Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Perfect innings

It took 39 years, nearly 3000 matches (2961) but finally the double hundred summit in One-day Internationals has been breached. And it is almost befitting that the greatest ODI batsman in the history has reached that mark first. With his unbeaten 200 yesterday at Gwalior, Sachin Tendulkar added yet another feather in his already overflowing cap. Such was his control over the environment, the attack, his body and his emotions that there can be only one word to describe this innings: FLAWLESS !!

This innings was admittedly on a belter of a pitch, and didn't have the same pressure as his two out standing Chennai test hundreds, or some of his brilliant ODI knocks vs Australia (Sharjah, Hyderabad, Sydney) and Pak (WC 03), but what one cannot take away is the batting masterclass displayed here. None of the other 21 players could come remotely close to achieving what he did on the same track.

For 50 overs, Sachin dominated which is probably the best pace attack in the world with ease that was hard to imagine. Every bowler was battered into submission not by brutal stroke-play of a Richards, not by exhilarating attacking intent of a Gilchrist and not by an audacious Sehwag onslaught but classical simplicity. Entire innings was constructed with beautiful and classical cricket strokes all around the park, placed with clinical precision and perfect timing. There was the odd cheeky stroke and improvisation here and there, but for most parts it could resemble a batting coaching video. It was easy to feel sorry for the bowlers because at no stage did Sachin look like giving a chance. It was surreal to watch graceful strokes all around the park with minimal risk played with such an alarming regularity, that one could easily mistake it for a net session off bunch of club bowlers.

Dale Steyn bowled 2 full dot balls outside off in the batting powerplay, and Sachin sizing up the ploy and field placing promptly moved towards the off to flick it almost nonchalantly to mid-wicket boundary, Steyn the best paceman in the world can only look on and shrug his shoulders. Parnell came around the wicket trying to angle the ball in to Sachin, and was driven multiple times through the covers, it was not as easy as Sachin made it look as could be seen from a complete miss when attempted by Karthik. Van der Merwe also tried to cramp up Sachin bowling around the wicket into his legs, but was repeatedly hit inside out over the covers. It was just that sort of a day, no matter what any bowler tried, it was to no avail against the master at work.

Tendulkar has always threatened to reach this mark before getting close to it twice last year with 163 n.o against NZ and the heartbreaking 175 vs Aus. But this time once he crossed 170 with time to spare, one could see his determination that he won't be denied again. You only need to see the replay of his last 6 off Van der Merwe on the last ball of the 42nd over, as he moved to 179 he let out a huge 'whoop' as if to egg himself on for the final stage of the epic knock. Yes, the 200 was on and he was not going to miss out again !!

It is easy to see child like enthusiasm in Sachin's play and although he has achieved heights one can only dream of, he still wants more. It is important to have passion to achieve success and that is perhaps what is driving him nowadays. He is constantly raising the bar of achievements for him to get and then getting them. He knows he is on his final stretch in the career, and has set himself to tick off all the boxes for critics. Good examples of that are: 1st ODI hundred in Australia (that too a final) - check, 4th inns match winning hundred at Chennai - check, home test 100s vs South Africa - check and check, 200 in ODI - check. And many more of these to come, for example 50 centuries in tests, a 100 international hundreds, 15000 test runs; but one thing he wants more than anything is the World Cup winner's medal. That would complete a stellar career, and if few more of these days in WC next year, maybe he'll check that box too, nearly 1.2 billion would surely be hoping he does.

I can only hope he continues to churn out more of these incredible innings and goes on to redefine the word 'LEGEND'. All I can say to this is, borrowing 2 words from A.R Rahman and Gulzar: जय हो !! 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Retiring to secure a future..

So Flintoff, Oram, Bond and now Lee. The list of players quitting test cricket to prolong their 'career' is growing steadily. Though as little as 5 years ago test cricket might have been the only career players would have worried about. But now in comes IPL, and its easy to see changing priorities. Though to be fair first three of those have had a long history of injuries and Lee, well he has little chance of actually making the test 11 so you can't blame him. But I wonder if we are going to see more of these retirements from some aspect of cricket to prolong careers. Some impending retirements could be:

Irfan Pathan - retiring from bowling medium pace. Slow medium bowling and lower order hitting is well suited to IPL.

Shane Warne - from texting, to prevent any RSI before IPL.

Ricky Ponting - from being himself, in trying to endear himself to IPL audiences.

Jesse Ryder and Andrew Symonds - yearly retirement from pubs after Christmas till IPL is over, twice a year if their team makes Champions League.

Tendulkar - from talking to his bowlers 4 times in an over, 8 times if its the last 5; so he can preserve his vocal cords for the post game interviews.

Sehwag - from thinking during a game (very little evidence he does that anyway, unless Sachin is on non-striker's end).

VVS Laxman - from hitting 6s.

Yusuf Pathan - from hitting singles, or twos or threes.

Dwayne Bravo and Harbhajan Singh - from celebrating after getting a wicket.

Shahid Afridi - from snacking during a game or practising his dance moves mid-pitch.

Vettori - from carrying NZ cricket (ok maybe this one is bit unlikely, but surely he would love to)

A few simple pre-emptive measures is all that is needed to ensure all cricketing stars lucky enough to have been picked up by an IPL franchise continue to have a long fruitful IPL career; with some tests and ODIs thrown in between to fill up the remaining 6 months of the year outside IPL window.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Kolkata does it again !!

The game of cricket is full of iconic venues which each provide their own unique charm and make cricket what it is. Cricket is perhaps the only game where a venue has an ability to tremendously sway emotions of players and viewers alike which can significantly change the course of a game. And this is without even getting into those crucial 22 yard of playing surface.

There is just something attractive about certain venues which make for wonderful viewing experience, whether it is the home of cricket in Lords, the boxing day atmosphere at MCG, the intimidating bullring of the  Wanderers, the exciting finishes of the SCG , the classical charm of Brabourne or a sporting crowd at the Chepauk. There is a unique joy to be had by being present at any particular venue, but for the sheer excitement and adrenalin rush I believe one cannot get past the Eden Gardens at Kolkata.

The noise created by 100,000 cricket mad fans packed in to the 'Coliseum' is perhaps unmatched by any venue in any sport. Such has been the intensity on occasions that emotions have flowed on to the field when the home team has been in a bit of strife. But nevertheless, for to experience a close game at the Eden Gardens is like no other. The crowd taking on intimidating '12th man' role and creating pressure on opposition where there was none, is a sight to behold.

It is perhaps befitting that the perhaps the greatest test in history of test cricket was played at that very venue, where a rampaging Australian team were brought to grinding halt by Laxman, Dravid, Harbhajan and in no small measure the Kolkata crowd. What happened in yesterday's final session though not comparable to final session of 2001 test but is still a reminder of what the venue can provide. The pitch was good for batting, bowlers were looking ordinary and South Africa were perhaps entertaining thoughts of inflicting another innings defeat. But all it needed was one spark for the ground to come alive and choke the opposition to such an extent that they must have been glad to get off the field early at the end of it. And this was with nearly 2/3 ground empty!! One could only imagine a capacity Eden Gardens crowd on such a day.

Now the match is certainly not over, and SA have a quality attack, but if Indians can continue to show the resolve and fight they have shown so far, and crowd will certainly play its part, it promises to be another exciting match. And it is thanks to days like this that test cricket can never be dead!!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Time to fight ..

So India has managed its customary first game foul-up, only this time a stirring spell from Steyn and some incredible selection policy has didn't give them the opening to get away with a draw like they managed against Australia in 08, and Sri Lanka last year.

Such has been the ease with which South Africa dusted off the world number 1 team, that its hard to imagine a way back in the series. India's ranking is more a result of their recent form against some lesser teams. In reality they are close to South Africa and Australia, with England and Sri Lanka not that far behind.

Like south Africa last year, this year has started by giving India an opportunity to prove they deserve to be up there. We all saw how South Africa fared last year in the unfamiliar position of being on top, and looks like India might be heading the same way. There are still chances for India to stop that from happening but it is going to take a special effort to stop the SA bowling attack in next game, let alone the return series to SA at the end of this year.

India hasn't be helped by the injuries but that is part of the game. But they can only blame them selves for ludicrous selection and poor bowling on a helpful wicket. It is hard to see them winning the Nagpur test even if they had the first choice 11, so poor was the bowling effort.

With the focus now on Kolkata pitch, and India in a must win position, Graeme Smith jokingly said "are you telling me there's a guy with a rake at the Eden Gardens?". That may well turn out to be true as SA and Australia have famously found out in Kanpur '08 and Mumbai '04, but it might still not be enough to stop what is probably the best bowling attack in the world cricket. India can only hope more of their batsmen put their hand up, and spinners manage to 'turn up'. Addition of Laxman and Sreesanth should provide a boost but it would still need a effort close to that unforgettable Kolkata test to beat this confident in-form SA team.

Hopefully they are up for the fight..

Friday, February 5, 2010


Been more than an year since I set up a blogger account, but never actually kicked it off. It was always going to be cricket related so here goes my first post. Probably just a brief intro about me:
My love for cricket probably started from 91/92 World Cup and the passion kicked in after the 93 Hero Cup victory. The semi-final also made me a huge fan of the Tendulkar, and gave him top place in my cricketing heroes which will never be replaced.

As to my own cricketing skills, I am an average leg-spinner capable of a magic ball now and then which has yet to get me a wicket. I might also bowl gentle medium seam-up. My batting though not in Chris Martin league, but is nothing to say much about. I can survive for some time at the wicket and score at snail's pace usually. True defensive lower order bat.

Thats enough about me. Future posts will be cover some cricket topic, hopefully make a point which might sometimes even be deep but usually fairly light. Deep Cover Point also happens to be a useful fielding position for me especially if I am not landing my leggies right :P