Friday, December 31, 2010

10 Points to ponder

1) In my report at the end of the 4th day, I had said:
P.S. Ishant Sharma, can you move your bowling mark back by about 6 inches such that your front foot lands inside the crease and not on it? I swear that if you get another batsman out off a no-ball, I will catch the next flight to South Africa, shave half the hair off your head, and catch the next flight back. Runs are precious, Laxman fought and fought to get you most of those, don't go and gift the SAffers some free ones with your irresponsible no-balls.
Well, wouldn't you know it? Ishant Sharma went and did just that when he got Morne Morkel caught at gully off a no-ball. Virender Sehwag's reaction - flinging the ball on the ground, said it all for me. (Since apparently no one reads my blog closely enough to call me on it, I have decided to ignore my threat and will not travel to South Africa to meet Ishant Sharma).

India has bowling coaches and assistant coaches and head coaches and who know what else. Can't they work on this aspect? Luckily for India, Ishant got Morkel out in the next over but I shudder to think what would have happened if Morkel had hung around.

While on this, mark my words, Morne Morkel is going to score a century one of these days - he bats in straight lines, thumps the ball well, and looks very well set-up at the crease. A century is inevitable if he stays long enough at the crease.

2) In the same report, I had also pegged Sreesanth as the key bowler for India, imploring him to keep his cool and bowl well. And that is exactly what he did, stifling Jacques Kallis and AB deVilliers until he produced (for me) the ball of the match. You know a bowler has bowled something special any time you get a batsman of the caliber of Kallis to respond like this to a bouncer:

(Getty Images 2010, via CricInfo)
Take a bow, Sreesanth. That ball won us the match. After that, the rest of the wickets seemed inevitable.

3) Some folks have mentioned that Zaheer Khan was equally worthy of receiving the Man of the Match award that went to VVS Laxman. Puh-lease. ZAK's contribution was massive, there's no denying that. But on a wicket where no batsman on either side scored 40 runs, VVS Laxman scored more runs by himself (134) in the match than the entire South African side did in their first inning (131). He was the difference-maker between the two sides. After Dhoni got out, the last 4 wickets added 87 runs to the Indian total with Laxman being the common denominator in all of them. The margin of victory? The same 87 runs. Laxman was THE man. QED.

4) The SAffers were grumbling about the dirt that Sreesanth was dishing out to them. I find it really interesting that they are the ones complaining. I distinctly remember Paul Harris, in the first inning of the first test, while the Indian batting line-up was collapsing, letting loose a tirade that lasted for more than an over, letting up only when the ball was about to be bowled and then promptly resuming it (from his position at first slip). Later on, the umpire (Steve Davis) had to walk to Tsotsobe at the top of his bowling mark and ask him to tone it down. Now, a few days later, Paul Harris accuses Sreesanth of crossing the line with personal remarks against Smith, saying that personal remarks should be out of the realm of sledging. My question is simple: what topics are okay to sledge the opposition with and what topics are not? Is there a cheat-sheet somewhere that all the teams in the world, bar the SAffers and Aussies, have not received?

Seriously, Harris, who the heck are you to decide what's allowable in sledging and what is not? If you don't like hearing things from the opposition, then don't start it in the first place. Keep quiet. That way, if you do get attacked by personal remarks, then you have the moral ground necessary to preach from. Do you even realize how you sound?

(For the record, I have NEVER been happy about players directly confronting or sledging an opponent with personal remarks and it disgusts me to see Sreesanth even talking to an opponent, to cite one example.)

5) MS Dhoni really needs to learn to at least acknowledge the opposition in his post-game speeches without being prompted. It is nice and good to talk about processes and how his boys are staying in the moment, but cricket is played between two teams and when you have just come out at the right end of a fantastic match, it is only right to acknowledge the role that the opposition has played in it.

6) Ricky Ponting's fall from the top has been more precipitous that I ever imagined it would be. From a batsman universally acknowledged as the best Australian since Don Bradman to wield the willow, he has reached a point where the critics cannot wait to write his obituaries. Just three Tests ago he was the best-looking Australian batsman, scoring a pair of 70's in India of the highest caliber.

7) A few years ago, Greg Chappell came to the Indian team and instituted a youth-first policy. One of his first actions was to attempt to push Sachin Tendulkar further down the batting order. For a while SRT did bat lower down (in ODI's) but he wasn't happy and the attitude rubbed off onto the rest of the squad and a dismal World Cup campaign resulted from it.

Now, about 4 years later, the very-same Chappell has surfaced again, asking Ponting to move further down the order in order to preserve his career. There may be merit in that suggestion, but I cannot help marvel at the fact that Greg Chappell continues to enjoy the support that he does from the cricketing Boards when it is clear that in the last 30 years, he has not had much success building strong teams as a coach or as a selector. To top it, the man hasn't met a microphone he has not liked. He sure loves to talk....and talk...and talk.

As one of my readers was telling me today - it's a pity that Chappell's legacy as one of the greatest and most stylish batsman (and an awesome slip fielder) to ever wear the baggy green is going to be completely buried under the legacy of mis-steps that he has presided over the past few years.

8) Jacques Kallis is in the unique position of being within striking distance of two landmarks that are currently in the hands of two Indians. 50 centuries in Tests and 200 catches. At the end of the second Test against India, Kallis is at 38 centuries and 166 catches. The rate at which he takes catches (approximately 3 every two tests) it will take him about 20-25 Tests to overtake Dravid's 200 catches. He scores centuries about once every 3 tests or so (more frequently nowadays than he did at the start of his career) so in about two years time he should be around 45-47 centuries. Will he play long enough to eclipse both marks?

Who knows, by then Sachin would have added another 10 test centuries to his total!

9) These past few days, many journalists in Australia are asking (or telling) Ponting that it is time to retire. My take is that it is none of their business to do so. It is very fine and good to suggest or mention that Ricky Ponting is not playing well enough to deserve a spot in the team or some such suggestion. But really, who are they to decide whether a fellow should quit his profession or his position in the workplace? I wish one of these days, a cricketer would turn around and tell a columnist/reporter that his best work is behind him and that it is time he stopped writing. Right, Mr. Ian Chappell? Remember what you wrote in March 2007? You haven't learned, have you? You're at it again.

10) Finally, this should come as no surprise to you (if you know me well), here's how to play a moving ball on a bouncy wicket:

(AFP 2010, via CricInfo)

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