South Africa choke again – Champions Trophy 2009 Roundup

September 28, 2009

What a roller coaster it’s been thus far? Sri Lanka beat South Africa and then loses to New Zealand and a Aussie-battered England. South Africa beat New Zealand but lose to England.

In the other group, tournament favorites (despite their issues) Australia suffer a scare against what they called a “second string” West Indies. Pakistan almost lose to West Indies and then embarrass the #1 ODI team India (more on this in my next post).

All these developments make the tournament more interesting upto the semi finals, but it remains to be seen if the interest levels prevail if the top 3 ODI teams don’t make it to the semi finals. Forget the ICC ratings, don’t we want to watch the best battle it out? Does wining two games in a row make a team better than one which has won several games in trott in the past which has bought them the interest and respect of cricket lovers world wide? Many questions that need answering. I will hold my opinions till the end of the trophy.

Who shall we blame now? Chokers South Africa or free spirited England? Shall we blame Andrew Strauss for denying Smith the runner? I do actually, because runners have been provided before for cramping batsmen, esp from the sub continent, and by denying the runner Strauss showed how insecure he was about Smith being there. Isn’t it easier to effect a run out when you’ve got three people trying to communicate with one another about taking a run? Returning to the blame game, shall we blame the injuries for India’s loss?

The organizers need to wake up about the pitch making malpractices. I have seen at least two games so far where the pitch played a Man-of-Match worthy role in a team’s victory. Not to take away from Shah-Collingwood or Malik-Yousuf in the games England and Pakistan played against South Africa and India respectively, but there was nothing in this for the seamers. If ODI cricket dies, let us not blame the format, for there is more to this than meets the eye.

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Can South Africa do it again? SA vs. Aus Test1, Jo’burg 09

March 1, 2009

For those who are crying about the death of Test Cricket, where are you? What are you watching? Sorry, SL and Pak, but I couldn’t survive even 5 overs of that Test match. While Paul Collingwood and Ravi Bopara added some excitement to a mostly boring match, with the result of the result still undecided, there is still some life in that one. But this one is a cracker of a Test match, with today’s play worth every minute of the Sunday afternoon/evening.

Jacques Kallis turned the tables for South Africa today with an inspired spell of bowling, one which he hasn’t produced for some time. This is what South Africa have been missing for some time – an in form Kallis. If he can pitch in 80-100 odd with the bat, this match may be South Africa’s. Four Australian wickets fell in matter of 5 overs and the Aussies were slowly but surely lost grip on this Test. The only disappointment for me was Dale Steyn. I was expecting a fiery over to Peter Siddle after what Steyn received from the latter yesturday.

After wrapping up Australia for 207, the hosts put up a solid start. If Smith didn’t throw his wicket away with that mistimed shot, the outlook would be almost euphoric. The task is yet a good ask – 276 runs from 90 overs with 8 wickets – that’s a health 3 odd runs an over and some strokes of luck. I’ll be rooting for South Africa! Go Kallis! Go South Africa!

Side note: The umpiring has been pathetic to say the least. Fellow blogger Soulberry and Som have done a better job – one with concern and the other with humor – in describing just how hopeless the umpiring situation is. Blind as bat Bucknor is with Billy Bowden, who is slowly but surely loosing my respect. Given the way things have gone, one would think the series is being played in Australia for they have had the benefit of some of the most ridiculous referrals. The umpire referral system is a joke – we have three huge egos clashing instead of two. Interestingly, they seem to have a ploy of sticking to togather in their “crisis”. Can we stop the referral system and move on, please?


England in West Indies – 3rd Test Antigua

February 17, 2009

Throw in an irritated Pietersen and aggressive Collingwood in a Panesar-less England and what do you get? Something that’s a little short of a borefest with the nice thing being Ten Sports shows advertisements only once in two or four overs. There’s something very peaceful about having lesser interupptions in the form of mostly annoying ads – a welcome change from telecasts of cricket involving India.

The pitch isn’t doing favors to anybody with its low and uneven bounce. Then you have the English with their post-Pietersen-captaincy woes. They seem to lack unity and spirt. Besides, the bowlers seem to bowling without plan. Anderson is bowling a not-so-impressive offstump line to the nightwatchman. Is there any good? Well, Collingwood has answered SB’s taunt with his century. Swann is bowling well, but doesn’t seem the threat he posed to good ol’ Tendulkar and Dravid in India, at least not yet. This one looks heading towards a boring draw unless something very interesting happens. The more interesting question is whether NC’s prophecy will come true?


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.


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!