South Africa choke again – Champions Trophy 2009 Roundup

September 28, 2009

What a roller coaster it’s been thus far? Sri Lanka beat South Africa and then loses to New Zealand and a Aussie-battered England. South Africa beat New Zealand but lose to England.

In the other group, tournament favorites (despite their issues) Australia suffer a scare against what they called a “second string” West Indies. Pakistan almost lose to West Indies and then embarrass the #1 ODI team India (more on this in my next post).

All these developments make the tournament more interesting upto the semi finals, but it remains to be seen if the interest levels prevail if the top 3 ODI teams don’t make it to the semi finals. Forget the ICC ratings, don’t we want to watch the best battle it out? Does wining two games in a row make a team better than one which has won several games in trott in the past which has bought them the interest and respect of cricket lovers world wide? Many questions that need answering. I will hold my opinions till the end of the trophy.

Who shall we blame now? Chokers South Africa or free spirited England? Shall we blame Andrew Strauss for denying Smith the runner? I do actually, because runners have been provided before for cramping batsmen, esp from the sub continent, and by denying the runner Strauss showed how insecure he was about Smith being there. Isn’t it easier to effect a run out when you’ve got three people trying to communicate with one another about taking a run? Returning to the blame game, shall we blame the injuries for India’s loss?

The organizers need to wake up about the pitch making malpractices. I have seen at least two games so far where the pitch played a Man-of-Match worthy role in a team’s victory. Not to take away from Shah-Collingwood or Malik-Yousuf in the games England and Pakistan played against South Africa and India respectively, but there was nothing in this for the seamers. If ODI cricket dies, let us not blame the format, for there is more to this than meets the eye.

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Cricket Ramblings from the weeks I’ve missed

January 20, 2009

There’s been so much I’ve wanted to write about while I was away- Pietersen quitting, Dravid scoring not the least- so here’s my random rambly attempt to catch up.

Dravid scores
After eight months and not too many runs, Rahul Jammy Dravid scored his second century of 2008, one that came after much media speculation, blogger deriding and what not. I remember that innings rather well and was fortunate to be able to catch that given my schedule at that time. I recall a feeling of painful dread that set in when I watched Dravid take guard that day, knowing at the back of my mind that the umpire’s finger may go up any time. Reconciled to what seemed only to be a matter of time, I was only hoping please, let it not be a duck. Interestingly, that day, it was not be a duck! Dravid build the innings, almost cringingly. I remember the early parts of that innings to be slower than “Dravid slow” and more poking-ly than ever before, but for fans who did not relent, we got to see a fairly good innings. Was this vintage Dravid? No. But after the 60s, it was soothing. Runs seemed to flow painlessly, albeit slowly. We got to see the wristy flicks and late square cuts that we hadn’t see Dravid play since that blistering innings at the Bristol ODI in India’s 2007 tour of England. After several months, this Dravid fan was happy, just plain happy. What was most fitting was Dravid’s press conference after the century. In characteristic fashion he thanked those who supported him thought the tough year for it seemed that they had almost “gone through the journey with” him. That to me is classic Dravid! Join me in wishing Dravs a very Happy Birthday (belated thought this might be).

Pietersen steps down as England captain
If only India held the legal rights for changing captains for every drink of water, it seems we have passed that on for the world to relish! England’s captaincy woes in the past couple of years remind me of India’s Azhar-Sachin-Azhar-Sachin days. It’s a pity what happened with Pietersen, for I thought his daring leadership was England’s best chance to regain the Ashes. Strauss, whose form seems to show signs of return, will be again burdened with captaincy, thus making the England top order a bit more vulnerable than before.

South Africa win Test series 2-1 in Australia
J P Duminy starred in a record 4th innings run chase that would have made all those who wrote off Test cricket to eat crow. What a scintillating innings, what daring batsmanship! One cannot discount captain Smith who set it all up with an almost trademark innings. Australia have a long way to recovery now. While there are chinks in the South African armour – as we saw in the 3rd Test match – they seem to be bigger in the Australian armor. This series will make Australia’s upcoming tour to South Africa a very interesting one to look to.


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.