding. Maybe giving more party time... But for the Indian fan... Its time to move on.

Records Alert - Darren Sammy has got 5 catches in the innings, equal most by any non-keeper. Shillingford gets his 5th consecutive 5-for in an innings - most by any spinner. Speaks volumes about rest of West Indies bowling attack.

No... not posting this today... Will post together after Day 3.

Nov 16, Day 3 - Likely end of end.

One advantage of growing up. You tend to move on fast. A good nights's sleep and such sundry memories go to rest in peace.

Meanwhile West Indies have started collapsing. Again I reiterate, these players pretending to play for West Indies are just T20 mercenaries. West Indies should retire from Test cricket and have Ireland take their place in the Test community.

Samuels, Gayle, Deonaraine out. Now Chanderpaul goes too. The end is near...Ramdin resists but at the other end Ojha and Ashwin make short work of Sammy and Shillingford before Shami gets Gabriel out. And  then it is all over.

And then this wonderful speech. "My Life Between 22 Yards for 24 Years". The innings, the match, the staged series are all forgotten. That is how you bid farewell. Meanwhile, a few silent tears rolled along.

There will be countless presentation ceremonies, multiple farewell gifts and momentos, millions of pictures getting clicked. People trying to get in the same frame as SRT to be able to post the picture on social networks. There will be countless others who will say I WAS THERE when it all ended....

I Wasn't There at the Stadium. But does it matter...

All I can say is THANK YOU SACHIN for all the wonderful memories. Your place in the lineup might be soon taken up by someone else who might even create his own records. But... he will be a hero for a new generation. I may admire his exploits, but there won't be any romance associated with them. After all the peril of having grown up is you tend to move on fast.


Thursday, November 14, 2013


The final test is here. And inspite of myself, I am feeling a little low. In my opinion, the retirement has been quite delayed, but now that the event is impending, something still seems wrong. After all Sachin Tendulkar has been part of the Indian team since, well, as long as I can remember.

I for one wasn't elated when a hastily planned farewell series was announced. After all this meant that a mouth-watering feast of India-South Africa contest has been reduced to a level of high tea. And all the over-the-top (read normal) media coverage and the grand plans (199 kg of rose petals, paintings as farewell gifts etc.) made it all worse. But now that the last match is here, the occasion is tinged with sadness. After all its another reminder that another of my childhood heroes is leaving the stage.  

Here is a little run-down of how the final test went by and what I was upto at the same time. To borrow a line from 24, events happen in real time.

Nov 14 - Day 1
Early Morning - Should I have gone to Wankhede? Sould I have tried for the tickets? Having "grown up" now, the enthusiasm has reduced dramatically. But... maybe I should have...

Its newspaper reading time. Lots & lots of anecdotes. There is a full pull-out section. Loved the little Sachin holding a bat picture...the random stories... the changed times... Yes 24 years is a lot of time!!! Ohh...and its Children's Day today. A childhood hero beginning to leave the stage on the most festive day of school life. Somehow quite apt.

Toss Time - I am planted in front of the TV. Got a rumour that Sachin might come for the toss instead of Dhoni. Rumour quashed, Dhoni wins the toss and elects to bowl. First thought - given the quality of West Indies cricket in recent times, there is only one last innings for Sachin. But I have to head for office. 
Record Alert - With the toss done Sachin Tendulkar becomes the first man to appear in 200 Tests. [Aside - probably the last one too?]
West Indies lose Gayle early, try to consolidate a bit, lose their way and get shot out for 182. During this while Ashwin takes his 100th Test wicket in his 18th test, fastest by an Indian, fastest since World War II and 5th fastest overall [Record Alert]. Dhoni reaches 250 Test dismissals and Ojha takes a 5 wicket haul.Will HE come out to bat today itself?

Tea time. I finally read the Rohit Brijnath article that everyone has been raving about (Click here). More nostalgia. And while I am at it, I read one about my own cricketing God, Rahul Dravid (Click here). And while I am still at, an old Tendulkar blog post by yours truly (Click here for some shameless self-promotion - It was once the top entry on google search for "Sachin Tendulkar")

Post-Tea Session - Indian openers hurtling away. I am wondering if West Indies were worthy opponents for this occasion. Wouldn't giving Ireland Test status have been a more befitting memory. People who managed Day 4 & 5 tickets/passes would be extremely worried about the match lasting the distance.

Landmark Almost Forgotten - Its Shivnaraine Chanderpaul's 150th Test match. Good going Sir.[Aside - Shivnaraine & son Tagenaraine have appeared together for Guyana in first class cricket. Will they become the first father-son pair to play in the same Test match?]

Meanwhile Dhawan gets out. So the all important question - Will it to be Vijay or Pujara getting a standing ovation on getting out? ... And Murali Vijay it is whose wicket is celebrated by the crowd.

3:30 P.M. - HE has walked into bat... (maybe for the last time?) Why the hell I am in office at this time? Why didn't I try for the tickets? WHY? WHY?? WHY??? Runs scored... so the Bradman fate has been avoided. Only other alternative - go out with a century - like Greg Chappel or Azhar.  Which reminds me - Azhar was walking down Sachin on his first test (pic here), Manoj Prabhakar was the one alongside him for his first test century (pic), Nayan Mongia was giving him comapny in the great Chennai innings of 1999 and Ajay Jadeja was his last opposing captain in Ranji trophy (pic). Quite a comprehensive list of unsavory characters here :P

Back on the field - 1st boundary has gone like a tracer bullet (please excuse the side-effect of having listened to years of Ravi Shastri's commentary). Statutory Warning - This is going to be a long blog. Into double digits now. Pujara is also batting, not that anyone is looking at his or India's score... BUT HE BETTER NOT RUN OUT SACHIN.  HIS score crosses a "score" (couldn't resist the pun). If following online commentary is making me goosebumpy, can't even imagine the feelings of the chosen ones in the stands.

Day 1 ends with SRT at 38 not out. #DecisionTime - Should I bunk office tomorrow? And by the way, India trails by 25 runs with 8 wickets in hand.

Returns from office... Listening to FM Radio. Every song on every channel is interspersed with chants of Sachin... Sachiiiin. Well on FM at least one Godly quality is on full display - HIS omnipresence.

To Be Continued...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Ranji Trophy: 13-14: Jharkhand vs Karnataka

Match Summary: Jharkhand (364 & 215/5) drew with Karnataka (424/7d)
Points: Jharkhand 1, Karnataka 3

After a washout against Delhi, this was effectively the first game of the season for Jharkhand. In terms of personnel Karnataka would have been considered a stronger side. Like most Ranji games this turned out to be a battle for the 1st innings lead.

Karnataka won the toss and put Jharkhand in. It was attritional batting from the Jharkhand team with runs coming at a slow pace. They ended up at 364 with the usual suspect Saurabh Tiwary & captain Shahbaz Nadeem getting half centuries along with new import Bhavin Thaker. Karnataka scored at a much faster pace and managed to go past the Jharkhand score with good contibutions from Mayank Agarwal and Manish Pandey. Having got the important 1st innings lead, Karnataka declared hoping for a second innings collapse which did not happen. Solid innings from Ishank Jaggi & Saurabh Tiwary prevented any further damage. And the game meandered onto a draw.

Key point of interest was the comeback of Varun Aaron after a long injury layoff. He put in a decent number of overs but just got one wicket. While Saurabh Tiwary continues from where he left last year. The lack of success of the spin twins Nadeem & Sunny Gupta would be a cause of concern though.

Season Stats
Leading Scorer: Saurabh Tiwary - 118 runs
Most Wickets: Rahul Shukla - 3 wickets

Standings - 2 points after 2 games; Quotient - 0.637; 7th in the group. Well the team needs to start pulling up its socks if they are to remain in contention for a knock-out berth.

Coming Up Next: Away vs Haryana. The Lahli pitch should be of interest to the likes of Aaron and Shukla. A result is a distinct possibility. Lets hope it goes Jharkhand's way.

Monday, November 4, 2013

India-Australia Batathon - Short Notes & Arbit Stats-26

The 7-match ODI bat-a-thon between India & Australia has come to an end. Here are a few short notes:
  • It was a bat-a-thon not a cricketing contest. A cricketing contest involves a fair contest between bat and ball. Here it was between bat and bat. An occasional 300+ chase gives a thrill but a regular everyday dose will not sustain anyone's interests.
  • A seven match series played over 3 weeks with a couple of games getting rained off was certainly not something to excite the interest especially given the focus of the two camps. The Aussies are focussed on the home Ashes (otherwise why would they call off Johnson a day before the decider) and India have their focus on giving a fitting farewell to the cricketing God. For the first time ever there was more coverage of a Ranji game than an international series.
  • There is no safe total in ODI cricket in sub-continental conditions. T20 experience has ensured that with wickets in hand teams can chase down anything. A required rate of 10 for the last 20 overs is a stiff but not impossible task now. 350+ targets were gunned down without even breaking into a sweat.
  • George Bailey has earned the respect. He should be drafted into the Test team for the Ashes.
  • Rohit Sharma, Dhawan, Kohli & Dhoni's exploits hid the abject failures of Raina & Yuvraj. If they can't get going on these tracks then what hope can we have for the next World Cup. Dear Selectors - its time to bring in the likes of Pujara, Rahane & Rayudu into the playing eleven.
  • Bowlers across the teams - You have my deepest sympathies. No point blaming you guys for the misdeeds of the powers that be. The contest has become so lopsided that only an extra-ordinarily good bowler can survive against ordinary batsman.
Totally  Arbit Stat - Glenn Maxwell scored the fastest 50 by an Australian, James Faulkner got the fastest century by an Australian, Vinay Kumar had the worst performance ever by an Indian bowler. All in the same game. Yet it was Australia who ended on the losing side.

Record Alert - Rohit Sharma & George Bailey - now are the respective record holders for the highest & second highest individual runs in a bilateral series. A true bat-a-thon this series was

Post-Script - Some of the behavior on display from the players can only be described as "not cricket". The abuses, getting into verbal battles, mocking another's injury, the send-off - this is not what as a fan I like to see on-field. Its just a game after all. Whatever people might suggest otherwise. There is something called sportsman spirit. Just try to remember the following.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Ranji Trophy 13-14: Jharkhand vs Delhi

Match Summary: Abandoned without a ball bowled due to rains.
Points: Jharkhand 1, Delhi 1

There is nothing to write about as the game was washed away due to rains on all 4 days. Both teams had to be satisfied with a single point each. Jharkhand lost a chance to make the most of their home game. However the biggest losers were the likes of Gambhir & Sehwag who missed out on a opportunity to stake their claim for the home West Indies series. As did the comeback lad Varun Aaron who would have been in contention for the South Africa series but needs a few games under his belt to show his match fitness and form.

However the focus of the first round of Ranji games was in Lahli where Sachin Tendulkar was playing his last Ranji game. The man's sheer presence livened up what would have been a dull (read normal) game. Never before has a Ranji league match been followed like this. Lahli was the centre of attention for 4 days and Sachin livened it up further by guiding Mumbai to victory. Goodbye Sir - You would be MISSED.

Fun Fact - The day Sachin made his first class debut was the day his last partner in Ranji Trophy Dhawal Kulkarni was born. The complete circle of life as one may say.

Now back to Jharkhand. Coming Up Next - Karnataka away 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Jharkhand Domestic Schedule: 2013-14 Season

The domestic season in Indian cricket is underway with the NKP Salve Trophy & Duleep Trophy already having been contested for. However, now begins the real contest, the Ranji Trophy. Like last season I will try to cover the entire Jharkhand campaign in this blog. 

Ranji Trophy - The previous Ranji campaign was quite a successful one as Jharkhand reached the Ranji knock-outs from Group C. With the knock-out appearance, the team has been rewarded with a promotion to Group A from which 3 teams will go into the knock-outs. Here is the calendar for the 2013-14 Ranji Season.

  1. Oct 27-30, 2013: vs Delhi (H)
  2. Nov 7-10, 2013: vs Karnataka (A)
  3. Nov 14-17, 2013: vs Haryana (A)
  4. Nov 21-24, 2013: vs Odisha (A)
  5. Nov 28-Dec 1, 2013: vs Gujarat (H)
  6. Dec 6-9, 2013: vs Mumbai (A)
  7. Dec 22-25, 2013: vs Vidarbha (H)
  8. Dec 30, 2103- Jan 2, 2014: vs Punjab (H)
Vijay Hazare Trophy - The domestic 50 over tournament. Here is the schedule for the inter-zonal league stage. (All matches in Agartala, Tripura)
  1. Mar 1, 2014: vs Tripura
  2. Mar 3, 2014: vs Bengal
  3. Mar 5, 2014: vs Assam
  4. Mar 7, 2014: vs Odisha
Syed Mustaq Ali Trophy -The national T20 Champioships. Following is the schedule for the inter-zonal league stage. (All matches in Kolkata)

  1. Apr 2, 2014: vs Tripura
  2. Apr 3, 2014: vs Bengal
  3. Apr 4, 2014: vs Odisha
  4. Apr 5, 2014: vs Assam
Given the performance of the last year, the expectations will certainly be higher although the group stage is tougher this year. With Dhoni  most likely to be unavailable for the entire campaign the likes of Shahbaz Nadeem, Saurabh Tiwary, Ishank Jaggi & Sunny Gupta are again expected to be the key players. After an excepional Champions League T20, lots is now expected from Rahul Shukla also. Varun Aaron is also reportedly fit and should grab his chances of getting back into the national team.

The team for the inital matches have been aanounced. Like last year Shahbaz Nadeem will continue to lead the team. There have been a couple of transfer joinees as well. Here is the full team list.
Rameez Nemat, Manish Vardhan, Aakash Verma, Ishank Jaggi (Vice Capt), Saurabh Tiwary, Bhawin Thakker, Bhavik Thaker, S. P. Gautam, Shahbaz Nadeem (Capt), Sunny Gupta, Samar Quadri, Varun Aaron, Rahul Shukla, Ajay Yadav, S. S. Rao

Wishing the best for my team for the season ahead.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Arbit Stats - 25

Centuries  - A frequent occurrence in Test cricket.
5-wicket hauls - Slightly less frequent but quite common in Test cricket.
Hat-tricks - Quite a rare event in Test cricket.

Now in the ongoing Bangladesh-New Zealand Test at Chittagong, Sohag Gazi has become the furst ever player to achieve all three landmarks in the same match. 2 wickets in the 1st innings followed by an unbeaten century coming in at No. 8. And then follows up with a 6 wicket haul with a hat-trick thrown in, in the 2nd innings. 

Way to go - Sohag Gazi and Bangladesh, who managed to take a lead in the 1st innings.

P.S. Complete list of players scoring a century and taking a 5-wicket haul in the same match is here.

P.P.S The Kiwis declare setting bangladesh 256 in 45 overs. Well done Brendon McCulllum for trying to get a result.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Arbit Stats - 24

Alauddin Babu of Bangladesh is now the unfortunate owner of the record for the most runs conceded in a single over in List A cricket. Playing for Abahani Limited against Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi Limited in the Dhaka Premier League, he conceded 39 runs in a single over, thus shattering Daan Van Bunge's record of 36 runs (which still is the record for ODIs).

Sequence of events, as follows
  • Ball 1 - No Ball, Boundary [Total - 5 runs, 0 Balls]
  • Ball 2 - Wide [Total - 6 runs, 0 Balls]
  • Ball 3 - Six [Total - 12 runs, 1 Ball]
  • Ball 4 - Boundary [Total - 16 runs, 2 Balls]
  • Ball 5 - Six [Total - 22 runs, 3 Balls]
  • Ball 6 - Boundary [Total - 26 runs, 4 Balls]
  • Ball 7 - Six [Total - 32 runs, 5 Balls]
  • Ball 8 - Wide [Total - 33 runs, 5 Balls]
  • Ball 9 - Six [Total - 39 runs, Over Complete]
And the batsman who was at the receiving end of these pleasantries - Elton Chigumbura, the former Zimbabwean captain.

Enough information for any trivia contest.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Depth or Over-cricket?

India is the world's biggest cricketing market.A very  However what sometimes goes unnoticed is the fact that India also has the largest cricket playing circuit as well. Hence a pretty big supply of talent which is quite widespread as well.

Take the current scenario. There are 4 IPL teams playing in the Champions League each with a fair share of the Indian stars and second and third rung players. In addition there is NKP Salve Challenger Trophy underway, which has Delhi (minus Shikhar Dhawan) taking on India Red & India Blue teams. In addition to all this there is an India A team taking on the West Indies A team in an 'A' test. That makes seven Indian teams playing across all 3 formats. That number is more than the total number of first class teams in most nations.And before I forget there is a 4 nation Under-19 tournament also underway.

Not too long ago there was an India A playing in South Africa. Another India A was taking on New Zealand A at home. And there was an India Under-23 team playing (and winning) in an Asian emerging nations tournament in Singapore.

Now how do we look at this issue? 
  1. Is there excess cricket - even at the second rung international level? Curtailing the domestic calendar may be a solution. 
  2. OR that India has such a depth that it can field multiple teams across formats simultaneously and be competitive also?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Arbit Stats - 23: The Highest Prime

Cricket known for its quirky stats. Via twitter I learned that there are people with sufficient enthusiasm & time to delve into and find out quirkier statistics.  Take this one for example.

337 - The amount of runs made by Hanif Mohammed against West Indies in Bridgetown (1958) also happens to be the highest prime number score made in an individual innings in Test cricket.

Hats off to the person who thought of this.

P.S. the 23rd (another prime number) post in this series does deserve a Prime Number Statistic :)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Arbit Statistics - 22: The Irish-English Tango

Post No. Double 2 in the Arbit Stats Series. And funnily enough it is about a double two event which recently happened.

2007 - Boyd Rankin playing for Ireland bowls out Ed Joyce playing for England for 1. (Picture here)
2013 - Boyd Rankin playing for England get Ed Joyce playing for Ireland hit wicket for 1.

Cricket, as it is your rules are weird enough for normal folks to understand, but this nationality rule is pretty odd. 

P.S. Eoin Morgan who was playing for Ireland in the 2007 game was captaining England in the 2013 game.

P.P.S How does Irish cricket progress if its best players are taken up by England? 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Ashes Story - From A Punch to Piss

The oldest cricketing rivalry for probably the smallest sporting trophy. England & Australia lined up to contest the first of the two Ashes contests this season. A short summary of what an Indian fan saw in passing of the Ashes.

It all began with a punch. As is rightly said - "Nothing good happens after two in the night". David Warner threw a punch at Joe Root in a bar during the Champions Trophy . No one got hurt. But the impact was felt later. Warner was dispatched to Zimbabwe - a very appropriate punishment, steeped in tradition and reminiscent of the colonial times. The coach got fired. New fellows were added to the touring party as replacements. In short, an Australian camp in total disarray just days before the start of the series. On the other hand England became the runners-up Champions of the Champions Trophy.

The start of the series was fantastic to say the least. A fly-past by the Royal Air Force. Then Ashton Agar made a fairy-tale beginning to his career breaking the world record for the highest score by a No. 11. It was a tight test and Australia fought and fought but England helped by Anderson grimly hung on to take victory.

However that was it from the cricketing front. Just when you expected Australia to fight back they shrunk away. 1-0 became 2-0 and then 3-0. In between the rain Gods also threw in their weight behind England. Michael Clarke made a big gamble and enlivened a dull end to the 5th Test. However, the stringent interpretation of cricketing rules jumped in and the public got cheated through a combination of bad light and the usual lack of common sense from the officialdom.

It was an appropriate conclusion in a series marred by umpiring and DRS debates. I won't be making any judgement on the umpires. Their job is tough and being made tougher through the technology available to everyone in the world except the gentlemen in charge of making the decisions. Hence making a wrong judgement call is part and parcel of the game. However what still baffles me is the way the authorities are interpreting DRS. DRS was brought in place to remove howlers. And howlers do not need an array of futuristic technology to be eliminated. They can be seen in one video replay. So lets remove DRS from the teams and just hand it over to the 3rd umpire (like the no-ball check on wickets). But a simple common sense approach is too difficult to expect from ICC.

Another chapter was added to the great saga of Walking/Non-walking. Stuart Broad did not walk after edging because (a) there was a match at stake, (b) the umpire did not give him out, and (c) Aussies had used up their reviews. There was a massive outrage with the usual "Spirit of Cricket" nonsense being debated.  If the 3rd umpire had the power to review, one replay would have given Broad out (more likely that Broad would not have waited for the decision himself). However when such common sense approach is missing then such controversies are bound to happen.

It was great to see Slipstream Cricket's patron saint, the Sledgehammer of Eternal Justice, Ian Bell scoring runs and lots of them and at the time when it was really needed. The only consistent batsman across the misfiring English lineup and the constantly shuffling Aussie one. 

A 3-0 verdict actually flatters both teams. It could easily have been 4-0 for England or a 3-2 Australia and all other permutations is between. A misfiring English line-up managed to hang in when required while a revolving door Aussie one performed better than expected. Both sides though need to sort out the personnel for the next bout.

It would have been a travesty if a series which had a punch as an epilogue had just ended in bad light. Post the bad light, post the presentations, the English cricketers took turns to celebrate the urn by peeing on the pitch. God only knows what they were thinking. Maybe it was some act of solidarity with Monty Panesar but certainly made for lots of bad press. [Personal Opinion - Coming from a country where sportsmen salute the ground before they enter it, the English act was blasphemous].

So in short - The series began with a punch and ended in a piss. In between some average cricket was played with more focus on umpiring and DRS controversies and Walking/Not Walking and the usual nonsense called "spirit of cricket"

Hoping for a much better return series Down Under. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Confidence is thy Middle Name

Even the most inconspicuous of scorecards can throw up something interesting. Like this upcoming Zimbabwean international.

But this gets better, when you learn that "Confidence" is his middle name. Literally. (Cricinfo profile)

Enough Said. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Sledgehammer Strikes

Ian Ronald Bell - the English No.4 also known as "the Sledgehammer of Eternal Justice" and once upon a time maker of "Slipstream Centuries" is, as a dedicated reader of this blog might know, the patron saint of this blog. His penchant for making "slipstream centuries" (a Bell century came only when another English batsman had also scored a century in the same innings) not only lead to the genesis of this blog but also provided its name. 

So its fitting that Slipstream Cricket salutes Bell for having made his best Ashes century (in his words). According to Slipstream Cricket, the Agar fairytale and the DRS controversies (nothing unusual about it), should not let the Ian Bell century into slipstream. This was one of the better Test innings played. Certainly a game-changing one, putting England in command. 

As for the game. 5th Day's play. 137 runs & 4 wickets. Its all upto the bowlers now on both sides (English ones with the ball & Aussie ones with the bat). A thriller is on cards. After all this is the Ashes, we are talking about.

P.S. Edgbaston 2005 scorecard for reference 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Ashes Begin: With A Bang

Its probably the littlest trophy in the whole sporting world. Certainly one of the oldest. More have been written about the Ashes than any other sporting contest. And why not? After all it carries a little poem too.

When Ivo goes back with the urn, the urn;
Studds, Steel, Read and Tylecote return, return;
The welkin will ring loud,
The great crowd will feel proud,
Seeing Barlow and Bates with the urn, the urn;
And the rest coming home with the urn.

Its been a long buildup to the double headed Ashes that are going to be played over the next 8 months. 10 Tests between the oldest rivals. 

It had been a long wait for the Ashes to commence. England had to play a 2 Test series with the Kiwis, followed by a 3 ODI series against Kiwis, followed by Champions Trophy, and a 2 T20 series against the Kiwis. Australia on the other hand had an even more action-packed start. They played(?) the Champions trophy, then lots of internal games, chopping and changing players, removing the coach, suspending brawling players.

Everyone expected England to turn up and roll over the Aussies. But in the greater interest, the Australianism is still there (thankfully). The greats may have gone, but some of the fight is still there. Inside 2 days of cricket, we have already seen many specials. Peter Siddle's fiver, James Anderson bowling Clarke, Phil Hughes & Steve Smith battling it out, and above all of them Ashton Agar. There is something about a 19-year old, making his debut, coming into bat at No. 11 with his team in deep trouble and then smashing a 98 breaking hordes of records. Its the kind of dream every kid (or even adults) aspiring to be an international cricketer has. It makes one fall in love with the game again after all the spot-fixing scandals. 
A 130+ years rivalry, historic context, a good fight and a fairytale story to begin the proceedings. 
Ashes - I already like you :) 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Cricketing Circus Goes On and On

India wins the Champions Trophy with an unbeaten record (including warm-up victories).
India goes to the West Indies and promptly loses its first two games in the tri-series also involving Sri Lanka.

Amidst this ever-going treadmill of international cricket, the Indian fan gets exhausted. They did not even get to savor their team's victory and off the team went on its next assignment. And after West Indies, there is a tour of Zimbabwe coming up. A good case can be made for coining a term like over-cricket to describe these unending series of meaningless tours. How does BCCI expect the Indian fan to keep cheering for the team if the circus is never-ending? 

I can understand the perspective of the West Indies board. The economics from an Indian tour make a lot of sense, as described in detail in this article here. But what does the BCCI gain out of it? Isn't over-exposure going to lead to brand dilution? Already, viewer-fatigue has set in so deep that a live match involving India hardly creates any buzz.

Because of the day long delays, I slept through most of the second-half of the Champions Trophy final. But did remember to check the score, the first thing in the morning after getting up. For the ongoing tri-series, haven't even bothered to do that. I do get to know the results through the news but it isn't something that I actually care about. 

The boards and ICC have to work at a better schedule (the current FTP is not the answer). Maybe arrange a Test-playing league along the lines of the Intercontinental Cup. A better revenue-sharing model will also help in containing the overkill & brand dilution. 

Without any perspective the contests are meaningless. Cricket is on the way to becoming Tennis. Marquee events (like Tennis Grand Slams) will be followed by interest, while the others will not be. After all even the die-hard fans get tired of the endless grind.

Monday, June 10, 2013

BCCI's "Operation Clean-Up"

After a scandal-hit IPL, which brought terms like "spot-fixing", "conflict of interest", "step aside", "betting" et al to the limelight, BCCI has finally woken up from its slumber. The Board which currently is more involved in internal politics and self-preservation than the functioning of the game has come up with a 12-point "Operation Clean-up" to clear IPL's image. And maybe hope to get the game's credibility also back up.

Following are the 12 points announced by the interim management (in italics, Source: Times of India). My thoughts on each are appended

1. Removal of sleaze; no cheerleaders, no after-match parties for players and support staff. Seriously, this is the first point they come up with. As a cricket fan, I do not really care if they remove cheerleaders and ban after-match parties, but shows the messed up priorities. Good step though.

2. Strict code of conduct to be followed by players, support staff and franchise owners. Good to hear of this, but what exactly is this code of conduct and whats the defined punishment for violation. More clarity required.

3. Restriction of movement in players' dug-out and dressing room. The owners from now on will be restricted from entering the dug-out and dressing room during matches. Good step. Also should tell the broadcasters to stop giving so much air-time to the owners and their sycophants. Or is this a little too much to ask given the amount of money paid for the ownership

4. All players and support staff of franchises need to furnish their telephone numbers with the BCCI before the start of the tournament. Constant vigilance as mad-eye Moody would have said. Does the BCCI plan to monitor the communications by itself or through some other agency? Are they allowed to have such access? What about privacy rules?

5. Adequate number of ACSU officials in the team hotel as well as the ground to supervise the proceedings. Again, constant vigilance. Good step. [Aside - Has anyone been actually caught fixing by these anti-corruption teams?]

6. Jamming of cellphone towers at the ground during matches. I believe the idea here is to stop on-ground "observers" from relaying signals to the bookie world. But what about the inconvenience to the normal paying public? And again does BCCI have the authority to install jammers inside stadiums.

7. Captains' meeting to be held in order to get more suggestions and prepare elaborate blueprint. Good step. Need to involve the senior players. And I would suggest ask for inputs from all players and not just the captains. Involve other senior players also (e.g. Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Sehwag who are not team captains)

8. No national selector will be allowed to get associated with any franchise in any capacity. Excellent step Why they were allowed earlier should also be checked. We certainly do not want to see the chief selector cheer-leading for an IPL squad.

9. All the players need to disclose every financial transaction they are carrying out with any particular organisation or person. Again not sure what the laws are and what authority BCCI has here. And is this applicable to only Indians or the foreign players as well. And I do not think anyone indulging in corrupt practices does the transactions in white money, except a certain Ashraful probably.
10. Franchises need to furnish all details of the remunerations and contractual obligations of players and support staff. Good step. Should be made public. However to make it more transparent the dealings between the franchisees and BCCI should also be made public (e.g. secret auction amount).

11. Players from now on will be prohibited from using ear plugs and microphones. Good step. Most on-field commentary by the players was useless. (Honorable exception - David Miller - "It its in the V, it goes to the tree, if its in the arc, it goes out of the park" comment). Just one query - Is this only for the playing XI or for the ones in the dug-out as well?

12. Security control policy will be formulated soon. OK

Some steps taken. In addition they had "legalised" player agents as well some time back. Still a couple of vexed questions remain which have not been answered here.
  • What about the strategic time-out? Shouldn't it be withdrawn, given the amount of betting taking place in that duration?
  • And the key one. What about the association of BCCI officials with franchisees? Still no clarity on the main point raised in the "conflict of interest" thing.
  • Also lets not just concentrate on cleaning up of IPL. Ensure the other national tournaments stay clean as well.
Also while we are trying to create a more transparent system, why not make public the Ravi Sawani report on the spot-fixing scandal. And while we are at it, why not remove the word "control" from the organisation name and change it to something like "Cricket India"?

So some key steps have been planned. Some questions are yet to be answered. Yet a lot will depend on the actual actions taken. Hopefully it is a start though. Still a long way to go for regaining the faith.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Trophy

Not often you  get a chance to get up close and personal with a trophy. So even though the tournament may have been tainted by the corruption charges, why miss the chance. After all the trophy wasn't. 

Congratulations to the Mumbai Indians for winning the IPL. Please continue providing match tickets and such photo-ops and may you continue the winning streak :)

One for the memories.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

IPL6 - Jharkhand Review

The 6th edition of IPL has ended in controversial circumstances. And not just one - Spot-fixing, Betting, Conflict of Interest. However, I decided to step aside (:P) from these matters and keep championing the cause of Jharkhand cricket. Jharkhand made it to the Ranji quarter-finals, yet compared to last year, fewer Jharkhand boys appeared in the IPL. Here is a quick performance summary.
  • Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Chennai Super Kings) - Team Captain - 18 matches, 461 runs (SR 163), 15 Catches, 2 Stumpings. In better form this year. Continues his tendency to leave the final assault a little late but does it all himself. The only batsman to take apart Dale Steyn in this IPL. Some of his captaincy decisions did confound like coming behind Ashwin in the batting order. Off the field had fun creating the legend of "Sir Jadeja". However, the conflict of interest stories at the end of the league has sullied his reputation a little.
  • Shahbaz Nadeem (Delhi Daredevils) - 12 matches, 9 wickets (ER - 5.88), 5 catches. Probably the only player who came out with his reputation intact from the miserable Delhi Daredevils season. The Jharkhand skipper actually improved upon his performances from the last season. could be in line for an India A call, maybe as a back-up left arm spinner to Pragyan Ojha.
  • Saurabh Tiwary (Royal Challengers Bangalore) - 9 matches, 109 runs (SR 103), 2 catches. Why RCB retained him at a $1.6 Million contract is a mystery to me. Last season wasn't particularly great. And Tiwary did not have much to do this season as well. He did get one half -century but couldn't really seal his spot even in the brittle RCB middle order.
  • Rahul Shukla (Rajasthan Royals) - 3 matches, 3 wickets (ER 9.87 ), 2 catches. Shifted from Mumbai Indians to Rajasthan Royals. Got more chances than last year. Had one decent outing against KKR but nothing much after that. Did come on as a substitute on occasion.

So only 4 players participated in the IPL6 down from last year's 7. No new ones made their debut. Varun Aaron missed out due to injury. While Ishank Jaggi & Sunny Gupta were dropped from their respective teams.

Hoping to see more players in action next year.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Regain the Faith

"You are blinded," said Dumbledore, his voice rising now, the aura of power around him palpable, his eyes blazing once more, "by the love of the office you hold, Cornelius! You place too much importance, and you always have done, on the so-called purity of blood! You fail to recognise that it matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be! Your dementor has just destroyed the last remaining member of a pure-blood family as old as any - and see what that man chose to make of his life! I tell you now - take the steps I have suggested, and you will be remembered, in office or out, as one of the bravest and greatest Ministers of Magic we have ever known. Fail to act - and history will remember you as the man who stepped aside and allowed Voldemort a second chance to destroy the world we have tried to rebuild"

- from Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 36- The Parting of Ways

Very wise words indeed from one of the wisest men in fiction. Also totally contextual when you think of the current IPL spot-fixing scandal. Replace Cornelius Fudge by the current cricket administrators and Voldemort by match-fixing and you have an apt parallel. Unfortunately with the slew of allegations & rumours flying around, we haven't identified the sane voice of Dumbledore around whom the true cricket lovers can rally and attempt to save the game they love.

This message is intended not just for N Srinivasan and the BCCI but for all the cricket boards, ICC and FICA. They have to work together to weed out the corrupt. And the faster it  is done the better for the game. ICC removing Asad Rauf from the umpire's panel for Champions Trophy due to him being under investigation is a good step towards regaining the paying public's faith.

There are two views being taken -
(a) by the "breaking news media" & the "trigger-happy" social media - everything is fixed and
(b) the official line of just three rotten eggs.
The truth, as it always happens, lies somewhere in between. Not everyone is corrupt and I would be quite surprised if the entire racket involved only the three players. BCCI lost one chance to come clean a year ago. It has been given another chance. It MUST conduct a proper enquiry into all charges/allegations while working along with the government agencies. But with allegations now hovering around the BCCI chief itself, it maybe quite difficult for anyone to accept the results of such an investigation.

The Spot-fixing scandal in the IPL has hurt. Despite all the murky goings-on in the past few years, there is a corner in my heart which still believes in the game. However with every new scandal that space is getting smaller and smaller.  Because the fixers take out the one element which makes sports  glorious - its uncertainty.

Personally I have been taking out my angst on the broadcasters by not watching the live telecast and doing my bit to lower their TRP (still following the IPL though). With lower TRPs, sponsors are unlikely to pay the huge amounts to come on board specially given the financial troubles the world is already in. Lack of sponsors will make the television rights less lucrative further lowering revenues. Stadium attendances world-wide are anyways going downwards. With lower revenues, BCCI loses its financial muscle and the power balance in the cricketing world shifts again.

A scenario which is quite likely to happen in the long run if the game does not clean itself. The paying public has enough other entertainment avenues. Hence its very important from the board's perspective to ensure that the fans who love the game keep the faith. It is a very difficult task to regain the faith once lost. And only concrete visible steps will ensure that people may want to trust again.

Act Now and then hope that you regain the cricket fan's faith

Friday, May 17, 2013

IPL6: Spot-fixing - What Next?

Disgust, Anger and even a Sense of betrayal - these are the feelings with which I write this blog post. Yet somehow the feelings of shock and surprise are missing. Anyone who believed that the game was completely clean and had no murky dealings ongoing was living in a fool's paradise. Yet, when the story of the arrests of the three players broke, it still did come as a shock. Though the shock can be attributed to the fact that all three players belonged to my favorite IPL team Rajasthan Royals.

In summary, 3 current and one former Rajasthan Royals players have been arrested along with a clutch of bookies. And the rumor mill is on full swing with the "Breaking News" media - both conventional and social diligently spreading all sorts of unsubstantiated rumors. Request them to better wait and watch and not comment while official investigations are on. It is very easy to destroy a reputation built over years of hard work. And mud slinging never helps anyone.

What really boggles the mind is the amount of money involved, some 60 lakh for bowling a bad over !!! Not difficult to see why some of the uncapped players (Chandila & Chavan) with salary restrictions as compared to the others might get tempted. But seeing a current Indian Test player like Sreesanth throwing away his career like this is difficult to understand. I always thought he was a weirdo but his idiosyncrasies were a result of his passion for the game. But guess he lost even that.

Personally I am happy that corrupt are getting weeded out of the game. And the more it happens better it is for the game. Sports does not have any place for fixers. They are much, much worse than the drug cheats who are at least trying to win. Fixers take out the one element which makes sports truly lovable - its uncertainty. Now every single activity will be looked at with suspicion by the watching public (from this IPL - the RP Singh no-ball, Pollard's drops etc). And for cheating the watching public they MUST be punished. Now that the fixing saga is out in the open, the authorities must decide the path forward. Here are some of my suggestions for doing the same.

Stronger Punishments -  Have no mercy on errant players. The law may take its own sweet time but the boards can act tough and give immediate ban the players concerned while investigations are on. For the game to regain its credibility, it would be better to have some innocents punished and not let anyone guilty go unpunished (the opposite of the prevalent legal practise). Also the punishments should be of duration long enough (minimum 5 years) to make them a strong deterrent.

Uncapped players also going into auction - Bringing the Indian uncapped players into the auction pool will certainly help in reducing some of the pay disparity. Also fixing the uncapped player salaries has the added benefit of reducing (nothing can be completely removed) the under-hand dealings betweeen the players and the teams as has been shown in the sting conducted by India TV last year.

Legalize Sports Betting in India - Now this will be a controversial move as it is against  the so-called Indian morals and values (bloody hypocrisy in my opinion). Betting exists and as shown by the payouts to the players, the numbers are mind boggling. Why not legalize and regulate the same? Government will get an extra revenue source. Some of the murky dealings will be reduced. Also the regulated betting agencies can  help in detecting any weird betting patterns. Thats how the match-fixing in football tennis has come to light. The revenues can also be used for funding the anti-corruption monitoring.

Disband IPL - This will the one with the most vocal support. Given that many consider it to be the source of all evil in the cricketing world, why not? Though in itself that won't be a solution because most of the problems have been there since time immemorial. Disbanding IPL is certainly not be a feasible solution. Too many genuine stakeholders (Sponsors, TV rights owners, team owners (?)) will be badly affected. And this will have severe repercussions on the entire sport. Turning the entire T20 business into pure entertainment like the erstwhile double wicket & Hong Kong sixes would be better. I would go onto suggest removing T20s from official records. And keeping records restricted to 1st Class & List A games.

Keep the faith - At times like these, it is the most difficult thing to do. Though most likely there are more such morons but HOPEFULLY this malaise is restricted to a few.

These are some suggestions to clean up the mess my loved game is in. There can't be one deterrent to match-fixing but something is better than nothing. And the faster the game comes clean, the faster you regain the lost faith from the watching public.

Monday, May 13, 2013

IPL6: The Slog Overs

The Yes Bank Maximumth edition (or the 6th edition in normal lingo) of the Indian Premier League has now reached the slog overs stage. Some teams have been thrashed out of the competition (Delhi Darevdevils, Pune Warriors), some barely clinging on (KKR, Kings XI) and an intense 5-way fight going on for the 4 play-off spots. As the IPL reaches its business end (finally), here are some quick thoughts on each of the teams.

Teams being discussed in the reverse order of ranking as on date:

Pune Warriors India: (2 wins from 14 games) - They have been outplayed by one and all. Constantly changing captaincy (Matthews, Taylor, Finch), a misfiring star (Yuvraj Singh), poor death bowling (Dinda in particular), spinners whose mysteries have been sorted out (Mendis, Rahul Sharma) have all contributed to another very bad season. However they have had a solid opening pair (Uthappa & Finch) and one good bowler in Bhubaneswar Kumar (best Indian seamer on display). But thats not enough to see the side through.Would like to see more of Pervez Rasool in the coming games.

Delhi Daredevils: (3 wins form 13 games) - A top-order of Sehwag, Jayawardene, Warner with support cast of Unmukt Chand & Naman Ojha, a bowling line-up of Morkel, Pathan, Umesh Yadav, Nadeem. On paper a match-winning combination. Yet somehow all seems to have gone wrong with the Daredevils. They have been hit by injuries (Pietersen, Ryder, Aaron) but what has hit them most is the lack of form of most of the main cast and almost the entire support cast. When they have fired, Warner and Sehwag have single-handedly won the games. But no one's been consistent enough.

Kings XI Punjab: (5 wins from 13 games) - Kings XI haven't been performing well since IPL1. But they have managed some stunning performances this year mainly thanks to David Miller. Praveen Kumar has been the amongst the best Indian seamers on display while Piyush Chawala  has been making regular contibutions. The domestic Indian players like Mandeep Singh and Manan Vohra are utilizing the opportunities that they have got. However its the under-performing foreigners (Gilchrist, David Hussey, Mahmood) who are pulling down the team.

Kolkata Knight Riders: (6 wins from 14 games) - The defending champions are not having a good time this year around. This despite having retained the same team. A rock-solid batting line-up of Gambhir, Kallis, and Morgan is getting undone by the wretched form of others specially Yusuf Pathan. While Sunil Narine is holding up the bowling department and Rajat Bhatia is executing his bits & pieces role to perfection, the others are just not pulling their weight and as a result KKR are languishing mid-table just holding on to their play-off hopes.

Sunrisers Hyderabad: (8 wins from 13 games) - They have been the surprise package of the tournament. Their batting line-up which was almost non-existent at the beginning of the tournament has been boosted by the arrival of Shikhar Dhawan. The bowling line-up however has been doing more than its bit to cover the batting faults. Steyn, Ishant, Mishra, Perera and Sammy are a real good attack to have. Unlike some other teams, the poor form of their captains (Sanga & White) have been a blessing in disguise for the team. And the domestic players like Hanuma Vihari & Karan Sharma have put their hand up and bailed out the team when required. 

Royal Challengers Bangalore: (8 wins from 14 games) - RCB bring extreme firepower to the IPL. Gayle at top, Kohli to consolidate, if required at all, and de Villiers to finish. Pujara coming in as Gayle's opening partner makes it potentially the most explosive batting lineup possible. Yet a misfiring bowling lineup (Vinay Kumar, RP Singh, Unadkat, Rampaul etc) and over-dependence on their top-order has ensured that they are still not  certain of qualification to the play-offs. 

Mumbai Indians: (9 wins from 13 games) - A team which is doing quite well, yet at the same time not  giving the feel of a top favorite. Poor opening partnerships (with due apologies to the legends at the top) and under-performing Pollard & Malinga have been offset by the performance of Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik, Mitchell Johnson and others. Some more consistency in performances is needed.

Rajasthan Royals: (10 wins from 14 games) - Rahul Dravid's team are like Rocky, the people's champions. They may not have the big names on their roster, but they certainly know how to make full use of their limited resources. The most flexible line-up in the tournament, they keep re-jigging the team depending on the opposition and ground conditions. And more often than not, their strategies have worked. Whether its the big guns Dravid, Watson and Rahane or the relatively unknowns -  Faulkner, Samson, Binny, Yagnik, Chandila, Cooper, Trivedi everyone has come in and contributed to the team's cause. The Royals have kept a perfect home record, though not so successful outside Jaipur. 

Chennai Super Kings: (10 wins from 14 games) - Its been said IPL is a competition in which 8/9/10 teams play and in the end CSK wins. Like every dominant champion they have their share of haters who do not want to see them win. But even the haters agree that the cricket is not the reason for hating CSK. Its a team making the most of its formidable resources (inlcuding non-ground ones). And in Mohit Sharma they have found one genuine local talent from this year's edition.

So thats the team's reviews as we enter the final stages of this year's IPL. For the IPL finals, I would love to see Rajasthan Royals beating Sunrisers. And the team carrying Dravid around Eden Gardens in a victory lap. A fitting finish to a legendary career. 

P.S. Hope that I have not jinxed the team.