India’s key to success in Sri Lanka’s tour

The last time India toured Sri Lanka in 2015, they won the series 2-1 after a shock loss in the very Test at Galle. The team is very much the same but the individuals have had a lot more Test match experience as a unit. While the batsman Virat Kohli has been at the top of his powers, his captaincy in the series against England and Australia at home will stand him in good stead. Ajinkya Rahane made the choice of playing Kuldeep Yadav and the spinner since then has been an integral part of India’s set-up. Kohli will do well to acknowledge that at times, he has get better with his tactics and team selection. In his pre-match press conference, he has hinted at a debut for Hardik Pandya – an all-rounder India’s long wanted in their side. The balance of the team is such that he can try out anything but there are three particular aspects of the context on the cards that should decide the course of the series.

India’s new ball bowling: On the last tour to Sri Lanka, India’s new ball bowlers didn’t quite have the best of times. While Ishant Sharma did set up the last Test with his 8/86, but if you remove that he and Umesh combined to take 10 wickets in 10 innings which does not make an impressive reading. While the wickets didn’t have much to offer but the tourists showed that they could work batsmen over in the home series against England and Australia. This time around, with a lot more enterprising batting line-up for the hosts, Kohli will need his bowlers to strike with the new nut.

Handling Rangana Herath: If Sri Lanka cricket could be named, it could be Rangana Herath at the moment. He alone has been the face of them. They have been on the downslide but he has managed to keep them alive holding them with a thin string of hope. Against Zimbabwe as well, it was him alone who looked threatening enough and got due rewards. India fared him well after handing him a five-for in the first Test at Galle, they didn’t allow him to take more than 4 wickets in a Test in the remaining two games. It is a key to handling Herath that you do not allow him to bowl to you. Once he settles down in his area, he seldom gives you loose balls. India were proactive and used their feet to him. The same should be the case this time around. The presence of strokemakers in the side also tells you that India won’t shy away from doing that. If Hardik Pandya indeed gets a game, there will be no doubt what will be the instructions to him against the spinners – in the arc, out of the park!

India’s opening woes: In the last 18 Tests, India are set to have their ninth opening combination. It is almost as if the opening slot has been jinxed like the Defence against Dark Arts post at Hogwarts, no one lasts a series without getting hurt or injured. Murali Vijay, KL Rahul have made more visits to the hospital than scorecards of the games now and it remains an important issue to tackle for the new-yet-known head coach. Shikhar Dhawan has been the destiny child of India – every time you think there is no way he can feature in a side for India, the universe conspires to get him back in the thick of things. He showed good signs in the warm-up games but that’s not a benchmark to go by. Abhinav Mukund hasn’t made the most of his chances so far and will be itching to make a mark. Rahul is out of the first Test and hence both the current openers will know that they do not have enough time to make a comeback. Sri Lanka will be itching to get through the opening pair to get into the high-scoring middle order for India. The unstability at the top also shows in the opening partnerships for India, in the last 20 Test innings, the opening pair has gone past the 50-run mark only thrice. There is a lot to catch up for them.

India can take Sri Lanka lightly at their own peril, they have shown sudden love for the teams ranked lower than them in other formats of the game. Sri Lanka might not have looked at their best against Zimbabwe, but they will forever remain the favourite underdogs for many. Hopefully we will have a riveting Test series.

Eh, Eh, Wicket lele!

We all heard and danced on Gangnam Style, time to hear that Indian Cricket version of it!

Oppa Gangnam Style
Gangnam Style

Shami, Aaron, Umesh, Jadeja
Can take wickets but fail outside Asia
Bante captain pe bojha
20 Test wickets is a fantasy
Kya is janam mein kabhi aisa hoga?

Bowling dekho, hosh ko baitho,
Hau kya koi devta unka toh bolo hey

Jab jao bahar India tab sudhorooooo?

Mat Hago Desi Style
…..

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Op, op, op, op
Haggga Desi Style
Gangnam Style.

Op, op, op, op
Oppa Gangnam Style

Eh wicket lele
Oh oh oh,
Bowl line and length mate

Eh, wicket lele
0 0 0 0 0 0
Get those maidens bhai!

Ashwin extra shana hai
Yadav dimag se kaana hai
Tail wickets ke classes lo
Warna jeet nahi aasaan hai
Dhoni ya Kohli ka placement
Cement aur Sharma hai
Srini hai… hey

Bowling apni please improve karlo, please sudhorooooo

Itna kardo cricket pe ehsan gadhonnn…

Don’t bowl the leg line
All are not Haddin bhai

Oh, oh, oh, oh
But pakdao ek  line..
Mat jao saare offline…

Just an attempt to get the frustration of watching the Indian Test team bowl outside Asia. Yes, feel for us! All in good spirits!

Feedback appreciated!

Dear Lord, Hughes, There was still time!

On Phillip Joel Hughes – 

It’s how in our childhood that our parents kept calling us back home, when it went dark, stopping us from playing and we said,  Come on Mom, ‘There is still time!’
It seems the parent up there too cared and valued you more than us and called you and we all are left saying, ‘There was still time!’

One tucked round the corner! (Image Courtesy: Sony Six)

——

Your technique wasn’t the most pleasing to the eye, the front foot across, shuffle across off and nudge, accommodation was your forte, the acceleration could wait since you knew ‘There is still time!’

You got out on a 4-ball duck to Steyn on your Test debut, trying to slap a shortish delivery over the slip cordon, playing to your strength, you got a duck but you did not leave that shot since you knew ‘There is still time!’

You took on the best in the World, scored twin tons, at the age of just 20, against the best in the business and in their den, becoming the youngest to have twin tons in a Test, and many of us thought, this lad is something and ‘There is still time!’

You got out in similar fashion, the short ball hurting, but you didn’t give up, you fought, came back even harder, grittier, since you knew, ‘There is still time!’

The smile that will stay in the hearts! (Image Courtesy: Twitter)
You didn’t have many admirers for your technique, style of play, but that didn’t bother you, you knew what you were doing, and you loved what you did, since you knew for proving yourself, ‘There is still time!’

You were dropped, sacked as selectors never gave you a long run, but that didn’t stop you from smiling, because you knew, ‘There is still time!

I didn’t quite admire the way you batted, reckoned you had talent but wasn’t sure if was worth touching millions, and I thought, you will come back and maybe play a gem and change my mind, since ‘There is still time!’

This Tuesday when the bouncer took you out, you were too early, not ready, we weren’t ready, and you left us all. Collapsing to tears, as we all watched your best mate, your skipper give a tribute to you, we all wished you came back, since we all assumed, ‘There is still time!’

We all will take care of Sean Abbott, we all know it was not his fault and we all will do our best to save him, since for him we know, ‘There is still time!’

When the world did #putoutyourbats, it showed that irrespective of all our fan wars, and lying under influence, the fans of the game ain’t corrupt, and gave tribute to you! The show must go on, there is a Test series to be played but we all are now saying ‘There is still time!’

RIP Hughes! As long I follow this game, by my heart, and live, you will be in my heart, prayers for I know there is nothing more pleasing in life than doing what we love and you did what you loved and left us a great inspiration, if the world is not convinced, we’ll say to ourselves, ‘There is still time!’

No, I did not plan to write this, but I can’t keep to myself, that smile is not going to disappear from my mind ever, as much as I have loved and followed this game of cricket, will always respect and remember how fragile our lives are and will work today and hope for the hard work to pay off, since ‘There is still time!’

Phil, Happy Birthday mate! I hope you are celebrating up there with Don and Lord and you can for sure tell them, ‘There was still time!’

Just what I feel on Hughes! Apologies for any mistake! Live long Hughes! #No63 #Hughesy

#TheBigTest – The Tour that matters!

Well, the last time I sat down to write preview of an important tour for India. Disaster struck twice and India lost 8-0. Though the chances are it may not repeat but then this does mark the beginning of yet another grueling Test of the team which is just starting to look on and off but in better shape than before. Also with England experimenting with careers of their players, it seems to the time for India to strike gold but we must be wary as concentrating on the weakness of the opposition often catches you off guard as England found against Australia in the Ashes. The Ashes however is my sample set to derive four things that India has to do well in England to stand a chance to compete let alone win. We’ll also keep in mind the squad that we have announced so as to assign roles better.

Sachin Tendulkar

A stern Test awaits!

Test squad for England : MS Dhoni (C), Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Gautam Gambhir, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami, Ishwar Pandey, Ishant Sharma, Stuart Binny, Varun Aaron, Wriddhiman Saha, Pankaj Singh.

The following are the 4 point something that India needs to follow:
1. Top order wickets
2. Lower-middle order comeback
3. Put England off their plans.
4. MS Dhoni.

The fourth reason may sound weird but that for me is going to be the most important one. Let’s get started then.
1. Top order wickets.
Swing and seam is bound to make all the difference in England and India have picked a few good bowlers with the new ball and they need to shine for India to make early inroads and get into the England middle order which is not a solid one for now. The new ball wickets become key since if they don’t strike, India go back a long way in the game and with the England bowling being better, the batsmen will be up against it to make up for their bowlers. Bhuvi and Pandey/Aaron become vital for India’s chances first up. India may not have Mitchell Johnson to scare the hell out of England but the Indian bowlers will have to hunt in pairs to knock England off.

2. Lower-middle order comeback.
Often in Ashes we saw starts like 98-4, 100-5 for Australia against England, It was the lower middle order that contributed to the success of Australia. Agreed India will want their top order to fare better but in home conditions for England, it becomes necessary for Indian to have a line-up that bats deep. England did suffer by not being able to take out the tail of Australia as they played some handy knocks which made totals of 275 above 350 and that does make a lot of difference. MS Dhoni will have a task to balance out his team well. Rohit, Dhoni and Jadeja’s knocks are going to be a decisive factor given the form of the top order, they are going to have to do a lot of work and that supports the third point coming up.

3. Put England off their plans
England like India are a team that relies a lot on pre-planning. They have Plan A and Plan B off the field ready and are very rigid to improvise on the field. The hesitancy to change plans on the field makes them vulnerable and the game is gone before you know it and that is what Australia did to England. If you manage to put England off their plans by counter-attacking them, suddenly the ultra-defensive Cook comes out and spreads the field and the pressure is off you to score and get back. But to assume, England will repeat their mistakes will be risky but rest assured if India wants to dominate England, they have to bat with aggression to comeback with the bat. Kohli, Dhoni are ideal for such knocks if both hold themselves well. With the ball, think India can look emulate plans from Australia of using the short ball well against England. Both Shami and Aaron have a good bouncer at pace and must plan well to unsettle the English batsmen with the pace.

4. MS Dhoni
There is a cliche, ‘if you get the captain, you get the team’ Australia did that to England very well and Cook had one of his worst series both as a captain and a batsman as well. MS Dhoni is already behind in terms of captaincy overseas and this tour may just be the biggest Test of his Test career for he is due to take to this format. He though since the 99 in Nagpur against England has changed gears and done what he does the best. Attack! Seam and swing troubles all but it is the mindset that can change fortunes and Dhoni must back himself to attack England. Steve Smith, Brad Haddin did that to a superb effect and the result was for all of us to see. Dhoni is capable to turning the match in a session and it will not only help India post a good score but also with a handy batsman to bat with the tail. His captaincy though has to improve a lot as said in point 3, he need to improvise well in Tests overseas. Something which comes naturally to him in other formats but strangely hasn’t come through in whites. India can’t afford to have a deep point for new batsmen first ball and Dhoni turning to less prone bowlers when a partnership is starting to grow to rest his main bowlers. He needs to plan better and make better use of the resources at hand with him and the Sri Lanka series against England should help him plan better for England.

With the four points, also giving my eleven for the first Test and with reasons as well for the chopping.
My playing XI for the first Test: Shikhar Dhawan, Gautam Gambhir, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane/Rohit Sharma, MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammad Shami, Ishant Sharma/Ishwar Pandey, Varun Aaron.

Before you outrage on playing Dhawan, for me comes in for Vijay and since we have Gambhir, better off using him than benching. Though it makes it two lefties at top but both Vijay and Dhawan will struggle with the new ball but if Dhawan is patient enough to wait and bat long, India may be off to a ideal start as a quick cameo from Dhawan will do good for India to start positively. While the rest pick themselves, it’s upto Dhoni and co to decide to play both Rahane or Rohit or play one of them depending on the conditions. I don’t see both Ashwin and Jadeja playing and Jadeja plays since Ashwin cannot stop experimenting in a format he need not do it. Bhuvi, Shami are the obvious picks with Aaron, who provides India with a bowler with pace. Dhoni then has to decide if he wants to play Ishant, Pandey of even Binny who may not be a bad pick if he is bowling well and he also gives an option with the bat. But if he prefers Pandey, we know who to blame, the yellow ofcourse 🙂

If India manages to do half of the things right, the pain of 4-0 may just subside a bit but if they don’t India may start losing patience with this form and it may make way for changes and hard decisions sooner than expected.

I don’t know if you agree with my thoughts on the plan of action or not but these are just mine and you are free to have your own opinions, of course. Do let me know though, what you think of them! Feedback much needed and appreciated!

Ashes: Five Point Nothing!

Australia won the Ashes 5-0 and were the deserving winners; Here’s my view on the five points where England were behind and which resulted in this pounding and no these are not stats. These may be trash or whatever, but yeah a read would not cause much of an issue!

The Aussie celebrate the win!

The Aussie celebrate the win! ( Image courtesy: ESPNCricinfo)

1. Captaincy:

After winning the series 3-0 at home, Cook even in his wildest of dreams wouldn’t have thought of getting white washed in Australia. Cook like most of his former captains, has been faulty of waiting for the game. Being reactive and not proactive. Cook comes from the same old school of playing conservative cricket, which does not help him lead team well in troubled times. For that, you cannot blame him alone for being so, having played with such leaders, you’re bound to pick off them. He needs to be given the freedom to captain on his own.

2. Strategies:
Making plans are one thing and executing them is another thing. England had such good plans for the Australian batsmen when playing at home. Watson LBW, Rogers Spin, Clarke short ball to name a few. Where did these plans vanish when they came down under? Once the Australians started working on them, they had no answer. They took early wickets yes, but what happened every time Haddin came out to bat? Where did that aggression go? Why would you bowl to his areas of strengths? Bowl Full, outside off, no room. It’s a test match, hit that length you’ll be rewarded. Stokes showed that but the rest failed. Playing at this level, you can surely not have only one plan. You must be flexible enough to change them and for that the captain has to lead from the front.

3. Approach:
You can speak all you want if you can back it up on the field. To win matches you need to have that hunger, that willingness to prove yourself, not to the world but yourself, that you belong to the place and are lot better. England players looked down ever since Johnson took his first wicket. They played him as if they were going to be killed by him. The intimidation got into their heads, coming from the above two points, the captain failed as they had no strategies, no change in their approach, No Plan B. Australia did lose early wickets and were on the back foot when England picked their wickets, but they backed their plans and went after the bowling. They wanted to win. That eagerness to play, that approach was good for the game. Process matters as much as the result.

4. Intensity:
When Australia were on back foot which they were quite a few times, they came back, thanks to individuals who put their hands up. Haddin did not shy away from playing his natural game come Anderson, Broad, Swann. When Bailey hit Anderson for 28 runs in that over, it was so evident that the English lacked the intensity, the will to fight. When the Aussies wanted wickets, Johnson did not throw grenades, he bowled with the same cherry but with more intensity, with more intent and he was rewarded and how! England had that with Flintoff, to an extent KP as well but it looks like there are strict rules, to play one brand of cricket which has hurt the team badly.

5. Management:
Australia had an unchanged team for entire Ashes. England were searching for the team till the last Test. This blame goes straight to the “top management” of Mr. Andy Flower. You cannot drop a player for one poor match let alone a series like Ashes. You’ve got to back your own instinct/decision/lottery for the player to come good. A classic example is that of Root! They started the Ashes dropping Compton, thinking Root would be better at top. Looking at the future is good but if not respected by the present it can cost big. They dropped Compton and made Root as their opener. From one problem they now had two slots to fill. Bairstow flopped in England (as expected) and Root could not do well apart from the 180 at Lord’s. They dropped Root from opening brought in Carberry at top. Trott went back for his illness. Root came in at three. Why? When Bell was your best bet why not use common sense and play him at that position? Root flopped again batting at multiple positions. Carberry has not done much except  throwing away starts. Why was Compton dropped? What ahead now? For one player, four others had to suffer. At this level, in just two series, you can’t make such decisions and expect them to work. Give them a longer rope.

Though the above mentioned points may look same they have their own meanings and are much deeply inter-related. England will mostly drop half their side in next Ashes, import players from other countries. They may get the individuals again, but the top 5 points if not taken care of, they won’t survive long. Cricket is a game which calls for a team to perform as a team, to be flexible. And as Shane Warne ranted all along, be prepared to lose, to win! Your priorities decide your result!

A summary of what is wrong with England. You may not agree at all, and you are entitled to. Do share your views on it. Awaiting feedback!

Interview with Sachin’s Bat.

Down The Ground

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Sachin has retired. He won’t be playing cricket again. And that is sad. But before he goes away from our lives, everyone wants to have as much of him as possible. I am no different. I too want to have as much of Sachin as possible.

Like many other people, I decided to interview him as well. Unsurprisingly, I couldn’t even get close to him. Sachin was busy, taking awards, collectimg mementoes, getting photos taken, delivering thank you speeches and had no time for an interview with me. Neither did his wife, his friends, his relatives, his assistant, his maid or his driver. They were all busy too.

So?

So then, in a corner of the room, away from all the hustle, I saw his bat, lying down. The little piece of wood, Sachin’s better half on the cricket pitch. Something he can’t be imagined without. Given that it was such…

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SRT- The Festival!

Sachin, Sachin! *Clap Clap Clap*

The above lines have been the most cheered ones in the last few decades by almost every Indian cricket follower. For nothing seemed to bring everyone close as much as an Sachin Tendulkar inning would. It brought the quarrelling pair of Boss and employee together in cafeterias, it brought the people standing outside TV showrooms to discuss cricket, it brought the ears plugged to radio, in trains, buses together, it made people smile.

Just one man, so many hopes, and seldom did he disappoint. He became a child, friend, buddy, teacher, idol, inspiration, he became GOD of Cricket.

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What was special about SRT? SRT himself is special. The first memory I have of him is of a short guy in blue tee and black pant, coming down the track and lofting a yellow guy bowling spin straight out of the ground. Crowd went mad, noise, horns, so much happened. The feelings have still been same for someone who has given his everything to the game. Indeed Indian Cricket has been blessed by the presence of someone who captured imaginations of a billion people who have history of being a wild audience. Every cover drive brought people to smile, days were made, moods changed in minutes. On Sundays, you saw how millions tried to copy his straight drive, that MRF bat is still his, despite them getting many more successors. Having grown up in the late nineties, I did miss those one man innings, when people used to stop watching once SRT got out. There was a feeling, why can’t he score hundred and win? What should happen for that?

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Then came Dada, Rahul, Laxman and many more with time, India started to win more. Dada, the aggressive opening batsman with Sachin gave India so many glorious starts, his partnerships in Tests with Rahul, the bowler who tossed the ball after catching, playing with his palms. Such was the genius of Sachin, the simplicity, the humbleness never went out. Legends are those who treat success and failure as same. Sachin did that, with time, we all got obsessed with him. He went above the game for many, but he never asked for it. It was the immense joy of watching him bat made people feel good about life.

Cricket meant Sachin!

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That Hook for Six to Caddick in WC03, that 98 against Pakistan still fresh for many. Tennis Elbow happened. He was ruled out for months. He came back with a slightly altered technique, but kept scoring. The hunger never died. That straight drive still was joyous to watch. India toured Australia in 2008, I remember bunking my 12th CET classes to watch him bat against Lee. His hundred at Sydney, that upper cut to Brett Lee. It all came natural to him. He played probably all the shots in T20 in that day and age when BCCI was a timid organization which means a long long time back. His hundred against England at Chennai, his favorite ground chasing 387. Special knocks came to him like festivals.

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The World cup win, I was there, lofting my arms in glory, watching him take rounds. It felt like a dream came true, for me, for India, for SRT who was part of so many to-be-won matches lost, I felt nothing would have been better than that as an end to this career, He had different ideas. Statistics are a part of the game, they came to him like water to fish, he kept breaking records at will. He was now already more than the game for plenty. Guess this is where the feeling started to go down, having always been the lover of the game, it felt like he was stretching it for no apparent reason, the 100th hundred came like one of those century and losses. The 8-0 happened. This felt different, none knew the answer. He picked and chose series, which I think was probably the only reason I ever got annoyed. He did deserve it but it came at an expense, game is run by runs, but then he ran emotions of the nation with a run.

Nevertheless, his recent years can still not hamper the joy that he has given all the years to so many of us. Even now every time he hits a cover drive, straight drive, paddle sweep in that shiny Mumbai Indian Jersey, Wankhede goes mad. Wankhede will go mad again, one final time, when the nation will now stop saying, “Sachin, khel raha hai na? Tension nahi” We’ll have to move on, but let’s just wait a minute and thank the Master Blaster for making minutes, hours worth watching when he batted.

 

In one line, Sachin Tendulkar is a festival India celebrated every time he came out to bat.

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Just an attempt to thank Sachin Tendulkar for making lives memorable.

Feedback welcomed!

(Image credits: ESPNCricinfo)

The changing game of Cricket!

“What a shot from the Master Blaster! He is turning it on  here for India” This is probably the earliest memory of mine when I started to follow cricket. I did not recognize this famous voice of Tony Grieg then, all I understood was there are 2 batsmen, 1 wicket keeper, 1 bowler and 9 fielders.  At the age of 8, this was all I knew. Every time there was a shot for four, It just made me happy. Whether it was a good stroke or bad, I was too young to understand the difference between cover drive and extra cover drive. It just felt good. TV Show rooms and All India Radio was the only source for me to hear that voice and watch matches. Having grown up in a Gujurati joint family, sports is never given the preference so there was no way I would be getting into it as a player. As I grew, the affection just kept growing,  a small tv at home between 13 people is like telling Afridi to play defensively for 2 overs. It’s just not possible. I could only watch glimpses of matches, the little man who was called Master Blaster was hitting a leg spinner straight down the ground for sixes and fours and the crowd was just going mad. Just looking at those scenes made the day for me.

Next, we moved on to a bigger house, two tvs then, and now I had one to watch matches with my Chote Papa (Uncle). Shane Bond destroying Indian batting. I did not understand what was happening. Same players who were playing so well in India, could only edge the ball, miss it and get lbw and bowled. Those were times where I struggled to even remember the field positions. Later, I made a field chart on my studying pad and observed it daily to remember them. Slowly, the game started to take a liking to me. Ganguly and Sachin, two players I really enjoyed watching on the field. The straight drive from Sachin, the well timed square drive from Ganguly, they made me happy but I could not explain it to anyone. Everyday I used to mug up the schedule of matches in the morning before heading to school, just to make sure I do not miss most of the match. I still do, no I don’t go to school, but I plan my day based on cricket matches that very day. It’s just become a habit.  The point is, it was the emotion, the clean nature of the game that just helped me learn it and flow with it. There were sixes, fours, umpiring mistakes, fights as well. Howlers were made but they evened themselves out at the end for many.

The Master Blaster

The Master Blaster

2007 World Cup was a turning point in cricket life for many people around the world, more specifically Indians. The T20 format caught attention like fish to water. But for me it also started to highlight the best feature of the game, how every delivery could just change the match. Just one ball could make careers, or even destroy them. Ask Misbah,  he scooped one when Pakistan would have settled for an orthodox approach, he went for innovation. I had closed my eyes when the ball went up, the voice said: ” In the air and Sreeshanth takes it” I couldn’t believe what had just happened. A World Cup was won. It was how just one mistake from Misbah who batted so well was now responsible for Pakistan losing the world cup.  After that too, there have been many instances of closer matches, last ball thrillers. People love such games, as in Shastri’s manual we say: All three results are possible, this is going down the wire. The game’s pace, the natural reaction, the tension of waiting for 3rd Umpires verdict was palpable. But after the Australia-India 2008 Test series things started to change for the game.

Decision Review System was implemented in order to remove howlers from the game. I think apart from that line nothing made sense in what it is but I am not here to take sides on whether I want it or not. Umpires made mistakes before too, but now with the amount of cricket being played and the stakes being high, It is natural to look for methods to get the right decisions. There are so many cameras, live commentary, outrage on twitter, facebook that keep a close eye on the proceedings. Social Media has now made me it possible to follow it anywhere. With so much exposure, things were bound to take a toll. and they did. The decision making umpires have now seem to lost their control over it. More and more doubts are given out or not out. The level of umpiring has gone down. DRS has helped remove some errors, has changed the bowlers bowling round the wicket and still getting many wickets. Batsmen are given out more for LBW decisions than before. Ask Kevin Pietersen, or just watch Watson struggle to get a good stride in and still be out. But what DRS has changed the most, is the simplicity of the game. The instant reaction, the celebrations, and dissent to decisions. It all looks planned. Players manipulate their reactions now. The joy that watching a slow motion cover drive from a batsmen gave is replaced by a black figure holding a bat and a white spot being shown on the bat, the HotSpot. No, it is not bad to use technology. But with the game already being that very close, it feels like being cheated when technology takes the excitement away. I would rather prefer to see the body position, high elbow, the eyes over the ball, the real stuff but it is not possible now. It’s commercial. Commentators discuss more about right and wrong decisions rather than describing that wicket and it’s effect on the match. More statements are given, apologies are demanded. There seems to be an altogether different view of the game with that angle. 

Cricket has always had special place in hearts of many people, just the joy of watching it decides how people talk at their work, how they celebrate wins at homes. How defeats are blamed and friends argue about them yet all seemed to be a jolly thing. That has somewhere gone missing as technology now takes all the attention and the game just wonders for it’s presence. Some things in life just need to be kept as they are, too much tinkering spoils the fun. As the cliche goes: Cricket is the game of glorious uncertainties; it’s still alive but the simplicity of the game has been taken away by technology.

The Australian Lay-man

The Lay-man for Australia

Homework, Punches, Sackings, Selections. It has all been very hectic for an Australian fan in the last few months. The amount of action taking place off the field for them has completely taken over and clearly distracted their on-field performance. Losing 4-0 to India was just the start of the volcano to erupt. Players being banned, sent back for not doing homework. You could sense that the players were tied up.  And with Ashes around, as Ravi Shastri would put it, it was inevitable that something had to give and it did. Coach M Arthur sacked.

The decision for getting done with M Arthur was expected but it was more about the timing of the decision that surprised many. With just 2 weeks to go for Ashes.  Australia looked like they have completely lost the plot. Darren Lehmann, Boof replaced Arthur and just like how he batted, did not waste much time settling. “Watson will open for us in the Ashes” First sign of the impact Lehmann wanted to make and he did well. For someone who was batting all-rounder to opener to number 3 to bowling all-rounder to captain, he had done everything. Yet it was not the Watson we knew. Lehmann showed confidence in him, backed him and Watson did repay with good scores in the warm ups. The fact that he was so happy to speak about the activities that had resided over the last few months showed how free and clear he was now in his mind.  Watson did start aggressively in the first Test hitting boundaries, wanting to express himself, something he has been good that.

When you are written off even before the series it sort of releases a bit of pressure, knowing you are not expected to do well and so if you do, it will be there for the world to see. Backing players has always been one of the best ways to instill confidence in them and making them believe that they can succeed at this level. Lehmann did that by picking Hughes, Smith and you would say went over and played Ashton Agar over their preferred spinner Lyonn. All of them gave him equal returns when they bailed out Australia from being 53-4 to post 280 runs. Smith with his own technique survived when English bowlers were bowling batsmen in and out. He played a gritty knock for 53. Ashton Agar took got all the accolades and rightly so for stroking his way to a brilliant 98, the highest score by a number 11 batsman, fell just 2 short of a Maiden Test hundred on debut. In all the smiles and drama, there was Hughes who had done everything he could to hold one end and let Agar do the scoring. He played out everyone, ducked, swatted, drove his way to be stranded on 81. He did not look upset though, he was happy for Agar. Enjoying your teammates success is basic need to build a good team and Lehmann has just started to make the difference. England will still come back and may even win the game and the Ashes but rest assured this Australian team under Lehmann can only improve and compete better.