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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

IPL 2011 auction – What is in store?

The IPL 4 version is about to witness some surprises in the auctioning arena, as speculations fly thick and fast from various quarters, inflaming the twenty-twenty fans to look for concurrent details pertaining to the IPL 20l11 competition. Harbajhan Singh, with the new avatar as a batting hero, is the top star with a high price tag attached to his head, as various teams including the Mumbal Indians vie with each other to lure this cricketer for the upcoming IPL 2011 competitions.

Yuvraj Singh, another of the heroes to attract millions of fans through this truncated version also has managed to remain in the top bracket with the Pune Warriors keen to induct the services of this blue-eyed boy of fanatics who have fallen prey to the truncated versions. In a turn of events, things have gone sour for the former Indian captain Saurav Ganguly, as the former star has lost its icon status, and talks of weeding out the services of this southpaw is doing the rounds now. An inspiring captain who had a good share in the Indian resurgence is now left in the lurch, with past glories doing little to add value to this wonderful player.

Batting supremo Sachin Tendulkar and the hard-hitting Dhoni maintain their price tags, as they are also likely to remain with Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings for the IPL 2011 competition. Yusuf Pathan, another merciless belter of the cricket ball is finding a place alongside Raina and Zaheer Khan to share the second bracketed price structure of 1.30 crores pertaining to the IPL price tags.

The Bengaluru stars, Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble have also lost their sheen in this IPL 2011 auction as they have been thrown back in to the auction pool. With the IPL auctions igniting the passion of the fans, adrenaline-pumping games of the IPL 2011 is expected to drive the twenty-twenty fans crazy, who just love the reverberating sound of the bat on the ball.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Ashes 2010 – Australia back in the saddle

Gabba witnessed some sparkling fireworks from the blades of Mike Hussey and Brad Haddin, as their partnership that blossomed to add 307 not only broke records, but also did well to deliver fiercesome blows to the English side, which had squandered away all the hold it had on the Australian side at the end of the second day’s play at Gabba. The upshot, England now has to battle it out to save itself from blushes, as Strauss and Cook survived some anxious moments before the close of play on the third day of this Gabba test, the first in the Ashes 2010 encounter.

Anderson flooring a catch, Broad turning crimson, as a welter of emotions ran amuck at the Gabba cricket ground, with Hussey and Bradin finding momentum to plaster the English bowling to all parts of the ground. Hussey was keen to prove a point to the cricketing world and Haddin played perfect second fiddle to Hussey, as the brilliant union of these two baggy greens plundered the resolve of the English attack. England now has to come out with an extraordinary performance to ensure a draw, and with it keep the Ashes 2010 hopes alive. Australia is back in the saddle with a massive lead of 221, as Ponting would be waiting to unleash the Australian fury to pave way for the English debacle.

The day belonged to the southpaw, Hussey, who with precise footwork and positive stroke play delighted the Gabba crowd, as he never shrunk from taking the minutest of opportunities to steal a single, which is the hallmark of an Australian batsman. Take the single, rotate the strike, sow seeds of doubts and disbelief in the minds of bowlers, as it worked well like a Swiss clock, and the English bowlers hadn’t a clue to unsettle the Australian batsmen, though costly lapses rubbed in insult to the already existing injury. England toiled hard for 59 overs to get the first breakthrough of the day, and Finn turned out to be the unexpected hero for England at the end of the Australian first innings of this first test related to Ashes 2010 series. England still needs 202 runs to make Australia bat again, and the fourth day’s play at Gabba has an interesting battle on the cards.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ashes 2010 - Can the English team hold their nerves?

There are two anxious teams trying to outwit the other at Gabba. Yes, the Ashes 2010 has got under way as England has lost the wicket of Andrew Strauss for naught. Not the type of start that the Englishmen would have expected, as the Australians now have come out with a clear game plan to scuttle an English dominance on the cricket field. Earlier it was Mitchell Johnson who came out with his plan to unsettle Strauss and Kevin Petersen to raise quite a few eyebrows. Australians rely more on Mitchell Johnson to deliver at Brisbane, and the war of nerves has just begun at the Gabba.

Ashes for long has remained a battle that has been fought fiercely, and Ashes 2010 is no different from the others. Englishmen with the upper hand are trying to create history by winning the Ashes 2010 series at the Australian soil after the 1986 series win at Australia, and Australia on the other hand have not been in the best of form, with the bowling really being inept and bumbling. With Ponting’s head on the block, Australians too feel the effect of frayed nerves as they are battling it out to prove their supremacy over a much confident English side.

It was the year 1986 which last witnessed an English victory over the Australians in Australia, when the match at Gabba had unveiled some sterling performances from the Englishmen. Mike Gatting led from the front, as the England team had a very decent side that had some stalwarts in the form of Gower, Botham and Allan Lamb. Ian Botham set the tone up for an emphatic win at Gabba in 1986, as his belligerent knock of 136 and five-for-41 haul helped England win the Ashes series in 1986.

England rates it chances high in this Ashes 2010 encounter, as the team is well set, and the bowling attack is as good as the Australian bowling attack, if not better, and Swann, who has been blossoming into an effective bowler certainly has to unleash all his tricks if England are to remain as strong contenders and clinch the Ashes 2010 series in the bargain. With Australians trying to get over the wounded-dog image, England begins another grueling Ashes series as favorites, as they have great opportunity to get off the ground at Brisbane and then to put the pressure on Australians in the remaining matches. This muddled Australian side is surely not going to lie in wait for the unceremonious defeat at the hands of their arch rivals, as they would be planning to get some steam up though their underdog image doesn’t work in their favor.

At the end of the 19th over, England were 61 for 2 with Cook and Petersen holding the forte at Gabba. Can Petersen get over his lean patch and come with a triumphant knock? That would really set the tone up for the Englishmen.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ishant Sharma stands tall amid the New Zealand ruins

New Zealand was thrashed by the World toppers, the Indian side, as India registered an innings and 198 runs victory over the beleaguered New Zealand side. Ishant Sharma has finally struck gold with his bowling form, and his spell that fetched him 4-23 is sure to bolster the confidence of this lanky pace man right before a grueling South African series that lay ahead of the Indian team.

From the time when Ishant started troubling Ponting till the present test series against New Zealand, Ishant has come a long way, though he has been struggling with his rhythm for quite some time. A timely haul of 4 wickets just before the high-pitched battle against the South Africans is a good sign for the Indians to take cue from the wonderful performance, and to put up a spirited show on the hard and bouncy tracks of South Africa. Ishant, with this spirited performance has also proved that he is no nine day wonder, and the pace man would do good to acquire words of wisdom form a work house who had performed exceedingly well on Indian wickets, as Kapil Devil will surely know the tricks to perform well on Indian tracks.

Kapil Devil, as he was at times referred to, wore his heart on his sleeves, as he had never let the flat Indian tracks to get the better of him. Even on docile Indian wickets, Kapil produced magical spells, which until then were usually produced by Indian spinners and he had given a whole new dimension to fast bowling on Indian wickets. A nation that was deprived of pace bowlers suddenly found a young man from Haryana bursting into the scene with pace and aggression, and since then, has become a prime reason to pave way for several promising fast bowlers in this country, an inspiring model well worth the mention.

Ishant has the pace and bounce, and his height surely works to his advantage. A fine and free flowing action, with a prelude in the form of a smooth run up to the wicket, and with a good follow through to back him up to the hilt, Ishant has the potentials to trouble even the most accomplished of batsmen. Ishant has finally got his rhythm back, and must be raring to go and hit the deck at the South African wickets. It would be worth the wait to witness this young man’s performance on South African wickets.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Rahul is to New Zealand as what Laxman is to Australia

Some batsmen devour the bowling attacks of a particular nation as the bowling never tires them out. They simply tuck into the bowling attacks and relish playing memorable innings that stand the test of time. One such an innings was the vintage display of 191 from Rahul Dravid against New Zealand at Nagpur. Notching up his 31st Test Hundred, Rahul Dravid has helped his side to an unassailable position, with an Indian victory not very far on the horizon.

Rahul Dravid has had 6 centuries so far against the New Zealand side, as he is one of the batsmen who seem to be a thorn in the flesh of the New Zealand bowling. The Australians might feel the same with the case of the classy and elegant V.V.S Laxman, who never fails to torment the Australian bowlers with his classic stroke play. Rahul Dravid is to New Zealand as what Laxman is to Australia. The Australian and New Zealand bowlers still aren’t able to get to grips with these two, and the batsmen have only let them into sleepless nights and demonic dreams.

Termed the ‘Wall’ Rahul Dravid has come a long way in test cricket, as he has had to ride the rough with the smooth with some diligence. But his immaculate technique has helped him conquer testing times during his career and his team spirit had driven him even to don the thankless job of a wicket keeper at times, which elucidates the spotless character of this man. India is riding piggyback on his wonderful century, as India is well placed to take the lead in the series.

Ashes 2010 – Has the hunter become the hunted?

The Ashes 2010 is just about to begin with much fanfare, as a battered and bruised Australian side will be competing to conquer the lost glory, which has been eluding the side for quite some time. Australians had enjoyed a roller coaster ride with such relish, as they set records in a hurry beating Tom, Dick and Harry that came their way mercilessly. But now, they are just past masters as they face an uphill task of capturing the imaginations of the cricketing public at large. Has the hunter become the hunted? Has Ricky Ponting lost the verve and tenacity to handle his team? Has the Australian team lost the Ashes in their minds? Lot of pummeling queries haunts the Australian team and the team certainly is in disarray.

England on the other hand has never seemed optimistic before the Ashes tour as they approach the Brisbane Test brimming with confidence, and the players are as fit as ten fiddles and are firing on all cylinders. Though the England team lacks match winners in the likes of Ian Botham, the present team has gelled well as they have been playing as a cohesive unit to register more success than ever. Andrew Strauss is right there at the helm, learning from his mistakes, and gaining in confidence with each passing day. England surely has got its target fixed for the Ashes victory, and as per Beefy Botham, England are well placed to win the Ashes without much efforts.

England certainly would be looking to turn a leaf from the 1981 Headingley Test which witnessed one of the sensational test innings of all-time from Beefy, who turned the tides by scoring a sparkling hundred to bring England back into the game, and with it offer England a chance to beat the mighty Australians. From a seemingly unassailable position, Australians were made to lick their wounds at the end of the Headingley Test when they were defeated comprehensively. Not many would know as to how Dennis Lillee and Rod Marsh were lured into placing 15 Pounds with the bookmakers and predicting an England win as the outcome, and in the end, walked away with 7500 pounds as when England beat Australia in the Headingley test. Speculations apart, Botham’s 149 and Bob Willis’ 8 for 43 did the tricks for England.

Turning our thoughts back on Ponting, one wonders if Ponting would lead his country to the third Ashes defeat, which certainly would bring down his reputation as a captain. With McGrath and Warne, Ponting was sailing smoothly, but with an inexperienced and an ineffective bowling attack, Ponting has now got to conjure up tricks to outwit the Englishmen. With the Australians having their backs to the wall and with the Englishmen raring to go and taste the Ashes win at the Australian soil after a long time, a great contest is on the cards.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Have you heard of the whispering death?

Kemar Roach, the new West Indian pace bowler, sharing the honors of wrecking havoc on the Sri Lankan team triggers hopes of West Indian cricket revival, or is it a far-fetched dream? West Indies were once, the knightly rulers of the game, game-wise and otherwise. They were extraordinary mortals who played the game with such flamboyance, and they were never short of the sportive spirit that eludes cricketers of many other nations. But on the field, they were a ruthless force trying to decimate the opponents at all times, with all the tricks in the bag, and the gallant pace force that served the West Indian team was a cohesive unit that was skilled in planning and executing the downfall of even the skilled of batsmen with clockwork precision. Have you ever heard of the whispering death?

To most of the followers, this name might sound alien, but to sprint back down my memory lane, I still can recollect the wonderful run-up to the wicket, cutting through the breeze silently, and the pitch-perfect action to deliver those stinging leg cutters, which was the specialty of this man from Jamaica. Dickie Bird, a paragon of umpiring morals and ethics, couldn’t resist the temptation in calling Michael Holding as the ‘Whispering Death’ owing to his silent and gentle glide to reach the wicket and deliver those lethal deliveries, and no doubts, he also had another name tagged to his credentials, as that says, ‘Rolls Royce of fast bowling’ owing to the smooth and wonderful action that any pace bowler would dream to possess.

Many talk about the ball bowled by Shane Warne to dismiss Gatting as the ball of the century, but if the argument is still alive and kicking, I beg to differ from this opinion framed by many. I think there is another person who would agree with me on this front wholeheartedly, who happens to be none other than the productive England opener, Geoff Boycott, who was let into a nerve-wrecking over in the 1981 test at Barbados. Boycott was at his wits end to negotiate the first five deliveries from this lanky pacer, and the sixth delivery was one of the best bowled in test cricket, and Boycott was beaten neck and crop as the off-stump went cartwheeling to take a 20-yard tumble, and Boycott still hasn’t found the reason behind that dismal show.

If my memory serves me right, it was in the series against India in 1983 that Holding bowled another gem of a delivery to dismiss the industrious Ravi Shastri. Though Shastri can’t be called the most illustrious of batsmen to have ignited a spark of interest among the fanatics, he played well within his limits scoring most of his runs off his pads, and the delivery that got Shastri on a dry Indian afternoon at one of the dead Indian pitches was one of the best leg-cutters delivered by a bowler. Shastri was baffled, when the wicketkeeper had reported about the missing bails, as he, as well as many of the spectators were of the opinion that the ball which had pitched way outside the leg stump was going to travel further away, and instead, the delivery came in and kissed the leg stumps to send Shastri on a long walk back to reach the pavilion. Let’s rejoice in the art of pace bowling by digging out such splendid performances from the bowling greats of the past. Holding, is still holding on to that coveted group of pace bowlers, who were merciless in their operations.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Is it the death knell of cricket?

A Pakistan cricketer running for his life to seek asylum at London was the hot cricketing news that took the cricketing world by storm, as the broadsheets were filled to the gunwales with this sensational news a few weeks before. Whether or not the piece did the trick to increase the circulation of broadsheets is not the point I would like to ponder on, as there’s more at stake, and the game of cricket has been left in the lurch. Nothing short of a miracle can save cricket from the clutches of demoniac influences that has left the game in shambles. The game of cricket is touching new heights, for all the wrong reasons, and in the name of resurrection, the game wears a begrimed face, looking sullen, trying to get out of the gloomy future that looms large over the horizon, as the game has already lost its sheen and respectability. A pathetic end waits round the corner, and the wailing has begun.

Close on the heels of the Pakistan cricketer who took to his heels after receiving death threats was an Indian off-spinner’s praiseworthy performance, though not with ball, as he came up with stubborn back-to-back hundreds to reinforce his batting potentials. Though a laudatory message is in the offing, the critical side of the performance has also got to be viewed and weighed with concern. Has the bowling attacks all over the world lost the sting? Are they mere league-cricket bowling attacks that stand up and watch a bowling compatriot score runs at his desire?

At best, Harbhajan, who vies for the top spot for the best belter of the cricket ball, can be considered a pinch-hitting darling of the crowd. Now, Harbhajan seems to be inching his way to join the batting elites with this performance, for it is only the performance that matters, these days. The art of cricket is no more a concern, and there’s no nurturing of art, as results at all costs and at any cost seems to be the norm that rules this game. Ironically, bowlers no longer play the second fiddle to the lead; we are witnessing the reversal of fortunes that might not warm the cockles of many hearts in the bargain.

Though not a look-alike to be called as one of the two peas in a pod, Harbhajan’s predecessor in the spin department, Bishen Singh Bedi, hit the headlines quite often, as the Indian Express, a popular broadsheet of the bygone era had an off-the-rack headline to bring Bedi’s performance to light, which ran something as ‘Bedi Bags Five Wickets’, which was a common phenomenon for bowlers of the erstwhile era, who did their trick with the ball most of the times. Bedi was not too good, if not good with the bat, but the artistic fervor of this craftsman was too good to be sidelined, as was the case with the off-spinning greats, Erapalli Prasanna and Srinivasaraghavan Venkatragahvan.

These master craftsmen were habituated to unleash their magic with the ball. Erapalli Prasanna, with his loop and arc, with the pivotal turn of the foot at the crease, with the flight that beguiled many an accomplished bat, was blessed with immense talent, as his chief trait remained to be the off-spinning exactitude, and Venkat, who bowled his off-breaks with varying pace and length, and who relied more on the bite off the wicket had more aces up his sleeve, and both were top notch exponents of this art. Sadly, Harbhajan, one of the very few off-spinners in the country who deserves a mention, hasn’t blossomed as a craftsman, and rather has been hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons.

Long gone are the days, when I had watched the silky-smooth cover drives of Zaheer Abbas with mute acceptance, and there had been times when I was stunned to watch the charismatic Gower execute his short-arm pulls with such panache, that still refuses to leave the remotest recesses of my brains. There is no Viv anymore, and the Viv of his days was known to cut even the strongest of bowling attacks that comprised of Lillee, Thompson, Pascoe, Alderman and co to ribbons, and there is no Botham of course to turn the tides even when stark results were staring at the English team.

The cream of the crop encompassed more greats, who certainly had the flair and elegance to get bracketed among the top luminaries that this game cherished. There was the on-driving legend Greg Chappell, the fire-power quartet who formed the pace battery of the West Indian side, Roberts, Garner, Holding and Crofts, not to mention Marshall, who joined the fray at a later date, as there was also the man known as Barry, who unfortunately was left out of this arena owing to his country’s slipshod political practices, but had a name carved for himself in the annals of the game, and who is now enjoying his stint at the commentary box. Such talent eludes the cricketing scene, with the very rare breed of Sachin Tendulkar holding the forte for the nonce.

What has become of cricket? The star-fangled nights with near about strip dancing performances at the backdrop of the cricket field, that certainly sows seeds of doubt in the minds of spectators as to their preferences, cricket teams bought and managed by the tinsel town heroes as well as heroines, who, to the best of my knowledge cannot be blamed for their lack of cricketing prowess, but still stand at the helm of cricketing affairs, and twenty-twenty versions with stadiums packed liked sardines to witness pinch hitting, right from the umpire’s call of ‘play’ done to get the game initiated, bowlers who overtly throw their hats into the batsmen’s rings, and all other astonishing events that have converted this game to resemble a comic opera. A traditionalist will certainly be not averse to the thought of paying a visit to Baker’s street, in an effort to disturb the deep and eternal slumbers of Sherlock Holmes, who might have thought twice to investigate the reasons behind the avalanche of cricketing blunders that have already wormed its way to besmirch the game.

What do we fathom? Well, it will not be a long run when one can witness the Sharuhks and the Amitabhs wielding their willows to bring Kolkatta Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians out from a spot of bother in a twenty-twenty game. If it isn’t tainted as a cruel thought, there will come a time when ‘Pretty’ Zinta is forced to share the new ball with Irfan Pathan to clip the wings of the Chennai batsmen. Thoughts abound as one tries to get to grips with the present situation. This marks the nadir of cricket, as the game is wallowing in its own self-pity, to get released from the fetters of the commercially-maniacal organizers who have again used this game for wrong reasons. Cricket in no more the game as it was then known for, and the death rattle and the roar is neither too far away.