WHAT GOES UP…..

Posted on July 26, 2013. Filed under: CRICKET | Tags: , , , , , |

It would be an understatement to say that the Ashes 2013 are going towards the home team going by the result of the first two test matches no matter what Michael Clarke has to say about winning the series 3-2.

It was not too long ago that the Australian cricket structure was something that was the thing to emulate as far as cricketing success was concerned. The players, coaches and even the commentators from down under were regarded as special having that extra that were the envy of other cricketing nations. The payments offered in events like IPL to those coming from Australia made for difficult questions in quiz competitions. Coaches have been outsourced from Australia not only by national teams but also by state teams in India. It is not surprising that some commentators even try to sound like the Australians behind the microphone! But not all of them have proved to be a success.

Economists have for long attempted to understand and explain the rise and the decline in the level of economic activity through the use of the concept of business cycles. Words like recession and recovery are interspersed with terms like boom. There are different theories taking into account different factors at the heart of the recurring cyclical phases of economic activity. Possible solutions are also offered to reduce the length of the period where economic activity is at a low. Players like the central banks are often asked to lead the recovery and take the economy back to its glorious days. But there are some who say that the cyclical phases are inevitable given the fundamental causes and no tinkering can prevent or reduce the economic hardships.

It is in my humble opinion that the men in the baggy greens are going through the downward phase of their cricketing cycle after being at the top for a long time since the series win in the Caribbean in 1995. That marked the end of the success story of the Windies and the ascendancy of the Aussies. No one could predict the sorry state of the Windies that once thrashed the living daylights out of every opposition team. As a proud supporter of the Indian team, I was more interested in the performances of the likes of Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev with the result of the match already known whenever India and the Windies met on the cricket field .At that time, the English cricket team was subject to ‘brownwashes’ not experienced even during the pomp of Don Bradman. Various theories were floated to explain the downfall in the standards of English cricket just as the case in the aftermath of the decline of the Windies starting from the latter half of the 1990s and the Aussie team now. There is one common reason-the lack of quality in the domestic players and the failings of the domestic cricket structure.

The lack of quality in the domestic players and the structure of domestic cricket and not to mention the BCCI are often blamed whenever the Indian team does not perform up to the expectations. Earlier, one day internationals were the main cause and now it is the IPL that is the cause of the ills that plague the Indian cricket team. To these factors add the lack of ‘sporting pitches’ and the whole equation becomes extremely complex that would test any analyst. The same causes or reasons are thrown around with the failures of the Aussie cricketers in the ongoing Ashes series. The Big Bash League the Aussie equivalent of the IPL takes most of the blame for the lack of skills and techniques in the current team that is in England. The experts are not afraid to point a finger at the quality of the pitches used for domestic cricket in Australia. The same pundits give credit to the T20 format when it comes to the improvement in the fielding skills and some of the shots like the ‘Dilscoop’ that are now part of the cricket lexicon!

There was a time when county cricket and the influx of foreign players was said to be the factor responsible for the decline in English cricket during the 1980s and the 1990s. A similar suggestion is made when anyone expresses surprise over the lack of success for the English football team in international competitions even as the country is home to some of the most successful football clubs.

After the loss of the Ashes at home, Cricket Australia appointed a committee to look into the likely causes and even mandated the committee to suggest possible long-term remedies to improve the stock of Australian cricket. Going by media reports, it now appears that most of the recommendations of the committee have not been implemented.

The English media has been gloating over the success of the cricket team as something that is the result of planning for a long time. The coaching staff led by Andy Flower and the cricket administration is given the credit for the success on the cricket field. There is no one who is going to deny the credit but all the talk about planning is something that does not go down well with me.

I am of the humble view that the decline of the Aussie cricket team has more to do with the overall decline of Australia in the sporting arena. Remember the number of Aussie medal winners in the London Summer Olympics of 2012? England or the United Kingdom is now experiencing a golden period of sporting excellence starting with the London Olympics and the latest being the winner in the Tour de France. There was a time when there were few world class athletes in England and now there are many across different disciplines. It will take time for Australia to rebuild and reclaim the top spot in cricket no matter who gets to coach or captain or who is called into the team.

Remember, what goes up, must come down.

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ON TECHNIQUES

Posted on April 21, 2013. Filed under: CRICKET, IPL, SEHWAG, SPORTS | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

 

Oxforddictionaries.com provides the following meanings for the term technique:

1.skill or ability in a particular field

2.a skilful or efficient way of doing or achieving something

Merrian-Webster.com also has a similar offering to make when technique is defined as a method of accomplishing a desired aim.

What is my aim of talking about technique?

It has to do something with athletes and sportspersons in general and Virendra Sehwag in particular.

Sehwag has been one of my most favourite of cricket players and when he fails to perform as is the case now, it is painful to say the least for me and many of his fans.

A student of mine, who is now a colleague, blamed the lack of technique as the reason for the repeated failures of Sehwag that has led to the omission of the batsman from the Indian team. Even in the world of IPL where Sehwag was expected to score heavily, things have been extremely disappointing.

There are instances when commentators use the phrases like ‘straight out of the copybook’ or ‘right out of the coaching manual’ while describing a shot. I wonder which or whose manual or the copybook is to be used as a reference while explaining a particular shot played by a particular player. This is because each player has his or her own technique that is as individual as the player in question. This is very much a dichotomy since every player is urged to play according to his or her natural talents (meaning individual technique), yet at the same time, we spend too much time thinking and talking about some manual or copybook.

Every player has a particular way of dealing with a specific ball or a pitch and it is very difficult to have a similar solution for all. The physical characteristics of the individual player do matter a lot when playing a shot. There can be only one Brian Lara and no matter how hard one desires to imitate his style, the lefthander will be considered unique.Ravindra Pushpakumara of Sri Lanka had a bowling action very close to that of Waqar Younis of Pakistan but the Sri Lankan could not even once replicate the success of the Pakistan paceman. A certain Vivian Richards had a style and technique of his own and no other batsman till date has shown that kind of an ability that would make bowlers shiver in their pants.

Sunil Gavaskar was extremely successful playing against some of the greatest fast bowlers that have graced the game. He did that without the use of the helmet and that too on wickets that were really fast and bouncy all over the world. At the same time, Gavaskar was equally adept against the spinners as his last innings of 96 versus Pakistan at Bangalore would testify. But there were some question marks about his record against spinners like Derek Underwood. The same is the case with Sachin Tendulkar when it comes to the handling of left-arm spinners. In his last tour down under, Rahul Dravid the technician was repeatedly out bowled. Do these o-called failings cast a question mark over the technique of these masters?

In tennis, the top players have their own style or techniques. Nadal is different from Djokovic who is completely different from Federer when it comes to technique. But all of them are successful. There was a time when the two-handed backhand shot was out of fashion in the men’s game but Djokovic has made it something of his signature shot. Those pundits or the so-called experts who earlier had some theories about why the two-handed backhand would not work are having a quiet time eating the humble pie.

Usain Bolt was deemed too tall for a sprinter and he has the physique of a marathon man from Africa but Bolt is the fastest man in the world for sometime now.

There have many singers who made the initial mark by imitating or covering the songs of the inimitable Kishore Kumar but later they tried to shed this image and started to sing in their own way. One can sing like a Kishore Kumar but one cannot become a Kishore Kumar.

It is not the technique or the lack of it that is responsible for the poor showing of Sehwag. The opposing teams and their bowlers have become smarter and Sehwag has failed to recognize this and reinvent his game. The failure is more due to the lack of confidence in part and in part due to the arrogance. Given the current state, it is very difficult to anticipate a successful comeback by Sehwag into the Indian team but that does not in any way diminish his contribution to the success of the Indian cricket in the not too distant past.

It is not mathematics where there is a unique solution for a specific problem. It is a sport where individual ability and creativity are involved and where a critical decision is to be made when not even a few seconds are available.Does anyone bother about the techniques of masters like Leonardo DaVinci or Michelangelo? Let us not bother about the technical failings of Sehwag. Sit back and recollect those innings where Sehwag conjured some magic with the same technique in the past.

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GREAT PERFORMANCES IN THE WORLD CUP:CHETAN SHARMA-1987

Posted on February 15, 2011. Filed under: CRICKET, CRICKET WORLD CUP, ICC CRICKET WORLD CUP 2011, INDIA, RELIANCE WORLD CUP 1987 | Tags: , , , , , , |

 

CHETAN

 

He is best remembered by my generation for that full toss that was whacked out of the ground at Sharjah by Miandad for an improbable win for Pakistan. That one ball overshadowed all the other important contributions mostly with the ball and on occasions with the bat from this player. Weeks after the incident at Sharjah, this man had a great part in the famous series win by India in England in the test matches. In the very first test, this player took India to the doorstep of a win with splendid bowling.

I am talking about Chetan Sharma, who was small in stature but had a big heart. He was a member of the Indian team that won the Benson & Hedges World Championship of Cricket in Australia in 1985.Sharma played the finals in place of the ill Roger Binny.

Chetan Sharma also a few times was capable of making runs with the bat in the one-dayers even once when promoted up in the batting order during the Nehru Cup. But my abiding memory was the hat-trick achieved by him during the Reliance World Cup in 1987.

India played New Zealand at Nagpur and the visitors batted first. None of the Kiwi batsmen could play a long innings and a modest target awaited India. Rutherford, Ian Smith and Ewen Chatfield were dismissed by Chetan Sharma in successive deliveries for a hat trick. All the three were clean bowled.

But the efforts of Chetan Sharma were completely overshadowed by the batting of Sunil Gavaskar and Srikkanth with the former getting his only century in limited overs. Even earlier, the superlative batting of Dilip Vengsarkar on the tour to England relegated the efforts of Chetan Sharma into the background.

Luckily, things like match-fixing and spot-fixing were not around during the last ball full toss incident at Sharjah, otherwise, Chetan Sharma would have been hounded for all the wrong reasons. Even the government of the day would not have hesitated to constitute an enquiry committee to find the truth!

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WHAT A 100

Posted on November 10, 2010. Filed under: CRICKET, INDIA, TEST CRICKET | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

 

In the just completed test at Motera in Ahmedabad, India managed to stave off an embarassing defeat to lowly ranked New Zealand thanks to the efforts of     V V S Laxman and Harbhajan Singh.

Laxman once again showed everyone in very clear terms why he is really ‘very very special’.This statement is fast becoming a cliche thanks to the exploits of Laxman in the recent matches against Sri Lanka and Australia.

While Laxman’s abilities and credentials cannot be questioned, Harbhajan Singh demonstrated his attitude and brought up his maiden 100 in first class cricket when it really mattered most.Not to forget the half century in the first innings in the same match.

With the 100, Harbhajan joined 3 other Indians who scored their maiden first class 100 in test matches.One of them is the great Kapil Dev.Predictably, after the match, some managed to ‘unearth’ a new all-rounder in Indian cricket. Mercifully, no one has the gall to draw comparisons between Kapil Dev and Harbhajan Singh!Of course, Sunil Gavaskar wants the selectors to make a batsman make way for another bowler in the wake of the 100 from Harbhajan.

Even as praises are showered on the batting efforts of Harbhajan, we have ignored the most important contribution that the off-spinner has to bring to his team. It is a matter of concern that while Harbhajan’s batting has improved, his bowling has gone into downhill. It is a worry that Australia and New Zealand managed to score in excess of 400 runs in the first innings of the previous three test matches in India.The primary role of Harbhajan is to take wickets although runs from his bat are also welcome.

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