Stodgy India save Napier Test

April 1, 2009

What a couple of days of Test cricket. Nowadays, it’s more satisfying to see a team save a match while chasing a mammoth total than it is to see a match with a result.

This was the occasion to show grit, and it was very satisfying to the hyped Indian batting line-up live up to their statistics. While Sehwag threw away an opportunity to show his captaincy prowess and give Dhoni some competition, Gambhir has taken a huge stride forward in his Test career. It will be sometime before we can truly bank on such innings from him for it takes more than just a few gritty innings to be called the Wall, even if it is Wall version 2. That said, credit needs to be given where it is due. He’s definitely a class apart from the other youngsters, Yuvraj included. Way to go Gambhir! I will not call you just a dumb slogger riding on form anymore.

Speaking of thrown away opportunities, add Dinesh Karthik to the list: his wicket keeping, from what I saw, left a lot to be desired. Looks like all of Dhoni’s competitors (for captaincy and keeping) have either given up or have no hope or intention. On to Yuvraj “I’m either a Prince or a rabbit” Singh. I think it is about time we replace him at Test level with some other promising talent. Where is Vijay who debuted against Australia? Now that would be a talent to nurture for the future.

Our good old Dravid once again did the job that only he does best, except this time, it was cut short by an umpiring error. Fellow blogger Soulberry has also ranted about this evil that cricketing has been plagued with of late. The newly elite Ian Gould has robbed us of what could have been another golden Dravid innings. Like Soulberry says, with such a sweetly timed six that one would wonder why there weren’t many more of those in his Test career. For the nth time, Dravid’s defence was serene and sublime. Brush me aside for being a fan-girl, but this innings of Dravs was definitely special. And some of us wanted him to retire. To me he looks good for another three years. I cannot stop marveling at the patience and grit. Go Draivd, you rock! Moving on, VVS and Sachin were vintage adding to the job that needed completion; nothing less.

So we think we battled it out. But not everyone agrees. This article by Kiwi journalist Paul Lewis had me thinking, and bit offended. True, we did in the past produced dust bowls in India, thanks to our internal pan-BCCI squabbles, we’ve often offered a green top to a side with exceptional fast bowlers. If there is a doubt on the ability of this Indian line up, which I think is probably the best one to deal with the green top on windy conditions (only I would replace Yuvraj with either a promising youngster like Vijay, or with good old fiesty Sourav) in over two decades. So, give us the green top and challenge us. Then we shall see who has conquered.


Cricket Ramblings from the weeks I’ve missed

January 20, 2009

There’s been so much I’ve wanted to write about while I was away- Pietersen quitting, Dravid scoring not the least- so here’s my random rambly attempt to catch up.

Dravid scores
After eight months and not too many runs, Rahul Jammy Dravid scored his second century of 2008, one that came after much media speculation, blogger deriding and what not. I remember that innings rather well and was fortunate to be able to catch that given my schedule at that time. I recall a feeling of painful dread that set in when I watched Dravid take guard that day, knowing at the back of my mind that the umpire’s finger may go up any time. Reconciled to what seemed only to be a matter of time, I was only hoping please, let it not be a duck. Interestingly, that day, it was not be a duck! Dravid build the innings, almost cringingly. I remember the early parts of that innings to be slower than “Dravid slow” and more poking-ly than ever before, but for fans who did not relent, we got to see a fairly good innings. Was this vintage Dravid? No. But after the 60s, it was soothing. Runs seemed to flow painlessly, albeit slowly. We got to see the wristy flicks and late square cuts that we hadn’t see Dravid play since that blistering innings at the Bristol ODI in India’s 2007 tour of England. After several months, this Dravid fan was happy, just plain happy. What was most fitting was Dravid’s press conference after the century. In characteristic fashion he thanked those who supported him thought the tough year for it seemed that they had almost “gone through the journey with” him. That to me is classic Dravid! Join me in wishing Dravs a very Happy Birthday (belated thought this might be).

Pietersen steps down as England captain
If only India held the legal rights for changing captains for every drink of water, it seems we have passed that on for the world to relish! England’s captaincy woes in the past couple of years remind me of India’s Azhar-Sachin-Azhar-Sachin days. It’s a pity what happened with Pietersen, for I thought his daring leadership was England’s best chance to regain the Ashes. Strauss, whose form seems to show signs of return, will be again burdened with captaincy, thus making the England top order a bit more vulnerable than before.

South Africa win Test series 2-1 in Australia
J P Duminy starred in a record 4th innings run chase that would have made all those who wrote off Test cricket to eat crow. What a scintillating innings, what daring batsmanship! One cannot discount captain Smith who set it all up with an almost trademark innings. Australia have a long way to recovery now. While there are chinks in the South African armour – as we saw in the 3rd Test match – they seem to be bigger in the Australian armor. This series will make Australia’s upcoming tour to South Africa a very interesting one to look to.


Another VVS Special – Ind vs Aus 2008-09: Day 2, 3rd Test

October 31, 2008

While Gambhir continued his onslaught to get his maiden double century, VVS showed why he is a very special player and why the people who advocated dropping him for a fifth bowler should be embarrassed and hide. He plays very quietly, knocking it around and before you know it, he’s got a hundred. Give it some more time and he’s past 150. Vintage VVS was what we saw today. What struck me the most was his reaction on the century (gesturing a bowler). Why are the seniors taking the media so seriously? Media scrutiny has been happening for some time. Granted, it’s more targeted towards the Fab four now, but the best way to get them off your back is by ignoring them and performing.

That apart, there are many questions/concerns from today’s proceedings. First, Dhoni’s irresponsible innings. He isn’t captain, so he didn’t care enough. What does that tell you of attitude? I can point to several such instances now. Secondly, I thought Kumble declared a bit too early. They should not have given Aus more than 10 overs to bat. Why? Thirdly, can India bowl Aussies out twice on this track? Doesn’t seem to anything in it yet. Furthermore, what does this innings mean for Laxman? He may have got the monkey off his back for the next match, but there are now two monkeys on Dravid’s back. I will save my thoughts on VVS at #3 for after the Delhi Test, but there will certainly be some talk about this.

As for tomorrow, the first hour will be key. India will need 2 wickets in the first session. Post lunch is often a sleepy session and nothing much happens. If India don’t act quickly, we might be headed for a draw.


Gambhir blazes – Ind vs Aus 2008-09: Day 1, 3rd Test

October 29, 2008

Most batsmen have a similar beginning. There comes a time when a young maverick sets the stage ablaze. Question are asked if that was an aberration, a mere spike from an average cricketer. What sets the legends apart from the regular cricketers is that they answers those very questions with the same answer again and again. Then the questions will change. They will ask why not another one? Then they will expect excellence in trying conditions and then demand. Legends answer all of these questions, and satiate the expectations in their own characteristic way: some emphatically, some grindingly. Then the bar is raised and for those that make it through, the legend in them is born. With time, situations get difficult – bad patches come and some last seemingly for an eternity. Legends see several such patches, hope for them to pass and climb out of the hole quickly. But sometimes, somewhere along the way desperation sets in. Every effort, in as much as it is earnest, seems so much harder than it should be. For some this is the end; the fortunate ones see them through. Those that do, reach a kind of nirvana, a sense of carefree bliss and the legend then unleashed in full power.

Today, I believe we’ve had glimpses of all of this.

Gambhir is now at the brink of having expectations raised. He’s answered the mundane questions several times but better tougher ones will surely await. More will be expected of him in the days to come. He holds a definite promise. The true test will come abroad. New Zealand might be harsh, but it will give us a good picture. Dravid on the other hand, is the legend in desperation, trying too hard to climb out of a hole he has dug for himself. It remains to be seen if he has utterly lost it, or will raise through to prove a point yet again. While I have my fingers crossed for the latter, I beginning to have very grave worries. Sachin, was the blissfully carefree man, playing a different game altogether, thoroughly enjoying himself. Pity that his innings came to an end so soon, but so do many blissful times.

Laxman may have played yet another axe-saving innings. While that should not take away from the class or the beauty of the innings, there is more he is capable of and will be expected of, especially when promoted up the order. Does the coveted #3 beckon?

I won’t go into the Australian bowling as I watched only the scorecard live on Cricinfo and then the highlights on TV. That being the case, it doesn’t take a genius to say that the Aussie bowlers have struggled and are resorting to the dirty old sledging tricks.

Where from here? India need to bat the most (if not the whole) of Day 2, make good use of the conditions and post a good total. If you ask me, anything between 500 and 600 will do. Then, our pacers and spinners can have a crack at the Aussie batsman.


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 fail to capitalize – Ind vs Aus 2008-09: Day 1, 2nd Test

October 17, 2008

On a day that will only be remembered for the milestones, India’s top three batsmen will rue the fact that they failed to make merry on a what seems like a batting paradise.

In case you missed it, here are the milestones

  • Sachin breaches 12000 runs in Test Cricket
  • Sachin makes 50th Test 50 and is the second Indian to do so after Rahul Dravid 🙂
  • Sachin breaks West Indian Brian Lara’s record for most runs scored in Test Cricket
  • Ganguly crosses 7000 runs

Meanwhile, there was a game of cricket being played.

Sehwag should have paid attention. Dravid looked set for a big one with some of the shots reminding us just what kind of a player he is. He should have capitalized on what looked like his best innings in the last 4 Test matches. Gambhir should have stayed on, he got stuck after lunch and fell shortly after Dravid. I have no words for Laxman. Maybe he should not have been promoted up the order – it seems almost like some kind of a curse. Tendulkar and Ganguly each played a brilliant innings, one true to their reputation. This partnership has saved India some blushes.

India will do well do get to 400. Does Amit Mishra bat? My fellow Delhi-ite bloggers NC, SB and SP will know better if deserving debutant Amit Mishra can bat. Now a days one has more faith in India’s lower order than our middle.


Sachin breaches 12K

October 17, 2008

Not only did Sachin break Brian Lara’s 11.9k+ record, he went on to create a new 12000 run club in Test Cricket. Who better than Sachin to have inaugurate the most elite of clubs?

What was most striking today was the way he tore apart Aussie bowling on his way to a brilliant 88. I really thought he would get to the 100 today (nervous 90 jitters apart). He certainly deserved that, and what an occasion that would have been. But that will remain so.

Today, it is all about Sachin – the man Indian never tires to watch.