Wednesday, January 10, 2007

"Serving" in solitude

India's most prolific Ranji Trophy batsman has the following scores in the 5 games he has played in this year's edition:

4 and 62 not out
103 and 49
119 not out

A grand total of 562 runs at an incredible average of 112.40 in 7 innings (3 centuries, 2 fifties).

You will probably never guess that the batsman is Yashpal Singh. He is just 25 years old and will probably never even get a sniff of India colours as he toils for the "Services" team in the Plate division of the Ranji Trophy.

I wonder how good he really is. He couldn't be worse than some of the more heralded names that have played for India in the past decade, could he?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Say what?

In his address to the nation at the funeral service for former US President Gerald Ford, the current head honcho - GWB - said:
He (Ford) belonged to a generation that measured men by their honesty and their courage.
Hmmm, what exactly does that stament say about the current generation then?!!

Living on in infamy

As if being knocked out of the big planets club was not enough, Pluto has now given birth to a word with negative connotations, too! Being "word of the year" is some consolation, I guess.

Being an all-time great is no sure bet

In his latest column Glenn McGrath talks about his last day as a Test cricketer. One snippet in the article should tell you a lot about the man.
Through my whole career I have always felt I needed to keep performing to retain my spot. Just because I'm retiring after the World Cup doesn't mean I'm guaranteed of selection in the squad for the Caribbean. I feel I offer a lot of big-game experience.
Too bad he is not an Indian. Otherwise he could have rested on his laurels about 10 years ago and coasted home till eternity, a guaranteed World Cup spot in hand. If he failed, there would be a thousand souls reminding everyone that he had taken over 500 Test wickets, over 300 ODI wickets, won 2 World Cups, etc., and therefore, was undroppable.

Somebody needs to tell the divas that it is not what you have done for the last 10 years that count, it is what you continue to keep bringing to the table. Without the hunger you are just another mouth that is being spoonfed by adulating millions.

Winners win because they fear failure and are willing to work extra hard to avoid losing.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Final word

All the Indians in the top order (barring Dravid) - Jaffer, Sehwag, Tendulkar, Laxman, and Ganguly - batted as if there was an axe hovering over their necks should they fail.

I was sorely disappointed with the way in which they batted, especially, Tendulkar and Laxman. For extended periods of time there seemed to be no intent to score runs, as if survival alone would do the trick. Buck's comment - Sachin seems to be sleepwalking, playing shots from memory, and defending like a madman when awake - is a perfect description of the fall from grace of a once-great batsman.

If I were the captain of ANY team that next faces Sachin, I would immediately operate with a left-arm bowler from over the wicket, target his leg-stump, and taunt/sledge him endlessly to do something about it. Maybe Greg Chappell should do it repeatedly in the nets until he breaks out of his slumber. If that fails, drop the guy from the Test team. At least in ODI's the rules are designed to prevent teams from doing just that.

What dreams may go

To rewrite a crucial line in LOTR:ROTK - "And so it ends..."

64.1 Tendulkar to Prince, 1 run, THATS IT! A great win! Looped up outside the off stump, Prince drives down the ground, Tendulkar gives a half-hearted attempt to stop it, and the ball runs right through his legs - the Gateway of India, as its called - and thats a smashing win for South Africa! Prince raises his arms in jubilation! Well played!

After Prince hit the winning runs, I shed a few tears. I wonder if any of the stalwarts in the Indian team did. Ironically, and symbolically, the winning runs came because Tendulkar let the ball through his fingers. But that was not when the match was lost. It was lost much earlier when the (once) great batsman let something more important - the game - slip out of his grasp.

When the match-fixing scandal occurred many of my friends told me that they stopped following the Indian team. All these years I've wondered how they could even think of doing something like that. Right now I am distraught enough to contemplate the same thing and I finally understand how they felt.

With India slated to play only three Tests (as of now) next year it will be a long time (June 2007) before I get a chance to have to decide what to do about my feelings for the team.

156 for 5
119 for 5

125 for 5
83 for 5

337 for 5
115 for 5

A much-heralded batting order that comprises Sehwag, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, and Ganguly provided a good first half only once. But don't get misled by the 337 for 5. In that innings Karthik scored 63 and when Jaffer got out, after scoring 116, the total was 240.

It is time to put aside reputations and runs and decide who really wants to fight it out in the middle. Those are the players I want representing my country in Tests. I don't care if they are not good enough to win. Even if they lose, at least I will not feel let down by them for they will have fought tooth and nail for every inch.

Constricting passages

On the 4th day of the Indo-SA Test match I watched the worst display of batting I have ever seen by any one individual. And the shocker was the identity of the individual -Sachin Tendulkar. His innings was so gutless, defenceless, and irresponsible, that I am still fuming about it a good 24 hours later.

(For more specific details about his (mis)-deeds read this piece by Sambit Bal, the editor of Cricinfo, who feels the same way I do about Tendulkar's second innings farce).

I cannot fathom what the man was trying to achieve. He was facing a debutant and went into a defenceless shell that would not have been acceptable in any era of Test cricket. The man reputed to have given Shane Warne nightmares was not even trying to do anything about the way Paul Harris was bowling, except to occasionally try that paddle sweep of his. Batting as if the weight of the world was on his shoulders he pottered around for a long time and in the end he did not just give the initiative back to the South Africans. He literally threw it back into their laps - gift-wrapped and all.

Rahul Dravid was batting with him and I hold him just as responsible for the display as he did nothing whatsoever to change Sachin's mindset (or at least did not appear to be trying). How can these two batsmen, who are widely regarded as two of the best batsmen in the world, come up with such a spineless display?

For a few weeks, as the failures have been piling up, I have been supporting Tendulkar, even as AV kept giving me examples of the times when the man has choked in the limelight. And that is the best word I can think of to explain his batting yesterday - he choked. When the pressure built up and it was time to take action he simply froze. Like a deer on the road at night when confronted by an oncoming vehicle.

Halfway across the world I stay awake at night watching the Indian team play. I am not the only one. We deserved a lot better than this. Regular readers of my blog will know that I am an advocate of attacking the bowling as the best form of defence. I do not see how defending our way has helped us either here in the third Test or in the second Test. And when I say attack - I do not mean that every ball should be slammed into the hoardings. Instead it means that you approach each ball looking to score runs and only defend (or leave it) if it is not bad enough to do so. As Kumar Sangakkara says, being positive does not mean you have to hit every ball.

This is not the first time Tendulkar has done this either. At Bangalore, against the Pakistanis, he hung around for 140 minutes, scoring just 16 runs and India went on to lose that Test match, too. Not having learnt his lesson from Bangalore he proceeded to give us an encore performance that has rattled me enough to contemplate not wasting my time any more when he is at the crease. For weeks, I have been egging him along to score more runs, more centuries, even as Ponting is rapidly gaining ground. Now I do not care any more. If anything, he deserves to have his record be eclipsed soon. It is time for him to decide how he wants to be remembered in the waning days of his career - as a man who who stamped his authority on the game or as one who let the bowler dictate the situation to him. A few more such innings from him and he will be dropped, much like GR Viswanath was dropped after the disastrous tour of Pakistan in 1982, never to get a a whiff of the playing field again.