Monday, December 31, 2012

Ten from 2012

'Tis that time of the year when you think about the time gone by. And then you compile the lists. Here is Slipstream Cricket's list of 10 cricketing memories from the year 2012.

1. The year of Retirements
Dravid, Laxman, Strauss, Ponting, Boucher, Simon Taufel retired from all formats of the game through 2012. And the year  ended with Mr. Cricket Mike Hussey announcing his international retirement at end  of the current Australian season. Then there was the retirement of Sachin Tendulkar from ODIs (only) which led to millions of Indian fans saying that they will retire from watching the ODI game.

2. The year of Michael Clarke
He is the new batting machine. Starts the year with a triple against India. Followed it with a double against Indians, added 2 more doubles against South Africa in a losing cause and then ended the year with a meagre 106 against Sri Lanka. Purple patches don't get purpler.

3, The Gangnam Style
There was a universally loved West Indies victory in the T20 world cup. They won it in style and celebrated in Gangnam style. There was a certain pride in playing for the West Indies shown by their maverick T20 mercenaries showing glimpses of a revival in West Indies cricket. Hopefully it is not another false dawn.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

His ODI Retirement

Sachin Tendulkar announced his retirement from One Day International cricket.

Co-incidentally the day a team was being picked for the upcoming home series against arch-rivals Pakistan.
Just wondering about the timing of the retirement announcement. Did he jump or Was he pushed? If the latter case is true then it would be a sad end.

I belong to the camp which believes that he should have retired after the 2011 World Cup. And this decision was delayed. Still the retirement makes me a little sad (though the first feeling on hearing the news was only ODIs!). After all even I was an SRT fanboy once and probably would be forever.. Nonetheless the manner of the end shouldn't tarnish his career. And it has been statistically the greatest career ever.

463 Matches, 18,426 runs, 49 centuries at an average of 44.83. Sometimes sheer numbers are enough to convey the magnitude of a player's achievements. And just to add an icing to the cake add 154 wickets as well.

This post is an attempt to recall top of the mind, the ten greatest SRT ODI moments, as I remember them.

1. 134 vs Australia, Sharjah, 1998, in the final of one of the many Coca-Cola Cups played that year. Incidentally on his birthday and coming on the back of the another brilliant 143 in the previous game against the same opponents, which took India to the final.

2. 175 vs Australia, Hyderabad, 2009 in a lost cause. A really heart-breaking game for any fan. Sachin scores 175 and yet India fall just short of Australia's 350+ target.

3. Hero Cup semi-final against South Africa. Taking responsibility to bowl when even Kapil Dev was reluctant to.

4. 98 vs Pakistan , 2003 World Cup at Centurion. Especially that upper cut six off Akhtar.

5. Mcgrath attack, 2000, ICC knock out, Nairobi. Provided the perfect start to a match which will be later remembered for being the 1st innings of Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer's yorker to dismiss Steve Waugh and Venkatesh Prasad hitting the last ball of the Indian innings for a six.

6. That six off Caddick, India vs England, World Cup 2003.

7. The ODI double century vs South Africa, Gwalior, 2010, coiniciding with my 1st ever chopper ride.

8. The dismantling off Henry Olonga, Sharjah, 1998. Another of the Coca Cola trophies in Sharjah in 1998. Olonga had the audacity to dismiss SRT off  a bouncer in the league game. The final was a different story altogether as Sachin and India cruised to the title against a then quite strong Zimbabwe.

 9. 140 vs Kenya, World Cup, 1999. A real gem of an innings in sad circumstances.

10.  The perfect swansong which could have been. The world cup victory at Wankhede, 2011.

And many many more over the past 23 years. 

Goodbye, Mr. Tendulkar. Thank you for all the entertainment and the memories.

Nishant Kumar for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Nishant on Twitter @NishantSKumar

Friday, December 21, 2012

Cricket, Love and other Magic – Guile and Spin Book Review


If you’re anything like me, you’re a sucker for cricket, romance and reading. When all these are combined together, it is even better. That is exactly what you get in Stuart Larner’s “Guile and Spin” – a fictional story of a man’s romantic feelings for a woman, which leads him on a journey full of twists and turns to a point where he discovers what cricket and true love is all about.
 Set in the present day recession in Northern England, it is the story of protagonist Jeremy, a sports center manager with little interest in cricket  and who is given the unenviable task of resurrecting a defunct historical cricket club with the intention of attracting government money to save crumbling facilities and jobs in the local Moxham Sports and Leisure Service.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Eternal Optimists

Sometimes I hate VVS Laxman & Rahul Dravid. 

Their partnership on 15th March, 2001 at Eden Gardens are part of cricketing folklore. A partnership which turned around a hopeless situation into a winning one. And scripted the most dramatic turnarounds in the history of the game. India went on to win the match and took the momentum generated from the game to win the next match and the series as well.

But in addition to all this, what the duo also did was to convert Indian fans into eternal optimists. The situation can be as hopeless as it can be, but the Indian fan will remember that glorious day in Eden Gardens when Laxman & Dravid stopped the all-conquering Australians from taking over the "Final Frontier".

They made us believe in miracles. And I guess that enhances the pain of losing a little more.

Also in this list of believing-it-ain't-over-till-its-over was the Kumble-Srinath match-winning 9th wicket partnership against the Aussies in Titan Cup (1996). That single game is responsible for keeping me awake till the game is actually won or lost ever since. I might have ignored it as a-once-in-a-lifetime but something similar happened again when Zaheer Khan & Murali Kartik repeated the dose to the another bunch of Aussies in another ODI a few years later.

As I write defeat looks likely but in some little corner of the heart there is a still a flicker of hope as I keep following the match.

P.S. Come to think of it, the miracles only seem to be happening against the Aussies.

Nishant Kumar for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Nishant on Twitter @NishantSKumar

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Farewell Ricky Ponting

2012 - Dravid, Laxman, Strauss & now Ponting... Some big names hanging up their bats. 

How to describe Ricky Ponting? He was one the best batsmen in the last 2 decades. And undoubtedly one of the finest ever. But unlike his predecessors & contemporaries one of the lesser liked big names on the cricket ground. 

From an Indian fan perspective, I would describe him as a person who has caused a lot of pain to the us on many an occasion, but very rarely was the pain caused by on-field performances with the bat. Barring, of course, the one glorious innings which took away the 2003 World Cup final away from us. As a batsman he mastered conditions everywhere except India. Probably India got the worst out of him, as a player and captain. He presided over the most acrimonious series in which India has involved in the last couple of decades. The 2007-08 tour of Australia was one of the most bitter ever witnessed. Even millions of dollars of IPL money has been unable to heal all the scars so far. 

But I digress. Ricky Ponting was statistically the most successful cricketer ever. 108 test wins and 3 world cup wins. These numbers speak volumes about the Australian dominance, Ponting's longevity as well as ability to be part of such a team for a long time. However he has also had to witness the decline of the Aussies from being an all-conquering team to one of the leading contenders. More than anything else those 3 Ashes defeats must have really, really hurt. He certainly bears the scars of those battles.

He was never a favorite of mine (his habit of continuously spitting into his own hands was disgusting to watch) but his struggles over the later part of the career, for some odd reason, made him more likable  A heavy defeat to South Africa wasn't the way for a legendary career to end. But at least he got the satisfaction of calling time on his own career.

Farewell Ricky Ponting. May you retire in peace. 

Nishant Kumar for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Nishant on Twitter @NishantSKumar

Ricky Ponting – The Inglorious Basterd

There have been only two instances when I have cried, with regards to cricket.
One was the infernal disaster that was the 1996 World Cup semi-final at Calcutta. As a ten year old who fell in love with the game during that tournament, I felt cheated that I didn't get the dream finish that I had hoped, with India lifting the trophy.
The other occasion was the 2003 World Cup final. Yet again, India and Tendulkar were thwarted at the cusp of glory. After overcoming a disastrous start to their campaign, India had built up good momentum before getting crushed by the Aussies in the final. As I reeled at the

The Day I Met Punter

2nd May 2007. Australia had just won the ODI World Cup in Barbados and they were on their way home via London Heathrow.

Second highest run scorer in Test Cricket history, 
Ponting retired from International cricket on 3rd December 2012
How do I know this? Because I saw them there!

Back then, I was a 27 year old buck taking the young lady I now call my wife, Maria, on a trip of a lifetime to Thailand. As we stood in security control, waiting to have our bags checked, I had an “if Carlsberg did airport check-ins,” moment…

I looked to my left and there was a man. An absolute hulk in fact that made me – a modestly sized man – look like a cat in a pack of lions. It was Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds, barely able to fit through the body x-ray machines, his shoulders as wide as I was tall.

Four days earlier, Symonds had contributed 23 runs and a wicket to the Australian 53 run drubbing of Sri Lanka, helping Ponting’s men to a third ODI World Cup in a row.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

India vs England - The Dhoni Backfire

The dinner menu for MS Dhoni this week will be a nice large slice of humble pie.

India were back on track in 'The Revenge Series', having been drubbed in England and Australia in last year they got their home formula nicely sorted:

  • Prepare a pitch with less life than Valle de Luna
  • The batsmen smash a total of 500+
  • The spinners do the rest

I am Dhoni, hear me roar. © AFP
And there you have it, twirl the ball in the same place all day long and wait for mistakes, it worked gloriously all throughout the nineties and even Australia couldn't do anything about it. The Ganguly era was a rare time when India learned to compete overseas, but last years 8-0 saw a revert back to old school tactics to at least make sure that they could wallop teams in their playground and feel a bit better about life.

Only it wasn't enough, not for a 'frustrated' MS Dhoni. 

He wanted more. The test match dragged on until the fifth day thanks to Alistair Cook, who is the real deal. The spinners had to bowl mammoth spells, and unlike the lion hearted Kumble who used to do it without fuss, our captain was

Why Kallis is Greater Than Ponting

As we witness the ongoing duel between Australia and South Africa, two of the greatest cricketers of our generation have come face to face perhaps for the last time, Jacques Kallis and Ricky Ponting.  It should be no surprise though which of the two has chalked up scores of 147, 49 and an injury filled 58, and which has scored 0, 4 and 18.  Equally its no surprise that which castled the other on the first morning, and his injury helped lead to absolute carnage later that day.

Ponting may have (ridiculously) won the award for the best player of the 2000s, but the truth is Kallis is far far better. Here's why:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Cook and Pietersen put England ahead

I'm very happy with the proceedings. Day 2 belonged to England. India started the day at 266/6. England must be happy to wrap their innings in 61 runs. England then put on 178 runs for the loss of 2 wickets. 

Compton was disappointing again. I know he is a new fellow, but it's disheartening to see all his hard work go waste. He played 90 deliveries but scored only 29 runs. Compare this to Kevin Pietersen's score, 62 off 85. If Compton does the hard work and stays there for so long, he must do himself justice by scoring more runs. This kind of batting is only useful when you are trying to save a Test, like the 1st Test. If Compton doesn't improve his strike rate, he should be dropped. 

Captain Cook lead from the front once again. He is batting on 87. What an amazing batsman he has become. I've followed his career from the beginning and seen him evolve. He had potential from the beginning. He scored 60 and 104* in his debut Test against India at Nagpur. But he has come a long way. Calm and collected from the very beginning, his technique and judgement have definitely improved. 

At what age a player should be taken into the side is very controversial. Alastair Cook was 21 when he debuted, James Anderson 20. Both of them are fine players of this era. But there have also been ones like Graeme Swann who made their way into the team at a much later age. There is hardly anyone more consistent than

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Monty Got A Raw Deal

It's amazing how a players stock can rise when they're not even involved in a game of cricket. It's like the value of gold rising when equity markets are in crisis.

The trouble with using Monty Panesar as the golden boy in our investment analogy here is that he's far from being the perfectly safe investment England should revert to when their normal game plan defaults.

With England toiling as India reached 521 for 8 on Friday, long before their catastrophic capitulation with the bat to 41/3 at stumps on day two, the age old debate of England sub-continent tours of old has already re-surfaced: where is Monty? 

A run a ball 117 from Virendra Sehwag as well as a spritely 74 from Yuvraj, returning to test cricket after his battle with cancer, helped India into a position of power during their first innings. But it was the stand out performance of India’s new number three, Che Pujara, whose 206 was full of classical shots his predecessor Rahul Dravid would have been proud of, that really drove home India’s advantage.

A lot of the talk in England before this series focussed on the retirements of Dravid and the sublime VVS Laxman, not to mention the fading force of Sachin Tendulkar. But with Pujara delivering in Ahmedabad and the emergence of Virat Kohli as a genuine test cricketer over the past 12 months, India are re-generating their batting line-up. And mighty impressive it looks too.

England’s decision to maintain a three man seam attack resulted in Monty missing out in the first Test, with Samit Patel’s ability to bat well against spin giving him the nod over Jonny Bairstow.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The No Spin Zone

After weeks of slow build-up, the much awaited Test series between India and England is finally here. It’s been a relatively silent prelude to the series, considering the hype generated before the previous series between these two teams. There hasn't been the usual verbal spars or snarky newspaper articles this time around, apart from an occasional reference to the 4-0 English whitewash in the previous series; then again, both teams have their own issues to sort out in-house. England have been busy dealing with the ‘re-integration’ of Pietersen and managing fitness concerns of their bowlers; India are worried about Zaheer’s fitness and the iffy form of their top order.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

For The Love Of The Game – A Short Story

It was the incessant ringing of the door-bell that woke him up. Groggily, the old man checked the time on the wall clock above his television set and was surprised that his friend had arrived much earlier than expected. Slightly annoyed, he got up from his rocking chair and switched off the TV, even as the door-bell continued to ring. “I’m coming!” he shouted grumpily. Muttering to himself, he ambled to the front door and opened it.
“Hello Grandpa. Hope I am not disturbing you.”
For a moment, the old man didn't know how to respond. After all, it was not often that his teenage grandson came around to visit him; but there he was, standing at his door step with an almost forlorn expression on his face.
“Of course not, kid. Come on in”. The old man moved aside and let the teenager trudge in to the living room. Even as he tried to gather his thoughts, wondering what the reasons for the unexpected visit could be, the teenager flopped on a near-by sofa and asked for a glass of water.
Fetching the glass of water, the old man handed it over to the boy, who gulped it down in a flash.
Shifting uncomfortably, the old man asked, “So, what’s the matter, kid? You look upset.”

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

ECB Announce 2014 County Cricket Schedule

2014 might seem a long way off to start planning your summer holidays, but the ECB have shown county cricket fans the shape of summers to come with the publication of the 2014 domestic cricket schedule on Thursday.

The format of the LV= County Championship will remain as is; two divisions of nine with two teams promoted and relegated each season. The scheduling of first class matches will change however, with games running from Sunday to Wednesday for the first 14 matches of the 2014 season.

The t20 tournament will become a regular weekly fixture occupying Friday nights and Sunday afternoons, in line with the “strong desire from Counties and spectators," to have an "appointment to view," t20 schedule.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

International T20 is the only good T20

Regular readers of my column will know by now some of my pet peeves:
  • Cricket cheerleaders 
  • MS Dhoni batting promotions
  • The Shahid Afridi wicket celebration
  • And above all, Twenty20 cricket overkill

However the recently concluded International T20 World Cup changed my mind about one thing. There is such thing as quality, watchable Twenty20 cricket and this quality only comes from one stage, the international stage. 

Therefore my hate has been redirected now purely to domestic Twenty20 cricket, which really is nothing more than a batting circus. The recent World Cup had one key ingredient that the IPL and its various simpleton cousins do not have, top class players participating in actual teams.

Finally we get to see batsmen playing proper strokes built on technique and skill instead of swinging madly like a wood cutter on steroids. Finally we saw bowlers being able to contain them instead of serving up a volley of garbage. And most importantly, finally we saw teams playing for national pride rather than a meaningless mishmash team of licorice all-sorts.

This wasn't the IPL, this was real cricket.

 Wait... who are you guys again? © Assc Press

Friday, October 5, 2012

Astrology, Feng Shui and Selecting Team India

Breaking News...

The BCCI has disbanded the recently reconstituted BCCI Selection Committee with immediate effect. Mr. Sandeep Patil and Co have received the marching orders and a brand new Selection Committee with high profile "Specialist selectors" has been constituted. The regional quota has been disbanded for good.

Mr. Sreenivasan gave brief introduction of the new selection committee members. The photographs have been withheld due to the inauspicious period prevailing according to the adverse planetary positions and will be made public once the stars are favorable.

The list of Selectors

Sri. Guruvayoor Somasekhara "Kalimuthu" Panicker Avargal: A prominent practitioner of the famous South Indian black magic hails from a village near Madhurai in Tamil Nadu and he will be the Chief of Selectors. Though originally from Guruvayoor in Kerala, Sri. Panicker has vast knowledge of South Indian black magic. He will target the key players from opposition camps and make them ineffective against India with his Tantra Kriya and Shatru Paraajaya Kriya. It was with his help that CSK tamed Chris Gayle in the 2010 IPL Final. It is believed that Mr.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Generous Dhoni, Talented Rohit and the Lesser Mortals !

One Day International Matches: 21, 10, 33, 15, 0, 4, 68, 5, 0, 0, 4, 4
T-20 International Matches: 0, 4*, 1*, 55*, 1

These are Rohit Sharma's returns from International matches in 2012. He averages overall 17 runs per dismissal. In T-20, it is 30.5 thanks to a 55 not out but in ODI Cricket, it is a pathetic 14 runs.

Manoj Tiwari has scored a hundred and a 65 in the 8 matches he has got to play. He has a 4 wicket haul in the only match he failed with the bat in 2012. In that match, he made 21 which was 8 more than the total number of runs Rohit Sharma scored in the entire series.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni is obviously a generous man. He gives chance after chance to Rohit in the name of promise and talent. One or two failures and Yusuf Pathan gets thrown out. Forget Yusuf, Manoj Tiwari today, is the MOST WRONGED man in Indian Cricket.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Indian Cricket on the Road to Somewhere

0-8. Never forget.
Over the course of two tours, to England and Australia, Indian fans were treated to soul crushing and legend shattering performances from the team, as the number 1 ranking was surrendered, and then the retirements of long-time servants of Indian cricket were hastened. Indian cricket was well and truly forced into the transitional phase, which it kept talking about for years, but never really took any steps towards it.
That is why, the series against New Zealand raised a lot of interest and expectations towards how India is going to plan ahead. With tough home series against England and Australia, and an overseas assignment against the current number 1 team to follow, the situation called for some bold and visionary thinking from the selectors to pick a squad keeping the future in mind.

Monday, September 3, 2012

India-New Zealand 2012 Tests Review

The 2012-13 home season began early for India, in fact the earliest till date. New Zealand were not  expected to be more than a warm-up for the tougher challenges coming up in the form of England & Australia. Here is the immediate post-series review.
  • If India had been on the receiving end of as many dubious decisions as the Kiwis had, am pretty sure enough hue and cry would have been raised and the umpires would have been removed from officiating in any India matches in the future. But hardly hear the Kiwis complaining.
  • For dodgy umpiring there is a very simple solution which for some reason ICC does not want to use. Give review powers to the 3rd umpire. Any "obvious" error can be overturned at the the 1st replay itself. Marginal calls stay with the field umpires.
  • The Kiwi bowling lineup of Martin, Bracewell, Boult & Southee can trouble many a batting lineup. But their batting lineup remains worrying.

In the name of the Holy Spirit of Cricket !

Murali Kartik is the man most hated today in Somerset and England and even more than the Pakistani trio accused of spot-fixing. We know his crime, he Mankaded Alex Barrow after warning him earlier in the over for backing up too far. Somerset Captain Trescothick lost no time in admonishing the "despicable" act of the former Indian spinner. The crowd too booed this act.

I strongly suspect "Spirit of Cricket" is a strange slimy liquid with a mind of its own. It flows in one direction. Wherever an Indian is involved, it flows against  ! So much so, often we get flooded by this spirit.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Unmukt Chand and the Recalcitrant System !

Where is India ?
What we see is the Final Medals Tally of  London Olympics 2012. India's place in the list was a glorious 55th out of 204 nations that participated. If we take out the No. 2 placed China, India's population is larger than the total of all the other nations in this list put together.

The other 149 nations below India don't even count when it comes to economic and political muscle power India is capable of wielding. But we were happy and celebrating an all time best medals tally. India is the ONLY country that believes in the "Spirit of Olympics". Participation and not winning is important !

Suresh Kalmadis, All India Lawn Tennis Association, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupati and all the corruption have played their role to perfection in undermining India on the international sports arena.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Just fizz not enough!!!

Indian cricket experienced a super Sunday yesterday (26 Aug, 2012). Winning a test and the U-19 world cup on the same day adds more fizz to the drink. Indian batting, for the next quarter of a century, looks in safe hands. Pujara and Kohli, who respectively replaced themselves in the spots left vacant by Rahul Dravid and V V S Laxman, came out trumps by helping the team win a test match. In the same fashion, Unmukt Chand, holding the position previously held by Virat Kohli, as captain of the U-19 team, led from the front to lift the trophy. In the bowling department too, there was a great show to witness. India’s perennial concern for the lack of aggressive bowlers has been assuaged today, albeit temporarily. Ashwin spun a web around the Kiwi batsmen and Ojha tightened the noose. Harmeet Singh, Baba Aparajith and Sandeep Sharma too showed glimpses of a better future for Indian bowling. And on a day like this, when victories are at hand to celebrate, it does add more excitement among players, public and administrators.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

What I learned from the Hyderabad Test

  • MS Dhoni’s improved luck with winning the toss continues.
  • Sehwag ‘s role in the Test team has been modified to be a pinch hitter at the top, and to take the occasional sharp catch, which he can boast about to the press after the game.
  • Tendulkar’s strike rate in the only innings indicated that he was trying his best to ensure that the Indian team did not miss Dravid’s absence.
“…but, how did you know??”
  • Raina has devised a new solution to deal with his perceived weakness against short balls: – Get out to spinners.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Che, Virat and the Essence of Life !

Are they talking about next generation ?
An old quotable quote goes like, "Those worried about what would happen to next generation should stop worrying. The next generation will grow up and start worrying about next generation". Quite right !

In 1987, when Sunil Gavaskar retired, everyone was asking, "After Sunny, who ?" This was the worry on the minds of every Indian Cricket fan. We had Mohammed Azaruddin followed by Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Saurav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Virendar Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. An entire golden generation of batting stalwarts.

Today, Dada Ganguly is long gone. The Wall retired before the season began and VVS has hung his wrists at the beginning of the ongoing series. A lot of people would love to see Sachin Tendulkar bat till he is 100. But he has to go sooner than later. For all the doubters, there have always been people like me, who believed everyone including Tendulkar will some day be replaced.