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 πŸ™‚ ! 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!


India’s tour of Sri Lanka 2008 begins

July 22, 2008

Yes, it’s finally here. I have been waiting for this India’s tour of Sri Lanka ever since the IPL ended (to be honestly about half-way thru the IPL), and almost feverishly after that Asia cup final which gave Mendis instant fame.

While India returns to its time-tested and experienced lot, I will resume my slightly biased blogging with the occasional pretense of objectivity πŸ˜‰ Why you may ask? In the recently concluded Kitply and Asia Cup ODI series, I was indifferent, almost anti-Indian, as the team didn’t feel Indian-enough for some reason. But this Indian team is our age-old one and a loved one featuring the Big Three, Fab Four, Fab Five, whatever you want to call it. There is also the added evil joy in the absense of Dhoni (sorry SP and other Dhoni fans).

There’s plenty to excitement in store: umpiring referral, Tendulkar’s record beckoning, Mendis against the famed Indian batsmen, Murali vs. Dravid, Ganguly vs. Vaas (Dada has creamed him the past), Indian spinners and Dinesh Karthik.

So time to cheer. Indiyaah! Indiyaah!


Is IPL killing cricket?

May 17, 2008

I read this illuminating article about ‘ripping’ the textbook by Cricinfo’s Sriram Veera. Yes, the textbook is Test cricket. I was rather shocked to read that some of these cricketers have had to unlearn the things they spent their entire life on. Any guesses on who the ‘playing within the V’ cricketer is?

Moving on, this begs many questions. First of all, as Ajay Jadeja had alluded to during the T20 World cup, is this even cricket? Cricket has been a complex game: about strategy, declarations, field positions, “temperment”, and much more, not merely about hitting the ball out of the park thereby making the bowler feel like a “extra” in a dance-number. Secondly, given the changes required of batsman, shouldn’t we have two seperate teams – one for Tests and another for T20, which don’t mix. Test cricket and T20 have only the letter T in common. One is for men, the other for adrenaline-pumping-boys. True, there is a fearlessness associated with T20, which can rarely be seen in a Test match, but the latter builds charecter and does more to the development of person than many other things in life. So much for the well know adage that cricket is a metaphor for life. If we do deciede that T20 is cricket, and if that be our metaphor of life, India is likely to be filled with a lot of arrogant youngsters, who will have nothing but thier arrogance to flaunt.

There is yet another alarming prospect – this is a bit of a stretch. Consider the case where the Utthappas, the Gambhirs and other fly-by-night hitters of the upcomming generation make it to Test cricket, with their new found batting techniques, thereby polluting it with their vulgar slogging. Assuming that international standards also drop a notch, thanks to the IPL, then, Test cricket won’t be Test cricket anymore.

Granted, with time, games like language, are bound undergo change, but not at the cost of the very foundation. For once, I’m with the ICC on their pompous-sounding, yet mostly toothless declaration in support of Test Cricket. There is just some noise, not even a semblense of a game-plan to see it through.

While this is the case, the BCCI selectors have proudly announced that they are watching the IPL with an eye on selection for ODIs. This declaration the biggest embarrasement for Indian cricket, perhaps on par the Harbhajan episode.

If Test cricket dies and takes with it, the Dravids, Tendulkars, Kallis-es and Chanderpauls, damn you, BCCI. The Aussies might turn out as the care takers of the purest form of the game. Then, as a fan of Test cricket, I will then have to throw way my pride and turn into an Aussie fan, through and through.


IPL Drama: Harbhajan slaps Sreesanth

April 26, 2008

On Friday night, after a rather irritating inter-city commute, I turned on the TV to catch the score from Yuvraj’s Punjab XI vs. Mumbai match. I was explaining to an elderly member of the family about how this match is being played between two losers. Shortly after checking the score (and the one-sided balance of the match at that point), I switched off the TV and put an end to the crazy day that was, wondering in the back of my mind if others shared my view on this being the clash between the sore losers. This morning, when I checked Hindustan Times (online), the front page had a picture of Sreesanth crying with Preity Zinta and teammate consoling him, which made me to think that Punjab has lost another one; but that was only until I read the caption under the picture.

Harbhajan, Mumbai captain, apparently lost his cool after Sreesant had said ‘hard luck’ and responded by hitting him beneath the eye. While I have not yet seen that footage, the media is aglow with images of a teary eyed, inconsolable Sreesanth.

My initial reaction to Bhajji hitting Sree and the drama that ensued was embarrassment – on behalf of Harbhajan. Bhajji has ruined it and has made Team India, the BCCI, and us (bloggers/viewers/fellow India supporters) and look like clowns after having supporting him in the controversial row with Symonds. The next reaction was – what self respecting 25 year old man cries on field when the entire world is watching? That might be harsh, but honestly, he also gets a bit of sympathy from me. While the media reports that Harbhajan threatened to complain about Sree to Tendulkar et all, if the latter sledges his batsman, perhaps something nastier was said and Sree, shocked that his career might be on the line, reacted the way he did.

All this leads me back to the question I had asked before the start of the IPL. Is IPL good for Indian cricket or will the league rivalries get ugly? After all, Harbhajan and Sreesanth are members of the Indian lineup first and such rows, however downplayed are bound to leave feelings of embitterment.

What shall we now think of Harbhajan? Should we now be more wary when we support him? With such behavioral problems, doesn’t he become a bit of a liability when touring? After this, teams like Australia and South Africa are bound to play up any little thing out of proportion. What about Sreesanth? The aggressor now becomes the cry baby. He is sure to be taunted with this for a good part of his career. Let’s not even think about what could happen when he tours Australia next. 😦

Shame on you, Harbhajan. You have now breached our trust; you have also added fuel to the embers of the burning controversy stirred up in the recent tour of Australia. Shame on you too, Sreesanth, though to a lesser degree, as it seems like you were the victim of senior-chauvinism so rampant in Indian cricket. We want to see Sreesanth the aggressive wicket-taker, not the Sreesanth the clown or Sreesanth the cry baby!