One-Day Mataram

Deconstructing the gentleman's game

One-Day Mataram takes a vacation

Posts on One-Day Mataram will be on a none-to-lower side all of next week as I take a long-awaited vacation to Singapore.

Hope the Indian team can do a good job in South Africa in the first few ODI matches while I am away.

See ya all around!! :-)

B Manoj Kumar and Mohammed Shaibaaz Tumbi, two 13-year old school-boys from Hyderabad, have managed to eclipse a record set by Sachin Tendulkar and Vinod Kambli in February 1988. They scored a world-record partnership of 721 runs off 40 overs to break the 664-run partnership record set by Tendulkar and Kambli. But then, you know that already! The news has been all over the media. These two (obviously quite talented) schoolboys are being heralded as the next Tendulkars and Kamblis. Too premature, I say!

Of course there is no doubt that 721 runs in 40 overs in a competitive match is no mean feat. But one must consider the fact that the other team was all-out for a mere 21 runs. That gives us a measure of the other team's ability (or the lack of it, at least!)

By the way, one interesting point to note here is the way the two mammoth partnerships were achieved.

"When we were on the 600-run mark, our coach informed us that there were 38 runs left for the world record and instructed us to play well and not get out. We were under pressure and that's why we played slowly," said Manoj. Added Shaibaaz, "I was just playing for myself and my school. I only realised when I returned to the pavilion that I'd broken a record by scoring a triple century."
[source: Cricinfo]
[emphasis mine]

And now consider a similar situation way back in 1988.

Tendulkar ended the day on 192, and Kambli was ten runs behind. Ramakant Achrekar, their stern coach, explained to Tendulkar that the team should declare first thing in the morning.


At lunch, selectively acting on Achrekar's instructions from the previous day, Tendulkar rang him up from Khao Galli and informed him the score was seven hundred and something, and that Vinod was on 349. He wisely kept his own score to himself, and instead told Achrekar that Kambli wanted to reach his 350. Almost innocently, he passed the phone to the horrified Kambli. The innings was declared immediately.
[source: Cricinfo]
[emphasis mine]

One coach specifically asked his wards to go for the record, while the other, uncompromising on discipline, demanded a declaration because he deemed it to be in the best interests of the team and the game in general. I do not say Manoj and Shaibaaz's coach was wrong. There is nothing wrong in going for records... because records, after all, are meant to be broken over and over again. But at the same time, this distinction in the coaches' approach highlights the discipline and team-play that used to be the hallmark of Mumbai cricket... especially Shivaji Park cricket under the coaching camps of people like Ramakant Achrekar and other lesser known coaches. It was this discipline that made batsmen play 'correct' cricketing shots along the turf. Because, the punishment for an unnecessary lofted shot (or for that matter for a spilled catch) was usually at least 5 rounds running around the huge Shivaji Park. ;-)

I can only hope that Manoj and Shaibaaz's feat is not a flash in the pan. Instead, I hope it's an indication of the exceptional talent that chief selector, Dilip Vengsarkar was hoping to see more of... in domestic Indian cricket!

Concentrate on winning matches

Rahul Dravid is obviously trying to put up a brave face when he talks about fast, bouncy pitches being well suited for stroke-making. It's obviously a ploy to instill confidence in his top order batsmen who have had a wretched time on home pitches. But at the same time, he should take it easy. Repeating the same sentiment in every interview shows a sense of bravado that tries to hide the fear of balls climbing into the rib-cage or whizzing past the nose.

And Greg Chappell and Rahul Dravid should stop making a big issue of World Cup preparations. Each tour/series is important in its own right and should not be seen purely as means to prepare for the World Cup. Just treat each tour... each match... as equally important as the World Cup. Only then will there be any motivation to actually win as a team, rather than play out matches as glorified net practice sessions! And with each win will come confidence and form. After all, nothing, I repeat, nothing succeeds like success!

Too much ado about the Pawar push

Did Damien Martyn push/shove BCCI president Sharad Pawar? Is the Indian media (and subsequently politicians, ex-cricketers and the public) justified in raising hue and cry over the incident? Does this require a formal probe by Cricket Australia so that the "guilty" can be "brought to justice" or even an apology?

Of course not!!

What Damien Martyn did was just a reaction of a jubilant player eager to lay his hands on a trophy that had eluded his team up until that moment. He simply seemed to usher Sharad Pawar to one side so he could join his teammates in holding the Champions Trophy aloft. There was nothing insulting in that gesture or at least there was nothing in the pictures that made me project nefarious intentions onto Martyn's actions. So the media hue and cry is nothing but a tactic to fill up airtime. As far as the politicians are concerned, I don't blame them for using this "incident" to display their nationalistic fervour. But I am surprised and concerned that players including the normally reticent Tendulkar have chosen to comment on this as though the Australian team has committed a grave crime! It just goes to fortify the thought that there is a definite Asian-nonAsian divide emerging in world cricket. And that's really unfortunate!

Having said that, I must confess that Ricky Ponting's gesture, asking Pawar to hand over the trophy, was quite rude and cannot be put down to enthusiasm or over-exuberance of victory. Of course, I don't demand a probe or an apology for it. I reckon it's a cultural thing and no amount of disciplining and/or apologies is gonna change it in a hurry! The only thing worth doing is to dish it out to the Aussies in the same coin... on the field!!

Windies even more unpredictable than the weather

During a dinner with friends, last week (last Tuesday to be precise), I had declared that it would rain during the final of the ICC Champions Trophy. Looking up at the cloudless skies, my friends had laughed it off.

And sure enough, during the final match yesterday, thunder and lightning heralded an unseasonal shower that interrupted the match. And I gave my "I-told-you-so" grin! ;-)

When I reminded my friend about my prediction coming true, he asked me to predict the result of the match, which by then was pretty much a foregone conclusion.

So I replied back to him saying... "I predict the weather. It's easier to predict than the West Indian performances!!"

I think that about sums up yesterday's match!!

Champions Trophy Final - quick preview

Under-prepared wickets, dewy outfields, weak teams, half-empty stands, doping scandals, ICC-BCCI war of words... the 2006 ICC Champions Trophy had all this going against it and more!

And yet... it all comes down to this day. The day of the finals! And say whatever about the playing conditions or off-field controversies, what we have today are the two best teams of the tournament competing for the title!

West Indies, a team that was so easy to write off just 6 months ago, has pulled up its socks and performed... and how! The rise of this former powerhouse of world cricket must be satisfying for the one's who felt sorry seeing a giant in decline. At the same time, their rise is a lesson for teams like India. A lesson which teaches us that determination and hard work are old fashioned values that always work wonders!

Australia are a class team. They may have been low-key in this tournament, but they still find themselves in the final. They are team loaded with talent and ability. And even on an off day, they can still win without too much trouble. And yet, cracks are visible in their citadel of invincibility.

Knowing the Aussie approach, I'm sure they will go on an all-out attack right upfront in today's match. And I'm also sure that the shrewd player that Brian Lara is, he will be ready to weather the storm and then unleash his own Gayle-force storm and hope that the cracks in the Aussie armour widen enough to thrust the winning blow.

This makes for an exciting match. And I can only hope that 15 days of dedicated work on the CCI pitch has ensured a good sporting wicket that will give us a match worthy of a final. As far as the dew factor is concerned, I can say that it will not be too much of a factor today because of the lower-than-normal humidity here in Mumbai today.

As for me... I'm rooting for West Indies!! ... Go Windies!! :-)

West Indies batting kills Protean challenge

Just before the start of the second semi-final between South Africa and West Indies, I wrote...
South Africa have won the toss and decided to bat first. Hmmm... interesting! They aren't afraid of the tremendous form of the West Indian top order!! Interesting indeed!!
And it did turn out to be quite interesting. South African calculations turned out to be completely off the mark as the mighty West Indian batting juggernaut crushed all opposition on its way to the final. However good the West Indian batting may have been, some part of the responsibility for the loss must be owned up by the South African think-tank. What on earth were they thinking when they decided to let WI chase? Didn't they know how well Gayle and co. had chased down targets in this tournament? Did they only rely on their intuition that the wicket would crumble?... because it didn't! Not a bit!!

However, take nothing away from the clinical nature of the West Indian batting. Gayle, with his new-found ability to carry his bat almost through the entire innings, was quite magnificent. And what I found most incredible was the way in which Ramnaresh Sarawan stepped into an opener's shoes with Chanderpaul out due to an injury. That just goes to show the amount of confidence that this West Indian side is brimming with. And it's an all-round thing... not restricted only to batting. Now a confident and in-form West Indies will take on Australia in the finals.

This is the best thing that could've happened to Champion's Trophy 2006. A resurgent team bidding to retain it's title against a mighty cricketing superpower wanting to claim the only prestigious silverware that does not adorn it's shelves yet. Now if only the tickets were reasonably priced, I would've loved to watch the final, sitting in the beautiful Brabourne stadium! But that's a grouse I'll reserve for another post!

NZ briefly touch Aussie achilles heel

New Zealand lost their Champions Trophy semi-final match to Australia, but they certainly did not lose face.

At 35/6, NZ looked poised to make an ignominious exit from the tournament. But a calm and efficient Daniel Vettori stemmed the rot and almost single-handedly raised visions of a possible (or you could say, impossible) upset. His 103-run partnership with an unusually restrained Jacob Oram was an object lesson for the top-order batsmen, be they from NZ or India or any other team in this tournament. The virtues of patience and common sense are often under-rated, quite like the understated Vettori himself. And these virtues were there for all to see yesterday. So much so that the NZ effort had rattled Ricky Ponting, who was seen losing his cool on the ground while adjusting field-placements. Even the Aussie fielding looked quite ragged when Vettori and Oram (and then Vettori and Mills) ran quick singles and converted twos into hard-run threes.

Incidentally, Vettori and Oram's exploits further underscored the contention that this Australian side is not quite the invincible team that it was for a long time. It's a team, so used to winning and playing aggressively that it perhaps finds itself in uncharted waters when it is put under pressure by an opposing team. However, because other teams lack the ability or will to apply pressure consistently, it lets the Aussies off the hook and lets them get back on top. This is not to say that I want Australia to lose matches. Naah!! I love watching them play cricket. Their approach and techniques provide an insight into how the game could be played to maximize performance and produce consistent results. However, like Ferrari's domination in Formula One led to boring and predictable racing, Australia's domination in international cricket is getting a tad boring! So I hope whoever plays them in the Champions Trophy final, would do well to keep the foot on the throttle all throughout the match. It will make for an exciting final!! :-)

But before that happens, we need to know who's going to face the Aussies at CCI in Mumbai. South Africa have won the toss and decided to bat first. Hmmm... interesting! They aren't afraid of the tremendous form of the West Indian top order!! Interesting indeed!!