Cricket Ramblings: On the Gambhir ban and Gilly’s True Colors

November 1, 2008

Alright, am I the only one bored by the Delhi Test? The other stuff seems to be interesting.

The Gambhir ban has been an interesting issue. Fellow blogger ABisht sees it as a half-full-half-empty thing. As always, the subcontinent guy gets hauled up. Perhaps this is the only way the toothless ICC servants can get back at the “new-power-rich” BCCI. While the part of me that wants to be fair, might want to say, maybe this is a good lesson for the folk who indulge in unnecessary drama on the cricket field, the partisan in me is angry that it is the Indian that gets the harsh treatment. Why was Watson, the provoker, let off with a fine, that too, off a token-like 10%? This issue can be beaten to death, but it’s a dead horse. The more striking issue is the arrogance of the Indian youth. As I look at my own generation, there is a sense of disrespect for and cynicism towards almost everything. Granted this might be a generational thing, but the brashness now is too obvious to ignore. This crudeness has crept into cricket as well. Uthappa’s dig on the seniors’ fielding comes to mind. No, it’s not about the whole “respect the senior cricketers” dying horse either. It’s the needless attitude and ego that’s bothersome. Back to Gambhir. Why the “elbowing”, Gambhir? Why the street-side-boy attitude? Perhaps it is this garishness that has reduced the sympathy that Gambhir is getting on this. Perhaps he is also suffering the aftermath of the Bhajji “banned-but-not-but-then-banned-in-IPL”. To be honest, I’m ambivalent on this, but in titling in favor of the fact that the ban might be a bit too hard, but only in small measure.

Adam Gilchrist, who certainly had a lot of Indian fans, may be left with a lot lesser fans now. I didn’t feel the need to write about his comments on Tendulkar, for it seemed like the cheap old publicity trick. But now, he’s roping in Ganguly and Harbhajan. I’m not cutting any slack for Ganguly on the Nagpur 2004 Test Houdini act – a chapter in Indian cricket that will remain shrouded with several questions until someone comes out with the truth – but doesn’t Gilchrist have anything better to talk about. Apparently he wants to befriend his former teammates who don’t return phones calls and emails to the “bloke who used to walk when he was out”. Gilchrist has utterly lost my respect, for whatever that is worth. And he will NOT get my money for his book, which I have decided not to buy, despite whatever else he may have said in it. Now, we know the True Colors, don’t we?


India Draws – Ind vs Aus 2008-09: Day 5, 1st Test, Bangalore

October 13, 2008

After what seemed like an eternity, India has managed not to lose a match batting 4th. I had mentally written them off and that mostly due to the poor show in Sri Lanka. I’m still trying to tweak Cricinfo’s statsguru to spit me the results of India’s draw percent when batting second. I’m pretty sure this must be low (esp in the last 3 years). From memory I recall only 2 from the last 3 years – the one at Lords (which really shouldn’t count) and one against South Africa.

Going by that, this is an achievement. But what that also says is that the Aussies have lost some of their sting without McGrath, Warne and Gilchrist (behind the stumps). Haddin has a long way to go. Watson, Haddin, Cameron White (who also plays for Bangalore Royal Challengers) don’t really strike me as great Test cricketers. Unless they go the Symonds way with their game, we may see some mediocre results from them in the near future.

As for India, NB from Soulberry’s TCWJ puts so succinctly, what seemed so muddled in my mind. To me, here are the worries:

  • Middle order: Granted, we’re getting some stinkers from the umpires from time to time, but the middle order isn’t really on strong footing. There are flashes of brilliance, but only flashes, and that’s causing anxiety. Ganguly seems best of the four at the moment. Doesn’t that tell a story in itself (with due respect to Gangs of course)? Meanwhile at the top order, Gambhir has not had too many answers either.
  • Spin bowling: We all know about Harbhajan’s “I-need-a-wicket-to-start-thinking”. That apart, Kumble has been very worrisome.
  • Fielding: Allright, we’ve never really been a great fielding side, not even when the Fab four where in their prime. Gambhir’s dropped catches were atrocious! So much for the “young-agile-fielding-sides”

Interestingly this time, both teams have seen some decline from previous glory. Can India put a 300 plus total? Can the middle order post 200 runs by themselves? Can India bat better than Australia? Can Australia take 20 wickets? Will they bowl better than the Indian quicks? Strange how it can become isn’t it?

Maybe we will get only 2 results from this series.


India lose 1st Test on Day 4 – India in Sri Lanka 2008

July 27, 2008

The agony is finally over. If it was agonizing for the Indian batsmen, it was equally so for us to watch that. A rain-delayed Test match that initially seemed destined for boring draw, gave India its third greatest defeat on the 4th day and has raised scathing questions of India’s Fab Four (in fact, Fab Five, including Kumble who went wicketless).

I actually started writing this post hours after the innings defeat to Sri Lanka, but didn’t get around to writing more than the first sentence. Perhaps that was for good, for it wouldn’t have been anything more than ranty, rambly, irritated, angry and haunted. Today, I feel very differently about it and have more sympathy for the batting line up, than they have been getting in the last 24 hrs. That’s not to say there is no anger, neither is there any proper excuse for the manner in which the batting folded completely, but if at all there is any slack to be cut it is for this Indian line up. This Indian line up won against at good South African line up, a weak Pakistan team, and had Australia on the mat on several occasions, so much so that Gilchrist conceded that India won the series 2-1. Somehow, we have forgotten all that and ranted in typical Indian fashion. So what caused this colossal debacle? We can only speculate in hindsight. Maybe it was complacency, maybe it was lack of preparation, perhaps it was even a sense of taking Sri Lanka too lightly (or at least lighter than they should have), but to me the most unforgivable part of this collapse was the lack of fighting-spirit and self-belief among the top order batsmen.

Let’s look at this from a first innings vs. second point of view, and a bit objectively shall we? To me the first innings seemed more like a mix of less-than-50% effort,”neither-here-nor-there” faith, rashness, and complacency than lack of skill or being bamboozled. The second innings was starkly different: one of over-cautiousness, despair, resignment to loss and finding the quickest route to it.

Here is my analysis by batsmen:

Sehwag: started rather aggressively, though many suggest (and I agree) it was more brainless than foolhardy. He was in T20 mode, but he has always be in that mode, even before that form of the game exsisted. In the second, he played with a bit more brain, maybe had some harsh words from coach Kirsten, but was given out on a very contentious decision. What are the umpires paid for? Can’t they make it through one match (or even one innings without a glaringly wrong one). The on-field umpire (though this was Mr. Incompetent Benson who I have ZERO respect for him), I understand – he has only a split second to decide – but not third umpire Koertzen who could have very well caught the deflection off the pad, if only his eyes were open.

Gambhir: played in T20 fashion, but quite well, better than I had expected, especially in the second innings. There was a trace of intent to occupy the crease. Though he fell to Murali in the very early overs in the first innings, and then again to Murali in the second, the latter was a more patient Gambhir. This kid will learn and must be persisted with, above any of the younger lot.

Dravid: arguably the tragedy of the batting line up. Is it the media pressure,or the board pressure for wanting him to keep wickets else get lost? He started the first innings rather positively – that uppish shot off Murali(?) which fetched him one of his two boundaries from that outing was nothing short of positive. But he was clearly bamboozled by Mendis’s carrom. The second innings demotion from #3 was possibly to allow Laxman to hold one end, or even in the hopes of an Eden repeat from 2001, but this move probably shattered the shards of self-confidence that he brought. I don’t know what has happened to India’s never-say-die man with so-called nerves of steel. If anyone deserves any faith, it’s him. God save Dravid!

Tendulkar: The man most capable of tackling Murali, with an average in the 60s against him, threw his wicket away in the first innings. He seemed to be in half a mind whether to play it or leave it, and ended up dragging it on to his stumps. Forgivable? By Tendulkar’s standards, no, but nobody’s perfect. The second innings dismissal is just sad. There isn’t much else to be said there.

Ganguly: first innings rashness and a saw him play a sweep shot, when he knew a fielder was there. Completely uncalled for while chasing a mammoth score. The second innings attempt by Ganguly was nothing short of callous carelessness. He had already given up, not wanting to fight it out.

VVS Laxman: Ok, I don’t have the heart to blast him, not after that tremendous effort in the first innings. No one, I repeat, no one else can fight with the tail, without losing hope, even in the most hopeless situations. In times of dire need, there is a sense of relief when he takes to the crease; a feeling that the damage will stop, even if it is to delay the eventual. He deserves to bat at #3, though nobody else can bat so successfully with the tail at #6. With Dravid in the state he is in at the moment, it seemed logical to promote him (which I had suggested here), but he fell and too quickly for the Indians to digest.

Dinesh Karthik: I think he has reached the end of his sudden stroke of luck in Dhoni’s absense. Though I will not be surprized if he makes in next XI, that might just be it.

Having said all this about the Indian batting, it was a collective failure that cost India dear – batting, bowling and fielding. You cannot allow fear to overcome skill. Umpiring atrocities notwithstanding, you cannot drop a batsmen twice, that too the likes of Jayawardene, and expect the favor to be returned or to win a test match. You cannot bowl to pass time without any regard to line and length. On the other hand, you must not milk a fast bowler till he bleeds. Kudos to Ishant for a gutsy showing with the bat: he lasted 70 mins with Laxman and faced 54 balls, for his 13.

Credit must be given to Ajantha Mendis for getting two of India’s best – Laxman and Dravid – not once but twice. That is more credit that I could ever write. Murali was perhaps his normal self. The pressure that both the spinner put from either end helped them both.

What now for India? Some gameplan, strategy and tons of self-belief and courage. Meanwhile shall we stop the trash talk for moment? This series ain’t over yet!


Dream Team XI – ODIs

July 5, 2008

While watching the bore-fest Asia Cup in fragments, I have been thinking, what would be the best ODI XI ever? I must add here that “ever” for me would probably go back 10 to 12 years, not more than that. Here is my eleven:

  1. Virender Sehwag
  2. Mathew Hayden
  3. Rahul Dravid
  4. Steve Waugh (c)
  5. Sachin Tendulkar
  6. Adam Gilchrist (w)
  7. Lance Klusner
  8. Wasim Akram
  9. Shane Warne
  10. Glen McGrath
  11. Mutthiah Muralitharan/Anil Kumble

12th man: Allan Donald

Honorable mention: Sourav Ganguly, Waqar Younis

Here is the reasoning behind the selection. The openers must be aggressive run getters. I almost made Sachin the opener, but somehow felt uncomfortable about Hayden and Sachin batting together; nothing serious, it just didn’t seem to fit. Besides, Sehwag as opener, when he doesn’t throw his wicket away can be rather demoralizing to the opposition.

Dravid has always been my dream #3 batsman, one who could steady the batting whether the team is 8-1 or provide spine when on 110-1. I wouldn’t pick anybody else for the part, maybe Ponting (but not on current form) and only if Dravid is unavailable. Waugh at #4 is another dream pick. Besides, Dravid and Waugh batting together would be interesting to watch, that too when the former being an admirer of the latter. I made him captain for his skills and the respect he is likely to get from the team.

It’s hard to pick an ODI side without Tendulkar. Ideally, he should either open or bat at #4. But having picked Waugh, I didn’t think any other position would be apt for him. Yes, Sachin at #5 could prove problematic, given his ordinary stats for #4 in ODIs. But I’m not quite sure what to do here.

Gilchrist plays as wicketkeeper and at #6 is bound to deliver a good amount of punch. Klusner plays as all rounder. The legendary Akram must figure in any dream team for his tact with both the new and old ball. As a better batsman, he bats above Shane Warne, who is another must-pick. I picked Glen McGrath for his impeccable line and length and chose Murali and Kumble to pick from depending upon the kind of variety required. Donald is my 12th man as I assumed we are playing on spinning track. On a green track, I would lose one of the spinners.

Team composition is a bit bat-heavy, especially with Klusner at #7, but these folk to me are legends.


Looking ahead to IPL Season 2: Iconless IPL?

June 1, 2008

Allright, the IPL is almost over. I don’t really feel the intensity for either of the semis. Maybe that is because Rajasthan Royals have clearly been the best T20 side in the IPL. Or maybe because neither of the teams that I was supporting – Bangalore and Kolkata – are in the contest. There was a bit of feeling for Delhi, I would have liked to see them in the finals, but that wasn’t to be. 😦

Much has been said of the performances of the icons, specially the senior ones: Dravid, VVS Laxman, Ganguly and Tendulkar. I will not venture into that discussion just yet. Instead, I will ask this. What will an icon-less IPL be like? Considering some of the owners’ heavy-handed manner and the way things are going for the icons, I would speculate that not all of these folks will feature in the next installment.

Let us assume, for arguments sake, that neither of the above mentioned icons make it to the second season in any form. What would be the reaction of the masses? Especially the partisan ones – Mumbai and Kolkata. The Mumbai folks (or at least most of them) throng the IPL to watch Tendulkar and Kolkata to see their Maharaj. What happens to the other folk who go to these matches to see a Ganguly or a Dravid bat? Will these foks not turn up? Going by the attendance in the Ranji Trophy, an icon-less IPL will be a only a few grades more interesting to the masses. Yes, there will be Gilchrist fans and the McGrath fans, and they will bring some people to the stands, but these folk are the more educated cricket watchers, not the average Indian guy on the street who goes to watch a cricket match.

Even as I type this, I see the counter argument coming. One being that Indian cricket is in a state of flux where the seniors will slowly make way for deserving youngsters; that we need to be practical and one day or the other get used to an Indian team sans Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dravid; that the fans of the new recruits will take the place of today’s masses. True, all valid arguments. However the issue is that all this takes time. You need several match-winning performances to get a fan following. Good looks will help too :). Consider Rohit Sharma, who gave us some very valuable runs in that T20 world cup match against South Africa. On the other hand you have Ishant Sharma – the find of the Aussie tour, the kid who troubled titan-esque Aussie captain Ponting. I would think Ishant has a bigger fan following than Rohit Sharma. On the other hand, Gautham Gambhir, who has figured in more matches than the Sharmas may have a smaller fan base. All this is of course speculation. The point that I’m trying to make is that, for the icon-less IPL season to succeed, it must be timed right. If not, it will shake the very foundation of the IPL. Lack of crowds will affect TV ratings, ad money, sponsorship, etc, and pinch the owner’s pocket.

The owners may consider the icons as dead weight, but they bring the crowds at least for now. And they might need the icons more than they think, for this is India; we are mostly a crazy lot and cricket is a religion here. The owners, at least for the time being, better not mess with the Gods.