Monthly Archives: March 2009

Another (Not-so-dull) Draw…

Geoff Boycott’s mother-in-law could have played in this Test match with a draft-stopper as a bat and still would not have got out on that track unless of course her name was Yuvraj Singh or McIntosh or unless she had a rush-of-blood a la Virender Sehwag! That was how poor that Test match track was at Napier. To say that it was a terribly rotten track would do grave injustice to “terribly rotten tracks”. It was worse than just that! At the prize distribution ceremony, Vettori said, “You can play another Test match on this if you want to!”

What’s wrong with Kiwi pitch curators? One of them messed up the Bangalore Test against Australia. And now this graveyard got dished out.

Apart from perhaps Yuvraj Singh in India’s 1st Innings, every other batsman got himself out. The pitch had nothing to do with them getting out (for most part). After the recent spate of huge scores on boringly dead tracks, this is hardly an advertisement for Test cricket.

Yes, this Test match was quite gripping stuff. But this was more due to bad batting in the 1st Innings by India than anything to do with the pitch. Once a team puts on 619 runs in its first innings, the other team is always going to play catch up! And that’s precisely what India did. To compound matters, in the first innings reply, Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Karthik, Harbhajan Singh and Zaheer Khan got out to poor shots, while Yuvraj Singh played like only he can!

The response from India, after following on, was solid. It was expected. It wasn’t pretty. But it was necessary.

Now India have the opportunity to go back home (or to South Africa, to play in the IPL) with the silverware. I do not expect to see any changes in Team India other than Dhoni coming in for an out-of-colour Dinesh Karthik.

I would also hope/expect that Dhoni will hang up his soccer boots!

Meanwhile, we have the start of what appears to be a bit of a controversy with Rahul Dravid appearing to question either Virender Sehwag’s shot selection or V. V. S. Laxman’s justification/defence of Sehwag’s shot selection!

Either way, Team India should work to put this Test match and the soccer ball behind it and move on to Wellington where the 3rd Test commences on Friday.

— Mohan

What was Sehwag thinking?

At the end of the 6th over of the ongoing Test match between New Zealand and India, New Zealand was travelling nicely at 21/0. The 7th over was a beauty from Ishant Sharma. He had Macintosh out first ball and almost had How out LBW off the 5th ball. At the other end, the 8th over was a terrific follow up from Zaheer Khan. He had How cleaned up off the last ball and New Zealand was 22/2.

At this crucial juncture, in the 9th over, after his team had taken 2 wickets in 2 overs, Sehwag decided to bring in Munaf Patel!

It wasn’t as if Ishant Sharma was spent! For crying out loud, he had just taken a wicket in his previous over!

I am not saying that this decision cost India a bad day in the office — Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Karthik and Rahul Dravid made sure that their hands (or lack of it) did the real damage! But I really would like to know what Sehwag was thinking at that time? I’d love to know…

— Mohan

Karthik in for Dhoni as 2nd Test begins

Dinesh Karthik found himself back in the XI today after Dhoni was ruled out due to a crook back. Dhoni’s shoes are a bit big to fill at the moment, but I do hope Karthik does well with both bat and gloves – we do need a good reserve ’Keeper.

I was reading a small blurb in The Age a couple of days ago on how Brad Haddin had been conceding a lot of byes and on a list of Australian Wicket Keepers who had played 15 tests or more, he was ranked 3rd (averaging around 6.2 runs a test).

Who do you think tops the world wide list? Dinesh Karthik at a whopping 8.3 runs a test – and he had just played 14 tests (as a Wicket Keeper) then. Playing in his fifteenth test today (as the designated ‘Keeper), Karthik has already managed to concede 6 byes – that too by lunch time on the Day 1. Not a good sign.

Wicket Keeping skills cannot be judged by the number of byes alone, and wicket keepers cannot be blamed for bad pitches with bad bounce or just plain bad bowling – but it sure is an indicator of your skills. Karthik has had a good domestic season with the bat, but he has to improve on the stuff behind the wickets too…


Is India capable of hosting major events?

The second edition of the IPL will now be played at South Africa.

And as always in India, I feel the Indian public have been robbed. The success of the first edition of the IPL was mainly due to the people — the crowds that filled the stadia — that made the event. Almost every match had full crowds and they loved it. Towards the end of the tournament, even staunch cricket non-believers wanted to go and “soak in the atmosphere of the IPL”.

And now, instead of Delhi, the people of Durban will wonder what the fuss is all about. Instead of Jaipur, people at Johannesburg will wonder why their hotels are suddenly booked out with able-bodied men in lycra! Instead of Calcutta, the people of Cape Town will wonder what’s going on in their somewhat empty cricket stadium.

Yes. The IPL will be played in South Africa. It will be shortened by one week and will start on 18 April instead of 10 April. Shane Warne gets his wish for a shortened IPL. It may also be played in front of somewhat empty stands — I somehow can’t see too many South Africans rolling up to see Asnodkar, Jadeja and Manpreet Gony! But don’t worry, millions of people in India will be glued to their TV sets!

I will say it again, the people of India have been robbed… again… as we often are!

In saying that, I think this was the right decision in the end.

But I am not having an each-way bet! I’ll come to the main thrust of my article later.

The tournament had to be played — these were contractual obligations that the BCCI has with franchise owners as well as to TV rights owners. These contracts with key stakeholders cannot ever be compromised. The show must go on. These key stakeholders invested in the IPL in the hope of making returns on their investment. Especially in these tough economic times, to cancel the second edition of the IPL would be a calamitous economic folly inflicted on franchise owners and TV rights owners. As investors, franchise owners have a right to ensuring that they get their returns as promised in their contracts with the BCCI. Ditto the TV rights owners who coughed up huge sums of money to buy the rights. Try getting these investors to tell their banks that they would be defaulting on their repayments for a year because all the country’s security folk were required to guard a few politicians!

Moreover, the knock on effect on BCCI’s Champions League — which was already cancelled once due to 26/11 — would have been a needless double whammy.

So the IPL just had to go on. The show must go on. After all, England came back to play Test matches in India just weeks after 26/11!

The second edition of the IPL could not be postponed either. Given an incredibly packed international cricket calendar, this was not just the best period for the IPL; it was the only period for the IPL.

This was the scenario that was presented to the Indian Government. The Government (Babu-dom) sat on its haunches as much of (what I call) “Old India” does. Babu-dom vacillated and ummed and awed and passed papers — in triplicate, no doubt, with appropriate challans marked by about 20 different people for about 30 different layers of Babu-dom to scrutinise and release ummms and awes. Meanwhile “Young India” decided to march on and take the baby along with the bath water to another country.

Fair enough. The world waits for no one. And no one ought to be held to ransom.

A week ago, given the stand-off between the BCCI and the Government, it seemed highly unlikely that the second edition of the IPL would take off at all. Given that dreadful scenario, for the tournament to now go ahead in South Africa is a terrific achievement for “New India”, while “Old India” sits on its fingers growing nothing more than ring marks on its backside.

Now I realise in saying all of this that there were unavoidable circumstances at play here. There is a general election on. But surely, if a general election takes away the entire police force and security agencies of a country, then, you need to question its claim to host any major event!

While it is not a question of “national pride” being at stake, I am convinced that questions must be asked of the security machinery in the country if the entire security apparatus is needed for running an election process.

In saying this, I am in no way suggesting that cricket is bigger than democracy or security or due political governance. Not at all. So habitual flame throwers and angered souls need to read this disclaimer prior to picking up their keyboard!

National elections must take precedence over a cricket tournament. One is an absolute necessity and the fundamental tenet of a vibrant democracy; certainly one that cannot and must not be compromised. The other is a mildly dispensable past time.

Further, “national pride” would take a far greater beating in the face of a security breach — like the one we witnessed on 26/11 or in Pakistan recently — than it would by the tournament being conducted in South Africa.

However, the question must be asked. Why do we need a mammoth police force (the largest in the world by some margin) and the army and an elite company of NSG commandos protecting a bunch of politicians?

If we cannot answer this or answer this with a “we are like this only”, then we do also need to simultaneously question whether India is ready for “major events”.

— Mohan

Pitch Doctors

This is a note meant for Malcolm Conn and Peter Lalor and “their types”…

Andy Moles, the New Zealand coach had this to say about the pitch for the 2nd Test between New Zealand and India in the ongoing series between the two countries. Moles said, “We need a typical New Zealand wicket where it nips for about a couple of days so it brings our seamers into the game against their batting attack which is used to the ball being true and turning a bit.”

If it were Australia touring India or England touring India and the India coach or captain had said, “We need a typical Indian wicket where it spins from the first ball so it brings our spinners into the game against their batting attack which is not used to the ball spinning around a bit,” we would have had Lalor and Conn and “their types” licking their pens with juvenile and puerile pleasure. They’d have had a story to write about in which they would pillory said coach and/or captain!

After all, did the the Lalors and Conns and “their types” not castigate and lampoon Ganguly for saying pretty much exactly what Moles did prior to a Test match in Nagpur a few years back?

Steve Waugh, in his biography, compared Ganguly’s alleged interference to “match fixing”!

So, do we now fix up Andy Moles for match fixing?

I’d like Steve Waugh to write about this too if possible please?

We haven’t heard a murmur yet on this Andy Moles pearl from the Team India camp. They just get on with the job and leave the whining to the Lalors and Conns and “their types”!

Mind you. I do not have any problems with the comments of Andy Moles, just as I’d hope the Conns and Lalors and “their types” would have no problems with the hypothetical Team India Coach or captian saying “When in Sydney, expect to see the Opera House. If you want to see the Taj Mahal, visit India instead!”!

— Mohan

IPL Tamasha to become African Safari!

The Indian fan (or for that matter the Indian voter) was least on the administrator, the owner, and the politician’s mind when it came to making a decision on holding the IPL this year. It seems more or less certain that this year’s league will be played in South Africa. Little does it matter what the fan thinks. How bizarre is it to have the Indian Premier League played in another country. If Chennai Super Kings play in Capetown, are they now Capetown Super Tigers? And all of this for merely protecting the sundry Politician? Yes, all this drama regarding security is all about protecting the politicians during their campaigns. It has nothing to do with protecting the citizenry. Isn’t it still fresh in our memories that it took more than 12 hours for the National Guard to get to Mumbai during 26/11 bombings merely because they had to fly from Delhi where they were protecting the Politician. 

If it was truly all about security of the Indian voter, dare I ask why the government did not consider moving the elections by a month? After all what is more important to an Indian voter (I mean Indian fan), to see Tendulkar’s action or Varun Gandhi’s speech? Doesn’t “Action speak louder than words?” Does the Indian voter really know the make up of the first, second, third or the gazillion’th Front considering leading the country? I bet you the Indian fan knows the leader and the team make up of every IPL team.  The Indian fan rather spend hours in line trying to get into Chidambaram stadium rather than waiting outside a polling booth only to find out that some one has already been gracious enough to vote on his or her behalf. And what do the results of the elections mean to the Indian voter anyway. The parliament tolerates the same old faces with the same old ideas only with a different set of friends and enemies. The country seems to be running fine despite the Politician’s  presence. It does matter to the Indian fan if it is going to be Shane Warne or MS Dhoni who lifts the cup, it does matter if Abhinav Mukund becomes the new Yusuf Pathan of India. Shall we vote on it?

And why are the Mallyas, Ambanis, and Zeintas gung-ho about having the IPL on whether it is in Mumbai or in Timbaktu. Their revenues are from TV commercials and that will come so long as their is TV coverage in India whatever the time of day the games are held. They are going to be there at the grounds watching the games in real time anyways. What difference does it make to them if the fans are Indian or Persons of Indian Origin. Same skin colour anyways. The money that counts at the end of every game is the money that matters to them. And, by the way, they are pretty excited that this might open up new markets for them. 

The IPL has become the biggest political corporation in the country. It will not be surprising if, based on the outcome of this year’s league, the IPL asks for a bail out from the government. No points for guessing who pays for all this!

– Srikanth

P.S: By posting this article, I certainly did not intend to take away the glory associated with the amazing victory achieved in New Zealand. Those are and will continue to remain the cherishable moments in Indian cricket for the fan and the cricketer.

The Hamilton Test, Day 3

Tendulkar & Yuvraj started off with a flurry of boundaries off Martin & O’Brien, who were bowling a bit short. Tendulkar had come out with a different attitude. Day 2 was all about grafting and getting in. Today he was playing strokes at every opportunity. He got to his 42nd hundred pretty quickly but as Shastri pointed out he played & missed more in that period than all day on Day 2! Then the bowling tightened up, the length was increased resulting in a couple of maidens. Yuvraj then shouldered arms to a straight one from Martin coming around the wicket and lost his offstump!! Dhoni struggled early on with his timing but Tendulakr calmed him down while he continued his sublime batting form. Surprisingly Vettori took both bowlers after 6 overs each and the change worked in favour of India and they went to lunch with a lead of 100 with 5 wickets. The session to India.

Soon after lunch, Dhoni started to play some shots. He did not look very convincing, almost got caught by Ryder but a couple of balls later was caught behind trying to hook a bouncer. This was not a wicket for really playing shots, unless your name ended with KAR 🙂 . By now, O’Brien was really pounding the ball in. Dhoni’s wicket spurred him on and he got a beauty to lft off just short of a good length to snort up on Tendulkar, getting the edge. Tendulkar had made 160 by then and India was 164 ahead. There  was a bit of lusty hitting by Harbhajan. Surprisingly Vettori took himself off at this point and brought in Mills. While Mills picked up Harbhajan trying to drive on the up, his bowling continued to be pedestrian with Zaheer peeling of 16 from his next over. Zaheer continued in that merry vein taking India past 500 before Munaf was picked up. India scored about 130 runs in this session while NZ got 5 wickets. Even I reckon.

The kiwis got off to a disastrous start with McIntosh nicking the second ball of the innings to Tendulkar. There seemed to be no doubt about the catch in the minds of the umpire or the fieldsman but slow-mo replays kicked off a lot of conjecture about the cleanliness of the catch. Guptill & Flynn settled down and the former played some lovely drives. The Indian pacers kept a full length and a tight line. It was tough test match stuff on a 3rd days wicket that did not offer much to the bowlers. But being on the slow-ish side the batsmen had to be cautious too as Guptill found out when he drove a bit casually at Harbhajan and was picked up by Sehwag at mid-off. Mills came on and I thought Dhoni missed a trick by not bring the quicks immediately back for him. He did bring Munaf back for the last over of the day and after tormenting Mills with 4 of the first 5 balls, Patel put him out of his misery by nailing him in front of middle & leg. With 3 wickets, India just edged out NZ for honours in that session.

Session tally  : India 7 and NZ 2

With Harbhajan getting some turn and high on confidence, the kiwis have their work cut out tomorrow

The Hamilton Test, Days 1 & 2

I decided to (finally) pull the proverbial out and post the match summary. One of the benefits of being unemployed is that a test match that runs from 9 am to 5 pm presents no challenges from a watching perspective 🙂

Day 1

The first session was notable for two things. One, an Indian captain choosing to bowl first overseas and Two, the manner in which his bowlers backed him up. Vettori & Moles had gone on record saying they would bat first and Dhoni surprised everyone (Read horrified for some of us long-suffering India supporters) by going against local wisdom. The ball did nothing the first two overs and then the Zaheer & Ishant started to pitch it up. The rest was a dream come true from an Indian perspective. The combination of some accurate bowling ,an inexperienced batting line up and a moist pitch and humid conditions with just enough movement resulted in NZ collapsing to 60 odd for 6, even against a  backdrop of some average ground fielding, missed run out opportunities and dropped catches. This session, undoubtedly belonged to the visitors.

The post lunch session was an interesting one. The Indian bowling was persistent for the first 45 mins or so. But the lunchtime sun had dried the pitch out and there was precious little lateral movement. The experience of Vettori and the sheer talent of Ryder blunted the bowling during this period and then proceeded to take it apart in the second period. In fairness, the Indian bowling was not bad, just unimaginative and not penetrating. The field setting was not quite in sync with the bowling. Also both the batsmen rode their luck with edges, aerial shots falling safe etc etc. The session definitely was the home side’s.

Eventually, in the post tea session,after Vettori posted his 3rd Test century,  Dhoni dived superbly to take one such edge to bring Vettori’s captain’s knock to an end. Ryder too, deservedly, got his ton after some excitement at the other end, helping NZ to get to 279. The bit I found inexplicable during the Vettori-Ryder partnership of 186 was the Indian team’s attitude. They seemed to be quite relaxed, laughing & joking and did not seem to feel any undue pressure!!  Sehwag & Gambhir negotiated the 7 overs with Gambhir a bit scratchy and Sehwag smacking a few boundaries off the hapless O’Brien. Given that India took 4 wickets and did not lose any in this session, I’d give this session to India

Day 2

Sehwag & Gambhir started off well with some agressive running but a direct throw by Franklin from the deep caught Sehwag napping and he was run out by a mile. Gambhir and Dravid put together a century stand with Gambhir slowly improving from a scratchy start with several plays & misses to something more like his normal strokeplay. Dravid looked as good as I remember with solid defence punctuated with some ferocious square cuts off anything wide. Both men played Vettori’s first spell competently with 6 overs conceding 24 runs! The NZ bowling maintained a good line for the most part but bowled enough balls short for the batsmen to keep scoring around 3.3 or so an over. There were very few drives down the ground, most boundaries were hit square off the wicket mainly on the off-side. At 79 runs for 1 wicket, I’d give this session to the visitors.

Post lunch, the  bowling tightened up with more balls being pitched up. Unlike day 1, the ball continued to move around and Gambhir fell to an ambitious drive outside the off stump to Chris Martin. Tendulkar hung around but struggled to time the ball with one pull off Vettori almost being caught by Flynn. Meanwhile Dravid prospered and started playing relatively agressively before losing his off stump to a peach of an incutter from O’Brien. The session produced 2 key wickets of set batsmen on a slowish wicket but India did get 88 runs – even stevens in my book

Post Tea, Vettori went into containment mode initially with Ryder and Franklin and then coming on himself. This was vintage NZ – Tight bowling and fielding. Neither batsman was timing the ball and the scoring was down to a crawl. With about 10 overs to go for the new ball both sides went into a waiting mode for the new ball. The new ball immediately produced the wicket of Laxman in the first over. Pretty much a replay of the Gambhir dismisall, driving at one well outside the off stump! But it did do the trick for Tendulkar. He timed the new ball sweetly and one particular upper cut over slips for four left one and all gasping. With about 7 overs still to go, the players went off for bad light. 81 runs and 1 wicket probably lands this session in India’s court.

India is trailing by just 1 run, but with Yuvraj just in with a virtually new ball and probably swing friendly conditions, anything is possible. If NZ can make quick inroads tomorrow morning and restrict India to a lead of under 50, the match would be wide open given that India will bat last on a wicket that is providing some assistance to spin. However, if Yuvraj & Dhoni hang in long enough and India gets 150 ahead, it could be tough for the kiwis against Harbhajan.

Cant wait for the morrow

The Black Irishman

Vijay and Kulkarni in good outings

M. Vijay scored 93 and Kulkarni has taken 3 wickets so far in a successful outing for Central Districts in the NZ domestic tournament. Add Dravid’s century and Laxman’s brief stays at the crease, the test certains and test hopefuls have had an opportunity to acclimatize to conditions as well. Amit Mishra and L. Balaji, however, had medicore start to this tour in the domestic game. My suggested line up for the 1st test would be:

1. V. Sehwag

2. G. Gambhir

3. M. Vijay

4. Sachin Tendulkar

5. Rahul Dravid

6. VVS Laxman

7. M. S. Dhoni

8. Harbhajan Singh

9. Zaheer Khan

10. D. Kulkarni

11. Ishant Sharma


While it would be tempting to play Yuvraj Singh in the lineup, I would prefer to go with M. Vijay instead and possibly move Dravid to playing in the middle. Dhaval Kulkarni has to play considering the form he is in and terrible form that Munaf Patel is in would make him an unlikely candidate. I do not think India will play Amit Mishra, at least not in the first test as I expect to the pitches for the test matches will be similiar to the one used yesterday at Eden Park. Gautam Gambhir has been in sublime form but this would be his real test on foreign pitches as a test opener and, going by his performance yesterday, he should be expecting a challenging time early on in the innings countering the swing and bounce. Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma have been taken to the cleaners by the NZ openers in the one day series but they should bounce back in this version though. The first hour of the game would again be crucial to the start of the series. Sehwag’s approach would be key if India bats first, India close in catching would be critical if we bowl first. 

Waiting for the fun to begin..


Should Sachin Tendulkar retire from ODIs?

Absolutely not, is my view!

But over the last few months I have heard many more people say “Sachin Tendulkar ought to retire” than the runs he has made in ODIs! When pressed these naysayers often cite either, “He is not the Tendulkar of old” or “He is a legend of the game. How can he be made to look ordinary especially after all that he has achieved” or “He should make way for younger players”

To those that say that Tendulkar today is not the Tendulkar of old, I say “neither am I or you” and suggest that if pain persists, they ought to buy a video of Sachin Tendulkar’s 1998 matches against Australia and watch them till their eyes drop. If pain still persists, I recommend that they see a doctor!

In other words, those that say “Tendulkar is not the Tendulkar of old and should, hence, retire” I suggest that the problem is with them and not with Tendulkar!

In my view, any player warrants a place in the team if (a) he wishes to play, (b) he is better than the best in the land. And the “best” here is both on future potential as well as current ability — after all, as I have said before in these pages, Tendulkar wasn’t Tendulkar before Tendulkar became Tendulkar!

Tendulkar clearly wants to play and he is certainly good enough to continue to play for India. The player that he is currently “keeping out of the team” is Rohit Sharma. Enough said! While Rohit Sharma is clearly a good player and while there is potential there, he is not going to edge Tendulkar out of the team, especially when the Little Master is playing the way he is right now.

So yes, while in theory, Tendulkar is keeping a few younger players away from the team, he is still scoring solidly — if not in the authoritative and domineering manner that we are used to — and contributing to Team India’s victories. Take for example, the manner in which he got his 163* in Christchurch in the 3rd ODI against New Zealand.

That was a majestic knock that was crafted in a few separately exhilarating gears. At first, he seemed to gauge the wicket. He seemed to start slow and then explode. He then quietened down for a while before springing a Power Play on the inexperienced Kiwi captain for that match — Brendon McCullum. In the company of Yuvraj Singh, he made merry. He then quietened down again before, once again, exploding. The fact that he made his 163* off just 133 runs despite some extremely quiet spells, speaks of his dominance.

Clearly the brashness of youth has given way to the guile of an old hand. But the mind, the enthusiasm as well as the energy is still there for all to see. As Ravi Shastri keeps reminding us, his boyish enthusiasm and energy is infectious and seems to rub off on the whole team. He wants to be involved in the game.

So who are we to deny him that?

To which, people often suggest that as an absolute legend of the game, he does not need to be made to look ordinary at times and should, hence, retire (especially after all that he has achieved in the game). A friend of mine often suggests that Eienstien did not need to write even a single paper after his annus mirabilis of 1905 — a year in which he wrote the five history-making papers (particle theory of light, measuring molecular dimensions, Brownian motion, theory of special relativity, and E = mc2). See “Five papers that shook the world”.

Again, I suggest that the problem is with people and not with Tendulkar. It was people like you and me who conferred on Tendulkar the “legend” moniker. He did not ask that he be cast as a “legend of the game”. He was a gifted player then. He remains a gifted player today. He wants to play.

As a player who has given much to team and country, my strong view is that his departure from the world stage must be at a time of his choosing.

My sense is that, like Eienstien, Tendulkar will not rest on either his laurels or his achievements or the “legend” status that people have conferred on him. He will continue to play till he enjoys the game and till he can contribute to it. He is.

It is best that we leave him be and enjoy the Tendulkar of today. If not, tomorrow, we will yearn for the Tendulkar of today. And once again, the problem will lie at our doorstep.

— Mohan