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Cricket World Cup 2011 : SA Chokes, Shame Old Story

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.

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Posted by on March 29, 2011 in cricket, sports


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Cricket World Cup 2011 : Who Will Make it to Semis?

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.

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Posted by on March 21, 2011 in cricket, sports


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Cricket World Cup 2011 : Dwindling Fortunes of India & England

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.

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Posted by on March 19, 2011 in cricket, sports


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Cricket World Cup 2011 : India’s Inconsistency Can Spoil Their Chances

Just when everyone was convinced that India has a fantastic batting line-up that delivers the goods and only the bowling has to be improved, we came a cropper on a pitch that was a batting paradise. From 267 for 1 wicket, we crumbled in a flash to end with less than 300 runs; and we did not even manage to play the entire 50 overs.

Most people are talking about the last over bowled by Ashish Nehra and think that we lost the match because of that one over. Hindsight is exact science! What if Harbhajan or Zaheer Khan or any other bowler had bowled that over and we had yet lost. We just shift the blame from one shoulder to another. But most people forget that we lost the match much before that. The moment we failed to capitalize on Tendulkar’s and Gambhir’s partnership, we seized to have any control on the match.

At one stage, India were cruising with score of 220+ in 40 overs against South Africa. The very next day Australia managed to make 220+ runs in 40 overs against Kenya; and New Zealand belted 220+ runs in 40 overs against Canada. Tendulkar and Gambhir mauled the South African bowling attack; we smashed Dale Steyn twice out of the attack. What we achieved against a quality bowling line-up, Australia & NZ could do that only against minnow teams; such is our batting prowess.

And yet, 5 overs later, after 45 overs the complexion of the game changed with Tendulkar’s dismissal. No sooner had he gone of the field, unpadded and refreshed himself, the whole team was back in the pavillion. Only 29 runs were scored for the loss of 9 wickets. Every batsman looked like they were in a hurry to finish the match and fly to the next venue. All the hard work done by Gambhir and Tendulkar came undone.

Although our bowlers did well to take the match to the last ball, we assumed that they have done their job. We think that our bowlers came good but our batsmen failed us against SA. But wait. South Africa’s next match was against Ireland and they managed to score just 272 runs. The Irish bowlers were able to restrict them by giving no loose balls and no easy fours and sixes. In the wake of this fact, Indian bowlers actually failed us by not being able to defend even 297.

Ireland beat England, Bangladesh beat England as well, England beat SA. So, most teams have won at least against one tough opposition; but India hasn’t managed that !

India’s performance has been checkered. We have shown some superb batting display and some great bowling spells, but both haven’t delivered in the same match. India beat Bangladesh and Netherlands easily, and struggled against Ireland but eventually beat them. All three minnow teams. We couldn’t beat England and we lost to SA. What does this say? That we haven’t really won against a quality teams. At this rate we can only dream of the cup. Our inconsistency can spoil our chances.

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Posted by on March 17, 2011 in cricket, sports


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Cricket World Cup 2011 : The Imbalance Of The Two Groups

If we see Group-A and Group-B on paper, it seems like a balanced grouping. Both groups have been created, keeping in mind, that the majors qualify to the next round and the minors stay at the bottom of the table. But in actuality, Group-B has seen more action, more ups and downs, more thrills and chills than Group-A.

Having said the above, its not like Group-A have performed predictably. In fact, yesterday NZ beat Pak which was not supposed to happen as per the cricket gurus. No one gave NZ a chance while Pak looked unstoppable. But the belting that Pak bowlers received in the past 8 overs was enough to prove that Pak is not as strong as they have made themselves out to be. Their bowling was superb till the 41st over where NZ scored only 175 runs. But the last 8-9 overs changed the complexion of the game. The birthday boy Ross Taylor took it as a 20-20 match from then on and thrashed the bowlers around to score a fabulous century. NZ scored 125 runs in last 8 overs, coming back from behind. Pak has a vulnerable batting line-up; if you get first 2-3 wickets quickly then you stand a chance to win. And thats exactly what happened. Even Canada almost beat Pak, but for Afridi’s magical spell that saved the day.

The only other interesting match of Group-A, between Australia and Sri Lanka, was washed out; giving both teams a point each. Other than these two interesting duels, all other matches have gone down a predictable path.

Now, coming to Group-B: Ireland beat England, England beat South Africa, South Africa beat West Indies, West Indies beat Bangaladesh and B’desh beat Ireland. Its been a superb competition where no team has been able to breathe easy; whenever they have done so, they have lost. England took it easy against Ireland and paid for it. SA thought they had England figured out when total staring at them was mere 171; but they had to bite the dust. At one stage they were 120 for 3 and then suddenly they were 124 for 6 and finally the chokers tag came back to haunt them. They pulled defeat from the jaws of victory.

Ireland and England have provided wholesome entertainment and made it a point to take every match down the wire. In such atmosphere, only India have been able to hold onto their reputation; albeit they did look like losing to England. But the true test for India will be against SA and WI. Only if India’s bowling had been good, we could have confidently said that they are the team to beat. But for the moment, its still a 50-50 chance. Ireland have the attitude to pip WI and get a QF berth, but the other 3 teams are pretty much decided.

Group-A has no interesting matches ahead. Zimbabwe and Kenya look out of sorts while Canada’s cricketing skill is still in nascent stages. In all probability, the top four right now will remain so till end of the league matches. We can safely say that the Group-B matches will be more watchable and much more interesting with nail biting finish than Group-A matches.

Although ICC had noble intentions, but the two groups that have been formed, have a definite imbalance. At the end of the day, may the best team win.

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Posted by on March 10, 2011 in cricket, sports


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Ind-SA 2nd Test : India Wins, Series Is Drawn

It took some great batting from Sehwag, Tendulkar, Laxman and Dhoni to post the imposing total which finally got us the innings win. But Amla, the one man whose committment almost thwarted India’s chances of victory, almost achieved the impossible. Winning a test match in the last two overs was nothing short of a one-day experience. Harbhajan held his nerves to bowl that delivery.

India won the match, drew the test-series and retained the No.1 ranking in tests with that last wicket of Morkel. Great win!

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Posted by on February 18, 2010 in cricket


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Ind-SA 1st Test : Tendulkar’s Century In Vain India lost the first test to SA, that too on home soil in Nagpur, the only thing to cheer about was Sachin’s century. Sachin has scored 34 centuries in 1st innings and 12 in the 2nd innings. Of these 12, India have drawn 5 matches, lost 4 and won only 3 of them. Which means, more often than not, his century has been in a losing cause.


Tendulkar’s 2nd Innings 100s in Indian wins

Score Match Innings Opposition Venue Date
104* 3 Sri Lanka Colombo (SSC) 27-Jul-93
155* 3 Australia Chennai 06-Mar-98
103* 4 England Chennai 11-Dec-08

Tendulkar’s 2nd Innings 100s in Indian defeats

Score Match Innings Opposition Venue Date
122 3 England Birmingham 06-Jun-96
113 3 New Zealand Wellington 26-Dec-98
136 4 Pakistan Chennai 28-Jan-99
100 3 South Africa Nagpur 06-Feb-10

Tendulkar’s 2nd Innings 100s in drawn matches

Score Match Innings Opposition Venue Date
119* 4 England Manchester 09-Aug-90
124* 3 Sri Lanka Colombo (SSC) 24-Feb-99
126* 3 New Zealand Mohali 10-Oct-99
176 3 West Indies Kolkata 30-Oct-02
100* 3 Sri Lanka Ahmedabad 16-Nov-09
But Sachin is not to blame for the loss because we have always been defeated due to a weak bowling attack. To win a test match, its imperative that you get the opposition out in both innings, 20 wickets to be claimed. We could not even get 10, hence proving that the bowlers were neither effective in taking wickets nor in curtailing the runs. Even Sachin had stayed long enough he would have run out of partners because we had one more day of play left; too much to ask.
Hopefully we will do better in other matches and at least try to draw the series.
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Posted by on February 9, 2010 in cricket


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