Tag Archive | test cricket

Australia versus England: Who shall have the Ashes?

I really didn’t want to write this article; I haven’t been catching the Ashes—the war of the English roses  and the Australian wattles—a tradition itself within a traditional game.

It’s not that I don’t like cricket or that I’m overly patriotic and catch mostly India games (which I do) but I simply cannot bring up any passion for watching this series.

The Ashes—on television—are a visual treat; the commentating is excellent and there’s everything very attractive about the packaging of a historic rivalry that evokes memories of battles past.

I wish Indian television were able to come up with a better presentation of the  Indo-Pak rivalry but aside from the jingoism it revisits, there’s little to recommend for couch aesthetes.

The five-match series began with the Aussies favoured by one and all. After all, they were the ODI world champs and had thrashed their Trans-Atlantic foes comprehensively in the series Down Under. The pundits predicted that Alistair’s goose was Cooked.

England surprised one and all by winning the first Test. But the Aussies were out for blood in the second and prevailed in a somewhat one-sided encounter.

Steve Harmison in action at the Oval for Engla...

Steve Harmison in action at the Oval for England’s One Day International side against Bangladesh on 16 June 2005 Image created by the author with Nikon D70 + 70-300mm Nikkor G lens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To everyone’s surprise, the third Test ran along similar lines. Except this time, it was the home side that dominated from Day One. The return of Steve Finn implied that England now had three wicket-taking pacers; the weakness of this side has been that the support pacers are  there simply to make up the numbers; they never were strike options.

Can Finn be the Steve Harmison of this side? Remember Stevie, from the 2005 Ashes in tandem with Freddie Flintoff pushing the Aussies on the backfoot in the absence of Glenn McGrath and the first signs of what was to come once  Warne and he exited the greats.

England , not too long ago, were number one; they ascended to that pole position when they beat India at home in 2011. It is a number they have since ceded to South Africa.

Can they lay the foundation for another push at that supreme figure?

The next two Tests are crucial. Has the momentum shifted in England’s favour?

Will the Aussies bite back with venom?

The urn beckons.


Umesh Yadav will not slow down despite Dhoni having his way

Mahendra Singh Dhoni is an ass.

An ass who has won Team India two World Cups and a Champions Trophy but an ass nevertheless.

Nothing else can explain why the famed leader of men in colored clothing would castigate his fast bowlers for straying while bowling quick in ODIs.

The wise men of Indian cricket were quick to follow his lead and have relegated Umesh Yadav to the India A squad.

Sir Andy Roberts rushed to Yadav’s defense.

Trust a fast bowler to understand another.

Roberts said:

“Look at Australia, Mitchell Johnson was nowhere in the last five years, but he went back, worked hard, strengthened his body and used his pace. Johnson wasn’t about line and length, he was all about pace and that’s what got Australia back to the forefront. Pace!

Yadav is India’s genuine fast bowler and I don’t like this idea of you telling your fast bowlers you must bowl line and length, you don’t sacrifice pace for length and control, all one needs to do is work hard in the nets to better his control.

Well that’s selectors for you (on Yadav’s demotion)

He (Yadav) has the pace and not too many fast bowlers have pace. You don’t just make fast bowlers. You have to be born with it.”

Yadav, however, has no intention of slowing down.

He said:

“As a genuine fast bowler, the margin of error is very less for us. It’s not easy for a fast bowler to bowl consistently in one area. It’s easier for a medium pacer to maintain line length at 130-135 km/hr. Many times boundaries go because of the pace at which I bowl. At times, I try different things and when that doesn’t work, it costs me a few runs. Everyone is different. I can’t bowl like Mustafizur Rahman and he can’t bowl like me. My release point is different from that of a medium pacer’s, If I change that, I will mess up with my bowling. I am in this team because of my pace. I have taken wickets at the international level with pace.”

On the Bangladesh defeat:

“It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact reason for the defeat. We were playing continuously for the last 8-10 months so may be fatigue was an issue. Obviously we could have done a lot better. Having said that, Bangladesh played some good aggressive cricket. The pressure was definitely on us. They had nothing to lose. Mustafizur bowled well in the first two matches. We had never seen him before – how he uses the slow ball, how he uses those cutters. After the first two matches we got to know about his strengths and played him well in the last match. Unfortunately, the series was over by then.”

On the India A selection:

“Yes, I would have a bit of rest as I am playing continuous cricket for last eight months. However, the selectors feel I need to bowl before the Sri Lanka series. They must have thought something about me and Varun (Aaron). May be they thought we must have match practice before the Sri Lanka series. So I am prepared for that. I will try to utilize this short break to refresh myself and then be ready for the India ‘A’ assignment.”

On India’s World Cup campaign:

“When I started my cricket, I had a dream to be part of a World Cup team. I wasn’t a regular in the team before the West Indies and Sri Lanka series. However, I had that confidence and attitude that I could be part of the team. When I got the chance for West Indies series, I grabbed it with both hands and showed what I can do for the team. Only thing in my mind was to contribute in winning causes. I am glad I did that whenever the captain threw the ball to me.

We were bit tired during the triangular series after the long Test series. So we didn’t perform as well as we would’ve liked. But yes, it gave us a good opportunity to assess ourselves and what we needed to do in the World Cup. For instance, mid-wicket and deep square-legboundaries were quite long in Australia and it wasn’t easy to clear them if you hurry the batsmen and use short deliveries properly. We did exactly that. Before the tournament, nobody expected the Indian bowlers to perform that well but we knew what we were capable of. To bounce out the opposition was brilliant.”

It would have been so much nicer and smarter if MSD would have a chat with his fast bowlers on these lines instead:

“Guys, I know you cannot be accurate always and may go for runs. But what I want from my pacers are wickets and wickets quickly and at crucial junctures. If you can give me the breakthroughs and an average of 2-3 wickets per game, I will be mighty satisfied. After all, bowlers (and catches) win matches.”

That, my friends, is the way to go.

Q & A with Virat Kohli (Humour)

English: suresh raina

English: suresh raina (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

MakeTimeForSports makes an attempt to get India Test skipper Virat Kohli to clarify his stand on MS Dhoni’s leadership.

1) How are you today? Are you able to express yourself freely?

Yes, without a doubt. I wouldn’t be talking to you otherwise.

2) Suresh Raina and Ravichandran Ashwin have come out in support of your predecessor and current ODI skipper MS Dhoni. What are your views on their remarks?

It’s not disrespectful to be willing to die for your skipper but the skipper is just a representative of the team and you should be willing to die for all your teammates. That’s the essence of team spirit. The spirit of Dhoni will linger on in the dressing room long after he’s gone and,  in Ashwin’s case, on the field as well. Besides, this is probably the best and last chance for Raina and Ashwin to be dubbed Sir Suresh and Sir Ravichandran by his Royal Highness Maharaja Mahendra Singh Dhoni the First—or so a tweeting bird informs me!

3) Dhoni’s coach Chanchal Bhattacharjee and yours’ Raj Kumar Sharma have commented on India’s abysmal showing in the ODI series with Sharma terming the 2nd loss the ‘Black Sunday of Indian cricket’. Your thoughts?

Look on the other side. It was a Bright Sunday for Bangladesh. You win some, you lose some and make some remarks about the team not being able to express itself freely. Sunny side up, my man, sunny side up.

English: virat kohli

English: virat kohli (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mahendra Singh Dhoni at Adelaide Oval

Mahendra Singh Dhoni at Adelaide Oval (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

4) What do you think should the Indian team do to be able to express themselves more freely and with more clarity?

For a start, they should grow beards like mine and curse and glare when they are adjudged out. They should also consider dating film-stars and models. I’m sure Anushka can introduce them to some of her single colleagues.

5) Would you have considered stepping down if it had been you in the driver’s seat and not Dhoni yet the same outcome?

Huh! The possibility never crossed my mind.

Disclaimer: The character(s) are real but the interview is fictional.

Virat Kohli’s ‘six batsmen, five bowlers’ theory nice, dicey in practice

English: virat kohli

English: virat kohli (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Virat Kohli is avowedly a proponent of the “six batsmen, five bowlers” theory in Test cricket.

The dynamic India Test skipper believes that it is the only way to win games and be aggressive.

In theory, it is a wonderful ploy. Six batsmen should be able to get the team the desired runs on the scoreboard. Five specialist bowlers ought to be able to bowl out the opposition and restrict them if required. This would also decrease the load on the fast bowlers, especially the Indian ones who seem to lack the legs to come charging in at the end of the day when the new ball is available. Bowling 18 overs in a day is somewhat more palatable.

Kohli says:

“I would want someone like R Ashwin, who is averaging 40 with the bat in Test matches – you really can’t ask for more from an allrounder – and someone like Harbhajan Singh to step up with the bat, and [Wriddhiman] Saha too. If those three start clicking, you literally have eight batsmen, and you can’t really ask for more as a captain. It’s basically up to the first six to take more responsibility and we are confident of doing that.”

The above statement requires further analysis.

The stratagem, as stated, will execute just fine on sub-continental wickets. It is when India tours England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa that the shortcomings become evident.

The team need batsmen who can exhibit patience, fortitude and technique abroad to counter the fast bowling threat. The nucleus of the side, thus, has to remain unchanged. I am not a fan of the ‘horses-for-courses‘ method of selecting the side.

Quicker, bouncier wickets would need Team India to play three or four pacers. Are any of these in the all-rounder mold? Except for Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Irfan Pathan (perennially injured), none of the current lot inspire confidence.

Gone are the days when the likes of Madan Lal, Roger Binny and Manoj Prabhakar could be counted on to contribute 20-30 runs with the bat and two to three wickets with the ball.

Fast bowling all-rounders, as a breed, are almost extinct on the Indian cricketing scene while batsmen-wicketkeepers flourish aplenty.

Perhaps, the new Ranji regime where games are played on grassy pitches with steeper bounce will revive the species.



Voges and Chanderpaul: A matter of timing

Much has been made about Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s unceremonious ouster from the West Indian side. The veteran left-hander was left out from the Caribbean outfit for the series against Australia following a poor run of scores against England recently.

Was it the right thing to do? The southpaw is 40+ and is not getting any younger. Age should never be a criteria and rightly so. Form and class play an important role. Australia are a top side and playing an out-of-sorts Chanderpaul, however, would not have been fair to the rest of the side.

Sachin Tendulkar was given a farewell Test series by the BCCI against a weak West Indian side at Mumbai; he was able to go out on a relative high. Many would have preferred if the great had called it quits after the 2011 World Cup. The Master Blaster lingered on. It is a human failing fans have witnessed in so many wonderful sports persons. They do not know when to bid the game goodbye.

Ironically, the first Test saw the resurgence of a wonderfully talented Australian batsman Adam Voges making his Test debut at 35. Australian selectors are ruthless when cutting out-of-form or aging players to make room for younger champions.

Little credit is given to them for their bravery in choosing older players who would be considered journeymen in countries in India or Pakistan.

Thus, Matthew Hayden made a comeback at 32. Look where he finished!

Michael Hussey made the best of the chances that came his way the second time around.  Adam Voges is probably another of this breed. Team coach Darren Lehmann himself was a beneficiary of the selectors’ long memories.

Should Chanderpaul have played and contributed a ton à la Voges, he would have been lauded by one and all. But, alas, that is wishful thinking reflected upon by the mawkish.

Sports, like business, has no room for sentiment. Winning is serious business; so is modern sport.










Kapil Dev: What he said, really meant and definitely didn’t

Kapil Dev eggs on the Indian cricket team to greater heights.

What he said:

“Well I have never understood this team hug inside the ground at start of the match. What were you guys doing in dressing room. Only eating eggs!”

Former India player and World Cup winning skipper Kapil Dev is realistic about Team India’s chances at the World Cup Down Under this year.

The all-time great was addressing a ‘Cricket Conclave‘ organized by News24.

He said:

“If Virat Kohli scores a century and then blows a flying kiss towards his girlfriend, I have no problems. Rather I have problem if a player scores zero and is blowing a flying kiss. We played cricket in a different era and now its a different era. We have to accept that.We can’t just sit back and think that cricket is no longer a gentleman’s game. Times have changed. The generation I played was different. We grew up with Test cricket. But now you have sledging, abuses and T20 is an accepted format.”

English: virat kohli

English: virat kohli (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kapil added:

“India I believe will reach semifinals and all four semi finalists will have 25 percent chance. You can’t predict from there on. I believe start is very important. I think the first 15 overs will decide how India will perform. I would take 40/0 in first 15 overs which can give us 270 plus total. It’s a must. But if India lose 2-3 wickets in 15 overs it will be difficult.”

What he really meant:

“The huddle is a muddle. Strategy is planned in the dressing room. The huddle’s merely an excuse for a no show!”

What he definitely didn’t:

“Sunday ho ya Monday, roj khana unday!”

Anil Kumble: What he said, really meant and definitely didn’t

Anil Kumble theorises.

What he said:

We have gone into this theory of three seamers and one spinner the moment we sit on an aircraft which travels more than seven hours.”

Anil Kumble is convinced that not much thought goes into the selection of the bowlers in overseas Tests outside the subcontinent.

He said:

“We have the quality of bowlers, it’s just trying to see who can adjust to the Test format and then choosing your best four bowlers who you think can pick up 20 wickets, that’s also been an issue.

We have gone into this theory of three seamers and one spinner the moment we sit on an aircraft which travels more than seven hours – that’s the mindset… If your 20 wickets are going to come with two spinners and two fast bowlers, so be it. If it comes with three spinners and one fast bowler so be it.”

The former India skipper believes that  “Horses for courses” is not the right policy when it comes to selecting teams for the longer format.

What he really meant:

“It’s a long flight and snooze mode is what the Indian think-tank hits on its ‘Think-Pad’.” 

What he definitely didn’t:

 “The Indian team especially it’s bowlers should just ‘wing it’.”

Kane Williamson: What he said, really meant and definitely didn’t

Kane Williamson is mighty quiet when batting with Brendon McCullum.

What he said:

“It kind of felt like I was the library in a theme park.”

Kane Williamson played second fiddle to his skipper Brendon McCullum at Christchurch where the latter ratcheted up 195 off 134 balls to set up a victory over tourists Sri Lanka.

Williamson said:

“After lunch on that first day, I was struggling in Christchurch and Brendon was whacking it to all parts. It kind of felt like I was the library in a theme park. He was doing everything and I was watching. It’s fantastic the way he’s going – it’s something most of us have never seen before.”

He added:

“When you’re playing with him you can’t compete with what Brendon’s doing. You just stick to your game. Sometimes it highlights the fact that you need to stick around so he can keep playing with that freedom. When he is playing like that and doing what he’s doing, he develops the game and pushes it forward in our favour. It’s slightly dangerous at the other end – you have to watch it, but it’s something special to watch.

When Brendon’s in that mode he looks very relaxed. You can get excited when he’s doing that, and think ‘jeepers’, but I’m sure everyone has been thinking that. At the same time he’s been very calculating. Sometimes it doesn’t look like it, but from ball one, he’s been measured with his approach. In the last match it was tough to drive so he wanted to hit through the line. He did that and it went a long way.”

What he really meant:

I felt like I was a studious student watching an explosive expert at work.”

What he definitely didn’t:

“Boom Boom Brendon! Silent Knight Kane!”

MS Dhoni: What he said, really meant and definitely didn’t

Mahendra Singh Dhoni couldn’t be spicier with his final words as Test captain.

What he said:

“Now, even PETA has said that you can’t cosmetically remove the tail.”

Responding to a scribe’s question, “Their (Australia’s) tail is like Hanuman’s. Yours is like a Doberman’s. That must be hurting your side,” India’s outgoing skipper replied:

“Now, even PETA has said that you can’t cosmetically remove the tail. It has been a big problem for us that we don’t have a genuine allrounder. We have tried to play six batsmen and five bowlers before, but then the tail becomes as long as a cow’s … Hopefully, if we can find an allrounder, the tail problem will be resolved. But the tail problem is really a big problem.”

The man who brought back the World Cup to India remarked thus when asked to compare the two whitewashes of 2011 and 2011-12:

“You die, you die; you don’t see which is a better way to die. You end your Test career, you end your Test career. You don’t see which is a better way to end your Test career.”

What he really meant:

“There’s nothing pleasing about the way the Indian tail disintegrates in the face of aggression. Nothing cosmetic about it for sure.”

What he definitely didn’t:

“The Indian tail proudly announces the formation of a new body, PETT—People for the Ethical Treatment of Tail-enders.”


Michael Holding: What he said, really meant and definitely didn’t

Michael Holding delivers a  no ball.

What he said:

“You can see the front line, it does not move, put your foot on it.”

Michael Holding makes it clear that bowlers have no excuses for overstepping the line.

What he really meant:

“If you cannot legally bowl sighted, you ought to try blindfolds.”

What he definitely didn’t:

“It’s time they reduced the pitch to 20 yards instead or re-introduced the back-foot rule. It’ll help given the clubs batsmen wield these days.”


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