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.


A drab series ended: India-Pak 2007

November 20, 2007

Is it just me or was this India-Pak series just a little drab. There wasn’t too much of see-saw or nail-biting. Granted India did well, after a seemingly long draught of ODIs series victories, but this wasn’t what the India-Pak fan expected to see. There was no Shoaib-Tendulkar/Ganguly frenzy nothing much to look forward to with excitement.

For me the most disappointing thing in the series was Pak’s lack of enthusiasm. They just weren’t being Pakistan barring the final ODI esp after they got Tendulkar. Tanvir’s mad punch in the air after getting Tendulkar was the essence of what Pakistan represents. They thrive in aggression and aggression helps them raise the level of their game. Seriously, this was a tame Pakistani side; so tame, that they looked like India under Dravid (don’t get me wrong, Dravid is a fine batsman, but I was never a fan of his captaincy).

Shoiab Malik’s captaincy was fairly boring. He seems to lack the courage to try something different, let alone gamble. In fact, I can draw many parallels between Malik and Dravid’s captaincy, the chief one being defensive techniques employed. But one feels sorry for the man who has been recieving flak for everything he seems to be doing. Ramiz Raja seems to be heaping it truckloads. The other disappointing factor from the Pak side was the absence of Imran Nazir in the first 4 ODI. Nazir, to me, is a classic Pakistani one day opener who can thrill with all the frills (but can also fail miserably under trying conditions)  ala Afridi (who also disappointed big time) and provide a good platform for the middle order.

From the Indian side, there isn’t much for me to say aside of what I have I already been saying about the past few matches. A good victory, but this isn’t anything to gloat about; if Pakistan had been even 10% better, the result could have be harder to achieve if not different. Many things worked for India:
– Dhoni’s captaincy
– Good opening partnerships
– Tendulkar’s in sublime form (or should I say holy)
– Yuvraj-Dhoni’s consistent contributions
– Better pace bowling
Some things look good for the future:
– Rohit Sharma’s gritty innings in the fifth ODI
– RP Singh and Irfan Pathan’s contributions through the series

Having said all that, the fifth ODI was a little bit of an aberration for the current resurgent India. Not just because that they lost, but the manner in which they did. If you were wondering what it would have been to watch Indian cricket in the 90s, this was what it generally was: mediocre bowling from the spearheads, abysmal part-time bowling, lazy fielding, and batting collapses. Ok, the fifth ODI wasn’t as bad, but fearfully close. The fielding was back to its lackadaisical style; the bowling was fairly poor except for flashes of brilliance from Sreesanth (which was followed by some big-time ball-spraying). Praveen Kumar had a fairly good debut, but I was more impressed with the new Pak wicketkeeper Sarfraz Nawaz and new-kid-on-the-block Fawad Alam. I had written about Rohit Sharma earlier and he definitely a promising prospect for post-Dravid India at #3. Indian batting fell apart with flashy and almost reckless Tendulkar dismissed after a dangerous shot; ditto for Sehwag. Gambhir was unfortunate but not as much as Yuvraj. Uthappa at #3 was a mistake; to me he is more of an opener (in the right conditions) or excellent #5. Even the 2 sevens on Dhoni’s borrowed shirt couldn’t save India.

One other aspect of this series that has been on my mind is the relative ease with which both teams are being fined. First for slow over rate, then heavily fining Afridi and Gambhir and then Yuvraj for dissent (though I saw the coming the moment he gestured to the umpire). One wonders why a baby-face Ponting who blinks after lbw decisions and close stumpings doesn’t get the same treatment. If we are to copy the Aussies here, shall we call this racism?


India-Pak ODI series leveled at Mohali

November 9, 2007

As an India-Pak series fan, if you were wondering what happened to the see-saw effect, well, you just got a dose of that at Mohali. I had written earlier that the two teams are more evenly matched this time than ever before; yesterday’s match, I think, proved what was not obvious on paper.

India entered the Mohali ODI as favorites to win the match, but complacency saw them lose a match that was until the last 10 overs very much in their bag. After scoring 300+ batting first, India let Pakistan cut loose with Afridi doing his boom-boom in the last few overs.

Although things don’t look too bad for India, there is plenty to think about. Looking at the Indian batting there are still plenty of holes to be plugged. Sachin and Gambhir did very well, the overly hyped Yuvraj and Dhoni flopped big-time, and Uthappa went cheaply and is becoming a favorite lbw candidate (much like Andrew Strauss) for many bowlers. Indian fielding, while a smidgen better than Pakistan, has still a long way to go to near the high standards set by South Africa and Australia. I can recall at least 4 catches that should have been taken. Speaking of temperment, while much is being said of Sreesanth’s ‘making-faces-and-staring-aggro’, Yuvraj needs to keep his temper too. Yuvraj’s on-field behavior yesterday made one think that there might be more than one reason why he was not made captain and isn’t much of a serious favorite.

Pakistan on other other hand didn’t really win the match, as much as India lost it. Credit must be given to them for pulling it off, but in my opinion, for the first 25 overs, they didn’t look to be even trying to win. It was shocking to see the Pak run rate plummet to 4-odd when Shoiab Malik was at crease; you would expect the captain of a side to show and tell, or at least try. What was more shocking was to see Misbah, now touted as India’s best friend, fall to the same paddle shot (although in slightly different manner) as in the T20 World Cup final. What Pakistan did yesterday in their batting was what most commentators say chasing sides should do while chasing big totals: bat through the entire 50 overs; and the run certainly came, with India’s mediocre bowling and shoddy fielding in the middle overs contributing considerably.

With Rahul Dravid’s continued absence in the ODI side, it remains to be seen if the selectors will see the need for his presence. While the outcome of the Mohali ODI has brought some life back into the series, India still have a small edge in this series, lest they don’t let it slip!


T-20 Final: Some great moments

September 29, 2007

Allright, I realize this post comes a little late, but I really can’t resist this. So here are some of my picks for great moments from the T-20 World Cup Final (in no-specific order). I rate these as great moments because of emotional appeal and/or match-swinging action so typical of an India-Pakistan match.  

1. Anthems of India and Pak being played
2. Yousuf Pathan walking out to bat for the first time in T-20
3. Yousuf Pathan’s 6 off Asif
4. Gul’s getting Dhoni
5. Sharma’s six in the death overs (it might have been a four, if it hadn’t been for the Pak fielder).
6. The first Pak wicket
7. Nazir’s runout 
8. Shahid Afridi’s wicket
9. Irfan Pathan’s double wicket over
10. Misbah’s consecutive 6s in the 17th over
11. Joginder Sharma being given the last over
12. Sreesanth’s catch to India’s sensational “almost not there” victory
13. Team India’s reaction to the victory
14. MSD gifting his shirt to a young fan: what was interesting here is how the media portrayed this later comparing it to Ganguly’s shirt waving on the Lord’s balcony after winning the NatWest series. This was not the adrenaline filled fist pumping action, but seemed to be a calm yet emotional moment for Dhoni. What was more touching was to see him help the lad put it on. A class act by a young leader!
15. Shoaib Malik’s apology to fans. (It seemed to be an honest and honorable one, but what I thought was unnecessary was the way he pulled the religion card. Pakistan still think they are a Muslim nation and that all Muslims belong there, don’t they?)
16. MSD’s bordering arrogant “We deserve a big celebration”. (But I guess he can be forgiven for he had just won the World Cup; however, I don’t think he would have even remote expected the celebration and welcome they were to recieve in Mumbai on arrival).
17. Ravi Shastri’s commentarry (the final over) and the teary eyed man at the presentation ceremony!