Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008. An year that was...

Looking back...this year had a lot for me...

Early in the year, I fell ill. Luckily so, because that way, I could stay back home away from college enjoying Indian youngsters romp home the under-19 Cricket World Cup in Malaysia and also India win the CB series down under. Also, Djokovic had his first grand slam at the Rod Laver arena. Some time later, I went for a trip to Kodai, lovely hill station. A lovely trip ruined by stupid seniors. Cometh April, cometh bat swinging ball swatting nuisance of T20 drama named IPL... Utter nuisance extended till May. It was a relief that was over...

Summer! I loved it, for the pure action packed sports that was just jam-packed into the 2 or 3 months. Boy o' boy! I can still remember Turkey's and Russia's splendid outing in the 'England-less' Euro. NBA, Oh My God... I couldn't have asked for a better finale! Old rivalry kindled... After 18 odd years, its gonna be CELTICS up against LAKERS... Lakers faltered at the wrong moment, and the Celtics were champs yet again...and how...after beating their biggest opponent! The Big-3 did it for them! Doc Rivers is one proud man now. Summer in the green cricket pastures of England was just TOO good. Kiwis and then SA had mixed luck in England. Ultimate cricket season. India had tough time, losing in finals yet again. Football. Oh yes... Oh yes yes. EPL has never been that close... Manchester United won the premiership by two points, was almost going to be on goal difference, but for Chelsea's lapse of concentration in the last few moments of the season. Chelsea had a great season in premiership otherwise... It ain't over yet. Lets go over to Moscow for the finals of the UEFA Champions League '08. MANU vs CHELSEA. It cannot get bigger than this. It had to be decided by penalties. And John Terry's unfortunate penaly miss cost Chelsea the title. Tennis this summer? One word for it - NADAL. Wimbledon and Venus go hand in hand, don't they? F1- Hamilton being pursued by Raikkonen,Massa and also Alonso.

Move on Baggie, move on...
Oh yeah... Then the college beckons me back to the den with the sickening mess-food. Some boring subjects, some good ones, a new hostel, a stupid college cricket team captain and my birthday filled my mind for the first few weeks... Then, India was at Lanka, predictable test series (what with Mendis rippin' through any batting line up???), and then a hard fought victory in one dayers for India. Then started EPL, la liga, bundes liga, serie A and etc etc. aaahhhhh.... so MANY changes to teams, managements etc etc. But it all got moving thick and fast from the first whistle... Half way gone, Liverpool leading the table (off the pitch, they sure have some problems), Chelsea losing fort, literally...beaten at Stamford Bridge by Liverpool and Arsenal in quick succession and dropping important points to trail the leaders by three points. Manu looking good as champions of England, Europe and the World and are just on the best form to climb back to the top notch. Arsenal is like a pendulum swinging back and forth from superb form to dismal form. Hull, Everton, Aston Villa, Fulham are all coming good. Hull, just promoted, has been the show stopper.

Olympics. China hosted, China Won! So many records, so many memories.

Federer pulled one back towards the end of the year! But, lost out on rankings.

Hold and Behold... The King of all Kings... NBA starts! Friday and Saturday mornings will be sweet again!

Aaaah... holidays.

Moving one. Cricket had its share soon. Australia were humbled in India, and also back home, when SA treated Aus like bunnies. England were humbeled too, in India.

So many other things happened in this year, which ended in a not so good manner. Mumbai was a target of terror attacks. This was a big thorn. Hope we all will head into the New Year on a happy note and resolve to "live and let peace"!!!

See ya all in 2009! Have a great year ahead!



Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Holiday Season didn't Disappoint

What an end to the year...

India beat England 1-0 in the two test series (that FINALLY happened). India won the match at Madras ( Chennai) after England controlled the match for 3 days 2 sessions to be exact. After that was something no one would've expected... India had to chase down a total of 387, if my memory serves me right. Sehwag tore apart the English pace attack and gave India a big chance to win on last day. Gambhir caressed on. Then came the man and the hour. Sachin guided India to victory in the company of strokeful Yuvraj. Rightfully, Sehwag was the man of the match for literaly taking the match away from England... One up, going to Mohali for the second test, England brought in Broad for Harmison. Panesar was still not at his best. India went in unchanged. The second test saw fog, more of Gambhir, return of Dravid, switch hit of KP, another episode of Flintoff vs Yuvraj, ft. KP, more fog, some more Indian batting, more fog, some more Indian batting, a HUGE target under the circumstances and then the draw... India won the two test series 1-0. With this victory, India moves to number 2 spot on the test charts after displacing South Africa. Australia and South Africa locking horns down under presently.

Australia beat New Zealand 2-0 in the two match home series. New Zealand sent another cold thorn into the stumbling Australian side which was trying to get back its form after being drubbed 2-0 in India. After a poor first innings batting erformances by Australia in the first test, their bowlers put them back on track and there was no looking back. New Zealand continued their search for an opening pair. Jesse Rider and McCullum came good with batting at times, but ran out of help from the other end... In the end, it was an easy series for Australia.

West Indies were in the beautifuls Isles of the Kiwis for a two test series. First test was just a match for the count, nothing much happened in it, as Dunedin was under rain clouds more often then not... The series moved to Napier, and though both teams tried their best, result ws not to come and the series was all square. This series saw brilliant performance from the new face Tim Mcintosh for the Kiwis, who filled in for the dropped Redmond. Chanderpaul tutored Taylor to a century while he was moving along in a style of his own. Gayle was superb with both bat, ball and also with captaincy. Iain O'Brien had some good spells to remember.

WI will be playing a five match ODI series in NZ after a couple of T20s I think. South Africa and Australia are fighting to end the year on a high, testing each other in the 4 match test series prior to the one day series (hey, no more jan-feb tri nation series down under, remember!!!). Sri Lanka are touring Pakistan in January '09 after India pulled out. SL are presently playing test series in Bangladesh.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

No New Year Pak tour!!!

Can't say one didn't foresee this. Indian govt and BCCI have taken the decision to cancel the tour of Pakistan early next year. All the security promises from the PCB fell short of changing the mindset of any offficial, in the wake of the terror events that wrecked havoc in the city of Mumbai in the last week of November. PCB and Pak govt are unhappy about the tour being cancelled, but Indian counterparts saw no other way out of the scenario. The ties between the two boards may weaken due to the current developments.

Sri Lankan Cricket Board headed by ex-captain Arjuna Ranatunga has offered to tour Pakistan if India doesn't. It'll be known in due course if that tour is brought up on the calendar.

Pakistan desperately needs a home series to put itself back on the cricket map. But, constant radical activities in and around the nation in the recent past has kept many nations away from it. Champions trophy had to be postponed to next year. The only good thing that happened in '08, was a good conduct of Asia Cup. Lets see how things go from now on.

Pushing daisies...

The Champions League T20 cricket tournament has been pushed to as far as October '09. That was the best bracket the ICC could find. Now, I think the whole scenario would change. Its a whole new season, and there will be new winners in every domestic competition. In this year's version, the Pakistani Champions, Sialkot were invited over West Indies Stanford champions and New Zealand's domestic table-toppers. This year, it may be different. Middlesex has already complained that they missed out on nearly $ 2m which they could've been richer had they played in the tournament.

The IPL trade window was postponed by a week to begin from Dec 22nd to Jan 22nd. Later on, auction will start. Many players in the fray, and many are showing their best talent in the end of the year series' around the world. The teams will have some thinking this season prior to picking the players. Lets wait and see who gets to wear which jersey this time around

Stamford on back foot

Big sad news for the cricketing world. Sir Allen Stanford is thinking about retreating from investing in cricket. He has incurred losses after the Stanford 20-20 for 20 tournament, as he couldn't make it to a US television deal. He has a big 5 year deal with the ECB who seem to be the most concerned in the change of Stanford's mood. Only time will tell how things are going to build up from here...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Why? Why? Why?

Why, I say, Why (do I sound like Forghorn-Loghorn???) can't any televisoin channel telecast West Indies' tour of New Zealand in India???? This is a very good contest between two very talented and capable teams, in one of the best tracks in the world... I'm a die-hard fan of the Kiwi fast pitches, and it hurts to miss more than a month of New Zealand tour. Pls, somebody help... I remember having seen Bangladesh's tour of New Zealand, and England's tour o New Zealand, both in 2008, on SONY television's SAB channel (Indian Subcontinent). But, no channel is telecasting it this time!!!


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Cricket buzz

Here's a wrap up of what else is happening around in the near past:-

The Kiwis toured Bangladesh for a 3 match ODI series and 2 match test series. The fresh look Bangladesh team surprised the Kiwis, winning by 7 wickets! The New Zealanders fought back and won the other two matches. The first test was won by NZ, and the second test was drawn, thanks to rain. This is Bangladesh's second drawn test, in their 40+ test history.

South Africa beat Bangladesh in both ODI and Test series. Bangladesh had a very tough tour of South Africa and were beaten in all departments. The exodus of Bangladeshi players to the ICL has had some effect on the current side.

Australia hosted Kiwis for a two-test encounter and won comfortable in both of them. Brett Lee claimed his 300th wicket in the process. Off spinner Nathan Hauritz made a comeback into the Australian side, as Australia continue to look for a permanent spinner in the post-Warne era. Ponting hit back to the winning ways and had a few critics put their pen down. The Kiwis had something missing in them, didn't have enough firepower to capitalize on the momentum that they got in bits and pieces. Now, Australia will be hosting South Africa for a traditional 3 match test series and nontraditional 5 match ODI series, the tri-nation trophy having been scrapped off. Kiwis are hosting West Indies. They'll play 2 tests and 5 ODIs.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka completed a white wash of Zimbabwe in the 5 match ODI series. With little or no resistance from the Zimbabwean batting line up on most occasions, SL had it easy on the slow pitches. Credit must be given to the Zimbabweans, thought, who came very close in the last three matches and the effort was well seen. The lack of experience of playing top level cricket and inability to handle pressure cost them dearly. The spin combo of Murali and Mendis had Zimbabwe in trouble. Mparuwa was the lone bright spot for Zimbabwe's bowling. Sangakkara was the only batsman who showed composure in the series, which assisted bowlers more.

With lots of cricket going on around the New Year time, the cricketing world in the Southern Hemisphere will be busy with high quality action packed cricket. I hope cricket is back in its prime form up North too.

Repairing the track called 'Cricket'

Its been less than a week since the Mumbai massacre, and the whole bandwagon of cricket in India is in ruptures.

England had earlier called off their tour midway through the One Day series, in the wake of the disastrous events, and returning back anytime soon was not on their minds. BCCI has assured the English team utmost safety while urging them to return back for the test series in different venues. After a long discussion, with many ifs and buts, the BCCI has shifted the venues to Chennai and Mohali, instead of Ahmedabad and Mumbai respectively. ECB is happy with the venues, but the report from their security advisor awaits. Former England cricketers have advised Pietersen and co. to continue with the tour of India. This will be a gesture from the cricketing world that no cowardly act can shackle cricket, and the show will go on...(picture abhi baaki hai, mere dost :-) !!!). Captain Pietersen, initially didn't want to return, but now is willing. The close friends, Flintoff and harmison want to stay out, and spend time with their family, for genuine reasons, as is obvious. Anderson, the going-to-be father, wants to be home this holiday season with his wife. ECB has told the team that they can opt out if they want, and will not be penalised, but assured them that they'll be provided good security in India. As of now, ECB is busy getting the team their kits ready in time. The team's original kits were inside hotel The Taj Mahal, which looks like a graveyard now, after the 60 hour long battle in Mumbai attack.

After the attacks, India's tour of Pakistan in January is under some doubt. The team, I believe is willing to tour, but the National security adviser's team and the centre will take a decision on it. Hopefully, a positive one. Pakistan needs cricket to go on in their country. Legendary Pakistani fast bowler, Wasim Akram wants an India-Pakistan test match in Mumbai to show the world that cricket is not afraid of terror, and that India & Pakistan will go hand in hand to prove it. Asia Cup was held excellently well. I feel they will be able to provide good security this time too. But again, due to the incidents happening around nowadays, its not easy to decide.

The Champions League Twenty-20 is postponed indefinitely. Finding a window for this tournament early next year is becoming difficult, with many series involving most of the teams will be underway.

A meeting has been called by the ICC to discuss the World Cup 2011, to be hosted by the Indian Subcontinent. Taking into considerations the recent terror strikes, some felt that it may not be safe for the subcontinent to host the even. I feel that the tournament has a long way to go and there is enough time for the preparation, which will be done in good time. Things will go as slated, and the tournament will be a grand success. Nevertheless, ICC will meet in the coming week and make a conclusion. If not the subcontinent, then, Australia and New Zealand will be hosting the World Cup '11.

Only time will tell.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

England Blanked

Its a pity, I had to do the write-up for the series a week before I would've intended to...

It was the Kevin Pietersen's England team now touring India, during the months of November and December for 7 match ODI series followed by 2 match test series.

England travelling across to subcontinent, riding on their sweeping victory over South Africa in the ODI series, had their tails up, and were confident of beating India in the ODI series, which they failed to do in the last few occasions. India, fresh from the test series victory over Australia, were upbeat about the series, and some fresh legs improved the environment in the Indian dressing room.

England, won a tour game, and lost one, to every one's surprise, before heading to Rajkot for the first ODI. KP won the toss and decided to field first. The more you remind him of the previous sentence, the more he'll sink his head into his arms. Right from the word GO, the openers, Gambhir and Sehwag set themselves into a blitz. Departure of either or both made no difference. In came Yuvraj, who looked in great touch (touch???). He had back-ache, so what? He started the "stand and deliver" attack, reaching his century in less than 70 balls, and sending the ball scattering around the small park at will. Ably assisted by the captain Dhoni, and Raina at the other end, Yuvraj paced his innings well to post a mammoth total. The English reply barring fighting innings by captain, Pietersen and all-rounder Bopara, was toothless. India beat England by 158 runs and go 1-0 up.

Now, Indore. India chose to bat first, and both teams went in with the same line up. Broad ran through the top order, picking up 3 wickets in his merciless first spell. Then on, Gambhir and Yuvraj steadied the ship, and mustered the pacing of runs. Yuvraj notched another century, and made sure he got decent recognition for filling up Ganguly's spot in the test team. Gambhir was fluent, but, missed out on anther opportunity to put up a century. With late cameo from Yusuf Pathan, who made his best score in ODIs by far, an excellent score was put up. Chasing 292 was never going to be easy. And, the England top order batsmen found to tough to play the Indian bowlers, except R.P. Singh, who seemed to be searching for his rythm. Shah's pleasant innings and quick runs from Flintoff and Broad couldn't help England cover the distance, and England fell short by 54 runs. Yuvraj was economical while picking up the crucial wickets too, 4 in all, and romped home the man-of-the-match award. 2-0 to India.

The third one, to be played at Kanpur, started late, due to unplayable ground conditions early in the day. Ishant Sharma replaced RP Singh, Swann came in for Harmison. England, batting first, had useful contributions from Bopara, who was promoted to the opening slot, Bell and Shah. But, the total of 240 (49 overs-a-side) was not very safe, unless bowlers stuck to precise line and lenght. India started the chase slowly, and lost two early wickets. But, Sehwag played watchfully. With the middle order coming good, India had made a score, quite clear of the D/L mark, when the light faded away, never to brighten again that day. Flintoff's excellent spell to consume both openers and Yuvraj, went in vain. India went 3-0 up.

Cloud cover, rumours in media, KP's search for a victory with series at stake and many more issues on and off the field added the Indian spice to the 4th encounter at the wet Bangalore's Chinnaswamy stadium. Sachin's inclusion was another news, which meant Gambhir had to play at number 3. India started, Sehwag started with a shot that took no longer that a coule of seconds to reach cover boundary. In the opening partnership of almost 40, there was only one single, and one double. The two just didn't communicate well to rotate the strike, or so it looked like. The match was shortened to 44 overs a side, and then, to 22 overs a side. With massive hitting from the blade of all who took gaurd at the crease, India raised 166, and set England 198 for victory, by D/L. The English chase started off with hiccups. Being 3 down for 52 and scoring at less than run-a-ball will not help England's cause of staying alive in the series. Enter Flintoff. Him and Owais started their counter-attack. It was a brutal massacre. The 8 overs of spin cost India 100 runs. But, pace spearhead Zaheer Khan made sure, India was home safe and sound, when he squeezed the run leak with impeccable line. India won the match by a healthy margin, and took an unassailable 4-0 lead.

KP had failed to find the best 11 for the subcontnient pitches in time. Dhoni decided to improve the bench strength.

The fifth match at Cuttack. Cook came in for Bell, Harmison replaced Anderson, who failed to make an impact in the series thus far. Irfan Pathan and Rohit Sharma filled in for Munaf and Gambhir. Dhoni chose to field, citing dew as he prime reason for him to do so. KP promoted himself up the order, and rightly so. He brought up his century in good time. It was KP's (and England's) first century in 14 matches. KP last brought up his century against the Kiwis, back home in summer (refer "New Zealand back on the cricket map"). And England posted a good total of 270 on the board. India started off well with a 50 from Sachin and a blazing 91 from Sehwag. A flurry of wickets brought panic to the Indian dressing room, but, Dhoni and Raina played out the middle overs well and India won the match comfortably. And India made it 5-0.

Elsewhere, Mumbai was enveloped by terror attacks. The city, once again came under darkness. In the wake of these events, the English team has decided to call off the tour and return home. The remaining two ODIs and both tests stand cancelled, if not, postponed to a later date, not yet decided, but take my word, not anytime soon.

The Champions League T20 also has been 'postponed' as other teams expressed fear in letting the players tour the nation, when Mumbai is reeling under extreme pressure (Mumbai is one of the venues for the T20 event).

Further developments will be posted as soon as possible.
Pause in the cricket bandwagon in India. Hope it gets back to normalcy soon.

Mumbai, hold on...

This post is memory of the black night of Mumbai attack. I hope the city recovers soon.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Talk tactics, controversies, match saving knocks by tail enders, batting pitches, Indian lead, a retirement of a legend, another typical Indian pitch, another controversy, another retirement and the end result, Australia blanked 2-0 by India in the 2008 edition of Border Gavaskar Trophy.

Wow! Entertainment comes in large packages, I say! At Bangalore (I don't want to call it Bengaluru, Bangalore sounds more classical to me), Australia did have the upper hand for most of the time, but, couldn't just pin the Indians down and out of the game. When two tail order batsmen can top the batting charts, some look in has to be given to the bowling line up. Lee is in India for the first time in the test team. Stuart Clark and Mitchell Johnson were looking good, but didn't complete the job. Ponting broke his shackles, and notched up a century with Hussey for company doing the very same, on the platform provided by Katich. Zak picked a 5-for and young Ishant bagged 4. But, Zaheer contribution was more precious with the bat, when he and Harbhajan shared 80 runs in a painstaking 8th wicket partnership that took the game away from the Aussies. An indifferent Australian second innings set India close to 300 with almost the whole of last day to go. India did well to battle it out. A "slow" test came to a slow end.
Now, the battle ground shifted to Mohali, my favourite venue. The sportive pitch always has the best to offer, swing, turn, and also a batting paradise. India, batting first, put a good total on board, courtesy Sachin, Dhoni and centurion Ganguly. Debutant Siddle picked up three wickets, and as usual, Sachin was his first bunny. Another debutant, Amit Mishra, filling in for the injured Jumbo (Dhoni shouldering the responsibility of captaincy for the match) shattered the Australian line up with a 5-for. The young leg spinner, flighted and turned the ball from the foot-marks on the pitch. Ishant and Zak got their favourite batsmen yet again. Bhajj iwas econamical. Watson and Lee waged a long battle to put on a decent total, but didn't suffice the target to avoid follow on. Anyway, Dhoni didn't enforce the follow on. What actually did follow after that was a massacre by the Indian batsman on the Aussies. Led by the Delhi lad, Gambhir, the Indians scored at a brisk pace to set a target in excess of 500. The Aussies crumbled to a combined effort of the Indian bowlers. India led the series 1-0 at the end of the Mohali test.

Now, third match, after a small breathing space, at Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi. But, there were many MANY things to be thrown the spot light at... First, India got the ball to reverse swing, while the Aussies couldn't do it at all, Watson the exception. Aussies didn't maintain a Australia didn't field a specialist spinner, who would turn the ball and trouble the Indian batsmen enough. White wasn't helping the cause, and Katich wasn't used much either. Now, after Mishra's performance, it was selectors who were going to have a headache, with Anil Kumble to come back into the side. But, in the wake of events, Harbhajan fell ill, and Kumble "filled" in, to play ni his fortress.

So, India, batting first on the batting paradise, lost Sehwag and Dravid early on. Sachin compiled a good half century. Then on, it was Gambhir and Laxman carrying on and on and on. Both ended up making a double and had Australia in the back seat. But, then, Australia replied with 4 half centuries and a century right at the top of the order, almost reached the Indian total, falling just short of it... And looking at the way the Indians batted in the second innings, the match was going for a tame draw. But, in came the slice of hair raising story out of the blue...The Indian captain, ace spinner, Anil Kumble announced his retirement, that, he was playing his last test match, err, last 3 or 4 sessions of play to be more precise when he announced it. The declaration from the Indian captain came late on day 5, so that he can grip that red cherry one final time, in HIS venue. He turned and made the new ball do some dancing around, but, his last ball was a full toss that Matt Hayden just patted down the ground for a boundary. A goodbye handshake to Jumbo from the umpires and the batsmen followed. Five minutes later, handshakes everywhere, as the match was declared a draw. India, still leading 1-0, with one final encounter in Nagpur to follow. Australian bowling, still looking quite toothless, and Cameron White's presence was felt less as a bowler.

So, the fourth match commenced at the new stadium in Nagpur (which along with Mumbai and Chennai, is the third city in India to have two international cricket stadiums) in an interesting scenario. Gambhir was banned for the fourth test on disciplinary grounds. Murali Vijay, the TN player, who had scored a double in the Ranji trophy league match just 2 days ago was called for international duty even before his Ranji match could end. Harbhajan came in for Kumble. Saurav Ganguly was playing his last test match, and Rahul Dravid was still looking for his form. For Australia, Jason Krejza made his debut. Stuart Clark had to miss this match. With a cautious innings from Vijay and another fourishing innings from Sehwag, things were set for a good score. But, Watson bowled a beauty to Vijay who edged one to the 'keeper. Then, Krejza struck twice to remove Sehwag and Dravid just before lunch. But, then on, riding on Sachin's century and three half centuries from the middle order (Ganguly missed out on scoring a century in his last test, having scored one in his first...!), India raised 441 on the scoreboard. The good new for Australia was that Krejza swept home 8 of the ten wickets. An astounding performance by a touring debutant spinner against the best players of spin (Narendra Hirwani was watching, I wonder what he will be thinking about). Aussies, with stern contributions from Katich and Hussey and contributions low down the order from Haddin and White helped Australia to 355, still drastically short of India's first innings total. It doesn't get better than this. Australian bowlers just HAD to strike and strike hard and fast, if Australia was to retain the trophy. With another classic opening partnership building up, things were looking tough for Punter and co. Then, Watson got Vijay again with the reversing ball, Vijay moving across, played for the wrong line. A little while later, both Sehwag and Dravid were out. Sachin was run out in a poor manner. Krejza consumed Laxman and Ganguly. Ganguly became the 7th man in the history to start his career with a century and end it with a duck. Nevertheless, Ponting could smell chances of victory. The lead was around 250 when Dhoni and Harbhajan walked in. But, Ponting was also reminded of the very very slow over rate. So, he was content with attacking with Krejza from one end and employ part timers from the other end. THIS was the turning point. Captain Dhoni and Harbhajan ran away with the show and put on a 108 run stand. By the time Australia got rid of the tail, they were set a target of 382, in literally, one day. With surprise run outs, poor shot selection and good spin bowling, Australia was soon playing themselves to a very bad situation. And, as the last wicket fell, Dhoni handed over the job of captaincy to Ganguly as a tribute to the retiring great. And then the moment of glory... Mitchell Johnson lbw to Bhajji. India blanks Australia 2-0!

The team work helped India win the trophy back from the Aussies. India has beaten Australia twice in a bilateral test series this decade, England have done it once, the only three occasions when Aussies lost a test series. Ponting and his integrity to the team was questioned regarding his non-attacking measures on day 4 of test 4. The late introduction of Krejza was surprising, as White was doing nothing with the ball. Katich had a good series, coming in place of the injured Phil Jacques. Amit Mishra was a good selection. The Indian bowling and batting looked good. Gambhir had piled up enough runs in 3 test matches that could not be eclipsed by those playing all four. Ishant Sharma drove home the car that was awarded to him for being the Man-of-the-Series. This series served as the perfect gift for the retiring greats, Anil Kumble and Saurav Ganguly.

Australia will now host the Kiwis in Trans-Tasmanian test battle. India will host the English team in a 7 match ODI and 2 match test series. Lot more cricket up for grabs this northern winter! Stay tuned… Cricket rocks!!!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Cricket losing shine???

Well, if a ball loses shine, there's always a spinner waiting hands stretched open ready to accept it and make the ball do some talking, or in some cases, one sided shine will attract pacers to reverse. But, what if the game is losing the classic shine in the mind-frame of the so called "cricket fans"? But, who is ready to revive it???

For quite a few years, I think people have become less of a follower of the game, but more of a supporter of an individual, or a club (Of course, you have to be a fan of your nation, no finger-pointing there). This is healthy, as far as people do appreciate the game whenever it is played well and boo when it is not. But, off late, I don't think that is what is happening. I mean, when someone goes on the front foot, leans up front, elbow high and coming down, meeting the ball in the middle of the bat and strokes the ball through cover and the smooth follow through (even if the effort was for a single), as beautiful as a dancing peacock in the forest, but, not many seem to appreciating it. I see more people cheering the "lemon cut", a shot which NEVER EVER can be played deliberately. Ridiculous. If the batsman himself doesn't know where the ball has gone, whats the point in celebrating the runs ?(ofcourse, one will accept the runs, runs are welcome how so ever they may come by). I don't think any batsman will take any credit when an edge goes past the 'keeper. He is bound to get a cold "taste that!" sort of snare from the bowler, to which the batsman can only say- I was lucky.

The classic cricket strokes are losing appreciation, and slog hitting have become a hit! hahahaha!!! It was still a treat to watch Hick, in his last season to hit a sixer down the ground rather than any one from the "youth brigade" slog one over mid-wicket/cow-corner. Sunny once rightly said - " We used to move our feet to the pitch of the ball and caress it or lift it over, now, batsmen move their feet away from the ball and slog it". Thanks to these shots, fielders in deep mid wicket, mid wicket and long on have become more busy.

Err... I hope you readers also remember that bowlers are a part of the game too. Just a confirmation...many people I come across have almost no concern for a bowler. All they ask is "is XYZ batting? How much did ABCD score... I will watch only so-and-so bat. Many people of the 20th century generation who might've just read the papers or watched the games on the telly or live in the stadium can still tell you what the shine on the ball is for. Most of the present day "youths" don't now much about it, not even on a comparative scale with respect to the yester-years. In my college, every evening, we have the evening practice sessions. Once, I went to the college team's captain, one of our college's best pacer, and asked him for an advice to generate more swing. I was shocked to know that he explained the concept of swing completely wrong!!! He said, ball swings to the shiny side, NEW BALL swings towards the shiny side!!! God!!! I gave the ball to him and left. Never did I go for practice again! I didn't want to play under someone who was alien to the game.

Reverse swing... Aaaaahhhhh.... How beautiful it is to watch the fast bowlers make the ball heavy on one side, roughen the ball, shine the ball, and what not!!! Marcus Trescothick once said, a particular variety of mint that he chewed helped him generate saliva that shined the ball pretty good. Think Ashes '05! Think Freddy, Jones...those snake like swinging deliveries! Ecstacy!!!
Now a days, people aren't even patient enough to watch the test match till reverse swing shows up. Test match, as glorious as it is, doesn't seem to have attracted most of this 21st century, T20 infected "fans". Some say, not all tests generate a result. I say, its an art to save a test match from a possible loss. The struggle to keep the tail up and wagging is an interesting war with more than the result at stake. Some say, T20 gives you a result in 3 and a half hour, max. I say, I would rather watch test cricket over the 5 days and enjoy it than watch three and a half hour of fizzy entertainment(note, I said entertainment, not cricket). Tests are test of skills, test of patience, test of character, test of plans, test of tactics, test of strength and test of cricket! A T20, is now, not more than "Batsman's Day(evening) Out". With a white ball that is maximum 20 overs old, there's not going to be much of spin, or any reverse swing to enjoy. I just don't understand the low turn out during the test match at Mohali, between India and Australia. Mohali is one of the best Indian cricket stadium with a wonderful pitch, bound to present the best contest between any two teams, let alone India and Australia. While, a T20 game attracted thrice the crowd!

I just hope, cricket fanfare increases in the coming days. Its time to bring back the same thrill and cricketing fun that the game had. Its time when the new blitzkrieg format, T20 has to be used to invite the member nations to develop their cricket, so that they can step into the longer formats of the game. T20 is an important aspect to bring in more cricket lovers. I pray there is no reverse psychology associated with it.

Hoping for the best!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Yes... A lot of things just happened in a little while.

The Bangladeshis toured Australia for a 3 match ODI series. No comments. No surprises in the result there...

Graeme Hick had retired from all forms of cricket, after playing nearly 24 decades, scoring 100+ domestic centuries and 40000+ domestic runs. The Worcs will remember him for ages. A king, has retired. Even though, he was around 45 years old, he was just as competitive as anyone else in the team. And, along with him, retires Darren Gough, whom England will remember as one of the most efficient bowlers of this past generation.
The US open!!! Federer won it... How many times on a trot? 6? Guess so. It was a much needed victory for him, after the traumatic Roland Garros and the epic Wimbledon defeats. Andy Murray was his opponent this year, who had crushed Nadal's dream of booking his first US open finals spot A not so difficult victory for Federer, but, it was interesting to note that there were not more than a couple of aces altogether in the whole match (one each, note pls)! And, Serena defeated Jankovic for the ladies' title. The American Bryan brothers had it easy in the men doubles finals.

The Barclay's Premier League got underway a little more than a month ago. After 6 matches, the big four are placed pretty well on the top half of the board. Manchester United, having played a lot away from home, a little behind the other big names though. Arsenal suffered two defeats, the one to Hull city (What the HULL happened???), will be having more impact on them, I guess. Liverpool and Chelsea are having an easy time. Chelsea have improved their scoring rate dramatically this season. I don't remember the Blues leading on goal difference at any stage of the tournament anytime before! This season is just getting hotter, with team like Manchester City eyeing top spots.

The F1 is going tight, with very less space to guess the championship winner. Hamilton is leading by 7 points, with around half a dozen or so races to go. Raikkonen, Massa, Kubica, and more in hot pursuit. The Singapore Night race was Awesome!!!

In the Major League Baseball, the Yankees had an emotional time last week, when they bid adieu to their historic Yankees Stadium, where their superstar, Babe Ruth hit the first homie! Alex Rodriguez was expected to hit the last, but the Orioles' pitcher made sure he only had a walk to get the bases loaded in the bottom ninth, scores level. One out! Two out! Were the emotional crowd going to have to wait longer for the farewell party??? NO! The batter hits the ball past the gaping pitcher, and the match was Yankees'. A fitting ending to the monument of the game.

Cricket again, India hosted Australia and New Zealand for a List-A tournament. Kiwis were subdued and India chased an emphatic target in the last league match (a dead rubber) to reach the final with all hopes up. The finals, was a hopeless show. Australia scored 300+, India skittled for a paltry score less than 150. The jinx of the Finals is not restricted to the Indian seniors' cricket team alone!!!

As many as thirteen Bangladeshi cricketers have signed up with the ICL, the so called rebel league after being overlooked by the IPL and having rows with their own cricket managing board. Now, they host the Kiwis, with the ICC keeping an eye over their test status, where they have no victory to rejoice,

One day after the above news was out, Sri Lankan Cricket board headed by their world cup winning Captain, Arjuna Ranatunga, lifted the ban on the Lankan ICL players from taking part in their domestic league.

BCCI has now allowed foreign players to take part in the Ranji Trophy tournament, presently one foreign player a team! That'll be almost twenty. I hope they choose good ones from countries like Bangladesh, Kenya or Zimbabwe. Or other member nations affiliated to the ICC.

The United States lifted te Ryder Cup this time around in their European tour!

Coming soon... UEFA Champions League, the European domestic soccer leagues, Europa Cup, The cricket's Champions League (oh Hell!), the all new NBA season (oh yea!!!), Australia tour of India and much more...

Stick around!!!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

KP leads England to Glory!

After a very happening test series, South Africa and England were now going to lock horns in the 5 match ODI series. England had a few experiments to carry out. They had a new captain, who had lost his first match as captain to the touring Kiwis a few week ago, as the then captain Collingwood was banned for a three ODIs. England also decided to call back 'keeper Mathew Prior in their endless search for the best replacement for Alec Stewart since his retirement a few years ago. Harmison and Flintoff's return was most anticipated all through the summer. Samit Patel also featured in as a spinner. South Africa, playing its first major ODI tournament since winning in Bangladesh in March-April, had concerns in its bowling department. Steyn was just returning from injury. Morkel brothers were not in the team that played the first ODI at Headingly.
The first ODI saw KP and Freddie apply themselves well and then rule the roost as the innings progressed to take England to a massive 275 in their quota of 50 overs. KP's innings was full of class, and Freddie's innings was full of hunger to score and make a memorable comeback. He did both in exceptionally good manner. South African openers started runnig away with the show, with Gibbs returning to the side in prime form along with the imposing figure of captain Smith going hard on English seamers. After only a brief spell from Broad and Jimmy, harmison came in to bowl and almost got rid of Smith. Most South Africans got starts but didn't stay long enough at the crease to win the game. KP wisely brought in Patel to remove the pace on the ball. Freddie and his pal, Harmison bowled well in the middle overs. After Duminy and Botha left, SOuth Africa had not much hope, and KP celebrated his first victory as captain.

The second match, played at the Notts, where England made the record by featuring the same test side for the 6th consecutive time, earlier this season. By the time I could return after dinner to the TV set, the match was almost over. Stuart Broad ripped through half the South African line up, which scored a mere 83, with Andre Nel top scoring with 13, with only two others to give him company with double digit scores. Freddie and Harmy took care of the other half! Exploding Prior and steady Bell took England home within the drinks break. The day/night score didn't need much of the flood lights.

In the third encounter, England amassed a huge total, thanks to contributions from the willows of Bell and Flintoff. And, Samit Patel did a good job with the bat towards the end and ended up with a match winning 5 wicket haul. Is England’s search for an ODI spinner over? Only time will tell. As usual, Harmy and Freddie took care of the middle overs. Anderson was at his best, swinging the white duke at 90+ mph. And England had won the series already with two games to spare!

In the rain-reduced fourth match at Lords’, South Africa were scoring at a healthy pace when rain fell down and England were set a target of about 135, to be achieved in 20 overs max! Now, people got their share of the T20 action, the scheduled T20 got washed off due to rain, before the ODI series. In this match, English openers faltered early on, but “Ace” Shah and KP started swinging the match in their favour. And when the required run rate was just creeping up, and KP was removed by Botha, in came Flintoff and wasted no time in the middle. He scored a breathtaking 31 in 17 minutes, having faced only a dozen balls, creamed with 5 boundaries and a six! England led the series by an unassailable 4-0 margin.
The fifth ODI was washed away, with not more than 10 minutes played. So, England had a clean sweep in the ODI series. England struck good form with both the bat and the ball. Kevin Pietersen’s captainship was laudable. He was pretty good at taking the “right decisions at the right time”. Anderson, Broad, Harmison and Flintoff bowled well to keep the run rate in check. Samit Patel rolled his arm over well in the middle overs to provide variety to the English bowling attack. Flintoff and KP’s presence in the middle order helped the English line up shine well. Bell, at the top of the order played his role smoothly.

A very long exciting English home season comes to an end. England has a lot to celebrate now, after the victorious ODI series.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

India completes Revenge

his year, the two side have seen themselves in the same field on numerous occasions. It all started in Australia in the tri-nations trophy, where ultimately, India prevailed over Sri Lanka. Then, it was the Asia Cup, where Jayawardene’s excellence in captaincy and Mendis’ mysteriousness helped Sri Lanka defeat India for the title.

Now, the two teams faced off in Sri Lanka. India was bolstered by the presence of the ODI captain, Dhoni and Sri Lanka welcomed their star legend Jayasurya into the format he still plays as good as ever. After the hosts won the test series 2-1 in emphatic fashion, the ODI series was bound to be interesting.

The turning tracks of Dambulla were welcoming both the sides, laden with quality spinners. In the first game, SL skittled India for a paltry total and chased it down quite easily. It looked like Sri Lanka had complete control over the game and that Indian team now lacked something. Both spinners were having a good time. But, in the game, India did the very same to Sri Lanka, though the chasing seemed a bit shaky. The toss was becoming an important factor. Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel and Praveen Kumar were in goor form and did most of the damage.

Now, tied 1-1, the series moved to the Premadasa stadium, Colombo. Three day-night encounters to be played. Toss was even more important now. The ball swings under the light in these conditions in the two-paced pitch. Dhoni was lucky with the toss in the third game, and decided to bat first. The young opener, Kohli played a calm role at the top of the order. The middle order in the able presence of strokeplayer Raina and depemdable captain, Dhoni chugged along well and put up a sensible much needed partnership. Both were fluent against the spinners. Mendis was going at almost run-a-ball and picked a couple of wickets. Murali was treated with caution by Dhoni and Raina. After Raina's departure due to an unnecessary run-out, Rohit struck good form at the right time. Himself along with the captain raised a half century partnership in good time. the Lankan bowlers did well to prevent India from reaching a tall score. Tushara and Vaas bowled well to make sure the target seemed reachable. Once the Lankans stepped in to bat under the lights, the Indian pacers made use of the swinging conditions to make the ball to all the talkings. Four of the top five were in the pavilion before the end of 10 overs and Jayawardene was standing fort with Dilshan who was looking to open up. Just after drinks break, Munaf seperated Dilshan from Jayawardene. Munaf maintained good line and length outside the off of the right hander. Later in the innings, Tushara and Jayawardene had a partnership going on well and Sri Lanka seemed to be coming back into the match. The merciless Zack returned to remove Tushara and Sri Lanka were done in for 204. Jayawardene scored a beautiful 94, though in vain. It was one of the best innings of the series.

The heavens opened up the day the fourth match was to be played, but thankfully things were calm on the reserve day. Dhoni, lucky again with the toss. Yet again, Kohli started the innings well whereas his opening partner Gambhir fell soon and Yuvi scored a duck, caught at slips, to give Vaas his 400th victim, which had been eluding him for almost a week. Raina and Kohli continued to keep the run rate going. The boundaries were hard to come by, thanks to tight line and length by the Lankan bowlers. But, there weren't many "surprise deliveries" to trouble the batsmen. Kohli was consumed soon after he compiled his 50, when he tried to drive Thushara, but played on to the stumps. Dhoni and Raina paired up once again to blunt the Sri Lankan bowling. The spinners were ineffective. And the two went on to put up around 140 runs for the fourth wicket, when Thushara struck twice to remove both of them in two overs. then, Mendis removed Rohit and the last 5 wickets fell for a paltry 15 runs. Tushara picked his first 5-for, his second best performance was a 2 wicket haul! Chasing a target of almost 260, under the lights was always going to be tough. But, the care-free legendary opener, Sanath never looked at all those words. He started the lankan innings in a jiffy and took a liking against the bowling of Praveen Kumar, wo had to be replaced after his four overs, when Sanath unleashed his strokes-of-fury. His partner just watched....just watched....just watched. After half an hour, he was removed by Munaf. He didn't score in the 18 balls he faced till then! Soon, run rate slowed down. Sangakkara chopped on to the stumps and after compiling a quick fire 60, Sanath was removed by Harbhajan. The middle order did little to help the cause and soon, the Lankans were staring down the barrel....errr...down the series. A valiant 40 by the emerging all-rounder Tushara was a good phase for the Lankans before the end drew close. Zaheer Khan took care of Tushara's cameo to give India its maiden ODI series victory in the Emerald Isles.

When all was lost in the series, Jayawardene won the toss in the last match, in which the SL side was playing to salvage some pride. Powered by Udawatte, Warnapura and Mubarak's steady innings and later by Tushara's blistering show, Sri Lanka put up a decent 227. Finally the Lankan bowlers got to bowl under the lights, and they did it quite beautifully. Kulasekara and Mendis did most of the damage to skittle India and win by a massive margin. Apart from Kohli, nobody was playing around well for a considerable length of time. Kulasekara ripped apart the top order just in time for Fernando and mendis to cleaan up the tail. The rain-break after an hour into the second innings helped the Lankan seamers even better.

India, came back well after the loss in the test series to win the one day series, their first in Sri Lanka, with a game to spare! Captain Dhoni was named the man-of the-series for his consistant performance with the bat. No, India gears up to host Australia in autumn. Oh boy! i'm waiting for it!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Chinese Fireworks brighten Beijing Games

The Chinese did prepare well for the Olympics, they had the city of Beijing at its scintillating best and so were the other host-cities; but the icing on the cake was the splendid performance of their athletes to bring home (BRING home????) their first Olympics victory. They were so dominating, that the Olympics looked like ‘no-contest’ to them. When was the last time the U.S. of A. were so far away from the numero uno spot, in terms of the number of Gold-medals won.

Take a bow, China!

The Chinese dominated many fields, like, table-tennis, badminton, floor gymnastics and of-course, sync swimming. They also had a nice time in other fields, which was a major factor to overtake the haul of the U.S. of A. this time. The U.S. of A. had a good run, but in most cases had to settle for silver or bronze.

From the point of view of not-SO-great stats and follower of athletics, but just a guy who enjoys the Olympics, I can chart just a few things. A non-exhaustive list of achievements, of course…

First of all, if at all this Olympics is to be remembered by an athlete’s name, you can call it Phelps’ Olympics without a second thought. 8 games he participated in, and 8 gold medals he did win. He is one man who kept his promise even in a world class competition. At-least 6 of them were in world record time! Ask him about his daily schedule, surely you won’t believe your ears. I would say. If he can cover himself with gold every Olympics with that sort of schedule, I’m considering the option of trying to participate in the London Games. 16 Olympic medals and 8 golds in one particular edition, both became new records. The record of 7 golds held by Mark Spitz since ’72 Munich was unimaginably broken!

The 100m men dash! Three names will flash in your mind immediately, whether or not you know them. Before the final, there came one blow – Tyson Gay did not qualify for the finals! Then came the second blow… in less than 10 seconds of the finals, the world was to be shocked again to find Asafa Powell not on the podium. But, I don’t think that was the reason for that shocked, stoned, gasping, ‘searching for oxygen’ look on the face of 90000 odd people in the artistic Bird’s Nest and probably another few billions of international viewers and followers. It must have been Powell’s fellow athlete, Usain Bolt, who had enough time in the world to start late, race ahead of 7 others, look back over his shoulders and start celebrating atleast 20 m before the finish line and still finish with a world record time of 9.69 seconds!!!!! He also had a world record lead over the second placed athlete! Unbelievable? Believe it! (sorry, Repley’s! but, you would’ve said the same). And he came back again to win the 200 m gold too! His lightning-bolt celebration was an instant hit!

In tennis, debutant Nadal made this year even more special, clinching the gold. Federer, who was beaten by Blake, won the men’s doubles gold with Stanislas Wawrinka. In the women category, the all-Russian final saw Elina Dementieva clinched the gold medal, defeating Dinara Safina. If my memory serves me right, I think the Williams sisters clinched gold in doubles event.

Soccer saw Brazil winning the final, and after a long wait, the U.S. of A. won the basket ball event.

The U.S. of A. though didn’t have anything to cheer in the field of boxing this time around. Holifield didn’t seem to be happy at all. He blamed boxers’ hunger for money more than glory for this bad patch in their boxing history.

Kenyan, Samuel Wanjiru was the winner of the marathon event, considered to be THE race of any Olympics, hence he can be proud to be the winner of the Olympics! The Ethiopians, Bekele and Tirunesh Dibaba won both the 5 km and 10 km in the men’s and women’s category respectively.

An important point to be noticed, the Beijing games saw 32 records being broken, a record in itself that it now shares with the Munich Games!

From an Indian’s point of view, this Olympics, by far was the best one, as India won a gold and two bronze medals. A country of 1.1 billion odd people managed 3 medals, and this happens to be the best performance. It will be some time for India to make a memorable performance in the Olympics. Prior to the Olympics, I was very disappointed as India failed to make the cut for hockey, the event in which India has won numerous gold medals.

So, the Olympics was a grand success. The Chinese government and citizens of Beijing made the Olympics a memorable one for all athletes. The Games had it all – success, failures, shocks, both sweet and bitter, glory and above all, pride!

Net edition, four years later, will be held in London. Only time will tell what is in store there…

Photo :

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Summer or Revival, Resurgence, Revenge!!!

This past summer, a lot of sporting action rocked the earth... The actions were larger than life, the players were supernaatural and all-in-all, the summer became even hotter.

Revenge took place, first in Los Angeles, and that episode rightly ended in Boston, when the NBA "Invincibles" of the season defeted the LA Lakers in a manner which is undescriptive. Seeing is believing. Knocking out Lakers at the Staples Centre, coming back from a 23 point deficit can only be dreamt of... What Boston Celtics did was an exhibition of class, authority, experience, unity and style and won back, rather, snatched back the NBA title from their biggest rival after a gap of almost 2 decades.

Tennis... Talk about comebacks... Dinara Safina played like a never-say-quit war-horse in the French Open and defeated big names and compatriots en-route to the finals. Though she lost in the finals, she will be remembered for her games she won prior to it. Having come back from being a set down twice in the tournament to win the matches in comprehensive style, she gave the Russians another reason to cheer about. And she eventually turned out to be the factor who could cheer up her brother Marat Safin. And, he showed up with some tricks up his sleeve in the prestigeous Wimbledon. He defeated three seeded players on the trot to book a match with defending champion, Federer, to whom he lost. But, the way Safin was playing, he sent shivers down the spine of many prominent players, especially after defeating the Australian Open champion, Novac Djokovic. He added some Safinism to these plays too. It was interesting to watch him go for a challenge when the ball was "obviously" inside the court. But, the biggest one was yet to come in the tournament. It was Rafa who finally achieved what has been eluding him for atleast three years. He defeated Federer in an epic final, probably the best one in the Open era. He is now all set to take over the No. 1 spot from Federer, being the first one to do so in more than 4 years. his next target - clinching gold at his maiden Olympics in Beijing, this August.

Talking about Soccer, the Euro was provided the summer bonanza. Spain finally got their crown after a long last wait and many choking experiences. The best elements of the tournament were Turkey and Russia. While Russia, under the guidance of "magician" Guus Hiddink, kept a good pace in the tournament and made sure they made a good mark in the tournament by beating even sides of the calibre of Nederlands, Turkey made sure that the spectators stayed in their seats till the very end of the game. The Turks....aaaahhhh... You'll never know when they are gonna make their come back. You take at the 120th minute, Turks will equalise the next minute. Ast a Croatian how it feels to have experienced that. The Turks bounced back in 3 games after trailing for most of the duration in two of those, and conceded a late, errr, very late goal in the third. All in all, they were very impressive and created a great impression. Now, every club will be vying fro Russians and Turks.

Now, coming to cricket. The long summer in England saw the Kiwis first lose the test series to a tough and building English side. the kiwi test side had been shaky ever since the English tour of the Kiwis. But, then, the Kiwis gave a great reply in the ODI series. Having lost the first one in a very pathetic manner, they came back well to emerge winner in all the other games (one was rain-affected, though that match all seemed to be heading NZ's way). Then came the South Africans and had a tough first test, where they had to stay put at the wicket day and night to save the test after they were made to follow on. The English test team lost all the form it had over the past 5 or 6 test and lost 2 test in a row to the resurgent Proteas before pulling one back for pide. SA hence came back well into the Basil D'Oliviera trophy after the horrible first 3 days of 1st test to clinch the title, winning the series 2-1.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Proteas ruin the English summer party!

The English summer was topped by the tour of South Africa after the summer solstice in a 4 match test series to be followed by the one-dayers. The English side were on the brink of creating history of fielding the same side for 6 consecutive times. Michael Vaughan's place in the side was in jeopardy due to his downslide in batting form, though he has been captaining the side well for the past few months. Andrew Flintoff was ready to catch an opportunity with both hands if there was to be even a key-hole of a space to get in, he was looking in the best health off late.

So, the Basil D'Oliveira Trophy kicked off in stlye, at the Lords'. England batted first on a good batting wicket. The openers started slowly but, didn't lose any wicket in the morning session. The openers put on a brilliant 100+ stand for the first wicket. Then, the tall seamer, Morne Morkel got rid of the openers while Steyn's "Ripper" will be another episode of Vaughan's nightmares. Then on, KP and Bell played on and on and on. After KP's brilliant knock, Broad showed some class to give Bell some company. Vaughan was waiting for Bell to reach his double centure to call back his team, but, Bell, who wanted to get things done fast, got out due to a possible lapse in his concentration when he was out caught and bowled to Harris on 199. Oh boy! What a score to be frozen at! Anyway, the knock will remain very important in the context of the game. The Proteas stepped in...and stepped out pretty sooner than expected. Had it not been for Prince's calm and superb century, South Africa might've been in a very bad situation. Nevertheless they were forced to follow on. Now, the flavour of ecstacy. This is what I called saving a match. The top 3 South Africans each scored hefty centuries to deny England what looked like possible victory one and a half days ago. Smith was aggressive, while Amla and McKenzie were stuck to defensive basics of best order. The SA batsmen were just a shadow of what they were in the first innings.

So, the second test match ended the 6 match streak of England playing the same 11. Now, Freddie Flintoff made an entry back into the side in place of Collingwood and the comlpetely unknown medium pacer Darren Pattinson came in for the rested/injured Sidebottom. Steyn and Morkel ripped apart the English order and the South Africans, after initial hiccups, piled on excess of 500 with contributions coming in from the blade of Prince and AB de Villiears. With a near-similar performance by the South African seamers yet again, England avoided innings defeat! They took a lead of paltry 8 runs which Smith and McKenzie swept away in the blink of an over. South Africa thus took the all important 1-0 lead, at Leeds!

Vaughan was losing more ideas than hair... He knew Pattinson didn't work out the way anyone would've expected. It took some time for Lloyd to find out that he was a roof-tiler and Harmy realised that he ws dozing while Pattinson bowled in the match played between them. Nevertheless, Broad and Pattinson were replaced by Collingwood and Sidebottom, who still wasn't 100% fit. Nel replaced injured Steyn, a big blow to SA.

The Edgebaston match started off not-so-well for England, as only half centuries from Cook and Bell took England to a meagre 231. Nel and Kallis contributed well with 3 wickets. The see-saw battle continued as Fred announced his return in style and picked up 4 crucial wickets, his ball swinging and dipping in more than what the batsmen anticipated. Ryan toiled hard for 3 wickets. Collingwood and KP then lead the english fightback and gave england a reason to fight for when they took the field for the 2nd time. Needing 281 for victory in both the match and the series, the SA openers started steadily. But, then, with a combined effort from Jimmy, Flintoff and Panesay, SA were reduced to 93-4 with Smith still at one end but losing partners very quickly. But, in the presence of de Villiers and Boucher, Smith raced to a big century and won the match for South Africa. This was a big moment, as both Vaughan's batting form and captaincy were in very poor form, though he maintains a very good overall track record in both aspects.

This was followed by Vaughan stepping down from captaincy and Collingwood denying the post. Vaughan stayed away from the 4th match. KP was named the captain and Steve Harmison made a comeback too.

The English seamers wated no time in getting rid of the whole SA batting order in no time and SA ended up with just 194 on board without even a single half-century. KP then stamped authority with a brilliant century before Harmison showed his skills with the bat. A sad period of play was when Harmison was on the non-striker end on 49 when Anderson padded up to a Harris arm ball and was out lbw. A few hundred seconds later, Harmison set off for a quick single but, Monty was a tad late to respond and was run out to leave Harmy stranded on a very important knock of 49! South Africa made a decent 2nd inning score, thanks to de Villiers and Amla. Broad chipped in with 3 wickets. England top order had things going easy and without much effort, they won the unconsequential match in style...when Flintoff hits a six to win the match with a six, its gotta be in style!

So, SA will take home the Basil D'Oliveira Trophy which was dramatic in many ways. I can't forget the moments when Morkel was out but walked off to some random place on the boundary, quite far from the dressing room, had to go past the advertisement boards and then a ground staff security personnel had to escort him to the dressing room past the spectators. Darren Pattinson was the surprise elemwnt, a surprise that awaited both the sides! A new English captain emerged, emerged victorious the first time he led his side. Old war horses Flintoff and Harmison cane back into the sides. McKenzie and Amla were at their best. Prince and de Villiers and Captain Smith were in good touch too. Steyn was at his aggressive best and Ntini proved the world that age doesn't bother him!!!

So, now, its time for the ODI series. Let the best side victor. Only time'll tell!!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Lankan Lions Roared Louder

A lot of things had happened in the 3-test series between hosts Sri Lanka and the off-shore neighbours India. Interestingly, all these tests ended on the third day of play itself. This was one amongst the the many interesting points to be seen from the tour. A good series from cricketing point of view and the Sri lankans won the series, hands down, I should say. I mean, the Sri Lankan team was perfect in all their departments.

The Indians came to the Island with a lot of things on their mind, what with mendis already visiting their dreams(nightmares!) after that superb Asia Cup finale. And, then, Dhoni seemed to have found the "right" time to take rest during the all-important test series, thus handing over the job of the 'keeper to two who had butterfingers throught the series. The practice match was "OK" for the Indians as one would put it, nothing too alarming, nothing too soothing. The sides met at the more famous of the two stadia of the Capital city- the Sinhalese Sports Club, known to assist spinners sooner than later during the course of the match. Both teams had quality spinners. The Indians banking on the experience of Harbhajan and Jumbo, Srilanka confident of giving the "New-Big-Name" of cricket, Mendis, his debut, along with ace magician, Murali.

After a few spells of typical Lankan rain, the match heated up with the Sri Lankan batsmen showing no mercy while scoring runs. As many as four centurions were seen on the score card! Having scored 600, it could've only been Sri Lanka's game to lose! When India came on to bat, on what seemed to have been a flat batting track mid-way through the test, many would've thought the test was heading to another draw. Not so long ago was it, when South Africa fought back in their match against England to "win" a draw. Back in Colombo, things were looking bright and fast as Indian openers gallopped on the shoulders of the Delhi duo. But, Sehwag was to depart early, cutting short his blitzkrieg innings. Then on, apart from the steady show of Gambhir and Laxman at the wickets, the spin combo did what they were expected to, if not, more than what they were expected to. The Indian tail which famously wags for a long time, couldn't do any better than the top order. Soon, India were following on, trailing, still, by another 373, I suppose. The script for second innings was even more dramatic. It took just 31 overs of spin to demolish the most talked about batting order in the world. It took just 8 hours to dismiss the line up twice, so, thats just about 4 sessions! Thats called winning in style! The magician finished woth 11 scalps and the debutant had 8. What a start for him! The best since Stuart Clark started featuring ono the international scenario...

Shove that test now... Now, the team travels to Galle, the city that carries a lot of sorry tales from the tsunami episode that devastated the island. But, now, a new pitch was laid, the stadium rebuilt and two sides having a point or two to prove. Well, this time, India batted first and Sehwag made yet another HUGE century, errrr...a double century. He tore apart the Lankan bowling, who were at one stage more keen in displacing his partner at regular interval than try to dislodge his, as that proved to be a difficult task. Ultimately, surprisingly, amazingly, Sehwag became the second Indian to carry his bat and India put up a decent 329, 296 of which came from 3 willows and 12 more came in a extras. Imagine what happened to the rest of the batting line up. i do not want to describe the card, looks not-so-good. Sri Lankans did actually start off well, apart from that early wicket. Wanrapura, Mahela and Kumar made decent scores, but, after them, no one gave support and Bajji ripped apart more than half the order. Leading by a meagre 37 runs, India came in to bat for the second time and made a decent 269 to put the target just beyond 300. With around 5 sessions to go, Sri lanka came in to bat, hopeful of easing through to the total. But, Ishant Sharma and Zaheer Khan were at their merciless best, getting 3 quick wickets and Bajji chipping in with a wicket in his first over to make Sri Lankans sweat when they looked up at the score-board. But then, Dilshan and Samaraweera steadied the ship and pulled things back a bit. Just when one was thinking that the game was going into the 5th day, Dilshan was done in by an absolute beauty by Ishant, having just pitched one short and punished the previous ball. Then on, the Lankans played the worst shots in the book and ended up losing by a big margin. Samaraweera was stranded on the other end for a well compiled half century that may not get much attention as India's victory on that day. So, was the brilliant 10 wicket haul by Mendis in just his 2nd test. He was just about unplayable. Only Sehwag and Gambhir could manage his spells.

With the series one game a piece, every other player was rubbing his palms, fire in his eye, hunger to win the match. Jumbo won the toss and elected to bat, like who won't on the good looking batting track. Another debutant, Dammika Prasad, who had earlier dug a thorn in the minds of Indians in the practice game, impressed all as he took three wickets in the first session. He hails from the same place as Dilhara Fernando and has the eyes and aggression of Murali. Oh boy! Wasn't he excited on getting the prized wicket of Sachin, who seems to be the one to fall to debutants on many occasions off late! A topsy turvy Indian innings which would seem to be cruising along at one stage and by the time you move to the refridgerator to fill your tummy, it would be 9 down for less than 200. It needed steady innings from Zaheer and Ishant to remind the players that it was still a batsman's pitch. The Lankans approved the notion. India had one wicket late in day one to find Vaas take up the crease as night wtchman, who stayed on for longer than expected next morning, giving support to the centurion, Sangakkara, who, later went on to be the Man-of-the-Match. With Vaas already having played decently up the order, the Lankan line up looked deeper than normal and made almost 400. Eventhough India managed to compile a decent 268 second time around, with an injured batting line up, it was never going to be enough. With ishant injured, Jumbo had to toss the ball to Bajji to bowl the second over. Interesting? Yup! But, Bajji just accepted the ball and returned the favour with a wicket. Zaheer soon got the second one and Srilanka were now 24/2 chasing 122 for victory. But, captain Mahela lead by example and in prime company of the upand rising opener, Warnapura, the Lankans were victorious. This match also saw Mendis break the record for most test victims in the debut series. Thus, fittingly, the Man-of -the-series.

Jayawardene captained the side well nd introduced the spinners at good times(the duo ruled the roost!). The Lankan batsmen had a good series all through. Theri fielding was superb and lived upto the name of the best fielding side, no matter how many debutants they play. The Lankans, deservingly, won the Series. After all the "precautionary" measures against Mendis, Laxman and Dracid fell to him 5 and 4 times respectively. Laxman did perform decent enough though. Both Sachin and Ganguly missed out on opportunities. Sachin couldn't become the highest run getter yet, still needing just around 80 runs more. The 'keepers were below par on both sides of the crease. Jumbo didn't seem very threatening. Injury crept into the side at just the wrong moment. Only a few good things happened for India. The openers were in excepetional form, Harbhajan and also Ishant(on a flat spinner friendly wicket, Ishant was not ready to give away any run!) bowled well.

Now, the procession moves into the lighter format. It is to be seen if the inclusion of young blood into the side makes any difference to the side. Many of them are practicing to face spinners!!! Thats not a big news, given that Mendis looks more threatening in the SriLankan colours than in his military outfit. So, only time'll tell if the Indians have a reply for the Asia cup finals. The Srilankans would like to hold fort yet again. Its going to be a bloo-sweat-&-tears ODI series up next. Watch out for it!

Friday, July 18, 2008

T-20, my take on it...

First, it was started by the makers of the game, to play some non-tiring cricket during off seasons, just for fun. It then found place in their domestic calendar, and had a good fanfare. Both players and the management loved it. The players would then come back to the classical versions too.

A couple of years passed by, and the little version had spread around the cricketing world. During that period, it was played as a game of cricket. Then came Mr. Alan Stanford, the Billionaire from Texas, who loved the game and wanted to add some shine to West Indies’ cricket, which it had apparently lost since its glory days. He started The Stanford 20-20 league, which revived cricket fanfare in the Caribbean. But, money played a big role in it.

In India, not many know that there was a domestic league of Twenty-20 last year, eventually won by Tamil Nadu, who beat the domestic giants, Mumbai. But, the BCCI planned to make things grand. Instead of improving publicity of this league, they started another league featuring clubs from cities. The IPL, just to counteract the ICL, which was gaining some popularity then, but did not get the BCCI’s consent, thus remaining a rebel league! The IPL was more of money than cricket. The official review was IPL was a big success. I think, it was so, monetarily. IPL had some big time effects on the game of cricket, negatively. It has made cricketers more money minded (money is the root cause of all evils, another example for the one-liner). The pitches became flatter and flatter, that mostly saw ball swatting by batsmen. Bowlers had very little to cheer about, just the “purple cap” award. Three had hat-tricks, thanks once again to crazy shots played by batsmen. It seemed like, batsmen forgot to bat properly. Very few impressed me in pure cricketing sense.

My biggest fears came true when the one dayers were played after the IPL. Pitches were very flat in the subcontinent. West Indies pitches were slower than usual, and very batsman friendly. English grounds have been fine, as of now at least. ECB seems to be looking forward to start English Premier League (cricket). So, that makes it 2 T20 leagues in one season in the English domestic calendar. Pro-40 has been scrapped! Ridiculous! The Asia Cup was conducted in Pakistan a couple of weeks ago. Dreadful! Very monotonous pitches were made, very one sided, non-competitive. All batsmen friendly ones, just about every single one of them. It was ‘no mercy’ for fast bowlers. Any ball, even a tad short would’ve been punished, no matter what pace it had when released from the palm of the bowler. An average score of around 300 in this tournament was disappointing picture. More so, when they were chased down very easily. Will not take away anything from the bowlers, they all bowled well. Gone were the times when it was difficult to chase under the lights in the subcontinents, thanks (sarcasm meant) to the pitches. It remains batsman friendly all throughout. If Champions Trophy is going to be held there, I hope it IS held to preserve cricket in the talented country, it should see better quality pitches there. There should be close encounters, a good contest, not only between the teams, but more so between the bat and the ball. Else, I don’t see the point of a squad including any bowler (fast bowlers specifically) for the tournament. It is nice to see that the ICC has noticed this issue and is looking forward to improve the pitch standard through its exclusive committee to monitor international venues and their laid wickets.

The thin crowd during the course of Asia Cup tournament has made the ICC raise an issue about reforming the game, tinker with its format. So, it is confirmed that the flashy, lusty, lucrative Twenty20 is here to create chaos and kill the much better One Day format, mind you, I mean the ones with 50-overs a side. Now, the players are trying to convince their cricket boards to shift their tours and series away from the IPL window. I think money means more to them, than service to their nation. Just when the IPL fever was about to be over, Sir Alan Stanford landed in a chopper right in the middle of the Lords and offered $ 5 million to the team members who can defeat his XI in a match to be held sometime later. It’ll take a some time for people to come out of this money-fever. I would’ve rather loved to see Mr. Stanford invest in building more institutions in the Caribbean to improve the standard of West Indies’ cricket and help produce better tracks there.

Some recent news have raised concerns about this T20 format. Ponting wants cricketers to keep the spirit of test matches right on top. Gilchrist fears test and ODIs may lose their sheen. Arjuna Ranatunga, ACC chief, has asked cricketers to concentrate on their game and not be inclined to money. Ryan Sidebottom has even declined joining IPL saying that he wants to concentrate on playing for the Nation. That’s the spirit. Compare that with Sri Lanka requesting their board to shift their tour of England just because the tour clashes with IPL. It seems as if they hold money over glory for the nation!

It is a pity to see cricket in this state. Looks like its being auctioned. I would like to see more cricket lovers, yes. But, I don’t think these T20 leagues will help. How many of the “T20 cricket fans” do you think know that a particular stroke was a piece of classic, even though it might have just yielded a single? How many know that it was sheer luck and fluke in that shot that went over the slip cordon for a four? This generation will witness very less of the beautiful art of reverse-swing. I was laughing to see spinners bowling with the new ball! Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahahahaaaa! I would’ve never dreamt of letting an ace spinner open the bowling, either. Cricket is now like a cat on the wall. Now is the time, to revive it back, else, we may see the end of some, if not all, greatest qualities of the game.

I pray the game survives the test of time, and the players survive the test of money!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Rafael Nadal Breaks the Wimbledon Jinx!

Phew! I can't take it any more... The tournament left me searching for my breath. Never ever would've one seen SUCH a competitive Championships. It was marriage of all emotions in a pool of exceptional tennis.

There were severe serves, thumping forehands, astounding backhand passes, glorious volleys, loud screams, hunger for the title, comeback of Safin, downfall of top seeded ladies, unseeded semifinalists, the irritation of rain followed by the joy of impeccable tennis.

The home fans got a lot to cheer about, when Scot Andy Murray reached new heights at the Wimbledon when he came back from two set down to beat Richard Gasquet. The whole arena, Court 1, or Centre court, I'm not sure, erupted beyond the chair umpire's control. All his "Thank you, silent please" would go unheard. As my friend puts it to me, the Henman Hill has now transformed into Murray Mountain or, rather, Mount Murray. But the ice on the mountain melted soon when he was defeated by the eventual champion. Rafael Nadal.

French Open saw Dinara Safina help people locate her on the tennis map. Wimbledon saw her unseeded, 70+ ranked (then) big (I mean BIG) brother... Maraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat Safinnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn. The big guy is back and defeated three seeded players in a row only to find him face the finalist, the defending Champion, Roger Federer. But, in his matches, he surely made a point that he ain't done for good, yet. O' boy! He was a treat to watch! What a game he had when he stunned centre court, defeating third seed Serb straight sets!!! Seeing was believing!!!

Federer was on song, but, tad less authoritative than what he was last season. He started off against his pal, Hrbaty, who is retiring, and later faced Safin, and beat him without sweating much to set a clash, once again with the Spanish brigade, Rafa! Federer's serves were picture perfect, as usual, and his volleys, forehand and backhand saw an improvement over his French Open Finals' performance. He would shrug off tough situations with a streak of aces, I call it "His Bag of Aces". He hadn't dropped a set until the Final.

The Spaniard, Rafa, on the other hand was at his brutal best, the form of his life. he was finding angles that one wouldn't even have tried out in a video-game!!! His typical forehand slash and that powerful backhand... Wow! Stars have say he returns the serve with great force, which is his plus. SO, it was quite easy for him to knock out the names and fame, including the raring Murray, and unseeded semifinalist Schuttler to get himself one step closer to his dream.

The Finals... Oh boy!!! On one hand, history was waiting to be etched into the record books (Borg was out there too) and on the other hand, Rafa was wanting to etch a few moments of glory into his career book, and become a more complete player, rather that being called a "Clay Court Specialist"

Rafa was charged up for it, got the first set in his kitty. Federer, in the second set, broke Nadal early, only to be broken twice soon to make it 2 sets to one in favour of Rafa. So, Rafa may have it soon, but with no breaks yet in the 3rd set, it was heading for a tie breaker, but heavens opened up. When they returned, Federer stepped up his game and got the third set. Exactly the same happened in 4th set and now, it was going to the last set. It was played with such intensity that, to break was to win. It was becoming dark in the Centre Court or Wimbledon in SW London, but, the two out there in the middle were not calling it quits! The cameras were disallowed to click during play as flashes fell on the court like lightning strikes. But then, the moment was nearing when Rafa broke Federer. He was serving for the championships. Having missed two chances already to get both his hands on the trophy, this was his best chance.

HE DID IT, he got it, he got what he wanted, he got Glory! He had finally displaced Federer's name from the Trophy's face. He was emotional, and very happy, climbing to his near and dear in the Reserved enclosure. Federer admitted that Rafa deserved it. Rafa was so exhausted after that, he opted out of the the Stuttgart Mercedes Cup (he's the defending champion there), just to chill and drool in those wonderful moments.

In the ladies' section, the top seeded players were knocked one after the other. Tanasugarn and Zheng were carrying the Asian hopes, having defeated even the likes of Ivanovic, but were eventually defeated by the Williams sisters. The sisters went on to meet each other at the finals, for the 3rd time in the Wimbledon. And, the defending champion, and the elder of the two, Venus had the last laugh, defeating her sis in straight sets in a gruelling clash. The Williams' family cash box was not closed yet, as the two came together to defeat Stosur and Raymond to collect the doubles title too! It was fitting to call it The Williams' Wimbledon.

The tall second seeded pair of Zimonjic and Nester got better of Bjorkman and his mate to lift the Gentlemen's Doubles in emphatic fashion. They had beautiful chemistry and had excellent strategies to overcome their opponents. They had a tough time in the semifinals to get rid of Paes and Dlouhy, but, when they had emerged victorious in the 5 setter, they were confident of the title.

So, all in all... What a breathtaking tournament it was! El Classico! Phew! Every match seemed to be like a Final! There was no giving up, it was fight till the end.

Wimbledon at its best!