Friday, August 31, 2007

All Rounders

Indian think tank now blames lack of an all rounder in the team for its losses!

Funny, I see most well-rounded men in the Indian team - look at Sachin Tendulkar, or till recently there was a Sehwag, and how can we forget Ramesh Powar? Pot-bellies are our birth right and we shall have them, right guys? Running around and catching the ball and saving runs, well, that's for lesser mortals!

But seriously, if all the 'specialists' in the team do their job well, who needs all rounders? All we need is a pack of men who are out there with a common objective - 'to perform to win' and that's it.

What we lack is the killer instinct, which makes us bat the way we did in 4th ODI, what we lack is the total commitment and winning attitude which makes us so inconsistent, what we lack is coherence, homogeneity in the team which makes us so 'self-oriented' match winners, what we lack is the team spirit where individuals forget their lives for a common cause of victory, what we lack is the spirit of playing the game for love of it which makes us think about match fees and selections.

We do not lack all rounders, we simply lack the Commitment!

मेरा भारत महान!

4th ODI - Terrific match

The fourth ODI was an exhibition of some terrific competitive cricket played by both in the second half. The team which kept its nerves eventually won, and rightly so.

The first half was absolutely un-inspiring and insipid cricket played by Indians - makes me wonder why do they bat like tests in ODIs? In an era where 300 is a normal score and not an impossible one, every team that bats first must attempt to bat to go higher than 300. No approach taken by any Indian batsman met this objective. Highly defensive is the only way to bat when you are batting in a fourth innings of a test match you are trying to save, not when you decide to bat first in an ODI!

After the pathetic display of what some would call as batting, Indian bowlers turned the table and had England reeling at 103/7 in an inspired burst by seamers, led by the one and only -
Ajit once-a-year Agarkar. His special spell has earned him the next couple of matches in the tournament and that, is what matters to these guys, looks like.

It was a nice thriller towards the end of the match though with both sides trying to give their best.

Broad and Bopara were awesome and so was Collingwood in the match yesterday. England sure look like the deserved winners of this trophy.

I wonder which jelly-bean will it take now to inspire the Indians!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

4th ODI - My Team

Going by the current form of Indian cricketers, I believe the new team I am proposing as follows will not be able to do any worse than the current team when it comes to batting, bowling or fielding. (However, it simply will not be able to match the acting done by curent team members in various advertisements)

1. Ranjeet
2. Ranjeet
3. Ranjeet (C)
4. Ranjeet
5. Ranjeet (VC)
6. Ranjeet
7. Ranjeet (WK)
8. Ranjeet
9. Ranjeet
10. Ranjeet
11. Ranjeet

OK, I am all ready and padded up - Bring them on.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

3rd ODI: England Superior

This match brought about a clear indication of which side is superior in fielding and overall attitude on the ground.

The catches that were taken by English fielders were great and those spilled by Indians were simple ones.

After the test series, Indian seam bowling has lost its edge while English bowlers have managed to retain the same.

Sachin had to fail after the super knock! :-( The consistency which made him a great cricketer seems to have deserted him long back now.

Sourav is playing a dream series and was solid yesterday. Dravid started from where he had left it and was good too. Apart from these two and Yuvraj, there was nothing in Indian batting.

There is no point in blaming the toss and the decisions. The blame lies with the players who failed to deliver (time and again).

2nd ODI - Sachin rewinds to 1998!

What a super knock from Sachin in the 2nd ODI!!!

It was vintage Sachin all the way with confident drives, dancing down the pitch with lofted shots and sheer aggression. It was a rewind to 1998 where we held him in highest esteem, respect, awe and reverence. Even the way he was given out was similar to how he was given out in his desert storm of 1998 against Aussies at Sharjah.

Also the way Dravid hit 92* was absolutely refreshing!

These knocks tell us that these seniors are (STILL) capable of batting this way - it is only a pity that they themselves often seem to forget this fact.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

First ODI - England Crush India

England clinically demolished India in the first ODI yesterday. It was a super performance from the English Team.

I was glad to see my favourite English batsman - Alaister Cook crush the pedestrian Indian bowlers all around the ground with the man in form - Ian Bell. If the Indian bowling was mediocre at best, the lesser said about yesterday's batting, fielding and running between the wickets performance, the better.

It was spineless and pathetic, and not one batsman showed the stomach to fight it out except Dravid and Karthik.

The signs were there for all to see, a run out in the initial overs is as suicidal as it can get. A run out of a man in form (by Monty of all the people) is worse for the morale of a team. Sachin getting out caught at short midwicket (yet again) is also indicative of throwing away wicket and not applying one's mind. English bowlers bowled well and Anderson has been particularly terrific this season to deserve his best haul so far in international cricket.

Round 1 goes to England, whom the media surprisingly has called underdogs for this series.
I hope that the media will acknowledge the more superior team out of the at two least now .
With Cook and Bell in sublime form, KP being KP and Flintoff back in the team, Indians should open their eyes and look at saving the series.

For India, was it a matter of continuing what they left off at the World Cup, or just a bad day at office? Let us wait and watch. One thing is sure - England were home handsomely and deservedly so.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

My Eleven

My Indian Eleven for the first ODI to be played today:

1. Gautam Gambhir
2. Sourav Ganguly
3. Rahul Dravid
4. Sachin Tendulkar
5. Yuvraj Singh
6. Dinesh Karthik
7. Mahendra Singh Dhoni
8. Zaheer Khan
9. Ramesh Powar
10. Ajit Agarkar
11. R P Singh

My England Eleven for the first ODI to be played today:

1. Ian Bell
2. Alaister Cook
3. Kevin Piteson
4. Ravi Bopara
5. PaulCollingwood
6. Andrew Flintoff
7. Matt Prior
8. Stuart Broad
9. James Anderson
10. Chris Tremlett
11. Monty Panesar

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Dravid Declaration and Series Victory

This post is not a long analytical post, but a short one of my conclusions.

Conclusion # 1> India has it in them to win overseas consistently
Conclusion # 2> Team India can play like a team
Conclusion # 3> India won without a formal coach!
Conclusion # 4> Sachin's child-like smile still charms me
Conclusion # 5> I did not like the defensive (play safe) approach taken by Dravid.
Conclusion # 6> Rahul Dravid is not and cannot become Sourav Ganguly. (Update: Dada does not agree with me)
Conclusion # 7> Somehow, for me, series victory lost it's sweet taste the moment Indian team danced with joy after England fought back valiantly to draw the match.
Conclusion # 8> India lost a golden chance to win 2-0 and rub it in with a moral victory due to an unimaginative and a gutless captaincy.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sawal Ek Crore ka!

Three questions have plagued the whole of India. They are:

1) Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyu Aata Hai?
2) Balbir Pasha ko AIDS hoga kya?
3) Rahul Dravid ne itna late declare kyu kiya?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

A Tribute To 'Jumbo'!

Spoiler: This may sound like a post written after Jumbo's retirement from cricket, but please bear with me.

"Jumbo" is a name one normally associated with an elephant. It starts right from childhood when one hears a story of a baby elephant named Jumbo. He is a good elephant, lives long and has great memory.

Anil Kumble is called as' Jumbo' by his teammates - it started in his Karnataka team and that is how his Indian team mates call him. My guess is that the name was associated with him for his height and the way his ball would rise swiftly to a batsman foxing him completely. However, Anil has truly displayed the characteristics of the elephant in the story - he has been around in the cricketing arena for a mind-boggling 17 years and has as sharp memory and a cricketing acumen as one can have.

It all started when the tall, bespectacled , and a slender young engineer with a boyish moustache on his lips appeared in his whites in the year 1990 against England in England. He joined the team when India was coming to grips with the magical Hirwani - and yet managed to make an impact in the very first innings by taking 3 wickets. From there on, Kumble has bowled in every ground in the world and played against every possible country for the last 17 years - In the event, the moustache disappeared, the boy became a man, and he gained little weight and immense respect from all around the world. He broke many records, his own jaw and went on to become the most wicket taking bowler for India and will now be the third highest wicket taker in the whole world, not to mention his 10 wickets in an innings!

This man, who today is toast of the world was however ridiculed by many during his initial years for not turning the ball enough and being ineffective on foreign pitches.(yours truly was not an exception) But one quality which this man has, is that of not giving up which amazes me to no extent. He toils and toils and toils in any condition - just keeps going on and on and on for over after over, thinking before every ball and delivering the goods - or even when not able to deliver, he still toils and toils. Jumbo may be the name of an elephant, but a true quality this Jumbo has exemplified has that been of a 'warhorse'. Just like his teammate Jammy, Jumbo has been the warhorse for India. He is unstoppable and unplayable.

But he has had his share of failures too. One of the many instances when he could not secure a win for India on the last day of a test match was when a dogged Cullinan and rains stopped Anil Kumble in his tracks - I am sure that the whole country looking towards him to deliver the goods, but when he could not get Cullinan out, Anil must have been devastated like the rest of us - but he is a learner and a keen one at that. He bounced back from every failure to give better than he could for the team and the country.

A keen learner, Kumble has been giving a lot of attention to his batting and fielding skills. Yes he looks funny when he lunges at the ball at Gully and he might have scored his maiden century only after 17 years in international cricket, but this man has been a pillar for the team - his batting style has been unique - his front foot would come ahead first and then the bat, and invariably, the ball would go towards the third man - I am sure that more than half of his total runs have come from third man area. His defence has always been solid and he puts a heavy price on his wicket - it was funny to hear Dravid say about Kumble that whenever the latter is given out LBW - he always denies being truly out! This tells either how much he has learnt to avoid being given a LBW or how much he can bluff with his teammates! :-)

Never touched by any controversy, ever a gentleman who gave his best to the game of gentlemen and a true team man who was never bothered by competition and always encouraged youngsters - no doubt everyone in dressing room was jumping with joy when Jumbo got his first century! Talking of this innings, it was a characteristic Kumble inning - started cautiously, gained confidence and played strokes whenever required, but was always cautious till the end - and hence he remained unbeaten and rightfully so.

Nice guys always do not finish last! :-)
(Images Courtesy: Google Images and Cricinfo)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

India on Top!

Awesome batting display by everyone in the 1st inning of the 3rd test at The Oval enabled India post a mammoth 664! Has Indian team come truly of age or is it just another flash in the pan?

Whatever the analysts say, it is a glorious moment to soak oneself in patriotic joy after seeing this tremendous batting on a foreign soil by everyone - not a single person got out in single digits!!! Now how often have you seen this happen with the Indian team???

Kartik once again was fabulous and as Chappell said rightly, he has an Australian heart. He is Super! We need more such hearts please. I love the guts he has and the game he plays. His confidence definitely rubs off on players like Jaffer who for a change, batted fluently and not defensively as he is so famous for.

Dhoni surely has one and except for his immense disappointment in the World Cup, he has been my favourite Indian batsman since the time he joined the team. Watch out for Dhoni, I sued to say before the WC. Isn't he fabulous? Even when given out in the 90's, he comes back to the dressing room in the same speed that he had got out of it to bat - he came, he batted and he went back - no qualms about waiting in the crease, nodding his head with a forlorn face, nothing of that sort - just finished my business at the batting crease and off I go. It definitely brought the test match alive for the spectators and gave India the impetus that always lacked - never seen Kapil Dev and Sehwag has Indian team seen test batting with such ferocity, disdain and speed. Bravo Dhoni!

Anil Kumble is a man at whom many Indians scorned at earlier in his career for his inability to turn the ball, but he is one team man I would love to have - I cannot forget his bowling in the fourth Innings with a fractured jaw - I cannot forget the partnership with Srinath in 1998 to win a ODI against Australians and all odds and who can forget his outstanding bowling figures throughout his career! Take a bow, Jumbo! This is certainly an achievement he deserves. I think "Kumble - the fighter" deserves a separate post, and I shall deliver the same later!

The famous trio of Dravid, Tendulkar and Ganguly too batted well and am I glad that I am not Ganguly - he looked in silken touch till he was robbed - yet again - by poor decision - how much he would have loved to loft the bowlers like Panesar outside the ground time and again! Dravid was superb and his wicket was completely against the run of play. Tendulkar stuck in there thanks to the reprieve of Prior and showed glimpses of Tendlya we all loved at one time.

That man Lax-man was not lax this time and played an elegant knock too! Worth watching when you are relaxing at home. Nice crisp drives and flicks. Everybody feasted out there on poor English bowling and fielding and a batting paradise.

Super knocks by tail-enders eventually ensured India post a 664 and it looks like Diwali is arriving a tad too early this year - ironically - in the month of Indian independence from England!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

India's Twenty20 Team

BCCI has announced that Dhoni will be the captain of India's team 20/20 World Cup.

This is a good decision, and one hopes that captaincy does not weigh down heavily on Dhoni's strong shoulders. Yuvraj will be his deputy and I like it that way. Seniority should not always decide the position.

However, I am not entirely convinced with inclusion of Bhajji, but Sehwag should come handy in this tournament. Also, India's luckiest cricketer - Ajit Agarkar - is back again!

What really saddens me is that I see no real 'youngsters' being included in this team - That India's bench strength is so poor that we call back Bhajji, Agarkar and Sehwag is indeed a sad state of affairs. Dig deep into the domestic tournaments and one will see bundle of talents waiting to be picked - but sadly, no one in interested. One can only see two promising youngsters in the entire team - Piyush Chawla and Rohit Sharma. India A team did very well in Kenya recently and there should have been more inclusions from that team.

About Pathan siblings, I did not see any stellar performances from Yusuf in the domestic cricket for him to be picked up for the series but I second the inclusion of Irfan and sincerely hope that he is back to his old swinging ways.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Jelly Beans

I swear that I had to Google up what a "jelly bean" means after the whole controversy regarding it in the last test.

Seriously, I think that every player sometimes needs the extra drive (if playing for the country or money is not a drive enough) to outperform himself and the sledging and pranks played by Englishmen probably acted as that drive for Zaheer. At the same time, the nerves and sledging got better of Sreesanth and the English nailed him all right.

Coming to think of it, sledging is now a commonly accepted phenomenon in World Cricket.
Gone are the glorious days of West Indian domination, where sledging was not required to take a wicket or to hit a bowler out of bowling attack.
The bat and the ball did everything.

Aussies started sledging in their typical aggressive way as a psychological ploy and soon mastered it. Instead of following the best practices of Australian cricket, the rest of the nations followed Aussies in this bad habit. So much so that soon, this became a norm. Now you can see the umpires turn blind eye when a bowler is allowed a mouthful at a batsman and the wicket keeper / close in fielders can be a chatter box all the time. As of now, a physical contact is disallowed but soon, I fear that the ICC will allow soccerisation of cricket where certain physical contact would be allowed with some conditions.

Yes yes, I know a fast bowler today has to be aggressive and all that, but still, I prefer the good-old game of cricket.
The game where a fast bowler comes in furiously and swings the ball beautifully, the batsman defends it with his best abilities and nods to the bowler appreciating the ball and the bowler lauds the batsman's technique and goes back to his bowling crease.

No sledging, no bad blood, and definitely no directed beamers!

Wicket Keeprs and Spinners

One decade ago, India was a country of spinners.
A country which had at least 2 spinners in playing 11 if not more.
A country which looked up and tried to emulate the famed trio of spin bowling in the whole world - Bedi, Prasanna and Chandra.
A country where spinning tracks were prepared for playing cricket.
A country which had only one wicket keeper in the team without a back-up.
A country where the leading batsman and Vice Captain had to play a role of a wicket keeper because we could not afford a specialist wicket keeper.

How times change!

Today, Indian team has 2 wicket keepers in the playing 11 . Plus, there is a third wicket keeper (Parthiv Patel) waiting in the wings and scoring centuries for India A.

Today, Indian team has only one place for spinner in the playing 11. Apart from him, there are only 3 names doing the rounds from all over the country - Bhajji, Powar and Piyush Chawla.

For good or bad, the times do change!