India’s tour of England 2011 – Trent Bridge Test – shall we sing the lament now?

August 2, 2011

Four days of Test cricket.

Two and quarter days of fighting cricket. The remaining was trash. Add in some vaseline, Bell runout gate and all you get is a waste of time.

India’s 2nd innings was a joke. Laxman and Dravid perhaps were too frustrated and let the others do some of the cleaning. What did the others do? Sachin made another meaningless half century. Harbhajan forgot to feign injury while batting to score 40 odd. Dhoni and his ODI boys did the usual. There is no excuse for this.

One cannot blame the bowlers too much. They toiled hard on day 1 and on day 3 without support. Some of field settings at key times were the most defensive I’ve seen in a decade. It felt like we were back to the post-Azhar Sachin and second-innings-Azhar age. Granted, the bowlers caved at time, bowling outside off, wide, and making it easy for the batsmen to score. What was required was some unity and team spirit. There was nothing like that going on. Maybe that had to do with divisiveness on Bell run-out-gate.

Ganguly was right. This season will tell us just how good a captain Dhoni really is.

As after any drubbing, there are more questions than answers. But I don have one answer – India are losing this series.

I will eat crow if they level!


India’s tour of England 2011 – Why the tours of England are special

July 31, 2011

I’ve almost always had a rush of nostalgia when India is about to tour England. The green grass, blue skies, the contrast between the “Surf-excel-white” clouds and the tourquise blue of the sky, the picturesque grounds, the lovely breeze and the occasional sweater worn by the spectator adds an element of other worldly magic to the drama that is about to enfold. India’s tours of England have brought back some lovely memories that run back to the summer of’96. There are several such occasions – the World Cup 99, the tour of 2002 and the Nat West final to name a few. The tour of 2007 seems so fresh, I can recall many of details – Zaheer Khan and the jelly gate, Dravid’s tired captaincy, his struggle with runs, Wasin Jaffer’s lazy elegance, Dinesh Karthik’s rise to consistent 45-50 opener, Kumble’s century, Micheal Vaughn’s batting, Tendulkar’s struggles in the 90s, and what not.

Part of what makes this special is a rather mundane aspect – the time of play for the Indian viewer. You can come back from work, either on a high, or tired and drained of energy, and let your mind take on something completely different and to be engrossed in it. There are days when the cricket energizes you and days when it lets you lament.

Another tour is upon us. And this tour, as in 2007, is touted to be last of the greats of India’s batting – Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman. Thus the need to savor it is greater than ever before. One hopes that there is, somewhere in India, a kid who yearns to emulate their techniques and deeds!


World Cup 2011: India World Champions

April 3, 2011

That’s a sentence I thought I might never say!

That punch of Dhoni’s that was sent high into the stands, brought a billion dreams come true. And those of some old souls who didn’t live to see. This is big! This is the World Cup and yes, it’s true. India have won it!

This team, ably coached by Gary Kirsten et all, has given us many wonderful memories. From Perth to Wankhede, it’s been a wonderful journey. Not a roller coaster ride, but a smooth nearly blipless one. Thanks to Kirsten and co. Thanks to Dhoni for the cool headed leadership. Today, not even the harshest MSD critic would have a gripe in saying that he deserved the man of the match, perhaps more than any other time – for Tendulkar yesterday did what he normally does in tournament finals and deciders for over a decade. Thanks to the young team for bringing us all this joy! But let us not forget those who, since ’99, have sown the seeds for this victory in spirit. I still feel bad about 2003, but this is not the day for that!

This day, we celebrate!
And yes, this victory is for the people of India!
Cheers Team India! Vande Matharam!


Steely Dravid steals the show – series heading to a result

November 22, 2010

With a mammoth 191, which could have been a memorable double ton, Dravid stole the show today in a charecterestic fashion. On a day when people waited for Tendulkar’s 50th century and many other bizzarre statistics, Dravid played a watchful hand to take this game out of New Zealand’s reach.

Because I missed the first century of the series, I made sure I watched this one. Got a bit excited after the 50, and more so after the runs started to flow. Once the straight drive from circa 2003 showed up in the innings today, I started to feel that this might be a big one. The late-cut was played to perfection. The signature patience was there. Apart from a few moments of indiscretion which Dravid visibly chided himself over, the innings was one of perseverance. What is very heartening to see is that this wasn’t a scratchy ton like the one from 2008 against SA. It was one played with much deliberation, thoughtfulness and caution perpered with some of the most beautiful late-cuts. The high price he sets over his own wicket has returned; maybe it never disappeared, but the results he got made it seem so. Apparently, the NCA and Kirsten had a lot of do with the preparation, esp against the left armers, (McKay for the day). What was also nice to see was some shots from T20 which one seems him play so well in the IPL.  Pity to have missed out the double ton, though.

Despite all of what’s been said about how Dravid has played this series, and in the last year, I think a lot also has to do with this day when Pujara was sent in at #3. Even that very day, when Dravid came in to bat at 5 after Tendulkar, there was a little less of the visible desperation and a bit of determination rising.

Maybe it is second wind for Dravid! May Bhogle’s prophecy come true.

Congratulations Dravid. Wish you many many more such innings!


Finally, some truth: Dravid scores over Tendulkar

August 17, 2010

A new study by economists at University of Ulster and University of Queensland that has the India media whining, rates Dravid and Sehwag over Tendulkar. While many fans may express surpize over the results, close watchers of cricket would agree that mere averages do not truly reflect a value of a player and the study brings to light what many of us have been screaming about for years!

This study rates a rough 60 in a total of 200-odd over 200 in total of 600.

There are several tables with rankings for different parameters . The “Top Fifty Batsmen in Test Cricket” rates Dravid, Ponting at 4, Kallis at 5, Tendulkar at 7 and Sehwag and Kambli at 8. This uses the Gini co-efficient to measure the “evenness of results”. We see similar ratings for “Home and Away Certainty Scores”, “The Relation between Individual and the Rest of Team”. In another table “Contributions to Their Team Score by the Top 50 Batsmen in Test Cricket”, Dravid ranks 5, while Sehwag and Tendulkar rank 6. It is noteworthy here to mention that Sehwag is at 6th position, having played in only72 innings; Dravid’s rank was from167 innings and Tendulkar’s was from 209. What is more reflective of this is the “Ranking by Average, Value-Adjusted Average, and Value-Added Adjustment” where Sehwag leads Indian batsmen with a value adjusted average of 79, Dravid with 71 and Tendulkar at 70.

While it can be argued that such studies have their biases (Laxman does not feature here) and uses the right set of parameters to crank out the right set of results, one cannot help but notice that if there is real value, it will shine beyond mere hyperbole.

This paper is a must read for the nerdy amonst cricket fans. It can be downloaded from the Berkeley Electronic Press.


India’s tour of SL: Laxman leads India to victory; series level

August 9, 2010

In a scintilating day of Test cricket, fans of this form of the game revelled in its beauty and unpredictability. Test cricket is alive and kicking, folks. All one needs is a good pitch (and not to mention decent bowlers). After several months, I watched nearly the whole day of the proceedings, like one would watch a limited over game.

When Tendulkar and Laxman came out to bat needing over 200 runs to score, it was easy to write India off, specially with the abysmal fourth innings record we have had. Apart from Adelaide 2003, and in the 2008 (Chennai?) Test, we haven’t chased and won a Test in the last decade. Year 2008 involved a blinding Sehwagian innings to setup the victory; Year 2003 was a long time ago; Dravid and Laxman were in their prime. Laxman proved that today, he still is! Battling pain and nerves, he batted like a champion that he is, scored a sedate century and saw India through. I must admit that while Laxman was batting, I was never worried that he might get out. So calm and assured was the stroke play that if one hadn’t known about the back spasm and didn’t see the runner, one wouldn’t know that there was something wrong. He played his classing “knock-the-outside-off-legside” stroke, only to score regularly and almost single handedly win it for India.

Special mention must also go to Suresh Raina. I must admit, I’m really turning into a fan. I’ve been very skeptical of his technique. It was a dream Test debut for him indeed. The true test will come in foreign conditions. If he can repeat this in either South Africa/England, he will cement his place and have usurped Yuvraj “very fat” Singh for good.

Congratulations, Laxman and India!


India’s Tour of SL 2010: It starts with mysteries

July 10, 2010

Am I the only one to be surprized by Mendis’s exclusion?  He and Murali bowling from either ends gave the famed Tendulkar-Ganguly-Dravid-Laxman laden Indian lineup a run for their money in 2008. It would have been worth it to see how they rack up this time. One wonders if there was some under-the-table BCCI wrestling. One sure hopes not.

Why is Murali retiring after just one Test? Why not play the remaining two of the series?

If there’s one mystery, it’s that the umpire referral system is not be used in the India-SL series. No surprizes there?