Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Not masters of their own destiny

Right, so Pakistan have put on a shambolic batting performance against Australia. You'd have to pick the Aussies to go through at this rate. Which means I'll be able to get some work done today. Small mercies.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

A downward slide

Things aren't looking good in this India-Australia game. For one thing, India have wasted the good start they got off to; Ishant Sharma has failed to adequately maintain pressure on the Aussie bats; Ricky Ponting is looking set for a big score. To make things worse, it is almost certain that rain will interfere with this game, and the gathering clouds look to be packing the kind of moisture that could easily wipe out an entire game.

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Pakistan for the Champions Trophy

Based on what I've seen of the bowling attacks thus far in this Champions Trophy, I'd say Pakistan is the favorite to win. Their indiscipline in bowling wides and no-balls could still sink them, but the variety and skill on display is outstanding.

PS: If there is a weak link in their attack, it is Rana Naved, who has a tendency to pitch far too short at time.

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Bravo Andrew Strauss

Bully for Andrew Strauss for injecting some much-needed common sense into the runner's situation in international cricket: no runners when you get a cramp. Strauss draws the absolutely correct distinction between injuries suffered as a result of the particular sporting activity, and something which is a symptom of muscle exhaustion (yes, I'm aware that some injuries are a result of muscle exhaustion as well). For too long, we've been subjected to the ridiculous sight of batsmen essentially saying, "I'd like some assistance please, because I happen to be tired." If you can't continue functioning then it behooves you to leave the field and get medical assistance. Runners for injuries suffered during a game; for everything else, you get a sympathetic look.

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A familiar situation

Watching India's incompetent performance on Saturday, and realizing that the Australia game was now a knockout affair, triggered a sneaking feeling: does India always start major tournaments poorly? It seemed to me that the Indian team has a talent for ending up in must-win (or dependent on run-rate) situations very quickly. I wasn't sure, so I went and checked just the World Cups.

The record looks something like this:

  • 2007 World Cup - lost to Bangladesh (eventually knocked out in pool round)
  • 2003 World Cup - beat the Netherlands; lost to Australia in the next, still needed to scramble against Namibia as a result; went on to final
  • 1999 World Cup - lost to South Africa (eventually knocked out by Australia in second stage)
  • 1996 World Cup - Beat Kenya, then beat the West Indies (eventually knocked out in semi-finals)
  • 1992 World Cup - Lost to England, did not qualify for semis
  • 1987 World Cup - Lost to Australia, knocked out in semis
  • 1983 World Cup - beat the West Indies, won the cup
  • 1979 World Cup - lost to West Indies, knocked out in pool round
  • 1975 World Cup - lost to England, knocked out in pool round

Not a pretty sight. In nine world cups, India have only won their opening game three times. Two of those wins have come against minnows, and in one of those occasions, they still painted themselves into a corner by losing the next game. The one time India began their campaign with a win against a major team, they won the cup.

I know this is neither here or there but it was an interesting exercise nevertheless and told me I wasn't completely deranged in thinking the situation India find themselves in today was a familiar one (at least for fans!).

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Friday, September 25, 2009

A nice little pressure cooker coming up

Woah. This match between Sri Lanka and England has been surprising in more ways than one. I woke up (yup, I slept in, isn't an academic schedule great?) to find out that Sri Lanka had lost their top-order for very little. Then, we were treated to a very impressive fightback led by Kandamby and Matthews (both of whom, I must say, are rapidly growing in stature, and have become increasingly impressive for their maturity). And just to top things off, Andrew Strauss decides to recall Matthews in a situation where quite honestly, I think he swung to one end of the Aristotelean spectrum of generosity (Onions was clearly not deliberately obstructing Matthews). Had Matthews stuck around, I dare say Strauss would have found the dressing room a pretty uncomfortable place.

Sri Lanka will not put up a huge total (they've been helped by some not very good English bowling) but I think England will not find the chase easy. This could be the game we've been waiting for.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Windies make me want to go back to work

One of the most depressing things about current international cricket is the state of the West Indies side. They are a basket case, and the first five overs of their Champions Trophy game against Pakistan confirms it. Three wickets down, and its going to need a miracle from here to make a contest of it. Pakistan have a strong bowling attack; the shots played today would have resulted in wickets even if they had been bowling at half-strength.

Yesterday, I couldn't watch much of the South Africa-SL game because of a bad broadband connection at work. Today, I have the time and a good connection (at home), but this is on display. I think I'll tune out, and do some work instead. Never thought the day would come, but here it is.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Dhoni the canny (sorry, I meant Dravid)

This is how reputations get made. We have Nasser talking up Dhoni as a captain on Sky, talking about how well Dhoni has used the bowling powerplay in the past, because "there was one match, I think Goa, when England were going well, and Dhoni just held the powerplay back, and it was so hot, and their batsmen got tired, and then when the bowling powerplay was finally taken, they were too exhausted to take advantage."

Yeah. The tactics sound very canny. Except that the captain of India in the game Nasser was talking was Rahul Dravid (it was in Kochi, not Goa, but that is a minor error). In the match in question, the fourth one-day international of the 2006 ODI series, England seemed to have got off to a flyer, but then slowed, and finally lost their way, especially when the bowling powerplay claimed the wickets of Flintoff and Pietersen.

MSD, thou art blessed.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Viru holds forth

Virender Sehwag has been providing some entertainment over at Cricinfo in the course of his interview (by Nagraj Gollapudi). There are tons of nuggets scattered throughout the piece; here is a short, sweet one:
Did Greg Chappell give you any sort of valuable tips?


Read the whole piece; I've linked to part II above. You can find the link for the first part on the same page.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Well done (but did you have to be so sloppy?)

Congratulations to the lads on winning the Compaq Cup, though I'd have to say that that defense of 319 was amongst the poorest I've seen in a while: wayward bowling, lackluster fielding, and butter-fingered catching being prominently on display. Something like that when 319 runs are not up on the board is a sure-fire recipe for disaster when the Champions Trophy begins. (Yes, I know the inevitable defense, "they won't be so sloppy when they don't have 319 runs on board," but honestly, does anyone believe that?).

The Champions Trophy, though its ridiculed in various quarters, is useful in one regard: it serves as a template for what I think should be the world championship in one-day cricket. It is short, it is compact, and it takes place every two years (if I'm not mistaken). I think we should do away with the four-year world cup, rename the Champions trophy, and be done with it. That way, we'd have a limited overs championship ever year in one format or the other, and everyone would be happy. And that way, we might be able to get rid of many one-day internationals, and make the ones that are played much more meaningful.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

An avuncular mentor

Not a sight for sore eyes

I've said it before, and I won't have any problems repeating myself: MS Dhoni is quite possibly the ugliest batsman I've seen in a very long time. Indeed, I'm having a hard time remembering someone whose batting style has quite been such an eyesore for me. Effective in ODIs sure. But ugly as sin. Oh good lord, its painful watching him. "Fugly" was never so appropriately used as a description.

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The Karthik conundrum

Watching Karthik sitting on the sidelines is a sad reminder that this lad can't seem to arrest his downward slide. How the mighty have fallen. I've always considered him a better bat than Dhoni, thought he would get his wicketkeeping to a point where he'd excel MSD, and even reckoned he was captaincy material. But he's played himself out of the test side (various factors have contributed to this state of affairs, of course), and when given chances in ODI games, hasn't quite seized them. It's a long way from the glory days of 2007.


Masters at work

Watching Dravid pull Thushara for four in the sixth over reminded me that very few batsmen play that shot better. There is the perfect transfer of weight accompanying the swivel of the feet, the bat goes horizontal and then face down, and the ball races away to the boundary. It's not a shot that is often associated with Dravid just because it doesn't fit into his overall vibe, but it's definitely one that is a signature stroke (jeez, just like the unbelievable cover drive that Sachin has just smoked off Kulasekara). Phew. Lovely batting here. Glad I got up early.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

On to the Compaq Cup final

Right. So we have a one-day final tomorrow. The Compaq Cup (which features a pretty digital trophy, like totally 21st century, if you know what I mean).

India have a chance to do two things: take back the No. 1 spot, which they held for some 24 hours (at least, I think they get it back, but I'm not sure), and more to the point, they have a chance to try and get over the "finals jinx", because they have this really bad habit of losing in anything that ends with the word "Final."

Sri Lanka have the chance to just continue smacking India around the Park like they did on Saturday (can someone confirm if that was the same pitch on which India clobbered New Zealand? I'm serious).

Despite all my recent snarkiness about the one-day game, I'm genuinely interested in this game. I would like to see: Tendulkar and Dravid bat; the Indian trio of Nehra/RP Singh/Sharma fire; Dilshan/Jaya/Sanga batting; Mendis/Malinga bowling. I still like ODIs when the stakes are "high." This isn't a big deal as far as tournaments go, but there is always some national pride at stake. And importantly, Sri Lanka is playing at home, so the atmosphere should be have a crackle and pop to it. The one-day final, with a big crowd behind it, is still a marquee international cricket event. Fingers crossed, we'll get a good game.

Oh, and the times are good. The games start at 5 AM, and thanks to a pesky back injury, I haven't had any trouble waking up then!

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Back in Black

This Indian batting effort will at least feature one very interesting match-up (already underway): Tendulkar and Dravid versus Shane Bond. Good to see Bond back in black (his speed isn't up to full tilt yet, but the conditions might have something to do with it).

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The top's gone, and not much left

India's strangulation of this New Zealand innings, while satisfying from the perspective of the Indian fan, does create the rather unappetizing possibility that the ODI will drift to an end in that most dreaded of ways: a perfunctory, businesslike, accumulation of a rather low total by the side batting second. The crowd will struggle to stay awake, and I might go take a nap as well.

I'll make no secret of it. On subcontinental pitches, I prefer watching India bat first. One gets a little value for money if they rack up a big total, and then of course, there is the defense to look forward to. When their outcricket does as much damage as it has today, it doesn't leave much to be consumed later. (By way of clarifying, I do like India bowling first overseas on more bowler-friendly tracks; it often is their best chance of winning).

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The return of the prodigal(s)

Right. So it has been a long time since I've seen India play any international cricket (the World T20?) and thus, here we are on a wet, dark morning in Brooklyn, watching India take on New Zealand in the Compaq Cup (I have given up trying to understand the provenance of these triangular ODI series). I confess to having tuned out just a bit over the last few weeks as India made noises about their team selection, and thus, it was a pleasant surprise to see Nehra and RP Singh opening the bowling. The former was in danger for being better known for a a little YouTube clip where he says terrible things about Dhoni's sister, and along with the latter, of becoming yet another answer to that well-known trivia question "Which promising promising Indian fast bowler is in danger of slipping into obscurity?". But Delhi's prominence on the national scene, and this stint in the IPL, has done him wonders. And here he is, taking two wickets in his first two overs, both LBWs.

Good Lord, the television screen tells me Nehra played in the West Indies earlier this year as well. Mea culpa. I hadn't realized. I wasn't paying attention to that ODI series.

Which fact brings me to one-day internationals again. A few weeks ago, when Pakistan were touring Sri Lanka, I had noticed that large crowds had not shown up for the ODI series, contributing to a rather flat atmosphere at the ground. While today's small crowd is not surprising, (given that Sri Lanka is not playing), it made me wonder whether it would be only India that could be counted upon to drum up large crowds for bilateral games. And perhaps, then, only for games involving India. Things are a bit worrying for ODIs.

Meanwhile, synoptic musings about various forms of cricket aside, New Zealand have lost three wickets as Taylor goes to RP Singh (I'm glad to see him back in the side as well). Looking ahead, another interesting return awaits: Rahul Dravid is back in action.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Many Lives of Ranji

A review of Satadru Sen's Migrant Races: Empire, Identity, and K.S. Ranjitsinhji is up at Different Strokes.

Great book; "academic, yet accessible" is how I've described it. While it's not a cricket book, it certainly helps one understand the world of cricket a little better.

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Well, hello, another pointless ODI series

I thought the India-West Indies ODI series earlier this year was a bit flat, and somehow incapable of generating interest. This England-Australia series is even worse, if that was possible. Play ODIs before tests; or have the occasional trophy tournament like the Champions or the World Cup. These interminable series, staged as unwanted desserts after the main course, are pointless.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Bloggers in physical space

I've now met two "local" bloggers in physical space (as opposed to cyberspace). David Mutton, of Silly Mid-Off, for the last day of the Ashes, and on Sunday, Homer, to catch the end of the second one-day international (afterwards, we ate some very good South Indian food in Manhattan, washed down with an excellent Pinot Grigio!). These sorts of meetings are a time-honoured tradition on the net; no matter how rich the online interaction, the hankering for a face-to-face, sit-down-and-shoot-the-breeze meeting never quite goes away. As a veteran of the chatterspace that is the net, I've had these sorts of encounters before: in the net.gatherings of the old Grateful Dead fans group, and with folks from the group.

The putting-faces-to-names aspect of these meetings is interesting of course, but in the case of cricket, one of the distinct pleasures is being able to watch a cricket game in company, and to able to talk about it in real-time. The cricket conversation becomes quite free-flowing, moving easily from topic to topic, and often evokes digressions and asides that don't happen so easily online. And of course, one finds out that there is more to life than cricket: rarely does a conversation remain confined to the game!

In the context of cricket, these meetings are good reminders of the community that cricket can create (one put into particularly sharp focus recently because of the sad news of Amy S' passing away). And its worth remembering that in the context of a conversation space (the net) than can too often degenerate into a flame-fest (re: the comments spaces of many blogs, including mine on Cricinfo where I've been startled by some of the hostility on display - but more on that later).

PS: The venue when I met David was Eight Mile Creek, an Australian bar in Nolita that, while quite small, features a nice space for watching cricket; when I met Homer, we met at The Australian, a bar in mid-town that is definitely geared toward the sports-watching experience. I'm particularly glad to have discovered the Australian, as its location works for me in several regards and as it looks like they show a lot of Aussie Rules and rugby as well.

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Sunday, September 06, 2009


This is terrible, heartbreaking news. Amy S. of Amy S. Talks Cricket is no more. RIP Amy. Only the good die young.