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!


An IPL Semi Final at the Champions League – RBC vs. CSK

September 24, 2010

A cracker of a semi final awaits today where Kumble’s Bangalore will take on Dhoni’s Chennai. While much has been said about Chennai on paper, they have exposed some chinks this tournament.

Bangalore’s batting on the other hand has been a bit off color. Add to that a Kallis-shaped-hole, and the balance gets affected. Apart from Kohli and Dravid, the batsmen have not really lived up to their names. Uthappa has been a yo-yo behind the stumps.

One expects to see a decent match between two evenly matched sides!

Jai Bangalore!


RCB’s three gambles too many

April 6, 2010

Kumble’s gamble of making three changes to the winning combination against Punjab, cost the Royal Challengers Bangalore dearly in their encounter against Delhi Daredevils. Dropping Steyn was not something I would have done, but Mithun compensated by getting Sehwag. Ross Taylor was not good enough on the day and neither has been Pietersen. There has been much hype about Pietersen being in the RCB camp. While KP is a great batsmen, he ins’t that much better than Dravid. Such being the case, RCB would have done better going with in-form Pandey. Furthermore Cameron White is best used as a substitute fielder. 🙂

RCB will have to get their socks up to maintain momentum and stop hoping Uthappa with hit a n 8 ball 22 when required.


IPL 3: Cometh the monster

March 12, 2010

Today is the day. The Monster returns to India and we can hear the crass jingle. Controversies apart, despite my  ambivalence towards T20 and the IPL itself, I must admit that I am a bit excited.

Teams I will be supporting this year :

Kolkata Knight Riders – KKR – Wishing Dada and SRK some luck
Delhi Daredevils – DD – A team with Sehwag in it deserves to win
Bangalore Royal Challengers – RCB – Gotta like Kumble, Dravid, et all

Indifferent about:

Chennai Super Kings – CSK – Flat track bullies
Mumbai Indians – MI – Really, if they don’t make it to the top 4 this time, there is no excuse
Kings XI Punjab – (what’s their acronym really?) – Snore…

Batsmen I will be watching for:

Virender Sehwag – Viru, show us the Say-Wah!g
Sourav Ganguly – a true Dada fan will not lose an opportunity to scream DA-DA!
Mathew Hayden – Mongoose bat or not, he will be one to watch out for
Adam Gilchrist – Too many blistering innings to not watch this man
Rahul Dravid – A from-the-heart Dravid fan will always be rooting for RD!
Others – Greame Smith, Virat Kohli, Shane Warne, Sangakkara, Jayasuriya, Tendulkar, JP Duminy.. this list will grow!


IPL 2: So it isn’t boring after all

May 4, 2009

I must admit that I’m the one who vowed not to watch the IPL 2, who wore my thoughts on my sleeve about how this season can be nothing short of very boring. I’m now very guilty for I’ve watched more IPL matches this year than the last.

Credit must be given to the pitch masters of South Africa. It isn’t for nothing that the T20 World Cup in 2007 was such a hit. It isn’t just about the Bollywood babes, catchy tunes, and scantily clad cheerleaders. If the cricket’s boring (and the tickets expensive or spectators’ conditions poor), the tournament becomes doomed. By getting the pitches right and the ticket prices right (if the commentators and other tournament-folk are to be believed), cricket South Africa have ensured the success of the tournament.

Perhaps this even balance so produced by quality pitches have ensure that insipid sides like Rajasthan and weekend ones like Punjab don’t seem that great this year. Suddenly the Asnodkars and the Mascarenases don’t seem that valuable. You’ve got to get the cricket right here, which is why the good old folk – Dravid, Tendulkar, Boucher, Kumble – and those among the new who are worth their salt – Badrinath, Duminy, RP Singh – and the like are making merry.

The teams and their fortunes

Royal Challengers Bangalore and Deccan Chargers

The shift away from India has benefited two teams that found themselves at the bottom of the table last year: Bangalore and Deccan.

We all knew Deccan had it, it just wasn’t clicking for them. That RP Singh has had a lot of success in South Africa adds a lot to their attack.

Bangalore’s is the miracle recovery. I think it has more to do with team spirit and Kumble’s captaincy than Ray Jennings’ coaching. Besides they are the side with almost an all South African combination with Indian stars. They lucked out that the tournament moved to their real home. Bangalore doesn’t belong in India! 🙂 On yesturday’s thumping victory over Mumbai that involved chasing a score of over 140, while Uthappa’s innings might be a flash in the pan, Kallis I think has indeed found himself in the T20 version. I cannot end a paragraph about the BRCs without mentioning Dravid. He started the tournament with a sparkling 66 of 40-odd. That he is back in the squad will add the much needed backbone to the Bangalore team. Dillion du Pree, the debutant yesturday seemed like an inspired pick. Four overs might be too early to judge, but he may yet become the star of Bangalore attack, surpassing a certain lackluster Dale Steyn.

Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab

For those who just couldn’t understand how the Royals won the tournament last year, myself included, this year, so far has been a vindication. The team has little value in the young mavericks. Veteran Saffer batsman Smith isn’t exactly setting anything on fire; they are missing Sohail Tanvir the most. Watson might have been another flop here – not a huge fan of him.

Kings XI is kind of neither here nor there. Their bowling department has lucked out with the selection of Abdullah. They are missing Sreesanth, Lee and Shaun Marsh. Jayawardena isn’t in cracking form. For me this is a 50-50 team. Could go either way.

Mumbai Indians and Delhi Daredevils

The two most balanced sides – Mumbai and Delhi – have got fairly good results so far, the latter more than the former. Mumbai’s bowling has expectedly been bolstered by Malinga’s form and Zaheer’s presence. Is it just me or does somebody else also think Zaheer seemed more lethal when he was bowling for Bangalore?

Delhi lost Shikar Dhawan this year, but thankfully for them, he isn’t in form. Viru is yet to blast away that 10+ an over rate for the first 6-8 overs, but it might only be a matter of time.

Chennai Super Kings

Last year’s uber geek team is languishing in the table. Why that is the case is beyond me. Dhoni and Albie aren’t contributing too well. But that apart, you’ve got to believe it’s a matter of a few wins to see them in the top four where they belong.

Kolkata Knight Riders

The most woeful of the teams this year. Given the degree of off-field woe which seems to be propagating on-field, they probably deserve to be where they are. The batting isn’t clicking, McCullum’s batting looks stressed; he’s not the free flowing carefree man from last season. Ganguly is smug, Ishant erratic and unsupported by horrible fielding which reminds of Indian team from the early 90s, Agarkar is well, just plain Agarkar. Buchanan and his army needs to be shown the door and Ganguly or somebody else made sole captain.


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! 🙂


Kumble Shocks Nation with Kotla Farewell

November 2, 2008

It was a regular Sunday afternoon. The spirited Kotla crowds were cheering the stroke play of Laxman and Ganguly’s trademark six. Suddenly they fell very quiet. No, it was not the fall of an Indian wicket. Anil Kumble, the King of Kotla, had just announced that he would retire at the end of the day’s play.

Kumble did not shock the Delhi crowd alone, but shell-shocked a cricketing nation, just like he bamboozled batting greats throughout his career. We all knew it was coming, and soon, but it seemed to fans to come out of the blue. Why you may ask? Perhaps because there was no time to let it sink; maybe because he has been such a regular fixture in an Indian line up; perhaps because we admire him so much; perhaps because this is the end of a Golden Era in India cricket. The numbness and lumps in the throat are justified for this is no mere bowler. This is Anil Kumble. The Kumble who took all 10 wickets in one innings; the Kumble who took over 600 wickets in all; the Kumble who bowled with a broken jaw; the Kumble who never gives up; the Kumble whose statesmanlike captaincy through an acrimonious tour of Australia made him the best ambassador of the gentleman’s game; the Kumble who bowled with a stitched up finger and the Kumble who took his last international wicket from a return catch with an injured hand.

Kumble, the cricketer, has been special to me in many ways. Aside of inspiring me to experiment spin bowling with a tomato, he’s done much inspire any average Joe that with hard work, one can scale great heights as Anil Kumble’s career is a tribute to this. As a bespectacled young man who took the field, he did not take the cricketing world by storm. He did not spike to success either. Kumble’s career progress has been almost boringly gradual, one nurtured by sweat, blood, toil, unrelenting hard work, a craftsman’s talent and soldier’s spirit. Yet underneath it all, there is a good human being, a man who managed the impossible task of staying clear of controversy in a cricketing nation that thrives on and devours it with voracious appetite. His manner was distinctly south Indian: low-key, polite, and humble. His success is testament to the fact that one does not need showmanship or bravado to reach great heights. All that is required is a committed soul that always gave a hundred percent to the task at hand. Success will automatically follow.

Dravid and teamates throne Kumble

Dravid and teamates throne Kumble. Picture Source: Cricinfo

To an extraordinary man, one of the Fabulous Five of Indian cricket, and an excellent ambassador of the gentleman’s game, here is a shoddy free verse of praise:

Oh Captain, My Captain!
You have stunned us all
With your adieu today
Created a void
that will take more
than just talent to attempt to fill.

Though we shall cry a river today
we know that you deserve better
For you are a man who’s won us
so many matches
given us so much joy and
made us proud to be Indians

We will forever remember
the rhythmic stride
the baritone voice
the “got-cha” celebration
and the Jumbo spirit

While you may be missing
From the cricket field
we will take pride and solace
that when the name of bowling
legends are flashed across
the screens in the years to come
we will read the name
Anil Kumble
etched with a grace that is
gentlemanly and so wholesomely Indian.

Hail Kumble!