Posts Tagged ‘Alastair Cook’

Goutham Chakravarthi


Two hundred years from now, Ed Cowan will be recalled as the game’s greatest batsman, ahead of everyone else. That’s if all video tapes of his batting ceases to exist and only the written text remained. Ed Cowan is the epitome of Conflict of Interest syndrome as being the game’s best active batsman-writer. He is his own critique!

He is a regular guy – un-Australian in every way – slightly round, slow between the wickets and a boring batsman who yells “no run” every time he puts bat to ball. And he is a writer on top of all this.

Numbers and angles to prove his perfect method

Cowan made all of 14 when the stumps were drawn for lunch. Healy on the Channel 9 box was fast asleep and called him the greatest bore in the history of all Boxing Day tests. Cowan sat by a serving of pasta, and readied his headline for the next day. It read Greatest Boxing Day Debut Ever. Then he went out to bat again.

He left deliveries on length, on line, on bounce, on angle, on just about anything. He ran between the wickets at the speed of a Laxman. In between all that he played a couple of strokes when he was bored. In Cowan’s words, he wrote of it himself thus:

It was the most assured performance of a debutante in front of a Boxing Day crowd of over 70,000 people. Finally an Australian batsman played the first session of a Test as it ought to be played in over 25 years. He got his foot to the pitch of the ball while driving – once he got his foot so far down he was able to convert a Umesh Yadav bouncer into a full toss – and bent his knees and elbows at right angles giving Euclid and Pythogoras cricket’s equivalent of the right angle on a platter. His concentration was unflappable – even when Yadav said “you are gonna get out by I am”, he barely bothered to correct his language – and technique tighter than skin-tight pants

Even the legendary statistician Mohandas Menon was impressed as Cowan gave him mind numbing numbers to crunch. He noted that Cowan tapped his bat on the ground a record 1921 times, 300 more than Alastair Cook during his marathon knock of 293 earlier in the year. Menon also noted the symmetry in Cowan’s batting. He said:

Cowan is a statistician’s delight. Symmetry to his batting is poetic. He gets down on one knee to drive and makes the perfect angle with his body and ground. He makes a perfect rhobus with his lower body and his knees and elbows bend in perfect right angles. He has given Test cricket its most perfect cover drives in history. A perfect cover-drive will henceforth be known as a Cowan Drive.

Having revolutionized cricket with its most perfect drives ever, Cowan is all set to become the first person to compose his article whilst batting during the second innings. You will see Cowan write and re-write his piece waiting for the right words to form the perfect Cowan Drive. Channel 9 will set-up a panel to debate Cowan’s claims to be the greatest player-writers of the modern game.

Cowan was unavailable to comment on the matter as he is busy writing his autobiography that is to be released at the end of the first Test.


Goutham Chakravarthi

No matter how much Cook and his boys said in each press conference that they were going to bounce back,  fans and media were certain of the white wash. That four of the five games were decided by whopping margins, it only deepens the scars of English cricketers who have won only one game of sixteen in their last three bilateral series in India.

England is known to prepare better than most for any series and it was no different when they arrived in Hyderabad ten days before the first game. Unfortunately, their planning and strategy leaves a lot to be desired.

Bell and Pietersen should both play in the XI

It is quite apparent that they have theories in place and try to pick players to fit them into those theories. The problem is, it doesn’t always work unless the player is brilliant enough fit himself to any theory. And in England’s case, there are very few of them who are that versatile.

It is silly that they had to choose between Pietersen and Bell for one batting slot. In an ideal world, you pick the best team you have – both Pietersen and Bell would be the first two to be penciled in in that case. And once the best batting team is picked, based on the strengths, the strategy is to be formed.

India showed them how it is done even when they were in England irrespective of the one-day results. With all their power players out injured – Sehwag, Tendulkar, Yuvraj – they played to the limitations of their side and planned to not lose wickets up front and let Dhoni and Raina take to the bowling at the end. That was their best chance with the team they had and they took the common sense approach.

One look at this England team and you know for certain that they have no such concrete plan. Expecting Kieswetter to do a Jayasuriya just because the pitches allow free stroke making against the new ball is silly. Kieswetter’s limitations have exposed the flawed roleplay identified for the players. You cannot score 80 runs in the first 10 overs just because that is how it is done in the sub-continent. You need to have the players to do it.

More importantly, the match winners in the team have to be looked after. And in this team, that match winner had to be Kevin Pietersen. The only time England won anything of substance in the limited overs format – T20 world cup in the Caribbean– Pietersen was the Man of the Tournament. That he was made to think his place in team was under threat to the likes of Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler wouldn’t have sat comfortably on him.

Not that Graeme Swann chose to release his autobiography just before the start of the series help. There was nothing sinister in his revelation that he didn’t think Pietersen was captaincy material. The timing would have hurt. Also Swann’s revelation that the four day boot camp in Germany prior to the Ashes were among the worst of his life didn’t go too well with Flower. Swann dropped catches and looked very innocuous with his off-spin throughout. It didn’t help at all in their team bonding.

On the other hand, M.S. Dhoni ensures that he gives Yuvraj Singh all the confidence in the world when he is playing. He constantly tells the press that Yuvraj is India’s key to success in limited overs cricket and he has reaped the rewards as the temperamental southpaw was instrumental in India winning the T20 world cup in 2007 and the 50 overs world cup early this year. Both Yuvraj and Pietersen have massive egos and the trick to ensure that they have the full confidence of the captain and the management. They need to be told that they are critical for their team’s success.

Also the fascination towards these power hitters in Alex Hales, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow is worrying. That they are picked and placed to take advantage of the powerplays is a noble thought provided they are good enough to do it. Kieswetter has shown that be can perhaps bat in top gear or get stuck with nothing in between, while Bairstow seems to have not much idea playing spin.

It would be common sense that an ideal XI will comprise of their three best players –Bell, Pietersen and Morgan. Also, their batting positions should ensure that they get maximum opportunities to play 50 overs. How they fit the others around these three will be a good starting point, and worthy of a good planning exercise.

Also, Cook’s captaincy has been far from impressive. Pietersen looked clueless when England were thrashed 5-0 in India last time, and Cook looked not far from it. The only time India struggled against this England attack was when they got the ball to reverse. It meant they should have looked to bowl during the day and not worry about the heat. Only in Hyderabad and Kolkata did they bowl first and the heat seemed to get to them.

Mental toughness of a team is also in taking these factors into consideration, and England would have done well to let go of playing under cooler night conditions. The night dew also ensured that India chased down England’s targets with great ease as there was no reverse either. Only Finn came through with a remarkable show of strength and endurance.

It’s all right when the media points to the fact that the next world cup in 2015 will be played in Australia and New Zealand, but not to forget is the fact the T20 world cup is in Sri Lanka next year. On current evidence, it is difficult to imagine England starting favourites to defend their crown.

 Goutham Chakravarthi

 16 September 2011

It is the last day of a miserable tour for India. Yet, all eyes will be on the Indian captain when India hit the field. He is known to send off greats in his signature inimitable style. He carried Kumble on his shoulders (Ravi Shastri bets he heard Hussain utter “donkey” under his breath) after his last Test and let Sourav Ganguly lead the team the last few minutes of the next Test which would be Ganguly’s last. He has set his bar high. What will he do for Dravid’s last?

Dravid thanked his England teammates before announcing retirement from England captaincy.

“Perhaps, I’ll let him keep wickets,” said the captain. Pried further, he said “Dravid is the ultimate team man. Since this will be the last ODI before the new one-day rules kick in, we have unanimously decided that every batsman will use Dravid as a runner. He will run for both the striker as well as the non-striker. He will even be his own runner. We want the world to celebrate the ultimate team man.”

Alastair Cook, not to be left behind, chipped in “Rahul has been a massive hit in our dressing room this summer. We have not been able to get him out and he has walked off when he was not out and has been given out when he was not out and he has still walked off. No complains at all. Such a gem! We have decided to honour him by declaring him as the captian of the England ODI side for the last ODI.”

The new England T20 skipper, Graeme Swann, having become the first international captain to release official press statements on twitter, tweeted “Dravid’s defence is impenetrable. I urge that he be made our Defence Minister #queenareyoulistening”

Dhoni, seemingly feeling that he is losing his Midas touch on retirement policies as well, made a quick attempt to pull things back. He said, “Rahul Dravid will also be the umpire and will umpire from both the ends and will also be the TV umpire and the fourth umpire. Umpires need to know when the batsman has nicked it and when he hasn’t. Rahul will demonstrate how to use the technology the right way. He will even open the bowling for us. You will see Rahul bowling and umpiring to his own deliveries and keeping to his own bowling. Yes, he will also be fielding in the slips.”

ESPNStar and Sky also announced that Dravid will be miked up, separately, and will speak to both the channels, simultaneously, on two different mikes on two separate topics. In a joint statement, the channels said, “Though it is one man answering the questions, it is two separate channels, moguls both, with its own esteemed commentators commentating on the game, and, therefore, will need its experts the privilege to pick on Dravid’s brains. Should a situation occur that both channels be reaching out to Dravid at the same time, we will leave it to Ravi Shastri from the ESPNStar box and Nasser Hussain from the Sky box to thrash it out and decide who should get the first go.”

The Indian government on the other hand dedicated the hike in petrol prices from midnigh tlast night to Rahul Dravid. A press release said “Rahul’s been the most invaluable player for this team for many a year. Like the dwindling fuel reserves everywhere, Rahul is a rare fossil that is extinguishing by the day. To mark respect for such invaluable fossil, to show its value in increased light, we have decided to hike the price of petrol. Petrol is invaluable and Dravid is its personification.”

When Dravid finally addressed the press conference, speculation was rife amid the British scribes if Dravid would want continue after retiring from the Indian team as the captain of the England cricket team and were contemplating what his first policy would be as the Defence Minister if he would be sworn in as one by the queen.

Dravid straight batted all questions with this statement: “I’m deeply moved by the gesture of my teammates, opponents and my government and Britain’s. However, I must say that I will be retiring from my captaincy position of England with immediate effect and would like to thank my-would-have-been-teammates-but-never-will-be-teammates in the England dressing room. I’m sure it would have been an honour playing with you boys. I also withdraw from opting to umpire and keep wickets and bat at both ends while running for all people. I will however substitute for anyone in the crowd who needs a break and watch the game from the stands.”

Chants of “Rahul Dravid for Prime Minister,” were heard in the media boxes as Rahul Dravid quietly walked off after he had made his press statement. It brought about a fight between the Indian and the British media contingent as both had uttered the chants at the same time. Television channels across both nations are running debates if Rahul Dravid would make a better Prime Minister of India or of Britain.

Rahul Dravid is expected to make a press statement on this matter after the practice session today.

 Goutham Chakravarthi

 16 August 2011

Ian Botham has slammed the ICC for not giving England a fair opportunity to win the four match series 5-0. His request to let India bat twice again on the 4th and 5th days on a crumbling Edgbaston pitch so that England could showcase their supremacy over the highly overrated Indian batting line-up. ECB had sold any number of non-refundable tickets for the last day. He quibbled, “This Indian side is only interested in IPL cricket and the razzmatazz associated with it. The partying and cheer leaders can be very tempting! But ECB should rub their faces in the mud when they can so that I can walk with my head held high!”

Ravi “Tracer Bullet” Shastri accused Ian Botham of being jealous for not being involved in the IPL. He said, “Instead, we could have had 5 IPL games on the 4th and 5th days as skippers of Chennai Super Kings, Kolkata Knight Riders, Delhi Daredevils, Pune Warriors, Mumbai Indians were around. It would have proved only Indian teams can win IPL matches even in England and England cannot stomach that fact and India would still be world no. 1”. Sunil Gavaskar, nodded in approval even as the editor of the Outlook magazine was stealthily eavesdropping on the conversation in a Scooby Doo disguise but wearing his ID nonetheless.

Cook is to be rechristened as “Sir Mulish” by the Queen

ESPNStar, the Indian broadcaster of the India-England series, has sued Alastair Cook for a severe dip in their television ratings and their studies revealed that grown men preferred to watch soaps over cricket who have refused to switch the channel back on to cricket even a week later fearing that he would be leaving deliveries bowled by M.S. Dhoni whilst still batting on 401 after 70 hours at the batting crease.  They have sued his mentor, Graham Gooch, and his hair-transplant consultant who is rumored to be a distant cousin of Geoffrey Boycott for implanting these ethics into Gooch, and by extension, to Cook.

Indian fans who have travelled to England have been seen scampering at Kings Cross in the hope to find the platform 9¾ to escape to the magic world of Harry Potter. They were seen frantically performing the memory charm ‘Obliviate’ on each other in a vain attempt to erase the memories of Cook. ESPNStar has warned that another innings of Cook on similar lines at The Oval would further weaken the economics as they already have no advertisers or viewers till the time there is Cook.

BCCI has warned the cricket world of there being a great depression should Cook continue to be allowed to play any cricket at all. They have challenged Cook to settle scores with Praveen Kumar in a wrestling bout followed by a sweating contest with Rahul Dravid. Cook has agreed to the challenge but only after he is done with his batting practice that commenced 10 mins after the 3rd Test ended on Saturday afternoon. Two bowling machined have limped off with hamstring and shoulder injuries, but Cook’s practice shows no signs of abating.

Praveen Kumar is warming up to settle scores with Cook in a wrestling bout

On Sunday, with the Indian Embassy appealing to the Queen, the matter was forced into Scotland Yard’s hands. They have hired the services of the Indian minister and former cricketer Sidhu and former England captain Nasser “Jealous” Hussain to provide pitch-side distraction for Cook in his practice. Sidhu has apparently not let Hussain utter, “I have been paid to provide my opinion,” in 18 hours of Cook’s batting practice so far. With bowling machines worn out and all net bowlers doing their shoulders, Scotland Yard’s private detectives were seen plotting their strategy against Cook.

They hired the services of George and Fred Weasley who ran-up to bowl to Cook and cleverly disguised the use of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes’ new trick of developing five arms on the delivery stride and bowling them over-arm, under-arm, side-arm, a Shoaib chuck and a Sreesanth beamer simultaneously against Cook only for Cook to defend, block, leave, sway and duck at the same time to the five deliveries. The mesmerized Weasley twins were last heard arguing with J.K. Rowling that Harry Potter should now be rechristened Harry Cook.

The Queen has decided to take the matter in her own hands and it has been decided that Alastair Cook will be given knighthood on Thursday so as to ensure that he doesn’t play in The Oval test after the BCCI accused ECB for not playing in the spirit of the game. ECB, it is understood from our sources, have sent out a massive search for bowlers who specialize in bowling long hops and leg-stump half-volleys in order to restore interest among Indian batsmen and Indian spectators.

Not even the magic tricks of the Weasley twins could get Cook out.

The Queen has urged that normalcy be restored in cricket. She urged, “Alastair Cook henceforth will be known by the name Sir Mulish for his insane ability to resist a Sreesanth half-volley after two days of batting when he can see even the smallest of craters on the moon even in broad day light.” Sreesanth complained that he never felt this bad even when he was slapped. And Warne ended-up sending text messages to all nurses in the whole of England to beat boredom. All the while, Sir Geoffrey Boycott was seen admiring Cook and blowing kisses at him.

ESPNStar, meanwhile, has resorted to desperate measures to keep the Indian interest alive in the series. BCCI has arm-twisted ICC to decide the result of the final Test through online voting and text messaging. Viewers will be asked to vote on the following:

BCCI is working with PCB to see if they can spot-fix the Test last summer where Cook scored his career saving hundred. They are talking to have the umpire change his mind and give him out against Mohammed Aamir when Cook was on 2 so that England would drop him retrospectively and his Ashes and Edgbaston exploits be deemed void.

 Goutham Chakravarthi

 13 August 2011

The wonderful former deputy editor of The Wisden Cricketer, Emma John, would have described Alastair Cook’s innings something on the lines of “mulishness, obduracy, bloody-mindedness.” And a very tired Indian side would be thanking their stars that this wasn’t a timeless Test in which case you could switch on your TV sets a week later and you would still find Cook batting.

Alastair Cook displayed enormous concentration in his marathon knock

They say cussedness is a quality much admired in a Test cricketer. His strength of mind and discipline in executing his brand of batting has made him into a remarkable accumulator of runs. Rahul Dravid, a man who is renowned for grit, determination and stone walling would much appreciate the qualities he sees in Cook. Chandepaul, Steve Waugh would approve of Cook. Heck, even Geoffrey Boycott would have had a crush on him today!

India’s docile bowling never looked like getting an English wicket at any time. That they managed to reign the scoring of the English batsmen with Cook only scoring three boundaries till tea suggested that they at least bowled to their plans. There was still a bit in the wicket for the bowlers when they got it right, but Cook’s insatiable appetite for accumulating runs coupled with his determination to play long hours in turn ensured that he and England crossed many milestones in the day – the highest individual score at Edgbaston and England’s highest score in an innings in a non-timeless Test – being just two of them.

If stodge and defiance described Cook’s innings, Morgan was more fluent and ensured that he made the most of the reprieves given to him by the Indian fielders on Thursday. To the calm, determined, predictable methods of Cook at the other end, Morgan was the modern-day young batsman – unorthodox, skillful and improvising. Between the two of them and Ian Bell, one would think England will see a lot of runs being scored for them. Morgan went trying to loft Raina over Sehwag in the covers and his dismissal ensured India kept England batting for longer than they would have wanted.

Eoin Morgan made the most of his two reprieves with a hundred

India on the other hand looked surprisingly better with the ball and in the field. There was better execution of plans though they never looked like getting Cook or Morgan out. They might as well have sent a bowling machine to the middle to bowl to them and nothing would have changed. Knowing fully well that England would run them ragged, they did their best to not let England get away. Their lack of potency has been a great matter of concern for the captain. It has again only shown how much Zaheer Khan means to this team.

England have had another outstanding day. With Sehwag lasting all of two balls in two innings, it has put to rest all theories of him perhaps being the saviour at least for this Test. England have again exposed another cricketer being rushed back into top flight cricket with little match practice. May be there is a lesson in it to players as much as to administrators.

There is plenty of time in this Test and the ball still moved a bit under overcast conditions for the English quicks. With the wicket now also keeping low sporadically, and with Swann and Pietersen getting it to spin big, it is but a matter of time before time is up for India in this Test.

India will hope to put their best batting display of the tour in its second innings. They have collectively not scored 294 in any of their innings. It has been Cook’s Test so far. India will do well to make England and Cook bat again in this Test.