Thursday, September 29, 2011

When Harbhajan made it too large

The umpire does a bhangra after hearing the news of Harbhajan's drop from the team
So, Harbhajan Singh is droppable after all. Who knew?
On a day the Indian selectors showed a middle finger to the off spinner, who arrogantly announced himself ready for the England and West Indies series, they also brought in a fresh faced leg spinner whose route to the national team was on the basis of ONE impressive IPL season, and selected three rookie fast bowlers to face a rising English team on flat tracks.
Despite Tendulkar, Yuvraj, Sehwag and Rohit Sharma still nursing their injuries, the batting still retains a solid look. With Parthiv, Rahane, Raina, Kohli, Dhoni and Jadeja all enjoying decent form with the bat, India will not be too bothered about the absentees. It is another matter when it comes to the bowling.
Praveen Kumar is the only comforting pick among the ‘pace’ bowlers. Umesh Yadav has not shown any promise in the brief opportunities he has received and Vinay Kumar is Praveen Kumar without the guile or angry scowls. Hopefully, Varun Aaron and S Aravind get enough chances to impress.
That brings us to the spin department. It was about time Bhajji was dropped. It has been a long time since he was a match winner for the team, with the ball. It is interesting that someone like Harbhajan Singh gets more chances than Rahul Dravid has in ODIs in the last few years. Hopefully, the selectors will not bring him back for the remainder of the series, and he will work on his bowling with trusted and well meaning coaches.
While the selections of Ashwin and Jadeja makes sense, it is unfair that someone like Rahul Sharma gets a place in the team, based on an impressive IPL season. Whether he grabs his chance and shines in his debut series is another matter. It is disappointing for bowlers like Pragyan Ojha and Iqbal Abdullah who do whatever is required of them in domestic cricket and the IPL for the last few seasons now.
Either way, this is the squad for just the first two games; and with Cheeka at the helm, it is hard to predict if they will make any changes to the team after that. Still, by the look of this squad, the selectors are hoping to stumble on to some bowling superstar. For their sake, and for the sake of the team, I hope they do.
Squad: MS Dhoni (capt & wk), Gautam Gambhir, Parthiv Patel, Ajinkya Rahane, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Varun Aaron, Umesh Yadav, Vinay Kumar, S Aravind, Rahul Sharma, Manoj Tiwary, Praveen Kumar.
Benny for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Benny on Twitter @tracerbullet007

Controversially Yours

Disclaimer – This is not a book review. And I have not read the book as yet. And more importantly I have NO intention of reading it either.
Its becoming quite a trend in the cricket world. A cricketer gets his “autobiography” (or rather a “ghost written” account of his life in first person). Now whats the use of writing it if he can’t sell it. To sell it, need to market it. To market it, a little controversy helps. Whats the easiest way to do that. Take potshots at the biggest icons in the biggest cricket market in the world. It could be anyone. Mention SRT claiming that he doesn’t win matches for India or BCCI as a dictator in the cricketing world or IPL having bought the soul of cricket or poor Indian crowd behaviour or whatever comes to their mind. Now this little snippet might be just 1 line buried somewhere in the 235th page of a 600 page biography. But make sure to use selectively leak this to the Indian media, which can be always be trusted to blow up any non-event. There they would be making sure that everyone hears of the “insult” to our “holy”deities. For the cricketer and his publisher “Job Done”.
Pretty formulaic.
But then we have our own Amul find humour in this. Here is their latest billboard.
Nishant Kumar for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Nishant on Twitter @NishantSKumar

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Australia on the Road to Redemption

A comprehensive Argus review, a bunch of talented young batsmen and spin bowlers arriving in bulk. All telling signs of Australia’s burning desire to erase their 2010 season misery. After sinking to an all time low at number five in the ICC Test rankings, the ramifications undertaken by the ‘baggy greens’ seem to come across as a strong warning signal to the top teams.
To see an Australian line up with two specialist spinners is a rare sight, however, Michael Clarke’s men took the liberty of employing a two spin attack in the warm up match against Sri Lanka Board XI at Colombo. The inclusion of Michael Beer and Nathan Lyon, both in the fledging years of their first class careers, came as a pleasant surprise. Not many would have expected Australia to shift from their rather traditional strategy of playing four seamers and one specialist spinner but the change clearly indicates that this team and its management is now thinking differently.
Change is surely the way forward for a team that has slumped in recent times and what is evident is that this Australian team is learning from its mistakes and the criticism it has received. Before the World Cup, and during it, there was enough evidence to suggest that the men from down under were certainly under achieving in the spin department and worse were not trying to change that. Nathan Hauritz would never be accompanied by another specialist spinner, even in conditions conducive to spin. This new breed though seemed to want to make that extra effort by trying out their spin armory before the Test series commences in Sri Lanka. Such efforts have wielded exceptional results in the form of a five wicket haul for debutant Lyon.
Apart from the will to change, a major positive for Australia is the influx of young talent that seems to be gearing up to replace a Michael Hussey or a Ricky Ponting. Clarke and the panel of selectors have a bit of a headache at the moment, that of awarding the number six slot to Usman Khawaja or Shaun Marsh. This though is not the sort of a headache that you would want to do away with by popping an Asprin. In fact a selector longs for such a classic dilemma, simply because it underlines the fact that team is moving towards success and is building a plush reserve. Just to throw in a few numbers Khawaja who already made his Test debut before this tour has scored 2604 first class runs in 36 matches including a highest of 214. Marsh on the other hand has been in the reckoning for a long time but hadn’t got his shot in Tests, despite boasting of 3658 first class runs and an ODI average of 36.58. Khawaja’s form displayed by his knock of 101 in the practice match landed him a spot in the playing XI in the 1st Test. That spot though was quickly taken away by Marsh who grabbed the opportunity with both hands and put in a better performance in the 2nd Test and hence played the 3rd one replacing Khawaja. This surely epitomizes the future of Australian cricket that has a bent towards performance.
Instant results may not show, they never really do especially when a team is in the transition phase. What is evident though is the fact that Australia is certainly thinking long term and is implementing the right methods. The Argus review stresses on greater accountability and the need for channelizing resources towards success in the longest format. Trent Copeland in a way is an example of the success of the Argus review that stresses on performance, after taking a five wicket haul in the practice match and being picked in the Test squad despite not having a Cricket Australia contract. Clearly the Australians are hungry to reclaim the number one Test spot and are ready to patiently chalk out a side that is fit to do just that. It would be safe to say that with the commitment Australians are showing towards Test cricket, redemption is certainly on the cards soon.
Shashreek Roy for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Shashreek on Twitter @shashreek

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Champions League T20 – Redbacks Under Siege

Warriors v South Australia at Hyderabad
Well to make a long story short, after losing the toss and thus bowling first, the Redbacks’ new ball bowling basically gave away all the runs that made the total unchaseable. While the two Dans, Redbacks Player Of The Year Dan Christian and Dr Daniel Harris, bowled wonderfully at max 6/ov and took four of the five wickets, Shaun Tait leaked a shocking 13.25 per over, and opening with the spinners was perhaps not the smartest move (although in the Big Bash it worked at times). I am not blaming Taito for the large Saffa total but he’s had one of his mitchy lowlights today. Hats off to JJ Smuts for his 88 off 65; Saffa greats Mark Boucher and Colin Ingram made the best of their stays at the crease as well.
Having to chase 172 the Redbacks batsmen crumbled in the face of the classy South African bowling attack, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Rusty Theron, Johan Botha, Wayne Parnell, Nicky Boje are all experienced campaigners and past or present fixtures in the South African national side and I must admit that their experience made the difference here. It felt a bit like two different worlds clashing and the side with plenty of internationals in it came out on top.
Generally the competition is a lot tougher this year and due to the qualification round all of the weak teams got eliminated prior to the group stage, unlike last year when there were still a few punching balls around, on whose defeats you could coast to the semis. I guess the Champions League really deserves its name this time.
The Redbacks will now have to look how to plan for the next match, whether to stick with the three-pronged spin crown, or to throw another seamer into the mix. Gary Putland has done a good job for the Redbacks over the last years, and Big Bash final protagonist Kane Richardson is surely keen to get a shot as well. I’m having the feeling that perhaps Ben Edmondson could have added value to the attack… :(
Contributed by Wes
Follow Wes on Twitter @WesPFCNFS

Satya Srinivas – An Interview With The German Wicket-Keeper

Satya Srinivas (c) DCB

This is the most special moment for a cricket writer: an interview with a player of the team you love. Srinivas Satyanarayana aka Satya has been keeping wicket for Germany for three years now and I was absolutely delighted that he agreed to have this little chat with me. Born in India in the city of Calcutta and brought up in Hyderabad he came to Germany as a young bloke, and with a lot of determination and (he will disagree) talent he battled his way into the national side. Get yourself a good cup of tea or coffee and enjoy a look into his fascinating world. The interview was conducted like a chat, hence the casual style, enjoy!
Hey Satya how are you today? Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, is this the first interview you give as a cricketer?
Hey Wes I am good. My pleasure!! Yeah this is definitely my first interview as a cricketer and probably my last as well :)
Oh never say never. Alright, could you perhaps introduce yourself to our readers a bit i.e. you give us a short summary of your cricket career, from your first backfoot defence to your present situation?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Champions League T20 Starts With A Cracker

Champions League T20
Royal Challengers Bangalore v Warriors at Bangalore

The death at the death ^^
What a wonderful opening match, energetic, closely fought, with great performances by both teams, and won by good running off the last ball. You really couldn’t have asked for anything better, except perhaps for an audience more appreciative of good, exciting cricket.
For the third time in a row I find myself tremendously enjoying this tournament, no matter how many Indian teams are taking part in order to improve attendances, TV ratings, or to make an Indian winner more likely.
I think the point of the Champions League lies somewhere else. You still get to see the deserving domestic teams from all bigger cricketing nations, and being able to enjoy the Warriors again, this wonderful organic combination of many of my all-time Saffa faves, captain Johan Botha, the eternal Nicky Boje, the ginger dominator Rusty Theron, the good old Lonwabo Tsotsobe aka Tsobie ((C) PFCNFS), and the legend that is Mark Boucher, as if they had not been away from the screen for one year, felt as pleasant, refreshing and inspiring as in 2010.
I am actually wiping a tear over Botha’s stunning knock and the way Rusty turned up in his second and final spell. Like warm apple pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream: comfy food for the cricket connoisseur. Plus, somebody said Nicky Boje was 38 – I deem this a blatant lie :D
And on top of that, due to the lopsidedness towards the IPL participants, a whole bunch of other favourite players of mine appear in the competition as well. With delight I watched Daniel Vettori putting in a fighting performance with the ball as the captain of “the opposition”, Anil Kumble was jumping around, AB de Villiers played his part, and the Messrs Kohli and Gayle do at least command my respect.
So I will keep enjoying this tournament as in the years before, even the matches in which none of my favoured teams are playing; in fact the CL is one of the highlights of my personal cricket year, and of course it would be nice if the Redbacks or NSW or Somerset or some Saffas made it to the final, but even if not, there’s always a bunch of guys playing for who you can keep your fingers crossed. Thanks for that, Lalit.
Contributed by Wes
Follow Wes on Twitter @WesPFCNFS

Friday, September 23, 2011

RIP Tiger Pataudi

Like all Indian cricket fans of my generation, I have never seen MAK in action. All that we have are old newspaper clippings, stories passed on to us by grandfathers and fathers and raving eulogies by his contemporaries.
So, I’m not in the best position to comment on his contributions to Indian cricket; but the common thread which runs through most of the eulogies is the fact that he was the first Indian captain who made the team and an entire nation believe that they can win and not just be satisfied with honorable draws.
A timely reminder to the present Indian team, a month after losing the Pataudi Trophy.
Rest in peace, Tiger.
Benny for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Benny on Twitter @tracerbullet007

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Danny Briggs: No Spin Required

Hype can get a little boring, but after a disappointing season for Hampshire which saw them relegated from division 1 in the LV= County Championship as well as being dethroned as T20 champions by Leicestershire, Royals fans will take anything they can get!
Hants spinner Danny Briggs, 20, is the real deal though; no hyperbole required here. In the 2011 season, Briggs became the second youngest bowler after Derek Underwood to claim 100 first class wickets in County Cricket history, and this week he has joined up with England’s senior squad for the first time after his inclusion in the squad for the T20 series against the West Indies.
Born on 30th April 1991 on the Isle of Wight, Briggs made his debut for Hampshire’s first team in 2009 at the age of just 18. Breaking into the one-day side first, he later claimed the prized scalp of Somerset’s Marcus Trescothic in his County Championship debut.
After a successful first season for Hampshire Briggs was called up to England’s Under 19 squad for the tour of Bangladesh in October 2009, before travelling to New Zealand in January 2010 for the Under 19’s World Cup. Briggs excelled on both tours, returning from Bangladesh as leading wicket taker with 8 scalps from 7 One Day Internationals and was man of the match against Afghanistan at the World Cup, claiming 3 for 11 runs en route to the quarter finals in New Zealand.
Now firmly on the ECB’s radar Briggs returned to Hampshire for the 2010 season taking 34 wickets in all competitions and was his sides leading wicket taker in the shortest form of the game as Hampshire lifted the Friends Life T20 trophy in front of a home crowd at the Rosebowl.
Briggs was then named in the England Performance Squad to tour Australia at the end of 2010, shadowing the senior squad on the Ashes tour. “I want to break into the Lions squad and the EPS (England Performance Squad) will help me do that,” Briggs said of his inclusion in the squad. “This trip (to Australia) is about showing the coaches what I can do and improving my game. I’ve had a great year for Hampshire and it gives me a lot of confidence. There are some solid cricketers out there and it will be good to pick their brains in training and see what they do to get them to such a high standard.”
The Performance Squad went on to win both their matches Down Under with Briggs again excelling, taking 4-9 against Queensland XI. ECB Director David Parsons praised Briggs’ performances in Australia, saying “It re-enforces his reputation as a young player of clear potential.”
A successful spell in Australia resulted in a call up to the England Lions squad for the first time to tour the Caribbean in January 2011. The Lions took part in the West Indies Cricket Board regional 4 day championships and again Briggs impressed, taking 15 wickets in 5 matches at an average of 24.
James Hildreth, Lions Captain for the Caribbean tour was full of praise for Briggs, saying “Every time I put Briggsy on to bowl he seems to get wickets, and he’s really good at keeping it tight. He knows his game really well. He’s obviously flourished in the 20 over format, but watching him bowl in four day cricket over in Australia and now out here in the West Indies, he’s been doing really well.”
Hildreth continued “He works hard in the nets and he’s one of those bowlers who has quite a simple philosophy really – he doesn’t try and vary it too much. He’s got subtle changes in pace and spin and that works. He gets a lot of people trapped at the crease LBW and bowled and he knows what fields he wants.”
Back home, the 2011 season may not have gone to plan for Hampshire, but Briggs’ form has remained constant, something that has not gone unnoticed. Briggs’ Hampshire team mate Nic Pothas is one that sees the potential in the young spinner. Speaking in his Southampton Daily Echo column recently he said; “Briggsy is very young for a spinner but is maturing very quickly. He has been outstanding for us in the Friends Provident T20. He has the X-factor that most good spinners have in being able to read what a batsman is going to do next. If Danny Briggs reminds me of anyone, it is New Zealand star Daniel Vettori.”
“We’ve always said he is like a left arm version of Shaun Udal, but he is also very quiet and Vettori-like.”
After successful spells with England’s Under 19s, EPS and Lions teams in the past 12 months, the next step for Briggs was always going to be the full England squad, however the speed at which Briggs has made that step up – he is still only 20 after all – has been quite phenomenal.
He has the potential to be a top spinner for England and he will only develop by training with the senior England players, guided as he will for this two match series by the best English spinner of his generation, Graeme Swann.
Briggs knows that he has to keep doing the simple things well to continue his remarkable ascendancy up England’s ranks. “A good ball is a good ball to any player. If I can just carry on and keep it simple, the better I can be.” Hampshire and England will certainly hope the man from the Isle of Wight continues to do just that.
Tom Huelin for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Tom on Twitter @tomhue1

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Do we have a Perspective ? In defense of Team India!

Since 2004:
One T20 World Cup Win, Test Series wins in West Indies [twice], Pakistan, England and New Zealand. Not lost a test series between 2008 and 2011 August. Drew level in South Africa and Sri Lanka. And finally an ODI World Cup win just 5 months ago !
Then they lost in England with practically two third of their best team not playing.
Since 2004:
UPA Government has doubled Petrol prices from Rs. 35 to Rs. 70. [Whopping Rs. 14 hike in last 12 months]. The scams have grown larger and larger. The bombs blasts and terror attack continue unabated. Not a single concrete action taken against enemies of the nation. This they have done as the United Prostrating Alliance of Sonia !
We didn’t elect or select Team India, they selected themselves with performances over the years.
We elected UPA, with the hope of better performance. The choice was not based on promises and not performance.
Team India had one, just one bad tour since the 2003 tour of New Zealand.
Team UPA has plundered the nation and moved on from one blunder to another blunder since 2004.
Now the visual and print media, experts and everyone is out with hacksaws to tear apart Team India !
Is a Cricket series loss a larger calamity than all those lives lost in terror attacks ?
Is a white-washed 4-0 Test Series worse than all those black-washed Crores in Swiss Banks by our swindlers ?
Do we have a perspective ?
Govind Raj Shenoy for DieHard Cricket Fans

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

End of Term

Sixth Place None The Richer
Promotion to Division One? A first County Championship title since 1934? No… the ultimate accolade won on the last day of the 2011 season went to Glamorgan, defeating Kent in the Canterbury twilight with a pink ball. There are no trophies, but the honour of finishing sixth in Division Two. You can’t buy that kinda glory…
It concluded a disappointing campaign on a high note, that much is true. Gareth Griffiths has already provided a very astute post mortem for Wales on Sunday – the link can be found here. And naturally, the first thought that springs to mind is whether the winter upheaval was worth the public fall-out.
Glamorgan finish the season and start the pre-season break, effectively, with just one of the senior personnel still in his original role – chief executive Alan Hamer. Captain, coach, president and chairman have all altered in the past year, with the latter arguably being the odd one out and not related to the others.
Congratulations to Middlesex CCC
For two successive seasons, Glamorgan narrowly missed out on promotion to the first division of the LV County Championship. Any ambition of “third time lucky” was unceremoniously neutered more than a month before the last day. It was the ungratifying price to pay for the changes designed to improve the Dragons’ limited overs form.
There was a little encouragement in the CB40, with an increase in the number of games won. But only slightly, with a defeat to the Unicorns and another unhappy showing in the Friends Life T20 making you ask if Glamorgan had only served to throw the baby out with the bathwater as the club’s landscape changed last year?
Where did it go wrong?
Before the season, I was concerned there wouldn’t be enough quality with the bat and that runs would not be easily acquired – due mainly to Mark Cosgrove being ousted as overseas player. However, I was much more confident about the ability of the bowlers to take 20 wickets in a four-day context.
Well, the final table makes me look a bit of a chump there. Glamorgan scored the third highest tally of batting points (44, behind Northants and Middlesex), while only bottom side Leicestershire scored less bowling points. I’m not sure that I’m altogether in the wrong though…
Hover Bowling. Not such a success
Glamorgan’s bowling attack was beset by injuries throughout the campaign. Not just front-line bowlers like James Harris and Graham Wagg (particularly early in the season), but able deputies such as Jim Allenby. And not forgetting that Adam Shantry and David Harrison both called time on their careers in 2011.
Dean Cosker fell one wicket short of 50 for the season, but times must have been tough if Gareth Rees was seen to open the bowling during the Friends Life T20.
With the bat, three scored more than 1,000 runs: skipper Alviro Petersen, young ‘un William Bragg and captain-elect Mark Wallace. Stewart Walters was the only to average more than 50, but he featured in half the number of innings than each of the three to pass 1,000. Gareth Rees was next nearest to 1,000 with 954 runs.
Statistically, the batting in County Championship games was fairly good, but the totals scored in limited overs games wasn’t quite enough on many occasions. The result would be, aside from a defeat, the wonder of what might had been if 10/20 more had been scored. (See also: Hampshire away, Friends Life T20)
Anyway, we’re seven months away from the start of the 2012 season and it’s time in which Matthew Mott can firmly shape the team in his image – you might call it an improvement on the limited time he had before the 2011 season. And already there have been announcements regarding personnel.
Marcus North comes in on a two-year deal, while a number of players have been retained. Nick James and Stewart Walters are two that can surely count on more game time next season after impressing in the opportunities that came their way – particularly during the latter stages of the 2011 campaign.
Simon Jones has been touted for a return, with his loan spell earlier this summer showing that the paceman still had much to offer the Dragons. Particularly when you consider how experience can rub off on the new generation of seamers. Mark Cosgrove’s return for the T20s wouldn’t go amiss either.
Walking out to bat...
He’d be playing for a newly-branded team, however, with Glamorgan Dragons to make way for the Welsh Dragons. Cricketing gods reacted to this change of name by requiring the Dragons to beat 2011?s CB40 champions, runners-up and one of the two other semi-finalists to qualify from the group stage of next year’s event.
Not that I probably have much cause for complaint. I’m not Welsh – those of you who are might like the change. But if we’re talking name changes, why not chase some insurance sponsorship and change the four-day name to Gla-morethan? I jest, of course… and a rose by another name still smells like a daffodil, right?
I mean, I still call it Sophia Gardens… (who doesn’t?)
Pete Hayman for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Pete on Twitter @petehayman

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Post England Tour Post

‘Twas the summer of 2011. Test No. 1 and ODI World Champions India went on a tour of England, a team which had just smashed the Aussies 3-1 in an away Ashes and had been fast becoming the most entertaining ODI team in the world. There were reams of newsprint, millions of blog posts (including quite a few by yours truly) written on the prospect of the contest which was set to unfold over the summer.
Alas the result turned out to be totally something else. Here is a short summary of the results.
  • England win the 4 Test series 4-0.
  • England win the one-off T20.
  • England win the 5 ODI series 3-0 with one game abandoned and other tied on Duckworth -Lewis scores.
And there, I have been through the painful part. Whatever happened to our champion team and Dhoni’s legendary luck? In the 2 decades of my cricket watching/following career there have been a few debacles, Australian tour of 1991-92 followed by the 1992 World Cup, South African Tour in 1996-97, Australia in 1999-2000. But at no time have we returned winless in international matches (Here we did beat Kent, Surrey & Leicestershire). Here is my attempt to analyse the disaster that the tour was. So here goes  the final post of this tour.
  • England were much better than India. Period. They out-batted, out-bowled and out-fielded us. When I had done the preview for the Pataudi Trophy, I had not given too much weightage to one essential bit that the games were being played in England. Also the English unit performed like a machine, the batsman got runs, a few “daddy hundreds” were scored, the bowlers took wickets. Replacements were readily available and fitted in seamlessly. And if the team somehow found itself in trouble, there was always someone to bail them out whether it was Broad in 2nd Test at Trent Bridge or the debutante John Bairstow in Cardiff.
  • Zaheer Khan hamstrung at Lords. That was the single biggest factor contributing to this result. During the World Cup, he had remarked that “as a bowling unit I think I am doing well”. Might have been a slip of tongue but he couldn’t have put it any better. Given the current Indian bowling context, he is irreplaceable. Lots of talk takes place on who replaces our batting stalwarts, but that would be a simpler task as compared to replacing Zaheer.
  • Injuries. Lots of injuries. Pujara, Sehwag, Gambhir, Zaheer, Yuvraj, Harbhajan, Ishant, Sachin, Rohit, Praveen, Munaf, Nehra. All injured at some point or the other. Not a match passed without one or two injuries in the team. Its not that the Indians were the only ones who got injured, the English team also had a few but they had far better and ready replacements. And ours had the more impact. Entire bowling lineup decimated by injuries, half the batting lineup, even the replacements getting injured. Some were accidental on-field injuries like Gambhir (twice!!), Yuvraj, Rohit Sharma etc, some could only be due to poor “injury management”, Zaheer, Sehwag, Tendulkar. The tour began with Zaheer limping off hamstrung on the opening day of the Lords Test and ended with Munaf beingcarried away in Cardiff.
  • Poor scheduling. One 3-day game to acclimatise before the Test series. 3 side games before the ODIs. I do not understand who came up with this great schedule. My suggestion always have the ODI part before the Test series, gives more time to acclimatise. And there was a 4-day gap between the 4th & 5th ODIs for some unknown reason. We managed to get Praveen Kumar injured in this period.
  • Some plain bad luck. This was true in the One-dayers. Dhoni loses all 5 tosses to start with. And there was rain to interfere in case we somehow get into a, lets not say winning, but an advantageous position.
Now the analysis over. Now for the positives from the tour. It might be shocking to discover that there were a few bright spots (albeit on an individual basis) on this dismal tour. But can’t be getting all negative here.
  • Indian cricket and its fans learnt to appreciate Rahul “The Wall” Dravid again (I think I made him sound like a WWE entertainer here :P ). 3 centuries in losing causes in the Tests. Was forced to open the batting, where he carried his bat through the innings. Fell afoul of the DRS (henceforth to be known as the Dravid Removal System). Out of the blue was also picked up for the ODI leg of the tour. Shocked, he announced his retirement, but signed off in style. A hattrick of sixes in his T20 debut-cum-farewell and a typical hardworking and understated 69 in the 5th ODI at Cardiff. For a long time fan, it was great to see the Legend getting his due. And now the BCCI has named him in an enquiry committee to find out what went wrong in the tour. Now thats going to be an interesting report.
  • Praveen Kumar was the other hero for India. No one considered him test material. But a couple of tests down the line, PK was leading the bowling attack, and doing a good job of it. There was an entertaining cameo as well.
  • Suresh Raina in the white shirt looked lost. A 42 ball pair at the Oval was the low point. Suresh Raina in the blue shirt was awesome. How can the same person become so different just by changing the format of the game. Also one player who is seen in the game throughout the play.
  • Ajinkya Rahane with an awesome First Class average made his India debut in an T20 game. And performed quite well there as well as in the ODIs. Won’t be commenting too much as the chances might be few given our batting resources.
  • Parthiv Patel swivelling around to take care of the short ball provided a welcome relief in the ODIs after Raina’s test struggles.
In short, England were much better than us and they got a little help for our bad luck. But that was thoroughly deserved. The injuries, rains, DRS contoversies, Ian Bell’s run-out and Anna Hazare combined to ensure that the Indian team did not get a roasting that it could have got from our media.
P.S. After writing out the post remembered that Sachin Tendulkar did not get to his hyped up landmark of  100 international 100s. Mind you, even getting to 99 is beyond anyone could have imagined though.
P.P.S Dear Team India, I know it was a very tough tour. And you were not able to perform to our expectations. But don’t worry, I will be there to follow and support you when you play next. Lets hammer the English at home.
Nishant Kumar for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Nishant on Twitter @NishantSKumar

Sunday, September 18, 2011

How Selecting Pragyan Ojha Will Save Cricket

One of the great moans of the summer, not just uttered by me, but by a lot of Indian fans as well, was how Ojha continuously managed to fly under the radar of the selectors. By now he has brought this art to perfection, spectacularly bowling his county side Surrey CCC back to Division One by taking 24 wickets at 12.96 in the four must-win Championship matches for which he was signed when Surrey’s promotion looked in danger (please scroll down for the match list), but I dare doubt once more that the gospel has reached Indian shores.
Surrey cricket manager Chris Adams joins the chorus:
“It’s not for me to comment on India’s selections but I’m amazed he’s not playing Test cricket,” Adams said. “I strongly believe he will play 100 Tests for India, from what I’ve seen. I may be hitting high, but he’s a wonderful bowler with wonderful skills. I expect him in the next six months to break into the India team and be a permanent fixture.”
Which takes us to my obvious yet probably initially incomprehensible wish for a strong Indian Test side. Wait, what? Yup. Let me explain it to you.
Why it is in everybody’s interest that India take a leading position in the longer formats:
In Germany we have a saying: “Viel Feind, viel Ehr’!” (‘many foes, much honour’); whenever in my short career as a cricket fan Australia managed to beat India, it was a great reason to celebrate, a triumph eliciting joy and happiness. Compare this to the hollow dissatisfaction felt by most of the hopeful curious onlookers during India’s English summer, and you will know what I mean.
Secondly, India is undoubtedly the largest cricket market in the world. If India are doing well at Test cricket and ODIs, the market will stay interested in the Indian Test and One Day side, and thus Test cricket and ODIs will keep enjoying a somewhat high priority not just within the ICC but in general; a necessary counterweight to the dominance of T20, which is sprawling rapidly throughout all levels of national, international and regional cricket and taking possession of the virgin, susceptible minds of young players. No, I have not given up the hope yet that somehow we can get our European 50-over league back, fool that I am :)
Thirdly, happy Indian cricket fans are friendly Indian cricket fans. It is very good for everybody’s nerves.
Of course you might argue that deflated Indian cricket fans are silent Indian cricket fans, which is even better… 
I think that’s a matter of personal preference; as a hippie I would pick the jolly ones over the suiciders.
Therefore, select Ojha.
Quod erat demonstrandum ;)
Pragyan Ojha’s Championship matches for Surrey in 2011:
2/19, 2/29 v Leicestershire
1/40, 6/8 v Northampstonshire
1/83, 2/42 v Essex
4/48, 6/42 v Derbyshire
Contributed by Wes
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Friday, September 16, 2011

The Wall That Stood Tall – A tribute to Rahul Dravid

It was one of those days that have become all too common on this tour — intriguing, confounding, depressing all rolled in one. Before play began on the second morning of the friendly match against Northants came the news that Rahul Dravid had been reinstated in the one-day squad which play England after the Test. Why would a World Cup-winning team want to turn the clock back almost two years was the buzz in the morning. It goes without saying that Dravid’s inclusion is not bereft of good reason. On this tour yet, Dravid has looked the most secure batsman in the team. English conditions are also unlikely to allow flat track strikers to thrive, and a player who can hold the innings together is vital and who better than Dravid for that job. Today at Cardiff, Rahul Dravid will play his last one day international; one last time in blue jersey.
A man who first stepped into international cricket when unorthodoxy was at its peak with pinch-hitters scoring runs defying the standard shots of cricket; Dravid has been truly head and shoulders above everyone when it comes to technique and style. Every time India has been staring down the barrel, Dravid has stood out like a lotus in the muck or a solitaire among the brick bats. Undoubtedly, Dravid has been one of the main pillars of the Indian batting line up with his blend of right technique and stylish shots. April 3, 1996, India was up against Sri Lanka in Singapore and it was the second match of the ‘Singer cup’. With the opposition in driver’s seat and the scoreboard reading 58/2, Dravid made his way out to the middle with a willow in hand to try and manoeuvre the team’s ship out of choppy waters which years later was going to be bread and butter stuff for him. His debut innings wasn’t anything of note, falling to Muralitharan for a single digit score and it’s fair to say his first couple of years in ODI’s weren’t anything to write about. It was only after that epic partnership with Sourav Ganguly in the world cup match against Sri Lanka at Taunton that he made his mark in ODI arena.
Initially seen as a liability in the one-day arena, he retooled his game over the years to become an adept middle-order finisher. Yes, the swashbuckling strokes which are so synonymous with the shorter version of the game didn’t come to him naturally but he certainly had all the makings of a solid middle order batsman who could hold the innings together with utter ease. For a player whose affluent essay came out of perfection, temperament and technique, Rahul Dravid has been India’s go-to man in pressure situations and till date he has served the team’s cause with whole hearted devotion. He has been undoubtedly the best that India has ever produced–in terms of technique, skills, grit and above all dependability. The skills are as solid as they were 15 years ago, the style seems to have got better and better with each passing year but one thing never seems to change and that is his grit and concentration–Those have been rock solid as ever.
In a nation like ours which is so obsessed with the game of cricket, where cricketers are demi-gods and everyday a new controversy pops up, Dravid’s sheer down to earth nature and humble attitude has helped him stay away from controversies in-spite of so much media scrutiny. Rahul Dravid started off as a shaky batsman with an apt technique, then came a phase wherein he became the sheet anchor and others played around him scoring runs freely and now with the advent of t20, Dravid seems to have moulded himself into a new avatar–a player who now keeps pace with the innings, who not only smacks the bowlers out of the park (pretty unlike the real Dravid) but also possesses an attitude that would make him reach the skies. Dravid’s greatness however is not limited to the number of runs he scores on the field. We certainly need to let that number roll off our tongues a bit more often because it is a colossal figure. His greatness is a potpourri of character, hard work and a genuinely good heart. Talent and character join hands to make consummate greatness-Dravid is a glittering example of that. A deeper scrutiny of his character shows his commitment towards Indian cricket–A selfless soul who always has been a team-man and whose personal records have been overshadowed by team heroics.
When Dravid retires today, the country will lose the greatest no 3 batsman it ever had, fans will be robbed of the privilege of watching this artist at work, media will mourn that he never got his due but most importantly, his departure will take away with itself a bit of gentle-manliness that the game tries to still portray as its inseparable element. He is a legend no matter what critics say–He has been the man responsible for taking India to new heights of success. Pressure can make a batsman crumble or can make him doughty and more confident. Dravid has time and again shown us that he enjoys such challenges. Demanding situations have seen him rise to the occasion and perform even better. He is known as the WALL for reasons which are pretty much self-evident.
So for one last time, let us enjoy seeing those toes which rise sweetly in sync with the pace of the approaching ball, standing tall and majestic and in control before disdainfully whacking the ball through the backward point. Let us enjoy how he bats and bats and bats and saves the team from a moment of crisis. Let’s get awed by his mastery over something we will always run away from–STRUGGLE. He indeed is a true-blue hero.
Hats off Dravid!!
Avi for DieHard Cricket Fans
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