Even Steven on the boxing day!

(c) Reuters

This was the most anticipated day, perhaps, for Indian cricket lovers apart from the final of the world cup that India won. To be a bit unfair to Sri Lanka, India’s victory in Mumbai early this year to become the world champions of cricket has become less of a fanfare in my memory, thanks to the fact that we won it against Sangakarra an and his men. Had it been Australia or Pakistan, it would have been different.

Anyway, let us come back to the boxing day test match. I was sort of hoping India to bat and Sachin to redeem himself with a hundredth hundred at the MCG on the boxing day. Perhaps that chance went to his counterpart Ricky Ponting and unfortunately he blew it away after a fine fifty. Yeah unfortunately because I have loved to hate that man (RP, Rick, Punter or %$@$%# whatever they call him) and I wanted him to gracefully retire with a flowing century.

The day belonged, and rightfully so, to the two youngsters. One of them is a debutant, Ed Cowan who let Australia’s batting and other Umesh Yadav who, only in his third test beautifully led Indian bowling. So the boxing day was great with both sides dealing blows, neither of them killing. Match is in the balance now and it remains to be seen if Sachin scores his hundredth hundred at the MCG or not.

I’ll not be posting more about the series here, unless he scores a century or if we win the series or both.


The ‘Puntered’ Australian Wagon

Courtesy: Heraldsun.com.au

If you thought I made a spelling mistake in the title of this post, then I must say my mistake comprehends with the one made by the Australian selectors. The Australian wagon, touted as the most powerful juggernaut not long ago is indeed ‘puntered’, thanks to a handful of selectors at the ‘Cricket Australia‘ very ably lead by a near invincible man refereed fondly as the ‘Punter’.

If you are a cricket fan, I’m sure every one of you have witnessed the thumping Ashes win the English team earned over Australia. However I dont think it were the English who played better. Given the tentative batting by both KP and Cook, Indian spinners will beat them any day. It was more to do with the listless, toothless, spineless display by a generally aggressive Australian team that brought the shame. First, none of their batsmen played with authority. Yeah, Hussey and Haddin cracked centuries. But it always seemed that they were trying to save the match rather than win it on a Gabba pitch seemingly favourable for batting. This was proved by Strauss, Cook and Trott in the English second innings when they piled on more than 500 runs for the loss of just one wicket.

Bowing to pressure, CA and Ponting made wholesome changes to the bowling attack. The measures seemed very similar to the ones generally adopted by Pakistan Cricket Board. Drastic and illogical. So Mitchell Johnson was dropped as expected, so was Hilfenhaus though he looked to me as the best Australian bowler. But sadly, Marcus North was retained for a reason best known to CA and Punter. So was Michael Clarke. Ryan Harris and Doug Bollinger were brought in support of Peter Siddle and Xavier Doherty, still no sign of quality spinner (where is Jason Krejza?). What happened next? The team slumped even more.

Any other day I’d have loved the defeat suffered by Australia. I hate Ricky Ponting and I’ll do any thing to watch him search for desperate measures to save face. But it surprises me that some how I’m not liking it. I can imagine any one but England to defeat Australia so convincingly. You may hate Mike Tyson as much. But you’d not love to watch a bout in which Tyson is getting beaten by a bantam weight boxer. That is how it seemed. I think the English are over rated. Anyway, that is what I think.

Common Aussies! I know you can punch Andrew Strauss in the gut at the WACA in Perth. I want you to win the Ashes. I love to hate you guys. Please dont ditch me. 🙂

Aussie ki Taisi

Here is an update on recent India Australia cricketing rivalry. Let me start from where I remember.

sachin-caught-by-kasprowiczSeason 1997-98 (home); we won the Border Gavaskar trophy at home for the first time, defeating Australians 2-1. We won the first two tests (The second one at Kolkata by an innings and 99 runs) but lost the third at Bangalore thanks to an inspirational bowling spell by Michael Kasprowicz.

Season 1999-2000(away); we lost miserably, 3-0 to be specific. The only highlight of the series was VVS’s maiden century (167, his first) at Sydney where he batted as a make shift opener. The trophy was lost again.

vvs-and-rahulSeason 2001(home); We lost the first test and almost lost the second when Australia scored 445 and dismissed us for 171. A follow on was imposed and we were reduced to 115 for 3 when Sachin Tendulkar departed. But some minor regrouping from Ganguly took us beyond 200, still in deficit when Ganguly departed. It took the monumental efforst from the stalwarts of Indian cricket, VVS Laxman (281) and Rahul Dravid (180) and a hat trick by Harbhajan to win the test despite following on. Indian won the third test at Chennai to claim the trophy back.

Season 2003-2004(away); A century from Ganguly at Brisbane, a double from Rahul Dravid at Adelaide, A 193 from Sehwag at Melborne and a double again from Sachin at Sydney ensured we tied the series 1-1 and retained the trophy. It marked the end of Steve Waugh’s playing career, who left with an unfulfilled dream of capturing a series victory in India.

Season 2004-2005(home); Aussies arrived without Waugh and Without Ponting (the captain who took over the reigns from Steve). The surprisingly enterprising make shift captain Adam Gilchrist lead them to victories at Bangalore and Nagpur. Ganguly received lot of flak for chickening out of the Nagpur test and eventually we lost the series 2-1, also the trophy at an unlikely captain in Adam.

Season 2007(away); India had a new captain in Anil Kumble. We lost the series but amidst huge contraversies surrounding the Sydney test for poor umpiring by Steve Bucknor. It was by far one of the toughest fought test match series on Australian Soil. For the first time ever some one had challenged the Australian domination in world cricket.

Season 2008(home); Indians were fresh from memories of the Australian Tour. We had one the one day series under Mahendra Singh Dhoni. It all started out evenly at Bangalore with centuries from Hussey and Ponting and a fifer from Zaheer. The match ended up as a draw. In mohali, Anil Kumble sat out thanks to an injury and the reigns of the captaincy fell of MSD’s shoulders. And boy, what a performance he delivered. A century from Ganguly, an 88 from Sachin and a 92 from Dhoni meant we posted a decent score on a good wicket. Then came Amit Mishra, the lucky leggie from Delhi who spun the air out of the Australians. A century by Gambhir in second innings and a lethal combination of pace and spin meant we comfortably won the test by 320 runs (Biggest defeat for Australia in many years). Anil Kumble was back for the third test in Kotla, only to announce his retirement on the fourth day. Gambhir and VVS amassed double hundreds. Australian batsmen too improved their batting records. It was a placid wicket on which, forcing a result wasn’t worthwhile. The stage was now set for Dhoni to deliver the killing blow in the fourth and final test in Nagpur. It was a wicket that had some thing for every one. Sachin scored a century, so did Katich. The test was evenly poised until the last day. FInally with some luck and perseverance from spinners, India posted a 172 runs victory, handing the australians their worst series loss in last 20 years. Indians were jubilant.india_wins_against_australia1

The series was historic in many ways. Sachin overtook Brian Lara to become the leading run scorer in test cricket. Anil Kumble retired in the middle of the test at Kotla, a ground that has scripted his name in the history books for claiming all 10 wickets against Pakistan. And Sourav Ganguly, the prince of Kolkata, the most elegant southpaw, the most successful captain for India retired too. With Dada and Anil gone, the pressure on other seniors (VVS, Rahul and Sachin) is mounting too. May be it is time we welcome the new generation of cricketers. A Rohit Sharma, an Ishant, a Robin, a Mishra and their leader the invincible MSD.

Frankly speaking, I’m not too ecstatic thinking about the retirements of these guys. I grew up looking at Sachin making a debut at 16. I was 8 than and dreamt even I will be famous cricketer at 16. Sadly I was busy sweating it out for board exams at 16. I remember I had a paper cutting of Dada reading ‘CEO no. 1’ feature in a supplement of Economic times adoring my wall. They were my demi gods. With Sourav gone and Rahul already on decline, I think I will stop watching cricket matches when they drop Sachin from the squad. After so many long years, suddenly a sinking feeling is coming to my mind. Suddenly my childhood has ended.