Monday, August 1, 2011

The quote collection - England vs India - volume 2


Saurav Ganguly didn't rehearse this one...straight from the heart. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Of number 1s and 'killer' instincts

Another day, another litany of criticism being shot at the Indian cricket team. In the midst of it all, I couldn't help but gaze in amazement at the manner in which cricket experts and fans alike, were reacting to these events. So let's counter this with a dose of reality.

After a frustrating day in the field, India were eventually set 180 to win at 4 runs an over. Ten Cricket's lunch time show, 'Straight Drive', featured two seasoned pundits, Arun Lal and Tony Greig, agreeing that India should easily chase down such a score. Lal saheb even went as far as to suggest that India shouldn't consider themselves a true number 1 side if they don't chase this, and went on to vent his disappointment at the prospect of India not taking on the chase. Many Indian fans, raised on a diet of IPL and slam bang, winning-World Cups-with-sixes style ODI cricket lapped it all up.

4 an over? Easy shit!! Bring on the powerplays!!!
The chase was on, but with 15 overs remaining, 85 needed off 90 deliveries, Laxman motioned to the umpire whether they could call it off, and once he received the nod of approval, he walked off with his buddy Rahul Dravid - who spent 2 hours at the crease to make 34 off 89. Shock and awe was the order of the day, with even Darren Sammy claiming he was surprised. Widespread condemnation ensued. You would think that Dravid's dropped catch off Chanderpaul (Dravid has been a liability in the slips for a long time now, despite the odd blinder here and there) or the 9th wicket partnership surviving 37 overs would warrant greater criticism and ridicule.

Let's deal with the surprise factor first. For those unaware, this ISN'T the first time India have given up a test in the name of risk-free cricket. By memory, Ahmedabad 2002 vs England, Nagpur 2006 vs England, the Oval 2007 vs England are some of the numerous examples of draws being conceded when a win was possible. It surprises me that an entire legion of cricket enthusiasts and followers failed to remember some of these instances when the batsmen called it off. The fact is, what happened today was not an aberration, it was a safety first approach that is CHARACTERISTIC of our Indian cricket team.

"Bah, THIS is how you win a series!"

If you look at the matches mentioned above, you may notice that the usual suspects took part in those matches, with Rahul Dravid's presence being particularly noteworthy for the amount of time he consumed at the crease. As long as India relies on the likes of Dravid and Laxman in the middle order, this safety first approach will be the norm. That begs the question, why do they play like this? Think back to the tour of 1996, when India failed to chase 120 at Bridgetown. A generation of cricketers scarred by bad memories are unlikely to take risks even when the situation suits. They are dead set in their methods, and will continue to be as long as they play. As the saying goes, old dogs don't learn new tricks. It's up to the next generation to take the team in a different direction, a bit like how Dhoni did with his bold declaration in the 2nd test. 

Funnily enough, I can hear the mob reacting..."But waaaaaaaaaaait, isn't this Indian side the number 1 team in the world? Aren't we fucking amazing, aren't we the team that should show KILLER INSTINCT in situations like this, by kicking ass and taking names?"  The frequently asked question is whether the Aussies of the 00s or the Windies of the 80s would have done the same. My response to this is, 'WHO FUCKING CARES?'. At the end of the day, India are indisputably the best test side in the world. How does a refusal to chase 85 off 90 have any bearing on this? They are at the top now and if they continue to win series they will deservedly be ranked the number 1 side in the world. Whether the Windies or the Aussies of the past would have done things differently is immaterial, the same exercise in futility as assuming what Bradman's average would have been had he played in the modern era. If comparisons are your thing, go wonder whether the Windies or Aussie sides exercised significantly greater control over the weather than India did.

"Not bad, but couldn't they be bigger?"
Ultimately, one man's trash is another man's treasure. 0-1 doesn't glimmer the way 0-2 or 0-3 does, but I am sure Pakistan wouldn't mind a 0-1 series win in WI, having never won there in their entire history, and niether would our nearest contenders England, who were embarrassingly bowled out for 51 (in a series clinching innings defeat)  during their last trip there. Heck, the Windies didn't even win and their crowd gave them a standing ovation! Complaining about a 0-1 win is a bit like complaining about the size of your girlfriend's tits while you wonder how much bigger the other girls were. When you consider that some people can't even get laid and would kill to have your B-cup wearing girl, you will realise how good you really have it.

Like most drivers on India's roads, Mr. Arun Lal and my fellow Indian cricket followers motor along in U-turns instead of staying on the right lane. Today's 'debacle' will be forgotten in a heart beat once India win a game or two in England. And that's when I will take the time to read over this post, and have a chuckle to myself.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ishant's resurgence and the treatment of Indian seamers

Ishant and most young Indian seamers tend to get over-coached once they reach international level and sometimes lose their natural action. The most notable example of this is Irfan Pathan, and watching him today makes you wonder if he is that same guy who once swung the ball so naturally with such a smooth action 6 years ago. What a waste of talent. India can't afford to let talented players go to waste time and again. Ishant was going the same way until recently, when he got his wrist position back. Now he looks a bit more like did when he first debuted, and the results are there for everyone to see.

Strangely enough, when a young batsman makes his debut for India, he is encouraged to play his natural game. The idea is that the style of play that got him this far is the style he should continue playing. You would think that the same advice would be given out to their bowling counterparts! But that clearly isn't the case here. At international level, you really don't need to overhaul someone's technique, a few technical adjustments would suffice and then the rest is learned through experience. Perhaps coaches treat Indian bowlers with pre-conceived notions and don't expect them to hold their own at international level?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The quote collection - England vs India - volume 1

Hindsight is one of the most beautiful things. It gives one the opportunity to reminisce about moments that shaped the present, the not too distant past, and even the future. It also serves the more perverse purpose of looking back at times when you were vindicated, and times when you were simply embarrassed.

I am bored of constantly searching for quotes to remember moments of the past, and with my memory fading, I figured now would be the time to start a quote collection.

Here is the first of the lot which kicks off the England vs India test series quote collection.

When asked the question of who he fancied to win the upcoming series. Jeffrey Dujon remarked, "India. There is a reason why they are the number 1 side. I think their seamers will surprise England." It was a comment that must have lingered in the back of his mind, but came out with conviction after Ishant Sharma stuck a sharp delivery into a West Indian batsman's chest guard. He would eventually take a 10-fer, and could have easily made short work of the tailenders had the weather not intervened.

Remember, this is coming from the guy who kept wicket to the greatest pace attack the world has ever seen. 

England are going to be in for a real surprise this summer. Either that, or Mr. Dujon's opinions will be consigned to the virtual dust-bins forever

Another one which has no relation to the England vs India, but I thought would be worth recording here, courtesy of Mr. Dujon again (this time referring to West Indies vs India contests);

"Mohinder Amarnath had a great series in 1983. His innings were the finest exhibition of hooking I have ever seen".  

Another reason why the man is a lock in my all-time Indian XI middle order. That's something to feel good about. Maybe the Indian cricket team can hire him as a batting coach??

Being wrong and the silver lining

What a shocker on day 5!! Dhoni declared with a lead of just 289. I certainly didn't see that one coming. With all my talk of grinding down the opposition and forcing them into having another tedious day in the field, it was actually India who spent the majority of the day in the field! Wow. So that's 1 of 2 predictions i got wrong, the other being Haye knocking out Wladimir Klitschko inside 7 rounds...pffft. Must do better next time.

Dhoni on previous occasions, only dared to declare when the score was above 400+. The worst of the lot was on our tour of NZ back in 2009, when he chose to bat on and on for a 617 run lead and India ended up a few wickets short of what would have been another test win. Not that i was complaining, since the test series win is the most important thing, but it was disappointing to see 5 days of dominance amounting to nothing. This time around, the defensive approach was expected, so I was pleasantly surprised.

How much of this new found boldness can be attributed to Duncan Fletcher, I don't know. Whether it marks a change in the captain's mentality isn't something I will speculate on, but I would love to see bold declarations being made against stronger teams in the future. Fletcher isn't one for the media, never has been, and we will never know how much influence he had in the reversal of a long-time trend but I have this feeling he had something to do with it. 

In any event, there is no reason why this offensive approach shouldn't continue. After all, with the kind of pace attack India has, they have reason to believe that even 200-250 is defend-able. A positive approach will serve us well in England, and will enable Dhoni to get the most out of his bowlers. Defending the smaller target demands greater intensity and focus, and forces the captain to set attacking fields since the margin for error is greatly reduced. Throw in the crowd factor (which I am sorry to say, was missing today despite the free entrance) and all this makes for some unforgettable cricket. Who can forget India defending 103 against Australia at Mumbai, or something as recent as India defending 190 against South Africa, in what I call the 'Miracle of Jo'burg'. Experiences like these lay the foundations for long term greatness, setting precedents that create a new fear in the mind of opponents.

Today the weather deprived us of a tremendous finish, but the positive memories taken from this game will serve India well in the future. If the team is in a position to defend 250 or less at say, Trent Bridge on day 5 with the series on a knife's edge, they will remember what happened here and fancy their chances.