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
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! 

Goodbye, Shoaib

Shoaib Akhtar: Completely brainless, but
brilliant on his day
My first memory of Shoaib Akhtar is at the Eden Gardens. India was playing Pakistan during the Asian Test Championships. Sanjay Manjeraker was in the commentary box when Shoaib was brought on as first change after Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis had finished their initial spell. Shoaib's card read: Shoaib Akhtar, Age 23, Right Arm Fast Medium. Manjrekar said, "That's wrong. I saw this guy in South Africa. Fast medium is incorrect. This guy has raw pace, mark my words."
I don't think anyone will remember what Manjrekar said, but Shoaib will be remembered for clean bowling Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar of successive balls and the world said that he is the next big thing.
Shoaib has had bursts of brilliance after this match. His spell in Australia where he got the Waugh twins and Ricky Ponting in one over is considered one of the best spells of fast bowling ever. There was this spell against New Zealand where he picked up six wickets for 11 runs. I cannot remember the match, but Shoaib has been a matchwinner several times for Pakistan.
Unfortunately Shoaib's biggest problem was himself. He was plagued by injuries for a major part of his career; people thought that he played for himself rather than the team and he was considered a poor fielder. Shoaib for his part defended himself on most occasions saying that he was a victim of circumstances and politics in Pakistan cricket. We can't even blame him there. Pakistan's cricket policy unfortunately makes the BCCI look intelligent. There was a phase in the middle where religion played an important role in the selection of the Pakistani squad. Rumours were that you had to pray five times a day and that 'Allah would grace you and improve the quality of Pakistani cricket.' Shoeb thought it was bollocks and wasn't selected.
Then there was the infamous case where the PCB said that he couldn't play because he had genital warts. When I read it, I laugh because it's ludicrous that someone would publicly announce that. But that's the PCB for you.
The tragedy about Shoaib is that he could have been the world's greatest fast bowler. He was brilliant on days and could destroy anyone with that yorker of his. I remember reading about him before I actually saw him bowl. He had made his debut against South Africa and Wasim Akram hadn't said much about him. It was almost like a surprise for the opposition. He came and bowled some of the fastest stuff and completely destroyed Darryl Cullinan, a really good player of fast bowling. The newspaper report said that Cullinan's leg stump had been uprooted.
At the end of the day, I'll say that I'll miss Shoaib. He'll still be in the news for his brainless acts. Hell, I see him in jail for something too. But that's not the point. Cricket won't be as exciting and I'll never ever get to see a Sachin-Shoaib or Sehwag-Shoaib event again. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The need for a fast bowling role model

India has never had a fast bowling role model.
Sure there was Kapil, but he was medium fast and depended more on swing than pace to deceive the batsman.
Although Kapil is a legend, Imran was more of a role model
because being a fast bowler is cooler than being a swing
Srinath was Indian's only famous quick new ball bowler. Historians will talk about Amar Singh and the pace he generated when he played against England.
I never saw Amar Singh, so I cannot comment on him. Also the guy died in his late 20s or early 30s. I don't remember the exact age.
So where does that leave India?
Kapil has left a legacy behind him. A lot of kids wanted to become good swing bowlers. They were guys who bowled at a pace between 125-135 km/h, but swung the ball a lot, which gave them success.
Srinath was different. He banged the ball in short and generated a lot of pace off the wicket. He learnt the guile of being a fast bowler towards the end of his career.
Srinath was one of the best fast bowlers that I have seen. Very underrated, but effective. Unfortunately for him, he didn't have that legend status that Kapil had, which prompted kids not to look up to him.
My brother and I had this discussion this morning as to whether Pakistan had any fast bowler before Imran Khan. We're sure that they did, but there isn't a name that we can think of and say loud.
Wasim and Waqar are role models for wannabe Indian
and Pakistani fast bowlers
Imran was Pakistan's greatest gift at that time. He had an abled partner in Sarfraz Nawaz. Wasim and Waqar idolized Imran and wanted to be like him. And funnily, kids in India and Pakistan, who want to be fast bowlers say that they would like to bowl like Wasim and Waqar.
Wasim and Waqar are the best bowling combination that I've seen. I've seen another great pair at that time and that was Ambrose and Walsh, but the Pakistani duo could change a match with a snap of their fingers, which is why they're slightly higher. They have great averages, great strike rates and the quality that draws people to them: they are good students of the game, which makes them great teachers. They learnt a lot from Imran, who was one of the best students of the game. And whether you like them or hate them, you cannot deny their contribution to the game.
It's a pity that India never had these guys as mentors. Sure Kapil's done his bit, but unfortunately for the old cricket fan, it's not about the swing. Pace is cooler. Only as they grow older, as Zaheer Khan has discovered, that they use swing and guile to master the art of fast bowling 

The Problem with Umar Gul

I like Umar Gul a lot.
He's fast, accurate and can swing the ball both ways. He's consistent, economical and usually keeps a low profile.
That's also my problem with him.

The qualities are exempolary, but Umar has a problem, which is why he's a misfit.
He's got all these qualities being a Pakistani player.
Now I'm sure there are a lot of Pakistanis reading this blog, who would be ready to swear at me on my twitter timeline, but if you guys give me reason to explain myself, I shall.
I read this article in this morning's Indian Express about Umar Gul. While I agree with what the writer said, Umar is the black sheep in a Pakistani side dominated by a bunch of mad men. Check the video out to see what they're capable of

And I mean mad men in the nicest possible way.
The reason why I love watching Pakistan play is because the guys are a bunch of crack heads. They will play like Gods for 10 minutes and play like shit in the other 10, making you wonder if this is the same side you saw. Let me illustrate this with some examples
Example 1: One day, Shoaib will bowl 99 mph inswingers and break your toes. The same guy will bowl a full toss on leg stump to Ross Taylor and get hit for 28 runs in an over.
Inzamam ran like an 'elephant'
and caught like a 'gazelle'
Example 2: Inzamam Ul Haq will run between the wickets with another guy. He will run the other guy out and end up running himself out. Then while fielding at slip, he'll fly like a gazelle and catch a ball that looked impossible to take. I remember one match where he actually did this and Geoff Boycott, who was in the commentary box at that time said, "That's Inzamam for you. Runs like an elephant; catches like a gazelle."
Example 3: The Pakistani spinner is a madman. Take a look at them over history. I've seen Abdul Qadir, Saqualin Mushtaq, Mushtaq Ahmed, Danesh Kaneria and now - although he plays for South Africa - Imran Tahir. All these guys have a mad glint in their eyes and have a fast bowler's run-up. If you look at Shane Warne or a Harbhajan Singh or an Anil Kumble or even a Muttaiah Muralitharan, it was either a jog or a walk. These guys charge at you as if they're going to take your head off.
And then there is Umar Gul. It's a pity that he doesn't have the madness about him. It's probably the main reason why he will always be Pakistan's second best, even if he is the best at that time

Monday, March 14, 2011

Cricket songs and all that jazz...


Take a look at these two videos. The first one, De Ghuma Ke is the official World Cup song. I see it and want to kill someone because it's played 20 times a day.
The second song is a video created by some guy in Pakistan to boost Pakistan's ego for the World Cup. My boss sent it to me this morning. The video stars some chick called Kiran Khan, who tries to look like Michael Jackson, but looks more masculine than he does. The singer is some guy called Asif Shah, who needed his 5 minutes of fame. Youtube gave it to him, methinks.
The lyrics of the song go something like this:
Boom Boom World Cup, Cricket Cup World Cup
Boom Boom World Cup, Cricket Cup World Cup
Chick sings: ICC, Oh, ICC
 Unfortunately, I'm not even making this up. Check the video if you don't believe me.

When I see videos like these and De Ghuma Ke, I think that I should write my own World Cup song. We could always spoof De Ghuma Ke by saying Ma Ch**da Ke, but that would be too cliched.

So if we're to write a cricket song, we could always do what MAD magazine did for its cricket spoof in the 80s. It was a brilliant one, with a verse dedicated to how the English batsmen were getting raped by the West Indies. Fortunately, I had the copy of the magazine with me. I've attached an excerpt of it here. If you guys want to read the actual thing, just write me a note and I'll scan the entire thing over the weekend or something

But yeah, my primary focus was songs. I know the rest of the world is ranting about how India played the other night, but I'm pretty sick of that right now. Okay we screwed up, but the optimist in me says that we've been known to play shittier cricket.

Personally, I think that the last two World Cups have been rubbish. I probably will attribute this to the fact that both of them had theme songs. Hell, after checking out that Asif Shah and Kiran Khan video, I think that I can write something better. It'll be offensive as hell, but it'll do its job.
So I'm going to try something in the lines of an Irish Drinking Song from Whose Line Is It Anyway?
The World Cup's here again,
Hip Hip Hurray
The TV sets are playing
A song called De Ghuma Ke 
It is really funky
But there is a catch
We hear the song all the time
500 times before a match 

Then the players come to play
The crowd begins to cheer
The ball gets hit for fours and sixes
The home is supported and opponents jeered

Then Chawla comes to bowl
The crowd begins to sigh
Dhoni says, fuck it and gives the ball to Nehra
And the crowd begins to cry

India isn't the only host
It's Sri Lanka as well
Bangladesh gets is maiden call
And beggers are sent to hell 

Then there is a tied match
And Ireland fulfils a dream,
Then Akmal drops 3 catches,
And Pakistani bowlers are creamed
Now we've got three weeks left
To the finals in Mumbai
It's difficult to place a bet
To tell who'll take the cup away

Does India have a chance?
Personally I say no
I'll still watch the game though
Because I'm a cricket whore... 



Sunday, March 13, 2011

A worthy reply

A friend of mine replied by email to the India-South Africa match report that I wrote. The mail was so awesome that I had to put it up here.
For the record, he is a psychiatrist who loves photography and you can check out his blog here:
And here is his reply
Read your piece on the India-SA fuckup - excellent writing, but I feel compelled to provide an alternate viewpoint.

Let me be clear first up - I broke up with cricket a decade ago. Far too many games, far too little drama - even excellence got predictable.
Then I moved to the US, and cricket became harder to come by. I started following baseball and American football instead and developed an unhealthy affection for the Boston Red Sox - a star crossed team for 86 years. Then in my second year as a fan, they overcame 86 years of adversity and won the World Series! That remains the second greatest of my sports-fan life and the greatest moment where I clearly remember all details. The greatest remains the 83 cup - I was 5 then and a lot of memories of it are hazy, though I remember standing on Annie Besant road, outside my grandmas house and cheering as the team bus drove by, Prudential Cup on proud display next to the driver, and Kapil standing behind it, waving through the windscreen. This is one of my earliest memories. That was a time when India dominated cricket. The Asia Cup and Shastri's Audi and Champion of Champions title also helped. Then, as I grew up, the losses started to pile up. Futility in Sharjah, the Rise of Miandad, PAkistans 1992 Cup win - all added to a general disillusionment. Intermediate highs like the Titan Cup and some individual records helped, but it wasn't true Glory! My feeling of self-worth was defined by the fact that in the end we were former World Champions. Over the decade, I've broken up with cricket - I no longer know all players on all teams, and have followed only from a distance the rise of all our 'next big things' (including Dhoni, Raina, Irfan, Munaf and Yusuf). One the other hand I know everything that David Ortiz, Josh Beckett and Tom Brady have done.
Ultimately though, I have realized that these were rebound relationships - albeit happy ones that will probably last.
Truth is, I am once again waking up at 1.30 am to watch India play Holland, now that I have the opportunity to watch. Truth is, I again bite my nails when Sachin hits the 90s. I am again waiting to hear eagerly about Pakistan's collapse...and again, I am developing severe apprehension about running into Pakistan in the elimination rounds.
And the instant return of all those dysfunctional symptoms has led me to realize an important fact...and this is where I disagree with you.
You say that cricket is my whore, when in fact it is the exact opposite situation.
Cricket is not my whore...I am its bitch!

The joys of colonisation

I met a friend of my sister's today and we discussed this article that I had written for Mid-Day a couple of weeks ago. He had a very interesting to point to make. England's best batsmen are South African, as is their captain. Though Strauss may hold a British passport, he is South African by birth. So here's the argument that this guy put forth: the England team's batsmen are not English, while the bowlers are from England or are South Asian.
When you go back to the evolution of cricket, the Lords and the rich were the batsmen, while the poor and the servants were the bowlers and fielders. When Douglas Jardine captained England during the Bodyline series, he was a lord, while Harold Larwood was a coal miner's son. (Larwood also spent some of his time as a night watchman somewhere after his career). The last blue blooded Briton to lead England was David Gower. Before that, you had Mike Brearly a genius captain, but crap batsman leading an Ian Botham and making his career. Also when you think back to England and its captains, barring Ray Illingworth and Bob Willis, everyone has been a batsman (Botham and Flintoff were all-rounders).
Today, it's been a reversal of sorts for England. The batsmen are not from the country, while the bowlers are Britons. Morgan is Irish, while Trott, Prior, Pietersen and Strauss are South Africans. So going by England's hierarchical system, which is still seen today, has South Africa become England's ruler?
Earlier, it was South Asia ruling England when Nasser Hussain was captain. There were players like Mark Ramprakash, Monty Pannesar, Uzman Afzal and more recently, Ravi Bopara.
So with the colonised coming and colonising England, where do the Britons stand? In their defense, we can say that if England lose now we can say they choked because most of them are South Africans and they can also add that they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, which India and Pakistan have specialised in.

We deserve to lose

9/29? We deserve to be on the losing side
I decided to do something I have never done in my life today.
I watched a cricket match on a gigantic screen at a mall.
The experience was interesting and like many other cricket-crazy Indians, I was cheering for the wickets and dot balls and sighing every time we made a mess of things.
And then Ashish Nehra bowled the last over.
I swore at him like the rest of the fans when we lost.
But then rationality took over.
We lost 9 wickets for 23 runs.
Had the top order not clicked, we would have beaten Zimbabwe for the world's lowest total.
So I don't even feel bad that we lost the game. We probably deserved to anyway.
The experts in the studio will have their own post match analysis as to what went wrong, but I met a guy after the game, who told me where we went wrong and how we should have selected R Ashwin over Munaf Patel.
This expert happened to be my rickshaw driver, who had a very interesting point. He said, "The reason why they're not taking Ashwin is because he's another off-spinner and with Harbhajan in the side, it makes no sense to have another off-spinner."
Accurate analysis, my dear Watson, but Harbhajan keeps bowling the doosra, while Piyush Chawla, who wasn't in this game usually bowls googlies. This changes their role in the side.
But the rickshaw driver is one of a billion disheartened Indian fans, who wanted to see their side win and ended up in tears after Nehra bowled the last over. Suddenly poor Nehra's Facebook page has gone berserk, with people blaming him for the loss. The rick guy went on to add that Dhoni was probably paid to lose this match.
Speculations like these always arise. My father says that cricket is a whore that has money being shoved into its vagina, while other and colleagues friends say that they lost interest in the sport ever since the match fixing scandal broke out.
I think that we're just a bunch of poor losers.
I'm not talking about the team only. I'm talking about the general culture of the subcontinent. We can act in mobs. Otherwise we behave like pussies. The 1996 Calcutta semi-finals and the pelting of the West Indies bus at Dhaka are just two recent examples that I can think of. Ray Robinson's book 'The Wildest Tests' speaks of several mob outbreaks during the couse of a cricket game and many of them happened in India and Pakistan.
The sad thing is that when we taste success, we get drunk by it in an almost Macbeth-like way. And that's what's generally been the case of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. I cannot comment on the Sri Lankans because I've not read any Sri Lankan paper criticising its players of letting success go into his head. Maybe I haven't read enough or maybe Sri Lankans are far more disciplined that her other South Asian counterparts.
Nehra suddenly became everyone's favourite whipping boy because of his
Chetan Sharma-like last over
I think what my auto rickshaw driver said at the end summed it up beautifully. He said, "Kya kare, boss. Hum log chutiye log hai aur players bhi hum logon ko chutiya banate hai.' (What can we do. We're a bunch of cunts. And the players use that to their advantage and make us feel like bigger cunts)
Maybe someday - and this is the optimist in me talking - we'll finally get to a space where we'll evolve as sportspersons, but that day sadly will be very far away.
But yes, losing 9/29. We don't deserve anything, but to lose.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Habits die hard

England's loss to Bangladesh was another exposure of the side's weak bowling attack. True that they've had a crazy schedule with the Ashes, followed by seven ODIs. However, given the amount of international cricket teams have played, this is perfectly normal.
Sure the England bowlers are tired, but they've done this before. They gave West Indies the Championship Trophy at Lords from a winning situation. Last night's match proved once again that they're unable to polish off a team, unless it's Australia or India playing an ODI game against India. It's been the trademark of English cricket.
India has a similar problem. Remember their collapse against England in the Bangalore ODI. They did hte same thing against the same side during the 2003 World Cup. That side had Zaheer, Sachin and Sehwag. And Sachin and Sehwag gave India a reasonable start like they had done here.
Old habits are difficult to stop, but if you don't, you will not see improvement. India and England should take notice of this

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Cricket fanatic? Me? Nah

I saw an interesting cartoon by Satish Acharya on CricInfo the other day. The cartoon is funny and witty and is pretty descriptive of how a fan from the subcontinent usually reacts to the game.
However, personally I'm not too excited about the IPL. I've ranted about this several times over about how I feel about the concept.
Sure it looks great on television. I'll also give that it gives the BCCI more money that the rest of the local and international tournaments hosted by India.
Sure it has some great cricket matches and I'll also say that it has some of the best players of the world playing together at the same time.
And let's face it, Season 4 is going to be boring as crap after N Srinivasan announced that there would be no after-game parties.
This means that we won't have an obese Rohit Sharma groping some random actress, we won't see Shane Watson spiking his hair to look 'Very, Very Sexy'.  We already have one VVS and he can't play T20 cricket to save his life. Hell, he can't even play 50-over cricket, yet he's in Team Kochi and will be running the rest of his teammates out.
The only two things that I would love to follow during the IPL are probably Test Match Sofa's ridiculous commentary and Jarrod Kimbler's blog.
When I think of the IPL, I think of this genius like MS Dhoni came up with this afternoon on his explanation to select Piyush Chawla over R Ashwin. "Ashwin's mentally tough, which is why he's not in today's game. He'll do well whenever he plays. Piyush needs some confidence." Going by that theory, players in the side do not have any mental toughness and Sachin, Sehwag and Zaheer are pussies. In the same way, I am not a cricket fanatci because I don't watch the IPL.
And speaking of the IPL, why would anyone want to see Sreesanth captain a side in the first place? 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The dangers of being part of a subcontinent team

Kamran had better get his act together and improve as a
keeper, as that is his primary job.
I feel sorry for Kamran Akmal.
He's a good batsman, a hard hitter of the ball and I'm sure he can field in any position other than wicketkeeper.
For a long time, I thought that he would have taken money to keep wickets badly.
After today's game, I don't think that anymore.
He's just a rubbish keeper.
He's as resourceful behind the stumps like Tariq Iqbal was for Kenya during the 1996 World Cup. However, in Tariq's defense, he was large and fat and resembled someone you would find on late night Sun TV.
Kamran looks fit, unless he's done liposuction at some point in his life.
Pakistan haven't had a good wicketkeeper since Moin Khan. He was also an effective lower order.
The same theory goes with Rashid Latif, who made a lot of enemies by accusing everyone in the Pakistani team of fixing matches.
So you have the third best i.e. Kamran. His name on the Twitter handle is Kamran Fuckmal, thanks to several pissed off Pakistani fans. You can't blame them either. We were calling Piyush Chwla a guy who bowls like Juhi Chawla the other day.
The subcontinent is passionate about its cricket and if Kamran doesn't get his wicketkeeping act together, he may soon be replaced.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Ireland deserves to play in 2015

There have been two controversies that have come up during this World Cup: one speaks of the UDRS, which I'll probably write about some other time if I understand the rule book.
The other is the huge debate over the ICC choosing 10 teams to play the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. It's raised a number of questions, with players like Ricky Ponting suggesting that the minnows shouldn't be playing with the 'big boys.'
When you think of Ireland and cricket, you say, "Yes,
they can!"
Normally World Cups have seen upsets, thanks to non-test playing nations. West Indies lost to Kenya in 1996. Kenya beat Sri Lanka in 2003. Canada beat Bangladesh in the same year. Ireland beat Pakistan and England in 2003 and 2007 respectively. Netherlands nearly beat England this year and if it wasn't for Afridi the other night, Canada might have just beaten Pakistan.
The last two games may have been won by England and Pakistan, but it shows us that a bunch of talented guys if given some direction, can rattle a strong opposition. Both Canada and The Netherlands stuck to their basics and played good cricket. Unfortunately for them, they weren't used to 50,000 people cheering on. Somewhere at some point of the game, the pressure undoubtedly got to most of them.
Ireland has managed to deal with the pressure. The reason for this is pretty simple, actually. Most Irish players are used to playing in front of crowds during the county season. It's not as big as a Bangalore crowd, but the players are used to playing with noise around them.
Another thing you've got to remember about the Irish is that they are the forefathers of the Australians. In an interview, former Formula One driver Eddie Irvine, an Irishman was asked why he had such a huge fan following in Australia. He replied, "Because Australia is full of Irish convicts."
The Australians probably got their fighting spirit from the Irish. They probably drink beer because of the Irish and since they're the best in the world in cricket, the Irish want to be as good as them because they are their forefathers.
The Irish are very realistic about their game. When asked in an interview a day after the England victory, Ireland batsman Niall O'Brien said that Ireland wasn't still ready to play test matches because cricketing infrastructure was poor in the country.
When you think of statements like these and look at the way the Irishmen have played their cricket, you wonder what a game between Ireland and Australia might look like. I'm sure that Australia will win, but the Irish game may make Ricky Ponting want to take back his words on the minnows. 

Good, not great

Amongst the two teams today, I thought the Irish were a better side.
They acted professional, bowled with discipline and fielded like a top quality international team, proving to the world that their match against England wasn't a fluke.
India on the other hand started really well, lost their way and thanks to Yuvraj Singh ensured that the Irish just crossed 200.
Given that the Bangalore wicket had over 1500 runs in the last two games, 200 looked achievable.
Then Sehwag got out to a really nothing shot and bowled and Gambhir played a shot that he usually plays really well, but mistimed it.
Suddenly we were 9/2.
We eventually achieved the target in the 44th over, thanks to Yuvraj, Sachin, Virat, Dhoni and some big hitting by Yusuf at the end, but that's not the point.
India has played three games in this World Cup so far. Barring the Irish, we haven't bowled anybody else out. The Irish were bowled out in the 45th over of the match when they were 9/2.
Who is to blame for this?
I'll admit that I was part of the Twitter universe that went after Chawla's blood during the Ireland innings. He was short, indisciplined and just gave away far too many singles.
The problem with the Indian
team is that some of the players
don't know their role in the side
But I won't blame him alone.
Harbhajan Singh, who is an attacking bowler by nature, was doing the job of a container. Sure his bowling figures look neat at 9-1-29-0, but isn't his job as the number one spinner in the Indian team to attack the batsmen? Why is Yuvraj, whose job in the side is that of a batsman and a part-time slow bowler getting five wickets? I have nothing against that bowling performance. He bowled beautifully and would dream of packing that wicket and taking it with him wherever he goes.
People like Harbhajan Singh are confidence bowlers. Sunil Gavaskar in his book Idols mentioned that BS Chandrasekhar was a lot like that. Harbhajan's at his best when he's flighting the ball. When he tries giving it less air, he tends to be less effective. We all know that. This World Cup has been indication of that. And this is from the same bowler who bowled beautifully in South Africa when we went there.
The Indian bowling has depended solely on Zaheer and he's bowled his heart out for India. But if you do to Zaheer what we expected of Tendulkar for major part of the 1990s, then we're not going beyond the quarterfinals. Nehra and Ashwin have been doing nothing. I liked what little I saw of Ashwin during the practice game against Australia. I'm not an IPL fan, but I know that he was a major reason why Chennai won the title last year. And he's no muck with the bat either. He has solid technique and he's gutsy. Unfortunately for him, Chawla is playing over him and Chawla, despite what anyone may think, is bowling terribly.
The batting is strong, but we don't have a bowling attack to back it up. It's the same argument that I had in the post I wrote this morning on the Curious case of the Indian fast bowler. We don't have anyone who won't last beyond a year. Funnily this morning, I completely forgot about Ishant and funnily he was another big thing after he got the better of Ricky Ponting in his debut series in Australia. This lack of focus, indiscipline, media attention and the feeling that I'm bigger than the game, is what's been killing Indian cricket. If we're the number 1 test team in the world, why would we draw home and an away series against South Africa? Sure we could have won that series if wasn't for Kallis' heroics, but wasn't it our job to take his wicket? We couldn't at the end, which has always been the tragedy of Indian cricket throughout.
While we may have a good side, we will never become a side that would be called great for a long time, if we continue this trend. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The curious case of the Indian fast bowler

I read a piece on Varun Aaron in the Indian Express.
It's always been the case of the Indian fast bowler. We haven't had a long-lasting one since Srinath retired.
Zaheer was fast when he began, but he relies more on experience and guile nowadays. Sreesanth is fast, but he's got an attitude problem and cannot control the direction of the ball when he bowls. This is despite the fact that he has the best seam position in the business.
Irfan was fast, but Gregg Chappell told him to cut out on pace. He's not playing for India anymore
Munaf was hailed as the next big thing, but fitness issues made him a reliable medium pacer who is an excellent first change bowler.
Nehra is quick on his day, but he needs to be 100 per cent fit when he bowls.
There were also names like RP Singh, VRV Singh and some names that came and went, which I cannot remember.
So we have fast bowlers. Varun Aaron is one of them, but will he last? Will he be the next Srinath? Will he not breakdown and go before his career begins? This is a question not just for him, but for the entire crop of Indian kids who want to bowl fast.
Two years ago, Youtube had this video of this kid called Atul Sharma. Atul was, and this is assumption here, a rich kid, who wanted to do whatever it took to bowl fast. So there was a video of him working out and having a Shaoaib Akhtar-like action. He was supposed to play for The Rajasthan Royals, but he's disappeared like several other kids.
Srinath has been India's only genuine
fast bowler in the last two decades
In the subcontinent, India is one country that hasn't produced a fast bowler who has lasted a while. Sri Lanka has Lasith Malinga, the new kid Thisara Perera and people like Dilhara Fernando as backup. Pakistan keeps on producing fast bowlers like India produces batsmen, while Bangladesh rely more on spin that the fast men. Unfortunately for India, Harbhajan Singh is the only guy who is amongst the best in the world. The others are treated as part time bowlers. Also, it's cooler being a fast bowler. India can no longer ask someone to bowl two overs of seam and then call the spinner. Kapil Dev broke that trend in the late 70s, but he was an one-man army. Kapil created the trend for several people dreaming of bowling fast and Srinath was one guy who managed to be consistently fast throughout his career.
Srinath, started off as a vegetarian, but began eating meat to give himself more physical strength. Today fitness is a key in any sport, but the Indians keep breaking down. Zaheer has had several injuries, Nehra and Munaf are either in or out because of some strain, Irfan and RP are looking to make a comeback, while Sreesanth needs to focus on self-discipline.
Diet and fitness have been an integral part of a fast bowler. India keeps breaking stories about the next big thing, but they tragically die before they are born. Plus going by the wickets this World Cup has produced, would it be fair on the fast bowlers if they're going to be hit all across the ground? There is only so much they can do and if the administration doesn't get its act together in providing sportier wickets, people like Varun Aaron will fade away just as quickly as they came into the news. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

How English are the English

I wrote this piece a while back, but elaborated it for my first cricket byline.