Another VVS Special – Ind vs Aus 2008-09: Day 2, 3rd Test

October 31, 2008

While Gambhir continued his onslaught to get his maiden double century, VVS showed why he is a very special player and why the people who advocated dropping him for a fifth bowler should be embarrassed and hide. He plays very quietly, knocking it around and before you know it, he’s got a hundred. Give it some more time and he’s past 150. Vintage VVS was what we saw today. What struck me the most was his reaction on the century (gesturing a bowler). Why are the seniors taking the media so seriously? Media scrutiny has been happening for some time. Granted, it’s more targeted towards the Fab four now, but the best way to get them off your back is by ignoring them and performing.

That apart, there are many questions/concerns from today’s proceedings. First, Dhoni’s irresponsible innings. He isn’t captain, so he didn’t care enough. What does that tell you of attitude? I can point to several such instances now. Secondly, I thought Kumble declared a bit too early. They should not have given Aus more than 10 overs to bat. Why? Thirdly, can India bowl Aussies out twice on this track? Doesn’t seem to anything in it yet. Furthermore, what does this innings mean for Laxman? He may have got the monkey off his back for the next match, but there are now two monkeys on Dravid’s back. I will save my thoughts on VVS at #3 for after the Delhi Test, but there will certainly be some talk about this.

As for tomorrow, the first hour will be key. India will need 2 wickets in the first session. Post lunch is often a sleepy session and nothing much happens. If India don’t act quickly, we might be headed for a draw.


Gambhir blazes – Ind vs Aus 2008-09: Day 1, 3rd Test

October 29, 2008

Most batsmen have a similar beginning. There comes a time when a young maverick sets the stage ablaze. Question are asked if that was an aberration, a mere spike from an average cricketer. What sets the legends apart from the regular cricketers is that they answers those very questions with the same answer again and again. Then the questions will change. They will ask why not another one? Then they will expect excellence in trying conditions and then demand. Legends answer all of these questions, and satiate the expectations in their own characteristic way: some emphatically, some grindingly. Then the bar is raised and for those that make it through, the legend in them is born. With time, situations get difficult – bad patches come and some last seemingly for an eternity. Legends see several such patches, hope for them to pass and climb out of the hole quickly. But sometimes, somewhere along the way desperation sets in. Every effort, in as much as it is earnest, seems so much harder than it should be. For some this is the end; the fortunate ones see them through. Those that do, reach a kind of nirvana, a sense of carefree bliss and the legend then unleashed in full power.

Today, I believe we’ve had glimpses of all of this.

Gambhir is now at the brink of having expectations raised. He’s answered the mundane questions several times but better tougher ones will surely await. More will be expected of him in the days to come. He holds a definite promise. The true test will come abroad. New Zealand might be harsh, but it will give us a good picture. Dravid on the other hand, is the legend in desperation, trying too hard to climb out of a hole he has dug for himself. It remains to be seen if he has utterly lost it, or will raise through to prove a point yet again. While I have my fingers crossed for the latter, I beginning to have very grave worries. Sachin, was the blissfully carefree man, playing a different game altogether, thoroughly enjoying himself. Pity that his innings came to an end so soon, but so do many blissful times.

Laxman may have played yet another axe-saving innings. While that should not take away from the class or the beauty of the innings, there is more he is capable of and will be expected of, especially when promoted up the order. Does the coveted #3 beckon?

I won’t go into the Australian bowling as I watched only the scorecard live on Cricinfo and then the highlights on TV. That being the case, it doesn’t take a genius to say that the Aussie bowlers have struggled and are resorting to the dirty old sledging tricks.

Where from here? India need to bat the most (if not the whole) of Day 2, make good use of the conditions and post a good total. If you ask me, anything between 500 and 600 will do. Then, our pacers and spinners can have a crack at the Aussie batsman.


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.


Congratulations Indian media, you’ve bettered the Aussies!

October 3, 2008

The Aussies have been very quiet this time. There were no proclamations of whitewash, announcements of thier “targets” and the like. Whether it’s the IPL cash or a new strategy, we might never know. But the Indian media have taken their place with what I like to call “senior ragging”.

The Indian media has the rumour mills working overtime with the “Ganguly retirement deal” and the VRS pact with seniors to plan retirements by December. What’s more appalling is the tone.

“Plan your retirement and you will be accommodated [irrespective of form and performance].”

“We want to give you are farewell, so take it now.”

That was on today’s Times of India. Is there a worse way to disgrace a sportsman? or a self-respecting human being? This is disgusting, Indian media! Shame on you!

If you need more, check this out on cricketnext. If you look through the entire set of picture, you will note that the seniors are “attempting” to take catches and Dhoni plays with the football. Why the uncertainty surrounding the senior’s capability and the certainty around Dhoni’s? Why this exaggerated age bias? Granted some of the Fab Four/Five might be past their prime, but we all see that, and they perhaps know that too. Why the disgraceful tone? Rambling a bit off-topic, what disappoints me the most, is that, we as Indians, historically have been known for “respecting elders” have now seemed to have forgotten our values. Why is young India so rude? This isn’t specific to cricket alone. There’s an obvious age bias in everything. Though, as a youngster, I reap the benefits of it, I think there is something wrong with this.

Meanwhile, a starkly different toned article has surfaced on Cricinfo – this one by Rohit Brijnath. Thank you Mr. Brijnath! In a very romantic article, Brijnath captures the essence of why the Fab four/five are entitled to their “hurt” on being “rubbished off” and told to shut off. They’ve been fighters all along. We’ve always wanted them to be that way. Why are we now expecting them to go tamely? While I’ve had different thoughts on this as late as last fortnight with my bid for a farewell to them, I’ve changed my mind on this matter. Perhaps the most fitting way for them to go in on their own – be that by being dropped or an unprovoked retirement announcement – not by a forced retirement scheme, certainly not with this tone. I also enjoyed Rohit’s nicknames for the Fab five: The Great One, the Precise One, the Defiant One, the Intense One and the Elegant One. Definitely Indian cricket will be different without them and it will take some stomach for some of us fans to read an India scorecard without Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid, Laxman and Kumble. But while they’re around, why not treat them with some respect, for all the joy they’ve give us?

With all this, we’re bound for one hell of a series!


BCCI’s bars Indian criketers from English counties with ICL links

July 17, 2008

No, I’m not kidding, the BCCI has got a serious case of ICL-cooties. Check out the story here. There has got to be some limit to this.

First, they call ICL a rogue league, then they ban them from ever representing India. After that, they ban counties with ICL players to play in the recently announced Champions League. Now they are barring Indian cricketers from signing contracts with English counties who have ICL players/staff. It is noteworthy here to point out that only Middlesex, Somerset and Essex have teams without any ICL players (source Cricinfo).

This will deny opportunities for Piyush Chawla, VVS Laxman and Ajit Agarkar, who are about to sign contracts with English counties.

How far can the BCCI take this? Here are some thoughts:

1. Retroactively ban Indian cricketers Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid, Kumble and Zaheer for having associated themselves with counties that now have ICL players. (As an aside, this will be Dhoni’s dream come true – a nice way to get rid of the seniors once and for all)

2. Get ICC to revoke international-status for cricket grounds belonging to counties with ICL staff. Further revoke such privileges from all grounds worldwide where an ICL player has set foot (again retroactively also). This will date back to ICL player’s pre-ICL days.

3. Stop buying any gear from all brands sported by ICL players

4. Ban all Test playing and affiliate nations from using colors used by ICL-bearing English counties, ICL teams, and ICL players (including their off-time)

5. Ban any future talent from playing matches in any form of cricket world who have had any association with ICL players, again retroactively applied. This includes friends and neighbors of ICL players, people who visit or own grocery stores, movie theatres, shopping malls, or any other public place graced by any ICL member.

I think I could go on, but you get the idea.

While I’m not surprised that the ECB hasn’t done anything about this yet, I would expect some kind of backlash, at least to save face. England should pull out of their tour of India in protest and suspend hosting any future tours of India until the issue is resolved.

This whole BCCI vs. ICL issue has been ridiculous. Kapil Dev’s ICL after all was started with good intent: to groom young Indian talent by providing them opportunites to play against international quality opposition. The BCCI have successfully thwarted them. Fellow blogger Q has suggested that they are left no other option but to take their cricket elsewhere, like the UAE. Perhaps that is the only alternative they have now to survive.


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.


The BCCI drama continues: starring Rahul Dravid and Dilip Vengsarkar

October 28, 2007

Vengsarkar bowled a beamer, as the squad for the first two ODIs in the upcoming Pakistan tour was announced, with the target being ex-captain Rahul Dravid. What was the need for this bizarre knee-jerk reaction? One bad series against the world’s best ODI side should not lead to being dropped; not for a class batsman like Dravid. After all, the story could have been different if it hadn’t been for a stunning catch near the boundary line in the Kochi ODI and Aleem Dar’s shocker lbw in Vadodara. The plot seems to thicken as media reports storm in which suggest that some selectors were looking to drop Ganguly but Vengsarkar insisted on Dravid. Adding to this is captain Dhoni insisting that his former skipper was being “rested”. Does an out-of-form Dravid need rest? Logically, the best way to get Dravid out of his lean path would be to demonstrate some faith in him and play him in a few ODIs or to have had him tart part in the Challenger series. But sadly, BCCI and logic are poles apart from one another!

What is more appalling than dropping Dravid, is some of the statements made by the chairman of selectors. Here is the worst; according to Vengsarkar, Dravid is “not adding value to the one-day side” (check out the TimesNow article for details). All this is being said of the man who not too long ago, pulled out a blistering 92 at Bristol and was captain of the side less than six-weeks ago. Says Vengsarkar of Dravid, ” he is a good player and has a good chance of coming back.” Honestly, that doesn’t really sound like a chance. All this politic-ing begs the question, if Sachin had had a bad series, would he have been given the same treatment?

While we digest the shock, consider the balance of the ODI squad that has been announced. Siddartha Vaidhyanathan pens a gem for Cricinfo here and I join him in asking a key question. Why are there five openers in this team (Tendulkar, Ganguly, Sehwag, Gambhir, Uthappa)? Add new comer Praveen Kumar, that makes six openers. Who will play the sheet-anchor role of #3 (ironically, the other man being dropped, Dinesh Karthik is also a #3 batsman)? The temperment for being #3 is not in Yuvraj yet, with flash-bang being his current mantra; there is potential indeed, but there is also plenty of scope for improvement. I had written earlier that India missed its #3 batsmen in the recent series against Australia and I have a feeling they will continue to miss that dependable #3 should the selectors persist on this route.

Check out more reactions on this:

Ex-cricketers criticize exclusion

‘Floater’s role took him nowhere’

Dravid shoud have been selfish

While the cricketing fraternity seems to be screaming about the shocker that is Dravid’s exclusion, only time can tell of what will be the fate of Dravid (as far as ODIs are concerned). A few middle order collapses in the first two ODIs against Pakistan may bring a flicker of hope for Dravid, but even one victory (however that may come) may see The Wall droop even more. God save Indian cricket from Vengsarkar!