IPL 3: Cometh the monster

March 12, 2010

Today is the day. The Monster returns to India and we can hear the crass jingle. Controversies apart, despite my  ambivalence towards T20 and the IPL itself, I must admit that I am a bit excited.

Teams I will be supporting this year :

Kolkata Knight Riders – KKR – Wishing Dada and SRK some luck
Delhi Daredevils – DD – A team with Sehwag in it deserves to win
Bangalore Royal Challengers – RCB – Gotta like Kumble, Dravid, et all

Indifferent about:

Chennai Super Kings – CSK – Flat track bullies
Mumbai Indians – MI – Really, if they don’t make it to the top 4 this time, there is no excuse
Kings XI Punjab – (what’s their acronym really?) – Snore…

Batsmen I will be watching for:

Virender Sehwag – Viru, show us the Say-Wah!g
Sourav Ganguly – a true Dada fan will not lose an opportunity to scream DA-DA!
Mathew Hayden – Mongoose bat or not, he will be one to watch out for
Adam Gilchrist – Too many blistering innings to not watch this man
Rahul Dravid – A from-the-heart Dravid fan will always be rooting for RD!
Others – Greame Smith, Virat Kohli, Shane Warne, Sangakkara, Jayasuriya, Tendulkar, JP Duminy.. this list will grow!

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Australia’s tour of India 2008-09: Series Overview

November 13, 2008

The much awaited Australia’s tour of India is over. India has won it 2-0. There is a sense of euphoria over the victory, but also disappointment over the quality of Aussie cricket. This was supposed to be the Border Gavaskar Trophy, the revenge series to avenge Sydney 08, the spirited fightback from both sides, with every session, if not every ball. There were phases of that, but sadly, what was supposed to last an entire series lasted only three sessions. The series was essentially one sided and I won’t be exaggerating in saying that we, Indian fans, were robbed.

Let’s look at this in a bit more closely, if you will.

Australia Batting: Top heavy, middle mostly missing except for Hussey with a fairly long tail. Yes, that’s the sort of batting that India had in the mid 90s. Their reliance on Hussey was reminiscent of India’s on Dravid until a very lately. Hayden was unable to score and by the time Katich found his foot to convert starts, the series was over.

Australia Bowling: Pacers did not take wickets, spinners made up the overs. Not much of a story there. Watson learnt some towards the end, but it was too little too late. Kreja is a definite prospect, but has a long way to go.

Disappointed: Brett Lee, Mathew Hayden, Michael Clarke, Mitchell Johnson (to some extent)

Ousters: Shane Watson, Cameron White, Stuart Clark

Still Shining: Michael Hussey is the lone Aussie shining

Captaincy: Ponting’s chinks in captaincy (and batting) are showing. Nagpur Day 4 overrate tactics was shocking, even raising suspicions of match fixing in some minds. That apart, we’ve seen nothing more than less than average captaincy. He’s been riding on the good fortune of having some champion performers in the past. Now that they’re gone, some creativity was required, which was lacking. But then again, the captain is as good as his team!

India Batting: Satisfactory, but could have done better given the big names and the conditions. Only Bangalore had low bounce, others seemed to aid batting more than bowling. So we should have gotten more runs. Harsh? Yes. We are a greedy lot when it comes to our famed batting line up. Gambhir did well, but has more to prove. If he survives the New Zealand series test, I’ll put a check mark next to his name. Viru, was his usual self. Dravid had a nightmare series, maybe when the Waugh curse passes, it will take the bad form along with it. I’ve said much about Dravid, so I’ll pass here, and just pray he finds his foot and grandly. To me, he’s still got it for two years at least. Sachin was again typical self- explosive at times, inglorious at other times. Ganguly impressed the most, and succeeded in his attempt to prove that he really shouldn’t be retiring. There was a sense of purpose in his batting, one so obvious in his ever since his 2006 comeback. Sad it had to be him, but the cries were almost deafening. Laxman, mostly good, mostly typical, but that is expected isn’t it? Dhoni, also typical, will butcher on a flat pitch and flop on anything else. I still think he’s got a long way to go as batsman. He’s banking on the “fear factor” he creates for the opposition. The new recruit and Ganguly-recommended Murali Vijay seems very solid. Is he the next Rahul Dravid? It’s too soon to give such huge tags.

India Bowling: Pacers very impressive on bata wickets. Spinners, could have done better, given the reputation, but maybe that has to do with the fact that the pitches didn’t exactly crumble. New recruit Mishra impressive, but again, lot to prove.

Disappointed: Rahul Dravid

Ousters: None

Still Shining: Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Ishant Sharma, Zaheer Khan

Captaincy: Kumble, satisfactory. It’s sad that both the drawn matches were captained by him. Dhoni, also satisfactory. Some of the field settings were refreshing, but I thought a couple of times, his keeping dipped ever so slightly during captaincy. Time will prove whether he can indeed keep and captain. He’s got a lot to prove before we can truly hail him.

In summary, perhaps it is Greg Chappell, who seemed to be behind Ponting’s century in Bangalore! Again, promising much and delivering nothing. After all of RCA’s hospitality, 22 odd different pitches, extra practice matches and all, this is all Guru Greg could do! Couldn’t resist that dig! 🙂


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.


IPL Bangalore vs. Chennai: aka Dravid vs. Dhoni

April 28, 2008

Dravid’s Bangalore Royal Challengers are up for a stiff one today against Dhoni’s Super Kings with the likes of Hayden, Hussey and Muralitharan in their ranks. Judging by Bangalore’s previous effort, they need to raise the level of their game by several levels.

First and foremost, they need to function as a team. In the match against Rajasthan Royals, captain Dravid looked rather forlorn and his team seemed to have given up even before the second over of Rajasthan’s innings. Even if one were to give the quiet Dravid the benefit of the doubt on not acting perky (seriously, not all perky people are worth their salt), there was no real reason for not including Misbah ul-Haq or for persisting with the largely useless Sunil Joshi.

Secondly, Bangalore need to pace their innings well, keep wickets in hand for the first 5 overs and then think things through from there. Dravid needs to focus on what he does best: the elegant drives. Though that is easier said that done, the average well-wisher’s words of wisdom would be thus: “Captain Dravid, don’t slog! It ain’t working for you!”

As for me, I see this as a senior vs. junior clash and would like to see Dravid get the better of it. A couple of morale boosting victories are bound to help his form-crisis.

Good luck Bangalore and Dravid!


Cricket: Crying bloody murder at Sydney

January 7, 2008

Cricket was murdered in Syndey on Sunday, 6 January 2008. May it rest in peace, says a fellow blogger. Evidence gathered dates back to 2 January, 5 days prior to the date of the crime. While sources hold that the Australian cricket team and umpires Steve Bucknor, Mark Benson and Bruce Oxenford, it remains to be seen if they will be held responsible.

Ok, enough with the formal tone. What happened in the 2nd Test at Sydney can be called nothing other than cheating! The chronology of events is roughly as follows:

  • Day 1: Australia win toss, opt to bat first. The post-lunch session saw the Aussies down to 140-odd runs with the loss of 6 top-order prize wickets. It would have been lesser if Ricky Ponting was given out when on 17, rather than when he wasn’t out when on 50-odd runs.
  • Day 1-2: Symonds walks in to bat and gets three reprieves (starting from when he was on 30) courtesy the umpires Bucknor, Benson and Oxenford. Symonds went on to score an unbeaten 162.
  • Day 3: India bat after bowling Australia out of 463; end innings with a lead of over 60 runs. When one thought it seemed like a rather peaceful day, given that Days 1 and 2 had seen a rush of umpiring errors, Andrew “insecure” Symonds alleges racial abuse by Harbhajan Singh.  A clear case of the pot calling the kettle black, but perhaps that adage is racist as well.
  • Day 3, 4 and 5: More cheating. Jaffer given out off Lee’s no-ball. Dravid gets a shocker of a decision from Bucknor, given caught behind when the bat was no where near the ball. Even Dravid couldn’t take it. He mouther “Aye yaar” and walked off in mock-laughing-disbelief . Shortly afterwards, Ganguly was given out  by Benson, after having a word with 5th umpire-cum-Aussie-skipper Ricky Ponting on a catch that definitely was not cleanly taken. Then the Aussies took over with the excessive appealing. R P Singh was another victim of dubious umpiring.  Shortly thereafter, it was all over. The game was murdered by shams in the baggy-green and conspirators in white coats.  

 After being of the receiving end of all the cheating, I though Anil Kumble conducted himself and the team in a exceptional manner. All he had to say was that “….only one team was playing with the spirit of the game, that’s all I can say.…”

What was even more atrocious was the proceedings following Harbhajan’s hearing on alleged racism. The claim was made by Ponting and Symonds on Day 3 with the hearing scheduled for Day 4. Shortly thereafter, Match Refree Mike Proctor goes on record saying that wasn’t enough evidence against Harbhajan. Later on Day 4, media reports confirm that the Aussie team at the hearing will be represented by Ricky Ponting, Andrew Symonds, Adam Gilchrist, Mathew Hayden and Micheal Clarke (undoubtedly being “groomed” for captaincy). Sunday’s hearing goes on for hours on into the early hours of Monday with Proctor issuing a 3 match ban on Harbhajan Singh purely on the words on members from the Aussie team.

What a sham! What disgrace! On man being charged with racism, a serious charge, on the word of another.  When did Tendulkar, Kumble and the Indian team management become liars and Ponting and co become upholders of truth?

What is heartening to see is the BCCI’s strong (and rather unprecedented) stand on this issue. I think India must cancel the rest of the tour and demand for damages in protest of an unfair game and unfair treatment of Indian players.

Perhaps the largest threat to Harbhajan Singh after he returns to India, as many India-supporters point out, will be from the monkeys in India for allegedly calling Symonds one of their prided pack! 


The 20-20 World Cup: a survey of the tournament

September 30, 2007

I was very skeptical about this tournament when it began earlier this month, curiosly prickled upon watching the innaugural match of the home side against West Indies and glued to it after watching only a few matches.

The T-20 has been called a lottery by Kevin Peitersen and although it may be called that at times, it is also a test of talent and grit. You can win/lose a T-20 match in just one over, a stark contrast to its 50 over sibling which allows the teams to  consolidate, change gears, re-think strategy, etc. I think the best thing that came out of this for the cricketing world in general is that it proved that the game can win in this format and true talent could outshine the bigger names. Good old fashioned cricketing skills: good batting, fielding, bowling, and standard strategy is all you need to succeed in this version. What seemed to be a batsman’s game turned out as much a bowler’s game. It’s not like you cannot pace the innings in a T-20 game; a classic example of this is how India batted their way to victory in almost every game. Slogging alone cannot take you through: Bangladesh and Sri Lanka might have learnt this the hard way.

Enough about the format, here are some quickies on the some aspects of this tournament:

1. Fearless cricket: Young and fearless goes the adage; India and Bangladesh stand out for just that. Many Indian fans watched gaping as the Bangladeshi top order fearlessly (though recklessly) ripped the South African bowling the dead-rubber game. Although they lost wickets quickly, their positive spirit was apparent; they only needed to perfect some of the basics to build a successful team. If Indian fans who watched the Bangladesh-South Africa match were wondering “Why are’nt our batsmen so fearless or attacking”, they were answered very shortly. In this tournament, India, I think are the perfect examples of fearless cricket with the right proportions of caution, recklessness, agility and last not definitely not least, “never-say-die” atttitude.

2. Batting: There’s no dispute that this was a batsman’s game. Strokeplay will reward, calculated risks pay dividends, and old-fashioned running between wickets can win matches. Some of the impressive batsmen from this tourament: Mathew Hayden, Mohammed Ashraful, Kumar Sangakkara, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Chris Gayle, Brenden McCullum.

3. Bowling: Wicket taking can win matches here, and this semblance to Test cricket made the watching the T-20 matches very thrilling. Good old fashioned line and length, swing and change of pace makes a huge difference. Best bolwing from this tournament: RP Singh, Mohammed Asif, Umar Gul, Daniel Vettori, Stuart Clark, Irfan Patan, Sreeshant.

4. Fielding: India, South Africa, and Sri Lanka did well in this department. Best fielding display: Karthik’s blinder of a catch at slip in the match against South Africa, Uthappa’s direct hit to cause the run-out of Imran Nazir in the T-20 Final.

5. Umpiring: was top notch for this tournament. I don’t remember seeing any controversial lbws, or any rightful appeal turned down. Best Umpire for this tournament: Simon Taufel.

6. Commentary: almost as entertaining as the games themselves. Best commentary range: Ravi Shastri, David “Bumble” Lloyd and Harsh Bhogle for excitement, Nasser Hussain for honest and fair commentary. Other noteworthy mention: Ian Chappel for his snideness.

7. Teams to watch out for: Bangladesh, definitely. This group of youngsters have talent; they only need more practice. India on the other hand seem to a new, positive face now; although this tournament may not be the best yardstick to judge a cricket team, success in this format surely must count for something. The new Indian team has given a nation faith that their favorite game will be in good hands after the Tendulkar-Ganguly-Dravid trio bow out of the cricketing arena.