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.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

back after a vacation

Posting after a long time and I must apologize for the same. I went on holiday to my home town (Delhi) and once I came back, became terribly busy at office and home. Anyway, with there being no cricket and not much to talk about, maybe it was all for the good. Now Chappell has landed in India to take up his job, I am sure there will be plenty to talk about. Again, the regularity of my posts depends on external factors like home and office pressures but I am hopeful.

Where do I start? That is the hard part of being away for a long time ... re-starting is a problem. The Indian cricket team could probably relate to this feeling.

SRT had an operation on his elbow. Could someone tell me what the hell is going on here? It is all nice that he had a successful operation and all but wasn't the last operation on the same elbow for the same reasons as r being quoted now? So he can play without pain ... coz therapy etc wasn't giving such great results and how surgery was the last but necessary option taken ... etc etc etc? Does that mean the last time he had surgery on his elbow and came back, it didn't do the job ... or was it supposed to be done in two parts ... one then and one later? Ok, so his elbow is his business but everyone in India also considers it to be their business ... so could we have a little clarity on the issue of the elbow please? Why was this second surgery necessary and is it the end of surgeries or will we see SRT take another four months off next year?

Talking on 4 months for the healing process to complete, am I the only one here who feels that the last couple of months of no cricket have been completely wasted in the sense if he had this surgery two months back, he would be back two months from now instead of 4 months from now. Yes, all reports indicated that the decision to do the surgery was taken only after the doctors examined him ... but if the elbow wasn't performing the way it should, shouldn't the off-cricket time be utilized to the maximum instead of eating into cricket time? India r playing a tri-series in Sri Lanka and SRT won't be playing there ... I don't know right now what the plans r after the tri-series (Zimbabwe come to India, I think) but it isn't sure right now exactly when SRT will be back. Really could have avoided missing the cricket season by better planning, me thinks.

When I heard of the tri-series in Sri Lanka some time back, I wasn't enthused about it ... Sri Lanka and West Indies ... Yawn. Now with Chappell as the coach of India, suddenly I see my interest levels soaring. What will he do ... what kind of strategies would he employ ... will the Indian team be different from this first tournament under Chappell's coaching itself or will it take time for any difference to be visible?

See, for this first tournament, I for one would not be concentrating on the results. Everything takes time and to expect the Indian team to start winning everything in sight coz they have an Aussie legend as coach would be foolish. What I would be concentrating on is the strategy and mindset of the team.

Let me clarify one more thing here. Though I am excited at the thought of a Chappell bringing in changes in the way the team operates, it doesn't mean a different strategy / line-up every match. Any good strategy can succeed only with time ... and Ganguly would tell u the same about the players he backs so successfully. What is necessary is the willingness to look beyond the obvious ... and if I can see some signs of it in the tri-series, ir-respective of the results, I would be satisfied.

Of course, with the India reject, Tom Moody, as the coach of the SL team, there would be a fair bit of needle to the India-SL contests. I can see the media, ex-players / experts etc going ballistic after every match comparing what Moody does with what Chappell does. I am sure both Chappell and Moody would recognize the in-evitability of the comparisons so both would be on their toes.

With Tendulkar 'hors de combat', the stage has opened for someone to stake their claim for an opener's slot. Dhoni has been quoted widely in the media as having expressed his interest in opening and currently he is the media's popular choice for the slot. I would differ a bit on this line of thinking though I am not totally against it.

Dhoni has made waves in the past couple of weeks in some tournament in Calcutta where one of the local teams hired his services (at a huge cost, if reports r to be believed). He hit a double century, a century and an 80 odd in the three matches he played for the local team (Shyambazar or something) and generally impressed one and all. For those who might have missed it, look at the following links for stories - and and - and get impressed. I certainly was impressed not coz of the scores but the way they were scored ... the strike rate was tremendous and the consistency was stagerring. Sure, his opponents weren't Australia or Pakistan but then he himself is a fledgling in the international arena. His job is to score whenever he goes out there, irrespective of his opponent.

However, I have two other contenders in mind for the opener's slot. One, if the appeal process succeeds (and with Dalmiya pushing the cause, there is no reason why it shouldn't succeed), then Ganguly. And second, and I know a lot of u would disagree with this, VVS Laxman.

First lets take the case of Ganguly. I am not advocating him coz he scored 140 odd for Glamorgan recently ... that would be a very short sighted approach. It is because Ganguly, the ODI player, is currently searching for a slot and in my opinion, he is too good a ODI bat to potter around un-successfully in different slots for so long. Lets be clear on this; as a test player, I feel he has to fight for a spot in the eleven, let alone captain it. As a ODI player, he needs the correct slot to be back in action. He had the slot when he and SRT formed the best ODI opening pair in the world but since the advent of Sehwag on the scene, he hasn't been the same. The problem is that first SRT and then Ganguly gave their slots to Sehwag ... they floundered at other slots and while SRT has come back to the opening slot, Ganguly has tried to make number 3 his own but without success.

It speaks volumes of his un-selfishness as a captain that he has done what he thinks is best for the team even if not the best for him but the last three years or so have shown that this is not the correct strategy. If Ganguly (or SRT, for that matter) had fitted into some other slot, then well and good, but to sacrifice one of them for Sehwag is foolhardy. Sehwag is amazing in tests, ok in ODIs but he has a quality neither SRT nor Ganguly has. He can easily adapt to a situation. He was a middle order bat in tests but took up the opener's slot with elan (Chuckster's article calling for Sehwag to open before the decision was actually taken by the team management - He debuted as a number five / six in ODIs but adapted to the ODI opener's slot though not with outstanding success. He came into the ODI team as someone who could turn his arm over sometimes and today he is a very good bowler to have in the middle (end) overs ... the way he bowls shows how much thought he puts into it.

What I say is - as I said, Ganguly needs a slot as personally I feel he still can play pretty well as a ODI batsman. So in my book, either he gets the slot vacated by SRT coz of his injury or in case they want to experiment with Dhoni up there, he gets the other slot, that of Sehwag. In my book, if he is allowed to play, he plays as opener in all the matches. The man has given chances at his own cost to his team ... he deserves a chance at the slot where he has had all his success.

Next comes the more complex case of VVS. I have said this in the past and I will say it again. Unless something drastic happens to alter VVS's game, to play in the ODI team, either he opens or comes in at 3. Even at 3, if the openers do a good job, his usefullness is reduced. However, at the opening slot, he could do beautifully. His strength has always been to pierce the field with deft touches and beautiful drives and if he has to ever try for a slot in the ODI team, it has to be the opener's slot. Unless he does a Dravid and suddenly becomes a master of playing the middle / end overs of a ODI, VVS has no place in the ODI team and that is a shame simply coz he is so very good. So while Chappell is looking at options, I would like him to take another look at VVS ... to see if he can squeeze him in somewhere up top. Of course, if Ganguly doesn't play in the tri-series coz of the ban, VVS would be very optimistic of a call-up for the tournament but the larger picture here is - what when SRT and Ganguly both make their returns? I have no doubts that Sehwag can be shifted to the middle order in ODIs ... I think he would be specially brilliant in the end overs. And while VVS might again face an identity crisis when SRT and Gangs return, it would be great to give him a solid 5-6 matches and see what he can do. Not at number 7 where he played some matches (wonder why anyone was surprised he flunked so badly) ... not at number 3 where he had a lot of success against Australia not very long back ... but at number 1 or 2. A new coach brings in new ideas ... I won't complain if experimenting with VVS in the ODI team is one of those ideas.

Really, I feel sometimes we should be allowed to field two teams ... then we could have SRT / Gangs open in one team and VVS / Dhoni open in the other ... and watch the fun. Yep, Sehwag is not there in both combinations but I have always felt that in the ODIs he is better down than up. If tomorrow SRT retires coz of his enignatic elbow or Ganguly gets thrown out of the team, we can always bring back Sehwag. I don't think he would care a lot ... he would just swagger to the wicket and try to thwack the first ball he faces to the cover boundary.

Chappell has come to India with his wife and would be putting up in Bangalore. I am sure Chappell knows the craziness of the Indian public where cricket is concerned though he might not have experienced it personally. I am not sure if his wife is gonna have a nervous breakdown after some months of seeing a reporter / cameraman everytime she blinks and her husband's photo with a report glorifying / villifying him every time she lands her hands on a newspaper.

One thing that struck me when Chappell first became coach was his comment about "not coaching through the media" ... sounded like a nice, sensible comment and I mentally lauded him for that comment. However, in the next few days he proceeded to make headlines for talking about "some seniors not wanting to work hard" and "SRT will never be the same again" etc. Un-necessary comments, I thought at first coz it was obvious the thing would create headlines everywhere in India and would bring forward strong reactions from experts and other butt kissers ... something that is not needed at the very start of the job. But on second thoughts, it is good from the public point of view ... it is always good to know what the coach thinks ... I know the coach and the team are the ones who sit and plan together but in India, I guess we r all involved ... every single one of us irrespective of whether he has ever held a bat in his hand or not. When it comes to cricket, we want to know what is happening ... and then give an opinion on whatever is happening. In that sense, I won't complain if he does indeed keep giving sound bytes to the media.

I particularly found one statement of his very interesting ... don't remember the exact words but it was about "sitting down with SRT and talking to him ... I think he has a bit of a crisis about his exact role in the team" ... BINGO ... all of us except SRT knew he had a crisis about his role in the team ... no one really could say it to him coz ... well, coz he is God. And Chappell in his first days as coach opens his mouth and says exactly what he feels. Anyone wonder why we need an Aussie as coach??? This is why ... coz they say / do things other people don't say / do. SRT has always maintained he is playing according to the team plan and taking up his responsibility as a senior, something which the team management endorses etc. The team management (Gangs / Wright etc) always backed SRT as doing exactly the required thing even though all that seniority / responsibility thing was nonsense. Finally, that might change. Of course, it depends on how all the injuries on his body allow him to perform ... but physical possibilities aside (heavy bat / light bat etc), I would be happy if someone corrects the mental make up of the man. SRT's average is up there with the best of them ... but he no longer thinks like a King. Some people call it smart ... I call it humiliating.

What else can we talk about? A bookie named Shobhan Mehta got caught and talked about having links with Mongia / Azhar / Jadeja / Cronje / Marjk Waugh. Yawwnnnnn! Someone just answer me this ... and I am surprised there is no ruckus about this ... seems this Shobhan Mehta was at SRT's wedding which really wasn't open to the public ... only a select few made it ... how did Shobhan Mehta? I don't really doubt SRT for one second ... really, I am not saying it to be diplomatic ... but how the hell was he there?

Ganguly got cracking for Glamoragan with a 60 odd and 140 odd in one match ... he promptly failed in the next match which was the Tsunami match at Lords on the 14th of June. I don't read too much into the failure at Lords simply coz u cannot analyse a player match by match ... but I am glad he is playing the county circuit ... not coz it is a great challenge but coz there he can concentrate on batting without the worries of captaincy / declarations / team line-ups etc. Today his slot in the ODI / test team as a batsman is at stake and if the selectors adopt the policy of "best team first and best captain among them" then he will be in trouble. But with some months of cricket behind him when he makes his return to international cricket, he could be a changed player. I seriously believe that the tremendous degeneration of his batting is due to two reasons - 1. At the ODI level, coz of giving up his opening slot and 2. In both tests and ODI, for spending too much time in captaincy issues than on batting practice. For this I partly blame the former coach John Wright ... coz he was probably the only guy around who could have put his foot down and made Ganguly concentrate on his batting as much as on his captaincy ... but either he did and Gangs ignored him ... or he didn't in which case he didn't do his job properly. Under Chappell, I am sure VVS will be looking to have a second life as a ODI player ... I am sure that similarly Ganguly will be hoping to have a second life as a test player ... I don't put it beyond him simply coz he was a good test batsman to begin with ... apart from the short ball weakness, I don't see any others ... of course, the outside-off-stump weakness is present but that has come up over time - in my opinion - simply coz not too much time has been spent on batting practice. Come on, he was "God on the off side" once ... he can't be THAT bad as he seems now. One thing is certain ... the players might have ignored (and insulted, if Gavaskar is to be believed) John Wright ... they better not try it with Chappell. That is one place where Chappell has an advantage over Wright ... he inherits the same prima donnas ... but while John Wright was a regular bloke, Chappell still has enought persona / aura about him for even the heavyweights in the team to be wary of him. I have no doubts that there would be no pushing around Greg Chappell ... either from players or administrators ... if something like that does happen, Chappell would be handing in his resignation than take the crap. That is just in my humble opinion.

Hmmm ... long post. Lets move away from cricket. Sania Mirza's bad form continues ... she lost in the first round of the French Open ... and then moving onto her more favoured surface, she loses in the second round of one tournament and fails to qualify for another tournament ... not very encouraging. Her ranking is still hovering in the upper half of the 70s but I am not sure if that will get her a ticket to Wimbledon ... I don't know if the cut-offs have been announced yet but I do know that the Wimbledon qialifiers have started and Mirza is not among those trying out. So either she has a direct entry or she is not playing ... I don't know which. The other Indian tennis player of note on the circuit, Shikha Uberoi ... she lost her second round of qualifying for the Wimbledon tournament ... so she is out.

I saw the Canadian Grand Prix the past weekend ... man, the start was awesome as both the Renaults, which were third and fourth on the starting grid made awesome starts ... from one end of the track, one Renault overtook Button (the pole) and from the other end, the other Renault overtook Schumie (second on the grid, I think) and by the first corner, they were leaving the field behind. Yep, both didn't finish the race but this year, the Renaults look far the superior car to the others. When Alonso and Fisichella r in the race, it seems impossible that anyone else would win. I also saw Karthikeyan go out of the race ... he has been blessed with a lousy car but he has to make the best of it ... if Jordan chucks him out, I don't know when he might get another chance at F-1 ... in one way, u have to admire him ... he is trying to push the car to its limits ... but in other ways, his team-mate Montiero who has been taking a safer approach, is finishing the races while Karthikeyan is not. Even in this race, Karthikeyan was leading Montiero when he came to the fatal turn ... tried to take it real fast and the car skidded a teeny bit ... he regained control but it was enough for him to clip the wall with his rear end ... broke the suspension and he was out of the race. To get an idea of how lousy the Jordans r compared to the other cars, Barrichello (Ferrari) started out at the end of the grid coz of some problem ... he was behing Karthikeyan at one point of time when he hadn't yet crashed out ... I could see the yellow Jordan screaming along with the Red Ferrari in hot pursuit ... I think Barrichello went ahead only after Karthikeyan went out of the race ... I remember seeing a Yellow (Jordan), Red (Ferrari), Yellow (Jordan of Montiero) contest going on just before Karthikeyan hit the wall ... and eventually Barrichello finished third.

So what else is new in life? Last night there was this huge thunderstorm in Hyderabad and I was dreading to see the flooding on the roads on the way to office (the Chuckster on a bike hates going through pools of water where other vehicles always make it a point to splash him while passing) but thankfully, the de-silting of the drains etc this year seem to have been done before the monsoon hits ... instead of after as usually happens ... most of the roads were water free ... the only thing being that the Congress Govt in its first year in office has made sure all the roads in the city have been dug up and r in the lousiest of shapes. U know what ... I don't have anything for or against Chandrababu Naidu ... but when he was CM, the roads were pretty good ... under the Congress, one can see them degenerating day by day.

Mike Tyson made a fool of himself once more ... hopefully for the last time. Once upon a time he was the "baddest man on the planet" ... today he is the "biggest joke on the planet".

Ok, I guess that is all for today. With Chappell having reached India and with camps etc planned in the near future, I guess there would be plenty of talk about ... so hopefully, I will get to post a lot in the coming days and months. I will see u all someday else.


The Chuckster