India’s tour of England 2011 – Why the tours of England are special

July 31, 2011

I’ve almost always had a rush of nostalgia when India is about to tour England. The green grass, blue skies, the contrast between the “Surf-excel-white” clouds and the tourquise blue of the sky, the picturesque grounds, the lovely breeze and the occasional sweater worn by the spectator adds an element of other worldly magic to the drama that is about to enfold. India’s tours of England have brought back some lovely memories that run back to the summer of’96. There are several such occasions – the World Cup 99, the tour of 2002 and the Nat West final to name a few. The tour of 2007 seems so fresh, I can recall many of details – Zaheer Khan and the jelly gate, Dravid’s tired captaincy, his struggle with runs, Wasin Jaffer’s lazy elegance, Dinesh Karthik’s rise to consistent 45-50 opener, Kumble’s century, Micheal Vaughn’s batting, Tendulkar’s struggles in the 90s, and what not.

Part of what makes this special is a rather mundane aspect – the time of play for the Indian viewer. You can come back from work, either on a high, or tired and drained of energy, and let your mind take on something completely different and to be engrossed in it. There are days when the cricket energizes you and days when it lets you lament.

Another tour is upon us. And this tour, as in 2007, is touted to be last of the greats of India’s batting – Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman. Thus the need to savor it is greater than ever before. One hopes that there is, somewhere in India, a kid who yearns to emulate their techniques and deeds!

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Irani Trophy Day 1: Rest of India vs. Delhi

September 24, 2008

Never trust the media! For the umpteenth time I have rediscovered this truth. Ok, it was not the best of innings from the Rest of India batsman, but when a team scores over 220-230, it is NOT a collapse. Why was Jaffer’s innings “fine” and Dravid’s innings circumspect ? They scored 50 and 46 each in 91 and 95 balls respectively. Jaffer’s list of boundaries reads 5 while Dravid’s count is 4. So much for that.
What I gathered from the first hour and a half of the game, which I caught before heading to work, was this: it was a warm up match and this could very well have been the score that India would have got in the first Test against in Aussies had they played without a warm up, with many batsmen taking a break of over a month. The truth is Jaffer was his “domestic-player” self and looked a bit better than “finding-my-form” Dravid, in comparison. Dravid was initially very shaky, so much to have this fan very worried and sad, but he picked it up later and played some very positive shots. Yes, there are still concerns; yes, he did struggle against Ishant Sharma, as I had I predicted yesterday; yes, the back foot isn’t moving to guard the off stump – a sure sign of out-of-form-ness, but there were some cracking shots which suggest a better comeback is near. Apart from the openers Jaffer and Dravid, no one else made an impression. Laxman was elegant in pieces but threw it away too quickly. The hypes of the day – Kaif and Badri remained hypes. They did not impress with strokeplay or with thier reading of the bowling and ended up with strike rates in the 30s, lesser that both Jaffer and Dravid. Harbhajan played an impressive innings, seriously! 🙂 Ishant bowled as per hype and is at the moment worthy of all the hype. It would be interesting to see Chopra and Gambhir feast off an Ishant-less Rest of India.

As for Delhi, I thought Sehwag’s captaincy was initially defensive. I won’t comment on my gatherings from the highlights as it will tantamount to picking a team looking at scorecards alone 😀 .  Delhi have a fire-power laden batting line up, but if the top 3 fail, it looks a bit brittle. The pitch might slow down after lunch tomorrow to make Day 2 the best day for batting. I’m starting to like Aakash Chopra very much and should find a place in the Indian XI, if Tendulkar doesn’t make it. Speaking of India, we still need Ganguly, the Kaif and Badri’s won’t do at the moment. After all, when you’ve got better, it would be foolish to not use it.

Tomorrow we shall find out if Harbhajan and Kumble feast off the pitch or fizzle away.


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!


Why Ganguly?

September 17, 2008

I cannot help but ask. Why? Why Ganguly? Is it because something had to be done? Someone had to go? Some stop gap arrangement needed to be made to smother the screaming for including young talent? Or is it Peter Roebuck? We’ve reacted to Chappell’s remark on Sehwag before the tour of Australia late last year. So is that the new mantra to selection – listening to the Aussies? But now Ponting is questioning Ganguly’s omission. What do we do now?

The bigger question is this. Is Sourav not even good enough for the Irani Trophy. Well, the condescending talk from some of the “unnamed” selectors does make it seem that way. But then, I have another question. Why Jaffer? What has Jaffer done between his disastrous run in Australia earlier this year and now, to justify an inclusion to the dress rehearsal for the upcoming Aussie series. Or was he an automatic selection given that we are playing Australia at home or because Jaffer plays for Mumbai?

Turning our attention back to Dada, if you asked me, I could argue both sides: for and against the exclusion of Sourav Ganguly from the Irani Trophy squad. The argument against is jaded, so I’ll pass on that. Why does a Ganguly fan think this exclusion is good for him? Because it will wake up the lion in him – thought I’m not sure how many times he needs to prove his worth. Honestly, if he gets selected for the series against Australia, which he should, it will only have helped to have the lion (or should I say tiger) in Ganguly to be awake and growling. But one wonders, how long will he fight this sort of battle?

On the Kirsten/Kumble’s hand in this, I think the media has again sensationalized the story. I suspect it had more to do with Kirsten than Kumble. But maybe that’s just me, for I’ve never hid my dislike for Kirsten.

So why was it Ganguly? There are times like this when being a team man counts for more than anything else; when just that fact that you’ve tried as hard as you could have counts to your advantage. There is something about Ganguly that makes you think he took a situation casually. Maybe it’s his persona. Perhaps it is way he projects the facts. Maybe it is deju-vu from the old “I-don’t’want-to-play-the-new-ball” tactic. This is when you feel a little sad, that someone so gifted has thrown it away, almost arrogantly, like the straight sixes Sourav hits. This is why, I think, Dravid escaped the axe. If Dravid wasn’t the team man that we know him to be, even Kumble could not have saved him. But all isn’t well for Dravid either, for he scored two, yes, 2, in the Buchi Babu tournament in the match against Tripura. For once, I don’t think that’s very good news and feel a bit more apprehensive about this than I have before. If Dravid makes it past Irani, past Ausralia, he will have a good run for a year or so. If not, well yikes! God save Dravid and India.

Most of all this selection for the Irani Trophy seemed to me like the populist union budged this year. It tries to make everyone happy: the senior fans sans the Ganguly fans and the young aspirants. But the inconsistencies are glaring and it has been so through the years. Dravid was dropped from the ODI squad 3 matches after a brilliant match-winning 92 in Bristol. Yuvraj was persisted with after several failures for over a year, not more than 2 innings over 50. But that is Indian cricket for you!


Back after a Crazy Couple of Weeks

September 16, 2008

So what can a few crazy weeks do? It’s made me feel like it’s been a decade since I blogged, read the news, or pretty much had a life. Much has happened since I last blogged: Ganguly got dropped from Rest of India; Jaffer got recalled and Lehman Brothers went bankrupt. I still haven’t found a copy of Marcus Trescothick’s autobiography. Instead I found a biog of Sehwag written by one of my favorite cricket writers – Vijay Lokapally – but haven’t had a chance to read beyond the foreword.

Finally my apologies to my regular visitors for not replying to your comments. I hope to return to normalcy soon.

Cheers!


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!


Cricket Ramblings of the week

December 4, 2007

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged and I’ve had withdrawal symptoms so I back for a quickie. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks: been doing some things I like and some things I hate and finding out other things that I have yet to do. Anyway, on to cricket.

India-Pakistan 2nd Test- Kolkatta

The 2nd Test at Eden Gardens between Kumble’s India and Younis Khan’s Pakistan was rather boring. The first two and half days threatened an innings victory for India. I personally liked Jaffer, Laxman, Dravid and Ganguly’s innings, although I must say this innings of Ganguly’s was distinctly different from some of his others from the recent past. It was bejewelled with patience, which he seemed to have almost run out of after his captaincy stint. He seemed stubborn almost adamant on getting a century on his home ground. My goose-bump moment for the match was the crowd’s reaction to Dada’s big one here! That must feel really awesome! Go Dada! Way to get a few more tons!

Eden is paradise to Sourav

 

Sourav celebrates his ton.
Pic source: Cricinfo

 

As for the Pakistani batsmen, other than Misbah no one looked to attach too much value for their wicket. It’s primarily temperment/attitude that was required of the more experienced batsmen. Akmal finally came good and Younis and Yousuf notched up a match saving knock to save their pride and keep the series alive, although I think they all survived a couple of definite and vociferous lbw appeals; perhaps Koertzen was having a hangover from what would have been Sangakkara’s match saving innings. And Billy Doctrove owes one to Dravid for that horribly wrong decision he gave in the first innings.

 

Personally, going by statistics and past India-Pak experiences, I would think that Bangalore Test will see the tourists leveling the series with a victory. I would give this 75% chance. But going with their current trend of mediocre bowling, fielding and horrific batting, I am forced to reduce that chance maybe to 30%. The part that will play a major part in Pak’s fortune (apart from the pitch, of course) is the Pak batsmen’s attitude. If Younis, Yousuf and Misbah carry on their positive attitude, the bowlers might perk up and come with a better performance. Averaging those two numbers we arrive at 52.5% chance of Pak winning the Bangalore test. I don’t have much else to say on this except ‘wait and watch’.

Vengsarkar vs. The BCCI

What the fuss about? I say good bye and good riddance. But I doubt if it will be so simple. This issue has seen the see-saw typical of an India-Pak match. Perhaps they want to make up for the lack of on-field see-saw. One day the BCCI says that he is free to leave and the next day they seem to be singing a different tune. There will be more to this drama. What say you?

Murali exceeds Warne! Jayasuriya calls it a day.

Go Murali! Now someone from the subcontinent tops the highest wicket taker list. Yay! Jayasuriya’s retirement announcement seemed a little bit of a surprise. Even though he is 37, he seemed to be in very good knick. Sorry to see him go. Maybe we will see him in the ICL!

Meanwhile, the ICL kicks off with a Brian Lara duck! I’m quite excited about this and would rather watch an ICL match that the boring Aussie county cricket that Star Cricket airs. Btw, a question for Star Cricket: why would you air Aussie county cricket on a channel dedicated to the subcontinent?
Ciao for now!