India win NZ series 1-0

November 24, 2010

Yay!

Could have been a more convincing series victory, had the pitches been more conducive. Credit to NZ for a good batting display in the first two matches of the series. Pity that they got a few bad decisions in the Nagpur Test from umpire Nigel Long. Despite, that I still believe the URDS referral system in its present form won’t help. What will help is the way umpires like Taufel refer when they aren’t sure. There’s an element of self-respect/ego from the umpires that takes a beating while doing that, but when they do let that go a little bit, it buys them back a lot respect.

Positives for India from this series:

1. Gambhir showing signs of returning to form from a temporary slump. The ODI series and added responsibility as captain might help that further.

2. Man of the Match Dravid finds his lost touch and gets runs! There cannot be better news before the SA tour starts. Yes, the conditions will be different there, but one know what to expect from a veteran.

3. Pace battery charged up – Ishant seems in great form. If Zaheer returns, both of them on SA pitches can be a handful. Sreeshant has had a good comeback too.

Can’t wait for South Africa!


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!


Stodgy India save Napier Test

April 1, 2009

What a couple of days of Test cricket. Nowadays, it’s more satisfying to see a team save a match while chasing a mammoth total than it is to see a match with a result.

This was the occasion to show grit, and it was very satisfying to the hyped Indian batting line-up live up to their statistics. While Sehwag threw away an opportunity to show his captaincy prowess and give Dhoni some competition, Gambhir has taken a huge stride forward in his Test career. It will be sometime before we can truly bank on such innings from him for it takes more than just a few gritty innings to be called the Wall, even if it is Wall version 2. That said, credit needs to be given where it is due. He’s definitely a class apart from the other youngsters, Yuvraj included. Way to go Gambhir! I will not call you just a dumb slogger riding on form anymore.

Speaking of thrown away opportunities, add Dinesh Karthik to the list: his wicket keeping, from what I saw, left a lot to be desired. Looks like all of Dhoni’s competitors (for captaincy and keeping) have either given up or have no hope or intention. On to Yuvraj “I’m either a Prince or a rabbit” Singh. I think it is about time we replace him at Test level with some other promising talent. Where is Vijay who debuted against Australia? Now that would be a talent to nurture for the future.

Our good old Dravid once again did the job that only he does best, except this time, it was cut short by an umpiring error. Fellow blogger Soulberry has also ranted about this evil that cricketing has been plagued with of late. The newly elite Ian Gould has robbed us of what could have been another golden Dravid innings. Like Soulberry says, with such a sweetly timed six that one would wonder why there weren’t many more of those in his Test career. For the nth time, Dravid’s defence was serene and sublime. Brush me aside for being a fan-girl, but this innings of Dravs was definitely special. And some of us wanted him to retire. To me he looks good for another three years. I cannot stop marveling at the patience and grit. Go Draivd, you rock! Moving on, VVS and Sachin were vintage adding to the job that needed completion; nothing less.

So we think we battled it out. But not everyone agrees. This article by Kiwi journalist Paul Lewis had me thinking, and bit offended. True, we did in the past produced dust bowls in India, thanks to our internal pan-BCCI squabbles, we’ve often offered a green top to a side with exceptional fast bowlers. If there is a doubt on the ability of this Indian line up, which I think is probably the best one to deal with the green top on windy conditions (only I would replace Yuvraj with either a promising youngster like Vijay, or with good old fiesty Sourav) in over two decades. So, give us the green top and challenge us. Then we shall see who has conquered.


Can South Africa do it again? SA vs. Aus Test1, Jo’burg 09

March 1, 2009

For those who are crying about the death of Test Cricket, where are you? What are you watching? Sorry, SL and Pak, but I couldn’t survive even 5 overs of that Test match. While Paul Collingwood and Ravi Bopara added some excitement to a mostly boring match, with the result of the result still undecided, there is still some life in that one. But this one is a cracker of a Test match, with today’s play worth every minute of the Sunday afternoon/evening.

Jacques Kallis turned the tables for South Africa today with an inspired spell of bowling, one which he hasn’t produced for some time. This is what South Africa have been missing for some time – an in form Kallis. If he can pitch in 80-100 odd with the bat, this match may be South Africa’s. Four Australian wickets fell in matter of 5 overs and the Aussies were slowly but surely lost grip on this Test. The only disappointment for me was Dale Steyn. I was expecting a fiery over to Peter Siddle after what Steyn received from the latter yesturday.

After wrapping up Australia for 207, the hosts put up a solid start. If Smith didn’t throw his wicket away with that mistimed shot, the outlook would be almost euphoric. The task is yet a good ask – 276 runs from 90 overs with 8 wickets – that’s a health 3 odd runs an over and some strokes of luck. I’ll be rooting for South Africa! Go Kallis! Go South Africa!

Side note: The umpiring has been pathetic to say the least. Fellow blogger Soulberry and Som have done a better job – one with concern and the other with humor – in describing just how hopeless the umpiring situation is. Blind as bat Bucknor is with Billy Bowden, who is slowly but surely loosing my respect. Given the way things have gone, one would think the series is being played in Australia for they have had the benefit of some of the most ridiculous referrals. The umpire referral system is a joke – we have three huge egos clashing instead of two. Interestingly, they seem to have a ploy of sticking to togather in their “crisis”. Can we stop the referral system and move on, please?


India with a chance – Ind vs Aus 2008-09: Day 3, 2nd Test

October 20, 2008

A lot can happen in two days. India’s middle order, precisely Ganguly, Tendulkar and lower-order batsman Dhoni powered India to a decent total of 469. Four quick Aussie wickets meant that the Aussies needed some damage control. That they did, but nothing more. In fact, the Aussie damage control would have looked a lot less fancier had Watson been given out by umpire Rudi Koertzen when he was actually out. That would have given the Indian think tank some food for thought about the follow on. But forget it, they would have never enforced it anyway.

A lot of things have been good for India:

  • Ganguly’s silken century, his 16th ton in his farewell series enabled fans to watch Grace and helped India to a good total
  • Dhoni’s “gadayudh” batting helped us get quick runs and goes to prove my earlier point that Dhoni cares to perform with the bat only when he captains (ok, ok, it was a batting pitch and I’m being a little harsh here)
  • Mishra’s dream debut got him a fifer. So, the spin closet has one worthy item in it. One in hand and in form is worth ten times the weight in gold of a closet full of junk
  • Gambhir and Sehwag have gotten us off to a flier.

What needs to be done:

  • Viru and Gambhir need to bat some more and get more runs quickly
  • Don’t know if Dravid will bat at #3 tomorrow, but this could be the best opportunity to cement his place among seniors. VVS seems like he’s currently on tenterhooks.

It will be interesting to see when – both in terms of run and timing – that the declaration comes. I would think setting Aus 450-480 in over 3.5-4 sessions would be a good ask. Will we do it?

PS: Meanwhile, for those of you looking for a daily dose of Dravid goodness, he’s only 5 short of Mark Waugh’s record for max catches in Test. Mark Waugh was really cheap in saying this, but I hope Waugh is wrong. The only person close to getting a pair is an Aussie and he’s called Matthew Hayden. Waugh! Which match are you watching?


India Draws – Ind vs Aus 2008-09: Day 5, 1st Test, Bangalore

October 13, 2008

After what seemed like an eternity, India has managed not to lose a match batting 4th. I had mentally written them off and that mostly due to the poor show in Sri Lanka. I’m still trying to tweak Cricinfo’s statsguru to spit me the results of India’s draw percent when batting second. I’m pretty sure this must be low (esp in the last 3 years). From memory I recall only 2 from the last 3 years – the one at Lords (which really shouldn’t count) and one against South Africa.

Going by that, this is an achievement. But what that also says is that the Aussies have lost some of their sting without McGrath, Warne and Gilchrist (behind the stumps). Haddin has a long way to go. Watson, Haddin, Cameron White (who also plays for Bangalore Royal Challengers) don’t really strike me as great Test cricketers. Unless they go the Symonds way with their game, we may see some mediocre results from them in the near future.

As for India, NB from Soulberry’s TCWJ puts so succinctly, what seemed so muddled in my mind. To me, here are the worries:

  • Middle order: Granted, we’re getting some stinkers from the umpires from time to time, but the middle order isn’t really on strong footing. There are flashes of brilliance, but only flashes, and that’s causing anxiety. Ganguly seems best of the four at the moment. Doesn’t that tell a story in itself (with due respect to Gangs of course)? Meanwhile at the top order, Gambhir has not had too many answers either.
  • Spin bowling: We all know about Harbhajan’s “I-need-a-wicket-to-start-thinking”. That apart, Kumble has been very worrisome.
  • Fielding: Allright, we’ve never really been a great fielding side, not even when the Fab four where in their prime. Gambhir’s dropped catches were atrocious! So much for the “young-agile-fielding-sides”

Interestingly this time, both teams have seen some decline from previous glory. Can India put a 300 plus total? Can the middle order post 200 runs by themselves? Can India bat better than Australia? Can Australia take 20 wickets? Will they bowl better than the Indian quicks? Strange how it can become isn’t it?

Maybe we will get only 2 results from this series.


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.