Sunday, January 16, 2011

FB wall posts on 'silly' ODI's

Disappointed at the tame end to the 3rd Test with South Africa, and also sensing some upheavals on personal / professional front, I made this 'wall post' on Facebook couple of days back:

Apologies to my non-cricket loving friends for an overdose of cricket (Indian cricket, actually) related messages on my wall. For next 3 months there will be overdose of silly ODI's and sillier T20's, so not much chance of me getting as excited as the SA series...

However after the 2nd ODI with SA ended THAT way (see commentary in the link) I am on the backfoot once again (like Team India at the start of any series these days):

Did I say ODI's were silly? Smelt some egg on my face during the closing stages of 2nd ODI with SA today..Today I played in a cricket match** and watched another to re-learn that 'catches win matches'..glad that India did better than learning it bitterly.
**Don't laugh, I actually did - but managed not to raise howls around the field by avoiding bowling and batting in the 12-overs-a-side tennis ball match. We missed catches offered by the best opposition batsman during their chase and he made us pay dearly by leading his team to an eventually facile win.

I issued that 'retraction statement' to mitigate my humiliation, but I suspect I may have to keep eating some of my words steadily till the current series is over.

Update: Siddharth Monga of cricinfo has noted this incident, as a fallout of a strict commandment issued by World Bowlers' Association stating "Thou shalt bounce Suresh Raina whenever thou spot him":

"The moment he saw Suresh Raina, Lonwabo Tsotsobe went on a bouncer spree. So excited was he that he nearly bounced himself with one, pitching it at his toes in a way that the ball almost hit him in the face during his follow-through. Smith, fielding at straighter extra cover, had the best seat in the house and fell down laughing."

"Believe it or not" stuff at the 2nd Ind-SA ODI at the Bullring

I am not referring to India's thrilling 1 run win defending 190. I stopped short of stating a cliched "yet another comeback from MSD's men", in case you did not notice..

It is a curious few seconds of unusual sight that struck me. I thought I actually watched Munaf Patel running like a gazelle and fielding off his own bowling even with a close-in fielder around. In FB jargon I "superliked" it.

Something more in Munaf may have changed than physical fitness. Besides NOT looking forever disinterested at all times except the delivery stride like the Munaf of old, "Munaf 2011" also spoke about bowling a lot at the nets at the MoM award ceremony. [Besides the point: I do not see the point in organiser making these chaps struggle with a language they have not been educated to speak - how about well-spoken skippers doubling up as translators in absence of better alternatives?] 

Does IPL and his RR skipper Warnie have something to do with this transformation? Or is it primarily the work of the MSD-GK combo?

To make things better, Munaf Patel is bowling well in successive ODI series spread across nearly half a year, in surfaces as drastically different as in Sri Lanka and South Africa. If only his pace goes back to the early-2006 stuff...

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Overheard after 3rd day at Capetown

"This looks so familiar....
- India plays the best Test opposition available on earth.

- At close of 3rd day of 3rd Test little separates the 2 teams; all 3 results are possible @ 33.33% each in the Test, and in the series too.
- Laxman has won the 2nd Test, scoring more runs than one of the opponent's innings. Zaheer Khan joins the playing 11 in the same 2nd Test.
- Indian bowling, ragged in 1st Test, is back with vengeance since the 2nd. That guy in turban is not doing too badly.
....This must be Chennai Test, March 2001...what's wrong with all the clocks??"

"Are you demented? Zaheer Khan took 3 wickets in the very first innings he bowled in the current series. That was Zak's series tally against Australia in 2001, same as that of Tendulkar the bowler. Oh yes - the latter scored his 25th ton in that match, not the 51st. The opponent is South Africa, not Oz. And we are playing in the opponent's backyard, nor ours."
" am I supposed to know? I came out today after serving a near-decade sentence in a high-security prison and find so little has changed...Tell me, what is India's position in world Cricket now - must be the same as then, six or seven? And who is that new keeper behind the stumps for India - another delayed debutant like Samir Dighe? I tell you he can come in real handy in tense final moments of the match..."

Laxman's feat in the Durban Test

Indian batsman VVS Laxman scored 38 and 96 in the Durban Test, thus totalling 134 runs in the Durban Test. In the process he helped his team set 300+ as a 4th innings target to hosts South Africa on a seamer-friendly track.
South Africa scored a mere 131 runs in their 1st innings as the Indian bowling attack punched way above their perceived capabilities under the stewardship of Zaheer Khan.

As the match closed out, doubts crept into my mind as to which was the more important contribution of the two -
A) Laxman leading the batting out of a collapse twice in a decisive match, or
B) Zaheer doing a Moses on the Indian bowling to transform a bowling  unit conceding 620 runs for 3 wickets in 1st Test, to a pack taking 10 wickets for 131 in the space of just the one Test

From yielding 620/3 to getting the same opponents 131 all out in the span of a match must be an achievement for Indian bowlers that may remain unparalleled. Zaheer's role in that improvement is undeniable.

However, that bowling turnaround was still a Team Achievement that was LED by Zaheer Khan. Part of it was inspiration from his return to the playing 11, and the team performance was not wholely dependent on his individual on-field performance. The win was achieved through sterling bowling performances of self (i.e. Zaheer) as well as others, at least one of whom was statistically as good as Zaheer in match performance. Zaheer was also overtaken by Steyn as the highest wicket taker for the match in either side. 

This is where Laxman is streets ahead of all competition. Like Zaheer, Laxman too inspired good innings from those who came in after him. But Laxman also literally came forward and "went through the roof' & produced a special ('very very' is cliched these days) personal match performance @ Durban. 

  • Laxman got the highest individual score of 96, which is more than double the next highest individual score in either side - 39 (Prince in 2nd innings).
  • The lower of Laxman's innings scores, 38, was also the 3rd highest score.
  • Laxman's match aggregate (134) exceeded South Africa's 1st innings total, a feat than is comparable to the "620/3 to 131/10" bowling turnaround of his team's bowlers.
Historic figures indeed..and not quite unexpected from a man who, for a decade, has been re-writing favourable historic scripts for India in many matches and series well after the world unwisely makes predictions to the contrary.