April 27, 2011

Duncan Fletcher to coach INDIA

    The most awaited result is out. Well of course, you guessed it. Its Drunken .. oops Duncan Fletcher who will be coaching the World Cup 2011 Champs. For the first time in the history of  Indian cricket, BCCI have actually hurt their reputation of being the lazy government officials we think they are. They have announced the coach of the national way before the whole world was ready for it. There were a lot of speculations about who would be filling in Kirsten's shoes. Would it be Andy 'The Reverse Sweeping' Flower, Stephen 'CSK-Player Turned Coach' Fleming, Brian 'Snubbed by IPL' Lara, Wasim 'Aiming Indian Citizenship' Akram, Sania 'now married' Mirza even David 'The Hoff' Hasselhoff was in the reckoning aparently. BCCI  has been strictly avoiding desi coaches for GOD knows what reason. And as it appears Duncan Fletcher has bagged a 2 year contract to coach the Indian *cough* world champions*cough* team.
"If it aint broke,don't fix it."
© Getty Images
    Fletcher has had his own share of ups and downs. Captaining Zimbabwe for not too long and having never played test cricket he was chosen as the light-bearer of the England national team. He guided the morally low, very brittle English side to the Ashes Glory in 2005 but, also lost the away series 5-0 in 2007 followed by a very forgettable World Cup campaign. More than coaching, his job is to handle the pressure of media and the board. Personally speaking, he has hit a jackpot at the age of 63. His pay package and perks are sure to put the ECB to shame. I think his story will unravel during the India tour of England. Will he be the next Greg Chappel or Gary Kirsten. Time will have the answer. Let's wait and watch.

April 15, 2011

The Big Bash just got Bigger


Big Bash League - Bigger than before
http://bigbash.com.au/

   A T20 revolution is (apparently) about to take place down-under, thought it was wise to spread the word before the world was caught napping. Well of course if  you already knew too much it will be wise to stop right here. So, wake up now and see what the Ozzie blokes were up to when you were busy bleeding blue (last heard). New format, new teams, new colours almost as though "new" is an understatement.
   Clearly, Cricket Australia is pumped about the Big Bash League. The newer, bigger bash will now feature 8 teams- Adelaide Strikers, Brisbane Heat, Hobart Hurricanes, Perth Scorchers and 2 teams each from Sydney and Melbourne which are Sydney Sixers, Sydney Thunder, Melbourne Renegades and Melbourne Stars. Each team is represented by a unique jersey colour, unlike a certain T20 league that does not identify different colours in a rainbow. Talking of which, the 8 teams have made sure the colours will remain in your heads even after you switch off your television sets, take a nap, remain blind fold for the next 48-72 hours.

BBL Teams


Name Colour Venue
Adelaide Strikers Blue Adelaide Oval
Brisbane Heat Teal  Gabba 
Hobart Hurricanes  Purple  Bellerive Oval 
Perth Scorchers  Orange  WACA Ground 
Melbourne Renegades  Red  Etihad Stadium 
Melbourne Stars  Green  MCG 
Sydney Sixers  Pink  SCG 
Sydney Thunder Electric Green  ANZ Stadium


   Will be interesting to see how many foreign players are allowed per side and how the local players are distributed which is incase it is not based on which domestic side they represent. Either way Sydney, Melbourne have 2 teams so the loyalities have to split here. Bringing in the corporates does ring the cash registers so, the teams will now be going under the hammer. Whether the auction (players & teams) is the way to go is unknown. So far each teams have picked names, assigned a stadium and chosen their colours. Stay tuned for updates on the BBL as we break them to you right here!

   We leave you with this video to keep your mouth watering till the revolution strikes no sooner than DEC-2011. Enjoy!

April 14, 2011

IPL 4 - Who's In Who's Out


   Only few days into the cricket extravaganza, already a few cracks are seen. The crowd response has been mild at average. The opening ceremony was a big bore, Modi cam is now redundant, star power is lacking, players are bailing out due to injuries and as if bad news was not enough the worse has just been announced. Apparently, the Lankan cricket board is not comfortable with their cricketers playing in the Indian Premier League. Especially, after the recent loss in the World Cup finals coming from them their not so friendly neighbours. Clearly the board wants the players to shift loyalities to the national team. And so for the prosperity of Sri Lankan cricket the board has decided to call their players back for a practise camp ahead of their gruelling tour of England. Now, do you see the big picture? (Well, it was never going to be Jacqueline Fernandez and Ritesh Deshmukh, sorry guys!)

   Big blow to Mumbai Indians who had pinned their hopes on Lasith Malinga picking another 30-35 wickets, so that the rest of the pack could just watch the batsmen save their toes and lose their wickets. Deccan Chargers and Kochi Tuskers Kerala also face serious set backs since the two sides are captained by Sri Lankan players. CSK the Lanka loving IPL side will lose services of Randiv, Kulasekera, Tharanga due to the announcement. Pune Warriors India might not get any duty from the injured Angelo Mathews. MI, KTK will also lose Dilhara Fernando, Thissara Perera although Kochi Tuskers Kerala will be lucky to retain Muralitharan with them. Royal Challengers Bangalore will have to rethink their team mix when Dilshan along with Pradeep follow the board's orders. So far none of the players have shown objection and it is most likely to remain that way. Clearly, most sides will have to re-think their composition and gane plans but, they do have a respite till May 5.

   Good news is that the Aussies have completed national duties in the very long & tough (feel the sarcasm) tour of Bangladesh, which saw the Australians victorious under their new captain, Michael Clarke. So, the teams get some big names in their squads trying to boost their fortunes. Steven Smith however, wont join the Kochi Tuskers Kerala. He will undergo an ankle surgery.


Team Players Out Players In
MI Lasith Malinga, Dilhara Fernando Nil
DC Kumar Sangakkara Cameron White
KTK Mahela Jayawardene, Thissara Perera John Hastings, Steve Smith
PWI Angelo Mathews Callum Ferguson
RCB Tillakaratne Dilshan, Nuwan Pradeep Nil
KKR Nil Brad Haddin, Brett Lee, James Pattinson, Shakib Al Hasan
RR Nil Shane Watson
CSK Nuwan Kulasekera, Upul Tharanga, Suraj Randiv Michael Hussey, Doug Bollinger
KxiP Nil Nil
DD Nil Nil

   Team owners of KKR will be mighty pleased with 4 quality players adding to the squad, having spent not too many days into the IPL. RR will be glad their maverick Shane Watson is in good form and ready for duty. MI will need to re think their bowling combination and hope for Andrew Symonds to get into the zone as soon as possible. Where as DC have not only lost their captain but also their wicket keeper, they need to do some serious fixing in their squad. The rest of the bunch have made up in some way or the other. Kings XI Punjab and  Delhi Daredevils have nothing to take from this news. Its almost as though they are immune to what is happening around them.

   In other news, WICB have dropped Chris Gayle, Shiv Chanderpaul, Ramnaresh Sarwan  from the upcoming ODI series Vs Pakistan. Marlon Samuels makes yet another come back into the team. Good news is that Mumbai Indians will not lose the services of Kieron Pollard. Chennai Super Kings however, will have to wait for Dwayne Bravo to join their squad once the ODI's are over. He will miss the 2 match test series between West Indies and Pakistan.

April 8, 2011

IPL Season 4 - Group B Preview

   Kolkata Knight Riders:
   The Dark Knight! A complete white wash in the team and new look and feel (mostly Dilli-wallas) some key foreign purchases KKR will be hoping for some change in fortunes as well. After controversially dumping Dada for some multi-captaincy theory and then falling on their bum making him the man in charge to not bidding for him in the player auctions. WOW! quite a ride to be honest. This year they have a lot that is talented and have quite a reputation. Wonder if this season is make or break for the owners. Since, KKR is the only team from the previous 8 that is yet to make it to a semi-finals in the IPL. They made the biggest purchase during the auctions that of Gautam mommy loves Gambhir now named their captain, for 2.4m$. And the prize catch of Yusuf Killer Pathan for another 2.1m$ Phew!! Kallis being their third million dollar baby. Some very smart picks in the domestic players now makes the team a contender for the semis at least!
Captain: Gautam Gambhir
Players Retained: Nil
Key Players: Yusuf Pathan, Eoin Morgan,
Dark Horse: Iqbal Abdulla,Ryan Ten Doeschate, Sourav Ganguly (well of course)
Group A: Deccan Chargers

   Royal Challengers Bangalore:
   Where KKR have many DD's domestic players, Dr. Mallya's men seemed to have robbed the Daredevils in broad daylight. They have Daniel Vettori their new captain, Dirk Nannes, Dilshan, AB De Villiers all from the Delhi Darevils Geeez! Well then again RCB lost all their merry men in Robin, Rahul, Pandey, Steyn none of whom they retained when they had a choice. Apart from the Dilli-walas there is Ex-RCB man Zaheer who makes a come back to his IPL team after swapping to the Mumbai Indians squad for Robin Uthapa. Immensely talented (and slightly over rated) Cheteshwar Pujara, trying to show his tools in T20 cricket and U-23 player of IPL season 3 Saurabh Tiwary and Once upon a time in Indian team Md. Kaif are in the squad as well. Which helps their batting but who are their bowling options?
Captain: Daniel Vettori
Players Retained: Virat Kohli
Key Players: Zaheer Khan, AB De Villiers, Dirk Nannes
Dark Horse: Saurabh Tiwary, Cheteshwar Pujara, Arun Karthik
Group A: Group A: Kings XI Punjab

   Rajasthan Royals:
  The winners of the inaugural IPL, Royals have not had a sweet time in the middle. After being almost kicked out like the KxiP they too have been fortunate to get the mercy plea from! the courts. Although, they did retain skip Warney and talisman Watto it doesn’t explain why they didn’t retain their mojo man Yusuf Pathan. As a result the bidders went bezerk and only KKR could afford him at over 2m$. The Royals look thinner than before only occasional Ross Taylor, the seasoned Rahul Dravid, useful Johan Botha, off target Tait a few names to reckon. Addition of in-form Jacob Oram must be good news for the Royals who replaced Collingwood due to injury. They have done some wild recruiting in the domestic circuit though. Getting some top catches like Rahane, and their usual suspects like Sid Trivedi. A couple from the last years Ranji season heros like Meneria, Chahar. Despite having 3 seasons of experience Royals have done well to remain underdogs.
Captain: Shane Warne
Players Retained: Shane Warne, Shane Watson
Key Players: Shane Watson, Ross Taylor, Rahul Dravid
Dark Horse: Deepak Chahar, Jacob Oram, Ashok Meneria
Group A: Group A: Mumbai Indians

   Chennai Super Kings:
   MS Dhoni’s yellow army had a perfect 2010 season where they won the IPL and the CLT20. The onus is upon them to make their owners proud again. The owners too haven’t played much with the team balance. They tried hard to buy back as many players from their previous winning combination. In the process they seemed to have over priced some of their own players and bought them at a premium if not more. They did lose some of their talent like L Balaji, Muralitharan, Parthiv Patel and did not go for Jacob Oram or Mathew Hayden. Their new additions were pretty impressive but injuries seemed to have plagued them just before the tournament. Bravo, Hilfenhaus, Bailey, Bollinger the main accused. They have found solace in Southee and Tharanga who seemed to have put their best suit on during the WC. T20 is an altogether different ball game, a change in mind set. So, far no team has been able to defend their title successfully. Let’s see if the champs still have it in them.
Captain: MS Dhoni
Players Retained: MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Albie Morkel, Murali Vijay
Key Players: R Ashwin, Mike Hussey, Suresh Raina
Dark Horse: Tim Southee, Suraj Randiv, Abhinav Mukund  
Group A: Pune Warriors India

   Kochi Tuskers Kerala:
   The newbie in Group B will have a tough task in their debut season against the seasoned pros like CSK and RCB. They had some over the roof bidding technique throughout the auctioning. The pattern was tougher to crack than the Da Vinci Code. They did end up with a strong domestic bowlers list and some key hitters from the foreign buys. Murali's fitness will be alarming but they will be hoping he's fit for some part of the tournament. The only team which can accomodate VVS with a Brendon McCullum then add Muralitharan with a Steve Smith a little bit of Romesh Powar and top it off with Ravindra Jadeja... and well of course the home grown Sreesanth. WOW!! Whether the odd mixture gels well, will be keenly studied.
Captain: Mahela Jayawardene
Players Retained: Not Applicable
Key Players: Muralitharan, Brendon McCullum, RP Singh
Dark Horse: John Hastings, Kedar Jadhav, Vinay Kumar
Group A: Delhi Daredevils

   It seems the Group B is well stacked with 2 former champions. Unlike Pune Warriors, Kochi Tuskers have their hands full and don’t look all that deadly to handle. Since it isn’t about topping Group A and Group B separately the ten teams will realize they cannot afford slip ups. The top 4 will only make the cut and there are no consolation prizes. That’s that then, wishing you all a fun-tastic and fooper IPL. The entertainment just got a little dirty!
p.s. - Who are your key players to watch out for in the IPL4. Share with us in the comments section. Cheers!

April 7, 2011

IPL Season 4 - Group A Preview


   Deccan Chargers:
   DC, the only team in Group A to have won the IPL. No players retained but, they did buy Ojha back in the player auction. They spent big  money on key names like Steyn and surprisingly Cam White! They were fairly lucky to loot many players on Sale! like Rusty Theron, Amit Mishra, Shikhar Dhawan, JP Duminy. New look to the team starting with a new captain, King Kumar. Looks slightly brittle on the domestic batting which means the foreign buys will be the key when it comes to batting. KP's absence due to his hernia means Cam White and JP Duminy will have to Charge up quickly. Overall, having Mishra and Ojha will be a great advantage over most teams.
Captain: Kumar Sangakkara
Players Retained: Nil
Key Players: Dale Steyn, Pragyan Ojha, JP Duminy
Dark Horse: Dan Christian, Kedar Devdhar, Ishant Sharma
Group B: Kolkata Knight Riders (to be played home and away)

   Delhi Daredevils:
   Daredvils retained only Virender Sehwag from their previous squad. A trick missed perhaps as they could not manage to buy back most of their key performers like AB De Villiers, Dilshan, Vettori, Nannes. Spent a whooping 1.9 m$ on  Irfan Pathan who's not even sure to be fit. They do not have any big names in their squad barring David Warner and Morne Morkel not even the domestic players. Clearly DD are the dark horse for this season as they have key individuals who are not too popular with the Indian crowd. Names such as Aaron Finch, Mathew Wade and upcoming Indian talent like Umesh Yadav, Dinda, Naman Ojha. And also some ex-fame players like S.Sriram, Venu Rao, Irfan Pathan, Salvi, Ajit Agarkar Geez!! Will be important to see who's their frontline spinner (Yogesh Nagar??). Since they dint pick anyone in the auctions.
Captain: Virender Sehwag
Players Retained: Virender Sehwag
Key Players: Morne Morkel, David Warner, Ajit Agarkar (Duh!)
Dark Horse: Aaron Finch, Irfan Pathan, Naman Ojha
Group B: Kochi Tuskers Kerala

   Kings XI Punjab:
   Zintans have had a rough time both during the IPL and the off-season. From being almost kicked out to running around court rooms they're releaved to be featuring in the IPL. Sadly, it is due to the harakiri they said they couldn't retain their players. But, their auction journey was a sleep walk. They had no clue what was happening. Injuries to Praveen Kumar, Stuart Broad and Dimmi Mascarenhas wont help them either although they have signed Ryan McLaren and David Miller as cover. Australians will be the core in this team with Gilly, Hussey, Marsh, Harris. Familiar Indians in the form of Dinesh Karthik, Piyush chawla will be vital to their fortunes.
Captain: Adam Gilchrist
Players Retained: Nil
Key Players: David Hussey, Praveen Kumar, Dinesh Karthik
Dark Horse: Abhishek Nayar, Ryan Harris, Nathan Rimmington
Group B: Royal Challengers Bangalore

   Mumbai Indians:
   The runner-up in the previous season, the mighty Mumbai Indians have retained the solid core and replaced a few parts here and there. Their auction presence was poor, they didn't put up a fight for most of the auctioning. And then they were clearly unhappy with last minute changes in the auction procedure. Nevertheless, they look a formidable unit with some smart buys during the auction in the form of Symonds, Davy Jacobs, Blizzard, Rohit Sharma and easily getting some of the best domestic crop like T Suman, Rayudu. With SRT in the side and leading them it wasn't too difficult to get some ripe talent from across India. With Pollard, Malinga, Bhajji retained their core strength looks retained!
Captain: Sachin Tendulkar
Players Retained: Sachin Tendulkar, Lasith Malinga, Kieron Pollard, Harbhajan Singh
Key Players: Andrew Symonds, Rohit Sharma, see list above.
Dark Horse: Davy Jacobs, Aiden Blizzard, T Suman
Group B: Rajasthan Royals

   Pune Warriors India:
   The newbie in Group A looked very impressive during the players auctioning. They went big but, very cautiously almost similar to the Chargers and found some balance in their squad. They stuck to the plan and got some key names in their franchisee. Along with that some vital domestic players were added outside the auctions that makes them a notable opposition although it is only their IPL debut this season. Injury to Angelo Mathews will keep them hunting for the right balance to their team. As such some big domestic names like Yuraj, Robin, Pandey, Nehra, Murali Kartik, Mithun Manhas and foreign imports like Smith, Nathan McCullum, Tim Paine, Ryder, Parnell, Ferguson and the lesser known Kamran Khan, Jhunjhunwala, Mitch Marsh, Mohnish, Rahul will bring about a solid mix to the franchisee's hopes of making an impact in the IPL.
Captain: Yuvraj Singh
Players Retained: Not Applicable
Key Players: Robin Uthapa, Ashish  Nehra, Graeme Smith
Dark Horse: Nathan McCullum, Tim Paine, Callum Ferguson, Dheeraj Jadhav, Kamran Khan
Group B: Chennai Super Kings

   These were the teams from Group A that will be contesting for the IPL Champions' fame and glory. Not much to choose between them but, MI, DC look formidable and DD the dark horse from this group. But the new addition of Pune Warriors India will be the focus. They look well balanced to upset many experienced oppositions. Wont be surprised if KxiP struggle this season as well. For Group B preview keep tuning in.
p.s. - Who are your key players to watch out for in the IPL4. Share with us in the comments section. Cheers!

April 6, 2011

IPL Season 4 Opener




  Its that time of the year again.. you know, "DLF maximums", "Karbonn Kamaal Catch", "Citi moment of Success" yada yada all that crap sans Modi cam err.. Lalit K Modi. Well, what's new then? Primarily the tournament is bigger with 10 teams now in the fray and the format is as complex as the Benedict–Webb–Rubin equation, if not more. You know.. split into two groups then play home and away games with teams in their group and a random draw to pick the team to play twice from the opposite group and play the rest of the teams once.. Then the Playoffs for the finals. Phew!! If you're still reading this, either that made complete sense to you or you are waiting for the Benedict–Webb–Rubin reference to appear in this post somewhere. In the case of the latter please stop reading now! Thank you, for those now searching for some IPL hungama can continue reading.

   Two new franchises Sahara Group owned Pune Warriors India and Rendezvous Sports World Kochi Cricket Pvt Ltd. owned Kochi Tuskers Kerala. Yes, the tradition of picking crappy team names is still very much evident. Somethings that keep the IPL very Indian indeed. Along with new teams the existing 8 teams were busy at the auctions buying players since the existing 3 year deal for all teams went *poof*. All franchisee owners were allowed to retain a maximum of 4 players (2 foreigners max). The first player retained will cost a team $1.8 million against the salary cap of $9 million, regardless of the amount the player is actually paid. The second player will cost $1.3 million, the third $900,000 and the fourth $500,000. Using all four retention options will mean that a franchise will have only $4.5m to spend on 26 other players. IPL season 3 champions CSK and runner-up MI were the only two teams to retain 4 players each. Where as, season 2 champs DC, KKR, KxiP did not retain even a single player. DD, RCB retained 1 player each and RR the inaugural season winners retained 2 players.

Players Retained:

  • CSK - MS Dhoni (Ind), Suresh Raina (Ind), Murali Vijay (Ind), Albie Morkel (RSA)
  • MI - SR Tendulkar (ind), Harbhajan Singh (Ind), Lasith Malinga (SL), Kieron Pollard (WI)
  • RR - Shane Warne (Aus), Shane Watson (Aus)
  • DD - Virender Sehwag (Ind)
  • RCB - Virat Kohli (Ind)
 In the players auctioning things seemingly went very ugly. Some key highlights of the auctions can be seen HERE. The 10 teams have been split into two groups A and B.

Group A Group B
Deccan Chargers Kolkata Knight Riders
Delhi Daredevils Kochi Tuskers Kerala
Kings XI Punjab Royal Challengers Bangalore
Mumbai Indians Rajasthan Royals
Pune Warriors India Chennai Super Kings

   Coming up next will be the "Team Previews" before the "maha yudh" starts. So dont forget to catch all the action-reactions right here!

April 5, 2011

ICC World Cup 2011 *Dream Team*

   Well of course, the World Cup 2011 is over and well of course you know who won it. Well of course Team India. April 2, 2011 will be etched in every Indian's heart. Kapil's Devils wont be shown on TV lifting the cup anymore or not as frequent. The Blue men have shoved up the critics's ___ in style. We couldn't have asked for a better climax. Dhoni's helicopter hit meant that he will feature in the PEPSI ads for lifetime. Anyways, back to business. This world cup had everything a cricket lover would want. Its time for us to pick the dream team, i.e a team which every captain would love to have.
WARNING: Selection criteria purely based on World Cup performance .

Openers
  • Dilshan (SL):- Scoring the most runs in this world cup (500), he is in by default. Not to forget  his attacking batting, more than handy bowling and brilliant fielding .
  • Tendulkar (Ind):- "In God We Trust" However well the team may perform, they always believe in GOD, so do we. Also with 482 runs under his belt and 2 top notch centuries, Sachin pairs up with Dilshan in the opening slot.

Middle Order
  • Trott (Eng):- He has been the mainstay of English batting. Consistent, calm, courageous. 5 fifty's in 7 innings, his lack of 3-digit score was the only flaw in his WC campaign. Its only because of him (and some Irish luck) England reached till the quarters at least. His almost perfect technique, cautious approach makes him a perfect no.3.
  • De Villiers (SA):- He's one man who can up the ante anytime. His batting is a mix of caution and aggression. Brilliant fielder at any position of the field. He scored at a S.R. more than 100 and averaged 88.25 only second to King Kumar. It was tough to choose between Sangakkara and ABCD  so, we had to toss and since there was no cheating re-toss De Villiers was our pick.
  • Yuvraj (Ind):- Coming into the world cup with negative confidence, his performance in this edition shut the mouths of many. Chipping in with the ball initially, his confidence meter improved with every match and it showed in his batting and mainly on the field. We got glimpses of Vintage UV on the field during the finals. He pinned down the other nominations of the  Man of the Series hands down.
  • MS Dhoni © (Ind):- Do you need any explanation on why he features in the Dream Team? Moving on...
  • Afridi (Pak):- Yes, his batting was dud but he overcame it with his magnificent bowling where he ran through the middle order of the opposition in most of the matches. 2 5-wicket hauls and 2 4-wicket hauls his strike rate was 21.2 balls per wicket and averaged 12.85. Also, Pakistan's only safe pair of hands this world cup.
Tail-enders Bowlers
  • Southee (NZ):- Wonder kid of New Zealand. He made wonders with the ball picking up 18 wickets @ 17.33 per wicket. He picked up wickets in all the matches and his economy rate was also exceptional.
  • Zaheer (Ind):- He was Dhoni's 'go-to' man this world cup and he never disappointed . He has improved a lot on his control of the ball. He was instrumental in breaking partnerships in the power plays or applying brakes to the scoring he's done it all.
  • Malinga (SL):- He's a captains dream. He picked up wickets whenever he bowled.Again was tough to choose between Umar Gul but, the sheer accuracy and consistency of hitting the block-hole in the world cup earned Slinga Malinga a spot here.
  • Tahir :- South Africa's import find of the decade. An almost perfect leg spinner with lot of varieties and mainly tons of confidence. With an average of 10.71 per wicket and Strike Rate of 16.9 he would be leader of the spin pack  perfect support to Afridi in this team.

12th Man
Sangakkara (SL):- Averaged 93 with the bat. Was the third highest run accumulator getting 465 runs. Was amazing behind the wickets as he was in front. Captaincy wasn't 100% though. And he lost out to AB De Villiers.

Close Calls
Andrew Strauss, Umar Akmal, Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Upul Tharanga, Robin Peterson, Umar Gul, Muralitharan, Kemar Roach, Brett Lee, Jacob Oram, Graeme Swann, Dale Steyn.

April 1, 2011

ICC World Cup 2011 - Grand Finale : India Vs Sri Lanka


Two warriors, who will emerge victorious???

   After a long journey through the world cup, the teams have arrived at the final destination where 1 team will lift the up and celebrate and other team will have just the commiserations. It is again an India - Sri Lanka encounter. Man, aren't they bored of facing each other??? They  have played exceedingly well and they thoroughly deserve their spot in the finals. Both the teams must be on a HIGH after thumping their opponents in the QF and SF. Wankhede is supposed to be a square turner and we should not be surprised if the captains fill their armory with spinners.


   SRI LANKA :
   They have cruised through the groups, quarters and semis. They made minced meat of Poms in the QF and ran through the Kiwis except for the glitch where they lost 4 wickets quickly. Their team overall has looked brilliant. Their openers have been setting up a great platform for the middle order. Both their batsmen have scored 350 + runs in this edition. Jaya'dene has not in form this tournament, but its highly likely that he would come to form against the Indians. Though Murali is not fit, its 100% sure that he would
 play the finals. The SL physios would try their best to get Murali back to his springing best. If Mathews doesn't recover in time for the finals. The Lankan lower order becomes more brittle, whether they opt for Perera for his batting services of Kulasekara for his better bowling skills will be a tough choice to make. Lankans have called in Randiv and the epic Warnakulasuriya Patabendige Ushantha Joseph Chaminda Vaas as backup players. Maybe they are trying to bring back older players to remind Indians of the 1996 WC. Given a chance, they would even call DeSilva, J'suriya, Ranatunga et.al. Vaas, playing in for Mathews is a bluff if I can read it right. Dilhara Fernando available why look further?

   INDIA :
   For majority of the Indian Population, the world cup is all about India beating Pakistan. Now if you think it doesn't matter much what happens in the finals, you are wrong! MSD surprised everybody by playing Nehra over Ashwin against Pakistan, and luckily for him it paid off really well. It should have been a very tricky decision for MSD on who to drop to rope in Ashwin, thanks to Nehra for injuring himself  and  making it easier for MSD now. India Pakistan encounter was an alarm for the Indian batsmen, mainly the middle order barring Raina which crumbled to quality bowling. Once again MSD's form with the bat has been begging.  The opening on the other hand has been tremendous, Seh-whack and Sachin have gone after the bowlers irrespective of the opposition. Their bowling which was under a lot of pressure during the group stages, but they have stood up to the occasion in crunch situations. They have been very disciplined, their first wide was in the 37th over and no no-balls were offered to the Stanis.

Men Who Matter: 

SL - Dilshan, Sangakkara, Jayawardene, Malinga, Murali 
IND - Sachin, Sehwag, Yuvraj, Zaheer, Harbhajan

Key Battles :
  • Murali Vs Sachin :
  World's best bowler to the World's best batsman. Both teams would go Full Monty to try and give the perfect swan song they truly deserve. Sadly, one of them will have to go back empty handed. Although, it is not evident that Sachin will retire for sure. He's God right? God's dont retire or go for holidays or need time off.
  • Sehwag Vs Malinga :
  We saw how Sehwag dented  one of the Pakistan's best bowler, Umar Gul. Malinga , as usual has been at his best most of the times, not giving away anything to the batsmen. This battle would be interesting to see who gets a the last laugh.
  • Dilshan Vs Zaheer :
  Dilshan is the Lankan version of Sehwag, a time bomb ready to explode. Zaheer, has been the linch pin for the Indian bowling for quite a while. Both teams will be looking to get an ideal start in the big match.

Numbers Game :
* Dilshan is the leading run getter in the world cup. Three runs more than SRT.
* SRT holds the record for most runs in world cup games - over 2000(2260).
* Sri Lanka leads India 4-2 in world cups. Last time SL bt Ind by 69 runs knocking them out of the 2007 world cup.
* Overall India leads Sri Lanka 67-50. At home India leads 28-11 over the Lankans.
* Both teams are playing in their 3rd WC finals. Winning 1 and Losing 1. Both Lost their finals to Australia in 2003 and 2007 respectively.
* Sachin averages 45.61 against the Lankans scoring close to 3000(2965) runs in 78 matches.
* Murali averages 31.25 against the Indians picking 74 wickets in 58 innings.
* Indian batsmen has notched 16 50+ scores in the tournament so far against Sri Lanka's 14 such scores.
* Sri Lankan batsmen has notched 6 100+ scores in the tournament so far against India's 5 such scores.
* Teams batting first hold the edge in Wankhede 11-6. Also, both teams lost to Australia in the WC finals chasing.

   A match that could redefine most of their lives, transform them into heroes. 100 overs to fight for anything they have dreamed for, aspired to achieve growing up. Lankans play disciplined cricket, fight hard till the last ball and have produced consistent results. Indians on the other have played crunch games and have beaten some of the top teams or gone down in the final moments. There could be no bigger stage set for the finals. Dhoni or Sangakkara both captains, both wicket keepers both have immense belief in their squads. But, the similarities must end here. As only one can emerge champion. And so is the fate of this game. Even a warrior must accept defeat with pride. Come saturday Wankhede will be a Colosseum, bull-ring, battle field all wrapped in one. Loud chants will go numb and heart beats will get loud. Whether Sri Lanka will upset a billion hearts or it is not just a mere co-incidence that the 1983 calendar and 2011 are similar?

March 29, 2011

ICC World Cup 2011 - Semi Finals 2: India Vs Pakistan


Funny that Dhoni needs a leggie who can pick wickets and Afridi needs a wk who can hold on to the ball. Eh?

   The tournament has had its highs, lows, Canada et al. But, cricket fantasy is set to come true in Mohali during the second semi-final of the ICC World Cup with the mother, father, Godzilla of all battles!! Arch rivals India-Pakistan to battle it out for pride, glory, world peace and tumbling stock markets. This is what the whole world umm.. Shiv Sena ummm... Hon. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ummm... cricket crazy fans have been expecting. Its an early Christmas for the sponsors, their prayers have come true. This match is "HUGE", for most people across the borders of the two countries winning this match means more than winning the World Cup. No wonder if the productivity dips by a few levels during the match, the players will have to pay back in blood and tears.

TEAM NEWS:
   PAKISTAN
   They blew the Windies out the competition in the QF. Afridi has been their strike bowler. He has done nothing wrong with the ball , which has been compensated by doing nothing right with the bat. Gul has been top notch, both with the new ball as well as the old one. Pakistan's batting has been a bit wobbly with the reliability of Muammar Muhammad al-Gaddafi. Umar "Leprechaun" Akmal has been their 'go-to' man. Razzaq has gone un-noticed with the bat/ball this time, Afridi has used him only as a stock bowler. Afridi will be tempted to play Akthar in place of Razzaq to hurt the Indians. Its good to see Akthar tone down his bowling as well as his attitude and play with the team rather than playing against them which he is always used to. He would like to peak in against India like any other guy in the team . Their fielding has been mediocre, thanks to the one man army behind the wickets.

   INDIA 
   India started off their campaign as favorites and  then they were the punching bag for most critics. But, in the QF they knocked out the defending champions Australia, ending their 12 year old reign over the World Cup. With the heroic win against Aussies, hopes of 1billion + hearts stay afloat. India's bowling was their main weakness, no one except for Zaheer standing up to the occasion. Now with the entry of Ashwin, it seems to have got a combination going for them. Though, MSD would be tempted to play Nehra/Sree in Mohali, he would  play the same winning combination against the Stanis. After all, his dil-logical  decisions have been successful. Indian batting has looked good, except in the batting powerplay where they seem to get a "brain freeze". Those maddening 5 overs have cost them a lot. Again Raina's entry as the finisher has helped them stabilize. Indian fielding, though it was looking rough in the group stages improved exponentially against the Aussies. Or as MSD says, they could do no better.

Head-to-Head 

Sachin                Hafeez
Sehwag              K Akmal
Gambhir             Shafiq
Kohli                  Younis
Yuvraj                Misbah
Dhoni                 U Akmal
Raina                 Afridi
Harbhajan          Gul
Zaheer               Riaz
Ashwin               Ajmal
Munaf                Akhtar
Nehra*(12th)      Razzaq* (12th)

  Man to man the teams look well balanced. Although, the tons and tons of runs and experience of the Indian top-order and the depth and variety in Pakistani bowling will be the key battle to win the war.

Key Encounters:
  • Sachin-Viru Vs Akthar-Gul
    Mouth watering clash on the cards, if the Pakistani think tank decide to bring Shoaib out of the wilderness. He may have announced his retirement plans but, Sachin n Sehwag will be eager to make him pay!
  • Gambhir Vs Afridi 
   Gambhir and Afridi have history. Afridi has picked 21 victims already. Gambhir has been among the runs. These two on the field would spark emotions as easy as butter melting on a hot pan.
  • Zaheer-Ashwin Vs Pakistan Openers
   Zaheer has been the strike bowler whenever MSD needs a wicket. Ashwin has been the answer to India's bowling woes. Akmal, Hafeez know to play in only one gear, attack! It will be exciting to see this mini-battle among the several high voltage conflicts on the centre stage.
  • Yuvraj Vs Umar
   Umar Akmal's green sunscreen should come handy when he faces UV's rays!

Not so much Trivia
-Yuvraj has won 4 m.o.m awards so far in the world cup.
-Pakistan have never beaten India in world cup competitions.
-India have never beaten Pakistan at Mohali.
-India has never crossed the Semis in world cups held in India (sub-continent).
-SRT is on 99 international centuries & yet to win a world cup (in case you missed. haha!).

   Both India and Pakistan will be on a high beating some good teams and reaching the WC semis. It's "war time" for the 22 players, do-or-die would never have sound more apt. Its not just a "game" for the two countries,  its a question of superiority, pride, everlasting glory and endorsement deals. Well of course!

March 28, 2011

ICC World Cup 2011 - Semi Finals 1: Sri Lanka Vs New Zealand




    Alas, the final 4. In the first of the two semi finals we have co-host Sri Lanka take on the surprise packet New Zealand. Funny story, I had a dream where Australia lose in the Quarter finals and  New Zealand play the semi finals. No Shit!! Oh wait... So, coming back to the game, Sri Lanka steam rolled passed English muffins in their quarters encounter while, Kiwis pressed the Choke button rather dint need to as Proteas have mastered it over the years. 
When every appeal matters!
Team News:
  Kiwis - Mills has been finally sent home, Andy McKay flown in as his replacement might not get to do much. Tuffey might get the slot in the playing xi depending on conditions. Otherwise, Oram's form will help Vettori go in with some slow bowlers who should be handy in Sri Lanka.

  Lanka - Murali looked highly uncomfortable in the ending stages of his spell in the quarter finals game vs England. Whether Lankans will risk him or rest him is the million dollar question. With Herath and Dilshan turning out to be more than handy options and Mendis around Lankans are most likely to play a seamer in his place.

Head-to-Head (probable 12)

Dilshan               B McCullum
Tharanga            Guptill
Sangakkara        Jesse
Jayawardene      Taylor
Samaraweera     Styris
Silva                   Williamson
Mathews            Oram
Perera                Franklin
Malinga              N McCullum      
Mendis               Vettori
Herath                Southee      
Murali*               Tuffey*
  
   Man to man Kiwis have the depth in the batting but a big score depends on the big names. Lanka clearly banking on familiar home conditions and using spin as their key weapon.
Key Encounters :
  • Lankan Openers Vs N Mac
   Lankan openers have bullied most teams(minnows), they were hardly tested by the Poms. But, last time they played the Kiwis it was 19/2 and Southee was on a roll. But, Nathan McCullum has been excellent with the ball. And this battle will lighten up the game  early on. If Kiwis want to get under the skins of the home team, they need to strike early or else like other teams their fate is sealed.

  • King Kumar Vs Dan the Man Vettori
   Easily the clash to look forward to. Last time these two teams met in the tournament, Sangakkara notched up a 3 figure score (first since 2008) and helped his team post a  respectable 265. But that was Kiwis sans Vettori. With Vettori back in the equation the battle will be the key to the match, perhaps!

  • M-factor Vs Kiwis batting
   Kiwis batsmen will have to tackle the "M-factor" at the Premadasa, Malinga, Mendis, Mathews, Murali (if he's fit). Kiwis batting has depth, probably the most among the teams but, they need a key innings from their top order. A key three digit score can really lift the spirits of the rest and the late hitting can be left to Oram, Franklin, McCullum, Vettori.

   Last time these two sides met. It was game on till the innings break and then fizzled out without a fight. Once again, Lanka have the home advantage. Luckily, for Kiwis their league match was held at Wankhede and not the Premadasa. It doesn't matter what happened in the past. Just two wins away from taking the 'World Cup' nothing can be taken for granted.

March 25, 2011

ICC World Cup 2011 - Quarter Finals 4: Sri Lanka Vs England



   The final two teams to fight out for the semi finals spot of the ICC World Cup 2011. Sri Lanka, former world cup champions and also the runner up in the 2007 World Cup and England the bad parent which never gained respect from their child. In other words, they invented the sport for the rest of the world (although they have been in the finals) they have not once done the "full monty" so to say win the World Cup!

England Report :
  They beat South Africa, West Indies. Tied against India. That speaks volumes. But, they also lost to Ireland, Bangladesh and almost faced defeat to the Netherlands. Its been a mixed bag for the Poms throughout the tournament. They've been the most unpredictable side in the competition, even more than Pakistan. They managed to sneak in to the Quarters but, now face a very strong Lankan team playing at home. Their form is difficult to rate because they have sent home players and got replacements week in, week out. Latest being Yardy, who probably has had a sudden increase in his Estrogen level. The very capable Adil Rashid who should have made it to the world cup in the first place now replaces him. Earlier, Eoin Morgan got his 'Golden ticket' thanks to KP. Dernbach and Tremlett also came in as replacements for injured players. Now, Strauss and Andy have to pick xi players that can put up a fight against a formidable Lankan team. As it is, Sri Lanka have a very disciplined and strong outfit beating them in home conditions will be asking too much. Once again, onus will be on Strauss to lead from the front whether Prior continues to open is questionable. He has failed, I would want him to come down the order as a slogger. Trott has been very consistent with the bat, England will be hoping he fires a big one against Lankans as well. Eoin Morgan will be the guy England will be pinning their hopes for a late flurry and a big finish. Bowling wise it is clear Swann is the leader for the Poms. Broad back home, Bresnan not fully fit, Shahzad's patchy form, Tredwell's inexperience and many more. The signs are not good but, English will be hoping it works out with the new faces coming in. After all, its only about winning 3 more games, ain't it?

Sri Lanka Report :
   The Emrald Islanders have once again shown their muscle in the world cup. Playing at home they have hardly put a wrong foot forward, their only loss coming against Pakistan. Sangakkara has a very committed set of players and he's been consistent with the playing xi. Dilshan at the top, Jayawardene and himself form the core of the batting. Where as Malinga, Murali, Mendis take care of the bowling duties. With Mathews, Perera, Kulasekara, Tharanga, Herath as ad-ons, this team is just unfair to the rest of the teams in the competition. Lankans would like to treat the home crowd once again when they take on England and make sure they book their semis berth without any hiccups. English don't possess as big threats for Lanka but, they did manage to defeat the islanders at home. The absence of KP will haunt them, but having Morgan  has boosted their poor lower order. Swann will be another hurdle the Lankans will have to tackle before they can claim that semis berth. Swann has been like a man on a mission, it will require the top 4 from the Lankan batting to take him out before he causes irrepairable damages. The Lankan lower half of the batting has not been fruitful. Mathews has had a quiet world cup so far, they will hope his fortunes are going to change soon. Murali announcing his farewell from the 50 over format at the end of his world cup journey, has made this even more special. The entire team will be hoping to give the perfect swan song, that he deserves for his contribution to Sri Lankan cricket over the years.

Watch Out For :
  • Malinga Vs Strauss
  • Murali Vs Morgan
  • Swann Vs Sangakkara
   The English will be hoping to surprise the home team, with a few new tricks. Lankans are no pushovers, and the fight has to be taken to them in every aspect of the game. In Sri Lanka the party is just about to begin... 

March 24, 2011

ICC World Cup 2011 - Quarter Finals 3: South Africa Vs New Zealand


   The only quarter final game which does not feature a team from the sub-continent or even a previous world cup winner. But, if you are thinking this just makes for a lame encounter, you need to wake up now! Proteas have for long been tagged "Chokers", Kiwis have been the dark horses in most big tournaments. This cup is no different. Once through the league any team that can win 3 more games is crowned the champions. Like it or not. This brings the equation very close, its just on the day performance and not the potential of the teams that will affect the end result.

New Zealand Report :
   Vettori's side has seen pretty much the worse period ever for the Kiwis. They do not justify their talent with their current ODI rating but, losing to Bangladesh and then India did not help their cause. They have looked better in the world cup though, they beat the Group A leaders Pakistan thanks to a mad max innings courtesy Ross Taylor. But struggled against Australia and Sri Lanka and hence finished 4th in the group. Once again its the consistency that has been lacking from the black caps. Facing Group B leaders won't be simple, their top guns Taylor, Mc Cullum, Vettori will have to make sure that it isn't thrown away. Southee has looked good  and will be responsible to bring early breaks against the majestic Proteas batting line-up. Hopefully, Vettori is fit and that will severely boost their chances. Brendon McCullum, Martin Guptil, Jesse Ryder will have to deliver with the bat. Taylor, Styris can later give the impetus. If they can post a meaty score like they did against Pakistan. They should look for wickets early in the SAF innings. Hopefully, bowling coach Alan Donald will give them key pointers. Proteas batting has blinked a few times once the top order is back in the hut. Kiwis should look to play disciplined cricket all along to beat the mighty Proteas.

South Africa Report :
    Smith's men have come to the party and bullied everyone. Except for the hiccup against England in chennai, they have beaten others convincingly to top group B. Playing at Dhaka once again, Proteas would be keen to play Tahir, Peterson and perhaps Botha considering their winning run.Tsotsobe was great in the game against Bangladesh. Smith has yet to fire with the bat and would be hoping that one game is not far away. Kallis has shown flashes of his reputation. Yet, Amla and AB DeVilliers will be their trump cards once again. If any of these four click they can easily post a huge total with the help of Duminy, DuPlesis, Botha. Van Wyk has been disappointing, I think his place in the team is now taken. Will be keen to see if Ingram gets a chance ahead of Faf in any case they need to play the slogger's role. Steyn has looked at his menacing best. And Morkel has been no less from the other end. Proteas have a well balanced attack and a fearsome one at that. Proteas who have done well against Kiwis in world cup games would be hoping the trend continues and gives them a berth in the semis. Yet to win a world cup, they will be hoping the tag of "Chokers" doesn't arrive for 3 more games.

Watch Out For:
  • Tahir Vs Taylor
  • Vettori Vs De Villiers
  • Steyn Vs McCullum
   The teams know very well this is the knock-out time, one bad day and they will be boarding their flights for home. This is the time to bring out all the tricks from the bag, do anything but win. Proteas would just have to hope Duckworth and Lewis are not anywhere in the vicinity of the ground. New Zealand have to do just one thing, put the opponents under pressure, then they will stand up-to their name "Chokers". Rest assured it is all going to happen at Dhaka.

March 23, 2011

ICC World Cup 2011 - Quarter Finals 2: India Vs Australia



   After a lame first quarter finals effort by the Windies we move on to Ahmedabad for the next encounter which involves co-host India taking on the defending champions and four time winner Australia. Its the battle of the #1 ranked ODI team against the #2 ODI team. Yes, its HUGE!!! No matter how badly you want to ignore it you cant. Once again it will be tough to shift focus from statistics, records, support, dreams, desires to the actual on-field act. Which one of these two will go one step ahead to the final 4? The build up has already grabbed the attention across the cricket crazy folks.

Australia Report:
   Australia chasing yet another world cup victory and under the captaincy of Ricky Ponting this would be the third. The number that eluded even the great Clive Llyod and the indomitable Windies. Funny that, it was India that put an end to Lloyd's team in '83. Ozzies have worries of their own, they haven't been able to find a spinner who can do half the job Warney was capable of. But, then they did manage to win the world cup with Brad Hogg as their spin force. This cup being played in the cub-continent has emphasised the importance of spinners more than the earlier cups that Australia won quite easily. Already, they have faced the impact when the finally lost a world cup game to Pakistan. Afridi clearly used Rehman at the start with Gul and the fire & ice combo was just too much for the Ozzies. Add to that Afridi and Hafeez were capable enough to bowl 20 more tight overs to strangle them further. And the Lankans never tested them. Come the Indians in the quarters, the number of slower bowlers will only mount. Bowling has clearly been India's weakness, Ozzies can take a sigh of relief from that. They will need to be on top of them right from the start and let the home pressure do the rest. Ahmedabad has not been sweet to the Indians in the recent past and the team from down-under will hope that happens one more time in the Quarters. Ponting has shown a lot of faith  in Smith and Krejza but against the Indians he might still be tempted to go back to their default seam attack. Batting wise Ponting will want to send a strong message to all who believe he is in his farewell trip. Haddin Watson have done bulk of the scoring for them and the batting has never been pushed far enough, except against Pakistan where they came a cropper.

India Report:
   Sachin. Any report on India has to start with the mention of the not so little master. In fact, the saving face for Dhoni's boys has been that Sachin has looked in the pink of his form, cracking 2 centuries already against top sides. Unfortunately the results and the way the results have come for India has been a heart-break for their fans. Most believe that this time also the team will fall short of the goods. But, they will still cheer for every run scored, every wicket earned by the men in blue. The bowling will once again come under the scanner for the Indians playing against no push-overs, the #1 ODI team. Indians will be hoping the match does not stretch as far as 100 overs, and hopefully the end result is in their favor as well. Concerns in team selection does not seem to end at all. We are already in the knock-out phase of the tournament and India does not know who their starting xi will be. Even the bowling attack has changed in almost every game giving no certain picks before the crunch game. Once again selection issues will plague the team, whether Raina & Ashwin will retain their spots in the side. Batting in the death has really meant suicide for the team. Not so long ago they relished the final overs. So, it takes just one good match for fortunes to change. Dhoni will be hoping that day comes before their world cup journey ends. It will not be easy but, they  will have to take what ever comes their way and fight for glory. Pressure will mount at every pit stop during the match, this Aussie side is very much beatable. And that faith has to be restored in the team. There will be no excuses this time!

Watch Out For:  
  • Sachin-Sehwag Vs Lee-Tait
  • Ponting Vs Harbhajan
  • Hussey Vs Zaheer

   Man to man both teams are well matched. Its very hard to pick a winner. Its sure to get exciting in the second quarter finals. If Sachin-Sehwag get going, the front-line attack will be reduced to some college team in no time. Whether the Indian bowlers continue to suffer the treatment they have been receiving of late? Will the fate of India's batting in the death change? Or whether aussies will finally end a world cup in the quarter finals itself? Needless to say I would kill if required to get passes for the game. So, if anyone needs a hand to do the messy work. Leave a note in the comments section.

March 22, 2011

ICC World Cup 2011 - Quarter Finals 1: Pakistan Vs West Indies




   Finally, the suspense ends the quarter finals are set to start and game 1 see's two time former world champions West Indies face off with the former world champions Pakistan. Easily a mouth watering clash considering the history between the two sides.With both teams possessing players who have the caliber to win matches on their own potential, it will be one contest even neutral fans will look forward to.

West Indies Report :
   Windies have been branded the "Minnow Slayers" this world cup. They thrashed them and stamped their authority, which luckily helped get through to semis over hosts Bangladesh. The only test playing team they managed to beat in the league stage. The reason I am saying this is, Pakistan can be worse than 'minnows' some days and if that happens tomorrow, Windies will have a feast. Jokes apart, Windies have been close to winning their last two matches . They bowled well to restrict their opponents to a low total. Their batting is solely dependent on their top order. None of them seem to stand up from the middle order excepting a few strokes of genius from Darren Lara Bravo. A lot more is expected from the likes of Sarwan, Pollard and their 'once upon a time anchor' Chanders (if he plays). The return of Gayle and Roach should give them a boost. Pakistan's batting has been their weak link too. They have struggled against quality bowling. You never know what to expect from their team. Infact , the players themselves aren't aware. Windies should somehow send the news that its the birthday of their top 5 batsmen. This is the 'CHEATCODE'  to activate the Jumping Monkey aka Kamran Akmal.  Windies have the potential to beat Pakistan. They just need get everything intact and play normally instead of screwing up things themselves. 

Pakistan Report :
   On paper easily Pakistan have the edge, the edge is so big that you could have Shoaib Akhtar mark his run up on it. Pakistani outfit would definitely believe this to be a walk in the park. Considering, there is no real opposition in this Windies outfit. Windies lost all their games to the teams that have qualified in the quarters from Group B. Afridi's boys have gone from strength to strength topping the list in Group A. Their bowling has looked solid. Except for one wild innings from Ross Taylor, every other time bowlers have delivered for Afridi and he has been the most boisterous, picking 17 wickets so far, leading the wickets tally in the tournament. Batting has really been a mixed bag, you never know what to get from the Stanis on a given day. Clearly, bowling is going to be their strength once again. Not much to fear from the opposition. Chris Gayle is more like a self-timed bomb, more often blowing up his own game(avg 32 vs Pak). Kieron Pollard another Gayle clone, only batting lower down the order. Middle order has time and again collapsed as seen in the games vs England and India respectively. Playing Benn, Bishoo/Miller will not be a pre-match concern for batsmen bred in these conditions. Umar Akmal has been playing the finishers role and will look to continue to deliver for his captain.

Watch out for:
  • Gayle Vs Afridi
  • Benn Vs Akmal(s)
  • Pollard Vs Gul

   Playing in Dhaka, Windies will have fresh memories of thrashing the home team and then facing the wrath of the crowd. Pakistan will be the front-runners, playing in not so new conditions and with momentum behind them. But, if both the team look to play cricket for 100 overs we may witness yet another run-feast and the teams need to compromise with what they get. Everybody is looking forward to the first game of the quarter-finals and expect no less than a cracker of a contest.

March 17, 2011

**Why South Africa should consider losing to Bangladesh**



   World cup is almost coming alive, final few days before the business end of the tournament kick starts. Yet, we don't know which teams are likely to face each other in the knock-out phase of the world cup. South Africa are sitting pretty on top of Group B. But rest of the crew is looking to kill each other for the quarterfinals berth. England are playing West Indies at the moment in Chennai. More like a game to the death, if they lose they'll join their national football team, to leave the world cup in a hurry. A win doesn't guarantee them a spot either. So, they might win and still end up losers. After all one South African team is enough in the final eight line up. Or will they send the West Indies far far away into the... ummm west. Or a very good chance that host India will be remembered to playing perfect hosts off the field and even on it. After all "Athiti devo bhava" (Guest is God).
   To experience this exciting race to the quarters, the Proteas need to do one thing right. Yes, lose to Bangladesh in the last league game for both the teams. Here, are the top excuses South Africa can use if they "manage" to lose to Bangladesh.
  • If anything the "Chockers" tag could never have come this handy before.
  • Lose one for the "fans" (and avoid the fear of being belted with stones.)
  • They cannot possible win 3 consecutive games without "Imran Tahir" in the side.
  • Blame your bowling, fielding, batting, umpires, DRS, pitch conditions, weather conditions, "Law of Averages", bench strength, mental strength or take a new leaf out of MSD's book of complaints.
  • Shakib has been practising hard. See video if you are that na├»ve :

p.s. - There have got to be bigger/better reasons to tempt the Chockers Proteas to lose the game with all due respect. Let us know your ideas in the comments section, best ones to be added to the post. Cheers!

March 14, 2011

My Name is Nehra and I am not Alone



    Ah, there's been a lot of hue and cry regarding the final over of the India-South Africa match, that Nehra bowled. People slamming the captain for opting for Nehra over Harbhajan for bowling the 50th over. Harbhajan may or may not have restricted the runs, you never know. Losing was always on the cards when Indians faltered throughout the day. Poor Nehra is being made a punching bag because the match went close(13 reqd off 6 balls). Mainly thanks to the slow cautious batting by Saffers. If you guys remember, Pakistan once required 6 of the last over, chasing 340+ and Nehra bowled really well India won. Again, in this match the first ball was an in-swinging yorker which unfortunately went for four. The second ball was a mighty slog by Peterson. I have compiled a list of duels where similar things happened wherein the best of bowlers got the stick treatment from unknown entities carrying a bat.

  • Harbhajan & Aamir – Asia Cup – Akthar got into Bhajji's nerves and he showed the anger on poor Aamir by hoicking him for a huge six.
  • Balaji & Akthar – India Tour of Pakistan – The hot guy of India Pakistan (L Balaji) went crazy and smacked Akthar over the long on boundary, broke his willow et al.
  • Sreesanth & Nel  – India Tour South Africa – Who can forget the smooth dance moves he showed in front of Nel after that epic six.
  • Symcox & Srinath – Titan Cup – Trace walk to the 1990's. Symcox hit Srinath for a 6 so hard that it struck the electronic scoreboard.
  • Nayar & Flintoff – IPL – Freddie was the most expensive buys of that season (along with KP) and he was put to shame when Abishek Nayar sent the ball screaming to all parts of the ground. 
Symcox giving it the full treatment.
© Action Photographics
 
    "Cometh the hour, cometh the man." this was certainly not true in any of the cases if you had the ball in hand. In this T20 age of slam-bang cricket brutal hitting, slog shots, or even thick edges helping the ball to the ropes you have to cut some slack for the bowlers and eat the humble pie. For pointers even the slogan (theme song) for the 2011 world  cup is "De ghuma ke" and not "Gilli uda de", its a brutal world and crowd want to see the bats do the talking. Or like MSD would aptly say, "Well of course!".

p.s. - If you guys have some upset moments that you cant seem to forget so easily, feel free to add them in the comments section. Cheers!

February 20, 2011

World Cup 2011-India Vs Bangladesh Update - Match -1

   What a way to start the World Cup....Can't ask for a better treat , ain't it ? The first match of the Over Hyped tournament surely lived up to its expectations. The Mirpur crowd surely got their money worth for the second time after the Maha-Opening Ceremony. Indians were on a tremendous high after acing through both their warm-up matches. Bangladeshis, on the other hand had the home advantage though, all sub-continent pitches are alike.

   No surprises in the Mirpur pitch, as always it was on the slower side . India made a couple of surprising changes. Dhoni played Virat over Raina and plugged off Fuze and played 2.5 pacers (No, Munaf is not a complete pacer). As expected, Dhoni lost the toss. Bangladesh let India bat first (Maybe , they were trying to get lucky the II time after 2007 WC). Little did the poor Shakib know what was in store. So the Revenge match went underway. Viru and Sachin took strike. They started off like a dream until Viru suddenly woke up and ran Sachin out. Then came his Jodi, Gauti who looked set and solid, but eventually crashed out. On the other hand, Sehwag was playing a very Un-Sehwag innings, ducked for bouncers and played the ball at its merit. C'mon, people don't pay to watch him like that. In came another Delhi'ite, Kohli and their partnership blossomed beautifully. They were cautious,yet attacking and kept the rate ticking. There was never a moment that Bangladesh were on top. Viru and Kohli  hit tons.

   With a Himalayan (say Alps over  Himalayas) target of 371, Tamim and Imrul took strike for B'desh. Sreesanth swung the ball all over the pitch and paid heavy price for it. Imrul pounced on him like a hungry lion does for its prey .Sree din't budge, he continued the same. Bangla were off to a flyer till Munaf drew first blood. From then on, it was boiler plate stuff. Spinners pegged back the scoring rate assisted by Zaks and Munaf in the later stages. B'desh ended up scoring 283/9 in their quota, which meant India won by a good margin of 87 runs, which would boost their NRR .Finally,India had the last laugh and took revenge in style.

Match Summary

India  : 370/4
Sehwag  175
Kohli      100*                                            Shakib 1/61


Bangladesh : 283/9
Tamim  70
Shakib  55                                                Munaf 4/48

No prizes for guessing the Man of the Match.
P.S-Another match just got over , NZ humiliated Kenya badly at Chennai.As expected the crowd meter was almost zilch.Expecting a similar result against Lanka and Canada.

February 13, 2011

India Vs Australia - POST MORTEM REPORT #1 Warm up match

  Funny thing about warm ups is that it doesn't boil enough. The players don't seem to care enough when the going is tough, the spectators who pay for their tickets are made to look like douche bags all along. Coming to this particular match, it was pre-decided the full squad will be given a chance and the brittle ones in both camps will have a day off. For a warm up match the settings were all wrong. Or so it seemed at first. The pitch at Chinnaswamy stadium, Bangalore looked like the ones we were witnessing not so long back in South Africa. Only this was not South Africa playing India at home.

   It seemed like a waste of practice game, Australia went in with Krejza in their spin armory on a track that offered a lot of bounce and his bowling was aided plenty. But most damage was done by the seamers early on. Lee, Johnson, Bollinger never made it easy for the Indians except for a certain Mr. Virender Sehwag. He seemed to batting on a typical Bengaluru wicket at the other end. Pre-match he had announced his desire to bat out 50 overs in a match to get the maximum benefit of his stroke making abilities. Almost half way into the innings it seemed Sehwag was serious. But, in the 23rd over Viru got out to Krejza after hitting a 6! No surprises. His 54(56) was the contrast in the Indian batting card. John Hastings, David Hussey picked up 2 wickets each and that should summarize how hopeless the Indians had performed. There were no demons in the pitch, neither was the bowling attack fiery. The mental block of the batsmen kept them on the back foot even when they were at the non-strikers end. Patient innings by Yusuf and contributions from no.10, 11 Ashwin & Nehra helped post a score of 214.

  The score of 215 was never going to challenge Australia in a 50 overs game. The only hope was to pick 10 wickets and do that convincingly. MSD dint have Zaheer's services to help him do that. Nehra, Munaf, Sreesanth led the pace attack on the same track where Lee and co. picked up 7. Watto and Paine went about their duty from the word go. The Indian attack had no sting, no discipline what so ever. Nehra bowled 2 overs and was then replaced by Munaf, who then bowled 2 and was later taken off. Sree at the other end picked up Watson who was going all bazookas after the Indians. Sree then, played his wild card i.e. he got into the  'Are you smarter than a 5th grader?' mode. Needless to say MSD had to rely on his spin attack for the rest of the game. The Aussies dint mind, they just steam-rolled their way to 100/1.

   This is when the Bengaluru track kind of transformed from Perth to Patna as if the aliens wanted to see a fair game. Fuze Chawla was turning the ball in every way possible, like he was playing with his XBOX game pad. From 118/1 the mighty Aussies had a windfall. When Chawla had White and Hussey in consecutive deliveries it was game on!!! Ponting was set at one end and the finish line was visible. Then capt. Dhoni brought on Bhajji, shortly then the well set Ponting was well settled in the dressing room. Punter Vs Bhajji lasted 14 balls in which 4 runs were scored and a wicket. Bhajji had his man! So, Valentine's day came early for the two love birds err.. Ricky n Bhajji. Now, the tail were facing Bhajji who had his tail up. In the 38th over the final wicket fell and Aussies were short by 38 runs.

   Australia have lots to ponder upon with their spin tackling abilities, as there will be lot more coming their way. India on the other hand escaped from the knife's edge, but their inconsistent batting form and glass like seam attack will be giving a few sleepless nights to the coach and captain to choose their world cup eleven.

Oz  lose their Fuze!
© Getty Images

February 4, 2011

ICC World Cup 2011 - SWOT Analysis : NEW ZEALAND

Who will stand-up and deliver for the Black Caps?

   Kiwis are going to the world cup, with the worst possible form imaginable. Like your date never turned up to pick you up for the "Prom", the night you've dreamt about all your life. But, just then the door bell rings and the rest is interesting if you are a girl and totally lost. So, coming back to the cricket.. which is why you and I are here right? Something's gone horribly wrong for New Zealand in the last 12 months, they've lost the ODI series against Bangladesh(0-4), India(0-5), Pakistan(1-3*) which includes a 11 match losing streak, which brings us to having new coaches, management and even Dan the man Vettori giving up test captaincy. Vettori has announced he will give up his ODI captaincy after the WC so, where do the Kiwis go from here?
   On the team selection front most notable names feature as expected with a few youngsters making a back-door entry. Selectors have opted not to take Gareth Hopkins or any back-up wicket keeper so, Baz is the only man for the job. Grant Elliot too misses the team bus where as Jacob Injury-free Oram is chosen. Considering the world cup fiesta is taking place in the sub-continent, the selectors have given Vettori a helping hand and opted for Nathan McCullum and a certain Mr. Woodcock. No kidding! Kyle Mills, Tim Southee, James Franklin the team is nicely beefed up with bowlers who can bat and vice versa.

Daniel Vettori (c), Hamish Bennett, James Franklin, Martin Guptill, Jamie How, Brendon McCullum (wk), Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Jacob Oram, Jesse Ryder, Tim Southee, Scott Styris, Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson, Luke Woodcock.

Strengths:
  • Dictator Dan. Vettori is the key to this team, forget the current form and start afresh.
  • Ross Taylor & Brendon McCullum. If the team needs a new lease of life. They need it ASAP from their senior players. Rosco, Baz are hard hitting batsmen and they need to deliver more often.
  • All round abilities of several players will be extremely useful.

Weakness:
  • Kiwis opening batsmen have struggled. They've tried so many opening pairs of late that we can go on and on. Ryder and Guptill seemed to have been given the responsibility to get them good starts in batting friendly conditions.
  • Middle order has been very inconsistent and failed more often than not. Taylor, McCullum, How, Styris will need to show some gutsy performance.
Opportunities:
  • This edition of the world cup favors out of form sides like West Indies & New Zealand or even the underdogs. Once, they pass the league stage it is a knock out tournament. Kiwis should be able to get through to the quarters, from there onits just backing yourselves to win.
  • They did very well in the 2009 champions trophy which is a knock-out tournament. For the record, they lost in the finals to Australia or should I say Shane Watson!
  • Comeback man Big Jake, has taken time out from his injuries and is most likely to participate in the world cup. His batting, bowling abilities will be key to the Kiwis. In his absence James Franklin has made quite a reputation for himself. If both play along with Dictator Dan, Nathan, Mills, Southee the Kiwis tail looks more consistent than the top-order.

Threats:
  • The team is at a low right now any injury to their top performers will spell "doomsday" quicker than Andrew Symonds giving a radio interview.
  • Current set of Black Caps are brittle against quality spin attacks as we have seen recently. They face Pakistan, Sri Lanka in the league stage that wont paint a beautiful picture for them. They could try and avoid India in the Quarters.
   To keep the plot short, no one is expecting much out of the Kiwis. They are the underdogs, which is reason enough to cheer them. They haven't really put on a show in big tournaments and have won just one champions trophy back in the days of Roger Twose! A decade later their cupboard is empty and talent is starting to fizzle out.

February 2, 2011

ICC World Cup 2011 - SWOT Analysis : SRI LANKA

Will the Lions roar again at home?

   The last team from the sub-continent to win the world cup. The last team to be in a world cup finals (and losing). The last team to beat the no.1 ODI team, Australia in Australia. The team that won the last world cup played in the sub-continent. It is easy to say, the emerald islanders know how to go about their job. They keep it simple yet, are one of the most competitive teams that has consistently done well home and away. Any team that boasts of talent in the category of Dilshan, Sangakkara, Jayawardene, Murali, Malinga cannot be made overnight. Add to that youngsters such as Tharanga, Mathews, Herath, Mendis and experienced players in Samaraweera, Fernando, Kulasekara this team has it all.
   The selectors have gone all out and as expected stars of the past such as Jayasurya, Vaas have been left out keeping the team composition in mind and providing the strongest squad to win the world cup at home as it is being played in their own back yard. Although, surely they would liked to win another world cup for their fans. Only notable absentee would be Suraj Randiv who is unlucky to miss out since, Murali is playing his last world cup and with that he will retire from the ODIs as well. With Perera in, Mirando misses out and the dangerous(for kids under 6) Isuru Udana. Maybe, a back up wicket keeper could have been included but, at who's cost?

Sri Lanka squad: Kumar Sangakkara (capt & wk), Mahela Jayawardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Upul Tharanga, Thilan Samaraweera, Chamara Silva, Chamara Kapugedera, Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Dilhara Fernando, Muttiah Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis, Rangana Herath

Strengths:
  • This team looks like  no holes barred, depth in batting, variety in bowling, experience, youth et al.
  • Dilshan at his no-non-sense best will be tough to handle once he gets going.
  • Slinga-Malinga will be a handful for even the most experienced and aggressive batsmen.
Weakness:
  • King Kumar's captaincy has been a sinusoidal curve at best. Lots of highs and some earth shattering lows. 
  • Like most modern day captains, Sangakkara goes to the defensive quickly. He has a potent bowling attack and needs to back his boys completely.
Opportunities:
  • We might have called the Paki spin attack the best in cricket at present but, with Murali back in the scheme of things, check out the Lankan spin trio "Murali + Mendis + Herath" Geez! Dilshan will be happy to get a break from bowling.
  • Murali will want to gift the perfect farewell present to his fans with the big one.
  • Upul Tharanga will want to make a strong case for his place in the ODI team and maybe push his way into the test team as well.
  • Angelo Mathews, has impressed one and all along with Thisara Perera will want to provide the depth in batting and back Murali-Malinga in the bowling and keep King Kumar happy.
Threats:
  • Possibly the only threat is that they are great starters in major tournaments and have the expected off-day when the team should be at its peak. Since the '96 WC they have been consistent in reaching semis and finals but failed to win, which will haunt them.
  • The bowling has enough variety in Kulasekara, Mathews, Mendis, Fernando, Perera and they need to be aware that Murali, Malinga will be their strike bowlers but, their hands need to get dirty as well. They cannot depend heavily on star power.
   Ranatunga's men were like a breath of fresh air, they changed the way limited overs cricket is played. Pinch-hitters, using the field restrictions to their advantage they had a plan to defeat different opponents in different styles. Given the Power-Plays and UDRS debut during the 2011 world cup it is obvious to say that if they remain injury free, and play to their potential we can see some top-notch cricket from the islanders and most certainly Sri Lanka can win the world cup once again in the sub-continent.

February 1, 2011

ICC World Cup 2011 - SWOT Analysis : AUSTRALIA

Can he get his hat-trick?

   The period between 1998-2007, this team just could not do anything wrong. You could term that to be the 'GOLDEN ERA', undisputed champions of the world not just once but three consecutive world cup wins! add to that the '87 win courtesy Allan Border and his team. Well, times have changed, so have the men. The golden bunch have retired and made way to the young brigade who, have been struggling to continue the legacy. They aren't the feared opponents anymore like they were previously. They got beaten by Sri Lanka at home, burnt to Ashes by the Poms at home(Also!!). They have somehow clinched the 7 match ODI series and have avoided more humiliation. This series win might give them a moral boost as they leave to the sub-continent in a few days.
   "Cometh the hour, cometh the man" in this case men, umm.. Aussies if you don't call them men. They become a totally different side during the WC tournament. Take this for example: they have been undefeated for the last 29 WC games now and its just unbelievable!! Their squad is a mixed bag really, they have taken a back-up wicket keeper unlike most teams. But, Tim Paine sitting out for Brad Haddin is a shame really. Shaun Marsh, where is he? He's in the form of his life, still a genuine opening batsman cannot make it to a world cup, is a question the selectors haven't answered. Lee + Tait = handful, expect anyone to break down or fly home. And who the hell is John Hastings, anyways???

The 15 member squad looks like this: Shane Watson, Brad Haddin (wk), Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Clarke, Michael Hussey, David Hussey, Cameron White, Tim Paine (wk), Steven Smith, John Hastings, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Hauritz, Brett Lee, Shaun Tait, Doug Bollinger. 

STRENGTHS: 
  • Shane Watson has been the pillar of strength for the team for quite some time now. His aggressive, yet cautious batting at the top combined with his wicket taking abilities with the ball has made him of the best all rounders in the world at present. As a result, the Australian team has looked more like Shane Watson + 10 other men on the field.
  • Ponting's comeback from injury should steady the wobbly middle order. If Mike Huss gets fit and makes it to the XI, it will be a totally different team then. 
  • #1 team in the world, they might have lost the top-spot in tests but, they are very much rule the roost in the ODI's. Add to  that the World Cup stage, they know how to run about their business.
WEAKNESS:
  • Where is the spinner in the side ?? Hauritz? Smith? Hell NO! When other teams are stacking their squads with at least a couple of front-line spinners, Cricket Australia does a reversal. The seamers such as the revived Mitch hell Johnson, Doug ginger Bollinger, Shane can do it all Watson, Brett come back from the dead Lee, Shaun has still got it Tait have done the job so far for them. Come the world cup, the team will need them even more.
  • Its been quite some time since the middle order contributed something useful. Clarke seems to be lost in a different world forever now. White and David Hussey haven't stepped up when needed and impressed either.
OPPORTUNITIES:
  • Its a make or break chance for Hauritz. He's another top-casualty in the injury list at the moment. If he doesn't make his captain happy this time, he better start looking for retirement plans PRONTO!
  • Its a huge stage for SPD Smith to perform. He has been sneaking away by scoring 20s and picking up a couple of wickets in the middle overs. This is the time for him to make it big and become a permanent member of the squad for at least a year or two.
  • Off Cricket, its a known fact Tait has had some mysterious psychological problem. Its the perfect place(India) for him to meet an Exorcist and kill the ghosts of his inconsistent past.
THREATS:
  • Injured Mike Huss is a big blow to the brewing problems for the Aussie mid-order. The current problem is that, their batting only 1 or 2 guys firing in a match. Sooner the problem is resolved, better for them.
  • They aren't the same juggernaut now, a few screws loose here & there. The team is highly dependent on the seamers for a while now, and its high time they raised their game as they have to fight it out against the top teams. Back the Aussies to do exactly that, as there is no better stage for the Aussies than the "world cup".
   Never take the yellow fellows lightly. Come the mother of all competitions, they pull up their socks and play the game at their best, as it should be played. In all world cup competitions they have won 51 out of their 69 games. Ricky's side might be a mixed-bag of sorts but, it has potential to be world champs. So, will Ricky get his 3rd world cup title as captain? Something, even Clive Lloyd and the mighty Windies failed to achieve. Ozzy, Ozzy, Ozzy...