India win thriller: VVS – Spectacular is thy middle name

October 5, 2010

Limitations sometimes propel people to greatness. Sometimes, when something is missing, you focus more on how to compensate for that missing something. This time, there were two batsmen with limitations – VVS with his back spasm and Ishant with a knee issue – that fought with sterling grit to snatch victory from near definite defeat!

VVS Laxman proved yet again that he’s not only special, he’s Spectacular. Having played perhaps the most innings (for a solid Indian bastman) with the tail, he knew how it had to be done. It’s just that the luck and grit was needed from the other side. The kind of calmness and poise he brought with the bat was invaluable, not to mention juggling a runner and a tail ender. Even today, year after the Laxman-ODI debate,  many fans of Indian cricket will rue why he never made it to the Indian ODI team.

I started watching today’s proceedings on after Ishant came to the crease. I was expecting a bit more from Harbhajan, for all his improved batting and the like. I must say, equal credit in the win must go to Ishant. What he couldn’t do in Sydney in 2008 to draw a match, he did to win this one. And what a time to choose to display such grit! Kudos to the young fellow. With temperment like this, he’s bound to go a long way! And that must only auger well for India.

The Aussies deserve special mention for their efforts, for without that, today’s match would not have been the nail biting advertisement for Test cricket that it was. They peppered the top order with bouncers, chin music, rib rackers and the like, causing them in turn to crumble, although not without some semblance of a fight. Hilfenhaus was perhaps at his best (from my memory of him in recent games). But they perhaps missed Bollinger in the later half of today. Despite that, the fielding from an Aussie side was a bit below par. They don’t generally drop this many catches, and miss this many run outs. Ponting’s lack of the gambler’s instinct didn’t help either. I don’t understand why he didn’t try Clarke’s off spin.

Mediocre umpiring on also played its hand in the game. But fortunately, the errors went in favor of both sides equally. If Hussey missed out, so did Gambhir. If Ishant was given out lbw off a clear edge, Ohja was given a reprieve. What iis strange is that even the third umpire got at least one controversial decision wrong. This is what keeps me still against the controversial Umpire Refferal system.  What needs to be done, is the quality of umpiring improved. If the on-field umpire isnt sure what to do, he must ego-lessly refer to the third umpire, and not merely give in to vociferous shouts from in-fielders.

Having said all that, it was still a thrilling day of Test cricket. It’s unfortunate that one team had to lose. While I’m not complaining too much about that, I think in the end, the battle was more in the mind, as it turns out with many such thrilling games.

Long live Test Cricket.

Looking forward to Bangalore!

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India’s tour of New Zealand 2009: the Nitpicks

April 13, 2009

Allright folks, the party’s over. The players are headed to join their IPL teams. That means time for us to nitpick India’s tour of New Zealand.

Nitpick #1: The pitches. Ok, well, just the Basin pitch. It wasn’t typical Basin at all. That was perhaps the most disappointing feature of the tour of New Zealand. While the 02-03 tour was replete with ridiculously unbattable pitches, which embarrassed even the host batsmen, the pitches we saw here were mostly batsmen friendly. There was no shocker pitch, denying us of an opportunity of ruing an Indian batting collapse.

Nitpick#2: Ishant Sharma’s inability to use the breeze and Munaf’s to bag more wickets. Yes, this is a bit harsh. Ishant received some harsh ones from the umpires, but didn’t live up to the expectations in terms of wickets. There were some exceptional spells and there were some ordinary ones, thereby cause for some thought. Munaf’s bowling was fair. To me, he lived up to the standard of a “filling-up-the-overs” bowler, but not to that of a third seamer. The third seamer needs to consistently pick up wickets. Bowling in Tests isn’t only about economy. You can’t win matches with an economy of 2-odd, as beautiful as it might seem.

Nitpick #3: VVS Laxman and Sehwag’s inconsistency. Again, this is harsh and almost atrocious that Laxman and “careless” Sehwag are being blamed for the same thing, but there is more to this. VVS is expected to deliver. When he scores 30 we get upset because he’s capable of 40-60 every innings. Laxman’s scores read 30, DNB, 76, 124*, 4 and  61. That’s 295 @ 73.75 avg. Not something we should be grumbling about, but the issues are with the 30 and the 4. The 124 was priceless and came in a time when India needed it most. Sehwag on the other hand, truly disappointed. His scores read 24, DNB, 34, 22, 48, and 12. That’s 140 @ 28. Makes one wonder if it’s the same man who hits triple centuries at will. Sehwag played a classic innings at Galle. We all know he’s capable. It’s just about that application. We’re not asking him to turn into a Wall.

Nitpick #4: Yuvraj Singh – fielding and batting. Seriously what is he doing in a Test team, especially, a touring Test team. I see the logic in keeping him for the home series, but not on tours. He had his chance in Australia – a change which involved a needless shuffling in batting order to “acomodate” him. His fielding has also been below par this series. If you ask me, I’ll swap Murali Vijay for Yuvraj in overseas Tests. It will be worthy investment.

Nitpick #5: Dravid not making a century. Ok, this is more of a  nitpick. Dravid was the third highest run getter of the series with 314 runs @ 62.8. Given that this came in the wake of a year long run drought, it’s great. That he couldn’t turn the 83 in the first Test into a century giving it up to an uncharecteristic shot was very disappointing. Also disappointing was the dismissal for 35 at Wellington after all the hard work.

Nitpick #6: Collective lack on initiative at Wellington on Days 4 and 5 deprived us of a 2-0 victory. Should we have declared earlier? Maybe 20-30 runs earlier, not too much earlier. But the question as to whether we could have got those wickets in that time is another question altogether. Honestly, I’m fairly happy with 1-0 victory, maybe that’s the conservative Indian in me speaking. Just would have been nicer, that’s all. That’s why this is #6 and not #1.

Nitpick #7: Sehwag’s captaincy. After all the experience, we expected better from him didn’t we. This isn’t about the way he batted in that Test, though that would also count for “inappropriate” from a captain. There was something missing when he captained – maybe he know he’ll forever be 2nd choice. That X-factor that Dhoni brings was missing. Sehwag’s definitely got it. He just needs to find it.
it.

Nitpicks done. Do weigh in with yours.


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 2nd Test Preview: Why are we so unsure?

October 15, 2008

The Mohali Pitch will not be the “usual Mohali” pitch. It will have bounce initially but will turn later. God! What does this mean? What do we do if we lose the toss?

Pacers and Kumble can use the bounce. But what if Ponting has figured out Ishant? Have all the Aussies gotten a hang of Kumble?

“Danger man” Stuark Clark may not play? But Peter Siddle may debut. What if our middle order can’t figure him out – given our records from a Lee in ’99 to Chris Tremlet in 2007 and Ajantha Mendis in 2008 (bowlers on debut)?

What if we can’t get Hussey at all?

It’s raining in Mohali. What could that mean?

Seriously, is it just me?


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!


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!


IPL Saturday: Chennai vs. Kolkata, Bangalore vs. Jaipur

April 26, 2008

A double-humdinger is about to play out today with a two pairs of evenly matched teams ready to challenge each other. The Chennai Super Kings vs. Kolkata Knight Riders, touted mainly as the Ganguly vs. Dhoni match will feature a few interesting duels including Ishant vs. Dhoni. I will be interested in the field that Ganguly sets for Dhoni, Parthiv Patel, and Kaif – all three being cricketers brought to limelight under Ganguly’s captaincy.

I expect the Bangalore Royal Challegers vs. Rajasthan Royals to be a cracker of a match with two deep strategists Dravid and Warne facing off. Bangalore will be boosted by the inclusion of Pakistan’s Misbah ul-haq but continue to be plagued by Sunil Joshi in the absense of Kumble. The most interesting contests here will be  Warne the bowler vs. Dravid the batsman. For once, I will be hoping that Misbah doesn’t land himself in trouble with the (largely unforgivable) scoop shot.

Cheers Kolkata and Bangalore! 🙂