Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lambs to the Slaughter

When England began the day at Trent Bridge, they were 43 runs behind on the first innings, with 9 (possibly 8, given Trott's injury) wickets in hand. They have ended the day 387 ahead with four wickets in hand. The aforesaid Trott has come and gone. Before him, and after, England have handed out an ass-whipping to a team that looked like they would much rather be back in the West Indies, dealing with Darren Sammy's outfit.

India never looked like restricting the runs, taking wickets, or showing imagination in field placings. Lines on eyebrows were stretched tight early, the shoulders were fighting a losing battle with gravity early on, and the fielding ran ragged, hither and thither.

England flogged, and flogged. 400 runs in a day's action in a test is rare. (England did it in the 2005 Ashes too on a day when Ponting lost the plot, not just McGrath's Ankle).

England do not have to declare tomorrow. They can blast away, lose their last four wickets in a flurry, and set India something close to 450-475, if not 500. Then, cry havoc.

This wasn't a good test in which to show two of your biggest weaknesses (letting opponents tails prosper; having a tail with the resilince of a limp noodle), to miss another bowler because of injury (while Harbhajan didn't look like he was going to take wickets, it did mean the other bowlers had to be bowled into the ground).

Someone has to find the wheels and put them back on.

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Cheating Indians

Might as well get it out of the way. But Bell was out, just like Kris Srikkanth was out (eons ago against England, if I'm not mistaken) when he went walkabout after playing the ball.

The problem of course, is that Bell didn't try and take the fourth run. But neither was Srikkanth.

Is this "sharp practice"? I suppose. But wasn't it "sharp practice" when Srikkanth was run out? Back then, everyone seemed to agree Srikkanth had been shown up to an inattentive, silly young lad, who forgot the rules of the game.

Anyway, no word on whether India will ask the umpires to overturn the decision. The summer hots up.

And well, well, India have taken back the appeal and Bell is not out. Phew. There you have it.

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That sinking feeling

As England appear to run away with this game thanks to a wonderful ton by Ian Bell and some characteristically mixed stuff from KP, India appear to be flagging. Part of the problem, of course, is that everyone on the field is cursing themselves internally for having stuffed it up two days in a row. Resilience is needed but with a noisy crowd cheering everything the *other side* does it isn't so easy. The other thing that doesn't help is the knowledge that England bat very, very deep, and India bat very, very shallow.

When MS Dhoni won the toss and put England into bat, he was gambling on seizing the early edge so that India could take a decisive lead and negate the fourth-innings disadvantage of batting last. That fourth-innings advantage is now firmly back with England, and with them scoring at almost four runs an over in this session, its been further cemented.

Not a great feeling to watch a team fall apart so quickly - but as Sreesanth misfields again, and Harbhajan can't even be bothered getting angry, its getting worse.

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You superstitious loon

Yesterday, with the score at 267-4, I chatted with Homer for a bit, exulting in the good position India were in. As we talked four wickets fell. We agreed our chatting had caused the collapse and promptly clammed up. Today, as I put the last post up, Strauss was dismissed by Sreesanth.

Why does cricket tempt me with belief in superstition?

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Careful Man, Thats My Initiative You're Handing Back

Over at Trent Bridge, India have managed to play themselves into a position, where they could lose by a day to spare. On the first day, they had England by the throat at 124-8 and then, thanks to a Stuart Broad counterattack and a rather depressing reappearance of what I can only term "the eight-wickets-down-blues" saw them get away to 221 (by this I mean bowlers stopped doing whatever it was that had gotten them the eight wickets thus far, the captain's field lacked imagination and the fielding grew ragged). Yesterday, thanks to the Dravid-Yuvraj partnership, India looked like building up a 150 run lead, and then suddenly, spectacularly, everything went pear-shaped. Broad was back again; this time with a hat-trick, sparked off by the Indian captain's dismissal. Dhoni continues to have a poor series; one wonders how he is going to dig himself out of this hole.

A lead of 67 with more than three days left in the game is simply not good enough (as I write this, England are already 57-1, and have been rattling along at almost a run-a-minute this morning). Chasing anything over 200, given the flakiness in the current line-up, is going to be supremely difficult. More to the point, the team chasing is going to have to work hard to move their minds on from the thought that they never should have been in a sticky situation.

This is a test match; strange things happen. Initiatives are gained by hard work, and handing them back is never a good idea. Especially away from home, and especially when you are 0-1 down.

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Poetic justice in hat-tricks?

Some ten or so years ago, Harbhajan Singh brought about India's first test hat-trick: he dismissed Ponting, Gilchrist and Warne. Today, Harbhajan became a member of the triad of victims in the first hat-trick ever achieved against India in test matches. But the similarity doesn't end there. Harbhajan's second victim, Gilchrist was out LBW, even though he had inside-edged the ball onto his pads; today, Harbhajan was the second victim of this hat-trick, and he too, was LBW, off an inside edge. What the hat-trick gods giveth, they sometimes taketh as well.

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Captain's Log: Trent Bridge - Day 1

Dhoni should be standing up to Praveen Kumar. I won't say it again. Promise. I'll try. I really will. (That LBW call against Pietersen shows why)

Ian Chappell quoth : "a bowl-first decision is vindicated by 4 wickets at lunch and an all out on the first day (given the fact that you give up the fourth-innings advantage)". Dunno where he said it, but I remember it, and it sounds right.

0848AM EDT: Pietersen gone after lunch. Nice fast bowler's dismissal - Sree again. When this kid can hold his noggin' together, he can be a handful.

0945AM EDT: I missed logging the Kumar dismissals but this Sree ball to get rid of Prior has finally woken me up. Jeez, what a beauty.

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Why is India bowling?

Oh Good Lord, why is India bowling at Trent Bridge? Green pitch? Grey skies? Jeez, deal with it, get to lunch. This looks like a pretty defensive move. One hopes Dhoni's Midas touch, which deserted him at Lord's has returned.

PS: the last time I groaned this much about an Indian captain winning the toss and electing to bowl was Rawalpindi 2004, and that turned out OK. That precedent is about the only thing that makes me hopeful.

As I write this, Cook is gone. Phew. More please.

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Podcast on Trent Bridge Test

Ok, here we go again with yet another podcast. Its about seven minutes long, I'm sending this up as a trial balloon. Please let me know what you think (sound quality, silliness, etc)


The Indian XI for Trent Bridge (according to moi)

Zaheer is out and Gambhir looks doubtful. If Gautam can't make it, then, well, here we go. In batting order:

Abhinav Mukund
Rahul Dravid
VVS Laxman
SR Tendulkar
Suresh Raina
Yuvraj Singh
MS Dhoni
Harbhajan Singh
Praveen Kumar
Ishant Sharma

This is not a good position to be in, but it is the best there is.

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Two bits of gratuitous advice for Trent Bridge

In no particular order: Bring back Sreesanth; set attacking fields for Harbhajan (including a silly-point, a backward short-leg and a silly mid-off).

Oh, what the heck, one more: stand up to Praveen Kumar.

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Kesavan on Dhoni

Mukul Kesavan, in fine form as always, writes on MS Dhoni and a Lord's test he needs to put behind him, and quickly. More to the point, Dhoni can.

Later, in private conversation, on matters related to the subject of my post yesterday, Kesavan, speaking on the triumphalism on display after the first test, said:
I think Boycott, Brenkley and the happily hyperventilating tribe of English cricket writers are enjoying a moment of virility. Given that the English team has been a troop of earnest submissives for the longest time, who can blame them?
Who indeed?

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Advance whingeing (after a win, no less!)

If India comes back in this test series, it will be because of bad umpiring, which thanks to the lack of a DRS, will go uncorrected:
Flower is fearful that England might lose out later in the series. "We almost saw it happen in this Test match. It would have been wrong if the outcome of the game had been seriously affected by a couple of those decisions."
Or, it will be because of Duncan Fletcher:
It will be fascinating to see how India respond. You never know, it might be the result that Duncan Fletcher needs. Maybe he can exert more influence. I’d never easily write off a side with him as coach, that is for certain.
Lets see: unbalanced triumphalism after a win, excuse-making in advance, and assignment of praise in case of an Indian win to an ex-England coach (can't you already see the headlines "Fletcher's tried and trusted English methods enable India to win!"). Yes, all is set for a wonderful test series.

Incidentally, Andy, how English have you become that you feel the need to whinge after a win?

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Rahul Mehra vs. The BCCI (Some Documents)

Many Indian cricket fans will have heard of Rahul Mehra and his famous Public Interest Litigation against the BCCI. If you haven't, here are a couple of articles that will be useful.

Against the Rape of Indian Sports.

Prem Panicker's Blog on Mehra

Wanted a Board of Control to Control the BCCI.

Here are the suggestions that Mehra offered the BCCI after the conclusion of his case, which ruled that the BCCI is subject to similar PILs (and subsequent writs issued by Indian courts).

Here is the actual ruling by the court.

Please spread the word about these documents; they are essential reading for any Indian cricket fan.

A Little Less Commentary, Please?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Small potatoes

Despite India's struggles in the field and their depleted bowling attack, England have not managed to score at even three an over. That has to be some encouragement. Small potatoes but crucial.

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Praveen Kumar, easily scorned, will kick your ass

Surest Prediction for the summer: Praveen Kumar will make the scorners, the disdainers, eat their words. The man was born to bowl in English conditions.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

A tribute to Azeem Hafeez

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Pitch: A New Blog on Cricinfo


I have a new gig over at Cricinfo i.e., a new blog. Its called The Pitch. Check it out. Bookmark, RSS feed it, Twitter, Facebook Like it. Or whatever it is that folks do now.

Comments, as always, much appreciated.

The first post, on the pleasures of neutral encounters on satellite television is up.