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?


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!


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!


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!