31 August 2007


India got beaten by a very good English team. Since 1992, England - but for a brief spell under Adam Hollioake with Thorpe batting like a god, has never been able to produce sustained spells of good one-day cricket.
On the evidence of their performance yesterday, they seem to have a formulaic one-day team, capable of evolving into a champion side. Take a look.

- Two quick opening bowlers who look like they have a cool head on their shoulders. They will need it when they travel to the subcontinent. In this series, the nature of the track has not seemed to bother them, they have hit the deck hard anyway.
- Talismanic bowling all-rounder
- A one-down who looks capable of growing into a batsman who can accelerate and consolidate with equal ease (like Dravid, who inexplicably, is not batting at one-down!)
- Deep, really deep batting line-up, with a number 9 capable of taking the game away with his batting. When Pathan, Dhoni and Raina were winning matches for India, such an attribute was true for India as well, but not now.
- Few lower middle order batsmen who can chip in with a few overs.
- Decent fielders and runners, all of them, with some exceptional brilliance thrown in for good measure.
- A captain who likes the one-day cauldron, and is always trying to stay one step ahead of the game.

Dravid needs to make at least one tough decision. Is Karthik actually better than Utappa? And deciding that is just the start!

I do not foresee much success for India in one-day cricket at least until the end of 2008. Hopefully, by then, the likes of Sehwag, Kaif, Raina, Pathan, Harbhajan, Sreesanth, Uthappa, Gambhir and Rohit Sharma will have a greater claim for a spot in the side. Fresher, faster, hungrier cricketers are needed to supplement Yuvraj, Dhoni and Zaheer, and that will take time. The Indian fan will just have to be patient.

24 August 2007

One down is the key

I won't focus on the fielding or the running between the wickets. With this team, we should assume that we start out with a 50-run deficit against England. Maybe 35 at Bristol because it is a much smaller ground than the Rosebowl. Even then, the Indian batting is touted to be far too good to be outbatted by an England batting lineup that was till very recently, pathetic. Anything less than 300 is a score that the batting should be able to chase down anywhere and against any bowling. And that is why they carry seven batsmen, hoping to chase down any target that the opposition is able to set. Which should make us wonder: why did India lose a match by a hundred runs? After it looked like India did well to restrict England to 288 especially after the kind of platform they had? Bad batting. If we need to criticize the strategy of playing four bowlers, we cannot do so on the evidence of one match. And not so long back, during the dream ODI run, when Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and Dhoni were winning us matches, nobody had too many complaints.

This is where an in-form Irfan Pathan could have been handy. But until such time as he manages to break down the door to the national team, I have a feeling that Dravid is comfortable leaving ten overs to Yuvraj, Tendulkar and Ganguy.

In my opinion, the only major selection question that Dravid should ask himself is: who should bat at one down? Apart from thinking of Gambhir, Uthappa and Karthik, Dravid should also think about Rohit Sharma. Uthappa may replace Gambhir at the top of the order. Or Karthik can come up the order and Rohit Sharma can bring up the rear. There is also the conventional wisdom of palying one of the best batsmen at one-down, which could mean that Yuvraj could come in.

For all we know, Dravid may even go with five bowlers, and draft in either Powar (two spinners, small ground = big risk) or Munaf, in place of Gambir.

23 August 2007

Read Nagraj Gollapudi's article on Cricinfo about the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore.

21 August 2007

Why the Indian legal system is so slow.

T: wanna bet on the match?
3:06 PM me: not the result.
3:07 PM something else.
T: which is an English vivtory?
me: Indian victory, I say.
T: then we can bet ont he reuslt?
me: we can.
3:08 PM T: what?
whats up jon?
havent seen u in ages
3:09 PM me: ya, man! i miss you. now, how much do we bet?
T: u tell me
1,000 bucks?
3:10 PM me: fuck off. not worth it.
T: u give figure
me: 300 bucks.
T: how about a bottle of alcohol to be shared
by both of us
me: ok, wait. listen..
T: and aid for by the loser
me: exactly.
T: that way no one loses
3:11 PM me: we'll bet 3 bottles of beer each on each match of this series.
it need not be on the result.
by the end, we would have bet 42 bottles.
3:12 PM or is that too ambitious?
3:13 PM ok. winner taks three bottles. so the eventual bet is only 21.
3:15 PM hello?
3:18 PM T: yeah
sounds good
dont go away
lets discuss the structure for this

Lights on... Camera.. And Action!

Attitudes toward cricket under lights seem to have undergone some kind of shift since India last toured these shores. Correct me if I am wrong, but I cannot remember India having played a single match under lights in England. But this series features as many as three!
If this is what Twenty20 cricket did to England, then I am all for it, boss. But other than that, can anyone shed some light on this? What happened to the English fear of floodlights?

16 August 2007

Spot on or not on?

Well Cricinfo (Siddhartha Vaidyanathan, actually)has rated Karthik above Dhoni and Tendulkar. But for the catching, even I may have marked Karthik higher. And they also seem to appreciate Jaffer more than I have. And clearly they have been swayed by the role that he played in building a foundation from where Ganguly, Sachin & co pushed on. However, I really felt that on a couple of occasions, Jaffer was guilty of giving it away when well set, playing irresponsible shots. Jaffer has a wealth of experience playing cricket, even though not at the highest level, and is well known for the tenacity with which he builds huge knocks. In my book, he did not pull his weight. In fact, I may have forgiven him easier had he perished more without getting set (like at the Oval). Anyway, getting starts is not such a huge flaw.
This is exactly the reason why both Sehwag and Gambhir are essential in the frame of things. Both Jaffer and Karthik need to be on their toes, and they need to know that despite a historic series victory, the opening spots are not theirs forever. They need to continue justifying their spots in the team - as specialist openers.

14 August 2007


A fitting finale, for a series that has been on edge since Day 1. And like much that went before, the final day too would jerk itself into life whenever the match threatened to retreat into sleep. And so there was a stunning catch from VVS, a crucial drop from the captain, some fiery spells from Sreesanth, Kumble asking question after question and Tendulkar producing some of the big turners ever seen at the Oval.
1-0 is how we will remember this series in a few months time. Ten years from now, we will remember Dravid as the inheritor of Kapil's 21-year old legacy and not for a decision that sealed the fate of this series.
Cricinfo usually prepares a report card for players once the series is over. Here is a vague prediction:

High scores: 8/10 to 10/10
Zaheer Khan, R P Singh, Saurav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Dhoni

Medium : 5/10 to 7/10
VVS Laxman, Dinesh Karthik (could've scored higher without the dropped catches), Anil Kumble (somehow all the talk about Kumble on the fourth innings at the Oval just didn't come through), Rahul Dravid (gets additional marks for some good captaincy throughout)

Low: 3/10 to 4/10
Wasim Jaffer (though he played some crucial knocks, he never played to his potential for scoring huge hundreds) , Sreesanth (for all his antics, he did come through in the final innings at the Oval!)

Very low: 0/10 to 2/10
No one. And that is why this team remained unchanged over three matches.

13 August 2007

Fourth day of the Third Test

It was a compelling day of cricket, made intriguing by a tough decision from captain Rahul Dravid. He decided not to enforce a follow-on. Roundly criticized on television as a defensive move, one had to say that at the end of the day, it is difficult to make a comment either way. As someone (Imran Khan, I think) said about cricket a long time back, the more nuanced your understanding of the game, the less certain your criticism is. Dravid knew a bit more that he let on, and Zaheer finally showed visible sympoms of the injury he'd been carrying for a while. Even Kumble, on a fourth day pitch would have needed some support to keep England down to manageable proportions.
Okay, so the decision meant that India lost out on the best bowling conditions in this Test match. But so what? All India needed to do was to put the match absolutely beyond England's reach - about a 150 runs. Credit must go to Ganguly for continuing with a fantastic series. Again he played a knock of such silken aggression that England never realized they were getting bullied, till he got out.
Today, the last day of an incredible Test series, Ganguly will need to break partnerships, and so will Sachin. Kumble will keep bowling from the Pavillion End. Sreesanth needs to stand up and be counted. RP and Zaheer have already done their bit for the series. You can trust RP to put in another good spell, but if India need to win this Test without Zaheer, then Sree and RP need to bowl out of their skins.

11 August 2007

Jumbo's Test?

All of Test cricket's theatre of irony came together in a few seconds. Anil Kumble, a veteran of 117 matches, three wickets shy of overtaking Glenn McGrath, and number eight batsman. The genial Bangalorean was at the crease on 97, having already overtaken Dhoni in a batting symphony where every batsman went into double figures and five had already made fifties. He comes down the track, looking ungainly as usual, nicks the ball through Prior's legs and reaches 100. England will lose a series at home. The only question is whether they will lose it 1-0 or 2-0.

Laxman was magestic, Tendulkar was patience personified and Dhoni was clinical in dismantling the English bowling attack. And along came Kumble, rubbing it in as he started off with rotating the strike, but building an innings of great quality after Dhoni left in an entertaining blaze. And then there was the 75 run last wicket stand, that helped Kumble to his hundred with Sreesanth helping himself to some Anderson lollies.

Now Kumble has given himself three days to bowl England out twice. Despite all the bytes coming out of the English camp, the batsmen will be intent on face-saving survival. How can Peter Moores seriously believe that all three results are still possible? Anyway, a defensive English mindset will suit Kumble just fine! Hopefully Zaheer, Sreesanth and RP can keep pegging away at the other end.

10 August 2007

Glaring errors

Howell's howler could yet be a significant point of this Test match. There was a thick (yo edge so thick, that.... ) edge on to the pad, and given out leg before. So what can we do about such umpiring errors that are so bad, that significant numbers of viewers on TV could see that it was wrong, without the benefit of a replay.
Ian Chappell made a sensible suggestion on air yesterday, that cricket move to a back-foot no-ball rule so that the umpire has more time to look at the batsman.

Taking the argument a little further, why are the on-field umpires being bothered with line calls any more? Where a determination needs to be made about whether someone's foot was inside or outside the line, why are we still relying on the naked eye, when the alternative is faster and less error prone? And one would think the umpires would only be happy to not bother with those irksome no-balls, and stumpings and run-outs. A system of appeals from the on-field umpire to the third umpire just takes too long. Instead, divest the umpires of all discretion in these dismissals.The third-umpire makes the decision as soon as the fielder's appeal for a run out or a stumping, or as soon as the bowler oversteps.

09 August 2007


India have not lost a Test match at The Oval in god-knows-how-long. It is also the location of one of India's most celbrated triumphs - one that apparently convinced the Indian sports fan that his team need not always get whipped. Occasionally it could whip as well, and B S Chandrasekhar in a magnificient spell, showed them it could be done. The last time that India was there, rain and sublime batting from Vaughan and Dravid played out a draw.

India returns to there to play a Test match, whose significance in the context of Indian cricket cannot be overstated. A series victory over England is a treasure, and the golden generation of Tendulkar, Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman and Kumble have not experienced it. True, that thanks to their efforts over the last five years, India can no longer be called bad tourists, but a series victory has continued to elude them because they caved in when it was there for the taking. Melbourne, Karachi, Bridgetown and most recently Cape Town, are just the most glaring examples.

Where India have a record to erase, England have a proud record to protect: a long streak of remaining unbeaten at home. And England will come hard. It will try and forget the frailities in the batting: outside of Vaughan and Pietersen, everyone has a question mark over their form. But there is no questioning the ability of Cook, Strauss, Collingwood and Bell. India will need to bowl superbly again, and this time, with the bounce available at the Oval, both Kumble and Sree Santh will need to punch their weight. As far as batting goes, the Fab Four seem to have got their act in order though Laxman's double failure against Lanka A could be a cause for concern. Hopefully, the openers will continue to grow into a solid pair. It will also be interesting to see how Dhoni reacts to the conditions, given that the Oval is not known to heavily favour movement.

It has been a very keenly contested series so far. Despite Lords, the series has stood on a knife-edge all along, and it looks set to be a fitting culmination. If India bat to the weight of their reputation, they should not lose. And that will be very sweet indeed.

07 August 2007


Mahendra Singh Dhoni has become the first small-town cricketer to captain an Indian team. With Dravid, Sachin and Saurav dropping out of the team, and Yuvraj Singh no longer seen as the next in line, there are few who can argue with the choice. Even though the fighting rise of Dinesh Kaarthick may have made his spot in the Test team a little less secure, he is probably the first name down of the team sheet as far as Twenty20 is concerned. Hopefully he will carry captaincy with confidence, because that will have a cascading effect on his batting - and the world has only started to notice how a mature Dhoni can add a lot of punch to the Indian Test lower order.

Being selected for the Twenty20 squad has also enabled Pathan, Harbhajan and Sehwag to get a foot in the door. But not too fast either as all three have been overlooked for the ODIs against England. More joy for the Pathan family as Yusuf Pathan, described as an offie who is a useful lower order bat, has also been included in the Twenty20 squad. Not very surprisingly, Sreesanth has been dropped from the ODI team. Munaf makes a return in his place.
inexplicably, the pace bowling cupboard continues to promise. India now have Zaheer, R P Singh, Pathan, Sreesanth, Munaf and Ajit Agarkar to choose from, depending on form and requirement.

06 August 2007


Michael Atherton has recommended in the Sunday Telegraph that Dravid drop Sree Santh for the Oval Test.
The point he makes is that a beamer has no place in cricket. Capable of taking a batsman's head clean off, it deserves to be condemned, irrespective of whether it was accidental or whether the bowler apologized. Of course, the bowler is going to apologize, and of course he will claim that it was accidental, and so there is no way out but to ban the errant bowler.

So a beamer needs to be made into a strict liability offence? That is his solution?? That the beamer be elevated to the status of a drug or terrorist offence, and to assume that every beamer has murderous intent behind it? That is such bull shit. Umpires are adequately empowered to deal with beamers, and I believe there is a warning system that is already in place. If anyone knows more on how an umpire may deal with a fast bowler who lets rip, two consecutive beamers, do leave a note.

04 August 2007

What's eating Sree Santh, or what did Sree Santh eat

He blew it, didn't he? Gone and put himself under avoidable pressure for the Third Test in what was already a pressure cooker of a series. The second Test was a great opportunity for Mr Santh: perfect conditions for swing bowling and two left arm seamers hunting alongside, spitting fire. Instead of playing the role of the stock seamer who keep things tight at the other end, Sree wanted a piece of the action, and as anyone who has spent time watching cricket would say, "tried too hard." Even amidst all the trash that he was bowling, there were some genuine gems. But what good are they, when they are so few and far apart? It's not like Dravid really needed any more of the "surprise factor"! The second Test touched a new low when, consumed by emotion, he committed a couple of extremely 'suspicious' looking errors. And that was after the very public and humiliating loss of rhythm when he ended up looking like Kapil Dev one ball, and Kumble the next.

Is he a victim of the "greatness" tag attached to him too early in life? He had a fair bit of good press after a remarkable display in South Africa. The obvious underlying danger was that he would go the way of similarly talented youngsters: Kambli, L Siva and Sadanad Viswanath are names that come easily to mind and certainly there must be more. More recently, many youngsters have promised much and then dropped off: Parthiv Patel and Suresh Raina for instance, but it is too early to write them off. Anyway...

The good thing is, Sree seems to be making the right noises. And the way he comes out in the next match (if Dravid would be so kind as to pick him) will let us know a bit more into the workings of this deep-fried brain. He should have known that somebody like Bose would step and make some noise or take a five-for or something like that. As I said before, completely unnecessary pressure.