Dead pitches, Dying hopes


Mahendra Singh Dhoni - Test MatchAs I write this, Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni are fighting it out in the pre-lunch session on Day 3 of the final test match between India and England. The duo is battling hard to save the test and thus the series. But with Monty and Swann turning the ball and Jimmy Anderson working some reverse swing, things are not looking too bright for the Indians.

First things first, considering that India lost four early wickets last night, Kohli’s and Dhoni’s foremost task here should be to take India to safety. It is to take themselves as close as possible to England’s first innings total and stay positive during the course of the play. Because, like we know, cricket is a funny game and test cricket is even funnier, so expect anything.

In this series, we have had three results from three games and that sounds exciting. In fact the pitches which were prepared for these three tests were seemingly very home side friendly. And like I said in my post last month, England during initial part of this tour looked as if they would be challenged hard on such pitches. But it has been a dramatic turnaround with England using these pitches better than Indians and scoring two very convincing wins.

Come the final test match at Nagpur and accidentally or otherwise the pitch on offer here doesn’t seem good enough for test match cricket. It is slow, it is low and it is definitely heartbreaking for a cricket fan. Dead pitches suck life out of the game and whatever be the result in the end, the journey to that result isn’t enjoyable and you would agree: that defeats the whole purpose of the actual result, be it a win or a loss.

If test cricket has to stay a form which can pull fans to the stadiums, pitches need to be re-looked at and more than the pitches, what needs to look into is that ‘thing’ which results to such pitches. Is it the soil or something else? Whatever it is, the reality is: dead pitches are horrible for cricket. The hopes of revival are not dead though!

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

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England up against two very tough oppositions


Alastair Cook: Cricket ExclusiveAt the Heathrow airport, the moment they checked-in to fly to the Indian sub-continent, English side would have known this for sure. They would have known that they have two very tough oppositions to defy in order for them to maintain their reputation of a good all-round test side.

Two oppositions being – ‘the Indian side’ of course and ‘the sub-continent conditions’.

For past many years, England have been on top of their game when it comes to test match cricket. But to prove to the world that they are a good all-round side, the sub-continent challenge must be conquered. And make no mistake; this challenge is their biggest this year.

As I write this, England is falling apart. At lunch on day 3 of the 1st test match, they are 110/7 in response to the huge Indian score of 521/8d and clearly looking at a follow-on. One wonders what has suddenly gone wrong, what is it that a champion side like them as one TV commentator mentioned have ‘a noose tightened around their throat’? The answer, well, as most would agree is that they try too hard when up against good quality spinners on turning tracks… It is all in the mind.

If one watches closely the way English batsmen have got out, it can be noticed that they don’t have a clear approach towards playing spin. There is too much pre-meditation, there is over-complication in the manner the shots are being played and there is absolutely no attempt to simplify the method to go about things. Let me be very clear here, these players are top quality with no dearth of skills but at the moment their mindset is such that everything they do seems to come back and choke them. They are either too defensive to the extent of using just the pads or they (read Bell) want to go after the bowling from ball one. Indians batted on the same pitch with so much ease. Sehwag and Yuvraj looked great but Pujara was just outstanding, playing everything straight and late, just how you play on these tracks.

Amidst English performance (non-), due credit must be given to the Indian spinners who bowled really well. However bad the opposition is batting, you still have to put the ball in the right areas. In fact Dhoni had so much confidence in ability of his spinners that his premier fast bowler Umesh Yadav came into bowl only in the 48th over of English innings.

Well, all is not lost for England and they can still come back into this long four match test series, if not this test match. But for that to happen Alastair Cook and the coach Andy Flower have to do some thinking and get their strategies right, very quickly.

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Test Cricket, the game’s most exciting form


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It all started with this particular form and it still remains most exciting and intriguing. The game of cricket has gone through immense change and has transformed from being a sport played by a handful of players in equally small number of countries to a universally recognized sport. Not just more countries are involved now but the perception about this sport has seen a significant contrast.

Few decades ago, who would have imagined that there would be such a huge viewership of this sport, who would have thought that the players themselves would pre-sell a tournament on TV, creative people alike will write the ‘Mehman-Nawazi’ campaigns and who would have imagined in their wildest of dreams that cricketers, yes cricketers would draw huge money from ad commercial endorsements…they aren’t footballers…

But all this has happened and so much more. Amidst all this however, test match cricket remains as beautiful and exciting as ever. The very fact that you can win a test match only if you have the capability to take 20 wickets, that means you get the opposition out twice in a match makes this form of the game so challenging. Man…you have all the time in the world but you must get them out twice and thus you must scale the ‘Wall’. Well we all know this, by the time Mr. Dravid retired he had made life of the bowlers around the world difficult not because of his ability to score at the quickest rate but because his unmatched talent of staying at the crease and fighting it out.

Another reason that makes Test match cricket extensively exciting is that it is everybody’s game and its not just about fours and sixes. Let’s not forget there are millions of fans who love bowling and fielding too and I bet they all love it when good bowlers run through batting line-ups. If I ask an average cricket follower about his memories of some famous wins of his favorite side, for sure he will mention some test wins. Who can forget VVS Laxman’s marathon innings of 281 at Kolkata or Harbhajan Singh’s back to back match winning spells in the same series or Anil Kumble’s 10 wicket haul at Ferozshah Kotla against the arch rivals Pakistan, Sehwag’s triple hundred at Multan, Tendulkar’s numerous innings…well the list is endless and mind you these efforts that I’ve listed are particularly from Indian players, there are so many more of such performances from players of various other nations which are equally splendid and tell us never ending tales of glory.

In any cricketer’s career, performing well in test cricket is one huge aspiration and it takes a lot to do well at this level.

The shorter forms of the game have arrived and they promise lot of entertainment, but still, nothing can match the excitement of the real cricket – Test Cricket, all whites and red cherry has its own charm !!!WW6PXY4QQTKV

Bowlers are part of the game too, please don’t curate them off


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(Photo credit: RaeAllen)

Lot of criticism goes around that Test cricket isn’t as exciting a format. It is not, but only when bowlers don’t get strips that are meant for good cricket. Cricket is fast becoming a batsmen game. With all these thick blades and small outfields, ‘bowler bashing’ is always on the cards. But whats disheartening to see from a bowler’s and cricketing aspect is – the pitch curators too aren’t helping the cause.

Around the world, pitches are becoming easier to bat and difficult to bowl. However, in the subcontinent, this is happening to an extent of disgust. It’s a shame that talented bowlers, especially fast bowler, burn out and breakdown given the long spells on flat, dusty lifeless tracks. Need of the hour is – PUT SOME JUICE IN THEM.

Cricket is a funny game, we all know that, but if pitches continue to be like they are, the game will become funnier (read ‘bad fun’) where the batsmen will incessantly thrash bowlers and fielders will just fetch the ball from boundary lines, all day long.

It titillates me immensely still whenever I recall the golden days of cricket. The days of the Malcom Marshall and Michael Holding, the days of Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram, the days of Dennis Lellie and Jeff Thomson, well, the days of REAL CRICKET. We were living the game then and not just watching the bowlers being hit out of the ground every delivery.

Someone has to address this before the game loses its charm and before we witness cricket matches with pneumatic bowling machines. Kids of next generation shouldn’t be robbed of the excitement of genuine fast bowling; it will hurt the whole fraternity, big time!!! WW6PXY4QQTKV