Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A few Different Strokes

I have finally resumed blogging over at Different Strokes after a small break. A few posts have gone up over the past month (which I forgot to link to out here).

Most recently, part two of my Great Misses series - on the 1985 Boxing Day Test. Before that, part one featured the 1979 Oval Test. These in turn, were preceded by an article on how, when it comes to sledging, nothing is new under the sun, except for the television coverage. This streak of nostalgia-mongering is evident in an article on the 1987 World Cup, and its cruel denial of a dream final to Indian and Pakistan fans. Perhaps the most topical article was a quasi-review of two excellent books by Gideon Haigh and David Post. Check 'em out.


Pleasure to the Converted

Courtesy Tony T over at AGB Cricket, here is a superb British Council film, featuring some classic footage from 1948. Check it out.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

The Sisyphean Labors of the Indian team

Make no mistake about it. The Centurion test was a thumping all right. Sure, India began a fightback in the second innings, but that fightback was asked to do too much. They had done everything that came before at such breakneck pace, that they were being asked to bat more than 2 days to save the game. They had lost wickets quickly and they had conceded too many runs far too fast (4.76 runs an over in a test? Thats 428 runs in a day, folks). The usual consolations are available: India start slowly; they'll fightback; one icicle does not a winter make; and so on. Still, the bare facts are there for all to see.

And when we sift amongst the wreckage, what we find is not pretty: Raina still gives catching practice in the slips; Unadkat looks out of his depth; Harbhajan is back to his usual overseas ineffectivness; and the BCCI cannot be bothered to arrange for warm-up games (sure, a warm-up game might only have helped a bit on the first day, but that little bit is still crucial; there's no point in saying "anyone would have been blown away on that snorter of a track"). The double failure of Laxman did not help either.

Sure, all is not lost, but it is worth remembering that the holy grail of modern Indian cricket, test series wins, away, in South Africa and Australia, remains a distant dream. Getting off to starts like this is not the way to make it happen. And resignation in these matters is infecting the captain as well, which is not a good sign.

Lastly, the fast bowler situation. It almost seems comical now that we started this test with a fast bowling attack that included a virtual unknown. Really, India, really? But then that shouldn't be so surprising. Injuries, strange selections, precipitous loss of form, whatever it is, Team Numero Uno still doesn't have a settled fast bowling attack.

And so here we are, talking about a team that should be kicking off a campaign that could well and truly still wagging tongues about their right to be ranked #1, and it's started with an innings defeat. Second innings fightbacks and 50th test tons won't change that cold fact.

Check back in later. India will have done much better. And then, check back in again, they'll be at the bottom of the hill again. Sisyphus had nothing on this.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Familiar feelings and all that

If India are to be ever, ever, taken seriously as contenders for world champions, they'll have to get out of this embarrassing habit of losing five wickets before a hundred runs are up on the board - in the opening test of an overseas series.

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Friday, December 03, 2010

Aussie selectors role models no more

Over the years I had come to associate Australia selectors with two qualities: ruthlessness in getting rid of deadwood as well as the ability to spot talent and then stick with it. It saddens me to say then, as many others have, that the current crew has comprehensively lost the plot. Truth be told, I knew they (not the same crew but Australian selectors) had lost it back in 2005, when Matthew Hayden was persisted with for the fifth and fatal test at the Oval. Hayden should have been dropped after the third test. Instead, he was persisted with, and in the fifth, when Australia needed to get a move on, he plodded and poked himself back into form. Of course, Freddie Flintoff's incredible bowling ensured Australia wouldn't get a great lead either, but Australia had lost too much time by then.

Now, finally, the selectors have dropped Mitchell Johnson, but the axe deserves to have fallen on Michael Clarke and Marcus North as well. Both are out of sorts, and North's century in India did little to get rid of the feeling in my mind that he is out of his depth (as is Clarke, in current form). Instead, the selectors have painted themselves into a corner; Clarke as FAC has to be persisted with, and North has been given too many chances. Then, of course, there is the business of Shane Watson, who has been pressed into duty as an opener, and is holding on to his place with consistent scoring but who simply does not have the technique or the nous to ever make a big opener-like score.

The only silver lining in the current situation for the Australians is that they have settled on what should have been their first-choice quick bowling attack: Harris, Siddle and Bollinger. Sadly, little sense is being shown on the spinner-selection front, where rather than showing faith in Steve Smith, they have opted for yet another experiment in Doherty.

Perhaps it will take the loss of yet another Ashes series to shake the selectors out of their dogmatic slumbers but I'm not optimistic. Perhaps things need to get much, much worse before they get better.

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