Friday, March 19, 2010

IPL 2010 - Modinomics

We've all heard a lot of things about the IPL and its commissioner, from different commentators who often have their own agendas. He's been accused of vanity, greed and excess. His tussle with the TV channels has become as much of an annual pre-IPL feature as the party he throws to kick things off. His ongoing mission to put an advertising label on everything Cricket makes the IPL commentary sound like the aural equivalent of an F1 player's coveralls - In the DLF IPL there are many DLF maximums interspersed with Citi moments of success and now Karbonn Kamaal catches. This gives offense to many followers of the game, if you are to believe the Internet. Personally I do not mind this stuff. A catch is still a catch and a six is still a six, and as long as the games are played hard, I couldn't care less.

The only problem I have with Mr Modi is this - he's a cheap opportunist. Here's why. Last year, in South Africa, Modi needed to build quick goodwill for his travelling circus. He bought it with a weird scheme of handing out 6 scholarships per match to kids picked out at random from the crowd. This year, he's back in India, on home territory, and obviously feels no need to buy any goodwill, so the scholarship program has been quietly shelved away. What was the harm in continuing it this year too? Are Indian kids too rich for Modi's selective generosity? They do not need scholarships? Or is it that poor Indian kids cannot afford the IPL tickets and are staying out of the grounds unlike last year when Mr Modi was handing out free admissions to everybody to fill the seats for the TV cameras. He can well afford to pay out the money, and the kids will not complain, but since he doesn't have to, he won't. Not a Citi moment of success.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Why we lost.......

The Number 1 Test team in the world lost narrowly to the Number 2 Test team in the world by an innings in the just concluded Nagpur test. The BCCI, being the proactive organization that it is, has already sprung into action. The following are some of the actions being taken -

- A high-powered committee has been established to look into the ground and facilities at the Nagpur stadium. This committee will work to establish blame for this loss, and the committee members have already checked into a 5-star hotel in the city for their investigation. Their committee members are hard at work and they are expected to report their results in less than six months.

- A strategy panel has been looking into the mysterious decline of young Indian bowlers at the age of 20. A board official explained off the record that repeatedly over the past few years we have had young fast bowlers come up in domestic cricket who bowled consistently at 140 or there abouts, but as soon as they hit the age of 20-21, their pace declined to 120+ on a good day. The strategy panel found that the increase in age was responsible for this decline, just as suspected by the Board. Further, the panel has recommended that selection in future should be confined to only players under 19. The promising bowlers over 20 who have lost their pace will be encouraged to take up spin bowling. This will help mitigate the current unprecedented shortage of Spin bowlers in Indian cricket.

- Team selection has cornered a lot of the blame, and a high powered investigation team has begun to look into the workings of the selection panel before the Nagpur test. This team will examine everything from the selectors’ diet to the models and usage of their mobile phones during selection meetings to ascertain how such a shit team was selected in the first place, when we had Manish Pandey and Abhishek Nair who had scored runs against this same attack less than a week ago. The omission of Pandey and Virat Kohli specially has raised many eyebrows because the board felt that being team members of Dale Steyn and Jacques Kallis in the IPL, the respective Saffers would have been reluctant to dismiss cheaply the two batsmen mentioned. A board member, speaking on condition of anonymity told this correspondent that the Indian team had already been weakened in this respect by Dravid’s unavailability due to injury, and the exclusion of Pandey and Kohli only served to anger Steyn and Kallis more, which was one of the reasons why India lost.

- Finally, the BCCI in a press release apologized to the Number 8 fans in the world of the Number 1 Test team in the world : We, the Board, apologize for assuming that after the Indian team achieved the Number 1 ranking in Tests, our fans would also automatically become the Number 1 fans in the world. We have since realized our mistake and sincerely apologize for it. An objective survey has established that while the Indian team is the Number 1 in the world, our Indian fans are actually ranked Number 8 in the world, behind Bangladesh and West Indies and just above Zimbabwe. While our team has won many narrow victories and avoided defeat on other occasions through hard work and fighting spirit, our fans consistently last only 3 days, and many actually don't even last the first full day. In the current Nagpur test, 38.7% of the fans were already predicting defeat and finding blame to go around by the 3rd session of the first day. For the good of Indian Cricket it is not enough that the team should be Number 1 as long as the fans retain their Number 8 mindset and admit defeat faster than the fucking French. The BCCI will immediately extend its proven and tested strategy of awarding cash prices for ranking improvements to our fans. For each ranking improvement achieved by our fans, the BCCI will reward each and every fan with Rs. 5 Lakhs cash. For example, if our fans could just stop moaning like bitches and blaming the players, the selectors, the board, the captain, the coash, the tactics and the grounds at every defeat, we will be better than the whining and complaining Number 7 ranked West Indies fans. This will result in Rs 5 Lakhs to each and every fan. The board sincerely hopes that the fans will respond positively to the economic incentive and begin working towards better ranking right away.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The MRF Update

Alright. I know everybody's been holding their collective breath for the report on my MRF bat's performance. It is still only partially knocked in really. I need to spend atleast another 3-4 hours on it, with the mallet and with the old ball in a sock routine. However, earlier this month I took it out for its first game. Here's what happened -

First ball - defended.
Second ball - hit HARD right back at the bowler, who stuck is hand out. Nearly broke his hand.
Third ball - defended.
Fourth ball - hit HARDER right back at the bowler, who stuck his foot out, and immediately pulled it back because of what happened earlier. FOUR !
Fifth ball - play and miss.
Sixth ball - Six over long on. I skipped down, and lofted it without much power, but the fielder had no chance.

End of the over - bowler left the field for 10 overs with a swollen hand. Lucky he did not fracture it.

The bat is absolutely beautiful. The balance and pickup is superb. I have 4 grips on it in total, because of my large hands. You hardly feel the strokes. In all I made 37 runs that day, with 4-5 fours apart from the one 6. Played shots on the off as well as the on side. Did not get to play either a cut or a glance, but the bat has serious power and the ball really carries if hit up, and stays hit if hit along the ground. This is definitely the most powerful bat I have ever played with. Money really well spent. Now I am trying to get my friends to agree to play a test match type game over 2 days. Lets see if that materialises.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Australia had it all wrapped up but for the singing, except one man refused to lay down. When the chips were down, Collingwood showed why he is an English Test batsman. He may never get a game in Sehwag's 20-20 side, and he will never make West Indian fans put down their rum and dance in the stands with his powerful hitting, but when it comes to Test Match Cricket, Mr. Collingwood is the closest thing England have to "The Wall". His desire is miles ahead of his talent, and he never lets up. Today again he showed why the English were able to create the greatest empire in history despite being the most boring people on Earth. The words "I give up" do not exist for him. He battled in the most dour fashion, without regard to aesthetics, and fired up his team mates to finish the job after he had brought them so close. What a game! What an innings.

Friday, June 26, 2009

How to win the Ashes

Kevin Pietersen knows what will tilt the balance in the Ashes series - good cricket. This is what he said in an interview yesterday - "I think whoever plays the best cricket over the 25 days will win the series". Another No shit sherlock moment from a professional sportsman.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Normal Service Resumes

The T20 World Cup being over and done with, Shahid Afridi proceeded without delay to replace his foot where it belongs - squarely in his mouth. Some of his comments to the Pakistani press on his triumphant return home -

The Indians did not seem keen to play us (he means they did not seem keen to resume playing against Pakistan regularly) - "On the face, they said they would like to see cricket between the two countries but I think in their hearts they thought otherwise. Their attitude and behaviour while playing against us showed this," Afridi said. I think he was disappointed that the Indian team showed no inclination to lose the match or atleast to appear to work hard for a win.

Not stopping at that, Afridi then swallowed his foot up to the ankle by claiming that he was disappointed at being ignored for the Man of the Series award, after scoring no less than 170 runs @ 35 with a high score of 54*. His scores were 5, 13, 29, 24, 51 and 54. Dilshan, the actual winner, got ~320 runs @53 with a high score of 96*, and had scores of 53, 74, 46, 48, 96. How Dilshan could have been ignored in favor of anyone else, and specially Afridi, only Afridi can explain.

Mr. Boombastic of Cricket.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Importance of Defining Innings

The importance of defining innings in a batsman's growth can not be overstated. Consider 2 examples and how they have affected two of India's most important players. 2 years ago, on July 19, 2007 MS Dhoni came into bat against England in the second Innings of the Lords Test, and scored an unbeaten 76 to save the match. India had all but lost the match by then, and were really saved by rain, but for Dhoni it became a defining innings in more ways than one. Until then he had been purely perceived as a blaster with questionable abilities and usefulness in Tests. He had big hitting big scores in limited overs cricket, but that day he buckled down and played an innings of great responsibility, nudging around without any risky shots.

In ODIs, until Aug 2007, Dhoni had 2302 runs at an average of ~47 from 76 matches with 3 hundreds. Since that innings till date Dhoni has 1983 runs @ 52.18 from 55 matches with 1 hundred, against Hong Kong. Did that test innings make him a better limited overs player? Not really - what happened was that the team management began to trust him more as a player and a finisher. This in turn has led to him curbing his instincts more and more and instead nudging and rotating strike more efficiently to let the other "unreliable" big hitters like Yuvi and Yusuf take the risks. His average and his strike rate have not suffered because he is still one of the best runners between the wickets in this Indian side. Moreover, he was made captain and the added responsibility from that coupled with his workload as wicketkeeper has led to a totally changed player today. So, today when journalists naively ask him where his big shots have gone, I am surprised he does not throw the mike at them. You try doing what he does - captain of India in all 3 formats, wicketkeeper and reliable lower order finisher - and then switch effortlessly to high risk big hitting mode. It is beyond stupid and to Dhoni's immense credit that he has not lost his cool yet doing all of this plus dealing with the Indian media circus.

Consider also Gautam Gambhir. He started his ODI career in April 2003 and until Feb 2008 he had played 47 matches at an average of 35.33, but he had hundreds only against Bangladesh and Sri lanka, and his average against every other country was in the low to mid 20s. On Feb 24, 2008 he came in to bat against Australia at Sydney in the VB series and scored an excellent 113. He was never the same after that. His average since that match till date is 46.22, and he has 3 hundreds. Further his average against every country is now in the mid-to-high 30s and his whole demeanor has changed completely. Until that innings he was filled with self doubt and played with a scowl. That one score in a key match against the world's best, away from home, changed him totally as a batsman and he has not looked back since.

The key question in all this analysis is whether Dhoni can bring his shots back. I think this is all based on his role in the side. As long as his role remains one of a stabiliser/finisher, he cannot really change his game much. He is just too good in that role, so I do not see anyone else taking over the responsibility, unless we start playing him purely as a batsman in limited overs and have either Karthik or Parthiv as the wicketkeeper. That is a remote possibility, since we don't really have an allrounder in the side to ensure 4 frontline bowlers.

There has been a lot of criticism directed at Dhoni for denying Raina and Yuvi practice by coming in at 3 in the T20 world cup. This was part of a clear plan and it is again unfair to blame him. If a wicket fell during the powerplay, Raina went in, but if a wicket fell after the first 6 overs, Dhoni would be sent in. That is exactly what happened. If Raina, with 200+ ODIs under his belt cannot adjust to fast rising balls, it is unfair to blame Dhoni. The leading Indian scorer in the IPL should not need match practice for 2 matches against minnows to get acclimated. Raina was in form and should have played better than he did. Dhoni played his role, Raina failed in his. Simple as that.