This blog attempts to function as a confluence of thoughts from the blogosphere on any matters pertaining to international cricket.
The limited overs exhibition has been wrapped up. The boys are busy
discarding their crayon colored clothing and will be graduating to men
in whites. These days, except Australia, almost every other team seems
to be wearing the whitest of whites. But enough of the sartorials and
on to the gladiatorials!
India has had a mixed bag on this tour of Hobbitland leading to a
"neither her nor there" kind of feeling. But now the Tests are
Dhoni's forces have already been able to erase his predessor's dark
history in New Zealand in the limited overs versions of the sport. Can
they do it in the more pristine version? While reports such as this one
suggest an answer to that, Vettori would most certainly want to answer
that question. And if history is any indicator at all, then his current
team has all the more ammunition that his own predecessors to answer it
in the most affirmatively negative. While the Indian team only has
marginally more special talent in its ranks compared to the 2-0
embarrassment of 2-0-0-2, the New Zealand team is exploding with a lot
of fresh and striking talent in almost all departments of cricketing
The oldies-but-goldies of current Indian cricket - some would say
"ever" - must be unpacking their coffins in Hamilton to try and
resurrect some pride this time around. It is easy to get carried away
by the seemingly unlimited success of the Indians in the limited
versions since that famous bowl off in South Africa, amost two years
ago. But one might also remember that the main difference seems to be
in the age and the attitude of the team, something that will largely
remain unchanged in the Test side, except that of the captain, who
himself is always the first to admit that his qualities matter very
little in translating to sweeping vicissitudes for the team.
DreamCricket's own columnist, Suresh Menon, notes
the seemingly precipitous downfall in the last ODI as a possible shock
test before the real Tests. But when most of the personell will be
shuffled, that shock might not be conducted to the required
New Zealand has a palpable increase in talent and balance among its
ranks which is accompanied by an equal, if not greater, decrese in
experience. The specialist Test opener, Tim Mcintosh. The most easy-on-the-eyes batting talent to appear on the international circuit since Rohit Sharma, Martin Guptill
who is most likely to get a wink from his selectors' eyes and an
opportunity to get his own eye in from the top. Daniel Flynn, who has
already tasted a bit of success in Tests. He had said after his maiden
Test against the West Indies:
"I thought I was going to kill two birds with one stone there
today but obviously not," he said. "Getting runs on the board is what
counts so to get through to 95. Obviously I'm disappointed not to kick
on and get that hundred, but to make a contribution like that I'm very
The fearless rookie Ryder. Pugnacious middle orderlies in Taylor,
Elliott, and Oram. Then you have the poucher-***-pouncer McCullum. The
spinning skipper Vettori. The prodigious Tim Southee. The deck-hitting
O'Brien and Martin. The swinging Mills and Franklin. The if-needed
Jeetan Patel. The if-selected Brent Arnel.
Tim McIntosh's successful predecessor points to rankings and recent
statistics to make his point about the bowling reserves of New Zealand:
The most effective seam bower in Test cricket for New Zealand of late has been Iain O'Brien, and his ranking, 27, leads you to conclude that penetration is not the strong point of the New Zealand Test team right now.
But then if one only goes by history then one should not be
surprised if the Test series sees no wins for India yet again. Mahi
refuses to ackowledge the burden of history:
"I am not bothered about whether we have won here or
not. I am just bothered about the things we need to do over here as a
team. We are not thinking about what happened in the past. I am not
great when it comes to stats, so that really helps."
Platitude or attitude? The results of the forthcoming Tests can tell.
The amount of cricket on grass would make it seem as though some good old-fashioned Test control is needed. In just the past three days, Gayle force Windies couldn't move England nor themselves but somehow saw West Indies win the Wisden Trophy in a long time. Bravo! The pitch was over-Cooked and not even a Baker in the West Indian attack could fix that. Broadly speaking, though, the English have Owais had a problem closing the deal on the Islands. All they needed to prepare was some good old fashioned Hindsight to realize that even before coming on this tour. The English batting Flowers as expected, but there is only one Swann in all of this for the English bowling department.
Meanwhile, Australia's Johnson gets hard on the South Africans. Steyn consistent has been a problem for the Proteas who Neil yet again in front of their formidable foes. They retain their status as only the Prince of Test cricket. Surely a lot is Wayne on the minds of their selectors, what with the whack-a-mole captaincy updates from them over the past couple of days. Latest is that it will be the Jacques of all cricketing trades.
In the ODI scene, Sehwags the dog which is actually a Kiwi. New Zealand would like their Broom to not just sweep the boundary
but to also get some dirt on the Indian bowling, not unlike their easy
Ryder who is not willing to Grant any corner to them. For the New
Zealand bowlers, though, it might just be a matter O' Brien over
batter, but with Sachin form batsmen who've Gautam by their balls, it
remains to be seen who Singhs to whose tunes in days to come.
Even as typing on this post began, Henry and Benjamin are possibly warming up to walk into the Kingsmead to face their foes once more. This time, the bar has been set higher by Ricky Ponting and his wards for the last day, after predictably shunning a follow-on opportunity.
The Australians' collective egos had been hurt over the past year or so. But the 'legos' of a successful unit seem to be building up yet again. Ricky Ponting had suddenly seemed a lot more relaxed in that last Sydney Test and it has translated into three successive victories for his team against their victors from the two preceding encounters. What's more his own batting has also blossomed in the process. This had been telegraphed by ... well, The Telegraph ... back in Jan 09:
Ponting says bring it on. "It's a big career challenge to turn this round. It is not going to happen overnight either. But I was really proud of the way the guys performed against South Africa even though we went down 2-1 in the Tests. The public is so used to seeing us win. It must seem all doom and gloom. But there have been enough positives for me to remain upbeat about what we are doing and where we are going."
Contrary to this, the South African leader has not been allowed to relax at all since that match. Not even a pinky, in fact not ANY pinky, was spared. In the case of the South Africans their bodies have been hurt and their team doesn't seem to function like one body. In that same period, Graeme Smith's batting has suffered, partly due to black and blue pinkies.
The contrast could not be any starker than the opening bowling and batting departments of the two teams either. Australia has found a brand new opener who followed a seemingly disastrous duck on debut with centuries in both innings of the latest Test. South Africa's veteran now-good-now-not-not-now-not-good opener Neil McKenzie is facing some demons again in what is already a comeback from a similar stretch he went through a few years ago. Even according to his own captain he will find it hard-pressed to come back into the side:
"It is disappointing for Neil," Smith said. "It is going to be difficult for him to come back at this stage of his career and reclaim his position.
Imran Khan will have to take on the mantle and try and do a Hughes in the last Test of the series. Morne will give way to a rare lefty quick for Soutn Africa in the form of Wayne Parnell. Another not-so-common feature of his when it comes to the South African cricket team is that he is still a teenager.
While these captains navigate the changing tides, there is still only one team that is still riding the waves of success atop everyone else. In fact, South Africa have a new skipper for their next conquest, Ashwell Prince.
By the time typing on this post has ended, all the hyping has been deflated and post-end celebrations have begun in the Australian dressing room.
The barrage of verbal bullets in response to the metallic type continues across the world.
The black-arm-banded cricketers are trying to move on in the Southern Hemisphere. The ever more colorful and flighted peacocks take on the currently black-capped and flightless kiwis in the ODIs. But as cricketers and fans know only too well, it is not flight alone that wins cricket matches ... something the New Zealand captain seems to know as well in this format. How else would one explain his rarely flighted deliveries, especially in the limited overs versions. Meanwhile, near the Cape of Good Hope, Australians are hoping for good things and acting accordingly.
But in all of this, the din from a few otherwise loud happenings from the immediately preceding previous weeks has been drowned.
Two weeks between Feb 21 and March 04,
three (or four if you count ARGHHHH!) pitches,
total match scores of: 1553, 1628, and 716 (in just 2 days in the now infamous Test),
total match wickets of: 18, 17, 11 ('that' test again),
number of double centuries: 4,
number of triple centuries: 1,
total declarations: 4
Tom Pilcher, on Reuter's blog-post, digs up a few more statistical gems , notably:
"A list of highest test innings above 600 includes five totals all scored in the last couple of weeks, and two of those make the top 10."
There is an easy (land)scape-goat: "The pitch must have been as flat as a dead man's EKG." But there might be more to this that meets the eye. Could it be, and this might well be an outrageous suggestion, but could it be that this has something to do with the actual players and their skills!! There, it has been said! As our very own Suresh Menon observers in his latest column on DreamCricket.com, batting skills and peripherals seem to have come a long way in the last decade or so:
"Better equipment, greater fitness, and the trained ability to place the ball between orthodox fielding positions has made the modern batsman fully confident of scoring at a galloping pace."
It will not be a big surprise either that bowler's averages have inflated by 10% in just the past 5 years compared to what they were in the previous two decades. But is that an indication of bowler's skills dropping? Or is it more of an indication of the batsmen becoming more adept in their craft? Or is it both? While this quandary conjures up the following image,
John, in commenting about Tom's blog referred to above, thinks that the poultry farmer and the egg-distributor are in bed:
"Under Steve Waugh, Australia stepped up the tempo of test cricket to such an extent that matches began finishing regularly in four days. This, of course, didn’t please the television companies and by coincidence or not pitches have become increasingly more bland. For example there hasn’t been a result at Lord’s since 2005."
He is most certainly not alone in this view-point as Dean Wilson joins him on The Mirror:
The wickets are being produced so that Test matches last five days, and the money that is generated from as many days of Test cricket as possible keeps flooding in. Never mind that the actual product is a bore.
Vic Marks questions the science, or the very existence thereof, in the making of cricket pitches:
In an age when everything can be scientifically annotated and analysed it is amazing how neglected the art of pitch-making remains.
But does it not finally all come down to pure skill? Most in the blogosphere (and elsewhere) would readily agree that cricket is foremost a battle between bat and ball. If that is truly so, what does it matter if that ball is bounced on moon or that bat can launch things into orbit?
Who drives the balance between bat and ball ... their wielders or their "fielders"? Is the pitch really that big of a deal or is it the pitcher?
Most of the debates over the past two weeks have been over the quality of both the pitches on view in the two-Test series. As a few armed men would have it, it was not the pitches alone that ended up being dead in Pakistan. Hafsa, on "The Dawn Blog" seems to be arriving at a conclusion along similar lines, just a couple of hours after the attacks on the cricket convoy from hotel to stadium was reported:
This deadly attack simply means no international team will be willing to come and play any sport in Pakistan.
On wellpitched.com , "Sledgehammer" went one step further or, more appropriately, one foot deeper, and wrote what could be one of the first obituaries for the sport iitself in Pakistan:
I think the title says it all. Today's disgusting and shameful attacks
have sealed the deal. There is no reason for any foreign team to tour
Dominic Cork, who was on the commentary team there, had this immediate reaction:
"I won't be coming back here while I'm still
living. I don't think international teams should come back to this
country, whether it's 10 or 20 years."
The news may sound shocking and seem to vindicate most teams' stance of not even remotely taking a stance on any pitch in Pakistan. But it may well have been the "satisfactory levels of security" repeatedly promised by the PCB and accepted by the Sri Lankan Sports Minister just ten days ago, that seems to have left the Sri Lankan players alive.
But Sanjeev Miglani from Reuter's "FactBox" reminds one and all about the pre-existing security concerns for cricket to be taking place in Pakistan even before this :
- Sri Lanka's cricket team were touring Pakistan after
India pulled out in the wake of the Mumbai attacks
- Until the Sri Lankan series Pakistan had gone without
test cricket for more then a year and was keen to have
international cricket at home.
- Australia postponed a test tour in April 2008 and the
International Cricket Council also put off the Champions Trophy
after South Africa raised security concerns about playing in
- In 2002, a bomb exploded in Karachi while the New Zealand
cricket team were touring, killing 13 people including 11
French navy experts.
- The ICC last month
asked the organisers to plan alternate venues due to security concerns.
Two other, much-publicised, assumptions seem to have also been gunned down by this incident. The first of these having been initiated by Imran Khan
in the aftermath of the myriad cancellations of international cricketing events in Pakistan in 2008:
There is no problem about the security of cricketers in Pakistan.
his logic being
terrorists will never target cricketers knowing that they will then
lose the battle of hearts and minds of the people. Cricketers are safe
The second of those assumptions was that Sri Lanka being one of those seemingly rare friendly nations, especially one that chose to prove this friendship by defying what had almost become as commonplace a tenet in cricket as "bowling within oneself" or the more annoying "it ain't over until the last ball is bowled", was immune to the ire of any lurking attackers.
As far as assumptions go, chances are Samaraweera would have assumed that his double double would not be followed by so much trouble. Chances also are that he would gladly give up those four tons of runs for never having to face the predicament of him ending up on the wrong side of four kilograms of explosives. But chance is a funny thing and many know it better than an international cricketer, those many being the rest of the citizens of the subcontinent, because and brace yourself ... "after all, cricket imitates life itself".
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!
India won easily. And they won the match by winning each session played over the five days. Andy Bull thinks that we now have four teams who can beat each other on a regular basis: Australia, India, South Africa and Sri Lanka. Bull is thinking of a watershed moment in India:
In the longer term I wonder if this series won't come to represent a
watershed in Indian cricket. While so much attention is focused on the
ageing geniuses in their middle order it is easy to overlook the
overwhelming amount of young talent that has come into the squad in
recent years. Having struggled for so many years to find quick bowlers,
the Indian selectors now seem to be able to whistle up new candidates
at will: RP Singh, Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar, Pankaj Singh, Irfan
Pathan, all of whom are aged 23 or under. In the leg-spinner Piyush
Chawla and the batsman Virat Kohli, India have two 19-year-olds who
have already proven themselves in international cricket.
impressive still is the record of India's Under-19 team, which, almost
unnoticed, have accrued a phenomenal string of results in recent years.
Since 2003, in fact, India's Under-19s have won 57 out of 64 one-day
matches and lost just one Test in 15.
The talents (if not necessarily Test techniques) of that generation are only going to be enhanced by the Indian Premier League,
where they will play under enormous pressure alongside the finest
players in world cricket. With India at the centre of cricket off the
field, it may only be a matter of time before the wealth of resources
and money begins to have a real influence on the success of the team on
The argument about the usefulness of the IPL is very interesting. And rather unconvincing.
Ponting is apparently in some difficulty with his own fast bowler, still the best fast bowler in the world by some distance. He says it's because of a worry about over-rates. Here's Jagadish on the Aussie over-rate problem:
One of the indicators that Australia were in trouble with the over rate yesterday was when Hussey bowled 8 overs, having bowled only 11 overs in his previous 27 tests. In fact, a few tests ago at Perth,
Ponting was forced to bowl Clarke and Symonds in tandem to do something
about the over rate during India's second innings. As a result, India
went from 182/6 after 45 overs (a lead of 300) when Symonds &
Clarke started bowling in tandem to 234/6 after 61 overs (a lead of
350+). It was to prove crucial in the context of the match. Despite the
attempts to speed things up, there was a monetary penalty imposed.
Zaheer Khan's role on the last day with the ball was very important. Can he perform without
all that fine-inducing adrenaline
And, finally, Ijaz Butt, the PCB's new chairman, probably needs to take some media lessons or something. He's been full of fascinating inside information, including a possible merger between the ICL and the IPL?!
What a difference a week makes. In the first Test, Australia looked in charge most of the time, in the second they look like they've lost their way and more. Of the Indian batsmen, only Dravid and Laxman have yet to cash in against a distinctly poor bowling line-up. (Troy Cooley must be working over-time behind the scenes.) Amongst the Indian bowlers, only Zaheer hasn't bowled to his abilities. Aside from Hussey, it looks like none of the Aussie batsmen have looked at ease.
duckingbeamers says he may come to regret these words on Aussie confidence:
But, as I said in the lower post, this Australia is not the one it used to be. Sheer
confidence might just not be enough any more. To sweep Harbhajan after
facing only 2 balls? For Katich to stand back and swipe, with just 10
minutes to go to tea? And what on earth was Hussey thinking, pulling on
a pitch like this?
The most salient moment for me, though, came when Sharma bowled
Ponting. It wasn’t the delivery itself — though that was something
special — but it was the look of recognition on Ponting’s face. He just
stood there, raised his bat in humble defeat, and then looked back to
see the off-stump lying flat on the ground. I can’t tell you how good
this feels: it’s like a new order arranging itself in the cricket
world; a power that realizes that it may just have met its match.
Ponting watched the ball all the way through; unlike the others, he was
as careful as careful is — and yet, he was tumbled over.
Miss Fields is certainly in a bit of a worry:
Matthew Hayden, time to go.
Ricky Ponting... you're next.
I don't like having to bestow this cruelty upon my boys but we need to think of the bigger picture here.
1. Australia + cricket ≠ losing.
2. The Ashes.
Amit Mishra has yet to strike hard in the second innings, but Soulberry has a mature and measured take on the inevitable selection discussion for the next test:
And why carry Kumble? Or why push him into retirement on the basis of
one performance? Why not have a valid system in place which is slightly
more objective and consistent than the subjective? Either you have
found a perfect replacement or you haven't yet. If you have there
should be no questions about it...no accomodation. If you haven't, then
there it is needless to stoke contriversy by calling for accomodation!
Amit Mishra was hired as a replacement and must accept it that his time
may come when the occupant retires. Or, one should have a protocol
where there is a clean retirement plan for our stalwarts which is
objective and well understood and is not manipulated at whim.
Finally, there's no one at the Mohali ground itself. Here's IS Bindra's story about TV and ratings:
However, he insisted that it did not mean people were no longer
interested in Tests. “The IPL has generated more interest among the
people towards the game. Even the TRP ratings for the current Test
match are high which shows more people are watching the game on TV.
People were shifting their priority towards F1 and other sports, but
IPL has stopped that,” he said.
Now averaging 70, Hussey has got to be a candidate for the best batsman in the world. Here's his take on batting in India:
The 33-year-old was the first to admit that conditions in India suit his patient style of batting.
is a great place to bat and it probably suits my style to be patient. I
guess we played my style of play, the patient game of Test cricket. You
get great rewards for your shots here because the outfields are so fast
here. You just have to place the ball and you get great rewards," he
said in Bangalore on Friday.
is always good to rank them; they are all pretty special, no matter
where it is. It is particularly special to get a Test match hundred in
India which is arguably the toughest place for an Australian. So
getting a hundred and helping to put your team in a good position is
very rewarding," the left-hander added.
Nestaquin puts it this way:
While every other Australian batsman struggled, in varying degrees,
with the slow nature of the pitch on the second day, the West
Australian seemed to have all the time in the world to place his shots
to perfection. While he did score circumspectly, facing 276 deliveries,
his judgement of a run and swiftness between the wickets meant that no
Indian bowler could tie him down for any length of time.
Without Hussey’s contribution Australia would be struggling in this
Test but instead find themselves in a position that will be difficult
to lose from even though the Indian openers ended the day in fine
Of course, one shouldn't forget Zaheer's great work with the ball. Unfortunately, the contrast between him and Ishant and the spinners was all the greater on day 2.
Ottayan says that the ICL is in good shape as they start their second season. And, finally, the series isn't being shown on Doordharshan, because the Tests are not of high public interest.
Ganguly's out. First, a collection of links and a tribute to Ganguly from Soulberry:
Against the very team which defined and underlined your captaincy and
strong character, may you score all the runs you wish to and for us to
cherish. May you, against the very team you taught the world to look
upon as nothing more than equals, eye to eye, end your career in
Some additional links: Samir Chopra on what Ganguly meant as captain of India; and Straight Point on his significance to Bengali cricket.
Ricky Ponting has helpfully (correctly, in my opinion) pointed out that a prolonged farewell will be distracting to his teammates:
retirement) will certainly create distractions. And we have experienced it when
Steve Waugh, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist retired," Ponting
said ahead of the first Test in Bangalore on Thursday.
takes pressure off Sourav but puts pressure on some other and the Indian players
will certainly be facing that for the next four weeks. I'm sure the crowd in
India will be eager to come out and see Sourav play his last Tests. And that
will add to the overall spectacle of the series," said Ponting.
Here's Kartikeya's take on Ganguly and distraction:
announcement of his departure has been characteristically ham handed.
There was no reason to announce this right now. It seems to have come
about as an afterthought, what with the "One last thing lads" preamble.
It was an important announcement. Ganguly has had an fine career and
the announcement should have been made properly and formally, not as a
"oh and by the way" appendage. From the point of view of the India -
Australia series, it could not have come at the worse time, two days
before the series begins, virtually tying the selectors hands for the
rest of the series.
proper way for Ganguly to have announced his retirement, one worthy of
a player of his stature, would have been to announce it on the eve of
the Nagpur Test match, with the Chairman of Selectors by his side in a
full fledged press conference. That would have been the serious, well
thought out way of doing it. Ganguly leaves himself open to criticism
that he made this adhoc announcement to avoid being dropped in case he
doesn't perform in the first two Tests.
Meanwhile, here's Q's preview of the 20-20 final between the Karachi Dolphins and the Sialkot Stallions. And Ottayan on the on-again off-again Stanford millionaires game.
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