Ind vs Aus 2008-09 – Day 3, 1st Test, Bangalore

October 12, 2008

That was some drama for a side that was 69-0 at the end of Day 2 after about half-a-session’s play. If you’re an India supporter, you can never rule out the fall of Sehwag to rash shot early in the first session. It would be unfair to criticize him for that, for it is that very rashness that shocks the opposition and some times his own team. But Gambhir was first to go and that was plumb!

Enter Dravid. I thought he looked a lot better today than he has in the last 3 months. Maybe it helped that he’d played on a similar low-bounce/uneven-bounce pitch at the Irani Trophy just a few weeks ago. Yes, it was disappointing that, given the start he had and how “set” he looked, he was unable to carry on. As a fan, I would call it a contentious lbw decision, perhaps the most contentious since that 47 again Pakistan late last year, but on a more rational note, getting one’s front pad out so far is bound to create doubts in the mind of umpires. What is heartening is that Dravid has been getting better, albeit slowly, since the hole that deepened in Sri Lanka. What we saw today was a thoughtful innings, mindful of the Ponting’s traps, and hard-working and patient enough not to fall for it. The difference between this innings of Dravid and the previous few was the more obvious attempt to make runs, and faster (given the conditions, his strike rate and Wall-ish tendencies). Most of his runs came from between the deep fine leg and deep square leg area. Well played, Dravid. Cricinfo describes Dravid’s innings from today here.

Sachin and Laxman, the latter despite being pushed up the order, failed. Maybe it is Sachin, not Ganguly, who should be retiring. A rather harsh thought about Laxman has been bothering me for some time now – maybe part of the success he’s since is because he’s been playing with the tail. Fielding sides tend to ignore the batsman and target the tail ender. I do realize that this is very rash, cynical and even evil on my part, but maybe 10% of it is true?

Sourav “Dada” Ganguly Maharaj, as blogging-friend Soulberry calls him, played a fighting innings. If it wasn’t for a lapse in  concentration, he could have carried on. I’m not even going to say anything about Dhoni’s innings.

The hero of the day should undoubtedly be Harbhajan Singh. Yes, he’s been batting rather well for some time now, but today’s innings was one which even top-order batsmen would envy. Those shots weren’t slogs – they were proper cricketing shots. An innings for class – a good mix of defensive shots, wristy drives and aggressive “over-the-bowler’s-head” one. Was a pity he went less an over before Stumps today. Zaheer did well to support Harbhajan. The “never-give-up” spirit shown by Harbhajan and Zaheer is what India-Aus from the past decade has been about about. The top-order batsmen will do well to take from what they saw from two tail-enders.

I see this match going two ways: a draw or an Aussie victory. There’s an outside chance that India have to win this, but that’s asking for way too many miracles from too many people. For India to win, tail-enders Kumble and Zaheer need to put on at least another 60-80 runs. The closer they get to 400 the better. Then, they need to bowl and field really well and get the Aussie out to chase less than 180-odd runs. Then, we need to hope that Indian batting doesn’t collapse  – either due to out-of-formness, lack of confidence, fear of failure or umpiring errors. Whew! Isn’t that a huge ask. On current form, I’m not expecting much from the Indian second innings, either. India will feel moral victory if they draw this.

Congratulations Indian media, you’ve bettered the Aussies!

October 3, 2008

The Aussies have been very quiet this time. There were no proclamations of whitewash, announcements of thier “targets” and the like. Whether it’s the IPL cash or a new strategy, we might never know. But the Indian media have taken their place with what I like to call “senior ragging”.

The Indian media has the rumour mills working overtime with the “Ganguly retirement deal” and the VRS pact with seniors to plan retirements by December. What’s more appalling is the tone.

“Plan your retirement and you will be accommodated [irrespective of form and performance].”

“We want to give you are farewell, so take it now.”

That was on today’s Times of India. Is there a worse way to disgrace a sportsman? or a self-respecting human being? This is disgusting, Indian media! Shame on you!

If you need more, check this out on cricketnext. If you look through the entire set of picture, you will note that the seniors are “attempting” to take catches and Dhoni plays with the football. Why the uncertainty surrounding the senior’s capability and the certainty around Dhoni’s? Why this exaggerated age bias? Granted some of the Fab Four/Five might be past their prime, but we all see that, and they perhaps know that too. Why the disgraceful tone? Rambling a bit off-topic, what disappoints me the most, is that, we as Indians, historically have been known for “respecting elders” have now seemed to have forgotten our values. Why is young India so rude? This isn’t specific to cricket alone. There’s an obvious age bias in everything. Though, as a youngster, I reap the benefits of it, I think there is something wrong with this.

Meanwhile, a starkly different toned article has surfaced on Cricinfo – this one by Rohit Brijnath. Thank you Mr. Brijnath! In a very romantic article, Brijnath captures the essence of why the Fab four/five are entitled to their “hurt” on being “rubbished off” and told to shut off. They’ve been fighters all along. We’ve always wanted them to be that way. Why are we now expecting them to go tamely? While I’ve had different thoughts on this as late as last fortnight with my bid for a farewell to them, I’ve changed my mind on this matter. Perhaps the most fitting way for them to go in on their own – be that by being dropped or an unprovoked retirement announcement – not by a forced retirement scheme, certainly not with this tone. I also enjoyed Rohit’s nicknames for the Fab five: The Great One, the Precise One, the Defiant One, the Intense One and the Elegant One. Definitely Indian cricket will be different without them and it will take some stomach for some of us fans to read an India scorecard without Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid, Laxman and Kumble. But while they’re around, why not treat them with some respect, for all the joy they’ve give us?

With all this, we’re bound for one hell of a series!

Of nail-biting thrillers and retirement rumors

September 7, 2007

What was nail-biting? Well what else could have been the past few days? The 6th ODI in the NatWest series was an edge-of-seat-don’t-switch-places finish.

Unpredicatability showed its dreamy face every now and then. In the beginning, India dominated: got early wickets, fielded well (probably the best in this series), and didn’t give anything away. Apart from all of that, there seemed to be a lot of spirit in the team: a thirst to win, not just to stay alive in the series. All was well until the youthful 20-20 specialists walked on the crease. Luke Wright was mighty surprize, but was India’s dismay; Owais Shah started out rather edgily, but went for the kill after his half-century; Mascarenas murdered the part-time bowling of Yuvraj, making a mockery of his bowling by logding 5 from the over for 6 a piece, and of Dravid’s captaincy which saw Yuvraj bowling the last over, when Powar, a much-better option had another one left. The last 100 runs of the England innings came from the last 8 overs. With 317 to win, and India’s abysmal record of chasing, the series seemed to be over, almost un-wrenchably gripped in England’s hands.

To be fair, one thing must be said about India’s chasing record: they may fail to chase 250 against South Africa one day, 230 again England on another, but successfuly chase 330+ against South Africe and 326 against England on another. Rare are such occasions, but they speak volumes about the abilities of the star-studded Indian batting line up.

Tendulkar and Ganguly set the tone of the chase. The boundary that came off Ganguly’s bat from the 1st over made his intensions clear; even the most depressed Indian supporter would have sat up from the slumped posture he might have been in, awakened by the flicker of hope that maybe, just maybe, it might happen this time. Tendulkar played one the most aggressive innings in the recent past, which was reminiscent of his youthful days of power and exuberance; this onslaught of the duo saw them go past another century partnership.

India were 150 without loss in under 30 overs and things seemed to going fine, until Pietersen took a brilliant catch to dismiss Ganguly. Tendulkar followed shortly thereafter, falling to Panesar, again only a few runs short of his century. Perhaps that was due to his cramps, or the loss of concentration on its account, but Panesar’s reaction to Tendulkar’s wicket told a story: there was no Bhangra dance, just a sigh of ‘Thank-you-God’ relief, a testament to who Tendulkar really is, and what he can do to a bowler. Three other batsmen came, made their contributions and went.

Dhoni and Uthappa were the crease, needing over 70 runs in less than 50 balls. Nail-bitters digged deeper into what was left of thier nails. Dhoni seemed to pull off every cheeky and cute shot, but fell due to a rather poor one. Uthappa was joined by Agarkar; and it was chaos galore: run-out chances became extra runs, misfields let to boundaries, but the young Uthappa kept his cool and stayed ground when Agarkar leapt off his for a non-existant run only to run himself out. Zaheer followed with 10 needed on 7 balls and returned falling to another run out. It seemed as though Uthappa would run out of partners from mere run-outs! The last over began, with an ask of 8: the first ball of it was a dot ball, the second a boundary, and not a straight forward one; it was a cutest of paddle shots played to fine leg after much ‘thinking-on-the-feet’ by Uthappa; 3 balls remained, 4 runs required; fielder came up at fine leg,; Uthappa was on strike; Broad to Uthappa; Uthappa stepped down the track, and hit the ball down the ground which missed a desperate England fielder and ran away for four. The winning stroke was hit was a hero was born!

The presentation ceremony saw an ungaurded Dravid and an emotional Tendulkar. Questions must be asked here. Was Tendulkar emotional only because of India’s victory or was there more to it? Did he think he might not be able to play the decided at Lords? Did he think he was nearing the end of his ODI career? It was rather saddenning to see him struggle up to the dressing room after his wicket fell earlier in the day. What was even more bizzare was the retirement speculation that followed the historic victory. Cricinfo reported here that Tendulkar might retire from the shortened version of the game at home after the series against Australia and Pakistan; this was followed by another report where Tendulkar allegedly denies the rumors, and then another stating that the denial was by the India administration manager, not Tendulkar.

 I think it is not just sad, but bad to report such rumours when the man is in sublime form. Should Tendulkar retire now or not? I think he has at least couple of years of it left, but he is the best judge of that; not Greg Chappell, not Ian Chappell, not you, not me and definitely not the media. It remains to be seen if Tendulkar reaches the milestone 50 ODI centuries or 100 ODI half centuries; only God and the master himself can tell.