31 May 2008

Adonis rises, Delhi falls. OR Can Yusuf Pathan be the next Andrew Symonds?

Embarassing. McGrath got himself a pasting from Yusuf Pathan celebrating his ODI squad call-up, and Jellybean Adonis Watson played an innings to remember. Delhi started the tournament relying too much on their top order. Towards the end, they relied too much on the lower middle. After the Sehwag, Gambhir and Dhavan failed, there was no question that Dilshan and Karthik would too. Royals are deserving finalists. In fact they're deserving winners. No one deserves to win as much as them. Give them the trophy already.

Can Yusuf Pathan do what Andrew Symonds has done? i.e. Convert a fantastic eye and an uncluttered mind into a Test cricketer capable of scoring big hundreds and getting wickets against good batting sides? I think it is a gamble more than worth taking. Australian cricket persevered with Symonds for a long, long time, and there were times it looked a dodgy investment, but it paid off in the end - Ponting's captaincy contributing in no small measure, aparently.

Ponting forgot he was nearing 10000 runs. That is a lie. I have always hated the way he bats, but 10000 is a lot of runs. I might just consider trying to appreciate his game a little more.

29 May 2008

Frikkin lasers, dude!!

Somewhere in North Carolina. Circa 1985.

Modi: I'm seeing frikkin lasers, dude!!

Buddy: Dude, you're tiresome.

Modi: I'm serious, bro! And fireworks over Bangalore.

Buddy: Whaa??

Modi: And cheerleaders, man. I need to get some cheerleaders. And then go get me some poontang.

Buddy: What the fuck you goin on about, man?

Modi: Man, this shit's gonna be so awesaaam.

Buddy: What?

Modi: And Bollywood, biatch! Ain't no sunshine... if the B... er.. anyway, you get what I mean.

Buddy: No.

Modi: Cheerleaders too..

Buddy: Shut the fuck up. NO MORE DRUGS FOR YOU!!

Modi: Cruel bro.

Buddy: I swear if you open your mouth one more time, I will have to slap you.

Modi: That's it!! SLAPS! We need people slapping each other! And golden helmets. And cheerleaders.

(Thanks, Ottayan)

27 May 2008

Now showing: NTR and Vikram

Adam Gilchrist is a legend. Having redefined the wicketkeeper batsman, he led the Aussies to their first victory on Indian soil for godknowshowmany years. Having little left to prove, he takes the arena for his IPL swansong, playing only for pride. Not for a moment does he need to justify his paypacket.

Not M S Dhoni. Not yet a legend, but could be on the way. The man with the almost Midas touch, he badly needs an IPL semi-final slot to justify the vast sum of money he was bought for.

(Pictures: Top left, N T Rama Rao, Telugu superstar who rose to fame playing characters from Hindu mythology and then became a Chief Minister who changed the nature of South Indian politics forever. Bottom right, Vikram, already a Tamil superstar, he has delivered hits to almost all his producers.)

Thrilling climax. Not.

On either side of the Atlantic (I had to start with that phrase) Test players colluded to throw water on (cliche alert) an intriguingly poised last innings. Stupid kiwis finally have some ubertalent and they decide to get themelves run out, or play Monty like the pitch was made of coals, and then could not get past the only English batsmen who have been scoring any runs. I guess the "We want Adil" voices will have to hold on a little longer. On the other side, it would have been a bit more difficult to stretch that match to the last hour or the last thirty runs with two wickets remaining, but lets not start blaming T20. Implosions existed fifteen years back as well, and Indians will remember Barbados and Aussies will remember Curtly as well as the expression "skittled out". Batsmen should feel stupid after getting out to Clark. Indians know that feeling.

25 May 2008


Yes, yes, yes!!!

The Aussies are down. But will they stay down? An intriguing test match this, on a dodgy pitch, with the best Aussie batsmen out, and the West Indian pacers on fire. But what kind of a target is actually gettable on this pitch? The lead is already 136, and I don't fancy the Windies chasing anything more than 240 without Gayle. Unless of course the Chrab turns up for an encore.

Disco Dwayne!! So the IPL is not so debilitatng for Test match techniques, eh?

24 May 2008

Anderson continues to perplex

32.3 Anderson to How, OUT, that's a peach, Anderson has produced a most beautiful away-seamer, fantastic seam position, pitches on off, straightens a shade and kisses the edge of the bat, How pokes tentatively but has no answer to that one, Ambrose completes an easy catch and England are on top. That was the best ball of the day so far.
JM How c Ambrose b Anderson 64 (110b 7x4 0x6) SR: 58.18

40.3 Anderson to Flynn, no run, he's missed that and there's blood on the pitch, he tries to pull a short one but that's too quick for him, struck full on on the face and that seems to have gone through the grill, he's taken off his helmet and is spewing blood on the ground
DR Flynn retired hurt 4 (13b 1x4 0x6) SR: 30.76

Ok, I did not watch the match, but from following it on Cricinfo, it appeared that Anderson had bowled the best couple of deliveries of the irst day. And yet, his figures at the end of the day?
12, 0, 66, 1, 5.50
At the end of the Lords Test last year, Ian Chappel seemed convinced that Anderson had finally found his feet in international cricket, and that there would be a different bowler on . Clearly has not been the case. But credit to Taylor.

22 May 2008

'Fixing' Chennai

Last evening, I bet a thousand bucks that Chennai would lose. I then increased that bet to 2000 bucks when Bangalore made only 126. I got odds of 3 is to 1 - Chennai lost and I was 6,000 bucks richer. While the money has not begun to warm my wallet yet, my little victory did make me wonder just how much money would have been riding on a Chennai loss yesterday - crores, several hundreds of crores perhaps?

With their place in the semi finals almost guaranteed, would a loss have mattered yesterday? Perhaps, even if it did, the Chennai chokers may have been made to lose perspective by the lure of money that could potentially have been several times their three year contracts? Too cynical I hear John say - but this is the same team that won a humdinger against Delhi, regularly scores over 150 and has never looked like collapsing dramtatically. A bad day you say... hmmmm.. perhaps.

Quite a coincidence though that a colalpse of this nature should happen to two teams on the same night. It does suddenly make the IPL more interesting and more TRP woth doesnt it? If Delhi does play today, wont millions watch them trying to open the door that has suddenly opened for them courtesy last night?

Is there a nexus between players and bookies; between tv and players or is it an unholy alliance of tv, bookies and players, where no one loses but everyone is so much richer?

20 May 2008

The imminent Jaffer question

Jaffer's shakiness outside off-stump since the beginning of the tour of Australia, the fall in Karthik's fortune since Pakistan visited, and Sehwag's resurgence since Perth all add up to a possible vacancy at the top of the Test batting order.

I have been a fan of HRH Wasim Jaffer, standing tall imperiously, to whip and pull on the leg side, and continued to state his case throughout his miserable tour of Australia (here and mostly here, for instance), but his hopeful waft outside off cost him dear when the Steyn, Ntini & Co. paid a visit. Despite a hundred on a batting paradise, he averaged less than the struggling M S Dhoni.

Is it time to give him his pension? He is clearly short on confidence after his time with the Royal Challengers and knows he hangs on to the Test team by a slender thread. At the same time, he will also know that it was less than a year ago that he was building foundations for Sachin, Laxman an Ganguly in England. Guilty he was of giving it away when well set, but he has since also proven that he is a master at cashing in on a flat deck, whipping Pakistan on a sleepy deck at the Eden Gardens). Now if the cupboard were bare, Jaffer should get a few more chances.

But now, with Gambhir showing great fluency for the Daredevils, and having exhibited good temprament in the ODIs in Oz, and being a better feilder by light years, I will be stoic if Jaffer gets dropped and look forward to some Daredevilry at the top of the order. But then, India have a lot of Tests to play at home soon, and I will rejoice (with some Royal Challenge perhaps) at his next first innings double hundred.

Colonel, hear my prayers.

By the way, where the hell is Mohd. Ashraful? Why isnt he in the IPL? Or am I totally out of it?

15 May 2008


Three tests. That's how much Tim Ambrose has played.

Fourteen months. That's how much time is left before the Australians arrive.

Time, one would think, for the English media and fans to start howling for his blood. For the next fourteen months, Ambrose needs to keep justifying his spot in the side.

Geraint was not a good enough keeper. Read was not a good enough bat. And Prior was the recurring nightmare.

Ambrose needs to be extra-safe behind the stumps and needs at least one good outing with the bat. Something like his counterattack at Wellington will help.

13 May 2008

Is the threat real?

This is a response to TM's post below. Even far away from India and the IPL, it is hard not see how shaken people seem to be by the spectre of 'corporatisation'.

Dravid first lost the Colonel's faith, and then went ahead and now has almost lost the Liquor Baron's. What is the difference? The Colonel is the chairman of the selection committee of the BCCI. The Liquor Baron represents the franchise ownership of the Bangalore Royal Challengers.

The chairman of the selection committee is responsible to those that control the BCCI purse. That the BCCI is responsible to its stakeholders, the fans of Indian cricket, will never cross the minds of the mandarins because of the absolute monopoly they hold in the product market known as international cricket in India.

The ownership of the BRC, on the other hand, is immediately responsible to gate collections and franchise T-shirt sales - the ownership in an ultra-competetive market is much more likely to feel the pinch of waning fan interest. The absolute unlikeliness of regional quotas ever finding place at a BRC selection meeting is an example. On the other hand, there is always the chance that a cricketer with a greater ability at selling T-shirts (think Beckham and Real Madrid) will get a favourable hearing.

Theoretically at least, a competetive market where the fan is free to shift allegiance, seems a fairer (or at least more democratic) judge and executioner of a player's fortunes, as compared to a selection committee that exists in a monopolistic vacuum, free from competetive pressures. Of course, there will be unfair application of what is fair in theory - and that will depend on the nature of the ownership. Is the ownership Machiavellian about profits? Is the corporate culture dictatorial?

Corporatisation by itself, is no great danger. In fact, there is good reason to argue that selection will end up a fairer process. Also, when ownership realizes the importance of attracting and retaining good employees - and the Liquor Baron will not be a stranger to the Great Global War for Talent, franchises are bound to place more thought on conditions of employment.

UB or not to UB

Vijay Mallya is pulling out his wonderfully styled hair as Bangalore stumbles from defeat to defeat to defeat to defeat (you get the point)...Charu Sharma has already borne the brunt of, perhaps the most debt ridden man in India's, anger, and is now looking for a job. As Mallya shoots his mouth right, left and centre about how disappointed he is and how cricket has a corporate element to it, Rahul Dravid and company may sson be looking for new franchisees in the transfer window (wonder if after these perfromances, there are going to be any takers!).

But the point is that corporatization is rearing its very ugly head in cricket and an out of form player is now under the same kind of threat as any other employee in India - the very real threat of being fired and losing out on 'maximizing' income during playing days. As a lawyer, it irks me that the same kind of labour legislations that protect each of us employed in India from complete arbitrariness and high handedness does not appear to protect the sons of Indian cricket. From what one hears from people who have actually seen the employment contracts, all rights under these contracts have been waived and the players are completely at the mercy of the employers - perhaps we need a challenge to these contracts in the higher echelons of our judiciary and for some of the more arbitrary clauses to be struck down! No longer is class permanent and form temporary - ask Dravid or Kallis how conventional wisdom lays bleeding at the alter of money.

12 May 2008

Chennai Veeran

Just days after I wrote about Nehra's renaissance, it seems that the cricketing God has showered his blessings on another of Indian cricket's forgotten stars - Balaji. For any bowler, to take a hattrick is outstanding. Forget the circumstances, forget the wickets taken. For the first time since 2004 when his smile was as much a vital ingredient as his swing bowling in India's epic success in Pakistan, Balaji seems to be on the way back. He may have only ambled upto the bowling crease, but Balaji seemed to be using his wrist in generating some great bounce. Like Nehra, the journey has only just begun, but the signs are promising and hopefully, the fast bowling family of India cricket will be one which the opponents dread - Zaheer, RP, Sreesanth, Munaf, Irfan, Balaji, Nehra and Ishanth. Australia cannot boast of such an artillery.

08 May 2008

The Renaissance

The rejuvenation is still on. For a brief time, Ashish Nehra was the bright star of the Indian pace bowling universe. Along with Srinath and Zaheer he helped India to the 2003 world cup finals, in the process returning the best bowling performance by an Indian bowler in the world cup. But, inevitably injuries crept in and Nehra became an after thought.
But, the IPL has shown signs that he is on the mend. He is still not the old Nehra, but sooner rather than later he will return.

05 May 2008

To Leader, With Admiration

Pollock is the man. The tournament, despite its format lending itslef to youth, has seen the oldies rule the roost. We have seen Mcgrath give his latest impression of Ice-Man, Warne that of Dumbledore and yesterday Pollock showed that he could be Mandela.

The comaprision may be stupid. But, Pollock showed that leaders can pull an entire side with them. He hit 33 runs in quick time. Then took crucial wickets. Brought on Dominic Thornley to pick Sehwag ( a rank long hop full toss admittedly) and clung on to the important catches.
But, the biggest contribution was to make people try their level best. Ashish Nehra diving across at long on to save a Dinesh Karthick shot. Somwhow, Pollock congratulating Nehra soon after the effort made it more special. A big cheer for Pollock and here is a wish that Mr Tendulkar finally plays a game.

"Swinging Both Ways"

WOW!! Last evening, Rajashtan yet again exposed the frailty of a lot of today's batsmen to high quality swing bowling - the theme of this post.

With Sohail Tanveer swinging (it) both ways, the top order of the much vaunted Chennai lineup was left exposed to what is fast turning out to be, the only weapon of mass destruction, left in the armouries of the fast bowlers of this world. Parthiv, Fleming and whoever the third one was were all victims of high quality swing bowling from the wrong footed open chested action of the same man who troubled India only so recently. He demonstrated his control by swinging the first 5 balls of his first over in and then, I think, just to let the batsmen know he was in trouble, he swung the last ball out- all at lively pace. Groping, fumbling, dazed batsmen are not often seen on the batsmen friendly tracks prevalent in world cricket today, and it was ever so refreshing to see the bowlers have their say for once!

In Englang, Zaheer and Arpy exposed the English batting line up and the lack of their technical prowess in countering controlled swing - in Australia, the same duo along with Ishant stripped the Australian batting line up of their invincible aura (much like England did with reverse swing in 2005) - Nathan Bracken continues to trouble all top order batsmen with his mixture of swing and seam as do much less famous names like Martin of New Zealand and the mule like Hoggard.

Commentators do lament on the inability of today's batsmen to play swing, and these practitioners of the game, so often, are so right. With batsmen swinging away at everything that is not swinging, perhaps swing is the answer to the swinging bats of these bullies.

01 May 2008

As Stalwarts Depart

As McCullum and Ponting fly back to join their respective national teams, and the Kolkata team gets thrashed by the Rajasthan Royals team (which, as an aside, I must say, is destined to eventually win this tournament), a sense of loss envelops the spectacle that is the IPL. With Symnonds leaving soon, Harbhajan out under remarkable circumstances and Tendulkar refusing to recover from his groin injury, one would be forced to say that the 'stalwarts' of this game are disappearing from the Indian context (and doing meaningless things like representing their national teams!).

As you read this and wonder why I ramble, perhaps justly so, I sit here and mope the loss of our beloved John. With large scale misery bearing down upon the IPL, all of us faithfuls to this blog, must, in keeping with the general mood of things, for the next month shrink into the size of foetuses, and ensconce ourselves in the misery that has befallen us with the departure of John.

As John sits with some beautiful women in some random cafe, where he will be shooting his rum and coke on a fully sponsored trip for the next month, he has left us incharge of his legacy that is IslandExpress.

Just before his tearful farewell early this morning at 4 A.M., he messaged one last time from Indian shores to bemoan his inability to write for this wonderful blog for weeks to come. He requested me, as a friend and connosieur of the game, to write in his absence and to ensure that all of his fans have reason to visit the blog.

So, gentlemen (and I wish some ladies too would visit this blog), I raise a toast to John and him getting laid by hot white women in Lithuania - for all those who love him, join in, for the rest of you, it is a drink, so dont waste it!

Cheers John!! We promise to keep the legacy alive.