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The Indian Team Needs A Mental Refreshment!

A highly anticipated, competitive and an intriguing series will end tomorrow. In what has been an absorbing 4 weeks or so we saw the difference between the mental approaches of the two sides ultimately translate into which side directed momentum in its favor at crucial moments. After the experiences of UAE and Sri Lanka, England finally managed to get things right in terms of results, as there was never a deviation in the way they shaped themselves up for each of these testing tours. If you had to be critical of this Cook-led side, the approach in the last test could be questioned, but then you don’t get too many opportunities to have a stake at series wins in the sub-continent!
India was expected to come back stronger after the disastrous away tours, but it turns out that the team wasn’t prepared to face a determined, disciplined team. Fragment the analysis to realize that there was a sense of sameness to the mistakes that happened. The batting failed too often, the bowling was decent…

1984-85 and 2012-13 tours: Mirror Reflections!

With the Kolkata win England has given itself the best possible chance to win a series in India after 28 years, and possibly only the fourth occasion in the history (since India’s independence). Since 2000 India has lost a series at home only twice, and last instance when it received successive drubbings at home was 12 years ago. These are some of the huge records that this Alastair Cook-led side has broken or on the verge of it. There are obvious reasons to see this in light with the series of 1984 which had another left-hander skipper for England and here is a comparative account.
While I can’t speak for the performances in that (1984-85 series) series, the statistics bear a striking similarity. India won the first test and the lost the second equally comprehensively. The third couldn’t produce a result and the fourth saw England winning handsomely to take a 2-1 lead. India pushed hard for a win in the last test but couldn’t level the score-line. I needn’t elaborate why this sequence…

The Synonymous Fall Of The Mighty!

Day 3 of the Mumbai test, post-tea session. Sehwag and India’s in-form number 3, Pujara, had just been dismissed in successive overs. The deficit of 49 then, was looking like 150 and Tendulkar’s was probably in for his last international hit at Wankhede, on the back of a 13 & an 8 in the series. 8 quick runs before Monty skidded one in and beat Tendulkar for pace. Series stats: 2 matches, 3 innings, 29 runs.
About 9000 kilometers down south, another modern-day legend had a similar script to enact! Day 3 of the Adelaide test, post-tea session. The effervescent Warner and Rob Quiney had been sent back to the pavilion in the space of 3 deliveries. Australia effectively 239 for 2, comfortably placed but had to prevent the opening of the flood-gates for South Africa. 16 disciplined runs and Ponting managed to drag a back of length Steyn delivery onto his stumps. Series stats: 2 matches, 3 innings, 20 runs.

Spin Friendly? - Yes!.. Dust Bowl? - No!!

A year and quarter ago India was in England struggling to put up a fight or in precise terms struggling to find a way to dismiss the English team twice. The bowling attack had 3 medium pacers and an out of form Harbhajan, further weakening India’s weak link. Many remember Indian tours correlated to the way the batting fares and hence the Pataudi trophy of 2011 is vividly recalled as a tour which had Indian batsmen struggling on green tops!
As a follower you would like to believe that team managements rate the performance of the team on the scale of the results and not merely parallel to the views and thoughts that are generated by public debates/discussions. We always have a hazy belief that captains utilize home advantage by preparing tracks to the strength of their bowling attacks. Thus when England arrived in India, the grass on the tracks was expected to be invisible, the surface soil expected to not stick together and hordes of cracks anticipated to open up. So far whatever we ha…

The Static Whirlwind Reaches 100!

Ruthless, fearless, flamboyant, unorthodox would be some of the clichéd adjectives that are used to describe the way India’s powerful opener bats. He isn’t as classy as a Dravid or a Laxman, as graceful as a Tendulkar, as elegant as a Ganguly or a Yuvraj but he has a class for himself; a style that may not be orthodox but more than just effective. A sense of calmness and composure builds an aura around him that is so charming, which creates a shield which he holds up against the immense pressure an Indian superstar cricketer has to tackle every time he goes out to play.
The two aspects to his batting are approach and method. He approaches batting in the centre as if he is having a net session; this holds true for all 3 formats! The strike rates are an indicator to this statement: 82.45, 104.60, and 145.38 in Tests, ODIs and T20s respectively. You almost sense that there is no baggage of pressure/expectations on his shoulders, almost like he has been told to play his ‘natural’ game with…

Space Out Domestic Leagues & Scrap CLT20!

The Champions League is around and like a routine there is debate and discussion around the tournament’s relevance and/or its structure and/or its format. The league in principle is rosy - providing a stage for lesser known club players and sides, but in the context of taking it to the level of say, a T20 World Cup, it appears woefully below that; both in terms of following/interest and level of competition. While there is a barrage of question marks on the existence of the tournament, here is an account to suggest a way to optimize the output from T20 cricket in general.
T20 cricket (in most countries) has four distinct ways of presentation - a domestic league (aka IPL), Champions League T20 (CLT20), international matches (during tours) & the World Championship. The way T20 cricket has emerged, each of the above entity is promoted like a gala event. But do we seriously need so much of T20 cricket? Picture this for an average Indian fan in 2012 - 6-7 weeks of the IPL, 2 T20Is versu…

Cummins Promises A 'Colorful' Future!

Second semi-final, Gayle & Samuels trying to set up a big total. The score reads 53 for 1 after 7. Bailey hands over the ball to Cummins to bowl the 8th over. First ball - full and boom! In the arc for Samuels to smack it to the advertisement boards behind the extra cover fielder for a four. With a couple of sixes preceding this over, Samuels is in the mood to butcher anything in his arc. Second delivery - takes almost a decade to reach the other end, Samuels goes for the big slog, misses and timber! A moment of sudden stoppage for a vehicle traveling on an expressway! The remaining 4 deliveries are alternate full, quick and genuine slow deliveries short of length; just six runs off that over. Zoom out; in the context of the 205 for 4 total that WI amassed, that over didn't count much.
16th over of the game against India, Cummins has Dhoni & Raina to contain. Australia hasn't let India gain any momentum until then. Short of length to Raina for a single first up, quick …

Is There Need For Dhoni's Demotion?

A rare feature of the ongoing T20 World Cup has been the lack of quality leadership across big teams; and India’s skipper isn’t an exception to that observation. The man who could do no wrong, turned everything to gold has somehow lost his magic wand somewhere since IPL-4 last year. It could be a bad phase, a few series of running into in-form sides or he is leading a side that is just not good enough; a wise fan would say a bit of all!
What has surprised onlookers has been the lack of shrewd moves or instinctive decisions on field for which Dhoni is reputed for, rather his tactics appear to be in sync with behind-the-scenes boardroom strategies. Is this a recurring trend or some pieces of distinct isolation? Is his street-smart mind running out of ideas? Is the pressure of leading India in all the formats draining him out? These questions have been generated as a consequence.

Grey Areas Of T20 WC!

As it happens with a tournament exit for technical reasons rather than performances and consequent impulsive reactions from fans/followers, India’s ouster from the ICC World T20 2012 has got people talking about the loopholes in the system structured for the World Cup that has been used for 4th occasion now! There are a couple of distinct issues here and most likely they are being mixed up without any reason. Let us begin by addressing the format first.
All the 4 editions have had a similar format for group and super-8 stages; with 4 groups of 3 teams each, top 2 qualifying for the super-8s. The groupings are done differently, either by previous tournament positions or ICC rankings, but never by the open draw method. The super-8s are fixed based on ICC rankings and group stage points aren’t carried forward. A major flaw with this methodology is that you almost make the contest between the best two sides in every group a dead rubber. 4 World Cups and beyond Bangladesh beating West Indie…

The Need For Innovation In Cricket Commentary!

What makes cricket-watching on TV a good experience? Is it the quality of telecast or the graphics and the analysis the broadcaster sets up or is it the commentary that makes TV cricket a compelling exercise? Probably a bit of all biased towards the last feature. Back in the 60s & 70s (before TV came into India) cricket commentary was a highly respected facet of the game, for it was completely dependent on the person behind the microphone to picturize live events to an audience that had no other access. The stories that transpire to today’s generations from fathers, grandparents are fascinating; a common line that emerges is the quality of the commentator that made cricket following a wonderful activity.
Soon television entered households, cricket adopted a colourful version and cricket following subtly changed to cricket watching! Enter 2000s and the television industry boomed, leading to multiple channels broadcasting cricket. The variety & diversity could be a good thing but…

Gambhir Samasya!

India’s progress in all the formats over the last 5 years or so has a few major stakeholders who are spoken of very often - Sehwag, Virat, Yuvraj, Dhoni, Zaheer and a few others. Amidst that group is an individual who doesn’t quite generate flamboyance nor does he appear lazy in his outlook, but goes about his business his own way; ever so like the legendary Dravid. The parallels don’t end here, just like many of Dravid’s knocks had overshadowing moments, Gambhir’s match-winning knocks don’t quite generate the applause and critic review that they deserve. Instead when he is struggling for runs or getting out early, statisticians are out there to stack numbers against him, experts find fault with his mental preparedness and others point flaws in his movements.
T20 cricket is said to be the format for the all-rounders, yet digging down the stats a bit you would probably discover you need openers in good nick, quickies hitting their straps rather than your no. 6 & no. 7 in form or the…

The Million Dollar Problem Between 4 & 5!

Indian cricket is never short of a subject for debate & analysis and currently it’s the constitution of the bowling attack that is the topic of discussion. This subject isn’t new and is going on for a while now. The turn of the millennium saw the revival of Indian cricket as a potent force in limited overs cricket under Ganguly, Dravid and later MSD. Part of the process had to do with the team adopting a flexible approach; Dravid keeping wickets creating space for a batsman, Irfan's batting skills harnessed, and lately Yuvraj as a regular bowler in the colored avatar. There is one thing in all that which hasn't changed - the basic outline of the team with 6 batsmen, 4 bowlers and a keeper, with the notion that Irfan will be a bowler first and Yuvraj will be a batsman first.
Indian bowling attacks have never been threatening as a unit but have been efficient with all the ability they have. This feature works pretty well for limited overs cricket as the winner is decided on …

Can Cricketing Logic Prevail, Please?

Along with the stats for India’s win at Bengaluru, you will find special reports in newspapers and sports shows on TV on the way a certain Sachin Tendulkar has been getting dismissed and quantification of lack of 3-figure mark for a year and a half now. Some will go a step ahead and suggest the man to hang his boots. Valid facts and obvious consequent emotions, but where is the cricketing logic amongst all this to rationalize the observations?
Ex-players like Sunil Gavaskar & Sanjay Manjrekar suggested that age appears to be catching up with him and that fast bowlers are trying to get him bowled or leg-before by bowling full and that his above-the-rest hand-eye co-ordination reaching the level where most others belong. There would be certain reasons why these ex-players are suggesting reasons for Tendulkar’s form/way of dismissals, but unintentionally that has got almost every Tom, Dick & Harry discussing about his technique, skills & ability, including those who follow te…

Is White Ready To Absorb Light?

Picture this: 4 pm start to a day of test match cricket, no issues of conceding working hours to watch action at the stadiums, prime-time live streaming on TV, and yet the definitions of test cricket kept intact! As rosy as it sounds, it has been a long ‘work-in-progress’ to materialize this fantasy idea. Need is the mother of inventions and it would be fair to say that the process to make this a reality has largely been catalyzed by the declining interests in on-field following for the format at many conventional centers. The longer it takes to implement this, implies the lack of full-proof solutions that are available at the moment.
The most pertinent question surrounding day-night test cricket is the color of the ball. While night cricket (2nd innings for ODI matches & T20 matches) works on the white color of the ball for dark backgrounds, test cricket is played with the red ball as this format is contested predominantly in natural light and white uniforms. The minds behind fin…

Recipe For #1!

Cricket has evolved and so has the attention to performances in it. While the colored version of cricket has a World Cup to adjudge a champion, test cricket continues to recognize the best ‘current’ side via rating points. Today the position in the rankings table has a lot of relevance - reaching the pedestal today has a priority mark in the coaches’ to-do list, players pride on reaching the summit and seasonal fans keep a close tab on other sides as well! It has brought excitement, relevance to performances and a stock-market like buzz to test cricket. Like the crude oil prices, the test cricket pedestal has seen constant fluctuation in the recent past; in the last 5 years the position has had a different recipient 4 times! This is modern-day test cricket - one good season can push you up the ladder and a no clear outright world-beater. Dilution of home advantage or away disadvantage with constant tours or change in the quality of pitches or change in the attitude of players could be…

Adieu Vangipurappu Venkata Sai Laxman!

It was coming, it was round the corner, it was catalyzed by his last season but very few would have expected it to have hit them so suddenly. About 8600 kilometers separate Adelaide & Hyderabad and in between that, two announcements have amputated the Indian cricket team with an experience of >20000 test runs, 298 test matches & 32 years of international cricket (combined) and left Indian cricket with a massive hole. 

Most of the 90s belonged to Tendulkar, the late 90s & early 2000s had Ganguly & Dravid in the spotlight and the late 2000s had likes of Yuvraj & Dhoni take over that role, and there was Laxman amidst all that quietly going about his job. It would astound those who aren’t stats-gurus that Laxman played his first test match just 4 months after Dravid scripted a dream debut at Lord's in 1996! He didn’t have an initial burst aka Dravid or a continuous run in international cricket at the beginning. His ODI debut too wasn’t a glamorous one; failing mi…

Should Cricket Embrace The 5 Rings?

Another glorious edition of the Olympics goes into the sunset. A couple of weeks that showcased the best athletes compete for the ultimate glory, an event that exhibited disappointment, defeat, joy, pride, victory, glory and a portrait that had participation from 204 nations! A rich history, a massive platform, unparalleled glory and probably the biggest show sports can offer, makes an Olympic Games edition stand out.
Ardent cricket fans/followers would feel left out from this marquee sports event. Unlike Motorsports, Cricket is a recognized by the International Olympic Committee. Though cricket wasn’t an outright success in multi-sport models previously, times have changed and today cricket has its T20 avatar to offer for such events. The ICC has 105 countries as its recognized members, spanning continents and covering most of the globe.

Technique vs Effectiveness!

“Skillfulness’ in the command of fundamentals deriving from practice and familiarity” is a dictionary meaning of the word technique. In cricket you often hear this word, with respect to certain players having that in abundance and others not necessarily accomplished with that attribute. So what are the fundamentals of batting? Can they be listed into bulleted points? Or is cricket or any sport for that matter an exhibition of diversity of skills, ability and methods to exploit talent? A boundary is a boundary, yet it appears vastly different from a Gayle’s bat than when it comes from say Trott. Sehwag and Gambhir open the batting for India, yet the former has a boundary (combined 4s & 6s) hitting frequency of 8.5 balls, while the latter clears the fence every 15 balls. So what brings about this difference? Is it mere batting ‘technique’ or does it have to do with approach?
Just like a bowler has to adjust his radar to left & right handers, he has to do that with respect to the …

One For The Future: Virat Kohli!

In the last 2 years India has won 25 ODIs chasing totals, and incredibly there has been only one player featuring in all those 25 contests - Virat Kohli! 5 not out innings, 6 hundreds, and an average of 69.65 during this period are numbers which illustrate the kind of impact this man has had in the Indian batting line-up.  He has gone out to overhaul a few records and with the kind of form he is in, many more won’t have a longer life.
He doesn’t belong to the Dravid-way of batting, neither Sehwag-like but has a game which can aptly be described by ‘controlled aggression’. There are lots of likeable things to his style of batting - straight bat strokes, quick feet against spinners, ability to play on both sides of the wicket and good hand-eye co-ordination. Of all the recent Indian batting talent that has been put to play, Virat Kohli has been the only one to have been delivering the goods with more-than-reasonable consistency. At 23 and going through the form of his life Virat Kohli pr…

Do We Really Need India vs Pakistan Right Now?

India is slated to resume international cricket after a break of almost two months; the longest since the advent of the IPL. Just as this break is about to complete, the BCCI has hinted at hosting Pakistan during the 2.5 week break during late December-early January. There have been spontaneous responses to that announcement; a mixed bag comprising of those who believe that 26/11 should be the roadblock for such a series and others who feel such a series can resume the ‘politically’ estranged ties between the two nations.
There are couple of dimensions to this entire story and only a few have highlighted vociferously thus far. Firstly let us delineate this whole business of ‘cricket diplomacy’. If cricket indeed was the sole reason for fostering cold relations, then each and every match between India and Pakistan during the last decade or so should have made it even more affectionate. India and Pakistan have featured quite a number of times in the last decade, yet every outing is trea…

India's All-rounder Obsession!

India’s 16 that were picked for the Sri Lankan tour originally didn’t have an ‘all-rounder’; a few eyebrows rose as a consequence. A fast bowler gets injured and an all-rounder is drafted into the mix as the replacement! Indian team selections or replacements have never been flawless, in terms of reasoning or justification, and neither been according to logic, at times!
The debate around Irfan getting a chance at international cricket is a different topic altogether. The bigger picture is that around the obsession surrounding the word ‘all-rounder’ in and around India’s cricketing circles. How would you define an all-rounder in cricket? It is such a subjective question to answer and more so when we have a habit of analyzing the game so much that we demand a certain set of numbers to qualify a player as an all-rounder.

Rinse Cricket's Linen Right Now!

Match-fixing has been cricket’s biggest downer over the last decade or so and recent revelations and consequent punishments suggest that the saga hasn’t ceased. Committing mistakes is not a problem but not attempting to rectify them is a bigger problem. When the corruption charges were proved first about a decade ago the cricketing community was shocked and the game’s repute was at stake. Names with impeccable integrity and transparency sailed cricket through that tough weather.

Times have changed: match-fixing allegations don’t raise your eyebrows instantaneously anymore, instead of complete matches’, manipulation of a few moments have come to the fore, cricket players have been jailed for proven corruption charges yet you get a sense not enough efforts are going in to make the game transparent.

Unnecessary Dodgy Regressive Scenario!

Another ICC meet (Chief Executives Committee (CEC)) has backed the mandatory usage of UDRS in all matches. This topic has been debated and discussed too often, yet it hasn’t reached a point of convergence. The problem is not with the change but with the resolve to accept it. The BCCI, with its reluctance to its usage, is doing no good to the betterment of the game. The most powerful board in the world should be leading the way rather than resisting. It appears that the board conveniently chooses to listen to the players’ views whenever it comes to technical calls; firstly on the WADA issue and now the UDRS issue, while having its way otherwise. MS Dhoni was deeply miffed by the way Ian Bell during a World Cup match was let off after referring it to the TV umpire, but a couple of weeks later Sachin Tendulkar was saved by the UDRS after he was adjudged out by the on-field umpire. The sensible question that should have been asked from the cited examples should be on the implementation of…

Is Spin Bowling A Dying Art?

It has been said time and again that sub-continental batsmen are the best players of spin; there would be only a few who wouldn’t subscribe to that thought. Yet, about 70% wickets (out of 28) have fallen to spin during the first 3 days of the test between Sri Lanka and Pakistan at Galle; either the track is a rank-turner and the bowling exceptional or the batting skills inadequate. Quality bowling could be a reason but this is only the half side of the story; scoreboard pressure and nature of the pitch has got a lot to do with those numbers!
Who are the leading spinners in world cricket at the moment? Harbhajan? Vettori? Swann? Ajmal? or somebody else? Harbhajan is out of the Indian side for almost a year now, Vettori has become more of an all-rounder, Swann and Ajmal hold promise but would need to deliver something special to join the league of Murali, Warne, Kumble & co. So is world cricket devoid of players to carry the legacy of Bedi, Chandrashekhar, Underwood, Benaud, Qadir fo…

Sublime Sanga!

He may not be the most celebrated batsman, he may not be the most popular player going around but you will struggle to find those who wouldn’t call Kumar Sangakkara as one of cricket’s leading batsman in modern times. There is lot to adore about Sangakkara and his game; comes across as a natural gentleman, professional on the field and a studious character off it. He has kept wickets, batted across positions, led the side to World Cup finals and yet you sense he hasn’t received his due credit.
His test career is staggering; stands 11th on the list of highest run getters, 3rd best all-time number 3 batsman, has effected 187 dismissals, has the second best average amongst players with more than 8500 career runs! His partnerships alongside Mahela have been monumental and a source of strength for Sri Lankan batting to script wins.
Sangakkara has played in an era when Ponting, Tendulkar, Dravid, Kallis, Mahela were the leading names in test cricket, yet has managed to carve a niche for hims…

ODI Cricket Dead? Not Yet!

Since the T20 format has come about many experts, analysts have been critical of the co-existence of all 3 formats of the game (came across a perspective from the meticulous CNN-IBN sports editor Gaurav Kalra which got me to present this counter view!). The critique in such observations does have evidence and practical issues to back it, but many of them tend to conclude on the exclusion of 50-over cricket at the international level, which I believe should be the last option.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) has been pretty clear on its stand of co-existence of all 3 formats; backing that stance by rejecting a window to the ‘domestic’ T20 league - IPL, forbidding a 7-match T20I series and through speculative reports suggesting every third 50-over World Cup could be hosted by the sub-continent!
The views that ODI cricket has been on a decline since the advent of T20 cricket are only partially true. ODI cricket has been struggling for a long while now; in fact T20 cricket was born…

Save White From Melanization!

Like routine sets in, the debate and discussion encircling the IPL has become almost an invariant exercise. 5 seasons since its advent the critics don’t believe the IPL has or can do any good for Indian cricket, leave alone world cricket, cynics highlight all the off-field controversies associated with the event to drive home the point that the IPL is not cricket but merely entertainment and you have others who are either fans or admirers of the IPL, who don’t budge to the above views! Where have the discussions on the relevance of IPL to T20 cricket or of IPL stints as a stage to perform big taken all of us? The fact of the matter remains that neither the organizers nor anybody else is sure what purpose does the IPL serve. The ‘anybody’ referred to is indicative and is meant to bracket the section of people who don’t quite associate with the IPL.
There is stark similarity to the way the BCCI operates and the ICC is operating on the issue of IPL (undoubtedly a fall-out of Mr Pawar cha…

Time For Double-G To Step Up?

The talk around West Bengal government’s spontaneous response to KKR’s win has almost evaporated a developing thought out of our minds - Gautam Gambhir’s leadership skills! Experts, fans, people in the media believed that it was ‘Double-G’ (as Danny M would like to call it!) who turned things around for KKR since the teams were reshuffled via the auction last year. KKR couldn’t breach the play-offs last year, but ensured that the momentum and all round skills that they sustained during the league stages concluded with winning the IPL trophy this season. So how big is the role of the captain in a T20 tournament? Or is the hype purely because he captained a side that won?
It is a never-ending debate on the subject of difficulties as a captain in different formats; though one can safely assume that leading a side in different formats has different challenges. Gambhir isn’t a flamboyant kind of leader, or super-cool aka MS Dhoni but in his own way ensures that he yields the most out of the…

Virtual Indicator!

The big final tomorrow concludes what has been a long-long tournament. Most of the 76 matches have been intriguing, offering something new if you happen to be a curious follower. ‘Off-field’ news kept the cynics and detractors busy, yet it wouldn’t be great idea to ignore or remain unperturbed with all these avoidable developments. It could be incidental but each and every edition of the IPL has had these aspects associated with it - close games, exceptional individual performances and celeb controversies; IPL-5 wasn’t an exception. There could different ways to look back upon what we have witnessed this season; the performances with context to the T20 WC later this year has been chosen here.
Those in awe of Chris Gayle’s onslaught or Sunil Narine’s foxy spells or Dwayne Bravo’s clinical finishes would for one moment or the other predicted a strong West Indian side for the WC. Addition of Dwayne Smith, Kemar Roach, Kerion Pollard and Marlon Samuels to the above names proposes a potent…

Decentralize!

Saturday evening game, ambient weather, pre-tournament hyped match-up (Dada vs KKR) is what KKR vs PWI had to offer in game number 70 of the IPL. But as IPL-5 has turned out, this match was no more than for academic interest; for the position on the table for either side wouldn’t be affected with the result. 8 consecutive losses isn’t the proposition you would want before you venture out to watch and support your team! Yet there were 45000 seats that were occupied at the Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium yesterday; an indicator that team form and results are invariant of crowd support at ‘smaller’ venues.
Pune doesn’t have an identity on the cricket globe as of now; neither a big player who has represented India for a long time nor any national academy or a famous cricket centre. But what it surely has is a horde of ‘live-action-hungry’ people! The day Sahara bought the Pune franchisee, facebook statuses and tweets from ‘Punekars’ conveyed the sentiment of anticipation of being a part of comp…

Deceptive Kings!

We are about to enter the ‘business’ end of what has been a pretty long IPL season. The way things stand at the moment suggest a photo-finish to the league stages with 7 teams in the race to make it to the last 4. It is this feature of the IPL which makes it so likeable - the element of uncertainty till the end! While the fortunes have fluctuated for a couple of sides, others have been able to maintain consistency with respect to wins; almost an unreal feature in T20 cricket! There is one team though which has been quite thus far but could script another exceptional turn-around - Chennai Super Kings (CSK)!
Despite an indifferent start, the men in yellow find themselves with a very good chance to make it to the last 4. Unlike previous editions CSK haven’t had a settled & an in-form batting line-up. Chennai’s average total this season has been 139.42 suggesting an under-par effort from the powerful unit. Murali Vijay could do no wrong last year but has been struggling to find form th…

Home (Dis)advantage!

The IPL with its sheer longevity throws up a large database for statisticians to work upon, fans and followers to stay involved and for observers to derive trends and delineate observations. The home-away format returned to the IPL after a blip last year. The format which endeavors to the dilute the advantage of playing conditions has been tested after manipulation with the scheduling. This season we have now had a couple of teams playing each other twice in a space of less than a couple of days! The thought advocating this schedule suggest the rivalry and the sense of ‘revenge’ as a tool for superseding bore and repetition. Somehow this season we have had an incredible observation for such matches - either team winning one game apiece!
While the above observation can have different reasons, here is another - team’s struggling to win home matches! Chepauk (Chennai) & Sawai Mansingh (Jaipur) have been breached, Deccan hasn’t won a game at home, Punjab & Mumbai have won more mat…

How good is the IPL as a TV product?

‘.. and it’s time for the Strategic time-out’, the commentator says to reappear or more appropriately to be reheard about 5 seconds short of 2.5 minutes, counting down those last few seconds on the ticker. In between we have all the brands who have affiliated with the IPL promote their products. Cricket is probably the only sport which gives such live airtime to its advertisers, and probably the reason why the broadcaster attempts at providing all possible time space to its investors. Nothing wrong with the advertiser or the broadcaster for each entity is trying to maximize its potential gains.
During the current season we now have had two outstanding high-scoring ‘afternoon’ games, involving teams chase down big totals (CSK vs RCB & RR vs DC), followed by the 2nd game of that day. In between the broadcaster manages to squeeze only the post-match presentation and 2-3 minutes of packaged highlights; for a TV viewer this is too short a time to recreate the match that has transpired. …

Bowlers' Summer!

The first leg of IPL 5.0 has been about teams finding their feet into this tourney; it hasn’t been the usual explosive start one would have expected - high scoring tight games but more of a steady show with the ball dominating as much as the bat. ‘Indian’ Premier League could be perceived, prime facie, as a contest skewed towards the batsmen but IPL-5 has begun slightly different and promises a better summer for bowlers of all genres.
7 of the 11 matches have been won by team batting first; and only once has a team managed to chase successfully more than 120. Pundits would advocate for the pitch not changing much over the 40 overs; hence pitch and conditions cannot be a factor to rationalize the above observations. Scoreboard pressure can be one aspect, but the line-ups that have failed to chase are too good to have this factor as a reason. So what is it then? For a change we have quality bowling spells as the reason for deciding T20 match results! Thus far we have had 6 fifties and 5…

Switch Hit or Switch Thoughts?

A change always takes a while before it is accepted by those practicing and observing the activity, but the big debate around the ‘Switch-Hit’ is about its validity and not about its inclusion as a batting shot. (If my memory serves right) Only Pietersen and Warner have had a try at the ‘controversial’ hit to decent success. Pietersen sort of discovered the shot in 2008; the cricketing fraternity hasn’t converged upon an assertion regarding the legality of the shot 4 years later. MCC (custodian of the laws of the game) had endorsed the shot in 2008 and had reaffirmed that stand 2 months ago, when Warner executed that hit (in a T20I vs India). If the law-makers are to be believed the switch hit is an exciting addition to the batting skills.
There have been opposing views and it would be silly to banish these thoughts without answering them justifiably. The logical counter-argument is the undue advantage the batsman gets when he attempts to execute the shot - the LBW will still remain th…

Don't Delete Recent History

The end of the current financial year marks a very resourceful point to assess an eventful year that has gone by. Such has been the turn of fortunes in the last 12 months that even an ardent fan would find it hard to rationalize. The IPL is round the corner and (sadly) all this would be forgotten under the pretence of short public memory. If India has to remain a strong force at the helm of international cricket, it has to address it weaknesses, rectify wherever necessary and not dismiss these performances as merely an aberration.
196 runs, 319 runs, innings & 242 runs, innings & 8 runs, 122 runs, innings & 68 runs, innings & 37 runs, 298 runs are the margins of the team’s infamous 8 consecutive ‘away’ losses. It is not a happy proposition to recollect these numbers but an imperative exercise if India has to identify and correct its weak links. India is not the only side who is losing away tests, but the magnitude of these losses should worry the team management. Not i…

Magnificent or draggy?

It is that time of the year when you have a ‘Live’ cricket match everyday; it is that time of the year when popular VJs discuss and analyze cricket rather than the familiar cricket hosts; it is that time of the year when you and your friend don’t necessarily cheer for the same side! The IPL is round the corner; promising to be back to its usual self - extravagant and glamorous.
Along with the cricket the big focus would be on whether the brand IPL can revive itself after a below-par performance last season. With a poor international season (for India) preceding and no home matches for the last 4 & half months, the levels of interest and following should be expected to rise; at least better the abysmal stats for last year. The availability of majority of India’s international players should not only encourage the respective sides but also the competition itself.

Curious case of Tendulkar hundreds

A batsman scores his maiden T20 hundred and his side looses. Nothing drastic about the result or the performance, but if the batsman happens to be Sachin Tendulkar, the hundred has to be scrutinised microscopically. Cynics initiate the good old debated 'myth' of a Tendulkar hundred not ending up on the winning side, statisticians open their laptops to pop up a few numbers suggesting the statistical evidence of those claims and the media has a popular topic to cover their sports slots. Can cricketing logic and common sense prevail, please?
Sachin Tendulkar's cricketing legendary is too vast to sit down and analyse. We often tend to pass judgements on the basis of stats, numbers & results and not on the basis of abstract things associated with a particular performance or over a period of time. To quantify Tendulkar's genius, we often hail his tally of tons, total runs scored in the three formats and other monumental records but in the process we tend to overlook his i…

Ten @ 100

Sports careers can be long, they can be illustrious, they can be popular and they can be successful; but if you wish to have all these facets rolled into one - don’t look too far beyond Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar’s cricketing career! He is every budding cricketer’s ideal, a treat for every spectator, a reliable team-player, a senior statesman in the (Indian) cricketing set-up, a dream for every statistician and yet a humble individual who has mastered one dimension of the gentlemen’s game viz. batting like no other. Nobody doubted Tendulkar’s talent during his early days; they only doubted his temperament & endurance. 22 years down the line, you wouldn’t find many people wanting to ask questions of him (“He has been in form longer than some of our guys have been alive” - Daniel Vettori. “If I had to last 20 years, I would probably be batting in a wheelchair”, Ricky Ponting).
Very often we limit the legend of Tendulkar to merely his astounding stats, overlooking the abstract things ass…

Adieu Rahul Dravid

It could have been timed better, it could have come a little later, it could have been better celebrated but the retirement was always going to come some day. It is easier said than fathomed - the Indian test side without Dravid! The news on first instance was a moment of disbelief, followed by a moment of daze before logic struck saying that it had to come and the moment had indeed arrived. Dravid was never a glamorous character on or off the field, more of a thorough gentleman commanding respect from all quarters. His announcement was synonymous with his usual self - calm, composed, dignified and non-fussy. Dravid was, is and will always be remembered as a role model for his conduct, dignity, selflessness on the cricket field & off it along-with his technically impeccable batting. On the global scene the game has lost one of its modern-day great and an all-time legend.
The clock was ticking for Dravid much before, but an exceptional tour of England postponed this event (of retire…

Sunset nearing?

The easiest thing to do is probably indulging in the act of criticism; even more easier if you aren’t exactly associated with the event/proceeding! Sachin Tendulkar has been at the receiving end of such an act over the last couple of months; primarily pushing for his exit from the coloured clothes. There are Tendulkar ‘devotees’ on the other side, who seem to think in only one way, defending their ‘god’ with all the possible arguments which one could think of. In sport or in life most decisions are pretty subjective, with either way being the right way in some cases or the other. When it comes to Tendulkar, we invariably weigh thoughts on the side of emotions. That is natural, that is justified for Sachin Tendulkar is not just another person playing the gentlemen’s game! A generation has grown alongwith Tendulkar’s international career and it is hard to believe that the sun will have to set.
So is it really the time to pull down the curtains on Tendulkar’s career (ODI cricket for now)…

Time to resurrect!

In sport if winning is a habit, losing too can be one! Don’t think need to elaborate what that statement has relevance to the Indian cricket team. World Cup winners, number one ranked test side were attributes you associated with the men in blue not too long ago and you don’t need any experts to say that things are drastically different now. 8 away consecutive test losses, just 6 wins in the last 18 away ODI’s is a record that speaks volumes about the sudden slide the Indian team has experienced. India won the inaugural T20 World Cup, hosts the glamorous IPL and yet the team hasn’t put up a strong T20 performance post the 2007 championship. Bottomline - the team has a lot on its plate with the problems covering the entire spectrum!
It is easy to be astonished the way the team has performed post the grand win in Mumbai; it is imperative we start drawing reasons for such a slide and propose ways to rectify the issues. It is a clichéd argument if you are an avid cricket follower - it is m…

Refresh the set-up!

Indian domestic cricketing set-up is under the scanner for the last week or so to modify it for the better. Prominent ex-international players like Aakash Chopra & Sourav Ganguly are closely associated, directly or indirectly, with this activity. The technical committee of the BCCI has recommended a few changes to the domestic structure after the meet on Friday which mainly includes length of Ranji games, domestic calendar and the points system. There is also the rejection of the thought that domestic games should be held at neutral venues. The recommendations sound good and hold potential to raise the bar but why isn’t there excitement about this topic? Why isn’t the media covering this generously?
In pursuit of answers to these questions lies the sorry state of domestic cricket in India. Why has quality of cricket gone down drastically? Let us start by looking at the numbers for the current season (have chosen only Ranji trophy numbers for the sake of simplicity). 34 of the 56 R…

The rise of the finisher!

About 15-17 years ago when the ODI format was in its budding stages, Jayasuriya and his opening partner Kaluwitharana revolutionised the way openers’ batted. Their methods were unconventional and others took time to adopt similar ways to maximise the advantage of the field restriction. Around the same period Australia was transforming into a side that would later rule for some length of time. The Australian side had good batsmen, good bowlers and good multi-dimensional players. A certain Michael Bevan in the scheme of things was exploring the value of the much underrated no. 5/6/7 batting positions, quite a revolution much like what the two Lankans had previously demonstrated.  
People started realising the importance of a batsman who could bat down the order and close games for the side. Likes of Harris, Cairns, Klusener, Heath Streak, Razzaq, and Boucher blossomed with a role similar to what Bevan was doing for Australia and people subtly realised the value of, what later was to be c…

Rotational dilemma!

Sehwag’s press conference after the 1st ODI of the CB series had something unheard of if you are an Indian cricket follower viz. Rotation Policy; the easiest fall-to thought experiment when there is nothing else to discuss and debate on TV shows, newspapers and commentary boxes but we never had the players or the team management speak about this or execute such a thing. This has been spoken of and its relevance to Indian cricket ever since Australia attempted to execute this reasonable success during the period the team was at the pedestal. The responses to that statement from Sehwag have been mixed, with experts, media editors and fans/followers not converging completely to either approving it or disposing the policy. Where would you want to stand on this one? Do you belong to the set of people who believe that this is indeed very good or subscribe to the thought that such a thing won’t help the team in the long run?
So let us explore the subject and its relevance to the team in detai…

Restructure the method!

About 3 years ago, Australia lost its position on the top of the table after the Ashes defeat to then #5 ranked England in August 2009. Before South Africa lost its crown to India (at the end of 2009), the team couldn’t topple the #5 ranked England in a 4-match series at home. India held the fort for about 20 months before going down humiliatingly to the #3 ranked test side. Today the currently #1 ranked test team was whitewashed by the #5 ranked Pakistan, which has narrowed the difference between the top 2 sides in the table to merely one integer. These are excerpts of the rampant fluctuations the test match rankings table has undergone for the last couple of seasons. The big picture would suggest fierce competition at the top but reality, unfortunately, deviates far from it. No team has looked good to hold onto the crown for long; losing its pedestal with similar humiliation in each case.
There are nuances while you study these fluctuations; the last couple of seasons have been good …

Unlearnt lessons

About 20 years ago, an Indian team on a tour down under suffered a 0-4 loss in a 5 match series following a test series loss in England. Don’t know what the outlook about the team was then (as I was too small to follow cricket!), having likes of Vengsarkar, Kapil Dev, Shastri, Srikkanth in the ranks. Yet that tour is remembered as the tour which gave birth to the next big thing in Indian cricket - Tendulkar and India’s spearhead bowler for the next decade - Javagal Srinath. Compare it to the last 8 months; Virat has been the find with the bat and likes of Ashwin & Umesh have impressed, albeit in patches. The analogy doesn’t end here itself!
Srikkanth and Vengsarkar quit test cricket after the final test at Perth, Ravi Shastri within the next 10 months, Kiran More in 1993 and Kapil Dev 1994. No need to elaborate why this could be analogous to the current scenario. The larger thought that needs to be addressed is the lack of lessons learnt to avoid a similar fate. India won just 1 te…

India's problems begin from the top!

The middle order of India’s batting line-up has been the focus of all the criticism in the last couple of months. Amidst this chatter, an aspect of India’s success over the last decade or so - the opening has been a bit neglected. Yes the middle order deserves all the flak and resurrection in that department should be executed with priority but you cannot overlook the constant failure of the openers to deliver what is expected of them. Sehwag & Gambhir has been India’s best opening combine in terms of runs and also the longest serving duo. When you have the same pair at the top, you either don’t have too many options or they are doing too well to disturb; 23 opening stands of 50 or more & 10 stands of 100+ out of 76 outings is a reasonable stat and should endorse the latter view. Dissect that stat a bit and a few creepy things crop up. The duo has managed to provide an opening stand of 100 or more only on 3 occasions out of 34 times they have gone out to open the batting on aw…