Friday, January 27, 2006 

Lost my mojo

Sorry to whoever is still coming here (is there anybody at all?). I have lost my mojo, and until I recover it, stuff here stands temporarily suspended.
Enjoy all.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005 

Have a fantastic New Year

Me off on a holiday - should be back hopefully in time for the India -Pak series. You have a nice, warm and happy holiday season and a great year ahead.

Enjoy!

Thursday, December 22, 2005 

India win the series comfortably

As expected, India won the series against Sri Lanka 2-0. The Lankans were really struggling in India right through the ODI and Test series - surprisingly, if I may add. I expected them to do a whole lot better than they did in this tour. Did India not allow them to perform, or was it something else?

India won on the back of a wonderful performance from Kumble and Harbhajan on pitches that are perfect for them. In fact they outshone Murali - which is neither easier said nor done. Of course, Murali had to shoulder the burden all by himself, which would have made a huge difference. India's top order was the only minor drawback in this series - with some inconsistent performances. Sachin and Laxman got a century each and Yuvraj showed some form. However, there were a few collapses, and the lower order bailed them out every single time. Hopefully these are just minor aberrations - because such a performance against Pakistan will be costly. Pathan improved greatly as a batsman in this series, and he seems destined for bigger things.

This win sets up the Pakistan series beautifully!

 

Beautiful. Balanced. Perfect.

Rohit Brijnath (my favourite cricket writer) on Tendulkar. Read it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005 

Great series in prospect

Aus V South Africa promises to be a cracker. I remember the high expectations that the world had when Teams 1 and 2 in the world in 2001-02 clashed - everyone expected a close one but Aus thrashed SA home and away.
I sincerely home this home and away series (3 Tests apiece) is as keenly contested on the field as it already is off it. Cricinfo has a preview, and this paragraph summed up the contest so far:
Symcox expects more harsh words on this tour; Smith would be disappointed if he
didn't receive any, and Warne would be happy to give some more work to South
African psychologists. It all points to more feather-ruffling, brotherly
elbowing and verbal intensity. Despite Malcolm Speed's bizarre intervention,
both teams will find it satisfyingly gripping.

Australia are looking to continue their rebuilding after the Ashes, and South Africa led by Graeme Smith and a good pace attack looks good. But Warne holds the key. SA suck at playing spin, and Warne loves getting the South Africans out - perhaps he sees Cullinan's face every time he runs in to bowl! Now if only the time difference between the UK (where I live) and Aus was more manageable!

 

The Ganguly saga

The Ganguly issue is one of the trickiest ever that Indian cricket has had to face, and the BCCI has screwed it up as only they can. Here's my take on this entire issue:

- The elite committee comprising Shastri, Gavaskar, Venkat, Dalmiya and the two stooges had a great chance to take a clear decision. They didn't due to political compulsions and lack of balls. That move to not take a clear-cut stance either way is coming back to bite all of us in the backside.
- Ganguly is a much better ODI batsman. Once said committee did not sack Ganguly, he should have been picked for the ODI side. By not picking him (as I had written earlier) for the version of the game he was better suited for, they were probably giving him a signal that it is the end of the road. I still feel that in the ODIs, a fit and performing Ganguly has more to add to this team than his replacements (Venugopal Rao and Raina). They are youngsters who need a chance, but they will have to wait. Ganguly is a wonderful ODI player in full flow, and if he could recapture that form, India will be better off for it.
- The decision to ignore him for the ODIs, but then pick him for the Tests was equally bizzare. He is not a good Test match batsman anymore - he may score against Lanka, but will surely be exposed against Akhtar, Harmison and Freddie. Also, in the Test side, he is clearly blocking a more deserving Yuvraj's place in the 11. That all-rounder crap was just a horrible joke that turned sour.
- Two wrongs do not make a right, but they got the third decision wrong again! After having taken him into the Test squad, where he did no wrong in Delhi (scored 79 runs and was generally enthusiastic) they fired him again. When you pick a guy you shouldn't have picked in the first place, the least you can do is give him a long enough rope. One more Test was the minimum that he needed to get. Prem analyses what could have been done beautifully.

So now we have a situation where Ganguly, who deserved a chance in the ODIs has not got a chance there. He did get a chance in the Tests, proved himself, but is out in the cold. How did we end up with this tangled mess?

Pure and simple - politics (which is anything but pure and simple). Dalmiya and gang thrust Ganguly into the Test squad, and that was the last decision they would take. Maybe the team management resisted these pressures for the ODI series that preceded the Tests, but Dalmiya had his say for the Test in Chennai. Now that they new committee is in place, top priority is to undo the previous regime's decision - and prime target is poor Ganguly. So India's finest captain is being kicked around like his beloved sport - football. Sad, really sad!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005 

Bowl the last 3 balls, dammit!

One of the many rules in cricket that pisses me off kicks in when the bowling side takes a wicket in the last over of a session/end of day's play. Take today's match for instance. Bhajji was bowling beautifully, and with the Lankan backs to the wall, there were men around the bat. Bhajji bowled a straighter one/doosra (couldn't tell which) which took the outside edge and Rahul took a good low catch at slip. Wonderful dismissal - but they all troop off after that! Why can't the next batsman come out and play out the remaining three balls? Why penalise the bowler for getting a batsman out in the last over? Imagine the tension and activity that would happen in the last 3 balls - the pressure on the batsman, the bowler trying extra hard to get another one, the fielders on edge - isin't that what Test cricket is all about?
This also happened in the Ashes - I had written about it here - when Harmison bowled Clarke with that beauty of a slower ball, and then they all went away to the pavilion. I bet you that Lee who was scheduled to come in next would have shed bricks while facing the 2 remaining balls that evening.
Something for the ICC to consider - such drama moments are worth preserving.

 

Kumble takes the draw out of the equation

When India set Sri Lanka a target of 436, only two results were possible - a win for India (by lunch on Day 5 as predicted by this writer yesterday) or a draw. Of course the draw hinged solely on Atapattu and Jayawardene - the rest of the batting cannot bat whole sessions against Kumble and Bhajji. One over from Kumble at the end of a long hard day took the draw out of the equation. Atapattu was foxed by a slightly slower ball, and drew uppishly back at the bowler. Kumble, who had wheeled in 15 overs by then, lunged forward and took the catch inches from the ground - and has handed India victory in this match. Just to make things even more certain, he took out the nightwatchman Bandara in the same over. It must be a formality now.

Maybe just after lunch tomorrow.

Monday, December 12, 2005 

Why did they let him go?

Troy Cooley (whose surname is open to all forms of racist slurs in the West) was widely touted as one of the major factors in England's resurgence. His coaching was instrumental in creating cricket's best fast bowling attack currently. So why did they let him go? That too to join the enemy, especially when all the enemy wants to do is to thrash England next year same time? The lure of moolah? Guilt pangs for said gentleman who played a role in defeating his own country? The Aussie sun? England's over-confidence? Will this bite them in the ass in Ashes 2006-7?

 

BBC Sports Personality of the Year

Freddie Flintoff was voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year yesterday. That he would end the year with this award was a foregone conclusion. There is no doubt at all - in a football crazed country, he has done more than most to bring cricket right back to the sports pages. Even with England struggling in Pakistan after the Ashes euphoria and the Premier League action reaching a cescendo, cricket gets covered in the UK now - and Flintoff is the reason why. Flintoff looked suitably zonked (at 3 AM in Lahore) while receiving the award from another zombie, Botham.

Warne was voted best overseas sports personality of the year, beating the likes of Lance Armstrong, Justin Gatlin and Federer! The English love Warney because he is all they want their sporting heroes to be - brash, super confident, extremely talented and sucessful. Warne has captured the imagination here like no overseas cricketer has save Brian Lara. Tendulkar may be God for us Indians, but in this neck of the woods, he is not anywhere close to being that. Flintoff, Warne and Lara take top billing as cricketing superstars here.

I enjoyed the program on BBC yesterday because of Gary Linekar. His understated presentation skills are so refreshingly different from the over-the-top stuff you see everywhere else on telly. His transformation from goal scorer to TV presenter has been amazing, and he is now going to be the BBC's golf presenter as well. Aah, how cool would it be for Indian telly to get a presenter as good as him. We can only hope!

 

India in front

India can wrap this up by lunch on Day 5 if Kumble and Harbhajan can do the damage in the 4th innings. This Test has been an interesting one - played on a slow, low pitch that would normally suit Sri Lanka's spinners. However, Lanka is not the team it once was with a bunch of spinning all rounders. Therefore Murali had to do the damage, and he did it with 7 wickets in the first innings. Sachin got his 35th century - which was fantastic more so because it got the monkey off his back. He was trying too hard to get there and it showed against Pakistan at home, but hopefully this will spur him on to kick in and play more aggressively. Murali's wonky hand prised out the rest of the batting order cheaply - if his doosra to get rid of Dhoni is legal, I am Sir Don Bradman! I thought they were 100 runs short, but the wicket was not the best to bat on.

When SL batted, a champion bowler in these conditions came to the fore. Kumble is the best bowler in Indian conditions, ever! He knows exactly how to bowl on these pitches, and his 6 wickets got India a valuable lead of 60 runs - which India built upon in the 2nd innings thanks to Pathan! Chappell's biggest contribution so far has to be Pathan's emergence as an all-rounder. He has been given chances to express himself with the bat, and has passed admirably. His 93 really dampened SL spirits, and with a lead of close to 300, India seem to be sitting pretty. Even Murali was exhausted at the end of it all.

Some other asides from this Test so far:
* Saurav Dada Ganguly seems to be intent on winning his place back, and proving his billion detractors wrong. That is great news for Indian cricket. A disciplined Ganguly can add value. I have written here before that he is a better ODI batsman than in the Tests - I still think Ganguly should have played the ODIs first, and then carried his form (if he was successful) to the Test arena. His real test will come when we have Shoaib and Flintoff steaming in - but so far his approach has been good.
* Dravid, India's best No. 3 batsman ever, has opened in this Test, and then came in at 5 in the 2nd innings. While this is great for flexibility and stuff like that, too much of that is also not good. Dravid should (and will) return to and stay at No. 3, now that we have Gambhir and Sehwag as a reasonably settled opening pair. There was a time some years back when Dravid should have opened - and he didn't then. Now is the time to build upon existing strengths, and Dravid at 3 and Sachin at 4 is India's biggest asset.
* What's with the crappy commentary? The Sri Lankans suck, and Arun Lal, Srinath and Siva are no better. This has to be the worst commentary ever on Indian telly!

Friday, December 09, 2005 

No Sehwag, maybe no Dravid as well!

India's start to the home Test season was painstakingly slow - thankfully the match in Chennai lost 3.5 days to rain, else we would have struggled to save that one. So, it's back to basics for Team India while they try and gather themselves for the better form of the game.

Delhi does not look very good either - Sehwag is down with a fever and is out, Dravid is struggling as well, and the stadium is still in a shambles. Sri Lanka have bounced back well after the ODI drubbing. I still think India are favourites - but fear that lack of initiative and unresponsive pitches will turn the remaining Tests into draws. Shudder - 0-0 is very much on the cards.

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