Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Heal thyself

Phew, you better hold your nose for this one. Take a look at this little piece that talks about all the cricketers busted over the years for drug use. The tirades/charges/penalties against those who smoked weed/ganja/pot/marijuana is amazing. All from a society that consumes alcohol by the gallon. Geez. And in the context of a sport that has had cigarette and alcohol sponsorship in the past.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Wasn't meant to be, what?

Not such a good time for test cricket then. Two draws; one forced upon it by the bad weather on the last day of the match (Lord's), and another by the bad weather that haunted it throughout (Chittagong). (Parenthetically, does it seem like way too many of these rain washouts happen in matches involving India? This is very unscientific, but I'm going to go check it out one of these days). But all in all, a lot of the cricket on display was mediocre, especially as far as the bowling was concerned. England's pace attack struggled against the Windies (to think that Harmison was rated as such a fearsome prospect just a couple of years ago, and now he can barely get his act together), and India's attack looked incapable, as has been depressingly commonplace in the course of its history, of delivering knockout punches (woah! yet another cliche). On that note, I found much of the comments bemoaning Kumble's absence a bit rich. Many, many, of the occasions in which India have failed to deliver aforesaid knockout punch have not lacked Kumble's presence. I do not doubt that he would have picked up wickets and caused some bother for the Bangladeshi batsmen. But the unstated conclusion, that with him, India would have rolled over the Bangladeshis is a bit much. On to Dhaka of course, but who knows whether the weather will co-operate, whether the Indian bowlers will, and most importantly, whether the Bangladeshis want to play ball (in lots of ways, from falling down to Indian bolwers to going for chases prompted by quasi-sporting declarations).

Monday, May 21, 2007

Watching it slip away

A bizarrely loud alarm went off early this morning, forcing me out of bed and rendering me so wide-awake that I had to turn to my trusted PC for some entertainment. Bangladesh were 117-6. Interesting. But I only stayed awake till 160-8. A sinking feeling had set in. For Chittagong had just become the latest cricket ground to bear witness to a particularly Indian affliction: the inability to turn the screw, take the initiative, go for the kill or whatever your happen your favorite sporting cliche happens to be. By and large Indian cricket teams rely on their opponents to commit harakiri. When that doesn't happen, the game more often than not, simply slips out of India's hand. As it did today. For it was not just Mortaza's smackeroo of an innings that did it, but the batting display afterwards (to be fair Dravid fell to a brilliant catch). But even before then, one knew (or at least could very reasonably surmise), that India would not get off to a brilliant start that would take back the advantage. Traditionally this is not the sort of situation that India is good in: a test match could drift to a draw, and India has to force the pace in many ways to get a result. A familiar situation for sure, and eerily similar to many in the past where India have failed to get it going.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Better days are coming

Monty Panesar took six in the first innings of this Lord's test, and there is no doubt he will be called upon to take just as many tomorrow when the West Indies set out to bat out the day. It should make for a very good day of test cricket. Other than the limpet-like Chanderpaul (and perhaps Ganga), the West Indies do not have that many grafters (which, sometimes is not such a good thing on a last day with spinners going at you). Though 394 is too much to score in a day's play, an attacking innings or two would be the perfect counterpoint to an attacking spinner. If all goes well, Lord's will be buzzing, and test cricket will once again demonstrate why it is infinitely superior to the one-day variety.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Not so all-round any more

An interesting article from the International Herald Tribune on a dying breed: the English sportsman capable of playing both cricket and football at highly competitive levels). It says something about how specialized sport has become that the very idea now strikes us a as a bit bizarre.

And I notice its still raining in Chittagoing. Ho-hum. Is it just me or does it seem like the Indian team always seems to be involved in more than its fair share of meaningless series, matches and what-have-you? Does the rain, the pointlessness follow them wherever they go?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Ho-hum and no surprise

I watched some pretty uninspiring cricket this morning, all the while thinking, "I got up early to watch this?". Slow wicket, left-arm spinners wheeling away, dodgy light, two batsmen (sometimes ranked amongst the finest strokeplayers of their generation) nudging and nurdling away for singles and the occasional boundary. It was enough to send me back to bed - so I did just that and caught up on some much-needed sleep. Now, awake again, I read the day's report to find out that most of the day was like that. Ah, well, hopefully it'll be more interesting when India bowl. I'm looking forward to seeing the two Singhs, RP and VRV bowl on this track (no, I'm not joking, it'll be an interesting test of their character).

Meanwhile news has it that Munaf Patel is on his way back to be replaced by Delhi's Ishant Sharma. Frankly, I suspect Patel is history. He keeps getting injured and he doesn't strike me as the kind of player who has the gumption to work hard enough to get back into shape and return match-fit. He has always lacked fire, and if not his injuries, then his usual lackadaisical, lazy, shambling attitude was going to do him in someday. I'm always glad to see Delhi boys make it to the national level, but I'm not going to go ga-ga over Ishant Sharma just yet. What little I saw of him last year, didn't make enough of an impression on me, and besides the history of Indian quicks is too depressing to bear thinking about.

Nice start

Nice. First ball of a test match. Opener shoulders arms, misses, is bowled. And just like that, a Bangladeshi quick - Mashrafe Mortaza in this case, joins the ranks of bowlers who have taken a wicket with the first ball in a test match. And poor Wasim Jaffer, who's been watching India play one-day cricket forever, has to head back to the pavilion. And I'm back. I've been traveling, unable to blog. Hopefully, it'll get better from here on.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

At the boundaries

Some of you might remember me mentioning a collection of essays on the philosophy of cricket, titled At the Boundaries of Cricket, to be published by Taylor and Francis. My original post has more detail (and that link earlier in the paragraph has even more), but I just thought I'd let you know that a special issue of Sport and Society, containing all the essays therein, will be forthcoming in September 2007. The book will take just a little while longer, but its on its way, no worries. In our essay, 'Not Cricket', David Coady and I consider the moral standing of various practices in cricket, such as walking, Mankading, appealing when the batsman is known to be not-out etc. I think some of our conclusions might be surprising to some.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

On to the Bangles

In many ways, this Indian tour of Bangladesh could just be the lose-lose situation it always had the potential to be. Losses in the ODIs (or worse, a test) could (and will) prompt frenzied chest-beating and teeth-gnashing (not to mention effigy-burning, stone-throwing, chappal-garland-construction, and frontal assaults on players homes). Easy wins will provoke yawns, dreams of subcontinental (or at least Eastern Zone) domination, and catcalls of "thats the best you can do?" It could have been different; India could have announced the "dropping" of some senior players; taken a radically different team on tour; or otherwise pulled some dramatic move to elevate this tour from the underachieving role that has been thrust on it. What will we learn about the Indian team from this tour? Very little, I fear. Most of the gains will accrue on the Bangladeshi end; the local crowds will get a chance to cheer on their tyros against the subcontinental big boy; the test team gets an opportunity to see if the multiple left-arm spinners selection can work at hom e on their pitches; the ODI team will work on its consistency; and so on. But cricket will be played; and now with Bangladesh threatening as never before, one can even look forward to a good old fashioned test battle.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Cyborg Batsman

So by now everyone knows that Gilchrist batted in Saturday's chaotic world cup final with a squash ball stuck in his left glove (a tip from the former West Australian batsman Bob Vermuelen) to ease the pressure exerted by the bottom hand on the bat's grip. Whats interesting is the complete lack of analysis surrounding this. For instance, what problem in Gilchrist's batting was this excess pressure causing? What kind of dismissals was it resulting in? Was it recommended as a corrective or as an enhancement? How long did Gilchrist try this in the nets? What did it feel like at first? And, why am I so curious? Well, it seems to me that what we have on our hands is a prosthetically enhanced batsman, and that its only the small size of the prosthesis that is preventing more chatter about it. Of course all batsman rely on things like pads, gloves, thigh-guards to go forth and do battle. But presumably there is a limit on how a batsman may protect himself (is there?) and on how he may choose to enhance other parts of this cricketing kit in order to bat better. Could a batsman rig himself up with a device that prevents him flashing at a delivery too far outside off-stump, or from shuffling too far across? Presumably, we would find this strange. What other kinds of enhancement are possible - veritable extensions of our physical self so that we may interact with the ball and bat better? Why would we find some of them acceptable and others not, when all of them would presumably be as artificial as my concocted examples and as natural as the elbow-guard. Note: most of the enhancements we are accustomed to, are there for the batsman's safety. Gilchrist's squash ball is the first one I know that supposedly helps him play better as a technique-correction device. I'm really curious: what lies ahead and what would seem 'natural'?