Thursday, December 17, 2009

Have test match pitches flattened out for real?

I could not bear to watch the Rajkot ODI between India and Sri Lanka the other day. We basically removed one element of the game (bowling, if that was not obvious) and were much poorer for it.

Which has gotten me thinking about the current thinking related to pitches. Test match pitches in particular. Have test match pitches really flattened out?

I hope our good friend - The Sleeping Ninja - can provide us with stats about winning and losing ratios etc. here, but my focus is slightly different. How does one really pass judgment on a "flat pitch"? If one team plays on it and scores 700+ runs and proceeds to win by an innings, is the pitch really flat? Is the pitch flat when both teams rack-up 600+ runs in the first innings and the match peters to a draw? And, most interestingly for me, how are the pitches in Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa judged on the "flatness quotient"?

The last question set me thinking. Is the pitch "lively" so long as batsmen from the subcontinent fail to amass runs on them, and are regularly nicked out / bounced out by the home bowlers? Is the pitch flat if subcontinental batsmen fare well on these pitches? I have heard arguments that Sehwag (amongst some other modern destructive batsmen) would not be as much of a success on pitches of the 90's. Really? Let me see - I remember him scoring runs on some pretty lively surfaces (his debut 100, the one at Trent Bridge opening the innings, the 195 he smacked at the MCG, plus his astonishing 200 playing Mendis and Murali in Sri Lanka when no one else in the team managed to score 75). Would all these pitches be termed flat simply because a subcontinental batsman (who does not play to please technical purists) was successful on them? Ganguly once scored a match saving 144 on a second day Brisbane wicket, where most touring teams generally get routed well within the 5 days complaining about being undercooked for combating the bounce and movement. Was that pitch flat as well, because Ganguly was not "supposed" to play fast bowling well?

I am beginning to think that the general decline in the quality of bowling may have more to do with the complaints about pitches being flat. Since when were subcontinental pitches a hindrance to Marshall, Akram, Donald and McGrath?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The consistent Viewer

Nothing peculiar about this one, about the last test played India V Sri Lanka, Team India outplayed in the test for a large amount of time ie: days / sessions whichever way you look at it issues ,agreed & accepted.
Moving on as an Indian its important that atleast I do and look ahead, what I got from this match as a spectator
a) We won the toss batted ,
b)Almost lost the game in the first hour /saved it when we shouldn't have
c)Extremely good defensive batting while staging a comeback in the game by Dravid ,Yuvraj and Dhoni
d)Played out five sessions to draw the game (we certainly would have lost it 10 years ago)
e) At the end of the game Sangakara was annoyed and we had the usual cheerful captain,
These observation might not sound like the usual positive & optimistic Indian spectator, but that's just me.
Regards to all

Monday, November 2, 2009

The purpose of commentary

I don't seem to understand it at all. Isn't it supposed to inform, entertain, provide expertise, and show insider knowledge?

Well, if Shastri keeps using the same stock phrases, and Mr. Gavaskar seems bored most of the time, Bhogle speaks first and regrets later, Yardley keeps talking of "bowling in the right areas", and Nicholas only fawns up- I could go on here- but I just think they should all shut up. And rethink how commentary should be in today's viewing age.

Cricket viewers have, I believe, become most sophisticated in recent years- and I don't think having experts mouthing well -parotted phrases helps anymore. I know Benaud has his critics, but one thing that he did say was to add value to the screen or shut up.

We may perhaps need a complete rehaul- I have a few suggestions but I'd like to hear from you guys first on how commentary can be improved. Any takers?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The 'Champions' trophy

Guys ,sorry for the absence, but I did not have anything to write about or for that matter nothing happened. On to the recently concluded "Champions trophy " which went by a very predictable script.The two/three high profile teams namely India ,Sri Lanka and the perpetual chokers South Africa came and went without a whimper.The surprise was England, always a team which has players who have played more cricket(all formats) than any other team , but never win the knockout games having played three world cup finals in 79,87 and 92 lost all three, to be fair to them they do provide a certain flavour.Sri Lanka ,never a deserving 2ND or 3rd team* started with a fantastic win over South Africa and then lost steam, South Africa, tried to gain momentum couldn't and India never began anything disappointing to say the least.West Indies are fun to watch whether they have the players or just play plain athletes they all look and play the same way ,they couldn't care less.New Zealand as usual a good and competitive one day side at best consistent.Pakistan ,well are Pakistan full value for money bowling and batting was awesome.
The least talked about team came and without a lot of fuss won the damned thing,the reigning 'Champions' of world cricket literally no media ,no talk , high calibre cricket = victory
This was always the 'Champions' Trophy(pun very much intended).

* Read the one on ratings

Monday, September 14, 2009

How can they?

Compare Sachin to Ricky at all, was my feeling as we won yesterday's match with his special effort. Forget statistically. Gazillions of international centuries more than Ponting. With hundred times the pressure from Indian fans. And facing first names like Shane, Glenn, Craig, Brett, Jason, etc- something Ricky as been singularly lucky with. No offence Ricky, you are a nice player, but I'd like to have seen you face your team mates and come up on top like my man did. Sorry for sounding like a rabid supporter- but I am one, and shut this blogpost away if you dont like what you are reading.
You know what- they used to call Ricky "Sachin" at his training camp in Australia- because he had potential. I'd like to end at this note.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The 'Phantoms' of world cricket

The recently concluded 'Ashes' series was as poor as the ratings of the two teams involved,a contest between a 3rd now 4Th rated team ( and it lost) and a one bordering on the 6Th and was on 7Th before it began. Ashes to ashes ,the series was a bust but enough said of the Ashes,its the ratings that are real sad reflection of the true picture.I ,for one am at a loss how South Africa ,who was beaten by Australia last time round are no.1 ,Sri lanka who have lost the last series to India are no.2 and India besides beating Australia ,England And New Zealand are no.3 .
These are the official rankings of the best team in the world or the order in which they should be rated ,here's is one question that remains to unanswered over the last decade, Australia was the dominant team and out of the 7 /seven series played between Australia and India it stays tied at 3 each with one drawn, in this event India should have been really close to being no.1 if not no.1 at least no.2 but how many remember India being no.2 and at the moment India is at no.3 with the 'nakli' teams South Africa and Sri Lanka at no.1 and no.2 .The 'phantoms' of world cricket

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Monsoon Blues

The Ashes are over and I'm not getting my cricket fix anymore. I dont care what anyone says, but I dont think SL vs. NZ in SL is remotely interesting.

Which is why I'm happy that the competition is opening up, SA is number one, Aussies number 4, etc. Its all good on the western (eastern and northern) but not southern front, haha.

I do think that the interest in IPL needs to be tempered with test cricket- Wasim Akram trying out for a coach's position for KKR becomes big news. Perhaps it is the off season, after all.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Aussie freefall?

Just how important were Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne to the Australian dominance of cricket over the last decade or so?
We are probably finding out just now. When Ricky Ponting picks Siddle, Hilfenhaus, Johnson and Clarke you immediately get the feeling that on a decent batting track his side would struggle to bowl out a good club side. This was apparent on a track that was deemed to be an "unfit dustbowl" when the Aussies batted at the Oval; but turned super nice for batting once the Poms had their turn. What would McGrath and Warne have made of bowling on the same track? Your guess is probably the same as mine.
The way I see things, England did not beat the No.1 test team in the world. They beat a middling team, as is now reflected in the ICC rankings. Beating the No.4 team at home was not that great a deal for the Poms; their real test awaits in South Africa later this year.
The one thing that really irritates me is how Sri Lanka managed to get to No.2 in the rankings? I mean, besides winning on sticky dusty tracks on home grounds, what else have they managed? That side is hardly a side that should be counted as the main threat to South Africa and India, but how does one work that out in the ICC rankings?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Team selection.. always tricky. People rarely remember the good selections and almost always blow-up the mistakes the 'men who matter' make.
Given this context, the selection of Rahul Dravid for the tri-series in Sri Lanks and the Champions Trophy is more than interesting. Is it a retrograde step, one that we think will undo all the plans the selectors put in place over the last 2 years? Or is it a masterstroke, intended to bridge obvious flaws in the Indian batting capabilities?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Big Game? Yes. Good Game? Who knows...

Well- it is going to the wire for the Ashes this time round. So many factors that may decide who will end up being the winner. The Flintoff question mark, the absence of Pietersen, whether Lee will play, will the Oval turn, and which team will be "more mediocre".

Yeah, you heard that right- this series just hasnt compared to the last one in England, primarily because the standard of cricket between these two teams isn't really as good as it was. Consequently, the team that has played "less bad" has prevailed. Even if it is a big climax, and a tightrope on paper, the action has rarely been electric.

My prediction? Dull draw, with the Aussies retaining the ashes in a bore. Unless the guy playing his last one does something different...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The 'Pampered'

How many times have we heard the popular statements 'these cricketers get so much money' or 'they just don't deserve the amount of attention' ,'they just want money,and doesn't matter how' .The cricketers also indulge in other 'outrageous' activities like buying expensive and premium range objects like the odd Ferrari or more recently the 'Hummer' or some approach the government for pieces of land for houses or coaching centres .Some of these cricketers also act in movies and get paid for that too......pampered all right.I for one can't explain why this happens,why he attracts these extreme reactions adulation and down right Butt kicking all i can say is that they are phenomenons and nothing short of that,how? Firstly the break through from sheer number of players probably hundreds of thousands playing for clubs ,districts states and the zones and then to be a part of the elite XI...phenomenon, not to forget the journey of becoming this phenomenon is countless hours of sweaty practice and training sessions and the emotional roller coaster : anxiety before every selection ,dejection or exhultation after it, do they deserve it then?
I have never heard anyone complain about a film actor doing too many commercials ,adding to his bank balance or buying an expensive car , but the player who has the Ferrari is expected to go out face the fastest ,best bowlers in the world and win us everything that he plays in,a very blatant case of double standards but who cares.
So who's the 'Pampered' ?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Hamare Zamane Mein

Aisa nahi tha! Seriously, I dont understand how Wasim Akram could call today's bowler's lazy, or lacking ambition (read it in the Indian Express this morn). While I respect his point of view on most things, as a detached observer, I do feel that things may be totally different now than what they were a decade or so back. 20/20. IPL. Money before country. Coaches galore. Media scrutiny. Match after Match.

I dont know if things have remained the same anymore for fitness levels- and I mean mind as well- take Trescothik's plight for example. What would you have done, Wasim Bhai, if you faced these temptations and hurdles? Would you still go to the nets and practise hard- what you recommend- or would you rest your weary body and mind?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Having a ball

So the BCCI is thinking about replacing the SG Test balls with another brand in all forms of domestic cricket. What I have not understood thus far is why does India actually use the SG at all?
Bowlers say that it as a more pronounced seam, which helps create early reverse swing and spin / bounce on lifeless tracks. That's why they want to continue with SG. I say that it's time we start using the Kookaburra balls on a regular basis. This will force bowlers either to develop the ability to bowl fast (as opposed to the countless trundlers we seem to have presently e.g. Praveen Kumar, Irfan Pathan) or start to really spin the ball (as opposed to lob it up as does Amit Mishra).

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The 'Ban'

Guys , this might ruffle a few feathers, but I for one, sincerely feel that we need to ban the 'match referee' if anyone at all, reason : We are watching a very natural game played in an unnatural way.
I have this memory of watching a certain Dennis Lillee charging in to bowl the first ball of a test match to a another certain Roy Fredricks , wearing the 'Maroon' baggy on a hard Waca/Gabba/Sabina park wicket ,He lets go a quick mid pitcher, Fredricks hooks over long leg for six ............Lillee almost kissing distance to Fredricks ,frothing in the mouth letting go mouthfuls a plenty and Fredricks not valuing his life at all giving him the 'two finger salute'such similar 'friendly gestures' all this after the first ball of a test match is on. Consider the slippers then Ian and Greg Chappell, Doug Walters and of course the keeper Rodney Marsh not the quietest lot ever,have you started expecting the drama to follow,the trend thats being set here, just the excitement of a heated battle between two very talented,proud and competitive sides. The thing i do not like to do is compare eras,but if you compare today's proceedings an equally quick bowler lets it rip,a batsman cuts or pulls for a boundary and the fast bowler smiles even occasionally taps him on the back or shoulder ,give me a break guys and these magnificent players too, just let them be.
I, as a spectator watch the game because of the massive entertainment factor is provides via talent and temperament of the players and Iwould not want to subdue it one bit.I do not believe in the old cliche that its just a game ,no one would tear a intercostal(abdominal) muscle were it 'just a game'.
This is entertainment and so it should be,a no holds barred contest, a complete freedom to win.
Then, in more ways than one ,we have a 'WINNER'.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Jump test

Do you think Shane Warne's right when he derides the modern cricketer and coach and their training methods? He says that if it wasnt for Jump tests, hell, he'll still play test cricket.

He must have been non- serious when he said this, but the point is worth considering. Or would journeymen cricketers be better off with the amount of training that they do unlike an obvious talent like Warne?

And then there are some salty olds like Boycott and Chappell who swear that all a bowler primarily needs to do to be match fit is to bowl a lot of overs instead of hitting the gym.

And these guys were batsmen. Everyone's talking for everyone else here!

Acceptable sledging.... there even such a concept? How do cricket teams and officials actually determine what is acceptable vs. what is not?
E.g. is calling someone a monkey (as was allegedly done by Harbhajan Singh to Andrew Symonds) racism and hence unacceptable? Is questioning some cricketer's wifes' / sisters' promiscuity acceptable just because it is part of some country's players aggressive upbringing?
Who draws the line in such circumstances? Are they umpires? Players who run to officials? Or the match referee? And who constitutes what is acceptable over what is not?

The way a leader is taught

I , Have had the opportunity to captain /lead many a team in various formats and levels.
The experience I would like to share here is of leading a side which includes my friends,contemporaries and well wishers, but the description goes on as these people are also directors ,officers,clerks and workmen in their own professional lives. The Team , then has a very interesting twist and cocktail of personalities for e.g here is a guy who works on the shop floor of a engine making multinational sharing the pitch with a director of a software company,now the challenge for me is to keep them pursuing the same goal or we have a rudderless ship . The difference gets more evident as we field , here i want you to visualize the picture its usually sunny and hot so thats a factor we have to bear in mind,the shop floor guy is the wicket keeper and the director is say at third man or fine leg and I am the opening bowler so here is what i hear after i bowled the first ball ,WK: Ranjya , lai bhari ball ,tu ani me khelu ya bas (this is a response to a ball which pitched close to the stumps and swung away ,beating the batsman and ended in the keepers gloves ) this also is an encouragement for the bowler,on the other hand the Fine leg says remember Hadlee(in this case Richard or so i feel), I take this also as an compliment but he also means that,for the next ball I should plan and execute as Hadlee did......huh!!!!
The LESSON here is to understand where the two schools of thought are coming from, the WK is a shop floor guy has to do tough,physical work on his own and do a creative job (assembling an engine) while as the director has to do smart ,responsible work on his own while making his team do the complete job(whatever he does god bless him and his team).
In between these two different extremes, are nine more personalities , ideas and tactics in multiples of nine and players who all want the same result.......a win.
...................the reason for me not to dwell on it anymore is that I want to save some for my 'BOOK'....and the lord save you then...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sach vs. Sunny

I am sure this one will open a huge debate, but I am starting a thread on this nevertheless :)

Over the last 40 years, Indian cricket has seen many a gifted batsman. Rahul Dravid, Gundappa Vishwanath, Dileep Vengsarkar, Saurav Ganguly, Mohammad Azharuddin....the list goes on. Of course the two who have stood heads n' shoulders above the rest have been Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar. I want to try and understand who is the better batsman of the two. And open up what is seemingly an endless debate.

Sunny Gavaskar stands for all of what India in the 1970s and 1980s hoped to be. Defiant, independant and consistently excellent. He was probably hands down the greatest opening bat ever to have graced the game. 13 hundreds against the most fearsome pace attack of all time (West Indies), several astonishing innings on greentops, that 221 in an almost historic 4th innings chase at the Oval and the supremely crafted 96 as his last test match innings on a day 5 minefield against Pakistan.

Sachin Tendulkar has been voted (internationally) as the second best player to have ever wielded a bat on a cricket field. He holds almost all records there are to own in the game. He has, like Sunny, batted against the very best pace attacks - McGrath, Donald, Akram, Waquar, Ambrose, Walsh..the list goes on. He has also played against extraordinary spinners of his time - Murali, Warne, Saqlain. And he has scored against every single one of them. In all forms of the game. When his own team was repeatedly faltering in the 1990s.

So who do you believe to be the greater bat of the two? Can they even be compared? If yes, how should we go about that comparison?

Monday, July 20, 2009

The 'Essential' joy

Hi Guys,

This is my first blog of sorts after being convinced by Siddharth that I could write one , so here goes.....

The most basic of 'joys', as the name goes the 'joy' of cricket to me is more a passive one,

Don't get me wrong when i say this, having played the game at different levels and in different environments, conditions its given me enormous pleasure and enjoyment but I consider myself extremely fortunate to have played the game but there are a lot more people who could not play it due to various reasons ,My point: joys of cricket are not limited only players, certainly not the most basic and as I like to call it the 'Essential' joy , The sheer enjoyment of a heated discussion or potent mixture of extreme views of how the last match could have been won or handled better by the captain or even better if their personal favorite was the captain or included in the XI is what the most common 'joy' of cricket is and it is this passion and cauldron of extremes that make it the game that it is .

To me, if there weren't people at every nook and corner talking about cricket,how it could be bettered and how they themselves could serve the purpose better in the 'being discussed capacity' people who run the Paanchi tapri,Chai /Amrutulya stalls and Wada Pav stalls, would be out of business in a jiffy.So people , in these most recessed of times and of cautious spending please understand the need to keep the 'Essentials' going

A Body of Flint

Well, well, well. Wonder if it was just the psychological aspect of Freddie Flintoff knowing that he can push his body for this Lord's test that resulted in him becoming a match winning super quick?
I'm sure he was inspired by the Mecca of Cricket, but I think the reason that he forgot that he was retiring due to a body that was more broken than not was cause he got it right in his mind.

And by the way, what a nice way to start this blog: The Joy of Cricket with my fellow bloggers. Ranjit and Shree have joined up and we'll keep this running. Anyone else want to contribute, do apply to yours truly.