Tuesday, November 27, 2012

India vs England - The Dhoni Backfire

The dinner menu for MS Dhoni this week will be a nice large slice of humble pie.

India were back on track in 'The Revenge Series', having been drubbed in England and Australia in last year they got their home formula nicely sorted:
  • Prepare a pitch with less life than Valle de Luna
  • The batsmen smash a total of 500+
  • The spinners do the rest

And there you have it, twirl the ball in the same place all day long and wait for mistakes, it worked gloriously all throughout the nineties and even Australia couldn't do anything about it. The Ganguly era was a rare time when India learned to compete overseas, but last years 8-0 saw a revert back to old school tactics to at least make sure that they could wallop teams in their playground and feel a bit better about life.

Only it wasn't enough, not for a 'frustrated' MS Dhoni. 

He wanted more. The test match dragged on until the fifth day thanks to Alistair Cook, who is the real deal. The spinners had to bowl mammoth spells, and unlike the lion hearted Kumble who used to do it without fuss, our captain was having none of it. Apart from the usual anti-umpire rant along came a unique volley of demands.

"I want to see a lively pitch. More turn! More bounce! More spin!! How dare we get made to play for five days, I want the ball turning from ball one!".

I am Dhoni, hear me roar. © AFP
He got his wish and England were about to get a truer taste of Indian conditions. But two crucial things were forgotten.
  • One of the best two off-spinners in the world is English, the other is not Indian.
  • A turban clad bowler all set to resurrect his career and his name isn't Harbhajan.
Yes it became the Swann and Panesar show and the match was over in less than five days, although perhaps not in the manner MSD had in mind.

"Did he just say..  more spin?" © PA Photos

The tactic backfired spectacularly on our favourite Indian skipper, his spinners flopped, his batsman succumbed, and a certain Kevin Pietersen showed everyone how to really take the bowlers, the pitch and the conditions out of the equation. That man really does bat on a different planet to the rest of them and could have been *the* batsman of our generation, too bad he's an unlikeable twit off the field. 

The Indian batsmen on the other hand are all over the show, with Sehwag having his token good innings of the series already, Kohli in his overdue form slump, Yuvraj never could play spin for peanuts anyway. 

And our beloved Sachin Tendulkar, dear oh dear. Please don't continue to ruin your aura and legacy, we don't dare criticize you for so many years of outstanding service but you're Monty's bunny now? Really enough is enough. Pujara is proving to be a find and a true class player, a long way towards being the next Dravid but at least he can dare to dream.

In a nutshell then...
  • So its 1-1 then with two tests to play, but whatever happens England applied themselves and earned a thumping test victory on Indian soil.
  • This is something India never even looked like doing in the corresponding tour last year. 
  • Mr Dhoni, be careful what you wish for son.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Why Kallis is Greater Than Ponting

As we witness the ongoing duel between Australia and South Africa, two of the greatest cricketers of our generation have come face to face perhaps for the last time, Jacques Kallis and Ricky Ponting.  It should be no surprise though which of the two has chalked up scores of 147, 49 and an injury filled 58, and which has scored 0, 4 and 18.  Equally its no surprise that which castled the other on the first morning, and his injury helped lead to absolute carnage later that day.

Ponting may have (ridiculously) won the award for the best player of the 2000s, but the truth is Kallis is far far better. Here's why:

1.  Kallis didn't have the luxury of Australian bowlers

Yes Pollock, Donald and (much later) Steyn were there, but the South Africa bowling attack was never quite up to the mark set by the Australians.  Even if Ponting's batting flopped it could be easily disguised as McGrath, Warne and Lee ripped apart the opponents, and on the flip-side its much easier to come out and belt a century after these bowlers have reduced a team to a sub-200 score.

What happened when the bowling attack all retired in one big bang? Ponting's numbers fell dramatically while Kallis's numbers were always consistent.

2.  Kallis didn't have the luxury of Australian batsmen

Wouldn't it be nice to walk out after Hayden and Langer have softened up the opening attack? And that too surrounded by the likes of Martyn, the Waughs, Symonds, Hussey and of course Gilchrist. Kallis had buddies in the form of Smith and much later de Villiers and Amla, but for the majority of his career he has had to fight a lone hand and single-handedly prop up the batting efforts.  On top of that, he has a superior batting average and that too having to face the mighty Aussie attack.

3.  Kallis can bowl

Nearly 300 test and ODI wickets of bustling fast-medium bowling. He could nearly make the South African team on bowling alone with an average consistently in the low 30s, this is an extra burden that Ponting has never had to deal with.

4.  Kallis can play in India

batting average in India of 26 and a place in history as Bhajji's only bunny. Enough said.

Its fun to stay at the Y-M-C-A © Getty

5.  Kallis has to deal with the 'fat and lazy' tag

Just take a peek to any Kallis Youtube video and the abomination known as the Youtube Comments Section.  The scum of the earth reside here, and you will see endless tirades about how Kallis is flabby, unfit, lazy and above all boring.  This is a guy that can bat all day, take very good slip catches and then charge in and bowl at over 130km/h. Injuries have hardly been an issue in a career that started in 1996, good luck finding anyone fitter than that (aside from the machine known as Courtney Walsh).

6.  Kallis has to deal with the ch---- tag

Ah yes, the bane of every South African cricketer including Kallis.

© AFP, Getty

Imagine if the Saffa's scampered home to victory, that would be 13 years of emotional hurt, constant sledging and World Cup choking vanished! Just look at what Shaun Pollock had to deal with.

In a nutshell then...
  • Kallis is the best all-rounder of our generation and at least top five in the history of the game, he is a player who gets far too little respect.  
  • The 'Player of the 2000s' Ponting has usually been riding the wave of an amazing team around him and never had to deal with the added psychological pressure. 
  • Both are very good world class players, however there is no question which of the two is superior.

Friday, October 19, 2012

International T20 is the only good T20

Regular readers of this blog will know by now some of my pet peeves:
  • Cricket cheerleaders 
  • MS Dhoni batting promotions
  • The Shahid Afridi wicket celebration
  • And above all, Twenty20 cricket overkill

However the recently concluded International T20 World Cup changed my mind about one thing. There is such thing as quality, watchable Twenty20 cricket and this quality only comes from one stage, the international stage. 

Therefore my hate has been redirected now purely to domestic Twenty20 cricket, which really is nothing more than the much described batting circus. The recent World Cup had one key ingredient that the IPL and its various simpleton cousins do not have, top class players participating in actual teams.

Finally we get to see batsmen playing proper strokes built on technique and skill instead of swinging madly like a wood cutter on steroids. Finally we saw bowlers being able to contain them instead of serving up a volley of garbage. And most importantly, finally we saw teams playing for national pride rather than a meaningless mishmash team of licorice all-sorts.

This wasn't the IPL, this was real cricket.

 Wait... who are you guys again? © Assc Press

I say "World Cup" loosely though, as it is still a level below the true 50-over format equivalent. Other than the memorable inaugural tournament, the other installments came and went too quickly with administrators unable to rein themselves, looking to quickly mass produce the newly discovered candy. It is difficult to remember much of those later tournaments bar one or two matches (Chris Gayle vs Brett Lee anyone?).

This tournament on the other hand was different. Bar a certain Mr. Pietersen, every team turned up full strength and lined up on a largely even keel. And the results were fantastic.

We need to see more of this, and much less of the domestic nonsense. We have the IPL, the BPL, SLPL, KFC Big Bash, HRV Cup... heck even Canada and Kenya have their own little backyard T20 romp.

That's not even mentioning the pretentiously named Champions League T20, a sorry attempt to ape the football equivalent. The drop in quality between last month's tournament and this silly one is quite remarkable.

In a Nutshell Then...
  • International T20 is great.
  • Everything else is not.
  • Stop it.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Dear Sachin Tendulkar, It's Time to Retire

Starting a sporting career is not complicated, with a bit of luck and a lot of skill you'll get a break. You can proceed calmly with the knowledge that only your performances are in your hands, the rest is dependant on other individuals such as favourable coaches and corrupt selectors.

The hard part is stopping, when should an international cricketer retire? There are several routes that can be taken:

  • The Australia Method - Retire when on top so that your legacy continues to live on fondly, notable examples include Gilchrist, Hayden, Langer... well everybody from the glory days except Ricky Ponting.
  • The Kiwi Method - After a ludicrous amount of injury layoffs and comebacks, there comes a time when its time to finally throw in the towel.  The most endangered species of all cricket are New Zealand fast bowlers, just look at Shane Bond, Dion Nash and Geoff Allott. Tragically unfulfilled careers.
  • The England Captain Method - Retire at the first sign of trouble after a few years of good work.  When the England zorb threatened to come crashing down the hill (thanks South Africa), Andrew Strauss opted for the gentlemen's exit so he won't be at the bottom picking up the pieces.  Smooth timing.
  • The Pakistan Method - Where retirement often means a quick holiday in the name of an angry protest against a rogue selector.  The beauty of this method is that it comes free with an un-retire and re-retire add on.  Just ask Shahid Afridi.

Yep I retired again, see you in a month!   © AFP

But there is one guy whose epic career continues to trudge on despite many of the symptoms displayed above.  He has had years of golden runs with the bat despite a dodgy run at being captain, a horrible run in the last 12 months, an injury lay-off or two somewhere in there.  He has been there and done that.  At the risk of having The Cricket Musings burned down by angry protesters (or rather by being spammed to death with profanities in the comments section) I am going to brave the internet world and say it.

Sachin Tendulkar, your time is up.  Time to embrace the setting sun.

You have been playing cricket since 1989, which means you have been batting for India longer than the entire under-19 World Cup fleet even came into existence as a single cell organism.  

You have painfully but surely climbed the one hundred 100s mountain, you have won an ODI world cup on your sixth attempt (!) and you have seen India to the top of the Test rankings, something they won't do again any time soon.  Enough is enough. You are quickly becoming that unfortunate uncle who everybody is too polite to get rid of, with the consequence that your tenancy is taking up precious other vacancies for younger promising cricketers.  

There is literally nothing else to achieve, you have arguably the most accomplished career in cricketing history with dozens of innings that are forever etched into our memories.  The problem with you staying on is that you are soiling those lovely memories of trouncing Glenn McGrath with images of being castled by Doug Bracewell.  

There was a time where I ate Kiwi's for breakfast.  © Assc Press

So dear Sachin, please say your goodbyes so we can thank you for more than two decades of great cricketing memories.  Don't tack on an extra half decade of pain.

(Oh and give commentary a miss too).

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Kevin Pietersen is a Cocky Pillock

How far is a cricket player allowed to go before he becomes bigger than the game?

Kevin Pietersen is certainly not shy of controversy, dominating the media headlines with his usual hare-brained two cents while milking the celebrity status and culture for all its worth. The latest bombshell arrived recently, the demand for a dedicated IPL window so that he can forgo his international commitments for a quick cash grab. Only then, says our beloved KP, will he consider playing in all three formats for England.

The cheek of the fellow!

This is just a sample of the myriad of reasons why this is so ridiculously absurd:
  • No player should be demanding anything from any cricket board, they should only be requesting at best. 
  • He cited fatigue as one of his problems, and his proposal is to play all three formats alongside a full two month IPL season? 
  • He cited homesickness as one of his problems, and yet he wants to disappear to India for two months?
  • He's just not that good a player. England quite happily dispatched Australia without him, they certainly don't need him as much as he likes to believe.

"Remember what I said about missing you Honey?  WELL I LIED " © Getty

Unfortunately dear readers, this is merely the beginning of the end. Players have already begun prioritising  their dollar chase with Dwayne Bravo and Brendon McCullum needing 'fatigue breaks', and Indian cricketers in complete control over their calendars. The Sehwag's and Dhoni's of this world take holidays as they please. 

The wheels are in motion.  All round stupidity and greed of the players and boards alike are killing the ODI and possibly the test formats of the game, and none of this has anything to do with the apparent lack of quality of these forms. In fact they hands down produce better cricket than T20 ever will. Martin Guptill is a rare exception who preferred county cricket over the IPL, hats off to him.

But perhaps all is not lost. The death of the IPL will come, and it will resurrect the real forms of the game and pull away the glitzy curtain that so many have so ignorantly been gawking at.  More than that though, a hard stance is needed by the cricketing boards and coaches. They simply cannot let players get bigger than the game and must refuse to bend over to their ridiculous demands.

What we are witnessing is a major shift in the game, our sport is being challenged by the lure of completely unjustified amounts of money in return for cheap cricket and a slow death of actual technique and competition. England and South Africa are two of the exceptions in the world who know the place of the IPL and put international duty first, and as a result they will rightfully be the ones to contest the number one crown in the upcoming series

Andy Flower and the ECB have set the example by removing Pietersen, the Twitter-happy twit, from the T20 world cup squad.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

England vs South Africa Preview

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, toddlers, adjudicators, cheerleaders, whoever you may be, wherever you may be, behold... its show time. The unofficial Test heavyweight championship between the two best teams in the world.

In one corner...
We have an overexcited English troupe who after downing some woeful Australians and Indians believe themselves to be the number one team in the world. The hyperbole king Mark Nicholas rambles on about  'Fortress England' and perhaps in desperation of a bandwagon after so many years of rubbish cricket, there is a loud and slightly overbearing chorus that sings out claiming world domination. But how good are they really? Is too much owed to the spectacular collapse of the previous champions?

In the other corner...
We have the touring party who have quietly accumulated success and fixed themselves comfortably in a position to make the next step and rise above England. They have had the goods for a number of years but have never quite established a position of complete dominance, usually thanks to the Australians.

Second best ain't the best matey. © Getty

Arguably and perhaps unfairly they have been ignored as worlds the number two team for too long, and this is their chance to finally strike gold and reach the top of the podium.

How do they compare?
To be frank, the teams are near identical on strength. The few differences are:

  • Rudolph is average
  • Swann is a better bowler than Tahir
  • The Boucher eye incident means that Prior is the superior keeper
  • England has more batting depth with Broad and Bresnan 
England win a few key match-ups there, however...
  • Anderson is not Dale Steyn, no matter how much England love him
  • Ian Bell is overrated, especially against quality bowling
  • South Africa has express pace in Steyn and Morkel, the English rely on swing alone
The bottom line is that comparing them on paper is a fruitless exercise, both teams are more or less dead on with each side having minor holes but are otherwise very strong. They are both led well, coached well, they field well, and strike an ideal balance between donkey-like experience and youthful exuberance.

But who will win?
Its a coin toss really, but as a personal bias I want the South Africans to win mostly to quench the overbearing English ego's, and to keep a lid on Kevin Pietersen. South Africa simply deserve it, they have been tirelessly battling in the shadow of the Australians for two decades and England simply leap-frogged them to the top. Its time to take the crown and become the dominant force of cricket, once and for all.

No more choking. 

THAT word again? © Reuters

I'm sorry, I couldn't help myself.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Every Bunny Has Its Day

The normal distribution is something that's scarily applicable to a host of real world scenarios, and our humble sport of cricket is not exempt from it. Take batting averages for example, there are a few great batsmen, many who sit somewhere in the middle, and those that belong firmly at the bottom of the scrap heap. But every now and then lightning does strike twice, rivers are parted, the book of logic is tossed out the window.

These are the days dear reader, when a bunny rises above the rest.

Tino Best - The Bunny No More
The inspiration of this article, the enigmatic Best was aptly described as a 'Ferrari without a steering wheel'. Andrew Flintoff many years ago told him to "mind the windows" during his turn at the crease and poor old Tino took the bait and went looking to smash the ball into the Indian Ocean. Needless to say he missed it completely and that's all she wrote.

However fast forward a few years and Best returned with a vengeance, he just recently completed the highest Test score by a #11 batsman, ever. His 95 came against the supposed best Test team in the world, in conditions that typically favour bowling, and with surprisingly crisp stroke play with all the charming exuberance of a tail ender. A pleasure to watch, and the West Indians might finally be mustering a comeback.

Also a part time relay runner. © Getty

Glenn McGrath - The King of the Bunnies
A granddaddy of batting abominations, the infamous Glenn McGrath turned the tables on an already hopeless New Zealand team by excavating 61 runs in a strange mixture of leading edges, dropped catches, and a stylish slog sweep for six of Daniel Vettori. A furious Jacob Oram and a bewildered Adam Gilchrist witnessed the impossible become a sad reality, a test match half century for the pigeon and the ultimate insult to New Zealand bowling. Just for the record New Zealand proceeded to be bowled out for 76, just 15 runs more than McGrath.

Fancy a job as a batting coach Glenn? © Adam Pretty / Getty

Makhaya Ntini - The 'Hole In The Bat' Bunny
A surprisingly poor South Africa were consoled by the usually hapless Ntini, as he swung away to a personal record of 42 not out including two sixes. A pleasant surprise indeed from a guy who once clean missed a dead straight pie from Chris Gayle.

Murali - The Bat Swinging Bunny
Sri Lanka were hurtling towards defeat against Bangladesh when the comical batting of Murali took over. He spanked a no-nonsense 33 off 16 balls to steal victory, lighting up an otherwise dour innings that had a run rate hovering around three. Murali at the batting crease is the stuff of legend, you can't fault him for lack of effort even if he does resemble a drunk ballerina at times.

Geoff Allott - The Endurance Bunny
The proud owner of Test history's longest duck, he patted the ball out for a total of 77 balls and 101 minutes... only to be dismissed for a grand total of zero. He even went on to raise his bat in acknowledgement when the hundredth minute clocked up, and this is the closest thing we have had to a #11 centurion.

Chris Martin - The Hare
But then of course there are some unfortunate souls who will never enjoy a day in the sun. Maybe there is a Test 50 lurking around the corner for the enigmatic Chris Martin?

© AFP 

Or maybe there isn't.

Monday, May 21, 2012

If Cricketers Were Cartoon Characters

Thank you IPL, for grinding cricket down to a screeching halt.

This is the time of year where instead of the *real* game we have an exhibition of cricket ball abuse featuring teams tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum while us poor fans and purists have been forced to revisit our old highlights collections, banish cricinfo.com to the wilderness, and suffer severe writers block.

Devoid of inspiration, what must the dear old blogger resort to?


Some months ago there was an internet obsession with dopplegangers, or lookalikes. Unfortunately most of the time it was clutching on straws, heck people tell me I look like Jehan Mubarak, big deal. And truth be told human to human lookalikes are a tad boring, so we see the same person twice... we've seen twins before and not the Schwarzenegger-deVito kind either.

So instead I present to you, animated and cartoon contemporaries of famous (and not so famous) cricketers of recent times.

Ryan Sidebottom is Sideshow Bob
While one plotted to destroy Bart Simpson, the other plotted to destroy New Zealand batting line-ups.


Darren Lehmann is Shrek
The team even nick-named him Shrek, so everyone is in on this one.


Ross Taylor is Diddy Kong
Aw how cute (not you Ross).


Darren Sammy is Evil Majin Buu
Armed with the goal of world domination, though with slightly different methods.

James Franklin is Jon Arbuckle
The ultimate bland-face.


Scott Styris is Beaker
Its the upside-down mouth that does it?


And my personal favourite.

Shoaib Akthar is Gollum
The freaky eyes, the whispy hair... stumps or hobbit alike nobody can deny what is preciousss to them.


Care to add, agree or disagree?

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Truth About South Africa and New Zealand

When an insect beats up a smaller insect, it doesn't stop it from being an insect. This is the unfortunate reality of New Zealand cricket, who were as bouncy and boisterous as ever after a historic victory over Australia and a mauling of the out-of-depth Zimbabweans.

And then came the big boys. These South Africans are not just one level higher but somewhere like two or three. How many teams are there that can leave out players like Graeme Smith and the great Jacques Kallis and not even feel the pinch? How many teams can unearth a guy who produced a record T20 innings, and then send him back on the next flight home? How many teams can boast a more complete pace battery than Philander, Steyn and Morkel?

The answer is certainly not New Zealand, who have been outclassed in a manner that is bordering on depressing. A cleverly formatted 3-3-3 series reads 2-3-1 in favour of South Africa, with New Zealand managing a single T20 victory and rain accounting for both test match draws. The lack of intent in the third test epitomized the tour, it was left up to a 21 year old kid to rescue them and a draw was celebrated like a victory. With less than a day to survive the so called big guns played it out like fish in a barrel not even bothering to flop.


The reversal was almost cruel, after bashing about the Zimbabweans, New Zealand became South Africa's Zimbabwe. The bowling attack consists entirely of journeymen itching to have a real strike bowler in their midst. McCullum and Taylor are ODI players in disguise while Martin Guptill is a poor man's Ian Bell, feasting himself on anything mediocre but grinding to a dead halt against true quality.

But how do you console a team who cannot even blame under-performance? Because the truth is that this is the best they have got. New Zealand more or less played to their peaks and finished up so far short that the visitors treated the tour like net practice after a Sunday roast.

Not so funny when its your turn is it? © AFP

South Africa will leave our shores after giving us Kiwis a firm examination of where and who we are, while they get ready for real opponents in England. We on the other hand can only weep quietly, rejoice over a false dawn with the last drawn match, or dig up old tapes of Richard Hadlee highlights to remember better times.

Related Reading:
The tragic story of Vettori
A history of New Zealand's woes against Australia

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Best XI From Asia

Among the plethora of ODI cricket tournaments that are scheduled, the Asia Cup is usually one of the more anonymous ones. The bi-annual Champions Trophy and Australian tri-series tournaments are often the most interesting while others take a quick fade into oblivion.

But this particular Asia Cup should be remembered, and that too fondly and for one reason alone, Bangladesh.

After enduring the usual politics, selection disputes and a hangover from the disgraceful World Cup last year, there was every reason why they should have ended up rock bottom in this tournament. They had a Pakistan team who are looking to turn the corner, a Sri Lankan team who impressed in Australia and a cocky Indian team who have returned to friendly flat decks hungry for redemption.

And yet, Bangladesh fell two runs short of trumping them all. An outstanding achievement.

If only Kamran Akmal played... © AFP

But their heroics aside it was yet another engaging and impressive ODI tournament, with all four teams having golden moments and playing hard, there was no 'easy-beat'. If one was to compile the eleven best cricketers out of Asia, who would be chosen?

The Cricket Musings Asia XI
1) Tamim Iqbal
2) Mohammad Hafeez
3) Mahela Jayawardene (c)
4) Kumar Sangakkara (w)
5) Virat Kohli
6) Shakib Al-Hasan
7) Shahid Afridi
8) Umar Gul
9) Saeed Ajmal
10) Mashrafe Mortaza
11) Lasith Malinga

These are the best eleven limited overs cricketers in Asia.

Points to ponder:
- Tamim Iqbal was originally dropped from the squad by some moronic selectors.
- Virat Kohli is the only Indian worthy of this line-up.
- The highly ranked Dhoni was replaced by the superior batting of Sanga and the superior captaincy of Mahela.
- With Malinga and Mortaza to open, you have Gul first change and a spin quartet of Afridi, Hafeez, Shakib and Ajmal. Good luck facing that attack.

There used to be an Afro-Asia cup going where a squad like this would face South Africa + a token Zimbabwean + a token Kenyan. Here is my proposition, lets put this squad against the rest of the world in a one-off annual exhibition match.

Now wouldn't that be something.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Rahul Dravid Tribute

Rahul Dravid, a player Indian cricket has so much to thank for. Equipped with a textbook technique and defence-first strategy, he truly was a rare breed coming from India, a nation that prides on trigger happy flamboyance. They called him The Wall, but I preferred to remember him as The Backbone.

His Test Match Legacy
India's overseas record in the nineties was a joke. Out of 39 test matches outside of Indian borders in the 1990s India won one test match, one single match in a full decade and that too in the sub-continent facing Sri Lanka. They were nothing short of flat track bullies who were ritually reduced to rubble when away from their comfortable dead wickets.

The resurgence of the 2000's largely came through a quintet of batsmen, however those other four would not have been enough alone. India needed Rahul Dravid.

Deliverance. © Getty 

His polished technique, unflappable temperament and unbreakable determination is what first got India on the cricketing map as a real threat, particularly overseas. Whether it was against McGrath or Murali, whether in Peshawar or Perth, he proved himself as the most important piece of the puzzle that pushed them to an eventual number one ranking.

The Cruel Limited Overs Fate
As an ODI player he was sorely misunderstood. Idiotic selections and favouritism ensured he missed a good fifty games for his country and didn't even play a single match in 2008 and in 2010. 'Too slow' they would say, and they would banish him in favour of hot shots who couldn't hold a candle on a bowling wicket. He was cautious at worst and he never cost India a match because of a poor strike rate, this was nothing but a myth.

For a period he was also unfairly given the wicket-keeping duties when they never belonged to him, and fought through a turbulent cyclone as captain fuelled by the egos of Ganguly and Greg Chappell. If that was not enough, he was cruelly denied the chance to be part of the 2011 World Cup victory, despite 12 centuries, over 10,000 runs and more rescue acts than Michael Bevan. A crying shame for he deserved far better, and yet he still managed to carry himself through it all with grace.

The 5 Best Test Performances:

  1. Scored the most runs in England 2002 when India first started competing overseas.
  2. He was there with Laxman during the Eden Gardens miracle with an equally important 180. No Dravid, no partnership, and the series would have been lost.
  3. His 233 and 72 double in Adelaide 2003 gave India their first real success in Australia, and an honourable drawn series.
  4. His 207 in Pakistan 2004 sealed a first ever series victory there.
  5. Was the only Indian batsman to make runs in the embarrassing 2011 England tour.

The 5 Most Memorable ODI Performances:

  1. Amongst the Sehwag carnage played a classy 99 only to be denied a century by Shoaib Akhtar.
  2. Smashed 50 off 22 balls against New Zealand to prove that he too can play the slog game.
  3. Top scored when eliminated by Sri Lanka in a horrendous 2007 World Cup.
  4. hard fought 76 was the only fight India had when eliminated by Pakistan in the Champions Trophy in 2009. He fell tragically to cramps and a run out. 
  5. Bowed out with style in 2011, with a typically solid innings of 69 against England.

That was just a sampler of the number of times Dravid was left last man standing among a crumpling heap of Indian batsman. He earns many compliments from critics and opponents alike, however he will never experience the blind worship and respect Tendulkar and Dhoni get back in his home country.

Perhaps for the better? India needed a better class of hero, and Dravid answered the call and delivered for more than fifteen years. A career and an individual that every Indian should be proud of.

Goodbye Rahul Dravid, and thanks.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The CB Series Review - ODI Cricket Lives On

And so a mighty ODI tournament comes to an end, with an overexcited Sri Lanka gifting away their wickets and the Australians displaying some of that typical grit to claim the series.

What have we learnt?
  • ODI cricket is NOT dead
  • Sri Lankan cricket is back
  • India are not world champions
  • The Aussies never give up (still)

It was an incredibly fascinating series with most games playing out like hungry dogs fighting for a juicy bone. Funnily enough the last three world cup finals comprised of India, Australia and Sri Lanka, so its fair to say that these three are the best ODI teams in the world (sorry South Africa). The winner of this tournament would gain not only a token trophy and prize money, but also a large dish of bragging rights.

That oh so familiar sight. © Getty

It was refreshing however to see an Australian side that isn't dominating these home tournaments, there was a time where two other sorry teams would turn up and return home thumped by both Australia and sometimes Australia A. Apart from being an ego-trip for the local commentators, it was dull and embarrassing.

This time, we instead saw an Aussie team that had to scrap and claw away at their opponents and earn their victories. Among them we saw an inspired turnaround from a Sri Lankan team that was on the verge of complete breakdown just a few months ago, and an Indian team desperate to look past a woeful test series and prove that the World Cup victory was not a fluke. They failed.

The Cricket Musings Awards present...

The Man of the Tournament - Mahela Jayawardene. He was the catalyst of the resurgence in his team and its about time they had a real leader who had the gumption to send himself up to open, to innovate with his fields and bowling changes, and to throw political correctness out the window and give the umpires a right blast when they needed it (take note Dhoni). Sri Lanka missed its charismatic leader which Dilshan never was.

The Who? Award - Clint McKay. Appearing like a nothing medium pacer, but armed with simple control and an effective slower ball he ripped out several illustrious batsmen. He was the Aussies best despite the Hilfenhaus and Pattinson drool-fest and second only to Malinga in wickets taken.

'That' Delivery - That man Lasith Malinga cleaning up Shane Watson with a perfect middle-stump destroying yorker. It swung the match back in Sri Lanka's favor and saved them from going home early, we just don't see enough devastating deliveries these days.

'That' Innings - Virat Kohli for that 133. India having needed an impossible 320 in under 40 overs did exactly that, guided by a manic yet controlled destruction at the hands of Kohli. The incredible thing is that most of those boundaries were proper cricketing shots and often along the ground, a real advertisement against the IPL art of 'close your eyes and slog'.

The Sloth & Greed Award - Captain Dhoni of course, for grinding comfortable chases to a dead halt, for no purpose other than milking a fifty for himself. A big reason why India went home early, but nobody will bother to realize it.

The Pest Award - Brett Lee making a right nuisance of himself just like the old days of the 2003 World Cup. He may be the nicest guy off the field but we saw his full bag of tricks in the middle, the red face of rage, the glares, the foul mouth, the wicket taking chainsaw. Nostalgia at its worst.

"Look mom I can fly" © AFP

This tournament is exactly what we all needed to remind ourselves that ODI cricket still has and always will deserve a place in our cricketing hearts. With some proper administration and forward thinking, we can ensure we continue to have memorable tournaments like this one. Lets hope the upcoming Asia cup can follow suit.

Related reading:
How to save ODI cricket

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Time to Join The Virat Kohli Bandwagon

I'll admit it, I hated this kid.

This young upstart appeared and quickly established himself as one of the many flat track wonders, plundering usually lesser teams to all corners of sub-continent grounds and being hailed for his incredible maturity (?) while earning himself the rather unfortunate title of 'The Future of Indian Cricket'.

Despite contributing little but good fielding and a foul mouth, he was soon a World Cup champion. I was utterly convinced that all we had here is another Suresh Raina, and the overseas tours will sort this young brat out.

It did, but not quite in the way I expected.

He was a pillar in the Test Series, the only Indian batsman who batted with any level of skill and assurance including the only one to cross three figures. He completely outclassed the best batting line-up there is.

But even that doesn't compare to yesterday.

Dear critics, this one is for you. © AFP

Last nights century truly was something to behold. The thought of chasing 320 inside 40 overs was laughable, ludicrous, nothing short of a joke. The match unfolded and ridicule descended into vague possibility, probability, and then a scarcely believable certainty.

Yes it was a dead pitch, yes the bowling and fielding absolutely dire and the ridiculous concept of powerplays almost made it feel like cheating. But regardless, to turn in a performance like that, to find that level of sudden confidence after a tour marked down as a complete disaster, that takes a certain mindset and ability and it has to be admired.

The incredible innings placed him as the only Indian centurion in the one-day series as well. We mustn't forget that this has been a wretched tour for Indian batsman. With Sehwag aiming for another 200, Sachin making the prettiest 20's, Gambhir establishing himself as the run out king, Raina playing bouncers like a little child and of course Dr. Dhoni single handedly killing three run chases. At least with Kohli, the Indian cricket team in the years to come will have one quality player who can handle himself away from home.

India are still most likely going to leave this tour early, but finally they have one thing to cheer about and one person worth remembering. I would have laughed if somebody believed he truly was the future of Indian cricket. Now Kohli is the one doing the laughing.

Its the Virat Kohli bandwagon folks, and The Cricket Musings has just leaped aboard.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Why Gambhir Hates Dhoni

Once upon a time, there was a World Cup final.



G Gambhir b Perera 97 (187m 122b 9x4 0x6) SR: 79.50
MS Dhoni 91* (79b 8x4 2x6)


Then there was a match in Australia.

© Getty


G Gambhir lbw b McKay 92 (139m 111b 7x4 0x6) SR: 82.88
MS Dhoni 44* (58b 1x6)

And then they faced the mighty Sri Lankans.

© Getty


G Gambhir run out 91 (168m 106b 6x4 0x6) SR: 85.84
MS Dhoni 55* (68b 3x4 1x6)

© Associated Press

The bottom line
MS Dhoni will not be high on the invite list at Gautam's birthday party.

Related Reading:
The Sehwag problem
How to save Indian cricket.

Monday, February 13, 2012

MS Dhoni - Ice Cool or Massive Fool?

And so India have something to sing about. Sharp bowling, another impressive fielding performance and an Indian top order that finally looks comfortable. It was a slick run chase that was more or less sealed in the 35th over.

Until Dhoni lost the match... and then won it again for himself.

Message boards everywhere are flooded with Dhoni praise, hailing Captain Cool and showering him with love and worship. This match will be solely remembered for that last over six and will probably feature in many a highlights reel to come.

But the truth is, it was staged. It was thunder stealing drama that was created from nothing, it was a match winning shot that never should have been. Dhoni manufactured a false situation from which he could become the hero.

Consider the events on the night:

  1. Gambhir more or less wins the match with an easy controlled innings and able support from Kohli and Sharma. 
  2. Dhoni comes out and slows the match to a grinding halt. He refuses to attempt any risk taking shot, chewing up balls nonsensically and dumping the entire load on Suresh Raina, whose crucial boundaries are the only thing that keeps India in the game.
  3. Raina and Jadeja lose their wickets picking up the slack of Captain Freeze. The Australian fielders are suddenly in South Africa mode and are fumbling all over the place, missing run-outs and conceding valuable overthrows.
  4. Thirteen off the last over required when the last over should never have come. Dhoni after inching along in a boundary free innings  hits that six, then receives a gift of a waist high no-ball (off which he was out caught!) and the rest is history. 
I'll Take That!  © AFP

Dear reader, this is exactly how Dhoni has managed to maintain an ODI average of over fifty and earned his title of 'the finisher'.  He doesn't do the real work, letting all of his pawns fall around him while ensuring he remains not out in the last over before having a hit-or-miss swing at victory. The truth is he is no Michael Bevan, who had the ability to resurrect a dead innings rather than kill an innings first.

This time it paid off and he successfully stole every shred of credit, while earlier in the tour he single-handedly ruined what should have been a possible Twenty20 victory using this same method. And of course it doesn't work at all in test matches.

Its incredibly shrewd and wily, its earned him a world number one ranking in ODI cricket, and at the same time its unbelievably selfish and built on sheer dumb luck. Who here even remembers Gambhir's top scoring effort in the World Cup final? He was forgotten then and he will be forgotten now.

Opinion is wildly divided on this man but my stance is perfectly clear. Dhoni is simply a pretty coat of paint on an otherwise perfectly working machine.