Thursday, 23 August 2007

We are like that only

Came across this excellent blog. Enjoy.

What's new?

I have a sense of deja vu as I write this. India lost the 1st one day at Southampton comprehensively. But then, aren't we late starters? Even in the Test series, we almost lost the 1st Test before dominating the rest of the series.

Dravid had mentioned - just after the team for the World Cup 2007 was selected - that we needed to do "smart" fielding, when asked whether the presence of seniors would have a deteriorating effect on our fielding. It came back to haunt us during the 1st ODI. Fielding was lacklustre, our bowling (barring Zaheer Khan) was pedestrian, running between the wickets was awful.

No wonder, the big 3 are not going to the T/20 World Cup in SA.

I don't see a place for Sachin, Saurav and Dravid in the ODI team. Never mind if they have scored more than 30,000 runs between them. The demands of the ODI game are such that we need 11 athletes. We convert ones into twos and twos into threes in the field, when we are batting we convert threes into twos and twos into ones. Unless we understand this, we are always going to be under achievers.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007


Some random thoughts on ICL for whatever they are worth:

ICL yesterday unveiled 45 odd Indian cricketers and announced the names of some Pakistani and South African cricketers. Of all the names mentioned, Mohammed Yousuf of Pakistan seems to be the only one who has some international cricket still left. But we'll talk of that later.

Considering the various threats handed out by the BCCI and considering that every cricketer's "dream" is to play for the country one day, its surprising that as many as 45 Indian domestic cricketers have aligned with ICL putting their careers in jeopardy. Going through the names Dinesh Mongia and Ambattu Rayadu are the two names who probably had some hopes of playing for India; I reckon others realised that they had no realistic chance of playing for India.

For ICL to succeed - and I'm one of those who want ICL to succeed for reasons I'll enumerate later - we need some more big names to join. I'm assuming that the current crop of 20-25 people who are on the fringes of selection for the Indian team will not join ICL at this stage. But, someone who has an international career at stake. Maybe, someone like Kaif, or Ashish Nehra, or Irfan Pathan. Cricketers who do not know whether they will ever be asked to play for the Indian team again, and are biding their time to see what position to take.

Viewership and sponsorship is what counts. I reckon there will be no shortage of sponsors; anything remotely connected to cricket attracts huge sponsorships and Zee Television will surely know a thing or two about selling commercial spots. Viewership is where ICL will get hit. We have seen empty stands for Tests and domestic cricket; its only the ODIs which get the spectators in droves. Even the Challenger series between India Sr, India A and India B teams were largely played in front of empty stands.

Here's where the international players come in. A McGrath, Warne, Klusner, Inzy or Chris Cairns can get the crowds in small centres. With the BCCI and all affiliated organisations controlling most of the cricket grounds, ICL may have to look at grounds with private organisations; IPCL grounds at Vadodara, Andheri Sports Complex at Mumbai; etc. Railways must be having their own grounds; so would large corporates like Tata's, Godrej's etc. A nice sponsorship deal should get the corporates interested. Laloo Prasad Yadav has already thrown his weight behind ICL and so has Jagmohan Dalmia. Surely, these two gentlemen would sway some people for giving out their grounds!

The Brabourne Stadium at Mumbai has been used for wedding receptions and other gala functions. Surely, a little cricket shouldn't harm them. Problem is that with the Wankhede stadium up for renovation, Brabourne must have been hopeful of getting a few matches from the BCCI.

ICL now has to be a little more responsible than what it had planned for. With BCCI acting tough and if these Indian cricketers have put paid to ever playing for India, then ICL needs to ensure that these players are taken care of. For this to happen, ICL has to organise cricket for 8-10 months in a year, invest in infrastructure, have proper trainers/coaches/medical staff, etc. This needs money; this needs sponsors; this needs viewership; this needs some more high profile players. ICL needs to be professionally managed; players need to know where they stand. If ICL can do all this, there is no reason why it cannot succeed. And if it succeeds, I see a day when ICL will take over the functioning of the BCCI. That will be the day when the "bravery" and "courage" of these 45 cricketers - as rightly acclaimed by Kapil Dev - will be immortalised.

Finally, BCCI has revoked the pension of Kapil, Madan Lal, Sandip Patil and Balwinder Singh Sandhu for aligning with ICL. Well, I thought pension was in recognition for services already rendered. I mean, if you retired from Mahindra & Mahindra for eg., and then were approached by Bajaj Auto for help / assistance in setting or running an automotive plant, then will your pension be liable to be cancelled by M & M?. No way. Then how can BCCI get away with this? Well, Mr Sharad Pawar and other functionaries of BCCI, please have a closer look at the names whose pensions have been scrapped. They were part of the team which brought the cricket World Cup home in 1983. Scrapping their pension? Just not cricket.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

England India 2007 oval Post match Post series

There are lot of views supporting and opposing Dravid's decision not to enforce the follow on, A round-up has been nicely done here.

My view: The decision was correct. Dravid didn't trust his batsmen to chase 100+. Barbados with 120 to win still rankles. In Mumbai, we lost 5-6 wickets chasing 100 and at Trent Bridge in the same series, we lost 3 wickets chasing 73.

Kumble on a 5th day pitch was a mouth-watering prospect. Zaheer was suffering from some strain and hopefully would have been fully fit on a 5th day. SideBottom was injured and may - just may - have come on to bowl on the 5th day.

Finally, as Dravid mentioned, this was the first time all the bowlers had played 3 tests and only someone who played back-to-back tests would understand how tired his bowlers were.

All said and done, in my humble opinion, while the decision not to enforce the follow-on was justified, the batting crawl was appalling. We needed quick runs. Sure, at 11/3 we needed to consolidate. But as Ganguly proved there were runs for the taking. Even after Dravid left, Laxman and Dhoni were guilty of not trying to score quickly enough.

Anyway, a 1-0 series win over our past colonial masters on the eve of Independence day is great. Savour it. There are some issues that we need to work on. But I'll save them for later. For now, enjoy the rare series win.

Well done guys!

Monday, 13 August 2007

Eng India Day 5 preview Oval 2007

Before I start, I would like to present Prem Panicker's views picked up from which I reproduce below verbatim:

Thinking of lions

There’s a way to convert water into gold/

You take a big pot of water into the forest late in the evening; you build a fire and put the pot on to boil; and you sit there till the water has entirely evaporated.

You will be left with a pot of gold – provided that in the interim, you never once think of a lion.

Thinking of lions, thinking they are lying in wait for them, fearing those lions you can see in your mind, is what keeps you from trying for that pot of gold.

India, on the morning of the fourth day, could have gone for the pot of gold that a combination of luck (Rahul Dravid winning the toss and getting first use of very good batting conditions) and their collective batting skill had made possible. The team could have forced the follow-on; could have gone for the kill and looked to nail the series 2-0 – but inside of their heads, they could hear the roar of that lion; they feared it, took the easier way out and opted to bat again.

England at the time was staring down a very big barrel, but once its bowlers (an under-strength bowling attack, with Ryan Sidebottom) began using the conditions India had gifted them, the team got a second wind, and it was India that found itself with an unexpected fight on its hands.

Consider, for a moment, that lion India feared: Had England followed on, behind by 319 runs and with 170-odd overs left in the match, then what? An England already under the cosh would have had to struggle against a bowling lineup that has used swing very well, in cloudy, overcast conditions. How could England have won? By scoring say 519 runs, that is to say a lead of 200, in say 120, 130 overs, then bowling out India in the time that remained with an attack reduced to three bowlers and Paul Collingwood’s part-time offerings.

That is the lion India feared; you judge for yourself whether it was a flesh and blood danger or just an imaginary monster lurking in the minds of a team that is yet to fully believe in its ability to dominate, to win big.

There is an unintended irony in that decision to bat: throughout this series, it is the bowling that has performed prodigies, repeatedly putting a strong England batting lineup under the cosh. And yet, it is invariably the batting Rahul Dravid trusts more. That trust almost came unstuck yesterday, with three top order wickets tumbling and Dravid himself doing a passable imitation of a Madam Tussaud’s waxwork; only a superlative innings by Sourav Ganguly, some quality batting by VVS Laxman, and some edgy resistance by MS Dhoni saved the team’s blushes.

Ironically, India batted till the clouds had gone away, and the sun was blazing down again – and then put the opposition in.

India will still take this series 1-0 – but here was a chance to try for a 2-0 win, to draw level with England on the ICC points table, and climb into the joint second slot. Ah well.

It might sound churlish to harp on this aspect, at the tail end of a series in which India, almost torpedoed in the first Test, has come back remarkably well to outplay England over the next two Tests, in all departments of the game. Clearly, hard nosed pragmatism went into India’s decision to bat a second time—and when you consider that the larger prize is India’s first series win in 21 years on England’s soil; consider too that in the past this team has come heartbreakingly close to similar triumphs only to be robbed by circumstance or their own inabilities, you can understand where Dravid and his men are coming from. But that is the nature of the fan—like Oliver Twist, he is always left wanting more; in this case, more belligerence, more aggression, more willingness to play on the edge of possibility.

While I agree with Prem's views about hard nosed pragmatism which went into India's decision not to enforce the follow on, I think the lions were not only in the head.

Prem mentions that scoring 519 in 130-140 overs and getting all the Indian wickets with around 200 to win in the remaining time with 3 bowlers and paul collingwood was far fetched. Well Prem, 120 to win at Barbados is still fresh in my mind with almost the same batting nucleus. Eve in Trent Bridge, we lost 3 wickets to get 73 runs. Zaheer had some strain and was probably not upto bowling. And Sidebottom may have come back to bowl after getting fit if we had given him one more day to recover.

That the move badly misfired by the cloud cover and 3 quick wickets is an entirely different matter.

It has been so long since we won a series overseas, and since we do not trust our batting to score even 100 batting last, I think it was a good decision.

Prem of course mentioned everything that could be said in his inimitable style that writing my review would be a travesty. So, I leave this post with that.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Chak de India - review

Saw the movie last night and just enjoyed it. Its a must-see for every sports lover.

The story is about a disgraced hockey player coaching the women's team and leading them to the World Cup. Of course, its a Yash Chopra movie so you know the end very well. But the way the film has been told makes it very engrossing.

The first half takes some time to build - very understandably. There are too many characters and all of them manage to get just enough screen time. There are stories within stories - a family that doesn't want their daughter-in-law to behave like a Indian bahu and not go to the World cup; there is a line muttered which says these are Indian women and are not expected to be roaming in their knickers; there are - of course - references to cricket (there is a scene where a guy wants to join an ongoing fight with a cricket bat and Shah Rukh Khan stops him with a "If you are a guy, fight from the front. There are no Chhakkas in hockey." Wonder what that was all about) - but mercifully these substories do not distract you from the main story.

The second half is where the film really scores. Here's where the team plays. Superb photography, slick editing and great moves keeps your interest in. SRK is wonderfully understated.

There is no over-the-top acting and no melodrama. No heroines. No running-around-the-trees. No rain dance. And yes, its a sports film.

If you are a sports buff, then you got to watch it. There are some jarring moments (A coach doesn't select the captain; here SRK appoints the goal keeper as the captain. Also why is the coach always in blue jeans and white shirt? Isn't he supposed to be wearing the team colours?), but that would be nitpicking.

Is it based on a real life character? Read the interview of Mir Ranjan Negi in DNA Sport.Sunday dated 12th August 2007. I couldn't get the URL here.

Go ahead and enjoy the movie.

P.S. I loved the moment when SRK (as coach) tells the wannabe players, "I want players to play for the country first, then for the team. Aur uske baad, agar thodi bahut jaan bachi ho to apne liye." And a few reels later, he repeats the same lines.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Re: India's greatest Mathwinner

Got this from the Telegraph, London.

"Kumble is a scrapper by nature, and the way he brought up his maiden Test hundred epitomised his commitment. Down the wicket to Kevin Pietersen, he was stranded as the ball was fired quicker and wider, but somehow managed to get a bottom edge through the keeper's legs for four. He scrambled up from his despairing dive back into crease to celebrate his achievement covered in dust.

He will not be shy either of getting his hands dirty over the weekend to force a famous Indian victory."

Apt. Very apt.

Eng India Test 3 Oval 2007 Day 3 Preview

2 days of near perfect batting from India capped by an incredulous, scarcely believable maiden ton from Indian cricket's greatest matchwinner - Anil Kumble. This has merited a separate post by itself and hence I will restrict this to only the Test.

All the batsmen played for a greater team cause, and this was encouraging to see. Dhoni's pyrotechnics, Sachin deciding to wake out of his slumber in the quest for quick runs, Laxman dealing exclusively in boundaries at the start of the day, and of course capped by Anil Kumble's magnificient ton which was the icing on the cake.

India won a good toss and all the batsmen expressed their gratitude. Its difficult to gripe when the team is in such a good position, but I just couldn't understand Rahul Dravid's and Kumble's game plan. When Dhoni got out with the team score at 508, I thought Dravid will declare after 3-4 overs of throwing the bat around. But even after Kumble got his maiden ton, there was no declaration in sight. In fact, the sight of Sreesanth and Kumble blocking was baffling. Was Dravid looking to play till tomorrow morning, if possible?

Did the adverse media reaction when Dravid declared with Sachin at 194 playing on his mind? Or did he just go to sleep or was so jubilant after Kumble's ton that he forgot he had a decision to take regarding the declaration?

In the end, India got 8 overs to bowl at England. I would have liked at least another 7-8 more. For Dravid's sake and Kumble's sake and India's sake, I hope the Test doesn't end in a draw with the last English pair on the ground.

India's greatest matchwinner

I was busy for the past two days and hence couldn't post anything for this test so far. Even today, I wasn't really inclined to spend some time on this blog as there has been other pressing work. But one my regular readers IM'ed me stating that he was looking forward to post his own comments and was disappointed that I hadn't posted anything. Thanks Agnel for the encouragement

Agnel always goes over the moon whenever someone from Karnataka does well. I'll never agree with the sentiment. An Indian is an Indian is an Indian. Nothing more. Nothing Less. But this post is about Indian cricket team's greatest matchwinner has been an decent gentlemanly unassuming bloke from the state that Agnel loves.

The media and the fans have all been crazy about our batsmen. Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, et al. But, there is no doubt in my mind that Anil Kumble has won more matches for India than all the above put together. Whenever India needed a wicket, whatever the conditions, whatever the state of the game, all Indian captains invariably turned towards Kumble. And he has rarely disappointed. Most times he has bowled long spells. Really long spells. And has not complained. Never. Not even once.

He doesn't have the turn of a Warne or a Murali. Some snigger and comment that he doesn't even spin the ball. There are a host of people who will tell you that he is a medium pacer. Sure, he is all of that. And some more.

But you can't argue with the numbers in the wickets column. 561 wickets in Tests and still counting. 337 wickets in ODIs. That's almost 900 International wickets in a career spanning 17 years. And the wickets have come against all teams. Top order, middle order, tail ender. All of them have succumbed.

He doesn't spin the ball? Sure. He is medium pace. Sure. You mean 900 times batsmen couldn't figure out a bowler who bowls medium pace and doesn't spin the ball? I'll have this bowler in my team any day rather than those who spin miles or those who bowl express pace. For make no mistake, Anil Kumble is a fighter. And a matchwinner. And keeps on coming and coming and coming at you.

Almost two decades of playing. And no controversies. No lewd SMSes. No accusations of "chucking". No ambitions of becoming a captain. Never indulged in groupism. He has always played fair, but played hard. There has been no better ambassador of cricket and India than this gentleman.

And in the twilight of his career, when he has announced his retirement from ODIs and is about to pass on the baton to a Piyush Chawla, Anil Kumble has achieved something that most top bowlers dream of. Warne and Murali couldn't do it. And that's a Test ton.

This Test Ton (at the Oval during India's tour of England in 2007 in the 3rd Test) is special. This is the only Indian century in the entire series. And it has probably come in the last Indian innings of the series (I don't think India will bat again). And it has come from someone at No. 8. And the Test Team for all the matches in this series had some heavy weights like Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Saurav Ganguly. Yet, the lone centurion in this series has been Anil Kumble.

Let's all stand up and applaud this man. For he will not have the fans screaming. He will not have the media eating out his hands. But he has been Indian cricket's greatest servant. At the end of the day's play he said the celebrations will come only after India wins this Test. And there's still 3 more days to play. He has always put the team before himself.

I salute this guy. And may we have some more cricketers like him.