Posts Tagged ‘World T20’


Srivathsa Munirathnam

Going on your first International trip always gives you goose-bumps (I’m sure many of you would vouch for that) and I’m no different. The planning began three months back when a colleague suggested  that we go there for the T20 World Cup. Pre-planning included many things like booking tickets for the ICC World T20, looking at places to stay, what to see and other routine stuff that one would do before going on a vacation. Thankfully I wasn’t the one who was handling all that – my colleague did. Once all those mundane stuff was out of the way it was time to head to Sri Lanka. Before that though, a couple of sleepless nights were endured, anticipating what one might do there. There were a lot of shopping requests from various people which needed to be kept in mind. And there was one’s own list of ‘what-to-do’ to be taken care of as well.

The flight

Our flight was from Chennai to Colombo – a small matter of just 70 minutes, but what a 70 minutes it was. To see the flight cross the Indian Ocean when we were mid-air was a sight to behold. Watching it from the flight window gave me a different thrill. But the journey time was too less and in no time we were at the Bandaranaike International airport. 

The People 

As soon as we landed in Colombo, we got to experience the hospitality of the locals. We had heard stories of how nice they were and their fun-loving nature through various outlets, but here we were actually experiencing it. Right from the cab drivers, to the tuk-tuk walas, to the staff at the hotel – we didn’t encounter a single moment which we would regret later. In a funny sort of way, almost all the locals have their names which matched that of a cricketer. We had Hathurasinghe Premawardene who handled our transport service, Indika Sampath was our cab driver, we met Eranga Lakmal a volunteer at the stadium – who said that Suranga Lakmal was from the same village he had come from. Even when we went to eat, we came across Chaminda at Pizza Hut. 

India-Pakistan Super Eight match at the R. Premadasa stadium was memorable.

If that was a strange coincidence, then the generosity and the soft nature of the local people completely floored us. Just to give an example, the tuk-tuk driver who had to drop us at Premadasa, lost his way and took us to SSC initially. To compound matters, the tuk-tuk meter stopped working as well. Seeing our anxious faces, he assured us that he won’t charge anything extra and he kept his word despite losing  some money. Not only were the locals honest, but they follow all the traffic rules. We were surprised when we saw them stop at Zebra crossings to allow the pedestrians to walk to the other side. We told them this never happens in India and they were surprised. 

If following traffic rules was their duty, then every driver should get a 10 in my book. And once you told them that you were from a foreign land, their respect and treatment increases. That’s what was so pleasing to see. And since all Sri Lankans are cricket crazy, starting a conversation about cricket seemed to be a good idea and boy do the locals know their cricket or what! Every one seemed to know the game, its culture, the history and one even corrected me when I wrongly mentioned that Sangakkara had studied in Colombo. He was quick to point out, ‘Sangakkara studied in Trinity College at Kandy sir’. 

Wherever we went, be it Colombo, Galle or Udawalawe, the treatment offered by the locals made the journey memorable. There was always a helping hand, an advice and a quick clarification of your doubts though at times the English language and our Indian accent was difficult to comprehend for the concerned person. We met many crazy cricket fans inside the stadium and though we were surprised to see so many people being anti-India, it was all done in a jolly and good-natured way. There was no hint of malice or prejudice in their trolling and once the game got over, it was back to being friends again as they willingly came forward to have a chat and take a couple of pics with us. 

Along the journey, got to meet a lot of interesting characters as well and made a lot of good friends, some of whom even offered us their contact details. Having experienced the warmth and the hospitality of the Lankans, it would take a very hard man not to love them and I’m certainly not one of them. 

The places

Our journey started from Colombo where we were based in Mount Lavinia at the lovely Royal Berjaya Hotel. It was a three star accommodation with a beach view. Just open the window and there it was – the beach right in front of your eyes with the railway track in front of it. The first couple of days were spent in Colombo, checking out places like ODEL, Cricket Club Cafe, Gallery Cafe, Barefoot and Cleopatra. One had heard a lot about Cricket Club Cafe and it was truly a special place. One could see lots of memorabilia on the walls and some rare photographs which included Sir Don as well. The atmosphere inside was calm, serene and the perfect way to watch a live game on TV with lots of food and drink options to while away your time.

The place is run by two Australians and a must visit for any cricket fan who is going to Colombo. With the shopping and the local places almost complete, we decided to spend a few peaceful moments at Galle Sea Face – Colombo’s Marine Drive, if you may call it. The place is famous to watch the sunset in the evening but we went there in the afternoon, still it was a fab experience. Once that was done as well, we decided to head to Galle to check out lots of impressive stuff we had heard about the place.

Romesh Kaluwitharana’s private getaway Kalu’s Hideaway in the middle of the jungles is spectacular.

Must say that Galle didn’t disappoint at all. The Galle International Stadium was our destination and after a quick stopover we headed to the Galle Fort. The Fort is amazing for its architecture and its scenic beauty. There are nice places to shop and some pretty old but well maintained museums and an old DutchChurch. We had the opportunity to meet Stuart Law inside the fort and also see the Aussie women’s team. The highlight though of the Fort experience was to pose with the Python around the neck. If anyone is visiting the Fort, that is one thing one shouldn’t miss out on. 

After the Fort was done, we wanted to head to Mirissa beach which was on our to-do list, but unfortunately it was already late evening and we decided against going there. The next day saw us going to Udawalawe – a forest area – to check in at Kalu’s Hideaway, managed by Romesh Kaluwitharana himself. And what a place it was as well! Stunning, beautiful and so peaceful – right in the middle of the forest. The perfect getaway if one is on a honeymoon. Brilliantly managed by Kalu and Co. 

There was still a safari to complete in the morning and we managed to get a glimpse of a couple of wild Elephants, peacocks, a wild fowl, an Iguana and a green snake. With the safari out of the way it was time to pack our bags and head back to Colombo. Amongst all the places that we visited in Sri Lanka, Udawalawe and Kalu’s resort stand out for its natural beauty. Mind you, Colombo is not far behind – it’s a great city with lots of nice places and it’s very cosmopolitan too. Before our trip was done, we were so acquainted with Colombo that one could remember the areas with pincodes. Must say Colombo is an easy place to remember with lots of cleanliness to boot and not many tricky criss-crossing lanes. 

The Cricket

Those who have gone to watch a match in India at the stadium know how difficult and tiresome a journey it can be. Even a water bottle isn’t allowed whereas the live experience is completely the opposite in Sri Lanka. Forget about water bottles, everything is allowed including beer. That’s how it should be as well and a perhaps something for the Indian authorities to take note of. But before getting in, everything was screened and checked properly before one was allowed entry.

We went to three of India’s Super Eight games and inevitably it was the game against Pakistan that we enjoyed the most. The atmosphere at the Stadium was simply electric as Ravi Shastri would put it. What surprised us though was the amount of locals who had turned up to watch a non-Sri Lanka game. The support was heavily one-sided with lots of locals putting their weight behind Pakistan. But we had the final say and that gave us a lot of pleasure. It was also nice to meet a couple of Englishmen who were rooting for us and were sitting right behind us. The Brit was in his elements and he certainly made a few heads turn with his antics. 

The Galle International Cricket Stadium set amidst Indian Ocean on two sides with the historic Galle Fort in its back drop is a thing of unmatched beauty. Pic: Badrinarayana Vengavasi

As I had mentioned earlier, the locals wanted to see India out of the tournament and once they saw us in an Indian Jersey, the trolling would get even more louder. During the game against South Africa, they began singing, ‘go back home’ repeatedly and it only got louder once we were eliminated. All in good humor though and nothing worrisome about it at all. In fact one must say that one enjoyed the little banter. 

The locals for sure made the cricket watching experience wonderful and though I had seen games live in India at Bangalore, one has to see a game live at the Premadasa to get a real thrill. For the Sri Lankans, cricket is a carnival and they don’t care about the result. All they want is fun and they make sure they elevate the atmosphere inside the stadium to another level. 

Though India failed to reach the semi-finals, it was well worth watching the three Super Eight games and one doesn’t have any regrets about the cricket. 

To summarise the trip in a few lines would be difficult, but Sri Lanka is a place one should visit at least once for its lovely people and its beautiful natural scenery. Thoroughly enjoyed the 6 days spent there and had some amazing moments. Made a lot of friends and got bowled over by the locals. In short, Sri  Lanka was just wonderful. Sthutee Sri Lanka!


Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

Here’s a narrative that you might not have heard in 33 years: The West Indies have won the World Cup. They have re-arrived in the ICC Wall of Fame with the force of a gale. Not just Gayle (pardon the rhetoric pun again please).

Their dance is as distinguishing as their unique style – and coupled with a new found passion that seemed to have been nonexistent until not too long ago, ’79 doesn’t seem that distant a memory now. It is easy to forget that the West Indies constitutes a set of nations that are fragmented geographically, culturally and (maybe) politically.

The victory is made more poignant and credible given the hurdles that had to be crossed by Darren Sammy and his men. Revisiting the incidents would remove the sentiment behind this piece, for when the mood is calypso, it is worth celebrating, not contemplating. Their vision for the future must be their distant past. It really is as simple as that.

Every final played leaves an etched memory that never fades with time. From Clive Lloyd’s assault in ’75 all the way to MS Dhoni’s pyrotechnics of 2011, the victorious team has always had a fulcrum around which the scorecards revolved. And in some cases, a moment of magic (not reflected in scorecards) – such as Kapil Dev’s brilliant catch to dismiss Viv Richards in ’83 – announces itself as the difference between glory and gloom.

Marlon Samuels, whose chronological trysts in International Cricket best remain buried, given the moment, stole the thunder from the much anticipated fireworks of Chris Gayle. Gayle had set the tournament alight with his impersonations of the Gangnam dance, a popular South Korean style that came into prominence to rank Psy’s albums above the story of the North Korean soldier who’d crossed fortified borders to enter South Korea. He had, in addition, defied presumptions to bat through the innings during the semifinals against Australia.

Unfortunately, a ploy that had worked in the semi-finals failed yesterday. As admirable as the intent is to allow Gayle to bat through an innings, natural instincts – if left unattended to – could take fortunes for a reversing. But to witness Samuels respond the way he did, albeit circumstances where the run-rates dipped to embarrassingly low levels given the format, is a testament to his temperament and approach. His straight six off Malinga, a monstrous 108m hit, remains the highlight of a battering that cut the Sri Lankan pacer’s stats to pieces.

Not too long ago, the documentary Fire in Babylon seemed to catalyze the process of the rest of the world catching up with the Caribbean in the nostalgia department. Whether it made most of us yearn for the West Indies to hit the glory days again will remain unanswered, but the neutral’s elation – coupled with observations during my stay in Sri Lanka – convinces me that it did.

Sammy’s style and captaincy doesn’t depict the theme behind the documentary – his style isn’t the typical ‘in-your-face’ attitude, but rather the approach that bridged the chasm between altercations and egos. Until yesterday, he probably had a greater share of pessimists (including myself) questioning his very place in the XI. I still do. But he deserves credit for taking up the anchor role that others refused – to accomplish a task that appeared, back then, as monumental as reversing the fortunes of today’s Greek economy.  He has had the last laugh in this contest.

Mahela and Sanga: ‘Tim Henmans’ of cricket?

But such contests, unlike many others, turn out to be a zero sum game. The West Indies’ triumph was the home team’s loss – in particular, towards two men who’ve steered them to four finals thus far. A fourth final in this century would have, in all obviousness, placed – if I could borrow the words of an economist here – an inelastic demand on their success. But at least, the economy fluctuates. Their luck didn’t. Jayawardena and Sangakkara, for all you know, may never taste the ultimate success that continues to elude them. A friend of mine recently labeled them the ‘Tim Henmans’ of cricket. I don’t doubt that they are.

Their records will have a void that has left some of the best cricketers’ records flecked – from Bradman’s ‘an iota short of a 100’ test average to Shane Warne’s top score as a batsman. It may add fuel to their biographical defensives, but it isn’t something that would compensate for the lack of a trophy in their cabinet. Not when they were so close to repeating what the Indians did in front of their fans last year.

On the brighter side, their performances have disproved notions posed by a few theorists through the course of the tournament. To begin with, the theory that Mendis would fail against bigger nations is blown away when you look at his statistics from yesterday. Add to this the youth fervor that Akila Dhananjaya brings – there is every reason to believe that the near future isn’t as bleak as it appeared to be when a few big names bid farewell.

West Indies, on the other hand, have just carved a beginning. They’re still way off the mark formats that have a stricter measurement yardstick. And if this doesn’t act as a catalyst, I can’t imagine what else would. Just like how a stable currency doesn’t necessarily reflect the prosperity of a nation, this triumph should open doors for more transparent conversations to help elevate standards in ODI and Test Cricket.

They need to have their best players playing in these formats – Sarwan included. Now, who initiates these dialogues is always guesswork, given the egos that battle each other. Unfortunately, the more sensible advocates from West Indies cricket aren’t part of the WICB. The system needs to find a way to get these personalities in, while the momentum is still on. History has shown us that World Cup wins could do wonders to boosting sporting, and non-sporting, opulence to nations.

It will be an interesting few months leading up to the New Year. But until then, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to try mastering the Gangnum. As the cliché goes, grab the trend while it still lasts. Recall something called a vuvuzela now?


Bini Sathyan

It was the most amazing innings of a T20 match and probably the innings of a lifetime played by Marlon Samuels. And that he chose to do it on the biggest stage when the chips were down and his team was literally on the mat and the fact that he decided to take on the best T20 bowler in the world to fight it out and to come out a winner makes it the most awesome come-back-from-behind of performances. The end result is that the Calypso Kings are back and are crowned the World T20 champions. Sri Lanka again ended up as the second best in 4 finals since 2007.

The T20 finals did not look like a T20 match, instead it looked like a battle for life. With West Indies electing to bat, everyone expected the Gayle storm to simply blow the opposition over. But the Sri Lankan bowlers came well prepared to absorb the impact and they did so well that Gayle looked like a man lost in the storm.

With the runs just not coming and the mystery bowlers of Sri Lanka tightening the noose after Gayle’s exit, the West Indies looked to fall flat. At 34/2 in 10 overs, no one except a hardcore West Indian fan would have expected a miracle. But the miracle did come in the form of Marlon Samuels. He just stood there in the middle leading the West Indian resistance striking at less than a run a ball and it looked like he was fighting a lost battle. But he had other plans. Lasith Malinga who was given only one over by Jayawardene and held back to be used at the death was given the ball to to take out the West Indian resistance. And the game changed.

West Indies came from behind to choke Sri Lanka to take the title. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Everyone expected the toe crushers to come curling in to knock down the West Indians. They definitely did come. But this time the script was not the usual one. Samuels dispatched the first one for six. The more they curled in the more higher and longer he hit them. One of them from Samuels’ bat became the biggest six of the tournament. 22 runs came of the over and Slinga Malinga thought it was just one odd over. But that was not the end. By the end of Malinga’s 3rd over, half of the West Indies’ total was scored from his overs. And he ended up giving away 54 runs without a wicket. It took only a couple of overs to destroy the reputation of the best and most lethal T20 bowler. Then came Captain Sammy and delivered when it mattered the most taking the West Indian total to a fighting one.

Rampaul and Co. gave it back in an almost similar fashion to the Lankans. By the end of 12 overs, it looked a long and rough road ahead for Sri Lanka. Then Kulasekhara decided to do a Samuels in the 16th over. He targeted the West Indian fast Rampaul and hit him for a six. Rampaul responded angrily by sending in short pitched balls and Kulasekhara skilfully dispatched all of them to the fence.

This pedestrian performance from Rampaul after an extraordinary beginning almost shifted the momentum away from the West Indies. And the great man Gayle had to come and put an arm around him to cool him down. Sammy then decided to use his trump card in the next over. He gave the ball to Sunil Narine, the coolest bowler you can come across in the world. His face did not give away the carnage that had happened in the over before. Neither did his face reveal any feeling that this could be the deciding over of the match with Kulasekhara in murderous mood threatening to finish off the match. Cool, calm, composed and full of concentration he just stuck to his task and was rewarded in the 2nd ball with the wicket of Kulasekhara. Sammy went wild and so did the West Indians. The trump card worked. And now it was just a matter of time.

Bravo got to take the final catch and with that the cup and he got to celebrate his birthday with a world cup win. And the West Indians celebrated like no other. Gayle with his antics and Bravo with his dancing skills amused the crowd. Sammy was the most criticized captain of recent times but looks like no one will be talking about the negatives soon.


Goutham Chakravarthi

If you have been to Sri Lanka you’ll know that there are few nicer people than them. And if you happened to know people from the Caribbean you also realize that few are as full of life as them. In more ways, this is also a battle between two nations, one, which has produced the most natural of bowlers over the past decade and another that has produced the most natural T20 players in the format’s brief history.

Contrastingly, pundits and fans of the West Indies think their captain, Darren Sammy is a liability and is taking up Russell or Dwayne Smith out of the team while some think he has managed to keep the team together and ride through tough waters. On the other hand, the brilliant Mahela Jayawardene has maneuvered his team and made inspirational player picks and brilliant on field decisions. That he is yet to commit to a long tenure as captain long tells of issues beyond his control. Cricket outside of the field has been eventful for both finalists over the last few years.

Gayle has been the inspiration behind Windies’ resurgence. © Reuters

While West Indies have made as much news for their Gangnam dances on the field as they have for partying in their hotel rooms, their form coming in to the finals will be worrisome for the Sri Lankan management. Not much seems impossible for their batting when they click as a unit.

It is apparent to the eye from outside that Gayle is the leader of these men and his contributions in playing the anchor and the grenade launcher and switching back and forth with the same ease he breaks in to his various celebratory dance moves. It was apparent when Samuels bowled the Super Over against New Zealand ahead of Narine that he had the final say in the on field meeting with Darren Sammy.

It would be daft to think that getting Gayle out early would seal the victory for the Lions. Gayle perhaps has been the reason and belief in Johnson Charles, Samuels, Bravo and Pollard having contributed immensely in tough situations. They, along with Sri Lanka, seem to have the team covered for all situations and conditions – including having the best answers for Super Over situations.

The wickets have slowed down and will aid spinners and clever medium pacers that favour the cunning. Expect Mahela to throw surprises at the West Indies with team selection and bowling changes. His horses-for-courses team selection has proved to be inspiring: be it either picking Herath in the semifinals over Dhanajaya or opening the bowling with Angelo Mathews. It is hard not to think Mahela bowling Dilshan and Kualasekara with the new ball to Gayle on Sunday evening.

It has been a tournament where most things have gone well for Mahela barring the loss to South Africa at Hambantota. His batting will still hold the key for his team either batting first or chasing. His batting under pressure and on difficult tracks are a thing of beauty. Twice in a span of 18 months he has played champion knocks when it mattered most for his team (ICC World Cup 2011 finals and in the semi-finals the other day against Pakistan).

Mahela has been spectacular as a tactician, leader and batsman. © AFP

Also, Mahela has the knack to smell tactics and seems to be able to move away from a pre-decided plan on his instinct. It is this aspect of his cricket from which Sri Lanka seems to have benefited with him back at the helm after Dilshan stepped down.

It is, of course, silly to pin the credit of his team’s entire success on Mahela alone for his troops stand by him and in Sangakkara, he has an able ally in implementing his various plans. But it must also not be forgotten that he seems to be the type to go out of his way to pick the players he wants: Dananjaya being a point in case. Nor did he seem hesitant to pick Herath over Danajaya given Herath’s success over Pakistan in Test cricket and the captain’s opinion that Pakistan had difficulties against left-arm spin. His inspired selection proved to be a differentiating factor in the end. Nor does the very promising Dinesh Chandimal feature in the captain’s scheme of things in this world cup.

Often, it is the captain who takes the major chunk of the blame should things go wrong in this part of the world, and often it is a very fine line between being inspirational and being insipid. Mahela duly deserves credits for being innovative and bold. Long may his instincts serve his country as its captain.

As the two best teams this tournament square-off on Sunday, it might boil down to a battle of wits at the end. And Jayawardene should fancy his chances of getting his hands around ICC silverware at long last!

This is a published article in Island Cricket

T20 Cricket: Give Credit Where It Is Due

Posted: September 29, 2012 by The CouchExpert in Cricket, World T20 2012
Tags: , , ,

Goutham Chakravarthi

All administrators I have met in Sri Lanka – Sri Lankan or otherwise – were much relieved when Afghanisthan gave India only a scare but nothing more. India’s fortunes in the tournament seems to have a direct impact on the success or failure of the tournament – read the 2007 and 2011 ICC World Cups respectively – according to a well placed administrator.

Compared to the ICC World Cups, the World T20s seem to hedge their investments better. A third of the tournament is spent playing games only when the rest of the world is sure of which eight will move on to the next round. And by the time eight becomes four, three-quarters of the tournament is done and the tournament is not a financial disaster anymore. One-day world cups with a bigger spread, either fall or rise with India’s fortunes.

The various T20 leagues that have mushroomed are seen to be deterrents to the other two forms of the game. The calendar is packed with these through the year and around the world. And, yes, corruption seems to walk hand-in-hand with these T20 leagues. Strong administration and policing will eventually decide the integrity of these leagues as will strong counseling of players by self, player associations and home boards. But corruption and greed in cricket cannot be restricted to the T20 timeline alone, for they have hampered the game for centuries.

But to its credit, T20 cricket has restored some parity in to cricket. Not long ago, it would be an exercise in patience to sit through a cricket match in India. The facilities and treatment of the fans in the grounds are among the poorest. Still, people paid vast monies to sit through the charade of concrete footsteps for seats, boundary placards for shade from scorching heat, thundering rains and bird-waste. And public toilets were, err, open dumps of waste.

T20 cricket has perhaps not changed all that, but it has changed things for the better. The game lasts shorter and the misery of the fan lasts shorter. Also, leagues and team owners seem to have taken the extra effort to improve the facilities to bring more people in even as they milk the money from the gate collection as cricket increasingly becomes a television sport. That said, the administrators still care more for the money than for spectator comfort, but it is much better than what it was this time a decade ago.

Women and children flock to T20 cricket and in it remains T20 cricket’s biggest triumph. Often Sunday cricket practices include a short game of 20 overs-a-side where the parents watch their wards perform in my part of the world. Perhaps the bigger leagues are dressed with better toppings – with music, refreshment, games and an evening out – of the simple game it is: fast, high adrenaline and short.

The connoisseur might smirk at it and call it names for it may not be a true test of one’s abilities. It is still a test of many abilities. It is still cricket. And runs and wickets matter as they do in other forms. And wins are wins.

The thrill of sixes and fours might not whet everybody’s appetite, but they are the skill necessitated in this format – perhaps like tie-break specialists in tennis where ones with greater serves felt at ease.

It is still perhaps the best vehicle to take cricket to a larger audience globally even as the top nations struggle to be competitive. Even with many leagues and various strategies, the game throws up more surprises than a Dan Brown paper back.

The many positives T20 cricket has brought into the game cannot be ignored.

It cannot be forgotten that it has also made the game more popular and more expressive for players and the paying public; perhaps more convenient also for all parties concerned (administrators inclusive).

While the administrators and players playing the game have as much responsibility in keeping the sanctity of the game, so do the scribes and television broadcasters that bring the game to the many million living rooms of the games fans. The fans decide what they like to watch – some like more colour and grandeur, others intrigue and soberness, and some others both. It becomes the duty of the custodians of the game to ensure the fans of the game are not left cheated in the end – selling the game to corrupt and selfish officials, players and bookies.

If cricket is as much about bonding between players, back slapping in encouragement, swinging to the fences in need of quick runs and knocking down timber in need of wickets, dancing in the streets after a victory or buying the team a round of drinks at the end of a good day’s work, T20 cricket is all that as well.

Give credit where it is due. T20 cricket is here to stay.

This is a published article in Island Cricket