Monday, December 17, 2007

Off to the cricket

As indicated below, I'm off to Oz. Any Aussie-resident bloggers that feel like meeting up for a beer at the MCG or the SCG drop me a line at samirchopra1 AT YAHOO DOT COM (with your mobile number). It'd be nice to talk about the cricket at the cricket. Over a cold one.

Happy New Year everyone!


Friday, December 14, 2007

Off to the antipodes

I've been irregular with blogging for a variety of reasons: work, lack of sleep, the holidays, just about every single excuse you can imagine. From Monday onwards, I'll have a new one: I'll be traveling. I'm heading to Australia for a little break. Tickets are in for Boxing Day, and for the 2nd and 3rd day at Sydney (I'm also optimistic that I'll be able to attend the game against the ACT XI at Canberra). I'll try and blog a bit if I can but I seriously doubt I'll be able to do so.

Australia is the world's toughest tour in all the right cricketing ways. The country is solidly behind the national team (but they will still applaud good shots by opposing teams), and the press will be relentlessly hostile (but they will still applaud good days from the opposing team). I'm hopeful that the pitches, the weather and the umpires will all co-operate - it could be a great series if India can adjust quickly. India are not going into this series though, with the appropriately aggressive mindset they need to unsettle the Aussies (the last day at Bangalore will take a long while to live down). Australia, however, will not be anything less than aggressive and overbearing when they will encounter the Indians on Boxing Day. India have played into the Australians' hands by ensuring very little practice for themselves before they start playing test cricket. The selection of the team still looks a little unsettled but here are some tips for the selectors: don't be scared of asking Dravid to open; don't be scared to ask Ganguly to bat at #6 (left-handers are good at that position); don't be scared to play three left-arm quicks. India will hope that Australia are not confident enough about playing four quicks. That'll cause India more trouble than any spinner Australia can rustle up.

But in the end, India must hope that things go their way: fitness, some rash batting by the Aussies, perhaps a bad spell with the new ball and so on. This is a tough tour, and the Aussies are a tough team. Hopefully, it'll all make for some good cricket; its the only thing that makes sitting out in the sun, surrounded by dozens of sunburnt, drunk young men, bearable.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Well thats that

Well, much as it makes me sad to say this, I think Dinesh Karthik has solved India's selection conundrum (barring injury). The lad has just gone for 23, and given that SRT will be back as his injury heals, he might be the one to make room. Yuvraj will stay, and hopefully, India will display some common sense by asking Dravid to open with Jaffer when India goes to Australia. SRT at 3, Yuvraj at 4, Laxman at 5, and a lefty, Ganguly, at 6. Just my tuppence.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The prince in waiting speaks

"To me, test cricket is the main thing". Darn right; and you're a champ, Yuvraj. What an innings, and in what a setting. I'm glad I got to see it. 169 off 203 balls on the first day of a crucial test match against Pakistan, rescuing India from 61-4 and taking them to 365-5 by close of play. 'Nuff said.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


That same old charade is upon us again: Indian team selection for overseas tours. A squad of 24 "probables" is announced, and then later whittled down. Is the idea to let players know that they are on watch, and that they better perform or else? Didn't all the members of this squad already know that? But I suppose all sorts of folks had to be kept happy and so this maintenance of appearances must continue. And somehow in that list of 24, they didn't manage to find a spot for Virender Sehwag. Poor chap, he must be wishing he hadn't played all those one-day internationals, poor form in which led to folks thinking he wasn't suited for test cricket any more. And I cringe at the thought that Ishant Sharma and Ranadeb Bose might go to Australia. But perhaps they'll have to, given all the injuries that are cropping up left, right and center (and ensuring that barrackers in Australia won't be able to have any fun with Sreesanth, which is a huge, huge pity).

For what its worth this is the sixteen I would take to Australia for the tests (from the 24): Anil Kumble, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Wasim Jaffer, Dinesh Karthik, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Sourav Ganguly, RP Singh, Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan, Aakash Chopra, Harbhajan Singh, VRV Singh, Murali Kartik,

I have to admit, I'm confused by what to do with Chawla; I like legspinners a lot and would dearly like to see him in there. Yet, I think Harbhajan and Kartik will both do better than him for now. And I prefer Gambhir in the one-days.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Murali Magic

I come from the land of the Four Spinners and the Five Rivers. One for each river (don't bother me with the politico-geographic nitpick that some of those rivers are not in India anymore; they're still in the Punjab), and with one river left unassigned in the hope that a fifth great spinner would show up someday. Given that Murali Muralitharan was born pretty close to India, and that he is a Tamil, some might have been forgiven for thinking that the Fifth Spinner had been born in the wrong country by mistake, that the stork, flying due North from the South Pole had made its drop-off prematurely. Whatever the particulars of that particular delivery (nyuk, nyuk, get it?) us Indians should not begrudge Sri Lanka the services of this genius. I know that many of my Australian friends take particular pleasure in disdaining him and his abilities, a strange failing in a culture that is otherwise generous and accepting. But I've learned to accept that deferred anger can be a strong force, and so long as Arjuna Ranatunga is alive and kicking, Murali will never experience the affection of an Australian cricketing public. But if they'd let themselves go, and try and appreciate this man's abilities a bit more, they'd be able to sample some truly wonderful cricketing talent, and whats more, to enjoy a true cricketing character, a rarity in this age of the manufactured character. One look at those eyes, that grin, that exuberance in his batting, and you know what I mean (as do thousands of other fans the world over). One of the best exhibitions of cricket I ever saw was Sri Lanka beating England at the Oval in 1998; Jayasuriya, Aravinda and finally, Murali made it so. That epic bowling performance on the fourth and fifth days will live long in my memory.

The closest I ever got to Murali was at Melbourne Airport on January 2nd, 2003 (ask me why I remember). I was on my way to Sydney with tickets for the Ashes test, and saw a bunch of very smartly turned out young men in the airport lobby. It was the Sri Lankan team. I quickly walked up to him, shook hands, and said "good luck". He grinned back and said "Thank you". No, thank *you* Murali, for all the great cricket over the years.

Nice but not enough

A case of too little, too late, I think. Thats my response to India's performance on the fourth day at Eden Gardens. Foiled by the admirable Misbah and the limpet-like Sami, it took them half the day to pick up the remaining four wickets, and then they barely made it to a four-run-an-over rate by the close of play. Pakistan ideally, should have been batting again by now, chasing 400. Instead, they will start tomorrow, an hour before lunch, with only some 70 or so overs to play while chasing 350. (Interestingly, Pakistan's innings lasted almost exactly as many overs as did India's; a match-saving statistic, methinks).

Sunday, December 02, 2007

A lifeline as usual

The Indian team doesn't have a hard time getting into situations like the one they find themselves in at the end of the third day's play at Kolkata: find a docile pitch, make lots of runs, put the opposition under some pressure, and then fail to sustain the pressure. They do have a hard time getting out of situations like this, for that requires a great deal of sustained aggression, often against an opponent that, having sensed a lifeline, is reluctant to let go. India will need to take four wickets quickly, then, they need to make the smart decision to not bowl again (if they do manage to take a lead over 200) and score some runs quickly before putting Pakistan back in again. But now Pakistan can escape in three different ways: they can hang on for dear life today (and Misbah certainly has something to say about that), they can slow down India's second innings (and historically, India do not do well when trying to score quickly to put the opposition back in again), and lastly, they can simply try and bat out 90 overs on the last day even if they are put back in. I think this will be a good test of Kumble's captaincy, for limited though he is by his team, it'll be interesting to see if he can put some fire into their step over the next couple of days. Pakistan, meanwhile, will be dreaming about Great Escapes, and the kind of skullduggery that enabled them to draw the test series the last time they toured India. Kumble will be happy that a wicket fell late last night; he'll be even happier if the remaining four fall within the first 90 minutes or so on the fourth day.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Its not easy, that

A quick note on the significance of Wasim Jaffer scoring 192 runs on the first day of the second test at Eden Gardens. After Don Bradman, Viv Richards became the first batsman to score 200 runs in a day's play in test cricket (during the 1976 tour of England, at the Oval). Then Aamer Sohail did it during Pakistan's tour of England in 1992. Who else has done it since then? I'm not sure, and I'm feeling too lazy to go looking. Can anyone help?