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Monday, May 31, 2010

Rohit comes of age

Rohit Sharma is a classy elegant right hander with all the talent in the world.  The Gods have bestowed upon him enormous potential and an array of strokes.  He always has plenty of time on his hand and watching Rohit bat is always a treat.  He can play an aggressive and defensive game and has all the things needed to become one of the greats.  No wonder this young lad is often tipped as the next Sachin Tendulkar.

However the 23 year old lad who scores heavily in the Ranji trophy and punishes bowlers at will in the Indian Premier League has always struggled at the highest level.  He has been in and out of the team and has done little to impress anyone and has disappointed our high hopes more times than not.

The youngster had a brilliant start to his International career as he scored a magnificent 50 on his T20 debut, and showed some class and maturity that even Sachin would have been proud of.  However after that, Rohit has done little.

The tri-series however has been interesting only for two reasons.  Mainly because Zimbabwe are winning and the second reason is because of Rohit Sharma.  In the T20 World Cup, his innings against Australia was full of brilliant strokes and he looked if not at ease, a little better than the other Indian batsmen when it came to the short-pitched delivery.

Rohit's back to back centuries finally show that he won't go into the long list of players who could but didn't.  He goes to become an star instead and isn't that what we all want?  The young man has such a calm mind, poise, temperament, balance and elegance that puts a ballerina to shame.  He is quick-fitted and has a varied variety of strokes on both the feet.  His foot movement is dashing and he gets right behind the line of the ball.  This allows his to judge the ball better and also gives him that extra second more to play his shot.

Great players always have all the time in the world to play a stroke.  A 145 KPH delivery is more like a dull slow-motion delivery that arrives only to be met with a kiss from the willow.  One such player was Lara, who always seemed to have time and never looked rushed, and Rohit belongs to that class.

However two back to back tons are just the start, and hopefully not the end either.  With such huge expectations on him, I hope Rohit turns out as the world class player he looks to be.

Monday, May 17, 2010

England finally win a WC!

England have finally won a World Cup!  Yes, they beat Australia by 7 wickets [SCORECARD] to lift the World Cup in the West Indies yesterday.   Kieswetter was the man of the match while Kevin Pietersen was chosen as the player of the tournament.

Here are some of the winning moments.

MOM- Craig Kieswetter 

Captain Inspirational on high

"Almost as good as an Ashes victory!"

"Oh man!  Now I got to change diapers!"

Saturday, May 15, 2010

"The best feeling in my career" - Take a bow, Mr. Cricket

It's an English - Australian face down in the finals thanks to some splendid hitting from White and Micheal Hussey.  Micheal Hussey the 'freak' (he was called that by his captain, Michael Clarke after the match) came up with a brilliant innings near the end to grab victory from the jaws of defeat or rather from the Pakistani team [SCORECARD].

Pakistan, having scored a brilliant 191 in a pressure semi-final match, looked halfway there into their third finals.  The Akmal brothers played wonderfully with each getting a half century.  Further to help the Pakistani domination, they grabbed 3 wickets within the first 6 overs and Australia was left floundering at 62 for 4 by the ninth over.  Then entered Cameron White, who started to counter attack and slammed 5 huge sixes to give Australia an outside chance.  But with White and Smith out going for the big runs, Australia needed an improbable 54 runs of just 21 balls with 3 wickets in hand.

Mike Hussey rewrote history from then and ensured that the match went into the very last over with still 18 needed.  With Pakistan's best bowler bowling, things looked all over.  It was a magnificent fightback but in vain was to be this article, but a 6,6,4 and another 6 sealed the deal for Australia, and Hussey finished with 60 of just 24 balls.  (Watch the last over here).

When asked to described the innings Hussey said, "the best feeling in my career".  The Pakistani team was left shell-shocked and their coach Waquar Younis still can't believe what happened.  I got what I wanted, which was a Poms- Aussie showdown and can't say anything other than WOW to describe such an innings.  It truly will be rated as one of T20's best chases.

Spare a thought for the Pakistanis and also for their fans.  It's always difficult being a Pakistani player and kudos to them for doing so well.

I end this post saying, "take a bow, Mr.Cricket."

Friday, May 14, 2010

Lack of commitement or shifting loyalties?

Indian cricket is all the sudden in a pathetic condition with 8 players in the World Cup squad grossly over weight and 3 of them totally unfit for any form of cricket.  The fitness is not the only problem as many of the players are also lacking commitment and the hunger to play for their country.

I wrote an article recently on the Indian coach, Gary Kirsten and said how I admired his management skills.  Now, that admiration is only getting bigger.  Gary Kirsten had one on one sessions with several senior players the likes of MS Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra, and conveyed some harsh message to them.  Kirsten finds the T20 team totally uncommitted to the task and has lashed out in public about the lack of commitment, discipline and fitness.  This is something I greatly appreciate and something Allan Border did.  Allan Border when he was the skipper of Australia once was so disappointed with his team that he told in a press conference that he would step down if the team hasn't won a match in their remaining 3 matches against the Kiwis.  The results was astounding as Australia went to win 2 of the matches and tie the series.  Steve Waugh wrote about the incident that it hurt badly that AB would have to go the press to get the point across and that really spurred the players to give their best.  In another year and a half they stood in Calcutta lifting up the World Cup and AB being carried all over the stadium.

Kirsten comes across as a very honest man and he is greatly disappointed in this team as every fan is.  He specially took the time to point out that he at 42 years is more fit than the likes of Rohit Sharma who just turned 23.  Stunning and shockingly true.

He has also said that the Indian team cares about the no.1 rank in test cricket and the no.2 rank in ODI's, but are not treating T20 as cricket.  Something seriously wrong here and steps must be taken to curtail it.  Australia cut of one of their best players, Andrew Symonds due to disciplinary actions and it's time for BCCI to do the same.  I would like to see Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan, and the youngsters all out of the team for some time.  This way they will not take their selections for granted and also be committed to the country.  Also it will let some other player who is more hungrier and committed than these players an opportunity to perform for his country.

Many blame the IPL for failures, but this utter lack of commitment to the country is probably due to it.  It's sad to say that, but I do feel that IPL in a way is ruining Indian cricket.  The younger players never have earned so much money and with all the sponsors and instant fame, I feel they forget that it's still cricket that is of the primary focus and makes them who they are.  With the money and the demi-god statuses many of the youngsters lose sight of their priorities and their commitments.  This is now clearly seen.  The adulation is sometimes too much to handle for a player and has huge consequences on his game. 

The club versus country is a debate that happens in Football and unheard of in cricket till recently.  I do feel that it is true, and with the money involved in the IPL, I see more players being committed to their club than country.  The pride of wearing your country colours and standing in front of the world singing the anthem and playing for the country and the passion of the game no longer suffices for many players, and sadly for them it's all about the money.

A couple of months ago when I was walking around the Chinnaswammy stadium with a cousin of mine, we got talking about T20 cricket and it's effect.  One thing he told me shocked me and made me face the truth.  With the IPL and the big bucks it generates, he said that he would encourage his son to become a big hitter and a slogger for T20 cricket rather than concentrate on technique and other aspects required for test cricket.  I was shocked at this and dismissed it immediately, but seeing the way things are panning out, I'm sure that what he said is sadly very true.

This will only get worse unless there are some people with vision governing the game, willing to take some quite harsh decisions for the sake of cricket.  Loyalties are ever changing and if a player is more loyal to a club than country and is more committed towards the club's cause, he must be shown the door with no questions asked and made an example of it.  Cricket Australia did that with the Kerry Packer League, but BCCI and ICC don't have to go to that extreme.  They just need to step in when they feel a player is not fulfilling in his work.

Congrats England on yet another World Cup finals...

Kevin Pietersen is a proud father and his team has finally cracked T20 and have entered the finals of the world Cup.  Congrats KP and England.  Specially England for making it to yet another world cup finals.

Now two big questions arise with the English in the finals and Australia/Pakistan also there.  The two very important questions are,

1.) Will it be a Pommy - Aussie final?
I dearly hope so, but we'll know the answer tonight.

2.) Will England win their first World Cup final?
This is a question that heaven only knows at the moment.

Anyways, congrats to England and as Collingwood has said that this is the best English team he has been in, I'm sure they fancy their chances.  I'm sure they don't want yet another tale of 'so close yet so far away'.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What went wrong for the men in blue?

India now haven't won a single game in the super eights in the last two editions of the T20 World Cup and have a track record in West Indies that can only be described as simply terrible.  The Indians were outplayed in all departments and here are a few reasons what went wrong for the men in blue.

1.) The World Cup selection did not comprise of the best 15 T20 players in prime form at the moment.  Rather it consisted various others the likes of Yusuf Pathan, and Ravindra Jadeja over Robin Uthappa, Pragyan Ojha and Irfan Pathan.  The selectors and Dhoni have stated time and time again that this is the best 15 available, but if that was the case I'm sure India would have won more than 1 out of 4 games (leaving out the match against Afghanistan).

2.) The batting was subjected to many bouncers 10 months ago in England, where the Indian batsmen fell like flies.  Now, after 10 months, knowing exactly what they will be against, the batsmen again looked confused and bemused against the shorter delivery.  The team had 10 months to iron out their weakness, and added to this is that they knew very well that they would have to face some torrid bumpers from the pace bowlers in the Indies.  Still they managed to fail and this shows just how lacking the team has been in terms of preparation.  The technical aspect of the Indian top order batsmen must be analyzed and rectified.

3.) The bowling was pathetic to say the least.  Zaheer Khan looked tired while Nehra and Praveen Kumar were erratic in their line and length.   Yusuf Pathan and Yuvraj Singh bowled the fifth bowler quota and were taken to the cleaners.  The selection of Ravindra Jadeja is something that is incomprehensible.  Despite going for 38 runs against the Aussies in just 2 overs including 6 consecutive sixes, he was selected yet again for the match against the West Indies.  There's some serious problem selection problem here.  Harbhajan Singh was the only bowler who was left to both attack and contain the batsmen and the pressure on him was immense and this is seen in his numbers.  Compared to the others, he bowled decently well.

4.) This Indian team is one that has plenty of youth and look to a well agile team.  Wrong!  Many of the  youngsters are hardly fit and cannot catch a cricket ball even 7 out of 10 times.  Raina, Rohit, Karthik are exceptions, but the others are simply awful.  This includes the likes of Gambhir, Yuvraj (heaven knows what happened to his fielding ability), and Yusuf Pathan.  Fielding was probably the difference in yesterdays match.

5.) The selection of the playing 11 can be termed none better than stupid.  A team is supposed to consist of the best possible 11 players available, but sadly this wasn't the case.  The selections of Ravindra Jadeja, and Yusuf Pathan raises many questions.  Ravindra Jadeja is a part time bowler and a part time batsmen who comes out to bat at 8.  In a T20 match if your top 4 batsmen don't do the job, the 8th one is not going to do it.  So it seems the common sense thing to do is to play a specialist bowler and strengthen the bowling.  Yusuf Pathan is a big hitter no doubt and made for T20, but he has been a player who has had huge success in the domestic circuits, but has done little for India.  In his last 12 innings he has scored 164 runs at an average of 16.40.  If a player has failed to make an impact after 16 T20 matches, why give him another chance, when there are thousands waiting in the ranks?

6.) Dhoni's captaincy wasn't so good either.  He kept bringing on spinners in the powerplay despite the fact that they were getting hit all over the park.  His bowling changes and field placements was found lacking as he kept an average fielder in vital positions and made part timers bowl in very important phases of the match.  No wonder this is his worst tournament as captain.  He must take a leaf out of Micheal Clarke's book I feel.

Its time for India to rethink their team and the very way they play the game and make the proper changes.   The attitude and the thinking must change and so must the results.  This is an opportunity to put the team in order and look to become the best team ever.  The Australians had to do that after last years disastrous performance and just look at them now!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Story of India & Bouncers

The Indian team has always struggled against quality pace bowling for the last five decades.  The team has struggled to cope with quality seam bowling with bounce and and swing and has looked a bit confused when facing such bowling specially in overseas conditions where the ball tends to bounce and swing more.  It is unfair to say that it is only the Indian team that struggles against pace, as all subcontinental teams do, but in the recent past it has been India that has been most vulnerable against it and has been exploited heavily due to this vulnerability.

India has crashed out of the T20 World Cup in West Indies or rather bounced out after some horrid batting display against some quality pace bowlers who dug the ball short.  It was the same story 10 months ago in England when the same happened and the it was to the very same players - Yusuf Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh and Gautam Gambhir who struggled, just as they did yesterday.

The World Cup selection was itself a disaster as many performers such as Robin Uthappa, Pragyan Ohja, and Irfan Pathan were overlooked for others the likes of Yusuf Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja, and Rohit Sharma who haven't really been performing so consistently.  Ravindra Jadeja skipped the IPL as he was suspended by the Governing Council and lacked match practice.  Added to this is the fact that neither his bowling nor his batting has really done anything for India.  How he made the squad and worse yet the playing 11 on all four occasions is above my levels of understanding.  The same can be said of Yusuf Pathan, but he did score a century the very first match he played in the IPL, but from then on he did nothing.  He is a very one dimensional player who can only slog when the ball is pitched up to him.  He doesn't play the horizontal bat, and with his height is a perfect target for any fast bowler.  Dale Steyn and RCB sure made this count in the IPL.  Murali Vijay is a classy player but in the domestic season.   Most of his dismissals have been caught out at deep square leg pulling a ball, and this was the very same thing that happened yesterday.

The Indian conditions are flat pitches that aid spin more than pace and seldom are the batsmen made to fear for their health with the bumper in such conditions.  Therefore many batsmen are very weak with the horizontal bat and are vulnerable to the shorter ball.  This is reason and an excuse used long enough.

Dhoni has come out saying that comparing the IPL to the T20 Championship is wrong, and in a sense he is right as the T20 Championship has much more quality in terms of players while the IPL is just a domestic T20 league.  But at the same time, isn't a domestic league supposed to prepare a player for the international Arena?  IPL is probably the T20 league closest to the international level, though the Australian domestic T20 tournament is not far off, and despite facing quality bowlers such as Nannes, Lee, Steyn, Tait, Bond and Malinga for 6 weeks, the Indian team manages to put up such a horrid performance.

The bowling and fielding has let down India too, albeit not as much as the batting, and for that one reason escape the limelight.

India lack a genuine quick bowler who can clock 140 Ks consistently, and batsmen who can play bounce.  With these two major lacking, I don't see the Indian team winning least dominate teams in the future.  It is time to retrospect and iron out the weakness.  The management and the players alike must sit down and work out their weakness and iron it out.

An alarm bell rang 10 months ago in England and the second one rung yesterday.  I sure don't want to hear a third bell and I'm sure the Indian National team agrees with me on this.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Stranger than fiction

Life is always stranger than fiction.  All the events and happenings around us in the real world is sometimes more real than anything on Earth and at the strange time very unreal and stranger than all the myths and fantasies.  Such is life and cricket is no different.

If someone had told me in 2005 that there would be multi-billion dollar T20 cricket league much like the English Premier League in India called the Indian Premier League, I would have laughed at the idea.  The idea then was strange and totally unimaginable, but now, it is part of the Indian lifestyle.

The same is to be said now, as BCCI have issued another show-cause notice to the IPL suspended Commissioner.  This time the charges are somewhat bizarre and mind blowing.  The charge by BCCI against Modi this time is that he tried to hijack English cricket by proposing to introduce a parallel IPL jointly presented by the English Counties. The ECB has come out saying "Modi's attitude and alleged activities is detrimental to Indian cricket, English cricket and world cricket at large."  In other words, Modi has been branded as the Hitler of cricket trying to take over world cricket.  This hasn't gone too well with the ECB and the BCCI and hence Lalit Modi has been served yet another notice.  This accusation is very mind blowing and must I say, stranger than fiction.

The bizarre plan of the parallel IPL in England according to the Indian Express is,
The ten existing Indian franchises would have the first right to buy the new franchises in England at an auction. Each franchise would need to strike a 50% partnership with a UK-based stakeholder to give the team a local presence. If any of the existing franchises chose not to bid for a team, the losing bidders from the Indian auctions would have the second right to bid. After that, the auction will be thrown open to all interested bidders.  The counties would get 20% of the revenues while the franchises would get 80%.  All franchise fees are payable to the BCCI, out of which 20% may be paid to the clubs.  Each county would be guaranteed a payout between $3 - $5 million a year, along with a staging fee of $1.5 million.  The player regulations would be the same as they are in the IPL - 10 overseas players per team, with no more than four in the playing 11.

A very interesting plot indeed with some truly wonderful characters.

This could be all a big misunderstanding and as the Yorkshire Chairmen said that the issue has been totally overblown, or this can all be true.  If the former is true, then all this is unnecessary and the story remains as a boring non-fiction book with little untruths.  But if the later is true, then cricket management becomes a very interesting fantasy thriller saga with Lalit Modi as the super villain.

What is the genre I do not know at this point of time, but whatever it is, it makes some lovely bedtime stories.  Lalit Modi on the charge-sheets has said, "What's in the show cause notice is not speculation, it's fiction."  There is more than that meets the eye here, but one thing is certain about this.  It is stranger than fiction.  

Friday, May 7, 2010

Sachin, Twitter & Jeffrey Archer

Sachin Tendulkar created a storm in the micro-blogging site, Twitter when he debuted on it on Tuesday.  India's most loved and secretive celebrity finally joined Twitter and within hours he had over 12,000 followers.  All this happens just a few days after a mango is named after him.  Some connection here?

He now joins Micheal Clarke, Shane Warne, Chris Gayle, Phil Hughes, and numerous other cricketers on Twitter.  As I write this he has 186,210 followers.  It certainly looks like another mountainous record is going to be made here.

There have been various jokes on Twitter on Sachin joining Twitter and one worth mentioning is that his Twitter handle should have had an “overscore” instead of an underscore.

And speaking of Sachin, one of England's best storyteller - Lord Jeffrey Archer has gone public revealing why he was forced to take writing as his profession. He said,
"I was destined to be one of the world's greatest batsmen, but nobody other than me realised that. I'm the Tendulkar of England."
So go on and follow Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar on Twitter.  His Twitter handle is sachin_rt.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Test cricket in the pink of health....

BCCI has requested Cricket Australia to change the seven-match ODI series between India and Australia in October to two Tests and three ODIs.  This is an open attempt by BCCI trying to get the Indian team to play more tests so they can remain number Uno and is welcomed by all.  In fact this move is applauded by all and once again test cricket is in the fore.

India won the T20 World Cup in 2007 and the IPL was born.  Likewise after achieving the number one rank in tests, India is paying special attention to test cricket and it is taking centre stage again.  Surely an Indian victory is beneficial for cricket.

India have played four tests so far this year and are scheduled to play six more this year (three against Sri Lanka and three against New Zealand).  So if this proposal is accepted, then India would play 12 tests in 2010, which is pretty good considering that the IPL and the T20 World Cup take 2 months by themselves.

India is hugely benefited by this and the move is also good for Australia as they would get a few tests before their Ashes campaign against England.  But the biggest winner remains test cricket.  Test cricket has taken centre stage, and is truly in the pink of health.  Why else would I take time to write about test cricket in the midst of the T20 World Cup in the Caribbeans?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Some brilliant commentary from the IPL

The T20 World Cup has been pretty boring and ordinary so far, and one of the reasons in the commentary. IPL had the best of the commentary and here are some of the best from IPL 2010.

These are a few very very stupid yet pretty funny sayings said during commentary during the course of IPL 2010. This proves once again that you don't have to do or say much to appear like the fool.

"The MRF blimp is enjoying the atmosphere."
- Ravi Shashtri trying to be funny but sadly ends up saying something that is not even remotely close to funny.

"And that's a Citi Moment of success for the boys from Bangalore."
- Mike Haysmen commentating after Royal Challengers Bangalore lost their 7th wicket during their loss to the Mumbai Indians in the semifinals.

"And if they lose another wicket now, Rajasthan will be three down and that is not good."
- Sunil Gavaskar enlightens that he knows his math after Rajasthan lose two early wickets against Royal Challengers Bangalore. Yes Sunil, we know that after 3 comes after 2 and losing 3 wickets is bad.

"That's Lalit Modi"
- Laxman Sivramankrishnan spots the IPL commissioner. No way Siva! And I thought it was Mahatma Gandhi.

"It's a double header folks this wonderful Saturday evening. The 'double D's' take on the 'double R's'.
- Danny Morrision warming up to his classy best overusing the word 'double'.

"If that's not a 'DLF Maximum'. It's a 'DLF Maximum'."
- Robin Jackman completely forgets his English as he describes a 104 metre hit by Robin Uthappa.

"There's the MRF blimp. In Chennai there's the Dennis Lillee pace academy."
- Danny Morrision messes up yet another line as he tries to describe the MRF Pace Academy in Chennai.

"No batsmen likes to get out."
- Sunil Gavaskar enlightens us with more wisdom. Of course a batsman doesn't like to get out.

"The MRF blimp again.....(*sigh*)"
- Ravi Sashtri finally gets irritated seeing the big bloated balloon up in the sky time and time again.  This is in the finals.

"That's the MRF from Chennai".
- Danny Morrison again! He just can't seem to tell anything right about the big balloon in the sky.

"I've heard superman and batman, but never spiderman."
- Robin Jackman forgets one of the best superheroes ever as he tries to describe the spider-cam.

We all enjoyed it and I'm sure that this is one of the many things the T20 World Cup is missing.