C for Cricket

DSC_0120The most compelling of all sports, without any trace of doubt if you ask me. Is there any other sport apart from Test Cricket that presents as much of a test of character, resourcefulness, stamina, perseverance and skill all together in one game?! I would like to know if there is another sport like this or better than this with all the diversity this sport offers.

 

Give a few kids a bat and a ball and watch them go, its here, most naturally you will see how captivating and likable the game is. Belting the ball as hard as you can, foxing the guy trying to belt the ball whilst flicking the ball to him or running like made watching skywards trying to grab the ball with open palms, the fun is evident.

 

It is apt that I have to be writing this after yesterday’s test match at Lords, after a rather long season of limited overs cricket it was back to the game’s main version, the main course or the real deal, whatever you want to call it. Just fascinating was the game that just ended. A really dead, low kind of pitch and you might have thought, okay this might just be a drawn match, but, if cricket does not throw a surprise, who will?

 

A 42 year old veteran, who many thought should be retired came out and scored a century, after reaching his century did some 15 push ups, an underdog team that is always found to be unorganised actually managed to trip a far more pedigreed opposition. At all times you thought the comeback was inevitable, however, inspired by Misbah, his team mates won the match in 4 days and symbolically at the end of it indulged in a push up show to prove that they had a lot left in them even after 4 days of pressure cricket.

 

Test cricket has so much drama that it woos me, there are so many plots and subplots and so many characters who are involved at so many different times that it fascinates, a slip catch being bobbed up by one and being grabbed by another, a short leg fielder ducking and getting crouched every time a batsman goes for a powerful shot, the leaping wicket keeper that jumps to collect a ball above his head delivered by an angry fast bowler, a batsman lured out by a spinner and beaten in the air, the thumping straight drive from between a fast bowlers legs, oh there is just so much to love about this sport.

 

Like any good book, Test cricket needs to be entered with a bit of patience if you are not a lover already, read two three chapters of a book and you cant stop, similarly, stay for a couple of sessions, watching, analysing, absorbing and discussing Test cricket and you will be smitten I promise!

 

You might say Test cricket is an ancient form, stretched over 5 days in this fast moving life of the twenty first century, who has the time, but trust me for lovers of this form of sport there is nothing that even comes close. 🙂

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

Only Whites !

White clouds adorn the bright blue skies 

the sun mild yet mischeviously playing hide and seek  

the green grass shining, bright and lively..

ampitheatre at the home of the gentlemen’s game is set..

a pinchful of grass blades is tossed in the air to check the wind direction..

the umpires in their place, sightscreen sorted,

the batsman on strike..

the bowler tosses the ball in his hand…

rubs his sole on the grass…

Lets play Gentlemen says the umpire…

only in Whites ! ………………………..

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There is a certain romance that Test Cricket holds it is indescribable, but I shall try to atleast show how I look at it… !

When you see a bowler at the top of his mark tossing up the ball at one instance and rubbing it in his groin the other, surveying his field, asking his skipper for an extra slip, adjusting his short leg, asking his fine-leg to come finer…  you are filled with anticipation you know the primal contest is about to begin.

The batsman has marked his guard, stretches his limbs, jogs up a warm gush of blood in his veins, practises swaying away, surveys the slips who are eager for his edge, looks at the sight screen and then the bowler and with nervous energy flowing gets in his crease into his stance and starts to tap the pitch waiting for the ball that will be hurled at him, to get him out !

The bowler starts his run in to the wickets full of rhythm, he is full of energy, looking to channelise all his effort in the 5’1/2 ounce of leather, seeking either the edge of the bat or a kiss on the batsman’s helmet, the keeper crouches in anticipation and the batsmen has his feet back and across  his bat waiting in anticipation, he is trying to move his feet which are stuck to get into position and then suddenly his vision tells him its out side off and he shoulders arms and lets the ball go… and heaves a SIGH of relief !  The first ball has been left alone !!!!

Test Cricket Ahoy !

only in Whites !

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Today at Lords, the World’s No.1 Test Team India takes on the World’s No.3 ranked team. The match is historical in the sense that it is the 2000th Test Match, it is also the 100th Test Match that these two countries will play against each other. The No.1 Ranking is on the line and for a change there is no clear favourite.

The only thing missing is Virender Sehwag ! Alas… in only Veeru could be there to face the first ball !!!!! Sigh… but then you cant have everything !!!! 😀

The appetite is whetted and I can wait !!!! 😀 😀 😀

Oh Veeru... your slashes, cuts and puches will be sorely missed by one and ALL !!!