Monday, March 19, 2007

The aftermath..

I have resisted the temptation to title this post 'I told you so !!!' because, quite frankly, it needed no genius or great cricketing mind to foresee that the match against Bangladesh would not be easy for the Indians. In the entire run-up to the World Cup, the talk was only about whether India would reach the semis or not. One news channel also analyzed thread-bare all of India's matches in the Super 8s. It was only on the day (17th March) that people finally woke up to the challenge that Bangladesh represented, with one newspaper talking of the banana skins that lay in India's way.

I guess the primary cause for the shock on Saturday is this, we simply underestimated the opposition. By we, not just the team management, but also the media and fans. Then there was the decision after the toss. If Dravid n co felt that we needed to give our batsmen practice on a seaming track (there is also one thought that he wanted to have his batters bat out 50 overs rather than bowling Bangladesh out for a poor score and then chasing the target in 25-30 overs), then again, he underestimated their bowling attack.

Most of our batters gave their wickets away. People trying to cut balls close to the stumps, chasing wide ones straight to point, trying to score against the turn etc. Old failings all of these. The skipper got a marginal lbw decision, but that is part of the game. The lower order simply collapsed and only the last-wicket stand saved face. To add to this, some of the deficiencies crept up again. I talked in my last post about how we needed someone to shepherd the middle overs. But we dont have someone who can do that consistently. On Saturday, India scored only 30 runs between overs 20 and 30, which is quite poor. The fastish left arm spin of the Bangladeshis simply suffocated us. In the afternoon, the wicket had become quite good for batting barring the odd ball swinging and we our bowlers always were going to struggle defending 191. Having said all this, hats off to the Bangladeshis. A young squad played out of their skins to defeat the so-called 'favourites'. For the sake of world cricket, one hopes that this will be dawn of their renaissance and such victories become more frequent.

As far as the Men in Blue is concerned, its an uphill struggle for them to progress now. Because their fate is no longer in their hands. Beating Bermuda by a margin even wider than what the Lankans achieved is going to be tough. And in the Sri Lankans, India is going to meet an opposition similar to the Bangladesh but much more skilful and experienced. And the sad part is, beating Sri Lanka also wont assure them of a ticket to the Super 8s. Anyways, still the wishes go out to the team in Blue.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Mommy's favourite ???

The other day was my parents wedding anniversary. My wife and I were planning to have a good dinner served at home (with she doing the cooking of course ;-).. Inevitability, the question was 'What should be the menu ?. Quite naturally, we decided to cook some dishes which Mom n Dad liked. As far as Dad is concerned, we immediately zeroed in on a few favourites. But then, the question asked was 'What dishes does Mom like ?'.. And quite frankly, I didnt have an answer. For years, she has been cooking all sorts of delicacies for the entire family. And here I was, not knowing what she liked. Come to think of it, do many of us have an answer to that one ?. More importantly, have we ever asked her that ?,, if at all someone asks her, the answer is 'anything/everything'.. Now if at all, there was a dish by that name ;-)..

So, heres a tribute to that wonderful lady who has been feeding the family for so long and silently eating everything that everyone else likes with a smile :))..

PS: World Cup posts will come soon. As I finish this post, India is struggling against Bangladesh. I am reminded of my previous post :)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Group of Death ??

Continuing my series of randomly arbit thoughts on the Cricket carnival called the World Cup !!!

Yesterday's win by Bangladesh over New Zealand in the warmups only waters the seed of doubt that I have in my mind about my team's chances at the first stage. A lot has been said and written about how the first 15 days of the World Cup (when the 1st round takes place) are absolute bores. In fact, Rediff has published an article saying that the ICC, on its website, has already published the Super 8s schedule alongwith the teams !!!! (According to that, India play Pakistan on April 15th, and India's games against Australia, South Africa and Pakistan are all on weekends :))..

But before that, lets not write off the other 8 teams, Least of all, not Bangladesh. They are by far the best of the other 8 sides. They have beaten almost every one of the big boys in the past. Also, the wickets in the West Indies might suit their kind of bowling (no express pace, gentle medium pace backed up by decent spinning options). Their batting, although their weak link, has a couple of names (Bashar and Ashraful) who, on their day, can win match (ask the Aussies !!).. Therefore, if there is any group which resembles the popular 'Group of Death' (a term made famous by the Football WC), it is group B that contains Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and of course, India.

Both India and the Lankans would have to be very careful about their matches against Bangladesh. A shock defeat to the Bangladesh would derail their entire campaign and one of them might be returning home by the month-end. Given that both India and Sri Lanka are being counted as potential semi-finalists, this would change the nature of the cup going into the Super 8s. India's first match is against Bangladesh on March 17th. This is both good and bad. Bad because India have been slow starters (last time, they struggled against Holland in their 1st match, were thrashed by the Aussies in their 2nd before bouncing back strongly) and hence, they would have to be on their toes and at the top of their games right from the 1st ball they bowl (or face) in this Cup. Good because, god forbid, a reverse there would mean that they have a game against the Lankans to follow as a do-die game.

So, March 17th is as important a date in India's WC campaign as any other !! All the best to the team in Blue !!! And hope my thoughts are too random and arbit not to be true !!


Saturday, March 03, 2007

Let the carnival begin...

So we are just 10 days from the cricket carnival in the Carribean. The teams have landed (alongwith the commandoes guarding them) , the controversies (quite inevitably) have started and finally, one is beginning to hear the buzz associated with the World Cup. Never mind the fact that one channel here in India went overboard saying something to the effect that 'the whole world is waiting with bated breath for the 13th of March' :)).. as if Germany, Japan and Brazil cared..

Ironically, the Indian team selection was bit of a foregone conclusion as compared to in the past where reams of newsprint would be spent discussing each individual's chances. With most players picking themselves, and the series victories against the Windies and Lankans adding that much-added spark to the pre-world cup build up, the selectors really didnt have much to think about. While the assembled squad is probably the best they could have picked, a glance down the names reveals glaring deficiencies in two vital aspects of one-day cricket: fielding, of course (as most have pointed out) but also in middle-overs maneuvering..

India's likely starting XI would read: Ganguly, Sehwag, Tendulkar, Dravid, Yuvraj, Karthik/Uttappa, Dhoni, Agarkar, Zaheer, Harbhajan, Munaf. Of these, only Yuvraj and Karthik can claim to be world-class in the inner ring while Sachin and Agarkar are quick in the outfield.. None of the others has ever been accussed of greatness in the field, in fact, a couple actually need a place where the ball doesnt bother coming.... which is a worrying thought, because this means that we would be conceeding atleast 15-20 runs in every innings just on account of untidy fielding.. This puts much more pressure on the top seven (including Dhoni) to deliver whatever is asked of them. With due respect to Zaheer's and Agarkar's recent good form as well as the fact that Kumble n Bhajji would be useful on those tracks , it is the batsman who carry our hopes. And, to be fair, that is a very good lineup. If only Sehwag can consistently fire, then we would get that confidence of 16 successive run-chases back. But a word of concern here: we still do not have the player who deftly puts away each ball in the middle-overs for a single, and runs hard to convert those ones to twos. Sachin, of course, is capable of both those but incase he goes to open, we would have Sehwag, Dravid, Yuvraj in the middle order. All these magnificent batsman are not of the Azhar/Jadeja class when it comes to making those middle overs count. Which is partly why we struggle after a good start quite often (and against dibbly-dobblers bowling at 110-120kmph or against spinners like Gayle n Samuels who simply fire the ball in the batsman's legs, again, at around 110kmph !!!.. We certainly need to get that act straight or we might lose the plot somewhere between overs 20 and 35..

All said and done, while this is not the Class of 1983 and 1985 (or even the Class of 2003) , this is the best team they could have picked (though Raina and Powar might consider themselves unlucky). So all the Very Best to the Men in Blue !!!!!!