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What can you say about a series in which 2,133 runs have been scored in 19 sessions for the loss of just 25 wickets? What can you say of the 10 centuries scored already, of a bowler as accomplished as Muttiah Muralitharan being carted all around Green Park? And is Test cricket in India really on an intravenous drip if more than 25,000 take up vantage points in the dilapidated concrete stands in Kanpur?

Over the past 24 hours, I’ve fielded calls from two radio stations, one in the UK and the other in Australia, both wanting to know why pitches in India are so placid, and whether they are responsible for the decline in popularity of the five-day game. Sunil Gavaskar quipped during the Ahmedabad Test that the surface was like a road and, apart from the opening hour of the series when four wickets fell, the contest between bat and ball has been as unedifying as Muhammad Ali reducing Ernie Terrell’s face to pulp while hissing: “What’s my name, Uncle Tom?”

 

You can read the full article here.

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A couple of weeks ago, a magazine asked me to pick my top 10, along with a brief explanation why they had been picked.

This was my list:

Sunil Gavaskar

Sachin Tendulkar

Kapil Dev

Anil Kumble

Rahul Dravid

Vijay Merchant

Bishan Singh Bedi

CK Nayudu

Bhagwat Chandrasekhar

Sourav Ganguly

The top five are straightforward picks. No debate there. Merchant was the first recognised titan of the Mumbai school of batsmanship, while Bedi and Chandra were the most successful spinners of the pre-Kumble era. Ganguly makes it because of how he transformed Indian fortunes abroad as captain, while Nayudu was instrumental in the game gaining such a captive audience in the 1920s and ’30s. With those two, the impact that they had far outstrips any statistical shortcomings.

What do you think? How would your list differ? Also, which cricketers would make the list if the same exercise was carried out for Pakistan and Sri Lanka?

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Aside from the Argentina football team at the 1982 World Cup, and France 20 years later, you could not have watched such a miserable title defence. At least Argentina and Diego Maradona went down kicking and cursing. India’s cricketers left the World Twenty20 with nary a whimper, falling miserably short of South Africa’s meagre target. Even a consolation win, against one of the best sides in the competition, proved beyond them.

From today’s Guardian blog. You can read the rest here.

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And so India finished their Super-Eight campaign with an unblemished slate. Three games, three defeats, and the most dismal defence of a title since Sri Lanka were sent packing from the 1999 World Cup, also in England. As for South Africa, eliminated on home soil by the Indians two years ago despite losing just one game, they go into the semi-finals with a perfect record, just like Sri Lanka. Pakistan and West Indies will need to play out of their skins to deny them.
India’s self-destruction at Trent Bridge was almost comical, though the fans who had flocked to the ground despite the meaninglessness of the fixture certainly weren’t amused. From 47 for 0 at the end of the Power Play to 64 for 4 after the next six represented a very steep decline, and when Yusuf Pathan then lofted one tamely to short cover, the end was nigh. The two Singhs, Yuvraj and Harbhajan, tried to go down swinging, but there wasn’t much conviction in the effort.
South Africa’s spinners were exceptional, with Johan Botha taking 3 for 16, and Roelof ven der Merwe finishing with 1 for 13. They were tidy and aggressive, and backed up by typically brilliant fielding. And they could still call on Dale Steyn at the end to finish the job. With Wayne Parnell and the Morkel brothers also part of the pack, and Jacques Kallis due to come back, South Africa will take some stopping.
India bowled far better than they had in previous games, with the spinners choking the life out of South Africa. Like the Indians, South Africa had also made a frantic start, taking 44 from the first five overs. The next eight produced just 27, and the eventual total of 130 owed much to the dazzling skills of AB de Villiers, who struck the ball so cleanly and cleverly during the course of a 51-ball 63.
Once again though, Dhoni did something to raise the odd eyebrow. Having bowled spin for 14 overs on the trot, he opted to give the final over to Zaheer Khan, whose opening burst had once again been disappointing. He went for 11 runs, and India ended up losing by 12. More ammunition for the critics.
Having been embarrassed by the bouncing ball at Lord’s, India’s batsmen were terrible against the turning one as well. Rather than knocking the ball around for singles, too many of them went for the Bollywood stroke, while Dhoni’s charge down the pitch and subsequent run-out will feature in blooper shows for some time to come.
In the weeks to come, many will pinpoint the IPL, fatigue and a million other reasons for this Indian debacle. Ultimately though, the players didn’t appear hungry enough. The way Parnell ran across to deep cover to stop a lofted drive from Rohit was symbolic of how seriously South Africa took this, and it’s no coincidence that they have now won seven T20 games in a row. The IPL may revolutionise the Twenty20 game, but for the moment, it seems to have benefited the foreign contingent as much as the Indians.
Officials can bang a gong all they like about the country’s financial might, but just as the Premiership has taken England no closer to football World Cup glory, the IPL will never be a magic fix for Indian cricket’s problems. Global events are won by the teams that want it badly enough. India weren’t one of them.

And so India finished their Super-Eight campaign with an unblemished slate. Three games, three defeats, and the most dismal defence of a title since Sri Lanka were sent packing from the 1999 World Cup, also in England. As for South Africa, eliminated on home soil by the Indians two years ago despite losing just one game, they go into the semi-finals with a perfect record, just like Sri Lanka. Pakistan and West Indies will need to play out of their skins to deny them.

India’s self-destruction at Trent Bridge was almost comical, though the fans who had flocked to the ground despite the meaninglessness of the fixture certainly weren’t amused. From 47 for 0 at the end of the Power Play to 64 for 4 after the next six represented a very steep decline, and when Yusuf Pathan then lofted one tamely to short cover, the end was nigh. The two Singhs, Yuvraj and Harbhajan, tried to go down swinging, but there wasn’t much conviction in the effort. (more…)

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When you read the reactions to India’s exit from the World Twenty20, you’re left to wonder if some of the fans deserve any better from the team that they profess to support. Sample this gem from The Times. “Dhoni took the match lightly, he adopted a casual attitude,” Arun Kumar, a young protester in Ranchi, said. “He is fascinated by the glamour world more than cricket.”

When I read that, I was beyond flabbergasted. Specimens like Arun Kumar are a damning indictment of India’s education system and also of a sensation-hungry media that often does little more than whip up mass hysteria. Pandering to the lowest-common denominator [Arun Kumar] is the name of the game for most channels. (more…)

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One more game, in Nottingham on Tuesday, and the Indian cricket team – not to mention a massive media entourage – will be heading home. By the time new champions are crowned at Lord’s next Sunday, the erstwhile champions will be back home, wondering just how they made such a pig’s ear of the title defence. Sloppy in the defeat to West Indies on Friday, they were too clever for their own good on Sunday, messing up a run chase in the face of sustained short-pitched bowling from a disciplined English attack. That they got so close in the end merely highlighted the failure of their tactics, and opened up a whole new can of what-ifs.
Yusuf Pathan scored off every ball he faced to finish with 33 from 17 balls, while MS Dhoni ended the game unbeaten on 30 from 20 balls. By the time Yusuf came to the crease though, 67 were needed from six overs. Yuvraj Singh had faced a similar situation, walking out with 92 required from 57 balls. Why had it come to that? With Yuvraj in such prime form, was there really a need to send Ravindra Jadeja up the order, especially when the 20-year-old had played just one ODI and two T20 games for India? In a crunch game, why would you back a new boy over an old hand?
As it was, Jadeja struggled horribly, barely middling a ball in an innings of 25 from 35 balls that sent the asking-rate soaring. Gautam Gambhir too was far from fluent, cramped for room by balls directed at the body and eventually forced into a half-hearted paddle that went straight to short fine leg. Yuvraj slammed the first ball he faced for six, and then hit one more, but James Foster’s dazzling glovework ended any thoughts of a Durban-like six barrage.
India’s bowling had been similarly ineffectual until the spinners came on. Kevin Pietersen batted with real majesty for his 46 and with Ravi Bopara rotating the strike, a massive total appeared to be on the cards. But Jadeja’s quicker deliveries and accuracy stemmed the tide, while Harbhajan chipped in with more wickets at the end. What proved costly though were the extras, 16 of them, including two attempted yorkers from Harbhajan that only took the leg-side route to the rope past Dhoni’s gloves.
On such slipshod moments are games won and lost. Later, Dhoni called the decision to promote Jadeja a gamble that failed to pay off. But why gamble at all when you have the most destructive batsman in the side pencilled in at No.4? The history of sport is littered with examples of teams that tried to over-complicate the game and fell short. You can add India to that list now. Clever is good, too clever is not. And while England march on to a winner-take-all contest against West Indies, India can pack their bags. Champions no more.

One more game, in Nottingham on Tuesday, and the Indian cricket team – not to mention a massive media entourage – will be heading home. By the time new champions are crowned at Lord’s next Sunday, the erstwhile champions will be back home, wondering just how they made such a pig’s ear of the title defence. Sloppy in the defeat to West Indies on Friday, they were too clever for their own good on Sunday, messing up a run chase in the face of sustained short-pitched bowling from a disciplined English attack. That they got so close in the end merely highlighted the failure of their tactics, and opened up a whole new can of what-ifs.

Yusuf Pathan scored off every ball he faced to finish with 33 from 17 balls, while MS Dhoni ended the game unbeaten on 30 from 20 balls. By the time Yusuf came to the crease though, 67 were needed from six overs. Yuvraj Singh had faced a similar situation, walking out with 92 required from 57 balls. Why had it come to that? With Yuvraj in such prime form, was there really a need to send Ravindra Jadeja up the order, especially when the 20-year-old had played just one ODI and two T20 games for India? In a crunch game, why would you back a new boy over an old hand?

As it was, Jadeja struggled horribly, barely middling a ball in an innings of 25 from 35 balls that sent the asking-rate soaring. (more…)

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The Indians fans that had come early to Lord’s whooped it up in the early part of the afternoon, as Pakistan stumbled badly in pursuit of a modest Sri Lankan total. But any Pakistani supporters that stayed back for the later game soon got their chance for payback as West Indies produced a high-class performance to push India toward the abyss. Lendl Simmons took a mind-boggling catch to dismiss Gautam Gambhir and then batted beautifully for 44, but it was Dwayne Bravo that took the game away, following up 4 for 38 with a dazzling 36-ball 66.

At one stage, the required rate was climbing up to 10, but Bravo cut loose with some gorgeous orthodox strokes, targetting the straight boundary and cover with equal fluency. India lost it in two overs, with Ishant Sharma giving up 16 and Harbhajan 15 in the 17th and 18th overs of the innings. India had done well to take the game that far, but ultimately they paid the price for the poorest of starts. Having slumped to 29 for 3, they were then marooned in treacle for eight overs as the bowlers frustrated Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni. Dhoni’s 11 spanned 23 balls, and it was left to Yuvraj to inject some urgency with some stunning shots in the final overs.

Yusuf Pathan chipped in as well, but you always sensed that they were 10 or 15 short. (more…)

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