Clock ticks to selection: who will get Ganguly’s spot?

December 3, 2008

While there’s a bit of sadness that Dada won’t be playing, there’s some thrill in wondering who will get his place.

Cheeka gushed about Yuvraj after his centuries again England in the ODIs. But there are other people too, folks. Fellow bloggers Scorpy and Soulberry have been raving about Cheteshwar Pujara (whose idol is apparently Dravid) and then there’s Murali Vijay who made people take notice with his performances against Australia in the series gone by.

To choose between two good batsmen, one who has got 3 back to back triple-centuries (if memory serves me right) in Ranji and another solid batsman has got to be hard. I’d pick Pujara, for if you don’t pick him now, you’ll end up selecting him when he’s out of form. It would be sad for Murali Vijay to miss out, but if there’s any fairness in the system, he will get his place in due course.

Meanwhile, our friend Dravid who’s been digging it out in the domestic circles has got some runs. The scores read 38, 50+, 50+, and 83 in the last four innings, which is decent but still wary.

Hoping for Pujara…

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An Open Letter to Dilip Vengsarkar

October 15, 2008

Mr. Vengsarkar,

Why are you vomiting? Perhaps this is why you decided to step-down as chief selector at the end of your term – because you couldn’t contain that verbal diarhorea that you had to contain on the insistence of the BCCI.

I have many questions for you. Let me start with by asking you – do you have any sense? I was going to ask if you had any grace, but then I realized you might be a little less on the sense quotient and often grace comes only after sense.

Didn’t you have enough with your barbs at Dravid last year. First it was criticism for not enforcing the follow-on in that Oval Test. As defensive as that might have been, given that we’d gone one up, was that victory – one that eventually came after a 35-year drought – worth gambling in hope of another? You effectively “suffocated” captain Dravid enough for him to step down. Though we know it is you, we may never know for sure.

Then you unceremoniously dropped the same man with over 10,000 runs in ODI cricket, who had produced a blistering 92 at a strike rate of over 80, not more than 5 matches ago. I won’t even question the selection as much the as unnecessary trash talk: “Dravid is a one-dimensional player[… he] does not add value to the ODI team”. When being asked to make a courtesy call to inform Dravid on being dropped, you apparently asked so arrogantly asked “Why should we call him? Did he bother to inform the selection committee before he resigned as captain?

Fortunately for you, Dravid’s fans are not like Ganguly’s. They will not gather in the streets or burn effigies; some may blog, but largely they may not even boo.

Maybe that is why you did not stop there. You’ve irked the Ganguly fans an embarrassed an Indian hero and great exponent of the game by dropping him from the Irani Trophy squad. I had written earlier asking why Ganguly became the “sacrificial goat”, if you care enough, you can read that here.

The most disgusting thing you’ve done so far is to lash out against Ganguly and vowed to “give back more than what he asked for” without even bothering to verify if he had in fact complained of your selection, on being let down, and made statements on cricketers’s change in hairstyles. Ganguly has denied having given that controversial interview. Now what do you think you look like? No, I won’t say it, as I have some grace left. What I can say, is that, going by the standards of the cricket fans in Kolkata and their adulation for their Dada, you may not be able to walk in the streets of Kolkata.

As if that wasn’t enough, you’ve also shot one at Test Captain Kumble. If an “..unfit Kumble [was indeed] letting the team down..” or you thought he “..should have come clean about his fitness..“, you could have told him, not the media, not in a middle of a toughly fought series likened to the Ashes.

Perhaps the BCCI should not have “gone soft” with your newspaper column writing in which you so unceremoniously trashed our heroes. It is rather bizarre why BCCI was as toothless as it was in the 80s with this prank of yours for long enough for you to have done significant damage.

I’m done with this rant of mine for now but I must add that I mean no evil to you and hold nothing against you other than your trash-talking crassness throught the wrong medium at the wrong time. While I don’t expect you to stop vomiting just yet, I only ask you think if any of this is justifiable, at least in retrospect, even by your own double standards.

PS: Actually that should have read as another open letter, for at least one has already been written by CommonFan here. I’ve been planning for this letter for some time, but CommonFan has inspired me to write my own rather caustic one.


Why Ganguly?

September 17, 2008

I cannot help but ask. Why? Why Ganguly? Is it because something had to be done? Someone had to go? Some stop gap arrangement needed to be made to smother the screaming for including young talent? Or is it Peter Roebuck? We’ve reacted to Chappell’s remark on Sehwag before the tour of Australia late last year. So is that the new mantra to selection – listening to the Aussies? But now Ponting is questioning Ganguly’s omission. What do we do now?

The bigger question is this. Is Sourav not even good enough for the Irani Trophy. Well, the condescending talk from some of the “unnamed” selectors does make it seem that way. But then, I have another question. Why Jaffer? What has Jaffer done between his disastrous run in Australia earlier this year and now, to justify an inclusion to the dress rehearsal for the upcoming Aussie series. Or was he an automatic selection given that we are playing Australia at home or because Jaffer plays for Mumbai?

Turning our attention back to Dada, if you asked me, I could argue both sides: for and against the exclusion of Sourav Ganguly from the Irani Trophy squad. The argument against is jaded, so I’ll pass on that. Why does a Ganguly fan think this exclusion is good for him? Because it will wake up the lion in him – thought I’m not sure how many times he needs to prove his worth. Honestly, if he gets selected for the series against Australia, which he should, it will only have helped to have the lion (or should I say tiger) in Ganguly to be awake and growling. But one wonders, how long will he fight this sort of battle?

On the Kirsten/Kumble’s hand in this, I think the media has again sensationalized the story. I suspect it had more to do with Kirsten than Kumble. But maybe that’s just me, for I’ve never hid my dislike for Kirsten.

So why was it Ganguly? There are times like this when being a team man counts for more than anything else; when just that fact that you’ve tried as hard as you could have counts to your advantage. There is something about Ganguly that makes you think he took a situation casually. Maybe it’s his persona. Perhaps it is way he projects the facts. Maybe it is deju-vu from the old “I-don’t’want-to-play-the-new-ball” tactic. This is when you feel a little sad, that someone so gifted has thrown it away, almost arrogantly, like the straight sixes Sourav hits. This is why, I think, Dravid escaped the axe. If Dravid wasn’t the team man that we know him to be, even Kumble could not have saved him. But all isn’t well for Dravid either, for he scored two, yes, 2, in the Buchi Babu tournament in the match against Tripura. For once, I don’t think that’s very good news and feel a bit more apprehensive about this than I have before. If Dravid makes it past Irani, past Ausralia, he will have a good run for a year or so. If not, well yikes! God save Dravid and India.

Most of all this selection for the Irani Trophy seemed to me like the populist union budged this year. It tries to make everyone happy: the senior fans sans the Ganguly fans and the young aspirants. But the inconsistencies are glaring and it has been so through the years. Dravid was dropped from the ODI squad 3 matches after a brilliant match-winning 92 in Bristol. Yuvraj was persisted with after several failures for over a year, not more than 2 innings over 50. But that is Indian cricket for you!


Vaughan and Collingwood step down as England captains

August 3, 2008

In what came as a rather unexpected double blow for England, Michael Vaughan stepped down an England’s Test captain and Paul Collingwood as ODI captain. When such thing happens I often wonder about links between a captain’s form and their team’s success. While I think most teams tend to take upon themselves their captain’s attitude, having an out-or-form captain can be a energy-draining factor. The converse is also true. In fact, more often than not, I think the team’s failure tends to affect the captain’s form, especially, if he is a batsmen. For other captains, while captaincy may initially be inspiring to their personal form, it tends to bog them down sooner rather than later. Classical examples from India: Mohammed Azharuddin, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. England have their own in Strauss.

Vaughan and Collingwood both have been woefully out of form for a while. On Collingwood’s captaincy, I didn’t think too much of it. His primary successes have been against India (during India’s tour last summer) at home and against Sri Lanka away. In both cases, he enjoyed success of a playing against teams that were either largely out-of-form or failing to find a wining combination. On Vaughan, the story is a different. His captaincy skill outclass Collingwood by miles. I wouldn’t blame captain Vaughan too much for the team’s failure against South Africa – it was more a case of collective failure: batsmen not up to the challenge and bowlers unable to take 20 wickets. Given Vaughan’s current form, if he didn’t skip the Oval Test himself, he might have been dropped. While it is sad, I think we might have seen the last of Vaughan for some time to time.

Where from here for England? I can think of two players with some experience who are automatic selections to any England lineup: Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell, who are also at the moment at the best contributors to the team. Strauss’ name has also been doing the rounds, but I doubt if he could make an assertive captain, also, to me, he isn’t an ODI auto selection. Pietersen would be assertive and possibly innovative, but captaincy could curtain his own batting freedom, which isn’t good for England. So, I would go with Bell. I’m curious to find out who will be named this time around.


Hindustan Times interviews Dravid

June 22, 2008

Given his style of handling the media makes you think he would have succeeded in Hollywood, where elusiveness is a key ingredient to success. Yes, this is our very own Rahul Dravid.

Somehow I’ve always had a sense of awe about this man. Perhaps it’s his enigmatic nature, maybe it’s his penchant for orthodoxy, I can’t tell. What is so endearing about Dravid, at least for me, is that he is testament to the fact that introverted-ness and success are not mutually exclusive. Understandably, that is only when accompanied with grinding hard work, determination and talent.

There are things he does that seem to momentarily defy logic – his relinquishment of captaincy being a prime example – but make a lot of sense with time. Consider that after the disastrous World Cup 2007 campaign, he had not stepped down from captaincy. India go on a win an inconsequential, mostly relief-inducing series in Bangladesh and follow that up with a history-making Test series victory in England. Then the ODI-series loss in England and then Dhoni & Co. go and win the T20 World Cup. With the loss at the hands of the Aussies in the ODI series at home, shortly after the T20 World Cup, he would have gotten sacked as captain. In retrospect, a wise decision!

In this interview, he is characteristically Dravid, or Dravid as we know him. He speaks of the rather tumultuous year he has had: relinquishment of captaincy; having made his peace with losing a place in ODI side; reaching 10,000 runs in Test cricket,which he downplays while shedding light on his unbroken attendance record in Tests; and his criticism laden stint in the IPL. There is nothing new on the stepping-down-from-captaincy front. “I just felt the time had come to move on, and I just knew it”, synonymous with his earlier “ captaincy has a sell-by-date” reasoning. On the IPL, says Dravid, “..playing T20 cricket was new to me and I wanted to see how I’d go in that form of the game.” When asked about his run in the IPL and mud and slush that Mallya turned out to be, he stays with the safe “..there were other things that could have gone a bit better as well both on and off the field”. He doesn’t say much despite the bitterness that he would have felt. The slightest indication comes only when he talks of his young son and says that he “nothing to live up to” when spending time with him. There are hints of retirement too, but not anything we wouldn’t expect. “I won’t be playing after five years”, is something that is almost obvious. The only unexpected part of the interview is his denial of adhering to “copybook style” cricket, for which he is a poster-boy.

Mostly a very predictable interview, yet worth a read. Check it out here.


Of nail-biting thrillers and retirement rumors

September 7, 2007

What was nail-biting? Well what else could have been the past few days? The 6th ODI in the NatWest series was an edge-of-seat-don’t-switch-places finish.

Unpredicatability showed its dreamy face every now and then. In the beginning, India dominated: got early wickets, fielded well (probably the best in this series), and didn’t give anything away. Apart from all of that, there seemed to be a lot of spirit in the team: a thirst to win, not just to stay alive in the series. All was well until the youthful 20-20 specialists walked on the crease. Luke Wright was mighty surprize, but was India’s dismay; Owais Shah started out rather edgily, but went for the kill after his half-century; Mascarenas murdered the part-time bowling of Yuvraj, making a mockery of his bowling by logding 5 from the over for 6 a piece, and of Dravid’s captaincy which saw Yuvraj bowling the last over, when Powar, a much-better option had another one left. The last 100 runs of the England innings came from the last 8 overs. With 317 to win, and India’s abysmal record of chasing, the series seemed to be over, almost un-wrenchably gripped in England’s hands.

To be fair, one thing must be said about India’s chasing record: they may fail to chase 250 against South Africa one day, 230 again England on another, but successfuly chase 330+ against South Africe and 326 against England on another. Rare are such occasions, but they speak volumes about the abilities of the star-studded Indian batting line up.

Tendulkar and Ganguly set the tone of the chase. The boundary that came off Ganguly’s bat from the 1st over made his intensions clear; even the most depressed Indian supporter would have sat up from the slumped posture he might have been in, awakened by the flicker of hope that maybe, just maybe, it might happen this time. Tendulkar played one the most aggressive innings in the recent past, which was reminiscent of his youthful days of power and exuberance; this onslaught of the duo saw them go past another century partnership.

India were 150 without loss in under 30 overs and things seemed to going fine, until Pietersen took a brilliant catch to dismiss Ganguly. Tendulkar followed shortly thereafter, falling to Panesar, again only a few runs short of his century. Perhaps that was due to his cramps, or the loss of concentration on its account, but Panesar’s reaction to Tendulkar’s wicket told a story: there was no Bhangra dance, just a sigh of ‘Thank-you-God’ relief, a testament to who Tendulkar really is, and what he can do to a bowler. Three other batsmen came, made their contributions and went.

Dhoni and Uthappa were the crease, needing over 70 runs in less than 50 balls. Nail-bitters digged deeper into what was left of thier nails. Dhoni seemed to pull off every cheeky and cute shot, but fell due to a rather poor one. Uthappa was joined by Agarkar; and it was chaos galore: run-out chances became extra runs, misfields let to boundaries, but the young Uthappa kept his cool and stayed ground when Agarkar leapt off his for a non-existant run only to run himself out. Zaheer followed with 10 needed on 7 balls and returned falling to another run out. It seemed as though Uthappa would run out of partners from mere run-outs! The last over began, with an ask of 8: the first ball of it was a dot ball, the second a boundary, and not a straight forward one; it was a cutest of paddle shots played to fine leg after much ‘thinking-on-the-feet’ by Uthappa; 3 balls remained, 4 runs required; fielder came up at fine leg,; Uthappa was on strike; Broad to Uthappa; Uthappa stepped down the track, and hit the ball down the ground which missed a desperate England fielder and ran away for four. The winning stroke was hit was a hero was born!

The presentation ceremony saw an ungaurded Dravid and an emotional Tendulkar. Questions must be asked here. Was Tendulkar emotional only because of India’s victory or was there more to it? Did he think he might not be able to play the decided at Lords? Did he think he was nearing the end of his ODI career? It was rather saddenning to see him struggle up to the dressing room after his wicket fell earlier in the day. What was even more bizzare was the retirement speculation that followed the historic victory. Cricinfo reported here that Tendulkar might retire from the shortened version of the game at home after the series against Australia and Pakistan; this was followed by another report where Tendulkar allegedly denies the rumors, and then another stating that the denial was by the India administration manager, not Tendulkar.

 I think it is not just sad, but bad to report such rumours when the man is in sublime form. Should Tendulkar retire now or not? I think he has at least couple of years of it left, but he is the best judge of that; not Greg Chappell, not Ian Chappell, not you, not me and definitely not the media. It remains to be seen if Tendulkar reaches the milestone 50 ODI centuries or 100 ODI half centuries; only God and the master himself can tell.


A round up thus far on the NatWest ODI series

August 29, 2007

So 3 ODIs are up and England lead 2-1, after two top order batsmen let India down in their chase of 280+ plus score in the 3rd match in the series. Considering the order in which the results were achieved, it seems almost fairy tale; it seems like it was made to keep the fans interested and guessing.

After listening to Ian Chappel’s comments on the changes to the one day game, I would definitely agree with them: they are messing around with it a little too much. The new rule which states that non-striket can start his run when the bowler’s backfoot reaches the ground does seems like “cheating” (again, quoting Ian Chappel). Enough has already been done to degrade the quality of the one day game. The powerplays in my opinion are bringing the game down; you can win or lose a match because of the it. The shortened version of the game is becomming more of a mind game than a sport; granted, cricket has always been a 50-50 psychology-sport, but the balance has started to tilt, and I don’t like it. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.

Here are some highlights/lowlights from the ODIs thus far :
Hightlights:
– Flintoff’s near come-back and 5-for (or should I say Michelle) 🙂
– India’s batting on ODI-2
– Piyush’s 2 of 2 against Pietersen
– Monty’s first succesful run-out

Lowlights:
– Umpiring standards and Tendulkar’s missed ton (again!)
– Paul Colligwood’s hogging of England’s bowling attack
– India’s fielding
– India’s chasing
– Agarkar’s bowling

Meanwhile, there’s a very nice interview of the Prince of Calcutta. Check it out here. Siddartha writes this one beautifuly, evoking a good amount of emotions. You tend to picture scenes from the Ganguly’s younger days: those of power, aggression and attitude, all of which provided team India with a dimension that it never had (or wasn’t seen for some time until then). You see tinges of that very dimension now in Zaheer, Sreeshant, RPSingh, and Tendulkar.

Cheers to the improved team India!