India’s tour of England 2011 – Why the tours of England are special

July 31, 2011

I’ve almost always had a rush of nostalgia when India is about to tour England. The green grass, blue skies, the contrast between the “Surf-excel-white” clouds and the tourquise blue of the sky, the picturesque grounds, the lovely breeze and the occasional sweater worn by the spectator adds an element of other worldly magic to the drama that is about to enfold. India’s tours of England have brought back some lovely memories that run back to the summer of’96. There are several such occasions – the World Cup 99, the tour of 2002 and the Nat West final to name a few. The tour of 2007 seems so fresh, I can recall many of details – Zaheer Khan and the jelly gate, Dravid’s tired captaincy, his struggle with runs, Wasin Jaffer’s lazy elegance, Dinesh Karthik’s rise to consistent 45-50 opener, Kumble’s century, Micheal Vaughn’s batting, Tendulkar’s struggles in the 90s, and what not.

Part of what makes this special is a rather mundane aspect – the time of play for the Indian viewer. You can come back from work, either on a high, or tired and drained of energy, and let your mind take on something completely different and to be engrossed in it. There are days when the cricket energizes you and days when it lets you lament.

Another tour is upon us. And this tour, as in 2007, is touted to be last of the greats of India’s batting – Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman. Thus the need to savor it is greater than ever before. One hopes that there is, somewhere in India, a kid who yearns to emulate their techniques and deeds!


India’s Tour of SL 2010: It starts with mysteries

July 10, 2010

Am I the only one to be surprized by Mendis’s exclusion?  He and Murali bowling from either ends gave the famed Tendulkar-Ganguly-Dravid-Laxman laden Indian lineup a run for their money in 2008. It would have been worth it to see how they rack up this time. One wonders if there was some under-the-table BCCI wrestling. One sure hopes not.

Why is Murali retiring after just one Test? Why not play the remaining two of the series?

If there’s one mystery, it’s that the umpire referral system is not be used in the India-SL series. No surprizes there?


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! 🙂


Sourav Ganguly: What he’s meant to me

November 11, 2008

Yes, the Australia series, is over. Yes, India have won it 2-0. Yes, Ganguly is really retiring. Yes, I’ve already written my Ode to Ganguly. But this is a little different and more personal, more rambly and possibly incoherent.

There is one person I always think of when I think of Sourav Ganguly: my friend from school. If it wasn’t for her, I would never have understood what it is to be a Ganguly fan. When we first discussed Ganguly – it came up casually, as we were discussing the 99 World Cup- she not only re-kindled in me the passing interest I had in Indian cricket then, but planted in my heart the love of a generation of cricketers and the glorious game. Here’s to you, my dear friend, and thank you a million! I may never have thanked you for this, but I mean every word of this. I may have detracted you that I was a Dravid fan (thought I turned out to be that too), may have hid my excitement when Ganguly was made captain, 8 years ago to this very day, but I think you know that I was a truly a Dada-fan (and continue to be).

Ganguly on Debut at Lords

Ganguly on Debut at Lord's

Pic Source: Cricinfo

With Ganguly’s retirement today, I feel a sense of void, for apart from other reasons, his moving also takes away a bit of the childhood that I’ve continued to live to this day, for Ganguly’s India brings to me many cherished memories: the sneaking from school to find out the score, the discussion over whether Rani Mukherjee or Sourav Ganguly represented Bengal better, the yearning for rain in May just to reminisce the World Cup ’99, watching cricket at night from different time zones with red eyes and having to go to a ghostly early class the next morning, that fateful March ’03 night of the World Cup final, the stupid match day superstitions, and many more. Maybe some memories will linger along with Tendulkar and Dravid, but the spirit of the Big Three, the Holy Trinity, the triumvirate, or whatever you want to call that, retires today, though the legacy will live on. Perhaps it was only fitting that Ganguly’s last battle was against Australia and that very apt that he left more people asking why Sourav and why not somebody else. But a fan will always rue his idol’s retirement!

On a sillier note, I feel for not being able to the wordpress tags ‘The Big 3 of Indian Cricket’, ‘The Big Three of Indian Cricket’, ‘The Fab Four’ anymore! The tags will retire along with Ganguly, but Sourav Dada Ganguly Maharaj – as fellow blogger Soulberry calls him – will forever remain in my heart entwined with cherished memories of my own childhood.

Thank you, once again, Sourav, and Best wishes for a happy and healthy new innings!


Draw Looming – Ind vs Aus 2008-09: Day 4, 3rd Test

November 2, 2008

After promising much the Delhi Test is moving slowly and boringly towards a draw. As butter-fingered India dropped as many as four catches today, to let Australia off the hook, the most worrying aspect was the attitude and general lack of purpose. Ishant was wayward, Mishra didn’t look like the guy who took 7 wickets in the last match and Kumble toiled spiritedly to end up with three after largely disappointing spells, given his stature. While Sehwag weaved magic with the ball, he disappointed again with the bad. Where was the need for that shot? Ishant played a horrible shot for the first delivery he recieved as nightwatchman, and would have been gone that very ball. But it was his fate to face a carbon copy of that delivery and play the same shot only with a different result. So much for being nightwatchman. But perhaps it was Dravid’s fate to have to walk out today. Fellow blogger Soulberry sarcastically takes a dig at Dravs here. Was I the only one who was nervous for Dravs?

Tomorrow, most likely will not produce a result (unless we mess it up horribly), but India can use this well for batting practice. Dravid, this is your chance! The others have got their face saving centuries. For Heaven’s sake, Dravid, grab this, with both your hands, and show us some magic. And no runs per ball ratio nonsense.


Another VVS Special – Ind vs Aus 2008-09: Day 2, 3rd Test

October 31, 2008

While Gambhir continued his onslaught to get his maiden double century, VVS showed why he is a very special player and why the people who advocated dropping him for a fifth bowler should be embarrassed and hide. He plays very quietly, knocking it around and before you know it, he’s got a hundred. Give it some more time and he’s past 150. Vintage VVS was what we saw today. What struck me the most was his reaction on the century (gesturing a bowler). Why are the seniors taking the media so seriously? Media scrutiny has been happening for some time. Granted, it’s more targeted towards the Fab four now, but the best way to get them off your back is by ignoring them and performing.

That apart, there are many questions/concerns from today’s proceedings. First, Dhoni’s irresponsible innings. He isn’t captain, so he didn’t care enough. What does that tell you of attitude? I can point to several such instances now. Secondly, I thought Kumble declared a bit too early. They should not have given Aus more than 10 overs to bat. Why? Thirdly, can India bowl Aussies out twice on this track? Doesn’t seem to anything in it yet. Furthermore, what does this innings mean for Laxman? He may have got the monkey off his back for the next match, but there are now two monkeys on Dravid’s back. I will save my thoughts on VVS at #3 for after the Delhi Test, but there will certainly be some talk about this.

As for tomorrow, the first hour will be key. India will need 2 wickets in the first session. Post lunch is often a sleepy session and nothing much happens. If India don’t act quickly, we might be headed for a draw.


Gambhir blazes – Ind vs Aus 2008-09: Day 1, 3rd Test

October 29, 2008

Most batsmen have a similar beginning. There comes a time when a young maverick sets the stage ablaze. Question are asked if that was an aberration, a mere spike from an average cricketer. What sets the legends apart from the regular cricketers is that they answers those very questions with the same answer again and again. Then the questions will change. They will ask why not another one? Then they will expect excellence in trying conditions and then demand. Legends answer all of these questions, and satiate the expectations in their own characteristic way: some emphatically, some grindingly. Then the bar is raised and for those that make it through, the legend in them is born. With time, situations get difficult – bad patches come and some last seemingly for an eternity. Legends see several such patches, hope for them to pass and climb out of the hole quickly. But sometimes, somewhere along the way desperation sets in. Every effort, in as much as it is earnest, seems so much harder than it should be. For some this is the end; the fortunate ones see them through. Those that do, reach a kind of nirvana, a sense of carefree bliss and the legend then unleashed in full power.

Today, I believe we’ve had glimpses of all of this.

Gambhir is now at the brink of having expectations raised. He’s answered the mundane questions several times but better tougher ones will surely await. More will be expected of him in the days to come. He holds a definite promise. The true test will come abroad. New Zealand might be harsh, but it will give us a good picture. Dravid on the other hand, is the legend in desperation, trying too hard to climb out of a hole he has dug for himself. It remains to be seen if he has utterly lost it, or will raise through to prove a point yet again. While I have my fingers crossed for the latter, I beginning to have very grave worries. Sachin, was the blissfully carefree man, playing a different game altogether, thoroughly enjoying himself. Pity that his innings came to an end so soon, but so do many blissful times.

Laxman may have played yet another axe-saving innings. While that should not take away from the class or the beauty of the innings, there is more he is capable of and will be expected of, especially when promoted up the order. Does the coveted #3 beckon?

I won’t go into the Australian bowling as I watched only the scorecard live on Cricinfo and then the highlights on TV. That being the case, it doesn’t take a genius to say that the Aussie bowlers have struggled and are resorting to the dirty old sledging tricks.

Where from here? India need to bat the most (if not the whole) of Day 2, make good use of the conditions and post a good total. If you ask me, anything between 500 and 600 will do. Then, our pacers and spinners can have a crack at the Aussie batsman.