Archive for the ‘South Africa’ Category

Garden of Eden

February 19, 2010

What a thrilling Test match. For those that missed it, like me, you can go watch the highlights here. India essentially won with 3 more balls left in the minimum quota of overs. There was a whole other over after that, but Amla would have been on strike for that one and he was not going to throw it away at the last moment. However, there were still 20 or so minutes left in the day’s play (assuming the light did not deteriorate quickly), so India would have had a few more chances. Nevertheless, it was too close for comfort.

An interesting incident that happened was when Virender Sehwag kicked the ball over the boundary to keep Amla on strike (so that Morkel would be on strike for the next over) and signalled 4 runs to the umpire. The umpire allowed the single and levied a 5 run penalty on top of that. The umpire obviously has not watched Lagaan. I am not sure if this is against the law, but I do know that this has happened in international cricket before and nobody was penalized. In one incident, the ball was hit to a part of the ground where there were no fielders, and so the batsmen ran 5 before the fielder (I think he was Indian) kicked the ball past the boundary to keep them to 4. Sehwag must have been thinking about doing that for a while: he almost did that once earlier, where he was just running next to the ball and essentially escorting it to the boundary, but then collected the ball and threw it back. Maybe he was aware of the law and realized the ball was not going to make it to the boundary.

In any case, if kicking the ball over the boundary on purpose is against the law, I suggest we legalize it. After all, one team is giving up 4 runs simply to change strike. If a team has built up a huge run buffer, then why not? Also, it’s so easy to workaround this law. Sehwag could have simply put his foot on the boundary line while picking up the ball and returned it as if he was trying to field it. I can think of tons of other way to skirt this law. So, instead, let’s just legalize it, and have fun watching fielders kick the ball over the boundary.

There was also another interesting incident during this Test match. To counter Harris’ outside-leg-stump line, Sehwag started to use the reverse sweep. The first one was almost a switch-hit (I don’t think he switched hands though) and the ball was hit in the air in front of square and made it to the boundary. The second, a more traditional sweep which I think also fetched four. The third time, though, he tried to repeat the first stroke, but got the top edge and the miscued ball landed safely in no-man’s land around gully. Shortly after that, the large screen at the ground flashed a message to Sehwag begging him not to play the reverse sweep anymore (written in “text-message” English, as a lot of Indian people now do even when not texting)! How odd is that? The screen operator must have been a Sehwag fan.

On a final note, Amla’s grandparents must be the happiest folks on the planet with this match. Being Indians who hail from my home state, I assume they were hoping for a narrow Indian win despite a valiant unbeaten rearguard effort from Hashim.

Drunk and naked

June 15, 2006

Imagine your manager came to work drunk and naked, staggering all over the place and his mouth spewing obscene filth. Now imagine he gets promoted to be the CEO of your company. Unlikely? That’s exactly what’s happening to Percy Sonn.

Am I the only one concerned that the man who wanted Cronje back in the fold of cricket and questioned BCCI’s action against Dalmiya is going to become the next ICC president? Here’s what Dan (of the notorious Dan’s World) has to say about all that.

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]

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.

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.

Rome was not built in a day

November 28, 2005

During the high of dominating Sri Lanka, Dravid, time and again, reminded everybody that harder times lay ahead and that the real test would come when the team was not doing well.  Both for the team and the fans.

After the 4th game,  a good friend of mine sent me an email detailing his disappointment with the Indian batting performance.  His biggest complaint was inconsistency.  He was voicing the same sentiment that the Kolkatans did during the game when cheering the South Africans instead of the Indians.  The fans have failed the test that Dravid was talking about.

These are early days for the Chappell/Dravid regime.  There is no doubt in my mind that we’re moving in the right direction.  This series has been missing a level playing field, and that has skewed the results a bit.  Indians, no doubt, haven’t performed as well as they could have, but some stumbling along the road is only expected.  This is the time to stand behind the team, not boo it at home and cheer the opponents instead.  Anybody will tell you, the support from the fans is more needed when the team is not doing well.  Granted, the audience at Kolkata was biased, and these Bengali aristocrats are known for not hiding their disappointment, but the treatment meted out to the team, Tendulkar and Dravid no less, was inexcusable.  I am certain it will be rectified at Mumbai.

Gameplan Rethink

November 16, 2005

The Indians imploded sooner, and in a worse manner, than anybody would have expected. There’s no need to panic just yet, though (contrary to what the heading for this post suggests). However, it’s clear that the Indians are going to have to maximize their resources to pull a rabbit out of the hat here. Here are a few thoughts.

Maximize the powerplays
Yes, that’s obvious, you say? What’s also obvious is that Kaif (and Dravid for that matter) is not the right personnel to do that. All’s fine with experimenting and such, but there’s gotta be some modicum of reasoning and sanity here. If the Indians wanted to surprise the South Africans, almost anybody (even Agarkar) would have been a better choice than Kaif. Both Kaif and Dravid also tend to be overly defensive when the chips are down, and at times fail to capitalize even on the bad balls. Pathan is showing the right attitude at the moment, and he’s already more successful than the two combined.

Hedge the supersubs
This will be very important in the D/N games because of the due factor. Basically, the Indians should name an extra batsman in the line-up and have a bowling supersub. I am surprised Dravid didn’t do that here as well. Looks like he’s midjudged the importance of the toss, expecting the pitch to assist batting throughout.

Know whom to attack
India need to be careful in their choice of powerplays. They shouldn’t be afraid to take the powerplays in the 20s or even the 30s. I think everybody throughout the world has been overly cautious with this. Also important is to identify the typically slower players in the opposition (Kallis comes to mind immediately) and use a powerplay when they come to the crease. The weaker bowlers (Botha, the new spinner) also need to be attacked. I am not saying that India’s not doing either of these: we haven’t reached that part of the game yet and the Indians very well might employ these strategies.

Know where to attack
When asked how they were going to counter Kemp, Dravid said that they were not targetting any individuals but were concentrating on the entire team and the process. This statement confused and unsettled me. How can you concentrate on the entire team without looking at any of the individuals? They’re not looking to find best ways to attack batsmen? Surely, knowing what a batsman’s zone of discomfort (or even comfort) is can only be helpful in determining where to bowl to him.

Win or lose, there’s always room for improvement and lessons to be learnt. The Indians need to stay on top of those. They shouldn’t go on the defensive because of this game, but remain positive. The rising Indian team has gotten the test we all wanted. The gauntlet is down, and the series is far from over. No matter what the results, the fans need to back this team.

Clash of the Titan-Wannabes

November 14, 2005

Die Proteas*
The South Africans’ loss-less streak of 19 games is known to most cricket followers by now. The prospect of seeing two fast-rising teams go head-to-head is mouth-watering. Given that the Proteas are missing some first-choice players and are playing in foreign conditions, my money would be on India to win this series.
*Commentary will be available in Afrikaans somewhere, I presume. Confused? Look up “die” in Afrikaans.

Guilty until proven innocent
The innocent have nothing to fear. We’ve all head this before. If Gibbs and Boje are truly innocent, why then are they afraid to tour India? Their guilt is clear to my eye. Peter Roebuck (another one of my favorite cricket writers) dissects the issue in this fine article. UCB, by siding with these frauds, is debasing itself.

Promising, not proven
The rising, young Indian stars are promising, but not yet proven. There’s a lot of inexperience at the international level among Raina, Gambhir, Dhoni, RP Singh, Sreesanth, Kartik and Yadav. Playing in home conditions, however, will be helpful. They’re used to these conditions. The real test will come when they head overseas.

Dew diligence
Nothing like dew to dampen the prospects (except rain). It is a widely-held opinion that the evening dew aids batting and hampers fielding. That’s a shame given that 4 of the 5 games are day-night affairs. Can anybody shed some light on this issue? Is dew a problem at all grounds in India? Is it just during this season or throughout the year? I am just wondering what could be done to mitigate its effect (other than not holding D/N games).

After-thoughts
Looking at the tour itinerary (Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai), it seems the Poms had a point when they were complaining of being assigned remote venues.

A couple of years back, pitches at a lot of the Indian grounds were relaid, with the assistance of some New Zealanders, in the hope of making them faster. From what we’ve seen in the previous series against Sri Lanka, that hasn’t materialized (assuming a few of the venues used in that series were the ones that received the newer pitches). Most of them were slow with low or uneven bounce. Does anybody have an (official) status update on this? Are we still waiting for the pitches to get faster?

State of the Union

November 12, 2005

The Indian team has been rejuvenated and is on the cusp of a golden era. It seems to be stepping out from under a gloomy cloud into bright sunshine. Chappell and Dravid, in the midst of euphoric reactions from fans (such as my last post), insist on guarding against complacency and over-confidence, and for good reason. Sterner tests lie ahead. For the team as well as the fair-weather fans. While the Indians have bowled very well in helpful conditions, the Sri Lankans have also been of guilty of throwing their wickets away from time to time. The Indian batting has been hardly tested in half the games. South Africa won’t fold as easily. India not only needs to do very well against the South Africans, but also in other countries to prove that this meteoric rise is not a flash in the pan.

The Sri Lankans, who excel in home conditions unlike any other team, were in a similar position not too long ago. And how they have fallen in the blink of an eye. While their abysmal batting display is the obvious cause of the fiasco, I think there’s one more reason. Atapattu’s captaincy has been uninspiring and, to be blunt, simply horrific. While I can’t comment on his leadership skills, it’s very lucid to me that he lacks the mental aptitude (cricketing acumen, if you will) to make wise decisions on the field. In the 6th ODI, with India chasing 197, the only way he could have won was if he bowled them out. Why then did he decide to take the two optional powerplays within the first 25 overs? He’s done this time and again: exercise powerplays at inopportune times. What’s more, he committed a major faux pas and bowled 6 overs instead of 5 for the 3rd powerplay. While that was, in the end, irrelevant in this game, it could cost them a game in tighter circumstances. His field placings have been reactive rather than proactive, he’s been guilty of taking pressure off the Indians when he should have been capitalizing on it, he has shown that he can’t read a pitch if it were a book written in Sinhala (although he probably had some help in coming to that decision), and his ineptness has been exposed in face of the new ODI rules. The Sri Lankan selectors need to take note of this.

The Indians, meanwhile, are motoring along like a Hummer, featuring a plethora of riches and going right over anything in their path. Most players have put their hand up one time or another during this series, and shown that they deserve their spot in the team. Only the places of Kartik, Yadav and Sreesanth seem under question at this point. India is quickly finding its core nucleus of players and has its eyes firmly set on the prize: the 2007 World Cup. The bowling has been impressive, the batting line has a lot of depth, the fielding standard has gone up considerably, the bench strength is promising, and team spirits are high. Expectations from this team continue to rise, and all signs suggest they are not misplaced.

Musings

November 4, 2005

Sri Lankan fans must have been hoping for a Red Sox-like comeback from their national cricket team.  It was not to be, and now both South Africa and India have clean-swept their higher-ranked opponents.  South Africa, in fact, has won their last 12 ODIs.  The two teams meet next in a 5-ODI series and it should be exciting.

I wonder what was the thinking behind having Virender Sehwag as Dravid’s deputy?  Sehwag is a wonderful cricketer and not one phased by opponents’ reputations.  However, he doesn’t come across as a thinker or a particularly good strategist.  He can’t be termed disciplined, nor is he a good media person.  Was he appointed vice-captain simply because of the lack of a better option?

In one of my recent posts, I spoke about the English media panning BCCI for picking relatively unknown venues.  Mike Selvey now joins the castigation with some more accusations.  What stands out for me from his piece is that England had agreed to 4 tests and 5 ODIs and the Indian board dropped a test in favour of 2 more ODIs.  Grrr.  This board is doing a disservice to Indian cricket in so many ways (this case just being one of them) that it ought to be torn apart and rebuilt from scratch.

Duncan Fletcher makes an asinine excuse for dropping Thorpe from the Ashes in this article.  If he felt Pietersen was indisposable, Bell should have made way for Thorpe; but he dismisses that option saying he wasn’t comfortable with him playing at number four.  Thorpe had the most stand-out performance the previous season, has contributed so much to English cricket and he was meted out such shoddy treatment from the board and the team management (he complained, not of being dropped, but of no communication from the management to that end).  I know that’s in the past and England managed to win the Ashes despite Bell’s inexperience and incompetency, but I just had to vent my anger at the decision that was made.  Thorpe deserved a better farewell.