Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Victory to the socially-conscious

Y'know, I was jumping up and down for joy and ready to make a deliriously delighted post about India's Totally Awesome victory at Durban, until Dhoni made a very curious comment, right toward the end of the post-match presentation. He said, (paraphrased slightly) "We will party tonight, but will not get drunk."

This team is not only awesome, but also socially conscious. Huh.

But really, I think it's just a reference to the last time they won a match in SA, 4 years ago. I heard they celebrated so hard they actually had to pay for damages done to the dressing room.


What a win! Laxman! Zaheer! Sreesanth! Bhajji! The whole frickin' lot of 'em! I was a little dubious about the amount of difference Zaheer's return was supposed to make to our limp-as-lettuce-in-a-McDonald's-burger bowling attack, but the important thing seems to be that they believed it. I don't know how much of the impact was psychological and how much of it was strategic, but it worked, and everything turned out to be - wait for it - awesome.

One of the things I adored was that right after I make a post about the SSD/NUD dynamic, Laxman and Zaheer pull together a fabulous SSD/NUD themselves in a match-winning partnership. Laxman is just becoming a second-innings go-to guy, and I adore him except for the unfortunate fact that he keeps instigating some of the worst cricketing cliches: shots that are "caressed", somehow managing to be "smooth as silk", yet "precise as a surgeon's knife" at the same time. God.

So here's a cliche I do like: never-say-die. These guys don't roll over after being kicked to the ground. They take what luck comes their way, don't whine when it doesn't (well, they do try), and give their best. I'm proud of you guys. Congratulations, and all the best for the next one.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The art of 'protecting' a tailender

You know how it goes.

The match is at a crucial stage - you're 7, maybe 8 wickets down with a few sessions still lift to play - more likely to save the match than win it, but you're willing to count a draw as a victory. So you're the Settled Specialist Dude (SSD) over there, and the guy who comes out to partner you is notoriously unreliable.

What do you do?

I've seen a lot of batsmen consistently refuse singles in the first few balls of the over, while the opposition captain spreads out the field, saying, come on dude, single ready when you want it. Around the fourth ball the batsman begins to get testy. Can the Notoriously Unreliable Dude (NUD) survive two balls? Is it okay for me to take a single here? The field begins to come in again, and the SSD is pushed into a corner. Fifth ball, SSD's all, shall I go for it now? No no, no need to take a risk now, there's still one ball left. And when the sixth ball is coming 'round, he's sweating bullets. The NUD is grinning at the other end, already dreaming of ensuing batting heroics, and the SSD sees the grin and is doubly nervous. The opposition closes in like a shark with blood in the water, and so the bowler barrels in with the last delivery of the over...

I've seen this more often than not with the Indian team. The one NUD that I remember actually lives up to his name is Zaheer Khan. For instance, in the current match against SA, Dhoni's at one end, and facing Morkel. He plays off four balls and takes a single off the fifth. Just one ball, right? Turns out he forgot one of the fundamental truths of cricket: you might spend several deliveries planning and scheming through your innings, but it takes only one to make them all useless. One ball, and Zaheer was out.

Ishant came in, and Dhoni sighed, screw this and took a single off the second ball to let Ishant face the rest of the over. And he survived.

The NUD/SSD dynamic rarely works for this team. I remember a couple of successes, namely: Dhoni and Sreesanth at Lord's working with the weather to save a match we really ought to have lost, and Laxman and Ishant at Mohali pulling off a Totally Awesome Win out of nowhere.


As I type, Dhoni gets out after a fighting 35. India 205/9, likely to be 205 all out soon enough as two NUDs conference before one of them takes strike.

Dale Steyn barrels in...

EDIT OF SUPREME AWESOMENESS: Zaheer and Harbhajan have gotten hold of some serious mojo: SA are 104/8 now, and completely on the mat. Somebody pinch me, please.

EDIT OF WTFery: So we dismissed them for 131, and promptly slump to 48/3 after being 42/0. Two wickets to Lonwabo Tsotosobe. All right, people. What the hell? At this rate, Dhoni might find himself ending the day at the crease, just as he started the day.

EDIT OF WHAT-THE-HELL-IS-GOING-ON-HERE: Wicket no. 18 of day 2 falls as Sachin is snapped up by Steyn. 56/4. I think SA and India are trying to go one-up on each other in pure batting ineptitude. Screw the swing, pace, bounce, all that bull shit - we are better than this! Lead is just one hundred and thirty runs and if we don't get some spine soon all of Bhajj's and Zak's efforts will have come to naught!

Hooooly shit.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

So here's what happened.

Dhoni out for 90. His previous innings? Out for 98.

Who was his partner both times? Sachin Tendulkar, and both times he went on to score a century.

Clearly, Dhoni has somehow, supernaturally perhaps, transferred Sachin's 90s jinx onto himself. I understand as a captain you sacrifice a lot for your team, but this might be too much, yeah?

(Either that, or Shane Watson has done some kind of trans-continental Jinx Transference).

Jokes apart, this is the beginning of the end. Even as I type, Harbhajan falls, and India are 8 down. We are going to lose, but at least we put up a fight and Dhoni and Tendulkar were twelve billion flavours of Awesome.

We could take inspiration from Australia, who came back from the edge of ignominy to soundly thrash England (there's a lot of sadistic pleasure to be derived from that piece of imagery, especially given one couldn't open something cricket-related online over the last week without an Englishman tooting his horn) at Perth, levelling the Ashes 1-1. There's hope yet!

One last wish before this match goes up in a puff of smoke: I hope Sreesanth isn't dispirited enough to not repeat his 2006 antics, viz., doing the pelvis-thrusting, bat-spinning Dance of Awesome after hitting a six.

(... where's Andre Nel when you need him? ... )

EDIT: Bad light's stopped play! \o/ We stand at 454/8, Sree and Sachin batting.

I shall now search frantically through my handbook on Rain-Summoning Rituals. There's got to be something here that has international effects, right? *flips*

Also, I have to say: I haven't had this much fun watching a day of Test cricket since the halcyon days of India's '07-'08 tour of Australia. That series was gold, and got me hooked to Test cricket for LIFE.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Oh, lord.

South Africa have scored 200+ runs in the first session.

Two hundred runs... !

Surely - although I wouldn't have imagined the likes of Ishant, Sreesanth and Unadkat matching up to Steyn, Morkel and Kallis - we can't have bowled as badly as all that?

Except we did, and it hurts.

I'll put together a more coherent post later, but right now? SA 640/4 dec (WTF my brain's short-circuiting) and Sehwag and Gambhir are out there, and scoring boundaries. Get the adrenaline pumpin', boys. Save some face.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Three things

1. Who in the world is Michael Beer?

I'm reminded of my up-ended jigsaw-puzzle analogy (because I'm self-obsessed like that). What's next? Warney's Sunday drinking buddy?

2. Why, thank you, Gauti. We must all bask in Ashwin's awesomeness. *basks*

(Are you listening to/reading this, CSK? You can always replace Vijay any old day, but not Ashwin! Hold on to the man and release Vijay! Come on, now!)

3. I thought I could go to the match yesterday, I really did. I had an exam in the afternoon, but once I finished that, I thought, hey, I could go home and take up my friend's offer (an open invitation to the match, because he's awesome like that).

I checked the score once the exam finished: NZ 103 all out. I rechecked after I got home: India 52/2.

Not much point in going after that.

(but it didn't rain, which I'm willing to count as a miracle, because just a week ago this city was almost drowning in a torrential downpour that lasted for more than 2 days).

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Still on the Ashes

I thought there was nothing funnier than Kevin Pietersen hitting a double-century in Australia against Australia, before I rediscovered this little gem:

A little out-dated, but still priceless!