Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Reyal saad story of an 80’s Caribbean faan

Statutory Warning: This story may be shared with friends and families to evoke a guaranteed guffaw. However in case you have one Yuvraj Singh amongst them you are advised to hold back on this winner till that 2nd ODI is just a hazy memory from the distant past. Anyone that watched the match live will agree that this 'won-it-and-lost-it' saga can remind him of something that he does not deserve to be reminded of...

Date: 11th March 1983
Setting: 1st day of 2nd India vs. West Indies Test, Trinidad

Early in tha mornin aa maan - we just call him Mr. Maan - comes to Queen's Park Oval to watch his team play the Indaans. Maan is aa big faan of Indaan opener Sunny Gavaskar who is worshipped in these islands since his prolific debut series here more thaan aa decade aago.

Maan is reyally pumped up to see his idol succeed und in aa spontaneous expression of solidarity he places un unofficial bet on Gavaskar scorin more runs thaan home boyz Gordon Greenidge und Desmond Haynes put together.

Maan collects money from aa numba of peepal in tha growun who accept his challenge.

Play begins and Gavaskar comes out to baat after tha toss. Holding sens baak Gavaskar soon after he scores one run.

Mr. Maan retraces his path und returns all money to evrawon. Dejected, Maan leaves tha field early.

Indaans are bowled out cheaply on 1st day und tha West Indies are soon baatting.

Tha visitors’ haav medium pacer Balwinder Sandhu opening tha bowling for them. Sandhu sends baak both Greenidge und Haynes with West Indaan team score still on nought.

----[End of story, anecdote courtesy: Tony Cozier’s live commentary]---

PS: ....aand you have just guessed rightly about Maan comin back next day in hope.

[cross posted at Caught Behind]

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Is Ajit Agarkar too late for the party?

Agarkar is in the midst of a purple patch in ODI's being played at the West Indies and yet could not make it to the Test squad against the same oposition. His past comes back to haunt him when he least deserved it. Here's my post on the issue at Different Strokes.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Sarwan: An Enigma

The first time that a young talent called Ramnaresh Sarwan attracted worldwide attention was in a West Indies v Pak series in the Caribbean in 2000, one which ended in a cliff hanger of a final Test, featuring an epic bowling effort from Wasim Akram for the losing side. Sarwan was an extremely attractive batsman then, perhaps even more than he is now, and with supreme wrists and concise footwork he looked capable of scoring in bulk for his once-great side against bowling of all kinds during the years to follow.

Sarwan's underachievement in Tests since has disappointed millions supporting his team across boundaries, people who patiently continue their seemingly eternal wait for The Turnaround. His case adequately represents a general non-fulfilment of potential by other lip-smacking West Indian batting prospects like Marlon Samuels, Chris Gayle and Ricardo Powell - the most potent batsman on show over the last cricketing decade in my book.

Here are a few telling stats about the Sarwan Enigma. As much as a study in 'what could have been' in terms of a ravine of greatness separating his Test and ODI performances, these engaging figures also help replenish a fast depleting resource named hope in West Indies fans while yet another opposition vice captain makes a career out of thrashing Indian bowling.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Marlon's Hurl-in

Marlon Samuels exhibited fine fitness in the first two ODI's versus India at Jamaica. That takes care of his 'knee-gling' fitness woes of late. He contributed to a stabilising partnership with Sarwan, and that must give him batting hope for the coming matches. And as always his off-spin bowling was a handy plus for his team. Samuels bowled exceptionally well during each of his spells in the 2nd match that culminated in a classic final over, reminding viewers of the tied Australia - South Africa semi-final of 1999 World Cup. His constrictive bowling was pivotal in a stunning West Indian effort that broke India's 17 match streak of consecutive successful chases by a solitary run.

But what on earth was an 82 mph delivery doing in his armoury?? Yeah, that is EIGHTY TWO Miles an hour!

Faster deliveries from spinners are getting to be as commonplace these days as slower ones from the quickies. Kumble once bowled a quicker one at about 73 mph in some match from the late nineties and it stuck in my mind then.
Then came Shahid Afridi, the leg spinning all-rounder. After playing at the highest level he re-assessed his bowling capabilities, quickly developed a faster one - and delivered it just as quickly. Seriously it is a fast yorker that looks more Waqar than Qadir. Even as Afridi keeps improving as a leggie in every match, that rocket delivery remains a weapon used by the strongly built all-rounder to engender doubts in minds of accelerating batsmen.
Afridi has gone past Kumble's 73 mph (or whatever) numerous times bowling it. The quickest I saw Afridi bowl that one was at 80 mph in a recent Indo-Pak one dayer. At the time I considered it to be a miracle of sorts. The sucker for records (even dubious ones) that I am, I even considered it to be a scarcely noticed feat achieved while bowling from a spinner's run up, one that looked as difficult to surpass as Jayasuriya's world record 48 ball ODI ton at Singapore'96 appeared then.

Not any more. Marlon Samuels, in a final spell that started off with brisk deliveries and gained in pace as the match got tighter, has done an 'Afridi' on Afridi with his 82 mph scorcher. I rubbed my eyes after I actually saw this ball, bowled off the normal slow bowler's run up, I rubbed my eyes after I actually saw this ball, bowled off the normal slow bowler's run up, get rated by the broadcasting folk at 130 Ks! Some internal doubts about diminishing vision may have lingered if one of the merciful commentators had not shrieked out the speed in subdued disbelief.

AND.....this creep n' slime delivery got unleashed while their fast bowler Ian Bradshaw was consistently clocking late sixties from the other end, with a flummoxed Carlton Baugh standing up at the stumps. I almost screamed in protest (muted it with great difficulty, as it was midnight in India) when the otherwise lovable bore Tony Cozier tried to vilify the poor keeper for missing a stumping chance. Guess he wanted to call the little gloveman a dumb ass for not realising, after all those years of keeping to 'fast' and 'slow' bowlers, that a stumping was easier attempted off quickie Bradshaw?!
West Indies cricket losing potential quick bowlers to basketball? Huh! Ever thought of blaming off-spin?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

A hundred years ahead of his time

19th of May happens to be the birthday of Gilbert Jessop, 'The Croucher', who was perhaps born a hundred years ahead of the era that he could have made his own (b. 1874). Here's what Cricinfo has to say about the English cricketer on 'All Todays Yesterdays':

Gilbert Jessop was arguably a fiercer hitter than Viv Richards, Ian Botham, Adam Gilchrist, or anyone else who has belted leather for a living, and his feats with the willow are legendary. Known as "The Croucher" for his unusual stance, he hit his first ball for Gloucestershire for four, having come in on a hat-trick, and his 53 first-class centuries came at the unbelievable average rate of 82.7 runs an hour. At Hove in 1903, he smashed 286 against Sussex in under three hours. He also creamed 157 in an hour against West Indies in 1900. In 18 Tests he made only one hundred, but what an innings it was. Against Australia on a poor Oval wicket in 1902, England were 48 for 5 chasing 263 when Jessop entered the arena. He walloped 104 in only 77 minutes, out of 139 runs scored while he was at the crease, and England eventually crept home by one wicket. Jessop was also a genuinely fast bowler and sensational in the covers."

More plaudits appear on Wisden Player page of the original Master Blaster.

"A fast bowler good enough to be selected for England purely in this role, a superlative cover fielder, Jessop is best remembered for his thrilling batsmanship. To quote HS Altham "no cricketer that has ever lived hit the ball so often, so fast and with such a bewildering variety of strokes". By no means a big man at 5'7" and 11 stone, he was a powerful driver, fierce cutter and hooker, but could also play delicate late cuts and glances. In his best innings he scored at rates of close to 100 runs/hour."

Pity then that none cared to invent the television camera half a century earlier. Those figures would make a few 'destructive' batsmen of today look like freshers from the Chris Tavaré school. One-day cricket (not to mention Twenty20) could have benefitted as much from Jessop's contributions as that other big J from 1990's Sri Lanka.

Jessop averaged 21.88 with the bat in Tests. At the time it was not as bad a batting average as it appears today if one considers that an average of 24.9 runs were scored per English wicket in the 1st decade of last century while the corresponding figure stands at 34.6 a century later. His career bowling average was up around the pedestrian mid thirties for the 18 Test matches he played. But the very decent figure of 22.79 in his First Class career bowling average column indicates he was more than handy with the ball.

These 'highlights packages' of the man's cricketing deeds makes me chew off nails. The disappointment of not having witnessed him in action is no less than that of missing out on Bradman, WG, Hobbs, Ranjitsinghji, Lala Amarnath or Jessop's contemporary
George Lohmann (the man who had a Test career bowling average of 10.75).

Gilbert Jessop is one of the precious breed that stands out in every generation that plays cricket, that does more for the spread of the game than even some truly great peers, that hooks most of us on to this game as very young kids through their 'straight from the heart' approach much before increased knowledge of a heavily statistical game silently shifts our attention and admiration towards players having methods supported by successful numbers and results.

Coming back to that wishful first line, Duncan Fletcher would have been snoring a lot louder under his blanket today if he had an extra Freddie (and maybe more) up his sleeve for THE title defence Down Under.

[cross posted at Desicritics]

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Beware of the Imposter!

There's a strange cheat lurking around the world's cricket grounds these days. He loves to hijack some specifically chosen international cricketer on the eve of a Test match. Then he painstakingly dons an impeccable physical makeover, Hollywood style, in order to resemble this missing player, all for the sake of a scarcely believable kick. And what's his kick?

Pretending to be that player and going through an entire Test match on the field and in the dressing room in full view of teammates, spectators and media - without ever getting caught!

For the well being of our beloved international cricketers' fraternity I tried to play Sherlock Holmes and figure out a way to trap him. Apparently he has an eye for one day specialists who are brilliant on the field and still finding their feet in Tests. And here's the clue: Mr. Imposter isn't too clever a fielder.

He 'replaced' Yuvraj singh of India in the Mumbai Test a few weeks back and dropped more catches there than Yuvraj did in his entire ODI career of nearly six years. After a few weeks of hibernation he was back to his favourite trick once again and this time he chose no less a stage than the Headquarters itself to brandish his unique trade. As per reports (lack of them, rather) Paul Collingwood appears to have returned home safely.

So if you find Shoaib Malik dropping a few catches in a Test sometime this summer make sure you watch the replays keenly and follow it up with a call to that eternal third umpire, the Interpol.
[cross posted at Different Strokes]

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Dus ka tees, dus ka tees...

World Cup '07 tickets are on sale now and the early demand delights the organisers!