Saturday, July 30, 2011

Broad's heroics won't count...

Best Blog Tips

It has taken Stuart Broad roughly 7 days of Test cricket to flatten India. If he can hold up his performance for the second half of this Test; the series can be safely labelled Broad's Pataudi Trophy. Of course it does not have the 'Botham's Ashes' feel to it, but it can be safely said that Stuart Broad has finally arrived. 

Rahul Dravid notwithstanding, a Sehwag-less Indian batting lineup is a pale shadow of the one that tamed England 4 years ago. When you start missing the solidity provided by the likes of Dinesh Karthik and Wasim Jaffer at the top of the order, you know you are in serious trouble. 

Even on the bowling side, without Zaheer Khan, this Indian bowling line-up can boss a side around for, say 40-45 overs, after which even a Greame Swann can start having designs of dominating a tiring attack groomed on a rigorous diet of 4 overs a day cricket.

Friday, July 29, 2011

India's #1 ranking has no business case

Best Blog Tips

The business case for India to hold on to their number one ranking expired on April 2nd 2011. From the moment Mahendra Singh Dhoni clubbed the six that gave India the World Cup, the business conditions changed. Being Number One in Test cricket was an investment with returns too meager to satisfy all stake holders.

The market decided that the best way to account for the 'fan capital' accumulated after India's nerve wracking chase in the finals and indeed their entire World Cup journey, was to spend it in reviving the faltering TV rankings of the fledgling Indian Premiere League.

And for the benefit of organizations in need of cash like Reliance, India Cements, UB Group, etc India mortgaged their number one ranking by settling for reduced performance from its champion Test side on tours of the West Indies and England. That these tours were a chance to emulate Ajit Wadekar's 1971 champion side, did not find a mention in discussions among even the most hard core of traditionalists. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

This one didn't hurt as much

Best Blog Tips

The Lords test confirmed to me what I feared after Dominica. India are a team that plays to it's strengths and does well to hide it's weaknesses. This India isn't Kapil Dev's 1986 India or Steve Waugh's win-at-all-costs Australia or Clive Lloyds attack-relentlessly West Indies. This is not a criticism. It's simply a recognition of reality.

This India is not about winning and losing and letting the ranking take care of itself. It feels like for this Indian team managing the ranking is critical. Mahendra Singh Dhoni's press conference at the end of the Lords test was as much an exercise in excuse mongering than anything else that I have ever heard. It did his standing little good.

Batting in the fourth innings is never easy. It's in fact rare that a side facing 458 and more than a 100 overs can stave off defeat. However, it also appears that India were aware of this fact. In fact, they seem to have memorized these types of statistics. Therefore, while I saw gallant effort, I somehow didn't see bloody-mindedness. I didn't see the Sachin battling through back pain in Chennai or the Sachin batting with Prabhakar while scoring his maiden hundred. I didn't see VVS fighting tooth and nail at Sydney to restore some pride to a match already lost. I didn't see Dhoni from 2007 resolutely keeping away everything to instill confidence in the fans that he was not just a swashbuckler, but a man on a mission who had a decent head on his shoulders. Right from the moment Dravid fished foolishly outside off stump, it felt like India didn't believe they could save the match.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

India will need Plan 'C' to win

Best Blog Tips

For all its history, the Lord's cricket ground is yet to acknowledge present day greats Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting. While it has room on its board for workmen-like performances from Praveen Kumar's or Shane Watson's, it had none for Rahul Dravid. Even a Ajit Agarkar has his name on the board.

But today, the famous ground took its opportunity and acknowledged Rahul Dravid's absolutely proper and Test Match Quality innings. It still has some time to acknowledge Sachin Tendulkar but that's for another day.

How many times, has a side faced the ignominy of facing the possibility of a follow on after their inability to bowl the opposition out; having invited them to take first strike? Well I am not sure about the all the instances, but this is the second time that it has happened to India against England. The last time too at Lord's. Remember Gooch scored something like 5.8 trillon runs and Kapil hoicked 4 successive sixes off Eddie Hemmings with Hirawni for company to avoid the follow-on?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Opinions On... Praveen Kumar

Best Blog Tips

Praveen Kumar is Madan Lal's Second Coming

For us children of the eighties, nothing is humbling and funnier than Maddi-pa running full speed and delivering a military medium pie. Humbling because he got many vital wickets and never ever gave it away. He never dropped any catches and never threw his wicket away playing ungainly shots. Here was a man that valued every second he spent on the cricket field and gave it his all. His utmost was military medium pies. If God had given him natural speed, he would have devastated the world.

Praveen Kumar reminds me of Madan Lal. He is all heart and a lot of guile. But his methods are old-fashioned and simple. Grunt work, effort and more effort. His bowling reminds me of Javed Miandad. Perhaps because I'm constantly subjected to the phrase "street-smart" in his context. But watching the first two days of this match and his bowling in his debut series in the West Indies, I have felt a strange sense of anticipation on every ball he bowls. This from a military medium bowler that doesn't even try to bowl any faster. Not since Kapil Dev, have I felt that way when an Indian bowler has bowled.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Its India v England's Belief

Best Blog Tips

The only time, I was confident about India winning an away series was in 1986 when a strong Indian line up took on an Australia in transition. That side on form and skill was almost as strong as this Dhoni led Indian side; perhaps a bit stronger given that Virendra Sehwag will be watching the Lords Test from the sidelines. 

Gavaskar and Srikanth to open; a middle order of Mohinder Amarnath, Dilip Vengsarkar, Mohammed Azharuddin and Ravi Shastri; two decent spinners in Shivlal Yadav and L Sivaramakrishnan and the great Kapil Dev. 

That series ended in bitter disappointment for me when all Test matches were drawn; Adelaide because of a flat pitch; Melbourne due to rain and India's strange reluctance to get on with things and Sydney when India, in spite of the rain, almost bowled out Australia twice in day and half, but ran out of time. 26 years on, India has still not won a series in Australia. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

India lose Lords Test by 5 wickets

Best Blog Tips

As one of those that is still somewhat livid with how the Dominica Test ended with teams declaring a 'total strike', I am still not over the India - West Indies Test series and the English series is upon us.

I braved the rain and took a train ride from Borehamwood to Taunton to watch Day 2 of the tour game against Somerset and to be at the ground where Sir Vivian Richards, Sir Ian Botham and Joel Garner played their summer cricket, was humbling. There were more people than the turnout at all the 15 days of Test cricket in the West Indies combined and many of them had come just to see Sachin bat.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Big Bully BCCI or maybe not

Best Blog Tips

It appears that the BCCI has effectively browbeaten Sri Lanka and Darryl Harper into supporting it's stance on the DRS. This reminds me of a t-shirt that used to do the rounds when I was a kid. "Eat shit because a zillion flies can't be wrong".

All the worshippers of technology that jumped on the DRS bandwagon must now be puzzled as to why the universal truth that a computer "simulation" is smarter than human judgement is not everyone's version of the truth.

Sri Lanka made BCCI's case about the affordability of the technology. This claim was pooh-poohed by most that thought that the BCCI was an Ostrich. While I am not a huge supporter of BCCI's tactics, it appears in this case the board got bad press for no good reason.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Test Cricket is no longer intuitive

Best Blog Tips

For the times Test cricket is played in; for the competition that Test cricket finds itself facing; it's a far too nuanced game for its own good. Modern; and dare I say; rational; spectators demand the game be intuitive. There is a growing tendency among Test cricket lovers to disconnect from reality and hang on to those very nuances of Test cricket that are threatening to make the game irrelevant. Of course it was prudent for India to call off the chase at Dominica; question is why does Test cricket afford this option to a team. To walk off. To claim a 'no-result' when a result was inevitable. 

How long would sports like tennis, boxing, athletics, survive if participants are allowed to collectively decide and effectively strike in the middle of a contest?

The best scoreline that can capture the series concluded yesterday between India and the West Indies is 

T20: 1 Tests : 0 (Rahul and Laxman walk-off)

There are fines, bans and all sorts of tricks employed by the game's governing body to speed up the game. Its working too. In one of the sessions in the 3rd Test, I saw India bowling at the rate of 16.2 overs per hour. Perhaps they had one eye on the Lord's Test. Whatever the reason, the game had picked up pace. 

And what did they do with the time that was created over the first 4 days?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Wimpy World Champs

Best Blog Tips

With 86 runs to get off 90 balls, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman walked off the ground. These were India's most experienced batsmen. These two were responsible for putting India into winning positions and winning numerous matches for India. But today, they walked off.

Time was when the West Indies with Greenidge in the lead chased over 300 in a day to eventually help deliver a "blackwash". India chased 347 on the last day to tie a test match. Several other such examples abound of champion teams having taken up the challenge to assert their superiority over their rivals. With this game, India has also given England a huge boost.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Dhoni and his hotel room

Best Blog Tips

Regular people like you and me can’t even begin to comprehend, what a hotel room means to someone like a Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Captain of the world’s number one ranked Test team.

Captain of the reigning World Champions

Captain of the reigning IPL and Champions League title holders


The World’s 7th or 8th whatever that number is most marketable athlete in the world.