Thursday, August 25, 2011

Can Indian cricket turn the tides?

Finding a long-lost friend is like finding a lost treasure, and as I was basking in the glory of finding such a treasure that shared the bench-strength of our inimitable Santhome School X1 that conquered all the trophies that possibly could have been lifted, in came the black and bleak India – England test series. The shambolic performance of the Indians had already left many a fan high and dry. This long-lost friend was himself a fantastic all-rounder, who could bowl those stinging leg-cutters with such panache that batsmen had to be told that one of their bails was missing. He could pelt the ball around, and could even graft his way to play the anchor role with the bat, as he did wield his willow to good purpose. His tigerish prowls on the outfields had even yielded better results for me as when I had to roll-over my arms to deliver those second-class off breaks.

Such was his potentials, though he failed to make it big on the Indian cricketing scene.

Our email conversations had immediately swerved its way to cricket, and I was quick to query him as to the reasons behind the Indian debacle. Expecting a one-liner, I sat back and waited for his reply. Love for the game continues to rule this friend, as he came out with some idyllic measures that could prevent the Indian team from stooping to such low levels and register such lackluster performances. The Indian cricket team, at present, has incurred the wrath of millions, who were keen to see the team ride the crest of the winning streak furthermore. But my friend was pretty sure that Indian cricket will never take the West Indian way!

What were the measures that he suggested?

1. Time that Indian team played three practice matches before the start of a test series on a foreign soil, with the matches turning out to be a three-day affair, primarily to get used to the conditions before taking the big litmus test.

2. Possibly, have a third opener in the playing X1 who could be playing at number 6 to get the better of the twenty overs of the second new ball. This would come in handy at places like S. Africa, England and Australia.

3. Prepare wickets in India like the ones that were laid in the late 70’s at Chennai, which did help the bowlers to bowl at the ribs of the batsmen. With most of the Indian batsmen susceptible to the short-pitched stuff, this could be the right way to come out of this jinx.

4. Breed a genuine all-rounder, who could prop up the middle-order and could be handy with the ball too, as in the case of Amit Mishra who outclassed the master, Sachin, during his stay at the crease at Oval. May be a Ravi Shastri in the making, as per my friend.

5. Spin bowling, which has been the backbone of our bowling attack for a long time has taken a severe beating, with no quality spinners available on the horizon. Romp in the services of Warne or Kumble at NCA as spin consultants to nurture and groom top quality spinners. This is sure to strengthen the cause for the five-bowlers-strategy for tests.

6. Have separate teams for test, one-day and the twenty-twenty matches.

My friend did miss out on other factors that bung a spanner into the works of the Indian team at England. Quality rest eluded the Indian cricketers, where they were hopping from one place to another to meet their schedules. The players were literally going through their motions rather than enjoying their stint at the ground. There was no third opener for this series, and the team didn't sound cohesive to bring out a spirited performance. M.S. Dhoni, for the first time, was out of his wits, and came a cropper in the end.

I could not fall in line with my friend’s thought concerning the all-rounder who could spin the opponents out of a match and who could pile up runs at a brisk pace, for, at this point in time, we need someone in the caliber of Kaps, who could mesmerize the opponents with his swing bowling, and who could bat the opponents out of a match!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Chennai Super Kings Crowned Again

The rafter-packed Chidambaram stadium had witnessed another Super Kings’ victory, and this time, the boisterous crowd had known the outcome even before Vijay and Hussey took their long walk to the wicket. A mauling on the part of the home team had put the hopes of a Challengers victory beyond the most lunatic assumptions, as M. Vijay and M. Hussey tucked in to the Challengers bowling with such relish. The IPL 2011 final came up with a blistering start, but, faded into one of the softest endings that this truncated version has ever witnessed.

After the parching heat that drove many sundown-slurping enthusiasts to invigorate and resuscitate themselves with a chilled beer or a wispy cocktail, the hot summer evening at Chennai was gathering momentum for the coveted IPL-IV finals, and two neighbors were set to lock horns to bring home the bacon. Both the teams were captained by leaders who remain cool even when the tides turn against them, and both the leaders have the uncanny ability to inspire their team mates with some swashbuckling performances.

So it turned out to be a one-horse race, with the Chennai Super Kings galloping to stay ahead of opponent all through the race, where the Chennai openers did well to bat the Bangalore warriors out of this final. The 159-run stand between Hussey and Vijay drove the nail into the Challengers’ coffin, with Dhoni chipping in with a useful 21, as his brutal batting power produced reverberations that even chilled the uproarious crowd. Dhoni might just not be a hot favorite for someone who loves sublime batting skills, but is rather a cricketer turned poster-boy, who is a clear favorite among those who worship winners. A winner he is, Dhoni, did exceedingly well to reinforce his winning potentials with yet another resounding victory at the Chepauk stadium.

Chris Gayle, with no grandeur of a gale this time, fell a prey to the wily Ashwin, who tricked the southpaw into the edging the ball to Dhoni’s gloves. The little fire that was burning in the Royal Challengers’ dressing room was doused, without any trace of a flicker, when Gayle took his weary walk back to the pavilion. Virhat Kohli, who was the remaining hope, if at all the Royal Challengers had any trace of hopes, was out of sorts, as he perished without any sign of the bull dog spirit.

Ashwin with a fine spell that earned him three wickets sealed the fate of the Royal Challengers, and with the prize wicket of Gayle, the Chennai Super Kings could see the writing on the wall lucidly, and so it did with much fanfare and delight. The other team members of the Royal Challengers left the scene without putting up a brave front. The two Chennai boys had scripted a heartwarming and a match-winning performance, which warmed the cockles of many a heart at the Chepauk stadium. With back to back titles in the IPL contest, Chennai Super Kings has become the pride of this town, and more so when three of its prolific run-getters, M. Vijay, Abinav Mukund and S. Badrinath, have booked a berth to be a part of the squad that leaves for the West Indies to play a Test and a One-day series.

For some period, it looked as if cricket had unleashed its fury after all, with the string of twenty-twenty matches testing the patience of even the most adoring of cricket fans. Not for nothing, the notion of revving up cricket with the glistening IPL format hasn’t found the favor of traditionalists. A much needed and awaited respite from the mundane cricket life is there for the taking, as the Indian cricketers look forward to their next fixture, a test and a one-day series against the West Indies in the Caribbean. A test series in the West Indies, and are there any takers?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Ashes 2010 - They came they saw they conquered

Unlike Julius Caesar and his men, who saw the ships consumed by the raging fire while they set foot on the shores of Britain, Strauss and his men saw the plight of the degrading Australian cricket when they set foot on the Australian soil, as they made use of the degrading scenario to inflict further damages, and with it squander the hopes of an early Australian resurrection. The Australians are no more the pantheons of this trade, as they unceremoniously enter into the league of also-rans, with their pride annihilated beyond repair. With England retaining the Ashes, made possible by a convincing 3-1 victory, the Australian cricket is panic-stricken, with redemption unforeseeable in the near future.

For now, the battered and bruised Australian side has no answer to the future, and there is no sign of crafty bowlers on the horizon. The frail batting line-up adds more to their cup of woes. For long, the Australian administrators have been busy soaking up in the glorious moments, and have failed to spot, groom and nurture future talent, as complacency has really brought about the downfall of Australian cricket. This scene reminds us of the dark days when Packer cricket dented the potentials of Australian cricket, and when Alan Border was struggling to come to terms with the rebuilding process after Kim Hughes had left the cricketing scene unceremoniously.

England, on the other hand has been busy with the rebuilding process for the past two years, and has been adopting the horses for courses policy, where the players were picked to don a specific role assigned to them. The English pace battery did well to practice earnestly with the Kookaburra balls before the Ashes series, and whether old or new, they made the ball talk in the air. Reverse swing had surged ahead to be used as the potential tool behind this English success, and Jimmy Anderson, with 24 scalps has donned the role of the chief destructor to perfection. He was getting better and better with his reverse swing all through the series. The other pace bowlers were equally good with the art of reverse swing, and the words of wisdom from the bowling coach Saker, an Australian, did really well to set the tone up for a clinical Australian destruction.

The spine strength of the batting line-up has witnessed a remarkable improvement through the chiropractic efforts of Andy Flower. The resilient, redoubtable Andy Flower has been the chief architect behind this Australian drubbing. He deserves this share of acclaim, as do the fielding and the bowling coaches who stand alongside Flower, and who have expended unrestrained efforts to build the bench strength of this England team.

All in all, the swaggering pride of the Australian side has been jolted, as the Australian side will now find it difficult to deal with the lurking demons of the defeat. The English side came, saw and conquered the weakling.