Tag Archives: Australia

The Great Cricket Debate: India’s #1 Status and The BCCI

There is a lot of rankling outside of the sphere of India and her fans that, India have basically lucked in to the #1 Test Side status, since they have not beaten neither Australia nor South Africa in a test series away! (Apparently there is an unwritten rule in test match rankings that you had to wrest the #1 status from the cold, dead fingers of the previous holder of the title).

I was roped in by the good folks at World Cricket Watch to enter a debate with one of their columnist, Matt Wood (who is an Aussie living in Canada). So, Matt and I, started an email back and forth, conducted over a few days discussing India’s #1 test status and the workings of the BCCI. We thought we could include a discussion on the upcoming Australia’s tour of India but the debate quickly got out of control and so, we left it out for another time.

Click here for the debate published at WCW. Your thoughts and comments are most welcome.

Ten Things about Group Captain Sachin Tendulkar

Source: AFP

On September 3, 2010, Indian batting ace, Sachin Tendulkar was awarded the honorary rank of group captain by the chief of the Indian Air Force (IAF) for his contribution to cricket. Instead of an honorary award, what if he really was a group captain in the IAF?

1.  Tendulkar will be the first airman to fly 200 sorties in one day. Everybody knew from the day he entered the Indian air force and started flying them planes, he was gonna be the one to break the 200 barrier. Some thought this day might never happen and have to live with the fact that a Pakistani group captain had the record for the most number of sorties in a day.

2. When Tendulkar enters the peak of his prowess as a true dog fight legend, his wingmen would be extremely terrible. They would be so inept that they can’t even do the one job that is asked of them — hold one end up with some fake firefight and pretend to shoot at the enemy here and there.

3. For the majority of his flying career, he would be saddled with hand me down jets from the previous era which malfunction constantly with failures at the most inopportune times. During an epic battle against an archenemy, he would get 136 kills over the skies of Chennai and leave the rest of the squadron to shoot down just 17 more, as his back engine was fouling up but alas, that wouldn’t happen!

4. In the “Battle of the Hero Cup”, when senior and more experienced fighter pilots like Devil Kap were dithering over whether they could deal the deciding blow, Young Tendulkar would volunteer to take control and launch in to a certain suicide mission, only to emerge victorious.

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Let the Ashes begin

Ricky Ponting has fired the first salvo of the Ashes 2010 by saying a 5-0 whitewash is definitely possible. I think he meant Australia beating England 5-0. Sure. Whatever you say Ricky. England are in the process of winning 8 test matches in a row (if they beat Pakistan in the remaining 2 test matches, which is highly likely).

However, in my view, the contest is a lot closer than most people think. Continue reading the article at World Cricket Watch

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Sehwag – The Inimitable Genius

Way back in the early Oughts, Prem Panicker, used to have an online talk-chat show called “Panix Station” (before podcast was even part of the public parlance) where people could send questions in by email. The show’s producer would read the question and Prem would give his take on it. It has since been discontinued and Prem has moved on to bigger and better things.

During the entire life of that show, I had sent in one question/comment only. It went something like this: “I don’t know why people are cribbing so much about how Virender Sehwag bats. He is a free spirit and he brings that refreshing attitude to his batting. Sure, there will be times when he gets out in a silly looking manner, but the team management seems to be okay with it. They seem perfectly happy with the way he goes about it as more often than not, he pulls it off and puts the opposition bowlers under tremendous pressure. We, as fans, should quit quibbling about his batting style and enjoy it while it lasts.”

Picture source: topnews.in

If you had seen the way Virender got out in the 2nd test match against Sri Lanka, you would either be banging your head against a wall for he has thrown out an opportunity for a fourth century on trot, or just shrug the shoulder with a nod of the head, acknowledging, “That’s the way he bats.”  Loads of ink and acres of webspace have been used up in trying to describe this inimitable genius. Of course, there is more method to the seeming madness.

Batting, when performed correctly, is an absolute work of art. Especially in test match Cricket. Sehwag, with a bat in hand, distills this art form to its purest core – See ball, Hit ball. He has been quoted many times that he doesn’t like to play “boring cricket”. Does this mean he wants to score a boundary of every ball? Of course not. There is a big difference between purposeful batting that is full of intent and general savagery where the batsman goes after everything.

I was looking for opportunities to score runs wherever I could,” Sehwag said of what he was trying to do when, for the third time in the series, he faced short and wide deliveries with a square third man, a deep point and a sweeper-cover in place. “If fielders are there I can hit towards mid-off, midwicket or mid-on. Whatever reasons. Because I don’t want to, you know, play boring Test cricket.

An argument has been made that Sehwag gets “bored” when the fields get defensive and the bowler is pitching the ball two feet outside the off stump. I think that’s a pile of garbage. No “bored” batsman could score the mountains of runs that Sehwag scores if he were actually to get “bored”. Sehwag has the highest percentage of 150+ scores  of all batsmen with at least 10 test centuries to their name. All this does is point out the irrefutable fact that when he gets “in”, he kicks on to a very big score.  That is not a sign of a batsman that gets “bored”, is it? The bowling and fielding placements get boring, but Sehwag? I don’t think so.

In test cricket, Sehwag gives the bowler the respect he deserves, not because of the bowler’s pedigree or his reputation, but how he is performing that day, that over. He plays out maidens, with rock solid front food defense but the moment he senses any weakness in the bowler, he launches in to him. When bowling to Sehwag, the bowler’s margins for error, diminish rather rapidly to the point of being almost non-existent. If there is a slight mistake in the length or the line, Sehwag duly cashes in with his lightning bat speed, with a typical flay over point. This undoubtedly has a significant effect on bowlers who are not made of sterner stuff.

Imagine you are Uda Walawwe Mahim Bandaralage Chanaka Asanga Welegedara (Now, say that three times fast and all your wishes will be granted!). A decent bowler with moderate talent and medium pace. You are gently trundling along in your run up and you are about to deliver to Sehwag. In the back of your mind, you know you have to be inch perfect. A little bit towards the middle, he will flick you over squareleg. A little wide, you will be slashed over point. Too full, you will be driven down the ground. Too short, pulled over  midwicket. This is where Sehwag wins more than half his battles. The bowlers need to be perfect, or they are going to be carted for runs. Quite easily.

In 2003-04 test series in Australia, Sehwag was on the threshold of doing something quite unique in the 3rd test of the series at the MCG – a ravishing double hundred on the opening day of the test – and he was only a shot away at 195. He had just hit the part-time crock of Katich for a six over long on. While trying to repeat the same stroke to get to 201, he holed out. The Indian score was 311-3 and India were bowled out for 366 soon after.

Two things grab your attention: One, The Australian bowlers, including Brett Lee, in home conditions, were bowling pretty well as they got the other 9 wickets for 171 runs and Two, Sehwag made a mockery of that bowling and the conditions. He owned them and tried to bat his way to 200 the only way he knows and in the process he got out, and the rest folded. This has happened a few times where the batting conditions look easy and the bowling benign, when Sehwag is still in, and the rest of the Indian batting just folds up after he is out. Perhaps, they are induced in to a false sense of confidence by the ease with which Sehwag has been dealing.

As a man who had the front row seat to that epic inning at the MCG (and many others during their time together at Ranji trophy matches), I asked former Indian opener Aakash Chopra about this on Twitter and he responded:

Absolutely…he does make it look so simple. The trick is not to believe it.

If this isn’t the sign of a genius, I don’t know what is. He plays with such ease that can only come from the clarity of the mind. There are millions of fans of Indian cricket who will swear by their allegiance for and devotion to Sachin Tendulkar, for the pure joy he has brought to the fans and his unquestionable influence on all batting records. But if you ask them for an honest answer as to who the key to an Indian victory is, the answer will have to be “Virender Sehwag”. In the days following the dastardly terrorist attacks in Mumbai, England agreed to come back and play the test matches in India. The first match was in Chennai and England set an unlikely 387 for India to chase in the 4th innings. Sehwag launched an assault on the English bowling that sunny afternoon at the Chepauk stadium by scoring a blistering 83 of just 66 balls that left a manageable 256 to get on the fifth day which Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh did with aplomb.

One of my friends put this up on his facebook page and I don’t think I can say it any better.

They can debate about the best batsman in the world all they want but there’s no other delight for the fans and no other nemesis for the opposition in cricket today than Sehwag.

A slightly modified version of this article is published at World Cricket Watch. My debut article there. Support WCW. (They have highlights videos of all matches).

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Shit gets wickets

While playing for my university in the U.S., one of my mates, James who is an Aussie, after almost every time he would pick up a wicket, would say, “Shit gets wickets”. That was a brutally honest opinion from him about his own bowling. Although he was of wiry build, he could generate a decent amount of pace with his nippy action but his ideas about line and length – the fundamental tools for a good bowler – were non-existent. Well, he had some ideas about them but never could carry it out on a cricket pitch. Therefore, in spite of James’ best efforts, sometimes, the batsmen would gift wrap their wickets.

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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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Alternate Reality

The Venue: Beausejour Stadium, Gros Islet, St Lucia

The Occasion: 2nd Semifinal, T20 World Cup, Pakistan vs Australia

The Scene: Chasing an improbable 192 runs to secure a spot in the finals, Australia, thanks to mind-numbing blitzkrieg from Michael Hussey, are at the threshold of proving to the world, yet again, the “Never say die” Aussie attitude.

The Equation: Australia are 187/7 off 19.3 overs. 5 runs required off 3 balls, off a so-far-very-ordinary Saeed Ajmal over with M. Hussey on strike (having just got to his fifty by hitting yet another thunderous swipe for a six).

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Daylight Robbery

There is no other way to explain this. Pakistan seemingly had it in their grasp for 39 overs. Mike Hussey – not even at gun point – stole the whole darn thing from right under the nose of Pakistan. Personally, I was rooting for Pakistan for 2 reasons: 1) Let’s keep the cup in Asia 2) God, I hate the Aussies.

I feel for the Pakistani fans. They probably are the worst feeling lot, right about now. Cheer up fellas. You did a lot better than your much fancied neighbors. Pakistan team made itself and its people proud by this effort, despite the dysfunction that’s the Pakistan Cricket Board. Hold your chin up!

P.S. I had a whole blog post laid out about the exploits of this Pakistan team, but may have to alter it a bit :-)

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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.