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!


Match poised for good contest – NZ make 315 in Bangalore ODI

December 7, 2010

Thanks largely to Franklin’s blitz, NZ have scored 315. Now this is bound to be a good contest.

Looking at the bowling stats for the match, Ashwin fared better than Zaheer Khan and Nehra while bowling to Franklin (despite two of those overs having come after over 43).

Bring it on, fellas!


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!


India retain #1 spot in ICC cricket rankings

February 19, 2010

That was what the second test match was all about. After South Africa got the better of India in the first Test at Kanpur, India had to win, and did so fairly well.

Yet, for a team that wants to be #1, there are still some concerns, mainly surrounding succession in batting mainstay. Who after Dravid and Laxman? It would be harsh to dump Murali Vijay and Badrinath or label them unworthy after their lacklustre show in the last 2 matches. Still, the expectations were fairly high, and they didn’t live up to it. What happened to the India-A tours? These folk would do better on those tours when they aren’t in the playing Test XI.

That said, Zaheer bowled like a champion; Sehwag batted like he always does! It’s becoming routine now. 🙂  And Amla batted almost like a machine. Congrats to the team that awarded him man of the match and series!

Last of all, Congrats India.


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 murmurs: Mumbai smartest thus far?

January 28, 2009

News of IPL swaps have been doing the rounds for a few weeks now. With the Pakistani players doubtful for IPL’s season 2, the franchises seem to be in tizzy to replace them.

Bangalore’s Royal Challengers has Misbah on the roster but seems to have found a replacement in Robin Uthappa, who it was tactlessly swapped for Zaheer Khan. Apparently, sport is something Mallya has trouble understanding, for Zaheer was among the better performers for BRC last year and is in the form of his life at the moment. If that isn’t tactless enough, Mallya apparently is looking to make a captain out of Karnataka boy Uthappa. While that might be a moderately successful marketing ploy to get the local crowds crooning “Uthappa, six bekappa“, it would be a bit strange to have the likes of Kallis and Boucher reporting to the kid who doesn’t feature in India’s ODI line up. Granted, it is not out of the ordinary to expect that Mallya wants current skipper Dravid  replaced, Uthappa might not be the right choice either.

Mumbai have gained Zaheer at the cost of Nehra. They have also “gotten rid of” (if I may use the term) Uthappa, for whom they have a better replacement in the traded Delhi Daredevil batsmen Shikar Dhawan. There is still more to see before one toss the “smart” crown around, but Mumbai seem to be singing the smartest song thus far.


Australia’s tour of India 2008-09: Series Overview

November 13, 2008

The much awaited Australia’s tour of India is over. India has won it 2-0. There is a sense of euphoria over the victory, but also disappointment over the quality of Aussie cricket. This was supposed to be the Border Gavaskar Trophy, the revenge series to avenge Sydney 08, the spirited fightback from both sides, with every session, if not every ball. There were phases of that, but sadly, what was supposed to last an entire series lasted only three sessions. The series was essentially one sided and I won’t be exaggerating in saying that we, Indian fans, were robbed.

Let’s look at this in a bit more closely, if you will.

Australia Batting: Top heavy, middle mostly missing except for Hussey with a fairly long tail. Yes, that’s the sort of batting that India had in the mid 90s. Their reliance on Hussey was reminiscent of India’s on Dravid until a very lately. Hayden was unable to score and by the time Katich found his foot to convert starts, the series was over.

Australia Bowling: Pacers did not take wickets, spinners made up the overs. Not much of a story there. Watson learnt some towards the end, but it was too little too late. Kreja is a definite prospect, but has a long way to go.

Disappointed: Brett Lee, Mathew Hayden, Michael Clarke, Mitchell Johnson (to some extent)

Ousters: Shane Watson, Cameron White, Stuart Clark

Still Shining: Michael Hussey is the lone Aussie shining

Captaincy: Ponting’s chinks in captaincy (and batting) are showing. Nagpur Day 4 overrate tactics was shocking, even raising suspicions of match fixing in some minds. That apart, we’ve seen nothing more than less than average captaincy. He’s been riding on the good fortune of having some champion performers in the past. Now that they’re gone, some creativity was required, which was lacking. But then again, the captain is as good as his team!

India Batting: Satisfactory, but could have done better given the big names and the conditions. Only Bangalore had low bounce, others seemed to aid batting more than bowling. So we should have gotten more runs. Harsh? Yes. We are a greedy lot when it comes to our famed batting line up. Gambhir did well, but has more to prove. If he survives the New Zealand series test, I’ll put a check mark next to his name. Viru, was his usual self. Dravid had a nightmare series, maybe when the Waugh curse passes, it will take the bad form along with it. I’ve said much about Dravid, so I’ll pass here, and just pray he finds his foot and grandly. To me, he’s still got it for two years at least. Sachin was again typical self- explosive at times, inglorious at other times. Ganguly impressed the most, and succeeded in his attempt to prove that he really shouldn’t be retiring. There was a sense of purpose in his batting, one so obvious in his ever since his 2006 comeback. Sad it had to be him, but the cries were almost deafening. Laxman, mostly good, mostly typical, but that is expected isn’t it? Dhoni, also typical, will butcher on a flat pitch and flop on anything else. I still think he’s got a long way to go as batsman. He’s banking on the “fear factor” he creates for the opposition. The new recruit and Ganguly-recommended Murali Vijay seems very solid. Is he the next Rahul Dravid? It’s too soon to give such huge tags.

India Bowling: Pacers very impressive on bata wickets. Spinners, could have done better, given the reputation, but maybe that has to do with the fact that the pitches didn’t exactly crumble. New recruit Mishra impressive, but again, lot to prove.

Disappointed: Rahul Dravid

Ousters: None

Still Shining: Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Ishant Sharma, Zaheer Khan

Captaincy: Kumble, satisfactory. It’s sad that both the drawn matches were captained by him. Dhoni, also satisfactory. Some of the field settings were refreshing, but I thought a couple of times, his keeping dipped ever so slightly during captaincy. Time will prove whether he can indeed keep and captain. He’s got a lot to prove before we can truly hail him.

In summary, perhaps it is Greg Chappell, who seemed to be behind Ponting’s century in Bangalore! Again, promising much and delivering nothing. After all of RCA’s hospitality, 22 odd different pitches, extra practice matches and all, this is all Guru Greg could do! Couldn’t resist that dig! 🙂