India falters at the last hurdle, again!

Posted on July 7, 2008. Filed under: Cricket |

India failed to win the Asia Cup failing miserably in the final against Sri Lanka. I guess they lost the battle psychologically to the new boy, Mendis. He was given away wickets like anything. What a fall for Indian batsmen who are supposed to play spin better? It again goes to prove that Indians are better players of spin on paper but on cricket wickets!! ha!! ha!! Joke..

Leaving aside the debacle of Indian Cricket team, the Wimbeldon finals yesterday between Nadal and Federer was an keenly contested match with Nadal finally prevailing over Federer in 5 sets. I didnt watch it yesterday but I know many people would have taken the pains to watch in the night yesterday after the Asia Cup final. In my growing years, (now also I grow, but more horizontally) Wimbeldon used to be a great entertainment on DD. There was no DD Sports in those days and all the matches starting Quarterfinals of Wimbeldon would be telecast live by DD. Whenever Wimbeldon was played, the finals would be on Sunday evening and the regular Tamil film would be sacrificed for the Wimbeldon finals. I used to watch almost all the matches of great players like Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Ivan Lendl etc., I used to be a great fan of “Boom Boom” Becker known for his powerful serves. Becker created sensation by winning the Wimbeldon at the age of 18. I also used to follow Leander Paes progress as a Junior player in the Wimbeldon. If I remember right, Leander won the Junior Wimbeldon in 1990, exactly 18 years ago. Those seems to be good old days now with this year I hardly watched a single set. Somehow the interest for Tennis as a sport has vanished and I have to admit that I cant even recognise many top players except for Federer, Nadal and Hewitt.

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Watching Asia Cup Cricket – more painful to see Indian bowlers

Posted on July 4, 2008. Filed under: Cricket |

I have been watching the Asia Cup matches particularly when India is playing (who has the time and energy to watch one-day matches when India does not play) and I really surprised by the good show of Indian batsmen consistently. The word to note here is consistency. They have been scoring above 300 on a regular basis, of course, the pitches are also very helpful to the batsmen, to say the least. Good that Suresh Raina has at last come good at the international level and will add more solidity to the Indian batting. MS Dhoni, I have to accept, has been leading from the front in the batting. The players with names starting with Y’s are yet to make their mark, let it be Yuvraj or Yusuf Pathan. Yusuf Pathan is a complete dis-appointment in this series and this is least expected after a very successful IPL. Dhoni has been backing him well by giving him number of chances but he has been squandering each one of them. Rohit Sharma and Robin Uthappa are not being regulars now are finding it difficult to score when given a chance. Guys, gear up, it is a golden opportunity for you to cement your place else, sit out in the sidelines forever.

The agonising part is the Indian bowling. Ishant, Irfan, Praveen and to some exten Piyush Chawla have failed to deliver on the flat Pakistani pitches. But that is no excuse for not bowling at the proper place. RP Singh is creating a record of sorts by bowling 3 continuous wides. I dont know if any other regular bowler has got this distinction in world cricket!! Too many loose balls, too much of width for the batsmen to cut and pull, juicy half-volleys, you name what a bowler should not do, has been done repeatedly by our great bowlers. Indian bowlers cant defend a total of 300 plus runs against Pakistan, allowed a lowly Bangladesh to score 280 runs. What is Venkatesh Prasad as a bowling coach doing? Why is he being paid for? Waste of space!!

With the batting line-up showing form, where will Sachin Tendulkar fit in when he eventually confirms that he is fully fit? Should he be included in the one-day squad going forward? These are the questions which remains to be answered after the Asia Cup irrespective of who wins the tournament.

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IPL Final – lives upto its reputation!

Posted on June 2, 2008. Filed under: Cricket |

What a final it turned out to be? The match got decided on the last ball and you cant ask for more. Tension, fear and trauma as it is the case with any last ball victory was all there. Great cricket and it was worth watching the full match.

Chennai Super Kings started off very well and was cruising along scoring 8 runs an over for the most part. All top order batsmen contributed to the total and when the stage was set for a big score after the end of 12 overs with only 2 wickets lost, the sudden slide or the slowness in run scoring crept in. Chennai Super Kings fell short by some 10-15 runs at the end due to some faulty tactics from the Captain. Added on to the fact of faulty tactics is the poor fielding by CSK. Yusuf Pathan was dropped on 13 and 33. Catches win matches is a very popular phrase and these two catches really tilted the balance as well.

But the full credit should go to Rajasthan Royals team. They fought hard and held on to the nerve till the last moment to score a win. Above that, they have been consistent performers during the league phase and they truly deserve to be the champions.

While watching the match yesterday, I felt both the teams felt the pressure of the big day and the game was not very natural, I would say. I also sometimes felt during the match why did CSK reach the final in the first place? Though I like Shane Warne led Royals as much as CSK, somehow the affinity to the team of your city has slowly but surely creeped in. You cant distance yourself from CSK and feel happy and sad when things go in favour or against them respectively. That is, a great success for IPL which tries to bring in that city based loyalty.

Overall, I think Chennai Super Kings lost the match due to the following reasons:

1. Albie Morkel was promoted to no.4 when Badrinath or Dhoni would have sustained the tempo. Morkel, agreed, is a big hitter, but he is unsure when playing the slower bowlers. He wasted many balls which finally made him go for the expansive shot which caused his wicket. His stay in the crease and the number of dot balls he gave, added more pressure on the batsman at the other end.
2. Instead of sending Badrinath, Chamara Kupgedara came in at no.6. Again a tactical mistake from Dhoni. Chamara K wasted good 12 balls and scored only 8 runs. When big hitting was expected at the end, it was a horrible sight to see batsmen scampering singles. Chamara has not played any big innings in this tournament so far, and I am at loss to know why he came in ahead of Badrinath.
3. Poor team selection – L Balaji was truly off-colour in the semi-final as well. But Dhoni persisted with him for the final as well. Balaji turned out to be the weakest link in the bowling. He was belted across the ground by all batsmen. Joginder Sharma or Palani Amarnath would have been a a better option instead of Balaji as the 5th bowler.
4. When the Balaji was being expensive, Dhoni didnt try to squeeze in a over from Raina.

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Life without IPL for a day

Posted on May 30, 2008. Filed under: Cricket |

Yesterday, there was no IPL match. I felt really odd with myself without watching IPL. I felt like I have lot of time after I went home in the evening. Though all the matches in IPL are not very exciting, but cricket is a great addiction to most of our countrymen. Whatever may be the quality and the calibre of the players, you still end up watching these Twenty20 matches as everything gets over by 3 hours flat. When I deliberate on why Twenty20 is a success, it is not that people like to see big hitting alone but also they are able to know the result. Without knowing the result and just watching some big hitting, would the IPL be exciting? It would look like match highlights rather than a match!

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Chennai Super Kings or Chennai "Sothapal" Kings

Posted on May 26, 2008. Filed under: Cricket |

The last two matches for CSK in the IPL was a nightmare to say the least. They were displaying very poor cricket quality and you can’t expect positive results for that. The situation now is that they have to win their match against Deccan Chargers to seal their place in the semi-finals.

The match against Bangalore RC was a easy one, at least, thats what I thought when they were restricted to 130 or so. CSK was cruising along at 85 for 1 after 14 overs and the victory was very much in sight. I cant believe that finally Chennai lost by good 15 runs. The bowling was not that very great and CSK made heavy weather of that. The most irritating point I noted was as follows:
1. When the going was good, I cant understand why Dhoni got himself promoted up the order and threw his wicket carelessly. There was no need for him to go up the order and if at all he comes at no.3 or 4, then you expect him to guide the team to victory.
2. When there were 18 balls left and 36 runs to score with 4 wickets in hand and Suresh Raina on the other end, you would expect batsmen like Manpreet Goni and Lakshmipathy Balaji to take a single and give the strike to Raina. But neither of them did that and they went about making huge heaves without any success!! Very poor cricketing sense.

The match against Rajasthan Royals was a different story altogether. The CSK bowling, always weak, was pathetic on that day. No bowler could bowl a single decent over and you hardly made the ball beat the bat. It is very annoying. More so, to see it happen live at the ground after paying Rs1200/- for 2 tickets! Since I was at the stadium I could see how Dhoni reacts to the various situations and I have to say that Dhoni hardly reacted. You may not get to see it on the small screen the Captain’s reaction for every stroke, but while at the ground, you can continually watch what Dhoni does or does not do. On that day, Dhoni looked completely out of sorts and his mind wasn’t there, I guess. You can understand it from the body language where he hardly bothered to talk to the bowlers even after being butchered by Royals batsmen. Definitely, it is not cool captaincy but absolute lack of responsibility. There was not innovation either from Dhoni until the 15 over or so when Suresh Raina was asked to bowl couple of overs. Dhoni could have used Suresh Raina, Badrinath (who can bowl medium pacers) effectively when your regular bowlers go for runs. I dont know why he persisted with Ntini and Balaji when they were smashed around the park.

On the other hand, when Royals bowled you can see Shane Warne being involved completely. Let it be field settings, bowling change or reading the mind of the batsmen, Warne is definitely a class apart. Aptly, Time of India wrote the next day that Dhoni has been out-thought by Warne. Dhoni’s cup of woes doesn’t end with this captaincy but also continued with his batting. He promoted himself up the order above Badrinath and wasted precious balls. Finally, he gave away the wicket cheaply to a soft dismissal.

Chennai Super Kings are in must win situation which they could have very avoided. They are not Super Kings but Sothapal kings.

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Watching cricket at Chepauk

Posted on May 11, 2008. Filed under: Cricket |

Yesterday, I was at Chepauk to watch the IPL match between Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and Kings XI Punjab (KXI). The match started at 8.00 PM and it is a totally different experience to watch the match at the ground. It has its own charm as well as its inconvenience.

For the match starting at 8.00 PM, I have to leave home at 5.15 PM, a good 2.45 hours before the match. The reason being that I have to reach Chepauk after completing my dinner (!!) as I was advised that the food was not good at all inside the stadium and very costly as well. So I started at 5.15 PM went for a dinner at Hotel Sangeetha on Ethiraj Salai, Egmore. This is becoming one of my favourite restaurants nowadays. I love the Gobi Manjurian, however bad it is made, but here in Sangeetha I simply love the way they make it. So by the time we finished the dinner it was 6.45 pm. We have already arranged with my friend that I would come and park my two-wheeler at their house, which is incidentally a stone throw away from the Chepauk stadium.

I didn’t explore the option of taking my car and bothering myself with finding a parking place inside or near the stadium. Later I found out that the best place to park your car is to park it inside the MLA Hostel (Omandurar Government Estate) on the Mount Road corner. You may have to walk upto the stadium, a good km or so away. Try it out!!

The gate 11 is on the Bells Road and when we entered it there are at least two levels of security check. There is a metal detector as well as physical frisking of males. I don’t know why females are exempted. There are strict rules of what you can carry inside the stadium. You are not allowed to carry camera, lighter, water bottles, handbags and many other stuff. The detailed terms and conditions are given at the back of the ticket. Another thing you have to careful when you go is to ensure that your ticket has a hologram sticked on to it. There is a possibility that the hologram sticker may fall off from the ticket and you would be denied entry. Tickets without holograms are not allowed entry. Finally when I entered the Stadium it was 7.10 or so and a good 50 minutes before the start of the match. IPL matches have entertainment before the match and yesterday it was Vikku Vinayakram, a world renowned Ghattam artist. I was in E stand from where you get to see the mid-wicket angle. After Vinayakram’s Ghattam, tamil film songs were played before the toss. The toss happened at 7.30 PM and Kings XI won and decided to field.

The match was entertaining as for every ball, the crowd starts cheering. It was unbelievable to see the energy levels displayed by the crowd in the stadium. You probably don’t realise it as long as you watch it on the TV but the noise of the crowd is really deafening in the stadium. I really wonder how the players are able to concentrate and play in spite of loud noise from the crowd. In addition to the noise of the crowd, IPL matches also has the filmi music going on between the overs. The stand I was sitting, E Stand, had its own set of cheer-groups who danced for every boundary or a wicket. But the energy levels went down for these un-official cheer-group after the first innings.

Chennai started well and slowly built their innings. I prayed that Badrinath come good atleast in this match and he truly delivered yesterday. Badrinath played a beautiful innings of 60+ and Dhoni ably supported him throughout. Chennai finished with a decent score to bowl at.

During the break, we went out and found that the corridors are fully occupied. You can hardly move without hitting against the person coming on the opposite side or one who is standing in front of you. I dont know why the organisers have to allow drinks, coffee and other things to sold in that narrow corridor.

Kings XI started with a flourish. Chennai desperately needed a break-through and Hopes didnt dash my hope. He got out and slowly started taking control. L Balaji who has started playing after a 3 years break, bagged a hat-trick and sealed the fate of Kings XI. When the match was almost in CSK’s hands, Irfan Pathan and Piyush Chawla made one last attempt to wrest the initiative. Irfan and Piyush hit a flurry of boundaries and sixes but luckily CSK held on to their nerves and won the match comfortably in the end.

After the match got over, there was a mad rush to exit the stands through one of the gates. We patiently waited in the queue only to find out that it is a spectators exit but an exit for vendors. It was really uncomfortable navigating through heavy logs on the ground. I again wonder why no clear exit signs are not pasted in the corridors. There is no light in the urinal and as usual it stinks. The apathy of the organisers towards these basic necessities is really appalling. The tickets are sold at very high rates and you end up having no basic amenities.

Overall, I really enjoyed a day out watching the IPL match. Having dinner before the match was the best thing to have happened as we were able to enjoy every bit of cricket and entertainment without worrying about food. It is a good way to begin your annual holiday and I plan to wrap up my holiday with another match on May 24. Lets see, if I am able to make it.

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Thriller of a game in IPL Twenty20 – CSK wins!!

Posted on May 8, 2008. Filed under: Cricket |

After a series of boring and one-sided matches in the IPL Twenty20 league, today’s match between Chennai Super Kings and Delhi Daredevils was a close encounter. The match went to the last ball and CSK managed to win with 4 wickets in hand.

I managed to watch the last 5 overs of the match thanks to a TV in our office. Delhi Daredevils paid dearly in the absence of the 5th specialist bowler. It has to rely on Shoaib Malik and Virender Sehwag to complete the 5th bowler’s quota and those 4 overs costed Delhi 58 runs!
After a bout of 3 straight losses after the Australians went home, CSK desparately needed a win and Dhoni was under pressure to deliver today. He promoted himself up the order and played sensibly for 33 ball 33 runs. CSK also got a good start from Vidyut and Stephen Flemming. Parthiv Patel was dropped along with Makaya Ntini.

Local Chennai boy and former India Cricketer, Lakshmipathy Balaji made his debut in Twenty20 and has done reasonably well claiming 2 wickets for 35 runs in 4 overs. I didnt see him bowl but heard people saying that he mixed up deliveries very well. Good for Chennai Super Kings!!

With this victory, CSK would be charged up and back in the reckoning for the semifinal berth. I have started to support Chennai Super Kings and Shane Warne’s Rajasthan Royals is my other favourite team.

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Chennai Super Kings wins a thriller against Mumbai Indians

Posted on April 25, 2008. Filed under: Cricket |

Day before Yesterday, I watched the IPL match between CSK and MI played at Chepauk. I was right on time to watch the match. I was told that the programmes in the ground started good 3 hours before the match, that is from 5.00 PM. CSK started well with Parthiv and Hayden. Hayden was looking little tentative in the begining. They were cruising at steady speed thanks an excellent 100 plus partnership between Suresh Raina and Mathew Hayden. Raina was hitting well and both scored half-centuries. CSK completed 20 overs for 208, which looked a decent score. I watched the first 6 overs of Mumbai innings but after that couldnt control my sleep. Decided to find out the result in the paper next morning. When I went to sleep I thought the total would be tough for MI but it turned out that they were very close and almost scored the required runs.

While watching the match yesterday, couple of thoughts crossed my minds:
1. Fate of One-day cricket:
IPL and Twenty20 has definitely come to stay. People are glued to the TV sets and it is definitely a hit. It is so convenient to go home and watch a full match in 3 hours. After sometime, who will have the patience to watch one-day cricket spanning for 8 hours. I believe at this stage, One-day cricket is poorly placed against its new born brother, Twenty20. Slowly over a period of time, one-day cricket may die due to lack of patronage both from the audience and the media.
Then the pertinent question of what happens to Test cricket. I feel Test cricket would survive as compared to one-day cricket. It is a different ball game and there will be a bunch of players who would specialise in Test cricket.

2. IPL’s impact on cricketers:
IPL is a paradigm shift in the way a game of cricket is approached. IPL has provided an excellent opportunity for the young Indian cricketers to closely work with the greats of the game and they should try to imbibe the positive aspects. IPL will definitely bolden the cricketers and make them confident as and when they get a chance to represent the country. Who will be afraid to face Bret Lee or bowl to Andrew Symmonds after having closed watched and played with them.

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IPL – Indian Primetime League

Posted on April 22, 2008. Filed under: Cricket |

Now with IPL being 4 days old and almost all teams playing one or two matches, it has been declared a hit. IPL during the first week has earned highest TRP ratings across all channels. The prime time TV viewing is taken over IPL over the last few days. This was of course expected but the real challenge lies in building on this euphoria and sustaining it for the next 40 days or so.

The stage has come to decide on the loyalties. It is very interesting to see players across countries are playing together as a single unit and makes your choice of favouring a team really difficult. When you see Ricky Ponting running and sharing few tips with Ishant Sharma when he bowls looks really bewildering. Just imagine, couple of months ago both were spitting fire in their eyes against each other. Now they play for the same team, Kolkatta Knight Riders.

Coming back to the teams, I see Kolkatta Knight Riders seems to be best of the lot. Sharukh Khan, the owner of KRK has been around during all the matches and supports his team. He being a big celebrity and his active involvement would propel KRK to be among the most popular teams in IPL. Already, people have started calling KRK as the Manchester United of IPL. On the financial side also, SRK has bought KRK for USD76 million one of the lowest bids for a big city like Kolkatta. The stadium has the highest seating capacity and it is widely believed that SRK would break even earlier than any other team in the IPL.

My home team, Chennai Super Kings has played one match and they have won it. Though I say my home team, I dont feel like supporting it whole-heartedly at this stage. May be, I would support it for the sake of being from the same city.

For me, the Bangalore Royal Challengers have been the biggest failure so far. The team led by Rahul Dravid and with players like Wasim Jaffer, Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher in it looks like a Test match team. That has been popular perception about the team. They have failed miserably in the first two matches and they have to really improve if they need to be successful. Vijay Mallya has spent lot of money on them having bought the team for USD111 million or so.

The Australian players have been very successful in this league. Mike Hussey, Shane Watson and Shane Warne have proven their worth with match winning efforts. I admire the Australians for the sheer professionalism they show in whatever form of cricket. On the other hand, much touted Indian Icon Players have failed to live up to the reputation. Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Sourav Ganguly and Yuvaraj Singh are not in their best of their form. Sachin Tendulkar has not played yet so I reserve my comments on him for the later.

Lot of young Indian players have got fantastic chance to play against the best of cricketers. Badrinath and R Jadeja came up with interesting knocks for their respective teams, Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals and should do well in the rest of the league to warrant a look by the national selectors.

Overall, IPL is enjoyable in phases for me.

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Devarajan’s article on Indian cricket!

Posted on April 14, 2008. Filed under: Cricket |

Source: Business Line

I am not sure how it would be taken after India won the third test handsomely. But my views remains the same.

……..Again, in a few years, there will not be any schools in Mumbai, only coaching classes. When they grow up, school kids will having nothing to recall. Like in another two months after IPL, cricket will not be and a future generation will not realise that such a game existed in the world with Indian cricket teams losing more matches than winning despite “legends” (going by cricket commentators) like Gavaskar, Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman, Ganguly and Kumble. They are so “legendary” they protest when they see grass on the cricket pitch at Kanpur, like my grand-daughter Shreya when denied a packet of Kurkure or Lays.

Blessed be the public that our “legends” do not insist on the entire Kanput cricket ground being shaved of grass. Then Kumble and Harbhajan could spin the ball from one end of the ground to the other. Going by our voluble and tiring cricket commentators like Gavaskar, Shastri and Bhogle, our “legendary” batsmen like Tendulkar and Dravid have played fast bowling in foreign pitches with canny footwork; they forget to add they have won only a few matches against the best opposition.

If that be so, why order Daljit Singh to do a barber’s job in Kanpur. This has happened many times in the past (remember the Nagpur incident when captain Ganguly flew back to Kolkata after seeing green when Australians chuckled) and yet our “legends” have to be given Cadbury 5 Stars to keep their courage going. There is the argument that every country fiddles with pitches. Yes they do and it does not make our action right. In the terribly unfair lands of Australia and South Africa there are fast and spin pitches; for instance, fast Perth (remember, we won a Test match) and spinning Sydney in Australia. We lose a test match to South Africa at Motera because our players were swinging to the crores thrown at them by IPL and cared not for being play-fit.

Recently, over TV the “legend” Sunil Gavaskar asked Indian spectators, “what more should a Tendulkar (yet, another legend) do.” For this writer he should stop playing cricket. Ahead of the South Africa series, John Gloster said Tendulkar had a problem with his groin and hip. Out came the “legend” saying: I am fit. At Chennai, he spent most of the time in the dressing room after scoring his patented duck and then the public was told he was hurt in the groin. And the same Tendulkar wants the juniors to respect seniors in the team. Hey, we had heard of such orders during the 1975 Emergency. Is the “legend” Sachin Tendulkar made of crystal glass with none having any right to pepper him including his friend Sanjay Manjrekar. Spinners also like turn and bounce (ask Warne) and then our critics have been telling us recently that we have Ishant Sharma and a packet of pacers as good as any in the world. Spinners will no more be critical; pace is going to count, the cricket correspondents said. Then, why use razors and scissors in Kanpur? Despite the noise over the India-Australia series in Australia, the record books will say India lost the series 2-1. That’s the bare bone fact.

We have never won a series in Australia and we have “legends” in our team. Wisden’s hundred best centuries did not give any place to Tendulkar. Mukul Kesavan in his book Men in White writes: Wisden’s innings were assessed by weighted criteria and ladder ranked; judged by those yardsticks, Tendulkar’s innings didn’t measure up. Vishwanath was there, Gavaskar was there, VVS Laxman was right up there – the fourth best innings of all time – Lara was severally there, but not Tendulkar.” And Kesavan adds: So a celebration of Indian batsmanship that concentrates on winning performances would exclude most of our cricket history, most of our batsmen and most of our memories. That can’t be right. And the reason it doesn’t seem right is related to the nature of cricket, not just our local predicament as supporters of a team that loses more often than it wins.” Thank God, India is losing all the time.

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