After a long hiatus, I am back to blogging, so I shall start by taking you through some of the stories that have caught my fancy in the past few weeks.
1) Greg Maddux was in pursuit of win number 350, which he has managed but has not won a game since then. David Pinto breaks down Maddux's feat into smaller numbers and finds that Mad Dog's achievement is more astounding the deeper you dig into it.
2) While many others were following the launch of the 20-20 league, I was following the progress of Graeme Hick. Typical Hick results so far...3 catches each in both innings, blasting a century with 15 fours, while setting up a total for the other team to chase. May he churn those runs all season.....135 centuries and counting. By the way, if he continues in this vein for another two years, he will become the most prolific run-scorer in the entire history of cricket. No joke. (More on that in another blog post later on).
3) In the time since I started watching cricket on TV, only two fast bowlers have evoked fear in me (for the plight of the batsmen, mostly Indian) - Imran Khan and Malcolm Marshall. Imran Khan terrorised the Indians to the tune of 42 wickets in the 1982 series, ensuring that GR Viswanath's career came to an abrupt end. Malcolm Marshall then took revenge for the loss of the World Cup by scaring everyone in the Indian team in the 1984 series, going on to become one of the most feared fast bowler the game has ever seen. On what would have been his 50th birthday,Pat Symes writes a moving piece on the man with the angular run-up who left us long before we had a chance to properly say goodbye. Somewhere among the clouds, I can still see him shining the new ball and coming in to bowl. I hope the angels facing him have good protective gear...
4) No player - past or present - moved me as much as Mohammad Azharuddin did. It helped that I watched him start his career along with my grandfather. Dadu did not praise players easily, but when he saw Azhar score 8 runs (yes, 8 runs) in a rain-affected day on Test debut he told me to watch out for the lad. 15 minutes of watching Azhar bat were enough for him to find out what took me years to figure out - Azhar seemed to have some extra time to play the ball. Not surprisingly, super-fast bowling reduced that reaction time and made him jumpy. People forget that when his career ended abruptly, he was the world record holder for most 50's and most runs in ODI's. Also, he is one of a select few batsmen who have scored centuries in their first and last Test. Rohit Brijnath wrote a pretty good piece on Azhar examining the enigma that Azhar was and still is.
5) The 1983 World Cup did as much for cricket in India as the 2007 Twenty20 World Cup triumph did for the BCCI's coffers. Indians did not care for One Day Internationals back then. Yes, India was one of the last countries to play one day internationals and it took a World Cup triumph to change the face of the game. Notice any parallels with Twenty20? June 25th, 2008, marks the 25th anniversary of that tumultuous day in England when Kapil Dev's team successfully defended a total of 183 runs in 60 (yes, sixty) overs. With the cash registers still ringing in their heads from the IPL, the BCCI honchos have decided that the 1983 World Cup team is old news and not worthy of honouring. Funny, since the Under-19 World Cup winning team was treated to a ticker-tape parade and given money that could run a small nation for a few days.
6) As a cricketer of very limited skills, one area where I was able to hold my own (until age and fading eyesight came into play) was as a fielder. I wish I had been able to read these interesting fielding tips by Trevor Penney, a very successful fielding coach.
7) Along with Greg Maddux my favourite baseball player is Frank Thomas. On his 40th birthday ESPN.com came up with a list of 40 things to cheer about the man nicknamed the Big Hurt.