Saturday, October 18, 2008

Hats off to Sourav!!!

It is probably impossible to predict what Sourav Ganguly is going to do in the cricket field. Right at the beginning, eye brows were raised that he is in the team because of the zonal quota system in Indian selection and the influence of Mr. Dalmiya. What a start was that! Back to Back centuries in England and he almost did an Azharuddin in his third test, but unfortunately got out in the 60s if I remember correctly. Slowly, he grew in stature in the eyes of Indian fans and went on to become one of the finest One-day players India has ever produced. Sourav-Sachin went on to become the best opening pair in the history of ODIs.

He got elevated to captaincy earlier in his career because of lack of options for the Indian selectors. Here is where, came his greatest achievement for Indian cricket. He gave belief to the Indian team, took Indian cricket out of the dark days of match-fixing. He deserves to be judged the greatest captain Indian cricket has produced. But his form nose-dived towards the end of his captaincy and he became a liability in the strong batting line-up. In came the Greg Chappel saga, and Sourav divided public opinion like no one else.

He kept trying in the domestic circuit without ever setting it on fire and made a come back with the appointment of a new selection committee (read Vengsarkar). To everyone’s surprise helped India win the first test after his return. In fact, he is the highest run-getter among the middle order batsmen since his return. But seeing the success of fresh legs in the ODIs, selectors were itching to infuse youth in the test team also. Sourav’s failure in the Srilanka tour gave the selectors to press the exit button for Ganguly which was a little unfair considering his record since his return.

Can’t predict whether it is Gnaguly’s or India’s luck, there was again a change in the selection committee. Ganguly is back in the Indian team even after getting the axe from the Rest-of-India team and the probables list for the preparatory camp before the start of the Australia series. He himself has admitted to be surprised at his inclusion in the Indian team. To make things interesting he announced his retirement from cricket at the start if the series. Immediately debates started all over the media whether he is guaranteed four test matches in the series even if he fails in the first two. He took the onus to score and score it big if he wants to play all four in the series.

Once again he is the most consistent among the fav-four and achieved that century he craved for against the Aussies in his final series and made sure that he will go on his own terms. He might score big in the possible five innings remaining or he might fail. But I will not predict what he will do! Hats off to Ganguly, you beauty……

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Captain's view

I was thinking of writing just one summary for the whole tournament, but Shiva’s post in the ISA forum and Sushanth’s reply coaxed me to write this one. First I would like to congratulate Assassins for their magnificent win. We would have liked to bat first had we won the toss, but I don’t think toss made a difference on the final outcome. In a way we now know what to do if we are asked to chase again.

Our bowlers did a decent job of restricting the Assassins for 122. They got probably 10 more runs than we would have liked, but with wickets in hand they threw their bats at everything and credit to Sam and Pritish for connecting well. After scoring 203 against The Warriors, we were confident of chasing down 122 with ease even though Assassins have a much superior attack than The Warriors.

After the initial loss of Vivek’s wicket we did well and Vinay took advantage of the power play with some lofty hitting. Once Shiva joined Vinay at the crease, they took the game away from the Assasins and we were cruising along at 72/2 after 9 overs at the break. I’m sure Shiva’s unconventional stroke play confused their bowlers regarding what line to bowl to him. With only 51 more required in 9 overs we took the result for granted and felt it’s a question of when rather than how. That’s the mistake we made and started loosing wickets like a pack of cards. Still, I was firm that as long as Sushnath is at the crease we will win the game, but to our disbelief he mistimed his big swing and it was curtains for us. Jaidev kept us in the game but it was not to be ours in the end.

To me the turning point was Sushanth’s wicket, but I put the blame on the lower middle order batsmen including me for the disaster. Also, the set batsmen should try to finish the game rather than going for fancy shots when our requirement is less than run-a-ball. Next time hopefully our batsmen will try to score a few singles to ease the pressure rather than put everything in one shot. Jaidev’s wicket-keeping was first-rate and that helped us have better fielding inside the ring. Although our bowling and fielding was much better than the first game, there is still room for improvement.

In the end, it was an excellent game and the crowd could not have asked for anything more. This is the most amazing game I have been involved at KSU cricket tournaments in the last four years and for the first time we lost a game in three years. That speaks volumes about our team’s strength. First, we will have to beat the Jardine Internationals in our next game and book our spot in the final. With Piyush’s return we will have more options in the bowling. By the look of the tournament, we will meet the Assasins in the final. I’m sure they will need more tricks and definitely more than 122 to beat us again.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Manhattan Fun Cricket 2008

Many congratulations to the champions Mani Brothers! Two thumbs up to the ISA committee 2008-2009 for the professional management and successful completion of the first leg of KSU-ISA’s Summer Cricket Tournamnet-2008. The winner of the tournament is not a surprise as the favorites lived up to the expectations in the crucial match. In fact, all the results were on expected lines, although Hit-n-Run would have liked to be in the final!

Growth of cricket in Manhattan

It was inspiring to see the crowd in the final and especially the American people coming to watch a game which they don’t even understand. The article in the Collegian, the KSU news paper, definitely helped bringing in the American folks to the ground. Use of the electronic scoreboard is a new addition this time and it helped people follow the game better. I feel these annual cricket tournaments arranged by KSU-ISA have definitely brought the level of cricket awareness a little up in the Manhattan community. Some of the on-lookers during our days of practice games are more than happy to give the game a try.

Our team performance

After the disastrous start we did well to reach the semi-finals, although there was not much of a challenge to reach that stage. But we slipped again and especially after bundling out the opposition for 41 runs, we should have scored one more. Our team was good enough to score those runs and with a little more application and better sense among our batsmen it could have been a reality. Hopefully, we will learn from these mistakes and apply ourselves better in the ISA Cup.

Tournament Organization

I have already applauded the ISA committee for the thorough planning and practice they put into the tournament. Especially, the use of the electronics scoreboard needs special mention and appreciation. I wish I could show such admiration about the umpiring. I would rate it average. Once a bowled decision was debated and the batsman got the benefit of the doubt, it left a bad taste in the mouth. Fortunately, none of the mistakes had an effect on the final outcome of the match.

In the end it was good fun and enjoyment for a few weeks. Ironically, some of the people who were very vocal about equality of team strength and quality of the tournament last year chose to field the best teams in the fun cricket tournament this year!

It is heartening to see four teams for the main cricket tournament and can’t wait for the tournament to begin. Bring on the RED BULLS………

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Understanding IPL’s financial levers

Follow this link if you want to know more detail about the financial functioning of IPL:

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Wait and Watch

Let’s save our expert verdict at least till the end of this CB series and not try to criticize the young batsmen after one match. No one other than Sachin and Sehwag among the batsmen have played cricket in Australia including captain Dhoni. And most of them arrived only before a week. Everyone will take some time to put their feet firmly on the Aussie soil.

There are a couple of things from which the young guys must learn from this outing. Rohit Sharma showed ample talent during his brief innings here as he had in the crucial T20 game against South Africa in a must win game. So, talent is not a problem, but how that transforms into on field success now on will shape these guys future in India colors. For this particular match, I hold Rohit responsible for the batting collapse India faced. Let me analyze the situation. India just lost the wicket of Gambhir and Lee is back for just a short spell. He was facing the last ball of what could have been Lee’s end of second spell. Experienced guys would have just let that ball go or defend with a straight bat to see off Lee. Here some can argue that you should not look at the bowler and play on the merit of the ball. That accepted; let’s accept the fact that Lee is the best bowler in all forms of the game in the current season. Even the great Sachin Tendulkar, who was in great touch during the test series tried to see off Lee’s spells all the time and scored off the lesser bowlers. This is where experience comes in to play. Because of that wicket, Ponting extended Lee’s spell to get rid of Tiwary. By no means, I’m trying to undermine Tiwary’s potential, but being the settled guy Rohit should have seen off that spell from Lee and it would have eased Tiwary into the game.

But this is a mistake which will hopefully help these guys learn a lot and will result in better application from them in future. Anyone remembers Vijay Bharadwaj. The guy started with a man of the series award on his ODI debut, but slipped into oblivion within no time. I distinctly remember, he got lots of opportunities and rather than applying himself tried to become an instant hero and paid the price.

Another decision which baffles me is how Tiwary got a chance ahead of Raina and Karthik. Raina and Karthik are the original choices and logically should have got the first chance. Plus Raina came to Australia with a better domestic season than Tiwary and has some international experience. But Dhoni clarified that he went for his instinct and let’s hope his instinct has taken the correct decision. Yuvraj Singh would do well to let all his on field performance do the talking rather than giving statements like this is the best ODI team possible for India. Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly are still irreplaceable batsmen for India, but everybody understands that we need to build a young team for the future. So, no need to brag about the team even before showing any result on the score sheet. Like I had mentioned earlier, let’s hope that we don’t go back to recalling Rahul or Sourav full time into this team again.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Time to take stock of future batting depth

The selectors must be complemented this time for having a plan and believing in it despite the heroics of the old horses at Perth and using the correct words like “dropped” and “not considered” rather than “rested”. The thinking is changing in Indian cricket and we need bold decisions like this to move forward and attain a dominant position in the field that our fans always dream about.

Along with the joy of Perth win in my mind, it was always coming back to me that what will happen after these four. Who will we run to for cover? Our main hope Yuvraj has been exposed badly in Australia. This is the right time to take stock of our batting future. Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma are touted as the big hopes for the next decade. So, it’s necessary that they are thrown into the battle field early to gauge their potential at the highest level. Their exposure to Australian conditions early in their career will test their mettle and help them develop their game. Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid will always be rated as champion one-day players for India. Hopefully, they understand the process and focus all their energy in test matches. I just wish they will be given another chance to exit gracefully out of the ODIs at home.

One can always argue that the top order will be void of experience. I think Sehwag and Yuvraj have played enough cricket to guide the inexperienced ones. The youngsters need to grab this opportunity with both hands, so that we don’t go back to recalling Sourav and Rahul full time again. I think they can be rotated with Sachin for sometime to lengthen their test careers. But the selectors need to show maturity here and should give the young guys a fair run after choosing to follow this path. I can’t wait to see the energy levels and our fielding once the VB series starts.

Now, the selectors need to show one more mature decision and give Wasim Jaffer some more chances before dumping him. Remember, Rahul Dravid’s batting fell into pieces when he toured Australia for the first time. Jaffer has shown enough spark at the highest level to earn a few more chances. Before the VB series, we have a test match to win and a series to square. Let the Adelaide test begin.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

As good as it gets

The Aussie juggernaut finally halts! Hats off to Team India for the sensational victory. Anil Kumble showed great leadership skills to pull the team through this. To win a test match at Perth, Australia’s strongest forte to date is just beyond expectation.

After the Sydney trauma, no one would have thought India could come back in such a way. As a cricket fan I was so depressed that 4-0 was the only result I could imagine. The reasoning behind the thinking was not being able to draw the Sydney test would have crushed the morale of the team and the strains attached with the loss would have sapped all the energy out of the guys. Then coming to Perth, where no sub-continent team had won a test match till date, with the ambition to get the first win is wishful thinking. Winning a match against Australia when the series is already gone is different, but to win when the series still hinges in the balance has to be bravery. After getting the 16th win at Sydney, the Aussies might have thought that Perth is going to be a piece of cake looking at the history. But surprise, surprise, here come India again to spoil the party and Aussie record of 17th straight win.

Man of the match Irfan Pathan needs to be handled pretty carefully from now onwards. India can’t afford to loose a gold pot like him again. He just adds so much value to the team. And the unpredictable man, Virender Sehwag, should never be dropped from the test team. Only the selectors can answer why he was dropped from the test team in the first place given the number of wins he has setup in tests both within and outside India. No praise is enough for the spell Ishant Shrama produced in the first session. He should go on from here to play for a long time for India and bring more laurels for it. India’s pace stock is rising by the day and that just means that our future is bright. Once you have bowlers to take 20 wickets in a test match, you can only win more matches than loose.

Well coming back to the win, Kumble has already rated it as his best. Sunil Gavaskar said it’s the greatest in the last 40 years. I’m not sure about that. The Kolkota test was won under more difficult circumstances, especially India following on. The Adelaide win in 2003-04 was equally great. India was 85/4 in reply to the first innings score of 556. Rahul Dravid’s teary eyes at the end of the chase told the story. This test under the circumstances when nobody in the world gave them even 10% of chance is definitely special. Had India went down in the match after showing a lot of fight, still no one would have blamed them. Through out the match India had the upper hand and the Aussies could not win even one session. I could not agree more with Rahul Dravid when he said “this win sounds more special because it is at present and fresh in our mind”. Greatest or not, this definitely is as good as it gets.