The glorious Draw!

“When all is said and done, the weather and love are the two elements about which one can never be sure.”
― Alice Hoffman

You could easily add cricket to the above and it would still hold true. Predict in cricket at your own peril, who could have predicted the Australian’s winning 3-0 in the Ashes and who could have predicted India’s intensity going into the first test after their uninspiring show in the ODI’s. The game of glorious uncertainties was at its best at the Wanderer’s at Johannesburg.

A team was written off, Steyn and co mocked at the uncomfortable Indian’s against genuine pace, the pitch was hailed as bouncy and pacy, a grave had been dug to bury the Indians. Yet, India won the toss elected to bat, surprising the commentators and fans, the captain perhaps sent a message to his own team about a belief in its abilities. The team stood up and fought. A wonderfully crafted innings by Kohli forming the back bone and India raised a moderate but fighting total of 280! They did not cow down to the short stuff and actually most of their wickets on the first day were to their own faults more than the bowler’s skill. The pitch had enough in it and yet India buckled and put out wonderful judgement of the off stump and played judiciously. At the end of day 2 India could say they had their noses ahead.

Day two saw a comeback of sorts and after bowling India for 280 and the score at 130/1 you had to say SA were running away with it. Amazingly when you are just ready to give up hope, cricket bites you back and India took 5 wickets for 16 runs to wreck the African top order and all of a sudden they could think of a BIG lead! Yet again an African allrounder fought and ensured not too much was given. Whilst India again ended day two ahead, on day 3 morning almost all of that initiative was wrested back and a slender 40 run lead was yielded. Africa were to bat last which meant they were behind the game. End of day 3 and India had completely taken control of the Test. Two young batsmen from India dug their heels in whilst the bowlers were fresh and fought it out and pulverized the home team in the last session that gave 175 runs to make all three days belong to them. Day 4 was sort of the same, however, India could not post 500 lead, they had 450+ which was perceived by one and all as enough.

458 has never been chased successfully in the history of the game in the 4th innings of a Test Match. 8 wickets in hand Africa started day 5 with caution, Indian’s attacked and pitched up the ball a lot more than African bowlers and leaked runs but looked for wickets. Two African star’s though had other idea’s from judiciously batting and punishing the lose ball and displaying amazing restrain the two went into tea on day 5 with the Test match alive and left the crowd in huge anticipation of what could be in the last session.

As the end came neigh the Indian’s were perhaps staring at an unlikely loss, Africa were favourites and by the time the mandatory last hour began you almost started regretting why India bowled that one over extra. The game was Africa’s however, unlike in a limited overs match in a Test match apart from a win and a loss there is the draw as well as a possible result. I think that adds more drama, when players are not sure whether to go for a win or a loss. De’villier’s getting out at such a delicate situation threw major drama into the event. A silly run out of Faf Duplesis who had played most wonderfully ensured that crowd could not bear to watch the nail biting stuff.

A match where both teams gave all they had and yet could not come up with a result, however, the display put up was more interesting then any win or loss you might have witnessed.

A match where both teams gave all they had and yet could not come up with a result, however, the display put up was more interesting then any win or loss you might have witnessed.

Its easy to say South Africa should have gone for the win or criticise India for bowling bouncers at Steyn, but when faced with such a situation it is difficult to predict how most would go about it. In the end you also had a feeling that both the teams had fought tooth and nail and that neither deserved to lose. In the end cricket won, the uncertainty of the game won. Not the teams but the sport won. There are victories and there are losses and then there are these wonderful draws that are unmatched!

Pics Courtesy : Espncricinfo.com

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Coming of age…

Apparently the match was evenly poised with India’s noses slightly ahead at the end of day two, however, day three was something no one expected. Everyone thought the match was going to be a close one and with lots of ups and downs. Day three though was a day when India went up and South Africa went down.

Philander and Duplesis had forged a partnership that ensured India did not lead by too many, the first over of the day started badly for India with Ishant not fully warmed up and gave away a couple of boundaries and it seemed like South Africa might get away if Indian’s let up their intensity, however, Zak was on the money and Ishant got his lines right and South Africa were soon dismissed. It was also heartening to see Steyn getting some lifters and being rapped on the fingers. Morkel not getting behind the line and Philander too struck on his fingers. So many times has India had to face this and it was good to see it being dished out back.

Whilst India led by 36, there were still murmurs of dismissing India cheaply keeping a chase around 200, India though had completely other ideas.

This is a new India it seems, they do not want to flash and show talent or go for that boundary. This team was ready to buckle in, patient, determined, skillful and harsh on only the lose stuff. They respected the good balls, did play and miss on a few occasions but by and large did not play loose shots and kept a big prize on their wicket. South Africa had to get them out, Shikhar Dhawan might have been disappointed with his dismissal in the first innings, but in the second he can take heart that he was picked by a very good piece of bowling and that he did not throw it away. The ball before he got out was the one that made him play that ball and got him out.

Vijay and Pujara together gritted it out, however, you were wondering if just staying in and not scoring too many might mean the game goes no where. Aided by the unfortunate injury to Morne Morkel though they found that South Africa’s back up bowling after Steyn and Philander was just not going to be able to trouble. Kallis at 38 can maybe deliver 5-7 good overs. Vijay was unfortunate to fall the way he did, he missed out on a golden chance to bat whilst the bowlers were tiring and the sun was out.

However, Pujara knows nothing else but how to bat and bat and bat. This guy has some tremendous appetite for batting and in many ways reminds me of England Captain Cook, nothing seems to affect him nor too bothered, he just bats and bats and bats. After tea the way he cashed in and made sure his hard work earlier paid plenty of dividends was wonderful to watch. Kohli on the other hand was again calm and reassuring, any Indian fan who was worried about the loss of the legends might have breathed a sigh of relief.

Indian Batting Order's no3 and no4 prove their worth in their first challenge.

Indian Batting Order’s no3 and no4 prove their worth in their first challenge.

In the end it was good, proper, basic Test match cricket that India played better in the three days gone by. The batsman have applied themselves and tried to stay in and score of loose deliveries without doing anything flash or trying to do anything extraordinary. The bowlers have tried to bowl in the right areas with good intensity and not allowed too many pressure free moments. The fact that India have 3 proper seam bowlers is something we have not always had, plus the fact that Bhuvaneshwar and Umesh Yadav sit on the benches is also a heartening fact.

South Africa have been left with many questions really, frankly none of their top order batsman can claim they looked comfortable in their stay on the wicket, not even Smith who got a shaky 68. Infact Philander looked like the best batsman in this innings by a distance, he too was aided by a tiring bowling attack on day 2. Their bigger worry though might be their bowling, I was wondering why they never tried to give a bouncer work over to Kohli and Pujara? I thought they did not test the Indian batsmen enough in this area. Their lines and their lengths in my opinion can be still a little more closer to the wicket. India gave away a few straight drives and cover drives but I think that is what also got them wickets.

India must also thank the sun for coming out when they batted, whether it was the sun or their superior batting we can only find out if South Africa get to bat in the sun and they are still bundled out. All said and done the match has shifted completely in India’s favour by some wonderfully determined proper Test Cricket by our boys.

They can feel proud about how they have played so far and keep up the intensity as there is a Test Match to be won here.

Photo’s Courtesy ESPNCRICINFO

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

Thumping about in England

Frankly no one could see this coming could they? No I am trying my damnest hardest to try and not over bat these 4 ODI victories in the Champions trophy but I can’t help it. Its a world stage, the best teams are here and so far whatever has been flung at our team frankly only a few of the members have actually squashed it. The fact that Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni who were expected to shoulder the major burden if India were to get anywhere in this tournament have not had to actually break much sweat is in itself a pretty big achievement eh?!

 

I don’t know how long will Shikhar Dhawan’s fairy tale last, but the one thing I have noticed and I maybe wrong is players like Dhawan who have had to beat around the domestic circuit for a few years and have waited their opportunities, a similarity can be drawn to Micheal Hussey from Australia or even a Hayden who were groomed as Aussie players but then had to wait for their opportunities and play the domestic circuit for a while grab their opportunity when they get it like no end. We all know how Hayden made his comeback and the way Hussey reeled of runs you couldn’t believe that they had these guys out for so long of the Aussie team. Atleast in the Aussie case they were steam rolling their oppositions any which ways and so you could still justify it. But in the case of Dhawan it tells me and I hope it tells the selectors as much that from time to time you must fling the opportunity to untried players. I just hope Dhawan keeps his feet grounded and works hard on his batting and keeps getting runs. This is still early days and bowlers will try to sort him out, but whilst this fairy tale is going on and he is batting like a BOMB god save the opposition bowlers.

 

The final will be a big test, the pitches will aid swing and if its cloudy, the English attack is perhaps the best to exploit it and hence we will get to see another challenge flung Dhawan and India’s way.

 

The other most pleasing thing in this tournament has been how Bhuvaneshwar Kumar has bowled. 4 matches and he has got 4 openers in his first spell including India’s biggest nemesis in recent times Naseer Jamshed not just him but Gayle, Ingram and Kushal Perera. The early loss of wickets ensures the opposition is not just all set out to attack but also trying to keep wickets in hand. Again Bhuvaneshwar Kumar apparently looked like a very very steady bowler but ever since his entry into the Indian team he has been the biggest revelation. He has consistently picked up early wickets and that has to be attributed with being one of the main reasons of success of India off late.

 

Umesh Yadav still needs to find his feet in the ODI arena, he is a quickie who is perhaps confused right now whether to pay attention to direction or pace. The good thing is since India is winning, he will get a chance to play around the team and learn on the job. I still do think he must bowl it full and fast and go for wickets, yes, he will always be a touch expensive but his length, which I believe is an excellent Test match length will always give him a few wickets albeit at the cost of a few runs.

 

Another big slap on all critics including me has come from Ravindra Jadeja and his skipper who backed him so much to our bemusement, surely we all thought his bowling was innocuous, maybe at best 4-5 overs outside the subcontinent was all you could get from Jadeja and his batting on seaming and bouncing tracks was questioned but so far his batting is yet to be tested properly but then at no.7 in such a batting lineup his batting will be rarely tested and we all knew how well he could field. This fella after unbelievable criticism and ridicule has actually managed to quell all murmurs and has cemented his place in the team. The fact that his bowling came along so nicely in the Test series against Australia has helped him a lot. He gets in the team as a pure bowler, the one good thing about him is even if he has an off day I guess Dhoni will be happy to have him as he is pretty accurate and hence he can set fields to Jadeja. As a skipper I guess you want a guy who can bat, bowl and field all together with aplomb.

 

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Ishant has been patchy, I hope he can pitch it up more and change his own luck and not be known for his life as unlucky Ishant. Raina’s challenge will come against England, he has hardly got any opportunity this series. Karthik I think should do well, he is another case of a player who is all eager to grab his opportunity with both hands. Rohit Sharma finally seems to be delivering on the talent he possesses, if he can play to potential and be consistent at it not only will he win India quite a few ODI’s but perhaps be the replacement of Sachin in the Test team at no.4.

 

MS and Ashwin should do their stuff. The fact that the best ODI batsman in the world has had to do nothing in this tournament so far tells you how India have been thumping about in this tournament. Lets hope they can continue this momentum on Sunday for beating the Pommies will be sweeter than anything. It is this team that has beaten us at home in Tests and drubbed us the last time we were here and this will be some small revenge for it.

 

 

so begins the world cup !

Yes…. the world cup has started and I have not yet made a single cricket post !!!!!! Geeez…. !!!! If only I would be able to sit more on the computer.

I even missed the most colourful opening ceremony live… and the pre show for the India Bangladesh match… but I was there before the national anthems started… ! I frantically drove my scooter from office parked it and made a dash to the hall & put the TV on.

Albeit I am not the biggest fan of T-20 and ODI cricket, I am a die hard Test Cricket fan, however my favourite team India must be watched in all forms.

Over the years I have always blindly supported them, I can never hear anything against them. Yes I do take in the criticism about their play, but if someone talks about their intentions being malicious or their integrity or anything other than their cricket, they immediately become my non liked people !!!! I seriously hate such people, infact wonder why they watch or discuss cricket if they think so…

Yes… do take note of that.

I consider myself to be their biggest fan, I never quit watching even when they are losing. I always have my logic that all will leave the team when they are losing but how can I leave my heroes when they are having a bad day. Infact if I were asked if Cricket was my first love or the Indian team… I did really have a tough time replying to it.

My team is my team and I dream of being in the midst of them in the dressing room one day… STILL !!!!

Sigh….. AMEN… !!!

Anyways… for this World Cup I am too scared to make my prediction… I dont want to jinx anything… ! I wont discuss my team and their strengths and their chances…. Let it just wait till the cup ends… !!!! I am praying and hoping for an Indian Victory.

But before I would end the post… following are the 3 new young players that I think are going to be the ones to watch out for in this world cup and the future… !

Virat Kohli – well this post is a day late… he already proved quite a bit… but he is the one to watch out for in the future… A huge future I think lies ahead for this starry eyed boy… !!!! and I mean HUGE !

Darren Bravo – I think this junior of Dwayne is a sensational batsman though I would like to see a bit more of him…there are so many shades of Lara in his style… ! Watch out for him !!!

Steve Smith – I think this Aussie Leg Spinner is very talented, however I think the Australians dont give him enough backing. He has a lot of potential… lets see how the Aussies use him…

and I have lots of predictions… but I will keep them to myself… !!!! I am too Superstitious to share them… !!!!!!

For the moment I guess all of you sit back and just enjoy the Runs… yes there will be wickets too but few and far in between…

God save the bowlers this World Cup !!!!!!