IPL 2015: A big tamasha that could be better


Have you been following IPL 8?

Be truthful.

I haven’t.

It’s not that cricket doesn’t excite me or that watching Chris Gayle or AB DeVilliers clobber bowlers to all parts of the ground and beyond isn’t a thrilling spectacle.

It’s just that it’s no longer interesting, it’s no longer fun.

It’s a surfeit of instant cricket following closely on the heels of the 2015 World Cup.

Yes, the cheerleaders are pleasing to look at; so are Archana Vijay and Shibani Dandekar.

Surely, you cannot expect me to rave about Sunny Gavaskar or Ravi Shastri.

However, it’s simply the same old package with very little changing.

Ravi Shastri, former Indian cricketer. 4 Test ...
Ravi Shastri, former Indian cricketer. 4 Test series vs Australia at Adelaide Oval (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The only positive change is the recruiting of former women cricketers as expert commentators.

I support Mumbai Indians.

But Rohit Sharma’s men simply don’t evoke the same passion that the Indian cricket team does.

What is the IPL then? A great Indian tamasha. Enjoy with bhel and popcorn and you won’t suffer from indigestion.

As for the genius who decided that the studio experts should have cheerleaders lauding their every soundbyte, he should have his head examined.

It’s obvious that advertisers have not deserted the Indian Premier League as yet.

But more of such hare-brained shenanigans and they surely will.

Kevin Pietersen sets in the West, rises in the East


Kevin Pietersen is wanted.

Kevin Pietersen is not wanted.

Rejected by the English and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), the South African born cricketer makes his way to India to turn out for the Sun Risers Hyderabad despite making his highest ever first-class score, a classy triple ton for Surrey.

The 34-year-old is piqued indeed.

He cannot bridge the ‘trust deficit’ with the new director of cricket Andrew Strauss.

Has he done all that’s required? Has he been punished enough for all his previous ‘misdemeanours‘. The English public rooting for him certainly believe so.

Is he worse than a convicted spot-fixer? Surely not.

That begets the question, “What is trust?”

Trust , my friend, is personal. And this decision , my cricketing friends, is personal.

English: England cricket Captain Kevin Pieters...
English: England cricket Captain Kevin Pietersen at The Oval (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

ICC World Cup 2015: Australia are champions of the world


To tell you the truth, I did not really watch much of this World Cup’s final featuring Australia and New Zealand.

Switching on the telly after returning from morning Mass, with Brendon McCullum gone cheaply, it would be an uphill task for the Kiwis to compile a formidable total. Two more quick wickets followed and I switched off the set-top box.

For a partisan Indian supporter like me, the final held no thrills or attraction. Most World Cup finals have been one-sided affairs and there was no reason for me to believe otherwise.

Catching up with the morning news, Michael Clarke’s farewell announcing the final would be his ODI swansong caught my eyes.

“A World Cup victory would be a great way to sign off,” were my immediate thoughts. And I dwelled again on  the emotional eulogy he delivered at Philip Hughes’ funeral. Clarke will always have his share of detractors but that was the day he displayed how far he has travelled from being ‘Pup’ and the ‘Bad Boy’ of Australian cricket.

Noon and the Kiwis had folded up for 183. Despite Sunil Gavaskar’s vain attempts at drawing comparisons between the ’83 final and Sunday’s mismatch to keep viewer interest in the game alive, it was evident that barring a miracle the Australians were well on their way to being crowned five-time champions.

It was so, with Clark crafting a well-made 74.

Australians were world-beaters yet again.

ICC World Cup 2015: India versus Australia, What went wrong?


What went wrong with a team that came into the semi-finals undefeated, winning seven straight games in a row?

What can explain the abject display of this  Indian side once they came up against their bete-noire of the last five months? Was it another case of déjà vu?

First, the Australians scored 30-50 runs more than our batters could easily achieve. A score of around 280 was chaseable against their strong bowling attack. Once the Aussies went past the psychological barrier of 300, it was an uphill struggle. Dhoni missed a trick by not letting Umesh Yadav bowl the last over. He was the only one who looked like getting wickets in his final spell and a couple of wickets more could have restricted the Aussies to a less substantial total.

The loss of Shikhar Dhawan began the slide. The left-handed opener was looking good for yet another ton but threw it away in a moment of casual lassitude. Rohit Sharma has scored runs but all of his big scores have come against the lesser sides. The Mumbaikar once again failed to step up to the plate when it mattered. How different is this Sharma from the one who made his debut in 2007-08? Have the years left their scars?

Virat Kohli disappointed. And much as Dhoni tomtoms Ravindra Jadeja’s abilities with the bat, the ‘all-rounder’ has no business being in the side if he cannot average at least a decent 30—both at home and away. Sure, he has three triple centuries in domestic cricket but if that’s the reason he’s in the side, then he should be batting further up the order, not with the tail.

The Indians were probably looking at chasing 328 in chunks. A score of 100 in 20 overs, 200 in 35 and 260 in 40 (power play) would have left them chasing less than 70 in the final 10 overs. It was not to be.

Dhoni’s unwillingness to experiment against the minnows meant that the Indians went up against the Aussies with a closed mindset. What works all the time will fail some day. What then?

Indian fans have a lot to cheer about. At the outset, no one expected this side to travel this far. Winning the trophy would have had their cup of joy overflowing but it would not be a true reflection of the capabilities and form of this side.

Overall, a fair result.

ICC World Cup 2015: It’s Australia versus New Zealand


Stephen Rodger Waugh, former professional cric...
Stephen Rodger Waugh, former professional cricketer and captain of the Australian national team, photographed at the Sydney Cricket Ground at the start of the Test match against South Africa in January 2002 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s final.

The home sides will face-off in another Transmanic match-up on Sunday the 29th of March 2015 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).

The Australians clinically demolished Team India’s cup hopes with an all-round display of aggression and intent with the bat and ball. They backed it up with tight fielding barring a few hiccups,

Who will it be?

New Zealand can take comfort from the fact that this is probably their best side ever and that they have beaten the Aussies in the league phases.

Now the crucial encounter is in their arch-foes’ backyard.

Do they have the gumption to seal off their World Cup campaign with a zealous kiss of victory?

The demeanor of their gum-chewing skipper Brendon Mcullum in the field against South Africa suggests so. He reminded me of tough-as-nails Steve Waugh. Will Australia drop the cup that cheers?

Michael Clark rebuilt the crumbling edifice of Oz following the exit of the best and brightest of their 3-Cup wizards.

Can Clark win his first World Cup as skipper?

Fortune favors the brave and the brave are not easily felled at home.

My pick: Australia. Can McCullum and his chums spell otherwise?

ICC World Cup 2015: Semi-final prognosis


A cricket shot from Privatemusings, taken at t...
A cricket shot from Privatemusings, taken at the third day of the SCG Test between Australia and South Africa. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Semi-final line-up:

  • Tue Mar 24 (50 ovs)14:00 local (01:00 GMT | 06:30 IST)
    1st Semi-Final – New Zealand v South Africa
    Eden Park, Auckland
  • Thu Mar 26 (50 ovs)14:30 local (03:30 GMT | 09:00 IST)
    2nd Semi-Final – Australia v India
    Sydney Cricket Ground

New Zealand take on South Africa at home in the first semi on Tuesday.

The teams are evenly matched with New Zealand having the edge; they are unbeaten and are playing on home soil.

But have they peaked too soon? A perennial question in a tournament of this length.

South Africa have broken the hoodoo of never going past the knockout stage of a World Cup.

Is history in the making?

My selection: New Zealand.

Australia clash with India on Thursday.

The Kangaroos are favorites but pace may not be their ace at Sydney.

I am skeptical whenever the Aussies say that they can beat India on bouncy wickets.

Previous games and tours have shown that Indian pacers can make better use of the conditions than the locals.

Aussie pacers may be more effective on a traditional turning Sydney wicket than their Indian counterparts.

The home side would like to believe that they have the upper hand; India had not won a single match in the build-up to the World Cup except a friendly against Afghanistan.

The Indians have had a tremendous run and could go all the way. The Aussies loom in the defense of their title. If they beat them, they will be anointed odds-on favorites for the final.

What’s my prognosis?

The head says Australia but the heart says India.

That’s not quite anatomically correct.

The heart is but a muscle albeit the most important one.

So I will rephrase that: Reason dictates that I choose Australia.

My (rational) selection: Australia.

ICC World Cup 2015: Quarters to semis


The quarters are over and the winners gave no quarter. Well, almost.

The results followed the dictates of the form book.

South Africa defied the odds and tore up the ‘chokers‘ tag. Perhaps, this is the Cup that will cheer the Proteas .

India made the semis but not before having to overcome some tight bowling in the first 35 overs. They were also the beneficiaries of three decidedly dubious decisions from the umpires. The result could have been much closer than the scoreline suggests.

Pakistan’s batting failed again but Wahab Riaz took the fight to the Australians in an inspired spell of fast bowling that had Shane Watson hopping, skipping and jumping like a cat on a hot tin roof.

New Zealand had it pretty much wrapped up when they scored close to 400 runs with Martin Guptill registering the second double-century of the tournament. The primary prima donna record holder Chris Gayle flattered to deceive in a brief stay at the wicket. The West Indies captain Jason Holder impressed one and all with his composure under pressure.

Semi-final line-up:

  • Tue Mar 24 (50 ovs)14:00 local (01:00 GMT | 06:30 IST)
    1st Semi-Final – New Zealand v South Africa
    Eden Park, Auckland
  • Thu Mar 26 (50 ovs)14:30 local (03:30 GMT | 09:00 IST)
    2nd Semi-Final – Australia v India
    Sydney Cricket Ground

 

 

ICC World Cup 2015 Prediction: Who’s gonna win? You think?


The World Cup league matches are played out and done.

The results are in. England are out.

Bangladesh are surprisingly still standing tall.

Team India have made the quarters without a blemish despite lackluster performances in the run-up to the tournament.

Trust MS Dhoni to come up trumps when it matters. And the World Cup matters, especially when you are the defending champs.

The quarter-final line-up is as follows:

  • 1st Quarter-Final – South Africa v Sri Lanka
  • Sydney Cricket Ground
  • 2nd Quarter-Final – Bangladesh v India
  • Melbourne Cricket Ground
  • 3rd Quarter-Final – Australia v Pakistan
  • Adelaide Oval
  • 4th Quarter-Final – New Zealand v West Indies
  • Westpac Stadium, Wellington

South Africa have always choked in the knock-out phases. Will they do an encore? Perhaps, perhaps not. But their build-up to this point has not been smooth. They lost to sub-continental giants, India and Pakistan. Can Sri Lanka make it a hat-trick? Sangakarra can tell.

My pick: Sri Lanka. They have been finalists at the last two World Cups. Be surprised if they do not make the semis.

Bangladesh have celebrated as though they have the World Cup in their pockets. India have been ruthlessly efficient till now. Dhoni has foregone chopping and changing; it helps his cause that the team keeps winning. Indian journos and fans would not have been as forgiving otherwise.

My pick: India. I do not foresee any changes to the squad barring injuries. Each match could be the last of the tourney from now on.

Australia are favorites against Pakistan and they are playing on familiar ground. Pakistan could spring a surprise. Misbah may be no Imran Khan but he is no slouch either when it comes to inspiring his side.

My pick: Australia. Watch out for Mitchell Starc. How Wasim would love to have him bowling for Pak instead.

New Zealand have an unbeaten record and are  firmly installed as bookie’s darlings.

West Indies have great batters but it’s their bowlers that have let them down. In that sense, they are much like Ireland; capable of springing surprises but inconsistent.

My pick: New Zealand.

Prospective semi-final line-up:

New Zealand versus Sri Lanka. (60/40)

India versus Australia (50/50)

Final:

New Zealand versus Australia.

Winner: Australia.

Disclaimer: Cricket is a funny game. And all it needs is a stand-out performer on a single day to turn things around especially in ODI and T20 cricket. Test cricket? Now, that’s a different cup of tea, altogether.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: What he said, really meant and definitely didn’t


Zlatan Ibrahimovic considers himself a towering personality.

English: Zlatan Ibrahimovic during 2009 FIFA C...
English: Zlatan Ibrahimovic during 2009 FIFA Club World Cup in Abu Dhabi. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What he said:

“The next step? I don’t know … Maybe replacing the Eiffel Tower with an Ibrahimovic statue …”

Paris Saint-Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic was in high spirits on becoming only the second soccer player ever to be immortalized in wax by Paris’ Musée Grévin. The Swede said:

“It’s a big honour to have a statue in a great museum like the Grévin. I am very happy with it. The people can get really close to the statue and that was the objective. The next step? I don’t know … Maybe replacing the Eiffel Tower with an Ibrahimovic statue …It’s an incredible feeling to get a statue at the Musée Grévin. The statue looks very focused, just like myself out there on the pitch. I can only be grateful for the fantastic job done. I am very proud to get this sort of recognition, especially as a Swede.”

What he really meant:

“I’m the best thing to happen to Paris since the Eiffel tower.”

What he definitely didn’t:

“A statue of me replacing the Eiffel tower…Wouldn’t that be a soccer?”

Kapil Dev: What he said, really meant and definitely didn’t


Kapil Dev eggs on the Indian cricket team to greater heights.

What he said:

“Well I have never understood this team hug inside the ground at start of the match. What were you guys doing in dressing room. Only eating eggs!”

Former India player and World Cup winning skipper Kapil Dev is realistic about Team India’s chances at the World Cup Down Under this year.

The all-time great was addressing a ‘Cricket Conclave‘ organized by News24.

He said:

“If Virat Kohli scores a century and then blows a flying kiss towards his girlfriend, I have no problems. Rather I have problem if a player scores zero and is blowing a flying kiss. We played cricket in a different era and now its a different era. We have to accept that.We can’t just sit back and think that cricket is no longer a gentleman’s game. Times have changed. The generation I played was different. We grew up with Test cricket. But now you have sledging, abuses and T20 is an accepted format.”

English: virat kohli
English: virat kohli (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Kapil added:

“India I believe will reach semifinals and all four semi finalists will have 25 percent chance. You can’t predict from there on. I believe start is very important. I think the first 15 overs will decide how India will perform. I would take 40/0 in first 15 overs which can give us 270 plus total. It’s a must. But if India lose 2-3 wickets in 15 overs it will be difficult.”

What he really meant:

“The huddle is a muddle. Strategy is planned in the dressing room. The huddle’s merely an excuse for a no show!”

What he definitely didn’t:

“Sunday ho ya Monday, roj khana unday!”