Cricket Quickies: from Vengsarkar to Yuvraj and Younis

November 16, 2008

Yes, I promise to keep this short, for I’ve been rambling too much and I’m short of time but not of enthusiasm.

While channel surfing today, I caught a special on India’s tour of Australia in 1986 – an ODI at the MCG. Sunil Gavaskar was batting with a somber looking South India, whom I correctly guessed to be our very own Chika. While Chika’s simple style (at least of what I’ve seen in this innings) was catching indeed, what surprised me more was Dilip Vengsarkar. I’ve only known this man for the unkind words he’s had to say of Dravid. Today I got to the see the batting talent (among other things) that got him to the place from which he barbed. What struck me most in his expansive use of the crease, the sort of which reminds me of some 20-20 batsmen of late. The disregard for the stump guard that Vengsarkar displayed in this innings seemed very contemporary and is certainly not something I would have attributed to the batsmen from that age. Another thing that surprised me is that the next generation – Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman and Co – did not seem to have this disregard for the stump guard, but in fact meticulously guarded it and in effect seem perhaps rather orthodox given such precedents. If you’re thinking I’ve watched only one innings from the 80s and that my observations are off-base, do enlighten me.

Meanwhile, “flat-pitch-bully” Yuvraj slammed an impressive century at Rajkot and the cricket site are abuzz with polls of whether Yuvi should make it to the Test middle order. Strangely 72% of cricketnext visitors seemed to think so, while 52% of cricinfo visitors seem to think not! Strange isn’t it? I’d be interested in knowing the age groups of the folks to who’ve voted and their vote. In case you’re wondering, I voted against, on both the sites. 🙂

Another thought struck me today while watching parts of Pak vs. WI clash today. While I’ve labeled most of India’s recent ODI matches as boring, I found this one to be the contrary. I was not yawning, or absently glaring, waving my hands unconsciously when a four was hit, but was actually watching. There was class in Younis’s batting today (Ten Sports interrupted this with the ICL). There were elements from the ’90s batting, wristy flicks and “towards the ground” shots reserved in Indian cricket only to Tests nowadays. Call me old fashioned, but this was good ‘old cricket, without the fracas. May it live long!


An Open Letter to Dilip Vengsarkar

October 15, 2008

Mr. Vengsarkar,

Why are you vomiting? Perhaps this is why you decided to step-down as chief selector at the end of your term – because you couldn’t contain that verbal diarhorea that you had to contain on the insistence of the BCCI.

I have many questions for you. Let me start with by asking you – do you have any sense? I was going to ask if you had any grace, but then I realized you might be a little less on the sense quotient and often grace comes only after sense.

Didn’t you have enough with your barbs at Dravid last year. First it was criticism for not enforcing the follow-on in that Oval Test. As defensive as that might have been, given that we’d gone one up, was that victory – one that eventually came after a 35-year drought – worth gambling in hope of another? You effectively “suffocated” captain Dravid enough for him to step down. Though we know it is you, we may never know for sure.

Then you unceremoniously dropped the same man with over 10,000 runs in ODI cricket, who had produced a blistering 92 at a strike rate of over 80, not more than 5 matches ago. I won’t even question the selection as much the as unnecessary trash talk: “Dravid is a one-dimensional player[… he] does not add value to the ODI team”. When being asked to make a courtesy call to inform Dravid on being dropped, you apparently asked so arrogantly asked “Why should we call him? Did he bother to inform the selection committee before he resigned as captain?

Fortunately for you, Dravid’s fans are not like Ganguly’s. They will not gather in the streets or burn effigies; some may blog, but largely they may not even boo.

Maybe that is why you did not stop there. You’ve irked the Ganguly fans an embarrassed an Indian hero and great exponent of the game by dropping him from the Irani Trophy squad. I had written earlier asking why Ganguly became the “sacrificial goat”, if you care enough, you can read that here.

The most disgusting thing you’ve done so far is to lash out against Ganguly and vowed to “give back more than what he asked for” without even bothering to verify if he had in fact complained of your selection, on being let down, and made statements on cricketers’s change in hairstyles. Ganguly has denied having given that controversial interview. Now what do you think you look like? No, I won’t say it, as I have some grace left. What I can say, is that, going by the standards of the cricket fans in Kolkata and their adulation for their Dada, you may not be able to walk in the streets of Kolkata.

As if that wasn’t enough, you’ve also shot one at Test Captain Kumble. If an “..unfit Kumble [was indeed] letting the team down..” or you thought he “..should have come clean about his fitness..“, you could have told him, not the media, not in a middle of a toughly fought series likened to the Ashes.

Perhaps the BCCI should not have “gone soft” with your newspaper column writing in which you so unceremoniously trashed our heroes. It is rather bizarre why BCCI was as toothless as it was in the 80s with this prank of yours for long enough for you to have done significant damage.

I’m done with this rant of mine for now but I must add that I mean no evil to you and hold nothing against you other than your trash-talking crassness throught the wrong medium at the wrong time. While I don’t expect you to stop vomiting just yet, I only ask you think if any of this is justifiable, at least in retrospect, even by your own double standards.

PS: Actually that should have read as another open letter, for at least one has already been written by CommonFan here. I’ve been planning for this letter for some time, but CommonFan has inspired me to write my own rather caustic one.


Some Grace for the Fab Four

September 18, 2008

There aren’t too many Indian cricket journalists who write anything other than jingoistic match reports. Picking among the few that do write well, Pradeep Magazine is one of my favorite. He writes here on how the onus is on the selectors to allow our Fab Four an exit befitting their accomplishments and stature. Indeed, they’ve scripted some very famous victories in India and overseas and have given us some wonderful memories. Thank you, Mr. Magazine! Yes, Ganguly, Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman need to be given some space and a respectful farewell when it comes to it, not unceremoniously shoved through gaps between the door and its sill. Vengsarkar! Are you listening?

And there is no need to hurry this. While the argument of picking players on merit and form is valid, there aren’t enough quality replacements, especially in Tests. In fact the young ODI side is yet to prove itself overseas. Somewhere between ’96 and now, the quality of India recruits seems to have either gone down or gone unnoticed, especially in the batting and spin departments (though spin is a different story altogether and merits a separate post). There hasn’t been another decent batting recruit after that of Ganguly and Dravid in 1995-96. Yes, there was Sehwag, but aren’t we still debating his worth? Yes, that might also be because we try to shove all of them in the opening spot, but we still don’t have a decent opening pair. Thanks to T20 cricket and IPL, the  batting situation may only get worse unless deliberate efforts are put in. The India-A tours are a step in the right directions. In a few years, we should have a good idea about who from the India A is worthy of the India cap for a decent term. That should be way to go.


Cricket Ramblings of the week

December 4, 2007

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged and I’ve had withdrawal symptoms so I back for a quickie. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks: been doing some things I like and some things I hate and finding out other things that I have yet to do. Anyway, on to cricket.

India-Pakistan 2nd Test- Kolkatta

The 2nd Test at Eden Gardens between Kumble’s India and Younis Khan’s Pakistan was rather boring. The first two and half days threatened an innings victory for India. I personally liked Jaffer, Laxman, Dravid and Ganguly’s innings, although I must say this innings of Ganguly’s was distinctly different from some of his others from the recent past. It was bejewelled with patience, which he seemed to have almost run out of after his captaincy stint. He seemed stubborn almost adamant on getting a century on his home ground. My goose-bump moment for the match was the crowd’s reaction to Dada’s big one here! That must feel really awesome! Go Dada! Way to get a few more tons!

Eden is paradise to Sourav

 

Sourav celebrates his ton.
Pic source: Cricinfo

 

As for the Pakistani batsmen, other than Misbah no one looked to attach too much value for their wicket. It’s primarily temperment/attitude that was required of the more experienced batsmen. Akmal finally came good and Younis and Yousuf notched up a match saving knock to save their pride and keep the series alive, although I think they all survived a couple of definite and vociferous lbw appeals; perhaps Koertzen was having a hangover from what would have been Sangakkara’s match saving innings. And Billy Doctrove owes one to Dravid for that horribly wrong decision he gave in the first innings.

 

Personally, going by statistics and past India-Pak experiences, I would think that Bangalore Test will see the tourists leveling the series with a victory. I would give this 75% chance. But going with their current trend of mediocre bowling, fielding and horrific batting, I am forced to reduce that chance maybe to 30%. The part that will play a major part in Pak’s fortune (apart from the pitch, of course) is the Pak batsmen’s attitude. If Younis, Yousuf and Misbah carry on their positive attitude, the bowlers might perk up and come with a better performance. Averaging those two numbers we arrive at 52.5% chance of Pak winning the Bangalore test. I don’t have much else to say on this except ‘wait and watch’.

Vengsarkar vs. The BCCI

What the fuss about? I say good bye and good riddance. But I doubt if it will be so simple. This issue has seen the see-saw typical of an India-Pak match. Perhaps they want to make up for the lack of on-field see-saw. One day the BCCI says that he is free to leave and the next day they seem to be singing a different tune. There will be more to this drama. What say you?

Murali exceeds Warne! Jayasuriya calls it a day.

Go Murali! Now someone from the subcontinent tops the highest wicket taker list. Yay! Jayasuriya’s retirement announcement seemed a little bit of a surprise. Even though he is 37, he seemed to be in very good knick. Sorry to see him go. Maybe we will see him in the ICL!

Meanwhile, the ICL kicks off with a Brian Lara duck! I’m quite excited about this and would rather watch an ICL match that the boring Aussie county cricket that Star Cricket airs. Btw, a question for Star Cricket: why would you air Aussie county cricket on a channel dedicated to the subcontinent?
Ciao for now!


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!