Monday, January 5, 2009

Sachin thrills, Jaffer responds

Posted by Soulberry

Day Two, Ranji Trophy 2008-09 Semifinals, Mumbai vs Surashtra and Tamil Nadu v Uttar Pradesh

Mumbai vs Saurashtra - First Semifinal


Sachin Tendulkar is having a match-simulation net. But the beauty of the man is such that he can make even a knock in the nets look like art. That's not a willow he wields, it is a brush and he is painting a three-dimensional masterpiece for us all.

Look at the youngsters like Ravindra Jadeja and Cheteshwar Pujara rolling their arms over...true they are trying but do they look like guys who want to end the master's creative surge? Not to me...they are lining up to bowl to Sachin so that they can understand better the angles and possibilities from the best position in the ground. They'd be keen to incorporate this knowledge into their own game. You can see it in their eyes!

As Sachin began playing 360 degrees along all three axis, Jaffer felt prompted and emboldened. He began to emulate some leg-side strokes of the master and his score began to chug along a little. He got to his 250, almost was taken caught and bowled...difficult, but expected chance towards the right of the bowler and now has his sights fixed on 501 and has suitably hauled in his enthusiasm, preferrring to let the master fire his team's scoring rate up.

Wasim Jaffer does indeed get these beautiful urges once in a have to pinch yourself to remind that this is only Ranji, a flat deck, very mediocre bowling...mainly spin, his team is some 500 plus for two wickets and there is the master on the other side disallowing any clustering of pressure - it is then, having pinched onself to the reality, that one realizes what a sophisticated and elegant Ranji dada Jaffer is. This is his environment, he straddles it like a dinosaur once straddled land masses, the complete and real emperor of this world. We will leave the asteroid theory of international cricket aside for the moment and simply enjoy the magnificience of such over overwhelming domination.

There is beauty in the way he lifts that front foot and places it emphatically forward and brings his mobile instruments of head and arms in one line over the ball. The alertness to defend in all the euphoria leaves one awestruck at the man's focus. At times even Sachin pales for correctness...he almost looks like a teen rebel at the other side.

At last call, Jaffer is 291 not out and Sachin 122 playing. Mumbai are just a hundred or so off the minimum 700 1st innings plan...558 for 2.

Just as I say that, Sachin retires hurt (reportedly having fever) to give Amol Mazumdar a hit. Didn't this chap retire?

Let's sit back and enjoy.

- - -

Makes you also wonder and helps put things in perspective - a champion team like Mumbai, endowed with brilliant riches, steeped in cricketing culture, 37 times winner, where certain cricket-playing qualities are engraved into your chromosomes by high preists, to be passed on from one generation to another in burgeoning flux of natural selection...such a team, Mumbai, shuddres to declare with 564 on the board already and bowlers like Zak (India's no. 1 and ICC Top Ten bowler), Kulkarni, Powar in their ranks! It is said that the standard and competitiveness of play will rise if stars play....they will infuse the positive culture they learn from international cricket...yougsters will learn to win a match from any sitaution...Amazing! It truly is an amazing statement by the Mumbai intenationals and perhaps points to two dangers - 1) Cheteshwar Pujara...1 = 11 and 2) highlights the trepidation Mumbai bowlers are feeling at the thought of bowling on this wicket. No confidence....

- - -

Mazumdar scratched around and perished to a set up by B Jadeja bowling at a max speed of 109 kph. Start with bowling out of his reach...let him feel tempted to lean out and then start narrowing the width...Bingo! here was the nick and taken. Gone for 2.

Rohit Sharma gave the customary chance which wasn't taken by the keeper this time.

And then Wasim Jaffer achieves one step of his milestone quest - 300 up! Well played young man!

Saurashtra must question their philosophy - they came not believeing they could pressure the Mumbai batsmen...they played that way from about over number 8 or 9 of the innings. They did not even attempt to create an aura of pressure. Not Mumbai's fault the way te game is evolving at a snail's pace towards the eventual first innings lead business.

Jaffer is out! Caught fff the splice of a lazily elegant turn of the wrists off a half-cock forward foot by the bowler Dhruv, on is follow through. He's played that shor a zillion times this innings and profited. But not that time. So that's the end of a marathon innings. Like I said before, well played young man!

Abhishek Nayar is next in.


Tamil Nadu v Uttar Pradesh: Second Semifinal at Nagpur


Uttar Pradesh with a better attack and more purpose came back to hit hard on the second day. They have halted a Mumbai-like march by Tamil Nadu and have them at 435 for 9 at the moment of typing. ALL UP bowlers, except Piyush Chawla, have taken wickets...yes, including Suresh Raina in his bowling avatar.

Vidyut comes a cropper again when his team needs him to play and the middle order evaporates till some resistance lower down. The same patters as their quarter final match against Bengal.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Sad Comment: Ranji Trophy 2008-09 Semifinals

Posted by Soulberry

Day One, Ranji Trophy 2008-09 Semifinals, Mumbai vs Surashtra and Tamil Nadu v Uttar Pradesh

The Ranji Trophy is the premier domestic tournament of Indian cricket. All the short-cut avenues available these days notwithstanding, this tournament continues to remain as the main to sift, identify and hone cricketing talent in this country. Therefore it deserves a degree of committment from the association members hosting a match as well as from the BCCI itself, being the overseer of the game in India. At the very least at least the final three matches at the pinnacle should definitely merit more better preparations than what we saw yesterday.

I didn't watch the match at Nagpur between Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh for there wasn't any telecast, but one watched almost the entire day's play at Chennai between Mumbai and Saurashtra. So I'll curtail my complaints to this match only and leave it for bigger news corporations to talk about Nagpur for they must have a reporter present at the ground.

Mumbai vs Saurashtra - First Semifinal


When you see 39 overs bowled in the first session of the first day of a match, you know immediately that something's terribly wrong. Either with the bowling attack on display or, more likely, a clear condemnation of the pitch provided.

Admittedly, Saurashtra's bowling resources were pretty thin - it is a wonder that they managed to edge out other teams predominantly with their batting - but even these scarce resources in the form of medium pace of Jobanputra and BN Jadeja were quickly neutered by the most sixth dayish pitch seen on the first day of any match.

There was red dust flying off each time the ball landed on it, rarely did the ball rise above the knee level, and pretty soon the spinners were on midway through the first session of the match itself! For god's sake, this is the Ranji semifinal! For god's sake this is supposed to be Chennai - once known as the fastest and sportiest pitch of the country.

Being a regular and favoured test centre, it has had more matches in recent years than other centers could dream of. So there is no dearth of money dearth of dearth of consultative expertise. in pitch preparation. It is not a stepchild like Ferozeshah Kotla to the BCCI!

But I think it is BCCI which is to blame for not penaliing those not adhering to certain minimum norms. Just when we were beginning to think that India was producing sporty, faster pitches as part of their policy to prepare cricketers tuned to international needs - we saw that right through the turn of this millenium upto 2007-08 - since 2007-08 we are finding that that checks and balance system has been given up. Nobody adheres to any standards of pitch preparation now, nobody takes action...there is almost a covert consent by BCCI to revert to unprepared deadbeat dustbowls. Does it have anything to do with their desire to fasttrack India's climb up the ICC rankings? Recall the SA tour of India?

Well, it was in this scenario that a rather popgunnish attack of Saurashtra kept giving net practice to Mumbai. You could see there was no attempt to take any wickets even if the bowlers hadn't any skill and everyone was waiting already for Mumbai to eventually declare - perahps on the third day after some 700-800 runs have been scored. There were some spirited attempts....a wicket was taken, a few dropped short and there was one really good shout for caught behind when Jaffer was on 58...that rounded off the bowling excitement as spinner after left arm spinner wheeled away with no conviction or purpose.

The Mumbai batting mirrored the bowling and we saw the Ranji collossus - Wasim Jaffer - exhibit yet again how totally dominant and demoralizing he can be. He is impenetrably attritional at Ranji level and never seduced by the most batsman-friendly of circumstances either. He reads his own game...I began twitching and switched often to the RSA v Australia test match going on.

And then you look at the scoreboard at the end of the day and realize that when it says 268/1 it is actually saying tha 1) while Mumbai have probably batted Saurashtra out of this game (and Mumbai have better bowlers too now) 2) Saurashtra did the best they could under the circumstances and did brilliantly to hold Mumbai to under 3 runs per over. Such was the lethargic, uninspiring batsmanship which began as an eager Sunday. No doubt it was safe and secure, but it was more an effort which banked upon their own bowlers troubling the Saurashtra batting than the batsmanship applying any rattling pressure on the opposition. one asks for T20 or 50-50 scoring rates...but this was a no-threats pitch and a no-threats bowling attack. You must get tired of playing like a superwall to knee high hittable balls. Maybe only Sachin has license to play that way and still be considered a great in Mumbai circles. Most will have to be that dour, well-dressed, grinding out kind of batsman to merit any consideration as a propah batsman in Mumbai circles. They call it "professionalism", or something like that.

I have some time today - work later in the day today - I'm not sure I would like to see more of yesterday repeated. So till Pujara appears and sloshes Zak all over Chennai in yet another spirited fightback, I'll probably give viewing this Ranji encounter a miss. The Mumbai batting is too strong for the very mediocre bowling of Saurashtra on a even more mediocre pitch. the competitiveness will be when Saurashtra bats and Mumbai bowls. The pitch might crumble by then and true batsmanship may come to the fore. Till then, my suggestion is that each should go about their work.

Let us examine some news reports:

The PTI wire as it is adapted onto, goes something like this in patches -

On a batting paradise, Jaffer didn't hesitate to bat first and the Mumbai skipper, along with Samant and Rahane, milked the Saurashtra attack dry.

Among the hapless Saurashtra bowlers, Ravindra Jadeja did try his best but his brand of left-arm spin could not pose much threat to the set Mumbai batsmen.

Cricinfo spins it thus -

On a batting paradise, Wasim Jaffer hit his fourth ton of the season to charge Mumbai to a healthy position


The ball came on nicely to the bat on a pitch that is expected to turn from the third day and Jaffer made full use of the good batting conditions. It was a typical Jaffer knock, full of wristy flicks and back-foot punches. There were sashays down the track against the left-arm spinners and sweeps against the offspinner.

Somebody please kick the BCCI fat backsides for allowing such paradises.

Tamil Nadu v Uttar Pradesh: Second Semifinal at Nagpur


I'm sorry but we only have hearsay to bank upon. there wasn't any telecast for this match.

Uttra Pradesh on paper is a stronger bowling side than Saurashtra even if RP Singh was not playing, but Tamil Nadu has been in some form this season.

It appears from reports that UP bowling was untesting, the pitch situation quite similar to the Chennai one, and unsurprisingly, the two form batsmen of the season, Mukund and Vijat took a toll of the UP attack.

Praveen Kumar appears to have lost his mojo since he was involved in some Meerut altercation. Maybe he needs to really earn his way back like Sreesanth and the VRV and co.

Piyush Chawla's performance confirmed my views of him. I'll be wary of saying more since I didn't see him bowl in this match, but he doesn't appear to understand the fundamental flaw in is bowling system which prevents him from being more effective. And his attitude appears to be such ( from what one sees from a distance of course )that he is not given to introspection and analysis of his game strengths and weaknesses. I've spoken long about him at TCWJ and elsewhere and the figures and bulletin I have in front of me suggest more of the same...

Siddharth Monga writes for Cricinfo as follows -

UP's bowlers lacked inspiration and the persistence to toil. They will need to find both for what looks like a long haul.


But Piyush Chawla was too inconsistent, and Praveen Gupta too innocuous.

Well if bowling reources are thin, then it makes you wonder what transpired in earlier rounds? i asked myself the same question - how did Saurashtra dismiss any team twice to win? And if they did, how poorly the other team must have played!

But not having seen even packaged highlights of earlier rounds, best reserve comments.

For me, it's reached the stage where my only point of interest being a possible fightback by the weaker teams among the four. If BCCI prepares the same kind of pitches for next season as well, you can rest assured that the recent improvement in skills of Indian batsmen against faster and rising balls will be lost. There will be no test of any aspect of batting and batsmen (only concentration levels like breath-holding records underwater) and domestic bowlers, who need a fairer equation, will wilt or be ground to dust.


Saturday, January 3, 2009

Ranji Trophy 2008-09: Semi-finals

Posted by Soulberry

Tomorrow, the semi finals commence. The matches are 1) Tamil Nadu vs Uttar Pradesh and 2) Mumbai vs Saurashtra.

There is something for everybody in these matches and many players you would be keeping an eye on.

TN has Badri, Vijay, Mukund and Balaji. UP has Chawla, Raina, RP Singh and Praveen Kumar without forgetting Kaif. Mumbai will see sachin and Zak playing but the focus this year has been on Ajinkya Rahane. This is a man with a FC average of 64.90! Cricinfo

Saurashtra, besides Ravindra Jadeja and Jonbanputra, has the brightest young spark of Indian cricket - Cheteshwar Pujara. Now can the underdogs pull off a big scalping?

Pujara has 867 runs at 86.70 this season and Jadeja has 729 at 72.90. Jadeja also has 30 wickets at 18.61. Saurashtra

Rahane has 976 at 75.07 this season, Jaffer has 873 at 72.75. Dhaval Kulkarni has been the main wicket taker with 34 at 17.61.Mumbai

Tamil Nadu has Mukund with 756 runs at 84.00, Badri with 361 at 90.25 and Balaji with 31 wickets at 16.64.Tamil Nadu

Uttar Pradesh has Tanmay Srivastava with 653 at 59.36. Nothing much else and appear the weakest sheet out of all four.Uttar Pradesh

Tomorrow the matches commence and Neo Sports tells us that Mumbai v Saurashtra will be on live air.

We'll join in with what's on air.



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