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.