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A Startling Disparate Trend!

As the year draws to an end there is this opportunity to reflect upon cherish-able moments, outline trends and chart out the hits & misses of the preceding 12 months. Cliched as it sounds and repetitive as it gets this annual exercise with novel sets of examples never ceases to intrigue the followers of the sport. 2013 had only one global tournament (Champions Trophy in England), a couple of emotional send-offs, a couple of exciting ODI series, string of rising youngsters, bunch of record-breaking performances, and South Africa & India retained their pedestal status in Tests & ODIs throughout the year.
Amid these featured stories, there are a couple of hidden anecdotes that have been generated in the due course. Of the 43 test matches through 2013, 33 produced a result. Strikingly only 2 matches were won away from home (discounting the South Africa vs Pakistan series in UAE), and on both counts the losing side was Zimbabwe! Call it home domination, away blues, willful comeb…

Lots At Stake In A Miniature Series!

A pompous celebration of a legendary career followed by an emotional send-off consumed the attention of Indian cricket's discourse over the last couple of months. It was eventful, it was memorable, but what will follow this is an exciting phase featuring unpredictable possibilities! Despite the upcoming series being reduced to a fast food snack rather than a full meal, the billing is high enough to invoke context and curiosity. The anticipation is palpable, the adverts are popping up gradually, and recent form is balancing a skewed contest between an inexperienced young unit and a steady, settled outfit with strong credentials in home conditions.
What will be a greater miss for the Indian team (especially the test series) this occasion - a Dravid as the SOS opener and a willful pressure absorbent? or a Tendulkar to lead the batting and be the focus of the blame when the tour results are torrid? or a Laxman to whirl that magic wand to script improbable batting efforts in unacquainte…

An Affable Habit Which Will Cease To Exist Very Soon!

What?! Really? Pin drop silence. Feeling lost. Retrospection & memories. By the time pragmatism restored, the magnitude of the news had barely begun to sink in. The following couple of days were spent reading & watching all available content which every medium sold as exclusive! Yes this is what happened to most of us on and after the announcement on the afternoon of 10th October.

Every Tendulkar moment over the last '24 years' has followed this routine of a spontaneous reaction, microscopic scrutiny, subsequent debate and the reverberating effect of joy/disappointment following the event. Alas, the current case signals the termination of this habit; a habit which many fear would be hard to live without! And those claiming so are justified - why would you do away with something which has given you more joy than probably anything else?! 


Alarming Indications From The India-Australia Series

Has the run-fest at Bangalore yesterday sunk in yet? Perhaps not. As it turned out, the final of a tightly contested series between #1 and #2 lived up to its billing. In the timeline of ODI cricket’s progress, this series will probably linger in the mind a bit longer than most other bilateral series. Not just the stats which were breached in the course, but the manner in which the proceedings unfolded have left this reverberating effect.
Some say it is natural progression, others believe it is killing the essence of cricket but the kind of records which have experienced modifications over the last few weeks renders you to ponder on these arguments a little deeper. 3 out of the 6 matches (all-time) with 700+ runs, 2nd & 3rd highest successful run-chases, fastest hundred by an Indian, fastest ton by an Australian, 3rd ODI double ton, most sixes in a 50-over match are excerpts of the phenomenal 'batting' achievementsrecorded over the last month.

Let There Be Some Transparency

It’s been barely a week since the abrupt disruption in the scheduling sheet of India’s calendar for 2013-14 was announced. Haroon Lorgat, Tendulkar’s 200th test venue, Tendulkar’s possible retirement et al. have been the speculated reasons behind this discretional decision; and most likely silence will prevail over reasoning this occasion as well. While the Lorgat- BCCI tussle will be a masala-story to track over the next couple of months, the period till the WI series will be spent in associating & discovering the relevance of this unplanned tour to Tendulkar’s landmark!
While the BCCI appears to have snubbed CSA in the process, it has saved itself from large-scale criticism by using Tendulkar’s impending milestone as a safeguard tool. Post the Lorgat appointment the anticipation of a conflict between the two boards wasn’t unexpected, but what has surprised many is the timing & the way it has popped up 2.5 months before the itinerated tour. The BCCI is flexing its muscles at t…

A Rosy Tale On A Gloomy Day!

Dogged, sluggish, unexotic and lumbering could be the adjectives which associate themselves to Chris Rogers knock at Chester-le-Street. Yet in the context of the situation keywords like effective, potentially match-winning and telling probably assume a greater association to his contribution in the 1st innings of Australia’s batting. There were edges and misses, close shouts, moments of rub-of-green, awkward TV postures of batting and amid all that the scoreboard pressure in the change room was quietly subsided.
Day 2 of the test offered overcast conditions, seam & swing, part-timers (too) creating an impression and every over a fresh test for survival. It was that kind of day and it needed that kind of batting! It wasn’t a Warner kind of track, it was a tough test for somebody like a Khawaja, Steven Smith didn’t click and Clarke couldn’t hang around for long. Life can sometimes throw up opportunities at surprising junctures and this day was meant for Chris Rogers. The conditions,…

The Next Step For Virat Kohli's Batting Career!

Just a couple of days have elapsed since the comprehensive announcement about the conduct of WC 2015 was made. No overwhelming buzz, as expected, for a tournament that is 18 months away. The interest levels currently (for an Indian fan) aren’t the greatest either with India just finishing an ODI series in Zimbabwe and no big ticket international cricket in prospect over the next two months. Amid these circumstances it would be a decent academic exercise to comprehend on where the Indian team stands in the build-up to 2015.
Of all the players who will hog the limelight in that process, Virat Kohli is one name which will definitely feature more often. An ODI average of 49.72 (108 innings), a T20I average of 34.87 (18 innings) and a test career that promises to blossom - average 41.96 (31 innings); in a short span Virat has translated from a dynamic under-19 skipper to a mainstay in the Indian batting line-up, unnoticeably. Beyond statistics it is the number & nature of ‘match-winnin…

Need To Review The Decision Review ‘System’!

4th innings of a popular test match. The last wicket of the batting team ‘stunningly’ closes in on the finishing line. An appeal. Umpire nods in disagreement. Bowling side calls for a 3rd umpire review. The infra-red beams show a feather nick. Decision made. Fielding side ecstatic and batsmen rue an opportunity of a miracle. The last part of the sequence of events came as a forced reaction rather than one of spontaneity.
The conclusion of the test match gave way to post-match reviews and analysis. Names like Agar, Bell, and Anderson featured in most pieces but keywords like DRS, umpiring too found their way into them. A couple of reports stressed upon Broad’s ‘unsporting’ move to hang around despite consciously edging a delivery to the slips, others criticized the quality of umpiring. A few had some things to say about the way both skippers used their set of reviews and a couple of others stressed upon the lack of foolproofness of the DRS.

The Perplexity Of Batting Powerplays!

A 92-run resurrection stand in a final between number 3 & 4, last 15 overs of the innings coming up; wickets in hand, bowling pressure subsided, momentum & foundation. On an ideal day and/or on a flat deck the batting team would be projecting at least 110-130 in that span, subject to the batting powerplay (if unused) not going the bowling team’s way! 8 years and over a 1000 ODI’s since the introduction of ‘batting’ powerplays, the effective usage of those 5 overs still remains far from perfection; and Sri Lanka was the latest victim of the counter-effects of the batting powerplay!
It wasn’t all that bad to start with. In fact 30 runs came in the first 2.4 overs of the 30 delivery installment, 6 runs and 3 wickets followed in the succeeding 2.2 overs. Set batsmen removed, momentum busted and suddenly the last ten became too many for survival! Sudden momentum change in cricket is not a new thing, what is surprising is the frequency at which the ‘batting’ powerplays are shifting t…

ODI Cricket Has Some Life Left!

The 7th edition of the Champions Trophy, a success, the final match of the ODI tournament virtually being a T20 game, uncertainty over the tournament’s future, ICC annual meet and its decisions. Phew! The past week or two have left cricket followers and pundits with a horde of issues to ponder and discuss about. India will hold the Champions Trophy forever, in four years time we will have the inaugural Test Championship and the T20 world cup will now be an event with a 4-year cycle.
Perceptions can change quickly and the outlook about the Champions Trophy & the Test Championship has changed drastically over the last 5 years; from ridiculing the existence of the 8-nation ODI tourney to being apprehensive about the Test Championship. On-field action has been a prime reason to this perspective transition. With the World Cup already in place, the Champions Trophy was struggling to notch up USP features, both in terms of context and frequency. The discrepancy between the actual perform…

Assure The Spectator, Right Now!

The anger is impalpable neither there is that accustomed widespread outrage, the emotion that is emerging as a reaction to the spot-fixing story is probably that of being desensitized. You are sucked into believe what your skeptical friend always told you about the correlation between the words - IPL and fixing. The crime has been substantiated, the alleged characters have confessed, the law enforcing authorities are widening their ambit of investigation and the avid fan in you is left to wonder how easily your innocent affection for the game has been maliciously tampered with, yet again.
Every sport is bigger than individuals - good or bad, and the good old cliché of ‘the show must go on’ followed suit with decent crowds for the post-fixing-bust-story matches. You probably tuned into Sony Max the next day, resumed scrutinizing the points table and started building up for the final couple of laps of this edition of the IPL. You probably realized that the excitement wasn’t the same, th…

Room for improvement in the IPL formatting

At the beginning of every IPL season we have these subdued concerns about the length of the schedule sheet. The concerns carry a sense of aloofness once the season progresses and we don’t mind watching our team play 16 games over 7 weeks, more so if it is winning! Needless to say, 6 seasons since its launch the IPL is assuming an ODI innings kind of outlook with the length of the middle overs broadening.
After 66.67% completion of group stages in IPL-6, two teams (PWI, DD) are out of contention and one team (CSK) has already qualified. Two teams (RCB, SRH) are on the verge of qualifying and one team (KKR) is on the verge of elimination! Yes it leaves an anticipative finish for the knock-out race between 3 teams (MI, RR and KXIP) for one spot and a stiff contest for the positions on the points table. Simultaneously it leaves quite a few matches of very little consequence. This implies you have to live with likes MI vs CSK and PWI vs RR on the same day, for a couple of weeks now!

IPL-6 Preview!

The rise in frequency of Farah Khan ads teaching you dance moves along-with multi-genre group of people splashing colour across your TV screens subtly reminds that the carnival is just round the corner. The gradual transition into the IPL-mode is settling in: electronic & print media are offering the routine previews, foreign players are sounding excited with landing in India and team PR mechanisms are striving to stir up fervour and adumbration!
Yet, you get this feeling of déjà vu leading up to April 3, like the IPL season succeeding the 2011 world cup. The magnitude of India’s recent success might not be as big as that win, but for followers struggling to find a source of joy in the last 18-24 months, the 4-0 series win has quenched the deep/longstanding thirst. An 8-test long home series with a couple of ODI series squeezed in between has already left followers spent. The presence of the look-forward-to element might be IPL-6’s biggest test. Not that IPL-6 is arriving unnotice…

Similar Set-up, Dissimilar Execution!

A couple of taps of the bat as the bowler starts running in. Optimum backlift, negligible trigger motion, minimal feet movement and bang! No exaggerated follow through or flourish. Rarely did this series of events skip VVS Laxman’s batting regime and rarely did his knocks lack élan and flair. Laxman’s legacy is unparalleled and we often walk down that rich memory lane; more often it is the reverberating effect of his batting that clings onto our mind, this piece tries to look through that mechanism!
What worked for Laxman so well - those waxy wrists? being tall? hand-eye co-ordination? Probably a bit of all, but what stands out in his batting is the timing. Often players with the gift of precise timing are attributed with postures straight out of the coaching manuals, but with Laxman rarely did you find the one-knee-bent cover drives or quick-feet-using-depth-of-the-crease cross bat shots. Thus those wrists and prominent back-foot play were principally based on the ability to trigger …

Signs Of A Dominator!

The series scoreline after the Capetown test doesn't tell us something that we didn't know about either South Africa as a team in home conditions or Pakistan as a tourist group in South Africa. The manner of wins for South Africa does tell us a thing about the team: the desire to authorize its stamp! Given the past demons and the pool of talent it has had, it is pleasant to find South Africa overcoming its inexplicable nerves and avoiding potential triggers in jittery situations with convincing frequency. 

England and South Africa have impressed as test units in the last 4-5 years and the common link that knits these two sides is the hunger to win test matches in all conditions; a quality that the Indian team was found wanting after achieving the pedestal in test rankings. Champion teams try to overhaul its opponents by generating a reverberating via its manner of victory; West Indies did that, Australia did that and it appears that South Africa seems to possess the arsenal to …

Suresh Raina: The Diligent Perfomer!

38th over of the world cup quarter final - India lose Dhoni with 74 needed off almost run-a-ball. In walks India’s number 7 with just one game in the world cup preceding that match. 61 deliveries later India secures a spot for the semi-finals without any further change to the wickets column. The man who came out to bat at the fall of the 5th wicket scored a not out 34 at a strike rate of 121.42 and somehow the name of Suresh Raina doesn’t pop up instantaneously when you recollect that match.

He has been that kind of cricketer - his shortcomings/failures vividly remembered but his innumerable second fiddle invaluable contributions forgotten. Ever since Raina entered the arena in the India jersey he has been invariably perceived as an outstanding athlete, an electric fielder, a dasher with the bat and a modest part-time off spinner. His frequent failures in test cricket have underscored the criticism against his batting and playing in the same eleven as Dhoni & Yuvraj in the coloured…

Have Different Players For Each Format!

The Indian team has been hit by a transitional phase and poor collective form simultaneously. Lack of long-term planning in the recent past doesn’t help in this situation either. The results and the lack of options emphasize that the Indian team management has not been prepared for immediate life in the absence of the legendary core. The fall-outs? India has had 14 new test caps and 16 in ODI’s in the last 3 years and yet the pool of squad doesn’t resonate of being a stable one. The new addition to the list of ODI debutants would be Cheteshwar Pujara. Almost everybody saw it coming, but personally I am a little apprehensive about him being pushed into the colored jersey at this moment. The concern is not whether he can play one-day cricket, but more about the timing of his entry in this format.

When Gambhir was going through a purple patch 3 seasons ago, everybody felt India had found its Mr. Technique. Push in a couple of IPL seasons and hordes of 50-over series and Gambhir is finding…