Thursday, December 19, 2013

Why Australia Won the Ashes

Believe it or not, before this Ashes series began I predicted Australia to win comfortably.

It seemed ridiculous to most at the time and rightfully so, but here we are with Australia up three zip and the Ashes wrapped up and back on this side of the hemisphere in the shortest time frame possible.  I will admit I didn't predict such a comprehensive walloping, England are dead and buried and the old ghosts of the 90s are back. The English media have quickly forgotten that England were #1 not long ago.

Why would anyone back the Aussies? They had lost three Ashes in a row and were in complete disarray. Instead of playing good cricket they were busy failing their homework, giving Glenn Maxwell a test cap and punching Joe Root.

So how did things flip upside down?


The Last Ashes Were Close
Australia had the better of England for huge parts of the last Ashes despite being hounded with unkind rain gods, horrid umpiring and the existence of Phil Hughes.  If you look closer Australia nearly had the first test, and rain saved England twice... it wasn't that far away from being 3-2 to Australia, yet it reads as a 3-0 thrashing. Hindsight and luck of course, but 3-0 it was.

England were Good, Never Great
Australia were never knocked off their perch by a superior side, it was a kamikaze.  With the great Indian batting engine losing their reflexes with age, it was England and South Africa who were there to pick up the pieces.  South Africa is the superior of the two, but England benefited by not having to play them much and made the #1 ranking first.

They were never bad but they never touched the same heights Australia did during their pomp.  The likes of Cook, Trott, Prior and Anderson feasted on the highs and gave their averages a royal boost. But were the chips ever really down? Were they ever severely tested by a side? They are now.

Beware the Mongrel
Yes Australia fell off their own tree and smacked every branch on the way down. And once battered and bruised, they were kicked down, taunted and humiliated by everyone who cared to do so. Amla, Cook, Dhawan, you name it, they all had their glorified hour at sinking their teeth into Aussie flesh. It was more than a decade of hurt that was being paid back, and it was ugly.

Even New Zealand embarrassed them in their own backyard, the shame.

But did they go too far? Because the sleeping mongrel as been awakened.  Lets not forget they have a large pool of players and a very proud history and tradition. Australia never takes losing kindly and there is only so much shoving one can take before the wounded animal bites back.


Oh they're back, and they're hungry for more.

Darren Lehmann
There had to be catalyst to stir the pot and get the Aussies fizzing again, and a no nonsense and bloody minded *Australian* coach was the obvious answer. Enter Boof Lehmann.  Suddenly Australia have their mojo back, the battered Aussies have resurfaced and they let the world know all about it in Brisbane.  No more rotation policies, no more homework scandals, no more Phil Hughes, just 11 fired up angry blokes playing cricket.

But England had gotten so smug and unlikeable that the impossible finally happened, I *wanted* Australia to win. Its almost like the 2005 Ashes in reverse, the underdog is just so much more fascinating. Like democracy, one of these two cannot be in power too long before it starts to get infuriating. There has to be a balance.

And balance has been restored, for now.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

5 Reasons to Remember Tendulkar

And so it has finally happened, Sachin Tendulkar is actually going to retire.

It was nice of the BCCI to rig a nice friendly home series against the cuddly West Indies instead of having to enjoy his farewell cake against the demonic Dale Steyn, a series of ducks does not make an ideal farewell.

But in truth, this man does deserve to go out in any way he wishes.  In terms of the great things he has achieved you can number crunch all day and talk about the smashed batting records, but there is much more to Sachin Tendulkar and these are the things he should really be remembered for:

1. Surviving This Long
Maybe he should have retired already, but nonetheless to still be playing is truly something to behold. The man is 40 years old and debuted at 16, a 24 year old career which began in 1989 before most current players even worked out how to hold a bat.

Tendulkar 1994 ©

Indian U-19 Team 1994

The young often promise a lot and fizzle out (Irfan Pathan) while others get fat and fizzle out (Sehwag), cricketing is a physically and mentally demanding sport. For Tendulkar to keep delivering for this long is a feat that only FedEx can match.

2. Being The One Man Team
Once upon a time India didn't have a team, they had a bunch of guys who turned up to play every now and then and casually fell apart any other day except when playing Pakistan. There was nobody around to help around and they were led by the corruption king Azharuddin. It was Sachin or nothing.

He soldiered on despite having no support from team mates and administration alike and having the weight of a billion fans expecting miracles every game. No cricketer in history has had that much weight on their shoulders, and he survived.

3. Being the First to 200
We live in a crazy world where 434 has been gunned down and Chris Gayle nearly hit a double century in a T20 slog.  But we mustn't forget that the first man to 200 in an ODI was in fact Sachin, yes I know I wouldn't talk about records but I think its significant that it was an old-school cricketer that broke the barrier before anyone else.

And this was despite Dhoni's best efforts to steal all the strike and leave him stranded! Yes that really happened, the Indian crowds booed while he kept rotating the strike back to himself.  Since then though Sehwag has also done it and many others will. Dhawan and Kohli are making 350 look easy and an average joe like Rohit Sharma is the latest to join the 200 club.  Even Dhoni is beginning to question all the extra help the modern day batsman gets, and by george he's got a point.

4. Winning the World Cup
Many will recall my good friend Dhoni being the 'star' of the 2011 World Cup victory, when in reality apart from that World Cup final knock (where he was outscored anyway) he did basically nothing but manage bowling changes and handle the press.

After a whopping six attempts at it, Tendulkar finally got there. In most World Cups he was immense (lets just forget about 2007) and in 2011 he made centuries against England and South Africa and crucial fifties in the quarter and semi finals. These two matches were much closer than many might care to remember, only he and Yuvraj had a clue against Australia and only him alone in that bizarre slop of a match against Pakistan.

5. Being A True Sportsman
The closest thing Tendulkar ever got to showing dissent was at the famous Bucknor flop in Brisbane 2003, and even then it was a brief look of astonishment before tucking his bat under the wing and walking off quietly.

That was him, no fuss, no back chat, the only thing that ever talked was that swishing blade of his. Its fair to say that he is the most respected opponent bowlers ever faced, even the potty mouthed Glenn McGrath generally had nothing to say to him directly.

Sachin Tendulkar is the last member of the class of the 2000s that rose India from shame to glory, they were the gentlemen Indian cricketers of the yesteryear and they will be missed. It is a shame that a group of talented but arrogant brats are replacing them.

Tendulkar the cricketer will always be remembered, but Tendulkar the sportsman should be remembered even more fondly.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Letter from the DRS: Its Not My Fault

Dear readers, I can understand your hatred.

After a century-long tradition of on field umpires dictating play, you the cricket audience have been up in arms about my introduction to the game.  I am the Decision Review System, and I am here to pledge my case.

I have been tasked to improve on the human eye, I understand you make mistakes so I am available to you to make sure horrid umpiring decisions do not dictate our great game.  But instead I have been the subject of condemnation and torrents of abuse.

The simple fact is, I am merely misunderstood. My situation is analogous to building a house whose floor fell through and then blaming the hammer.

So who's fault is it really?

For your "overwhelming" support. Thanks.

Your Idiotic Rules
Who came up with the bright idea of limited referrals? If you are going to impose a limit, at least be realistic and give three or more.  I hear you argue that you don't want the players to waste them on 50/50 calls, but now we've landed the ludicrous situation where everyone including me knows its out except the poor sod on field who muffed it. But is it his fault? Alas no, its mine somehow.

Your Idiotic Captains
A smart captain, Mr Cook, uses me sparingly because of the aforementioned silly referral limits. He removes the howlers and the howlers only, anything that's iffy he goes with the on-field call. And voila, I hand him reviews for the rainy days.

A silly captain, Mr Clarke, uses me any which way he pleases and burns all his team reviews. When the real howler comes along I am no help.  And who's fault is that? Alas, mine somehow.

Shane Watson
The bane of my existence! Stop this blonde idiot from abusing me!

"Blasphemous... review it" © Getty

That goes for you too Mr. Sehwag, I haven't forgotten the World Cup 2011.

The On-field Monkeys
How does any sane human being miss the Stuart Broad edge to slips? Ok so maybe you did Mr Umpire, but here's an idea... use me! If you have caused an abomination that even players are obvious about (Mr. Broad's scarlet red face told a thousand stories), then why not just take it upstairs and let me do the rest? Meanwhile what is the second umpire doing, taking a nap? Again this is my fault? I literally had nothing to do with it.

The Off-field Monkey
Lo and behold you finally had the chance to use me properly. Mr. Khawaja misses it by a grand canyon and he rightfully sends it up to me to do my job, I dutifully show you multiple angles and hot spot to prove absolutely that it is not out, and what do you Mr Dharmasena? You give him! And who's fault is that? I hope dear reader you are beginning to see a pattern.

So how to fix this? 
Its actually quite simple.
  • Tell India to be nicer to me.
  • Give the umpires full control of me, if *they* think its a 50/50 call then send it up to me and I'll take care of it! I know you tried this once and thought I took too long, but for goodness sake its a five day sport.
  • Make umpires accountable. Having a brain explosion might be less common if there was a real penalty apart from the name, shame and forget (other than you Mr. Bucknor, nobody forgot that). 
  • Unlimited referrals. Maybe if you trust your players they will use me properly instead of a Who Wants to be a Millionaire lifeline.

And lastly and most importantly... stop blaming me. Folks I am nothing more than a supplementary tool to the existing umpiring system. I am not the magical solution to all things horrible in umpiring.

It is you that pushes the buttons, handle me with the love and care that I deserve and I shall grant you quality umpiring in return.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The ICC Champions Trophy History (and Preview)

So here we are in England for the last edition of the ICC Knockout / Mini World Cup / ICC Champions Trophy / Thing.

This is a strange little tournament purposely offset in between the 'real' fifty over world cups, designed to be a quick-smart affair all over in a couple of weeks (take note IPL). However fifty over cricket must die according to the powers that be, and the idea has now been thrown out and we won't see it again.

I'm going to disagree with the majority and say that I like the tournament. This would be the only other time that all the leading teams of world cricket will be assembled.  That was until the rise of T20 cricket came along and demanded its own little World Cup, and the other problem is that a couple of the tournaments did suck and slipped in and out of memory without much of a second thought.  Here's hoping for a memorable showing in the next fortnight to resurrect interest.

Let's have a quick look at its history:

1998 - South Africa Finally Wins Something
... and it's the only cricketing tournament they have ever won. There was a Tendulkar pummelling that eliminated Australia, but apart from that it was a pretty ho-hum affair.

2000 - The Cairns Show
India were on a nice roll courtesy of a pair of Ganguly tons and young renegades on debut namely Yuvraj Singh and Zaheer Khan, both of who were responsible for again dismantling Australia in the quarter final. The script was set for India, but they hit a roadblock in the form of a "how did they get this far anyway" New Zealand team.  Chris Cairns fired one of his few shots as a gun batsman, and stomped all over a lazy Indian performance in the final.

I remember that day because it was one of those rare occasions the patented Fleming Frown disappeared, at least for a while.

"Why couldn't I be Australian". © Getty

2002 - The Rise of Young India 
Some trash was tossed, a bunch of young swashbucklers came in, and combined with some old pros India suddenly had a team that was worthy of challenging the world. Sehwag blew England away, Yuvraj and Bhajji stole it from the Saffa's and it was them and the Sri Lankan's left to face off in the final...

... which turned out to be a farce rivalling the shameful 2007 World Cup Final. After a first day washout with one full innings they chose to replay the game, only for another washout, with one full innings. Sri Lanka batted twice, India didn't bat at all. The series was tied and stupidity was the only winner.

2004 - The West Indies Miracle
They should never have won this, but somehow the West Indies fought back from 147-8 with no real batsmen left to chase down 217 and steal it from England, who did the hard work of dispatching Australia. That 8th wicket partnership was famous, but the manic celebrations that followed were the stuff of legend. Oh West Indies we missed you, too bad this was a flash in the pan and they went into hiding again.

2006 - The West Indies Implosion
This time the West Indies went absolutely crazy, mainly none other than Chris Gayle. His list of achievements included:

  • Giving Michael Clarke a verbal spray about second class citizens
  • Hurling the ball over the keeper for free overthrows
  • Hopping about left and right and circling the air after bowling out Symonds 
  • Easing to a bizarrely sedate century against England
  • Smashing South Africa out of the tournament with another century
  • Most runs, four man of the match awards and man of the tournament
"Earl Grey or English Breakfast?" © Getty

It got really weird in the final as he went on to blitz the world's best bowling attack all around the place, leading them to 80 runs in the first 8 overs. "Unfinished business" he said, and after their pool play victory they looked set to win it all.

Unfortunately the business went into liquidation once Bracken bowled the ball of the tournament, and the slide that followed was one of the many famous Calypso Collapso's (described in full here). Australia had finally won one of these tournaments.

2009 - The Forgettable One
A much quieter affair this time as most teams fought evenly and intriguingly at first, but were blown away with ease by Australia, depressingly leading the pack miles ahead of the rest much like the 2007 World Cup. A plucky New Zealand lot emerged from the ashes and worked their way into the final, but a Vettori injury sealed that fate swiftly.

2013 - So Who Will Win This Time?
Let's have some predictions:
  • Chris Gayle will go crazy at least once.... and then fail when it really matters.
  • South Africa will lose a game they should have won.
  • Sri Lanka's middle order will let them down
  • India will collapse spectacularly, during which Kohli will yell at someone and Dhoni will remain not out
  • Pakistan will come with a hiss and a roar, but will quietly disappear.
  • Australia will fail miserably (I predicted this before the 65 all out)
  • England will scratch their heads still not realizing they are not as good as they think they are.

This leaves my winner.... NEW ZEALAND. 

Yes I'm calling it; the humble land of the long white cloud will claim their second title and shall forever remain ICC Trophy Champions.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Oh Black Caps... How Ye Flatter to Deceive

It was a cool winters evening in New Zealand and here I was, a humble supporter tuning into the late night cricket, brimming with optimism at the prospect of chasing down a reachable 239 to achieve glorious victory at Lords.  We had come fresh of a hard fought 0-0 stalemate at home with the 'moral victory' (if such a thing counts for anything at all), the apple was ripe for the picking to give it back to the motherland at no other than the home of cricket itself.

Mere minutes later alas, it was 29-6 at lunch and I amongst the few cheering the visitors on had no choice but to cave in and choose the infinitely more comforting warmth of the bedsheets.

What happened?

It seems we were due for a moment of madness after three and a half tests worth of quality cricket, which is usually about three and a half more than what is normally produced. Despite all the doom and gloom that has triggered memory loss amongst most fans for the months before this ill fated match, there is room for optimism.

1. Captain B-Mac
There were all sorts of shenanigans during the Ross Taylor vs Brendon McCullum saga as the battle between the humble crowd favourite and the cocky aggressor raged on. Every armchair critic and talk back caller had an ill opinion usually directed against the latter due to the poor handling of Taylor.

Seriously, you want this guy?  © Getty

But it is the latter who prevailed, and dare I say for the better. Yes he is cocksure and smarmy, but he's also an innovator as opposed to a reactor. When he came on board things started happening, he and Hesson have ensured us consistent selections, an aggressive mini-Australian attitude and the best use of McCullum with the bat, with middle order blasts as opposed to all or nothing approach when opening.

Under him we have seen an ODI series victory in South Africa and the 8th ranked black caps giving it to the 2nd ranked English. We needed a leader, not a nice guy. Yes we have seen a fair amount of crap with it, but ranging between extremes is still better than a constant hopeless lull of mediocrity.

2. An actual fast bowling unit
We can thank our bowling coach Shane Bond for this one. How is it that a nation of green tops couldn't produce seamers for years? Perhaps they were always there but we didn't know how to unearth them (or in the case of Neil Wagner, import them from South Africa). Suddenly we have three seamers with a bit of pace to go with their swing ability and we have Tim Southee bowling like a spearhead and not a buffoon with a big mouth.

Most importantly from a New Zealand perspective they are young and fit, the keyword being fit as Kiwi bowlers break down faster than Auckland's public transport.

3. What about the batsman?
Kane Williamson is a class act and will be the best thing we have produced since sliced bread and Martin Crowe. We have the hit and miss whackjobs of Taylor and McCullum but honestly little else. The others will have their days along with a few too many off days along side that. And when they all have an off day... well that is when 68 all out happens.

The Bottom Line
New Zealand will not be #8 for long, mark my words.  This is slowly becoming the best test team we have produced since the days of the early 2000s when we were sticking it to the Aussies and the English through Nathan Astle mutilating cricket balls and Shane Bond cricket bails.

So heres to better days than day 4 at Lords 2013.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Jesse Ryder - When Sport Crosses the Line

At the time of writing, Jesse Ryder is fighting for his life after a completely cowardly and baseless attack by a group of terrible individuals. It is a dark day in international cricket, and it is not the first. One of the alleged and completely senseless reasons behind this is that it was possibly a "Jesse Hate Fight", which brings up the crux of this matter.

How far is too far? When does being a sports fan cross the line to sheer madness? It baffles me that somebody could possible justify a hate fight over a sport. I would call myself a cricket fan, that doesn't mean I would ever make it a personal issue regarding international cricketers and I am sure the vast majority fall into this category. It is the minority we have to address here, this is where we draw the line between fan and fanatic.

Violence in cricket isn't anything new, we saw the tragic murder of coach Bob Woolmer in 2007 and the Sri Lankan team bus attacked in Pakistan in 2009, remembering that the entire team barely escaped with their lives. We constantly see in India street riots, the burning of effigies, players' homes attacked. What did any of that ever achieve? What drives people to resort to such lunacy over what is after all only a game?

© Getty
I remember when Ryder began his international career as somewhat of a cult hero after batting well against England, on the back of criticism of being overweight from Adam Parore (not exactly known for his wisdom). Then we were hit with the bombshell of Ryder's drinking problems, which I admit tainted my image of his as a sports star. But not as a person.

Somewhere along the way we all forget that sports stars are humans too. Sports serves only as entertainment, a fantasy world with gladiatorial like qualities. It is easy to be sucked in and start believing all the on-field drama as reality, at the end of the day it is a game and nothing more. Players get together and shake hands and walk off as friends, only the fans continue to drive the bitter and false rivalry.

Ryder is one of us, a mere mortal with very real problems. He simply needed support and care which he got, and was well on his way to making an international return. What happened to him is truly tragic.

Hopefully he will show the same power and fight we saw from him on the field.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Understanding the Calypso Collapso

Cricket often has some strange and unexplained phenomenon, for example:
  • How Ajit Agarkar can get a century at Lords.
  • How Michael Yardy was allowed to play international cricket.
  • Why somebody would pay Glenn "The Big Show" Maxwell one million bucks.

But there is one cricketing mystery that continuously trumps them all, one team that can truly define the term enigma in their consistently baffling pursuits on the cricket pitch. This is none other than the West Indies.

Rewind about 30 years and these guys used to be absolutely unstoppable. They practically invented swagger, power cricket and tasteful arrogance. Some stonewalled all day while, others bludgeoned bowlers for fun, and they had a seemingly never ending assembly line of fast bowlers and swashbucklers. 

Until it well... ended.

© Getty

Most teams around the world are right on top or consistently crap, but how many can slide from one to the other in the very same match? There is no doubt that the West Indies are the undisputed king of collapses. Lets take a look back and analyse the concept of "The Calypso Collapso".

Some of the best

But that's just the beginning...

The Top 3 West Indies Hall of Shame

Chris Gayle claimed that he had 'unfinished business' leading into the match and responded by carting about everyone in sight including a 6-4-4 off none other than Glenn McGrath. The West Indies were flying at 10 an over when Nathan Bracken bowled the delivery of the tournament and sent Gayle back, and the rest of the lot stood around confused and clueless. And that includes Brian Lara who managed 2 off 18 deliveries.
Collapse = 58-8
Chasing a sizeable but gettable 279, Chanderpaul and Gayle went absolutely berserk and flayed 92 off 83 balls and 58 off 46 balls respectively. Australia were in a state of rare haplessness as in the strangest of situations Chanderpaul had romped to 50 when Gayle was on 9. It didn't last of course and Chanderpaul's departure left a pretty easy task of 106 required at four an over with 8 wickets in hand. They got 29.
Collapse = 29-9
And the biggest disgrace of all. They had Australia at 4-15 including Taylor, Ponting and both the Waughs, and even still Australia managed to somehow limp to 207. Chanderpaul and Lara were making light work of it until they fell and the inspired tactic of sending tail-enders Gibson and Harper backfired spectacularly. Richie Richardson stood alone at 49 not out and a World Cup final went begging. They never made the World Cup Semi Final even once since then.
Collapse = 37-8

Somebody call my shrink... again   © Getty

And I thought after the World T20 victory these guys were on the way back up.

Life is tough as a West Indies fan.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The 'Exciting' Future of Domestic T20 Cricket

It was a lovely morning when the president of the ICC woke up from a morning slumber greeted with a warm cup of mocha, and a personal letter outlining yet another amazingly successful T20 competition. This letter was from his Technical Advisor of Cricketing Innovations, the mastermind behind the IPL concept, super-subs and overseas cheerleaders.

It raised very real concerns about the future of our beloved T20 sport...

As successful as this newest, dominant brand of cricket is, we as innovators must continue to be one step ahead of the game and the fans, and ensure that we secure the future of our exciting brand. The gradual takeover of ODI and Test cricket is all but sealed, but our job is not done, our game needs more pop, more zing and more buzz, and here how we are going to do it:

One League to Rule Them All!
We combine the IPL, SLPL, BPL, BBL, EAPL, C20, A20 and HRV... and create what I call the "League of Leagues"... or "LOL" if you will. This will be a bi-annual six month event (see what I did there!) featuring ten teams from each league in a league of its own, producing a league table topper or 'league champion' for the league as well as 'league runner up' from each league.

These two teams from each league will form the LOL Champions League. It will feature a round robin which will produce a 'super league champion' before running into the playoffs section featuring the top 8 teams called the 'gold team league play-offs'. All (yes all) the remaining loser teams will be divided into 'silver team league play-offs' and 'wooden team league play-offs' to ensure nobody feels left out, and we will have three LOL champions every year and these three will play each other in a winner take all to unveil the 'platinum super league champion'.

More Exciting Teams!
Each team will forcibly consist of 4 local superstars, one of which will be the 'icon' player (obviously the most famous guy) who will also be the captain by default and he can never ever leave his team, ever. One of these five local superstars must be over 40, and one must be under 15. The rest of the team will be made up of 3 overseas superstars, 1 american baseball player, 1 Bollywood celebrity, 1 lucky lucky winner of the weekly LOL draw and 1 cheerleader.  The point is that we reach all possible target audiences.

Also, every team has a designated 'traitor' who can switch sides with the other 'traitor' at any stage of any game. This will really spice up the contest and in particular freshen up existing rivalries and create new ones in the process. For the first time we have the very real possibility of a superstar smashing a century to beat his first century!

More Runs!
We want more big hits, and there is an alarming number of sub 200 scores and lack of centuries in the current game. The situation is simply unacceptable, so I propose:

  • Free hits are an underarm lob that must not bounce on the pitch at all. These can happen in the event of a front foot no ball, a back foot no ball, a left foot no ball, wides, byes, leg byes, bye byes, causing the batsman to miss the ball completely, and bowling over 140kph.
  • A batsman missing the ball or scoring zero runs penalizes the batting team 2 runs.
  • If the ball is hit in the air for longer than four seconds, it is automatically a six and he cannot be out caught. Each stadium will have a huge 'shot clock' to time these.
  • Two fielders during power play overs, period.

More Drama!
A tied match will now feature a dance-off between the two bollywood celebrities of each team. Their performances will be ranked by the live audience who will each be given a key pad to cast their votes. The results will be updated on the big screen in *real time*.


There will be 24x7 footage in the player dressing rooms as well as microphones to ensure we really get behind the scenes. Each week will also feature a 'spotlight player' who will be followed around all week to really get into the lifestyle and what it means to be a cricket superstar. We are also talking about weekly DVDs for fans to forever cherish their favourite off-the-field moments.

There will be an opening ceremony, a closing ceremony, a mid season street parade and fortnightly match parties. I have already talked to the local councils regarding the parades and they are already expressing their interest!


These are just some of the MANY ideas my committee of fifty have short listed, and believe me there will be more to come. Our strength as you know is our ability to innovate with edgy, crisp and new-age concepts. I look forward to hearing your feedback and can't wait to execute our new plans.

Having finished the letter and the mocha, the president of the ICC could only reflect upon the amazing talents at his disposal, he thought the game of cricket had seen it all and yet there is just so much untapped potential.

He can take comfort in knowing the future of cricket is in safe hands.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The 2013 Cricket Wish List

I'm not sure who this letter is addressed to, the ICC? The Cricketing Gods? Santa?

Whoever it may be, I have been a good cricket fanatic last year and I feel I am entitled to see the metaphorical stockings hanging over my fireplace filled with cricketing goodies. So here goes then, my wish list:

1. New Zealand Survive 5 Days
An administrators nightmare, the recent South Africa series had whole days featuring an empty stadium. Wouldn't it be nice to see my home country not embarrass ourselves and actually survive the new ball, build a real innings and not concede 500 all the time? South Africa didn't even bother sledging as Vernon Philander aptly put it, "I don't think you have to say much if they are 45 all out".

Ouch. © AFP

What will probably happen: 
I may get my wish but only because the Black Caps made friends with some rain clouds.

2. The DRS Finally Stays
I wish that the ICC grow up and start doing their actual job. This involves a kick up BCCI's backside and using our god given technological powers for the good of our beloved sport. If Dhoni was correctly given out yesterday's match would have had a whole new complexion. The days of dodgy umpiring dictating a match are over, or at least should be.

What will probably happen: 

3. The Champions Trophy is a Hit
I am in a minority but I actually like the 50 over tournament which works nicely as a quick-smart world cup event, bringing all the world teams together a bit more regularly than four years. Its only 15 games and it takes less than a month, if we can fit the IPL we can fit this.

What will probably happen: 
I will be writing an obituary for the Champions Trophy in June.

4. The IPL Flops
Which brings me to this. The IPL has run its course now as the guilty pleasure form of cricket and needs to take a firm back seat, especially after the way its mutilated Indian cricket. With the downfall of that dreaded team should come the downfall (or at least watering down) of this too-frequent annual event which dead halts all meaningful cricket for a month.

What will probably happen: 
Money talks unfortunately, business shall continue.

5. The West Indies Deliver
Its about time we saw a strong West Indies and finally they have eleven men who can actually do it. They have a willing leader, Chris Gayle, adequate support for Chris Gayle, real all-rounders, a quality spinner and some decent (but not great) quicks. We haven't seen this in about fifteen years and their time has finally come. First stop, Australia.

What will probably happen: 
Gayle gets injured, Samuels gets banned at the wrong time and therefore they lose the matches that matter.

6. Somebody Drops Gambhir
I should get this wish pretty shortly. Has anyone had a more blessed run after nearly two years of nothing in every form of the game? Well, he has contributed his big mouth with his "we'll see you at home" tirade after getting towelled in Australia. Fat lot of good that did son.

What will probably happen: 
Your guess is as good as mine with Indian selectors. He'll make a century soon (in India of course and after offering two dropped catches) and the feeble minded administrators will jump for joy at what a fine player he is. He'll secure his selection for another six months and then run himself out on 101.

Bring it on 2013!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Finally Some Real India-Pakistan Cricket

Last year we saw the two biggest rivals clash in what should have been the semi-final all cricket fans dream of.  But we instead got a dog's breakfast of a match where both teams were more interested in smiling like clowns and dropping catches at a rate that would make Akmal proud.

Fast forward about a year and we had Virat in the middle of his purple patch (remember that?) blasting Pakistan away with his "future of Indian cricket" form. His celebration alone showed us exactly what an Indo-Pakistan match is all about, passion, pride, bruised ego's and a uncompromising will to win.  This was followed by an enthusiastic but much too short encounter in the T20 World Cup.

And now, we finally have what we have been waiting for... this is the first *real* tour in five years and already it has wasted no time delivering exactly what has been expected. Some of the highlights then:

1. Throwing Toys of the Pram
After the classic Prasad vs Sohail gambit there has been too few moments where tempers really waned and the opposition gave each other a good old fashioned spray. Boy was I glad to see the Ishant perching over Akmal like an irate giraffe who had his lunch money stolen.

"That's Mr Giraffe to you" © AFP

2. Blowing Away Top Orders
This would make even the big bad wolf proud.

3. Staunch Resistance
The man I love to hate produced a true gem to rescue India from the hopeless (yes there you go, a rare Dhoni compliment).  Finest innings of his career.

4. New Heroes
Where the hell did Bhuvaneshwar Kumar come from? If Zaheer Khan's bizarre axing resulted in this kid, so be it. Finally an Indian bowler who can actually swing the ball and bowls with a cricketing brain. This country in its history has produced only three quick of proper quality, do we have a fourth?

But not all is rosy...

No Tendulkar?
Life is just not the same without him really. I was calling for his retirement earlier but I am surprised he called it before this tour and especially in one day cricket. Surely there is no greater stage set up for one last hurrah? He could have walked out there and gone ballistic, given it to his arch rivals one last time. That's what I call going out with a bang! Not to be.

No Test Matches?
This will be over before you can blink, too bad that after two more ODI matches and this clash will be done.

But lets savour those two matches then shall we?