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The Brewing of a Promising Association!

They say make hay while the sun shines. It was a sunny day dispersed with a tinge of white cloud. On a slightly clearer setting 11 years ago a homogeneous association scripted one of its many fabled narratives. The day began after a briefly promising spell of resistance at the end of the preceding one. Two previous contests were lost, the venue wasn’t conquered in 33 years and a mountain was to be confronted. History rebutted any of this materializing, the critics wouldn’t denounce individuals if it wasn’t accomplished and it was a bit cosmetic to foresee that happening. As the shadows lengthened across the carpet, the summit wasn’t scaled wholly but a subtle reference to that event of the past could be ascertained.
It wasn’t as serene as the legend of Adelaide and probably not as monumental. It was imperfect, it was brittle at times, it was twitchy but it managed to compose a story for the ages, comprehensively. The craft of scoring runs wasn’t too dissimilar but the abrasive outlook …

Exciting Examination For Indian Batsmen!

Test cricket in 2014 has been a tough ride for the Indian team, both in terms of the results and the quality of contests. Although only 1 win has been registered in the 7 matches on 2 away tours, there have been a few instances of opportunities which upon conversion could have changed the success percentage a bit. Yes it was the lack of penetrative bowling on such days, but being a batting strong side the chances themselves were created by the big totals on the board. In 14 innings the team managed to notch up 290-plus totals on 7 occasions, and when that happened in the same match, India didn’t lose.
The direct correlation of under-performance with the bat to the 0-8 score-line in 2011-12 is well established and so is the one about sturdy batting efforts aiding you in drawing matches. While away success is the ultimate objective of any test side, drawing is probably the next best result for a team in the transitional phase. The 3rd away test tour of the year is about to commence, and…

The Big Test Before The Big Title Defense!

The buzz around the upcoming Australian leg of the Border-Gavaskar trophy is quietly building up, unlike its pompous usual self. Dhoni is absent in the initial phase, Clarke’s participation is unclear and the forthcoming 50-over World Cup is taking some sheen off this marquee test series. India is currently retaining the celebrated bilateral trophy, but barring the 2003-04 series India has not managed to hold onto its possession after a trip Down Under since the incarnation of this prize! Both teams are coming off excellent ODI form and many expect the contest on this occasion to break the uncanny pattern of whitewashes from the last 3 encounters.
The recent form guide (last 5 tests) viz. India: DWLLL, Australia: WLWLL, doesn’t speak of domination in either case and margins for wins & losses have been massive for both teams. To some extent, India & Australia are within a transitional phase; Australia probably wears a more settled look, which is visible in the success percentag…

Need For More Home Internationals & A 'Diwali Test'!

The abrupt termination of the West Indies tour to India has led to the anticipated consequences with WICB scrambling for fire-fighting measures and BCCI seeking maximal claim of monetary loss. The future of the players in international cricket remains hazily unclear, some wondering to the extent of their participation in the World Cup early next year. Few sane voices are suggesting all concerned parties to restore talks with a calm mindset and resolve the issue sans victimization. No follower of the game would like West Indian players to be isolated in the overall frame, but things would have been much better had the events unfolded in a different manner.
A lesser significant aspect of this troubled series is that of impromptu scheduling modifications and an inflexible approach to a foreseen weather affected match. Spontaneous changes in tournament schedules is not uncommon in the Indian cricket set-up; the recent example being that of the IPL semifinal & final venue alterations mi…

More Than Just An Aberrational Dip

As the team’s head to London for the final test of the series, 2-1 is not an unimagined scoreline at the beginning of the tour and in most ways is a fair reflection of superior execution of skills. The nuances though have a different story to tell - some of England's top performers of this series have emphatically over-achieved (given form and/or ability), while those rated highly in the visitor's camp have grossly under-performed.
The form or the lack of it, of two young, promising Indian batsmen has been a source of pronounced scrutiny, disappointment & poor form for the batting unit. While Pujara's problems are restricted to lack of conversion, Kohli is struggling to even getting to that stage. Yes the openers have failed consistently and the lower middle order hasn't provided that assuring cushion, but given Pujara's attributes & Kohli's dream batting form, averages of 25.87 & 13.50 respectively are frustrating for themselves, the team & its …

Historic Triumph Presents A Rare Opportunity!

173-4 on the board. A 101-run solid partnership spoiling a wishful rendition of an away test win in 3 years. A wicket out of nowhere just before the lunch interval and England fold up in the following 12.2 overs and 50 runs. The classic test cricket pattern gets exhibited in the process - one skewed hour/session changing the complexion of a tightly fought see-saw contest. Some deemed it as historic, others described it as embarkment for the future but for many who have tracked Indian cricket over the last couple of decades this win easily figures into the bracket of Perth, Trent Bridge, Durban and Johannesburg for India's famous away wins of the current millennium. 
As the ecstatic elation receded and the victory feel sunk in, correlation with England's memorable win in Mumbai 20 months ago started surfacing. Pietersen, Cook, Panesar were colligated with Rahane, Vijay, Ishant as the lead heroes of the respective matches. Some of these names weren't (playing international cr…

India vs England 2014: Low-Key Build Up For The Big Test!

As the Indian team embarks on its 3rd away test-tour assignment of the year (the longest in recent history), a sense of nervous anxiety occupies the mental build-up. The memories of unending travails on away soil are still alive; more so given India’s last moment of success away from home came before that miserable trip to England in 2011. Given the nature of test cricket, phases of consistent success or failure shouldn’t surprise, yet India’s contrasting numbers before and after the 2011 WC win in tests are remarkable.
The disparity in India’s batting prowess from the 2011 tour is unmistakeably evident; the bowling on this occasion looks even thinner on experience. Barring Dhoni, Gambhir & Ishant, none of the 18-man squad has had the opportunity of playing test cricket in England previously; neither the trio can boast of impressive statistics. Despite a topsy-turvy 2013 for the Cook-led England, the presence of a similar core unit from 2011 and the advantage of playing at home wo…

Tracking The Virat Progress!

It has been 5 years, 7 months and 182 matches since a certain Virat Kohli made his international debut. 8089 runs have come off his bat since then which accounts for 17.86% of runs scored by all Indian batsmen (in the matches involving Kohli); and improves to 19.77% in winning causes. 19 of his 25 tons have been hit when India has won, he has been the second highest run-getter in international cricket over the last 3 years and has a 3-figure knock against & in every test playing nation. These are featured highlights which you probably read every day and sometimes a large database smudges the nuances of each achievement.
After India’s win over Bangladesh in the World T20 2014 league game (including a clinical knock of 57*), in a brief chat Virat spoke something which was delightfully pleasing for all those who have tracked his assured graduation. From being accompanied with adjectives like brash and impulsive, he can now boast of words like mature, thinker and responsible about his …

Chasing Targets: A Thought-Out Plan Or An Option-less Policy?

7 (out of 21) is the number of ODIs India has managed to win in the season whose conclusion precedes India's title defence in about 10 months. With 0.63 India's win-loss ratio is the second worst among the top 8 teams in this period. This may appear an isolated sample space but more than the numerical values the manner in which they have been rendered has yielded greater concern. Poor string of results invokes criticism but established names tend to command time, unlike the present situation where questions are being raised about ability and position in the side.
Though such rhetoric carry higher emotional quotient, the common line of reaction assumes greater weight as time and the number of opportunities between now and February 2015 are limited. Barring a couple of names, India's core group has remained intact in the shorter formats over the last couple of years, with reasonable individual & collective success; albeit in patches. Thus deliberating upon this aspect of …

Dhoni's Time Is Up, But Whose Time Has Arrived?

Human tendency preserves memories by associating them with easily recognizable signals. Cricket by virtue of its inherent nature furnishes numerical statistics for this function. The two-test series in New Zealand may not be introspected with fond moments, but the bottom-line generated in the process has imparted a deep imprint on the timeline of Indian cricket. The Indian team and MS Dhoni in particular, now formally possess a dubious statistical feat - 4 consecutive away tours losses and the worst record for an Indian skipper in this context. Apart from getting into a sluggish pit of defeats away from home, the longevity and its consistency is now inducing emotions and retrospection from a critical aperture of the microscope. Naturally such a phase is succeeded by the exercise of identifying a scapegoat, and in the current case Dhoni is the face of all ills.
The primary objection to Dhoni's leadership is his perceivable inactive demeanor on the field. Real-time illustrations endo…

Make or Break Year For Rohit Sharma

Upright batting posture, lazyish trigger movement, the gift of timing and physical strength to assemble these facets into an effective crescendo. The ability to maneuver a particular delivery in multiple directions delectably adds to this armor and decisive feet movement in this process renders an image of élan and eloquence. This is the precise set of events which highlights of most Rohit Sharma batting knocks present, albeit varying in their duration!
What those clipped moments smudge is the multiple hits-and-misses at the start and more crucially the instances of inexplicable brain-freeze batting shots which cut many promised stories drastically short of its length. It has been six years since Rohit has been around the international circuit and thanks largely to his touted description has managed to keep the followers yearning consistently for a string of feasts rather than bits of tasty meals. This wish almost materialized with a reasonably good run in 2013, but in a clichéd manner…