Sehwag rules and Big Two falter – India in SL Galle Test Day 1

July 31, 2008

Sehwag played an almost uncharacteristic innings to steer India to a respectable total. As he got to his fifty, he played a very responsible hand sans the traditional “I am holier than thou” atttitude. It might seem hypocritical of me to brand Sehwag with attitude, as it is that very aggressive nature that has got him (and India) double and triple centuries. But that’s the way its been with Viru. Even while he played the responsible hand, punishment was meted out to the bad balls – a very Hayden-esque manner. Or maybe that takes credit away from Viru. I particularly enjoyed both his and Gambhir’s onslaught of the flatter of Mendis of Murali’s deliveries. Atta, boy(s)! Way to show the kid his place. Gambhir gave good company too. Maybe India has found it opening combination in Tests too.

If you’re wondering why the above reads Big Two falter (instead of Big 3), according to the laws, Sec 32(e) to be precise, Dravid should not have been given out. While there is speculation if the ball first hit Dravid’s own helmet or the fielder’s shoulder, it seemed to have hit the fielder’s helmet before Warnapura took the catch. Skeptics check it out here.

I have no words for Tendulkar and Ganguly and some sympathy for Dravid (although that should have been a better shot) – he finds a way to be given out in the most bizarre ways. Critics and Vengsarkar will only see the scores not the trivia. Dravid! Wake up! Please!

While we’re on the topic of Dravid, I find it interesting that two other #3 batsmen have been struggling for some time now: Michael Vaughan and Jacques Kallis (not to mention Ponting, who has aside of some aberrations, been in rather woeful form since Oct 2007). While Kallis seems to have found it this evening, Vaughan is still looking for it. What is it with these #3s? Is it us? Do we notice their failure more than others because the #3’s success or failure can psychologically, if not really, turn the course of game?

Meanwhile the umpiring referral has taken a new turn. The on field umpire seems to be becoming more conscious of his shortcomings and keeps his fingers in his pocket if he isn’t sure. Should they have always been this way? Given batsmen out only when they actually are? In case you’re wondering, I’m still ambivalent of this referral/review system.

At stumps with Laxman and Sehwag at the crease, India would do well to reach 300, though I doubt if that will be enough to win the game. If there’s anything to be thankful for it’s the toss. At least this way, India wouldn’t be batting in the fourth innings. With the pitch being all cracked-up even on Day 1 and the rain adding its bit to the already complex looking wicket, I think it would only be fair if Sri Lanka get to play through the wicked phases of the pitch.


Bangalore pull it off: Bangalore Royal Challengers vs. Deccan Chargers

May 25, 2008

For an IPL match that was largely called a battle to avoid the wooden spoon, it entertained quite well.

The entertainment value was not top class, but it felt like standard cricket: not too euphoric, for the most part, and even boring sometimes, but not without fluttering a supporter’s heart.

The Bangalore Royal Challengers seemed to have carried on some momentum from their previous unbelievable win against Chennai. Without Zaheer and Praveen, one would have thought the bowling had chinks, but the local boys and under-19s contributed well to the line up. The team spirit seems to have gotten better over the past couple of games.

Gilchrist won the toss and chose to bat first. Dravid responded by opening the bowling with Kumble, a move that seemd to suggest that he has returned to thinking ways, as opposed to panicking. Risky? Yes. Payed off? Not completely, but the Kumble-Steyn combination stopped the Gilchrist-Gibbs pair get off to a flyer. The move almost payed off with Kumble appealing although unsuccessfully for lbw against Gibbs. It remained just a close one, which umpire Koertzen turned down. Steyn continued some his good work from the the last couple matches. While the Deccan run rate was kept down to 5-odd for the first couple of overs, the bowling change to Kallis brought some change in fortunes. Shortly after taking a pummelling, Kallis retired hurt causing worries for the bating. The local boy Vinay Kumar with U-19 Virat Kohli succeded in keeping the Deccans down as Bangalore regularly picked up wickets. Perhaps the biggest blow for the Deccan was losing the IPL star Rohit Sharma after he hurt himself while batting.

Going by Bangalore’s chasing record, going after 165 seemed tough, but there was some hope with Jaffer on top to lead some stability. However, Jaffer turned out to be the clown of the batting line up for first running himself out and then atrociously running out the injured but belligerent Kallis by some very lazy running. Misbah came settled down, thrilled and went. Dravid also came, threatened to lead the chase, thrilled indeed with a six and three consecutive fours- all priceless beauties (including a Misbah trademark cheeky reverse one), but departed by mis-timing one from Sanjay Bangar. It seemed to be over for Bangalore at that point with the asking rate creeping to over 10. However they weren’t destined for the wooden spoon. Thanks to some hitting from until-now indifferent White and Kohli, but mostly to Akhil for sealing it with 2 sixes towards the end of 18th over. At the end of the day, it was team work that did it for Bangalore: everyone chipped in when it was required.

Mallya! You spilled trash too soon. This team isn’t as bad as your mouth.

Go Bangalore! Go Dravid!


Bangalore Royal Challengers raise hopes, but disappoint: Bangalore vs. Delhi

May 20, 2008

Back at home after a mentally gruelling (viewers included) tour of a couple of cities, Bangalore returned to face the Delhi Daredevils. What started off well, thanks mostly to some big hitting from Kallis, didn’t go too well, as the other opener, Chipli, fell soon. Dravid disappointed; I thought he was up for another blinder. Among the positives were Shreevats Goswami, who came good on debut, Misbah delivering after being long due, and Chipli’s fielding. It was nice to see the young Goswami hit cleanly and fearlessly; he was fairly good behind the stumps too. My heart goes out to the young wicket keeper batsmen of today. With Dhoni as the ODI captain, these kids might just end up playing Ranji for the rest of their career. Apart from the Misbah and Goswami, the other batsmen were just the same with run outs being atrocious. Even run-out-master Misbah seemd to be mouthing ‘are yaar’ on seeing his partners running amock. On the bowling front, other than Steyn and Kumble’s performance, there isn’t much to write about.

Either way, it would have been a tough one to win, given that at a point Delhi needed only 5 per over. They should have gotten Gambhir/Sehwag earlier or bowled really tight and got wickets. On the bowling front, Zaheer and Praveen did them in, big time and Kallis seems to be really out of sorts. One more wicket or better bowling might have seen them edge past. But at the end of the day, the better team won.

It was good to see the BRC’s fight back and some team spirit in their ranks, for whatever it is worth. Like Dravid said, I hope they spoil somebody’s party and end up with at least one more win.


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.


Bangalore Royal Challengers face the heat – sacking begins

May 7, 2008

With the sacking of Charu Sharma as CEO of the enterprise, Vijay Mallya’s Royal Challengers seems to be facing an off-the-field crisis in addition to losing woes. Apparently, bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad is on his way out too. I suspect Dravid will be next. I don’t know what the sacking of the CEO can do, when the problems are on the field. The BRCs don’t seem to have any team spirit going for them. Seven games into the tournament, they don’t have an opening combination. The international players in the team seem indifferent to say the least.

As fellow blogger Apurv notes, there seems to be very little sympathy for Dravid, and that after a desperate yet scintillating, classical-cricket knock against Kings XI Punjab (which is btw, the most uninspired name). After seeing all the nothing-shots and slogs going for four and getting applause, it was a goose-bump moment to see Dravid almost effortlessly cut and drive so beautifully. That 66 off 50-odd balls was a treat to watch and would have been worth its weight in gold if only the other batsmen chipped in. So dismal was the showing of the Bangalore team against Mohali, that apart from Dravid’s 66 and Kohli’s 30-odd, the 10 extras conceded was the next highest and the third double-digit score. They were in soup – duck soup (pun intended).

Most bloggers and media folk seem to be baying for Dravid’s blood with every loss. Granted, he got some of team selection wrong and is not the most inspired captains; but he would have expected a bit more support from the Test greats. Kallis has been a flop with the bat and ball and Boucher as unpredictable as the weather. Of the entire lot, Praveen Kumar and Zaheer Khan have given most bang for the buck.

In hindsight, it is fairly easy to speculate on the droopy-shouldered Bangalore team. Perhaps the knife had hanging at their throats for sometime now. One could almost sense that from Dravid and Zaheer’s desperate efforts. When the chips are down, nothing inspires more that trust and nothing deflates more that threats: a simple management principle that most people learn only when it’s too late.

Maybe this just goes to prove that people should stick to what they know best. Like I had mentioned before Cricket run by business men is like Tech companies run by those who don’t know more than a few buzzwords (and look for returns just as team is formed).

With such being the state of affairs, one can only feel sorry for the never-say-die man Rahul Dravid. 😦