Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Vijay Hazare Trophy 2021-22: Bihar Review

Bihar played in the Plate League. With 3 wins and 2 losses from 5 matches, Bihar finished 3rd in the 8 team Plate League, thus missing out on a knock-out berth. Ashutosh Aman led the side. 

Here is the game-by-game summary of the tournament. 

Game 1: Bihar 222/8 (50) lost to Mizoram 223/3 (47.4) by 7 wickets 
Highlights: Sakibul Gani 114 
List A Debut: Abhijeet Saket, Bipin Saurabh, Malay Raj 

Game 2: Meghalaya 273/6 (50) beat Bihar 272/10 (50) by 1 run 
Highlights: Amod Yadav 3/44, Sakibul Gani 94 
List A Debut: Amod Yadav 

Game 3: Bihar 280/8 (50) beat Nagaland 142/10 (31.4) by 138 runs 
Highlights: Bipin Saurabh 79, Mangal Mahrour 94*, Sarfaraz Ashraf 3/18, Ashutosh Aman 2/14, Shashi Shekhar 2/9 
List A Debut: Nikhil Anand 

Game 4: Sikkim 193/9 (50) lost to Bihar 194/3 (36.5) by 7 wickets 
Highlights: Ashutosh Aman 4/37, Bipin Saurabh 92* 

Game 5: Arunachal Pradesh 83/10 (21.3) lost to Bihar 87/4 (19.1) by 6 wickets 
Highlights: Malay Raj 5/38, Sachin Kumar 3/6, Sakibul Gani 2/29 
List A Debut: Aditya Singh, Kumar Rajnish, Washim Ashrar 

Season Stats 
Highest Scorers 
  1. Sakibul Gani 231 @ 77.00, 1x100, 1x50 
  2. Mangal Mahrour 188 @ 62.67, 1x50 
  3. Bipin Saurabh 182 @ 60.67, 2x50 
Highest Wicket-takers 
  1. Ashutosh Aman 7 @ 19.14 
  2. Malay Raj 6 @ 13.00 
  3. Shashi Shekhar 6 @ 15.83 
Best Batting: Sakibul Gani 114 vs Mizoram 
Best Bowling: Malay Raj 5/38 vs Arunachal Pradesh 
Players Used: 22 
List A Debut: 8 

Overall, not a particularly great run for Bihar. No steady team selections, Debuts being handed out all over the place. Pure batters coming in at the tail! Difficult to see how this team gets better in the near future. 

And now we enter a phase of uncertainty for the next fixture. Although there is an IPL auction coming up as well, but with the exception of Sakibul Gani and maybe Bipin Saurabh, the performances just aren't good enough. Let's see how many progress into the final auction list!

Monday, January 24, 2022

Vijay Hazare Trophy 2021-22: Jharkhand Review

Domestic Cricket continues to be in stop-start mode since the covid pandemic first hit. And just when things seemed to be heading back to normal, India is now in grips of the third wave leading to postponement of Ranji Trophy again. In the interim, Vijay Hazare Trophy was successfully held (a tremendous achievement given the logistical challenges) 

Jharkhand had another middling tournament. They won 2 & lost 3 matches to finish 3rd in the group missing out a berth in the knock-outs. Virat Singh lead the side in the first two games in Saurabh Tiwary’s s absence, who led the side in the remaining three. 

Here is the game-by-game summary of the tournament. 

Game 1: Jharkhand 263/8 (50) lost to Delhi 264/4 (47) by 6 wickets 
Highlights: Virat Singh 79, Kaushal Singh 69, Anukul Roy 47 & 1/49 
Debut: Sushant Mishra 

Game 2: Uttar Pradesh 239/7 (50) lost to Jharkhand 242/2 (46.1) by 8 wickets 
Highlights: Rahul Shukla 3/51, Varun Aaron 2/36, Nazim Siddiqui 116, Utkarsh Singh 57* 

Game 3: Haryana 281/3 (50) beat Jharkhand 253/10 (49.3) by 28 runs 
Highlights: Nazim Siddiqui 62, Utkarsh Singh 78 

Game 4: Jharkhand 211/10 (49.1) lost to Saurashtra 212/3 (34.4) by 7 wickets 
Highlights: Ishank Jaggi 56, Utkarsh Singh 55, Varun Aaron 2/34 

Game 5: Jharkhand 276/10 (50) beat Hyderabad 240/10 (48.4) by 36 runs 
Highlights: Virat Singh 65, Varun Aaron 3/50, Shahbaz Nadeem 3/32 

Season Stats 
Highest Scorers 
  1. Nazim Siddiqui 271 @ 54.20, 1x100, 1x50 
  2. Virat Singh 196 @ 49.00, 2x50 
  3. Utkarsh Singh 191 @ 47.75, 3x50 
Highest Wicket-takers 
  1. Varun Aaron 8 @ 20.13 
  2. Shahbaz Nadeem 6 @ 37.17 
  3. Rahul Shukla 4 @ 48.75 
Best Batting: Nazim Siddiqui 116 vs Uttar Pradesh 
Best Bowling: Shahbaz Nadeem 3/32 vs Hyderabad 
Players Used: 15 
List A Debut: 1 

Overall, not a particularly great run for Jharkhand. Ishan Kishan was once again missed. And now we enter a phase of uncertainty for the next fixture. Although there is an IPL auction coming up as well.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Gabba - a year ago

"It ain't about hard you hit. It's about hard you can get hit and keep moving forward" - Rocky Balboa  

Date: 19th January, 2021 – one year ago. 
Location: Gabba, Brisbane, Australia (a.k.a the Gabbatoir) 
Result: India won by 3 wickets

Usually, it is the losing team which looks for excuses. Here the winning team had them all and more – alien conditions, long tour, lost 4 tosses, ravaged by injuries, inexperienced players, covid threat, and yet they came out winning! 

Just one single stat exposed the gulf between the two teams. Going into that Test – India had a collective experience of having taken 13 Test wickets while the Aussies had 1,033! And there was a small ask of chasing over 300 on the 5th day. Somehow, none of this mattered as the trio of Pujara, Gill and Pant, blocked and bludgeoned past the target taking numerous body blows but never yielding. 

The last day was crazy. Still get goosebumps a year later, thinking of how that day went. All superstitions were put in place lest I somehow jinx the team – avoid posting anything on social media, folllow/watch the game from same website etc., stay in position, even avoid breathing at times! Such was the adrenaline rush at the winning moment that felt like running out in the streets to celebrate (not an advisable thing to do in covid times). Social media felt like being part of a collective celebration with its toxicity drastically reduced for a while. 

What all India overcame – bio bubbles (it gets crazy after a while), covid restrictions, injured players, 36 all out, off field controversies, racial abuse! Yet we came out tops, because someone always came in and put in their finger in the dyke and saved the city! 

What the win also did was put into context the previous 2-1 victory in Australia (2018-19). Given how depleted the Indian team of 2020-21 was, Aussies can’t keep harping about missing Smith & Warner in previous tour!

The Gabba bastion had been well and truly breached after 32 years! Or in the immortal words of Vivek Razdan, "toot gaya Gabba ka ghamand"

We remember not the scores and the results in after years; it is the men who remain in our minds, in our imaginations" - Neville Cardus 

And that’s how Rahane, Pujara, Vihari, Ashwin, Jadeja, Pujara, Gill, Pant, Siraj, Thakur, Sundar, Bumrah, Natarajan will be remain in our collective imaginations. 

P.S. The win also led to an essay writing competition on the internet. Everyone had a say on the win (and why not). And they did have their say. And it is a year later and yet I felt that I had to post my thoughts!

Thursday, January 6, 2022

The World Cup XV - the Women in Blue

There is an ODI World Cup happening soon. The Women's ODI World Cup, in to be held in New Zealand next month. The last one in England, 2017 was special. For quite a big number of fans, that was the tournament in which Women's cricket became just cricket. Who can forget that Harmanpreet Kaur special in the semi-finals!

However, the road since then hasn't been the smoothest, with Covid, specially creating all sorts of troubles. The Qualifying cycle and the final Qualifiers were disrupted by Covid. Even the tournament itself was pushed back by a year. And, just to add to the uncertainty, there is another Covid ongoing at different parts of the world. 

We still hope that the tournament proceeds as per schedule with no interruptions due to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, India have named their squad for the tournament. 

Mithali Raj (C), Harmanpreet Kaur (VC), Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Varma, Yastika Bhatia, Deepti Sharma, Richa Ghosh, Taniya Bhatia, Sneh Rana, Pooja Vastrakar, Jhulan Goswami, Meghna Singh, Renuka Singh, Poonam Yadav & Rajeshwari Gayakwad. 

S Meghna, Ekta Bisht & Simran Bahadur will be the stand-bys.

Team seems to be good mixture of experience and youth. There are some questions on certain non-selections e.g. Jemimah, Shikha Pandey. But the selectors know best. The World Cup would be the last hurrah for two legends of the game - mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami, both of whom are at end of two decades plus international careers (Interestingly both have biopics coming up).

Wishing the very best to the squad. They also play New Zealand prior to the World Cup. That should be a good familiarization with the playing conditions.

Also, hoping for a safe tournament for all players and support staff,

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

The Twenty21 Lineup

Presenting the Slipstream Cricket Line-up from the year 2021 AD.

1. The Ever-changing Schedule 
Games are scheduled. But till the toss is held, you have no idea if the game would actually go ahead. That’s the level of uncertainty created by Covid. Even the most secure of bio-bubbles have been breached by the virus. All the major leagues were disrupted, to varying degrees. International calendar became more lopsided, team sizes have ballooned. England replaced an entire team. India played a T20 with just 4 batters (off whom 3 made their debut). And yet the administrators and players gamely move on. They prioritized the tournaments/series which generate the most moolah. But that has been the harsh reality. Kudos to the organizers, players, support teams who got us as much cricket as possible. 

2. World Champions 
Finally, Test Cricket has a World Champion - New Zealand. They won a proper final in a proper manner. Although the qualification route was convoluted and covid-ravaged! But they certainly were deserving champions. By the way, just how convoluted was the Championship – South Africa and West Indies played a series which was part of the Championship group stage AFTER the Finals! 

3. One More Step
The guardians of the game have changed the term Batsman to Batter. Just that one more tiny little step towards gender equity. It is still a long way to go. Just look at the disparity in number of games across levels between men and women. And the pandemic has just increased the gap in many ways. 

4. Debutantes 
  • Women’s ODI: Zimbabwe (personally I was surprised to learn that Zimbabwe women have never played an ODI) 
  • Men’s T20I: Bahamas, Cameroon, Cyprus, Estonia, France, Hungary, Lesotho, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra leone, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania 
  • Women’s T20I: Belgium, Cameroon, Eswatini, Italy, Sweden 
5. They Were Robbed 
Thailand gave a super performance to reach the Super 6 of the Women’s World Cup qualifiers only for the tournament to be scrapped because of Omicron cases rising. Not only the World Cup they also missed out on ODI status for the next qualification cycle! Meanwhile, a team which doesn’t exist (Afghanistan women) has Test status! The mandarins at ICC really need to get rid of some of the classism which still exists in the global cricketing ranks. A major step would be to de-link on-field performance of Men & Women sides. 

6. Performance of the Year
Ajaz Patel became just the 3rd bowler to take all 10 wickets in an innings, and the first in overseas Test match and promptly got dropped for New Zealand’s next Test. And this after being involved in a match-saving last-wicket stand in the game before! 
Special mentions - Frederique Overdijk – 7/3 for Netherlands vs France which are the best T20I figures ever. And Jaskaran Malhotra 6 sixes in an over USA vs Papua New Guinea in an ODI. 

7. The fortresses breached 
  • Pakistan finally after 3 decades of trying beat India in a Men’s World Cup game with a thumping 10-wicket margin in the T20 World Cup. That record had to go some day. Well, we are still unbeaten in the Men’s ODI World Cup. 
  • Then there was the greatest breach of all. Australia losing at Gabba for the first time in 32 years. As if this wasn’t a big event in itself, India achieved this with a depleted lineup and a bowling unit with a combined experience of 12 Test wickets! 
8. Picture of the Year 
Rakheem Cornwall with 2 teammates hanging on to him. He literally is the size of 2 humans!

9. Freak Injury of the Year
These are times in which players miss games because they had lunch at the same place where a covid positive case was also present. But Ben Foakes’s case is unique. He slipped on a sock, in the dressing room, in a county game and went on to miss England’s international summer. 

10. Comeback of the Year 
Indian women’s team returned to the Test arena with two matches including one Pink-ball game. But with no actual plans in place for domestic first-class games, these just seem marketing gimmicks. Although good to see that BCCI mandarins see the women’s game as worth marketing. 

11. The New Format 
Every year cricket throws in some new format, to win new fans but just ending up confusing the existing ones further. And spare a thought for the statisticians of the game. So, this year we have The Hundred! Why couldn’t they just have packaged T20 better! 

The 12th: The longest innings – Eileen Ash. She represented England on wither side of the Second World War. And in 2021 moved on at 110. RIP! 

And off the field South Africa’s mixed messages on taking the knee and the revelations of the SJN report. Hopefully they take some real steps while maintaining a competitive team at the same time. And the Tim Paine scandal which just blew off the Elite Honesty fa├žade of Cricket Australia

That was cricketing year 2021. And we are already in some nice action in 2022. Hopefully (fingers crossed), the cricketing schedule is less Covid disrupted this year.

Wishing all readers a Happy, Healthy & Safe 2022 filled with lots of on-field cricketing action.