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Showing posts from October, 2010

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 …

Rooting for the rookie

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It’s always good to see a rookie do well on his Test debut. It’s especially pleasing when the debutant is someone like young Cheteshwar Pujara, who has had to put in the hard yards for some time.

Pujara hasn’t divided opinion among Indian cricket followers like VVS Laxman, Sourav Ganguly, Yuvraj Singh or even a Sadagoppan Ramesh have in the past. He came into prominence in the 2006-07 Ranji season, with 600 runs at over 50. Over the next three season he averaged 53.35, 65.56 and 82.33. His supporters bemoaned his being neglected despite a first-class average of over 60, while his detractors said he scored largely at home on a dodo-dead Rajkot track and that he didn’t score big hundreds and was a tad slow. But Pujara ticked off each of the issues his critics pointed out. He scored runs away from home; he scored three consecutive triple centuries; he improved his strike-rate; he scored in England and Australia. 
When Pujara cover-drove his second delivery in Test cricket for four through…

Memories

Samir Chopra’s nostalgic blog on Cricinfo recently, about following cricket as an ex-pat, got me reminiscing about my own sojourns with the internet and cricket on foreign shores.

Most of my time while studying at the College of Wooster was spent following and playing cricket, in that order. Studies took a back seat but over six years on, I have no regrets. I'm doing what I want to do.

Having waded through a sea of memories – staying up all night to iron on logos to white jerseys, getting up at dawn to roll out the mat, taking a stinging catch to my left at slip, hitting a straight six, to name a few – I focused on the many nights and mornings, depending on where India were playing, in which I had logged on to the internet to follow the ball-by-ball scores. I have not included memories of watching cricket on the internet or on satellite, though those would have made for some great stories, considering they frequently involved inter-state trips in my trusted Olsmobile Cutlass Cier…