Saturday, 2 May 2009

Afridi used Tendulkar's bat to make record century

Can't believe this was not mentioned before, or was it and I never heard of it?

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Is the future of the IPL in danger?

The only thing certain is uncertainty. Following the success of the IPL where everything seemed to be going well, (there was even a close final between the Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings), everyone expected the IPL to grow even further. Now, news has been confirmed that the IPL won't even take place in India. This could potentially be very bad for the game in India itself. I can see the spectators feeling most hard done by this.

Building a city fan base was never going to be easy. Even though there were good attendances for every game, fan support was not as partizan as it is for international games. This is a far cry for instance from the English Premiership in Football where the game history has developed to such an extent that teams have local rivals as well as title rivals or relegation rivals if you must. Towards the end of the IPL we began to see at least the start of some sort of partizan support growing. Now these teams are going to places where the locals there will struggle to identify with these teams. Just how do you say you are going to support the Kolkata Knight Riders rather than Mumbai Indians. Perhaps it might be a case of well he is a South African so I'll support that team or I'd pay to watch Sachin just because he is a big player. In both cases fans would be disappointed if they didn't get to see the player they wanted to see. The other thing is that if the IPL was even half as successful as it was in the first year, the players could easily turn around and say we don't want to go to India to play this competition there. And would we blame them for doing this?

Perhaps the IPL deserve this. After all the IPL only came about probably because of the success the ICL had. What goes around comes around.?

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Half the job done in NZ...

3-1 to Team India in the 5 match one day series. That success was their first in the ODI format in New Zealand. Following on from the series win against Sri-Lanka, it was yet another demonstration of a team that is serious about claiming the first spot in ODI's at least.

All the talk before the series was about the wickets being bowler friendly and the like. However, in the end although there was rain, plenty to influence almost every match, the wickets itself were unaffected. Instead we saw a plethora of runs as a result of flat wickets and small grounds, a nightmare for any bowler. In a blog on the cricinfo website, Richardson hinted towards the possibility of conditions being different to that found on the last Indian tour to NZ. However he suggested that this would be because of improving relations with the BCCI. He might well have a point. This was India's third tour to play tests or ODI's in 11 years with the last tour in 2002-03. When you compare that to the fact that India have played Australia in 2000, 2003 and 2006-7, it really is surprising and shows the lack of respect the BCCI had towards NZ. However, no point complaining now since the boys are finally in NZ. The younger players must be wondering what the fuss is all about as they have continued to see run feasts wherever Team India has gone.

Now, prior to the last one dayer mr KP was commenting on how India are on a different level and he attributed this to playing in the IPL, a competition English players had to play in if they themselves had aspirations for one day success. I feel this is only partially true. Most of the success in that tournament was from the foreign players. However the tournament only served to increase the confidence levels of player particularly Raina and Yusuf Pathan who had more success compared to their more illustrious Indian team mates. Of course India's success in the T20 international tournament also helps, winning any trophy lays strong blocks for future success, something illustrated by the long run of success the Australians have had.

Coming back to the one day series, it was good to see every batsman get a score of some sorts in the series at some point. Even Raina who had relatively little to do manage to hit 5 sixes in a cameo in the third one dayer. Whilst Sehwag's unbeaten 125 was just a morale denting, fear inducing, nightmare creating innings for the Kiwis, Tendulkar's 163 from what I've heard was an innings of the highest quality. When the Kiwis say they had no chance at any stage to get him out, it really speaks volumes. I am just gutted I didn't have the chance to see it. Going back to the bowlers, the fast bowlers struggled to make much of an impression, indeed the talk was about how effective the part time bowlers namely Yuvi and Yusuf, however I am happy for Bhajji also since it isn't often that a spinner is your most effective threat in terms of containing runs and taking wickets. Saying that Vettori did a tremendous job for the Kiwis for whom things could have been far worse on the bowling front had it not been for his heroics.

So that was the one day series, the test series is a different game altogether. It will interesting to see how the likes of Dravid, Laxman will fare. And it will also be interesting to see if the pitches are altered to make it less batsman friendly. A nice contest between bat and ball would make for pretty interesting viewing!

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Sunday, 22 February 2009

Kiwis will pose a tough challenge to Team India

Looking at the ICC ratings for the test and ODI formats and you'll be forgiven to think that India are one of the top teams in the world. Results have certainly been convincing with series win over England and Sri-Lanka (twice) in the ODI format but in the test format it can still improve.

India emerged with a lot of credit despite losing the test series against Australia down under. Then came a very lucky draw against the South Africans at home before a Mendis-Murali combination put paid to Indian hopes of a win in Sri-Lanka. Beating Australia and England helped, although these were results at home and you can't say that was Australia's best team. As for England, that they played was a miracle in itself given what had happened few weeks before that, away from the game.

So now, team India will go to New Zealand to win only their second series (I think) for around 41 years. It really is a staggering statistic. If we are to serious lay a marker to being the first team in the test format, this statistic must be changed so that we can say we have won another series there. There is something about this Kiwi team, everytime I think they are going to the dogs just like Zimbabwe, Kenya etc they manage to surprise you. On paper, team India with their heavy batting experience in Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman and Sehwag look impressive along with the best fast bowling duo at the moment in Zaheer and Ishant according to Srinath and the bowler now a referee knew a thing about taking wickets. But team India is such that the moment we think they should kick there comes a setback or two. Even in the home series win against Australia and England, they struggled to create a momentum and needed time to impose themselves against their opponents. The ODI series should be edging more towards India although the Kiwis known for their liveliness in the field will certainly put more pressure.

I am looking forward to seeing Gambir in particular impress in conditions different to that found on the sub-continent. Sehwag will be his usual (if he hits it off, he will be the difference between a win and a draw or even the difference between a win and a loss). Much will be expected of Tendulkar and Dravid who will most likely play here for the last time given how much contempt is shown towards the Kiwis when it comes to arranging tours but all I expect from them is resillence and support towards the lesser known players. It is time for Gambir and Yuvraj to step up. In the bowling I don't expect the spinner to play a big role so Bhajji will strictly work as somebody to contain rather than attack.

It certainly be exciting!

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Sunday, 8 February 2009

IPL auction- An assessment

It certainly didn't generate the buzz as it did last year, but the second IPL auction took place in Goa couple of days ago. Interest generally revolved around Peitersen (isn't it always) and Flintoff: who would go that extra mile to pay for their name on their team sheet.

In the end, Flintoff went to the Chennai Superstars and will certainly provide a boost to them even though he is there only for 3 weeks. The England player is in my opinion one of the finest bowlers in international cricket. He can get you a wicket when called upon and/or bowl with an accuracy that most batsmen struggle to disrupt. Add his ability to thump more than a few runs, his safe catching in the slips and you have an all rounder who is a team player.

The same cannot be said about Peitersen, I'm afraid who was snapped by the Bangalore team owned by Mallya. It seemed quite obvious that Mallya wanted the man to spark a team that was desperately short of players that fitted the format of the game. Going purely on heuristical thinking, I can't seem to think of many games where Peitersen has been a key in 20-20 games and his batting although statistics indicate is consistent, can certainly be questioned. Cast your mind back to the game at Cuttack against India in 2008, he raced to 16 off 8 balls yet ended the game with an unbeaten century that failed to push England towards a match winning score. Even today, many England fans would blame Bell's dismassal in the second innings for their humiliating defeat but me personally thinks that the blame should go purely to Peitersen's shoulders for the manner he got out in the first innings. Of course there is the Peitersen who led many counter-attack operations but it will certainly be interesting to see how he copes in working in a team that is more tuned to working hard as opposed to just showing flamboyance in every ball they try to place.

I was suprised Sakib-al-Hasan wasn't snapped up, especially since Bopara who I would say has done less in recent times got picked by the Punjab team. The non-selection of Stuart Clark, a McGrath-esque accuracy was also a shock but it has to be said that he has had limited success in this format. Duminy's current form certainly raised his profile and his signing should add more youth to a Mumbai team. While the bidding was more competitive for Mortaza I still think he should do well, however it must be said that his signing was more to boost fan base for the Kolkata team. Ashraful failed to get a higher price however at $50,000 he is a steal for the Mumbai Indians and I think this format will give him a freedom to play his natural attacking fame. Don't be surprised if he does exceedingly well especially at the price he was signed.

A final word and that goes on the non-availability of the Pakistani players. It is a shame. It really is. Especially when you consider that the winners of the first IPL, Rajasthan Royals depended a lot on Tanvir, it is sad that politics should interfere in sports to this extent.

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Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Dhoni leads India to opening win

Dambulla witnessed a strange game today. For the first time there were decent batting scores and more so an Indian team chased the highest target at the ground with relative ease.

Jayasuriya's hundred making him the oldest player to score an ODI hundred was in vain although he did win the man of the match award. This was perhaps in recognition of the fact that was it not his score then the Sri-Lankan's final score would have been even lower. In my preview blog I mentioned that Jayawardene was due a big score but I should have put Jayasuriya as well. Usually his hundreds lead to a Lankan win but today steady batting from India negated that.

Tendulkar's early dismassal was a harsh call from Dharmasena but I think one should allow him a leeway as he is an upcoming umpire. Perhaps Tendulkar's departure was a blessing in disguise as he looked somewhat out of touch and it brought Raina in. Gambir and Raina worked effortlessly well in pursuit of the target. I was somewhat disappointed with the way Gambir got out. It was a shot that never should have been played given that India were cruising and on another day a wicket like that could have led to a huge collapse.

Once Gambir and Raina left it was left to Yuvraj and Dhoni to finish the job and the partnership normally a reliable one was broken evenutally with Yuvraj succumbing to Maharoof. Dhoni was impressive again in the way he played the spinners. In the last ODI series in Sri-Lanka, he was instrumental then as well and his determination to win the battle against Murali and Mendis was again on show. His ability to play the ball late is certainly a gift although it remains to be seen whether he can do that on a more regular basis especially under lights which is when Mendis really shines in the ODI's.

1-0 to India and here's hoping to another win.

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Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Sri-Lanka vs India Series- A preview

So finally after a bit of a break, the Indian team return to the International scene and line up against a Sri-Lankan side that blows hot and cold.

Touring Sri-Lanka again having played them less than a year ago is a little baffling. There were 5 one dayers then, and the same this time too. If the agenda was to fill the void left by the cancellation of the Pakistan tour, then it would have made sense for Sri-Lanka to tour India. Too much of one thing is not always good although it does provide another opportunity to see how much the Indians have learnt about Mendis.

The nucleus of the Indian team is pretty much the same. Harbhajan misses out and his experience will be a loss but its time for another spinner to shine and what better place to shine than in Sri-Lanka. With the World Cup in the sub-continent, it is imperative that this series is taken seriously. I am looking forward to seeing Ravindra Jadeja play, he is a player who seems to have a strong mental core, something needed in international cricket. Admittedly, I was unaware of his spin abilities until recently and it is always good to have extra options.

The batting will be tested again with Murali approaching Akram's record of 502 ODI wickets and Mendis determined to get there or there abouts in quicker time. The demolition of Pakistan in the last game by the Lankan team as a whole should serve as a warning about the dangers of taking this team lightly. For me the success from a batting point of view will once again depend on Yuvraj who really struggled here the last time round. Tendulkar should really be used sparingly in this series as the emphasis should be on the younger batsman like Raina, Rohit Sharma and Yusuf Pathan.

I am in two minds as to whether Zaheer Khan should have been rested for this series so that he is injury and fatigue free for the series in New Zealand. Given our struggles there the last time and our quest to challenge at the top in the test arena, a fit Zaheer Khan would aid that cause immensely. The rest of the bowling will need to watch out for Jayawardene. Yes, he is horribly out of form at present, but as the saying goes "form is temporary, class is permanent". He is due a big innings soon.

Finally a word about the importance of the toss. Dhoni admitted this himself and it will be interesting to see if the toss also affects this series.

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