An IPL Semi Final at the Champions League – RBC vs. CSK

September 24, 2010

A cracker of a semi final awaits today where Kumble’s Bangalore will take on Dhoni’s Chennai. While much has been said about Chennai on paper, they have exposed some chinks this tournament.

Bangalore’s batting on the other hand has been a bit off color. Add to that a Kallis-shaped-hole, and the balance gets affected. Apart from Kohli and Dravid, the batsmen have not really lived up to their names. Uthappa has been a yo-yo behind the stumps.

One expects to see a decent match between two evenly matched sides!

Jai Bangalore!


IPL 3: Cometh the monster

March 12, 2010

Today is the day. The Monster returns to India and we can hear the crass jingle. Controversies apart, despite my  ambivalence towards T20 and the IPL itself, I must admit that I am a bit excited.

Teams I will be supporting this year :

Kolkata Knight Riders – KKR – Wishing Dada and SRK some luck
Delhi Daredevils – DD – A team with Sehwag in it deserves to win
Bangalore Royal Challengers – RCB – Gotta like Kumble, Dravid, et all

Indifferent about:

Chennai Super Kings – CSK – Flat track bullies
Mumbai Indians – MI – Really, if they don’t make it to the top 4 this time, there is no excuse
Kings XI Punjab – (what’s their acronym really?) – Snore…

Batsmen I will be watching for:

Virender Sehwag – Viru, show us the Say-Wah!g
Sourav Ganguly – a true Dada fan will not lose an opportunity to scream DA-DA!
Mathew Hayden – Mongoose bat or not, he will be one to watch out for
Adam Gilchrist – Too many blistering innings to not watch this man
Rahul Dravid – A from-the-heart Dravid fan will always be rooting for RD!
Others – Greame Smith, Virat Kohli, Shane Warne, Sangakkara, Jayasuriya, Tendulkar, JP Duminy.. this list will grow!


The Irani Trophy beckons!

September 23, 2008

Well almost – it’s tomorrow and I can’t wait. This Delhi vs. Rest of India clash, touted as the the dress rehearsal to the Australia series, has everything in it to be a cracker. Everybody will have everything to play for. Weather permitting and pitch (and cable operator) willing we should see a good contest. I’m not a Delhi-ite but I think they have the psychological edge with the “we can afford to mess this up” factor helping them; at least they will be the lesser of the stressed. It is the Kumble lead Rest-of-India who will need to prove points. Every single middle order batsmen in their line up – Dravid and Laxman in particular – have everything at stake here. Actually, apart from Badri/Kaif, depending on who will play, and the aforementioned India seniors, there isn’t too much of interesting batting in the Rest of India line up. When I read the name Wasim Jaffer, I tend to to mentally skip it and am not too excited about Parthiv Patel either – he has no technique whatsoever. Delhi, on the other hand seems to have a more interesting batting line up. I use the word interesting for it is the kind of batting that could swing to either of the extremes. They could thrill us all, with attacking stroke play or have us screaming and lamenting about the future depending upon how things go for them. Delhi batsmen to watch out for will be Aakash Chopra, in-form Virat Kohli and Shikar Dhawan, though I feel the latter might turn out to be just a bit of hype. And that’s aside of perennial surprise package that is Virender Sehwag and “purple patch” Gambhir.

Two contests I will eagerly look forward to are Ishant vs. Dravid and Ishant vs. Laxman. While Ishant got Dravid in the IPL opener at Bangalore, it is his nagging off-stump line that is likely to bother Dravid in particular as he has been dismissed by such deliveries thrice (as far as I can remember) in the last year to Sohail Tanvir, Dale Steyn and Ishant Sharma. Laxman who has a similar approach, though not identical, might fare a little better against such stuff. My predictions on Ishant – he will get the top four of Rest of India with Jaffer and Parthiv being the bunnies. I’m not familiar with the rest of the Delhi bowlers and will leave that discussion to the expert opinion of my Delhi-ite blogging friends.

Another contest to look to is Sehwag against Zaheer; the other Rest of India pacers, R P Singh and Munaf may get it from Sehwag big time! I would also like to see the look on Harbhajan’s face when Sehwag hits him over the top for six 🙂 ! Also interesting would be to see how the young Delhi middle order cope with the spin duo of Kumble and Harbhajan.

For Delhi, top order will be key, and middle for Rest of India. I already feel that this is an India vs. somebody else match with scale titled in favor of the “somebody else”. Rest of India, prove me wrong!


Mission 2011 World Cup: Wrong Path?

August 19, 2008

The Indian ODI side has lost another battle to Mendis. I’d written them off even before a single ball was bowled in the series. Soulberry is postively miffed and strangely I thought they should have been doing exactly what SB suggests.

But the anxiety and emotion isn’t just about this series. It is about the so-called mission to win the World Cup in 2011.

While there is value in the vision itself (I do have some reservations on the over-emphasis that the World Cup is getting, but I’ll save that for another day), for some time now it has taken precedence to common sense. I think the selectors and us, the serious-Indian-cricket followers, have mostly overreacted to the T20 victory. Just because a young side that won us a World Cup in a abridged format does not mean that was the way to go. Again, we also overreacted to the ODI series victory in Australia, which I have said time and again was largely due to Tendulkar and some good fast bowling from the younsters: not the Uthappas and Rainas.

This reaction has brought about precisely two things: a meteoric rise in the importance of Dhoni and wholesale recruiting of inexperienced youth from an U-19 cricket team. Dhoni’s recent success has hidden his rather mono-dimensional-nature as captain and less-than-solid batting from scrutiny. Dhoni isn’t a thinking captain, Azharuddin was. Dhoni is a lucky captain, at least so far: his troups have delivered. While there is nothing wrong with that the lack of ingenuitity or depth is bothersome. Perhaps this is the series which might expose these aspects of Dhoni further more. I’m not suggesting that we sack Dhoni now. That would be knee-jerk and the problem isn’t really with the captaincy, though I must add he hasn’t been doing much either. Besides, we don’t have a replacement captain. Please don’t suggest Yuvraj, he’s even worse! This itself is a crisis unprecedented in the last 10-15 years. When Azhar had to go, there was Tendulkar; when Ganguly was sacked, Dravid was ready. Even when Dravid stepped down, Dhoni made it because there was no one else, not out of his own merit. The second issue is of more importance. We’ve had a good deal of failures even the recent past of 3+ years from the Chappel era of recruiting U-19s to the Indian team. A cursory look at these names leads credence to the view that this really isn’t the way to go: Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and Mohammed Kaif. In Rohit Sharma, Kohli and Ohja we perhaps have our next failed experiments. Domestic cricket is there for a reason and cricket is not a boys’ game. It involves either genius talent ala Tendulkar or just pure hard work. Gambhir learned it the hard way and is now back after having spent some time in the domestic circuit. Barring Tendulkar, the other Indian batting greats of today, Dravid, Ganguly and Laxman roughed it out before they were even considered to represent the country at the highest level. The selectors need to look back this tradition, gather strength and change the way things are being done, though I fear it might already be a bit too late. Give it another year or a few more failed U-19 stars, and we might have to wait another generation for a set of solid batsmen.

Honestly, on the mission World Cup 2011, I honestly don’t see it happening. Teams that win World Cups generally have about 4-5 members who have played in an earlier version and have a mix of solid and swashbuckling batsmen and quality bowlers with variety. Australia in ’99 was probably the best Aussie WC team in the recent past. India’s 2003 WC squad was also probably our best and will remain that way for some time to come. I won’t comment on the 2007 WC here, much has been said about it. If honest effort is made to nurture good batting and bowling we might have a competitive 2015 WC squad, and unless anything miraculous happens I don’t see this particular ODI side winning a 50-over World Cup for us.

Meanwhile, in Soulberry’s thread, some have suggested what I have been ranting about for over eight months now: the reinstatement of Dravid in the ODI side. I would suggest that we include Ganguly too. We need some stability and some sanity. We need a batsman to hang around so the youngsters can learn what it takes to build an innings. Right now there is no mentor in the ODI team for the younsters. And please, Dhoni isn’t one! What happened to the rotation policy?  We seem to only have a senior-elimination policy at the moment. Dhoni was picked as captain of the ODI side because he supposedly had a good rapport with the seniors, but the first thing that he did was sack Dravid and then Ganguly. We need to rotate the Big 3, not eliminate 2 and let Tendulkar chase his records. Having said all that, given the nature of BCCI, do I see it happening? No. But do I continue hoping? Yes.

I think at the end of this tour of Sri Lanka, we would have learned more lessons than we did in the past decade. The last instance of such a lesson-filled tour that I recall is probably the 99-00 tour of Australia.  We need a good mix of the old and new to win matches and to build for the future. The veterans need to be around to show the way and the transition to the new order gradual. We have learnt a valid lesson from the ODI squad and one only hopes that after the 1-2 defeat in the recently concluded Test series, the same mistakes aren’t made with the Test squad.


Bangalore pull it off: Bangalore Royal Challengers vs. Deccan Chargers

May 25, 2008

For an IPL match that was largely called a battle to avoid the wooden spoon, it entertained quite well.

The entertainment value was not top class, but it felt like standard cricket: not too euphoric, for the most part, and even boring sometimes, but not without fluttering a supporter’s heart.

The Bangalore Royal Challengers seemed to have carried on some momentum from their previous unbelievable win against Chennai. Without Zaheer and Praveen, one would have thought the bowling had chinks, but the local boys and under-19s contributed well to the line up. The team spirit seems to have gotten better over the past couple of games.

Gilchrist won the toss and chose to bat first. Dravid responded by opening the bowling with Kumble, a move that seemd to suggest that he has returned to thinking ways, as opposed to panicking. Risky? Yes. Payed off? Not completely, but the Kumble-Steyn combination stopped the Gilchrist-Gibbs pair get off to a flyer. The move almost payed off with Kumble appealing although unsuccessfully for lbw against Gibbs. It remained just a close one, which umpire Koertzen turned down. Steyn continued some his good work from the the last couple matches. While the Deccan run rate was kept down to 5-odd for the first couple of overs, the bowling change to Kallis brought some change in fortunes. Shortly after taking a pummelling, Kallis retired hurt causing worries for the bating. The local boy Vinay Kumar with U-19 Virat Kohli succeded in keeping the Deccans down as Bangalore regularly picked up wickets. Perhaps the biggest blow for the Deccan was losing the IPL star Rohit Sharma after he hurt himself while batting.

Going by Bangalore’s chasing record, going after 165 seemed tough, but there was some hope with Jaffer on top to lead some stability. However, Jaffer turned out to be the clown of the batting line up for first running himself out and then atrociously running out the injured but belligerent Kallis by some very lazy running. Misbah came settled down, thrilled and went. Dravid also came, threatened to lead the chase, thrilled indeed with a six and three consecutive fours- all priceless beauties (including a Misbah trademark cheeky reverse one), but departed by mis-timing one from Sanjay Bangar. It seemed to be over for Bangalore at that point with the asking rate creeping to over 10. However they weren’t destined for the wooden spoon. Thanks to some hitting from until-now indifferent White and Kohli, but mostly to Akhil for sealing it with 2 sixes towards the end of 18th over. At the end of the day, it was team work that did it for Bangalore: everyone chipped in when it was required.

Mallya! You spilled trash too soon. This team isn’t as bad as your mouth.

Go Bangalore! Go Dravid!


Dravid sizzles in vain: Bangalore vs. Jaipur

May 18, 2008

The Royal Challengers’ cup of woes is now brimming. After a dismal showing by the Bangalore bowlers and some starkly indifferent fielding, the visitors set themselves a target of 197 runs. The already challenged team, was depleted further by the absence of Boucher and Steyn. The run chase started inauspiciously as opener Arun Kumar fell for a 3-ball duck and #3 bat Misbah ul Haq departed with a golden duck. Kohli, the other opener fell a few balls later. The other batsmen came and went without much ado, all other than dear beleaguered Dravid.

Walking in at #6, Dravid sizzled to score an unbeaten 75 off just 36 balls comprised of  half-a-dozen fours and sixes, with an un-charecteristic strike rate of 208 . His frustration, which he later admitted to, was apparent in the savage way in which he lofted Yousuf Pathan for consecutive 6s. Truly an innings of master class, reminiscent of his blistering 92 off 40-odd in Bristol in the India’s tour of England, last summer. “The lone constant, offering defiance that was as entertaining as it was soothing…”, for he was “brutal and brilliant, determined and dynamic, and ironically, the hunter as well as the hunted”, writes Varun Gupta for Hindustan times.

For the final wicket partnership, he refused to take singles to expose Abdur Razzak to the strike, almost silently saying: I won’t unnecessarily let you do something that isn’t expected of you.

There was a bit of drama when Dravid asked the question on a catch taken off Razzak and that being declared not out. He continued on and clobbered another six. It’s probably not very often that the side with the last ball six loses a game, but such was the case, and never were they going to win with such woeful performance from most of the other members.

By claiming the DLF IPL maximum sixes award, Dravid silently made a statement, in his own way, as if in answer to those who repeatedly and tauntingly questioned the relevance of his batting skills in the T20 game. Perhaps there was a message for the team in the angry innings that he played.

One feels so sad for dear haunted Dravid, that one wants to pray!


Bangalore Royal Challengers face the heat – sacking begins

May 7, 2008

With the sacking of Charu Sharma as CEO of the enterprise, Vijay Mallya’s Royal Challengers seems to be facing an off-the-field crisis in addition to losing woes. Apparently, bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad is on his way out too. I suspect Dravid will be next. I don’t know what the sacking of the CEO can do, when the problems are on the field. The BRCs don’t seem to have any team spirit going for them. Seven games into the tournament, they don’t have an opening combination. The international players in the team seem indifferent to say the least.

As fellow blogger Apurv notes, there seems to be very little sympathy for Dravid, and that after a desperate yet scintillating, classical-cricket knock against Kings XI Punjab (which is btw, the most uninspired name). After seeing all the nothing-shots and slogs going for four and getting applause, it was a goose-bump moment to see Dravid almost effortlessly cut and drive so beautifully. That 66 off 50-odd balls was a treat to watch and would have been worth its weight in gold if only the other batsmen chipped in. So dismal was the showing of the Bangalore team against Mohali, that apart from Dravid’s 66 and Kohli’s 30-odd, the 10 extras conceded was the next highest and the third double-digit score. They were in soup – duck soup (pun intended).

Most bloggers and media folk seem to be baying for Dravid’s blood with every loss. Granted, he got some of team selection wrong and is not the most inspired captains; but he would have expected a bit more support from the Test greats. Kallis has been a flop with the bat and ball and Boucher as unpredictable as the weather. Of the entire lot, Praveen Kumar and Zaheer Khan have given most bang for the buck.

In hindsight, it is fairly easy to speculate on the droopy-shouldered Bangalore team. Perhaps the knife had hanging at their throats for sometime now. One could almost sense that from Dravid and Zaheer’s desperate efforts. When the chips are down, nothing inspires more that trust and nothing deflates more that threats: a simple management principle that most people learn only when it’s too late.

Maybe this just goes to prove that people should stick to what they know best. Like I had mentioned before Cricket run by business men is like Tech companies run by those who don’t know more than a few buzzwords (and look for returns just as team is formed).

With such being the state of affairs, one can only feel sorry for the never-say-die man Rahul Dravid. 😦