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Sunday, December 17, 2006

The importance of Saurav Ganguly

After Sachin became Pollock’s bunny,
and Jaffer, Sehwag, Dravid batted funny;
One man arrived to stop the kill,
With a bat of wood and a heart of steel.

The Indian cricket team, currently in South Africa began their quest for the One-day series on Nov 16th, with a warm-up match against a Rest of South Africa XI. Little under a month later, they played another warm-up match, this time in preparation for the test series, again against a Rest of South Africa XI. Though, with one small difference - a man called Saurav Ganguly was absent in the first one and present for the second. And, one big difference - India lost the first match and won the next.
With two back to back half-centuries followed by a small yet important cameo, Saurav Ganguly has almost single-handedly resurrected the dying spirits of Indian cricket and more importantly, he has laid the foundation for a historic victory, India's first ever test win in South Africa. Two days back, even the wildest Indian supporters would not have cherished any hopes of an Indan victory - so bruised and battered have the Indian batsmen been. In the situation, there was hardly a surprise when India were soon reduced to 110/4 in the first innings of the current test. It's in this context that Ganguly's half-century becomes important. Compare it to India's last tour of Australia and you will know what I mean. No one gave India any chance, and again, in the first innings of the first test India were in a similar position at 127/4. One man's steely resolve set the tone for India, then. The same man, after being dropped, humiliated and finally recalled is doing it again for his country. That's why, Saurav Chandidas Ganguly is important - he lifts his cricket when it's needed most, and alongwith it he lifts the whole team, upwards!
For a complete score-card of the India vs Australia 1st Test, Brisbane 2003-04, click here
An extract from Kadambari Murali's piece in today's Hindustan Times:
" Ganguly's half-century was worth much more than just 51 and he and everyone watching knew it. In a sense, it was a more defining knock than his 144 in Brisbane three years ago."

Friday, December 15, 2006

Thinking aloud....

Please Saurav, please....shut them up forever.
As I write this, Ganguly has just scored a beautiful boundary, piercing the slip cordon with complete control.....Boy, don't i get excited sometimes, or rather everytime this man, Saurav Chandidas Ganguly steps out onto the cricket field with a bat in his hand. For more than 3 years now, this guy has been under test every single time - why? Shouldn't it rather have been Sehwag, Jaffer, Tendulkar and the battered Indian captain who should have been under scrutiny? But no, the jury is constantly out on my man. I don't know if a good innings here will silence them or not, for you can only explain things to a logical, rational sort of chap. But even the biggest idiots will find it difficult to complain if Saurav strikes a big one here.
At the moment, the Wanderers is experiencing a unique combination of rain, sun and bad light. Ganguly is on 12, and I've a prayer on my lips. Amen.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Half-Monty, Twelve & Thirteen

Punter Ponting had forecasted that it would be Symond's match.....

At 172/4, with Andrew Symonds's cricket bat in full swing, the Australian captain would have thought that he had put his dollars at the right place. And why not, Symonds was on 26 off just 30 balls. Poor Monty had already been clobbered for two huge 6's in a space of 3 balls, with Symonds also showing his defensive skills in the delivery in-between. It's funny then, how dramatically the script changed, and how wrong Punter was!

Well, it actually turned out to be Poor Monty's match!! That he had just finished his unluckiest overs was a factor the Australians forgot to factor in! Now, the Englishmen find the number 13 unlucky and Sikhs despise the dozen. Monty Panesar happens to be both - once through with his 12th and 13th overs, Monty struck, and struck big time. In the very next over, he dashed Punter's gargantuan hopes. In his next (15th), he struck again - Gilly gobbled up and Monty on fire. Four overs later, the new-kid-on-the-spin bamboozled the original master and before he hit the scare of the double dozen, Monty trapped Lee in his 23rd over to complete his Half-Monty. ( 5/92 )

Harmison and Hoggard decimated the remaining half of Australian cricket and from here, it's upto the English willows to deliver the goodies . 2-1 will be an ideal scoreline to enter the Boxing Day Test with....it's good fun jumpin' the gun sometimes na?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Playing Selector: India vs SA, 1st Test

What should the Indian team for the 1st test against South Africa look like? I know, going by the current state of our cricket there ain't much hope but none-the-less cricket lovers like nothing more than playing selector, so here i go.

I will take up the easy ones first - amongst the batting slots there's only one that should be a certainty on current form and record. Ironically enough, that's the last of the slots for the specialised batsmen - at no.6, Saurav Ganguly looks a certainty. Of course, master batsman Tendulkar too will make it to his two-down position on the sheer dint of his records and sheer class, though his current form looks more than a little wobbly. More than anything else, it's the twin failures that he has just collected at Potchefstroom that's worrying me. The two Vs will make it too - Sehwag & Laxman, at #1 & #5 respectively. Latest news suggest that Rahul Dravid will be fit by the time the first ball is bowled at Johannesburg, and in that case he is definitely in at No.3.

Among the batting positions, we are still left with one slot which we we will deal with later. Amongst the bowlers, Zaheer has already ensured his place in the team with his performances on the tour. Against the Rest of South Africa, VRV impressed with his bowling and wins a place in my team. Kumble finds a place too, and so does Harbhajan Singh. Spin has been India's strength, and history has shown that selecting a lone spinner has often hurt India in the past. On the second or third afternoon, when the fast bowlers begin to look insipid when a partnership lasts for more than a full session, the attack needs variety. The duo of Kumble and Harbhajan provide that much needed spice to the attack - unfortunately for Sreesanth, i can't offer him a seat in the starting XI.

That leaves us with 2 empty slots - the wicket-keeper's one is a sitter, so we can ignore that and move to the final one. Who should open the innings with Virender Sehwag? In all probability, the Indian cricket think-tank will persist with Jaffer but this is my blog and i have my liberties which i am going to make full use of. Jaffer was on display recently and looks terrible - there's no point going into a match with a sure-shot failure. Problem is, we don't have an option. In that case, let's not waste a slot completely. Induct Pathan, afterall he has been your best batsman so far. Let him open. He will probably not fare worse than Jaffer. Even if he does fail with the bat, he can provide you with a genuine 5th bowling option. What say?

My team:
Sehwag, Pathan, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman,
Kumble, Harbhajan, Zaheer, VRV

Sunday, December 10, 2006

83 & Ganguly: www.google-y.com

Google can be weird at times. You must have read about the search-engine throwing up Bush/White House as the top search for the keyword failure. My google story is hardly that interesting or newsworthy, but interesting none the less.
Now a certain Saurav Ganguly happens to be my favourite cricketer and I hardly ever miss a chance to write about him on my cricket blog. Unfortunately i completely missed the December 7th, Potchefstroom story. I was away in Lucknow, on work, and by the time I could spare some time for my blog, the story had been written and re-written about a thousand times already. Lesser fans of Saurav had dissected the innings already and i was absolutely disheartened at missing the biggest Saurav innings in recent times. That's when i typed in the keywords Ganguly & 83 on the Google search window, and got a story!

You would expect the world's leading search engine to throw up cricinfo or some other popular cricket or news site or a general portal as the top search. Funnily enough, that was not the case - the #1 search result was a site called Nagalandpost . A site which mainly deals with an entirely different area had pushed the world's leading cricket portal to the number 2 slot for a cricket keyword.

Now, Nagaland is a tiny state located in India's extreme east, ensconsed between my home state, Assam and Myanmar. Nagaland has no known history of cricket, and even though Nagaland is a part of cricket-crazy India, it has no official cricket team, nor has any Naga player ever come even remotely close to playing for India. More Nagas follow cock-fighting than cricket!! That's why google's search result becomes all the more intriguing.
How do the Google's spiders go about doing their business? Surely, cricinfo has a far higher percentage of relevant keywords for cricket. Surely, cricinfo is far better linked by other cricket and Saurav Ganguly related sites. Qualitatively too, cricinfo would outscore Nagalandpost comprehensively, cricket-wise or otherwise. In terms of pageviews and traffic, Cricinfo is ranked amongst the world's leading 1000 websites. Nagalandpost is far, far behind.

Whatever way you think, this looks more than a little intriguing. Does the answer lie in the second keyword "83"? I don't know.....
just in case you are thinking yahoo, yahoo doesn't behave as weirdly for the keyword/s. No google-ys at yahoo as there is no sign of nagalandpost.com, at least not on the first results page. Cricinfo is where it should be, followed by news-sites and portals.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Cheeky Cricket

40.2 Nel to Karthik, FOUR, that's a unique shot! good length delivery outside the off stump - Karthik shuffles across a long way, manages to gets inside the line and then he lofts it over the keeper - cheaky

That's an extract from George Benoy's ball-by-ball commentary at Cricinfo for yesterday's match between India & South Africa. What George meant was cheeky, (so it's just a typing error) and even Harsha Bhogle described the shot as cheeky. It was cheeky indeed, but the CHEEKINESS was nothing if you compare it to a historic shot that was played on this very day, exactly seventy-eight years ago.

On the 3rd of December 1928, in a match between the Hindus and Parsees (Bombay Quadrangular) a bowler was so taken aback by a shot that he appealed: Kumar Shree Duleepsinhji had just played the world's first reverse sweep!! In A Book of Cricket Days, Bakhtiar Dadabhoy captures the moment in the words of the non-striker L.P. Jai - "Without changing the grip of the bat, he tried to turn the wide ball backwards towards third man with his bat turned and facing the wicket-keeper". Cheeky!!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Et Cetera: Senior Citizens, Sex and Cricket

i flicked this off flickr. Interesting picture clicked by a William Dane at an English county cricket match.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Ganguly is back, but why did he go?

Saurav Ganguly is back.
I would have been delighted even if the recall had not been a deserved one. But fortunately for Indian cricket, Dilip Vengsarkar is not my best buddy, and Ganguly’s inclusion in the test squad for South Africa was for authentic cricketing reasons only.

While I rejoice over his recall, what’s indeed sad is that India’s most successful captain was dropped from the Indian cricket team that easily, that too on very questionable grounds.( more on that later) For these, I don’t blame the selectors or the Indian cricket board, but the biggest menace of them all – the Indian public. I feel saddened to say this but my countrymen are largely a bunch of idiots, selfish, absolutely myopic and illogical. They were the ones who created an atmosphere where it began to be felt that Ganguly was past his prime, and the selectors threw away all logic out of the window when they took two wrong decisions, first to strip him of his captaincy, and then to drop him from the team itself.

Funnily enough, the world’s second highest century scorer in limited overs cricket was retained in the test squad and dropped from that part of the game where he was stronger. I am sure there would be hardly anyone who would argue with this part!

And then why was he dropped from the test team as well?
In the chronological order he scored 144, 2, 12, 37, 73, 16, 77, 45, 5, 9, 57, 40, 71, 88, 21, 12, 1, 1, 2, 101, 16, 5, 40, 39, 34 & 37 in his last 20 test matches. Before you begin to calculate the average, mode and medians just try to decide with a glance at the list. Chances are you will agree with me that a player doesn’t deserve to be dropped based on this series of scores. If you are still keen, let me tell you that the average works out to over 38. (The median is over 30, and the highest mode is 40!)

Want more statistics? Ganguly averages around 40 in his last six innings. If you think I am stretching the number to six to include that century in Zimbabwe, let’s drop it. Ganguly averages close to 40 even in his last 4 innings. Why I included six was for 2 reasons – these tests are spread across months and more than one series and venue. Further, if a player has been selected for a series or match and he has performed well, it’s quite stupid that you should then drop him for some past performances, which however, as I have illustrated is again not true. There was just one really lean patch where he fared badly – that stretch of 21,12,1,1,2 – this was against Pakistan at home. But he sprung back soon to score a century in Harare, and performed creditably against Pakistan in Pakistan. On pure batting reasons alone, statistically or otherwise, should he have been dropped?

Even if there was a dip, wasn’t there reason to be a little lenient on India’s most successful captain ever, someone who had got the team to believe in itself, someone who was winning series after series for India. A victory starved nation which was in the throes of the match-fixing scandal had been transformed beyond recognition by this man – look at the above series of scores again. That first one, the big 144 was probably the most important test century scored by an Indian cricketer in the last two decades. India were in Australia playing the first test of a new series at Brisbane. The technically sound duo of Tendulkar and Dravid had just been scalped by Jason Gillespie for a total of 1 runs. That’s when Ganguly stepped in and resurrected the team. If Ganguly had failed that day, what’s now a glorious chapter of India’s cricketing history may never have been.

As I write this, another silly poll on a another silly tv channel where lots of silly people participate says that 95% of my countrymen now think that Ganguly should be made captain as well. My advise to the selectors is simple – don’t listen to these idiots. Make him captain if you should, but for better reasons. Yeah, another one – come what may, don’t drop him further, not till the World Cup at least. It was Ganguly who made us so optimistic that we were not happy with a runners-up position at the previous World Cup. With him around, we may just have a chance again….