Chennapunji!

It’s embarrassing that in one of the least rainiest of the cities in India, we’ve had three matches spoilt by rain. Of course, I must say that Chennai has been a very rainy city this year, with so many rainy days, though not too much of rain, save the deluge of Oct 27.

With two matches to go and 1-1, it’s indeed interestingly poised, though a 2-2 results is very much on the cards, unfortunately!

The most interesting development in cricket over the last 24 hours was the appointment of Rahul Dravid as captain for tests. All this is fine to me, but the only dissappointing thing in the whole issue is how we’ve treated one of out top ten greatest cricketers and that it needed a damned foreigner to intervene in the whole issue. Comebacks are always heartening — let’s see if Ganguly makes one; the fact that the next game is in Kolkata is going to have a big say!

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Karma in cricket

“As you sow, so you reap”

Inzi was run out today in horrible fashion: Sambit Bal has a brilliant article at http://content-ind.cricinfo.com/pakveng/content/story/226638.html on this. More interestingly, he has pointed out to the Sachin’s dismissal at Kolkata in 1999, when Shoaib had elbowed him. Inzi was run out with the score at 369-5 and this really made a whole lot of difference. Of course, it may not be as costly as Sachin’s dismissal with regard to the outcome of the match, but it’s despicably stupid.

More importantly, in the last game, which everyone chose to happily overlook, the result really depended on a crucial run out decision, given wrong by the third umpire (Asad Rauf). How atrocious that was! It was in a partnership between Inzi and (I think) Shoaib Malik and it probably made a big difference to the outcome of the match.

Maybe, it’s just the law of karma catching up with Pakistan. If it does catch up with Aus, they might never win a home series against West Indies, given what happened in WI’s previous tour! (What about Sachin in Aus?!!)

6-1 :D — Dhoni and Pathan star in an easy win

With nothing at stake and a great form, India once again massacred SL — as Ravi Shastri put it — ruthlessly, in a fashion that’s associated more with Australia. While RP Singh did brilliantly with the ball, Sehwag, Pathan and Sachin damaged the SL bowling to a point of no return. In the end, it was a cakewalk, and it was ably assisted by some brilliant batting by Dhoni to make the win comprehensive. Wish his 5th attempt to finish a match off with a sixer had come off though!

Sachin finally looked in touch, after a miserable last outing but perished to his old nemesis — of the de Villiers days — the slower delivery! Sehwag too was awesome as usual, and he’s been the only batsman to display consistent form in this series (Dhoni excluded), but he’s been so consistent in getting out in 30s too! Looks like he’s reserved the larger poundings for SA!

Overall, it has been a great series for India. The supersub rule and the length of the series as well as the quality of our opponents after the first 1-2-3 bashings made it extremely conducive to testing out a lot of players and we do have a decent second line of players now, it seems. With such bowling strength, and Zaheer waiting in the wings, it is really a happy position to be in for India.

Further, I like the way BCCI gave the players a bonus — why they did confuses me to no end, as those rascals want to only stuff their coffers (even after they tear!) — the first time BCCI is making some good use of the billions they make. If they’d flush something like this into domestic cricket, we will have a dozen more Rainas and RP Singhs.

5-1!!: Job almost done…

“At mid-off was Virender Sehwag, waving from short mid-off to Murali Kartik at fine leg to move squarer; behind the stumps was MS Dhoni; Yuvraj Singh was at point, Suresh Raina at short extra cover; Venugopal Rao hovered at square leg, Jai Prakash Yadav at mid-on; Gautam Gambhir looked at ease at midwicket, as did Sreesanth at third man; and as RP Singh measured his mark, the `veteran’ Ajit Agarkar patrolled long-off. There was no Tendulkar, Dravid, or Sourav Ganguly, no Anil Kumble, no VVS Laxman. This was the team for the future.”

Jamie Alter on cricinfo

I was indeed pleased to see the youngsters doing so well, and more particularly, the captaincy mantle being handed over to Sehwag. I’ll not brood over the Saurav-Greg controversy again, in what has been the only blot on an otherwise fine last few months for Indian cricket.

Coming to the Rajkot match, I did remark to a friend that SL finished 140 runs short of a competitive total, and not 40 as Attapatu had remarked. Recall the pounding WI got at the hands of Sehwag last time at Rajkot, and you wouldn’t question this. Further, in the form the current team is in, no total is too tall.

RP Singh really set the stage with his bowling, and then after Sachin struggled miserably to 19, and Gambhir and Sehwag perished to poot shots, Yuvi and Kaif, in a way they are best accustomed to — playing alongside one another — settled the match in great style. Yuvi’s acceleration was just phenomenal at the end, and as I had told one of my friends, we finished the match within 35 overs!

I still want Ganguly back in this side — if he had a poor attitude, it would certainly have changed by now, since he’s been pushed to the wall, if not to the brink. The ‘pool’ of players for the WCC 2007 is really shaping beautifully; I hope we sustain well in the future. SA will be an interesting series (but for dew) and given their current form, it will be quite a contest.

One more to go here. 6-1 on the cards, and 6-1 it should be!

4-1: Dumb defeat due to dew and Dilshan

Pardon the cheap attempt at alliteration in the title, but I had all these words in mind, and it’s just a coincidence that a nice alliteration surfaced!

I was confident we’d lose the match once we got 285, since it was clear 30 runs short of a more-than-competitive-but-not-winning total. You must recall the drubbing we received at Pak’s hands earlier this year after scoring 315 (48 overs). With the new powerplay rules (5 overs more, and in the 3rd powerplay, SL cashed in, though the blew the 2nd), it would only get more difficult to defend totals on dewy pitches. Of course, India flattered a lot, particularly when Jayawardene was run out, and a victory did seem possible. The only logical route to victory on a dewy track is to demolish the opposition before the dew sets in — we kind of missed it this time!

I believe it’s a typical feature of dewy innings, that lesser-known cricketers/out-of-form cricketers, with more brains than talent would see a side home. Recall Arnold-Chandana partnership earlier this year, where they coasted to 220-6 after being reduced to 94-6 or so. Similarly, Dravid and Yuvi, in Pak, scripted a nice win once dew set in, after the top order had caved in to 96-4 or worse in Pak. Also recall Dravid-Bangar against WI at Ahmedabad (2003), when we scaled 325!

I don’t want to take the credit away from Dilshan by overly discussing the dew, but the dew was indeed a clear cut problem factor. It was however nice to India’s ground-fielding (note I just said ground-fielding, and not fielding, given that Gambhir dropped Sangakkara early and Venu butter-fingered his catch later on after about roughly 8-9 attempts, of RP Singh). India also bowled with quite some heart — Sree Santh and RP Singh in particular. Agarkar was decent, but was a let down in the last spell, but by then, the match had already been lost.

Kudos to Dravid and Gambhir for brilliant 100s — but they could not make it count. It almost appeared to be a superb supersub trick from SL, when Maharoof came in and bowled those wonderful four overs! It might pay to have a fresh bowler at the end of an innings! But let’s see how long the supersub thingy lasts, given that most (if not all) captains voted against it at the captains’ meet.

The Ganguly factor: looks like it’s no longer a small issue. It’s a giga-(tera-?) conspiracy by Chappell and the board. But it surprises me that Dravid et al are party to this. Makes me wonder if Ganguly is indeed guilty of something, or is just being dished out wholesome ungratefulness. I still believe, though less on current international form that Ganguly selects himself ahead of Kaif. I don’t belong to that school of thought (read ‘Chappell’) that fast runners and great fielders can just win you matches. Where’s the experience? Where’s the temperament? Ganguly has delivered ‘n’ times. He could deliver again. But, all arguments apart, is it worth disputing that he needs another chance to prove himself? And that it’s more than due in this dead rubber? That leaves too many unanswered questions! Ideally, we should have got Ganguly back in as captain for the rest of the games, given that Dravid is not well. Of course, it’s a nice idea to blood Sehwag too, but it wasn’t very long ago, when many of us believed that India would almost field an unchanged XI from the WCC 2003 final to the first game of WCC 2007! Until the real truths about Ganguly, Chappell and co. surface, we (or is it only me?) can never rest happily, how many ever wins come by.

4-0!!!! Raina-Dhoni seal series (2)

Curse blogger. I lost this post.

Important points I had made:
Dhoni: 16(32)+29(11) = 45 (43): great common-sense + acceleration… 4th six hit to finish match..
Sachin: reckless extravangant shot – turned human from saint! Watch out for a great aggressive 100 from him now that it’s cricket for cricket’s sake and not so much the pressuer of winning, for the series has been pocketed. (Recall his 100 in the Natwest once the final berth was assured).

Now that the series has been won, we can experiment. Look out for Yadav and Agarkar (bat!). We could even be seen chasing some improbable total in Rajkot (though we shd not concede 280+!).

With Kaif and Ganguly pressing for selection (Gangs is 14*(27) vs ZIM as I write this), Rao and Raina will be on their toes. It’s not so much of a problem now as we keep changing the squad around and we can rotate players. Only when we tour, we have a fixed squad and that’s when selection has to be spot on.. Let’s make sure that Raina is groomed (can Chappell ‘coach’ Agarkar?!) and we don’t want any more disasters like we did with Vijay Bharadwaj/Dinesh Mongia/Hemang Badani…

Finally: Keep SL on the mat, guys! Finish ’em off!