22 October 2008

Why so excited?

For days now, the news media been inundated with articles announcing the death of Australian supremacy. So then will some Aussie chicks burn a few bails?

Much as I would love to see that, this burning would be more than a touch premature. For some reasons, all the articles seem to acknowledge that the Aussies are still numero uno, and yet they come out with headlines that are either heart-rending in their soppy sentimentality or completely misdirected and fucked up with their superciliousness.

Ok, so there was a margin of victory that hasn't been witnessed in a really long time. So? And there was the general lack-of-threat, a directionless in the field that was distinctly un-Australian.

India have had much worse losses - some of them in the recent past. Did that vault them from a middling team to minnowhood?

India have appeared far more lackadaisical in the field, never hitting the stumps, for matches and matches on end.

True the Aussies 'have lost a few great players, importantly two match winning bowlers, and now their batting cannot stand the strain of putting larger scores up on the board. And yet, if their team plays anywhere near potential it is really difficult for any team to beat them. There is the best batsman in the world, the best (at least a couple of months ago) fast bowler in the world, and the statistical anomaly known as Michael Hussey. In combination, and with inputs from Michael Clarke and Mitchell Johnson, this team can easily make themselves near impossible to beat. It requires coordinated excellence from all quarters of a team to do so. Mohali had attacking batting, good quick bowling, some swing wizardry, spin magic, solid fielding and assured captaincy from India. In the last 20 years, only Australia has consistently ticked all these boxes.

Plus, everyone ignores the cricket superstructure in Australia. Spinning reserves might seem a bit of a problem, but why doesn't anyone acknowledge Peter Siddle's impressive performance on debut? In some way, his performance was as much a source of relief and optimism to Australia as Mishra's was to India. Siddle ran in over after over, and got the ball to lift off an uncomfortable length. Shaun Marsh is on his way here. David Hussey is an impressive guy. And Andrew Symonds is still in the picture.

So basically, let us not get carried away. Aussies are still number one, and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

20 October 2008


24 - 5 - 86 - 1 - 3.58
14 - 0 - 61 - 1 - 4.35

Why is nobody talking about Lee's awesome loss of form? Is he carrying an injury? Is he over the hill?

Where is the next great Australian quickie?

Or is it only an Indian phenomenon to make sure that someone who has missed a footing falls down to never get up again?

15 October 2008

To go when people ask "Why?"

As a professional sportsman, one internalizes the fact that you can feed yourself only by getting the better of your opponents.

By outwitting defenders to create that scoring opporunity, by being part of that match-winning partnership that kept the scoreboard ticking, those frugal overs at the death that kept the marauder off strike, that impossible burst of speed in the last hundred metres of a marathon, that important tackle, that dive to propel the shuttle from inches off the ground- these are how a sportsman earns his roti-dal.

Day and night, in and out, he performs - and like any professional, he performs for that larger chunk of meat and more roti at the dinner table. A better car, a larger home, jewellery for his sister, whatever.

He learns that to get the things that money can buy, he needs to consistently get the better of opponents. And that cannot be done without the belief that you're indeed better. He believes until he knows. If he doubts it for a split second, its effects will show on his game, and hence on the quality of the roti. Which is why he will never admit to himself (forget anyone else) that he might be less than spectacular. A massive ego is essential to a succesful sportsman. I laugh whenever I hear someone say that Tendulkar is humble - oh, if only you could hear the disdainful voices in his head.

No sportsman worth his salt will voluntarily admit that he is not better than his opponent.
And that is why we have selectors.

If Anil Kumble is not to play at Mohali (for reasons of incompetence, not fitness), it is not Anil Kumble who will pull that trigger. It is not in the nature of a sportsman to do so. It requires someone who is much much more than a sportsman to go when people ask, "Why?".

14 October 2008

Kat the itch

Soulberry was one of the few to readily agree with my association of Simon Katich with Luca Brasi. One of the king-nerds was adamant that Luca was the Don's trump card, and hence could certainly not be Simon Katich the Krab and journeyman.

Whatever. Luca got down and dirty.

And Katich did a fair bit of that in both innings. In the first, his assuredness against Ishant, Zaheer and then spin as well seemed to ease Ponting's nerves. And there was more of that in the second innings as well, his nervous demeanour cloaking some serious zen. This is also where Hayden's reputation is a weapon. He draws all the fire towards himself, leaving Katich to quietly go about his run-krabbing.

Where's that piano wire?


I just came across the anti-jrod: a scheme run by Loughborough University.

11 October 2008

Hum ko chahiye thoda extra

Dhoni has gone and done it again. Granted there is no sense in picking on him alone, for even Laxman deserved to be spanked for that prod-nudge. But this is Dhoni we're talking about. Champion of the fresher pair of legs, that harbinger of a new dawn who is both leader of men as well as a general among strategists, and our best ODI batsman. For Kumble's days are certainly numbered, and if Dhoni does not come up with a defining innings soon, there might be another interim captain in the horizon. Since the England series, Dhoni has scored: 36, 57, 50*, 37, 0, 11, 2, 35, 19, 38, 16, 20, 16, 14, 52, 32. His last (and only) hundred was more than eighteen months ago.

More must be demanded of Dhoni in the Test outfit. If he plays to potential, the possibility of having a fifth bowler, at least in India, is not too distant.

07 October 2008

The Long Ganguly Goodbye - Part I

I doubt any public figure elicits the extremes of opinion that Ganguly does. Very often from the same person. For instance, Ganguly is the person I'd curse loudest and longest when he would get caught off a snorter at second slip. The same might have been Dravid's or Tendulkar's fate as well, but I'd always be more reserved in my condemnation. At the same time, which other ill-built sportsman can take off his shirt on the world-stage, and still not embarass his countrymen?

For someone who we all loved to scream motherchod at the drop of a hat, he inspired the kind of loyalty in his teammates and from fans that could not be explained. People who might have alleged all sorts of sexual relationships between him and his family, would resort to all manner of convoluted logic to defend his spot in the team and his captaincy.

During this series, the Long Ganguly Goodbye will try and understand this phenomenon.

05 October 2008

Hustler gangster XI - Australia in India 2008

Mathew Hayden is not only the tough guy, he wants you to know he's tough.
When he plays well, Australia do not lose. He is Marv. Not always pretty. You want him on your side.

Krab Katich. Not beautiful. Has a long history of flitting into the story - sometimes batting, sometimes as a chinaman, and of making way. Very useful man to have in your touring party. He is Luca Brasi.

Pricky Ponting. Absolute superstar with just one gap on his CV and desperate to correct it. Also desperate to be liked, and considered a statesman of the game. The second half of his career has covered up any indiscretion in the first. He is Fast Eddie Felson towards the end of Color of Money. He's very annoying if he's not on your side.

Michael Clarke is a talented young man with a pretty mercurial rise for an Australian batsman. Has a hot chick. He's Vincent Lauria to Ponting's Eddie Felson. Playing on the same team how wierd is that?

Michael Hussey is most described as a consummate professional. Accused of being dispassionate, he proves them wrong when time and again he brings out that ingredient x which goes beyond talent alone. Can win you a match. Will scrape you a draw. Will never let the team down. Not very entertaining. He is Tom Hagen.

Brad Haddin is the guy they sent to sub Jesus. Doesnt look the part at all, but can be surprisingly effective. He has previously shown everyone how good he can be in India., but the shadow of Gilchrist is long. He's young Michael Corleone. On his first real assignment.
After the best training there is.

Cameron White is a specialist of the new game, but not too bad at the old one. Is not the best leg spinner around. Is not the best whacker of the cricket ball. But pretty useful fellow to bring along just in case. He is Kip Raines from Gone in 60 Seconds.

Brett Lee is the best in the business. Loves to be humble or seen as humble. Like Bill who knew his craft, cunning and strength would not protect him forever. At the moment though, he's crusing; scything down anyone in his path - and has already had a legendary battle on his own turf.

Mitchell Johnson can blow hot and blow cold. But India has previously brought out the best in him. Central to the plan of a new generation of Australian cricketers. Works hard, knows his game, knows he is not Akram and plays with what he has. He is Tommy from Goodfellas.

Stuart Clark will do all the dirty work, all day. He has the height and even thepace if he wants to. Prefers to use cunning. He is Big Chris from Lock, Stock and 2 Smoking Barrels.

Jason Krezja is not proven at the highest level. There is cocaine in his past. Recently got a pasting. But at the moment, he's all they have and he's who they'll have to rely on. Once in a while he is surprisingly coordinatied and competent. Not enough. He's Vinnie from Snatch.

03 October 2008

Aussies add to the long list of uglies

Finally, the day is here.

Kamran Akmal - he of the undisputed supremacy on the visage issue, the champion of ugly, the emperor of the aesthetically challenged; finally has some competition.

Did you see Siddle?

01 October 2008

The Ganguly question will continue..

Does Ganguly's selection close out the possibility of playing five bowlers without tampering with the Sehwag-Gambhir opening combo? Does Anil have the balls to drop Dada while retaining Gambhir?

The answer to this question might prove key to the results of this series. By pushing Dhoni to number 6 without pushing Dravid to the opener's slot, India still have the solid batting that can take care of Lee and Clark, and with enough firepower to score quick.

Hopefully, it is an option that Anil will consider in the first couple of matches. As is repeated often enough, the only way to beat them is by going very hard at them. I guess there is a time and a place for four bowlers. Not now. Not here.