Sunday, November 20, 2011

A roller coaster fortnight.

Cricket is unpredictable. We've seen that time and time again. The sport that we've dubbed the gentleman's game is in reality, a game made of paranoid schizophrenics, who can alter a game just like that *snaps a finger*. The last fortnight has seen that there is as much of madness off the field than there is on it.
Whether I should start writing about the madness off the field or the madness on it is debatable, but my love for the game prompts me to write about the on field antics.
First: test cricket could never have been more awesome. The first test between Australia and South Africa defined madness. Mayhem, chaos, clutter, crash, boom, bang, wallop and then suddenly like nothing, South Africa won by 8 wickets in the fourth innings, chasing 230-odd. It was like the reverse pitch effect. 1st day played like a 5th day and third day, the wicket had eased out. Imagine what would have happened had the match lasted five days. Either team would have chased 500-odd runs.
What still baffles me is that this is a two-match series. Quite tragic, in my opinion. However, given the way Australia is playing, I think that they're glad that it's a two-match series. Although I like the look of Patrick Cummins. He's young, he's raw and he's fast. India, beware. He's going to come at you and how.

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Speaking of Indian cricket, following the claims made by Lord Paul Codon about every team being involved in match fixing, Vinod Kambli decided to open his mouth and claim that there was something 'suspicious' about Mohammad Azharuddin opting to field in the semi-finals against Sri Lanka during the 1996 World Cup. 
Azhar, naturally, denied the rumours and all of us on Twitter, along with some of his teammates backed him and his decision to field. 
However, with Sharad Powar coming into the picture and criticising Kambli, I have some reservations about the match. Having said that, Vinod Kambli is an idiot. He wanted his five minutes of fame. Like a friend told me, he would probably have been broke and wanted some money for that sex change he so desperately needs. He got some money during Sach Ka Saamna, but maybe sex changes are way too expensive nowadays. 
Having said that, it will be interesting to see what the High Court decides regarding Azhar's alleged involvement. The majority believes that he's guilty, but we can only wait for the result to come out. 

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And now for the general belief that cricket is a boring sport. One of the guys that lived up to the sentiment, Basil D'Oliveira died at 80. I've never seen him play, but my sister has. She described his batting as 'more boring than paint drying up.' However, that kind of pissing off batting ensured that England didn't lose too many test matches. D'Oliveira was gutsy and had balls of steel, just like Peter Roebuck.

Roebuck's death saddened me. The allegations of sexual harassment pissed me off even more. Let's face it, a 26-year-old guy claiming that a 50-plus man forcefully buggered him makes no sense at all. It's like Arnold Schwarzenegger claiming that he got buggered by Hornswoggle




So my theory is that like Vinod Kambli, this guy wants his five minutes of fame as well. Maybe he can fund Kambli's sex change and both of them can live happily ever after. 

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And it's also Ranji Trophy time. I'm glad that Irfan is getting wickets and Harbhajan is not. Sadly, however, Harbhajan will go to Australia because they need someone with 'experience.' It doesn't matter if he bowls shit, but the experience matters. Personally, my 16-man squad for the side will include: Gambhir, Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Kohli, Ranane, Dhoni (wk), Patel (wk), Ashwin, Ojha, Rohit Sharma, Yadav, Zaheer, Ishant and Irfan. 
Who will you pick? 

Friday, November 11, 2011

An Epic Fail

Yesterday was a day of madness.
The South African and Australian batsmen batted as if they were walking on a minefield. 
I don't know what Shane Watson and Vernon Philander consumed before bowling, but I would seriously consider that they are tested after the match.
But headlines like 'Maniac Day' and 'Gods Must be Crazy' defined what the day at Cape Town was about.
There was nothing wrong with the wicket. It was a second day wicket, though someone may raise issues after the match ends.
Thankfully, the day of collapse was on November 10, so there are no 11.11.11 jokes floating around.
South Africa look as if they're going to win this one. Smith and Amla were playing beautifully at the end of the day, but you can never tell with Australia.
It's a pity that it's a two-match series.
And that is, as tweeters would say, an #EpicFail.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Maybe The PCB needs to rethink its outlook

I wrote a piece that was published in www.sportshero.com. Check it out and comment:


The verdict on the spot fixing scandal has been good for the game. For the first time, banning a player has become secondary and imprisoning those guilty will wake those who think that they could get away from fixing matches.
Having said that, you have to feel for a player representing Pakistan. Pakistani society is divided into the very rich and the very poor. Imran Khan was the last Pakistani cricketer to have had a foreign degree. The average Pakistani player is a very talented kid, who can destroy a bowling attack or can dismantle the opposition with genuinely quick bowling. There is no formal education given to these kids. It’s only about cricket, as it is their only bread and butter.
Harsha Bhogle tweeted yesterday about the importance of education for a cricketer. He elaborated on how most of these cricketers don’t know how to deal with fame and glory once they play for Pakistan. When you read his biography on Mohammad Azharuddin, you know what he means. Azharuddin was banned by the ICC from playing any international cricket because of his alleged involvement with bookmakers and fixing matches. Azhar grew up in Hyderabad in a lower middle-class family and became one of the best players in the world. However, in his biography, Bhogle cites how Azhar loved living a lavish life. Azhar’s defence was that he never had these luxuries as a child, so he was making full use of the money he was making.
A similar tale can be said about the Pakistani cricketers. They’re young. And when you’re young, you’re rash. You think you know everything and think that you can get away with murder because you have the reach and the money. Unfortunately, Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir never knew that this decision would go against them. Now with investigations continuing, we don’t know whose name will crop up.
Here’s where the PCB needs to start focusing on its players and not treating them poorly. They should give them more sponsorship deals and endorsements, so that they earn extra money apart from the money they make from playing international cricket. These sponsorships should be such that even if a player is offered to throw away a match, he should turn around and say he makes enough money from cricket and endorsements. This is where the BCCI has managed to ensure that its players do not throw away a match. It’s simple economics: if an Indian player is found guilty, the losses he makes from losing everything – endorsements, match fees and IPL deals – is far greater than what they will make from fixing a match.
Maybe the ICC needs to talk to the PCB. Maybe the PCB needs to act. Maybe this will change the way cricket is played.
Unfortunately till then, it will only be a maybe.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

This Ranji Trophy, focus on the player and not the team

I wrote this piece on the Ranji trophy for www.sportshero.com. 
Here it is on the blog


The Indian Domestic Season is here again. It’s ironic that it has to be called a season, given that the players are playing cricket all through the year. If it’s not an international match, then it’s an IPL game or an India Red Vs India Blue Game. The bottom line is that our cricketers – international or domestic – are always playing cricket. So using the word ‘season’ does not seem appropriate.
This year, the Ranji Trophy will be a test for several cricketers. Until last year, however, and unfortunately, it was not. The reason was simple. Selection procedure was based on a cricketer’s IPL performance. It was no longer based on a domestic tournament performance. RP Singh is living example of this. A talented bowler, RP created headlines for his performance in the inaugural T20 World Cup in South Africa. He also impressed in England in the 2008 series under Rahul Dravid’s captaincy. He had a five-wicket haul in a game against Pakistan in a test match in India. And then, he disappeared and played only IPL matches. He was selected for the tour of England, following Zaheer Khan’s injury, thanks to his IPL performance. Selectors failed to ignore that he had a poor 2010 Ranji season, but persisted with him. He looked out of sorts and unfit during the third test match. And although he managed to take a few wickets in the ODIs, he went for a lot of runs.
Thankfully, the Indian media has realized this and thanks to international experts, which include former cricketers, are realizing that players who wish to play cricket at the highest level should be selected on basis of their endurance in local domestic tournaments that are played over a period of 3-5 days. This is why someone like Harbhajan Singh will have a lot to prove to justify his selection, even though he is the current leading wicket taker in the world, who is still playing.
The Ranji Trophy begins this November. The competition will be intense. Players will want to prove their mettle and earn a place in the test side. Furthermore, the selectors will be keenly observing players who will replace Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman after they retire. They have Kohli currently. Players like Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma, will have to slog it out to earn their place. Having said that, it’s not going to be easy for Kohli either. He  didn’t impress in the test series against West Indies, so he will have a lot to prove as well.
This Ranji tournament will not be about the teams. It will be about the players grafting their way to play for India. And the player has to realize that before it is too late.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

R.I.P Tiger

Today when I read a news piece on Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi's lung infection, I thought that I would write a piece after he passed away.
I returned home to see a newsflash of his death.
I've never seen him play. I've only heard tales. Cricket fans know that he batted with one eye, as the other was lost in a car accident. I know that he was then the world's youngest captain (at 21), after Nari Contractor's skull was fractured. I also know that he was the first Indian captain to win a series abroad in New Zealand. I know that he married Sharmila Tagore. I know that he is the father of Saif and Soha Ali Khan. Unfortunately, most people will know him only as Saif and Soha's father.
When I think of how little I know of him as a player, I feel weird. I pride myself for the cricket knowledge that I possess, but when it comes to the Tiger, I know nothing. But then, when I think about it, Pataudi hated the spotlight. He was never caught in a controversy, unless of course you want to talk about his marrying outside the religion. But Sharmila Tagore and he have looked very much in love now like they did then.
While watching his obituary, I saw Kris Srikkanth say that Pataudi was his boyhood hero. Harsha Bhogle choked on television and the cricket world is mourning.
Unfortunately, YouTube has no videos of his batting, so unless I have archived footage of the Indian side in 1969, I'll never know.
Until then, I'll just have to live with the knowledge that I have.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

BCCI blues...

The last time India did so badly in an away series was in 1999 when they went to Australia. They did slightly better over there, as they won one international game against Pakistan. In this series, the only victory was during the practice matches.
What went wrong for India? After all, they are the World Champions. They had not lost a single series ever since MS Dhoni became captain. They had a great ODI record before this series, but somewhere down the line, they lost the plot.
People have blamed the IPL and the fact that too much cricket is being played. Since the beginning of 2011, India has played South Africa, the World Cup, the IPL, the West Indies and England. After this, there is the Champions' League, a home series against the West Indies, a home series against England and then a series against Australia in Australia.
Overworked: Don't be surprised if
Dhoni decides to retire in 2 years
We can all blame the IPL. I've blamed it for the longest time. I hated the concept from the first year itself and the second year sealed the deal for me when Lalit Modi thought that the IPL needed more security than the Union Elections. But I won't blame it entirely.
We have a board that wants money.  The BCCI is the richest board in the world. It believes that because it has the money, it is bigger than the game. It refuses to associate itself with the government of India. It refuses to be questioned under the RTI. Other sports in India are accountable. Why not cricket?
The answer is a simple one, actually. It's always been the sad tale of Indian cricket. You have ministers lobbying for top cricket posts. Ironically, cricketers who are ministers, don't have much to say, but be experts on news panels. Navjot Singh Sidhu is a so-called expert. Nobody knows what Kirti Azad is up to and Mohammad Azharuddin was part of the Badminton Association of India. On the other hand, we have had the late Madhavrao Scindia, Arun Jaitley, Sharad Pawar and now Vilasrao Deshmukh as part of the BCCI think-tank - with Pawar taking a jump up to be the head the ICC.
Where does the player stand a chance? He unfortunately is a puppet in a larger scheme of things. We can make fun of our cricketers and write articles ridiculing their performance. They are to blame as well. Most of them are out of shape, others take their place in the side for granted and sadly, the selection has become a political one. To put it in perspective, people have told me that Suresh Raina, an extremely talented cricketer and a great ODI prospect is in the side because "he is dating Praful Patel's daughter." Similarly, "Yuvraj and Harbhajan are in the side because they are favourites of the captain and someone high up."
Furthermore, India doesn't have a player's association. This isn't good for a player, as his chances of burning out are a lot higher, given the amount of cricket he plays every year. IPL performances are viewed as better performances as compared to Ranji performance, as RP Singh's selection showed us.
Indian cricket has always been in this zone. The fact that we became the number one test side in the world shadowed this truth, but now after the loss against England, there will be a lot of questions asked. Hopefully for the Indian fan, there will be a comeback.
Unfortunately, I feel that the fan will be disappointed.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Here's an idea...

As a cricket fan, I have to appreciate the way England has played its cricket. They have been aggressive, positive and taken opportunities to ensure that they beat India in the test series.
What disappoints me is the manner in which India lost. I'm not going to talk about players burning out. Personally, I feel that they don't have an excuse. After the World Cup, all of them had the option of skipping the IPL, but they chose to play. Following the series at England, several of these players are going to play for the Champion's Trophy, where victorious teams from all T20 formats come together to win the ultimate T20 champion crown.
The concept of the Champion's Trophy gave me an idea, after I read Ramachandra Guha's article on CricInfo today. Guha blamed the IPL for India's poor test performance against England. I, myself, am not a big T20 fan, but I admit that it brings the game the money it needs to develop and build cricketing facilities and improving cricket infrastructure across the globe.
Now the question arises: how do we get players to get technically sound, avoid playing rash shots and learning the importance of patience? After all, that's what Test cricket is about. You play the waiting game, whether you're a batsman or a bowler.
If the Champion's Trophy can work, why not let all the cricketing boards across test playing nations come together with the ICC and plan a longer version of the Champion's Trophy? We can get the top three teams from Ranji Trophies, Sheffield Shield Trophies, County Championships and other domestic tournaments to come together and play competitive cricket. The players will get international exposure and will learn to improve their game in foreign conditions.
There is a huge plus that comes out of this idea. Since an upcoming player dreams of playing abroad, the level of competition in domestic tournaments will go up. Hopefully - and this is an idealist in me - people will start going to stadiums to watch domestic matches.
Since the ICC is seriously considering a Test Championship, maybe they should look into something like this first. It's certainly an idea that can work in the long run.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

T20...Really?

The Indian domestic season has changed dramatically in the last four years.
I would follow the Ranji Trophy on Cricinfo and would also read about performances that stood out through the course of the tournament.
Last year, Rajasthan won it. I don't think many people will remember this useless bit of information.
However, most people remember that the Rajasthan Royals won the first IPL.
If players like Manish Pandey had never been the first Indian to make an IPL century, would people know who he was?
At least in Pandey's defence, he hasn't played international cricket as yet.
The BCCI, for the last four years, has been selecting players on the basis of their T20 performances.
It's probably why RP Singh wonders why he is in England at the moment.
Indian cricket has its moments of peaking and plummeting. This period i.e. the last two years have been good for us. However, I see a plummet happening following the retirement of Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman.
T20 is not going to help our cause because despite what Ricky Ponting says, it will not improve a cricketer's performance in test cricket.
I'm not going to criticise Sehwag because he's not had match practice and he's rescued India on more than one occasion across the globe. But what about the others?
You can't even blame them. The BCCI barely pays anything to Ranji Trophy, Irani Trophy and Duleep Trophy players. These guys are better off playing for two months at the IPL and spending the remaining 10 eating at home. It serves their life and purpose.
What the BCCI needs to do is send its emerging players and current players as part of India A and India B groups and get them to train in Australia, South Africa and England. This kind of exposure in sides that have strong domestic circuits.
If they don't then, the test team can continue playing 20 overs and getting out and watching teams make 700 runs in two days. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

The rants of an Indian cricket fan


I suggest that all of you watch that scene before you read the rest of the post.
India went as the Number 1 team to England. They had successful tours against The West Indies, a decent series against South Africa and even won the World Cup.
They were on top of the World.
Then they went to England, who after a great Ashes, got rogered in the World Cup.
So everyone assumed that India would do well.
I was the pessimist and was ridiculed.
I feel like scum, but I should become a bookie, given how my predictions usually work out.
India is getting its ass kicked and it looks like the drubbing won't stop.
Who is to blame?
1) The BCCI: Overworking the players has resulted in a burnout. As Nasser Hussain said in the commentary box, the Indians spend most of their free time eating. So we have unfit and injured players. Double threat. Yay!
2) Indians prefer club over country. The IPL proved it. The IPL should never have started. They should have stuck to the ICL and not killed so many careers. We need smart business plans and make Indians who cannot play international cricket be part of the IPL. Get the retired guys as well. Keep important players out of these tournaments. They're millionaires anyway. Too much money is bad. Get the oldies and youngsters. Throw in some cheerleader to tell us what the players do at a party and we can read about the IPL orgy.
3) Give our players a county stint. I have written about this before.
4) Stop behaving like the English when you're losing. You've gotten fucked in the ass. Don't cry. Learn. Don 't act like you're getting fucked by your boss from 10 am to 5 pm. Don't pray for rain because you're playing in England. This will never work.
5) Pray to the Jesus. He may have mercy and not shove a trigger up your ass and make it go 'click'.
6) Stop asking Sachin to make his 100th century. The fucker has enough pressure already
7) Thank God that Dravid allows you to go beyond 250 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Rahul Dravid: India's unsung hero

In an earlier post, I mentioned that I wanted Sachin Tendulkar in my all-time XI.
Now, I've changed my mind.
I love Sachin, no doubt, but I cannot count on him to deliver all the time. After the Lord's test, I'd rather depend on Rahul Dravid.
I wrote this piece on him in a website that is a client of our company. They will go Live on Friday and I'll be a regular contributor here.
So here it is:

Fifteen years after making his debut, Rahul Dravid made his first century at Lords. In his first match, he made 95, which is a sensational debut at the Mecca of cricket. But then Saurav Ganguly went on to make 131. When India played Sri Lanka at Taunton during the 1999 World Cup, Rahul Dravid made 145 in a ODI match. The score is excellent, but Saurav Ganguly made 183. In a ODI played in Hyderabad against New Zealand, Rahul Dravid made 153, but Sachin Tendulkar made an unbeaten 186. And in what is probably the greatest test match played last decade, he made 180 against Australia at the Eden Gardens, but VVS Laxman made 281.
Despite being second best in the scorecards, Rahul Dravid is the best batsman we’ve had for a very long time. People speak of Sachin Tendulkar and his records and his greatness. I agree with all of that, but if I wanted an Indian batsman to save a test match, I’d turn to Dravid.
Dravid finally got his dues in the 2002 series against England, when he was unstoppable. He was making century after century and the English had nothing left in their armory to bowl to him. The form continued when he went to Australia and made a double century at the Adelaide Oval to ensure that India beat the then test champions in their home ground.
Why is Dravid such a valuable asset to the Indian side? Reason is simple: he has always been comfortable playing second fiddle. He has never changed his game by watching Sachin, Sehwag, Dhoni, Saurav or VVS bat. He has been the Wall for the Indian side. As a cricket fan wrote on Facebook after Dravid’s century, Sachin, VVS and Sehwag may be the Gods of Indian cricket, but there is always a wall to protect the Gods. That is Rahul Dravid: India’s unsung hero.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

You got to be kidding me...

The next time the ICC decides to ask people to take an all-time XI test team, the people who submit their votes should be subjected to an IQ test before becoming selectors.
No wait. That sounds wrong. I'm sure that most selectors are a brainless bunch of idiots. So I take back what I said. I'm sure that experts cringed when they saw the all-time XI. Geoff Boycott said it's a 'joke' and I agree with him. I'm no expert, but this is an insult to cricket and cricketers and their achievements in general.
So I look at this 'All-Time XI' squad and put it up against Clive Lloyd's West Indies, Ian Chappell's Australia  or Steve Waugh's Australia and I know that they will lose. No disrespect to some of the players in the squad, but the names raise eyebrows, resulting in the players themselves questioning the authenticity of the way this team was selected.
I am sure that people reading this blog will either agree with me or flame me. The true cricket lover will agree, but the guy who thinks that T20 cricket is exciting will probably flame.
So here's what I'm going to do.
I'm going to do a swat analysis of players I believe should not be in this squad



 
Virender Sehwag
Sehwag is the best opener in world cricket today. He's exciting, carefree and can destroy a bowling attack from the first ball. His technique (or the lack of it), enables him to play on every wicket across the world. He has centuries on bouncy wickets, green tops and subcontinent turners. He has two triple centuries to his name, which is incredible. He could be in so many all-time test squads, but then there are Len Hutton, Jack Hobbes, who are the purists. And then there are Gordon Greenidge and Barry Richards, who are Sehwag's with technique. So yeah, along with Gavaskar, whose game is similar to Hutton and Hobbes, I'd go for Barry Richards. Another option I've always had is Len Hutton and Barry Richards, which was also chosen by Tom Graveny in his book The Ten Greatest Test Teams
 
Brian Lara 
Lara is a great batsman, but I'm not a fan. On his day, he's the greatest. Unfortunately, that day comes rarely. The 153 I saw him make against Australia is the greatest test innings that I have seen. He was the only guy to reach triple figures in a three-test match series against Sri Lanka, while the others struggled to reach double figures. However, Lara for all his greatness, is flashy and inconsistent. In my opinion, he could have averaged 60 in test matches, but his early susceptibility outside the off-stump and his initial shuffling across the crease always got him out  


Kapil Dev
When you have an all-rounder like Sir Gary Sobers at your disposal, the other all-rounders, despite their brilliant records, don't stand a chance. Kapil has the wickets and has made the runs. But sadly for him, he isn't Sir Gary and he will be gracious enough to admit that himself.
  
Shane Warne 
Shane Warne is great. The greatest legspinner that I have ever seen bowl. However, he could never taste success against India. He had only one five wicket haul against them in a test series. Each time he thought that he could make an impact, but ended up failing. It's a tragedy, but it's the fact of life as well.





 Glenn McGrath
I love McGrath. He was accurate and consistent. He could take wickets regularly, but he could also be belted. Sachin Tendulkar has done that to him. So has Brian Lara. So has Michael Vaughan and so has Herschelle Gibbs. Also, he's not express, which we need in an all-time great side.




I have reservations about Gavaskar and Ambrose as well. However, they could be in another cricket lover's world XI, which is why I'm not putting them down in the SWAT list.

So here's my final XI

Sir Len Hutton
Gordon Greenidge
Viv Richards
Sachin Tendulkar
Don Bradman (c)
Sir Gary Sobers
Adam Gilchrist (wk)
Wasim Akram*
Malcolm Marshall
Denniss Lillee
Bill O'Reilly

* I debated between Imran Khan and Wasim Akram, but since I needed a bit of variety in my attack, I chose Wasim
But as for the original All-Time-XI, I'll say this again: Are you kidding me?

PS: I'm sure that there are names that have been ignored. Ambrose, Holding, Steve Waugh, the Chappell brothers, Imran Khan, Ian Botham, Sunil Gavaskar, Sydney Barnes and other great names that I can't remember now will probably fit into the side that faces my all time-XI

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The new minnows

Ask an Indian cricket fan of their favourite test series in the last two decades and they will all say the 2001 series between India and Australia. That series was a great one, no doubt, but I don't agree with them. For me, the 1999 series between West Indies and Australia was the best series that I have ever seen. The series ended in a draw - an apt way for it to end, but to me that was test cricket at its very best.

I speak of that series with fondness because I feel sad for West Indies. Today, despite loving the game, I can't watch a series that involves the West Indies anymore. There was a time where i'd sit up and watch a test match till 3 am and go to sleep because it was fun.

If the West Indies are scrapped of test status, maybe
it'll be good for them to rethink their game
Despite their decline over the last two decades, I would still enjoy watching Ambrose, Walsh, Rose, Dillon run in and bowl. At the same time, while I'm not a fan, it would be fun watching Lara, Jacobs, Samuels, Sarwan, Gayle, Hinds and even for that matter despite the ugliness of his game, Chanderpaul. Now there is no Gayle. Lara and Jacobs have retired. Nobody knows whether Samuels has been given a clean chit over his match fixing allegations. Sarwan is woefully out of form and Chanderpaul, if you thought it possible, has made his game look uglier.

When I hear Tony Cozier, Michael Holding and Ian Bishop talk into their microphones, I feel sad. Tony Cozier has been around forever. He has seen the side touch the peak of sporting greatness as well as plummet to the very bottom of the rankings. Holding was part of arguably one of the greatest cricketing teams to have ever played the game. He now watches and we can only wonder what he's thinking when West Indies lose the way they do. Bishop, unfortunately, didn't get to play too much cricket. A great career was hampered by a career-ending back injury. He tries to be neutral, but you can sense the disappointment in his voice when he's talking about the West Indies.

Other greats like Sir Vivian Richards, Clive Lloyd and more recently, Andy Roberts have tried to do their bit, but have failed. These are the same guys who were instrumental in winning the West Indies two World Cups and spoke of unity and Caribbean pride. Sadly for the team today, there is no pride. The players play like they're doing the world a favour. There is wayward bowling. There are batting collapses. Now with Chris Gayle unable to sort out his issues with the WICB, is there a chance that the West Indies could become vulnerable in front of teams like The Netherlands and Ireland?

There are burst of brilliance. This was seen in the World Cup against Bangladesh. It was seen in the Champions Trophy final when they beat England. Unfortunately, even minnows have moments of brilliance. Ireland had it against England, as did the Netherlands during the recent World Cup.

I would be crucified for making this statement, but maybe that's why the ICC probably reconsidered minnows playing for the 2015 World Cup. That way, the West Indies could have played some games for pride. Maybe if the ICC would consider doing to West Indies what they did to Zimbabwe, things may be different for the game. And maybe we'll have more test matches like the West Indies-Australia 1999 series.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hashan Tillakaratne and the ghost of cricket past

Hashan Tillakaratne alleging match fixing in Sri Lankan cricket is a bit of a surprise. Not because he's made the allegation, but the timing.
Throwing a game away in cricket for money never went away. We all know this. It is an open secret, which even the ardent die-hard optimistic cricket lover cannot deny. Today, for me, watching a test match is poetry in motion. But at the back of my head, I always think something is amiss.
When Hansie Cronje confessed to killing the game and selling his country, I like millions of cricket fans was devastated. It comes to a point that sometimes when Sachin Tendulkar makes a century, I'm delighted. Other times, I think, "Was this century gifted to him in exchange for a house overlooking the Cape of Good Hope?"
Tillakaratne's allegations earlier involved cricketer-turned-politician Sanath Jayasuriya and cricketer-turned-administrator Arvinda de Silva. He then backtracked saying that he said no such thing.
Just before the West Indies tour, Suresh Raina was caught on camera with a bookie in Shirdi. His excuse was that the bookie could have just been in the frame at that time. While Raina can be justified with that excuse, he can't explain why the bookie was holding his arm.
We have an ICC chairman, who has alleged ties with Dawood Ibrahim. We have a former player, who has been accused of popularising match fixing in South Asia, coaching an IPL team, as well as being on a channel's commentary team. We have a politician-cum-commentator with a murder charge against him. Unfortunately, the poor bastard cannot be blamed. Most politicians in South Asia have a criminal charge against them.
Tillakaratne's charges just make the game a lot uglier. Sadly for cricket, it is not like that.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Times are changing

Here's an interesting piece of history.
When we won the World Cup in 1983, we had a home series against West Indies. A West Indies team that was pissed off and wanted to show the world that India's victory was just a fluke.
And they did just that.
If I were to be polite, one word I'll use is buggered.
Now in 2011, we're going to the West Indies after winning the World Cup. (I will not count the IPL as a tournament).
We're going as favourites, despite having a second string side.
I can hear the purist yearn for the good old days where Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding would take pleasure hitting the heads of batsmen.
But now, West Indies has Ravi Rampaul and a team of slow bowlers.
It's times like these when we can truly say times are changing

Friday, April 29, 2011

Jacob Martin finally got his five minutes of fame

Jacob Martin: A career in jail now.
Let's face it, Jacob Martin was as good a cricketer as Sultan Zarawani.
At least in Zarawani's defence, he was rich and famous in UAE.
But both were equally talentless.
Jacob's other problem was that he must have pissed off a number of selectors. Martin and Devang Gandhi were sent as part of the Indian squad to play in Australia in 1999.
This was a time when India were worse than Zimbabwe when they played away from home.
Gandhi was a disaster. Jacob even worse.
So Jacob needed his five minutes of fame.
But he could have done something like hit six sixes in an over.
Instead, the idiot gets involved in a human trafficking case.
Now the moron is behind bars.
You know, the tragedy is now he'll never be remembered as one of the few cricketers who was timed out of an ODI now. It was in Australia in a game against Pakistan in 1999, in a series that most Indians like to forget.
Martin came into bat. He was asked to go back because he didn't spend too long on the field. The Pakistani players protested and he was asked to go and sit back. Whether the term is called timed out, I do not know. But I know that it's what Jacob Martin was famous for.
Now he'll just be remembered as the human trafficker, who wanted to give people cricketing careers in Burkina Faso.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Greed and the Indian cricketer

 So this piece in the Indian Express hit me hard - and it wasn't in the right way.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has rejected an informal request by the Indian team for greater rewards for winning the World Cup. 
BCCI president Shashank Manohar had announced that each member of the 15-man squad would receive Rs 1 crore, while the support staff would get Rs 50 lakh. But a couple of days after the victory, a few players asked for more. 
The players were demanding Rs 5 crore each, said a senior BCCI official. A top India player, on condition of anonymity, argued the team’s position: “If you see, only the top players benefit, and there is no doubt that we earn more than anybody, but what about players like Munaf Patel and others? These players make the Indian team and the BCCI earns so much because of them.” “We are not greedy for the money,” said the top cricketer. “But these (junior) players have made the BCCI rich and famous. There is no harm in asking for more especially since the Board will earn thousands of crores after India’s victory. A player’s life is very uncertain. Who knows what will happen next?”
The players also think that some members of the support staff might have got too much for doing very little. “Gary (Kirsten) and Paddy (Upton) getting Rs 50 lakh is fine. But even the logistics manager getting Rs 50 lakh? By that yardstick we should be getting more,” said the player.
BCCI secretary N Srinivasan was unavailable for a comment. But another top official said, “Do you think these players really need to be given so much money? One crore is not a small amount.”

For once, I agree with the BCCI. Here's my problem. Rs 1 crore isn't a small amount, but that's not all the money that they are making. Sahara and Nike, two of India's main sponsors will give each player more than what the BCCI has given. In 2003, each player received a similar amount and a house at Amby Valley just before the finals and look what happened.
For me, the average Indian cricketer is indisciplined. Yuvraj Singh's party pictures after the World Cup is a living example of that. It's great that he won the Man of the Series award during the tournament, but none of us can argue that he's a modern day sportsman with the physique to rival Arjuna Ranatunga.
For me, modern players like MS Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, Javagal Srinath, Zaheer Khan, Mohammad Kaif and Sourav Ganguly have made me feel proud to be Indian. When I look at the others, I feel embarassed. Sreesanth, Sidhu and Harbhajan Singh are prime examples of players who I see and want to cringe in embarassment.
In a way, when I look at it, I feel that people like Anna Hazare going on a hunger fast was the best thing that happened to Indian cricket. Otherwise, we'd still be having lead stories on who won what after the World Cup. And yes, they would have been Page 1 stories.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Notice the similarity



Notice the similarity?
I'm sure that the Bangladesh bowlers did.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Give the bowlers a county stint

Bowling in the subcontinent can be a pain, especially if you're trying to make your mark. You achieve success only after a lot of initial struggle and sometimes that success comes towards the end of your career.
Kapil Dev, Srinath and Zaheer Khan have been India's best bowlers on the subcontinent, with both the new and the old ball. Chaminda Vaas has been the same for Sri Lanka.
I do not include Pakistan in this because they keep producing genuinely quick bowlers - guys who can clock 95 mph on a regular basis. Sri Lanka has Lasith Malinga, which is why I don't include him alongside Chaminda Vaas either.
India didn't have the best bowling attack in the World Cup. All of us admitted that time and time again. Yet, Dhoni used his limited resources pretty well and they clicked when it mattered the most.
Currently, the IPL is going on. The money is good. And the game suddenly looks glamourous. However, while a T20 game does a lot for a bowler to improve his variation (we've seen slow/medium and fast bouncers this World Cup), there is something missing.
County cricket changed Zaheer Khan's
career for the better
There are a lot of kids in India who dream of bowling fast for their country. They make their debut in an overseas tour, are hailed as the next big thing and suddenly fizzle out. Over the years, we've seen names like Ajit Agarkar, Irfan Pathan, Munaf Patel, RP Singh, VRV Singh and more recently Ishant Sharma be victims to that. All of them have bowled at 140 plus for a while, but fizzled out. Today, people still laugh at Munaf and wonder what RP Singh, Irfan Pathan and Ishant Sharma are doing. Sadly, not too many people remember that VRV played a couple of matches for India.
Most of these guys lose confidence and wonder where their career is headed. Srinath and Zaheer were lucky that way. While they played cricket throughout the year, there was time to take a break. There was no T20 craze when Srinath played and Zaheer has played T20 only in the later part of the second half of his career.
What helped Srinath and Zaheer out was a stint with an English county or Australia Shield Cricket. The kind of exposure India's fast bowlers would get from a platform like that would be incredible. They would learn from the greats, they would interact more with international players (county seasons are long) and they would come back as much improved bowlers. Look at Zaheer. Zak I was this raw bowler who liked bowling yorkers. He played some county cricket, learnt a lot and came back to be one of - if not the best Indian fast bowler ever.
Guys like RP Singh, Irfan Pathan and Ishant Sharma need this kind of exposure. Otherwise we'll just have kids coming and going and disappearing - the rut of the emerging Indian player. 

The First Day of Spring

The IPL is like spring for the BCCI.
If it wasn't for the World Cup, the IPL would be the single biggest venture for the BCCI to get some good cash.
So let's look at the first day of spring.
We had a good cricket match. Actually it was an awesome cricket match, given that KKR was part of it. But there were things that we're very used to seeing in the IPL These are as follows:
a) Some new kid making a good score to ensure that his team gets to a respectable total.
b) A veteran from the opposition nearly ruining the efforts put in by local lad.
c) A team crumbling after the veteran gets out.
These are patterns. And the IPL has been full of these since the tournament began. I'm not too sure whether everyone notices it, because for them IPL is like a three-hour long movie. However, in this case, the cricket is the commercial, and the brands and Shah Rukh Khan are sold.
Speaking of Shah Rukh Khan, he looked awful at the opening ceremony. We hope for his sake that Ra.One does well otherwise we may just see his face fall off like horror movie, although if I am to be honest, I'm surprised that it hasn't already.
Meanwhile...and this is a meanwhile, Bangladesh play their first ODI against Australia. And guess what, apart from a handful of us in India, nobody really cares.
That's also the tragedy of cricket in the subcontinent and makes us wonder whether it is worth celebrating spring. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

The IPL diaries or something like it

I'm not the fake IPL player.
I have my moments.
I would get adrenalized after India beats Pakistan in a World Cup game and be part of a troupe that is screaming and dancing on the road.
However, in my defense, I would be equally enthusiastic had New Zealand and Pakistan played in the final. That's not a lie. After watching Ross Taylor hammering Shoaib Akhtar and Abdul Razzaq the last time the two of them met, I think that it would have been a great contest to watch.
But a week after, the IPL and I'm not so enthusiastic about.
After the high of winning the World Cup, I'm sure that the BCCI realised that they're just a bunch of money hungry sluts and decided to make some more money.
So we'll have a million Zuzus, 6000000 Parryware loo breaks and Manoranjan Ki Maa fucking with our heads.
As @leftarmspinster so beautifully put, "The IPL is so confusing. I don't know which colour to bleed."
At least, the parties will look interesting, as will Shah Rukh Khan putting his carcass on a dias and gyrating to some ridiculous song from Ra.One.
It could also look depressing, as will the rest of the tournament.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The A-Z of the World Cup


I had written this for Mumbai Mirror. I made a couple of changes here and there because the finals are over. So check it out.


A is for Akmal who had many a drop
B is for spin Bowling, as the seamers flopped
C is for Cricket, the game they came to play
D is for an anthem called De Ghuma Ke
E is for England, who had some close matches
F is for Flop show, that was England after the Ashes
G is for Gary, India's best ever coach
H is for Hat-Trick, taken by Malinga and Roach
I is for Ireland, who had something to say
J is for Jingoism, felt on the Final day
K is for the Kiwis, who played the semis once more
L is for Loo Break, a toilet ad that was a bore
M is for Minnows, who in future may not be seen
N is for Narottam Puri, who is still around it seems
O is for Orange, the colours of the Dutch
P is for Ponting, who finally got his touch
Q is for Queue, and ticket buyers were a rabble
R is for Rahman, the minister of babble
S is for Sidhu, whose talent is to scream
T is for Tendulkar, he won the cup for the team
U is for UDRS, a hit or flop?
V is for Victory, India's on top
W is for Wankhede, always a super hit
X is for Xavier Doherty, a name we had to fit
Y is for Yardy, who went into depression
Z is for Zak, the spearhead of the nation

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Subcontinent cricket in the eyes of an Englishman.

Richard Parris is a friend of mine from the United Kingdom. He's not the typical London boy, though. He's not snobbish, loves to explore and is a martial arts expert.
He's down in India for six months to oversee the way one of my company's clients operate.
By blood, he's half-English, half-Australian. He loves watching football (especially his team Arsenal), reading comic books on his laptop and discussing cameras.
In short, he's super cool.
Richard was very generous in offering his house to all of us to watch the semi-finals and finals of the World Cup. For Richard, it was unique because like all other Englishmen, cricket was a game ruled by the subcontinent after it was created by the Britons. He compared the European love for football on the same level as India's love for cricket.
I think it was a novel experience for him.
Like most Englishmen, he played perfect host. He got us dinner and cut us chilled pieces of watermelon while we watched the game. He sat and stared at the two teams played, while all of us cheered and jeered. He felt the emotions rise and fall. And despite that, he still looked pretty passive.
That is until the end.
During the India-Pakistan game, there were a fewer number of people in the house, which gave us more opportunity to chill and take the match as it came. We reached his place during the second innings when India was bowling to the Pakistani side. During the course of the match, I asked him if it was this crazy during a club or a international football game. He said that, it would be madness in stadiums and pubs, but I wouldn't see people stopping cars and dancing on the streets. It would be more about them getting drunk and celebrating.
After we lifted the cup, he made a very interesting observation. He began telling me about how the celebrations were not as intense as it was during the semi-final victory. We finally reasoned out that the India-Pakistan game had a lot more emotions than the India-Sri Lanka game, given that we've had some intense cricket battles with Pakistan.
I'm not sure what else went through Richard's mind. All I know is that despite putting on a neutral expression throughout the match, he was quite drained out by the end of the finals and wanted to sleep, so that India could enjoy what they had won.

The main reason to celebrate

I was five days old when India won the World Cup in 1983.
28 years later, MS Dhoni and his men lift it again.
One funny thing that I think when we win this cup is that sport's channels will now replace Kapil Dev's running catch to dismiss Viv Richards with Dhoni hitting Kulasekara out of the ground to win India the World Cup.
We've had a crazy 2011.
Scams have hurt us. Prices have risen. People have expressed displeasure. There have been multi-crore scandals and farmers have killed themselves because of their inability to pay off loans.
Then out of nowhere, 15 men dressed in blue come and make a difference.
Everything is forgotten. There are celebrations. India is one.
And yes, it's not about the cricket here. It's a route of escape for that joy we will savour in the weeks to come.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Was the cup a hit?

Aakar Patel wrote a very interesting piece on the Indian cricket fan. In it he describes how India loves India and how if any other country was playing, nobody cared.
He's been criticised.
But the truth is that he's absolutely correct.
How many of us saw Rizwan Cheema hit Murali for two sixes in the Sri Lanka Vs Canada game?
How many of us saw Ryan ten Deschorte make a century against England?
How many of us saw Ireland beat England? And by that, I mean the whole game?
If the answer goes above 10,000, then I'll change my name.
10,000 in 1.61 billion people is still nothing. However, it says a lot.
In comparison, how many of us saw each India match? I'm not going to even bother answering that question. The numbers were big and all of us know it.
Aakar's trending on Twitter at the moment and a lot of people are talking about the way fans watch football games in Europe. Two things here: there are crowds in football matches all the time. Be it a club game, be it a game between two nations - even in neutral venue - the grounds are always full. Where do we see packed stadiums in India if India is not playing. Would a ticket sell for Rs 1.25 lakh if Sri Lanka and Pakistan was playing the final? Would air fares increase to 22,000 between Mumbai and Chandigarh if India wasn't playing Pakistan in the semis? You know what the answer is.
This World Cup was a hit because three of the four subcontinent teams played a role in reaching the final four. Vodafone spent Rs 45 crore on its 3G campaign that launched during the World Cup. Ad rates, according to a few people, cost approximately Rs 20 lakh for a 10 second slot. However, these ads were only seen during the day-night games and when subcontinent games.
The matches played in the morning had empty stadiums and no ads between the overs. The game between England and South Africa had a decent crowd because it was played in Chennai on a Sunday. The problem was that India was playing Ireland on the same day. Suddenly we could see James Anderson and Stuart Broad changing ends, while we see an umpire requesting that he goes for a piss during the overs break during the India-Ireland game.
People talk of the 2007 World Cup as dark and gloomy. Sure Bob Woolmer's death had a significent role, but I wonder whether India and Pakistan's early exit also triggered a lot of things. It didn't help that the weather in the West Indies is unpredictable and that the matches were played when it was night in India.
Ever since World Cup matches could be screened on television, the only successful World Cups were 1996, 1999, 2003 and 2011. All these World Cups were successful because subcontinent teams were either in the finals or hosting the event.  I'm counting 2007 out of this because of the reasons I mentioned above.
So does the so-called cricket fan watch the World Cup for the love of the game or is it the only platform for him to vent out his frustrations at his team and the opposition in a large area. Emotions are high and he'll feel right at home. Pity about the game though. It's becaome something like Latin American football: a way to vent out your frustrations.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Go India Go!

I've probably wet my pants watching this game.
A billion rays to another billion emotions was what India witnessed in this match.
It's something surreal and I'm glad that I was part of this.
Hell, I even danced on the road after India won.
But I spare a thought for Pakistan.
They came into this World Cup with no hope.
People had written them off, after three cases of spot fixing, a coach dying in 2007 in his hotel room and the side being written off by everyone.
I'll had it to Afridi. He's led a side well and has formed a good combination with his former team mate, Waqar Younis.
Pakistan shouldn't hang their head in shame. They should tell their people, "Fuck you, we did it despite all of you writing us off."
Hopefully, the people understand this, but unfortunately knowing that Pakistan is as passionate about its cricket as India is, I don't see them being too forgiving.
India on the other hand is on a high. They've had a tougher semi-final than Sri Lanka, who they meet on Saturday. The match will be good. The emotions even better.
My heart belongs to India, but I want to see a great cricket match

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

India-Pak: a fan view

A lot can happen in three days when you don't write a blog.
A captain resigns, a team qualifies for a final, a politician says something stupid, another politician who was one of the greatest cricketers ever verbally assaults politician number one, some guy writes a book on how Mahatma Gandhi fucked a man, and two cricketing giants engage themselves in a battle of mind games before the actual war begins.
Let's face it: I love cricket more than the battles itself. I'm watching the game for an intense cricket match. While writing this piece, I'll be a hypocrite and say may the best team win, but my heart has a feeling of jingoism - something I'm not really used to. And this comes only during an India-Pakistan match.
Right now, I'm not feeling it, but tomorrow if I'm watching the match along with a large group, I'll be a part of the million emotions that run every microsecond when the two sides play. Wickets will be cheered, runs will be booed and a Sachin century - if it happens - will result in a billion roars across the country.
One of my colleagues interviewed Pakistan actress Veena Mallik, who said that she would support both teams, although her heart would be with Pakistan. "India is the better side," she said. On paper, I agree with her.
But reality says that both sides are evenly matched. One team has been consistently doing well for the last two years, while the other cannot do well unless they are mercurial. However in this tournament, Pakistan has been the most professional side of the lot. Barring a near loss against Canada and a rubbish last five overs against New Zealand, Shahid Afridi and his men seem to know what their role in the side is.
India has had that problem in the past. This tournament showcased it as well. However, MS Dhoni seems to have sensed that and had finally picked his best bowling attack for the quarter-finals. There are, however, rumours that he may pick Nehra or Sreesanth ahead of the semis.
If this is true, I think it may work - especially if Dhoni picks Nehra. If Dhoni wanted to pick either of them, he would have picked them earlier to at least gain some momentum coming into a big game like this. The only thing I can think why Dhoni would think of doing such a thing is the fact that Nehra and Sreesanth can swing the ball really well. Sreesanth has this knack of landing the ball on the seam every time he bowls, which could be an added factor in Mohali. However, Sreesanth is tempremental and if he fails in an outing like this, it could well end his career forever.
Nehra on the other hand tends to be lazy. He is on par with Munaf when it comes to fielding and batting. I feel Munaf is a better container than Nehra, who would look to take wickets. So if Dhoni chooses Nehra over Munaf, he looks like he's being aggressive and is looking to take wickets rather than containing.
The winner is a tough call for me. My heart says India, but my head isn't sure because both teams can be brilliant on their day. It's going to be a battle of two teams, the final battle between a champion batsman and a mercurial champion bowler, Spin Vs Pace and cricket vs politics.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

We will all go together when we go

If I had put money yesterday, I would have been a millionaire. I had told people at work that New Zealand would win this game. Aakash Chopra in his Twitter handle asked about the chance of an upset. I replied saying, New Zealand know how to beat South Africa. They've done it twice in previous World Cups.

 But this isn't about the New Zealand victory. It's about the South African loss. I'm not too sure what they were thinking when they batted. I was looking at the hightlights today and some of it was just bad luck. Amla was unlucky. Oram caught Kallis brilliantly, while AB was run out in spectacular fashion. And suddenly, South Africa is out.

I hate that this happened to them. It always seems to. It's like when one goes, so does the other. Keeping this in mind, I have a theme song for the South Africans. It's pretty parallel to the way they play cricket in a knockout stage in an international tournamen. Check it out:


Friday, March 25, 2011

The tragedy of South African cricket

I think I've solved the mystery behind South Africa not doing well in big tournaments.
They are in the top two test and ODI squads for most part of the year. But in a big tournament, they have this ability to fuck things up for themselves.
1992, they played great cricket a year after they returned from exile.Weather played spoilsport there and they couldn't achieve a dream
In 1996, 1999, 2003 and 2011, they entered as tournament favourites. 1996, they were eliminated in the quarterfinals - their first loss in that tournament - thanks to a brilliant knock by Brian Lara.
We all know what happened in 1999.
In 2003, they hosted the World Cup. A brilliant knock by Stephen Fleming ended their dream.
In 2007, nobody really considered them. A loss to Bangladesh and people wrote them off. But then, they came back with some brilliant performances and suddenly they were favourites to beat Australia in the semi-finals. They got buggered in that game.
2011: They meet New Zealand in Dhaka. This New Zealand side entered the World Cup with a whitewash in Bangladesh and India, a home series loss to Pakistan and a drubbing by Australia and Sri Lanka. Everyone wrote them off and said that South Africa would walkover them.
However, that was not to be. And suddenly, New Zealand is in more semi-finals than there have been World Cups. How is that for coincidence?
Moral of the story: If you want South Africa to win a big tournament and put your money on them, do not tell anyone that you have. Also, the media should write South Africa off in every game even if they chase 400, saying that, South Africa may have chased 400, but what's the point? They always lose knockouts.
And that unfortunately has been the tragedy of South African cricket

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Cricket drabble

There's so much I want to write, but I've just come out of a zone where emotions were high when we beat Australia.
So I'll just say this: Well played, India. Two more games to go.
As for Australia: guys, in my eyes, despite what people say, you're still champions

Chanderpaul and Sarwan: The not so dynamic duo

The big question in a lot of people's minds is about the way Shivnariane Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan batted today.
It was truly uninspiring cricket and plays a bigger factor in their loss than losing their three wickets for less than 20 on the board.
Sarwan had an unenviable strike rate of 35.29, while Chanderpaul was a notch higher at 41.50.
Watching them bat was like watching two ants trying to mount each other before having sex. Not interesting at all.
The only person they ever managed to beat in terms of strike rate while batting in an ODI innings is Sunil Gavaskar's 36 in 60 overs.
People have spoken about Chanderpaul's experience and how he could hold fort on one end, while the others play their shots. The trouble here is that Chanderpaul looks so ugly and has been playing such terrible cricket in the last six months, that the guy at the other end will want to hit out.
Sarwan isn't far behind. He's been selected over Chanderpaul in most of the games in this World Cup. Howeve,r he hasn't looked pleasing. He made a decent score in the game against England, but his slow batting, I believe, cost West Indies that match. His batting against India prompted the other players to try and hit the ball in the air and get out.
The reason a side needs experience is to guide the youngsters. It's not an ego hassle, which Chanderpaul and Sarwan certainly seem to be having. It's probably the reason why Kemar Roach, who was batting so sensibly threw his wicket away. The tragedy of these two batsmen is that they haven't been batting well either. Players like Geoff Boycott and more recently, Jacques Kallis have been accused of putting their game over the benefit of the team. I think that it's not true, but even if they did, they have the records and Kallis is still making runs.
I've always been a big fan of Chanderpaul. I've thought his techinque was the worst in the world, but he was a gutsy player. The same belief was about Sarwan. Now, however, it's time for them to join Tony Cozier in the commentary box. It's a pity that they had to go this way, but for most nations their players don't know when to retire.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

End of the road for Ponting?

So there is buzz that cricket Australia may fire Ricky Ponting as captain for not leading by example.

I'm not the biggest Ponting fan. I think he's arrogant, spoilt and a cry baby.

Unfortunately, he's one of the best batsmen of all time and one of the best modern captains the game has seen. These, he feels gives him reason to act like a prick.

However, if Cricket Australia fire Ponting and just make him an integral part of the squad, I feel that they will be committing a tactical error.

Michael Clarke, I feel isn't ready to become test captain. A 6-1 ODI series victory over England doesn't give Clarke that job. He already captained Australia in one test match and didn't look comfortable at all. The loss, in fact, hit him so badly that he retired from T20 cricket and Cameron White was given responsibility of captaining a young looking Australian side.

Ponting's problem as captain is that he had a lot of great players retiring at the same time. Justin Langer, Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Damien Martyn and Jason Gillespie. That eight out of your 11 teammates.  Imagine someone like MS Dhoni in the same situation where Sachin, Dravid, Laxman and Zaheer decide to call it a day in a span of six months. There goes your middle order and 80 per cent of your bowling attack in a test match.

Ricky Ponting: Down and out?
This Australian squad has ruled cricket for 20 years. This is pretty much how the West Indies was in the 70s, 80s and early part of the 90s. What Australia have over West Indies is a strong domestic circuit, the desire to do well, self-belief that nothing is lost until the last ball is bowled. I believe they showed that in the game against Pakistan. Pakistan were chasing 176, which looks a fairly reasonable ODI score to chase. But Pakistan lost six wickets chasing it.

Ponting's led his side well in this World Cup. He's backed his bowlers, set the right fields. Australia's rustiness comes from a poor schedule done by the ICC, which gave them a 10-day break, which would make another team look a lot worse. Ponting's side did okay. He's been innovative. When the rest of the world opted to play spin, he used his strength, which is fast bowling. And let's face it: India isn't the only side that struggles against genuine quick bowling. Everyone does. And so far, it has worked.

What goes against Ricky Ponting is that he has lost three Ashes series, which include one home series. There is a 50 per cent chance that Australia may lose a quarterfinal, but Ponting cannot lose his job over these. If the rumours are true, then instead of playing, he should actually call it a day. It would be better for him as well. He's not been in the best of form with the bat either. Actually, he's been hitting the ball nicely. He's just had some rotten luck. It's something like what Mark Taylor had when he had that miserable patch for nearly a year, which ended with a century against England, followed by an unbeaten 334 against Pakistan.

While Ponting isn't likable like Taylor was, he commands the respect of his teammates and his opponents. His record speaks for itself and it'll be no time before he gets his groove back. Hopefully for his sake, Cricket Australia should consider these factors before they decide to fire him.  

Monday, March 21, 2011

Nonsense and Non-sensibility: The tale of the commentator

I read this brilliant piece today. It was a column written by Avirook Sen in Saturday's edition of DNA on the Indian commentator and their attempt at being funny. It's quite a torture for the viewer when they're on the receiving end of Sidhus, Shastris and Gavaskar giving their expert opinion of a game. Some times, I cringe in embarassment and wonder if my dream of becoming a cricket writer would mean interacting with people like these. But then I remember that everything has a good and bad, so I look at the brighter side, which is the game, and keep dreaming.

Navjot Singh Sidhu, Ravi Shastri and Sunil Gavaskar are slightly refined versions of Arun Lal, Charu Sharma and Kishore Bhimani. Now that doesn't do justice to anyone. I remember watching India's 1997 tour of South Africa. The series was covered on Star Sports with everyone of the above people except Sidhu (who was playing international cricket at that time) as part of the commentary team. Star Sports and ESPN were two different entities at that time and Harsha Bhogle was part of ESPN. The match was the second test at Durban where Sachin Tendulkar and Mohammad Azharuddin had that great partnership. There was one ball I remember which was bowled by Allan Donald. Sachin was on strike and Charu Sharma was in the commentary box. The ball was short and Sachin pulled it for four. Charu says, "He's pulled. Ah! He connected well! Four runs to midwicket. Great stroke." Now Charu might have thought that what he said made perfect sense, but I still laugh because it sounded daft then when I was in Class 9. It sounds funnier even now.

In his article, Mr. Sen speaks about how unfunny the Indian commentator is. He has made jabs at Sunil Gavaskar and Navjot Singh Sidhu, but I feel Mr. Sen has left Shastri out. The trio of Sidhu, Shastri and Sunil are full of Shit and unfortunately, we're on the receiving end of it. The channels may argue that it's good for the show. The advertiser may say, "But you remember what they said so it works." I'm sure that it does and there are people laughing, but like Mr. Sen said, these experts, especially Sidhu has this habit of inturrupting someone when they're talking sense. For the true cricket lover, that's the piss off.

Sidhu, Shastri and Gavaskar aren't the only problems in the commentary box. I have some serious issues with the likes of Tony Greig and Danny Morrison, who again have their own style of bad humour. In the 1998 Sharjah Series, popularly known as Sachin's Desert Storm, Sachin had hit Tom Moody back over his head for six. Tony Greig in the commentary box says, "The little man has hit the big man for a six. He's half is size." Now, if that isn't a Sidhu, I don't know what is.

Danny Morrison also tries really hard to be funny. He repeatedly says "Gee, Whiz!" like an 80s hero and tries to be the standup comic in the commentary box. Rarely it's funny. Most times it's not.

From the funny commentators, we have really boring commentators. The Pommie Mbwangas, the Saurav Gangulys, the Russel Arnolds fall into this category. In Ganguly's defence, however, he's a much better panel expert because he knows the game and makes a lot of sense while talking, if only Sidhu didn't interrupt him ever time he opened his mouth.

Then you have the really good commentators. Benaud, Holding, Chappell, Lawry and more recently David Lloyd, Mark Taylor, Michael Atherton and Nasser Hussain. They talk sense and only talk when they need to. The good thing is that they're still a large number, even if the crap is significantly larger.
Richie Benaud is still the best commentator today

But with the good, you also have the really bad. The class of commentators I mentioned at the beginning are in the elite company of Wasim Akram, Ramiz Raja, Athar Ali Khan and Sanjay Manjrekar. It's a pity about Manjrekar, though. He started off really well and now he just talks rubbish. It's the Shastri effect, I guess.

As for Harsha Bhogle, he's more of a cricket presenter than a commentator. Someone at work sent me something someone she knows wrote about him. This is what it said:

HB is a self styled PR man of SRT and has built his career around eulogising him . while this article is justified , there have been many cases during his career where he has chosen to ignore all the failings of the man , he sees only one side of the SRT
These days i take HBs view with a bagful of salt . That said he was a fabulous commentrator on Radio when he made his debut in australia 90-91 series ( incidently SRTs first Aussie tour and that where he displayed glimses of his impending greatness ) . He was outstanding there and a couple of other times he was on radio . once the TV bug bit him , it has been a huge letdown . These days just cant stand him on TV
All IMO please . no offence meant to anybody.

I still like Harsha. In my view, he's been a Sachin loyalist, yes, but there's no denying that he's still very passionate about the game. If his commentary has gone down, it's probably because of his colleagues who are crap.

Worst case scenario, if we're in need for commentary, we can always watch a match through Twitter or tune into a podcast like TestMatchSofa. Hopefully someday, we cricket lovers will be part of the sofa rahter than inside a studio listening to Sidhu opening his mouth.





Sunday, March 20, 2011

The A to Z factor

Sometimes, I get these random moods to write in verse
Some people like them, the critics and experts would curse
But I'd like to explain this match today
And the next 3 games (will it be hip, hip hurray?)

Today, we had the A to Z factor in Indian cricket.
Ashwin opened with Zaheer and between them they took five wickets.
Aswin took the first and then he took the last
Zaheer had a burst in the middle and the Chennai crowd had a blast

Now we face the Aussies and the heat is on
We've had batting collapses, which has made critics frown
The bowling has looked weirder,
But if we get things right, Vision World Cup 2011 will be clearer

Elsewhere in Mirpur, Pakistan will face the Windies,
The contest will be good, just as the one between the Springboks and Kiwis
Sri Lanka will face the Poms,
Whose only support will be the Barmy Army and their moms.

There will be a good contest between bat and ball
Runs will be scored and wickets will fall,
But it's the teams that holds their nerve
That will make it to the finals for us to see what Mumbai serves.

Who will be the winning side,
To hold the cup and gush with pride?
Put in your bets and lay down the cuts,
Just do it with someone authentic and not Salman Butt.

The new age spinner

In his book Spin and Other Turns, cricket expert and historian Ramachandra Guha speaks of how BS Bedi, EAS Prasanna and BS Chandrasekhar were the holy trinity of the Indian bowling attack. Bedi and Chandrasekhar, Guha wrote, were good natured and would usually have a good rapport with the opposition. Prassana, however, had the attitude of a fast bowler and hated the batsmen and giving runs away.
The only Indian spinner I saw with the attitude of a fast bowler in the 90s was Anil Kumble. But then, Kumble was considered an inswing bowler by many of his opponents, until he reinvented his game later in his career.
England never relied on a spinner too much. Phil Tufnell was a very good bowler, but I think England gave him way too little credit and relied more on their seamers and medium pacers. They would use their part time spinners.
Warne was great because he was a genius. I, however, would argue that he didn't have the attitude of a fast bowler. He'd outwit a batsman through guile and get  his wickets. The same goes with Daniel Vettori.
The Pakistan spinners have always been a crazy lot. Abdul Qadir, Saqulain Mushtaq and Mushtaq Ahmed have been wicket taking bowlers because of their attitude. They hate the batsmen as much as Prasanna did.
Today, spinners across the world seem to be badass.
Suleiman Benn is one of many
spinners who has a fast bowler's
attitude
Sulieman Benn of West Indies, Ray Price of Zimbabwe, Shahid Afridi of Pakistan, Imran Tahir of South Africa, Graeme Swann of England and Harbhajan Singh of India have been more fast bowler-like in their attitude rather than the general assumption we've had of the spin bowler for most part of the previous decade. Now they're giving back to the batsmen; there is more sledging on part of a spinner than a fast bowler; there are more onfield arguments between batsmen and spinners, while the fast men generally bowl and go home. Sreesanth is an exception here because he'll fight with anyone.
But the good thing is that it's the return of the spinner. This World Cup has shown that. The need of a spinner in a squad is a must, as most teams have shown. They're opening with spinners and making fast bowlers first change guys. It's good to see these changes.
The funny thing is that India now insists on opening with fast bowlers when 30 years ago, we'd have Abid Ali and Eknath Solkar bowl an over each before going to the spinner.
What was mocked then is employed now. And India still wants to be different, despite knowing that it still has spinners who are waiting across the country.

Well played, Pakistan, but watch out for the Aussies

Pakistan did something I haven't seen them do in a very long time.
They played a full game of consistent cricket.
Australia pushed into a corner usually means
that sights like these will increase
Earlier, we'd see them have burst of brilliance that would eventually give them victory, despite some rubbish plays in the same game.
But this one was brilliant throughout, except for a minor glitch that they had at the end.
They ended Australia's winning run in the World Cup campaign.
While the world will be celebrating the fact that Australia is not so invincible anymore, I have a feeling that this may put Australia in a situation where they are their most dangerous.
This was actually seen in today's game. Brett Lee, who I rate a very good bowler bowled like a man possessed. For the first time, I can actually say that he bowled like a great bowler. He was fast, accurate and got the ball to take off from a good length and the Pakistani batsmen looked like amateurs in front of him.
Unfortunately for Lee, he didn't get enough support on the other end.
Another team bowled out for 176 would probably have had their shoulders down and brooding about their loss, but Australia didn't. Brett Lee bowled and cuaght brilliantly; the fielding, like Australian fielding is,  was fantastic and the Australians made Pakistan fight for their runs. Unfortunately for them they were in second place, which isn't good for an opposition side.
But now that they have lost, they will want to beat either India or West Indies in their next game.
That's probably the only reason why I'm supporting a West Indian victory tomorrow, given that we have a better chance against Sri Lanka than we do against Australia.
This was the situation they were in, in 1987. This was a situation that they faced in 1999. In 2011, you never can tell. They're still, in my opinion, the best side in the world and they have set standards to their game, which still cannot be equalled by anyone.
I'm certain that there are several people who may disagree with this, but in all honesty think about it: for the Australian, sport is like a fight and there's no coming second best. It's the main reason why they didn't drop a single game in 2003 and 2007.
Personally, with the way this World Cup going, I see a 1987 final repeated. The patriot in me hopes that I am wrong, but the rest of me believes that if England and Australia meet in the finals, it will make for an epic that would be in the league of an India Pakistan game anywhere in the world.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Subcontinent syndrome

Sri Lanka is a good side. I'll go on to say that they're the best ODI side in the subcontinent.
Unfortunately, that doesn't say much about their cricketing ability.
Like other teams in the subcontinent, there is a lot of dependence on two or three players. If those guys make a mess, the team crumbles.
If I'm not convincing, here are a few examples:
In the 90s, Sri Lanka depended on two batsmen: Sanath Jayasuriya and Arvinda de Silva. If either one of them failed, the other would make runs (see Eden Gardens 1996 semi-finals at the World Cup). If both failed, then Sri Lanka was screwed.
Note: At that time, Murali was still discovering that he was a freak of nature.
Move to the current scenario. Sri Lanka's openers are strictly okay. Tilakratne Dilshan is an attacking player, as is Upul Tiranga. However, if you take away Dilshan's subcontinent record, barring South Africa, he has struggled elsewhere. He averages 22 in Australia, 10.33 in England, 26 in New Zealand and 36 against West Indies. South Africa is a more impressive 64. However, this shows that he is inconsistent.
Sri Lanka still depend a lot on Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene. If they fail, the rest of the team fails. In today's game against New Zealand, had the two of them not made a century and half century respectively, the rest of Sri Lanka scored 69 runs.
Sri Lanka also still depend a lot on Murali. Although he is playing his last ODI series, he is a key bowler in their team. Lasith Malinga is also a valuable asset to have, but he's like a very non-controversial Shoaib Akhtar. He can be brilliant on one day and very ordinary on the next. Like Shoaib, he too has the makings of one of the greatest ever - only if he is consistent.
My point is that had Sri Lanka had not have players in the calibre of Muralitharan, Jayawardene and Sangakkara, the chances of exposing a weak spot would have been done even my a minnow side.
I think that this over-dependence by teams in the subcontinent. India had it on Tendulkar then and Zaheer now. Pakistan has depended on Wasim, Waqar and Inzi when they need help, which is probably one of the main reasons why the team is so mercurial.
In Sri Lanka's favour, however, the experts publically announce the fragile batting and bowling if Sangakkara, Jayawardene, Murli and Malinga are absent from the team. For India and Pakistan, nobody says it too often. They just keep saying India's strong batting lineup and poor bowling lineup. Yeah, the bowling is weak, but the batsmen don't exactly make you want to jump with joy either (remember 9/29 against South Africa and another collapse against England?).
If India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka want to be consistent, they should remember that cricket is a game about 11 and not about a few brilliant performances here and there. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Here's to a cricket orgy!

For the moment, England are safe, but not quite.
My personal theory is that if they qualify for the quarterfinals, they will reach the finals. They've gone through too much crap during this tournament.
While a lot of people compare this to how Pakistan played in 1992, I'm thinking more of how Australia was in 1999. Erratic in the beginning and then suddenly playing like a team possessed. England already has the tie and now it's up to them to redo what they did in the Ashes.
However, despite winning this match, they haven't qualified as yet.
They depend a lot on Bangladesh's game agains South Africa and since England is full of South Africans, the Barmy Army will have no hangups going to Dhaka to cheer the South Africans for a day. It's not going to match up with 60,000 Bangladeshis, but it'll be a fairly loud crowd.
Bangladesh need to beat South Africa. They've done it before. And in a World Cup. So South Africa, who have played really good cricket so far, will be on their guard. They will have the returning Imran Tahir and AB de Villiers at their disposal, so this makes the task tougher for Bangladesh.
So going by what the tables look right now, our quarterfinal encounters would look like this (this means that Bangladesh don't qualify)
1) Australia Vs West Indies
2) New Zealand Vs England
3) Pakistan Vs India
4) Sri Lanka Vs South Africa

While the first game looks pretty one sided, I don't think so. West Indies have played good cricket and Australia has struggled. Having said that, they've known to be cock teases in previous World Cup events and come out of nowhere to destroy their opposition.
While the third game is full of emotion for every Indian and Pakistani cricket fan, I'm more excited to see game 2 and game 4 because the teams have played good ODI cricket against each other and we're all set for some great games.
Now, for whatever it's worth, if Bangladesh manages to qualify, we could see a Bangladeshi semifinal. Remember, they did beat NZ 4-0 recently.
So now that the initial foreplay's over, next week's all set for the big orgy. Let's hope it's not one-sided!