Monthly Archives: April 2010

Brother McCullum comes through

19.5

Malinga to NL McCullum, SIX, Six, Six, Six! What a blow, Nathan McCullum’s handed New Zealand a thrilling win, lands on a length outside off, just perfect for McCullum who strikes it powerfully and cleanly over the long-off boundary to seal victory for New Zealand.

(From Cricinfo)

An Awesome Gift

I used to read at least one book every week when I was in college in India. That deteriorated to about 1-2 per month when I entered graduate school and as I immersed myself in to full-fledged TV watching (Hey, I gotta keep up with baseball, football, tennis, golf, ESPN, Comedy central, Cartoon network, cricket online), the habit of reading had come to a grinding halt.

I have been, for a long time, wanting to write about cricket. Best thing would be that you get paid to do it, but that is not my goal. Not yet anyway. I was talking to my better half the other day about how I need to get back in to the habit of reading books, especially, cricket related ones, so that I can get better at writing about the beautiful game of cricket.

Today at work, I received a package, that said Amazon.com on it and I was intrigued. As I opened the package and saw the content, to my pleasant surprise, it was this:

Beyond a Boundary - CLR James

Thank you love. I have also been told to curb my urge to order cricket books online as there might be some more of these on the way already. FANTASTIC! Even when I used to read regularly, I preferred to read fiction/thrillers as they moved fast. Since these books are about cricket, its should be a breeze to get through them. I’ll try to post my take on the book when I get done. Till then, you could read this.

Antigua 2007 – Part 1

I along with my friends Nishant, Saurabh (Golu), Rohan and Aditi went to Antigua in 2007 to watch the cricket world cup. You can read about the (mis)adventures here, here and here.
Some pictures from the trip. Day 1- Day 2.5. More pictures to come soon!

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An attempt at live discussion

I have seen on ESPN that golf, basketball, baseball, football experts cover live games online where the fans can participate in the live coverage by sending in questions and comments. It is done using Cover It Live and I always thought CIL is a paid service till I found out recently it is not. So, i thought I’ll give it a shot. I plan on covering the T20 Group A match between India and South Africa on Sunday, May 5th. Below is the discussion you will need to join to discuss cricket with like minded people as the action unfolds. Join in people.

Click Here to join the discussion at 9 AM ET on Sunday!

The curious case of Yuvraj Singh

The current Indian squad for the T20 world cup has a lot of players that pick themselves, starting with the Captain MS Dhoni, Zaheer Khan, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh. Yuvraj Singh has been an automatic selection in limited overs cricket for India for a very long time. He is one of the cleanest strikers of the cricket ball the game has seen and the six 6′s he hit off one Stuart Broad over on that brilliant night in Durban during the 2007 T20 world cup is indelible in the memory of all Indian cricket fans and Stuart Broad. But lately, he has looked a little out of sorts. He has had a wrist injury and had a forgettable IPL tournament, where he scored a grand total of 225 runs in 14 matches at an average of 21.25 runs with a highest of 43. For someone as gifted as he is, that’s just abysmal.

That brings me to the point: Did Yuvraj Singh deserve a spot in the squad for the world cup at all? Was his spot a product, more of his reputation than his current form? It is common knowledge that Yuvraj is very comfortable against medium pacers and struggles against spinners. Considering the fact this world cup is in West Indies, where the pitches seem to be aiding spin, makes you wonder about his selection to the squad. Even his fielding quality has gone down. For his IPL team Kings XI Punjab, he doesn’t even field in the hot corner – the backward point area. MS Dhoni has shown that he trusts the off-spin of YK Pathan and the part-time spin of Suresh Raina, so Yuvraj does not bring as much value with his bowling either, any more.

I follow Yuvraj Singh on twitter and some of his tweets indicate that he is really excited to be going to the Caribbean and is looking forward to being with the boys, training and playing. At least that is a change from the sulking Yuvi that was seen for most of the IPL 2010 tournament (Yuvi strongly denied that wasn’t the case, and he wasn’t pissed off with the Punjab team management for stripping him of the captaincy). However, the value he brought to the Indian team as an electric, exciting fielder, and a breathtaking batter and a useful part-time spinner have gone down a lot in the last 6-12 months.

Even with his obvious discomfort against short-pitched bowling, Suresh Raina has gone past Yuvraj Singh in the pecking order and is showing himself to be a better fielder than Yuvi was in his peak and a more-than-useful spinner. If Yuvraj keeps (not) performing the way he is doing currently, soon, Virat Kohli will also be ahead of him in the ODI squad. Rohit Sharma has shown he has got all the talent in the world and is at least as good a fielder and bowler as Yuvraj. There is more than a crowd in Yuvraj’s limited overs cricket rear view mirror, and they are closer than they appear. He’d better get his act together and remind us all that the Yuvi we knew in the 2004-07 stretch hasn’t gone anywhere.

Why Zimbabwe, Why?

The Twenty20 world cup is fast upon us. Some of the prime contenders for the cup include the current world champion Pakistan, South Africa, India and the team constantly vying for any metallic hardware related to cricket, Australia. Australia were unceremoniously bumped off the tournament in the first round itself in the last edition of the T20 World Cup. Although, they have been saying all the right things for a while about the T20 competition has their attention and they really care about winning it etc, Australia have never seemed to care so much about the shortest format of the game.

I was hoping that this trend will continue this year as well, which means, one less contender for the cup. However, Zimbabwe, (oh that pesky Zimbabwe), a nation that has had many of its leading cricketers walking away from it due to the political situation in that country, still somehow has strung together a very capable group of young men – decided to give Australia a wake up call. Yesterday, in a practice match, Zimbabwe beat Australia by the slightest of margins (1 run). Even though it was only a practice match, considering the World Cup starts in a few days, you would expect the teams to take these games seriously, and from the looks of it, Australia did. I am very sure that Zimbabwe were looking to score any positives from this game, as on paper, they are far inferior to the quality and talent of Australia. The fact that they actually beat a near-full strength Australian team would’ve given them a shot in the arm and bodes well for their future. It also points to the crazy nature of the T20 format. Any team can beat any other team!

More importantly. Australia have been reminded of their futility in the last T20 World cup. They will not be taking any opposition lightly any more. This does not augur well for other teams. Australians are a pretty aggressive and competitive bunch, as it is. Now, with the shame of losing to a remodeled Zimbabwe team that can’t even hold a candle to all the talent and experience in the Australia team, they would be on their guard. Damn it Zimbabwe. You blew it for the rest us.

Dear Bob Willis – Shut your trap

I had written briefly about the general apathy in England for the IPL. I read recently in Cricinfo in their quotes section, the following:

Some of the four overseas players aren’t the best, you may have two top-class Indian players, the rest are rubbish.”

The quote was attributed to the ever forthcoming, Mr. Bob Willis, the former England player and now, a commentator. I had seen quite a bit of lip from a lot of columnists and talking heads from England about how the IPL is aggrandized and is ruining Cricket. This is the first I heard someone go after the quality of players in IPL.

By Bob’s estimation, a team has about 3-4 good players and the rest are just there to make the requisite 11. I completely disagree with it. Let’s look at the team that finished at the bottom of the table, Kings XI Punjab. Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Ravi Bopara, Yuvraj Singh, Piyush Chawla easily come to mind as some of their better players. Let’s look at the Kolkata Knight Riders. Ganguly, Bond, Gayle, Pujara, McCullum will definitely come under the banner of really good players and Manoj Tiwary and Murali Kartik are not that far behind. These are just the names from teams that did not qualify for the semifinals.

By that yardstick  Mr. Willis, wouldn’t pretty much ALL the English county teams be termed rubbish? Let alone the county teams, how about the England Cricket team? I am sure he considers Ian Bell the best player to ever pick a bat and Jimmy Anderson the greatest exponent of swing bowling. Hey Bob, we have an inconsistent swing bowler in India too and his name is Sreesanth!

Willis’ attitude is typical of English cricket observers who have the blinders on and have a self-righteous attitude towards what they define as “proper” cricketer. It makes me absolutely sick – this attitude. Instead of taking potshots at the IPL and its players at every given opportunity, why don’t people like Bob Willis just loosen up a little bit and get off their high horses, and enjoy the spectacle that’s the IPL?

Summer Cricket League at Penn State

This is sort of a public service announcement. The Penn State Cricket Club is planning on organizing a summer-long hard tennis ball cricket league. Its in the planning stage and initial estimates on the number of people interested in this league are underway. So, why don’t you be a good boy/girl and let the club know of your availability for the summer league? Details of the league can be obtained from the office-bearers (Contact info on the club website).

Click on the following form to send your availability information to the PSCC President, Sridhar Ranganathan. Take a look at the Spring 2010 tourney organized by PSCC as well.

Penn State Summer Cricket League Availability Form

7 Things I learned from this year’s IPL

The IPL tournament just got over and my home team Chennai Super Kings won it all. They have been the most consistent team through the first 3 years of the tournament: 2 Finals (1 W, 1 L) and 1 semifinals. No other team even comes close. The entire 2010 tournament lasted about 7 weeks. Here are the 7 things I learned from this IPL (for the sake of symmetry):

1. Old batting stars look, well, old: The IPL tourney included  a handful of players who have been out of international cricket for a while and are not even playing domestic cricket. Case in point: Adam Gilchrist, Mathew Hayden, Damien Martyn, Sanath Jayasuriya. Both Gilly and Haydos at least had couple of shining moments, but Marto was utterly disappointing. Wonder Warne took him in his team just for ol’ time’s sake! The exception to this rule was Sourav “Dada” Ganguly. He kept getting better as the tournament wore on and even his fielding and catching was unlike what we have seen before from him. Perhaps, he had a point to prove and wanted to show his team of underachievers how its done. The old “bowling” stars still reigned supreme. Anil Kumble and Shane Warne were beyond belief. Simply superb!

2. Sachin Tendulkar has mastered another format of the game: This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. 2008 season was injury-plagued for Sachin and 2009 was so-so. As we saw from him in 2009-10 international fixtures, he has found the fountain of youth. He quite easily became the leading run getter of the league stage. He never resorted to ugly slogs like VVS did and showed everyone he is in a class all by himself. He also showed his true grit by playing the final match even with 5 stitches in his hand. Take bow, Master!

3. Sreesanth is like a dog’s tail – Cannot be straightened out: After the slap-gate incident, the new and improved, and seemingly contrite and looking to be under control Sreesanth vowed that the days of acting like a petulant teenager are long gone. But, that behavior reared its ugly head yet again this year! From mocking the batsman who just hit him for a four, to sarcastically applauding the umpire who called him for no balls,  Sreesanth was well and truly, back to his own child self. Its a crying shame that a talent like him is getting lost in all the hoopla and hype that is Indian Cricket. There are very few bowlers that can swing the ball away from the righthander at such good pace like him but he needs to screw his head back on straight, pronto! The proverbial rope he may get with the administrators and fans of Indian cricket is fast running short.

4. Kolkata Knight Riders are not the most dysfunctional team: That title, at least for 2010, goes to the Kings XI Punjab. The captaincy was taken away from their icon player, Yuvraj Singh, during the off-season, and given to Kumar Sangakkara, which led to news/rumors that Yuvi is extremely unhappy with the Kings XI set up and wanted to move to Mumbai. Though these reports were laid to rest by the team management and Yuvi himself, he didn’t seem to be clicking on all cylinders for his team. It seemed like he was not very interested. This team was the most up and down team of the league. They lost matches they should have won walking away! When their batting clicked, their bowling was abysmal and vice versa. After the early days experiment with Bopara up top, Sangakkara brought Mahela Jayawardene in as the opener and he served his captain well. Irfan Pathan looks a shell of himself. The guy is a lasting evidence of the effect Greg Chappell has left on Indian Cricket. The local indian domestic players did not contribute much to the team’s success, which segues nicely in to the next item on the list. Did I mention Sreesanth is part of Kings XI? ‘nough said.

5. You win with domestic players: Since 7 of the 11 players in a team are Indians and quite possibly, 5 of those 7 do not have international experience and are not big name stars, a team can win consistently if these 5 players can step up to the plate from time to time and contribute to the team’s cause, as bowlers or batsmen. Mumbai showed the blueprint for this. The Indian duo of Ambati Rayadu and Saurabh Tiwary held the Mumbai’s middle order together. They played a cautious game when the chips were down and drove home the advantage when the openers gave them a platform. The Deccan Chargers benefitted from the bats of Monish Mishra and more significantly, Tirumalasetti Suman. Even the Chennai Super Kings solved their opening bowling blues by having the local talent R. Ashwin to bowl off-spin with the new ball. The Kolkata Knight Riders suffered most acutely from the lack of performance by the local talent.

6.  Indian pace bowling stock is threadbare: Besides Zaheer Khan, there were no noteworthy and consistent performances by Indian pace bowlers. The two (medium) pacers from the Royal Challengers Praveen Kumar and Vinay Kumar benefitted tremendously by bowling alongside Dale Steyn and the miserly wizard, Anil Kumble. The batsmen had to take the chances against these two bowlers (PK and VK) and hence, these 2 got a bucket load of wickets. For the sake of fairness, PK bowled well with the new ball but as it got older, his lack of pace became painfully obvious. Some of the names that were on everyone’s lips the past 2-3 years, Ishant Sharma, RP Singh, VRV Singh, Sreesanth etc., were extremely disappointing. The young lad, Umesh Yadav, from Delhi Daredevils looks like a promising fast bowler. Ashish Nehra is still too inconsistent for my liking.

7. I Can’t figure out the Delhi Daredevils: This batting lineup boasted a cavalcade of stars: David Warner, Virender Sehwag, Dilshan, Gautam Gambhir, AB De Villiers, Dinesh Karthik (and towards the end, Paul Collingwood). Their bowling was nothing to sneeze at either with Dirk Nannes, Amit Mishra, Sangwan, Nehra. Yet, they did not even qualify for the semifinals. Gambhir seemed to be a capable captain and put the responsibility on himself to bailout the team in tight situations, such as the match against CSK in that electric oven in Chennai. They were surely put back in some key games by top order collapses. Too many batsmen in the same mold? Perhaps.

The IPL Finals – Running diary Part 2

GOD walks in!!

Read the Part 1 of the running diary on Chennai Innings

Part 2: Mumbai Innings

We all settle back in. Some of the CSK fans, including me, bemoan the fact that they have to root against Sachin Tendulkar. Such are the times!

1.0 overs: Fabulous first over from Ashwin. Not much turn to speak off but he has kept a tight line and has changed the lengths. Keeps Shikar Dhawan quiet. Perhaps, MI plan is to weather the storm early and go after the bowling later? Why? Shouldn’t the idea be that everybody bats around SRT. CSK will always be on the defensive as long as SRT is still in. Shikhar Dhawan needed to be a lot more aggressive. Way too much respect for Ashwin in the first over.

1.2 overs SRT gets off the mark with a single. His bread and butter shot. Flick to the onside. Towards the fine leg area.The stadium erupts. You would’ve thought MI has already won the game.

The viewing junta

1.4 overs Dhawan gets caught behind off Bolly. Too close to cut off a short-of-length ball slightly swinging away from him. Abhishek Nayar (who played 3-4 games the entire IPL, coming back from injury) walks in. One of several missteps by MI in the batting line up.

Usually, I am more tense than I was while watching this run defense by the team I was rooting for. I have confidence in Dhoni to come through in the big match. Plus, Chennai has an above par total, I think. Dhoni did a fabulous job of defending 150+ score against Pakistan in the 2007 T20 world cup final. The CSK fans are delirious. Its still early days, but they don’t seem to care. Especially, Madhu. He is cursing everybody out. He is blaspheming. He is praying for Sachin to fail. He is throwing out his analysis of the situation, some of it is not even relevant but he doesn’t care. As always.

4.3 overs SRT writes the coaching manual on how to dispatch a full toss from a spinner bowled slightly wide of off-stump. Gently, as if not to hurt the ball, he caresses it, while coming on the front foot, with, of course, the head dead still, past extra cover for a glorious boundary. My response to it on twitter.

5.5 overs Please see 4.3 above, only this time, it wasn’t a spinner but a medium pace delivery from Albie Morkel. Hail the Lord please! Reminds everyone why he still holds the court when he is out there. On the inside, wanting SRT to stay out for as long as possible, while also wanting CSK to win. Oh the dilemma!!

The running between the wickets is atrocious but Chennai is yet to hit the stumps. SRT is very alert but Nayar is all over the place. Tries suicidal singles but gets away with it. Prompts Prem Panicker to comment on twitter this. MI innings almost mirrors the CSK innings so far except CSK lost 2 wickets. Pretty even stevens. Can’t pick a winner yet, as MI has lot more batting to come.

6.0-6.6 overs Murali is employed earlier than usual by Dhoni. Murali comes over the wicket. Lately, he has relied too much on the doosra and has been coming around the wicket. Me saying aloud: I hope Murali comes over as SRT has trouble with sharp turning off-breaks and Murali does. Imagine giving myself a pat on the back. Quiet over. Hayden drops a tough catch off Nayar at slip. Sharp turning off-break pitched outside the legstump of the left hander. Dhoni was moving to his right. Hayden was probably blinded for a moment. Still got low and down to get his hands to ball. Hits him on the wrist, can’t pull it in on the rebound. Toughie!

9.4, 9.5 overs Nayar breaks free by hitting Jakati for two sixes. Madhu unleashes a stream of curses at Jakati.

9.6 overs Brilliant effort from Jakati. Nayar takes off for a sharp leg bye. Jakati moves in on the follow-through, picks up and throws underarm at the stumps while airborne. Just missed. Sachin makes it in. Barely! The running between the wickets is getting to hilarious proportions. When are CSK gonna strike?

11.2 NOW!!!!! SRT is absolutely disgusted. Slams his bat on the ground. Nayar is out. Raina bowls a fast one from around the wicket. Nayar plays it to square leg. SRT’s call. Says NO. Nayar too far down the track. Dhoni runs, picks up with the un-gloved right hand, takes a bit of time to line it up and hits the wickets on one bounce. Shows the rest of the team how its done!

Surprise, Surprise!!!! Bhajji walks in ahead of all the renowned big hitters still waiting in the wings. Hmmm.. What is MI’s strategy here. You only have 8 overs and change. You have 4 proper batsmen who can easily clear the park but you went with Bhajji?? CSK fans don’t complain at all.

11.6 After a delicate cut for four by SRT on the 4th delivery, Raina gets Bhajji LBW off the last ball of the over. First look, looked out for me. Sridhar thinks – may be sliding down. I contend that he has shuffled too far. Hawkeye shows its barely missing the top of the stump. Chaitanya, the MI fan, is disgusted with Koertzen’s umpiring. He thinks MI got jobbed there. Of course, profusely interspersing it with curse words.

Hmm… what do they say about things evening out over the course of a game?

13.1 CSK get Rudi Koertzen-ed!!!!!!!!!!!!! Called wide by Koertzen after a brief consultation (nod of head) with the square leg ump. Dhoni and the bowler Raina went up for the appeal (for caught behind) immediately. The batsman is SRT. Given not out. Replays show a definite deviation ofd SRT’s glove. I am sure Chaitanya is not taking any of his Koertzen’s abuse back.

Leads to an immediate discussion about the need for players to “walk” by CSK fans. The pros and cons are weighed. Someone mentions that Sachin always walks and he didn’t here because its the final and his team is in trouble. Immediately, everyone jumps on him that Sachin never ever walks. He lets the umpire do his job. I have no problems with SRT not walking at all. But CSK was robbed. Oh well, we move on!

13.4 Rayadu putting some oomph in the MI innings. After hitting six of the previous delivery, hits an inside out cover drive for a four. The MI fans in the house make their presence felt. Rayadu being the aggressor here and playing around SRT. This should have happened when Dhawan’s wicket fell. 11 overs late. The run rate climbing ever so rapidly.

During this stretch in CSK innings (overs 12-16), Dhoni and Raina got 71 runs off the 5 overs. Can MI duplicate it?

14.2 THE BIG FISH FALLS. Perhaps the stitches on his bottom hand led to the dismissal. Not enough power in to the off-drive as he would have liked. Vijay pulls off the catch very, very calmly and strikes the pose. He did that in the semis too. Way too nonchalant. CSK fans off their seats and going crazy. Pandemonium!!! Personally, I am a little sad to see SRT go. What a player!

No sign of Pollard. Tiwary walks in. Another interesting move. Explanation later given is that MI wanted to get Pollard in after the spinners are done. Oh come on man! Its the god damned finals. You don’t get a second chance.

14.5 Two in the over. Tiwary slogs across the line and Raina pulls off an absolute screamer, running in from the boundary and taking the catch a mere inch off the ground. CSK team mobs him. So far, the fielding and catching is proving to be the difference between the teams!!

STILL NO POLLARD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! JP Duminy walks in. Struggles to get the ball off square and the batsmen get singles for the next six balls. Some 2′s too. Finally, JP feels frustrated and tries to dump Murali outside the mid-wicket boundary, does not have enough distance. Jakati takes a great catch, stops his momentum taking him outside the rope by breaking in to an impromptu game of hop-skotch. FANTASTIC. Now, in comes, Mr. Kieron Pollard.

55 required of three overs. 3 runs every ball. Even for Pollard, it seems beyond possible. But that’s why they play the game.

Over #17: Bloody Massacre. As expected, Dhoni throws the ball to Bollinger, CSK’s best fast bowler. First ball goes over the keeper for a 4, off the top edge. Kieron bludgeons Bolly for another 18 runs off the next 5 balls. GAME ON! The boundary off first ball, is followed by a 6 over midwicket, a couple, a sliced four in the third man and tops it off with a ginormous SIX over long on. The ball seemed to be traveling for a very long time, before it settled in the 3rd level of the stadium. This boy is country strong and doesn’t get cheated when he goes for it. Carnage. The 3 Mumbai fans are going bonkers. Chennai fans are truly worried. I am sure all of them are having flashbacks to all the times their favorite teams (Be it CSK or India) have lost from an impregnable position. I am telling Sridhar that this game is still Chennai’s to lose. Even after all the mayhem, the required rate has come down to only 16.5 from 18.

33 required off 2 overs. Albie Morkel is on to bowl.Dhoni adjusts the field. By the looks of it, the instructions are for Morkel to bowl full, and slightly wide of off-stump. Chennai fans relieved that Pollard is off strike.

18.1 overs: precious, precious dot ball. A full length delivery, dug back to Albie by Rayadu.

18.2 overs: Only a single as Pollard refuses the second. Rayadu seems a little miffed but Pollard is not paying any attention.

18.3: DING! You are free to move about the country. Pollard blasts one over the head of the bowler. CSK fans worried, yet again.

18.4: DOT BALL. Full delivery that gets under the bat off Kieron and goes to Dhoni. Excellent keeping by the captain.

18.5: Mad confusion and Rayadu sacrifices his wicket. Actually, he needed to. Not sure why he didn’t push for the second, from the get go. May be, he wanted to be the hero? Pollard was always keyed in for the 2nd run to get back on strike.

A distraught MI dugout

18.6: GAME, SET and MATCH: CSK. Dhoni adopts a totally unconventional field on the off-side. A wide-ish short mid-off AND a straight deep mid-off. This man is as cool as they come. Kieron tries to blast this ball too, a little too full and too wide, ends up scooping to mid-off. Hayden – in a solitary act of doing something to earn his pay for the day – comes around to his right, dives and take the catch with both hands, just off the ground. Bedlam in the desi graduate students apartment. Once again, Madhu loses his cool, breaks out a stream of swears, tells Pollard to suck on his….. popsicle (let’s keep this PG, alright?) and all that. Lots of high-fiving all around. MI fans are distraught. They see the writing on the wall. There isn’t gonna be a miracle tonight.

20.0 Another run out in the 20th over and now the only curiosity is whether CSK will bowl MI out. Thanks a missed catch by Raina, they don’t. Confetti rain, take cover people!

After a long delay for setting up the stage, during which time, MI fans in the stadium pretty much have all left. Not waiting for the awards ceremony. Sore losers? Perhaps! May be it was too late in the night and they have to get to work Monday morning. May be! But I think they knew about Modi’s speech. What a bunch of self-congratulating, Zen+Gita quoting crap that was. Whatever little sympathy he may had with the public, he lost it by that speech. The moment belonged to the Chennai Super Kings and Modi tried one last roll of political dice. That cheap bastard. By this time, we saw online that he has suspended by the BCCI from the post of Vice-President. Whatever.A very long presentation ceremony. All sorts of awards. Medals. Bleh. Finally, they hand the trophy to the Captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Your 2010 IPL Champions: CHENNAI SUPER KINGS!

The victorious CSK huddle

Finally!