Friday, March 31, 2006
What Dravid and Tendulkar have effectively said is... that theres nothing else you can expect from fair weather fans.... (not worthy of being called supporters).
When the intellectual level of the average fan seems to be to support an argument which says "they get praised when they win, so they deserve abuse when they fail", should Dhoni and co. expect anything else?
In almost every game, they have found themselves with their hands full, and someone, somewhere has turned up the got India across the line. They started the season in questionable ODI form, and indeed with larger questions about ODI team composition - with Tendulkar restricted by injury and no real ODI batting force apart from Dravid. In the first game, we saw Tendulkar make a hundred, and Pathan hammer the Sri Lankans, batting at number 3. Later in the series we saw Dhoni make 183 to help India achieved something that nobody had achieved against SL in over 5 years - beat them chasing 250+ when Murali was playing. The number of run chases India have successfully completed with the last 70-80 runs coming with them 5 or 6 wickets down is fast reaching astonishing proportions.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Suddenly, lack of form is being attributed to
1. He doesnt really want it that badly anymore.
2. Hes old and isnt as good as he was when he was 23.
3. Hes never really performed when it mattered, and hes hanging on to his place only because of the money involved.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Now, with the BCCI decision of preperation of pitches for home games, the disparity between Indias home and away performances with the bat has disappeared. The table below a comparison of the Home and Away batting performances of all 8 Test teams (except Zim and Bangladesh), over their last Test cycle (Latest Home and Away series for each team against every other team..... so over 14 series for each team).
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Which begs the question... are Indian's who watch cricket actually cricket fans? How many people are actually interested in cricket, and how many are interested in the victory? How many are interested in the entertainment (in Marathi we have a phrase "chaltya gadit chadhne", which roughly translated means piling on)? Can all these people together be actually held to be devotees of cricket?
Monday, March 27, 2006
Saturday, March 25, 2006
However, injuries to Tendulkar, Sehwag may cause the selectors to revert back to Ganguly for the time being. I expect it to happen, barring India getting 3-0 ahead after the first 3 ODI's.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Hoggard and Flintoff bowled nothing down the legside on the whole of the 5th day. Anderson bowled one ball which Tendulkar was good enough to hit for four thru midwicket, but apart from that, there was nothing to hit. Flintoff was truly magnificient - fast, hostile, bowling a superb attacking line and length with unerring accuracy. He beat the bat almost every over, and nothing signified Englands preperation better than the fact that Rahul Dravid (probably the most professional of the Indian cricketers), fell in the first over after lunch to the English captain. There were no looseners, no wide ones to get into rythm. Flintoff was on the ball from the word go.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Monday, March 20, 2006
With England 150 ahead at the end of day 3, they are still well ahead, but a enormous morning session lies here, which will probably decide the course of this Test match. The fourth mornings givens India their last realistic chance of chasing victory at Mumbai.
The Bombay wicket has offered plenty to the bowlers especially in the morning session, and the wearing 4th day wicket would mean that Kumble and Harbhajan Singh would be a handful.
All in all, an exciting test match - there might yet be an opportunity for the beleagured Indian top order to redeem itself !
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Lets look at the form slump though (Gandalf, if youve noticed was quite statistically inclined... emphasizing the team view, but always statistically informed). Consider the following facts:
This is the first time since Melbourne 2003, that Tendulkars 10 Test split batting average has dropped below 40. It has happened to hm 6 times in his career. Early in his career, his 10 Test split was down below 40 on the South African tour of 1992, the second time this happened was during the West Indies tour in 1997, he ended the Barbados Test with sub 40 ten test split. The following chart shows the batting average distribution over the 10 Test splitis for Tendulkar, Ponting, Inzamam, Dravid and Lara, 5 of the most successful contemerory Test batsmen.
These figures are derived from matches completed upto the start Mumbai Test match. Tendulkar has gone thru fewer troughs in form then the other 4 players. Infact, whenever his average has dropped never dropped below 40 for a 10 Test split for more than 2 Test matches at a stretch until now. Now he has gone into Karachi, Nagpur and Mohali, having averaged less than 40 in his previous 10 Test matches. His consistency over his entire career has now become a curse - for all other players above, other than Dravid have gone through slumps before, worse slumps than Sachin Tendulkar has. It seems to me that the end of the Ganguly era really does me that! Ganguly, Laxman, Zaheer, Agarkar, possibly Harbhajan, and now possibly Tendulkar as well, will make way for a new breed. "Youth" is the buzzword, as it always is in the quest for progress, and Sachin Tendulkar does not answer to that category anymore. Gandalf (in his various avatars) seemed to take a bunch of kids (amongst them grown Kings) through an exciting adventure. He always seemed to know the score, and always knew what to do. In the adventure of India cricket, Sachin Tendulkar for much of his career, has been India's Gandalf. For him though, i doubt whether a Gandalf exists - someone who knows what the future holds for him. He must be his own Gandalf. Meanwhile, for India, Rahul Dravid seems to be the new Gandalf. The end of spring break means that i must turn away (however unwillingly) from the cricket for the time being - unless of course Tendulkar and India suggest otherwise in the Mumbai Test. So heres wishing Sachin Tendulkar and India all the very best.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Friday, March 17, 2006
Rahul Dravid has been the architect of many of Indias greatest victories, but i think that to celebrate Rahul Dravid by celebrating him as "India's MVP" or to say time and again that he has been "overshadowed by his more flamboyant teammates", would, in cricketing terms, be doing him a disservice. For Rahul Dravids greatness lies in his classical game, and in the classical mould in which he is cast - as a Test cricketer and as a Test batsman. In an age of unorthodoxy and freak talents like Gilchrist and Sehwag, Rahul Dravid has held his own, and stands as the very embodiment of the traditional Test cricketer.
His game, like all enduring realities of life is built on rock solid defense, and a rock solid temperament, honed in the heat of battle. They say Test Cricket mirrors life like no other sport does - Rahul Dravid is the very embodiment of Test cricket.
Numbers in the final analysis are always passe.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
The first century and the first five wicket haul in test cricket were taken by Australians - Bannerman made 165 in a total of 245, a record which hasnt been broken for 129 years, while Midwinter took 5 wickets as Australia beat England by 45 runs. The Australia-South Africa Test match which started today was the 1789th Test match.
A 129 year old history - and what a history!!
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
With the perspective of a couple of days (and one assignment - can't escape reality, even if some great things happen at the cricket), i was thinking about it, and now it seems to me as though one ought not to be really surprised by the events at the Wanderers. A study of the progression in run-rates of all teams in recent years shows that more runs are being scored faster in ODI cricket.
Some put it down to the decline in bowling. I dont think there has been a decline in bowling. I think what has happened is, batsmen have learnt how to play ODI cricket, and it has now became a contest between one batting run-rate and another, rather than one between bat and ball.
A look at the runs scored and runs conceded in time periods defined by the world cups, shows an steady increase across the board, with the exception of Sri Lanka.
So, im more and more inclined to agree with the view of one of my Australian forum friends, who made the sage comment that the Wanderers ODI was "an elongated Twenty20 contest". Brings you back down to earth doesnt it?
How do we then make ODI cricket a contest between bat and ball? Heres an option i worked out.
Monday, March 13, 2006
South Africa equalled Surrey One Day record?
Alistair Brown made 268* for Surrey in that game, where the pitch used was at one end of the square, and the square boundary on side was about 45-50 yards!
Comparing that with an International contests between the two top teams in the world, in a series deciding clash is a bit ridiculous.
New ground was broken in the annals of ODI Cricket - 35 years after ODI cricket started in earnest in Melbourne, Australia, came the day when South Africa chased an unlikely 434 to beat Australia in the deciding game. If ever a game was meant to be written about, this was it.
I however choose to present to you, two links -
Cricinfo's ball by ball commentary - The commentator was in top form, and not shy of an opinion - seemed to be an Aussie too!
And the Match thread from this Cricket Forum i participate in on C4. Its a bit long, but its priceless - with a few Aussie and South African fans offering candid opinions, sage advice and sarcastic commentary to the cricketers and to each other.
These two links i think represent the new age of cricket communication. Columnists, unless they are really good, are going to have a hard time in the future.
Sunday, March 12, 2006
24 ODI games were played in between Feb 10th 2006 and March 12th 2006, and Australia, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, South Africa, New Zealand and West Indies played ODI cricket during this period. Matches 1st VB Series Final to the 5th ODI - Australia v South Africa at Johannesburg fall under this update.
(Click on the image to see full size)
South Africa were temporarily Number 1 in the world on March 3, but it will take more than one close fought defeat for the Australians to be knocked off their lofty perch.
England and Zimbabwe have not played any ODI cricket in this period (atleast not against any of the teams included in the rankings, and hence their ranking remains unchanged.
India have won 3 of their last 5 games against England. This gives both England and India to improve their present rankings, should either side dominate the upcoming series, especially towards the business end of the series.
West Indies, seemingly cruising to victory at Auckland, lost 6 for 60 to find themselves 246/8, chasing 290, thanks to Shane Bond, Daniel Vettori and Shivnaraine Chanderpaul, who played a wretched shot to get out by all accounts. India have turned the Mohali test around, thanks to Anil Kumble, and find themselves in good position to force an unlikely victory inspite of all the loss of time due to bad weather. And South Africa have produced a miraculous run chase to beat Australia in the decider at the Wanderers!
Given all the subtext to that series - with South African appeals to patriotic fans to abuse the Australians, and give back exactly what they recieved in Australia, and Greame Smith, whos never short of a word, this was a fabled end to a epoch making series.
The Australia dominance in the ODI game has never been seriously challenged since their victory in the 1999 world cup in England. Apart from Pakistan in the off season indoor ODI series in Melbourne in 2002 (or maybe it was 2003), nobody has really beaten Australia. India have managed to beat them twice in the knockout miniWorldCup tournament, once and Dhaka, and once at Nairobi. And they lost the VB series in 2001-02, which signalled the end of Waugh's ODI career. But they havent been seriously challenged.
The South Africans have just achieved that.
Given Chanderpauls problems as West Indies captain, and his loss of form with the bat, i wouldnt be surprised if the West Indies resorted to a Lee Germon like arrangement for their side.
Fine start to my spring break weekend all in all!!
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Anil Kumble inspite of his superb record, does not recieve the same plaudits as his more conventional contemperory from down under - Shane Warne, and that is down to his away record.
If we look closely however, Anil Kumble has actually outperformed other Indian bowlers outside the Indian subcontinent in the Test that he has played.
In Stats including the first innings of the Mohali Test match, Anil Kumble, in his 104 Tests has taken 501 wickets at 28.87. The bowling from the other end for India has taken 1107 wickets at 37.11 in these 104 Test matches. Kumble therefore has outperformed the other Indian bowlers by almost 9 runs/wicket.
If we consider matches outside the Indian subcontinent, Kumble has 133 Test wickets at 37.53, while the bowlers at the other end had 412 wickets at 38.84. These other bowlers would invariably pacemen. On wickets which suit pacemen, where Anil Kumble was used as a stock bowler because he was so good at keeping things tight, Kumble has atleast matched, if not outperformed the pacemen, both in terms of wickets/match, and runs/wicket.
In the Indian subcontinent, outside India, Kumble has 52 wickets at 37.83, while the other bowlers in the same Test matches have 143 wickets at 42.07. Even here Kumble has been the chief wicket taker for India.
Whether as a strike bowler in India, or as a stock bowler used to block one end up overseas, Anil Kumble has single handedly kept India afloat over the last 16 years of Test Cricket.
It is quite typical that Anil Kumble and Sachin Tendulkar have been the most abused and criticized cricketers in India over the past 8-10 years, inspite of being the most consistent performers. Rahul Dravid has had the benefit of developing in the shadow of the great Tendulkar, while Harbhajan Singh has had the benefit of Anil Kumble to draw attention away from him.
In a team sport, especially when a team fails, it is the performers who are often adversely commented upon. They end up taking the heat - but when victory comes, its always a team victory. That is why they are true leaders.
Kumble the bowler, Tendulkar the batsman and Ganguly the captain, have been the leaders of Indias cricket over the years. Now we see a new era emerging - with a new captain - Dravid, new bowling and batting strategies in Test cricket. Its time for the new leaders to step out into the sun and take the heat. It will be interesting to see who they will be.
Virendra Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and Irfan Pathan are my picks. If Kumble is not inspiration enough, then i dont know who is.
Just watched a great over of cricket. On the face of it, an ordinary over - 2 runs came of it... Harmison to Dravid. This is cricinfos description -
"7.6 Harmison to Dravid, no run 7.5 Harmison to Dravid, two runs, fullish on off, Dravid drops that bat on it and it carries past point for two 7.4 Harmison to Dravid, no run, a bit wider, no inswing and he shoulders arms 7.3 Harmison to Dravid, no run, full outside off, Dravid well forward in his stride and leaves it 7.2 Harmison to Dravid, no run, and this time Dravid sways well away from a well-directed lifter on off, good contest here 7.1 Harmison to Dravid, no run, bouncer down leg, batsman ducks on his knees"
A pedestrian description of a great bit of cricket. It comes with ball by ball commentary i guess.
The First ball was a bouncer, well directed, but Dravid read it early and ducked. The line of the bouncer had something to do with it - leg and middle stump, and Dravid was able to stay side on and get under it. The Second ball was an even better bouncer - a bit fuller than the first one, pitched on off stump, and seemed to seam in to the batsmen as all bouncers do (remember Malcolm Marshall?). This time Dravid was on the back foot, and slightly more front on as a result, but watched it right to the end, swayed out of line, making sure he kept his hands low. A classy leave to a testing ball.
The third ball was a good length outside offstump, and Dravid left it, with a decisive forward movement. The fourth one was a bit wider and a bit fuller, and again Dravid left it. Two decisive leaves.
The fifth one, was a it closer to Dravid, and he played a firm push past backward point for two. The last ball was played away safely.
It was a great over of fast bowling. Harmison didnt waste a single ball, every ball was testing - ball three and ball four were sucker balls, pitched up after the first two short ones had pushed the batsman back. Dravid to his credit (and this is the reason for his greatness in my view), played every ball to absolute textbook perfection.
A World Class response to a World Class over with the new ball. It was all about discipline - the discipline of fast bowling, and the discipline of batting. I wonder whether that is a pun or more of a synonym. The very essence of Cricket.
Was just wondering what the 17 year old Piyush Chawla must be making of all his -he got carted all over the park at 5 runs/over inspite of bowling really well. For a leg spinner in his first test match, at age 17, to bowl well enough to never get square cut in 9 overs of leg spin, is an extremely good beginning. At the other end, Anil Kumble was bowling to the same batsmen, who struggled to take 2.5 runs/over against him. He ended with 5/76 and 500 test wickets. Then he sees Rahul Dravid take on some world class fast bowling on a hard wicket offering decent carry.
More on Anil Kumble later though.
Back to Rahul Dravid, Wasim Jaffer and co. facing up to the best all round pace attack in the world..
Friday, March 10, 2006
The current India-England series promises to be similar. With the first test drawn, and the second test likely to be affected by rain, thanks to the bleak forecast for the weekend at Mohali, the Bombay Test will in all probability be the series deciding one.
There hasnt been too much happening in the India-England series apart from Harsha Bhogles "breached Laxman Rekha" - a classic Bhogleism if there ever was one, and Piyush Chawlas assured test debut. The second youngest and the youngest Test debutants for India playing in the same Test team.
Australia have beaten South African by 1 wicket in the 4th ODI at Durban, and ive included this result in my ratings. South Africas brief tryst with the number 1 position ended with the Australian wins at Port Elizabeth and Durban.
9 out of 10 Test playing nations are engaged in international cricket right now. England are visiting India, West Indies are in New Zealand, Sri Lanka are in Bangladesh, Australia are in South Africa, with the Pakistan-Sri Lanka series in Sri Lanka on the anvil.
With lots of Test cricket being played, expect a big update of my Test Ratings soon!
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
India have won 10 out of those 25, playing 2 seamers and 2 spinners.
5 Test victories have come playing 3 seamers and 1 spinner (Tendulkar took 4 wickets in these games, Yuvraj took 1 as did Sehwag)
2 have come playing 3 spinners and 1 seamer (on both occasions, Australia was the opponent)
6 have come playing 2 spinners, 2 seamers and an all rounder (Sanjay Bangar)
And 1 have come playing 3 seamers, 1 spinner and Sanjay Bangar.
Only 1 Test win has come while India played 5 bowlers (Bangladesh, Dhaka, 2000)
None of the home victories have come playing a 3 seamers, 1 spinner combination.
By playing 5 bowlers at Mohali (if Kaif and Laxman are indeed left out of the 12, as Cricinfo and Rediff have reported), India are doing something they have rarely attempted in the last 5 years.
Further evidence that Dravid is probably more aggressive in his decision making that Ganguly ever was....
A beautiful move you would have to admit - elegantly bypassing all the ticklish problems that might have arisen, had they dropped yet another one of the senior cricketers - Laxman or Tendulkar. Theyve chosen to play 5 batsmen, and then can easily explain that they can't drop Jaffer as the specialist opener, and Yuvraj would basically walk into any side in the world right now.
Ever since Dravid and Chappell took over, everything that the selectors and the team management have done has worked out for them. Every hunch of theirs has come good. Kaif at Nagpur was the best example of this. Ganguly at Karachi throwing it away after doing all the hard work further vindicated the selectors. Dropping Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar has worked - playing Jaffer ahead of Gambhir has worked.
Don't be surprised if the 5 bowlers who lineup for India at Mohali are Munaf Patel, Irfan Pathan, Anil Kumble, RP Singh and Piyush Chawla.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Tim de Lisle, British Cricket Writer, and former editor of Wisden.com, writing about the Nagpur Test, offers an interesting, if tremendously English perspective on proceedings. He suggests that Rahul Dravid ought have scored quicker in both first and second innings, and then India might have had a real chance of making the run chase. In principle, that is a fair assessment of the game. It does however ignore the nature of the wicket, the fact that English bowling tactics were not exactly aggressive (bowling outside offstump with a packed off side field, on a slow wicket, is not designed to take wickets, its designed to kill the run chase and makes the odds for quick run scoring impossible, without taking outrageous risks), and the fact that as a professional cricket captain of a national cricket team, Rahul Dravid cannot afford to be quixotic in his decision making and playing methods.
His commentary about Rahul Dravid reeks of Nasser Husseins advice to Michael Vaughan about playing the Sourav Ganguly card intelligently, when he suggests that Ganguly might have run the game differently at Nagpur. His comments, apart from being obviously ill-directed, also reveal a basic ignorance about subcontinental cricket. Rahul Dravid, strategically has shown himself to be consistently more aggressive that Ganguly ever was. De Lisle's comment reminded me of Simon O'Donnells priceless exclamation, after Sourav Ganguly had waded into Stuart MacGill during his Brisbane hundred in 2003 - "I didnt know he could hit the long ball!" - this about one of the renowned strokemakers against spin bowling in the last 7-8 years.
Is de Lisle's column designed to offer some malintended opinions about the "opposition"? Or maybe, de Lisle is just stunned that an English side which hammered everyone they played leading up to the Ashes, and then got thumped in Pakistan, in Sri Lanka just before they began their successful run in the West Indies, and now in India, have never looked like winning inspite of getting into winning position?
This "depleted" bowling attack, also consists of the best all round fast bowler in the world, probably the best genuine swing bowler in the world, and a hostile genuinely quick fast bowler, apart from 2 spinners (who were picked out of choice).
de Lisle's also been promoting the idea of a 20-20 world cup, even though every well meaning cricket commentator in the world agrees that theres enough cricket being played already. Of course, he makes no delay in blaming BCCI for opposing the suggestion.
Sunday, March 05, 2006
On to Nagpur....
A test match categorized by the "lets make sure we don't lose first" strategy employed by both sides - England after they got in front at lunch on day 3, and India who stonewalled right up to Tea time on day 5, ensured that a decisive result one way or the other was never a serious possibility barring a miracle. India made an optimistic dash for the line in the last session, thereby drawing England out of their comfort zone. Given the way it went, Indian fans might be left wondering about what might have been. However, given that the Indians had a clear strategy in mind - "dont worry about runs till Tea, and then reassess things", i think they did well.
I just wonder whether India missed a trick by sticking to the batting order and letting Tendulkar take control of the run chase immediatly after Rahul Dravid fell trying to up the runrate. Dhoni and Pathan might have been asked to play around him, instead of being asked to run the show. For as Tendulkar showed, he could maintain a strike rate of close to 200, with very deliberate batting if he so wished.
Flintoff on the other hand was magnificient, both with the ball and as captain. I think his decision to shielf Panesar from the slog was a good one. If Giles had been playing, he might have bowled him from one end.
Munaf Patel and Yuvraj Singh replace Suresh Raina and VRV Singh, which in itself is an interesting case study in the way selectors think. There must always be a pecking order which the selectors seek to establish, and then they probably try to stick to that pecking order. Suresh Raina and VRV being dropped is not a comment on Raina and VRV, but can be put down to the simple fact that only 15 can be selected, and that Munafs 10 wickets against England were too huge to ignore. Yuvraj obviously makes the first team, and with Kaif making runs, Raina isnt amongst the 7 best batsmen in the country, who at this point in time are Sehwag, Jaffer, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Kaif and Yuvraj.
So its on the Mohali, and while India definitely have a fight on their hands, on a slightly quicker wicket, both the Indian batting and Anil Kumble might be a completely different proposition for this English side. Harmison, Flintoff and Hoggard might enjoy it as well.
Saturday, March 04, 2006
India have not managed to better 2 runs/over in this test match, and apart from Sehwag have not done too well in the run rate department for quite a while now. England could have set the tone for this series by declaring when they were about 330 ahead.
The English would of course take the contrary view, that they wanted the Indian batsmen to have to bat on the last day, with virtually no chance victory - taking the runs out of the equation. That sort of situation brings about its own pressure. All in all, with the best all round fast bowler in the world in their ranks (Flintoff) and with Matthew Hoggard in the form of his life, England could have declared and thrown all that they had at the Indians. Steve Harmison might have bowled himself into some form, and most crucially, England might have gone one up.
They may still do so, but their decision to bat till the end of the day, and possibly today to get a lead up to 400, may just cost them a victory in this game.
If Sehwag was what delayed their declaration, then one look at Sehwags second innings record should have allayed all English fears.
India for their part need to seriously rethink their bowling combination. They cannot play Irfan Pathan at his pace as one of only two pace bowlers. Pathan is at best a third test match seamer, who is also played for his batting. By playing the 6th batsman, they have probably sent the wrong signal to Dhoni and Pathan as far as batting is concerned. The failure of the 5 bowler strategy in Pakistan however, may have contributed to the Indian decision to play 6 batsmen at Nagpur.
I am going to suggest that unless Sachin Tendulkar makes a significant score in the the second innings at Nagpur, he should make way for Yuvraj Singh in the second Test match. VVS Laxman, after his hundreds against Sri Lanka and Pakistan cannot be left out. If you leave out Tendulkars innings of 248 against Bangladesh at Chittagong (i think), he has been consistently dismissed cheaply.
Having said that, great player that he is, Tendulkar may just produce an absolute gem today, and i really hope he does.
But these are some significant questions before the Indian Test team, which has been struggling with the middle order batting for a while now - even in the Sri Lanka series, the middle order didnt deliver the partnerships that it ought to have.
All in all, a significant day in prospect at Nagpur.
Friday, March 03, 2006
The ODI Rankings, as of March 3rd 2006 are as follows:
1. South Africa 0.612
2. Australia 0.607
3. New Zealand 0.566
4. India 0.549
5. Sri Lanka 0.479
6. England 0.467
7. Pakistan 0.461
8. West Indies 0.439
9. Zimbabwe 0.321
These rankings ought to be seen as being purely provisional rankings, as the South African lead does not ensure that they will stay at the top of the list at the end of the current series. Should the Australians square the series, chances are that they will regain the top spot. This is however the first time in almost 4-5 years (i'll have to work out the exact time frame), that Australia have lost the top spot in either Tests or ODI's.
The Rahul Dravid LBW seemed to be going past legstump, and moreover, any batsman who gets given out when hes full stretch forward, and hit above the knee roll, might consider himself unlucky. All in all there was too much doubt, and in my opinion an error of judgement on the part of the umpire.
VVS Laxman got a great one first up, and got his bat down just in time to get an inner edge on to the pad, which the umpire unfortunately missed.
Sachin Tendulkars was a brilliant decision. Coming from an umpire who has shown a consistent willingness to give batsmen out LBW on the front foot, it was a brilliant decision.
India fought back well, thru the persevering Anil Kumble and gutsy Mohammad Kaif.
Mohammad Kaif had the odds stacked against him today. His selection was a vote of confidence from a selection committee, and there couldnt possibly have been tougher test for him. The batting had failed, on a wicket which wasnt conducive to strokeplay, and India faced a deficit of over 200 with just 3 first innings wickets standing. The bowling was accurate, and it might have been hard to score quickly against this bowling in the best of circumstances on the flattest of wickets (which this was not). Additionally, when Kaif started his innings, he came in to face a hattrick, and the shock of losing 3/16 in the first 10 or so overs of the day.
In the face of all this, Kaif produced a Test innings that was timeless in its style, priceless for his team, and yet, also bore the stamp of modesty. It bore the stamp of Mohammad Kaif. He demonstrated what he had to offer as a Test Match batsman to this Test team, and i think any team in the world would take what he has to offer. Kaif is not as outrageously gifted as Yuvraj Singh, neither does he have the class of Laxman or Tendulkar. I hesitate to term him to poor mans Rahul Dravid, for he is his own man, and has his own approach.
All in all, a magnificient hand in a tremendous stand with Anil Kumble, whose fighting 56 confirmed his resurgence as a dependable lower order bat, and is a welcome extension of his revival as a Test cricketer in the Australian tour of 2003-04.
Hopefully the rain will stay away, for all four results are still possible at Nagpur.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
Wasim Jaffer 73 not out!
Of the 355 Test Centuries scored by Indian batsmen, 155 have come from Mumbai batsmen, which is about 44%.
The last Test century made by a Mumbai batsman (other than Sachin Tendulkar), was Vinod Kambli's 120 vs Sri Lanka at Colombo in 1993-94. Ajit Agarkar did make a hundred at Lords in 2002, but we will ignore that innings as a freak one off.
Since Kambli's hundred at Colombo, 112 Test centuries have been scored by Indian batsmen, of which Tendulkar has made 29.
So if you take away Sachin Tendulkar, Mumbai, the powerhouse of the Indian batting for much of Indias Test history, has produced 1 Test Century out of the last 83 Centuries.
Will Wasim Jaffer make the 2nd at Nagpur? Only time will tell. Ive watched Wasim Jaffer a lot in Mumbai, and i'll be willing him on to his hundred.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
England selected Monty Panesar and Ian Blackwell, in their eleven, in addition to Andrew Flintoff - a move more in order to bolster the batting than to bolster the bowling. Inspite of the two spinners (it will be interesting to see how the new captain handles the spinners on their debut), it will be Harmison and Flintoff who will run the English bowling machine.
Flintoff captaining the side is also the first time since the 2003 World Cup that we have a bowler captaining an international Test team. Shaun Pollock was the last bowler/bowling allrounder to do so.
At 246/7, India will be happy to settled for an English first innings under 300. The English strategy to the various Indian batsmen will be interesting. A few predictions - they will target Virendra Sehwags ribcage more consistently than any other side has done so far, and they will bowl straight to Rahul Dravid, with a strong field in front of square on the leg side.
Given the spin bowling options that they have, England have chosen their spinners well. Blackwell and Panesar, both left arm spinners, can tie down the right handers in the Indian line up (India do not have a single left hander in this side) bowling over the wicket, into the rough.
It remains to be seen, how the debudant Test Captain will handle his debubant Test spinners. Thats probably a first for Test cricket too - especially if you don't count the first tests played by the respective test teams.