24 March 2008

Battle Within The War

Recently, there was an excellent article in Cricinfo by Soumya Bhattacharya regarding the individual rivalries existing in international cricket. (The article can be read here). The article described that special joy which one feels when two champions go at each other. Reading the article, I was forced to think about what constitutes such a rivalry. What are the ingredients which elevate a seemingly insignificant contest to great heights? Here is my take on it.

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 ????


John said...

Stein versus Sehwag.. Yes, that one I am watching out for. Any rivalry involving Kallis is too boring to get excited about. Also Paul Harris versus Tendulkar, and Grame Smith versus Arpy Singh.

Sajith said...

For SouthAfrica to compete in India, their batsmen have to be succesful against Kumble and Harbhajan. Kallis sadly looks to be the only one who can realy fight it out.

John said...

Thats no longer correct, Sajith. Watch out for stodgy Ashwell, and wrsity Amla. Of course, it'll depend on the start given by McKenzie and Smith.

Sajith said...

Hope you are correct. If not, we would see a Kallis back to the walls epic once again.
But, what troubles me is that there are so few marquee names in international cricket comapred to the 90's.
In 1998 - Lara, Tendulkar, Donald, Pollock, Waughs, Warne, Akram, Ambrose, Walsh, Murali, Jayasurya, Waqar, Inzamam,Azhar,Rhodes, Kumble etc
In 2008 - Ponting, Hayden, Pietersen, Lee, Dhoni and ??????
That is sad.

John said...

It's coming again man.. It has to happen with a return of the fast bowler. Stein and Ishant will form part of the pack to be led by Lee. Add to that, Zaheer, a fit Umar Gul and Malinga, Sreesanth, Mohd. Asif and Sidebottom, we have a set of quicks who can give opening batsmen nightmares on helpful conditions. The same was the case in the early nineties. Batsmen who can stand up to them will be in demand, giving rise to marquee stars.

Sajith said...

The problem is that fast bowlers do not have the longevity of the 90's. Perennially they seem to break down and spin bowling seems to be in a trough. Yes, we have honest to good triers. But, we do not have the match winners, the glamour contests.
Sidebottom, with all respect to his ability, is no Akram. That is the crux of the problem.

John said...

Dont look for an Akram in an Englishman. England had no marquee bowlers in the nineties.

Zaheer, Arpy and Sohail Tanvir is where you might find him in time. Ponting's wicket in the first innings at Melbourne was more Akramesque than the man himself.

What you say is true.. too many class acts left the game in the last few years and many more are set to follow in the next few. But don't discount the development of new ones. That will take time. But the degeneration of the Windies will have a telling effect on the game in that there wont be any West Indian studs in the game for a while. But that may be made up by the development of one Mohd. Ashraful.

Sajith said...

Mohd Ashraful will convince me when starts playing responsibly. In a team which has Gavaskar, Vengsarkar, Amarnath and Azharuddin, a Srikkanth is an asset. But, in a team which has none of the above an Ashraful is not so. It is crucial that he stops thinking himself to be Superman. Being Clark Kent would help Bangladesh cricket.

Pontings_baldspot said...

the only rivalry that exists b/n India and SA - Deepika Padukone v/s Kallis' sexy lady