30 July 2011

2nd Test, Trent Bridge, Day 1

If Sharma is Jekyl and Hyde, Sree is one of those gremlins from the movie, a small furry creature until you feed it after midnight. Unfortunately, things aren’t that simple with Sree. He can be an absolute liability or wreak havoc, sometimes both in the same spell. Someone usually stands at mid on and counsels him, and I have seen no evidence of this having any effect on what he produces. When it swings, he can nail any right hander in the world. I was sure he would get Prior in the over that he did.

221 is a competitive score, but sans Zaheer, Dhoni would have grabbed at it greedily had it been offered to him at breakfast.

Now to see how big that 221 really is.

27 July 2011

Sometime in the near future…

Cricket Australia's Centre of Excellence (COE), Adelaide, Austrailia.

23rd September, 2011, 1500 Hrs:

Fifteen men in dirty whites are seated in gray foldable-plastic chairs inside the large Tactical Operations Tent (TOT).

The men are clearly nervous, their worried murmur interspersed with false-ringing ‘mates’ and slightly manic sounding laughter.

On a large foldable table in front of the men are neatly arranged newspapers. The front pages carry large bold headlines the likes of, “WE ARE SHIT”, “SRI-LANKA BEAT NINNIES’, and ‘SRI-LANKA, IS THAT ENGLAND?’.

Four dark suit suits walk in, accompanied by a man in trainers.

One of the suits addresses the men, “Which one of you is the spinner?”

One of the men squeals out unprompted, “Shane Warne loves me, you all love me, I am Beer.”

All eyes slowly settle on Nathan Lyon, who has raised his hand with great trepidation.

The suit turns to the man in the trainers and says, “Take him out and shoot him, Tim”.

A gasping, terrified Lyon is led out of the tent by the man in the trainers.

The suit turns back to the men and begins “Now for the rest of you…”

Steve Waugh walks in, wheeling a strange looking device...

25 July 2011

1st Test, Lords, Day 5


1st Test, Lords, Day 4

Ishant Sharma is a real Jekyll and Hyde character. You never know who is going to turn up – the fire breathing monster or the generous candy man. It adds to his charm.

It is surprising that Matt Prior hasn’t been able to cement a place in England’s ODI squad given how good an attacking batsman he is. England’s musical chair policy for their ODI keeper’s spot might have something to do with it. Or it could just be the format. Other batsmen who score at fair rates in Tests find it difficult to duplicate that success in ODIs. Sehwag and VVS come to mind.

Cometh the hour, and my confidence in our ability to force a draw threatens to recede. Must it always be this way in the first test of a series? Well if it must, at least we still have those two out there.

It is going to be very difficult to bat out 90 overs, and the day’s play holds much potential for heartbreak or relief.

I flinch at the thought of what my fingernails have in store for them.

24 July 2011

1st Test, Lords, Day 3

I have alluded towards my reverence for Rahul before.

Fifteen years is a long time. Sometimes it takes that long to set things straight.

More fulsome adoration will be reserved for other posts. For now, there’s not much to say except that England had to find a way around him, because they couldn’t get through him. One mistake aside, he was un-outable.

He hit a beautiful boundary to get to fifty, and with it moved to second on the all time list. There was no big fuss. I don’t even think it was announced on the PA system. No gigabytes of space, no tones of ink had been wasted in anticipation, and few will be spent in celebration.

I know his joy is mine, not the property of a hysterical nation. Yet he lends his pride and humility to us all. He is just so special.

England are on top after today. It was a good display by their bowlers, especially the under-the-cosh Broad.

But I still think we will draw this.

After all, we do have Rahul in our ranks, batting for us.

23 July 2011

1st Test, Lords, Day 2

Praveen Kumar saved India some blushes with his dibbly dobblies yesterday. I thought Sree may have gotten a game ahead of him… thank God for small mercies. You would back PK to not be rubbish even if he didn’t pick up a five-for, which he did.

Ishant Sharma was woeful, but deserves a little breathing space after his Caribbean show. He may want to adjust to a slightly fuller length, where he looked more dangerous. And stop bowling the trash down the leg side and short and wide.

Harbhajan Singh has run out of excuses. Judging him on his wickets would be unfair since it was a flat, day two pitch. But he was like a fat cow, smiling benignly at the Englishmen as they filled their buckets. Will Dhoni drop him if he fails to take a single wicket in this match? Or will the fallout from this stupid advertisement ensure that it doesn’t happen even then?

KP played a good hand. He isn’t the prettiest and today was downright ugly but it did the job. There were other significant little contributions along the way. It was a decent effort from England, but in no way intimidating. We were effectively down to one bowler.

It's too early into India's innings to properly judge England's effort. But I would be disappointed if we weren't able to hold on for a draw from here.

22 July 2011

1st Test, Lords, Day One


What part of "go away", "come again another day" and "little Johnnie wants to play" don't you you understand?

Geez! fucking two year olds get it.

19 July 2011

What’s not to like about Darren Sammy?

Not much in my opinion.

Sure he is a “Board Man” as opposed to a “Players Association Man” and that doesn't sound good. But it says more of the mess that West Indies cricket finds itself in, rather than Sammy himself.

He also thinks that the coach has the final say, and that may not be what you want to hear from a captain. But Sammy has been given a job, and he is doing it as well as anyone else has in the recent past.

Every time he goes onto the field, he is engaged in proving people wrong. That really gets me on his side.

Since his selection as captain, he has justified his place in the side as a bowler alone. He is a clean striker of the ball and if he can develop the ability to stick around at the crease, he could be an important cog in an otherwise weak batting line-up.

He is calm when he addresses the press, and shrugs off snide remarks and downright disrespectful questions with a smile. He comes across as a guy with a big heart and a small ego.

I am not a religious person, but can appreciate it when people use it as a positive force in their lives. Sammy seems to be doing so.

The West Indies have produced several players during the last decade who have flattered to deceive. Sammy could be just another one of them.

Or he could stop their downward slide and guide them a few steps upwards from the lower reaches that they now inhabit.

As he tries to do that, I find myself in his corner, cheering for him.

18 July 2011

Ridiculously funny stuff

Harbhajan has reportedly threatened to sue UB Spirits for this. A couple of media reports on it. This is the original ad.

All of this has me in splits. Given Dhoni's limited role in the ad, it is difficult to establish if he knew it would turn out like it did. I'm pretty certain this won't spill over onto the field, but the ad will probably be removed soon, so take a look while you can.


The English Press are going bananas over Tendulkar, ejaculating all over their article space in his honour.

But they don’t fool me. It is obviously a well thought out conspiracy to jinx his tour. Unbeknownst to them, I have been working hard to counter their evil plans. For every laudatory, aggrandizing article of theirs, I have been writing posts on what a shitty batsman he is, how he is a stat-whore and never wins any matches for India.

Since I live in India, and have no desire to be lynched by crazy Tendulkar fans who don’t understand the purpose of these posts, they shall remain unpublished.

The English Press can’t even be sure if I wrote them at all, leaving their counter-counter-jinxing plans in disarray.


17 July 2011

India in England, 2011: First Thoughts

As the minutes trickle by with inescapable slowness till the afternoon of the 21st, what better way waste some of them than with pointless thoughts about what we might have in store for us then.

Four tests in England! My aren’t the BCCI being generous. Mm mm mm.

The immediate thing that strikes one about the series is how evenly the two teams stack up against each other. Both bear a settled look with competition mainly for the third seamers place. Both are certain to play seven batsmen and four bowlers, with three seamers and an off-spinner being the likely combination.

The similarity between the teams borders on the ridiculous when you consider that until Sehwag returns, aside from Broad’s left-hand batting, the teams line up identically vis-a-vis which hand they prefer. Spot for spot, there are interesting contests on offer.

The Openers – England hold the advantage here. This is mainly because Sehwag is certain to miss the first two, and Strauss weighs over fledgling Mukund for whom this is a big opportunity. Cook’s stupendous recent run is scary, but you would argue that Gautham Gambhir can hold his own against him. Interestingly, Gambhir made his debut in 2004 but has played only 38 tests to Cook’s 68 since 2006. Gambhir’s average is slightly better, but he missed the last tour to England and so will be making his debut there.

The Middle Order – There is little that can be said about this Indian middle order that hasn’t been said before. Yes they are aging but that’s unavoidable given our collective failure as a nation to figure out how to prevent it. I’m just happy to watch them bat for as long as possible. The English match up evenly. As a massive compliment to Jonathan Trott, he has Dravid-like temperament and grit. Sachin is well... Sachin, and KP can do this. Ian Bell and VVS Laxman are both exquisite stylists in good form. Familiarity with conditions gives the English whatever little the Indians score over them in reputation.

The Late Order – Ian Morgan and Suresh Raina are similar in that they are excellent one day batsmen whose test credentials are under examination. I believe that Raina has a major role to play in the Indian team’s future. His susceptibility to the short ball should prove less of a disadvantage in Tests because he doesn’t need to score off them. He also has a better defensive technique than Yuvraj Singh. As I write this, he has notched up a counter-attacking hundred in the Somerset game. There is some talk of his spot being under pressure from Yuvraj, but I wouldn’t drop him unless he failed in all of the first three tests. Dhoni and Prior are good keepers with similar batting averages and aggressive approaches. Harbhajan and Broad can also do damage with the bat.

The Quicks – Khan and Anderson are master swing bowlers, deadly and dangerous. Ishant and Tremlett both tall and gangly, looking to bang it in and jangle the splices. Broad and Sree, petulant and badly behaved, looking to see who can throw the bigger tantrum. It is all too similar. Khan will want to find Strauss’s number and keep dialing it, but he had no such luck in the warm-up game. Khan usually delivers, but Ishant and Sree are much more inconsistent and a lot will depend on whether they show up. Very honestly, Anderson and Tremlett are scary prospects and in my opinion, England edge India here.

The Offies – Swann looks the much more threatening bowler, despite Habhajan’s weight of wickets. If Swann is able to trouble the Indian batsmen, it will add much force to claims of him being the best spinner around.

The Bench – India have some variety in the bowling cupboard with a leg spinner and Kumar’s medium paced swing. If India drop Sree, I would pick Kumar ahead of Munaf, who doesn’t look like much of a threat in Tests. An adventurous captain would give Mishra a shot before Harbhajan, but I do not see this happening. Another bad game and I would replace Broad with another seam bowler, of which England have plenty.

With recent form and home advantage behind them, I would say England hold the slight edge. But all of this is moot once the first ball is bowled.

Speaking of which, I wonder what time it is?...

14 July 2011

On the Myth of Test Cricket's Approaching Death

As a loser who spends much too much time reading anything cricket related, it is hard to ignore the preachers of doom. At times they amuse, but mostly they just irritate.

I refer to a segment of cricket writing in which test cricket is constantly perceived as being under threat and every little thing or the other – empty stadiums, slow scoring rates, batsman friendly pitches, bowler friendly pitches, draws, rain, defensive play, aggressive play, red balls, pink balls, lights, no lights – is either an indication of, or a reason for “what is wrong with test cricket” or “why test cricket is not relevant” or “why test cricket is dying” or some such other bullshit.

There are plenty of such examples in the wake of the recent test match at Dominica. Like cockroaches crawling out of the woodwork at the scent of rotting food, an “abandoned chase” in a low scoring test series is simply too much to resist.

It amuses me because the people writing this stuff are obviously conflicted. On the one hand they watch test cricket and write about it and are interested in it. On the other, they are deeply dissatisfied with it.

It irritates me because it is nonsense. It particularly irks when this general rubric of fear is used to plead for changes to the game, or the inclusion or exclusion of specific players and playing styles. The message is always the same “test cricket must do this or that or it will DIE.”

Take for example this recent gem from Shashi Tharoor - “With the throbbing, pulsating, time-bound and cheerleader-inflected joys of Twenty20 on offer around the world, Test cricket looks in danger of failing the viability test that any activity depending on public support must pass.” Yech! Disgusting.

I do not watch test cricket because it is popular. I honestly don’t give a shit who else watches it, or whether market forces and trends favour it. I watch test cricket because it is simply the best game ever. And it sickens me when people suggest that it must change just so as to become more popular. It is characteristic of the insatiable greed that it is no longer shameful to espouse, maybe even fashionable today.

And the funny thing is – test cricket is as popular as I can ever remember. Over the last seventeen years of my love affair with the game, never has so much interest been shown, never has so much been written about it. In fact it is quite possibly due to this overload of interest that this rubbish ends up popping up everywhere

And what if test cricket were to lose popularity? It may attract lesser talent, there may be fewer games, and there possibly may not be television coverage any more. Would I still watch it? Yes. Would I rather it became more like limited over cricket to avoid such a fate? No. And in simple response to Mr.Tharoor, there will always be enough public support for test cricket because there are enough people who love it as it is.

Don’t get me wrong. I am no defender of the status quo. I would love to see more countries playing test cricket, more test matches instead LOIs, and more people watching them. But these things might not be possible unless test cricket were to become something other than itself. If there is a demise that one should fear, it is that.

11 July 2011

Why is it called the "mandatory fifteen overs"?

Yes. Why?

Whatever the reason is, its stupid because they are not.

It kind of feels like getting your pocket picked. This has never happened to me, but if I were to imagine what it would feel like, it might feel like this. Test cricket calls for devotion from its fans. You have to watch the damn thing over five days and some of it is Chanderpaul batting. Thats a lot of your time invested. And then the players are just allowed to walk off with an hour to spare, either for tactical reasons or because they simply don't feel like it. It is plain wrong.

It isn't about whether Sammy or Dhoni made the right decisions, its that they should not have the capacity to make those decisions. It is a terrible rule, because the injustices that it sometimes causes are so much worse than the little periods of dreariness it seeks to avoid. In Zaltman's words it is a "nonsensical insult to Test cricket's supporters".

The other rule that is manifestly unjust to followers of the game is the limit on how long play can go on when there is sufficient light. When the required number of overs have not been bowled in a match, it is a travesty to watch players troop off in bright sunshine simply because "it is six o clock".

Is it too much to expect of the ICC's cricket committee to suggest corrections to these glaring instances of bad rule-making, instead of unleashing their powers of imagination on when power-plays can be held in ODIs?

These are bad rules. Change them.

07 July 2011

Stupid Rain

Its raining all over the place in India as the Monsoons set in.

It rained in Bridgetown. When it didn't, it rained in Kathmandu where I found myself for the second test. Ten cricket doesn't work in the rain in Kathmandu.

Its raining in Roseau.

It was raining in Nottingham. It could have kept raining in Nottingham and washed away a silly one sided ODI. Everyone would have been the happier for it, not the least the English press who keep having to eat the thousands of words they generate each day, just to have to shit them out uncontrollably the next and eat them again in an endless cycle which never seems to end.

But no. It kept raining in Roseau.

Sri Lankan Sports Minister comes across as illiterate

He has ordered a probe and asked for a report. On a one hour speech, the transcript of which takes about twenty minutes to read - both available to the public.

Couldn't he have just watched or listened or read, and made a few phone calls?