Sunday, January 13, 2008

Weekly speaking

Business as usual for the Windies: it's a measure of how low the once-mighty windies have sunk that the prefix 'once mighty' now seems like little more than a very distant memory. after yet another abject surrender by an innings and some runs - this time to the south africans - you wonder whether the windies will ever regain their place closer to the top of the cricketing ladder. (not, if you ask us.) with shiv chanderpaul, for once, contributing next to nothing in the first innings and being unable to bat in the second due to illness, the gulf between the clinical south africans and the incompetent tourists transformed itself into an ocean, which the islanders from the caribbean couldn't come even close to navigating. how the south africans contrived to lose the first test of the ongoing series to this bunch of no-hopers is a mystery we'll never get to the bottom of. then again, i suppose we should thank our stars for that. if nothing else, it made the first three tests of the series just that bit more engaging for the people following it; and a little more worthwhile for the people who run cricket nowadays - the advertisers.

Monkey v/s Bastard: the people that decide these things in the hallowed portals of the icc are going to find it very hard to convince the people who worship a 'monkey god' that calling someone a simian is racist. but call an indian a 'bastard' and you've probably hit him where it hurts the most. you see, the majority of indians are overly sensitive about their parentage and morality. almost anywhere you go in india - including the most forward-thinking parts - a child born to unmarried parents is frowned upon and ostracized. (assuming such a child is allowed to be born at all.) so if the aussies are going to insist on making an issue out of harbhajan calling andrew symonds a monkey, the indians are going to get pretty medieval about this latest fracas and make hogg pay for calling them 'bastards'. (god knows, they're not good enough to make these aussies pay on the field.) that the aussies chose to go the whole hog and do everything within their power to make harbhajan pay for taking the monkey out of symonds - despite having won a test they had as good as lost on the first day itself - is a reflection of how strained the relations are between the two teams. if the men from down under had even an iota of grace, they would have savoured their 'assisted' victory in the second test at sydney and not tried to rub salt into the wounds of the already smarting indians by getting harbhajan banned. after this, for many indians, australia is likely to be the new pakistan.

Advertisers bat for Yuvraj: seeing that their young, marketable star has proved to be totally incapable of making any runs in australia - even against a second string attack - a consortium of advertisers have contacted the indian team management and requested that they be allowed to bat for him. the ever-studious but no-longer bespectacled indian skipper quietly informed them that batting for yuvraj involved a lot more than just putting pressure on the the management to juggle the team around the needs of their star. it required playing responsibly, delivering when the chips are down, keeping one's head firmly planted on one's shoulder, making a significant contribution in any which way possible and not descending into an almighty sulk at the drop of a hat. suitably chastised, the consortium withdrew their support for yuvraj and thanked their stars for the 'racism' controversy that had kept the audiences glued to their television screens. (even though, the outclassed indian team hadn't.) last we heard, the very same consortium had placed a punt on sehwag coming good in the perth test. not a bad gamble, we think, when you consider that the likes of nathan astle and lou vincent - slashers with minimal footwork and similarly questionable technique - have done well in the past on the bouncy waca wicket.

Footnote: our team for the third test against australia is sehwag, jaffer, laxman, sachin, sourav, dravid, dhoni, kumble, pathan, rp singh, ishant sharma. we're also, unlike most of the official mouthpieces, quite certain the indians will not lose at perth. that's assuming billy bowden and asad rauf don't do a bucknor and benson on them. let the game begin.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Weekly speaking

Sehwag curses his luck: not given an opportunity to cash in on the good batting wickets at mcg and scg, sehwag looks set to replace yuvraj in the third test match at the dreaded waca, perth. not unnaturally, it is believed sehwag isn't overly pleased at being asked to save his floundering career as a test batsman on a surface best suited to the needs of the already formidable hosts. from the looks of it, falling for naught and failing india at the scg might well be one of the smarter things yuvi has done to save his already horribly exposed abilities as a test batsman from being ripped to shreds at the waca. the pasting that the indians are likely to be handed at the waca will make yuvi's supporters quickly forget how poorly he has played in the two tests so far and give fresh legs to the clamour for his re-inclusion in the side at the expense of someone less flamboyant, less tv-friendly, but more valuable than the white elephant that yuvi has so far proved to be.

Goliath steamrolls Davids: the about 40 ft tall Jacob Oram and the rest of the black caps beat bangladesh in the first test match of the latter's tour of new zealand. the minnows from south asia, once again, showed only fleeting glimpses of the talent they possess in their ranks. the sooner bangladesh learn to play as a team, the lesser they'll have to depend on the likes of tamim iqbal and ashraful to give them something to shout about in lost causes. sounds awfully similar to what we say about other south asian teams, doesn't it?

West Indies flatter to deceive: save the celebrations. reports of the much awaited revival of cricket in the land of the calypso were overestimated. after sealing their first victory over a major test playing nation in many years, the mercurial cricketers from the caribbean went back to their profligate ways and promptly handed over the next match in the series to the south africans on the proverbial platter. shiv chanderpaul, though, continued in his run-scoring ways notching up what seemed like his rightful fifty in as many visits to the crease. while the rest of his team accumulated yet another depressing loss.

India continue fourth innings jinx: not only do the indians have trouble dismissing opposition batsman in the third and fourth innings of a match, they also seem hard-pressed to bat through any length of it. irrespective of some of the most incompetent umpiring seen in recent times that shut india out of the match from day 1 itself, any team that thinks it can afford to jeopardise the form of their top overseas' batsman for the benefit of an odi show-pony deserves to find itself in the pickle india is in against these mighty australians. this test series is quickly turning into a series of what-ifs. what if, the indians had built on the first day of this series. what if india hadn't opened with rahul dravid. what if india hadn't bent over backwards for yuvraj. what if india hadn't made the mistake of breaking up a successful opening combination that had worked for them overseas. what if benson had given ponting on the first morning before he gave him. what if bucknor had given symonds on the first morning. what if sachin hadn't let india down again. what if more of kumble's men had played like the diehard champion he is - and his team most definitely isn't.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

India have only themselves to blame

there are two kinds of people in this world. basically. one, the kind that will blame the weather at the end of the day. the kind that will talk about racism. the kind that will look at the pitch suspiciously. the kind that will look within suspiciously. the kind that will blame the conditions. the kind that india did not want to be. not after the way they started the day. no, definitely not after the way they started the day. look now, somebody has to blamed for this.

a better captain than kumble would have made sure the two decisions that went against india went away the ball after they came their way. good captains must be able to forget things like that and make their team do the same. it's the only way forward in life. and in cricket. if you're going to mope about how ill-endowed you are in the luck department, you're going to end up a very miserable man. a la warney according to murali.

people might say it's hard being a bowler, but the great bowlers know and keep reminding themselves that it only takes one delivery to dismiss a batsman. but to get that delivery, one needs to concentrate. the mind cannot wander with fear. fear of failure. fear of poor umpires. fear of symonds. fear of not being able to bowl on one side of the wicket. fear of living up to a great morning performance. fear of all the intangibles that india let get in the way of what should have been a 150/0 for india at the end of day 1. after having dismissed the hosts for a demoralising 175/200 score in the first innings.

if only.

now what? now, we're back to the boring business of the usual. the australian juggernaut marching on to a record equalling sequence of test victories. the 'unlucky' indians fighting to save yet another test match. the incompetent umpires reminding us time and again why the icc needs to introduce a retirement age for umpires. and the retirement age is howmanyeverdamn years steve bucknor is!

and then, there's the other kind of person. australian.