Posted by: binisajan | May 10, 2012

Taking Guard In Style

Some of the big hitters of the game whom I admire very much have peculiar styles when they come out to bat. A few of them I felt really peculiar are Chris Gayle who I think comes in like the Predator, Morne Morkel who always looks lost, Virender Sehwag who gives the impressions of a lazy goose and Dhoni who is emotionless. Read on.
Chris Gayle : When he comes out to bat with the helmet on, the locks hanging from behind his ears and the black bandana shielding his neck, he looks like the alien from Predator in full body armour. Moves around sluggishly as if unbothered about the territory he is in and has a cold stare. The bat looks like a small club like weapon attached to his left hand whenever he is in armour. He looks menacing. Before taking guard, he will look around sluggishly once again as if to find a target. Then just like his cold looks and slow movement, he will start tapping his bat in slow motion which means he is ready. Now he fixes his stare on the bowler running in. Once the ball is delivered, his hands move so swiftly and the ball is hit so hard with the bat that it more often than not lands in the stands and sometimes attains escape velocity. He launches his attacks with such ferocity that bowlers start erring in line and length. It is immaterial where the ball lands on the pitch as Gayle ensures that it lands in the stands after that.
Albie Morkel : A 6 foot plus giant, he strodes into the middle unassumingly and in no hurry and looks like a child lost in the forest. Looks around in surprise, as if he was suddenly awakened in the middle of his sleep and finds himself in hostile territory. Looks around once again and realizes that he is in the middle of a cricket ground. Takes guard but still looks surprised. Prods at the first couple of balls and then suddenly understanding dawns. The next ball probably lands in the stands. He is probably the most powerful hitter around. Some of his sixes have hit the roof and threatens to go overboard.
Virender Sehwag : The laziest goose around. The man with the most laidback attitude. His body shape and movements will never reveal that he is a sportsperson. Comes out to the middle in a very casual way. And in the middle, he simply refuses to leave the crease for a run. And when he does, his running looks funny. You realize that he simply does not love moving around too much. Left to face the bowler, he takes his stance in an easy manner and waits and waits like a cat for the ball to be released. Then all of a sudden there is transformation. His eyes widen. The bat swings in his hand. It’s all over in a flash. The ball vanishes in thin air and reappears outside the field. Fetch is the call to the fielder. All this while his feet doesn’t move. To know what happened, the television crew invented slow motion replay. He is a magician. A man gifted with such perfect timing. He relies only on his eyesight. Once his eyes spot the ball, his brain knows where to despatch it. The hand just executes the order. No coaches will prescribe to their scribes to learn from him. Coz he does not follow the copy book. But has written one for himself.
M S Dhoni : He seems to be a man in a hurry. Comes out to bat in a hurry. Before taking guard, looks around, keeps moving and exhibits plenty of gestures. He touches his pads, hits his gloves, touches his face and the motions continue for a while before he settles down to face the bowler. This peculiar action sequence is repeated before every ball. He is a slow starter to bat. But once he gets going there is no stopping him. The speed at which he moves the bat and the power which he garners when he hits is matched by none. He remains unfazed when he comes out to bat whatever the situation. Out in the middle he expresses no emotions. If he hits the winning runs, still the emotions are hidden. And when he is out, he still seems to be a man in a hurry. He walks quickly back to the pavilion again without revealing any emotion.

Posted by: binisajan | May 8, 2012

IPL Addiction

Contrary to popular perception of the media that the fifth edition of the IPLT20 will not draw enough eyeballs and the concern of the cricketing authorities about the dwindling numbers of fans at the venues, the 5th season of the IPLT20 is a runaway hit. Though it began with a few low scoring matches, it gained momentum with the century scored by Ajinkya Rahane. The thrills started coming with the chases led by Rohit Sharma and then Morkel. From there it just took off with a lot of big hitting high scoring and nail-biting finishes. Now the stadiums are full and the television ratings are picking up.

For me it was goodbye to boring TV shows. Great entertainment in the evenings. And sleeping past midnight. I am addicted to the IPL and have my own reasons for being so. My love for this two month entertainment carnival started in the first match of the first season when Brendom McCullum went berserk and hit anything hurled at him out of the park. He scored a staggering 158 runs which could be more than the average total of most of the teams. He was nuts and I got stuck.

It is not often that you get to watch Sehwag bat along with Kevin Pietersen. Now that is aggression from both ends. You get to watch this only in the IPL. The forthcoming showdowns are even better. For the Delhi Daredevils, it will be Sehwag opening the innings with his double: Warner! That combination will be a death warrant for the bowlers. Another destructive combination is the Gayle force that will blow away the best and the explosive batting of Dilshan in tandem to open the entertainment. And a de Villiers coming down the order to sow devastation all around for the Royal Challengers Bangalore.

For those who are missing the smashing opening style of the retired Gilchrist who ran away with a world cup final in the blink of an eye, the IPL has brought him alive from retirement and he is captaining, keeping and opening for a Punjab side. The Wall is rebuilt by the IPL in a different avatar. He is the captain, the opener and a fast one at that for the Rajasthan Royals an exciting side which showcased India’s hidden gems more often. The world’s boldest and most result oriented captain, Michael Clarke playing under Saurav Ganguly for Pune Warriors owned by the Sahara Pariwar, the sponsors of the Indian Cricket team. The world,s best fast bowler Dayle Steyn bowling his heart out for a South Indian team of Hyderabad. A big hitting Pollard playing alongside Sachin for Mumbai Indians under Harbhajan Singh. Muthiah Muralidharan and Daniel Vettori bowling in tandem for Royal Challengers. Fancy a showdown between two of the greatest captains of Indian cricket – Ganguly and Dhoni, and you have it.

A combination of different nationalities joining forces brought together by the business power houses of India and the Kings and Queens of Bollywood entertaining a cricket crazy nation whose thirst for cricket is unsatiable. These scenes would have simply been in the realms of fantasy had it not been for IPL T20.

An Ajinkya Rahane who could be India’s future opener getting to facing Dale steyn or an Awane who is yet to debut on the international stage would not have got an opportunity like this to test their mettle against the best of the best.

The IPL has thrown in many amazing moments like the immaculate power hitting of Dhoni where he sends the ball floating out of the stadium. The switch hits of Pietersen. The Dilscoops. The Upar cuts of Sehwag. Gayle scoring 31 runs in an over and also launching a few into orbit. Albie Morkel smashing 28 runs in an over for a famous victory when all seemed lost. Rahane’s deft touches bringing him 24 runs off an over. Awana fearlessly sending down bouncer after bouncer when Pollard was in his elements and tying him down to the crease. An amazing fiery spell of fast bowling by Steyn against MI. And then the most amazing of them all – Steve Smith flying like superman and pulling back a ball from the air which was sure to land out of the boundary. The way in which he was flying in the air in a blue dress with one arm outstretched looked like watching superman in action sans the cloak. These are a few of my favourite and amazing moments of IPL-V.

A Ganguly of the yesteryears running across the ground in excitement on getting a wicket was hair raising and took me back to the memories of the Natwest trophy final. A 41 year old Brad Hogg diving around and celebrating like a kid at the fall of each wicket. And most interesting of all was the paradox of Ganguly fans. The same crowd that was rooting for Dada with all those placards and banners across the stadium celebrated at his fall! Well that was because he was felled by the Kolkata team. Welcome to the great cricketainment carnival of India!

This year’s tournament has also seen the rise of new players specially a couple of good spinners and the fall of some mighty ones. Yousuf Pathan has been one of the most explosive batsmen in the first few editions. But has turned out to be the biggest flop till now. The greats like Jacque Kallis who seemed to have cracked the T20 format look to have forgotten how to bat in the shortest version. But Sachin has shown his class against CSK after a few forgettable outings. Kohli is another star whose firepower is yet to be seen. The match winners like Husseys, Shaun Marsh, Ross Taylor too have not performed. Dada at times showed the glimpses of his old self when he was considered the God of the off side but seems to be too slow for the format.

The tournament is getting more and more exciting with 17 matches that went down to the wire. Lot more tight finishes and big hits are expected with the Australians too coming in full force and a few more big guns yet to boom.

The IPL is a power packed treat condensed into just 3.5 hrs where you need not wait for the explosion till the end of the innings if you have missed the opening treat. It is action packed throughout. In such a short span of time you can see many wicket taking deliveries and a lot of wickets tumble. The boring centuries are no more. If there is one, it will certainly be explosive. The thrills are guaranteed. A last over finish if not a last ball finish has become the norm. Now this is value for money. Keep chewing your finger nails and be glued to the entertainment.

Posted by: binisajan | March 9, 2012

The Impregnable Fortress Calls It A Day

‘If I wanted someone to bat for my life, it would be Rahul’ said one of Crickets finest batsman, Brian Lara.

There could be no better compliment to Dravid, the Wall of Indian cricket and no better expression on the style of play that Rahul Dravid adopted.

Always the silent warrior who never got his due. Fought pitched battles across the world and defended with his life. People call you ‘The Wall’. In fact, you were ‘The impregnable Fortress’ who held up one end all through your career. But the mighty blows that you took for more than a decade has worn you down and the cracks started showing. There should surely be a way to mend those cracks. But then, you have decided to let time pass you by. To us, you are one of the bravest warriors India has seen.

You were the savior that team mates and we fans looked upon to carry the team when it was all at sea. You were the silent warrior who kept the wolves at bay when the lambs were being slaughtered. You were the ray of hope when all else seemed lost. With a rock solid defence that the best in the game had no clue about breaching, you built a wall brick by brick that many a time held its fort and saved India from defeats and many times brought victory with some master strokes.

Rahul Dravid is one of the greats of the game who got late recognition. He went unnoticed whenever he played a valuable innings as fate would have it or call it bad luck, some one else would always steal the limelight.

In 1996, on debut, in the swinging pitches of England, when the Indian team was writing its famous collapse story, Dravid walked in and and almost made a century but then the innings was not so much noticed as the century crafted by the elegant co-debutante Ganguly. Even though Dravid and Ganguly made dream debuts and both of them went on to play many good innings together, Ganguly always had the luck to come out better. The 145 runs that he scored in the 1999 world cup match against Sri Lanka was also not praised much as Saurav Ganguly again pipped him when he made 183 in the same match. Even though there was a world record partnership there, it was the 183 that naturally caught everyone’s attention. Then in a test regarded as one of the most remarkable turnarounds by any country, Dravid started the resistance and went on to score 180 valuable runs but the test later came to be known as Laxman’s Test as the flamboyant Laxman played a gem of an innings which Wisden has rated as the second best innings ever played in cricket.


Dravid’s valuable contributions always came as partnerships which served the team’s cause but little did it contribute to individual glory. The two partnerships with Laxman in Tests and the partnerships with Ganguly and Sachin in ODIs are world records. He is involved in 80 century partnerships for India which is another world record. He may not be as elegant as Ganguly or as flamboyant as Laxman. He might not match the master stroke for stroke. But with a great technique and tons of determination he was a selfless fighter who went on climbing heights and created a space of his own. Most of his contributions to the team were overshadowed by the big trio’s achievements.

Dravid also was a team player who adapted very well to all forms of cricket and any conditions better than anyone else though rather slowly. When he was labeled as a misfit in ODIs for being a slow run-getter and faced the axe, he went onto score at a faster pace. There came a time when the team needed a keeper-cum-batsman to accommodate an extra batsman and Dravid was more than keen to play the role for the teams benefit. His fans thought it as an insult or a punishment but he took it all in his stride. Wonder whether any other star cricketer of India would have done that. But here was a great player who put team before self and was ready to play any role that would benefit the team and make sacrifices regardless of individual concerns.

And it was at this time that he produced some of his finest knocks in ODIs. The match that he scored 145 against Sri Lanka in the world cup was the first in which he kept wickets for India. This not being enough his batting position was constantly changed to find out where he fitted best. This landed the team management in more trouble as he excelled in any position he was thrown in. When he was tried as an opener he fitted in easily. Once when he came as a finisher, he had scored 50 runs from a mere 22 balls against New Zealand which is the 2nd fastest for an Indian in ODIs. I still remember a shot hit by him which looked like a square cut but went for six. And I don’t think there is someone more adaptable to the game than Rahul Dravid.

After the epic Test against Australia, he slowly started emerging from the shadows of the giants. He came on his own and achieved a near Bradmanesque feat when he hit 4 consecutive centuries in Tests in 2002 and also went on to score 5 double tons in all which was an Indian record before Sehwag overtook him recently. No one else in the world has scored Test centuries in all the Test playing nations. He has produced his best outside India in the hard and fast difficult pitches. Especially in England. He has another unique record of scoring 23% of the teams total runs in wins which came under a single captain, Saurav Ganguly. Now that makes one ponder whether it was Ganguly’s captaincy skills or Dravid’s silent contribution which made this team the most successful one. He went on to forge century partnerships with 18 different partners and partnered Sachin in 19 of his centuries.

A hard working, selfless cricketer, he was the rock on which the Indian team was built in the new millennium which saw India rise to the No. 1 status, slowly and steadily. And the beginning of the new decade which also saw the decline of India in Tests in harsh conditions, India looked to Rahul Dravid to stand up and deliver. And he delivered in style. In his favourite land, England, he was the lone man standing with three centuries. But the next battle in Australia was the defining moment which has led to his decision to retire from the game he loved most. He must be respected for the decision to bow out with grace.

The Aussie paceman Glen McGrath is believed to have said ‘if there was one Indian player who would get an automatic entry into an Australian team filled with stars, it would be Rahul Dravid’. That sums up the respect that he earned from the team known as the invincibles.

Posted by: binisajan | February 9, 2012

The ministry of porn

Television is celebrating the porn show in the Karnataka assembly. Something that used to be whispered in hushed tones and watched in closed rooms has suddenly become the centerpiece. All because some ministers in the Karnataka cabinet tried to take porn to the next level by watching it publicly in the assembly, considered to be a holy place of democracy. Looks like they were trying to legalize it. Or may be they were trying to be the ministers of porn and they seem to have succeeded in their mission when they managed to drag porn into the living rooms of India which till now had a place only behind closed doors.
What is all the fuss about? Is it because someone watched porn. There is a vast majority of people out there irrespective of gender who has the access and opportunity who watch porn at some time or the other. And then there are many who regularly watch it. A few though consider porn as taboo and might stay away from it. There is no statistics to prove all this as it is a grey area and people would like to keep such things under wraps permanently. It is not necessary to unwrap this as watching porn depends on individual tastes. There are some who abhor this. But the fact that this is a billion dollar industry(estimates as there is again no veracity) is proof enough of the number people watching it. Viewing porn is not a punishable offence, under the Indian IT Act, but transmitting it, publishing it or spreading it around is a culpable act.
Then what is the fuss about? Is it that porn was being watched by ministers? Well ministers too are human beings. No different from the people in society in tastes and choices. Except that they are spoilt for choice.
So the fuss is not that porn was being watched or that the ministers watched porn. It is that the people who watched it did it in public which is offending for some. It is that they watched it in the assembly which is the last place for such ravishing and where they had other important business to do. People elected them to run the state and they seemed to be more than happy in attaining erections. The explanation offered by the ministers when they were caught on cameras was weird and funny.
All mainstream news channels do broadcast Bollywood dance numbers and scenes which are akin to soft porn. These are streamed across the living rooms of India irrespective of the time. Our TV channels have made Sunny Leone a familiar figure to Indians. A well known newspaper is famous for trying to make all its pages look like page 3 and has made its readers start reading the newspaper from page 3. Models and actresses in skimpy clothes is something that is the first thing that we look out for in this paper. The front page has taken a back seat and page 3 has become page 1. Are we a nation of hypocrites? Aren’t our media the biggest hypocrites?
The opposition members who are calling for the heads of the ministers speak as if they are all holy men. The media too is trying to act sacred and sensational at the same time and playing their roles to perfection. Ours is a nation where ministers have raped and killed. In fact, rapes and killings have become a qualifying standard to enter politics. And when these people who have committed such atrocities against women are not brought to book do we need to worry much about ministers watching porn in the assembly where there is not much happening in terms of work other than shouts fights and walkouts. Lets add porn watching to these activities in the assembly. So do these deserve the headlines? Lets relegate this to the page 3 where it will fit in perfectly.

Posted by: binisajan | January 28, 2012

India Humiliated

They came in fast. They charged in furious. They delivered in precision.  And they never stopped coming. We fell in a heap. The story repeated.  The fall continued. Again and again. The pace battery of Australia assumed the proportions of a battering ram and the battering continued unabated. Until The God fell from his pedestal and was brought down to earth. Until the wall cracked and crumbled. Until the legends lost their greatness and fell from glory. The big guns were silenced. And Indian cricket lay in tatters. Humiliated and insulted, the shameless bunch does not find eight defeats in different lands embarrassing.

Another series whitewash. The fall from grace that started in England was completed with another similar script in Australia. From the first innings of the first test to the last innings of the last test, the Indian story was just the same. Repetitive and boring.  The story scripted by Clarke and Co failed to generate thrills because the storyline seemed too predictable. Four venues. Four matches. Four failures. Same players. Same story copied and pasted. Only the duration changed.

Billed as the Agneepath series, with India considered the favourites and Australia the underdogs, Clarke and Co made sure that the Indians faced the heat rather than them. At the beginning of the series, there was a talk that the Australian camp had a few problems in the batting department. Irregular openers, an out of form middle order and a captain fighting to gain the respect of his team. Whereas India was a team which had the two greatest run scorers of all times, an opener who could end the game before it all actually began, a very special batsman who took a special liking to Australian bowling and a captain considered to be the shrewdest of cricketing brains around. The four tests that followed resulted in busting many myths and laying to shreds the greatness of the all time greats.

More than the defeats the manner in which it was brought upon them was saddening. In all the series that preceded this, even though the series was lost, the Indian team always put up a tough fight and it was remembered for the valiant effort than the defeat. And at times they were brilliant enough to turn the tables on the invincible team of the times and that is what made these men legends. So when the first test ended in four days, there was still hope that they would put up a fight in the next. But that turned out to be a bigger shocker when it ended in four days again with the Indian team refusing to put up a fight. The captain’s brain was analyzed by experts and it was found that he actually had an abnormally small one.  The third one was the most humiliating when they could not fight for more than two and a half days. Australia should have invited Bangladesh rather. They would have done better.

Retirement calls started for the ageing brigade. But though not valiant enough on the field, they shamelessly fought on off it. When the young guns continued their wait for ever to be blooded, the greats continued to hold on to selfish motives.  Little did they realize that other legends before them had moved on to bring them in. The hope was that the billions back home would be pacified with that one ton even if they went down 4-0.

After three failures, luck had it that the captain was banned. A new captain and a new keeper could change the fortunes of the team. Expectations were that the maverick Sehwag would surprise with his unorthodox ways. Since the series was lost after trying the same tricks in the first three tests, the fourth one could have been taken up for experimentation. Twospinners could have been brought forth. May be Ojha could have replaced Ishant. Kohli could have been sent to open the innings or brought in at no.3. A new opener like Rohit could have replaced Gambhir. Sehwag could have come lower down the order. But it was not to be. He stuck to the conservative and traditional thinking of the think tank. Same field placings. Same mistakes. Same body language. Batting collapse. Some catches dropped. Another record for the Clarke-Ponting pair. The agony continued. Retirementcalls grew louder.

The experts analyzed that the Indian greats have outlived their sell by date and could not survive in the swinging conditions in England. And the pacy pitches in Australia. Come Adelaide. It was a batting beauty. A much better batting display was expected from India. Australia’s 600 runs in the first innings gave the Indians the much needed hope. But then Siddle’s riddle caught them unawares. He made the batting pitch look like a lively track. The way he bowled, the Indian’s had no answers again. This test would also have ended in four days had it not been for Clarke’s concern that India could bat them out of the game. But he failed to understand that the Indian cricketers were spineless and had lost all interest for a fight after all the battering they received. Clarke tried to show some sympathy to the Indian batsmen by withdrawing his quick guns and giving them an opportunity to play a game they are experts in. May be the Australians were concerned about the dipping revenues as the first three tests did not last five days. But Lyon proved to be trickier than they expected. The web was spun and the plot only got murkier. He accounted for Sehwag, Sachin and Lakshman all great players of spin bowling. And to add insult to injury, Clarke then put all his fielders around the night watchman! Such was the state of the famed Indian batting.

Virat Kohli’s performance was the only blessing that India had. He fought well and used his chances to declare that he is India’s batting mainstay in the future. Ravichandran Ashwin and Umesh also proved that they have it in them to excel in the big stage. Saha too has shown that he is a fighter. They need to cement their places through consistent performance and constant improvements. There are many more spinners, pacers and batsmen waiting in the flanks to grab their opportunities which are sadly not coming by. They will have to bide their time till the big guns call it a day. Or they will have to keep waiting till the selectors realize that the future of Indian cricket lies not in record holders whose glorious days are past but in youngsters who can bring back those glorious days for the country.


Posted by: binisajan | January 15, 2012

Indian Cricket Buried Down Under

The post match ceremony of the 3rd India-Australia test which was scheduled for the evening of the last day of the test was advanced and took place in the afternoon of the third days play. This was due to the sudden and sad demise of Indian cricket due to old age and certain other factors which have come up in the post mortem report. Even though this was an expected event, things took a sudden turn and impact of the fall from grace was colossal that everything around collapsed and was buried in the blink of an eye in a hot summer afternoon in Perth. The rot that set in at Edgbaston from when Indian cricket was living on the edge was finally set to rest in Perth. Skinned alive and left half dead, Indian cricket was bludgeoned and put to death at the WACA. Buried under 22 yards of soil 6 feet down under heaped with shame and disgrace. A black day for Indian cricket.

The chief architect of the collapse and who remained stone cold throughout the turn of events, Dhoni, looked like a man giving a funeral speech at the post match ceremony, even though he did not go on to give a speech per se. He wished that the team had more time to adapt to the harsh conditions of pace and bounce in the fast Australian pitches. Wonder what the team was doing when it reached Australia to get used to these conditions well in advance, go karting? This team of veterans who had built their legendary reputation in Australia and against Australia was still trying to find their feet in the third test. Will they be able to adjust to the conditions if they play a dozen tests more in the continent? Then BCCI should think of extending the series and in future should keep sufficient number of tests in the series. This is necessary for getting beaten black and blue in the first few, learning in the next few and giving it back in the last few, that is if they survive to do it.Clarke, the full grown pup that has matured into a leader and revived his team by leading the fight back from the front, in his speech made it clear what his team’s priorities are. To be the team to beat. To become number one in all three formats. With priorities clearly defined, the Australian cricket board and the team know their direction. And going by their history, they will pick up the right men to execute their plans. BCCI on the other hand is planning for the next IPL. So it is very obvious on the priorities of both the boards. When Clarke says they want to become no.1, the ACB means business. BCCI also means business. Only that their businesses are different.
It was a shameless and spineless display by the Indian batsmen again barring the determined Kohli this time. The test was supposed to last 5 days but the Indian batting could not last 5 sessions. The responses and reflexes of the once great batting legends who are in their twilight years seem to have slowed down. The grit and determination to fight it out when they had their backs to the wall has disappeared. Their fighting capabilities would have put lions to shame. Now they are a shame to the nation. The legendary wars that they fought, the lonely battles they waged are all folklore. They scripted legends in time and now its time they write their own epitaphs.
The Indian batsmen made the same mistakes again and again. Their attitude seemed to be casual and careless and was evident in the captains batting. The Australians have done their homework well. They planned well and executed clinically. They have found that there is a hole in the wall and they have made it to look bigger. They have created records for Dravid to be the player who was bowled out the most number of times and Sachin the player who was out LBW the most number of times. Their nemesis Laxman has lost his magical touch. Sehwag failed to trouble them. Gauti and Dhoni always made sure that they self-destructed. The tailenders have brought back their old habits of batting is not my responsibility. The lack of application in a team is well evident from the way the tailenders bat. The spirit to fight and the determination to overcome is clearly absent in this team.
And the Australians made the most of the mistakes of the Indian batsmen. The pace brigade of Starc, Hilfenhaus, Siddle and Harris bowled consistently and was ruthless till they saw the back of the last batsman and made sure that the burial was complete. If this was war, then the Indian team has no comeback. Luckily this is a game.
The one man from Australia who simply blew away the game in a session is the pocket dynamite, David Warner who is known as the bull amongst his mates. And boy, what a charge he has made. This charging bull simply ran away with the honors before the amazing Umesh struck at will. The two balls that went through the gates of Ponting and Cowan, a right hander and a left hander, are more than enough to see the quality of his bowling. And Virat Kohli’s performance with the bat has shown the talented fighter in him. These two are definitely part of the future. Other than these positives that India can take away from the match, this test is better forgotten.
It is time for the most experienced batting greats of India to exit before it is too late. They have to go. The earlier, the better for Indian cricket. Greats become true legends when they exit gracefully and gloriously. If they hang on till they fall from grace and are no longer needed, they become the laughing stock. The legends should be treated with respect. So its high time the they think about a grand exit. Maybe its time for the selectors to think differently. Or the selectors themselves should go if they are not brave enough to think beyond the veterans. The greats might play well and hit a couple of centuries more in the flat Indian pitches or in favourable conditions. In that way they still have a future. But if we are going to persist with them, Indian cricket’s future is bleak. We need to think about the unfriendly pitches in England, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand and the future tours to be played here. Pick up young players who can and send them to survive these harsh conditions. Baptize them with fire. Put them to the lions. Let the fittest survive and we will get a team to beat. The resurrection of Indian cricket lies in the tough decisions that will be taken after the Australian series or may be even before.

David Warner is only 5 tests old. In this short span, he has hit a century and another. The second one against India at WACA is the fastest ever to be hit by an opener. And it was completed in a session at the WACA. To hit a century in a session is no mean feat. Something that the greats dream of. The stuff that legends are made of. And it is a rare feat. Warner has announced his arrival in tests and his stature is growing.

Till a few months ago, he was a Twenty20 hitter, an entertainer whowas nowhere in the test scene. He went around Australia playing in T20 leauges entertaining the crowd. The selectors did not have him in the scheme of things. Neither did he have test cricket in mind. In his own words, he never believed that he could play test cricket. All that changed when he was contracted to play in the IPL for the Delhi team which was led by the dashing Virender Sehwag. When Sehwag was a hit in the ODIs, he was also not considered for tests as the purists felt that his style of play is unsuited for the longer version. But once he was given a chance, he revolutionized and brought entertainment to test cricket batting.  Records were rewritten and batting never remained the same again in tests. It was Viru who instilled in Warner the belief that he would do well in test cricket. Inspired by Sehwag’s words and work, he finally landed up in the test arena. And the rest as they say is history.

Both the hitting machines shared one thing in common. They both believed in only one thing. The ball is there to be hit and hit hard. The pitch is not a concern, the situation is not a bother and the bowler does not matter. The only thing that mattered was where the ball lands for the fielding team to pick up. They have only one cricket gear, the top gear. So they did not have the confusion of switching it as the situation changed. Went all out from the word go. Tries to hit the first ball of the match out of the park. Brought up their centuries with sixes. Lived and died by the sword. And on their day, decimated the opposition in such a way that the destruction was complete and total. They are the weapons of mass destruction in cricket. The similarities do not end. Records fall by the wayside when batting for them is a walk in the park. Sometimes it looks like they are out practicing boundary hitting out in the middle of a match.

Though Warner’s debut in test cricket coincided with a big slump in form for Viru, for Warner, it is just the beginning. He is an improved version of Viru – faster scoring, farther hitting and better footwork are the improved features in the new version. India’s batting machine reengineered and invented at IPL and launched in Australia with a ‘Made in Australia’ Tag.  Australians have found a Viru for themselves. A new brand of test cricket batting belonging to the Viru breed has been launched. The weapon gifted by India is being used against its inventor.

The doubts about the improvement in consistency and longevity can be proved only with time. Such power hitting which can influence the results of 5 day long tests in a single session is going to be a threat for the test playing nations and a treat for the fans. These power hitters are definitely going to entertain. India will have to think hard and come out with a better version of Viru to counter the Warner threat. A reloaded version of Viru who can last longer and more often. Or we need to find a newer version. Let’s leave that task to Viru himself.

Posted by: binisajan | January 14, 2012

Waca Waka…this time for…?

The Indian caravan consisting of wounded and bloodied gladiators reluctantly moves to Perth, Western Australia. They include centurions, defenders, destroyers, slingers, marauders, specialists, pacers and the lot.

Bruised and wounded, heads hung in shame they must have dragged themselves to the Western part of the large Australian continent. Till some time back they were the most feared men in the dusty bowls of Asia. The East and the West shuddered to face them in their dusty brown backyards south of the great Himalayas and the mightiest of them considered it as the final frontier.
Everything changed six months ago when they crossed the seas and went to conquer a far away land called England and met some tall Englishmen who were quick and deceived them with fiery balls that swung in and out and thrashed the pulp out of them with the English willow. Defeated in four battles, the Indian gladiators were driven out which also resulted in their fall from grace. Glory lost, they returned to regain some strength by practicing in the dusty bowls against lesser mortals.

The overconfident ageing lot, led by a lad known as the Ice Man and guided by some God, now, set their sights Down Under.

The first battle was lost after they had the opponent pinned down. They just could not hold on f

or long. Where they were expected to hang in and then go for the kill, they offered the jugular instead. In th

e second battle, initial advantage was gained as the spin of the coin favoured them. But then the quick young pacers hit them hard and they surrendered meekly. No lessons learnt from England.

Two battles in which they could last only eight days and they seem to meet the same fate they suffered at the hands of the Englishmen. Kicked and bounced around in unfamiliar terrain in the first battle only to be beaten black and blue in the second one. Now they have 10 days to redeem their lost pride and regain their lost glory.

But it seems to be a very tough battle ahead. The fight against the opposition will get tougher from here. The enemy has acquired the proportions of Goliath. They are stronger after two victories, the last one better than the first. The invaders are weakened further with the battering given by the local toughnuts. The terrain gets rougher. And as they prepare for the battles ahead they are demoralized even more. The reason is that the battleground is the most treacherous piece of terrain in the whole world. It is danger lurking beneath your feet and stretching out in front of you. Welcome to the WACA. They have got demons to conquer, not just in the 22 yards but the ones lurking in their minds too.

The WACA pitch in Perth is infamous for its treacherous behavior and is considered the fastest and bounciest in the world. This is well documented in history many times when McGrath and Merv Hughes let out their fury and blew away the opposition teams by taking 8 wickets in an innings. Both of them had bedazzled the opposition with a hatrick too. Another example is the jaw rattling pace of the not so courteous Curtly Ambrose. After the fearsome foursome of the West Indies left the arena, they had another fearsome man in Curtly Ambrose and he lived up to his reputation in WACA when he once broke the jaw of a tail ender and in another instance he took 7 wickets in an innings. Then came Mitchell Johnson of Australia who also went on to take 8 wickets in an innings here.

This said about the bowling, this pitch seems to be equally famous for batting. It was here that Lara’s world record of 375 was broken by Mathew Hayden. Another Australian great Gilchrist has created a sensation here by scoring the 2nd fastest test hundred falling just behind the great Viv Richards. South Africa too made history when it achieved victory here against Australia by chasing down 414 which is the second highest run chase in history.

India can take heart from the fact that the last Test that they played here was won by them. It was here that India started the beginning of the end of Australian domination in world cricket by beating them and ending their world record winning streak of 16 Tests. India can also take hope from the fact that Australia had lost their last two Tests here and one of them was to India.

But all this is history. For history to repeat, the unit has to play as a team. Here is a bunch that is in pursuit of individual glory wherever they go. And the Australians are well aware of this.

The scenario does not seem to be different even now. And the Australians know very well to take advantage of this. So they will be looking to go all out at WACA. They are planning to try an all pace attack to hunt down the visitors when they try to redeem themselves. And the Indians have practiced driving well in the go-karting tracks. It will be interesting to see how much this will aid them at WACA. So it will be a battle of a team against 11 individuals. And it will be interesting to see who goes down and under.

Posted by: binisajan | January 6, 2012

Sydney is Clarke’s Ground

The one moment that will remain etched in memory forever from this test is the satisfied smile of Ponting after rising from the dirt on completing his century.   He runs for a non-existent single, dives into the crease to save his wicket which brings up his hundred. Then he rises from the pitch with mud all over, smiles at himself, smiles once again at his captain and then waves his bat to the stands. For the great batsman that he is, it was literally a rise from the dirt, defying all who bayed for his blood. Ricky Ponting is back.

Ricky is a changed Ponting now. We cannot find the aggressiveness in his batting which was his hallmark. The arrogance on his face has given way to a sense of calm. But the true Aussie steely determination underneath could not be hidden by that calm. He simply refused to die away. And what a comeback he has made. 60, 62 and 134 in three innings in two different pitches when the ball swung in and out and where the greats of Indian cricket struggled to make a mark.

He had come in at a time when Australia was in dire straits. Two wickets down for 8 runs. Later he was joined by his captain, Clarke, whom he had nurtured as a pup. Together they rebuilt the innings. They kept things simple. They were careful not to swing at anything that moved away. And dispatched all things that came their way. Soon everything seemed to change. The Australians started to bat with authority. They made the pitch look like a batting beauty. The Indians lost their way. The captain looked lost. He started forgetting basic things like field placements in accordance with who was bowling and to whom. The fielders started chasing balls instead of attacking them. The bowlers lost interest.  And India lost the test.

Clarke matured as a pup. He knew that his responsibility did not end with his century. He went on and on and on. From century to double to triple and still kept going. And on 329 when many records were in sight he declared the Australian innings. A country obsessed with individual records, we Indians are still wondering why he did that when there was glory awaiting him at each step. Whether they are not fond of individual records, or it is putting team before self or it is their ruthlessness will be a debate which will rage for some time. But Clarke made it clear that his task was to ensure that his team won. And that task was accomplished easily, with the Indians more than willing to surrender meekly.

When many were expecting Tendulkar’s hundredth hundred during the hundredth test at SCG, Clarke came down and played the innings of a lifetime. He joined Ponting when India had the noose around their neck.  Then Clarke came up with his epic innings which is the biggest ever score at SCG. And when the little master threatened to create the three figure magic, Indian hopes of another epic innings were crushed by Clarke himself when he came into bowl and sent back Tendulkar making sure that this will be known as his test. Now that’s leading from the front. First he resurrected. The he built. Later he towered. And finally he destroyed. And made sure that the SCG belongs to him.

Just like Ponting there was another great Hussey, aka, Mr. Cricket who also played a superb innings and made sure of his test place in the team! Mr. Cricket had to do something for survival and he just did not do something. He supported his captain till the end and in the  process produced another great innings.

The Indians did not learn from their failure in the last test. They failed not because they are not good. But because they just did not learn. Just like in the first test, they kept fishing at away moving balls or perished due to lack of patience. The Australians on the other hand showed how to build an innings. After watching three great innings from close quarters for 7 sessions, neither were they inspired nor did they learn anything from this. Any hope of an Indian revival if there would be anything was here. Though Sachin and Laxman did look good, it did not matter. As good does not do any good when what is required is something that will better the best. And that did not happen in Sydney. The Indians went down and under.

Posted by: binisajan | December 13, 2011

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