Beer, Chips and Cricket

This is a site about drinking beer, eating chips and thinking cricket. I am not a former player, a television commentaror or a journalist; my qualification to being worthy of hearing is that I drink a lot of beer, eat a lot of chips and think a lot about cricket. The thoughts need not be politically correct and often include colourful language but there will be no deliberate bias towards any player, community or state. I don't care about popular opinion or perceptions and I speak it as I see it.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Lunch on Day 1 - Nagpur

Some day I want to make a prediction that actually comes true. Steady as she goes ... will happen someday.

Anyway, Bhajji and Ganguly both out of the third test and while one creates a problem, the other looks so nice that one is tempted to make it a permanent thing ... ;-)

30 overs are up and Murali Karthik hasn't yet made his entry. Nothing wrong with that, of course, coz the pitch is supposed to be favouring the faster bowlers but past experiences just suggest that Karthik might not be used too much. See, whether he does well or not is a different matter but once selected in the team, he should get a long bowl. Seamers operate best in short spells while spinners operate best in long spells ... all I want is that once selected Karthik should be given that long spell. Anyway, there is a lot of cricket to be played ... so we can always wish. The captain is different so all the Ganguly bashers who cribbed about his denying Karthik a fair chance will now get to see what a different captain can get out of him.

Bhajji's not playing is a big blow for India ... only yesterday I was happy about our bowling not being a cause of worry at all and bingo - one of our main bowlers pulls out. Enough to pull one's hair out.

Yesterday I talked about Ganguly's contribution being much more than a batsman .... if u think of replacing him ever, u have to think of replacing a captain and a batsman and not just a batsman. Stop gap arrangements are a different matter and Dravid's capability and ability to handle captaincy and batting together cannot be tested completely here but it does give one the facility of looking at a batting line up without Ganguly. It is always nice to know what one's options are and even better to get to try them out ... so Kaif gets another chance after his gritty 60 odd in the 2nd test and good for him. He wasn't exactly brilliant in that innings of 60 and must do much more than that to look convincing at this level and cement a place for himself. Ganguly is established in the middle order and it will take more than a pipsqueak performance from Kaif to even put an element of doubt in the selectors minds.

When I heard about Bhajji not playing, and I hadn't yet heard about who replaced him, my mind automatically said Nehra ... coz considering the pitch and Karthik's inexperience, it seemed better to go in with another seamer ... but I don't think it is a match-altering decision. Karthik may do well and it is not as if Nehra is certain to do something great ... he is as much of a lottery as anyone else. That is the hard part of losing Bhajji ... he is not a lottery. Agarkar on the other hand is ... so if we had lost Agarkar (yes I remember he was my recommendation) to injury, it wouldn't have hurt so much .... but losing Bhajji is painful.

Chopra comes back into opening .... and if the first session report is any indication, Yuvi will be the happiest guy around. We need our openers to play as they did in Australia ... and I am always hopeful of Chopra coming out of his 40 run rut and somehow make a big one. Chopra and Ramesh are the two openers that are on my mind for the second opener's slot .... and while Ramesh is not available, Chopra doesn't make the big ones. Frustrating!!!

Anyway, three wickets down at last count ... Patel latched onto one from Zaheer and Zaheer seems to have taken the challenge of being the bowling spearhead on a pitch suited for the faster bowlers. Good for him. He still needs to come back for a couple of incisive spells and take out more guys. On a Bangalore pitch, his taking the two initial wickets would be enough ... on this Nagpur pitch, he has to do more.

Finally to the guy who said I was being unfair to SRT (sadistic was the term used), I don't think so. I have nothing against SRT at all ... in fact today in office we had this stress management course (one of the many time wasting techniques prevalent in big corporations) and when they were talking of ways of relieving stress, believe me, the image that flashed before my eyes was one of Tendulkar driving on the up through the covers and then driving straight down the ground. What could be more stress relieving that that? I love the guy and just coz the media hypes him so much, that doesn't make me hate him or something ... but we all have a devil in us somewhere and that devil in me just makes me think it would be so much fun to see the excuses given if he fails. See, I am sure SRT won't give excuses coz he is a good bloke and plays it gamely ... my pointer was more towards the butt kissers in the commentary box and expert panels on various news channels.

To end this, remember the last time Dravid was captain ... it was the match in which SRT was 194 not out when the declaration was made. Naughty thoughts come to mind.


The Chuckster

Monday, October 25, 2004

The wicket is green ... no Ganguly requested for the grass to be shaved off and so it is now brown ... but still Ganguly is not happy with what has been done. Whatever is being done is because of board politics coz it would be a punch on the nose for the Dalmiya faction if India lose this test. So on and so forth. It makes me sick.

Concentrate on the cricket guys. It may be very easy to say that the wicket matters but then u have to play on the wicket provided. Cribbing about whether Australia and England would give us a turner leads us nowhere. Under Ganguly, we have slowly started the march upto the top .... I am not saying we have reached there because there is a far way to go but we are going there ... so forget meaningless issues and concentrate on making runs / taking wickets et all. We have Sachin Tendulkar, Dravid, VVS and Sehwag who can play on all pitches (I am talking of capability here) and we crib about the wicket. Sheesh. Yeah, I agree that Australia won't ever give us a turner but we do get a match everytime in Sydney which is the nearest thing to a turner u would get over there. U don't see the Aussies cribbing about growing grass at Sydney.

Anyway, looks like the wicket won't be dead in Nagpur even if it doesn't really fly around ... and that is good for cricket. I believe India is good enough to eke out a victory irrespective of the grass or the lack of it on the pitch. I have to believe that else what is the fun in following cricket?

My last post gave my prediction of the Indian team for the Nagpur test and it had Patel opening. For memory sakes, this is what it was (remember - just a prediction I made in my last post) -


Whatever media reports I am reading leads me to believe that the only change that might happen from my predicted eleven is Chopra coming in for Kaif. My personal belief is that it will happen if the pitch looks to be lively on the day of the match else we will still go in with the eleven I wrote. There are sections of the media quoting that Yuveraj might still be persisted with as opener but that possibility is so terrible that let me not dwell on it. [Knowing the succes rate of my predictions, watch out for Yuvi opening ... heh heh]

Brett Lee has been included in the eleven for the Aussies and probably that is the strongest indication that the pitch will be helpful to the faster bowlers. For India it doesn't matter where bowling is concerned because whatever the case might be we will go into the match with 2 fast and 2 spin bowlers. For the Aussies who play with 3 + 1, it lends significance. Personally I am not too worried about Lee coz the faster they come, the faster they go as Lee has discovered in the past against India ... in fact, Lee has been the bowler who has bothered us the least. So lets hope that Lee plays.

I read Gavaskar's statement that Ganguly was concentrating too much on building on team and that is affecting his batting. I don't know what the reason is but something is definitely affecting his batting ... he never was a great test batsman but he was always a good test batsman ... but in the recent past (couple of years or so) he has really become a lottery ... yes, he hit a gritty 140 odd in the first test in Australia to help India out of the doldrums and set the tone for the rest of the series but with Ganguly this sort of thing has become more of an odd flash in the pan. Yes, he gets them now and then but not as regularly as a batsman should get at the international level. However, there also doesn't seem to be a solution coz when u talk about replacing Ganguly in the team, u are not just talking of replacing a batsman but a captain also. Getting a batsman in might be easier than getting a captain in. It is easy to talk of Dravid becoming captain or Laxman or even SRT but then we are tampering with something special that we have. With Ganguly, in my opinion, the safety factor is present that we are not really dealing with some essential component of the batting ... if he fires, that is ok ... if he doesn't fire, it is still ok coz the others are here. Might be a bit harsh but that is what I think sometimes.

Boy, the hype over SRT's return is amazing ... the media was always a bit insane where SRT was concerned but now they have gone completely cuckoo ... SRT will bat with a heavy bat ... SRT will bat with a lighter bat ... SRT will be rusty ... SRT has the class to ignore his rustiness and turn in a sterling performance ... blah blah blah. Every expert within shouting distance of a camera or microphone is telling us what SRT should do and shouldn't do. I myself don't know how SRT will do after such a long hiatus from cricket but one thing I know - if he fails, all the experts will be covering their asses by praising SRT even more - "U cannot expect a man to come back from such a serious injury and start scoring centuries .... he is a class act and will come back stronger ... blah blah blah". A part in me wants SRT to make runs and show that he is back successfully ... but the devil in me wants to hear Gavaskar, Kapil, Manjrejar et all make those excuses they are certain to make if he doesn't score. Cricket must have been so boring before when there was no media circus around the game, no? Heh heh!!!

India's problems are not really because SRT is not playing or that Patel is keeping worse than my grandmother etc etc etc ... they stem from the simple fact that our batsman are not scoring. Forget Ganguly ... I expect a decent score from him once in 10 games. However I expect a big score from Dravid about once in two games (if not more) and from Laxman about once in three games. Sehwag is back in form with a cracking century (yep, he did cream Warne just as I said he would ... I was disappointed actually that it wasn't more devastating than it was ... it is amazing how he cross bats Warne with impunity) and if Dravid and Laxman get amongst the runs, we are back in business coz our spinners are really on the spot with their bowling. Bhajji in the first and Kumble in the second and I have no worries about the bowling. My personal recommendation against the Aussies, Agarkar, will be there to take out Langer with a delivery pitching on off and coming in ... ;-) ... and it is Zaheer Khan's home town. So bowling is not really the worry here. Batting is.

Ganguly will probably spend the entire night wondering whether to play Patel as opener (though he seems to have emphatically said "no" to a media query) or kick out Kaif and play Chopra. Though I can't think about anyone else (coach / consultant) planning this, Ganguly also will be meddling with the idea of getting Yuveraj to open again. Chopra should win out (yes, even with Kaif's 60) in the end simply coz the pitch seems to require a decent opener even if he makes 40 in three hours ... and who knows he might just go on to make a big one. But I wouldn't like to be in Ganguly's shoes. Self inflicted pain in terms of not trying out other keepers before the series began and sidelining guys like Ramesh who could open with Sehwag. As they say, "u reap what u sow". Instead of having two possible openers for the second opener's slot in Ramesh and Chopra, we have one opener (Chopra) and one pretender (Yuveraj).

I was amused by two statements in the media - McGrath's statements about considering it a big compliment that SRT usually prefers to see him off than attack him AND SRT saying he would be playing his shots "as usual". In the ODI game, I would definitely put SRT as the winner in the personal battle (he has come down the pitch and smashed McGrath like a club bowler too many times) but where tests are concerned, McGrath is the undisputed winner in my book. My amusement arose from the fact that SRT coming back after serious injury might be coming back with a different mindset to the one he has had recently ... really, if he feels his fitness is not 100% etc, he might not favour the extra-defensive mode that has irritated many of his fans ... coz simply put, SRT likes to make big runs and his extra-defensive style takes a lot of time to make big runs. So he actually might come out with a mindset of keeping it short and sweet and making the maximum runs in the minimum amount of time so as to not stress himself further ... and short and sweet for SRT is not beyond a century in 130-140 balls with plenty of fours. I would love to see the media reports if this happens coz most of them will make this as the story of "How McGrath provoked Tendulkar to retaliate" and "Tendulkar answers McGrath with stroke filled century" and such like. Might be fun, actually ... I for one won't complain.

Finally a thanx to those who wishes me for my marriage (a couple of u also mailed ... very decent of u chaps) ... actually the bigger plan behind this marriage is to convert a complete non-cricket enthusiast to a shouting / screaming / swearing beer swilling cricket maniac by the next world cup. That will be my contribution to cricket.

Cheers guys .... and may the best team ... no, make that "May India win".

The Chuckster

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Interesting report from

Nagpur: If you manage to slip in past the security to the Vidarbha Cricket Association pitch, don’t be surprised if you think you’re in Perth.

The 22-yard strip has a fair tinge of green to it. There is not a single crack on the surface and the pitch is being watered regularly. Try inserting a key into the wicket and it goes right in suggesting dampness and moisture.

From the evidence of it, the VCA wicket will be a bouncy track, one where the pace bowlers would be licking their fingers.

Gotta run ... Cheers

The Chuckster

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

October 20 (for lack of a better title)

I haven't posted anything in the past few days ... and for those of you who came to look from time to time (I can see the counter increasing ... fascinates me ... heh heh), apologies. The Chuckster was busy in winning a carrom tournament in office, and in getting things ready for his marriage (yep, the Chuckster getting married soon).

Anyway, what can be said about the 2nd test? To be totally fair to the Indians, the rain robbed them. I know the players (specially the two captains) have been diplomatically talking about the game being 50-50 going into the last day etc, but personally I think we had the thing in the bag and everyone knew it. The hard part was the 4th day last session which Yuvi and Sehwag managed to last out (Yuvi getting a life off a botched chance in slips) ... once they survived the 4th day without a loss or two, the fifth day was always gonna belong to India, 5th day pitch or not. Except for the rain, of course. Now we can only speculate about what might have happened .... ;-(

A lot has been said about Warne's first 5 wicket haul in tests in India etc etc etc ... sounds very nice but look at the 6 he took in the 2nd test - Yuveraj, Sehwag, Patel, Pathan, Kumble and Harbhajan. Except for Sehwag (who thwacked him around a fair bit), none of the others are really a wicket to be proud of. His first test haul (if it can be called thus) was much better in quality simply coz he took out VVS twice. So he took the world record .... so what? He was so close that if he hadn't crossed it, he really should go back to Australia. See, Warne is a great bowler and I love watching him on the field of play ... but his record against India is still atrocious and the 5 wicket haul changes nothing ... that is all I want to say.

Kumble was magnificent, however. I have had the chance to criticize Kumble a lot in the past, specially before the Australian tour (when we went there, I mean) but since the Australian tour, he really seems to have started a second innings in his career. Australia was supposed to be his swansong, in the minds of many of his critics (including me) coz he has that record of doing nothing special abroad and he hadn't been doing anything special for some time before that ... but he did good in Australia and since then has continued doing better every time in tests. Good for India ... bad for the opponents. Murali Karthik and Ramesh Powar etc came into the spotlight for a brief time simply coz Bhajji was injured and Kumble was not performing well ... but with Kumble's performance in the past few series and Bhajji's performance in the first test, I think Murali Karthik etc can prepare themselves to spend another two years out of cricket. That is the point of taking advantage when one gets the opportunity ... it is said that Karthik hasn't been treated fairly and that he gets too few chances spaced out between long intervals. There might be truth to the allegation but if he had taken advantage of whatever few chances he got, he would be in the hunt ... now he simply has to sit back and wonder when another golden opportunity might arise when one of the main spinners is in a very very bad run and the other injured. Pathan is an example ... when he played in Australia, he played coz of the injury to Zaheer ... then the other bowlers screwed up and Balaji got his chance ... and the way they both grabbed it, by the time the regular bowlers came back, they were relagated to fighting for the 3rd bowler's spot in the ODIs. That is called taking one's chances. Murali Karthik can blame his stars but if he is a fair man, he also would be blaming his own ineptitude at taking his chances.

Fate does play strange games ... just as I was typing about Murali Karthik and the chances he got (and didn't take), suddenly in my mind flashed the image of a short, young man with a mischevous smile. India has probably seen its worst keeping for a long time in the past one year or so and it has all been Patel (talking solely of tests here). He has stooped to lower levels almost every time he has stepped onto the field and one is left wondering when he reaches rock bottom. On the other hand, in the same period India has also discovered its best wicketkeeper batsman for a long time. This kid can bat and he has been showing it consistently for the past few series. He is short in stature but not short of guts and while he won't ever be a Gilchrist (he just isn't a good enough bat though he is miles better than the other options tried out in the past ... my frank opinion), here we have a wicket keeper who we can expect to maintain a healthy average of 30 - 35 in test matches. Really, it seems easily attainable, seeing the way he has batted in Australia, Pakistan and now in the first two tests.

Many might argue that the wicketkeeper's main job is to keep wickets and not really to maintain an average of 30 with the bat ... I would agree to this assessment when talking about tests while I wouldn't in case of ODIs (I am a big supporter of Dravid keeping wickets in ODIs) simply coz the damage caused by incompetant wicketkeeping can be deadly in a test match ... in an ODI, the damage will mostly be minimal ... hey, as it is the guy has only a max of 50 overs to screw up for ... how much can he achieve on the screw-up meter? Not much and certainly not something that cannot be repaired!!!

However, this is where the short-sightedness of the Indian team management comes in. They played a game between India (Seniors) and India-A just before the series, where they could have checked out the other two keeping options available; Dinesh Karthick and MS Dhoni. They knew wicket keeping was a problem area and needs a solution; they decided not to play Karthick in the match and MS Dhoni never got to keep to Kumble and Bhajji .... what would have been the big deal had MS Dhoni been made the keeper of the India (Seniors) team? It was a practice game, for heaven's sakes. Then itself, it was evident that Patel would continue to keep wickets until something drastic happened.

People can argue that something drastic has already happened and that Patel has already touched the nadir .... but it cannot be denied that in a team comprising of struggling batsmen, his runs (as have Pathan's) have come in very handy indeed. Yes, a keeper's job is to keep wickets first and score later but when VVS, Ganguly and Yuveraj are batting like they are right now, hey, a 50 from Patel is like a goldmine. Who can afford to let that go? Yes, Dinesh Karthick and MS Dhoni are both supposed to know how to wield a bat but who can afford to find out if that is fact or fiction? Let VVS get back his touch and let SRT come back into the team ... then we can see what the other keepers can do ... till then no chance.

Patel's stars are shining ... that is the best way of summing it up. Optimists can also point out that the only way for him is up since he cannot go any lower ... but I am not so sure of that. Seriously, I keep for kicks when we play cricket in office (unless they make me 12th man and then I carry water bottles) and I could have collected stuff that was bouncing out of Patel's gloves every now and then. Sheesh!!!

As of now, SRT is supposed to make a comeback in the 3rd test ... though he will undergo a fitness test, they seem to be sure of his being OK ... at least, that is the way it sounds to me. He is supposed to have had a practice session yesterday (Tuesday) and will be tested properly today. It has been widely quoted in the media that the physio / coach / captain all have been talking about the final decision being with Sachin and that he was the best person to judge etc. While SRT's opinion of his own fitness is obviously of great value, the statement as such is nonsense and I don't know why they have to talk like that. If a player (yes, even SRT) himself can judge these things, then why are we paying the physio / team doctor etc etc etc? Obviously, the issue will be decided with full discussions between the player / physio / doctor etc ... I have no doubts about that ... but when statements like this r given, it pisses me off coz it doesn't really mean anything. It just sounds good, that is all.

Anyway, in my mind at least, I am already counting in SRT for the third test and so obviously we are in with a problem. Kaif did well in the 2nd test and Yuvi screwed up but Yuvi is the captain's boy so he might not be chucked out so easily ... and u can't chuck out Kaif when he made 60 odd runs and saved India's bacon. So what do u do? This was precisely the possibility I had raised in my post before the 2nd test and here it is, a reality!!!

Really, if SRT comes back, the game is up - in this series at least - for Yuvi. It will break Ganguly's heart but it is bye bye Yuvi for the third test if SRT plays. Yes, Yuvi can still open and Kaif go out but that would be so brazenly partisan that I can't believe it will happen. So does that mean welcome back, Akash Chopra? No sir ... no way .... Chopra is not the captain's blue eyed boy ... why the hell will he come in ... my prediction here - Yuveraj goes out, Chopra doesn't come in ... Patel opens and Kaif plays at 7 . There, I said it!!! I have had a great record in wrong predictions but I somehow believe this is what will happen.

Pathan broke down for the first time in his short career and won't play the 3rd test. Yes, he has bowled a lot in the short time he has played in the India team but still, when one has such a sound bench strength in terms of physio / trainer / doctor etc, this shouldn't be happening. Dravid plays many marathon innings, keeps in ODIs and stands crouched in slips all day long in tests. I haven't seen him yet breaking down ... agreed that the physical strains of a fast bowler are different from what I just mentioned but still ... it is not necessary (as a rule) for our fast bowlers to break down and I don't think we can simply shrug it away with a "too much cricket" comment. That is just taking the easy way out ... before we had the trainer / physio / doctor team as part of the official team entourage, I think we used to have lesser number of injuries. Hey, to top it all, we are just coming out of a break in cricket ... its not like we have been playing non-stop cricket for the past 8 months.

Anyway, this one is a big loss. Apart from his bowling, his batting has really saved India in recent times ... I repeat, he will never be a centuries man .... frank opinion, he isn't that good and I doubt if he will be ... but like Patel, I think he is one guy who can easily maintain a consistent average of 30-35 in tests. But he is lost to injury and we may yet live to regret that loss.

Nehra comes in to replace Pathan but Nehra is a lottery .... with Zaheer also being a lottery currently (yes, I read reports too of his bowling well etc but still if he doesn't get wickets, then what is the use) I think Agarkar has the best chance among the fringe bowlers of getting a game. Zaheer will play for sure and I for one am certain it will be Agarkar who will be opening the bowling with him. I have been yattering since the beginning of the series that Agarkar can cut Langer down before he can do damage and that makes it worth it to keep Aggu in the team .... and finally I think my theory will be tested out.

Will post when more details emerge. All that I have written is pure conjecture at this point of time and hopefully within a day or two, it will be known if SRT is fit enough, whether Kaif has recovered from his dehyderation or whatever it was (hmmm ... the fittest player in the team is the one to go down .... geez) and what kind of plans the team management have for sorting out the Kaif / Yuveraj / Chopra situation.

To end this post, a non cricket item which I can't help but talk about. Since I am in Hyderabad, I have had my eye (no, not romantically, thank you) on a young tennis star called Sania Mirza for the past two years. She is 17 now, gonna turn 18 in November. The papers here really focus on her a lot and that is something newspapers editors in other cities can really learn from ... if one's own city doesn't support (even through publicity) a sportsperson then who will? Anyway, after Nirupama Vaidhyanathan, India finally have a female tennis star ranked inside the top 200. "Sure", I can hear a few of u snicker, "Top 200 ... ain't that great??? We should be ashamed to be making a noise about this". Anyway, shamed I am not coz from hope comes optimism (or is that the other way around) and Sania Mirza has been giving us hope for the past year or two (at least those who follow the Hyderabad papers ... recently even Rediff has started following her fortunes). News is that she will most probably get a wild card for the Australian Open next year (January 2005). She lost in the finals of a tournament, the winner of which gets a wild card to the Australian Open ... and the winner of that tournament, a Chinese girl, has a good enough ranking to make it to the open on her own without the help of a wild card. Which means - the losing finalist gets it. Get ready to see an Indian representation (nopes, the Uberoi sisters can't be yet called that) in the Australian Open.

Till the next post, Cheers.

The Chuckster

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Sehwag and Yuveraj - openers

Just before Sehwag opened in tests, I had this article on Rediff - - that basically laid out a case for why Sehwag would succeed as opener. Note - One thing I am specially proud of ... Prem Panicker of Rediff wrote the same thing in one of his articles one week or so "after" my article came out.

People often don't get it when I tell them that I always thought Sehwag would succeed and Yuveraj wouldn't ... both are strokeplayers and both certainities in the ODI team and both came from the middle order. Why should one succeed and one not ... often, I get complaints about not being consistent with my views.

See, if u read the article above, u will know my reasons for advocating Sehwag as opener. People consider his technique to be deficient for an opener .... I believe it is simply coz he attacks so much and is different from the typical opener for whom seeing off the new ball is the main criteria. Sehwag doesn't show a lot of defensive technique coz he is too busy hitting them to the boundary. But on occassions that he does defend, one can easily see that he does it naturally ... he doesn't seem awkward leaving balls or just patting them back.

The main point between Yuvi and Sehwag, according to me, is the strength on the off side ... coz both are strong on leg, maybe Yuvi even more than Sehwag. Sehwag is very strong simply coz he has attacking strokes on the off ... he drives well, both from the back foot and while smashing (he doesn't really drive this) half volleys from the front foot ... his quick eye and quicker wrist movement makes him a very natural cutter of the ball and many of his runs are scores past point and gully, not coz of edges or mishits but coz he bludgeoned the ball over there. While Yuvi will also dispatch the half volleys from the faster bowlers, the drive off the back foot is least convincing ... this is coz his feet don't move and the bat is very far away from the body when he plays (or lunges) this shot ... a deadly combination. Yuveraj is also not a natural cutter of the ball though he plays the shot ... and so basically he is restricted in his shot selection .... which basically means that to survive he needs the required skills to either defend or leave the balls outside off. Defending requires good foot movement which Yuvi doesn't have ... and leaving requires judgement outside off which he can probably develop with time ... but if he is gonna develop as an opener who leaves balls outside off, then tell me again - why are we looking past Chopra?

Sehwag's eye is so quick that u almost never see him push at the ball ... which generally happens when the batsman can't decide what to do ... he either goes back and cuts or comes forward and plays to the front of the wicket ... Yes, he edges behind but that is not coz of indecisiveness ... he thinks he can smash that one past covers and sometimes misjudges the movement of the ball ... happens to the best of batsmen. With Yuveraj, because of his foot movement (or lack of it), against any decent pace attack in tests, he will always struggle because he pushes at the ball ... a bit like Ganguly at the start of his innings but Gangs' greater strength at driving and cutting puts him over Yuvi in my list.

The short ball is probably the only place where Yuvi scores over Sehwag ... on the off it is not a problem coz Sehwag can slash it away over slips (i think fielders at third man routinely look for a catch over there when Sehwag bats) but when the ball is on the body, Sehwag is vulnerable ... while Yuvi has a great pull shot. Even on the pull shot, we have seen Yuvi play that shot with panache in the ODIs but playing it coming in at number 5 or so in a ODI is different from playing it as an opener against the new ball in a test ... Yuvi is a good puller but for this he needs to become even better ... Langer and Hayden pull so naturally that they get runs 90% of the times ... he has to become that good for his pull to become a weapon in tests. Otherwise, talking about his pulling really doesn't mean much coz he is not gonna be batting in the middle order.

As I read my article again (about Sehwag opening), these words come back to me from that article -

Laxman, Dravid, Tendulkar, Sehwag and Ganguly are all proven players at the international level. With people like Mongia, Kaif and Yuvraj (I know - weak outside the off stump but let's at least call him a prospect) knocking on the doors of Test cricket, the problem today is too many batsmen in the middle order and none anywhere else

And Another place

Sehwag is a naturally attacking batsman but the beauty of his attack is in its correctness. He doesn't need to sacrifice his technique for getting those savage square cuts, drives off back foot and front, turning his wrist to delicately play the ball through mid on or to smack it over mid-wicket. If it were a bad ball, he hits it and if it were a good ball then he defends it. No unnecessary complications and definitely, unlike Dravid, doesn't carry the world on his shoulders.


Just remember, it is nothing personal against Yuveraj ... if I were picking my squad for ODI cricket, he would be an automatic choice. Test cricket, uh-huh ... I don't think so.


The Chuckster

Katich ... Dumb

Yesterday when wickets kept falling in a heap, Katich was standing at one end throughout ... he came in at number 3 and was unbeaten at the end ... what a bloody waste of a number 3. In the past, I have had the chance to feel frustrated when the Indians would get out before their time (according to me) coz they didn't have the brains to protect their tail and make the most of any of the main batsman's precense in the middle .... Laxman has gotten stuck with the tail on so many occassions and I would always be like - idiot, don't give the strike to A, B and C ... if possible, don't let them face at all except when u really tried but couldn't avoid it.

Katich's batting was a repeat of that feeling except that I wasn't that frustrated ... let the Aussies screw themselves if they want. As long as even Gilly was present, it was ok ... he is a main bat and there was no need for urgency. Katich and Gilly were well capable of getting Australia back on track. But when Gilly got out, Katich should have taken command. He didn't. The Australian tail is better than most tails in the world but then a tail is a tail is a tail .... u never know what happens with them. Hence as the main batsman remaining, he should have hogged the batting and also opened out in terms of scoring ... as it was, he remained not out on 30 odd ... what a bloody waste. He also didn't look to protect the tail and willingly took singles to let the tail face a rampaging Kumble and Bhajji ... in fact, the one time he opened up and hit Kumble for a straight four over his head was off the last ball of the over ... meaning the other guy (tail ender) faced the next over.

I think Katich dyed his hair ... he is actually blonde.

I talked about Patel's keeping skills ... one thing I missed out was when he muffed a routine take off the fast bowlers and the ball rolled back and hit the helmet which was kept behind ... giving the Australians 5 penalty runs. Not saying this coz the Indians got the short end of it ... but what a dumb rule. Yes, the helmet, when worn is ok but when kept on the ground is a foreign object and the ball hitting it affects the speed of the ball and all that ... but 95% of the times when the ball hits the helmet on the ground, it is rolling at a speed which really won't it too far along ... and just coz it hit the helmet, 5 runs r penalized. Sounds dumb to me. What is the fielding team supposed to do with the helmets when not using them for their keeper / forward short leg etc ... slip them into their pockets? Or send them out of the field and then get them back when they need them ... and send them back again next over and get back them back two balls later?

Anyway, cheers ... Pathan is gone and Sehwag and Dravid are batting. According to me, there is no damage yet coz I never considered Yuvi as a contributor in this match ... and Pathan after all is not a specialist ... would have been better if he had contributed more but we are still left with Sehwag / Dravid / Laxman / Gangs / Kaif.

Warne is gonna get hammered ... oh boy, he is.

The Chuckster

Chennai Day 1 - Report

Yesterday was a good day ... I had office but I could follow the commentary on ... people were shouting across their prison walls ... errr ... bays to each other as wickets fell in a heap and by tea time people were predicting that India would go into the end of day's play 4 down. Thankfully the last one was like most of my predictions (though it wasn't me who made this one) ... wrong.

Reaching home, I managed to get the repeat telecast of the match on DD Sports ... they continue to torture us by not giving a highlights package but a total repeat telecast but can't really help it. Yesterday I happened to have the patience and so watched it from the time when Australia were 120 without loss to the day's end.

India went in with Yuveraj as opener ... finally the captain's theory would be tested ... and Kaif. Kaif is not really a brilliant test batsman else he would have been in the team long before but in the present circumstances, considering all options available, I believe he is the best suited for the middle order. Yep, more than Yuveraj who I place very highly in my ODI squad.

Anyway Agarkar missed out which disappointed me coz Zaheer hasn't been inspiring confidence of late. But Gangs has a policy of sticking with his bowlers and he followed that here too. He has had great confidence in Zaheer over the last couple of years and more often than not, Zaheer has delivered but in this test, like in the recent past, he really didn't do anything of note.

The main batsmen in the Australian squad are their openers, both with plenty of experience and capable of notching up big scores. Hayden is an indestructible tank and I really cannot think of any weakness and say "target him thus" but for Langer, definitely it is the ball pitching on off and coming in; specially Agarkar has been successful at this time and again in the recent past but today he wasn't able to check it out again.

Till about 120 for no loss, let me just gloss it over. I didn't see the telecast of this period but I did hear that the Aussies took the sword to the Indians. Those of us following the match in office were making predictions about 400 by day's end and then Harbhajan happened.

Hayden's success has one key factor that he always knows what shot he is going to play ... he generally is never undecided and has very decisive feet movement, both to slow and fast bowlers. He was handling things really cool and looking to score a big one when Bhajji did him in. Hayden had decided that this one had to go over long on for six and stepped out ... Bhajji was giving a lot of flight and Hayden must have been mentally adding six to his score already when he realized that the ball was not where he expected it to be .... Bhajji had pulled it back slightly and Hayden ended up not reaching the pitch of the ball. It would have been wise to cut the shot but Hayden went through with it ... the ball spun a bit and the shot aimed over long on ballooned up and Laxman running in from long off took it safely. Bhajji was screaming blue murder (thankfully not at the batsman ... the officials will be closely looking at him after McGrath's first test comments) like he just took a 5-er ... but anyway, it was an earned wicket, deceiving the batsman in flight.

Langer got out one ball later ... the batsmen had crossed over when Hayden's shot was in the air. Bhajji pitched on leg stump most of the day, got one to spin sharply across the closing face of the bat and Dravid took the slip catch centimeters from the ground ... it was a very low catch but the ease with which Dravid took it was commendable ... no fuss ... bend low and pick it up ... easy. Bhajji was using a lot of variation in his bowling .... sometimes bowling with the seam towards the slips and sometimes holding the seam totally across ... the one that got Langer was held cross seam and in the slow motion replay, one could see the tremendous spin the ball had in the air. Good one.

Martyn and Katich were at the wicket now and set about repairing the damage ... Katich didn't look in any problems at all but he really didn't look to dominate ... that is what makes Katich (in my eyes) look such an ill fit in the Aussie team ... he doesn't attack like everyone else tries to do ... when Hayden is batting, for example, u can see he wants to attack u and fight u and somehow dominate the hell out of u ... with Katich, there doesn't seem to be any urgency at all even though he never seems to be having problems. What is he ... the Dravid of the Aussie team?

Anyway, the third wicket was a bit of a lucky one for India coz the umpires thought about calling tea and then decided to get one more over in ... and Kumble struck. The ball pitched on a very good length, where the batsman can't come forward and take it and really can't decide if going back would be sensible ... and the bounce in the pitch made it hit Martyn's glove instead of the bat ... catch popped to forward short leg and the umpires called tea. So India went into tea with three sudden wickets under their belt.

The session after tea was amazing ... the pitch was behaving like a day 4 pitch in terms of turn ... at one point of time when Michael Clarke came on the front foot to defend against Bhajji, so much of dust came out at the point where his front foot landed that one could have been forgiven to think one was playing somewhere in the middle of the desert. This is a first day pitch, for crying out loud. To be fair though, the pitch hasn't broken and that isn't the only reason for Kumble's seven wicket haul ... it is because Kumble maintained a good length and line almost throughout ... but the ball is bouncing and turning and the combination can be lethal.

Anyway, Lehmann came in ... and Lehmann went out ... I had written in a previous post in this blog that in the first test, he was swishing wildly against the spinners and didn't look to have a clue. This time he didn't swish wildly but he still didn't have a clue. He is supposed to be one of their best players of spin but in this series, he looks decidedly unhappy to be out in the middle. Kumble ended his misery with a bad ball ... way outside off that Lehmann tried to cut and Parthiv Patel amazingly caught it. Amazing not coz it was a difficult catch or something but this was probably one of the very few balls through the day that actually stayed in his gloves. The commentator was mentioning - Lehmann is unlucky ... unlucky coz Parthiv Patel has caught it ... LOL.

Anyway, the danger man, Clarke came in and I started getting afraid (though it was a repeat telecast and I knew he wouldn't last long). In the first test, Clarke had used his feet to the spinners exceptionally well ... he was jumping down the track and driving it through on and off with ease ... here maybe the bounce and spin being generated played mind games with him ... maybe someone in the pavillion told him to take it easy ... but for the most part of his short stay at the crease, he stayed put in his place and didn't try to come down the pitch, except rarely. That was really asking for trouble.

Clarke was looking decent ... he defended a couple with his front foot forward to the pitch of the ball and defended a couple from the back foot. But he never looked to dominate the bowler or put him off by using his feet ... he basically stayed put and allowed Kumble and Bhajji to bowl to him where they wanted. Kumble didn't let the chance go and gave him a flipper which Clarke tried to go back and play ... his bat came down about 3 minutes after the ball hit the pad. My initial thought was the ball would go down leg side but on second and third thoughts, I changed it to "ok, it would have hit leg". Anyway, the ball had kept low and the batsman had missed it completely ... the umpire had no hesitation in giving that out.

Gilly walked in and looked uncomfortable as hell. Mentally I was telling myself that Gilly hit a ton in the first test at Mumbai in the last series and thereafter only had pin code scores ... this would happen again. And it did ... the few ball that Gilly did face were negotiated without a lot of comfort ... and then Kumble got one to grip and bounce and Gilly trying to play it on the front foot never really reached it and the ball hit bat, pad and ballooned to forward short leg. I don't know if the umpire would have given it but Gilly walked ... the bowler and fielder looked confident of the dismissal but I don't know about the umpire ... I think he would have given him coz it was a plain bat-pad but the commentators made such a hulla out of it that I don't know now.

Gilly is slowly getting a reputation as a guy who walks ... all very nice and all ... but is the idea behind it one of fair play or attention seeking? I ask this cynical question simply coz fair play is not just about walking when u edge ... in the first test Gilly took Pathan off Warne in the first innings when the ball missed bat by a mile ... whether the umpire got fooled or not, Gilly couldn't have gotten fooled ... he was the keeper and he would have watched the ball closer than anyone else present ... he couldn't have missed the fact that the ball spun between bat and pad and missed both easily. Yet he took off celeberating and the umpire gave that one out. So Mr. Gilly ... it is a great thing u walked ... but either do things properly or don't do things at all. These "in between" things just leads to cynicism.

Anyway, later in the innings two other batsmen walked and it brings forward a wicked thought to mind - will they be penalized for dissent? If the player says he didn't touch it when the umpire says he did, it is dissent. Then why not the reverse? I am not bringing this out just for the sake of bringing it out (and damn damn damn, there is an article on Rediff asking the same thing ... I was really looking forward to putting this in my blog where people could read it and say - hey, that is a good point) but why is this not dissent? Will the ICC now start discouraging players from playing honestly?

Anyway, the Indians were in the tail now and didn't take long to go through it. Warne slogged Kumble for a four but ended up giving a return catch to him on a ball that he tried to slog straight down the ground and didn't reach the pitch of.

One funny thing when Warne was batting ... after one Bhajji over, Bhajji started chatting with Warne (this was between overs) and Warne answering in grunts and nods and Bhajji going "yakkity yakkity yak" ... Ok, the media has put this in my mind and I don't have any basis for saying this ... but was that a case of Bhajji trying to forcibly chat to the Aussies (even if not sledging) and Warne trying to get out of it as politely as he could? Lol ... if it was, Bhajji probably learned that one from Gangs ... talk to him as if he is ur best friend ... don't let him escape ... keep talking to him ... he hates ur guts .... LOL.

Gillespie was the second batsman to walk ... got out the same way as most others did ... not reaching the pitch of the ball and the ball bouncing and rapping his knuckles before popping to forward short leg.

Kasper did the third walk act of the innings and this time I think it got to umpire Shepherd. Yuveraj at silly point caught it and didn't appeal ... the keeper started to appeal and was not too enthusiastic ... Kumble was asking the question and probably knew it was out ... the umpire had absolutely no intentions of giving that one out ... and Kasper walked. Shepherd's face, usually red, was funny to watch ... he was wagging his hand and muttering out aloud ... and it would probably have been interesting to listen to him (would the ICC have fined him for bad language?) ... he first had a session with Katich at the non-striker's end where he wagged his hand and gave facial expressions that said - "why is he walking? he hit it? i didn't think he hit it." ... then had another hand wagging session with umpire Koetzen ... and finally with the bowler Kumble. Kumble was saying something which I lip read (and I don't consider myself to be good at that) as "its ok ... happens" ... and Shep looking redder than ever.

McGrath got run out to end the Aussie misery and it was all over. From 111 for none at lunch (did umpire Shep spend the entire lunch time hopping from one foot to another?), they had lost 10 wickets for 99 runs. Kumble 7, Bhajji 2 and one run out.

A word about Bhajji's bowling. It was terrific. Everyone is praising Kumble's bowling because he got those 7 wickets and I have no doubt whatsoever that Kumble deserves all his praise ... but praise should also be given to Bhajji who made the ball talk and spin and dance and did everything a decent ball shouldn't do. He was also unlucky in the sense edges flew everywhere except where the fielders were present. One went towards leg slip and another between leg slip and forward short leg and Yuvi dropped a sitter at forward short leg. Patel contributed by consistently failing to hold onto the ball and seriously Bhajji must be wondering on lady luck ... some day one bowls ordinarily and gets 8 wickets ... another day one bowls beautifully and ends up with 2.

A word on Patel here ... he was worse than Deep Das Gupta against the West Indies and I cannot say worse than that. Spinners on a turning (and bouncing) pitch, I can understand a keeper having problems. But the chap was dropping everything, including deliveries left by the batsmen off the fast bowlers. Seriously, I do keeping myself and am not good at it but a lot of those which Patel dropped, I could have taken. This is not to show how good I am but to show how bad he was. Atrocious. At one point of time Ganguly came across and had a chat with him ... Patel was gesturing with his hands and indicating the ball wouldn't stick ... and Ganguly was grinning coz the showing was so bad he really had no other option but to grin and hope it was all a dream. This "explaining" by Patel continued through the day as he first explained to Zaheer, then to Pathan and then to Ganguly etc ... I don't think they were still grinning towards the end of the day. Geez, the guy is earning a packet to screw up like this ... when he made his debut against England, I for one was very impressed by his collection behind the wicket .... but over the past year, he has been becoming worser by the match and I don't know what is happening. He can't say "too much cricket" as he doesn't play the ODIs anyway. Dinesh Karthick and MS Dhoni will be feeling optimistic, for sure.

About Aussie walking and honesty and all that, there was this interesting incident narrated by Dean Jones about having asked McGrath about Sehwag's dismissal in the first test second innings where there was an obvious inside edge. According to Deano, McGrath believed that there was a genuine cause for appeal and he never knew there was an inside edge. None of those who went up for appeal apparently thought there was something amiss till they got to know about the replay showing the edge. Crap. The edge was so huge that first of all, the umpire should have caught it. He didn't ... ok, happens. The bowler also doesn't catch it? None of the others catch it ... and they play cricket day in and day out and none of them saw or felt that huge edge? Crap, as I said. I don't know why they have to make this pretence of walking and showing what good guys they are ... as I said before, no half measures ... either do it properly or don't do it at all.

Anyway, the Indians came into bat and Yuvi walked in with Sehwag ... it was a brave move coz only 15 overs were left and Yuvi is untested material in the opening slot. Ganguly has been talking long about this and probably felt that this was the best way of answering critics ... on the field of play. Unfortunately, Yuveraj just wasn't good enough to give some spine to the answer.

One day, before India went to Australia, I had a discussion on a notice board I frequent (site named Sulekha ... about why Yuvi shouldn't open. I have been a supporter of Sehwag opening from the time before he actually opened for India ... and a friend was asking me why Yuvi couldn't succeed when Sehwag could. My answer was that Yuvi didn't have the technique; an answer which got snorts or derision and comments of "oh yeah ... and Sehwag has the technique"? See, Sehwag goes to gear 5 and thus people think he doesn't really have technique but I believe that he rarely gets out because of lack of technique ... more coz of careless shots. Yuveraj on the other hand is terribly weak outside off to the fast bowlers ... if the ball is moving around, more often than not, he will edge it coz he really doesn't have a good technique to play forward or leave the ball. He doesn't move his feet and kinda lungest his bat forward which more often than not leads to a catch behind the wicket. This is what happened in the first over itself when Michael Clarke grassed a sitter (by Australian standards), McGrath being the poor bowler. Yuvi continued to struggle throughout his stay at the wicket and only looked decent on three occassions, all of which were when the bowlers strayed on leg. One run, two runs and four runs ... these were the result of the three balls he looked comfortable in. The rest of the deliveries were all foreign to him. He also got conked on the helmet by McGrath who grinned at him to rub it in.

Basically Yuvi flunked his first test big time. I was waiting for this event (Yuvi opening) simply coz with Gangs as captain it had to happen sometime ... and the sooner u try an idea out, the better it is coz if it works, then great. Else u can move on. If one doesn't try it out, everything else is confusion coz this idea is always there at the back of the mind ... what if ... what if .... so now we know what if.

Yuvi looked very serious throughout and maybe that is one reason for his discomfort ... he was obviously wound up (maybe over wound up) and trying to play "carefully" and making a total mess of things. There was none of the cool swagger that one admires so much in him in the ODI game but instead a worried look (no, I don't think it was a look of determination though I probably wouldn't know the difference ... gut feeling).

He will get another chance in the second innings and if he plays the way he did the first innings, this experiment would have ended. I can't believe any captain in his right mind will take this experiment to test 3. But as I said .... depends on what he does in the second innings.

Anyway, Warne came on and ended yuveraj's misery ... he was probably so relived at seeing off the faster bowlers that he decided his job was over ... a well flighted ball outside off and Yuvi went for an expansive drive and got an inner edge to Gilly ... Gilly didn't collect properly and the ball hit the inside of his thigh before bouncing up conveniently into his gloves. Pathan came in (an excellent move) and played out two balls to end of play.

Final thoughts - Sehwag looked comfortable throughout. No problems in life. If he can see off McGrath tomorrow morning, he will get a big one. Warne is gonna get damaged big time specially if Sehwag lasts beyond the faster bowlers. Warne spins them a lot but Sehwag won't care enough ... he will just go down on one knee and whack them over deep midwicket. Every time Warne comes to India, they have some excuse about why he didn't do well ... fitness etc etc etc ... this time he himself has said he is feeling at his fittest ... in the first test, after getting hammered by the tail, he talked about having the world mark on his mind and thus not doing well ... well ok .... now what will be his excuse after today? Coz he is gonna pay. For Stuart McGill, a message from the Chuckster .... You lucky dog, you!!!


The Chuckster

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Day before the second test ... boriiinngggg

Firstly about the team for the second test. From media reports, it seems Ganguly has "almost" announced the first eleven for the match, pending approval by the selectors. So no firm words yet but he has indicated that Kaif will come into the squad and Yuvi will open. I always knew that if it came down to Chopra vs. Yuvi, Gangs would pick Yuvi. Well, as a well wisher of Indian cricket, I cannot wish for a failure here so .... Go Yuvi. Looking at the positive side of it, if the combination of Yuvi and Sehwag does do well, we will be in the driver's seat simply coz these two will bat fast and put pressure on the opposition ... no question about that.

Though the "statement" from Ganguly is reflecting only now on all the sites, I read one news article on the Telegraph India ( site today morning that said the same thing. Of all the sites that carry news / scoops whatever ... I have always found the Telegraph India to have the greatest accuracy rate in its predictions .... probably they have good contacts with the people who matter in the current Indian team management and thus get inside news .... they r not 100% accurate but I will believe the Daily Telegraph more than I believe Rediff or TOI or Hindu. That is my belief.

According to the Telegraph, Agarkar will "most likely" come in for Zaheer ... and that is the way it should be, according to me. Zaheer is the better bowler when in form but when he is so-so, it really doesn't matter .... Aggu's whimsical batting plys his ability to get Langer might be more useful than Zaheer. Yes, if Zaheer gets in his stride by the next series (or whenever) I will always opt for Zaheer over Agarkar ... but right now, Aggu looks the better bet. What a situation when we are actually cheering for Agarkar to be included ... geez, with a fit Zaheer and a in-form Balaji, Aggu wouldn't have stood a chance ... but then jab din aata hai ... tab din aata hai. Aggu has wasted a huge number of chances in his career ... lets see what he makes of this one.

SRT won't play ... and while I had the sneaking suspicion he might play this one, the Telegraph basically says he won't ... so I believe he won't. The official word hasn't come in yet though everyone from the coach, captain to the team bus driver has been quoted as saying it is "highly unlikely" which basically means shit.

So Kaif plays a test ... I think almost after 2 or 3 years .... again, it is a matter of grabbing the chance. Being selected at Number 6, it is evident that when SRT comes back, Kaif will go back to the bench but that is what is the funny aspect of the situation now ... if Yuvi makes 40 as opener and Kaif makes 80 in the middle order, when SRT comes back it will still be Kaif who will be first choice to go out. Anyway, who can see into the future ... grab the chance when u get it, Kaify pal ... at least u will be the number 1 replacement on the bench for the middle order if and when required ... currently it is Yuvi (a bit confusing coz Yuvi is also preferred as opener ... but the way I see it ... whatever position it is, Gangs has Yuvi as his first preference).

Reports also say that Ganguly has indicated that "Dravid will definitely bat at 3 and not Laxman" which is a bit dumb ... it may be plan A but if Yuvi and Sehwag do manage to make a sound start and we are above 150 when the first wicket falls (ok so I like to dream ... sue me), it might really turn the screws on the Aussies to have Laxman go in and play one of his typical innings in which no ball is good enough and no bowler able enough to get past him. Laxman has had a failure in the first match but I am hopeful simply coz guys like Laxman have no fixed agenda ... they can bat beautifully one moment and get out stupidly the next ... so if someone says Laxman is out of form while Dravid hit 60 odd in the second innings in Bangalore, I would just tell them to relax ... normal rules do not apply to Laxman.

Ganguly needs to take a big responsibility in this match ... simply coz India is without SRT and has been hammered in the first test ... truly speaking, his technique against the faster bowlers is not really confidence-inspiring but the guts shown by him frequently make up for it ... example being the first test in Australia. He needs to do one of those again here in Chennai simply coz he is the captain and he has to lead the thrust. One thing is certain ...if India look to be gaining the upper hand, no one better to go in and twist the knife in deeper ... still remember his knock in England (Edgbaston, I think ... where we won) when he came in with India slightly on top but with the possibility of the match going onto the draw and simply smashing the bowlers all over the park and converting the draw chance to a victory for India ... SRT was at the other end (he got a century too) but in my mind I am clear ... SRT's knock was good but Ganguly's knock got us the win. Batting like this just does not win matches in the second innings ... people often start thinking of the time element only from the 3rd day onwards ... the the sooner u put pressure on the opposition, the sooner they can wilt ... u don't always have to put pressure on the last couple of days.

Anyway, some faint reportings on the pitch have been finally heard ... but nothing more helpful than "it is expected to have better bounce and carry than Bangalore".... so ... what???? What is that mean? Will it bounce? Will it spin? Two fast and two slow bowlers or 3-1 in favour of spinners??? [Don't even mention 3-1 for fast bowlers as a possibility ... I just ate]. Traditionally we have had exciting matches at Chennai ... and personally, win or lose, if we get excitement till the 5th day, I will be happy ... happier if India wins but not sad if we lose. The game must be alive till the last session on the 5th day (ok, so if India wins in 4 days I won't be sad ... but that is as likely to happen as Mallika Sherawat acting in an art movie).

Other tidbits .... Lehmann is quoted as saying that if and when Ponting comes back into the team, one of him and Clarke will have to make way for him and he personally would never take Clarke out. Hmmm ... I don't know what to make of this one ... either he is extremely noble or extremely dumb, I really can't decide which. But frankly, I don't think he has a choice coz the selectors are not gonna select him or Clarke based on what Lehmann thinks .... personally I would pick Clarke anyday (particularly after seeing Lehmann's wild heaving against the Indian spinners in the first test ... he didn't look to have a clue) but then hey, let them look after their own headaches.

Seems like the Indians are looking to a documentary on Lance Armstrong for inspiration ... u know ... the cycling champ who came back from cancer and won 6 or 7 consecutive Tour De France thingies ... I am not a cycling fan but hey, u can't be wired onto the internet and not know who Lance Armstrong is or what importance the Tour De France has in the sport of cycling. Anyway, I dunno what this thing is about the Indian team constantly needing inspiration is ... During the world cup, Sandy Gordon provided the much needed motivation ... even when we went to Australia for the test series, Gordon was inducted for a session or two ... now many "experts" (personal opinion, 90% of these experts are idiots who display their stupidity the moment they open their mouth ... and many of them are found in the commentary box) are already advocating some kind of psychological help. And now the team management is seeking to inspire them by the example of Lance Armstrong .... Hey, what did I miss here ... those lakhs and lakhs of rupees in terms of match fees and contracts (when do they sign the damn things anyway? it has become like the loch ness monster ... everyone knows about it but no one has actually seen it) and playing for their country etc etc etc ... what more inspiration do they need anyway? Agreed we should learn from everyone, be it Armstrong or Legstrong but are the chappies that weak in their minds? See, the documentary as a source of inspiration is ok ... but u know, things like this can be of value at all times, good times and bad times ... one doesn't have to get destroyed in the first test of a series to watch this thing. If all it takes for the boys to get depressed is a test defeat, we r in big trouble here. SRT can't play ... we r depressed ... we lost the first test ... we r depressed ... hey I broke a nail ... I am depressed. Sheesh!!!

Enjoyed reading about the Australian fans stealing their beer from the team hotel ... heh heh ... one of them claimed to be Gilly's brother, in order to fool hotel staff but finally some of them ran away and a couple held by hotel staff ... the beer was returned and officials decided not to press charges.

Anyway, signing off now ... if I get more news before I leave office, I will put it in ... but the rate at which news has been trickling in, I don't have too much of hope.

Refreshing google news talks about the possibility of three spinners and a quote from Ganguly about "if two fast bowlers play then Zaheer will play" ... not sure what to make of this one. Lets wait and watch ... can't write more.

Ok Ok another last note I can't miss out ... those of u who read my blog and post comments ... thanx for that, I appreciate that a lot. I can't always answer any queries / comments etc but I do read all comments posted on my blog ... or at least I try to ... u can't make out without actually going through them as to whether they r new or ones that have been read ... blogspot really oughta give some way of marking stuff as "read" and keeping the rest as "unread". To the gal who said she liked my blog a lot ... ;-) ... me too .... and the guy who wondered how he hadn't found my blog before, well, its been less than a month since I started it. Yeah, the counter stands above 5000 hits but I guess I just got lucky .... an article of mine came on Rediff and carried this URL ... and a gentleman named Amit Varma from Crickinfo gave me a link from his blog 23 Yards. Thanx, mate ... I owe u one for that.

If I manage to keep this up for the next year, I will be happy that it is a regular thing ... but till then, lets just treat this blog as an experiment that seems to have started out well.


The Chuckster

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

I was waiting for some clarification on the pitch and conditions before making my next post but it doesn't seem to be happening .... surprising considering almost all the major publications have their reporters covering the series and the guys can't give a report on the pitch two days before the match ... sheesh!!! Agreed a pitch can change a lot even on the last day if the groundsmen take the shears to it but they cannot change the basic nature of the pitch. They can remove grass from it on the last day but they cannot grow grass on it ... neither can they convert a dry and dusty pitch into a seaming wicket. I dunno ... there seem to be a thousand articles on whether SRT will play the second test or not but the pitch ... hey, who cares?

Ok, the assumption of this post is that SRT won't play ... but if he plays, the one most pleasantly surprised would be me, ok?

Anyway, as I wrote yesterday, eight of the final eleven are really finalized from the Indian side (and I really don't see any reason for any change on the Australian front). Ganguly, Dravid, Sehwag, Laxman, Kumble, Bhajji, Pathan and Patel are in the team whether it is a hard and bouncy pitch (unlikely but still mentioning) or a dry and dusty / dead (most likely) pitch.

For the first match, in my blog I advocated opening with Yuveraj. The main reason for that being that Ganguly is hell bent on having Yuvi in the team and keeps yattering about his being his future opener so why not try it out. Personally, as regulars among u know, I wouldn't even have Yuvi in the 11, even at number 6. This time I am gonna ignore captain preferences and just comment on my thoughts ... last time I kept in mind that Yuvi would be in the final 11 simply coz Gangs would keep him in it. This time in my analysis, till the time Yuvi walks out on the day of the match, I am going to assume that better sense will prevail and he will not play. See, his fielding gives us an edge, no doubts on that one but he is not there for his fielding but his batting and his unease at playing the spinners plus his weakness outside off stump playing the fast bowlers really make him a no-no. Sure, he does well in ODI cricket but that is a different cup of tea ... Yuvi is totally made for ODI cricket and that is ok ... but in my mind, today at least he is not worthy of a test place.

So three spots remaining in the team. In the absence of Sadagoppan Ramesh (and that too this test being in Chennai), my choice would be Akash Chopra for opening (ignoring the fact that if it comes down to a toss up between Chopra and Yuvi for one spot, Gangs would most likely pick Yuvi). Chopra is not my favorite either but the other option is opening with Patel ... sometimes it is enough to make one weep coz at the back of the mind the nagging feeling remains; it might happen, come Thursday.

What gives me hope is remembering Chopra and Sehwag opening in Australia. Believe me, the cricket over there was so different from the cricket over here. Yes, there was no McGrath and that is a huge huge difference but still Chopra was just learning the ropes in international cricket and the way Sehwag and he ran their singles was admirable. They took hits on their helmets, took guard for the next ball, and patted it down and ran their singles. The only sore point there was Chopra's inability to convert those starts into decent scores, the reason why today we are wondering if Chopra will open or Yuvi will or Patel. If only Chopra had shown the sense to convert those knocks, the quality of the opposition there would have ensured his spot as opener.

Kaif and Agarkar complete my line up .... Kaif coz he is in form and Agarkar coz he can take out Langer with the one coming in. The fast bowlers are not gonna do something great here and we need them to basically knock out the Aussie openers .... Zaheer probably is the only one of really running through the opposition and he looks far from being the bowler who used to bring respectability to the concept of "fast bowling" in India. What exactly is the problem with Zaheer is a mystery coz no one really says why he keeps breaking down and why is he persisted with so much despite those break downs? Sure, he is one of Ganguly's blue eyed boys but if all the reports about laziness and attitude are true, one S. Ramesh might be queueing up to ask why there is different treatment for different players ... after all, it was supposedly Ramesh's attitude that cost him his test career (ok so it hasn't completely gone but mostly).

India's game plan must be one of attack ... yes, all the batsmen sucked in the first test but then the only way the Indian batsman know how to bat is to play positively. The moment they start playing quietly and patiently, they self-destruct ... only Dravid among them really has the capability of playing a quiet game ... one might be tempted to add Chopra but Chopra would end up with 30 runs after a big struggle whereas Dravid after a long and patient innings would surely have a hundred to his name.

Sehwag is a guy who is probably three shots away from devastating form ... three cracking cuts and he is back in business. He was looking decent in the first innings of the 1st test before his weakness of hitting the ball in the air on the on side did him in ... I have written before of his weakness having being present for more than 2 years now but for the purpose of this series, forget it. He is not gonna improve in the middle of the series if he hasn't taken the effort before the series itself. Anyway, if Sehwag fires, India is back in business.

Laxman looks in danger of becoming Warne's bunny in this series and he would do well to remember the last series when Warne was made to look like a club side bowler. See, Warne is a top class bowler and he is gonna win a couple ... his dismissal of Laxman in the first innings was superb ... the ball pitching on leg and whistling past the closing face of Laxman's bat to crash into off. The second innings dismissal was more tame ... Laxman failing to read the flipper from Warne and taking it on his pad even as he went on the front foot to defend. What Laxman should tell himself is - Warne is very good ... so am I. Round 1 to Warne ... it should be Round 2 to me.

On a closing note, read the report about McGrath complaining about Bhajji's sledging ... HA HA HA. The most foul mouthed sportsman on the cricket field today is whining about Bhajji ... geez, this chap has cheek. Any cricket body with a little bit of dignity would have kicked him out of the game for his language a long time back ... and I agree cricket would have been the poorer for it ... but he has survived this long because most of the people who matter kiss Aussie butt. We know the man has no class whatsoever ... but even then .... a little shame in not talking about someone else sledging would do his image some good.

Ok, so I have work coming up ... so finishing this post here. I know it is a very scratch one but as I said, my posts will be made up of my opinions formed through reading reports / analysis / watching TV reports etc ... and everyone is just talking about whether SRT will play or not ... doesn't really give scope for too much else.

Monday, October 11, 2004

1st test - thoughts

Yep, my last post says the Aussies will enforce the follow on just to show how "not scared" they are etc etc etc. And Bang goes my theory as the Australians did go onto bat again and thrashed India in the second innings too. So lets just forget I said that, ok?

However believe me, Gilly must have been peeing in his pants while deciding this one ... with guys like Sehwag, Laxman, Dravid and Ganguly in the team one never knows what will happen. Till the time the 281 happened last series, it was looking like Australia all the way ... and in two days flat the series moved to India.

Anyway, the Indians really lost the match with the loss of Sehwag. Simply put, this guy can take the attack to the opposition under any circumstances; even when chasing 450 odd, a quick start from him would have eaten up overs plus put up a total on the board and this would definitely have pressures the Aussies, even if the target was a huge one. Billy Bowden advocated the use of technology in cricket by giving a shocker ... seriously, giving that one a LBW should automatically make him eligible for a free pair of spectacles ... if Sehwag's foot hadn't been there, the ball might have gone down to fine leg; the edge was so evident. Anyway, once Sehwag went, India's hopes of a quick scoring start went, and once the scoring stalled, they were never gonna last out the remaining time; the Aussies had absolutely no need to think or worry about anything.

On the fine imposed on Sehwag for dissent etc, all I have to say is "thoooo" (sound of spitting). Lousy umpire's fault and the batsman gets dismissed and fined at the same time. Sure, there are rules about dissent etc but did the ICC never think of making rules for saving the game from idiots like Bucknor and (ok so usually he is not bad) Bowden? I think sometimes Bucknor, specially, misses the point that people come to see the 22 chaps in white playing and not to see him; he isn't important; if he just disappears tomorrow, no one will really want to know where he went or why; he is just there coz the ICC is hesitant to use more of technology. Otherwise he has nothing of value to contribute to the game.

See, I know that technology isn't that advanced to judge LBW's with 100% efficiency ... I remember in England that once Hawkeye showed the ball to be missing leg stump by a whisker ... the only problem was that this was during replay and actually, the leg stump had crashed back about 10 feet after the ball hit it. Not very comforting, huh? But just like we use technology to judge catches taken or to see if the boundary crossed the rope etc, surely something like an inner edge can be called by the third umpire ... he is always connected to the umpires on the field and if a batsman is given out off an inner edge, the third umpire tells the on field umpires and they can call back the batsman if they have given them out ... only snag being that the umpires might feel this to be demeaning ... and getting a feedback almost immediately from the TV umpire might not be possible ... things can't work this fast ... and the players can't keep waiting in mid-appeal as the umpire deliberates whether to go for the third umpire or not. Make it the third umpire's prerogative to tell the on field umpires ... mate, u got it wrong.

Even Sehwag could do better; obviously he was disappointed etc but he (and we all ... geez, it is no secret) knows that the ICC rules about dissent etc are present ... we can all label them stupid and dumb but that still doesn't mean they are not there. It doesn't matter if the all the three stumps go for a walk and still the umpire doesn't give it out ... u cannot question him. That is how it is till some person with an iota of brains changes the rules. So why talk to the umpire or gesture or something like that? I still remember Tendulkar getting given out LBW in the first test against Australia (I think Melbourne) last year ... it was a shocker from Bucknor and SRT's face showed that he knew 100% he wouldn't be given out for that one (he had shouldered arms to one coming in ... but still it was no way out ... too high and outside off) ... and there was sudden shock registered on his face as he realized Bucknor had raised the finger ... and the next instant, the face was blank, the bat was tucked under the arm and SRT trudged back to the pavillion without a second glance to the umpire ... seriously, I got goose pimples watching that one ... its like those straight drives he plays ... they make u realize u r seeing something special. And when SRT trudged off silently in Melbourne, I knew that I was watching somethign I would remember for a long time to come. Really, even if not for the effect, do it coz the other option will only get a fine.

Anyway, Fine batting by Pathan, Harbhajan and Zaheer delayed the inevitable but we can take encouragement from them. Zaheer and Harbhajan are jokers and can't be depended on at all to do anything useful with the bat on a regular basis; they either don't care enough or don't have the ability to do this consistently; Pathan is a different story. The man has a very natural batting style and though I can't really see him hitting centuries in test cricket, I can definitely see him scoring very consistely and maintaining an average of 30 ... he seems capable of doing that. I also read in the various papers etc about former players encouraging the Indian captain not to label him an all rounder (Gangs already did that ... heh heh) but let him just be a bowler first. People like Kapil Dev saying things like - "the runs from his side should just be considered a bonus ... he is there for bowling" etc etc etc.

U know, the day Kapil Dev becomes coach of the Indian cricket team again, I think we can all stop following cricket and take up hockey or polo or something. Admittedly he was a great player but he knows crap about cricket. That is my opinion. We have a guy here who bowls well and bats well and instead of getting more out of him, people actually want to get less; that is amazing. This is like those people who wanted Dravid to stop keeping before the world cup coz he is a batsman ... he contributes so much; why should be burdened with this too ... whine whine whine. The fact that India was benefitting coz we were extracting more than he usually gives was lost on these people; I think they would have been just as happy to see Dravid play simply as a batsman and India losing games. Coz their brains are pea sized and can't really used for thinking too much; many of them have played the game at the highest level but hearing them talk (e.g. - Warning - this is hearsay from some noticeboard. Manjrekar, while commentating states this on Sehwag's dismissal in the 2nd innings - "India is lucky that it is Sehwag and not Chopra who is gone thus ... coz India has to save the game ... blah blah blah" .... geez, grab the mike from him ... don't let him get near 10 feet of a commentator's box).

From all reports coming through SRT will not play even the 2nd test. However, the squad of 15 is the same as it was for the first test. So my dream of bringing in Ramesh into the team will not be fulfilled. Regular readers of my columns / posts would know of my idea of Yuveraj's best position in the test team ..... outside. I know I advocated his opening the batting but that is because he is in the squad and I know for sure he will play ... so no point in talking about a team where he is not present.

India has two problems right now; seriously .... the first test might have made it look like India has a huge problem but really, look at it this way. Dravid, Laxman, Sehwag, Ganguly, Kumble, Harbhajan, Pathan and Patel will play the 2nd test for sure unless some injury occurs ... we could have lost the first test by 200, 400 or 600 runs but we cannot replace these 8 people for the second test. That leaves us with one opener's slot, one no. 6 slot and one bowler.

My no. 6 slot goes to Kaif simply coz he was the batsman in form before the series began. He was in my squad for the first test too but like many of my predictions (maybe it is coz I predicted sensible things and Ganguly's strategy was dumb ... hence nothing matched) this didn't happen. However, I have a feeling that only one of Chopra and Yuveraj will survive to the second test and Kaif will definitely play.

Will make posts once I get to know more details. Sorry for the scratchy posts but busy in office.


The Chuckster

Friday, October 08, 2004

All out ... A guess on Aussie move

My guess is that they WILL enforce the follow on. They know what happened last time but the Aussies are naturally aggressive chaps ... they will enforce it again if only to show everyone they aren't scred.

Who will open ... Chopra or Yuveraj? My heart says Yuveraj and my mind says Chopra.


The Chuckster

234/8 ... this is getting tight

40 short of avoiding a follow on.

Patel is gone at this time and one might think India's chances to save the follow on. However, Kumble seems to be intent on staying out there ... he is batting on 17 ... and Bhajji is on 3. In Bhajji's case, 5 overs later he might be in the pavillion or he might be batting on 33 so we still can't lose hope.

Zaheer among the lower order is probably the hardest hitter ... he hits them hard and long when he does decide to hit them. Best part is that he almost goes straight so there is no cross batting involved.

I wouldn't rule out India yet ... not yet. Heh heh!!! This is exciting.

BTW, Pathan's dismissal was a no-no ... from all reports, there was a mile between bat and ball ... if Bucknor had given it, there would have been a major hue and cry ... but it being the man with the crooked finger, NZ's very own Billy Bowden, it will die out as "ok, so he could have done better".

Friend of mine told me Bowden compensated by giving Patel not out ... I myself was elsewhere when this happened. Sounds lousy ... he gave that guy out by mistake ... but made up for it by not giving this guy out when he was. Bloody hell, that makes TWO mistakes instead of one.

As I publish this one, score has moved to 242 for 8 ... oh oh, it is just 244/9 ... Bhajji gone ... man, I am getting nervous here.

Go India!!!


The Chuckster

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Third day - thoughts at lunch time

India take session 1 on the third day ... no question about it. Ok, so only about 49 runs scores in the session but look at the fact that the people who batted were Patel and Pathan, not Sehwag or Laxman or Ganguly ... on that score, definitely the Aussies will be kicking themselves hard.

See, according to me, the target right now is 274 and not 474 ... because though giving us a follow in will put mental pressure on Aussies, still it leaves them with a better chance of winning this match ... Calcutta doesn't happen everyday. So the best option for us is still avoiding the follow on and giving Australia the headache of wondering what is a good enough target for us. And hey, if it looks too big for us, we can just send in Dravid and ask him to go to sleep over there. No one else is capable of doing that but Dravid is.

Right now, at lunch time we are 75 away from the target and that way I am glad Kumble has come in ... with Bhajji u can get a 0 or a 40 and both happens pretty fast. Right now, India also need to eat up time ... winning this one is still a distant dream but saving the match is not a dream, not yet anyway. With Kumble u know the score will not move fast but we have Patel to push things along ... and if Kumble can just eat up time and add the odd run or two, he would have done more than enough. Bhajji and Zaheer are both lottery tickets and I would rather have them in when India were already past the follow on score or just approaching it.

Patel's batting has proved beneficial to India in the past and it is proving to a savior again (hope I don't speak too soon) ... his keeping, sadly, is on a nosedive. I don't get this one ... either we get guys who keep wickets well but can't bat for nuts ... or we get keepers who keep lousily but look more than decent with the bat. Frustrating!!!

My prediction .... and it could take just 3 balls after lunch to throw the prediction into the dustbin .... India will manage to save the follow on and then things will become fun. The Aussies will have to bat fast in the second innings because they have to have enough time to win the game by bowling the Indians out ... actually, if India were in their position, I wouldn't be certain India would come out blazing coz India doesn't have that killer edge to it ... but the Aussies will come out blasting coz that is the only way they know how ... and that makes things possible. Either the Aussies will blst us away and take the match .... or the Indian spinners will make the 5th day a very interesting one.

Come on Patel ... Come on Kumble ... Zaheer and Bhajji ... take us past 274 ... then anything is possible.


The Chuckster

Third day - Preview

Ok so this is Friday morning and I just see from the scorecards that India are 160 odd without losing another. Pathan and Patel still at the wicket.

The possibilities of the team falling short of the follow on target are very high ... u don't need to be a genius to figure that one out. However, with players like Patel and Pathan around, not to mention Bhajji who could come in and swat a quick 30 or 40 (or he could also make 0 which is more likely), there is just a teeny weeny possibility of making the follow on target.

In either case, Gilly will have butterflies in his stomach ... his predecessor, the Ice man, Steve Waugh put the Indians in again at Calcutta in 2001 and we all know what happened. The same Laxman and Dravid are still there, as well as Harbhajan and Kumble to take on the Aussies in the fourth innings. Lets not kid ourselves here; India are in a bad situation but if they manage to set even a target of 200 in the fourth innings, and bowl with Kumble and Bhajji on the 5th day, Australia could struggle. I think Gilly will be hoping in his heart (if not in mind) that by a miracle India does reach the follow on target so that the decision is taken out of his hands.

About yesterday, again what I talk is limited to what I saw through the ball by ball commentary on and by reading news reports and by watching news clippings on all the news channels (and there are many ... Zee, Headlines Today, Star, NDTV, DD news etc).

Akash Chopra's dismissal really was an error of judgement; it is questionable whether the ball would have hit the stumps or gone over it (and even an element of doubt if it hit hit just a fraction outside off stump), but when a batsman allows the ball to hit his pads while holding his bat high in the air, 9 times out of 10, the umpire is gonna give him out.

Dravid's only weakness is at the beginning of the innings ... even then the weakness is almost negligible but McGrath was good enough to exploit it. Dravid getting bowled between bat and pad is not a common thing and he will be more chargined than anything else.

Ganguly got an unplayable ... ok, so maybe a better batsman could have played it safely but in tests, Ganguly is not among the best ... the ball was too good for him, pitching on a good spot and angling away and he really had no option but to play at it ... he got an edge.

Yuveraj's case is different ... a widish ball which could have been left alone and in an ODI, one could have hoped for a wide from a liberal minded umpire ... and he swished at it and got an edge.

Sehwag never learns. His shots on the on side when the ball is not a direct half volley always go in the air ... I have noticed it at least for the past two years ... same thing happened here ... he flicked a ball straight to the fielder (who admittedly had to move fast to take it) whereas either side of the fielder would have got him a four. Ok, so his placement wasn't great and this happens when a player is just coming out of a slump ... but his shot going in the air is something that has been happening even when he was in form ... just when u r in form, these shots go away from the fielders and when u r not in form, they go straight to the fielder. Sehwag is sometimes called Tendulkar's clone. He should learn from SRT coz when SRT plays these kind of shots, either the ball hugs the ground or stays in the air for the minimal amount of time. And whatever my opinions of SRT, I don't think he would let any technical deficiency (and I would call it one) last for 2 years.

Laxman's dismissal was a ripper from Warne ... pitched just on leg and spun so sharply that it just beat the bat face as Laxman tried to defend it on the leg side ... and took out off. It wasn't as good as the Mike Gatting "ball of the century" but this was no ordinary ball. One thing we can thus be happy about is that both our top batsman (against Australia these are the two I will always bet on) Laxman and Dravid got done in by good balls from champion bowlers. It would have been sad if they had gone like Sehwag ... what a waste that one was.

So a good day expected today ... personally, I don't think India have 100% lost the match though I would certainly give Australia a 75% chance of winning. The rest 25% is not for India "winning" but "not losing". Last tour of India, I was at home when Dravid and Laxman started the fresh day trying to save the follow on. I was ready and dressed for office and just waited for the first wicket to fall before I left home ... after some time, I took off my shoes and settled myself more comfortably coz it looked like it would take an over or two for the wicket to fall. During lunch time, I changed out of my office clothes and plonked myself back in front of the TV ... evening time at the close of play, Laxman was still playing. So on a working day, I watched the entire match LIVE on TV ... still one of my fondest memories. It might not happen ever again, but hey, it might.

I am wondering that if the Aussies do put the Indians in, what their strategy should be ... defending is out of the question coz the Aussies are not that dumb. They will get them out eventually and the question would only be when. Players like Laxman, Sehwag, Ganguly and Yuveraj couldn't defend to save their lives .... but they could attack tremendously. All of them, including Dravid (when he decides to) have a great capacity to launch a counter attack. I think the only way to save the day might be to do that. Three days (including today) left and the only way to survive is to kill the enemy.

The key here will be scoring runs. See, once we save the follow on and don't have to bat again, Australia is not 100% in control. We can decide on our strategy according to needs and the situation. However, if we do bat again, the only way is "maro ya maaro". I personally would bring Laxman at 3 just to put some fear into the Australian minds; they know what happened last time when Laxman came at 3 during a follow on. I might even bring Yuveraj up for opening and ask the openers to bring down the lead as fast as possible ... as long as we are even 20 runs behind, the pressure is on us ... the moment we go even 20 runs ahead, the pressure will be on Australia coz they know they will have to make these runs on a 5th day pitch. Not an enviable task, they know and we know.

Anyway, it is 170 for 6 right now and I am signing off for now. Hoping for a miracle here.


The Chuckster

Down with Doordarshan

There are some people in this world who have to go to office for their paycheques (ok, so that is different from "working" in office ... heh heh). For those people, coming back home and relaxing watching the day's play of cricket is something I cannot overstate.

Stupid Doordarshan presents a highlights package next day morning .... and as far as I can see none on the same day ... so when u come home from office and switch on the TV, u get a ball by ball recording of the day's play. Geez, who has the time to see that? We already know what happened. Even those not connected to the internet to follow the match ball by ball as I do will surely know the score half hour after the day's play ends.

And they wonder why people prefer ESPN and STAR to DD ... things about it being our national sports channel etc etc ... who cares ... they r lousy ... they have lousy commentators ... they have lousy coverage (commercials often cut into a ball from the next over) and they have no idea of how boring an entire repeat telecast of a cricket match is. With ESPN-STAR, I am sure to get a 2 hour package in the evening hours which will give me all the highlights (and lowlights) of the match.

I was hoping to update my blog through the series based on watching the highlights on TV plus all the coverage on the internet / news channels. But the highlights is the most crucial part coz here, I want to give u my view point of what happened, not what the various experts thought.

I don't know how well I am going to be able to update this blog ... so for the regular visitors (thankfully, I must say, there aren't many) kindly bear with the irregularity. I can help many things but I cannot help stupid broadcasters. Doordarshan is reall door from the realities of today ... I just hope they get very very "door" from landing more contracts to show cricket. Let them show bloody kabbadi and polo and whatever crap no one ever watches ... that is the only thing they r fit for.

On some things I did manage to catch from various news channels etc -

  • Kumble took his 400th wicket and as he was leaping around, the funniest part was umpire Bucknor jumping around waving his hand to signal the players to get off the pitch.
  • The yorker Pathan bowled Langer with was a beauty ... it swung a lot in the air and in fact, I think it hit the batsman's leg before hitting the stump coz (as far as I could see) it swerved a lot towards leg and finally took out off ... if it hadn't hit the leg of the batsman, it might just have missed the leg stump by a hair's breath.
  • Patel's catch which was disallowed ... I think off Zaheer ... man, this kid needs to be careful and someone should tell him there are cameras around. It was clear from the camera shots that the ball touched the ground and I can't believe Patel didn't know that ... he doesn't want to get a reputation among umpires as a liar ... u know the story about crying wolf.
  • I like to say "I told ya so" ... so here goes ... I told ya so ... regular readers of my blog would have read my concern for Clarke ... among all the batsmen in the Aussie team, according to me he is the real "danger" man ... the way I had written it before was - "he is so good he scares me" ... So ... I told ya so ... heh heh.

Right now India is batting and two wickets down ... Chopra and Dravid both for zero. Dravid is the real loss here ... but Gangs seems to have taken the fight to the opposition. He and Sehwag are batting nicely and positively ... trying to get runs where they can see them.

Will comment more later.


The Chuckster

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

India vs. Australia First Test (October 6, 2004) - Preview

So it starts tomorrow. If the rain allows, of course. I don't know if it is natural for it to be raining in Bangalore at this time of the year but I do know it is raining because I have a fiancee in Bangalore who keeps grumbling about the rain ... the last grumble was on Sunday. Anyway, there is a depression over the Bay of Bengal which is also affecting Hyderabad - rains in the past two days - so it could be because of that. Reports in the newspaper on that depression is that it is moving towards the north, so if the rain in Bangalore is indeed because of that, we could get lucky by tomorrow.

Just now read on the news sites that SRT is confirmed to be not playing the first test. I somehow get the feeling that they knew much in advance that he wouldn't be fit enough to play but wanted the Aussies to chew their nails till the last minute. So SRT is out, and one of Kaif and Chopra gets to play.

Also read just some time back that Gavaskar has been appointed consultant for the Indian team for this series. Sounds good to me. SMG is one of the shrewdest brains around in Indian cricket and if u forget his obvious bias for SRT (actually 95% of the country has a bias towards SRT), he is really a smart cookie to have around in a tight situation ... and this series could get very tight indeed.

The opening combination for India is really the moot point now and I guess we won't get to know it till the match starts. I don't know if they will announce the 12 for the match today but even if so, Yuveraj, Kaif and Chopra could all be in the 12 ... so wouldn't help in figuring it out.

Personally I would open with Yuveraj. I am NOT a supporter of Yuveraj opening in tests simply because I think he doesn't have the technique outside the off stump. However, with SRT definitely out of the match, it opens up a slot. The obvious choice would be to push Yuveraj to No. 6 but it also depends on how the team management feels about Kaif. Chopra has showed good temperament in opening the few tests that he has but his lack of big scores will at some point count against him. It is all ok to blunt the new ball attack (and India will be greatly assisted if McGrath and Gillespie can be blunted by their forward line) but in the end, the scores matter too and that is something Chopra has been lacking in till date. He is young in the international arena and has chances to correct this but will the dynamism of Yuveraj overshadow the steadiness of the Delhi opener?

Personally, if Yuveraj has to play, I would always play him in the middle order. Otherwise I wouldn't play him at all in tests ... not yet. But that is a personal opinion. Ganguly has clearly stated his opinion of wanting a test spot for Yuveraj and sooner or later the captain is going to have his way. The thing is where; No. 1 or No. 6? We could all play safe and give the opening to Chopra and the No. 6 slot to Yuveraj but what will we do when SRT comes back in the second test? When the captain has such a bee in the bonnet about Yuveraj being part of the test team, he is going to be there sooner or later. With SRT back, the only spot left will be the opening slot. And hence, my take on this - throw Yuveraj into opening and put Kaif at No. 6 ... lets see what the young man can do with his chances ... that he is opportunistic is a known point in his favour ... he has shown it before in his short career and also by scoring a ton in the practice match.

If Yuveraj clicks, India have a dynamite opening combination in Sehwag and Yuveraj. If he doesn't click, then he will probably go out for the second test as SRT comes back to take the only slot Yuveraj could have taken in the middle order.

Sunny Gavaskar's entry as consultant also puts this thought into my mind - As an opener himself, I have a feeling Chopra is the person Sunny will prefer to open for India. Yes, Wright is still the coach but when Sunny is present as consultant, it is hard to believe he won't be part of the think tank. If he is, I guess Chopra will get a vote in his favour. Another line of thought says - Gavaskar coming in could be to help Yuveraj with the finer nuances of opening because the Indian team DOES plan to open with Yuveraj ... and who better to give some tips and tricks than the best opener India ever had in test match cricket. That is what makes it so interesting nowadays ... earlier, it was just go-to-ground-and-play-cricket ... nowadays with so much of mind games and stratergizing, things become interesting. Maybe it also happened in the earlier days but with the media present in every nook and corner to make public every small piece of news, nowadays everyone knows what games are happening. Kudos to the Fourth Estate.

Apart from the opening puzzle, the Indian team management will also be breaking their heads over whether to play a 2-2 or 1-3 in terms of pace bowling and spin combination. The pitch as shown in various photos is just crying out for spinners but then the third day is probably when the pitch starts to make a difference. With Australia, one never knows - by the third day, the result could already be inevitable. Bhajji and Kumble will be surefire starters and the question is about which two among Karthik, Zaheer, Agarkar and Pathan will play.

My personal take is that Pathan is a sure starter in the 11. That takes up 3 bowling slots and with Patel as the keeper (they won't risk Dravid in tests, never), leaves only one slot among Agarkar, Zaheer and Karthik.

Karthik has just been hammered in the practice match; in case u missed it, Sehwag took 34 runs in an over from him, with five sixes and a four. Ganguly has traditionally not been inclined towards Karthik and that also works against his inclusion; no point in taking a bowler into the 11 and then not bowling him properly. Though the pitch cries out for three spinners, I feel it will be two fast bowlers and the real fight is between Zaheer and Agarkar. Adding to the argument is that when one has two bowlers of the calibre of Kumble and Bhajji bowling together, when would really be the correct time and place to bowl the third spinner? A fast bowler is always an option for a change but another spinner? I think not.

Agarkar has a good record against Australia; it was his good effort that gave us the Adelaide test not long back. Another added factor is that in recent times Justin Langer has been his bunny. Langer is one of the most important cogs in the Aussie wheel and his regular failure against Agarkar should put a plus point for the Bombay Duck. Yes, Langer is only one guy but in this team of greenhorns, his importance cannot be overstated. Zaheer, on the other hand, can be brilliant when at his best but it has been a while since we have seen his best; injuries, reported slackness and attitude (media rumours), and not too much cricket in the recent past might put Agarkar just a touch ahead.

So my line up for tomorrow would be -


It is only my guess but I have a gut feeling this will be the 11.

Talking about the Australians, I read somewhere that Kasper, Warne and Gillespie are certainities for the match and the fight is between Lee and McGrath. Personally, I think McGrath is head and shoulders above any other fast bowler in the world today and if indeed Lee gets the nod over him, the Indian camp will be cheering their lungs out. Lee is fast but we have taken care of him before; McGrath is someone no one in world cricket has really mastered in all the years he has played cricket. But there is an edge to the play in the middle when the foul mouthed Aussie is around; for all his drawbacks as an ambassador for the game, his on field mastery of his own art makes him a must have in any team; even though India might suffer because of his presence, I would rather see him in the Australian team than sitting out. It will be better to beat them with him in the team otherwise the victory will lose some of the taste.

The batting revolves around 4 guys - Hayden, Langer, Gilly and Martyn ... the others are greenhorns (even Lehmann ... how many tests has he played? Age isn't the only factor here). I still hope Langer can be cut short by Agarkar's ball pitching on off and coming in - the same way he got him time and again in Australia. For Hayden, I really don't know because the man doesn't seem to have any weaknesses whatsoever, except the desire to score big and score quick ... handle his sweep shot and u might just get him under pressure. The sweep is something Hayden is a real master of and he is definitely going to try and sweep out India (oh, he does use his feet pretty well ... but when he does venture out, there is always an element of risk in it). Gilly is a terrific batsman but his last tour, except for the first test when he took the match from India and gave it to Australia within one day, was horrific. Just stifle him with spin, spin and more spin ... and hope the turbanator takes care of him like the last time around.

Clarke is an exciting prospect but he still is 22 and making his debut; India has the chance to take him out early simply because of his inexperience. At least I hope so.

After a long time, we will be somewhat on par with Australia in terms of fielding too ... Ok, so Australia will still be superior but we won't be as far behind as we always are usually. Three solid slip catchers in Dravid, Laxman and Sehwag (and here is where Chopra's ommission will be felt - he is a great forward short leg) and two sharp inner circle fielders in Yuveraj and Kaif.

Rain rain go away
Go and bother Guantamo Bay (no particular reason - just that it rhymes)
India and Australia face off in a tense fight
India gonna win 4-0, Yeah Right!!!



The Chuckster