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, December 07, 2004

Laxman, SRT, Zaheer and a footballer

Quite a few things to write about here ... hopefully I can jot them down quickly enough to do justice to the issues and still rush home quickly where my new bride is waiting with bated breath and a quiver in her heart.

The first issue is that of VVS Laxman ... I wrote this post one week back but the stupid site went offline just after I finished typing it and pressed "POST" and I lost it all ... no amount of going back and forth got me the typed text. Anyway, here goes again.

Laxman and Kumble both seem to be unhappy at being left out of the ODI team. Where Kumble is concerned, I don't wanna comment too much coz this is a guy who has really come back to the peak of his form in the past year. He has taken on the toughest of opposition and given them something to think about ... so while I feel that ODI cricket would be detrimental to his re-birth as a bowler, I would rather not comment till I actually see the damage happening coz just like in tests, this guy might just re-invent himself in ODIs too. A long time back, Kumble coming on in the 9th over used to be a familiar sight in ODIs coz the faster bowlers would be getting hammered ... and when he came on, I for one would always be like "Ok, it is gonna be ok now ... Kumble is here". When we can hope for a SRT re-birth, a Kumble re-birth in ODIs is not too farfetched.

Laxman's is a different case altogether. The guy has been in and out of the ODI team numerous times and still his game hasn't changed one bit. That is the only thing that makes me have less hope for Laxman succeeding in ODIs than for Kumble succeeding in ODIs or SRT re-discovering his attacking instincts or whatever else. Either the guy is just plain dumb or someone is just not telling him what the problem is. Coz if he knows what the problem is, his cribbing is not really called for. He himself should recognize the problem.

First of all, calls about his fielding being a point against him is pure baloney. In a team led by Sourav Ganguly, we really shouldn't talk about fielding being a point either for dropping or picking a guy. I mean someone outstanding or someone terribly, terribly, terribly bad is one thing ... but anything in the middle ought to be ok coz the captain is out there setting an example as one of the worst fielders and least fit players in the team (when he bends to field the ball, u can actually heard the creaks if u listen hard). Yep, he doesn't drop catches - fielding is not equal to holding catches - but when he runs after the ball, I personally get a doubt about the story I read a long time back about his being a very promising footballer before he decided on cricket as the sport to pursue seriously. A footballer who runs like that???? Point I want to make is - fitness and fielding concerns should never be an issue as long as u have Ganguly leading the team ... unless as previous mentioned, someone is either outstanding or terrible, both of which Laxman is not. If Ganguly can play, then Laxman can play ... fielding cannot then be the main issue.

The problem with Laxman exists in his batting position - No. 3. In my book, either Laxman bats at 1, 2 or 3 or he doesn't play. Playing in these three positions gives him the freedom to either take advantage of the fielding restrictions in the first 15 overs (I still feel - a theory propogated by me a year or two back - that he would be an outstanding opening bat simply coz he can find the gaps so well ... a la Mark Waugh) or even after the first 15 overs are up, take his time about building his innings coz once the field spreads out, Laxman is terribly handicapped ... he can take those singles but you can't expect anything more from him. In this case, there is enough time for him to build his innings and for others after him to come and fortify the innings. If he comes in at any number after 3, he slows down the entire innings. He might still get his 50 odd runs but the scoring rate will be pretty average and if at any point of time the innings needs a push (lets say, chasing a reasonably decent target), the only way Laxman is gonna push the rate is by retiring hurt. Face it, he doesn't have the big shots that are required in the middle of the innings ... shots that Yuveraj has in abundance, Kaif has in short bursts and shots that Dravid has learnt to play over the past two years (that guy is so amazing) ... he doesn't have the running ability that can make up for this lack of hitting ability ... Kaif is an example ... he doesn't hit big like Yuveraj does but he runs so hard he makes up for a large part of it.

That probably is where Laxman's "lack of fitness" comes in ... the inability to run consistent twos and threes in the middle to end overs overs that gives others like Kaif - much lesser capability than Laxman, mind you - an edge. This wouldn't matter if Laxman batted at 1, 2 or 3 ... it does matter when 1, 2 and 3 are taken by SRT, Sehwag and Ganguly. One can see this in the mindset of the team management ... when either of SRT or Ganguly is unavailable coz of injury etc, Laxman gets to play ... otherwise he doesn't.

Laxman has had good performances in ODIs but they have been limited to Australia ... when the opposing team is not Australia, Laxman's ODI performances are nothing to write home about. That is why he will not replace SRT, Sehwag and Ganguly at the number 1, 2 or 3 positions. Whatever their form of the day be, one knows these three can run away with matches ... Laxman still has to show he can do it in ODI cricket. He can't do it with 40s and 50s ... he can only do it with consistent big ones coz he is not trying to replace a Kaif or Badani here ... he is trying to replace the three best ODI players in the team.

I suggested in an earlier post of mine that if Laxman really wanted to try for an easy spot in the ODI team, Kaif's spot would be the one to pick rather than the first three spots. Unless any of the top three drop down to 5 or 6 (the experiment was started by dropping SRT and then Gangs himself to 4 but we all know it didn't work ... it will take a brave man to try again ... I said it then and I say it now ... it is a good move to send one of the top three down and try Laxman up top ... a risk worth taking but I know it will not be taken), Laxman has to fight for a place with the Kaif and Mongias of Indian cricket ... even the Dravids and Yuverajs are much above him today. If Bihar's MS Dhoni succeeds as the keeper / batsman in the team, Laxman can wave his ODI career goodbye for the next year or two. If Dhoni doesn't make it (and it will take something extra-ordinary to make Ganguly change his Dravid-for-keeper policy), the seventh spot will still be open for the likes of Laxman, Badani, Mongia, Gavaskar etc to fight over. If Laxman is honest to himself, he will know that in test cricket, he is invaluable while in ODI cricket, he is one of the also-rans and not above the Badanis and Mongias and he cannot be accomodated because of his test exploits. Ganguly has always been ready to give his players a long rope but Laxman should look at his game and analyse what has changed over the years ... since he was constantly getting chopped from the team, he should have tried some changes, right? He might find minimal changes in his game and then he might understand that it is nothing personal for him to be dropped. He simply doesn't fit the scheme of things as they are ... either the scheme of things has to change or Laxman has to change.

Second topic - SRT's 34th hundred. I won't comment on his record breaking for two reasons - one, coz it was against Bangladesh and second, coz ESPN-STAR on which the series is being telecast is not available in A.P. for the past year or so ... I don't know about the rest of India. However, I did see some clippings of his innings on DD News (bless u DD ... I am sorry for cursing u a couple of thousand times ... sometimes u r the best) ... and while I did see the missed chances, I also saw the quality of some of his shots. A cover drive screaming to the boundary .... a vicious slash of a square cut ... and a push or two down the wicket ... the cover drive and square cut are two shots that SRT has almost banished from his armoury and it was good watching him play this way ... some slight shades of the "Tendulkar of Old" ... heh heh. Anyway, so he is joint top 100 scorer with SMG ... yippie for him. SMG had to salivate all over SRT for this occassion - I don't think we could have avoided it - and thankfully, we won't have to see such emotions again till SRT's next century ... geez, we all know what SRT has achieved over the past 16 years ... SMG constantly drooling over the world's best batsman even when he is batting like crap (ok, so here he didn't bat like crap, from all reports) is becoming a big headache.

Anyway, anyone notice something? One of the lives SRT had was against left arm spinner Rafique (hope I got the name right) ... geez, a left arm spinner from Bangladesh made him look like a novice and people say SRT knows what he is doing. Oh, well! When Ashley Giles can make SRT sweat, why not Rafique, Tommy, Vicky and Pappu?

Pathan took a 10 for the first time in his career and here I am particularly glad that they gave him the man of the match ahead of SRT. No doubt, SRT's innings was crucial to such an emphatic win for India but a youngster in his first year of test cricket getting 10 wickets in the match surely is a better performance than a master batsman getting a double ton against Bangladesh. I am not being anti-SRT here ... just keeping things in perspective.

What was Dravid's wicket all about ... he shouldered arms to a ball pitching just outside off and darting back in ... it wasn't that great a ball that a batsman of Dravid's class should be food by it ... geez, he has come onto the front foot to similar deliveries from Allan Donald and patted them back like he would to a spinner. Anyway, just mentioned it coz it was amazing to see Dravid make a mistake like that.

Finally on Zaheer. I have always maintained India have a hidden jewel here in terms of batting (bowling everyone knows). He is not a good batsman and will never be a good batsman simply coz he doesn't know abcd of the technique of batting. But what he can do is hit them far and wide and while that approach doesn't always work, a little practive and training will get the team 25 runs every now and then with sometimes the bonus of a 40. The problem is that they should get him to achieve this without teaching him how to bat coz if they try to teach him batting, his main strength of hoicking them far and long will go for a toss. So, rather than someone like Dravid teaching him, I would rather one of the big-hitting guys like Sehwag / Ganguly / SRT take some coaching lessons for Zaheer where they show him how to decide between the boundary and non-boundary balls ... teaching him the finer points of batting might simply destroy the whole exercise. Anyone who remembers Zaheer creaming the last 4 balls of a ODI against Zimbabwe for 4 consecutive sixes will tell u - there is a jewel sitting out there waiting for someone to unearth it. As long as he is a tail ender with nothing expected from him, we will get nothing out of him. Make him accountable ... not just with the ball but with the bat ... and give him the training to go along with the expectations. We might all be surprised at the edge he gives the team in the end overs of any ODI.

A non-cricket issue to end with. We all read of the death of Dempo footballer Cristiano, an import from Brazil, after a supposed foul by the Mohan Bagan goalkeeper. I also saw the replays and personally I don't know if the keeper got in a blow at all or how hard it was ... theory is that he got in a good blow as the player managed to get the ball past him and was in mid air. What I am trying to say is - it happened and while it is regrettable, it also raises the issue of who exactly to blame here. The death of the player was not due to the blow (even if it landed) ... post mortem reports say it was due to cardiac arrest supposedly due to over-exertion. The goal keeper is being blamed coz he is the easiest scapegoat to find in the entire scenario ... but physical contact between players is so common in football that talking of the Bagan's keeper's actions is really ignoring the larger issue at hand ... Are these things ok as long as no one dies?

If tomorrow, lets say a McGrath and Sarwan scream abuses at one another about each other's wives and mothers (thankfully no serious reports of actual physical contact, at least in international cricket, have come to light), and suddenly one of them has a stroke in the heat of the moment (improbable but then Cristiano was an athlete too ... and footballers are surely fitter than cricketers), will that be the moment we talk about discipline among sportspersons etc? Who will we blame? The system which allows it all or the individual player (Sarwan or McGrath or whoever) who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time???

What will be the reaction of all those cool cats who sit in air conditioned commentary boxes and talk about having been there / done that ... about these things happening in the heat of the moment ... about needing mental toughness in international cricket ... about mental disintegration separating the men from the boys ... as Ravi Shastri once put it - "when big boys are playing, little boys should stay home with mama" ... about having a beer after the day's play being a suitable antidote. If tomorrow, the scene I outlined does happen, will these cool cats tell Sarwan's mom or wife - "well, at least the boys have been separated from the men ... may he rest in peace".

I published this post and then remembered ... can't leave this one out, really. Non-cricket stuff here. Recently, there was this quote from Aishwarya Rai informing people that "the Taj is more beautiful than I" - see this link .. .... Quote - "Taj is a beautiful piece of architecture, more beautiful than me. I've always regarded it with admiration as it embodies love," said Rai, who has studied architecture.

Oh My God ... what a dope this woman is!!! The absolute cheek of the woman ... Thanx for telling us, Aish ... I wonder if anyone will remember u 5 years after u take ur simpering stupidity off the small / big screen. Shah Jahan will be rolling around his grave stammering - "Mumtaz baby ... I will have it cleansed in milk ... don't look at me like that ... it isn't my fault".

Anyway, cheers

The Chuckster

5 Comments:

  • At Monday, December 13, 2004 11:31:00 PM, Blogger Ray Romano said…

    Agree with your comment on Laxman. But man - I hope you dont stary into Srinagar Colony - the residents there may let their dogs loose on you. :-)

    LOL@Aish comment. It just reinforces my belief that beauty and brains are mutually exclusive. She is just too dumb.

     
  • At Tuesday, December 14, 2004 2:50:00 AM, Blogger ananth said…

    about kumble- u r bang on..its good for him that he concentrates only on tests from now..for sure he is not getting any younger..for that matter he was not the agile and fastest in the field even in his young days..add to that the fact that he (and srinath for all his career) never learned to run a run!!

    ok..now to laxman: he is sort of both what u said – dumb as well as nobody is telling him his follies! just rewind back to the champions trophy..I was watching it from the stands..this dumb Lax was in the long off (but god knows why he was standing so near the circle than near the boundary esp when Afridi was the player)..incidentally b4 Afridi whacked those mighty hits on pathan hit one up so high that any one in the long off could have gobbled it up after having a chai..and here our Lax turns back (facing us the spectators and watched if one of us wud throw the ball in from the boundary so that he need not “run”) then realizes the ball is still in air for it was hoicked sooooo high and he starts to amble along towards the ball..gosh! I have not seen my grandmother, all of 90 years now, amble along that slow ever!! and this guy deserves to be dropped just for that act for his life! he earns enough and deserves to put in more efforts esp when fools like me had traveled miles/countries to watch this nonsense! (infact I saw the famous director mani ratnam who had traveled to watch this match from India! am I not justified in using plural there?) now he cribs about being dropped..after so many such reckless shows and never trying to improve on any facet in one days.. guyzzz…Please try to see that Ind pak match once again and check your BP at this instant..I wonder whether that saunter was even pictured, for I never saw one soul comment about it..compare that to Lara’s fielding on the champions trophy finals! it was amazing..most of us in the ground cud not believe it wud be Lara each time saw the large display to confirm that!!
    (believe me Iam not such a lax hater as this post sounds..just that he deserves only this inspite of the class he is when he gets going – that is rarely when he does!)

    and finally..about ash..ha.haa..I was really piqued when I saw this article and atlast foind some one comment on this! man she needs a kick at her rear end for sure..is she a blond by any chance;-)

     
  • At Wednesday, December 15, 2004 4:36:00 PM, Blogger Filbert said…

    You are spot on wrt to Ganguly's fitness & fielding skills (or the lack of it). In fact, when the BCCI conducted a fitness test sometime ago, Ganguly was the ONLY player to fail the test :)

    I am a huge fan of Sachin and though I too would not rave much about this Sachin hundred, we got to give the century its credit. This century came on the same pitch where Dravid was bowled for a duck. Moreover, as Akram said, this century needs to given some credit bcos it takes so much concentration to play a long innings like this against a weaker opposition.

    Anyway, the point I wanted to make was this - I looked up the stats of Don Bradman. He has scored 715 runs (more than 10% of his career runs) and 4 centuries (which coincidentally includes a double century) against an Indian team that had not won a single test till then (much like the Bangladesh of now) and an Indian team which took 20 years for its first test victory. I am not trying to belittle Bradman's effort here, I am just trying to lend some credence to Sachin's effort :)

    And about SMG's constant eulogising of Sachin, its only to be expected. There is this incident which goes like this - When SMG was asked who were the best 3 batsmen in India, he answered Sachin Tendulkar, Dilip Vengsarkar and some other name which I do not remember. The interesting point is that this question was posed to Gavaskar when Sachin had not even played a single match in domestic cricket ie when Sachin was about 14 or 15). Isnt that just amazing? When you rate someone that high and when that someone goes on to prove you right, then its no surprise that SMG keeps on drooling over Sachin's genius at any given opportunity.

     
  • At Wednesday, December 15, 2004 8:41:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    why dont u go and lick Sachin's ass?

     
  • At Thursday, December 16, 2004 1:56:00 AM, Blogger Ari said…

    Some how i have this thing to see a plot in almost every Indian cricket match which "happens". The first test couldn't have been more funnier than ever. Point is simple .. (ppl wud have agreed to play under par so that SRT's innings would come to limelite which would definately be a steroid intake for his confidence).. but that's how I see things a little different, a little more like a Crime Scene, blame me and Sir Arthur Conan for it.

    Now VVS LAX has bleak chances of being in the team in pbly both the forms of game. Sriram hasn't been given his chance but I hope he makes the best out of what's given now. Never thought VVS had the stuff to deliver in ODI's in tests he could be explosive if the ball pitches well (above the knee roll) or if he manages to play in pitches like DURBAN and PERTH/MELB.... I've seen Sriram play and he could justify his place in the team.

    The pblm in our Indian selection in BCCI is they've too much money and too much shares and reputation at stake. Who is really bothered about nation pride?

    Correct me if I'm wrong but India doesn't have any series coming up after the ODI series with BLSH, so we would have a huge break, which would mean we could see players increasing their mass and becoming footballs or they could read this article and look at their weighing machines.

    SRT ur good in your own ways and SRT frenzied fans easy with the language,I understand it's a lil tough in accepting his slump in form which is inversly propotional to his age. Come on guys search for the next big super hero who would mock at every enemy with his bat, SHWG is good and he means business.

    I remember those shots of Zaheer and then all of a sudden 6rs of Balaji against Pakistan had flashed, boy where they good.

    Man that Emergency van didnt have anything to do with AID, I would blame our poor infrastructure and thanks to cricket all the money is poured into bunch of loosers who we still have hope in chosing the right 11. Hope and pathetic illusion will still not help the nation.

    TAJ RAI sound like OXYMORON to me.. If buildings would be identified with shape of it's dedication am sure Aish Rai would have "great plains" with tiny mounds built.. So in case Rai thinks it's sensible to make a comment like that i think She's got a tumor a brain tumor ( one more functioning nerve ) if any of us misunderstood that for humbleness we ought to be dumber than on weed.

    Cheers M8..
    Ari

     

Post a Comment

<< Home