Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Why Does India try to Sledge?

A week ago my call was 0-4 for India, and at 0-2 the whitewash is on!

Credit where it is due, India have competed quite well at times and in fact inexplicably threw away the Adelaide test which they should have at least drawn. How was that for a brain explosion, it was almost West Indies like. Nonetheless I have been impressed by Murali Vijay and Kohli, and expected worse.

Along came Brisbane, a place where Australia never loses and once again they didn't disappoint. But some hilarity stuck out, in particular India and their new found love for sledging.

Sledging is a cricket exclusive term, or as Steve Waugh termed it... "Mental Disintegration". The Aussies of old used it beautifully to defeat the opposition with mind games and end contests before they even started. Just ask any England team pre-2005 or Daryll Cullinan.

But it is important to realize the most important ingredient the Aussies had, the batting and bowling riches to make it work. The wonderful oxymoron Glenn McGrath is the best example, hurling expletives in the opposition's faces and yet delivering the same dour ball at the same generous pace patiently waiting for the batsman to crack.

Which brings us to India who it seems have adopted the same tactic, hey it worked for them why won't it work for us? This problem is, they are hopeless at it.

So what happened in Brisbane?

  • Ishant Sharma, after being utterly thumped all day throws a few f-bombs when removing Steve Smith.  Note that Smith was yet to be dismissed in the series so far and was on 133. Note also that this is one of the most useless bowlers in the game today and it wasn't even a good delivery.
  • Rohit Sharma and Superstar Virat greet Mitchell Johnson to the batting crease with some foul mouthing off, followed by some "bouncers" and "fast bowling" of the Indian variety. He proceeds to belt them for 13 fours and a six and then shows them how it's done with the ball including both Kohli (1 run) and Rohit (0 runs).

"Economy rate less than 5, in your face!"

Ladies and gentlemen, this is *not* how it's done.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Farewell Gambhir, Sehwag, Yuvraj & Friends

And so while India are being thumped by Australia (4-0 coming your way folks), they also announced their 30 man squad of World Cup 'probables'

Hang on a minute, thirty probables!? There are eleven members in a cricket team plus a water carrier, add four or five reserves and we have a touring party. What is the point in naming a probables list double the size of the group that will actually show up?

Here's why, its confirmation of who will not show up.

India's list of omissions is a strange one.  Sure I can understand the concept of 'out with the old and in with the new', but in Indian cricket? Not exactly spoiled with young riches are they?

Lets examine the miss list:

Zaheer Khan - Is very unlucky. This is the best fast bowler India has had since Kapil Dev, with the exception of maybe Srinath. He was a huge reason as to why they won the last world cup (more than Dhoni) and the other options are average other than maybe Bhuvaneshwar Kumar.  What was Zaheer's mistake? Not playing for the Chennai Super Kings?
Selection Credibility - 9/10

No love guys?

Yuvraj Singh - Another unlucky original from the famous 2003 campaign (and the famous2003 world cup final flop). He is still a class batsman and experience counts especially in alien conditions. They could have easily brought him back for one last hurrah a la Craig McMillan, but alas this is probably the end.
Selection Credibility - 8/10

Friday, December 5, 2014

Blame the Bouncer?

Every now and then, an event occurs within the confines of sport that transcends far beyond the normal boundaries. 

Sport exists to entertain, it has no other purpose.  And yet here we are faced with the tragedy of losing Phillip Hughes, a young man primed to become one of the senior Australian batsmen in the years to come.

Sadly we will never know what heights he might have scaled, it was surreal and hard-hitting to see the 'died' section on his Cricinfo page.

Understandably there has been a lot of talk and debate surrounding this tragedy. 

It is natural to seek an avenue of blame such as:

  • Should the bouncer be illegal?
  • Is the batsman protected enough?
  • Is the bowler at fault, or perhaps fast bowling in general?

Friday, November 28, 2014

Phil Hughes, R.I.P.

A national spot was up for grabs. He was considered as one of the prime contenders. Batting on 63 not out with a national selector watching, he has probably done enough to  make it to the XI for the next Test match. A bouncer is bowled. He goes for the hook. He is through with the shot before the ball reaches him and hits him on the back of the neck. And its all over.

A sudden and terrible end to a promising career. One moment he was fighting for a Test place and next he was gone. Puts some perspective to life when something as mundane as a ball delivered in a first class match turns fatal.

Thoughts with entire Hughes family. And hoping Sean Abbott copes up with this tragedy.

Phillip Joel Hughes. R.I.P.

You will stay 63 not out forever.

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

Monday, November 3, 2014

Mindboggling numbers from the Australia vs Pakistan Test Series, 2014

Australia vs Pakistan Test Series, 2014

9 - Number of centuries scored by the Pakistani batsmen in a 2 Test series.
21 - Number of years that the previous 9 Pakistani Test centuries against Australia took.

Shows the level of complete dominance and break from history that this series has been for Pakistan. They have now won 3rd successive Tests against Australia after having lost the preceding 13 in a row against them.

Unrelated but comparable factoid.
6 - India's medal haul in 2012 London Games
7 - The number of previous Olympics (from 1984 - 2008) in which India got 6 medals combined.

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

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Forgotten XI... Or Maybe Not

The following is an eleven comprising of Indian cricketers whose names are likely to be remembered only by either their own families or the most diehard of cricket followers. Like any "fantasy XI" I have picked the ones which I recall from my cricket watching career. There can be quite a few alternative XIs.

  1. Iqbal Siddique - In his debut Test for India, opened the bowling and batting. Also hit the the winning runs. And never played for India again. 
  2. Sujith Somasundar - Opened for India in 2 ODIs with a lineup comprising of Tendulkar, Dravid, Azhar, Ganguly and Ajay Jadeja following up. His failures lead to India experimenting with Ganguly as Tendulkar's opening partner and the rest as they is history.
  3. Gagan Khoda - Scored 89 in his 2nd ODI earning him the Man of the Match award. And never played for India again. Just plain bad luck. 
  4. Amay Khurasiya - In contrast to Khoda, An attacking 50 on his ODI debut earned Khurasiya place in the 1999 World Cup squad. The innings warded off competition from the likes of VVS Laxman and Virender Sehwag. A few games later he was dropped for good.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The West Indies - The End is Nigh

Its been just over a week since last week's dramatic and abrupt end of the West Indies tour to India. In the mean time thousands of articles have probably appeared on the web talking about the decline in everything related to West Indies cricket. Here is one more on the same.

In my opinion, the time has come for the West Indies as a cricketing team to close down.

This abandonment could be the straw that broke the camel's back. The player-board standoff has been running for years which not surprisingly has coincided with the general decline in West Indies cricket. From being the top ranked country and a widely admired opponent, they have now been sitting close to the bottom in terms of rankings. Threats of strikes, withdrawals, dubious droppings, stand-offs between individual players and the board do not augur well for the making of a team. But walking out in the middle of a tour against the most powerful cricket board is taking matters too far. The abandonment will have far-reaching repercussions. BCCI has already suspended future bilateral tours and other national boards and sponsors are extremely wary. There are even doubts on their participation in the coming World Cup.

Monday, October 20, 2014

My IPL Diary# Marilize

The IPL team you were cheering for?
I was cheering for the RCB (Royal Challengers Bangalore)

What kind of preparations did you do before coming over for the IPL?
Everything happened so quick. When I found out that I was chosen to be a cheerleader, I instantly hit the gym 2 times a day to become more fit. We needed to attend dance classes everyday for 2 weeks to learn new routines so that we can perform as a group on the podiums without making any mistakes.

How was it when you performed during a match for the first time?
My first match was in Dubai - Sharjah. It was a night game that started 6pm UAE time so it was not that hot anymore. The temp in Dubai can get very high. I was nervous to go on the podium for the
first time as there was so many people and everyone was cheering for us. It was amazing, once my feet touched the podium everything just became instinctive. We made a lot of mistakes in the first games with our routines but we just laughed it off and worked on it. The people loved us and everyone was just taking photos and wanted photos with us. I would say my first performance was scary but the best experience of my life.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Kevin Pietersen ruined my childhood

untitledOk, that’s maybe a little extreme, but still the years of England dominance are very important to me personally. This period makes up the majority of my cricketing education. The 2009 Ashes series sparked my passion for the game. Aged 13 I was inspired by players that I thought were invincible. However, with Pietersen releasing stories about the inner workings of the ECB and the England dressing room, I have started to doubt my unassailable heroes.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Tete-a-Tete with the Bharat Army

When and how did Bharat Army come into being? What was the thought behind forming the Bharat Army?

The Bharat Army was founded in 1999 during the World Cup in England where 4 passionate followers of Indian Cricket met for the first time while following the Team during the World Cup. Since then we have been supporting and following Team India around the world for the past 15 years!

We felt with the passion Indians around the world have for the game we needed a common voice in support of Indian Cricket so the First Official Team India Supporters Group was Born.

How much planning goes into preparing for a match/tour? What are your preparations for tours ? And how do you guys manage work and finances ? What has been the largest contingent of Bharat Army at a venue/tour till date?

The Bharat Army is now a non-profit making organisation, in the past we worked with a Travel Company that was recommend to us by the Barmy Army to sell Tours to the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies. We ended up taking 900 Supporters to the World Cup but unfortunately it turned out to be a disaster as we got knocked out early!

As we are now recognized around the world for being Team India's No.1 Supporters Group we manage to get block bookings for tickets in the stadiums around the world, you would have seen a strong presence this summer in England but also during the World Cup in 2011 in India going back to South Africa in 2007.

We raise funds to run the Bharat army by selling Merchandise and use the profits for the running of our Website and Social Media activities but also contribute to Indian Charities.  This year during the summer in England we supported Yuvraj Singh's YouWeCan Foundation and also a Charity in India called The Aware Foundation which supports the Education of Underprivileged children on India.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

My IPL Diary# Pepi Kern De Nobrega

I arrived in the UAE on 15th April 2014 in 38 degree Celsius unaware of the fact that I would get the biggest culture shock of my little life. I had a mild panic attack at the Abu Dhabi airport when I lost my fellow dancers during the Immigration check points. I followed a family from England who knew exactly where they were going. Apparently first class passengers had a faster check point than the rest of the travelling peasants. By being clever I ended up waiting at the baggage conveyor belt for almost an hour. My first time travelling, my first time going through immigration and my first time getting lost in a place where no one speaks English. Lets just say, by the time my friends arrived, I was mortified to find out that I illegally missed fingerprints scan and an eye test.
Later that afternoon we arrived in the most beautiful hotel in the center of Dubai, The Yassat Gloria. Two girls shared, not just a room but an apartment. A fully equipped kitchen, white marble bathroom, LG washing machine/tumble dryer which ruined everyone’s whitie tighties. We lived in luxury for 14 days. Ate in great restaurants, saw the most beautiful sceneries, and paid desperately R210 for a single Budweiser. Life was great.
When it was game day, you could feel the electricity in the air. A ghd and hairspray didn't help my hair stay down. I was ready. I was ready until we danced our first routine and I melted from the inside. Make-up running down my face which looked like a mudslide. Hair needed to be readjusted, looking nothing like I first stepped out on the field. But the crowd gave us the adrenalin to keep going. Four hours felt like fifteen minutes. We felt like celebrities. Camera flashes going wild as we walk back to the bus. As we drove back to the hotel, we couldn't wait to jump in the showers. Celebrations were in order.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

RIP Norman Gordon

Norman Gordon (South Africa) (1911-2014)

Cricket's first and till date only ever centurion against time bids farewell.

Well played Sir.

The longest lived Test cricketer - a record which will stand for some time.

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

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

India in England, 2014 - Numbers Don't Lie

Chart above shows the Test-by-Test batting average comparison for Pataudi Trophy. And while it is often said that numbers hide more than they reveal, the above chart tells the entire series story.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014


courtesy: ESPNcricinfo
At the time of writing, India are getting quite a beating from Cook’s men at the Oval. The rapid disintegration of the players in the last three tests has been painful to watch; actually, scratch that…I have stayed off from watching most of the days’ play since the Ageas Bowl test. As Devanshu pointed out in a brilliant article recently, the emotional toll that my team’s performance exacts on me can be draining in defeat as exhilarating as it is in victory. After all, I still have not fully recovered from the 0-8 memories of 2011.

Monday, August 18, 2014

India in England, 2014 : Can't Bat, Can't Bowl, Can't Catch, Can't Run

After the 2nd Test in Lord's, England was the team in disarray. Cook's captaincy was in question, Prior had taken a possibly career-ending break, the attitude and form of many senior players was in question, the batting had been found out by India's seam bowling, there was no proper spinning option. All signs pointed to a prolonged summer of agony for the English. While the Indian  fans exulted. This was going to be the balm of the pain caused by the summer and winter of 2011. 

And then...

Friday, July 25, 2014

Commonwealth Cricket, Why Not?

The Commonwealth games have just kicked off, and this year Glasgow are hosting the plethora of sporting events. The Commonwealth games, although inferior to the Olympic Games, still successfully airs sport around the globe, introducing new events to the estimated 1 billion viewers. I will undoubtedly be transfixed by the majority of sports during these games as I am every time a large scale multisport event comes along. The weightlifting will force me to the edge of my seat and during the judo I’ll be cheering for an ipoon. Despite this, I would never think about watching these sports away from the Olympics or Commonwealth games. I can’t help but get the feeling that cricket, a far more interesting sport than most of the events currently featuring in the Commonwealth games, is missing out.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

England Deserve to Lose It All

There was a time where it was fun to root for England, namely when they went about toppling the unbeatable Australians in 2005. The underdogs beating the Aussies at their own game playing with aggressive swagger and style.  It was great.

But that was nearly a decade ago. The so called English dominance of test cricket, brief as it was, is going through a painfully slow death where they can no longer play Ishant Sharma. 

And they absolutely deserve it.

There is a difference between the once great Australia and the once "great" England.  Australia were ridiculously good and they knew it, they could field three cricket teams who could blow apart anybody that dared to turn up. One would scream out for those precious moments when another team actually got the better of them (the aforementioned Ashes 2005, a prime example).

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Rahul Dravid: One Final Adoration

I do not want to write this. This is too emotional a subject for me. The title itself makes me go mushy. And you do not write, when you know you are going to be bias, when you know your emotions will win over your logical approach. Yet I do, for the simple reason that this the only way I can pour my heart out.

An exhibition match became worth a celebration when it was confirmed that India’s Mr. Dependable (I like this name. It complements the mannerly, unblemished schoolboy that you have always been) will be walking out to take guard once again at the #3 slot. This game out of nowhere equals a pilgrimage for your fans, Dravidians, as we like to call ourselves. After having withstood your ODI and Test retirement, one odd goodbye isn’t much of a thing. But the fact that this might be your last game ever, sends tingles down the rachis.

Now more than the exuberance of seeing you bat once again, there’s some off-base fear that grips me.  The fear of you not finding your form, again.  The fear of what your final scores will be. The fear of exodusing amidst the nostalgic concert halls of the Mecca of Cricket, as you turn up. The fear of standing misty-eyed, as you cosset every blade of the grass on the field. The fear of misplacing my nonage once again, as you stop the ticking clock and vamoose into the beguiling alcoves of athanasia.

So how do I groom for such an exploit, emotionally?  Even if it’s plainly as a rubbernecker.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Tete-a-Tete with the Swami Army

First of all we would like to thank the members of the Swami Army for taking time out of their schedule and talking to us.

It is impossible to miss them if you watch any India match. They turn the match atmosphere into that of a carnival and ensure that there are no dull moments in the matches for the fans present at the ground and the ones viewing on TV. 

DieHard Cricket Fans spoke to them about their inception, activities, planning and much more.

  • When and how did Swami Army come about?
The Swami Army was formed during India’s tour to Australia in Season 2003/04 by a group of 10 die-hard Indian cricket supporters, using the Swami Army moniker as a bit of fun while following their beloved Indian team around Australia in that season. The tour was significant in that it was Steve Waugh’s final Test series, but also represented the start of India’s climb to the top of the Test rankings. As the crowds flocked to the grounds to watch India come close to beating Australia in the Test Series decider in Sydney 2004, the Swami Army grew from its core group of 10 supporters to a large gathering occupying Bay 26 of the SCG.
Since then, the Swami Army have gone from strength to strength. With nearly 5,000 members across the globe, we are recognised by cricket authorities as the leading Indian cricket supporter group, with a presence at every Team India match. We continue to work with cricket boards to ensure that the Swami Army has Designated Areas at cricket grounds worldwide to enhance the viewing experience of all cricket supporters at cricket grounds in an enjoyable, family-friendly environment, dhol player and all!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

My IPL Diary# Ane Booysen

I was asked to write about my trip to India and Dubai as an IPL cheerleader and jumped at the opportunity to do so because, wow, what a truly amazing opportunity it was! Something I would love to share!

Now, where to start! We had numerous dance rehearsals in Cape Town to prepare for the matches, and we learned around 9 routines to ensure we were prepared and that we could keep the audience  entertained by making sure there was a wide variety of options.

So, lets fast forward to Dubai... we arrived in great anticipation and wonder for this magnificent Country! Just the bus ride from the airport was an experience as we started seeing all the billboards advertising the IPL! We also met all the girls in our team and started bonding immediately.  I could see this was going to be an amazing journey! There were 40 cheerleaders sent to Dubai, and due to the fact that one of the team's dancers were only going to arrive in India, my group of 10 cheerleaders had to rotate between all the White Mischief Teams (Kings  XI Punjab, Delhi Daredevils and Royal Challengers Bangalore). Although we danced and cheered a lot, this was a great way to see all the stadiums as well as get to know all the aspects of the amazing game of cricket.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Mankading & "Spirit of Cricket"

Mankading - the act of a bowler running out the non-striker batsman before bowling the ball has always been a source of needless controversy. 

In fact for some weird reason it has become a test of the "sportsman spirit" of a bowler who does not do the "Mankad". Cortney Walsh has received a medal for not running out Salim Yousuf. But if the bowler does Mankad, like Sachitra Senanayake did to Jos Buttler, all hell breaks lose. The bowler and the fielding captain are accused of having destroyed "the spirit of cricket" - the greatest crime imaginable in the gentlemans's game.

Well here are my two bits on Mankading.
It is within the laws of the game. In fact there is a specific law for the situation, hence no ambiguity is possible. Law 42(15) states - "The bowler is permitted, before entering his delivery stride, to attempt to run out the non-striker. Whether the attempt is succesful or not, the ball shall not count as one of the over. If the bowler fails to run out the non-striker, the umpire shall call and signal Dead ball as soon as possible". 

So if there exists a specific law which states what are the consequences of a bowler breaking the stumps with the non-striker outside his crease, then why the hue and cry? The "spirit of cricket" has already been murdered many a time (Fixing, Corruption, Walking/Not walking etc.) by different sets of players, officials and administrators. Guess that is why it exists in "spirit" form.

Here the batsman was wandering outside the crease and with run-out decisions sometimes become a matter of TV frames, then it does become an advantage for the non-striker to back up as far ahead as possible. In this case, Buttler had been warned twice by Senanayake in his previous over. (Which is where the matter of cricket's spirit should rest, which seemingly is not the case). And when Buttler was found wandering out again he was run-out. A result very rightly deserved. 

So the right decision was taken on action justified and well within the laws and more importantly the previous over Senanayake having shown the proper "spirit" also, guess Buttler should have nothing to complain about. Don't see any justifications for the hue and cry it has raised.  Nor do I see why the batsman is being portrayed as a victim, when its his own actions which are to be blamed for his fate.

To me its clear, Senanayake and the rest were well within their rights to run-out Buttler. And no harm was caused to the so called "spirit of the game".

Closing Notes - a couple of interesting exhibits on Mankading
Exhibit A - The original report on Mankading

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

IPL7: The AfterThoughts

The 7th edition of the Indian Premier League has come to an end. And Congratulations to Kolkata Knight Riders for their second IPL title. After an embarrassing defeat to Rajasthan in which they lost 6 wickets for 2 runs they have really lifted their game and were deserving winners in the end.

Now the time to note down some after-thoughts (not a review) from this year's IPL.
  • The Impossible Chases - The tougher the ask, the higher the stakes, the more seemingly easy it becomes to chase it down. The team batting second knows the target and also the fact that they can only win if they go slam-bang from the first ball. And apparently this belief is actually carrying them to victory. Examples - KKR chased down 160 in under 15 overs to finish 2nd in the League; Mumbai Indians chased 191 in 14.3 to enter the qualifiers; CSK blitzed 100 in 6 overs in a chase of 227; Rajasthan smashed 65 in 3 overs to win with an over to spare. And it all culminated in the final with KKR chasing down 200.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

The Arrival of the WASP

WASP has come under a great deal of stick since its introduction to our T.V screens. The cricket faithful have taken to twitter to express their discontent. Sky’s commentators have tried their very best to explain the winning and score predictor, to give the gadget its full title, but still people seem to be either against it or confused to what it’s use is. The main argument against the WASP is that it takes the unpredictability out of the game but I think this stance misses the point.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Kiwi Corruption Files

Corruption. IPL.

Ironic that these two are simultaneously headlining the world of cricket today. Oddly enough it's not India nor Pakistan who are at the forefront of the latest scandals to emerge, instead the beacon is shining on the calm and friendly backwaters of New Zealand cricket.  Who would have thought?

How Bad is it?
Whether corruption exists or not is not even a question. It's there, it's been there for a couple of decades at least. It's been there in plain sight in front of administrators, players and audiences alike. Until recently all have chosen to sweep it under the carpet and pretend it's not real. We all stand with our eyes closed and fingers crossed with an elephant in the room, chanting "if I can't see you, you can't see me".

The real question is not if the elephant is there, but instead just how gigantic it is. I'm not even sure I want to know. If it's so bad that the ICC pretend it doesn't happen, the full truth will get ugly.

An example of the ignorance: the famous India-Pakistan World Cup Semi Final. The ICC watched on all smiles as arguably the two most corrupt teams in the sport engaged in a scripted farce.

The Butt-Asif-Amir affair had undeniable evidence, only then was something done about it. What about those hundreds of cases of obvious under-performing and rigging that didn't have concrete evidence?

But How Did New Zealand Get Involved?
Before the IPL kicked off there was this awful thing called the ICL. This 'rebel' league was basically a hunting ground for disgruntled ex-players to make easy undeserved money through staged exhibition games which nobody cared about. Heck even the ICC wanted nothing to do with it, and that says something.

And as far as disgruntled ex-players goes, New Zealand had plenty to offer. We fielded enough players to almost form a special New Zealand ICL Team:

- Astle
- Cairns
- Hamish Marshall (remember him?)
- McMillan
- Harris
- Parore
- Bond
- Andre Adams
- Tuffey

... and in plain sight we have a potential list of corrupt kiwi players. And in fact a pretty solid team, that lot would probably have beaten the real black caps. Notice how almost all of them disappeared completely from the cricket world other than to take on match fixing allegations. The exceptions being Bond and McMillan.

Of that list, three guys have been named as possible riggers of the game. Lets spotlight these:

Lou Vincent

He kicked off his career in fine style by smashing a McGrath-Gillespie-Lee-Warne attack around (in Perth no less). Destined for big things, it instead was a career of licorice all-sorts consisting of handing out towellings as an opener, some wicketkeeping, a patient double hundred against Sri Lanka (he was dropped from tests for good not long later) and finally re-emerging from the IPL as a T20 gun for hire wielding a ridiculous mongoose bat.

Thank god it never took off