Tuesday, January 26, 2010

More pilgrimages (cricketing and literary)

In a previous post, I wrote about visiting Petersham Oval, the site of Don Bradman's first first-grade century (on debut). This past weekend, I visited two towns that also have a place in Australian cricket folklore. And all because I went down to the South Coast (south of Sydney in New South Wales) for a little beach trip, the original agenda for which was literary, not cricketing.

I took the South Coast train to Woonona, and first visited Thirroull where DH Lawrence lived for a few months in 1922. But later, our day included a drive through the wonderfully named Fairy Meadow, the birthplace of Australia's first test captain David Gregory (thus, one of the first two test captains in cricket). And afterwards through Bulli, home of the topsoil for the SCG!

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, January 22, 2010

Uh-oh Modi photo-ops are here

Yargh. The IPL is back. Which means, unfortunately, that Lalit Modi's mug will soon be all over the place, as in this Cheshire Cat moment with IPL team owners. I'm going to be have to be careful in arranging my meal timings.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mishra for #3

Amit Mishra could have scored himself a new nickname, Dizzy, had he played his cards right. Instead, he's gone and holed out to mid-off. Silly boy. You had a century there for the taking. When will you get such a chance again? The second test? Only if you get in again as a nightwatchman? What's that? That'll happen too? Fair enough. Still, Mishra's expression and body language as he walked suggests he knew just what he had consigned to the trash-heal (Gambhir's little shake of the head was another indicator).

OK, RD, your turn. Get on with it. Dizzy did his bit.

Labels: ,

The way out of the murk

So far, India have suffered a first-innings collapse, let Bangladesh recover from 98-6 to within a run of their first innings, sent out a nightwatchman, and taken an offer of bad light. Those aren't good indicators of champion-like behavior. But there could be two days of cricket left in this test, and thus, time enough for India to get on with the business of setting the Bangla Bandhus a difficult target. Anything over 350 would be too much for them, which means that India will probably look to set 400.

The variable, of course, is the light, and I'm just hoping India will stay positive to score as quickly as possible before the inevitable light disruptions (is it just me or does it seem like the winter light disruptions are getting worse in South Asia, possibly because of urban smog being factored into the mix?). If India don't show some initiative, we might be subjected to that ghastly excuse, "We didn't know when to declare because we didn't know how much time would be left in the game".

Labels: , , ,

Monday, January 18, 2010

A little Bradman pilgrimage

A little trivia note: I visited Petersham Oval yesterday. A good friend suggested we walk down there from her place; I wasn't sure why we were headed there (besides it being a cricket ground, and her knowing that I'm a cricket nut) but then was informed that it was the venue of Don Bradman's first-grade debut (the Don obliged with a 110 on debut). I'll post a photo of the commemorative plaque and moi very soon.

Yes, I know a very Indian thing to do: visiting Bradman-related venues in Australia. But in my defense, it wasn't my idea. And I didn't even know of it. So, there, I'm not such a Bradman nerd.

But I would like to visit Bowral someday.

Labels: , , , ,

Viru the Frank; India the Rusty

I'm going to respond to Homer's comment on my last blog post here.

I think Sehwag is being rightly pilloried. Maybe Bangladesh will not take 20 wickets. But in the interests of consistency, we should note that had someone else said something similar (about any team) in the world, and then his team had suffered a collapse, the same response would have ensued. More to the point, when the world's #1 team collapses against the world's worst test team, tongues will wag. India could still win this match, but Bangladesh deserves credit for doing what they did yesterday. I'm not saying Sehwag needs to be muzzled, but if he is going to be "refreshingly frank", then folks shouldn't mind if there are some "refreshingly frank" responses as well.

My original point is something quite else. Why does the Indian team get so rusty so quickly? We just came off a series where Team India scored a quintillion runs and won in style. Can they ever string together some consistency so that they don't constantly give the impression of needing long periods to warm up?

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A whiff of the familiar

India is playing a test. And Tendulkar is bailing them out of strife. So what if it is against Bangladesh? Old habits die hard.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Getting it right (with some hiccups)

A few days ago, when writing of Pakistan's chances in the second test at Sydney, I suggested that they were in trouble despite being 206 ahead in the first innings. Later, I grew more confident and went to JRod's blog to make a more definitive prediction. Australia's collapse induced some doubt in my mind that my prediction would hold. I seriously considered not going for the fourth day's play. But fortunately, my friend John Sutton (the never-to-seen kenelmdigby co-author on this blog), said he would go regardless of whether prices would be reduced or not. So, off we went, and I'm glad we did. (More on that day's experience at the SCG a bit later).

My prediction landed up looking very good indeed as Pakistan lost by 36. Why did I pick the 35? Well, I felt that Pakistan would get close to small target but not too close. That their panicking would have occurred earlier. Which, of course, it did.

Pakistan have had their chances in their series. In all three tests. They haven't taken them. Australia have. 3-0 might not be "fair" but when was test cricket supposed to be that way. Part of saying a team was "better" is that they take their chances. There is no point in saying Australia got lucky or that Pakistan were unlucky. The better team is winning. As it should.

Labels: , , , ,

There, there skip, you'll be right

Nothing sums up the current state of Pakistani cricket better than the sight of the youngsters in the team consoling their captain Mohammed Yousuf, after an appeal for a review of a caught-behind against Ricky Ponting was turned down. Think about that for a second. The captain is publicly disconsolate to the extent he needs to be consoled by his juniors.

No one, on this series, has been sure who is in charge.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A return to the paddock (as skipper?)

As some readers of this blog might know, I played some cricket in Sydney during my two year stint there (2000-2002). I played in the Northern Sydney Suburbs competition, in the C-division. Over the years, I've made several trips back to Sydney and have always managed to play a game with the boys. The return games have been a treat; Centrals (my team) is made up of a bunch of cricketers who play the game seriously on the field (with a fair amount of banter amongst ourselves, and sometimes directed at the opposition) but don't take it too seriously once they step off the paddock. I count my days playing cricket with them amongst my fondest memories of Sydney. To top things off, North Sydney has beautiful grounds set in the bush (and one of them even offers a great view of the majestic azure waters of Sydney Harbor).

My return trips to Sydney have thus followed a pattern: I write ahead to my old teammates letting them know I will be back in town, and they pencil me in for a game. I'm always given a ride from south of the bridge, and after answering the inevitable questions about life in the Big Bad City, we get down to playing cricket.

This past Saturday, came the chance for the guest appearance. The first thing I noticed on reaching the ground (at Gore Park) was the number of new faces. Recreational cricket always involves turnover; players acquire professional and personal responsibilities elsewhere in their lives and cricket on Saturdays can take a back seat. Still, the great thing about the Centrals vibe is that the newcomers were all as friendly as I remember my older teammates being.

Saturday the 9th was a bloody hot day, and my fervent desire was that we win the toss and elect to bat. (There had been a period in the past when we had always bowled first!). But this time, thankfully, the coin came down right, and we settled down in the shade. Except of course, for the two lads that had to go out and umpire. Taking one for the team for sure.

I went in to bat pretty late. (Turned out, we had 12 players but one of the scheduled players, Ben, sportingly sat out to let me play). Going in at #10 meant I didn't have much time to bat. And geez, was it difficult. I hadn't picked up a bat in five years, and for a while, it seemed that while I was running runs, they were just byes and leg-byes. Finally, I got an inside edge, and scampered through for a single. But the ump (Nic) was signalling a leg-bye! I pointed out that I had gotten an edge, and shortly afterwards when we were bowled out, and I returned not-out, I was told by the scorers that they had given me the single. Phew. Off the mark. And no average yet for the season.

Meanwhile, I was about to be pleasantly surprised. Our captain, Stuart, had left on a family call, and I was stunned to be told by my ex-captains from the past (Richard and Max) that I should captain when we fielded. I was flabbergasted and delighted in equal measure. I quickly got a handle on the bowler's list, and off we went, to try and defend a total of 151 (in 40 overs).

To say that things turned out disastrously would be an understatement. We went down in 20 overs, as sixes and fours flew all over the place. The opposition had very good batsmen, who loved hitting hard, and to make things worse we dropped seven catches. I certainly didn't lead by example, for I dropped two. (Yup, we were worse than Pakistan) The worst part about my drops was that they followed on the heels of my flippant remark, "Allright boys, captains perogative, I stand at second slip". Gee. (Both catches were down to the right; they were simple but would have looked good; slips catching does require practice, which I didn’t have much of).

To make things worse, I could have looked like a genius at one point, when I brought back our opening quick (Richard) for an over, and promptly dropped a catch off him. By that stage, our drops were inducing giggles and wry grins more than anything else.

But still, the captaincy was fun and challenging. While we didn't tinker excessively with the fields, it was still a treat to work them out with the bowlers and to recalibrate in light of the game's development. And I had all the player interactions that a captain can expect: the bowler changing the field after I set it; the bowler suggesting he stay on if he got another wicket; the advice from slips and the wicketkeeper (including the suggestion I not listen to the bowler's demands for a field); the fast bowler who suggested a field change which placed him in the shade; the warming-up from the bowling hopefuls; it was all there.

We lost badly but it had been a great learning experience. Later, after the obligatory cold beers on the sidelines, I was dunked with ice. The dunkings are usually reserved for victorious captains but Centrals figured I needed one anyway.

I'd always reckoned that I would play a game on my return; I didn't think I'd land up captaining for an innings. Thanks boys.

PS: I wore my South African cap while we fielded (an old gift from a South African friend; its the most comfortable cap for cricket that I have). So, I think this must have been the only occasion in the history of the game when an Indian with an American passport, wearing a South African cap, captained an Australian team.

Labels: , ,

Monday, January 04, 2010

The door is ajar

Here in Sydney, it might seem odd to back a team that is down by 204 runs in the first innings but for the time being, that is what I'm going to do. Pakistan have let Australia back into the game by failing to drive home the advantage from 205-2. Losing eight wickets for 128 runs is not a smart thing to do. Australia will not bat as badly as they did in the first innings (Ponting, North, Hussey and Haddin played some truly bizarre shots). And Pakistan will not like chasing anything more 150.

Some crucial factors for me: 1) Will Ponting score a big ton and lead by example? 2) Will Hauritz continue to turn the ball? 3) Will Australia hold their catches? (Gee, will Pakistan hold theirs in the Aus second innings?) 4) If chasing a smallish target, say 165-175, will Umar Akmal suddenly make it all look easy by blasting a rapid 70?

I'm off to the SCG tomorrow for the fourth day's play. Hopefully, the weather and the players will co-operate, for it should be a cracker.

Labels: , , , , ,