Sunday, February 28, 2010

Good start for England

It has been a good victory for England as the team has won the first match comfortably by 6 wickets against Bangladesh.

It wasn't all smooth sailing as England's seamers were guilty of bowling short and wide with Siders again being disappointing. He has been ineffective for sometime and has struggled with injuries. Broad too wasn't any better, but one has to say that he has been very good last year. The saving grace was of course Swann though him getting wickets is not much of a surprise as he has been consistent for sometime now.

Tamim Iqbal was excellent, though it has to be said that England's seamers bowled to his strengths by bowling short and wide. The overrated Siders being the main culprit.

As far as England's batting was concerned, they were edgy against spin as Sakib used himself early in the innings and he did get it to turn as well. At 96 for 3 England were in a spot of bother but the gutsy Colly again came good. Colly is perhaps England's best player of spin, as he plays late and uses his feet well against the spinners. Morgan too played well as he gave Colly good support. He plays spin a bit like Flower, as he too plays late and can play innovative shots like the reverse sweep. IMO he would play for England in test cricket in the near future.

Sakib tried his best as he rotated his spinners well, but in the end it was a comfortable victory for England, though England shouldn't get complacent with just one victory as Bang. at home can still surprise the England team.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Suresh Raina?

I have never rated Raina as highly as some others but I see that he averages 38.17 in one-day cricket which isn't bad for a young player. I have to also add that he has played a few decent knocks under pressure

So, can he become a test batsman? The biggest concern would be, even after playing 90 onedayers he doesn't know how to play the short ball. He just doesn't shift his weight onto the back-foot and seems to be content playing on the front-foot. It is fine for one-day and T/20 cricket but in test cricket it would be ruthlessly exploited. Is he satisfied with just playing the shorter formats of the game? His fc record too isn't as good as say Pujara, Rahane or Kohli.

I may have been a bit harsh on Raina's weakness against the short ball but if a player plays 90 onedayers I do expect him to do some work on it. If he wants to play test cricket he has to work on it, otherwise like Bevan he may have to be content with playing only the shorter formats of the game.

Crashraful dropped

I see that finally Crashraful has been dropped from Bangladesh's squad. He must be one of the biggest underachiever's in cricket as with his talent he should have at least averaged in the 40's in test cricket instead he is averaging only 22.78!

Only a player with some talent can score a hundred on his debut against Murali and of course I won't forget his match winning hundred against the Aussies at Cardiff in 2005. He can play late and has the ability to play most of the shots in the book.

The selectors perhaps shouldn't have picked him when he was so young but if a player plays 53 tests, one expects him to learn about batting in test cricket but Crash would perhaps never learn. For instance, I saw him play in the second test against India recently and it looked like Ashraful was trying his best to get out every ball by trying some crazy shots. Of course in the end he got out to a ugly slog.

Crash's failure again shows that it isn't just about talent as he has that in abundance.

Is Kieswetter the real deal?

I see that Kieswetter has been impressive in the warm up games in Bangladesh. So, can he succeed in one-day internationals by succeeding at top of the order?

Since Tresco last played a one-day international in 06, England have struggled to find good openers at top of the order. Occasionally, Strauss has looked good but the lack of a power hitter is a concern. So, it would be good for England if Kieswetter, who is also a teammate of Tres at Somerset can succeed at top of the order.

From what I have seen of Kieswetter, he looked very strong square off the wicket on either side and just like KP has great bat speed and picks the length quickly but I also thought he is vulnerable to the full swinging delivery as he doesn't come forward. To succeed as a opener in one-day cricket, Kieswetter perhaps has to work on it as the white new ball does swing for a few overs. His list A record too is good as he averages 42.12 and has a strike rate of 90.47.

The feeling is that he isn't a good wicketkeeper but I do see potential in him to succeed as a opener in one-day cricket.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Belinda Clark's double hundred

I see that Tendulkar is deservedly getting a lot of praise for his double hundred. It is a stupendous achievement to get to double hundred but in women's cricket, Belinda Clark has already reached that mark against Denmark in the 1997 world cup.I have briefly talked about her in the article, best batswoman of all time.

From whatever little I have seen of her, she was indeed a great batswoman who, had all the shots in the book and her footwork against spin was delightful to watch.

As far as this knock was concerned, it came against a weak opponent like Denmark but it is always worth remembering that Clark has also scored a double hundred. Women's cricket doesn't get much recognition but it shouldn't be forgotten that Clark too has scored a double hundred.

Andy Flower

If there is any discussion going on about the best wicketkeeper batsman, invariably one name that can spring to anyone's mind would be Gilchrist. Of course, Gilly was a outstanding cricketer, but what about Andy Flower? I have rarely seen him being mentioned. I have always been of the view that when it comes to wicketkeeper batsman, Andy Flower was up there with the best. I have been a great admirer of Andy Flower's never say die attitude as a batsman. The number of times he has come good with Zimbabwe in doldrums are just too many to count. So, let us just have a look at his career.

Flower's early career

Flower first came into prominence when he scored a hundred in the 92 WC against the Lankans. At that time I thought he was a very aggressive batsman, who was good at pulling and cutting the quicker bowlers, but as the years went by, he had to change his game as Zimbabwe were invariably dependent on him to get them out of trouble. Anyway, coming back to his career, he continued his good form against the Indian team as he scored a hundred at Delhi and tried his best to save Zimb from being follow on, but after he got out as expected Zimb collapsed which became a sort of pattern in the days to come. Actually, at that time Flower was inconsistent, though he had his moments like the first ever test win Zimb had over Pakistan when he scored 156. He did struggle against spinners and quickies who pitched it up, but he worked on his game and improved beyond recognition. His struggles can be seen by the fact that in the mid 90's, he had a dreadful tour of Lanka as Murali troubled him big time, but he came back strongly and was successful against even Murali in the years to come.

Flower at his peak

The fruits of his hardwork began to show as he was superb in Lanka in 97/98. He scored a hundred in the second test to give Zimb a glimmer of hope only for De Silva to hit a match winning hundred. In 99/00, he made a gutsy hundred at Harare to almost save a test against Lanka, but he didn't get much support from the other end as Zimb lost. He played for more than seven hours and was only the seventh man out. His ability to keep the spinners guessing was always a treat to watch as he had a good defence, could come down the wicket to alter a spinner's length and of course, he could play those sweeps and reverse sweeps too. Coming back to the series against Lanka, they had to watch Flower do another rescue act in the last test match again at Harare. Flower, this time around almost played six hours to play a battling knock of 70 not out to rescue Zimbabwe from a 3-0 whitewash. After the series was over, Ranatunga in desperation said, the team was only looking at getting him run out! It is no wonder that Murali rates Lara, Andy Flower, Haq and Thorpe highly.

During that time, Zimb won a series in Pakistan  and again Flower came to their rescue in the second test as Zimb were struggling at 5 for 55 before Flower took them to a score of at least around 200. Zimb drew the match and as they had won the first test, they were able to win a historic test series in Pakistan. Another of his brave knocks was his hundred against the Caribbean team in 2000 against Amby and Walsh. He scored almost half of the team's runs, but sadly for Flower, they couldn't chase down a score of just 99 in the second innings and for once Flower showed that he was a human as he failed and Zimb were bundled out for just 63. His next epic knock came in India in 2000/01 as he scored 180 at Delhi, though he couldn't save Zimb from defeat as he could score only 70 runs in the second innings! At that time seventy could be considered as a failure for Flower as he was in such good form. At Nagpur though, he played for two days to save the test and  remained not out on 232. Even now Ganguly maintains that it was one of the best innings he has seen in India. He continued his good form in New Zealand and when India toured Zimb in 2001, Flower's contributions helped them to a rare victory in the second test as they drew the series 1-1. He was just breathtaking against the Saffers as well in 2001. Flower, scored almost half of Zimb's runs against the Saffers as he made 142 in the first innings of just 200 balls and was the last man out. In the second innings he played another sensational knock as he made 199 not out by batting for almost 10 hours yet, he couldn't save Zimb from defeat as he didn't get support from the other end. It is still a incredible feat to see a player keeping wickets with the opposition racking about 600 runs and follows it up with scores of 142 and 199. It wasn't a pop gun attack either as they had Pollock, Ntini, Nel and Kallis.

Flower in one-day cricket

He wasn't bad in one-day cricket either. His almost run a ball knocks in NZ in 2001 took Zimb to their first ever series win in Kiwiland. Flower made 145 and almost took Zimb to a victory against India in the champions trophy in 2002. Zimb looked dead and buried in that match before Flower took the attack to both Kumble and Harbie, but in the end, they fell short by just 14 runs. He also made 142 of just 128 balls against England during that period only to see the bowlers gifting away easy runs to England as Zimb lost.

He finally retired after the 03WC, but he continued to score runs for Essex and helped players like Cook.

Critics of Flower

By looking at his strike rate in test cricket, his critics would opine that Flower could only defend and can't win matches. The factor they won't see would be, it was very difficult for Flower to play aggressively as the bowlers would gift about 500 or 600 odd runs and when he got the chance to bat, it was mainly about looking to draw the game. Now, how can anyone expect him to be aggressive as the bowling attack was weak and he didn't get much support from other batsmen yet,occasionally he showed that he can be versatile as a batsman. His knock of 142 of just 200 balls against Saffers, or his one-day knocks about which I have already mentioned about proves that fact. Cricket is a team game after all. The other point would be, there is a feeling that he was a bad keeper. I have seen enough of Flower to say that he wasn't worse than say Gilly. I have a feeling that people remember him for dropping some easy chances of Hick at Lords in 2000, but at that time he was the captain of the side and he wasn't said to be happy being the captain of the team, so maybe that was the reason behind his lapse in concentration. It has to be also said that it isn't easy for anyone to bat at number 5, to keep wickets with the opposition racking about 500 or 600 and to captain the side. A player needs to be mentally tough and Flower was mentally very tough.

Flower improved as a player by sheer handwork and the way he played spin after he improved as a player was a treat to watch. IMO he was hugely underrated as a wicketkeeper batsman.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tendulkar-The run machine!

The first question that comes to my mind would be is this guy still 16 or 36? He recently played that amazing knock of 175 against Australia and now this knock against the Saffers. To score a double hundred in a one-day international is just a stupendous feat.

Today's knock made me remember those amazing knocks he played at Sarjah so many years back and having seen Tendulkar bat many times I would certainly say that he is batting as well as he used to do in the past. I would imagine those critics who wrote him off after the 2007 world cup must have gone underground by now!

Yes, the pitch was a belter and the ground was small but Tendulkar's balance was so good and was picking the length very early which meant that he could just toy with the bowling. I felt like he could play 3 or 4 shots to every ball as so many times he would just open the face off the bat and smash it over the extra cover region, or would just walk across the stumps and flick it through the on side. It looked like the best way to stop him from scoring was to keep him at the non striker's end as he was unstoppable. Actually, I don't think I can describe the knock just in mere words.

I'm just amazed by the man's hunger for more runs as he has played over 400 onedayers and over 150 tests yet, he continues to play knocks like he did today and is so focused. It can truly be said as a work of a genius.

I do hope he gets 100 centuries in international cricket and he deserves it!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The young guns from New South wales

New South Wales may have struggled this season in the Sheffield Shield, or the Ford Ranger trophy but just like we have seen in the past they are again producing some talented cricketers. Hughes, Khawaja, Copeland, Hazlewood, Henriques, Smith, Starc and Cockley are some of the young players to watch out for.

Hughes- As we know that Hughes has already played for Australia and a lot has been written about his technique. Yes, he does have a unorthodox technique and would struggle against short pitch bowling as we saw in England but give him a bit of room like the Saffer quicks did in South Africa he would just make a mincemeat of it. He has to do something about backing away from the stumps and that may help him regain his place back int the Australian side. He has been a bit inconsistent this season but seems to have got his form back with a big hundred against South Australia.

Khawaja- Most Australian fans rate him highly. He is said to be a compact left-handed batsman who can play attractive shots. In 09/10 he has scored 485 runs in just 5 matches at an impressive average of 60.62. I'm sure that we will hear more about him in the future.

Copeland- Copeland this season burst onto the scene with a record haul of 10 wickets in his first match itself against the Qld bulls. He has continued to take wickets and has already got 23 wickets at 17.34 this season. The right arm seamer surely seems to be promising.

Hazlewood- A lot has already been written about this under 19 star as he continues to impress in the Sheffield Shield. From what I have seen of him, he is a tall guy who gets awkward bounce and has a bit of pace. He has lots of potential and would likely play for Australia.

Henriques- He still hasn't played to his potential in the Sheffield Shield but no doubt has some talent. Henriques, can play some attractive shots but has the habit of throwing his wicket away and that has let him down in his short career. He also seems to bowl within himself. Coaches can help but in the end but it is up-to Henriques to do justice to his talent.

Steve Smith- He is another exciting talent and at present is playing for the Australian T/20 team. A few have already compared him to Shane Warne which is unfair on Smith as he doesn't need to be compared to a legend like Warne at such an young age. He can surely hit the ball very hard especially through the midwicket region but can play even innovative shots like pulling it straight down the ground. Unlike many other fans, I'm still not convinced about his leg spin and it would be better if the media doesn't compare him to Warne.

Starc- Starc, the left armer is said to be a good prospect as well. I have seen a few Aussie supporters saying that he can get some nice swing with the new ball.

Cockley too has done reasonably well as a medium pacer in the Sheffield Shield but seems to be injury prone and has been sidelined by a stress fracture on the back. He even got called up for the tour of India recently.

A few of the above mentioned players may not end up as successful cricketers but they all seem to have potential. I would surely keep an eye on all of them.

Upcoming wicketkeepers of South Africa

To start with, South Africa have been lucky that Boucher has been very good for them for more than a decade. He has scored over 5000 test runs and has effected 494 dismissals. Anyone would be proud of such a record but he isn't getting any younger and sooner rather than later he has to retire. So the question would be who can replace Boucher? Here are few of the candidates who seem to be promising.

Kuhn- The 25 year old Kuhn plays for the Titans. He indeed has a impressive FC record as he averages 43.85 and is rated highly by many Saffer fans. His list A record or his T/20 record isn't great which is surprising as he is said to be a attacking batsman. Kuhn is said to be the favourite to replace Boucher and has already played a T/20 match for South Africa.

Vilas- Vilas, who plays for the Gauteng also has a very good FC record as he averages 44.57. His list A and T/20 records too are good and in fact it is better than Kuhn.

Smit- I have seen a few Saffer fans saying that in first class cricket Smit is the best wicketkeeper but his FC record isn't as good as either Kuhn or Vilas. It has to be said that these days selectors generally look for a wicketkeeper who can be a good batsman and Smit may sadly miss out.

Moshele- The young Moshele is rated highly by Jennings but he is just 20 but in a couple of years of time we may hear more about him.

Bradley Barnes- The 20 year old is again rated highly by Jennings especially as a wicketkeeper. Everyone who saw him were said to be impressed by his ability to stand up to the stumps during the under 19 world cup in 2008.

Other candidates include Van Wyk but he is 30 now and of course there is Ab De Villiers but as we saw from the test match against India he may not be a good choice. He was just about adequate as a keeper against England in his debut series in 2004/05 but I doubt whether he has donned the role of being the wicketkeeper too many times since that series against England. It would be better if AB concentrates on his batting and not think about keeping wickets for SA.

Boucher is still doing well but as I said he isn't getting younger so, it is up to one of the above mentioned players or maybe someone else to take up the mantle of being the wicketkeeper for South Africa.

Lee to retire from test cricket

It looks like another fast bowler has decided to retire from test cricket in a bid to prolong his career. Freddie and Bond have already retired from test cricket and now it is the turn of Lee to announce his retirement.

If fast bowlers continue to retire from test cricket it would be bad for test cricket as it is always thrilling to see a fast bowler bowling quick and the batsman taking up the challenge to face him. At this rate fast bowlers would soon become extinct in test cricket.

As far as Lee is concerned, he has been very good for Australia. 310 test wickets at 30.81 in test cricket and 324 wickets at just 23.01 in one-day cricket proves that fact. Yes, just like any other fast bowler he had his fair share of injuries and there were times when one got the feeling that he had lost the ability to swing the new ball but after the retirement of players like McGrath and Dizzy he made a fine come back and was successful between 2005/06 to 07/08 but in India at the end 08 he looked lacklustre and since then he has been let down by injuries. Lee, last played a test against the Saffers in December 2008 and that itself shows he has struggled with injuries.

It is sad to see quite a few quick bowlers leaving test cricket but one has to respect Lee's decision as it isn't easy for a fast bowler to play test cricket at the age of 33. Anyway I do take this opportunity to salute Lee for bowling quick and doing well in a era made up of flat tracks and also for being a good role model to youngsters.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Srinath- The lion hearted Indian quick bowler

If we look at the history of Indian cricket, it can be said that Indian cricket has produced some great batsmen like Gavaskar, Tendulkar, Dravid, Vishwanath, Nayadu, Merchant, Hazare, Vengserkar and many more. Spinners like Gupte, Bedi, Chandra, Prasanna, Kumble and all rounders of the calibre of Lala Amarnath, Kapil dev and Mankad, but rarely have we seen quick bowlers coming out of the Indian cricket system. It maybe due to the fact that Indian wickets aren't suited to quick bowlers, or it maybe due to India over the years has produced so many great batsmen that youngsters look up-to them and follow in their footsteps. It is not easy to pinpoint the exact reason, but the simple fact is, India hasn't been able to produce too many quick bowlers in the past.

So, when Javagal Srinath burst onto the international scene it was like a breath of fresh air for Indian cricket as here was a quick bowler, who could push the opposition batsmen onto the back-foot unlike in the past when even Gavaskar used to open the bowling. I would like to add that I haven't forgotten the contribution of the legendary Kapil dev to Indian cricket as in the late 70's and 80's he could bowl reasonably quick and of course, he carried the responsibility of taking early wickets with the new ball for so long. I would also like to mention Mohammed Nissar and Amar Singh, who both played for India way back in 1930's. Nissar was said to be quick and in his first test against England in 1932 he sent shock waves through England's top order by uprooting the stumps of the legendary Sutcliffe and Holmes.

So, after a brief look at the history of Indian cricket, let us comeback to our man, Javs. Sri unlike many other great or good bowlers of the past, mainly got it to comeback into the batsmen sharply and straightened the odd delivery away from the righthander with a chest on action.

He made his first class debut for Karnataka in 89/90 and is said to have made an immediate impact with his pace and bounce. The selectors were impressed with the amount of pace he could generate and soon drafted him into the one-day side to play in Sarjah. He didn't had the best of tournaments, but the selectors could see the fact that he had the potential to become a fine bowler. He was selected to tour Australia in 91/92 to play the test series, an one day tournament involving the giants of the game both Australia and West Indies and the world cup. Again he had moderate success in Australia, but the Aussies were impressed with his ability to bowl at good pace and I do remember Rodney Marsh in a interview saying that he hasn't seen bowlers from India, who could bowl quick and get bounce like Sri did, though I have to add that they were sceptical about his fitness. Sri in his early days was wiry and there were question marks over his fitness for sure. In South Africa in 92/93, he got more success and troubled all their batsmen and that includes the likes of Wessels, Hudson and Peter Kirsten. He even gave India an outside chance to level the series 1-1 with an incisive spell at Capetown but Wessels's battling knock meant that South Africa won the series.

After playing a few matches away from home from 1991 to 1993, India played most of their games at home from 1993 to 1996 and because of that Srinath had to bide his time as Kapil was still in the side and as Indian wickets mainly helped the spinners, Azhar and the coach Wadekar usually had 3 spinners in the side which meant that there was no place for Srinath. So, Srinath mainly played in onedayers and he did make his mark in the hero cup against Lanka, when he got a 5 wicket haul, but that was a period which Sri would like to forget as he had problems with his accuracy and used to bowl lots of no balls. In 1994 the legendary Kapil dev retired from international cricket which paved the way for Srinath to make his mark in the highest form of the game, test cricket and didn’t he make his mark straightaway in the test series against the West indies in 1994/95? Of course he did as in the first test at Mumbai, he surprised the Windies batsmen with his pace and bounce. Rarely would have the Windies batsmen played a quick bowler from India, who could push them onto the back-foot and that is what Srinath did to the likes of Lara, Adams and Hooper. He took 5 wickets in that match and even scored a quick-fire 60 which helped India to win the match. His important contribution though, perhaps was getting the wicket of Adams lbw. It was an important wicket as both Adams and Murray were looking dangerous and it seemed like they could have taken the game away from India’s grasp before Chauhan, the off spinner got the wicket of Murray and Srinath followed it up by getting rid of Adams. His exploits against the Caribbean team impressed Walsh who recommended the Gloucestershire club to give him a contract and I have to say that he did very well for the Gloucestershire club!

He had a decent world cup in 1996 in the subcontinent as he took 8 wickets in conditions that doesn’t suit the quick bowlers, though India couldn’t win the world cup as they faltered at the semifinal stage against Lanka. A match most would like to forget because of the unnecessary stone throwing incident by the crowd, who got angry as India were losing the match.

I do believe Javs was at his peak of his prowess in 1996, when he along with his Karnataka teammate Prasad teamed up to take early wickets against England and South Africa. I have a feeling that India would have been more successful in both England and South Africa if there was a decent third seamer but Mambrey, Johnson and Ganesh couldn’t support Srinath and Prasad nevertheless, both bowled some lion-hearted spells in that period in 1996. It was a sight to see the England' captain, Atherton, who himself had already played some fine knocks against genuine quick bowlers like that knock at Johannesburg in 95/96 against Donald and co. was made to look uncomfortable by Srinath’s pace, but it wasn’t enough as India lost the series 1-0. At home at Ahmadabad he bowled a match winning spell as he took 6 for 21 in 11 overs to help India win by 65 runs against South Africa. Most of the South African batsmen were either bowled, or were out lbw as they couldn’t handle Srinath’s ability to attack the stumps and hit those cracks to get uneven bounce. He also got it to reverse swing in that match. South African batsmen like Cullinan, Hudson and Kirsten were rattled by Srinath’s pace and accuracy. Surely SA would have expected Indian spinners like Kumble to do the damage, but it was Srinath who did the trick.

In South Africa in 96/97, both Prasad and Srinath tried their best, but again with greenhorns like Johnson and Ganesh around, India just couldn’t match the South African attack as they had Klusener and Macmillan to support the deadly duo of Donald and Pollock. I have to add that Indian batting was no better as in the first test the Indian team made only 100 and 66! It was a series which was easily won by South Africa 2-0 as they extracted revenge for the loss in India, but no one can question the efforts of both Srinath and Prasad as they bowled some fine spells in that series.

India’s next tour was to Westindies and that was the time when there were fears over the amount of workloads of both Srinath and Prasad as they both had bowled lots of overs during that period. It took a heavy toll on Javagal Srinath as he suffered an shoulder injury in the Caribbean. It was a cruel blow to Srinath as he was at the peak of his prowess in 96/97. Srinath though didn’t give up as he worked hard on his fitness and came back fitter and stronger at the end of 1997. He showed against Australia in 1998 that he had lost none of his ability as he bowled a hostile spell at Kolkata to reduce the formidable Aussies to 15 for 3 on a good batting track. He bowled with pace and just enough movement to trouble the Aussie top order. Slater was out caught at short leg by Dravid and Blewett was done in by the huge inswinger which was Srinath’s main weapon. Blewett in an attempt to flick it through the mid wicket left a gap between bat and pad only to get bowled and finally he got the important wicket of the elegant Mark Waugh as he trapped him in front with Mark looking to play his favourite flick shot, but was again done in by the sharp inward movement of Srinath. The spell by Sri helped India to win the match and India also won the series 2-1.

In 1999 he took 13 wickets against arch rivals Pakistan, but Anwar’s brilliant 188 in the second innings helped Pakistan to win the match, but getting 13 wickets in a match is one hell of a effort. Of course that match sadly would be remembered for that controversial run out of Tendulkar which resulted in crowd getting angry as they started to throw stones. The match had to be sadly completed in front of empty stands as Pakistan won by 46 runs. He also played in the 99 world cup, but the Indian team was disappointing as they couldn’t progress beyond the super six stage. Srinath though, enjoyed the sideways movement that England’s pitches can offer and showed his worth with a 3 wicket haul in the crucial game against Pakistan in the super six stage. It was also a match that India won. He ended up with 12 wickets in that tournament.

At the end of the millennium, India embarked on a challenging tour of Australia. Australia at that time were at their peak as they had the likes of McGrath, Dizzy, Waugh twins, Ponting, Warne, Fleming, and upcoming players like Lee and Gilchrist in the side. As expected, they were too strong for an inexperienced Indian side led by Tendulkar. Srinath himself didn’t had a great time in Australia, though I have to add that he was unlucky at Sydney in the third test as he repeatedly beat the bat of the Aussie batsmen with no luck especially, it looked like gods were smiling on Langer that day as whenever he would get an edge, it would go past whatever gap that existed in the slip cordon and even when Srinath induced an inside edge onto the stumps it was declared as a no ball. It continued to be a great day for Langer as a close lbw shout was turned down by the umpire Ian Robinson, but as it is said that when it is your day make it count and that is what Langer did as he scored 223 as India lost the series 3-0.

As the years went by, Srinath wasn’t getting any younger as a new crop of quick bowlers like Zaheer, Nehra and few others started to make their mark yet, Srinath was still able to make his mark as he took 5 for 114 at Galle against Lanka and it is interesting to see that Srinath was hit on the finger by Fernando yet, he bowled a lion hearted spell and took 5 wickets. India lost that match and the series but yet again Srinath showed that he would give his heart and soul for the sake of Indian cricket.

In 2002, Srinath was coming to the end of his career, but he decided to play in one more world cup in 2002/ 2003 in South Africa. He wasn’t as quick as he used to be yet his experience came in handy as he helped younger bowlers like Zaheer and Nehra. Srinath himself had his share of success as he took 16 wickets. His best spell was probably against Lanka as he took a 4 wicket haul to destroy the Lankan batting line-up and against others teams too he was consistent. Zaheer, Srinath and Nehra helped India to reach the finals where they were crushed by the great Australian team. India were suddenly hit by a storm called Ricky Ponting as he simply tore apart the Indian bowling attack with some audacious pull shots and lofted strokes against the spinners as India came a cropper at the final hurdle. One can surely say though that the Indian team performed well in the world cup especially, when one thinks about the fact that India lost the match against Australia in the round robin phase and were in a spot of bother in what was a tough group consisting of teams like Australia, Pakistan, England and Zimbabwe. It also made sure that Srinath won’t get the chance to end his career as being part of a world cup winning team.

Finally, Srinath had his critics, who thought that he bowled a touch too short otherwise he could have been more successful and there were others, who thought that he wasn’t aggressive enough like other quicks. The points so mentioned can be considered, but there is no doubt that Srinath has done yeoman services to Indian cricket. He had to bowl on some unresponsive wickets in the subcontinent and didn't get much support at the other end. On has to always remember that even Kumble was below par, when playing away from home in the 90's and as a result it did put lots of pressure on Javs  yet, he  was able to take more than 200 test wickets. After the retirement of Kapil, it was Srinath who took up the mantle of being India’s spearhead in the pace department and did an admirable job.

Can New Zealand upset the apple-cart?

To start with, if I'm following a match that doesn't involve any of my favourites, I tend to support the underdog. I'm not just thinking about cricket but any other sport. So, I was thrilled to watch Mcneil defeating Graf at the Wimbledon in 1994, Krajicek defeating Sampras at the Wimbledon in 1996, Panis winning the Monaco grand prix in 1996, Fisi winning the unforgettable Brazilian grand prix in 03, or for the matter Senegal defeating France in the 2002 football world cup. Of course in cricket we can think of Bangladesh defeating Australia and India respectively, or for the matter Ireland defeating Pakistan and many more.

Now coming back to Australia's one-day leg tour of NZ one can't say that Black Caps defeating OZ is equal to Bangladesh defeating Australia as it would mean disrespecting the Kiwi side. NZ have been a decent one-day team for a long time and it can be seen by the fact that they recently reached the finals of the champions trophy in South Africa yet, Australia's form this season has been so good that if NZ are able to pull this one off it would be counted as an upset. Australia have just steamrolled Pakistan and the Caribbean team at home, defeated India in India and they won the champions trophy too. It does show that Aussies are in great form at the moment.

As far as NZ is concerned, they have always punched above their weight in one-day cricket. The Kiwis have never had a side that is made up of lots of stars but they play well as a unit and they have usually given their arch rivals, Australia a run for the money in one-day cricket.

Anyway now let us look at the New Zealand team.

To start with, it is good to see that Bond is coming back to the side. He has retired from test cricket yet, has a lot to offer in the shorter versions of the game with his accurate quick bowling. He wasn't in the best form in the champions trophy nor in the one-day series in Dubai and even in a few List A games in NZ he wasn't said to be in good form. I did notice that in the Champions trophy, Bond with the white new ball wasn't getting the same amount of inswing as he used to get in the past but one can't write off a class bowler like Bond especially, when one thinks of the fact that he has taken 35 wickets in just 12 matches @ 14.45 against the world champions. It is indeed an amazing record. NZ have Tuffey, Southee and allrounders like Oram and Franklin as back pace bowlers. I do expect Tuffey, Oram and maybe Franklin to play. Of course there is the ever reliable left arm spinner, Vettori. It has to be also added that NZ are missing a few bowlers like Mills and McKay. I don't think there is any doubt that if Mills was fit he would have been in the team. His record of 162 wickets at 26.45 proves that he is a fine bowler. Mills is also a handy striker of the ball in the end overs. McKay, who showed some promise against Bangladesh is injured as is the all rounder, Eliott.

So, as I said for NZ to do well in the series, Bond has to strike early. For Australia, Shane Watson has been very good at top of the order and though Marsh wasn't in good form against the Caribbean team, one can say that he has done reasonably well in his one-day career. It is imperative that Bond gets his inswinger going as Watson always seems to be a bit of lbw candidate and when we add the fact that he has a good record against the lefthanders too as 42 of his victims have been lefthanders it would mean that Bond is the key as Australia's other opener is the left-handed, Marsh. Tuffey, who would likely open the bowling with Bond should be mainly given the new ball and shouldn't be used in the end overs as Tuffey isn't someone who can bowl full and bowl those yorkers in the end overs. It can be seen by the fact that even Bangladesh's batsmen went after him in the end overs. He also needs to adjust his line to the left and right combination of Watson and Marsh quickly as in the past he has struggled a bit when up against a left and right opening combination. If NZ can take some early wickets it would help Vettori to do what he does best and that would be to bowl in the middle overs and choke the strong Australian middle order of Punter, Hussey and white backed up by a good fielding unit.

The biggest concern is who would take up the mantle of bowling in the end overs? Most fans and experts would point to Bond as one of the obvious candidates as he bowls full and can reverse it but for some reason, Bond hasn't been that effective in the end overs and even more so after he has come back into the team. Can anyone remember the hammering he received at the hands of the Lankan team recently in the champions trophy? maybe he tries too many things instead of keeping it simple and that would be to bowl full and straight and mix it up with the odd slower delivery. NZ could have explored the option of including the off spinner, Patel as he can bowl those darts in the end overs but he isn't in the squad. Oram can be one of the options as he can bowl in the block hole and of course there is the ever reliable, Vettori though I would like him to bowl most of his overs between 15-35 as he is very good at strangling the middle order of the opposition teams. It looks like Bond with back up from the likes of Vettori and Oram have to bowl the end overs but I'm not sure that attack would do well. In fact it is not just Australia's middle order that must worry the Kiwi bowlers but their lower order consisting of, players like Haddin, Johnson and even the likes of Hauritz and Harris can smash the opposition bowlers to smithereens. So, their death bowling has to be good.

NZ's batting would miss the services of the injured, Elliott. Elliott, may not be huge name in world cricket but he has done very well in onedayers. It is another matter altogether that he hasn't been good enough in test cricket which is a bit of surprise as he seems to have a good temperament. His knocks like his century against Australia with NZ chasing a score of around 300 and his crucial 75 not out against Pakistan in the champions trophy semifinal though shows that they will miss him in this one-day series. IMO NZ's lower order looks a lot better with Elliott in the team. In his place they have called the veteran, Styris but in recent times he hasn't looked fit enough and there have been question marks regarding his attitude.

So, in the absence of the explosive opening batsman, Ryder and Elliott it would be up to the trio of Taylor, McCullum and Guptill to make significant contributions. McCullum at top of the order has promised much but more often than not has failed to deliver. He has got lots of quickfire 20's and 30's but one-day cricket is also about the top order getting big scores. Guptill has a good one-day record but Johnson and co. would test him with short pitch deliveries as he has a fascination for pulling short deliveries. Taylor can be devastating on his day but occasionally he too can lose his concentration and throw his wicket away. He would be their key player in the middle order and they would look forward to him to take on Hauritz as he is fine player of spin. Vettori has improved his batting but he needs more support from the likes of Oram, Franklin/ Styris and Broom. Broom has promised much but hasn't yet done well and it is also high time that Oram again starts getting runs against better teams.

NZ's batsmen also have to guard against the left arm angle of Bollinger and the swing of Harris. New Zealand's batsmen have a history of struggling against swing bowling especially, the left arm version as most of their batsmen seem to be stand and deliver players and don't move their feet. At sometime or the other the likes of Akram,Siders, Zaheer, Nehara, Vaas and co. have troubled them. Bollinger himself is a fine left arm swing bowler and more importantly he seems to have a great attitude. Harris too has shown his worth in the recently concluded one-day series against both Pakistan and the Caribbean team as a swing bowler. Actually, if you look at the Australia line up, Johnson too is a left armer though he isn't a swing bowler and on those small grounds of NZ he maybe taken for runs. McKay has made a good start to his one-day career and they do have the much improved Shane Watson as back up pace bowlers but from a New Zealand's perspective, I see Bollinger and Harris as the main threats in the pace attack. One shouldn't underestimate the off spinner, Hauritz as well as he has the habit of taking crucial wickets in the middle overs.

Of course I have to add that NZ always have a good fielding side though in recent times they have been a bit indifferent but against their arch rivals, Australia I expect them to field well!

As far as the pitches are concerned, it has become a lot more batting friendly and scores of around 300 isn't a huge surprise anymore.

NZ team is well versed with those rugby grounds at home and that is a key factor to consider as well as visiting teams take time to set fields on what are mainly rugby grounds.

The NZ team looks good with Bond coming back into the side and they have players like Taylor, Guptill and Vettori as well. In one-day cricket they have punched above their weight especially, against Australia and I would say that at home they have a decent chance of upsetting the apple-cart against the Aussies.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Good performance from England!!

It was good to see England playing well and defeating the world champions, Pakistan. England's fielding has come up by leaps and bounds in recent times and in this game as well the fielding was good. Broad, Colly and KP were very good in the field. It was mainly fielding and some clever bowling by the England's medium pacers which made sure that Pak. would score only 129. The medium pacers mixed it up with slower deliveries and bouncers which is the right way to go on what seemed like a double paced wicket. Of course Swann picked up a couple of wickets but he has been consistent in recent times, so it isn't a huge surprise!

England lost a few early wickets as Denly again failed. I think it is high time that Denly is dropped with either Kieswetter or Lumb replacing him. It didn't look good at 19 for 3 as both Trott and Colly too got out. Trott has the habit of walking across his stumps and always looks like a lbw candidate or as he did today, chopping onto the stumps. He surely has to do something about it. Morgan and KP though came up with a fine partnership to ensure that England would win comfortably in the end. I have said this before that Morgan has a very good temperament and he again showed it today. He plays late and that helped him to do well on this wicket. As far as KP is concerned, I don't see much wrong in his technique but he just needs to spend some time in the middle and it was good to see him not trying to smash everything like he tried in South Africa but played a good supporting role to Morgan.

Pakistan were better in the field but their batsmen again were not up-to the mark. Malik and the sensible, Alam did try to resurrect the innings and in the end, Razzaq smashed a few but a score of 129 even on what seemed like a bit of double paced wicket was never going to be enough.

England aren't one of top T/20 sides but the team is moving in the right direction though selectors can't just keep picking Denly. England have to look at either Kieswetter or Lumb for sure.

Can Bangladesh's batsmen ever learn!

Bangladesh have played another innings and yet again their batsmen have fallen like a pack of cards. So, are batsmen like Ashraful, Aftab, Imrul and co. ever going to learn that in test cricket one has to show patience and it isn't just about smashing everything out of the ground.

It is high time that Ashraful be dropped from the team. I'm sure there must be some guy in Bang. who can do better than him. Bangladesh can't just depend on Sakib or say Mohamuddullah to take team out of trouble again and again but the batsmen have to make some contribution as well. Sakib must be getting frustrated watching his batsmen throw their wickets away so many times.

As a neutral I have supported Bangladesh for sometime but sorry to say most of their batsmen don't seem to understand that test cricket isn't just about hitting sixes and fours!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Harbajan- The gutsy cricketer

To start with, it was a fascinating final day's play of cricket but in the end India deservedly won the match. Amla again showed great patience and determination and almost pulled off a draw for the Saffers but in the end it wasn't enough as India won the match to draw the series 1-1.

As far as Harbie is concerned, what can I say? I have been critical of his form in recent times but like him or hate him, Harbie is no doubt a gutsy cricketer as he keeps proving people wrong by taking wickets under pressure. He may have even taken more than five wickets in the second innings but for some sharp chances dropped by Badrinath.

Harbajan may not be a connoisseur's delight like what old-timers say about Prasana but he does have the ability to take wickets at crucial times. I also liked the fact that at last he has agreed to go around the wicket to the lefthanders but it did take a long time for him to understand that it can be a good weapon against the lefthanders.

As far as this test match is concerned, Amla was again superb. As I said before, scoring a half century can be considered as a failure for Amla. Indian batsmen like Tendulkar, Sehwag, Laxman and Dhoni were very good. Among the bowlers, Steyn was a bit disappointing but it was good to see Mishra getting some form back. He is a talented bowler and should be given a decent run in the side.

Finally I again take this opportunity to congratulate both Amala and of course Harbie. Surely Harbie knows how to shut up critics like me lol.

Eoin Morgan?

Since he made his debut for England, Morgan has been a revelation in both the onedayers and the T/20 format. It was Morgan's enterprising batting that took England to the champions trophy semifinal and he again came good in South Africa. It has been like a breath of fresh air to watch Morgan bat in the shorter formats of the game as in recent times players like Hussain, Vaughan and Bell have played for England. To be frank, none of them are suited to one-day cricket but with Morgan batting at number 5, the team looks a lot better.

Actually, I'm not just thinking of Morgan playing for England in the shorter formats of the game, but I still believe that he can play test cricket in the future. I have been criticised in a cricket forum or two for suggesting his name as his FC record isn't great but I do think that he has the temperament to succeed at the test level as well.

He plays late and that helps him to handle the spinners well and of course just like the team's coach, Andy Flower he can play that innovative reverse sweep. He also has the ability to score at a good pace against the quicker bowlers. The only area he has to work on is, he tends to drive loosely just around the off stump and quicker bowlers would certainly look to tempt him to drive just wide of off stump otherwise, I don't see why shouldn't he succeed in the longer format of the game. I also believe that if he works on it, his FC record would get better.

I know that some may not agree with me but, I won't be surprised if I see Morgan playing for England in test cricket in the future. At present I would like him to be selected for the Lions team though it seems like the selectors are favouring Gale and from what I have seen of both Gale and Morgan, I would definitely say that Morgan has more potential.

Can Alam be the answer to Pakistan's batting problems?

As we know that Pakistan had a disastrous tour of Australia as they lost 3-0. The fielding was heavily criticised as was their batting. Players like Faisal, Yousef, Younis etc were really disappointing as they just couldn't convert good starts into big scores. It does show that Pakistan need to look at younger players and not just go back to old faces like Faisal Iqbal or even Shoaib Malik as in test cricket, Malik too has been disappointing. Even senior players like Yousef and Younis Khan have to again perform. Yes, players like Yousef and Younis have been great servants of Pakistan's cricket and they should be given opportunities to come back to form as they are very good players but at some point they have to start performing again.

So, if some of the players like Iqbal and Malik have to be left out, selectors have to find replacements for them. I don't have too much knowledge about Pakistan's domestic cricket but from what I have seen, Alam can be given a decent run in the side. Since his debut against the Lankans in the onedayers in 2007 he has done reasonably well for sure. He is a middle-order batsman who can bowl left arm spin though nowadays he hardly bowls spin but the sad fact is in one-day internationals, Pakistan's management have made him bat at even no. 8 or occasionally at no. 9. In the recently concluded one-day series against Australia, he finally got a chance to bat at number 6 and he showed his class by averaging 39 and scored a crucial half century in the last match though Pakistan lost that match and the series 5-0. Add to it, Alam averages 40.87 in one-day internationals and that isn't bad for a young player.

In test cricket, he has only played three matches yet he scored an important hundred at Galle. It wasn't the easiest of wickets to bat on and Pakistan were in trouble yet he scored a fine 168. Another interesting point to note is that he was asked to open the batting in that match still he was able to do well on his debut itself. It does show that he is a gutsy batsman as it isn't easy for a middle order batsman to open the batting and that too on his debut but unfortunately it can be said that Pakistan's cricket is full of chaos as they dumped Alam after he had a bad match in New Zealand. So, is it right to drop a batsman after one failure? and that too we are thinking of a young player who was batting in a unfamiliar position on New Zealand tracks. For any young player it isn't easy to do well in New Zealand as the tracks in NZ can help the quicker bowlers. More bad news was to follow for Alam as they sent him back home without giving him a chance against the Aussies in the test series! On one hand batsmen like Iqbal and even Yousef weren't contributing in the test series yet they sent Alam back home to Pakistan. It was indeed a weird decision and I can't imagine what Alam must have been thinking about that decision. Alam was thankfully recalled for the one-day series against Australia and he did show that he can do well in Australia by scoring a fine half century in the final onedayer. More importantly he was batting at number 6 and I think he is well suited to that position.

Alam, shuffles across a lot and he isn't going to brings crowds into the stadium to watch his batting but I would rather have a player who has a technique that seems to work for him and does well than a player who looks good but can't score runs. Alam, deserves a decent run in the side as players like Umar Akmal and Alam are the future of Pakistan's batting but with Pakistan one can never know what they are going to do next!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Shane Bond

To start with it is sad to see that one of the champion fast bowlers of recent times, Shane Bond has retired from test As a fast bowler he was a thoroughbred and is one of the few cricketers I would pay to watch on a cricket field.

The lion-hearted fast bowler from Canterbury was first spotted by Dayle Hadlee as he made his first class debut in 1997 for Canterbury but early in his career he didn’t had much success as the likes of Shayne O’ Connor, Drum, Tuffey, Penn, Franklin, Chris Martin etc all leapfrogged ahead of him as New Zealand looked for support bowlers to the likes of Nash and Cairns. Actually his cricket career looked to be in jeopardy when he joined the New Zealand’s police force in 1999 and found little time to play first class cricket. He did come back to play first class cricket and made a fine impression in 2000/01 as it seemed like his cricket career was back on track.

For Shane Bond it all changed in 2001/02 when he was selected to play for the A team as he got to play a few tournaments like the Moin ud dwalah trophy in India and the great Sir Richard Hadlee is said to have helped him with his bowling during that time. At that time New Zealand were touring Australia but were hit by injuries to key bowlers like Dion Nash which made New Zealand to go for Shane Bond as he could bowl quick and that perhaps was the reason behind the selectors plumping for Bond. It all didn’t go to plan for Bond as in his first series in Australia he could pick only 3 wickets at 96.33 yet everyone was impressed by his pace and the ability to swing it back sharply. I still remember him troubling none other than the tenacious Steve Waugh himself with those huge inswingers at Hobart as he finally got him lbw. It was a series in which the Kiwis played well and they even came close to winning the series at Perth but only for a couple of decisions being turned down by the Zimbabwean umpire, Ian Robinson. Nevertheless, our man Bond showed in this series that he had lots of potential.

Bond continued to impress everyone as he had a successful time against the hapless Bangladeshis in 2001/02 and after winning that series against Bangladesh, New Zealand returned back to Australia to complete the one day leg of their tour. It was a tri-series played between South Africa, the Kiwis and of course the hosts, Australia. It was in that series in which Bond really made his mark as he took 21 wickets at just 16.38. In his first match itself at Melbourne he troubled the likes of Mark Waugh, Steve Waugh, Ponting and co. as he took 3 wickets to help the Kiwis defeat Australia in a low scoring match. I still remember his superb spell at Adelaide as well as he took a 5 wicket haul. He bowled with fire on a flat deck and the inswinging yorker he bowled to Gilly was a gem as it swung so late to uproot the stumps of Gilchrist. All Aussie batsmen on a flat deck were running for cover as Bond helped the Black Caps to crush their Trans Tasman rivals by 77 runs. It can be said that Bond was the main factor behind Black Caps reaching the finals of that tournament. He couldn’t repeat the magic in the finals against South Africa as he was hampered by a knee injury but there was no doubting the fact that the Black caps had suddenly unearthed a strike bowler they so desperately needed.

As I briefly said in my last paragraph that he was troubled by a knee problem in the tri-series in Australia and that prevented him from playing against England at home and touring Pakistan in 2002 though after that bomb which exploded near the hotel in which the Black Caps were staying in Pakistan, Bond may have thought to himself that he was lucky to miss the tour of Pakistan and that tour as expected was immediately cancelled because of that bomb explosion. Anyway he came back to play in the Caribbean as Fleming lead the Black Caps to their first ever series triumph over the Caribbean team in a test series in the Caribbean. Stephen Fleming surely has to thank his number one speedster, Shane Bond for that as he took 7 wickets in the first test at Barbados to help NZ script a famous victory. The Black caps were able to draw the second test and hence they were able to win the two test series 1-0. In that series Bond showed his class by troubling none other than the great man, Lara himself.

As 2002 came to an end the Back Caps met India at home and on some spicy wickets the Black Caps were able to easily defeat India in both tests and onedayers. The pitches in that series may have offered too much sideways movement for the quicker bowlers but no one can take away the credit from Bond as he constantly troubled the likes of Tendulkar, Sehwag and Dravid with those huge inswingers and the odd delivery that straightened from the righthander. I still remember the cracking inswinger he bowled to Dravid at Wellington in the first test as he found a bit of gap between Dravid’s bat and pad to send the stumps cart-wheeling out of the ground. It has never been easy to find any flaw in Dravid’s technique but Bond with his pace and swing was able to find that gap between Dravid’s bat and pad and the shows his class!

He had a great time in the 2003 world cup as he took 17 wickets at just 17.94. His spell at Port Elizabeth against Australia was a top drawer for sure as he took a 6 wicket haul. The like of Haydos, Gilly, Ponting, Martyn and co. were all at sea against him. It surely looked like the Black Caps would crush the Aussies but again their brittle batting line up was a let down as in the end Australia won quite comfortably. Actually leaving the round robin match against South Africa, the Black Caps’s batting line up just flopped in that tournament as they were ousted at the super six stage itself by India at Centurion. It was a match in which their brittle batting lineup couldn’t stand up to India’s disciplined bowling and though Bond made a few early breakthroughs, Dravid steadied the ship to help India defeat the Black Caps and with that the hopes of Black Caps progressing further in that tournament went up in smoke.

At that time it looked like the Black Caps had last found a bowler who could carry their bowling attack like Hadlee did in 80’s but Shane Bond is a bowler who seems to put lots of pressure on his back and ankle and when the Black Caps toured Lanka in 2003 the disaster struck for Bond as he was diagnosed with a stress fracture on his back. He tried hard to make a successful come back but to no avail as he was sent back home from a tour of England in 2004 as that back problem came back to haunt him. It looked like he may even retire from international cricket but thanks to Hadlee and bio-mechanical experts he made some changes to his action and returned back to play for the Black Caps in Zimbabwe. As expected in the test series against Zimbabwe they had no answer to his accurate quick bowling but he showed his class even against better opponents like India on that tour of Zimbabwe. India was the third team that was taking part in a tri-series in Zimbabwe and they felt the force of Bond in the first match itself at Bulawayo as Bond bowled a fiery spell and took a 6 wicket haul. The Indian team may have thought as to why they only had to face Bond again and again as Bond had tormented the Indian batsmen a lot in 2002/03. As expected with him making a come back in such a grand fashion, the black caps were able to win that tournament. The Black Caps always look so much better with Shane Bond in the side as he is a genuine strike bowler.

He did well at home against both the Caribbean team and the Lankans in 06 and in the tri-series in Australia he troubled both England's team and Australia. He took 11 wickets at just 26.36 in that tri-series. He did take a hat-trick at Hobart against Australia and in the crucial match at Brisbane against England which became a virtual semifinal for both the sides as the winner of that match was going to progress to the finals, Bond made early breakthroughs. I do remember the inswinging Yorker he bowled to send Vaughan’s stumps cart-wheeling and that was the second over of the match. At that time England’s captain, Vaughan was struggling with knee injuries and he would have been cursing his luck that he got such a good delivery. It didn’t help the Black Caps to progress to the finals of that tournament as they were let down by some poor fielding and Fleming though scored a century he took too much time to get it as England narrowly won that crucial match to reach the finals. At that time Bond also bowled some fine spells on the flat wickets of India against champion teams like Pakistan and Australia in the champions trophy. It helped the Black Caps to reach the semifinals. I still remember the slower bouncers that he employed against the Pakistani batsmen in that tournament. It surely took Pakistan’s batsmen by surprise as Bond reaped the rewards. He also helped the Black Caps to crush Australia 3-0 in the Chappell-Hadlee trophy by taking a 5 wicket haul at Wellington.

He had a successful 2007 world cup as he took 13 wickets at just 16.38 to help the Black Caps to reach the semifinals but unfortunately for them, Bond couldn’t make much of an impact against the marauding Lankans in the semifinals as Jayawerdena played a breathtaking knock to crush the Kiwis. Shane Bond in 2007 was already 32 and with his history of injuries and the advent of T/20 may have made Bond to think of newer avenues as he signed for ICL. At that time he had just played for the Black Caps against the South African team in South Africa as he picked up yet another injury but as he had signed for the rebel ICL league, the BCCI and the ICC banned him from playing for New Zealand. I won’t like to again get into this debate of whether that ban on Bond and other international players were right but it was a massive loss for the Black Caps as he was their one and only strike bowler. It looked like Bond may never return to play for the Black Caps but the ICL was scrapped in 2009 as Bond and other players were given amnesty which helped Bond to play for the Black Caps again.

In 2009 when he returned back to play for the Black Caps, it can be said that they had a very inexperienced side. Their inspirational captain, Fleming, Astle, Cairns, Macmillan and co. had retired which made sure that Vettori had too much responsibility on his shoulders as he suddenly became their captain, their main bowler, one of their main batsman and with the sacking of their coach, Moles he took over the role of being the coach for a temporary period of time! So, it was great to see that Bond had come back into their line up as with him in the side, the burden on Vettori was expected to get less. The critics thought that Bond had lost a bit of pace and was not getting too much swing and to an extent they were right as Bond struggled a bit in the recently concluded champions trophy and the one-day series played against Pakistan in the Gulf but Bond is no doubt a class bowler and he showed it once for all as even at the ripe age of 34 he took 8 wickets to help the Black Caps defeat Pakistan at Dunedin the first test. It was great to see Bond again bowling at over 90 miles per hour and troubling all Pakistan’s batsmen including their captain, Yousef with some snorters as he helped the Black Caps to defeat Pakistan but with Bond one can never be sure about his fitness and he again broke down with an abdominal strain. Bond has always come across as a honest man and I have a feeling that he must have thought his injury problems were letting down the Black Caps as he announced his retirement from test cricket on 23rd of December. A sad to end to one of the best fast bowlers in recent times.

Finally he played only in 18 tests but a bowling average of 22.09 and a phenomenal strike rate of 38.7 shows that hew was up there with the best. At his best his run up, action and the amount of sharp swing that he used to get was just a connoisseur’s delight. His ability to bowl quick and send the batsman’s stumps cart-wheeling out of the ground in test cricket would be missed but thankfully he has said that he would still play the shorter versions of the game. It is really sad that at present there aren’t too many genuine quicks going around and with Lee too struggling because of injuries it can be said that only Steyn is the genuine quick left though Roach did show some potential in Australia. Anyway I would like to salute Bond for his services to New Zealand cricket and for bringing joy to millions of cricket fans around the world!

The success story of Amla!

It looks like Amla is set to score yet another hundred. Oh gawd what a great series it has been for Amla as he has already scored over 400 runs and has got out only once. Add to it the fact that it is just a two match series.

The Indian bowlers must be having nightmares of all those wristy flicks and drives. Dhoni must be tearing his hair in frustration, just like all those captains thought about Andy Flower when he was making those huge scores in the late 90's and the early part of this decade.

To be honest, I wasn't impressed by Amla's batting when I saw him for the first time about five or so years back as he had a very open chested stance and struggled to play shots though the off side also he looked awkward against the short ball. So, the credit has to go to him for working hard on his technique which has helped him to succeed. I have also read that Gary Kirsten has worked on his technique.

Anyway coming back to this series, it has been wonderful to watch Amla bat against the spinners. He has played late, used the depth of the crease and he always has been a wristy player which helps him to play the spinners better. Actually someone like Duminy can look at the way Amla uses the depth of the crease against the spinners.

Finally it looks like Saffers need Amla to fire yet again as they are in trouble in the second test and I won't be surprised if he scores yet another hundred. Dhoni and co. would hope that he won't at least get another century but makes only about 50 or 60 as as at present even a half century can be thought of as a failure for Amla!

Mishra is bowling better

I see that weather has again intervened and the Saffer team would be praying for lots of rain and bad light as they have already lost three important wickets. The wicket of Kallis being the key wicket.

Anyway it is good to see that Mishra is bowling a lot better. The first time I saw him was against Australia in 2008/09 and at that time I thought a start is born as he looked like a classical leg spinner who believed in flighting the ball, attacking the stumps and made the batsmen come forward to drive but just like a few other promising leg spinners he seemed to have lost his way as against Lanka and in the first test of this series he was bowling short and not attacking the stumps. One would never know was it just a case of a bowler being in bad form or did Dhoni ask him to bowl negatively but the simple fact was he looked a pale shadow of the bowler he was against Australia.

Today though I see the old magic that one saw against Australia returning back. He flighted it, attacked the stumps, varied his pace a bit more, bowled a lot fuller and made the batsmen drive. On Indian pitches a spinner can't bowl short as the batsmen can just play it very easily on the back-foot like what Amla has done in this series.

I really thought the delivery that he bowled to Kallis was a gem of a delivery as he bought the batsman forward by flighting it and got the edge. Kallis is a top-class batsman and it has never been easy to get him out but Mishra got him by bowling a very good delivery. Mishra can be a asset to the Indian side as he can take wickets even on flat tracks but the most important factor to consider is he should be used as a attacking bowler!

Bangladesh's lower order

I see that Bangladesh's lower order is again doing well against the Kiwis. For a considerable period of time, the lower order consisting of Rahim, Sakib and Mohammadullah have been scoring majority of the runs but their top and middle order just continue to struggle.

So the question is how many more chances do players like Ashraful, Aftab, Kayes and Siddiqui need? Yes, Tamim scored a breathtaking hundred against India and seems to be performing better. Kayes too scored a hundred recently against the Kiwis albeit in a onedayer but they have to be more consistent. As far as Ashraful is concerned he continues to waste his talent.

If their batsmen can perform on a consistent basis, Bangladesh can become a competitive unit but I won't be holding my breath for that to happen as their batsmen have been disappointing for a long time.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The hype surrounding Morne Morkel

I have never understood the hype surrounding Morne Morkel. Yes, he is tall, gets bounce and has pace but he isn't consistent enough and bowls too short.

I remember the hype surrounding him when SA were about to tour Australia in 08/09 and he didn't do well. He again failed against Australia and this time at home as Phil Hughes made merry against some wayward bowling from Morkel. Everyone knows that Phil Hughes mainly looks for room but Morkel continued to feed him to his strengths by bowling short and wide.

In the series against England he succeeded at Johannesburg but his bowling is suited to wickets that have pace and bounce. So it wasn't a huge surprise that he destroyed England on a pacy wicket.

As far as the series against India is concerned I found it amazing that many people thought he would succeed in India. He bowls the traditional three quarter length instead of bowling full. In subcontinent one has to bowl a lot fuller and Morkel doesn't do it. I know that most people think that Jimmy Anderson is no good when it stops swinging but even he has done better than Morkel in India. It does show that Morel perhaps is overrated. Occasionally Morkel has looked threatening in India but he just bowls too short to succeed.

He would be very good on pitches that have pace and bounce but I don't see how can he succeed on wickets that are unresponsive to the quicker bowlers.

Twenty years of Tendulkar!

I see that lots of journalists including Reobuck are writing about Tendulkar as he completes 20 years in international cricket. So after watching the great man bat for a long time I also thought of writing an article about him.

To start with playing 20 years of internationals in itself is a great achievement and it is amazing to see that he is still doing well as a batsman.

The first glimpses of Tendulkar’s batting I saw was way back in the early 90’s. I still remember his century at Old Trafford in 90 and at Perth in 92. Here was a little man hardly about 5 ft. 5 inch tall taking on international class bowlers like Fraser, McDermott, Hughes and co. and looking at ease against them . His knock at Perth was special for sure as he made mincemeat of the Aussie bowling attack on a lightning quick track at Perth. Dermot and co. had destroyed the feeble Indian top order but Tendulkar stood firm amongst the ruins as he cut and pulled the Aussie quicks all over the park and whenever they tried to pitch it up he played that trademark starightdrive. The next highest score for the Indian team was 48 by the keeper More but the young Tendulkar didn’t lose his concentration as he went onto make a brilliant century. The trend of Tendulkar doing well and others collapsing around him continued throughout the 90’s before players like Dravid and Laxman started to make their mark in the late 90’s.

He was very consistent throughout the 90’s but the next great knock I saw him play was at Edgbaston. The match was played in early May and as expected it was helping the quicker bowlers as in the first innings Cork and Lewis easily destroyed the Indian batting line up. England got a handy lead as India clearly missed a third seamer to support the tireless Srinath and the swing bowler Prasad. So when India came onto bat the second time around the onus was clearly on Tendulkar as it was clear that if anyone in the Indian batting line up could survive the testing conditions it was him and didn’t he play a masterful knock? From the start he looked in great touch as he played some majestic cover drives and it looked like Tendulkar was batting on a easy paced wicket and other batsmen were batting on a very difficult wicket. He again played like a colossus in a team made up of feeble batsmen who to be frank looked out of their depth in conditions foreign to them. The next highest score was 18 by Manjraker! Finally he got out but not before he gave India a lead of at least 150 odd runs which England was able to knock off very easily. So it was another match in which Tendulkar got no support from others.

I also saw him make a 40 odd on a dicey track in the Caribbean. It may have been just 40 odd runs but the way he was able to pick the length so quickly and pull Ambrose on a track where the batsmen were finding it hard to judge the bounce was a treat to watch. The knock was cut short by a poor decision but I can only laugh at comments about him being suspect on tracks that has something in it for the bowlers. During that time he also scored a brilliant century at Capetown and again the feeble top order fell like a pack of cards.

He made a great 155 at Madras on a turning track against Aus as he pasted Warne all over the park. His ability to hit him out of the rough was just amazing to watch. The 155 he scored turned the match on its head as Warne got the pasting of his life. Reportedly he asked some local leg spinners to bowl around the wicket so that he could work on playing Warne from around the wicket. It just shows his amazing dedication to succeed as a player.

I didn’t watch his knock at Madras against Pak. in 99 but at that time Saqlain was mesmerizing the batsmen with his dozra and even the Indian batsmen struggled a bit but not Tendulkar who scored a brilliant century against Akram, Younis and Saqlain and took India close to victory only to see the lower order batsmen throwing their wickets away as India lost.

At that time he also was made the captain of the side and that wasn’t a happy time for him as the Indian team was whitewashed in Aus in 99/00. Seriously though the inexperienced Indian line up never stood a chance against the Aus. team in their own backyard. Tendulkar though did score a hundred at Melbourne.

As the 90’s came to an end players like Dravid and Laxman started to emerge and that took a bit of pressure away from Tendulkar. Laxman and Dravid rightly got all the accolades in that great series against Aus. in 2001 for their monumental partnership which turned the game upside down but Tendulkar did score a vital hundred again at his favorite ground Madras.

As the years went by Tendulkar started to have injury problems and didn’t look the same carefree batsmen of the past but he still was able produce the odd bit of magic. A few examples can be that 193 at Headingley, his knock of 50 on a pacy Durban wicket in the 03 world cup when Caddick stupidly said that he would test the great man with short pitch stuff as he thought that Tendulkar had a weakness against it only to see Tendulkar hook the first time Caddick tried to bowl short and hit it for a huge six. It surely took the wind out of the sails of Caddick. He did make a superb 98 against Shoaib and co. at Centurion in that world cup and took India to victory.

In recent times too he has played some fine knocks. He tormented the Aussies once more in their own backyard in 07/08 and ended the tour with a match winning knock in the CB series final. A timely reminder to his critics that he can play match winning knocks but just like any other player he needs support from the other end which he got in that match. In England in 07 too he played some fine knocks and of course one can add that fine century at Madras against England in 08/09 which took India to victory. One can’t forget that 175 he played recently at Hyderabad either.

Tendulkar may not be the same player that he used to be as nowadays he tends to play away from the body early in his innings but it is good to see that he is still doing well and when one thinks about the fact that there is so much pressure on him what with 1 billion people wanting India to win it is just amazing to see that he has been able to survive for 20 years and still has the hunger for more runs.

Finally this is an article not written for comparison between Tendulkar and others but just to congratulate him for bringing so much joy to cricket fans around the world!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Stan McCabe

In the history of test cricket only few cricketers have been able to captivate the imagination of cricket enthusiasts with their cricketing skills. Here I am thinking about cricketers who could fill the stadiums with their magical cricketing skills. Cricketers whose performances would be talked about for a long time to come.

In Stan McCabe we can think of a player who with his batting prowess enchanted the cricket fans. His knocks are even now talked about by cricket enthusiasts!

McCabe made his first class debut for New South Wales in 1928/29. He didn’t had the best of starts to his first class career as he got dropped once the senior players came back to the side from international duty. He had his breakthrough season in 1929/30 when he scored 844 runs at 56.27 though he couldn't score a century.

He was selected to tour England in 1930 under the captaincy of Bill Woodfull mainly because he could also bowl brisk medium pace. It was a inexperienced side that toured England yet they were able to defeat a strong England side which had legendary names like Hobbs, Sutcliffe, Hammond, Leyland, Tate, Duleepshinji, Lawrood and co. mainly thanks to Bradman's heroics. McCabe though in his first series didn't do well as he made just one fifty and picked a few key wickets and he even thought of giving up the game as he found English conditions tough to handle but for a timely advise by his teammate, Clarrie Grimmett of asking McCabe to play with a full face of the bat which helped him to perform a touch better as the tour progressed.

He again had moderate success against the touring Caribbean team and the South African side in 31/32 and 32/33 respectively. It has to be said that with the likes of Griffith, Francis and Constantine in the side the Caribbean line up did not had a bad attack and even the South African side had the likes of Bell and the left arm medium pacer, Quinn who was rated highly by none other than Bradman himself. The Australian side was too strong as they crushed both the West Indies and the South African side but McCabe found runs hard to come by. So there were question marks over McCabe's ability to succeed at the highest level.

The next season though changed it all as McCabe had his breakthrough series against England. The series played in 1932/33 in Australia is famously known as the bodyline series for Jardine's tactic of employing maximum fielders on the leg side which allowed the bowlers to bowl down the leg side and that made runs scoring risky and difficult as any batsman had to get runs through a packed leg side field. It was mainly done to curb the run machine, Bradman from scoring runs.

The series started with England thumping Australia at Sydney by 10 wickets by using Bodyline tactics. The match though would be remembered more for McCabe's stunning knock of 187. Larwood and Voce were employing the deadly bodyline tactic but McCabe met fire with fire and scored 187. He was said to be a courageous hooker and puller but everyone who saw that knock were said to be astonished by the fact that how he could safely pull and hook the likes of Larwood and co. and one has to think of the fact that they were employing the dangerous Bodyline tactics. His courageous batting made England’s hard nosed captain Jardine to even remove Larwood from the attack and had to bowl Hammond and Verity. He received a thunderous applause from the 46000 strong crowd who had come to witness the match. It is interesting to note that he had told his mother to refrain from rushing to his side if he got knocked over, before proceeding to hook Larwood out of the attack in Sydney. He was praised by many cricket enthusiasts and even the fearsome Larwood who throughout the series bowled that bodyline attack praised him.

Wisden about that knock,

"He scored off Larwood's bowling in a style which for daring and brilliance was not approached by any other Australian during the tour"

McCabe about that knock,

"it was really an impulsive, senseless innings, a gamble that should not have been made but came off against all the odds”

The 32/33 series was won by England as Jardine’s bodyline tactic was successful because they were able to restrict Bradman from being a run machine but the protagonists of that tactic Larwood and Jardine both were not in the squad when Australia toured England in 1934. Larwood was sacked and one can say that he was harshly treated as he was just following the captain’s orders and Jardine was no more in the side too. It was a series which was won by Australia 2-1 as Bradman was back to his old ways of plundering opposition bowling attacks but everyone was impressed by McCabe’s batting prowess in that series. He was in sublime touch as he made 483 runs at 60.37 and was effective even with his medium pace bowling as he took a few key wickets in that series.

Wisden about his batting in that series in 1934,

"In 1930 he gave the impression of still having a good deal to learn; he was inclined to be somewhat slapdash in his methods. The intervening years had clearly made a great difference in him. Losing nothing of his power, he displayed a wider and safer range of strokes."

He was in great touch when Australia toured South Africa in 1935 as he scored 2 hundreds. South Africa had a very good batting line up at that time as they had the likes of Mitchell, Rowan and Dudley Nourse though the bowling attack may not have been that good but one can’t take the credit away from McCabe as he was at the peak of his prowess.

In 1936/37 when England toured Australia, he didn’t had the best of starts to that series as Australia found themselves 2-0 down. It was even said that McCabe’s relationship wasn’t exactly very good with Bradman. At that time McCabe was the vice captain with Bradman being the captain of the side and it is said that there was a divide in the side with some players supporting Bradman and others McCabe. It wasn’t a great time for Australia as they were 2-0 down in that series and it is even said that McCabe and few others were called by the Australian board to pacify the situation. In that context it is remarkable to see that Australia came back so strongly in that series as they won all the last 3 tests to win the series 3-2! McCabe came back to form with the highlight being his 112 in the final test at Melbourne as Australia retained the series.

The 1938 tour of England was McCabe’s last tour of Australia. He was again appointed as the vice captain of the side with the series being drawn, 1-1 but as Australia had won the previous series they were able to retain the Ashes. McCabe made his mark in that series too with an amazing knock of 232 at Trent bridge. It is still said that McCabe’s knock of 232 at Trent bridge is one of the greatest knocks of all time. McCabe scored 232 in just 235 minutes and hit 34 fours in that knock! He came in at 111 for 2 after England had made a massive score of 8 for 658 declared and from 111 for 2 it soon became 194 for 6 as McCabe kept losing partners at the other end but McCabe continued to smash England’s bowlers all over the park. He took most of the strike as he took a heavy toll on the leg spinner, Wright by scoring 44 runs of a 3 over spell from the leg spinner. It is amazing to see that he and the last man Fleetwood Smith put on 77 runs and 72 of them were scored by McCabe! Hammond is said to have tried everything to stop McCabe from scoring runs but nothing could stop McCabe from playing one of the greatest knocks of all time. The match ended in a draw mainly thanks to McCabe’s knock. The crowd who came to watch that match were said to be spellbound and even Bradman after that knock said, “If I could play an innings like that, I'd be a proud man, Stan”

It sadly was the last time McCabe played for Australia as foot injuries and the world war ended his career. He played his last first class match in 1941/42 for New South Wales.

It is amazing to see that a cricketer who wasn’t even properly coached went onto capture the hearts of so many cricket aficionadas by taking on the quickest of bowlers and succeeding with aplomb. He is no doubt one of the true greats of the game.

Finally the legendary Sir Len Hutton on McCabe,

“ I knew him well. It would be hard to think of a greater Australian batsman. He had qualities that even Bradman hadn't got. I always liked to watch him bat and he was a most likeable fellow”

Sehwag on rampage

To start with I have to say that it was great to watch Sehwag taking apart the opposition bowling attack and Tendulkar playing yet another sublime knock.

As far as S'wag is concerned what can I say? he is a butcher, who specializes in demoralizing the opposition bowling attacks. A lot has been talked about his superb hand eye co-ordination and his high back-lift, so I won't like to say too much about it but in recent times I like the fact that he defends with a straight bat when bowlers bowl a fuller length and attack his stumps.

As far as today's innings was concerned, it was a typical knock from him as anything short and wide was murdered and when they strayed on his pads he scored runs on the leg side. It is another area that he has improved as he used to struggle a bit when the bowlers looked to tuck him up by bowling more of a middle and leg stump line. SA bowlers bowled a touch too short and when they got the chance to dismiss him they didn't capitalise on it as Duminy dropped a sitter at first slip and De Villiers missed a relatively easy stumping chance. It questions the wisdom of maybe not having another wicketkeeper in the squad of a touring team though one has to add that it is a series made up of only couple of matches. Tendulkar too played very well. In recent times he has been in great form as he continues to score hundreds. So where are all those critics who wrote him off after the 07 world cup???

As I said the Saffer quickies especially, Morkel bowled a touch too short. I had said before this tour on CMS forum that I don't expect Morkel too succeed in India as he bowls the traditional three quarters length but doesn't bowl a fuller length. Steyn wasn't at his best and they could have used Harris in a attacking role by asking him to bowl more from around the wicket as there wasn't much rough for him to exploit at Calcutta. Harris did finally come around the wicket and got the reward by taking Tendulkar's wicket. As I say Badri too is out and I still have question marks over his technique as he gets opened up too easily for my liking and would have a lot of difficulty when he plays on pitches that does a bit.

The pitch looked better for batting on the second day and SA would be ruing the fact that their team made only 296. Yes, by taking late wickets, SA have made a bit of come back in this match but it has to be said that India are in a strong position and they have to thank the butcher, S'wag and the sublime, Tendulkar for it.

Pandey and Satish

After being impressed by Pandey's batting in the IPL 2, I thought of following his fledgling career in the Indian domestic circuit and I wasn't surprised that he became the highest run-getter in the first division of ranji trophy in 2009/10 as he looks talented and seems to have the ability to do well under pressure but the more I look at his scores on cricinfo the more I see that his teammate, Satish seems to be matching him and sometimes even doing better!

Satish too had a good time in the ranji trophy as he amassed 639 runs to Pandey's 882 but in the ongoing one-day tournament he seems to be doing even better than his teammate, Pandey.

Satish in the one-day trophy
330 runs at 110

Pandey in the one-day trophy
217 runs at 54.25

So how good is this Satish? I have read that Dravid rates him highly.