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!

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Can South Africa do it again? SA vs. Aus Test1, Jo’burg 09

March 1, 2009

For those who are crying about the death of Test Cricket, where are you? What are you watching? Sorry, SL and Pak, but I couldn’t survive even 5 overs of that Test match. While Paul Collingwood and Ravi Bopara added some excitement to a mostly boring match, with the result of the result still undecided, there is still some life in that one. But this one is a cracker of a Test match, with today’s play worth every minute of the Sunday afternoon/evening.

Jacques Kallis turned the tables for South Africa today with an inspired spell of bowling, one which he hasn’t produced for some time. This is what South Africa have been missing for some time – an in form Kallis. If he can pitch in 80-100 odd with the bat, this match may be South Africa’s. Four Australian wickets fell in matter of 5 overs and the Aussies were slowly but surely lost grip on this Test. The only disappointment for me was Dale Steyn. I was expecting a fiery over to Peter Siddle after what Steyn received from the latter yesturday.

After wrapping up Australia for 207, the hosts put up a solid start. If Smith didn’t throw his wicket away with that mistimed shot, the outlook would be almost euphoric. The task is yet a good ask – 276 runs from 90 overs with 8 wickets – that’s a health 3 odd runs an over and some strokes of luck. I’ll be rooting for South Africa! Go Kallis! Go South Africa!

Side note: The umpiring has been pathetic to say the least. Fellow blogger Soulberry and Som have done a better job – one with concern and the other with humor – in describing just how hopeless the umpiring situation is. Blind as bat Bucknor is with Billy Bowden, who is slowly but surely loosing my respect. Given the way things have gone, one would think the series is being played in Australia for they have had the benefit of some of the most ridiculous referrals. The umpire referral system is a joke – we have three huge egos clashing instead of two. Interestingly, they seem to have a ploy of sticking to togather in their “crisis”. Can we stop the referral system and move on, please?


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 Draws – Ind vs Aus 2008-09: Day 5, 1st Test, Bangalore

October 13, 2008

After what seemed like an eternity, India has managed not to lose a match batting 4th. I had mentally written them off and that mostly due to the poor show in Sri Lanka. I’m still trying to tweak Cricinfo’s statsguru to spit me the results of India’s draw percent when batting second. I’m pretty sure this must be low (esp in the last 3 years). From memory I recall only 2 from the last 3 years – the one at Lords (which really shouldn’t count) and one against South Africa.

Going by that, this is an achievement. But what that also says is that the Aussies have lost some of their sting without McGrath, Warne and Gilchrist (behind the stumps). Haddin has a long way to go. Watson, Haddin, Cameron White (who also plays for Bangalore Royal Challengers) don’t really strike me as great Test cricketers. Unless they go the Symonds way with their game, we may see some mediocre results from them in the near future.

As for India, NB from Soulberry’s TCWJ puts so succinctly, what seemed so muddled in my mind. To me, here are the worries:

  • Middle order: Granted, we’re getting some stinkers from the umpires from time to time, but the middle order isn’t really on strong footing. There are flashes of brilliance, but only flashes, and that’s causing anxiety. Ganguly seems best of the four at the moment. Doesn’t that tell a story in itself (with due respect to Gangs of course)? Meanwhile at the top order, Gambhir has not had too many answers either.
  • Spin bowling: We all know about Harbhajan’s “I-need-a-wicket-to-start-thinking”. That apart, Kumble has been very worrisome.
  • Fielding: Allright, we’ve never really been a great fielding side, not even when the Fab four where in their prime. Gambhir’s dropped catches were atrocious! So much for the “young-agile-fielding-sides”

Interestingly this time, both teams have seen some decline from previous glory. Can India put a 300 plus total? Can the middle order post 200 runs by themselves? Can India bat better than Australia? Can Australia take 20 wickets? Will they bowl better than the Indian quicks? Strange how it can become isn’t it?

Maybe we will get only 2 results from this series.


Rain gods! Show your might – Ind in SL 2008

August 10, 2008

The situation on Day 3 of the final Test at Colombo is dire indeed and the crow pepper fry that Scorpy promised to eat a very far cry. At 161-5 and leading only by 14 runs, the script is almost already written.

The very fine ray of hope lies in this and this. Allow me to magnify the hope. As for rain, the weather men have got it wrong as far as the past 3 days have gone, but it’s not without reason that we say that weather is unpredictable. With all the bad luck that India have been having with the referrals and injuries, the partisan in me thinks we deserve a shot of luck. Rain gods, show your might! As far as an 2001 Eden Gardens encore is concerned, while I don’t expect a double from Laxman who has been foxed by Mendis 5 out of 5 times this series or Dravid to make a 180, the hope lies in the fact that Dravid has seemed very positive this innings, from the very first over. Yes, there have been some circumspect moments, but the clouds seem to be lifting to reveal our good-old Dravid. Laxman doesn’t look very sure but there are no devils in the pitch.

For the folk who think much of the youngsters – Parthiv lasted two balls. Take that! Sehwag is by no means a youngster and Gambhir has been the best of the lot as far as playing spin is concerned. We’ve seen the Indian middle order (and that of the Delhi Daredevils) collapse after these two fall.

Join me in sending positive thoughts and invoking the Rain gods. Rain, rain come again!


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.


India win Galle Test on Day 4 – India in Sri Lanka 2008

August 3, 2008

Where are the folk who wrote India off? Eat crow today!

Ishant’s inspired fiery spells saw India scalp three in-form Lankan batsmen in the first half-hour of play. So inspiring was that spell that it evoked emotions even from Dravid! Perhaps one of the best spells of Ishant till date, there were several overs where he tested batsmen, reminiscent of that spell against Ponting at Perth earlier this year. I had goose bumps to see this young Indian bowler give chin-music to batsmen. India have till date only been on the receiving end of such music. Ishant is a very good sign for India. Wonder what would have happened if he didn’t get that 5-for against Pak in Bangalore, that most probably helped book his seat on the plane for that famour tour of Australia late last year. While Ishant, titled things in India’s favor by getting key wickets of Sanga and Mahela, Bhajji (after one session of mediocrity and after Ishant struck again claiming Dilshan) wrapped it up for India.

There are many positives for India to take home from this:
1. Gautham Gambhir and Man-of-the-Match Virender Sehwag – India’s new Tendulkar-Ganguly
2. Ishant Sharma
3. Zaheer finding form
4. Dravid showing positive signs of finding form
5. Some collective spirit

That aside, we won fair and square today – not with the new form of umprie coaxing that the referral system has already become. Jayawardene’s use of the referral system, particularly for the lbws was downright irksome. I understand he might be within his right to do that, but none of the referrals went India’s way in the series so far (okay, maybe one did, but I’m not sure of that either). If Dravid and Ishant were given out to a type of dismissal then so should have Dilshan/Samaraweera (I can’t recall which one) today as it was a very similar one. The lack of consistency from the third-umpires was particularly irritating, which is perhaps why Kumble didn’t ask for too many.

But there are also concerns:
1. Dinesh Karthik – looks woeful behind the stumps. While many may suggest the place be given to Parthiv Patel, I’m not entirely for that, esp for the decider Test. Patel will have to begin from square one, which is not the best thing to have in an important Test. It would be nice if Dravid could keep, but then again, keeping and batting at #3, may not be the best thing, and is close to impossible given that Kumble argued with selectors to include second wicketkeeper Parthiv in the squad. I expect no changes here.
2. The famed middle order haven’t really lived up to their name. Tendulkar whose record seemed beckoning will most likely not get it here. While he definitely isn’t out of form, he seems a little impatient. Ganguly, again isn’t out of form, needs to find ways to get some runs. Laxman who looked solid against Mendis in the first innings at Colombo hasn’t been able to carry that forward. Dravid, who looked miserable in the first Test, put up a gritty fight scoring 44 in the second innings at Galle – proof that the spirit and skill are both still there. I thought he deserved a fifty for that desperate effort. While he seems to be finding his lost touch, it’s still a work in progress.
3. Fielding – as always, fielding especially saving the one-s and two-s is important irrespective of the score being defended.

Victory is the best pain-killer they say. Adages don’t come any truer!