Posts Tagged ‘Vernon Philander’


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

November 13, 2011

The real story of test cricket has little to do with what was exposed in the newspapers on the morning of day three of the Newlands Test, and has everything to do with us fans – some who’ve challenged the entertainment plausibility of having to watch 450 overs of cricket spanning five days. The articles and reactions to the second day of the Newlands Test were only the meekest ghosts of a summary that the numbers depicted.

The build up to the clash between the Southern Hemisphere’s cricketing giants now seems inadvertent, given the fact that this battle would have given the Anglo-Zanzibar war of 1896 a run for its money. It had taken the British only 45 minutes to overthrow Khalid Bin Bargash, when five warships of the Royal Navy opened fire to commence and complete what would become one of the shortest wars fought in the history of the world.

Just as one began to wonder the chronic consequences of not having played test cricket in over ten months time, the residual effects of which were blatantly vivid during South Africa’s first innings, the landslide that followed painted a bizarre picture on how the art of temperament has gone for a toss, without doubting South Africa’s resilient response and character. It is, in one way, ironic to imagine that the teams that had once been involved in the highest ever run chase in ODI history had to enact a drama that would dubiously place itself at the other end of the spectrum.

The emergence of shorter formats seemed to have stamped its presence when a few Aussie batsmen – the main culprit being Brad Haddin – appeared to have played shots that they’d never want to see replays of. The entertaining form of attacking batsmanship was decisively rejected by the challenge posed by Test Cricket. It would now seem ironic to quote Michael Clarke in the past tense – a common ploy used by many who know that the words of the captain will appear on print post the result – just after the toss when he’d said he would have batted on this wicket.

Australia now finds itself in the middle of a two match series, with many believing that by stating the complexities of an ‘insidious’ wicket, the visitors can hope to bounce back after a break. A large part of Australia’s problems lie within their own camp – from the ineffective, unguided missiles of Mitchell Johnson to the questionable form, but not the class, of Ricky Ponting. To add to this heavy bag of questions exist a very fragile opening pair, whose lack of efflorescence against the moving ball would have undercut the post mortem’s storyline.

The Aussies certainly did well to ensure that their Trans-Tasman rivals held on to their dubious Test Record of the lowest score in an innings

Historically, the Australians are believed to be constitutionally averse to strategies adopted by other cricketing nations. If form-based remedies are displaced by class-based remedies, the number of young Australian cricketers staking a claim to play test cricket will fall incredibly. However, the recent trend scripts a contrary story, and rightly so – David Warner’s call up to replace the injured Shaun Marsh adds fuel to this theory.

Mental toughness has always been embedded into the DNA of Australian sport, but for once, ability seems to be posing a colossal question. But knowing the Australians well, they cherish pride and victory way too much to let it slip away – and no one would know that better than the set of men who’ve thrown their hats hoping to fill the vacancy left by Tim Nielsen.

In this process, the other side of the contest has been overlooked. If it probably weren’t for Amla and Smith’s centuries, it is for anyone to guess whether the other South African batsmen would have been found wanting, as they were during the first innings. But debutant Philander’s baptism of fire certainly prevented what otherwise would have been a very unpleasant courtroom featuring the batsmen responsible for a collapse during South Africa’s first innings on home soil during the month of November since 1921.

The Law of Large Numbers states that the result of performing the same experiment a large number of times would yield the expected result. The method adopted by Steyn, Philander and Morkel was to constantly hit the channels on and around off-stump – and the expected results were obtained.

The result has Australia in free fall now. Unlike gravity, a bad result can often push a team to the extremes of possible reactive decision making. There will be a temptation to replace the misfiring Johnson with the young and quick Pat Cummins – but as the late Peter Roebuck wrote in his very recent article: “Ambitious selectors and captains understandably seek players of high potential to replace time-servers, but cricket is also a game of skill, stamina and experience, and it takes time to learn its lessons.”

Sun Tzu’s Art of War states that what the ancients called a clever fighter is one who not only wins, but excels in winning with ease. Certainly, the South Africans wrapped up the game so. And they’ll look to repeat the same, excluding the first innings debacle, in Johannesburg.