Sunday, December 25, 2011

When an old cricketer leaves the crease ...

I discovered this song by Roy Harper only a few days ago. I have rummaged YouTube and Internet so many times for cricket songs but somehow failed to dig this one out. Thanks to an article in Cricinfo I got hold of this. This song is highly philosophical and uses cricket as a medium to reflect on the inevitable in life. Departure.

Tomorrow a test series starts where legends Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Ricky Ponting will ply their trade for the last time. And since I have listened to this song I can't stop myself from reflecting on this line:

When an old cricketer leaves the crease, well you never know whether he's gone

I have imagined Sachin, Rahul, VVS and Ricky with this line in mind. There will be a time when we will see them for one last time. I know it will be very emotional moment for me and perhaps most cricket fans all over the world.

But as George Harrison puts it "All things must pass". And I hope we will see better players but these legends will have their own place in the Hall of Fame in heart of every true follower of this great game.

I end with the wordings of same song offering hope:

When the moment comes and the gathering stands and the clock turns back to reflect
On those years of grace as the footsteps trace for the last time out of the act
Well this way of life's recollection, the hallowed strip in the haze
The fabled men and the noonday sun are much more than just yarns of their days.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Yeh banda hai kaun?

"Ye banda hai kaun?"- This was Wasim Akram's reaction on hearing Eric Simmons' appointment as India's bowling coach.

If a bowler has improved during his tenure for India he has been out of team. Hopefully away from his tutelage. Ishant Sharma comes to mind but even Sreeshanth has done well on comebacks. I remember Zaheer and Ishant forming a potent pace attack under Venkatesh Prasad in 2008 home series against Australia. Then, that highly acclaimed coach of Australia Troy Coolie was not able to get the ball reverse swing from his wards but Indian pacers had started reverse swinging as early as 20th over.

But anyway Prasad was not thought fit for being India's bowling coach however I see Mr. Simmons being persisted with when the likes of Mithun, Vinay Kumar and Sudeep Tyagi seem to have stalled under him. My only hope is these guys going back to Ranji and then improving there instead of taking his useless guidance and warming benches.

When will good pacers grace Indian cricket like they have graced our neighboring country?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How can you rally round the West Indies?

West Indies have ignominiously crashed out of yet another world cup. This one is fourth such tournament. When I started watching cricket West Indies were already on wane but had some respect primarily because of their bowlers but also due to Lara. The quarterfinal against South Africa was not won by a team but a handful of individuals. Brian Lara and Curtly Ambrose were two shining stars of that victory. But it was a matter of time when even vastly talented individuals were not able to rescue them. It is not for nothing that Cricket is known as team game.

They kept on plummeting. In between there were flickers of hope. At least I was hopeful. I was wrong. Today West Indies have not only broken hearts but may be broken themselves too. I hope ICC splits WI into constituent island nations. Jamaica, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago will give better performance than these jokers and mercenaries.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cricket World Cup 2011 favorites

Here I am. Just a week before world Cup starts, I am ready with my predictions. Although I am a bit late this time but that has to do with my waning interest in one day cricket. It seems a misfit with tests and T20s. Somehow I like tests and T20s more than this format. The yawning middle overs really turn me off. OK sorry for being Mr. Grumpy. Here go my favorites.

1. Sri Lanka
2. India
3. Australia
4. Pakistan

No explanations are needed for the first 3 but you may be surprised by my 4th choice. Pakistan have a long batting line up although not very strong. But in ODIs even average batsmen can score handful of runs and having impact players in lower order is big help. Remember they have Razzaq and Afridi down the order. And Umar Akmal bats at no. 6. Talk of impact then.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Forgotten past of Indian Cricket

Hrishikesh Kanitkar will always be remembered for his four of Saqlain Mushtaq which fetched India a victory in independence cup final against Pakistan. Good that he also won a Ranji trophy and would be remembered for that in more keen followers of the game. But his achievement brought me memories of several other players who played just few matches for India and were forgotten thereafter.

So here I am, jotting down as many names as I can remember.

1. Vikram Rathore (chhote miyan who opened wih Sachin in 96)
2. Paras Mhambrey (disastrous introduction to international cricket in 96)
3. Ashish Kapoor (replaced Rajesh Chauhan in trinity)
4. Salil Ankola (these days I don't see any of his serials also)
5. Devang Gandhi (Steve Waugh's invincibles ended many careers like him)
5. Vijay Bhardwaj (unlucky with his eye-sight problem)
6. T. Kumaran (impressive debut in Australia 99 but somehow lost his way)
7. Tinu Yohanan (A keralite before Sreesanth)
8. Sairaj Bahutule (This guy replaced Anil Kumble :( )
9. David Johnson, Dodda Ganesh and Sujit Somsundar (Karnataka trio )
10. Nilesh Kulkarni (Wicket of first ball in a run marathon)
11. Abbey Kuruvilla (did well on WI tour 97 but faded away after that)
12. Avishkar Salvi (Still there in domestic circuit but limited international presence)
13. Amay Khurasia (one inning against SL in 99 series was very good)
14. Noel David (selection was more controversial than Doherty's or Beer's)
15. Gagan Khoda (for a long time only Rajasthan player to have played for India at least in my memory)
16. Sharandeep Singh (considered better than Harbhajan by people such as Prasanna and Bedi)
17. Sreedharan Sriram (yet another wud-be all-rounder explored by Indians)
18. Rahul Sanghvi (Unfortunate for having to compete with Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh for a spot in team)

And now the list of wicket keepers before Parthiv Patel rescued India!!!
1. Saba Karim (Unfortunate end of career)
2. MSK Prasad (keeping was good but batting was not up to mark)
3. Sameer Dighe (Age and performance both counted against him)
4. Ajay Ratra (same problem as MSK)
5. Vijay Dahiya (seemed better than all other alternatives. Don't understand why he could not play more)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Indian Cricket and English Football

As I write this, England, the financial powerhouse of Football, are going to take on Slovenia in a do-or-die game in few hours time. A favorable result in this game would guarantee them a ... no not a world cup...but a place in last 16. With all those stars (or are they) of EPL they are struggling to make it past first hurdle in an EASY group. They were touted as a force to reckon with after Spain and Brazil. This article draws parallel between Indian Cricket team and English Football team. My only wish is these fears don't come true. We have already been flabbergasted in last two Twenty20 world cups by lesser teams of which we were supposedly masters before the advent of the Great Indian Tamasha. The only soothing fact is that the IPL is after this world cup.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Junior Senior debate in Indian Cricket

Almost a decade ago India were mauled by Australia and Pakistan in the then annual tri nation fixture in Australia. Parallel to that India U-19 team led by Mohammad Kaif won the world cup. The senior Indian team was able to win only one match in whole series. Former Pakistan keeper Moin Khan said that Indians lacked 'gutso' apart from Sachin Tendulkar and Ajay Jadeja. As far as I remember that team included Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly. Srinath was also in that team.

A year later these stalwarts along with some fresh blood (Harbhajan Singh) stopped Aussie juggernaut in a historic test series. Two years later they reached the finals of ODI world cup. I cited these because these examples just go to show even the best took time to settle. VVS Laxman made his debut in 1997 but became reliable as a batsman only in 2001. Harbhajan Singh came into picture in 1998. Again he became a permanent face only in 2001. Yuvraj Singh was the part of that world cup winning team in 2000. He made his debut in late 2000, became an important player only in 2002. Even Gautam Gambhir is in India colors since 2004 but could cement his place only 2 years back.

Not everyone can be as good as Sachin, Dravid or Dhoni to cement his place after one or two series. The standard of domestic cricket is so low that players find it difficult to make the cut to highest echelon. That is why I believe, we should be patient with youngsters. Of course there will be disappointments like we had with Hemang Badani and Ajit Agarkar but given the current state of domestic cricket we have to live with it. Stop vitriol against Vijays, Jadejas, Rohits, Virats, Ishants etc. Some of them will fail but we can have better players from this pool itself. Virat has improved a lot since I saw him first in 2008 IPL.

More importantly the selectors should stop tormenting these players. Choosing players based on IPL performances should be stopped. Also, a young player should be told clearly of expectations from him and reason for sidelining him. Mohammad Kaif was sidelined without any proper reason. Dinesh Karthik is not a team member but a stop gap arrangement. Whosoever gets injured from 1-7 he is called as replacement. How can a player improve if he is not played regularly? Sudeep Tyagi was made to carry drinks for so many matches and then sidelined after one failure. Ojha, Mishra and Chwla are all talented but by rotating them unnecessarily you are denting their confidence. One more thing is to choose horses for courses. While Mishra looks good for longer version of the game, Ojha is better as far as shorter version is concerned. Similarly, Tyagi, Ishant and Sreeshanth look to be test material. Don't play them in ODIs and T20s and then discard them on the basis of their performances in those formats. Similarly Nehra, Praveen RP, Dinda can be tried in shorter formats. ZAK looks good for all formats except the shortest. It is high time now that someone other than Yuvraj is tried in test team. May be Virat Kohli or Cheteshwar Pujara should be given chances.

Please stop this unnecessary junior-senior debate. The seniors were juniors themselves and had their own shortcomings during their young days and they are not going to play forever. Sensible selections based on strengths and weaknesses of players will go a long way in making India the strongest cricket nation.