India win thriller: VVS – Spectacular is thy middle name

October 5, 2010

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!


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! 🙂


What IPL cash does: Laxman retorts Afridi, Symonds goes fishing

September 1, 2008

I’m not sure which story came out first, Laxman’s or Symonds’. I’m not even sure what prompted Afridi to trash talk his IPL captain. Granted, Hyderabad’s Deccan Chargers ended up at the bottom of the table, but does it even make sense to blame a guy who captained less than half the matches in a tournament whose format is new to the cricket world in general?

“Laxman lost the plot” was what Afridi had to say. This is almost humour – one of the more irresponsible batsman calls his captain name. To top it off, Afridi didn’t perform to his best ability in the IPL either. Perhaps it was a “paid holiday”, to quote South African pacer Dale Steyn.

The normally quiet Laxman proved he is no Dravid to wait and make a statement with his bat. He has responded to Afridi’s comments by questioning Afridi’s team ethic and stating just what is and isn’t on.

I wonder what has caused the rather reserved Laxman to lash out. Pressure on losing his Test place after India’s disappointing Test tour to Sri Lanka? Worries about losing his IPL cash? I’m tempted to the say its the second, as VVS has been rather unfortunate to have never been able to cement his place in the ODI side, missed out on being part of the 2003 World Cup squad, and thus the several endorsements that come in the way. But I think it is a combination of both forms of pressure.

Meanwhile, down under, Symonds just got sacked from the team for going fishing, in what I thought was a harsh decision (from our limited view).  Wonder if it’s got to do with the fact that there was some bad blood about Symonds getting a bigger cheque from IPL. Or is just plain politics? Many bloggers were suggesting after Symonds’s run of luck from the Sydney Test earlier this year that his luck might run out soon. Is this it with the luck?

Whatever the deal is in both cases, it seems, at least at the moment, that the IPL is doing some significant damage. What’s a bit scary is that there is no remedy in sight.


Can we have a cricket match please – Ind in SL 2008

August 9, 2008

This is getting to be ridiculous to say the least. The umpiring review/referral system which promised much has wrecked havoc for India in this series. Billy Doctrove turned down a plumb lbw decision today, prompting more ire towards the umpires among India supporters. Sri Lanka are reviewing everything and are getting away with murder. Perhaps they have learned the art from Ricky Ponting. Samaraveera’s almost mocking shake of the head when Kumble asked for review is nothing short of umpire coaxing. For me, such distasteful cricket took the charm out of Sangakkara’s innings.

At the risk of sounding socio-centric, I must say the umpiring review system has been very one sided this series. Sri Lankan batsmen enjoy the batsman’s benefit of doubt while Indian batsmen (primarily the Big Three) have been the victim of the umpire’s doubt. So now we have to fight not just two incompetent blokes but three. Perhaps the folk behind this are now happy that India will now have doubts about the use of technology and the like. For it is us, who created a riot after the atrocities of the Sydney Test and ousted Bucknor. Perhaps it is only fitting that Bucknor’s fellow bystander that day, Mark Benson, has stood in this series so far. Benson is surely having sweet revenge. Such atrocities make even a draw, let alone a victory, a herculian effort (out of form batsmen nothwithstanding).

Yes, I did mention the Big-3 here and while I’m itching to spill my thoughts on them, I will wait till the end of this Test. Till then do us wait.


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!