Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ind Pak semi final proved existence of God

The high voltage Ind Pak semifinal match of 2011 World Cup proved that pressure matches can also be played in good spirits.

It also finally proved that God exists amidst us.

Don't get me wrong - he is not a player who is in his 22nd year of career as many hallucinate. There was proof yesterday that the guy is a mere mortal.

He is a slim, sharp looking umpire who has been sublime for many years, and divine yesterday.

He is Simon Taufel.

Pak-Ind WC semi final at Mohali: My facebook posts during the Pakistan chase

After Nehra's 1st over:

Nehra - you must come good. You also got swing in 1st over. C'mon
Upon my thoughts going back to Wahab Riaz's deliveries in the Indian innings even when the Pak chase was on:
Wahab Riaz - can't still get over him!! Wonder what he can be if he gets swing both ways regularly.

Upon why I thought India had a good chance of winning, even after making concession of Pakistan being a better bowling side than India:

Pakistan created 15 chances out there (the 9 dismissals + the 6 lives of Sachin including the reviews). We need to create 10 (or 11, keeping cushion for 1 dropped chance)..
comment after further progress of play: we have missed two (Dhoni missed Younus before he was caught 2 balls later, and Yuvi misses running out Umar) NOW we have to create 12 chances;-)
While watching Munaf bowl good spells in today's match and remembering his remarkable spell to English midle order in his debut Test, Mohali 2006:

‎5 years back at Mohali, in another March, the fastest bowler (then) in India made his debut against the visiting English team. And decided the match in the 2nd innings with proper fast bowler's wickets. His name: Munaf Patel. History counts for nothing... and today Munaf's pace is unrecognisable. Still it remains the same venue, and the same bowler...

After Yuvi took two important wickets of Pak middle order to compensate for his batting duck:

Punjab ke gaon gaon mein, sarson ke kheton mein ei badi purani kahawat hai:

"You can't keep a good Yuvraj Singh down!"

'Wah - ab' yeh bowler banke inteqam lega.

Finding a familiar favourite batsman lurking behind the frame of Pakistan's Misbah ul Haq as the latter kept failing to get the ball off the square, thus conceding dots:

There's a lot about Misbah ul Haq which reminds me of a Very Special player from Hyderabad, India, someone who is arguably the greatest player NEVER to play in a World Cup. Misbah has the same wide shoulders, same clean-n-strong-jawed face, the same solidity, same age, same calm & solidity..& unfortunately today, also the same struggle in limited overs format to get the ball of the square. Feel for him..
After Munaf took his 2nd wicket:

Munaf & Mohali - made for each other!!!
After Pak reached the close of 40th over will  one set batsman (Misbah) and a willing ally in Wahab:

Pak need 62 off 6 overs, PP3 yet to be taken, Misbah & Wahab Riaz at crease, 3 wkts remaining. Can it get better than this??

After the Indian win, while trying to rub it into the folk that pretend they know EVERTHING better than the national skipper:

For all those who played pundits and thought Dhoni & team mgmt knew less than jhontu's and montu's of the para: have a look at Munaf and Nehra's figures. Sometimes, just sometimes (which is most of the times) Captain Cool knows better. He sees these guys at the nets too..we don't.
Quoting the most interesting personal note I heard in a tele-channel just after completion of the semi final match: Quote of the night when India won against Pak in WC semis:

"Main Mumbai mein hasoonga - 1996 mein main roya tha magar ab hasoonga."
          - Vinod Kambli, on a TV channel.

[This one is for eternity, irrespective of what happens on April 2]

On news pouring in from FB friends in other cities that crackers are being burst:

I cannot hear many crackers being burst: probably Kolkata hangs on, holds its guns for April 2nd..SUPERLIKE!!

comment after learning that crackers are being burst at some parts of Kolkata as well:
CORRECTION: Salk Lake holds its guns for April 2nd
Upon seeing bowling figures of Indian bowlers at the end of the semi-final with  Pak:

Zaheer 2, Munaf 2, Nehra 2, Bhaji 2, Yuvi 6th bowler...talking about pack hunting, HAVE YOU SEEN ANY BETTER THAN THIS?

Sharing a video of the Indian national anthem (recorded in 2009) where India team has Ashish (Nehra) on the screen and the word (ashish) in the song as well:

Time now for some POSITIVE Nehra jokes:

Q: Who is the only cricketer who will have his name pronounced when the Indian national anthem is sung at Wankhede on April 2nd?

A: 'ASHISH' Nehra, of course!!


Check the video below - I shot it before Ind-Pak ICC trophy 2009 match. India lost that one. Then the team had 2 players whose name ...was in Indian national anthem - Dravid had been recalled!!
On the recurrence on 'mis' prefix in Pak's misadventure in the chase:

Wondering if one of the Pak newspaper headlines tomorrow will be:

"MISbah's MISbalanced MIScue ends MISsion"
My subsequent correction to comment: More correctly: "MISbah's MIScalculated innings culminates in MISbalanced MIScue, ends MISsion"
On Sachin: note on 'When desitny begins to wilt and comply to your will':

When Destiny wilts and begins to comply to your will...

"itni shiddat se maine tumhe paane ki koshish ki hai

ki har zarre ne mujhe tumse milane ki saazish ki hai....

kehte hai agar kisi cheez ko dil se chaaho toh poori kaynaat tumhein usse milane ki koshish mein lag jaati hai...aap sabne mujhe meri chahat se mila diya...thanks, thanks very much, kehte hai ki filmon ki tarah hamari zindagi mein bhi end tak sab theek hee ho jaata hai..happys endings...aur agar theek naa ho toh woh the end nahi, picture abhi baaki hai mere dost"

- quote from Hindi film Om Shanti Om, based on Paolo Coelho's similar thought in his novel 'The Alchemist'
In a 1999 WC Super six match which could have eliminated the Australians, Steve Waugh scored only the 2nd international hundred of his career when he came in at fifty something for three chasing 250+ against a formadable South African attack. Gibbs, the 2nd best fielder in the world after Rhodes at the time and certainly the world's joint best catcher with Rhodes and Mark Waugh, famously 'dropped' him by throwing the ball in celebration too soon after catching..that Steve Waugh ton allowed Australia to win 3 world cups and start a phenomenal winning streak of unbeaten matches that took 12 years to stop.

Anybody with only 2 hundreds in ODI's who did better, and at a more opportune time? Destiny intervened that day, perhaps.
Probably because Steven Rodger Waugh wanted that Cup badly enough.

Cut to 2011. Another Cricket world cup.
Sachin Tendulkar. He generally gets bad calls from umpires, some of them especially in crucial moments in Test matches. But extension of Test innings is the last thing on his mind today.
The only thing he wants badly today is an ODI World Cup win. He went the whole distance to a final once 8 years back but returned empty handed from the last step.
How badly does he want to win the 2011 World Cup?

So badly that Destiny is forced to comply and contrive to make it happen, as that saying goes. It certainly did so today, by returning back ALL (and I mean all - six to be precise) of Sachin's career earnings of 'bad dismissals' with interest in ONE SINGLE innings, the one innings that needed him to succeed for his team to take him where he wanted to - playing a 2nd WC final. And play that game at home, the city where he grew up in and learnt his cricket, the city where his elder brother & other family members made sacrifices to let him become what he is today. And possibly win the game, to attain his one remaining unfulfilled dream. The one he wants badly, very badly, so badly that destiny is beginning to comply. "Itni shiddat se" and all that.
Quite un-dramatic, isn't it?
Almost as un-dramatic as that win coming through Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar scoring his 100th international hundred in the final. For destiny also took care, probably with an understanding half-smile on her face,  that Sachin did not end up getting his 100th ton in a semi final which will be remembered as much for him getting 6 lives as for India playing Pakistan in a semi final match for the 1st time in a WC to come up tops.

[shared as a note on my Facebook page]

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: This post has been insipred by a comment of Rajdeep Saedesai to the tune of 'Things getting set up for a Sachin dominated finale in Mumbai' on CNN IBN today after India won the semi final against Pakistan

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pink balls: first class and possibly the last hope

Q-AH: "If India win the WC, would that be more special that winning a Test series against a formidable SA in SA?"
A-AH: Difficult to tell - India stopped short of winning the series this January. Had India won the SA test series, I would have probably gone ahead and said 'No'. Actually a World Cup win would be a collective joy, something that I can enjoy with all...without being extra special to me personally. I will be excited & delighted about a WC win all right, but I won't dream about it like a smitten schoolboy for days on end. An away Test series win against the best side available, on the other hand, would certainly have been a personal moment of cherish.
Q-AH: Could you say that the response of too many others who follow cricket would be the same?
A-AH: Can't say. It depends on the section of followers we consider.
Q-AH: Explain.
A-AH: The relative importance of Tests and limited-overs cricket varies across the globe. Even in the same region, it will vary across the generations. In India, Tests are back in spotlight mainly because India are number 1. The following for Tests is still not much compared to ODI's and is restricted mainly at cities ..which in turn are now falling short in comparison to T20's. Generally it is limited overs cricket that has a far bigger fan base, especially so in the younger generations.
Q-AH: Why do you think it is so?
A-AH: Because for the last 20 years, generations are growing up seeing all the focus from media and sponsors on limited overs cricket. Also - to be truthful - people have lesser time in their lives these days to witness Test matches.
Q-AH: Why do you think people have less time for Tests?
A-AH: They now have lot more options to invest their time on. Cricket itself has produced one - T20.
Q-AH: Do you think Tests will ever get back the following of pre-ODI days?
A-AH: No
Q-AH: Do you think Tests will ever get back the following of pre-T20 days?
A-AH: Don't know - but this one can be tried. And it MUST try before T20 internationals gain more ground (T20 is still more of a club game than international sport).
Q-AH: How does a 5 day game attack a 3 hour game which is getting lapped up by masses?
A-AH: It will need support from the administration. But the first target is to create competition in the strength of these T20's - essentially that 9-to-5 people can follow these 3 hour games fully with no impact whatsoever to their careers. If Tests are going to survive, they must invade this 'time slot advantage' territory and take it from there.

That's quite a frightening conversation with myself.
We are just not aware of the exact current health of the support base of Test cricket.
In general, all awareness of the viewership health comes from qualitative judgement from people writing their pieces from own, coloured standpoints.
That won't do.

We need cold, unbiased facts. The viewership data....for Tests, for ODI's, for T20's....From television audicences across the globe. From the ticket counters of stadia. With locationwise breakup. With age-wise breakups if possible.

We need it NOW. It will form the 'before expt' data.
And then we start the experimental period of say, 3 years. QA period where first class cricket is played in pink balls, starting late afternoon and ending at 10 pm. Not only for Tests, but also for Ranji matches, Duleep matches, County matches - everywhere....certainly wherever the players and boards agree.

Then at the end of the period we take a second set of data. The 'after expt' data.

We inspect what we have. We compare the two sets of data.
From that data, a picture will emerge.
We will get a good indication if Test cricket can soldier on inspite of 'loss of territory' or it is scheduled to die away.

If Test cricket fades away, cricket as we know it today also goes with it. We will then have players groomed without skills to last 2 days at a stretch in whatever weather they are exposed to...players 'designed' for limited overs cricket ONLY (which NONE of the current players are)....players who will play the game in such an alien fashion that we will identify the rules & the equipment but not the game.

If the data reflects 'regaining of territory', the experiment is taken further logically and Test cricket is redsigned in the next 10-15 years based on tweaks and subsequent results of those tweaks.Tweaks that do not alter the freedom that the basic first class game offers to all players (batsmen / bowlers / captains / fielders) or the endless possibilities that can emerge from the format.

Either way...those of us who hope to see the return of first class cricket as the prime form of cricket will be expressing gratitude to those who at least tried to do something for it.

I am one of them.
I hope the one-off experiment being carried out at Abu Dhabi does not remain one-off.
I hope we see bowlers running in with pink balls everywhere by the end of this year.
See them for yourselves: Pic 1: Pic 2

Update: An experimental first class match between MCC & Nottinghamshire was played out with a pink ball for the first time. After the match, Rahul Dravid endorsed furthering the experiment of using pink balls for First Class matches and Tests, albeit with a few more 'tweaks' to the rules.

He made a few comments on the experimental first class match in which he participated. Rahul scored a duck in the first innings and a century in the 2nd. Here's an excerpt of his quotes from the MCC report:

"As with any new innovation administrators and the players will need to take a leap of faith at some point." said the 38-year-old batsman.

"I think there is definitely a future if people are going to have to have an open mind to it."
Despite some issues, the day/night matches have been deemed a success and Dravid would like to see more experiments in the future.

He added: "It was a new experience batting against the pink ball under the lights. I never found sighting the ball under the lights a problem at all.

"There are some things which need to be looked at - for example the twilight period and dew which can be a problem in some parts of the world.

"But there is definitely a future for day-night Test and First-Class cricket.

"I think there are a few further tweaks that need to be made, and it would be beneficial to play some more trial matches at different venues and in different conditions as well."
Hope we see pink balls and day-night first class games sooner rather than later.

Super Semi at Mohali: the match within

Cricinfo's Andy Zaltzman on the main sub-plot of the Indo-Pak WC Semi final:

"India’s batsmen now average 74 against Test-opposition spin in this World Cup. Pakistan’s spinners average 21 against Test-team batsmen."
Sometimes statistics can surprise you by speaking the truth like no words could. That battle may well decide the war.

Ponting - not the end

I seriously believe so...and hence this post is to confirm that I am NOT prepared to write a farewell note on him just as yet.

Photo story of all World cup hosting sub-contin​ent cities on cricinfo

Have a look at these pictures...can't imagine that I never visited these pages of cricinfo till today.
I loved the pics and that is why I am storing the links for keeps. In fact, I was tempted to turn back the timepiece by a month and half, load my purse heavily and visit these places even as the matches happened. The last two temptations are nearly as feasible as the first one..but the photos can get people dreaming for a while.





Chattagram (Chittagong):

Monday, March 28, 2011

Commando's walk in the storm

This is the video link of the famous desert storm innings, Sharjah 1998:

India were facing elimination in the tri-nation tourney if they lost this match by a certain margin. After a major early collapse, there appeared no way that India would even come close to overhauling that margin. Sachin helped the team get over the minimum runs required to make the final..and then even tried to go for an impossible win (before falling just short). This innings had everything - EVERYTHING that an ODI batsman is expected to do for his team. Have you watched Arnold Schwarzenegger's "Commando"? No? Watch Sachin's 143 instead. Barring the end result, it can put even Miandad's last-ball-sixer-knock in Sharjah'86 to shade.


For those who questioned the intent behind Sachin's walk in 2011 WC (suggesting it was prompted by fear of getting caught at UDRS):

YES, that could have been a possible reason for his walk (I am sure it will be THE reason for many future walks)...but Sachin had started walking long back.

Watch the closing moments of this video - he had 'walked' at the end of his innings. He waited to check if it is a no-ball due to height - and walked away when he saw no no-ball signal...even after the umpire gave him not out. As I had opined to my FB friends earlier, there was a time before 1995 when Sachin used to let umpires decide if he was out. But from late 90's ever since he become a role model (or ever since Ponting started playing for Aus & took up the 'non-walker' mantle ;-) I have always seen him taking the decision himself.

[I am willing review that stand if I get proof that he selectively chose not to walk even after 1998. Unlikely - this was a high octane match against his eternal foes Australia, he was the lone fighter badly wanting to win this match (I am 75% sure he would have won it that day had he stayed...and there was no UDRS at the time.]

Alternative climax of Commando: Just before slaying the villain, Schwarzenegger turns into a monk and walks off into the mountains.

Friday, March 25, 2011

South Africa lose to New Zealand in a Quarter final upset

[Note: This is a result based analysis - I have not watched the match live and hence cannot comment on its nuances]

On South Africa
This is an upset. From whatever angle you look at it, this remains an upset. And especially so after New Zealand squandered a good fightback by Ryder and Taylor to limp to 220 odd.
But this was ALSO a mishap waiting to happen. For all the well laid plans of South Africa coming good, their loss in the hands of England also showed that their batting needed some insurance...especially as they had a non-performing opener. And especially as that opener was their captain Graeme Smith. And what a tragedy that turned out to be for this brilliant and (uncharacteristically, this time) entertaining side...ODI openers are the ones who set the matches up for the rest that follow. This team, which did EVERYTHING ELSE RIGHT, could not replace the malfunctioning opening partner of the classy Hashim Amla.
Over and above their great fielding, varied bowling and resilient lower order batting, the one last fallback that South Africa needed in the pressure cauldrons of WC knockouts was an opener who would come good on a rainy day, who would keep one end for most of the match even if wickets tumbled at other end. Smith never looked like coming good. And unlike Ponting who looked similarly off-colour for much of the league stages, Smith did not come good even when it mattered...not even to banish the 'c' word from the dictionary of South Africans.

On New Zealand
They started similar to the way Sri Lanka started against India in the 1996 Semi finals. Unlike Sri Lanka of '96 though, they never recovered in the batting innings and also did not look like having the bowling side  that could eke out best results from wearing sub-continent surfaces in the 2nd innings of the match.

But once again like so many other times the gritty New Zealanders showed how collective intent can get one up on the best collection of talents. I have not watched their fielding innings but from the position they were in mid-match, it must have taken superhuman self-belief and professional mindset to first hang in even after not getting too many early breakthroughs and making South Africa toil to their 100 run mark.... and then to turn on all cylinders and capitalise when the middle order wickets fell. ]

The beauty of this side is: I must still consider a semi-final win by this side against either England or Sri Lanka (whoever reaches semi-finals) as another upset. Another BIG upset.

The brisk Walker

A former cricketer on 'walking' controversy in 2011 WC:
"It's nice to see people walking but that doesn't happen now I guess,There is a system in place now so that you can't get away with it. I mean people still take chances and why not? Jayawardene took a chance and it went the other way."

Guess who said it? 'Walker' Younis!!


Zaltzman on Yuvraj's magnificence not reflecting in his stats

Here's a compliment for His Gloriousness Yuvraj Singh from the unlikeliest of quarters - cricket comedian Andy Zaltzman.

Yuvraj is one of those few fascinating cricketers who combine majesty with vulnerability. As a Test player, he has mostly disappointed, the average of 35 that you see in the record book at odds with the left-hand Wally Hammond that you see at the crease. That GraemeFowleresque, ShivSunderDasian figure of 35 is often used by atheists, when set alongside Graeme Smith’s equivalent of 49, as an aesthetic argument that proves the non-existence of god.

Even Yuvraj’s distinguished ODI career had taken a pronounced downturn over the preceding 18 months. This tournament, the visual splendour of his stroke play has been matched by its assurance and determination. 57 not outs rarely glow like beacons on scorecards, but in a match that was not merely spell-binding, but presented witchcraft’s top 20 recipes boxed up in a commemorative gold-plated folder, and that was played in the tightest margins between defeat and victory with big players on both sides exerting significant impacts on the drama, Yuvraj decisively broke the Australians.

I was touched by that note from Andy. This rather special couple of paragraphs, and their perspective, befits a cricket historian like Ramachandra Guha, or a cricket romantic like Neville Cardus.

I always knew all along Yuvraj has been stealing many more hearts with this batting than his stats would ever, EVER suggest.

Like he stole mine 5 years back.
First with his performance (blogged here at the time)...
Then with his opulence. Sorry, no blogs on it - for lack of words to make posts on what he makes me feel with that arc of bat swing he paints when he is in unrelento-creato-destructo mode.

Match outcome of Quarter final against Australia, and its bearing on Indian gameplan

Ghosts (notions) that India have exorcised today by their winning performance in QF:

1) India can't win in WC knockouts without Sachin playing a big role (before you shout - I said 'big role' last happened in 1996 QF; counterpoint - a weak one, 2003 Kenya SF;-)

2) India can win WC knockouts without Yuvraj Singh in playing 11 (it seems irrelevant - but ahead of WC his position in side was under threat, so much so that Dhoni hadto qualify his left arm spin as the main reason why he started ahead of others like Raina)
3) India cannot score more than 30-40 for the last 7 wickets against Test teams (counter-point - all those collapses happened while batting first)
4) India don't know about anything about taking advantage of batting Powerplays
5) Aussies forget all setbacks and come blazing in knockout matches - they didn't really recover from the loss of a 12 year old record to Pak and missed out on 10-12 crucial runs in the first 10 overs (a case for MSD sending a flower bouquet to Afridi? They better do it fast - in another few days bouquests will be the last thing MSD can think of for Pak)
6) Raina still has a serious problem with short bowling - but after today maybe he can learn to live with it like Steve Waugh did

New ghosts that will haunt them for next 2 matches:

1)A non-bowling Sehwag chasing against a top team is like your 11th player sitting at the sidelines, just like a non-bowling Pathan batting first in ANY match. Time to think hard. Every time India chased the 7th batsman has come into play. Is it better to take Pathan and leave out Sehwag (as Gauti, with the form he showed today, can easily do Sehwag's job)???
2) Non performing captains are good in Davis Cap tennis matches. Skipper coming in at no.6 and becoming a walking wicket is a BIG worry. He is not playing either seam or spin well. Things are likely to get tougher as after 1 month of crickt on all grounds there will be no more batting beauties to get back in form.
3) Munaf or Sreesanth....(who gets injured by a Yuvraj on-drive at tomorrow's nets?

4) Playing just 2 quicks with Ashwin-Harbhajan-tiddly-widdly can backfire big time. We saw tip of the iceberg tonight with Munaf getting carted for a few runs.To play or not to play the 5th bowler???


Pakistan bowling attack is virtually unsurvivable to right handers with even a the slightest chink in spin / pace technique. Sachin, Yuvi and Gauti are to be used as GOLD. Sachin & Gauti are best to use Yuvi in SF?? Best not to tamper with the order - but these guys will need to be at peace with the need for all three of them will need to score AGAIN next match...while Raina can keep his cameo warm.
One more ghost that has been exorcised: Bhajji would have been a better choice than Nehra in the last over of South Africa match.....he has shown solidarity with skipper Dhoni by bowling the 50th over of Aussie innings and yielding 13 runs in it [ Note: He conceded 5 wides before the first delivery - so only 8 runs were officially scored. those 5 wides were the real mark of solidarity with skipper;-]

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hunt for the "ODI Sobers"

We look at the contribution of cricket's genuine ODI all-rounders to matches won by their side. We are silenced in awe.
1) Jayasuriya averaged 41.3 with bat and 27.5 with ball in the 233 ODI's he has played for Sri lanka and ended up on winning side. Essentially he provided an additional player to his skipper: a specialist bowler (it was not occasional partnership breaking spin - he got 222 wickets in those 215 matches) and a specialist attacking batsman

His stats in Sri Lankan wins featuring him in playing XI:

[And inspite of many requests Cricinfo still refuses to show strike rates for modern batsmen in lmited overs cricket - THAT would have revealed his full value]

2) We come to the other great all round contributor of our times: Jacques Kallis.

His stats in South African wins featuring him in playing XI:

Batting avg. of 52.8 and bowling average of 26.3 (186 wkts in 201 ODI's) in South African wins during his career...

[Kallis' stats look significantly better than Jayasuriya's, but the reality of the impact made by these two guys is not exactly in line with the figures. Kallis' comparatively slow pace of scoring and inability to accelerate at key situations often makes him an also-ran in those wins, which very rarely happens to Jayasuriya.]

Anyone else coming to YOUR mind to compete with these two - amongst current players or from yesteryears?

Then please propose your man in the comments will help if you add a statsguru summary of the player's filtered stats of batting avg & bowling avg in all matches won by his side during his career. We can discuss the contenders thereafter.

[Min. qualification: 75 matches won over career length of 10 years+]

[cross posted on Facebook on 23rd March 2011]

Monday, March 21, 2011

As things stand for India ahead of World Cup 2011 Quarter finals:

Summary of Indian show in 2011 cricket WC league phase:

1) Ind go into QF without having chased against a Test team.

2) Ind had top order collapses each time they batted second (against minnows) and lower middle order collapses each time they batted first (against Test sides).

3) Outcome of pt.#2: The extra batsman, taken at the cost of a 5th bowler, has been wasted EVERY TIME India batted first.

4) Paradoxically it has been useful to have the comfort of a 7th batsman in the top order collapses against the minnows, although the 7th guy was never really needed.

5) The Yusuf Pathan problem: In the last 4-5 months Yusuf Pathan's performances while batting first & batting second are like chalk and cheese. It was no different in WC league phase. He left his mark in the only chase he participated in, but sank without a trace in 'bat 1st' innings.
[As per cricinfo statsguru, in the last 14 matches he averages 82 with bat in the 9 matches he batted 2nd but a meagre avg of 12 in those he batted first. Even his overall career stats are heavily tilted towards batting 2nd - avg of 42 against 22]

6) Yuvraj Singh is impersonating 1½ players (combining bat and ball) and so far making a good show of it with some aid from luck. In Sachin and Yuvaraj, India practically have 3 players with 2 heads showing. One of these two have ALWAYS fired in the matches played by India.

7) Bowlers – Bowling & tail end batting:

a) Indian bowlers are not able to support Zaheer / Harbhajan. They are really looking like having only 40 overs in them - and that includes the contributions of Yuvraj and other part timers.

b) Worse, tail enders have not got a bat in any of the two Indian chases. And when they did - in the 'bat 1st' games - they have collapsed each time they were required to contribute.

This is vastly different from the period before WC, when the bowlers were defending seemingly dead matches and doing so with both bat and ball. Crucially, the batting failure includes Harbhajan who was changing matches with bat for the last 4 months.


Pt#7a, combined with pt#3, are reasons why MSD needs to have 5 bowlers in the Indian playing X1 for QF.

Pt#7b, combined with pt#4, are reasons he will be pushed hard to take that decision. For pt#7b, adding another non batting bowler in liew of a batsman lengthens a non-performin tail further.

The options are:

A) Take a gamble: Ask Bhajji to take responsibility as no. 7 (25 runs is all he must look to make each time he comes out – and we know he has it in him), ask ALL batsmen to take responsibility ANYWAY for the side to play with 5th bowler instead of 7th batsman. MSD can take comfort from pt#6 and take the plunge.

B) Take a reasonable gamble: Get someone like Irfan Pathan in the 15 man squad instead of a non batting / non fielding bowler (Gavaskar apparently suggests Ojha – who is stupedous in later overs while defending scores but will be one more non batting / non fielding bowler). Even in his worst days as a bowler Irfan was generally a decent batsman (can get quick 25-30 runs) and very decent in the field. He can replace the 7th batsman.

C) Inspire the bowlers: Play 7 batsmen and ask BCCI to spruce up the pitches so that the 4 bowlers are enough to handle oposition batting with the help of conditions. Batsmen will need to take responsibility and be suitably ‘ugly and effective’ for periods of play to support this strategy. Also, going by the South Africa experience, the good bowling conditions also inspired the bowlers to own their roles and bat well down the order. That will be a huge plus.

D) Do nothing: Play 7 batsmen and continue hoping that your 4 bowlers (who will certainly NOT bowl more than 30 to 32 worthy overs) are supported by 18-20 good overs from part timers: steep ask in batting beauties.

I suspect the team management and the selectors will tend to go the option D way, the one that looks most useless to me. The other options may or may not come off but at least those will be definite attempts to succeed, instead of hoping.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Sho's coming to a close

Won't say the feeling is yet to sink in.

Just got swept off my feet reading the man's words on 'his most special moment' during the press conference announcing his imminent retirement. Shoaib Akhtar truly is one of a kind..a rather heterogenous one.

Links to other very readable cricinfo articles on the occasion:
Remembering the 'colours' of Shoaib:
Agony & Ecstasy (mid career article):
Career timeline:
His best six:
And last but not the least, lend him your ears:

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sachin's ton comes again while travelling

Sachin Tendulkar. This guy's too much. I was returning from some urgent work, driving on the road. Having caught a glimpse of India's good opening stand at Nagpur, I turned my car radio on....and sure enough I hear: 'Sachin Tendulkar on 99...and here comes his 100th run!' Another century. He scores so many of them, you can't miss them tons even on the road!!
But somehow this one sounded familiar…coming back home I thought hard about the reason and now I know why. I had once learnt of another Sachin ton while travelling, that's why. It has happened before. I was travelling when Tendlya got his 2nd ODI ton in 1994 – a month or so after his 1st ODI century that came in the 5th year of his career. I got to know of it waiting at a station somewhere in Southern India…returning from our trip of Chennai-Bengaluru (then Madras-Bangalore)…from a co-passenger waiting like me but strategically armed with a radio.
Next time Sachin does his 100th run of his innings, it would be 100th ton of his career..but no use discussing things that half the world knows (the cricket playing half). I won’t like to be travelling that day – that’s all.
By the way, there is a bit more of travel-cricket combo involved in my date with this particular date – 12th March 2011. As my buddy Pratyush pointed out, this is the day on which 5 years back SA chased down Australia’s 434 in Jo’burg. Here's my excited schoolboyish blogpost on what I experienced through my friends during my travel while that epic chase was unfolding.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

2006, can you please recur in 2011....

Here's a thought for those excessively worried about Indian batting collapses  in the last two WC games against unfancied Ireland and Netherlands:
Yuvi scores 58, 50* & 51* in successive matches. Good news? YES, even though 2 of them are against Minnows. He got them three scores in three different situations, exactly as Yuvraj Singh mark-2011 should have got them. Not as Virender Sehwag, Paul Collingwood, Kamran Akmal, Mike Hussey or Kevin O'Brien should have.
In those matches Yuvi-MSD score partnerships of 69, 67 & 52*. Two of those have still come against minnows. Is it good news? is GREAT news! 'Coz again they got the runs exactly as Yuvi-Dhoni mark-2011 should have got them.
Note: Not that Yuvi-MSD of 2011 need to bat any differently than they did in the unforgettable 'masti-ki-pathshala' Pak'06 ODI's when the situation only means they have more ways than that these days. Just seeing them together for more than 50 runs in three consecutive matches has been such a pacifier.
And those additional options for Yuvi/MSD are all borne out of the WMD** that India NOW have in their batting lineup: YK Pathan.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Pak-NZ match 1st innings: gems from Cricinfo commentary & readers' comments

These 'How'lers were compiled from today's cricinfo commentary page during the last 10 overs of NZ innings during today's Pak-NZ match
Episode 1: "How boring" - Readers' comments during the innings of Jamie How who scored 4 off 29 runs

..after How concedes a maiden to Umar Gul when the latter is introduced in 11th over:
Cam: "How do you put a person to sleep? How."

..and a Pakistan fan is anguished when How is dismissed in Gul's next over:
Ridhwaan: "Getting How out was a mistake by Pakistan!! He was eating up deliveries and doing Pak a favour!"

..also a hopeful NZ fan:
Wilko NZ: "Surely that will be How's last chance at this level. And what a final contribution - a paltry 4 runs from a 47 run partnership. "

----------------Episode 2: Kamran moments of the match

..after Kamran drops Taylor twice in 14th over (off Shoaib, brought back in 2nd spell for a breakthrough)
vinny: "Even tho I am 40+ and tubby, I could not be worse a keeper than Kamran, I think. I can drop catches just as good as him."
Sunil: "If Pakistan do win they World Cup, at least they now know who not to hand the trophy to, while celebrating :)"
Shridhar Jaju: "Kamran Akmal's favourite pickup line - Can I DROP you somewhere?"

 Episode 3: Slow NZ.. On NZ conceding a lot of dot balls (led by Jamie How) in the 1st part of the match*:

..after a particular stretch of dry period when Ross Taylor was batting tentativelyAllan: "Wrighty will be fuming away in his seat at the number of dot balls. The batsmen haven't been listening!"

..after NZ pick up 4 runs in the first 4 balls ofa Gul over 'against the run of play'
Zohaib: "singles flowing like honey for NZ."
Paranoid Android gets in to details: "@Zohaib - Honey actually does not flow that well. Is that the simile that you wanted to highlight?"

..after James Franklin, sent as pinch hitter, departs in 2 balls:
Lance: "Can NZ Cricket check to see if Kevin O'Brien has Kiwi grandparents? Maybe the Black Caps could swap him for Jamie How or James Franklin? Surely he is a cousin of recent Black Cap Iain O'Brien." the end of 40th over (just before NZ pressed accelerator pedal in 41st)
Matthew: "As a frustrated NZ supporter, should I be pleased or worried at the relative ease Taylor and Styris are accumulating runs without taking risks? I can't help but feel that Pakistan will do the same in reply!"


Episode 4: Fun of another kind - Ross Taylor turns it on its head..47th over yields 28, 48th over produces 15 and 49th over produces 30 runs..all off different bowlers...

48.2 Abdul Razzaq to Taylor, SIX, carnage! this has got to be stinging for Pakistan, more so after the millions of chances Ross has had, down on a knee and swings him over deep midwicket from outside off stump

48.3 Abdul Razzaq to Taylor, SIX, they just keep coming, full toss on off stump, Ross hits it into orbit, somewhere over deep midwicket, keep disappearing from the moment he bends the knee and swings them
[excerpts from commentary text]

..parting thought from a neutral reader on the birthday gifts from Kamran to Ross with love:
ragu: "How much of that applause was for Kamran I wonder?"

------------------as I complete the compilation, the 50th over has yielded a moderate 19 runs. NZ end innings at 302/7, up from 210/6 at end of 46th over...92 runs in 24 balls.
That deluge came at the end of an innings in which one batsman had scored 4 runs in 29 balls. Anybody still predicting a quarter-final elimination of New Zealanders in the knockout stages??

[source: cricinfo commentary for NZ-Pak match]


Here's a nice quote from cricinfo match bulletin at halfway stage. It aptly summarises the early innings show put up by NZ batsmen:

"Guptill carried on batting solidly, reaching his half-century off 71 balls, while Taylor, whose early struggle was substantial by normal standards but incomparable to How's, slowly grew in confidence."

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Tribute to the England - South Africa WC match on 6th March 2011

Shane Warne dozes off in front of TV on Saturday night and soon ventures into a dream....he is participating in a British WC Quiz conducted by Liz Hurley:


Liz: Which are the two sides making news in 2011 WC for both great spin bowling as well as their skippers' imaginative use of it?
 Shane: One is England..LOL..

Liz: Complete the answer please..

Shane: The 2nd is South Africa..ROTFL
 Liz: You are NOT allowed to ridicule teams with 100+ years of cricket history on sensitive issues - you are suspended from the show..."

Shane wakes up on Sunday morning,laughing uncontrollably at that joke of a dream. Come afternoon and he realises that he had foreseen another England WC match result..twice in a 3 match span.

"I must have retired 200 years ago for things to have changed this dramatically about those 2 teams," Shane texts to Liz. Liz, ever the patriotic UK citizen, adds a tally mark to her count of 'dirty sms received from Shane'.

And then a familiar smile appears on Warnie's face - the TV channel is now flashing the individual performances of both teams' batsmen against spin in the Sunday match.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Lively pitches for lively cricket in league phase

Ireland overcame a big target yesterday on a batting pitch against Test side England. You would not see it happen nine out of ten times. [That's my humble take on the 'epic upset']

But to be fair to Ireland, they have been the only associate country which, over the years of Kenya's decline as 'potential Test material' during last decade , have looked like bringing about this type of 'upset'. Ireland are better than the average 'minnow' at all times, and were more so on 2nd March 2011. Come Sunday and I expect them to give India as much fight as a team like Bangladesh can.

Today's Can-v-Pak match, however, perfectly illustrated the need for this World Cup's wickets offering something to least during the league stages. With a helpful pitch due to moisture, Canadian bowlers did well and reigned in Pak batting. They would have pulled off this target if one more Canadian batsman would support Hansra.

Canada would not run Pak close on batting pitches like the ones used in England's last two matches.

Put WI / NZ against minnows on similar helpful pitches and the QF line up might get more interesting.

[Note: I only caught snatches of the Can-v-Pak match on telly]