Jitter’s be calmed!

Day one of a new Test series in a foreign country is always a nervous moment, especially when it is played in countries like Australia / South Africa / England for teams from the subcontinent. The perennial question is always raised how will our batsmen adjust to the pace, bounce and movement on these pitches. Will our players show heart or shy away, whilst India’s four best batsman aided with Sehwag for a while had kept these nervous moments at bay. The last two series were 4-0 in England and Australia. However, most of the current team was not there to share this pain. Whilst Kohli played two matches of the 8, one in Perth and one in Adelaide, he got 74 in Perth and a century in Adelaide, so really he had no baggage. Apart from Dhoni really no one from this team was in the 8-0 drubbing.

The first two ODI’s had the tongues wagging and all of Africa were licking their lips, whilst almost all of India dreaded the Test series.

The gauntlet was thrown at India, Wanderer’s is their most bouncy pitch, talk of a fast bouncy track, add to that India won the toss. I suspect South Africa were surprised by the Indian decision to bat first! Full marks to M S Dhoni to bite the bullet and bat first, so many times Indian captains will look for an easier alternative and insert the opposition in and see them score 400+ and then be chasing the game.

In many ways this was also a message to the team that yes, we can do it. India began cautiously and Shikhar’s ego got the better of him. Vijay got stuck at one end and ended up falling to pressure that was rising.

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Well, no Rahul at no.3 and no Sachin at no.4, Indian cricket fan was one nervous soul at that moment I tell you. However, contrary to anyone’s imagination, Virat Kohli batted with absolutely aplomb. No, this was not a stroke a ball century, but it was a wonderful display of proper, responsible batsmanship. He left well outside off, had a couple of close moments with Morkel but apart from that it was judicious stroke play till he got out. He was very decisive in leaving the ball or going for it. There were no half measures and it was an innings even Sachin would have been proud of. He went for the lose ball, be it short into his body for thumping pulls or outside off when he would lash at short wide ones, he was not running high on emotion and would go for any short ball that was too short keeping adrenalin under control and there was no tentativeness.

A superb knock that not only puts India in a good position but calms the dressing room and gets rid of all nerves

A superb knock that not only puts India in a good position but calms the dressing room and gets rid of all nerves

This will give a lot of people in the team assurance, calm the nerves and also raise hopes. Virat didn’t just get a hundred but scored a lot of psychological points more so for his team’s batsmen. Now is the time for the other batsman in the team to rally around and raise the level.

Pujara was solid and was settling in when a bad judgement by Kohli sent him away. Apparently though what is evident is he is not going to throw his wicket away and SA will have to bowl better. Rohit will be very disappointed at the way he threw his wicket away. He lost out on a golden opportunity to bat at a time when 50+ overs had been bowled the bowlers tired and the pitch flattened out. There will not be such easy chances always available in overseas conditions and Rohit would have done well to not let this go. One man’s failure is another man’s opportunity and Rahane cashed in on what Rohit missed.

Day 1 may look even, but psychologically it will serve India greatly, they now know they can compete and they are not going to be blown away.

South Africa came into this match after a lot of talk, the commentators, media all were cocky and had thought that the bowlers just had to turn up and India would be blown away. Infact at many times it looked South Africa were bowling far too wide outside off stump. Smith and his bowlers showed little imagination when Indian’s didn’t go after the wide outside off line. They know it now, they are in for a fight. They might adjust and work harder now on, however, on day one they were caught napping. Neither did they make the batsmen drive enough for my money and there in they made their biggest mistake nor did they properly work out Kohli with the short stuff with Morkel going around the wicket or Steyn going around the wicket and testing them out.

I guess the pace battery was just shell shocked at the application and clarity of judgement shown by our batters. At the end of the day if you clearly look at it, just Vijay was a batsman that they got out. Shikhar got out to his own ego, which was bigger than the team cause. Pujara was run out, Kohli & Sharma played lose shots to rather innocuous deliveries and got themselves out. So let’s say the world’s best bowling line up as it it dubbed had a rather poor day or were largely kept out at bay by some gritty and solid batting. 😀 😀

Frankly, never thought I would be able to write this after the first day’s play. 😀 My chest swells and it feels extremely wonderful to be in this position, lets hope we can add atleast another 100-150 runs tomorrow and then it will be over to the bowlers 😀

Photos Courtesy ESPNCRICINFO

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Leave him alone…

In response to Harsha Bhogle’s piece on Cricinfo : http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/597889.html

 

He loved the game,

belting leather was a passion,

gifted he was,

devotion came naturally,

worked terribly hard he did,

runs he scored,

by the dozens,

but alas…

we never understood his love,

we named him God,

he didn’t ask but we did,

he scored and scored and scored,

but we felt he doesn’t win matches,

forgetting that he tried his best,

forgetting there were others who were lacking,

but he was the cynosure always,

he loves the game still,

its been two decades,

but his zest is intact,

tries he does hardest,

we cannot fault him there,

but the cynosure he is always,

he doesn’t pick himself,

but we want him to drop himself,

always,

wanting him to do other peoples jobs…

 

Guys we have selectors, give them headaches but leave him alone. If he wants to play he has full rights to play, he is trying his hardest to score runs. If there are better equipped players and if they can do better than him he should be dropped by the selectors, but, no one has the right to ask him to retire. That is a player’s decision always. His job is to try the best to score runs, when you feel the effort is not there raise fingers. If you feel you have to think of the future, do so, but, why expect him to do anything other than him putting in his hardest efforts to score runs ???

 

The steel beneath the calm…

The first time I saw you was in Singapore, a match after you had already debuted against Sri Lanka, this time it was arch rival Pakistan and all I could see was one stylish batsman, tall, upright, confident,  probably a bit too correct I must add, someone who was run-out and was gutted at that fact. I felt for you then as all those dreams, expectations, fantasies being dashed !!! Yes, it was 3 on debut and 4 in the match after ! Hardly a dream start but you had only begun..

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Who would have predicted what was to come though !

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Then came the terrible tour of England which saw everything – infighting, blaming quota selection, brilliant batting, pathetic teamwork, dream debut’s and a new beginning….

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Fate has its own whims and has always been unkind to you somehow it always wanted to test you ! Throughout your entire career limelight would always be hogged by others ! You couldn’t make it to the honors board at Lord’s on that day having played equally well but you couldn’t care less as you hugged your left handed pal who glided there smug and drawing all the attention. I am sure you never seeked the attention, you quietly basked and smiled for you had found a place in the Test team. Yes for further battles were to be waged, for futher peaks had to be scaled.  Yes, you had arrived !

Behold one of Indian crickets fiercest fighters !

Then came the series in South Africa where you averaged higher than all else, where only once were we in a position to win a Test, for your hundred, but all people remember from that tour is the blazing tons by Sachin and Azhar in Cape Town in a Test we lost by 282 runs. The Indian fans, the masses, could only rave about that, never wonder about the lost opportunity in Johannesburg where your maiden hundred went in vain. Yes, you had established yourself ! 

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In 1999, your team and you had your worst run, losing 3-0 and you came a cropper against what was expected. Of all batsmen it was thought you were a guaranteed success down under and you were handed an average of 15.50 at the end of the series. Yes, you had faltered big time, but you didn’t sulk, for you thought you had learnt a lot about yourself ! 

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Then when the renaissance man took the reins of Indian cricket you probably played the best innings of your career till then, it was a fine innings amidst the most toughest of situation against the best of teams I have ever witnessed. You fought tooth and nail and yet there was this favorite batting partner of yours since junior cricket who churned out 101 runs more than your 180 which by no means was a mean feat. You were again in the midst of all the right things but the limelight would be hogged by an elegant Hyderabadi and fiesty Sikh youth. You had established yourself as a the silent contributor, the fighting team man. Yes, you also revived your career !

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Then one cloudy, damp, heaven for swing bowling day your brash friend, our skipper threw the gauntlet as much at his own men as to the opponents and you couldn’t care less but, about your own batting. You had a mission, to protect your mates batting behind you. You left alone deliveries outside the off stump with immaculate precision making the bowlers scratch their heads, with a mind as strong as an ox you resisted all temptations, didn’t flirt and probably played an innings of a life time for many a great batsmen. It was you who had made the platform for the high rise to happen. Amazing that you had to be out stumped for 148 runs, each of them valuable but even more valuable were the 429 balls you made the bowlers toil. Your mates absolutely couldn’t thank you more for your efforts and they repaid by carting the hapless bowlers all around the park. You smiled as India won a famous victory ! A victory that signalled the change of attitude in Indian cricket but didn’t quite mark the fine efforts of yours. The fickle Indian fan couldn’t understand your contributions they could only clap at the masterly 193 scored ! But you had no business with glory you were too busy scoring hundreds !

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You were a fierce warrior and a humble servant, you couldn’t say no, you kept wickets for us looking ugly only to make our team look better. You tried your best and gave it a gallant try with all your heart but what you never gave, were excuses. You had established yourself as a proud servant of Indian cricket but alas the Indian fan could only take you for granted. You still wouldn’t fret for you just had to challenge yourself and prove to yourself how good you could be. For you the team always came first !

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For once though, God had to give in to your sincere humble efforts. 2003, Down Under, there was no one who could steal that moment from you I can never forget …

That endearing image…
that day…
when no one could steal his thunder…
that winning feeling…
the joy…
the tears…
the adrenalin rush…
the grinding of teeth…
the clenching of fists…
that don’t know what to do feeling…. !!!!

Rahul Dravid Claiming Victory for India in Adelaide.

For once in life you had no one to wretch glory from you. For once the Indian fan had no option but to acknowledge your Fighting Bulldog Spirit. They finally realized the worth of your fierce focus, your dedication, your class, your champion status. Again none more fitting compliment then the one  that came from your same left handed mate who debuted with you.

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“He batted like God out there” – Sourav Ganguly

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But life had to move on, it couldn’t be as gracious always to people who were as humble as you.

It was you who scored the 270 in the decider in Pakistan to win that Landmark test series, but it was a portly lad from Najarfgadh who would always be remembered by the public for his disdainful treatment of Pakistani bowlers. The series victory was as much yours as all of your team mates. You probably quietly sank in that winning feeling in a swimming pool in Rawalpindi while all and sundry couldn’t rave enough about the Multan bashing of Shoaib Akhtar. You were never symbolic for the Indian fan but all you cared for was the series victory !

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Being a Skipper was never a bed of roses and you never one who asked for the roses. You never asked for a quarter and gave none. The thorns had to be taken as you thought it was your responsibility. You could never turn Indian cricket down !

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You took us to a Test Series win in West Indies after 35 years, averaging 82 in the 4 match series it was a significant achievement for a batsman who was also a captain leading from the front. You missed out tragically in rewriting India’s record as a Test touring team in South Africa and then your wonderful career as captain had to bear the shock defeat of the World Cup. The daggers were out and you were to be a scapegoat. You took all the blame along with your team mates you apologised, whilst all could see the apology very few could see the angst inside you. No one would be more disappointed than you I am sure.

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Life moved on and you were back to scoring runs regularly, catching everything that came your way in slips and always volunteering whenever Indian openers were injured or they had new ball-itis !! How could you ever back down, for you couldn’t ever imagine saying ‘no’ to your beloved team India !

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You were the steel that the team stood upon in the last decade especially when touring abroad. You were one of the prime reasons that Indian cricket witnessed one of its finest decade in its cricketing history. Your contributions were second to none !

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Today writing about you and thinking of those moments you gave us to rave about I have my eyes over flowing. I myself never knew I felt so much for you.

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Rahul Dravid you were one of the most Fiercest Fighters Indian cricket ever possessed. No, being fierce doesn’t mean snarling at the opposition. You never did, you were the finest, most humblest of members of Indian cricket fraternity. Adjectives wouldn’t do justice to your contributions.

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But you knew how much you were one of the most fierce opponents when the skipper of the most dominating team of your era sent in a request to write the ‘Foreword’ of his autobiography.

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Your chest surely would have swelled with pride reading Glenn Mcgrath quoted in papers saying if there was one Indian player who would get an automatic entry into an Australian team filled with stars, it would be Rahul Dravid.

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The fact that you were the fiercest of opponents can be made out from this statement by Mathew Hayden “All this going around is not aggression. If you want to see aggression on cricket field, look into Rahul Dravid’s eyes”

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Never mind the fan, your opponents always knew your worth and dreaded it. Thank you for the memories Rahul 🙂 Wish you all the very best in life ahead 🙂

I disagree… totally…

 

According to me a Test batsman’s biggest Test is his ability to score against the toughest opponent in Test Matches in the backyard of the opponents which are supposed to be alien conditions.

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Please read further only if you agree to that line.

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Who were Australia’s Toughest Opponents in the last decade ??

I will reproduce the figures :

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I hope you will agree… India has been their staunchest opponent in the last 10 years.

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So I guess you judge the Aussie players most importantly against the toughest team.

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Now a certain gentleman named Ricky Ponting has been declared the cricketer of the decade and I would like you to read below his performance against India in India.

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Would you call Gavaskar one of the best openers if he would have failed in West Indies ???

Would you call Sachin the Master Blaster if he failed in Australia ??

Would Lara be a genius if he wouldnt score in Australia ??

Apparently a host of cricket experts and journalists seemed to have forgotten the above.

Infact the only Test tour that the Australians won in India was thanks to non action of Ricky Ponting, he got injured and a certain Micheal Clarke made his debut and scored a century and sealed India’s fate. Also to note is that Ricky did play one test in that series and Australia lost that on a square turner in Mumbai.

Even in 2001 the landmark series for India had Bevan played instead of Ponting who couldnt hit the ball off the square in one innings result could have been different.

The cricketer of the decade, in a decade when the bat has truly dominated, while batting in India against India, while 50000 people in the crowd bay for his blood, with 4 fielders around his bat, against the spinners simply BLINKS !!!

I rest my case…

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If anyone deserved it I think it was Glenn Mcgrath or Adam Gilchrist who have won every territory they have played in… !!!! Even Warne faltered in India but did well everywhere else.

Glenn Mcgrath & Adam Gilchrist were the only two players who have a blemishless record against all countries either home or away… Plus in a decade where bat dominated the ball, Glenn Mcgrath was a marvel of consistency and I have not seen him hit around in Test matches ever apart from the 1 Test match in Eden in 2001.

A joy called Sachin !

The journey begins…

I was 12 years old then as I sat on the dining table of my Mama’s house watching my cousin another cricket freak read the Indian Express and telling his dad, “this kid has just scored a century in the Irani Trophy Final, he will be in our team soon.”

That was the first I heard of the marvel named Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. At 15 years in Ranji Debut he scored a century, in his debut in Deodhar trophy he again scored a century and ended his first Ranji season as Mumbai’s highest run scorer. In the ensuing Irani Trophy final he again scored a century !!!!!!!!!

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The writing was on the wall and Sachin was on the plane to Pakistan to play against the worlds best pace attack in their own den.

A 16 year old kid was off to live a dream it might seem but hey he was off to Pakistan of all places to face Wasim, Waqar and Imran backed with Abdul Qadir !!!! Whilst I honestly wasnt a very keen cricket follower then… I still marvel at the stories from that tour… the series was fought hard and in the last test at Sialkot it was 38/4 with India leading by 100 odd runs in their second innings. Suddenly the series had come alive… Pakistan could win..

In walked the 16 year old at 38/4… it was like being thrown to the wolves… Akram, Imran and Waqar let it rip. Sachin discovered fast that international cricket on the field was the last place to find friends as the pace bowling trio bounced Sachin constantly and one from Waqar found its mark, only Srikanth and Sachin in that match batted in a helmet without a grill and Sachin paid the price. He was struck flush on his nose and was bleeding profusely…

As the physio checked Sachin, Sidhu put an arm on Sachin to inquire if he would like to go off… Pat came the reply from the 16 year old who simply said, “Paaji Main Khelenga !!”

That one line tells me even today that age is only a number, this 16 year old had a heart of a full grown man !!!! At one point the umpire Holder in that match had to warn Akram for persistent short pitched bowling. Sachin and Sidhu saved that match and it ended in a draw.

First test series ended with 215 runs at an average of 35 odd runs !!!

In the only ODI on that trip Sachin made a duck on debut… !!

That entire trip of Pakistan was marred by unruly crowd behaviour that would pelt orange peels and stones on the Indian players on the field. I particularly remember this one charity match in Peshawar where the crowd jeered and taunted Sachin and came with posters citing,“Sachin go back and have milk”.

It was during this match that Sachin hit Mustaq Ahmed for 2 sixes in an over, this led to Abdul Qadir the mentor of Mustq Ahmed to taunt Sachin, “Bache ko kya maar rahe ho, hume maar ke dikhao”

Sachin didnt reply to Qadir, but when Qadir came to bowl, Sachin hit him for 6, 0, 4, 6, 6, 6. Yes 28 runs in an over and that was it !! The kid had arrived well and truly. The champion legspinner from Pakistan had been hit and his ego badly bruised.

Incidentally this is when I fell in love with this magnificient game cricket for the first time in life, suddenly my hero Diego Maradona had just been replaced by another curly wonder boy Sachin !!!!!

As a kid I had always heard stories of Perth from my dad and my cousin about how fast a track it was and how bouncy the pitch there was. Sachin on his first tour of Australia made a century in Sydney in 1992 along with Ravi Shashtri who made a double century. Sydney though was the only track in Australia that came even remotely close to India in bounce. Everyone from cricket greats to a lil fan in me wanted to see how we batted in Perth, THE WORLDS FASTEST PITCH.

Australia was armed with Craig Mcdermott, Michael Whitney, Merv Hughes & Paul Reifel and they were raring to go on a green WACA wicket after the Australians scored 350 odd in the first innings Sachin walked in at 69-2…

For a player from the subcontinent this was his biggest test, the worlds fastest pitch against 4 pronged fast bowling attack this was the moment of truth for the guy and he smashed the bowlers to all parts of the ground. He made 118 of the best quality and till date I have not seen such square cutting by any player on such a lively track !!!!!

This led to Merv Hughes telling the Aussie captain Allan Border, “This lil prick is going to score more runs than you !!!!”

After establishing himself in the hearts of all Indians at the end of the Pakistan tour, it was here in 1992 where Sachin established himself as a cricketer that the whole world watched. The Benaud’s, the Chappell’s, the Richards, the Lawry’s, the Greig’s all took notice of the innings in Perth.

The long journey in international cricket which had loads of accolades and a few brickbats was just beginning for this shy lad from Mumbai, he had established himself and the next decade or two would be when the world would watch him !!!!

From that day to today Sachin has travelled a long distance giving us endless memories and hundreds of moments of ecstacy !!!

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On Sunday, 15th of November, Sachin completes 20 years in international cricket with his 160th test match for his beloved India. Over the past 20 years Sachin has given us endless memories, endless reasons to smile on a day when things havent gone well its Sachin’s batting that can lift your mood !!!!

Its almost impossible to list all of Sachin’s moments but I will try to list a few more of his memories that I think are special but that will be in part II of this post !!!!

Contd…

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