Many a Slip Between
the Cup and The Lip
Indies Fill India's Cup Of Woes
By S Zeyaur
So near yet so far. This has been
a familiar headline when one talks of Indian cricket. That is when they
get near at all. The loss to the Caribbean side in the finals of the Coca
Cola Cup is a case in the point. India's title drought has extended too
long which is a complete contrast to its winning ways in the mid 90's.
There was a time when India had the most number of titles by any country
ever since one day cricket started, boosted by a record number of titles,
five, in 1998 alone. November 1998 was the last time that India won a
title and since then India has featured in seven finals and not won a
single of them. I guess the record for the highest number of runners up
cheques would be sooner in India's name.
The just concluded tournament was a golden chance to end the jinx. Just as
the preceding test series was. That presents a unique parallel. India were
perilously close to break the foreign test series win jinx and squandered
the opportunity after being at an earshot distance of the coveted goal.
Going by the present standards, where else can they win a test series out
side the sub continent if not in Zimbabwe. In the triangular series, they
stepped up their game and recorded comprehensive victories in all their
league matches. All they had to do was to overcome a side wallowing in the
backwaters of time for almost a decade now. But that proved too difficult
once the West Indian side rediscovered the lost magic and unexpectedly won
its first tournament in six years.
One can take heart from the fact that India played the best cricket of the
tournament rather consistently. Even in the final they made match of it
and fought till the very end. One does not recount India putting up such a
spirited fight after the top order was packed for less than hundred
chasing a big target. There are countless occasions when India crumbled
like nine pins to earn a humiliating defeat, the lowest point being the 54
all out against Sri Lanka in a Sharjah final.
But there is no glory on avoiding a humiliating defeat. At the most one
can get some amount of consolation that we were able to make a match of
it, thanks to the infusion of young blood in the ranks. Youngsters like
Badani, Sodhi, Laxman and Sehwag have given a new look to the side and
will soon be capable enough to deliver even their more illustrious seniors
let the team down with some indiscreet stroke play.
At the end of the series against Australia one felt that though Sachin's
wicket is the biggest one, but not the deciding one. Sachin had done
nothing great in that series and still India managed a decent performance.
But his dismissal and the subsequent surrender yesterday, reminded one of
the situation two years ago, when it was virtually impossible for India to
win a single game without Sachin getting a hundred. That does not speak
very well of the seniors as well as the newcomers in the present side. The
loss of a key wicket is a demoralizing factor, but that does not give any
team the right to be 80 for 5 in the 16th over. The match was effectively
over by then, and it was surprise for the close followers of Indian
cricket, that the side managed a score of 274 in a high-pressure
One can also blame the erratic bowling for the loss. Indian attack had
been surprisingly very tight and effective all along, the kind, which one
has not seen for years. Nehra will go down as the find of the tour and
except the finals, no one missed Srinath. Zaheer Khan had a decent
tournament and same is the case with Agarkar. What decided the earlier
matches in India's favour was the performance of the extra bowlers like
Mohanty and Harvinder Singh. They did their tasks exceedingly well and
left very little for the batsmen to do. That was one factor why Ganguly
chose to field on winning the toss. But his bowlers were not upto the mark
and for the first time India had a sizeable total to chase. There were
signs of panic early in the game, with Ganguly running out of ideas to
check the unexpected run flow. And when the top two wickets were gone with
next to nothing, he usual surrender followed.
Seen from a different angle, the victory will do West Indies a world of
good. Though they have won the final unexpectedly and somewhat
undeservedly, considering their run in the league matches. But they should
be given full credit for overcoming the tide with a commanding display. At
least in final, they dominated the proceedings entirely. They were yards
ahead of India in all the departments of the game and any genuine cricket
buff would have been pleased to watch their performance, after being
completely disillusioned with the former world champions in the past few
That does not mean that Hooper's side is on the road to greatness yet
again. But they are certainly on the road to recovery, if the final
display is anything to go by. It is extremely rare incident in the present
Caribbean side when one has more than one batsmen taking charge, if at all
there is someone to take charge. In the final one had four batsmen showing
the way and paving the way for a threatening total. That augurs well for
the side has to perform as a team and not rely on the stars to be the
leading lights every time. Their bowling department is still inadequate
and except Cuffy, none of them is genuinely respectable, a big change from
their hey days, when all the four bowlers would be quality stuff.
As for India, the tour ends on a disappointing note, for they should have
won where they lost. India can be accused of not stepping up the game when
it really matters. So all the hard work in the preliminary stages goes
down the drain and after all it is results that matter. Teams like South
Africa and Australia become invincible in crunch situations and that is
what distinguishes them. There is no sense in putting heart and soul in
the baseline games, only to falter at the nets on a big point. That is one
aspect, which the team management must look into, because losing seven
finals in a row is a bit too much.
Ashes Are Getting Hotter
England Complete Its Phoenix Journey
By S Zeyaur Rahman
is very difficult to explain the kind of attention that the Ashes manages
to get from the cricket community world wide. There are so many series
that are well contested and have a greater chance of bringing forth
brilliant performances. Say for example a South Africa Pakistan series, or
a South Africa Australia series. But that is certainly not going to make
the pundits sit in a reverential pose and watch the proceedings as if it
were some kind of sacred duty. It is partly another manifestation of the
colonial psychology, that one would better prefer to watch the Masters
lose badly rather than own Brethen playing a better quality of cricket.
And partly it is because of the monopoly that England has exercised over
cricket as an establishment and institution. That explains the aura
associated with Lord's though there are better grounds in the world today.
That does not take away the credit from the Ashes for being a premiere
cricketing event for decades when there were no world cups and world
championships. That does not rob the contesting teams of the glorious
history and wonderful achievements by the players while competing in the
Ashes. And of course that does not stop from the cricket lovers of the
third world to sit and enjoy a keenly contested test match between England
That is the whole point. Keenly contested matches. The Ashes has become
terribly lopsided in Australia's favour for more than a decade one does
not expect the trend to change all of a sudden. This is the first Kangaroo
side to have won five Ashes in a row and might as well return with the
sixth. In all the previous series England was beaten rather
comprehensively, fair and square, at home, down under. The last time that
England won was under David Gower and even that was far from a
well-contested series. Australia was routed, subjugated without a
semblance of resistance. One can safely say that for the past 15 years
Ashes has been really dead and the spark had been missing badly.
Fifteen years is along time, for opinions and perceptions to change. But I
am surprised that much has not changed. People still look up to Ashes as
though it was a part of their faith, as a cricket believer. It would
amount to infidelity if the same set of awe and reverence were to be
transferred to Australia South Africa series. The point that I am trying
to make is that the qualitative treatment of a subject is lacking because
of hegemony of ideas influencing and introducing a bias in favor of the
dominant party during the process of decision-making.
Let us treat the series on its merits. This Ashes series Indeed promise to
be an interesting one, the kind that we have not had for 15 years. No
doubt that the Kangaroo side is unparalleled in recent history and is the
clear favorite. They are coming into the series with brilliant and
consistent record behind them, the loss to India notwithstanding. The
Aussies have hardly got anything left to prove their class and domination.
Under Steve Waugh they are raring to take on any obstacle that may come
their way and each individual is playing his part perfectly.
England is going through modern renaissance. They had the pit in the mid
90's losing to every team everywhere, which included Sri Lanka at home and
abroad. The last time they enjoyed respectability was under Graham Gooch.
For all his class and determination, Atherton ended up on the losing side
and it was the same under Stewart. The team just lost its faith in itself
and came up with one dismal performance after another.
Things began to change after Nasser Hussain took charge. Hussain did not
have a magic wand with which he could transform the side into
world-beaters. In fact his was an unenviable job. But under him England
have rediscovered that touch which had them in the top bracket of cricket
playing nations for years. The English side has become extremely motivated
and the results are there for every one to see.
In the past two years, England is the only side, which has not lost a
single series. In fact they have won six series on the trot, a record
which even Steve Waugh's side cannot boast of. They were pretty close to
getting their seventh one, when they beat Pakistan within three days. But
the dramatic loss at Lords evened out things and their march was halted in
Their performance in the triangular series gives some cause for concern.
They performed miserably and could not even qualify for the final. But as
we know tests and one dayers are two different entities. England can also
take heart from the fact it was without the services of a number of
[players, including their captain. The injury list is short and with the
reinforcement coming in. I think England should be able to make a series
out of it. And that would be a great service to the history of the game
because then Ashes would be legitimately able to deserve the reputation
that it enjoys.
Which One Is The
Gearing Up For The Real Maza
By S Zeyaur Rahman
has become almost customary for every test series to be followed by the
one dayers. One can read the economic motive in the arrangement without
much difficulty. Test series are rarely a profit making venture and one
needs the one dayers to recover the investments and generate funds for
It is perhaps a precise indicator of the fast track changes that instead
of the two nation five match series, all the cricket boards are pitching
in for a triangular series, no matter what the teams are. With the number
of cricket playing nations going up, there is not much difficulty in
getting the teams. This is particularly true of teams like Bangladesh and
Kenya, who are forever ready to oblige the organising boards. That gives
them international experience and also a decent guarantee money which
comes in handy.
The triangular series makes good business sense and that is why we have
all the boards including England, West Indies and Zimbabwe, making sure
that they organise one very year. For Indians that is nothing new but it
would surprise many cricket lovers in the subcontinent that England and
West Indies organised their first triangular series only last year.
The white flannels are packed away immediately after the Real Thing is
over. A new script is ready and it is lights, camera and action for a
fortnight. We do hear puritans making fuss about the deteriorating
standards of the game and some times even players also join the chorus
(mostly when they are through a bad patch). But rarely is the grudge
genuine. And why should it be? It is lucrative for the organizers, big
money for the players and fun for the spectators. Quality be damned.
So we find ourselves on the thresholds of a tri series in Zimbabwe closely
on the heels of a test series made interesting and finally even because of
some poor batting by Indians. May be they had started rehearsing for the
one dayers a bit too early. At least the manner of dismissals of the top
batsmen would suggest so.
On to the prospects of the series. One thing is for sure that it is going
to be well contested. All the three teams, Zimbabwe, West Indies and India
are in the bottom half of cricket ratings and none of them is in a
position to dominate the proceedings entirely. India does enjoy an edge
over the competitors but it is also endowed with a unique ability to tone
down its game rather dramatically despite all its talent.
Zimbabwe will have the home advantage, a bigger one, for the simple reason
that the crowd in the one dayers will be bigger than that came to watch
the tests. Apart from that, it is a fiercely competitive side. Zimbabwe
knows the limitations of its potential. But instead of dampening the
spirits, this very fact acts as an inspiration for them and the players
give more than 100 percent in a bid to prove point or to make an
impression on the international scene.
They will be hit hard by Andy Flower's injury, who had been the mainstay
of their batting for long and particularly successful against India. Not
to forget the fact that he doubled up as a wicketkeeper. A wicketkeeper as
a main batsman gives any team an extra edge (Gilchrist is a case in the
point). Now Zimbabwe will be looking to its old warhorses Grant Flower and
Campbell and of course the young blood who are maturing.
In the bowling department they have little to show apart from Heath
Streak. The injury prone Olanga and Co. do not promise much and we will
have to wait for the side cast to come up with inspiring performances if
Zimbabwe is to keep the trophy within its frontiers.
As for the West Indies, the players and pundits are all tired of waiting
for the messiah. Their bad patch has become too prolonged and the poor
performances have become chronic. It is difficult to diagnose the ailment
and to me it looks like a collapse of the system which relied too much on
Brian Lara is a tragedy in making. His individual brilliance has been
comprehensively over shadowed by the mediocre performances of his
colleagues. Poor chap was so demoralized that he started about retirement
and break at a ripe old age of 28. Now that he is pout due to injury, the
Caribbean batting is in a real poor shape. It is high time that some one
like Chanderpaul comes
forward and assumes the responsibility.
What has really upset the Caribbean balance is the lack of quality
bowlers, which was traditionally their strength. The source seems to have
dried up and it does not augur well for them. Add to the fact that this is
the first time since 1984 that the side is without both Walsh and Ambrose
and I am sure that we have already made our guesses regarding West Indies
position at the end of the tournament.
This scenario leaves India in a comfortable position. Atleast on paper it
looks to be stronger side, a kind of favourites. The team is no doubt
balanced with some brilliant batsmen and a decent attack. The side is also
an optimum mixture of youth and experience. All India needs to do is to
perform to its potential and the title is theirs for the taking.
The recent loss at Harare should serve them as a reminder as well as a
lesson for their indiscriminate stroke play. The new recruits will no
doubt add to the vigor of the side and some fire works are due from the
established players. Heading the lost is the captain who needs to for all
cylinders. The moment he lands in Delhi with the trophy in his hands, all
the gossip about his place, captaincy ( and marriage too) will be thing of
the past. I am sure Ganguly would love that.
Square The series
India Back To Square One
By S Zeyaur Rahman
The Harare Test has ended in a defeat for India and with it all the
theories regarding a resurgent India on foreign pitches has gone down the
drain. The Bulawayo victory had made national headlines and that
highlighted the poverty of our performances abroad. Beating Zimbabwe in
Zimbabwe was hailed as a miracle by us. It is a telling comment indeed
that what is routine for other Test playing nations is historic for us.
Still at the end of the Test tour, the players will not have the same
empty feeling that has accompanied them on the return journey to the
subcontinent the past 15 years. They will have something to show and talk
about. The Bulawayo Test was not great by any standards. We won simply
because Zimbabwe played even worse. For once and all let us admit. Concede
that we are a mediocre side, contended and happy with mediocrity. That
automatically gives us a right to celebrate a drawn series with a second
It is customary of the press to eulogize the team after a victory and
rubbish it after a defeat. May be it is a sacred duty or a reason de etre.
In any case there is very little to praise about the ream on the tour so
The world famous batting line up did not click even once, except against a
school boy side where every none acted demi god by retiring himself out.
None of the famous four managed a century in the Tests and India did not
cross 400 even once in four test innings. Is this what is meant by batting
is our strength?
Right at the start of the tour the batting ran into trouble. On the very
first day we were 71 for 5 against a local side till Rahul Dravid hit us
out of the trouble. In the first Test too the top order was gone for less
than hundred. Then why blame the last five or seven if they crumble for
less than hundred or so.
John Wright had wanted the score to read something like 100 for 2 at
lunch. But as usual we never got a proper start. Ramesh has to accept a
part of the blame for that though it is senseless to chuck him out of the
team. Ramesh and Das are okay as a pair and in case there is a replacement
required it has to be with a genuine opener. We have seen the results of
employing make shift openers for almost a decade and it is high time that
we stop the practice.
Laxman has failed to grasp the fact that he was not on the dead pitches of
the sub continent and did not desist from ambitious stroke play. He was in
excellent touch during his 20s and 30s but the causal and laid-back
approach did him in on all these occasions. The circumspection which
should be a hallmark of a budding youngster was surprisingly missing.
Tendulkar cannot be expected to score a hundred every time though a
century is due for some time now. He has had an average series and that is
not enough. Another alarming fact is that Tendulkar used to stand tall
amidst the ruins and now his wicket is also a part of their collapse.
Same is true for our Mr. Dependable. He is great partnership builder and
it is around his resilience that India’s resistance or assault revolves.
Sadly there was no one to complement him and he often ran short of
partners. Since he did not produce a big innings, India folded up cheaply
on all occasions.
The skipper is facing a terrible time in the middle and the media has
already zeroed him on as the scapegoat of the series. It is funny to hear
reports about Ganguly retaining his place and the discussions regarding
his captaincy. Goes to show how short sighted we all can be. I do not
intend to praise Ganguly for scoring 120 runs in 9 tests but I am sure
that the criticism will die down the moment he gives a blazing start to
India in any of the matches of the forthcoming triangular series.
The selectors have made a complete mess of the wicketkeepers slot. Because
of their frequent and irrational experimentation we are without the only
man capable of being behind the stumps and that is Mongia. I mean what is
the need of disturbing a settled stumper and replacing him with people who
are at the end of their careers.
Indian bowling has been far more disciplined and praiseworthy through out.
Though age is telling on Srinath but he is still menacing in his short
spells. It is a wise decision on his part to stay away from the one dayers
though India will miss him nonetheless.
Nehra has been the surprise package of the tour. He has bowled wonderfully
well and looked genuinely threatening. It was baffling to see him left out
of the one day series. Luckily good sense has prevailed and he has been
retained. I am looking forward to watch two exciting left arm bowlers open
the bowling for India.
Bedi had once remarked that if Agarkar was an allrounder, he was a
frontline batsman. Instead of getting back at Bedi Agarkar is bent on
proving him right. The bowling part of his allrounder capabilities has not
been great either and it is time that he is replaced with some new
prospect like Reetinder Sodhi. Mohanty would hopefully be playing and
bring in the necessary variation.
Bahutule is a victim of the circumstances and I wish that he is recalled
for the Test against South Africa. Having him in tandem with Bhajji Paji
might do the trick. As for Bhajji even he can’t be taking 5 wickets on
all occasions. He has had a reasonably good series and now he must try and
establish himself as the leading off spinner.
Over all it has been a mixed bag for India. The fact that they squandered
such a golden chance of ‘winning a series abroad has disappointed one
and all. Frankly speaking the team needs sometime to mature and turn into
champions. For the time being we have the ingredients but the million
dollar question is that when is that going deliver?