Friday, July 26, 2013

WHAT GOES UP…..

It would be an understatement to say that the Ashes 2013 are going towards the home team going by the result of the first two test matches no matter what Michael Clarke has to say about winning the series 3-2.

It was not too long ago that the Australian cricket structure was something that was the thing to emulate as far as cricketing success was concerned. The players, coaches and even the commentators from down under were regarded as special having that extra that were the envy of other cricketing nations. The payments offered in events like IPL to those coming from Australia made for difficult questions in quiz competitions. Coaches have been outsourced from Australia not only by national teams but also by state teams in India. It is not surprising that some commentators even try to sound like the Australians behind the microphone! But not all of them have proved to be a success.

Economists have for long attempted to understand and explain the rise and the decline in the level of economic activity through the use of the concept of business cycles. Words like recession and recovery are interspersed with terms like boom. There are different theories taking into account different factors at the heart of the recurring cyclical phases of economic activity. Possible solutions are also offered to reduce the length of the period where economic activity is at a low. Players like the central banks are often asked to lead the recovery and take the economy back to its glorious days. But there are some who say that the cyclical phases are inevitable given the fundamental causes and no tinkering can prevent or reduce the economic hardships.

It is in my humble opinion that the men in the baggy greens are going through the downward phase of their cricketing cycle after being at the top for a long time since the series win in the Caribbean in 1995. That marked the end of the success story of the Windies and the ascendancy of the Aussies. No one could predict the sorry state of the Windies that once thrashed the living daylights out of every opposition team. As a proud supporter of the Indian team, I was more interested in the performances of the likes of Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev with the result of the match already known whenever India and the Windies met on the cricket field .At that time, the English cricket team was subject to ‘brownwashes’ not experienced even during the pomp of Don Bradman. Various theories were floated to explain the downfall in the standards of English cricket just as the case in the aftermath of the decline of the Windies starting from the latter half of the 1990s and the Aussie team now. There is one common reason-the lack of quality in the domestic players and the failings of the domestic cricket structure.

The lack of quality in the domestic players and the structure of domestic cricket and not to mention the BCCI are often blamed whenever the Indian team does not perform up to the expectations. Earlier, one day internationals were the main cause and now it is the IPL that is the cause of the ills that plague the Indian cricket team. To these factors add the lack of ‘sporting pitches’ and the whole equation becomes extremely complex that would test any analyst. The same causes or reasons are thrown around with the failures of the Aussie cricketers in the ongoing Ashes series. The Big Bash League the Aussie equivalent of the IPL takes most of the blame for the lack of skills and techniques in the current team that is in England. The experts are not afraid to point a finger at the quality of the pitches used for domestic cricket in Australia. The same pundits give credit to the T20 format when it comes to the improvement in the fielding skills and some of the shots like the ‘Dilscoop’ that are now part of the cricket lexicon!

There was a time when county cricket and the influx of foreign players was said to be the factor responsible for the decline in English cricket during the 1980s and the 1990s. A similar suggestion is made when anyone expresses surprise over the lack of success for the English football team in international competitions even as the country is home to some of the most successful football clubs.

After the loss of the Ashes at home, Cricket Australia appointed a committee to look into the likely causes and even mandated the committee to suggest possible long-term remedies to improve the stock of Australian cricket. Going by media reports, it now appears that most of the recommendations of the committee have not been implemented.

The English media has been gloating over the success of the cricket team as something that is the result of planning for a long time. The coaching staff led by Andy Flower and the cricket administration is given the credit for the success on the cricket field. There is no one who is going to deny the credit but all the talk about planning is something that does not go down well with me.

I am of the humble view that the decline of the Aussie cricket team has more to do with the overall decline of Australia in the sporting arena. Remember the number of Aussie medal winners in the London Summer Olympics of 2012? England or the United Kingdom is now experiencing a golden period of sporting excellence starting with the London Olympics and the latest being the winner in the Tour de France. There was a time when there were few world class athletes in England and now there are many across different disciplines. It will take time for Australia to rebuild and reclaim the top spot in cricket no matter who gets to coach or captain or who is called into the team.

Remember, what goes up, must come down.

Y V SAI MADHAV

Labels: , ,

Monday, April 22, 2013

ON TECHNIQUE

Oxforddictionaries.com provides the following meanings for the term technique:

1.skill or ability in a particular field

2.a skilful or efficient way of doing or achieving something

Merriam-Webster.com also has a similar offering to make when technique is defined as a method of accomplishing a desired aim.

What is my aim of talking about technique?

It has to do something with athletes and sportspersons in general and Virendra Sehwag in particular.

Sehwag has been one of my most favourite of cricket players and when he fails to perform as is the case now, it is painful to say the least for me and many of his fans.

A student of mine, who is now a colleague, blamed the lack of technique as the reason for the repeated failures of Sehwag that has led to the omission of the batsman from the Indian team. Even in the world of IPL where Sehwag was expected to score heavily, things have been extremely disappointing.

There are instances when commentators use the phrases like ‘straight out of the copybook’ or ‘right out of the coaching manual’ while describing a shot. I wonder which or whose manual or the copybook is to be used as a reference while explaining a particular shot played by a particular player. This is because each player has his or her own technique that is as individual as the player in question. This is very much a dichotomy since every player is urged to play according to his or her natural talents (meaning individual technique), yet at the same time, we spend too much time thinking and talking about some manual or copybook.

Every player has a particular way of dealing with a specific ball or a pitch and it is very difficult to have a similar solution for all. In my humble opinion, it is similar to writing with a pen. Even when the pen is the same and we write the same thing, each one of us holds the pen in a different way, however minor the difference might be. The physical characteristics of the individual player do matter a lot when playing a shot. There can be only one Brian Lara and no matter how hard one desires to imitate his style, the lefthander will be considered unique. Steve Waugh another great of the modern era played with a bat that was smaller than those used by his contemporaries. Yet, he was successful. His technique was different from his twin Mark Waugh. Ravindra Pushpakumara of Sri Lanka had a bowling action very close to that of Waqar Younis of Pakistan but the Sri Lankan could not even once replicate the success of the Pakistan paceman. A certain Vivian Richards had a style and technique of his own and no other batsman till date has shown that kind of an ability that would make bowlers shiver in their pants.

Sunil Gavaskar was extremely successful playing against some of the greatest fast bowlers that have graced the game. He did that without the use of the helmet and that too on wickets that were really fast and bouncy all over the world. At the same time, Gavaskar was equally adept against the spinners as his last innings of 96 versus Pakistan at Bangalore would testify. But there were some question marks about his record against spinners like Derek Underwood. The same is the case with Sachin Tendulkar when it comes to the handling of left-arm spinners. In his last tour down under, Rahul Dravid the technician was repeatedly out bowled. Do these so-called failings cast a question mark over the techniques of these masters?

In tennis, the top players have their own style or techniques. Nadal is different from Djokovic who is completely different from Federer when it comes to technique. But all of them are successful. There was a time when the two-handed backhand shot was out of fashion in the men’s game but Djokovic has made it something of his signature shot. Those pundits or the so-called experts who earlier had some theories about why the two-handed backhand would not work are having a quiet time eating the humble pie.

Usain Bolt was deemed too tall for a sprinter and he has the physique of a marathon man from Africa but Bolt is the fastest man in the world for sometime now.

There have many singers who made the initial mark by imitating or covering the songs of the inimitable Kishore Kumar but later they tried to shed this image and started to sing in their own way. One can sing like a Kishore Kumar but one cannot become a Kishore Kumar.

It is not the technique or the lack of it that is responsible for the poor showing of Sehwag. The opposing teams and their bowlers have become smarter and Sehwag has failed to recognize this and reinvent his game. The failure is more due to the lack of confidence in part and in part due to the arrogance. Given the current state, it is very difficult to anticipate a successful comeback by Sehwag into the Indian team but that does not in any way diminish his contribution to the success of the Indian cricket in the not too distant past. Sehwag has scored runs against different kinds of bowlers on different kinds of wickets and that too over a length of time and at a great strike rate with the same technique that is called defective.

It is not mathematics where there is a unique solution for a specific problem. It is a sport where individual ability and creativity are involved and where a critical decision is to be made when not even a few seconds are available. Does anyone bother about the techniques of masters like Leonardo DaVinci or Michelangelo? Let us not bother about the technical failings of Sehwag. Sit back and recollect those innings where Sehwag conjured some magic with the same technique in the past.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

GREAT PERFORMANCES IN THE WORLD CUP:STEVE WAUGH-1999

Aus_S Waugh10

 

He came into the Australian squad as an all-rounder during the test series down-under versus India. He was a member of the team that won the World Cup in 1987. Within a few years, he lost his place in the test team to his twin brother who scored a century on debut in the Ashes of 1991. The player is Stephen Rodger Waugh who went to become one of the best batsmen of his generation and also one of the best captains in the game.

Following his exit from the team, Steve had a change in his approach to batting. The comeback into the team witnessed a different batsman who started to score runs in torrents. The opponents seemed to bring the best out of him and no one can forget the double hundred in the West Indies in 1995 that gave Australia the Frank Worrell trophy after a long interval.

Some of the most famous innings of Steve Waugh have come in the longer version of the game.For someone who batted down the order, big scores in the one-dayers were not always possible.

In the Reliance World Cup of 1987, Steve Waugh could not make a big contribution with his bat but on more than one occasion, took crucial wickets. Waugh was a very clever bowler who varied the pace much to the surprise of the batsmen. In the semi-finals versus Pakistan at Lahore, Waugh scored 18 runs off Salim Jaffer in the 50th over of the Australian innings.Those runs proved to be the winning margin for the Aussies. Later when Pakistan batted, he took a couple of wickets.

In the Wills World Cup of 1996, Steve Waugh had a few memorable outings like the half-century versus New Zealand at Chennai. In the semi-finals at Mohali, he produced a great delivery to stop Brian Lara who was well set to take the Windies to the finals.

But it was the ICC World Cup of 1999 that saw Steve Waugh’s emergence as a great captain.The Aussies had to really sweat it out after the initial stages.It was in the super-six match versus South Africa at Leeds that the famous Waugh magic came to the fore.It was a now-or-never match with Australia needing to win in order to have any further say in the tournament.

South Africa made 271 with Gibbs making a century. In reply, the Aussies had a poor start but Waugh went for the shots making a 50 off only 47 balls.When on 56, Waugh had a reprieve, thanks to Herschelle Gibbs.Legend has it that Waugh made a comment to Gibbs about the drop. Waugh went on to make 120 and took his team to the semi-finals. After a couple of days, the same two teams contested the semi-finals which ended in a tie and the Aussies went to the final on a better run-rate.

Waugh was not picked for the World Cup of 2003.He had to make way for new and younger players.But no one can question the part played by Waugh in the making of a strong Australian team.

I was fascinated once to learn that Steve Waugh played with a bat that was shorter in length in relation to the bats used by other players.The famous red hankie in the trouser pocket and the worn out baggy green are still fresh in my memory.

More than the style it was substance that was more important.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

GREAT PERFORMANCES IN THE WORLD CUP:ANDREW SYMONDS-2003

symonds1

He first came into the picture when the Indian team was at the receiving end on a tour game in England facing a county side. He had the great ability to hit the ball to great distances. The same person also toyed with the Indian bowling on a tour to down under. He had the opportunity to play for England but declined in order to play for Australia.

For most of the Indian followers, he became a hate figure following the on-field events involving Harbhajan Singh.

It was only when Andrew Symonds got into the Australian one-day side that the world started to take note of the prowess of the man. Not only could he bat but also he was a tremendous fielder and a more than useful bowler. Symonds was powerfully built and when song could take on any bowler in the limited overs contests.The dread locks gave way to the clean shaven head and yet there was no change in his style as far as cricket was concerned.

He had a disastrous start to his test career facing the likes of Muthiah Muralitharan on the turning wickets of Sri Lanka. Symonds was dropped from the test team while he was a regular for the one-day team. He got a lucky break to play test cricket once again and he scored a fine century versus the visiting English team. However, things began to become difficult for him as the cricket administrators were forced to take disciplinary action following many ‘incidents’. All these culminated in Symonds not being picked up for the Australian sides and he announced his retirement from the international game. These days, he is a freelancer for the different teams in the T20 competitions.

The ICC World Cup of 2003 provided the platform for Symonds to display his talent in a big way. The defending champions Australia faced Pakistan at Johannesburg and Wasim Akram sent back Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden back to the pavilion early in the game. Damien Martyn also could not trouble the scorer as he was bowled by a Akram special. Jimmy Maher was out to Waqar Younis and only Ricky Ponting was holding fort tackling the Pakistan bowlers when Symonds came to crease.

Within no time the shots began to flow from the bat of Symonds and the pressure was on Pakistan. The ball kept racing to the boundary with the fielders joining the ranks of the spectators. Even the dismissal of Ponting could not deter Symonds from attacking the bowlers. Symonds made 143 runs from only 125 balls. The Pakistan bowlers had no answers to this onslaught and the frustration was reflected when Waqar Younis was stopped from bowling following two beamers bowled at Symonds. Thanks to Symonds, the Aussies scored 310 runs and Pakistan fell short by 92 runs.

In the semi-finals at Port Elizabeth, the Australians took on Sri Lanka. Chaminda Vaas had the Aussies in all kinds of trouble with excellent support from Aravinda DeSilva and Sanath Jayasuriya. None of the famous batsmen could stay long at the wicket and there was a real possibility of Sri Lanka upsetting the top ranked team. But Symonds had other ideas and in a display of controlled aggression scored 91 from 118 balls. This was a slow effort and Australia laboured to 212 from 50 overs. Following a rain disruption, the Sri Lankans had to score 172 runs in 38 overs. They could only score 123 and the Aussies went to the finals for the third time. In the finals versus India, Ponting and Martyn trashed the Indian bowlers leaving very little for the likes of Symonds.

Symonds was a part of the Australian team that won the World Cup again in 2007.By this time, he was an established member of the squad who had many years of top class cricket left in him. But things did not go according to the script and now when Australia is desperate to re-establish its superiority, Symonds is on the sidelines.

Symonds would have been a wonderful addition to the Australian side for the World Cup of 2011.His ability to clear the boundaries would have been a great asset on the smaller grounds of the subcontinent.

It is a pity that a man with so much ability would be restricted to the IPL and other such T20 events.

Labels: , , , , ,

GREAT PERFORMANCES IN THE WORLD CUP:CHETAN SHARMA-1987

 

CHETAN

 

He is best remembered by my generation for that full toss that was whacked out of the ground at Sharjah by Miandad for an improbable win for Pakistan. That one ball overshadowed all the other important contributions mostly with the ball and on occasions with the bat from this player. Weeks after the incident at Sharjah, this man had a great part in the famous series win by India in England in the test matches. In the very first test, this player took India to the doorstep of a win with splendid bowling.

I am talking about Chetan Sharma, who was small in stature but had a big heart. He was a member of the Indian team that won the Benson & Hedges World Championship of Cricket in Australia in 1985.Sharma played the finals in place of the ill Roger Binny.

Chetan Sharma also a few times was capable of making runs with the bat in the one-dayers even once when promoted up in the batting order during the Nehru Cup. But my abiding memory was the hat-trick achieved by him during the Reliance World Cup in 1987.

India played New Zealand at Nagpur and the visitors batted first. None of the Kiwi batsmen could play a long innings and a modest target awaited India. Rutherford, Ian Smith and Ewen Chatfield were dismissed by Chetan Sharma in successive deliveries for a hat trick. All the three were clean bowled.

But the efforts of Chetan Sharma were completely overshadowed by the batting of Sunil Gavaskar and Srikkanth with the former getting his only century in limited overs. Even earlier, the superlative batting of Dilip Vengsarkar on the tour to England relegated the efforts of Chetan Sharma into the background.

Luckily, things like match-fixing and spot-fixing were not around during the last ball full toss incident at Sharjah, otherwise, Chetan Sharma would have been hounded for all the wrong reasons. Even the government of the day would not have hesitated to constitute an enquiry committee to find the truth!

Labels: , , ,

Monday, February 14, 2011

GREAT PERFORMANCES IN THE WORLD CUP:STEPHEN FLEMING-2003

Stephen_Fleming

He came on to the international scene as an unknown and surprisingly, was made the captain of the team. He was tall and lanky and unlike many left handers, did not show much grace at the crease. But with the passage of time, he showed tremendous application as a batsman. If I remember correctly, Fleming decided to open the innings in the test matches on a tour to Sri Lanka and went on to make a double hundred.However, it is as a captain that he showed great skill and at times plotted the downfall of much more accomplished teams and opposing players.I remember a series played in Australia where he employed a specific field for Damien Martyn and the batsman got out playing the same shot on more than one occasion.

I am talking about Stephen Fleming. It was not an easy task to lead the New Zealand who did not possess any great players after the retirements of the likes of Richard Hadlee and Martin Crowe. It is to the credit of Fleming that at times the Kiwis made a mockery of their standing in the international arena. The battles with the traditional rivals the Aussies were always something to look forward to even when the Kiwis were beaten.

The 1992 World Cup with Martin Crowe at the helm saw New Zealand make the best use of the home conditions with the team going all the way to the semi-finals. But in the later editions, the team could not make much of a progress despite the sterling performances of a few individual players.

Few gave a chance to the team led by Fleming in the 2003 edition of the ICC World Cup. But one innings from Fleming showed his intelligence much to the chagrin of the home team, South Africa at Johannesburg.

The Proteas were under great pressure after the narrow loss to the West Indies. They had to win in order to have any chance of going forward in the tournament. The team led by Shaun Pollock scored 306 with Gibbs scoring 143. All the bowlers suffered including the likes of Shane Bond and the normally reliable Daniel Vettori.

The target of 307 was always going to be something of a mountain for the Kiwis to climb. But then there was always a possibility of rain intervening and the DL method deciding the outcome of the match. This was kept in my mind by Fleming and he went on to play shots. Always the Kiwis were ahead of the required runs and when the rains came and put a halt to the proceedings, the Kiwis got home comfortably. The home team was caught unawares about the score they had to defend and let Fleming to call the shots.

Stephen Fleming made 134 in only 132 balls and controlled the chase beautifully. Testing my memory I recall one incident where the ball ricocheted off the bat of Fleming following a throw from a South African fielder. Normally, the batsmen don’t run but Fleming calmly took the runs on offer.It might have been unsportsmanlike, though not illegal but it just shows the determination of Fleming to win.This innings was called the ‘innings of a lifetime’.

I have read somewhere that Fleming was a student of Economics and that is how probably he mastered the technique of getting the best out of his team with limited resources. It is all the more satisfying since yours truly also is a student of Economics

Labels: , ,

Friday, February 11, 2011

GREAT PERFORMANCES IN THE WORLD CUP:HERSCHELLE GIBBS-1999 & 2003

herschelle-gibbs-t20

He was considered one of the finest fielders at the position once graced by Jonty Rhodes. On his day, he could take apart any attack out of the ground.

Recently, he came out with a tell-all autobiography that did not show his teammates and the coaching staff in a good light. He also was not ashamed to reveal his weakness for the good things in life.

He was infamously part of the few players who confessed to taking orders from Hansie Cronje to throw away matches. After the ban, he came out with the jersey having two 0s on it to signify his intentions of starting afresh.

As far as the World Cup is concerned, Herschelle Gibbs is best remembered for the dropped catch that gave Steve Waugh and his team the opportunity to go all the way to winning the Cup. The innings of Steve Waugh and the dropped catch overshadowed the fine effort of Gibbs with the bat earlier in the day at Leeds. Gibbs made 101 and this helped his team to post a score of 271. The match was inching towards South Africa until Gibbs in an attempt to hurl the ball into the air dropped it. Steve Waugh took full advantage of the reprieve and made the South Africans pay dearly. It is said that Waugh had a jibe at Gibbs for not just the catch but the World Cup being dropped. The Aussies beat the Proteas and went to the semi-finals where the same two teams came face-to-face.

With Shaun Pollock putting up a great display, the Aussies could only muster up a score of 213.This was not a target beyond the reach of South Africa even when the Australians had bowlers of the caliber of McGrath and Warne. Gibbs was playing well until he was bowled by a Warne special and South Africa found it difficult to score. Even Klusener’s late heroics could not help the team and match ended in a tie. The Australians went to the finals on the back of their earlier victory over South Africa.

In the World Cup of 2003, South Africa faced New Zealand at Johannesburg. South Africa needed to win the match to progress further in the tournament since they were defeated by the West Indies. The home team was off to steady start and Gibbs was in his elements taking the Kiwi bowlers to the cleaners. He made 143 off only 131 balls with 3 sixers. South Africa scored 306.

The target of 307 was always going to be a difficult one for the Kiwis. However, the New Zealand skipper, Stephen played the innings of a lifetime. Rain caused a reduction in the number of overs and the Kiwis were always ahead of the required runs as stipulated by the DL method. South Africa lost again.

Gibbs finished on the losing side twice in the World Cup even when he made great contributions with the bat. Of course, Gibbs made amends during the famous chase of 434 versus Australia.

Gibbs would be the first person to admit that the World Cup was a much greater stage than any other.

Labels: , , , ,

GREAT PERFORMANCES IN THE WORLD CUP:SUNIL GAVASKAR-1987

It is a pity that by the time cable and satellite television made its presence felt in India, this man stopped playing cricket. That certainly is a reason why the cricket followers of this age only talk about things like the IPL –the auctions, the cheerleaders and the intrigue surrounding it and not about the great players of the past. The players of yesteryears are relegated to some dusty pages or some sepia tinted photographs.

He has the habit of ruffling many feathers particularly the Aussie ones. He has managed to stave off all the criticism resulting from his association with the IPL and one of the teams. He had a big role in the selection of the coach for the Indian team from John Wright to Gary Kirsten. In this exercise, too he was thought of as the hand that could rock the cradle of Indian cricket.

However, there is beyond any doubt that he was a great player not just for India but one of the truly all time greats. It is he who for a long time stood as the only symbol of resistance as far as the Indian team was concerned. I am talking about the peerless Sunil Manohar Gavaskar.

Just as millions worship Sachin, there was a time when Gavaskar occupied the same pedestal in the hearts and minds of Indians. He was often criticized for being too defensive but again his methods saved the team in a number of test matches both at home and abroad. He had a particularly tremendous record facing the best of the bowlers-both spin and pace. He took on some of the most fearsome fast bowlers of all time without ever donning a helmet. All he had was a skull cap under the floppy hat.

A lot of clicks of the keyboard would be necessary to speak of the exploits of Gavaskar in the test matches. I remember vividly his knock of 188 at Lord’s for the Rest of the World team facing the MCC. There was no live telecast but the commentators on the BBC Test Match Special made it really memorable. This was Sunny’s last outing in a first-class game when he signed off in style by scoring a 100 for the first time at the most famous cricket ground in the world.

A lot of praise is showered on the innings of 96 that Gavaskar played in his last test innings at Bangalore versus Pakistan. Many argue that this was one of the finest coming from the blade of the ‘liitle master’.

History tells us that Gavaskar remained 36 not out while India was facing a target of over 300 runs in the 1975 World Cup. Gavaskar himself famously wrote years ago about this innings. He could not make much of an impression in the later editions of the World Cup in 1975 and also in 1983 when India won the Cup.

Gavaskar could not get to the 100 mark in the limited overs version of the game and the Reliance World Cup of 1987 offered him the last opportunity. India took on New Zealand at Nagpur.

The Kiwis batted first and could only score 221 thanks to the hat trick of Chetan Sharma. With the asking rate of less than 5 runs per over, India was expected to have an easy win but few could predict the storm that hit everyone that day.Gavaskar opened the innings along with Krishnamachari Srikkanth and immediately both of them decided to go at the target. None of the bowlers including the normally economical Ewen Chatfield was spared. The ball kept going to the boundary and the Kiwis could do little even as they had a reputation as good fielders.

Gavaskar and Srikkanth seemed to compete with one another as far as the shots were concerned. Just as the fans were dreaming of a 10 wicket win, Srikkanth got out. But that did not deter Gavaskar from scoring his first and only 100 in the one-dayers. Gavaskar who rarely lofted the ball hit 3 over the boundary. His strike rate was only marginally inferior to Srikkanth’s.

After the match, one Kiwi bowler quipped that bowling to Gavaskar that day was like watching the highlights. The match was over with India winning by 9 wickets and with over 100 balls to spare.

Gavaskar could not repeat the heroics in the semi-final versus England and that was the last innings of the great man on Indian soil. Even the best also sometimes fail.

Legend has it that Sunny got exchanged for the child of a fisherman at the time of his birth in the hospital. It was only his uncle who detected this mistake and got the right one to the right place. It was maybe destiny that helped his uncle for that would been a sad loss for the game of cricket.

Monday, February 07, 2011

GREAT PERFORMANCES IN THE WORLD CUP:BRIAN LARA-1996 & 2003

brian_lara

Few players have in the modern era have been as entertaining to the true followers as the left-hander from the tiny island of Trinidad and Tobago. Yes, I am talking about Brian Charles Lara, the only man to have made 400 in a test innings and 501 in a first class innings. His highest score before the quadruple hundred was 375. It was a pure delight watching Lara bat whether in a test match or in limited overs. But he could never be a part of a World Cup winning team.

But there have been a few innings from the flashing blade of Lara that spelt doom for the opponents in the World Cup.

Lara was a part of the West Indies team that took to the field in the World Cup of 1992 but apart from the half-century against Pakistan there was very little from him. But by 1996, Lara was clearly the most accomplished batsman of his team. The team was not a favourite but managed to reach the semi-finals.

In the quarterfinals the West Indies took on the mighty South Africa at Karachi. Few gave the West Indies any chance considering the Proteas had it very easy against all opponents in the earlier matches. The West Indies batted first and made 264 with Chanderpaul and Lara scoring the bulk of the runs. Lara played as only he could, scoring against all the bowlers with his 111 coming off only 94 balls. The ball kept eluding the fielders and speeded away to the boundary on both sides of the wicket. Worse, Jacques Kallis a very reliable catcher, dropped Lara and the batsman took full advantage of the reprieve. Once these two batsmen departed, the innings folded for a score that was not seemingly enough. However, the South Africans have been showing us again and again as to why they are called the ‘chokers’ and they fell short of the target and were knocked out off the World Cup.

In the semi-finals, the Australians struggled to score freely against the likes of Bishop, Walsh and Ambrose. The West Indies seemed to have the match in their grip until Lara tried to manufacture a shot and was bowled by Steve Waugh. It was only then that Warne took over and hastened the demise of the West Indies. But for that fateful shot, the West Indies could have been in the final.

There was very little of note as far as Lara was concerned in the World Cup of 1999.By 2003, there was little expected from the West Indies. South Africa was the host and even as the team was just rebuilding following the aftermath of Cronjegate, the West Indies was not considered much of a challenge.

The hosts took on the West Indies in the first match of the ICC World Cup of 2003 at Newlands in Capetown. Gayle and Hinds departed early and Lara took to the crease. He received good support from the other batsmen like Chanderpaul, Sarwan and Hooper. Lara made 116 and the West Indies put up 278 runs on the board. Lara started cautiously, but as more time was spent at the wicket, the shots started to flow from his bat. Once again, the ghosts of the past caught up as South Africa fell short of 3 runs. This defeat did not knock South Africa out of the World Cup but as things transpired was one of the factors for the first round exit of the hosts.

A month ago, Lara expressed his desire to take part in the Indian Premier League much to the surprise of everyone. The team owners had other ideas and decided not to ‘buy’ Lara. Does Brian Charles Lara require the approval of the ‘chaddi’ cricket to cement his place in the hall of fame?

Wah Lara, kya mara!

 

Labels: ,

GREAT PERFORMANCES IN THE WORLD CUP:ASHISH NEHRA-2003

ashish-nehra-11_yDYOb_17022

In recent times, India has won matches both at home and away, thanks to the emergence of quick bowlers .One such instance featured the match between India and England in the ICC World Cup of 2003 at Kingsmead, Durban in South Africa.

India batted first and made 250 a score that seemed defendable considering the difficulties of batting second under the lights. But there was anxiety over the ability of the Indian bowlers.

Marcus Trescothick was snared by Zaheer Khan and the other opener Nick Knight was run out. Then it was the Ashish Nehra show all the way. The left-armer from Delhi was always regarded as a talent but then has the uncanny knack of getting injured at the most inopportune time. However, on that balmy night, everything paled before the magnificent show put up by Nehra. He made the ball and the English batsmen dance to his commands. The balls to dismiss Nasser Hussain and Alec Stewart are still fresh in the memory. There were 6 wickets for only 23 runs and that sealed the win for India despite some typical powerful hits from Flintoff.

In between his bowling, Nehra had a brief stint of throwing up his food and drink but there was no respite for the English. On one occasion, the speedgun reported a speed of over 150 kmph much to the surprise of everyone. Even if there was some error, nothing can be taken away form Nehra.

The showing of Nehra seemed to have brought some relief to the minds of the followers of Indian cricket who were fed up with their batsmen brought down to the knees by the swinging ball on tours to England.

Hope Nehra comes up with a similar spell in the ICC World Cup of 2011 even as the conditions at home are radically different from those that evening at the Kingsmead.

Labels: , ,

GREAT PERFORMANCES IN THE WORLD CUP:GRAHAM GOOCH-1987

GOOCH

India was one of the favourites to go the distance in the Reliance World Cup of 1987.In the semi-finals in Bombay, India had to face England led by Mike Gatting.

The Indian team was rocked by bad news even before a ball was bowled with Dilip Vengsarkar out of the match with tummy trouble caused by ‘Bombay Duck’. It became the most infamous dish of the time, considering Vengsarkar was in fine form and much was expected of him on his home ground. Even then, there was still a lot of firepower left in the Indian arsenal to reach the final.

But India did not account for one of the finest performances of the World Cup coming from the bat of Graham Gooch. Gooch started his test career on a pair facing the likes of Dennis Lillee. There was also a ban on him following a trip to South Africa on a rebel tour. However, after the ban was served, Gooch returned to the English team and there were enough indications of his prowess.

Gooch had this way of facing the bowlers with a very high backlift. He always seemed to a good player of pace bowling but on that day, Gooch took on the Indian spinners and broke a lot of hearts.

Ball after ball and over after over, Gooch swept the spinners and the Indian team seemed to be completely bereft of all ideas. Maninder Singh who once was talked of as the natural successor to the legendary Bishen Singh Bedi was swept out of the attack. The other spinner, Ravi Shastri also did not have any clue to stop Gooch.

The Indian chase was not successful with the loss of key wickets at crucial junctures and the final nail in the coffin was struck when Kapil Dev holed out to a fielder in the deep. The bowler was Eddie Hemmings and the fielder was Gatting. This marked the end of tenure for India as the holders of the World Cup. There was so much anger and frustration that Kapil was made the scapegoat and he lost the captaincy.

Graham Gooch once again blew the Indian team away in a test match in 1990 when he scored 333 in the first innings and a 100 in the second.

Labels: ,