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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Australian Cricket Team Portrait Session

Via Thoughts from the Dustbin (who objects to Mitch's shirtlessness) comes this link to inimitable and hilariously funny (perhaps not entirely the effect they were looking for) photographs of many of the players in the current Australian XIs:

Please, dear God, please, please, please, PLEASE make me one of the XI.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Champions Wore Yellow

Ever since I saw this morning that Chennai Super Kings had rather emphatically (I think it's all right to call an 8 wicket win emphatic, don't you?!) beaten the Warriors in the Champions League Twenty20 (CLT20) Final, the very last snippet of the song Buenos Aires from the musical Evita has been going around and around in my head: Just a little touch of ... Just a little touch of ... Just a little touch of ... STAR QUALITY.

Not that other CLT20 XIs didn't have stars, of course. Of course they did. But Chennai Super Kings had just that little ... just that little ... just that little EXTRA touch of star quality, in particular when it really mattered.

In opening batsman M. Vijay, Chennai Super Kings had the 2010 CLT20 highest run scorer; Man of Tournament also wore yellow: spin bowler Ravichandran Ashwin.

In 2010 CSK also had Muttiah Muralitharan: what can you say about a bowler who in a Twenty20 match, any Twenty20 match let alone a final, can perform to the tune of 3/16. Four overs. Three wickets. An economy of 4.00. A total of 16 runs. In T20 that must be close to perfection. (Not that Ashwin was far behind that with his 2/16.)

Chennai was also blessed with some very good captaincy. One might perhaps be of the opinion that with such a star-studded crew, the captain would have to do next to nothing, what's the big deal?! Me, I somehow think that leading an XI with so much remarkable and established talent would be a bit like herding cats; that it would take some rather extra-ordinary leadership qualities to make them all merge into a functioning whole. You know, one that not only goes (approximately) in the same direction, but in direction the direction their leader wants them to. In a post headlined Star light star bright, the rest I can't remember right, Carrie Fisher writes:
We’ve all heard the expression, “Star Quality” — that ineffable something that makes certain people focus pullers. It’s my theory that they shine. Something glows out of their eyes, — as though they’ve swallowed some of the spot light that follows them around onstage — and people get caught in their magnetic field and are drawn to them. It might even be possible that one of the reasons that celebrities are called stars is because of this shine. And maybe if you hang around these beaming people, some of it will rub off on you. Whatever this thing is that glows out of them that makes them preferred above most others, if you touch them, talk to them, walk with them, live with them—maybe you can get anointed by this wattage.
Can we all agree that MS Dhoni has star quality? I think we can.

I think we can also agree that in 2010, the champions wore yellow: 2010 was Chennai Super Kings' year.

(In case you're wondering: the first picture is a photograph of White Dwarfs Amid Sun-Like Stars and Red Stars in Globular Cluster M4.)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Black Trumps Red

Well, as we all know, there won't be any red in the Champions League Twenty20 (CLT20) Final. Last night the Warriors took out the Redbacks. A piece of Cricinfo statistics tells virtually the whole story:

  • Warriors: 50 runs in 4.6 overs (30 balls), Extras 0
  • South Australia: 50 runs in 8.5 overs (54 balls), Extras 1
Read'em and weep. I know I did.

The Redbacks appear to have fiddled around with their batting order a bit since last season, for example sensibly dropping Tom Cooper down from #3 to #7. Why on earth Redbacks kept Cooper while getting rid of Cosgrove I shall, however, never understand. Fat or not, Cosgrove was their go-to, anchor batsman in the Australian domestic Twenty20 series, KFC BigBash, that took them to the CLT20 in the first place. And he reliably delivered, even under pressure. Cooper, as far as I am concerned, only reliably delivered disappointment. Especially in pressure situations. Here too, statistics tell the story: in T20, Cooper's average is 17.61; Cosgrove's is 26.84.

For those of you who might have thought me delusional going on about Dhoni and Napoleonic luck in yesterday's post, I'd like to offer the following from a Cricinfo article:

Dhoni's leadership has its share of admirers. He tries to ensure that he appears calm in the middle, he knows his teams' weaknesses, he definitely knows its strengths and, like most successful captains, he gets his share of luck. [My emphasis]

It will be interesting to see if Dhoni's luck will last through the Final. I wish him the best of luck. On the other hand, I wish the best of luck to the Warriors' gritty Captain, Davy Jacobs too. May the best XI win! (Now that the Redbacks are out.)

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to wish the proprietor of this blog a very Happy Birthday!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Star-crossed Reds, Hapless White

It is a well-known fact that the proprietor of this blog is Royal Challengers Bangalore supporter, so perhaps the proper colour to mention this afternoon is neither red nor white, or for that matter yellow, but black.

According to a possibly apocryphal anecdote, Napoleon once asked about a well-merited general up for promotion: But is he lucky? Last night, MS Dhoni had all that luck Napoleon wished for. The RCB, on the other hand, were a star-crossed XI. Virtually all the commentary I've read so far has mentioned Murphy's Law. A few has also mentioned how catches win matches, except in this one: two of the fallen wickets probably cost the RCB far more than they did the CSK. The batsmen were out all right, but so were the catchers: Steyn had to leave the field altogether without bowling a single ball; Kohli managed one over and, later, not very many more than that with the bat. These Pyrrhic catches left the Royal Challengers with a bowling challenge.

Which leads us to Cameron White. There was a time ... oh, circa 2003, when I was actually fairly excited about White: he was a young, soon-to-be-Victorian-Captain, bowling all-rounder then. He was fresh, he was entertaining to watch, he took wickets and when he didn't he seemed to contain. There was something there. And then there wasn't. I don't know what happened, but nothing much good came of it. One memorable, nightmarish ODI, he was taken for about 100 runs (or at least it felt like that many) by a New Zealand chasing down a monster score. PS. New Zealand won. He was taken to the Centre for Excellence to tweak and improve his bowling, which apparently only made things worse. He went from being a bowling all-rounder to a batsman all-rounder to a part-timer to not bowling at all really. Listed by cricinfo as bowling 'legbreak googly', last night he apparently tried his hand at seamers. The giggly tweets that appeared in my timeline told me all I need to know of the quality thereof. Whither White? I honestly don't know. Worse: I don't know if anything can be done about it.

Having to rely on such bowling (or should one write 'bowling') made it almost impossible for the RCB to win. I don't know if they were beaten by a better team; they were certainly beaten by a luckier one.

Looking forward, the Warriors and the Redbacks will meet in the second semi-final tonight. I am, of course, very much hoping for a repeat of the team colours of the first semi-final in the final. Go Redbacks!

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Quick 'Blind' Look at the 2010 Championship League T20

I haven't watched the 2010 Championship League Twenty20 (CLT20) this year. Chiefly because I don't have access to the free-to-air channel broadcasting here in Australia (it's a long and boring story) and quite apart from the picture quality issue (which, admittedly, is a BIG issue with me), the time difference makes watching streamed matches less interesting. (Well, before the semifinals and final anyway.) In addition, the whole sorry — so very, very sorry — Pakistan spot/match fixing saga and its concomitant slurs and 'counter-allegations' have left a rather sour taste in my mouth ... and with it a desire to bury my head in metaphorical sand — or my pillow — and just wish it all away away away.

So here are some quick 'blind' reflections regarding this year's CLT20.

That we will have an IPL XI in this year's final points to the fact that these XIs are now coming together as teams, I think. It is all very well for a team to have stars — and there is, of course, an 'i' in cricket, but mark: it's just a small one — but to succeed, those stars must come together as a cohesive group (I would argue that Rajasthan Royals' ultimate success in the first IPL series was in large part due to achieving this quality; at least achieving it a great deal better than most of the other IPL Xis that year) ... and that can take time. This time might now have come.

Even though Cricket Australia has yet to view Twenty20 as a 'serious' or 'proper' form of cricket, Australian XIs cannot be denied. Despite getting rid of their anchor batsman, Mark Cosgrove — who was *ahem* a large part in the South Australian Redbacks getting to the Champions League in the first place — for the silliest of reasons (fat), the Redbacks are now in the semi-finals. Yeah them! If I cannot have my very own NSW Baby Blues, I'll back Redbacks any day. (Daniel Christian is from NSW anyway, you know, so I fully claim him for one of my own. There is proper blue there within that red, I just know it.) I do find Australian cricketers' attitude of fight fight fight never-say-die so very endearing. And in lieu of a proper Cinderella story like last year's Trinidad & Tobago, I think Redbacks can fill that role. At least a little.

In general, I strongly support the idea of a club cricket competition on an international scale and Twenty20 is an excellent form in which to have it. It is always interesting to see players normally not selected for the national XI (it sometimes gets just a teeny-tiny bit tedious to see the same old, same old), but perhaps more importantly, I think getting a 'club' mentality akin to that which seems to exist for soccer (OK, OK: football) clubs would be a really good thing for cricket: these are teams and players fans get to see more often, often know more about, might even have met in less formal circumstances, and can thereby identify with. Especially with international players in many clubs, it also removes a little bit of the nationalistic — dare I say chauvinistic — tendencies that at times arise in the nation versus nation games/series. Still, mustn't take this non-chauvism too far: I am of course happy as Larry that the Victorian Bushrangers aren't in the semi-finals. And neither were Queensland Bulls. Oh, the Queensland Bulls weren't in the competition; in fact, never have been?! Oh, gosh, that is so sad, isn't it?! Or, you know, not. (Why yes, I did smile gleefully while typing that; funny you should ask.)
Now, if only Australian broadcasters could stop playing silly buggers and give me proper access I would be an even happier Larry ... as I am sure all of those of you watching will be. Especially if your XI wins. Go Redbacks!

Friday, September 10, 2010

CLT20 2010 Preview - Chennai Super Kings

Finally, we’ve reached the end of the wait – in two aspects – firstly, this is the concluding article of the series of Previews. Secondly, the Champions League kicks off later today! Now, this is what I call a double whammy! Anyway, back to business. The Chennai Super Kings. Led by the talismatic Mahendra Singh Dhoni, they’re into this Champions League as they are the defending IPL Champs. And boy, what a way to reach the finals and win.

Yes, till the latter stages of the qualifying round, the Super Kings were looking nothing but ordinary. Dhoni injured, Raina captaining, Hayden disappointing – it was truly looking like endgame for the men in yellow. But, things began to change as the local boys Murali Vijay and Ravichandran Ashwin took control of things and sparked a revival.

Bollinger’s arrival strengthened the bowling and Dhoni stood up and delivered when it mattered the most. And in the final against Mumbai, the entire team contributed in one way or the other and returned home Champions of India!

The team’s batting is pretty balanced. Hayden, Vijay opening, Raina solid at one down and Badri and MSD to follow. Hussey is also available and it’ll be up to the team management to try and give him a slot.

The bowling also is well equipped – Doug, Balaji, Ashwin, the genial Murali, Jakati are all tried and tested players who’ve delivered time and again. Albie and Kemp as pinch hitting medium pace bowling all-rounders are also invaluable to the team’s composition.

So, in a way, MSD and team are my favorites to win ACLT20 too for the simple reason that they’ve already showed us that they can stay as one unit even when the chips are down and come out firing.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

CLT20 2010 Preview - Central District Stags

Central Districts Stags, the Twenty20 champions from New Zealand, are playing their first Champions League. The Stags are rarely treated as favorites in a major tournament.
The team will miss the services of two of its inspirational performers, the tornado-like Ross Taylor and Englishman Graham Napier. Jacob Oram, who wasn’t expected to play for them, anyway, also withdrew due to an eleventh hour knee injury.

The hard-hitting Taylor was the top run-scorer in the domestic T20 event, scoring a mind-boggling 383 runs from 11 matches with a stormy strike-rate of 177.31. Meanwhile, frontline pace bowler and effective middle-order batsman Napier, an asset in helpful South African conditions, was ruled out due to a back injury.
Despite all these, Jamie How and his boys would be keen to take inspiration from a well-fought T20 triumph.. The established opening pair of How and Peter Ingram along with reliable No. 3 Mathew Sinclair are primarily known for their run accumulation skills rather than big hitting.

Stags will need a monumental effort to reach the semis.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

CLT20 2010 Preview - Wayamba

Wayamba – probably the best T20 side ever from Srilanka, They’ve just won their second consecutive Domestic League Title and hence its their second time in the Champions League.

The team has many Lankan nationals in their ranks. Their experience of playing at the highest level will be of magnanimous help to the squad. The batting is in regal touch with a plunderous Mahela at the top. He hit 91 runs off a meager 49 balls in the league final and sealed the win. Apart from him, captain Mubarak and veteran all rounder Kulatunga are also in good nick.
The bowling too has a lot of variety in the form of the Mendis double and Welegedara, all tried and tested successfully at the national level. Ferveez Maharoof’s return bolsters the batting and bowling.

But, Mahela and his batting will be this team’s trump card. For, that man, on his day, can be Unstoppable !!!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Quote of the Day Re Corruption of Pakistani Cricket

[T]hese latest accusations embody the claim that actually, the likes of Asif and Amir are even better than they have recently seemed. They had Australia and England on the ropes recently and could have finished them off. They merely chose not too. How skillful is that?!?

In general, Micklethwait comes down rather hard on the Pakistani players, arguing, inter alia, that although a tragedy, Amir's loss of a cricket career will 'have to happen'.

(Micklethwait's first offering, Pakistan cricketers accused of match fixing, here.)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

CLT20 2010 Preview - Victorian Bushrangers

The Victorian Bushrangers – a semi finalist in the CLT 20 edition 1, they have been completely depleted this time round. They are in this edition thanks to being the winners of the KFC Big Bash – the domestic T20 tournament in Australia. A repeat of their performance in the Inaugural edition of CLT20 is more than what is being expected of the team.
The team has lost its captain Cameron White and one of its imports, Dwayne Bravo to Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians respectively. Another of its imports, Ross Taylor, has also been picked up by Royal Challengers Bangalore.

But, they still have classy T20 players in David Hussey, their captain, Brad Hodge, the man with the most runs in this format, and Dirk Nannes, the quintessential fast bowler with a great brain.
They are slao talented local players who’ve proved themselves on the International arena like Bryce McGain, Clint McKay, Shane Harwood, Aaron Finch, and Peter Siddle. Siddle will partner Nannes in what will be a very good new ball partnership.

Matthew Wade, the guy anointed to be Gilly’s successor, is a brutal hitter of the ball and also doubles up as a keeper. Hence, the team gets more balance and can accommodate the extra bowler. Victoria, in my predicament don’t have the firepower to reach the finals. But, if they do so, it will definitely be a fairy tale !