30 December 2008

With Vaughan missing out, who holds the key and number three for England?

England named their squad for the tour of West Indies yesterday and if we are being honest, there were no real surprises. Some believed that former captain Michael Vaughan had an outside chance, but realistically, he hasn’t played enough cricket in recent months and it would have been a risky to include him.

The only other talking points in terms of the test squad were that Adil Rashid – who I wrote about on Island Express last week – has been selected and despite recent injury problems, so has Ryan Sidebottom. Other that that it was very much as expected.

So, Michael Vaughan. What does the future hold for him now? In reality, as Jonathan Agnew pointed out in his blog yesterday, the news that he missed out on the squad moves him a step closer to international retirement. Being the determined individual he is, he still harbour ambitions of making back into the England set-up, but the cricket odds are less likely to back this happening now.

The only way that Vaughan is going to remind the selectors he can do a job for his country is to go back to Yorkshire and score lots and lots of runs. The only problem with this though is that time isn’t on his side. Vaughan's main aim is to play against Australia again, that's for sure. If he is to do this next summer, he would have to do enough in the first few weeks of the county season to impress. Given the form he has been in, is this likely to happen?

Even if he does find some form again, he would have to hope that someone in England’s batting line-up has a bad run to make way for him. All in all, not many things are in favour of Vaughan playing for England again, but I wouldn’t rule it out just yet. Even if it isn’t next summer, Vaughan won’t give up hope and the selectors can’t avoid him for ever. Just go and score plenty of hundreds Michael!

I mentioned England’s current batting line-up a second ago and that’s what I want to talk about next. Vaughan’s omission from the squad means that Ian Bell and Owais Shah will be fighting it out for the number three position in the batting order. It is such a vital position for any team and one which England have had problems with for a while now.

Bell is the man in possession of the position and the faith shown in him by the selectors should boost his confidence. However, he really has been on a bad run of form of late. For whatever reason, he has yet to do justice for his undoubted talent with the bat. Graham Thorpe mentioned on Sky Sports yesterday that he always thought Bell looks like he is making his debut when going out to bat. He seems nervous and unsure of his ability to make a big score. Considering Bell has played 45 test matches now – this is a slight worry!

As for Shah, well in my opinion he has to be one of the unluckiest cricketers in recent times. No matter how excellent his form is, he just can’t nail down a place in the test team. His presence in the one-day side is significant, but he has only played two test matches. The Middlesex man is the master of the waiting game and he may have to do the same again in the West Indies.

Overall, the policy of the selectors seems to have been – ‘keep the faith’. Bell needs to repay this decision and score some runs. He needs to start believing in himself more, because in Shah, England have someone determined to force his way into the test team somehow.

This is a huge tour for a number of players and one which could decide whether they take part in the Ashes next summer.

By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about cricket betting

Skinhead massacares eleven Australians

Earlier in April, Steyn came to India and had its premier batsman on their knees, a right "racecar in the red". Doing that in India to Indian batsmen was just the latest in a scorching career. Now he has just put to rest any thoughts of him being just one of "three or four very good fast-bowlers in international cricket today".

Apart from letting it slip that he was the best, he scored a few valuable runs as well. If you get past the neo-Nazi looks, you might like him.

29 December 2008

And so it began on a Thursday and ended on the next Tuesday.

Kudos to the Poms for the balls they showed in coming back. I was so impressed that I decided to pop up to Chennai to catch the game. The conditions were nearly perfect for cricket – bright sunshine for the most, a nice cool sea breeze, a decent size crowd and a pitch that had something in it for everyone. It makes one wonder what sort of retards chose Mohali as the venue for the second match. It could so easily have been held somewhere in the south and we probably would have gotten in all those lost overs. Also, life in India’s first planned city seems too fast and hectic for the folks there to enjoy a good old game of test cricket – why keep boring them with it?

Unfortunately for the Poms, balls, two well constructed tons from the Andrew at the top and nearly ten straight sessions in command weren’t enough to win, let alone come out level at Chepauk. Watching the English bat in Chennai was about as exiting as listening to Sunil and Sanjay talking you through to the close of play, with Jimmy lined up for the post match analysis. You could settle down with a book (assuming it hadn’t been confiscated for being a bomb) and look at the score board every once in a while knowing for sure that all you missed was Strauss staying back and knocking the ball to backward point or backward square leg for a single or two. Then out came India who, not wanting to stray from well established tradition, did their first-innings-of-a-series-collapse-thing. There was even the obligatory cameo from Bhaji. It was all normal. Then it was that Strauss again and backward point and backward square leg….

After the first three or so days of the test, I was convinced that this was one of those rare instances when a team would win a test by just playing good defensive test cricket. I, like KP, got it wrong. We hadn’t accounted for that bald, smiling, glitch in the matrix from Najafgarh… or Sachin’s elephantine memory and all the repressed fury he had for idiot-mortals who kept mouthing off about Chennai, 1999, and how he was not a “match winner”… or Yuvraj and his penchant for being a pain in KP’s buttox. In an interview before his 68 ball 83, Sehwag said something to the effect of ‘we were chasing 250 against Australia but we couldn’t do it because of bad weather…If we can do that, 387 against England shouldn’t be a problem.’ What is this guy on?

What was spectacular about Chennai was that the freak-maniac was right. It all came together and it was done comfortably, with time and wickets to spare. In hindsight, it really was KP’s declaration that made a mess of things for England. Who declares with Monty at the crease? Serves him right I say. You let him know Monty.

And so the Poms packed up and trekked all the way to Chandigarh, just to have old men winter and Dravid close shop on them. KP made his point too late but it was such a joy to watch. Sure India should have tried harder to win but who really cares anyway? The PCA Stadium is such a lovely ground and it is a pity to see it wasted. Maybe it can be airlifted to Ranchi or somewhere…

It would have been nice to keep watching the English getting hammered but it had to end sometime. I cant help but feel for the English. Watching them getting hammered isn’t half as fun as watching it happen to the Aussies and those sneaky Sri-Lankans. I hear that all we are in for is New-Zealand in March. When are we going to play those Proteas?

WHY IS TEST CRICKET ‘DYING’?

I will remember 2008 as the year when I heard the cry of ‘test cricket is dying’ most often? TV commentators, Indian, English, Australian and what not, said it – the print media repeatedly dwelt upon it – from what I can remember, even some current cricketers viewed test cricket to be in irreversible decline.

But why? In 2008, there have been approximately 30 test matches. While 13 of these have been played in the sub-continent (about 40%), the remaining (about 60%) have been played across South Africa, New Zealand, West Indies, Australia and England. Across the vagaries of these pitches, there have been less than half a dozen draws in test cricket in the entire year (and of the draws, a couple could be attributed to the weather). Even in the sub-continent, so often accused of producing dull dreary cricket, only 3 drawn tests come to mind immediately (and of these three drawn tests, the two between India-Australia were only a few moments away from changing to results). 2008 has also seen the second highest run chase in history and the highest run chase in India and yet....

Compare this to a few decades back, when draws were the order of a day – a result, something to be cherished – where Dravid’s batting would have been considered outright brash - where just 250 runs in a day was considered outstanding batting! For instance, India and Pakistan played a 5 test series without either side winning a test – and yet they played to packed stadiums!!

So what has changed over the past 15 years? Why are the stadiums, especially the usually packed to the rafters Indian stadiums, suddenly bereft of people? Is it the fast food diet of one-day and 20 over matches that have ruined our palate for the fine cuisine of test cricket? Has the pace of our lives changed, so that we no longer have 5 days to spare on cricket, no matter how riveting the contest? Do we demand more comfort and facilities than the amphitheatres of cricket can offer?? Is there too much cricket?? Is it the television?

We must ofcourse identify the problems before we propose a cure. So, are there any other factors?

26 December 2008

Cricket diplomacy OR who's crying for Indo-Pak cricket?

The sharp fall in Indo-Pak warmth since Zardari gripped Manmohan in New York in what was probably the tightest that a Pakistani President has ever hugged an Indian PM, cricket, like the Samjhauta, the Lahore-Amritsar bus-route and Indo-Pak trade on several other occasions, has become a victim of bad relationships between the countries. Perhaps we forgot ourselves in the euphoria of the 2003 tour. Then, when people started seeing cricketing relationships as a barometer of friendliness, we should have known that cricket would once again be one of the first victims of a diplomatic chill. Should it be so? Should we see sport in isolation, or should we see this as part of the larger question of whether people-to-people contact should survive these testing times when governments sulk and the words, "nobody wants a war" are on an everlasting loop on news television. If trade survives, if academic relationships between Universities survive, then there is no reason for sport to be singled out. There are no easy answers. And I won't be giving you one, sorry. Elsewhere in the world, South Koreans are going on guided tours to North Korea, and Americans are visiting Cuba in droves.

But I think the following thoughts are relevant in reaching the answer.
1. I am sick and tired of India-Pakistan cricket anyway and would prefer to wait at least a year more before we play each other again. What I mean is, the loss is not that terrible, though it will be if India do not tour Pakistan in the next five years.
2. The levels of paranoia in India are unprecedented. Even during the Kargil war (my only memory of an actual-and-not-proxy India-Pakistan war) war-mongering was not this shrill.
3. What is the status of Pakistani IPL players?

22 December 2008

The great debate: Is Adil Rashid ready for international cricket?

At the time of writing, England’s premier spinner Monty Panesar is struggling for form a little bit. There is a possibility that by the time a lot of you have read this he has taken several wickets in India’s second innings in Mohali. However, considering how confidence drained he has looked in recent weeks – I doubt it.

This poor form from Panesar has got people talking about the possibility of him being dropped from the side. It has got people talking about a certain young spinner from England’s domestic game that could well get the nod sooner rather than later. I am of course referring to Yorkshire leg-spinner Adil Rashid.

The 20-year-old – who has travelled to India this winter as part of the England test party – has consistently impressed for his county in the last couple of years. His impressive displays were rewarded back in September 2007 when he was named as the Cricket Writers’ Club 2007 Young Cricketer of the Year.

The reason he has stood out from the rest is that he is a leg-spinner. This in itself is a rarity in English first-class cricket. Not only is he a leg-spinner, he is one that is taking wickets. This goes beyond a rarity in English first-class cricket. Therefore, there was great hype about Rashid from an early stage.

The youngster hasn’t just shown potential with the ball though as he has confirmed his status as a genuine all-rounder with some fine batting displays for Yorkshire. He scored a century for England under 19’s against India in 2006 and followed this with his maiden County Championship century in 2007. Overall, it was fairly obvious why people were getting excited about this young man and the cricket odds certainly expecting him to alert the England selectors before long.

In terms of this international recognition, there has been call ups to the ‘England Performance Programme squad’ and earlier this month he travelled with the full test squad to India, without being an official member of the travelling party.

All things considered, it seems that England are aware that he is talented. However, they are very cautious about throwing him at the deep end too early. Some might say that are being too cautious. Surely if he is going to have a successful international career, he will be capable of performing now?

As much as the Australian model is becoming increasingly unfashionable to follow, I am pretty sure they would have thrown him into the test team by now. Get him involved early and make sure he knows that he is part of the team’s plans.

By consistently involving Rashid in the test set-up without actually playing him, the selectors are saying to the player – ‘we like you, but you are not ready yet.’ Is this going to affect Rashid in a negative manner? If he suffers a dip in form, he is going to feel further away from international cricket than ever before. Then, his confidence will dip and his future performances may decrease.

In fairness to the England selectors, they were right not to select him as an 18-year-old a couple of years ago. This could have unsettled his development a great deal. Now though, Rashid is ready to be called upon. As soon as England decide that Panesar needs a rest or that Rashid is capable of filling the ‘all-rounder’ slot in the team – the spinner is ready in my opinion.

I am excited about what he could bring to the England team and just hope that the selectors don’t delay showing faith in him too much longer.

By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about cricket betting

21 December 2008

O VVS!

O Very Very Special One,

Since your knock made it quite clear that Dravid's knock, despite the tedium, was a valuable one,

Or why else?

You are the great tickler of the senses. If Akbar still reigned, the Navaratnas would have been the Dasaratnas. Tansen's music could light up the lamps and Birlbal's wit, the darkest moments. You belong with them.

18 December 2008

With the Champions League cancelled, can Middlesex be there again in 2009?

It has been well documented that the inaugural Twenty20 Champions League scheduled for December has been cancelled because of security fears following the terror attacks in Mumbai. For any cricket fan, this was obviously very disappointing news. However, for one team in particular it was very difficult to take.

English cricket’s representatives Middlesex were excited at the prospect of playing in such a high profile tournament. Their captain, Shaun Udal, admitted that it was ‘devastating news’ that the competition was to be delayed until October 2009. He also went on to admit that the news would affect the club from a ‘financial’ point of view, although most disappointing was the fact that they wouldn’t be playing cricket.

The difficulty for Middlesex is that they are not automatically eligible for next year’s competition. Unlike the teams from Australia, South Africa and India, they will have to win the domestic Twenty20 competition in England again to qualify.

With this in mind, it is worth considering whether they have the ability to do just this. Their captain is confident that his team can ‘go out and win the Twenty20 cup again’, but whether this is realistic is up for debate. Can they do it again or is it someone else’s turn to shine in cricket’s shortest form?

In terms of a team winning the tournament two years running, well it has never happened before. In the five years that the competition has been running, Leicestershire are the only team to have won it twice – in 2004 and 2006.

Therefore, for Middlesex to come out on top again they would have to perform extremely well. Especially when you consider the fact that the standard and competitiveness will be increased because of the Champions League place at stake. As much as they say they are determined to win it, it may also be hard for the Middlesex players to motivate themselves to do it all again. We shall see.

Something that it worth noting though is that they team they possess is more than capable of at least making it to the semi-finals. Then, as we all know, anything can happen.

During last year’s finals day, Middlesex comfortably saw off the challenge of Durham in the semi-final thanks to a blistering innings from South African Tyron Henderson, who was a key player for them in last year’s competition.

Then, in a thrilling final, they beat 2007 Champions Kent by three runs. The key performers including Owais Shah – who hit a superb 75 off 35 balls – and Henderson again as he conceded just one run off his final two overs to ensure Kent failed to chase down 188 to win in their 20 overs.

So, in terms of the 2009 Twenty20 cup, it is important that Middlesex have the likes of Shah and Henderson available and in form. They have proven many times that they are match winners and as long as they are in Udal’s team –they have a chance.

In fact, whether they are able to re-sign Henderson could prove decisive. As things stand, he is the leading wicket taker in Twenty20 cricket. Anyone who has a player with this record in their team must have a chance of progressing to the latter stages of the competition!

Finally for today, it is worth taking a look at Murali Kartik’s contribution to Middlesex’s Twenty20 glory. The Indian spinner took 13 wickets at an average of 18 in last years’ tournament and there is no doubt he played a huge part in the team’s success. Slow bowling always seems to work in the shorter form of the game, so Kartik can be pleased with how he performed.

Overall, as long as Kent have Shah and Henderson on form, a spin bowler of Kartik’s nature and the experience of Udal – there is every chance the cricket odds will back them to win the competition again. Their biggest obstacle may well be the challenge of winning the it two years running, but there is no doubt that they will do everything they can to be the English team in next years Champions League.

By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about cricket betting

17 December 2008

Infintini

Fantastic to see Makhaya performing. I was beginning to think that he'd lost it and never get it back. Maybe this was an exceptional case and he'll rarely bowl like this, but when he bowls well, I don't have a problem in telling someone else I like watching South Africa play. He's almost talismanic in the way Flintoff or Sehwag are. Anything seems possible.

15 December 2008

Welcome, Yuvi

Another Test gem in Yuvi's dusty career. This time, it came in a (memorable) win.
This one wasn't a century though it felt as if it should have been. None of Yuvi's centuries have come in winning causes (despair in Lahore, retreat in Karachi and a romp at Bangalore) and perhaps it was just as well.
But this one should give him a lot of confidence. Monty is not the worst spinner in the world. Swann may be a debutant, but he turns it a long way and it was a fifth-day pitch. As expected, he was a nervous wreck starting out against the spinners. Flintoff gave him the working over more than once. What he had at his disposal were his awesome talent and 22 yards away, an absolute master of working the singles against the spinners. Nervous hope gave fruit. India won. Yuvraj is Saurav's successor in the Indian team. Welcome Yuvi.

29 November 2008

New guy on the pantheon

The last post was by Avinash. Unlike the (now almost mythical) TM and the (sporadically active) Sajith, Avinash cannot be described by what he does in life. But if one were to list what he does not do...

Welcome Avinash.

On terrorism and cricket

I’m letting all loose… not mincing words, not even trying to be politically correct.

I write this in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks of the twenty sixth and the twenty seventh of November, 2008.

I don’t even want to begin to imagine what the people who have lost their loved ones in these senseless acts of inhumanity feel. It is, in my opinion, not respectable to even try.

That’s not the point.

The point is that in the wake of such crap, the sons of bitches in the ECB have gone ahead and cancelled the next two ODI’s. I suddenly understand how the cricket loving public in Pakistan and Sri-Lanka feel.

Its not that the tour was particularly exciting from a cricketing point of view. England were getting their asses walloped. It wasn’t even competitive cricket. That’s feels like a strange thing to say as an Indian. But it’s the truth. England would have probably spent their time trying to “find their best eleven” and “figuring out their batting order” and “learning from every match” and other such crap. The only entertainment as a spectator came from watching a team that invented a game being so thoroughly outperformed.

But that’s not the point either.

The point is that in the wake of such crap, the sons of bitches in the ECB have gone ahead and cancelled the next two ODI’s!

What is wrong with these people?

Say there had just been a national catastrophe, a hurricane that had demolished Mumbai and that had left but just a few people alive. Would they have cancelled the ODI’s? No they wouldn’t, the last couple of matches would have been some sort of fucking “benefit” for the survivors.

And who is to gain from all this? Who else than the terrorists? And who loses from it? Who else than the cricket fan? The normal guy who goes about his job and spends hours by some television shop’s window, because he can’t afford a TV, to see if “Bharat jitegi ke nahin”

It is pertinent to point out, that terrorists have never actually targeted cricketers. Maybe they are fans, who knows? But the importance of that goes without saying. They have never targeted cricketers.

And what if they tried? A guy, playing a sport for his country for his country, got nailed for it. It is so much more honourable than a soldiers death isn’t it? In my book, it is.

Football players have a whole host of things to worry about. Pigs heads being chucked out onto the field, rioting mobs and whatnot. That doesn’t result in football players being let off. Their controlling bodies don’t say…, “no things are too dangerous, you shouldn’t be playing football in a country like that”.

What can I say? I really can’t say anything.

In a few weeks, most-likely days, Mumbai will be back to normalcy. People will go about their lives like they always do. They will fear like they always will… riding in a local and looking at a bag and thinking, “maybe that’s a bomb”. They have learned to live with it and they will deal with it.

Just like any poor fisherman on any stormy coast.

Just like the mug coming in at number ten who swings and misses when his team needs fifteen off the last over.

It is a testament to their courage.

Nothing that anybody can say or think or devise will take away from it.

The international cricketer from “safe” countries doesn’t seem to need it because he has a paranoid mother for a boss.

And this boss will say…, “no its too dangerous”, “player safety is our primary concern”...

Stupid idiots from Australia who have a hole in the ozone and their fucking melanin deficient skins to worry about…

And who loses out?

The cricket fan, white or black, blue or brown.

Just like always, whether it’s the light or the rain or Ricky Ponting’s befuddled brain.
I guess that’s the way cricket and life pans out…

19 November 2008

A confidence player

The first innings had all his dazzling talent on display and the second was cut short just before he could bring out all his wares. If that nick had not happened, we might just have seen the first ODI double hundred. It is when you're faced by the full blast of his amazing talent that after the first instinct to thank heavens for the presence of divinity, the next is to tear your hair out in frustration. And in this frustration, I'd reckoned that nothing had really changed. I knew two years ago that Yuvraj Singh was one of the top 3 ODI batsmen in the world. I was confident then that by the end of 2008, he'd be averaging 4o plus, having played in 45 Tests. In Jan 2008, I knew that would not happen. Maybe next year.

Then I get an SMS.

"Write bitch", it said. "Dont fuckin wait for Sreesanth to bowl an outswinger at some drunk Malayali on Kovalam beach."

And then,

"If you have a conscience.."

And then the former CoS made a comment. And the current CoS had a rejoinder.

Yuvi is a confidence player says the CoS, someone who needs a "couple of good knocks in his belt". Two knocks, one high on fast food entertainment, and another high on "focus" have propelled him to the position of frontrunner to replace Ganguly in the Test lineup. So what about the first hundred? That came on the back of persistent Test failure and a bad run in the Sri Lanka ODIs and some average Ranji knocks. He did not need any under the belt for that, did he? So he is more than just a confidence player. He is also someone who can hit his way out of form. But can he graft his way out of bad form? If not, it means that he is susceptible to the extended run of very low scores, without the 150 ball thirty-nines that can save his spot in the Test team.

But the thing is..

The thing is that England is a good team to mark his Test comeback. They have good pacers who will test him even on placid tracks. Their lone spinner is not too far up the global spinner incompetence order that it won't be a huge challenge for him.

The opportunity to make a point is well within his grasp.

10 November 2008

So long..

Oz-fatigue has kicked in. Like lovers, India and Oz spent the better part of two months titillating, rubbing, scratching, biting, gouging and slapping each other - before getting absolutely tired of each other. They will now wait a few years before meeting again - new perfumes, sexual techniques, new haircuts - all adding to the anticipation, not of winning over the other, but just to meet.

Meanwhile Ganguly, Dhoni, Kumble and Bob Dylan sit around a fire.

When we meet again
Introduced as friends
Please don't let on that you knew me when
I was hungry and it was your world.
Ah, you fake just like a woman, yes, you do
You make love just like a woman, yes, you do
Then you ache just like a woman
But you break just like a little girl.

06 November 2008

The Long Ganguly Goodbye - Part II

Why is everyone so fkin loathe to acknowledge Ganguly the batsman? All right, so he was not a modern batting great, but the admiration from Roebuck and Hopps is so grudging that Giant Alien Lizards who landed from Mars last night might be tempted to believe that he made a cricket career exclusively from politicking and being a fantastic leader of men and a shrewd (not brilliant though) strategist. He is an all-time ODI great - almost up there with Tendulkar. Absolutely ridiculous that nobody acknowledges his ODI record as a fact that speaks for itself, rather than as one part of a highly succesful opening partnership. Perhaps his Test record does not merit that he share Fab-ness with the other three, but he did tame the best bowlers in the business at different times in his career. Perhaps not consistently enough to justify his talent, but he did justify his place in the strongest middle order of the era for a larger part of 113 Test matches. So fk off.

Could someone confirm this..

..because I am just too lazy. Apparently, is Sauravda scores a hundred tomorrow (or in the 2nd innings), he will join Greg Chappel as the only two players to have played (x) number of Tests and scored a hundred in their first and last matches.

Is it true? If it is, how fkin ironic is that?

Crazy kiya re

What Guru Greg did not achieve, Bishen Bedi seems to have stitched up in his pocket. So it would seem from a reading of the scorecard at the end of days play at Nagpur. Jason Krezja has removed Sehwag, Dravid and Laxman, i.e. a chunk of the Indian runmachine. Those that watched him getting tonked by Yuvi and Rohit Sharma will be similarly amazed. I have not seen the highlights yet, but for an offspinner, there is a fine line between a batsman gifting a bowler his wicket and an offie inducing the error. So all I can say is: Krezja has already gone better than Gavin Robertson. Credit also to Ricky Ponting who finally tore up and pissed on the Memorandum on New Age Cricket. An offie needs an imaginative captain.

The power of the net

Thanks to Cricinfo and Cricbuzz for ensuring that a cricket mad Indian, who is unfortunately stuck up in an office with nothing other than an internet connection, can still savour the thrills and the spills of a highly anticipated test match. If it were not for these great websites and the men who run the show, I would have been reduced to a school student, begging the principal to show the cricket match live on the sole television in the school.
Now that is a great idea to be implemented in office.

04 November 2008

Uncertainity Thy Name is Yousuf

Are there two Mohammad Yousuf's? One rivalling VVS Laxman and Mark Waugh for grace and elegance on the cricket field, the other acting as the exact opposite in real life - a comical mixture of indecision and rash thinking.

The erstwhile Yousuf Youhana's, on the field, exploits are the primary reason for his place in any cricket fan's heart. His timing has been astounding and for a brief span in 2006, he was the best batsman in the world bar none - at least based on statistics. While there have been criticisms regarding his apparent selfishness with the bat, Yousuf remains by some distance Pakistan's best batsman.

But, there is another side to Yousuf- his life outside the cricket ground. While his conversion from Christianity to Islam may be accepted on the altar of personal life, the latest saga related to the ICL cannot be blindly accepted . Here is the story in short.

In a fit of pique, after the 2007 World Cup, Yousuf joined ICL. On pressure from the PCB, he drops out of the rebel league. Instead, he offers his wares to the IPL. The ICL retaliated with legal action. Yousuf backed off. PCB announced their team with Yousuf in it. ICL announced that Yousuf was a part of the ICL fraternity. The story currently stays here with more to come for sure.

To me, Yousuf resembles Pakistani cricket. Exhilarating and Infuriating in equal measures. Cricket's Jekyll and Hyde - both the country and the man. If Hamlet, were a cricket follower , he would have one thing to say about both - "Uncertainty, thy name is ..."

03 November 2008

The Soldier

It has been months since I wrote on cricket. The interest to watch had never waned, but the desire to write certainly had. I watched with frustration as the Indian batting struggled in SriLanka . The feeling changed to irritation as the latest battle between the Fourth Estate and the Indian veterans reached ludicrous levels. Yet, none of these emotions were so strong as to be represented in words. Ganguly's retirement plans almost forced me to tap the keyboard again. But, there was still a mental block to be overcome. The block was finally overcome by the retirement of India's finest test match winner - Anil Kumble.

It was inevitable that Anil Kumble would retire sometime during the 2008-2009 season. Age was catching up and the shoulder was complaining and the veteran had to bow, as all must, to Father Time. But, as Kumble was given a farewell which rivalled Steve Waugh's, it was tempting to look back on the many triumphs and the few failures which made him such a special cricketer. But, the cliche still holds, facts and figures can never do proper justice to a sportsman.

To me Kumble's greatest achievement is that in all the tests India won during the time he was in the team, he was India's foremost player - not Tendulkar or Dravid. He relentlessly rolled on, bowling over after over and ensuring that the batsmen didn't ever complain that the bowlers hadn't done their job. He was India's finest bowler, her greatest test player.

Congrats Anil for being such a great player and for rekindling a dying flame in me -writing.

01 November 2008

About casting the first stone..

Apparently, I am a klutz. Hardly a week goes by without people commenting on my abilities at breaking expensive glasses and spilling food and drink on fancy carpets. One time, my friend's mother (in Bangalore) went to work somewhere in Africa and I practically moved in. A month and a half later, she returned to a house without cutlery. Not all of it was my handiwork. I did invite a few people home to take care of the remainder. Then there was the time that I finally moved into an apartment/house (people in Delhi will understand how dwelling areas aren't categorised easily, especially around Lajpat Nagar) and very soon, I realised the absolute pointlesness of buying breakable stuff. Carpets you ask? I was smarter than that.

Anyway, the point is this: I can't criticize the Indian fielding today... I have my moments where I have pulled off the spectacular catch, and completed a dream runout; but I can't remember the number of sitters I have spilt. So I will not spank the Indian fielding. Not today, not ever.

But if there is someone reading this who earnestly believes in their abilities as a safe fielder, then the floor is yours. I will stand by you while you spank, roast and waterboard them.

22 October 2008

Why so excited?

For days now, the news media been inundated with articles announcing the death of Australian supremacy. So then will some Aussie chicks burn a few bails?

Much as I would love to see that, this burning would be more than a touch premature. For some reasons, all the articles seem to acknowledge that the Aussies are still numero uno, and yet they come out with headlines that are either heart-rending in their soppy sentimentality or completely misdirected and fucked up with their superciliousness.

Ok, so there was a margin of victory that hasn't been witnessed in a really long time. So? And there was the general lack-of-threat, a directionless in the field that was distinctly un-Australian.

India have had much worse losses - some of them in the recent past. Did that vault them from a middling team to minnowhood?

India have appeared far more lackadaisical in the field, never hitting the stumps, for matches and matches on end.

True the Aussies 'have lost a few great players, importantly two match winning bowlers, and now their batting cannot stand the strain of putting larger scores up on the board. And yet, if their team plays anywhere near potential it is really difficult for any team to beat them. There is the best batsman in the world, the best (at least a couple of months ago) fast bowler in the world, and the statistical anomaly known as Michael Hussey. In combination, and with inputs from Michael Clarke and Mitchell Johnson, this team can easily make themselves near impossible to beat. It requires coordinated excellence from all quarters of a team to do so. Mohali had attacking batting, good quick bowling, some swing wizardry, spin magic, solid fielding and assured captaincy from India. In the last 20 years, only Australia has consistently ticked all these boxes.

Plus, everyone ignores the cricket superstructure in Australia. Spinning reserves might seem a bit of a problem, but why doesn't anyone acknowledge Peter Siddle's impressive performance on debut? In some way, his performance was as much a source of relief and optimism to Australia as Mishra's was to India. Siddle ran in over after over, and got the ball to lift off an uncomfortable length. Shaun Marsh is on his way here. David Hussey is an impressive guy. And Andrew Symonds is still in the picture.

So basically, let us not get carried away. Aussies are still number one, and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

20 October 2008

Maha-Lee

24 - 5 - 86 - 1 - 3.58
14 - 0 - 61 - 1 - 4.35

Why is nobody talking about Lee's awesome loss of form? Is he carrying an injury? Is he over the hill?

Where is the next great Australian quickie?

Or is it only an Indian phenomenon to make sure that someone who has missed a footing falls down to never get up again?

15 October 2008

To go when people ask "Why?"

As a professional sportsman, one internalizes the fact that you can feed yourself only by getting the better of your opponents.

By outwitting defenders to create that scoring opporunity, by being part of that match-winning partnership that kept the scoreboard ticking, those frugal overs at the death that kept the marauder off strike, that impossible burst of speed in the last hundred metres of a marathon, that important tackle, that dive to propel the shuttle from inches off the ground- these are how a sportsman earns his roti-dal.

Day and night, in and out, he performs - and like any professional, he performs for that larger chunk of meat and more roti at the dinner table. A better car, a larger home, jewellery for his sister, whatever.

He learns that to get the things that money can buy, he needs to consistently get the better of opponents. And that cannot be done without the belief that you're indeed better. He believes until he knows. If he doubts it for a split second, its effects will show on his game, and hence on the quality of the roti. Which is why he will never admit to himself (forget anyone else) that he might be less than spectacular. A massive ego is essential to a succesful sportsman. I laugh whenever I hear someone say that Tendulkar is humble - oh, if only you could hear the disdainful voices in his head.

No sportsman worth his salt will voluntarily admit that he is not better than his opponent.
And that is why we have selectors.

If Anil Kumble is not to play at Mohali (for reasons of incompetence, not fitness), it is not Anil Kumble who will pull that trigger. It is not in the nature of a sportsman to do so. It requires someone who is much much more than a sportsman to go when people ask, "Why?".

14 October 2008

Kat the itch

Soulberry was one of the few to readily agree with my association of Simon Katich with Luca Brasi. One of the king-nerds was adamant that Luca was the Don's trump card, and hence could certainly not be Simon Katich the Krab and journeyman.

Whatever. Luca got down and dirty.

And Katich did a fair bit of that in both innings. In the first, his assuredness against Ishant, Zaheer and then spin as well seemed to ease Ponting's nerves. And there was more of that in the second innings as well, his nervous demeanour cloaking some serious zen. This is also where Hayden's reputation is a weapon. He draws all the fire towards himself, leaving Katich to quietly go about his run-krabbing.

Where's that piano wire?

Hilarity

I just came across the anti-jrod: a scheme run by Loughborough University.

11 October 2008

Hum ko chahiye thoda extra

Dhoni has gone and done it again. Granted there is no sense in picking on him alone, for even Laxman deserved to be spanked for that prod-nudge. But this is Dhoni we're talking about. Champion of the fresher pair of legs, that harbinger of a new dawn who is both leader of men as well as a general among strategists, and our best ODI batsman. For Kumble's days are certainly numbered, and if Dhoni does not come up with a defining innings soon, there might be another interim captain in the horizon. Since the England series, Dhoni has scored: 36, 57, 50*, 37, 0, 11, 2, 35, 19, 38, 16, 20, 16, 14, 52, 32. His last (and only) hundred was more than eighteen months ago.

More must be demanded of Dhoni in the Test outfit. If he plays to potential, the possibility of having a fifth bowler, at least in India, is not too distant.

07 October 2008

The Long Ganguly Goodbye - Part I

I doubt any public figure elicits the extremes of opinion that Ganguly does. Very often from the same person. For instance, Ganguly is the person I'd curse loudest and longest when he would get caught off a snorter at second slip. The same might have been Dravid's or Tendulkar's fate as well, but I'd always be more reserved in my condemnation. At the same time, which other ill-built sportsman can take off his shirt on the world-stage, and still not embarass his countrymen?

For someone who we all loved to scream motherchod at the drop of a hat, he inspired the kind of loyalty in his teammates and from fans that could not be explained. People who might have alleged all sorts of sexual relationships between him and his family, would resort to all manner of convoluted logic to defend his spot in the team and his captaincy.

During this series, the Long Ganguly Goodbye will try and understand this phenomenon.

05 October 2008

Hustler gangster XI - Australia in India 2008

Mathew Hayden is not only the tough guy, he wants you to know he's tough.
When he plays well, Australia do not lose. He is Marv. Not always pretty. You want him on your side.














Krab Katich. Not beautiful. Has a long history of flitting into the story - sometimes batting, sometimes as a chinaman, and of making way. Very useful man to have in your touring party. He is Luca Brasi.






















Pricky Ponting. Absolute superstar with just one gap on his CV and desperate to correct it. Also desperate to be liked, and considered a statesman of the game. The second half of his career has covered up any indiscretion in the first. He is Fast Eddie Felson towards the end of Color of Money. He's very annoying if he's not on your side.







Michael Clarke is a talented young man with a pretty mercurial rise for an Australian batsman. Has a hot chick. He's Vincent Lauria to Ponting's Eddie Felson. Playing on the same team how wierd is that?















Michael Hussey is most described as a consummate professional. Accused of being dispassionate, he proves them wrong when time and again he brings out that ingredient x which goes beyond talent alone. Can win you a match. Will scrape you a draw. Will never let the team down. Not very entertaining. He is Tom Hagen.











Brad Haddin is the guy they sent to sub Jesus. Doesnt look the part at all, but can be surprisingly effective. He has previously shown everyone how good he can be in India., but the shadow of Gilchrist is long. He's young Michael Corleone. On his first real assignment.
After the best training there is.













Cameron White is a specialist of the new game, but not too bad at the old one. Is not the best leg spinner around. Is not the best whacker of the cricket ball. But pretty useful fellow to bring along just in case. He is Kip Raines from Gone in 60 Seconds.


















Brett Lee is the best in the business. Loves to be humble or seen as humble. Like Bill who knew his craft, cunning and strength would not protect him forever. At the moment though, he's crusing; scything down anyone in his path - and has already had a legendary battle on his own turf.
















Mitchell Johnson can blow hot and blow cold. But India has previously brought out the best in him. Central to the plan of a new generation of Australian cricketers. Works hard, knows his game, knows he is not Akram and plays with what he has. He is Tommy from Goodfellas.










Stuart Clark will do all the dirty work, all day. He has the height and even thepace if he wants to. Prefers to use cunning. He is Big Chris from Lock, Stock and 2 Smoking Barrels.







Jason Krezja is not proven at the highest level. There is cocaine in his past. Recently got a pasting. But at the moment, he's all they have and he's who they'll have to rely on. Once in a while he is surprisingly coordinatied and competent. Not enough. He's Vinnie from Snatch.

03 October 2008

Aussies add to the long list of uglies

Finally, the day is here.

Kamran Akmal - he of the undisputed supremacy on the visage issue, the champion of ugly, the emperor of the aesthetically challenged; finally has some competition.

Did you see Siddle?

01 October 2008

The Ganguly question will continue..

Does Ganguly's selection close out the possibility of playing five bowlers without tampering with the Sehwag-Gambhir opening combo? Does Anil have the balls to drop Dada while retaining Gambhir?

The answer to this question might prove key to the results of this series. By pushing Dhoni to number 6 without pushing Dravid to the opener's slot, India still have the solid batting that can take care of Lee and Clark, and with enough firepower to score quick.

Hopefully, it is an option that Anil will consider in the first couple of matches. As is repeated often enough, the only way to beat them is by going very hard at them. I guess there is a time and a place for four bowlers. Not now. Not here.

28 September 2008

The age of Kris

We might be in for a change in attitude towards transparency in selection matters. I am hoping, against all history and most logic.
If there is one thing that Kris is, it is that he is talkative. Straighttalking? I can't say. Probably more of someone who has little control over what he says, is what he is more likely to be.
The BCCI does not stand a chance with a gag order.
So either we have a very short Kris Srikkanth tenure or the BCCI comes to accept the fact that Kris will talk and write bullshit.

23 September 2008

Yuvi's back OR Will someone show me the method in this madness?

In what is probably the first piece of real good news that Yuvi must have heard since his name was announced for the tour of Australia (getting nominated for a meaningless ICC Award notwithstanding), he has been named captain of the Board President's XI that will take on the Aussies in a four day encounter starting Oct. 2.

Clearly behind Kaif and Badri in the race for a Test spot, it seems that some of us were wrong to conclude that Yuvi was behind Sharma and Raina as well. If Kaif and Badri do not make the most of their opportunity, Yuvi could be back in whites sooner than we expected.

As ever, the selectorial brain continues to excite and befuddle. If his obvious outrageous talent is the reason he was in the scheme of things, then casting him into Test wilderness after two bad matches in OZ was premature. Similarly, if his percieved inadequacy on tough wickets against tough bowlers was the reason he was dropped, he certainly has not demonstrated any great improvement in technique to merit a recall.

And what of those thoughts that flew in the wind - something about a knee surgery to prolong his career?

But I am sure there is great method in this seeming madness.

Others who seemed to have slipped off the radar, but have made the cut for this team include Chopra and Sreesanth.

19 September 2008

McGain's pilgrimage


CWB's Bryce McGain is an IT geek.

Is it coincidental that he is likely to make his international debut in Bangalore?


A city that is not only famous for its trees, pubs, bad traffic and embarrasing policemen, but is the spiritual home of the global IT industry.

Are his surroundings likely to inspire him to emulate the Bangalore geeks Dravid and Kumble?

Has Ranatunga just broken a murderer's heart?

If someone had to grow some balls, it is not very surprising that Ranatunga inspired it. Anyway, it is quite sad that it needed one of the smaller, less powerful cricketing nations for the breach to occur. Any suggestion that the acts of the SL cricket board are motivated are entirely lacking in evidence. But this is not a courtroom. Mr Chandra is a known International Man of Mystery.

The BCCI had been a good provider. Puts food on the table. Buys the silk and took you out to the movies. The sex was just about all right. Did not move mountains, but satisfactory.

As Ranatunga grew fat and sedentary and spent the afternoons watching The Bold and the Beautiful, something just wasn't right - it was never perfect of course, at the back of his mind and elsewhere, and now it was festering..

Now you have eloped and left the BCCI wondering what's he got that I ain't got?

Can Ranatunga handle the wrath?

"There are consequences to breaking the heart of a murdering bastard."

Bhogle vomits


Harsha Bhogle has repeated the argument seen on blogs ever since the ICL rose - test cricket is like classical music, franchise cricket is pop - what the market wants - by demanding Tests, are we not forcing our opinions on the market, and if the market demands differently, won't it rebel??

"We can make it aware of the glory of classical music, continue to offer it, even give it a premium tag but we must be aware that in the end the consumer wins."

Yawn.

Question is: will we continue to have performers like MS Subbalakshmi who refresh and revolutionise classical music - sticking to that discipline despite the riches and fame that popular music offered.

18 September 2008

A Soulberry epic and the nature of the beast

Soulberry's patience with a blogpost means that we have what is an epic by blog standards. Sure, it is a derivative work, tipping its hat to both Orwell as well as JRod, but in the end it is more than a sum of its parts. And as if my sense of anticipation wasn't already peering over the edge of the cliff, this post has me licking my lips in anticipation of a free fall (one that I know will hurt from memory). Well done!

The hurt from Sydney required the euphoria-balm of Perth. If not for Veeru and Pathan and the rest, I can imagine the dark feelings I'd have been harbouring right now. Those sections of our personalities that we spend an entire lifetime attempting to surprss, require only one cathartic moment (or a series of events) to grow and take control - The Exorcist, Bhool Bhulaiyya style..

I saw the ugly Indian cricket fan grow inside me, and I wrote about it, disdainfully observing the effigy-burners outside my self, but fully aware that there was one within me. Thank god for Perth, thank god for the tri-series, for the ruffian within had a good reason to go back within his shell. Phew, I am sophisticated again, I can glibly talk about the games many 'slings and arrows of outrageous fortune', how you 'win some and you lose some'..

Or did he?

What is the nature of this beast? Is he separate from the remaining, more respectable (the reading, English newspaper reading, DVD-purchasing, argumentative) parts of my self? How different is the effigy burner from the joyous dancer at India Gate when the young ones took everything at Jo'burg, or the one who lost his voice in the swooning Mumbai crowd? Are they the same person, only manifesting differently to a changed cricketing environment? Very primal - comfortable when winning, or even losing by an inch, but lose badly or raise a suspicion of being cheated out of a win, and there is no damming this ugliness, like an mother beast with its cubs and back to the wall.

I am without sophistication. This is me, the cricket fan.

17 September 2008

Kohli throws his hat in

Virat Kohli seemed competent in the just concluded ODI series. He did not cement his spot because he was filling in for Sehwag, but clearly Dhoni likes him, and so does Sehwag - so we will see a bit more of him in the one-dayers. And now, he has scored a valuable hundred (unbeaten on 167 at a strike rate of 77 as I write this) in the Mohammed Nissar Trophy against a more than competent attack.

Chopra's hundred was less significant because he is trying to break into an opening partnership that seems to have been sewn up between Sehwag and Gambhir, with Jaffer still in the mix somewhere. But Kohli wants a spot in the Test middle order. Kaif, Badri, Raina and Rohit (even Yuvi) are still ahead of him in the queue, but he will get another chance to perform in the Irani trophy to shout even louder.

By itself, this is a good reason to pay the selectors.

15 September 2008

Giving up the ghost. Not!!

For those who do not already know, the new ICL ads are out, and to my jaded eye, they were refreshing. None of the crass Bollywood nonsense and the superstar hype that characterised the IPL ads, and the ICL marketing of previous years. Here's a sample:


Are they trying to be the Thinking Man's (okay, let me rephrase: The Non-Vegetable's) domestic 20-20 competition?

In other news, the ICL has poached some Bangla heavyweights (this is not an Inzamam joke) of yesteryear, as well as a few promising youngsters.

The ICL is not giving up yet. Let's hope they can carry on until they break the BCCI monopoly on domestic cricket.

06 September 2008

Irani chai

Few questions for the selectors when they pick the Rest of India squad:

Since both Test openers will be playing for Delhi, what is our second choice opening line-up?

Will the middle order comprise the same people that were befuddled by Mendis? Any chance we might get to see Badri, Yuvi or Rohit?

Who will share the new ball with Zaheer? This selection might give a clue regarding Sree's future, and the selector's plans for Praveen in the Test side.

The break from blogging was prompted by a job and location change. With a new job and an apartment in strange Mumbai, I will try to be more regular.

07 August 2008

Slapper and slappee


The slapper has since prospered, the slappee (also known as the weeper) has seen his fortune go downhill.
Where Bhajji has seen a revival of fortunes, and wickets in the bag, Sree has been asked to "prove himself in domestic cricket after a fitness-enforced break. Ouch.

Spin of the dice

Is there any such thing as a pecking order for India's emerging spinners? Or is it a game of chance, the selectors picking names from a hat?

Not so long back, in fact a very short while ago, Piyush Chawla was the next big thing - successor to Anil himself. Today, he is a discard - no rhyme, no reason, but a certain Younus Khan might have had something to do with it.

Prgyan ojha watch his step, no saying when the dice will favour Mishra. Piyush will now learn how to deal with the slog sweep before he gets back.

Murali Kartik's been emerging for a decade, but it is certain now that he will only get a call when he least expects it.

06 August 2008

Be (Ti)wary

For the third Test, the only reason I'd think of dropping either Dravid or Ganguly is if Kumble would consider a fifth bowling option. Yeah, so Rohit Sharma has been warming the benches when he might as well have been perfecting his game at home. It's easy to look at Yuvraj and say see what years of being benched in the Test squad did to him, but the more critical ones will recognize the merits of travelling with the team and Yuvi's portion of the blame as well. More importantly, it would be bloody crazy to blood Rohit in a decider against Murali and Mendis - he might take forever to recover. Let's not repeat Manoj Tiwary's trial by fire-breathing-Lee.

04 August 2008

A change of guard?

Is this some kind of change of guard in Indian batting? When did India last win a Test match without fifties from any of Sachin, Saurav, Dravid or Laxman? I decided to find out, and looked back through victorious Indian scorecards. We came close to it in the infamous Mumbai Test match against the Aussies (Murali Kartik versus Michael Clarke), but barring that, there were none until I got bored of the whole exercise by 1996.

Retirements or not, Indian batting is moving beyond their tremendous influence.

Vaughan and Dravid

Which style do you prefer? Dravid's terse letter to the BCCI, communicating his reluctance to continue as captain, or Vaughan's teary press conference? Even though Dravid left me confused, and at the back of a series win, searching for answers, I am now, very happy that he spared us his emotions.

02 August 2008

Walking wickets talk

A 'walking wicket' is how Dravid and Collingwood have been described of late.

Collingwood walked into what might have been his last Test innings, and rescued a crumbling England in the company of Kevin 'Ego (isn't it refreshing to have Andre back?)' Pietersen.

The noise for Dravid's head is not that loud, but the irritation among the fans was clear. Ok, he hit a 90 there and a hundred here, but for a team challenging the top Test team, such a confused batsman at number 3 was a weight on the shoulders.

The subtext that King Cricket talks about, referring to Collingwood's repeated portrayal as a gritty, doughty one, is equally applicable to Dravid - who like Collingwood has broken the mould (or "the Wall") from time to time.

Dravid made some runs today, finally looking comfy against Mendis and Murali. His innings was pretty much a press release that he will only go kicking and screaming into retirement. Which is certainly good for Indian cricket, because the incumbent will have to keep doing well domestically and in ODIs. Gambhir is proof.

Rohit can wait. Owais must wait.

B-Texing a statistical itch

Among the criticism that Sehwag has had to swat away, a significant one is his dismal second innings average. At 28.91, it is easy to see how much it drags down his career average.

As I write this, he is batting at a run-a-ball 45 in an unbeaten opening stand, continuing on a year where he has set out correcting this statistical anomaly. Until 2008, his best second innings year was 2004, when he averaged 37. Since the beginning of 2008 (i.e the Perth Test), he averages 56.

01 August 2008

Sehwag's Holy War

The High Priest spat on the face of the heretics.

As he carried his bat, each shot reminded us of the doctrinal principles: no shot that he plays is 'irresponsible'. If they're within the realms of the possible, then they must be played - match situation, pitch and quality of the bowling are not important.

Slap-spit-slap-spit for those who dared to suggest that pulling from above his head and two feet outside off to get caught at square leg was irresponsible. Slap-spit-slap.

And a smack for you Sir Geoffrey.

The Flintoff concept

England made up for a lack of spine in the batting, with an injection of spunk in the bowling. I guess that's what Freddie allows England to do - with bat as well as ball, he permits the batsmen to relax a bit. Nasser Hussain might call for wholesale changes in the composition of the batting order. Truth is that with fit Freddie around, and even a slow wicket, each run scored counts for a bit more, making the batsmen a bit more than the sum of their dismal individual selves. With a bit more from the batsmen, England can be back to challenging some good teams.

P.S. Is it wrong, really wrong, to be a fan of James Anderson?

25 July 2008

Tame elephant

India's inability to capture wickets on placid tracks in recent times has only been matched by Pakistan. India has been more succesful on pitches that are more difficult for batting. There were great swathes of the Sri Lankan innings where the bowling looked just too docile. For how long will India continue to blame pitches where they only need to look West and South. Until a few years back, Pakistan was great at getting wickets on shirtfronts, and Murali has been pegging away for Sri Lanka in the most heartbreaking conditions. Ishant the Messiah has not blasted away everything in sight, and Kumble and Bhajji seem to increasingly depend on helpful conditions. Kumble will need to take a harder look at his bowling resources - perhaps even consider a third, or different spinning option for the next Test.

24 July 2008

Dhoni missed

Kumble's bowling is not kind to wicketkeepers and Kartik is its latest casualty. Dhoni is firmly perched now as India's best keeper, and he can partly thank the amount of cricket he's been playing. Sri Lanka is a bad place to drop catches. One can only hope that things don't go the way of Australia in 2003 when getting the edge was lesss than half the battle won. Not only does he need to get much better at keeping to Kumble, but he needs to bat out of his skin now.

About doubt.

Going by the evidence of today's play, the on-field umpire is still best placed to take decisions on certain aspects of the game - such as the existence of a fatal nick and judgment of bounce. Under the current referral system, the third umpire is expected to take into account all aspects of the referred decision.
The problem is that most referred 'out' calls have enough element of doubt on camera - technology still unable to conclusively distinguigh a ball-on-bat and bat-on-ground sounds, or predict the trajectory of a delivery or determine the legality of a close catch. It is almost certain that an 'out' call will be overturned by the third-umpire and a batsman can ride his luck on doubtful catches and faint edges. Wait for a crucial wicket before further action on this debate.

19 July 2008

Trust and the Dark Knight

Technology is very strange, sometimes simultaneously clarifying while obfuscating. Like the bump catch. The more cameras we get and the greater their resolution and speed, the more we realize the limitations in our understanding of the three-dimensional through the two-dimensional. Any referral of a dubious catch will always throw up an inconclusive verdict - certainly going in favour of the batsman.

This problem sounds very similar to the Heisenberg principle, though I'm sure it has nothing to do with it. (I'm assuming all of you went to high school)

Cricketers know this, umpires know this too, and so do administracrats - but the charade of taking it upstairs continues.

Taking the fielder's word for it is the only option we got now. Until of course, the ICC invests in the kind of sonar imaging that the Dark Knight invested in.

18 July 2008

Tick tock, tick tock

Is it conceivable that any movie can stand up to months and months of breathless anticipation and hype? The Dark Knight hits Delhi theatres today, and to try to keep my expectations low is proving futile, as I quickly dash to smear paint on my face...

Same goes for Flintoff, I guess.

We'll know soon enough.

08 July 2008

Quick office reflections on the test squad

I have not blogged here for an inordinately long time. Combination of factors. Can't say work, though it has contributed. Boredom too, to a large extent, with the endless cricket being played out everywhere. I missed switch-hits, Collingwood's ethical diemma and subsequent just desserts, Zimbabwe, CWB in the Wisden, Ajantha Mendis... basically a load of crap. Or that is how I have been thinking, and it is a reflection of the direction in which cricket is heading - when a confirmed cricketaholic starts thinking this way..

Anyway, chuck all that..

Once again, there are not too many surprises in the selection of the Test squad. With most of the team selecting itself, the only points of contention concerened Jaffer and the reserve batsman. Jaffer, a giant of the domestic game, has not captured the same kind of rhythm internationally. Yuvraj Singh, a giant of the one-day game, has not been able to utilize his outrageous talent in the Test arena with any kind of consistency. The question before the selectors was first, whether to let matters drift and allow Jaffer and Yuvraj another shot in the squad. Secondly, if not them, then who?

In Yuvraj's case, it did not make sense to carry him along in the squad. Only an injury to any of the top and middle order would allow him into the side. With Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly and Laxman very well rested, the chances of Yuvraj spending some time in the middle were close to nil, and it made more sense to send in someone who had more to gain from spending time in the same dressing room as Laxman, Dravid, Dada and Kumble. Rohit Sharma was an obvious candidate, though Badri's fans will claim that the Tamil Nadu domestic colossus continues to be ignored. Fair to say though, that Sharma was quite clearly ahead in the pecking order, having seen success in the one-day game. Such an argument does not sit easily (even when Veeru was dropped after the SA tour, there was the whole problem of using ODI form to measure Test selectability), and Badri's backers will cry until they are hoarse that his game is more suited to the longer version than Sharma's or Raina's.

In Jaffer's case, the selector's had to make a decision of greater importance. On the cards was a clean break with the past. With DK no longer in contention for the opener spot (unless India play Irfan as the fifth bowling option), Jaffer's departure signals the end of the opening combination that made gains in England. With Gambhir coming in, two men who have walked out together innumerable times for Delhi and for India, will do so again. It is not difficult to feel sorry for Jaffer, but the hopeless waft outside off has to leave his game. But more than Jaffer's shortcomings, it is Gambhir's incredible hunger for runs that has seen him make this comeback.

In the bowling department, Zak, Arpy and Ishant can be an uncomfortable three-card trick. My guess is that Zak and Ishant will get picked first, with Ganguly chipping in with a few overs. But on heartbreakingly benign Lankan tracks, the backup would be crucial. Sreesanth misses out and it is not clear if injury is the reason, and Munaf makes the cut. Kumble and the recently shamed Harbhajan will do the bulk of the bowling. Piyush misses out and in comes Ojha the left arm spinner. In case we decide to carry three spinners, there is great variety that might just make up for the lack of bite in Harbhajan's bowling, or the lack of experience in Pragyan's. However, we need to consider Murali Kartik for a moment. After years of being in the shadow of Kumble and Harbhajan, it is one of his own kind that has upstaged him this time. The question of pecking order, that is crucial to Rohit's presence in the squad today, is probably meaningless to Kartik now.

Finally, does Dhoni backing out mean anything more than a stopgap arrangement for DK or Parthiv? I would assume that DK gets to be in the team ahead of Parthiv, and if he is able to play Mendis and Murali with authority, the selectors would be in a spot - and might have to consider a situation where the vice-captain is not able to find a place in the squad. Dhoni who is now one of the most consistent ODI batsmen, has not set the world alight with his recent performaces in Tests.

Irfan gets dropped as well, which after his horrendous run in the Asia Cup should not come as a surprise for many. On the other hand, his Test form has not been too bad of late, if we would just cast our minds at the last two Test matches in Austalia. What is clear is that in the subcontinent, once the ball stops swinging, he finds it difficult to pick wickets. What we will miss though, is the option of playing five bowlers.

24 June 2008

Significance of the Insignificant

So, yet another meaningless tournament arrives. There is a jaded disinterest as the Asia Cup kicks off in stormy Pakistan. With countless strifes and innumerable controversies adorning Pakistan cricket, the Asia Cup is just a mere sideshow.
However, atleast to this writer, the Asia Cup could answer a few questions
1) India : - Can the much vaunted youth brigade deliver on the big stage. As the Men In Blue seek to create the nucleus for World Cup 2011, the Asia Cup could answer whether we have the correct personnel for the big event. It could tell us whether Consistency and Sehwag can be used in the same sentence without an "in".
2) Sri Lanka : - Is there life after Jayasurya? Or more pertinently who will , get you the wickets and restrict the runs when Murali retires? Also, is Ajitha Mendis a magician in the making?
3) Bangladesh : - Are they finally ready to break into the big stage? They had a storming World Cup, but have done precious little since. In a way, they have had a delicious appetizer but the main course has been bland. But, some encouraging signs with an improved Ashraful suggest that there could be light at the end of the tunnel.
4) Pakistan : - For once, the question is not about Akthar or Asif. It is about Pakistan's ability to organize a big show. A trouble-free tournament could actually be the most important development for Pakistan cricket.
Maybe there is some significance to the insignificant

06 June 2008

Tim Ambrose Watch

Tim Ambrose seems to be doing one better than his predecessor. Not only is he playing bridesmaid to the top order quie nicely, he is not dropping too many either. Looks like he might last longer than Prior.

04 June 2008

Trekking back to Respectability

Chrab is leading the Windies to reattain the heights of Mt. Respectability, last occupied under courtney Walsh. Over the last couple of seasons, the Chrab has been one of the most prolific Test batsmen - with an average of 74, scoring in this period a fifth of his runs in a career that goes back to 1994. This period coincides with Lara's slow walk into the sunset, and there is no doubt that the man from Guyana has reignited the trek when his expedition looked destined to stay in the Dark Valley of Sad Bastards.

He has been ably assisted by the man who is now his captain, Ramnaresh Sarwan who is fit after a string of injuries that made him look like a Jellybean, and the loss of form that saw him sit out of the team in Pakistan. His last eight scores, dating back to late March when the Windies received the Lankans at home, read: 128, 65, 12, 7, 102, 57, 72, 80.

It has been repeated ad nauseum: the Windies cannot always depend on Chrab, Gayle and Sarwan to stay afloat. Disco Dwayne needs to become a better number 6 batsman. He is doing just about alright on these sleepy West Indian pitches, but his baby-soft dismissal yesterday when Sarwan had practically taken them all the way, left the door open for a sneaky Sydney-style re-entry. Smith and Runako need to do better, at least on these pitches - uneven or not. If they don't the musical chairs with Ganga will coninue.

I wont talk about the Windies bowling, not only because I am lazy, but also because we're talking mere respectability. Once those heights are attained, they can talk about the pace battery, and decent spinners and think about Mt. Compete.

03 June 2008

Asif does a Bidappa

Damn, the Drugs and Cricket file keeps getting bigger and bigger. We will need a new office soon.

Asif decided to get caught in the right country, if he had to get caught at all, with drugs in the Middle East. Listen to Prasad Bidappa, fashion designer and model-hunter based in Bangalore, afte his fairly quick release:

"The first week there was harrowing for me in terms of uncertainty, but I made many friends. Shabaan, a Pakistani inmate, helped me get clean sheets and toiletries. The warden, an Iranian, and Ismail, a guard, told me not to worry. I prayed, read, worked out and got ready each morning. I got the inmates to exercise too"

I imagine Asif will be similarly popular. Also, PCB is supposed to have great relations with UAE chappies. D J Aqeel was netted in Dubai too, with ecstasy, I think. Not sure.

02 June 2008

According to the grand design.

Miriam is Wonderwoman. Read her DLF scintillating over-by-over coverage of the final at Cricket With Balls.

Did MSD finally meet a captain even cooler than him in a final potboiling-pulfiction-blockbuster-cauldron?
Did MSD look wistfully at Joginder in the dugout? In all fairness though, Joginder had a shit day prior to that final over.
Chennai filded badly. Will Dhoni whine as much about fielding, even though bar-Murali, he only had young legs at his disposal?
What will Shane Warne do till the next seaon?
Will Watson have a upswing in fortunes at international cricket?

31 May 2008

Adonis rises, Delhi falls. OR Can Yusuf Pathan be the next Andrew Symonds?

Embarassing. McGrath got himself a pasting from Yusuf Pathan celebrating his ODI squad call-up, and Jellybean Adonis Watson played an innings to remember. Delhi started the tournament relying too much on their top order. Towards the end, they relied too much on the lower middle. After the Sehwag, Gambhir and Dhavan failed, there was no question that Dilshan and Karthik would too. Royals are deserving finalists. In fact they're deserving winners. No one deserves to win as much as them. Give them the trophy already.

Can Yusuf Pathan do what Andrew Symonds has done? i.e. Convert a fantastic eye and an uncluttered mind into a Test cricketer capable of scoring big hundreds and getting wickets against good batting sides? I think it is a gamble more than worth taking. Australian cricket persevered with Symonds for a long, long time, and there were times it looked a dodgy investment, but it paid off in the end - Ponting's captaincy contributing in no small measure, aparently.

Ponting forgot he was nearing 10000 runs. That is a lie. I have always hated the way he bats, but 10000 is a lot of runs. I might just consider trying to appreciate his game a little more.

29 May 2008

Frikkin lasers, dude!!


Somewhere in North Carolina. Circa 1985.


Modi: I'm seeing frikkin lasers, dude!!

Buddy: Dude, you're tiresome.

Modi: I'm serious, bro! And fireworks over Bangalore.

Buddy: Whaa??

Modi: And cheerleaders, man. I need to get some cheerleaders. And then go get me some poontang.

Buddy: What the fuck you goin on about, man?

Modi: Man, this shit's gonna be so awesaaam.

Buddy: What?

Modi: And Bollywood, biatch! Ain't no sunshine... if the B... er.. anyway, you get what I mean.

Buddy: No.

Modi: Cheerleaders too..

Buddy: Shut the fuck up. NO MORE DRUGS FOR YOU!!

Modi: Cruel bro.

Buddy: I swear if you open your mouth one more time, I will have to slap you.

Modi: That's it!! SLAPS! We need people slapping each other! And golden helmets. And cheerleaders.


(Thanks, Ottayan)

27 May 2008

Now showing: NTR and Vikram

Adam Gilchrist is a legend. Having redefined the wicketkeeper batsman, he led the Aussies to their first victory on Indian soil for godknowshowmany years. Having little left to prove, he takes the arena for his IPL swansong, playing only for pride. Not for a moment does he need to justify his paypacket.

Not M S Dhoni. Not yet a legend, but could be on the way. The man with the almost Midas touch, he badly needs an IPL semi-final slot to justify the vast sum of money he was bought for.

(Pictures: Top left, N T Rama Rao, Telugu superstar who rose to fame playing characters from Hindu mythology and then became a Chief Minister who changed the nature of South Indian politics forever. Bottom right, Vikram, already a Tamil superstar, he has delivered hits to almost all his producers.)

Thrilling climax. Not.

On either side of the Atlantic (I had to start with that phrase) Test players colluded to throw water on (cliche alert) an intriguingly poised last innings. Stupid kiwis finally have some ubertalent and they decide to get themelves run out, or play Monty like the pitch was made of coals, and then could not get past the only English batsmen who have been scoring any runs. I guess the "We want Adil" voices will have to hold on a little longer. On the other side, it would have been a bit more difficult to stretch that match to the last hour or the last thirty runs with two wickets remaining, but lets not start blaming T20. Implosions existed fifteen years back as well, and Indians will remember Barbados and Aussies will remember Curtly as well as the expression "skittled out". Batsmen should feel stupid after getting out to Clark. Indians know that feeling.

25 May 2008

Tension

Yes, yes, yes!!!

The Aussies are down. But will they stay down? An intriguing test match this, on a dodgy pitch, with the best Aussie batsmen out, and the West Indian pacers on fire. But what kind of a target is actually gettable on this pitch? The lead is already 136, and I don't fancy the Windies chasing anything more than 240 without Gayle. Unless of course the Chrab turns up for an encore.

Disco Dwayne!! So the IPL is not so debilitatng for Test match techniques, eh?

24 May 2008

Anderson continues to perplex

32.3 Anderson to How, OUT, that's a peach, Anderson has produced a most beautiful away-seamer, fantastic seam position, pitches on off, straightens a shade and kisses the edge of the bat, How pokes tentatively but has no answer to that one, Ambrose completes an easy catch and England are on top. That was the best ball of the day so far.
JM How c Ambrose b Anderson 64 (110b 7x4 0x6) SR: 58.18

40.3 Anderson to Flynn, no run, he's missed that and there's blood on the pitch, he tries to pull a short one but that's too quick for him, struck full on on the face and that seems to have gone through the grill, he's taken off his helmet and is spewing blood on the ground
DR Flynn retired hurt 4 (13b 1x4 0x6) SR: 30.76

Ok, I did not watch the match, but from following it on Cricinfo, it appeared that Anderson had bowled the best couple of deliveries of the irst day. And yet, his figures at the end of the day?
12, 0, 66, 1, 5.50
At the end of the Lords Test last year, Ian Chappel seemed convinced that Anderson had finally found his feet in international cricket, and that there would be a different bowler on . Clearly has not been the case. But credit to Taylor.

22 May 2008

'Fixing' Chennai

Last evening, I bet a thousand bucks that Chennai would lose. I then increased that bet to 2000 bucks when Bangalore made only 126. I got odds of 3 is to 1 - Chennai lost and I was 6,000 bucks richer. While the money has not begun to warm my wallet yet, my little victory did make me wonder just how much money would have been riding on a Chennai loss yesterday - crores, several hundreds of crores perhaps?

With their place in the semi finals almost guaranteed, would a loss have mattered yesterday? Perhaps, even if it did, the Chennai chokers may have been made to lose perspective by the lure of money that could potentially have been several times their three year contracts? Too cynical I hear John say - but this is the same team that won a humdinger against Delhi, regularly scores over 150 and has never looked like collapsing dramtatically. A bad day you say... hmmmm.. perhaps.

Quite a coincidence though that a colalpse of this nature should happen to two teams on the same night. It does suddenly make the IPL more interesting and more TRP woth doesnt it? If Delhi does play today, wont millions watch them trying to open the door that has suddenly opened for them courtesy last night?

Is there a nexus between players and bookies; between tv and players or is it an unholy alliance of tv, bookies and players, where no one loses but everyone is so much richer?

20 May 2008

The imminent Jaffer question

Jaffer's shakiness outside off-stump since the beginning of the tour of Australia, the fall in Karthik's fortune since Pakistan visited, and Sehwag's resurgence since Perth all add up to a possible vacancy at the top of the Test batting order.

I have been a fan of HRH Wasim Jaffer, standing tall imperiously, to whip and pull on the leg side, and continued to state his case throughout his miserable tour of Australia (here and mostly here, for instance), but his hopeful waft outside off cost him dear when the Steyn, Ntini & Co. paid a visit. Despite a hundred on a batting paradise, he averaged less than the struggling M S Dhoni.

Is it time to give him his pension? He is clearly short on confidence after his time with the Royal Challengers and knows he hangs on to the Test team by a slender thread. At the same time, he will also know that it was less than a year ago that he was building foundations for Sachin, Laxman an Ganguly in England. Guilty he was of giving it away when well set, but he has since also proven that he is a master at cashing in on a flat deck, whipping Pakistan on a sleepy deck at the Eden Gardens). Now if the cupboard were bare, Jaffer should get a few more chances.

But now, with Gambhir showing great fluency for the Daredevils, and having exhibited good temprament in the ODIs in Oz, and being a better feilder by light years, I will be stoic if Jaffer gets dropped and look forward to some Daredevilry at the top of the order. But then, India have a lot of Tests to play at home soon, and I will rejoice (with some Royal Challenge perhaps) at his next first innings double hundred.

Colonel, hear my prayers.

By the way, where the hell is Mohd. Ashraful? Why isnt he in the IPL? Or am I totally out of it?

15 May 2008

Ambrosia

Three tests. That's how much Tim Ambrose has played.

Fourteen months. That's how much time is left before the Australians arrive.

Time, one would think, for the English media and fans to start howling for his blood. For the next fourteen months, Ambrose needs to keep justifying his spot in the side.

Geraint was not a good enough keeper. Read was not a good enough bat. And Prior was the recurring nightmare.

Ambrose needs to be extra-safe behind the stumps and needs at least one good outing with the bat. Something like his counterattack at Wellington will help.

13 May 2008

Is the threat real?

This is a response to TM's post below. Even far away from India and the IPL, it is hard not see how shaken people seem to be by the spectre of 'corporatisation'.

Dravid first lost the Colonel's faith, and then went ahead and now has almost lost the Liquor Baron's. What is the difference? The Colonel is the chairman of the selection committee of the BCCI. The Liquor Baron represents the franchise ownership of the Bangalore Royal Challengers.

The chairman of the selection committee is responsible to those that control the BCCI purse. That the BCCI is responsible to its stakeholders, the fans of Indian cricket, will never cross the minds of the mandarins because of the absolute monopoly they hold in the product market known as international cricket in India.

The ownership of the BRC, on the other hand, is immediately responsible to gate collections and franchise T-shirt sales - the ownership in an ultra-competetive market is much more likely to feel the pinch of waning fan interest. The absolute unlikeliness of regional quotas ever finding place at a BRC selection meeting is an example. On the other hand, there is always the chance that a cricketer with a greater ability at selling T-shirts (think Beckham and Real Madrid) will get a favourable hearing.

Theoretically at least, a competetive market where the fan is free to shift allegiance, seems a fairer (or at least more democratic) judge and executioner of a player's fortunes, as compared to a selection committee that exists in a monopolistic vacuum, free from competetive pressures. Of course, there will be unfair application of what is fair in theory - and that will depend on the nature of the ownership. Is the ownership Machiavellian about profits? Is the corporate culture dictatorial?

Corporatisation by itself, is no great danger. In fact, there is good reason to argue that selection will end up a fairer process. Also, when ownership realizes the importance of attracting and retaining good employees - and the Liquor Baron will not be a stranger to the Great Global War for Talent, franchises are bound to place more thought on conditions of employment.

UB or not to UB

Vijay Mallya is pulling out his wonderfully styled hair as Bangalore stumbles from defeat to defeat to defeat to defeat (you get the point)...Charu Sharma has already borne the brunt of, perhaps the most debt ridden man in India's, anger, and is now looking for a job. As Mallya shoots his mouth right, left and centre about how disappointed he is and how cricket has a corporate element to it, Rahul Dravid and company may sson be looking for new franchisees in the transfer window (wonder if after these perfromances, there are going to be any takers!).

But the point is that corporatization is rearing its very ugly head in cricket and an out of form player is now under the same kind of threat as any other employee in India - the very real threat of being fired and losing out on 'maximizing' income during playing days. As a lawyer, it irks me that the same kind of labour legislations that protect each of us employed in India from complete arbitrariness and high handedness does not appear to protect the sons of Indian cricket. From what one hears from people who have actually seen the employment contracts, all rights under these contracts have been waived and the players are completely at the mercy of the employers - perhaps we need a challenge to these contracts in the higher echelons of our judiciary and for some of the more arbitrary clauses to be struck down! No longer is class permanent and form temporary - ask Dravid or Kallis how conventional wisdom lays bleeding at the alter of money.

12 May 2008

Chennai Veeran

Just days after I wrote about Nehra's renaissance, it seems that the cricketing God has showered his blessings on another of Indian cricket's forgotten stars - Balaji. For any bowler, to take a hattrick is outstanding. Forget the circumstances, forget the wickets taken. For the first time since 2004 when his smile was as much a vital ingredient as his swing bowling in India's epic success in Pakistan, Balaji seems to be on the way back. He may have only ambled upto the bowling crease, but Balaji seemed to be using his wrist in generating some great bounce. Like Nehra, the journey has only just begun, but the signs are promising and hopefully, the fast bowling family of India cricket will be one which the opponents dread - Zaheer, RP, Sreesanth, Munaf, Irfan, Balaji, Nehra and Ishanth. Australia cannot boast of such an artillery.