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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Afridi's retirement and the problem called Ijaz Butt

Shahid Afridi has announced his retirement from all forms of cricket, citing that the current board has been disrespectful and completely unimpressive for cricketing administration.  Afridi who has retired before many times from test cricket has now announced his retirement from the limited overs if we can call it that.  Afridi who said that he will play for Pakistan if a new board (meaning Ijaz Butt and his men leave the PCB) takes control.  So is this  an actual retirement or just another 'self imposed exile' that Pakistan politicians, and illegal smugglers and business men often do?  

Pakistan is a volatile country and the cricket there is in shambles.  In the last few years under Ijaz Butt's reign Pakistan has had nine different captains for it's test and ODI teams, five different selection committee leader, and 3 coaches.  If that doesn't show instability, then here's more to ponder about.  Mohammud Yusuf and Yunus Khan have been handed open bans (which was later cancelled) and the former like Afridi went into a 'retirement' (self-imposed exile).  Shoaib Malik and Rana Naved Ul- Hassan were also handed one year bans (which barred them from competing in the world cup and the ban was overturned as soon as the tournament got over.).  Mohammud Amir, Mohammud Asif and Salman Butt were all caught in the spot fixing scandal during this time and also Afridi's many run-ins with the match referee's such as the 'ball biting' incident took place under Butt's 'watchful rule'.  Add to this the time when terrorists attacked the Sri Lankan player's bus and his frequent run-ins with the senior players, the captains and the coaching staff, you've got yourself PCB's golden boy.  There's still so much more and mentioning them will just make it all disgusting to read.  Plus it's quite a long list, so I'll save your time by saying that Butt is the problem and he should be shown the door for the better of Pakistan cricket.  It's ridiculous the way PCB is being run.  I bet a 10 year old boy would have better sense and direction than the current PCB management.

I should be happy that Afridi is leaving the game, but I'm not all that pleased.  In my opinion he is a cheat.  The way he celebrates extravagantly when he picks up a wicket, or the various incidents as the biting the ball, running on the pitch to damage it just underline what I've stated.  He also manipulates the media brilliantly and often says two opposite things to different TV channels.  However with all these he still remains as one of Pakistan's most inspirational players whom the players all rally around.  Yunus Khan is another one but he like Afridi is at disfavor with the board.  And the way he has led a group of rag torn young men and compete against the best of teams is admirable.  He's one of the few remaining people in Pakistan who have the courage to stand up to the board and if people like him disappear, then surely Pakistan will just fall into even more turmoil.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Only in IPL

Finally IPL 2011 has come to an end and here's a look at a few interesting things that happened during the tournament.  These events are generally not related to cricket unless Warne kissing Liz Hurely on a cricket field is classified under cricket.  However these happenings are things that can take place only in the Indian Premier League.  So here are the tricks, the kisses, the homage, the colors and the scandal that took place this IPL.

 The Gymnastic moves!

There were some outstanding catches and athleticism.  None more than Pollard and Mithun at long-off.  They both pulled spectacular catches at the edge of the ropes!  

The Kisses!  

No, I'm not talking about Hershey Kisses here!  I'm talking about actresses and cricket stars and team owners kissing each other in the middle of the a cricket match with thousands watching!

Homage to the Prince!

Saurav Ganguly who was not bought in the auctions still managed to play in the IPL for Pune thanks to Ashish Nehra's injury.  The master played under his padawan - Yuvraj Singh.  On his first comeback match, a fan rushed into the field to pay his respect to the man known as the Prince of Calcutta!

 The Go-Green Initiative and the 37 run over!

Royal Challengers Bangalore being the first team to have a green initiative, sported a green kit against Kerala for a match. Also in the same match, Chris Gayle hit 37 runs of an over! Yes, that's worse than 6 sixes in an over!

The Cheerleader Scandal

It was only a matter of time before a cheerleading scnadal hit cricket.  Gabriella Pasqualotto - A Mumbai Indians cheerleader from South Africa was fired from her job by the IPL bigwigs after she blogged about the many flirtations and party behaviors of various cricketing stars.  Comments such as '‘Ol Graeme Smith will flirt with anything...' had few cricketers complain that their exclusive night life was being publicized.  As expected, Gabriella was soon sent packing home, where she now earns handsomely reveling her experiences to the world audience.  She is right now writing a book called 'Walking Voyeurism'.  Hershelle Gibbs is writing the foreward.

So these are just few of the many incidents that took place this year in the IPL.  And as the title suggests, these incidents can only take place in the IPL.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Chennai Reign Again!

Chennai Super Kings have won the IPL title yet again!  The most consistent and powerful team in the IPL once again showed it's class and true mark of championship by rising to the occasion and mauling a completely out-classed RCB side[SCORECARD].

There's not much to say other than that Murali Vijay and Micheal Hussey decided to come good at the best of times.  Vijay who has had a sub-standard tournament so far was on fire yesterday as he scored 95 of just 52 balls.  Hussey also gave him good company with a half century (63 runs of 45 balls).  The Challengers were completely outplayed as Chennai took the dominant role from the first ball.  They showed no respite on RCB's bowling attack and ground them to pulp on a wicket which was slowing down dramatically! 205 was the mountainous score Chennai piled, and RCB needing to overhaul that looked like the game was already lost.  It probably was.

If the script was to have any changes then Gayle had to fire, but he departed in the very first over thanks to Ashwin.  RCB never did get going and kept on losing wickets.  Must be said that the pitch looked completely different all the sudden with viscous bounce and turn.  Also must be mentioned that Chennai bowlers took full use of it and with Dhoni's sharp captaincy the match was a easy dull one-sided affair.  RCB finally managed 147 for 8 losing by 58 runs.

Chennai are crowned yet again as Champions and they must really enjoy this!  They are making a legacy and things look great if you're a Chennai fan.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Gayle Storm takes RCB into the Finals

Mumbai and the world witnessed yet another IPL phenomenal that the crowd have come to call the 'Gayle Storm'.  In a slow wicket with plenty of cracks a hapless Mumbai team fell to Gayle's big hitting and was knocked out [SCORECARD].  Now RCB meets CSK in the finals today.


Sachin having won the toss put the Challengers in to bat, and things went horribly wrong for him as the very first over went for 27 runs!  Chris Gayle and Agarwal played some stunning shots and gave the Mumbai bowling no respite.  They added 113 runs for the first wicket before Agarwal departed.  Gayle continued his slog-fest but he fell soon after trying to clear the ropes for a well made 89 of just 47 balls.  From then on the Challengers struggled to get the runs but they managed a very competitive score of 185 for 4.

Mumbai started the run-chase in grand fashion with a four of the very first ball, but soon wicket-taker - Aravind struck to remove Blizzard.  Harbhajan was promoted yet again and after a few lusty blows, he too fell.  With the chances of winning solely on Sachin's shoulder, he played some stunning shots but was stumped beautifully off Syed Mohamud.  Mumbai then slumped as they lost quick wickets and eventually ended up 42 runs short.

So for the second time, RCB are into the finals and let's hope that this year they do one better.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Spirit of the Game

The Kingfisher Fair Play Award is awarded to the IPL team that plays cricket in the right spirit of the game.  According to the IPL website, the award is defined as follows,
The Kingfisher Fair Play Award points system rates teams on the basis of their proficiency on the following parameters: adherence to the spirit of the game, respect for the opposition, respect for the laws of the game and respect for the match officials.

So in other words, it's a system in which the umpires rate a team's behavioral and the spirit of playing on a scale from one to ten after every match.  After the group stages (14 matches), the points are totaled and the team that comes on top is termed as the team with the most respect for the rules and that it plays in the true spirit of the game.

Looks like a pretty good initiative.  But is it?  And more importantly is it required? I answer both the questions in the negative.  If we need an award that rewards players and teams based on their fair play, then may God help cricket.  Cricket is a gentlemen's game and it has a long tradition of being that, despite what some Aussie or anybody for that matter might have done.  One must just read the first line of the Preamble of the Laws of cricket to understand that.  It states that,
Cricket is a game that owes much of its unique appeal to the fact that it should be played not only within its Laws but also within the Spirit of the Game.

This is exactly the reason why I feel that an award for fair play is unnecessary.  The Award just rewards a team who play in the right spirit of the game.  Now why should there be an award for that?  Aren't all teams expected to play in the spirit of the game?  You don't need an award for that.  That is simply understood and is expected.  It is an essential part of playing cricket.  One doesn't reward a person for doing what is expected.  You reward someone for doing the unexpected, and rising above the others.  Take this analogy for  instance. Consider a business. The salesmen working in it are expect to sell their business' product/service. The company doesn't reward every single salesman for making a sale (which essentially is a salesman's job). The company only rewards them (it's salesmen) who go beyond and sell more than anyone else. That is doing the unexpected. Similarly as a team, you're expected to play by the rules and respect it.  That is part and parcel of playing the game.  You shouldn't expect to win anything from playing fairly except that little peace of mind.

I'm not against this initiative.  I just find it as an unnecessary and uncalled for.   I'm sure the 10 teams of the IPL rather win the IPL trophy than the Kingfisher Fair Play Award.  The award itself is more of a gimmick and there for the sake of sponsors.

I've heard the argument that such an award reduces unfair-play and also sledging and other things we don't want on a cricket field.  Is that so?  I've seen so many instances of open sledging in this IPL that it looks more like an Australian Premier League.  Remember Munaf Patel going after Amit Mishra after the latter hit him for a six?  So clearly such a reward does not reduce sledging or any other dark smudges the game has.  And is it necessarily that such an award cleans these smudges?   

Earlier this English season in the Nottinghamshire versus Yorkshire match at Headingley, Chris Read - the former English keeper, walked off when he thought he was out caught, without waiting for the umpire's decision.  The ball apparently landed short of the fielder and by the time Read and others realized it, the bails were taken off and poor Chris Read was run out.  However the young Yorkshire skipper, Andrew Gale did an extraordinary thing by calling Read back.  Being an gentleman of another era, Gale took it upon himself to perceive the right on wrong and act accordingly, despite the consequences.  Read then went on to score 150 runs for the seventh wicket along with Mullaney and destroy Yorkshire.  Yorkshire eventually went on to lose that match.  This lovely story wouldn't have been written up here if Gale hadn't played by the true spirit of the game.  And he didn't do it for any award.  He did it for the game he loved and played.  And that is how I believe it should be.

Kolkata crash out!

The second match in the playoffs also turned out to be a thriller with the match going down to the last over.  Kolkata Knight Riders who put their best performance in the IPL so far, went down with a fight to a clinical yet 'inconsistent at times' Mumbai team [SCORECARD].

Kolkata batting first got off to the worst start possible as they lost both Gambhir and Kallis within the third over. Things just got worse as the Mumbai bowlers started to strangle KKR and by the end of the powerplays found themselves at 20 for 4 with still a long way to go.  Ryan ten Doeschate along with Yusuf Pathan then reconstructed the innings.  Ryan ten Doeschate once again proved his worth with a quality 50.   He paced his innings wonderfully and I'm sure if he was an English, he'd be in the ODI squad for sure.  KRR eventually finished with 147 thanks largely to ten Doeschate.

147 on a flat pitch was never ever going to be enough.  But KKR is a team lead by Gambhir whose playing style and captaincy is not what one would term inspired or regale but rather gritty and firm.  Likewise the KKR team decided to make the best of the scenario and fought till the last minute.  MI got off to a splendid start and with Blizzard and Sachin on song, the match looked all over.  But KKR fought back pegging Mumbai back with some quick wickets.  James Franklin yet again had a role to play and yet again he saw his team through against KRR.  So now with that Harbhajan's six, Mumbai face Bangalore tomorrow in the 2nd qualifier for that spot in the finals.

Interesting isn't it that the same three teams as last year, qualify this year for the Champions League?  Does that mean these three are IPL's better teams?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Raina's heroics takes CSK to the final

We witnessed an epic game yesterday in the first play-offs as CSK won a thriller and now proceed to the finals [SCORECARD]. It was a game worthy of the final as more than 350 runs was scored in the match that ended in a last over finish.  But the real reason I'll remember this match is that two young Indian players came to the fore in a crunch game.

The game started evenly with RCB scoring at a healthy rate but losing Gayle early.  Ashwin once again showed his class and temperament as he bowled a brilliant spell.  Young Agarwal looked good and along with Vice captain Kohli, steadied the ship and gave the ideal platform.  AB de Villiers didn't stay long but the next man in Luke Pomersbach with his muscles and western Australian habit of playing the horizontal shots easily, played some spectacular shots to resurrect the run rate.  Doug Bollinger, another CSK star who bowled brilliantly destroyed Luke's furniture in the 17th over with the score at 133 for 4.  However with a settled in Kohli, and an out of confidence bowler in Morkel, the final total turned out to be an imposing 175.  Ashwin who bowled beautifully took a heavy hit on his head and looked dazed for the reminder of the match.

CSK started off in the worst way possible.  They lost both their openers with the score still at 7.  Badrinath was promoted as expected and he along with Raina strung together a partnership trying to revive the team.  Zaheer Khan bowled beautifully and as he gave away only 11 off his 3.  Doubt whether he expected his next over to go for 20.  Vettori was having an off-day and CSK still looked to have an outside chance.  At Badrinath's dismissal the score was 70 for 3.  Raina and Dhoni then put down their feet on the accelerator.  With some towering sixes and poor bowling on RCB's side CSK looked to have still a chance.  Dhoni's wicket provided no respite as Morkel played a cameo of 28 off just 10 balls taking his team home.  Raina finished on 73.

CSK once again proved their class and their ability to play the important pressure moments better than any team.  RCB thanks to their good deeds earlier live to fight on another day for that place in the finals.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Legacy of Warne in the IPL

We all know that Shane Warne is a legend.  We also know that he is one of the best spinners in cricket if not the best.  And now we know that no matter where, Warne is Warne - a true champion and that IPL will surely miss this great character.

Shane Warne's IPL legacy started 4 years ago at the same time IPL started.  And as he took over the reigns of Rajasthan Royals in the first edition everyone watched with anticipation to see 'the greatest captain Australia never had'.  With a fancy title of captain/coach, Warne led a team with no big superstars to their first IPL victory, proving that the blonde assassin's true ability was not turning the red cherry square, but his management and leadership potential.

The next three years, Rajasthan enjoyed decent success under Warne and Warne became a Rajput of Jaipur.  An adopted son loved by one and all.

So why will Warne be missed?  Here are a few reasons.

His leadership and captaincy.  Do you remember the super over against KKR in the second edition of the IPL where he bought on little known Kamran Khan (aged 18) and he bowled them to victory.  Also Ravindra Jadeja and Yusuf Pathan would probably not be the players they are if it wasn't for Warne.  He had the ability  of making match winners out of ordinary people with determination.

His bowling.  Shane Warne is the master of leg-spin.  And watching Warne bowl his leggies leaving the best of batsmen even at his age is a treat.  The willy assassin always looking to get the better of the batsmen is one of cricket's legend and his last over in the IPL where he deceived Rohit Sharma stands as a testament.  So now we'll miss those Warne vs. Tendulkar contests and the joy we derive from seeing a 40 year old sun tanned over-weight blonde bowl, won't we?

The an.  With Warne around, there never is a dull moment.  And seeing a 40 year old man being turned into a small boy with outrageous celebrations is eye candy.  With his exaggerated appeals and talks with the umpires, I'm sure even Simon Tauffel will feel sad not to see Warne anymore.

His comments.  Won't we miss those "I'm proud of the boys" comment after every match?  Also the gems he says at the press conferences such as the following incident.
Journalist: Would you have loved to bow out of competitive cricket with the wicket of Sachin Tendulkar?
Shane Warne:  Does it really matter? Why should I be remembered, at the end a 20-year career, for dismissing one batsman?
His tweets.  Warne tweets everything.  From his underwear (Spinners), and the facial moisturizer he uses to his retirement, you can expect to find it all on his twitter profile.

The controversies.  Recently Warne in an television interview said that he had threatened to walk out of the Rajasthan team in the very first season of the IPL.  Also he abused a Rajasthan Cricket Association's secretary.  His constant run-ins with match referees are surely something that we all will miss.

And finally, we'll miss Warne for being Warne.  Who else but Warne does this (with Liz Hurely and Shilpa Shetty) on a cricket field? 

So here's to a great legend of the IPL.  Farewell Warnie and hopefully you can come out of retirement next season.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Episode 3 - A Look into Cricket's Future

Episode 3 is out!

In this edition, I am joined by Karthik Kannan, a freelance cricket journalist from Chennai.  In this episode we discuss the International Cricket Committee’s recommendations, the use of technology such as the DRS in cricket.  We also take a look at India’s next few years with a new coach in Duncan Fletcher and the years after the retirement of greats such as Dravid, Laxman, and Tendulkar.  A little dab of the IPL is also present in it.

Panelists - Christopher Poshin David and Karthik Kannan.

If you wish to download the podcast click here. You can also subscribe to it via iTunes or any other podcatchers.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Six in a row!

The Royal Challengers are on a roll with a six match winning streak.  Yesterday they destroyed a sloppy Rajasthan Royals outfit [SCORECARD] as Shane Warne said his final good byes to his adopted home in Jaipur.

The Royals got off to a brilliant start with Dravid and Watson going strong.  They put on 73 runs in just 57 balls before Man of the match, Aravind struck twice in the same over to remove both openers.  From then on it was a struggle to get runs as the Challengers strung in some tight overs together supported with some sharp fielding.  In the last 7 overs of the Rajasthan innings, they hit just one boundary.  The Royals finally managed a score of 146 for the loss of 6 wickets.

RCB got off to yet another dream start with both Chris Gayle and Dilshan firing.  Within a space of a few overs, the match was reduced to a no contest as the required run rate dropped to below 6.  Dilshan playing his last match for RCB this season came up with a brilliant 38 while Chris Gayle got to yet another half century.  I bet Shah Rukh Khan is pulling his hair out seeing the Calypso bat.  The skipper for the day - Kohli stayed with Gayle seeing the team home.  With this win, RCB climb to the second spot and look good for a place in the playoffs. 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Chris Gayle Show

Ever wanted to know what it would be like in the eye of a hurricane named Gayle?  Just ask Adam Gilchrist and his Punjab team about yesterday's match and they will tell you all about it.  RCB coasted to a sweet 85 runs victory at home [SCORECARD].

RCB started off slowly on a pitch which offered the pace men some assistance, but then Gayle started to cut lose.  He showed little respite and looked intent on depositing every single ball over the fence.  One of his hits of Praveen Kumar traveled for 109 meters.  Gayle was completely in his zone and showed no mercy as he took apart the Punjab bowling attack.  He was ably supported by Kohli and together they added 111 runs in no time. Chawla did strike twice in one over to remove both Gayle and Kohli, but A.B. de Villiers continued Gayle's assault and took the score over 200.

Punjab in reply started off badly, losing their skipper early.  And things got worse as they lost the promoted Nayar in the very next over.  With Valthaty falling with the score at 28, the writing was on the wall and Gayle had a mark under the wickets column.  Then hell broke lose as the Punjab batsmen surrendered meekly gifting Gayle 3 wickets and Aravind 4.  They finally achieved 120 for 9 and with it endured a devastating defeat.

Gayle with his 107 of just 49 balls and his 3 wickets was made the man of the match and Bangalore was more than grateful to watch the Gayle show which consisted of some belligerent hits, magic off-breaks and some very inspired dancing.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Dare Devil Sehwag

Yesterday Sehwag played one of his best innings as he single handedly floored the Deccan Chargers in Hyderabad [SCORECARD].

Here are some facts about that amazing 119 (56 balls) innings by Sehwag.
  1. Sehwag on his day is unstoppable and a treat to watch.  Even the Deccan home crowd started to cheer for him after some time.
  2. 13 fours and 6 sixes at an astounding strike rate of 212.50!  That's 88 runs purely in boundaries!  Typical Sehwag.
  3. You don't drop Sehwag once and expect to get away with it.  And you definitely don't drop him twice and expect to win the match.
  4. Sehwag alone scored 68% of the total runs. The other batsmen chipped in with 28% while the rest was contributed by the Chargers as extras.
  5. Sangakara and his team had no clue what hit them and they're still wondering over that!
  6.  With the team at 3 for 25 at the end of the 6th over chasing 176, only Sehwag could turn that situation into a winning situation.
  7.  Sehwag is king!  And if you doubt that, I suggest you watch yesterday's match.  It can probably be described in one word - carnage!

I feel sad for the Chargers.  It's not really their fault that they were caught in the eye of the hurricane named 'Sehwag'.  On second thought considering fact 3, it was their fault!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

One English Team - Three Captains!

Three captains and one team.  No, I'm not talking about some new John Buchanan theory.  I'm talking about England's new skippers in charge of the teams.  Now Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss will be the three captains for England in one format of the game.  Broad will be captaining the T20 side, while Cook takes the reigns of the ODI side and Strauss remains as the test team's leader.

People often say that split captaincy is not a good idea, but that idea has been shot down a couple of times before - namely in 2003 with Ponting (ODI) and Waugh (Test) and in 2010 with Strauss (ODI & test) and Collingwood (T20).  However the fact remains that it's a very fragile and difficult process.  Three different captains for one team?  That's almost as funny as Buchanan's four captain theory for KKR in the IPL.  Even the English coach - Andy Flower is skeptical and he said,
"We don't know 100% whether it will work and be the most efficient system but we're going to give it a try."

As for now Jimmy Anderson will be cursing his luck and probably the selectors too while Cook who wasn't part of the World Cup squad will be looking to prove that he can play the shorter format.  And with Strauss' retirement from the One Day arena, Cook has no competition for his opening spot.  Strauss will be a relatively pleased man captaining the test side for yet another Ashes victory.  So for the first time in cricket a team will have three captains.  Think the three lions in the English coat of arms finally took a new definition.

In the meantime, all we can do is sit back and watch this experiment happen.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Episode 2 - The IPL Affair

The second episode of Verbal Slogs is finally out!  Sorry for the delay.  It's an IPL special this week.

In the second episode I am joined by Aneesh Surender and Radio Sandeep.  Both of them are very much an integral part of the IPL and know it's workings inside out.  In this episode we talk about the mixed IPL teams and whether the franchisees forgot about the 'loyalty factor'.  Also we discuss whether there is too much cricket, and if it's possible to have a separate window for the IPL in the international calender.  Also the club versus country debate rages and finally we give our predictions for the playoffs.

Panelists - Christopher Poshin David, Aneesh Surender and Sandeep Sathyanarayan.

If you wish to download the podcast click here. You can also subscribe to it via iTunes or any other podcatchers by clicking here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

He's Back!

You can love him or hate him, but you just can't ignore him!

Sourav Ganguly is back in the IPL and will be playing for the Pune Warriors India!  I think Ashish Nehra deserves some very special award for making this possible thanks to his finger injury.

The only damper is that the Prince of Calcutta won't be playing any match in Calcutta, but that's a small price to pay to see Dada back in action.

I'll be back!

Thank you Nehra and here's to Ganguly's 114th comeback!