Thursday, February 18, 2010

Old is still Gold

Come on, fans of slam bang T20 cricket, what would you say of the outcome of the India South Africa test series. Any form of cricket can't get more nail biting than the one displayed by both teams in the recently concluded series. If Dale Steyn hogged the limelight at Nagpur, Bhajji and Zak did it for India at Kolkatta. Of course not to forget the heroics of Viru, Sachin, MSD and VVS.

More than action packed thrill, it is the slow nature of the game that builds the anxiety and the excitement. If T20 can give you high speed thrills, test cricket proved yet another time, the older bro hasn't stayed back in providing thrills and turn around of events. After the 1st 2 sessions of day 1 of the second test, nobody in their wildest imagination would have thought that South Africa would succumb to India like this. Such is the nature and format of the game. Providing equal opportunities for all every player, be it a bowler or a batsman.

If Steyn and Morkel could trouble the Indian batsmen with their raw speed and grenade like bouncers, Bhajji and Amit gave them back with their cuts and turns. To bat in the Kolkatta pitch on the fifth day was always doomed and South Africa would have thought that it would be India, who would be doing that. But the game went the other way. But the curators of this pitch should be given due credit, for preparing a pitch that held on for 5 days of intense cricket and that too was run over by Ishant so many times.

I am neither happy nor sad with the outcome of the match. But I am happy for test cricket, as it still generates lot of excitement. You could call me a purist or an old timer. But as it is taught since our younger days, Old is still Gold.

One word for selectors: Murali Vijay and Badrinath still need a few more chances to prove their mettle. International cricket is a lot more different from domestic cricket. The level of game completely changes when a player having scored tons of runs in the domestic circuit is made to rub shoulders with their international colleagues. The reason being, India's domestic games are not played in world class conditions. So both these players need some more time to prove their mettle.
And for heaven sake, please give Ishanth Sharma some rest. He is grave danger of being among injuries. For the first time, we have a fast bowler who is lanky and fast. Continuous cricket and lots of T20 games could ruin his confidence.

Team India not only you finished on top of the table, but you saved the series too. Kudos to all those players.

Thanks for Karthik for reminding about Hashim Amla.

India had always created great stars. Did you think in the Indian team? No I am talking about the opposition. Hayden, Collingwood, Nasser Hussain, Saeed Anwar, Misbah-Ul-Haq, Younus Khan and more all became to be great players, after Indian cricketers made a nobody into super stars. In every tournament, there is one person in the opposition, a dark horse, who always remains a thorn in the flesh. Indian bowlers just don't have a clue of what to do or how to get him out. So is Hashim Amla. I think the Indians bowlers had plans for the likes of Smith, ABD, Prince, JPD and in the due course forgot about this guy. Amla didn't play like a Cricketer. He stood at the crease like a warrior wielding a sword in his hands, denying India the much needed victory and saving the numero uno status. Hats off to you man. It remains to be seen how he fares in the ODI series, now that Smith is made to sit out.

Monday, December 7, 2009

What is the Use of the Numero Uno Tag?

The Lok Sabha has congratulated the Indian Team for being crowned as Numero Uno in Test Cricket. While I can't stay away from cherishing this newly acclaimed tag, I am just amused to see, how long are we going to enjoy this? I don't see anyn considerable amount of Test Cricket being played by India in the next 11 months. There is a just a two test series against Bangladesh and not sure how much pride is the current Indian team going to gain by beating a team like Bangladesh.

Teams like Australia, South Africa England play test cricket all round the year. South Africa could topple India from its new found status in just a mere few weeks. So can Australia who are taking on West Indies on home turf. England has also got its Test Cricket calendar full for the coming year.

With a Cricket administrating body which shows interest only to make money by promoting tournaments like IPL and show no effort in boosting the test cricket which is very much implicit from the quality of pitches being made, I don't see a point in celebrating the numero uno status in Test Cricket.

If the BCCI really wants to protect the Test Cricket in its current form, it should play atleast 12 test matches in a year which should include a full series (which has 5 test matches) and create sporting wickets, which are not just conducive to batsmen to play their shots. Test Cricket is revived not because of the dull draws it is known for. But for the results, it produces after 5 days of intense battle.
Let the BCCI do something to improve the number of test matches it makes its players to play. Then let it celebrate the Numero Uno status.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A nothing test

One of the most irritating aspect of the cricket is, the draw in a 5-day match without any contest. And thats what really happened in the first test between India and Srilanka. Except for the first session of this match there is no contest between bat and ball at all. Bat is way beyond the ball and both the sides become tired chasing it. No hope for the bowlers with that cherry on their hand. All their efforts is just waste when the pitch is made of a marble with no real turn or bounce.

But their is also no denying that the skill of all the bowlers were really questionable. No bowler was able to apply pressure on the batsmen constantly and forced him to make a mistake. If they bowl 4 good deliveries to create pressure, then the last 2 balls were real looseners with goes for boundaries. Both the experienced spinners Harbhajan and Muralidharan appeared clueless throughout the match. Not even a half chance was created which clearly underlines how they applied themselves.

And both the captains lacked imagination and didn't shown any kind of aggressiveness. Just when an experienced batsmen comes to a crease they has a deep square leg, fine leg, deep point or Sweeper cover. In test matches the priority must be given to take wickets and not to stem the flow of runs. How can you win without taking 20 wickets? Due to this in and out field the batsmen scored singles without any risk and dominated the whole game.

At last this test happened just for personal record of the batsmen. But due credit must be given to Dravid, Dhoni, Dilshan, Mahela, Prasanna, Sachin and Gambhir for their unwavered concentration while playing those mammoth innings. If Indian batsmen scored under some pressure, Srilankan batsmen amassed runs and almost created a result out of nothing.

Hope the second test has better pitch and most importantly gives a result. Else the Test cricket will have no takers.

PS: Another terrible thing is, the timing of these test matches. Usually they are scheduled in a way they fall in the weekends. But for the first time I have seen a match played in weekdays. Already the crowd coming for tests is less and by this, those little support will also be gone and the ICC's aim of popularizing the game will be dream.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Indo - Aussies One day Series (2009-10) - I

First 2 matches of the 7 match ODI series between India and Australia was finished with each team picking up a win. Briefing of the first and second matches are below:


Ponting won the toss and decided to bat first which was a surprising decision as many would have thought about exploiting the conditions in a day match. But Ponting seemed to be determined to put a huge score on board and pressurize the Indians, which was perfectly executed by the Australian batsmen. Even though Australia lost the wicket of Shane Watson to an incoming delivery of Nehra, Ponting and new wicket-keeper Tim Paine mixed the caution and aggression to score the runs at healthier pace. Their job was made easy with Indians bowlers spraying the ball all around the pitch. Only one who were in control was Ishant Sharma who claimed the wicket of Paine when he scored exactly 50. White came in next but struggled a lot in adapting to Indian conditions but Ponting on the other hand kept finding the boundaries. Dhoni bring in Harbhajan to stem the runs but he was completely off-colour. Erring in both line and length, Ponting picked up easy runs. The man who done the job for Dhoni in the middle overs was Ravindra Jadeja with his clever use of crease, pace and length. He put the brakes for Australian run-rate and picked up the wicket of Australian captain Ponting with a gem of a delivery which was well flighted pitching in the leg stump and spun a little to hit at the back pad of Ponting which is in front of the middle stump.

But Hussey came in and played a typical Hussey innings which is scoring at a scorching pace with minimum risk. White too found his touch a little and compensated for the initial dot balls. He got out after his fifty but Hussey carried on and thrashed Indian bowlers in the death overs to reach a formidable score of 292, a tough ask on a deteriorating Vadhora pitch. Expect Jadeja and Ishant in first spell and last over no one bowled with purpose.

Indian chase for this mammoth total begin with boundary from the first ball of Lee. Sehwag didn't showed any sign of discomfort in his first international outing after 4 months. He picked up 2 boundaries in the first over of Lee but couldn't carry on as both Lee and Siddle bowled a tight line to free his arms and he eventually got out for 13 by trying to flick a ball to on-side which is moving away from him. Sachin too didn't long last sent back to pavilion by the brilliant catch by Ponting at short cover of the bowling of Watson. Gambhir and Kohli joined hands to rescue the Indian innings but couldn't score freely due to the disciplined bowling of the Australians. After getting into 20s, Kohli perished while trying to hit Hauritz for a 6. Gambhir on the other end, kept running hard and picked some boundaries. Dhoni came in but he too can't score quickly and when India took the batting powerplay, it has already lost Gambhir(68) and in powerplay overs lost Dhoni and Raina and there ended the Indian hopes. The last recognized batsman Jadeja was also out cheaply but Praveen kumar and Harbhajan Singh revived the Indian hopes with some beautiful stroke play. With Lee opting out of bowling due to a sore ankle, Ponting's headache started with each of his bowlers going for runs and India reached a position where the match was for India if it scores 29 runs off 12 balls. And Watson's next over was plundered for 20 runs. Last over was bowled by Siddle, who got back his senses and stick to the line and bowled the destructor-in-chief Harbhajan with that India's revived hopes ended and lost the match by 4 runs.

Indian batsmen can't take any good from this match except Gambhir because its Praveen and Bhajji who pulled back this game miraculously and fought till the end. And its a clinical performance from Australians from the moment Ponting won the toss except for the last 5 overs of the match when his bowlers took to cleaners.

Second ODI:

Again Ponting won the toss but decided to field first considering the dew factor in evening and he didn't consider the firepower of this Indian batting line-up on a flat batting track. Indians went into the acceleration mode and didn't took off it and scored a mammoth score 354 with Dhoni leading the charge with 123 ably supported by the two left handers, in the middle overs by Gambhir and at the end by Raina.

With Lee out of the game, Australian attack lost some of its teeth and Sehwag captured on it and played a little cameo at the top before getting out for 40 runs from 31 balls. Sachin lost his wicket by some brilliant bowling from Siddle. Yuvraj promised a lot on his return but perished to brilliant reflex catch by Hilfenhaus of his own bowling. Then Dhoni and Gambhir partnered together to kept the run-rate above 6 with very minimal risk. And unfortunate mix-up cost the wicket of Gambhir(76) who is well set. But Dhoni showed his ruthlessness in his batting in the last 10 overs which Australian bowlers will find hard to forget especially Johnson. He killed his short ball and banged a shot straight down the ground in consecutive deliveries. Raina joined the party towards the end of the innings and scored his 50.

354 is always a big total to get anyday and with ball moving enough under the lights made the life difficult for Australian batsmen. Praveen Kumar was completely a different bowlers when ball is swinging and he claimed 2 top order wickets of Tim Paine and Ponting. Ishant bowled a gem of a delivery which kicked off from short of length and surprised Watson with both pace and bounce only made him to poke the ball to first slip. With 45/3 in 10 overs match was almost in India's pocket but this is Australian team, we have to remember. But nobody was able to score at the asking rate and only contribution came from Hussey who was then castled by a wonderful delivery by Jadeja. When formalities are finished, Australians were bowled out by 254 handing Indian a 99-run victory.

Indians didn't put a foot wrong in this match and perfectly demolished the injury-hit Australian side. Except Hussey and Siddle nobody can take any kind of thing from this match in Australian side.


With Tim Paine, Hopes and Lee unavailable due to injuries, India starts as a favorites. Australian injury list was kept growing match by match with Lee being flying back home and he will be unavailable for rest of the series. This is a huge blow and Paine too injured. In this case, Shaun Marsh will open with Watson and may Bollinger will replace the erratic Hilfenhaus.

India has no such worries and a full strength squad is available for them. The match is going to be played in Ferosha Kotla whose pitch is keeping very low which means any team can win this match.

Players to watch out for:

Sachin: Still to play a big innings in this series, which means something is around soon.

Jadeja: He already bowled superbly in both his previous outings and with pitch is keeping low in Kotla, he can be dangerous with his arm balls.

Shaun Marsh: He caught the imagination in first IPL and now he is again to going to open. His success is very critical not only for him but also for Australia.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

India's best chance

India bowlers especially spinners and RP Singh have done well to restrict England to a chaseable 154. It could have been worse if Jadeja didn't got that 2 wickets of Bopara and Peiterson at the right time this score could have swelled to 170. Jadega had a very good scalping 2 wickets, a catch and I have witnessed some brilliant fielding from him. He just fields like a man on some mission and his throws were like bullets aimed at the stumps. England seemed to be running away with the game when they were 70/1 @ 10 overs with both Bopara and Peiterson well set. The promotion of Maschernas didn't worked as he was just crawling for 25 from 27 balls. Unless for occasional very wide deliveries Harbhajan bowled well in the last overs.

Both Zaheer and Ishant got hammered but RP singh cleverly bowled his bouncers and contained from one end. I am off to watch the second innings. India has started well with Rohit and Gambhir ticking away the runs and it's enough to chase down 153.

Friday, June 12, 2009

More action awaits

The next phase of the T20 world cup has started with very less number of shocking exits. To many Bangladesh’s exit is too shocking than Australia’s. The way Aussies have played made them a deserved candidate for the elimination. They have been outplayed in both of their matches and no one would ever see them as vulnerable as they are now. And in the other group, Bangladesh who played upto their potential against their Asian rivals India seemed to miss the plot against Ireland and were thrown out of the tournament. In the other groups expected teams(Scotland and Netherland) were made their exit and made Super 8 into an exciting one.

So now the teams are again splitted into 2 groups: Group E(India, England, West Indies and South Africa) and Group F(Pakistan, Srilanka, Ireland and New Zealand). So to qualify each team must win atleast 2 matches and the competition seems to be tougher in Group E as there were no minnows. Each team was capable of beating every other team on their day. But with the exposure and team balance in T20, India and South Africa were seemed to go to Semi-finals. West Indies hopes are lies with Chris Gayle. If he fires, then they can win. There are times even if he fires, they will let down by their extra-‘ordinary’ bowling. So it’s like one man show. As far as England was concerned, they have a decent team and they have to put collective performance. Nobody in their team were seemed to be a match winner, who can take the game away from opposition single-handedly. But for India and South Africa they are in plenty, so both England and West Indies must play well to go to semis.

In the other group, the bigger teams can breathe easier as they have Ireland in their group. It will be tough fight between Pakistan, Srilanka and New Zealand. But having the kind of players readily suited for this T20 format, New Zealand seems to be favorite to move to semis easily. Srilanka too playing very well with their top order was firing and their bowling seems to be tighter than other teams. So they can make the semis by playing to their potential. But the most unpredictable of all the teams, Pakistan is in this group. They have match winners. But they don’t know what is meant by collective effort means and they are wasting Misbah by making him play in No.6 and No.7. If they really want to go to Semis they must plan purposefully and should stick by it. Ireland…. If they make semis, then that will be biggest happening in this tournament. Nothing to mention more.

It’s time to enjoy more quality matches. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rules over look Common Sense

Sri Lanka defeated West Indies convincingly alright. But there was a debatable decision by umpires Simon Taufel and Billy Bowden. Sarwan hit a lofted shot and Angelo Mathews caught the ball within the boundary ropes. But he was not in complete control of his balance and went beyond the boundary ropes. But he had enough common sense to lob the ball into the air before he crossed over the boundary rope. After crossing the boundary ropes, he saw that the ball he had lobbed is about to fall beyond the boundary, which would mean that he had actually thrown the ball to give the batsman 6 runs. So what he did, he again jumped and while he was in air, flicked the ball back into the play area. It was amazing display of presence of mind, under those tense circumstances. Umpires consulted the 3rd umpire as well and came to the conclusion that since the fielder was not in the ground, which touching the ball, it was not a six, even though the boundary lines had been cleared. Hence only 3 runs were awarded, which the batsman had run.

To me, the umpires' decision just didn't make sense at all. If umpires decision can be taken as it is, then consider this scenario. The batsman hits a lofted shot. The fielder on the boundary knows that it is going to clear the boundary. So what he does is, crosses the boundary ropes and when the ball reaches him, he jumps in the air and lobs it back into the play area. Or Worst he jumps and lobs the ball to another player, while he is in air. How would the umpires deal with such a scenario?

The umpires didn't apply common sense in the case of Angelo Mathews' acrobatic fielding. Even though he had lobbed the ball while in air, he should have come back to the play area before lobbing the ball, which he didn't. That being the case, it should have been awarded six runs to the batsman. Had the West Indies, scored 2-3 runs less than Sri Lanka's score, this horrendous decision of Umpires would have deprived them of a victory.

Wish ICC amend such loop holes in the laws of the game, which are like our Constitution.

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