Sunday, April 29, 2007

An ending and a beginning?

Sorry for not keeping on top of my "captain's logs" yesterday. Friends came over, wine bottles opened, I lost the plot. So did the match officials apparently. Bully for them. Why let this bizarre World Cup end with a normal finish? Anyway, one quick suggestion for the next one. The ICC and member nations should get together to agree on some sort of points system (with seedings thrown in so that wins away against higher-seeded teams count more and so on) to attach to one-day internationals played between now and the next World Cup. Use those points as a qualifying system so that next time around, only six nations play. Those six play each other in a round-robin format. Two teams qualify for the final. Period. Lemme know what you think.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Captain's Log Part Two

2013 GMT: Something happened between Gilchrist and Jayasuriya in that last McGrath after the appeal for a caught behind was turned down, but no replays yet to provide more detail. I did see Jaya shake his head and grin as something was said from behind the stumps. I think it might have been the shirt that made the sound.

2017 GMT: Three spanking fours from Jaya as he launches into Watson. That buzz again. 66-1, 13 overs gone.

2023 GMT:" "Sri Lankan fans going off". Sanga takes McGrath for 14, finishing off with an amazing, awesome hook.

Captain's Log Part One

1953 GMT: Quiet again, but as before, if wickets stay in hand, Sri Lanka are in the game.

1958 GMT: Sanga really needs to fire. He needs to get back into something like his best form, and right now, he's looking like he's working hard on fluency. But anyway, wickets in hand for now is a small mercy.

2000 GMT: Its getting a bit murky out there. More cloud cover. SL just a bit becalmed.

35-1, but..

And just like that. One over from Tait. Runs come in a rush, and next over, there is a buzz around the ground. Sri Lanka are starting something.

Missed opportunity/Welcome

The television cameras just showed a young (I mean, really young, like a few months) Australian fan. Ian Botham simply said, "an Australian supporter", and moved on. Me? I'd have been corny. I'd have said, "And that kid will probably go on to become the first person ever to have attended a World Cup Final as a baby, and then go on to make a century in another one".

And I notice Johnno is awake in Australia, commenting away, an optimist as ever. But I share his optimism as well. Sangakkara is there after all.

A contest?

Brilliant stuff from Australia, especially Gilchrist. 149 off 104 balls says it all. The Sri Lankans haven't fallen apart too badly but the shape and form of the assault has definitely run them a bit ragged. Barring a Jaya special (from both of them) this match doesn't look like being a contest.

Trouble ahead

To be honest, 46-0 in 10 overs might look a quietish start for Australia, but it does not bode well for Sri Lanka. They need wickets (and Fernando has just dropped a return catch). Both Vaas and Fernando have leaked boundaries and had it not been for Malinga's miserly opening spell, this could have been much worse. Murali can only bowl eight overs - and with Gilchrist off to the kind of flyer he is famous for, the Sri Lankans are going to need help (as I write this, Gilly has just gone postal, with this huge six into the stands).

Off we go, quietly

A good start for Malinga, a not-so-good start for Vaas, and so Fernando (who, in my opinion, is a weak link in this bowling attack) is on. Me, I'm just waiting for Murali - his spell should be a classic. So far for the quicks, nothing in the pitch, or in the air.

Game on

Phew, so this final is finally underway. Appropriately, an over-extended World Cup will have a truncated final. Nothing else would have provided the right sort of ironic twist. Both the teams look a little bit edgy out there (in these situations, I'd expect the fielding side to be the one more susceptible to errors - and in fact, Fernando has gone ahead and shown off a little misfield). Lets hope we have a good game.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Fazeer Mohammed pens a thoughtful piece on how West Indian legends have rarely managed to engineer a suitable ending for their careers. As I read it though, I chanced upon the following line, written about Sir Garfield Sober's less-than-perfect last test (England won by 26 runs on the back of an outstanding bowling performance, by,wait for it, Tony Grieg, who took 13-156):
but when it came to his actual final Test, there were no such heroics, being bowled by off-spinner Pat Pocock on the last day of the fifth Test at the Queen's Park Oval as England squared the 1974 series 1-1.
Now, I'll admit to being a cricketing nerd, and for some reason, I've always remembered that Sobers last test innings was "G.S Sobers b Underwood 20". And so I went and checked that test, and I was right. Someone tell Fazeer. (In case you are wondering why I remember this so clearly, its because a) Tony Cozier's excellent book on fifty years of West Indian test cricket featured a black-n-white photograph of the unfortunate event and b) I used to be a huge fan of Derek Underwood and always thought it appropriate that he was the one to have dismissed the great man in his last innings).


I've seen some corkers in my time when it comes to bad lbw decisions (I did after all, watch most of India's games against Pakistan in the 1980s), but this one by Rudi Koertzen against Chamara Silva has got to be one of the worst of all time. Here is Cricinfo's understated description of this dismissal.

34.3 Bond to Silva, OUT, unlucky! Bond switches to a fuller length, gets it to angle in from outside off stump, Silva gets stuck deep in the crease, jabs the bat down onto it, gets a relatively thick inside-edge back onto the pads - an awkward noise, if ever there was one - and after a couple of seconds Koertzen raises the finger. Unfortunate decision for Silva

LPC Silva lbw b Bond 21 (36m 33b 0x4 1x6) SR: 63.63

As Michael Holding just pointed out, Koertzen's earpiece should be checked to see if its functioning properly. In any case, with Jaywardene's innings becalmed, and with Silva, the Sri Lankan's perky dynamo gone, some hard work is going to be needed to get this effort back on track.

Cinco preguntas

  1. Did anyone else see the sign that could win the award for the Worst Spelling Ever?
  2. Is it just me or does it seem that besides Tharanga (who at times has looked not fully in control), no other Sri Lankan batsman has really looked comfortable against the Kiwi bowlers (and they haven't helped with their shot selection)? And as I write this, he's gone and gotten himself bowled around the legs. Egad.
  3. Anyone want to lay bets that at least one or two players will get a bad case of the cramps today in this stifling heat and humidity?
  4. Is Simon Taufel the best umpire in the world or what? I mean, this guy can't get a decision wrong (just saw him give a not-out against Vettori appealing for a lbw against Jaywardene). Jeez. (Actually, he is ranked No. 1 so that question has been answered, but my admiration for this man knows no bounds). Hopefully, he'll umpire in the final as well. (Yeah, I know that means Australia won't be playing).
  5. And on a slightly unrelated note, does anyone have any theories on why Mukul Kesavan has so much hostility directed at him at his blog? I'm planning to write on this at some time, for I think that behavior points to something interesting about the Indian fan, and others as well.

A bad sign?

I'm getting a little nervous here as the first semi-final gets underway. Not because I expect a nail-biting finish, but because I've just been exposed to Mark Richardson as a commentator. He's started off on the wrong foot, dishing out pop-psychological babble left, right and center, and I'm hoping it doesn't go on the entire day. Ranjit Fernando is present as well, and the less said about that gentleman, the better. I'll be hoping for some mercy from whoever else is commentating today.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Honestly, I had no idea

From the Department of Tautology Peddling, comes this headline: "Bond targets Jayasuriya". Fascinating. A fast bowler announces his intention to dismiss an opening batsman. How interesting. I always thought fast bowlers were sprinters forced to do hard labor with a cricket ball in hand. Thats why they ran in all day at the stumps, and then turned around and did it all over again. Sisyphean labors and all that. But now I'm finding out that they are out there to get opening batsmen out. Seriously, just because Glenn McGrath used the word "target" in some press conference because he wanted to get the press to do the job of sledging for him, do journalists have to play along in this fashion? (Whats the matter with these cricket journalists, are they the White House correspondents?). I agree that some sort of title is needed for a cricketing piece and what better than some 'catchy' title like the one above? Still, it wouldn't hurt to get clear on one thing: bowlers are there to get batsmen out, and to restrict the number of runs scored by the opposing side. If a bowler announces that that is what he is planning to do, the correct thing to do is not run to the nearest telegraph station to announce this to all and sundry, but to followup with a question, "Excuse moi, Mr. Bowler, would you like to go beyond the bleeding obvious and say something thats mildly interesting?" (I know, I'm asking for too much; journalists ask the same questions all the time, and players give the same answers, and besides they're all saving their best material for the books they plan to write).

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Farewell BCL

I first saw Brian Lara in action (on live television) back in April 1993. The Pakistani team was touring the West Indies, and in the first test at Port of Spain, he made a delightful 96. I was curious; I'd heard about his 277, and had read some of the hype and wondered what he was like. What I saw convinced me he was going to be a very good, if not great, West Indian batsman. I added the qualifier "West Indian" deliberately because there was something of that Caribbean flair in his batting that marked it - it wasn't the crashing coverdrives or the pulls over midwicket, both made with a flashing blade, but something else. Perhaps it was the effortlessness with which he did it, perhaps it was the mixture of aggression and classic defense. A year or so later, I saw his 277 on video. A West Indian fan, living in New Jersey, and like me, a reader and writer on, agreed to make a tape and send it over by post to New York. (As a bonus, he included England's 46). I eagerly arranged to view it at a friend's dorm room, called up a couple of Australian friends, and proceeded to get utterly blown away by that particular display of cricketing pyrotechnics. As he chatted with Tony Grieg in the post-match interview, I was struck by his humility, and his acknowledgment of the roles that others had played in his cricketing education. The years went by, and the stories about Lara never stopped. I, like many others, never stopped respecting him as a batsman, and didn't mind ranking him higher than Tendulkar. I did find him a strange representative of West Indian cricket. He was a poor captain, and his constant clashes with the board, with fellow players, his occasional prima donna'ish antics, all struck a false chord. On this blog last year, I complained about his comments at the end of the series with India. But to be honest, in the last year, I grew to appreciate the fact that he pretty much always spoke his mind (even if it meant revealing certain immature patterns of thought) and that by and large, he injected a dose of humanity into the cricketing interview, lifting it above the dreary, mind-numbing, cliche that we are constantly, painfully, subjected to. How I wish Tendulkar could approximate even a fraction of the emotion that Lara brought to these encounters. And how I wish Tendulkar had pulled off a '153' himself, preferably against Pakistan.

In many ways, his last appearance for West Indian cricket symbolized all that had gone wrong for him: he got run out by a man who couldn't even apologize for raining on his parade, and his team lost. And in his last press conference, as always, he spoke as frankly as he could. I'm sad to see him go; not just because we are denied a great batsman who clearly had years of test cricket left in him, but because we'll be missing someone who made it clear that cricket was played by humans, not by coached, cagey, inarticulate jocks.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Don't worry, we know who he is

A decent piece on Reds Perreira by Dileep Premchandran. What is slightly amusing about this piece is that Premchandran talks about Reds' voice (as most cricket writers do in talking about commentators, and of course, the piece has the standard opening lines) and introduces him to readers as a complete stranger, but fails to note that there is a group of Indian cricket fans that have heard Red's voice and even seen him in action. During the 1983-84 West Indies tour of India, Reds did television coverage for a West Indian broadcasting group, and would, on most days stop by the Doordarshan box to do a stint of commentary/chat with whoever happened to be in the box. In those days, listening to a West Indian accent over the air was a rarity and we loved it, as those two lilting accents, the Indian and the West Indian, got together to describe the action out on the ground. What made it even more of a bonus for all of us, in those days before the Internet, was that Reds would bring us score updates on the Pakistan-Australia series also underway at the same time (I'm not quite sure what his source was). In fact, on more than one occasion, while watching those games, I would yell out to my friends, "Hey, Reds is here, the Pakistan-Australia scores should be on soon". Reds would either bring us the tea-time scores or the close of play scores and they were a godsend, ensuring we wouldn't have to mess around with short-wave radios looking for a Radio Australia update, or god forbid, wait for the newspapers the next day. Perhaps my most lasting memory of Reds is his commenting on the good camerawork (a rarity for Doordarshan in those days) that tracked a massive six by Andy Roberts into the stands at Eden Gardens (during a partnership with Clive Lloyd that effectively killed any chances that India had of making a game out that test at Calcutta). Nice to hear about you again, Reds. Been a long time.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Erin go breĆ 

So I got taken to task today for not having mentioned Ireland at all in this blog (and rightly so - I've not paid them as much attention as I did others, though if it makes my Irish friend feels any better, I also haven't mentioned Scotland other than in passing). In any case, I came home today to catch the replay of their last game against Sri Lanka, which of course, didn't end in particularly good fashion for them. But they've done enough in this tourney to show they are a handful, for as rightly pointed out, it takes the absolute best to blow them away. The Irish have Boyd Rankin, who could be a problem for just about anybody in the right conditions, and they had tons of pluck and gumption. It didn't hurt that they had some very colorful (read "attired in green leprechaun costumes") fans in the stands. But I'm curious about one thing (and this is for all those Irish nationalists out there) why is Niall O'Brien so keen to play for England? Is the lure of playing against ICC regulars so intense that it lets an Irishman dream of playing for, gasp, England? I'm only half-serious but the half that is serious is actually, truthfully, curious. And how can you not like a team that gives you not one, but two, new celebrations (the Chicken and the Jig) for wicket-taking? Thanks very much for that, Trent Johnston and David Langford-Smith. Ireland's team will have, at the very least, not just delighted their fans and made them dream of the impossible, but provided a great deal of cheer to those that delight in the perennial drama that the underdog continues to provide.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


For a big dose of cricketing cliche about the difference between those carefree, ebullient Sri Lankans and those grim, determined Australians, check out this piece, written ahead of the Australia-Sri Lanka clash which ended in such a whimper (to the credit of some of the folks making comments on that page, the cliches get nailed). I wonder how long it will take before some of these fade away from the cricketing scene but given their persistence in other domains of writing I think we are stuck with this particular one. What doesn't seem to have sunk in as far the journos who keep trotting out these cliches are concerned is that these ultimately come to work against the teams they think they are praising - for following in the trail of these virtues that he ascribes to the Sri Lankans come those damning charges of lack of discipline, organization and the like, all of which are used to take them a little less seriously.

Hmmm..missed it

Man, I hate meetings (and work). Just because I had to be at one, I missed seeing the Pietersen dismissal. Shouldn't this particular video be made available to all and sundry with all the stump mikes turned up at full volume? I guarantee it would sell pretty well. Guess I'll have to wait for the replays but its not quite the same thing is it, seeing Pietersen fall to Nel, caught by Smith, no less? Gee. What a sight that must have been. Oh, and speaking of having missed out on things, could someone tell me what Freddie Flintoff has done for us (or anybody else) recently? (I mean, since the 2005 Ashes?). Perhaps I wasn't looking but I don't seem to remember all that much.

Monday, April 16, 2007

A long way to go

Peter Roebuck has a go at the World Cup (like many, many others) and most of it is the usual "Damn-the-ICC-for-their-greed-why-can't-anyone-beat-the-Aussies" stuff. But then tucked away in a little corner, as Roebuck blasts all the teams is this:
England is still in the game but has leant heavily on Kevin Pietersen and its Asian contingent.
Now, last time I checked Monty was born in Luton (Berfordshire), Ravi Bopara was born in London, and Sajid Mahmood was born in Bolton (Lancashire). These guys are Englishmen, born and bred in England. To lump all of them in with Pietersen is pretty depressing. Pietersen left his country of birth, because of some imagined grievance with its selection policies and chose to play for England as a working arrangement. The "Asian contingent" play for the country they know as their own. Its a different matter that some might not have seen them as sufficiently English. And Roebuck shows that that habit has not gone away. Are these three players those that moved to England because they wanted to play somewhere else? No - their parents moved there for the kinds of reasons Pietersen but these gentlemen only know one allegiance. Why aren't they lumped in with the rest of the team? I doubt they appreciate being thought of on the same level as Pietersen (as part of the group of 'foreigners' that play for England?) To their credit, the English crew of commentators have not treated the trio like anyone else in team by not constantly harping on their being "Asian". (Nasser Hussain took it one step further by sounding positively paternal when talking of Bopara in his Essex days).

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Yup, good news

Its not often that Indian fans of cricket find the prospect of a tour cancellation appetizing. But as Homer at Two Cents gleefully notes in his subject line, the news that the Indian-Australian one-day series is in trouble is good news indeed. What the Indian cricket scene does not need at this moment (oh, give up about the need for experimenting with new blood, will ya?) is more meaningless one-day international matches all to keep the overheated cricket economy ticking. It has no cricketing value, threatens to devalue India-Australia 'rivalry' and to potentially hurt the far more important test tour of England that follows. Heres hoping it falls through.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Stuck in the stone age

Take a gander at what Mr. Shashank Manohar, Feudal Lord #2 at the BCCI has to say about players, their endorsements and the BCCI. What the players need is a union, and a backbone, and what the world needs less is pompous zamindars like Mr. Manohar, who talk of players as if they were bonded labour, and not freely-contracting agents with rights in an employment marketplace. The BCCI is stuck in the stone-age. I welcome their arrival in the here and now. Wake me up when it happens.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Part of the solution

Best thing for Indian cricket that could happen today: Jeev Milkha Singh does really, really well at the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta (final round today). If you really care, fire up the browsers, put up the leader board, and track the Son-of-the-Flying-Sikh's attempt to move up a few shots. (Yeah, I know, golf as a game for India's billions? Well, what exactly has soccer done for us lately? Anyway, this is only part of a long-story, and I'm being slightly facetious, but there is some truth to the suggestion that other sports need to do better in India for some of this god-awful-cricket-centric media frenzy to abate).

Saturday, April 07, 2007

We have a winner

Drumroll....and the prize for the Maximum Comedy Value Extraction goes to Ian Bell, who along with plenty of other cricketers is doing little television spots for UNICEF's worlwide drive against AIDS (typically a trio from one cricketing nation shows up, images superposed on colourful backgrounds with children smiling away, each speaking to different aspects of the HIV+/AIDS problem - multiple languages have featured).

Ian's little opening line? "HIV affects children..its, uh, a problem". Something is lost in this merely-verbal transcription: the priceless stoner look on Bell's face, as if he had been dragged away from his bong to speak his lines, before being released back to the den.

Aggro my lad, thats the key

I normally find comments by, er, commentators, asking for changes in field placings quite irritating. But I have to agree with Ian Smith's carrying on a bit about Bashar's failure to bring in a slip for Kallis. If there is one way to get Kallis early (actually, any batsman) it is to put some offensive pressure on him early enough outside the offstump. Slightly defensive moves like this are going to haunt Bangladesh for a while - the sooner they get over the better it will be for their cricket. If they want to know what happens to teams that don't break out of reflexive defensiveness, they only need to look next-door to see the fate that awaits them (no, I don't mean the Bollywood fawning or the multi-million commercial opportunities).

Well, what is it then?

One interesting thought in all of the hubbub surrounding Chappell's departure. By and large, a standard line that made the rounds when it came to Indian teams getting coached by furriners was that us brown folk, used to kow-towing for eons, would find it easier to shape up under the paternal, firm hand of one of those folk. Now, the received wisdom making the rounds is that in fact, we are so settled in our ways, so wonderfully impenetrable and intransigent in our cultural styles, afflictions and means of communication, that furriners can't hope to influence our ways of working. Now, I ask you, can both of these theories hold simultaneously? The only thing constant in them is the phenomena they are being asked to explain: the non-performance of the Indian cricketing team. What emerges from Chappell's reign is that the best theories of sporting performance break down occasionally; in the case of the Indian team, the right thing was done: out with the old, in with the new, with plenty of chances given to the latter. But the young folks simply failed to seize the moment. They are too talented a lot to fade away, however, and I'm sure our merry gang of cricketers will be back soon enough to fascinate, irritate and captivate.

Not the only ones

Bangladesh has their own senior player problem: Habibul Bashar. I've been wanting to say this for a while, but Bashar truly looks out of his league. I realize the man has done yeoman service for Bangla cricket, but the way he is batting (and this general air of slightly over-the-top diffidence) suggests that not only is this perception accurate, it is one shared by the man at the center of it all (I'm writing this as he fumbles around against South Africa but its an observation prompted by watching him bat in this Cup in general). Bashar all too frequently lacks timing, fails to get into line, is a poor runner between the wickets, and quite simply, looks like a man who would do best to hand over things to a young man who can take Bangladesh cricket on to the next level. Good job Habibul, let this World Cup be your swansong, and make way.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A temporary interlude

I've been travelling and hence unable to blog on all that seems to be blowing up, around, and over world cricket: cups, murders, super-eights, and gigantic, spectacular, mountain-building-out-of-molehills (yes, I refer to Indian cricket's latest drama). SRT goes for the Chappell Institute, the BCCI swats away the latest pretender in the Indian cricketing scene, resignations are tendered, and calls made to rework the scene from the top. Historical perspective is necessary at moments like these, so that one can find it within oneself to resist the temptation to write some dramatic, something fin-de-siecle, something millenial. All is well; its Indian cricket. Once the Bangladesh beating is out of the way (oh, I don't know, which one indeed?) things will really get back to normal.