Monday, January 23, 2012

Call off the hounds!

I did something a few minutes ago that I have never done before - I stopped watching an Indian Test match.  In the past, no matter how dire the situation, I never gave up on the team.  Today, I am as close as I have ever been to do that.

I just saw Ishant Sharma, bowling just his 8th over of the day, about half an hour after lunch on the first day, trundle in and throw down an innocuous loosener, short and wide outside the off-stump to a salivating Ricky Ponting.  When I contrasted that with the number of times the Aussies have blasted through from the first ball of their spell, I felt like weeping.


Half an hour past lunch on the 1st day and they cannot summon their best stuff?!!  The fielding is lethargic, the field positions are defensive (I promise you, placing just one lone slip at 2nd slip is asking for trouble.  There will be an edge that travels between the keeper and the lone slip.  Just you watch), and the body language is of total surrender.  Senior citizens show more interest that these fellows.  Did you see the way they walked onto the ground?  Gah!

It's too bad I don't have a say in the selection of the Indian Test team.  This would have been my 11 for the Test (in batting order):
Ajinkya Rahane
Virender Sehwag
Virat Kohli
Sachin Tendulkar
Rahul Dravid
Rohit Sharma
Wriddhiman Saha
Abhimanyu Mithun
Umesh Yadav
Pragyan Ojha
Zaheer Khan

Oh, and I'd make one more change out of left field.  With the caveat that a failure will not affect his chances, I'd make Virat Kohli the captain and put Sehwag, Dravid and SRT on notice.  Twin failures from any of them and it would be the last Test match they play for India.  Anything less than 75 runs in an inning is a failure.  (By the way, unless MS Dhoni shows me in a first-class match that he is willing to tough it out and bat for a long time in the longer form of the game, he does not deserve a spot in the team, either.  Anyway, for me, his Test captaincy days are done).

I'm done with this Test team.  Wake me up when the new-look Indian team is revealed 8 months from now.  Until then I shall watch the Pakistani team and root for them to exact revenge on England.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Run, Forrest, run!

There are some things you can hide on the silver screen and some that you cannot.  One thing you cannot hide is how you run.  At least for a long distance, in a long shot.

For years, in my mind, the champion runner was Amitabh Bachchan. No one ran better or more impressively than him.  Check it out:

(The dude also got shot in the back quite a few times, didn't he?  I guess he couldn't outrun a bullet).

In Hollywood, the undisputed leader is Tom Cruise.  I have yet to see a movie of his where there isn't at least one scene of him running.  It's almost as bad as Paresh Rawal and eating scenes or Sridevi and monochrome saris in a song.  Here's a compilation of Tom Cruise running and running.

For what it's worth, I still think Amitabh is the better-looking runner.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Surf's up: Random musings - 6

Trolling through the web I often come across things that I file away for future (posting) reference. Here are some of the ones that still seem interesting enough to pass on to you.

a) An oldie, but a goldie. Do you want to know why Test cricket is dying (i.e. why spectators are not turning up to watch it any more?)? Well, look no further - it's the spectators who are to blame.

b)  Who says cricket is a batsman's game?  Here's some food for thought - Over 2,000 players have played Test cricket.  As of December 2011, a debutant has taken 5 wickets in an inning on 143 occasions.  In contrast, in spite of many more opportunities, only 93 debutants have scored a 100.

c) I can't really say much more than repeat the title of the link: High Speed Liquid and Bubble Photographs by Heinz Maier.  Wow!

d) Tring, tring.  Click clack.  Ka-ching.  Some of the sounds your kids will never hear in their lifetime.

e)  Which batsman and bowler has the highest rating - ever - in the history of Test cricket?  Check out #3 on the bowler's list.  He was the first bowler who scared me even though I was just watching him bowl on TV. The #1 on the Batting list is not a surprise, but see where Sachin Tendulkar's highest-ever rating places him on the all-time list.

f)  I know a picture is worth a 1000 words, but this picture being worth $4.3 million is simply ludicrous.  Why, oh why, is it worth that much?

g) I don't think I will ever have the guts to take this ride.  But, it does not stop me from living it vicariously.

h) And if you liked the previous one, you may like this one, too:

i) And, finally, I was debating whether to end with this picture, or this picture, or this picture or this picture.  But instead I settled for the one reproduced below.  I hope it is of Laxman tying his shoelaces for future battles, not of him getting ready to hang up his boots (more on that in a different post).

(Associated Press - 2012, via CricInfo)

Thursday, January 05, 2012

If, not when...

All these days I was convinced that Sachin Tendulkar's 100th century was a matter of when, not if. After watching the way the guy goes into a shell and becomes defensive for no reason whatsoever, I am not so sure any more.

The man has scored blah,blah,blah number of runs in cricket. If that ball-hitting ability of his had been alloyed with the temperament of a real accumulator he would have been challenging Jack Hobbs himself. I am not pissed that his tentative prod robbed him of a 100. That milestone is an artificial one and it will come when it comes and I will be happy for him if it does. What I am really pissed off with is his tentative prod, with the new ball just a few balls away, that opened the door for the Aussie, who then came thundering through it. You gave an easy wicket to Michael Clarke, SRT. Michael Clarke, for heaven's sake. Did the Aussies gift Sehwag a wicket when he bowled? Nah, they took him for 75 runs, no less.

So what were you doing, you gutless idiot, defending like you did not know how else to bat?  Leave that style of batting to untalented mutts like me.

Maybe the Wizard of Oz can give SRT a heart...he badly needs one.

ZAK, you invertebrate!

Zaheer Khan, your attitude is atrocious.

A few months ago, I got really mad at VVS Laxman and told him that he could no longer survive as a one-skill player.  Right now I am watching Zaheer Khan bat....let me rephrase that..I am watching Zaheer pretend to bat and I am befuddled by it.

As a bowler on this very same pitch you saw three Australian batsmen put on more than 650 runs while you trundled around in the field and did nothing noteworthy after an initial burst of wickets.  Yet, when it is your turn to bat, you are hell-bent on throwing your wicket away and making it easy for the bowlers to stay interested.  Gah!  On top of it, your fitness sucks.  You are a below-average fielder and a total liability in the field.

Since you are Zaheer Khan and your bowling carries an aura you will play for India till you decide to drop.  If I had anything to say about it, I'd pack your bags for you and tell you to come back when you were more prepared to fight it out.

As I type it, you are still flailing around while the Aussies refuse to bowl that full ball on the stumps that will get you out.  I have a feeling they are toying with you like a cat toys with a mouse when it knows the mouse cannot escape.

Your dismissal is a matter of time.  With this attitude of yours, it's too bad that dismissal is not from the Indian side.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

How SRT and the IPL ruined the Summer of George

(or) The Eternal Lament of the Spoiled Indian Cricket Fan

This was supposed to be the Summer of George. India had just won the World Cup and ahead of me, over the next 9 months, were no less than 14 Test matches, 6 against the West Indies, 4 against England and then the Big Daddy of them all – a 4 Test series against Australia.

On April 3rd, being a fan of Indian cricket was a good occupation to have. Then, two not entirely unrelated things happened that eventually ruined the happy ending.

First came the lure/pressure of the IPL, call it whatever you will. Virender Sehwag was injured but still played in the IPL, nursing his shoulder injury as best as he could. He played 11 games and, tellingly, only when the Daredevils were eliminated did he opt for shoulder surgery, rendering him inactive for the tour of the West Indies.

Sachin Tendulkar played every game (16 in all) in the IPL but felt compelled to seek rest after that from the West Indies series.

Gautam Gambhir got injured in the World Cup but was not totally aware of it until he re-aggravated it in the IPL. However, he continued to play with the injury until the Knight Riders were eliminated, and then rested, missing the tour.

Yuvraj Singh played 14 games but missed the West Indies tour because of a lung infection. All in all, four stalwarts of the the Indian World Cup campaign were rendered hors de combat for the Windies tour. However, I will not apportion any blame on the IPL for that.

Coming on the heels of a long and arduous World Cup campaign, the timing of the IPL was not the best. However, it is revealing that all the major players named in the previous paragraph did not seek “rest” or “treatment” for their ailments during that tournament, instead choosing to forego the West Indies series altogether instead.

I have absolutely no issues with a person choosing to make some more money at the expense of playing “for the country”. They have an obligation to themselves and their families and I am no one to tell them how they should go about maximizing their revenue or what their priorities should be. However, I do have an issue with the consequence of that choice and how it affected the rest of the campaigns over the next 9 months.

The second factor crept up on us during the World Cup, when Sachin Tendulkar was in sublime touch, continuing his rich vein of form of the past few years. He scored a couple of centuries, had a near-miss against Pakistan, failed in the final, but got the ultimate prize – courtesy a ride on the shoulders of his teammates. Somewhere along the way a new beast was unleashed by the media – the quest for the almost-mythical 100th international 100.

It is at that point that some of SRT’s choices become curious, especially in hindsight. By eschewing the Windies tour, SRT ensured that his next international match would be at Lord’s. Ooooooh, how perfect, his handlers (and he himself, maybe) crooned: a century of centuries at the Mecca of cricket. What a perfect setting for the feat. It made great business sense to score that century at Lord’s than, say, at Roseau.

After a fruitless Test series in England, SRT skipped the return ODI series at home. Why risk scoring the 100 in a meaningless ODI on an Indian highway, when Test matches at Kotla, Eden Gardens, and/or Wankhade were yet to come, each carrying an alluring ring for the media and his sponsors? When that did not work, the ODI series against the Windies was skipped since the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne beckoned. Longingly and achingly.

Now, bear with me while I imagine an alternate scenario. (Not a guaranteed scenario but still a very possible one.) SRT goes to the West Indies and scores a century in one of the Test matches (maybe at Kingston). Suddenly the stories go away, the pressure is lifted, none of the remaining Indian players have to field any more questions about whether SRT is feeling the pressure. Viru and Gambhir decide to skip the IPL, get rested during the Windies tour and are ready to play in England, fully healthy. With SRT playing the Windies series, the Indian batting order does not have to be reshuffled, and  since Viru and Gambhir are ready for the England Tests, VVS Laxman can continue to play at #5, and Rahul Dravid does not have to become an opener in England and the batting order is not unsettled. Since the batting order is more settled .... I can’t bear to carry that dream any further. It hurts too much to contemplate what could have been.

Damn you SRT and the IPL!  This was supposed to be the Summer of George. It really was...