Tag Archives: Sri Lanka

Century, Interrupted

I wanted to avoid writing this. People have talked ad nauseam. TV anchors yelled questions at six different panelists, simultaneously, which included the eminent scout of Javelin throwers, Bishen Bedi, who narrated stories not relevant to the topic of conversation. Typical. Fans have vented on Twitter and Facebook. Some of them were gob smacked at the vanishing spirit of Cricket while others shrugged off – Happens all the time, dude. Batsmen don’t walk any more even if they know, as sure as the sun rising in the East, they have nicked one behind. Batsmen employ delaying tactics to avoid facing that extra over before stumps. Bowlers and fielders appeal even when they know they don’t have a case, to coax an error out of the umpire. Bowlers bowling wides to avoid the opposing batsmen hitting the winning runs. It’s all part of the game. So, when a bowler deliberately (seemingly anyway, at first look) overstepped by a generous foot to prevent a batsman from getting to his 100, it’s no big deal. Meh.

But the Sri Lankan Cricket Board didn’t think so. Earlier today, they handed down, at the end of their own internal investigation – this must be the quickest ever investigation in the history of internal investigations – a one-match ban to Suraj Randiv, and loss of match fees and loss of match fees to the apparent instigator Tillakaratne Dilshan, as well. You already know the circumstances surrounding the controversy, so I won’t rehash it.

At the end of the match, when Sehwag realized he didn’t actually get to his century, he in his unique way, brushed it off, saying that teams do these sort of things to prevent the batsman from getting to a personal landmark. By then he had not seen the replays and wasn’t really aware of the egregiousness of that no ball. A spinner who doesn’t really bowl no balls oversteps so much that his back foot is at the popping crease. So this was a premeditated effort to deny Sehwag his century. When asked later, Sehwag agreed that it looked very intentional and premeditated, and reportedly not as generous or forgiving as he was at the end of the match. (Would you be? I am not so sure.)

However, reports came out later that the bowler, Suraj Randiv, had apologized to Sehwag and even Sri Lankan Cricket did too. Sehwag accepted it and it was time for all of us to move on, with the knowledge that even Sri Lanka, two time recipient of the ICC Spirit of Cricket Team award (’07 and ’08), is not above cheap tricks. As Sambit Bal, The editor of Cricinfo put forth: “The bowler apologised, the batsman accepted; where do the rest of us come in?

That’s when the Indian media machine stepped in. In the only way it knows to analyze (I am using the term analyze very loosely) any situation, it blew it out of proportion. Every damn network started piling on. They brought in people to transcribe the conversation picked up by stump microphone (as one anchor put it – real people who know real Sinhalese. Who said investigative journalism is dead?). They were positive it was Sangakkara who made Randiv do the dastardly act. The real people who know real Sinhalese told the anchor, “Sangakkara told the bowler not to give the batsman a run”. Of course. Which captain ever tells his bowler not to give away the winning run? Game, Set and Match. Some started comparing the situation to all the other times any Indian cricket player was ever wronged. Sydney 2008 was duly hashed and rehashed. The racist card couldn’t be played as those real Sri Lankans are of the same race as these real Indians. As much as I am not a fan of Sangakkara and his over appealing, sweet talking tactics, he was quickly sullied without proper proof. But after the SL Cricket Board’s punishments have come out, it has become clear that Dishan played the instigator and advised Randiv to bowl a monster no ball. The raving TV anchor is not going to apologize to Sangakkara but that is only to be expected. The story quickly moved on to demonising Dilshan.

I had a few conversations during the day on social networking sites and just good ol’ fashioned chats with some friends. The topic revolved around, not the usual “OMG, how could Randiv do that?” but more on the lines of, “Did SLC have to do this? Was the punishment too much?” [especially considering Mr. Broad Jr is getting away with only a portion of match fees docked for throwing a ball at a batsman and for general wussy-ness].

With just the video evidence, it is hard to prove that Randiv’s action was pre-meditated. People bowl big no balls and wides. Ask Steve Harmison. He has bowled a ball so wide, it bypassed the keeper, the pitch and went straight in to the hands of second slip. And so, yeah, it happens. I asked one of my friends from my undergraduate days – he is a trained umpire in the Asian Cricket Council – and he responded thus: “The umpire should have called the ball dead and cautioned the bowler for misconduct if to him it was delibrate, as he is empowered to under the “preamble” spirit of cricket points number 3 and 4. Clearly the offence”intention” to deny sehwag occured before the noball was bowled.” However, one cannot get inside the head of Randiv to know for sure, what he was thinking. The ICC couldn’t have interfered in this as technically, Randiv has not broken any of the game’s written laws.

I commend the fact that SLC Board decided to step in and nip the issue in the bud and do their own investigation, through which they have determined that Dilshan prodded Randiv to bowl the no ball. Good on them. In my opinion, Dilshan should at least have received the same punishment as Randiv, if not more. Dilshan is an experienced international player and should have known better than to resort to such idiocy. If he felt so compelled to deny Sehwag, he should have taken the ball and bowled that over instead of Randhiv.

But did SLC had to do this in the first place? No, of course not. There may be any number of reasons why they did it. It’s possible that the Board was ticked off with the team losing the 2009 Spirit of Cricket award to the Kiwis, or,  may be they are just really good Buddhists, or they are dependent on BCCI for solvency and so wanted to avoid any drawn out, media driven controversy.

I wonder if SLC Board would have been this stringent and swift with “justice” if it weren’t Randhiv – a relative newcomer on the cricketing scene – but one of their main bowlers and the following match was a semi-final or a final. But that’s neither here nor there. So what have we learned from this?

The spirit of cricket is a big bogus thing. In the current days of big time commercialization of cricket, the old practices of what used to be a “gentleman’s game” is slowly but surely drifting out the window. Secondly, Indian media is a non-stop non-sense circus where street corner preachers are masquerading as TV anchors blowing every possible issue out of proportion and propagating the view that one of ours was wronged and so we will drag you through hell. Thirdly, SLC Board cares about its team’s “spirit of cricket” image for one reason or another and they decided to display it by over-penalizing a new comer.

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Muralitharan is a funny motherf**ker

Or he just confused his turbaned Indian spinners. Of course, Murali is the highest wicket taker in the history of test match cricket, and so, I generally tend to put some trust in his words when he makes comments about spinners, especially off-spinners.

Can you tell who's ordinary? Apparently, Murali cannot.

When I read the interview comments he made before the start of what was gonna be his last test match, I was mildly surprised to hear that he thought Harbhajan Singh Plaha was the only bowler that has any chance of breaking his record tally of wickets. May be, he saw something that none of us – except for the Plaha family, saw.

I was even more surprised to hear further comments from Murali during the second match at the concrete roads of SSC that he thinks Bishen Singh Bedi is just an  ordinary spinner. (So surprised was I, my eyebrows did a Colbert.) It is generally known and accepted especially from fans that saw/heard Bedi bowl and the batsmen that faced him that Bedi was a brilliant practitioner of the art of finger spin. He would constantly change the loop and the pace, vary the angles and lengths and tease the batsmen out. I read somewhere that the cricket ball was like a top in Bedi’s hands. Of course, Bedi has for a very long time, maintained that Murali is actually a Javelin thrower stuck in the wrong sport.  So, may be, Murali has some grudges against Bedi?

By making the pre-series statement about Plaha being the only one to have any chance at 800+ wickets, Murali, while trying to sound all genuine, completely messed with his mind. He put the pressure on Plaha. So much so, that Plaha has plahowed and plahadded along for brilliant returns of 2 for 304 at the end of two matches. At this rate, he will only need to play just 444 test matches more to put Murali in the rearview mirror. May be, Murali thought Plaha is the bionic man or the six million dollar man. Whatever the reason, he messes with the minds of Sardarjis and that makes him one funny motherf**ker!

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Sinhalese Sports Club Cricket Pitch

8 wickets in 3 days. Sounds about right!

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Inception of Deception

A friend of mine, still giddy from seeing the newly released Christopher Nolan’s mind bending movie “Inception“, asked whether I have seen it yet. I told him that my head is still spinning from Nolan’s earlier work, Memento and The Following. I need to give my mind or whatever is left of it, a little rest before I set upon journeys from which I may never come back.

Since the next best thing for me to do was check on the schedule of India matches, I was pondering about the possible reasons as to how a second string Board President’s XI squad thoroughly bitch-slapped the first choice India test XI. That’s when it occurred to me the elaborate cloak of deception India has spread out, unbeknownst to their modest neighbor from the South.

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New post at “CricAges”

Just posted an article over at CricAges “All quiet on the western front. So far” dealing with the state of cricket in the USA. Have a read and submit comments to let us know what your thoughts are on this. Does Cricket have a thriving future in the land of milk and honey?

O Bowlers, Where Art Thou?

The fact that India could not defend a reasonably good score of 285 against a weak Zimbabwe team proves one thing that the followers of Indian cricket have long been aware of – the scarcity of match winning bowlers in the Indian set up. The ease with which Zimbabwe chased down the score was very uncomfortable to watch. Agreed, India was playing a second unit team and the three pace bowlers used in this match were all making their international debut, but for crying out loud, its Zimbabwe, a Zimbabwe that is shorn of all their major players due to Mugabe’s politics and are on the mend.

Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar and Ashish Nehra who would’ve been the first choice seamers have been rested and so was the first choice spinner, Harbhajan Singh, for this rather meaningless tri-series, also involving Sri Lanka. The recent Twenty20 world cup debacle, rightfully, exposed the shortcomings of the Indian batsmen against the bouncing ball (yet again) but an important aspect that was missed by all and sundry amongst all the finger pointing and brawl gate, was that the Indian bowling could not restrict the opposition in any of the matches (except against newbies Afghanistan). The pace bowlers looked toothless on the same pitch where the Jerome Taylors and Shaun Taits of the world were making the Indian batsman hop around like cat on a hot tin roof. Even the medium pace of Dwayne Bravo and Darren Sammy was making the Indians feel extremely uncomfortable, which shows how ineffective the Indian pace attack was. [The only bowler that looked reasonable - and he was a spinner - was Harbhajan Singh but even he did not look like taking wickets, although he restricted the batsmen almost always, except in the all crucial do-or-die game against Sri Lanka.]

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Anatomy of a chase

Sri Lanka just wrote the coaching manual on how to chase down a target on a tricky pitch. SL needed to get 144 runs (of the 164 they needed to win the match outright) to boot India out of the T20 World cup. The SL bowlers fought, clawed and yorked their way back into the game after India had scored a swift 90 odd runs in the first 10 overs of their inning and restricted them to just 163 off 20 overs, when a score in the neighborhood of 185+ loomed quite large.

After the initial reverses in the first two overs, the SL batsmen went about rebuilding the innings up. While the captain Sangakkara was digging in for the long haul, Dilshan found the perfect opportunity to get out of his rut to quickly score 30-odd runs which ensured the run rate did not fall too far behind. The scene of the one down batsman causing damage to India after the two dangerous openers have been gotten rid of, rather quickly and cheaply,  gave me the feeling of Deja Vu! Then came, the most crucial partnership of the match, which eventually gave a firm shove to India’s aspirations of sneaking in to the semis through the back door. Continue reading

Coming full circle with Sanath Jayasuriya

The beginning and the (seeming) end of the great career of Sanath Jayasuriya has tremendous symmetry to it. He began as a bowling all-rounder for Sri Lanka considered initially for the short format of the game, the ODIs. Now, as the sun sets on his cricketing career, he is again, in the short(est) format of the game for his country, primarily as a bowler, and comes way down the order. In fact, in the last couple of games for Sri Lanka at the T20 world cup, he has actually come in at number 8.

In his debut international match, Jayasuriya did not even get to bowl. He made a very insignificant 3 off 5 balls and Sri Lanka lost chasing a very moderate 229. This was no harbinger of the things to come in the mid-1990′s where he wreaked havoc on a cricket field. He made his ODI debut in 1989 (same year as the other leading luminary cricketer of this generation, Sachin Tendulkar) and his test debut in 1991. His career was going nowhere till Arjuna Ranatunga (the fore runner to Sourav Ganguly in terms of abrasive sub-continental captains who galvanized their respective teams and changed the way their teams were perceived by their opponents), transformed the fortunes of Sanath and in doing so, that of Sri Lanka.

In 1993, Arjuna pushed the little known Sanath up the batting order during the Sharjah tournament where he scored back to back fifties.  Soon, he was making headlines with his aggressive and explosive batting opening the batting for Sri Lanka. The 1996 world cup, Jayasuriya put on a show for the world to see in the company of the little Kaluwathirana. The way they went about their business, utilizing the fielding restrictions in the first 15 overs of an ODI, changed the way the game was played, forever and brought the world cup to Sri Lanka.

There was no stopping Jayasuriya after that. He brought the same aggressive approach to opening batting in test matches as well and scored runs by the mountains. As always, he complemented his run making with his smart left-arm off spin and agile fielding. During a stretch, he WAS the most destructive batsman in the world topping the charts in tests and ODIs, setting world records for fastest fifty, century and plundering India for 340 runs in a test match. As with all great athletes, age -the enemy that always lurks around the corner- caught up to him.

Towards the second half of the oughts (2000′s), the Sri Lankan cricket board also did not manage his situation well. They were not sure what to do with this enormously gifted cricketer. The SL board wanted to move towards a youth centric team, with the reigns in the hands of Mahela Jayawardene and then, Kumar Sangakkara. So, initially, they dropped Jayasuriya from the test team, only to reinstate him on the back of public protests in Sri Lanka. Later on, he announced his retirement from all formats of the game, only to be cajoled by the country’s president to come back and play ODIs and T20s. He signed with the Mumbai Indians of the IPL in 2007 and showed no signs of slowing down, even though he was not playing the top flight of the game.

However, 2009-10 has brought the rude message home for Jayasuriya. He dabbled a little in politics and even tried his hand at commentary. He was not good at either. So, he went back to what he thought was his sanctuary. This meant, he had to accept whatever role the team management (Mumbai/Sri Lanka) made out for him. This is a man, whose very sight at the crease, holding a bat, with those lightning quick square cuts aided by his piston-like forearms, made grown men shiver in their boots. Now, he is being pushed down the order, played as a part-time bowler. In the 2010 IPL, after a couple of scratchy innings, he wasn’t considered for the starting 11. The great Matara Marauder couldn’t out duel some of the younger ones for a starting spot.

He is now in the SL squad for the T20 world cup 2010, and its almost sad to see him come in at number 8, after the likes of Chandimal and Kapugadera who can’t even hold a candle to what he has accomplished for himself and his country. Its a shame, really, to see him get devalued like this, but yet he soldiers on. As the song by Elton John from the movie Lion King goes,

Some of us fall by the wayside
And some of us soar to the stars
And some of us sail through our troubles
And some have to live with the scars

In the circle of life
It’s the wheel of fortune
It’s the leap of faith
It’s the band of hope
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the circle, the circle of life

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