Sunday, January 30, 2011

Five Years of A Cricketing View

On January 28, 2006, five years ago almost to the day, I started this blog because my friend (and flatmate at the time) thought it would be a good idea and introduced me to blogger and blogging. India were on tour in Pakistan, and after two featherbeds at Lahore and Faisalabad, Karachi promised a result wicket. The first over of the Karachi Test would bring a hat-trick for Irfan Pathan, the first day a century for Kamran Akmal and ascendancy for Pakistan. They would go on to win by 341 runs.

The weblog is an amazingly versatile medium which enables anything from a quick, immediate thought to a long considered essay. In the last 5 years I have tended to do both. When I look back on some of these posts, they make me cringe, but in a way I am glad that this is so.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

World Cup Matters

Who will win the 2011 World Cup? The betting men have their favorites, as do the pundits. Many have called it the most open tournament ever. I tend to agree. I can think of the 1996 tournament that was similarly open, but none since then. Any of six teams could realistically win the 2011 World Cup - India, Australia, South Africa, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, England, with New Zealand and West Indies being outsiders at best. The six teams I mentioned are all more or less equally likely to win. Instead of making a definite claim about which team is likely to do well, in this post I ask what type of team is best equipped to win the World Cup.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Jacques Kallis

Harbhajan Singh congratulates Jacques Kallis at the end of South Africa's 2nd innings at Cape Town, 2011
Jacques Kallis had just scored his second century of the match. The man who spent most of the 4th day getting reverse-swept by Kallis could not hide his admiration. “He is a great player. I would say after Tendulkar, he is the best player in the world,” said Harbhajan Singh. Given the Indian off-spinning ace's unapologetically one-eyed hero-worship of Bombay's greatest son, this is some compliment. I think it would be quite safe to assume that in the world of Test players, Jacques Kallis is a great player.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Playing the short ball

I can't tell you how to play the short ball, because I have never faced one. In the cricket that i played, the short ball invariably sat up, begging to be smashed. It never screamed off the wicket threatening one's nose. We used to pour water on our makeshift wicket and then make the heavy tennis ball (not the type used in actual tennis) wet after first shaving it bare to make it go faster after pitching, but it was only after I played with a proper cricket ball against a bowler of some pace that i got some, albeit limited idea about short pitched bowling.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Samit Patel and England's discriminatory selection policy

I have argued in the past that the present day obsession with fielding acrobatics in Cricket teams (especially when it comes to Test teams), has not served teams very well. Making fun of fat people is a time honored tradition in most cultures in which cricket is played. Sledges about placing Mars bars just short of a good length to Ranatunga are still considered hilarious. The anti-fat bias is now a well understood phenomenon, but cricket, like it has done in so many other areas, has unimaginatively followed other sports in fetishizing the perfect male body.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pakistan - worthy winners

Pakistan played out the last day of the 2nd Test against New Zealand to secure a 1-0 series win. They needed 274 to win of the final day with a young, inexperienced batting line up that depended on captain Misbah-Ul-Haq and the superb Younis Khan. I suspect that they would have gone for the runs had they managed a good start (a good start would be being at the most 2 down at lunch), but having lost 3 wickets cheaply within the first hour of play, sensibly decided to play out the day.

Monday, January 17, 2011

India's World Cup Squad

The Indian Selectors announced India's 15 member squad for the upcoming World Cup to be held in the Indian sub-continent. It is a well balanced squad

Squad: MS Dhoni (capt & wk), Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Virat Kohli, Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel, Piyush Chawla, R Ashwin

Even though this might be an old-fashioned thing to do, it is worth looking at the regional representation of the squad.

M S Dhoni (Jharkhand), Sachin Tendulkar (Mumbai), Virender Sehwag (Delhi), Gautam Gambhir (Delhi), Yuvraj Singh (Punjab), Suresh Raina (Uttar Pradesh), Virat Kohli (Delhi), Yusuf Pathan (Baroda), Harbhajan Singh (Punjab), Praveen Kumar (Uttar Pradesh), Zaheer Khan (Mumbai), Ashish Nehra (Delhi), Munaf Patel (Baroda), Piyush Chawla (Uttar Pradesh), R Ashwin (Tamil Nadu)

The balance of power has shifted in India's cricket from the South to the North. Think back to this squad, which included 8 South Zone players. The 2011 World Cup squad has the following zonal breakup

Central Zone - 3 - Raina, Praveen Kumar, Piyush Chawla
East Zone - 1 - Dhoni
North Zone - 6 - Sehwag, Gambhir, Yuvraj, Kohli, Harbhajan Singh and Ashish Nehra
South Zone - 1 - Ravichandran Ashwin
West Zone - 4 - Tendulkar, Pathan, Zaheer, Munaf

It is a well balanced side, tailored to the expected conditions in India.

On the IPL Auction

A few days ago, I referred to a post about the IPL Auction by Sharda Ugra. It was, I am very happy to see, just the first of a number of voices who were put off by it. My purpose in this post is not to offer a firm opinion on the IPL Auction, but to reflect on how it is an object for illustrating the debate which should be taken place about the IPL. It is a debate which should unsettle impervious beliefs about private enterprise for profit enterprise as the basis for all professional cricket.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Chokers v Magicians

If you put together all the analysis of the second ODI at Johannesburg, which India won by 1 run, it could well be titled Chokers v Magicians. I don't need to explain why people apply the chokers tag for South Africa. I call the Indians magicians not in the same sense in which I would call Brian Lara a magical batsman, but in the sense that they seem to conjure up victories these days despite going through tedious periods laced with elementary errors (erratic, inaccurate bowling, excessively ambitious encounters with the short ball, perennial overstepping to name just a few causes of these periods). Their fast bowling is perpetually modest, their fielding, compared to the South African fielding (for example) is only adequate. Their batting is superb, but somewhat eccentric. The Indian batting is not a run scoring machine in the sense that the Australian batting tended to be from Hayden to Gilchrist in the Test team and from Hayden to Bevan in the ODI side. It is built instead on rare individualistic talent and method. Furthermore, to extend all these moles and warts, they never seem to be able to field a full first choice XI for any length of time. Even in the South African Test series, they missed Zaheer Khan in the first test and Gautam Gambhir in the second. In this ODI series, Gambhir and Sehwag are both missing - two out of India's first choice top 3.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The challenge of Lonwabo Tsotsobe

The tall left arm bowler with a high arm action is a rarity in International Cricket. Left Arm seamers typically challenge right handed batsmen with their ability to either move the ball back in towards the stumps, or move it away - both are special because the left arm over angle. The ability to get steep lift from a good length add another dimension to the left-arm over line of attack. Tsotsobe, especially on these wickets which possess some nip, is a tricky proposition. He has a lot of control for a bowler of his experience, and bowling after Steyn and Morkel, has the luxury of bowling at batsmen who have been under pressure. Unlike Munaf Patel, who invariably bowled to set batsmen, Tsotsobe bowls at batsmen who are typically just a little bit more relaxed. For someone with Tsotsobe's control, that can be a god send.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

On the IPL Auction

Sharda Ugra just made this observation on Cricinfo's coverage of the IPL auction.
I would like to know whether they are just joking around? And keeping people on the tenterhooks? Plus if you see the visuals, the big dads are rocking on their chairs with laughter, as if they are just talking about an object. And not a cricketer. Sorry, but this is not even funny any more.
What does she think an auction is? The players are commodities. They can be bought and sold by franchises. Dignity, if it is granted, is only a niceties. Is she upset about the lack of decency of the auctioning process itself? Or is she upset that the "big dads" are merely being uncouth?

I wonder.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Don't watch the IPL

Every year, when it's time for the IPL to come along, I feel it is proper to protest. I have paid a lot of attention to the IPL and T20 cricket over the past 3 years. With the IPL auctions on, it is time to extend my argument. I have done so in this post at Clear Cricket. Subash and Josh have embellished it with the appropriate pictures yet again.

My full post:
Of all the clich├ęs that abound in the IPL, the most aggravating is this notion that the IPL gives upcoming Indian talent an opportunity. IPL owners and the IPL itself are invariably falling over each other to point out how much they are contributing to developing talent for India. This is nonsense, but it is just another line that is added to the paragraph of lies about how the IPL is saving Indian Cricket, as opposed to leeching off it. The reservation for Indian players in the IPL (there must be at least 20 Indian players on the roster of each IPL franchise), is often presented as Exhibit A in the case for the claim that the IPL is making a grand contribution to cricket.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

India, South Africa and a High Quality Contest

India return from their South African tour having denied the hosts a series victory for the first time in 5 Indian visits. A comparison with the 2006-07 tour is instructive in my view. India won the first Test at Johannesburg in that series, only to lose the next two, the third, despite scoring 400 in their first innings and taking a 41 run first innings lead. That Cape Town Test Match saw the advent of Paul Harris as South Africa's spin bowling option. The 2011 Test may among other things, signal the end of his short Test career, especially if Imran Tahir is in fact the leg spinning wonder that he is made out to be. In that Cape Town Test, India's batsmen got stuck and got out, in this one, they got surer as they shut shop.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Unforgettable Cricket at Cape Town

For three days now, the Cape Town Test has bested both it's protagonists. Try as they might, it has refused to let go. How many Test Matches have you seen in recent months (or even years) in which all four results were equally possible at the end of Day 3? Usually, it is clear by the third evening which side is likely to win, or likely to lose, or whether or not there is likely to be a result. Even in the last Test Match at Cape Town, whose trajectory the current one has followed closely, South Africa were 312/2 by the end of the third day, and had more or less shut England out.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

On the 2010-11 Ashes: Sydney a must-win for England

I write this on the first morning of the Sydney Test Match. Australia are 0/37. Philip Hughes and Shane Watson have survived a difficult first hour against the classy James Anderson and the impressive Chris Tremlett, and have begun to open their shoulders a little bit against Tim Bresnan. My predictions about the Ashes here at Cricketing View have been dismal. I predicted that Australia would retain the Ashes in 2009, and that they would do so in 2010-11. England won by the skin of their teeth in 2009, and have retained the Ashes with a Test Match to spare in 2010-11, much more convincingly.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Rajaraman on Gibbs: Much left unsaid

Autobiographies of cricketers tend to be formulaic and boring, a little bit like books every single politician who runs for any significant public office in the United States must produce as a precursor to his or her campaign. Autobiographies are players attempts to cash in on their fame, before they are discarded into the dust bin of history.

G Rajaraman's review of Herschelle Gibbs' autobiography suggests that this may not be your average formula autobiography. Rajaramam is an especially appropriate reviewer, though just like his reading of Gibbs, my reading of his review leaves me wondering whether he has left much unsaid in his review.

Against Kingsmead

There has always been plenty of discussion about how India's batsmen struggle on fast, bouncy wickets. The lack of clarity in this supposition is quite stunning, because India's batsmen actually prefer fast wickets. The 'bouncy' pitch that tends to trouble batsmen (all batsmen, not just India's) is one which is invariably slightly damp and has a springy bounce - the ball bounces steeply, but not necessarily rapidly off the wicket. It is true that these wickets are inherently quicker than most wickets in India, but it is the lack of pace, that shapes the bounce in a way which is very hard to play, especially of a good length (but not off a bad length, especially of the shorter variety). Once the wicket dries out a little bit, and plays quicker, there is typically less seam movement and the ball comes on to the bat - conditions which the current Indian batsmen like very much. Centurion was the fine illustration of this.