29 April 2008

When Brats Collide

"Harbhajan banned, Sreesanth censured" - the decision at the end of the Sreesanth-Harbhajan slapping saga. I am not here to pass any comment on the decision nor am I going to pass judgments on the slapping issue. To me, the whole incident has been a comic relief from some hectic IPL action, which has seen some of international cricket's heavy weights pull their weight.
The whole incident, which has seen Sreesanth physically affected and Harbhajan financially, is a sign that big bucks don't bring in discipline.
In an event, which has been lorded by the Bollywood, the epsiode was a replica of the
tear-jerkers seen on the small screen. Sreesanth, and his teary face, resembled Tulsi and Harbhajan resembled the strict father-in-law. But, to me it was Gabbar Singh v/s Mogambo. For once, Bollywood was rampant on the cricket field.

25 April 2008

Kaif is now a biffer also

Mohammed Kaif, after being dropped from the national team and consciousness, went below raar and set about playing cricket quietly. What soon became a murmur is now a buzz - never din-clang-drumroll. There were reports of heavy domestic scoring, but never quite enough to dislodge someone - ODIs or Tests. Once tipped as a future captain, the Kaifmachine had a problem with whacking the lofted shot out of the ground, though he was a master at working the angles to run, run, run. Not that it would have really mattered - his last Test innings, a classic in resistance against England at Nagpur, barely permitting India to escape with a draw, was ignored and he was dropped. So Kaif went back to the "provinces" and improved his hitting ability. And that was evident yesterday.

24 April 2008

Abhishek Nayar - the newest Ian Harvey

Like Ian Harvey, the ageing Lance Klusener and Ben Hollioake before him, and perhaps countless county cricketers, Abhishek Nayar seems cut out for the shorter versions of the game. Some time back, I saw snippets of his attacking batsmanship in Mumbai's succesful 2006 Ranji campaign. He looked good, but it was evident that his batting alone, or bowling alone was not enough to vault him into the Indian Test side - certainly not with the surfeit of riches it has now. But in the 20-20 game, he is a potential superstar, and i would place a cricket bet on him dominating this format. He can, like Joginder Sharma, come in and do his bowling in one-over spells, and can pick up a wicket, and there is a good chance he will not get thrammed. As for his batting, he did what the illustrious redneck Saffer predecessor might have done - take the team to the brink of victory with exciting strokes and shovelled singles, and then have a brain explosion to take a single and let Ashish Nehra take strike.

23 April 2008

The Paradox

So, the Prince of Najafgarh finally fires. One of the biggest paradoxes in international cricket has been the seeming inability of Virender Sehwag to adjust to the abbreviated versions of the game. For a man whose game is most suited to the slam bang version, Sehwag has been more a Slater than a Gilchrist. Therefore, it was highly satisfying to see Viru fire yesterday.
But, having seen his game over the last several years, he could yet lapse into a spell of mediocrity.

22 April 2008

Another reason to like the IPL

Yesterday's match featured two legspinners. One, the undisputed master of the art. Another, a babyface with promise - an obvious worshipper of the former. The first split the game open with his guile. The other got a pasting he is unlikely to forget.
Men and women much wiser than myself keep repeating that it is in the most of trying of circumstances that the improvement of the self happens. Some call it the transition from boy to man. Steve Waugh made reference to being 'out of the comfort zone', and there are innumerable phrases that will convey the same meaning. Yesterday, Piyush Chawla had the opportunity to analyze the chasm that lies between himself and Warne. And if he is honest, he can only be the better for it.

The Return

It was a return worth waiting for as The Sheikh of Tweak spun his team to victory. For four overs, it was as if a time machine had dropped us in the 1990s, as Shane Warne mesmerized Ms Priety Zinta's team.
The IPL has seen some outstanding cricket - none better than my man McCullum's outstanding effort. But, for sheer class Pollock, Mcgrath and Warne have held sway over the rest. So, will the oldies still be the ones to beat or will youngsters finally assert themselves in "The Youngster's Game".

21 April 2008

Legacy in a royal mess

Without Smith, Yousuf and Kamran, the Royals will rely on the combined might of Warne, Lehman, Kaif and Yusuf Pathan to win matches. Pitted against the megawatt stardom in all other teams, they look like domestic goat that wandered into the forest. At night. After a bath in chicken blood, wearing neon signs that say "Red Meat".

But one man, known as the Best Captain Australia Never Had, can change all that. On his day, and there are several of them, all he needs is four overs, to reduce grown men to tears. And that has nothing to do with their wives, or daughters. Or mothers. It will help if Warne came into bowl with a few wickets down. Where's Morne Morkel? Sohail Tanvir should be here soon as well.

And Dmitri? The Royals don't need others to gain what might turn out to be an unassailable lead.

IPL notes

Napolean Einstein must play. Since JRod is the expert, I request him to take up a petition on behalf of Future Greatness.

Did anyone else think that Ravi Shastri's speech at the opening ceremony was a little too err..(for want of a better word) Nazi?

And in the Kings XI - CSK match, the boundaries were disgustingly small.

I wish Nehra would get his mojo back.

Zaheer Khan is now one of the coolest customers around.

Akshay Kumar is one of the few Bollywood stars I like, but he did look like much of a daredevil.

Boucher, McCullum, Dhoni, Kamran, Gilly - is this the tournament of the keepers?

Gilly said the pitch at Eden was a nightmare. Ya, so?

18 April 2008

Island Express declares itself Napolean Einstein groupie

Having to live up to not one, but two historic giants is not an easy task by any measure, which is why young Napolean Einstein can use the help of a seasoned media moghul - namely me, even though I have never seen him play.
From tomorrow, Island Express will journey alongside Napolean Einstein as he takes his first few strides on a somewhat international plane. Napolean was just an emperor. Napolean Einstein is a Superking.

17 April 2008

Not representative, this representative body

"We know that if someone came along and said let's do a 10-year, £1bn deal and create a world circus of cricket, we could take the top 200 players in the world into that circus if there is a guaranteed good income, good competition and good standard of living. All it would take is one broadcast deal."
- Ian Smith, FICA legal advisor
As the FICA raises the pitch of its rhetoric, Ian Smith and Tim May would do well to reflect on the colour of the FICA skin, and its crisis of legitimacy.
President : Barry Richards
Chief Exec: Tim May
Secretary: Tony Irish
Treasurer: Richard Bevan
Senior Vice President: David Graveny
The sole subcontinental representative in the leadership is Graeme Labrooy (Sri Lanka) who is described only as "General Committee Man". Hardly the kind of leadershp that can hope to bring cricket administration to its knees.

16 April 2008

The day IPL came to life

I hate the name, and the whiskey is tolerable since its cheap, but the Bangalore Royal Challengers are the only team which has my loyalty in a lazy sort of way which is not the same as the Luca Brasi sort of way. This will also be my general attitude towards IPL covergae. Unless of course, Sunil here gets a 5-for and a 34 from 12 balls against Kolakata - which I will blindly hate. Two reasons. Owned by SRK, and Ponting. If he does that, which I am sure he will, I am prepared to ignore all rumours of Kallis and Steyn getting oiled for an item number featuring the Angelic Apanna.

And in other news, the Alan Stanford University of Cricket Bloggers has invited me to speak on Cricket and Movies. The path to world domination is now clear. Thanks JRod, Q.

14 April 2008

Virile Saurav

Ganguly's batting at Kanpur was a measured repartee to critics, and even I have done that occasionally, who have always questioned his spine. Now his fans have one of the great Indian knocks to hold up when his determination/virility/team-play/skill is questioned. He came to the crease after Morne had a piece of Dravid's finger and his wicket, and while he was at the other end, Laxman played inside the line to one that pitched on leg and took off and middle - Morkel at work again. Given how the pitch was behaving, and given that the Indian batting has over the last couple of years been guilty of permitting easy momentum shifts, Ganguly was phenomenal - driving out of the rough, fearless in coming down the track, and almost chanceless against the quicks.
Sreesanth had a fantastic opening to the third days play. Not only did his batting deprive Smith of any initiative, his bowling was also quite spectacular, outshining Ishant Sharma for the first time.
Could the South Africans have done better? Maybe, if Smith and Kallis hadn't let things drift for that long in the second innings, if Ashwell had taken a few more risks.
Any sense criticizing the pitch? Maybe, but only on the grounds that the match did not last full five days. Predictably, when something was in it for the bowlers, it made for exciting cricket. It also threw mud on the giant strides that the South Africans seemed to have taken in learning how to play spin effectively.
Did they choke? Yes. The Indian tail wagged longer than at any point in the series on a crumbling pitch on the decider.

11 April 2008

New shades of Gayle

The first fifteen overs of the West Indies innings, in response to a Sri Lankan 235, were some of the best ODI cricket I had seen in a while. Coolkat Gayle and Wily Vaas. Vaas has had the better of Gayle over the years, sometimes just needing to turn up and roll his arm over to recieve the giftwrapped wicket. Starting the second Test, viewers have seen shades of Gayle that have not been evident previously. Yesterday, the struggle against the Vaasdomination continued, with Gayle prepared to leave almost everything outside off against Vaas, and continue his buccaneering ways against whoever was bowling at the other end. Vaas swung the ball, well into the second powerplay, and Gayle continued to wait, gleefully accepting his luck on the way. Amarasinghe got some stick and Gayle got himself a fifty in what was in the final analysis, a captain's knock. Everyone knows how brittle the WestIndies middle order can be, and Gayle ensured that they recieved a smooth entry.

West Indies are in a position where they have needed their senior players to stand up. In the Tests, is was Sarwan who was prepared for the fight. Gayle did it last night. Of course, the presence of Chanders can only make work easier. Here's to more such spunk from the Raddest F***ing Cricketer Alive - Gayle.

10 April 2008

My name is Piyush Chawla, NOT Babyface

Al Capone had to let his one time enforcer, Lester Joseph Gillis go, because he was too violent. Called Babyface Nelson for his youthful and tiny appearance, he had a psychopathic bent, and used a list of license plate numbers he had compiled, to hunt cops down. He took seventeen bullets before he died after a prolonged machine gun shootout in which he took out two policemen.

Since what will be known as the Mauling at Motera, Piyush Chawla has dramatically transformed from Babyface to Jesus Christ, getting talked up as the one man who is going to reduce Smith and co. to tears, come the third day. This messiahnic appeal draws from gross overestimations of his limited performances in one-dayers, where he is has only done just enough to suggest a great deal of talent and toughness - certainly not enough to burden him with the responsibility of carrying India back from the brink of a series defeat at home.

It is quite strange that this shit should happen because if the South Africans have done something in this series, it is to show that they have become surprisingly good against spin. If inducted into the XI for Kanpur, he will be under immense pressure. More so, if he is going to replace Anil Kumble. The only thing he has going for him is a face that'll make everyone want to step out of their crease and pet him.

08 April 2008

Look West

No point arguing about it - South Africa have India on their knees and are "aiming to penetrate" so to speak. All those ghost-written Boucher articles may touch a nerve - but most of what he says is true. Steyn and Ntini (like the dudes to the left) have opened a few ol' wounds, and it will take an effort of colossal psychological magnitude to pull this one back.
At times like this, when a team looks bereft of life, inspiration can come from unlikely sources. Apart from the source, there should be an open welcoming mind that will recognize inspiration when it hits it in the face. All good wanting to be Australia, but education can come from the neglected Windies too.

Gayle is shit against Vaas and he knew it. But 1-0 down, he knuckled down, and did not give Vaas his wicket, and made a valuable 45 in the first innings, on what looked like a lively wicket, inspiring debutant and opening partner Chattegoon to do the same along the way.

The man whose attitude is always being questioned- Sarwan made telling contributions in both innings' - proved once again that he is a match winner.

The West Indian Wall, the chrab, gave one of his stabdard performances when it really really mattered.

Traditional strengths to the fore: a pace triumvurate that performed to its history.

Lots of lessons. You should've taken notes, Gary.

05 April 2008

On the edge

Since cricket hasn't been played in Ahmedabad in decades, and since Motera, Morkel and Steyn are simlarly weird amalgamations of alphabets with no apparent significance, especially today, it is only apt that we turn our attention elsewhere.

The evil dictator might be on his way out. He is probably negotiating the best possible 'exit strategy'. If he goes, minions such as Chingonka will have to scoot as well.

Momentous as it is for the people of Zimbabwe, they need to hope that they were in the worst possible economic scenario.

If there is going to be an upturn in the fortunes of Zimbabwe cricket, the economy will need to be repaired first - at least to a reflection of normalcy. Bringing the lost generation of Goodwin, Johnson, Campbell and Whitall back into the fold of the game to help repair the cricket architecture can also wait.

04 April 2008

Back to regular programming

Only ABDe's double was a little hallucinogenic. Actually, if you come to think of it, it was quite mundane. It is not the first time that a seemingly ordinary batsman has played career defining innings' against India. Chanderpaul, Andy Flower, Younis Khan etc. were all seemingly regular crew until they came across India.

Then a West Indian umpire refused to give Kallis LBW on something which someone I know would ve described as 'It doesn't get plumber than this'.

Poor Sree toiled with the new ball. And he was good. Just not as good as Steyn or Ntini were.

Harbhajan started losing it after a while. Combination of turn and bounce is usually enough for him, but it just wasn't working against a patient Kallis, and an unusually adept ABDe.

Arpy and Pathan were sorry. I will soon conclude that they are worthless if the ball will not swing in from around the over, or away from around the stumps. But Akram could make it move anywhere. They're still quite young so, a long way to go to become the complete package. Am even tempted to say that Mitch might have been better than them on this pitch.

So. Get ready for pain, folks.

03 April 2008

Hallucinogen cricket

First of all, there was actual grass on the pitch.

Then we see something we were hoping we'd not see from the Indian batting for a while and that was the "spineless batting collapse". Over the past three or four years, one of Sachin, Dravid, Laxman and Ganguly have been able to stand up amidst a few ruins, and occasionally Dhoni, Pathan and Kumble as well. We can hope that this was bound to happen some time, and they have got it out of their system.

We also see something that the pitch at Chennai led us into feeling we'd not see again in a while - the unplayable Steyn ball that got Dravid. The last one was when the recently banned Akthar bowled a couple in the 3.7 overs he bowled during the entire series.

Then the South African openers batted on a completely different pitch.

Then we see a glimpse of Harbhajan's past. Even when the track was not offering much, he created doubt in the batsman's mind. Three wickets, all foxed.

Then. Then a period of batting from Jaques Kallis, that astoundingly enough could only be described as "counter attack", racing to 25 from 35 balls. At the other end is ABDe who is completely in his shell.

We are then given to undersand that the best fast bowlers India could put up are insipid even on a slightly helpful pitch. Arpy Singh has returned to earth and Sreesanth remains unconvincing - though it must be said that neither had their share of luck. Sree did ask the occasional question, bit it is Arpy's performance when he is neither able to get the ball to dip in from over the stumps, or straighten from around the stumps that is worrying.


What a wonderful world

I see trees of green........ red roses too

I see em bloom..... for me and for you

And I think to myself.... what a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue..... clouds of white

Bright blessed days....dark sacred nights

And I think to myself .....what a wonderful world.

The colors of a rainbow.....so pretty ..in the sky

Are also on the faces.....of people ..going by

I see friends shaking hands.....sayin.. how do you do

Theyre really sayin......i love you.

And India are challenging Aussies to be the Number One Test Team. Its a wonderful world.

02 April 2008

In Pakistan..

Lessons from Shoaib:

In Pakistan cricket, if you get caught doing droogies (of the performance enhancing variety) you are likely to escape with a slap on the wrist, behind a cloud of smoke, but if you talk about your feelings (and not in a Marcus-Tait sort of way) about how cricket is being administered, they will hunt you down, try and prevent you from earning a living, and then who knows - they might even go after your family.

01 April 2008

Dear Pat Symcox,

If you sue Nimbus and drag the BCCI to court as well, I will forget the fact that I have hated you for ten years. If you win, I will get a life-size cutout made of you, and sleep with it. That's at night. During the day, that cutout will be in the special Symcox-pooja room, with your recorded whiny voice playing, till it is time for me to go to sleep again.