IPL 3 ends IPLGate begins

April 26, 2010

So the IPL 3 is finally over and CSK have won. But the cat-fight between Lalith Modi and BCCI has just begun. Throw in a few cabinet ministers and a intelligent, good looking, foreign educated ousted one with an attractive friend and you’ve got something that’ll do more to ad revenue than perhaps even the IPL final.

Honestly I’m quite ambivalent about the whole saga surrounding the IPL. Modi is perhaps getting more than his due for the heavy handedness that he’s personified, the BCCI may escape without getting it’s due of rotten tomatoes and worse.

On the other hand, it is sad that India and Indian cricket’s image is taking a hit; its face is now marred again with the soot of corruption and match fixing. Whether people admit it or not (for fear of BCCI’s financial clout), the skepticism surround match-fixing that was almost buried after the Sharjah era is in all fairness back. It is now almost ok to ask if the final was fixed and whether that was part of the reason for sending Pollard in down the order. But it is also baffling. Perhaps that is why I fell asleep half way through Mumbai’s innings maybe it was too lacklustre to be true (but I made up by watching the entire post match ceremony till 2 am).

This time it will take longer to douse the suspicions. But life will go on. With the T20 World Cup only days away, even before the withdrawal syndrome sets in, we’ll be discussing why Dale Steyn isn’t overrated.


The Arrogant Boys Get a Slap – India vs. NZ T20

February 25, 2009

No, I’m not a NZ supporter in case you were wondering. But today’s T20 match between India and New Zealand at Christchurch could make many an Indian supporter emote in such a way.

It’s nothing but arrogance and over-confidence that many Indian batsmen displayed today. While there is some leeway to be given since this was a T20 and that success or failure in T20 doesn’t tell you much, many questions- old ones which were asked when an uninteresting Indian side landed in South Africa for the first T20 World Cup – come to mind. I will excuse Sehwag, for he plays the same way whether it is a Test, ODI or T20, and has been doing so from his debut. Just the same arrogance throughout, which comes with skill and a load of runs to back it. As for the other folk – Gambhir, Yuvraj, Dhoni and the Pathans – the true test begins now. Can Gambhir adjust to the NZ conditions? Can Yuvraj/Dhoni bat when the pitch isn’t flat and the opposition isn’t England or a meek Sri Lanka? Raina escaped today and played a decent innings. I would have bet (for an expensive lunch at a fancy restaurant) when Raina came to the crease that he wouldn’t last 2 overs. He proved me wrong and fortunately for me I don’t owe anyone a fancy lunch. ūüôā Harbhajan is becoming a very sensible batsman – maybe the IPL ban did the trick. I hope I didn’t speak too early on this.

The Indian bowling seemed fairly decent. It would have been hard to defend a total of 160 odd on a small ground. The score only gave us a chance.

What is most heartening about this match is that it gives us feeling that this series might be fun, not as one sided as some of the hype-inspired folk prophesied. Take it from me people, there will be failures, batting failures. The better batsmen will gain and the great, prevail. The bowlers might end up better than the batsman (given the quality of batsmen we have on tour).

Meanwhile, somebody called Manoj Tiwary might be pondering if his debut in T20 against Australia wasn’t so bad after all.

Well played, New Zealand!


Mission 2011 World Cup: Wrong Path?

August 19, 2008

The Indian ODI side has lost another battle to Mendis. I’d written them off even before a single ball was bowled in the series. Soulberry is postively miffed and strangely I thought they should have been doing exactly what SB suggests.

But the anxiety and emotion isn’t just about this series. It is about the so-called mission to win the World Cup in 2011.

While there is value in the vision itself (I do have some reservations on the over-emphasis that the World Cup is getting, but I’ll save that for another day), for some time now it has taken precedence to common sense. I think the selectors and us, the serious-Indian-cricket followers, have mostly overreacted to the T20 victory. Just because a young side that won us a World Cup in a abridged format does not mean that was the way to go. Again, we also overreacted to the ODI series victory in Australia, which I have said time and again was largely due to Tendulkar and some good fast bowling from the younsters: not the Uthappas and Rainas.

This reaction has brought about precisely two things: a meteoric rise in the importance of Dhoni and wholesale recruiting of inexperienced youth from an U-19 cricket team. Dhoni’s recent success has hidden his rather mono-dimensional-nature as captain and less-than-solid batting from scrutiny. Dhoni isn’t a thinking captain, Azharuddin was. Dhoni is a lucky captain, at least so far: his troups have delivered. While there is nothing wrong with that the lack of ingenuitity or depth is bothersome. Perhaps this is the series which might expose these aspects of Dhoni further more. I’m not suggesting that we sack Dhoni now. That would be knee-jerk and the problem isn’t really with the captaincy, though I must add he hasn’t been doing much either. Besides, we don’t have a replacement captain. Please don’t suggest Yuvraj, he’s even worse! This itself is a crisis unprecedented in the last 10-15 years. When Azhar had to go, there was Tendulkar; when Ganguly was sacked, Dravid was ready. Even when Dravid stepped down, Dhoni made it because there was no one else, not out of his own merit. The second issue is of more importance. We’ve had a good deal of failures even the recent past of 3+ years from the Chappel era of recruiting U-19s to the Indian team. A cursory look at these names leads credence to the view that this really isn’t the way to go: Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and Mohammed Kaif. In Rohit Sharma, Kohli and Ohja we perhaps have our next failed experiments. Domestic cricket is there for a reason and cricket is not a boys’ game. It involves either genius talent ala Tendulkar or just pure hard work. Gambhir learned it the hard way and is now back after having spent some time in the domestic circuit. Barring Tendulkar, the other Indian batting greats of today, Dravid, Ganguly and Laxman roughed it out before they were even considered to represent the country at the highest level. The selectors need to look back this tradition, gather strength and change the way things are being done, though I fear it might already be a bit too late. Give it another year or a few more failed U-19 stars, and we might have to wait another generation for a set of solid batsmen.

Honestly, on the mission World Cup 2011, I honestly don’t see it happening. Teams that win World Cups generally have about 4-5 members who have played in an earlier version and have a mix of solid and swashbuckling batsmen and quality bowlers with variety. Australia in ’99 was probably the best Aussie WC team in the recent past. India’s 2003 WC squad was also probably our best and will remain that way for some time to come. I won’t comment on the 2007 WC here, much has been said about it. If honest effort is made to nurture good batting and bowling we might have a competitive 2015 WC squad, and unless anything miraculous happens I don’t see this particular ODI side winning a 50-over World Cup for us.

Meanwhile, in Soulberry’s thread, some have suggested what I have been ranting about for over eight months now: the reinstatement of Dravid in the ODI side. I would suggest that we include Ganguly too. We need some stability and some sanity. We need a batsman to hang around so the youngsters can learn what it takes to build an innings. Right now there is no mentor in the ODI team for the younsters. And please, Dhoni isn’t one! What happened to the rotation policy?¬† We seem to only have a senior-elimination policy at the moment. Dhoni was picked as captain of the ODI side because he supposedly had a good rapport with the seniors, but the first thing that he did was sack Dravid and then Ganguly. We need to rotate the Big 3, not eliminate 2 and let Tendulkar chase his records. Having said all that, given the nature of BCCI, do I see it happening? No. But do I continue hoping? Yes.

I think at the end of this tour of Sri Lanka, we would have learned more lessons than we did in the past decade. The last instance of such a lesson-filled tour that I recall is probably the 99-00 tour of Australia.¬† We need a good mix of the old and new to win matches and to build for the future. The veterans need to be around to show the way and the transition to the new order gradual. We have learnt a valid lesson from the ODI squad and one only hopes that after the 1-2 defeat in the recently concluded Test series, the same mistakes aren’t made with the Test squad.


The T20 World Champions prevail: India beat Australia by 7 wickets

October 21, 2007

The Bradbourne stadium came alive as India, the T-2o World Champions took on Australia in the much anticipated¬†20-20 clash between the teams. The South African atmosphere was replicated here with the hip music and dancing girls which added spice to the already curry-hot up series. If one needed more, yes there was: starting from cricket veterans like Ravi Shastri, Sunil Gavasakar, and living legend Sachin Tendulkar, to Bollywood’s best and “lucky-charm” Shah Rukh Khan who came with Deepika Padukone in tow (if media reports are to be believed, she was the captain Dhoni’s guest).

With Australia winning the toss and batting first, I was wary: the only match in the T20 World Cup that India lost (against New Zealand) was one in which they chased. Although that match included Ajit Agarkar, the run gift-giver, and this one did not, anything could happen in a 20-20 match. However, that was not to be. The first over was full of excitement, with Gilchrist slamming 3 fours and R P Singh bagging his wicket with a beauty of a yorker. More Aussie action followed with in form Ponting flourishing and runs flowing, but Harbhajan pulled some back when he struck early to send Mathew Hayden back to the dug-out. The manner in which MS Dhoni handled the bowlers here must be lauded; that, and some good fielding restricted the Aussies to 166-5. Although the Indian fielding did not live up to the high standards that they set from themselves in the South Africa during the T20 World cup, some brilliant efforts like that of Yuvraj/Harbhajan running out Andrew Symonds and a few saves from Uthappa and Yuvaraj made the difference. Everybody did their part: the bowlers bowled well, the fielders for the most part did well, and the batsmen mauled the Aussie bowling.

There are many good things for India to take¬†from this victory.¬†Most importantly,¬†it proves, as captain Dhoni said in the presentation, “… that World Cup victory (in South Africa) was not a fluke”. There was energy in the field, the fielders were pumped up applauding each others’ efforts, the batsmen belligerent, and the captain bravely innovative. Secondly, they played as a team and beat the opposition comprehensively; I’m tempted to say that they pulled an Australia (although this is 20-20 and India are ruling at the moment): when Sehwag failed, Gambhir and Uthappa shone, when Sreesanth struggled, Pathan, RP Singh and the spinners compensated. Attitude was key. In the batting, although Gambhir set the foundation and Yuvraj helped see India to through, for me, Uthappa was the pick of the batsmen; the way he danced down the track to hit out speaks volumes of the confidence that he and this Indian outfit share. When Dhoni hit the winning stroke for six, I felt a rush of happiness, pride, and awe. In Mahendra Singh Dhoni, I think, India have found a great captain: he is not fearful of the unconventional yet is capable of pulling out some almost boringly traditional stuff (like his innings from the Lord’s Test earlier this year) and most importantly, his game strategy is as fearless as his words. With some patience from the selectors, the media and the fans, this man could turn out to be¬†one of the¬†most successful Indian cricket captains.

Here’s to the new victorious India and to many more victories!


Anticipating a thriller: Australia vs. the T-20 World Champions

October 19, 2007

That sounds good doesn’t it? For once, Australia are playing in a format in which they are not the best. Right, its time for party-cricket: the 20-20 encounter that will conclude Australia’s tour of India.

For once it is the Indian side doing the ‘bahaduri’ talking with Uthappa taking Ponting’s place with the word-campaign and captain M S Dhoni’s coming up with a new tag-line for an automobile company. Robin Uthappa oozes confidence in this T-20 team “..You want to think of the positives, go out there and give your best. Everyone in the team has been absolutely positive.” Dhoni on the other hand seems cautiously positive yet upbeat and seems to have more confidence in this successful young line up: “I want 14 players who, if I ask them to, will stand in front of a truck.” Check out the match preview article from NDTV.com for details. This statements makes me think two things: firstly, this T-20 team will be one with very little team-politics, where Dhoni will be captain in all senses of the word; after all it can’t be as straight forward in the normal ODI side with¬† 3 ex-captain egos clashing; secondly, after hearing some the recent statments from MSD, I think if he didn’t end up in cricket,¬† advertising would have been a good fit :). A few days ago, I though my favorite Dhoni quote was the one on the Bangalore one-dayer: “Bahaduri aur bevakufi ke beech bahut kam fark hai [There is a very thin line separating bravery from foolhardiness]”, but it seems to be getting better. Check out quote-unquote from Cricinfo for the entire context.

Having said all that, the reality check is that the T-2o game can be a little bit of a gamble, where the toss can matter big time. One bad over can cost you the game; a few good overs can win you one. This is where I think nerves play their part, and the T-2o World Cup proves that India can indeed hold nerve. Go India! You’ve done it before, do it again! Chak de!