Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Super Monday

Two results with a similar margin.
Two results which cannot be termed as upsets.
Two results which left the super eights in a vastly different shape than what was widely expected.

The beast has been killed. All hail Mendis, Dilshan and Sanga.

But first the eastern neighbours. Batting first, they had to tell themselves not to lose more than two wickets in the first 10. Aim for 150 and get 160. Instead they overreached. Ashraful and co went for 200 and got 140. But let's cheer the Irish and their supporters.

Trent Johnston took my mind back to John Traicos (remember him, Greek lawyer, offspinner, captain). Dissimilar style but similar in that they both were ageless, large hearted cricketers and played for minnows of their time. The lasting image, though will be the cheerful smile of Niall O'Brien hobbling on an injured foot and taking Mortaza apart in over no 5. Different game after that. He has class, recall the 70 odd that knocked Pakistan out of WC 2007?

So the accountants, lawyers, clerks would have informed their offices for extended leave.

Sanjay Manjrekar is usually a thoughtful man. Mostly speaks and writes sense. Yesterday, though he came across as a frustrated loser. Niall O'Brien had twistedhis ankle trying to save a single and needed a runner. After watching him hit those sixes Sanjay said, it is unfair for injured batsmen to have runners. They save energy when someone runs for them. It is inconvenient for fielders, umpires, non striker. Sanjay says, let's do away with the runner. If you are injured, bad luck. What kind of thinking is this? Does he forget that it is the batsman who is inconvenienced most. Does he forget that the batsman can be run out if either the batsman or runner is found outside the crease? Athar Ali Khan wisely kept quiet. I could see at least one instance where O'Brien by force of habit started running soon after playing a shot and then hobbled back.

Later on Sanjay interviewing Ashraful was hell-bent on painting a picture as though Bangladesh had thrown the match that was theirs. He kept harping on batting and bowling mistakes, while Ashraful (credit to him) said at least thrice that Ireland played well. Hell, can't Sanjay recognise that fact? While talking to MOM, O'Brien at one point Sanjay said in a tone that was both patronising and accusatory "So you are enjoying yourselves?" . The unsaid words were "You guys have no business staying on. Now get hammered by the big boys". Niall's response was awesome - we all do that don't we? That's why we play cricket!!

That's the essence Sanjay. Not everyone is schooled in Shivaji Park. Wicket to be preserved, bowlers ground to dust. Batting more a sacred duty than joie de vivre. There are other ways to play this beautiful game - the O'Brien way, the Rohit way, the Gayle way enjoying what they do. And we enjoy watching them enjoy themselves.

Harsha Bhogle in the post match was all mournful. He said "sad day" thrice in five minutes as though we were watching a political leader's funeral. Give us a break Harsha! We thought you are among the best. Its not as if Bangladesh were overwhelming favourites for the cup. I like watching Shakib too, but they played lousy cricket. Why not accept and celebrate the fact that the Irish have punched above their weight twice in two world cups. Way to go Ireland!!!

An aside while on Bangladesh, realised that Tagore is perhaps the only poet to have composed what would be National Anthems of two different countries.

What a fall for Australia. True that they are not particularly fond of thie format, true that they had one eye on the Ashes, true that the Symonds episode had shaken them, but for precisely the last reason, I expected them to come all guns blazing in this match and the tournament. But hell, who cares. Super 8s is more pleasant place without Ponting and Co. There was some mention about India being relieved that Australia is knocked out. I am not too sure of that. What I am sure of though is, that the format is kind to South Africa and NZ. Already in the Super 8s, first real match only coming up today and their nemesis knocked out even before that. Joy!!!

All credit to SL. First big match after Lahore. New captain. I thought he had got it wrong and overbowled the youngster Udana. Perhaps he did. But he used the 3 Ms well. 12 Overs for 85 runs and 6 wickets. Round 1 to SL. Thanks to Johnson's (served notice against India at Perth, no one recalls. Everyone is talking about his century against SA more recently) confident striking, they would not have touched 140. Ponting, Hussey, Watson and Clark were all wrong footed by Mendis. He might as well have been bowling a grenade. Such was the batsmen's expression. It will be interesting how the other teams tackle 12 overs of high quality bowing from the 3 Ms now on.

In the 50 over format, a sizable score to chase meant Jayasuriya had to get a decent start. Not any more. Dilshan stepped up today. Opening has helped him express himself best. He has the necessary aggro, all round shots (something Upul Tharanga never had despite 6 ODI centuries in one year or something like that. Tharanga was a two shot batsmen - flick of the hip and slash/drive at width outside off) and the mindset to play them, whether or not Jayasuriya is around. Where SL will falter (and in the past they have is the middle/ lower order firepower). Despite the obvious class and the top and middle, Chamara Silva, Maharoof and Mubarak will almost always be outgunned by Raina, Yuvraj, YP and IP. But all that can wait. For now, they are the dragon slayers. Go well Lanka!!!

Another aside - Kumble seems to have the making of a good commentator, in that he does NOT state the obvious. Wasim Akram and SMG fall into this trap.

Yet another aside - Good to see crusty, old Ian Chappell - as opinionated and prickly as ever. He mentioned 'Johnny Gleeson' (whoever that was) more times than 'Mendis ' (and Mendis was the one bowling). But he is sharp and insightful as always and remains one of my favourites.

1 comment:

  1. Agree with you on the commentary late. Manjrekar drops a shit bomb every time he threatens to be good. He did that with the Sachin episode (took some guts to say it first, and then backtracked, making it look weak). And then, he pulls a classless stunt like yesterday with the poor Irish player.

    Harsha- I am not quite sure what's gotten into him of late. Ever since his hair transplant - the quality has dipped a little!

    Kumble's insights are good to hear, hope he doesn't fall into the trap of the other mundane commentators, and continues to call it as he sees it.

    I've got a new post up on the Aussie demise !