Saturday, June 26, 2010

Wrong time for cricket to be played?

I've never been a soccer fan, but I've followed this World Cup. It's a first for me, but I've enjoyed the 22 men plus one referee running brainlessly around a football field chasing a ball.
I've also understood (or have I?) what an offside is in football.
In cricket, the offside is, according to Indian fans, what Ganguly is a master of. Personally, I think that's all he could play, apart from slow left arm bowlers, except for the end of his career where he proved that he can actually bat.
But this piece is not about Ganguly. It's not even about the World Cup.
It's about cricket boards from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa, West Indies, Australia and England putting cricket schedules in the middle of the world's biggest sporting tournament. I hate to say it, but it's true. Football's popularity will always exceed that of cricket. It's probably because the game is brainless and the fans can create riot-like situations. Those have been seen in cricket as well (think Calcutta semifinals of the 1996 World Cup) or read the Wildest Tests by Ray Robinson, if you find it that is.
Asia I can understand, particularly Pakistan and Sri Lanka, playing cricket in this time. Urban India and most of Bangladesh (mainly because of their Bengali roots) are football crazy, but cricket still rules in terms of viewership in India. While Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Hyderabad may sit for an evening drink and watch the match on a plasma screen, the smaller towns will probably follow the Asia Cup.
What I don't get is South Africa, England and Australia playing cricket now. South Africa is hosting the World Cup and the people rather blow the vuvuzala than see their cricket team annihilate the West Indies in the Caribbean.
It wouldn't matter if England beat Australia 5-0 in the Ashes now, thumping them by an innings in each test match. The Englishman likes his football and would rather watch Wayne Rooney slap a referee than Collingwood become the leading run scorer for England in one-day internationals.
The Australians don't care about soccer, as they prefer their Australian Rules Football, which looks quite similar to what the guys in the NFL play.
The ECB, SACB and ACB need to get their heads examined. As for Asia, who cares anyway? They can't play football to save their fucking lives.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

The unsung hero

When I was a kid, I have never had an opinion of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, except when he'd bat against India. 
At that time, I was a frantic Indian cricket fan. Not that I am not now; I prefer being a lot more objective about the game.
But after yesterday, I feel Chanderpaul is the best modern day batsman produced by the West Indies. 
Lara is overrated, in my opinion and Gayle is too flamboyant. 
Chanderpaul has stayed in the side since 1994 and has been a good servant to the game. 
He has no great technique. In fact, CricInfo's biography opens with 
'The possessor of the crabbiest technique in world cricket, Shivnarine Chanderpaul proves there is life beyond the coaching handbook.'
 But yet, again and again, the guy doesn't disappoint. He's still unbeaten on 153 and I don't know how much he'll make. 
He's been making runs consistently against all nations, but has always been overshadowed by Lara, Hooper and now Chris Gayle. But he's always delivered and that makes him great. Let's not forget that he nearly averages 50 in test matches.
Also, the fact that if he didn't sport West Indies colours, he'd look like a runtier version of my brother, has made him one of my favorite cricketers today.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

India vs Pakistan

Despite the madness surrounding the FIFA World Cup, today the televisions were tuned into Neo Sports for the India-Pakistan encounter.
There's something about India-Pakistan games that unleash something in the cricket fan. Something a football fan can never explain.
There is tension, but there are no riots.
There are verbal battles, but there are no deaths.
There are riot-like situations, but no riots.
And the games are usually nine out of ten times, really close encounters.
It's the only time, I see players from both sides showing the potential to be superlative sides.
Pakistan, which off late has been really crap, look brilliant. The last time I saw this brilliance, was during the semi-final with Australia in the World T20. If it weren't for Hussey, they could well have been holding the trophy yet again.
But this is about India and Pakistan.
Where else would you see Virender Sehwag make 10 in 31 balls? It's unheard off on a normal day.
Where else would you see Zaheer bowl first change in a match?
Where else would you see Harbhajan Singh play cool and collected cricket and hit a six as the winning run in the final over of a game?
I'm happy that India won, but this was a great game of cricket.
I feel bad for Shahid Afridi, because he looks like he's taking Pakistan in the right direction. He's led from the front in both games and he looks like he can make a bunch of directionless boys into a winning unit.
I hope that he doesn't prove me wrong and the next time we play, we have an even better game of cricket.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

All time WI XI

So CricInfo has come out with the All-Time WI XI
It's simple actually. You have most of Clive Lloyd's side from 1983-1984
Just drop Gomes and put Sobers.
I'd do the same for Haynes and take Roy Fredricks instead. That way, you have a right and left hand combination as well.
I could replace Walcott for Jeff Dujon, but Dujon's a much better wicketkeeper and this side has all the batting that it needs.
So here they are
1) CG Grenidge
2) RC Fredricks
3) Everton Weeks
4) IVA Richards
5) Clive Lloyd
6) Gary Sobers
7) Jeff Dujon (wk)
8) Malcolm Marshall
9) Andy Roberts
10) Joel Garner
11) Michael Holding

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Monday, June 14, 2010

My all-time India XI

I've been following CricInfo's all-time XI feature since they started the column.
While they haven't started an Indian all-time XI yet, I decided that I'd bring to you what, I feel, would be India's greatest playing XI.
Like I have said before, this piece is welcome to argument and I'm fully responsible for defending my side
So here goes

1)Sunil Gavaskar: I've never seen Gavaskar live, except as a commentator, but the thought of one of your
opening batsmen wearing a skullcap and a summer hat over it, ready to face the West Indian quicks, or Dennis Lillee or Jeff Thomson and making runs off them, would fit into an international side, leave alone a national XI.
2) Virender Sehwag: The perfect balancing partner for Gavaskar. While Gavaskar is the epitome of technique and grafting runs, Sehwag, as Steve Waugh said, believes in the KISS theory, which is Keep It Simple, Stupid. But the KISS theory has worked and Sehwag is the third person, after Bradman and Lara to have two triple hundreds to his name. What I wonder though, is the expression on Gavaskar's face if he does something stupid to get out OR hit a six when he is on 294
3) Rahul Dravid: They don't call him the wall for nothing. He's scored more runs on faster and bouncy wickets than he has in India, which doesn't mean that he scores poorly at home. He just averages over 60 outside the subcontinent, which is a fantastic record by India's best number three ever.
4) Sachin Tendulkar: I don't have to say much about Sachin. He fits into any cricket lover and non-cricket lover's dream team, whether national or international. His record speaks for itself and it would be any cricket lover's dream to see him and Gavaskar bat together.  
5) Gundappa Vishwanath: I've never seen him bat, but I know he is great. While his average and statistics don't look all that great compared to the guys above, I've chosen him because of Sunil Gavaskar. Gavaskar gave us this statistic in his book Idols that whenever Vishy made a good score, India usually won or drew a test match
6) CK Nayudu: I'll admit that I was confused between choosing MAK Pataudi and CK Nayudu, but CK wins because of his ability to bowl as well. Let's not forget that he could dismantle any bowling attack and his position at number 6 is significant because he'd be able to play the old ball a lot better. He is also my captain for the side
7) N Kapil Dev: India's first and last great all-rounder. Could bowl fast, could bat like a dream and could field like a gazelle
8) Syed Kirmani: India's greatest wicketkeeper. Many may argue that he's right up there, along with Rod Marsh and Alan Knott. Kirmani is also a useful lower order batsman, who can hang around and frustrate the opposition
9) P Baloo: Ramachandra Guha may call CK the first great cricketer, but after reading A Corner of a Foreign Field, I'd rate Baloo slightly higher. CK had the charisma and was popular amongst the Hindu fan, but Baloo always got the job done. A bowling average of 15 also helps him find a way into this side. And yes, he could bat as well
10) J Srinath: India's fastest bowler in the modern era. Srinath had two things to his disadvantage. 1) He spent most of his time bowling on the subcontinent 2) He was overused and had that took a toll on his body. But he and Kapil would form the ideal bowling partnership
11) BS Chandrasekhar: The madman bowler. Didn't know what his next ball would be. He was the destroyer of batting attacks the world over. He just needed confidence in himself to bowl that well. While his average isn't the best around, we know that he'd fit into this Indian side
12) Eknath Solkar: 12th man

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

The bowling partnership the world needs to see

It breaks my heart to see the West Indies play cricket the way they do today.
They have become a lot like the Pakistani side. Brilliant on a day and faulty on others. 
There is no consistency and for those who have loved and follow the game, their downfall is one of the tragedies of modern-day cricket. 
Having said that, there is one thing that makes me happy from this.
World cricket finally has a really good fast bowling partnership.
After Wasim-Waqar and Ambrose-Walsh dominated players for many years in the 90s and early 2000, it is now the turn of Steyn and Morkel to become the next pair of new ball bowling greats.
Now, the cricketing purist will crucify me for not including McGrath-Gillespie and Donald-Pollock in this list of great fast bowlers, but while McGrath and Pollock were great bowlers, they were not express. They relied on line, length, bounce and accuracy, which made them so dangerous.
Steyn and Morkel demoralized the West Indies in the first innings of the test match, but I still maintain that the best spell I saw them bowl was against Australia to Michael Hussey a couple of years ago.
It was genuinely quick shit and I had my heart in my mouth.
If you guys don't believe me, check this spell out yours

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Bad players of spin? I don't think so

I see the scorecard of the West Indies-South Africa test match. On a rain-affected day, South Africa are 70/3, with all three wickets going to spinners.
South Africa has the same problem with spin like India does with pace, feel several people. But yeah, they like bringing India's problem up, because our players are a bunch of brats.
Again, I speak of test matches because that brings out the best in a player.
And I'm going to bring out the same argument that I did when I defended India when people said that they couldn't play fast bowling.
South Africa have never had a quality spinner, just like India has never had a tearaway fast bowler.
Paul Adams, Pat Symcox, Niky Boje and more recently J Botha have all played a role for South Africa in the shorter version of the game by bringing down the run rate, but in test matches, except for Adams, the others have contributed more with the bat and Botha is not a very experienced test player. I don't think that he's played a test match either.
They have had two crappy players of spin: Daryl Cullinan then and  JP Duminey today, but apart from that, the guys have done fairly well against spin even in India, as Hashim Amla so wonderfully displayed on South Africa's last tour.
A similar thing can be said about the Australians. Experts say that they suffer against quality off spin, but they have only produced great leg spinners in Bill 'O' Riley, Richie Benaud and Shane Warne. The off spinner has always been a in and out guy in their side.
But again, this is a theory. And like I've said before, theories can be cut into pieces and I can be sent to the gallows for writing this.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

After Yuvraj, it's Sreesanth's turn

So Sreesanth has been stripped of the Kerala captaincy.
We don't know why, but when you think about it, it makes perfect sense.
People from Kerala are a firebrand lot, but they seem docile in front of Sreesanth.
He could be the Chuck Norris of cricket, if he wasn't such a moron. Who goes on record to say,
Everybody knows I can dance well and I can bowl fast too. There are only a few bowlers who can do that
Sreesanth is as talented a bowler as Yuvraj Singh is a batsman. Yuvraj is the best timer of the cricket ball today, while nobody lands the ball so consistently on the seam like Sreesanth does. But what's the point? Both of them act like they are bigger than the game, which is a tragedy.
India has dropped Yuvraj and Kerala has stripped Sreesanth of captaincy. Hopefully, they will put their egos aside and think of how they can better their game in future

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Monday, June 7, 2010

The brat gets axed

Once a cunt, always a cunt.
That's the tale of Yuvraj Singh.
I saw him in the under-19 world cup for the first time.
He was gifted and strong, but very cocky even then.
His captain Mohammad Kaif, on the other hand, looked calm and composed.
Let's not forget the 84 he made in his first ODI. When Ravi Shastri asked him what he had for breakfast, he snorted and said, meh, vegetarian.
Since then, Yuvraj has been a permanent member of the Indian side, while Kaif is trying to make a comeback by being part of the India A team.
Hopefully, things are going to change now.
Yuvraj Singh has been dropped. The selectors say for disciplinary reasons, as this picture demonstrates.
But it is also for the fact that Yuvraj is currently an unfit, fat cunt, who has taken his position in the side for granted.
Hell, even Sachin has never done that and he's played for over 20 years now.
Hopefully, the selectors do this to other fat, indisciplined shits in the Indian side.
That way, people in the reserves who are really talented can find a way back in.
And yeah, when I think about it, I don't blame those guys for going to the ICL.

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Friday, June 4, 2010

The comeback kid

I could write about how badly India played today.
But that's something I write about all the time.
However, I'm glad that Zimbabwe is slowly finding its way back into the international cricket arena.
I just finished reading A Corner of A Foreign Field and in it, Ramachandra Guha, on more than one occasion, stressed that when sport and politics go together, it can tarnish the entire essence of a game. It was seen in the days of the Raj, during the quadrangular and pentagular cricket tournaments, where the players of different religions and opposing faiths would clash. They might have gotten along, but the crowds most certainly did not. It was also seen post-1947. India and Pakistan have never gotten along as neighbors in the political circuit, but the sportsmen and women have made up for it. True that there are altercations in the heat of the game, like we've seen in hockey or in cricket, but at the end of the day the players are friends off the field, or so they claim.
While there is still turmoil in Indo-Pak relationships and the cricketers are barely playing, I can say this in writing that despite everything, the fan would die to watch an Indo-Pak game. Hell, there will be a packed stadium in Siberia if they played.
Politics also came in the way of South Africa's cricket. Their policy of apartheid resulted in them getting debarred from all sporting activity for over 20 years. Great players like Barry Richards and Mike Proctor could only make a name for themselves on the county circuit, despite dominating Australia in the 1969 series, which was South Africa's last series for a while.
A similar thing happened when Robert Mugabe became president of Zimbabwe. Mugabe won the elections in 1980 and served as prime minister till 1987. After that, he decided to take law into his own hands and made himself the ruler of Zimbabwe in 1987. His rule, people say is tyranny; some have even called it reverse apartheid. Several players, particularly the Flower brothers, Heath Streak, Henry Olonga and Pommie Mbwanga, migrated to England for a better life. Flower and Olonga, during the 2003 World Cup released a statement saying,

In all the circumstances, we have decided that we will each wear a black armband for the duration of the World Cup. In doing so we are mourning the death of democracy in our beloved Zimbabwe. In doing so we are making a silent plea to those responsible to stop the abuse of human rights in Zimbabwe. In doing so, we pray that our small action may help to restore sanity and dignity to our Nation.

The duo had to escape to England and since then, the Zimbabwean side lost its focus and a lot of burden was left on the young shoulders of 19-year-old Tatendra Taibu. And credit must go to him because he captained, led by example and kept wickets. Unfortunately for him, the team had a bunch of players selected purely on the basis of the color of their skin, rather than talent. Just for the sake of minority, a couple of white cricketers would be thrown in. The result was disastrous, with the ICC finally giving up and debarring Zimbabwe from playing test cricket.
This was four years ago and thankfully for the sake of cricket, the side is slowly getting back to playing good, competitive cricket. Sure, there is no Andy Flower or Heath Streak and Mugabe is still going strong, but the players are showing that they are no longer minnows and are working hard to be better with every game they play.. India figured it out in this tour. For all you know, this could be a Sri Lanka vs Zimbabwe final. And for the love of the game, that makes me very happy.

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

India says no to Asian Games

Now here's the surprise of the century.
The BCCI has said no to India playing the Asian games.
I think I have a fair idea why they have said no.
It's simple, actually. When cricket was introduced into the Commonwealth Games at the end of 1998-99 (correct me if I've gotten the year wrong), India had Sachin, Jadeja and a third guy I can't remember as part of the India XI.
The rest of the side was in Toronto losing to Pakistan. They lost 4-1, if my memory serves me right, with Sachin flying for the last game and making 77.
He batted awesome in that match.
But he played shit in the Commonwealth, like the rest of the Indian side.
Come to think of it, India lost everything in that tournament or the matches were abandoned due to rain.
So the BCCI, according to that logic, doesn't want to look like a bunch of cunts if India loses to Nepal, Japan or China.
It'll make the loss to Zimbabwe more believable.