Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Brilliant 71 in III Test at Perth ...

It was a windy and hot afternoon and Sachin paced his innings well, playing some great strokes. He should have gone on to make yet another 100. He looked in great touch. Lee bowled beautifully and I don't remember any occasion other than being beaten once and then surviving a really close call against Symonds (when he was on 49). The actual call that adjudged him LBW was a poor one, but that's part of the game. As Sachin walked though, he did look shocked by that call.

Yet again, he rejuvenated Rahul's confidence. Both played some brilliant strokes. 

62+15+154*+12+71 = 314 at an average of 63.5. This still does not look like a highlight of his career, but there are 3 more innings to come! 

Sydney test is probably the one of the most written about tests and I am not going to waste my words on it. I just want India to level the series and I don't think it is impossible. We must not think we have to just halt Aussies at 16 wins in a row. Draw is a draw, not India's win.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

A Century to Remember!

I am fortunate to have witnessed that back-foot stroke off Clark by Sachin that took him to 100 in a really challenging situation. The brilliance of the Little Master prevailed again when it was needed the most and this time he did it in such a style that I just can't describe what I saw on the third day of the Sydney test. A few things should be pondered though.

First, here are the missed opportunities to score a hundred because of getting out in the nineties (in both Tests/ODIs), in the past year or so (thanks to Statsguru):
  1. ODI: June 2007 -- 99 Vs. SA [2592]
  2. ODI: June 2007 -- 93 Vs. SA [2593]
  3. Test Match: July 2007 -- 91 Vs. England [1841]
  4. ODI: August 2007 -- 99 Vs. England [2613]
  5. ODI: September 2007 -- 94 Vs. England [2619]
  6. ODI: November 2007 -- 99 Vs. Pakistan [2644]
  7. ODI: November 2007 -- 97 Vs. Pakistan [2646]
This is important to note because these stats don't make a lot of sense to Sachin like he said after the Gwalior ODI. To quote him (while receiving the Player of the Match award): "If I pay attention to this (not getting to a 100), it will become harder for me!"

This is exactly what he's been doing and that's why this hundred is so important for him and for all of us. After the interview, this is what he had to say (again, thanks to cricinfo):

"It was a relief," says Tendulkar [on reaching his 100]. "I had missed several in the last year. 2007 was good but it would have been better had I completed those 100s. The only time I looked at the scoreboard [today] was when I was on 98.

"In Melbourne when I came into bat the field was attacking and I could play shots. Here I felt if I could pace my innings well, it would help my team. VVS [Laxman] batted fantastically and was nicely supported by Rahul and that set it up for us."

"I always believed that Harbhajan could get some runs," Tendulkar said. "I told him that this was the time to prove himself and his ability. He put his head down and did a fantastic job. I also told him not to stop playing his shots because the field was in for him and spread for me. He batted fabulously.

"The fielders were either half-way or at the fence for me, so there was no point playing a rash shot, when the field came up for the lower order batsmen there were gaps for them to score runs."

His interview tells it all. I almost sobbed as he waived his stretched arms toward the skies. So many subtleties and facets of a genius of a cricketer were shown by the master! The rules as he described, are simple: Stick to basics. Use your head. Cricket is a mind game. That's what's required to take your team from 6/330 to 10/532 against arguably the best bowling attack. It's not the usual. It is not the stereotyped. Every time you go out there, you have to adapt to the situation of the game. I can hardly do anything else while watching the game of cricket. Every move, look, action of the players is so delicate and subtle. Brilliant swing and reverse swing bowling with well-disguised change-of-pace, the gentle roll of the wrists, the spontaneous whisper-cum-shout of a "two" to the non-striker immediately after playing a shot in the no-man's-land, the mid-wicket fielder being moved slightly laterally, the number of overs bowled with the old ball, switching of the bowling ends, approaching lunch/tea/drinks break, use of unorthodox and improvised (but not unintentional) shots -- Oh! I am already on my way of being emotional about how effortless masters are, about their art!

Of course, there will be an all round applause of this brilliant century. II day belonged to VVS and his brilliant stokeplay and III day to the Little Master and his forceful knock. Two masterful innings!

The match is at an interesting juncture. It's tricky for both Australia and India. But given the track record and failure of Dhoni and Yuvraj to stick to basics, I am a bit nervous. It does look like India should be able to draw this one (if not win), but a lot depends on RP Singh, Kumble and Harbhajan.

Oh boy, life is so wonderful!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Ponting Should (Just) Respect Umpire Decisions ...

Venue: Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai.

Of course, Australia won the series 4-2. But the point is about Ponting's poignant attitude. He mentioned during the interview that Murali Karthik was out (caught behind) and yet was not adjudged so. He also went on to say that the result of the match would have been different had he been given out. This kind of interview is simply ridiculous, Mr. Ponting. Here is why:

Venue: The SCG, Australia.

Ganguly bowled a slower one outside the leg and Ponting definitely caressed it. It carried and Dhoni held it well. Snick-o showed that there was a faint edge and he was out. Well, he should have walked, because only he knew that he was out. It is not the umpire's fault. Umpires have a really tough job. It is up to the batsmen (with attitude) to do their job. Umpires, their relevance in the game of cricket, use of video equipment to aid umpires make a decision are all things to ponder about, but what Ponting did on this occasion is not walking the talk. On Star Sports, Gavaskar kept on coming back to it while commentating, and I fully support him in doing so. 

The point is not about whether or not a batsman should walk when he knows he's out. It's about what a supposedly sensible batsman should do on such occasions. It's about having respect toward certain things even when things are going your way and you are an exciting player to watch.