Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cricket at Tughlaqbad Fort

This trip to India has featured a great deal of watching cricket in various sedentary poses but I managed to sneak in an impromptu game of cricket while touring Tughlaqabad Fort in Delhi on the 30th. As we entered the ruins and strolled around, we chanced upon a few lads playing in one of the clearings. Some bantering went on between my sister-in-law and one of their ringleaders (Ithink it started by him saying something along the lines of, "Check out these city slickers here!") and pretty soon, he was walking up to us and challenging us to a match. We declined a full match but asked if we could join in for a few deliveries, whether bowling or batting. I batted first. By sheer coincidence, I happened to be wearing my 2003 World Cup shirt!

The first delivery was a bouncer which sailed over my head (here, I face the quick):

And here the ball flies over my head:

The second beat me outside off-stump; I pulled the third and skied it in the direction of midwicket, but the catch went down; on the fourth, I attempted a smash through midwicket, and the handle of the bat came off:Here I get into position:

On the fifth, a new bowler, nicknamed "Ponting", came up to bowl, and clean bowled me first ball (sadly, this momentous event was not captured in a photograph). Later, I did some bowling. My first two deliveries were wides, the third was smashed away to squareleg, and the the last one was blocked. A deeply, deeply satisfying experience to say the least. How often do you get a chance to play cricket in Doc Martens on a real dustbowl in the center of the ruins of a fourteenth century fort? My partners in crime, the lads who so generously offered us a game, were excellent company. There was a great deal of banter directed at me, and at each other. Everyone seemed to have a nickname, including Leverock!

Thanks lads, for the great memories. And thanks to Scott Dexter for the photographs!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Congrats and reprimands

Baie lekker, South Africa! What a fantastic win. Get that choke out of the way. Fourth innings chases have been demystified, thanks to Chennai and Perth. By the way, you don't need silly fans that say things like the following:
Had either of AB de Villiers or JP Duminy finished it off with a six on 413, when the scores were tied, it would even have eclipsed West Indies' 418 for 7 to win against the same Australia in Antigua in 2002-03.
Eh? South Africa needed *414* to win. Thats all you can make in order to win. The West Indies needed *418* to win. Gerritt?

This qualifies for the Gynormously Goofy Thing to Say in the Heat of Victory Award.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Off to desh

Dear readers: I'm off to India today, off to Delhi, Maihar (look it up!), Rajasthan, Goa, and Varanasi. My timing is pretty good; I'll arrive in Delhi on the 19th, and make it back home in time to settle down with some chai-biskoot as the second test begins at Mohali. Watching a home test in India is always a pleasure (especially when I'm in Delhi). The weather is as close to perfect as it ever gets; there is a plentiful supply of treats handy for munching away while watching a tight session of play; and the buzz of a game being on is sustained by all around you (and believe me, you haven't lived life if you haven't watched a game of cricket on the telly on a Delhi winter afternoon with a cold beer giving you company). There will be some Australia-RSA action as well (which will make morning tea even more pleasurable). It doesn't look like the India-Pakistan tour is going to happen but I'm not too disappointed - I'd prefer a longer break between test series in any case. So, all in all, a pleasurable vacation of cricket, travel, good food, and family lies ahead. I will not be blogging too frequently but I do hope to send in the occasional post.

A happy holidays (Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, whatever rocks your boat) to everyone. May your googlies never be detected, and may your coverdrives always bisect The Arc.

Viru's greatness was foretold

Raise 'em up, bring 'em down

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Dravid puzzle

In all of the euphoria, and there is plenty, following this win at Chennai, lets not forget that some things remain problematic:
If only we hadn't dismissed Dravid so early. An hour or so of him scratching around could just about have put the win beyond India..
I know Dravid is a professional, a true-blue honorable man (at least, I believe it). What is on his mind regarding his future in the game? The sad part of it is that I've come to regard the #3 position as a cipher, and Dravid increasingly as a non-entity (even on the catching front, where he seems to have smeared a few scoops of butter over his digits). Surely, he must know the game is up.

We'll wait and see

This piece, in praise of the Dhoni-Kirsten combine, was written a few days before the Chennai win. That result does not change my opinion that the piece is premature and a better assessment of the partnership will be possible when Dhoni takes his boys overseas.

Just one out of many

My favorite moment from last night's incredible finish to the Chennai test: Tendulkar politely shaking hands with all the members of the groundstaff that ran on to congratulate him after the winning runs. At that moment, it all came together. The win, the essential simplicity of this great player, the role of cricket in India, and the relationship between the greats we create and our dreams.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The World's Stage[tm]

Scyld Berry asks us a silly question:
Graeme Smith, in the same Edgbaston Test, terminated Michael Vaughan's captaincy by chasing down South Africa's target of 281. Was his 154* the finest of all captain's innings? It surely has to be the finest in a fourth innings Test run-chase.
Of course! It was played in England, against England, and English journalists were watching. Therefore it must be the greatest of all time. The logic is impeccable.

And in case someone says "Oh, yeah, you got any better ideas?", I'd just like to say "Bridgetown 1999" (Note: I'm not describing this as the "finest" or anything like that; its just interesting that it doesn't even rate a mention; the Australian bowling attack was McGrath, Gillespie, Warne and MacGill).

But in general, this is how the mythology of England as the Hallowed Stage of World Cricket continues; this is how the legend is constructed.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Mumbai and Cricket - II

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Mumbai and cricket

Its hard to know what exactly to write about in the wake of the Mumbai bombings. This is a cricket blog, so I'm not going to get into geopolitical analysis here. I'm also not keen to start speculating about India's trip to Pakistan next year (for purely cricketing reasons, I'd have preferred a delay). As for England, I thought their return was understandable, and I wouldn't have been too surprised or upset had the tests been canceled. Given the directed nature of the Mumbai attacks, they had good reason to feel nervous. And to continue to do so if they return. Plenty of Indians don't feel safe in Mumbai after all. Of course, there will be high-grade security provided, but that's hardly going to assuage fears of random violence. I was looking forward to watching the second test in the comfortable environs of my brother's home in Delhi, and will be happy if its on, but won't be shattered if its not. Cricket seems like pretty minor business when the disaster of last week is still hanging over our heads. As for what this means for future international cricket in India, one can only speculate. Any more of these directed attacks, and India could have the same problem on its hands that Pakistan does. It doesn't take too long for those sorts of associations to be made. There's plenty of work to be done on the ground by lots of folks. The civil administration and the national security apparatus will need to start by reassuring Indians first that they can do more to protect their lives.

If the tests against England were to happen, I do hope big crowds turn out. All the fancy words about cricket being a healing force will sound hollow if the games are played in empty grounds filled mainly with machine-gun toting commandos and paramilitary types. Chennai should be able to turn out some serious numbers, and hopefully the PCA will have learned not to repeat its asinine policies (run buses to Mohali if you have to, and let people buy tickets for a day at a time for starters);