Monday Aug 19, 2013
Every time there is a bilateral ODI series coming round the corner, a debate simmers up over the usefulness of the venture and indeed this particular format of the game. While the Champions Trophy regaled audiences across the globe, despite shoddy scheduling, the ensuing tri-series in the West Indies wasn't met with the same vigour. Fifty-over contests have become repetitive, and there is need to find relevance for them.
Away from this debate though, ODIs serve as feverish testing grounds for selectors of every cricketing nation. Twenty20 as a format is too short and too belligerent to be a true test for any cricketer. At best it can tell you about his hitting prowess or the ability to bowl yorkers. With a slightly longer period of play, one-day cricket often becomes a pointer towards the players' acumen.
Monday Aug 12, 2013
The end of India's tour of Zimbabwe and the fact that the team's next full assignment is in October, means that this overly long 2012-13 season is finally over. It allows time for some reflection over almost a year of non-stop cricket. As such the report card will indicate gains and losses for the team, but this is not about the players.
It is about the off-field support they have received, from the new selection panel, headed by Sandeep Patil. Outside the boundary ropes, Indian cricket has witnessed many low-points. The BCCI administration is in melt-down and that is putting it mildly. In their tumultuous world, only the selection panel stands strong, making decisions for the better future of the Indian team. And they deserve some heady praise.
Wednesday Jul 24, 2013
A lot has been said (and written) in the aftermath of Australia's embarrassing loss in the second Ashes Test at Lord's. Most of it is to do with the shortest format of the game, for blaming Twenty20 is the easiest thing to do these days. It happened earlier as well, on India's 2011 tour of England.
At that time, it was perhaps the hyperbolic English media to be blamed for all the noise. The 'need for a contest during the cricket summer is a little over-rated in that country, especially now that the English Test team is doing quite well. That Indian tour was a poor one, no doubt, but the signs emanating from it were pointing towards a new process. The process did not start until after another equally horrible loss in Australia, for no one really recognised a need for it.
Wednesday Jul 17, 2013
The thing about Test cricket is that it's a slow-release medicine. While sometimes it can leave a bitter after-taste, at other times it has a major therapeutic effect. The game played in whites, the crowd roaring behind the players' backs, five days and fifteen sessions with the weather playing hide and seek adding to the drama. This tells you that not all is wrong with the game as a whole.
Of course, then you see the 'Investec' adage displayed right in front of the series moniker and you know what cricket has come to these days. Money, it is all about money, whether playing an ICC event without a single reserve day or a tri-series with seven matches having seven reserve days. Seven-match bilateral ODI series and meaningless T20s are scheduled, but it's the five-day contest people wait to watch. For during those fifteen sessions, there are enough moments that could - and do - lift your heart, for help is needed to soften memory of the quagmire that is cricket administration.
Wednesday Jul 10, 2013
As the curtailed 2013 Champions Trophy final rolled towards its finish line, England were looking good to hoodwink India for a win. Three overs remained and two of them were to be bowled by Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin. It was the 18th over that worried Indian cricket fans in general, and it worried them some more when MS Dhoni threw the ball to Ishant Sharma, his most experienced medium-pacer.
Ishant's figures prior to that over were 3-0-29-0, that too in a match where the margin of error was reduced thanks to a paltry target in a near-rained-out match. It was one of those inexplicable Dhoni gambles that paid off and we will never know why, or even how. A slower ball followed up by a short ball left England's innings in disarray. Even so, those were poor shots from Eoin Morgan and Ravi Bopara that did half the trick.
Sunday Jun 30, 2013
The month of December 2012 was a woeful one for Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Almost everything that transpired back then was a pertinent reminder of how Indian cricket's fortunes had dwindled since the ODI World Cup triumph in April 2011.
In the twenty-odd months between these two markers, there was the unforgettably humbling occurrence of 8-0 in the Test series in England and Australia. The team's ODI form dipped as well, with embarrassing losses on both tours, marred by 'fielding' controversy Down Under. That they didn't make the CB tri-series final was bloated even more by the fact that a return to sub-continental conditions in Bangladesh did not help, as the Asia Cup slipped from the grasp of the reigning ODI champions. Also, add two inane IPL seasons that just stretched India cricketers thin - physically and mentally.
Tuesday Jun 25, 2013
Never mind the rain, an exciting tournament has just come to an end. The world of cricket will start revolving as normal again, with England lining up Australia for an Ashes spanking and India playing Sri Lanka in some corner of this planet. But this game will be poorer if the lessons from the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy aren't paid any attention.
Perhaps the most obvious pointer emanating from the past three weeks is that there is still life in ODIs. When it was not raining, and 50 overs a side were possible, the matches were enthralling. The rule changes seem to be working. Two new balls allow a variety of scenarios depending upon the conditions. If playing outside the subcontinent, with seam and swing governing, you divide your innings into two: thirty overs to hold up play and then go hammer and tongs in the last twenty. It will not always work out, like Alastair Cook will confirm, and therein lays the rub.
Sunday Jun 16, 2013
Team India's build-up to the 2013 Champions Trophy was an uncomfortable one. The IPL had ended but its shady aftermath plagued them. MS Dhoni bore the brunt of an angry media. There were questions about the team's preparation for the tournament, a certain doubt over their fitness - both mental and physical - after an excruciating six weeks.
Add to it the small factor that this was a completely new-look team, devoid of any heavy-weight names, considerably short on experience. For the first time since 1992, the Men in Blue took off to participate in an ICC event without Sachin Tendulkar.