This blog attempts to function as a confluence of thoughts from the blogosphere on any matters pertaining to international cricket.
February 2009 - Posts
2009's "summer of international cricket" recently wound down in Oz-land with their final T20I against their trans-Tasman rivals. The Australians temporarily migrated to milk what remained of summer in their other big rival in the Southern hemisphere.
This was a voyage for vendetta and vindication via victory ... and victory is what Australia had after 5 days of battle in the "Bull ring".
As Test matches between the current top 2 teams in Test Cricket go, this one was more a highway gash into the Prairies landscape as opposed to a tortuous County Route scarring the Rockies, although the destination was still a blur all along the way, as Stuart Peel suggests on the UK-based, eponymous "The Cricket Blog":
Since the excitement of the Australian leg of the series, the
commencement of the first test at the Wanderers has been eagerly
anticipated and it has not disappointed. It has been a real contest between bat and ball, unlike the debacles in Karachi and Barbados which were anything but.
Be that as it may, it was the beginning of the road for three Aussies, as John Cook on an Aussie version of "The Cricket-Blog" points out, albeit hesitantly:
Okay, I confess a tendency to desert my team at the first sign of trouble (who will forget my panic attack when we nearly lost a Test to Bangladesh).
But Australia is truly at a crossroads. The team is bristling with
debutants - Phillip Hughes, Marcus North and Ben Hilfenhaus (has Hilfy
played a Test yet?).
While Phil was a huge let down and Hilfenhaus bent his back admirably, it was Marcus who proved to be the North star. He was Australia's JP Duminy of this match as JP himself couldn't match his own freshman stunts in his sophomore series. But the real stars - North, West, or anywhere - were the slightly more familiar duo of Mssrs. Mitchell and Peter, the former with bat and ball. Johnson has seemed extremely comfortable wielding the willow and the simplicity of his approach to offense and defense alike was quite evident on his shuttlecock series against India in 2007-2008. This time, he converted his early promise into a pledge. Jagadish pours his own evidence towards the same on his post on "Cricket 24x7":
He is now at joint 3rd in the most runs off an over category. The other instances of 26 in an over are Craig McMillan smacking Younis Khan's part-time legbreaks around in March 2001 and Brian Lara caning Danish Kaneria in November 2006. The record holder is Brian Lara (28 off Robin Peterson) & at #2 is Shahid Afridi (27 off Harbhajan)
The Proteas are taking their time to bloom in this series and are lead in that aspect as well by their skipper. One might still have a lingering taste of bitter chocolate from how the first version of this duel ended with a black and blue Graeme unable to see off just another 10 deliveries and secure a unblemished series victory for his side. But on this occassion he exposed his team's dependence on him for his original skill with starts.
While on this highway, Jaques-the-Yak (he just looks so HUGE these days) stopped by for a few refreshments some of which he didn't share!
Next Stop: Kingsmead.
Though it makes the teams technically southbound, the series and the Australian team seem to be headed the other way cricket-wise.
Agatha Christie's famous novel did have one left in the end though the readers find that out only in the end. Similarly, when Edwards walked in,walked in the latest thriller @ ARG(ggg), England could have been forgotten for thinking that it was a matter of time for the last one to fall. But like in the book, this one remained till the end. There are many columns devoted to them but this one is not one of them. Instead this columns lists at the other "and there were one" episodes of the 2000s and the media coverage if any.
Thanks to statsguru in cricinfo, there seems to be 8 other such games where in the Jack and 10 scathed the bowling teams hopes of a win. Interestingly Windies of 2000s have been invovled in 4 of them including the latest @ ARG. Of the 8, 3 resulted in wins. The first part of this column "cover points" these wins titled with headlines perhaps not written anywhere else but in cover point !!!
Padams does a Lara
The first of these close shaver of the naughties was on 25th May in a classic between the Windies and Pakistanis at (drum roll please....) ARG The match entered day 5 with Pakistan needing 6 wickets and West Indies 72 and all rested on 2 gentlemen named Adams and Sarwan. Cozier had a write up where he was disappointed with the way yet another Hinds (Wavell) had lost his wicket end of 4th day and setting up a thrilling 5th day while Jamaica Gleamer put it clichedly down to the wire and mentioning not just importance of Hinds innings but also Jacob's runout of Razzaq
Saqlain, the night
watchman, went back cut fast bowler Reon King, and with Hinds fielding
brilliantly at backward point, the batman, after a grand mix-up, were
in mid pitch and retreating when the ball was thrown to Jacobs. Instead
of running out the tail-ender, however, Jacobs, in a brilliant piece of
cricket, threw the ball to Franklyn Rose standing over the wicket at
the bowler's end.
The West indian went on to win this game by 1 wicket and thereby the series. Cozier sings hosannahs about Adam's captain innings. He quotes
It was a replay of the scenes that followed a similarly pulsating,
one-wicket triumph over Australia at Kensington Oval just over a year
ago, also engineered by a left-handed captain who also had Walsh as
his partner at the finish.Brian Lara's breathtaking strokeplay then may have been utterly
different in execution to Adams', but both innings accurately typified
the two players. while Moin Khan brushed aside any biased umpiring decision led to their loss and instead says here
I am bound by the International Cricket Council (ICC) code of conduct
but its for all of you to decide if we got a raw deal (from the
umpires). As far as I am concerned, they did a good job and in the end
we are ourselves to be blamed for the defeat."
Haq Hacks Bangla "sapne"
The second of the classics was 4 years later in the land of multans in first week of September, 2003 when Pakistan hosted Bangladesh. End of day 4, the numbers were 4 wickets for Bangladesh while Pakistan needed 113. Chandrahas chaudhry exhibits a typical hope of history in making whilst recognizing the danger in form ul-Haq whist talks about Rashid Latif's controversial catch claim. He also disses Ashoka de Silva's umpiring as he says
The match referee also needs to direct Asoka de Silva, the umpire, to
another page of the rulebook: for the umpteenth time he gave a batsman
out lbw to a ball pitching outside leg stump.
Guess 5 years has not done much change to Mr Silva. But i digress. Bangladesh , as the author quotes would have been restless with excitement and anticipation as they approache 5th day. 5th day was a heart breaker for Bangladesh as Haq used all his experience and talent to see Pakistan through for a win. A mighty embarassment saved as he was showered upon return to pavilion with rose petals!!!! Samanth Subramanian mentions here that Inzamam farmed the strike to perfection, protecting the tailenders from bowling that was alternately on target and slipshod
Jayawardene sets up a one wicket "jaya"
The last of the "and there were one" wins of the naughties was the Sri Lanka South Africa game @P Saravanamuthu Ground, Columbo, 4th -8th August. The number games this times was 352 in the 4th innings, 90 in 5th day, 5 wickets in 5th day. Charlie Austin mentions here that the target was 26 more than highest ever chased till then and that situation could have been worse as he quotes "were it not for Muttiah Muralitharan - who
finished with 12 for 225, his fourth consecutive ten-wicket haul - and
a miraculous short leg catch from Tillkaratne Dilshan that left
Boucher, who had just middled a slog-sweep, utterly gobsmacked"
The catch is a stunner and can be viewed here. In the presence of Prasanna Jayawardene, Mahela, on a purple patch, looked steady on 77 but SA quickies still had some fight in them at end of 4th day with Steyn and the old warhorse Ntini giving it all. The match was already wrought with other issues, with Dean Jones getting suspended from commentating for calling amla the terrorist and Murli getting his 4th consecutive 10 wicket haul and now a humdinger of a day pretty much had all test cricket fans salivating. And they were not let down as the day turned out to be yet another classic as Austin again rightly termed the theme of the match was unpredictability The pendulum was stuck well in Srilanka's quarter till lunch thanks to Jayawardene and Austin quotes this innings of jaya which hardly chanceless ranked superior to most. But equally dramatic was his dismissal as quoted as follows
Nevertheless, just when it seemed impossible for him to make an error
of judgement, he took an ill-fated gamble, skipping down the track to
launch Nicky Boje over extra cover, an incredibly difficult stroke but
one he normally plays with majestic simplicity. But this time he was
deceived by the flight and caught off-balance. Herschelle Gibbs reacted
in a flash to pouch the thin edge at slip. Suddenly, the tension, which
had been easing, snowballed as Chaminda Vaas walked out to bat.
Vaas edged out to prince and Murli, whilst the brilliant bowler, slog bowled himself to the background music of Jayasurya's yelp from the pavilion. But Maharoof and Slinga Malinga sees South Africa suffer yet again. Prince, the stand-in skipper felt proud of his team's achievement while Mahela blamed this test as a reason for his balding problem. Mathematical journos started plotting the demise of Pollock as a strike bowler while praising Vaas adaptation. But in the end, this is the last of the 1 wicket test win of the naughties (yet) and a classical pot boiler at that.
This covers the wins. The part 2 intends to cover the 5 other games which the teams saved from a definite loss. And the hero of the latest @ ARG, Edwards does a cameo role in one of the other 5 too. That all in part 2.
A commentator on Channel 9, during the last T20I played, reminisced about the very first T20I played. That one also happens to have been between the same two countries and was replete with fake 70s (supposedly) hairdo, tight t-shirts, padding to make them appear tight even. Australia's trans-Tasman rivals had also sported gear that they might have had they debuted for their country in the World Series back in the 70s.
The next T20I - ever - will also involve one of those teams, albeit against a trans-continental rival in a week's time. This shall kick off an oft-forgotten match-up between New Zealand and India, hosted in New Zealand. As the, now customary, pre-series banter kicks off, one wonders if this if another oft-forgotten aspect of this series as well.
The last time the Indian cricket team went to the the makeshift "Middle Earth" was in 2002, a good six years back. That one had been anticipated as a precursor to India's bid for the big goblet in South Africa that was four months away. And speaking of pre-series chat, India's then skipper had started feeling the pressure even before leaving his own shores:
"We have played well this year - we will try our best," said Ganguly
It was also interesting that Saurav was being assisted at the helm of India's setup by a New Zealander and a lefty, nonetheless. That was a precursor, in its own 'wright', to the now-common tussle between national loyalty and professional royalty.
"Firstly there is the team I played for and secondly the team I am proud to coach ... New Zealand and India are gaining in stature as
the history of the game goes on and the Indian support for the players
I work with is outstanding."
John also provided another rare perspective of Indian cricket when he had spoken of the "brand" of cricket played by them and how it was very important to world cricket:
"India play a particular brand of cricket that is important for world
cricket. I hope we can see our batsmen and bowlers express themselves
and play the Indian brand of cricket that is so exciting ... The love, affection and hope our players carry
wherever they are is always surprising. The Indian cricket team has to
be one of the most loved teams in sport, wherever they play, not only
from the cricket fans at home but from those who live in New Zealand
and other countries."
Wright's tenure with the team also served to be a sign of things to come as it heralded an era of foreign coaches taking over arguably "the toughest" job in cricket.
The tour was in jeopardy for a bit when the top Kiwi cricketers forgot the wicket line for the picket line due to worries about their pocket lines, but Ganguly was updeat
"We knew it would get sorted out at some stage," he said. "These things
and so they did.
As precursors go, this was also the time when "Cricket Max" was still in sway with the Kiwis. That was, indeed, a precursor to T20 cricket thanks to the ticking brain of Martin Crowe, ticking way too fast and way too furious if you believe these bloggers .
In the pre-series anxiety category, apart from the minor matter of a billion nervous hearts beating in synhronization causing a tsunami of sound waves reaching their team almost 10,000 miles away. there was also an opener named Sanjay Bangar attempting to cement a place in one-day squad. The cement he used must have been of very low grade! Lakshmipathy Balaji might do well before this trip not to take masonry lessons from Bangar while Dhawal Kulkarni might also make a concrete decision to find his own method to stay in the Indian side. His captain, for his part, cherished hopes of equalling Azhar's 14 win records, but quickly pointed out the hurdles along the way, some nature-made:
"Teams find it hard to play in New Zealand because the wicket seams a lot"
and some man-made:
"... it doesn't matter whether we
lose or win the seven-match One-day series in New Zealand, we shall
concentrate more on finding the right combination,"
While mismanagement remained as strong a backbone of the Indian cricket setup back then as it is now, there are some superficial upgrades before the upcoming series with the launch of a new look for the 'Nike Team India'.
As for the cricket itself, it remains to be seen whether the recent evidence of more than superflous changes in attitudes, mindsets, leadership, strategies, and execution will end in a repeat of the Indian team's efforts almost exactly forty years ago or will New Zealand mimic their own efforts of six wins, one draw and no losses in the forty years since.
Just as one thought Test Cricket might be sipping on that old pineapple rum, not without disdain for its siblings, its own time in the sun was snatched away from it, rather rudely, definitely prematurely, wonderfully farcically, and ultimately temporarily, by another relatively well-known sibling ... beach cricket. That Test Cricket never felt threatened by this one was to its own peril.
And it was never more apparent than on the beach nation of Antigua on the eve of Valentine's Day. The love affair between Antigua and Test records was mostly on the back (literally) of the Antigua Recreation Ground. After all, that is where the most runs in one single Test innings were scored ... twice. While close friends (and enemies, for that matter) of that ground equally referred to it as the ARG, they must have realized that they wouldn't have to look too far for another nickname for its successor ... how about a nice, flat, "ARGHHHH!""
Travesty, unbelievable, ridiculous, unprecedented, unreliable,
dangerous, downright disgrace, utterly incomprehensible, farcical,
unknown and many others. The words will roll from tongue and
dictionaries straight into headlines. Unfortunately, they are all
correct ... It was
totally disgraceful, shameful even. This was an insult for cricket
worldwide and especially cricket in the Caribbean.
Believe it or not, that was NOT about the SVR - well we have to use the official name some time - stadium's recent claim to shame. It was, in fact, one of the initial responses to the Sabina Park episode from 1998. But you can't be blamed for guessing it was a response to the recently abandoned "2nd Test" between England and the West Indies. After all even the number of deliveries it took to abandon the match might mislead one to Sabina Park, but for closer inspection - 10 overs versus 10 balls.
The "SVR" in question is none other than one Mr. Vivian Richards himself, the "S" standing for Sir, a title which he possibly feels embarrassed to hold, given what he said on air on BBC's Test Match Special just as a new record was being established in Antigua:
"This is not a little curry goat match as we call it, this is not a
little festival match, this is a Test match and you can hear it in my
voice that these guys have done us not that proud in my opinion. Those
who've been given the responsibility to put on a good show here have
failed again. It's a really tough pill to swallow. This is an arrow
right through my heart."
There is another love affair that can't be ignored. One between the West Indies Cricket Board and disorganization. After all, that is where a Test Match was abandoned due to dangerous ground/ pitch conditions sans weather/ light on the very first day ... twice. Paul Winslow of the Barmy Army is not enamored by said relationship:
If you want to know just how much of a farce this game was I'll take you
back to a little incident that happened as we turned up at the ground
early to sell some merchandise. We were stopped at the gate and jumped
out to empty the boot.
There were seven guys, all wearing Barmy Army T-Shirts. We had three
cricket bags between us and the security guard took one look and said
"Oh you're the players, come straight in."Admittedly one of us has
blonde hair and is as tall as Stuart Broad (he's even called Stuart),
but to assume we were the England cricket team was ridiculous.
Mike Selvy, blogging on the Guardian, suspects a ménage à troi, with conspiracy being the third consenting senior citizen:
This has been on the agenda ever since the decision was taken not to
redevelop the Antigua Recreation Ground for the 2007 World Cup and
instead, with the aid of oodles of cash from the Chinese government,
build a new state-of-the-art ground out of town. Anywhere else, with
proper construction, it would be a fine facility. But, as art goes, the
outfield is up there with Tracey Emin's unmade bed.
Since that farcical ICC tournament there has been only one match played
here, the drawn Test between West Indies and Australia last May. No
regional cricket is played on the island any more because there is no
money, so the Leeward Islands play on St Maarten, in the Dutch
Antilles, or St Kitts. On Antigua the game is as dead as a doornail.
Dead as it might be otherwise, Test Cricket will revive the game, however briefly, at the vintage venue. Only this time, it will 'Test' someone other than the 15 men in the middle. It will test Keith Frederick, says Andrew McGlashan on his Tour Diary from there:
"I always believed Test matches were going
to come back to the ARG," said a tired, but proud Keith Frederick.
However, he would never have believed the scenario which sees
international cricket back in St Johns after three years. It's been a
surreal few days in Antigua as a Test has been moved to a new venue in
less than 48 hours.
When it was announced on Friday that the second Test at the Sir
Vivian Richards stadium had been abandoned, Frederick sensed what was
about to happen. For the past day-and-a-half he has become the most
important man as far as the short-term future of this series is
concerned. "I was at the [SVR] stadium watching the game and when I
learnt the game was off I quickly jump in my car and left. I suspected
this might happen."
Looks like someone started planning, and ahead of time too.
As for the administrators in charge of conducting the-2nd-Test-that-will-now-be-the-3rd, this time around, payback might be a beach!
Amidst mixed voices of bravado and concerns over Harbajan and Sachin, India announced the playing 16 for its NZ tour in all 3 forms. Notable points are, of course, Bhajji back in all 3 teams and Dinesh Karthikk getting to tour the land of kiwis for free as the reserve wicket keeper in all 3 forms. The break out news is the inclusion of 'the next big thing', Dhaval Kulkarni, according to Vengsarkar:
"Dhawal is an investment for the future just as Ishant Sharma was when
we selected him for the England tour in 2007 and did not play a single
match there. He's got a high arm action and the experience would help
him," Vengsarkar told PTI while reacting to the 20-year-old right-arm
out that Kulkarni, a product of the Elf-Vengsarkar Academy, was a good
choice, Vengsarkar rued the absence of two other top performers who
piloted Mumbai to their 38th Ranji Trophy title this season - team
captain and opener Wasim Jaffer and one-down batsman Ajinkya Rahane.
"I feel Ajinkya and Wasim should have been there by the sheer weight of their domestic performance," Vengsarkar said.
Also, India's own original smiling assassin and perhaps the only cricketer in recent times to have a famous song twisted around for him, Lakshmipathy Balaji, makes his return to the test fold after 3 years in rehab and wilderness. These two inclusions have been the direct result of notable performances in the domestic arena, an encouraging thought process, but is it really? How does that justify Munaf's inclusion coming right off injury and devoid of match practice?
The Hindu feels that India is suffering from embarrassment of riches but the selectors fumbled a chance to send a message to seniors by dropping Dravid and blooding Badrinath.
The national selection committee, chaired by K. Srikkanth, will be
faced with a problem of plenty when it sits down on Friday to determine
the 16-man squads for the limited-overs and Test legs of India’s tour
of New Zealand.
The selectors are likely to retain most of the squad that returned
from Sri Lanka with convincing wins in both the ODI series and Twenty20
International, for the two T20 Internationals and five ODIs in New
Zealand beginning later this month. In itself, the composition appeared
balanced for most conditions.
Interestingly, there is not much coverage on his non-inclusion, although noise has been made on the missing out of Wasim Jaffer (again by Colonel).
Experts do rightly believe that too much load is on Zaheer and Ishant, especially if Munaf is going to be their 3rd seamer. Whilst they believe that it is because of rustiness, it can also be argued that Munaf just does not have the right mindset to be an international cricketer. Extra pressure falls upon the 4th seamer, if picked, in the seam friendly conditions of New Zealand.
The third opener for the test squad is Vijay M. He has done nothing wrong in his last test appearance but basically has not done much right in domestic appearances, something Jaffer may feel he got overlooked for. And has India overplayed its card by going for an opener instead of middle order? Sanjay Manjrekar seems to feel that in D. Karthikk they have a solid middle order/reserve wicket keeper combination. Yuvraj retains his middle order slot, much to the annoyance of many. Perhaps his lack of ability at the test level would be exposed and render India able to start blooding talent into their middle order once the existing occupants start vacating the slots.
ODI and T20 squads pretty much select themselves and included a little change because of the 'little master' backing out of T20s and R. Jadeja walking in. The Pathan brothers would hope to be able to repeat their by now historical fraternal acts in whatever chances they get. But Munaf, in the 2 more athletic forms of the game, renders a touch of incredulity. India could have invested in giving Dhaval or any other younger bowler a chance.
As ODI cricket is still getting over its sibling jealosy phase - what with T20I getting all the attention - it was given a lesson in brotherly love by two different pairs of brothers on the same day. The fact that one pair did it while playing in an ODI and the other in a T20I just made the lesson that much more poignant, while the fact that the younger brother was making a comeback in both the formats must have made that lesson a bit confusing for ODI cricket.
Adelaide saw the more famous left-handed Mike Hussey join his right-handed younger brother, Dave, in a run chase of 245 @ 4.9 runs per over in an ODI, albeit the required rate was up at 5.65 by the time their partnership could begin. Some 5000 miles away and about 5 hours later, the better known south-paw kid brother, Irfan, punched gloves with his righty older brother Yusuf in another inflated run-chase, but this one was in a T20I in Colombo.
The former ended with a bludgeoning six over long on from the blade of Mike off Kyle Mill's release. The latter also ended with a flat pull over deep midwicket for six from Irfan's willow off Lasith Malinga's slingshot.
My good friend, Sriram Veera, who covered this match for Cricinfo, has this to say about some of the specifics of the Pathans' exploits:
It wasn't all just brute force, however. Yusuf showed that behind that
expressionless exterior, there was a smart brain clicking. After that
expensive over from Bandara, Dilshan didn't turn back to spin, and
Yusuf coolly picked singles to hand the strike over to his younger
brother. Responding to the pressure admirably, Irfan unfurled some gems
of his own against Dilhara Fernando and Lasith Malinga. Irfan is a
better player of seam bowling and Yusuf can murder spin. It was a
That tango reminds me that the Husseys share a similar reputation as well, with the younger one preferring to face pace and the older one taking to skin spin. Their relative strike-rates are also not lost on this avid cricket blogger, "jrod" on cricketwithballs.com:
Anyone who has seen [David] Hussey play at domestic level, and even when he started for Australia, will know this isn’t his way.
He doesn’t scratch around like his brother, he usually hits his way
through an innings, it’s not unusual for him to not score for ten balls
for Victoria, and then hit two sixes.
And once he gets started, he usually only goes out from over attacking.
David Hussey plays spin like an angry seal clubber.
The Pathan prodigies further enhanced their team's claim of being the #1 T20I team in the world and the Hussey hunks reiterated that their own team's hitherto #1 ranking in ODIs was not without reason.
For a brief moment, though, they all came together, along with some even better known brothers, in the wonderful mind - and later tongue - of Sunny Gavaskar as he quipped during his commentary gig at the aforementioned T20I:
"The Pathan brothers need to do to the Sri Lankan bowlers what the Husseys just did to the Kiwis ... and the Lehman Brothers did to the world!"
Another 10,000 miles away, Test Cricket is raising a glass of pineapple rum to that
quote going "Yeah!! tell me about it ... my brothers have been doing
the same to me for a while now ..."
The Pathans and Husseys will also come together in a slightly different way in India in the 2009 edition of the IPL. This time, though, they will pretty much divide and rule: Irfan (North), David (East), Mike (South), and Yusuf (West).
Oh! brother, where art thou!
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