Irani Trophy Day 2: What is a good total?

September 25, 2008

On a day that seemed the best for batting, given the nature of the pitch, Delhi squandered what could have been a good opportunity while Kumble’s Rest of India did well with the ball and surprising fielded rather well too. I must add here that I didn’t expect much from ROI’s fielding, thus the relieved sense of surprise has set in. Of the Delhi batsmen, Aakash Chopra impressed the most and if you ask me, deserves another stint with India. He’s not exactly a youngster, but when did being 19 alone become the most important criterion for selection?

Munaf, I thought was very impressive and is perhaps another good option for the Indian attack. I have a feeling he might wrestle his way through this time. From the the Delhi’s side, Nanda impressed to pin down a decent-looking Dravid and a hungry Badrinath. A few of his overs really tested them.

On Rest of India’s batting front – Jaffer did it again and threw it away. Dravid is playing his normal grafty innings, getting closer to and closer to confident. Badri, on the other hand seems to be in a mood to make ammends for the mess he made on Day 1. If Dravid and Badri hang on and put up another 50-80 runs, the middle order can chip in. Something tells me that the second half of Day 3 can be the decider. The pitch’s bounce is getting lower by the hour and is not likely to have too many runs to offer. However, catches might also be harder to get as the match progresses. If ROI bat through tomorrow and put up a total of about 280-300 they could consider themselves to be on the top. I’m hesitant to be more certain as the wise will never write off a side with Sehwag in it. Anything less than 300 will be gettable with time but will require effort. If Sehwag and Chopra fail, it may be the end for Delhi.


Irani Trophy Day 1: Rest of India vs. Delhi

September 24, 2008

Never trust the media! For the umpteenth time I have rediscovered this truth. Ok, it was not the best of innings from the Rest of India batsman, but when a team scores over 220-230, it is NOT a collapse. Why was Jaffer’s innings “fine” and Dravid’s innings circumspect ? They scored 50 and 46 each in 91 and 95 balls respectively. Jaffer’s list of boundaries reads 5 while Dravid’s count is 4. So much for that.
What I gathered from the first hour and a half of the game, which I caught before heading to work, was this: it was a warm up match and this could very well have been the score that India would have got in the first Test against in Aussies had they played without a warm up, with many batsmen taking a break of over a month. The truth is Jaffer was his “domestic-player” self and looked a bit better than “finding-my-form” Dravid, in comparison. Dravid was initially very shaky, so much to have this fan very worried and sad, but he picked it up later and played some very positive shots. Yes, there are still concerns; yes, he did struggle against Ishant Sharma, as I had I predicted yesterday; yes, the back foot isn’t moving to guard the off stump – a sure sign of out-of-form-ness, but there were some cracking shots which suggest a better comeback is near. Apart from the openers Jaffer and Dravid, no one else made an impression. Laxman was elegant in pieces but threw it away too quickly. The hypes of the day – Kaif and Badri remained hypes. They did not impress with strokeplay or with thier reading of the bowling and ended up with strike rates in the 30s, lesser that both Jaffer and Dravid. Harbhajan played an impressive innings, seriously! πŸ™‚ Ishant bowled as per hype and is at the moment worthy of all the hype. It would be interesting to see Chopra and Gambhir feast off an Ishant-less Rest of India.

As for Delhi, I thought Sehwag’s captaincy was initially defensive. I won’t comment on my gatherings from the highlights as it will tantamount to picking a team looking at scorecards alone πŸ˜€ .Β  Delhi have a fire-power laden batting line up, but if the top 3 fail, it looks a bit brittle. The pitch might slow down after lunch tomorrow to make Day 2 the best day for batting. I’m starting to like Aakash Chopra very much and should find a place in the Indian XI, if Tendulkar doesn’t make it. Speaking of India, we still need Ganguly, the Kaif and Badri’s won’t do at the moment. After all, when you’ve got better, it would be foolish to not use it.

Tomorrow we shall find out if Harbhajan and Kumble feast off the pitch or fizzle away.


The Irani Trophy beckons!

September 23, 2008

Well almost – it’s tomorrow and I can’t wait. This Delhi vs. Rest of India clash, touted as the the dress rehearsal to the Australia series, has everything in it to be a cracker. Everybody will have everything to play for. Weather permitting and pitch (and cable operator) willing we should see a good contest. I’m not a Delhi-ite but I think they have the psychological edge with the “we can afford to mess this up” factor helping them; at least they will be the lesser of the stressed. It is the Kumble lead Rest-of-India who will need to prove points. Every single middle order batsmen in their line up – Dravid and Laxman in particular – have everything at stake here. Actually, apart from Badri/Kaif, depending on who will play, and the aforementioned India seniors, there isn’t too much of interesting batting in the Rest of India line up. When I read the name Wasim Jaffer, I tend to to mentally skip it and am not too excited about Parthiv Patel either – he has no technique whatsoever. Delhi, on the other hand seems to have a more interesting batting line up. I use the word interesting for it is the kind of batting that could swing to either of the extremes. They could thrill us all, with attacking stroke play or have us screaming and lamenting about the future depending upon how things go for them. Delhi batsmen to watch out for will be Aakash Chopra, in-form Virat Kohli and Shikar Dhawan, though I feel the latter might turn out to be just a bit of hype. And that’s aside of perennial surprise package that is Virender Sehwag and “purple patch” Gambhir.

Two contests I will eagerly look forward to are Ishant vs. Dravid and Ishant vs. Laxman. While Ishant got Dravid in the IPL opener at Bangalore, it is his nagging off-stump line that is likely to bother Dravid in particular as he has been dismissed by such deliveries thrice (as far as I can remember) in the last year to Sohail Tanvir, Dale Steyn and Ishant Sharma. Laxman who has a similar approach, though not identical, might fare a little better against such stuff. My predictions on Ishant – he will get the top four of Rest of India with Jaffer and Parthiv being the bunnies. I’m not familiar with the rest of the Delhi bowlers and will leave that discussion to the expert opinion of my Delhi-ite blogging friends.

Another contest to look to is Sehwag against Zaheer; the other Rest of India pacers, R P Singh and Munaf may get it from Sehwag big time! I would also like to see the look on Harbhajan’s face when Sehwag hits him over the top for six πŸ™‚ ! Also interesting would be to see how the young Delhi middle order cope with the spin duo of Kumble and Harbhajan.

For Delhi, top order will be key, and middle for Rest of India. I already feel that this is an India vs. somebody else match with scale titled in favor of the “somebody else”. Rest of India, prove me wrong!


Finally watched Jannath

September 19, 2008

Ever since the seemingly cricket based Jannath hit theatres, I’ve been wanting to watch it. By the time I figured out which theatre to go to, on which weekend, at what time, it was gone. 😦 So after lingering in my things to-do list, watching Jannath took a back seat to life. But finally, it happened as, the movie TV debuted last weekend on UTV.

I must admit, my hindi is rusty and that’s being very mild, so maybe there were finer aspects of the story I did not get, but as a cricket fan, I was disappointed. What I expected was a thrilling run through of how matches are fixed. What I saw was a standard Bollywood flick wrapped in cricket-flavored paper. Pradeep Magazine’s Not Quite Cricket gives you a better run down of strange world of match fixing.

So what was it? Basically, boy meets girl with a twist. Emran Hashmi meets Sonal Chauhan at a mall and is smitten; what he is also smitten with is lust for money. One things lead to another, and Hashmi ends up in South Africa and joined the big league of match fixers. He fixes one match by promising the captain of an “Asian-looking” country to throw a match, and another by promising to take another captain “fine-leg” watching. We see that the captain gives in, after he gets his century. πŸ™‚ The strange part is that the “fixed” game was being played like an ODI, but in whites and the cricket ball is red, mind you; they speak of overs, and run rates, and runs to get in balls remaining, yet they also speak of first innings and second innings. Did they got get their basics right? That was a huge let down. Maybe I was expecting too much.

After this incident, the boy meets girl storyline continues, boy goes to jail after girl shows him up after being distraught on finding out what he does for a living, boy comes out of jail, courtesy his match-fixing bosses. Girl urges him to quit the fixing business, he tries, but returns to it, after yielding to his persuasive bosses. Then, as you if didn’t expect, there is a World Cup tournament. Again, players are in whites, and there is talk of innings. In the climax scene (yes, spoiler follows), one of the key players slips from his Asian looking, Hindi speaking, team in the reception area of a hotel only to have his English-looking coach find out and follow him. The player meets Hashmi, obviously, in a very public area of the hotel, which is strangely deserted, and trades money as Hashmi tells him how many runs he will get. Enter the coach, Hashmi’s henchman, who is also with him, takes his gun out and in a series of movements, the coach gets killed. The police arrive, the player blames Hashmi and the latter tries to escape only to meet the now-pregnant Sonal who urges him to surrender. The tragic end is that when as surrenders, drops his gun, he also drops a diamond ring – which he has kept ever since he first met Sonal at the mall – right next to it. When he bends down to pick up the ring, the police shot him dead and Sonal cries. The movie closes with Sonal and a little boy (their son) going grocery shopping. She runs out of money at the counter and the little boy puts some of his stuff away saying “Maa, mujhe yeh nahi chahiye” – something his father could never do.

I would give the movie 5.5 out of 10 for storyline and a full 10 for the music by Pritam, which I have enjoyed for some time now. I wouldn’t say that watching it was a waste of time, but it could have been a much better movie, as it didn’t really do justice to cricket wrapping paper it boasted of.

Phew! Had to get that out!


Some Grace for the Fab Four

September 18, 2008

There aren’t too many Indian cricket journalists who write anything other than jingoistic match reports. Picking among the few that do write well, Pradeep Magazine is one of my favorite. He writes here on how the onus is on the selectors to allow our Fab Four an exit befitting their accomplishments and stature. Indeed, they’ve scripted some very famous victories in India and overseas and have given us some wonderful memories. Thank you, Mr. Magazine! Yes, Ganguly, Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman need to be given some space and a respectful farewell when it comes to it, not unceremoniously shoved through gaps between the door and its sill. Vengsarkar! Are you listening?

And there is no need to hurry this. While the argument of picking players on merit and form is valid, there aren’t enough quality replacements, especially in Tests. In fact the young ODI side is yet to prove itself overseas. Somewhere between ’96 and now, the quality of India recruits seems to have either gone down or gone unnoticed, especially in the batting and spin departments (though spin is a different story altogether and merits a separate post). There hasn’t been another decent batting recruit after that of Ganguly and Dravid in 1995-96. Yes, there was Sehwag, but aren’t we still debating his worth? Yes, that might also be because we try to shove all of them in the opening spot, but we still don’t have a decent opening pair. Thanks to T20 cricket and IPL, theΒ  batting situation may only get worse unless deliberate efforts are put in. The India-A tours are a step in the right directions. In a few years, we should have a good idea about who from the India A is worthy of the India cap for a decent term. That should be way to go.