Tuesday, March 27, 2007

AUSTRALIA IS THE FAVOURITE

The first of the Super8 matches of the World Cup kicks off today at Antigua with the home team facing Australia.

It is a tough call for the home team to face the world champions but the Windies have in the recent past emerged winners. The Aussies were expected to face a stern test in the match against South Africa. The Aussie big guns fired in the batting department to put up a big score. The Proteas were in the game until the midway and then fell behind the asking rate. With that display, Ponting and company have managed to shut the mouths of those who predicted their decline following the losses in Australia and New Zealand.

Brian Lara has to be at his best to inspire his colleagues and also to thwart off the Aussies. Gayle has not given the starts so far in this tournament. It is time that the likes of Gayle, Sarwan and Bravo to prove their worth.

In the bowling side of the match, it is the Aussies who look the stronger team. It was Brad Hogg who took the key wicket of Gibbs to keep the South Africans down. The Windies have to take the threat of Hogg rather seriously.

Speaking of Antigua, the match is not played on the Antigua Recreation Ground at St. Johns where Brian Lara posted two world record scores in test cricket. The match venue is the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium at St.Peters, Antigua.

The name should inspire the two teams to put in a memorable display.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

FROM VIRTUAL TO REALITY

Till last night, the Indian team was ‘virtually out’ of the World Cup. But with Bangladesh triumphing over Bermuda, India is truly out. That is what the television experts want us to believe.

Bermuda was never going to upset Bangladesh. The most optimistic of the fans of Indian cricket was confident of Bangladesh going through to the round of ‘Super8’.

The match itself was interrupted several times by rain and in the end it was a 21 over a side game. Each time the covers were removed and the match restarted, Bermuda lost wickets. It was only in the last 5 overs that some big shots were played and the score was pushed up to 94.

Bangladesh lost 3 wickets in the process. But they had the nerves to stay calm and finish the game with a lot of balls to spare. Ashraful who had been overshadowed so far by younger players stayed till the end.

I expected to see Dwayne Leverock come up with a catch similar to the one taken against India. But there was no such luck.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

WAS IT AN ABERRATION?

The Indian team christened as ‘Team India’ and ‘Men in Blue’ put up an unforgettable display in the West Indies to be knocked out of the tournament in the first round. The defeat has the media and the cricket loving public in anger. This defeat has once again raised the question of the ability of the Indian team to win the world cup.

Every team since 1983 has been regarded as the best ever and is promptly put in the reckoning for the top prize in the cricket world. But there has only been disappointment for the genuine cricket fan. The only time since 1983 that has played as a unit was in 2003 when it lost to Australia in the finals.

The poor showing of the team has brought one question to my mind. Was the win in 1983 an aberration, a fluke? This question brings anger to the cricket followers in the country. Mind you, I also consider myself to be a fan who doesn’t believe in effigy burning or demolishing half constructed buildings.

The win in 1983 was the only time that the Indian team played with purpose, with honesty and with a belief. The core of the same team went on to win the World Championship of Cricket in Australia in 1985. Those wins ought to have made better players and teams. But instead, the teams have become something of a joke.

The win in 1983 created demigods out of cricket players. The cricket player became a marketing tool.

The win in 1983 made cricket administration a much sought after occupation. No wonder even at the grassroots level, the game is run by people who know very little about the game or the needs of the players.

The win in 1983 and the subsequent advent of the satellite television channels has resulted in a frenzy that is at best irrational.

So despite being knowledgeable enough to say that the team of 1983 won the top prize due to simple cricketing fundamentals, I cannot but feel that the win was more of an aberration on account of the dismal shows put by the Indian team.

Friday, March 23, 2007

QUO VADIS?

Cricket players of yesteryears have never had it so good with so many 24 hours news channels wanting to cash in on the opportunity provided by the world cup. Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion. But there is a limit to the non-stop nonsense.

NDTV has engaged the services of Navjot Sidhu and Ajay Jadeja. The MP from Punjab is an acknowledged master of the gibberish. He did not mince any words following the shock defeat of the Indians in the match against Bangladesh. Sidhu, if one remembers correctly, had run away from the tour of England in 1996. So he is not at all qualified to pass judgments on the commitment of the present day players, despite his cricketing achievements. Such comments got Sidhu the boot from EspnStar during the world cup of 2003.

It was surreal to watch and hear Jadeja talk of match fixing and the role of the betting syndicates in major cricket events following the murder of Bob Woolmer. Jadeja himself was caught in the betting and match fixing scandal that brought an end to his international cricket career.

But the cake goes to CNN-IBN which prides itself on the ‘whatever it takes’ attitude. It provided a phone number to the viewers for asking their queries on the murder of Woolmer to Waqar Younis. Waqar was a terrific bowler. Then what makes him qualified to solve the murder mystery is itself a great mystery.

The channels raised the hype to such levels that everyone started to believe in the cup winning ability of the Indian team. Then one defeat changed everything. The tragic death of Woolmer saw the channels expressing concerns over the effects of stress on the modern cricket players, particularly those from the sub-continent. They cautioned the fans to reduce the pressure of expectations on the players.

The channels ought to display some responsibility and maturity.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

TOO MUCH DEFENSIVE

Watching Sri Lanka give a trashing to Bangladesh, only one thing crossed my mind. The Indian team as a whole, barring Yuvraj Singh appeared too much defensive in the match against Bangladesh. Even Ganguly, who top scored for India played too many dot balls.

Jayasuriya and company took the Bangladesh bowlers to the cleaners and the left arm spinners who were treated with utmost caution by even Sachin were taken apart in a clinical display. Suddenly the team that supposedly came of age with the win over India was shown its true stature in the world cricketing hierarchy.

The Indian bowlers appeared clueless when the Bangladesh bowlers played their shots. The same batsmen could not handle the bowling firepower of the Lankans. Zaheer Khan was put over the fence by a batsman who used his feet.

The decision of Dravid to bat first after winning the toss has been considered the reason behind the defeat in the first match. That was the only decision that was not defensive. Dravid followed the footsteps of the Aussie captains who don’t mind batting first even on the pitches that offer help to bowlers. But the rest of the action on the day was defensive to say the least.

It is now going to be very tough for the Indians to beat the islanders and advance to the second stage of the tournament. The Lankan display last night is sure to add to the pressure faced by the Indian team.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A LONG WAY TO GO

The loss to Bangladesh sparked off a lot of anger on the streets and the television channels. The win over lowly ranked Bermuda seems to have erased all the bad feelings. That is the extreme reaction of the typical Indian fan.

Now the real battle is to be won with the match against Sri Lanka. The islanders have been beaten on Indian soil in recent times but this high-pressure encounter may mar the chances of India. Even if the Indians manage a win, there is no certainty of a place in the Super 8 with a lot of calculations to find the net run rate.

Things may get more complicated if the encounter is washed out. Then Bangladesh and Sri Lanka advance to the next round.

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