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.