And finally fulfils the promise made of posing in the nude if KKR win the IPL5
Its now SRK’s turn to go down the Howrah Bridge and ride on the Hooghly with the trophy!
Its not everyday that we get a chance to create history, to cross the threshold and write a new future, to take the albatross off our back. Its not everyday that we can erase the misfortunes of the past and tread into a world of possibilities where we truly belong. And in all such moments, which can make heroes out of ordinary individuals, South Africa fumbles.
SA seem to be robbed off the enthusiasm to correct things and the will to change it. It’s like, they are so scared to lose that they end up losing in fear of it. The matches are lost much before they are played, in their minds. The same thing happened to SA against NZ. Chasing a moderate total of 221, they crumbled for 176.
Earlier in the tournament they had choked to England. But they came back well in the next few matches. Like everybody else, I too thought that they were done with choking. Since its already happened before, they would’ve brushed it aside and moved on. But the burden of winning the critical QF got to them. From a strong position of 120 odd for loss of 2 wickets, they were cruising along. And then, something happened. They were faced with the fact that this win would take them to the SF and they choked under pressure.
What’s worse is the fact that this isn’t the first time they have choked. They have had a string of such choking moments, starting from 1992 World Cup. That was the first time SA played in a world cup tournament and they made it till the knock out stage. But they couldn’t deliver the knock out punch. It was a rainy day and the target of 22 runs from 13 balls was suddenly reduced to 22 from 1 ball, and SA lost by 19 runs. It was just unfortunate that they couldn’t make it. Such a talented team was out of the tourney.
Then came 1996, where they lost to WI by 19 runs. They were going well and suddenly someone pressed the panic button and the boat of hope capsized in no time. Again in 1999, luck did not go their way. The match that they should have won with ease, eventually ended up in a tie. Klussner blasted 3 fours in the last over and tied the score. Just 1 run was needed to win and they had 3 balls remaining. Klussner should have gone for a flourishing drive but he tried to take a cheeky single. With the last pair at the crease, Donald, ran his hardest but was run-out. Thus ending their hope for 1999 WC.
In every WC edition, South Africa has been counted among the best teams and potential winners. But these self-effacing matches and not seizing the moment has cost them dearly. The 2003 WC was held in SA with the hope that home team would lift the cup. But again, as fate would have it, another Duckworth-Lewis calculation let them down. Boucher was at the crease and had levelled the score as per D/L method, according to the communication that he received from his coach. And he ended up wasting the remaining 3 balls. Had he taken a single run in those 3 balls, SA would have bee through. But SA were cheated off the WC again, this time owing to miscommunication and misunderstanding of the D/L method.
In all these matches, SA were chasing a score ad they lost. They choked and couldn’t go past the finish line. But before one assumes that SA probably should try defending a score and maybe that would work for them, let me add that in 2007 WC they lost defending a score. SA lost to Australia, who eventually went on to win the cup.
So, what we see is a steady pattern where SA have choked time and again in every important match. Its not like they can’t win. They chased 434 against Aus and won the game, they have beaten the best of teams. But when it comes to WC matches, especially elimination or knock-out matches, they turn off-color. SA needs to introspect why this happens to them. They probably need a pep talk or some kind of psychological help to build their confidence and up their morale. Its high time SA claim their rightful place in world cricket. They are among the best teams of the world that deserves to lift the cup at least once. They play fantastic cricket throughout the year, win matches in home and away, and still when it comes to WC they choke. I just hope they get rid of this choker tag soon. We would like to see SA lift the cup, hopefully next time.
This post was first published on Yahoo Network
The D-day is getting close. The clash of the titans, India with Pak, is slated for 30-Mar. Its been more than 8 years since India beat Pak in a world cup encounter. Hence, the build up to this match is huge; almost unimaginable.
On the day of the QF, the streets were empty by 6pm before India began their batting. All eyes were glued to the tv screen or the mobile screen for regular updates. If India can come to a semi-stand-still when playing against Aus, wonder what will happen during SF. Its quite obvious that in this part of the world, in cricket frenzy nations like India & Pak; both countries will come to a total stand-still. Even the elected heads of the two nations would be watching the match, its been such a kind of atmosphere.
Coming back to the game, both teams have fought well and come to this stage which is being termed as ‘mother of all matches’. Pressure is on both teams but more on Pak, although Pak is claiming that pressure is on India to win in their home ground. So, why is the pressure more on Pak?
For the simple reason that, Pak has never beaten India in a world cup match. In the last 4 encounters, India has won all 4 against Pak handsomely; last of it being in 2003. Pak has lost while chasing as well as while defending a total. This gives India the confidence that they don’t have to worry about batting first or bowling first. Lets go over some of the wins that we have had on them in world cup, as well as compare the 2 teams in all those matches.
2003 was a great year for India at the WC. We made it to the finals but lost, and yet some think that beating Pak in itself was like winning the cup. Rhetoric aside, Pak was a strong team in 2003. They had the bowling strength of Wasim Akram, Shoaib Akhtar & Waqar Younis; and the batting strength of Inzamam & Youhana; but the current Pak team is young and inexperienced. Anyways, Pak won the toss and batted first. 273 was a great total, especially in a high pressure match. Akram was grinning ear to ear when Pak completed their innings as the bowlers had a sizeable total to defend. But the smiles soon faded as the Tendulkar and Sehwag assaulted the bowlers and hit them all round the park. Tendulkar’s brilliant 98 and a fine finish by Yuvraj in the end saw India beat the Pakis. That was a great win.
Much before this match, when India played Pak in 1996 WC match, it was a different situation. India batted first and were heading for a mediocre total of 220+, but the lusty blows of Ajay Jadeja lifted the score to a decent 287. Aamir Sohail and Saeed Anwar provided them a fine start and Pak were very much in the hunt and had reached a good steady position in their chase. But a hot headed Sohail exchanged some words with medium pacer Venkatesh Prasad. What followed next changed the match and tilted the balance in India’s favour. Prasad bowled a slower one and fooled Sohail into pushing at the ball, which he missed totally and his stumps were scattered. Pak has still not forgiven Sohail for that, as the batting collapsed.
Similarly in 1992, India batted first and setup a paltry total of 216 backed by Tendulkar’s fifty. Pak did not go about the chase well and crumbled for 173. It was the same match where Javded Miandad made a fool of himself when he jumped up and down, trying to tease Kiran More.
In 1999 too, Pak were chasing a small total of 227 and they were all out for 180. Pak does not have a world cup temperament. All teams of Pak were led by capable captains, be it Imran or Akram or Haq; all of them lost to India. So, what chance does an erratic Shahid Afridi have?
Of course in a world cup match, all statistics become irrelevant as its the performance on that particular day is what matters. But history is on our side. We have done it in the past and we can go into this match trying to repeat history. The hstory will give us the confidence and a positive attitude to play well and dominate Pak.
This Pak team is the weakest one in years. They have a captain who performs with the ball but not the bat, loses his cool on players and he was not even the first choice for captain a few months ago. Moreover, Pak’s batting has been disastrous. The only thing going in Pak’s favor is bowling of Umar Gul. But I am not sure if Gul has the fire power to demolish India. It will take more than a few good balls to get the likes of Tendulkars and Yuvrajs.
India, on the other hand, have a cool captain who has been doing good captaincy and keeping the wickets well. He hasn’t performed with the bat yet, but this may just be the occasion that he was waiting for. India’s bowling mess has been sorted out, Zaheer has been in tremendous form and Ashwin has been accurate as well as wicket taking. India’s strength has been batting and they have displayed that well. In the last match against Australia, everyoe chipped in with the bat. In the top 5 batsmen of the tournament, we have 2 Indians Sachin and Sehwag; while Yuvraj has been MoM on 4 occasions, hitting fifties and taking wickets.
Having said the above, I do think Pak have an outside chance if they perform with the bat. Even if we consider for a moment that they get India all out for 220+, will their batsmen manage to chase the score?
Past performance aside, even on current form, India scores against Pak on every factor. India has the strength to beat Pak and I am sure we will do it. Having beaten the defending champions Aus, this should not be a big task. Without wasting more time, we should go for the kill. If we bat first, bat Pak out of the match by making 300+. If we ball first, try and get them out within 250. Forget the pitch, this match will be won or lost in the minds of the players. Those who soak in pressure will win it, and India seems to be the team who does that best. Come on India, make us proud!
This post was first published on Yahoo Network
India’s match against WI on Sunday, 20-Mar, was an important one for India. Other than the fact that Sachin was out in the open in a bid to score hundred 100’s, it was more essential that India beat WI and go up the points table. It was a pressure match for both teams. And in such scenario, although the field umpire turned down the appeal, Sachin walked off the field as his bat faintly nicked the ball.
This was yet aother instance of Sachin not waiting for the umpire’s decision and walking back to the pavillion on his own. I vividly remember that during the famous Sharjah Cup, when India were on an important run chase, then too Damien Fleming appealed for a caught-behind which the umpire did not acknowledge but Sachin walked off the field after having scored a brilliant hundred. Its incidents like these that earns him respect from everybody, even the belligerent opponents stop by to praise him.
Sachin of course listened to his conscience and walked off, but that has stirred off an age old debate: whether to walk-off or not. Basically the decision to walk is based on 2 important things:
a. is cricket still a gentleman’s game where individual honesty and sportsman spirit is necessary?
b. is cricket a game where shrewd thinking and cunningly nature is required?
Lets see point [b] first. The most glaring example of this was the underarm bowling done by Trevor Chappell on instruction from his brother and captain Greg Chappell to prevent the opposition batsman from hitting a six on the last ball of the match. Chappell brothers played a wily card by exploiting a loophole of the game, but it was against spirit of the game. Winning was the most important thing for Greg Chappell and he did just that, win the match but lose respect.
From then on, Australians have been known for using sly ways to keep the winning streak. Be it sledging or standing the ground after having nicked a ball or be it claiming a catch after grassing the ball, they have done it all. Ponting and other Asutralians just continue the tradition of standing until the umpire does not raise the finger. In fact, Ponting and co. believe in grassing the ball and yet claiming the catch, thereby putting the responsibility of judging on the shoulders of the umpires. Gilchrist, on some rare occasions, has walked off immediately. But he too does not have a 100% track record of walking. He has stood his ground or walked off based on team’s situation. When the team needed him at the crease, he stood his ground and waited for umpire’s decision. But when he took a call that Aus is in safe position, he has walked off. Anyhow, one Gilchrist cannot be an example for the entire team.
Lets see point [a] now. Most of the greats have always walked-off without waiting for the umpire’s decision. In the past, Gavaskar, Shastri, Vengsarkar have walked. Even Richards, Greenidge, Gower have walked. But in this day and age, it has become a rarity. That’s why Sachin’s walking off has raised a debate. Honest players like Andy Flower, Jacques Kallis, Dravid etc have also walked; but just that it hasn’t happened so often with them.
Walking-off shows courage, honesty and respect for the game. It shows that individual records don’t matter much, but playing the game in the right spirit does. Its the selfish, cunning and timid people who stand their ground because they want to score more runs for themselves. But they don’t realise that in the process of not walking, they are belittling themselves in the eyes of their fan. With so many cameras and microphones, super slo-mo and snickometer, they cannot escape. They may score a few more runs but they cannot earn respect.
In my opinion, walking-off is sportsman spirit and restores the respect of the game, as well as it instils honesty and brings dignity to the sport. In this tough competitive championship, there should be moments of selfless behaviour too, so that we can keep alive the adage of cricket being a gentleman’s game.
This post was first published on Yahoo Network
At the end of the group matches I have no hesitation in saying that South Africa and Sril Lanka have emerged as the strongest teams; and not just because they have topped the table of their respective groups. Both teams have topped the table by playing well consistently, and winning big matches. SA lost to England, but they came back very well in the next match. They have the depth in their batting line-up and their bowlers are doing well. Their fielders of course, have always lifted the morale of the team and made the bowling look even better by diving around and saving runs. Except that one choking moment, against England, they have looked a brilliant side.
SL too have done their best and used the conditions very well. The slow pitches in SL, where the ball grips and slows down, has helped them. But SL haven’t been challenged yet. The match against Aus was washed out and they had it easy against Pak, when Pak was not the dangerous team what they have gone on to become now. SL’s strength lies in batting and Malinga’s bowling spell. If any team can tackle these both factors, they can beat SL.
Having said the above, its still an open tournament and anyone can win it because there hasn’t been a single dominating team. Every team has had its ups and downs, wins and losses, strengths and vulnerabilities. I was about to write a post on Aus and how they have gone on to silently win their matches while people have been watching Group-B clashes, when they suffered a shock defeat at the hands of Pak. The vulnerability of Aus lies in its batting line-up. Ponting hasn’t been in good nick, their top order hasn’t delivered, their bowling looks jaded. But what they have done well is “never say die” attitude. They have won their group matches more due to good positive attitude than due to good stellar performances. If any team can cause a collapse in the top and middle order, and don’t lose wickets in first 10 overs while batting, can beat Aus. Easier said than done, but thats the key; strike at their vulnerability.
India seem to be peaking at the right time, neither too early nor too late. And this is the perfect time to play against Aus. They have come from a bad loss to Pak and things are not looking good for them. India can take heart from the fact that if Pak can beat them, then we can too. India’s bowling woes have been sorted out, thanks to Ashwin’s inclusion. The side is looking more balanced now, with 2 medium pacers and 2 spinners. Only question is, when Sehwag returns from injury, who will sit out. I think Raina will have to sit out because Pathan is a trump card. He has not fired until now, but is a dormant volcano who will blow up anytime soon. If there is a time to come good for him, its now. If India bat first and post anything in excess of 290, we can exert pressure on Aus and bulldoze them. Wishful thinking, but that should be the strategy. We have to even avenge the 2003 WC Final loss, and no better way than to eliminate them from WC2011.
“England is the new Pak”, as per the tweets and sms doing the rounds. Both Pak & England are unpredictable sides and on their day can win a match or on an off-day can lose it. They don’t have an average day or a median on the graph, they fall on extremes. So, either they get whacked out or they whack the opposition out. Pak play WI and Eng play SL.
Coming to SL/Eng match, that will be a close encounter. Remember, England has caused a few upsets and have played well against bigger teams. They may have lost to B’desh and Ireland, but they have beaten WI and SA; and both from difficult situations. They have been able to defend scores and thats their strength. This will be a tough match to call, I am sure that balance of the match with shift every few overs.
NZ and WI are the weakest teams of the QF. WI have lost two matches from winning positions, against Eng and India. If they are to chase a score, its highly probable that they would crumble. Both teams are comfortable batting first and putting up a total. So, the team that bats first and bowls their first 15 overs well, will win this one. As of now, it seems like Pak is definitely through to Semis as WI are not that good a side to beat Pak on its current form. Coming to NZ, they too have an uphill task of beating SA.
As I see it, SA and Pak will sail into the semis without any problems. Eng and SL will be a keen contest, so will India and Aus be. Although Eng have been on a roll after winning ICC T20 championship and followed it up with Ashes victory, I will go with SL because its a sub-continental pitch and SL have the advantage. And finally, head and heart says that India will beat Aus on current form of the two teams.
This post was first published on Yahoo Network
England became the first team of Group-B to finish with all 6 of their matches and now they have to wait and watch the results of India’s encounter with West Indies and Bangladesh’s play-off with South Africa. England would be hoping that India beat WI and SA beat B’desh; so that would assure their chances in QF.
But as we have seen before, nothing can be said with surety. England have lived dangerously and survived the worst scares with calm & composure. They were on the verge of losing to SA and WI, but they pulled off victories in both the matches and shocked the opposition. On the other hand, they squandered away their chances of beating minnow teams. They lost to B’desh and Ireland, which was so unexpected. They beat the tough teams and were in turn beaten by smaller teams.
England managed to draw the match against India, and this is where the fate of both team hangs. At the end of the group matches, both teams will sit and reflect upon this tied match. Had the match resulted in a win, we would have had a clear QF qualifier. But cricket is a funny game.
While England has survived living on the edge, India has done just the opposite due to complacency. India has been laid back in their approach, they have not won any match convincingly. They were not able to defend a huge total of 297 against SA, while England defended lesser totals like 171 against SA & 243 against WI.
India has 3 wins, and all 3 against smaller teams. They haven’t kept their nerves in the big matches. They lost to SA and could not win against England. And both matches went down to the last ball of the game. Two good overs could have won us both the games, but we just weren’t upto the task. That’s where captaincy comes in, and Dhoni has looked out of control. He hasn’t been able to inspire the bowlers and while batting he has not been able to motivate himself, let alone inspiring fellow batsmen. Sachin, Gambhir, Sehwag and Zaheer have been the only consistent performers. Rest of the players haven’t done anything of consequence yet.
England can cool their heels and watch the remaining group matches, but India have to be on their toes against WI and win to stay in the tournament. Now that WI has lost a close match to England, they will probably comeback hard on us. This match will be more like an elimination for WI. If they lose the match, they would be out of the tournament. If India loses then they will have to hope that SA beat B’desh, which seems quite probable. But again, there is no surety in this game. Only if India wins against WI and SA beats B’desh, can India breathe easy.
On the other side of the fence, B’desh would be hoping that India beat WI. But apart from pinning their hopes on India, B’desh would also have to beat SA to keep their chances alive. If this happens then WI would be eliminated and B’desh would be in top 4 of Group-B table.
All in all, we have an exciting weekend ahead in which fortunes of all 4 teams, India, England, WI & B’desh, will be decided. But India and England will be most worried, thanks to the tied match. Lets see whose fortune dwindles.
This post was first published on Yahoo Network
This World Cup has been a mixed bag of some good performances and some shoddy ones too. The players who have lived upto their reputations are there to be seen. But there are a number of players who have badly disappointed us. Here’s a small list of such players :
a. Ricky Ponting : He has looked out of touch and failed to score even against minnows. Being the captain, he should be leading from the front. But his woeful form has been a dark spot in the otherwise fair performance of the team. He is lucky to be leading a good team, but if a player had to be chosen based on form then he would not have found a place in the team.
b. Yusuf Pathan : He came into the tournament with a huge reputation of hitting big sixes and of pulling the team out of tough situations, thanks to IPL. But that seems to have faded now. He has not been sent down the correct batting order, which could be one of the reasons why he is unable to perform. But I hope he fires in the next few matches else he will lose his place to Suresh Raina.
c. Harbhajan Singh : Where spinners like Dockrell and part-timers like Yuvraj have been able to make an impact in the game, Bhajji has been docile. Forget ‘doosra’, he is not even able to bowl the ‘pehla’, his off-spinners, correctly. Batsmen don’t fear his spin and are actually going after him. If India has to succeed, Bhajji has to pick 3 wickets or at least stem the run-flow in every match.
d. Kamran Akmal : There was a funny tweet/sms going around which read “Behind every successful batsman is Akmal keeping the wickets”. Such has been his form, totally lacklustre. He has missed stumping chances, run-outs and dropped easy catches like hot potatoes. He is in danger of losing his spot in the side, if he doesn’t pull up his socks.
e. Piyush Chawla : The man who took a 4 wikcet haul in the practise match against Australia and shut the mouth of his detractors has actually under-performed. He has not lived upto the expectation that he himself set. On the contrary, he has not been able to bowl a decent spell until now. He has gone for runs and not taken wickets too. I think Ashwin, who is waiting in the wings, ought to be given a chance over Chawla.
f. Mahela Jayawardene : The backbone of Sri Lankan middle-order is turning out spineless. Some bad shot selection and poor form has done him in. More was expected out of this Lankan, but he has not delivered.
g. Chris Gayle : This West Indian opener hasn’t fired yet. If he gets going, the opposition bowlers would seek mercy, but that hasn’t happened yet. More is expected of him in the coming matches.
h. James Anderson : The pace attack of England has proven to be inocuous, reason being that Anderson is not in top form. He looks tired in his run up and is unable to gather pace. England can win only if Anderson runs through the top order of any batting attack or at least wind-up the tail with his quickies. His inability to do so has harmed England.
i. Odoyo & Obuya brothers : In the last edition of the World Cup, Kenya looked like a weak team on the verge of metamorphosis into a strong and resilient team. But the failure of these players, along with Tikolo, has lost matches and respect for the blossoming Kenyan team.
j. Brendon McCullum : The once formidable batting line-up of New Zealand is now looking shaky. The top and middle-order is not playing to its potential. And McCullum, the man who holds the key to binding top and middle-order, seems listless. His strike rotation and lustly blows are being missed this time around.
There are a few more players who have disappointed us, but expectation from the above players was more than from the others. I just hope they get back in form and perform well in future.
This post was first published on Yahoo Network