September 15, 2007

Oh my captain, do not go


Rahul Dravid's decision to quit the captaincy certainly is a bolt from the blue. When such a proud and commited individual takes such a decision with the team is in a transition and knowing how much the team depends on hin, it must raise raise the question as to the circumstances which compelled him to take the decision.

I suppose it was a combination of factors, starting with the world cup debacle. Chappell had to go after that but Rahul bravely soldiered on, reportedly on BCCI's request. You get the feeling he never got to impose his style on the team, something Ganguly did so famously. Part of the reason was because Chappell already had the team playing according to his theories.

It is hardly a secret that Rahul is a player who thinks about each aspect of his game meticulously so in making him the captain Indian Cricket had an oppurtunity to have a captain who went with more than just his instinct. Most of Ganguly's successes as a leader, I thought were more to do with his man management skills than his ability as a strategist on the field. Dravid was never going to go that way. Nor was he ever going to get under the skin of a Steve Waugh. He knows only one way of playing the game and that is the good old fashioned slog.

That he expected others in the team to do the same is a mistake which even Sachin Tendulkar was guilty of commiting. I suppose you need a certain detachment with the whole thing if you are an Indian captain. Azhar famously never gave much of an advise to the players on the field with the simple logic that they were international players and were supposed to know that already. Ganguly of course was the complete opposite, and he also got whatever he wanted out of the board. He knew how to get around the rules, so to say. But he never took matters personally, he only took so much responsibility which he felt he owned whereas Dravid and Sachin took it upon themselves to do everything.

There were too many stories after the world cup on the differences between Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dravid and you just get the feeling that not all of it was untrue. I think Dravid was hurt somewhere at that time but carried on for another full series since there was no one else to lead. That there were no tamashas and fighting in the public (which the Pakistani players are prone to) shows the quality of all three individuals. That they chose to play together to try and win a test series abroad shows their commitment to the cause.

Now that he has actually won the series in England, it is hard to understand the logic behind stepping down. I guess he is just fed up with all the unwanted attention the job brings. He certainly deserved better from everyone as the captain: the team, the board, the media and most of all the Indian public who made a monster of him for not winning the series in England 2-0 conveniently forgetting that we had never won over there for two decades.

Now for the bigger Q: who next? Sourav would be a backward step, Sachin would be two steps back, and there is no room to go ahead. Yuvraj does not have a place in tests, Dhoni is already juggling batting and keeping. With the expectation on his batting only going up, to saddle him with captaincy would certainly kill his natural game, of which, he has shown glimpses already.

Now, if Indian captaincy is such a huge burden, the selectors would be better off distributing it to two people.

The only other person apart from the trioka who has a test place and leadership experience is VVS Laxman. He did show glimpses of coming back to his best recently and what better way to give him the captaincy: before a series in Australia!

The ODI captaincy is a tougher one. If the selectors are not averse to having too much on Dhoni's plate he looks the best candidate, albeit the threat to his game. Else it must go to Yuvraj.

But the mind keeps coming back to Dravid. The BCCI must ask him to continue for sometime, atleast till the end of the Aussie tour. We need a good captain as well as Rahul the batsman against Australia and there is no reason they cannot be bundled in one individual.

August 17, 2007

Victory, sweet victory


What a coincidence! In all my life of following the Indian Cricket team we have never won in England and now that I'm in England, they go ahead and beat the British at their own game! I would never forget the two tests I watched here at the Lord's and the Oval. And years from now, when people talk of the last time Dravid, Sourav, Kumble and Sachin played in England and won a test series, I can claim 'I was there'.

It was very heartening to see the Indians play like they did. They were ready for the long grind, and what's more, seemed to enjoy it too. The two big totals posted in Trent Bridge and the Oval were built upon a string of partnerships rather than the old habit of two batsmen putting on 300+ and the others managing 200. The bowlers were able to bowl England out in 5 innings out of 6, which is quite simply the main reason we won the test series. Pakistan, for instance, have a much better 'away' record than India since they have always had bowlers who could take the 20 wickets.

We also had a bit of fortune coming our way but the old adage of 'fortune favours the brave' applies here no end. And a few breaks from the normal: For a chang
1. We had the opposition captain and their best batsman getting sublime hundreds and losing the series.
2. Rahul won two crucial tosses.
3. Our batsmen received bad decisions but it did not result in the team collapsing in a heap.
4. The rain came down when we were 9 down!

It was as good as it gets - and please don't tell me it could have been 2-0.

Indeed, given the way the team was written off before the series, it is quite surprising that we are arguing now as to why we did not win it 2-0! A win is a win guys, take it as long as you get it!

Perhaps when we win overseas as often as, say, Australia, the skipper would have the confidence to go all out for a win. As far as I'm concerned, he wanted to seal the series victory and if we had won the last test, all the better. It couldn't happen due to various reasons, too bad, but hey, we have won a series in England after 21 years, surely that calls for a celebration!

I dread the day Sachin, Sourav, Kumble and Dravid would not be a part of the team. What joy would Cricket then be, I wonder! But sure enough, there would be new talent to look for. The new generation could not hope to get better role models.

As these players head to the final phase of their careers, though, it would be vital how much the Karthiks and Dhonis learn from them. By the looks of it, they are on the right path but that is what we had thought of Sehwag, Bhajji and Kaif a few years back. Of course, these players can come back any day but the sheer consistency which these players showed over the years would be quite impossible to replace.

For me though, the one image that would linger on from this series would be that of Sachin Tendulkar celebrating with the trophy. While I spotted misty eyes there (could well have been mine), here was a man who had given it all for the game he loves so dearly and for the nation and the team he plays for. Sachin and Lara must be the most unfortunate players in that they never won anything big. Sachin is at least enjoying some test wins abroad for the past 5,6 years. Win it for Sachin boys, beat the Pakis and the Aussies! Do it for India!

July 28, 2007

Wimbledon



The name itself evokes memories of Sampras ruling the centre court. Having grown up watching players like Sampras, Graf, Sachin, Lara etc dominate everyone else, it is hard to call any new players 'great', even though the word is quite liberally thrown about now a days.

Being in London in June threw up the opportunity of watching Wimbledon so myself and my good friend Kalyan who had come down from Derby hopped over to Wimbledon as early as 7.30AM (we had to get up at 5 for the 1 hour train journey to Wimbledon!) to get into the queue and hopefully watch some action later on.

The schedule for the day had Leander, Paes and Sania's matches in addition to Hewitt and Rafael Nadal! We were hoping to get to centre court or court1 which would have allowed us to watch all the seeded players but even a ground pass which we eventually got was hard fought, what with a three hour queue! The center court and court1 tickets, we were told, we sold out first thing in the morning and were grabbed by people who had camped outside the courts all night!

London's weather has been a shame this year. The summer has simply not arrived. It also seems to have acquired a disconcerting consistency when it comes to rain, in the summer at that! That day was such a day. Though the prediction was for 'showers' which, owing to my 1 year experience of the London weather, I had put down to 'half and hour in the morning before the play starts and a maximum of an hour in the evening', which would at best threaten the Bhupathi-Sania match.

There were a lot of non-British people at the courts, and I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of Indians turning up too, we must have been the only people to turn up in such large numbers even though we had no contender in any of the categories. But it was quite good, the atmosphere, it was better than what it is at a Cricket match at least where the only thing people seem to have arrived for seems to be the beer! There were the French and the Germans, other Europeans and there even seemed to have a decent number of South Americans! Hmmm..

Wimbledon is unaffected by the gross commercialisation which seems to have afflicted other sports. Not for Wimbledon the 'nPower' match or the 'Pepsi' drinks break. They have stuck to their tradition like no one else. To force today's fashion parade to turn up in whites and neatly covered up is an achievement in itself. We even had the traditional strawberry and cream during the rain! I had read about it as a schoolboy in the Indian Express and couldn't feel thinking how lucky I was to actually be at the venue I had seen so much on TV and read about! The Wimbledon shop turned out to be a disappointment though, with clothing being the only thing of note, other than a few DVDs which are also available on the net. One nice little innovation was that people leaving the courts midway are requested to drop their tickets in a box - these tickets are then sold to others who pay the full ticket rate. The amount collected this way is donated to charities! Smart thinking!

Well, coming back to the weather, it actually started raining at 9.30 as predicted and had almost stopped by the time it was 11, when play was supposed to start. So we took our seats in the only court which had a bit of a cover, court 13 where the French Open finalist Ivanovic was supposed to play. All right, not bad so far. But then it started raining again, and like a Rahul Dravid innings, it rained right through the day. We only managed to see about an hour's play in the 10 hours we were in Wimbledon, when finally at 7PM they announced that all matches for the day were called off; it was as disappointing as it could ever have got.



The only consolation was the fact that we had dropped the idea of camping all night for the centre court ticket (yes, we had thought about it as well) and that they announced a full refund on the match tickets, though I could as well have paid them double the amount to watch some real action! I'm not a huge tennis fan but hey, I still understand some of the nuances of the game and would have loved to see some live action. Watching tennis in that one hour showed how quickly the ball reaches the other side of the court on serve and even on a grass court, how appreciably it slows down and makes timing difficult. No doubt if it slows down further, as it does on a clay court, people have difficulty timing their ground strokes. Even Ivanovic serves at 110mph, a full 10mph faster than a Shoaib Akhtar delivery! But this speed is also counted only up to the bounce of the ball.

A week later, it was a bright sunny day when Venus Williams regained the Wimbledon crown and a day later The Fed-Express overcame a stiff resistance from Super Rafa to become the second player to win 5 consecutive Wimbledon titles! If only a bit of sun had shown up that day! But no complaints, being in Wimbledon and soaking up the atmosphere for a day was an experience in itself. Hope to come back some time, and if Federer adds a sixth or a seventh on the day, it would be the icing on the strawberry!

March 24, 2007

First spell


I had been thinking about getting a blog started for months now, there used to be one in my office but then they sent me to London and I dont have access to it anymore!

But I have got too far - guess I must introduce myself to anyone who cares to, or has the time to, read these things. Well, I'm a 24-yr old from the charming city of Hyderabad in central (okay, southern) India. I did my engineering almost by default, and entered into an 'IT' profession after that again, by default and currently working in London. I hope to return to my dear Hyderabad after finishing my 'sentence' here.

I follow Cricket as no body in my acquaintance does - I even have what I call a 'Cricket collection
' where I maintain a record of all the matches, events in the world of Cricket through collecting scorecards and articles from newspapers and pasting them in a scrapbook. This way I have followed every match played by India since 1993 and every international match since 1996. May be it was the statistician in me which prompted a 9-year old to start collecting scorecards - whatever it was, I felt I owed it to myself to do it and could never stop after that - a couple of my friends who had started it with me couldnt even continue for six months. I still have the books Rakesh and Shravan (my oldest friends) handed over to me all those years ago when we were in the fifth standard! God, that was 15 years back!!!

Other than that, I enjoy reading and watching movies, though it is the latter that seems to have taken precedence lately. Blame it on the bloody unlimited pass - you see, we have a pass here using which we can watch unlimited movies for as little as 11 pounds per month! With myself starving to watch the Hollywood releases back home earlier it sure is a blessing for me. Period.

That's quite a lot of crap generated out of thin air.. promise more noteworthy things in future.