Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Why Aus winning the Ashes will be tougher than the Ostriches flying

- All Australian players are either injured or out of form, or both

- Mitchell Johnson is an unknown quantity

- All batsman, save Hussey, had a poor run in the most recent round of Sheffield Shield cup

- Australia lost 3 tests on a trot, one to Pakistan, two to India

- England have beaten Pakistan in the test series played on the same land

- Local profile too low after series defeats at home in T20 and ODIs to SL, effectively saying bench strength is too weak to be tried for the longer format

- Hauritz, backed by Ponting, failed to impress in the best conditions possible (India). Doherty gets a look in, Steven Smith, the most hopeful gets relieved.

- Staying with Ponting, no one knows how long he will be the leader of the pack

- Speaking of leader-of-the-pack, there is enough rumour for the press to trouble the Aussie all throughout the series for things as simple as "Why did Ponting not give hi-5 to Clarke when Clarke caught the ball"... Surely, the press don't understand that Clarke is hygienic and doesn't like physical contact with someone who has been spitting in his hands all day long!

- John Buchanan is helping England

- Monty Panesar has taken a diving, right handed catch in a practice game

- Swann plays for England

- Glenn McGrath hasn't predicted anything yet... oh God, he is confused!

- It is raining at the Gabba, making the situation more Manchester-esque than Brisbane-y

Jimmy Andersen is recovering from the boxing bout injury... Michael Clarke passes the first physical test... But, more than recovery, it is about who will cover whom when nothing goes fine :-P .

"Aussie Aussie Aussie" vs "Barmy Army"... let the fight for the Ashes begin!

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Monday, November 8, 2010

An ode to a living legend, a Very Very Special one

Three matches saved in succession, by one man - V.V.S. Laxman!


He took India to victory from 62/4 chasing 257 in 3rd test vs SL on a turning track in Colombo, Sri Lanka with the armed Lankan bowlers ready to stick their fangs into the Indian skin. India, already lost a game in the series and were needing almost 200 runs in the game, when Laxman stepped out in the middle to accompany Sachin. Randiv was wreaking havoc with four wickets already (India had played just a little over 21 overs by then). Laxman was patient. He had immense concentration. He built a partnership with Sachin, a big one. And just when one thought the two of them would take India past the target, Sachin fell, to Randiv! And in came the debutant, Raina (already flaunting a century in the first innings). Though Raina has all the artillery, one doesn't associate him with patience. So, all eyes on Laxman.

And now, Laxman had cramps and back problems pinning him down. Like a warrior with one arm tied behind his back, Laxman stepped over the mountains on the path and took India to a victory which, let me be fair to anyone who followed it, seemed IMPOSSIBLE at 5 pm on day 4! Calm, sensible, undeterred, immense concentration.

Had India lost the test match, India would've been dethroned from the top of ICC test rankings.


A month or so later, he took India to victory from a scary, almost all is lost, hope against hope hopen 124/8 chasing 216 in 1st test at Mohali. And to partner him was none other than Ishant Sharma, with just the batting armoury of Pragyan Ojha waiting in the flanks! And, what does the injured, already delayed in the batting line-up Laxman do? Stand and deliver! Yes, he just stood there like a valiant soldier, standing on one foot, battered by cramps and sore back yet again, and wielded his willow on anything thrown at him. He scored at more than run per ball through most of his innings, with strokes flowing to different parts of the ground as gorgeous as dancers in a Rio Festival! He slowed down only because he saw the target within striking distance and protected Ishant Sharma, on request, against Mitch.

What was more important was that he gave Ishant the strike he deserved. He knew that one man can't chase down a 100 runs all by himself. Ishant played his part wonderfully. Score 30 or so, and those runs will go down as one of his best contributions to a victory (not to mention that Ishant too was getting painkillers and shots on his calf muscle so that he can stand on his feet and fight).

When you saw Laxman shout at Ojha for not showing concentration, you saw how much he wanted that victory. He was like a father-figure out in the middle handling the likes of Ishant, Ojha and by-runner Gambhir like his kids. When he saw the fear on Ojha's face, he went up to him and apologized. That is the human that lives in that lion's heart! When Ojha hit the winning runs, Laxman was at the point position (since he was off strike, and Gambhir was the one running for him at non-striker's end), he lifted his arms up, and like a magnet, attracted the whole Indian dressing room to him! He doesn't ask for respect, it just comes to him when nature takes its course.

Had India lost the match, India could've at best leveled the series 1-1. And, this could mean possible shedding of points on the leader board allowing SL to inch closer to India. Didn't happen. Thanks, to VVS.


Today, in the first test (At Motera) vs the touring NZ Laxman took India to safety from a ridiculous 15/5 in 3rd innings. When MSD failed, he trusted Bhajji, who had his career best figures of 69 in the first innings of the game. He grounded the Kiwi bowlers, while Bhajji rode his confidence and luck. Laxman anchored one end of the pitch, stroking freely, creaming the field, mocking the field set up. Bhajji, whose batting coach is VVS hiself, also played his role by unleashing some strokes he is capable of playing but never did with this consistency due to forgettable reasons. And what a role that was, bettering his first innings score to notch up his maiden first class century that saved a test match, and bag him a Man-of-the-Match (first in 5 years, first time for his batting exploits) award.

Coming back to Laxman's innings. He brought in that calmness into the middle of madness. At 15/5, India's top order looking for empty seats on the next flight to Hyderabad for second test, VVS calmly said "nothing is over until it is over". And, sure enough, while he was in the middle, NZ had no answers. The all so very confident Chris Martin was reduced to ordinary. If he swung into the stumps, Laxman just nudged it to the on or off as per will. If it was well outside off, Laxman left it alone. Vettori couldn't help placing that many fielders sniffing Laxman's willow, all in vain...all they could do was get blinded by the sun's reflection off the blade of Laxman's bat as he twisted it in either direction with the world's best pair of wrists.

Only umpire Steve Davies' first (of the two) pathetic decision could get rid of VVS Laxman, who was looking like a train without brakes. (another wake up call for India to accept UDRS)

If India had lost this match, India's lead on top of the table would've reduced significantly, mainly because NZ are placed way below India on the table at 6th, just a few points above Pakistan!

That makes it three saves in three consecutive tests.

Really, India owes its no.1 status to this one man, Vangipurappu Venkata Sai Laxman. He has shown that India is world number one for proven reasons.

Laxman is a blend of class and courage, patience and control. He is the lynchpin of the middle order. He can stop a a train with one hand and slap it away with the other. He can be the mountain that cannot be pushed, he can be the rocket that cannot be stopped. And when he lifts that mask (helmet) off his face, he has a smile on his face that might make a sunflower unfold its beauty in the night. A handsome warrior, India can never forget, I will never forget!

Pressure has adverse effect on many, but it has inverse effect on Laxman

When they say "Very Very Special Laxman", the word "special" must feel honoured.

(Source(s) of Pics - Colombo pic courtesy CNN/AFP. Mohali and Motera pics courtesy cricinfo/AP )