The Crotchet’s Corner

My perspective about all things inconsequential

Manic Thursday


All through the unedifying spectacle of 23 batsmen making a hasty (and, in some cases, shell-shocked) beeline for the pavilion at Newlands on manic Thursday, there was one man who was kept busy, and surely earned his dinner that night.

Billy Bowden.

With nine referrals made to him, as the third umpire, Billy had to be constantly on his toes, and the DRS led to decisions that the on-field umpires might have not given.

Billy Bowden is known for his peculiar, and occasionally comical, actions while on-field, and one wonders what gestures he made while sitting before the TV screen for the decision reviews. One thing’s for sure – he would have been a tired man had he been on the field of play, such was the exodus.

I returned from work that day and switched on the TV expecting to see the continuation of the South African first innings, and was puzzled when I saw an Australian batsman at the crease. A couple of minutes later, the screen flashed this scoreboard.

“This is not real, you’ve got to be kidding,” I yelped.

Smug after bowling out the Proteas for a mere 96 and taking a seemingly large lead, the Aussies got a hiding that will remain in collective memories for long.

One wonders at the ineptitude that led to them being 21 for 9, and later, 47 all out. The pitch was certainly not diabolical.

It might have been fun watching the Smith and Amla pummeling the bowling on Day Three, but, the Aussies had thrown in the towel by then.

The new selection committee led by John Inverarity, and including Rod Marsh and Andy Bichel, is probably sharpening the knives as they set to work next week, and some tough questions will surely be asked of the ageing veterans.

And, New Zealand, must be relishing the prospect of having a go at this Aussie team when they face up in Brisbane on 1st December.

 

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November 12, 2011 Posted by | About this and that, Cricket | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Up the ante


Sports is no longer about “what matters not if you win or lose but how you played the game”. It is about win only, and win at all cost.

Not surprisingly, there is no quarter given, and opponents (and their supporters and promoters, too), often up the ante through mind games, aggressive build-ups, etc. This is, sometimes, given martial overtones, as well.

Aggression is not something new. Douglas Jardine’s England team played what became known as the “Bodyline series” in 1932-33 when the prime target was Australia’s Don Bradman. Many referred to the series as “war”.

Steve Waugh’s touring team to India attempted to conquer the “Final Frontier”.

Football fields have, on occasion, become battlegrounds where (often drunk) spectators have pitched battles with fans of their opponents, leading to injury, and, as has happened before, death, as well.

The New Zealand rugby team performs the Haka (Maori war dance) before every game – symbolic of war.

And sledging on the field has only gotten worse.

A badly battered Indian cricket team, hammered in all formats of the game on their recent tour in the summer, now prepares to take on England in a few days’ time, and everyone is asking the same question – how will the team fare?

Some players have spoken about “revenge”. The sponsors of the ODI zeries have called it the “Payback Series”.

And the media has not been shy of calling it a war, either.

The BBC website carried an article (click here) that spoke, amongst other things, of a full-page advertisement that seems to have appeared in an Indian newspaper that carried the headline, “Time for Vengeance – The war between India and England resumes from 14 October.” It showed some of the Indian players, all dressed in combat fatigues, holding bats and stumps as if they were weapons.

Sport is meant to be all about entertainment. To be sure, passions do get aroused as supporters egg their teams on. Yes, there is big money involved because of the television coverage and sponsorship.

Yet, at the end of it all, it is all about a game.

The use of the word “war” in sport might be an example of creative license – a copywriter letting his pen run riot.

It is in poor taste, though.

October 13, 2011 Posted by | About this and that, Cricket, Football, Other Sport | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Of various hues …


Watching sports can be fun, be it cricket, football, tennis or athletics. And, apart from the action on the playing field, there are other aspects that add charm and entertainment value – the crowds, the fans, the side-shows, and the atmosphere.

Speaking of fans, there are some who add their unique style and personality, in their own colourful way, that contributes to enhancing the enjoyment.

There are two faces that regular cricket watchers would surely recognize – Chaudhry Abdul Jalil (affectionately known as Chacha Cricket) and Percy Abeysekera.

Chacha Cricket, with his distinctive white beard and green shalwar kameez, can be seen waving the flag at cricket stadia all around the world. He has been following the Pakistan team from the days when matches were held at Sharjah, and is now a regular presence wherever the team plays. Having given up his job, he has now been hired, I understand, by the Pakistan Cricket Board that sponsors his travels all over the world following the national team.

Percy Abeysekera, who is a one-man cheering squad for the Sri Lankan cricketers, has been following the team for sixty years. He has always been known for his distinctive way of holding the national flag above a batsman as he walks to or back from the wicket.

There is another familiar body/face I have noticed on television over the past couple of years – one who has his entire torso, face and head painted in the colours of the Indian flag, and also has the name “Sachin Tendulkar” painted on his chest.

His name is Sudhir Kumar Chaudhary, he hails from Muzaffarpur in Bihar State, and is an ardent fan of Sachin Tendulkar and the Indian team.

Chaudhary does not have a job, I understand, but regularly receives match tickets from his idol Tendulkar, which ensures that he is able to watch matches everywhere in India. He has been a regular feature in the IPL, as well.

I was amused to learn that this die-hard fan has been travelling to Bombay each year since 2004 to present 1,000 litchis to Tendulkar. “Sachin has promised me that he would provide me with the tickets of all international matches played in the country, and he is living up to his words. He is like a god to me,” says Chaudhary.

He has now begun presenting the fruit to some other cricketers like Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh.

Considering the state of Indian cricket at the moment, the team needs more fans like Sudhir Kumar Chaudhary.

 

October 8, 2011 Posted by | About this and that, Cricket, Human Behavior | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cut out the arrogance …


Reams have been written about India’s disastrous tour to England, and the debacle has left Indian fans scratching their heads wondering what went wrong. The team’s much vaunted bating line-up fired blanks, the bowlers were toothless, lacking the variety and guile to get past the English batsmen, and the butter-fingered fielding was very much in evidence.

When India was unceremoniously unseated from their perch as the No. 1 test team in the world, various excuses were trotted out – fatigue, injury, lack of adequate preparation and a packed calendar. Many of these factors did, perhaps, play a major role, but the manner of the capitulation defied logic.

And, not too long after being crowned World Champions in the one-day game, India could not win even one match in England. Being demoted to the No. 5 team in the ICC rankings is cause for serious self-introspection, whatever one might say about close matches, rain affected fixtures, etc.

There will be recriminations, some heads might roll, some familiar sights in the team colours might not be seen again on the playing field. And, soon, life will go on as if nothing had happened.

This is a time for reflection on what needs to be done

What sticks in the throat, however, is the defiant braggadocio of some worthies in the squad. Commenting in the upcoming series against England on home soil, opener Gautam Gambhir said “We will try and give them the same medicine when they come to India. We are waiting for England so that we can play good cricket and win the series.” Yuvraj Singh, who didn’t exactly blaze a trail of glory in England, echoed similar sentiments. Far from displaying contrition, words such as these smack of arrogance.

The Indian team under Mahendra Singh Dhoni, had earned a reputation of scrapping their way out of trouble on many an occasion, and conjuring up victories when things appeared bleak.

That aura has been seriously dented, and it would be best if players keep their mouths shut and let their batting or bowling speak instead.

The time for swagger and lofty words has gone. It is time for some of these players to earn their keep and deliver.

 

September 19, 2011 Posted by | About this and that, Cricket | , , , , , | Leave a comment

More interesting to watch paint dry …


To the uninitiated, cricket is a terribly boring game. Partly because of Test matches that sometimes last for five full days and produce no results. And, in today’s fast-paced world, people do not have the luxury of spending that much time on a game.

Fair enough.

The one-day format and the T20 version have brought back interest, and some zing has come back into cricket as a spectator sport.

I had never watched a baseball game (they do not call it a match), and decided to give it a try during a recent visit to North America. The New York Yankees were playing the Toronto Blue Jays, and I wandered into the stadium (they call it a park) to watch.

There were over 20,000 spectators, and I was eager to experience the thrill and excitement of a closely fought game. Sadly, as I was to discover later, this did not happen.

Having been brought up on a diet of cricket, I tried to find a link between the two sports, but, after about an hour of concentrated attention to what was going on, I gave up – it didn’t seem to make any sense. Nothing exciting or noteworthy seemed to be happening. Players came in and went away, the bat made contact with the ball once in a while, and the giant electronic scoreboard displayed images of players and their statistics. The PA announcer, meanwhile, spoke in animated tones, and I wondered if he was commenting about some other match being played elsewhere.

For the spectators, the prime reason for being around appeared to be the consumption of copious quantities of booze and greasy hotdogs. For sure, there was the occasional clapping when someone down there eventually managed to connect bat to ball, but that was about all the involvement with the game, from what I could gather.

I grabbed the attention of a West Indian member of the stadium staff who had strolled over to my area of the stand, and putting on my best “teach me” expression, asked him to explain the game to me. Conscious of the fact that both of us were from the cricketing side of the world, he tried to enlighten me by drawing parallels with cricket. While I managed to get some insights, the rest remained a mystery that, perhaps, shall remain unsolved.

There was a lot of clapping and cheering about three hours into the game. I am not sure if that was for the benefit of the team that won, or to express relief that it was all over and one could go home.

I was disappointed about the game itself – boring beyond words, to put it mildly. Even a five-day Test match with no result has more pulsating moments.

It’s perhaps more interesting to watch paint dry than to watch a baseball game.

It came as no surprise when I read that the phone company, T-Mobile, had decided to offer rented 4G tablet options games to fans of the Los Angeles Angels during home games. Gives the fans something to do between gulps of the booze and eats, and seems to acknowledge that baseball is, indeed, boring.

I will stick to watching cricket.

 

September 9, 2011 Posted by | About this and that, Cricket, Other Sport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Wacky …


It is astonishing to see the wacky things that people, sometimes, do.

Have just read about a guy from Saharanpur, in Uttar Pradesh, who sold his shop, and used the money to go to Ranchi in order to try and meet India’s cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and get photographed with him.

Why so?

Because his fiancé, a Dhoni fan herself, insisted on the young man doing so to prove his love, and place the picture in a locket for their impending wedding.

INR 15,000 is all the guy got for his audio/video CD shop, and this money ran out soon enough, forcing him to live on a street pavement in Ranchi.

News of this seems to have reached Dhoni, who stopped by on his way to the airport recently, shook the fan’s hand, and got photographed.

Mission accomplished

Mission accomplished

The fiancé is happy, it appears, the young man is waiting for money to buy a ticket to travel back home, and a priest might, I suppose, get summoned shortly to get the couple to perform the “saat-pheras”.

Reminds me of the hordes of film fans, who after completing a trip to Tirupati, descend on Madras to get a glimpse of the film actors who have played roles in mythological films.

Strange world indeed !!!!

 

August 28, 2009 Posted by | About this and that, Cricket | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chestnuts in the fire


Australia have not lost an Ashes Test at Lord’s since 1934, but their chestnuts are really in the fire at the moment.

With the prospect of a follow-on looming large at the end of the second day’s play, the Aussies will need to pull off a Houdini act to survive.

All thoughts of a victory have evaporated on what the Aussies consider to be one of their favourite hunting grounds, and it will need loads of determination and character to hang on.

Only thrice in the past 115 years has a team won a match after following-on

England vs Australia, Sydney, 14 Dec 1894

England vs Australia, Leeds, 16 Jul 1981

India vs Australia, Kolkata, 11 Mar 2001

History is not about to repeat this time, for sure. It will take a lot to even fight back to draw this Test since England has time aplenty to prise out 12 wickets.

The first Test at Cardiff was a totally Aussie show, with the tourists dominating virtually every session, and when England managed to eke out a draw, thanks to a gutsy rear-guard from their last pair, it was, perhaps, much more than a mere match-saver.

Drawing a match is fine, and most teams will accept it in normal course. But, when it is a case of a nail-biting so-near-yet-so-far, it can crush a team and have a devastating effect on the spirit. England might have appeared a trifle sheepish after a miserable show in the first Test, but the impact on the Australians was surely greater. No amount of self-soothing words from the captain and team management can act as a soothing balm.

If there was just that slight opening in the door, the English have spotted and leveraged it to their advantage at Lord’s. Good for them, you might say.

Which is a rather ironic, because there is a lot that is not ok with this England team. If they have put up decent scores in the two Tests of the current series, it has been mainly because of the efforts of a few individuals, rather than a result of a collective will. These have a habit of unraveling quite rapidly when the chips are down, and England can expect a ferocious backlash in the third Test in Birmingham irrespective of whether they win at Lord’s or not.

A lot of questions have been asked about whether this touring Australian team is as balanced as it should be, and the absence of a top quality front line spinner is a factor that cannot be ignored. Much was expected of Mitchell Johnson who was to lead the pace battery, but, apart from a few decent spells, there has not been much to show from the Queenslander.

This Ashes tour has been an interesting one. Much was written about how the Aussies dominated the English bowling in Cardiff, but when the tables were turned at Lord’s and the vaunted batting line-up began to come apart, there was a sense that this was a match that demonstrated that Test cricket was an equal contest between bat and ball, rather than one where batsmen dominate. Operating beautifully in tandem, the English bowled with venom, ambushed the Aussies brilliantly, probed vulnerabilities and exploited chinks in the visitor’s armour.

However, one has to view matters with some caution.

The Aussies do not wear an awesome cricketing reputation on their sleeve merely for showing up at a Test match. And England will ignore this at their peril.

Rather than shaking their heads and wondering about how their reputations have been suddenly inflated, the English will do well to hunker down and plan and execute well.  

There is a lot left in this series, and it would be a brave man who will stick his neck out and predict the outcome.

July 18, 2009 Posted by | About this and that, Cricket | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fickleness to an extreme!!!


The fickle-mindedness of the Indian cricket fan never ceases to amaze me, and the reaction to India’s exit from the T20 World Cup was not at all surprising.

Burning the captain’s effigy, shouting slogans to denounce the team, and brickbats from armchair pundits, is standard operating procedure whenever the Indian cricket team falls short of expectations.

With some imagination and, perhaps, a slightly different strategy, India could have avoided getting knocked out. Two losses in as many matches are a bit hard to swallow. Could the team have done better? Perhaps yes. But, that is history.

It’s a game. You win some, you lose some.

In the run-up to the World Cup, Mahendra Singh Dhoni received loads of praise for being “Captain Cool”, an inspiring, shrewd, intelligent and innovative (though instinctive) leader. Plaudits were heaped on his ability to do the unexpected when the chips were down and haul India back into the reckoning.

They are burning his effigy today.

This is absurd and totally unwarranted.

Ok, so Dhoni had one bad game. Hind sight might suggest that he, Yuvraj Singh and Yusuf Pathan, should have gone in earlier. Sure, Ravidra Jadeja laboured when faced with a barrage of short-pitched stuff. What if the youngster had fired and scored more and faster than he did? Today’s critics would have bellowed their praise about Dhoni’s inspired move.

I recall the finals of the inaugural T20 World Cup two years ago when Dhoni asked Joginder Sharma to bowl the last over. If that move had not paid off, and if Misbah ul Haq had taken Pakistan to victory, irate Indian fans would demanded the captain’s head. The move worked, however, India won an amazing see-saw match, and Dhoni was hailed as the next best thing to sliced bread.

It’s wrong to solely blame the captain, since cricket is a team sport. The West Indies and England accurately read the Indians’ weakness against the fast, rising, shoulder-high ball, and exploited this. If India’s formidable batting arsenal could not handle this, can you trash just one man?

It’s illogical, churlish and naïve to react the way many have done.

This Indian team has performed very well in recent months, has challenged many myths, re-written the rules, and has been fiercely competitive and committed.

They lost one tournament. So what?

June 16, 2009 Posted by | About this and that, Cricket | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Glorious uncertainties??? Hmmm


Having to attend a meeting this evening means that I will miss the first half of the India – England T20 match, and a part of my mind will be on what’s happening at Lord’s.

India needs to win to stay in the competition. If they lose, they are out, and the winner of the England – West Indies will join South Africa in the semi-finals.

There is no doubt that India is a formidable outfit, equipped with players of class. Mahendra Singh Dhoni has turned a bunch of gifted youngsters into a fearless and exciting team, and though his own shrewdness, intelligence and calm, has made the reigning champions a side to fear.

England, on the other hand, have stuttered in a form of the game that they created. If their hammering in India in the ODI series, the mauling at the hands of South Africa in the previous T20 match, and the humiliation by Netherlands, is anything to go by, the English do not stand a chance. You might even say that they beat Pakistan rather easily because the latter were distracted and out of sorts.

One might add that India’s defeat by the West Indies was merely a one-off, but, it certainly had many interested watchers sitting up and taking notice.

India has bled a lot of runs early on and in the closing stages of many of the matches, and this is an area of concern. The explosive and talented bating line-up, barring some exceptions, has not quite delivered all that it is capable of.

And, this represents England’s best chance – an Indian team that is suddenly assailed by self-doubt.

Stuart Broad who was smacked for six sixes in an over by Yuvraj Singh in Durban in the previous edition of the T2 World Cup will have a few anxious moments if he is to bowl to the same batsman today. But, that is merely one sidelight of the match.

India definitely look the better bet and should come through.

Unless the match lives up to the oft-repeated cliché that cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties.

India’s huge fan following will be livid if that happens, though.

June 14, 2009 Posted by | About this and that, Cricket | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Way to go, Gilly !!!


When a cricket match is on, I am usually one who can be classified as a quiet spectator, not prone to making too much noise.

Last evening, however, I punched the air with my fist, let out a loud whoop, and cheered for one of the finest cricketers of all time.

I am sure 25 or more disabled kids across Australia would have cheered loudly, too.

A shell-shocked Dirk Nannes watched helplessly as five consecutive boundaries were hammered off his first over. Two of these were of one of the most exquisite strokes one can ever see – the straight drive past the bowler.

C’mon, I said silently, you need just one.

Nannes was promptly replaced. Not that it made a difference, as Pradeep Sangwan was hit for boundaries of the first two deliveries.

The third delivery was well pitched up, but the batsman launched effortlessly into it and deposited the ball twenty rows back into the stands at mid-wicket.

Adam Gilchrist had hit his 25th six of this IPL. And fulfilled his commitment to Amway. You could see the smile of satisfaction on the batsman’s face as he mouthed the words “Twenty five”.

Adam Gilchrist with disabled kids1

So, at least 25 disabled kids will receive specially modified bicycles. I am not sure if each six beyond 25 will add a bicycle (I hope so), but this has been a tremendous effort.

Gilchrist in full flow is a great sight, and he has done enough in his career to qualify almost automatically for virtually every all-time best-11 team, be it Test, One-Day or T20. And, yesterday, as he brutally and brilliantly took apart Delhi’s bowlers, you would have forgotten that he was 37 years old, and had retired from international cricket a year ago. The fastest 50 (in 17 balls) in the IPL was a statistic. But, everyone (including the Delhi players, whose nerves were torn to shreds) would have realized that were watching one of the greatest T20 innings of all time.

It was merely a formality thereafter as Deccan Chargers beat the Delhi Daredevils, but the defining period of the match was the Gilchrist blitz.

As I said earlier, I cheered loudly. And will do so every time Adam Gilchrist bats. Even if my favourite Chennai Super Kings makes it to the finals and the brilliant Aussie takes a few off them.

C’mon Gilly, c’mon !!!

May 23, 2009 Posted by | About this and that, Cricket | , , , , | Leave a comment

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