Archive for December, 2005

Sabbatical

December 24, 2005

Sorry about the dearth of posts of late. I’ll soon post my thoughts about the recently-concluded Sri Lankan series and things to look forward to in the Pakistan series. I am going on vacation today for about three weeks, but will be able to make occasional posts. Check this space again soon. Meanwhile, I leave you with Greg Chappell’s response to friends suggesting that golf is the most mentally challenging game.

When you make your first bogey, go and sit in the dressing room for the rest of the day and see how hard it is.

Chappell, however, admits that “golf is the closest [to cricket] I have seen from a mental point of view.”

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Google It

December 4, 2005

Want to see a medley of some interesting (and some comedic) cricket moments? Or missed the recent Indian ODI against SA? Google it. I’ve discovered quite a few cricket videos on Google. It has a lot of memorable moments: from Warne’s ball of the 20th century to the complete highlights package of the 1999 World Cup semi-final between Australia and S. Africa.

If you condone the cheesy commentary, one of the better videos is a 40-min. feature of Tendulkar’s career. It’s informative and enjoyable, especially the first half: it shows a rare glimpse into the emergence of this batting icon. There’s an interview from before his playing days (when he was 15) where he mentions that he was ready to join the national team for their tour to the Caribbean.

Afraid of Marshall and Co.? I will have no problem facing Marshall.
Too young? No.
Raju Kulkarni’s the fastest bowler you’ve faced. How was it facing Kapil in the nets? He’s a good bowler too. I had no problems with his inswing or outswing.
You bowl as well? Yes, medium-pace. I will be bowling short spells only.

Interesting that he would term the premier paceman and leading wicket-taker in the country as “a good bowler too.” Another interesting bit was about his thoughts before his first tour of Australia in 1991-92.

I have seen a lot of video cassettes, and from that I can make out that the Australian wickets are very bouncy and fast. The ball comes on to the bat so you can play your strokes, and my game is to play a lot of strokes. So I think I’ll do fairly well.

Enjoy.

Akhtar, the whimsical

December 3, 2005

Can a dog’s tail be straightened?  Seems so.  And Shoaib Akhtar can point to his performance in the series against England to back him up.  He took 17 wickets in 3 Tests at an average of ~24 and a strike rate of ~41 balls, and helped engineer the two batting collapses that won Pakistan the three-match series 2-0.  Is this a new Shoaib?  Woolmer vouches that his attitude, behavior, commitment and fitness have undergone a face-lift.  Looks like he’s finally got his priorities in order.  His doggedness to dig it in and spend time at the crease with the bat has revealed his thought-process and adds credibility to the remarkable turn-around.  Can Akhtar maintain it though?

I have always considered Akhtar to be an over-rated showpony, and didn’t quite understand what others (revered cricket writers such as Peter Roebuck included) saw in him.  I was shocked that he was picked to play for the ICC World XI.  But perhaps Shoaib is finally fulfilling his destiny.  And cricket is all the more richer for it.  Few sights in cricket are as great as a fast bowler knocking timber out of the ground, and Shoaib promises a lot of it in the years to come.

I think, of late, India’s been playing Pakistan a little too often for my taste.  But with a reinforced Pakistan side and a new-look Indian team, the upcoming Indian tour to Pakistan seems like a different contest altogether.  Pakistan will find India a lot tougher in the ODIs, and India won’t see Pakistan rolling over in the Test matches.  I lick my lips in delight and anticipation of seeing the vaunted Indian batting order square up to the new Akhtar.

SA Series Review

December 3, 2005

Yes, I know, a little late, but here it is finally.

The series ended with the honors even, albeit SA can claim they played better cricket (right up until the last game).  Their wins were huge thumpings, and they made a fight of their low totals.  Their bowling, in particular, was impressive and they successfully kept the Indian batsmen on a leash.  You just wonder what would’ve happened if this series had presented a level playing field (with regards to dew, and 5 games, as was planned).

The Indians turned in good performances nevertheless.  Keep in mind that our perception of their performance is slightly skewed because of the several poor decisions against them — right from the first game where Smith was not given LBW (when on 0) and Tendulkar was wrongly given caught behind to the last one where Boucher was not given LBW and Sehwag was.  This is a young team on the rise, and while they’re not world-beaters yet, they’ve shown gumption against one of the top-performing sides in world cricket.  They will come across sterner tests abroad.  I can’t wait.

The last game was interesting.  Without a doubt, Kallis’ asinine batting led to them not winning the game.  With so many wickets in hand, they never went on the attack.  Not like the pitch was a spitting cobra either (like the second game in Bangalore).  When they should’ve posted a 260+ total, they registered a mere 221.  With the Indians chasing under floodlights, I had no doubt they would come out on top.  But the Proteas made the job a lot more difficult than I’d expected.  Had they not dropped so many catches (4) and kept the slips in place throught the game, it could’ve been a different story.  That Smith wasn’t attacking the Indians was also rather bizarre.  He didn’t think he was going to successfully defend that total without bowling out the Indians, did he?

I have seen Kallis turn in such tardy performances time and again.  Somebody needs to give him clear directions as when to attack and what scores to shoot for.  If he keeps playing this way, the South Africans will have a tough time in Australia, where they’re headed next.  Other than that, they should be able to give the Aussies a tough contest.

Looking at the performance of the Indians, I think it’s time we looked past Murali Kartik.  Admittedly, I’ve never been a Kartik fan and his performance in the last two series has only supported my thinking.  Against the hapless Sri Lankans, he averaged 34.57 and bled 5.26 runs per over.  The series against SA featured a couple of tracks that would be the best he could hope for, and yet he went wicketless throughout the series.  Sehwag was much more effective than him (avg: 28, economy a shade less than 4.5).  Considering that, I think we can go with an extra paceman (I think Nehra’s under-rated) or batsman, as the situation demands (and utilize Sehwag more — with Tendulkar and Yuvraj as back-up — in spin-friendly conditions).  Other than that, I am quite happy with the team composition.