Posts Tagged ‘ricky ponting’


Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

The game of cricket will be left poorer when the curtains are drawn on the Year 2012. It isn’t as much about the retirement of four of cricket’s greatest servants, as it is about the virtues they possessed.

Great sportsmen have seldom been vehement about how they want to retire. “I want to retire on a high,” some would say, with more than a hint of melodrama. Some retire placidly, with poise. Some are shown the door, mercilessly, in cultures where empathy ceases to exist. And some are slowly nudged towards the questions of their futures, with hope that the message is conveyed.

Towards the twilight of their careers, champions often find themselves living in a profoundly different world populated by fans-turned-critics, journalists with poison-laden ink pens and ‘advisors’ of a truculent variety. Insinuations fester while every act on the field is observed under a microscope, scrutinized and mock-obituaries written. After all, recent statistics will remain the principal standard by which players are judged.

In countries like India, where resources (in other words, talented players) aren’t limited, the question that lingers around asks if it is worth investing (again) in a successful past over a hopeful future. It has happened in sport – some even come out of retirement because they ‘miss’ the sport too much (I’m not talking about Pakistani cricketers here).

They miss the competitiveness, the adhesion. Paul Scholes, for one, went out on a high and was welcomed back with open arms when he decided to return to Old Trafford. I doubt if anyone from the Premier League can pass the ball with the pin-point accuracy that he possesses at his age. Michael Schumacher’s tale, on the other hand, paints a different picture. To say that his return was underwhelming isn’t harsh, although it wasn’t, in theory, a disaster.

On the other hand, when champions begin to get a sense of feel that they are the brick wall between a young talent and a regular place in the starting XI, the sensible ones make wise decisions. Cricketers continue to ply their trade in T20 leagues, and footballers move to the MLS or, in some cases, Australia. There is a sense that the advent of T20 cricket has caused a certain lassitude, that all is not over if one’s curtains in the international setup is closed. But this can’t be taken on face value.

Yes, solace can be gained from the fact that we’d still witness a Laxman or Dravid in IPL colors. Or a Tendulkar, more crucially, in whites. But when you start saving up for the things that money can’t buy, the memories that remain linger around long enough to make you miss it.

Beyond Men. Demi-Gods for most. © The Guardian, UK

And you end up waiting for the right antidote – in Dravid’s case, the emergence of Pujara (as premature as it may sound) acts as a safety net, while Kohli’s ODI exploits provide a layer of comfort given Tendulkar’s absence henceforth. In some cases, the void may never be filled – the pace department, for example. Or to an extent, even spin.

West Indies, and more recently, Australian cricket have found it a challenge to fill voids vacated by legends. Transition is never easy – some plan for it in advance, some realize it the day the inevitable strikes.  You could extend this to beyond sport.

Narayanamurthy’s exit from Infosys created a cataclysm what today is known as – well, still Infosys, but with an uncertain management structure and vision. Hewlett Packard isn’t the same ever since Mark Hurd was shown the door. Oracle was the beneficiary. And Larry Ellison never misses out an opportunity to laugh at those who’d sent him an early Christmas card.

After all, a player is most missed when, in his or her career, he or she had done something that had, or likely would have, a long-term effect on the sport he or she played. Jonty Rhodes revolutionized the art of fielding. David Beckham show-cased what could be done with a dead ball on a football field. Usain Bolt demonstrated that there’s more to two legs than we’d have ever imagined possible. And so on.

And when 2012 comes to a close, cricket fans will remember four men who’d continue to remain as the epitome of four different virtues: Dravid for his patience, Laxman for his sublimity, Ponting for his grit and Tendulkar for carrying the burden of a billion hopes.

As Justin Langer said: “He just spat the blood. And continued to field.”

A common virtue, one that is easily forgotten, relates to their deterrent attitudes towards the media prior to their retirements. Although most of us got the feeling that media pressure undid them, in truth, it didn’t. It is a virtue that took them through their highs and lows during their illustrated careers – to defeat the pens with their bats when it counted most. And to retire with a sense of pride with the focus on having represented their country meaning a lot more than any of the statistics that glorifies their careers.

Cricket may never get an opportunity, in the near future, to witness these virtues given how the game has changed dramatically over the last decade. Inventiveness is the new buzz-word, with batsmen attempting physics-defying shots against the poor bowlers of the modern era. And who knows what the future holds? Not many back in the early part of the 1900s, during the Industrial Revolution, would’ve perceived the Mobile Revolution of the 21st century.

But amidst all changes that happen, we will continue to remember what the four have done for cricket. Garfield Sobers is still spoken of today as the greatest all-rounder to have graced the game. Those who’d had the privilege of watching him play are never short of words when asked about his feats.

And as four legends walk away from the sport, so will we when asked about these greats in the future.


Shridhar Pandey

It is gradually becoming more difficult to put up with all the talks surrounding Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement. Therefore I decided to vent out my emotions on this subject and make an honest appeal to all those running their mouths to ‘leave him alone!’ But before I begin, let me put down a couple of disclaimers. Firstly, Sachin Tendulkar is the God of Cricket to me without any second thought. Yet I would use ‘he’ instead of ‘He’ to refer to him hereafter. For I don’t want this article to be classified as a testimonial; it should be viewed from a rather neutral standpoint. Secondly, this might also draw flak from a section of people who in my view are atheists (in a world where cricket is a religion). So if you are one, this probably is the right time to stop reading this any further.

Ponting's retirement announcement has renewed the Tendulkar retirement debate. © AFP

Ponting’s retirement announcement has renewed the Tendulkar retirement debate. © AFP

It would be a grave injustice to a cricket lover if I were not to talk about the recent conclusion of one of the brightest cricketing careers of all time – that of the former Australian captain Ricky Ponting, the most successful cricketer (three world cups and more than 100 Test victories) the world has ever witnessed. In my books, if there ever was a cricketing shot that would come second to Sachin’s backfoot punch down the ground past the bowler, that certainly would be Ponting’s crackling pull shot.

Arguably the second best Aussie batsman after the Don, Ponting for some reason could never win the hearts of majority of Indian fans. Nonetheless, deep down inside all of them knew that he was a brilliant operator. His records speak volumes about his achievements. He shall not be remembered for the last couple of years but for the decade before that, when at one time, people got the feeling that he might overtake the Master himself as far as runs and centuries were concerned. His retirement would leave behind a big void not just in Australia but cricket all over the world. What it has also done is add fuel to the time-for-Sachin-to-retire guffaw.

So without any further ado, let me move over to what I had begun with. What pains me – believe me it does – is watching the same people, who used to hail Tendulkar at other occasions, now question his place in the side. I suppose I would be within my rights to question their loyalty. It has been the most illustrious cricketing career so far and yet he does not have the liberty to have a lean patch! Is he the only one who is not living up to their standards in the team? If history is to believed, he would sooner than later orchestrate a comeback that would silence those detractors one more time.

The shame is every Tom, Dick and Harry has an opinion on this subject. People who hardly follow the game are also ready with a piece of advice to the one who has spent his life serving it. That reminds me of a scene from the popular American sitcom F-R-I-E-N-D-S. It goes something like this:

Joey (to Ross): Rachel is having Braxton Hicks Contractions

Ross: Thank God! That is no big deal; most women don’t even feel them!

Rachel: Okay, no uterus, no opinion!

That one line sums it up all. Former Indian spinner Bishan Singh Bedi echoed similar opinion when he said “Only those who’ve played at least 150 Tests should be analyzing Sachin’s game.

A whole generation might lose their interest in the game the day he calls it off. That day the game would become poorer than ever. Probably never to be replenished. Indian supporters would never again be able to say the famous phrase “Sachin hai na!” in almost every dire situation. This might be the twilight of his career, but this certainly is not the end for there would be one last flourish before it all comes to an end.

And lastly to all those who believe that “you either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become a villain” – he is not living to see himself being called a villain; rather he is contemplating something of a much bigger magnitude. I refuse to call it a struggle. This might well be ‘the quiet before the storm’.


Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

Siege warfare has been their stock in trade. For Australia, this series was a case of truth being stranger than fiction – in the good sense. Consistency across four tests reaped benefits earlier not thought-of, and it certainly wasn’t a case of a chain being as strong as its weakest link when a few individuals failed to step up to the occasion. Not a single test seemed likely to enter the fifth day, with the exception of the final one that might have not lasted so long had Australia enforced a follow on.

The worst thing about India’s 4-0 whitewash down under was the inevitability of it. That a large set of the players looked withdrawn and out-of-sync (every time the cameras focused on them) didn’t help the cause either. Astronomical numbers gathered over years of batting is what constituted the middle order, but there was little evidence to suggest that this was the barometer by which their performance was being gauged.

As unpopular as this view will probably be, the proverbial rant surrounding why Rohit hasn’t played a Test yet will continue for some time to come. After all, when wickets fall at intervals so short that the same old advertisements are shoehorned every five minutes (in some cases, ironically featuring the stars that are on the field – or ones who had just lost their wicket), little can be said in defense of their numbers, irrespective of how large they are.  They are statistical quirks, no more, and cringe-worthy.

How meekly the Australians made a team of eleven Indians capitulate throughout the series ranks alongside General Friedrich Paulus’ surrender at Stalingrad in 1943.  Never before had a German Field Marshall surrendered to enemy forces. And the Indian fans’ displeasure is as much as that, if not more, experienced by Adolf Hitler back then. The Australians have dominated the series with an air of perfection that would have made Michelangelo knock of the Sistine Chapel ceiling on a Sunday afternoon to target a work of art likewise.

Playing a Test in Australia is never a pleasant experience – precisely why it is so fervently anticipated. The IPL might have forged opportunistic alliances between these two nations (among many others), but nothing further seems to have transpired. The Indians’ only comforting presence in the Australian dressing room would be that of Shaun Marsh, whose IPL image contrasts that which he has built during this series, albeit the formats being grossly different. Marsh is an unlikely candidate to catch the plane to the Caribbean, come this April. He has cut a lonely figure, resembling a Greek window-shopper unable to buy runs.

Australia’s biggest gain over the series (apart from unearthing/refining an outstanding pace attack) has been the resurgence of Clarke as both a batsman and skipper. For some, Clarke’s Midas touch could’ve come as a greater shock than American Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney’s tax returns. Just as it seemed during the build up that Clarke’s perceived image would receive boo-eliciting responses to every remark he makes, given how unpopular he was among certain sections of the public, the response couldn’t have been more timely and stronger. That he had Ponting by his side all along the course of this series is a tribute to how the two of them have responded to immense pressure.

Now who is more subservient of the two? © Sportsbanter

Premonitions over their roles and future in the Australian setup have finally been buried. With Brad Hogg making a comeback at 40, it would be hard to stop a rampaging Ponting from continuing to play on until he experiences another lean patch like he did in 2011. As will Mike Hussey fancy his chances in hanging around the International setup for some time to come – given how the influx of promising youngsters hasn’t quite worked out the way that the selectors might have anticipated. It would require a Marsh-esque run with a virgin willow for either of these two batsmen to have their performances under intense scrutiny once again.

Haddin’s forgettable patch has rightfully seen him relegated, as much as claims may state that he was rested. At 35, it seems that his path henceforth is a foregone conclusion. The absence (injury) of Paine brings in a whiff of fresh air via Matthew Wade, a youngster who has shown potential to dazzle crowds with his reassuringly simplistic approach to the game – more reassuring than Mickey Arthur’s claims that Haddin is on the right track for Ashes 2013. In truth, Haddin was only marginally better than being hopeless.

Wade’s outing in International Cricket has been much anticipated

Wade, on the other hand, will be in action as early as tomorrow when the two teams face off against each other in the first T20I at Sydney. He’ll feature alongside a few veterans, a few new names, a quirky Marsh and his younger brother Mitch (possibly), under the leadership of George Bailey after Cameron White’s inconsistent form relegated him into oblivion.

Australia sits at a disappointing fifth in the ICC T20I Rankings. A new stadium, a new home outfit; the Aussie fans will hope that it is the same old result though.


Goutham Chakravarthi

There is nothing wrong with this Indian team. That is if you believe in the theory that bowlers who bowl with a straight arm actually bowl with a 360-degree bend.

It was another day of what has now become the norm with the Indian team. Catches were dropped and the batting collapsed. And Clarke finds himself where Dhoni was not so long ago: his juggling of bowlers as mesmerizing as that of juggler in a circus and is easily among the three best batsmen on the world on current form. It is a far cry from not so long ago where he seemed desperate to want to earn the respect of the fans and his questions over his lifestyle.

Lyon accounted for the wickets of Sehwag, Tendulkar and Laxman. © Getty Images

On another day, Haddin would be accused of being selfish in not going for quick runs closing in on a declaration, but winning teams can afford to carry some struggling players. But not for long and Clarke’s angry declaration just minutes past lunch might have passed on that message to Haddin. If Haddin were Indian, he would have been accused of looking after his average.

Sehwag’s innings bespoke of a man trying to chase down an impossible target. But it lacked conviction. Sehwag at his best keeps out good deliveries and goes after the rest. Here, he was lucky, initially, and ultra-aggressive when he eventually skied a waist-high full-toss to get out. India needed to bat five sessions to save the Test. And the skipper didn’t show the determination he did four years ago at the same venue to do just that.

Tendulkar’s series has nose dived post Sydney. His dismissals have become tamer and today, Lyon ensured Tendulkar’s last series in Australia wasn’t going to be as profitable as his previous four tours there. And by the time a Laxman flick brought about his downfall, Lyon had proved that he had the game and the temperament to succeed. And his captain set good catching fields for him to look for wickets all the while.

And as Kohli ran himself out at the fag end of the day, India’s misery on the field seems all but over.

A young Rafael Nadal believed his uncle and coach Toni Nadal had super powers and that he could even bring in the rain as he wished. Toni promised that he would bring in the rains should Nadal look like losing. Once playing in an age group tournament, after struggling initially against a boy much older than he, Nadal seemed to get the hang of it when it started to drizzle. Nadal walked up to Toni and said that he could stop the rain because he felt confident that would beat the older boy and did just that.

May be, India’s best option is to see if they could borrow Toni for a day.


Goutham Chakravarthi

Some of the biggest names in cricket, of all time, are represented in the Indian and Australian cricket teams. Yet, as cricket chugs on to 26th January – Reuplic Day for India and also Australia Day – it is difficult to imagine many excited about cricket. With Australia also offering a colossal battle between Nadal and Federer for the 27th time, it is hard to believe cricket will be fans’ top priority even among stout Australian fans who are witnessing a great run by their team.

Rivalries elevates sport to a different level, a level that stretches physical limits and collective beliefs. Federer might have fallen off the perch and Nadal no longer the king, but when they clash, tennis reaches a level that can rival any art at its best. Australia and India always produced close contests. And the rivalry defined the highest level of cricket in the 2000s, but the last three series have been flat with the odd throwback to brilliance, but this series has been poor.

Clarke and Ponting thwarted the Indian attack for 95 overs in their near quadruple hundred stand. Photo: AP

A day, when a past champion and a young captain who currently ranks to be as good as any one going around, thwarted an attack that had plans, but none else, it looked nothing like Federer vs Nadal or Brazil vs Argentina. It did not even resemble Sampras vs Agassi on the seniors’ tour. One team had plans – Ishant bowled outside off, Umesh tried his best to rough the batsman up, Zaheer tried his various tricks and Ashwin his various spins – and constructed its points like a good tennis player would, but would find the winner coming from the opposition. Sometimes, luckily so, but mostly through sheer brilliance from the opponent.

The day belonged to a champion who is past his prime, but one who has shown ability to graft and bide his time that was considered too passe to him not so long ago. His determination, mostly, and his change in his trigger movements, to a lesser extent, have turned around his summer in to perhaps a couple more Australian summers . Sadly, neither the determination nor the desperation is to be seen in the visitors’ camp.

There is little to suggest that the Indians tried anything different in their planning or preparation in the long break between the Tests. It is clear that the routine that has not been good enough so far is being persisted with. Indians lacked plans and direction when partnerships flowered in Sydney and Perth and now here in Adelaide. Captains and bowlers seem clueless and the fielders seem a dispirited lot.

But none of those mattered to Clarke. He was earmarked as a young player with quick feet and sharp brains. His handling of his side – the veterans and the youngsters – has been remarkable. More so, he has found his best form with the bat and is having the best summer of his life. Though his batting this summer is nothing short of astonishing, it is his personality as a skipper and a leader that has outshone everything else.

As Australia Day and Australian Open beckons, as Australia and Clarke push for glory, as India’s summer spirals out of control like a Formula One car on gravel, when Gambhir and Tendulkar resume their battle, Indian fans might flip channels to see Federer or Nadal in action, but will hope, even if for a fleeting moment, that they see a fight. Not a Tendulkar rampant half-century, but a grinding and stone-walling ton. Not a Gambhir with flashing blade and a loose mouth, but a stodgy and determined Gambhir. Not a Laxman with the languid drive and an airy flick, but the Laxman who produces his best when his team needs him the most. The rivalry is no longer Federer-Nadal class, but should it even match the Sampras-Agassi levels in a seniors’ tournament, it might be worth the while. The hope of putting up a fight is all that remains.