Friday, March 31, 2017

The Rivalry

Which is the biggest rivalry in cricket these days? Is it

  • (a) England vs Australia - for the hopeless tragics? But it only come alive during the Ashes. OR
  • (b) India vs Pakistan - well, they don't seem to be playing each other often enough except for the big tournaments, where Pakistan always seem to be falling short :). OR
  • (c) India vs Australia - produce great cricket and controversies. Yes they are very close to the top, OR
  • (d) BCCI vs Supreme Court? Not much of a contest as the Supreme Court always seems to be winning, OR
  • (e) West Indies Board vs West Indies players - this one seems to have been going on forever. Should be the next challenge for India's Supreme Court which has taken serious interest in cricketing matters.
But for pure on-field action and actual "context", nothing beats the nascent rivalry which has developed between Ireland and Afghanistan. There can't be more disparate nations. And yet here are two teams who find themselves in the same boat and fighting for a similar cause - Test Status - the Holy Grail for all cricketers.

Both Ireland and Afghanistan add the feel-good factor in these murky times (and not just from a cricketing perspective). The Irish for being able to produce one upset after another at the biggest stage - Pakistan, England, West Indies - that's an impressive lineup. In earlier times, even one big victory  would have been good enough to get Test status (Bangladesh beating Pakistan in 1999 World Cup). But not anymore. The Irish have staked their claim as the best Associate nation for the best part of last decade. In the limited chances they have got, they have proved that their performances haven't been just a flash in the pan. They have shown remarkable consistency given the limited opportunities, while at the same time seeing their best players being regularly poached by English! ICC certainly needs to take steps to ensure that England stop using their annual game against Ireland as a campus recruitment exercise!

On the other hand, Afghanistan have brought a fairy-tale story to life. Coming from a war-torn country, the fact that they play itself was considered a big story. Not any longer. They show that they can compete with the big boys. Although they haven't got the big scalps like the Irish. But they are consistent. Unlike other Associates, they do not depend upon expats but home-grown players (rather grown in refugee camps). Their sheer presence at the global level warms the heart. And their players back it up with flair and competition. Just how loved the team is can be seen, when the losing team joins them in a victory dance (West Indies in the last T20 World Cup).

In the light of this, comes the Inter-continental Cup, with the winner getting a chance to play a series of First-Class matches against the bottom placed Test team (Zimbabwe, whom both Ireland and Afghanistan regularly beat) to get Test status. Hence the special context which this rivalry has got. Ireland have been the more consistent ones, with Afghanistan coming up fast. Even their contests have got the dash of controversy. (Remember Nabi running out Joyce).

So two well-matched teams, representative of the greater Associate cause, Test status at stake, and with a dash of controversy adding to the bite in the rivalry. They may be just off the spotlight, but this is "the rivalry" on the global cricketing stage.

Although now the Irish are showing signs of decline while the Afghans are on acsendancy as was evident in the recent series played in India. With ICC showing signs of bringing more teams into the Test fold, we certainly don't want to see Ireland going the Kenya way. Hopefully recent performances are just a blip.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Vijay Hazare 2016-17: Jharkhand Review

Jharkhand followed the successful run in Ranji Trophy with another good run in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, the national List A tournament. The team had a good outing in the Group stages winning 4 and losing 2 to enter the Quarter-finals edging past Hyderabad on Net Run Rates. The Quarters were another walk in the park against Vidarbha before the team lost in the semi-finals to Bengal.

It was an eventful run for Jharkhand, both on and off the field with a fire incident in the team hotel causing the semi-finals to be delayed by a day. Dhoni's presence as captain lead to an increased media coverage of the team, which certainly put the spotlight on the good performers. However, it was the usual suspects who made the most of the spotlight - Saurabh Tiwary, Ishank Jaggi, Ishan Kishan and Shahbaz Nadeem - all of whom strengthened their claims for an India A berth.

The batting at the top remains an area of concern with the middle order of Tiwary , Jaggi and Dhoni having to regularly bail out the team.

Best Perfomance: Dhoni's 129 vs Chhattisgarh, almost single-handedly taking the team to victory.

Top Scorers:
1. Saurabh Tiwary - 368 runs @ 52.57
2. MS Dhoni - 330 runs @ 66.00
3. Ishank Jaggi - 279 runs @ 55.80

Most Wickets:
1. Shahbaz Nadeem - 15 wickets @ 18.00
2. Varun Aaron - 14 wickets @ 21.64
3. Rahul Shukla - 13 wickets @ 26.54

Overall this was a good season for Jharkhand with the zoanl T20s being the only blip. They have moved deeper in both Ranji and Vijay Hazare this year. Hopefully next season we will get our hands on that elusive Trophy.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Arbit Stats #64: Like Father Like Son

WICB Professional Cricket League Regional 4-Day Tournament 

In Guyana's first innings score of 262, there were three well compiled 50s. Two of which were scored by the father-son duo of Shivnarine and Tagenarine Chanderpaul. The Chanderpauls thus becoming the first father-son pair to make a half-century in the same first class game ever!

Now that's a stat which will take some beating!!!