24 June 2011

Sabina Park, Days 3 & 4

A good test match, robbed of cracker status by the West Indian collapse in the first session on Day 4. Though history is important and it didn’t favour West Indian victory, I thought they had given themselves a half decent chance with their batting (not to mention some poor bowling from India) on Day 3. 63 runs is not all that much anyway.

Dravid really was the difference between the sides, and he underlined his class with a beautiful knock on a difficult wicket. He scored 16% of the total runs in the match, 30% of India’s, and 44% of India’s second innings total. In my opinion the elegance of his strokeplay, whether in defense or attack, is unparalleled, and he has always been my favourite batsman to watch. What keeps him head and shoulders above most other batsmen though, is his temperament. Yesterday’s innings was a lesson in patience and good judgment.

Bhajji needs to flight the ball more, and use his fuller quick ones for LBWs, especially against the left-handers. He does this regularly in India, so I don’t know why didn’t here. PK had an impressive debut. The Windies bowled well, and their batting let them down with accustomed familiarity.

My man of the match goes to Charles Joseph, the groundsman at Sabina (since 1962!). Like 2006, it was an ideal test wicket, assisting seam and spin, and providing a stage for proper batsmanship. Weather permitting, a track like this will always produce a result and test cricket needs more of it. Don’t like Jamaica. I love her.

22 June 2011

Sabina Park, Day 2

It’s nice to see PK in whites. People will always wonder whether his lack of pace equals insipidness in test cricket, but his with his control and ability, it would be nice if he got his chance. He will feel a little stupid for getting warned thrice for running on.

The pitch was doing a lot for the second day, but the West Indies’ batting is obviously their main concern. To be honest, they are short on quality, and it is mind bogglingly ridiculous that their best batsman is not playing because of issues with his board. If this was happening in India, there would at least be a few effigies being burnt, with a little damage to property thrown in.

Mukund has looked better than Vijay, and I wonder how much difference his 36 runs will make in the larger scheme of things. Except for that lucky chance, Dravid showed much better application today, and hopefully he can keep that going tomorrow.

Special mention goes to Ian Gould for Sarwan’s LBW decision. It’s great to see an Umpire calling a spade a spade, and penalizing a batsman for pretending to play a shot to ball which is hitting the stumps. It was bang on and ballsy.

Special mention also of the man-love between Kohli and Edwards.

21 June 2011

Sabina Park, Day 1

What an entertaining start to the season! Wickets galore in the first session, wickets and an absolute blitz in the second, and wickets again in the third. Edwards and Bishoo deserve special mention for their bowling, and in Bishoo’s case, his fielding too.

None of the Indian batsmen showed the required application. Dravid fell to uncharacteristic and unnecessary aggression when set. Raina could have played better with the tail. You can’t really blame Bhajji, that’s the way he plays.

Barring bad weather, this one will have a result. The Windies are ahead at this stage, but not by much. Will this be another first test disaster for India, or can they pull it back today?

14 June 2011

India in the Windies 2011 - Preview

The Windies

The whole “they were once the greatest but look at them now” discourse is really boring. When I started watching cricket, the Windies were still very good, and they have slipped since then. But a West Indies tour retains its worth for me because it is special.

It is special because it is the far corner of the world when it comes to cricket, and it is cricket’s only proper bastion in the western hemisphere.

It is special because it’s the West Indies. What sort of dimwit skips a West Indies tour for a rest? The sort of dimwit that can’t find rest in an archipelago of beautiful islands.

It is special because they were once great opponents. Maybe the greatest ever. I enjoy trolling through accounts of how good they all were.

And luckily, cricket is continuum, and to give you a sense of historical context, in 100 ODIs played between us, the Windies have won 55 to India’s 42. I.e., it will take 13 straight wins for India to even equal things between us. Still think the Windies are playing for pride in this series?

The West Indies cricket team of today may be no match to their predecessors, and the pitches and politics may be shite, but I still like to watch them try, and watching them win today is probably the least pissed off I have been after an Indian loss.

Andre Russell and Lendl Simmons are worth keeping an eye on. They have interesting bowlers in Roach, Rampaul, Taylor, Edwards, Bishoo, and of course Russell. Most of them are good athletes. The batting seems pretty weak, but if Gayle and the selectors could get over the “we aren’t speaking to each other” nonsense, there would be at least one seriously destructive batsman in the side.

I was hoping that they won at least one of these JAMODIs. I think it is best not to stir up the home team’s spirit with a clean sweep at inconsequential LOIs, when you want to whop them at real cricket.

And just to give you the proper historical context for that, of the 82 test matches played between us and them, they have won 30, and we 11.

The Umpires

Norman Malcolm has to be the worst umpire I have ever seen in international cricket. I have never seen a dismissal like Pollard’s in the 3rd ODI. I mean, he gave it out only because the Indians wouldn’t stop appealing. You could see that. And the way he gave Badrinath not out in the 4th ODI was simply astonishing. I have seen Random Rudi do something like this once before. I can’t be bothered to remember where. But even Rudi didn’t slide his hand across his neck to ask the players to shut up after he had half lifted his hand to give a player out! Such obvious indecision from an umpire should spread like wildfire amongst the players. Given the power that umpires exercise in cricket, his further participation in any serious cricket would be an injustice to the players whose careers he impacts.

The Commentators

I never got to watch Dujon play, and from what I read he was pretty impressive. As a commentator though, he is just hilarious. He obviously doesn’t give a shit. The other day, he says “so Pakistan win” just after India won a match. Well, we’re often on the verge of war, but were once one, and are pretty close on a map, so maybe his confusion is understandable. Today, he watches a super-slow-mo replay from Amit Mishra and expertly pinpoints that “that’s the carom ball.” All with this lovely drawl and he never bothers to correct himself. That’s pretty cool. Take a bow Test Match Sofa, you guys have some serious competition.

And Us

Rohit Sharma’s been ok, Kohli less responsible than you expect of him these days, and Raina pretty flaky. Of the batsman, Parthiv Patel has surprised me pleasantly.

Unfortunately Badrinath looks like a Ramprakashian figure in Indian cricket. I have never seen him comfortable against an international attack, and I can’t see him in our test side (Wellofcouse as someone who struggles against a 50mph tennis ball, I would be happy to be proved wrong).

Amit Mishra pleases me. But I don’t know if that’s just because he is a leg spinner or if he is a good leg spinner.

The Ashwin – Harbhajan contest is interesting. A lot of people seem to be backing Ashwin to replace Bhajji. Ashwin definitely looks like the better batsman, but when in comes to their bowling, I am unsure.

Ashwin is always economical, and Bhajji is a lot of the time, but who gives a shit about that. What concerns me is that Ashwin effectively spins the ball with one finger, thereby limiting the amount of turn he can get. A spinner who doesn’t turn the ball is like an eggless cake, i.e., a slow-medium bowler, Jonathan Trott even!!!

Hopefully Ashwin can get the Kumble mojo going. He interests me.