Posts Tagged ‘Cricket’

Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

Inventors are held in high esteem, albeit the fact that some of the best discoveries and inventions have been a by-product of an accident. Corn Flakes. Microwave Ovens. Post-it notes. Potato Chips. And Ashton Agar, the batsman.

Theory could point to the fact that his inclusion was intent to shatter Pietersen’s psychological stumps. Forget Lyon’s form with the ball, or the bat in hindsight for the time being. At 117/9, most would’ve expected Cook and Root to have been practicing their bat swings with their mindsets sold to the idea of getting ready to bat anytime soon.

At lunch, the scoreboard read 229/9. By the time the Australian innings came to a close, Agar fell agonizingly short of a record-book inscribing century on debut by a number 11 batsman.

Poor old Hughes would’ve wondered why God was so hostile to him. After years of living up to a label that read ‘one of Australia’s biggest unfulfilled promises’, he ended up having the best seat in the house to witness a teenage debutant, at number 11, overshadow his gritty performance. One which has been long overdue. The game of cricket has a funny way of biting you at times.

Agar’s no mug with the bat though. His first class record spanning 10 games paints a batting average of 33, with 3 fifties to his name. You could’ve been forgiven for associating these stats to a young, promising teenage batsman coming out of the intimidating Australian setup.

His brand of batting against Finn, Anderson and Swann was fearless. That doesn’t mean that he didn’t have fears, he batted in spite of knowing that some of those deliveries could have sent him back to the pavilion – be it the scorcher that sent Clarke home, or the wild turner that left Haddin perplexed.  He survived a stumping early in his innings. And then hit Swann for six a few overs later.

Ashton Agar's dream debut ended two runs short of a century

Ashton Agar’s dream debut ended two runs short of a century

Within no time, he became the first number 11 in the history of the game to score a fifty on debut. And as if to demonstrate his acclimatization, he sent Swann over long on for his second six of the day. I wonder what Glenn McGrath would’ve made of this innings. It was, quite frankly, a ridiculously brilliant session.

Tino Best had flirted similarly with the English bowlers batting at number 11 last summer. He ended up five runs short of a deserved hundred. In the shorter format, England had the Champions Trophy robbed off their sights when a last wicket partnership by the West Indians sent the trophy packing to the Caribbean. That made it feel even more inexcusable to have sullied England’s reputation towards cleaning off the tail. It is staggering that it has come to this again.

By the time Australia had bowled themselves out for 280, Agar holed out to deep midwicket two runs short of an outrageous hundred. And as Shane Warne, exhibitor of the game of cricket’s most painful and agonizingly just-short-of-a-hundred moment, will attest, this will be etched in the pages of the history book forever. It was as though William Dear’s Angels in the Outfield was being staged live a couple of decades later. And to think this hugely contentious game opened on Day 2 amid great hopes of an English ascendancy.

Finn’s struggles with the ball locked one end to disparity, while Stuart Broad’s injury meant that he just about had enough in him to bowl a few overs, go for aplenty but walk away with undoubtedly the most crucial wicket of the day. Whether Broad’s fitness played a role in England’s inability to wipe off the Australian tail is something we wouldn’t know, but Agar’s batting certainly didn’t seem to possess any real weakness that a fully fit Broad could have exploited.

As we move towards Day 3, with England ahead by a few having lost Root and Trott to Starc, the home team have a monumental psychological barrier to conquer before they start entertaining any hopes of taking a lead in the series by the time they leave Nottingham.

Well played Ashton Agar. And spare a thought for Phil Hughes.


Niranjan K

Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement from ODI’s did not come as a surprise to me. After all, he has not been an active ODI player for quite some time now. But when I sit down and think about what we he achieved, my eyes fill with tears of pride. He has so made the format his own that now it’s possible to think if ODI’s itself is going to retire with him.

In a country that is obsessed with statistics more than performance, results more than playing a good game and individual performances celebrated above the team, he gave us reasons to do both.Talk about numbers while still amazed by the beauty of his batting, celebrate a victory while watching him talk about respecting his opponents and most of all, celebrate a Tendulkar century along with an Indian win. We explored the statistics to understand his genius. We read articles to understand his brilliance. In short, Sachin Tendulkar made an average Indian fan, better.

It is a monstrous task to compile ten of his best from a collection of over 18000 runs and 49 centuries over 400 matches. I am sure a lot of you would disagree with my list, thinking how did I miss this, how can I miss that types. The list that I have put down here are the ones that simply sprout out of my mind when I saw the news of his retirement from ODI’s. No research and no thinking over. The Sachin Tendulkar fan in me came up with it. I had combined a few performances in one, in a logical way to make room for others. It’s Sachin, how can I not?

10. He blasted 41 runs off 26 balls against Pakistan in the 3rd finals of Coca-Cola Silver Jubilee Independence Cup, a rollicking start (the score was 71 in 8.1 overs when he got out) that ensured India would chase down Pakistan’s 314 in near darknesss. Saurav Ganguly with 124, Robin Singh with 82 and Kanithkar’s invaluable 11 not out gave India the win with a ball to spare.

In action in the 3rd finals at Dhaka. © AFP

9. He was playing all sorts of role in the team when one day Sidhu woke up with a stiff neck in New Zealand and Azharuddin walked up to him and asked if he could open the batting. That offer changed the face of ODI’s forever. He blasted 82 off 49 against New Zealand and a superstar was born.

Cricket woke up to its greatest ODI batsman at Eden Park. © AFP

8. The great man has just lost his father and had to fly midway during the ’99 World Cup to perform the last duties. Most thought that his tournament was over, but the master came back and how! It may be against Kenya but his 140 not out in the match after his father’s passing was as important as any of his other. It showed how much he cared for his country. And he looked up at the skies as he got to a hundred, a sight that was to become commonplace on his getting to that landmark thereafter.

Looks up to the skies after an emotional hundred © AFP

7. He was in indifferent form going into the final of the CB series in 2008 against Australia. But he took the grand finale by a calculated storm that did not decimate the Aussies, but rather destroyed them steadily. The Aussies might have had a stronger chance of getting him out if he was in marauding form. But instead, he chose to play the Anchorman, piling on runs at a fair clip and guiding an inexperienced batting to the finish. Both the century in the first final and the 91 in the second was a master-class.

His first and only ODI hundred in Australia set-up a series win. © Getty Images

6. It may be India’s most embarrassing defeats, a forfeit, but still it was characterized as before and after Sachin. He made 65 out of the 125-8 that India managed in the world cup semifinal in ’96 before the hostile crowd at Eden Gardens stopped the match. It seems like the pitch had two layers, one for Sachin and the other for the rest of the batsmen. Such was the gulf in class.

India’s fortunes soared and sunk with Tendulkar in the ’96 world cup. Scenes at Eden Gardens as India sunk after a Tendulkar 65. © Santabanta

5. For all the great batting performances of the little genius, there is one over that showed how cool his temperament really is. That final over in the hero cup semifinal when he successfully defended 6 runs against SA is one of my earliest images of him, one that made me a worshipper of him. How can a top order batsman bowl a nerve wracking final over and win the match for India from a seemingly hopeless situation. I was very young and believed only god can do miracles. I wasn’t wrong.

When he defended 6 runs against a rampaging Brian MacMillan in the Hero Cup semi-finals. © AFP

4. It was a princess that waited for the right prince to come and conquer her. Saeed Anwar and Charles Coventry came within sniffing distance of her. Sehwag was thought to be the man to marry it. But eventually, ODI’s first double century was captured by the king of them all against an attack that had Steyn, Morkel and Ntini, a handful on any track. It was an innings of textbook perfection and clinical precision. Sehwag eventually bettered it. But this is first love. Need I say more?

Incredibly, Tendulkar even became ODI’s first double hundred scorer. © GETTY IMAGES

3. This happened a few weeks before the 200. But fans were transported to decade before when Sachin single handedly won matches for India. Set a demanding 350 to win, he scored exactly half the runs and when he got out, so did India, just like the old times. But that 175 was so breathtaking that even left the Aussies dazzled.

Tendulkar had Australia at his mercy for much of his career. His 175 at Hyderabad was among his best knocks. © AFP

2. Perhaps no other team challenged Australia like how Saurav’s boys did in the last decade and perhaps no other player dominated them like how Sachin did in the decade before that. The 2 sandstorms that decimated Aussies in Sharjah ’98 is part of cricketing folklore now. You may find this an exaggeration but to me, those 2 innings made him a legend of ODI’s.

Without doubt his highest point as a batsman came on 22nd and 24th April 1998 with those innings for the ages at Sharjah against Australia. © AFP

1. For all the centuries and a double century, this is the innings that still gives me the goose bumps when I think about it. How did he do all that? Playing Pakistan in pressure, more so if it’s in a World cup, and even more if playing for the first time in years. This was no stage for mortals or good players. The stage was set for only one man and how well he played. That 98 in the 2003 World cup is my pick for the best innings by Sachin Tendulkar in 23years. One shot stood out. A back foot cover drive off Wasim Akram still leaves me speechless, even after watching it hundreds of times.

His 98 at Centurion versus Pakistan in World Cup 2003. He went on to bag the Player of the Series award. © AFP

He defined the format, pulled the crowds to it and single handedly changed, not just of India’s fortunes, but the future of the game itself. And we all grew up with him. We were school kids when Sachin was decimating attacks in the 90’s singlehandedly, so he was the superstar. When we went to college in the 2000’s a certain Mr. Ganguly so dynamically changed Indian Cricket that Tendulkar went from one and only superstar to the greatest batsman of the golden quartet. As we understood the game better, he became a legend.

Farewell Sachin Tendulkar, albeit from colored clothing. We hope to see plenty of you in the whites, playing that breath taking straight drive, that audacious upper cut, that finest of leg glances or that ever so wonderful back foot cover drive. As a God, please inform the other one that created you that we said Thanks. We can say that we grew up and lived in the same time as the God of Cricket. Who else can?

Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

The only agenda for the day was to stop by the Premadasa (yes, once again) for the game between West Indies and Ireland – for once, a fixture that couldn’t be classified a dead-rubber. Both these teams had lost to Australia, and even though there was great disparity in standards on paper, we weren’t too keen on missing out on a chance to witness an upset (in case).

The West Indies have been touted as favourites by a good share of the fans that we’d run in to over the course of the tournament. More so, for their possession of big-hitting batsmen. Yes, their pacers did trouble Ireland yesterday (c’mon Ireland!), but given the start Ireland had, 129 seemed a score twenty runs too many. Tougher opposition await – as West Indies painfully realized during the game against Australia.

The Irish, on the other hand, have used primeval vocabulary via Trent Johnston to question the ICC’s intentions regarding the lack of opportunities that they’ve been getting at the international level. It is a shame that their performance this tournament has obscured Johnston’s dismissal of the ICC as being flaccid – for their usage of the term ‘minnows’ being a derogatory one for Ireland.

Irish fan Jack Tanner wants more consistent performances

We ran in to Jack Tanner, an Irish fan who resides in South England – fully geared with the Irish flag waving for every run scored. Jack remains hopeful, yet sceptical, about Ireland’s chances to win games on a consistent basis.

Cricket, in Ireland, is several rungs below Football and Rugby when offered as a choice for a youngster to take up. It is understandable – the game doesn’t have a history in Ireland as it does in England. Jack says it is fathomable to witness players switching allegiances to England in search of opportunities to play at a higher level – in other words, consistent international Cricket.

In conversation with the Irish fan Jack Tanner.

Boyd Rankin, the tall fast bowler from Ireland (who missed out yesterday due to an illness) has been vocal in expressing his desire to represent England if given a chance. This exodus doesn’t depict healthy signs for Irish cricket – clearly, as Jack said, it is about time Ireland start winning games consistently to show the ICC that they deserve the status that they’ve been after. The odd performances (Pakistan 2007, England 2011 – among others) don’t help.

It is a shame that the rain gods had to intervene to send the Irish home. In truth, a score of 129 was never going to suffice against the West Indian batting. But it’d have been interesting to see a full game on the cards with qualification at stake. Ireland doesn’t bow out a proud team this tournament – Phil Simmons has a colossal task ahead, and definitely not an easy one.

Muthukumar Ramamoorthy

It was another pleasant morning to the start of the day with overcast conditions that delayed the day’s play by 25 minutes. Just as I wrote yesterday, the Indians were almost there reaching the 450 figure. But for the late aggression shown by the home side, it was quite evident that 500 was gettable. The visiting side was expected to exploit the overcast conditions and run through the Indian line-up. However the captain cool Dhoni played sensibly along with Pujara for a 127 run stand for the 6th wicket.

It was Pujara who started off the aggression trying to hit over the long-on only to find the safe hands of Franklin. But he managed to go past the 150 mark with a terrific innings that lasted for almost 8 hours in total. The skipper continued to show the aggression and paid the price – failing to convert his 20th Test fifty to a 100. Thanks to a brisk and classy short innings from Ashwin who managed to time all his 5 boundaries into the gaps with immaculate precision.

The Kiwi bowlers did not make much of an impression with their performances. However Patel and Boult did manage to pick 4 and 3 wickets respectively. Patel’s bowling did give a hint of what was to later come with the Indian spinners bowling on a track that offered turn. The Indian dressing room must have been happy to put up a decent first innings total.

The NZ team would have thought of sticking on to their own free batting style which was obvious in the way McCullum played his shots. The Indian speedsters Zaheer and Umesh did bowl to their strength but did not help enough to give the Indian team the early breakthrough. It was no surprise from Dhoni in bringing on the spinners as early as in the 8th over of the innings. Ojha was brave enough to have flighted the ball and McCullum paid the price for his aggression by getting caught by Kohli at covers.

Williamson – the next man in who scored his Test century against India in his debut game got off to mark in style with a boundary. However Dhoni did not wait too much to bring in Ashwin, the other spinner. Be it ODI, T20 or Test, Dhoni always seems to have immense trust in his ace off-spinner, Ashwin. True to it, with excellent field placement, Ashwin began with a wonderful delivery to send back the other opener Guptil to the pavilion.

It was largely expected that the Kiwi captain who came in to bat next at no 4, would bat through saving his team. However it was another beauty from Ashwin that Taylor did edge it marginally to Kohli at backward short leg. It was 3rd consecutive catch by Kohli. Ashwin continued to bowl with his magicial skills turning the new ball. He was rewarded with the wicket of Flynn as well who was trapped infront of the wicket.

Ashwin & Ojha

The duo spun well to rip through the New Zealand top order batsman setting a possible Indian victory

When the 4th wicket fell with score just then had crossed 50, the Indian off-spinners looked more confident of reducing the visitors to the tail by the end of day’s play. However a little resistance was shown by the duo Williamson and the wicket-keeper batsman Wyk adding 44 runs for the 5th wicket partneship. When everything looked set at last for the Kiwis, Ojha came back to send back the set batsman Williamson.

At the stumps of day 2, the Kiwis are in real trouble with the Indian spinners reducing the Kiwi side to half already. The weather seems to be threatening; however Ashwin and Ojha are well set to finish the Test match favouring an Indian win much earlier! Let’s wait to see if they could restrict the visitors and make them follow-on!

Muthukumar Ramamoorthy

Ah! A Test match again for the Test match lovers of India. Strangely for the first time without the greats – Dravid and Laxman – the legends that guarded the Indian test middle order batting line up along with Tendulkar for more than one and half decades!

It was a wonderful day to start the tour in a beautiful ground. The little grass on the pitch that indicated more the monsson than any assistance to the Kiwi pacers, the all-green quick outfield and well built new-look Hyderabad ground was all a pleasure to watch with Dhoni winning the toss and electing to bat – a perfect wicket to bat on. A lot must have been discussed before the test match to identify the right player to be groomed in filling the no 3 and no 5 positions and also the playing XI also.

Looking at the wicket, it was right choice to have had the regular opening pair to open the innings. Sehwag and Gambhir did get off to a good start despite some trouble from the seamers. Both the seamers were initially giving enough trouble to the batsmen although both the openers did punish the odd loose ball with ease.

India’s indiscretion in getting out to poor strokes seemed an extension of the one-day series from Sri Lanka than that of early season rust. Gambhir started off with that and followed by his opening partner Sehwag who seemed to be set for another 100 in his own style. It was glad to see those ‘confident trademark Sehwag boundaries’ before he got out. That must have boosted the confidence in him and also the millions of fans who are desperately looking for a big score from him after sometime in Test Cricket.

Like me, most of us would have for sure expected what we saw when Gambhir walked back. The number 3 slot – the Dravid slot! Pujara came in as no surprise choice to bat at number 3. From the very first ball that he faced, it seemed obvious that he was sent and set to make it big today. With Pujara settling down slowly, it was anticipated a big stand between him and the little master Sachin would unfold. However to the disappointment of the nation, Sachin was undone by a beauty of a delivery that nipped back a bit to knock back his middle-stump.

Then came Kohli who is fast becoming Mr. Dependable and Mr. Flexible to bat at no.5. Kohli started off with his typical wristy shots. It was pleasure watching Kohli playing those forward drives with so much ease. It was a very well scripted 50 from the young man who could have easily converted and tasted his maiden Test hundred on Indian soil.

It was a perfect come back innings from Pujara which could potentially cement his place in Indian test team as No.3 batsman

With Kohli, Pujara carried on to bat unleashing all the shots as he raced from 50 to 100 at run a ball. For what we know him more as a strong on-side player, he showed his class in those back-foot guided punches, square cuts and cover drives on the off-side too. Pujara’s eloquence was as impressive as his temparament as he laced pretty drives and cuts that laced the green turf. With his maiden Test century in the very first match after returning to the international side after more than 18 months, definitely Pujara did justify his recall and played with his head to cement his place in the side – not just in the side but also the batting position for the near future at least.

Another debate in the team selection is the choice of Raina ahead of Badrinath / Rahane. Raina continued his poor form once again. It wasn’t the usual Kiwi side on the field with few dropped chances costing them dear. However Pujara was lucky to be still in with umpire denying a caught behind appeal. The Kiwi captain did make his spinner Patel sweat a lot who doesn’t seem to have succeeded enough except taking the wicket of out-of-form Raina. So with Dhoni looking solid in the crease, and with a well set determined Pujara, I am hoping for a 450 plus total on board although half the side is back in the pavilion.