Thursday, July 27, 2006

Tests and Johnno

Its been close on two weeks since I've blogged, and it took two test matches to wake me from my "dogmatic slumbers". I'd loved to have seen the two first days on display today: England vs. Pakistan and Sri Lanka vs. South Africa. I find it interesting how when English pitches are dodgy, they are described as providing a healthy contest, while the same generous description somehow never gets applied to Indian pitches, which aid spin, and which almost invariably are described as "dustbowls", "minefields" and other things not conducive to the Good Life[tm]. But seriously, the sight of Harmison at full blast, backed up by a Sikh left-arm orthodox spinner, blowing away Pakistan on the first day would have been quite a visual treat. And Murali taking wickets is always a good one for the spectators (can those eyes burn any brighter).

Meanwhile, faithful readers, welcome John Sutton to Eye on Cricket. John is a philosopher and cricketer (and playwright, and damn good friend). Multi-dimensional indeed. He'll definitely blog on the Ashes (somehow, miraculously, he's scored tickets for three of the test matches), and I'm hoping he also gets time off from his many, many duties to be a regular player on this turf. Welcome Johnno!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Can't think about cricket

I've been stunned by the Mumbai blasts, and can't really think coherently about cricket right now. With apologies, I'll take off till Friday. Till then, many, many, moments of silence for the innocent dead.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Light stuff, heavy stuff

This must be the longest post-surgery, recuperative vacation that any Indian cricketer has ever taken in England. Tendulkar has played for Lashings, bagged Center Court seats for Wimbledon, and now, played in a charity match at the Oval. Runs have flowed, and the great man is apparently easing himself back into things. I wonder what Tendulkar made of Wimbledon. Indians traditionally worship all things Wimbledon, and I wonder if at some point, he will be asked about his time in the VIP box, and whether his reactions will be along the lines of "A childhood dream come true". Meanwhile, on to serious cricket, as Pakistan gear up (sort of, what with all these injuries making them look like they want to keep up with England) for their test series. One injury they shouldn't worry too much about is Sami's. The man has never impressed me (as his figures will confirm). But losing Asif and Rana is a double blow, and England will breathe a little easier.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

No tests for a while

A long period of test-cricket-deprivation begins now (well, at least for the Indian team: India will not play tests again till they tour South Africa in the Dec/Jan time-frame. Given that Indian batting lineups still have to come to terms with the conditions in that country, it'll be an interesting one. And then England in England, and Australia in Australia. A tougher trifecta of test tours is hard to imagine, but if the Indian team emerges from these series with some serious gains by way of a matured bowling attack, and a toughened batting line-up, it'll all have been worth it. Selection headaches await; more false hopes based on one-day internnational success await too. Hopefully, the selectors will concentrate on the tests, and remember the lessons learned from this series, which while getting rid of the overseas win bugbear has served to remind us of the many frailties that remain.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Rot at the top

And here is a sad little note about a man who, despite having done enough in his career to be ranked as an all-time great, did nothing to show that he has matured. Brian Lara's comments, and behavior, throughout the series veered from the snide to the downright childish. Tony Cozier rightly takes him to task in this article. Lara's post-match comments were indeed wierd and painful to watch, and were a poignant reminder of how far West Indies cricket has fallen. West Indian fans must realize that they have a batting attack with plenty of potential (Gayle, Ganga, Sarwan, Lara, Chanderpaul); a genuine world-class allrounder in the making (Bravo); and the makings of a world-class fast bowling attack in Taylor and Edwards. Now, if only they could get a decent captain and some good pitches at home.

Champagne moments, sobering realities

Most of what could have been said in the aftermath of India's series win over the West Indies has been said already in a cluster of excellent articles by Cricinfo's stellar bunch of Indian writers. Dravid again, has proven himself to be a matchwinner par excellence (his 81 and 68 twofer will quickly pass into the annals of all-time great innings played by an Indian bat overseas); the team has had more weaknesses exposed than strengths revealed; and all in all, it was a mediocre tour in more ways than one. Youngsters like Yuvraj, Kaif, Dhoni will rue their missed opportunities - tours are a chance to make your mark, to announce to the world your arrival, to make sure the snide remarks about hometown bullies are directed elsewhere. Still, for the time being, its ensured that India have gotten rid of the overseas-series-win bugbear, and can now concentrate on what really matters: getting batsmen with backbone, a fielding side that doesn't flag in the face of a determined assault, and a bowling attack capable of taking 20 wickets in a match on a regular basis. Depending on once-in-a-lifetime batsmen like Dravid is all very fine but the effort needs to be distributed a bit wider.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Cometh the hour

Tracking the Kingston test from afar might give the impression that the teams have been playing on a minefield. 26 wickets for 425 runs might suggest that. It would be a mistaken conclusion to draw however; the pitch has had something for the bowlers, most notably in the first session of the first day, but other than that its been a combination of some tight bowling and some alarmingly loose batting that has created this situation. India and the West Indies are still in this game, though perhaps India stands to play more mind-games now with its spinners in the second innings. But with a certain BC Lara in the West Indies line-up, they'd do well to not assume that all they have to do is show up.

One man's finest hour (or close to it) looms: Rahul Dravid. He could, in the next day or so, not only become the first Indian captain since Ajit Wadekar to win a series in the West Indies, he could do it on the back of an amazing two-fer of batting endurance, concentration and skill. He's seized the moment in the past, and I wouldn't put it past him to do so again today. What a pity that no one in the top five of the Indian batting order bothered to stick around with him and learn a lesson or two. In that sense, its best that he is partnered with Kumble today as they head out to try and stretch the Indian lead past 250. 300 would be a huge psychological edge but anything past 250 will start to get tricky. This could be an absolute ripper of a test match.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Dileep the Immature

Dileep Premchandran is fast turning into an immature nitwit. Too many of his article are rants against folks who would dare criticize those cricketers he worships, or praise those he damns. Today, at the fag-end of the day's bulletin (and a dramatic day it was) he launches into a tirade against those who might have criticized Dravid:

"Those that have trashed him in recent weeks - especially the more fickle among the supporters - can get their bibs out. Humble pie, and lashing of it, awaits."

Amazing. The man is a senior editor at Wisden, has a platform from which he can speak to legions of fans, and all he can do is carry on with his ridiculous chastisements. Give it up. Grow up.