It’s been several months since I last blogged. Nothing else would have brought me back – apart from Dravid. Sadly, it is his retirement announcement that has. While I will reserve my tribute for a little later, I must say that this brings a huge void to Indian cricket. Watching India in Tests will not be the same. I will be switching the TV on only for Laxman!
The Trent Bridge Test has been a great advertisement for Test Cricket. From the packed stands to the quality pitches, the game has provided entertainment to all. Granted, it has been a low scoring match, but has had all other ingredients that an engrossing Test match need.
The English collapse and recovery, Broad’s hat rick , Laxman’s art, Dravid’s colossal century, Yuvraj’s comeback, the Indian collapse all interspersed with a bit of Indian tadka – the Praveen Kumar rant and the Sreesanth antics. A word must be said on the umpiring – while Erasmus has been inconsistent, Asad Rauf has been so accurate, its almost inhuman.
Day 3 will be key. So will Ishant. This day will decide who the winner of the Test will be, for this most certainly will not be Draw.
Cheers to Test Cricket! It is alive and kicking!
I’ve almost always had a rush of nostalgia when India is about to tour England. The green grass, blue skies, the contrast between the “Surf-excel-white” clouds and the tourquise blue of the sky, the picturesque grounds, the lovely breeze and the occasional sweater worn by the spectator adds an element of other worldly magic to the drama that is about to enfold. India’s tours of England have brought back some lovely memories that run back to the summer of’96. There are several such occasions – the World Cup 99, the tour of 2002 and the Nat West final to name a few. The tour of 2007 seems so fresh, I can recall many of details – Zaheer Khan and the jelly gate, Dravid’s tired captaincy, his struggle with runs, Wasin Jaffer’s lazy elegance, Dinesh Karthik’s rise to consistent 45-50 opener, Kumble’s century, Micheal Vaughn’s batting, Tendulkar’s struggles in the 90s, and what not.
Part of what makes this special is a rather mundane aspect – the time of play for the Indian viewer. You can come back from work, either on a high, or tired and drained of energy, and let your mind take on something completely different and to be engrossed in it. There are days when the cricket energizes you and days when it lets you lament.
Another tour is upon us. And this tour, as in 2007, is touted to be last of the greats of India’s batting – Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman. Thus the need to savor it is greater than ever before. One hopes that there is, somewhere in India, a kid who yearns to emulate their techniques and deeds!
After what seemed like an eternity for a close Dravid follower, it was mainly relief to see a century coming from him.
I must clarify, that “see” meant “read on Cricinfo”. That was the case primarily because I couldn’t watch another failure from him. Add work to that, and there’s a compelling reason, but mostly the first. When I checked the score, I braced my mind to see the fall of the second wicket, but was pleasantly surprized almost each time, happy to see the 50 and satisfied to the see the 60 turn into 100 in very short time (by any standard). The attacking shots, and the late cuts that I caught on highlights, were very reassuring.
Fellow blogger SB, puts the feeling in perspective in a more emotional way, that I could have. Read that here, as SB talks Dravid once again.
There will be the naysayers this time also. Yes, it is the Kiwis, and yes, once can glare at the strike rate, but look what happened today and look at the strike rates of Tendulkar and Laxman, in the first innings. That will tell a story. Spin it the way you like!
Limitations sometimes propel people to greatness. Sometimes, when something is missing, you focus more on how to compensate for that missing something. This time, there were two batsmen with limitations – VVS with his back spasm and Ishant with a knee issue – that fought with sterling grit to snatch victory from near definite defeat!
VVS Laxman proved yet again that he’s not only special, he’s Spectacular. Having played perhaps the most innings (for a solid Indian bastman) with the tail, he knew how it had to be done. It’s just that the luck and grit was needed from the other side. The kind of calmness and poise he brought with the bat was invaluable, not to mention juggling a runner and a tail ender. Even today, year after the Laxman-ODI debate, many fans of Indian cricket will rue why he never made it to the Indian ODI team.
I started watching today’s proceedings on after Ishant came to the crease. I was expecting a bit more from Harbhajan, for all his improved batting and the like. I must say, equal credit in the win must go to Ishant. What he couldn’t do in Sydney in 2008 to draw a match, he did to win this one. And what a time to choose to display such grit! Kudos to the young fellow. With temperment like this, he’s bound to go a long way! And that must only auger well for India.
The Aussies deserve special mention for their efforts, for without that, today’s match would not have been the nail biting advertisement for Test cricket that it was. They peppered the top order with bouncers, chin music, rib rackers and the like, causing them in turn to crumble, although not without some semblance of a fight. Hilfenhaus was perhaps at his best (from my memory of him in recent games). But they perhaps missed Bollinger in the later half of today. Despite that, the fielding from an Aussie side was a bit below par. They don’t generally drop this many catches, and miss this many run outs. Ponting’s lack of the gambler’s instinct didn’t help either. I don’t understand why he didn’t try Clarke’s off spin.
Mediocre umpiring on also played its hand in the game. But fortunately, the errors went in favor of both sides equally. If Hussey missed out, so did Gambhir. If Ishant was given out lbw off a clear edge, Ohja was given a reprieve. What iis strange is that even the third umpire got at least one controversial decision wrong. This is what keeps me still against the controversial Umpire Refferal system. What needs to be done, is the quality of umpiring improved. If the on-field umpire isnt sure what to do, he must ego-lessly refer to the third umpire, and not merely give in to vociferous shouts from in-fielders.
Having said all that, it was still a thrilling day of Test cricket. It’s unfortunate that one team had to lose. While I’m not complaining too much about that, I think in the end, the battle was more in the mind, as it turns out with many such thrilling games.
Long live Test Cricket.
Looking forward to Bangalore!
What a day of Test cricket it’s been. From Ishant’s bouncer’s and Zaheer’s yorkers to Hilfenhaus’s chin music, it’s a been a whirlwind of a day!
India ended the day at 55/4 needing another 161 runs to win the match. Gambhir got a shocker (some decisions have been seriously bizzare), Dravid threw his wicket away after taking 16 balls to get off the mark, and Sehwag soon followed suit. With VVS Laxman’s condition unknown, Australia may need only 5 more lower order wickets. I must say it’s odd that Dhoni sent Raina in when as a wicketkeeper batsman and captain Dhoni should have come out himself. Dhoni’s not been in great form. In fact, I can’t remember the last time he’s scored a decent 50. But this could have been an occasion.
On a day when India bagged a silver and bronze at the CWG, the cricket team’s fortunes at teetering by a thread. But that isn’t unusual, or is it? The accolades in other sport often comes when the cricket is floundering. Or are we just playing too much cricket? 😉
A new study by economists at University of Ulster and University of Queensland that has the India media whining, rates Dravid and Sehwag over Tendulkar. While many fans may express surpize over the results, close watchers of cricket would agree that mere averages do not truly reflect a value of a player and the study brings to light what many of us have been screaming about for years!
This study rates a rough 60 in a total of 200-odd over 200 in total of 600.
There are several tables with rankings for different parameters . The “Top Fifty Batsmen in Test Cricket” rates Dravid, Ponting at 4, Kallis at 5, Tendulkar at 7 and Sehwag and Kambli at 8. This uses the Gini co-efficient to measure the “evenness of results”. We see similar ratings for “Home and Away Certainty Scores”, “The Relation between Individual and the Rest of Team”. In another table “Contributions to Their Team Score by the Top 50 Batsmen in Test Cricket”, Dravid ranks 5, while Sehwag and Tendulkar rank 6. It is noteworthy here to mention that Sehwag is at 6th position, having played in only72 innings; Dravid’s rank was from167 innings and Tendulkar’s was from 209. What is more reflective of this is the “Ranking by Average, Value-Adjusted Average, and Value-Added Adjustment” where Sehwag leads Indian batsmen with a value adjusted average of 79, Dravid with 71 and Tendulkar at 70.
While it can be argued that such studies have their biases (Laxman does not feature here) and uses the right set of parameters to crank out the right set of results, one cannot help but notice that if there is real value, it will shine beyond mere hyperbole.
This paper is a must read for the nerdy amonst cricket fans. It can be downloaded from the Berkeley Electronic Press.