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, October 26, 2005

Hey there again

Nothing great in this article but it was written in New York Times ... cricket article in NYT ... in this they call Andrew Flintoff "amiable all rounder" ... lol ... worth a dekko just for the title of the story.

This one is Gavaskar's rant on the game yesterday - Click here ...

What is his problem anyway? U know one thing about Gavaskar I have always believed? He is one of the shrewdest cookies in the jar which is Indian cricket but man, does he have a chip on his shoulder about anything and everything? India get a great victory yesterday and he cribs about Venu not batting and Agarkar and Pathan coming before him etc etc etc ... I can't believe he doesn't have the sense to understand that strategies r made on the run and for a different situation (say lesser score for more number of wickets), it would most probably be Venu who would have come in ... but in this scenario where going slam-bang was the need of the hour, it was a smart decision to keep Venu back ... I know Gavaskar can understand that coz he is shrewd enough ... but he has also faced defeat in his public support for Sourav Ganguly and opposition for Greg Chappell during the selection of coach and during the face off between captain and coach... so expect many such diatribes from Gavaskar if Chappell's tenure produces some good results ... coz Gavaskar would be one of the unhappiest around. He would rather have India losing and getting his "i told u so" moment.

Fletcher takes off on Gavaskar for his "unworthy" comments about the English team the last time they toured India. Gavaskar also belongs to the school of thought where in order to show that they don't consider "white skin" to be superior, they have to say and do everything against the white skin even if it is not required. He champions himself as an "India is better than England ... or any other white country" preacher ... but he rarely talks sense. I remember the diatribe that Fletcher is talking about ... and Gavaskar must be a real shameless guy to be taking off on the Englishmen when the Indian team played equally lousy "and boring" cricket so many times.

Interestingly, Dinesh Mongia gives an interview on Rediff where he questions his ommission ... has he given up hope of being in the Indian cricket team ... coz generally those that have hope don't go around questioning authority as he is doing -

BTW, on non cricketing news, before she goes into the Australian Open next year, Sania Mirza would have done a stint with the Australian great Tony Roche, current coach (not permanent ... I guess, consultant coach) of Roger Federer. Acknowledged as one of the best (if not the best) coaches, he has agreed to a stint with Mirza on the recommendation of Jaideep Mukherjea ... would be nice if he can teach her some things about strengthening her serve and learning to serve & volley a little bit ... something that is almost absent from her game today.

Ok guys ... back to the grind.


Tuesday, October 25, 2005

God is back

God is back and he scored 93 good ones yesterday. The Indian media in their regular suck-up mode is hailing his greatness to have come back from injury layoff and conjuring up a match winning 93 but for me, the fun part was in the way he scored those 93. Right from his first four - where he stretched far beyond the normal stretch standards to put bat to ball and drive it through the covers - to his second six - which was a typical SRT-of-old "dance down to the pitch of the ball and hoist it over long on" - the approach was beautiful. SRT may have been better in Sharjah in 1998 but after the way he has approached batting in the past two-three years, I really wondered if SRT would even be a shadow of the 1998 master. Yesterday's innings suggests to me that even if he never approaches that brilliance of 1998, he seems to be looking far beyond the depths of the last two-three years. There were shots played that we haven't seen for a couple of years now ... straight drive past the bowler (but not as straight as I have seen him to drive), square cuts and drives on the up. There was a dart down the wicket to Chaminda Vaas where he tried to smash him over the top; he missed and the inside edge went narrowly past the stumps and wicket keeper to the fence for four. The miss doesn't matter; the intent does. That is good news for cricket lovers; for statisticians it doesn't really make a difference coz in terms of runs, SRT always contributed.

The match was not only about SRT though his was the most significant innings from the Indian point of view. Pathan got promoted to 3 and batted well; Dravid played a cracker at the death and Dhoni showed that low down the order is where his place is and where he can do damage consistently. And hey hey hey, Bhajji came up with a really good bowling performance ... I was starting to wonder why exactly he was in the team coz he seemed to have lost his magic and his spells in the past year or so were nothing to write home about.

One thing about Dravid's innings; I guess it is a great tribute to the man that an innings like this - typically uncharacteristic of the Dravid we all loved to hate in ODIs - that it doesn't really come across as a surprise. He has re-invented himself so completely in the ODI format that when u read the scorecard to see him at 80 odd off 65 odd balls, it doesn't seem wierd anymore.

This match throws up the interesting question of what happens when the team for the third (and beyond) ODI gets selected. The news bytes being leaked from the Indian camp seemed to indicate that SRT was being seen more from a point of view of a middle order bat since he wasn't going slam-bang any longer ... and he would be opener for the first two ODIs since the other option in Ganguly wasn't there. Yesterday's match indicates that indeed, SRT is ready and able to go slam-bang ... if not like 1998, then not like 2004 either. So if the thought process was indeed to send him in the middle order, then surely there must be some re-thinking going on now... as it should, in my opinion coz that is how good outfits operate; they keep thinking and they keep changing plans coz no plan is constant.

So if SRT stays up top even after the first two ODIs, then for Ganguly to come back to his favorite opening position, Sehwag must go down or out. The Chuckster has many times given his opinion on Sehwag being better off in the middle order where he can smash the end overs but the same thought wasn't occuring to the team management. Time and again, it was being debated as to who would be Sehwag's partner indicating that the team management saw him at the top of the order. So now to get the best combination possible, they have to juggle positions between Ganguly and Sehwag.

BTW, just on an un-official note ... I read someone's "inside info" somewhere that the compromise worked out between the BCCI and Ganguly involved Ganguly keeping mum on the captaincy issue - basically letting the mantle slide onto Dravid - and getting a long run in the ODIs as opener. Again, "inside info" are usually just guesses most fo the times and this could be too but this one makes sense to me simply coz in my book, either Ganguly opens or he doesn't play (same with Laxman). Ganguly also knows his best days have been in that position so if he does indeed gamble a last throw of the dice in that position, he knows he has a fair chance of landing a six. How will this affect Sehwag who loves that opening slot?

Also a note about Irfan Pathan's batting. I have read in numerous places that SRT was the one who came up with this idea and shared it with team-management etc etc etc ... and what a great plan the little genius came up with. Seriously, we have all seen Irfan Pathan bat since he made his debut against Australia ... why is someone surprised he batted so well? He is not ur typical bowler-batsman ... that is not to say he can be seen as a regular bat but he is much above the tail-end bat we are generally used to getting among our bowlers. To send him at 3 was a nice move but it wasn't an amazing or incredible call to make ... it is an idea which always had a good chance to succeed coz it was a good idea to begin with. To listening to people in the media (the Shastris and the Gavaskars and the Arun Lals), it was the cricketing move of the century ... and all coz of the little genius. Makes me want to throw up, seriously! I can imagine the scene if Irfan Pathan had scored a duck and gone back ... Would Shastri have said - "Well, it seems it was SRT who suggested the move of sending up Irfan Pathan. I don't know why he thought it would work but then he isn't exactly known for being the brightest bulb in the room , is he ... he is a bit of a mental midget, is Tendulkar". Would he have said that ... huh, huh???

Dravid would be heaving a sigh of relief as would be Chappell. I have supported Chappell all through this Ganguly saga simply coz I believe he has the right idea in mind where the long term improvement of the team is concerned. The team's individual batting and bowling skills will anyway take them far; the difference between winning and losing might just be the edge they get by doing the basics correct ... being disciplined, running hard, fielding hard, being committed 100% of the time. The problem is that in India, we are not really willing to sit back and wait for the results to come; we want them in the very next match and that doesn't happen generally, unless luck plays a big part. Chappell at least has a contract till 2007; for Dravid, it is a contract for 2 series and he will be happy after the first match that his record as captain doesn't take a beating coz of Chappell's desire to keep trying new things. In that regard, Chappell and Dravid must be on the same wavelength or there would be trouble. A last point in this Dravid thingy - I just wish all the news channells would stop calling Nagpur as "Dravid ki sasuraal" ... man, that makes me want to puke!

A nice touch was added at the end of the match when Sreesanth came back into the attack to take the final two wickets. He didn't exactly have a great debut but with Jayasurya and Sangakkara lining him up between their sights, he came away with less damage than might have been. His confidence must have been a bit low after the initial beating and it was a good thought to bring him back and let him take those wickets. 40 odd runs for two wickets sounds far better than 40 odd runs for no wickets, albeit over 6 or so overs.

All in all, it was an easy victory for India and I am not surprised simply coz I always knew we are that damn good. That is why I was so excited when Chappell became coach coz it is no good being that damn good and losing half of the time. Ok, so this is only one victory but I look on this as a pointer to things to come. We may still face a hiccup or two coz SL is a good team but in terms of direction, I feel good. A lot of people are talking about the likes of Ganguly, Zaheer and Nehra being out of the picture as long as Greg C is coach but the way I see it; Greg C has laid out some laws and anyone who is willing to conform to those laws can come in and join the party. Zaheer had a 6-fer in the recent Duleep trophy and Nehra has always been one of our wicket-taking bowlers but whether they want to play the game by Greg C's rules or not is the moot question. As for Sourav Ganguly, it might be harder for him to look on Greg C as his boss coz he (Ganguly) has been the boss for a long time ... but again, it depends on how much he can adapt. Greg C's way is the better way and that is the Chuckster's firm opinion ... so now it is upto Ganguly to choose.


The Chuckster

On Dravid becoming captain

Wrote this some days back but never got the chance to either complete it or post it ... so posting the incomplete post ... will write a fresh one for the first match of this ODI series.


The Chuckster

Sourav Ganguly is out and Rahul Dravid is in. Much as I hailed Ganguly's appointment as captain way back in the year 2000 (refer -, I feel it is the right time for him to make way. Just like he was the correct person to take the team forward in 2000, rather than saying Rahul Dravid is the correct person to take it forward now, I would say Sourav Ganguly is the last person who can take this team forward today. Rahul Dravid has got that chance and I hope he takes it. If not, I hope Sehwag, Kaif or Laxman is given the job ... what is clear in my mind is that the last thing we need right now is Sourav Ganguly being the number one name on the Indian team list.

I have no doubts that Ganguly must be feeling like shit right now. The guy has done a lot for Indian cricket. I would even say that he sacrificed his own cricket for the team's cause as in giving up his opening slot in the ODIs. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind at all about his past contributions but the keyword here is "past". The future must not be dictated by the past ... directed, yes but dictated, no.

The surprise is not in Dravid's appointment as captain but in his appointment for the two forthcoming series against SL and SA. It seems a bit strange to me coz the captaincy is not such a trivial issue that a couple of matches would prove or disprove it. As I said earlier, if not Dravid then someone else ... but this move just leaves things open for Ganguly. Maybe a small window of opportunity but a window none the less. Ganguly fighting his way back into the team as a player is something I can stand ... the thought of his taking over the reins again is something that makes me feel a bit ill. Also, the possibility of Ganguly becoming captain again would give hope to those who are against the Chappell mantra of hard work. They might lie low till their master returns and that would indicate a less-from-total level of commitment from them. Harmful for them, yes ... but more importantly, harmful for the team. Anyway, if the team does well in the coming 12 matches, then all these arguments would be null and void so here is hoping.

Let's face one simple fact. As an on field captain, Dravid doesn't have to do too much to be equal to or surpass Ganguly ... Ganguly was an extremely poor on-field captain. It is the off-field captaincy that Ganguly thrived in and it is in getting the best out of the rest of the guys that Dravid will be hard pressed to match Ganguly. Hopefully with Greg Chappell laying down the law, that would not be an issue.

The recent confrontation between the captain and coach and the whole charade of the leaked email would surely have left many with a bitter taste in the mouth. There r those like Bhajji and Zaheer who might feel that their guru has been given a raw deal and hopefully they will not be immature enough to try and solve the problem by under-performing. Not only would that not serve any purpose (as the Indian public is not that dumb either) but might result in a severe shortening of their own cricket careers.

The return of Sachin Tendulkar adds another layer of complexity to the whole situation coz he is the biggest name of them all ... the difference as compared to Ganguly being that SRT has both a cricket brain and a discipline which would stand him in good stead with people like Chappell and Dravid. I for one am watching this particular angle with utmost interest coz I believe that unlike Ganguly, SRT does indeed has some years of international cricket in him and could be the weapon that India has lacked in the ODI. The big question is whether SRT has cleared his head of the cobwebs set there ... whether he still believes in all that nonsense of being responsible / senior etc being equivalent to being a strokeless wonder. I hope Chappell (or his support staff ... or hey, even BCCI President Mahendra, for all I care) can explain to him that being senior or being responsible does not stop one from decimating attacks. A man can come down the wicket and thwack Glenn McGrath over the mid-off fielder and still be called "senior".

Anyway, gotta run now. Will post during the ODI series.


The Chuckster

Monday, October 03, 2005

october 3, 2005

Before I forget this nugget, here it is - .... Patil is amazing, really. He thanks God / BCCI / whoever for not leaking a confidential report he made to three different cricket boards ... and spells out what he had written in the reports. Is this guy just plain dumb or what?

Anyway the Challenger series hots up with SRT back in the playing arena. I have been waiting for this for a long time ... SRT and Chappell getting together!

If I had to take a guess at which of India's prima donnas would have the most trouble with Chappell's methods, I would have bet my bottom dollar on Ganguly, Zaheer, Yuveraj, Bhajji and Nehra being in the list. I would also have bet my bottom dollar on Dravid, Kumble, SRT benefitting from the alliance ... coz these people r professionals who want to work hard and earn their keep ... and they want to keep learning. Those in the earlier list r riff-raff ... apart from Ganguly, none of them belong in the "classy" league ... even Ganguly doesn't belong in that league today but he did some years back. It is like the truck driver who suddenly gets to drive a mercedez ... he still remains r truck driver.

Anyway, news coming out from unconfirmed reports that Ganguly has developed a "tennis elbow" problem ... and might not even plan in the challengers. Now, I am an understanding man but this sounds a bit too much to me ... is this the compromise that was worked out, I wonder ... a graceful exit for Ganguly by giving him a public thumbs up and a bye bye wave behind the scenes? I kinda doubt that but tennis elbow???

News channels r slowly getting bored of the crisis, I think ... coz from about a thousand programs on the Chappell / Ganguly saga, they r down to about two hundred programs on the topic per week. Anyway, yesterday watched "cricket controversies" on NDTV with Sidhu as the expert on the show ... and he kept harping on "the person who leaked the email on the eve of the BCCI elections ... THAT my friend, is what we should be looking at". I was like - excuse me, why is that so important? Agreed it shouldn't have been leaked but is someone seriously about to tell me that had the email not been leaked to the media and been broadcast on STAR, ZEE and AAJ TAK, Ganguly would never have heard of it? Chappell sent the mail to Mahendra, for chrissakes ... Dalmiya is Mahendra's master ... and Ganguly is Dalmiya's chela ... he doesn't need to switch on Aaj Tak to hear about the bloody email.

The way i see it ... whoever leaked the email to the press did a great deal of good for Chappell and the cricket loving public of India. If it was indeed leaked by the BCCI (and who else is there), they basically shot Ganguly in the foot coz most of the cricket loving population in India shares the views on Ganguly being useless and it was comforting to know that someone as influential as the coach had the same views and what is more, had communicated the same to the BCCI ... with Ganguly's own public gaffe after grafting together a painstaking hundred, this blunder just made the man on the street aware of things in such a big way that the BCCI couldn't just brush the issue under the carpet. The result of the review committee's meeting does suggest that the issue was dealt with flimsily ... but I rather believe some kind of a compromise was worked out behind the scenes which we don't really know about. A lot of people thought Mahendra's statement of "Ganguly is the captain till the selectors think he should be captain" to be a victory for Ganguly ... but then it is obvious he is the captain till the selectors say otherwise, right??? And what is stopping the selectors from changing captains the next time the team is announced? On questioning, Mahendra would just say "Yeah, the selectors have decided it ... that is what I said, isn't it" ... lol.

One other piece of news I read in an article is that Shastri came up with an idea ... of having Tendulkar as captain ... in the review meeting. I dunno what happened to that suggestion ... but I knew it would come up ... I somehow thought it would be the Sunny one who would bring up the name of the little champion as a savior of Indian cricket. However, Gavaskar from all reports was against Chappell's appointment from the beginning ... in the initial meeting where Chappell was chosen coach, there also from reports, Gavaskar was one of those who advocated an Indian coach. So no reason now for him to back the coach who got appointed despite his protests.

I don't see Irfan Pathan in any of the challenger teams ... what happened to him?

The Board is also gonna renew the annual contract of the cricketers sometime soon ... as usual, they haven't really given any details ... I guess they will just do it when they feel like it ... or if they don't feel like it, they will ignore the issue indefinitely.

If after the re-evaluation, Zaheer, Nehra, Balaji and Pathan remain in the same league, there just might be one pissed Pathan in the Indian team ... also in the place of Patel, Dhoni should come in ... but unconfirmed media reports also suggest that Patel might retain his Grade-C category .... on what basis, u ask .... hmmm, nothing ... the BCCI doesn't have to answer that one.

Anyway, Cheers for now.

The Chuckster