Monthly Archives: March 2009

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

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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..

-Srikanth

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

A Joint Indo-Pak Team?

Here is a radical solution to a radical problem. Why don’t the BCCI and PCB form a joint Indo-Pak team that takes on other teams including the rest of the world. I agree with Younis Khan that it will be indeed sad if the cricket in Pakistan is killed at the expense of increased terrorism. Wouldn’t it be great if the cricketing world expressed solidarity with the Pakistani team by a venture such as a combined India-Pak team. I completely understand that the Sri Lankans were victims of the recent tragedy. I am sure, however, that they would endorse such a move that keeps cricket alive in the Indian subcontinent. It will also demonstrate that cricket will not give in to threats and violence. The Indo-Pak team could play in India and Sri Lanka against different nations. Who would want to stop watching the likes of Younis Khan, Misbah Ul Haq or Salman Butt? In the spirit of a possible Indo-Pak team, here is my take at a possible Indo-Pak XI:

Virendar Sehwag

Salman Butt

Rahul Dravid

Sachin Tendulkar

Younis Khan

Misbah Ul Haq

VVS Laxman

MS Dhoni (Capt)

Harbajan Singh

Zaheer Khan

Danish Kaneria

Ishant Sharma

Umar Gul – 12th man

 

– Srikanth

Sad day for Pakistan, cricket and cricket fans

Pakistan cricket was already in tatters. Controversy seemed to follow it like a shadow -  Drug scandals. Match fixing scandals. Dressing room spats. Ball tampering claims. The Oval fiasco. Bob Woolmer’s death. Financial problems and Political issues. The list goes on. Sure, other teams have had their share of controversies, but nothing like the sort Pakistan have had.

And now this – The visiting Sri Lankan cricket team being the target of terrorist attacks in Pakistani soil. Like India, the sport is said to be revered in Pakistan. With these attacks, that claim comes into question. Imran Khan once said that cricketers would never be under any threat from terrorists

…cricketers would never be under any threat from terrorists. Reason is that the terrorists rely on support from the masses because that’s where they get their recruits and cricket is a game which is so loved and there’s such passion in Pakistan, that the terrorists know that if a cricket match is bombed, they’ve had it. I mean the public will just turn against them.

He will have to eat his words now. Before the start of the tour,  Javed Mianded, the former Director General of PCB, said

…we want to prove to the world that Pakistan is safe and secure for cricket

The exact opposite has happened and the message has gone out that Pakistan is no longer safe for cricket.

Many countries have already been refusing to tour Pakistan. The ICC Champions Trophy was also called off. And now with this incident, Pakistan being a co-host to the 2011 WC will come under serious scrutiny. In fact, it will take a few years before another team even decides to tour Pakistan and local papers have already started writing obituaries for International Cricket in Pakistan.

Before we start talking about the future, let us spare a thought for the people with were killed and injured in the incident. My heartfelt condolences to all those who were affected.

This is really a sad day for Pakistan, cricket and cricket fans around the world…

-Mahesh-

Pakistan – No longer a cricket friendly nation

As news starts coming in regarding the brutal attack on the Sri Lankan cricketers, the safety, security and the well being of the Sri Lankans is of serious concern. One can only hope and pray that the injuries sustained are minor and the cricketers come out that failed state as soon as they can. As until today, the senseless attacks did not targets cricketers, but today things have changed. Cricket isn’t the same any more. Not too long ago, the Pakistanis were trying to convince the Indian government that it was safe to travel to their country to play cricket. The future of Pakistani cricket is now under serious threat, even if the country itself isn’t.

Our prayers are with the injured Sri Lankan cricketers at this time of crisis.

– Srikanth