Sunday, January 30, 2011

Team slogans for the world cup

Best Blog Tips

In the era of mental conditioning coaches, motivational speakers and advocates of visualization of goals, here is a look at some of the slogans being adopted by the various teams to help them prepare for the upcoming ICC Cricket world cup.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

India can't win the World Cup

Best Blog Tips

Call me a damp squib or a moron, but India have little chance of winning the world cup. Two reasons - Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina. These two guys were the bulwarks of the India batting and now they are spent. Literally spent and jaded. Add Dhoni to this and you will find that India cannot win without one of these three having a hand in finishing off games.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Portraits: Ravi Shastri

Best Blog Tips

I first saw Ravi Shastri on TV during his innings of 93 at Delhi in 1982 against England. It took longer than the time Trott takes to get ready for the next delivery.

That 1982 series was also of the most dull Test Series of all time. It was so boring that Geoff Boycott preferred to go golfing instead of playing a Test. 

I think after that Test Shastri's status was upgraded to that of a "utility man".

In 3 years, he became a full fledged, Audi driving, Champion of Champions.

Ravi Shastri - Champion of Champions
Other Portraits

  1. Ricky Ponting
  2. Dilip Vengsarkar

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Appointment and Non-Appointment of Captains

Best Blog Tips

Pakistan have named a 15 member squad for the world cup. But no captain. Australia on the other hand have named their test captain, one-day captain, T20 captain, future test captain, and a future test captain who is willing to captain the current test captain when he becomes a player; who is different from the current future Test Captain.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Portraits: Ricky Ponting

Best Blog Tips

A man of self confessed integrity that can't be questioned. Especially by journalists.

See Also...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Late Night with Virat Kohli

Best Blog Tips

India have picked part-timers to play key roles going into next month's world cup. Many say that India are at full strength. For the first time in a long time. Its an optimistic way of saying the same thing. Part timers.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Portraits: Dilip Vengsarkar

Best Blog Tips

Before there were blogs and the internet, there were pencils and water colors.

Trying something new @ Opinions. Some art work. At first we will use up what we already have. Which isn't much but its a start.

Hopefully as the year progresses we may be able to create something new.

Do check out our new page Portraits @ Opinions

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Opinions on... Daniel Vettori

Best Blog Tips

On hearing about Daniel Vettori's desire to be just another player again, Jesse Ryder is said to have asked...

Does this mean you will no longer cook for us for us?

Short of fielding at silly point off his own bowling, Daniel Vettori played all possible roles for New Zealand Cricket.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pakistan Need 272 all out to Lose

Best Blog Tips

Pakistan's cricketers probably need to know exactly what is needed to lose a game.

Okay, so this Pakistani team is different. And indeed they look mellow and sincere under Misbah-Ul-Haq. Typical Pakistani teams are like loud and colorful bollywood films. Misbah has transformed them into the kind of movies people go to see at film festivals at European cities.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Opinions On...Yuvraj Singh

Best Blog Tips

Yograj Singh was once watching on television, old, grainy videos of Donald Bradman batting. He called his wife and said. Look dear, this guy's batting reminds me of our son.

Of course I am making this up but that's how Yuvraj's father sees him. No wonder Yuvraj made it to the list of top 10 sporting egos.

Yuvraj Singh
The general perception is that Yograj Singh is the Punjabi Mike Agassi. I highly doubt Mike Agassi had anything kind to say to Andre. Yograj, on the contrary proclaimed his son is the best batsman after Bradman. He had just belted baby faced Stuart Broad for 6 sixes in a single over in cricket match. It wasn't even real cricket.

Yuvraj Singh is the original Kieron Pollard. The first cricketer who became a star without playing real cricket. Yes, there was Michael Bevan before him but he was a specialist not a star.

Yuvraj is also the oldest 29 year old ever. Physically. Mentally there isn't much evidence that he's anywhere close to 29. For the amount of cricket he plays; which isn't a lot compared to today's standards; he seems to be carrying a battered and bruised body.

His career seems to be going nowhere either.

He started off as an ODI specialist with potential to mature into a Test player. Now he is an ODI player with a lot of accumulated resentments and disappointments. He seemed to have aspirations to be India's captain in the shorter format but was blind sided by the suave and clear thinking Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Nowadays he only sulks.

Once a spectacular fielder in the point, gully region capable of pulling off stunning stops and catches, he now fields at third man making effeminate faces.

Its like Becker playing from the baseline at Wimbledon and emoting like Venus Williams.

His Test performance has been patchy. While he has to his credit a 100 on a Lahore green top and a memorable 86 not out in a famous run chase in Mohali, the way he let India down in Australia in 2007-08 is what will always count against him.

He made his debut with Zaheer Khan in the first batch of post match fixing debutantes. Zaheer Khan will retire as India's greatest left arm pace man.

Yuvraj will probably retire without becoming news.

When the pitch is flat. When the ball isn't moving around. When the skies are clear. That's when Yuvraj roars. He becomes a bully. The begins to resemble the Micheal Holding of batsmen. And India begin to look unbeatable.

The coming World Cup will be an ideal setting for Yuvraj to make something of his career again. An ODI specialist with Test potential.

Monday, January 10, 2011

No One Killed the Australian Supremacy

Best Blog Tips

Cricket Australia has taken note of how comical Australian Cricket are made to look by the media. To beat Pakistan as the laughing stock of the cricketing world has not gone well with the board.

Maa-kee, Mon-kee & circles

Best Blog Tips

We don't care about T20, but life comes a full circle for monkey-gate. Symonds, Tendulkar and Harbhajan Singh the main protagonists in the scandal will be team-mates for Mumbai Indians in the IPL.

Australians just stopped short of calling India's God a liar. Adam Gilchrist, Ponting, Hayden and Symonds didn't think Tendulkar was completely truthful when he said that Harbhajan never said the hated "m" word. Although, those that know any Hindi will know that a decent Bihari or Punjoo or Andhra cricketer would have good reason to bash Bhajji's brains for calling him the "m" word, that was claimed to have been used instead of the monkey word.

Now Symonds will team up with Tendulkar, the chief witness and Harbhajan "the worm" Singh to try and win the IPL. I wonder what the dinner table conversation in the Symonds' household was like yesterday when he got 'sold' to his 'massa' Mumbai Indians' Mukesh Ambani for a decent $850,000.

Maybe, he will learn how to get away with racial abuse by learning a few choice Hindi or Marathi expletives from aamchay Mumbai Indians. In my opinion, this is Symonds greatest opportunity to re-create slapgate. He could simply slap Harbhajan silly and apologize. Gol-d thinks Bhajji has balls, but he hasn't really been at the receiving end of the slaps yet. Maybe this is our chance to find out.

Regardless of the actual result, Mumbai-kars love Symonds and he will get a warm welcome. In fact, with Pollard, he might form a great partnership. Also, there's a certain Blizzard in the team. If names are anything to go by, he should have been picked up first by the teams.

A nice juicy season awaits. Mumbai tabloids are licking their chops at the prospect of finding Symonds and Bhajji out in Page 3.

Pakistan Springing Back to Life

Best Blog Tips

In a result that prompted both relief and surprise, Pakistan sprang to life and defeated New Zealand. For those who thought test cricket was done after the Ashes and the India-SA series, Pakistan and New Zealand are still playing. I only caught a few glimpses of the game and could not recognize half the Pakistani players.

New coach John Wright was the reason that I even decided to watch the game. Would he restore NZ immediately, like he did with India in 2001? Obviously he couldn't. Pakistani batting led by Misbah-ul-Haq seems to have discovered a spine that didn't exist in Australia and England before. What seemed to be a team completely dependent on bowling miracles (yes, I use the word miracle deliberately), showed that their test match batting skills are not completely finished.

What it now seems (having not watched the games in the UAE) is that Pakistanis actually put up a fight instead of the popular belief that dead pitches produced the stalemate. South Africa seemed to have run into a determined captain and a Pakistani team with all the qualities that a Pakistani team has. Passion, pride and courage. I know that I am extrapolating big time, but what's the harm.

Whether it's New Zealand or any other team, winning test matches isn't easy. It needs days worth of sustained effort. Effervescent performances do not win test matches. They are good enough for T20 and ODIs perhaps, but a team has to play every session with diligence to win test matches. I didn't think Pakistani batsmen had that. But this match where they put on 367 in 122 overs proves otherwise.

The bowlers obviously won the game for Pakistan by dismissing NZ for 110 in their second innings. There is no question about that. But the story here in my mind is the batting discipline exhibited by Pakistan to take the first innings lead after New Zealand put up a reasonable total.

This is good news for world cricket. I continue to believe that Pakistan and West Indies need to be healthy for world cricket to be healthy. They are the only two teams that are exciting to watch, regardless of ranking. This is mainly due to their fabulous fast bowling and exciting stroke players.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Virendra Sehwag is a Liability

Best Blog Tips

In Virendra Sehwag, India have a trend setting opener. Wonderfully committed to his style of play.

Clean, uncluttered and delightfully simple. Both in attack and those rare times when he defends for substantial periods of time.

In a team that has champion batsmen in the middle, it is Sehwag's presence that makes India the most formidable batting line up in the world. The kind of line up that allows India to set up wins, go for wins and avoid defeats. And in the last few years they have handled all situations.

By all standards Virendra Sehwag had a disappointing tour of South Africa. That is certainly true at an individual level. But that is not the whole story of Virendra Sehwag's role in the series.

As I search for answers as to why Greame Smith did not push for a win by setting India a reasonable chase on the 4th day, I can only guess...

It was the fear of Virendra Sehwag.

In that sense India's resurgence as a formidable chaser of 4th innings targets and the presence of Virendra Sehwag means that it will always have to be the bowlers who would have to win games for India in the 3rd innings.

Team's aren't going to be interested in going for wins against a batting line up that has Virendra Sehwag.

In that sense he is a liability.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Epimetheus Speaks...

Best Blog Tips

(For those that are not aware, Epimetheus is the greek God of excuses and second-guessing.)

India managed a comfortable draw, demonstrating that the mental strength acquired over the last several years is real. They proved that it's not simply a Laxman rearguard that is responsible for their famous chases and saves. The evolution of the Indian side into a team is complete.

Since the transition that can be traced back to 2001, began in earnest, fans have wanted India to dominate. Unfortunately, India couldn't find that fast bowler or the metronome that would have made the team complete. Zaheer has out-performed his physical abilities and given India the solution to it's fast bowling quandry. But it was clear that India missed the Steyn and Lee kind of bowler in the third innings of this test match.

Kallis had to play a superb innings to rescue South Africa from what looked a sure defeat. Harbhajan bowled his best spell abroad, but without Zaheer or Sreesanth contributing from the other end, it came to nought. Let this rekindle the debate about Swann vs Harbhajan. The Swann honeymoon appears to be over, just like the Ajantha Mendis one was done as well as Harbhajan's own after the 2001 epic series. Swann is a good bowler and he will re-invent himself, but he still has to earn his place in the hall of fame.

For India, the highlight is the manner in which Gambhir and Tendulkar overcame Dale Steyn. We were very lucky to have witnessed fast bowling of such class. I have not had as much pleasure watching opposition bowlers since I saw Marshall and Holding in 1983 and Wasim Akram in 1999. It takes very special talent and discipline to overcome such ferocity. The Indian teams prior to 2001 would have simply crumbled under such onslaught. Several instances come to mind, chief among them being Barbados in 1997.

South Africa's safety first approach also demonstrated the respect they had for India's batting might. India rightfully retain their ranking.

In another country, England smashed Australia and it appears that Australia will take a while to recover from this. Australian cricket is resilient enough to be reborn in future. But a Bobby Simpson-Allan Border story is unlikely. What shape the new story will take would be interesting to watch. But Michael Clarke doesn't appear to be the one who can lead this outfit out of the darkness. They may go through what England went through with Atherton first and Hussain later before finally coming up with a team capable of giving the good teams a run for money.

England have a complete outfit too. When Broad returns they will have an embarrassment of riches. Given how their batting might has evolved, they may have enough time to groom a good replacement for Collingwood. Bell will obviously move up the order and that's probably a good place for him to be. Alistair Cook has arrived big time and has set the pace to pass Tendulkar's record of test centuries. Comparisons are odious but he delivers consistently. He may not match Tendulkar's poetry in motion while batting, but he is a huge pleasure to watch.

In AB DeVilliers and Cook we have two greats in the wings to take over when Kallis, Dravid, Tendulkar and Ponting call it a day.

Opinions On...Shane Watson

Best Blog Tips

You see Shane Watson play and you instantly think; I have seen this before. In reality he is a mishmash of many Indian cricketers of the past. When India were India. Not the India of today.

Shane Watson is an earnest cricketer. Much like a Sanjay Bangar, Roger Binny or Manoj Prabhakar.

We have said this before; champion teams have either no need or an entirely different utility for such players.

The only champion team I can visualize Shane Watson thriving in; is the 1983 world cup winning Indian team. That team had only 3 specialists. Sunil Gavaskar, Krishnamachari  Srikanth, and Balwinder Singh Sandhu. The rest were all multi-skilled players. Fielding wasn't considered a skill back then. Kapil Dev was an all rounder and that included fielding. Srikanth used to jump around; largely due to symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. That helped his fielding. But side effects can't be counted as cure.

Shane Watson for Sunil Gavaskar in that team would have been an ideal fit. For everyone; Shane Watson, Sunil Gavasakar and India. Gavaskar might think that it would be a racist move but he doesn't understand World Cups. So we'll be fine.

You look at what Watson has done in his career and you would say he is a pretty decent cricketer. He gives Australia steady starts and has a 5-for at Lords.  In that sense he is a reverse Ajit Agarkar.

Shane Watson is designed to be a #6 or a #7 for Australia but he was no good at it. So they asked him to open the batting. There he hasn't failed. He hasn't entirely succeeded either. Kind of like Chetan Chauhan.

Chetan Chauhan is considered a successful opener. But that was India. When India were India. Not the India of today.

The Australlia of today is beginning to look like India. When India were India. Not the India of today. No wonder Shane Watson has found a home

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Ashes 5.3: Ashes Prediction

Best Blog Tips

We @ Cricket Opinions are now ready to come out in the open and make our 2010 Ashes predictions public. We say England win.

At first we thought Australia can't win it but it really wasn't a prediction - Yes we Can't

Then we thought of reasons why England could lose. Not that we said England would actualy lose - 6 Reasons England will lose the Ashes

Later, we almost said Australia will lose - Ashes: History is the only thing going for Australia

Then we developed doubts over England after just the first day @ the Gabba - Is England Real?

After Adelaide we noted the significance of England's win and proclaimed - Ashes 2.5: This Changes Everything

Then we wondered aloud if Australia can come back - Can Australia come back?

After Perth we were correct when we said - Ashes 3.4: This Doesn't Change Anything

Sure enough, England won @ the MCG and we argued amongst ourselves. I ranked England right up as the first amongst equals - How Good Are England? and Vidooshak argued that England are paper tigers

But now its official. We predict England will win. We will release the margin of victory shortly. For now we have ruled out 2-2

Kallis turns the dagger

Best Blog Tips

I eat humble pie. I had blogged that I didn't think Kallis was a game-changer. Kallis just shut India out of the game. He has played beyond anyone in the India team is capable of playing. Sehwag, Tendulkar and Laxman cannot win India this game anymore. I don't see India having a whiff of a chance. In fact, defeat is a definite possibility. Yesterday I had blogged that Tendulkar demoralized SA. But Kallis' innings simply pumped new life into SA. Expect Steyn and Morkel to come in at full tilt tomorrow morning. The game could be over before tea.

It's amazing how Sreesanth and Zaheer were rendered completely ineffective by the South African batsmen. Good news is that Harbhajan has claimed a seven wicket haul and it's a meaningful harvest. Sreesanth needs some time in a day-care center. He's a child who's not matured. India have no reason to complain about biased referees if Sreesanth and Dhoni are allowed to get away with what was dished out today. While his behavior has been generally pushing the limits, today was pathetic.

Well, India may be the number one ranked team yet, but in order to prove it, they'll have to get 341 runs tomorrow or at least draw the game. I don't see that happening.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Game on

Best Blog Tips

The series is finally coming down to the wire as a good series should. Unfortunately, all the good commentators and experts are either Australian or English and they are busy crowing about the Ashes. How I wish this were a five test series instead of a three test one? The test of endurance between the two best sides in the world. The cricket produced so far has definitely been keen and high quality.

Dale Steyn provokes genuine awe when he bowls and the manner in which Gambhir and Tendulkar overcome him in the morning session shows the maturity of Indian batting. They realize that dominating Steyn is a pipedream and played accordingly. Steyn did come back after lunch with the second new ball and ripped the match open again. Only for Tendulkar to play a frustratingly sedate knock to demoralize SA. I do believe India have the mental advantage here. Mainly because, SA could not knock India over despite having the best fast bowler in the world take another five-fer.

When it comes to fourth innings batting, India with Sachin, Laxman and Dhoni have the right arsenal to go after it. Enough has been done in the last year or so to prompt us to put our money on India to chase 200 or so in the fourth innings. Anything over 250 is probably not going to happen.

Harbhajan showed up with bat and ball and now SA have to post a decent total without perhaps Kallis in the mix. They have enough ammo with Amla, ABDV and Prince to put up 250 plus. Will they?

Ashes 5.2: England Looking For Trouble

Best Blog Tips

It is safe to conclude that Jimmy Anderson is Ian Bell's personal nightwatchman.

For the second time after Perth he is doing his duty protecting Mr. Bell. I know Collingwood bats higher than Bell, but by his own admission he is a dead man walking and at an average of 14 at #5, in this series, clearly he does not even qualify to be a nightwatchman. Even his own.

It is quite surprising that Australia are still in the series. Just how long should the list of blunders be for Australia to lose comfortably?

Or may be its just that England are too soft to finish off the Australians.

They allowed Mitch Johnson to score runs. They say he uses the runs with the bat to fuel his bowling.

I think England are in trouble. There are more Mitchell wickets to come. A 2-2 tie is what they deserve; especially if its going to drill some reality into people like Darren Gough.

England have never looked so good. Australia so bad. And yet 2-2 is a distinct reality. England will still celebrate.

Something is wrong with the whole Ashes business.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Match headed for an interesting finale

Best Blog Tips

Gambhir and Tendulkar downed the shutters too early. Hopefully, tomorrow will produce a better rate from the two than the sleepy 2.odd today. India will have to score more than 300 runs tomorrow and score enough runs on the fourth day to put pressure on SA. This is the most optimistic scenario.

Nothing in the bowling from SA today seemed to indicate to me that Tendulkar can be bested. But he is known to get the most unplayable balls usually. From SA's stand-point, the injury to Kallis means more bowling from the others which can be hard and work to India's advantage. Also, if he is really badly hurt to a point where he cannot bat comfortably, then India have a further advantage.

The stars have aligned for India. Hopefully, they can cash in. As always the morning session in a big partnership is key. Can the batsmen carry on from where they left or will the bowling being fresh be able to make inroads? On this wicket, with the weather not being a factor, it appears that the batsmen can weather the early storm (pardon the metaphor). But they will have to rev it up. This is where Tendulkar sometimes loses the plot. So maybe it will be upto Gambhir, Laxman and Dhoni to crank it up a notch.

It's hard to see a dramatic collapse from this point, but India are known to confound the prognosticators. Thus far, SA have not done anything in this test to show that they are a better side. Kallis adding 50 runs with Tsotsobe was the sole spark in an otherwise good bowling display from India.

India will have to repeat in the second innings for a historic victory. A collapse means the hardwork of last few years would be wasted.

Ashes 5.1: Usmaan Khwaja Disappoints

Best Blog Tips

The series; not the Ashes; is still alive. However the Sydney Test has a feel of a good movie gone bad due to a long drawn out, irrelevant and predictable climax.

The only song and dance is being provided by Usman Khwaja.

He disappointed.

I, like many, wanted him to succeed. May be score a century on debut. But he saw a spinner and had a Sehwag moment.

Until then he was assured in defense and leaving the ball and slightly Ganguly-like in his off side play.

I wanted him to succeed like I have wanted no other Australian batsman to

I wanted him to succeed like I have wanted no other Pakistani-born batsman to.

It must be something to do with the unprecedented combination.

When he plays India these best wishes will quickly dry up and every run he scores against India will hurt doubly.

When he plays against Pakistan in Pakistan.... I hope it happens early in his career.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Dhoni's Mood Swing

Best Blog Tips

Its difficult to understand the intent. Were India being defensive or was the move an attacking one? I am talking about the toss of course.

Traditionally, India's batting is its dominant hand. Called on to both defend and attack.

Yesterday, however at Capetown, it was India's bowling that was called up. Was their job to attack and get South Africa out. The weather serving as the catalyst.

Or defend India's famed batting.

Was Dhoni worried about the batsmen who have put up 3 scores of less than 250 in the 4 innings so far on the tour.

Historically Capetown entertains its batsmen for the first few days before it invites its bowlers to the party. If that is true, then once again India will be batting when the pitch is at its worst.

Of all the tosses Dhoni had to win, he won the one that he would have been better off losing.

From being dismissive of his bowlers after centurion, he is now entirely seduced by them. Why the sudden mood swing?

I think the 1990 Lords Test is still not completely out of my system. In a sudden bout of aggression that must have come over the normally gentle and conservative Mohammed Azharuddin, he invited  England to bat on winning the toss.

Captain and opener, Graham Gooch scored a triple hundred.

Yesterday was not that bad of course, but 200 odd for 4 down after having put the opposition in does not justify the decision to field first. The batters needed to be given first use of the pitch. Surely three chances should be enough to finally get the opening day batting right

On the surface, India's record in the last 6 tests, on the road, where they have invited the opposition to bat, makes good reading. 5 wins to 1 loss.

The details will make you slightly less impressed. 3 of the wins have come against New Zealand, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.

Further specifics will make you wonder if we have given away to much already on day one. In the 2 wins against strong teams, India bowled out England for 198 in Nottingham 2007 and Pakistan for 224 at Rawalpindi in 2004.

Clearly the results justified the intent. Then.

What was India intending to do yesterday. Hide their batsman or expose South Africa's. If its the former, the mission's accomplished, if its the later it was at best a 50-50 day. Not entirely disappointing.

Stage being set for Aus thrashing at SCG

Best Blog Tips

Australia are hell bent on losing the last test. A captain that's struggling for runs and a debut spinner with six first class matches behind him on a traditionally spin friendly track. Australia appear to have run out of options and are running out the clock on this series to re-rebuild next year.

Usman Khawaja appears to be the lone hope to salvage some dignity for the Aussies that were roundly thrashed at Melbourne. The persistence with Shane Watson at opener is more of a face-saver than anything else. Given that Phil Hughes hasn't lit up the grounds, Australia are resigned to select a risk-free option with Watson. But it seems silly to try to use such a fig-leaf instead of grooming someone new in earnest. India experimented heavily with openers until they found the right combination. Shane Watson appears to be a Sanjay Bangar-like choice with obviously more flash.

Thus, Khawaja, Clarke and Hussey will have to prepare to be batting within the first 15 overs of the game perhaps where the ball and bowlers are still fresh. Test batsmen must be ready for such situations, but the frequency or regularity with which it is happening to them has taken it's toll and resulted in terrible batting averages.

England should duly round off a successful tour with another one-sided victory in Sydney.