Friday, August 28, 2009

Netherland and the cricketing novel

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Books at hand

The last few days have been good ones for scoring cricket books. A friend of mine loaned me her copy of Joseph O'Neill's Netherland; Satadru Sen loaned me his personal copy of Migrant Races Empire, Identity and K.S. Ranjitsinhji; and finally, the University of Chicago Press sent me a review copy of The Original Laws of Cricket.

I hope to write reviews and post them here, on Different Strokes and over at Faster Times.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Easy there big boy

When Great White Sharks patrol the Southern Seas, it's not the quantities of their kills that count, but the certainties. The best and most dangerous predators can go days, even weeks, without feeding. It what happens when they finally scent blood that makes them the creatures they are.
Nope, this isn't from the National Geographic. This is Andrew Miller on Steve Harmison's final spell at the Oval. Phew. My heart is pounding. My eyes are reeling from the purpleness of it all.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Ashes bet

Homer wins the Ashes bet. Doesn't matter if he didn't get the scoreline right (he called it 1-0 or 2-0 England; I called it 2-1 Australia). In the end, what matters is that he was right about England being able to put one over Australia.

Congrats Homer! Bloody Mumbai-wallahs have a way of winning.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Selection blues in the decider

I think Australia have their selection wrong for this test. And in a way, this jam has been building all series. The failure to include Clark; the panicky dropping of Hughes; the holding on to Johnson for the fourth test when by all rights he should have been gone by then; the picking of four seamers which won them the fourth test but which now has made them stick with an unchanged XI for this last test.

This is the Oval. Traditionally, a pretty good batting track, and one on which a spinner would have been of some help if England were to be batting last. A four-man pace/seam attack is one-dimensional and only likely to work on a wicket that is exceptionally helpful. On a good batting track, you need the variety a spinner provides. I'm not buying into the business about how Brett Lee would have been the expert reverse swinger that Australia needed (for now at least). I'd expect Hilfenhaus and Johnson to play that role reasonably well (the latter if he can get his radar back on track).

So far, England look reasonably comfortable, and had it not been for two airy wafts by their openers, would have been looking even more comfortable.

I have a sneaking feeling we'll see some Katich/Clarke/North spells in this test.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Two Cents versus EOC

Yes, I know a great deal is riding on the fifth Ashes test that starts tomorrow. Most importantly, Homer from Two Cents and I had a bet before the series started. Homer called the series for England. I called it for Australia 2-1. I forgot what scoreline Homer had predicted (remind us, Homer, was it 2-1 England?) The loser acknowledges the winner on his blog. The winner, if he so chooses, may crow. Or he could be dignified about it and just gloat in private.

Forget the Ashes. I can't stand the thought of losing anything, even a bet, to a Mumbai-wallah!

Come on Australia, don't let me down.

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Let the kids in for free (well, some of them)

Sachin Tendulkar thinks kids should be let into test matches for free. Perhaps not all kids:
We could have the toppers - either in academics or in sport - from various schools coming in to witness Test cricket. If it turns even 10% of those kids into Test cricket fans, it will be great for the game
This quote of Tendulkar's is inadvertently hilarious. I think he starts off with the clear-cut idea that children should not be charged admission for test cricket. A public service if you will. Then, I think, somewhere in his middle-class, respectable, Indian mind, jumps the thought "Woah, this sounds a little irresponsible. This sounds like we might be encouraging truancy in schoolchildren. Parents might not like it. I can just imagine hordes of angry parents saying 'What kind of example is Sachin setting by saying that we should send the children to test matches for free? They have to study for exams! Entrance exams! Its all very fine for you, but what about our children?'"

So, Tendulkar decides to water it down, and turns it into a reward for those kids that are already successful. The "topppers". Nice idea, SRT. But I think you should stick to your original plan, and ask for free admission for all kids. Heck, for all the "youth of the country". Otherwise, 10% of 10% is a really small percentage, and we won't get anywhere with that.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Evil drugs (except for booze)

Rohit Mahajan in Outlook revisits the WADA/BCCI wrangle, and enlists the help of authorities to make the case against "drugs":
But does cricket, a highly skill-based sport, need such drastic testing? Yes, says Ashok Ahuja, former head of the department of sports medicine, National Institute of Sports, Patiala. “The role of steroids has increased in cricket, especially among pace bowlers, to build up the muscles and recover from injuries,” he told Outlook.
Entirely correct. No dispute there. But then, things descend into the usual incoherence whenever it comes to talking about "drugs" for there is another worry apparently, the dreaded "recreational drug":
Ahuja also talks about the use of recreational drugs by sportspersons. “Some superstar athletes, moving in seven-star society, use recreational drugs,” he says, adding that the BCCI’s suggestion that it could produce a player for testing on a 24-hour notice won’t be acceptable because these drugs can be washed out of the system in that time. May agrees that recreational drugs, which carry a WADA penalty only if detected during competition, are a concern, for there “indeed is a temptation”.
Now, what drugs might that be? Beer? Wine? Whisky? Oh, no, I'm sure we're talking about the evil weed, for really, what sort of seven-star party is it that doesn't have a joint or two going around? So that's a good idea. Lets increase the surveillance on cricketers and bust them, a la Phelps, while as usual, tolerating the far more dangerous alcohol. And in fact, lets glorify alcohol while we are at it. Heck, we have an IPL team named after a whiskey.

My advice to the knights on white horses trying to rescue cricketers from "recreational drugs": don't be such hypocrites.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

The tired old East v. West distinction

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The 1000th post

According to the Blogger dashboard, this is my 1000th post on Eye on Cricket. It has taken me a bloody long time. I started Eye on Cricket in December 2004 (inspired by Amit Varma's 23 Yards over at Cricinfo). I posted twice in December 2004: the first post was a discussion of the India-Australia series (including the reproduction of an email to my friend Joe in Sydney), and the second was a quirky complaint about Indian batsmen. Then I didn't post for a whole year. I think that is a record in bloggin absences that will take some beating.

I started blogging again in December 2005 (with a tongue in cheek post wondering how long it would take before Danish Kaneria would convert to Islam.) Returning to blogging was helped by my purchasing a subscription to watch the Australia-RSA series on broadband video. Having live cricket at hand helped writing, as did the Ganguly furore. Since then, I have blogged on and off, sometimes with gaps as long as a couple of weeks induced by laziness and disorganization, sometimes longer because of vacations. I've thought of packing up the blog at times as I feel like it has taken on a life of its own, but instead, I've started blogging more. First at Cricinfo's Different Strokes and now at the Faster Times Cricket page. I write longer pieces for those blogs and shorter ones here. When I'm watching a match I tend to write more here; little short expostulations if you will. I'm sometimes intemperate in what I say. I'm pretty positive that those displays of intemperateness will happen here.

I've enjoyed all the discussions I've had here with all of the folks that have read and commented. I haven't been a good blogger in responding to comments speedily enough, and I deeply regret that. Thanks very much for reading and for commenting. I've also had a great time interacting with other bloggers (who show up in my blogroll to the right). I've learned a great deal from these folks. The standard of cricket writing available on blogs is very high; it says something about how the world of cricketing journalism has changed that I run to read blogs, not newspapers, after a game is over.

I'm not sure, after all these years, what I think of blogging. Perhaps its all just sound bites. But that can't be, because some bloggers I know produce very thoughtful, sensible, well-constructed pieces (like Homer over at Two Cents, who can become quasi-academic as he rushes off to establish a particularly keenly felt point, or David Mutton at Silly Mid-off, who is also amazingly prolific). I'd like to produce those kinds of posts all the time. But sometimes, like I said, all I can do is expostulate. Perhaps this is a distraction from the 'real work' I should be doing. But sometimes this helps me deal with day to day responsibilities.

In the end, blogging on cricket has let me stay in touch with the game I love the most, and with others who love the game. That is all it was supposed to do, I think. And for that I'm truly grateful.

Please keep reading and commenting.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Another take on Empire on Cricket

I've already talked up "Empire of Cricket", a new BBC documentary with four segments on England, Australia, India, and the West Indies. This past weekend I watched all of them, and then repeated the segment on India. I intend to do the same with the other three segments.

EOC's strength lies in several areas: a decent balance of social history and cricketing action, selective and judicious focus on a few stars, wonderful archival footage, and that ineffable editing skill that sets apart the very good documentaries from the run-of-the-mill ones. It is weak in one very significant area: its producer is afflicted with a disease that makes him or her want to mess with action footage (either by adding special effects, or running graphics across the screen, or cutting away abruptly and so on). I wish producers and directors would let the action be and let it speak for itself.

There will be disagreement amongst viewers about the folks interviewed (were they the best for the task at hand?) and about what the interviewees said. That's inevitable. For my part, I wished Harsha Bhogle had indulged in a little less essentialism about the Indian character.

Anyway, go see it. Some of it will bring a lump to your throat. Some of the footage of the West Indian greats in relaxed moments off the ground is truly electrifying, reminding us that no matter how strong a modern team gets, they will not have the same, wait for it, aura.

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BCCI, WADA and the lowdown

Woah. The folks at Bored Cricket Crazy Indians have an interview with the folks at WADA. More precisely, they have an exclusive with WADA's Director of Communications, Julie Masse. Go there. Get the straight dope. Get it? Sometimes, I kill myself.

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Getting clarity on drugs

Watching cricket all by my lonesome

Monday, August 10, 2009

Kesavan on the BCCI/WADA furore

A great piece by Mukul Kesavan on the ICC/WADA/BCCI standoff. Couldn't have said it better myself.

Edit: I realize this little pointer was just a bit of glib flattery but I did want to say that Kesavan's piece manages to capture the fact that there is a level of complexity to the drug testing standoff that doesn't seem to have been captured by the debate thus far.

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The Empire of Cricket

OK. Time to hit YouTube. (Or at least, I can say its "time" because I just found the damn videos myself). "Empire of Cricket", a most excellent BBC documentary on cricket's various homes over the world can be seen in six-part segments, and it makes for wonderful viewing. I watched the segments on India and the West Indies and intend to continue today. The selection of archival footage is absolutely wonderful; no cricket fan should miss out on this.


Sunday, August 09, 2009

Always thought they were idiots

The Aussie Fanatics were responsible for the fire alarm prank at the English team's hotel. Not quite sure what the appropriate punishment would be. A long road-trip with Ian Botham?

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Nice way to wrap up

Post-match presentation ceremonies can be painful, so I'm glad to report that the one that followed the fourth Ashes test was an outstanding one. Atherton asked some sensible questions of both captains (he was a bit relentless with Strauss), and both Strauss and Ponting played their roles perfectly: the former the contrite, yet determined to make good, loser, the latter, the gracious and confident victor (declining to acknowledge the Western Terrace was a good move!). And then North wrapped up things with a pointed and sensible emphasis on "patience."

So thats 1-1. All to play for, as they say, at the Oval. One can only hope that a competitive English side shows up. This performance was ludicrous; the indisciplined, incompetent batting and bowling on display did not do them any credit. But for the lower-order shenanigans on the third day, the margin of defeat would have been worse than the already-heavy innings and 80 runs.

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Saturday, August 08, 2009

Not a pretty sight

2 days gone. 25 wickets. 15 of those, unfortunately for England, happen to be theirs. Barring deluges that necessitate the building of arks and the loading up of animals by pairs, this test should go to Australia. We could say "And then?" But that would be premature. For now, its worth noting England have batted poorly, that Australia have bowled well (and Johnson's late spell is making me eat my words that he would be a dud until after the Oval test), and that test cricket can be very cruel indeed. There is no place to hide when a player cannot summon up the internal reserve to keep his body language positive as the cricketing facts of a test gone wrong start to crush you slowly and surely. England laid it all out today and it was painful to watch at times.

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Friday, August 07, 2009

A new blogging gig at The Faster Times

Just a quick post to let folks know that starting yesterday, I've started blogging at a new venue: the cricket page for The Faster Times, a new web publication. The New York Observer reported on its launch, so you can see what its all about. I'm happy to be doing this gig, as it means doing my bit to make cricket feature in a general American publication with international aspirations. I'll try and post a few times a week, and am still working on the approach I want to adopt over there. Please do check it out, pass the word, and offer all those perspicuous comments that make you great readers! :)


Another venue for live cricket in NYC

One more bar showing live cricket in New York City. Check it out, give them some business.


102 in 34 overs

So, the all-pace attack works. England 102 all out in 34 overs at Headingley. Clearly the Don has been invoked. Some loose batting by England and excellent bowling by Australia.

I think this shows too (just a little bit) how modern batting sides tend to struggle in bowler-friendly conditions.

Now, to see what the English bowlers will do. I suspect Watson will fail.

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Welcome back Stuart

What a return to test cricket for Stuart Clark. Two wickets before lunch on the opening day - both falling to the kinds of deliveries he is known for.

This has been a classic Australian test cricket session. Fast bowlers on, edges flying, slips fielders pouching catches - from the blinders to the dollys.

In case you didn't know, I love test cricket.

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Can't we all just get along?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

I've come to praise Ricky

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Post-Edgbaston blathering

Right. So things are looking harder than ever for my pre-Ashes prediction that Australia would win 2-1. Their batting is, as all other batting line-ups in the world, vulnerable to good swing bowling, and no matter what I might think of Anderson as a person, he is a quality exponent of that trade. Onions follows closely on his heels, and the combination was enough to trigger that alarming Aussie collapse on the second morning.

Comfortingly for Australia, Flintoff looks headed for the masseuse's table while Broad seems keen to win the Mohammed Sami Award for the Fast Bowler Given As Many Chances As Possible to Keep his Average Above 4o in Test Matches (our Mohammed made it to 50 runs per wicket, so the boyish Stuart has some catching up to do).

Then, of course, there is the Aussie bowling where Mitchell Johnson is on track to become the Matthew Hayden of 2009 (he will probably pick up his first five-fer in the second innings of the fifth test as England press for a declaration), Hilfenhaus and Hauritz are striving for amiability, and Siddle, after being All Menace and Few Wickets to Show For It, is now just hoping to get into the W column.

England, however, are riding the Strauss wave, and in doing so, are hiding some of the cracks in their own line-up: the failures of Bopara and their reliance on the lower-order to really take the initiative, for instance.

This is definitely not the Ashes of 2005 - the weaknesses of the team ensures that. But the lack of a definite edge that either opponent has over the other ensures that the remaining two tests will be just as keenly watched as the first three. Its definitely getting me out of bed in the mornings, and thats a good sign.

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Monday, August 03, 2009

Cricket live in NYC

As a public service announcement for NYC cricket fans, I'd like to note that Eight Mile Creek, an Australian restaurant in Nolita, is showing the Ashes live. I've seen cricket there before - its a good spot for it. EMC is at 240 Mulberry St, New York, NY 10012-5755, (212) 431-4635.

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