31 March 2007

Kumble and Inzamam

Two giants complained their way out of the ODI circus. Kumble, much like his bowling was quite subtle, talking about how it hurt when 'people took me for granted'. Inzamam unlike his recent batting, was in quite a bit of a hurry to get the message out: He was dissappointed with everyone - the media, the Pakistani public, the Board, his players - all came in for some stick.

Both deserved to leave ODIs happier. After all, both have given us so much happiness.

Blasted New Zealand out of World Cup '92 from a near hopeless situation - Become one of Kumble's ten wickets at Kotla;
Conduct six-for demolition in the Hero Cup final
Perform "gentle-bearded-giant-on-burning-deck" drama for the nth time
Walk out with a broken jaw to bowl at Lara and win India a one-dayer against the Aussies, with the bat, in front of his home-crowd.
The lazy spark in Inzy's on-drives, lifting all his bulk from the ground to gratefully accept catches at slip, wading into a Toronto cricket crowd weilding his bat like a baton.
Bowl for fifteen years to ensure that India were at least "tigers at home" for a decade.

Not too long now, folks, before they leave Test cricket too. Hopefully India and Pakistan will be able to give them the kind of goodbyes that the Aussies were able to give Warne-McGrath-Langer-Martin.

29 March 2007

Dasmunsis against depravity

Apparently FTV broadcasts material "that are against good taste and decency, denigrate women and are likely to adversely affect public morality."
Good taste?
But what about the creative heights achieved by the fashion industry? I mean, for all you know Priyaranjan Dasmunshi might think Picasso is trash. Does that mean he should be allowed to weild his big stick?

Adversely affect public morality?
Hmm.. Got to admit that nobody really has been able to present a succesful general rebuttal to this argument. Unsuccesful because the idiots who control the obscenity law and its variants have never been able to answer how one person (or one committee for that matter) can speak for the 'public' and determine its 'morality'.

I swear I never watch FTV. Its aload of trash. But that's no reason for taking it off air.

27 March 2007

Stupid panelists who answer stupid questions

Kris Srikkanth, Waqar Younis, Ajay Jadeja and Sidhu are part of an increasing army of 'experts' who have been asked, "Should Sachin Tendulkar become captain of India again?"

Of all the stupid knee-jerk reactions that our media (and our vast never-ending resource of armchair-critics-who-think-they-should-be-fielding-at-point) could have come up with, this 'pertinent' question deserves the greatest trophy.

On the one hand, there a few sensible panelists and actual experts (with ISI mark - no, not Javed Miandad, ha ha) who want the right questions to be asked after the exit from the World cup. On the other, there is an all pervasive inability to raise the right issues. It seems most of India would rather believe in hype without exercising any grey cells, and without getting their flannels dirty.

The captaincy was quite obviously not the primary reason. But in a few more days, the calls for Dravid's head would have become so shrill, nobody would have any option.

"Obviously, Sachin should be captain!" - K Srikkanth, Member, World Champion Indian Team, 1983.

24 March 2007

Lines heard most today

1. "It's okay, yaar. Just a bad day." (three)
2. "I've been saying for years that Sachin should retire." (five)
3. "We should get Dhoni and shave his head. " - (four)
4. "Uthappa should be dropped" - (four)

Five ways to reconcile yourself this morning

1. We still have three batsmen with over ten thousand runs in ODIs.
2. We could invade Sri Lanka if we really wanted to.
3. Our GDP is still growing at a phenomenal rate.
4. A Tamil was the Man of the Match.
5. Ajit Agarkar is young enough to play two more world Cups.

23 March 2007

But who will open?

Ganguly for sure.
But Sehwag or Uthappa? Sehwag, say the pundits, because he is an opener and that is where he has made most of his runs. But do we dare risk losing Sehwag to Vaas? Yes, we do, because he can make Malinga howl. And Vaas is not that succesful against us anyway.

Drop Uthappa?

In any case, he is only in the team as long as we are following the 4 bowler strategy. But if we are, then tough call. To be fair, the guy has only failed twice. Might as well give him a last chance, and it will be a final opportunity to make an impact in this World Cup and prove he is ready for this level. But should we go with four bowlers?

We need to WIN this match. Setting them a huge total is not going to decisively win it, though it will turn into the ultimate slog-fest. And if India put them in to bat, India must be prepared to chase down a massive total as well. The Indian bowling has been a little tame in the World Cup, and Jayasurya, Tharanga, Chamara and Sangakkara don't need a second invitation. The only way to contain them is to keep picking wickets and never letting them settle down. And so, we need more and/or better ammo.

So do we trust the four man attack of Zaheer-Agarkar-Munaf-Bhajji to deliver the goods this time? Or do we drop one of them to make way for Sreesanth? Or drop Uthappa and pick Pathan?

Picking Sree is a gamble. He is not the most economical of bowlers, and the pressure of playing his first World Cup game in a death-or-glory cauldron might tell on his discipline. But by god, is he a wicket taker! Pathan? Equally a gamble. Until he plays we will never know which Pathan has turned up. In any event, even if Pathan falters with ball, there is opportunity to compensate with the bat, and Sehwag-Sachin can finish off the overs that Pathan does not bowl. But I feel that picking Pathan is a waste if Dravid is not prepared to give him the new ball. That is where he has got a lot of wickets.
So we stick with our existing attack and trust in them to deliver the goods? Yes, because Agarkar has done extremely well in the past against the Sri Lankans. And a fired-up Zaheer Khan is now a beautiful thing, and Munaf hasn't bowled badly. Bhajji, though will need to up the ante and attack the Sri Lankans for any weaknesses. Keep probing.

And Uthappa. We need some magic today.

One of those days

One of those days when no matter what you do, your thoughts return to the match tonight, and your blood goes all cold and everything. This day can't get over fast enough.

22 March 2007


Not only will there be no India v. Pakistan in the World Cup, there is a good chance of there being neither India nor Pakistan. God save the game of cricket. And please god, drive some sense into those business managers of cricket.

God save the game of cricket because it is the Indian fan that drives the game. Without the effigy burners and the Chappel-slappers and the "Sehwag should be murdered" types, there is little money in the game. And the business managers fully realizing this, milked and continued to milk, the Indian team for all it was worth. And in doing so, placed all their eggs (all 1.1 billion dollars of it) in the same basket of the Indian fans' delusion - which as Laloo Prasad Yadav will tell you, is an unsustainable business model. Because dreams and relity (when did we last win an ODI competition of note outside the subcontinent?) need to meet at some point. You cannot forever sell a product using hype only. I mean, all the consumer needs is some competition, right? To be able to choose between products? At least, that is the theory. In practice, choice is the luxury available to a few, and certainly not for the Indian cricket fan. Are we going to stop watching Yuvraj Singh and follow Anju George? How about Jeev Milkha Singh then? Baichung promotes Wai Wai, and I love Wai Wai, so I think I need to know what exactly he has been doing with East Bengal.


21 March 2007


"We will do the best we can with what is in our control". - Rahul Dravid

Well, he better. The reason there are so many 'fans' burning effigies is because they don't think India did the best they could with what was in their control against Bangladesh. Of course, the fans' perception of what was the best India could do, is another matter altogether.

Hypemongers rule!

20 March 2007

And now, for the thrilling climax to Group B, but first, a short commercial break..

I can't believe they did not show Sehwag's celebration. SET Max sucks as a cricket broadcaster if they have not realized that cricket lies in those moments. Sehwag had not hit three figures in one-dayers for three years. Despite having the best opportunities to score at the top of the batting order, he just never really got going. And for months he has been enduring the clamour of voices calling for his head. And then Vengsarkar shirked away from his own decision to select Sehwag. He was hanging on to his spot in the team by a thin thread that was his captain's credibility. And then the first match where he got out in pretty tame fashion. Oh, the pressure, so great that the strength of the bowling hardly mattered. And then a tickle down to third man to bring up the hundred, and then a commercial break.

Not good, you faceless morons at Sony. But very good, Veeru. Pummel Vaas, Murali and co. into complete submission. Please win the toss and chase, Dravid. Our bowing cannot defend a total against the Sri Lankans, no way they can, if they keep bowling as they have been. Despite inflicting such a huge defeat on Bermuda, the bowling did look pretty toothless at times, and the bowliers giving the impression that sustaining the pressure for any length of time was all too much work. To defend a target against Jayasurya, Tharanga, Jayawardene, Sangakkara and Dilshan the bowlers should never allow a partnership to blossom. A few Bermudans, such as Leverock, were thrusting out their legs and dealing Kumble with ease. Ajit Agarkar would cause all kinds of problems outside the off, and then if the results are disappointing, would bowl one straighter - just the pressure valve that a chasing team needs. To defend a total - almost any realistic total - against Sri Lanka, bowling needs discipline. Munaf has shown that he can keep running at a batsman and bowl in the right areas, and so has Zaheer. It is time that Agarkar brings all his experience to bear (it's his third World Cup for Chrissake) and bowls a probing ten overs.

But obviously, nothing the Indians can do may be enough.

19 March 2007

Just a game? Just a game, are you kidding me??

It has not been 48 hours since my last entry, but what a couple of days it has been. People say a week is a long time in politics. Cricket has succeeded in scripting two days of such emotional engagement that the Ramayana could struggle in comparison.
1. India is walloped by Bangladesh - comfortably and finds itself in a situation where it can only go through if factors outside the influence of the team also work in their favour.
2. Pakistan exit the World Cup, beaten by the Irish on a greentop.
3. Fred Flintoff was stripped of vice captaincy and suspended for the match against Cananda, reportedly for partying too hard after the defeat to the Kiwis.
4. Bob Woolmer found unconcious in a hotel room and dies in a Jamaican hospital.
5. Hours after his coach's death, Inzamam forgets all about sweet timing, and announces his retirement from ODIs
6. And then things returned to normalty as the Aussies walloped the Dutch and England limping to a win against Canada.

Bob Woolmer died a disappointed man - but he would have shaken it off. Inzamam was quoted as saying that Woolmer tried his best to cheer the players up after the exit from the world Cup. A revolutionary coach, right up there with Bob Simpson and Dav Whatmore in the pantheon of modern greats, Woolmer was a consummate professional till the last. Capable of endless innovation and completely convinced of the virtues of discipline and professionalism, Woolmer was also acutely aware that cricket was "just a game". His death puts the hungry pursuit of the World Cup in stark relief. The defeat against Ireland means nothing if it came at the cost of human life. If.

But that side of the story does not reflect subcontinental reality. Woolmer tried to understand Pakistan, but it was clearly a losing battle. Discipline and professionalism do not easily permeate into a cricket culture steeped in intrigue where decisions are often influenced by exterraneous factors, and when the reaction to almost anything is to cover it up and pretend nothing happened. But even more sadly, Woolmer - despite his confidence on accepting the job, did not have much of an idea, exactly how thankless a job it is to coach a team from the subcontinent. Why? Because in the subcontinent, it is "not just a game"

When "people" destroyed Dhoni's property, it was so predictable. Equally predictably, all of us Indian fans will watch tonight's match against Bermuda, and in all likelihood will be in front of the TV to catch Extraaa Long Innings as well. The relationship between the crazed Indian fan and the Indian team is like a marriage that has lasted thirty years. You can't just decide to follow another team, or another sport, can you now? And we will wish with all our useless might that India wallop Bermuda, and then go on to wallop Sri Lanka. And until the match begins our optimism will remain. Just a game?

"Just a game" cliches refuse to account for the big bucks our cricketers are making. "Just a game" cannot explain why people will sell kidneys, slap Chappels, hound cricketers till they cannot appear in public, and leak emails. "Just a game" will not explain why Mandira Bedi is more recognizable than Kiran Bedi. It will not explain why a huge section of the Eden Gardens crowd threw 'missiles' on to the field in 1992 (or when Tendulkar was run out by Akhthar three years later). Not why cricketers try to hide injuries so often and not why a friend of mine who has refused to speak to his mother for a good two months will discuss Saurav's chances with her. Nor explain why so many people rememeber where they were when they watched Aamir Sohail get out that day.

Fact of the matter is for us, it is not just a game. And all I can hope is that someone across the border did not take their loss a little too seriously.

17 March 2007

Team for Bangladesh

Harbhajan or Kumble or both?
Pathan or Uthappa?
Don't play Munaf if we play two spinners, or play him anyway?
Open with Sehwag or with Uthappa?

Four questions that Captain Dravid has to answer before he takes the toss today. And none of them have a simple answer. He wil have to follow instinct, and the clues that the matches until now have revealed. One of them: medium pacers have been getting more out of these Caribbean pitches than the spinners have. Of course, a qaulity spinner will always make his presence in the team count for a few wickets or some very tight overs. But the wisdom of packing your side with two spinners at the expense of a batsman or a medium pacer is now under a cloud. So, does that mean that Kumble will not play in this World Cup, barring some atrocious bowling from Bhajji? Perhaps, but Dravid will also have to weigh in Kumble's efficient handling of tail-enders.

Now, if we accept that Dravid has picked only one spinner, what then of the rest of the bowling? Three seamers and Pathan, or just three seamers with Sehwag, Tendulkar and Yuvraj doing extra time? Irrespective of that, the three seamers in all likelihood are Zaheer, Agarkar and Munaf. Munaf is ahead in the one-day pecking order because of his tight control. Sreesanth can bowl a higher percentage of threatening deliveries, but without too much control, he is only as useful as say, Malinga.

Not playing Pathan will provide greater firepower at the top. The choice is between Uthappa and Dinesh Kaartick, and that's not much of a choice now, is it? But we should not forget that all our part time bowlers are spinners, though Sachin can seam a few. Perhaps for variety's sake, and for depth in batting

Particularly for this match, it is good to have such great competition for spots in the side. It will ensure that not too many let their guard down. And look what happened to the Kiwis when they let tost their focus against Bangladesh. Sehwag has more than one point to prove and is just a thin edge away from the WC2007 trashcan. Uthappa needs to cement his spot. Harbhajan will feel the heat. Munaf too needs to show that he can contribute despite embarassing batting and fielding.

All in all, India should have this covered.

15 March 2007

Okay, so I was wrong again.

I really should stop sticking my neck out so. Anyway, the Windies had to play a really tight game to wrap the game. Not that thtey were run close, but when Youhana and Inzamam started to look a bit threatening, I am sure a lot of people were wondering how the limited West Indian attack could win them the match. Because quite clearly, they were going to have to bowl them out. And then Dwayne Smith put his hand up and the West Indians can take a lot of heart from that. This performance comes as no surprise to those who have watched them closely. Over the last year or so, some relatively new players have been able to take the focus off Lara-Chanderpaul-Gayle-Sarwan. Bravo and Marlon Samuels may be the most talented - and both contributed against Pakistan - but Jerome Taylor, Dwayne Smith, Bradshaw, Collymore and Ramdin have also stood up to be counted in the recent past. But yes, 'chronic' problems with the batting and a bowling attack you could only describe as 'hardworking' means that they will have to keep playing out of their skins to become world champions.

Anyway, as I am writing this, Cricinfo informs me that Srilanka are well on their way to breaking a few batting records. Chaminda Vaas, as ever, will lick his lips at some fresh minnow blood. And there will be yet another mismatch of "Sluggo" proportions. Was not the ChampionsTrophy scheme more attractive? It struck a more-or-less-correct balance between the competing needs of giving the minnows a shot at the big prize, and ensuring that the value of the one-day game is not devalued. Perhaps the top four teams should get an automatic entry into the next round without having to play their way through the minnows?

And what about tomorrow's match, an apparently confidentEngland team that no one except the team itself will back for the trophy will face the trample-the-Aussies-one-day-lose-to-Bangladesh-the-next Kiwis. Since the disater run in 2003, Stephen Feling has regrouped forces. The emergence of Peter Fulton and Ross Taylor, and the increasing dependepality of Oram and
McCullum has helped matters. But the biggest shot in the arm must have been a SuperSauravesque comeback by CraigMacmillan - forcing his way back into the team after being rejected as a marketer. But barring the presence of Fleming at the top of the order, the New Zealanders seem to lack solidity. Mc Millan, Taylor, Oram and Fulton can all hit the ball out of the ground, but without Nathan Astle in the team, the Kiwis might crumble under pressure. The bowling albeit overdependant on a fit Bond and the wise Vettori, is more than competetive. Tuffey is a bit of an unknown entity, and Patel's performance could make a difference in the Caribbean and Vettori's certainly will. On the other hand, England's bowling is clearly undercooked. Barring Flintoff, there is no real venom in an attck comprising Anderson, Plunkett and Mahmod. However, all three have shown some class at the international level without being consistent. Everyone rememebers Anderson removing Inzamam and Youhana in the 2003 edition. But not much else.

England don't lack firepower in the batting. Flintoff, Peterson and Loye are the big guns and Vaughan, Bell, Collingwood and Strauss can all score significant knocks under pressure.

Both teams will also feature two leading practitioners of left-arm spin bowling. While Vettori has been the premier left arm tweaker in the world for a while now, Monty Panesar has shown a knack of taking good wickets. And his transition to one-day cricket, with his earnest fielding and embarassing batting, has not been as topugh as people expected it to be. Both men will be bowling during the turgid middle overs and will liven up that period of play.

13 March 2007

Prediction: Pakistan win

I am quite excited. I am in office, and I have had too much coffee.

The team that blinks first tonight will lose. On paper, it is difficult to find two more evenly matched teams. Both have heavyweight batting order that is often less than the sum of its constituent parts, bowling that will be required to punch above its weight if they are to walk away with the World Cup. On paper.

Both Pakistan and the Windies have mature genius in Lara and Inzamam - both have carried their team on more than one occasion. Where Lara is the inspirational captain forever inspiring the mediocre team members to lift themselves, Inzamam is the most polished in a team bursting with talent. Pakistan have two thoroughbreds in the middle order:Younis and Yousuf. The West Indies have a consistent opening pair in Gayle and Chanderpaul. Pakistan may have a few question marks about their opening combination, but the Windies middle order has shown a 'chronic' tendency to implode.

Pakistan ODI sides will almost always have a talismanic allrounder. But this time, injury to Razzaq and suspension to Afridi have meant that they've had to rely on Azhar Mahmood who will need to prove himself all over again in the international arena. Windies however, will count on Chris Gayle and Samuels to spear in their slow left-armers to keep things tidy in the middle overs.

But the key to winning this match will lie in the ability of teams to string together partnerships and take wickets at crucial junctures - unless of course, on of the stars come to the party and blow the match away. Considering these parameters Pakistani bowlers who are more attacking options will win them this match. Do not forget that where Gayle and Samuels will operate in an environment of containment, Kaneria is more likely to be used to get wickets. Where Bradshaw and Collymore will wait for the batsman's mistake, Sami and Gul are more likely to produce that special delivery. Today's match will be won by the bowlers.