Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Will we see Fire in Babylon in the US?

I so hope so. Here is the trailer. To get a taste of what it might be like, check out the excellent Empire of Cricket documentary. The documentary is in six parts; I've linked to the first part on YouTube; you can chase the rest of it from there.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The winter of 1976

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A delectable duet

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Happy to be proven wrong

India chase 207 in 45 overs. Pujara scores 72 on debut. Well done lads. More thoughts later.

Can we please get Indian players and captains to say a few generous things about the opposition in victory? Please, please.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Yes, Virginia, all four results are possible

Australia ahead by 185 runs, three wickets in hand. One of those includes Mitchell Johnson, who could very easily put Australia 250 ahead before they are dismissed. India could chasing be chasing 250-260 with some 65 overs in hand. No VVS, a perennial-failure-in-the-second-dig Viru (and to make things worse, someone who has now proceeded to fall three times in a row to the short ball), a shaky Dravid, a debutant, and another one with weakness against the short one, Raina (who also showed some lack of nous by obligingly falling into Ponting's trap in the first innings); things could get very interesting.

All this said and done, I'd rank the possible results as follows: 1. Draw 2. Indian win 3. Australian win 4. A tie

Why have I put a draw as the #1 option? For two reasons: one, India is notoriously weak at dismissing the tail in these situations (Dhoni is as susceptible to the giving-up-a-single-to-the-better-bat disease as any other captain out there), and two, India are very bad at last-day run chases that require some enterprise. If Australia get to beyond 250, India will not chase. A quick collapse that sees India chasing 210 before lunch is doable, but it requires Sehwag to fire. And that sadly, I've become pessimistic about. I'd love to be proven wrong.

Australia's win chances lie in creating a panic by wickets and fielding hustle. I wouldn't put it beyond them.

Should be a great day's play.

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Saturday, October 09, 2010

Tendulkar's 155 on IRC

A new post on the pleasures of cricket via IRC (the Internet Relay Chat) has gone up at Different Strokes. In particular, in this post, I talk about following Tendulkar's epic 155 against the 1998 Australians.

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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Mohali Miss

Monday, October 04, 2010

Announcing a book project

As some of my remaining readers on this blog and over at Different Strokes will have noticed, my posting frequency has fallen off. I have a very good excuse for this. I have started a book project and have signed a contract with Harper Collins (the book is due with the publishers next year - I expect it to be released in early 2012). My editor in this enterprise is VK Karthika, a smart and perceptive editor who is, luckily for me, a cricket fan (after working for Penguin for many years, she moved to Harper a couple of years ago; I was pointed to her by both Mukul Kesavan and Ramachandra Guha as being the right editor to work with on my book). Needless to say I'm delighted on many counts: to be able to develop some thoughts on this great game at some length, and to be working with a sympathetic editor and a good publishing house.

The book's agenda is ostensibly straightforward but in reality, quite complicated. To be glib about it, the book will be my take on where cricket is going in this day and age. I'm planning to write a brief history of recent changes and try and extrapolate/project/prognosticate - all of it. The problem is that cricket is changing so fast, I'll be, to use Gideon Haigh's words, "chasing it down the street with a pen and notebook in hand."

As of now, I've started putting together some notes and have a rough idea of the chapter-wise breakdown: the impact and continuing role of technology in cricket, the change from nation-based cricket to professional franchises, the evolution of the game's formats (including speculation about world cups and test championships), the new nationalism online, and lastly the game's new masters, the BCCI and Indian cricket. I like writing on cricket, of course, but first and foremost, I'm a fan, and I hope that will come through.

I'll post part of the book's current synopsis to the blog tomorrow. Thoughts and comments welcome.


Australia hand out knockout blows

Many things going wrong for India. Gambhir gets a dodgy decision. Dravid chases a ball. Sehwag confirms fourth innings incompetence (plus short ball willies). Raina shows he still cannot face short ball. Laxman out with bad back. And now, finally, to rub it all in, the captain decides to send out a nightwatchman. Really, MSD, really? (Sorry, I used that line yesterday too). This pushes two recognized batsmen further down the batting order. And again, it shows lack of backbone by the captain. Face the music, calm the nerves. Lead from the front. And all that.

Australia well ahead now (especially as they are past masters in creating pressure in precisely these kinds of situations), and the presence of SRT isn't really enough at this moment.

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India move ahead, need third power of 6

An Indian fast bowler cleans up the tail. Does anyone have any idea how satisfying that sounds? Any idea whatsoever? To see an opposition side go from 170-8 to 192 all out might not seem like much to many folks but trust me, its very comforting for moi.

Anyway, Australia 192 all out, India need 216 to run. Game set up nicely, given the vagaries of fourth innings, the slight lowness of this pitch, Aussie determination to not go down easily.

And as I write this, we have a contender for the Worst LBW Decision of 2010, as Bowden decides to get clever and hand out a sexy "pad first, then the bat" decision, not realizing that those are best left alone for the likes of Simon Taufel and Ian Gould. What makes that decision truly comical was that it was missing off as well. Poor Gambhir.

Did I say a lot depends on Viru?

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Sunday, October 03, 2010

Advantage Australia Fair (just a bit)

354-4 to 405 all out. With that slide, India handed back the advantage again to Australia, especially as they (the Indians) will bat last. Truth be told, I don't understand Manjrekar's claim that this game is "petering out into a draw". Really, Sanjay, really? First innings completed by the end of the third day on a pitch that is playing a little unevenly low, with one flaky batting side (Australia) and another one carrying an injured bat? I don't think so. In fact, I'd say all three results are possible right now. Australia could very easily set India an awkward chase of 280 on the last day (if Australia are bowled out, I don't think they will declare in this game). And Australia could fall to Ojha and Zaheer tomorrow (I'm not optimistic about Harbhajan).

Still, in fairness to Manjrekar, a draw is perhaps just a little more likely than the other two options just because I think Australia will not a) score quickly enough to set India a target that they will comfortable with given that Sehwag is in the opposition) and b) get bowled out quickly enough to give India a target that they could chase without Sehwag firing (and unfortunately, Viru hasn't come through often enough in fourth innings for me to feel confident that he will come through here).

From a purely cricketing perspective the best thing that could happen is that Australia get bowled out for 280-300 tomorrow setting India a target that they *might* be tempted to chase, and yet that would be awkward to keep Australia in the hunt as well. As before, I don't think we'll see a declaration tomorrow. If at all, one on the fifth day for a 75-over squirm.

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Saturday, October 02, 2010

Mohali testing, testing

From 224-5 to 428 is a job well done. Pity I didn't write a post yesterday saying something like "Australia's 224-5 could easily turn into 425 all out", because that was on my mind, and this morning, when I staggered out sleepily into the kitchen, my fears were confirmed. A few seconds later, I had that thought which most Indian fans must have had: "So long as Viru is there, all is not lost". Well, that little comfort was gone by the end of the day, and Australia had inched ahead just a bit.

When battle resumes tomorrow, India will hope they can score enough to exploit the seeming degradation in bounce in the Mohali pitch. Under these circumstances, all bowlers will be a handful in the second innings so it is crucial that a decent lead be obtained for some scoreboard pressure to do its usual magic. On the plus side for India, Laxman, Tendulkar and Raina are all capable of scoring quickly, and the Australian attack is still not as threatening of years gone by. Game very much on.

Lastly, despite the slow pace of scoring on the first day, there was plenty to cheer about for the old-fashioned fan like me. Australia's defensiveness in the third session meant that a wicket would really set them back, and it was fascinating to watch them walk into a trap of their own making. Had Dhoni held on to the chance from Paine, the cat would truly have been amongst the proverbial pigeons. Test wickets are precious; as each falls, five percent of the task is done. A skipper should do better.

A good test promises many, many swings in momentum and advantage. This one has already had two subtle shifts. An early wicket tomorrow might not swing it any more Australia's way, but two definitely will. And another very intriguing battle awaits: Suresh Raina goes up against the Aussies. Go forth, young man, and meet your Antipodean foes. The stage is set.

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Friday, October 01, 2010

Dhoni and field placings for spinners

This is a little bit of a stuck-record issue for me (c.f a Different Strokes post on the same subject a little while ago), so I"ll try to keep it brief. Dhoni's field setting in tests for spinners is bad beyond belief. I haven't seen him set a backward short-leg for an offspinner almost ever, and now, Ojha is bowling, in the middle of a tight spell with no silly point. What makes this worse is that Watson, a nervous nineties ninny, is in the nineties and blocking away. I cannot wrap my head around this no matter how hard I try.

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