India with a chance – Ind vs Aus 2008-09: Day 3, 2nd Test

October 20, 2008

A lot can happen in two days. India’s middle order, precisely Ganguly, Tendulkar and lower-order batsman Dhoni powered India to a decent total of 469. Four quick Aussie wickets meant that the Aussies needed some damage control. That they did, but nothing more. In fact, the Aussie damage control would have looked a lot less fancier had Watson been given out by umpire Rudi Koertzen when he was actually out. That would have given the Indian think tank some food for thought about the follow on. But forget it, they would have never enforced it anyway.

A lot of things have been good for India:

  • Ganguly’s silken century, his 16th ton in his farewell series enabled fans to watch Grace and helped India to a good total
  • Dhoni’s “gadayudh” batting helped us get quick runs and goes to prove my earlier point that Dhoni cares to perform with the bat only when he captains (ok, ok, it was a batting pitch and I’m being a little harsh here)
  • Mishra’s dream debut got him a fifer. So, the spin closet has one worthy item in it. One in hand and in form is worth ten times the weight in gold of a closet full of junk
  • Gambhir and Sehwag have gotten us off to a flier.

What needs to be done:

  • Viru and Gambhir need to bat some more and get more runs quickly
  • Don’t know if Dravid will bat at #3 tomorrow, but this could be the best opportunity to cement his place among seniors. VVS seems like he’s currently on tenterhooks.

It will be interesting to see when – both in terms of run and timing – that the declaration comes. I would think setting Aus 450-480 in over 3.5-4 sessions would be a good ask. Will we do it?

PS: Meanwhile, for those of you looking for a daily dose of Dravid goodness, he’s only 5 short of Mark Waugh’s record for max catches in Test. Mark Waugh was really cheap in saying this, but I hope Waugh is wrong. The only person close to getting a pair is an Aussie and he’s called Matthew Hayden. Waugh! Which match are you watching?


Dream Team XI – ODIs

July 5, 2008

While watching the bore-fest Asia Cup in fragments, I have been thinking, what would be the best ODI XI ever? I must add here that “ever” for me would probably go back 10 to 12 years, not more than that. Here is my eleven:

  1. Virender Sehwag
  2. Mathew Hayden
  3. Rahul Dravid
  4. Steve Waugh (c)
  5. Sachin Tendulkar
  6. Adam Gilchrist (w)
  7. Lance Klusner
  8. Wasim Akram
  9. Shane Warne
  10. Glen McGrath
  11. Mutthiah Muralitharan/Anil Kumble

12th man: Allan Donald

Honorable mention: Sourav Ganguly, Waqar Younis

Here is the reasoning behind the selection. The openers must be aggressive run getters. I almost made Sachin the opener, but somehow felt uncomfortable about Hayden and Sachin batting together; nothing serious, it just didn’t seem to fit. Besides, Sehwag as opener, when he doesn’t throw his wicket away can be rather demoralizing to the opposition.

Dravid has always been my dream #3 batsman, one who could steady the batting whether the team is 8-1 or provide spine when on 110-1. I wouldn’t pick anybody else for the part, maybe Ponting (but not on current form) and only if Dravid is unavailable. Waugh at #4 is another dream pick. Besides, Dravid and Waugh batting together would be interesting to watch, that too when the former being an admirer of the latter. I made him captain for his skills and the respect he is likely to get from the team.

It’s hard to pick an ODI side without Tendulkar. Ideally, he should either open or bat at #4. But having picked Waugh, I didn’t think any other position would be apt for him. Yes, Sachin at #5 could prove problematic, given his ordinary stats for #4 in ODIs. But I’m not quite sure what to do here.

Gilchrist plays as wicketkeeper and at #6 is bound to deliver a good amount of punch. Klusner plays as all rounder. The legendary Akram must figure in any dream team for his tact with both the new and old ball. As a better batsman, he bats above Shane Warne, who is another must-pick. I picked Glen McGrath for his impeccable line and length and chose Murali and Kumble to pick from depending upon the kind of variety required. Donald is my 12th man as I assumed we are playing on spinning track. On a green track, I would lose one of the spinners.

Team composition is a bit bat-heavy, especially with Klusner at #7, but these folk to me are legends.


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! 


The T20 World Champions prevail: India beat Australia by 7 wickets

October 21, 2007

The Bradbourne stadium came alive as India, the T-2o World Champions took on Australia in the much anticipated 20-20 clash between the teams. The South African atmosphere was replicated here with the hip music and dancing girls which added spice to the already curry-hot up series. If one needed more, yes there was: starting from cricket veterans like Ravi Shastri, Sunil Gavasakar, and living legend Sachin Tendulkar, to Bollywood’s best and “lucky-charm” Shah Rukh Khan who came with Deepika Padukone in tow (if media reports are to be believed, she was the captain Dhoni’s guest).

With Australia winning the toss and batting first, I was wary: the only match in the T20 World Cup that India lost (against New Zealand) was one in which they chased. Although that match included Ajit Agarkar, the run gift-giver, and this one did not, anything could happen in a 20-20 match. However, that was not to be. The first over was full of excitement, with Gilchrist slamming 3 fours and R P Singh bagging his wicket with a beauty of a yorker. More Aussie action followed with in form Ponting flourishing and runs flowing, but Harbhajan pulled some back when he struck early to send Mathew Hayden back to the dug-out. The manner in which MS Dhoni handled the bowlers here must be lauded; that, and some good fielding restricted the Aussies to 166-5. Although the Indian fielding did not live up to the high standards that they set from themselves in the South Africa during the T20 World cup, some brilliant efforts like that of Yuvraj/Harbhajan running out Andrew Symonds and a few saves from Uthappa and Yuvaraj made the difference. Everybody did their part: the bowlers bowled well, the fielders for the most part did well, and the batsmen mauled the Aussie bowling.

There are many good things for India to take from this victory. Most importantly, it proves, as captain Dhoni said in the presentation, “… that World Cup victory (in South Africa) was not a fluke”. There was energy in the field, the fielders were pumped up applauding each others’ efforts, the batsmen belligerent, and the captain bravely innovative. Secondly, they played as a team and beat the opposition comprehensively; I’m tempted to say that they pulled an Australia (although this is 20-20 and India are ruling at the moment): when Sehwag failed, Gambhir and Uthappa shone, when Sreesanth struggled, Pathan, RP Singh and the spinners compensated. Attitude was key. In the batting, although Gambhir set the foundation and Yuvraj helped see India to through, for me, Uthappa was the pick of the batsmen; the way he danced down the track to hit out speaks volumes of the confidence that he and this Indian outfit share. When Dhoni hit the winning stroke for six, I felt a rush of happiness, pride, and awe. In Mahendra Singh Dhoni, I think, India have found a great captain: he is not fearful of the unconventional yet is capable of pulling out some almost boringly traditional stuff (like his innings from the Lord’s Test earlier this year) and most importantly, his game strategy is as fearless as his words. With some patience from the selectors, the media and the fans, this man could turn out to be one of the most successful Indian cricket captains.

Here’s to the new victorious India and to many more victories!