Archive for December, 2009

The English march into a new year was never merrier. With an ODI series win already in its kitty and space created to pouch the Test trophy as well, the Barmy Army’s New Year celebrations have taken altogether a different meaning and magnitude.

While Smith and his men will have to sport a forceful grin on New Year’s eve, Strauss and his band of boys have shown teeth to gnaw the tough South African skin.

It’s a hair-transplant pitch with bald patches…physical safety of players is important…I agree it was not fit to bat on.

-Sunil Gavaskar-

I hope this isn’t swept under the carpet.

-Anil Kumble-

We really wanted to make a match of it and played more than 20 overs. But when Kandamby and Pushpakumara got hit, we thought it was not fair play…At one point, it went beyond challenge and into serious risk…We should not point fingers at anyone….No one does these things purposely.

-Mahela Jayawardene-

I’d like to commend the on-field umpires and captains for continuing as long as they did in the hope that the pitch may settle down. Unfortunately, this did not happen.

-Alan Hurst, Match Referee-

We deeply regret the inconvenience caused to the spectators and all others. I apologize on behalf of the association. We have decided to refund all gate tickets…We have to analyse in a cooler environment.

-Arun Jaitley, DDCA Chief-

It’s disgusting given Delhi is hosting the Commonwealth Games and such incidents keep happening…If the DDCA does not take any step, then I will force them to.

-Vibhakar Shastri, DDCA’s Govt.-appointed observer-

It is too early to comment on the status of Kotla’s World Cup games.

-Haroon Lorgat, ICC’s CEO-

What happened today at the Ferozeshah Kotla was a national embarrassment.

-Sharad Pawar, former BCCI President-

We need sporting pitches in India, which is why the BCCI is spending so much money on it. From now on, every association will be accountable for their own pitches.

-Ratnakar Shetty, BCCI’s Chief Administrative Officer-

My role is only of supervision and everything was done on the advice of the BCCI pitch committee. We did not have much role to play in laying of the track…The match referee told me one team wanted to play…It seems the Sri Lankans chickened out.

-Chetan Chauhan-

We tested two pitches using net bowlers and the bounce on this one seemed better. We didn’t expect this…We prepared it as per Daljit sir’s guidelines but we take the responsibility for the bad wicket.

-DDCA’s curator Vijay Bahadur Mishra-

I wonder how a pitch which wasn’t used for Ranji Trophy matches was used for the one-dayer.

-Bishan Singh Bedi-

I feel Delhi’s future as an international venue is at stake.

-Abbas Ali Baig-

It is shameful that this kind of pitch is prepared for an international match.

-Dilip Vengsarkar-

I don’t think the pitch was that bad. You could have decided to abandon the match after five overs or so, that is logical. But after playing 23 overs, how can you say it was not fit.

-Ajay Jadeja-

There were 40,000 to 50,000 people in the stands, and I think the authorities handled the situation pretty well.

-Brendon Kuruppu, Sri Lankan Team Manager-

The Kotla debacle lays bare a bungling DDCA that prompted Sehwag’s revolt.

-JS-

No Mahendra Singh Dhoni, no Yuvraj Singh and no assistance from Sachin and Sehwag; all these didn’t deter two young Indian guns steal the thunder at Eden and register a resounding Indian win. Coming in the process were a series victory and the highest run chase at the venue.

It was a hype-justifying inning of 107 from Virat Kohli who became the second man – after Jadeja’s 4-wicket haul in the last match – to reciprocate Dhoni’s hardnosed trust. Though Kohli’s knock was nothing less, the inning of a greater magnitude was played by India’s most consistent batsman of last 15 months, Gautam Gambhir. His highest ODI score of 150 not out assumed more importance in that he carried his bat through.

Sri Lanka’s 315 included Tharanga’s magnificent century and Sangakkara’s fifty. They together added 126 after a rare Dilshan failure and another fatal exercise of sending Sanath down. Indian bowling continued to worry except the skillful Zaheer and Harbhajan. Runs leaking off others, chiefly Ishant and Nehra, ensured another total on the other side of 300.

Sangakkara’s move to open with rookie Suranga Lakmal proved a master stroke. His swing accounted for two big fishes Sehwag and Sachin in the space of 10 runs. Gambhir and Kohli got together as early as in the fourth over but the islanders had little clue that it will last until the 40th over.

The fearlessness of youth was evident throughout their monstrous 224-run stand. An uninhibited Kohli took off from the onset and played authoritative drives and cuts. Gambhir, it looked, knew right from the beginning that he had to stay until the end. While Kohli went for the broke, Gambhir played solidly but made sure to punish the loose balls.

After Gambhir and dew got settled in, the Delhi duo was not only chasing the target but also each other. It was a seesaw battle that saw both scoring neck to neck. Sangakkara’s decision to bat first seemed to have backfired when bowlers failed to grip and deliver a dewy ball. Kohli reached his second half century first but Gambhir got it facing one less ball.

A failure would not have affected Gambhir but it surely would have been another letdown for Kohli’s fans. A fifty wasn’t enough; Kohli had to convert it to a big one and what better than to do it for a winning cause. The total reached 200 in the 32nd over. A wicket or two here would mean letting a Sri Lankan foot in. A wet ball wasn’t helping the Lankan cause though and the partnership continued to swell rapidly.

A dominating century by Kohli, his first, came along and Dhoni’s perseverance with him finally got its first match-winning result. On the other end, Gambhir continued to enhance his reputation of a bastion and got to his seventh ODI ton. Good news finally arrived for Sri Lanka when Kohli was caught at the boundary edge. Gambhir, however, mitigated the sniff Sangakkara may have had and seized the momentum in the batting power play and stroked the winning runs in the 49th over that also got him his 150.

Two things come out of this win, a positive and a negative. The positive, Indian batting is in very capable hands even if the big guns miss a match or two. The negative, Indian venues/curators need to produce sporting wickets to bring a smile back on bowlers’ faces and effect a contest between the bat and ball.

A match that looked another back-breaker for bowlers turned out to be a cakewalk for India with Jadeja recording his best ODI figures. The seven-wicket win came with more than seven overs to spare, but the cake was minus the icing, as Sachin was left stranded at 97 not out.

The third rubber took off on a predictable path with an intimidating Dilshan racing off to 41 in just 18 balls with 10 fours, leading the charge for the fastest team 50 ever against India in ODIs. A miscued pull – pouched by Karthik – accounted for his wicket, which gave the stand-in keeper a chance to make amends for a previous mistake. Dilshan could have been out five runs earlier but Karthik overran the stumps and missed the bails.

The start meant Sangakkara and Tharanga didn’t need to do anything silly and wisely kept collecting singles with an occasional boundary. A 100-run partnership ensued but that’s how far it reached. Tharanga became Jadeja’s first victim of a dream spell when the left-armer went past his defences.

The remainder of the Sri Lankan inning can be best summarized as this: The first two wickets cost India 165 runs and the next 74 runs cost Sri Lanka eight wickets. This surely was not a barter but a superlative effort from Jadeja, ably supported by Harbhajan and two wickets off two balls by Ishant. A middle order minus last-match hero Mathews and out-of-form Mahela looked pretty thin and succumbed to Jadeja’s guile.

Jadeja was the only bowler to complete his 10 overs in which he took 4 wickets for 32 runs. The all-rounder undoubtedly proved that he wasn’t a square peg in a round hole. Jadeja answered the criticism he received during World T20 and lately during his atrocious run-out against Australia when Sachin hit 175.

Sehwag led the chase with a signature knock of 44 off 28 balls with nine fours. With the run-rate taken care of, Sachin and Gambhir put their head down to throw Sri Lanka out of the match with a 72-run second-wicket partnership. Yuvraj chipped in with 23 but wasn’t his fluent self and was visibly mindful of his finger, which meant he was short of being 100%.  Dinesh Karthik moved in with Tendulkar who by then had a sniff at 46th ODI ton.

To his credit, Karthik played wonderfully well but in making those 32 runs, he spoiled the party a little, leaving Sachin just three short of triple figures. But the final five runs didn’t come off Karthik’s bat but from byes. So I guess that settles the argument. The bottom line, though, remains that India lead the series 2-1 and the young-man Jadeja did something at last to justify Dhoni’s faith.

The BCCI-appointed fielding tutor of the Indian team may be impressed by the drills of U-19 boys but the men failed to get it right once again and gifted a close match to Sri Lanka. More than the catching, the ground fielding was found wanted this time.

At least three slapdash incidents remain etched in the mind, without which the match would surely have made it to the final ball: Kohli-Harbhajan combine’s overthrow resulting in 4 runs, Sehwag’s straightforward miss costing a couple and Zaheer’s schoolboy effort in the last over letting three runs slip. Leaving out other minor lapses, these three goof-ups cost India 9 runs and eventually the match.

It started with Dhoni electing to bat, which didn’t initially prove right. While Sehwag displayed the human nature to err at times, Gambhir’s insane attempts at snatching singles finally brought the dreaded run-out. Kohli got the promotion he needed to justify his hype. He had the master Sachin Tendulkar for support who undoubtedly had a role in the crisp knock Kohli played. He hogged majority of the strike and was the aggressor in the 62-run stand. He reached his fifty at just over a run a ball, but perished when looking good at 54 to debutant offie Suraj Randiv.

Sachin stayed to add another 51 runs with Dhoni before he got stumped in an attempt to deposit Mendis. Dhoni would have followed soon, but for the first of four lives he got, when Sangakkara missed to collect an edge. Raina was watchful at the start but kept his end productively plugged. The Indian skipper got the next let-offs in the 37th over, again from Sangakkara who first dropped a catch and then missed a stumping, leaving Mendis in disbelief. Dhoni reached his 50 off the very next ball and the score started to balloon.

MSD decided to up the ante even before taking the power-play in the 41st over, but it was Raina who made full use of the field restrictions. He almost caught up with Dhoni by the end of five-over bracket which added 50 runs to the total. Raina’s 53-ball knock of 68 was ended by Mathews that brought Jadeja in. Dhoni got his final reprieve at the edge of his century when Mendis made a meal of a miscued skier. The skipper ultimately reached his second hundred on the trot at Nagpur, a chancy one indeed.

The final over didn’t unfold in India’s favour where they lost the skipper and Harbhajan and could take only five runs off, which were enough to end up with a biggish 301. Though it wasn’t as big a total as 413 but a run-rate of six is never easy to maintain.

Indian bowlers had to solve the Dilshan riddle to make serious inroads into a solid batting lineup. However, it wasn’t to be. The ‘scooper’ continued from where he left and enthralled the crowd with his scintillating stroke-play. With no wickets coming forth, Dhoni called Harbhajan early and decided not to take the power-play.

The Sri Lankans continued to pile on the agony and reached 102 in the 14th over. With a spread out field, Harbhajan finally foxed Tharanga and got him out caught by Sehwag at slip. Dhoni took the power-play in the very next over against a dangerous duo of Dilshan and Sangakkara. India bowled tightly in those five overs and the pressure brought about Sangakkara’s run-out.

It was a cat and mouse game from hereon in. While the Lankans were happy picking ones and twos, India were content giving away those and protect boundaries. That kept brewing the match for a last-ball boiler. Dilshan – in the form of his life – registered his second consecutive ODI hundred in characteristic fashion. His was the most important wicket and Nehra – India’s most expensive bowler – captured it with a clever yorker in the 36th over to set up the match. But it was not before the opener had plundered 123 runs in 113 balls with 12 fours and 2 sixes.

Mahela failed to play an influential role and the young ones were again asked to finish it off. Sri Lanka took their batting power-play in the 45th over but got off to the worst possible start, losing Kandamby and Kapugedera in a space of two balls to magical Zaheer. He continued to be India’s old-ball wizard and not only kept India in the match with a probing spell but also took three important wickets in doing so.

It was building up nicely until the final ball of the penultimate over: Mathews hit it straight to Zaheer at mid-on and what should have been at most a single resulted in four after Zaheer let it through his legs. The writing was now on the wall, just one needed from the final over. The field was brought in, only to be pierced on the very first ball and level the series at one apiece.

This was Sri Lanka’s first successful chase above 300 in the subcontinent, but the shoddy Indian fielding had more than a role in presenting the neighbors this gift, which they grabbed with both hands.

‘Meaty bats in gifted hands don’t harm, they kill’. That should be a hung signboard in all the dressing rooms where the Indian and Sri Lankan teams take off their bags. The run-scoring spree in Sri Lanka’s current tour of India once again refused to obey any speed-limit rules. On the contrary, it continued its way up towards a record-breaking mark.

The first game of the ODI series at Rajkot saw reciprocal batting lessons being delivered that notched up a match total of colossal 825 runs soaked in 80 fours and 24 sixes. For India – who eventually won the humdinger by 3 runs – it was Sehwag who continued to haunt Sri Lanka with a blistering 146 off 102 balls, followed by Sachin and then skipper Dhoni’s quick-fire half centuries All this en route to India’s highest total in ODIs: 414/7.

So much was done by the top three – Sehwag, Sachin and Dhoni – after put in to bat that only a couple of cameos were needed to reach the 400th milestone. India not only had big opening and first-wicket stands of 153 and 156 respectively but stitched those at such a rate that by the time Sehwag got out in the 36th over, the Indian scorecard read 309/2.

Sehwag was as usual brutal in his onslaught that included 17 punishing fours and 6 gigantic sixes, Sachin scored his 69 runs at better than a run a ball and Dhoni was right up there with Sehwag hitting 72 off 53 balls with seven hits to the boundary and three over it. Sehwag and Dhoni were dismissed in quick succession during the batting power-play. Raina and Gambhir couldn’t do much together and perished cheaply in their quest for quick runs. That’s when the Indian run-rate slipped a little, which probably led to the goof-up of Harbhajan’s promotion ahead of Kohli and Jadeja.

It’s ironic that in a run-feast, India batted worst in the batting power-play, scoring just 33 runs and losing three wickets. The slide was arrested later by Kohli and Jadeja who gave the inning much-needed momentum in the death overs and carried India past their previous highest of 413 against an untested Bermuda.

In hindsight, having conceded 414 runs, Sri Lankan batsmen had that exclusive licence to kill and consequently thrill. Not that Dilshan needs any signal, the target would certainly have added to the thrust of his bat. Instead of Jayasuriya – who has been pushed back to the middle order by his skipper – Tharanga came in to swing the bat with Dilshan.

The worst part of a 400+ score is that the team could afford to drop a few catches, which India surely have done enough but exactly what they did again. Tharanga was given an early life by Virat Kohli who continued to break his promise of a good fielder by dropping catches, this time at short point.

To give India any scare, Dilshan had to fire. The ‘scooper’ not only scored but also never looked out of sorts keeping abreast with the required rate of eight; in fact, he kept it over that mark and went on to score another century on Indian soil. Tharanga fell against the run of play against a part-timer in Raina, but not before making a solid altar of 188 runs for his team.

Sangakkara came in at his customary number three slot and embarked on his way to playing the inning of the match. He started hitting as if having a net in official gear. He found the gaps at will and for a change, cleared the rope with ridiculous ease in between. His scoring rate went soaring past Dilshan’s, as he reached his 50 in 24 balls. India made another blunder in the field at an important juncture when Harbhajan dropped Sangakkara at 58. The way Sri Lankan skipper was playing, it looked like Bhajji had dropped the match.

Sri Lanka chose to take the batting power-play from over number 36 to 40 and that’s when the match started turning. Though Sri Lanka did score 51 runs, they too lost three crucial wickets of Sangakkara, Jayasuriya and Dilshan. Sangakkara was first to go after making a whirlwind 90 off just 43 balls, studded with 10 fours and 5 towering sixes; Jayasuriya failed to justify his demotion by the skipper; and Dilshan fell after playing beautifully for 160 that contained 20 fours and 3 sixes.

The spell of the match was bowled by Harbhajan Singh who was the only bowler on either side to concede less than six runs an over. He got his team two important breakthroughs as well of Jayasuriya and Dilshan. Had either of those two stayed for any length of time, Sri Lanka would have romped home.

Jayawardene’s run-out put Sri Lanka further behind the asking rate and it was then left to Samaraweera, Kandamby and Mathews to take their team past the finish line. Kandamby and Mathews almost accomplished that and reached to the point where they needed just 15 off 12 balls for an improbable win.

Dhoni chose his two experienced left-armers – Zaheer and Nehra – to bowl the 49th and 50th over respectively. ‘Midas’ Singh Dhoni’s decision again turned to gold when Zaheer gave just four runs in the penultimate over that enclosed two more run-outs of Kandamby and Samaraweera. Nehra now had 11 runs to play with against a competent Angelo Mathews. The Delhi pacer rediscovered his full-pitched length but was lucky to dismiss Mathews off a full-toss which he hit to short mid-wicket where Sachin made a timely jump to claim the catch and match.

Sri Lankans could barely dig out the last two deliveries for singles, which saw Indians running from all corners of the ground to end up in their signature huddle and courtesy handshakes with the opponents.

The 100-over massacre at Rajkot ended with a scoring rate of 8.25 runs an over. It would be a fair assumption that the match was won and lost in those 10 overs of batting power-plays where ironically the least number of runs were scored.

Days of Mike Young’s ephemeral Indian sojourn have begun on a buttery note, with the Indians repetitively failing to cup their hands together.

The elite Test slip cordon of Dravid, Laxman and Sachin hardly let one go through their fingers but Dhoni’s young brigade – supposedly a better fielding outfit – has failed miserably in the crash course. You can choose your best fielder in the Indian T20 squad and that man would have spilled at least one. Be it Yuvraj, Raina, Jadeja or Kathik (India’s best line up from point to mid-off), each one of them played a catch-dropper’s role.

First game of the two-match T20 series accentuated the gaping difference between the two fielding units. India not only dropped catches but made it look worse with their pedestrian ground fielding. This cost India dearly, as Sri Lankans made most of their second lives, taking the target over 200. Sri Lanka was the other side of the coin in the field. They netted the aerial shots expertly, while keeping Indians from picking easy ones and twos. Lots of notes to be made by Mike young, watching intently.

If anything, the second match brought India’s fielding curve crashing further down.  Another five skiers were let through and Young was again left clutching his mitt. It won’t be wrong to admit that Yuvraj’s birthday charm made his team run-out immune and his blitzkrieg later on helped India pull one back to level the series.

But the talking point remains the Indian fielding, or the lack of it. Let’s see if Mike Young – a baseball expert – has a magic wand up his sleeve or was it just the extravagant moolah offered by BCCI that prompted him to take this evanescent job that lasts only for the ODI series beginning tomorrow.