Friday, December 18, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
Sangakkara, suave, authoritative and just as articulate with the bat as he is with the English language, blasted 60-odd off 20-odd, while Dhoni left with a failed attempt at (once again) transcribing his ODI game into his Twenty20 one.
While not as big an Austen fan as some of my contemporaries, I've been very fond of Leela's "brown Mr. Darcy" assessment of Kumara Sangakkara.
India's problems probably started before the match itself.
For one, it's bowling "attack". Nehra, Dinda, Ishant Sharma. Yusuf Pathan.
Ishant Sharma has been dropped from the ODI and Test teams. So why was he in the Twenty20 team? Has he confidence or recent good performances in the shorter versions of the game on his side? Was he successful in the IPL? Hell, was he even part of a successful team in the IPL?
And what was with Zaheer Khan being treated like a giant pista and rested for the Twenty20s?
The less said about the fielding, the better.
The last time India -- the same India that's ostensibly deriding the highest echelons of the game, ruthlessly promoting Twenty20 to the point of blatant exploitation -- won a Twenty20 international convincingly was October 2007.
India falling prey to a lack of seriousness in Twenty20 that used to characterise its opponents in the past?
I don't know, but then again, I don't know how else to explain the selection of the likes of Ishant, Dinda, Yusuf Pathan, Rohit Sharma.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
It is usually prudent to give oneself sometime to regain lost breath, lest one starts giving into that sticky tangle of hilarious exaggeration (the Neandrathal comparsion's my favourite. Somewhere, Charles Darwin is rolling over in his grave... again). There's something about watching Viru Sehwag (and I don't think it an exaggeration when I say that it was indeed a Divine Intervention that the only full day of Test cricket I managed to catch all year was day 2 of the Mumbai Test) play that provokes intense emotion out of you. He nonchalantly spanks all and sundry on his way to 100, 200, 300... and you think, here's an epiphany. Even with the commentators regurgigating their usual staple of "No footwork, it's all exquisite hand-eye co-ordination" you think, you are obligated to say something about this. Because Sehwag sure ain't. It is brilliant, it is brutal, it's a million Thesauri meshed together into a savage beast of Biblical proportions as you search for -- and fail at finding -- words to fit in everything you wanted to say about Sehwag's innings. You are only more intent on celebrating this "simple, yet brilliant" mind when he comes out later with things like "I see ball, I hit ball."
He still says that, now with a smug matter-of-factness, probably amused at how people are fascinated by that statement of his. He probably still means it, but I'd like to believe that a lot of care, a lot of careful thought and construction go into each of his big innings. But even the cynic in me is defeated when he goes, "I was hitting only the bad balls, but in the dressing room they were telling me I was hitting some good balls too", or something to that effect.
In short, Virender Sehwag = all that's awesome about the Indian team right now. When he fires, he really fires; when he fails, it's not in half-measures, either.
And what can I say about Murali Vijay, other than he was really unfortunate to miss out on a well-deserved maiden ton? He looked delightfully assured and competent at the crease, and not for a moment was Gambhir missed. I loved how he kept the tempo up in the beginning as Viru settled at the other end. He is just so much awesome right now I can't even.
And Dhoni got his second century of the series. Wow. When it rains, it pours, huh?
And what a difference the return of Zaheer Khan has made to the team. Even though he didn't really start pulling his weight until toward the end of the series, just his presence, I believe, could rejuvenate our suddenly-floundering pace attack. It might be the most important plus point EVAH.
The Sri Lankans stuck around, and, uh, that's about it, really. There've been renewed murmurings about the presence/absence of the Umpire Decision Review System (or what the hell ever it's called), with Sanga going as far as to say that a couple of bad decisions cost them as much as 500 runs and possibly a victory or two.
Maybe, but the argument is moot when strong protestations against the newfangled thing are sounding with the backing of rock-hard evidence from the Aus v Windies series going on right now.
Either way, it's like stirring an old pile of stale shit, so.
The other big thing going right now is India's supposed ascension to the top of the ICC Test rankings with the 2-0 win against Sri Lanka. Lot of congratulations and chest-beating going on, tempered, of course, by some well-founded cynicism from other quarters of the cricketing fraternity. I agree, India haven't won enough overseas, the no 1 position is very fluid right now and can change hands frequently, India definitely is not the all-conquering champion side that West Indies or Australia once were. Check, check, check. But for now? That little rankings table reads like the way every Indian cricket fan has always dreamt it would read, for the first time ever. It's a nice moment, and the team and its supporters deserve to savour it while it lasts (except, of course, oh noes! The largely-accepted-for-the-past-eight-years ranking system is suddenly all WRONG because INDIA is no 1! Isn't that all kinds of unnatural? I mean, it's okay when the table shows Aus or SA at the top, cos that's how it'a meant to be, but India? Nah. And, oh, the Evil IPL is Evil. Just in case you'd forgotten.)
It kind of reminds me of my travails with Hindi in high school. I used to hate the language, and I believe the feeling was mutual. I scraped through the subject, until I came to my tenth Boards - the last time I'd be writing an exam for that subject. I was a jingling pile of nerves the day of the exam, and, despite being the most pathetic Hindi conversationist even this side of the Vindhyas, and getting my tenses mixed up practically every other paragraph, I passed with the highest distinction in the exam. "Pratham Shreni" says the certificate, still, and my mind still boggles at the sight. And how did I do so well? Pure dumb luck in that a lot of the questions I'd memorised the answers to made their appearance in the question paper, the fact that I was taking a less advanced Hindi course, and a little bit of innate ingenuity on my part at the time of writing the paper. I was surprised, more than a little pleased at seeing the high ranking, but I also knew exactly how much work I needed to actually put into my Hindi. Certainly I could blame the system for assigning qualifications to people who don't exactly deserve them, for the way the language is taught in schools with more emphasis on memorisation and rote than on conversation and free reading, but that's the way things are. Hindi and I have a much better relationship now - I hope - and perhaps one day I'll be deserving of the distinction I was awarded all those years back.
So, at the end of it all, what am I trying to say, you ask?
I have no idea.
Addendum: Only two Tests in the next 6 months??
Ridiculous. Can't wait for the South Africa tour -- in a year's time from now, I think -- already.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
'Cause, really? I could've sworn that the Ill-Fated ODI series against Australia finished just now, and already we're in the final Test of a series against Sri Lanka, Dhoni scored his first Test century since the Stone Age (and it is a little scary when I mean that literally), everybody else is helping themselves to centuries apiece, Sreesanth, frickin' Sreesanth, back in the team and producing match-winning performances (not that, of course, I have anything against him or nothin'), India won its 100th ever Test win, and really, what?
Whatever happened to the deliciously slow build-up to Test matches, all that speculation, all that gathering of momentum. Conidering how much resources and how many brain cells are expended on each Test, you'd want to make each of them actually count, yeah?
Honestly? I can't blame Gambhir putting attending his sister's marriage before playing the third Test. After all, your sister gets married only once (hopefully).
Also, it means Murali Vijay gets to open, which, yay! I'd just spent a lot of time arguing with a friend a couple of days ago about how it was certain that Wasim Jaffer would make it ahead of Vijay -- experience, home ground, whatever -- but I'm super-happy he's gotten another chance at wearing the Test cap for India. Hopefully this time he'll get more than a couple of gritty forties and a Run-Out of Awesome.
Also? R Ashwin and Ashoke Dinda in the Twenty20 and ODI squads, leaving out Ishant Sharma. I heartily approve.
I was going to give some -- ostensibly -- deep insight about the first day of play at Mumbai, but then I came across this:
My first reaction was, "Holy hell, that's unhygienic!"
And then it all sunk in and a small part of me died inside.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
So, match ten minutes away from the start and India has already performed a miracle:
It has won the toss and elected to bat.
And, uh, unchanged team. Hm... fair enough, I guess. I'd still like to see Sudip Tyagi sometime in the future, but fair enough.
Johnson replacing Hilfenhaus for Australia. Um, okay?
Oh, and Guwahati. Last time we played there, Yuvraj and Dhoni totally pwned Pakistan, so, yay.
8:30 AM: Viru and Sachin opening, Johnson bowling, and Viru does not smack the first ball for four. Will miracles never cease.
Oh wait: he hits the second ball for six. Awesome.
Oh, and he gets bowled off the fourth ball of the over. Viru, you have been Disappointing. In fact, I believe you have regressed to the pre-2008 version of Viru Sehwag. Le sigh.
India: 7/1 after 4 balls of the first over, Gambhir, I think, next in to bat.
Holy shit, the second half of the Delhi duo now goes - Gambhir bowled off the last ball! Johnson, wow.
Dhoni, who ya gonna call?
The Ghostbusters, I mean, Yuvraj Singh.
India 7/2 after 1.
After 5 overs: India 23/2.
WAIT. Even as I type, Sachin is OUT off the first ball of the 6 over!
I need to see that again.
So, so, so, Bollinger is bowling, Sachin hits it back, and what the hell he CATCHES it!! Whaaat???
I dunno whether to be glad or to tear my hair out. For one we won't be defined by Sachin again.
For two, we are waist-deep in some serious shit.
Dhoni in, appeal for caught-behind off the very second ball he faces, not upheld, thank god.
DhoninYuvi, please. *cries*
Wow, in the words of Slater, the Aussies are "pumped"!
Oh, and Dhoni, I guess, is not the all-occasions Walker everybody thought he is. Worthy successor to Gilchrist, indeed. :)
After 8 overs: WHAT?
India 24/4, Yuvraj gone, lbw to Dougie Bollinger.
I reiterate: WHAT.
We are nose-deep in shit now. How long before we drown in it?
Raina in to bat.
After 9 overs: GAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!
I give up. Even the Aussies can't believe it.
After 11 overs: 33/5. Ravi Jadeja's first runs come off an outside edge that falls just short of slip and runs for four. You people want to kill me, right?
After 15 overs: 36/5. Things still looking very dire, but Dhoni and Jaddu hanging on.
Ditzy Ritzy's bowling well. So is McKay.
So would any bowler worth his salt in a similar situation.
After 20 0vers: 50/5.
Dhoni and Jaddu hanging there, and that's the most we can expect at this stage, I guess.
And Dhoni's finished 1000 ODI runs for the year, the first Indian to do so, and as far as I know, the only one to do it for three years in a row.
After 26 overs: 65/5.
It's tough for DhoninJaddu, but they have to get out of this rut. They're scoring at just above 2 runs an over and while this might be an acceptable recovery in Test cricket, in ODIs? Not so much.
Tough, 'cause the Aussies are over the Indians like chickenpox, but what's gotta be done... gotta be done.
After 30 overs: 75/5.
Well, I've lost all my will to keep watching this travesty. First ball of the 31st over, Dhoni lbw to Bollinger.
So make that 75/6.
Poor Mahi. All that work for nothing. Bhajji in to bat.
... And Bhajji out, second ball duck. This's gonna end reeeeaaal fast.
75/7 after 30.3, PK in.
... and PK starts with a four. And I smile. Although I suspect it would look like a rictus.
After 36 overs: 97/7.
Keep at it, Jaddu and PK!
After 40 overs: 117/7.
PK and Jaddu beginning to look good. For one, they're going at 4+ an over, which is more than the previous partnerships managed to do.
I vote this the ideal time to take the batting Powerplay and unleash the Pee-Kay.
... and yeah. Dhoni listens (for once) and takes the Powerplay: overs 41-45. Lessee.
After 41 overs: Jaddu has completed his 50! *claps* Great job (although, you know, you were just dropped by Bollinger, ha ha, two drops in two matches for Dougie). Now just keep going, keep scoring. Also, you happen to have a uber-important job with the ball later, so.
After 44 overs: 149/7.
Praveen Kumar just tore apart Super!Debutant (TM) McKay for 14 runs, which included a fantastic six off the very first ball.
PK, marry me.
... I mean, uh, you're finally living up to your all-rounder billing. Yeah, good on you. *laughs nervously and slinks away*
... Uh oh. Jaddu just got out. 149/8. Oh well.
Okay, I must leave, for I still happen to have a life. Will miss the end of the innings and most likely the start of the Aussie chase, but hopefully not much.
Oh, and a five-for for Doug Bollinger! Congrats, mate!
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Despite one of the greatest one day innings you will ever freakin' see, we lost.
Despite having just 19 runs to get off the last three overs, Tendulkar and a settled Jadeja at the crease, we lost.
What a chase. What a match - shuuure.
But we still lost by 3 runs.
Three. Freakin'. Runs.
PK was in tears after his run-out - inches, centimetres, bring out the smallest measurement you have - signalled the end of the match. I kind of am, too.
'Tis a great pity, Tendulkar carried the entire innings on his back, beginning to end, 175 glorious runs, and yes, I doubted his ability, but I still held out for a century from him today, and I was proved right. Once past 17,000, he soared. Raina joined him after a middle-order collapse and they were perfect.
Then Raina went. Okay, no problem. Jadeja came in and Jadeja was looking good.
There is this "turning point" question they keep flashing every now and then, right? Listing events from the match and asking us the so-called "turning point"? I figured all that stuff was moot as long as Sachin was there. At whichever stage of the match, Tendulkar's wicket would be the turning point.
And it was, even with 19 runs to get from 18 balls, it was.
Fallout will be interesting: Dhoni's powerplay strategy, his (ridiculous, imo) decision to send in Harbhajan Singh before Jadeja and Nehra before Munaf, will be questioned, among other things.
For now, everybody will just... roil.
So there's another ODI that concluded today, right? In the relatively ignored but still entertaining Bangladesh v Zimbabwe series? A dead-rubber, as Bangladesh had already won the series, leading 3-1. To take my mind off the afore-mentioned depressing things, I decided to check the score.
At 47 overs, chasing 222 to win, Bangladesh was 198/9, 24 runs from victory. I figured Bangladesh had just pulled an India and was coming to pieces in the dead-rubber after having won the series. Definitely heard that story before.
Turns out this awesome dude called Naeem Islam never got the memo.
He proceeded to hit three sixes in a row in the next over, and the match was very nicely sealed up for Bangladesh in the 49th, complete with shiny bow. Of course, that doesn't talk about the tension until the last winning run had been scored, 'cause one mistake, one, and poof, all the hard work would've been for nothing.
Kinda makes you wonder what it would've been like if Misbah had scored the winning runs in THAT game, the T20 WC '07 final, if he had successfully pulled Pak from the precipice like Islam did Bangladesh here. Whoa.
And, uh, definitely non-depressing (damn you, Men in Blue - VirunGauti better open the innings today).
EDIT: Holy shit, we need 351 runs to win. Have the Cricketing Gods finished the day's quota for miracles with the Bangla win or is there still reason for India to hope?
Oh my god.
EDIT 2: For God's sake, SOMEBODY GIVE TENDULKAR COMPANY!!!!!
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Not that I've blogged a whole lot, but still, it's been fun, y'know?
Discovered the cricketing blogosphere only July last year, where knowledgeable and entertaining perspectives were given on the game without creaking and tottering in the narrow grip of professional diplomacy.
I figured that since I had a compulsion to write about anything and everything that interested me (leading to quite a few embarrassing moments as my careless scribblings would be invariably be discovered by somebody else in the household) I might as well start one of my own. Let the snark and the fangirling flow. Being a lurker myself, I didn't expect anybody else to read this, let alone make like-minded friends, but I'm glad to have been proved wrong. :D
So... yeah. Yay me.
Addendum: Apparently the BCCI has banned the Services team from the rest of the Ranji tournament as they refused to appear for a match against J&K in Srinagar owing to 'security reasons'.
Am I the only one who burst out laughing at the irony in that one? If I'm right, 'Services' is supposed to represent the army.
Addendum 2: Oh, and today's the fifth ODI between Ind and Aus, in Hyderabad, if I remember right. It's been pouring cats and dogs in Chennai over the past week, let's hope the weather is kinder there.
Also also, Peter Siddle has gone home with injury, and Henriques is down too. Why oh why couldn't it have been Doug Bollinger?
Also hoping to see Tyagi instead of Ishant today. It won't happen, but I can hope.
Addendum 3: Also apparently, in the newest "Let's beautify the Marina!" wave, cricket on the Marina has been banned.
Now, I've never actually played cricket there, but I know a lot of my cousins and friends do, so I express my Obligatory Incredulous Outrage on their behalf.
Monday, November 2, 2009
I'll get there soon.
So, okay, I haven't blogged in a while, right? I've got several totally valid (seriously) reasons for that:
a. I'm lazy.
b. I haven't watched a cricket match in its entirety since India toured West Indies in July.
c. Apparently, studying to become a doctor is about as tough as it sounds.
d. I'm lazy.
e. India didn't play for a long time and the Ashes were yawn-worthy.
f. ... did I mention I'm lazy?
But really, the thing that had me cringing away from cricket for a while there? The overdose of Twenty20. Look, I'm about as big an advocate for the shortest format of the game as they come, and there has been nothing that has annoyed me more than players and administrators alike ridiculing and belittling a format of the game they are supposed to represent ("We lost the tournament because we didn't take it seriously" smacks of so much unprofessionalism, it's pathetic, it's holding yourself above the sport when you let your performances make obvious what you'd rather be playing), but the recent overload and gimmickry is just as harmful. IPL 2009 followed immediately by the T20 WC was exhausting enough, but also the Champions League? No. No WAY. E-N-O-U-G-H.
It was not until yesterday morning that I even found out who won the damn thing. The tournament format by itself was interesting enough, but I vote we have actual Indian domestic teams playing in the League, instead of the IPL teams representing India because the "Indian" teams are about as Indian as I am Polish. I am glad none of the IPL teams made the semis, and Mr. Roebuck puts things into perspective rather nicely here. We do have annual domestic T20 tournaments here, right? If I remember right, the winner of the inaugural one was Tamil Nadu (and I was seriously pissed that not a single member of the victorious team was considered for the squad that was sent for the WC in '07), and it'd be interesting to throw our domestic teams into the fray and see how they match up. DISCONNECT IT FROM THE IPL. PLEASE.
Anyway, coming to the on-going series. Despite everything, I'm actually rather happy with our performance. I was driven into the heights of ecstasy with Dhoni's century at Nagpur (LONG overdue, yo) and India's successful salvage operation at Delhi. This is an excellent ODI team, there is absolutely no doubt about that. I wasn't even annoyed with the disappointment in the Champions Trophy (aside from the fact that we lost to Pakistan), I still feel we were desperately unlucky at South Africa. Apart from fielding what was far from our best XI, I don't think we got a chance to make up for the Pakistan loss, given that the game against Australia was washed out. It doesn't seem fair to really judge India's performance there, unlike the T20 WC '09, where we were pathetic and deserved to be booted early.
However, once people start acknowledging their potential, this team has an unfortunate habit of coming to pieces.
Yesterday's game was preceded by endless by-lines of "India'll become no. 1 when they win this game" and "Sachin just 47 runs away from 17,000 ODI runs" to the extent that I was deeply tempted to throw something at the television. Take the spotlight off the Aussies, underestimate them, distract the Indians... yeah, thanks a lot, guys.
Coming to the game itself, India's performance on the field up-first was a pleasant surprise (with the obvious exception of Ishant Sharma), wickets, direct hits, slick stops galore! I could hardly believe I was watching the same team that had been playing for the past one year. When Australia folded for 250 and the camera showed a delicious close-up of Ponting's face shrivelling when the last few Australian wickets fell in an ungainly heap, I allowed myself to Hope - to hope that this Indian team had found itself capable of going for the jugular of the opposition no matter the expectations placed on them, no matter the milestone waiting to be achieved. The way we started our chase only heightened the feeling.
If India's fielding was a sweet burst of endorphins through the system, Sehwag bludgeoning Mitch Johnson in the beginning of the chase was a hypodermic of adrenalin straight to the heart. No way we can lose this, I thought, as the 5th over finished with the scoreboard reading 40/0.
Of course we all know how things turned out after that.
Apart from Johnson's excesses in the first few overs (if I were a conspiracy theorist, I might say they were a cunning ploy to get Sehwag to cut loose and play similar shots against good bowling and get himself out - which is eventually what happened. Ha ha, I SEE WHAT YOU DID THAR.), the Aussie bowling was commendable. Bollinger seemed damn near unplayable and even Henriques, who looked lacklustre in Delhi, seemed challenging. The real turning point that pushed the match toward Aus was of course, Sachin's dismissal, and later, Yuvi's unfortunate run-out.
Sachin was frustrating last night, and I fancy that he was frustrated, too. Every run he scores takes him closer to that 17,000, he knows it, the opposition knows it, the crowd knows it, MILLIONS OF PEOPLE KNOW IT. That big scoreboard was also kind enough to display some sort of perverse "countdown" wherein every time Sachin took the crease, it'd display "Sachin needs xx runs to get to 17,000 career ODI runs" or whatever. That there? Is mighty annoying. Priorities, people! And what's the point anyway? Every run that Sachin scores now is a world record. Even though Sachin leaving at 40 to what can only be called a dubious leg-before decision (to be fair, it's probably the first dubious decision of the series) hurt India, I was sort of perversely glad.
And Yuvi's run-out. No, Australia, you still haven't found out how to break the power of the YuvinDhoni. Run-outs by centimetres don't count.
There followed a predictable middle-order collapse (yawn). And voila, Aussies victors by 24 runs.
Dhoni, hailed as captain extraordinaire just two days ago, bombarded with doubts: Was Kohli coming at three the right thing? (If you ask me, I'd've preferred Raina or Dhoni there, but that's just me) Was it right to elect to chase? Where did the pacing go wonky? And what is with Ishant Sharma?
Thing is, it was a riveting ODI in a riveting ODI series that's now tied 2-2, advantages, momentum negated. Both sides go into a three-match series with empty slates. Who said ODIs are dying?
Lessee the Indians picking themselves up and givin it back to the Aussies.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Looks like Ponting's been working away at the vethelai paaku. You know, the ones he's going to adorn the golden plate with when he gifts the Ashes urn to England.
Although he should probably know that he's not in India to be spraying it around as a natural air-conditioner.
Seriously, though? Poor Ricky. What a spectacularly boring way to lose the Ashes.
In other news, this be my 50th post. Which, hello, achievement, considering I'm worse than a three year old with ADD when it comes to these things.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
They look incredibly familiar.
Why? That camouflage design. That pseudo-military-whatever-type pattern. That's Dhoni's gloves. His supposed custom designed gloves that also got him into a bit of trouble in Australia '08.
Exactly the same, right down to that little patch of brown tape on the left glove.
It's got me thinking: how? Why?
Here are my theories:
1. Obviously Dhoni is a pioneer. A fashion maverick in the cricketing world. About time other wicketkeepers started emulating him, eh?
2. Rahim probably thought he could cinch a bit of Dhoni's luck by copying/stealing (where's that dressing room security?) his gloves. Unfortunately all he's been able to supernaturally cinch is Dhoni's 'keeping skills (or lack, thereof) as was evident in that stumping he missed off Rohit Sharma - who, by the way, was so far out of his crease it should technically have been a run-out.
3. Dhoni's been discarding his old gloves and decided to give a pair to Rahim as a motivational gift out of the goodness of his heart. You know it's true.
4. Their cricketing kits have been either Confiscated/Burnt/Lost/kicked out of the plane, so they're sharing the one pair of gloves that Dhoni managed to smuggle under two layers of designer jackets.
Which one of them is true, I wonder. Oh well, at least the journos have something to ask in the post match press conference that won't be met with a barrage of mumbled and badly pronounced cliches.
In other news, apparently a game called Twenty20 cricket is going on. In fact, I hear, it's actually a World Cup. I hear people like Chris Gayle, Jesse Ryder and Yuvraj Singh have played innings that have been often described as "scintillating."
For me? I'm just experiencing the joy of listening to Harsha Bhogle again. And Wasim Akram, who keeps wanting me to "look at the noise", but honestly, Mr. Akram, I'm sorry, I'm not able to see it.
Not to mention the billion ads that often come in between balls of the same over (honestly, the IPL was so much better in that regard, at least they waited till the end of the over), but I don't mind anyway, because every second ad has Dhoni endorsing products ranging from cell phones to ceiling fans, looking debonair, gleeful (and occasionally appearing in really short running shorts and sending me into transports of glee) and suave.
New Zealand to win this year's T20 WC.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
I thought: wow. Is this possible? Is Murali really actually made of that much awesome?
Then. Raina. Two sixes.
Then. Murali. A six.
Vijay Mallya. Jumping up and about with his cronies.
Blood pressure. Fuming. I don't like this. Do you hear? I DON'T LIKE THIS.
Jacob Oram for the penultimate over, 12 runs to get. Have you gone terminally crazy Dhoni?
First ball. Full toss above the waist, hell, below the chin - no ball. Four. Possibly a six.
That was a yorker in which alternate universe, Jacob?
7 runs to get in 2 overs.
Through to the finals to slug it out with Deccan.
There were people going about how great it was that the entire Southern Brigade was in the semis, but I would much rather have us losing to Mumbai, Delhi, Punjab, whatever, rather than Bangalore.
Bangalore vs Hyderabad in the final. Just how wrong is that?
I predicted this all along but I'm so pissed off I don't even know anymore.
Damn you, Dhoni.
Bull shit. 'Nuff said.
Also, am at home to watch the second semifinal. Chennai vs Bangalore, live. Bring it on!
Chennai have never looked like champions this tournament and I'm frankly surprised that they've made it this far. Absolutely pathetic.
Bangalore on the other hand have also never looked like champions (quite frankly, only Delhi ever did, and we all know now what happened to them), but at least they haven't served up pathetic like Chennai has. And Anil Kumble is on a wild high. And their fielders can actually catch . That's something.
Let's see if the Men in Startlingly Bright Yellow can get their act together at least this time and put all their hands up in a convincing win that belies their run so far in the tournament.
... What? I totally support Chennai. I just believe in tough love.
Also came across an interesting interview of Albie Morkel and he talks about the dressing room team song.... written by Stephen Fleming and George Bailey. I mean, WTF? (I would love to hear it)
I was talking about this to a friend of mine. She was confused. "Don't they already have a team song? I mean, Chennai, Chennai Super -- "
"Nope this is different. Dressing room stuff. Top secret."
A small pause, before, "Oh. Makes total sense. An excellent idea."
"Yeah, I mean, what if one of them gets lost or something? It's like one of those old movies where long lost brothers find each other by humming the same song. Nifty stuff."
"Yeah, seriously!" She began to get excited. "Picture this: Dhoni all alone, lost in South Africa, humming the song, and somebody like Albie Morkel happens to hear it, he'll know, right? And then he'll come rushing and go --"
"Emmmm Esssss!" we crowed together, and found coherence through laughter only thirteen minutes and 56 seconds later.
Yes, I'm totally mature and I keep totally mature company, I know. As if you hadn't figured that out already from how mature this blog is.
Friday, May 22, 2009
This IPL, it's a fascinating thing. Even miles from the nearest TV (a sad, sad fact that I never have and never will stop harping about) this year's tournament has had me just as captivated, annoyed, tired and wishing greatly for a shiny scythe and magical teleportation abilities to South Africa (or maybe just a couple of free plane tickets. And NO WITNESSES.) The Internet is there, sure, there's the online commentary, there're the wonderful blogs to read, and even when that's not available, there's my mobile phone and the meagre updates that it can provide, like little crumbs I can pop into my mouth and savour. Somehow, following the IPL from a distance has made it even more enjoyable, where I'm not wearied by the cricket, by the hype, or by the incessant prattling of the billion news channels and the zillion match 'preview and analysis' shows. No greater joy than eagerly seeking out match news with like-minded friends in between classes, after finishing this test, while preparing for that exam.
And 'sides, it makes the actual few times that I get to see live cricket all that much sweeter.
I've seen/read/heard a lot of complaints, taunts and general bullshitting about the commentary, but honestly? I think I'm enjoying it. Seriously. Aside from the annoying sponsor-name-whoring, I don't think it's any different at all from what I usually hear. But then again, I've been brought up as cricket fan on a diet of supreme mediocrity from Neo Sports and related channels. I have never once been able to escape the horrors of Rameez Raja, Arun Lal, Ranjit Fernando, Laxman Sivaramakrishnan, Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram, Aamir Sohail et al.... so yeah. I'ma gonna take what I ca' get.
Like Danny Morrison. Lord, do I love his accent. Half the time I don't even listen to what he's saying. Even when he's horribly mauling Sri Lankan names. :-D
Anyhow, the IPL has finally finished with its league phase, and the semifinals are here.
Time for a brief set of reflections and recriminations.
First off, MUMBAI. Mumbai, Mumbai, Mumbai. HOW. How could you do this to me. Several times before and during the tournament I had pegged MI to be the champions this year because they just seemed so right to me on so many counts. In terms of team balance, in terms of form and performance, reserves and support staff, they looked - and still do - like a stable and strong squad, well and truly capable of taking the IPL by storm. The cool, well-planned and efficient way they defeated Chennai in the first match of the tournament only seemed to reaffirm that for me.
Then what did they do?
Why, they proceeded to choke, choke, choke, and then choke one more time, lose a series of matches they really ought not to have lost, and then ended up not qualifying for the semifinals, finishing only ahead of the pathetic Kolkata Knightriders.
So yeah, thanks for nothing, Sachin.
Secondly, I will never cease marvelling at Deccan's and Bangalore's amazing turnaround of fortunes this year. After ending up at the very bottom of last year's table, these two teams have ended up in this year's semifinal lineup, and it didn't take any radical changes to their team to do it this time, either. Deccan started off strongly before channelling their inner Chennai to waver a bit, lose and win an odd game here and there, and finally end up doing just enough to qualify for the semis.
As for Bangalore, Mr. Kumble, who are you and what have you done with the real Bangalore Royal Challengers, huh?
Thirdly, Delhi. 10 wins out of 14 matches, super-strong batting, a bowling attack so good they can afford to bench somebody like Glenn McGrath, razor-sharp fielding, and most importantly, that extra bit of luck, that innate champions' mojo that's seen them through most tight situations. Favourites for the trophy, right?
Maybe. I can't really bring myself to care. Maybe it's because I've been to Delhi once, and my memories of the city aren't great. Maybe it's my inherent dislike of AB deVilliers, Dinesh Kaarthick and Dirk Nannes (don't ask me why, I have no idea), I dunno.
But I am glad VirunGauti are back in action - at last. Bodes well for the national team in the upcoming World T20.
Fourthly, CHENNAI! Lord, for all that I love and support the Super Kings, they've managed to infuriate me like nothing else has for the last month. First off, the muddled thinking when it came to the bowling. The fact that Dhoni very conveniently managed to forget certain bowlers in his XI (hello, Shadab Jakati!), the fact that Gony was being almost mindlessly persisted with, the fact that Morkel seemed to wilt under pressure almost each and every time, the fact that Balaji's death bowling would come apart in the most inopportune moments, the fact that Muralitharan wasn't performing upto expectations nearly as much as one would want him to, considering he's the one quality international specialist bowler in the eleven... all that added up to the weakest bowling attack in the IPL.
A weak bowling attack that never ceased to slap you upside the head with its performance from match to match.
From bowling out Bangalore for 87 and keeping Punjab to just 92 for 8 in 20, to utterly failing to defend 188 runs against the most pathetic team in the tournament (that match had my blood pressure off the charts, it did) and nearly making a meal of defending 185 against Punjab before the Preternaturally Awesome Raina bailed us out... it was quite a ride. And this was without somebody like Makhaya Ntini getting a lookin.
That's not to mention the fielding, which, hello. Not. even. worth. talking. about. I'll say this though: after Bangalore's finished whupping our asses this Saturday, it'll be those dropped catches and stuttering ground fielding that'll come to haunt the Men in Startlingly Bright Yellow, and no amount of "it was pathetic" and "we're repeating our mistakes" from Dhoni will do anything to change the final results.
The batting's not too tough to figure out: it had Hayden as the centre of its little personal universe, with Raina being the other shining beacon. Dhoni took some time to kick off, but did hit form somewhere in the middle. However, even his most successful outings in the centre came in partnership with either Raina or Hayden, which meant that our famed lower middle order turned out to be a Big Flop, with neither Morkel or Oram living up to expectations. I had Albie pegged as Chennai's go-to man before the tournament - things have unfortunately panned out otherwise. Obviously I should cross out "oracle" and "bookie" from my list of future career options (what, you can totally become an oracle after completing your medical degree!)
Badri had his moments, and I am just so impressed with and excited for Suresh Raina. His consistency with the bat this tournament has been wonderful, and he totally should've become the first Indian centurion in the IPL if it had not been for that stupid scoreboard in Centurion (hello, irony!). And his bowling? Wow! The part-timers have been burning it up this tournament. I mean to say, hat-trick to Rohit Sharma? Two hat-tricks to Yuvraj Singh?? Unbelievable.
Despite all the things that nagged me about CSK, they did manage to qualify for the semis in second place. We always had somebody or the other stand up for the team - in ways big or small - when it really mattered, and once they get their selection matters sorted out in a clearer way (read: select Ravichandran Ashwin some more!) we might actually have a very realistic chance to turn the ass-whupping tables on Bangalore in the semifinal this Saturday.
But hey, Dhoni obviously hasn't lost his captaincy mojo, and in the end, that may be all that matters.
Oh, Rajasthan... how the mighty do fall! From last year's champions to not qualifying for the semis this time round... I always did know the entry of The Shetty was going to do no good. That said, however good a captain Warne is, there're some gaps that can't be filled, and Tanvir and Watson did leave some pretty large gaps in the Rajasthan scheme of things.
As for Kolkata Knightriders and Kings XI Punjab, I really couldn't give a damn about either
team. Except to say that I do like most of KKR's players, and therefore, strangely, took a great amount of pleasure in witnessing their self-destructive spiralling through the tournament, before staging a mini-renaissance toward the end that turned out to be too little, too late.
Fifthly, the under-19 players in the tournament. Hearing that Mangal, oops, sorry, Manish Pandey had hit the first Indian century of the IPL (who'd've thunk, huh?) made me rack my brains about where I had heard that name before, until it came to me: from the victorious Indian outfit that had won the Under-19 world cup last year! For all that I dislike the team, I gotta appreciate Bangalore's insistence on playing its younger dudes. Virat Kohli, Sreevats Goswami, Manish Pandey... and then there's people like Jaskaran Singh and Ravi Teja for Hyderabad, Ravindra Jadeja, Kamran Khan and others for Rajasthan, and Pradeep Sangwan for Delhi... these are the youngsters who've been backed by their respective teams and been performing more often than not. That's why it distresses me that Chennai don't follow a similar policy - leaving aside whether they can afford to or not - that they sent away their two U-19 players - Abhinav Mukund and Napoleon Einstein - before the tournament had even started. Which is why I'm desperate for the further inclusion of someone like Ashwin and/or Vijay. I'd like more Tamil Nadu players to cheer for, alright, Dhoni?
... Oookay. This ramble has gone on long enough. I'll be going home this weekend - just in time to catch the second semifinal and the final, ha ha - so I expect to be blogging a bit about those two games. Looking forward to an exciting end to a memorable tournament.
Head says Delhi, heart – as always – says Chennai. Lessee.
And somebody please shoot Mandira Bedi. With a tranquiliser gun at least, if not the real thing.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
At first I thought it was the picture of a grotesquely malformed infant with some serious hormone imbalance issues.
It was only a couple of seconds later that I realised it was Andrew Symonds sans dreadlocks.
I might be mentally scarred for life here, people.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
It's called "being a CSK fan".
As I start this post, CSK are 179/9, 11 runs to get off the last 2 balls, tailenders getting themselves run-out all over the place to get Morkel on strike.
Likely we're about to lose by 10 runs or less. Figures that the only two close matches in this year's tournament so far involve CSK. I'd like to spin some spiel about how "CSK always go down fighting", but we all know that's not the truth.
Ah, look, there's the result: CSK lose by 9 runs. Great.
There seems to be a central theme to the team's performance over the two seasons of the IPL. One, everything we do at the death sucks. Our bowling, our batting, our fielding. Today we got the most awesome start to the chase we could dare to ask for, with Hayden going bonkers at the likes of Nannes, Salvi and Nehra. Parthiv was giving him fantastic support, and after him Raina got smoothly into his groove as well. 40-odd runs to get off the last 5 overs. Piece of cake.
We score barely 30-odd runs in the last 5, losing 6 wickets, after going at more than 10 in the first 15, losing 3.
It happened quite a bit in last years' edition, too (with a few notable exceptions). This time, too, that Flintoff over that conceded 22 runs. Morkel's series of gaffes (that extended to his batting, too, but I'll get to that later). Muralitharan proving to be expensive as well. Gony feeding Dilshan boundaries. Ha ha, IRONY that Balaji turned out to be our best bowler today.
Another was how we completely failed to latch onto the big moments. Yeah, you know the ones. The match-turning kind. Like Suresh Raina dropping Yusuf Pathan (who was then only in single-digit figures) in the final last year, Morkel dropping AB today, or Flintoff bowling that one rubbish over in the end that goes for way too many runs than it should. Hayden dropping Tendulkar. Gony being rubbish on the field.
It's okay if your team is trampled upon by the opposition, I can toss my head back and belly-laugh it out of my system. Like the time RR had Sohail Tanvir put us through the meat-shredder the first time CSK played them last year. I could only laugh and laugh and laugh and think "it sucks to be them right now, huh."
Except most times CSK lose like this and I'm left tearing my hair out.
AB deVilliers has won the man-of-the-match, I think.
No fair. The man-of-the-match award should go to Mr. Morkel. He was the one who won it for the Daredevils after all.
Salvi to Morkel, no run, short, sitting up for the pull, but Morkel mistimes, and plays it straight to midwicket. Dot Ball. That's big
Salvi to Morkel, 1 run, another short delivery, Morkel is a touch late into the pull, and only just manages to clear AB at midwicket
Vettori to Morkel, 1 leg bye, lovely bowling again, Morkel looks to make room, Vettori follows with an arm-ball, getting just a leg-bye
Vettori to Gony, SIX, and Gony turns it around, Vettori had bowled so far this game, with this flighted delivery is clubbed from down on a knee, this could well be eight over midwicket boundary
Nannes to Joginder Sharma, 2 runs, Joginder makes room, lofts it over extra cover, but they stroll only for two
Nannes to Joginder Sharma, 2 runs, just short of a length, Joginder slaps it to wide of long-on, and they take two again. Surprising? Wouldn't they want Morkel on strike?
Forced to come home by illness, I'm sitting here watching Chennai shit all over their dreams of winning.
I'm watching AB deVilliers hit a CENTURY. I'm watching Flintoff getting carted around for 22 runs in the penultimate over. I'm watching Dhoni getting ready to silently combust.
More than anything, I'm sitting here watching Albie Morkel lose us the game.
Gony to de Villiers, 1 run, and AB enjoys the good luck for longer, lofted straight to Morkel at long-on boundary, and Morkel drops an absolute sitter
Morkel to de Villiers, FOUR, and Morkel is being tormented more by his compatriot. He bowls a fulltoss, and smacked over midwicket. AB is cashing in remorselessly
Morkel to de Villiers, SIX, He is a sucker for punishemnt, is Morkel, another fulltoss, AB goes midwicket again, but higher, and for a six. is he looking at 200?
What's going on?
And then earlier, Mr. Morkel was spouting this shit about how the players' respective boards had instructed them not to divulge too many secrets to their ipl teammates prior to the T20 WC.
Mr. Morkel, I usually think you are seventy five and a quarter different kinds of awesome, but if your only purpose today was to come and give your South African teammate some batting practice, you might as well have opted out of this gig.
Yeah, you SUCK, Mr. Morkel.
I'm just going to take my medicine and go to sleep and not watch Chennai lose.
Which they undoubtedly deserve to.
AB deVilliers. Seriously, guys? SERIOUSLY?
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
So, okay, I'm (more than) a little late here, but a hearty congratulations to the Indian team for their series win in New Zealand. Seriously. Hearty. With claps on the back and all that shit because they? They proved me totally, utterly and completely wrong. So, okay, maybe I wasn't keeping track of NZ much to realise that they are the 8th ranked team in the world, with a batting order that's non-existent unless Ryder and Taylor are batting together, and the less said about their bowling the better, and that most tracks in NZ are good enough to take my first driving lesson on, but still - you know? First time in 40 years. That's gotta count for something, some champagne and a bit sprayed around.
This is going to be my last post in a while, as final exams are fast approaching and I most likely will not have much time for cricket, leave alone blogging - at least until some time late June. Which of course means I'll be missing the bulk of the IPL, as well as the Twenty20 World Cup (which, by the way, is spread over the exact two weeks as my final exams, screw you, Fate), but hey. ... Um.
Let's try that again.
- but hey. Er.
No good. Can't see the bright side to this.
OH CRUEL AND CAPRICIOUS FATE, I THINK I KIND OF HATE YOU.
A few (really) random thoughts before I leave:
1. About the Infamous Declaration of Doom in the last Test against New Zealand. I remember being a little wary that last day, cautiously scrounging around the web for opinion, but criticism took a surprising amount of time to build up. Once it did start, though, everybody seemed to rush in to get their finger in the pie. It reminded me of typical classroom politics - furitive looks exchanged in a death silence as nobody is brave enough to voice an opinion everybody wants to, and when somebody does take the initiative, the roof is brought down by the chorus that follows. As for me, I honestly did not have any problem with the declaration, even bringing the weather in as a factor. It seemed to me like an ideal score to declare at - put the match well and comprehensively out of NZ's reach, make sure the series win is secure, then really go for it. I mean, even with the weather, India still got to bowl at NZ for a day and a bit, and if it were not for the horrendous catching, could've easily bowled them out, and the criticism would not have been even a quarter of what it is now. More than the timing of the declaration it was the attitude of the Indians that irritated me. That final session on the 4th day, where it seemed like they were just fooling around? I threw the remote at the TV and stomped away cursing this team to an eternity spent at No. 3. Because? With this kind of fielding and attitude, that's how far I see them going.
2. Australia lost the ODI series to SA, and while I'm happy about that - obviously - it totally ruined for me all the cool comments that could be made about this tour being a clean photographic negative of the Saffers' tour of Australia earlier this year. I was kinda liking the symmetry.
3. Callum Ferguson is cute.
4. Wayne Parnell. Out of all the people in the Under-19 WC last year, this dude impressed me the most, and I knew it was only a matter of time before he was winning matches for the national team as well.
5. SuperSport commentary kind of sucks.
6. SETMax sucks even more. Not really looking forward to the TV coverage of the IPL this year.
7. The Mumbai Indians are looking scary good for the IPL this year. My money's on them to win it this time 'round.
8. Also, this? Ha ha ha, good one. Overboard with the sarcasm, perhaps. Like, really overboard.
9. I was disappointed - and admittedly, still am - when the IPL was forced to South Africa, but at least now I have one reason to feel happy that the boys ain't playing here: the weather here, it be MURDEROUS. At least in Chennai, it is. Every freakin summer it gets worse. I can't imagine anybody willingly staying out there for more than an hour at a time even with all the Gatorade in the world. Unless, you know, they have air-conditioners built into their uniforms or some such shit. I remember my most abiding memory from the Afro-Asia Cup 2007 (aside from Dhoni's century of Awesome and his even awesomer 200+ partnership with Jayawardene in one of the games) where they played two consecutive ODIs in Chennai in frickin' June was an overwhelming sympathy for the players as I sweated it out watching them sweat in the MAC and much sweating was had by all. I love you, Chennai, I really do, but I really kind of hate the weather.
See you in a couple of months, then. Farewell!
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Wellington (IANS): Uncertainty looms over injured India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni's availability in the third and final cricket Test against New Zealand that begins at the Basin Reserve here on Friday.
Ha ha, you see, MS, I know you're probably a bit confused about time zones right now, but April 1st was almost two days ago. So, yeah. Stop pulling at our legs, a'right?
I'd better see Dhoni sauntering out for the toss tomorrow. End of story.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
"The day before the game, we'll practice, one good hard session, and we're ready for the game," Dhoni said. "Whatever suits the team."
Dhoni took it a step further. "Mentally we are right there. When it comes to the mind it depends on what you're feeding into the mind. The mind doesn't know if it's Napier or what you're feeding. You come and say 'this is Napier', and it believes it's Napier. If you see, it's an abstract. When people say 'he's in form', nobody has seen form. It's a state of mind where you are confident and you think very positively and everything you think about, you think it's very achievable. It's about how you treat the mind. One day here, one day there doesn't really make a difference. Preparation-wise, we are up to the mark."
Give the man a chocolate, he's talking philosophy. A couple dozen. Maybe a tonne. The whole frickin' chocolate factory.
Because, this? This is gold. And I'm not being sarcastic. Honest.
(Although the repeated use of 'abstract' to me indicates a bit of Kirstenisation and Uptonisation to Dhoni's theory.)
I love the way he explains it. It's interesting, and for an armchair geek like me, a welcome departure from the redundant cliches that seem to envelop the game like a shroud. Now that the Test hasn't (isn't) gone (at) all India's way, the whole thing's open to criticism, but one can't deny that it makes some sense. A lot of things are said to be "just in the mind" and Dhoni has always stressed on mental readiness and composure to be able to face the pressures of international cricket to go along with the actual cricket, because if you're good enough to get into the national team, you're pretty freakin good, but developing a frame of mind that's able to deal with a billion plus expectations, the pressures, the attention and the tribulations? That has to be learnt anew.
I'm just wondering if Dhoni ever tried it on himself re his injury. Wonder if he thought he could go out there, and tell his mind, "I'm perfectly fine, my back's feeling great, the sights and sounds of Ranchi are all around me, and oh look! There's my neighbour's son coming in to bowl as usual. Wonder when he dyed his hair blond."
OH that explains it all! Poor thing wasn't able to make the mantra work on the morning of the first day, it would seem.
DHONI'S MIND: I'm perfectly fine, my back...
DHONI'S BODY: Enough.
DHONI'S MIND: ... feeling gr-- Huh?
DHONI'S BODY: Enough.
DHONI'S MIND: Enough what, exactly?
DHONI'S BODY: Are we even connected anymore these days? Wake up, smell the coffee. It's cold, it's windy. That's a six foot blond New Zealander barelling in to get us out, and the back--
DHONI'S MIND: Bother me not with these trifles. I still have to ponder upon the Meaning of Life after this, you know.
DHONI'S BODY: ... suit yourself.
DHONI: ack! *spasm*
Yep, that's definitely what happened.
(Inspired by the decidedly funnier kroki-refur)
Now. Regarding the match itself? Finally a day where India get their butts into it, with Dravid and Gambhir and later Gambhir and Tendulkar digging and sprouting roots and growing leaves. Oh, and they batted a bit in between, too. I think Tendulkar did, anyway.
Four days in and we have not acted like one of the world's best Test sides. If the catching and fielding (Yuvraj + slip = DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT) let the team down after whittling NZ down to 23/3 in the first innings and allowed the Black Caps to post 619 (*gasp!*) on the board, the batting decided to complete the job and got bowled out for 305, after which the NZers ask us to follow on. Yes, quite a bitchslap to the face that must've been for a team that beat the same opposition like flicking a speck of dust out of its eye a week ago and was expected to do the same here. (mild irritation, but nothing at all harmful)
I cannot possibly comment on Sehwag's captaincy, not having seen the match live myself, but sending Ishant in as nightwatchman in the first innings? Not one of his brighter ideas.
Leaving aside Sehwag getting out early (again) the Indians are chugging along okay enough in the follow-on innings, with Gambhir reaching his first overseas Test century off 260-odd balls, at a strike rate in the mid-30s. If you thought that was slow, I took a look at Dravid's strike rate: 28. Yeowch. Still, it's all for the team, right? Incredibly important innings, if and when we go on to draw this.
The NZers have done great, they really have. The batting rode on terrific innings from Ryder and Taylor to post 600+, and the bowlers have been disciplined, tireless and for the first time in a long time, backed up by a truckload of runs from their batsmen.
Tomorrow could be an interesting day. India still trail by 62 runs, 8 wickets in hand, Gambhir and Tendulkar looking comfortable (enough) at the crease, all this points to a draw, but who knows? A collapse, a tiny target-chase, an innings defeat, even?
Also? I kinda whooped and cheered when Dinesh Kaarthick got out for single-figures in the first innings. Does that make me a bad person?
Thursday, March 26, 2009
No, it's not New Zealand recovering from a delicious 23/3 to post 351/4 at almost 4 an over at the end of the day.
It's not Jesse Ryder scoring another century.
It's not Mr. Twenty20 (although that might be a slightly unfair nickname) Ross Taylor smashing 151 golden runs.
It's not the Indian bowlers and fielders unable to push on after smashing the New Zealand top-order like a coconut at the stone feet of the Supreme Diety for Early Wickets.
It's Dhoni, injured, being unable to play this game.
This is what I call supremely tragic.
What made it all the more painful was how unexpected it was. Nobody outside the team management had any inkling at all that Dhoni had injured his back. Nosir. Not in the slightest.
So, this morning, I woke at 3, right? Annoyed my fellow hostelites, but assured them I was only going to study (which was partly true, anyway) and flipped open my laptop, coffee brewing on the table. At 3:30, I accessed cricinfo, which informed me brightly: "Dhoni out, NZ elect to bat."
I went on to discover that Dhoni was indeed out of the Test match with a bad back (and he even had to have an MRI taken, good lord) and that Sehwag was captaining in his place, and that his wicketkeeping slot was to be usurped, ahem, I mean, taken care of until his return by Dinesh Kaarthick (whom I still dislike, by the way.)
I gazed at the screen numbly, mouth slightly gaping, sipping every now and then from a mug full of the most tasteless coffee I'd ever had, going down like liquid ashes down my throat. Watched the commentary as Zaks and Ishi made a bright start, prying out McIntosh, How and Guptill in quick succession, and yet I couldn't find it in myself to celebrate. One reason was, of course, the shock, and number two, the real New Zealand batting order started only from number 5 (which is quite a clever ploy actually. Have the opposition preening over getting the 'top order' out quickly while the real batsmen make merry).
Jesse Ryder joined Ross Taylor, after which a succession of big black FOURs started coming up on screen, with no sight of an OUT, so I finally snapped out of my daze and shut my laptop down and got back on with my life.
I'm actually rather ashamed that my attachment to one player can throw me off an entire game, but that's the honest truth. I don't feel like I want to follow this match anymore. It's terrible of me, and really, I don't deserve to call myself a cricket fangirl.
Anyhow, great stuff from the NZers - a wonderful comeback after they'd been written off completely by all and sundry. All those over-the-top articles and speculation about how obvious it is that India is going to steamroller X, Y or Z team makes me queasy because it almost always results in something like this. Still, four days to go, you know? Let's see what happens.
Until then: Dhoni, rest up, get better, COME BACK.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Most of them are of a personal sort, and all of them seem to have led me round an expansive and emotionally difficult circle and eventually I find myself exactly where I started. It’s not such a bad thing, though, and I hope I’m wiser after all that’s happened.
The one epiphany that’s relevant here happened last Sunday, as I was reading the literature on the web regarding the series win in New Zealand. It struck me suddenly just how much cricket was out there, just how much the game had been consuming precious hours of my life, and how difficult it was balancing being a medical student (which, hello, is pretty damn tough) and a cricket fan, not to mention various other social and familial commitments. An inexplicable panic started crawling up the back of my throat like some sort of insect, and I decided enough was enough.
So I tried a little experiment. I locked up my laptop at home and boldly went back to college, no TV for miles around. I knew I was missing the final ODI. I knew I was missing the first Test. I knew I had been waiting and waiting to follow this Test series, but I had to be strong, right? Priorities, priorities.
The first couple of days weren’t so bad. I still had the occasional mobile phone update, and am actually kind of glad I missed the final ODI, for obvious reasons. I still remember asking a friend in class for the score update that day, and this was how the conversation went:
ME: Score, score, score please!
FRIEND: (raising an eyebrow) Um, pardon me?
ME: (waving a futile hand in the air) Today! ODI! New Zealand! Score!
F: Oooooh. Gimme a second.
(checks on mobile phone and looks up and smiles)
F: 115 for 7.
ME: Uh... New Zealand, right?
F: (checks) Uh, no, actually. It’s India.
ME: (laughing) No, no, that’s impossible. Check that little space before the score. I’m sure it says N-Z, not I-N-D.
F: (starting to get annoyed) M--, it’s India batting. Rohit Sharma. Zaheer Khan. Partnership. LOOK.
(proceeds to thrust mobile phone screen at my face, where the letters IND 115/7 gleam
mockingly in all their digital glory)
ME: Stupid freakin’ – how in the world – what’s wrong – demonic possession – alien invasion – (fades away into incoherent muttering which may – or may not – have contained a string of profanity toward the Indian team)
But I didn’t really care about the result, which didn’t really mean anything, aside from a slightly disturbing tendency for the team to get off the boiler once the series has been won. That ain’t the stuff of truly dominating World Champions.
But the Test?
Seven different kinds of agony.
I was rather looking forward to watching this particular series, to the truly unique experience of waking up at 2:30 in the morning to watch Test cricket, tiptoeing around sleeping family members, settling down in front of the TV, blinking sleep desperately out of my eyes, smelling of mosquito-repellent cream, sipping from a mug of hot coffee in my hands. This time around, though, it was only the mobile phone updates, and the digital scores against the glowing background didn’t tell me anything. How many catches did Dhoni drop? (Only one, as I found out later. Keep at it, Mahi!) How did each four of Tendulkar’s look like? Was Dravid getting back into groove? Had somebody managed brainwash Laxman into thinking he was playing against Australia? (tough one, I know). Had the bowlers gotten their act together, or were they lucky? How was the pitch playing? Easy, or was it just the brilliance of the batsmen? How was the catching?
I knew none of the answers. To my horror, it was killing me.
So I took my first opportunity to get back home, and immediately lurched toward the laptop and the TV and was generally pleased with what I saw/read.
Sachin Tendulkar was awesome, as per usual.
Dravid... um. I’ll just shut up now. Dude, retire whenever you want to.
Schizophrenic!Munaf managed to put in a good performance, and Bhajji!! Dude, 6-63? Come on! :D
Dhoni continued to chip in with his batting, and his keeping seemed tidy for the most part. (Ha ha, go ahead and laugh at my conceit, I know I am.)
There were a couple of annoying lower-order partnerships that were allowed to build in the NZ innings, and as much as I adore Dan Vettori and the Brendon of McCullum, I’ve got to say: guys, seriously?
I am not going to make the mistake of leaving behind all this again. ‘Cause, seriously? Not worth it. What’s life if not a constant balancing act anyway?
So – 1 up in the series, with 2 Tests to go. Judging by the way they played this match, one would think anything less than a 2-0, maybe even a 3-0 win would be sacrilege, but let’s see. ‘Sides, India has never handled being overwhelming favourites well, and it’s all for India to lose from here.
Speaking of New Zealand, the Women’s World Cup concluded recently, with England winning their final against New Zealand. These two were easily the two strongest teams of the tournament, and a hearty congratulations to all of the women who were part of the final. Also, India managed to beat Australia (second time this tournament, ha!) for the third place. Which, considering that last year when the Indian women toured Australia, Karen Rolston and co. wiped the floor with them? Is pretty sweet.
... Oof. I need to apply for some sort of rehabilitation. Suggestions, anyone?
Addendum of EPIC DOOM: It’s happened.
The IPL cannot be held in India this year.
What the hell, people. What. The. Hell.
My immediate reaction was if the IPL can’t be held in India, then leave it. Cancel it. Holding it in another country? Hello, desperation! The primary lure of the IPL for me and so many people I know was the joy of crowding up the stadiums and the TV rooms and watch international cricket stars play some exhilarating Twenty20. For us. (In a way, you know, okay??)
If it has to be relocated, then the obvious choice would be South Africa.
But --- damn. This sucks, just so damn much.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Congratulations on the series win. Also? This time might actually be one of the few times I've thoroughly enjoyed being proved wrong. Although the Men in White might prove to be a different proposition, so. you know.
And, God help me, I'm getting used to the new colour.
Yours in confused congratulation,
Dear Peter McGlashan,
Forget the Pathans and the Husseys and the McCullums, you and your sister are the coolest pair of siblings in international cricket. 'Nuff said.
Yours in enthusiasm,
Dear Indian bowlers,
Please to be getting your backs into it. At least, you know, in the Tests - where you know, batting's not always going to be around to save the day.
And also, Ishant? Please to be watching where you land that front foot of yours.
Munaf? The pitch is 22 yards. Not 25.
Yours in some concern,
You know that thing aside from captaincy and batting that you are pencilled into the team for? Yeah, that one. The one that's been steadily deteriorating over the past six months.
Please to be regaining the pretty skills with the gloves. The team can't afford you not to.
Yours in rare admonishment,
Dear Daniel Vettori,
You may be the coolest New Zealander I know (and I know a surprising number of New Zealanders), but the Indian batsmen are now riding a whole new different level of Cool. It might be a whole new world of Cool. A different parallel universe of Cool. An astral plane of...
Now I forgot what I really wanted to say.
Yours in supposed sympathy,
Please to be continuing with your awesomeness. Anything else I can say only cheapens the joy of watching you tear the opposition attack to pieces, chew them, spit them on the sidewalk and then grind them into the cement with steel-tipped boots for good measure.
Yours in speechless awe,
You are not an opening pair anymore, you are a phenomenon. Please to be occuring more often.
Yours in exhilarating anticipation,
Dear Mithali Raj,
To have scored 75* in a team total of 137/7 in a World Cup game - which the team went on to win by 35 runs, by the way - makes you about seven and a half different kinds of awesome. Please to be continuing lifting the India Women's batting.
Yours in deep appreciation,
Dear Person who's managed to read this far,
Thank you for bearing with this drivel.
Yours in deep, deep gratitude,
Here's to an ODI whitewash and a Test series win in Downer Under!
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Just heard that Australia defeated South Africa to take an unassailable lead in the Test series. In South Africa. This, people, be a comeback of monumental proportions. Just two months ago, having suffered abject humiliation at the hands of the Saffers in their own backyard, a slew of retirements, losses, Boneheaded selection and equally Boneheaded captaincy, the Aussies looked to be in ultimate Decline. Hell, they even struggled to defeat New Zealand at home a month ago.
This Hughes dude is scoring two Test centuries in only his second Test, Mitchell Johnson is making the South African batsman quake in their boots, and the entire Australian team with its much-maligned captain, 'out-of-form' stars, posse of greenhorned debutants, is making the so-much-more fancied South Africans pay.
This be Epic, people. While I have never actually thought that Aussies couldn't bounce back to a semblance of their old selves, I never even imagined that it would be this soon, and against South Africa, the very team that not so long ago was responsible for brutally stripping away the Aussie Aura of Invincibility that the Indians had already started to peel away. Poetic justice, even.
Congratulations, Ricky Ponting, to you and your mates. I would so place that laurel on your head right now, but it seems to be have been crushed by quite a few South African rears. Oh well, I'm sure you'll be just as happy with the shiny mace that the ICC wants to give you.
I've not wanted to be a lot of things in my life, and right now, a South African cricket fan is one of them.
Monday, March 9, 2009
... So I have a confession to make.
Back in 2003, as a hormonal 13 year old fledgling, I'd just begun to take to cricket. For some reason, right from the beginning, even before I was fully aware of what a wicketkeeper did, my favourite player in any team would be the wicketkeeper (all English keepers were and are exceptions). Always.
So there was this dude who was keeping for the Indian team, right? The little one, all of 17, who looked remarkably like he could be my classmate, and as I grew a few years older, he could be my little brother's classmate? Well, I fell for him, chubby cheeks, Wide Eyed Innocent Stare of Doom, adorably diminutive stature and all.
Parthiv Patel was my first celebrity crush.
And this happens to be the first time I'm admitting that publicly, by the way.
I remember being furious when he was dropped after a patch where his wicketkeeping deteriorated into atrocious levels, to be replaced by the likes of Dinesh Kaarthick and Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Nobody could replace Parthiv, I fumed. These replacements will be no good.
Of course, exactly six months later, my affections were firmly centered around a certain long-haired stocky wicketkeeper, but hey. It was bound to happen, right? And I was fourteen.
I still follow Parthiv's exploits now, though; like a big sister I know how to be I feel proud of his achievements, pray for his continued success. Come on. Just look at that face. You can practically feel those parental/older-sibling instincts shooting up.
You can imagine how insanely delighted I was when I learnt that both Dhoni and Parthiv would be playing for Chennai Super Kings. I honestly would never consider atheism again, as obviously there is Somebody up there listening to my secret, coveted desires.
Why this confession? Well today, the little dude turns 24. Tomorrow, he celebrates his first wedding anniversary.
Happy birthday and best wishes for your continued success, Parthu!
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Two easy chances dropped.
Ryder and McCullum batting like they're playing against Bermuda 'A's reserves' 2nd XI.
This team doesn't deserve its line-up of surreally good batsmen.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Following the Lahore attack, there is now a distinct possibility that the IPL might not happen this year, with several foreign players and officials expressing their discomfort at the security situation in the subcontinent. It's not just about Lahore either, apparently. The unease existed right from the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai.
Now even the 2011 World Cup, scheduled to be held in the subcontinent, is under doubt.
I want to be cynical of the players expressing their doubts, I want to assert that something like Lahore can never happen in India, I want to sneer and laugh and pray. But yesterday's incident proved that cricket is far from immune to terrorism, and I still get the chills everytime I involuntarily imagine the Indian team in the Sri Lankans' position. Could this sort of thing happen in India? Maybe maybe yeah. Well.
Already there was talk of an IPL postponement before all of this, with the Home Minister suggesting the IPL clashing with the general elections might be a bad thing. While methinks he may have a point, I merely laughed and laughed when I first heard of it, because hello? Postponement of IPL might as well be translated into cancellation of the season, and that? Was so not going to happen.
Except now it actually might.
The players' attitudes (outside of India, particularly outside the subcontinent) regarding the IPL have always baffled, amused and mostly irritated me (because, hello, gleefully signing up for large amounts of money on one hand, and then taking some sort of perverse pleasure in extolling the Evils of Indian Money in Cricket on the other? So not on), and with this thrown into the mix, things have gotten a whole lot more complicated.
I can only somehow naively hope for restoration of some normalcy, because, dammit I want to see some IPL action this summer. I don't want to see cricket as a whole suffering from this, because the subcontinent? A pretty large chunk of land providing a pretty large chunk of cricket watching and playing population.
I don't even know anymore, and damn if I'm not getting overly melodramatic.
Not for the first time, I follow and love this game way more than I should be.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
LAHORE, Pakistan, March 3 (Reuters) - Six members of the Sri Lankan cricket squad were wounded when around a dozen gunmen attacked their bus as it drove under police escort on Tuesday to a stadium in the Pakistani city of Lahore, witnesses and officials said.
Lahore Police chief Habib-ur-Rehman said five people were killed in the attack by the unidentified gunmen, who fired AK 47s and rockets and hurled grenades as the team bus drove to the 60,000-seater Gaddafi stadium in the eastern city.
Sri Lanka's sports minister said five players and an assistant coach were wounded, two of whom were being treated in hospital.
Horrible. The Sri Lankan team went to Pakistan when nobody else was willing to, as a gesture of peace, to prove to the rest of the world that Pakistan was indeed a safe place to play cricket. And this is what they get. Sick.
Thankfully none of the players were seriously wounded, but six policemen died, taking the brunt of the attack.
Nobody's going to think of setting foot in Pakistan for cricket for some time now.
Just, just. So sad. And so sick.
My prayers are with those affected.
Friday, February 27, 2009
So India apparently suck at Twenty20.
Startled by the inexplicability of the statement, I picked it up. Prodded. Examined. Dissected. Peeled off a cross-section and examined under the microscope. Made sketches. Notes.
I'm left with more questions than answers. And a firmer conviction that this ain't gonna be a pretty tour for the Indians.
Also? I think I know what the other side feels like now. Remember the 2nd final of the CB series? Where Irfan, who was bowling utter crap, was given the final over where Australia required 13 runs to win? And he went on to bowl a superb over which not only fetched him two wickets but sealed a historically monumental win for India?
And this time around?
Irfan was bowling beautifully, 12 runs required to win off the last over, only 4 runs from the first 4 balls, and then?
The Brendon of McCullum hits two consecutive fours off the last two balls and New Zealand win and I die.
Reminds you of a lot of the Great Escapes that India has managed to pull off over the last year, yes? (The greatest of them being the World Twenty20 final, which was, ow. Unbelievable.)
Now I grit my teeth as I read people like Iain O'Brien go "It's wonderful to have beaten the world champions", (yeah, champ, why don't you have a cookie now) and the NZ newspapers go, "omg India is in such great form, they are clearly the favourites", and at this point I'm seriously wishing for them to tell us how crappy India really are, Aussie-style, because that never fails to rile the Men in (now a terrible shade of) Blue up and inspire them into spectacular performances.
Only tthree things console me now:
1. India've always been crappy starters on overseas tours, and going into this one with zero NZ experience, zero practice matches, a two week layoff after the SL tour where they vacationed, partied, and constantly had people telling them how great they were? Yeah, for them to be hitting the ground running would've expecting too much. Also, the performance in the second Twenty20 was a marked improvement from the first. I'm expecting better and better performances in the ODIs and Tests.
2. India, world Twenty20 champions, national team of the home of the IPL, chock-full of cricketing superstars, losing to hardworking, efficient and understated New Zealand? Hopefully it's enough of a slap in the face to shake off the last dregs of complacency and over-confidence.
(And also, Dhoni? Please to be shaking off your rustiness. It be painful to watch.)
((And who asked you not to play domestic cricket in the interim between SL and NZ, huh, HUH? Sheesh. ))
3. Remember South Africa's immensely successful tour of Australia recently? One of their few major blips was losing both their Twenty20s comprehensively to the Aussies. But they comfortably took both the ODI and Test series, and no prizes for guessing which was the happier team at the end of the tour. So, India? Hint there, hello!
Watching the team lose is a much harder pill to swallow now than before. What have you done to me, team?
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Hm. Deep breath. Close your eyes, brace yourself.
Fine. I think I've been spoiled quite a bit by India's winning streak, so despite my predictions of Doom and Gloom for the Indian team in New Zealand, I was kind of expecting them to win anyway, deep within. Apparently they had plenty of chances to do so, too - judging by the text-message updates a sick friend at home was kind enough to send me while I was in class. Oh, and they were entertaining text updates, too, my favourites being:
"dhoni has lost all his batting skills, i guess... what kind of a shot was that?"
"raina nails it! awesome 50. 162 for 8"
"ha ha, take that jesse ryder! 2 for 1 after 1"
"Ishant is throwin the match away 2 no balls seriously what is WRONG with him"
"India has lost major ground! nz 53/1 in 5.5! Recovery, we need recovery!"
"17 off yuvi's over, 39 req off 30. What is Dhoni SMOKING, bringing yuvi into the attack NOW?"
"28 req off 4"
"12 off 12"
"4 off 10"
and the messages stopped. Um, I got the hint.
Oh well. I was predicting it anyway. I expect more of the same in the rest of the tour. (So prove me wrong, boys! )
Plus, plus, I'm delighted anyway because A R Rahman won both of his Oscars, (ahahaha, Chennaiite, people! "Ellam pugazhum Eraivanuke!" My heart burst with joy that moment, I swear!) and Jared Padalecki from Supernatural has suddenly risen up to Number Two on my all-time obsessive fangirling list, right after MSD. Mmm hmm.