Archive for the ‘Regular’ category

Headingley and Mohammad Amir

July 24, 2010

Finally, a victory for Pakistan

Ponting simply did not consider the abilities of Amir, Asif and Gul when he chose to bat after winning the toss. It was a very questionable decision to many not in hindsight but straight away and he’s  repenting for that decision now. Shane Warne said he would have bowled first but called Ponting’s decision ‘beautiful’ as batting first was the way to go and win matches.

It was pure pleasure to watch the way the Pakistan pacers attacked the Aussie batsmen. All three were in their elements.  Simon Katich was leg before shuffling across too much. Shane Watson succumbed to the nip in the pitch that made Asif almost unplayable. Asif produced an inswinger after a series of away swingers to Ponting and the skipper had too little time to put bat on that ball.

If you’re supporting the game and if you aren’t an Aussie, you would have loved it. It was a sensational display of pace and swing bowling. Even Umar Amin found the outside edge of Marcus North to trap him early. Nobody really settled down and the good thing was Pakistan was able to finish off the tail quickly, again thanks to some breathtaking balls from Mohammad Amir.

Amir, I hope isn’t ‘coached’ to nonsense. He is a very intelligent bowler with good pace. I was thinking how many are better than Steyn, Morne Morkel and Amir. Asif and Gul are top class along with James Anderson and Ben Hilfenhaus.  Roach, Southee and Broad are exciting. Any other good fast bowler around?

So all out for eighty eight is enough damage even if you’re playing against Pakistan. Australia could never recover. Bollinger and Johnson were no match for their counterparts. Hilfenhaus was good in patches but he struggled against the Pakistani southpaws as he is able to produce only the outswinger to the right hander regularly. His action facilitates that kind of a delivery.  He’s never been able to bowl a left hander’s away going ball. James Anderson is a special swing bowler because he is able to move the ball both ways, at will, and so is Mohammad Asif. Any better swing bowlers around than these two?

The match was effectively sealed on Day One but because one team was Pakistan and there was a game between the two sides in Sydney not too long ago, there remained interest till the end.

Butt and Farhat put on a solid partnership but the rest of the batting could never hold up. But 258 in such conditions by a Pakistani line up is decent. Watson was understandably the most successful bowler because he pitched the ball up and made the batsmen play. Simple. The conditions took care of everything else.   As expected, there was resistance in the second innings from Australia. Micheal Clarke played the best innings of the match. He is taking a lot of responsibility and making every innings of his count. Ponting and Clarke were the wickets Pakistan needed badly. The seam bowlers delivered again. There was a deep point and a deep square leg almost throughout the innings but Pakistan managed to get regular wickets. Steve Smith did play a gritty lower order innings but it’s too early to heap so much of praise on him.

Many expected it to be a thrilling finish but Farhat and Azhar Ali settled nerves by the end of Day 3. But Pakistan showed how Pakistanis play and lost 4 wickets before they could get the 40 runs required on Day 4. The batting looks very worrying and it was the bowling that single handedly won the game for Pakistan. Kaneria had little to do in these conditions but Amir and Asif deserved the man of the match award. Not Amir and Watson. Here’s what Akram had to say on Amir.

How good it would have been to have a third and final test in this series? When are we going to stop these 2 test rubbers?

Bumble would have been thrilled to have heard Pakistan Zindabad in Headingley.

Of being a true fan

On Day One of this test, I didn’t know of India’s progress when apparently Dravid and Sachin were batting in a test against Sri Lanka in Galle. I didn’t know the score.  I wasn’t watching Sachin bat. I cared little. I was having a brilliant time watching Asif, Amir and Gul torment Australia.

I am back.


The ICC awards

September 26, 2009

South Africa havent played international cricket for the last three months but are still the No.1 team in both the formats. There wasn’t a single South African name in any of the categories for this year’s ICC award nominations and they were complaining. Rightly so.

Graham Onions finds a place in the nominations for the emerging player of the year. Jean Paul Duminy doesnt.I think
he should have been winning the award just ahead of Hilfenhaus. In fact, his name is absent in the long list of original nominees (in the category), which was trimmed down to 4 names.
(I find Kemar Roach in the list and I perfectly agree with this selection.He is test class and should comfortably fill that third pacer slot after Taylor and Edwards.I had glimpses of Gavin Tonge and I would compare him with Stuart Clark.Very capable and an encouraging prospect.)

Not a single South African is on the long list of ODI player of the year nominations. Smith, Steyn and AB are on the longer list of nominations but none on the 4 man final list.  So you either need to be an Indian or an Ashes cricketer.

The long list of nominations for the individual awards was prepared by a five-member panel headed by Clive Lloyd,
the ICC’s cricket committee chairman. Anil Kumble, Mudassar Nazar, Bob Taylor and Stephen Fleming were the other
four. The performance period taken into account was August 13, 2008 to August 24, 2009.  This list was then sent to
the ICC’s ‘independent panel’ of 25 members which constitute Ian Healy, Ramiz Raja, Athar Ali Khan, Allan Donald, Bob Willis, Sidath Wettimuny, Srinivas Venkataraghavan, Ian Bishop, Jeremy Coney, Dave Houghton, Roland Lefebvre.
The media was represented by Jim Maxwell (Aus), Osman Samiuddin (Cricinfo’s Pakistan editor), Sayeed Uzzaman (Ban), Neil Manthorp (SA), Scyld Berry (Eng), Ramil Abeynaike (SL), Sharda Ugra (Ind), Fazeer Mohammed (WI), Richard Boock (NZ), Enock Nuchinjo (Zim) and Jon Coates (Associates). The officials were ICC referees elite panel representative: Alan Hurst; ICC umpires elite panel representative: Billy Bowden and chairman of the ICC cricket committee: Clive Lloyd.

An ICC spokesperson said that the awards nomination “is a completely independent process in which the ICC has no say whatsoever”. Why do you call it the ICC awards then? Clive Lloyd should be answerable to these nominations, on
behalf of the ICC.

Neil Manthorp, the South African journalist said that the fault lies with the system used for determining the award winners and not the ICC. The 25-member panel has to select the final nominees from a dozen or more names on the long list, which, he said, was simply too time-consuming to be done thoroughly. There were “plenty of Proteas” on
the long list, he said, but not having played for three months meant they were “out of sight and out of mind.”  This is simply ridiculous. The job of the entire committee is to make sure  good perfomances 4 or 5 months before the nomination process aren’t forgotten. The committee ICC has failed miserably here.

Selection issues

September 17, 2009

My friend Vishwanath and I had a challenge on Dravid’s strike rate and average in the recently concluded tri series in Sri Lanka. My prediction was a strike rate less than 65 and an average less than 25. His strike rate in the series ended up at around 63 and the average at 33. I now produce Cricinfo’s commentary for three consecutive overs in which Dravid faced Bond at one end.

5.1 Bond to Dravid, no run, ooh .. nasty little bouncer on this slow track, Dravid was on the hop, realised the ball was climbing higher than he thought it would, manages to drop his wrists and get the bat out of the way. Gem from Bondy

5.2 Bond to Dravid, no run, full pitched delivery this time, dug out to covers

5.3 Bond to Dravid, no run, full in length, outside off, around 139 kmph, Dravid edges the off drive to the on side .. good bowling this

5.4 Bond to Dravid, no run, aha! the slower one this time, ends up as a dipping full toss outside off, Dravid kills his initial thought to drive and pushes it out to the off side

5.5 Bond to Dravid, no run, short in length outside off, guided to backward point

5.6 Bond to Dravid, no run, bursts from short of length outside off, Dravid looks to defend and gets a bottom edge on it. He swings around, worried whether the ball would run back to the stumps but the ball rolls outside off

7.1 Bond to Dravid, no run, from wide of the crease, 143.2 kmph length delivery tilting in towards middle and off, Dravid gets behind the line to nudge it to the on side

7.2 Bond to Dravid, no run, 143.1 bouncing delivery from short of length, lovely delivery, Dravid does well to get on top of the bounce and punches it away to backward point.

7.3  Bond to Dravid, no run, 139.1 kmph fuller delivery, well outside off , Dravid tries to reach out and gets an

inner nick but falls well short of the keeper.

7.4 Bond to Dravid, no run, short and wide, slapped hard but can’t beat cover point.

7.5 Bond to Dravid, no run, a sharp bouncer on the middle, Dravid shapes to pull but ducks at the end. Wonder how the likes of Raina and co would have handled this hostile spell from Bond.

7.6 Bond to Dravid, no run, gets forward and behind the line of a fast length delivery to defend it to the off side

9.1 Bond to Dravid, no run, 123.5 slower one, fullish,. Dravid tries to adjust to the lack of pace by wristing it but mistimes it towards mid-off

9.2 Bond to Dravid, no run, 136.4 kmph short of length delivery bouncing in towards the off stump – he has bowled really really good on this slow track – Dravid gets behind the line to defend it to the on side. Dravid has played
him very well too.

9.3 Bond to Dravid, no run, full pitched outside off, Dravid walks across to drive it hard, well timed shot, but can’t beat the cover-point fielder

9.4 Bond to Dravid, no run, length delivery homing in on the off stump, around 140 kmph, Dravid gets solidly behind
the line to defend

9.5 Bond to Dravid, no run, the bouncer arrives and Dravid allows it to pass over him.

9.6 Bond to Dravid, FOUR, ooh unlucky Bond. It was the slower one and he lured Dravid into the drive early but Dravid got an inside edge that took the ball past the stumps and to the fine-leg boundary. Lovely contest between the two.

So the first two overs were maidens and the last ball of the third over ( probably Bond’s last over of that spell)produced a shot which helps me conclude Dravid is not really required in the one day set up.

When you have 150 odd to chase in 50 overs, you have all the time in the world. You just need to protect your wickets all the way. Someone like Dravid was selected to see off such hostile spells. There was pace, variation, bounce, accuracy and it was a big treat to fans of fast bowling. I don’t remember when I last witnessed such a fiery spell in one day cricket. Dravid did survive 17 balls but those 17 balls forced a loose and near fatal shot off the 18th. Someone else would have got out in those first 17 balls but Dravid should have played all 18 balls to safety.He didn’t.That’s why Im picking Gambhir in his place. Today, Gambhir has a very tight technique and better shot making ability than Dravid.

Prior to this series, I was thinking hard on why Dravid was picked ahead of Badrinath. Badri was in the reserves and he should have been picked ahead of Dravid. It is one day cricket that we’re talking about and can’t Badri play bouncers to safety in short one day spells? He has a good enough temperament and surely a better shot making capacity than Dravid.

As far as the openers are concerned, it’s Sehwag and Sachin, without doubt. Now that Sehwag is injured and considering Karthik’s inconsistency, it’s time to go back to Robin Uthappa.He’s a pure and regular top order bat and deserves his chance now.

Yuvraj picks himself at No. 4. Rohit is too talented to be out of the team. He should be back as soon as possible at No.5. Raina at 6 and Dhoni at 7. It’s No. 7 AND THERE ALONE.No self promotions. He can pick Dravid instead of promoting himself up the order and playing unattractive and ordinary cricket.
Ishant and RP followed by Harbhajan. There’s little doubt there. My fourth bowler would be Munaf. Someone like
Praveen Kumar would be thrashed all over the park once the shine of the ball is gone. Munaf to me is better both with the new ball and at the death. Amit Mishra has been picked based on his recent performances but Ramesh Powar is my personal choice for this slot. I won’t complain on Mishra’s selection but No Pragyan Ojha please. He is far from international class.
Nehra has made a good comeback but he’s another fragile quick bowler.He’s going to lose form and rythm any time and
he’s already been thrashed in the Compaq cup.Hence Sidharth Trivedi for Nehra. Yusuf Pathan again is not upto
international standards. Raina, Rohit and Sehwag have good enough offies to compensate for him.

Let us start reaping benefits out of Badrinath’s batting abilities in the middle order. Abishek Nayar completes my 15.Fine pick.

Here goes SJK’s Indian ODI squad of 15

Sachin Tendulkar
Virender Sehwag
Gautam Gambhir
Yuvraj Singh
Rohit Sharma
Suresh Raina
Harbhajan Singh
RP Singh
Munaf Patel
Ishant Sharma
Ramesh Powar
Sidharth Trivedi
Abishek Nayar

Save the ODI

September 9, 2009

Just when there was talk of decline in test cricket, six back to back tests between the top two test teams in the world produced a scoreline of 3-3. India toured New Zealand and won it’s first series in a few decades.( No comments on the Frank Worrel trophy please) And now when there are cries for revising the 50 over format, Australia and England have produced two fine matches.

220 to 250 was the score all of us used to enjoy some 5 years back. The last few years have been producing belters all over the world and 300 plus totals were commonplace. 7 one dayers are a touch too much as I said, but the games have been a good enough exhibition of the format. 250 odd in the first two and England have 228 in the third game as I write this. England were chasing 250 in the second. They were on course when 4 quick wickets fell for 25 odd runs.Morgan, Luke Wright and Bresnan, on another day would have given enough support to Collingwood. I still thoroughly enjoy the following aspects of the one day format –

  • The first 10 overs ( the first couple of powerplays)
  • The singles and doubles in the middle overs
  • Running between the wickets
  • The big shots and the improvisations during the slog overs
  • Planning of an innings
  • Planning of a spell of bowling
  • Field setting in the middle overs
  • Bowling at the death
  • The time of introduction of the batting powerplay
  • And of course the different pitches and conditions we get to see every new tournament

Sachin Tendulkar is more than God to me. He says he was thinking about 2 innings of 25 overs each in a one day game
after those consecutive whitewashes against Sri Lanka last Champions Trophy. Now with t20 continuing successfully, I do not want any tampering of the 50 over format. All we need is sporting pitches. The batting powerplay is a really good addition and that should do for now. The media has played a big role in causing this danger for the 50 over game. Two innings of 25 overs or 40 overs per innings games  will, without doubt, take away quality from the game.
What actually is wrong with the ODIs??

Meaningless fixtures

September 9, 2009

The prospect of a closely contested three test series between old rivals New Zealand and Australia early next year was mouthwatering. The schedule has been changed and its a two test affair now. The reasons are as follows –
1.Pakistan host New Zealand for a three test series IN NEW ZEALAND. Yes, they’re hosting it in Kiwi land.
2.NZ host Bangladesh for a one off test following the Pakistan series.
To me, this is ridiculous and sad.
Not accommodating 3 tests for the Aussies due to the above reasons causes harm to none other than the Kiwi test players. The test team would benefit a lot if they play a full fledged 3 test series.

Now the FTP says NZ host Pakistan for 3 tests and 5 ODIs next summer. What happens to that? These are the sort of  things which affect viewership and attendance in test cricket.Just goes to show the significance of commerce in today’s game.

How often have we seen a touring team play better and better as a series progresses..Ive noticed visiting teams play to near full capabilities when they enter the 3rd test of the tour.My point here holds good for teams visiting countries with significantly unfamiliar conditions(and of course when both teams are well matched). So I dont see Bangladesh as a competetive unit for that one off test in that far off piece of land.What is the purpose of that one off test? Money? Good relations between the boards? Satisfying ICC’s FTP?
Why dont we have 3 test or 5 test series alone? Lets ban any tour of one or two tests. There’s simply no cricketing meaning in them. And let us have one day tournaments consisting of 3 or 5 matches. Tri series tournaments should have the teams playing each other atleast twice before the final. And this Twenty20 World Cup once in two years is simply not digestible. We cannot afford anything more than one off T20 games in a single tour.

England and Australia are playing 7 one day matches.Way too much.There’s a tri series underway in Sri Lanka where
the teams meet each other just once before the final.Way too short.I’d like to see all these meaningless fixtures scrapped in the upcoming FTP. Money can wait at the rear end of the queue. Lets organise our cricket in a more attractive manner.

P.S. – Ive mentioned ODIs all the way since I still believe the ODIs are well and truly alive.More on the 50 over format coming up soon.

The Caribbean Crisis

September 8, 2009

I start with the Frank Worrel trophy in the Caribbean when they had a weak but developing team. They managed to win a test match against England at Jamaica last season thanks to one fine spell of fast bowling from Jerome Taylor.The series was then won by batting out long periods and drawing the remaining games. Although that wasnt ideal cricket, they still some deserve credit to manage that 1-0 win.
Then came the return tour to England which wasnt too exciting to the Windies cricketers. Captain Gayle reported less than 48 hours from the start of the first test.Courtesy – IPL Season II. Dwayne Bravo wasnt picked in the national squad because he was ‘not fit to play test cricket’. I remember the way in which he fielded for the Mumbai Indians and there were no signs of him being unfit. England won and comprehensively so.

West Indies then reached the semifinal of the ICC World T20 and on the day of the semi final, the players were made to sign ICC contracts so that West Indies werent disqualified from the event.

All issues regarding the contracts and player pay between WICB and the WIPA cropped up.The best fifteen players decided to boycott the Bangladesh series and as a cricket fan, I felt so ashamed  to see a second string West Indies team get whitewashed by Bangladesh. It is hard to guess whos on the wrong side but there has been more than a source which suggests both WIPA and WICB havent been doing to the best of their abilities.

There has been talk of rewarding the B team players and that’s rubbish.Even Joel Garner feels this way,along with the selectors and I can’t uderstand why. The WIPA is a pretty weak association  and houses not more than 20 cricketers. So when the board didnt get the top 20, they were always going to find 15 other individuals either playing for their universities or at their backyards.If you want to reward them for what they’ve done in the last series,by retaining them when better players are available, you should never be a cricket administrator.
Meetings between the board and Ramnarine’s men went nowhere and a mediator was appointed to conduct effective talks to try and solve the issue.This was done by CARICOM and the Guyanese President. It’s really sad and frustrating that all talks with the mediator failed.Here’s the mediator’s report. Although there seems to be no other report he has submitted to the President of Guyana, Mr.Bharrat Jagdeo, this far from looks like a report. In fact,Mr. Ramphal (the
mediator) himself says that his report contains his thoughts after all those meetings. Was that what Mr. Jagdeo looking for? Those thoughts do suggest that Mr.Ramphal is one of the well wishers of Windies cricket but has he done enough? What did he actually do? He had been given such a crucial job and I fear he hasnt been effective at all.

Why doesnt Ramnarine bring the top 100 odd cricketers in the region into the WIPA? This will weaken the board and in turn help the ICC take strong decisions against the board. The board then would be answerable to the governments and CARICOM and better administrators would fall in place.

Meanwhile Ramnarine seems to have gone on a vacation to Tobago with his family making himself unavailable for some of the meetings. Ramphal and Ramnarine have accused the Board of producing a document from nowhere( containing things which were never discussed at the meetings) and of selecting the second string team for the Champions Trophy when Gayle and his men were available. Both look atrocious. Tim May has said that the WICB has breached ICC regulations in not picking the best 15 players for the global event. WHAT IS THE ICC DOING??

Meanwhile the coach Dyson is gone for not signing a contract for 18 months. He says the first contract document given to him was addressed to Mr.Bennet King. I wonder what kind of people work for WICB.

The most likely event now is all matters being taken to the Caribbean Court of Justice.

Australia is awaiting the West Indies this summer and who knows, there could be two day tests even wthout the use of the umpire referral system.

Who is the saviour now? WIPA? Gayle and co.? Julian Hunte? Mr. Jagdeo? The governments? CARICOM? The ICC?
Is this the place where Gary Sobers came from? Brian Lara.. Viv Richards. and all those?!!

Go Ross!!

August 18, 2009

Have a look at the 11 I suggested for the Oval and the one Geoff Miller and co. have picked.Spot on isnt it.. and this is significant due to  reasons well known. Marcus Trescothick,Mark Ramprakash,Rob Key,a couple of other names, dropping Ian Bell, no talk of Trott for a while and what not. It was a sensational week for the media and the amount of speculation was huge.

They just needed to do some calm thinking,the selectors and they did it.Trott was the extra batsman in the squad at Headingley and he automatically comes in.Ian Bell was good enough to be recalled for the previous test and he hasn’t gone bad enough in one test.England have had a lot of time after Leeds and that should help them overcome that nightmare.

Ponting has said he would have liked to have a look at Trott in the practice game.So the selectors have done well again to disappoint the Aussies.Mark Ramprakash simply would have been sledged out had he been selected. Full marks to the selectors until now.

Will Ponting surprise the Poms by playing Lee??? Unlikely but stay awake,England.

The NZ-SL series gets underway tomorrow and Im looking forward to see Jeetan Patel and Dan undo the Lankan batsmen.Go Ross Taylor!!