Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step

And that step has been taken...
This may or may not impact the series, yet one of the biggest problems has been identified. It is yet to be addressed and rectified.
Yet, this is a start. Therein, lies the hope.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The real tournament begins

Random thoughts after watching parts of the two encounters yesterday
+ Umar Akmal is a class act. Glimpses were evident during the Australian summer. The best thing about him seems to be an air of calm in everything he does - batting, body language, outfielding and catching. There is none of the 'nervous energy' or 'passion' or 'excitement' which one associates with the quintessential Pakistani 'teenaged' cricketer from Aquib Javed to Afridi. All that remains to be done by the strongmen at PCB is to fast track him to captaincy and finish him.
+ Afridi tried to be proper batsman - play the first ball straight, run the singles, stay there and the runs will come and all that jazz. Only problem was they forgot to tell Luke Wright.
+ Kamran Akmal needs to play as a specialist batsman e or Pak need to field with a long stop.
+ England might have reached adulthood, but KP has some way to go before mastering batting in LOIs. Case point over no 19 of England innings.
  • 8 off 12 required. KP plays it to Salman Butt and point and sets of for a suicidal run. Luckily for the non striker Wright, Kamran is the keeper.
  • 2 off 9 required. KP chases a certain wide and smashes it straight to cover.
  • 2 off 7 required. The earlier ball was a short one. This one is short too. KP tries to smash it into Carlisle Bay when all he needed to do was drop it down at his feet and take the single which will ensure a tie in the very least. Now 2 off 6 needed and new man on strike to Ajmal, the best bowler on view.
I cannot imagine MSD or Yuvraj or Raina or even DK doing any of the above mistakes. They would calmly play out the dot ball and proceed to hit the next one out of the ground.
+ AB faced 39 balls out of which he managed 3 boundary hits and scored 47. Albie Morkel faced 18 balls, cleared the ground five times and scored 40. 65 runs between overs 15 and 19. Lesson for the Proteas.
+ What is Gareth Hopkins doing in the NZ T20 team? Is Brendon McCullum so very overworked? I suppose that is one way of saying 'We are short of real talent'.
+ This may be Barbados but good spinners would still be useful. Daniel Vettori is an all season man, but look at Johan Botha. He struck twice in the only phase when NZ appeared to be in the hunt.

Monday, May 3, 2010

When will they learn?

South Africa
Smith and Kallis looked at the comparative scores after 8 overs and said "Ja. We are on track"
Kallis and AB looked up again after 16 overs to reconfirm. Someone forgot to tell them Saffers you cant save your wickets for the Super 8s.
Salute Raina for putting mind over matter. This is a player who thrives on responsibility and feeds off his own confidence. A team man who lifts others around him (ask Vijay and others in CSK) as opposed to the more talented but moody Rohit (who regularly BC ed his mates in Deccan this year). Hope this is an indicator of bigger things to come.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

ICC World T20 Preview

The third ICC event in less than a year is upon us and a fourth one waiting to happen in , guess what, less than a year again.
All talks of acclimatisation and fatigue will crop up, once the men in blue slip up. Till then the media and 'experts' would have us believe, that the boys only have to turn up to bring the cup home. I am not so sure. Endless IPLs have ensured that whatever surprise element they had is now lost and there are teams more desperate than ours. Hence India to me, seem rank outsiders. Needless to say, I will be more than happy to be proved wrong.
That said, here is a look at the teams. Call them by any name - associates, minnows, whatever - I don't see Afghanistan, Ireland, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh making it to the last 8.
Bangladesh will play Australia, after Australia play Pakistan. Meaning - if Pakistan beat Australia (they have done it in T20WC2007) Bangladesh can expect a fearful thrashing.
Ireland are a handy side and appear the most accomplished of the four and in a group with England and West Indies, it could become interesting. But I think both England and the Windies carry enough ammo this time around. The same goes for Zimbabwe too.
Afghanistan will take on India to ensure that India 'eases' into the competition and the sponsors are kept interested till the last 8. Expect some mushy romanticism from Harsha B and others - stuff like Khyber Pass, British Raj, Durand Line, guns being replaced by cricket bats, and shells by balls - all that hogwash. South Africa will suffer from none of this and as is their wont, give the minnows a hiding in the group stage and move on before their eventual (and imminent) choke.
Right then, so it will be Pakistan, NZ,SA and England in Group E and Australia, Sri Lanka, India and West Indies in Group F with two from each group onto the semis.
Group E
It has been Pakistan's good fortune and NZ's ill fortune that the two run into each other often at ICC multinationals. When the tournament is being held in the Caribbean - people will rush to say - ' slow & low' and point to Daniel Vettori. Let me then point to Saeed Ajmal and his madcap captain, both of whom are backed by a vastly better pace attack than NZ can put up. In any case Vettori and Bond can bowl only 8 overs max. The rest will be cannon fodder. Especially for a line up such as SA. Batting will rise and fall with McCullum. Talented as Ross Taylor and Ryder may be I don't see the spunk or big match temperament in either of them. Will be lucky to get past the Super 8s.
Pakistan have had little cricket, several problems, enough distraction - all the right ingredients for a soaring comeback or a depressing exit. Don't rule out a humiliating loss to Bangladesh in the Group Stage, before they do their 'cornered tigers' routine. They will brush aside NZ and England and therefore their result against South Africa would be somewhat irrelevant. Once they get into the last 4, they would become very strong contenders.
A middle order with AB, Duminy, A Morkel and Boucher leaves SA enough firepower, but is there the will to use it and the daring to take their chances? That could well decide their fate. Last time around, they were content 'to stay in the hunt' and eventually missed out by 7 runs. I mentioned last year they had missed out on promoting Albie Morkel and giving him a chance to take them home. This time, Van Der Merwe could get the nod ahead of Johan Botha for his batting skills, which means they have adequate depth (not always used in this format) but handy when needed to scatter the bowling. Will they break the mould is the big question. Until they do, World Cups will remain a dream.
What about England - a line up with Collingwood, KP, Bopara, Luke Wright, Morgan looks strong on paper, but their general indifference to all things that aren't Ashes and the thin bowling resources will haunt them. While a win against NZ in the Super 8 is not beyond them, getting past Pakistan and South Africa would be close to impossible. The former possess all the flair and the latter are better at the percentages game.
So it is Pak and SA from Group E - with E1 and E2 being dictated by who wins in their encounter.
Group F
Group F is arguably the tougher group and the progress to the semis is not as clear cut.
The humiliation of being seeded below Bangladesh (whom they will overcome to become A2), the fact that this prize is missing from their collection and the injury to Brett Lee (which means their weakest link in T20 is now missing) will make them top contenders in a Tournament where their best result till date is a Semifinal loss. Powerhitters Warner, White and David Hussey , backed by Michael Hussey and Watson can put the fear of god in any bowling. Nannes, Johnson, Harris, Watson and Tait are as good as any. The key to beating them (as always) in any format is early and sustained aggression. Such a task may be beyond India without Sehwag, SL with an indifferent Dilshan. WI have done it last year and therefore all stars and planets need to be properly aligned if they are to do a repeat act. Australia will progress, in all possibility as F1.
F2 is where the tournament opens up - if we can call it that.
SL have played India enough times in the recent past and their brains trust have seen enough of the IPL to know the Indians inside out - and vice versa. Expect a tight match between them.
Hence, the key to this group lies with the West Indies, or rather which among India and SL beat the Windies. With Kulasekara supporting the 4 Ms - Murali, Mendis, Malinga and Mathews and India's recent lousy record at multilaterals, I would put SL as favourites. Recent form of Jayawardene is encouraging and has ensured he would pair with Dilshan at the top. SL would do well to get Jayasuriya in at No3. This would serve two purposes and balance the line up. A) It would give the old timer freedom to play his game - he clearly does not relish the middle order, although he started at No7. B) It would free up Sanga to guide the lower middle order - where they have traditionally lacked the firepower of say, the Aussies or India. Mathews , Perera to support Sanga rounding off the innings would be right for them.
The hosts have a line up that reads Gayle, Bravo, Chanderpaul, Sarwan and Pollard. Enough said. Ian Chappel does not see them progressing to the next round. That may or may not happen. But with a tired Zaheer, now on now off Nehra and Grumbler(Jr) Praveen forming the bowling 'attack' one can foresee a brutal hammering if Gayle wakes up from his stupor.
Media men and sundry pundits will say 'spin attack' when they talk up India. Where is this spin attack? Viru is out with injury. Raina is a part timer, so is Yu Pa. Jadeja is a better bowler, but it is a toss up between him and Yu Pa.
Last year, I called him a 'game-breaker' and argued for him to be given some space. Whatever little I have seen of him in the interim does not suggest he has improved, but in fact regressed. So what does Yu Pa bring to the table - at best 15 runs in 4 balls in 1 out of 4 innings. Nought in the other 3 digs. RJ can do 15 runs from 10-12 balls every time. Yu Pa bowls with an offspinner's action - no turn, between 96 and 102 kph, aims for the batsmans legs and would finish with 4-0-30-1. Oh wait, we have got Durby. He can do the same, plus he can run to the outfield after taking that one wicket and spew filth at everyone around. No competition here. It will be Jadeja, Durby, Zak, Nehra and PK. So where is this 'spin attack'? Surely not with the Men in Blue.
Batting is the stronger suit,which in itself is no cause for optimism. After the disaster last year, they may not open with Rohit - although it was not Rohit's fault alone. MV and GG pick themselves which leaves Raina, Yuvi and MSD in the middle. Indian totals might depend upon how well Raina leaves the bouncer alone.
Nehra for Ishant and Vijay for Viru. The rest of the squad is the same - which failed to do us proud last time around. Hence, any optimism from Indian supporters is misplaced.
The selectors have been criticised for leaving out Uthappa - and it is fair criticism. Uthappa should have made it - not for Vijay but for DK or even Yu Pa. DK won DDD a game or two in the IPL with his batting but he tapered off. If DDD failed to make the last 4, DK was as culpable as Viru and GG. DK is a spunky and spirited cricketer and RU is a similar character with big match temperament, plus RU is also a keeper these days. Almost invariably he walked into a situation and came out swinging like a prize-fighter- Lee, Durby, Albie Morkel, Appam C, Balaji, Mendis - all suffered at his hands. In leaving him out, India have missed a trick it seems.
To make it past this tough group and face off against Pak and S.Af, India would have to bowl out of their skins and I do not see the drive and desire in this bunch.
So F2 would likely be Sri Lanka or West Indies depending on who wins more. If Windies make it and face off against Pakistan there is the likelyhood of the hosts even making it to the final and then who knows. However, if the opponents are S.Af, then it could be end of the road for them.
Favourites - Australia, Pakistan. Dark Horses - WI and SL.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Off with their heads...

How dare the domestic One Day Tournament - Deodhar Trophy jeopardise that all important event - IPL conditioning camps.
Off with their heads. Here's a blueprint on how to do it.

Sunday, February 28, 2010


The scene: a gynaecologist's waiting room in a hospital pouplar with Indian expats.
A young couple waiting for the doctor along with another girl who appeared to be the husband's sister .
Some pensiveness, nervous smiles and intermittent chatter amongst the three.
At one point the faces of the trio lit up with pure joy and all traces of their earlier restlessness vanish for the next couple of minutes.The wall mounted TV was on 'mute' but there it was the story of the Double Hundred.
Such has been your effect on Indians no matter time and place.
We are fortunate to have you on our side and we ask for nothing more.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Statesman

One one side there is the current crop of Indian cricketers - cliche spouting robots, whose responses are a hash of "obviously", "of course", "bowl in right areas" & "played my natural game".
On the other side of the spectrum, you have the unique Virender Sehwag, who talks the way he bats.
There are two other gentlemen, whose remarks need careful introspection and repeated reading. Aakash Chopra is one. The statesman is the other. Read, listen and enjoy.

Friday, February 19, 2010

What I liked about it

Having watched one of the more gripping Day5s in recent times, here are some thoughts.

What I liked:

1. The fact that the win was achieved with 3 bowlers and Viru was biggest takeout for me. What they can do with three, they ought to do with four. The five bowler theory can be buried till Irfan is back in the thick of things.

2. Harbhajan bowling like the ought to do. No, I am not talking about the five-fer. The lines he bowled and the willingness to give the ball air (no doubt taking courage from a 350 run cushion) have redeemed him - partially - for now.

3. Mishra's response to criticism. No chest thumping. No targeted abuse at media men on anyone. Just the wickets of Smith, Kallis and AB. Thank you very much. He had to run to and hug MSD after those wickets, dint he ;-) The confidence MSD seemed to have in him (or was it compulsion) rubbed off on Mishra. The googly came out well on occasions as compared to Nagpur where it went into cold storage.

4. Usual suspects - Viru, SRT and VVS delivering when it mattered. The first two named gents perhaps feeding of the presence of the third. Viru's hundred was initial offensive. Sachin's was an "another day at office" kind of knock. VVS and MSD stuck the knife in when it mattered. While Sachin has the Damocles sword of ODI world cup which he needs to tick off from his list, VVS has no such agenda. He plays for the sheer pleasure. Count the number of 60s and 70s on his stats page and we will know that here is another who could have finished with 25 Test Hundreds today instead of 15.

5. Ishant repaying the faith kept by his captain. It is not to say that he has recovered his bowling mojo. Why, that spell of short pitched stuff to Amla (on which the momentum turned) was grossly overdone with all the menace of my neighbour's cat. But, boy, did he run in and give it everything, like he always did. While Sreesanth may have possibly given more wickets, there is no guarantee that he would have kept his head on such a day. Hence, despite his awful control and the pace that is now in the low - mid 130's , I would say Ishant grew up today and became a man.

6. Lance Klusener and Venkatesh Prasad. There was no jingoism or malice. Just thoughtful comments and good grace. Venky seemed to get over his awe of Sunny Bhai with passage of time. Zulu had a shy smile when he talked up South Africa's chances. Now, if only they could stop saying "We".

What I hated:

1. Harbhajan's horrendous celebratory run and the obnoxious post match comments. Enough has been said and written about this over-rated bowler. He shot off his mouth yet again with a rant that was as tasteless as it was opportunistic. Similarly, the fact that he is playing to the galleries should not distract attention from the fact that he turns in this kind of performances once in a blue moon.

2. The dissing of Mishra in some quarters - stuff like "big boots to fill" and "he will never run through a side". Give him the confidence and the chances. A leg spinner is rare in cricket and we have two guys in Mishra and that young bulldog Piyush Chawla who have shown calibre. And like good Indians and we are too eager to brand and consign them to the dustbin. Ask South Africa how difficult it is to get a classy spinner. Ask Sri Lanka if Mendis Season 2 was as effective. Ask England what a difference Graeme Swann has made. Why are we so bent on self flagellation? Stick with him. He will deliver.

3. Many people pronouncing Badrinath as "not good enough". I know the guy's body language sucks and is a wallflower for most part, but give him the Sri Lanka series and let us see. For all we know, if the nightwatchman had gone ahead of him on Day 2, it could have been his day along with VVS. Did we not see in Nagpur that he has the mettle? Patience, people - he may not make than 15 ball 35 in an IPL quickie, but what little I saw suggests that he is Test class. The fab four did not happen in one day.

4. The obsession with Ranking. Let us see the Ranking for what it is. A status based on the points system that reflects current position. The channels, the commentators and everyone else seemed to go on and on about it.

5. The fact that one person who needed to make the biggest impression in this series made if for the wrong reason - dropping Hashim Amla. Murali Vijay was incessantly talked up by people. He seems 'to belong' unlike Badri, but did not have the bloodymindedness to make it count. He and not Badri was the replacement for RD and it is for that reason that he will rue this series as a missed opportunity.

Sad home truths

This post started off as a congratulatory post for the Indian team for a professional display in Kolkata. As I was reviewing some past results, I thought of doing an exercise, just of the heck of it.
A venue-wise list of Tests, ODIs and T20s staged at some major venues in India from 2007 till date.
Test - Australia 2008
Test - England 2008
ODI - Australia 2009
T20 - Sri Lanka 2009
Test - South Africa 2008
Test - England 2008 (Originally Mumbai)
ODI- West Indies 2007
T20 - Yet to host one
Test - Pakistan 2007
Test - South Africa 2010
ODI- Sri Lanka 2007
ODI- Sri Lanka 2009
T20 - Yet to host one
Test - Pakistan 2007
Test - Australia 2008
ODI - Australia 2007
ODI - England 2008
T20 - Yet to host one
Test - Sri Lanka 2009 (Brabourne)
Test - England 2006 (Wankhede)
ODI - 2006 ICC Champions Trophy (Brabourne) One among 3 venues with 5 ODIs
ODI - Australia 2007 (Wankhede)
T20 - Australia 2007
Test - Pakistan 2007
Test - Australia 2008
ODI - Australia 2009
ODI - Sri Lanka 2009
T20 - Yet to host one
OK OK Delhi is not a 'Major' venue in that sense. But that is the fault of the DDCA and not the paying public
Alright, what does the above show us that we already do not know.
The good lawyer, who until 2007 did not even have a passport, became the BCCI President in 2008. And then....
Test - Australia 2008 (Jamtha)
Test - South Africa 2010 (Jamtha)
ODI - West Indies 2007 (VCA)
ODI - Australia 2007 (VCA)
ODI - Australia 2009 (Jamtha)
ODI - Sri Lanka 2009 (Jamtha)
T20 - Sri Lanka 2009 (Jamtha)
I long for the good old '90s when the ODIs went to the Rajkot/Guwahati/Jamshedpur and the three tests were played at Eden, Chepauk and Wankhede.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

We knew it all along Mickey

It is known to all that Mickey Arthur is no longer the South African coach. So, when he bags a player in the Indian line up, it is not likely to be 'psychological warfare' but an honest opinion from a man who was till now an opponent.
Anyway, what Arthur says here and here is public knowledge. Just that the men who matter - Srikkanth, Dhoni, Sachin and Gary Kirsten - choose to play ostrich. Arthur goes on to talk about the need to be honest. Pigs may well be flying.

PS: The Turbanator strikes back , not at Arthur but at the doubting Thomases like me. After all, he is India's No 1 spinner.

PS 2: Ram Mahesh of 'The Hindu' gets him here. I hope this is an indicator of things to come and Bhajji is deservedly kicked out of the team for good

PS 3: The TOI is on it as well. There is some momentum now