When Nasser sought assistance to understand why Cook was 'playing with his hands', Atherton responded with a gentle chide against being too technical when it came to matchplay batting, and trusting one's instincts was more valuable. He went on to add that he had written an article for a newspaper just this morning, directed towards aspiring and club and county batsmen, advising them the same.
Which surprised me somewhat because one imagined Atherton's batting philosophy to be cliched. But there it was on TV! Now we know he thinks like Sehwag and perhaps Viv before him.
Must say I was pleasantly taken aback when I heard that. So much for impressions! But England are playing plenty of T20 domestically these days and batting in that format does involve a fair bit of instinct.
Pakistan bowlers keeping their fielders and batsmen in the match. Also, 100 wickets for Asif, fastest Pakistani to the figure behind Waqar Younis.
Congratulations to him, a fine bowler.
Saturday, 31 July 2010
When Nasser sought assistance to understand why Cook was 'playing with his hands', Atherton responded with a gentle chide against being too technical when it came to matchplay batting, and trusting one's instincts was more valuable. He went on to add that he had written an article for a newspaper just this morning, directed towards aspiring and club and county batsmen, advising them the same.
For a person who has made these gadgets and inventions part of his daily amusement, if for some reason he cannot access them, then you can imagine the withdrawl and pain that person may feel. I have a mobile gadget with me, it has served me well in this phase, but I have two complaints against it - 1) posting limit and 2) limited memory capacity 3) finger crippling.
Posting has strict character limitations. The curious fact is the posting limit for article on Blogger is 1024 characters and for the Tags is 1800+ on my mobile device! Maybe I should make an article out of the Tag line! Then the comments section - mobile device shows a certain number of characters allowed but when you post, it doesn't transfer on the basis of too large a size!
Memory capacity limitations means that by the time the page loads, the device is done. So one is barely able to read comments. By various tricks and Bookmarking, if one is able to reach the comments posting page, to reply to readers and fellow bloggers, by the time a comment is done, it appears the device cannot do any more.
Finger crippling/thumb crippling nature of it is probably well known to all mobile users. If thumb were to be crippled, it is almost as if you have lost that arm. The loss of opposition by thumb reduces one's dexterity to that of a primate.
It's basic and allows posting of brief posts.
My apologies to Balajhi, Greyblazer and Kartikeya once again and others - let them know that I have read their comments, suggestions, chidings and have ruminated on them to the best of the combined abilities of my intellect, Mobile Cricinfo and the device I possess.
As soon as I am able to, I shall get back to posting.
One of the comments by an 'Anonymous' poster is looking forward to Balajhi's posts. I quote -
Anonymous said... 2
Soul, Balajhi da blog post mangtha hain. He is an excellent writer and there is no reason to be silent.
I endorse Anon's views and look forward to the same whenever Bala has the time. Let me assure Anon that I am not suppressing Bala! We all love reading Balajhi's views. If Anon's also interested, Bala has a few blogs of his own on different topics which are wonderful. Anon may find links in the laft navigation bar.
I must also speak to Victoria - I am unable to open your site from different computers. I wonder what the problem is? Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Linux, and whatever OS my mobile has, IE 8, Firefox (latest version), Chrome - I have used all. Page title loads in the window but page doesn't load.
I have replied today to one comment I thought I really must, and will do so once I have my computers back! Yeah, they have crashed and are with company for repairs/replacement - both Tops, D and L. Workplace posting is now a no no. Chaps tell me it might take upto three weeks for the computer company to deliver on its promises. Cyber cafes are no longer my cup of tea.
I hope I am forgiven. The enforced break and limitations are actually quite useful to me.
Friday, 30 July 2010
When was the last time England stepped out for a conquest of consequence in distant lands? I am sure team logs will reveal, but the very fact that one needs to examine log books to refresh memory suggests it is time for another voyage. And there is no better time than now, when a good breeze is bowling and firm bats are at the tiller.
England have been marvellous at home. Despite stray moments of lethargy, there has been a bit of alien flair about their presence on the field. And Captain Strauss is well camouflaged in it too: unlike with Atherton or Nasser's crews, there is less landlubbery faintness about this one. Without actually having done so, this team suggests instead, the swarthiness of well travelled adventurers who have won much under the sun.
Today they are at Pakistan at home, tomorrow they sail across to tame a few kangaroos, and then they must dock into India and test their skills against the elephants here to rate as maharajahs of the game. Cameron's batting here already!
I am still without live television and PC, so I must continue following and posting via the handy but limited mobile device and good old newspapers.
I could be wrong, but I sensed testiness with the Colombo pitch in all my reads. A language newspaper wrote that there was every chance of an adverse report to ICC. I wondered why?
The hosts were working to a plan which has worked well for them for more than a decade - bat big and unleash mystery spinner (now, spinners). Works wonderfully with toss won. The chances of homeside losing are slim an of visitors succumbing, high. Isn't that what strategy is all about?
Almost came off too again for the hosts, despite Viru's flourish, but for a veteran's resistance and a rookie's flair.
The hosts are not obliged to fortify opponents and increase the risk for the local team. Remember it almost came off: the new mysteries, unfortunately for the hosts, are not deep enough yet. If this strategy passed muster for so long, why agitate now?
Wednesday, 28 July 2010
All the men were in place, for one final act of defiance in the evening against a 37 year old man who had been labouring on the field for almost three days in the heat and humidity of Colombo. Just ten days ago, the now supra-Waughean veteran had toiled for almost five days at Galle. Sanga was certain the wily one would scamper the single as is his wont. The field was charged to deny, and Randiv, the clever scourge of India in this match let drift, just a wee bit straight. The youth lit up in fissure lined eyes of the old warrior behind the grill, and he knelt, to sweep the errant ball off the pitch and into the distance of the square-leg boundary. Under pressure, for over two decades, here was the man at once again that boy with grand dreams.
The tiring old man that Tony is, couldn't but shake off his growing disinterest in Sachin's innings and quip congratulatorily into the mic later. Earlier, even he animated as Sachin coverdrove Fernando like a smooth fast car.
The whoosh of it lingers.
Given the situation he stepped upto, despite the monastic peacefulness of Colombo's SSC pitch, Raina's display on debut can only redound to his advantage. He can read a situation and play accordingly, is willing to concede patience appropriately, and is comfortably fluid facing spinners. This much we have learnt today even if the spinners are not of the same caliber as Murali or Warne. But decent enough.
His Test match game isn't a gawky adjustment from LOIs. Thus far, it looks an independently developed parallel skill.
Without more exposure in diverse set of circumstances, it would be hasty to be more detailed on his ability. We must watch him against Saffers to start with.
Does look however that he could be the backbone of India's Test team as well. We had written him to be the ODI team's middle order engine.
When Pujara takes no. 3, India might have found two competent replacements.
My apologies to Bala and Kartikeya, can't seem to comment with mobile.
As The Wall marched in, Tony Greig nodded a casual acknowledgment and went on to ask 'Right, is this going to mean more wickets?'
Till not long ago the advent of Dravid to the pitch signalled to everyone the commencement of India's batting, and they settled back accordingly. Now, India's competitiveness appears to have be that halo around Sehwag's presence. Commentary cruelly reflects time or defines a new era when it is able to.
Tony's bolt struck elsewhere immediately: the hapless Vijay unable to maximize his SSC windfall.
But Tony's bolt returned, nastily, to strike a second time. Randiv again, hacking away the stately Rahul's pads with a ball turned into a battle axe, well before the veteran's bat could rush to defdend his roots. SSC plumb!
The Wall shall be reborn however, albeit in anotheravatāra.
Talking about noobs and debutants, Randiv displayed a hunter's nose for a kill - he preyed upon Viru's known psyche and the grizzled one's reflexes. Learn it!
The most sought after treasure for bowlers of the cricketing world today are Viru's ribs. They strive hard to ping them. Captains lust, together with their bowlers, to register their presence in Viru's armpits. Like Sangakkara today - who has paled into an imitation Jardine, with only Matthews and Dilhara to combine into a Larwood doing his leg side bidding. If only Douglas could manipulatea loophole in modern cricketing laws to have more leg side fielders.
Viru has turned into Nataraja, often maintaining the pose for the benefit of photographers after vanquishing such armpit-seeking intentions and despatching their leg side balls rightfully beyond the boundary. Such is Viru, the destroyer of balls.
Umpires need to watch Angelo's following foot though,which is tantalizingly flirtatious with the popping crease.
Full marks to the Lankans for trying for the ribs, though fruitlessly.
Viru on an even 99.
Randiv slips one down the leg to ensure Sehwag remains stumped on 99 this innings.
One of the Lankan commentators insisted SSC was 'a successful formula for Sri Lanka and there was no need to change it' when Tony G suggested its time may be up. Lanka, riding on brilliant batting by Sanga, Mahela and Samaraweera yesterday, had every right to expect the successful plan to work again. But Murali has retired and Sehwag reads Mendis well, so the formula could yield unexpected results now. Especially if the gamely trying Indian bowlers are given the advantage of a lead, say 125-150 runs, on a pitch with footmarks. They could look more threatening and gain fresh heart from the experiment.
It's upto Sehwag to catalyze this change today. It may then dawn upon Lankan cricket idealogues to script a new post-Murali formula.
Our own experiment - this is our first post from a mobile device with character limits and all such restrictions.
Jai Viru! May prudence and patience keep you company today.a
Monday, 26 July 2010
There are any number of articles on the web enumerating the shortcomings of the rankings system. Sangakkara's recent statements on the same have given this topic fresh life. Our view is what he said makes sense but we wondered why he never posed these questions or expressed the concerns to 'Haroon' considering he was also a FICA functionary of sorts. Well if he did, then there was no news of it that I recall.
India, SP reminds us, is about to lose its top rank.
Our views on the ranking have been recorded before. We were happy that India could climb up the accepted ladder system, but we wished for a different route to that satisfaction.
While it does sadden one slightly to lose that ranking, I would say India earned this too with its performance just as it gained the top rank with, again, performance.
One might even welcome it, for the lack of spotlight will allow the team and captain to regroup. It might also reveal where exactly BCCI stands vis-a-vis Test cricket.
BCCI has scrambled to arrange silly Test series to stay with the rankings after they achieved the top spot. Lest you think that it was that way, let me say that BCCI had no fixtures beforehand - the top ranking was a coincidence - but now that they had it, they suddenly had a greater need to play Tests and therefore lesser leverage than those with a plan in place.
When India does lose its rankings we will be revealed BCCI's mind on this format and desire to build towards regaining supremacy in Test cricket and perhaps achieve those goals which remain. An advance plan would help players plan and pace their involvement too.
Also, the beleagured captain, may find again the ability to motivate and find response with his teammates, if they were to be climbing again.
The better side to this rankings system is that it also quickly records and reflects a slide.
I'm sure nobody could have done better than the boys who laboured on the unresponsive pitch in the heat and humidity of Colombo, they stuck to their guns, bowled to their plans, and managed to restrict Sri Lanka to just over 300 on the first day. In fact, if it weren't for the errant short of a length bowling by Ishant Sharma, often also spraying across lines, and the brainless bits of bowling by Harbhajan, Lanka might have been restricted further. Ojha stepped up to be the pressure pump and forsook attack to compensate for the excesses of his fellow bowlers. Let his records show that.
Pragyan Ojha bowled better than he did in the first Test. He prefers subtle spin to careening the ball across the pitch like a drunken Murali. He has sufficient guile to draw the batsman forward to his flight and will eventually also beat him in it. The more you play a spinner, the better he gets. Records also show this to be true and in his case will show the improvement just one test later.
Harbhajan's record suggests that he should have mattered in Lanka. He took a few wickets last time here among the 300-odd his record tells us he has taken, but besides being short of stuff that matters, he could still actually be woozy from his illness and wandered off wide from the stumps. He ended up pressuring Ojha to play the limited role of a container.
Ishant Sharma is hastening his demise. He doesn't take time between balls and reacts to the pressure of the previous moment easily by tending to bowl short of the best length. Let him take a second extra in his walkback, formulate fresh purpose, and watch the batsman till the final moment of his leap for a clue. Now, he doesn't even have a record to fall back upon like Harbhajan Singh. The stats are diluting fast. His death as a promising cricket player at just 20 years of age is imminent without urgent remedy.
So the relative noobs Mithun and Ojha bowled well under the circumstances and let the records reflect that.
I watched at a stretch till just before lunch and then returned for the closing stages of the day's play. So whatever conclusions I make are from this slice of viewing.
In the morning session, one felt that the pacemen bowled too many short of a length balls on a batting deck. With their pace, it was perfect for the batsmen to have a good net session. There was one inspired piece of cricket in the morning though - Pragyan Ojha lured Dilshan to go after him, but after making sure, along with his captain of course, that there was a catcher in place at short extra cover. Laxman, put there for the purpose, responded in half a second to catch the error. This was a good piece of cricket and an abject lesson to those who may be aspiring, or on the bench, upon how to synergize resources towards a wicket. The lesson was however lost on others and gradually it was lost on Ojha too for attack quickly gave way to deep defence.
I shall not disagree with that tactic, for there is an element of risk involved in disagreement, but one wonders if India might have gambled with giving away 50 more runs in the day to buy a wicket?
But the Lankans...following Dilshan, nobody was in any haste to oblige the Indians whenever they tried throwing the odd challenging chip. In fact, there were times when they called the bluff and showed up the challenge to be half-hearted and smartly retreated to await the next easy meal.
A couple of hundreds already up and more to follow, and now you know its not only money why everybody wants to play India.
One thing was clear from the toss up - only one team could win this game and that's not India. The team sheet showed it - seven batsmen and four hard-working bowlers on a batting beauty from 0-1 down was a declaration.
I am now certain Mishra would have fared worse, for not just because he would have liked to attack a bit more with his variety but also because our insistence might have jinxed him ( recall the superstition thing I mentioned before? ), and suspend my chorus of appeals for his inclusion. My only fear now, he might be played in the final match so the records may show that he played. For his benefit, I hope, if such an unlikely siuation were to arise, the chorus boy that he is has his song all ready and perfected for the big chance bestowed upon him. Otherwise he'll be lamenting forever. Already his dirge is being sung and has keened to a clever tenor. More of what that tenor is, later.
Peace and Shaanti for all, India played great (but for some fools on the team) but Lanka played better. Make no mistake of it, things could have been a lot worse than they are. Talk about things could have been a little better is not relevant.
Tomorrow the boys will hit back. I am certain of it. For the record suggests so from the previous match. They shall not wander hither and thither or bowl too full or too short. But if bowlers did have to wander in the first place, why not select a chap who can spin the ball back from those wanderings away from line?
If this post made no sense, ignore it, for sense disappears when you watch your team being pulped right from before the toss-up.
India in Sri Lanka 2010: Sri Lanka v India: Preview + Day One, Second Test, SSC, Colombo
Gambhir is nursing a dodgy knee and Yuvraj is down with fever. That means Murli Vijay and Raina could play. [ Cricinfo ]
We had hoped from Gambhir, maybe Vijay can do what Gambhir hasn't this tour. Yuvraj or Raina...well, Pujara isn't there. Maybe Raina's inclusion can bolster the fielding even if he has slowed up on that front. And he can turn his arm over a few times.
But what about Mishra? No clue yet.
Hard dry batting pitch.
I'll let Tony G go on a bit right now for sake of team announcements but the mute button will come into play. That guy sucks big time!
Kumara wins the toss after a bit of mutual play between Tony G and he, which we didn't understand, and guess what, he opted to bat first!
I'm tempted to go about my business for two days now and then return for updates. But who knows, India might find an early opening.
Pragyan Ojha again - Mishra might as well retire. Sad but true, for he'll never get a fair run with Dhoni at the helm. Dhoni appears to have his pets.
It's upto Ojha to justify his selection now and Dhoni to prove he wasn't mistaken.
India in Sri Lanka 2010: Sri Lanka v India: Preview + Day One, Second Test, SSC, Colombo
In this world with many material needs as well as the spiritual, performance is the foundation for them to sprout out of. The link to material needs appears direct and easy to see and understand while the link between the spiritual satisfaction and performance is concealed. What we do, how we do, why we do anything goes a long way in determining both our material and spiritual gains. For the best equilibrium between the two...one's deeds have to be sincere, and for a good purpose. When determined, the better it all becomes.
One of the most irritating things is recieving unsolicited advice. Especially if it is in a preachy manner. One of the reasons why I have Thoreau's quote pasted right at the top...a firm reminder to me while putting up a blog post. But we have undertaken a pep-talk series of blogposts aimed at reviving the spirit of the band of Indian cricketers who took the ruling cricketing heirarchy and clichés by storm just a few years ago. We feel there is a plaque of cynicism discolouring them of late. Anyway, that's our child-like intention...you may feel it is childish in fact, and we'll not disagree, for to be a 'fan' of anything it must be included without saying bits of innocence and fantasy into it.
We fantasize the Indian team to be playing quality cricket once again. We fantasize that our vibes reach the players. We are innocent in our intentions. We just wish them to be competing confidently and retaining their dignity as a result.
If the current opposition captain, after one just one win in the series, can be trifling of India, he has been equipped to do so because India failed to compete as equals in the first Test - nothing more than that. If he is made to experience the determination and purpose within you, the dignity of your fight, his tune could change...no guarantees of course for he's trained to talk according what he's suited up with.
The Bhagavad Gita says:
avācya-vādāḿś ca bahūn vadiṣyanti tavāhitāḥ
nindantas tava sāmarthyaḿ tato duḥkhataraḿ nu kim
- Chapter 2, Verse 36
Your enemies will speak many malicious and insulting words discrediting your prowess..will describe you in many unkind words and scorn your ability. Alas what could be more painful than that for you?
While 'enemy' is a bit too strong a word when applied to cricket, 'opposition' would suffice in its stead. In fact it would do wonderfully well.
The crux being that if you refuse to compete the way you can because of dubious distractions, doubts and despondency, then it is unlikely that you will be regarded as a worthy by your opposition. Our team of Indian players - soft, supple and gnarled alike - will do well to remember this.
The opposition captain wasn't wrong technically and one risks being called delusional to imagine that he was saying a lot more than that.
I'll leave my nonsense at this point and will quote an extract from Khalid Ansari's article in the August 26, 2002 edition of Mid-Day.
Players' 'jhagda' with the BCCI a blessing in disguise
Whatever its long-term fallout, the dispute between the touring Indian Test cricketers and the Board for Cricket Control in India ( BCCI ) has done wonders for team solidarity and morale.
On balance, the 'jhagda' has been a blessing in disguise for the team, uniting the players like seldom before, making them fiercely determined to prove a point or two to all concerned.
The result is there for all to see: Sourav Ganguly and his boys have been away from home for almost two and a half months now - enough time for homesickness to set in and for them to feel jaded and fatigued, as evidenced by innumerable instances of Indian cricket.
Not so this time around. After capitulating rather meekly to the opposition in the first Test at Lord's and after ignoble defeat staring them in the face at the end of the fourth day in the second Test at Trent Bridge, the team has suddenly, if not inexplicably, come to terms with itself.
The magnificient fight-back at Trent Bridge could only have done a power of good for the players' self-belief, but ever since the dispute with BCCI erupted, the players have demonstrated a rare - and burning - desire to excel, a resolve amply discernible in their body language and cohesiveness for a common cause, if not against a common enemy.
- Khalid Ansari: MID-DAY, August 26, 2002
I would prefer this spirit to be as natural and constant to, and dominating, the Indian team as water is in a living body, instead of being only reactionarily summoned to a provocation. Of course, when provocation is there the team resolve must become firmer, stronger and capable of lifting the performance of the sum and individual by several notches.
A similar thing happened in January 2008 at Perth - India were cheated, manipulated against and were being scorned instead of the cheaters and manipulators! The team came together to initiate a new chapter in cricket's history. It is possible that the win at Perth will prove to be to India on the next tour of Australia what the confidence from that 2002 win at Trent Bridge ended up doing in 2007 tour of England. These things feed off each other.
All that said, I reiterate that I prefer the word 'opponents' to 'enemies' and wish this spirit doesn't require a provocation to emerge from its shells of cynicism.
I hope the younger players and those young in terms of experience and skills feel this spirit and incorporate this into them for all time to come.
The curator of Khettarama Stadium pitch which witnessed the 952 runs and created a test which might have gone on another ten days or till the players dropped off out of dehydration and exhaustion, was just now on a programme called 'Cricket Homes'. He was actually proud of what he made! That gives a clue into the Sri Lankan mindset of playing for meaningless records - coupled with Sangakkara's they are begging for stiff competition and treatment without kid gloves at all times.
Can't get over it yet - that man actually was brimming with pride! Whoooo...takes all kinds etc. etc..
India in Sri Lanka 2010: Sri Lanka v India: Preview + Day One, Second Test, SSC, Colombo
In the past decade, Sri Lanka have lost at Sinhalese Sports Club only thrice, the last of which was six years ago. When India and Sri Lanka played a Test match here last, BAW Mendis steamrolled them after four Lankan batsmen had registered centuries and declared first. This was the first Test of the series in which Mendis made his debut. [ 2008 Scorecard ]
India is worse off bowlingwise without Zak - not that it makes a very great difference if you sit down to calculate. Lanka are bolstered by the presence of Malinga and lose out on Murali, who has retired, and perhaps Mendis, who might not be as surprising an element as he was two years ago. Malinga, however, may not play due to injury. In which case someone else will step up to make his name against the Indians. That's the way it goes...
India's batting strength can only have gone down due to simple ageing - it is likely to be largely unchanged with perhaps Yuvraj continuing to play instead of KD Karthik.
Experience since that numbing surprise Mendis flicked India's way shows that the Mendis is masterable when the Indian openers set up a good partnership. If Malinga plays, then the duo of Mendis and Malinga and the equally dangerous parallel act of Kulasekara and Herath can best be tackled with both Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag finding and remaining in good form and firing together first up. That is very important. If India has to have any chance in this Test (also to avoid defeat) the first wicket partnership will be crucial. Gambhir must shake off his extended blues and get going and set up a stinging jugalbandi with Viru.
India must play Harbhajan and Mishra. In the three Tests Lanka has lost here in the last 10 years, spinners have done the most damage. Of cousrse Akram had a say too but we're coming to that.
Mishra must be played as an attacking bowler at all times and not as a defensive bowler down the leg side. The captain must select him to take wickets, and then give him the field settings and authority to go ahead and take wickets. Mishra must then come up with the best frame of mind and set of skills he possesses. Harbhajan, of course, will have a most important role to play - to be both an attacker and, if need be, the one to tie it up at one end. Mishra must be used as an attacker...so it is up to Dhoni how he unleashes Mishra...whether he tanks him up with ghoda chaap XXXX rum before battle or fills him up with responsibility and confidence. But first he must select his most attacking options.
And Ishant Sharma. If this boy can centripetalize all the disparately floating halo of skills and abilities around him into a single dense core bound tightly with the gravitational power of fierce determination and purposeful effort, then he can settle the issue to India's satisfaction in a trice. On top of it, if Mithun carries forward after his decent show in his debut Test, then the two will be a formidable formation of heavy artillery to soften up the Lankan batting order for Mishra and Harbhajan to operate ruthlessly upon the mid and lower sections of the Lankan batting body.
Ishant Sharma bowled a little better on the second day of the Lankan innings in the first Test. That's a start and he needs to take it forward from there.
These are the three things I feel India will need to do to make a fist of it at SSC.
There is one more thing, a fourth, they will have to do too, but there is no point talking about it for one knows THAT can never change - fielding. If they can take catches without spilling any, that's great. If they can curtail 30-40 runs in 90 overs (presuming they'll bowl at least that much) it will be a bonus. If they can create run outs or pressure batsmen into distraction and wickets by good constrictive fielding, then that'll be delirious.
But I'm not expecting any of this from our baba log. If they can bat and bowl purposefully and simply hold on to whatever catches that come their way, that's 80% of the job done. 10% more will have to come from captaincy - via field settings and bowling changes and timing of declarations, maintaining troop morale and such things. 10% more which comes from overall team fielding effort will unfortunately have to go into the garbage can unless our stiff-backed, lumbering chunnu-munnus spring a surprise on us.
The advantage is with Lanka at the start despite their losses and additions. It can shift either way as the match evolves.
Sunday, 25 July 2010
This is a developing series of articles worth following over at Kartikeya Date's A Cricketing View.
Reporting on Hawk Eye - I
Reporting on Hawk Eye - II
The author is known to take useful initiative to solve a question one way or the other.
Please head over and partake of the information and discussion.
England is not Australia or Pakistan - both Australia and Pakistan are discovering that. Pakistan bowlers can do in England what they cannot do with certainity anywhere else. They can swing balls at will. Also, Australian batsmen are discovering that batting in England is a different proposition to batting in Pakistan or in the familiar environs of their home. Here, their bats and pads can be swung aside to expose their wickets by bowlers who are determined to do so and can do so.
So Pakistan managed to beat Australia after a very long time.
That the spectators felt they might not was because Pak bats usually do not respect the efforts of their bowlers and give away any advantage they prise out. In the second Test, they almost managed to repeat it till somehow they had a flash of rehm and decided to reward their bowlers instead by winning back their much kicked around pugree. It has been quite a while since any of the Pakistani bats stood up and made the efforts of their bowlers count, and we had forgotten if they could do it.
I watched the last day of the match...the final session.
My own feeling while watching that stirring Australian fightback was that it has been very long since Indian bowlers could create that king of pressure defending low totals. At least the aura of it all.
Australian bowlers failed to win the match for Australia after threatening to do so - it is possible that if the fielding were sharper, Ozzie fielders might have latched on to crucial catches and won the match for their bowlers instead! Often much is made out of fielding but the basic minimum Test requirement still matters.
The Test match was enjoyable but somehow the crowds didn't turn up in enough numbers in England. Neither the sporting Englishmen nor the biased Pakistan-rooted and Australian-rooted English residents. None turned up in numbers which could serve as an advertisement for the oncept, the format of the game or the country which boasts of crowds for Sunday club matches. Unless of course while I was watching, the camera developed defects and showed white spaces.
Yorkshire CCC may have priced it too steeply at £40, But that was one of the points we stated in our explanation for poor crowds everywhere, is it not? No matter where you are - in the widely distributed sparsely populated islands of West Indies or in the densely populated India overflowing with cricket enthusiasts or in the rich Old Country where the game was born, people can barely afford Test matches in terms of time or money unless it is a planned outing. Which you cannot do all the time. When TV and webcasts are available, no matter how little the price of tickets may appear to the miniscule band of cricket enthusiasts with surplus incomes and surplus times to throw about ( such people, by the way, will have more interests than daily doses of Test cricket at the ground unless cricket happens to be their bottle of ambrosia ), most people everywhere will prefer these alternative mediums for day-to-day following of cricket, when they can work along with play or miss only very little of their work.
Any ordinary person in any country, who has to raise a family too, cannot afford in today's world, to spend money on every Test match day and LOI. It's not unique to India. Ground crowds will increasingly be niche attendances with main revenues coming from TV and web audience. Now you have mobile gadgets too...difficult to imagine big crowds at stadia unless there are very good reasons for them to appear. The moaners who might feel cheated by all this must, for now, put up with it and agree not to moan anymore based on some distortions embedded in their minds.
Like somebody said, Pakistan thoroughly deserved to win for the sake of their talented bowlers. Aamer is special. Hope he remains free to play for as long as he can.
Today also happens to be Guru Purnima - a day to pay homage the Teacher..the Guru.
In Hindu tradition, the Teacher (Guru) is one of the four to whom we owe everything - The Mother, The Father, The Teacher and The God.
Mātā Pitā Guru Brahmā
The sequence is defined that way - before god comes teacher and before the teacher come the parents with the mother the first person to whom we owe most.
The Guru is an embodiment of God as per Hindu belief. It is he who enlightens the path we take towards Purity...God. We approach from different directions and aim to reach that purity in our existence. The Teacher's grace and his guidance makes us wiser and closer to Purity as we wend our way towards him. We pay homage to our teacher with
Guruh-sākshāt parabrahma tasmai shrigurave namah ||
[ Trans: My salutations to the Guru who is Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara. The Guru is Parabrahma incarnate ]
There is an illustrative story narrated in Sri Sai Satcharita about the importance of a Guru. I'll quote an extract
Hemadpant has left no note, no memo about what Baba said regarding this subject, but Kakasaheb Dixit has published his notes regarding the matter. Next day, after Hemandpant's meeting with Sai Baba, Kakasaheb went to Baba and asked, "Baba, where to go?" Baba said, "High up." Then, the man said, "Where is the way?" Baba said, "There are many ways leading there; there is one way from here also (Shirdi). The way is difficult There are tigers and wolves in the jungles on the way."
I(Kaksaheb) asked, "But baba, what if we take a guide with us?"
Baba answered, "Then there is no difficulty. The guide will take you straight to your destination, avoiding wolves, tigers and ditches etc along the way. If there be no guide, there is danger of your being lost in the jungles or falling into ditches."
Even the Lord's avatars - Rama and Krishna - submitted to their Gurus, Vashishtha and Sandipani respectively for self-realization.
The occasion of Vyasa Purnima is taken to be Guru Purnima.
It was the great sage Vyasa, son of a fisherwoman, who classified the accumulated spiritual knowledge of the Vedas under four heads - Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Saama Veda and Atharva Veda. To him goes the credit of composing the authentic treatise of Brahmasutras to explain the background of Vedas. He also wrote the eighteen Puranas, the stories of our great heroes and saints, to carry the spiritual and moral precepts contained therein to the common masses.
The greatest of epics of all times and of all climes - Mahābhārata - embodying the immortal song of God, the Bhagavad Geeta, also in it, is also the priceless gift of Vyasa muni. The Bhāgavata, the thrilling and devotional story of Sri Krishna, was also his contribution. It is in the fitness of things that Vyasa should be looked upon as the supreme preceptor of mankind. Offering of worship to him signifies the worship of all the preceptors of all times.
You may all wonder what does this have to do with The Cricket Watcher's Journal and cricket?
Firstly, it is my small public homage to my Gurus.
Second, it is perhaps a silly fantastic thing to imagine so, but as I said before, this is a place where even silly fantastic things happen; we imagine the silly fantastic thing to happen would be that such a message goes across to the younger struggling players and reaches their true self. At least we state our intention anyway.
On the Indian team are many young men and some not so young ones. They have risen up with their wisdom and gone beyond their respective Gurus who paved their way to here. A few of them are lost today. In a quiet moment in their hotel rooms, I hope they are able to communicate through plaques of cynicism and communicate with the fundamentals their Gurus empowered them with.
Then there is a Guru within us - the body of our own experiences which must be correctly understood by us to unlock the lessons within them. Dispassionate analysis, unaffected by the emotions or mood of the moment, will always reveal clarity.
They, with the words of their Gurus echoing in their ears can go over what troubles them and find self-tailored solutions to their problems and weaknesses. Of course, everybody who tells you something is not a Guru. Each has his own whom he trusts and has learnt from. Turn to that. Then there are those whom you imagine to be Gurus because they pander to or stimulate something you think is worthwhile at that moment or period of your life.
In fact some of the young players on the team could do with meditating upon the dozen verses of Bhagvad Geeta - from 60th to 72nd of the second chapter. Not very long and extremely relevant to their state. In fact, if they feel overawed by the Gita or Sanskrit and its nuances, they can read a small section of Sir Edwin Arnold's English translation of the Gita, which even Mahatma Gandhi recommends in his autobiography. I extract
Ponders on objects of the sense, there springs
Attraction; from attraction grows desire,
Desire flames to fierce passion, passion breeds
Recklessness; then the memory- all betrayed-
Lets noble purpose go, and saps the mind,
Till purpose, mind, and man are all
Doubts, distractions and shallow desires often tend to make you forget your purpose, your knowledge, your skills, , your learning, your ability to find live solutions to living problems. They steal your confidence. Get your focus back...the real focus!
Most of the young men on the team feel Undone when a batsmen is after them or a Malinga is slinging at them. They feel more Undone when they retrun to their rooms and o their privacy from the bombast of a group existence. Somewhere deep down, they want to succeed...not just in terms of the peripherals they earn but what they do in their chosen profession - they have to remind themselves of this purpose what got them till here. They have to begin to think again, go beneath the superficial adjustments and fundamentally change the way they approach the game and why they play it. They have to find that courage and quick-wittedness that allowed them to ride upon their skills thus far.
To fully realize their talent and go out having done something worthwhile in the game other than merely make pots of money must guide their daily play till they call it quits.
Remember what your true Teachers taught you and how they helped you find solutions to the problems you faced along the way. Talk to them if required. get started and come back winning the next two tests.
For, you can!
The other day, at a talk-shop-on-the-web, following India's meek surrender, I joined the post-mortem conversation among experts there with a single simple question of mine among a couple of my observations - Would Mishra have mattered? I meant his inclusion for play of course.
From among the experts who bothered to respond, the common distillate was 1) no, he wouldn't have mattered 2) because he did nothing in the tour match 3) he performs only against poor teams 4) he has bad figures bolstered by Bangladesh 5) he does nothing in home matches.
The general impression one got was the experts believed it was time to stick a fork in Amit Mishra, who, they appeared to convey, should never have played the nine test matches he did.
The impression one recieved from that consensual experts' distillate was that the idea of playing a leg spinner, of reasonable experience in domestic experience even if he has played only 9 Test matches, especially when Harbhajan Singh was not fully fit, to lead an otherwise inexperienced attack, did not strike any one of them.
Those experts may all be correct about Amit Mishra, they have an eye and nose ( and ears ) for such things which I do not possess, and therefore respect their views - I will not argue their subjective opinions for often the impression one forms about a bowler is quite subjective in his early days. You could say that about most bowlers. Especially for a spinner. Only rarely have spinners begun with a bang and ended with a bigger bang - most enduring spinners have built their careers upon the foundation of subjective perceptions about their ability harbored by their captains, selectors and cricket experts of their respective times within their countries, which we sometimes also call 'having faith in the bowler'. It's a 'feel' people who matter have about a bowler. Of course, it goes without saying that they, the bowlers, must have the tools to build upon this foundation of trust they are given: namely, skills which are learning with experience and grow, acumen which also becomes sharper and multilayered with experience, and, courage which must be large to begin with and grows only larger with every game they play.
The confidence of a spinner is reflected in what role he plays for the team and how he fulfils it, and is developed with the factors I mentioned above.
Also, I feel they played a fast card in their consensual decree upon Mishra by selectively speaking about the one test match in Bangladesh, using the data from that to brand him and removing the data from that to brand him further with the hottest of branding irons. His performances against Sri Lanka, in a match where everybody was tonked on a classic shirtfront pitch, was considered his problem and included. I recieved deathly silence on my responding question as to how he performed against Australia, England and South Africa in his first and only 9 Test matches. In fact, if the Kiwis hadn't come handy for Warney in his 9th Test, he would have wallowed longer in the 90s SR he was in by his 8th! But we are getting ahead of ourselves here...we must return to the discussion on spinners as a whole we left hanging in the earlier passage. We will return to these questions at the appropriate phase.
|I have not included all spinners for that is not the purpose. Our focus is on Leggies. Therefore, Murali represents all Offies extending over two distinct eras of cricket and Vettori represents SLOs for comparable conditions. I have however travelled into the past for Leggies for that's specific and taken Qadir and Chandra to represent two distinct player eras in addition to the two cricketing bands Warne and Kumble operated in. Mushy missed the current era and Danish didn't bowl in the 90s. Hirwani represents one given up. |
LEGEND:- Green = within five points on the lesser side; Red = more than five points on the lower side; White = greater than A Mishra.
|A couple of prominent contemporary spinners of different variety for an additional perspective|
There is nothing there to suggest he doesn't deserve to play another game for India.
I hate taking to stats when discussing a player's potential. Stats are dangerous tools and can be interpreted in the way one wants - for instance the quorum of experts who fiddled with Mishra's stats to support their opinion of him. I hate doing the same, but I will for I feel there are some deliberate mistakes propagated by repetition of a few opinions. Especially those who may or may not have the ability to trickle into specific ears through alternative channels. So we go Gung-ho with our Basic Course statistical delights.
If you observe the table above, barring two leggies (Hirwani and Kaneria) and Murali, maybe none of the others might have been persisted with if people talk only about Strike Rates etc etc. At that nebulous stage of their international careers - only 9 Test matches old - something more, a subjective opinion in favour of them, allowed them to bowl a bit more than 9 matches on the international stage and display their complete potential.
This was one aspect I wished to draw attention to when I asked the initial question. To me it appeared the degree of thought applied by the expert quorum was limited to imagining I was touting a case. They are correct in this - I was dissecting hindsight lest the situation may repeat itself, and was suggesting that in the presence of an unfit or partially fit Harbhajan, it made more sense to have Amit Mishra, a wrist spinner of some FC and Test experience alongside or instead.
To write off a leggie within 9 test matches is, therefore, to me, shortsighted. Expert status notwithstanding. Unless grounds are being prepared to include someone lese in his place. Which is okay if you have given him a decent run. But then you give runs to all and sundry and not for the men who work their way through things. That's an old Indian habit.
Barring gross errors in bowling, which are unchanging, spinners need to be given the space and opportunities to provide returns. In this context, look at how England has handled Broad. Albeit a paceman, his relevenace, how he is gradually evolving into a spot wicket-taker from a chap who simply used to bowl and hope for the best. With spinners the latitude has to be greater.
The case for a wrist spinner against Lankans is strong - 5 out of the top 10 slow bowlers against Lanka have been them.
You could turn around and say that's class talking there and Mishra lacks it, in which case we come back from stats to subjective, and then, I would believe it makes good sense to play Mishra irrespective of the number of lefties in the Lankan team. As things turned out, Mishra would have been an asset with his sxtra rip across on that pitch where finger spinners didn't prosper. Murali is a wrist spinner by the way.
Sure Mishra has had a couple of poor matches in his nine. If you want to focus on his bad matches then also spare a view for his good matches. If taking wickets against Bangladesh is despicable to you, then take out Warne's wickets against 1990s England who couldn't play legspin to save their lives, and Murali's Zimbos+Bangladeshis. If that one test against Lanka features so many runs, then look at what others did on that pitch where Lanka scored over 700 and couldn't win.
You can play only those you are given and Mishra has just one test against Bangladesh anyway and none against Zimbabwe. He has played the best teams in the business on sporting tracks in India. Okay, some of them were frank batting tracks. And still he compares well. If you take Bangladesh out of his equation, then take that Lankan match out the equation too and see how it goes.
If one tour match performance convinces your arguments because it is supportive of it, then surely performance in 7 tests should have a greater meaning?
Mishra after removing that Bangladesh match compares well with Shane Warne and Qadir after 8 matches!
And since one has humored your wish, let us now remove the Lankan match where they tonked every Indian bowler to the collective tune of 760 runs and see what's in store. (Moreover, I refuse to include those Bangladesh stats while removing the Lankan stats...because faith tells me that they will still be comparable to any other of those bowlers in the table.)
There it is! Now I too have something like you have to support my argument! And I am not talking at all about the kind of pitches in those last three tests of his. leave that aside for the time being.
It is possible that Amit Mishra being in and out of the team hasn't settled down. And bad matches have been part of everyone's early career. Things like additional bowling attack besides conditions and batting performance also influence these figures. A spinner with the backing of a tall total is likely to be more aggressive. But I'll leave that to any discussion which might - no guarantees - crop up following this post.
I thought and still stick with the fact that it was silly of India not to play Mishra, especially when Harbhajan was feeling peaky all the time.
He couldn't have done worse that chaps who didn't take a single wicket could he? But then he could have induced errors and taken wickets...especially when the tail was having fun at India's expense and tinking them around. That proved more critical than anything at the end and it is possible that a leggie might have cur short their innings with a bit of classic leggie deception.
All this talk makes no sense at one level...at another level, you know it makes sense. One may not be able to do anything about a match which is over, but you know it might have made a difference to play Mishra.
Of course good batting and fielding also would have but that's beyond the scope of this post.
I deeply respect the personal opinions of the experts even if I totally disagree with them.
I repeat again, for the benefit of those who may leap hither-thither, without doubt Mishra has had three poor matches last, but are you suggesting that he didn't have class when he bowled out the Ozzies earlier? That he isn't on the cusp of coming back from a lean trot? That he doesn't have the 'class' to bowl for India?
India has suffered enough for some fixed views and great shortsightedness in the past and continues to suffer right now.
This is an old work of art from an earlier article. Cheeka's lost that insight since.
Friday, 23 July 2010
What the ongoing Oz-Pak Tests in the 'home' of England proves is that Test matches can be played anywhere...out of context(that's the simple part), that Oz as of now are still vulnerable in conditions which assist swing bowlers (current Ozzies can be vulnerable in spinning conditions also), that Pakistan would prefer an England home against Oz than Pakistan since it is on the verge of breaking a long lean trot against the Down Undereres.
What this 'Home Test series' has also proven is that all my friends' steadfast counterarguments over Test match crowds have now been effectively demolished - each one of them. The presence of crowds in Australia and England even for county/provincial matches was quoted to me as an example of support for cricket.
Test matches, no matter how exciting they are, will not fill enough seats in even an English ground unless club members and school children are stuffed in!
We has earlier explained painstakingly reasons why crowds come and why crowds are no longer a sensitive and specific indicator of support for the game. TV and web has long supplanted going to the ground everywhere.
So please quit cribbing abd crabbing about crowds in Indian stadia, which still, by even naked eye examination, amount to a lot more than what 'The Home of Cricket' can generate for us to see. Please do reconsider going back to the points I made about why test match crowds will be iffy most times. And yes, including those who live in India and live off India but love to keep carping about India, quite illogically, bullheadedly and without any logical reason too at times.
Anyway, you can port around Test cricket all you want, in its cradle and nursery, make it as exciting as you can, but locals will not turn up unless their home country is playing. Even that isn't guaranteed. Test matches will have to find a way to generate ground interest in a different way. As of now, TV audience rules...not the stadium handfuls. The reasons I have mentioned before.
The crowds at grounds remain static, limited to the odd handfuls. Apparently there is no automatic direct correlation with cricket being a heritage structure and crowd numbers either, just as there isn't one between size of a country's population and number of backsides on the stadium bleachers. Irrespective of this being a Sporting Spirit series. One more argument point goes poof!
How different is Sachin's consent to a 'bloodwritten' book any different from say a chief minister wanting to have self-statues installed while in office?
It does appear Sachin has indeed travelled a long long way from being the darling of a nation.
The entire concept is ridiculous, self-absorbed, imitative and diminishing of Tendulkar's substance. Terming it 'not everybody's cup of tea' is nothing but a stupid self-serving marketing chatter attempting to make it sound very special.
I am surprised Sachin Tendulkar even agreed to the corny idea!
I didn't watch much of the match beyond one of the days, the rest being in snatches. So it will not be fair for me to comment upon inidividual performances. I'll accept various web/print commentators' views and go with their combined observations. But from whatever little I saw of the match after the Lankan innings, I must say India didn't look like a team with a plan or purpose.
Theories abound in all reports on the web as to how and whys. I guess they must be all correct. For me India's entire play was rottenly fervid.
Good show Lanka. You backed your words with solid deeds.
What was the first thing that came to one's mind upon hearing that Murali would retire eight wickets short of 800? If rains would hold themselves long enough, Murali was one bowler capable of reaching a stiffish target in his last Test. Such is the quality of the bowler Murali, and such is the temperament of the man, Muralidharan. If there were a hint, Murali would most certainly seize upon, explore it and capitalize on it.
Age is not a factor wih a champion bowler for all seasons like him. He is never too old to bowl and snare innocent batsmen or wily veternas. The pitch has been removed as a factor from his bowling long ago. And there was India - perhaps the sole international team most likely to volunteer to be sitting ducks for the marksman. Rain played itself, sufficiently perhaps for any other team, but not long enough for for India or to panic Murali (if that's possible). But India relaxed, mistakenly thinking rain had done what was their job to do. Therefore, without a plan to their batting, the moment a few wickets fell to Malinga, panic began to ripen in India's ultra soft underbelly. When he stepped in following the initial Lasith explosion, India made way.
Murali is a superking, an ace marksman thoroughly deserving of his accolades.
Congratulations Murali and best wishes in future endeavours.
Sunday, 18 July 2010
During a conversation with Right Arm Fast's Praful Patne ( aka MadFastBowler ) earlier today while watching the first Test match of the 2010 season between India and Sri Lanka being played at Galle, I broke into a different direction from the deepening gloom with an observation, 'Man, we need a bowler who typifies the handle you wear - Mad Fast Bowler.' From there on, the conversation went on to explore the kind of bowler we might want to have, what his attributes should be and if there was anyone anywhere in any age group with that kind of attitude in India today.
While attempting to paint the kind of bowler we needed, as the personality began to emerge from our conversation, I was recalled to the form of Harold Larwood as I saw it in a documentary, and later in a recreated serial/movie called Bodyline to embody that personality. An uncomplaining dedication carried him through the pain barrier and execute what he was charged with to do. There were of course also memories of what I had read about him - A sturdy chap who could run in again and again tirelessly, his blood sloshing around in his boots, spilling over to trace his run up, with one single purpose in his mind - to knock 'em over.
I wondered if there was anybody like that in India currently - 'Hai koi aisa deewana India mein?' I seemed to have asked rhetorically.
Somebody who'll keep gunning for glory regardless of how much he already has of it? Anybody who still feels the thrill running in to bowl..to dominate the batsman..even after he takes say 300 wickets? To accommodate modern times and its quick dash temperament, we could scale that figure down and ask instead, 'Anybody who still feels the thrill running in to bowl...to dominate the batsman...even after he takes say 30 wickets?'
Because the substance of modern Indian pace bowlers tends to evaporate by the time they take 30 test wickets. I see no solutions or remedy to this problem other than hoping education and wisdom of experience to guide budding fast bowlers. I hope they choose correct role models to emulate - men for whom doing battle, participating in the contest with gusto means more than what pain and rewards accrue from them. And who have every intention to continue as long as they physically can.
Such persons will make certain to train their minds, spirit and body for the purpose and keep them all healthy and ready at all times.
Kapil Dev and even Javagal Srinath are terrific recent examples for any Indian pace bowler...who have soldiered on and with skill and wit through many testing times.
Coming back to Larwood, I quote an extract from a tribute to Arthur Wellard, an appreciation of the Somerset, England and Gaieties cricketer, performed as a one man show by Edward de Souza and later broadcast by Nobel laureate, Harold Pinter himself.
What about Larwood, Arthur? How fast was he? Larwood? He was a bit quick, Larwood. Quickest thing I ever saw. First time I faced him was at Trent Bridge, that was my first season with Somerset. Who's this Larwood? I said, supposed to be a bit pacey, is he? I didn't reckon the stories. He's a bit quick, they said. A bit quick? I said. We'll see about that. I'd faced a few quickies in Kent. Well, I went out there and I got four balls from Larwood and I didn't see any of them. The first I knew about them was Ben Lilley throwing them back. The fifth ball knocked my hob over and I didn't see that one either. I'll tell you, he was a bit quick, Harold Larwood.
Wisden supports this: May 1929. Trent Bridge. Notts v. Somer-set. A. W. Wellard b. Larwood 0. What Arthur didn't mention was that in the Notts innings we read: H. Larwood b. Wellard 0.
Did I ever tell you the story about Harry Smith of Leicester? Arthur went on. He had a stutter. One day they went out into the field against Notts. Harry likes the look of the wicket, he thinks it'll suit him. I'll tell you what, S-s-skip, he says to his skipper, I think I'll b-b-bounce one or two. Wait a minute, says the skip, you know who they've got on the other side? They've got Larwood and Voce. I'll just b-b-bounce one or two, says Harry. So he bounces one or two and Notts don't like it much. Anyway, Leicestershire go in before the end of the day and Larwood and Voce knock them over like tin soldiers and suddenly old Harry finds he's at the wicket. Larwood and Voce go for him. Harry's never seen so many balls around his ears. He thinks they're going to kill him. Suddenly he gets a touch and Sam Staples dives at first slip and it looks as though he's caught it. Harry takes off his gloves and walks. Wait a minute, Harry, says Sam, it was a bump ball, I didn't catch it. Yes, you f-f -f-fucking-well did, says Harry, and he's back in the pavilion before you can say Jack Robinson.
- from Arthur Wellard - A tribute, HaroldPinter.Org
I do not take names of bowlers, no point, but today I felt strongly the need for such a person in the Indian bowling line-up. Praful Patne felt Abhimanyu Mithun had the spirit but was stuck in a rut without raw pace. To be successful with 135 Ks, one will have to be crafty, skillful, have perfect control over different variations, consistent and disciplined. They are also required for all bowlers but you get the point...with lower speeds, you need that much more of everything else.
India could have easily given to days play to Lanka and 900 runs at the outset and batted three days to complete the test. I do not think it was lack of skill or ability on the part of Indian bowlers but lack of preparation, pre-season fitness and enthusiasm to labour in the sun.
Credit to the Lankan batsmen - Paranavitana and Sangakkara who made the most of it and put India at the swordtip. Paranavitana scored his first test hundred and is certain to score many more.
There is work to be done by Indian bowlers and one isn't sure if they are in any physical or psychological shape for the challenge.
On a different note, Kartikeya Date had an interesting analysis.
Marginal issues like fielding are great things to get riled up about, but how many Test Matches did Jonty Rhodes win for South Africa with his fielding?
I felt India might have ended up a little better on the scorecard with Test class fielding. Jonty-like is pure fantasy. good standards of fielding are additional tools to apply presure besides batting and bowling. A good fielding side can couple with their bowliers to precipitate a key wicket or two from the most placid of pitches and spiritbreaking partnerships. Stubborn resistances can be broken up with good fielding which supports good bowling.
I agree with Kartikeya that bowling is foremost and fielding is adjuvant and also agree that Munaf Patel should have played for the accuracy factor. I mentioned it in my preview yesterday.
When you saw how easily Sangakkara was given his hundred the importance of good fielding and tight, resolute bowling was never so clearer or greater.
As Charu Sharma summed it up beautifully in his PC way, it was a 'less than fantastic bowling' by India today. let's hope for a better tomorrow.
Meanwhile, enjoy Harold Larwood bowling and the Bodyline re-enactment.
Re-enactment of Bodyline
A fresh war of words has erupted between the Sports Minister M S Gill and IOA President Suresh Kalmadi, this time over top athletes choosing to skip the forthcoming commonwealth game in New Delhi.
While the Sports Minister was candid and said that he was disappointed and didn't want a second grade team for the games, Kalmadi asked Gill not to hype the issue and that it didn't matter if 1 or 2 players skipped the games.
India's sports minister MS Gill on Saturday expressed regret over a series of pullouts from this year's Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.
"The world knows that India has spent lavishly for organising the Commonwealth Games. The stadiums we built match the best in the world and far in excess of the requirement. It is therefore sad that some of the leading sportspersons are not coming to India," said Gill.
"It appears that for the Olympic Games, performance in events like Asian Games and European championships are taken into account. Naturally, the sportspersons don't attach the same importance to the Commonwealth Games," Gill said.
The Sports Minister added, "This is a matter which I think we will discuss in the Commonwealth Sports Ministers meeting in Delhi on October 4."
Meanwhile, downplaying the issue raked up by the Gill, Indian Olympic Association chairman Suresh Kalmadi asked the former not to hype the matter. He said, "It does not matter if one of two players skip the Commonwealth Games."
The top athletes who will not participate in the 2010 Commonwealth Games include the likes of Usain Bolt (100m & 200 m Olympic Champion), Asafa Powell (Former 100 m World Record Holder), Lleyton Hewitt (Former World No 1 tennis player), Andy Murray (Current World No 4 tennis player), Shelly Ann Fraser (Olympic & World 100 m Champion) and Chris Hoy(Quadruple Olympic gold medallist).
How understanding and conscious of image and sports! As long as cricket and cricketers are not on the menu, everybody's nice and mellow. I am not calling them or the voiceferous anti-cricket/cricketers TV byte loving Indian athletes hypocrites. Not at all. Just enjoy de silence.
I wrote a commentary and then deleted it. You never know these days...angels could come calling and I am not yet ready to fly away with them.
The other day, in a conversation elsewhere, I was asked by the curious there if I weren't bothered that my cricket stories tended to be mired in the mundaneness of my insigficant personal life, and which was actually a hurdle in my quest to be a worthwhile author on the sport. Whether I may not have exchanged passions mistakenly? For good measure, it was suggested to me that my articles tilted dizzily one way or the other without the equinamity of professional writing. A kind suggestion was also that I must transfer to my own domain for the same reasons of professionalism. A final freebie thrown into this basket, my 'wholesale buy' in a pre-festive sale at the supermarket of free suggestions, was that I could try to be regular as well and cover all content.
Naturally, I was overwhelmed by my good luck. For who gives away free advice in today's world without a cent in exchange? It also recalled to me a single suggestion I once had given to a friend and fellow blogger on the web! He'll know :) But here I was wih a shower of goodies instead of just the one.
The mundaneness of my ordinary life is me. Try as I might, I cannot peel away my life from my self. Leads me to suspect that nobody can live without a life of their own. Cricket happens to me within this life. The sport has made an unregretting choice to halt where it stands today in my life and my self. It moves no further than this consciously, always following a designated route in through my eyes or ears (sometimes nose if I take to the field), chuffing through my mind, and out through my tongue or finger tips. Then the cycle starts again.
Square One is a spot I have bestowed to Cricket in my life and this loop I have designed for it to jog along to remain in good health. The route is designated and unwavering for the safety and continued existence of this sport in my life. Wandering from its place or channel merely inflicts confusion upon other inhabitants of space in my mind and bumps chaotically into other interests which jog around their designated paths inside me. Sure, they hail each other as they pass, sometimes sit across and have a drink and talk, share interests and exchange notes, but are always respectfully mindful of their respective squares in my mind.
Also, since the corridor cricket operates in tunnels through my mind in a section of its course, it is but natural that it will emerge coloured by what lies in that hidden part of its designated course. What goes in through my eyes and ears is not the same which emerges out of my fingertips or upon my tongue. Because I have decreed so that subjects of my own kingdom should reflect me and not the kings of yonder empires. I have not implied any constraint to these interests of my mind beyond the basics of discipline and their position on the grid I have built for them with much care and thought.
This is after all The Cricket Watcher's Journal - not The Cricket Player's Journal or The Cricket Writer's Journal or The Cricket Expert's Journal or The Cricket Author's Journal or The Cricket Administrator's Journal or The Cricket Marketeer's Journal or The Cricket Magnate's Journal or The Cricket Racketeer's Journal orThe Cricket Jobber's Journal or The Cricket Devil's Journal or The Cricket Sinner's Journal or The Cricket Lawyer's Journal or The Cricket Judge's Journal or The Cricket Saviour's Journal or The Cricket Saint's Journal or The Cricket God's Journal.
At all times it sticks to its designated route of my choice within my mind and remains simply The Cricket Watcher's Journal. Just that bit. Naturally the blog will display/reflect effects of all that goes on within my mind during cricket's daily jog through it - of that honesty I can assure you. Whim, fantasy, eccentricity, fixation with a particular accuracy or inaccuracy, exuberance, despair, sadness, anger, admiration, facts and fiction, reality, unreality...you know, all the workings of a common mind - they will all be reflected constantly here as it is. Of that I reassure you.
Whatever I do, I do with the same passion and lassitude found in the ordinary man. I am not special...not an uncommon mind...to be firmly in one corner or the other. Then, if it's cricket's time, then cricket time it is. If it is something else, it is something else's time and cricket must return to its Square One and cede space for others till such a time that it's jogging time again.
Personal domain made sense to me. After all, how long can one be a parasite on Google? Dashboard Help tips frequently remind me that I could sell to sustain.
Maybe there's a message in there I haven't comprehended yet. My quest till now was merely to continue watching the game and yabbering about it.
Saturday, 17 July 2010
On 14th July 2010, four days before the start of the first Test to be played on Lankan soil in a new Test series between India and Sri Lanka, Dav Whatmore, former NCA Director and current KKR Coach, spoke up in favour of Cheteshwar Pujara. [ 1 ]
"The team surely has some finest Test match players. But, where is Cheteshwar Pujara? I personally think he is a must in the team, especially considering his form. Yuvraj Singh ahead of Pujara is completely baffling. This is just the right time to bring him in,"
As voiceferous promoters of the young man's cause, it would be expected that one welcomes these words of support from the former NCA Director of India. We do. However, one is not entirely happy, for the timing of the stroke and shot selection is all wrong.
Unlike common hobbying people like us who wield no influence whatsoever upon such matters, a person of Whatmore's stature, will be taken cognizance of. As is obvious from the fact that at least one major cricket news portal considered his views important enough to air an article out of it. People and players are bound to read his views. It behoves then such a person to consider carefully the things he wishes to say, how, and when. As the NCA Director there was deep silence from the profound presence of Dav Whatmore on the eligibility of Cheteshwar Pujara. To be fair to Whatmore, it is possible that he was constrained by terms of contract to the post and might have expressed his views to influential ears in private. But when it comes from him as the head honcho of a franchise that employs Pujara, there insinuates into the perception of the said truth, an imagined cushion of motive. And when it comes packaged with criticism of Yuvraj Singh on the threshold of the first Test during an ongoing tour match, then a thorn begins to prick the unified state of mind of the Indian cricket team and an increase in, if any exists, resistance to Pujara's inclusion. The grime of a budding controversy then smears Cheteshwar Pujara's hard-earned, self-developed fair name based on profusely tried and tested merit. Unasked help now perhaps, even if it might have been welcome in the past.
There can be no honest reason to keep Pujara out of the picture anymore, and if those that do persist in doing so, then it is their cores which are exposed. At this stage, Pujara doesn't need a gutter confrontation in the minds of people featuring him and Yuvraj.
Yuvraj may have needed the spur, in fact, he has begun with a tour hundred, but it is unfair to talk about his selection now, at this stage of the tour and travel. The matter could well have been spoken of before the selection meeting for the tour if Dav Whatmore was indeed keen on being a Third Man factor for Pujara, or after the tour had ended. This manner of promoting invites the germ of doubt to wiggle and shake a bit in mischievous mode inside peoples' minds. Let the player already on tour play with a free mind and let Pujara continue to fortify his case even more.
A well meaning Dav Whatmore begins to now look like an unwanted doppelgänger which he obviously isn't. It's all a question of timing and shot selection, is it not coach?
"If we compare the last India Test with this, we have a good wicket," said Warnaweera. "You will ask why we are not giving Murali a turning track. But Murali doesn't need a turning track. On any wicket, any flat wicket, Murali will take wickets. We were more concerned about number of days of cricket. We want all five days to say cheerio to Murali."
That was curator la Galle, Jayananda Warnaweera with his straight talk! [ 2 ]
There is not an iota of doubt that Mutthaiah Muralidharan doesn't need a spinning track to spin the ball. However, one feels the message in that bottle is to weight down further any sagging spirits Indian bowlers may be experiencing. For the key lies in taking 20 wickets and scoring a run more than the opposition.
There is also no need to jump to pack medium pacers into the team for the green of it; all that grass seen on Galle's pitch for tomorrow's match will either be shorn and/or merely mask what truth lies under. Keeping your most likely wicket takers in the attack is a sounder idea.
This one is definitely a Murali-friendly. No double personas here.
I must offer a brief biography of Indo-Sri Lankan test series. It's the done thing to recall the past to initiate the present and prepare a case for near future at the start of any series.
My most enduring memory of early cricketing contests between India and Sri Lanka is of watching the first 'official' Test match between the two nations on a black and white television. By the time the Lankans reached the shores of Chennai (then Madras), they had played England as an ice-breaker and looped through a series in Pakistan which they also lost, 2-0, with one match drawn at Faisalabad. India, they decided, was the one for plucking.
Bandula Warnapura was appointed their captain for the new era of their cricket while we, Mr.Menon, Mr.Nathan, Mr.Shankar, Dad, and my friends, who formed the spectatorial quorum for the match from this end, were all more familiar with Anura Tennekoon from the 'unofficial' Tests, Prudential World Cup encounters, MJ Gopalan trophy matches and matches between various Indian clubs such as SBI and Hyderabad Blues etc. in which he featured frequently and effectively with his bat and slow left armers. An elegant, slim, prim and proper gentleman if I recall correctly. But Tennekoon's time didn't come - after pushing hard for Sri Lanka's recognition as a Test nation and captain of their unofficial side, Tennekoon found himself left out when the new era dawned upon Lankan cricket! There were some murmurs for sure back then, in print media, on radio commentary and also among spectators I mentioned above, that I recall. I believe he was later 'accommodated' in the ODI team for a few matches to assuage the voices protesting his non-selection.
Be that as it may, while Tennekoon couldn't make it, Duleep Mendis, the portly batting adventurer was very much there. Roy Dias and the young Ranatunga (slim version) were also names making an impression. We looked forward to the sole Test match of that 'series' as compulsive cricket addicts and southie ones at that.
Duleep Mendis had reddish eyes even through a black and white television: they were big and round and an important expressive feature of his presence. He was portly, like the club cricketers we played with or against every Sunday. You could be lulled into thinking he'd be handicapped by his girth in both executing pure strokes or running between the wickets. He wore curly locks on his top, the shirt open a couple of buttons at the chest and looked every bit of a cavalier batsman you could imagine a batsman to be when at the crease. But he could bat...bat in any fashion he wished to. In that first test against India, he chose to score centuries in each innings and stave off defeat twice. Roy Dias partnered his efforts and so did Somachandra deSilva, who was supposed to be a bowler! Ranatunga chipped in with an innings too.
Earlier, in Pakistan, Siddhath Wetimunny had scored Lanka's first Test century and was followed by Roy Dias. Duleep Mendis quickly added another a special record, when in just their fifth Test, he scored a century in each innings of the match. Sunny bhai scored a big hundred and set up a huge total for India. Unfortunately, the Indian bowlers couldn't polish off the Lankans in time - Kapil Dev and Dilip Doshi's heroics notwithstanding. Incidentally, this was also Delhi Ranji pro Rakesh Shukla's first and also last test match for some unknown reason. His Delhi mate, Arun Lal, did play a few more than he and continues to apparate on the television screen as a commentator.
India had enjoyed dominance in that match without quite snuffing out the opposition and Mendis and Sri Lanka were very much the moral victors of a resistance movement of the not-so-meek newcomers. I recall the disparity between the the responses of the older set of spectators among us and of ours - the youth. The older gents spoke of the romance and were positively overjoyed that an infant team had kicked some butt. We, the young men, had mixed opinions. While we appreciated the engrossing contest between dominance and survival over five days, we were also left with a mixture of a sense of being cheated and sullen respect for the newcomers. We wanted a thrust back, quickly, to erase the memories of being held off for a draw. When I think about it now and see how the mutual contests have evolved ( or remained at a metaphorical unchanged spot), I am amused.
So when three years down, in 1985 to be precise, when India set sail across the Palk Strait to play in Sri Lanka for the first time in 'official' Tests between the two in that country, we were ready. As spectators. The mood was totally upbeat, confident to the last drop of our blood. We were also no longer in the transitional phase between teenage and being real men. We ruled the space we existed in. We couldn't wait to see India make amends for 'allowing' Sri Lanka to gather all the glory from the match played three years ago. Also, a few things had happened since which were greatly responsible for our bubbling.
India had won the 1983 Prudential World Cup in England beating top dogs West Indies, Australia and England along the way; and in 1985, won the Benson and Hedges World Championship beating Imran's Pakistan twice, New Zealand and England. Mind you, all those teams were much stronger than India back then. We were roosters, very male and talking about big deeds at the drop of the hat.
In a way, we were slightly mollified for being 'held up' at Chennai in 1982 by 'official' Sri Lanka, and earlier in June 1979, at Manchester by 'unofficial' Ceylon in the '79 edition of Prudential World Cup. Being Kapil's Devils was a soothing balm for all ailments and the twitch we felt earlier didn't register as much - we were confident of India winning it even if we hadn't played any significant cricket with Sri Lanka in between. The glow from beating other teams, even in a different format, had the strange ability to spread evenly and infiltrate uniformly into our senses.
As if this euphoria weren't enough, there was the transition which had taken place in India. Not only was a young man leading the nation off the field, albeit consequent to a tragic circumstance, young men of India were ruling on the field of cricket also. Mohammed Azharuddin had arrived into cricket in grand fashion! Ravi Shastri had worked his way into a strong position within the team. Cheeky Cheeka had taken over Gavaskar's pillion seat. The 'Haryana Tractor', Kapil Dev, now had a 'Trailer', Chetan Sharma, to shoulder part of his burden. Laxman Siva and Maninder Singh were ripping teams apart. Sadanand 'Sadie' Viswanath was still thrilling us with his B&H aura - there was no way India could draw this series, much less lose. India were all set to win and we 'felt it in our bones'.
There is nothing like a pick me up after a hangover or a cool you down from euphoria - Asantha de Mel, the barrel chested right arm medium pacer proved to be both for us. In the first test, when you were expecting India to take off as a Niki Lauda and Alain Prost rolled into one as soon as the lights turned green, you found yourself huffing and puffing up the hill like an out of date vintage! You turned back to look and found eleven Sri Lankans holding you back! First up was Asantha de Mel followed by Madugalle and Ranatunga before Rumesh Ratnayake - that disco boy on the cricket field - came up in the rear to anchor the tug of war. This Ratnayake chap would prove significant.
There wasn't a shred of doubt that our group of spectators was not suddenly entertaining doubts. I had expanded my circle since, and one also belonged to a 'hostel' now, the cricket talk everywhere was now very much tempered and more in the nature of the determined, like one downing pick-me-ups new morning. One couldn't recapture then, even if one tried, the pre-series euphoria. Readers of this post may wonder at all this. All this excitement over a Test series and that too against Lanka? They might be wondering if we had our stuff in the right place. Those days were the heady days of India's first foray into cricketing stradom as a team. Also, there wasn't as much cricket as there is now so each Test and series was remebered. Even ODIs weren't easily forgotten before the TV was turned off! Naturally, we were all taken up by it, since cricket was our number one game then. Confidence lined the deepening doubts. Actually what we saw on TV in edited clips, the way Indians played in that first test, made us more morose than comfortable.
Coming back, this Rumesh Ratnayake chap (not to be confused with the phelgmatic, taller and bearded Ravi Ratnayake with the more classical action), grabbed your attention straightaway. He was no Lillee with the ball but he wore a bandanna. He was no McEnroe in fluidity, his action being last-moment-whippy and looked like joints were falling into place deliberately, yet he wore a bandanna! He no-balled freely and ended up taking wickets more freely! The man who barely looked a threat won Sri Lanka its first Test victory!
We applauded - we, the spectators who had set sail into the television packages to confidently triumph through our white flanneled proxies, applauded. The world couldn't see or hear or read our shattered souls like anybody can do now - for there was no internet to instantly express and reveal...no extra-large bouquet of competing channels which catch anybody to get their 'instant reaction'. We applauded freely, overcome by the pluck, determination and confidence Sri Lanka exuded on that tour while India began leaking smelly scandals and discontent.
Lanka staved off the final test, quite confidently in the end, and India returned home having conceded to Sri Lanka their first Test victory and their first Test series victory.
For us, Sri Lanka had emerged as a cricketing rival - always worthy and never to be underestimated.
Lanka has gone on to record many firsts for themselves against India or by climbing over India. Be it the 952 or their 1996 World Cup win. Be it their first triple century or many many more.
In recent times, India has been the competitor to Sri Lanka's supremacy at home. Sure, Azza won a series 1-0 out of the two Tests in that series, one of which was destroyed by rain, but somehow that doesn't feel like a series win. Kambli, Sidhu and Sachin had set up the match back then with Kumble having his word too.
Dhoni's men, make no mistake and injuries notwithstanding, have the talent to win. They have nothing to lose and everything to compete for. This is the first time they go to Sri Lanka rated as the top ranked Test team, in the past they have embarked to Lanka as top ranked team in other formats, but the crown is still on Lanka in Sri Lanka. They are like a massive block of concrete on their home pitches - difficult to send back into the dresing room. And that will be key - Munaf and Ishant have to come together with and play the most important role of getting early breakthroughgs when the ball is new and come back to reverse it. Then the batsmen have to bat on and on at a healthy clip. The onus would be on India to initiate contest and engage Sri Lanka right through till the very end.
If India have failed previously, it has been because their batsmen haven't batted like they do against Lanka in India. Bowling wise, India has been erratic with some good runs mixed with a lot of poor spells. That, upon unforgiving Lankan wickets, can mean tragedy. That's why they are at a 5-3 disadvantage against Sri Lanka in Lanka when India rules the same team 10-0 in India!
In my opinion, Indians batsmen and pace bowlers will be seriously key to the cause. Spinners will matter of course - Bhajji and Mishra are capable, but winning will come from inspired pace bowling and batting strongly, for long and at a healthy pace. Viru and Gambhir will have to set the pace.
I may sound like I might have 25 years ago, but that's an illusion. I have great respect for Lankan cricket and also believe that India has the talent and players to record their first convincing series victory here after full three matches. Rains permitting of course. There is balance in the team...Munaf and Ishant need not lead cricket watchers to despair...they can of course, but the opposite can also happen easily with a bit of concentration and loads of determination from them.
There is also an illusion that we are playing a lot of cricket with Lanka - while that could be true of the other formats, this is only India's second visit to Sri Lanka in five years to play Test cricket! Careers have begun and ended in those five years!
Wishing both teams all the best, may the team which plays better cricket prevail, and hopefully all of us will have a gripping test series in the bargain!