Archive for February, 2006

A fascinating winter turns unappetizing

February 28, 2006

It started with the Pakistan series.  Horrible pitches reduced what should have been a keenly-fought series among two fast-improving sides into a one-test farce.  Now, the other interesting contest of the winter is on the verge of unravelling with about half the English side missing.  With the Ashes winners having a spate of injuries and “personal problems” (I am surprised nobody still knows why Trescothick left), everything that I was looking forward to for the last few months is turning into ashes.  I was optimistic, even after getting the initial news of a few players being doubtful, because the English bowling attack was intact (The Indian batsmen are going miss Giles more than the English team, so he doesn’t count).  That meant we’d get to see how our batting line-up would fare against the bowling that brought the Aussies to their knees.  Not to be.  Jones is out now, and for the first time, I’m getting the feeling that this isn’t going to be worth my time and money.

Blooper of the day

February 27, 2006

I’m quite happy for England to have these injuries because it puts the pressure back on India.

– Nasser Hussain, former England captain

My Test XI

February 25, 2006

It’s time again for me to pick my Test side ahead of the series against England. This is fairly easy since most of the players pick themselves. So, here goes:

  1. Virender Sehwag
  2. Wasim Jaffer
  3. Rahul Dravid
  4. Sachin Tendulkar
  5. VVS Laxman
  6. Mahendra Dhoni
  7. Irfan Pathan
  8. Anil Kumble
  9. Harbhajan Singh
  10. RP Singh
  11. ?

There’s debate over only one spot. Should we play an extra bowler or batsman? And if so, who? Personally, I’d like to see the last spot go to a bowler, but none of the two options (VRV Singh and S Sreesanth) impresses me that much. Munaf Patel would have been a very good option to have. The reason I want to see three pacemen is to groom them a bit. Outside the subcontinent, more often than not, you need three fast bowlers. This will help us decide who the two (besides Pathan) are going to be. Our current pace battery is fairly young and inexperienced.

However, what’s more likely is that India will go with an additional batsman. This means that there’s only room for two pacemen in the side. I just hope they don’t pick Sreesanth ahead of RP Singh in the name of “variety.” I know Sreesanth’s been identified as a top talent, and a lot of people are impressed by him. But for some reason, I am not entirely convinced yet. And high 130s (km/hr) is not exactly fast. Moreover, RP Singh has turned in a handful of good performances in his short international career.

So, there it is. While I would like to see the last stop go to a bowler, it will most likely go to Kaif.

10-for for Munaf Patel

February 25, 2006

England just got bundled up for 158 in the second innings, and a humiliating loss, to a second XI side within three days on a pitch more green than brown, is on the cards. A very promising fast-bowling performance from MM Patel helped set up this victory. I suppose VRV Singh must’ve done something really well to be picked ahead of Patel (not that VRV’s likely to play in the first Test). What’s amazing is that of his ten scalps, seven were bowled! Boy, I’d love to get some footage of his wickets.  Does anybody know how fast he bowls?

All eyes on Baroda

February 23, 2006

The second warm-up game has just gotten underway, and the Board President’s XI are quickly on top with England reeling at 76/4 after 23 overs (England won the toss). The Board President’s XI is a formidable side, far better than the one that played the first warm-up match in Mumbai. Several of these players have played Test cricket, and the rest are top claimants for a Test spot. Munaf Patel and VRV Singh, the much touted pacemen, get to show just how fast and good they are. Jaffer and Gambhir are in a tussle for the opening slot in the senior team. It’s probably safe to say that the better of the two in this game will most likely open with Sehwag in the first Test on March 1st. The middle-order batsmen Raina and Rao were both given a few ODI games recently, and the selectors will be watching them closely. Powar, the all-rounder, also gets to play this game. Other players to watch out for are Jadhav and Paul. That leaves Badrinath, who I know nothing about, and Karthik (the wicket-keeper), who won’t be in the Indian side anytime soon no matter what he does in this game (thanks to Dhoni).

Cricket catching the eye of the American audience

February 21, 2006

Okay, maybe that’s an overstatement, but I can see early signs of cricket gaining prominence in the States. Not too long ago, some ad on TV (I think it was Coke or Gatorade or some such company) showed some Caribbean beach cricket being played. Just yesterday, I saw an ad for GE that showed some kids in whites playing cricket. Perhaps this is the beginning of something?

A quick search led me to this video (“Beats”) of kids playing cricket with the Taj Mahal as the backdrop. Not sure if this was the ad I saw on tv.

There’s something about Greg

February 18, 2006

Greg Chappell seems like a good bloke, albeit with some rough edges. I was very excited when he was first appointed as coach. Here was a guy with the betterment of Indian cricket at heart, and the wherewithal to make it happen. He realized what needed to be done to bring Indian cricket forward, was not afraid of confronting the so-called “Indian way” of doing things. And by all accounts, his presence (coupled with Dravid’s rise as captain) has improved the Indian side by leaps and bounds. He’s a thorough professional and has worked hard to instill the same values in his team.

Yet, every once in a while, he does or says something that makes me reconsider my assessment of him. The first sign was when, in that ill-fated email that he shot to the Indian board, he accused Ganguly of backing down from facing fast bowling. I understood and agreed with all the things he said in there, except for that one point. Trying to level such a charge against Ganguly, who has been on the international circuit for more than a decade and scored thousands of runs, was simply ludicrous. Then came the finger-pointing incident, which left a bad taste in the mouth. But again it was understandable, I reasoned, for Chappell is not the Gandhi kind to offer the other cheek when somebody slapped him. Instead he likes to hit back. A lapse in judgment where he let his emotions get the better of him, I concluded.

Now, on this Pakistan tour, he’s again irked many (mainly on the other side of the border) by questioning Akhtar’s action. He never did say that Akhtar was chucking, just that there was something fundamentally different about his action. Everybody knows that. It’s called hyper-extension of the elbow. Perhaps that’s what he meant, but he should’ve known how the press was going to interpret it. He’s lucky not to have landed in any trouble because of it. Akhtar’s been cleared by the ICC, and that’s all that matters. Let’s move on.

And this brings us to the incident that prompted me to write this piece. In a recent interview, he emphatically proclaimed that “we don’t need a bowling coach.” All his “misdemeanors” so far didn’t have a negative effect on the team, at least not much, but this does. I wonder what his rationale for this is. Is he so close-minded as to not see what Troy Cooley did with a bunch of unknowns in the English team? Does he think Cricket Australia was stupid to snap Cooley up at the earliest opportunity? Were the Indian bowlers lying when they claimed that Bruce Reid was a big help to them in Australia? A lot of Indian bowlers, over the last few years, have shown quite a bit of promise but failed to deliver anything substantial. Surely, a bowling coach could help rectify that. Even if not (which I highly doubt), it wouldn’t hurt.

With modern sports, you need to snap on to every little bit of help you can get. The Olympic athletes who go to great lengths to increase their timing by a tenth of a second would certainly vouch for that. Australia realizes this, and that is one of the main reasons they’re way ahead of the rest. They were the first to realize the importance of fielding well (so much so that they’ve warned an exciting new batting prospect to improve his fielding if he wanted to make it to the Australian team) and that has played a big part in helping them dominate world cricket over the last decade. Now that other teams are catching up in that aspect, they’re looking for new ways to extend their lead. I think we’ll all come to rue ECB’s rank stupidity in practially gift-wrapping and handing over Cooley to them. Anyway, I’m digressing. The point is, Chappell needs to wake up and get in the necessary support act for the Indian team so that they can continue to ameliorate.

India seals the ODI series…

February 17, 2006

…and Dravid makes a rare war face. Quite unusual, don’t you think? Perhaps he was trying to convey he’s not all soft. Or he felt truly ecstatic at his first away ODI series win as captain.

AP
Courtesy: AP

Cow corner?

February 17, 2006

This might be a little embarrassing for me (and shocking for you, seeing as how it comes from a cricket aficionado), what exactly is cow corner? Deep mid-wicket? Or extra cover perhaps? Maybe third man?

I’ve come across that term a couple of times, the latest being in Rahul Bhattacharya’s Pundits from Pakistan.

Told ya so!

February 17, 2006

Time for me to shamelessly gloat about my astute discerning skills.

After the 4th ODI against Pak, people have gotten talking about RP Singh and Suresh Raina.  Both are terrific finds and I hope will be able to cement their place in this ODI side.  I blogged about Raina being the best fielder in this side, as well as about his brief batting display being impressive thus far.  Similarly, I had backed RP Singh by picking him for my test side for the Pak tour.

No brownie points for anybody who points to occasions where my discerning eye has let me down.