Tuesday, August 23, 2011

(Pataudi Trophy) India: Marks out of -10

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Mahendra Singh Dhoni, has always talked about expectations. How his team is expected to win every time. He uses this to indicate the kind of pressure his team is always under. On the surface it makes me scratch my head trying to understand the motive behind repeatedly bringing up this perfectly rational expectation from fans. To expect their team; who have all the necessary funds at their disposal; to be the best in the world, is certainly not unreasonable.

Of course in reality what he means is the irrational behavior of fans when India lose. The heckling and even violence to players properties.

Quite surprisingly, India's non-compete attitude on this tour that ended in a humiliating clean-sweep of defeats has earned their board; the BCCI; the ire of fans and analysts alike.

The players have been spared.

So Mahendra Singh Dhoni was all this while wrong about what fans expect and by being calm and calculated in his dealings with the media he has protected his team from any criticism and made the BCCI look like the ugly villains; perhaps unintentionally.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Fatigue, IPL, Preparation and other excuses

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Now India wants another warm-up game before the Boxing day test in Melbourne. This completely confuses me. On the one hand, we crib about too much cricket, then we want one more warm up game because cricketers have not had enough of the "right" kind of cricket. But warm-up games don't cause any mental fatigue as any athlete can tell you. I'm joking of course.

There is a very simple explanation for this. "You can take a horse to the water, but you can't make it drink." That's exactly what's going on with the Indian team. During the 80s and 90s it was inadequate pay, poor pitches, lack of fast bowlers, unimaginative board, lack of incentives, selectorial stupidity and player selfishness. Most of these issues have been tackled.

There are now better pitches, enough fast bowlers (although PK may not fully qualify), enough salaries and a good contract system, good domestic pay, incentives, selectorial consistency and a board that will fight for players (example Sydney) even if it is sometimes misguided.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Where is Sunil Gavaskar when you really, really need him...

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The unanimous acknowledgement of England as the best Test side in the world was anticipated.

No one is pointing out that England lost a Test series in the West Indies. That the last time they beat India in India, Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Since then they have beaten Australia in Australia not once but twice! They have not won in Sri Lanka in over a decade

This too was expected to be conveniently forgotten.

Suddenly when it comes to England, everyone sort of understands that the ICC ranking is based on the last 3 years of performance and on that count England's ascent is beyond debate.

However no such concession was given to India when they reached the top of the same rankings that England claim today. Every western leaning human and his/her dog, would jump to point out the exact same shortcomings in India's record that even England are not immune to and question India's legitimacy as the best Test side in the world.

India's number one ranking got legitimacy only when England realized that by beating India they could claim the spot for themselves.

Where is Sunil Gavaskar when you really, really need him. Surely his contract permits him to show a mirror to the people dancing around the English bandwagon....

Sunday, August 14, 2011

India's cricketers find worldwide support

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On the eve of India's Independence day, Amnesty International has called on World Leaders to intervene and call an end to what it alleges are atrocities carried out by Britain's cricketers against India's defenseless "Prisoners of Corporate Greed". Better known as the Indian cricket team. It further alleges that comments made by Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron; congratulating his cricketers; also implicates him in the atrocities and does not rule out urging the international community to press charges of Human Rights violations against the Prime Minister.

"We demand that India's tour of England be immediately called off. Britain has a responsibility to set an example when it comes to human rights but the way its cricketers are humiliating and degrading India's senior citizens and untrained young men, who have shown no intent of retaliation; Britain's human rights record will not withstand international scrutiny" said an Amnesty International spokesman for cricket related crimes against humanity.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A spectacular betrayal

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Its not about India losing.  Its not even about the 0-4 scoreline. The sense of betrayal I feel is beyond the hurt of losing. 

India have lost before and almost never I had to question their commitment or their intelligence. This time around I question both.

Their commitment to their national duties needs to be questioned. Immediately after the World Cup, they knew their next national duty was in the West Indies and England. There was more than enough time to prepare for the tours. The most prestigious tours in the context of cricket. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

In Defense of the New Order

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There has been a lot of hand wringing about India's status as the number one test team. India's poor (euphemism alert) performance in England has generated a great deal of commentary. The general refrain is as follows; Indian players put T20 (IPL, Champions League) above all else, BCCI is money-mad and therefore doesn't care about Indian cricket. Indian players are unfit and unprepared because of BCCI's callousness, especially with regards to the cricket calendar. India don't really deserve to be number one because they never really beat anyone good in a series away from home.

I would like to provide a contrarian view. Everyone including Harsha Bhogle and Sanjay Manjrekar have decided that the BCCI is to blame for India's poor showing in England. It's convenient because then you don't have to name names and can simply blame it on a boogeyman. I believe this is the most progressive board set up in my lifetime. The board has contracted several players. The board needs to put eleven 'qualified' players on the field at any given time. The board needs to provide a good support structure in the form of a coach, conditioning expert, mental strength consultants, masseuse, physical therapist etc. Plus, there is the NCA where any player can go back to school. All this has been done.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The London riots

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We @ Opinions are very concerned over the riots in London and the safety of our cricketers with word that the violence has spread to even Birmingham, the venue of 3rd Test of the ongoing Pataudi Trophy. With England a mere 20 wickets or 4-5 sessions of Indian batting resistance away from the number #1 ranking, conveniently our thoughts (and prayers) are reserved for the safety of our players and rankings seem such a flimsy thing to be worrying about.

And we are not alone.

At a press event scheduled to officially count down India's last remaining sessions as the World's best cricket team, BCCI President Shashank Manohar was asked a question on the actions the board is taking to ensure player safety. When a journalist mentioned "riots" the President jumped instantly..."Riots, what riots? The Champions League will go ahead as planned. These riots are illegal, we oppose them and we will get them banned. We have 40 days before the Champions League starts and we will ban all riots to ensure a smooth tournament"

India has a small chance

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The heading isn't misleading. I actually do believe India has a chance. Both England and India are missing some first choice players. In India's case, it's Zaheer and Harbhajan, whereas in England's case it's Trott and Tremlett.

It appears that the English reserves have stepped into the breach and filled the void admirably. Bresnan replaced Tremlett in style and England didn't miss a beat. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Sreesanth who replaced Zaheer. India become a completely different bowling unit in Zaheer's absence. Whereas, Zaheer leads from the front and the rest of the bowlers play subordinate roles, in his absence, India have hunted as a pack. In the second test, this aspect of the attack so evident in the West Indies was missing. The bowlers appeared to be somewhat rudderless.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Anderson rues a missed opportunity

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Jimmy Anderson who missed a golden opportunity to score a century in each innings against India in the recently concluded Test Match at Trent Bridge, has lashed out at team mate Greame Swann for his inability to support his quest for a rare; but in Anderson's words achievable feat; particularly against this Indian bowling attack.

For the record, no player in Test history has taken 5 wickets in a match and scored a century in each innings of the same Test. Not even Gary Sobers. Ian Botham and Jacques Kallis also never came close. But Anderson believes this series was the best chance for him to score a couple of Test centuries and be counted as one of England's greatest all-rounders. "There is something about this Indian bowling attack that makes me back the batsman in me. It's not like these guys are Mpofu, Utseya or Roubel Hossain...." said Anderson' neither with a twinkle in his eye nor his tongue anywhere near his cheek

In both innings of the recently concluded Trent Bridge Test, Greame Swann was unable to withstand the hostile Indian attack and fell while his partner felt he was nearing centuries in both innings. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Well Deserved Thrashing

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A well as India played in the months prior to the World Cup, ultimately leading to the World Cup win itself, they have badly let themselves down since then. A stirring series in South Africa where India tamed Steyn and Kallis and gave South Africa some back was followed by a World Cup run that seemed scripted by a fairy tale writer.

It's hard to believe it is the same team that's getting it's butt kicked by a rampaging England. The manner of defeat resembles abject capitulation as opposed to going down fighting. One can accept the excuse that India is not at full-strength, but to give up without much of a fight is demeaning to the game itself.

Indian fans can be forgiven for conjuring up images of Gavaskar's 221 at the Oval chasing 440-plus. I for one had hopes that one out of Tendulkar, Dravid and Laxman would play that kind of a knock and would remind the world that India was still number one, even if the team lost. I was totally unprepared for the team to lose inside of five days.

Spinning a spectacle - The Ian Bell run out

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Had India not run-out Ian Bell in the first place, only then it could be argued that India and their skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni had upheld the spirit of the game. As things stand, they did run him out, which they were entitled to within the laws of the game and then had a change of heart. Rahul Dravid terming it as the 'right thing to do'. Implying that running him out, in the first place, was the wrong thing to do.

To credit India with upholding the spirit of the game is thus wrong and misplaced. Only a naive eagerness to find some good in a team that has let themselves and their supporters down by showing the most scant regard for the trophy they are playing for, by turning up under prepared and unfit.