December 2010 - Posts
The sight of Jacques Kallis jumping in the air like a startled black buck and tamely fending off a snorter will forever be etched in one's mind and will be THE memory of the Durban Test. India smelled victory there and then and stuck to their task admirably from there on. Here was the man who had been a thorn in India's side in many such run chases and he received a special delivery. What it also showed was lively pitches couldn't be handled by the Saffers as well. Though Graeme Smith in the press conference pointed out that Indian batters hadn't performed too well themselves, the point is they still managed to score more runs than his own team's batters. And thats what matters.
The Indian top order almost had lost them the match which the bowlers had set up on day 2 and the manner of thier dismissals in the 2nd innings was disappointing to say the least. Maybe it was a part of the plan to give a couple of wickets to Tsotsobe to make the SA selectors retain him in the 3rd Test but it was a pretty dangerous one. It was as usual left to VVS and the tail to repair the damage and take India to a respectable total. VVS was outstanding with his bat and also with the way he farmed strike. One has always been critical about his penchant to take easy singles off the first ball of the over and leave the tail exposed. But in Durban he resisted the temptation and that makes the knock even more special.
This team has one thing that it's predecessors lacked and that too in abundance. It has CHARACTER. One wasn't joining the queue in blasting this team after the first Test's debacle because one believed in this team. All the sceptics who bemoan the #1 rank for this team may have some foundation in their belief in terms of this team not being feared by opponents. But this team is surely respected. And it has earned that grudging respect from proud opponents. Losing 13 out of 14 tosses and still win matches is not luck. It is self belief in its ability to come back from seemingly hopeless positions. And that marks out this team.
The series is not done yet and India desperately needs to win the next one. MSD is aware of it and his composure in moments of pain or elation has been exemplary. The fierce desire to win a series abroad has been absent in earlier Indian teams and a victory here or there would suffice for most Indian fans as well. But the bar has been set higher now and supporters want series victories now.
'The Greener the better' was MSD's rejoinder when asked about his preference for juicy wickets. Never in this history of Indian cricket would a captain make such a statement and even if he did it would be more a bluff than confidence.
India did get the rub of the green with a couple of decisions and the BCCI's insistence on not using the UDRS seems to be justified this time. There are 3 types of opinions on UDRS. There are guys like Smith who insists on using one. Then there are guys like MSD who think that it's not fool proof and hence shouldn't be used. And then there are guys like Ponting who wants it to be used only when he has been told that the decision will go only in his favour. But one is rubbing Ponting down in the dirt when he is already down. Only Pricky could do so and one isn't Pricky so one will stop here.
He walked to the middle of the pitch with trepidation. His heartbeat was competing with Dale Steyn’s speed, his mind felt numb like Harbhajan’s and his walk to the middle was as slow as Unadakat’s ball. He had let his team down on too many occasions and he was wondering if it would be a repetition. The team had stood up for him frequently and even helped him win but character saves matches for you but doesn’t win them most of the times.
He was wondering what he was doing wrongly. He practiced religiously. He had taken tips from his coach. But the coach could not be there on the pitch to help him. He had to do it by himself. His form at the practice sessions was outstanding. But whenever he went to the middle his form deserted him like Suresh Raina’s. His feet would get laden, his mind frozen and he could only hope. Hope never crystallized into success and back he went with his head in his hands unable to face his team mates’ accusatory glances.
He was a calm man (as calm as one can get in today’s maddeningly fast world) and did not get flustered easily but of late his frayed nerves were beginning to show. His opponents laughed on his face pointing that he was the difference between a loss and a draw many times. It was much worse than being given a send off by Peter Siddle, who any way was mentally challenged or reading the Oz news reports after the Perth Test. He could even listen to Mark Nicholas at his peak but these taunts were difficult to handle. The problem was that they hit the bull’s eye.
All that he had to do was take a call. And no! It wasn’t about picking up his mobile phone which is banned in most dressing rooms. Mobiles were banned even in the Pakistan team’s dressing room but their players communicate with their bookies agents with drums (just like Phantom). He was told by his manager that drums would soon be disallowed in all dressing rooms.
He put all these thoughts aside and strode to the pitch. The match referee was about to begin when he said in a loud and clear voice, “Show me the money”. He was shown the coin which he thoroughly checked and gave back. The commentators exclaimed “And here we have the toss and Dhoni calls heads. And he loses once again!”
I played Badminton. Competitive one at that. I understood what was the difference between me and the national level players. It was a stretch. Even the state level players were far better than me. And I admired them. The kind of shuttle control and the stamina that those players possessed was beyond me.They played as if they were in a trance. The zone that mortals only hear about and never experienceThey were invincible in their minds.
Badminton is like Chess. You play with the opponent's mind and not only with his/her physical ability. Saina plays with the mind and not just the body. She will do the impossible because she believes that she can.
I saw a national championship being played on my home ground and the standard of play was some thing I couldn't imagine. It was too fast and too furious. To cover a court that looks very tiny on a TV, to defend the smashes and the drops and the half smashes tired me out even thinking about. I can understand how difficult it is to train, to do some 200 crunches,run some 8 km, do some sprints; not eat ice cream. Those were the BASICS for me.
And then we talk about international sports. The quality of the players whom we talk about. We want playerts to win. Saina Nehwal did all that hard work and more. I already wrote about her talking about her sacrifices.She deserves MORE.
Saina Nehwal has done far better then what her namesake did.Saina Nehwal became the #1 in the World. She is our kid. And it's Saina not Sania!!
There used to be a pretty funny Maharashtra Rajya Lottery ad in the bygone DD monopoly era. The announcer on the stage would take out a chit and say, “Number 7!!!!” A chap from the audience would stand up and shout with unadulterated joy, “Arre mein jeet gaya! “ (Hooray, I won). One gets visions of MSD’s dad shouting something similar on 7th July 1981 when the news was delivered to him along with baby MSD.
The reason for such visions is this news article that appeared in DNA today. One has already written about the Number 7 in some earlier piece and also written about the CSK owners’ superstitious ways. But the report is an eye opener about MSD’s superstitions and point to visions of joint horoscope reading sessions by N Srinivasan and MSD. MSD’s supposed fascination with #7 actually makes NC look at some happenings in Indian cricket under his captaincy in a mew light.
- MSD had started calling ‘Seven’ during all tosses. Now we know why we ended up losing some 11 consecutive ones. Gary Kirsten finally somehow managed to convince him to narrow his choices down to heads or tails.
- Skeptics have always raised questions about the basis of his decision to come to bat in ODIs and T20s at #3 or #4 many times and accuse him of coming in to bat higher up the order in easier batting circumstances. That is all rot. MSD’s decision to bat at a position depends on making the sum of the last 4 innings average of his batting positions divisible by 7.
- The reason he has been successful as a Test captain is because the total budgeted time in one full day of a Test is 7 hours. In almost all Tests he bats at #7. In ODIs the total fixed time of the two innings works out to 7 hours (excluding the breaks). In T20s he was initially successful in the inaugural ICC World T20 despite the total match time not being 7 hours was because that was the year 2007. We have all seen the visible decline in his fortunes in India’s T20 performances after that.
- For doubters who talk of his success with CSK in T20s in 2010, NC has already outlined the reason here much earlier.
- Now we know the reason whenever things are not going well for the Indian bowlers in a Test and they are getting hammered why MSD turns to a 7-2 field.
- Ravindra Jadeja has a total of 14 letters in his name which is divisible by 7. No need to further elaborate
This piece is not going to carry 7 points as NC doesn’t believe in that number. We believe in the number 6 and a piece with 6 points, we think, gets us the maximum hits because well 6 is the maximum in cricket.
Most people tend to overlook the real heroes and the differentiating factors behind sporting successes. It is mostly the players who get the adulation or the flak depending on the final outcome. These unsung heroes, never the receivers of glowing public tributes and cheers, for long, have lived in the shadows. We at Not Cricket will have none of it. ‘Give credit where it’s due’ is our motto and we shall unflinchingly stand by it. The famous Australian capitulation at the Adelaide Oval where the rain dancers managed to compete with and outshine the CWG organizers to get the act together after the horses had bolted has to be attributed to the men behind the scenes. What better man to start than our own Guru Greg.
Greg Chappell can’t be the man behind the scenes any longer and has to step forward just as Niira Radia had to. Her rise to prominence from a position of complete anonymity should act as a lesson for all of us, especially Guru Greg.
Guru was the man behind one of the golden periods of Indian cricket which culminated in taking a creditable first round exit from the World Cup in the Windies. The irate fans didn’t realize that Guru wanted to plan for the next World Cup and hence needed ample time to bring his long term vision to fruition. Guru was always ahead of his times. He predicted the downfall of Sachin Tendulkar far before any one else had done with the exception of the Oracle of Unley, who we shall unveil later. When he finally left the coaching job, he still wasn’t done with India.
Guru then joined the RCA’s Centre of Excellence where he went talent hunting. In his case he literally wanted to hunt down talented players to their doom. He had great experience with the likes of Irfan Pathan starring prominently on his CV. But his loyalty to his country took him back to Australia where he got down to the serious business of developing young Australian talent.
Many Indian fans believed that Greg was a part of bigger Cricket Australia conspiracy to weaken and destroy Indian cricket. The senior team was the first target as the coach and then a systematic undermining of upcoming talent would settle the issue once and for all. The Cricket Australia posting was the prize for doing that job wonderfully well. Boy, have they been proved wrong or what?
As the head of the CA Centre of Excellence his protégés include Usman Khwaja, Jason Kreja, Moises Henriques, Steven Smith to name a few. They are good if not better replacements for the likes of Hayden, Mc Grath and Warne. This brilliant pipe line of overflowing talent is Guru’s gift to Australian Cricket.
At present the Guru is the head of the Australian selection committee and his ascent to this post has immediately yielded the desired results.
The Oracle of Unley, who also happens to be Guru’s elder brother has been another critical though indirect factor in the Oz success story. His earlier statement on SRT looking in the mirror come second in the all time great list of famous one liners; narrowly pipped at the post by ‘to be or not to be.’ He later proclaimed that Ricky Ponting was a better captain than Steve Waugh in the aftermath of the Ashes 2009 debacle. His rationale was that Ricky did a far better job with limited resources. His vote of confidence boosted Ponting’s claim to continue leading the team and he has surely managed to give a good account of himself over the past 12 months.
There are still 3 Tests left in the series and one would never write off Australia. Not Cricket actually was quite bullish on the Australian team’s chances at the Ashes but the manner of their collapse suggests deeper issues at hand. The lack of steel shown by the team in recent times may be attributed to all that mining activity carried out in their country. The economy has never been stronger thanks to higher commodity prices but their cricket seems to be caught in the same mines.
Hat Tip to sfx for the title.