Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Final Frontier? It's More Like Final Cake-Walk

Disgusting is the only word that comes close to describing the batting farce (at least I cannot call it effort) by India in this series. So okay, team has a bad day -- but professional teams know how to come back. Here, in home conditions, the whole approach is flawed -- or non-existent. But then again, what professionals? I think our stars (as they are rightly called -- they are better suited for the Bollywood masala movies, except that even there you need more professionalism
-- unless of course you have Jitendra as your father).

I mean, how many times are we going to see this tamasha? I know, the question is better directed at oneself -- but when one is disgusted, introspection is a bit difficult. Man to man, this Indian team was too good for the Aussies -- on paper. Trouble is, the game isn't played on paper. It's not even played on the ground, as much as it's played in the mind. So After a complete annihilation by Kumble, the Aussies went back to their dressing rooms and came out with a plan to tackle Kumble -- playing him predominantly on the backfoot. Plus, never did they let Indian bowlers tighten the noose around them -- by taking singles and twos. Contrast this with the pathetic non-show yesterday: the Sachins and Dravids were playing the game exactly how Aussies would want them to play. As if there was a penalty if they pushed the ball into the gap for a single. And that after the common knowledge that Aussies are best when they are on top -- the key is to make them defensive -- something they aren't good at. Something Sehwag did well in the last test, and Laxman time and again before that. Obviously learning the lessons is not part of our idea of game.

In its place we have politics, stupid loyalties, and an infinite casual attitude. Something that won't change unless we hit another rock bottom. For that, I hope we'll lose badly this time. For, Australia truly deserves the BG trophy -- its a better team by faaaar. In fact the rains in Chennai spoiled their chances of a complete washout -- 229 on a crumbling wicket is far more than these jokers are capable of getting -- they can't even get 200 to avoid a follow on on a 2nd days firm wicket. Buck up Aussies -- and finish it off in style now. You overestimated us, frankly. If this is your final frontier, there is something seriously wrong!

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Thursday, October 14, 2004

Desperately Seeking An All Rounder

India's search for the elusive all-rounder is on ever since Kapil, arguably one of the greatest all-rounders cricket has ever seen. With couple of gems from Pathan, suddenly there is buzz in the air -- has India finally found the all rounder they're looking for?

Problem is, we have been there before. Everytime a bowler makes a fifty, it starts. Everytime a batsmen takes 3 wickets, it starts. Let's look at some other all-rounder candidates that we have seen lately..

Manoj Prabhakar: Now known more for his cricketing Tehelka, this guy was once our prime candidate for an all-rounder -- till he bowled that leg-spin over, and forgot both batting and bowling.

Javagal Srinath: Belive it or not, at one point, he was talked as our next Kapil dev. Thankfully, for him too, the talk dissolved pretty soon, as we realized that he knows only one shot -- the great long handle verity of on-drive. Thankfully, too, he didn't forget his main role.

Sunil Joshi: Now this is where hillarious part starts. Thankfully no one said he'd be the next kapil Dev, this guy just shows how desperate we were for an all-rounder. I mean, the only way you could ever call him an allrounder is by exchanging his bowling and batting avarages. Yes, he could take the spinners to the ropes on good days, but his backlift (and slow reflexes) meant he was always an ideal candidate for anyone who could bowl yorkers. So only team he could have been successful against was the team he was playing for -- poor guy.

Agarkar: All signs of a genuine all-rounder -- including sharp outfield fielding and safe catching hands, Agarkar has to be India's biggest disappointment so far -- especially after the disasterous Australian series which earned him the Bombay Duck nickname. In all fairness, he was an all-rounder material, but couldn't really prove it against the better teams. Some good innings here and there, but nothing that could come close to the Crains's and the Kallis's and the Flintoffs and the Razzaqs of the world -- both in terms of consistency and quality.

Now some batsmen who can bowl:

Ajay Jadeja/Robin Singh: Hard runrs, gritty batters, great fielders part-time bowlers. Glitch is they could hardly find a place in test-team! So predominantly one-day players, bits and pieces at that.

Sachin: I think, we must call him the next best all-rounder since Kapil, if we consider both forms of cricket. If Sachin weren't so concerned about being the best batsmen in the world, and had tried to enjoy his cricket a little early in his life, he could have been an excellent all-rounder no doubt. Still, he's way ahead in the all-rounder league for India.

Sehwag: For test, his bowling lacks the surprise angle that Sachin has. For one-dayes, he is pretty close to being a good all-rounder. Bowls regularly, tidyly, and chips in with those wickets every now and then.

Ganguly: I think since he has taken up captaincy, he is removed from his cricket. All his good batting innings have come more as captain's innings, or against minnows. And he's hardly bowling, at all. God only knows why.

That brings us to Pathan. I think it's too early, and he needs to be groomed. As a bowler, he is a great find -- probably the greatest find since Harbhajan. As a batsman, he has grit, and decent technique. Plus, he is consistent in both forms of cricket and can change his game as and when needed. All the raw material is there. Now let's just pray this time it's more than a wishful thinking.

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Monday, October 11, 2004

Harsha On Umpiring

Harsha writes in Indian Express:
The Men in the Muddle
And I’m afraid the time has come for Steve Bucknor to look inward. When he made his reputation, he was a quiet, dignified man, someone whose presence on the field you felt reassured by. Increasingly he has grown intrusive and bossy and while he got two wrong as well, his gesture to Zaheer Khan when he ran onto the pitch on his follow through was offensive. Good umpires are firm and friendly but if you saw Bucknor you would have thought Zaheer had pinched his wallet.
Sir Bucknor, are you listening? It's sad to see one of the most respected umpires of recent times is at the centre of news for all the wrong reasons. But then, the man has himself to blame.

Harsha drives the point home with a beautiful one-liner:

A judge cannot have the demeanour of a lawyer.

A nice read all in all.

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The Huddles and the Chockers

'The time has come', the Walrus said,
'To talk of many things:
Of contracts -- and BCCI -- and sony Max --
Of Ferraris and Pepsis
And how Mandira was more hot
And whether Tendulkars serves chicken wings'

'But wait a bit,' the Oysters cried,
'Before we have our chat;
For some of us have bad breath,
And none of us have close-up teeth
'Go hurry!' said the Carpenter, 'Or you'll miss the comercial'.
They thanked him much for that.

'A streak of luck,' the Walrus said,
'Is what we chiefly need:
And a track that turns only when they bat
And yes, rains just when we need --
Now, if you're ready, Oysters dear,
We can watch the farce.'

'But they must not win the toss!' the Oysters cried,
Showing off his little blue cap.
'After such a trashing, that would be
A dismal thing to do!'
'The lady is a riot,' the Walrus said,
'Do you admire the view?'

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Thursday, October 07, 2004

India Paying for Stupid Team Selection

Not that it's new, but this time it's inexplicable. Why Chopra? The man hasn't even scored a fifty so far. So okay, we need him outside, when we need someone to blunt the new ball. But when Kaif was in such a good nick, or Agarkar who could easily outscore Chopra, and also ball a bit ;-), I don't understand the rationale of picking up Chopra.

Sehwag/Yuvi would have been a good opening pair, or we always could fall back to Patel. One additional bowler could come in handy on such tracks, where bolwers get really tired and disheartened. In absence of Sachin as an attacking bowling option, playing with four bowlers is something I don't understand. If you had to, at least bat with in-form batsmen.

Another (not new at all) problem with India is, to let the opponents get away when they have them nailed. And Indian nemesis are always the lesser known players in the team.

Indians are now with their back against the wall (the wall has crumbled!), and even if we manage to salvage a draw, we've let the momentum shift to the Aussies. We'll have to play out of our skins to keep the Border-Gavaskar trophy with us.

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Thursday, September 30, 2004

Taking A Stance

The wait is almost over. Ind-Aus series will be starting in a weeks time, and it promises a lot. Only question currently is, will it live upto its expectations. Already, Ponting's out of the first two tests, and Sachin is doubtful for the first despite of his express denial, and Balaji is already ruled out for the whole series. Thought of no Tendulkar doesn't scare the Indians that much these days, but his immense experience will come in handy in this high prestige series, so everyone would be hoping for his fitness. And India's top order is struggling for consistent form, which is a big worry -- something which could very well seal the fate of the series quickly.

Opening Woes: With Shewag in dismal form, and Chopra's inability to convert his starts into good scores, the onus is as usal on Dravid/Laxman. Ganguly is always a bonus, and just that. With Zaheer seemingly back in some sort of form, the bowling looks respectable, especially with Harbhajan finding out his rhythm in last few matches (even if ODIs).

Gilli's Gamble?: Gilchrist is planning to switch to No. 3, to fill up Ponting's absence and Harbhajan's threat, which might be a very good move, but that leaves the side vulnerable, in case of few early wickets. However, Indian's really need to cover for that possibility. Especially if the opening pair sees off the new ball, in the sterile period after that Gilli can really destroy Indians.

Can Indian's keep their heads high or will Aussies conquer the final frontier? Only time can tell. If I had to put my money, I won't put it on India in their current form for sure!

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