Archive for March, 2006

Not the end of the line for India

March 22, 2006

England have won at Mumbai and are celebrating a well-deserved drawn series. However, India haven’t lost the series and there’s no reason for them to drop their heads. There were quite a few positives for us.

  • First of all, the argument that England was a weakened unit doesn’t hold water since most of the replacements have done extremely well. Just as well as would have been expected of the players they replaced, if not better. Collingwood, Cook and Shah all played important knocks, and Anderson and Udal bowled really well in this Test match. More importantly, Fletcher being the real thinktank behind this unit made it easier for Flintoff to slip into the role of captaincy.
  • Quite frankly, India lost the plot with their woeful fielding. Yuvraj, one of the better Indian fielders, dropped about five catches in the last Test match alone. I had written about his fielding being over-hyped, but even so, this was a rather poor showing. I hope Dravid realizes the need to find another short leg fielder. The good thing is that India will do much better by simply working on their fielding a little more. And they’re not that bad a fielding unit either. They just had a terrible series, much like the English and Australian teams during the last Ashes.
  • The emergence of Sreesanth and Munaf Patel was good to see. Had they been better supported by their fielders, they could’ve ended up with much better figures. Pathan, however, seems more innocuous with every Test. He has an odd good spell, but lacks consistency and is fairly innocuous when the ball’s not swinging. I hope India gets on top of this soon. A bowling coach like Troy Cooley, who transformed the English pace attack, would be quite helpful.
  • India didn’t lose this series on square turners. The pitches had bounce and carry and assisted the English pacemen just as much as the Indian bowlers. India could’ve easily produced pitches that assisted their spinners and romped to a thumping series win. But I prefer it this way. Not that there was no assistance for the spinners: there was plenty on the last two days. It’s just that England never had to bat last in any of the three games. We could’ve easily seen a different result had that been the case.
  • Indian batting remains a worry, but not a big one. Tendulkar’s been in poor form of late, but there’s no need to boo him. He’s not looked terribly out of sorts in the middle, and it shouldn’t be long before he posts a big score. The good thing here is that it’s bounce that did the Indian batsmen in most of the time, and it’s not too hard to counter that. Dravid showed perfectly well how to play the short-pitched deliveries. India will be better prepared when they head abroad later this year. Also, I hope this does not dissuade India from going the five-bowler route.
  • It was a tough series for Dravid as captain. People will point to the decision to field first in the last Test as his biggest folly, but I like the changing mindset of the team. It was a bold decision and will help this team do better in foreign conditions. I thought there were lots of other errors he made in the field, but hopefully he’s learning as a captain. It was worth paying attention to the English field settings and such. They had clear gameplans for each player (and hence unconventional fields too at times) and quite a few of them were successful, none moreso than Yuvraj’s dismissal in the first innings the 2nd Test at Mohali.
  • India’s tail-enders have batted quite well. The last three wickets have consistently put on about 70+ runs on the board. If they continue this way, they’ll allow India to continue with the five-bowlers option. Moreso when the Indian top order is back in form, which wiill be soon, I reckon.

Also, we’ve got to give credit to the English team for playing really well. Let’s not forget that the Indians were batting against arguably the best bowling line-up in the world. They had innovative field settings and clear gameplans against each player, except perhaps Dravid. And they dominated most of the parts of all three games.

All in all, it was a thorougly enjoyable series. It provided great entertainment and I’m glad England didn’t capitulate as was initially predicted by many. This seems like a good time to make another plea to the BCCI to schedule longer Test series. This series as evenly poised as was the 2005 Ashes after the third game at Trent Bridge. How awful it would’ve been had the Ashes ended there. Who doesn’t want to see if Sehwag can finally learn to counter the sharp rising delivery, or if the famed Indian batting order can perform up to its reputation, or if the new English players (Shah, Cook, among others) can carry on from their great starts?

But now it is time to move on. The ODIs start next week, and that’s a totally different game — one that India has gotten very good at lately. England’s good performance here doesn’t change my prediction of India winning the ODI series, although Tendulkar will be missed.

Words of wisdom

March 17, 2006

It’s a 450 wicket, guys…they’re about 15 short.

– Jacques Kallis, during the lunch break after Australia had amassed 434/4 in their 50 overs [Hat tip: The Surfer]

The new Indian Cricket Board

March 16, 2006

A lot of things have changed since Sharad Pawar came into power as the BCCI chief. Lalit Modi predicts that the Indian board’s income is going to shoot up some fifteen-fold. The deal they brokered with Nimbus can vouch for that. The money-hungry BCCI’s every move is now being watched by the entire cricket world, with some questioning its soul. Let’s get one thing straight: power corrupts and India is the new superpower in the world of cricket. I can’t think of any superpower, anywhere in history, that has behaved truly “responsibly.” Heck, some, like the United States, still don’t. Why then this unrealistic expectation from India?

Because if there’s anyone in the world that can marry morality with puissance, India can. In his book “We, The People,” NA Palkhivala said:

After all, in our own century India represented the greatest moral force known to modern history and wrested its freedom, without weapons, from the largest empire on earth.

A rich, bountiful nation, that has been pillaged so often in the last millennium that much of its constituency is reduced to abysmal poverty, is rising as an economic force once again. This is going beyond cricket, of course. But can you really expect India to exhibit fairness towards those who have been far from fair to it? We must. In some ways, BCCI’s actions will reflect what we can expect from the Indian government in the larger, more important context of world economics and politics.

Let us first take a look at some of what the BCCI plans to do with its fast-growing money cache.

  • Providing pension to ex-cricketers
  • Doubling the pay of first-class cricketers
  • Setting up a website
  • Improving facilities at stadiums across the nation
  • Setting up a domestic one-day competition
  • Supporting other sports in India

IS Bindra gave a brief interview on the last day of the 2nd Test against England at Mohali where he identified two major problems with Indian cricket that the board would like to address. The first was that the Indian paying public was being short-changed. Anybody who has attended cricket matches in India (at places other than Mohali) knows exactly what he’s talking about. Having to stand in long lines to get tickets and get into the ground, not being allowed to take water bottles into the ground, not always having shade over your head, having to put up with disgusting restrooms, etc. are just a few of the problems. The second problem Bindra mentioned was that in terms of facilities and infrastructure, India was about 50 years behind Australia. I don’t know how reliable that number is, but his point is well-taken. We can assume a considerable chunk of the Indian board’s income will address these two issues.

All in all, the Indian cricket board is using the money quite wisely. And amid all this, there’s talk of increasing transparency in the Indian board’s dealings. All these things are good for Indian cricket and I don’t see personal greed involved anywhere. And after all, the country that funnels so much money into cricket should be able to improve its standard of the game (which will help further increase the sport’s cashflow).

This brings us to the question of other countries. I, as a cricket fan, am happier that India’s going to be playing more against tougher competition. Before the Pawar-led BCCI intervened, Australia was scheduled to next tour India in 2010. Can you imagine that? The current generation of superstars on both the teams would’ve never faced each other again on Indian soil.

However, the question of helping out other nations is a valid one. It is important that we realize that Bangladesh is today where we were 40-50 years ago. In that sense, India must realize its duty to cricket. England’s antics when it came to touring India in the last century still leaves a bad taste in everybody’s mouths. We must not do the same to Bangladesh. There were talks that Bangladesh wouldn’t be treated properly when they tour India, but I doubt that would happen. Same thing with the Champions Trophy. Once it’s moved to a time slot that doesn’t always overlap the Indian cricket season, I think the Indian board will be happy.

India has a bright future ahead, and all signs at this point suggest India has the wisdom to go with the power.

Keeping up with the Joneses

March 16, 2006

Aww, and there’s Humpty Dumpty…

– Dean Jones, referring to SpongeBob SquarePants in the crowd during the 2nd Test between India and England at Mohali

Cricket rules

March 12, 2006

Some very interesting cricket’s been going on for a few days now. There’s the on-going India v. England Test match. The one between West Indies and New Zealand had been see-sawing this way and that, before a thrilling comeback by NZ on the back of Bond’s efforts. And then the small matter of what is being touted as the best ODI game ever that saw records tumble like dominoes. South Africa chased down the Australia’s 434 to lay the ghosts of the 1999 World Cup to rest.

Cricket has taken center stage, so much so that the Australian Open was rescheduled to not clash with the first Ashes Test later this year. Cricket rules. And all is well with the world.

Quiz no. 1

March 11, 2006

When was the last time India fielded three specialist spinners in a Test?

No prizes for the winner.

Dravid proves me wrong

March 9, 2006

I was certain India wouldn’t play three spinners.  I wanted to see five bowlers, but not with three spinners.  What can I say?  I’m disappointed.

Munaf Patel called up

March 5, 2006

I thought that was a good decision by the selection panel. A little harsh for VRV Singh who’s been dropped without being given a chance, but such is the game. Patel had made an irresistible case for his selection, and has been justly rewarded.

Now it will be interesting to see if the team management give him a game. India needs to start playing with five bowlers (with at least three pacemen), moreso now that our wicketkeeper and one of our bowlers (Pathan) are decent bats. Bowlers win Test matches, and virtually depending on two pacemen to take all the wickets in the first innings is not wise.

I find it unlikely that that will happen though, since it means leaving out either Yuvraj Singh or VVS Laxman. What is more likely is Harbhajan or Sreesanth making room for Munaf Patel (that is, if he plays at all).

Personal reminder

March 5, 2006

I have a tendency to share my passions (although some friends, for some absurd reason, would describe it as a tendency to force my passions upon them), and cricket is one of them. An article in the Sydney Morning Herald got me talking about cricket to one of my friends of Chinese origin (whom I had previously unsuccessfully tried to convert into a cricket fan). After a little debating (she was adamant that cricket would never pick up in China), we decided to put our money where our mouths were.

So, this post is simply to record a personal wager of USD2000. My claim is that in thirty years’ time (Dec. 2035) cricket will have become a popular sport (the definition of popular will be subjective, but hopefully the two of us will agree) in China. That’s a tough ask for a country where cricket is unknown to most and that has little or no grass-roots support for the sport, but I am counting on the “communist single-mindedness” of the Chinese.

Jaffa?

March 3, 2006

Not too long ago, I asked my readership about the term cow corner. Now, I’ve got another one: jaffa. I know what it means: a very good, often unplayable, delivery that beats or dismisses a batsman. Just don’t know where or how the term originated. The word is not in the English dictionary either. The only Jaffa outside of the cricket world is a city in Israel, apparently.

What dost thou say?