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Showing posts from 2010
Just noticed that this season's highest run-scorer in the Ranji Trophy Super League is Wasim Jaffer, 32, with 617 from eight innings. Sridharan Sriram, 34 and representing his third state in his 18th season of cricket, is at five in the list. And then, at No 16, but just 120 runs shy of Sriram's 440, is Pankaj Dharmani, 36 and captaining Punjab in his 19th season. A spot below him is Delhi's Mithun Manhas, 31. Connor Williams, 37, is a few places behind Manhas with 291 runs at 48.50. Hemang Badani, 34 and now playing for Haryana, follows with 263 at 43.63 from six innings. Domestic stalwarts Sanjay Bangar and Amol Muzumdar aren't far behind.

Each of these men has been around for a long time; Dharmani would have seen each make his first-class debut and blossom as players. Manhas and Muzumdar aside, each has been called up to the national side. Williams never played an international, but did make it to the Test XI for a match against South Africa which was deemed unoffic…
Watching England post 517 for 1 in their second innings at the Gabba showcased that this England could bounce back from adversity at a venue where historically most touring sides have shown a propensity to wilt, but it also further drove home the fact that this Australian team does not have fast bowlers who can deliver under pressure. By the time the players shook hands as the Test ended in a draw, Peter Siddle's six-wicket haul, including a hat-trick, on the first day was completely out of the memory. Instead, images of Siddle, Hilfenhaus, Watson and that most over-rated of fast bowlers, Mitchell Johnson, with their hands on head or hip, looking forlorn, where what remained strongest. Cardiff, Mohali, Melbourne and now Brisbane. Four instances where an Aussie attack failed to take wickets when they had to; each ball and each over resulted in the opposition's confidence increasing and the Australians' falling.


The first man to attract criticism would be Johnson. He seems l…

These are a few of my favorite things ...

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Is Gautam Gambhir really out of form? The question is being asked, and a few people - MS Dhoni, Gary Kirsten, and Gambhir himself - have spoken about it without really offering any answers.

In 2009 Gambhir amassed 727 runs in five Tests at 90.87. That included four centuries in four Tests. Then he made a silly decision. He opted out of the third and final Test against Sri Lanka at the Brabourne. He had just hit 114 and 167 in the two previous Tests. In 25 Tests leading up to that decision, Gambhir was averaging 77.

Since opting to skip a Test match for his sister's wedding, Gambhir has averaged 24.41 from eight Tests (he's yet to bat in the current Test in Hyderabad). On return in January this year, he began with 23, 116 and 68 against Bangladesh, but since then has scratched around for just 86 runs in five Tests. I understand he picked up an injury during this period as well, and struggled on comeback from that injury, getting out twice in the first over in Galle, but is th…
I quite enjoy not having to to office anymore. I get my work done, and I have some free time to watch cricket (the odd day of a Ranji match, an ODI or Twenty20 live on TV, as well as highlights of random games).

The ODIs in the UAE were exciting, and a great advert for the 50-over game, but I doubt the Tests will be. A two-Test series in the UAE of all places just seems a bit odd. We don't know what the tracks will be like, but we can expect high scores. South Africa v Pakistan is hardly one of the most engrossing rivalries in Test cricket, primarily because there have only been 16 Test matches between the two, with South Africa the dominant side. In fact, of all current Test-playing countries, Pakistan have the worst record against South Africa. In 16 Tests, they've won just thrice and lost eight times for a success rate of 37%.

I jogged my memory trying to recollect some memorable moments in Tests between these two teams, and most of what I could remember were South A…
The most intriguing aspect of tomorrow's play will be how Brendon McCullum applies himself. He's done really well to get himself to 38 from 75 balls at stumps, but with New Zealand needing to avert the follow-on, he's going to really have to outdo himself. Having given up wicketkeeping in Tests to concentrate on his batting, he really has no option but deliver. Touring India is tough, and given that he's never played a Test here before, and the psychological impact of the 4-0 hammering in Bangladesh, McCullum has his work cut out.

McCullum, at 29, is something of a father figure in the squad, but needs to perform like one. Having given up wicketkeeping to concentrate on increasing his batting average, McCullum has to deliver no matter where he bats. His naturally aggressive ways haven’t always worked, most noticeably in Sri Lanka last year, where a little over a year ago, sitting in Colombo, I wrote this about McCullum.

Since then, he's averaged about 50 in Tes…
Poor attack aside, Virender Sehwag's 199-ball 173 today was a masterclass on how to bat on a slow and low wicket. It was an innings that Sachin Tendulkar would have been proud of, having played many such gems the first half of his career. But it was so very different from any Tendulkar innings.

Its been so long since people viewed Sehwag as a Tendulkar clone. In his early days, from the time he batted alongside the master in his debut Test, Sehwag was labeled The New Tendulkar. His idolization of Tendulkar aside, the stance, grip, backlift and shot selection was eerily similar. When they opened together against England the ODI series of 2002, many found it difficult to differentiate. There was even a chase in that series when the pair seemed to be trying to outdo each other, shot for shot. If Tendulkar drove on the up past extra cover, Sehwag repeated the shot with more ferocity. If Sehwag clipped off his toes, Tendulkar outdid him for sheer panache and placement as if to say han…
Have uploaded PDFs of my recent interview with Daniel Vettori, published in the November issue of ASM, which is now available at news stands across India.

You can view the article in three parts ... here, here, and here. Sorry its not in one PDF. I'm a bit technologically challenged.

Comments, etc welcomed.      



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New Zealand are in the country after a 0-4 ODI whitewash in Bangladesh, and they're not carrying a lot of confidence or numbers going into the three-Test series. Apart from the sheer weight of experience, runs and wickets that separates India from the tourists, what stands out is the ability to bat in pairs and to do so for long periods. A glimpse at the two teams' records over the past 12 months is enough to suggest a lop-sided contest. 

In the past 12 months of Test cricket, India's record of batting partnerships is outstanding. Twenty times have pairings crossed 100 and eight have passed the 200-mark. Once even the 300-run threshold (Tendulkar and Vijay's 308 against Australia in Bangalore) was passed.

The two men most likely to feature in a century-plus stand is Tendulkar. Not surprising, given the form he's been in over the last 12 months. Of the 20 century-plus stands, Tendulkar features in eight. Sehwag has had a hand in seven such alliances, Laxman five.

Spent a couple hours at the MCA ground today watching the Ranji Trophy match between Mumbai and Saurashtra. About the only moment of excitement was when Rohit Sharma, after a long session at the nets, took over a photographer's camera and began shooting shots of us journalists sitting in the press enclosure.

The cricket, to say the least, was mind-numbingly dull and that is because of the nature of the wicket. How can Indian cricket survive when the curators are happy to produce such benign surfaces? Ajit Agarkar, will all due respect to his batting prowess that earned him a Lord's Test century, and 20-year-old left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla, career batting average of 21.64, with a previous best of 30*, should not have been able to bat like Ponsford and Woodfull. Abdulla was steering, cutting and deflecting with such ease and regularity. There was nothing in the wicket for the bowlers, and Ravindra Jadeja deserves a medal for managing four wickets on that track. Abdulla was un…

Gimme a D!

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OK, so India jumped on the disco train a few years late. But Bappi Lahiri and Mithun made up for it. This was the era before cable television and the internet, and so granted it took a while for LPs of Abba and the Bee Gees to reach Bombay and into Bappi da's fat, gold-laden fingers. Once he did, the 80s were never the same. And his crowning glory was 1982's Disco Dancer, with Mithun in his career-defining role.

Awesomely bad songs with even more awesomely bad choreography. Everything glitters and flashes. In case you weren't blinded by the excess silver and white costumes, the "chew chew chew" laser effects sure did. Even Liberace would have hid for cover. Flashing lights, mirrors, shiny disco balls, skintight (male and female) costumes and stiletto white boots are the norm here. Only Mithun could make Disco Nite an event where men and women aged 18 to 88 could all clap and sway in unison while he dazzled them with his headgear and footwork on stage. Is your eig…
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'Tis the season of XIs, with the pick of the lot being Andy Zaltzman’s list of an attractive but useless XI, which you can have a chuckle over here . With a bit more time on my hands now that I’ve quit my job, I’ve put some thought into an XI of random cricketers who grabbed my attention but ultimately ended up being, at best, footnotes in the glorious game’s history. You may argue that a few on this list don’t even deserve a footnote tag, but this was done primarily through the veil of nostalgia of a time lapsed by. And who doesn’t like reminiscing?

So, here we go …
1. Ali Naqvi I was in my junior year of high school and following the first Test between Pakistan and South Africa in Rawalpindi through the daily reports in the newspaper. The reports of a 20-year-old debutant batsman, Ali Naqvi, were very promising. This was the first batsman to score a Test century on debut that I had the opportunity to follow from the start, and I read up whatever I could on Naqvi. This was 1997 an…
Shane Bond's new book is due out. Worth reading, I'd imagine. I only saw Bond play once live, in a poor Champions Trophy match against Sri Lanka at the Brabourne in 2006. He didn't bowl very well, and Sanath Jayasuriya played a couple trademark whips and flicks off him, even as my father, seated next to me, grimaced and urged Stephen Fleming to keep a square third man for Jayasuriya.

That disappointing day did nothing to take away the effect of the man. I had followed his career from the time I read he was a former constable, and when I first saw him on TV it was evident he was fast. And that he could move a cricket ball. Swing has always fascinated me and seeing Bond make the ball talk against a struggling Indian batting line-up on a blustery Wellington morning was something special. The way he ran in, all fluidity and grace with that purist's action, was mesmerizing and a bit frightening. And I was sitting in the US watching it on the Internet. The yorker that did fo…
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"Cricket is at first and foremost a dramatic spectacle. It belongs with the theater, ballet, opera and the dance." So wrote CLR James. James never got a chance to see Virender Sehwag bat, but if he had, he would have decreed Sehwag's batting as one of the greatest pieces of evidence for that statement.

Another channel-flipping session last night. Of the lot, Sehwag at the MCG in 2003-04 was by far the best. Audacious innings. Sehwag is a spectacle. There is no better word to describe him. He provides the theatrics day in an day out, be it by slicing a short ball over third man for six in the first half hour of a Test match, pinching a frenzied single to move to 93 in the over before lunch, or by moving to 300 with a six. A twinkle-toed drive off a spinner through extra cover is to behold beauty. A similar shot against a fast bowler, on dancing feet, is to submit yourself.


Sehwag isn't all ferocity. Even in picking up a single he can be audacious. But it is his nonch…

Of technique and television

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Indian television is great for cricket. Not if you're typing the ball-by-ball commentary for Cricinfo and an ad cuts off a bowler's celebration after a wicket, but in terms of how much cricket it shows and how consistently. Yesterday afternoon, flipping through channels, I was able to choose from highlights of an ODI between India and Australia  in Indore in 2001, another between South Africa and Zimbabwe from last week, Dravid and Laxman batting India toward victory in the famous Adelaide Test of 2003-04, Sri Lanka beating New Zealand at the Brabourne in 2006 (an ODI I happened to watch live), Somerset's facile win over Derbyshire in last season's Twenty20 Cup quarter-finals, and Matthew Wade's maiden limited-overs century against Western Australia in a Ryobi Cup fixture from over the weekend. An overdose, surely, many would say.

But flipping through every format of the game, with different teams going at it in different countries and conditions, allowed me the ch…

Class will out?

The last post on unfulfilled talent lead me to think about the small and select band of Indian cricketers who lorded over the domestic circuit but never played for their country.

Here’s the list I came up with:
KP Bhaskar With more than 5000 runs at an average of 52.84 in 95 first-class matches, and being the Indian Cricketer of the Year in 1989, Bhaskar was perennially close to earning the India cap. Between 1983 and 1989, he averaged close to 70.00 with 13 centuries. But, as he once told me, he just wasn’t destined to play for India.
Rajinder Goel In a domestic career that began with Punjab in 1958-59 and ended with Haryana in 1984-85, Goel took a record 640 wickets in the Ranji Trophy. Apart from one unofficial Test against Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) in 1964-65, he never represented his country. His 640 wickets from 123 matches at a stunning average of 17.15 is a record unlikely to be broken.
Amarjeet Kaypee With 7,623 runs and 27 hundreds in Ranji cricket, a Ranji record for nine year…

Limitless talent? Limits of talent?

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This post on Cricinfo about Owais Shah and the limits of talent made me chuckle. Another hero has fallen. Or so another cricket romantic would like you to believe. The Brits, in particular, like to talk (a lot) about sports and can talk about practically any player, match, manager, coach, physiotherapist, ball boy, bus driver and ticket vendor with equal ferocity and passion and disbelief. I have read, seen and heard this on many an occasion. Brit sports fans love to dissect and analyze, but most of all - apart from wallowing in their room temperature beer and feeling sad about themselves - they like to romanticize the failed genius. There is no greater example of this than Mark Ramprakash. The batsman, not the dancer.

Each April, as the winter gives way to spring - well, not spring, but a somewhat overcast and gloomy summer - and the bats and balls come out, talk of Ramps reaches a crescendo. How many centuries this season? Will he help Surrey avoid relegation? Surely, now that he'…
Had a discussion recently about how India lack the bowling to win the World Cup as well as how the No 1 Test team tag doesn't fit a side with the current bowling attack. Talk invariably drifted to how this is the Golden Age of batting. It got thinking about a piece written by Gideon Haigh and after some quick browsing managed to locate ithere.

I've dug out some stats to show how the bat has indeed dominated ball over the past decade or so. The average runs per wickets during the 464 Tests played during the 2000s was 34.17, the highest since the 1940s (35.77). There has been a rapid rise in run-rates: in the 2000s, every team scored faster than the previous decade.Leading that race were the Australians, who in the 2000s scored their runs at 3.39 as compared to 2.87 in the 1990s.

As compared to the 107757 runs that were scored from 108 Tests in the 1990s, 130475 were scored from 115 in the 2000s. In the 2000s there were 99 double-centuries scored by Test batsmen (including Jas…
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With so many XIs doing the round of Cricinfo’s pages this week, I’m going to put up a few XIs of my own. I’ve not included men I’ve not seen play, such as fatties Colin Milburn, WC Grace and Warwick Armstrong or giants like Joel Garner and Tony Greig. This is just from those I’ve seen play.
Food and Beverage XI 1. Jesse Ryder (Beer is his diet) 2. Mark Cosgrove (My, that lad is big!) 3. David Boon (Well obviously) 4. Inzamam-ul-Haq (Wasn’t called ‘Aaloo’ for nothing) 5. Arjuna Ranatunga (Could have doubled for a sumo wrestler) 6. Mike Gatting (Don’t need to say much) 7. Rod Marsh (A sizably paunchy ‘keeper) 8. Ramesh Powar (Lends substance to lower order) 9. Ian Austin (No size 10) 10. Merv Hughes (Another double entendre)
11. Dwayne Leverock (The ground beneath me in Bangalore shook when he dived in Trinidad)
12th man: Akram Khan (Biggest Bangladeshi of all time. Of all time.) 13th man (team chef): Samit Patel (Dropped for being overweight? Check.)
Godzilla XI 1. Chris Gayle 2. Michael Vandort 3. W…
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County cricket attracted me even before I had seen a match or knew the names of players. It just seemed like the breeding ground for world-class Test players. The Aussies were all over in England playing, Gavaskar had played over there, Yorkshire had signed up Tendulkar, albeit with relatively unsuccessful results, and it was where Botham and Richards struck up a lasting friendship. Visually, initially from the odd photograph in Sportstar or a grainy black-and-white snap in the dailies, and later once cable television started relaying highlights, the cricket was pristine. The grounds, with names so decidedly Edwardian, dotted with white picket fences, the players looking dapper in their sweaters and starched whites, collars turned up sharply as they stood at slip awaiting a catch or playing a hook shot.
County cricket, and in particular their major venues, had been honored in prose and poetry and added to the fable that was English cricket. Cardus, Arlott, Fingleton, Robertson-Glasgow…
I am a mood for some reminiscing of the good old DD days. One channel. Fewer ads. Quality programming. A time when celebrities didn't endorse everything under the sun. When there were no 24-hour news channels. When Chitrahaar was the shizzle. When Vico turmeric was applicable, not men's fairness cream. When you couldn't make stars with your thumbs. When Michael Jackson was black.

Mile sur mera tumharaHum Log. Buniyaad. Nukkad. Karamchand. Vyomkesh Bakshi. Dee Dee's Comedy Show. The Guinness Book of World Records. Rangoli. Ek Anek. Tehkikaat. Mr Yogi. Jugalbandi. Malgudi Days.

And what about those ads? Nirma washing powder; Fevicol; Parle G; Maggi Hot n Sweet; Rasna; Dabur Chywanprash; Complan; Laxman Sylvania; B-Tex; Cincara; Ajantha clocks; Cinthol; Lifebuoy; Bajaj; Lijjat Papad; Cadbury's; Limca; Gold Spot; Prestige Pressure Cooker; Pan Parag; Woodwards Gripe water; the kid in yellow pyjamas pointing to the giant puri tumbling down the TV screen. The…
Matthew Hayden recently unveiled how during the boot camp in the lead-up to the 2006-07 Ashes clean sweep, Shane Warne, a fierce critic of John Buchanan's methods, sat in a ditch during one night of grueling exercises saying: "I'm weak, I'm soft and I want to go home."
It was the camp that threatened to divide the Australian cricket team back - a punishing four days in the Queensland bush that was designed to boost the bond between players.
Yesterday, news filtered out that James Anderson is a major doubt for the first Ashes Test after it emerged he suffered a broken rib while boxing during England’s recent team bonding trip to Germany.
WTF?
Anderson is England’s strike bowler – with due respect to Graeme Swann – and losing him to injury will be a bitter blow for the England management. It also brings into question the wisdom of the trip to Germany which was unpopular with several members of the squad, coming as it did at the end of a demanding summer…

Great expectations

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Both were batsmen earmarked for greatness long before they were drafted into their national squads. Both had supporters who felt their eventual international debuts had been prolonged. Both are technically sound top-order batsmen in the mould of former batsmen from their respective countries who had been burdened with similar expectations when they made their debuts. Both accrued domestic reputations of being able to deliver the goods under pressure. Both are at home in the slow, low conditions that reward technique and application. Both made attractive 70s on Test debut. Both took sharp catches on debut. Both have always been more comfortable in the shadows than the limelight. Neither is like to fill a room with their aura as soon as they step into it; instead they’ll probably shrink when all eyes turn towards them.
 I’m talking about Ian Bell and Cheteshwar Pujara. At the exact spot where Pujara is after one Test, there are similarities to where Bell was at the same juncture. They bo…
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An India-Australia series gets top billing and this was a series to cherish for the home side. They lived up to their status as the No 1 Test side and played some enthralling cricket. 
Forget what critics and pundits say about the IPL and Champions League being massive stepping stones for the young crop of Indian cricketers. Test cricket, and especially a Test series between two competitive sides, offers so much more than six weeks of bonhomie on the Twenty20 bandwagon. You can go through a lifetime of emotions in five days, and surely an afterlife if you happened to be a part of the Indian camp during the humdinger of a final day in Mohali. 
Anil Kumble recently pointed out that the core of India’s tomorrow has to go from strength to strength on the field and in their minds, individually and as a unit. They have to get to know their own games, he said, and that doesn’t mean get to know how to play in a Test, ODI or Twenty20, but how to prepare mentally, to know ‘this is what I need to …