An Open Letter to Dilip Vengsarkar

October 15, 2008

Mr. Vengsarkar,

Why are you vomiting? Perhaps this is why you decided to step-down as chief selector at the end of your term – because you couldn’t contain that verbal diarhorea that you had to contain on the insistence of the BCCI.

I have many questions for you. Let me start with by asking you – do you have any sense? I was going to ask if you had any grace, but then I realized you might be a little less on the sense quotient and often grace comes only after sense.

Didn’t you have enough with your barbs at Dravid last year. First it was criticism for not enforcing the follow-on in that Oval Test. As defensive as that might have been, given that we’d gone one up, was that victory – one that eventually came after a 35-year drought – worth gambling in hope of another? You effectively “suffocated” captain Dravid enough for him to step down. Though we know it is you, we may never know for sure.

Then you unceremoniously dropped the same man with over 10,000 runs in ODI cricket, who had produced a blistering 92 at a strike rate of over 80, not more than 5 matches ago. I won’t even question the selection as much the as unnecessary trash talk: “Dravid is a one-dimensional player[… he] does not add value to the ODI team”. When being asked to make a courtesy call to inform Dravid on being dropped, you apparently asked so arrogantly asked “Why should we call him? Did he bother to inform the selection committee before he resigned as captain?

Fortunately for you, Dravid’s fans are not like Ganguly’s. They will not gather in the streets or burn effigies; some may blog, but largely they may not even boo.

Maybe that is why you did not stop there. You’ve irked the Ganguly fans an embarrassed an Indian hero and great exponent of the game by dropping him from the Irani Trophy squad. I had written earlier asking why Ganguly became the “sacrificial goat”, if you care enough, you can read that here.

The most disgusting thing you’ve done so far is to lash out against Ganguly and vowed to “give back more than what he asked for” without even bothering to verify if he had in fact complained of your selection, on being let down, and made statements on cricketers’s change in hairstyles. Ganguly has denied having given that controversial interview. Now what do you think you look like? No, I won’t say it, as I have some grace left. What I can say, is that, going by the standards of the cricket fans in Kolkata and their adulation for their Dada, you may not be able to walk in the streets of Kolkata.

As if that wasn’t enough, you’ve also shot one at Test Captain Kumble. If an “..unfit Kumble [was indeed] letting the team down..” or you thought he “..should have come clean about his fitness..“, you could have told him, not the media, not in a middle of a toughly fought series likened to the Ashes.

Perhaps the BCCI should not have “gone soft” with your newspaper column writing in which you so unceremoniously trashed our heroes. It is rather bizarre why BCCI was as toothless as it was in the 80s with this prank of yours for long enough for you to have done significant damage.

I’m done with this rant of mine for now but I must add that I mean no evil to you and hold nothing against you other than your trash-talking crassness throught the wrong medium at the wrong time. While I don’t expect you to stop vomiting just yet, I only ask you think if any of this is justifiable, at least in retrospect, even by your own double standards.

PS: Actually that should have read as another open letter, for at least one has already been written by CommonFan here. I’ve been planning for this letter for some time, but CommonFan has inspired me to write my own rather caustic one.


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.

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.

After 21 years…

August 13, 2007

India cruise to a series win: finally, a series where the edge was not squandered away. There are some great pics on of the epic finale. Check ’em out here.

Highlights and dramatics for me from Day 5 of the third test match at the Oval:
– Sreesanth comes good and gets his prize captain wicket of Michael Vaughan
– Tendulkar’s bowling
– Pietersen’s ton
– Little tussle between a very angry Anil Kumble and Pietersen
– Team India with the npower series trophy!

After the spectacular test series involving two well matched teams, there seems to be a thirst for more such test series; however, what is to follow is a series of 7 ODIs. It would have been better to have 5 Test series and 3 ODIs. 😦

Till 21 Aug, not much cricket to watch.

“Anil Kumble day” at The Oval

August 10, 2007

It was definitely India’s day at The Oval today, at the third test match of 3 Test series. When India started on Day 2 with 300 and odd runs with Laxman and a very edgy Tendulkar on 48 at the crease, 450 looked far away, however that was not to be. Tendulkar got his half century: a very different innings, calm yet troubled, slow but not without some stylish shots; there was one hook shot which showed everybody who he is, not that we don’t know, and two other good ones; so, good, that it looked liked that man on 82 was poised for a century. That, alas was not to be.

 After Tendulkar came Dhoni. With his scores from the series, you couldn’t expect much, but we were in for a surprize as a belligerent Dhoni got to 92. When one thought this was it, then came Kumble’s innings: one that all those who watched will remember for many years to come. With his brilliant unbeaten century, he becomes the second (after Shane Warne) with over 500 Test wickets and a century. What a record to earn at the age of 36! Today was definitely his day, perhaps on par with the day he got all 10 test wickets! Kumble defintely looked the part that he played today: a classy batsman, a determined man striving another record, not a tail-ender slogging for runs or struggling to beat his previous best of 88. So will Karnataka declare 10 August to be “Anil Kumble Day” or will they name a flyover after him? Whatever they do, I think he deserves every bit of the adulation he recieves.

The highlights of day for me are:
– Kumble’s unbeaten 110
– Tendulkar and Laxman’s half centuries
– Dhoni’s 92
Lowlights (from England’s p.o.v) 
– Prior’s wicketkeeping woes (as they continue today)
– Sidebottom’s ordinary spells

So the galacticos have amassed a mammoth 664, and got the early wicket of Strauss, which makes us believe more Indian-goodness is due. Cheers!