Archive for the ‘cricket’ Category

The Day The Music Died

Posted: December 26, 2012 in cricket
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Sachin

 

All of us, those who follow cricket with more just than interest but passion would have indulged in building a best World XI team at some point in time. If the 1st unanimous name one would pencil in the Test team was Don Bradman, the 1st unanimous name one would pencil in for the ODI team was Sachin Tendulkar. While most in our generation would not have the privilege of watching the great Don play, we have 1st hand experience of watching Sachin play & now, for the rest of our lives, would have to draw on this experience given his retirement from the stage he made his own. A quick glance at numbers tells us why. Over 18,000 runs scored at an average nearing 45 at a strike rate over 85. Toss in 49 centuries, over 60 man of the match awards, 150 wickets & the mind boggles at the sheer enormity of the numbers. However, numbers alone do not do justice to Sachin

 

My earliest memory of cricket or Sachin (The two are entwined in my mind forever) was during the 1992 WC.  It was a match with NZ. I was woken up by the excited murmurings of an uncle at home (this at around 4-5AM in the morning) to see a tiny batsman reach out & guide a full delivery to point. I don’t remember if the ball went for a boundary or not but I do remember the batsman & ended up slavishly follow him for the best part of my life. As cricket grew to occupy an important part of my life, especially with Indian wins, Sachin proved to be the driver of that. Given the pre-internet, pre-cable days at home, I ended up following Sachin through newspaper scorecards (even the limited information on the scorecards could tell immense stories for a highly imaginative 10 year old), highlights on DD (for India games) & cross cable connection (getting feed from someone else’s cable feed when their cable wire would cross your TV wire or as we called it “thiruttu” cable) (for overseas tours). It was through the grainy images of the thiruttu cable that I got to see Sachin’s audition for the opening slot. I would like to say that I caught that innings from ball 1. Sadly, I switched on the TV as I was getting ready to go to school & saw Sachin walking back towards the pavilion with the scorecard under him reading 82(49) which due to the graininess I read as 52(69). That sure was one way to downplay the greatest move for Indian ODI cricket. To paraphrase Neil Armstrong, one small shuffle up the order for Sachin, a large shuffle up the cricketing order for India. One day cricket has never been the same for India since that fateful day & the rest is history.

 

Scour the net & there are tomes to be found on Sachin’s awesome knocks. Those twin centuries in Sharjah against the Aussies as well as the natural elements, the 98 against Pak in Centurion, the century against Zimbabwe in Benoni, the 1st ever double century against SA, the twin knocks in the finals agains the Aussies in the CB Series where he guided a chase in the 1st finals & set up a total in the 2nd finals, the savage mauling of Henry Olanga on the way to a sublime century, the 186 and the great 300 run partnership with Dravid versus NZ, the emotion filled century against Kenya after his dad had passed away. However what gets missed are some of his other knocks that may not have the weight in terms of runs but definitely have the weight in terms of the impact that it had on me. Each time Sachin gets out, it just feels like a massive disappointment, especially during the 90s when a Sachin dismissal was as good a sign as any to switch off the TV and get back to normal life. Some of these knocks that are special to me are truly gems as they magnified that feeling of disappointment when a truly special piece of magic is cut short in its prime.

 

There was a scintillating 40 odd scored at over run a ball against the rampaging might of Ambrose, Walsh & Bishop on a spiced up surface at Trinidad where Sachin the captain took responsibility for his decision to bat first before being sawn off by a rough decision

 

There was an outrageously aggressive statement of intent in the 35 odd against the Australians, specifically against McGrath in a match better remembered for Yuvraj’s 84 in Nairobi where Sachin decided to give McGrath some stick through bat & (the only time I remember) verbally as well. A frenetic innings where Sachin had made up his mind that McGrath was going for runs & smote him for 3 sixes, one a wild slog that went over third man

 

There was a brazen 41 off 26 balls versus Pakistan in Dhaka in the deciding finals of a tournament chasing 315. This was also the 1st tournament that Sachin was playing after his 1st disastrous attempt at captaincy. This is a match that made Hrishikesh Kanitkar’s reputation for all eternity , a match set up through an awesome parternship between Dada & Robin Singh but it was an innings that was positioned through Sachin’s initial assault on the Pakistani bowlers

 

Among the many (!) things I learnt at business school, I learnt something around the funda of risk vs reward i.e to gain a higher reward, high risks have to be taken. Sachin’s ODI career has definitely turned that theory on its head. His batting is a product of elimination of risks while maximizing scoring opportunities.At a point in time, I had described Sachin’s batting as being highly efficient.  For a cricketer who started off as an aggressive I-have-more-than-2-shots-for-every-ball to a player who would judiciously wait before playing the least risky shot to get runs, Sachin redefined one day batting. Take for instance any Sachin century & compare it with any other, the same shots would repeat. The tuck past square leg, the flick to midwicket (with the strong bottom hand), the punch off the back foot splitting cover & point, the straight drive (the only shot where he would add a flourish) & then the lap shot during the consolidation phase. In fact, the lap/paddle shot was his way to keep the scoreboard ticking without wasting any balls. His batting also clearly stands out for the lack of flourish as though he determined that adding a flourish led to inefficiencies (except for the holding the pose on straight drives, a human touch if you will)

 

Paddle

 

Being surrounded by folks who are passionate about cricket brings about heated discussions on almost any cricketing topic & one of the frequent ones often discussed is the fact that Sachin has not really seized a moment & led a fightback (nothing is as romantic as a fightback, isn’t it) ala Steve Waugh types & he scores his runs only when there is no pressure. Nothing could be farther from the truth. A quick look at the numbers (thanks Statsguru) dispels the notion. Sachin averages 42.33 batting 2nd overall & 55.45 batting 2nd in matches India won. In tournament finals (what could be more high-pressure than that), Sachin averages 54.44. Gargantuan numbers, no doubt. Given the position where Sachin batted, more often than not, a fightback would not be required as Sachin would have already taken care of the problem. Fightbacks by their very nature in cricketing terms would entail a team going for glory after the loss of early wickets & such. A Sachin innings would prevent a situation like that from even happening. Or as they say, Prevention is better than Cure. A Sachin special innings would release the pressure on the Indian batsmen, transfer it on the opposition & thus prevent a situation needing a fightback. Given that India won 33 of the 49 (67.4%) matches where Sachin scored a century, compared to the 234 of the 463 matches (50.5%) India won when Sachin played, India did have a better chance to win when Sachin scored a century

 

There is a whole generation who grew up watching Sachin play cricket. To this day, we do not know cricket without Sachin. While his appearances have been sporadic in one day cricket, it was still always there but reality has hit us with his retirement. That familiar tingle when Sachin walks in to open an innings, the crowds waiting for the magic to be turned on, the crotch grab at the start of each delivery, the tap-tap on the pitch, the gesticulations towards the sightscreen till its perfect, the chants of “Sachin Sachin” audible even over Ravi Shastri’s machine gun of a voice, the screech of the voice yelling Yes/No, the enthusiasm of a person who was born to play cricket & knowing nothing other than cricket, the enthusiasm of a 16 year old who dashes around the field, diving & chasing balls in the body of an almost 40 year old aging champion, these are things we would definitely miss in the coming days. Adios Sachin the champion

 

Straight Drive

 

PS: May be he was hinted (or pushed) by the selectors or may be it was his call, what really sucks is the fact that he did not get a proper send off. May be it’s the way Indian cricket functions but we really do not get to give a proper farewell to our cricketers compared to the way a Steve Waugh or a Rick Ponting got. May be the BCCI feel (in all their infinite wisdom) that this would draw the team’s attention from the match onto the farewell but come on, there is nothing worse than a 8-0 drubbing followed by a loss at home. (Yes, I know Sachin has only retired from ODIs but may be this is something that has to be thought of.) (Yes, this is my crib for Laxman & Dravid not getting proper farewells at home & Yes, I am a biased towards them)

 

 

Thank you for reminding us that cricket still remains a gentleman’s game by walking off after a wonderfully constructed 95 at the Mecca of Cricket, at Lords. Never has so much been asked on someone at his debut & never has it been answered better

Thank you for that unbeaten 27 against SA at the wicked Kingsmead, Durban, when the entire team collapsed to 66. An absolute ignominy for the team but a sample of your immense grit, resilience & technique. As Kipling said “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs….”

Thank you for an absolutely fabulous 148, one that stood out for its technical purity & grace under fire. One that could have led to India’s 1st victory in South Africa, thwarted by inclement weather & a gritty resistance from the S African tail

Thank you for being part of the greatest comebacks in cricketing history. That partnership with VVS. The look & determination in your eyes when you hit the century & gestured towards the press & commentary box that snidely criticized you. The knock coming despite the fact you had been demoted down the order. The mental & physical will to grit it out the whole day to create something truly special & lead India to victory in what is one of the greatest wins ever

Thank you for that punchy 81 against Australia in the series decider in Chennai, in tempo altering stand with Sachin & for that astounding straight six off Jason Gillespite, setting up the stage for a large Indian lead, leading to the greatest Indian series win

Thank you for that counter-attacking 75 against SL at Kandy, in an Indian team missing Sachin & Laxman, setting the stage, for Ganguly to take India to a 4th innings chase. Taking the attack to Murali who had the young Indian batting line up mesmerized, through classic on-drives & cover drives, getting right up to the pitch of the ball, was a classic demonstration on how to play top quality spin on a turner

Thank you for keeping going when a lesser person would have given up, when you rode that Mervyn Dillon bouncer on your jaw, & scoring a precious unbeaten 144 to help India to a draw in West Indies

Thank you for the 148 at Headingly. No words really required to describe that knock. A knock that essentially forced people to reevaluate you vis-à-vis Sachin, so much so, that you were awarded the Man of the Match despite Sachin’s 193

Thanks for Adelaide

Thanks again for Adelaide (for the 2nd innings)

Thanks again for Adelaide for plucking THAT catch to get rid of Damien Martyn. Another thanks for a similar effort to get rid of Steve Waugh

Thanks again for Adelaide for extreme selflessness in denying single after single despite being close to your double century, to protect your partner towards the end of day’s play & ending the day at 199*

Thanks to the series winning knock of 270 against Pakistan. A knock that where on you struggled enormously but never gave up until you found your range & a gloriously struck lofted cover drive over long off was the icing on the cake

Thanks for the twin knocks of 81 & 68 on a pitch straight out of hell at Sabina Park. On a track where no one else seemed to survive, you seemed right comfortable in your elements. Thwarting not just the bowlers but also the minefield of a track, you crafted India’s series victory over the West Indies

Thank you for being the lone ranger on the disastrous England tour reeling off 3 centuries while all others were failing miserably. The fortress that refused to be breached. The monument that refused to crumble. The watch tower that refused to let anyone slip

Thank you for that defense, the broad blade with the manufacturer’s name that stopped many a rampaging fast bowler in their tracks unable to reconcile with the fact that a projectile hurled at over 80 miles an hour could just drop down quietly at your feet

Thank you for the classic cover drive. Left foot right to the pitch of the ball. Right foot slightly bent. Bat coming down in a flourish from the direction of third man. The wrists uncorking at the time of impact as the body weight transferred forward. Leaning, almost caressing, coaxing the ball with the rapier of the bat to the boundary

Thank you for that glorious on drive, the scourge of many a tweaker, surgically threading the gap between mid on & mid wicket, the ball all the while on the ground, purring away happily to the boundary

Thank you for being an absolutely immovable object for the opponents but a flexible team man for Team India. Opening the batting, shifting down the order, Wicket keeping, Handle the toughest bowlers, soak up the pressure, field at 1st slip, field at short leg, field at gully, you were there doing it all

Thank you for captaining us to series victories in England & WI while leading us to our 1st victory in SA.

Thank you for being one of the finest slip fielders for team India. You made catching look easy

Thank you for being passionate towards the game while upholding & paying your respects to it always. Thank you also for proving that there is more to the game than the game itself.

Thank you for proving that nice guys do not finish last

Thanks for giving grit a good name

Last but not the least, thank you for being the inspiration to a 14 year old, a remarkably bad bat, who cut your image out from a Reebok sports brochure & stuck it onto his bat, hoping that some of the magic would rub on. It quite didn’t but it inspired the boy to never stop fighting

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

PS: Had written a post a few years back on Dravid here. Those interested can check that one too.

The Boot is on the other foot now

Posted: August 14, 2011 in cricket

Some observations on India’s rise & now fall from No.1

1) Kudos of MS Dhoni & The Indian Cricket Team. Irrespective of the comments from the experts & past players, India being No.1 is no joke. The Indian team deserved this on the basis of consistent performance as well as the fact they have displayed signs of chucking the tag of bad travelers with some awe inspiring performances. Before all the former greats start moaning, they would be wise to take a step back & check where Indian cricket was during their playing days. India’s rise to the top was driven by a resourceful, charismatic, captain cool aligned with a once-in-a-lifetime middle order, a very strong & capable of taking the fight to the opposition opening duo, a new found emphasis on fast bowling led by an astute bowling captain & last but not the least, grit, resilience & valuable runs from the lower order. A team that had sufficient belief in themselves to mount fightbacks, rear guard actions & as well as display a sense of ruthlessness. Last but not the least, the role played by Gary Kirsten & his team.

2) That being said, India as a world No.1 lacked the aura that the previous 3 undisputed champion teams lacked (Bradman’s Invincibles, The Great West Indies team of the late 70s to early 90s, Steve Waugh’s Aussies). However, this is true of the all the sides currently playing (Though England in their current form are beginning to develop an aura). The future No.1 team for some time atleast is likely be the first among equals. The No.1 ranking will be contested between 4 teams, India, England, SA & Australia. (A note for those heralding the rise of England, they still have much to prove in the subcontinent on the slow low designer tracks for spinners, where pace isn’t paramount & bounce, if any, is bound to be lacking)

3) England’s biggest strength lies in the pace bowling variety & depth as well as the ability to hunt in packs. Anderson’s swing bowling nous & his status as pack leader, Barbie (aka Stuart Broad)’s pace coupled with his new found propensity to pitch it up, Bresnan’s skiddy back of length seaming deliveries, Chris Tremlett’s bounce allied with a tendency to seam the ball away from right handers & Steve Finn’s pace & bounce make for an effective & varied bowling attack. It is indeed a measure of their depth that they can play only 3 of the lot.

4) While its too early & premature to get into a postmortem of this disastrous England tour, India did look distinctly under cooked (no pun intended) & under prepared. While it does seem, in this increasingly crowded schedule, farfetched to expect India to play more than 2 practice matches, it was needed in this case considering how most of the key members in the team have not played together since the World Cup.

5) Those (read English commentators) bemoaning how IPL is ruining Indian youngsters can kindly STFU. Agreed that the primacy of test cricket is getting affected, why would any sane human being refuse an offer running the in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for 6 weeks of cricket. Most of these comments seem to materialize from the fact that they could not make the same amount of money when they played. (For once, I am in agreement with Messrs. Shastri & Gavaskar, Hey, stop judging now. I just said once) Lest they forget, all I can say is beware of Americans bearing wads of money entering Lords in a helicopter to organize T20s flanked by former England & WI greats.
Cash for cricket anyone?

6) Injury & Fatigue management has to be a top priority for Indian cricket & the BCCI. Players dropping halfway through the tour, not appearing fit & looking seemingly tired are key problems that have to be addressed for India to be consistently on top of the table. Player schedule has to be addressed & it does no good when players are put in a position where they would have to select between a lucrative T20 tournament & a marquee tour.

7) Praveen Kumar has to be the find of the tour. For a man derided for his lack of pace, his ability to swing the ball either ways with no discernable change in action & control, accuracy & ability to check the runs when things are not happening are major pluses. That coupled with an attitude of a tear away fast bowler makes him a compelling competitor.

8. The No.6 position is again raising a lot of questions. Suresh Raina has not done enough to suggest that he is an answer for the position & his susceptibility to the short ball has not put to rest any misgivings. His ability to turn the arm over & bowl quick off spinning darts & presence in the field are pluses. However, his sole priority should be to score runs.

9) All things that could go wrong did go wrong in this tour of England. Openers injured, shuffle in batting order, a middle order that went off boil, a lower order that hardly put a fight, a bowling attack that could not sustain pressure for long periods of time, an out of form spinner, the list is huge. That being said, a major credit has to go the English team. Ruthless & executing a well thought of plan, the team does bat deep & hurts the opposition with its bowling & fielding

10) Zaheer Khan. Such a vital part of the Indian machine. His loss is not just his bowling but also his guidance & experience being passed on to the other bowlers. In his absence, there is a lack of leadership & hence, pressure is not being sustained for a period of time

11) Lastly, one bad tour is enough. We have been at the receiving end of quite a few bad tours but none as bad as this. It probably hurts even more now because of the good job & the heightened expectation that this team has raised. Had this been the team of the 90s, I am sure it would not have hurt that much. But what is now essential is to focus on the tour of Australia towards the end of the year. A tour to Australia is always a hard tour & despite Australia not being in the best of forms, they are a wounded animal at home. That tour has to be one that is very likely to also be a swan song from our fabled middle order. Its essential to prepare well for that tour & strike hard.

2011 World Cup. India World Champions. Enough said.

Just to leave with a few defining images. A detailed post will be out later.





PS: This is my 100th post. Its been a long time coming. Wanted the 100th to be a special one & once the possibility that India could actually do it or Sachin hitting his 100th 100 arose, the 100th post was to be cherished ,saved and treasured & I have not been disappointed. Heres hoping for a few 100 more, a few more World Cups & more of Sachin’s centuries

Fools Rush In…..

Posted: February 10, 2011 in cricket
Tags: ,

It is said that your life flashes in front of your eyes at the time of your death. This was not death. He had already faced death once, been on death’s doorway, battling dengue fever when he was 15, surviving on drips of glucose 24 hours a day. This was beyond death. The final nail in the coffin containing the corpse of his innocence

As he slumped forward, covering his face with his long fingers (the portion not already covered by his long hair), he reflected back at how he had landed in this particular situation. He had burst on the scene as a effervescent, ebullient star. Plucked from obscurity from an obscure village & propelled onto the biggest stage, he had taken to all of it as naturally like he was born to do just this. Ever willing to shoulder responsibility, belying his age and slender frame, his was the face that adorned the walls of his poverty ridden, war torn village as well as a thousand other similar village and ultimately, his turbulent country. Darling of the media, love & affection of the public, respect, awe & acceptance from the veterans of an older generation, the future seemed really bright. Instead……

Avoiding eye contact with anyone, barely even hearing the verdict, for he knew what it would be, he walked out of the court in a daze, to the nearest rest room. As his eyes filled up, his controlled rage broke up and found a target in the judges thinking What do they know of poverty. Born & brought up in riches, how could they understand the difference that a few thousand pounds would make to himself, his family & his village. From extreme poverty to a meaningful life of comfort, thats all he wanted, nothing more.

His rage-fueled thoughts found another outlet in his erstwhile bowling partner and his captain. In a parallel world, he would not have been so naive, gullible & greedy and instead, would have thrown the offer (& the money) back at their faces. In an alternate world, he would have chickened out, his fear of being caught would have outweighed his greed. In another multiverse, he would have actually gone ahead & reported to the authorities.

But this being the real world, he had to face the consequences for the choice that he had made. With all the confidence of an 18 year old, he never imagined that he would be caught or even if caught, be punished so severely. Drying his eyes, blaming himself as much as his partners, he stepped out to face the media & his fans. Presenting a brave face, he talked of the inevitable appeal that his lawyer would be drafting shortly. But deep, within himself, he knew his time was up presently. 5 year, 5 long years, of not doing something which he had spent all his time doing. Bowling. Mohammed Amir looked up and promised to himself”I will be back”

PS: It indeed is a sad saga that someone as richly talented as Mohammed Amir had to suffer this humiliation as well as the penalty. While it is painful not to have this talented youngster buzzing around working magic with the ball, for once ICC has made the right decision. A strong action needed to be taken. Hopefully, time still being on Amir’s side, we shall see him in another 5 years. Until then, so long, ace.

Wheres the Plan B, Captain?

Posted: June 7, 2010 in cricket
Tags: , ,

The times, they are a changing. Purists would say give the first session to the bowlers and make hay later. Such sentence hold no meaning for the modern crop of swashbuckling batsmen who would prefer to bring the bowler to their knees in the first session itself.

Sehwag ,one of the modern greats,bats with a uncluttered mind and “see ball, hit ball” policy, demoralizes oppositions and quite often sets up the match in the first session itself. This policy is now being followed by other teams too. Dilshan’s career has seen an upswing post his move up the order. Tamim Iqbal has given England many scares and scars. Australia have Watson while captain cool Gayle can cook up a thunderstorm anytime he fancies the need. Graeme Smith is no shrinking violet himself. 100+ scores in the opening sessions are hardly a rarity but more of a norm when these batsmen are at the crease.

Sadly though, this evolution in batting has hardly been marked by the evolution in strategies and tactics. Captains, despite the reputation of the batsmen, are still surprised when the onslaught begins. To put it very kindly, captains perform the headless chicken act. They are merely reacting. Even someone with an IQ of Sreesanth can figure out that these batsmen are pretty much in the mold of “take no prisoners”. Surely a Sehwag or a Dilshan is not going to hang around for a long time. Whats to prevent a captain from starting off with 2 slips, a gully, a backward point, 2 covers, a third man and a deep point and ask his bowlers to bowl well outside off. “But that is so defensive” is what the critics and ex-players would cry out. Well, the primary objective of a captain is to win games, not to play according to the rules of the game when the game itself has been changed by this form of batsmanship.

Captains need to think. Captains need to be proactive. Else, we shall see even more teapots on the cricket field

The double teapot

Picture courtesy: Cricinfo

PS: If the post seems rather less lucid than usual, blame it on the brilliant person who refreshed the window before the contents could be saved and thus had to recreate a post that took an hour in 10 mins

PPS: As few of you had pointed out, just packing the offside field and waiting for the best is quite not the solution, I agree. But then, the point I was trying to make is that what is the need to set a test match field for buccaneers of the highest class. It makes sense to set a field where the ball is most likely to go rather than a field where a captain wishes the ball would go

Restless Night

Posted: February 5, 2010 in cricket

Dry Throat. Clammy Feet. Nervous Hands. Pacing. Trying to sleep but not getting any. Big Day tomorrow. Running through hundreds of scenarios. Thinking of what going to happen. What is going to be dished out. A nearly forgotten man remembered again. The last survivor of the almost lost generation.

Am I capable of handling it. Will I make tomorrow my day or will I just be another name with my fleeting 5 mins of fame. After all these years, knocking knocking knocking, finally a chance. Will I grab it. My entire dream, my passion, my goal. Just been waiting for this moment for my entire life time.

These are probably some of the thoughts running through Badrinath as he makes his debut in another 9 hours. We wish you the best Badrinath and go do it, not for anyone but just for yourselves.

The importance of being Dravid

Posted: November 16, 2009 in cricket
Tags: ,

Your team has an exciting new talent whom you have to play. You decide to jettison one of your openers to play him. Who will now open the innings? Simple send Dravid to open (irrespective of the fact, he is one of the best No.3 ever to occupy the spot)

Your team lacks balance. You need to play 7 batsmen & 4 bowlers. Your wicketkeeper can give McGrath competition with the bat. What do you do? Simply ask Dravid to don the gloves

Your team brimming with exuberant talent stumbles when ball fizzes past their throat and your next assignment is on bouncy tracks. What do you do? Dial D for Dravid (despite the fact, that the man was unceremoniously dropped from the test team)

Your next tournament is in India on tracks where if the ball bounces more than your chest, implies that it is a tennis ball being bowled. Drop Dravid (inspite of the fact that the man performed admirably well in the role designated for him)

Rahul DravidIf it had been anyone but Dravid, I am sure there would be lengthy press conferences and not-so-quiet rumblings but being the gentleman that he is, there was nary a sound from him. Instead he spoke louder through his actions, scoring a sublime unbeaten century proving a point again.

Proving a point. That has been Dravid’s story. Branded as an unidimensional player at the start of his career, he has reinvented himself and scored over 10,000 ODI runs at an average a shade under 40 to prove his detractors wrong. For people who wrote him off after the disastrous tour Down Under in 1999, he replied by amassing over 600 runs the next tour.

A quiet unassuming man, not for him the genius of Tendulkar or the magnificence of Lara or the power of Ponting. Instead, he has ground out attacks. Unflinching in the face of adversity and capable of absorbing anything thrown at him, he earned himself the sobriquet of “The Wall”. And that solid he has been for Team India.

Look back at some of Team India’s greatest overseas victories and it is replete with instances of Dravid being instrumental in achieving those victories. The phenomenal double century in the first innings and the gritty unbeaten 72 in the 2nd innings where he was just going on empty, at Adelaide. The master class of 148 in blustery, damp, dank, wickedly swinging and seaming Headingly track leading to a famous victory. The twin fifties on a devilish minefield at Sabina Park where one only player apart from him scored above 60 in a low scoring scrap.The massive 270 at Rawalpindi where despite not being in the best of touches, he hung in there and ensured that India won the match and series in Pakistan. Throw in over 180 catches, a captaincy stint that led to series victories in England and West Indies and a first ever win in S Africa, Dravid is veritably the finest No.3 that India has produced.

In a team replete with stroke makers, Dravid is the glue that holds it together and provides solidity. Over the last 2 years, when the man was not as solid as he normally is, the team had a shaky feel to it, capable of imploding spectacularly.

Dravid has spent most of his career under the shadow of Sachin. However, in the near future (when Dravid retires), Team India will realize that he cast an equal shadow and had an equal influence (if not greater) as Sachin.

PS: Last Word. Ponting – 136 Test matches – 11345 runs. Dravid – 134 Test matches – 10823 runs. Just 500 runs behind in 2 less games. Does that make him a lesser player?

One of the most common refrain thats been doing the rounds is how Australia are missing McGrath and Warne and which is one reason that their cricket team is not as formidable as before. Warne provides ample evidence of the same with his stint in the IPL whereas McGrath was virtually ignored by the Delhi Daredevils team management.

Glenn McGrath

Glenn McGrath

Today, Delhi and the world were shown what they were missing. Not handed the new ball, the great man came in as first change. Nothing much had changed, the run up was the same, the action till the delivery was the same. It was watching the most economical and effortless action all over again. First ball to the batsman, a gently outswinging full delivery, fuller than his normal back of the length but nevertheless on that impeccable line, just on the much abused corridor of uncertainty. Bowling a fuller length than he usually does, McGrath was down on pace but still that impeccable line.

A quiet first over followed. Next in line was a left hander and McGrath produced a beauty. Starting just outside off, the ball swung in a shade, just from a length, clipped the batsman’s pad and thundered into off. That was what he was waiting for. A leap as he usually does and still displaying all that competitive streak, that made him the champion bowler that he was.

What makes this even more amazing is that the great man had last played in a competitive match way back in the first season of the IPL in the semis and had had his last practise 5 months back. To be out of action for all this time and yet land the first ball on that line is a feat beyond imagination.

And the next wicket to fall was the typical McGrath wicket. The ball pitching just back of length, just outside offstump, nips back that fraction off the seam, goes through the gate or gets an inside edge and cannons into the stump. (it was the inside edge this time around). Somethings never change

The Laxman Effect

Posted: July 23, 2009 in cricket
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At end of the 2nd day’s play during the 2nd test of the Ashes, the question reverberating through everyone’s mind was whether Strauss would chose to enforce the follow-on. This was a decision that would not have merited a 2nd thought even as recently as 10 years ago. While conceding the fact that pitches have become far easier to play these days and the quality of bowling has generally come down, if there is one reason why captain are loath to impose the follow-on, it is because of a man named VVS Laxman and the career-defining innings that he played on a hot day.

"Very Very Special" Laxman

"Very Very Special" Laxman

I still remember the day. March of 2001, it was the 12th standard board exam time and like most moms, my mom was dead against me watching cricket (she still is but then now it cant be helped). Plus those were the pre-cable days in my house and good ol’ DD would show only 2 hrs of play. The first and the last hour of play. So I would ensure that I would catch that up. Imagine my shock when I switched the TV on at 3.30 and it was still the duo of Dravid and Laxman batting on. This was sporting miracle at its best. There was joyous outpouring, I did a lil jig to which a standard mom’s reply came back “Its after all only cricket, you can watch it after your board exams (replace board exams with semester exams, mock CATs, CAT, office) get over. And obviously call up other equally excited junta on phone on pretext of discussing a doubt to further dissect the match. I remember watching the highlights as a solace and wondering at the fortitude of the 2 men in the middle defying the all-conquering Aussies.

What stood out in that partnership was the way Laxman went about his innings. With the calm of a Zen master (as described by Dravid), he went about playing his shots when even a single false stroke could have sealed the match. That one innings is likely to define Laxman’s career irrespective of whatever else he achieves. The effect of that innings has been that captains nowadays have been extremely reluctant to enforce a follow-on fearing that someone else might do a “Laxman” again. I remember when India toured Down Under in 2003 for the reciprocal series and were facing down the barrel with 4 wickets lost for less than 80 behind a mammoth first innings Aussie total, the questions asked to Steve Waugh was more around whether he would enforce the follow-on.(Its a different matter that Dravid and Laxman scored scintillating centuries and nearly repeated Kolkata). That was the effect of such a monumental innings.

The Laxman Effect seems to a fairly good phenomenon to be added to the cricketing jargon and in the context of the game,  deserves to be called as one of the greatest innings ever played.

PS: This has been typed on a laptop where the space bar has been functioning as consistently as Shahid Afridi, hence loads of bloopers are possible.