Sunday, September 30, 2007

Munaf Patel - Is he a victim of cliche?

Munaf Patel asks some pertinent questions about "intensity" and "fitness". I have raised this question on this blog before - can a lay observer make a definite judgement as to whether a particular player is trying hard (intensity)? Can s/he make a judgement as to how "aggressive" a particular player is?

Munaf has been consistently as quick or quicker than Zaheer, Sreesanth and co. whenever he has played for India. He has also been more accurate than these other bowlers (Zaheer was brilliant in the Tests in England). Yet he finds himself out of the side. Can "lay" observers make judgements about a players injury? The only time when i've believed reports of faked injuries in recent times was in Sourav Ganguly's case in the Nagpur Test incident in 2004. I believed this because of the alleged politics surrounding the event (Ganguly had no business quitting even then), and because multiple journalists quoted sources in the side saying "thats Sourav for you" (with a knowing smile according to some journalists). Even this is merely circumstantial evidence but in other instances, as in the case of Patel, even this circumstantial evidence is absent.

I see great parallels between Munaf and Sreesanth amongst our bowlers today, and Ganguly and Dravid. Ganguly is the flamboyant, "aggressive", expressive one - with the "intensity" and the "charisma". Dravid has been the understated, thoughtful one. Put Sreesanth in place of Ganguly, and Munaf in place of Dravid and both those statements would be just as apt. The difference between Dravid and Munaf is that Dravid has drilled his worth into the Indian mind by the sheer number of hours that he has batted out there for India - a study in intense concentration, thoughtful and deliberate in deed, in a single minded pursuit of runs. Ganguly's intensity was easily apparent in a single hour of yelling and screaming and visibly living every moment as captain. Dravid's was drilled indelibly on the observer through long hours of single minded application at the wicket.

That is what Munaf needs to do. He should not fall into the Sreesanthesque trap of being a showman. Its all right if he can't act like a cat on a hot tin roof like Sreesanth tends to do. He is more correct and more accurate than Sreesanth at the moment (all though Sreesanth is impossible to gauge because he can have spectacularly good spells amidst a sea of poor spells). He needs to stick to what he is good at. Too many experienced observers have been too impressed by him for him to worry about being inadequate. Ignore those to wonder about his intensity. Don't be a victim of the cliches of the popular press.

Then when he's achieved enough, like Dravid, he can thumb his nose at all the nonsense and walk away a champion like Rahul Dravid did from the captaincy. But he needs to travel the Dravid journey before that. It is not as though Dravid has always been successful. His place in the ODI side was uncertain for most of the 1990's until the 1999 world cup, which was his first great success. His Test career was at the crossroads after the home series against SA in 2000. But he came out of that. Im sure he wondered what he was doing wrong. Im sure he wondered after he self-destructed against Alan Donald during that Final in South Africa in 1997, whether his temperament was questionable.... but he came away a better player.

Munaf can do the same - in Rahul Dravid he has a terrific role model (there are no fast bowling role models in India for Munaf to follow - not Venky Prasad, not Srinath). If Munaf ends his career at the level of Prasad or Srinath, he should be disappointed - for it will have meant that he joins the long line of pacemen who were not good enough to bowl out Test line ups consistently. Im surprised that Venky Prasad in his 2nd or 3rd month as bowling coach has found it appropriate to make a public comment as general as the one he made about Munaf. I wish a press reporter had had the presence of mind to ask him to elaborate what he meant by "intensity". John Wright, as i recall, never publicly chastised a bowler or a batsman, and definitely not behind the players back in his 5 years as coach. I guess each person has his own way of doing things.

Thats another thing for Munaf to learn. The questions about intensity will never go away unless he adopts a bad boy image - because that is the flavor of the month. The one thing that will never go out of fashion is wickets. Wickets, wickets and more wickets. Munaf has the ability to be the best Indian fast bowler ever. Already in his career he has done something unbelievably impressive - he grew up as a tearaway paceman, but in his India avatar has been able to realize and more importantly implement the virtues of line and length.

Here are the comparative career records of Munaf Patel, RP Singh and S Sreesanth as of today September 30, 2007:

ODI Cricket against non-minnows:

Munaf: 27 wickets at 29.00 at 4.94 runs/over
Sreesanth: 38 wickets at 34.71 at 5.75 runs/over
RP Singh: 31 wickets at 34.19 at 5.12 runs/over

Test Cricket against non-minnows:

RP Singh: 32 wickets at 32.95
Sreesanth: 46 wickets at 28.23
Munaf: 25 wickets at 29.00

If Munaf can outperform his colleagues inspite of an alleged lack of intensity, then one has to question Venkatesh Prasad's judgement. It is not for nothing that Sachin Tendulkar, who rarely expresses an opinion in such matters specifically requested Munaf to move to Mumbai. Munaf is the only player that Tendulkar has found worthy of such attention. It has been said of Munaf by his colleagues in the Indian side, that even they (who have had phenomenal journeys in life themselves to be where they are) cannot imagine how enormous the leaps have been for him from a small village in rural Gujarat to the noisy glare of being an India cricketer. I wonder what Venky Prasad thinks about this.

The only way ahead of Munaf, if he's to kill speculation about intensity is to take wickets. This blog will always be a supportive fan of this brilliant young fast bowler from the village of Ikhar in Bharuch, Gujarat. I dream of the day when India will be able to field a paceman of the quality of McGrath or Akram or Pollock. Only Munaf amongst todays bowlers has that potential. I wish people would help him realize it. I hope people are - behind the noise of pointless questions which seem to befuddle the poor man.

As for Venky Prasad, he ought to quit complaining about Munaf's lack of intensity, and crack the whip or do whatever it is that coaches do to get the bowler on the same page as far as his expectations. If Munaf is wondering what this "intensity" is - then it can only mean that Prasad is unable to do his job well enough. The NatWest series was lost due to the terrible performance of the pacemen. India need a bowling coach - but they need one who will coach his bowlers, not complain about them behind their backs in print.

The Ranji Trophy could be Munaf's chance for a ticket to Australia. Its upto him to destroy line ups for Mumbai and force his name onto the team sheet - whatever Venkatesh Prasad may say. Injuries though are in God's hands. I hope He finds it possible to be kind to Munaf.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Cricket Season begins in earnest.....

After a surreal interlude in South Africa, the 2007-08 cricket season begins in earnest on the coming weekend. England are touring Sri Lanka, the South Africans are in Pakistan, and the World Champions are in India. The month of October will see 2 Tests (in Pakistan) and 17 ODI games being played. This will lead into the heart of the Test match season in November, December, January, when India host Pakistan, Sri Lanka host England, Australia host India and Sri Lanka and South Africa host West Indies and New Zealand. Much like the 2004 season, this post World Cup season promises a re-ordering of the pecking order in World Cricket.

Australia face their first major challenges without Warne and McGrath. They will start at the deep end against India in India, without Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey. India have had a terrific run of Home form since Rahul Dravid and Greg Chappell took over in 2005 (19-8), and have not lost a series at home in the past two years. Without Ponting and Hussey in the Aussie ranks and with McGrath having retired, India start the series as favorites in my view. India will have to overcome their bowling and fielding deficit (Bracken and Lee have terrific ODI records), but they will hold the batting edge. If Irfan Pathan can come through and provide the side with crucial balance (5th bowler, number 7 bat), it will give India an additional edge, what with Shane Watson struggling with fitness again.

England believe they have turned the corner during the recent NatWest series against India. This will be severely tested against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka. This is one of the toughest assignments in ODI cricket today (along with from Australia in Australia and South Africa in South Africa), but England seem have the batting to cope. The exciting Luke Wright will invite much scrutiny. If he can maul Murali, England will be well and truly on their way. For their part, Sri Lanka are possibly the most stable combination in World Cricket today. The core of their batting (Jayasurya, Jayawardene, Sangakkara, Dilshan) and bowling line ups (Murali, Vaas, Malinga, Fernando) is ably supported by Chamara Silva, Upul Tharanga and Farveez Maharoof. This stability and balance led them to the World Cup Final earlier this year, and with no immediate retirements likely, should continue to ensure a quality Sri Lankan show.

South Africa, despite some terrific ODI performances continue to be underrated as an ODI side, mainly because they haven't made a major final for a long time (the 1998 ICC Knock out, then known as the Wills International Cup was their last major final). They have not named their ODI squad for the Pakistan tour yet, but it will be interesting to see if Jacques Kallis makes the ODI squad. I would be surprised if he didn't. The South African Test side have been in decline for some years now. In the early part of this decade, they were the second best side in the world (and even won the World Test Championship due to a quirk in the silly ICC Test Match Rating). In recent years their pace attack has lost its edge, with Pollock aging and Donald in retirement. Ntini - fine bowler though he is, is no Donald. The support bowling has been an even bigger problem. Nel is the first change bowl, but South African hopes remain pinned on the development of Dale Steyn as a genuinely quick bowler in the Jason Gillespie mould at first change. The batting, all though it seems to be well manned, does not look a convincing combination. Herschelle Gibbs has not been a disappointment Test middle order bat (averaging 39, 23, 35 in 2005, 2006 and 2007 respectively). Mark Boucher and Shaun Pollock form the most formidable lower middle order in World cricket today. Very few sides can field number 7 and number 8 batsmen who both average better than 30 in Test cricket.

Pakistan continue to be unpredictable. Mohammad Asif and Umar Gul form a skillful opening pair and Danish Kaneria continues to be a threat in Pakistan. Pakistan will miss Shoaib Akthar, but that may turn out to be a minor problem compared to the bigger issues with the batting. Pakistan have not named their Test squad yet, and one suspects that this is largely due to the uncertainty about Mohammad Yousuf and Inzamam Ul Haq and their association with the Indian Cricket League. These two veterans have been mainstays of the Pakistan middle order, and seemed to get better with each passing year. Yousuf especially is in his prime as a batsman, and should he not be available, will hurt Pakistan, for he is at the moment irreplaceable.

South Africa lost 1-0 to Pakistan in Pakistan the last time they toured. Gary Kirsten was famously felled by Shoaib in that series. With all the uncertainty Pakistan face, they may just be looking at a home defeat this time around. South Africa will have to bowl out of their skins, and their inability to field a quality spin bowler may just thwart them.

All in all, an exciting month in store for cricket fans and it just gets better in November and December.....

Monday, September 24, 2007

Pressure Wins as India are Twenty20 World Champions.......

India ran out winners by 5 runs in the Final of the Twenty20 World Cup, in a game which belied the adage that "youth knows no fear". As the match progressed, it was increasingly dominated by one player after another wilting under pressure. Shahid Afridi might be the sole exception, but atleast he will have a tournament MVP to show for his effort in South Africa - albeit a Pyrrhic MVP is such a thing is possible. In a career built on spurts of crazy talent and crazed brainwaves, this was yet another celebrated episode.

It was as cricket was meant to be played i guess - on the village green. Batsmen getting out caught at mid off and in the deep of medium pacers, bowlers bowling it all over the place, and in the end, India were left standing, mainly because Pakistan shot themselves in the foot too many times to give them any chance of ending up on two feet. Misbah Ul Haq was the lone exception, and he seemed to be the only batsman with any perspective. After Shanthakumaran Sreesanth had in yet another mercurial bout (they should may be invent a Sreesanthometer to measure his blow hot blow cold efforts) delivered unmitigated rubbish in his first over, to basically hand the match to Pakistan (after that 20 run over, all they needed was 7.5 an over for 18 overs with 10 wickets in hand, something which an ODI side would be disappointed to fail at), the Pakistan batsmen out did him. Imran Nazir showed why he hasn't made his career in the more serious forms of the game. Younis Khan played a disappointing shot - you would expect a batsman of his quality to not lose his head in that fashion.

India for their part, Sreesanth apart were admirably restrained. Accurate medium pace, bowled deliberately (read - where they wanted to land it), reminiscent of Kapil's devils of 1983 seemed to be the order of the day. In the end, they delivered fewer bad balls. Irfan Pathan showed why he is so highly thought of with a cerebral display of control in the big game. With the bat, India had what Pakistan didn't - one batsman batting through and ensuring a total on the board.

All in all, it was a game which revealed Twenty20 for what it is - if you ignore the contest between bat and ball, which in Twenty20 is pretty random, things happen quite fast - fast enough to suit the impatience of the television viewer. The pace is just right to ensure that there are very few lulls between bouts of "excitement". Even a ball which is played normally for a single or for no runs invites a response. It is like watching just the slog overs of an ODI game, or the last session of an exciting Test match. It is like watching Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, waiting with bated breath for the next melodramatic moment, except, unlike that shocking waste of everything, you don't know on the weekend what the next week's story will be.

India won though. After the early exit from the world cup and all the rubbish that ensued, all of India's cricketers have shamed the Indian cricketing public by going about their business in exemplary fashion. First the first choice team beat South Africa in England, and then beat England in England. The Natwest result was a disappointing reverse, and the players will know that they lost a series they should have won. Now, the man who's house (under construction) was vandalized on Television after that world cup, has taken on the leadership of the side, and led well. They won a tournament beating the best teams in the World. It is why our cricketers are special. I feel culpable and guilty about the way India's cricketers were treated after the world cup. I had no part in what happened, and i wrote about it a great deal then, but i still feel culpable. Here are excellent sportsmen, who have worked exceedingly hard all their lives to achieve a level of excellence which enables them to compete on equal terms with the best in the world, and all they find at the end of it all is the fickle interest of an ignorant, inadequate mass - consisting not of poor people who's only pleasure is to watch a game of cricket at the end of a hard days back breaking labor, but of educated professionals and businessmen - middle class people like you and me - who love nothing more than to win our victories off the backs of young sportsmen. We abuse them for earning good money, and we abuse them if they don't win.

In tournament where the cricket was completely random, fate has handed India's young players a just reward.
In my view, we owe them an apology, not our congratulations. Dhoni doesn't need his home to be rebuilt, but the absolute assurance that it will never happen again. If he cannot rest assured of this, then fast forward two years from now, and Dhoni in 2010 will be today's Dravid.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Sreesanth... which way will he go?

Sreesanth is a terrifically gifted bowler - possesses a natural outswinger, the ability to use the crease, excellent brisk medium pace, a fine natural swing bowlers length, tremendous stamina, and the desire to run in all day. He is also extremely good at being silly. He got fined 25% of his match fee by the ICC Referee Chris Broad for excessive appealing under section 1.5 of the ICC Code of Conduct.

I looked this up. Section 1.5 pertains the excessive appealing, and the Code of Conduct states the following:
"Excessive shall mean repeated appealing when the bowler/fielder knows the batsman is not out with the intention of placing the umpire under pressure. It is not intended to prevent loud or enthusiastic appealing. However, the practice of celebrating a dismissal before the decision has been given may also constitute excessive appealing."

Friday, September 21, 2007

Flintoff to Yuvraj..... how do you react?

The Indian Express reports that the Flintoff-Yuvraj summit during India's batting innings in the game against England during the ongoing Twenty20 World Cup was sparked by the following comment from Andrew Flintoff.
"I will smash your face, you just wait"

This was after Yuvraj had hit him for two sixes. The second one was a hook shot which was in the air for a long time before trickling over the boundary ropes.

Lets assume for a moment that this is true - that Flintoff actually said this to Yuvraj. I should point out that "smash your face" is probably a reference to the bouncer. Yuvraj's reaction was brilliant in my view. He reacted strongly, and let the umpire know he didn't like Flintoff's comment! I wonder how you view this comment. Do you view it as:

a. The white bully trying to intimidate the Indian batsman
b. An abusive rant which someone like Flintoff can get away with
c. A frustrated bowler venting steam
d. A canny bowler trying to get the batsman angry and disturb the batsman's concentration
e. Don't care
f. Other (Please elaborate the same in your comment)

Shashi Tharoor saw Sreesanth's reaction against Nel last year as a sign of a "new India" - one which stood up to the "bully". I wonder what he would have made of Yuvraj Singh's innings. I don't think the subsequent six hitting had anything to do with the Flintoff-Yuvraj episode, but this clearly seems to be the favorite story line.

Do say what you think of Flintoff's reaction.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Yuvraj - "Payback".. Seriously?

Yuvraj Singh made 58 in 16 balls against England, including six sixes in an over. It was so exciting, that the highlights package could include only his seven sixes and completely ignore his fours. Even with my scepticism of Twenty20, i was excited by the phenomenal striking of 6 sixes in an over off an international specialist paceman. Sobers, Gibbs and Ravi Shastri (sadly beyond the reach of Youtube or Google Video) have done it before him.

Then i read this rubbish about "payback", and it seemed as though the headiness of the feat had got to Yuvraj. Or had it? Had an innocent comment by Yuvraj Singh been picked up by the press and delivered in a typically euphoric, chest-thumping account for us - the audience? How does Yuvraj's comment that he feels "sorry for Stuart" for he is one of their "main bowlers" square with the "payback" theme?

If there is one common theme in Twenty20, it is that nothing is planned. No captain, no batsman and no bowler can predict and plan beyond the next ball. Captains probably can't plan at all. All they can do is play their hunches and hope for the best. Line and length still holds - good line and length is more difficult to hit even in Twenty20. But the issue is that batsmen are willing to take a chance. Therefore, effects of good line and length are unpredictable (or predictable, depending on how you choose to view it - you can predict that a batsman will slog). A telling case in point was David Lloyd's comment when Gautam Gambhir was dismissed in todays game against SA. "One shot too many" he said - A fallacy if there ever was one. When Gambhir was dismissed, India were two down with only fifteen overs to play. Therefore, his dismissal didn't mean much to the next few batsmen, because there was no pressure for survival. There can be no planning, because batsmen themselves don't have a "plan" so to speak. The default state is to attack, and brief periods when there is no attack, are merely impatient interludes between attacks. Attacking batting loses meaning in such a scenario, because defensive batting is never necessary.

Therefore, for Yuvraj to claim "payback" after a phenomenal, instinctive bit of batting which didn't surprise me at all (he's probably the most phenomenal batting talent around), was silly. There is no payback of any sort, especially in Twenty20 cricket. He had a good day and Stuart Broad had a terrible day - he got all his attempted yorkers wrong, most ended up as half volleys, others as full tosses, which Yuvraj skillfully and powerfully deposited over the boundary, playing authentic cricket shots. Broad didn't think of altering his length and maybe trying a shorter one (i doubt whether it would have made a difference, given the crispness with which Yuvraj was middling everything). Its the sort of thing Twenty20 can do to bowlers. Unless the ball is swinging and the wicket offers seam movement (like it did when India bowled today against SA), bowlers can do little. I don't think it is Yuvraj's claim that he deliberately set out to hit six sixes in the over. It was a freak occurence, and to attribute to motive to it is ridiculous.

A Google News search for the terms Yuvraj & Payback bring 337 news stories! Nearly every news outlet ran with the "payback" headline. I wonder why its such a popular theme, especially when the actual event in no way resembles "payback". The press often accuses Cricketers (in times of defeat) of being "pampered stars". Isn't the press pampering Yuvraj here by lapping up whatever he says without a second thought? I realize that it is risky to refer to the "press" as a monolith, but given the press's inability/unwillingness to criticize its own, there is no other way of looking at it.

We could do without the vulgarity of "payback". It does not belong with the magnificence of Yuvraj Singh's batsmanship. Sadly though, it may just belong in the gamblers paradise that is Twenty20 cricket.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Yuvraj Singh - Phenom......

My opinion about Twenty20 aside, this is worth watching over and over again....

Yuvraj Singh 50 in 12 balls!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Twenty20 Mishap.............

The ridiculous spectacle of international bowlers celebrating like they had got a wicket, because they could bowl a straight one at the stumps on the batsman's end from twenty two yards away was full and final proof of the stupidity that Twenty20 is. They say that it provides busy people with an evenings entertainment. What it does to Cricket, seems secondary. In fact, not even secondary - it seems to be irrelevant!

Is Cricket shooting itself in the foot with Twenty20? Will Twenty20 becoming more and more popular make the average cricket watcher less patient and less appreciative of Test cricket or even ODI cricket? Does it threaten ODI cricket more than it threatens Test cricket? In the euphoria of sell out crowds and a TV spectacle with few rivals in the TV world, Cricket's lot has gone largely unscrutinized. With shallow modifications like making Umpires accessible to TV commentators and giving players microphones so they can chat with commentators, the real issue of Twenty20 cricket - what it does to the contest between bat and ball, is missed.

So what does it do to the contest between bat and ball? In Test cricket, the contest is finely balanced - testing character, discipline, control, skill, for both bowler and batsman. The batsman is interested in not being dismissed, while the bowler is interested in dismissing the batsman. Run scoring is dictated by this fundamental equation. In ODI cricket, and to a much greater extent in Twenty20 cricket, batsmen don't have to worry about preserving their wicket, because of the severe limitation in overs. So, the fundamental equation doesn't hold. Batsmen swing, and the frequency of miscues and edges is extremely high. Twenty20 is not a high "risk" contest, it is a high "chance" contest. Batsmen are more aggressive, precisely because the "risk" is infact lower. So they don't take greater "risks", they don't play less "selfishly", they take more "chances", and play more "recklessly". Its also a more violent contest, which doesn't have to be watched as carefully. It is the nature of professionals to develop methods to their madness, so hitting methods have developed, new strokes do get invented. But the basic point is, batsmen in Test cricket can't play those strokes because of the prevalent risk equation.

So what is Twenty20 promoting? A event based primarily on luck, which the spectator doesn't really have to watch very carefully. So does Twenty20 attract new spectators and audiences to Cricket? Or does it do it to "anti-Cricket"? Would a spectator who watches and enjoys the hoopla that is Twenty20, ever want to watch serious cricket? Is the argument that Twenty20 brings new spectators to cricket really valid? Or is it merely lip service to the concerns of those genuinely interested with cricket? Did Cricket need a new format to make money with? Was Test Cricket and ODI Cricket not bringing in revenue?

If the point of bringing more viewers to cricket was to attract new spectators, is Twenty20 the way to do it? Or does Twenty20 actually do exactly the opposite? Is this a mishap made with perfect Twenty20 vision? As with most things, time will tell. Reasonably though, Twenty20 can not possibly promote the popularity of Test or even ODI cricket. It is perfect for those who want spectators to win quickly (as most partisan new age "fans" do), it is not perfect at all for those who want to watch a genuine contest between batsman and bowler - one which tests both equally!

What Twenty20 does is that it eats into an increasingly packed calender and makes a mockery of the game at the same time. Has football (not the american variety), made even the slightest concession to TV in the last 50-60 years? As for bowl outs, they just underline the fact that the promoters and designers of the Twenty20 idea have just completely missed the point about Cricket (and don't really give a damn about it either). How about a World Cup for bowlers bowling at a single stump - that might actually require some skill - more skill than a Twenty20 bowl out! If the bowl out is an adaptation of the the penalty shoot out, then it reveals a very poor understanding of penalty shoot outs too, because even in penalty shoot outs, you have goalkeepers!

What Cricket needs is a shortened version which keeps the contest between bowler and batsman intact. ODI cricket did that to some extent, but artificial restrictions on the number of overs per bowler and number of overs per innings have weakened the idea at its very inception.Twenty20 is a disaster, which takes the cricketer, his bat, his ball, his cricket ground and his pitch, and uses it for a scam. Twenty20 Cricket posing as Cricket, is a bit like "Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi" posing as the lesson about family values. Maybe that explain why it works!

Friday, September 14, 2007

A bolt from The Blue!!!

The man who gave India Test series wins in England and West Indies, a first Test series win against Sri Lanka in 12 years, and managed a tough transition where many of Ganguly's champions went through the first serious troughs of their careers (Harbhajan, Sehwag, Kaif) and some of the great players showed marked decline (Tendulkar, Ganguly), has decided to quit as India captain. He says he didn't enjoy the job anymore. Like it happened with Ganguly, the captaincy wore him down. Ganguly let it destroy the batsman in him - Dravid is unwilling to do so. It is the difference between the two men.

His decision itself, coming as it does on India's earth shattering Twenty20 contest against Pakistan, makes it potentially a field day.... nay field weekend for the press. They get Dravid's decision in the morning, India v Pakistan in the evening, and a weekend of high circulation. In the Twenty20 slog, India seem to have started as though dazed by their captain's decision to quit, and are 5/87 in 13.3 overs right now. But thats irrelevant. I cannot bring myself to consider Twenty20 which so mangles the contest between bat and ball as cricket worth thinking about or commenting on. Dravid though, is another matter.

The man himself has reported shut himself off from the world. That in my view has been one of Dravid's great strengths - his dealings with the press. There is much that future India captains can learn from Dravid in this regard. They couldn't "run" Dravid. He would give them only the most exasperatingly correct lines and only occasionally was roused enough to be "candid". They didn't like it when he was candid, and the public seemed to be plainly flummoxed, because they weren't used to such candor. Just the temerity to call armchair critics "armchair critics" - the cheek of it... with Dravid, when the press thought they had a story, they didn't seem to know what it meant.

So why did he resign? The reason he has given is unlikely to be sufficient (even though it is in all probability accurate and complete). It is in two parts: the first being that he has stopped enjoying the job, and the second being that he wanted to concentrate on his batting. The third issue is the timing. He could have resigned immediatly after the world cup, but it is a measure of the man that he didn't - that he led India to a first ever overseas series win against SA, and a series win in England.

I don't blame him for not enjoying the job. With all the rubbish he has had to deal with after the world cup (and to a lesser degree after every defeat), i don't blame him at all. When you consider the fact that both his Test and ODI records were, in toto, superior to every other Indian captain before him, you would probably forgive him wondering why people think of him as having been uninspiring and unsuccessful. His refusal to fit into the Ganguly mould was neither understood nor respected by the public. The job wore him down and wore down his batting. He couldn't match his own extraordinarily high standards, and like Sachin Tendulkar in 2000, finally threw in the towel. In both their cases, their job was not under pressure - nobody was going to sack Tendulkar in 2000, and nobody was likely to sack Dravid today. We must ask ourselves why two of our greatest cricketers quit the captaincy because "they stopped enjoying the job".

His recond reason stems from the first. Ganguly himself is the perfect example of this. Only in his case, he fooled himself into believing all was well (or so we must believe given his comments about batting well and referring to centuries against Zimbabwe to support his case towards the end of his reign), and in the process destroyed himself as a batsman. It affected his judgement as captain, and was bad for the team. There are those who will view Dravid's decision as "selfish" - but they are most likely to be those who feel that "killer-instinct" is all that is required to play good cricket and win. I have little time for this argument, because it seems to be a cop out to me. Batting poorly and bowling poorly are invariably the most compelling reasons for defeat. Dravid knows that. He knows that he is a valuable batsman for the side. It is to his credit that he has the foresight to check himself and take stock.

All in all, it marks the end to a fine era. Where many of the promised gains of the Ganguly era were finally realized. Dravid won more than he lost against good opposition in both Tests and ODI's, and broke new ground for India in both as captain.

Sadly he will be remembered only an alleged World Cup "debacle". Those who view that as a crime are fools. And those who view that as a great failure don't have a clue about the cricketing contest.

Thank you RD...... would it be possible to see a few more of those classical hundreds that you specialize in?

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Framing the Cricket Debate.....

Cricket is followed ridiculously passionately in India. Having said that, what is most striking about this following is that there seems to be no basis for this following. Are people interested in cricket? Are they interested in cricketers? Are they interested in victory? Are they interested in being involved in a popular pursuit? To a lesser of greater degree, every cricket follower probably identifies with these interests. For the most part though, it seems to be a perpetual roller coaster ride between the euphoria of victory and despair of defeat. Heroes become villains, villains become heroes and after a while all of them become commentators. With absolutely unfettered freedom of opinion - anybody can say anything about cricket without being questioned or being held to their opinion, except possibly the players themselves (and coaches as Greg Chappell found out to his ultimate discomfiture), it is hard to gauge the standards to which cricketers may be held to.

Is Sachin Tendulkar held to the same standards that say Ramesh Powar or Zaheer Khan are held to? Is there a cricketing standard which informs any such judgement? These questions are both interesting and important because they can form a basis for argument and a basis for gauging performance. At the end of the day, that is what everybody is interested in doing be they interested in cricket, cricketers, victory or the "in" thing. Obviously, each of these different species will have their own measure of all matters cricketing - they will also spend differing amounts of time and thought in coming to these judgements. Cricket may reveal itself differently, but basically the same game is devoured by everybody. I don't intend to say which of these four species (indeed there may be more than four) dominate the discourse, neither do i intend to speculate about the relative numbers of these devotees. Indeed, with silent majorities and noisy minorities, this becomes a slippery pursuit. However, i will limit myself to the cricket side of things as i understand them and illustrate in effect how i see a cricket match.

Cricket is a contest between bat and ball. Bowlers win games, batsmen prevent them from being lost, or at best enable bowlers to win them. This is a tricky relationship because batsmen can bat as well as they are allowed to bat by the bowlers, while certain exceptional batsmen can dictate how well a bowler can bowl. However, as the contestant who makes the initial play, the bowler in my view holds the initiative. Certain lines and lengths have proven to be extremely difficult to score off for the best part of a 130 years (and more if you look back to the advent of over arm bowling). Seam movement is almost impossible to play, simply because there is no time in which it can be humanly possible to make adjustments for the change in line and direction, especially of a "good" length (more on this later). Swing bowling and spin bowling are probably slightly easier to play, simply because it is possible to predict both earlier as compared to seam movement.

International batsmen are able to gauge the swing by observing the shiny side of the ball, and gauge spin "from the hand". Batting technique has evolved in response to these challenges. Further enhancements in technique emerged due to developments in the LBW law. The advent of ODI cricket and the different type of trade off that it encourages between scoring quickly and losing wickets has further informed modern techniques. Sehwag, Gilchrist, Gayle, Jayasurya - all unorthodox players by any traditional measure are technically children of the ODI age. Even if techniques change, the realities of seam, swing, spin and pace remain. Seam, swing, spin, pace, line and length are a bowlers chief weapons. Some bowlers like Warne, having mastered the basics of their craft add another dimension to their game - that of being able to dictate a contest with a batsman - this essentially amounts to being able to produce a sequence of deliveries which enable a trap to be set and the batsman to be forced into this trap.

So how does the contest between bat and ball unfold at international level? The contest is one where bowlers try to force the batsman into error. The wickets are invariably extremely good and technique can be applied profitably. In short, good wickets ensure that what the bowler intends will invariably happen, and that the batsman can rely on the fact that it will happen. Wickets rarely fall due to a ball scooting through ankle high from the middle of the wicket (all though on some wearing 5th day wickets, this does occasionally happen). Good line and good length are therefore definable and indeed are well established. The quality of a bowler is basically determined by how consistently and how persistently he can hit this good line and good length, while a batsman's quality is determined by how disciplined and how correct his application of technique is. By definition, batsmen take a risk when they play an expansive stroke, since they must commit to predicting the line and length of the ball earlier due to an extended back lift and follow through, than they would in a defensive stroke. Great bowling involves not giving anything away - Wasim Akram and Malcolm Marshall were great bowlers, basically because they rarely bowled a bad ball. This is the key to the cricketing contest in my view. If a statistical study were made, im willing to bet anything that in both Test and ODI cricket, the side which bowls more "bad" balls, invariably loses the game, given comparable batting strength (Australia and NZ or India and NZ would be comparable batting strength, while India and Namibia would not).

Shane Warne was the bowler he was not because he could turn his leg break square, but because he could land it perfectly nearly every time while employing all his variations in pace, length and trajectory. That control formed the basis of the thrilling, compelling narrative of his spells. Why did he struggle against India? Mainly because his leg stump line (pitching the ball on leg stump and turning it past off stump), which worked so beautifully against English, South African and other batsmen, didn't work too well against India, he couldn't control the runs, and his "good" balls ceased to be good balls. This illustrates the value of consistency - of finding the "good" line and length and then hitting it ball after ball. Often, for most batsmen there is more than one "good" line and length.

What then is good line and length? This is harder to define but easy to identify. For a spinner, in Bishen Bedi's famous description, a good length is the shortest length which draws a batsman forward. Spinners getting cut or pulled have almost certainly bowled a bad ball. For fast bowlers, the "good" length is generally understood to be that length to which the batsman cannot decisively move forward or back - lengths which catch the batsman "on the crease".

A good line and length is only the beginning of what a top class bowler will seek. He will seek in addition to this opportunities in accordance with field placing to bowl attacking deliveries. For fast bowlers these could be the bouncer or the yorker. These are difficult to play if delivered perfectly, but conversely are not only difficult to deliver perfectly, but become easy scoring opportunities if not delivered perfectly.

Similarly, with batsmen - most batsmen have good defensive techniques which enable them to face a good line and length. It is when they are denied scoring opportunities due to persistent and unrelenting line and length, that they tend to take risks. Sometimes they come off, sometimes they don't. Some batsmen practice taking these risks (Ganguly and his premeditated slogs) and there by reduce the risk of failure.

Bowlers try and maximize the risk a batsman has to take to score runs, while batsmen try to prepare themselves in ways which would enable them to manage that risk. Thats why batsmen who can play "all round the wicket, of both front and back foot" are more likely to score consistently compared to other more limited batsmen. Some of them - geniuses like Tendulkar and Lara can do this better and more imaginatively and more skillfully than other lesser batsmen. It invariably shows in their records.

Records speak even more eloquently in the case of bowlers. The bowling average (and in ODI cricket the bowling economy rate) are extremely powerful measures of quality. Seen along with the economy rate, the bowling average, which gives the number of runs conceded for each wicket taken gives a unvarnished measure of how many "bad" deliveries a bowler tends to bowl - how much control he has, and also of how much variety and skill he has. A bowler averaging 28, with an economy of 5, may occasionally bowl brilliantly and win his side a game, but in the long run, he will always (without exception) be less effective and less useful than a bowler averaging 23, with an economy of 5. If you extend that to teams - teams with bowlers with better bowling averages always do better than teams whos bowlers have inferior bowling averages. This is true in both Test and ODI cricket. Any batting advantage that a team may have over the opposition is easily nullified by the bowling advantage. The reason is simple. Bowlers have to strike 20 times, while batsmen have to score runs and against good bowling (which is hard by definition), while the opposition batsmen score their runs against lesser bowling (much easier).

ODI cricket may be a "batsman's" game, but the rules of line and length remain. Take the simple example of Sachin Tendulkar's innings in the 7th ODI. He was able to score at a reasonable rate 30(46), but if you break those 30 runs down, and see the 4 fours that he hit - the first was a barely middled pull shot which went fine to long leg, the next two - he had to back away to leg and hit over the off side (and in the process take an enormous risk to turn good balls into balls of hittable line and length) and a genuine outside edge to third man. Thats 16 of his 3o runs. This was Tendulkar in terrific form. He got nothing to hit otherwise - thats how good the bowling was from Broad, Anderson and Flintoff. Contrast this with Ian Bell's runs and see how many easy pull shots and square cuts and cover drives he was allowed. England bowled 46 balls at Tendulkar without allowing him a single easy four ball. Did India produce a single spell of 46 balls in the entire series (to the England team, let alone to the single batsman)?

Now, the added height and pace of the English batsmen gives them greater margin for error than someone like Agarkar, Zaheer and RP will have. But in a match analysis sadly leeway cannot be left for that. Contrast India's ODI performance with Zaheer and RP's fast bowling in the Test series (especially from the second day at Lord's onwards). There, they were constantly threatening batsmen - they were able to move the ball, bowl a terrific length (which Sreesanth was unable to do) with the result that especially Zaheer was extremely economical. The ability to produce quality fast bowling has over the years been the single greatest determinant of success in ODI as well as Test cricket.

What of the batsmen then? What is their impact on the contest? With one single mistake being enough to end their innings, their role is simple - to not make unforced errors. Even without making unforced errors, they can still be dismissed by a great piece of bowling (such as perfectly pitched, late seam movement, which by definition is unplayable). Batsmen with good technique generally make fewer unforced errors than batsmen with bad techniques. The definition of "good technique" has been evolving. In India alone, the paradigm shift from the Gavaskar era to the Tendulkar era seems to have been from an emphasis on footwork to an emphasis on balance. Many will argue that the purpose of footwork is to achieve balance, but with the advent of unorthodox batsmen like Sehwag, this has been brought home more clearly.

None of this is unknown to most observers interested in cricket. What i have tried to do is to put it all together. In my view extraneous issues like "inspiration", "killer instinct", "playing for the team", "team spirit" etc etc are mere window dressing. Without skill, none of this matters. The overwhelming majority of results tend to be in favor of sides which possess better skills and which execute the skills that they possess better. I have been intrigued and not a little dismayed by allegations of "selfishness", "lack of killer instinct" and "lack of guts" which have been persistently levelled against Indian teams. The notorious late 80's and early 90's when team after team would get beaten by Pakistan and find themselves facing the most shameful diatribes, lost because they could not match the skill of the Pakistan side of that day - specifically fast bowling skill.

Fast bowling is gold in international cricket and the side whose fast bowlers bowl better almost always wins. This is my view as an observer of cricket.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Superior all-round depth brings England Series Victory......

India paid for their series long inability to control the runs in the field in the last game of the ODI series. Conventional wisdom would have dictated that the captain winning the toss might field first. But so dismal has been the form of the Indian pace attack, that India had long abandoned the three paceman ploy for the six batsman ploy. Dravid was left with two equal choice - to revert back to a failed ploy which had so far given him absolutely no control in the field, or to place his batsmen in a difficult position and ask of them a match winning total on a bowler friendly London morning. As it happened, he seems to have made the wrong choice. But it would be a tough (and some would say heartless) judge who might castigate a captain for failing to guess right (this was a guess in the purest sense of the word).

There was a subtle change in India's tactics at the top of the order. Gone was the early cautiousness. Sourav Ganguly seemed intent on delivering the match winning total very early in the innings and deemed it unnecessary to get a look in, or even look at the ball at times! He was worked over with some well directed purposeful short bowling, lost his rhythm and his normal footwork and eventually offered a tame poke outside off stump after many of his involuntary hook shots missed the fielders. Tendulkar at the other end was all correctness. He was shuffling back and across to cover the ball and never missed a single scoring opportunity.

The English bowling was hostile and each of the three England bowlers - Anderson, Broad and Flintoff bowled a superb basic length and were consistently quicker than their Indian counterparts. They do have a basic advantage in height, but they made it count.

Gambhir came in at number 3, and looked accomplished. His dismissal was the sort that indicates to the experienced watcher that the rub of the green is running against the batting side today. A perfectly executed pull shot - middled, well-timed, hit down towards the ground... landed in Luke Wright's hands. Usually they might have said "a yard on either side would have meant four", but here in this case, a foot might have sufficed.

Dravid came and was almost immediatly caught on the crease by a vicious Flintoff off cutter. Whether or not he edged it is immaterial, but Flintoff's line and length in those 3 early overs (remember he's returning from injury and playing with an injection to manage the injury) was an object lesson for ODI pacemen. Here is a bowler who has the priceless ability to control the runs. Tendulkar did score two boundaries off him, but those were down to Tendulkar taking tremendous risks - backing away and hitting over the infield on the off side. Then followed Tendulkar's dismissal. It was a difficult call for the Umpire. I wouldn't call it the worst decision Tendulkar has had this year. It was certainly extremely good bowling - good line, good length.

Robin Uthappa came in and proceeded to play with the confidence of a match winner until he played a nothing off drive down mid off's throat. It was a nonchalant swat - neither lofted nor grounded, and he can expect good teams to trap him in that cover and mid off area often if he keeps that shot up. 10 years ago, such a shot, in such a situation might have invited the attention of the selectors in almost all of the major test playing nations. Today, nobody is likely to bat an eyelid.

From then on, it was a matter of survival, and once Yuvraj Singh was strangled by the superbly accurate Mascarenhas (note the line and length on that ball), it was all over bar the shouting. Dhoni made 50 and gave India something to bowl at, but as has been the case for most of this series, it was not apparent that India would in fact be able bowl with too much conviction.

Zaheer Khan's opening over to England's Matt Prior - a wicketkeeper batsman with a pronounced tendency to shuffle across his stumps, was illustrative of the problem with the Indian bowling this series. Two out of six balls were drifting down the leg side, one went for four leg byes and the other was a wide. Five runs conceded without the batsman playing a shot in anger. RP followed this up with a wide down the off side before the first delivery bowled in earnest yielded a wicket. Later, after a brief spurt of good bowling, Ian Bell was allowed 3 pull shots off rank long hops within a space of 2 overs and the pressure had eased. England were away. Three overs later, Sourav Ganguly produced yet another rank long hop and Bell moved to 27(31), and England to 61/2. The purpose here is to illustrate the ease with which runs are conceded against a batting side which is rebuilding. The English batsmen are match fit and in good form and are unlikely to miss out on gift wrapped offerings.

This lack of control has hurt India in this series. That is the urgent review that they need to conduct. The team needs depth, not just in the batting line up, but in the ODI bowling. The fielding needs similar review. The role of both Robin Singh and Venkatesh Prasad needs to be reviewed. Especially Venkatesh Prasad, who's public questioning of Munaf Patel's "attitude" left a lot to be desired. Rahul Dravid has never found occasion to publicly castigate one of his players and there is no reason for Prasad to do so. Within the team, im quite sure that Dravid lets rip occasionally, but in public, he does (as he must) always back his players to the hilt and defend them when required.

All things considered, in England, inspite of England depth in batting and bowling, and superior fielding, the end result was 3-4. It is fitting that the match that turned the series England's way was won by Stuart Broad and Dmitri Mascarenhas. They have made the difference - Broad, Mascarenhas, Bopara and Wright and given England something that India had no answer too - all round depth.

The English pace attack looks promising. That they went into the final game 3-3 without a single telling contribution from their best ODI batsman is a testament to how well their team has contributed. India on the other hand needed something special from Tendulkar, Ganguly, Dravid, Yuvraj or Dhoni to stay abreast of England. Ian Chappell's "p

The better team won at the end of the day.....

Bhogle on Tendulkar........

I just found this on Youtube.....

10 minutes from a fan, devotee, critic, chronicler, follower, admirer, friend(?).... Some of the audience's laughter was inexplicable though...

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Do you really mean that Sachin?

Sachin Tendulkar said after his 4th 90+ score in his last 9 innings against good opposition - "We decided that we are not going to lose early wickets". "If we had wickets in hand, we knew the runs would come".

Now, with greatest of respect, i don't think he quite meant that. At two levels - firstly, the way he batted did not indicate that it was his intention "not to lose early wickets". He was his usual classy, assured, assertive self, and scored at only 7 runs per over along with his partner in the powerplays. Secondly, the way he phrased it, might suggest to other people that there are other times when they don't really care about not losing early wickets. Then there is the cricketing reality that you can't actually "decide" to not lose wickets. You could get a bad decision, or make an error of judgement (you can't "decide" not to do that either) or simply get an unplayable ball. The bowlers make the running in cricket.

The sum total of Tendulkar's standard cricketing strategies (at least for public consumption), can be described in a nutshell - he either decides to "hang around", or "not lose early wickets". Thats hardly a strategy.....

Which brings us to the point - can there really be definitive strategic basis to batting beyond the standard spectrum of risk taking - high risk, high return.. or lower risk and a longer haul? In Tendulkar's case he does make tactical adjustments to his batting. For some bowlers he uses a pronounced back and across shuffle (usually the quicker bowlers, especially the taller ones who get steep bounce on account of their extra height - something which matters more to Tendulkar since he is probably the shortest batsman in international cricket today), for others, he does not shuffle across to cover off stump and his first movement is forward. Occasionally in ODI cricket he will wait on the back foot for those 2 chances in the over where he may be able cut or pull, and in the process let the odd pitched up ball go unpunished. There are some days when he ignores the hook, on others he decides he wants to play it. There was one famous occasion at Sydney in a Test Match where he didn't play a cover drive until he had reached 150. There are times when he will attack a spinner, others when he is content to play out the spell. There are times when he changes his stances to certain bowlers. I have never seen him take middle stump guard though.

Each of these choices indicate a state of mind and a line of thinking. But does it amount to a broad, sweeping claim that "we are not going to lose early wickets"? His team mates know what he's saying, and in the euphoria of a great win, nobody's really going to think much about what he says - anything he says will invite admiration. For example - if he'd said something like "we thought we needed to make good use of the powerplays", would that have been less specific or less/more consequential than this comment?

If India were to lose early wickets at Lord's, would it mean that this was because they didn't care as much about losing wickets? Tendulkar has been a great batsman, a magnificient competitor.... but his eloquence leaves much to be desired.... much to the frustration of some of his fans. Every indication from the team suggests that he has an enormous role in tactics, strategy and mentoring.... but his public statements don't indicate that....

That ironically is probably the secret of his success and of his continued sanity..... :)

Magnificient Batsmen deliver yet again.....

India levelled the Natwest series 3-3 at the Oval today chasing 300+ for a record 6th time in ODI cricket. Sri Lanka with 4 successful 300+ run chases have the second best record. India have also reached 300 batting second more often than any other ODI team. While this is an indicator of India's formidable batting strength, it is more significantly a measure of their moderate bowling. If the Australian batting were stretched for example, they might have done better than India in reaching 300.

Today's stirring run chase was made possibly by the bowlers committing suicide yet again after doing quite well in the first 30 overs of the English innings. England were 137/5 in 30 overs and were allowed to score 179 runs in the last 20 overs despite being 5 down! Owais Shah batted brilliantly and the bowling and fielding fell away. When it was India's turn to bat, it was the usual suspects delivering yet again. Indeed, at 139/0 after 20 overs, India might have expected to win easily. The run chase was a great example of why the 300 score is so difficult to chase. After batting brilliantly for 25 or so overs, India were still required to scored at better than 6 an overs in the last 25 overs, and a couple of wickets at the wrong time put the skids on the Indian run rate. Tendulkar batted as only Tendulkar can and it is possibly the saddest thing in cricket in many many years, that he should have to contemplate retirement from ODI cricket just as he had managed to put together his first real continuous stint of batting at the international level since the 2003 World Cup. But even if he does decide to retire, he has in this series managed to offer glimpses of his old self - he will retire as the greatest ODI batsman in history.

Sourav Ganguly seems to prosper in the great man's company and India's come back in this series has been due in large part to their brilliance at the top of the order. They have now produced two consecutive century stands for the first wicket in must win games. Doubtless, if they don't make runs in the decider, they will be accused of not delivering when it really counts (never mind that the fast bowling has not deliver in any substantial measure in any of the 6 games so far), but then again, if they played to please the public, they might not have lasted a single year, let alone 18 and 11 respectively.

Robin Uthappa, Gautam Gambhir and MS Dhoni all played their parts in the run chase with Uthappa especially finding crucial boundaries at the end.

It's on to the decider then.... with Andrew Flintoff most likely to miss out, India will fancy their chances - provided the bowling delivers.... It is time the bowlers put together 50 solid overs of bowling.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

English conditions, Indian victory.....

If a dispassionate view of cricket in England were accepted, people would be amazed by how many games between evenly matched teams are decided by the timing of presence or absence of a cloud cover. Today was one such day. England were without Flintoff, but the weather and the reputation of Headingley was enough for Paul Collingwood to do a Dravid - to win the toss and field. If the first 5 games have been anything to go by, this by itself might have provided a glimpse into what might transpire.

As it happened, Tendulkar and Ganguly walked out to bat, and before long the sun decided to see for himself what 26000 ODI runs, nearly 700 ODI games, 152 fifties and 63 centuries look like on an international cricket ground. For much of this summer, apart from a few stray glimpses, we have been reminded that even great cricketers are human. Today however, we learnt that they have a keen memory too. Five years ago, Tendulkar and Ganguly put on 249 for the 4th wicket at the famous ground, 96 of those came in 11 overs at the end, after an impressive day long display of patience. Today, they watched the first 5 or so overs, before Tendulkar decided to assert himself just a wee bit. The honest push to cover was replaced first by persuasive open face, then by a coercive closed face. At that point, Jon Lewis threw in the towel. The square cut to the rank long hop and the leg glance to the mistake down the leg side was the victor's plunder. From that point on, England were sent on a leather hunt, and it didn't matter whether or not the sun shone. The last 45 overs of the Indian innings produced 315 runs. Gambhir, the sixth batsman, came in at number 3 and gave a demonstration of why he remains on the fringes of selection for India for 4 long years despite averaging 21 against non minnow opposition. Yuvraj Singh was his usual imperious self. Dravid's bat seemed to possess only the middle, and Dhoni swung with unambiguous gusto.

When England batted, there was the usual patchwork of mixed bowling, good length, bad length, missed catches, good catches..... the end result, England reached 242 in 39 overs despite their best stroke player being dismissed for zero, but lost 8 wickets in the process. Ganguly found something in the wicket that no other bowler had been able to find and with an inspired Dhoni standing expertly up to the stumps, broke the back of the English middle order.

Even though his problems with rotating the strike remain, there is little doubt that Ganguly is a versatile ODI cricketer. His 300th ODI game was a memorable one. A must win game, where he scored a 50 and took two wickets. He also enjoyed his 19th century stand with his great friend and opening partner of old.

Reality must still be faced though, and the fact remains that only 1/3rd of the job is done. The thing to do however seems to me to make sure they bat first in the next game, pray that the sun makes his appearances only when it is most propitious for India and then pray further, that India find someone in their eleven who make telling use of the generosity of the Sun God.

India have stayed alive, but they haven't won the series...... yet!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Can a batsman be Mankaded?

I remember reading somewhere that the non-striker can't be Mankaded anymore. England seem to have cottoned on to it..... Does anybody know what the exact modification in the Law is? Or is it just in the playing conditions for the Natwest series?

Portrait of a genius......

I found this video on Youtube today..... Bob Dylan giving an "interview" to a reporter from Time Magazine.

He's all over the journalist - Dylan frames the questions and Dylan frames the answers.

This is the sort of stardom one would admire.... :)

Think "armchair critics" and think "unhealthy obsession with the world cup" and all the other mediocrity we are mired in..... How i wish someone like Dylan would come along and rip through it all.... unmask it so it withers away...