Not quite the heist

01/30/2017

Followed the match until the most dramatic session. This was just like every other instance where you as fans give up and the game pulls a fast one on you. The Kaif and Yuvraj heist comes to mind. I gave up when the 5th wicket fell and left the live telecast only to desperately scour for the highlights later in the day.

NZ innings was reasonably decent. Guptill provided evidence of one of the reasons he wasn’t chosen at the IPL last year. He tends to give it away after getting set – and while better batsmen have been guilty of it most of them have better scores and averages to boast of. This was attractive while it lasted. So were the brief flurries by Neesham and Broom towards the end. The Aussie bowling was what I was most interested in – with a same attack coming to India in a few days. Starc and Hazelwood were threatening although not for sustained periods. Pat Cummins might be the surprise package. The pitch had bounce and seemed like he was trying too hard to make it work to his advantage. Stoinis seemed like an honest trier – one that would once in a while get you wickets in bunches. Better than Mitch Marsh at sustaining pressure but not one to cause sleepless nights to Indian batsmen.

What was surprising was the Australian top order – it was undone by decent and not great bowling it seemed. The shot that Shaun Marsh tried left Ian Smith and others in the commentary box at a loss for words. I liked the look of their new bowler Ferguson. Hopefully he can remain injury free with the action he has – it seemed a bit like Pat Cummins’ and we know the struggles he has been having.

At six down for sixty odd I thought the Aussie goose was cooked.  That’s when cricket as a game offered a punch in the face for all the doubting fans. Granted the last four could hang around but to take it to within six runs of the total – no words to describe it. Marcus Stoinis, take a bow.

Dove for the highlights as before – but while I could catch the breathtaking shots I am still ruing the fact that I could not keep awake for a little while longer. What a game and what spirit the Aussies displayed. Trans Tasman rivalry is not something to be dismissed lightly – whatever the format there will always be moments for the cricket fan to cherish.

Nostalgia? Not Good

1/29/17

4 off 12 deliveries. That was vision of my worst fears coming true. It seems like players world over have evolved their games to the demands of rapidly changing T20 games but Yuvraj’s game in this format is stuck in a time warp. It was amusing to listen to commentators with their nostalgia tinted views talk about how it would be better if he came in later when pacers would be operating.  I wonder if the IPL franchises were paying attention or if they would still splurge millions for Yuvraj at the auction only to release him after one season.

It was funny also to hear Siva go after Pandey for not going after the bowling more. This for an innings that almost run a ball and also the second highest.  The gripe was that Dhoni didn’t come out early enough. It fell on Nick Knight to remark dryly that instead of getting hung up on the positions everyone needs to look to score in T20s.

This was one game I was able to watch almost in its entirety.  Evolving their craft seems to be something the Indian commentators haven’t done either. There are one or two good insights from them but it only takes a few sentences from Nasser Hussain to highlight the vast gulf that exists in the standards.  Enough has been said about the individual styles and idiosyncrasies of the Shastris, Gavaskars and Sivaramakrishnans. The fact that I have started finding Manjrekar more than tolerable speaks volumes about this lack of evolution.

Nehra did prove me completely wrong though. Wasn’t sure he still had it in him to come up with the variations needed with batsmen becoming more aware of their game. Credit to him and Bumrah. The latter was fantastic with the slower ones. The pitch did help but he utilized it well.

Another thought related to the IPL auctions came to mind. The franchises seem spoilt for choices this time with almost the entire England team looking to be worthy contenders. Buttler, Billings and Morgan aside, looks like the franchises will definitely be eyeing Jason Roy, Joe Root, Chris Jordan, Ben Stokes,  and Moeen Ali. With a few good players from the Australian BBL also impressing it sets up a mouth watering prospect for IPL.  That is if we can get out of the T20 fatigue post World cup.

Another good game coming up this afternoon – NZ Aus ODI. Would dearly like to follow it live. Lets see if I can.

All izz well?

01/28/2017

Writing after two ODIs and one T20. All against the same opposition but different narratives on each.  I figured I didn’t need to add my own voice to the whole world crying itself hoarse over the night when nostalgia reigned. When Yuvraj and Dhoni seemingly turned back the clock to score centuries. I watched the highlights and there was an unsettling feeling to the whole thing.  Mainly the fear that emotion and nostalgia would color the reporting on this and that seems to be the case.

I think it was a very well paced and measured innings from the two stalwarts and it would bode well for the team in the upcoming Champions Trophy. I still could not escape the feeling that while Yuvraj may be valuable in ODIs in T20s his value might be overstated. As has happened in the World T20s and in many of the IPL innings – he tends to a while to get going and in case he doesn’t stay long enough the number of balls he consumes getting started come back to haunt the team.  It seems churlish to say that about a man who just got his highest ever ODI score and joined the ranks of a select few to have made a score of 150 in ODIs but I am just trying to be wary of one size fits all approach.

Not that the selectors left a lot of choice by selecting a squad for T20s that has a ‘Dad’s army party’ feel to it. I just hope folks like Manish Pandey don’t get demoralized.

I would be watching for the fielding in the next T20 to see if the other fear I have with this selection comes to play. Something like the scene from Dhoni’s biopic where he thinks the seniors are conceding lots of runs on the field relieving pressure from the batting side.

Hometown Hero

Jan 15, 2017

Wow!! This is why we watch live sport.

The excitement of being in the moment, performing when everyone is watching must be something else altogether.  I am getting old by the day but I still feel the same nervousness and heartache when the target gets closer. It probably is the same for any sport one follows and may be cricket is the chosen one for me. I enjoy other American sports – I truly do. But I just cannot bring myself to the same level of commitment as a spectator.

This morning was another one of those bilateral 50 over internationals that people complain of lacking significant context. Maybe six months from now it will disappear from the archives of memory – only remembered as a hyperlink in a footnote of a larger narrative in Cricinfo or Wisden. Why then would I bother setting things aside just to follow a newer set of players under a new captain achieve a target with hurdles along the way?

Kedar Jadhav is a guy I have been following in IPL. He is not dissimilar to many other names I have come across over the years – Atul Bedade, Kanitkar, VB Chandrashekhar, Yusuf Pathan and hundreds more. There is a story behind every name. Some shone brightly under the spotlight and then faded away. Some had fate playing different games on them.

The story plays out differently with stand-out highlights along the way. Today’s would be a game that will have a place in any future narrative that plays out for Jadhav. Here is a guy playing in front of his home crowd with his parents, wife and little girl among the many cheering him on. How many times have we seen this in sporting movies and biopics. They follow a template and it would seem we would be immune to the tricks of the template. But we are not – every one of those stories tugs at our emotional selves and we forget for a moment that we are but inconsequential bystanders.

Scorecards and statistics are what will remain but what of the feelings of the spectators on the ground cheering for their hometown hero?  As someone watching on TV the sense of déjà vu is inevitable – the mind went back to a game in Bangalore with the local boys Kumble and Srinath guiding the team to victory using their batting skills with the camera panning to images of their nervous parents in the crowd. You could not have scripted a blockbuster sport movie any better .

And what do we say of Captain Kohli that has not been said already? This was his first match as captain after Dhoni relinquished the captaincy in the limited overs format and what a way to take the baton!! The shots he played will replayed in highlights packages and written about by writers with greater literary flourish but for me it was a vindication of years I have spent following this game. From my callow youth to a stage which people have labeled mid-life crisis, cricket has been a constant.  Self-imposed exiles from and renunciations of cricket worship have not lasted long.

Its at moments like today when Kohli and Jadhav were making things look easy that I feel my years have not been wasted. We seek pleasure, thrill and reflection with our experiences in life and I have got more than my share with my cricket watching experience.

Holy Grail

Sep 2011

I guess my self-imposed exile lasted less than that of Boycott’s. I suppose it was a trip to the holy grail of cricket that opened the floodgates again.  A visit to Lord’s had been in my bucket list forever and I got a chance to do that this month.

Before the visit I was looking to get a feel for it using Google Street View (kind of like Saroo Brieley). Couldn’t get myself to imagine that this was in the middle of a neighborhood. It was a surreal experience – the slope, the balcony, the dressing rooms with the honor board.

Even the portrait of Len Hutton felt familiar – I think it was part of the jacket illustration of his book “Just My Story” which was the first cricket book I read. That led me on a path of consuming and collecting cricket books that has taken led me to unexpected locations. From affordable paperbacks ordered through Marine Sports to used books at barnesandnobles.com, amazon.com, flea markets and garage sales I have rummaged through a lot. 50 plus physical books and a few ebooks suggest a lot of time spent/wasted – hopefully there is something useful I have picked up along the way.

This visit was in the middle of the India England one day series which was also a lost cause for the visiting team. I think it was during that series that the ‘donkeys in the field’ comment by one Nasser Hussain led to much recrimination in the later years.

So I guess the experiment was short-lived. I did feel that in the month or so of the exile I had time on my hand.  Always felt something was missing though. For the foreseeable future cricket tragic I remain !!