Thursday, April 06, 2006

Heat and hype

As usual with these one-day internationals, I come with tidings of two games. In the first, England lost two early wickets and then started to run India ragged through the Pietersen/Collingwood (England's two best one-day cricketers?) combo. And then in the second, India cantered to a win, but not before their two tyros, Raina and Singh, both lost their wickets in the same over. England have simply not been able to pick themselves up off the mat, and the intense heat of the South looks like it has sapped them mentally and physically. And frankly, I'm amazed that cricket is being played in the kinds of conditions we witnessed yesterday. It wasn't any surprise that the Indians were suffering as well. I lived in Delhi for fifteen years, and our summers were scorchers, brutal absolutely, with temperatures zooming to the 47C mark. But they were dry heat - not the stifling humidity that is the hallmark of southern summers (New York's summers are pretty humid, the kind in which you "swim to your car" but they aren't as bad as those most of the time). And even in that heat, very little cricket was played in Delhi in the summer months. When cricket was played in months like April (which I always will associate with final exams and summer's brutal onset), we did so early in the mornings, running out to the park to get in a game before 8AM, and then after 7PM in the evenings. The question of playing during the day did not arise. I remember being amazed by Ranji Finals being played in the month of April. Under these circumstances, there was very little chance that England's players would have the legs to build long innings or have the energy for a high-level performance in the field. It didn't help that they were dealing with an Indian unit that has now won 15 matches in a row.

Which in turn brings me to the hoopla that is now being generated aplenty by Indian journalists about this side. Please folks, give it a rest. India beat Sri Lanka 6-1 at home; they drew 2-2 with South Africa at home; they beat Pakistan 4-1 away, and they now lead England 4-0. The nature of the pitches has not changed much between India and Pakistan, and before anyone starts to get too worked up about these results (in the interest of avoiding much teeth-gnashing down the line), please wait till we have seen the Indian team play in a variety of conditions. The new youngsters are admittedly, wonderfully promising, but the validity of some of the extravagant claims put forward for them will only be determined when that has happened.

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