Archive for June, 2009|Monthly archive page

India vs. WI 1st ODI – Observations

So, India won the first of the four ODIs and started their very less anticipated Caribbean campaign. WI almost chased down India’s very good looking 339 Total. Some observations: 

  • Indian top order still has a problem with the Short pitched stuff. Gautam Gambhir playing what  a No. 11 would consider his trademark shot. A half hazard attempt to pull a short ball with head ducking down praying to mother earth.  Rohit Sharma fetching the ball from way outside the off stump to play a pull shot.
  • Dinesh Karthik is still eyeing that test opener slot. Solid forward defense on display in yesterday’s match. 
  • When Yuvraj Singh decides it is time for a short break, he hits it long and far and invariably out of the ground.  
  • MSD is trying to get his big hitting abilities back but is not quite there yet. Instead, he seems to have developed new abilities to get run out when ball has gone somewhere near the wicket keeper and responding any question with “Yeah, Obviously, You know…” 
  • Harbhajan Singh reads Dwayne Bravo’s slower one even before Bravo decides to bowl one.
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Yet Another Postmortem!

As the postmortem continues for India’s early ouster from t20 World cup, I could not resist but add the 10000th reason why India did not perform like a champion side they were supposed to be.

India needed a reality check! That’s it. That’s how Pakistan did it. They got their fair share (and more) of reality checks earlier. They lost to India in the warm up games; they lost to the side that lost to Netherlands. That’s how Younis discovered that T20 is not just a fun game, nor is it anything like WWE. Once they saw the light, they were right on the cue.

India, on the other hand, had no reality check. The opening slot replacement for Sehwag was filled in by the illusive swashbuckling knocks of Rohit Sharma. They won the initial round of matches against, hold your breath, Ireland and Bangladesh. They did not look anywhere closer to convincing. No batsman absolutely murdered the minnows bowling nor did any bowler looked threatening. Nobody bowled the toe-crushing Yorkers or ear-ringing bouncers. They did not need to play that kind of cricket. They just had to wait for oppositions to make mistakes. And they made plenty of them. India’s reality check came too late against WI, when they discovered that Pragyan Ojha is not the solution to all their bowling problems. That he can have a rough day in the field. Had they met a tough opposition in the initial rounds, they might have known what was in the store for them (Yes including a lot of bouncers) and may have been slightly prepared for it.

The upcoming ODI series against WI will be significant in more ways than one. It will reflect whether India have learned anything from this defeat. If they are willing to accept their mistakes instead of shrugging it off as just a rough patch as they have in the past.

Pakistan Enter the T20 World cup finals!

This was truly a thrilling win for Pakistan in more ways than one. Not only they have come out against all odds, they have done it with the flair that we associate Pakistan cricket with: unpredictability.

When you see Afridi most of the times, getting out in first few balls, you would think why this guy was ever considered a batsman? And then he comes up with an innings like that one. Sheer brilliance! Luckily, his bowling in ODIs and T20s has been consistent to earn him a place in the side.

This win can do wonderful things for Pakistan cricket and I am hoping they will continue their great form in the finals.

I am hoping for a Srilanka vs. Pakistan final. Lankans have done a great job in the tournament so far and they look like they won’t go down without a fight. WI on their bad day can look very dismal. Malinga vs. Afridi would be a great battle to watch for. I have no particular favorite between the two as India is already out.  Whoever the winner is, the final will be more likely than not be a grand entertainment affair.

Do not hang Dhoni!

The Indian Media has a chance to get their revenge! How can a cricket captain be so direct (and truthful I might add) and call them irresponsible and get away with it? India’s ouster from world cup has given them the opportunity and they are not going to let go easily. TV and Print media have gone into “Demolish Dhoni” overdrive – an apology from him to the Indian fans notwithstanding.

While I agree that most of the decisions against England and his own lackluster batting were responsible for India’s exit for the most part, I refuse to jump the gun and overlook his excellent record for the past year and half. Captaining the cricket team in India, though rewarding in many aspects, is one of the toughest sports job there is. Even greats like SRT could not keep up with the burden of expectations. MS Dhoni, in the past two years at the helm, has inevitably, made a few mistakes (That delayed declaration against NZ comes to mind immediately) just like any other captain. But overall, his record is very good. IMO, his cricketing brain is better than most of his counterparts.

Back to cricketing front, it would be nice to see how these guys counter the short pitch stuff they are invariably going to get from Saffers in today’s match. It would speak a volume about their attitude towards the game, if nothing else.

The defending champions are on their way out!

I accept it. The team that can not defend 150 or chase 150 against oppositions like West Indies and England should not really be in the race.

There will be plenty of analysis of what was done wrong and what could have been done in the days to come.

However,  the image of MSD taking singles and getting Yusuf back on strike when 60 runs were required from 30 balls will be in my memory for a long time. Such a sensible batting this.

India lose the first game of super 8 round to West Indies

And I am going to stick my neck out and say it, I expected it. India did not look very convincing in either of the two games with Bangladesh and Ireland. It was apparent that any fairly good side will be competitive for them. In spite of having the famed batting line up and good spinners, Indians have not looked as good as South Africans or Srilankans apart from that one practice match against Pakistan. It has been mostly individual performances saving grace for them.

Dhoni’s insistence to play at #3 in earlier games did not give Suresh Raina essential time in the middle. It is does not take much for an in form batsman to slip out of it. Not that Dhoni has gained anything by it.  India’s bowling in death overs still looks patchy. RP Singh deserves a chance in the next match instead of Ishant Sharma. He can’t be worse than Ishant and can bowl a few Yorkers and lower full tosses in the death overs – something that Ishant is lacking. In the batting order, Gambhir still isn’t at his best, Dhoni is struggling. Ground fielding has not been upto the mark either.

Having said that, nothing can be taken away from WI the way they went about chasing the score. To use that beaten to death term ‘momentum’, WI has the momentum with them now. Even when Gayle went early, Simmons and Bravo kept attacking. They smartly attacked Ojha who has been instrumental in getting wickets for India.  While bowling they worked out Yusuf by not giving him anything pitched up. I know figures of 31 from 23 still look good, but we all know Yusuf can do a lot more damage than that.

I hope India gets a few things right, mainly their Batting order, Ground fielding and bowling in death overs in the next two games. As the situation stands right now, even England on their good day (read: Peterson scores) can beat India.

And the downward slide continues for the Aussies…

And the downwards slide continues for the Aussies. Probably they were taught in cricket academies in the past decade that the sun of Australian Cricket team never sets. But now, they find themselves in the deep darkness and no way out. The world ODI champions knocked out in the first round of t20 WC.

Usually a team in this situation may have questions like – Why are we not finding a quality spinner? Or why are we still playing the type of cricket that won us one day matches 10 years back? What is Ricky Ponting doing in a t20 game? What is Michael Clarke’s role in the team? What are our selectors’ really doing? However, the previous years experience suggests that what instead they might actually be working on is the new “mental disintegration” technique for the opposing teams because obviously, the existing ones have failed them miserably off late.

Such is the mental disintegration really! Chris Gayle slammed them all across the park and then the spinner from Srilanka baffled them to no end with his bag full of spin tricks. Sigh…. Where are the friendly umpires and the match referees? We have a chucker in here.

Commentating about Commentators

Just like a few of you, I have grown up watching cricket matches in the early 90s on DoorDarshan. There was a 30 minutes news break at the scheduled time regardless of the state of the match. Once the commercialization crept in, I kind of gave up trying to watch first and last ball of an over because just as the bowler delivered the ball and before the batsman went forward with the shot, There was an ad about a detergent power with saree clad models and you were only returned to live broadcast after the shot has been played on the first ball of the next over. (Though, Neo Sports is around to remind me those days).

And then, you had Sushil Doshi and Maninder Singh’s  Hindi commentary to keep you the company.

In the years, I have come to grow fond of some cricket commentators and associate some memorable cricketing moments with those voices. The one that comes to mind immediately is SRT dancing down the track and lofting Steve Waugh straight over the top and Tony Greig’s high decibel voice screaming “Owww What A Shot!” in Sharjah 1997/98 series.

All commentators have their own flair, style or habit. At times, exaggerating or downright annoying. Like when you hear Arun Lal in the box with some other commentator, you would feel like this is the most amiable person around. Anything the fellow commentators say, at times even before the sentence is complete, “Indeed” Lal would say. The “Indeed” word is beaten to death in an hour Lal is in commentary box. Then there is Dean Jones – as soon as batsman hits the ball and takes off for a run – Deano would shoot “Looking for two” even when the batsman is struggling for one.  Ravi Shashtri’s love with superlative adjectives is well known. To generalize, anything hit in the middle and flying to boundary is a “Terrific” shot. Anything flying over the ropes is nothing less then a “Tremendous” shot.  A good catch is not just a good catch but is a “magnificent” one. Nothing is short of Immense, Monstrous, Huge, Sensational, Fabulous!  When you hear Laxman Sivaramakrishnan, you may notice his random emphasizing of random words in a sentence at random times.  Ramiz Raja’s extreme usage of word “away” comes to mind immediately. It is never an “Out swinger” in his book – it is an “Away swinger which beats the batsman because he was playing away from the body” Tony Greig’s high decibel voice and Sir Geoff’s “Tough Wikkit to bat on” spring to mind as well.  

This is not to say however, that I do not love to hear them. Most of these guys are wealth of knowledge on cricket and know what they are doing. But I do think that we need more people like Harsha Bhogale along with these wizards.