Posts Tagged ‘Graeme Swann’

It is something of an unfortunate oddity that the first test of the 2013 Ashes will be remembered more for dubious umpiring decisions as against the tide of sinusoidal sessions that have tilted the scales back and forth.

Swann’s exploits on a fourth day turner shifted the focus from otherwise folkloristic fervors provided by Bell, Broad and Beer (did you observe the stands these days?) all day. Swann’s delivery to dismiss Phil Hughes tested the very limits of technology, fractional math and yet another umpire’s uncertainty. Though Dharmasena can be absolved of blame in this instance. Technology won, and as many voices echoed, Cook has been the wiser of the two captains in effectively putting the DRS to use.

With a target of 300+ on the cards given the way Broad and Bell closed Day 3, Australia did well enough to restrict the lead to 310. A brilliant fight back followed Bell’s, possibly, match-winning century, and Broad’s fighting fifty. Siddle cleaned off the lower order to take his tally to 8 for the match. On a slow, low wicket, Siddle’s performance has been very commendable.

Australia’s response was reminiscent of the team they once were. Watson’s aggression setting the tone for a combative start, at the same time deriving an unspoken sense of satisfaction through Roger’s solid, defensive methods at the other end. Granted, the reality didn’t turn out to be quite as effective as their yesteryear opening stands. Australia’s top order woes continuously point to how no batsman is ready to proclaim a new dawn of Australian supremacy. The elite always ensure self-perpetuation.

Cowan fell victim to Joe Root’s first wicket in Test Cricket, offering a shot similar to that of the one he played against the pace of Finn in the first innings – only to be caught at slip. Earlier, Watson’s unsuccessful use of the DRS, after being trapped in front off a Broad in-swinger, proved yet another case of the all-rounder’s solid start not being converted in to a bigger score.

Rogers laid a strong foundation with his maiden fifty in Australian colors

Chris Rogers, resembling an old, bespectacled, gritty Lance Corporal looked every inch an effective blocker, notching up his first fifty before chipping Anderson to mid-wicket. David Saker’s dramatics from the pavilion indicated a well framed plan to reduce the pace off the odd ball to make Rogers play a touch early. Or whatever it was, it worked.

With much hope sheltering on the willows of Clarke and Smith, a brief spell of play indicated their resilience towards battling it out in the middle. A slow, but steady, progress towards keeping the scoreboard ticking threw brief light on a slow Australian recovery. But Broad and Swann had different ideas.

Within no time, Clarke, to his dismay, yet again inclining towards the DRS, unsuccessfully questioned Aleem Dar’s decision to declare him out caught behind off Broad. Swann sent Smith back after deceiving Smith with his guile, making him play back to a delivery that spun a mile and caught the Aussie trapped plumb in front.

Swann’s role on Day 5 will be critical towards England taking a lead this Ashes

Hughes followed to a successfully DRS-referred lbw decision by England, with Dharmasena turning the initial appeal down. The Sri Lankan couldn’t have been blamed for thinking that the ball pitched outside leg, for the replays showed a very thin margin that had fifty percent of the ball within the danger zone. A whiff the other way would’ve had pundits lauding the precision of Dharmasena’s eagle eye.

Agar’s dynamic innings with happy dashes of flair earned him a promotion up to number 8 in the second innings. Say what you want about him being a debutant, but he kept a still head to face off 24 balls to close off the last session.

With plenty needed for the Australians, England clearly have the upper hand to take a 1-0 lead. Swann holds the key on a wicket that appears to oddly turn like a minefield. But we all know what happened last innings don’t we?


Shridhar Pandey

The Indian team has many reasons to be proud of the victory over England in the first Test at Ahmedabad. After all, this would be termed as their first legitimate victory post the consecutive 0-4 setbacks in England and Australia. This win clearly showed that the English were the second best team to India in almost every facet of the game over the last 5 five days.  Their skills and strategies to play in the sub-continent needs serious re-thinking. Without overruling the fact that England can bounce back from this situation, they will have to look ahead in a very optimistic manner – without being over ambitious of course.

India clearly had a hero in both batting and bowling departments – Pujara and Ojha respectively.  Ojha was clearly ahead of any other bowler in the match – yes, even better than Swann. Bowling tight lines has always been his strength. What he also did well in this match was tossing the ball up almost every time the skipper threw the ball into his hands, therefore bagging those many wickets in both innings. His successful stint with the ball also more than made up for Ashwin’s rare failure in Indian conditions.

Pujara is impressive on and off the field. Pic: The Hindu

I like Pujara more after every match. His knocks in both innings were flawless – if I might say so. He gave glimpses of both Dravid and Laxman at times. His forward defence is almost as solid as The Wall. The way he comes down the track to play the wristy drives toward on-side against spinners sure reminds me of VVS. Yet, it would be quite premature to compare him with those batting stalwarts.  But keen observes would have already started looking at a future prospect in the dressing room like they had done when two youngsters in Rahul Dravid and Saurav Ganguly made their debut at Lord’s more than 16 years ago. The thing about Pujara that stood out (and he admitted that himself too) was the price he put on his wicket; he seldom played a shot in the air. That reminds me of another batsman who did well in the match but got out playing a needless shot in the air – Virender Sehwag.

Sehwag’s run-a-ball century in the first innings was a trademark Sehwag knock though he was a little slow early on. He must have breathed a sigh of relief after that. I would have loved to see him return to the dressing room unbeaten though in the second innings.  Yuvraj Singh played a wonderful innings before being dismissed cheaply off a full-toss from Samit Patel. That innings did show some resolve and was a clear indication of the man’s pedigree.

Another player that impressed was Umesh Yadav. The lad bowled his heart out on a pitch that hardly had anything in it for the seamers. He looks a promising young fast bowler (yes, you read that right – fast bowler!). He also extracts some reverse swing from the old ball that makes him a really deadly customer to deal with. Zaheer Khan, though not among a lot of wickets, looked like 100 per cent after a long time. The way he set up Nick Compton before dismissing him in the second innings speaks volumes about his ability with the ball.

MS Dhoni again failed to make any difference with the bat. It won’t be long before India would need his service in that area as well. Kohli was partly unlucky in the first innings, with the ball that got him out coming out of the rough area of pitch but looked good in second. Sachin Tendulkar got out quickly after he looked like being in a positive frame of mind – obvious from the two convincing boundaries in that small innings.

Despite the lost affair, England still have some hope to draw from the match. Spare a thought for the captain, Cook and their most successful spinner Swann. Alistair Cook’s century would certainly be rated among the top by a visiting batsman in this country. Swann strengthened his claim for the best off-spinner in the world at the moment. Matt Prior would have a lot of positives to take from the fact that he outshone his Indian counterpart in at least one area – that is no mean feat!

In all, India would be more than happy with their performance and would like to keep the momentum going with few improvements in a couple of areas. The English side, on the other hand, would like to learn a lot of lessons on how to play in the subcontinent from their Indian counterparts. For them there is certainly a ray of hope at the far end of the tunnel; but only the upcoming matches would decide whether that is of an incoming train or thanks to a stag with a torch in his hand!

 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

 22 August 2011

The entire series has been about Rahul Dravid standing up for his team’s cause almost like another man back home fighting for the cause of anti-corruption. On a beautiful sunny Sunday, Rahul Dravid battled for his country with everything he’d got – with the skill of a sculptor, concentration of a chess Grand Master and the determination of a soldier. It was a throwback to the best days of Dravid between 2000 and 2006 when he scored runs with regularity and consistency of Indian government’s frequency in increasing fuel prices.

Rahul Dravid went past Gavaskar's 34 Test hundreds on Sunday.

A lower-order that has paled in comparison to the grit and skill shown by their English counterparts, showed admirable fight in supporting Dravid. Amit Mishra, showed twice today that he is made of good stuff. He handled the threat of Swann with great confidence and good skill. Alas, he was undone by a brilliant Bell catch. As a night watchman, batting overnight following on, he will be expected to carry the fight for his team for as long as he can. One the evidence so far, he is likely to.

Amid all the turmoil of wickets falling around him, Dravid looked at ease facing the turning deliveries of Swann, who has been highly impressive in this Test. Dravid looked unperturbed against some honest fast-bowling. If only the top-order didn’t acquiesce to the pressures of the English bowling, he may have helped hold the forte much longer. As it turned out, a determined lower-order helped India add another 197 runs in their first innings before the innings closed and Dravid became only the third Indian to carry his bat through.

The Indian fans would be relieved at the fight on display by the team battling a far superior team in all aspects this summer. Not often has the batting shown fight this summer, but today was different. The bowlers were made to work harder for their wickets and nothing was made easy. Even a skillful, determined unit that has had so much the better of its opposition was at times made to look tired and blunt by a determined lower-order. The message finally seemed to rub-off on the top order which looked more determined than before when made to follow-on. Finally, it looked a contest and it was a good battle.

Much of the series has been a disappointment for the poor standards exhibited by the visitors. Only Rahul Dravid has come out with his reputation intact. Enhanced as some would argue. Only cynics would argue of his stature or his greatness. Men of his ability rely not on reputation or pedigree but on deeds. Never the one to complain or seek excuse, he seeks pleasure earning his stripes and respect with deed on the field.

He is a clever man who studies administration and leagues of various sports across the globe and it is not difficult to see him get into cricket administration when he is finished with playing cricket. He was involved in the administration of world cup games in Bangalore for the KSCA (Karnataka State Cricket Administration). He makes case-studies on batting and presents them to young batsmen for his state Karnataka and for Rajastan Royals in the IPL. A selfless, but a clever man who is soaked deep in the games traditions and its values, it is but inevitable that his best runs should have come in a country that respects and values them as he does.

Alas, a controversial decision derailed his spectacular fight. India is proud to have such fighters represent it on the cricket field.

Chandrasekhar Jayarama Krishnan

Head of Cricket, The CouchExpert

21 August 2011


India’s performance this series seems like a hangover from the past with no present meaning. The standards displayed on the field continue to slip the limits of cricketing propriety, and it has become clear that something fundamental is amiss.

It is understandably human tendency to stretch the truth when times are good, and hide behind it when riding through the doldrums. This Indian campaign has left public opinions on Indian cricket with a disdainful taste, none as disparagingly passive as the display on the 3rd day of the Oval test. There exists no strategy that can camouflage the current levels of incompetence on English soil, and as Australian cricket witnessed very recently, certain facets of Indian cricket could well be in for a major overhaul. At the same time, there is every fear that the administrators would respond to all this criticism with diplomatically phrased brush-offs.

Part of the problem lies with the board and the selection. The recall of RP Singh, a topic of heated debate amongst many already, tagged the selection committee with the dubious hint of a “George W Bush” about it. RP Singh, in hindsight, would have preferred to have continued his vacation along the sunny beaches of Miami, than enter the contrastingly cold grounds of England after 8 months of first-class inaction to face the current World Number One.

But that doesn’t pain the entire picture. The Indians, undoubtedly, on their day, can be incomparably strong opponents. Adding to that the monetary background of the players and the board, they may quite not appear to be a benign superpower. What was lost, amidst all this power and glory, was responsibility – a residue of which became the status that demoted us from champions to mortals.

Whereas, on the other side of the river that separates the Champions from the Mortals, England continued their dominance and aggression with Ian Bell’s maiden double hundred. To borrow the words of Norman Maclean “… all good things-trout as well as eternal salvation comes by grace, and grace comes by art, and art does not come easy …”: Bell epitomizes the art of batsmanship, with grace and fluidity being apt by products of his wonderful technique.

Bell recorded his maiden double ton in Test Cricket with an innings of the highest quality

Rahul Dravid, the other proprietor of this gift continues to be the only Indian player who can walk with his head above the surface of the water in the Ocean of Misery. He continued to battle at The Oval, the same way that he has done throughout this series. If Dravid’s success can emphasize on the work ethic, technique and commitment that any youngster should possess to reach the top, and sustain at the top, Indian cricket should frame a completely different approach to nurture young talent henceforth.

A follow-on is starkly consequential, with bad weather the only factor that can have an influence on the game’s scales titling towards a draw. With Swann back amongst the wickets, England will look to close the game out before weather can spoil their chances of a whitewash.

The Indian fan should learn to tolerate a unit that isn’t quite as world-class as he’s always imagined it to be. The signs presently look as blank as Sreesanth’s expression on getting Anderson’s wicket yesterday. It will be very interesting to see if the BCCI, an organization that has pretty much gotten its way at every turn, will be able to accept and react accordingly to this.