Thursday, December 30, 2010

Predictions for 2011

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Astrologers @ Opinions On Cricket were working over time to bring you these random predictions for 2011 in the World of Cricket

New Zealand will play like dicks and lose all their games in the 2011 word cup. Including games against Zimabwe, Canada and Kenya. New Zealand Cricket will call for a comprehensive review of the performance resulting in Mark Greatbatch being appointed captain, John Wright invited to be chairman of selectors, while Daniel Vettori will be appointed coach.

Australia will declare "the spinner" to be an endangered species while ordering the execution of all state players who call themselves spinners. Including Nathan Hauritz. The same lab that engineered Ricky Ponting will be staffed to engineer the "spinner of tomorrow". Shane Warne will refuse to provide DNA samples insisting that they use Yusuf Pathan's DNA instead.

Ricky Ponting will ask Usman Khwaja to jump over a bridge.

South African players will start every news conference by providing glowing tributes to Sachin Tendulkar's 50th 100, even after he has crossed well over 100 International 100s. Vaccines will be developed to allow South African cricketers be immune to the runs Sachin scores against them. Vaccine trials on ICL players will show that side effects induce a player to clap every run scored by Sachin Tendulkar. Jacques Kallis will fund his own research on a pill that will supress the side effects.

England will beat India to claim the Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi trophy. Darren Gough will call for sainthood for all English players and claim that Kevin Pietersen can take Mother Teresa every fucking day of the week

India will take some steps in accepting the UDRS in exchange for gurantees of an "unofficial" window for the IPL and Test status for Afghanistan, Nepal and a country of their choosing. India will also host a massive festival for all advertising firms to execute their ad campaigns for global brands. Word cup matches will be played during the festival down times and strategic breaks.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni will "go green".

Bangladesh will invite New Zealand to play 100 bilateral ODIs

Sri Lanka will finally win a Test Match without Murali after the discovery of another freak bowler. Bowling carrum balls with ping-pong balls will now be permitted under the ammended ICC rules.

Bishen Singh Bedi will commit suicide.

Our astrolgers were unable to see any futue for Pakistan cricket but they believe Pakistan will thrive even though there is no astrological basis for that.

England are paper tigers

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England have a good team - for the T20s. Having beaten a terrible Australian team in Australia, bandwagon-wallahs, MCC membership suck ups, Anglo-philes, "slurpy" desis, tourists, latte-liberals, spot-fixers and ex-captains have begun questioning India's claim to being world number one.

The latest offering is that England have an 'all weather bowling attack' and that they have a "world class spinner" and Kevin Pietersen. The "so-called" world class spinner has an average of nearly 40 in the current series against a pathetic Australian team that Harbhajan eats for lunch every time his average starts dipping. The "world-class" hyper-spinner's overall average is further inflated due to an average of around 12 vs a "spot-fixing" Pakistan. The only two tests that he played in India he was shown his due place among the pantheon of greats. Well that was a little too much. I actually like Swann. He is a good bowler, but with Vettori and Harbhajan around, he's a definite third in my list of good spinners. Lately Harbhajan has been terrible, but he's displayed a welcome return to form in Durban whereas Swann is averaging forty. Swann's reckoning will be at Sydney where he will have the opportunity to showcase his "greatness" in friendly conditions against a sub-test class batting line up.

Kevin Pietersen may have struck form again, but so has Sachin Tendulkar for several years. Plus Tendulkar in his old age is playing better than Pietersen and my guess is that when Sachin plays with a cane in one hand, he will still do better than Pietersen. At Perth, Pietersen and the rest of the team obviously didn't want to disturb India's number one ranking and were merely trying to make the series competitive. Last time India played at Perth, the results against a much better bowling attack were somewhat different. Add Sehwag, Gambhir and Laxman to the lineup and they clearly out-do Strauss, Cook, Trott and Bell. Dhoni over Prior anytime with twice on difficult pitches. On the England side, I'm afraid the Collingwood conundrum continues to not help. India too are carrying a suspect number six, so that perhaps evens out. Plus, India can swiftly replace Gambhir or Sehwag with Vijay and not miss a beat, whereas England will probably shrivel and die should Cook or Strauss catch a cold. Add Harbhajan's two centuries, Ishant and Zaheer's support for Laxman and I see no comparison on the England side.

Let's talk about the 'all weather bowling' that recently got belted at Perth by Mike Hussey. He was about the only player who played like VVS is playing these days. India too have an 'all-weather bowling attack' (whatever that means). With one bowler and half a spinner India is winning tests overseas with a regularity that makes Ex-Lax makers nervous.

When the pitches provide the bowling some help, they become unplayable, unlike England whose bowlers decided to let Hussey get back into form after running through the top order. Plus, they couldn't make use of the conditions the same way an out-of-form Mitchell Johnson did. What the Perth test proved is that Australia is one bowler away from exposing England. India on the other hand have overcome Steyn and Morkel on a Kingsmead wicket. It's clear to me who the better batting team is.

This post is somewhat mean spirited because I'm tired of people questioning India's recent home wins. There were no tailor made pitches. If anything they were batting paradises. India's bowling has developed well and legitimately wins games for India without appearing too flashy. A good match by an incoming Bresnan and England earns the "all-weather" tag. Let's give Indian bowling it's due. Harbhajan was a worry, but his performance in Kingsmead is a top-class one.

My due apologies to my partner, but clearly we disagree and so we've covered all bases.

Posts that got me mad...
  1. Ashes 4.4: How Good Are England?
  2. Ashes 4.2: The New India v Australia
  3. Ashes 2.5: This Changes Everything

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Opinions On...Ashwell Prince

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Ashwell Prince, while at the crease, has the perpetual expression of a long distance runner who has hit a wall into mile 20 of a marathon.

It does not matter if South Africa are ahead or trying to catch up.

Neither does it mater if he is batting on zero or a hundred.

A raging turner of a pitch or green top. For Ashwell its all the same.

He likes to make batting look like a test of endurance. Of the spectators' that is.

If England's Trott is boring, Ashwell Prince is painful to watch.

Everything about his batting is edgy, proddy, apologetic and laboured. Even his crispiest drives seem miscued. The way he goes about moving around the crease between balls, gives you the impression he is trying to hide from the world.

If Ashwell Price were to bat with a big hole in the center of his bat, I doubt anyone, including him, would notice.  He would still have played 61 Tests and scored 3487 runs @ 43.58 for South Africa.

Before the Ashes, God, in answering Ricky Pontings's prayers said....

You wil score 800+ runs, 6 hundreds. Your side will win the Ashes 5-0. You will be captain for as long as you wish. However...

I will have to make you bat like Little Ashwell

Ricky Ponting said promptly..."Thanks but no Thanks".

Mike Hussey has not forgiven Ricky Ponting for this. Greg Chappel on hearing about this is learnt to have put an arm around Ponting and said..."I understand, mate...Its tough to make the right calls sometimes"

Other opinions on cricketers...
  1. Ricky Ponting
  2. Jacques Kallis
  3. Murali

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Ashes 4.4: How Good Are England?

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England: 2 Australia 1

There's probably two answers to this. The English answer

and then the real answer

I am afraid, the two answers may be the same.

England look very very good. Ever since the Adelaide win. Ricky Ponting is in the ultimate state of denial when he talked about "momentum swings". He needs to be in the next season of HBO's "In Treatment".

In the real world; not inhabited by Ponting; this seems like the most lopsided 2-1 lead ever.

Of the 3 best sides in the world at the moment;

India have a game changer of an opening batsman. They lack a solid lower middle order batsman and a world class spinner.

South Africa have the best middle order batting and the best opening bowling pair. They too lack a world class spinner.

And England have Kevin Pietersen, and an all weather bowling attack. They seem to have a distaste for the numbers game.

Depending on what happens in Durban today, India may have to be struck off the list.

This will leave everyone join the English press and fans to call for a world championship bout; home and away between England and South Africa.

And no matter what the ICC rankings say, India will have to be content with being the best bullies at home. Not a bad thing of course. But it's the truth. And for all Indians it will hurt. Till we beat England in England again.

Related Posts...

  1. Ashes 2.5: This Changes Everything
  2. Ashes 3.4: This Doesn't Change Anything
  3. Season Finale

India may lose

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Watching the post-tea session it was Kallis and ABDV that seemed to be in control. Getting Amla to a ball way outside off was similar to Sehwag's dismissal. He will rue it if SA lose. Amla deserves as much blame as Sehwag if SA do lose.

India seemed to have been batting with setting a 300 run target rather than batting SA out of this game. Laxman being the sole exception. Zaheer came guns blazing reminding me of some of Kapil's brainless efforts in the past. However, he was lucky not to be out and worked himself in and stayed with Laxman to put India at some advantage.

However, watching the game today, it appeared that the harsh sun had helped the pitch ease out somewhat. There were a few unplayables out there, but India's bowling was terrible compared to the discipline with which SA attacked the off stump corridor.

But the morning might bring a new Zaheer to the bowling crease. If he can prise out one of ABDV or Kallis quickly, India might nose ahead. But both batsmen seem to be in little trouble, except for Kallis wanting to throw away his wicket with a hoik just short of mid-on. Harbhajan is key to India's chances. ABDV seems his likely victim.

Regardless, the first session could script the tale tomorrow. As of now it's even, with India maybe a hair ahead.

Ashes 4.3: It Should not be about Ponting

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If the Ashes were a movie, now would be a good time to walk away from the theater without losing much of the plot and getting the gist of it all.

If you are English you can sit through the remaining scenes and celebrate.

If you are Australian you can hope the plot calls for a Sydney upset. Then claim that the ending is intentionally left open to interpretation by the director

For most however the character that will capture all imagination will be the most unlikely of villians Ricky Ponting.

The winningest Test Player ever. A captain that outdid Clive Lloyd and Steve Waugh. A batsman as good as the best ever of his era. A fierce fierce competitor.

He doesn't exactly fit the role of a villian. But he is being made out to be one.

Who knows what Ricky Ponting's destiny has in store for him. I hope he weathers the storm. I hope the director has something up his sleeve and that Ponting is really one of the good guys. That there is some as yet unfathomable "greater good" in his deeds. That behind the veil of his pride, seeming arrogance and astounding and foolhardy stubbornness is a much misunderstood man.

Its tough.

His team, his skills and his leadership have underperformed consistently against a centuries old enemy. Three battles lost is three to many for most Australians.

He could well come to take the fall for what seems like a collective failure in the making. If Australia make Ricky Ponting into a symbol of their recent failures that would indeed be most unfortunate.

If the Ashes were a movie and if the script does not call for a final twist, then I would say Ricky Ponting was horribly miscast as a villian.

Related Posts...
  1. Opinions On...Ricky Ponting

Monday, December 27, 2010

India ahead

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India came roaring back into the second test with some luck and lots of good bowling. Zaheer is as good as Steyn. There I said it. He may not have Steyn's strike rate or his speed, but he has exactly the same effect on his team and the opposition that Steyn does. He was fantastic this morning in South Africa.

Harbhajan finally produced a bowling spell that he can be truly proud off in recent times. Several tests had passed and he wasn't really turning games around with his bowling. This performance was a good one to put that criticism to rest for a few matches. He used the bounce on offer really well and bowled a superb spell to finish off South Africa.

Sreesanth and Ishant must still cause Dhoni some worries, but two out of four bowlers doing really well is a much better place to be than none.

The story of today to me though was the terrible shots that Sehwag and Tendulkar played to get out. This outrageous exhibition of batting when the team had enough time to bat South Africa out of the match is inexcusable. They will both be regarded as great batsmen and I think they are exceptional. But this batting performance from them could cost India the match. They are both in great form and the team needed them to stick around and take India to a safe enough lead (which I think is ~300 runs).

Vijay got a brute of a delivery and with experience he will learn to leave those types of balls alone even if it means having to duck under some balls that don't rise as high as the one that got him. Dravid is no longer playing the difference making innings that he used to. He played a terrible shot as well with feet rooted. He will not forgive himself and the result could be a worse batting performance in the next test than an improvement.

Pujara and Laxman are holding up quite well and may take India to a lead of 250 or so, along with contributions from Dhoni and the tail. This will be short of what would really be needed to put away the game. Amla and Kallis will be difficult to get at a second time. With time not a factor for South Africa and three form batsmen in the side, the odds will favor them, if India don't put up a big enough total.

The match is finely balanced and some indiscretion from South African batsmen and a repeat bowling performance from Zaheer is needed for India to claim this game.

Ashes 4.2: The New India v Australlia

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  1. When this edition of the Ashes is history and you look at the score cards years from now, you would wonder. What if Hussey had not played some of the innings he has played this Australian Summer. How would the scorecards have looked? 98 All Out would probably be the vicinity of Australian scores. This really has been a Hussey v the English series and he gave them a damn good fight.
  2. England are 10 wickets away from condemning Australia to a long period of introspection on how they are going to win back the Ashes. However if recent reports are to serve as indicators the outcome is bound to be something as dim witted the need to step up "sledging". 
  3. So committed are Australia to sledging that when nothing else seemed to work, their top dog Ricky Ponting decided to sledge the umpires. The flawed process around the UDRS has already rendered the on field umpire as a puppet, and easy pickings for a team frustrated by mediocrity, stubborn leadership and conflicted selection processes. 
  4. I admit, I haven't seen much of Trott's batting. From whatever little I have seen, I know this much...I would like to see as little of Trott's batting as possible. What makes his batting boring is that it seems he would rather be someplace else than batting in the middle. When the man himself seems so disinterested there isn't much hope for the spectators. 
  5. I was hoping that this series and the one between India and South Africa, finally settle some answers on where the team stands. In stead I am now longing for a series between England and South Africa. The only 2 teams that can back themselves to win on seaming, bouncy juiced up tracks. India and Australia are clearly past their prime. In India's case one can say it was a case of a "false prime"

Friday, December 24, 2010

When Champions need to play like Underdogs

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Zaheer Khan is going full tilt at the nets. Its clear he is desperate to play the Boxing day test.

A few feet away, Cheteshwar Pujara is getting a good net session with the bat. Some local Durban trespassers were recruited to bowl at him. Pujara wanted someone who can bowl consistently at 140 Kph and above, full length and swinging; with an occasional short sharp rising ball thrown in. With Zaheer having a go at the other net; that ruled out any reasonable option for Pujara.

India needs to do more than make statements

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People are busy celebrating Tendulkar's fiftieth century and taking "positives" out of the one sided defeat at Centurion. The are good excuses available and suitable use is being made of these. A one-sided first day pitch, not having Zaheer, poor bench availability, great second innings batting..etc.

All of these will come to nothing if India go on to lose the second test as well. There has not been enough discussion of the weaknesses in India's batting. Laxman and Raina failed in both innings. Sehwag and Gambhir did well enough in the second innings, but that needs to be carried on into the next test. SP made a point in his blog where he noted that Sehwag threw away his wicket in both innings. That is definitely not going to lead to a victory and in fact may result in a defeat. It's one thing to be out playing shots and it's another to be out playing a contrived shot.

Gambhir, in my opinion, was more disciplined of the two and deserved to make a big one. He got out to a good ball, but he too needs to be more watchful of the odd swinging deliveries. Dravid has been grinding it out without the assurance of the past where would overcome the bowling at some point in the innings and truly be the wall. He looks much more vulnerable now despite getting into the 30s and 40s. He is no longer the old reliable batsman who could be trusted to blunt the best of bowling attacks and smother them for Sachin and Laxman to milk.

Raina has some luxury of failing occasionally, but the manner in which he got out in the second innings was just awful. He just didn't seem to have the gumption to try to stick around and get a big one. He appeared to be trying his luck and that may work in T20s and ODIs, but doesn't in test cricket. If he plays the next test match he has the most work to do.

Add this to the bowling woes and India's best chance to win looks like it's being frittered away. South Africa are playing at full potential and if India is going to win, the only way they can is to play to their full potential. Right now it appears that there are too many loose ends.

The debate about first versus second is a good one. South Africa have won a series in India and India has won only one test. It is India that needs to prove it's number one. But on second thoughts, maybe the whole team thinks it's just a number.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Opinions on... Ricky Ponting

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For a man who has won more test matches than any one; Ponting is quite grumpy. Imagine if he were Indian.

Sometimes I think Ponting was engineered in some Australian lab in response to such talents like Brian Lara, Sachin Tendulkar and Inzamam-Ul-Haq. However Wikipedia says he was conceived by regular human beings. So it must be true.

That however, fails to entirely convince me.

He is not so much programmed to win as he wants to win. Each win seems to make him thirsty for the next one. Its funny how I make it sound like a negative. But he is the kind of guy that makes me like him less for wanting to win.

Its not like I will like him more if he begins to lose.

I don't seem to mind Sachin Tendulkar wanting to score more centuries. Or Roger Federrer wanting to win more Grand Slams. But I count the same desire in Ponting as a negative.

Perhaps I believe that Australia have used up their quota of wins and now they should stop wanting to win. Actually stop winning all together.

I am actually not sure what Ponting needs to do to be liked by me. By anyone I think.

There is however one thing he likes more than winning. That is playing. Being in the XI. For that, he will willingly not want to win a game.

Today I learnt that Douglas Jardine and Ricky Ponting are the 2 captains with the best win-loss ratio of all time. That explains to some extent why I feel what I feel about Ponting.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What India Deserves

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Early this morning there was an emergency meeting held at the ICC Headquarters to discuss the damage done by India's ineptitude to the ICC Ranking Model. It is learnt that Australia, England and South Africa have questioned whether India "deserve" to be #1 in light of the capitulation at Centurion.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Smith Pissed off in Victory..

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Reading Graeme Smith's remarks at the press conference, it felt like he was more pissed off than happy. But with the press reports these days one can't be sure of what exactly transpired. What it seems like is that the "going down fighting" story emerging out of this test isn't sitting well with Smith. He prefers the narrative of a one sided victory in a battle among contenders for the title of top test sides.

The excuse of the first day's wicket being too difficult to bat on seems to be grating. In addition, Tendulkar's 50th has overshadowed Kallis, Amla and ABDV's partaking of a sumptous run feast laid out by the Indian bowlers in press coverage. I think that's somewhat natural, although it appears unfair to Smith. The MoM award was rightfully given to Kallis.

His jab at Tendulkar was also somewhat out of normal. I welcome it though, because honesty is sometimes more important than political correctness. We must think about whether or not it was wise of Tendulkar to take a run of the fifth ball and exposing Unadkat to a full over. Perhaps, he was thinking that this will help Unadkat gain real test experience since the test was lost anyways. Perhaps he didn't believe in the symbolism of making SA bat again even if it was to score one or two runs. I think it was more the latter. I remember being critical of Tendulkar during the monkey-gate test for not upping the pace a notch and farming the strike more.

From my stand-point, this test only proves that India cannot compete with great fast bowling on sporting tracks. What's new? Regardless of India's batting pedigree, the lack of regular practice against good fast bowling shows. The more experienced Indian bats were able to "manage" without dominating, save the enterprising innnings from Dhoni. It also proves that Steyn is the best fast bowler of the new generation and that he is a genuine successor to Alan Donald. The furious spell of bowling in which he accounted for Dhoni was as good a spell as any that Marshall, Imran or Waqar may have bowled during my lifetime of watching cricket.

I also think, this proves that the AB arrival is complete and that he is going to be the difference maker in a number of future test matches for SA. Add me to his fan club.

Having gotten used to Tendulkar I am no longer expecting him to bat to score points. He isn't a warrior. He is a competitor, but not a warrior. Sure, he said that India made a statement on day four, but Smith thought Tendulkar needed to make a statement too. Tendulkar chose not to make an individual statement on the last day. Tendulkar used to make such personal statements with his bat such as the one against Warne in 1998.

Maybe he thought that what was done on day four was enough of a statement and it was time to return to civility. Smith sees Tendulkar the same way many others do, including the way I used to (until Gol set me straight once). They see him through their own prism of sport as a substitute for battle and see sportsmen as fighters, gladiators and warriors. Too bad that for such fans that Tendulkar doesn't see it that way.

Related Posts...

  1. Taking on the Proteas
  2. India in South Africa: The Essential Certification
  3. A Second Wind

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tendulkar & Dhoni Brighten the Gloom

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India's second innings batting was a much better representation of their real pedigree. It may yet not be enough to overcome their bowling deficiencies, but it does provide hope. While Tendulkar motored along to his fiftieth test century, Dhoni lit up Supersport Park with a display of test batsman-ship that's rare from an Indian.

But first due space must be entrusted to Tendulkar's masterpiece. This indeed was one of his best crafted innings that I have had the privilege to watch. After the 136 in Chennai, the 116 in Melbourne, this is the one that I thought was just pure magic. I have watched only about 12 of his 50 centuries on TV, so forgive my myopia. Hopefully, he'll recognize the need to kick up the pace a notch and make South Africa bat again. But then hopefully, the rain tonight will be bad enough that little or no play is possible tomorrow. I would prefer to settle for the former, where continuing to watch Tendulkar bat is pure pleasure.

Laxman couldn't get into his stride and misread a ball to give up his wicket. His two fours were pure class. The man on the hook was Suresh Raina and he surrendered meekly. This must be his last innings on this tour and he must yield to Pujara. Dhoni must do the inevitable if he wants to have a prayer of a chance to win this series.

Which brings up Dhoni. His fifty off 37 balls was made without any violence. This too was a rare test innings. He took on Steyn and Morkel and played some incredible shots with superb timing. His three consecutive fours off Kallis were stuff of great brilliance. His was a captain's innings. He needed to make a statement and I think he did. A century would have been a nice icing on the cake, but Steyn's spell of bowling that got Dhoni out was a ferocious one. Test cricket at it's finest. Dhoni fell to a truly unplayable ball. The ball took off and seared into Dhoni at face level and left him with little choice. Perhaps a better batsman (Dravid?) may have dropped his wrists, but this ball was spectacular.

Steyn had hit his stride and Tendulkar was wisely trying to ride it out in Sreesanth's company, when the wind struck in India's favor. 22 overs are lost today and several more were lost on day one.

This test is likely to end with a defeat for India. But some fantastic memories will remain etched forever.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ashes 3.4: This Doesn't Change Anything

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England 1 : Australia 1

To describe this in cliches...

England had "hit the ground running" until they came to a screeching halt at Perth and now Australia "have the momentum" but are possibly without a captain. So we are uncertain as to who has the psychological advantage.

But we did relearn a couple of lessons. Never rule Australia out. And never really bank on England.

Its like England's batsmen had accounted for their quota of runs for the series, in the first 2 Tests and thought that those runs will carry over. Well they don't. 

Ponting will, perhaps stubbornly, give himself every chance of playing in Melbourne, but I am sure there will be many who might think of this injury to Ponting as; to use another cliche; a "blessing in disguise".Although Ponting not playing at Melbourne is as likely as Sehwag learning to respect spin bowlers. 

Swann; if fit; will likely give England an edge at Sydney; which makes Melbourne a must win for Australia 

Is this a case of a talented team on the rise, having a bad Test or just that England were never real?

Is this  a case of a team in decline willing itself to to play beyond their means or just that we were all idiots to question Australia's decline?

Or is it; to use another cliche...."Its a bit of everything"....

I say its the former in both cases. In their prime, Australia used to play with this intensity against Bangladesh Board President's XI. Now it takes the indignity of the prospect losing an Ashes series for the 2nd straight time. 

This really doesn't change anything. 

See Also...

  1. Is England Real?
  2. Ashes 2.5: This Changes Everything

DeVilliers Tips the Balance

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As much as people have disagreed with me that India could have saved the match, I feel DeVilliers' stunning innings killed any hopes India may have had of saving the game. His astounding assault demoralized India's attack (if one can call it that) and may have put it out of the series perhaps.

Rain will only help hasten India's doom. Although, Gambhir and Sehwag played well, I am disappointed constantly at Indian batsmen's inability (barring Dravid) to play the pull and hook with any measure of control or confidence. Hussey at WACA brought out the hook and pull to tremendous effect. Gambhir had several similar offerings from Morkel and Tsotobe, but his technique is too limp to take them on.

In a recent Cricinfo piece, Ian Chappell talked about his brother Greg seizing the initiative from England in the 1979 non-Ashes series by hooking regularly. I believe that shot to be the ultimate sign of dominance and audacity. Despite Gambhir and Sehwag's aggressive batting, the lack of hooking and good pulling ability puts India at a huge disadvantage.

It almost seemed like Kallis read this blog and decided to show us our place. His batting this time was (dare I say) attractive and attacking and wasn't as mechanical as it normally is. The pitch of course is playing like the recent flatbeds he played in the UAE, but the attack doesn't have any of Umar Gul and company's potency.

Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Raina and Dhoni seem like a long enough batting line up. But the rain forecast tonight will likely hurt their ability to play the Kallis, Amla type of innings. India were motoring along well and I think Sehwag did India's chances no good by playing a bad shot. Sehwag apologists will run to his defense claiming he knows no other way to play. Unfortunately, it may be true, but shouldn't he learn? Or maybe the luxury of being able to blame Tendulkar for not being responsible enough and not playing a rearguard is now taking it's toll.

There's two more days to go and even if India overhaul South Africa's total, the result seems a foregone conclusion. That unless the weather forecast is so bad that it actually washes out two days of play. This is highly unlikely. So I eat humble pie. I overestimated India's bowling attack's ability to control the flow of runs. Obviously, there's a lot for Sreesanth and Ishant to still learn. The less said the better about Unadkat. Suffice to say, he ain't playing another test.

Ashes 3.3: England Unlearn Batting

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  1. We've got a problem. Its wasn't just one good day for Australia. Its two in a row now. England batsmen are back to being shit. Not a very dependable lot, I tell you.
  2. Tremlett came in the side for Broad who really isn't much of a bowler. Being hit for 6 sixes off an over ought to end a career. Chetan Sharma's effectively did with one. But in sum England have a better bowling side than in Adelaide. Tremlett took 8 remember. 7 more than Broad could manage in 2 Tests. The pitch too was juicer. Yet they find themselves losing to a side who pick a new spinner every time a new ball is due. What does this say about their batting. They royally screwed up.
  3. Ian Bell seems to have gotten a promotion. He now has a personal Nightwatchman. 
  4. Hussey has now nudged ahead of Cook for the series aggregate. They don't show it, but I think Hussey averages 80 odd if you just consider the runs scored using the pull alone. Without the UDRS he averages about a dozen or so. 
  5. Touring captain scores a "statement" century in a tour opening draw at the Gabba. Tourists win at Adelaide Allow Australia to get back in the third Test...Its been done before. In time we will know, had the 2003 India in Australia series had a 5th Test, who would have won it.
Mildly related posts...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Ashes 3.2: Jet Lag Strikes

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Indian and English fans who were feeling sorry for Australia have been made to look like fools.

Mitch the magician put up a grand show as the English batsmen choose to watch his tricks closely on television than face 2 face.

Too many questions...

Are these the last gasps of a dying man? Or are Australia for real?

What's it going to take to make Australia stay mediocre?

Were the English batsmen Jet Lagged?

Were Trott and Collingwood not paid their match fees?

Why did they come out to bat at all if they were going to be so keen to get back?

I am sure there must be many occasions where they are thankful for not being Pakistanis, but surely they must be especially thankful today. For trained Pakistani eyes this was cash motivated incompetence.

I personally think it was Jet Lag though.

Strauss has indicated that England went wrong in their preparations. They needed to pick 2 first XIs and station one of the squads in Perth at all times. To expect players to adjust in 2 different time zones is rubbish he said.

England are due to announce their squad for the Dec 2014 Perth Test at the end of the third days play.

Geoff Boycott was appointed to the "Time Zone Management Director" for the ECB.

In sum, the advantage of tour matches and year long preparations for juicy, fast pitches is 50 odd runs. No wonder the BCCI think its poor return on investment. But then we are comparing English apples to Indian Oranges...

Today Australia forced us to check and see if we said anything in the past that make us cringe or eat our opinions. Check these out...

  1. History is the only thing going for Australia
  2. 6 Reasons England will lose the Ashes
  3. Can Australia come back?
  4. Ashes 2.5: This Changes Everything

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Too much is being made of....

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India's batting performance at SuperSport park. This reminds me more of the India-Pakistan Karachi test than any other test. Of course, it was Pakistan at the receiving end then. India however, ended up losing the match.

I could watch only the first 20 overs before having to leave. In those twenty overs it was clear to me that the conditions played more of a hand than anything else. As the day went by, I was sure the wicket would ease a little. Tomorrow, it might play even nicer in the second and third sessions. Unfortunately, no one is around to hang with Dhoni besides Unadkat.

The second day wicket might be reasonable enough for Dhoni to eke out enough runs to take India past 200. Provided Unadkat hangs on like Panesar or Ishant in the recent past. Good news is that unlike South Africa at Durban last time, India were not bowled out for less than 100. Looking at the score card, it looks like Dhoni is fighting the conditions.

The worst news of the day is probably Raina. He probably has one more chance to redeem himself before Pujara will be ushered into the side. I am a Raina believer, but it appears that my faith is misplaced. Now many better batsmen did worse, but that's not the point ever, is it?

The key question is whether Sreesanth, Ishant and Unadkat have it within them to get enough wickets. And also whether Tendulkar and co. can fight out a draw from this situation. Regardless, it's a fantastic start to the series.

On the other hand, I caught more Ashes action and Australia were at a somewhat identical 24/3, just like India. While with India there is hope of salvaging a draw due to their batting as well as weather, Australia are probably staring at another pasting. Ponting's head would have been on the line, except that Clarke's failure may save him. Go figure. Clarke's dismissal reminded me of the likes of Vikram Rathore hanging out their bats in the past. The low confidence showed and Clarke seriously needs a rethink.

Hussey busily got some runs and in the end 268 was more runs than I thought Australia would muster. Harbhajan..oops Johnson got some runs. Now let's hope he gets some wickets to prevent this from being a one-sided steamroll.

Been There Done That...

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There was a sense of familiarity to the way India folded to South Africa today. It was numbing to watch but it was not entirely unexpected. There were far too many I-told-you-so moments...

Even so, let me tell you it is quite rare for a touring Indian team to be knocked out for under 150 in the first innings of a Series Opener.

Its happened only once before.

During India's second tour to England in 1936, the first Test at Lords saw India bowled out for 147. India came back strongly bowling England out to gain a first innings lead of 13.

Related Posts...

  1. Taking on the Proteas
  2. India In South Africa: The Essential Certification

Ashes 3.1: Change for the Worse

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  1. In my mind, Australia are just not trying enough permutations and combinations. Sure, all the changes they have brought on so far have made them look progressively worse. But...reversing the batting order was the most logical thing to be tried at Perth. They didn't. The result is the same as in the previous Test. How can they keep doing the same thing and expect a different result? Next time, reverse it, Mr Ponting. Its amazing how many ways there are to experience the mediocrity that has plagued your team.
  2. All 3 batting greats of this generation, now have experienced what it is to play on weak teams. Lara, obviously spent his entire career doing that. Sachin most of his and now Ponting. Only difference is, in a score of 268 Sachin and Lara would have accounted for a 100. For Ponting, falling 88 short of a 100 is probably the reason behind the low scores. Whereas India and the West Indies managed these scores in spite of non-failures from their great batsmen.
  3. The WACA pitch off late has lost its character. Its more likely to sleep with the enemy than be loyal to the Aussies. There is no one in the Australian side that seems to excite her. I don't blame her at all...many of cast that make up the Australian team are better suited to act in soap operas on Indian television. A few more sessions of whipping by the English team and these guys will learn to shed tears as well.
  4. Last time Australia scored less than 300 in the first innings at Perth. They ended up winning that match by 206 runs. Flintoff was leading the opposition. Nothing of that sort is going to happen this time though. 
  5. Ponting's brief all-boundries knock reminded me of Vinod Kambli's 40 against the West Indies in 1994. Just like Kambli that day, Ponting looked like getting out any time. Didn't seem to have the stomach to grind his way to runs. The prolonged dip in form is making Ponting impatient and now he looks like he is settling for short cuts.
Related Posts...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Second Wind

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Both are struggling for form. Even while out of sorts, both are digging deep to somehow deliver enough to win key moments.

Both seem to be playing from memory.

Both of them will roughly command the same position amongst all time greats, in their respective trades, when they retire. Numbers wise. But Harbhajan's personality does not afford him to be counted in the same breath as Rahul Dravid.

Rahul Dravid is a suave young man. Harbhajan's charm is the lack of it. He is an acquired taste.

Rahul Dravid seems studious, calculated and self aware. Harhbajan Singh seems to be the kind who thrives on street fights.Needs help to make him aware.

Rahul Dravid running down the pitch, fists clenched, wearing the India blue cap after winning Adelaide is an image permanently etched in mind. For him it takes updates to history to scream in jubilation. I imagine Harbhajan lets out similar emotions each time he sees his lunch box has Aloo parathas packed by his mum.

If Rahul Dravid weren't good at cricket, he probably would have been vying for Ban Ki-Moon's job over at the UN. If Harbhajan weren't good at cricket, somehow a truck driven by Harbhajan Singh on US Highways isn't very hard to imagine

Rahul Dravid is been a cornerstone of India's wins abroad. Harbhajan has played his part, in making sure India is a fortress for touring teams.

Rahul Dravid, like Jacque Kallis will never be celebrated as he should be. Harbhajan Singh deserves to get the kind of criticism he gets; for very often its due to the choices he makes and the battles he wishes to fight.

Rahul Dravid's appeal is global. Harbhajan's is entirely local.

Coming back to the matters at hand. A series to win in South Africa...

Both find themselves in desperate need of a second wind. For the sake of their team.

Expectations of India winning the series is built on matters of heart and the romance of seeing the famed middle order finally seduce the hostile pitches of South Africa.

But if India are to spring a surprise, and update history Harbhajan Singh needs to take wickets and Rahul Dravid needs to attack at number 3 and score centuries.

If you didn't see the point of this post and survived....try other pointless posts

  1. Taking on the Proteas
  2. India in South Africa: The Essential Certification
  3. Opinions On... Jacque Kallis

Monday, December 13, 2010

Opinions On...Jacque Kallis

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Jacque Kallis has affected no stumping in his career.

Other than that he has done everything. Scored lots of runs and centuries. Taken so many wickets that only 3 of his countrymen have ever taken more. Only a handful of international players have played more matches than him and even fewer have taken more catches than him. He has even been captain.

But no stumping.

That however is not why Jacque Kallis is never given his due as a remarkable all-rounder. Jacque Kallis is perhaps too over qualified to be an all rounder. He is too correct, reliable and prolific with the bat to be thought of as an allrounder. That and he just doesn't look beautiful doing his stuff.

All rounders have to be bowlers first who never realize their potential as batsmen. Numbers wise...may be a 90-100 Tests, 300-400 odd wickets not more than 5000-6000 runs and not drop catches.

Outside of numbers they need to be...

Rustic natural athletes like a Kapil Dev.

Flamboyant, outrageously handsome with a spectacular bowling action like Imran Khan.

Whole hearted, larger than life, inspiring and storied like an Ian Botham

Strong, fast, efficient and think your side to wins by taking over almost all of the wicket taking workload like a Richard Hadlee.

Play attractive and on rare occasions high quality cricket like a Chris Cairns or Andrew Flintoff.

Jacque Kallis is different.

He is a bit too fat to be athletic.

His run up to bowling is laborious. As if he were climbing a wall. He seems to exert twice as much effort...well it was thrice but he has made his action more efficient his deliveries than lets say a Shoab Akhtar or Bret Lee for roughly 75% of the output.

By most standards he is adeduately ugly.

I have always switched channels to avoid seeing him bat. Nothing in his batting is compelling for a non South African to watch. Even when he is competing with Sachin for the Maroon Underwear in the IPL.

I don't know anyone who are Kallis fans.

I have never seen him drop catches but heven't noticed when he notched up 160 odd catches either.

But if you just look at the man's numbers you would be excused if you said Gary Sobers was the Jacque Kallis of his time. Why no one ever says that...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Taking on the Proteas

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This is India's best chance to win a series in South Africa. India's main hope is that South Africa are not exceptionally formidable at home. They have lost to England and Australia at home. They were also unable to close the deal against Pakistan in the UAE, despite Steyn and Morkel in their ranks. Granted that it would have been a different deal if it was a home series against Pakistan.

Shaun Pollock delivered the last time India visited. Neither Steyn nor Morkel are a Pollock. He tormented the Indians every time he picked up the bat or ball and was rightly declared man of the series. His economy rate was fantastic. Fortunately for India, he will not be around this time.

The good news for India is that Tendulkar is going through a renaissance. The last time he visited South Africa he was in a funk. Although, he hit a few fifties, he was not at his best. Prior to that series he had an average of 20.85 in the six tests he played in 2006.

The biggest difference is in the coaching change. Chapell was messing with the team then. That sordid saga has been written often enough. Ganguly had made a comeback and despite useful contributions, he probably wasn't a positive force in team due to the tensions with the coach. Therefore, mentally, this Indian team must be in much better shape.

This is the second tour for most of the players. In addition, there is the experience of playing in the IPL in South Africa too. Overall, India should be much better equipped this time to overcome the home advantage that South Africa enjoys.

From South Africa's stand-point, despite their inability to close the deal against Pakistan, Amla's stupendous form is a huge asset. If he continues in the same vein, South Africa may very well win the series. A solid number 3 batsman can work wonders for the rest of the batsmen. We all know the wins India enjoyed when Dravid was at his very best. Even though Dravid has faded somewhat, it's clear that his contribution is vital in most cases if India have to avoid relying on a Laxman rescue act all the time.

South Africa though have a soft underbelly. Ashwell Prince may have had a wonderful series last time India were there, but he is unlikely to repeat it this time. South Africa will improve their chances significantly if they bring Duminy into the side. Duminy will bring to the South African team what Symonds brought to Australia. But Duminy is not playing the first test and there I think SA selectors have erred greatly. Kallis is a stock player and I have never rated him as a game changer. Perhaps erroneously so, but some perceptions are hard to change.

Given all this, it comes down to the bowling. I believe India have the attack to get 20 wickets per game. I don't believe Unadkat or Yadav will get a game. In fact, the selectors might send Munaf out there if there are any injuries. I also think Abhimanyu Mithun hasn't hurt his chances with a very good domestic season.

South Africa's weak link is likely to be Johan Botha. He is neither a bowler nor a batsman. A perfect T20 player and a good ODI player, but not test material. Once again, I base this on no more evidence than the rubbish he produced in the UAE. But he too has been left out of the first test which is good news for SA and bad news for India.

Tsotsobe or McLaren are both likely to trouble Indian batsmen who are not ever comfortable against genuine speed on bouncy wickets. Keeping the third fast bowler in the attack will keep Indian batsmen from relaxing. This might also be good to prevent Raina and Dhoni from delivering late order revivals. Along with Kallis, it will likely be huge advantage to South Africa. Perhaps even the scale-tipper.

India's lottery is Suresh Raina. But I'm quite confident he can deliver more runs than Ganguly did the last time round. I also think his bowling will come in handy in South Africa. Harbhajan will have to play to provide variety and hold fort every once in a while, but Dhoni may turn to Raina or Sehwag occasionally too.

So I'll end this post the way I started. This is India's best chance for a series win in South Africa.

Related Posts...

  1. India in South Africa: The Essential Certification
  2. Opinions On...UDRS
  3. Season Finale

India in South Africa: The Essential Certification

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This isn't as much a "Final Frontier" for India as it is a quest for validation. A quest to authenticate their number one standing on the ICC ranking system. To get it certified.

If India do win in South Africa; which I think is highly unlikely; then only Sri Lanka can legitimately question India's authenticity.

But the classy islanders are....hmmm; too classy for such a debate. And without Murali I doubt whether they are even as relevant any more, in a discussion for the top Test Teams in the World.

Collectively India's famed batting order has consistently failed to last the distance; over an entire series; when faced with genuinely quick bowling. Series wins in the West Indies, and Test Wins in Australia have come when the fast men have been either away or the pitches numbed.

Suresh Raina is a weak link. No 6 is a position that comes in play more often than not in South Africa and I am certain Dhoni does not have it in him to make the difficult decision to pick Cheteshwar Pujara ahead of Raina.

Gautam Gambhir is unproven. He is likely to go down along with Sehwag as India's most prolific and winningest; which I suspect they already are; opening pair ever. If Gambhir can add performances in South Africa, Australia and West Indies, he could earn the tag of being a part of India's best ever opening pair.

On the bouncy and fast pitches in South Africa the collection of Sehwag, Rahul, Sachin and VVS have been well below their career averages and more importantly lost the will, mid way, to fight through an entire series.

Individual spells of brilliance in South Africa, most notably Azhar's and Sachin's Tango in 1996 and Sehwag's blockbuster opening in 2001, have been far too brief to have a bearing on the end result of the series. The former was as almost as suicidal as it was breathtaking to watch.

On the bowling side, India's spinners have been ineffective and while Srinath, Prasad, Sreenath and Zaheer have previously excelled they have been second best to the home bowlers. South Africa have always outbowled us to win series and if we are to win this time we will have to do the same

To depend on Zaheer, Sreenath and Ishant for 3 whole tests is lke depending on a briliiant ad film maker to deliver a 4+ hour epic like Benhur. Sure there will be brillant spells every now and then, but I suspect by the time the new year comes along, we will be looking to the world cup for validation.

Related Posts (Generated after considerable thought)...

  1. Season Finale
  2. Raina Rested
  3. This Changes Everything
  4. Trading Debuts

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Group of Life

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Okay so we do watch ODIs every once in a while.

Sometimes they are hard to ignore. Especially when a clean sweep is involved.

NEO Cricket's "Mission Domination" Campaign was looking misplaced until Yousuf Pathan played that savage innings just when Duckworth and Lewis seemed set to dictate the game. I admit I did not watch the entire innings but from what I did, it seemed brutal and obscene. I wished innings like these come with parental controls.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Can Australia come back?

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It has increasingly become hard to figure out if Australia has a bowling problem or a batting problem. Of course, they have both. But teams often rely on the strength of one to negate the weakness of the other.

For example, India have a reasonable bowling attack, but a fantastic batting line-up. Sometimes the cookie does crumble, but more often than the batting line up is able to pile enough runs to put pressure on the opposing team. The bowling unit does a reasonable enough job to wriggle out 20 opposing batsmen with some time to spare. As a strategy, this has served India well.

England too seem to be pursuing a similar strategy where batters are applying themselves more diligently and talking about contributions and partnerships. Graeme Swann who was handled reasonably well in Brisbane became a force when Australia were staring at a mountain of runs. My opinion is that Pragyan Ojha could have run through Australia with the friendly pitch and all.

Australia on the other hand can't seem to find a formula. The team at it's heyday scored runs at a furious pace and unleashed McGrath and Warne against their opposition. The results became a foregone conclusion. On occasions when McGrath and Warne didn't play (like against India in 2003) it became clear what the Aussies were missing. In those games too, Australia played Bichel with Lee. Good batsmen don't succumb to honest triers. And that's what I think Bichel was and so is Bollinger.

And this is where Australia's problem is. Their batsmen may find enough gumption to put up 400 plus scores perhaps, but without a bowler that can threaten to unsettle the English batsmen, they have no hope. So between Siddle, Hilfenhaus, Johnson, Harris, Watson and Bollinger Australia have one and a half bowler. Siddle being three quarters of the bunch. Australia's desperate search for a spinner is misplaced. Clarke is by far their best spin bowler. So why try to find something that doesn't exist and eat up a test spot?

Unfortunately, the lack of bowling options had led Australia to rely on Shane Watson. He can at best get an honorable mention. But much like India had to dispense with wicket keepers opening the batting, so that the "best" batsmen could play, Australia should invest some faith in true openers. With Katich now out of the lineup, Australia should perhaps bring in Hughes and Shaun Marsh. The latter may not be lighting up the grounds, but in modern day cricket the team needs a Hayden, Dilshan or Sehwag/Gambhir type approach. Maybe Marsh is their answer.

The worst number 6 batsman in the world needs to be dumped and maybe Watson needs to play at that spot. Ponting, Clarke and Hussey need to rediscover their touch too, but if between them, they can manage 400 plus each time, Australia will be ok. The first step though is to ensure the top order fires.

Related Posts...

  1. History is the Only Thing Going For Australia
  2. Is England Real?

Opinions on... IPL Auctions

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I don't like IPL auctions.

Players are entitled to get market value for the services they offer. There is a huge market for cricket in the subcontinent. There is money to be made. Cricketers are the central theme that make it possible for businesses to diversify and make a profit from the game of cricket. And for that players and stars need to get their due. The greater the star value of a player the better his market price. I get that.

But I don't like IPL auctions.

There are some things that need to happen behind closed doors. Not everything needs to be on reality TV. To reduce contract negotiations to a yearly episode of "Deal or No Deal", makes me want to cringe and hide. Its impolite to ask anyone how much he or she makes. I am not suggesting that player contracts be classified. But is there a need to make such a brazen, coarse, ostentatious, pompous, vainglorious, theatrical show out of it.

Can we not have agents who work with the franchises, under guidelines laid out by the IPL governing council negotiate the best contract on behalf of the players.

And, please can someone tell the media that when Kevin Pietersen signs with the Royal Challengers Bangalore that they have not bought him. Its simply a contract between RCB and Kevin Pietersen where he is paid a few dollars for services rendered.

The IPL is a phenomenal product in need of some serious class.

Completely unrelated posts...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ashes 2.5: This Changes Everything

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England 1 : Australia 0

The signs were there for all to see. Yet collectively there was hesitation. To proclaim England as favorites.

England were serious about retaining the Ashes. In an era where teams are lucky to have a captain on tour a day in advance of a Test Match; England; old fashioned England; asked for 3 tour games. They won two of those convincingly. Yet collectively we refused to grant England its due. We always found a "but".

The decay had set in a couple of years back. Australia were on the decline. They regularly lost Test Matches. they lost to South Africa at home; lost a Test Match to Pakistan, after having almost lost to them at home; were blanked by India. They found baffling ways to lose Test Matches. They named a battalion, when the call was to name a Test Team. They sounded hollow as the usual suspects began to talk up a  0-5 blanking of England. Yet, we managed to keep a straight face. A decade and more of Aussie domination had taught us to be cautious. We knew Australia would find it almost impossible to wrest the Ashes but we did not say it loud.

Even now; all I am saying is England are favorites to win the Ashes. It would be a huge upset if Australia comeback to win this one. Botham's Ashes will have to take a back seat.

This changes everything. There are 3 teams at the top who can compete as equals. England have the best spinner in the World. England have the most dominating middle order batsman in the world. England are favorites to beat Australia home and away. England can bat for a draw or put up monumental scores. Above all England have a cricket administration that is committed to Test Cricket. England have many of the things that should be the envy of South Africa and India. England have what it takes to be first amongst equals. Or may be I am being carried away...


  1. Yes We Can't
  2. History is the Only Thing Going For Australia
  3. 6 Reasons England Will Lose The Ashes 

Ashes 2.4: Is Draw Still UnAustralian

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Will Australia learn how to play for a draw?

They have literally thrown away test matches. One of them, in the summer of 2001 in England, when Gilchrist declared @ 4 down for 170 odd and set England a target of 315 with an excess of 90 overs to play. They lost. The other match is India's come from behind win a few months earlier when Australia just did not know how to clamp down and play for time. The one time I remember they were forced to play for a draw and they did was Waugh's farewell test.

It was almost as if Australia would prefer to lose than to see Test cricket die a slow death with each avoidable draw. They seemed to have taken it upon themselves to engineer results and their commitment was total.

Unfortunately, for Australia, these days they simply have to play their natural game. The results will come.

Australia's problems seem plenty and hard to ignore. It was perplexing to see Katich hobble for every run. I can understand a Brian Lara or a Ponting or Hayden or Sachin or VVS being forced to play a Test with an injury. But Simon Katich? Isn't there an opener in Aussie land that can bat better than an injured Simon Katich? The signals Australia is showing through their selection policy indicate a complete lack in faith shown to players in State teams.

But really the thing to look forward to tomorrow is whether Australia can learn how to enjoy being a mediocre team and play for a draw. For India it had been a strategy for decades. England recently have made it exciting.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Ashes 2.3: Ponting - I want to be able to Declare

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  1. Australia are on a roll. Australia matched their vastly improved performance; of taking 2 whole English wickets on Day 2; with a similar haul on Day 3. Considering that play was possible for only two-thirds of the day I am thrilled with my mates said Ponting. We have England where we wanted.
  2. Asked about the dropped catches, missed run outs and numerous mis-fields; Ponting was quick to say...Well the catches only mean that my bowlers are consistently creating opportunities which can't be a bad thing. As for the other fielding issues, Ponting was of the opinion that its the media...Channel 9 in particular who are running replays of the same couple of instances. Its not like we are going so see these replays and stop our march to force a win.
  3. Talking about the future of the game, Ponting said that he is leading a campaign to allow bowling sides to declare their bowling innings closed. Currently the game is heavily tilted in the batsman's favor he said. Based on Official Wiki leaks phone records of a few Australian cricket team members, an unusually large volume of calls to Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, might give some clue as to how widespread the support is for this idea. Ponting denied any attempt to keep the campaign secret. 
  4. Mean while in the real world...England simply must win this Test match. To put in 2 extraordinary performances with the bat in consecutive Test Matches and not have a win to show for it...might just be the jailbreak Australia needs
  5. England's recent performances have been consistent and they were able to; to some extent; carry Pietersen. England with Pitersen in form starts to look like a team that can really control, dictate and win test matches on batting alone. His commitment to the pull shot makes for exciting Test Cricket
  6. Just how bad is the Australian attack...It is perhaps for the first time ever that 2 different batsmen have scored 200s in consecutive test matches against Australia in the Ashes. It shows that its not a question of 1 batsman dominating Australia, everyone seems to be enjoying their bowling. (After confirmation over @ Test Match Sofa, this is the 2nd time 2 different English batsmen have scored separate double hundreds against Australia in consecutive tests. VVS Laxman and Gambhir did it in Delhi in 2008 in the same innings!)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Ashes 2.2: Learning to Enjoy Doing it Poorly

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  1. In a vastly improved performance, Australia claimed 2 whole English wickets in just a day's worth of cricket at the Adelaide Oval. Captain Ricky Ponting, who is ruthlessly committed to positive, attacking cricket, while happy with his bowler's output, was also quick to point out that there is still room for improvement. We doubled our productivity in terms of wickets since the Gabba, which is a good thing but we leaked a few more runs than I would have liked. 
  2. When a reporter pointed out to Ricky that Australia are in a "bit of a bother"; falling way behind England on the first innings, Ricky shot back saying the scorecard he is carrying still says 0-0
  3. Australian's love targeting the visiting skipper by making statements to that effect in the media. In this series however the person who was supposed to take care of the target, himself ended up being a target of contention between Ponting and the Australian selectors. Mitch or no Mitch, Ricky talked at length on the importance of this strategy especially since its been hugely successful, getting Strauss out 3 times out of 3.
  4. Asked by an English reporter on how Ricky can ignore the obvious all round and total ineptitude of the Australian performance so far in the series, Ricky added "If you can't learn to do something well, learn to enjoy doing it poorly

Raina Rested

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Raina is finally getting the rest that his captain had lobbied for. The Indian test line-up minus Gambhir is now getting enough time off to recharge their batteries for the title clash in South Africa. Primarily this means any excuses for collapses, caving in without a fight or poor form are eliminated. The best team is available, healthy and as ready as they can be.

This makes for a juicy contest and hopefully we will not be disappointed. Given that India is a batting heavy team, it's unlikely to be a slug-fest with SA. The contest will be between Indian batsmen and Steyn. Indian bowlers are likely to take care of business with Kallis and Amla the only two South Africans likely to offer significant resistance on sporting wickets. De Villiers and Smith to me have always been fair weather bullies although the record may prove otherwise.

Raina needs to fire in South Africa and needs to put the doubters at rest. Both Gambhir and he have been dogged by questions about their technique against bouncers and short balls. Gambhir will be facing a new-ball wielding Steyn. What better opportunity than that to prove to everyone that he's overcome his weakness.

Raina may face the second new ball or a reverse swinging ball depending on the situation. Therefore, he too will have the opportunity to do something special.

Ultimately, it will come down to Sehwag, Dravid and Tendulkar as usual. Zaheer will likely have his best series down there. Hopefully, Ishant will fire too.

Friday, December 3, 2010

England on Top

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The value of good opening batsmen is perhaps known to Australia. But playing Watson and Katich demonstrates a woeful lack of decent openers in Australian cricket today. Watson is in the team more because of the strong desire to have him in the team, rather than conviction that he belongs in it. Watson is a good cricketer, but he is a decent alrounder and poor opener. If anything, he should replace Marcus North in the order and Australia should bring in a genuine batsman in his place.

Watson continues teethering between Mudassar Nazar and Manoj Prabhakar as "role models". Mudassar though was a classic opener. Dogged and unspectacular. His bowling was an asset to his team as a change option. Prabhakar was a opening bowler and batsman until Srinath sealed his spot on the team. So Prabakar was a better bowler than Watson and Mudassar was a better batsman than Watson. By better I mean more useful to the team.

I'm a fan of Watson, so I think he belongs in the team as an allrounder. So there, a non-Greg Chappellian, from the heart opinion. England have backed up their bravado in the first test with another salvo on the opening day here. It's amazing that Australia and England have virtually the same batsmen from four years ago. It's the bowling attacks that are different and how!!! We know what happened the last time England were in Australia.

Ashes 2.1: Reminds me of...

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  1. Its funny how things tend to go wrong with a side that is short on talent and self belief. Its difficult to keep a straight face while Australia continue to struggle to save theirs. A well-below-par first day batting performance, triggered by the most horrific of run outs does not happen with good teams. Australia reminds me of the Indian teams of the early 80s.
  2. For the most part, the first day's play at Adelaide has resembled the one at the Gabba, including a hat trick ball. The roles have been reversed of course and no one is questioning why Broad isn't getting any wickets
  3. Shane Watson reminds me of Manoj Prabhakar. Prabhakar was a better bowler and Watson is a better batsman. At an individual level they are both very earnest cricketers but you never find players like them on winning teams.
  4. While on the theme of "reminds me of...." Steve Finn and Niel Foster anyone? Foster toured India in the early 80s and while I was recently watching on TV Finn in Bangladesh, he reminded me of Niel Foster. Stuart Broad at this stage of his career has very similar numbers to Niel Foster but opinions about Foster were always grounded; in line with the story his numbers told. Niel Foster 88 wickets in 29 matches. Stuart Broad 99 wickets in 34 matches.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Come on Mitch, be a man

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What's with the Aussie bowlers?

When bowlers from the subcontinent are dropped, its about something as manly and masculine  as....hmmm..non performance, ball tampering (roughing up just one side), deliberately over stepping the bounds or inefficient use of hands (not straightening it enough)

When an Aussie bowler is dropped, its something very touchy-feely like the mind.

Johnson's gone to get his head right....Australia have blinked first in spite of bundling out England on the first day for 260...IPL star(s) will now take center stage for the Australian attack in the Ashes