Friday, December 28, 2012

Broken Fingers and Hands - MCG 2012

Mitchell Johnson produced 2 brutal deliveries as he broke the hands of Kumar Sangakkara and Prasanna Jayawardene in the Boxing Day Test at MCG. Its nothing new for Mitch as Greame Smith will vouch!!

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Straight Hair Experiments

"Tell me your craziest, whackiest, wildest experimental idea to get Perfect Straight Hair!!"

Declared Miss Shilpa turning to her students. Stunned at what they saw on the blackboard, the students exchanged surprised looks with each other. Murmurs were heard around the class.

"What is wrong with Miss Shilpa?''... "Is she out of her mind?"

Unmoved by the glares, Miss Shilpa continued, ''Each student will get one chance and the best idea will get a prize from me.''

A teacher of the higher secondary, everything about Miss Shilpa was beautiful – her way of teaching, her personna, her expressions, her speech - Everything except her hair! Her hair were an ugly cross between wavy and curly, all entangled into one another befitting a crow’s nest! Her students called it ‘The Maggi Noodles’, they even shared jokes on it.

Shilpa knew about this activity but always took it sportingly albeit with a pain in the heart. How much she pined for the day when she could stroke her fingers through her perfectly straight tresses! Though stringency was not in her nature but she was also not the one to give up so easily and hit upon an idea.

Why not ask a solution from the students themselves?

To add more weight to her plan, she added a 'Prize' for the best proposition. Yes, that would bring out the best of the students!

She was right. The next day, the moment she uttered the word ‘prize’, she saw the ears stand and the heads turn.

Miss, Miss… me, I have an idea, Miss I have one!

Thus began a fun activity with students giving ideas one by one, starting from the first bench.

Anil - Touch a live wire and the hair, no matter how curly or wavy, will all stand on it’s end. Though its risky but it will get the job done nice and quickly.

Kriti - If you stay with your mother, make her angry. When my mother is angry she often pulls my hair which, I think, helps them straighten!

The entire class burst out laughing as Shilpa, given that Kriti indeed had perfectly straight hair, was left wondering if it was indeed a viable option after all!

Kamal - Take some Plaster of Paris and apply it on to your hair from top to bottom. As the plaster sets and hardens, let it remain for some days (or weeks). Then break open the mould and your hair will be cast perfectly straight! You can also use black cement instead of PoP for better effects!

Vidhi - Tie golf balls at the ends of your hair (after tying chunks of hair together) and keep them on for some days. The pressure should result in straight hair!!

Rakesh - Watch our current Cricket team play! Their utterly dismal performances will automatically make your hair stand at its ends, thus straightening them. Or just listen to our captain Dhoni's out-of-the-box excuses even as we keep loosing matches. This will also do an excellent job!

Jeeshan - These days everyone is talking about space tours being a real possibility! Well as you told us yesterday Mam, Pluto has only 8% gravitational force as compared to earth. So if you can somehow reach there, your hair will all float thus straightening themselves because of such low gravitational pull. The effect will most probably be temporary but we can still give it a shot! Who knows, the hair might remain straight even after you return to our planet earth!

Shilpa, for a moment forgot all about her hair and felt proud that her teaching had been drilled so well into the mind of her student!

Poonam - Watch horror movies like Paranormal Activity, The Exorcist, Psycho, The Grudge, The Ring etc. Watch these movies all alone in the dead of the night when everything is quiet around you and make sure to switch off all lights while watching. You can even watch them on a loop for better results. This will make your hair raise on its ends and soak in a hair raising experience. But beware, don't watch Bollywood horror movies, they are more like comedy!

Shilpa could feel the hair at the end of her neck standing (she was really scared of horror movies) and felt that this would be good, that is, if she did not suffer from an heart attack during the movie.

Karan was quick to interrupt - It would be better to visit a cemetery in the dead of the night, all alone, instead of watching horror movies! It would definitely be a hair raising experience and whats more, it is absolutely free!

Roshan - Take a huge piece of plastic (preferably a plastic rod) and rub it furiously on a woolen cloth. Then bring it closer to you hair. It will attract your hair because of static energy and your hair will straighten if you repeat the process diligently for a few weeks!

Vinay - Try solving mathematics problems day in and day out, continuously without any break whatsoever. I am sure you will be pulling out your hair within 24 hours thus helping them to straighten!

Chandini - If you want a simple yet fool proof solution to straighten your hair I will suggest you to use the Sunsilk Solution to get the Perfect Straight Hair.

"Shilpa... Shilpa"

The fun reverie was suddenly interrupted by a loud call.

The sun is already up on the horizon, you will get late for your classes.

Shilpa strained her droopy eyelids; her mind had played the entire sequence of yesterday’s classroom events yet again. She gazed at the brand new bottle of Sunsilk Solution for perfect straight hair visible in the far distance. She smiled and thanked Chandini from her heart… very soon she would be living her dreams.

PS - This Contest is sponsored by Sunsilk and is held at Indiblogger. Check out the contest page here. You can vote for my entry here - The Straight Hair Experiments

PPS - Please do not try any of these experiments at home except the last one suggested by Chandini!!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

And There Ends The Vengeance

A Special Guest Post from my friend Leo (Vinay) who writes wonderful poems, stories and haikus at his space - I Rhyme Without Reason and is an ardent cricket fan...

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Hype. That was what I felt when the ads of the soon-to-start England tour of India began to air on multiple channels. The ads were an insult to the talent the English team possessed, and one which, having home advantage, India underestimated. It was touted as the revenge series, four test matches which would show why India's blip, the whitewash of 4-0 against the same opposition, was nothing but a bump in the road of the world champions. Come to think of it, I personally am not going to refer to them as that any more. It seems to be, and probably is, an excuse and a reason to brush off any loss, or series of losses that the Men in Blue come by. 

I think ego comes a lot into play when I see India play nowadays. The fact that they have a brilliant home record always seems to affect their play, and affect their selection for that matter. Be it the BCCI or our charismatic (?) captain MS Dhoni, ego seems to be a problem. You'd think one test match was proof enough to show this wasn't going to be a walk in the park. England's second innings resistance at Motera was the signal to the Men in Blue that be wary of the English Lions. Though the match went in India's favor, it was in no way one sided, and whatever the pitch did or didn't do, it got 5 days of enthralling cricket. From the four pitches, it perhaps ranked the best, and the performance of Pujara and Ojha in particular impressed. Apart from Pujara, the batting held no plus points, and once again, the future of the out-of-form players like Sachin, Sehwag, Gautam, Yuvi, Zaheer and MS Dhoni was called into question. Yet it was, as usual, met with resistance from BCCI who retained the squad for the next match as well.

Fitness is called into question during every series, I agree, but I think calling for a super-spinning pitch so the match couldn't go into 5 days was showing off, underestimating England's ability to play spin right from the get go. To top that, India went with 3 spinners to complement Zaheer as the lone pacer. Would all that help notch another win and the series? No. That was an emphatic no. Panesar and Swann together notched 9 wickets between them on a spinning track to restrict India to 327. Had it not been for Pujara and Ashwin (yes, a spin bowler), India wouldn't have had even half that score. Even at the end of India's first innings, the onus lay with England. Surely, Indian spinners could thrive on a spinning track in home conditions? No. Another emphatic no. England's batting prowess played with patience, and accumulated a high score, taking their lead to just over 80. India had to battle for a day atleast to get a solid lead. If England, unfamiliar and mostly uncomfortable with subcontinental pitches could bat with patience, India definitely could. They had the batting strength to do it. But Panesar had other ideas, as by the end of day 3, India had been reduced to a paltry 117 for 7. a lead of just over thirty, with two days to hold England off, and their batsmen all returning to the pavilion for single digit scores. Ashwin (yes, a spin bowler) managed 11, and Gambhir for the most part, battled with a patient fifty. Panesar who had 5 in the first innings, went one better with 6 in the second. India folded for a meager 142, leaving England with well over a day and a half to notch 58 runs. Easy work. They did so with ease, by ten wickets, and calls once again resounded for a change in the line-up, dropping of out of form players, and yes, the retirement of the little master. 

India's battling batting lineup had misfired with much gusto, yet no change was seen in the attitude of the captain, or the BCCI, who selected the same lineup. The only change was including Ishant for Harbhajan Singh. India continued to underestimate the Englishmen, and much controversy resulted in the days prior to the game, with MSD's demand for a spinning pitch similar to Mumbai being pushed through, even against the will of the curator. Batting first, India made a lowly 316. The headlines on the second day morning read, "Tendulkar answers his critics". Really? Scores of 13, 8, 8 prior to this innings, a patient 76 wasn't indicative of form, of any kind. One score in the fifties was enough to satisfy the media and the nation atleast. Gambhir continued atleast his run of some form with another fifty. But if anyone was in form, it was Panesar. Another 4 wicket haul for the in-form spinner. If India was hoping for an English collapse, they had another thing coming. Top 4 English batsmen made past the fifty mark, and Cook took it to their spinners, going till 190 before a quite unfortunate leave saw him run out. England played on, and went to 523. A lead of 206. India behind the 8 ball. If it was spin that made the difference in the first innings, pace did in the second. India folded cheaply again. The out of form batsmen continued their form, Tendulkar gone for 5, Pujara unfortunately getting run out for no fault of his (Gambhir getting a second partner run out in as many innings). At one stage, India were 159 for 7, and an innings loss looming. It was Ashwin (yes, a spin bowler) who put up his hand, and struck 91 to get England a target of 41. It wasn't going to challenge England. After a couple of early hiccups, England strolled home, and were now leading 2-1 in the series. Cue those calls agin for the out of form players.

BCCI somewhat took a stand, or so the media said. "Axed" from the squad were Harbhajan (he didn't play in Kolkata though), Yuvraj (why was he there in the first place?) and Zaheer (one sane axing). Incoming players were Parwinder Awana (he was just named), Piyush Chawla (another spinner? what for?) and Ravindra Jadeja (two triple hundreds in the domestic season). People were somewhat satisfied. But I ask... Dhoni wasn't in form, one fifty in much innings, and captaincy that was no longer cool. Tendulkar had one fifty plus score, and 4 scores below twenty. That's no form either. Why weren't they dropped? If anyone was in batting form, it was Pujara, Ashwin (see the irony) and Gambhir (atleast he got consistently past forty). India needed a win, a must win game in Nagpur. Would these changes make a difference? 

On a slow track, England felt uncomfortable against 4 spinners. (Yes, India went one better with playing Chawla, Jadeja, Ojha and Ashwin). But patience from Pietersen, Root and Prior saw England end Day 1 at 199/5 and then Swann's blitz on the morning of day 2 got England past 300 with a final total of 330. On the slow track, where runs were hard to come by, it was a chance for the Indians to be patient and take a big lead, but Anderson got 3 and Swann 1 to leave India at 87/4 at the end of day 2. Sehwag and Tendulkar had their mid stump uprooted and for scores of 0 and 1. India's chances were slim, but Kohli and Dhoni finally showed a resistance to the collapse, and stitched together a partnership. India managed to go the entire 3rd day without losing all their wickets, and ended day 3 at 298/7, just 33 behind. All logic called for an immediate declaration, giving their rested bowlers a shot at the English batsmen, and Dhoni opted not to. India ate a little more into the lead, declaring at 326/9, one hour into day 4. For any chance at a win, India needed quick inroads into the English top order. They got it courtesy two howler of decisions from umpires Dharmasena and Tucker, the former giving Cook out caught behind when the ball was nowhere near the bat, and the latter giving Compton leg before when there was an inside edge. The latter one was agreeable, coz it was caught anyways. but India couldn't capitalize, and England got through the day to 161/3 and then batted out the rest of the match, with Trott and Bell completing hundreds. Dhoni's decisions are again under scrutiny. Jadeja (in the team for his batting) got more overs than Ashwin in the first innings, and nearly the same in the second innings. Though he was miserly, it didn't help in taking wickets.

This was touted as a revenge series, yet after 4 matches, this series can only be called the continuation of the nPower 4-0 whitewash. England winning 2-1 in the subcontinent is as good as winning 4-0 in England, if not better. This series calls for change in the lineup, and wholesale ones at that. It is about time either Tendulkar thought of retirement, or the selectors spoke to him and put country ahead of player. I understand his not wanting to go out when he was on top form, but he isn't in form and that's affecting the team. I am the first to agree, respect and honor the record he has in world cricket, it is one that will be unmatched for a long long time, but the more time he stays out of form, the more time we are losing to blood youth like Robin Bist, Badrinath and Rahane. One score of 99 in the series isn't enough to put past what Dhoni didn't do in the other innings. That, plus his decisions like playing 3 and 4 spinners, demanding spinning tracks and openly questioning Gambhir's form and calling him selfish one day before the decisive test (when he himself was in no excellent form) affected the team's morale too. Gambhir and Sehwag are openers who are lacking in form. "Sehwag will play like Sehwag" is no longer an excuse to keep him at the top, and Gambhir has had blotches too. No longer can Zaheer be called India's spearhead, that baton must now be passed to the likes of Ishant and Yadav. If you ask me "Have we found the replacements for Tendulkar or Dhoni that you tell they must go?" I ask you, "How long will we keep hunting? How will we know Bist or Badri or Rahane aren't the replacements if we don't give them the chance at the highest level?" No. This isn't the time to keep them on so we can "look for replacements". We have been looking long enough, now it is time to act. 

This final test at Nagpur has now ended the vengeance. If instead of touting it as a vengeance series, we focused on playing excellent cricket and on balanced, challenging tracks, this furore might not have happened. It is our pride, and a false one at that, that we are unbeatable on Indian pitches which led to our downfall. Next time, when we play the Aussies, it should be cricket that takes the centre stage, not a revenge for the 4-0 whitewash down under. Else Australia can, and yes they have the strength for it, beat us as well. It's time for change, and it's high time BCCI realized that and stopped hiding from the issues that need to be sorted out.

Friday, December 7, 2012

India go from Bad to Worse...

England tour of India, 3rd Test: India v England at Kolkata, Dec 5-9' 2012

DAY 3

Day 2 ends with England still 100 adrift India's total of 316. England have 9 wickets in hand but if India can snaffle a couple of wickets early then anything can happen. A collapse is always lurking around on these Indian pitches. With these thoughts I sleep yesterday, possibly even dreaming of a come-from-behind Indian victory.

What a fool I was!! The morning session came and went, India remained wicketless. The misery piled on for the fans. Cook reached yet another 150, Trott got to his 50, the 100 stand was raised which soon reached 150!!! The fielding was ragged, bowling mediocre and the captain looked like he would better be on a vacation then on the field. Trott got out sweeping. Cook fell as he tried to evade a throw from Kohli, a lucky break for the Indian team. It was a splendid innings from Captain Cook as he entered the record books as the English batsman with most centuries. Its astounding that he already has 23 tons at an age of just 27!!!

Yuvraj came on as KP strode out to the crease but all he did was chuck a few pie's at the batsman which were gobbled with much delight and relished with joy!! Meanwhile Ashwin who had proclaimed before the series that he had a magic delivery to unleash on the English completed his very own 150!! The delivery has magically stayed away and he has only a couple of wickets in his last 250 odd overs!!! Zaheer might have lost the pace and venom in his bowling but he effectively retains the irritating habit of opening his mouth to have a chat with the batsman whenever he bowls a good ball once in every 20 overs. I still remember him sledging Gilchrist and Hayden in the opening over of the 2003 WC and being taken to the cleaners. He is yet to learn his lesson. My all time favorite fast bowler, Curtly Ambrose, never sledged. When the team came back after tea and was in a huddle, MSD probably cracked a joke because I saw everyone having a nice little chuckle. When your team is struggling to effect even one breakthrough, this sort of a thing looks extremely bad.

The day ended with England almost 200 ahead and still have the last 4 wickets in hand. I yesterday talked of a miracle saving India. The miracle men, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid, sadly no longer play for the Indian team. The inspirational captain, Sourav Dada Ganguly, has also retired and is now seen in the commentary box. Perhaps the seasons for miracles is long over.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

English Skipper Cooks up his 3rd Comp(ertable)ton on a Trott!!

England tour of India, 3rd Test: India v England at Kolkata, Dec 5-9' 2012

DAY 1

Dhoni won yet another important toss on day 1 of the third test at the Eden Gardens and as expected had no hesitation in deciding to bat first. The ball was moving a bit but the first wicket was gifted to England on a platter when Virender Sehwag was left stranded as he steamed down for a comfortable 3rd run. Gambhir was the culprit as it was an easy three. This, while he himself has not scored a century for India in tests for almost 3 years now!! Yes, 3 long years!! How and why the Indian selectors are still persisting with him is beyond me. And when they replace either Sehwag/ Gambhir (due to injury) they pick the useless M Vijay. When will guys like Rahane and Mukund get a chance??

Pujara had a rare failure as Sachin strode out amidst huge pressure. He was keen on defense and looked resolute to turn the corner. Gambhir fell after a scratchy fifty (hope it does not guarantee him a place as the opening batsmen for another 10 tests!!) and Kohli failed yet again in the series. Sachin opened up a bit after tea and eventually fell for 76, his first fifty in the last 10 months!!!

Yuvraj, after surviving a lbw shout that would have uprooted the middle stump while he was still on duck and another when he had a solitary run made 32. Dhoni, playing as ungainly as he does against the spinners, barely survived until stumps were called for with India at 273/7.

DAY 2

India were all out for 316 even as MSD eked out a painful fifty.

England openers Cook and Compton began extremely cautiously as England made just 20 odd runs off the first 11 overs. That was only the calm before the storm that was to follow. After lunch both Compton and Cook began to look out for runs, and runs they got!!

The Indian spinners looked as far away from picking up a wicket as a tourist is far away from water in the arid Sahara!! The fielding looked school boyish and the captaincy bereft of any new ideas. Cook reached yet another fifty, the hundred stand was raised, Compton got his fifty too, the one fifty stand soon ensued before Cook completed the annihilation his customary hundred!!! Compton finally departed with the English score reading 165.

Cook and Trott then rubbed it in further and were involved in an unbeaten 50 run stand of their own when stumps were finally called, much to India's relief!! England ended the day on 216/1, just 100 behind India.

India needs a miracle at the Eden in the next couple of days or else the scoreline will be 2-1 to England after 3 tests.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The New Sherlock Holmes Novel - The House Of Silk

Well, to begin the post let me tell you that this is the first time that I will be reviewing a book. I have reviewed many cricket matches and teams/players but this is well and truly a first for me, so please bear with me.

I came across 'The New Sherlock Holmes Novel - The House Of Silk' while I was just lumbering around in a book store recently. Though I would have never given the book a second glance as it is my belief that no one could re-create the magic and aura of a best selling novel other then the original author itself but the impressive cover made me pick up the book. It has a black background with little droplets of blood, scattered along and near the spine of the book. The second thing that caught my eye was that this book has been given the backing of Conan Doyle Estate, certainly a first!!!

courtesy wikipedia.org

Reading the outer back cover further drew me in.

It is November 1890 and London is gripped by a merciless winter. Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are enjoying tea by the fire when an agitated gentleman arrives unannounced at 221B Baker Street. He begs Holmes for help, telling the unnerving story of a scar-faced man with piercing eyes who has stalked him in recent weeks.

Intrigued by the man's tale, Holmes and Watson find themselves swiftly drawn into a series of puzzling and sinister events, stretching from the gas-lit streets of London to the teeming criminal underworld of Boston. As the pair delve deeper into the case, they stumble across a whispered phrase 'the House of Silk: a mysterious entity and foe more deadly than any Holmes has encountered, and a conspiracy that threatens to tear apart the very fabric of society itself.

... From the Outer Back Cover

And I was out of the book store with the book in tow a few minutes later!!

Anthony Horowitz encountered Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's work at 16 and he has been inspired by the great man and his extraordinary writing skills since then. Horowitz himself is the BAFTA award winning creator of Foyle’s War and also the author of the bestselling children’s series, Alex Rider.

The book begins with Dr Watson reflecting upon the circumstances in which he and Holmes were united at 221B Baker Street. He is reminiscing about the good old days and is penning this down after the death of Holmes as this adventure is too volatile to go to print and must be opened only after a 100 years have passed by.

The writer does an excellent job in his depiction of Watson and Holmes and their chemistry is as sizzling as ever. The descriptions of the 18th century London are done exquisitely well and once you get into the novel you can imagine how the city must have looked in the 1800's what with gas-lamps and hansoms.

The story is fast paced and keeps you involved and interested and intrigued as the events flit by and the genius of Holmes is brought to the fore regularly. Many of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original stories are referenced to at regular intervals and all the major characters are brought back to life in the most subtle manner.

The continuing cold weather and the well tended lawn had together created a perfect canvas on which all the comings and goings of the preceding twenty-four hours had been, in effect, frozen. 'There, if I am not mistaken, goes the thorough and efficient Lestrade.' There were foot-prints all around but Holmes had pointed to one set in particular.

'You cannot possibly know they are his.'

'No? The length of the stride would suggest a man of about five foot six inches in height, the same as Lestrade. He was wearing square-toed boots, such as I have often seen on Lestrade's feet. But the most damning evidence is that they are heading in quite the wrong direction, missing everything of importance - and who else could that be but Lestrade?'

The Irregulars or the Unofficial Police Force, the street urchins, are also described in a most heart rending manner and they play an ever important role in this case. I especially loved the fact that their lives are described in detail and the circumstances in which they live and work are shown.

Childhood, after all, is the first precious coin that poverty steals from a child.

The story itself is much more darker in nature and the plot is incredibly sinister then anything that we have encountered so far in any of the original works. Humor is still, efficiently infused at many places!! The fact that the book kept me gripped till the very end and the fact that I kept hoping that book never ends is a testimony to the fact that I absolutely loved reading it.

It is a Pastiche done with a lot of Panache. All in all this book does full justice to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and is a must read for any Sherlockian!!!

The Game's Afoot...

PS - My Friend Leo, after reading this review ordered the book and has reviewed it here. Do visit his blog.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hits and Misses - ICC World T20 2012, Team West Indies

West Indies

Hits

1. Marlon Samuels batted like a man possessed. His blade came down on the leather ball like a ball of fire!! He played some superb innings right through the World T20. Three 50's, including the swashbuckling 78 which he made in the Final against the home team Sri Lanka was one of the most precious innings ever to be played in a T20 match.

2. Chris Gayle was expected to destroy bowling attacks and destroy he did, and how!!! He tore into the Aussie's, not once but twice, once during the group match and once again in the all important Semi Final. When he was not taking bowlers apart, he was picking wickets or he was plucking catches out off thin air. When he was not doing any of the above he was showing his dancing skills as he performed the Gangnam dance regularly in which his team mates duly joined him!!!

3. Sunil Narine confounded the batsmen with his vast array of deliveries. He was the reason the match against the New Zealand went in to the Super Over. He also bowled memorable spells in both the Semi Final and the Final against the Australians and the Sri Lankans respectively.

4. Ravi Rampaul was almost unplayable when he bowled with the new ball. He swung the ball and bowled with pace and most importantly almost always got early wickets.

5. Darren Sammy has been criticized so many times and by so many people but he has pulled this team together. He made sure they all played for a single goal. He brought the best out off his players and did his bit too in wining the Final!!!

Misses

1.The bowling against the Australians in the group match was disappointing as they bowled boundary balls at will. The Aussie's raced to 100 in just 9 overs as West Indies lost their opening match on D/L by 17 runs.

2. It was a bad choice to open the innings with Johnson Charles. He slogged across the line and promptly got out in all the innings except one against England. Dwayne Smith, one of the cleanest strikers in the West Indian team sat on the bench.

3. Andre Russel hits the ball long and also bowls decently well but he was totally off color in the World T20 in Sri Lanka. He did get many opportunities to showcase his abundant talent but unfortunately he never made use of them.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Hits and Misses - ICC World T20 2012, Team Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka

Hits

1. Sri Lanka depended heavily on their top three of Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara in the batting department. And they all did the job perfectly. One of them almost always played an important innings and that was one of the reasons that Sri Lanka were the team to beat right through the World T20. Mahela's innings in the Semi Finals against Pakistan on a slow and low pitch which made run scoring extremely difficult was a masterclass in batting.

2. The middle order pitched in gamely when the opportunity presented itself and Jeevan Mendis and Angelo Mathews made valuable contributions against England in their last Super Eights match and also in the Semi Final against Pakistan. Lahiru Thirimanne deserves a special mention here for the incredible ramp shot that he played against New Zealand's Tim Southee in the final over to take the game into the Super Over!!!

3. Akila Dananjaya, all of 19 years, was given a game against the Kiwis and he had a memorable debut. He took a wicket in his first over but then copped a serious blow on his face as he failed to latch on to a difficult return catch off Rob Nicol. Playing with a swollen face he picked up another wicket in his last over!!! He bowled an assortment of deliveries... off breaks, leg breaks, carrom balls, googlies, the straighter ones and I loved the way he was not overawed by the situation.

4. The mystery spinner, Ajantha Mendis, made his comeback to the Sri Lankan team memorable; with the performance of this T20 as he had figures of 4-2-8-6 against the Zimbabweans. He almost repeated those stunning figures as he completed the match against the West Indians in the Final with 4-0-12-4!!!

5. Nuwan Kulasekera, Lasith Malinga and Rangana Herath all deserve a mention here. While Kulasekera was accurate with the new ball and got early wickets regularly for the Lankan Lions. Malinga bowled superbly as he defended 13 runs in the Super Over against the New Zealanders and gave away just 7 runs. He also grabbed a 5fer against England to kill their chase in another Super Eight game. Herath was called in specially to play against the Pakistan team who have a known weakness against left arm spinners. Herath duly responded with a man of the match performance!!!

Misses

1. Though the match against South Africa was reduced to a 7-7 farce but the Lankans should have won that, especially when South Africa managed only 78 off their 7 overs. To go at 11 an over for a 7 over period with all 10 wickets intact must not be that difficult a task but the Lankans struggled to even lay bat on ball as they lost by a huge margin of 32 runs!!!

2. Lasith Malinga and Ajantha Mendis blew hot and cold as both of them leaked runs. Malinga bowled the most forgetful spell of 4-0-54-0 in the final against the West Indians as Marlon Samuels absolutely laid in to him. Ajantha Mendia had horrible figures 4-0-48-1 and 4-0-40-0 against New Zealand and England respectively.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Hits and Misses - ICC World T20 2012, Team Pakistan

Pakistan

Hits

1. Though Nasir Jamshed made 3 single figure scores but he was also responsible for a couple of Pakistan wins. He started with a gem of an innings against New Zealand making 56 off just 35 balls and also made a crucial 55 off 46 balls against Australia in their last Super Eights match which ensured that Pakistan made it to the Semi Finals

2. Mohammad Hafeez made three 40's while batting and also bowled economically in all innings while also picking important wickets. He also led Pakistan team well and seemed in control for most of the times.

3. Raza Hasan, a twenty year old left arm spinner was the surprise package as he bowled with a lovely control and guile. He announced his arrival by bowling a maiden over to Jacques Kallis, one of the most accomplished players of spin going around.

4. Saeed Ajmal was not exceptional and probably underachieved of what would have been expected of him but bowled dream spells against the Australians and the Black Caps.

5. The way the two Umar's - Akmal and Gul, snatched a victory out of the jaws of defeat against South Africa in their first Super Eights match was one of the most remarkable, come from behind, victories. Pakistan were 76/7 chasing 134 but won a thriller as Gul hit the ball like a dream!!

Misses

1. Imran Nazir looked good in all the innings playing a couple of good shots but threw his wicket away most of the time. He played just 1 innings of note in the entire World Twenty20, 72 off 36 balls against Bangladesh.

2. Shahid Afridi went from Boom Boom to Bust Bust as he struggled to lay bat to ball while batting notching a couple of Golden Ducks. One of that came sadly on the 16th anniversary of his fastest ODI Hundred that he had made against Sri Lanka. And we all probably think that Afridi is still just 16!!! His bowling, which has been his stronger suit for quite some time also failed him as he struggled to either pick regular wickets or keep runs down.

3. The entire team looked so flat and so tense against arch rivals India that they seemed to be carrying the weight of the entire world on their shoulders. It turned out to be their most disappointing performances of the World Twenty20, 2012.

See the previous post's in Hits and Misses,

Team South Africa
Team New Zealand
Team England
Team India
Team Australia

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Hits and Misses - ICC World T20 2012, Team Australia

Australia

Hits

1. Who else but the Man of the Tournament Shane Watson. He did it all for the Aussie's in this World Twenty20... opened the batting, opened the bowling, took wickets when required, hit sixes at will and fielded brilliantly. He topped every conceivable list for a large part of the World Twenty20. 4 Man of the Match awards meant that there was precious little that he left for other team mates to do or achieve!! He eventually failed in the Semi Final against West Indies and Australia duly folded up without much of a fight.

2. Australia finally found a left arm pace bowler named Mitchell who could bowl with pace and more importantly control. Mitchell Starc bowled incisively at the start of the innings as he swung the ball at pace. He got early wickets and was one of the brightest stars in this ICC World Twenty20.

3. Mike Hussey was brilliant as always and he did the job required of him nonchalantly. His 54* which took Australia into the Semi Final was one of the innings of this World Twenty20. The next best score in that innings was a mere 15 as the whole Aussie line up capitulated against high quality Pakistan spin bowling on a slow and low, turning pitch.

Misses

1. The oldest player of this World T20, Brad Hogg, took just 2 wickets while playing all the games. It deprived Australia wickets in the middle of the innings. One of those wickets was against Ireland which made matters worse in the final analysis.

2. The Aussie middle order was always talked about as their weaker suit but they never got a proper hit in the middle until their final Super Eights match against Pakistan and against the West Indies in the Semi Final when Australia lost Watson and Warner early. They combusted spectacularly on both occasions going down completely without a fight. They were 5-65 and 6-43 against Pakistan and West Indies respectively and the matches were easily lost.

See the previous post's in Hits and Misses,

Team South Africa
Team New Zealand
Team England
Team India

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Hits and Misses - ICC World T20 2012, Team India

India

Hits

1. Virat Kohli once again showed why he is called one of the best batsman currently going around. His innings of 78* in the high pressure chase against arch rivals Pakistan was one of the fondest memories of the World Twenty20 for the average Indian fan.

2. The part time, almost innocuous, left arm spin of Yuvraj Singh troubled every opposition that India played against. Yuvraj bagged 8 wickets in the tournament.

3. Balaji made full use of the limited opportunities that he got and picked up 9 wickets to end up as the joint 4th highest wicket taker in this ICC World Twenty20 held in Sri Lanka.

Misses

1. India started their campaign with a scratchy win against a spirited Afghan side. The Afghan team dropped about 5 catches and gave away numerous extras but still lost the game by just 20 odd runs. Showed what might have been if all the catches had been held and exposed India's frailties.

2. The Indian openers, Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag, struggled right through the tournament and Sehwag was also dropped for a couple of games. When Sehwag was dropped, the effectiveness of the decision was offset by making Irfan Pathan to open the innings. He scratched around in both the games that he opened and India lost early momentum which they could have had if they had opened with Virat Kohli.

3. Irfan Pathan and Zaheer Khan were largely ineffective and leaked runs far too easily while they were also not able to pick early wickets.

4. India won 4 of the 5 games that they played at the World Twenty20 but one of this was against Afghanistan, another an inconsequential game against England in the group stage and one against South Africa which was won after the place in the semi final was lost!!!

5. India needed to restrict South Africa to under 122 in the last Super Eight game to make it to the Semi Final stage. The field placing was so conservative that India did not look like they were ever looking to defend 122. Fielders were placed on the boundary and singles were gifted on a platter. Ashwin's overs were kept in the bank for reasons best known to MS Dhoni. It was a brilliant showcase in 'How Not to Captain A Cricket Team'.


See the previous post's in Hits and Misses,

Team South Africa
Team New Zealand
Team England

Friday, October 12, 2012

Hits and Misses - ICC World T20 2012, Team England

England

Hits

1. The English started off with a bang as they dominated a spirited Afghan team who had run India close in their earlier encounter. It was a near perfect game for them.

2. Their number three, Luke Wright made a bright comeback to the English T20 team. He was their most spunky batsman with a couple of match winning 50's including a 99*.

3. Samit Patel came in against Sri Lanka and played spin bowling with such ease that it was difficult to imagine what would have been had he played all their games. England struggled against spin bowling right through the ICC World T20.

4. Steve Finn bowled with pace and fire upfront and was impossible to get away. He got early wickets in nearly all the games and troubled all batsmen with his disconcerting bounce and pace.

5. Eoin Morgan always came in after the fall of a couple of wickets and always when the pressure was on England, but he displayed deft touches and played some exquisite innings. His blistering 71* off just 36 balls, one of the highlights of the ICC World T20 2012, was not enough though to take England over the line against West Indies.

Misses

1. The opening pair of Craig Kieswetter and Alex Hales seemed to be participating in a mini competition of their own about who returns first to the dug out. England lost a wicket in the first over with one of the openers departing for a duck in each of their first 3 games. Things only just got better for them in the 4th game when they lost the first wicket in the 4th over. When Kieswetter was finally dropped for the final game, it was too little too late for England as they once again had a wretched start losing their in form batsman and make shift opener Luke Wright in the 3rd over.

2. The young and dynamic middle order consisting of Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow never looked settled and were found groping and prodding most of the time. They could never provide the English innings with the final thrust in the last 5-7 overs. Bairstow's painful innings of 18 off 29 must rank as one of the most disastrous innings of this World T20 as the English lost the game against the West Indies by just 15 runs.

3. The old problem of playing the spinners badly once again surfaced for the English as they played Harbhajan and Chawla in their group match against India like they were facing Murlitharan and Warne at their peak. The complete capitulation against the Indian spinners showed the world that their problems against the spinners were still not sorted out. Interestingly when they did manage to play the spinners better, they surrendered completely against pace. They lost 2 wickets in the first over of Ravi Rampaul against West Indies and then Malinga grabbed a 5fer against them a couple of games later. In both these matches they managed to play spin bowling well.

4. Jade Dernbach who is supposed to have a bag full of deliveries and variations to confound the batsmen was consistently costly. His economy rates tell a sorry tale... 6.86, 11.25, 9.5, 10.50


See the previous post's in Hits and Misses

Team South Africa
Team New Zealand

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hits and Misses - ICC World T20 2012, Team New Zealand

New Zealand

Hits

1. New Zealand started the tournament with self doubts about playing Bangladeshi spinners in their opening game but Brendan Mc Cullum waltzed his way to a sublime 123 and New Zealand were up and running in an ICC tournament once again!!

2. New Zealand were placed in the group of death with Pakistan and Bangladesh but they easily made it through to the Super Eights.

3. They once again punched well above their weight in a big tournament and dragged both the eventual finalists, Sri Lanka and West Indies, into a super over during their super eight clashes. Unfortunately they lost both of them.

4. The bowling of Tim Southee and the batting of their captain Ross Taylor were among the few plus points for the Kiwis.

Misses

1. They fluffed a chance to beat Pakistan in the group match as Ross Taylor came in so late to bat that the game had probably slipped away from their grasp by that time.

2. They did drag Sri Lanka and West Indies to the Super over during their Super eight clashes but failed to win either of them. While they found Malinga too hot to handle against the Lankans, Tim Southee completely lost the plot against Gayle and Samuels.

3. Managed to win just a single game during the World T20 and that was against Bangladesh.

4. Daniel Vettori came out of retirement to play the World Cup and help New Zealand but he was largely ineffective and looked a pale shadow of the best left arm spinner that he once was. He was ruled out with an Achilles Tendon injury in their last game.


See the previous post in Hits and Misses, Team South Africa

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hits and Misses - ICC World T20 2012, Team South Africa

Starting today, I will be reviewing the top 8 teams performances during the ICC World T20 2012 held in Sri Lanka in a series called - "Hits and Misses"

South Africa

Hits

1. The near perfect demolitions of Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka (although it was a 7-7 over lottery) in the group matches were probably the only genuine hits for the South African team in this edition of the World T20 in Sri Lanka.

2. Among the ruins of 3 Super Eight losses, the repeated stellar performances of the quicks Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel was heart warming to witness.

3. Probably knocking out India was one high that they experienced but they lost even that game by one run.

Misses

1. The biggest miss for the South Africans was probably the loss to Pakistan from a seemingly winning position. The bowlers were trashed around by Umar Gul and the South Africans started the Super Eights with a heart shattering loss.

2. The big hitting Richard Levi was in woeful form all through the tournament and he was duly dropped for the last game but it was a decision taken too late as the Africans were already out of the tournament by then.

3. It is said that a teams best batsman must face the maximum number of balls, more so in the shortest form of the game where every ball is a premium. But their best batsman, AB De Villiers often came in too late in the order to make any significant effect on the game.

Friday, October 5, 2012

My Childhood Memories of Cricket

This Guest Post comes from the wonderfully talented writer who prefers to be known as 'The Fool'. He writes at - Lucifer House Inc. In the following post he shares his trysts with cricket during his formative years.

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Bernard Shaw is known for his saying “Cricket is a game played by eleven fools and watched by eleven thousand fools”. When I call myself “The Fool”, obviously I would be one of the eleven fools or eleven thousand fools. Wouldn’t I? If you were to see me hold the bat, you can be sure I wouldn’t be one of the eleven fools even in my wildest dreams. So one of the eleven thousand at least I had to be, right? I started off about where it all began right at the beginning like Oliver Twist – the cricket cards and stuff. If you are collecting cards having pictures of cricket players on the front and their statistics on the back, isn’t it conceivable that you will take interest in the actual players themselves and their statistics? That is exactly how it happened with me.

Having managed to collect most of the cards, my interest began to fade. I found it a better idea to make the cards myself rather than depend on the limited cards that come free with bubble gums. So I began to take interest in collecting pictures of cricket players and the statistics. Obviously how can you not see the matches where the players whose pictures you are collecting are creating the statistics live? The first series I really watched with interest was 1992 World Cup. Some of the memories of the things I distinctly remember are Martin Crowe’s captaincy, Inzamam’s batting and the altercation between Kiran More and Javed Miandad. It was also a series where I saw the fading of the only star I had idolized during my hitherto days of indifference to cricket: Krishnamachari Srikanth.

For the next 4 years there was not a single match I missed. I tried playing cricket too. But it was too late an age to begin. Already many of my peers were batting prodigies while I was a batting comedy. So obviously I would be sent last down and hardly ever get a chance to improve my batting. Bowling or wicket keeping obviously no one wanted to give to a neophyte. They sent me to field at the boundaries. Standing alone at the boundary where nothing happens can be really boring and you tend to get contemplative. And when you are contemplating on finer things in life, can you be blamed for missing the rare catch that comes your way? But the boys thought differently. The net result was I decided playing cricket was not my cup of tea and gladly renounced the game.

So my interest in the game remained confined to hero worship and compilation of statistics. Due to my lack of success in playing the game, I never really got on to the technical aspects of the game. I was happy as long as my favorite players got the half centuries, centuries and the 5 wicket hauls and the scoreboards kept ticking. So following the matches on radio or newspaper worked as well as seeing the matches on television. I followed almost the entire South African tour of India on our ancient family radio that was a year older than me. It was a disappointment in terms of India’s performance. But I found a new hero to worship: Pravin Amre. And there were no cards of him available too. Then there was the England’s tour of India which revived India’s fortunes. Vinod Kambli’s double century delighted the statistician in me.

Very soon I moved from cards to a diary which was more convenient to maintain the photos and statistics. I had a page for every player and religiously maintained the statistics. In fact it was cricket that inculcated the habit of reading the newspaper in me. In those days there was no internet. Nor was there cable television. The newspaper was the only way of following international matches. I used to religiously cut the scorecard of every international match that was played and compile them series wise. For the pictures, I had to depend on sport star as I preferred color photos to black and white photos from the newspapers. But when I did not get color photos of a player I would make do with the black and white photos as well. We were financially not too well off as such. So I could not afford new Sport Stars. So one of the most exciting activities for me during those days was going to the waste paper man with my father and buying old second hand Sports Stars. As soon as I come home I would finish reading all the cricket articles and then get to work with my scissors. I did not limit myself to recent statistics. I also bought and read a few books on cricket history. Hindu used to publish an annual edition of cricket year book. That was a favorite with me.

Every activity has an initial start up phase, then a peak period and then a decline. So it was with my interest in cricket as well. The four years were my peak period from 1992-1996. From then on the decline started. I became busy with academics as I had my board exams and IIT JEE preparations.  Also in 1996, we got cable TV in our house for the first time. That brought a new range of entertainment at my disposal. My new school had a library with a good fiction collection and I began to return to my old love – reading books. So my new love – the cricket diary and cards were neglected. One fine day I gave away the cards to a boy in the neighborhood and my diary to my cousin. I still continued to watch matches. But the old passion was no longer there.

There were still a few highs for me in the years to follow. I went to watch a Ranji trophy match and watched Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath in live action in flesh and blood. I watched India chase down an impossible 300+ target against Pakistan  in a crowded college hostel common room. I watched the emergence of Ganguly, Dravid and Laxman. I discovered a cricket card collection from my father’s childhood days in my grandparents’ home. But there were also the bad moments. The conviction of Azharuddin and Hansie Cronje was one of them. Decline of the English and West Indies teams was another. With the details of the match fixing emerging, all the statistics I had been collecting began to look meaningless. So slowly I began to drift away from cricket. The old passion gave way to new ones: reading, trekking, martial arts. Soon it came to pass that at one stage I totally stopped watching cricket. From following all 5 days of a test match on an old transistor, I have still not seen a complete 20-20 match to date. Then that’s how infatuation is, right? You never know when it comes. You never know when it goes.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

World T20 2012 - Loking Forward to the Super 8's

A Special Guest Post from my friend Leo (Vinay) who writes wonderful poems, stories and haikus at his space - I Rhyme Without Reason and is an ardent cricket fan...
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Halfway through the tournament now, and the headlines around the week have been mostly watery, literally. It’s been either the rain or some cricketers catching a stomach bug due to drinking water (or so the papers say anyways.)

Coming to the cricket, it hasn’t really been extraordinary, but there has been entertainment. I feel in general, the expectation has been met. The so-called “strong teams” have advanced to the super eights, and the “minnows” have bowed out. There has been a decent crowd in the ground to support the teams, but I think it should improve for the super eights. Non Sri Lanka matches haven’t been sold out yet, but with some big matches on the cards, I believe that would change.

I do wish the Sri Lanka and South Africa match wasn’t rain curtailed. I think it’d have been a much closer affair hadn’t the rain taken a toll, and made it a 7 over hit-out. That apart, the cricket has been good. Warner and de Villiers have shown that they can clobber the cricket ball, as has Imran Nazir. Watson’s all round skills have got him two man-of-the-match awards so far, and at the head, Australia also seems to be in form. With Australia set to clash with India, South Africa and Pakistan in what seems to be an ominous group, India’s inability to finish strongly might come back to bite them.

Yes, there was a superb performance against England, but the fact that Afghanistan pushed them to the end means there is still things to sort out in the Indian camp, where Kohli and Rohit Sharma, and the returning Harbhajan and Yuvraj have been standout performers so far. The form of the Indian openers, both in batting and bowling are a worry. Sehwag, Gambhir and Zaheer have all struggled, and the Dinda experiment seems to have backfired, even in the one game. Going forward, I wonder if that means India are going for an all spin attack, with Ashwin, Chawla and Harbhajan, and Irfan being the lone pacer. A line-up as Sehwag, Gambhir, Kohli, Raina/Sharma, Dhoni, Yuvraj, Irfan, Ashwin, Harbhajan, Chawla and Zaheer/Balaji seems the most likely in the current scenario.

I think most people would agree that I mention Ireland. They’ve bowed out, but a fair bit of luck has gone against them. The Colombo weather got the match v/s the West Indies canceled, which they might have won if Duckworth Lewis got a chance. Even if they had managed to hold off the Aussies for another 4 balls, they’d have got through on NRR. With their ability, I think it’s about time ICC gave them full membership. Or at the least, ICC should organize tournaments where the affiliates play against the bigger teams. Only that experience would help develop these nations quicker, not once in 4 years playing v/s the bigger teams. For that, ICC should look past the monetary outcome of the match I guess.

Players to watch out for in the Super 8s

Virat Kohli: in-form and the strong point of the Indian top-order. He can change the game, and I’m sure MSD and Duncan Fletcher would be looking for that form to continue.

Harbhajan: back with a bang, and sure to play against Australia. Bhajji loves the Aussies, so he’ll either put them out, or be put out of the team again by the Aussies. A battle to look forward to.

Shane Watson: all round abilities, opening the batting and bowling as well, means there’s more man-of-the-match opportunities should he continue to be the rock at the helm.

Hafeez/Nazir: a solid partnership at the top. They showed v/s Bangla what a solid partnership can do to change an innings. More such partnerships can steer Pakistan to the semis for sure.

Saeed Ajmal: took a bit of stick v/s Bangla, but the world’s #1 T20 bowler rattled the Kiwis and can do so to other opposition too.

Richard Levi: big hitting ability can turn a match, even if Duckworth Lewis comes to play.

AB de Villiers: same like Levi, but sound captaincy has helped South Africa come forward.

Dale Steyn: super stingy, and deadly accurate, a bowler that batsmen look to play out, rather than hit out.

Brendan McCullum: has already exploded onto the scene. But remains to be seen if there’s any fire left.

Ross Taylor: New Zealand have not reached a final of a big tournament. RT can guide them there.

Chris Gayle: with Windies at the Pallekelle batting paradise, this man is a threat.

Sunil Narine: a spinner with tact and control. A game-changer.

Alex Hales: youthful, energetic, solid at the top. His partnership with Kieswetter and Wright would be tantamount to England’s title-defense.

Thissara Perera: it was expected to be his World Cup, with him being a form player for the side. Can he step up his game in the next round?

Six days of quality, top of the world action starts tomorrow. 

Team India's Schedule of Super Matches at the World T20 2012, Sri Lanka

India v/s Australia on Friday, 28th September
India v/s Pakistan on Sunday, 30th September
India v/s South Africa on Tuesday, 2nd October

If India and Pakistan can see out Australia and South Africa at this stage, a repeat of the  mouth watering 2007 T20 WC final seems on the cards.

Here’s to some wonderful matches, and a prayer that rain, rain go away!

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