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.