Can we have a cricket match please – Ind in SL 2008

August 9, 2008

This is getting to be ridiculous to say the least. The umpiring review/referral system which promised much has wrecked havoc for India in this series. Billy Doctrove turned down a plumb lbw decision today, prompting more ire towards the umpires among India supporters. Sri Lanka are reviewing everything and are getting away with murder. Perhaps they have learned the art from Ricky Ponting. Samaraveera’s almost mocking shake of the head when Kumble asked for review is nothing short of umpire coaxing. For me, such distasteful cricket took the charm out of Sangakkara’s innings.

At the risk of sounding socio-centric, I must say the umpiring review system has been very one sided this series. Sri Lankan batsmen enjoy the batsman’s benefit of doubt while Indian batsmen (primarily the Big Three) have been the victim of the umpire’s doubt. So now we have to fight not just two incompetent blokes but three. Perhaps the folk behind this are now happy that India will now have doubts about the use of technology and the like. For it is us, who created a riot after the atrocities of the Sydney Test and ousted Bucknor. Perhaps it is only fitting that Bucknor’s fellow bystander that day, Mark Benson, has stood in this series so far. Benson is surely having sweet revenge. Such atrocities make even a draw, let alone a victory, a herculian effort (out of form batsmen nothwithstanding).

Yes, I did mention the Big-3 here and while I’m itching to spill my thoughts on them, I will wait till the end of this Test. Till then do us wait.


India lose 1st Test on Day 4 – India in Sri Lanka 2008

July 27, 2008

The agony is finally over. If it was agonizing for the Indian batsmen, it was equally so for us to watch that. A rain-delayed Test match that initially seemed destined for boring draw, gave India its third greatest defeat on the 4th day and has raised scathing questions of India’s Fab Four (in fact, Fab Five, including Kumble who went wicketless).

I actually started writing this post hours after the innings defeat to Sri Lanka, but didn’t get around to writing more than the first sentence. Perhaps that was for good, for it wouldn’t have been anything more than ranty, rambly, irritated, angry and haunted. Today, I feel very differently about it and have more sympathy for the batting line up, than they have been getting in the last 24 hrs. That’s not to say there is no anger, neither is there any proper excuse for the manner in which the batting folded completely, but if at all there is any slack to be cut it is for this Indian line up. This Indian line up won against at good South African line up, a weak Pakistan team, and had Australia on the mat on several occasions, so much so that Gilchrist conceded that India won the series 2-1. Somehow, we have forgotten all that and ranted in typical Indian fashion. So what caused this colossal debacle? We can only speculate in hindsight. Maybe it was complacency, maybe it was lack of preparation, perhaps it was even a sense of taking Sri Lanka too lightly (or at least lighter than they should have), but to me the most unforgivable part of this collapse was the lack of fighting-spirit and self-belief among the top order batsmen.

Let’s look at this from a first innings vs. second point of view, and a bit objectively shall we? To me the first innings seemed more like a mix of less-than-50% effort,”neither-here-nor-there” faith, rashness, and complacency than lack of skill or being bamboozled. The second innings was starkly different: one of over-cautiousness, despair, resignment to loss and finding the quickest route to it.

Here is my analysis by batsmen:

Sehwag: started rather aggressively, though many suggest (and I agree) it was more brainless than foolhardy. He was in T20 mode, but he has always be in that mode, even before that form of the game exsisted. In the second, he played with a bit more brain, maybe had some harsh words from coach Kirsten, but was given out on a very contentious decision. What are the umpires paid for? Can’t they make it through one match (or even one innings without a glaringly wrong one). The on-field umpire (though this was Mr. Incompetent Benson who I have ZERO respect for him), I understand – he has only a split second to decide – but not third umpire Koertzen who could have very well caught the deflection off the pad, if only his eyes were open.

Gambhir: played in T20 fashion, but quite well, better than I had expected, especially in the second innings. There was a trace of intent to occupy the crease. Though he fell to Murali in the very early overs in the first innings, and then again to Murali in the second, the latter was a more patient Gambhir. This kid will learn and must be persisted with, above any of the younger lot.

Dravid: arguably the tragedy of the batting line up. Is it the media pressure,or the board pressure for wanting him to keep wickets else get lost? He started the first innings rather positively – that uppish shot off Murali(?) which fetched him one of his two boundaries from that outing was nothing short of positive. But he was clearly bamboozled by Mendis’s carrom. The second innings demotion from #3 was possibly to allow Laxman to hold one end, or even in the hopes of an Eden repeat from 2001, but this move probably shattered the shards of self-confidence that he brought. I don’t know what has happened to India’s never-say-die man with so-called nerves of steel. If anyone deserves any faith, it’s him. God save Dravid!

Tendulkar: The man most capable of tackling Murali, with an average in the 60s against him, threw his wicket away in the first innings. He seemed to be in half a mind whether to play it or leave it, and ended up dragging it on to his stumps. Forgivable? By Tendulkar’s standards, no, but nobody’s perfect. The second innings dismissal is just sad. There isn’t much else to be said there.

Ganguly: first innings rashness and a saw him play a sweep shot, when he knew a fielder was there. Completely uncalled for while chasing a mammoth score. The second innings attempt by Ganguly was nothing short of callous carelessness. He had already given up, not wanting to fight it out.

VVS Laxman: Ok, I don’t have the heart to blast him, not after that tremendous effort in the first innings. No one, I repeat, no one else can fight with the tail, without losing hope, even in the most hopeless situations. In times of dire need, there is a sense of relief when he takes to the crease; a feeling that the damage will stop, even if it is to delay the eventual. He deserves to bat at #3, though nobody else can bat so successfully with the tail at #6. With Dravid in the state he is in at the moment, it seemed logical to promote him (which I had suggested here), but he fell and too quickly for the Indians to digest.

Dinesh Karthik: I think he has reached the end of his sudden stroke of luck in Dhoni’s absense. Though I will not be surprized if he makes in next XI, that might just be it.

Having said all this about the Indian batting, it was a collective failure that cost India dear – batting, bowling and fielding. You cannot allow fear to overcome skill. Umpiring atrocities notwithstanding, you cannot drop a batsmen twice, that too the likes of Jayawardene, and expect the favor to be returned or to win a test match. You cannot bowl to pass time without any regard to line and length. On the other hand, you must not milk a fast bowler till he bleeds. Kudos to Ishant for a gutsy showing with the bat: he lasted 70 mins with Laxman and faced 54 balls, for his 13.

Credit must be given to Ajantha Mendis for getting two of India’s best – Laxman and Dravid – not once but twice. That is more credit that I could ever write. Murali was perhaps his normal self. The pressure that both the spinner put from either end helped them both.

What now for India? Some gameplan, strategy and tons of self-belief and courage. Meanwhile shall we stop the trash talk for moment? This series ain’t over yet!


The Umpire Review System – India in Sri Lanka 2008 1st Test Day 1,2

July 24, 2008

Two days have gone. Allright, really one day and a bunch of overs have gone and this battle seems to be lot less interesting that what it was touted to be. But maybe it’s too early to judge.

As for India, the intensity wasn’t there. After all the “we need more intensity” statement making by Zaheer Khan, he ended up being the more erratic bowler with the second new ball.Umpire Mark Benson wasn’t helping either. Is it just me or did he seem too harsh (to the point of getting his revenge from the Sydney Test fiasco) with the no-balling of Zaheer? I thought that c&b decision early on Day 2 no-balled by Benson wasn’t right. Kumble wasn’t amused either. Technically, if the foot lands on or before the line, that is what counts, not that it skid later. Remember that dismissal of Jaffer in the Sydney Test. Allright, I’ll move on ahead from here – back to the match. I only watched the highlights, so I won’t comment on the Sri Lankan batting or the teams’ use of the review system. While that is case, it was interesting that the young members of this squad – Gambhir and Kathik – dropped more catches than fielding howlers by the India seniors. But I’m pretty sure, if things go badly, the BCCI and Dhoni will have their way with branding the seniors. (Ok, couldn’t resist that taking at dig at MSD).

On the umpire review system, while it a step ahead, I’m afraid it will induce a new parameter to deal with, espcially with the three unsuccessful appeals. When to use/save these referrals will add a new needless dimension. What if you’ve used all the appeals, you are nine down on Day 5 of a Test match and a tail ender is given out off a delivery he didn’t nick? Isn’t that just as bad as not having the system at all. If you’re wonder if I’m going the Ian Chappel way with this, no, I’m not. If you ask me, why cap the number unsuccesful appeals. Also, why stop with only the decision of whether the batsmen is out or not. Any decision that seems wrong should be referred. Umpires are human and that is respected, but when help is available to enable the right team win, I don’t see why it shouldn’t be used.

Meanwhile a thing that has been bothering me for a while. Why isn’t there a better rating system for umpires? If a batsmen/bowler isn’t worth a spot in a squad, he is forced out of the door. When this is the case, why should the umpire survive after giving several howlers. Yes there is shortage of umpires, but that is perhaps for a reason too, which need addressing. There seems to be no way to tell the incompetent from the good ones, which is unfair to the good umpires. Perhaps incompetence and fear of that fact that might get hightlighted even more is why Benson feels the way he does about the review system.

As for the rest of this match, I see it inching towards a draw, unless India tumble to the spinners.


Cricket: Crying bloody murder at Sydney

January 7, 2008

Cricket was murdered in Syndey on Sunday, 6 January 2008. May it rest in peace, says a fellow blogger. Evidence gathered dates back to 2 January, 5 days prior to the date of the crime. While sources hold that the Australian cricket team and umpires Steve Bucknor, Mark Benson and Bruce Oxenford, it remains to be seen if they will be held responsible.

Ok, enough with the formal tone. What happened in the 2nd Test at Sydney can be called nothing other than cheating! The chronology of events is roughly as follows:

  • Day 1: Australia win toss, opt to bat first. The post-lunch session saw the Aussies down to 140-odd runs with the loss of 6 top-order prize wickets. It would have been lesser if Ricky Ponting was given out when on 17, rather than when he wasn’t out when on 50-odd runs.
  • Day 1-2: Symonds walks in to bat and gets three reprieves (starting from when he was on 30) courtesy the umpires Bucknor, Benson and Oxenford. Symonds went on to score an unbeaten 162.
  • Day 3: India bat after bowling Australia out of 463; end innings with a lead of over 60 runs. When one thought it seemed like a rather peaceful day, given that Days 1 and 2 had seen a rush of umpiring errors, Andrew “insecure” Symonds alleges racial abuse by Harbhajan Singh.  A clear case of the pot calling the kettle black, but perhaps that adage is racist as well.
  • Day 3, 4 and 5: More cheating. Jaffer given out off Lee’s no-ball. Dravid gets a shocker of a decision from Bucknor, given caught behind when the bat was no where near the ball. Even Dravid couldn’t take it. He mouther “Aye yaar” and walked off in mock-laughing-disbelief . Shortly afterwards, Ganguly was given out  by Benson, after having a word with 5th umpire-cum-Aussie-skipper Ricky Ponting on a catch that definitely was not cleanly taken. Then the Aussies took over with the excessive appealing. R P Singh was another victim of dubious umpiring.  Shortly thereafter, it was all over. The game was murdered by shams in the baggy-green and conspirators in white coats.  

 After being of the receiving end of all the cheating, I though Anil Kumble conducted himself and the team in a exceptional manner. All he had to say was that “….only one team was playing with the spirit of the game, that’s all I can say.…”

What was even more atrocious was the proceedings following Harbhajan’s hearing on alleged racism. The claim was made by Ponting and Symonds on Day 3 with the hearing scheduled for Day 4. Shortly thereafter, Match Refree Mike Proctor goes on record saying that wasn’t enough evidence against Harbhajan. Later on Day 4, media reports confirm that the Aussie team at the hearing will be represented by Ricky Ponting, Andrew Symonds, Adam Gilchrist, Mathew Hayden and Micheal Clarke (undoubtedly being “groomed” for captaincy). Sunday’s hearing goes on for hours on into the early hours of Monday with Proctor issuing a 3 match ban on Harbhajan Singh purely on the words on members from the Aussie team.

What a sham! What disgrace! On man being charged with racism, a serious charge, on the word of another.  When did Tendulkar, Kumble and the Indian team management become liars and Ponting and co become upholders of truth?

What is heartening to see is the BCCI’s strong (and rather unprecedented) stand on this issue. I think India must cancel the rest of the tour and demand for damages in protest of an unfair game and unfair treatment of Indian players.

Perhaps the largest threat to Harbhajan Singh after he returns to India, as many India-supporters point out, will be from the monkeys in India for allegedly calling Symonds one of their prided pack!