Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Monday, October 30, 2006
At the end of over no.42, India were not too badly placed at 197 for 4, with Mohammad Kaif and Mahender Singh Dhoni doing duty for India in the middle of the Punjab Cricket Association Ground at Mohali, Chandigarh in the last league match of the ICC Champions Trophy 2006. Things took a turn from there on, as the World Champions took control of the match, first with the ball and then with the bat. Riding on controlled late spells by the pace duo of Lee and Mc Grath and superb knocks from skipper Ponting and man-of-the-match Damien Martyn, Australia thrashed India by 6 wickets and qualified for the semi-finals in style.Earlier in the day, Rahul Dravid won the toss, and as expected, elected to bat. Considering the recent form of the Indian batsmen, the team got off to a reasonably good start. Tendulkar and Sehwag laid a good foundation, though Tendulkar himself got out cheaply for 10. His opening partner however struck form at the right time – there is something about Sehwag, for a man badly out of form (he had 54 runs from his previous 6 innings), he is almost arrogantly confident. In the very first ball of the match, Sehwag swung the bat and guided the ball to the third man. Not once did he look out of touch against Lee, Mc Grath or any of the other Aussie bowlers. Compare this to the in-form Tendulkar, who took his own sweet time getting settled down, opening his account not before he had faced a dozen balls already. Sehwag had already raced to 21 by then. Dravid continued with the good work and the platform had been created. What was needed now was for the stroke-makers to come to the party.
Therein India failed, and miserably so. Raina coming in before the free-playing Pathan was a wrong ploy, and it cost India dear with him failing even to rotate the strike. This was the period when Lee, who had been expensive earlier, sent down a maiden 43rd over, following it up with just a single off his next over. India should have reached in excess of 275, and fell short by a good twenty five runs. In the hindsight, you could well say that the way Australia batted, even 275 would not have been enough. But twenty five more runs would have put further pressure on the batsmen, and what would have happened then, you would never know. However, that was not the case and the Aussie openers ripped the Indian quickies apart without ever really playing a risky shot. Pathan and Munaf did not have the pace to rattle the batsmen, and both Gilchrist and Shane Watson settled in comfortably. While Gilchrist scored his first two boundaries against Pathan, Watson scored his first two against Patel. When they were bowling a fuller length, the line was too wide and when it was dug in short, either didn’t have the speed to make it count. 26 runs were scored off the 7th and 8th overs and from there on the run rate never fell below 6 till the 25th over. Skipper Ponting joined in the fun later and scored a brisk 58. Not afraid to come out of his crease, he never really allowed Harbhajan or Mongia to really dominate the proceedings. While Mongia impressed with his spinners, Harbhajan should have bowled a more attacking line. He bowled too flat and too defensively, and the batsmen were quite happy to let him do that. Among the two, Mongia was the one who looked like taking any wickets. And he did that in his very first over. At 111/2, Damien Martyn trodded in, to play his most memorable innings in recent times. Martyn started off catiously against the spinners, but when he finally opened himself up, he was on song. Much like his skipper, Martyn used his feet well against the spinners. Including a beautiful inside-out drive over the cover fence against Mongia, he struck eight lucid boundaries. When he finally flicked a low full toss from Patel to the midwicket boundary, Martyn broke Australia’s jinx against India in the Champions Trophy. For India, it was all over.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
The Challenger Trophy was definitely a chance, what with the new chief selector Vengsarkar making the right murmurs just before the tournament. But alas, Ganguly didn't give Vengsarkar & co. any reason to even discuss his name in the next selection meeting. What's worse, as a result of the twin failures in the NKP Salve Trophy, Ganguly lost his place even in the Rest of India squad for the Irani Trophy. "Oo, Aa, India" notwithstanding, Saurav is frittering the few precious chances he has been getting post the Challenger. He just recorded twin failures in the Deodhar Trophy, even getting out to a below-par bowler from Assam.
Whatever little hopes Ganguly fans entertain of him making a comeback have more to do with Virender Sehwag than Dada himself. Sehwag's insipid performances are keeping the hopes alive for Ganguly. The World Cup is not too far away, and if Sehwag doesn't score soon, the selectors will need to go hunting for another opener. For the the biggest stage in cricket, they would prefer an experienced hand but Ganguly needs to give them some reasons - big and quick. The door is still ajar, but it's upto Ganguly now to keep it from closing completely.
Food for cricketing thought:
1. Sehwag's last One-day MOM came way back on April 2nd 2005 against Pakistan at Kochi.
2. In his last 30 ODIs, Sehwag hasn't crossed 100 even once, and 50 just 5 times.
3. In his last 20 ODIs, Sehwag has scored just 524 runs averaging a poor 27.57
Monday, October 23, 2006
On Sunday, the 29th of October 2006, the Indian cricket team will need to shoulder a huge responsibility. It is in all likelihood, not going to be a very important match for India, as they will probably beat the West Indies in their next match and seal a place in the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy. But the importance of the match is much bigger - India will be doing duty for the entire cricketing fraternity.
For too long now, one team has been dominating the world of cricket. Australia's incessant reign at the top has resulted in the game becoming less charming and less popular. The Indian cricket team has a chance now to send them packing back home. An early exit by the Australians will be a refreshing change. You could argue saying that even in the previous editions of this trophy, Australia have made quick exits. But they were one-off, knock-out matches, which could be called flukes. That's not the case here. The once-mighty West Indians dealt them an early blow this time. But unlike last time, they have a chance to recover. England could have sealed their fates, but they pom-pommed their way to a defeat. So, the mantle is on India's shoulders now. Send the Aussies home early and do the world of cricket a favour. It will be upto the Englishmen then, to retain the Ashes, and clinch the deal for the world.
Friday, October 20, 2006
Vivian Richards says that the pitches prepared for the ICC Champions Trophy are not good enough for One-day cricket. Rickey Ponting obviously agrees with him. So does Stephen Fleming, Muttiah Murlidharan, Navjot Singh Sidhu and the rest of the cricketing world. The CCI president is so shocked by the under-prepared wickets that he wants the final of the premier cricket tournament shifted out of his own ground! And he must be right because the ICC wants the decision reversed( no, no it's got nothing to do with the fact that ICC read in the reverse reads CCI, just that they always take the wrong decisions, that's all!!). But I am loving it.
A completely doped out Pakistan defeated favourites Sri Lanka. The permanent underdog Newzealand outclassed the Proteas and then the West Indies, beaten-to-the-pulp-by-Lanka shocked World Champions Australia in a classic cliff-hanger. Three matches so far in the main league of the Champions Trophy and Three upsets. What more could one ask for? The berated ICC Trophy is suddenly alive and kicking - all thanks to the severely criticised wickets.
Slowly but surely One-day cricket has been losing its charm - everything seemed to be falling into a very monotonous pattern. If you want to be less harsh, you could say that there were four or five patterns from which the captain was free to choose one depending on the situation and his own style and supply of substance in the team. Lets look at some of the ingredients:
1. Captain A elects to go with one traditional opener and one of the swashbuckling variety( Dravid and Tendulkar). Captain B prefers a high-risk, high-gain flamboyant couple to open. ( Kaluwitharana/Jayasurya).
2. When the going gets tough in the middle, fielding captain A who has saved 4-5 overs of his opening bowler's spell for the end-burst, brings him back for a 2 over spell to help him get a break-through. In this rule, there are almost no exceptions, so no captain B at all
3. Captain A experiments(sic) by promoting batsman no. 7 or 8 to no.3. Captain B does not. He prefers a regular batsman at no.3
4. If 3 to 4 wickets fall early, god save the viewers because now is consolidation time. So batsmen 5,6,7 will rotate the strike like good school boys, take singles, dispatch the occasional bad ball to the boundary et cetera. God really save the viewer if 5,6 and 7 fall too because now the game is as good as over.
The last 500 One-day Cricket matches have been played like this. The first 250 were fun because it was new. The next 250 were not because of the first 250. Thank god for the CCI and the ICC Champions Trophy wickets. The monotony has been broken and One-day cricket is fun again. A television commentator (think it was Tony Greig, but am not too sure) had once remarked that Cricket is at its best when the ball dominates the bat by just a little margin. He was almost right, except for the margin bit. Cricket is at its best when the ball dominates the bat by more than just a margin !!!
Monday, October 16, 2006
Somehow this ICC Champions Trophy is not a very auspicious tournament for Cricket. This is in addition to the fact that it is not the right tournament anyways. Where is the point in having a tournament like this six months before the World Cup? The format this year (of the main phase of the tournament) is exactly the format of the earlier World Cups( 1975 & 1979, 83 and 87 were different in only that there were two matches now between each team in the pools).
Well, lets not meander away from the point - and the point is a substance called Nandrolone, which is now rocking Pakistan Cricket. This latest trouble for Pakistan Cricket might also mark the arrival of the drug-menace in the world of cricket. No, I am not discounting Warne's popping of the pill his mummy gave him, but Warne being Warne, and the fact that it was an isolated case made it a little less dangerous. What's making me more than a little uneasy about Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif is 1) the fact that 2 guys have been caught together, both for the same banned anabolic steroid called nandrolone, and both are Pakistan's new ball bowlers, and 2) they are from Pakistan and the fact that the tests were carried out, not by a neutral body like WADA but by Pakistan internally, and that Pakistan has on its own recalled them from the Champions Trophy.
The Pakistan Cricket Board has acted in the most appreciable manner and its efforts needs to be lauded. The recall of Akhtar and Asif means that Pakistan will suddenly need 2 new guys to open their attack in their match against Lanka tomorrow.
Nandrolone, the substance consumption that Akhtar and Asif have been found guilty of is not new to the world of sports. Linford Christie, Merlene Ottey, Dougie Walker and many other illustrious sportsmen have been banned after having been caught for Nandrolone-abuse. And this makes it all the more dangerous for Cricket.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
I am a cricket fan..plus there is another problem, i am not fond of soccer or basketball or f-1 and other such games which are on the upswing. And I am worried, genuinely so. Firstly, I have to bear with Mandira Bedi and Co. on TV when I am trying to enjoy some serious cricket. Secondly, ICC wants me to watch Bermuda play cricket, and that in the World Cup. As if Zimbabwe and Bangladesh are not good enough. Please guys, do something, i just hope you don't kill the game...unlike lots of you i don't even have the option of switching over to EPL or NBA..I just like this cricket thing a wee bit too much.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
So China is getting serious about cricket. And United States tried its level best to host one of the matches of the next world cup on its soil. So Bermuda is no more just a triangle, but also a leading cricekting nation....My foot!!
The ICC first needs to take a long hard look at the state of the game in the countries which have already been playing cricket for years now. The picture ain't beautiful, and only once the decline there has been arrested should they go about acquiring newer territories. The Champions Trophy 2007 has just begun, and we are already witness to the pathetic state of the Zimbabwean cricket team. And this was not sudden, it has been a gradual decline, and the ICC should have stepped in and done something about it, if it is really serious about promoting cricket. In the Caribbean and England, Cricket is no longer the leading sport. Newzealand is stuck in some kind of a limbo. For as long as i have been following cricket, there has been no major upswing or downswing. They have never been a leading force in the world of cricket, and whenever they manage to win a few matches, it's always a surprise. Shane Bond was the last big thing which happened, but hardly does anyone have a clue where he is for most of the time. That's also true of the Newzealand team though. When they play their first match of the ICC Cricket Champions Trophy 2007, it will be their first serious cricket match in 7 months. Bangladesh surprises once every year, but that's about it. That leaves you with just India,Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia. So the net result of the globalise-cricket drive is 4 serious nations, down from 7 or 8 a few years back. ( Have left out South Africa, because i need a little more time to understand where they are at the moment, anyways their rise has more to do with government politics than ICC politics)
Sunday, October 08, 2006
I am sure that i have a lot of company when i say that if Pakistan's cricketers, selectors and board put as much focus into their cricket as they do in their politics, they might just become Australia's biggest challenger on top of the cricket world. Pakistan probably produces the world's best fast bowlers consistently, even otherwise they have the biggest amount of talent-going-waste in the world of cricket. Only if stories like the recent "Younis Khan" and captaincy didn't appear all too regulary from Islamabad or Lahore or Rawalpindi. I don't know who is right or who is wrong, just that someone need to take charge of Pakistan cricket very earnestly. Maybe even Musharaff, he is after all a parton of the PCB. What say??
Thursday, October 05, 2006
While Gandhi Jayanti proved unlucky for Dada, the next one turned out to be worse. Dimsissed for just 3 runs, the second consecutive failure means that Saurav has now lost his place even in the Rest of India team for the Irani Trophy. That's as bad as it gets, and the future doesn't look too bright for India's most successful captain ever, also my favourite cricketer. But you never know what the future holds - Gandhi has just made a come-back into our drawing rooms and lives, Dada's job is definitely easier!!
Monday, October 02, 2006
No one can bat like Tendulkar used to. Not even Tendulkar! The Tendulkar we see nowadays is not the real thing - except sometimes when he decides to surprise us. Today was one such day. Twenty precisely struck boundaries and four beautiful sixes - each one with the Maestro's class written all over them made it a very special holiday - as if a Sunday, Dusshera, Vijaya Dashmi and Gandhi Jayanti already coinciding were not good enough!
When Lahiri finally ended the Green's miseries, Tendulkar had already compiled 139 of just 100 balls - this desipite the fact that an early fall of wicket had caused Tendulkar to start his innings catiously. The score had already raced to 226 and this was only the 33rd over. Dravid's and Dhoni's half-centuries ensured that Sachin's good work was not undone and with the Blues ending their innings at a mammoth 381, the cricket match was as good as over. Except perhaps for one aspect - Saurav Ganguly. The new chief selector, Dilip Vengsarkar had ignited hopes by saying that they would be watching Ganguly very closely. Ganguly began well and he pierced his favourite off side field succesfully to notch three beatiful boundaries. But that was just about it. He soon perished for 24. With him gone,and the result
already decided (well almost), the match was as good as over.
A 268 run defeat victory means that the Blues have virtually ensured themselves a place in the finals. And so have the Reds?
( NKP Salve Challenger Trophy, Match 2: Blue vs Green, MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai, 2nd October 2006)
Sunday, October 01, 2006
The Challenger Trophy is probably the most interesting concept conceived by the BCCI ever. And this year they have added the right dash of colour(s) to it too. While India Blue is obviously what was earlier India Seniors, A & B have now become Red & Green. While it's fascinating to watch the very best of Indian cricket competing against each other, the NKP Salve Challenger trophy is most popular because of the way it's connected to future selections to Team India. We have seen in the past that one good performance here often catapults a player into the big league. Bowlers who have picked up big wickets have been the luckiest in that sense.
Challenger 2006 is important because of 2007 - the World Cup is just round the corner, and the Indian ODI team is in the middle of a big slump. Which means, a few premier seats are up for the grabs. Sehwag's position in the team is very surprisingly a little shaky ( who would have bargained for Sehwag becoming a Test mega-success and and ODI failure?) and Ganguly is dying to make a comeback. The Challenger could be his last chance to make an impression. The Indian pacers performed not too creditably in Malaysia, and coupled with the fact that the lone spinner was a success, the selectors would definitely have a re-look at Kumble. The biggest grudge of Laxman's life has been his exclusion from the World Cup 2003 team, and he will be vying to make amends here. Interestingly, the person he lost a place to in the previous edition of the World Cup has again made a timely impression with his fighting knock in Malaysia and is a part of the "Blues" now. Zaheer Khan and Piyush Chawla are the other leading contenders. Forty-two of India's best are in the fray - let's see who comes out with flying colours
The Cricket World Cup 2007 is not too far away - it's actually so close that fans have already started buying tickets to the West Indies! Does Dada hold any chance? And is there enough time to make an impression? The answers to both these questions is an unequivocal yes. The Indian team is in the middle of a big ODI slump and the batting order - both opening and middle order is far from settled. And this coupled with the fact that the World Cup is too close may ironically be the biggest reason why Saurav holds a good chance.
Dravid, by promoting himself up the order has unsettled both the top order and the middle order. And he needs to quickly make some adjustments so that the team has a settled look before the World Cup starts. Sehwag's recent and not-too-recent ODI records have been pathetic and it may not be possible to justify his inclusion for very long unless he posts some consistent scores. An opening slot may be up for grabs, and if it comes to a toss-up, Ganguly's bowling might give him the selection edge. ( Remember that the cricket world cup rules allow only 14 players, and multi-faceted players may be prefered, not the best logic but you can never tell)
But first things first - Ganguly first needs to put some runs on the board to make the selectors look up. And the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy is just the right place to do it. And no one knows it more than Dada himself. Although his team plays their first match only on Monday, Ganguly was the first one to arrive for practise today. he had a long net session ( 45 minutes) and was seen playing his traditional lofted drives. He looks determined, for sure.
Durga Puja celebrations are on in Bengal, and the first match of the Challenger is on the Vijaya Dashmi day, considered the most auspicious day of the year in Bengal. Who knows what the future holds? Maybe Kiran More's perfectly-timed exit and Vengsarkar's entry is because of some divine intervention !!!