Thursday, July 25, 2019

World Cup 2019: Endgame

14th July 2019, Lords 

To borrow from Dickens - It was the best of times (for some), it was the worst of time (for others). 

It was also sport at its cruelest!

There was the jubilant English squad with members incorporated from across the cricket playing world. And on the other side was New Zealand, led by Kane Williamson, who could still smile despite the apparent (to the rest of the world) injustice of it all! 

The neutral cricket viewer was sad. The greatest game of ODI cricket ever played (move over Edgbaston 1999) had resulted in not one but two ties. And yet we had to somehow contrive a winner because there was only one trophy. And what a weird way to find a winner, boundary count (where 4s & 6s are counted as equal!). Couldn’t they have at least let both captains pose with the trophy together? 

Cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties. And like all sport its always a matter of the finest margins. There were so many “What Ifs”. What if Trent Boult had not stepped back or just dropped that catch? What if Martin Guptill’s throw from the boundary was not so perfect? What If Kumara Dharmasena had interpreted the overthrows differently. So many ifs & buts. Come to think of it, the same Trent Boult had caught Carlos Brathwaite’s final heave at the boundary, and the very same Martin Guptill had produced a magical throw to run-out Dhoni in the semi-finals. You win some, you lose some, but it still doesn’t make the result feel right. 

The neutral cricket viewers were sad. There was a sense of injustice. Yes, it was all within the rules and those rules had been around for a long time but still. The sadness and injustice of it all was exacerbated by the complete calmness of Kane Williamson! 

And a final word for England. Congratulations on being crowned the Men’s ODI World Champions. What a remarkable turnaround for a team which did not even make it to the Quarter-finals last time around. 

Now for a truly Arbit Stat (#70): England have become the first ever chasing team to win the game inspite of being bowled out. 

And a final word for Jofra Archer’s twitter account – The man had a tweet for all remarkable events taking place in this World Cup! 

And thus, comes to an end the ICC Men’s ODI World Cup. A remarkable tournament with a stupendous finish to be also remembered for a bit of rain, bails not coming off, Pakistan’s 1992 comparisons, and also some decent cricket with the best games having 230-250 targets! What a throwback to 1990s!

For me, after many years did an India exit hurt so much. We were close, but the semi-final swung away in a few overs, then there was hope which was finally dashed! It just did not feel good!

Till next time!

Friday, July 12, 2019

World Cup 2019: India vs New Zealand at a glance

न्यूजीलैंड से भारत का हारना

क्रिकेट अनिश्चितता का खेल है। किसी मैच मे कोई शतक ,दोहरा शतक तो अगले ही मैच मे शुन्य पर आउट हो जाता है। बालर एक मैच मे बहुत कम रन देकर पांच-छः विकेट लेता है पर दुसरे ही मैच मे बिना विकेट लिए काफी रन दे देता है। कभी कोई फिल्डर नामूमकिन कैच पकड़ लेता है तो कभी आसान सा कैच भी ड्राप कर देता है। इनसब का मतलव यह नही कि क्रिकेट का खेल बिल्कुल ही भगवान् भरोसे है। इसमें भी भारी तकनीक है, काफी वैरीयेवलस है जिसे समझने के लिए एक दशकों कड़ी मेहनत और दिमाग लगाना पड़ता है। गवासकर, कपिलदेव, तेंदुलकर, गांगुली, बेदी, प्रसन्ना, चंद्रशेखर, धोनी .....का नाम ऐसे ही नही है। पर एक चुक हूई और आप गए। 

इसमे मौसम का भी बड़ा रोल है। मौसम शुष्क है आद्र है।हवा तेज है धीमा है। एक बार किसी चेन्नई मे हो रहे टेस्ट मैच मे वेंकटराघवन बालिंग कर रहे थे उन्हें सफलता नही मिल रहा था । कुछ देर बाद उन्हें दूसरे तरफ से लगाया गया तो सभलता मिलने लगी। बाद मे जानकारी आयी पहले छोर से हवा का रूख बाधक था जबकि बही दूसरे छोर से सहायक हो गया। कोई बालर आद्र मे तो कोई शुष्क मे ,कोई नयी बाल मे तो कोई पुरानी बाल या सफल होता है।

एक कैप्टन को और टीम को सभी बातों का ख्याल रखना होता है। एक सुझ आपको मैच जिता देगी एक चुक मैच हरा देती है।

न्यूजीलैंड के साथ हो रहा मैच मे पहला दिन वर्षा नही होता और मैच उसी दिन समाप्त होता तो भारत की जीत होती।पर वर्षा हुआ ,मैच दूसरा दिन वहीं से शुरू हुआ ।न्यूजीलैंड के दो तीन विकेट धड़ाधड़ गिरे भारत को होशियार हो जाना चाहिए था। पर हो गई चुक ।विकट गिरने लगे।नामी लोग पवेलियन लौट गये।

जब पहला विकेट रोहित का गिरा था तो मौसम को देखते हुए विराट को मैदान पर जाना एक चुक था , वाचमैन के रुप मे पांड्या को भेजना अच्छा होता ,कुछ देर टिकता तो रन भी बनता और मौसम मे भी सुधार होता। पांड्या अच्छा खेला पर दबाव मे आ गया।मारने के चक्कर मे विकेट गंवा दिया।अनुभव की कमी के कारण ऐसा हुआ। जाडेजा अच्छा खेला।तारीफ करनी होगी। धोनी को कुछ पहले तजी लानी चहीये था।दूसरे रन का रिस्क घातक हुआ।

दूसरे सेमीफाइनल मे उम्मीद के मुताबिक ही इंगलैंड की जीत हुई। इंगलैण्ड एक मजबूत टीम है और फाइनल मे भी इंगलैण्ड के जितने की प्रबल संभावना है।

Monday, July 8, 2019

World Cup 2019: The Slog Overs

Finally, the long winding league phase comes to an end. And surprise, surprise we have our 4 semi-finalists revealed to us – India, Australia, England and New Zealand! A list which had been predicted within the first fortnight itself! But that is not to say that the dead rubbers were meaningless. The very last game changed the order of the semi-finals leading to change in many travel plans!

Sporting outcomes depend on very fine margins. If that shot from Carlos Brathwaite had reached its intended destination, New Zealand would have been out of the World Cup and Pakistan would have qualified! In the end New Zealand’s campaign faltered badly but they had enough initial momentum to nudge ahead of Pakistan. 

Pakistan’s campaign showcased their one quality – unpredictability. Or, in simple terms basically being Pakistan throughout! Everyday their supporters found new similarities with the 1992 campaign. They even supported other teams including India and New Zealand, while their own kept stumbling through. Finally ran into an impossible task with the Net Run Rates where their heavy defeats and narrow wins came back to haunt them. And then, finally the 1992 comparisons stopped!

But this is cricket fandom. So we move on to the next set of analogies. In the 2008 U19 World Cup, India beat New Zealand by 3 wickets in the semi-finals. The captains on the day – Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson. The same duo who will step on the field for the toss on July 9th.

South Africa, for the first time ended a World Cup campaign on a winning note, beating Australia and changing the semi-final lineups also. They have had two ties as well, and some rain involved. Maybe this is the luck they needed to turn around their future campaigns.

England’s stumble against Sri Lanka was the result which made the league phase interesting. But Sri Lanka couldn’t use that platform while England returned to their merry ways. Meanwhile, England reached semi-finals in 1992!

West Indies started with a win, ended with a win and had nothing else to show in between! Except that the signs of revival are very much there. Sheldon Cottrell has developed his own fan following with the Salute though!

Shakib-al Hassan had a sensational tournament. And in my opinion should be the Player of the World Cup. Bangladesh certainly are no pushovers. It has taken them (a lot of) time but they have arrived on the big stage. And it is the inspiration for all other newcomers and Associates.

Afghanistan were the fan favorite. Everyone would have liked to see them win a game or two. However, no one wanted to see them beat their own team though. However, the Afghan fairytale has hit a rough patch. Player indiscipline, administrative problems and fan trouble. Hope these are sorted out soon.

Australia are becoming the imposing machine again, but the ruthlessness is yet to fully come back. Wouldn’t have expected Australians of Waugh-Ponting-Clarke era to lose the last game!

And finally, India. After the weirdo game against England, easily dispatched Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Rohit Sharma has got 5 centuries in this edition with potentially two more innings to go. And yet still generates lot of social media hate, especially from the so-called fans who still do not realize that the red-ball and white-ball are two different ballgames entirely! Well, can’t do much about it.

We bid farewell to Chris Gayle, Shoaib Malik, Imran Tahir, JP Duminy and Ian Gould– in different forms. However, Ian Gould is the only one who has actually done his last game. Others might still be seen in different T20 leagues or even internationals!

So India vs New Zealand & England vs Australia. Let the Endgame commence!

Monday, July 1, 2019

World Cup 2019: The Powerplay

We are approaching the business end of the World Cup. Some of the excitement created in the not so boring middle overs has fizzled out. The top teams have shown that they still mean business barring the odd hiccup on the way. The banana skins have been (mostly) avoided by the big guns. Sri Lanka and West Indies dropped out of contention from the semi-finals with results not going their way, while the hopes of Pakistan and Bangladesh hangs in balance. 

We had India taking on England, a mouth-watering top of the table clash with an added zing of an India win keeping alive the hopes of sub-continental arch-rivals Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka! Even the Pakistanis were rooting for us. Adding to the excitement was India’s first ever appearance in orange & navy blue (a truly weird color combination IMO). Alas it was not meant to be, and the last overs left a bitter taste. The Indian team approach was baffling to say the least. England were undoubtedly the better side on the day, but there was something wrong with the Indian team. 

The Pakistan-Afghanistan match showcased all the wrongs of the sport. The game itself was close but middling affair. But it was marred by political slogans flown over the ground, fist-fights between the two sets of supporters and shambolic fracas in the ground. Terrible day for cricket. 

Meanwhile, the Aussie juggernaut rolls on like a well-oiled machine. All the parts now seem to be in place and they are just razing over all opposition. Plus, they have the experience and legacy of multiple victorious campaigns with them. 

Unlike South Africa, who just have the legacy of multiple bad endings. Now, that they are out of running, they played their best cricket and derailed Sri Lanka’s campaign as well! 

New Zealand are suddenly not looking so good with back-to-back losses. Let’s see where they end up. Most likely losing semi-finalists as is their tradition!

Pakistan’s campaign seems to find a new analogous data point with their 1992 run daily. Let’s see how long the similarities run! 

The race for the Top4 reaches its final bend – Australia are through, New Zealand and India are nearly there, while England are marginally ahead of Pakistan and Bangladesh. Most importantly, Bangladesh and Pakistan face-off against each other in their last game. 

Joke of the week - the worst possible team combination – Kiwi openers, Indian middle order, West Indies spinners, Sri Lankan pace attack (minus Malinga), Pakistani fielding with South African choking talent. What a wonderful opponent that would be!