Cricket Ramblings: On the Gambhir ban and Gilly’s True Colors

November 1, 2008

Alright, am I the only one bored by the Delhi Test? The other stuff seems to be interesting.

The Gambhir ban has been an interesting issue. Fellow blogger ABisht sees it as a half-full-half-empty thing. As always, the subcontinent guy gets hauled up. Perhaps this is the only way the toothless ICC servants can get back at the “new-power-rich” BCCI. While the part of me that wants to be fair, might want to say, maybe this is a good lesson for the folk who indulge in unnecessary drama on the cricket field, the partisan in me is angry that it is the Indian that gets the harsh treatment. Why was Watson, the provoker, let off with a fine, that too, off a token-like 10%? This issue can be beaten to death, but it’s a dead horse. The more striking issue is the arrogance of the Indian youth. As I look at my own generation, there is a sense of disrespect for and cynicism towards almost everything. Granted this might be a generational thing, but the brashness now is too obvious to ignore. This crudeness has crept into cricket as well. Uthappa’s dig on the seniors’ fielding comes to mind. No, it’s not about the whole “respect the senior cricketers” dying horse either. It’s the needless attitude and ego that’s bothersome. Back to Gambhir. Why the “elbowing”, Gambhir? Why the street-side-boy attitude? Perhaps it is this garishness that has reduced the sympathy that Gambhir is getting on this. Perhaps he is also suffering the aftermath of the Bhajji “banned-but-not-but-then-banned-in-IPL”. To be honest, I’m ambivalent on this, but in titling in favor of the fact that the ban might be a bit too hard, but only in small measure.

Adam Gilchrist, who certainly had a lot of Indian fans, may be left with a lot lesser fans now. I didn’t feel the need to write about his comments on Tendulkar, for it seemed like the cheap old publicity trick. But now, he’s roping in Ganguly and Harbhajan. I’m not cutting any slack for Ganguly on the Nagpur 2004 Test Houdini act – a chapter in Indian cricket that will remain shrouded with several questions until someone comes out with the truth – but doesn’t Gilchrist have anything better to talk about. Apparently he wants to befriend his former teammates who don’t return phones calls and emails to the “bloke who used to walk when he was out”. Gilchrist has utterly lost my respect, for whatever that is worth. And he will NOT get my money for his book, which I have decided not to buy, despite whatever else he may have said in it. Now, we know the True Colors, don’t we?

Advertisements

India win 2nd Test – A tounge in check look – Ind vs Aus 2008-09: Day 5

October 22, 2008

India triumph over Australia to go 1-0 up in the Border Gavaskar Trophy 2008-09 with a historic win in the second Test at Mohali. Team effort and proactive captaincy made this possible. Australia have been bringing the best out of India for the past 5 years now, with each victory arguably better than the other in quality.

Congratulations, India! A well earned victory! Cheers!

But the series isn’t over yet and there is still some good work to do.

Where now from here for India? India need to keep the intensity just where it is, if not turn it up another notch. The bowling attack with Ishant, Bhajji and Zaheer is rocking.  Mishra had a compelling debut. Delhi will be key and the selectors will have one hell of a task picking a playing XI. I shall save that for another discussion, but I must add that for once, I’m glad that this selection isn’t my job!

India’s batting is still a bit of a concern. Ganguly has been the best performer so far – he’s looked solid in defence, characteristic in attack and has played his natural game. Viru and Gambhir closely follow. There are still a few question marks around the others in the batting order with respect to solidity, based on current form.

As for the Aussie, I would give anything to hear from Greg Chappell. 🙂 I’ll save my comments on him till the end of the series. Ponting has some sorting out to do. Clarke is good only in patches. I don’t understand how Shane Watson and Cameron White made it to the side. The only reason I can think of is thier familiarity to the conditions from IPL. Watson, course played for the Rajasthan Royals and White, rather unimpressively for Bangalore Royal Challengers. I find it hard to believe that the Aussies don’t have anything better in the closet. Haddin has a long way to go – an average keeper and below-average Test batsman. Siddle was hyped beyond proportions, might be (along with Johnson) the better ones from the newer lot. Lee is obviously out of form/rusty. Two players hold the key – Hayden and Hussey. While lashing out at the apparent lack-of-quality/experience in the Aussie line up, in the back of my mind, there is this dark thought that India might face this very situation (maybe even worse with the batting) when the Fab four disappear from the scene. But that is not for this day.

This day, we celebrate for going one step ahead to re-gaining the Border Gavaskar Trophy! Cheers!


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.


Squad Announcement – Ganguly in, Mishra the surprize

October 3, 2008

Yes, Dada is in; something for Ganguly fan to cheer. Many expected this. Fellow blogger Ottayan, sarcastically or seriously suggested that this might very well be the case.

While I rejoice in Ganguly’s Nth coming, Souberry will surely be thrilled by the inclusion of Amit Mishra. I guess the change in selecion panel did it for him.

My only gripe – yes, we always have something to barb about BCCI’s selections – is Badrinath’s selection. My vote would have been for Aakash Chopra, but I don’t think he’s got the right age. At the moment 19 is a good age. Furthermore, with Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli’s score against Australia in the ongoing tour match, Chopra will be forgotten, unless, logic prevails.

Rest of the squad remains intact, at least for the moment:

Anil Kumble (capt), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma, Munaf Patel, RP Singh, S Badrinath,  Amit Mishra

Go Dada! Rock em!


Irani Trophy Day 1: Rest of India vs. Delhi

September 24, 2008

Never trust the media! For the umpteenth time I have rediscovered this truth. Ok, it was not the best of innings from the Rest of India batsman, but when a team scores over 220-230, it is NOT a collapse. Why was Jaffer’s innings “fine” and Dravid’s innings circumspect ? They scored 50 and 46 each in 91 and 95 balls respectively. Jaffer’s list of boundaries reads 5 while Dravid’s count is 4. So much for that.
What I gathered from the first hour and a half of the game, which I caught before heading to work, was this: it was a warm up match and this could very well have been the score that India would have got in the first Test against in Aussies had they played without a warm up, with many batsmen taking a break of over a month. The truth is Jaffer was his “domestic-player” self and looked a bit better than “finding-my-form” Dravid, in comparison. Dravid was initially very shaky, so much to have this fan very worried and sad, but he picked it up later and played some very positive shots. Yes, there are still concerns; yes, he did struggle against Ishant Sharma, as I had I predicted yesterday; yes, the back foot isn’t moving to guard the off stump – a sure sign of out-of-form-ness, but there were some cracking shots which suggest a better comeback is near. Apart from the openers Jaffer and Dravid, no one else made an impression. Laxman was elegant in pieces but threw it away too quickly. The hypes of the day – Kaif and Badri remained hypes. They did not impress with strokeplay or with thier reading of the bowling and ended up with strike rates in the 30s, lesser that both Jaffer and Dravid. Harbhajan played an impressive innings, seriously! 🙂 Ishant bowled as per hype and is at the moment worthy of all the hype. It would be interesting to see Chopra and Gambhir feast off an Ishant-less Rest of India.

As for Delhi, I thought Sehwag’s captaincy was initially defensive. I won’t comment on my gatherings from the highlights as it will tantamount to picking a team looking at scorecards alone 😀 .  Delhi have a fire-power laden batting line up, but if the top 3 fail, it looks a bit brittle. The pitch might slow down after lunch tomorrow to make Day 2 the best day for batting. I’m starting to like Aakash Chopra very much and should find a place in the Indian XI, if Tendulkar doesn’t make it. Speaking of India, we still need Ganguly, the Kaif and Badri’s won’t do at the moment. After all, when you’ve got better, it would be foolish to not use it.

Tomorrow we shall find out if Harbhajan and Kumble feast off the pitch or fizzle away.


The Irani Trophy beckons!

September 23, 2008

Well almost – it’s tomorrow and I can’t wait. This Delhi vs. Rest of India clash, touted as the the dress rehearsal to the Australia series, has everything in it to be a cracker. Everybody will have everything to play for. Weather permitting and pitch (and cable operator) willing we should see a good contest. I’m not a Delhi-ite but I think they have the psychological edge with the “we can afford to mess this up” factor helping them; at least they will be the lesser of the stressed. It is the Kumble lead Rest-of-India who will need to prove points. Every single middle order batsmen in their line up – Dravid and Laxman in particular – have everything at stake here. Actually, apart from Badri/Kaif, depending on who will play, and the aforementioned India seniors, there isn’t too much of interesting batting in the Rest of India line up. When I read the name Wasim Jaffer, I tend to to mentally skip it and am not too excited about Parthiv Patel either – he has no technique whatsoever. Delhi, on the other hand seems to have a more interesting batting line up. I use the word interesting for it is the kind of batting that could swing to either of the extremes. They could thrill us all, with attacking stroke play or have us screaming and lamenting about the future depending upon how things go for them. Delhi batsmen to watch out for will be Aakash Chopra, in-form Virat Kohli and Shikar Dhawan, though I feel the latter might turn out to be just a bit of hype. And that’s aside of perennial surprise package that is Virender Sehwag and “purple patch” Gambhir.

Two contests I will eagerly look forward to are Ishant vs. Dravid and Ishant vs. Laxman. While Ishant got Dravid in the IPL opener at Bangalore, it is his nagging off-stump line that is likely to bother Dravid in particular as he has been dismissed by such deliveries thrice (as far as I can remember) in the last year to Sohail Tanvir, Dale Steyn and Ishant Sharma. Laxman who has a similar approach, though not identical, might fare a little better against such stuff. My predictions on Ishant – he will get the top four of Rest of India with Jaffer and Parthiv being the bunnies. I’m not familiar with the rest of the Delhi bowlers and will leave that discussion to the expert opinion of my Delhi-ite blogging friends.

Another contest to look to is Sehwag against Zaheer; the other Rest of India pacers, R P Singh and Munaf may get it from Sehwag big time! I would also like to see the look on Harbhajan’s face when Sehwag hits him over the top for six 🙂 ! Also interesting would be to see how the young Delhi middle order cope with the spin duo of Kumble and Harbhajan.

For Delhi, top order will be key, and middle for Rest of India. I already feel that this is an India vs. somebody else match with scale titled in favor of the “somebody else”. Rest of India, prove me wrong!


India win Galle Test on Day 4 – India in Sri Lanka 2008

August 3, 2008

Where are the folk who wrote India off? Eat crow today!

Ishant’s inspired fiery spells saw India scalp three in-form Lankan batsmen in the first half-hour of play. So inspiring was that spell that it evoked emotions even from Dravid! Perhaps one of the best spells of Ishant till date, there were several overs where he tested batsmen, reminiscent of that spell against Ponting at Perth earlier this year. I had goose bumps to see this young Indian bowler give chin-music to batsmen. India have till date only been on the receiving end of such music. Ishant is a very good sign for India. Wonder what would have happened if he didn’t get that 5-for against Pak in Bangalore, that most probably helped book his seat on the plane for that famour tour of Australia late last year. While Ishant, titled things in India’s favor by getting key wickets of Sanga and Mahela, Bhajji (after one session of mediocrity and after Ishant struck again claiming Dilshan) wrapped it up for India.

There are many positives for India to take home from this:
1. Gautham Gambhir and Man-of-the-Match Virender Sehwag – India’s new Tendulkar-Ganguly
2. Ishant Sharma
3. Zaheer finding form
4. Dravid showing positive signs of finding form
5. Some collective spirit

That aside, we won fair and square today – not with the new form of umprie coaxing that the referral system has already become. Jayawardene’s use of the referral system, particularly for the lbws was downright irksome. I understand he might be within his right to do that, but none of the referrals went India’s way in the series so far (okay, maybe one did, but I’m not sure of that either). If Dravid and Ishant were given out to a type of dismissal then so should have Dilshan/Samaraweera (I can’t recall which one) today as it was a very similar one. The lack of consistency from the third-umpires was particularly irritating, which is perhaps why Kumble didn’t ask for too many.

But there are also concerns:
1. Dinesh Karthik – looks woeful behind the stumps. While many may suggest the place be given to Parthiv Patel, I’m not entirely for that, esp for the decider Test. Patel will have to begin from square one, which is not the best thing to have in an important Test. It would be nice if Dravid could keep, but then again, keeping and batting at #3, may not be the best thing, and is close to impossible given that Kumble argued with selectors to include second wicketkeeper Parthiv in the squad. I expect no changes here.
2. The famed middle order haven’t really lived up to their name. Tendulkar whose record seemed beckoning will most likely not get it here. While he definitely isn’t out of form, he seems a little impatient. Ganguly, again isn’t out of form, needs to find ways to get some runs. Laxman who looked solid against Mendis in the first innings at Colombo hasn’t been able to carry that forward. Dravid, who looked miserable in the first Test, put up a gritty fight scoring 44 in the second innings at Galle – proof that the spirit and skill are both still there. I thought he deserved a fifty for that desperate effort. While he seems to be finding his lost touch, it’s still a work in progress.
3. Fielding – as always, fielding especially saving the one-s and two-s is important irrespective of the score being defended.

Victory is the best pain-killer they say. Adages don’t come any truer!