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!