Monthly Archives: November 2010

The Motera farce and the great escape from Dubai!

We have been witness to two separate events within the realms of cricket in the last week. One was labelled as a test match between India and New Zealand. The game ended in a draw thanks to superlative batting performance by a gentleman who was supposed to win us the game by bowling off spin. To me, the Indians gave the impression that they were reluctantly involved in this competition. Sehwag blasted his way to 170 in the first innings and got out playing “french” cricket. And he walked off like a man who lost his wicket to his best friend’s kid in a club game between Greater Kailash and Janakpuri.

And then everyone went to sleep for three days only to be woken up by Chris Martin’s incisive spell. India ended the 4th day at 82 for 6. Despite this precarious position, Pragyan Ojha was confident that he and his colleagues would save the game. While I did not get to see the final day, all reports suggest that India saved the game without much sweat. Blame it on the pitch, the quality of the opposition, umpiring, scheduling etc. etc. Whatever be the reason, what struck me the most was the India was not present on a major part of the 5 days. They seemed to go through the motions from Day 1, and yes, Sehwag can score hundreds even when he is going through the motions. I would rather play a second rung Indian team than watch this lineup treat this like a club game. This New Zealand team is only slightly better than a club side. Don’t believe anyone who thinks otherwise. I do hope that Hyderabad is a different story and the Motera farce can become a thing of the past.

Not far away, the South Africans are involved in a series against a Pakistani team that provides more drama and entertainment than most Bollywood offerings. Wine, women, heroes, villians, crime, cheating, kidnapping, disappearances, gang wars, jealousy, back stabbing, exciting chases, they seem to have it all. It’s just the credibility of the games are taking a beating. I simply cannot watch a Pakistani game without thinking about the possibility that game is fixed. That thought is even more pronounced when it happens at the Mecca of match fixing. The country, the team, and the players ultimately seem to seek refuge at the Mecca of the game. The irony of it all. I think it may not be a bad idea to keep Pakistan out of international cricket till their Board gets its act together. There is a lot of talent in that team that is getting wasted resulting from the actions of a irresponsible Board.

– Srikanth

 

 

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When Selvi came alive

In his compelling collection, Lawley Road & Other Stories, R. K. Narayan narrates the highly poignant tale ofSelvi, the leading classical singer of her day. The subject is accustomed to the adoring applause of celebrity audiences, and yet immune to it through her piety to music. Following a renunciation of the spotlight, she restricts the expression of her art to a daily saadhana, witnessed & cherished by a handful of Malgudi commoners. The descent from exclusive chamber sessions at her estranged husband’s plush residence in upscale Lawley Extension, to impromptu rehearsals in the verandah of her late mother’s humble dwelling in decrepit Ellamman Street, fails to tarnish the quality of music.

Art breathes in its own inspiration. Dispossess it of the big stage. Divest it of adulation. Yet it remains resplendent, adorned by its inherent effulgence. It was a happy coincidence that I read Selvi in the car on my way to watch 2 artists grace an occasion more modest than their habitual realm. It has been second nature for Rahul Dravid & V. V. S. Laxman to parade their gifts in the rarefied echelons of international cricket. It is also to their credit that their relationship with domestic cricket (since they graduated to higher honours) wears proud commitment and goes beyond random dalliances. It was one such tryst with the Irani Cup in 2003 that gave me an opportunity to watch them forge a memorable partnership in flesh – one that didn’t win them as many accolades as their triple-century heists at Kolkata & Adelaide against Australia, but no less memorable for me personally. It was a game that saw most of their peers follow their example and embrace domestic cricket. Indeed, Rest of India, led by Saurav Ganguly, was pretty much the Indian Test XI save for Sachin Tendulkar who captained the opposing team, the Ranji champions Mumbai.

The first 3 days saw one of the most delicious contests possible – Anil Kumble bowling to Tendulkar – playing out to near empty stands at Chepauk. Neither man bested the other, but their gratitude for not having to lock horns in an international game was reinforced. Twin half centuries by Tendulkar & a substantial first innings lead for Mumbai meant RoI had to get 340 on a wearing wicket to lay their hands on silverware. They got 50 of those by stumps on day 3, but lost both openers Virender Sehwag & Sanjay Bangar. Dravid walked out the next morning amidst enthusiastic cheering from a healthier Sunday crowd for local boy L. Balaji, and quickly banished Ramesh Powar over long on for a couple of sixes. The nightwatchman’s resolute defiance nearly lasted through the session, but altogether progress had been relatively slow. Laxman took guard with the misery of a 53-ball 5 in the first knock hanging over his head. On the other side of the luncheon interval, both men blossomed. Leg-spinner Sairaj Bahutule looked to exploit the rough. In a twinkling exhibition of decisive footwork, Laxman repeatedly met him on the full and the expanses at extra-cover & midwicket lay enslaved to a sovereign whim. Dravid stayed crisp and efficient against the faster men Ajit Agarkar & Avishkar Salvi, combating the short stuff with the fierce cut and the regal pull in all his majestic glory. Powar came back for a new spell with an over that was bookended by 2 4s and 2 6s. The former brought Laxman his half century, both full tosses caressed away. The latter took Dravid from 88 to 100, in a manner that would go on to become synonymous with Sehwag. On each occasion he danced down the track flouting open impertinence to the challenge, and thundered the ball into the Royal Sundaram stand high over the bowler’s head. A stalwart of Indian cricket had shown an upstart his place. After tea, Laxman relegated even Dravid to spectator, uncorking one champagne stroke after another. The promise of a glorious hundred wasn’t honoured though, Bahutule pooping his party one short of the landmark. That was my cue to leave as I had to catch a train back to my college in Vellore. As I haggled with an autowallah near Buckingham Canal, Chepauk went up in a groan that could only have meant Dravid’s dismissal.

With my hair standing on end, I wondered what the forthcoming season – featuring important tours to Australia & Pakistan – would have in store for the partners-in-crime. Dravid had started the season with a legitimate claim of being India’s finest. Six months later, he would end it undisputedly as the world’s best. 3 double centuries in 9 Tests, each one successively higher than the previous, would propel his Test average from 53 to 58. Laxman would also score 3 Test hundreds, and curiously, 5 ODI hundreds that winter. His 99 that day had been scored at nearly run-a-ball.

I got an SMS from my father as the Yelagiri Express pulled out of Central Station. I learnt that Ganguly & Kumble had steered the Rest home after a mini-collapse. I was also informed that I had left Selvi behind, my copy of Lawley Road & Other Stories having been forgotten in the car.

– Kartik

 

The 2010-2011 Ranji Season Kicks Off

The Ranji Trophy season 2010-2011 kicked off on Monday 1 November to the stunning news of Hyderabad slumping to the lowest ever Ranji total at the hands of an 18-year old debutant pace bowler, Deepak Chahar from Rajasthan. Hyderabad made just 21 runs in their 1st innings in which Pankaj Singh bowled 8 overs (for 2 wickets) and Chahar bowled 7.3 overs for his 8 wickets! Early on the 3rd morning of the match, Hyderabad folded to an embarrassing innings defeat with Chahar getting 4 2nd Innings wickets!

The Ranji Trophy 2010-2011 announced its arrival and so did young Deepak Chahar! Although, as Sanjay Subrahmanyan says on Twitter, “Chahar gets 8 on his Ranji debut! If he had got even 4 on an IPL debut, he’d be in the Indian team! Right?”

Such is life. But for us, what this has done is that we will add Deepak Chahar to the list of players we will be “watching” in this Ranji season. This list of players includes (in no particular order):

Virat Kohli, Shikhar Dhawan, Abhinav Mukund, S. Badrinath, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Manoj Tiwary, Naman Ojha, Wriddhiman Saha, Dinesh Karthik*, Monish Mishra, Abhishek Jhunjhunwala, Sourabh Tiwary*, Yusuf Pathan, Yuvraj Singh. Irfan Pathan, Robin Uthappa, Ambati Rayudu, Pankaj Singh (Deepak Chahar’s bowling partner in the Rajasthan team), Deepak Chahar, Umesh Yadav, Pradeep Sangwan, Abhimanyu Mithun, Ashish Nehra, Ashok Dinda, Jaydev Unnadkat, RP Singh, Praveen Kumar, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, R. Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja*, Piyush Chawla, Iqbal Abdulla, Sarabjit Ladha.

A few other points:

  • We do not intend “following” players like Cheteshwar Pujara, Amit Mishra, Suresh Raina and M. Vijay who have “already made it” (thus, it is likely that these above-mentioned players will play very few Ranji games this season anyway).
  • The sad reality is the paucity of spinners in the above list.
  • The players with a * by their name are in the list for their curiosity value and answers the questions: “Why are they valued?“, or “What do the selectors see in them that we do not?” or “How do they make it to where they are?“.

Other than his hairstyle which reminds us of a young Dhoni and a few thwacks in the IPL, one might, for example, wonder what Sourabh Tiwary’s credentials are? Sourabh Tiwary plays in the Plate League (against teams like Tripura, J&K, etc) and has an average of 48.9 (with 6 centuries and a highest score of 169) after 21 matches. We are not sure that that is good enough for a Ranji Plate player. More importantly, we are not sure that that is good enough to propel him into the National team.

We will post an occasional column titled “Ranji Watch” every now and then — perhaps even after each round — to see how our “watched” players fared.

In a recent article, Cricinfo featured a sharper list containing only 12 players. Their list of “hopeful men” included Ashish Nehra, R. Ashwin, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravindra Jadeja, Umesh Yadav, Jaidev Unnadkat, Irfan Pathan, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Piyush Chawla, Abhinav Mukund and Virat Kohli. We felt that our list of 34 players, which includes all 12 names of hopefuls from the Cricinfo list, is larger and more inclusive.

Most of the above 34 players have had a steady — if not reasonable or excellent — outing in the 1st round Ranji games. Virat Kohli has scored a century. Shikar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, et al made a few runs. Pankaj Singh and Deepak Chahar were part of Hyderabad’s embarrassing rout. We will wait for the 1st round to finish before posting some observations.