Thursday, October 9, 2008

Day 1: Take a bow, Ricky Ponting!

Scorecard and commentary

Australia 254/4 at the end of day 1, Hayden 0, Katich 66, Ponting 123, Hussey 46*, Clarke 11, Watson 0*; Z Khan 2 for 39, I Sharma 1 for 49, H Singh 1 for 71.

After all the waiting and the hype, yeah, we got a full day of cricket. It was a day that mostly belonged to the Aussies - particularly Ricky Ponting - and they're now nicely placed for a big score, provided India's seamers - who're bowling wonderfully with the new ball - don't disrupt their plans with a few quick wickets tomorrow. Interestingly poised.

It was a day that had a weird up and down quality to it, plenty of seriously dramatic flares interspersed with some pretty monotonous cricket. I watched as much as I could, but you really had to look out for the drama. The moments just come out of the blue, and keeps your mind occupied until the next one comes and hits you upside the head. Classic stuff. This Border-Gavaskar tussle has created so much hype, and the matches so often live up to it and so often impossibly transcend the hype, that this is looked upon as an Ashes without the century-old history and the lack of competition. Because, competition? Intense.

The first over of the day - Zaheer Khan charging in and swinging the ball and generally bowling well, Hayden a little circumspect. Third ball of the day, he has a go at a Zaheer delivery outside off - or so it seems. The ball appears close to the edge, the edge appears close to the pad, and it's all generally confusing, but Dhoni collects centimetres from the ground and goes up in appeal along with the bowler and the slip cordon. Asad Rauf thinks about it for some time, decides Hayden did nick it, and lifts the dreaded finger. Out! Australia, 0 for 1! Hayden, Aus's Superman in India, out for a third-ball duck! Couldn't have asked for a more exhilarating first over for the series.

Ishant and Zaheer Khan bowled brilliantly in the first one hour, and troubled both Ponting and Katich (the other opener), both of whom survived several close lbw calls. After that, though, the two settled in, particularly with the advent of the spinners (whom Ponting played very well, so much for the much-anticipated Bhajji vs Ponting battle). The going was still slow, though - the run-rate almost never crossed 3 runs an over. Track was a little low, but appeared great for batting, as after the morning start that assisted the seamers, the bowlers hardly ever appeared threatening.

Australia reached Lunch at 75 for 1 - the rebuilding process well underway. It continued in the second session. The outfielding continued to be hopeless, and Katich and Ponting ran athletically and intelligently between the wickets. They turned on the juice a little this time - while the first session the run-rate was just a little over two, the run-rate here actually touched three. Both Ponting and Katich reached their half-centuries and seemed to be batting almost effortlessly. Zaheer and Ishant bowled well without getting the breakthroughs and Kumble and Harbhajan seemed singularly ineffective. Before Tea though, after a mammoth 166 run partnership, Ishant bagged Katich, caught behind by Dhoni. Ponting was joined by Mike Hussey, and as the teams went to Tea, Ponting had 94 next to his name and looking good for a ton.

After Tea, Ponting did get his century, and what a moment it was ! Hats off to you, mate. I'm not particularly fond of Ponting, but even I had to stand up and applaud. After all the bull-crap that's been talked about before this series about Ponting's dismal average in India, his struggles against spin and in particular Harbhajan, and the fact that his highest score here was 60, and all that he's had to endure, the pressure, the criticism and such-like, him grabbing the first opportunity he got and making the best use of it and proving a point to his critics was a great spectacle.

There was more drama to come when Kumble was bowling. Hussey was looking decidedly shifty at the crease as Kumble went through an inspired spell, and at one stage, with the scoreboard reading 201 for 2, Ponting played one back to the bowler that looked mighty close to being caught and bowled. Kumble appealed raucously accompanied by Dhoni and the close-in fielders to a lesser extent, but Koertzen was unmoved. Slow-mo replays showed that Ponting had indeed scooped back one to the bowler, and Ricky? Was lucky. And Rudi? Was given the Kumble Glare of Doom. An over or two after that, Anil appealed for a close lbw against Ricky, and was turned down by Koertzen again. But seriously, that appeal? Kumble looked so angry and desperate and almost ready to burst into tears, and Koertzen, annoyed by the over-the-top vociferousness (that is totally a word!) of the appeal, frowned and placed his hands on his hips, and I didn't know whether to laugh or to groan or to just magically teleport to Bangalore and give Kumble a hug as he turned away in despair and disgust.

Virender Sehwag bowled beautifully, late as he was brought into the attack, and got the elusive Turn and Bounce. Harbhajan who had rarely troubled Ponting through the day, finally confirmed to us that he still had Ricky's number - he had merely misplaced it till then - by bagging his wicket lbw when Ponting was on 123. Still, Bhajji, would've appreciated it if it had come, say, 100 runs earlier, yeah? Hussey and Clarke continued to plod on, though, but Zaheer Khan, in the last over the day, seemed determined to end it on the terms with which he had begun: he trapped Michael Clarke in front of the stumps with an absolute peach of a delivery. It was a dramatic end to the day, and took away a bit of sheen of the Australian innings, leaving the match better balanced.

... Okay, so general assessment? The Indian seamers bowled well today, but the spinners were mostly ineffective, the outfielding in general was not great, the field placements at times allowed too many easy singles... yet, the Aussies finished the day with an overall run-rate of much less than three, which surprised me. I mean, the cautious stuff in the morning was understandable, having received a setback so early. But why the diffidence throughout? Weren't the Aussies the ones to have made going at 3.5-4 an over in Tests the norm? Why couldn't they have pressed the accelerator at a time when they had India on the mat? In being so defensive, they allowed India to peg back a few before too much damage had been done to the host's chances in the game. Amazingly, despite Ponting's century and his big partnerships with Katich and Hussey, India go into day 2 with the slightest of advantages. Only 254 runs have been piled on, the inexperienced middle and lower-middle order has been exposed (Watson, judging by his IPL performance might be depended upon, but he's got precious little match-practice recently and Tests are a different ball game from Twenty20; Haddin the Batsman I'm not so sure about, but he did play well in the ODI series in India last year, but then again, he has proven problems against spin; White is an unknown commodity, he'll be hoping to pull off a Clarke; the lower order of Lee, Johnson and Clark looks strong; despite all of this, Aussies are so gonna miss Symmo and Gilly) and the second new ball is only 2 overs old. Come morning, and you can expect Ishant and Zaheer to be very dangerous, especially against a tentative seeming Hussey, and a brand-new-at-the-crease Watson.

I'm a little concerned about Kumble. I haven't the authority to judge his captaincy, but I just wonder. Does it really suit him? As in, on the field? He gets so angry and frowny everytime he bowls and he, IMO, just kinda sends out a bad vibe. Also, his Glares of Doom (that make even me squirm, even though I'm watching on TV hundreds of kilometres away) everytime somebody makes a mifield or fumbles a chance is something I don't like. You aren't that great a fielder yourself, you know, Anil.

Aanyway, so things are positioned for a cracker tomorrow. Early wickets are KEY, 'cause anything above 350, and the Indian Middle Order, already under so much pressure, would have to face much more. Let's see what happens, though.

... Oh, and there was a shot between overs that showed Dhoni thoughtfully chewing at his glove's webbing. Adorable! And can I just say that he looks incredibly cute in Test whites? With his uber-cool shades and sweaty and tousled hair and the nonchalant way in which he collected and passed the ball to slips? I'm SO fangirling him now.

... You know, because there just wasn't enough fangirling in this post.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Omg yay, cricket!

Finally today we present to you... cricket! Yes folks, after more than a month, international cricket is back! The place to be is the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru as India and Australia face off in the first of the four rubbers for the Border Gavaskar Trophy. And of course, if you can't be in Bangalore (like me) and can tolerate yapping ex-players, you can watch live-coverage with all the uber-cool slow-mo replays and closeups (and annoying ads every few minutes, but you know, yin with the yang and such-like). Or you could just follow Cricinfo's awesome online ball-by-ball commentary -- almost as good as the real thing!

Ricky has won the toss (Dhoni and Kumble suck at winning the toss, except Dhoni's lucky star has taken steps to remedy that recently - very busy, that star of his) and has elected to bat first on a veritable batting beauty. India have to bat fourth, but what the hell. Cameron White makes his debut ahead of Jason Krejza, and one has to actually say that Ponting has done Krejza a favour - the way the Board President's XI tore apart Krejza in the practice match, the senior team's handling would've probably left him scarred for life. But then again, I remember White more as a batting all-rounder, so it's an unenviable choice that Ponting has made. Let's see if White can pull off a Clarke, though.

The final elevens for the Test:




H. Singh

Pretty much predictable line-ups otherwise. It's going to be a good match - hopefully India'll get rid of the bad habit of starting a series badly and hit the ground running this time!

Let the cricket begin!

R-Word: Strike One!

Okay, so this is more than a day late, but I was totally swamped with laziness, ahem, I mean, work yesterday, so here goes: Oh my God people, the Dada has decided to retire after the Australia series!

I was expecting this for sometime, but the timing of the announcement took me aback, and for the briefest of moments, even made me a teensy bit emotional. I mean, yeah, barely a couple of days ago I wrote a uber-long post which, among other things, criticised Ganguly's selection in the team, but now, actually faced with the fact that the next (I think) four Tests will be his last? I feel weird and almost... guilty. (Though that could be because of the truckload of articles and features that've popped up over the last 24 hours eulogising his career, his captaincy and even making almost-affectionate references to his arrogance and calling it a way to get his 'team together and against opponents'.)

Still! Not so long ago (and even now, to an extent) I was a huge fan of his, and I sincerely hope that, a month from now, he goes off with a bang, a few centuries under his belt, the glint of the Nagpur sun on the Border-Gavaskar Trophy nestled in Kumble's arms reflecting off his contact lenses (under which secret tears will be welling, and my sickeningly romantic soul will be imploding, and oh! the possibilities!).

... Okay. So what do I remember of Ganguly's career?

Yeah, I've heard/read all the comments about how only 'God can play better than Ganguly in the off-side' (seriously, Dravid, you're such a geek) - and maybe I started watching him too recently (2004-ish) to agree/disagree with that statement (and I know bat-shit about the inner technicalities of cricket, like any good fangirl) but I don't know, I've seen him place some truly awesome boundaries through insanely packed offside fields - it's like he guides the ball with his hands, his bat away from the body, feet barely moving at all (which makes it look ungainly for me - I've always preferred the overall fluency of a Raina or a Yuvraj, even if they aren't as great with placement and fine timing, or the sweet precision of a Rahul Dravid or a Tendulkar, or the sublime 'ah! wow!' elegance of a Laxman).

Still, a century on Test debut at Lord's, nearly 7000 runs in Tests, more than 10,000 in ODIs, the honour of being the second-most successful Indian ODI batsman ever after Tendulkar, his wonderful ability to pitch in with his deceptive medium-pace bowling... he was a pretty good cricketer, even minus the captaincy, you know? Sure, he is a horrendous runner between the wickets, has a tendency tp get all selfish-like when he senses a century or a personal milestone, and the less said about his fielding, the better (though he still has the tendency to pull off a great catch or a boundary-saving effort, that has everybody going gaga and Robin Singh actually laughing and blushing in embarassment)... but still. You know.

Still, what has everybody going really gaga over him for? Oh yeah. The fact that he is the most successful Indian captain (so far!).

From what I've read/seen/heard, Ganguly took over the mantle of Indian captaincy (already a freakin' tough job) during a testing time: right after the match-fixing scandal, which saw some great players like Azharuddin exit the game in a cloud of shame. The Indian team, even then, was chock-full of some expectionally talented players - Dravid, Tendulkar, Srinath, Kumble, and such-like - and what's more, all of them were in the prime of their youth and form. With Ganguly in freakishly good form himself, it was a damn good team to inherit - on paper. Somebody needed to pull this team full of talented individuals together, and get them to start pulling their collective weight - not just at home, but also the elusive overseas. And it turned out that hard-nosed, arrogant Ganguly was the right man for the job.

I suppose his arrogance and his tendency to rub opposition players up the wrong way to show them that they weren't boss (oh, I wish I'd watched the '01 series against the Aussies! Ganguly making an irritated Waugh wait for him at the toss must've been hilarious!) was a welcome departure from the usual Indian timidity. It sure did get his teammates fired up and instilled in them a belief that hey, we're playing this game to win, not to make sure we don't lose (both of which are totally not the same thing). And that? That inspired some truly magical performances (a la the Epic Kolkata Comeback against the Aussies in '01, or the Awesome Adelaide Win against the Aussies in '03), overseas victories, and some of the most enduring and captivating memories that the modern Indian cricket fan treasures. And guess what? He contributed in them, too.

My favouritest (what? that's totally a word!) memory of Ganguly has got to be one of my earliest of cricket, and also one of my more exhilarating memories: 2002, the NatWest ODI series final against the Nasser Hussain-led England. I was barely 12 then, just starting to watch the odd cricket match or two to find out what all the fuss was about, but found myself riveted until way past midnight, with my totally cool and equally cricket crazy grandmother giving me company. India had allowed England to pile up more than 300 in the first innings, and those being the good old days where 300 was actually considered a tough total to chase, my grandmother (even though I credit her for invoking my interest in cricket, she's quite the pessimist when it comes to the Indian team) was already declaring that England had won. We decided to watch the chase, however, and though my memory of the details of the match is hazy at best, we'd lost too many wickets for less runs than was acceptable, and young Yuvraj Singh and Mohammad Kaif, barely out of their teens but strongly Ganguly-backed (I loved that youngster-spotting and backing quality of his captaincy too) and playing for the national team were just stringing together a rearguard partnership. Just when it looked like they would take us out of jail and to victory, Yuvraj got out. Once again the pessimisstic!granny struck, but I remember continually assuring her that we would win somehow and forcing her to stay on till the end (though if I was as worldly-wise as I am now, I'd've probably put off the TV and gone to bed). And to our delight, Kaif hung on with the lower order, and secured victory! We had secured out first overseas win in such a freakin' long time, it wasn't funny! There was much high-fiving between me and my grandmother (and a lot of delirious "I told you so!"s from me).

Now we come to the most important part of the memory (yeah, yeah, I'm a backstory freak): the camera panning to the dressing room balcony, focussing on Ganguly screaming his lungs out (he's got pretty teeth. Just saying.), bare-chested (ooh), whirling his shirt violently in the air above him, his many chains and whatever else he has around his neck, bouncing up and down on his hairy chest. No sooner had I finished gaping at this image than he was running onto the field (shirt unfortunately, ahem, I mean, miraculously back on) crashing into a tired Kaif who was making his way slowly back to the pavilion, hugging him to the ground. The rest of the team had apparently caught the captain's delirium, and fell collectively on top of the two, and it was a sight like I'd never seen before (until of course, the Twenty20 World Cup came around, and I saw Dhoni's shirt removing at an age where I could... well, better appreciate it...).

Ahem, the thing is, this is one of my earliest and precious memories of watching cricket. Ganguly sort of reached his high point in '03-'04 -- what with leading the team to the finals of the '03 World Cup, making Australia struggle for a series draw in their own backyard, and acheiving dramatic Test and ODI series wins in a much-hyped tour of Pakistan in '04. After that, though, things began to go downhill -- and how! He was undergoing a prolonged form slump, and seemed to think he deserved to be in the team for his captaincy alone. He plumped for Greg Chapell as coach, not foreseeing that that would be the cause of the most trying period in his cricketing career.

Cricket took a backseat for me in 2004 and most of 2005, so I didn't really pay much attention to the Chappell-Ganguly spat -- it was only much later that I read up on the sordid affair -- that finally led to him losing his captaincy to Rahul Dravid, and getting booted out of the team. Almost the whole of 2006 he was out of contention for a spot in the nation, and I seemed the only person that I knew who held any hope that he would return to play for India. I remember so many times I defended Sourav even as my friends joked about him becoming a commentator/umpire/coach to try and get back on the field.

And guess what, guys? He came back! And right in time for the World Cup, too!

After his Famous Comeback, however, I began to feel more and more critical of him. I don't know, I feel his batting has a selfish tinge to it. I mean, that fifty against Bangladesh in the World Cup that took more than 100 balls? I mean, what the hell? Is he just happy to see a 50 or a 100 next to his name, and assumes that puts him above criticism, even if the team loses? And also, in late 2007 in the Nagpur chase against the Aussies. He entered the 80s, the chase was going along well, and suddenly his pace slows down. The innings slows down. By the time somebody comes and forces the pace, it is too little, too late. We lose a match that we were actually winning for the most part. What, Sourav? Wanted a century? Whatever happened to settled batsman forcing the pace and running hard when a new partnership had to be built in a tough chase?

... Oh well. This post wasn't supposed to be critical, but that's Ganguly for you: he induces a veritable mixture of emotions and reactions in you. But you know what? He was an awesomely colourful character, and the Attitude of the Indian team today owes something to him. The fact that we are winning overseas today also owes something to him. Superstar Indian cricketers of today, like Dhoni and Zaheer and such-like also owe him something for his unrelenting backing of them, and getting them their successful international breaks.

So, yeah. Four more Tests, and against the one opponent he has annoyed the most. One final, royal snub, eh, Dada? And... I hear retired life ain't so bad - you've got a few businesses running home already. Politics might not be a bad option, you're unbelievably popular in your state, or so we hear (and see!). Just one thing: no commentating, okay? There're enough ex-players annoying viewers world-wide already as it is.


Monday, October 6, 2008

India: Bravado, Confusion and the R-Word

Yeah, so just two days left now, so let's get right into it, shall we?

There's been a lot of talk about how vulnerable this Australian team looks (comparitively, of course, these blokes are still an awesome team), and how India is totally going to smear them all across the proverbial wall and reclaim the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Okay, that's not all that the talk's been about, but this is the general first impression that people get, comparing the two sides purely on paper. (Of course, by just records, stats and sheer weightage of talent, India would've almost always won on paper).

However the Indian team is going through tough times of its own, and the number one question on everybody's lips is: What of the Middle Order?

The Sri Lankan tour was a confusing one for most Indian cricket fans to endure. The magical triumverate (Ganguly, Dravid, Sachin -- I so totally don't believe in the Fab Four nonsense, 'cause Laxman still has so much to offer) totally flopped in the Test series against the Sri Lankans, mainly due to the wiles of an amazing rookie spinner, and the wily older one, who only grew more effective in the befuddling aura cast by his younger colleague, rather than being stifled by it. These two guys bowled in tandem, and the Middle Order was blown away. The Review System didn't help, sure, but nobody expected such an abject, collective failure. Their inability to handle the spinners (and looking totally undeserving of their 'best players of spin in the world' tag) was further accentuated by the successes of Sehwag (who was, who was, who was... can I say "brilliant"? *worships* ), Gambhir (Mr. Consistency, yo), and hell, even the likes of Harbhajan, Zaheer and Ishant (who is the best number eleven India's had in a long time)! While catches were dropped and the body language drooped, Kumble seemed uninspiring as captain on the field. He toiled and toiled, but wasn't producing many results (and he obviously couldn't match Jayawardene in shrewdly and carefully using the Review System). He was the least successful spinner in a series where all other bowlers thrived. End result? Series lost, 2-1. And then what happens? Dhoni and his merry band waltz in to play the ODI series against SL, the ODI squad containing only two of the Test eleven (Zaheer, Gambhir), and they win, 3-2. Not that they didn't have their problems, but at least most of them seemed to be able to put their hands up to work out the problem in times of need (headed admirably by the captain), made maximum use of the dollops of luck that came their way, and eventually took the trophy home.

Why this recap of what most Indian cricket fans will be familiar with anyway, you ask? Well, every drama needs a backstory, dunnit?

The R-Word (ahem, retirement) struck with full force, and the Middle Order, all of whom are well past the wrong side of 30, were being asked to 'gracefully hang up their boots' (which is a weird metaphor, if you think about it). They, of course, don't want to, and nor do their endless legions of fans. And so the debate raged. Have we allowed the batting order to grow old together? Is it too late to start blooding replacements? Are there any suitable ones? Or can they never be replaced (because, you know, people seem to think they're, like, cricketing gods or such-like)? Are the youngsters worthy, or are they all hankering after Twenty20, quick bucks and such-like, and refusing to enter the sanctum sanctorum of Test Cricket (please)? What about Anil Kumble? After all his Dignified Awesomeness in Australia, was he finally starting to feel the pinch of captaincy? Wasn't his own form dipping? With the dip in form, was he actually a good leader? Didn't he depend on the whole 'leading-from-the-front' stuff? Wasn't he 38, for Pete's sake? Was it time to let Dhoni take over the Test mantle as well? Or is Dhoni's not-so-impressive Test record going to work against him? Wasn't Dhoni burdened enough with roles of 'keeper, and saviour of the innings, ahem, I mean, lower middle order batsman? Is Sehwag a better candidate, or would it affect his game at a time we have finally hit upon a solid Test opening pair?

Whew! That's a lot of questions, there, people. So yeah, the Indian state of affairs are not exactly ideal, either.

My thoughts on the whole thing? Well, I'm not for a mass retirement or anything like that, but I feel if the Test team is to reinvent itself and not stagnate, like the ODI team did just about a year ago, then a transition has to take place, and I believe Dravid and Ganguly ought to be the first to go. Definitely Ganguly, for mine. Sure, he played some good innings last year and stuff, but his fielding, running, and even his footwork at the crease have all gone a little more rusty. Dravid seems to be going through one prolonged confidence crisis, and seems determined to stagnate at the crease (dude, I know he's called "The Wall", but in his heyday, he at least used to rotate the strike regularly!), but he's still the country's best slip fielder, and Kumble would never ever agree to the droppage of Dravid. So it had to be Ganguly. Right?

The Vengsarkar-led selection committee seemed to agree, and in their last act, dropped Ganguly from the Rest of India team for the Irani Trophy, which was supposed to a "virtual Test team". Surely, this was the end of Ganguly's career, 'cause at 36, even Sourav couldn't manage the Famous Comeback. Right?


Krishnamachari Srikkanth waltzed in with the new selection committee, and promptly selected Ganguly for the first two Tests against Aus, and somewhere in front of a TV my jaw clattered to the floor. I suppose he didn't want to disturb the team dynamics too much before such an important series, but seriously. Kris? Where did you hide your famous backbone?

But then again, maybe this might be a chance for the magical triumverate to retire in a blaze of glory, and gallop toward the setting sun, and other such cheesy cliches I'm embarrassed to admit my cheesy, romantic soul revels in. For one, I'm dead-certain Kumble will throw in the towel latest by the end of the Test series against England at the end of the year, after which Dhoni getting the Test captaincy should be a mere formality. I know it's a big burden, but I think he can handle it. Also, if he can pick up his Test batting skills and get a couple or so centuries under his belt this series, that'd really help in acheiving that end. The fact that Dhoni's Test record does not match up to his prolific ODI one has been the number one (and sometimes only) point of contention for his critics. I hope Dhoni destroys that bit of their leverage with this series. Sehwag is an option, true, but I feel it might affect his game. The key for India is for Sehwag to play with that seeming abandon, that simple philosophy of 'see ball, will hit'. We don't want his mind clouded with other stuff, and another prolonged form slump, do we? Just when VirunGauti were starting to become a phenomenon! (Besides, tactics isn't Sehwag's strong suit, either. Just saying.)

One thing I loved about the selection was that Badrinath was picked. Seriously, this guy's proverbial kuckles must be raw from knocking on the proverbial selectors' door all these years. He didn't impress in the Irani Trophy, or the BP XI match against the Aussies, though, and that worries me. Hello, totally bad time for bad form to hit! But the general consensus is that Badrinath would one day prove to the ideal replacement for Dravid and such-like, and we know that he has the full support of Dhoni and co., so here's hoping Badri, you know, becomes something like an Indian Mike Hussey. Because that'd be totally cool.

Yuvraj, Rohit and Raina, who weren't deemed good enough have totally impressed in the practice matches against the Aussies, though, and Hello! Awkward for the selectors.

Also, this whole thing about youngsters not being able to 'match up to the seniors' is starting to get on my nerves. Fine. Let's compare Badrinath's and Dravid's Test records, shall we? Or Rohit's and Tendulkar's? Wait a second! Rohit and Badrinath don't have Test records! So how in the whole wide world would we (dude, that was an impressive alliteration) know how they would perform as replacements without giving them a chance? And it's not like we're going to have a choice soon enough are we? I mean, yeah, Kumble and the Middle Order have given us some wonderful memories, and are among the finest players of their generation, but they're getting past it, and it's time to deal with it in a professional manner, like the Australians do. If the nostalgia becomes overwhelming, instead of cursing a youngster who 'has the audacity to think he can fill the boots of the wonderful/magnificent/godly Dravid/Tendulkar/Ganguly' (or something to that effect), go see a counsellor, okay?

Also, when the Middle Order made their first appearance together, I'm pretty sure they didn't hit their stride immediately. Give the new guys some time and patience too, yeah?

Bowling looks healthy with in-form Zaheer, Ishant and Munaf making up the pace attack. (I seriously doubt RP will get a game). Kumble is a tireless performer, and will no doubt only be fired up more after all the criticism, and Bhajji has got so much to play for, and of course, some bunnies (*cough* Ponting *cough*) to net. Amit Mishra's selection intrigued me - I thought Chawla/Ohja were the heirs apparent? However, I'm glad his domestic record and stints with the India A team have been recognised - I remember him being a very good lower order batsman too, so it's all good.

So, at the end of the uber long post, what do I mean to say? Things look mighty interesting at the Indian end of the spectrum, and the implications of this Test series on the national team could be more far-reaching than it appears superficially.

... Now, didn't that sound impressive?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Getting on the frontfoot

Well, there you go. First blog post - ever - and already a billion cricketing references. For those slow on the uptake, yeah, I love cricket. I've rarely played the game - I'm more of a tennis player - but watching the truckload of international cricket played every year for the past few years, and getting my admittedly sentimental, and er, romantic soul swept away by the cricket frenzy that spreads across the country so often, I've become a diehard fan. Seriously. And the eye-candy that the game generously offers also helps, yeah.

A real cricket fangirl.

A few things, though. Firstly, I'm not going to be overly technical. I can't. I can't go on about seam positions and hand grips and middle stump guards and top-spinners and crumbling pitches and such-like. What I can do, however, is offer a perspective. A reasonably knowledgable one. I don't know whether it'll be unique or any such thing, but hey, like everybody, I get opinions, and also, like everybody, I like expressing them at every possible opportunity.

Like every devoted fangirl, I manage to dock a bit of time everyday for catching up on everything cricket. One thing I have noticed about general commentary on the game is how freakin' pessimistic people seem to get while talking about the state of the game. How nostalgia seems to exude out of the computer screen and hit me like a tidal wave. Well, you know what? I'm not like that. I only started following cricket in 2003, and seriously fangirling it only from 2005. So, yeah. I don't remember the 'Tendulkar-is-our-only-God' era, or the pre-match-fixing era, or the Ganguly's-awesome-start-as-captain era. Or even much of the Great Middle Order era (though some of Dravid's innings in Australia and Pakistan still cling in my mind as vestiges of a magnificent memory). I started following the Indian team as it is HERE AND NOW. And I'm excited! (Mind you, I still have no love lost for the ICC or the BCCI. >.<)

There're a lot of things I love and hate about the game and everybody involved in it, so this blog came to life. Everything needs a start, though, and what better way to start this baby than the Australian tour of India this year? First Test starts just 3 days from now, and the hype... well, it's been magnificent. There're a lot of things that're being said, and predicted, and such-like, but the excitement this time is rather... understated. Both teams are what experts like to call 'in a state of flux' and what I'd like to call 'having their personal shitload of problems', and how they overcome that, or whether they will it all, is something nobody is sure of - not even the players themselves. So there's nothing unnecessarily acidic flying around - both countries are too busy criticising their own teams.

The imminent retirement of the Middle Order Plus Spinner-Captain, whether Badrinath gets the Opportunity, the performance of Amit Mishra and the pace attack, whether Dhoni finally gets some Big Test Innings under his belt and seals his candidature for Test captaincy as well, whether Ricky Ponting will finally find the form that always deserts him in India, whether Krejza or White turn overnight Warnes or get ripped apart at the seams by the Middle Order, the Harbhajan vs Australia fights, probable verbal spats, delicious controversy... I could go on. There is just so much to look forward to.

I love, I mean, ahem, hate cricketing cliches, but dudes, seriously. Test cricket is so alive.

... If only Bangladesh weren't getting their asses handed over to them each and every time.

I'm going to look forward to blogging about this obsession of mine. Then what's the "life" and "fantasy", you ask? They're there because they sounded good.