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Friday, July 26, 2013


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.


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Monday, April 22, 2013

ON TECHNIQUE 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 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


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.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011



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.

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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!

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Monday, February 14, 2011



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

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