Posts Tagged ‘New Zealand’


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.


Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

It was a real shame that the first test between South Africa and New Zealand had to end indecisively with weather inhibiting a game that would, in all likelihood, have had a result on the cards. On face value, the South Africans seemed the more likely of the two teams to have had a result tilted in their favor. And the critical difference between the two teams was evident on Day One of the 2nd Test at Hamilton. For those who bothered to watch/follow it in the first place.

It is understandable that the cricket fan’s focus is on the (meaningless) Asia Cup and the prospect of Tendulkar reaching his awaited milestone against Pakistan. As honorable as that intention (or wish) is, this milestone is a skeleton which perhaps only the most loyal sympathizers of Tendulkar really think worth discussing any more.

Whether or not this assertion is debatable, the fact remains that there is a pretty good game of Test Cricket being fought down in New Zealand. Yes, being oblivious to a Tendulkar milestone is suicidal in India – but not at the cost of quality cricket elsewhere. I’d fancy watching the ball bounce and seam at Hamilton, as against dead rubbers of the subcontinent. No disrespect – just my choice.

But I’ll close the milestone topic thus: Fans. Don’t worry. Tendulkar has said that “he’ll miss Dravid in the dressing room”. And you read that between the lines, it means that he’s going to be around for a while – plenty of time to reach there (I know it has been more than a year now, but good things happen to those who wait). But it is a shame that for all the nostalgia, for all the great memories that we have and cherish of this legend, the last one year will be a slight blot on an otherwise serene landscape.

Just kidding – my friends from the media (and from thousands of other relatively unknown newspapers) tell me that they’ve had their 100 page Tendulkar supplement ready (barring Page 1) ever since he’d reached his 99th ton. There’s even a Tendulkar special Crossword and Sudoku, amongst others.

Coming back to what I started with – yes, Vernon Philander. No, I don’t think I mentioned his name anywhere earlier – but goodness me! Had this guy been Indian, he’d have been all over the news for what he has achieved/and is achieving (and, if he’d had an equivalent, literally-translated Indian name, you’d have been tired of seeing newspapers compete for ‘pathetic sense-of-humor’ headlines). Closing in on forty wickets and he’s only playing his sixth test! It is not often that you come across a bowler who looks likely to take five wickets every time the red cherry is thrown to him.

Review Time: “You must be joking. This ain’t International Cricket, Umps?”

Given that South Africa is traveling to England next, record books beware! There might arise a need to erase history and rewrite what this guy is potentially capable of achieving, having represented Middlesex in the English County circuit (he’s no stranger to the conditions there – even if he is, he’s got a contract with Somerset starting April this year). I know its early days, but we’ve made heroes out of one-week wonders – I’m not even remotely close to crossing the line. And this guy seems genuinely good.

Graeme Smith has been wise enough to look at Philander in the eye and tell him that tougher times will come. Yes, at the present moment, the game looks way too easy for him. But browner pastures of Motera and SSC (with Jayawardene potentially notching up another ton/double ton) will await him with stark glimpses of reality checks.

It is a travesty, though, from New Zealand’s perspective – the only two players who seem capable of scoring runs end up throwing their wickets once they get starts. Certainly, neither McCullum nor Taylor would be batsmen you’d be willing to put your wager on in Test Cricket, but they bat at three and four – pivotal positions that demand a penchant for responsibility. And, Rob Nicol at the top of the order seems a batsman who could compete with yesteryear Indian opener Debang Gandhi (I find it hard to rewind to an earlier era and quote a better example) in to becoming laughable parody of themselves.

It looks likely that he wouldn’t hang around the setup once Dean Brownlie is back. Or after Jesse Ryder gives up alcohol (and sheds a few tons). As won’t Kane Williamson unless he makes an attempt to prove his detractors wrong.  He hasn’t even come close to living up to the ‘next best kid since Martin Crowe’ advertisements that took precedent (and briefly aired) after his ton against India on debut at … Motera (again!).

But the bright spot – at the end of Day One – is that the South Africans are two down for 27. Dale Steyn’s stay as night-watchman didn’t last too long, while Graeme Smith is still cursing over South African exports who seem to do so well when not playing for South Africa (van Wyk’s catch to dismiss Smith was a stunner).

P.S.  On Dravid – later.


Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

The best captains often walk a fine line between leadership and performance. And as the South Africans swept the Kiwis 3-0 in the ODI series, the moment seemed quaintly out of time. As much as the World Cup defeat last year to the Kiwis would’ve hurt them, the whitewash seamlessly fits in to the scheme of things falling under skipper AB de Villiers.

The tour to New Zealand has offered a whiff of fresh air. From Richard Levi’s pyrotechnics, to the bounce and brilliance of de Lange, the series has encapsulated many a solid performance (notably Amla’s solidity at the top of the order and AB de Villiers’ raising claims to take over the batsman-ship baton from Jacques Kallis) to throw a glimmer of hope under a new regime.

The convincing manner in which the ODI series down under was wrapped (partly due to New Zealand’s new-look outfit) has more to reveal – opening with Wayne Parnell in the final ODI is a reflection of the scales in which confidence is being measured in their dressing room. Parnell, a player who hails from one of South Africa’s poorest province, had got his break during the days when the quota system had enforced the administrators to invest in his scholarship to a sporting high school in Eastern Cape. He looks likely to be one of South Africa’s all-rounder mainstays for many a year to come, even if a few statistics point elsewhere.

3-0, easy as it comes.

In the fan’s gaze, this phase of South African cricket is in the midst of a now-familiar cycle. The foundation for their ‘success-to-be’ is likely to be built on the captaincy structures laid by de Villiers, often regarded as a paragon for versatility. Like his predecessors, de Villiers will realize that he will have no excuses for failure at all: his country has a brilliant set of athletes to choose from, even though it has traditionally found it difficult to provide the rudiments of success expected out of it in major tournaments.

The distress surrounding their ICC campaigns have historically been deeper than exhaustion. As skipper, de Villiers would do well to make efforts to escape the grilling claustrophobia of ICC tournament post-mortems. The repealing of the quota system after the post-apartheid pendulum cycle has soft-pedaled any attempt to point fingers towards cricketing structures. After all, a thorough analysis on a topic that had received most public notoriety can reveal invisible histories that the quota system, with its focus on abstraction, had hidden.

Of course, Graeme Smith’s peremptory approach during his reign had made things look a bit more secure, but did little to erase the ‘chokers’ tag that has been dubiously associated with this brilliant outfit. Smith was a captain who was pretty optimistic about the public’s perceived ability to accept excuses. But he was smart enough to know that if you’re telling the fans something they don’t want to hear, an apt convincing counter-offer was needed to balance things.

Most fans have respected the past South African skippers for their effort, but have often been left confused and disappointed by the results. It is possible that de Villiers will continue to do what worked for them in the past. Historically, South African cricket’s problems had lied largely with its administrative deficiencies. But now, with a large set of bottlenecks out of the way (at least, if the news coming out of their local media is to be believed), de Villiers has an easier road to rally his troops along.

Of course, as the battle mode shifts to a five-day mode, a more familiar leader in the form of Graeme Smith will lead his team out on the seventh of March. But it is well worth keeping an eye on AB, for he is the right man to take South Africa forward for the best part of this decade.