Category Archives: India

A Familiar Shellacking, Day 2 at Nagpur

How can there possibly be any more excuses now? We are an official disgrace, who can win neither home nor away.

This is quite possibly the steepest, most embarassing fall in the history of any sport, wasn’t it just fifteen months ago that we were #1 in the rankings? From memory, even the great Australian and West Indian sides had some momentum even after losing some of their greats, well, we began getting thrashed with them still in the team as of last year. How about that?

If the BCCI and its assorted bunch of sloths had any brains, this is what they’d do at the end of this game.

Out: Tendulkar, Gambhir, Sehwag, Dhoni, Zaheer, Fletcher, Ishant, Yuvraj, Harbhajan…..basically the entire squad bar Pujara and Kohli and perhaps a couple of others.

The Home Track Bully and the Swann, Day 1 at Ahmedabad

England haven’t won a series in this country for the last several decades. And the way they’ve begun this test, seem like they’re never going to for the foreseeable.

For starters, picking the right team would have helped. Which braino came up with the idea of going in with three seamers and just one specialist spinner, on evidence of a conventional Indian spinning wicket? And it’s not like it came as a surprise either – everybody knew what the pitches were going to be like,  ever since the Gambit uttered those infamous words during the WACA test at the start of the year; “Wait till you come over to India and play us there”.

Okay, let’s be honest. Monty would not have run through the Indian batting line-up today, but he provides a semblance of control and a decent chance of picking up a wicket or two at the very least – a concept Samit Patel can likely never grapple with in his entire career. That said, he’s an all-rounder after all and his batting is still yet to come over the next few days. Twice, too.

Swann on the other hand, was bloody impressive with his four wicket haul. Especially when you consider that the likes of Warne and Murali have been largely ineffective against India in India, that takes some extra portions of skill and talent. Also proves that conventional off-spin is a much better ploy than an array of arm-balls, doosras, teesras, chauthas and heaven knows what else the sub-continental spinners come up with every now and then.

Now India. I know most Indian fans were dazzled with Sehwag’s run a ball ton, but guess what? I don’t care. I’ve had enough of the guy frankly. Back in the mid-2000s I was deluded into thinking that he could end up an all time great with his then stupendous record in the sub-continent, and workable ones in England, South Africa and Australia. Since that era though, his stats in the latter have plunged and the skew in numbers is too large to be considered an anomaly anymore. Therefore, a bloke who averages 20 in New Zealand, the Caribbean, England and South Africa, but 90 in a place like Pakistan comes off as a one-dimensional weirdo, thank you very much.

When he first came on the scene, he appeared a fairly intelligent cricketer who could keep the scoreboard rattling along with his attacking strokeplay and healthy strike rate; nowadays he bats as if he NEEDS to go that fast and gets out rashly in the process. Yes, the result was a well made 117 today, but you can’t forget the Afridi-like 40s against the Blackcaps just under a couple of months ago? Or worse, the king pair against the same opposition – England, at Birmingham last summer?

Liked the look of Pujara though. 98* overnight isn’t ideal, but he’ll go far. Yuvraj at the other end is however another bat who I’ve taken a moderate dislike to. Good tale about the cancer and all that, but he’s another one who has faded from my mental pedestal over the last seven years or so. Seeing him in a white jersey just seems wrong. Surely there are better players in the domestic circuit in India than him? Or the previous occupant of the middle order slot, Raina?

Hope we can kick on though – probably look to score a 500 and grind the Poms to the dust with a follow-on on the way, hopefully. Play starts in an hour from now.

A Slight Reinvention

I know this blog’s been coasting around the interweb with a few posts every now and then – more like one a month, without any solid direction or succinct analysis that might attract long-term readers. That’s now going to change.

I have the entirety of December off (well, almost) so this eight test home season, you’ll be privy to my sarcastic balderash for every day of every test match, with a few scatterbrained thoughts from any limited over fixtures. By that, I mean the 50 over games of course. The tontee-tontees can go to hell. I’m not bothered.

So sit back, and have a cup of coffee as me at my figurative TBF desk do my job of trying to up the ante of this blog. You can thank me later.

Don’t Get Carried Away by the Celebrations

So we all know that the Tontee-Tontee format is a joke, and while the World T20 is yet the most credible tournament in the genre – the celebrations for winning it are mostly over the top by the team involved. But coincidentally there’s been a clear-cut reason for this each and every time.

1. India v Pakistan at Johannesburg, 2007 (India win by 5 runs)

For better or for worse, India comes across as one of those teams that takes its 50-over World Cups really seriously. It helps that they won it back in the summer of ’83, but dominant performances in the ’87, ’96 and ’03 editions only fueled the public’s belief that the trophy could be gotten again. Unfortunately, the 2007 edition in the Caribbean with an inaugural defeat to the Bangas didn’t help things at all. Most of the Indian populace couldn’t be bothered that they annihilated the same opposition in a tour shortly after the tournament, or that they went on to achieve a rare test series win in England in the summer that followed; they wanted the taste of some ICC silverware, and pronto.

Where better than in South Africa later that year? Of course, a grinning MS Dhoni (with his dreadlocks et al) holding aloft the trophy couldn’t quite replicate the thrills of a win in the more prestigious 50-over editions, but it would do for the time being. The usuals – politico sponsored bus rides through cities, garlands, bonuses, land, houses and whatnot – came flooding in and the perils of March 2007 were soon forgotten.

Also keep in mind that India won the tourney against the odds, if you like. Their limited over batting heavyweights over the past decade had been disposed of going into the games, and the BCCI weren’t necessarily supportive of the ICC hosting such a tournament in the first place. All of that changed as Misbah-ul-Haq played that ol’ ill-fated scoop to the Keralite positioned at short fine leg – arguably the most important shot in recent history; as that led to the IPL, Champion’s League and all of the bloated T20 leagues you see around the globe today.

2. Pakistan v Sri Lanka at Lord’s, 2009 (Pakistan won by 8 wickets)

Pakistan have won only two trophies in the sport’s history, and the template has remained the same on both occasions. They enter the tournament as a shambles with nobody giving them a chance, get humiliated in their first few encounters, aggravating the media and the fans back home, and then out of nowhere galvanize and come together to win match after match before a final knockdown of the opposition in the final, should they make it that far.

The 2009 edition was no different for the greens. Less than four months earlier, the Sri Lankan team bus were attacked in Lahore leading to a cricketing isolation of the nation by the rest of the world, and the team went into their opener with little or no match practice. After a particularly arduous loss to the Poms, out came captain Younis Khan with the most glib phrase that irritated the Pakistani journeys no end – “It doesn’t matter, T20 is all fun cricket”! A fortnight later, the same man retired after pocketing the trophy in the midst of a packed Lord’s stadium. That’s Pakistani cricket 101 for you.

I’m sure the Pakistani nation would have taken anything that came their way after the tragic events of March. A World T20? Sure.

3. Australia v England at Barbados, 2010 (England won by 7 wickets)

*As you might know, I’m heavily biased against the Poms, so it’s going to show*

If you’re such a rubbish sporting team like England, then you’d be jumping at the prospect of collecting any kind of trophy. Believe it or not, this is a side and country that deserves accolades for inventing the sport, but had to wait until 2010 A.D. to pick up their first meaningful ICC trophy, which eventually occurred in the form of a World T20 in the West Indies.

It wasn’t without extraneous help of course. Kevin Pietersen from South Africa bagged the man of the tournament award, and fellow South Africans Craig Kieswetter and Michael Lumb kept the runs flowing at the top of the order game after game. If anything went awry, Irishman Eoin Morgan was always at hand to patch things up at 2-down. The English captain Paul Collingwood and most of his English comrades were expectedly useless for the most part – and he achieved his top score in the tournament with a ‘brave’, ‘gutsy’ 16* in the final after the mercenaries had done all of the hard work whilst chasing the Australian total. Go figure.

4. Sri Lanka v West Indies at Colombo, 2012 (West Indies won by 36 runs)

I don’t know about you, but I was supporting the West Indies going into the 2012 edition from the outset. Having closely followed Sammy’s efforts at building his side over the past year, I knew that they had it in them to win the whole thing if they wanted to. I pose as a Kiwi troll in a popular Pakistani forum and I mentioned the same out there prior to the opening week. After all, this was a team with several T20 superstars – need I state any more names than Gayle, Pollard, Russell, Narine and Roach? (Although the last of those was injured for the most of it).

Props to Chris Gayle to turn it on in the semi against Australia, especially. It’s one thing blasting medium pacers in the Bangladeshi or Zimbabwean ‘premier’ leagues, but against an international side with proven performers in a knockout environment? That takes class.

Are you for real, England?

Wait a sec, the Poms want the UDRS in the upcoming India series this winter? After they were mercilessly manhandled by Pakistan with the same at the start of the year? You have got to be….

Hahaha no, bring it on. Let’s make a legend out of Ashwin or Ojha or heck, Harbhajan even. And if any of our bats end up as casualties, we’ll send Dhoni and big Dunc to their dressing room and demand to get him back on the crease. Those two spend all their time loafing around and doing nothing of note for the test team anyway, so this’ll keep ’em busy.

What I’m essentially yearning for is a 4-0. I want nothing else against those pompous pygmies. And then 7-0 in the ODI series. Then award them a free T20 after the end of it all, so that they don’t die of depression, which they seem to get day and night where they come from. That game is after the WT20 anyway, so it shouldn’t matter.

Add to that that the use of the DRS in the England v Pakistan series was a total disgrace. You had grade C spinners like that overweight Surd Monty Panesar and his Paki crony Abdul Rehmann trying to bowl fuller, flatter and quicker in an effort to hit the pads every single delivery. The typical routine for both sides was to spear it in, hit the pads, shriek at the umpires like spastics and then refer it if they didn’t rule in their favour. Not to forget the great ‘clipping the stumps by a centimeter’ decisions being given. Absolute joke. If that’s what we’re going to see, forget about it.

God I hate England. Hope the Aussies pound them in the back to back Ashes series starting 2013. Since that’s the only series that they care about, hope it puts them in their place forever. 10-0 is the result I’m looking for there, but we’ll come to that later.

Not too bad then, was it?

Okay, I was wrong. Bangladesh reaching the finals broke this tournament’s usual India – Sri Lanka monotony, but only just. Neither Pakistan or Bangladesh, or India or Sri Lanka for that matter really solved any of their limited over troubles – Indian bowlers are still trundlers, Sri Lanka are sub-continental chokers, and Pakistani batting is shods.

Though Sri Lanka won’t be too displeased I would imagine. They just reached the finals of the CB series in Australia, and that’s where  the next world cup is gonna be held. Not Mirpur or Chittagong or any of these places.

Credit to Bangladesh but – Shakib was always a star, and Tamim coming back proved to be a success, now he just has to start converting those 70s into 100s. And I like Nasir Hossain too. Seems mentally tough to break, a barrier most Banga players in the past never possessed.

The Wall Decommissions

So this guy was always a turtle, the way he went about getting his runs. You’d flick on the game in the morning and see him walk to the crease with the score at 45/1 or summat. Three hours later, that would be up at 150/3 post the lunch session, with him ‘racing’ along to 30*. Two other batsmen would have come and gone, outscored him in a flash but exited, unable to provide the stickability the team needed to take the score upwards to what would be decent for a typical first innings in a five dayer – I’m thinking 400?

But he would hold on, playing only at the deliveries that needed to be played at, and consequently improve his strike rate as the innings wore on. Inevitably, one of the six other batters in the line-up would settle in as well, and together they would post huge totals, or scale large targets themselves. Rahul playing the supporting role of course, with the other bloke assuming a more flashier technique to actually do the bulk of the run scoring.

It is this formula that helped Dravid and India escape the tag of pussycats abroad, as the turn of the century saw a handful of victories at select overseas destinations, most for the first time ever:

148 v England @ Headingley (2002)

233 and 72* v Australia @ Adelaide (2003)

270 v Pakistan @ Rawalpindi (2004)

81 and 68 v West Indies @ Jamaica (2006)

For a team that could ill afford to rely on its bowlers to take the 20 wickets abroad required for victory, a plan B was drafted and opted for – score a mammoth total and apply scoreboard pressure on the opposition. As a result, opposition batsmen were forced into making stupid mistakes and the test was in the bag. But the runs had to be scored first. And RD was the nucleus of such a plan – he would be used to see away dangerous passages of seam and negotiate tricky bowling spells, while the men at the other end – Sehwag, Ganguly, Tendulkar or Laxman or more recently Gambhir, would be brisk in their scoring, reasonably secure that they wouldn’t be party to wickets falling in a heap at the other end and could risk playing the rare audacious stroke if they so wished.

Thus began the climb to #1. The Leeds test above helped the team draw a four test series in England 1-1, and was likely a stepping stone for the 1-0 series win in 2007. Ditto was the result in Australia in late ’03, 1-1. And to come away from a 2003/4 era Australian tour with that sort of scoreline was – let’s put it mildly – difficult as hell! But then Dravid averaged 100.37 that year – higher than Bradders should have been enough to beat the Aussies, no?

Pakistan a few months later saw the series tied at 1-1 going into the final test at Rawalpindi. Disaster struck however, as triple centurion Sehwag fell to a first baller, and Dravid walked in at 0/1, still 220 odd runs behind. From memory, he was struck on the pads a number of times to close LBW calls from Shoaib Akhtar rather early on, but he managed to play out that phase, saw the deficit off and took the total upto an impregnable 600, notching up a personal score of 270 in the process. Pakistan expectedly imploded trying to draw the game from that point on, and India managed a series victory out there for the first time ever. 2-1. Suck on it, Pakistan.

West Indies 2006 as skipper came towards the fag end of his dominance as a batsman, but the half centuries in both innings were nevertheless significant in helping the team win 1-0 in the Caribbean, another first.

Yeah, these 1-0 or 1-1 results may not seem like much in the grander scheme of things, but perhaps a decade ahead, these baby steps may prove to be essential in really putting an overseas opposition under the pump – 4-0 would be nice, and not the way it happened over the last year. The other way around, yeah.

Then there are a couple of other games – home tests, that deserve a mention:

25 & 180 v Australia @ Kolkata (2001)

110 & 135 v Pakistan @ Kolkata (2005)

Plenty has been said and written about the former of course, so I won’t elaborate. But the back-to-back tons against the green brigade were masterful as well, it’s a pity we couldn’t hold on to the series in the next game in Bangalore – another smashing game.

Statsguru shows him to be equally flawless in all conditions, save for South Africa – where he averages a dismal 29.71, although he did score his debut ton at the Wanderers in ’97.

In coloured clothing he proved to be less successful, but he did retool his game over the years and him picking up the gloves proved crucial in the run-in to the finals of the 2003 World Cup. Not to mention his exploits in the 1999 edition, in his favourite backyard of England.

Most importantly, he tonked that buttercup of a man – Samit Patel – for three consecutive sixes last year at Old Trafford. Loved that.

Anyway, India’s next test series is a three game home Kiwi affair in the autumn. Who’s going to bat #3? Rohit Sharma? Cheteshwar Pujara? Scary stuff!

w00t, it’s the Asia Cup again

Honestly, does anybody really care about this tournament? It’s just a recipe for the administrators to shove some more pointless India v Sri Lanka games down our throat – ‘coz the 1,500 or so fixtures over the past couple of years have simply not been enough. Both teams are coming off from facing each other in the CB series in Australia, and this tourney is right before India heads over there for yet another bilateral. Jesus f*cking Christ, isn’t there a limit to two teams playing each other again and again and again?

As for the rest – I can’t really see the Bangas turning up in this one, home soil or not. There seems to be some internal strife in their camp with Tamim Iqbal, arguably their best batter, being discarded or something like that. Pakistan on the other hand have managed to somehow throw away a series against the Poms 4-0 in Asia, if that were ever possible. But who gives a damn about them? India v Sri Lanka is what it is, babe! It’s always been that way.

The Life and Woes of India

Incredible. Another whitewash. I think we all knew it was coming after that first innings implosion at Perth; there was simply no comeback from there on. Rahul Dravid, a bloke nicknamed ‘The Wall’ was watching his stumps shatter every innings, Tendulkar couldn’t get past 25 and VVS had transformed into a Bangladeshi tail-ender in disguise. It’s a great pity really, for 8-0 over the past year has wiped out a decade’s worth of progress. Obviously Ganguly was the driver behind the success during this period, but we will forever remember this generation – Dravid, Tendulkar and Laxman, and perhaps to an extent Sehwag as the guys who made India strong overseas. Until now.

So where did we lose it? Day 3 of Melbourne was probably it. At 214/2 trailing Australia’s first innings 333, we should have taken the game by the scruff of the neck and posted a mammoth 400 or 500 to seal the deal. But. You know the script. We couldn’t even get to 300. Ditto Trent Bridge in the England tour. These are matches which we had the mental strength to win back when we were #1. Not anymore, unfortunately.

Rather, there must be something wrong with the rankings – should this team ever have been #1? These players have never won in Australia, never won in South Africa, and the only time they beat England was in 2007, by a margin of 1-0. Their best result in places like Kiwiland and the Windies is 1-0 (2006 and 2008 respectively). They have even failed to beat the Lankans in Lanka since something like 1994…..what a joke. Number #1? Stop kidding me. It appears as if India can only reach the top by accident. Never by design. And once there, it can’t stay for long. Anybody who were hoping for this side to build a team of an era like the Windies or the Aussies can go LoL themselves.

The momentum from the Ganguly-Wright era is drawing to a close, and it’s just as well that Cricket Australia didn’t budget for the fifth day in their final projections in each of these tests.

PS: Ishant Sharma can try bowling his Adam’s apple. Might get some reverse.

Saurav “There You See” Ganguly

Jesus Christ, how often does he say it? Every time he makes a point, he throws it in. If you haven’t noticed, then you will now.