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Archive for March, 2007

India’s World Cup: Wrong Decisions and an Uncertain Future

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My reaction to India’s exit from the World Cup. Written for, cross posted here.

It has been a tough time for Indian Cricket. The last 24 hours or so have showed that how the mighty fall.

Defeat becomes less bitter when you try everything that you can to avoid it. Things would have been less worse for our team if they would have put up a fight. When Wright and Ganguly took up the ruins of the cricket team they faced an uphill task. There was a need for people who could play good cricket and did not carry the huge bundle of egos and world records with them. Ganguly, in particular, was adamant on backing virtually unknown players, picking them up from the domestic games. No bloated egos and a hunger to do well while giving a fight — these seemed to be the prerequisites for being a part of the team. Wright went on to instill a work ethic that was unheard of in the past. For example, the new coach had to stop the serving of tea and biscuits while the players did the nets. The laid back attitude had to go.

I am afraid, this same laid back attitude has crept back in somehow. There is complacency somewhere, no matter how much the skipper denies it.

We are emotional fans. We go to extremes. Our team, which faces our wrath now while we burn their effigies also enjoys unprecedented fan support anywhere they are. We love our cricketers, we worship them. This, I dare say, is a privilege unavailable to most teams in world cricket. And that is why, we’ll be happy if our team fights it out in the middle. For them, putting up a fight should become obligatory. If everything else fails to inspire them, that is. Those billion people deserve it. If they do that, winning will become sweeter and loosing will be less bitter.

Chappell’s remarks, during the post-match conference, were made out to be inflammatory even when he had said nothing that could be termed offensive/arrogant per-se. The coach was briefing the media minutes after the world cup defeat. At one point, at the edge of getting annoyed, he said, “You are putting words in my mouth”. The media there, I think, was indeed doing so and in a bid to make him say something that would have indeed been inflammatory. That would have given them more masala for the day ahead. They have already dubbed the whole thing as Chappell and Dravid being unapologetic and it’s on air already.

But they did go wrong, the coach-captain duo, didn’t they? Some straight statistics now.

Harbhajan Singh has gone through a transformation. He looks a shadow of what he was in 2001. Figures suggest that when he came on to bowl against Sri Lanka in that critical world cup tie, he was (and still is) one of the most overrated bowlers in world cricket. Since the ICC Champions trophy held in 2004, the bowler has played in 61 matches and has taken 57 wickets — less than 1 wicket per match. And after the captain chose to commit the blunder of overlooking a bowler of the class of Kumble, he went on to overlook Ramesh Powar as well, even though the Mumbai player took 24 wickets at an average of 27.62 in the 18 ODIs he played. Mind you, he always has played as the second spinner. Singh, meanwhile, hasn’t been looking to take wickets. He has been way too defensive. In the game against Sri Lanka, I thought he should have come around the wicket to the left hander while it was evident that his bowling was not bothering the batsman. Instead, he chose to bowl the negative leg stump line. In contrast, while Sehwag was looking good in the crease, Muralitharan took the challenge on by coming around the wicket. Sehwag fell, almost immediately, giving a catch at first slip.

May 2006. The last time India toured West Indies, Kaif was a part of the ODI squad. He was the second highest scorer for India in the series, second only to Sehwag. Kaif scored 205 runs in 5 ODIs at an average of 51.25 while Sehwag went on to score 237 runs at an average of 47.40. In the next 15 matches that Sehwag played before the world cup, the opener scored 225 runs at an average of 15 runs per innings. Kaif stayed home while Dravid’s support to Sehwag was made public.

You don’t need to be an expert in Cricket to understand the significance of the number three batsman in the squad. Unfortunately, this fact was overlooked by Dravid. The team ended up without a regular number three. We had everyone from Dravid, Kaif, Dhoni, Raina and Pathan experiment with that slot. Eventually, when the world cup came, we saw Uthappa and Sehwag playing at the critical position. So much for the experiments. Personally, I think its always ideal to have a test-match mould player come into that position, but that’s just an opinion.

They should stop putting all the blame on the coach. If batsmen having 10000 runs under their belt are not able to carry the weight of their responsibilities, it would be unfair to blame the coach for that. In fact, these guys could actually do without a coach. India’s winning percentage in ODI’s with Chappell as coach has been 51%. India’s winning percentage since 2000: 52%

Where does Indian Cricket go from here? Too early to say. Introspection is required. Not only by the BCCI but an exercise of self-assessment has to be taken up by the senior players. This debacle should create an impact somewhere within those 15 men.

Bold decisions, not knee jerk reactions, from the BCCI are impending. We need decisions that would probably speak louder than our past glories. But keeping in mind the past record of BCCI, its asking for too much. BCCI is not an organization to be proud of, the past few years it has ended up doing less good to Indian Cricket, but that deserves another full length post. Like a friend suggested, I’d prefer to see the Daddys of this Daddy’s army play only test cricket from now on. Let the young men come in. It is hard to replicate the magnitude of change that was brought in by Ganguly and Wright but I’m afraid someone might just have to do that again for India.

Meanwhile, one suggestion. There is plenty of cricket left in this World Cup. Because it is just a game, and because you are such an avid lover of the game, I’d suggest you not to miss it. South Africa and Australia are playing some exciting cricket and whats more, those annoying commercials are almost gone.

May the best team win.

PS: All statistics and records mentioned here, courtesy the incredible

Written by aditya kumar

March 25th, 2007 at 7:20 pm

Posted in Cricket

The Dilemma

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I arrive at the local shopping complex, like I do every evening. A huge chunk of my time here will be spent on deciding what to have for dinner. The usual choices — North Indian, South Indian, Pasta, Soup and bun with cheese, Chinese and what not. The everyday riddle. I have to ponder on these thoughts everyday ever since my regular dine-in place closed down (reason being, of all things, that their cook ran away). And then everyday I promise myself that a permanent solution needs to come out, and will come out. I can’t eat here so often. But for now, standing outside this “costly” restaurant, my dilemma prevails.

Meanwhile there is crowd gathered outside the Sony showroom. In India, if you ever see a crowd gathered outside an electronics showroom, you can be sure a cricket match is on. During my student days, it was common for me to be a part of a mob like this. A closer look reveals that Sehwag is on 99. His highest ODI score in almost 2 years. It’s 9:15 in the night, time for the showroom to shut shop. One of the two shutters is put down, thereby reducing the viewing area by half. The large group of people unsettles and regroups to the other half of the viewing area. Sehwag still on 99. In the showroom, a man on the other side of the glass pane comes into picture, intending to put down the last remaining shutter. He notices the large mob on the other side and puts on a weak smile. Sign language comes into action and the man is told to wait. It’s more of an order than a request. There is a talk in the crowd of the batsman throwing it all away. And why not, considering his antics in the past, its a possibility that can’t be ruled out. It could be the dilemma of the moment as it overwhelms the mob, and many mobs like these all over the country, the team in the pavilion and possibly even those two batsman in the middle. Three balls later, the swashbuckling batsman scores another run which is, in all probabilities, his most awaited run since the last two years. Later, Sehwag would go on to say that he never “lost sleep” over his lack of form. Well, with his track record, he should have.

The mob erupts into accolade. The “weak-quality-of-opposition’s-bowling-attack” argument notwithstanding, this has been a dilemma they have been happy to get away with. The shutters of the Sony showroom are finally down and I am left with the everyday dilemma of what to have for dinner.

Written by aditya kumar

March 22nd, 2007 at 8:26 pm

Posted in Personal

Goodbye, Bob

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Bob Woolmer

You will be missed.

Written by aditya kumar

March 19th, 2007 at 1:56 am

Posted in Cricket,Personal

A funny game

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… And for all the wrong reasons. Well at least in the context of this blog post.

During the course of the India-Bangladesh world cup tie, a friend messaged me on my mobile, already in sorrow of what was to follow — an Indian defeat. An Indian defeat alright, but one against Bangladesh? Those minnows? That too in the match which starts the campaign? Nah, I replied. Don’t despair, it won’t be a loss. Bangladesh hadn’t started batting and it would not turn out as bad as you think, friend.

It seemed an idea so absurd. It seemed to me, at that time, at least. Unexpected things happen in a game but a loss of this magnitude, that too at a time like this was unthinkable.

The media, the hype, the pressure, the hopes (and somewhere within — a bundle of fear), just about everything advocating the cause of our team. SMS your wishes to the team, says every news channel (Little do you know that you help the news channel get rich while you sms them). Four cricketers run and fight for pet bottles of Cola while the public says “Come on, India!”. The Master Blaster of them all, has just changed brand loyalties and chosen CDMA over GSM. The CDMA operator is advertising like hell now. One of our out of form bowler (or batsman..or bowler?) asks you to use that petrol with “power boosters”.

I have nothing in particular against those cricketers endorsing stuff. But yes, it hurts to see them advertise cola, toothpaste and what not during the TV Break while they return back to the pavilion after another miserable failure on the field. Tell you what, they should make it illegal to broadcast an ad of the cricketer who has just got out. Instead show us an ad of the guy next in order. I mean, would you really want to see Sehwag bold out for 2 after trying a yet-another-cut shot (apparently, that seems to be the only shot he attempts these days) and while he returns back to the dressing room, a “gleaming” he will tell you the secret of his energy, you know, that malt drink? God, won’t you hate that.

Anyway, I see I have drifted off topic. I was so sure of an uprise last night that I went on to see the complete match, the late night notwithstanding. Dravid, the captain, sometimes surprises me. It seems he waits for things to happen. While Ganguly was famous for talking with his bowlers at regular intervals, I hardly see that with Dravid. Communication helps. Besides it’s clear indication to the bowler that his captain trusts him and listens to him while the world is watching. Now, this is, however, not the only criteria for being a good captain. Just a thought. But he’s as baffling to me as his South African counterpart Graeme Smith but at least South Africa wins matches.

So, now, just imagine what would happen if India failed to reach the Super-8. Not so super, eh? How would you feel then, say, Australia v/s New Zealand, Live on your TV. By that time, our Indian team would be back in India. And while you watch the Aus-NZ match — Craig McMillan gets out, walks back. A commercial break and there comes Yuvraj with …

Meanwhile, here I am, hoping for a reprise. All is not lost and hopefully, won’t be lost (pssst…psst…they say we need a miracle from here)…

“Making miracles is hard work, Most people give up before they happen. — “Maybe that’s something” by Sheryl Crow”

Written by aditya kumar

March 19th, 2007 at 12:45 am

Posted in Cricket

Cricket Boredcasting!

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From what I have seen so far, Set Max’s coverage of the Cricket World cup has been trashy. I am surprised by the lowly standards touched by this channel.

There is nothing wrong in starting the “coverage” of the match, a couple of hours before the game actually starts and they have tried to rope in most of the so-called experts of the game. Indeed, everyone has his own opinion and the panels usually end up saying everything plausible about the game of the day. Where Max has gone wrong, and this surprises and concerns me the most, is messing up with the basics of sports telecasting. There is so much hurry for showing the advertisements that you can be sure of missing the last ball of the over in case the 6th ball of the over happens to be a no-ball. We have often blamed the state broadcaster for a telecast of this quality but now MAX seems to be giving DD a run for the money. Let’s see who is more messy. This shows how professional the channel is.

Then there is that stupid animated character (Wasn’t it present in the 2003 edition too?). Two bad things there — it’s a little too big on the size and it makes a lot of noise. The sound level is way too high.

My personal favorite sports broadcaster is ESPN Star Sports. I believe they end up with the best cricket commentators. Most of it has been a result of their experience and expertise with broadcasting sports events. It’s sad that the channel hasn’t been able to broadcast most of the Indian cricket events but I have looked forward to their broadcast everytime.

Coming back to Set MAX, the World Cup has barely started and I am already disappointed by their live feed. It is true that whatever they dish out to the cricket starved society of ours will be accepted without complaints as long as it’s cricket, but that doesn’t mean you put a fly in the soup everytime you serve it out!

Written by aditya kumar

March 16th, 2007 at 10:50 pm

Posted in Cricket

Best of Minesweeper!

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For the intermediate level of Minesweeper — 20 Seconds, beating my previous record of 24 seconds — that too while talking on the phone! I am amazing! Certainly in the top-10 of all time according to the unofficial records for this level!!

Written by aditya kumar

March 10th, 2007 at 12:12 am

Posted in Personal