India’s tour of England 2011 – Trent Bridge Test – an Ad for Test Cricket

July 31, 2011

The Trent Bridge Test has been a great advertisement for Test Cricket. From the packed stands to the quality pitches, the game has provided entertainment to all. Granted, it has been a low scoring match, but has had all other ingredients that an engrossing Test match need.

The English collapse and recovery, Broad’s hat rick , Laxman’s art, Dravid’s colossal century, Yuvraj’s comeback,  the Indian collapse all interspersed with a bit of Indian tadka – the Praveen Kumar rant and the Sreesanth antics.  A word must be said on the umpiring – while Erasmus has been inconsistent, Asad Rauf has been so accurate, its almost inhuman.

Day 3 will be key. So will Ishant. This day will decide who the winner of the Test will be, for this most certainly will not be Draw.

Cheers to Test Cricket! It is alive and kicking!

 


India win NZ series 1-0

November 24, 2010

Yay!

Could have been a more convincing series victory, had the pitches been more conducive. Credit to NZ for a good batting display in the first two matches of the series. Pity that they got a few bad decisions in the Nagpur Test from umpire Nigel Long. Despite, that I still believe the URDS referral system in its present form won’t help. What will help is the way umpires like Taufel refer when they aren’t sure. There’s an element of self-respect/ego from the umpires that takes a beating while doing that, but when they do let that go a little bit, it buys them back a lot respect.

Positives for India from this series:

1. Gambhir showing signs of returning to form from a temporary slump. The ODI series and added responsibility as captain might help that further.

2. Man of the Match Dravid finds his lost touch and gets runs! There cannot be better news before the SA tour starts. Yes, the conditions will be different there, but one know what to expect from a veteran.

3. Pace battery charged up – Ishant seems in great form. If Zaheer returns, both of them on SA pitches can be a handful. Sreeshant has had a good comeback too.

Can’t wait for South Africa!


IPL 2: So it isn’t boring after all

May 4, 2009

I must admit that I’m the one who vowed not to watch the IPL 2, who wore my thoughts on my sleeve about how this season can be nothing short of very boring. I’m now very guilty for I’ve watched more IPL matches this year than the last.

Credit must be given to the pitch masters of South Africa. It isn’t for nothing that the T20 World Cup in 2007 was such a hit. It isn’t just about the Bollywood babes, catchy tunes, and scantily clad cheerleaders. If the cricket’s boring (and the tickets expensive or spectators’ conditions poor), the tournament becomes doomed. By getting the pitches right and the ticket prices right (if the commentators and other tournament-folk are to be believed), cricket South Africa have ensured the success of the tournament.

Perhaps this even balance so produced by quality pitches have ensure that insipid sides like Rajasthan and weekend ones like Punjab don’t seem that great this year. Suddenly the Asnodkars and the Mascarenases don’t seem that valuable. You’ve got to get the cricket right here, which is why the good old folk – Dravid, Tendulkar, Boucher, Kumble – and those among the new who are worth their salt – Badrinath, Duminy, RP Singh – and the like are making merry.

The teams and their fortunes

Royal Challengers Bangalore and Deccan Chargers

The shift away from India has benefited two teams that found themselves at the bottom of the table last year: Bangalore and Deccan.

We all knew Deccan had it, it just wasn’t clicking for them. That RP Singh has had a lot of success in South Africa adds a lot to their attack.

Bangalore’s is the miracle recovery. I think it has more to do with team spirit and Kumble’s captaincy than Ray Jennings’ coaching. Besides they are the side with almost an all South African combination with Indian stars. They lucked out that the tournament moved to their real home. Bangalore doesn’t belong in India! 🙂 On yesturday’s thumping victory over Mumbai that involved chasing a score of over 140, while Uthappa’s innings might be a flash in the pan, Kallis I think has indeed found himself in the T20 version. I cannot end a paragraph about the BRCs without mentioning Dravid. He started the tournament with a sparkling 66 of 40-odd. That he is back in the squad will add the much needed backbone to the Bangalore team. Dillion du Pree, the debutant yesturday seemed like an inspired pick. Four overs might be too early to judge, but he may yet become the star of Bangalore attack, surpassing a certain lackluster Dale Steyn.

Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab

For those who just couldn’t understand how the Royals won the tournament last year, myself included, this year, so far has been a vindication. The team has little value in the young mavericks. Veteran Saffer batsman Smith isn’t exactly setting anything on fire; they are missing Sohail Tanvir the most. Watson might have been another flop here – not a huge fan of him.

Kings XI is kind of neither here nor there. Their bowling department has lucked out with the selection of Abdullah. They are missing Sreesanth, Lee and Shaun Marsh. Jayawardena isn’t in cracking form. For me this is a 50-50 team. Could go either way.

Mumbai Indians and Delhi Daredevils

The two most balanced sides – Mumbai and Delhi – have got fairly good results so far, the latter more than the former. Mumbai’s bowling has expectedly been bolstered by Malinga’s form and Zaheer’s presence. Is it just me or does somebody else also think Zaheer seemed more lethal when he was bowling for Bangalore?

Delhi lost Shikar Dhawan this year, but thankfully for them, he isn’t in form. Viru is yet to blast away that 10+ an over rate for the first 6-8 overs, but it might only be a matter of time.

Chennai Super Kings

Last year’s uber geek team is languishing in the table. Why that is the case is beyond me. Dhoni and Albie aren’t contributing too well. But that apart, you’ve got to believe it’s a matter of a few wins to see them in the top four where they belong.

Kolkata Knight Riders

The most woeful of the teams this year. Given the degree of off-field woe which seems to be propagating on-field, they probably deserve to be where they are. The batting isn’t clicking, McCullum’s batting looks stressed; he’s not the free flowing carefree man from last season. Ganguly is smug, Ishant erratic and unsupported by horrible fielding which reminds of Indian team from the early 90s, Agarkar is well, just plain Agarkar. Buchanan and his army needs to be shown the door and Ganguly or somebody else made sole captain.


IPL Drama: Harbhajan slaps Sreesanth

April 26, 2008

On Friday night, after a rather irritating inter-city commute, I turned on the TV to catch the score from Yuvraj’s Punjab XI vs. Mumbai match. I was explaining to an elderly member of the family about how this match is being played between two losers. Shortly after checking the score (and the one-sided balance of the match at that point), I switched off the TV and put an end to the crazy day that was, wondering in the back of my mind if others shared my view on this being the clash between the sore losers. This morning, when I checked Hindustan Times (online), the front page had a picture of Sreesanth crying with Preity Zinta and teammate consoling him, which made me to think that Punjab has lost another one; but that was only until I read the caption under the picture.

Harbhajan, Mumbai captain, apparently lost his cool after Sreesant had said ‘hard luck’ and responded by hitting him beneath the eye. While I have not yet seen that footage, the media is aglow with images of a teary eyed, inconsolable Sreesanth.

My initial reaction to Bhajji hitting Sree and the drama that ensued was embarrassment – on behalf of Harbhajan. Bhajji has ruined it and has made Team India, the BCCI, and us (bloggers/viewers/fellow India supporters) and look like clowns after having supporting him in the controversial row with Symonds. The next reaction was – what self respecting 25 year old man cries on field when the entire world is watching? That might be harsh, but honestly, he also gets a bit of sympathy from me. While the media reports that Harbhajan threatened to complain about Sree to Tendulkar et all, if the latter sledges his batsman, perhaps something nastier was said and Sree, shocked that his career might be on the line, reacted the way he did.

All this leads me back to the question I had asked before the start of the IPL. Is IPL good for Indian cricket or will the league rivalries get ugly? After all, Harbhajan and Sreesanth are members of the Indian lineup first and such rows, however downplayed are bound to leave feelings of embitterment.

What shall we now think of Harbhajan? Should we now be more wary when we support him? With such behavioral problems, doesn’t he become a bit of a liability when touring? After this, teams like Australia and South Africa are bound to play up any little thing out of proportion. What about Sreesanth? The aggressor now becomes the cry baby. He is sure to be taunted with this for a good part of his career. Let’s not even think about what could happen when he tours Australia next. 😦

Shame on you, Harbhajan. You have now breached our trust; you have also added fuel to the embers of the burning controversy stirred up in the recent tour of Australia. Shame on you too, Sreesanth, though to a lesser degree, as it seems like you were the victim of senior-chauvinism so rampant in Indian cricket. We want to see Sreesanth the aggressive wicket-taker, not the Sreesanth the clown or Sreesanth the cry baby!


Should the sub-continent teams think again?

February 3, 2008

After a hostile series and more interest in off-field action, this tour of Australia will perhaps go down in history as the one of the more infamous in the history of the game, perhaps second only to the Bodyline series (based on what I have read about Bodyline).

I think it all started with the Aussies getting chucked-out of the T20 semifinals, that scar is still red and burning. Added to that was India’s aggressive on-field behavior ala Sreesanth and off-field salvos fired ala Uthappa seen during Australia’s recent ODI tour of India; throw in a few Indian victories, and you have a desperate Aussie side, plotting revenge at any cost (something that I think they need not do with the quality of cricket they play). So the Bhajji issue was raised. Arrive the Lankans, and the eggs and abuse are hurled.

Fellow blogger Ottayan suggests that in the wake of such hostility, it is better to call off the series. I ask why not re-think the whole idea of sub-continent teams touring Australia, at least for the moment?


A drab series ended: India-Pak 2007

November 20, 2007

Is it just me or was this India-Pak series just a little drab. There wasn’t too much of see-saw or nail-biting. Granted India did well, after a seemingly long draught of ODIs series victories, but this wasn’t what the India-Pak fan expected to see. There was no Shoaib-Tendulkar/Ganguly frenzy nothing much to look forward to with excitement.

For me the most disappointing thing in the series was Pak’s lack of enthusiasm. They just weren’t being Pakistan barring the final ODI esp after they got Tendulkar. Tanvir’s mad punch in the air after getting Tendulkar was the essence of what Pakistan represents. They thrive in aggression and aggression helps them raise the level of their game. Seriously, this was a tame Pakistani side; so tame, that they looked like India under Dravid (don’t get me wrong, Dravid is a fine batsman, but I was never a fan of his captaincy).

Shoiab Malik’s captaincy was fairly boring. He seems to lack the courage to try something different, let alone gamble. In fact, I can draw many parallels between Malik and Dravid’s captaincy, the chief one being defensive techniques employed. But one feels sorry for the man who has been recieving flak for everything he seems to be doing. Ramiz Raja seems to be heaping it truckloads. The other disappointing factor from the Pak side was the absence of Imran Nazir in the first 4 ODI. Nazir, to me, is a classic Pakistani one day opener who can thrill with all the frills (but can also fail miserably under trying conditions)  ala Afridi (who also disappointed big time) and provide a good platform for the middle order.

From the Indian side, there isn’t much for me to say aside of what I have I already been saying about the past few matches. A good victory, but this isn’t anything to gloat about; if Pakistan had been even 10% better, the result could have be harder to achieve if not different. Many things worked for India:
– Dhoni’s captaincy
– Good opening partnerships
– Tendulkar’s in sublime form (or should I say holy)
– Yuvraj-Dhoni’s consistent contributions
– Better pace bowling
Some things look good for the future:
– Rohit Sharma’s gritty innings in the fifth ODI
– RP Singh and Irfan Pathan’s contributions through the series

Having said all that, the fifth ODI was a little bit of an aberration for the current resurgent India. Not just because that they lost, but the manner in which they did. If you were wondering what it would have been to watch Indian cricket in the 90s, this was what it generally was: mediocre bowling from the spearheads, abysmal part-time bowling, lazy fielding, and batting collapses. Ok, the fifth ODI wasn’t as bad, but fearfully close. The fielding was back to its lackadaisical style; the bowling was fairly poor except for flashes of brilliance from Sreesanth (which was followed by some big-time ball-spraying). Praveen Kumar had a fairly good debut, but I was more impressed with the new Pak wicketkeeper Sarfraz Nawaz and new-kid-on-the-block Fawad Alam. I had written about Rohit Sharma earlier and he definitely a promising prospect for post-Dravid India at #3. Indian batting fell apart with flashy and almost reckless Tendulkar dismissed after a dangerous shot; ditto for Sehwag. Gambhir was unfortunate but not as much as Yuvraj. Uthappa at #3 was a mistake; to me he is more of an opener (in the right conditions) or excellent #5. Even the 2 sevens on Dhoni’s borrowed shirt couldn’t save India.

One other aspect of this series that has been on my mind is the relative ease with which both teams are being fined. First for slow over rate, then heavily fining Afridi and Gambhir and then Yuvraj for dissent (though I saw the coming the moment he gestured to the umpire). One wonders why a baby-face Ponting who blinks after lbw decisions and close stumpings doesn’t get the same treatment. If we are to copy the Aussies here, shall we call this racism?


India seal series 3-1 against Pakistan

November 16, 2007

After a 24 year draught, India have pulled it off convincingly against Pakistan at home. I had written earlier that this series involves two closely matched sides, but I have now been proved wrong. Pakistan pulled an India (from the 1990s) and India pulled off something that is almost unbecoming of an Indian cricket team: sealing a series before the final match. There’s still one match to go in the series, so I’ll save my thoughts on the entire series for after that.

Many things went into the record books for the Indians in the Gwalior ODI. First, 18 years to this very day, a boy who would become Master blaster Tendulkar set foot in the international cricket arena against the same opponent. Sourav Ganguly picked up his 100th ODI wicket in Afridi: not a bad 100th to get! Giving him company was Zaheer Khan who picked up his 200th. Captain Dhoni who hit the winning stroke for six has now done that for a record 5 times.

After all that, the Gwalior ODI will be remembered by most Indian fans for the blistering innings from Tendulkar; an innings that will shut his critics up for some time to come; an innings that should have gotten him his much sought after 42nd century. But sadly, for the sixth time this year, that was not to be. A fellow blogger called it Tendulkar-nineties and it remained that this time around also. Perhaps he should have listened to his son and gone for a six when on 94! Perhaps the problem is with the fact that he wants to get the ton on singles. I think that is part of the problem; until the 90s, he is blazing, but when in the nineties he seems to stop playing his natural game. That apart, this innings from Tendulkar proved one significant fact: this man is nowhere near retirement; he played strokes like a batsman in his prime. This one was definitely the finest Tendulkar innings I have seen so far.

Many things came together for India in the Gwalior ODI: the bowling was better, the fielding sharper and the chasing impressive with Yuvraj and Dhoni seeing India through. What would be more satisfying would be to give some members on the ODI-bench some time in the middle, esp Rohit Sharma and Sreesanth. One move that surprised me (one each for India and Pak) is the exclusion of Sreesanth and Imran Nazir from the playing eleven. It would be nice to see both of them play. The Indian line-up I would like to see is: Tendulkar, Gambhir, Sharma, Yuvraj, Dhoni, Uthappa, Sehwag, Pathan, R P Singh, Harbhajan, Sreesanth.

Will Pakistan save face or will India dominate? Jaipur will hold the answer.