30 March 2008
29 March 2008
28 March 2008
Dear Grame Smith,
Either you don't know, or if you know, then shame on you. Either you know that Paul Harris is the feeblest of spinners who does not stand a chance against Virender Sehwag, and so you lowered him into the shallow end by asking him to bowl a restrictive, disgraceful line to him, in which case it is okay, but then now we know that you know that Harris is not very great. The other option then, is that you know that Harris is capable of the occasional special ball, but you were shittin your pants scared wondering how much he will leak if he came around the stumps and actually tried to GET A WICKET. In that case, shame on you, Graeme Smith for asking your lone spinner to come over the stumps first thing in the morning, in Chennai. Okay, it is a flat track, but you did have 500 runs to play with.
Spirit of Cricket Future.
27 March 2008
All in the interests of cosmic balance.
- Jhonty Rhodes - self explanatory
- Alan Donald - self explanatory - used to love Tendulkar-Donald duels.
- Lance Klusener - for doing to cricket, what machine guns did to movies, revealing beauty through sustained ugliness, and not in an Ashwell Prince sort of way.
- Fanie DeViliers - I understood as a little kid watching him bowl at the likes of the horribly diffident Sujith Somasunder, the ultimate potential of the slower ball.
Arpy Singh on the other hand, is not even a shadow of his self in Australia and England. Playing in his first Test at home, he looked among other things, lazy - which is not something I thought could be said of him. And it is not as if he is a stranger to batting beauties. His debut was against Pakistan on a dead Faisalabad track. (We use a term in Malayalam to refer to er.. less endowed women which directly translates to "the frog over which a Tamil goods lorry has passed".. well, suffice to say that it was that kind of a track. Afridi mauled Bhajji, Arpy took 4-for in a MoM performance, and Pakistan made 588 in the first innings, and India responded with 603)
Is he unfit? Unlikely considering he picked up five wickets in a domestic Deodhar game. Not only were there a few bloopers on the field, his first spell was consistently in the mid 120s while Sree - not so Santh anymore, was regularly in the mid 130s. Sree might have gone for almost as many runs, but those who watched him bowl will know he created far more chances on what appears to be the flattest of tracks. If Arpy does not pull up his socks - a lot, in the second innings, the choice of who to drop when Ishant returns will become easier.
26 March 2008
He came into the attack with the opening partnership motoring along nicely and promised immediately with flight and bounce off the track. The doosra was kept aside for the special occasion - and McKenzie was its first victim. The turn-and-bounce accounted for Kallis, and it was good to see Harbhajan getting rewarded for flighting the ball.
In June 2007, I had lamented the tragedy (yes, J Rod, I like using "tragedy") of Bhajji, and the situation has not changed much. But for a sprinkling of good performances (the last time we hosted Sri Lanka for instance), his career has not lived up to the expectations of his incredible show in 2001. Bhajji's been getting a bit of flak of late (for close to three years actually), not least from bloggers who have beamoaned his lack of form and is always taking punches from Sanjay "elephant" Manjerekar. Nine months back, I said Chappell had some explaining to do, because the decline in Bhajji's fortunes coincided precisely with his reign. And everyone knows how much of a spinner's efficacy comes from a supportive managment. Also, there must have been the initial period of resignation after realizing that there was scant chance of him displacing Kumble as first choice spinner.
Enough water has flown under the bridge. And if the series in Australia proved anything, it was Bhajji's contribution to the side, outside of the bowling department. One desperately wanted him to be able to completely justify his spot in the team. Getting Ponting out a few times was not enough to address the claims of Murali Kartik - of whom I am a huge fan, and would have loved to see him in the team ahead of Bhajji - and Piyush Chawla.
I may be calling it a little too early, but despite a clear lack of rhythm in his bowling, he was in a mood to attack and get wickets that was quite heartening. I will wait for the series to get over before considering whether Kartik can replace him when India play at home or on spin-firendly venues.
Te pitch was flat, and the RP Singh and Sreesanth tried too many things. Still, very good batting.
24 March 2008
To me, the primary criterion for an enduring rivalry is the skill of the individuals concerned. You want two men who are at acknowledged maestros of their respective crafts going at each other to bring the crowd to their feat. With all respect to their abilities, a Sunil Joshi having a rivalry with Andrew Hudson would probably enthral a grand total of zero. But, put Allan Donald and Sachin Tendulkar at opposite ends of the field and all of a sudden sport resembles war.
The next criterion ought to be the span of the test series. I feel that a minimum of three tests is essential for the antagonists to fight simply because it gives them ample opportunities to overcome any downturns in form. It also gives a feeling akin to having a great dinner after a good appetizer.
The last and crucial criterion is the playing conditions. Nobody wants to see a pitch which unduly
favours one of the contestants. A fair pitch which offers enough opportunities to all would add sparkle to the contest.
But, looking at world cricket it is sad that there are few genuine rivalries left- Lee v/s Tendulkar, Murali v/s Pieterson, a fit Flntoff v/s Ponting. But, another rivalry fit to stand with these three is sad to find. We are forced to look for the venom spouting variety of Harbhajan v/s Symonds and Sreesanth v/s Nel. A far cry from the 90's and early 2000's when Warne v/s Tendulkar, Lara v/s Murali, Mcgrath v/s Tendulkar/Lara, Inzamam v/s Kumble, Donald v/s Atherton, Waughs v/s Ambrose/Walsh thrilled the senses.
So, as South Africa and India take to the field, there is a genuine wish that we get some more rivalries - Steyn v/s Sehwag and Kumble v/s Kallis anyone ????
20 March 2008
Sachin, you know what needs to be done.
19 March 2008
Sree now returns from injury to find a place in the team because of injuries to Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma, to bowl under Anil Kumble's captaincy for the very first time. The recently concluded CB Series not only saw a much calmer Sree, (who incidentally, has attributed his new Zen state to Ayurvedic treatment), he was also modestly succesful with a few crucial wickets.
With such intense competition for a spot in the Indian fast bowling ranks, how Sree copes with the drudgery of bowling to Ashwell and Jaques, and the biffing to be expected from Grame Smith and ABDe could determine his future in the Test bowling ranks. Will he keep his cool? Unlikely. Will he be succesful? Perhaps. Smith, Jaques, Amla and co. are unlikely to have forgotten about Sree's wily ways. In any case, Sree will be part of an attack that might contain two left arm seamers.
Edit: Sree's rehabilitation though, is just one of many cataclysms that we have seen since that eventful tour of South Africa. Foremost among them is the end to those meandering days under Dravid, to a more purposeful approach under Anil and MSD. Dravid may have been a more astute strategist, but Anil and MSD are delivering more spectacular results.
Dada's return. If memory serves right, that tour was when he made his comeback, and things have been pretty rosy for him in the Test arena since then. With Yuvraj and Rohit Sharma barking at his heels, this series is no different from the previous few which have all started with his place under threat.
Pathan was sent home in disgrace from that tour, having lost his form so horribly since his brilliant hat-trick. Not only was he crucial in that win at Perth, but he has made himself pretty much indispensable to the balance of the ODI team. The pace and nip are not quite there yet, and it is forseeable that he may find himself in a restricting role, once the ball loses shine.
South Africa was also where Karthik was asked to open for the first time. Having impressed, he went to scale greater highs in England - not only as opener, but as general cheerleader-in-chief, before returning with a thud at home against Pakistan. Now he finds himself a back-up for the tireless MS Dhoni, Sehwag having claimed the opener's spot with aplomb in Australia. Unfortunately for him, it also looks like Gautam Gambhir and Chopra have somehow climbed higher up in the pecking order to replace Jaffer if that becomes necessary.
17 March 2008
The Indian cricket season rolls on. After the Australians, its South Africa which will do battle with the Indians. After the wide-spread buffet on offer in Australia, the battle with the Proteas look less appealing. But, for one man, this could prove to be the most important series yet.
I do not mean Yuvraj and his perennial quest to be a permanent fix in world cricket's most formidable middle order. Nor is this about Harbhajan and his tryst at becoming Kumble's designated successor. This write-up is about an opener who has been successful for his country.
I am talking about Gary Kirsten, that fine South African opener, who begins his journey as India' s coach against his own nation.
Gary Kirsten was one of cricket's unsung heroes. He was probably the most consistent cricketer of the Cronje era. The true value of Kirsten can be gleaned by the number of match saving innings he played as an opener. But, the sad fact about Kirsten was that his feats were more underrated than acknowledged. People were more prone to talk about Kallis and Cronje, about Pollock and Donald. They discussed Rhodes and Cullinan more than Kirsten.
But, it is this very quality which could lead Kirsten to success in his new job. Team India doesn't need a charismatic manager. With the kind of star power resident in the team, what they need is a back room engineer who will be more a guidance and a sounding board than a aggressive dictator. Having played with Ganguly, Tendulkar, Kumble, Dravid and Laxman, Kirsten shouldn't have any issues in jelling with the team. Hopefully, Kirsten becomes the next John Wright as far as Indian cricket is concerned.
Here is a word of prayer and a round of applause as the Unsung hero assumes the high profile job of Indian cricket.
The challenge now for the selectors is to decide whether it is smart to carry Yuvraj in this Test squad, of his primary purpose will be to carry drinks. The challenge comes from the ascent of Rohit Sharma as not only a fairly reliable bat in ODIs, but also because, like Yuvraj, "he has a certain, what they French would call, I dont know what", that begs to be examined in the harsher light of Test cricket. Finding room in the squad is the first step. (TM, if you have anything to say, say it now, or forever hold your peace.)
Both have their strong points when set against each other. Rohit's defence is tighter, but Yuvi can clear big grounds with his power. It hardly makes sense to compare them as far as utility to the team is concerned. Both have shown the talent necessary to handle two spots in that hallowed middle order when the time is right.
Right now, for these matches at home against South Africa, it makes more sense to carry Rohit in the Test team. For one, it is an unmistakeable sign to Yuvi that he is not the only one chasing a spot and so should shape up - not just batting-wise, but also fitness-wise. Also, Rohit gets a sliver of a chance of showing what he is made of, against the likes of Steyn and Ntini. Even if he does not bat, he gets the chance to share a dressing room with VVS and Anil Kumble - an education that must not be denied to him.
13 March 2008
11 March 2008
07 March 2008
Keep watching him. First session tomorrow, he is expected to morph into a giant genital.
From five matches, Sehwag has scored 81 runs and taken 1 wicket. Figures which do not suit a top player. Unlike short three match series, the CB sries offers you adequate opportunities to overcome a downturn in your fortunes. So, Sehwag has been the one failure of India' successful ODI campaign.
This is not to suggest that Sehwag has been a failure in the long tour to Australia. Absolutely no. To me, he played arguably the second most important knock of the test series, from an Indian point of view, at Adelaide. Next only to Laxman's knock at Perth, it was of immense value in ensuring that India didn't go 3-1 down in a series which should have remained 1-1.
But, the sad fact remains that Sehwag has been a highly unsuccessful ODI cricketer. An average of 31 from 183 matches suggests a cricketer bordering on the mediocrity. In an era in which averages touching 40 are more the norm, Sehwag seems to me a more refined version of Afridi, the batsman.
So, what lies ahead for Sehwag? Is it an early retirement from the ODI scene? Or another chance. Will he turn out to be an Anwar or an Afridi? It is upto Sehwag one feels. Hopefully, he will prosper and peform to the levels he should.
05 March 2008
03 March 2008
"He doesn't score against the big nations any more - 493 runs at an average of 70.
"Adelaide is his worst ground." - a majestic 153
"He doesnt score any runs chasing" - Two match winning scores in the most important games India played in the tournament.
"He is a failure in finals" - 117*(120) balls.
So, guys, criticize him, taunt him so that he breaks more barriers, creates more records and sets the stage ablaze.
Let us "Raise the Titan" again.
PS: - I seriously think I ought to do a lengthier article on Mr Tendulkar. But, that can wait as I wait for Tuesday.