Masterpiece …

April 30, 2009

… There is no other word to describe it. For ten overs, I sat spellbound as the artists turned back the clock and I wished they never retire or stop playing the game. That day, I fell in love with IPL. When the IPL started and dream teams were created, one always hoped to see some geniuses combine together and create a masterpiece which was not possible otherwise. And that wish finally came true.

What Sachin and Sanath did to the Knight Riders was calculated destruction. There was no savage hitting, there was no merciless bashing that you associate with Yusuf Pathan or Virendra Sehwag, it was just pure artistry. It was as if Sachin and Sanath knew exactly what to do, when to do and how to do it and it was clinical to the point of being suffocating for the Knight Riders bowlers.

When Sachin hogged the strike in the beginning, Sanath remained patient and when his turn came he just took off. It was like they admired each other’s art and they did not have a problem witnessing the other guy perform because they were just enjoying the company of batting with each other. Both of them have the ability to take batting to a different level and both of them know that and hence they were just happy to combine together to annihilate the opposition.

The scoop that Sachin played against Gayle summed it up. It was to show that he was in full control, he was batting the way he liked it, making strokes at will and only he could have stopped himself.

That’s the stamp of a genius. No one gets him out because he is the master of his own destiny and these two showed just that on a quiet, stormy evening which blew the Knight riders away into darkness.

… I cant get over that image of Warne holding Kamran Khan by his shoulders and talking to him during that tense last over and relaxing him fully to make him deliver. I can’t get over the image of the blonde bloke, double the kids age, holding his hand and guiding him over the finish line.

What Kamran Khan learnt in that minute, the confidence he got in that moment, no coaching manual, no amount of bowling will ever give him that. And maybe that is why the guy will never forget Shane Warne ever throughout his career. I am sure the kids in Mumbai Indians camp are just happy to share the dressing room with the greatest batsman of our times. The way Gibbs guided the chase yesterday or the way Gilchrist and Hayden have led the charge must have been such a great learning experience for the youngsters in the team.

IPL is different from youngsters interacting with senior players within national teams purely because you get a wide perspective of the way various nations play cricket. What makes Gilchrist go for the kill is entirely different from what makes Sehwag click . What makes Sachin a legend is entirely different from what makes Sanath a great. Yet, when the two come together in one team, you got two greats each driven by something different inside them, partly due to the way they play and partly due to where they come from and that is something which is not possible at any other platform.

Maybe that is why IPL is necessary. Maybe that is why, despite all the gimmicks with it and all the money making farce that goes on, it is necessary because in these 40 days, some kids learn so much about the game from the legends that it will be impossible for them to get such an enriching experience from such a diverse set of greats.

Delhi unbeatable?

April 26, 2009

How many times does it happen that Sehwag and Gambhir combine to make only six runs and the opposition still gets mauled in the field? When you dismiss the ferocious pair so early, you obviously got to fancy your chances but then you should not if AB de Villiers has got anything to do with it. The South African, on a mission to become the best batsman in the world teed off against Chennai and and the most expensive all rounder in the league had to bear the brunt. His dominance was so fierce that Manoj Tiwari only scored 9! off a partnership of 76. From 50 to 104 it took him just 16 balls!

Hayden obviously had something to say about this as he went about demolishing Delhi and it looked like Chennai was going to canter to the finish line while he was batting but then Chennai frailties were exposed once he went as the rest just fell apart.

Delhi’s supposed weak point is bowling purely because they only rely on Vettori right now, who is nothing but the best but the fact that they have still managed to win two big games without Glenn Mcgrath means it will take something real special to beat them once the pigeon decides to take flight.

I am looking forward to Delhi vs. Deccan. That should be a showdown but I have a feeling Delhi will come out on top given that Sehwag hasn’t really teed off yet ….

… Seems like Deccan has got it right this time around . Sadly, the only out of sorts person in that team seems to be VVS Laxman who doesn’t look like he will get going anytime soon. Maybe they were right after all in giving the captaincy to Gilchrist!

Gilchrist is on fire, Gibbs is playing anchor to perfection, Dwayne Smith made himself count and Rohit Sharma always comes into tremendous form in the IPL and if that is not enough, R P Singh and Pragyan Ojha are making Deccan seem invincible.

I thought yesterday was a good game against Mumbai as two heavy weights clashed and Mumbai did fantastically to pull it back after Deccan looked set for 200. But unfortunately, they messed up the chase and it was a bit too much to do. Was just wondering if Sachin and Duminy left it for too late? They were behind the rate at the half way mark and the assumption was that they will take off after setting the platform and the batsmen to follow will take care of the chase but looks like Mumbai seems to be a two man show at the moment in Jayasuriya and Sachin. Duminy is a good kid but still needs to learn a lot to have an impact in this format and the loss of Pollock down the order seems to be hurting them.

The question is, how late is too late for an assault? We saw Mohali need 60 runs off 5 overs against Bangalore to win and even though they did pull off that win courtesy a Bopara special, what if he had fallen? The problem with this strategy of leaving the asault for the end is that there is very little margin for error and as Deccan showed, the moment they got Sachin, they turned on the screws and Mumbai fell apart and the late cameos were in vain.

Maybe I am being critical about the Mumbai chase yesterday and maybe its asking too much off Sachin or Jaya to drop anchor as well as keep up with the chase throughout but then I feel the moment required runrate starts going north of 10 an over, then you are in a lot of trouble, no matter what …

What say?

There is no other word to describe him.

Only one word defines Shane Warne and that is Warne himself.

There was no one like him, there is no one like him and don’t think there will be anyone like him. Now I know why he made it to the top 5 Wisden cricketers of the century.

When I saw the ball that turned square infront of David’s bat and Dravid acknowledged it, I was stunned. The guy had not played for 1 year and he bowled a ripper to one of the most technically correct batsmen in the game! For me that summed it up. There won’t be a better artist in the game when it comes to leg spin bowling!

And as a captain, I salute him! No matter what differences and tantrums he had with whosoever, the fact of the matter is the kids at Rajasthan Royals are the ones learning the most in IPL – a competition meant to help youngsters grow in the company of the greats. And, Warne is throwing them in the deep end, backing them to swim to safety and they are proving him right every single time. That is captaincy at its very best. That is motivation at its heights. And I am sure these kids will never forget Warne’s influence on their cricketing career.

Yesterday, Kamran Khan’s over summed it up for me. Yesterday, that single over made me rever Warne. Yeah, Kamran Khan bowled a great over and hats off to the kid but lots happened before and in between that over which made me salute Warne. The two don’t even understand the language the other guy speaks. The match was almost lost with Ganguly going berserk. The kid is 18 years old and there he was entrusted by his general to win him the match. All I saw was Kamran Khan laughing, all I saw was Shane Warne patting him and telling him to go for it. Wonder what he said, any guesses? Maybe something like “don’t worry about losing this match for me, go there, give your best, I know you are awesome and nothing will change that but I also know you can pull this off, so lets see it. And, don’t worry about what I will say in case you don’t cos you will still be the best”. And guess what, Kamran Khan bowled a wide first ball. On the second pitch! And Warne didnt panic, Warne didnt get angry. Warne said nothing! Just clapped urged him on and the kid delivered by picking up Ganguly and eventually Rajasthan won, rather bludgeoned its way ahead courtesy another of Warne’s proteges, Yusuf Pathan who dismissed the mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis with utter contempt!

Kamran Khan delivered the performance of his lifetime, watched by millions and prompted by one man – and that is the class of the blonde bamboozler!

Yes, he is the greatest captain a youngster could ever have. Go ask Kamran Khan and Yusuf Pathan.

… There is no other way to put it . The two matches Chennai lost were singelhandedly the work of the big Englishman. 4 overs for 44 runs against mumbai and 4 overs for 50 runs against Delhi made sure even Haydos ran out of steam. And ofcourse, he never was going to score much with the bat; he hasn’t in the last few years and there was no reason to expect he would (although I am sure Chennai did). Poor Dhoni must be scratching his head over this buy; maybe if Dhoni was paid this much more, he could have bowled?!?

And, ofcourse you know my feelings about Kevin Pieterson. A very good Test match player, the best English batsman but expecting him to change Bangalore fortunes was asking for a bit too much. But then, when was the last time the liquor baron made the right decision? I am telling you, before you know KP would be gone, having scored some twenty somethings in lost causes leaving Dravid to resurrect the innings and that would be the end of Bangalore this time around too.

Maybe Mallya can go next year and spend $2mn on someone else? If only money could buy victories (they can though) but not this way!

So long Englishmen …

The hungry oldies …

April 24, 2009

It is pretty evident who the hungriest lot in this IPL are. Look at Gilchrist, Hayden, Warne, Dravid and Ganguly and they are at their very best. Ofcourse there are a few others like Tendulkar, AB de Villiers etc but these guys seem to be out there having loads of fun and giving their best that people are wondering why do they not play anymore (in Dravid’s case, one dayers).

Maybe it is the break from cricket which has brought them back hungrier and fresher but you can see that they are vintage stuff showing the world how to play. Like I said at the beginning of IPL, if Gilchrist has his way, Hyderabad might be the dark horses and looks like he will have his way by the looks of that blitz against Bangalore. Hayden! People are just glad he is not playing international cricket but he seems ready to chase down anything with such ferocity that spells mayhem for the opposition. Shane Warne was the story of last year’s IPL. Ganguly almost scripted an improbable victory last night and Dravid looks too good to be stuck with Bangalore and batting at 3 down when the match is as good as over courtesy the top 4!

Maybe this is one of the reasons IPL is worth it. Maybe every year for 40 days we can come back and watch these masters at action. Watch the masters turn the clock back!

Sensibility the key …

April 20, 2009

… Looks like Sachin got the hang of the IPL very early – the master that he is – and has shown the road ahead along with Dravid. Unfortunately, till each team has committed harakiri and suffered humiliation, they are not going to follow the example so quickly.

Last four matches had one common theme. Everytime you tried bashing your way out of trouble, you got out. But if you planned your knock, planned your hits and controlled your instincts, you worked just fine. Sehwag does not rule the roost because he bats like a mad man. Sehwag rules the ball and the bowlers because there is a method to his madness. He does not hit each ball simply because he makes up his mind to hit it before it is bowled. He watches the ball, sees where it is pitched and then goes BANG! Same applies to Hayden as the big man showed today in the match against Bangalore.

And on the other side look at Rajasthan, KKR yesterday and Bangalore today. Rajasthan made a mockery of themselves with everyone trying to hit the ball out of the park, KKR just got blitzed by Fidel Edwards making Ganguly hop and when they tried bashing their way out of trouble they got out and unfortunately for Bangalore, it was back to square one with too steep a mountain to climb and once again leaving it to Dravid to give their score some respectability.

I hope the lessons have been learnt, harakiri wont be committed but by the looks of Bangalore’s batting as I write this (read Ross Taylor, Robin Uthappa and Virat Kohli (always!)), it might take more time ….

So, people might say the weather did Punjab in . They did make a healthy hundred something and maybe had it not become a 6 over match, they stood a chance ? I seriously doubt it given the way Viru took off. The fact that Delhi won with 10 wickets in hand probably means anything would have gotten chased today. But lets take a more detailed look.

An unknown youngster in Karan Goel seemed to have amazing shots and super power behind them. Till the time he was going he probably would have matched Viru but then Punjab completely lost the plot after he fell. And when Yuvi started teeing off, misfotune struck and wickets piled up in a heap. Ofcourse, a particular man had a role to play in this. Arguably, the finest left arm spinner and one of the best spinners going around in the world, Vettori played his part making it a second successful day when spinners played more than their part in a format supposedly designed only to rip them apart. I think he is one of the wiliest spinners going around in world cricket today and very, very difficult to play and he proved himself yet again.

But then 100 plus was not a bad score in a 12 over match. 9 runs per over is by no means easy, especially on a pitch which has had its fair share of rain. But then if only Sehwag seemed to care about such things. These days when Sehwag bats, nothing seems out of range. Give him a target and he will prove to you its not enough. And that is exactly what happened today. The match finished before it started.

Watch out guys, Viru mayhem did not take full flight today but I pity the team who have to bowl 20 overs to him. Maybe we will see a world record this IPL ? Maybe Mt. Mccullum will be scaled ? Who knows. If i had to pick one man to do it, Viru is it.

I salute Dravid …

April 19, 2009

… Yeah, I know I wrote a harsh comment a few days back on how he probably did not fit into the Indian team (which I think still holds but then like my brother pointed out, it is still more reassuring to have him in the team than the ones who might replace him), but yesterday’s innings was a treat! Honestly, it was Dravid at his best and I felt great watching his knock.

Dravid is a nice guy and people take advantage of that. When he was captain and valiantly took the responsibility of certain defeats and stood down as the captain, the selectors mowed him over and almost shut the door on him and it took him the series in New Zealand to finally find his touch back, even in the tests.

Despite whatever happened to Bangalore last year in the IPL, Dravid was their best batsman and he batted sensibly, reassuringly while others self destructed around him. And the liquor baron decided to take it out on the poor guy!

Replacing him with KP as Bangalore captain surely must have hurt. Then the media doubted whether Dravid would be as committed to the Bangalore cause as before . And that probably hurt Dravid more!

And, it was evident in the way Dravid played yesterday. It was evident in the way he hit that six yesterday. Haven’t seen a six like that from him ever before! And ofcourse, it was evident in the way he pointed his bat after raising his fifty. Yes, Dravid had proven his point. He had kept quiet all this while and taken it out in the best possible manner. He let his bat do all the talking.

No one ever should doubt Dravid’s commitment to a cause. No one ever should doubt that Dravid will not give his best.  And Dravid proved that yesterday!

It was a slap across the owner’s face. It was a slap across the media’s face.

Like it or not, Dravid is still Bangalore’s best and most reliable batsman ! The fact that he scored more than what Rajasthan could put together is testimony to what he adds to his team.

Hail Dravid …