Friday, September 23, 2005

Dada ka rada

Sourav Ganguly. The most succesful test captain India has ever had. A man who didn't shy away from giving it back to those 'arrogant', 'white' captains. A man who rose above the parochialism so endemic to Indian cricket, and created tough competitors who had the steel to compete with the best in the world. Sourav Ganguly. A man who, today, and before it is too late, should be out on his butt.

Make no mistake, I've had a lot of respect for what Sourav brought to the team with his streetfighter attitude. I have had a lot of admiration for his ODI game. But, and I said it to all who would listen, as far ago as 2001, that he did not deserve to be in the test match side. The reasons, at least to me, were quite obvious.

1) Technically flawed against short pitched bowling.
2) Complete lack of courage in the face of short pitched bowling.
3) Clear lack of success against the best bowling attacks in the world.
4) If Bevan and Kambli, who were walking wickets for the quicker men, were out in the wilderness, what made Ganguly special?
5) Setting a wrong example for youngsters coming into the game, "it's alright if you can't play the bouncers, you can still captain the side"

Ganguly, even in his prime, was at best, a flat track bully. Back then, I had opinions ranging from " even Steve Waugh struggled against the short stuff", to "Ganguly is a tough customer, he'll learn to cope" to counter my argument. I had hoped that they would be right, but it was obviously wishful thinking. Face it, Ganguly just didn't have the balls to stand up to really quick bowling. Steve Waugh did, and accepting the fact that he was technically as poor at it as Ganguly was, it was the only thing that made the difference.

Today, he had the opportunity to do the right thing. Put his ego away in the waste basket, and do what's right for Indian cricket. Not compare himself with Dravid, who is on his way to become the No.1 or No. 2 legend of Indian cricket. Accept his shortcomings. Accept the regimen that the coach had designed to get the best out of each player. Not feign injuries. And definitely not sideline young cricketers in the team just because they were a threat to his place in the side. But to put it mildly, and excuse the French, he fucked up. He went to the media. Only this time he underestimated his adversary. Greg Chappell did not shy away facing the best fast bowlers of his era, and in my opinion, was, along with Gavaskar the best bastman of that era, a certain IVA Richards not witshstanding. He was certainly not going to get cowed down by Ganguly.
He had a vision for Indian cricket and Ganguly was increasingly putting himself out of it. After calling a temporary truce, in what I believe was just a move to make sure that the team didn't lose focus of the 2nd test, Chappell sent a missive to the BCCI, practically demanding Ganguly's ouster. Ganguly responded by questioning the character of a man who could do this within hours of a truce. Yeah right. Rich, coming from a person who cold shoulders his young players just because they are a threat to his place in the side. I never did like Nasser Hussain much, but as an excellent article on Cricinfo put it yesterday, he did his Churchillian bit for English cricket, and stepped down at the right time, letting Vaughan take over. Ganguly was the Churchill Indian cricket needed the last few years; now however, he's outlived his welcome.

Ganguly, with his bunch of supporters in the BCCI, might just win this battle with Chappell yet. In the process, the biggest loser would be Indian Cricket.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Fall Guy

Yet again, poor Damien Martyn is 'it'. I wonder what sins the poor guy has committed in his life, that he keeps on getting made a scapegoat for Team Australia's collective foibles. He replaced Dean Jones in 1993, played quite well I thought, and was dumped for playing an 'irresponsible' stroke chasing a low total in Sydney, costing the Aussies the match. If you ask me if he merely doing then what most people advocate today; low totals are dicey to chase in the 4th innings and you get them by knocking them off as quickly as you can. 7 years in the wilderness is too big a punishment for that I think. His return to the Australian side, and his recent crucial performances on the subcontinent have meant that Mark Waugh has probably not been missed as much. He had been scoring like God before the Ashes began and to drop someone for not performing in one series just seems a tad harsh to me, especially considering the one or two indifferent decisions he received. I am a big fan of his and do hope he makes his way back quickly to where he belongs!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Ashes To Ashes, Dust to Dust....

The war has concluded then. A bloody war. One where skill, courage, pride and nobility all came to the fore. To show the reason why soccer, for all it's popularity, isn't a patch on this Great Game. First things first. A word of praise for the English team, which after a tortuous journey through the dark 1990s now stares greatness in the face. England are now, without doubt, the best side in the world. Far from the whingeing, boring Poms I had grown up watching and hating. Almost Australian in their methods, agressive and confident. A little work needs to be done still, however. Australia in their prime would never have allowed their opponents a whiff. Clearly, seeing as we did that all the matches went down to the wire, England still need to become as ruthless as Waugh's men were. As a footnote to the story, it is now obvious that the Aus v/s the ROW, which was meant to be a battle between the best side in the world and the best from the Rest of the World will now have an almost empty ring to it. Fate has its funny ways sometimes.
Now on to Australia. I wouldn't like to be in Punter's shoes today, I really wouldn't. The first Australian captain to lose to the Poms in 16 years. That is not a label one would wear proudly. For all the excellent cricket played by England, one cannot help but feel that Punter clearly lacked the tactical nous to counter Vaughan. And I am not even speaking of the colossal blunder in putting England in on a nice pitch at Edgbaston. It was that decision, more than anything else, that altered the momentum of the series, and Australia went from dominating the first test to playing catch-up for the rest of the series.
I am highly tempted, in this post, to do a quick review of the performance of each of the Australian players.

1) Hayden: Fought very hard at the Oval to bring up a classic test match hundred. IMHO, should be persisted with, if for no reason other than the availability of a viable replacement
2) Langer: Played quite well I thought, and exceptionally well at the Oval
3)Ponting: Disappointing series overall bar the magnificent hand at Manchester. Indifferent captaincy.
4) Martyn: Started off looking in good touch, but was hard done by some indifferent umpiring, and then just seemed to lose his confidence. Is another player whose place in the side is being questioned, but too premature and stupid in my opinion. Classy player and must be in the side.
5) Clarke: The Pup got a few good starts but seemed to fritter them away far too often. To be fair to him, he is only in his second year of international test cricket and will definitely improve. Tall, Languid and graceful, to me, he is the new Mark Waugh.
6)Katich: Have never been a great fan of his, and I thought he let up too many technical deficiencies come through. Again a couple of bad decisions went against him. He's only 29 though and I'd keep him.
7) Voldemort, or as He is commonly known, Gilchrist: His failure in the series is the single most important reason for Australia's collective failure. Often, the cracks in the top order batting have been papered over by the brilliance of this one man, but unfortunately for the Aussies not this time. Anyone who knows his cricket will not fail to see the similarities between this and the circumstances of the fall of the West Indian Empire. For the uninformed, Dujon's batting went first, and we are talking about someone, who, although not as destructive as Gilchrist, had been good enough to average over 50 for a fair length of time. Is this history repeating itself? Only time will tell.
8) The GOD, Shane Warne: 5 matches, 40 wickets, 4 heartbreaks. It is a testimony to how well th English have played that 40 wickets from their old nemesis has not mattered to the final result of the series. I have gone on and on about Shane in my earlier posts, and I shall try not to get carried away here, but seriously, such mastery! The way I see it, Shane is a great leg spinner in terms of skill and talent, but no cricketer I have seen in my entire life has his brains and his self belief. Unfortunately his dream of going through an entire career remaining undefeated in the Ashes has collapsed, and ironically, for all the sweat and tears he has given this series, with bat and ball, the simple chance he missed off KP might well have been the most serious influence he has ever had on the result of a test series, in all his 14 years of international cricket.
9)Brett Lee: Has come of age. Will need to carry a Mcgrath less attack on his broad shoulders and big heart, in the not so distant future. If I were Ponting I would see an essential role for Lee as a bowling all rounder. He has the batting talent, he just needs the desire to succeed as a genuine allrounder and I believe he can make the grade. He will need to, considering the dearth of talent that supposedly exists in Australian domestic cricket at the moment. Will be remembered for arguably the two most poignant moments of the series: disconsolate, on his haunches, with Freddie having a consoling word or two to say and then at Trent Bridge, knocking Freddie over with a jaffa.
10) Mcgrath: Did brilliantly well in the first match, but after his freak accident, seemed to lack any penetration in the remaining matches he played. He did well enough though, and like Warne, it should be left completely up to him to decide on his future. I would hope earnestly though, that he does not decide to give up on the game until a worthy succesor has been identified and mentored.
11) Kasper and Dizzy: I don't know which one of them was more disappointing, but I'd probably plump for Dizzy, simply because expectations from him were much higher. His failure to find 'it' meant the Australian attack lacked the ability to maintain pressure for sustained periods, once Mcgrath and Warne were done. Beautifully though Lee bowled, he does tend to bleed a bit, as against dizzy in full flow, who can almost match Lee for agression and Mcgrath for accuracy. There have been calls for Dizzy's head, and this is projected to be the end of the road for him. He's only 30 though, and I would definitely take my time and give him a series or two before making that judgement. Anyone can have a bad series. And if the 'form is temporary, class is permanent' adage applies to batters, then why not to bowlers? Kasper is too old though, and anyway, he was never more than a utility cricketer, he must go.
12) Finally, Tait: Did alright. I can't forget his stupidity(although he might be excused and forgiven, considering it was his first match) in walking across the stumps in the second innings at Trent Bridge and getting knocked over. All he had to try and do was to stick around and they might have just been able to get the extra 20-30 runs that might have made all the difference.

So where do the two teams go from here? England will continue her quest for greatness, and with tours to the subcontinent not so far away, they will have the opportunity to play exciting cricket and show that they are a team for all conditions. In India, I would definitely mark Freddie and Jones as major factors. As for Australia, the decline has begun. It is upto the powers that be to make sure that this decline is slow enough to allow new talent to take over and take the team back to the top. Hopefully Australian cricket won't go the West Indian way. Bloody shame it would be, if it did.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Saara shaher mujhe loin ke naam se jaanta hai...

Or not. Was just searching for some stuff on google, and one of the search results was

Oh well. When dogs start hitting you for boundaries, you just know your name shouldn't be Ajit.:-)