Saturday, September 27, 2008

When will we be looking forward to a Test series again?

Agree on some points raised by Mukul Kesavan here. Especially that Rahul Dravid is riding his CV, and that we will probably have a sleepy hollow in Tests in the next few years, or a year at least.

However I think things will be a little more positive than the 'Test will no more be the best' future predicted by Mukul. Yuvraj can still go on to become a very good player if he gains better control on the top six inches of his body. Dhoni, I have always maintained, is likely to be our next great Test batsman. He has already come a long way since I wrote this piece on him and I would like to see him leave the job behind wickets to someone else by the time he is 30 if we are to utilise him fully. Sehwag is no less than the Fab Five (It should always be Fab Five and not Fab Four - 'coz the fifth one is Kumble and he is the greatest of them all). Rohit Sharma will surely be a very good Test bat if he keeps his head in the hour of impending success. Suresh Raina looks like a good all-conditions batasman. The pace bowling should be good in the hands of Ishant, Zaheer, RP Singh & Munaf Patel for the next 3 years.

Yuvraj, I guess, should be the one to make a difference to the future of the Test team. The only question that keeps rearing up in our heads is: will these players consider Tests as worthy as the Fab Five did? I suspect not (other than Dhoni, who I think considers all forms as sacrosanct - inspite of his absence from Tests in SL). And it will be no fault of theirs if they do not give top rating to Test matches. They are not Gods, but simple humans who cannot keep fighting against the tide (dictated by money) over an entire career.

If the new generation of players give in to the demands of the day then we cannot expect to see them playing in Test matches as if there pride depends on it (won't say their 'life depends on it' because it does not). And that, after getting used to the toils of the Fab 5 for 12 years, will be sad.

Update: Going through the post again, I felt the 2nd line of the post gives wrong signals. It suggests I have given up on Rahul Dravid. Far from it. I still believe that he can play well in top flight Test cricket and can claim his place on performance alone for another 2-3 years. It is just that he is not doing so at this point of time, which at age 35 can mean curtains.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Deity and the Idol

We visited Dakshineswar Kali Temple in the afternoon today. The sun was out full blast. Heated stone-paved floors of the temple complex were making us hop alternately on each bare-footed leg as we queued up to have a 'darshan' (view) of the deity inside. The queue was split in two halves - my parents joined me in one of the queues while Titli (my daughter) & Sarmistha (my wife) somehow ended up joining the other queue coming around the shrine. My queue moved quicker and we entered the shrine soon. Queue-driving shoves from the temple folk ensured that the 'darshan' was over in about 10 seconds and I was coming out of the shrine when Titli & Sarmistha were entering.

A little earlier we had spotted a very familiar face outside the Dakshineswar temple complex. I drew the attention of my family, particularly Titli, to a tall lady visiting the temple with her friends / colleagues. 5 year old Titli did not recognise her. Unsurprising. None others in the multitude seem to recognise her either - quite surprising! In a nutshell I explained to Titli the lady's claim to fame and how I knew her.

The lady was Jhulan Goswami, a formidable player in international women's cricket who, proudly for us Bengalis, hails from Chakda in Bengal. And here I was looking at my little daughter, who I would love to see loving cricket some day, obliviously queueing up next to the idol of many budding woman fast bowlers around the world.

The sight was both amusing and intriguing. Amusing, because of the contrast in heights between Titli & Jhulan. Jhulan is very tall. She towered over all the men and women around and was easily taking a peek of the deity over the heads queueing up in front.

Intriguing, because it led me to a question - what would have been Titli's thoughts if she had been older, in love with cricket and wanted to be a fast / seam bowler? The answer was easy. She would feel the same as I would if I ever got a chance to stand next to Curtly Ambrose or Wasim Akram in a queue. She would be going through a moment of unfathomable reverence as both her deity and her idol would be in front of her.

The closest I had with that feeling was when I met Adam Gilchrist at the Mohali airport nearly 2 years back.

"Damn - not again!"

That memory now inflicted more misery as I realised that I was again missing a camera today, missing out on another chance to store a priceless moment.

I simply had to make this post.

[Footnote, perhaps unrelated: I had mentioned Jhulan's hometown, or Chakdaha, in an earlier post on Paara cricket in Bengal. I will remember that place forever as I played my greatest match there!]

Update: Checked and found just now that Jhulan is already the stand-in captain of the India Seniors cricket team for the Women's Challenger Trophy. Here's hoping that she works this opportunity to her advantage after a not-too-successful English tour.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Anantha's rankings place Sachin on top of all-time ODI batting heap - and then...

I wrote an email to some of my friends a while ago, opining on the ODI all-time batsmen's ranking published by Anantha on It Figures, the cricinfo stats blog. I want to share that email with my other set of friends - you:

A cricket writer called Anantha has tried to judge the ODI greats on all counts and arrived at a conclusion that Sachin is the greatest ODI player, just above Richards.

I had once declared to Abhijit that Sachin was the greatest ODI batsman - but I was nowhere near sure I will be able to prove that against that mountain called Viv. I started collecting data in 2006 but then the efort lost steam. However I never thought (and have my doubts) that Sachin is this comfortably ahead of Viv.

It appears Sachin went past Viv quite comfortably based mainly on the fact that he did his stuff for 400 ODI's, a signifcantly greater number than matches played by Viv. And also by those MoM's unfairly awarded to Sachin in the late 90's when Ajit Agarkar took 4 wickets to restrict opposition to 220 and Sachin got the MoM by scoring a facile 100.

And Sanath - he is almost up there with Viv. Wow. Many people may have their reservation about that but I do not. In fact, I am very happy with that because practically the only occasions when an ODI in the last 30 overs has not had the excruciating middle overs were when one of these 2 guys (ranked at numbers 2 & 3) were at the crease after over 20.

Look at the number 10 on that list, by the way. Anyone having doubts on that? Reply to SRK with phone number to talk to King Khan.

Could not go through the long basis of judgement text, frankly. Will be nice to know about that from some of you.

-- Angshuman

PS: I just checked - we have an update. The writer has made some corrections based on feedback and also on his own quest on the wide gap betwen Sachin & Viv. Now he has done corrections and with those Viv is 77 & Sachin 75. If you allow me to be the decider, I think that is not fully correct either - Sachin should be just ahead. Why - no answer. Just feel so.

Number 10 has gone down to number 17 and Dravid is above him at number 16. More controversies - stats are difficult. Makes me happy for Dravid though - and if we go through the details we are more likely to find that his peerless ability to anchor chases in his heyday brought him up that far.

The heavyweight at number 8 though could not be moved an inch by these trivial stats tweaks.

Footnote: Concerned at that part of Anantha's closeout note where he says a reader should learn to look respectfully at the many cricketing greats other than his idol instead of trying to belittle them: It surely has come from the comments Anantha has received, and it is quite sad that people need to be told that. Commenting from readers in cricket sites has unfortunately deserved reactions like Anantha's for a major part of the past few years.

Update: In response to Anantha's posts, Ric Finlay comes out with ANOTHER analysis putting Sachin on top once again. However the gap between Sach & Viv is too wide for comfort, much like Anantha's 1st Sep list with Sachin on top. Let's back off from the analysis heat for the time being with the thought that even perfectly logical ratings of these greats can be as numerous and unique as fingerprints.