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.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The Bangladesh series is over

Still the problem of maintaining a happy family life and at the same time a happy cricket writing life ... hmmm, someday the balance will become right.

Anyway, so we won the Bangladesh series ... yippieeess for us. One thing that made me happy was that in the tests India won comfortably. We oughta win comfortably, a lot of u might be muttering but then India hasn't always won the way they should against the lesser teams; so here it was good to see them stamp their authority.

From the test series, a lot of positives can be taken. Irfan Pathan's three 5 wicket hauls, for example. Yes, Bangladesh isn't much but then this is a guy in his first year of International cricket ... till now his toughest opponents were the A teams of the other countries and many of them wouldn't be much stronger than our Mumbai or Punjab Ranji teams. More admirable was the way he got his wickets ... no free gifts like Agarkar gets so many times ... a widish ball that the batsman wafts at and edges behind and lo, Agarkar gets a wicket. Pathan swung the ball admirably and really, the performance was worthy of a better opponent. I am really wondering what he will do in England whenever he does get to play there.

SRT got his 34th ton and hey, seriously here ... congrats, pal. Really, it was a no-win situation for SRT ... if he didn't get runs, people would make fun of him and if he got runs, they would say - "pah, against Bangladesh". So he really did the correct thing and got the runs anyway ... he gonna get cussed either way. The way I see it, more than the runs, it was the strokes he played that got my eye ... he wasn't the explosive batsman of his twenties but he wasn't the boringest batsman of the century that he has been of late, calling it seniority and responsibility and whatever else he could think of. Rather than delicate touches, he played a couple of shots that had some of the old power behind them. Those were good to watch ... let him make 40 more tons but dear God, let him play a few shots in anger now and then ... for some of us, that really would matter more.

I would have announced SRT's comeback to his old self but for the fact that these big shots are just appearing every now and then and not like before when they used to define his batting. But then "boond boond se ghada bharta hai" and I will take it as it comes. Another problem I still see is his tendency to get beaten ever so often. Earlier one of the reasons he used to be so special is that it took something special to beat him. Today any idiot on the block can come and beat him now and then. I don't really attribute it to loss of form coz it is today almost a feature of his batting ... but I really can't believe that he is no longer that good in judging the bowling. I would say that the quality of bowling SRT faced in his prime was definitely better than what he faced today and I can't believe eyesight can deteriorate to such an extent that he can't read bowlers of half the calibre of those he used to hammer earlier. Mid-life crisis? The one positive point I can say is he seems to be trying to get out of it. Earlier he didn't even seem to be trying ... now at least he seems to be trying. Yesterday, in the final ODI, I saw a shot he played ... coming down the track and smashing the ball to the mid-wicket boundary using the pull shot. If that isn't a sign of recovery, then what is?

Anyway, another funny thing in the last ODI was SRT waving goodbye to two of the batsmen he dismissed ... it was pretty child like and Harsha Bhogle was touched enough to remark "there is a bit of a child in Sachin Tendulkar, isn't there" with Arul Lal nodding his head vigorously and saying "Yes, and I hope it stays always". LOL ... I wonder if waving goodbye to a batsman with a smile on ur face is tanamount to bringing disrepute to the game?

One thing I did get right finally - Dhoni keeping wickets all through the ODI series. It was bound to happen but I wasn't certain simply coz I thought he would keep wickets and the general trend is for the opposite of what I say to happen. Anyway, he kept wickets pretty decently by all accounts ... I saw him keep but not enough to make a good judgement ... I saw him muff a Bhajji doosra, saw him take a snick off Bhajji and then a stumping off Tendulkar ... the stumping in particular was pretty neat. I would want to see more of him before I judge him but I didn't really see too much bad ... his collection could be a bit better. His batting was entertaining though ... I saw him run out in the first match and realized that he wasn't exactly the brightest around ... saw him score a few in the second and hit that six in the third ODI ... first impression I got was that there isn't too much of a difference between Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh's batting except that Bhajji wears a patka under his helmet while batting. It is basically trying to hit the ball as hard as possible and there he might have an edge over Bhajji simply coz he is used to hitting them and not just as a passtime. However, he really needs to blend in a bit of judgement with his shot making coz in international cricket, u just can't swing ur bat at everything that comes along. The lad seems to be pretty strong and I don't doubt that if he plays to potential, he could be devastating in the end overs but I don't know if he can really don the role of the seventh batsman that Ganguly so craves in this Indian team. Really upto Dhoni to make himself seem indispensible ... he didn't do his chances any harm by hammering that six in the third ODI.

Yuveraj's shots in the third ODI were absolutely brilliant ... yes, the bowling wasn't of the highest quality but the shot making was. Maybe he wanted to make a point; maybe he didn't. Whatever it was, it was brilliant. His comments to newspapers show his hurt at what he calls his unfair treatment in the test scene but in my opinion, he is lucky to have got the chances he did. Now that he has been tried out, there is no harm in giving him a bit of a rope coz one point the guy makes is right ... two innings is really not enough. My opinion still stands that two innings for him is two innings too many but hey, don't let any bad blood remain ... Yuvi is a critical part of the ODI team ... surely there will be chances to try him out again ... that is why u don't let the man eater smell blood ... coz then he wants some more. Bad planning on the part of Ganguly to let Yuvi smell that opening slot and then take it away (under pressure, no doubt).

Kaif has really come into his own in the past year. I always viewed him as a bits and pieces player who fitted into the team to fill a position the requirements for which really weren't specified clearly enough. Did they want an all rounder? Did they want a full time keeper? What the phuck did they really want? Whatever it was, it was Kaif filling that spot for so long coz he seemed to be the most qualified among the un-qualified ... and oh yes, he fielded a bit. Today it is a different story and I for one think he has moved out of the bits-and-pieces player mould and is starting to become a very good ODI batsman indeed ... no, not in the league of Bevan but he could do that ... today the possibility seems to be there. Again, that is different from his test spot which is really on only if something drastic happens to the top shots of the Indian team. But hey, he isn't staying where he was ... and that is a positive sign. VVS could learn from it.

A couple of funny things I noticed ... dunno if anyone else did. Sriram (who, in my opinion, for his 50 and 2-3 odd wickets did absolutely nothing of note) gave Kaif a mouthful when he got stumped in the 2nd ODI. I didn't really get it coz I saw it in the replays and not when it happened live ... but Sriram lost track of the ball and the keeper gathered it and Sriram took off for a run when the keeper had the ball in his hands ... and of course, he ran out (or was it stumped) Sriram ... and when Sriram passed Kaif at the other end on his way to the pavillion, he seemed to give him a mouthful ... what was interesting was Kaif immediately looking the other way which indicates that Sriram's words weren't exactly those of encouragement or to carry on or something on those lines. Anyone know anything about this? Damn cheek, it looks to me.

Bhajji also gave Dhoni some lip in the 3rd ODI ... I again didn't see it live but heard the commentators talking about it ... what happened? Any enlightened soul there who can throw some light on this? I would be much obliged.

Joginder Sharma seems to be nothing special ... again watched a bit but not a lot of him. He showed balls while batting though ... seems he has a couple of first class hundreds to his name too. Though I don't see any place for this guy in the team, really liked his pluck ... and hey, who am I to talk .... once I have said I don't see any future for this guy, it just might mean the start of his tremendous international career ... heh heh.

Finally to sign off on the cricketing front, a comment on those who are talking mockingly about India bringing their best team into the final ODI and talking about this showing the lack of bench strength etc. First of all, I fully support the move of bringing everyone back for the final ODI simply coz Bangladesh had to be shown their place after the 2nd ODI. It isn't as if India needed their best team to win ... just that they needed to stamp some authority while winning the third ODI ... and they did that with their batting exploits. Indid didn't need that team to win the match and I think everyone knows this ... why people even are discussing this angle is something I don't understand.

A non-cricketing thought comes to mind ... a month and a half back, the Chuckster was on the beaches of Vizag on his honeymoon and admiring the strengh of the waves hitting him and his new missus who screamed with laughter every time it happened. Today the same waves are causing so much of misery and heartbreak all over South East Asia. The television channels are really making merry with some cameramen asking wailing women to "get it line otherwise camera mein nahi aaega" and others asking survivors "when u saw ur wife and kid being washed away by the killer waves, how did u feel"? How the phuck do u think he felt, bitch? And how can I forget the guy whose face came in the paper a couple of days back ... a guy who was bringing out the dead body of a girl from the sea ... he was holding the body in his hands and grinning for the camera. Sheesh!!! Anyway - May those who lost their lives to the tsunami (new word for me ... though tidal wave was well known) rest in peace.

Cheers

The Chuckster

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