Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Four-day idiocy

This is idiocy. Four-day tests? If tinkering with test cricket till it is unrecognizable is the ICC's idea of saving the game, then shove it. I don't need this "to save the village we had to destroy it mentality". I'll watch baseball instead.

Do something about the pitches; about ensuring the making up of lost time; about the over-rates; about ensuring that only quality teams play test cricket. Reducing the time of the game does nothing. If the pitches remain the same, we'll get four-day draws instead.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Of cemeteries and cricket

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A pointless ODI series

It's true. I'm finding it very hard to get switched on about this West Indies-India ODI series. Nothing, in my mind, seems quite as pointless as a one-day series which is not part of a tournament or a test tour. I dislike these encounters, and it has not really made a difference who the opposition is. I didn't care much for the seven-match series organized against the Australians in 2007 (and I don't think things will change later in the year when the Aussies come visiting). When ODI series are part of a test tour, they fit into the overall scheme of things by either acting as appetizer for the main course, or as a way for one team to continue its winning ways or to regain some lost honor. On their own, a series of ODIs seems bereft of any interest whatsoever.

Why are these series arranged, and why is it India that leads the way in arranging them? There are a few trilateral ones (I believe one has been arranged between India-SL-NZ later this year - I'll be sleeping through that one too). My guess is that the countries' boards need the money; they talk to the BCCI; the BCCI sets up things, sells TV rights, gives a piece to the board, and everyone is happy. But surely this has to fall apart at some time. Are Indian audiences tuning into this series? (I'd welcome some information in this regard). Will advertisers pay the same amount of money? Is the 50-over game a money-spinner for them in the same way as it used to be?

The few highlights I've seen from the first game seem to indicate that we don't have full houses for ODIs anymore (at least in the Windies). How long it will take for this form of the game to die out is anyone's guess, but the sheer pointlessness of this series (at least in my mind), the dreary vibe at the ground, and the general lack of enthusiasm for 50-50 given the presence of the T20 upstart indicates that things are not looking too promising.

A 50-50 tournament between the world's best teams, and them alone, or perhaps a short series of three matches before or after a test series might still work. But these sorts of encounters, in my mind, don't, and will not. Their singular contribution, I reckon, will be to drive further nails into the 50-50 coffin.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Gilly the Sensible

This is a pretty sensible, thoughtful Cowdrey lecture delivered by Adam Gilchrist (I'm not sure about the bit that says "get cricket into the Olympics" though). Some highlights:
Even its most ardent admirers would have to acknowledge that Test cricket is now redundant as the financial driver of the game.
No disagreement here. The question is how to find a way of subsidizing it, if the cricket world agrees that it is worth subsidizing.
Twenty20 cricket certainly has the great advantage of being able to slot directly into the one-day financial template.
And to continue the subsidy of test cricket, or to knock it out altogether?
Test cricket, arguably one of the greatest sporting contests ever devised, is by the same token an anachronism amongst modern professional sports.
Yes, but also singular and unique, and perhaps just for that reason worth holding on to (besides, won't the batsmen's union want test cricket just so that they can play those long innings?)
Test cricket should be tampered with as little as is possible...This not only includes the expanded umpire referral system, but especially the mooted introduction of night test cricket and a different coloured ball needed to accommodate this
I'm still ambivalent about night cricket but I think this is an experiment that is going to happen for sure; I'm less keen about the umpire referral system, which thus far seems to have introduced a great deal of confusion and little else
[to preserve test cricket's future]which we must - less is infact more - that we should go back to the future where there were fewer test matches, but a lot more important ones, and where the best cricketers of the day played closer to 50 tests in their career, not 150.

A test playing group of England, Australia, Pakistan, India, New Zealand, West Indies, Sri Lanka would suit me just fine. Yes, that means demoting Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, the oldest idea in the book. And I'd be very happy to see future Tendulkars conserve their energies and skills by playing a little less cricket overall (Mind you, this hasn't stopped Tendulkar from playing international cricket for twenty years!).

Incidentally, while Gilly's insistence on the Ashes as the premier cricketing encounter might irk those who think the importance of this encounter has been overrated, its pretty clear that the India-Australia and India-Pakistan rivalries have not taken off for a variety of reasons. In the Australian case, we have not been able to arrange a full five-test series (it's another thing that India-Australia tests have often been harder fought than many Ashes tests), and in the case of Pakistan, no reasonable middle ground has been found between too much cricket, and neither have politics and the worst pitches in the world helped.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Singing the national anthem

Monday, June 22, 2009

Anyone able to translate Sangakkara's speech?

Anyone out there that can offer up a translation of Kumar Sangakkara's little speech in Sinhalese (after the ICC T20 final presentation ceremony yesterday)?

Labels: ,

Dedicated to the Army?

Did Wasim Akram really say on Sky yesterday, after Pakistan's ICC T20 win, "This win is dedicated to the brave Army of Pakistan"?

Labels: ,

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Congratulations Pakistan!

Congratulations Pakistan on a ballsy, skillful, confident win in the ICC T20 World Cup Final!

Labels: , ,

Not so good, but not so easy either

Pakistan have knocked the stuffing out of the Sri Lankan batting in this final, but I do not think their chase will be an easy one. It especially will not be an easy one if Sri Lanka reckon their best chances of winning lie in taking Pakistani wickets and not in containment. (Its coming up the last over of the SL innings, and at 121-7 they are some 30-40 runs off where they would have wanted to have been).

Labels: , ,

Slow down SL

Interesting; I would have picked the side defending a target to win this final, but so far Sri Lanka seems to be doing whatever they can (by losing two early wickets) to knock that prediction on its head.

Labels: , ,

Friday, June 19, 2009

A question

Who is commenting with Harsha Bhogle on Sky during the West Indies' 10-15 overs (against Sri Lanka in the WC T20 semi-final)?


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Flexible batting orders or flexible batsmen?

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Mighty Diaspora Strikes Again

Fine, so India couldn't stay in the ICC T20 World Cup and entertain us a little longer. And to make things worse, they lost to England. But at least I've had the satisfaction of watching two guys named Ramnaresh and Shivnarine knock England out of the World Cup. Thanks lads. We hope you love us too.

Rally Round the West Indies! (Just like the old days, when cheering for the Windies was the smartest option for an Indian fan).

Labels: , ,

Any scorelines I should know about?

Ok, so everyone knows about the Lillee c Willey b Dilley scoreline. How many folks have heard of the Lamb c Kourie b Rice? (an oldie but goldie from South Africa's domestic competition) Are there any other scorelines out there that I should know about? Like, for instance, a Smith c Smith b Smith or perhaps a Ram c Sita b Laxman? You get the drift, I hope.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A stumblin' chase

India, stumbling toward the 154, are doing a pretty shithouse job of it. Excessive diffidence in batting, I think, translates into wickets for the bowling side.

That number again

Right. India couldn't defend 153 the other day. Can they chase it? Or is 3x3x17 going to turn into India's Bad Number for this Cup?

The Campaign and the Captain

Just like in the 1999 World Cup and the 2003 World Cup and the 2007 World Cup (and perhaps others I may have missed), the Indian cricket team begins its campaign in a major international tournament weakly, and now finds itself in a situation where it is, to trot out an old cliche, not "master of its own destiny". Today's game against England is a must-win, as is the game against South Africa; the margins of these wins need to be handsome ones as well.

In suggesting that Dhoni stunk up the crucial game against the Windies, I seem to have conveyed the impression that I hold him solely responsible for the defeat. Not so; his efforts with the bat just stood out more dramatically against the backdrop of general incompetence from the top-order batting and the bowling, which failed to take advantage of a mounting required run-rate during the Windies' batting.

But perhaps all of this is to quibble too much. Twenty20 is inherently a format in which small mistakes get punished and results like these are only expected when significant weaknesses remain unaddressed in a team. Like the one in the Indian team, which features a captain who still seems to be struggling with an identity crisis.

For if there is a question that seems to confront Dhoni on a daily basis it is this: what shall I be, swashbuckler or canny pragmatist? Of recent years, Dhoni has steadily cast himself as canny, cool, level-headed pragmatist, a man dedicated to keeping the unpredictable Indian team on an even keel. In doing so, he has remade his batting to an alarming extent (and as I've pointed out on this blog in the past) and the change is not a positive one. In test cricket, it has meant that India's lower order threatens no one, and cannot change the course of a game with some aggressive batting. In one-day internationals, it has resulted in Dhoni the 'finisher'. In T20, I think it means that Dhoni is confused about what role he should be play. I think he prides himself on being flexible enough to switch roles easily but truth be told, we haven't seen a power innings from Dhoni in any format of cricket for a very long time. And so this means that invariably there will be times that Dhoni will imagine a T20 situation to call for 'level-headed batting' and take that to mean blocking away. But 'level-headed batting' in T20 simply means taking as many singles as possible - the limited number of deliveries available makes that into a no-brainer.

Dhoni started off as a fire-and-brimstone batter. With suitable adjustments made for particular circumstances, he should return to the basics: hitting hard and looking for the boundary when possible. Its possible to remain true to one's instincts and yet still modulate one's contributions to the team cause.

Dhoni's swing from one extreme to the other needs a correction; MS is talented enough to do it, I think.

Friday, June 12, 2009

"Was he a crim?"

Unbelievable. I can't believe I just heard that in a SKY interlude in this India-West Indies ICC WC T20 game.

Details later.

Dhoni's stinker

Dhoni's 11 off 23 balls against the Windies in this Super Eights game of the ICC T20 World Cup must rank as quite possibly, one of the worst innings I've seen played by an Indian batsman in a major international game. I'm going to be holding my nose for a while after this one.

Addendum: The Indian innings thus far (14th over) is a stinker overall.

Struggle at Lords, Part 1.1

More broadly, this Yuvraj-Dhoni partnership is really strange; this level of shackling of these two is a rare sight. Kudos to the Windies.

Struggle at Lord's, Part I

Dhoni, 5 off 15 in an international T20 game. Stunning.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Goodbye Dutch minnows

I won't miss you.

Generally, I like underdogs. But I couldn't bring myself to cheer for Netherlands against Pakistan. Fact of the matter is, I didn't expect Pakistan to keep playing as badly as they did against England (in the bad old days, such an uninspired chase in an important game would have prompted howls of match-fixing). And I didn't expect Netherlands to keep playing as well as they did against England. Thus, looking ahead to a Pakistan-less Super Eights presented an unappetizing picture: we would get a series of games where Netherlands would struggle to both provide quality opposition and where the excitement that Pakistan would bring would be sadly missing. (And of course, as an Indian, I like Pakistan to be around in a tournament - it increases the chances that an India-Pakistan game will take place!).

As things turned out, Pakistan outclassed Netherlands. While the Pakistan batting and fielding is still flaky, their bowling is quite dangerous (Gul, the new Amir, Tanvir (if fit), Afridi and the doosra-bowling Ajmal). No team that plays Pakistan will take them lightly and their presence in the Super Eights will add lustre to its proceedings in a way that Netherlands wouldn't have managed.

So, sorry about not sticking up for the minnows. But this is a world cup, and I want the best teams in there (even if sometimes they take a little while to warm up and should really know better). Minnows, too often, hand out one good performance, and then, simply stink up the scene. I have more faith in Pakistan that they won't do the same.

Labels: , ,

Monday, June 01, 2009

Mini strangeness

That 2 off 7 balls by Yusuf Pathan, in this warm-up game against New Zealand in the ICC T20 Cup, must rank as one of the strangest little innings I've seen. A power hitter walks in, with the stage set for him, and scratches around for an over or so, before hitting a return catch to a spinner. Weird.


A world cup is at hand

I like games between national representative sides. Even if they are only warm-up games. I like lots of different formats for cricket. Even T20. All of which is a long-winded way of saying that I'm happy the T20 World Cup has started.