India win thriller: VVS – Spectacular is thy middle name

October 5, 2010

Limitations sometimes propel people to greatness. Sometimes, when something is missing, you focus more on how to compensate for that missing something. This time, there were two batsmen with limitations – VVS with his back spasm and Ishant with a knee issue – that fought with sterling grit to snatch victory from near definite defeat!

VVS Laxman proved yet again that he’s not only special, he’s Spectacular. Having played perhaps the most innings (for a solid Indian bastman) with the tail, he knew how it had to be done. It’s just that the luck and grit was needed from the other side. The kind of calmness and poise he brought with the bat was invaluable, not to mention juggling a runner and a tail ender. Even today, year after the Laxman-ODI debate,  many fans of Indian cricket will rue why he never made it to the Indian ODI team.

I started watching today’s proceedings on after Ishant came to the crease. I was expecting a bit more from Harbhajan, for all his improved batting and the like. I must say, equal credit in the win must go to Ishant. What he couldn’t do in Sydney in 2008 to draw a match, he did to win this one. And what a time to choose to display such grit! Kudos to the young fellow. With temperment like this, he’s bound to go a long way! And that must only auger well for India.

The Aussies deserve special mention for their efforts, for without that, today’s match would not have been the nail biting advertisement for Test cricket that it was. They peppered the top order with bouncers, chin music, rib rackers and the like, causing them in turn to crumble, although not without some semblance of a fight. Hilfenhaus was perhaps at his best (from my memory of him in recent games). But they perhaps missed Bollinger in the later half of today. Despite that, the fielding from an Aussie side was a bit below par. They don’t generally drop this many catches, and miss this many run outs. Ponting’s lack of the gambler’s instinct didn’t help either. I don’t understand why he didn’t try Clarke’s off spin.

Mediocre umpiring on also played its hand in the game. But fortunately, the errors went in favor of both sides equally. If Hussey missed out, so did Gambhir. If Ishant was given out lbw off a clear edge, Ohja was given a reprieve. What iis strange is that even the third umpire got at least one controversial decision wrong. This is what keeps me still against the controversial Umpire Refferal system.  What needs to be done, is the quality of umpiring improved. If the on-field umpire isnt sure what to do, he must ego-lessly refer to the third umpire, and not merely give in to vociferous shouts from in-fielders.

Having said all that, it was still a thrilling day of Test cricket. It’s unfortunate that one team had to lose. While I’m not complaining too much about that, I think in the end, the battle was more in the mind, as it turns out with many such thrilling games.

Long live Test Cricket.

Looking forward to Bangalore!


India lose series 1-2: Musings on the Fab Four

August 11, 2008

I must first forewarn you that this is not an organized collection of thoughts. It’s a largely an emotional response to the series thrown away and hope lost of seeing the Fab-four in action together.

After a day and of half of holding on to the fine ray of hope, nearly living on the edge, the most logical result has shown its face. I’m sure fellow blogger Soulberry shares in my fatigue. Soulberry, you seriously raised my hopes with your stats on the Dravid-Laxman partnership. They looked promising, esp, Dravid, but I guess it just wasn’t to be. This goes to prove you cannot win a Test match with 4 injured players, especially if it includes your strike pace bowler. A few overs of Ishant could have made for a different story, but many will feel that he could only have delayed the inevitable.

It was a rather hyped series given the sub-continental flavor. As an Indian cricket fan, it is a sad day not because this is just another series loss, but because, I think we might have seen the last of the Fab-four playing together. Not because that should be the case, but because I think that will. Indian fans and the BCCI have been known for their knee-jerk reactions to everything: World Cup exits, victories and umpiring errors alike. I expect that one of the four places will now go to a junior and as SP predicted, I suspect that it will be Ganguly, but honestly, I think it should be Tendulkar. Either way, some of us, fans of the Fab-four, need to brace ourselves for some brutal ones to come.

While the rational side of me says it is only fair that one of these places go to a junior, a part of me also fears the selectors will pick the wrong senior to replace and give his place to a wrong junior. The selectors might pick a teenager who scored in the IPL 20, the likes of Rohit Sharma. We need to pick from our regional circles, a player who has scored well. Doesn’t matter if he is 30. The Gangulys and the Dravids, the two who have probably lasted the longest in the history of the game (apart from Tendulkar, of course) came in their late twenties, after being seasoned by good old Ranji. At the moment, the only batsman deserving of a Test call up is Badrinath, but I think Rohit will get it earlier and fail. That said, some of the senior folk could use some domestic match practice as well.

Galle victory notwithstanding, we lost the series in the first Test: mostly psychologically. There was pressure on the seniors from Asia-cup-fame Mendis, the fans, the press, the media, and I suspect the BCCI. Did the Fab-four lose this series for us? Yes and No.

Yes, they did contribute significantly to the loss. Let’s start at the top with “the God” shall we. Tendulkar seemed impatient and arrogant, more inclined to get his record that to play to a responsible innings. Nothing else explains the dismissal in the first innings of the First Test. Then Ganguly. Nothing seemed to be wrong with him, impatience and fear got the better of him. Dravid, seemed disturbingly out of form in the first Test. Batting seemed to invoke horrors in a man who nicknamed the Wall. There was one innings in which he was himself: the second innings of the decider Test and this is the only good sign for us among the Fab four. Laxman seemed solid in the first innings of the First Test, fell like a bunny 5 times, and resurrected himself to some extend in the second innings of the Third Test.

Yes, they lost it for us as Dravid, who has for long been the backbone of the batting did not find form until the second innings of the 3rd Test. We need the Wall to keep building the fortress to allow the other batsmen to build. There is just no replacement for the role that Dravid has played.

Yes, they lost it for us, as this is the first time in which they were all not scoring throughout the series.

But, no, it isn’t just them. Our bowler’s did not step up either. Other the Ishant, nobody looked like taking any wickets. Our wicketkeepers or wicketkeeper-batsmen, as we wrongly call them were pathetic with both their responsibilities. Kumble, surprizingly didn’t look like taking wickets. Our fielders lacked initiative, yes the young ones too. Last but not the least, there was the largely inconsistent and partisan referral system. A collective failure in performance and spirit caused us this series and takes us only further from that coveted #1 Test team position.

Having said all about the Fab-four, while they have been stellar in many ways, they have also been largely inconsistent through their illustrious careers. It would be hard to find a series in which all of them collectively consistently and consequtively scored heavily. It has been their class and showmanship with the bat that has earned them this tag. The again, winning Test matches isn’t about of collective centuries, it is about everybody doing their part and doing so well. This time, they failed to produce that face-saving century that they needed, or half century each, Lax and Dravs excluding (though I’m not sure that will save them from the selectors who will want to keep Tendulkar) . Also, more often than not, they have been bothered by a bowler on debut. Bret Lee, Chris Tremlet and Sohail Tanvir come to mind. Ajantha Mendis now joins this list. It will be interesting to see which way he goes.

The selectors have a many tough decisions now with the Aussies coming to town. Do you judge the seniors on one bad series? Do you put the mentally pressurized seniors on the spot with an ultimatum in the series against the Aussies? Or do you throw the younsters to the wolves? Do you give seniors match practice in Ranji or rest?

As RS rightly points out, the only one to gain from this is Dhoni. It’s a stroke of tactical masterclass from him to skip this Test series. I now predict a Sri Lankan ODI series washout by 4-1 or 5-0. Then will the same questions be asked of Dhoni’s boys? Let us see.


Can we have a cricket match please – Ind in SL 2008

August 9, 2008

This is getting to be ridiculous to say the least. The umpiring review/referral system which promised much has wrecked havoc for India in this series. Billy Doctrove turned down a plumb lbw decision today, prompting more ire towards the umpires among India supporters. Sri Lanka are reviewing everything and are getting away with murder. Perhaps they have learned the art from Ricky Ponting. Samaraveera’s almost mocking shake of the head when Kumble asked for review is nothing short of umpire coaxing. For me, such distasteful cricket took the charm out of Sangakkara’s innings.

At the risk of sounding socio-centric, I must say the umpiring review system has been very one sided this series. Sri Lankan batsmen enjoy the batsman’s benefit of doubt while Indian batsmen (primarily the Big Three) have been the victim of the umpire’s doubt. So now we have to fight not just two incompetent blokes but three. Perhaps the folk behind this are now happy that India will now have doubts about the use of technology and the like. For it is us, who created a riot after the atrocities of the Sydney Test and ousted Bucknor. Perhaps it is only fitting that Bucknor’s fellow bystander that day, Mark Benson, has stood in this series so far. Benson is surely having sweet revenge. Such atrocities make even a draw, let alone a victory, a herculian effort (out of form batsmen nothwithstanding).

Yes, I did mention the Big-3 here and while I’m itching to spill my thoughts on them, I will wait till the end of this Test. Till then do us wait.


Sehwag rules and Big Two falter – India in SL Galle Test Day 1

July 31, 2008

Sehwag played an almost uncharacteristic innings to steer India to a respectable total. As he got to his fifty, he played a very responsible hand sans the traditional “I am holier than thou” atttitude. It might seem hypocritical of me to brand Sehwag with attitude, as it is that very aggressive nature that has got him (and India) double and triple centuries. But that’s the way its been with Viru. Even while he played the responsible hand, punishment was meted out to the bad balls – a very Hayden-esque manner. Or maybe that takes credit away from Viru. I particularly enjoyed both his and Gambhir’s onslaught of the flatter of Mendis of Murali’s deliveries. Atta, boy(s)! Way to show the kid his place. Gambhir gave good company too. Maybe India has found it opening combination in Tests too.

If you’re wondering why the above reads Big Two falter (instead of Big 3), according to the laws, Sec 32(e) to be precise, Dravid should not have been given out. While there is speculation if the ball first hit Dravid’s own helmet or the fielder’s shoulder, it seemed to have hit the fielder’s helmet before Warnapura took the catch. Skeptics check it out here.

I have no words for Tendulkar and Ganguly and some sympathy for Dravid (although that should have been a better shot) – he finds a way to be given out in the most bizarre ways. Critics and Vengsarkar will only see the scores not the trivia. Dravid! Wake up! Please!

While we’re on the topic of Dravid, I find it interesting that two other #3 batsmen have been struggling for some time now: Michael Vaughan and Jacques Kallis (not to mention Ponting, who has aside of some aberrations, been in rather woeful form since Oct 2007). While Kallis seems to have found it this evening, Vaughan is still looking for it. What is it with these #3s? Is it us? Do we notice their failure more than others because the #3’s success or failure can psychologically, if not really, turn the course of game?

Meanwhile the umpiring referral has taken a new turn. The on field umpire seems to be becoming more conscious of his shortcomings and keeps his fingers in his pocket if he isn’t sure. Should they have always been this way? Given batsmen out only when they actually are? In case you’re wondering, I’m still ambivalent of this referral/review system.

At stumps with Laxman and Sehwag at the crease, India would do well to reach 300, though I doubt if that will be enough to win the game. If there’s anything to be thankful for it’s the toss. At least this way, India wouldn’t be batting in the fourth innings. With the pitch being all cracked-up even on Day 1 and the rain adding its bit to the already complex looking wicket, I think it would only be fair if Sri Lanka get to play through the wicked phases of the pitch.


The Umpire Review System – India in Sri Lanka 2008 1st Test Day 1,2

July 24, 2008

Two days have gone. Allright, really one day and a bunch of overs have gone and this battle seems to be lot less interesting that what it was touted to be. But maybe it’s too early to judge.

As for India, the intensity wasn’t there. After all the “we need more intensity” statement making by Zaheer Khan, he ended up being the more erratic bowler with the second new ball.Umpire Mark Benson wasn’t helping either. Is it just me or did he seem too harsh (to the point of getting his revenge from the Sydney Test fiasco) with the no-balling of Zaheer? I thought that c&b decision early on Day 2 no-balled by Benson wasn’t right. Kumble wasn’t amused either. Technically, if the foot lands on or before the line, that is what counts, not that it skid later. Remember that dismissal of Jaffer in the Sydney Test. Allright, I’ll move on ahead from here – back to the match. I only watched the highlights, so I won’t comment on the Sri Lankan batting or the teams’ use of the review system. While that is case, it was interesting that the young members of this squad – Gambhir and Kathik – dropped more catches than fielding howlers by the India seniors. But I’m pretty sure, if things go badly, the BCCI and Dhoni will have their way with branding the seniors. (Ok, couldn’t resist that taking at dig at MSD).

On the umpire review system, while it a step ahead, I’m afraid it will induce a new parameter to deal with, espcially with the three unsuccessful appeals. When to use/save these referrals will add a new needless dimension. What if you’ve used all the appeals, you are nine down on Day 5 of a Test match and a tail ender is given out off a delivery he didn’t nick? Isn’t that just as bad as not having the system at all. If you’re wonder if I’m going the Ian Chappel way with this, no, I’m not. If you ask me, why cap the number unsuccesful appeals. Also, why stop with only the decision of whether the batsmen is out or not. Any decision that seems wrong should be referred. Umpires are human and that is respected, but when help is available to enable the right team win, I don’t see why it shouldn’t be used.

Meanwhile a thing that has been bothering me for a while. Why isn’t there a better rating system for umpires? If a batsmen/bowler isn’t worth a spot in a squad, he is forced out of the door. When this is the case, why should the umpire survive after giving several howlers. Yes there is shortage of umpires, but that is perhaps for a reason too, which need addressing. There seems to be no way to tell the incompetent from the good ones, which is unfair to the good umpires. Perhaps incompetence and fear of that fact that might get hightlighted even more is why Benson feels the way he does about the review system.

As for the rest of this match, I see it inching towards a draw, unless India tumble to the spinners.